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Spotting Spring in Maine takes some practice

Spring in Maine is sneaky and sly.

Spring never saunters into Maine like I imagine it does in other places, adorning all the spare edges with fresh greenery and daffodils. No, we take a more original approach up here in the wild and woody north.

In Maine, Spring ignores whatever arbitrary date the calendar has set and bashes around March and April with its own unconventional, but unmistakable signs. While we moan and groan and wonder if Spring will ever come, she’s been there all along, pushing her way, slowly and steadily, in her own good time.

In Maine, we don’t like going with the flow. We do our own thing. And spring is no exception.

Signs of Spring in Maine

  1. Below zero weather has (mostly) disappeared from the forecast.
  2. That 20-point turn you needed to get out of your driveway a month ago? Good news! It’s melted into at least a 4-point turn.
  3. It snows and rains and then snows some more.

    One sure sign of spring: collecting sap for maple syrup. What you collect it in, a minor issue.
  4. Our own version of green and yellow sprouts, but in the grocery store: the ever-famous Houlton Farms Dairy lemonade.
  5. Everyone starts tracking in the mud with their snow.
  6. All that sticky, sweet stuff comes dripping from the trees.
  7. The frost heaves emerge from their winter hibernation and a simple trip to town becomes a high-flying good time.
  8. Everyone goes to the dairy bar, gets ice cream and sits in their car with the heater going full blast while they slurp down the best ice cream around.
  9. When the temperature hikes itself about 35  degrees, we all immediately start talking about how warm it is.
  10. When the temperature gets above 40 degrees, watch out. It doesn’t take long for everybody to start trading their Bean boots for flip flops.

Can you think of more signs of Spring in Maine?

Looking for great in the Great Outdoors

Confession: Sometimes I think I’d be OK with not going outdoors in the winter.

Give me enough books, movies and, of course, fun treats and I’d channel my inner Maine black bear and snuggle in.

Wake me when it’s spring. Well, alright, mud season.

 

 

 

Once upon a time, when the babes were smaller, outdoors was a fact of daily life no matter the season. We used to take walks religiously. And swing on swings. Or slide in the snow. Together.

Not as much now that they don’t need my help to do all that.

Somehow, to my dismay, I’ve become an indoor mom. A mom that sits on the sidelines. That takes my kids to the lake and watches them swim instead of jumping in the water with them. Eek.

I don’t want to be one of those moms.

Soo, full of resolve this school vacation week, I determined to turn over a new leaf. Here’s what I learned in the process.

 

Don’t try to change what’s past.

I snuck out that first sunny Monday morning and (with my husband’s help) ripped our snowblower to life. The kids wanted to play in their snowed-in clubhouse? I’d make that happen! Forget lingering over a second cup of coffee. That kind of vacationing was for the old me.

Turns out there was a good reason my husband was hesitant to tackle this task: pushing that hulk of a snow blower uphill to their clubhouse? Tough. And snow blowing 3 feet of aged snow? It’s even harder. Check that. Make that almost impossible.

Maybe Bob the Builder could do it. Or the Paw Patrol. But me? Sometimes, it’s better to let the past stay in the past. And this includes past snowfall.

Never give up.

After that valiant effort fizzled, I pushed my mad snowblowing skillz around to the snowmobile, also buried in a pile of slightly fresher powder we’d been handed the week before.

The big bonus here: level ground.

I wrestled and wrangled and thought evil thoughts about winter.

Wait. No. Outdoor moms didn’t do that.

They gloried in the crisp air and layers upon layers of clothing. Outdoor moms ran snowblowers and zoomed through school vacation with their kids on snowmobiles. An outdoor mom could make this happen.

As the snow blower wheels spun, a pair of half-size Muck boots appeared in my periphery. And then a second-grade grin. I turned further and saw my husband collecting video evidence for fam in SoCal.

That was all the fuel I needed.

Powered a burst by irritation and a kid-size toothy grin, the snow blower and I made magic happen.

My new motto: the undoable happens when you refuse to give up.

 

It’s not about all about me.

My solo victory lap on the sled was sweet (but cold on the face) when I chugged around the lake. This is what happens when you don’t give up. This is what happens when you work hard. I’d shown them that, I thought.

But all that fabulousness took a sour turn when I headed back into the yard — the pristine yard, unbroken by any trails, completely covered by more than two feet of powdery fluff.

I panicked.

Should I park the sled in the same snowy hole we’d just dug it out of? What spot was any better? Thinking on my feet had never my strong point.

The short version of this story is: the sled ended up stuck. Again.

My husband, ever the optimist, took one look and declared it wasn’t coming out til spring. The kids were more pragmatic: “Dad got it stuck last year. You got it stuck this year.”

Well, Brad was wrong.

We got un-stuck before spring. But it took BOTH of us. We worked off and on all day long. It also took pretty much every ounce of good will we had left.

The good news?

The kids got their sled ride. Brad took them. I’ve sworn off all snowmobile driving.

The kids also got to their clubhouse. While we were digging, (And digging. And pulling.) they dug out their snowshoes and clomped to the clubhouse. I don’t when they’ve had so much fun.

I’m willing to concede.

The outdoors may have won this round.

But I’m not giving in yet.

I may give up on being a big show off, though. That didn’t exactly work out.

I may give up on creating huge, Herculean magic for my kids.

(Or maybe not. That’s a mom’s prerogative.)

I may try to focus more on just ordinary, everyday magic for my family instead.

 

Outdoors, 1. Me, 0.

Don’t worry, Outdoors. You haven’t heard the last from us.

When was the last time you tried to make a big change?

 

Happy Valentine’s hangover

What’s Valentine’s Day supposed to be? Are there rules about these things?

I think before I was married or even dating very much I had a fuzzy idea — ideas that had something to do with eating out, cheesecake for dessert and probably flowers.

Now, like most moms, my idea of romance is at least one night of not having to check the toilet seat for pee before I sit down or putting supper on the table without having to find a home for two loads of laundry, an entire Lego city and the remnants of an inspirational craft project.

When Valentine’s dawned this year

It shouldn’t have been a surprise then when our Valentine’s started a beep.

(I wish I could say a bang. It would add so much more climax to the story, but I guess that’s a little cliche.)

But it’s actually a series of beeps and flashing lights. The plow truck, which would qualify as road-size in less snow-ready states, was stuck our driveway. At 4:30 a.m.

(Can we just pause to say all snow plow drivers deserve medals?)

An hour later, two feet of snow and the massive snow plow were both moved from our driveway. All the concern our dog expressed that entire hour probably helped.

Valentine’s Day had officially begun.

Why let the day get ahead of you? Valentine’s is a perfect day to start early. Especially when you get a card and chocolate first thing. And when your husband forgives you for forgetting his card. Yikes.

I packed Valentine treats for the posse and then crawl towards the brewing coffee. The rest of the morning is kisses and hugs and lunch boxes and snowsuits and boots and finding matching mittens.

After the 2-hour school delay, everyone is dropped off and the rest of the day is ordinary and quiet. Our night routine at is the same — ordinary.

No shocking endings here. This Valentine’s didn’t include chocolates, gourmet food or candle light. (Well, OK, we did manage to sneak a few chocolates.)

But it did have lots of love and happy.

On Valentine’s Day, I heard her tell me a zillion times she loved the fancy makeup she got. I watched him play with that truck (with real doors!) all afternoon long. We had candy before breakfast. And the excitement when they hauled their school Valentine’s home? Palpable. We shared snuggles under the blanket with a story about a mouse named Ragweed. And after bedtime? We rented a movie he’d been wanting to watch and stayed up late watching it.

Everyday life isn’t full of grand gestures. It’s soggy mittens and getting stuck in snow drifts sometimes. It’s a Valentine box stuffed full of love and bear hugs first thing in the morning. It’s snuggling close and spinning stories.

Grand gestures get all the press and they’re fun to read about in books, but maybe Valentine’s is also a day to celebrate everyday love. The love that holds your hand in the car. The love lets you have chocolate milk sometimes instead of white milk. The love that crawls out of a warm bed to give hugs and scare away bad guys in the night. The love that tells you you’re pretty even when you have pillow hair.

Feeling ordinary? That’s OK. Because if you look close, sandwiched in between all the ordinary craziness love is there, too.

Is my neck a little red?

With all the hoopla over cultural sensitivity lately, one very distinct cultural group is being left completely left out of this quest for better understanding and empathy – the Redneck.

 

Now, wait. Before you think this is just another comedy tour, it isn’t. I’ll leave that to the pros. This is a very serious, high-minded cultural discussion that actually started this fall at a gas station in the deepest woods of Maine.

 

My husband, foggy of mind thanks to some cold medicine he had taken, thought he could make it to Fort Kent and back on a few drops of gas. By the time he finished his job and headed south, a little light came on. (No, not the one in his brain. Well, sort of, but you know what I mean.) His own version of hunting season was officially open.

He was officially on the hunt for some Unleaded No. 2. For someone from away, it sounds simple. But on some sections of Route Eleven it’s easier to find a moose than a gallon of high test. Thankfully, though, his tank of gassy fumes held out and he rolled into a convenience store in the nick of time.

 

“I felt really out of place, though,” he confessed with a sheepish grin over lunch one day. “Everybody was looking at me. They were all dressed in hunter orange and here I am in my shirt and tie.”

 

“Of course they were looking at you,” I laughed. “They probably wanted to ask you who you were, where you were from and who your parents are and who your grandparents are.”

That’s when it hit me.

 

He might have felt awkward, but of all the out-of-the-way gas stations in the world, I say a backwoods store is one of the safest bets when you need a hand.

But I say small towners have more to offer than just another punch line.

 

 

They’ve learned how to laugh it off.

They’re OK with all the laughing. Most of the time, they join in. They’re not super sensitive. They don’t buy into the 2017 line that says you have to be so hyper when someone steps on your toes. (Do Rednecks ever get hyper? Well, maybe about hunting season, I guess.)

Basically, don’t take yourself too seriously.

 

They care about people around them.

Most people call it getting off your phone and actually talking to people. But up here in the boonies where people still actually talk anyway, the conversation goes to a whole different level. New people can be spooked by it, but I promise, it’s perfectly harmless. The gist of it is: they’ll make polite conversation, but eventually small towners, especially older ones, will want to know how you found our little berg, who you’re related to here and it wouldn’t be uncommon for them to ask you to trace your local family tree back several branches, just to prove your pedigree. Trust me. It’s not mean-spirited. But there’s nothing small towners love better than getting the scoop on the who’s living and working around them.

The moral of this story is: talk to the people around you.

 

They’ve embraced their weirdness.

I know you’re supposed to call it quirky or special and that’s all good. But whatever you call it, don’t let it distract from the point: rednecks seem to have their own special brand of weirdness. (I mean, how else is the mullet still alive?) And they’ve figured out how to march to beat of their own drum no matter what anyone else says. It’s a lesson more than one person is still trying to figure out.

Whatever your makes you you, enjoy the happy it brings you.

 

On the surface, the whole Redneck story might sound like an ad for noisy trucks and bad hair, but just underneath, it’s learning how to not take yourself too seriously, care about each other and stay just a little bit crazy.

 

Is my neck a little red? I hope so.