Weather or Not

Over the winter months when I’m dreaming of summer, I always imagine a nearly cloudless sky, rays of sun that brown the skin and sidewalks too hot to walk barefoot on. I think of how good it feels to come into an air-conditioned house after sweating in the sweltering heat.

We haven’t really had a lot of that kind of summer yet, although according to the local weather girl, those days are just around the corner. I am ready to welcome them with open arms (she says as she enjoys a cool breeze through the living room windows and the sounds of little Logan next door giggling and squealing in his yard.)

We’ve had a lot of rain so far this summer and days that are cooler than normal. Whenever the subject of weather comes up, we talk about it as if anything other than beach weather has no business being here. It’s SUMMER, for crying out loud! When we spent the last few days up north at the lake, we were a little disappointed that it was too cool for swimming and tubing, too windy to fish at times, and that there was downpour in the middle of one of “our” days. Sitting in the cabin playing Scrabble, wearing sweatshirts, watching movies and napping was not what we’d had in mind for our mini vacation.

Then again, when we stopped to think about it, what exactly was wrong with lounging around together and enjoying some new flicks and some old favorites? Nothing! It’s not often we find time to watch one movie, much less several of them. What was wrong with a wicked competitive game of scrabble, with Connor trying to make up words with his most valuable letters? Nothing! (We laughed so much! And I won!) What was wrong with falling asleep in the middle of the day, with dogs cuddled up against us while the rain poured outside? Absolutely nothing! Sure, it would have been way fun to be floating around in the lake with the sun beating down on our shoulders, but we were still having fun, making memories, all that good stuff.

If we count the “good” days only by the weather they bring, we’ll end up missing some really great moments.

Besides, it’s been really good for the garden!

Dirty Hands and a Green Thumb

Gardening! Who’d have thought this would be something would be throwing myself into? Certainly not me!

We’ve always had some gardens, but traditionally, it’s been Mark who plants some tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, peppers and whatever else he could fit in the spaces in the back yard. He’d start off all meticulous and attentive, but eventually the weeds would take over. Not that this prevented the plants from producing or anything. We always enjoy summer tomatoes, and cucumbers, if we managed to pick ‘em before they grew to the size of footballs. And we’ve had some incredible home-grown squash by fall each year. We’ve just never had gardens that looked like they were well cared for.

Flowers have always been my job. I buy some hanging baskets of petunias and plant a few pots of geraniums every year; just enough to give the yard some color. A little watering. No weeding. Low maintenance.

I have never been all that interested in the preening and pruning, weeding and watering of gardens. It could be that, growing up, my parents always planted this enormous vegetable garden (relative to the size of our not-so enormous yard.) They would send us kids out to pick green beans (which I hated. Still do.) Worse, they would send us out to do the weeding. No kid wants to weed a garden. There is zero fulfillment in that! And you could just never get them all. You’d weed one day, and there’d be more sprouting up the next day. Frustrating! And during the Minnesota summers, weeding the garden could be a hot and sweaty, itchy kind of job. There were mosquitoes, spiders and various other creepy-crawlies to freak me out. The garden was definitely the last place I wanted to be.

I don’t know what hit me this spring, but I had an urge to be more involved in the vegetable gardens. I think it was the cucumbers that motivated me. I like cucumbers – on a salad or sliced up with onions and a homemade dressing. I kept thinking about overgrown, too-fat, yellowing cucumbers full of big fat seeds that were picked from the vine and tossed straight in the trash. What a waste. I told Mark that I was sure he was buying the wrong variety and that I would help pick out something that wouldn’t grow out of control so quickly. And that’s where it all began.

We overdid it, of course. There are six tomato plants, two cherry tomatoes, six green pepper plants, plus a yellow and an orange. There are radishes and onions, kale, and the rhubarb that comes back all on its own year after year. Later this summer, we’re going to have more vegetables than we know what to do with. The beauty of this is, everyone loves fresh, home=grown produce. There’s always a neighbor or coworker willing to take the excess of our hands. And if we’re lucky, Mark will make some of his famous rhubarb custard pies.

We’re trying peas this year for the first time. The rabbits have chomped down a few of the seedlings, but some of the peas have survived and begun to climb the trellis already.

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… and there are sunflowers, just for fun.

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The sunflowers don’t look like much yet, but I hope they’ll be bright and happy later this summer. A friend suggested I plan on roasting the seeds this fall. Hmm… Maybe!

A few bell peppers are already starting to grow. I’m really looking forward to the orange and yellow ones.

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There’s a pot of sweet basil on the deck that I look forward to cooking with. And Kacey planted some cilantro too.

 

Yesterday after dinner, I spent a couple of hours weeding and watering and everything looks fresh and tidy again. It’s supposed to rain throughout the weekend, so the plants should be happy, happy, happy.

This could be the beginning of a new interest for me! Maybe there’s a green thumb inside me somewhere after all!

Sunshine and Bovines

Lucy came to wake me up at 5:30 this morning. I patted the mattress to let her know that a few more ZZZs were in order and she was welcome to join me. She respectfully declined but allowed me another hour of sleep before coming back at 6:30 to see if I was then ready to greet the day. I could see daylight seeping in the windows as I looked down the hallway. It was time to get up.

We were expecting clouds and rain this weekend, but this morning showed no signs of either. I slipped into some yoga pants and a t-shirt and pulled on a hooded sweatshirt before saying the words to Lucy. I still needed to brush my teeth, but I couldn’t resist the thought of her prancing around my feet in excitement and the way she begs me to hurry up.

Wanna go for a walk?

As the electric toothbrush hummed in my mouth, Lucy danced and pranced around me. She nudged against my legs and whined with joy. I found a pair of sunglasses for myself and coaxed Lucy into her harness. As soon as the leash was clipped on, Lucy tugged me out the door and through the garage before the garage door was fully open.

And we were off. I’m not sure why I call it a walk. It’s more of an adventure in hanging on while Lucy runs, tugs, pulls, chases squirrels, sniffs all the smells and stops abruptly to mark her territory. I read an article yesterday that said if you’re serious about getting a workout, you shouldn’t take your dog along. Whoever wrote that article never met my dog. We definitely burn some calories when we go out exploring.

Anyway, it was a great morning to be out in the neighborhood. We crossed paths with five runners, three of whom appeared to be high school kids (probably in training for the Track team.) Each of them waved at us and offered a friendly Good morning as we passed by. Such a simple gesture, but it sure makes me smile when others reach out in that way. Camaraderie among the morning people!

I just love this time of year and having the chance to be awake and outside during the early part of the day. Non-morning people won’t get it, but there’s just something about being outside before the day gets into full swing. The suburban noise hasn’t yet begun but there is so much sound to enjoy, like the singing of birds. The grass is covered in dew and it glitters under the rays of the morning sun. It reminds me of  a Robert Frost poem, which I’m sorry to admit I would never know if it weren’t for S.E. Hinton.

Grass in the morning sun

“Stay gold, Ponyboy… Stay gold!”

Lucy and I even got to say hello to the cows today. I don’t know if the neighbors bordering the farm feel the same way, (certain country smells and all,) but I think we’re really lucky to have a bit of rural life right in the midst of our neighborhood. Actually, we owe our thanks to these farmers for the fact that we have a neighborhood to call our own. We now live on what used to be a piece of their farmland.

Anyway, the cows don’t often hang out so close to the path, so it was a rare treat to see them this morning.

Cows 2It is definitely a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Rainfall and Slow Down

I’m making it a long weekend.

All of the kids will be home by tomorrow night and spending the weekend. We’re celebrating birthdays. Brad’s 25th was in March, Jake’s 23rd in April, and Kacey’s 21st  is coming up here in May. Geeze, how can my kids be getting so old when I’m still such a spring chicken?  ;-) Both boys, when asked how and when they wanted to celebrate, seemed embarrassed at the thought we might still celebrate their birthdays! But both were agreeable to celebrating the next time we were all together. So here we are. And while we’re at it, we’ll add Mark’s and my 26th wedding anniversary, which was yesterday, to the reasons to celebrate.

I’m thinking of making it a breakfast party on Saturday morning. I typically eat a responsible breakfast, like oatmeal and a banana, or yogurt and blueberries. But when it’s a kids-at-home weekend, all diets are off. Everyone seems to love when I make a big, old-fashioned breakfast. Waffles, pancakes, eggs, sausage, and/or bacon are all welcomed at these meals. I think I’ll try to find some fun breakfast recipes for Saturday morning’s birthday breakfast.

Oh, and my mom and dad just celebrated fifty years of marriage! We’ll be celebrating that too, on Sunday with a family brunch at a local restaurant.

Besides having a chance to get things done at home, I’m grateful for the break from work. I love my job, but the pace has been frantic lately. I said to one friend/associate that I felt like I hadn’t seen or talked to her in days, even though her desk is only a few yards away from mine. She agreed, saying there has been an uptight atmosphere around the office lately. Good things are happening all around, but there never seems to be enough hours in the day to do all that needs doing. Most recently, my small department was brought in on an important pilot project that has given us the chance to help our parent company. We have a short window of time to do a lot of research, but it’s been fun and has also been extremely educational, giving us some new knowledge that will prove invaluable to the work we do with our own clients. Yesterday, I finished the main part of the work for which I was responsible. It feels good to take a break.

It’s been raining here since last Sunday, almost non-stop, and seriously heavy at times. The lack of sunlight is a little depressing, but at least the grass is greening up and colorful flowers are sure to be popping up around the neighborhood in the very near future. The back yard has become a marsh and I think Lucy is getting tired of squishing around in it, but the birds don’t mind getting wet. Last weekend, I could hear a Finch singing his heart out in the Maple tree out front. He was soon chased off by a pair of House Sparrows who proceeded to destroy a nest that had survived the winter in the tree. Meanies!

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It’s still raining and doesn’t look like it will be quitting before the weekend is over. I guess I don’t mind if it continues while I take a couple of days to prep for all the weekend activity. There’s an old saying, Make hay while the sun shines, but I’d rather play when the sun is around. I do my best work when it’s not.

Spring Landscape

I love the transition to spring. Sure, the first few weeks are a bit mucky. When the last of the snow melts away, the yard is all matted and gray. The neighborhood streets are lined with leftover salt and sand. Gardens are empty except maybe for a few dead remnants of last year’s flowers. But spring is an appropriate name for this season. The world does seem to spring to life again after those long, frozen months.

One morning this week, I let Lucy outside and noticed the neighborhood was ensconced in fog. The sun was halfway to its morning destination. And for what I knew would be a short while, the horizon was painted with warm, soft colors. It was enough to stop me in the midst of my morning rush for a few moments of appreciation.

Last night – or early this morning – I was awakened by the sound of rain patterning rhythmically against the house. Such a welcome sound after months and months in which the sounds of the outside world are muted. And it’s amazing how an overnight rain can make the grass turn green so instantly.

Yesterday, while running a few errands, I noticed a wide open pond. The ice cover is gone and a pair of Wood Ducks paddled effortlessly across the middle. The water sparkled brilliantly under the afternoon sun and I thought what a beautiful sight it was to see. It occurred to me that the older I get, the longer the winters feel. The cold and pristine landscapes might be exciting and fun the first few times it snows, but the thrill wears off quickly. Looking at the glimmering water yesterday, I reminded myself to always appreciate the world this way while I have the chance.

Blossoming

The world outside is coming to life again and so am I. As much as I try to fight it, the winter months quiet me. The long stretch of cold, sharp months make it hard to find my energy and motivation. Many of those days find me slogging through my daily routine. And I don’t even often realize what a rut I’m in until the air begins to warm, the sunshine visits more frequently and suddenly I feel as if I’m exiting a long, dark tunnel.

Spring makes me feel alive again and I know I’m not the only one. A coworker who was tanning during the last weeks of winter told me, “I know it’s bad for me. I just need the light and the warmth right now so much more than I care about the health hazards.”

Last weekend, as Kacey and I were running errands, she exuded joy when she exclaimed, “It’s so good to see the sun! It just makes me so happy!

I know what she means. Just a little sunshine and warmth is all it takes sometimes to make me realize what a cocoon I’ve been in the last several months.

It’s been warm this week. It’s been a no-jacket kind of week (and what a treat that is!) It’s been a week when I welcome the sound of the alarm clock, lace up my running shoes and head to the gym. (It’s still just a bit too dark and cold at that hour of the day to do my exercise outdoors.)  It’s been a hop in the car, roll down the windows, crank up the tunes and sing along like nobody’s watching kind of week.

The robins are back!

The robins are back!

It’s rainy and overcast this morning. And tomorrow will bring a dip in temperatures and I may have even heard there’s a slight chance of the S-word. But it’s not going to bring me down. The extended forecast calls for more spring-like temperatures. Winter’s in the rearview mirror now!

And the sun came out

The weatherman was saying last night that a big snowstorm was on its way. Yesterday, we enjoyed the one “warm-up” we were going to see in January and already, he was telling us that the weather was going back in the wrong direction. He pointed at a map of the state that was dotted with colors. The big, blue blob moving over our area signified snow; lots of it. He said this morning’s commute was going to be a mess. I only half believed him. The weather has been a presence lately, but you just never know when it will decide not to live up to the hype. Figured I’d get up at the usual time and if a snowstorm was in progress, I’d skip doing yoga and just go straight to the shower. If there was no snow, I’d exercise and go about my normal routine.

When the alarm went off, I shuffled to the family room to look out the big front window and see whether the weather guy had been right. I couldn’t quite decide. Under the glow of the street light, I could see it was definitely snowing. The flakes were tiny but the snowfall was dense and it was coming down fast. Looking across the front yard to the street though, there didn’t appear to be much accumulation. But I knew it wouldn’t take much to mess up the morning drive. So straight to the shower I went.

Within the hour, I had showered, fed the dog, prodded Jake to get up and  get a head start on his own commute. I unloaded the dishwasher, drank a cup of coffee, blow-dried my hair and applied some make up. The last thing I needed to do was make a lunch and while I was doing it, I kept an eye on the falling snow. It was obvious. The weatherman had been dead-on.

I was in my car and on my way a good forty minutes earlier than usual. The roads were covered with snow, the division of lanes indecipherable. Traffic on the freeway crawled. It took me over an hour to get to work and the sky remained dusky; no hint of the sun. My windshield wipers struggled to keep the window clear of melting snow and ice. The defroster blasted on high but couldn’t keep up with the crusts of slush and ice forming on the other side. Several times, I rolled down the side window and reached out to wipe off the snow that kept building upward where the lower portion of the driver’s side wiper was failing. (I have got to get some new wipers!) Clumps of snow flung backwards beneath the tires of the cars that surrounded me.

Driving in these conditions stresses me out. This winter, I’ve seen more stalled vehicles, spin-outs, crashes and rollovers than I can ever remember. Earlier this week, there was a car in the ditch, upside down. The scene moved along outside the passenger window in slow motion while a state trooper pulled over to help. That kind of thing freaks me out. And there are always a handful of drivers that think they’re invincible, driving faster than the flow of traffic, cutting off others, zipping from one lane to another with little regard for anyone else. I’m so tired of feeling like I’m putting my life on the line every day just to get to work.

I couldn’t breathe easy until I was safely parked in my company lot. I felt worn out before I’d even begun my work day. So when I walked in, before I took off my jacket, I decided I was not going to carry that weight around with me for the rest of my day. I poked my head into my coworker, Lori’s cube and with more enthusiasm than I really felt, I smiled big and said, “Isn’t this a beautiful day? Don’t you just love these Minnesota winters?”

Playing right along, Lori exclaimed, “Oh, yes! The snow is so pretty! What a lovely day this is!”

And then we laughed and rolled our eyes and went off to work. But honestly, I felt lighter and brighter than I had just a few moments earlier. The snow continued to fall outside while I immersed myself in my job. And when it was time to go home, the sun was shining fiercely, casting dramatic tree shadows over a new, crusty layer of snow. And it was cold again. Really cold. But the sun was shining. Not for much longer. But it was shining. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask.

Sun 2

And again with the weather!

20140126Boy, the weather sure is demanding our attention this winter, isn’t it?

My weekend did not go as planned, thanks to the weather. I was looking forward to some family time. Brad sent a text message early in the week, asking what we had planned for the weekend. I responded, “Nothing much. Just bowling. You thinking of coming home?”

“Maybe.”

I figured he was bored. I think all of the various hunting seasons are over and it’s probably too cold to go ice fishing. But I was more than happy to let the kids come here and hang out for a couple of days. We let Kacey know that Brad and Heather might be coming home, and soon she was contemplating coming home from school after her last class of the week on Thursday. I love that my kids like each other enough to rearrange plans to spend time together. There was a time when they would have done anything possible not to have to be in the same place at the same time.

Brad’s maybe turned into definitely and Kacey was home by dinner time on Thursday. It had been a really challenging week at work and all I wanted was to walk away for a couple of days and spend time with my kids. Wouldn’t you know it, though, the weather forecast began to look a little sketchy by Friday morning. Brad didn’t think he’d be able to leave work before seven o’clock and he sent me a text message that afternoon saying that if he and Heather couldn’t get on the road before the snow began to fall in their area, they would probably just stay home. I understood. As much as I love to see them, I don’t want them risking their safety to get here. The highway that takes them from there to here is notorious for white-out conditions when it snows and I always worry when they’re out on the road.

In the end, it wasn’t snow that kept them away, but sleet. Brad wisely chose to avoid traveling several hours in the dark in such slippery conditions. I was disappointed, but relieved that I wouldn’t have to worry about them.

And so a quieter couple of days loomed ahead. Still, Kacey was home and I wasn’t the only who was happy about that. Lucy knew she was in for some pampering.

So instead of big family breakfasts, Kacey and I cooked up an omelet to share on Saturday morning. Instead of dogs racing and chasing in the back yard, Lucy soaked up the attention Kacey showered on her and only her. Instead of everyone being home, Jake went to work on Saturday to earn some extra money. Earlier in the week, I envisioned family movie nights, when we would all get into our comfy clothes and wrap up in fleece blankets in front of the living room t.v. Some of us would fall asleep before the movie’s end. Instead, Kacey and I discovered a new series to watch on Netflix. By the third episode, I was losing the fight to keep my eyes open!

I pictured games around the kitchen table and imagined conversations full of laughter and so loud that one would overlap another. But those things weren’t to be. Instead, Kacey and I got out of the house. In spite of the cold and wind, we did a little bit of shopping. She had plans for some of her Christmas money. We grocery shopped and spent time in the kitchen making granola and a batch of soup for her to take back to school. We missed Brad, Heather and Dacotah-Dog because we didn’t get to see them in person this weekend. But thanks to the wonders of technology, we got to see them and talk a while on FaceTime. (For the record, dogs do not appreciate FaceTime. Neither Dacotah nor Lucy was interested in talking into the iPhone camera!)

We made the best of the change in plans and we had fun. Kacey headed back to school after dinner this evening, but not before making Brad and Heather promise to give it another try in two weeks. I sure hope the weather cooperates next time!

Snowfall

The deep freeze went away. Last weekend, Lucy reveled in the freedom to run and play in the back yard without freezing her cute little paws off. I think we made it past the thirties! And believe it or not, I saw a few people in shorts on Saturday!

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Looking for a stick in the brush pile

Sniffing scents in the snow

Sniffing scents in the snow

Last night and early this morning, a snowfall came to our area. It was pretty typical as far as snowfalls in Minnesota go and it left a few inches of clean, white fluff on the ground and a bit of a dip in the temperature. During the week, I get up for the day while it’s still dark outside. There’s a street light on the corner across from our house. So the first thing I did was to go to the window and watch big, heavy, wet snowflakes rain down in a slant beneath the glow of the street light. It was pretty. And I knew the drive to work would be slow.

It was a small challenge just getting out of the driveway. The lines separating the lanes on streets and freeways were invisible. I listened to the radio, laughed at the morning show antics and sang along to favorite songs as my car crawled along in traffic along with hundreds of others. It’s a good thing I left early. My usual twenty-minute to half-hour drive took an hour.

It was a busy day at work and I was immersed. Lunch break passed me by. I ate while I continued working at my desk and it was time to go home before I realized it. When I went out to my car, it was a simple pleasure to see daylight. The sun has been scarce lately or I’ve stayed at the office long enough to miss it. Thankfully, the roads were cleaner and drier for the drive home. Unfortunately, the driveway wasn’t.

The unspoken division of duties at our house means Mark usually handles the outside stuff and I cover the inside stuff. I expected him to tackle the snow in the driveway before he went to work this afternoon, but he ended up starting earlier than planned. The driveway was not visible when I pulled up after work. I had to gun it to get my car up the slight incline and into the garage. I knew that when  Jake got home, he would have trouble getting his car through the crusty lip of snow that, thanks to the snowplow, edged the end of our driveway. And then he’d have to navigate the blanket of snow the covered the rest of it and into the turn-around where he parks at the end of each day. I thought I might clear it out for him before he got home.

My parents have a snow blower. This is what Mark uses to clear our driveway and theirs, when he does the snow removal. I don’t know how to run it, and besides, it’s finicky. I bundled up and grabbed one of the many snow shovels from the selection hanging on the garage wall.

Our driveway doesn’t seem so big. Until I’m shoveling it by hand. Then it feels enormous! As I scraped and pushed and scooped up snow, I heard the whir of snow blowers all around the neighborhood. I wondered if nobody just shovels snow anymore. Neighbors drove by periodically, honked and waved. True or not, I felt like somewhat of an oddity. About halfway through the job, I was sweating, sniffling, and the cold air felt sharp in my lungs. I was getting tired! Thankfully, Jake pulled into the neighborhood just then. He left his car on the street for the time being and grabbed another shovel. Together we cleared the rest of the snow away. It’s true what they say. Many hands make light work.

Just before we finished, I realized that dusk had fallen and the moon was hanging in the sky, just behind the neighbor’s tree. It was picturesque.  I stopped a moment to appreciate the moon, recognizing the hush of winter around us. I might not have noticed the moon or the hush had I been pushing a snow blower, and for sure wouldn’t have if I had been warm and cozy in the house instead of outside in the cold.

Winter Moon

Winter Moon

That moon can come back any time it likes. I won’t mind if the snow doesn’t.

Shivering, Coping, Playing Around

While all the schools and many businesses were closed during the past couple of extremely cold days, I was not one of the lucky ones whose employer shut down for the weather. And even though I joked sarcastically about the loosening of dress code standards which allowed employees to wear hoodies in order to cope with the temps, I was grateful to be able to dress more casually. I put on jeans and a couple of layers of shirts and stayed pretty warm throughout the day.

I tossed some snow pants, thick fleece mittens, boots and earmuffs into the back seat of my car before I left for work yesterday morning. On the off-chance I ended up having car trouble before arriving at work, at least I could dress appropriately for extended exposure to the elements. Those of us who actually made it in to work congratulated one another. A few coworkers took the day off or worked from home because their cars wouldn’t start in the cold. At the office, there was a steady stream of people coming and going to the parking lot throughout the day to start their cars. I thought my nine-year old car might be a bit reluctant to start in this cold, but she fired up like a champ. I later learned that it might not be such a good idea to start the car for only a short period of time. Something about not letting it run long enough… moisture forming … causing problems the next time you want to start the car. Or so said my coworker’s husband. Today I didn’t start my car between arriving and leaving. And it still started up like a champ when it was time to go home.

When I got home after work yesterday, I found Mark, Kacey and Connor in the kitchen. Mark and Kacey were preparing the makings for Chef’s salads. Connor was boiling water. Slipping a hot pad on his hand and grabbing the pot by its handle, he said to me, “Come here! Watch this! I’m gonna make it snow.”

I grabbed my cell phone and turned on the video function while following Connor out the sliding glass door. I’d always wanted to try this myself, but never did. Connor flung the boiling water up into the frigid evening air and…

Well, it didn’t exactly look like snow to me. More like fog. But still kinda cool.

After  a lovely Chef salad dinner, it was time to go bowling. As the league president, I’d received plenty of inquiries from fellow bowlers, wondering if bowling would be cancelled. But the bowling alley was open. Leagues were on! I passed the word that we weren’t cancelling, but anyone who didn’t feel safe driving should feel free to stay home and we’d use their blind score. Most everyone showed up and we had fun. I made use of the remote starter on my car (spare key) so I could let it warm up, safely locked, out in the frigid parking lot before I got in and drove home.

Oh, it is cold! Bone-chilling cold! A FaceB00k friend made a prediction. Nine months from now, there’s going to be  baby boom. Maybe so! It may be cold, but we find ways to keep busy in spite of it! :-)