The cold just never came. Snow? Not much at all. Time? Flew by! End result: A delightfully uneventful winter.

While the lack of snow made for dismal sledding opportunities, the girls found plenty of other activities to busy themselves with, especially out on the farm. Anna's beloved main squeeze, Calico, no doubt appreciated the mild weather.

Anna and Calico

What a couple. (A couple of what? Laid-back rabbits, natch.)

Calico on Ana's lap

Some of the girls' other favorites: Kate and B-B: (Short for Blind Bunny. She was attacked by another rabbit as a babe, luckily she eventually regained use of one eye.)

Kate, a black rabbit, and BB, a mostly white rabbit

A mustached little rabbit named Tiny:

Tiny the rabbit

Look-a-likes Skylar and Belle:

two white and grey rabbits

And some favorites from the home-front: Cookie and Luigi (doing their best Jawa impressions):

Cookie and Luigi, two of our cats

Having one vehicle for the four working members of our family requires some strategic planning. Ella still has not gotten use to the fact Mom now works, and freaks out (putting it mildly here, folks) whenever she sees me heading out the door. The end result: When I have to head out well after bedtime to pick up Alex, she insists on coming along. Some nights she doesn't quite make it.

Sleeping Ella all geared up to go

There are times I hardly make it, for that matter. This particular night had a bonus awesome halo-around-the-full-moon effect going for it that kept my overtired eyes wide open.

the moon nestled in the trees

Random moments that made us chuckle: Proof not only that cats can read; they also have good taste:

Cookie reading a Garfield comic book

A still enduring family tradition: watching America's Funniest Home Videos together. One particularly cold evening had Luigi taking lap-sitting to a whole new level.

Luigi sprawled out over Nora's shoulder

One goofy way I show the kiddos I still love them and miss them when at work is to bake lots of dentist-cringing treats for them to devour in my absence. (I really keep meaning to post some of their favorite creations in our blog... someday!) Our friends often get to hear of my better creations (a triple layer brownie cake) as well as my rather strange concoctions (Rainbow Barf cake, anyone?). One dear friend gave me a magazine full of cute cake ideas. Anna and I decided to try out the teddy bear pool party one. End result? Very cute, but the kids didn't care too much for the jello/ cake combo.

the cake

We celebrated completing the first semester of school with a trip to Nickelodeon Universe. After a tense snafu over our second-hand wristbands, the older kids hit the coasters...

the gang on the roller coaster

the kids on the coaster

while the younger two hit the kiddie rides.

Ella riding a race car

We all did some shopping in the Mall of America as well. We just had to get our bunny-loving Anna a Zootopia's Judy Hopps sweater to go with the stuffed animal she bought herself.

Ella and Anna with her Zootopia goods

Ella can have her photobombing fetish. Anna and I have our own random selfie tradition to uphold.

Anna and Shannon

We soon found ourselves all shopped out and famished. We decided to try Bubba Gump Restaurant. (Okay, so it was more like "I can't walk another step! I need nourishment!" and it was the closest place around.)

The waitress quizzed us on Forrest Gump, which was amusing, since none of us had ever seen the movie, and had no idea the restaurant was based on it. I was most amused by the sign over Nora and her reaction to my amusement, though.


I splurged and got Ella a light-up cup for her root beer. Her ultra-surprised reaction was totally worth the three bucks.

Ella with her cup

How was the grub? Pretty good. The boys were impressed with the size of the burgers.

Caleb digging into a burger

Alex was in crab-leg nirvana.

Alex hovering over his plate of crab

All in all, we had a fun day.

Another random moment... Anna's teacher requests her students submit a photo of them with their pets. Cue hilarious antics and mayhem while trying to get 3 dogs and 3 cats to all stay close enough to Anna to snap a photo.

Anna with all 6 of our pets

By the end of February the weather was so spring-like we (at least the "we" of us that wasn't working or had other prior obligations) returned to our usual romping grounds. Nora and Rosa wandered off with bird-watcher Caleb while Anna and I soaked up the warm sunshine out on the prairie. The frozen Chelgren Lake stood out like a diamond on the golden grassland.

Lake Chelgren

It was eerily quiet. The silence burned my ears as my mind tried to fill in the gaps with memories of choruses of frogs and the chattering of birds. It was comforting to know that soon they would be back in the flesh, breaking winter's icy hush with sweet springtime melodies.

As we entered the woods, we spotted other non-natives...

Caleb, Nora, and Rosa

We briefly discussed spottings of deer carcasses and building of many a hidden snowman before departing ways once again. Anna and I found ourselves out on the frozen Lake Collinwood. I had Anna pose on a fallen tree. Ice and snow all around, and here she was in a tee-shirt. Only in Minnesota, right?


The real reason we had ventured towards the shore was to see if our (assumed) fox friends had left us any new treasures. Once we found their den...

their den entrance

We were treated to many a skull (rabbit and squirrel, mostly) and other bone bits. The rapid melting had also left an abundance of tracks, like this one, right outside the den.

a likely fox footprint

By scrutinizing these tracks, my hunch tells me we have a red fox resident here.

While we were discovering bones, the other wanderers were not too far off, testing the physics of thin ice.

Caleb on thin ice

Thankfully the ice held up, and they focused their energy on creating.

Caleb making a screaming snowman

I wonder what the natives think when they come across these little fellas...

the finished snowman

I know what Anna and I thought when we spotted this little goon out on the ice... I wonder what will melt first: the snowman or the thin ice he's resting on?

a snowman out on the thin ice

The kids just sadly shake their heads when I excitedly show them a face finding, but my hunch that they secretly don't mind was confirmed when I saw what they did to the remainder of the parking lot's snowbank.

a face in the hill

March brought more awesomeness in the mild-temperatures department. (I'm not just making this up, folks... weather guru Mark Seeley summed up March this way: On a statewide basis March of 2016 will rank 4th warmest in Minnesota history back to 1895.

Spring fever merged with my spring cleaning instincts, resulting in the boys stumbling upon this scene:

Tearing down the hallway walls

For years we've complained about the entryway set up: narrow and dark, with everyone tripping over each other trying to get into the tiny hall closet to hang up their winter gear. I had had it. No more. The solution seemed simple to me: the closet had to go, wall and all. Now you see it...

the wall's innards

Now you don't:

wall's all gone

Alex found the whole thing very amusing, and proceeded to send the above pictures to his friend, who showed it to a friend... and well, let's just say for weeks afterwards I got snarky comments about tearing down walls for fun.

But the end result? Enough hangers, benches, cubbies, and lockers for everyone's gear in a nice light-filled room.

the finished entryway

Why we hadn't done this years ago is beyond me.

another shot of the finished entryway

Another springtime bonus: more daylight hours. Nora inherited the former hallway bench, using it as a reading nook under her sun-filled window. Well, that is if she can get the cats off of it.

Cookie sunbathing

Can you spot the Nit-Wit?

Nit-Wit and Cookie

Poor Cookie just can't get a break. Here's Luigi hogging the sun's rays:

Luigi and Cookie

A bonus for the three cats: there has been a ton of Robins fluttering around this spring. The Window: the ultimate outdoor cat channel.

Luigi watching out the window

All that sunshine made quick work of melting the lakes' ice. Here is the same shot of Lake Chelgren, two weeks later:

the ice almost gone

Our wood was silent no more. The birds chortled away...

a robin

while the plunking call of the green frog twanged out of the swampy low lands. Anna and I celebrated the return of our noisy friends with a traditional selfie:

Shannon and Anna

To top it off, I found a smiling face on the trail.

a leaf face

Anna wasn't very impressed. She thought her Sandhill Crane footprint find was much more interesting.

the crane's footprints

The muddy trail sported all kinds of footprints, for that mater. Here's just a small sampling:

tracks of dog, racoon, human, and more

Meanwhile... Alex was making his own Interesting. He captured the melting ice dripping into the lake:

dripping water

He dreamed of being an ice-being...

Alex's reflection in the ice

but where would that leave him when it all melted?

his reflection in the water

Now there's a thorny problem!

prickly pear plant

All kidding aside, Alex definitely has an eye for getting good shots of nature at her best.

We'll end our quaint winter with the girls showing off their home made acorns:

the girls with their acorn treats

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