Maybe it will be April rains that finally wash away the dirty ice mounds that linger in the parking lots. I am finished with dagger style icicles and black ice.
My visit with the grandkids who live in a small town in the North Carolina mountains was to be a few days; but day after day, the snow storms rolled in, and I was snowed in. In my nearly three-week stay, the kids were in school three full days. A few days were two-hour delays, but for the most part schools were closed.
I feel a little like Garrison Keillor as he fondly speaks of the folks in Minnesota. In this town, nearly every other man I met was named Rick, and most of the little boys who played with my grandsons had Old Testament names: Jonah, Micah, Noah, Elijah, Isaiah, Samuel, Zechariah (a.k.a. Zak-O) and Caleb lived in a four-house radius. I was there so long that I knew which boots, hats and mittens belonged to what child.
The 10-year-old puddle jumpers Jonah, Caleb and Zak-O rarely arrived in boots. In mid-day sun after the plows had come and gone, irresistible pools of slush formed on the roads. Many days I watched Jonah, Caleb and Zak-O puddle jump their way down the road to our house. The trio arrived with ice-encrusted socks and shoes. They constantly slipped out of the house bootless.
My mind drifted here and there. I am all for kids getting dirty. Dirt helps kids grow, right? I wondered just how muddy that trio of puddle jumpers would get once the ground has completely thawed and April rains begin. I thought about Robert Frost, his observations of nature, and his poem, "Two Tramps in Mud Time." Frost has it right about spring and April. Here are two lines from that poem.
"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
"You know how it is with an April day?"
April is a messy month. I am secretly grateful that, although I must deal with the mud and spring thaw, I won't be faced with scores of muddy boots and puddle jumpers. My condolences to the parents of puddle jumpers who are about to pass through that annual rite of spring. If you don't approve of your kids drawing on steamy windows, you probably will get aggravated with muddy shoes and boots. You could choose to obsess about the mess and fuss about another rainy, muddy day.
Why not follow Robert Frost down the "road less traveled" and flick on your smile switch. Good humor will make all the difference. You and your puddle jumpers might embrace the elements with a giant outdoor neighborhood puddle jumping commemoration of Earth Day on April 22.
April is the month of showers. Rainbows come with showers, so celebrate rainbows. Be alert for as the sun peeks through a rain shower, the rays filter through the moist air and somewhere there is a rainbow. They seem to appear unexpectedly. Look quickly for rainbows are as fleeting as shooting stars.
Rainbows hide in hearts, too. Sometimes it's really tough to locate an internal rainbow if your house is filled with stormy, bad-attitude kids stuck inside due to sick bugs or bad weather. Quick and very simple crafts, the instant gratification kind, will brighten the "in house" climate.
Long ago during a "primary colors" activity with my kids, I had a pleasant surprise. In the process of combining colors to make more colors, we found a rainbow. For this easy activity, you will need three drops each of red, yellow and blue food coloring, one cup of milk, 1/8 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap and a shallow dish. Pour the milk in the dish. Put three drops of yellow food coloring on the edge of the dish. Move 1/3 of the way around the dish and drip the blue on the edge. Move to the last third of the bowl and drip the red on the edge. Now place the dishwashing liquid in the center of the bowl. The milk and the soap don't mix, so the soap floats.
Now the fun begins. Watch carefully. As the soap moves around the bowl, it collects the colors. The colors combine and make new colors. Red and yellow combine to make orange. Red and blue combine to make purple. Blue and yellow combine to make green. All the rainbow colors emerge right before your eyes. We have tried this activity with cooking oil which also remains on the surface; however the results are not satisfactory.
Another quick non-messy rainbow color adventure is with coffee filters or paper towels, water and watercolor paints or water-based marking pens. Flatten a basket-style coffee filter. Spritz or sprinkle it with water.
Dot the moistened filter with the markers or with the watercolor paint brush dipped in different colors.
You can reverse the process by decorating the filter with the marking pens or paints and then moistening. The colors run together in amazing designs.
After the filters dry, the kids can make butterflies by crinkling the filters in the middle and wrapping around the center with a pipe cleaner. Curl the ends of the pipe cleaner to make antenna. They can make flowers by folding the filter in half, in quarters, and then finally in eighths. Pinch the point and wrap the filter above the pinch with one end of a pipe cleaner. Leave enough pipe cleaner for a stem. When the "pinch" is securely wrapped, open and shape the petals.
Tie-dying is another color adventure for school age kids. Do a quick Internet search for tie-dying, and you will find directions best suited for your artists, materials and craft space. Think out of the box when looking for things to tie dye. The fabric must be 100 percent cotton.How about an old sheet or pillowcase? You can even tie-dye inexpensive white cotton knit gloves. What can you do with outgrown tie-dyed T-shirts or tie-dye fabric which is not apparel? Put the fabric on a stretcher frame for a picture, make a pillow, cover a shoe box, or use as a lining for a tote bag. Create book covers or use on scrapbooking pages.
So folks, when your mud-splattered puddle jumpers appear after a healthy stomp, take a deep breath, grab a towel and watch for your rainbow!
Heidi Maness Hartwiger, a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is the author of two books, "All Join Hands: The Forgotten Art of Playing With Children" and "A Gift of Herbs." She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.