Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Baby & big sister time February 12, 2019

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My newborn grandson snuggles against his mama.

 

I NEEDED TO SEE HIM again. The newborn grandson. I’d seen him briefly at the hospital on the day of his January 6 birth and for awhile on the afternoon he arrived home.

But that minimal time wasn’t enough for Grandma. I had yet to see Isaac with his eyes open. And I needed some cuddling time with him and time, too, with his big sister, Izzy.

The solution: Offer to babysit so his sleep-deprived, exhausted parents could take a break from caring for a new baby and an active nearly three-year-old. My daughter snapped up the offer.

 

 

So on a recent Saturday Grandpa and I headed the hour north to get our grandparenting fix, uh, I mean give Amber and Marc time for a lunch date. We arrived later than we wanted because of a 5-inch snowfall the previous evening. A failed snowblower required shoveling our sidewalk and driveway and that of an elderly neighbor before we left town.

Eventually we arrived at our destination and I asked for details on diaper changing supplies and feeding if Isaac got hungry before his mama returned. Then off the parents went.

We lunched in the sun-drenched dining room while Isaac slept nearby. Everything was going great until I said how much I liked the bright sunshine. Big mistake. Izzy said she didn’t like the sun, eased off her chair and yanked at the patio curtains. “But we like the sun,” I protested. She gave me a defiant look. Don’t challenge an assertive preschooler. The curtains remained closed. You have to choose your battles and this wasn’t important enough to pursue.

 

 

Eventually Isaac awakened and I had my Grandma cuddling time and a diaper changing opportunity, for which I should have been prepared but wasn’t. I called for Grandpa back-up. Hey, I haven’t changed a newborn’s diaper in nearly three years.

Izzy also got plenty of my attention with the two of us playing on the floor with Daniel Tiger figurines and then snuggling on my lap as I read a pile of books. She and Grandpa also rolled and shaped Play Doh while I held Isaac. Oh, and between everything, I pulled out my Canon DSLR to shoot some photos. I wish I could show you all those sweet images, but they are reserved for family.

By late afternoon, Grandpa and I were driving back home with memories of the day imprinted upon our hearts. There’s nothing like time with the grandkids…

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Heartfelt February 11, 2019

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IT’S A SIMPLE FABRIC HEART. Puffed with stuffing. Hand-stitched with red thread. The words I Love You printed with red paint.

I could have trashed the heart years after the son crafted it for me in elementary school. But there are some things you keep. Things that remind you of the sweet love of a child, of a heartfelt gift lovingly made for a mother.

This heart reminds me that love threads through our lives—in memories, in moments, in the art of living.

Remember that on Valentine’s Day and always. You are loved.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

February family birthdays February 8, 2019

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One of my all-time favorite photos of my son at age 5. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FEBRUARY 9 AND 10 HOLD importance for me. They are the dates two of my three children, now all adults, were born. The daughter arrived first, a second daughter 21 months later in November and then the son on February 9, the day before his oldest sister’s eighth birthday.

Yes, I was a busy mom. There never seemed to be time for myself or enough time in a day. Something always needed doing. Someone always needed help or attention. I’m not complaining, just telling it like it was.

I miss those days. I miss my kids. But I did my job, as best I could, raising them to be independent adults. The daughter is married, a busy mother of two, including a newborn. I love watching her with her daughter and son. She’s attentive, loving, caring and just a really good mom.

 

My eldest daughter at three months old. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Sometimes when I look at my granddaughter, I glimpse Amber at the same age. There’s a certain way Izzy will act or a profile I’ll catch or a look I’ll see that makes me think for a moment that I’m watching my eldest daughter. What a gift to experience that timeless moment.

With my son, who lives way too far away from Minnesota in Boston, I remember most the moment he arrived home from school. Nearly daily Caleb asked for a hug. He didn’t need to ask. I would have given him one. But to hear his sweet request, oh, what joy that brought this mama. I miss his hugs. Whenever he’s back for a visit, I grab all the hugs I can to hold emotionally close in his absence.

There will be lots of hugs in the next few days as Caleb flies in for a short visit, totally unexpected. It will be the first time since 2012 that we’ve been together on his birthday. I’m excited.

Because of distance and/or busyness of life, I seldom celebrate my kids’ birthdays with them. It just is not possible. But that doesn’t change how I feel about their birthdays. Their births opened my heart to a love that is intuitive and deep and unconditional—a mother’s love.

Happy birthday, Amber and Caleb! I love you both always. And I look forward to celebrating with both of you this weekend. My mama’s heart is happy.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Even though stamps cost more, I’ll continue mailing cards February 7, 2019

 

IF ONLY I’D KNOWN. If only she’d informed me of the price increase when she asked whether I wanted more than one sheet of postage stamps. “Nope, just one,” I said and pulled out my debit card.

I had no idea that the cost of postage stamps was rising by 10 percent the very next day, from 50 cents per first class forever stamp to 55 cents.

I suppose it’s my fault for not being on top of things. But she, the U.S. postal clerk, could have told me when I bought stamps that Saturday morning at my local post office. Had I known, I would have purchased more than 20 stamps. I like to save money when given the opportunity.

Not that I would have bought a stack of postage stamp sheets. But, given all the birthday and Valentine’s Day cards I mail in February, I certainly would have purchased more to save more money.

Sigh. Live and learn.

The increased cost of mailing cards won’t stop me from sending them. I consider greeting cards an important way to communicate care and more. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciated the get well cards I received while recovering from two broken bones in recent years. Never underestimate the power of a greeting card to encourage and uplift others.

I like also to write personal thank you notes. We don’t do that often enough in this high tech world—put pen to paper and hand-write gratitude.

And birthday cards…I still send them even though I seldom get them anymore. It saddens me that most people are seemingly too busy to choose, sign, address and mail birthday cards. A text message or email just is not the same. To slice open an envelope, pull out a greeting card, read and re-read a hand-signed message brings me joy.

Yes, being a writer (including of greeting card verses for Warner Press) likely contributes to my fondness for cards. I’ll give you that. I understand the value of the written word.

How about you? Do you still send greeting cards? If not, why not?

Or what are your thoughts on that 10 percent increase in first class postage stamp rates?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Minnesota ice challenge February 6, 2019

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The snow boots which help me navigate through a Minnesota winter. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A TIME EXISTED WHEN ICE excited me. I’d pull out my Aunt Dorothy’s hand-me-down figure skates in anticipation of an hour or two on the ice.

Oh, the nostalgia. Oh, the memories of skating on the rink (if you could call it that) next to the grain elevator in Vesta. Oh, the memories of skating across icy ponds formed in cornfields from melting snow. Skating there meant swerving around corn stubble. But when you live in a definitively rural area, you make do. And I did. And I loved to skate. Loved ice.

Now? Not so much. OK, let’s just be honest. I don’t like ice. Now that I’m well past the safe age of skating and ice poses a risk rather than a reason for fun, I avoid it. Two falls in the past two years resulting in broken bones, surgery on one and months of therapy are cause enough to practice caution. Note that neither of those breaks occurred on ice. But given I’ve experienced the results of falls, I am mindful of slick surfaces.

And we currently have an abundance of those in Minnesota from driveways to sidewalks to parking lots to roadways. It is the nature of winter, some winters worse than others. And this one seems to be especially bad with bitter cold temps and fog and freezing rain and snow creating slippery surfaces upon which we must navigate.

So how do I manage, especially when walking? I shuffle like the old (er) person I am. I walk around icy patches if possible. I hang onto the husband (hey, nothing like going down together) or whatever vehicle. I wear my snow boots with their semi gripping tread. I stay clear of paths covered by snow and/or ice if possible.

But, unless I sequester myself inside until May, I can’t fully avoid every potentially bone-breaking surface. Rather, I need to be mindful, use common sense and hope that spring arrives sooner rather than later.

TELL ME: Have you (or someone you know) experienced a fall, or near fall, on an icy surface? What were the results? How do you stay safe if you live in a cold weather climate?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

An, oh, so Minnesotan celebration at Faribault Flannel Formal February 5, 2019

 

Me in flannel. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

MINNESOTA STATE LEGISLATORS recently considered the Labrador retriever as our state dog. The loon is our state bird, the Lady Slipper our state flower. And so on.

Now, if our elected officials decided we also need a state winter dress code, I’d push for flannel shirt and jeans. That’s my outfit of choice from late autumn into spring, or whenever winter ends. Because I work out of my home office, Friday casual fits daily. And because I’ve never been pegged as a fashionista (ask my sister who got my childhood hand-me-down clothes and still reminds me to this day of my horrible fashion sense), I embrace comfortable attire. Like blue jeans and flannel.

 

Source: Faribault Main Street Facebook page.

 

So does my community. From 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. this Saturday, February 9, Faribault Main Street celebrates its annual Faribault Flannel Formal. It’s a fitting event for Minnesota, home of legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan, typically dressed in red and black buffalo plaid flannel and sturdy jeans.

 

Photo source: Faribault Main Street Facebook page.

 

To promote the event, locals have been wearing flannel to work and about town on Flannel Fridays.

 

Legendary Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots edited file photo.

 

The lumberjack theme is very much a part of the Faribault event at 10,000 Drops Craft Distillers and adjoining Corks and Pints in the heart of our historic downtown, just a block off Central Avenue. The dress code obviously calls for flannel with honors awarded to the best-dressed lumberjack and lumberjane.

 

A ticket to the Formal will get you a free commemorative jar. I love these. Photo source: Faribault Main Street Facebook page.

 

Attendees can also get into the Paul Bunyan spirit by competing in lumberjack themed games—the giant beaver toss, hammerschlagen and duck the branch.

 

A wonderful blend of textures is presented in this hotdish. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Another Minnesota staple—hotdish (not casserole)—also is an integral part of the Faribault Flannel Formal. Folks are invited to cook up their favorite hotdishes for sampling and a $100 Chamber Check top prize. Who doesn’t love hotdish, the ultimate Minnesota winter comfort food? I’ll take Minnesotan Amy Thielen’s Chicken and Wild Rice Hotdish, thank you. She hosts Heartland Table on Food Network, among other accomplishments.

No Formal is complete without music. The Rochester Caledonian Bagpipers kick off the evening with the classic rock tribute band Horizontal Hero following.

 

Past Faribault Flannel Formal attendees. Photo compliments of Faribault Main Street.

 

While I’ve not attended a Formal yet, I’m pretty certain I’d enjoy it. I mean, I wouldn’t need to dress up. The challenge would come in choosing which flannel shirt to wear. Blue/gray/black? Red/black/gold? Green and black? Teal/black/subtle orange? Green and brownish? Yup lots of choices in my closet.

 

Photo source: Faribault Main Street Facebook page.

 

FYI: For more info on the Faribault Flannel Formal, including tickets, click here.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

When the granddaughter stays over February 4, 2019

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IN THE LIVING ROOM, a ballerina guides a train along tracks…

 

 

then dances across the carpet, tulle flaring as applause roar.

 

 

In the kitchen, an elephant stomps. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Then asks for a cookie.

 

 

Along the river bank, snowboots slap on wet pavement edging the river and the ice-boxed rushing waterfall. The need to walk, to run, to just be outdoors prevails following days of near record-breaking brutal cold.

 

 

Then, beneath the bridge along the recreational trail, vehicles thump overhead while three walk, one trailing.

 

 

Back inside the house, two snuggle under a fleece and blue jeans blanket and read of baby robins and bunnies and warm days of spring.

Then preschool arms reach, wrap around neck and speak the sweetest of words. “I love you, Grandma!”

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling