The last rack of straw is finally up in the barn, dairy farmers are starting to check moisture levels in their corn fields, and the Great Minnesota Get-Together is in full swing. Summer is coming to a screeching halt.
Parents of school children everywhere are trying to find back packs and school supplies and tennis shoes that fit. This year, we join their ranks.
In a few short days, Dan will start pre-school. We're closing the chapter on the do-as-we-will days of early childhood and opening the one with a new schedule, new friends and a whole new world.
I don't think the full reality has hit me yet.
And I'm still not sure how exactly I'm going to re-arrange morning chores so that I can have Dan to his classroom by 8:30 a.m. with a full tummy and clean clothes. (I think he might be going to bed in his school clothes.)
What I am sure of, is that Dan has a whole summer's worth of critter stories to tell his new teacher. I hope she can keep up with the auctioneer-like pace of all those stories.
I'm guessing the first story Dan will tell is the most recent - the one about the bat in the basement shower.
Last night when we came in from the barn, the kids got ready to shower like they do every night. Monika played in the shower stall while we waited for Dan.
When they were both ready, I had them stand outside the shower while I adjusted the water temperature. When it was just right, I opened the curtain so they could hop in. They had just stepped in when I saw something flop to the floor of the shower. My first thought was that a washcloth fell. Then it moved again.
I am ridiculously proud of how calm I remained and how quickly I acted. I ordered the kids out of the shower and closed the curtain. I shut the water off, donned the pair of Glen's thick leather gloves that happened to be nearby, grabbed the bat, ran up the stairs and set him outside on the picnic table.
Dinner that night was pretty interesting. Dan wanted to know how the bat got in the house. Monika kept repeating, "Bat. Shower. Mommy. Outside."
The bat experience was so exciting that Dan almost forgot about his salamander.
A couple days ago Dan found a salamander in the gutter. I helped him put it in a bucket with a little water and a piece of wood to hide under. It provided entertainment for a whole afternoon. Monika squealed when she saw it. Dan brought his kitten to meet it. He was very concerned about what might eat his salamander and what he must do to protect it.
The next morning, I found the salamander's bucket tipped over and the salamander was gone. Dan was heartbroken. His little lower lip just quivered when I told him I didn't know where his salamander was. (Truth be told, I did know what happened to his salamander, but I didn't have the heart to tell him.) He looked all morning for his salamander, but couldn't find it.
Then, last night, on the way to the house, Monika spotted a toad so we stopped to watch it. All of sudden, Dan asked, "What's that?"
Not far from the toad was a salamander. Dan was elated.
"Mom, my salamander came back! Why did he come back?"
Dan asked if he could save it until morning and I agreed. So, I went back to the barn for a pail and some water while Dan and Monika guarded the salamander. This time we put the salamander in a bigger bucket and put the bucket in the garage so it wouldn't get tipped over.
Later, when we were watching the bat on the picnic table, we spotted several more salamanders near the patio, which Dan also asked to keep, but I set the limit at one. Apparently, this must be the time of year for salamanders to migrate.
After Dan finishes telling his teacher about the bat and his salamander, I'm sure there will be stories about the kittens, because we finally have a litter of friendly kittens.
And stories about the chickens. We raised ten chicks this summer. Dan and Monika spent countless hours watching them. Then chasing them, after we let them out. Interestingly, at pre-school screening last winter, the screener was concerned about Dan's gross motor skills because he couldn't stop giggling long enough to balance on one foot. After Dan caught his first little chicken, Glen commented that any 4-year-old who can catch a chicken isn't lacking gross motor skills, or fine motor skills for that matter.
And there will probably be a story about the baby Red Squirrel that tried to crawl up Mommy's leg this summer. But there's not enough room in this column to tell that story.
Plus, Dan has many more stories about his cow, Love, and our dog, Skippy.
Pre-school will provide inspiration for a whole new set of stories. We're excited to see what this new chapter in life brings for Dan and I know he'll be more than willing to share his stories about new friends and lessons learned.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 4, and Monika, 2. When she's not parenting or farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.