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Winter fun with cousins and their kids

GAYS MILLS - Recently at the Schendel-Dremsa household, we’ve had a bit of a treat. My cousin Brandon and his family have ventured our way twice in the last couple of weeks for some quality family time. 

Some of this is probably attributed to the fact Thatcher is old enough that he can play with other kids. Something, he has desperately needed after being stuck home with old mom and dad for almost 12 weeks. I worried the lack of other children around him was starting to force him to grow up too quickly. Especially when he began randomly, albeit joyously, spouting “What the hell ma? What. The. Hell!?” and telling me “you’re just impossible mama!” followed by a deep sigh. 

 I was relieved when he proceeded to cry to watch a cartoon and have his juice in a green cup NOT a blue cup–which is of course business as usual when you’re almost three.

We’ve all grown a bit, shall we say, beleaguered by each others’ company following the extreme weather. So having them venture up to visit was certainly something to look forward to. And Thatcher, well he just can’t get enough of having people closer to his age to chase and play with. 

Brandon, my brother and I all spent a lot of time together growing up. His younger sister made an appearance now and again, but it was apparent early on that country livin’ maybe wasn't her favorite thing. Brandon however seemed like he spent nearly every weekend with us at our little hobby farm. 

One of my favorite photos from my childhood is a picture of Brandon and I in a muddy barnyard in early spring, shucking corn. Brandon was the person who taught me that my mom’s name was not indeed only Mom. I recall so clearly feeling SO deeply offended he had called her Aunt Rhonda, and proceeded to disagree with me when I informed him, “No, Her NAME is MOM!”

The spirit of always being willing to go along with any interesting idea or plan is an endearing trait of Brandon. Seldom will you hear him say “nope, no way” when suggesting the day’s plans to him. One particular event that always sticks out in my mind happened when he was over one snowy afternoon. It really wasn't just any snowy afternoon. Rather, it was a blizzard of epic proportions, not unlike what pummeled us recently. 

We kids got the bright idea that we would journey into the unknown–perhaps pretending to be ascending Mt. Everest. In retrospect, I am surprised our parents even let us out the door in such weather. It must be a sign of the times, or reassurance that I have aged enough to begin saying things like “kids were a lot tougher in my day!” 

Anyway, completely bundled to our eyeballs we set out on some type of quest along the fence line that surrounded our modest home. The snow was drifting into mountains, which just added to the excitement of the journey. We walked and walked and walked. 

In fact, we walked much further than we had ever ventured in warmer weather. Finally, we had made it to the furthest corner of the fence line. The one that was overgrown with bushes and a tree. 

We decided in that moment, it would be here that we would make our new home. As certainly we would never survive the harrowing journey back to the house. 

We broke into teams, older kids versus younger kids. This was one of the few times Brandon’s sister was along for one of our wild adventures. She and my brother Patty were issued the less favorable spot in front, while Brandon and I, being the greedy older kids we were, took the nice, more enclosed spot in back and set to work weatherizing our new fortress.

  It seemed as though we were working for hours (likely just 20 minutes), when suddenly we heard a strange noise. Bounding over the snow drifts like a breeching whale was my dad and uncle in his big 4x4 Chevy truck. The great gray beast plowed through the snow with it’s modified exhaust releasing its deep battle against the silent blizzard. 

Without hesitation all four of us burst out of the twig stronghold like bats out of hell and hopped in the truck. I remember my dad and uncle being very calm and casual, informing us they had acquired Chinese food–our spoils for accomplishing our brave mission into the snowy abyss. 

Brandon has two kids of his own now, much older than Thatcher and Waylon. Dukas and Dwilly as Thatcher calls them  (actually named Lucas and Lilly)  are luckily just as kind and gentle as their dad. Although they’re about 10 or 11 years older than Thatch, they never hesitate to jump in and play right along with him. And their mom Amber has been enjoying all of the baby snuggles our fat Mister Baby can issue. 

I had never put much thought into my kids playing with my cousin’s kids before, but watching it happen as Thatcher matures has been such a fulfilling moment. Sometimes being the grownup is all it’s cracked up to be.