In June, my sister and her boyfriend bought their first house. It’s a 20-minute drive outside the city of Eau Claire, situated amongst rye and corn fields, off a road that sees a half a dozen cars a day. Kelly says it’s in the country. I say it’s in the middle of nowhere.

To be fair, the house is relatively close to Chris’ parents and extended family, and to UW-Eau Claire, where Kelly will begin her master’s program in speech-language pathology this fall. The 3 bed 1 bath house sits on a lot just shy of an acre, along with a detached garage, garden shed, workshop and wood storage shelter/shady space for a hammock. There’s also a deer stand, two raspberry patches, an out-of-control Concord grapevine and a bunch of trees older than Kelly and my ages combined.

Kirk and I drove up with my parents to Eau Claire for the weekend to work on landscaping and painting projects. (And to drink beers, river float down the Chippewa and play Baggo.) Saturday we rolled up our sleeves–er, just put on t-shirts, cause it was the middle of July and freakin’ hot–and got to work. Kelly and I grabbed brushes and rollers, balanced ourselves on the kitchen countertops and painted the cabinets while singing to Motown music. Everyone else went to work in the yard. Kirk grabbed the weed whacker and my mom strategized where to plant flowers. My dad, who’s spent the last 30 years walking behind a push mower, ran and jumped onto Chris’ ridealong. Kelly and I watched him through the kitchen window. “See him careening around that turn?!” “That grin!”

After our lunch break, Kirk tackled the job no one else wanted: hacking through the raspberry patch. The 20×40′-ish plot, which apparently used to be two neat rows of bushes, had completely overgrown into one giant thorny jungle. Kirk dove in. By late afternoon, he’d completely reclaimed the center walking path. We were all quite impressed.

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Kelly and Chris, these are for you, in remembrance of your first summer in your new house. ☼

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