The doorbell is ringing more than the telephone these days, and that is a clear sign to me that spring is really here.
Sure, the daffodils are in bloom. The Sargent Crab is budding. And the birds are breaking into song at dawn.
But even without all this backyard action, I know it is spring -- even if colder temps are in the forecast for the next few days.
I know this because kids don't necessarily call on the phone to come by and play, anymore; they come right to the house, drop their bicycles at the doorstep and ring, ring, ring.
I know this because we have had our first skinned knee of the season. The first round of jump rope. The first visit from the ice cream truck -- right before dinner, of course.
And it is nearly impossible to get our daughter inside the house once she is out.
"What are you doing?" I asked her one day, as I watched her standing on the grass looking up, down, all around.
"Looking for signs of spring," she said, not missing a beat.
Last weekend, I was humored to see some neighborhood kids selling lemonade at a nearby street corner -- clearly hoping to knock out the competition early in the season.
And that's not all.
The cats -- both neutered, by the way -- are acting loonier than usual. Asparagus and green salads are on our dinner menu. We are sleeping with the windows cracked. And there is tons of trash at curbside on garbage day -- as people clear out their garages and clean up their yards.
I also know it is spring because I hear myself chanting a whole new list of instructions to anyone who will listen:
"Don't kick the soccer ball in the house."
"Take off your muddy sneakers."
"Close the refrigerator door."
Indeed, earlier this week, I walked into the kitchen to find three kindergarteners huddled in front of the opened refrigerator, discussing the possibilities.
Another reason I know it is finally spring is because there is a new topic of conversation in our house these days.
Not the crinkled up dead ones that were scattered on sidewalks some weeks back -- a predicament that made it mighty tricky for our daughter to maneuver around them ("Oh ick, ick, ick").
Rather, these are the plump fresh ones that totally fascinate her.
How exciting it was for her to bring home a little booklet she colored in school called "My Worm Facts Book," as part of the spring theme units in kindergarten.
"FACT: Worms help plants grow by moving the soil," begins one page.
"FACT: Worms help our earth by eating dead plants and animals," reads another.
"FACT: Worms have five hearts!"
FACT: "No worms allowed on the dinner table. Please take it back outside!" (This last one came from me.)
Another reason I know it is spring is that I look around and see that pink sweater sets are replacing turtlenecks. People are cleaning out the insides of their cars. Sandals are the footwear of choice among some supermarket shoppers -- at least last weekend.
And kids at bus stops are wearing shorts, tank tops and hoodies. Our own daughter thinks it is criminal to wear long sleeves and pants -- even on chilly mornings -- preferring instead skorts, shorts, T-shirts and -- maybe if we are lucky -- a lightweight jacket or sweater.
The other day she walked around the house in her bathing suit for a while, and I think I overheard her mentioning something about a sprinkler . . .
Yes, spring is here. Worms and all.