It’s always good to spend time with family. That’s especially true when family lives far away.

We’ve recently played host to some of Jason’s family that live in Arizona, first his mom, and over the weekend, his brother’s family was in town for a quick visit.

There’s obvious differences between living in Ottumwa and living in Phoenix. Usually, the weather is a big one. It always amazes me each winter how they talk about “taking a trip” and “driving to see the snow.” (We’ve usually got some I’d be willing to send them.)

They came at this time of year in the hopes of escaping the excessive heat that hits Arizona this time of year. They made it just in time for the first heat wave of the summer, with the humidity rendering the temperature differences moot.

Then there’s the sheer size of the towns and population. It takes them about an hour each way between work and home. I have about a three-minute commute.

But what really struck me was watching their three daughters — ages 13, 10 and 7 — see and try things they don’t normally have in Arizona. While Jason’s brother was eager to eat some taco pizza, the girls were hesitant. As we finished our dinner, it was clear that change was in the air.

A quick look out the window told us clouds were rolling in and the wind was picking up. A storm appeared to be on the way.

We all went out to the back deck, and the temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees — at least it felt that way — and the humidity was gone. We watched the clouds race across the sky as I asked the girls if they were ready to see a “good, old-fashioned Iowa thunderstorm.”

I don’t think they were sure what to think. After a short time passed, it was clear the storm was going to blow over Ottumwa, but it was so neat to watch the girls experience just how quickly weather conditions can change in Iowa.

About an hour later, the adults were socializing out on the deck — my sister-in-law and I were now donning hoodies thanks to the change in temperature — and saw something else that got us to call the kids out. The lighting bugs were out.

The girls had a good time watching them, and my sister-in-law recalled her first trip to Iowa and how mesmerized she was by watching the bugs light up in the sky. “It was like they were dancing,” she said.

While her girls didn’t say much, they spent a good amount of time outside watching them before the lure of electronics brought them back inside.

Sometimes it takes a reminder just how amazing life in Iowa can be. It can be simple, but it’s full of wonder. I’m glad I got that reminder the other night.

Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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