7 weeks

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Well, this is the first Thursday I soundly missed my 11 am target. It was, of course, because I did not write my post. My Wednesday was busy! I hope you forgive me friends. I did manage to pull of the discipline for at least 7 weeks. I think it’s a great habit for me, and feel like I’ve been writing more, and more enjoyably.

Part of my posting delinquency has to do with a lack of good topics. So in lieu of actual good writing, I’ll give you a grab bag of thoughts.

1) My boys are in an awesome spot
Grey and Thane have just been rock stars this week, in the behavior zone. I was prepped for a horrible week of “What do you mean I have to go to school every day” following five consecutive Mondays out of school. But no! I’ve had children doing homework without being told the minute they get home. I’ve had children cleaning their rooms when asked. There’s been cheerful chores doing, tremendous snuggles, and book reading. I don’t know what happened to MY children, but man I’m sure enjoying the kids I have this week.

I was trying to think of a good way to thank Grey for his behavior tonight, without including junk food. Adam is doing aikido again (yay for him!) and so I had the kids myself. I picked up Grey and asked how his day was “Awesome!” and his homework situation (done at the Y!!!!). Then I offered him the chance to make the evening meal, with my active support/training and a grocery run if need be. He decided to make omelettes “Like Aunt Andrea made”. We stopped to pick up ham for cubing. (And Lucky Charms. And the tortilla chips I like that Peapod doesn’t carry. And bananas since every single banana I’ve ordered on Peapod for the last month has arrived frozen.) And then Grey sliced the ham and the chives, and I taught him how to make omelettes! Next up: teaching the children how to eat dinner….

2) Imagine how easy our commute will be this spring
All over New England, working parents have been doing rock-paper-scissors over who gets to leave early enough to get to work by 9 am, and who has to drop off the kids and saunter in at the crack of 9:30. (This is an improvement. Last week it was the crack of 10.) I didn’t think anything would make my normal commute look good… but having all the lanes available and the traffic just normal-bad will feel like a vacation. And parking… the lots have been full a lot lately, leaving my carpool to park in a $34 a day lot that’s about 1/3 mile away in 12 degree weather. Getting back to a reliable 3 block walk from a $18 a day lot will feel like a cheaper and easier life! Add in a commute that’s only an hour, and the mind boggles!

3) I don’t understand how a capitalist society can not have gloves for sale right now
I got in a car accident (I was rear-ended by a hit and run driver) last Thursday night. The car is like $999 dollars damaged. (This is how you can tell you have a $1000 deductible.) I was sore, but I’m ok. What was I doing Thursday night? I was driving to Target to buy more ski gloves for my kids because they would lose their limbs if they weren’t firmly attached to their bodies. I don’t blame my kids too much – I always lost gloves too. (Still do sometimes.) But in Target, there were swimsuits. Summer dresses. Bubbles and sidewalk chalk. And not a single warm glove to be found. Seriously, I would give a lot for a store that sold clothes you would be appropriately dressed walking out of the store wearing, and gear that you actually need right now. I simply do not understand how it is effective selling to try to pawn off on me stuff I can hardly imagine using while refusing to sell me things I desperately need. That’s how you get a grown woman on the verge of tears in your aisles after having risked LIFE AND LIMB to get to your store… thumbing up the Amazon app on her phone and picking next day shipping. Do better, Target, and all the other retailers in the US.

4) Lent has begun
By the time Easter arrives, the snow may have muchly melted. It is a time of transformational waiting, and I suspect I will feel that even more than usual as we go from the frozen heart of winter to spring. Six more weeks.


I’m really looking forward to someday going places and doing things again. I’ll be sure to let you know if that ever happens!

We cannot get out

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Gee, what shall I talk about? Sports I care about are all in a hiatus. I haven’t taken any great hikes lately (for some reason) nor gone on any crazy road trips (for some reason). All I’ve done – in living memory it seems – has been to be at home.

Spotted on my walk to the post office today - Do you see the car?

Spotted on my walk to the post office today – Do you see the car?

I was not designed to stay at home, folks. I think we’re ALL happy that I’m a 21st century woman with major scope for my energy outside these four walls.

But home I’ve been, with my patient husband and two sons. For the first weekend snowstorm, we reveled in the low expectations of a “State of Emergency” blizzard. The second and third snowstorms were lost epic Minecraft marathons. By the time the fourth blizzard came, I needed a better plan. It was time… to improve.

I’m sure your home is perfect in every way – a flawless execution of your design vision, taste, and perfectly fitting antiques picked up on a whim at a charming roadside store on your last drive up the Maine seacoast. MY home is a 120 year old pink colonial whose last major design upgrade came in the ’70s, when the prior owner installed (bad) panelling and (ugly, non-matching) drop ceilings in every room. It’s the kind of house where when you peel up the beige carpet, you find gold sparkly linoleum. (True story.) Although Adam and I have put thousands of dollars into the house, almost all of it has gone into glamorous things like electrical upgrades, a new roof and blown in insulation. (We do know how to live the high life!) We still have the paneling, but at least it’s painted white now? And the drop ceilings? Well. You learn to live with things.

But some of the rooms don’t require a major capital investment to look massively better. They just require attention and work. You know, time. And focus. Those rarest of commodities. (It’s hard to have time and focus during a Minecraft marathon!)

The "before" - I swear I didn't make this look worse for comparison purposes. It really usually looked this way.

The “before” – I swear I didn’t make this look worse for comparison purposes. It really usually looked this way.

Saturday morning, I was barely recovered from my 16 straight hours of sleeping post GI bug. The flakes were scheduled to start their blizzarding in the afternoon, and I knew they’d lock us in place for several days. Everything that had previously been going on that weekend was cancelled. But in my convalescent state, I knew I had 4 or 5 hours in which to do whatever was going to be done outside the home for the weekend.

It was time for … IKEA.

Traffic was light. We got there fast. We checked the boys into Smaland, carefully checking the height. (I swear it was just yesterday I checked to see if they were BIG ENOUGH YET and now Grey is almost TOO BIG. WHAT?!) We had a list, and we got the end table. We checked out the shelving units extensively, cursing my somewhat cursory measurement that morning. “Well, I measured 55″ but I’m sure 57″ will be fine…” We finally both agreed that in our heart of hearts there was one unit we wanted. We wrote down the names and numbers, reclaimed our boys, ate Ikea meatballs, and threaded the Labrynth of Cheap Goods on our way out. (Grey was hilarious. He kept exclaiming how something was so cheap he could buy it. I mean, mom! I could buy that bowl! I could use my allowance and buy that bowl!)

Two able-bodied adults were able to wrangle the flat packs into the cart, then into the car. I tossed several packages of meatballs into the car and peeled out of the parking lot just as the first flakes few.

We managed to get the core put together and the room cleaned out before Adam turned a funny shade of green and disappeared. The next morning, while I was out shoveling for two hours he was putting the drawers together. And when I came back, we had an all new mud room. (*BING*)

The "After" - we do have drawers for that last spot, but that's where the outlet is! I didn't measure that part.

The “After” – we do have drawers for that last spot, but that’s where the outlet is! I didn’t measure that part.

But our frenzy of home improvement was not yet spent! On Monday, we each grimly took a small child into said small children’s bedrooms and asked them whether they actually wanted each and every genre of object in that room. (I mean, it turns out that 98% of my eldest son’s toys are Legos, but still). We wrested order out of the chaos that is the room of a 9 year old. We have piles of books and toys in the hallway, ready to go to new homes. There are actual open surfaces. Amazing.

There are still some things to be done (See also: massive pile of toys and books, realization that potatoes might do better in dark cupboard instead of on top of fridge). But overall our trapped tenure has at least been productive!

Grey's room cleaning was supervised by an authority figure. In a sunbeam.

Grey’s room cleaning was supervised by an authority figure. In a sunbeam.

11 thoughts from shoveling

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I often blog in my head while I’m doing physical labor. My very best blog post ever came from doing the laundry. Here are my deep thoughts from this morning’s dig out.

My house, today

My house, today

1. I’ve always loved my neighbors, but this winter has made me extra grateful
Adam is laid low by the stomach bug that knocked me out. He’s no longer actively ill, but in the weak phase. Also, we don’t own a snowblower. Also also, I promised to take care of a neighbor’s house while they were gone. This means I’m like extra duper screwed, right? Wrong. I have the key to the neighbor’s snowblower (the folks who are gone have the best one on the block). I flagged over another neighbor to help me, and he spent two hours doing the snow blower work while I did the shoveling work at both houses. We’ll be potlucking at at yet another neighbors house tonight. Friends are awesome. I love friends. I haven’t seen my friends who live half a mile away in WAY TOO LONG. But neighbors who are friends are such a gift in blizzard conditions!

2. What would it take to actually make our little New England civilization stop working?
A la Hurricane Sandy, at what point does our society cease to function? Or does it shut down in dribs and drabs? Already there are plans for some Boston streets to be one way until April 1st. At what point does normal life stop? Are we already there?

3. Seriously, April 1st?
March is supposed to be colder than normal. The 10 day forecast only gets above freezing once (35 degrees). There are two more precipitation events in that forecast, adding up to 5 – 10 inches of snow. I don’t know when life will go back to normal, but six weeks seems like a good guess. It will probably be a lot longer until you can no longer find snow anywhere.

That fence below is a 7 foot fence. That snow bank is more than 12 feet tall. Granted, that's where we blow the snow, but still...

That fence below is a 7 foot fence. That snow bank is more than 12 feet tall. Granted, that’s where we blow the snow, but still…

4. With great power comes great responsibility
A common thought as I shovel snow is that winter is a crappy time to be a feminist. See, I’m physically perfectly capable of shoveling snow. I don’t believe in a gendered division of labor. Do you see where this is going? What it means is that I, as a feminist, can’t tell my husband that snow is his job because he’s a man. This is a crying shame on days like this.

5. Thank goodness we got a new roof
I’m guessing that our old roof wouldn’t have held up to this. Lots of people have lots of leaks. Our pitched roof is dropping the snow all by itself, no problem. The insulation looks great too, as the only melting is sun melt on the Southern exposure.

This is all sun melt. Our roof has many fewer icicles than most of our neighbors.

This is all sun melt. Our roof has many fewer icicles than most of our neighbors.

6. I blow dried my hair this morning.
I almost never do that. The few times I’ve tried it was to make my hair look good, a goal that I’ve never really been successful in accomplishing. It looked great this morning. Then I pulled a wool hat on top of it. The point was that going out in 13 degree weather with a high wind warning for two hours of shoveling with a wet head. I should try less hard, and maybe the whole hair drying thing will work.

7. I seriously wonder when I’ll make it into the office
Tuesday? Tuesday only? Will there be parking when I get to Fort Point? What’s the best combination of not spending stupid time on the road and stupid money on parking, while still spending time with my colleagues. I can’t work from home until April 1st, and might go insane if I tried.

Josh is rocking the roof rake

Josh is rocking the roof rake

8. The children’s brains are currently oozing out there ears
They’ve never played this many video games in their life. I’ve lost all will to parent. Judging by how many of their friends are online, making Minecraft traps with them, I’m not alone.

9. But at least they won’t miss school?
That’s the upside of this all happening over Feb break week, right? No chance of snow days this week, nuh uh! And hopefully by the time next week rolls around, we’re now longer in the icy clutches of Snowmageddon. (10 day forecast says it snows 5 – 8 inches Sunday night. I hate you 10 day forecast!) I feel really badly for the teachers whose success is judged by the standardized tests these children will be taking in a few weeks. They’ve missed so much instructional time, and I have to say that I think my kids study skills and core skills have backslid in the last three weeks. Totally not fair to their excellent teachers!

Our front walk way has a fault line. Considering teaching the children avalanche safety.

Our front walk way has a fault line. Considering teaching the children avalanche safety.

10. Let’s see who’s laughing this summer
I’ve gotten plenty of comments from Northwesterners who point out that Boston currently has more snow than Snoqualmie Pass. The entire US is suffering from a changing climate. (BTW – any time we want to collectively start acting on this problem is good for me. Count me in.) But given a choice between extra violent winters, extra precipitation and more extreme weather, and drought and loss of ground water… I’ll take the nasty blizzards. The entire West is going to bake this summer, with no snowpack to feed the rivers. Florida is losing it’s potable ground water. We may live in Snowmageddon country, and this may be our new normal, but at least we have water.

11. We’ll get through this
The spring will come. There was a year in medieval history when summer never came. That’s not our situation. They may be delayed, but we’ll have snowdrops and crocuses and lilacs and camping trips this summer. We’ll look back on this as an epic memory, but we will some day see grass again!

Happier (warmer) times!

Sick of this

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On Thursday morning, I woke up to a kid who was super sick. He’d been throwing up all night, and had been too tired to even interrupt my sleep to inform me. (Considerate child!) I worked from home for the third day of the week to tend to him. It wasn’t too hard – he spent the entire day on the couch reading Harry Potter IV. But a day spent not in motion by a nine year old boy is a day he was really sick.

I didn’t think too much of it. It’s pretty frequent for the kids to bring stuff home that Adam and I have already had, and we don’t get it. Plus Grey has the super touchy stomach of doooooom, so something that made him barfy might barely affect me! I was glad to see he was well enough for school on Friday and headed into work feeling Just Fine (not even thinking about it, I was feeling so fine).

At noon, my lunch didn’t sit quite right.

At 3 I warned my meeting companion that I wasn’t feeling well, and she might not want to sit too close to me.

At 3:30 I had to leave a meeting, urgently.

Now, here’s the trick. I carpool. And my carpool buddy had a huge project due and was leaving on a week’s vacation. I know this wasn’t going to be a day we could leave at 3:30. So I gritted my teeth and endured. Your choices in these circumstances are rather limited. What should you do? That ride home was hair-raising. I was *SICK*. In fact, I think it was a very lucky thing I did have a carpool, as I was in absolutely no condition to drive myself home. I’m not quite sure what I would’ve done. My carpool partner gets a million kudos for getting me safely home. I struggled to even get out of my boots and into bed. I slept from then until this morning at 9 am – a full 16 hour snooze with brief breaks for water. (I had a massage scheduled. Cancelled! Argh.)

I was touched by the tenderness of the men in my life. Adam attended me with solicitous and loving care. Thane offered to let me sleep with Wolfie. Grey plied me with blankets, a stuffed creeper (“Which is worse? Throwing up, or being blown up?”) and two books. I was in good hands.

But now I’m all done! Feeling better! And watching my husband and youngest son with a gimlet eye.


All these pictures look the same

All these pictures look the same

Meanwhile, outside the house….

We actually went to Ikea today. You could argue it wasn’t a great idea. It probably wasn’t. But Einstein’s Workshop classes for today were cancelled (a bit preemptively – I think they could’ve done it). And I’d been wanting to go to Ikea for quite a while. For being under a blizzard warning, we had considerable company at Ikea. We got the stuff we wanted to redo our mudroom (might be my Thursday post) and made it back before anyone else got sick or the snow started getting heavy.

But now, it’s heavy snow. Tonight it will get heavier, and start blowing hard. Tomorrow – another day – it will be in the negative temperatures and low visibility and a foot or so of snow. Church is already cancelled. We’re trapped again. I have had three day weekends I’ve looked forward to more than this one. There isn’t even the feeling we’re almost done. There’s more arctic air in the forecast (the highest temperature in the next week is 7 days) and there may be another storm on the way midweek. Our backs are sore. Our roofs have ice dams. Our schools may have to run until July. We’ve done all the fun storm activities, and all that’s left is the drudgery. Hopefully we can find some fun and magic in this, our fourth blizzard… but I’m not so sure.


On the upside, it’s Valentine’s Day! I found the perfectest gift ever for my husband, a periodical of Medieval Warfare, assuming our mail ever gets delivered again. I was the recipient of a Kindle that does all the things I want my Kindle to do, like 3G and backlighting. Ahhhhhh…. I’ve been on his account on my Kindle, and it means I can’t sync to my other apps, so I decided to forge ahead and order on my own for this one. Very exciting. I gave the boys meaningful and heartfelt homemade cards. I’m so very lucky to have three such wonderful Valentines!

Poetry and Song

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My toast to Bobbie Burns

My toast to Bobbie Burns

One of my favorite nights of the year is Burns Night, hosted by my dear friends Dave and Maggie.* The hallmarks of Burns Night, in addition to the Haggis and Scotch, are poetry and song. On the best of the nights, we’ve taken turns – breathless – in the living room sharing words and music. We usually begin with actual songs and poems written by Robbie Burns. (“My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” often gets sung more than once.) We recite his poetry. (Cally’s rendition of “Ode to a Haggis” is breathtaking.) Dave reads “Address to the Deil”.

Somewhere around an hour in, one of us gives the Toast to Robbie Burns. I was on duty a few years ago and actually read a biography of the Bard of Scotland. Since then, I’ve been on duty in case there’s some failure of speaker to arrive.

Then we start slipping into the vaguely Celtic. Adam does his priceless rendition of “Maids When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man”. Maggie’s father lifts a mournful voice for “Kathleen Mavourneen”. There’s Shakespeare, Byron, Tennyson – by heart or from the books that lay scattered at our feet.

We slide fully into just poetry, and just song. Nick recites Kite. We belt out “Barrett’s Privateers”. Cori’s liquid voice slides through “Jock o’ Hazeldeen”. The night ends swaying, holding hands, singing “Auld Lange Syne” (all verses) while looking into the eyes and hearts of these people to whom we have grown suddenly, unaccountably close through these greatest magic-makers: poetry and song. We have all fallen in love with each other in the silence after the singing. I leave with a joyful heart, and can’t wait for the next year.

But I’ve never done it at one of my parties, for all my love and passion for it. Why not? I’ve wondered often.

During Christmas and Easter, I often stand at the front of the church as I play my trumpet. It’s a day a lot of visitors come, of course, and I can watch them as they worship with us. There’s a particular kind of visitor I haven’t quite come to understand yet. The stand with the congregation during the hymns. They often even hold the hymnal in their hands. But they remain stoically silent – jaws clenched and unmoving as the rest of us sing. I wonder: are they there against their wills? Do they think they “can’t sing”? (Do they think we can?!) Do they think that church is something you watch, instead of something you do?

Last year I toasted decked in my tam

Last year I toasted decked in my tam – thanks to Joe for the picture!

That is – I think – the heart of it. We have become a world of watchers. We don’t sound good enough. We aren’t skilled enough. We were told when we were little that we can’t carry a tune. Please, for heaven’s sake be quiet. We all hear the world’s best musicians and artists (remixed, studio supported) every day. How can our voice compete? It can’t. And so we shut up. And our neighbor/friend/partner/kid is also not nearly as good as what’s on the radio, so we make fun of them. We have an entire tv genre built around making fun of people for thinking they can sing. In truth, the moment Adam and I first met was over our shared defiance of this cultural norm. He was walking down the hall of our dorm singing “Money Can’t Buy Me Love”. Instead of giving him the “you’re weird” look, I picked up the chorus. (Prescient, eh?)

I love to sing, even though my voice is decidedly mediocre. I love to hear my friends sing – even if they’ll never be Brandy Clark** I love to look in their sincere and vulnerable faces as they recite a poem they learned by heart when they were fourteen. I love Nick’s sock puppet hand, Callie’s slicing of the Haggis, Dave’s delightful “deil” and Cori’s key change on “Jock o’ Hazeldeen”. On those Sundays when I couldn’t find faith in my heart, I still came to church to sing the old old songs with my friends until faith could find its way back.

Where to go from here? I wish I could call on you all to sing – in public, with your friends. But even I’m too chicken (too wise? too often shot down? too defeated?) to call my friends to song. Perhaps instead I can remind you that the joy is not in the passive listening, it is in the listening to a friend. There is something about singing together which is powerful and precious. Sing to each other, my beloved companions. Quote poems. Sing to me. And together we can fill the world with a joyful noise.

Thane (top row) singing at his school’s winter concert

* New people at Burns Night sometimes ask how I know Dave or Maggie. My favorite reply is that I married him/her. It’s true. I did.
** I don’t remember ever hearing Brandy play guitar or sing in high school. I can’t remember if she was even in choir, and I’m pretty sure she never got a solo in our high school concerts.

More Snow

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It’s Sunday morning, and I’m still pajama’d. The boys are playing endless video games. Adam, hero of the century, is shoveling. Again. Church has been cancelled today. And this is likely the first of several snow days for a family already feeling rather cabin-feverish!

We’ve all spent more time than usual obsessing about weather forecasts. Here’s what this particular storm – slated to run long from Saturday night into Tuesday morning, looks like:

We're in that very high impact band.

We’re in that very high impact band.

There’s another storm that may be brewing behind it. Following that we are likely to get a historically cold snap, with highs in the single digits.

This is the kind of winter that sets the mark for what winter means and what it is for years to come.

The current scene - we have another 12 - 18 inches coming

The current scene – we have another 12 – 18 inches coming

Last night my neighbors hosted hordes at the Vinterfest. She’s Scandinavian. He’s from New Hampshire. They lit candles, turned off the heat, shoveled the porch to make it one more room for the party, and produced pounds of meatballs, head cheese, remoulade, and other deliciousness. It was a celebration of the winter, an avowal to be unafraid of the cold. We toasted each other in a room made of snow.

For perspective

For perspective – it’s really hard to get good snow pictures

One of the ceremonies of Vinterfest is the eating of the rice pudding. Tobin makes a vast batch of rice pudding, puts one blanched almond in it and passes out cups to the assembled crowd. One person finds that almond and conceals it for as long as they can. I’ve always wanted to be that person, but I never have been… until last night. I came home, late at night, with a crunchy almond taste, a marzipan pig and a year of good luck. Here’s to good luck, and a spring that comes someday!

My good luck token!

My good luck token!

Twelve

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Written Monday night, after the epic unheralded snowstorm and Patriot’s Superbowl win

So last night I sat with my friends and watched the the Superbowl, and I started contemplating the number twelve. And the fact I had no ideas for what to blog about this week. So I decided – a la Sesame Street – to do a blog on the number twelve.

12 inches of snow

12 inches of snow

1. Twelve is my favorite number. I like all multiples of six. Well, I’m slightly ambivalent about eighteen – I feel like I should like it, but not really. Six is great. Twelve is amazing. And twenty-four? Top notch. After that I stop caring. I don’t have a particular fondness for thirty-six, for example. But my passionate feelings towards six, twelve and twenty-four are actually quite pronounced. I think I like six more than I hate seven, and that, my friends, is saying quite a bit. (Stupid seven. I hated it so much I refused to learn my seven times tables, which led to me hating it even more.)

2. Twelve is Tom Brady’s jersey number. It’s a common number for a quarterback, I think. But if I bought a jersey… well, let’s be honest. I’d buy a Wilfork one because Wilfork is awesome. But I’d be tempted because Tom Brady has a cleft chin and wears number twelve, and has won four of the six Superbowls he’s played in. Fewer things in sports are more lovely than watching Tom Brady in a two minute drill.

3. Twelve was the top range of the of the predicted snowfall. It’s what the weather station claims Stoneham got today. They are lying liars who lie a lot. I swear we got at least eighteen inches. There’s another three or four that fell after the third shoveling of the day at five pm. We have a LOT OF SNOW.

You can watch some awesome video of my eldest son getting trapped in the snow by clicking here.

4. Twelve times twelve is 144, or Bilbo’s age at his big last birthday party when the Fellowship of the Ring. I learned from that it’s also a gross, and not considered a polite number in reference to people.

5. Twelve is the clarion call for the Seahawks. Buildings were emblazoned with 12, jerseys with #12 proudly worn. It took me quite a while to figure out what the #12 was about, since Russell Wilson is #3. It stands for the twelfth man (person) – the crowd whose energy and enthusiasm could do everything but complete that final catch of the the final minute of the final game of the year.

6. Twelve is the number of pies we had the first Piemas. I believe that the first Piemas was 2007, perhaps. That was definitely the year we first met Dave. So the celebration upcoming in about six weeks is not the 12th Piemas, alas. It does, however, fall on the ULTIMATE PIE DAY, since it will be 3/14/15 and I will be making pies at 9:26:53.

First Piemas?

First Piemas?

7. Twelve is the current temperature – before wind chill.

Brrrrr

Brrrrr

8. Twelve is the number of days until Truck Day (the day when a truck leaves Fenway Park with all the gear for the Red Sox’ spring training). It seems entirely impossible that anyone will ever play baseball again, since the entire city of Boston is under three feet of snow. But it gives you hope!

9. Twelve was the number of sledding runs I took tonight, after leaving my neighbor’s lovely blizzard potluck. I’d missed out on getting a single run in last week, when the snowplows were thick as mayflies. But tonight our street was deserted with about two inches of fine powder. My boys, seeing me out there, hopped into their snow gear and joined me rocketing down our street.

My boys and I on the slopes of our street

My boys and I on the slopes of our street

10. Twelve is the number of kids in the neighborhood (when you add in the honorary members). This leads to a beautifully chaotic and noisy scrum when we all get together. We have more room for screaming in summer, but are more likely to actually get together on these cold winter nights for a potluck.

Snow day

Snow day

11. Twelve days from now is Valentine’s Day and I found (what I think is) and AWESOME Valentine’s Day gift for my husband. It’s romantic in the way that people who have been married for nearly fifteen years are romantic. I also read this great article on how to fall in love. Tragically, it requires staring into the eyes of your target for four minutes, not twelve.

12. And finally, well, it was tough to come up with just the right 12th thing for this post. I looked at my pictures (I apparently didn’t take one on 12/12/12 – an oversight!). I asked my husband for a great 12 thing. And then I checked my blog and found Twelve things I liked in 2012. Truth be told, a bunch of those things are still my favorites! (Also, apparently I’ve already publicly confessed my passion for 12. Ah well – we can never overtell our affections!)

Raising New Englanders

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I was trying to get them to show me their ski tags for my blog post.

I am not a New Englander. I visited New England once when I was 14. Then again – for colleges – when I was 17. Most of my New England knowledge came from a weird combination of books and stereotypes. (Little Women, Daddy Long-Legs, Hawkeye from M*A*S*H … I would say the LL Bean catalog, but we actually didn’t get it.) Then, I came here for college. Early in the process I was targeting Pennsylvania. My first choice school was Williams, in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. But I found myself, a hot August day, in a double-dorm-room in a hundred-year-old stone building in historic New London with a roommate who was profoundly *from* a town fifteen miles away.

Since then, I have acclimated. I remember the shock and horror with which I discovered Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t carry maple bars. (A fact which still mystifies me – why they’re a regional delicacy of a place with no maple tradition and entirely unknown in Vermont/New Hampshire/Montreal.) I mastered rotaries. I cheered on the Red Sox to their World Series pennants. I learned that “Wooster” and “Worcester” were in fact the same place. I have eaten lobstah in Glostah (Gloucester), listened to the Boston Symphony in Symphony Hall, developed a finely honed snow shoveling methodology, consider stop signs advisory and can’t help raising my fist to the chorus of “SO GOOD!”

But in one way, I remain distinctly un-New England. My junior year of college, I was invited with my college friends on a ski trip. They’d gone the prior year. I don’t remember why I didn’t go (it was probably some rot about seeing my parents more than twice a year). It felt deliciously grownup to be invited. I distinctly recall that we drove the Kankamagus – home to my frequent summer journeys in my adult life – in the crystalline snow of February. I’d never gone skiing before, despite living in close proximity to epic mountains. We rented equipment (I following the advise of my long time boyfriend) and hit the slopes.

Adam gave me a few lessons – which I accomplished well. After an hour or so, he deemed me ready to hit the slopes of Loon and try my first modest trail. The first few minutes of your first skiing ever are more terrifying than exhilarating, and I comforted myself that this was a thing people did. Look at all the people around me, skiing? Seconds in to the trip, I took a turn wrong. My leg did something wrong. I don’t clearly remember too much of what happened next. The ski patrol. The sled. The inability to hold weight on my leg. I limped back to our condo and have never – since that day – gone skiing again. I had torn my ACL – it took months before I could walk without limping. I tore my MCLS also later, and had major knee surgery and still feel my knee as an alertness of the possibility of pain. I will never ski again.

But.

I’m raising New Englanders. Grey and Thane are locals. They were *born* here. They belong here. They are from here in a way I will never be. And New Englanders? LOVE winter sports. There are ice rinks all over the place. It seems like every car has ski racks. To be from the New England suburbs (I don’t pretend that this is not a combination of both location AND privilege, because it certainly is) and not ski, or know how to skate well… not cool. Not cool at all.

So I was *thrilled* when our YMCA afterschool program offered (get this) SKIING LESSONS! I signed up before they even had official signups. They pick the kids up from school and take them directly to Nashoba Valley for ski lessons. The kids return around 7, having had an amazing adventure with their friends. Apparently Grey & Thane have been improving in their three lessons already, and there has been pretty much no whining. (I thought that 18 degree weather and a hard new skills would equal whining. I was wrong.)

The Y teachers/ski instructors are freaking saints. My two lunatics are on the left.

The Y teachers/ski instructors are freaking saints. My two lunatics are on the left.

I was feeling all satisfied by having done New-England-right by my kids using the proxy of the Y, when somehow word came to my husband? Kids? That there’s an open skate time in the Stoneham Arena on Sunday from 4:00 – 5:30. The kids begged. Adam took them. I had a quiet ninety minutes. They have, by husbandly reports, improved by leaps and bounds.

Grey skating

Thane skating

Truthfully, I confess to be a little bit ashamed of how scared my knee makes me to do things like this. I mean, professional athletes have the same surgery, and they’re back smashing into each other scant months later. (See also: Gronk). But I think I might have a legitimate panic attack if I ever strapped on skis again. Even having my children doing it is easier if I don’t think too hard about it. The slicing and twisting nature of skates (did I mention I’ve only been skating two or three times? I’m a better roller-skater) makes me uneasy. My knee throbs just thinking about it. My failure to responsibly overcome this fear is no testament to me. But I’m extremely grateful that despite my unease, my children are learning to love snow and ice, and to be – well – real New Englanders.


I have just uploaded my January pictures. We had a great adventure in Cambridge at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. I also got some more great blizzard-day pics!

Tales from the heart of a blizzard

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These are semi-regular updates from our snow day. Since I’m going to be getting cabin fever, the least you can do is read about it!

9 am – woke up to a windy, white world. It’s hard to tell with the blowing snow, but I’d say there’s considerably less snow than predicted. This looks more like 6 – 8 inches than 18. (Note the lower portion of the fence.) Not saying we should be having school today, by any means.

Everyone is now on a screen – Mom and Dad are working, Grey is on his Chromebook and Thane is watching Wild Kratts.

Backyard blizzard view

10 am – Adam made four hot loaves of fresh bread for our neighbors, to help keep starvation from the door. I invited the older kids over to entertain our kids with a rousing rendition of HeroScape. Then I realized that people probably needed to be able to, you know, get to our house. So I grabbed a shovel.

The snow on the stairs was taller than the door, but powdery and easily pushed aside. I cut my way to the road, noting that the front yard snow was waaaaay deeper than the back yard snow – the promised 18 inches at least! The snow filled it even as I cut it. I got slightly stymied by the plow berm, but then decided my friends have legs and they could step over it.

Great thing about elementary schoolers is that four of them are less work than two of them….

Snowstorms make getting to your neighbors a logistical exercise.

Snowstorms make getting to your neighbors a logistical exercise.

11 am – the kids read and played quietly for an hour, but then they spotted other little heads on the street, and booked it to get their snow gear on. Let’s all take a minute to appreciate having kids who can put on and take off their own snow gear without parental intervention… ah….

Now there are some hijinks next door that involve sleds and vertiginous drops. Despite the transport ban, the road is a bit busy for sledding. Adam’s taking his turn on the walks to try and stay ahead of the DOOM. (The sidewalk portion of what I shoveled had completely filled in. The walkway portion stayed bare.)

Little figures in the snow

Little figures in the snow

1 pm – We went out sledding at noon. The DPW was attempting to plow our street, which was a bad combination. They asked us to stop sledding, so we did. I took most of the older kids in the neighborhood, and they’re currently wreaking havoc in Grey’s bedroom. Grilled cheese for lunch!

Grade school neighbors

Grade school neighbors

2 pm – I found the snow from the back yard. It was all on top of the cars. A million thanks to both David and Tobin for the snow-blowing. The snow removal on this driveway is a classic reason you should never buy houses during glorious October weather.

There's a car  under there. Somewhere.

There’s a car under there. Somewhere.

4 pm – Nothing like a day at home with your children while trying to do a full day’s work to make you really grateful for school. It’s just about time to stop splitting my personality and being full time at home!

7 pm – Best possible way to end a snow day!

Potluck with neighbors

Potluck with neighbors

10 pm – friends have returned to their home and our house is returned to a semblance of order. And yet it snows.

Digging in

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Grey made this cake from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. At 9, he’s already a better cook than I was when I graduated from college.

So you might have heard that New England is looking at a wee bit of snow tonight. Just a trace. Hardly more than two feet, with hurricane force winds. I mean, barely hurricane force – no more than Category 1!

Tonight, the great city is quiet. The blanket of softening snow has begun to fall, but the vast dimensions of the sky have not yet opened their portals to loose the flakes upon us. In another hour, by law, we will be contained to our homes with those children who lay slumbering in guaranteed-snow-day anticipation upstairs. There is no sound of traffic outside – no airplanes flying overhead. There is the hum of the furnace and the creak of a hundred year old house settling in the cold night air. The winds are sliding past – not yet howling or moaning. The house is warm and slightly messy – scattered with Transformers, stuffed animals, cables & little boys’ socks.

The entire region on every side gives a great exhalation from the normal pace. We lay down our commutes and our schedules and our appointments. We forgo our childcare. We do not go into work. (Although – curse of the age – work we must tomorrow since our labors depend hardly at all on our physical location.) In the morning the world will be transformed into twisting snow, cutting us off from the burdens and comforts of our society and demanding that we take a few moments to think of who we are and what we are doing in this world. We will shut the doors against the icy gale, but open the curtains to see the power of the storm. Before the world resumes anew there will be shared meals, laughter, sledding, video games, board games and baked goods. Some of those moments will soak into the souls of my young sons, and become the definitions of winter, of storm, of blizzard.

Assuming the power stays on (we’ve never **knocking on wood** in the seven years we’ve been there had the power go out in any meaningful way), this storm will be for us an interregnum. A gift. (I know it won’t be that way for everyone. We are very lucky in our circumstances.) For us it will be a time set apart.

Tomorrow, I’ll probably live-blog it for you – not so much because I think you’ll be fascinating, but because our era allows us to feel most connected when we are most apt to be isolated. I’ll tell you whether it’s a lark, or getting a bit scary. We’ll ponder together the likelihood of school on Wednesday (low). We’ll be joyful and funny and snowbound together. Tonight, I feel great gratitude for the circumstances of this storm, that brings us together even more than it keeps us apart.

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