We cannot get out

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

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

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!

Tales from the heart of a blizzard

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

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.

Nemo Finale

Looking down our street
Looking down our street

This morning we woke up (late) to a bright, sunshiny, monochromatic world. And a house with no heat. But the bright sunshiny world and temperatures in the upper 30s made today a much better day to have the furnace on the fritz than any other day of the storm. We’re actually not sure what the issue is – the furnace spontaneously began working again about 15 minutes prior to the arrival of the furnace guy. But all this was minimally inconvenient – the sunlight streaming in kept some rooms warmer than the furnace does!

Adam stands on the drifts on the house-side of the driveway
Adam stands on the drifts on the house-side of the driveway

So where did Nemo leave us? According to the National Weather Service, our friend dropped 22 inches of dry powerdy snow on Stoneham. 65 mile an hour winds sculpted those inches in to massive drifts and clear-swept sections – an inequal distribution that was exacerbated by the labors of homeowners with shovels, the suddenly popular owners of snow-blowers and the profiteering-but-slightly-lazy shovel wielding teens.

I thought, as I luxuriated in bed this morning (the covers being even more enticing when there is no heat in the room) that today would be a nice, quiet, peaceful day. We were snowed in enough to intimidate us from making the 20 mile trip to church. But then the furnace happened. Once that was resolved, I had to go grocery shopping. That was epic. The produce section of the store looked as though locusts had descended upon it. I’m guessing that bit didn’t get restocked. Either that, or everyone else in Stoneham also found a pressing need for bananas. This was even more epic because, starting on Ash Wednesday after service, I’m going to join my husband in attempting a Slow Carb Diet. I’m rather unconvinced of my ability to stick to this. Cutting out carbs and dairy is like, um, cutting out bread and milk from my diet. So while at Stop & Shop, I attempted to find slow-carb-compliant foods so I can at least make it a single week. We shall see.

Post Nemo: Locusts attacked
Post Nemo: Locusts attacked

And then more shoveling. Hours of effort yesterday + a borrowed snow blower + a pair of neighborhood teens got the first car unburied and the second car half unburied. Another 2+ hours of snowblower + shoveling and we can use our entire driveway again. These are things you don’t think about in October when you buy a house: where are you going to put the snow for your driveway? When it’s nearly two natural feet plus massive drifts, this becomes non-trivial. Two years ago, I had to walk each shovel full across the street. Fortunately, the next 7 days have highs above freezing, so we should lose a lot of the snowmass. As it is, it’s very difficult to turn corners driving due to lost visibility with the drifts.

If I had to rate this blizzard, I would give it an A for the following reasons:
1) Life time memory: the “boys” spending hours sledding down our street, followed by pancakes at midnight. These are the times you remember in your nursing home.
2) Actual vs. predicted snow: absolutely on target. This snow storm came precisely as billed
3) Loss of life: while there were a few tragic losses, there were fewer than usually accompany weather like this. Partially this is due to the precautions (draconic as they were) taken by our elected officials to shut everything down for an extended period of time.
4) Fellowship: I spent so much wonderful time this weekend with my neighbors and friends – all a stone’s throw from the house – that it was a joy. We played, ate, shoveled, laughed, watched movies, and enjoyed our time together. This is one of life’s great blessings.
5) Inconvenience: we kept power and only lost heat after it was no longer critically needed. It was a liberating inconvenience for us.

So Nemo: would recommend and do it again!

I give persective to the wall-side drifts. A "Before" picture would have shown the tips of the wipers as the only visible parts of the cars. (Due to drifting)
I give persective to the wall-side drifts. A “Before” picture would have shown the tips of the wipers as the only visible parts of the cars. (Due to drifting)

Nemo Day 2: Nemo’s revenge

Having chronicled my escapades in snow yesterday for you, it seems unfair to keep my breath-bated audience from finding out – as Paul Harvey would say – the rest of the story! As we return to the snowy streets of Stoneham, our heroic crew woke up a little too early after last night’s sledding-and-pancakes extravaganza (well, the masculine parts. The feminine parts lollygagged in bed for another few hours.)

The site that met the eyes upon awakening was a vast expanse of snow – still falling hard at mid-morning. It’s difficult to gauge the amount on the ground since the blizzard gales have sculpted and rearranged it, but I’d guess we have at least 18 inches – possibly more – of blizzard-spawn. The brave pancake eaters and street lugers from the dark have now been converted to studious snow-blowers and shovelers. The children – talking big talk about how much they want to build snow men just like Calvin – remain in their pjs.

The next planned activity is The Princess Bride!