Snowing like the Dickens

It was the best of times… It was the worst of times…

I first got the news via text at 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday:

School will be closed on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 due to severe weather.

I received the news again at 5:38 p.m. via email. And again at 5:41 p.m. via robocall to my cell phone. And, finally, one last time at 5:42 p.m. via robocall to our home number.

I immediately took to Facebook to proclaim the startling news:

STOP THE PRESSES!! For the first time since we moved here, our kids have had a snow day declared (which, in itself, is really really rare) BEFORE the snow starts! We’ve had almost 90″ of snow this year but this is the FIRST snow day. Hot damn!!

That the girls are celebrating this while playing outside without their jackets because it’s FIFTY DEGREES at almost 6 p.m. is a fabulous irony.
Even more ironic: if I still DO have school. 😐

But hey… I’ll take what I can get.

Indeed, it had been fifty degrees – fifty-four, to be exact – which, after our interminably freezing winter, was so welcome, I practically open-mouth kissed it (Nick understood). I celebrated by picking up five bags’ worth of dog poop (no joke; it was one of the most disgusting things I’d ever witnessed – and, after having had a child poop through her onesie and up her back and into her hair while sitting on my lap on an airplane, that’s saying something), and then celebrated further when my own school district cancelled school as well.

We do not do snow days here in Rochester. We simply don’t. We get assloads of snow, but our road crews clear everything so quickly, travel is almost always possible, and schools are open. By all accounts, though, this was to be a doozy, even by Rochester standards — an honest-to-God blizzard, the likes of which the city hadn’t seen since 1999.

Snow day! BRING IT.

Because I have spent more than ten minutes with my offspring, I knew that there was the potential for disaster on a surprise day off of school… but my fingers were crossed for the best. Before the big snow got underway, we made a quick trip to the vet to drop off Jambi’s food and visit with her; she’s still in heat and, as such, is in quarantine, and we miss her, by gosh!

Why, yes, I would like a belly rub, thank you.

Come home soon, Beast!!
And yes, they’re in their pajamas at the vet’s office. Any questions?

The rest of the day was spent within the warm, cozy, safe confines of our house. Nick came home around 12:30; shortly thereafter, a state of emergency was declared for our county, parts of the thruway shut down, and the roads became all but impassable. The storm was as advertised: a true blizzard, blustery and snowy and really, really cold.

As I posted on Facebook: “I’m no expert… But when you can’t really see the house across the street, this *could* be why there’s no school today… 
(The girls are still playing outside, though, just for shorter amounts of time than usual. Duh.
But they did agree to wear hats. It took a damn blizzard, but they’re finally in hats.)”

This was not a lie: they were outside many times over the course of the day, tromping through the snow, climbing the tree in the front yard, and attempting to dye the snow with colored-water spray bottles. I nearly froze to death watching them; celebrating a snow day by baking Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding Cakes is much more my style.

They really were as heavenly as they look.

self saucing pudding cake
My children definitely agreed…

Okay, so the girls came downstairs to consume the pudding cakes dressed in only their underwear and had to go back upstairs and put on some clothes. And, yeah, there was that incident with the purposeful peeing on one of their beds (omg, don’t ask; they stripped the bed and changed the sheets so I’m pretending it never happened). Plus also the ridiculous mess in the living room and both bedrooms and the Xanax I took when I saw said messes so that I wouldn’t turn into an even bigger witch than I had already become and swallow both children whole.

But, overall, it was a successful snow day for everyone.

In anticipation of the storm, we’d taken before and after photos in the same spot, twenty-four hours apart. Ohhh, March. You are one bipolar vixen.

One day. A single day off in the middle of a long, very difficult winter; in some ways, it felt as though we’d earned this damn snow day.

It was still coming down like gangbusters well into the night, but Nick used the snowblower at 9 p.m. anyway, hoping to spare us the bulk of the clearing-away come the morning when we both had to be at work. I took more than an hour to perform my usual school-night routine: make sure the girls’ backpacks and white board are set out, pack snacks and lunch, make juice for the morning, set out notes for the babysitter and money for the dog-sitter (since I’d be at school all day and then head straight to piano lessons), cut fruit for the girls for breakfast, and go through my lesson plans for the rest of the week, making adjustments for the missed day of school.

I’d enjoyed the day off of teaching, but I wasn’t too keen on having lost the day of instruction. For just this one missed lesson, I could combine and shift things so that we are sure to accomplish everything necessary this quarter, but still, I was eager to get back to things this morning. As such, I set my alarm nice and early so I could shovel out and get to school with plenty of time to settle in.

storm timelapse
A decent showing, no?

When my phone buzzed on the nightstand, I first thought it was my alarm going off, but then realized that, no, I was receiving a text. Given the early hour, I contemplated ignoring it until later, but decided that since I rarely receive texts in the wee small hours of the morning (5:41 a.m., to be exact), perhaps it was important and I should check. What I saw was this:

Schools are closed today, Thursday, March 14.

A quick check of my email confirmed what I’d just been texted; yup. Snow day. I had just turned to hiss at Nick, “Holy shit! There’s no school AGAIN today!” when it dawned on me that if my own school district was not closed today, we might be in trouble. While fumbling in the dark through my bleary-eyed haze to locate the Twitter feed for the district where I teach, I was interrupted by my cell phone ringing – at 5:46 a.m. – to robotically inform me that there was no school today.

The news was just starting to sink in — that we’d be home again (no school for me, either)… that my lessons would now be two days behind, which will be much more difficult to account for in the three short weeks remaining in the quarter… that, holy crap, because there’s no school tomorrow for my kids, they now have an unexpected five day weekend (due to a teacher workday, they’re off of school tomorrow)… — when the landline rang at 5:48 a.m.


My mind was racing, zigzagging between angst over my teaching curriculum and dread over how absolutely bonkers the girls would be when they learned they had five days off in a row. After a good ten minutes of reasoning with myself – come on, it’ll be fine! In fact, it’ll probably be fun! I bet girls will be great! Stop worrying so much! – I was just about to ease back to sleep when my cell phone buzzed again with this pithy text:

Correction: Schools are closed today, Thursday, March 13, 2014. (Apologize for the confusion. It’s early!)


I did eventually manage to drift off, only to be startled out of a deep sleep by a loud bang. It seems my previous inner-self pep-talk was for naught, as I wrote on Facebook:

Was awakened (once I’d finally fallen back asleep after receiving the two text messages, one email, and two separate phone calls alerting us to another – unprecedented – snow day) by an angry foot stomp, Annie yelling “It’s not my fault! I didn’t hit YOU so it’s not okay to hit ME!”, followed by a door slam that shook the upstairs.

It’s going to be a super fun day!!

I’m still not sure why there’s no school today. Yes, we got a lot of snow, but the roads are pretty clear, and Nick was able to head to work. After informing the girls that they might not make it to the end of the day alive if they didn’t stop arguing, they agreed to head outside and were quite delighted to discover the snow was up to their thighs (we got around 17″).

I think our sleds are buried somewhere beneath the tree…

The view from the other side of the circle; where’s Waldo??

Earlier this year, I’d bemoaned to friends that we couldn’t buy a freakin’ snow day. Here everyone else was, with oodles of days off of school, and we – despite our crazy amounts of snow and ridiculously cold temperatures – couldn’t beg, borrow, or steal one. But wait, they said. All these snow days suck! We have to go to school later! Our vacation days are being taken away! Our children are turning into feral animals and we’ve taken to drinking before noon. Be grateful!

And so I was. But still… just one snow day would have been nice…


Now, if you’ll excuse me, the children are at it again, and I feel I must step in. I did promise Nick that we’d all still be here when he returned from work this evening. I didn’t say what condition we’d be in… but I promised we’d be here. SNOW DAY!!

Let’s get away from it all

If we took a holiday…
Took some time to celebrate…
Just one day out of life
It would be (it would be), it would be so nice.
– “Holiday”

Thanks, Madonna, for so eloquently summing up our recent vacation experience.

In my last post, I’d told you that we were heading out of town and I’d fill you in soon – today seems to be a good place to start.

We needed this holiday. No; I mean, we neeeeeeded this holiday. The months (years?) leading up to Bill’s death were not exactly easy. As anyone who’s lost someone important to them – especially to a disease like cancer – knows, it’s emotional whiplash. You can’t figure out which end is up, you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, you’re constantly on edge, every phone call is tinged with anticipation, you literally make yourself sick with worry, and then there’s the damn sadness that’s hovering around. It. Is. Exhausting.

Couple that with our completely insane autumn and winter, with work changes and school changes and after-school activities and work travel and birthdays and holidays and and and OMG MOST OF THIS IS GOOD STUFF BUT IT DOESN’T MAKE IT LESS TIRING. We needed a break. We needed to well and truly get away, just the four of us, to do something fantastical and new and inspiring and really freakin’ fun.

Nick and I had been toying with the idea of a Disney cruise for a couple of years. When we found an unbeatable deal on a three-day cruise to the Bahamas that perfectly aligned with the girls’ February break, we jumped on it – and then added a day at Universal to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, plus a trip to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Downtown Disney just to really gild the lily.

We don’t take family vacations very often – we travel a helluva lot, but the vast majority of that is to visit family (which, while great, isn’t always a “vacation” in the truest sense of the word) – and on the rare occasions when we’ve done so, “escaping the cold” hasn’t really been among our priorities. As a foursome, we live for winter, and the snow in Rochester is right up our alley, so I’ve never had a longing to go somewhere warm before spring finally blooms. Even this year with our endlessly, unusually cold days, I was excited to get away, but I didn’t think I was excited to be someplace warm… until we were surrounded by the Orlando heat and humidity, deliciously blanketing us with tropical bliss, and suddenly there was nowhere else I wanted to be. WARM WARM WARM. Amen.

Our trip is now complete, and… well… I can’t quite find the words (nor the time) to adequately describe how utterly incredible it was, nor how much it meant to all of us, at least not today. And so I’ll show you a few photos instead, to give you a glimpse into pure, unadulterated joy.
















There’s lots more to say – and I will, in the coming days – but for now, these will suffice.

While we were on the trip, it was as though time stood still; every minute was both magically extended and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quick, as though we’d been transported to another dimension. We are now firmly back to reality. When we landed last night, it was 18 degrees, and we had to shovel fresh snow off the driveway this morning. Today, it feels almost as though our six-day sojourn never happened, a very bizarre space/time continuum.

But it did happen. And it was so totes amazeballs.

Just six days out of life… and they were so so SO SO SO SO ridiculously nice.

A Sporting Chance

Having not grown up near any of my grandparents, living only ten minutes from my grandmother for the past six-and-a-half years has been a novel, and excellent, experience for me. It’s especially fantastic that Ella and Annie have the opportunity to grow up with their great-grandmother (whom they call Phoofsy) just around the corner. She’s been the girls’ “important person” at school Halloween parties, attended soccer games and dance recitals and swim meets, joined us for each and every birthday or holiday celebration, and has endured enjoyed countless impromptu “shows” in our living room  (“Oh, another rendition of ‘Let It Go,’ but this time you’ve got a full costume change built into the performance? Isn’t that neat!”). She even watches the girls for me every Thursday when I teach piano.

Plus, you know, there’s the lake – where Phoofsy lives from Memorial Day until Labor Day and where we spend at least half of our summer days. Annie and Ella have spent eons more time with Phoofsy since we moved here than I did in the previous thirty-plus years of my life. Which is cool in its own right, but which is really super because Phoofsy kicks ass.

There are plenty of great-grandparents who, understandably, aren’t exactly firecrackers. Not Phoofsy. She may be a few months shy of ninety-four (and she doesn’t mind that I’m sharing this with you), but she’s got a more active social life than I do. She’s played bridge online for years and has a Facebook account that she uses daily, commenting on our photos and accidentally “liking” pages that then continue to appear in her feed. (“Why do I keep seeing pictures of this Lady Gaga? She dresses very strangely…”) We used to email but now we Facetime. She also reads this blog and is okay with me calling her kick-ass. (Right, Phoof? ‘Cause you totally are.)

While all of the above is true, one of the best things about Phoofsy is that she is a tremendously good sport. She has hula hooped in our garage and downhill skied standing on the Wii board. She gamely wears Rainbow Loom bracelets to bridge and has attempted to catch broccoli in her mouth when it was flung at her by the chef at the Hibachi restaurant.  She even refused to take the pass we offered her when we played our ridiculous Lake Game last summer, and thus wound up wearing a life jacket inside the house and going all the way down to the dock – in the dark – and trying to hit the raft with a piece of shale.

And so it was no surprise, really, when she was over the other night for Nick’s birthday, took notice of the hockey gear he’d brought inside to warm it up before his game, and then proceeded to try on the various garments to see what they felt like.

It started innocently enough: “Do you really have to wear these enormous things?”
“Yes, Grandma. They protect my hands.”
good sport6
Side note: Phoofsy is always impeccably dressed
Side note two: I knew I’d have to act fast to get these photos, so I didn’t turn on the flash on my phone, meaning that they’re blurry. But that’s okay, because their bodacious awesomeness more than makes up for their poor quality.

Knowing he was already halfway there, Nick’s eyes took on an impish gleam as he suggested that, so long as she had the gloves on, she might as well wear the helmet, too.
good sport
“It just slides on like this… Oops, your glasses are in the way – no, you can’t reach them because of the gloves… Here, I’ll take ‘em off… One second, just about there…”

good sport1
Annnnd this just became one of the best moments of my life.

Weighing the success he’d had, Nick decided to press his luck even further and get really cheeky.
“But Grandma – that’s nothing. You should see what I have to wear when I play goalie!”
good sport2
“You have to hold a stick, too? AND try to catch a puck? But these are already heavy as lead!”

good sport3
“Can you believe that your dad has to wear all this? How does he even move?”

Which prompted Ella to join the fray…
good sport5
She would like you to know that it wasn’t bedtime; she was wearing her robe because she was cold. Which makes total sense, ‘cause her closet isn’t full of at least two dozen sweatshirts or anything…

And finally… the pièce de résistance… The goalie stick.
good sport4
Bring it, Oshie. She’s ready.

I loved getting together with my grandparents as a kid; each visit was eagerly anticipated and memorable. I didn’t miss living near them because I didn’t know anything different.
But I’m damn glad that my girls do know something different. We may not live near any of their grandparents, but we live near their Phoofsy, and the wonder of that cannot be understated, nor can it be fully quantified.

When we’re out and about with her and people discover that we’re her only local family, they always remark how lucky she is to have us nearby. That’s probably true; after all, we’re happy to shovel her walkway in the winter and we’re generally awesome people. But I’m always quick to point out that, really, we’re the lucky ones. It’s not everyone who has the ability to spend time with their grandmothers or great-grandmothers, and it’s exceptionally rare to spend time with one who is as good a sport as Phoofsy.

Just wait until we decide to take up skydiving. That will really be something.

Booby prize: we win

So, let me guess: you’ve been having a really rough winter. (Unless you live in California, and then you can just be all smug and sit back in your short sleeves and sunglasses. It’s not like you’re living on an active fault line or anything. SMIRK ALL YOU WANT.)

This hasn’t been winter; it’s been hell. The unending assault of exceedingly low temperatures, gray skies, and constant snow have even worn down the likes of people who adore snow and cold (that would be me and the rest of my nutty family), so that each morning when I peek between the blinds whilst perched upon the ice-cold toilet and see a) an endless gray sky, b) that it’s snowing, or c) both, it takes an almost superhuman effort not to just give in, call it quits, and have a glass of wine at 7 a.m. Likewise, when the girls ask what the temperature will be and they hear, yet again, that it will not rise above the teens – and they know that recess will be cancelled – it takes everything we’ve got to force them to school, where they know they’ll basically be reenacting the story of the Donner party.

I think I may be responsible for some of this misery. See, I reveled in the early snow that blanketed Rochester well before Thanksgiving and continued – almost nonstop – straight through till New Year’s Eve.snow in early november
You’re trying to tell us that half an inch isn’t enough to sled in before school?
WRONG, Mom. Wrong.

I made Yay! First snow! pancakes.snowman pancakes
It’s snowing! Let’s CELEBRATE!!

I giddily took photos of the forecast on my phone.snow forecast in november
Ooooh!! SNOW!!!!

I joyfully documented the snow paths on the walk to school and the sledding and romping and attempted snow forts and gigantic snow piles.
snow path
Sun on the path! So pretty!!

snow in november
Look how happy she is. In the SNOW!!!

snow in november3
Oh! Just look at how much she LOVES playing in that snow! ADORBS.

snow in november for packing
Hey, look – packing snow!!!

snow pile
OMG there is so much SNOW!!!

And we hadn’t even reached 2014 yet.

Then came the New Year… and the cold. The Polar Effing Vortex and its Elsa-like black magic chill.

Did that stop me from reveling in the unusually bone-chilling weather? Hell no. It’s so cold, you worry that the dog’s pee will freeze in midair and then you’d really have a lot of explaining to do to the vet? BRING IT.

I cheerfully took photos of the frozen fractals suffocating our garage windows.snow frost
Oh, perty!

I allowed my child – who is allergic to the cold – to stand outside with wet hair after swim practice because she thought it was fun to feel it freeze.
snow frozen
The line for Parent of the Year forms right behind me.

We took advantage of the the sub-zero air to watch, with awe, as bubbles turned into malleable plastic orbs.snow bubblesYes, it was THAT COLD. How neat!!

I continued to take photos of the forecast on my phone – this time, not for the snow totals, but to capture how damn freezing it was becoming.

snow cold
Hm. I actually thought that was REALLY cold. Silly, naive little me.

I took pride in the fact that, no matter what the temperature, our kids still managed the trek to school with all of their digits intact.snow trudge
Feels like -20? We got this.

snow sun dogs
Sun + snow = awesomeness.

In short, I not only endured winter… I celebrated it.


My very, very, very bad.

Because I am THROUGH. This is ENOUGH, already. I’m tired of being a hermit. I’m tired of having to don gloves just to feed the dogs in the garage. I’m tired of shivering in my own house. I’m tired of shoveling. I’m tired of there being so much snow THAT NO ONE CAN PLAY IN. The photo above, of the packing snow? Pretty much the ONLY packing snow this year, because it has been SO DAMN COLD, the snow is totally useless.

And it’s not even February yet. Shit.

Since moving here in 2007, I’ve been fascinated with Rochester and its snow, and have made a point to follow The Golden Snowball website each year to see just how much we’ve gotten. Rochester is pretty much always within the top five snowiest cities nationally, usually getting edged out by Erie, Buffalo, and Syracuse – all of which are within a couple of hours of here.

In other words, we live in the snowiest part of the country.

When people have asked how we stand living with so much snow, I remark that the snow itself is completely doable; it’s cleared quickly, the roads are salted well, schools almost never close — and, unlike, say, Minnesota, where it remains snowy not because they receive such a large amount of precipitation, but because the temperatures remain so low, the snow they DO get doesn’t melt — it’s not terribly cold.

At least… that’s what I thought. But then a friend posted a link on Facebook to the twenty U.S. cities that are allowed to complain about the cold – i.e., the twenty coldest cities in the country. And I almost didn’t even click on it because I was like, oh, Rochester won’t be on there – it’s not all that cold here.

Well. So much for that Master’s Degree (although it was in Music, so I get some leeway, no?), because Rochester is the 8th coldest city in America.

So. If you’re doing the math… We’re the 8th coldest city and (currently) the 6th snowiest city (although that will surely change in the coming days; Ann Arbor is going down).

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 6.37.17 PM
Look out, Ann Arbor. We’re coming for you.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 6.38.10 PM
Indiana? Really?

Which means (aside from Buffalo – hi, Buffalo!) we’re officially the coldest, snowiest city in the United States.

So, yeah. The kids here haven’t had boatloads of snow days, and it didn’t take anyone seven hours to commute home. It hasn’t been below zero for two weeks straight, and our airport hasn’t run out of de-icing fluid.

But still? By definition, if we’re the coldest, snowiest city in America (aside from Buffalo – snowy there, eh?), we can say, without hesitation, that our winter has been the suckiest. IT HAS SUCKED THE MOST HERE.

I don’t know if that makes us the winners or the losers.

If we can just ditch this cold, I’ll be okay. Then, at least I can pack the snow into a snowball and throw it at the forecast. It was in the mid-twenties today – which made it feel like May – and the kids were outside at recess, doing exactly that. I don’t know how we’re all going to burn off the energy that’s been pent up these past couple of months, but when we do, we’re going to be able to power something enormous.

Like a jet to the Caribbean.

I’ll bring the de-icing fluid.

The Real Housewives of Rochester

Okay, I’ll just put it out there: I’ve never seen a single Real Housewives episode. In fact, I’ve never even seen a moment of an episode, not from Atlanta, nor Orange County, nor Miami, nor wherever else these so-called “housewives” live. I have, however, read People magazine (and the occasional Us Weekly) enough to know that these ladies are Just Like Us! except there’s a lot more plastic surgery involved. And cat fights. And heels that make me topple over just by looking at them.

When I was at the Y the other day, a group of moms and I were chatting about how our winter breaks had gone, about our ever-so-darling children, and about what was on our collective to-do lists for the week. We were amused to discover – despite the our kids’  differing ages and genders – just how similar our experiences had been. One of them joked that we’d make for a wild reality show – The Real Housewives* of (Suburban) Rochester.

* the majority of my local mom friends, like myself, do have jobs outside the home, and if you actually called any of us a “housewife,” we’d deck you with a shovel. But this is art, people. Work with me.

While I may not have seen an actual Real Housewives episode, I have watched my fair share of reality television (especially cooking shows), and I’ve seen more than a handful of episodes of Melrose Place and Desperate Housewives, so I’m confident that I have an excellent idea of what it takes to produce a successful show of this nature.

Real Housewives of (Suburban) Rochester.
We’ll call ourselves the Real HORz. It will be fantastic.


RHOR: Episode One

The opening credits are a delightful montage of local families – just like us! – enjoying the highlights of the region. The kids go for a spin on the Strong Museum carousel and giggle with awe as a butterfly lands on their fingers in the Butterfly Garden. Parents cheer their offspring on from the sidelines at Little League, lacrosse, and soccer games, and the audience chortles at how many layers the parents are wearing for these scrimmages on a thirty-degree October Saturday. People rocket down a sledding hill (snow!), followed by a quick cut to everyone cuddling together, steaming mugs of hot chocolate in their hands. Spectators beam from their seats while watching a performance by the Philharmonic, or perhaps Disney on Ice.

The music swells as fans cheer on a hit at a Red Wings game (while the camera zooms in to avoid showing that the stadium is only 25% full), and then pans to a crash! as players bump into one another during a hockey game on the Erie Canal (snow!). The seasons change, and now families walk (hand in hand, naturally) and bike and tote gorgeously groomed dogs along the canal path; fireworks burst overhead for a Fourth of July celebration. Children jump into a lake as parents watch adoringly from the dock. Next, cut to apple picking and going for a hayride… which morphs into a sleigh ride (snow!) through a powder-white field. People smile as they haggle over prices at the Public Market, and women clink their glasses together on a visit to a local winery. (Note: despite the wineries and Niagara Falls being equidistant from Rochester, there will be no Falls coverage in our montage; that’s Buffalo. We don’t do Buffalo.) The opening credits will, of course, end with a panoramic shot of Wegmans.

As our Real HORz day begins, Real HOR1’s kids are really in a tizzy: her oldest has left a mitten at school and her middle child accidentally wore a classmate’s boots home. Will there be outdoor recess today?? A quick check of the local weather shows that the wind chills will be in the single digits – well above zero! – and it’s not supposed to snow today, so yes, of course there will be outdoor recess. The Littles help themselves to breakfast (Wegmans cereal) while Real HOR1 dons yoga pants and boots to help her husband shovel the driveway before he leaves for work; his commute will take him approximately 12 minutes and he doesn’t want to be late. Real HOR1 drops off her youngest at the coop preschool around the corner, then takes off for the Y in her minivan.

The scene changes; Real HOR2 has successfully seen her kids off to school in their North Face jackets and is making breakfast out of their leftover toast. She takes a conference call in the kitchen, sliding a towel around the tiles with her feet in order to “clean up” the mud and melted snow. Satisfied that the floor is at least mostly dry, Real HOR2 finishes her call and jumps in her car (minivan!) to head to the Y. After the workout, she and the other Real HORz stand in the lobby and change out of their sneakers and back into their boots, discussing how nice it was when the sun came out yesterday for fifteen straight minutes.

We follow Real HOR3 as she returns to her car (minivan!) and brushes off the snow, then heads back home to let the dogs out and take a shower. She slops up the kitchen floor with a towel, then gets cleaned up and gets dressed, putting on fresh boots. She finds some Rainbow Loom bracelets to match her outfit, then realizes that she needs to grab some snacks for the Boy Scout meeting later that week, so she hightails it to Wegmans. The employees in the produce department know her by name (after all, she was just here two days ago); she laments how frequently she’s been to the store this week to Real HOR4, whom she’s bumped into by the canned goods. They bond over purchasing ice melt and organic juice boxes (lest the other Boy Scout parents doubt their dedication to keeping their kids healthy).

A friend has suggested that she and Real HOR4 meet for lunch, but there’s a road crew repairing the potholes – which causes delays – so it takes a godforsaken twenty minutes to get there in her Suburban. (Insert several frames of footage of drivers in the left lane refusing to turn left even though they have plenty of room, and other drivers refusing to go around them on the right. Viewers in NYC and Boston are warned that they may suffer coronaries while watching this ten-second segment.) Once seated, they discuss how many times their kids have listened to the Frozen soundtrack in the past thirty-six hours, administer a stern admonishment of Common Core, and grouse about how long it took to help their children with their math homework last night. Real HOR4 confesses that, even though she’s trying to shed pounds from the holidays, she couldn’t resist Abbott’s custard yesterday; her friend murmurs her support – an Abbotts craving is impossible to ignore. As they’re finishing up, the friend looks outside and notices that it’s snowing quite heavily (the audience will already have known this because the clever, baiting producers will have cut away to footage of the snow coming down during lunch, with the friends blissfully unaware – the drama!); Real HOR4 remarks that she didn’t think it was supposed to snow today.

Real HOR1 brushes the snow off the van and stops by the ad agency to go through her emails, then picks up her youngest from the coop and makes it home just in time to wipe up the kitchen floor before the bus drops the older kids off from school. There are hugs and how was your day?s and arguments as the children disagree about who actually left the Old Navy jacket and one snow boot in the middle of the front hall. The madness continues during snack (an organic apple and Cheez Its, because no one is perfect, for God’s sake) and Real HOR1 decides that they need to blow off steam outside, but the children whine that a) it’s not good packing snow, b) they’ve already gone sledding in the neighbors’ yard three times this week, and c) their snow clothes are still wet from recess. Real HOR1 reminds them that they have extra snow pants in their closet – this is Rochester, after all.

In a house around the corner, we meet Real HOR3’s children, one of whom is in tears because he forgot it was Team Spirit day at school, so he was the only classmate not in a Buffalo Bills or Syracuse Orange jersey. In a moment of temporary insanity, Real HOR3 offers to take him and his sister to an indoor play place, and there is an animated discussion over which of the 836 overcrowded sweaty bacteria-infested super fun options will be best. The conclusion has just been reached and they are just about to stuff themselves into the car when Real HOR3 realizes that it’s snowed enough in the past 90 minutes to need to shovel the driveway again. Donning her parka (second-hand from a local shop; people give away fabulous things here) and boots, she grabs the damn shovel as the kids are just about to begin wrestling the dogs… when one of them fires up Let it Go on the iPad, and suddenly they’re racing around the front yard – no hats or gloves, L.L. Bean coats unzipped – screeching about how the cold never bothered them anyway. The cameraman eggs them on, and the scene ends with a plop of snow thrown directly at the lens.

Post-commercial (likely for a car dealership or a personal injury attorney), we see that the salt crews have already been out, so the roads aren’t too bad, but it seems that half of the Rochester population has had the same idea because the jump club is packed. No worries, though – the kids race off to bounce themselves into sweat-covered oblivion as Real HOR3 finds Real HOR2 amongst several other parents in the sitting area, and they open the bottles of water they’d brought for their kids while squatting at a table to wait it out until their darlings have exhausted themselves or someone is bleeding. They lean conspiratorially into the table as one of the other parents shows off a new starburst bracelet – she made it herself last night after the kids went to bed, and if they knew she’d used their Loom, they’d be furious! Another parent asks if anyone knew it was supposed to snow today, and Real HOR2’s daughter emerges, a sweaty mess, and asks for a sip from her water bottle. Real HOR2 looks sheepishly at her child as she hands over the (now empty) bottle.

We cut to Real HOR4, who has just dropped off her daughter at gymnastics and is now taking her son to swim lessons. He moans that he’s hungry, and she fishes out some Oreos from an old package in the driver’s side of the van to tide him over until they can dig into the pulled pork that’s been cooking in the crock pot all day (thanks, Pinterest!). After her son’s lesson, his hair is still wet as they head to the car and it freezes slightly to his head; the camera zooms in to show us the ice crystals just as the commercial begins.

Real HOR1’s preschooler squeals with displeasure after he shrugs off his Target jacket and then steps — sock-footed — into a pile of snow by the front door. Real HOR1 mops up the mess with a towel, then fields a call from her husband, who informs her that he needs to pick up a prescription at Wegmans, and should he grab dinner? Real HOR1 is visibly relieved, shouting, OMG, YES, anything from the prepared foods section, and then sits down to help her middle child with her math homework. They are still at it forty-five minutes later when her husband comes home, rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes in hand, and they hiss about why can’t kids just learn their damn times tables the old-fashioned way anymore.

Her husband enjoys it, but Real HOR4’s children aren’t crazy about the pulled pork – her son requests a Zweigle’s hot dog instead – and she explains that this isn’t a restaurant; they get what they get and they don’t get upset. Thirty minutes before bed, Real HOR4’s daughter remembers that the Family Snowman – a project that they’ve had two weeks to work on and will require glue and scraps of fabric and maybe some dried pasta – is due tomorrow. The scene ends with Real HOR4 pouring herself a glass of wine as her husband opens some Elmer’s.

We officially meet Real HOR2’s children after they’ve emerged from the shower (to wipe off the grime they accumulated while bouncing). Her youngest pretends to be Olaf, the snowman from Frozen, and melts into a puddle, draping her towel around her, while her sister drops blue Rainbow Loom rubber bands on her from above — it’s summer, Mom, so it’s raining! Once they’ve cleaned up the bands and hung their towels, it’s time to pack their snow gear into a reusable Wegmans bag to take it to school tomorrow. Real HOR2’s oldest daughter reminds her mom that the school secretary said “snow clothes look alike; they need to be labeled!” and Real HOR2 sighs as she finds a Sharpie and writes her daughter’s initials inside her boots.

The show ends with Real HOR3 sipping a glass of Pinot and checking out her profile on She tugs the Rainbow Loom bracelets off her wrist as she opens the email from the Boy Scout troop leader — there’s been a mix-up, and Real HOR3 needs to bring drinks for twelve boys, not just eight. She lets the dogs out one last time – it’s snowing again? Was it supposed to snow today? – and scootches a towel along the kitchen floor to clean up the mud. She takes off her boots before climbing the stairs, nearly tripping over her son’s hockey stick. One of her kids has let the toilet paper run out without replacing the roll, and Real HOR3 is dismayed to discover that there is only one extra roll.

But wait, that’s okay… She needs to go to Wegman’s tomorrow for more juice boxes anyway.

End credits.


The rest of season 1 is basically a repeat of the first episode, but it takes us through two more months of winter, mud season, and spring (will Real HOR1’s preschooler enjoy his first trip to the Lilac Festival??), before culminating in a riveting finale that features the Real HORz debating the merits of the Garbage Plate while attending book club.

Although I’ve never envisioned myself as good reality material, I think I may have been wrong. Real Housewives of (Suburban) Rochester is gritty and, well, real, but also exceedingly family-friendly. There’s very little Botox (boring) and lots of shoveling (also boring, but as-yet-unseen on other Real Housewives episodes). We could absolutely rule the airwaves, probably taking over the primetime slots in several key markets.

If anybody knows an agent, please pass my info along. Thanks.

Take Me Out To The Ice Rink

Living with a certified Hockey Maniac, it was inevitable that we’d introduce our girls to the sport early. They wore their first ice skates before they were two (not necessarily gracefully or skillfully; being on the ice is different from being good on the ice); they know that the NHL rules the television from November through May (which isn’t the length of the season, but is the length of the bulk of the televised games); they craft a bazillion Rainbow Loom bracelets out of Minnesota Wild colors; they await the construction of the backyard ice rink that we erect each year; they cheer Daddy on with his beer league teammates; and they have seen a good number of Rochester Americans games (our local AHL team, usually referred to as the Amerks), although they have yet to make it to see the Wild (or any NHL team, for that matter) in person.

This year, the Amerks decided to up their game (see what I did there?) and host a 10-day outdoor hockey fest on a rink that would be erected in Frontier Field, where our AAA-league Rochester Red Wings play baseball in much warmer months. Over the course of these ten days, there will be all sorts of hockey played on the rink, from high school tournaments to private skating parties, but the Amerks kicked off the festivities on Friday with a nighttime game against the Lake Erie Monsters.

An outdoor hockey game. In a baseball stadium. Opening night of a ten-day celebration. Frozen Frontier, they’re calling it. There was pretty much no way Nick was going to miss it.

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That seemingly iiiiiiitty bitty little pond out there? A full-sized rink.

And, in turn, there was no way that the rest of us were going to miss it, either, because we are nothing if not all about introducing our girls to as many cultural opportunities as possible. Especially where hockey sticks and beer-wielding fans are involved.

As Friday loomed, it became increasingly clear that it was going to be a really cold night. Sitting in a baseball stadium in the middle of December in Rochester is pretty much guaranteed to be cold no matter what, but we’ve endured a particularly chilly December thus far, with temperatures not really rising much out of the teens and “real feel”s well below zero. While we Rochesterians are known for our snow, deeply frozen temperatures are not really what we’re about.

But, as much as tried to argue with Mother Nature, she gave us the cold shoulder (ah, see, I did it again!) and told us to suck it, so we had no choice but to embrace the frigid temperatures. “Bundling up” took on new meaning, as we donned shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, skiing “shells,” gloves AND mittens, our warmest socks, leggings, pants, snow pants, our winteriest boots, hats, and scarves. Actually, we didn’t don these right away, because we were meeting friends for dinner – the same fabulous friends who’d joined us for Thanksgiving – pre-game, because the idea of removing one’s gloves in order to eat a tepid hotdog in 14-degree weather just wasn’t really appetizing. And so we wore only our under layers (which still made us, how do I put it… thick) as we dined, then put on the rest of our outerwear in the car before heading off the game.

Have you ever tried that? Putting on snow pants (while you’re already wearing your snow boots) and two jackets and gloves and hats and opening up hand warmer packets and shoving them inside your mittens while you’re in your car? If you haven’t, I have a recommendation: don’t. You will need to remove your boots, which will already have snow on them, and said snow will plop unceremoniously onto your car seat or onto your daughter’s hair. Or you might slip slightly while putting on said pants – shoeless – and put an un-booted foot into a pile of snow, which will then make your feet feel oh-so-lovely for the rest of the freezing evening. You might also realize that you can only find one of the super-warm waterproof mittens you’d brought to wear over your not-at-all warm gloves, which will set you into a panic. But that panic will be nothing compared to the meltdown that will be had in the back seat as your cherubs attempt to wedge themselves into their boosters and buckle their seatbelts while essentially being unable to move. Can the Michelin Man buckle himself into his booster seat? Enough said.

While we love Rochester for many, many reasons, well-executed crowd-control is not one of them. Nick had assumed that there would be “pomp and circumstance” before the game — introductions of all of the players, some sort of commemoration of this Frozen Frontier awesomeness — and that the game would probably begin at least a half-hour late, by which time our girls would be a) icicles, b) bored, and c) begging to go home before the puck had even dropped, so we were in no hurry to arrive on time. Which was a good thing, because we got stuck just outside of the stadium in traffic so terrible – despite the police officers “directing” the cars – that it took us over twenty minutes just to move one block. We had three blocks to go. At least we got to stare out of our windows from our warm, cozy car seats, onto the chilly field… at the players zooming around on the ice, because of course the game had started absolutely on time.

Thankfully, the other blocks were quicker than the first, and we eventually found parking and tumbled out of the car. Ella announced that she had to go to the bathroom as soon as we set foot in the stadium (which was odd, considering that she’d just been given the opportunity to use the facilities when we’d left the restaurant and she’d declined; none of your children has ever done this, I assume?), but we elected to forgo the line of port-a-potties immediately inside the gates because we both wanted to at least find our seats and also, port-a-potties? No, thank you. We’ll wait for the real thing.

Finding our seats wasn’t quite as easy as we’d imagined, however, in part because they were (of course) located a good distance from where we’d entered, and also because the stadium was absolutely packed… with people layered up as though ready to tackle some black diamond slopes. You know how everyone moves in a ski lodge (even without the robot-step-inducing ski boots), with wide, just-got-off-a-horse steps, and how everyone is always bumping into one another because you’re all so padded, it’s like banging about in a slow-motion pinball machine? Imagine doing so in the bowels of a baseball stadium when it’s 15 degrees out and… yep.

This being Rochester, sufficient snow gear is not exactly in short supply, so our fellow attendees had also come prepared. Seventy-five percent of them were wearing snow pants (this is an extremely well-researched fact), fifteen percent were wearing full-body hunting gear (I had no idea that “camouflage” came in so many colors), and although it wasn’t clear what the others were wearing to stave off the chill, they were also doing the slow-motion ski-lodge walk, so they must have been sufficiently layered. The toddlers in attendance were particularly amusing, because their parents had (wisely) bundled them up so fiercely, they could scarcely bend their knees, so they waddled and tottered everywhere they went, swaying back and forth like chiming bells.

We eventually hobbled to our seats just in time to hear the announcement that the period would be ending in one minute. Fantastic. Ella still needed to use the restroom, so – hoping to avoid the crush of onlookers flooding out of their seats and toward the loos – I ushered her and Annie (just for kicks and giggles) back out in search of the toilets. We were greeted by these signs instead:
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The girls and I fought through the teeming hordes all the way back to the entrance, where gigantic lines had formed in front of every port-a-potty because a) THERE WERE NO WORKING BATHROOMS (have I mentioned this yet?) and b) the majority of the crowd had – perhaps in a bid to stay warm – been consuming copious quantities of alcohol, which, having gone in one end, had to come out of the other sooner or later. Also? Port-a-potties and ridiculous amounts of snow gear do not mix. It was like trying to peel off a full-body wetsuit inside a disease-ridden gym locker; don’t touch the walls unless you want to lose a hand to gangrene.

As a result, it took approximately 4.57 minutes for every single person to do their business, which, when you multiply that by a minimum of five people in each line, meant… well, I still suck at The Math, but it meant a really long wait. By the time we finally emerged from the johns and had gotten ourselves all suited up again, both of the girls declared they were starving and freezing, so we attempted to scrounge up some food and drinks that could be consumed without needing to remove our gloves. It was almost surreal, seeing the vending stations – which we normally visit in the summer – surrounded by icicles and snow piles up to the counters.

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The chili was selling like it was liquid gold.

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Just a typical evening at the ballpark…

At long last, we waddled our way back to our seats – hot chocolate, a big ol’ pretzel, some popcorn, Twizzlers, and Swedish Fish in hand. The hot chocolate and the pretzel were immediately consumable, but the other items proved a bit trickier. Turns out that Twizzlers and Swedish Fish become rock-solid when the temperature hovers around 15 degrees, making each bite a bit of an adventure — who might break a tooth today? Popcorn is deceptive; it seems easy enough to scoop some up in your gloved hand and then shove a handful into your face, but apparently human beings actually use their sense of touch when they eat popcorn – a sense that is lacking when one’s hands are covered – and, as a result, we were unable to determine when the popcorn was actually in our hands and when it had fallen out. Not to worry, though; more popcorn fell into my purse than went in my mouth, so if we’re hungry later, we can go back for more.

Bladders empty, food and drink in hand (and purse), and nestled into our seats, we were finally able to just sit back and truly take in everything around us. The cliché at sporting events is that the feeling amongst the fans was electric. I could say the same, but instead, I will say it was electrified – there was such a charge running through everyone, it was as though the entire place was humming. Although there’s a certain general loyalty shown to the Red Wings and the Amerks, none of the games we’ve attended previously has been all that well-populated, so enjoying the true “roar of the crowd” has been virtually impossible. By contrast, this Frozen Frontier game was sold out; there were people almost literally hanging from the rafters and they were extremely excited to be there, which added to the carnival-like atmosphere.

The majority of adults were – in Nick’s words – well-lubricated, which also gave the event a Mardi Gras flare. You know, if Mardi Gras were held in a baseball stadium in the middle of a very wintery December and onlookers threw snow, not beads. People were chanting raucously, singing with gusto whenever there was a break in the action. It was the first time that the girls got to see people at a sporting event successfully do the wave, which was awesome but looked pretty freakin’ hilarious with everyone bundled up to within an inch of their lives.

Annie and Ella were particularly taken with the Amerks’ mascot, a large moose very cleverly nicknamed The Moose. The Moose took the job of whipping the crowd into a frenzy very seriously (not that the crowd was all to hard to whip, given the level of revelry and intoxication), and became especially excited whenever the Americans scored, pumping his hooves into the air with a very un-Moose-like flare.

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We jammed along with the music. We stood up and cheered like maniacs whenever the red goal light went on (which was pretty much our only indication that the puck had crossed the goal line, since we couldn’t really see the puck from where we were sitting). We threw our hands in the air and waved them like we really, really didn’t care whenever the wave came crashing our way. We clapped madly for anything and everything, which was a particularly amusing phenomenon, because gloved and mittened hands make no sound when they are smacked together. We marveled at the people who’d been smart enough to bring sleeping bags and goggled at the beer seller wearing shorts.

As for the game? Well, I know that the Amerks eventually won (in a wildly exciting and unexpected finish, as the Monsters tied the game with 0.1 seconds left – I kid you not – which had the inebriated party sports-goers shouting BULLLLL-SHIT!!! over and over again, to the shocked delight of our friends’ 9 year-old son, and the victor was eventually decided by a shoot-out). But the truth of the matter is that we really couldn’t see a damn thing that was happening on the ice.

In a hockey arena, the action is right there – quite literally, with only a couple of inches of glass separating the fans from the players. In a baseball stadium, the players are typically yards and yards away (save for the odd ball that is caught right at the bleachers) and the field is vast, so the hockey rink was positively dwarfed. Add to that the angle of the seats and the boards along the rink’s edge and we could only see about half of the sheet of ice, anyway. We could “follow” the play by watching the players swarming about the ice, but had no idea where the puck actually was.

But that wasn’t really the point. We weren’t there for the game; we were there to say we’d done it. We’d braved the frigid elements and donned every drop of winter gear we owned to teeter our way into a bathroom-less baseball stadium in the middle of December with a crap-ton of drunken revelers, just because. Because that was what it was all about. The hot chocolate and the singing. The wave and the bright lights. The nearly palpable joy and anticipation surging through the air. Come to think of it, it was, in fact, one of the most Christmas-y things we’ve done yet this season.

By the end of the second period, with the action stopped and The Moose taking a potty break (good luck with that), everyone seemed to realize all at once just how unbelievably cold they were. The universal Dance Of The Cold sprung up all around us, with people standing and jitterbugging about back and forth in a futile effort to get their blood pumping again. Our girls were frozen through, and asked to go home; as soon as the third period began (and the majority of fans returned to their seats, making navigating the stadium far easier), we obliged.

Naturally, Annie needed to go to the bathroom on our way out, so our departure was delayed while we waited for her to de-robe in the e-coli infested portable john, but we could still hear the patrons cheering frantically. By the time we reached our car, we could hardly feel our fingers and toes and the girls were beyond exhausted. We agreed that we had, indeed, been there, done that – just because – but we were glad that it was over.

And yet, somehow… we had a total and complete blast. Do I want to brave another Frozen Frontier game? No, thanks. Been there. Done that. But I’m awfully glad we did, because it was pretty much the best damn hockey game I’ve ever been to.

The popcorn that’s still in my purse is just a bonus.frozen frontier4
Why are the girls not wearing their hats even though they’re allergic to the cold? I DON’T KNOW. They must have terrible parents.

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