Summer Vortex

So.

Remember when I said that I was totally looking forward to summer? To all of us finally having a true break, to days with nothing on the docket, to really kicking back and just enjoying?

And remember how I said that I’d undoubtedly look back on that post and chuckle at my naiveté?

Well, HERE I AM. Looking back. And laughing my ass off. With also some tears maybe thrown in. This has only taken seven days*, which is actually a little longer than I would have predicted every summer prior to this one.

Now, let me qualify: this has been a good summer so far. All seven days* of it. And, to my pleasant surprise, I am still continuing to enjoy the doing nothing aspect of it. Which is kind of a misnomer, because we have definitely been up to a lot more than nothing

We have picked snap peas at the farm at which we joined a CSA.IMG_7355Those tasted infinitely better than the ones from the store. Go figure.

The girls created their Summer Fun List….summer fun list
… and have already checked off a good many items.

We, alongside my cousin, Andrew, celebrated my grandma’s 94th birthday by taking what might have been her first-ever selfie.IMG_7373And then I posted it to Facebook. And tagged her in it. Because of course she’s on Facebook.

We’ve been swimming in the lake, which is finally warm enough to not kill the girls.
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‘Cause anaphylaxis would be a bummer of a way to start summer.
Hooray for global warming!

Our garden has already yielded food for the harvesting.
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Those would be radishes.
Annie’s lost another tooth since then, so her smile is even more wonderfully gap-filled now.

The sprinkler has been pulled out and run through…
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… while fully clothed, of course.
In their/my defense, it was a bazillion degrees out that day, so whatever.

First-time sleepovers have been realized.photo_1
And she was still standing the next day, so – success!

Whilst said sleepover was occurring, Annie and I made butter in a jar (de-lish) and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
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We are enjoying said lemonade. Also de-lish.

We picked deliciously ripe strawberries at the little farm just five minutes from our house.photo_3
Yup. They were as good as they look here. And as big, too. 

We have slept beyond our normal school-day wake-up times. We have enjoyed gobs of ice cream (yes, already). We have plans to make zucchini bread (with zucchini from the garden, holla!) and to see a concert and to hurl water balloons at one another with abandon.

So, summer? It’s going splendidly. That Fun List is getting checked off left and right.

You know what’s not getting checked off left and right, however? Anything on MY to-do list. Every night, I glance down at the ever-growing scrawl of things that need accomplishing — weed the garden, mow the lawn, sort through the art cabinet, remove the dried-up highlighters and discarded stickers from the bottom of my piano bag, make phone calls, vacuum — and notice that none of it has been crossed out. And so it’s moved over to the next collection, carefully laid out and rewritten, and when I wake up the following morning, I look at the list and promise myself that today – today, by God! – I will groom the dogs and reorganize the Tupperware and purchase the bathing suit online that I’ve been meaning to get for, oh, an entire month so that I have something that isn’t at least four years old and, like, see-through to wear to Puerto Rico.

Given that it’s summer and all, I have not had to make any lunches. I have not had to run around taking kids to practices or managing homework or planning lessons and organizing childcare.

And you know what else I have not done? ANYTHING.

In just seven days*, the yard seems to have taken on a jungle-like persona and the floors on our main level look as though they’ve never been cleaned. It’s amazing what falls to shit when you’re off berry picking and refereeing and running through sprinklers.

Well, just do that stuff on your list while the girls are occupied, you may think. How quaint!! Let me tell you, it’s damn hard to take care of anything when the girls are around and wanting it to feel like Summer! Yay! all the time. It’s difficult to make phone calls when they are reenacting the climax of Maleficent – in period costume – in the background. It’s not easy sorting through boxes of old clothes when they run through the carefully crafted piles while playing particularly raucous games of “baby.” It’s damn near impossible to do the dishes when slingshots are being fired in your direction (trust me, I’ve tried). And let’s not even talk about the sibling sniping that occurs at regular intervals throughout the day; they are taking button-pushing to levels I did not know existed. In some ways, it’s actually quite impressive.

Simply put: it is neither “fun” nor “easy” for anyone when real-life crap has to be accomplished while the children are tagging along. Not for the girls, not for me. And so very little gets done until it has to or something terrible will befall us because it’s just not worth it making life hell for everyone.

Plus also, I don’t want to be the summer ogre. Come on! Lighten up! SUMMER! SQUEE!!!

Today*, when I announced to the girls that, so sorry, they needed to accompany me to not only Target but also the grocery store AND the pet store, Annie announced that I must think it’s my job to torture them all day long.

She had me. Right on the nose. BINGO.

When I attempted to reason with her, explaining that, on Monday, we did not leave the house for even one minute – despite being woefully out of every essential pantry staple and subsiding on stale dried cherries and shriveled baby carrots – and, instead, made tinfoil rivers and chilled out in the playroom because she and Ella really just wanted to lounge around for a bit, Annie piped up,

“Yeah, well. It’s summer. That’s what’s supposed to happen.”

I then tried to explain that, although it may, in fact, be summer, that does not mean that we can survive without groceries or prescription medications or dog food, and because such goods do not magically fall from the sky (not even Amazon Prime is quite that magical), we occasionally need to go and fetch them. Meaning that they need to come with me, because staying home for hours at a time is kind of, like, illegal… And, unless they’d prefer to live in filth, the house needs to be tidied from time to time (they opted for filth, but this is not a democracy, people) and the laundry needs to be done and all that jazz… So, every so often, Summer Fun Squee!! needs to include real life, too.

This went over very well.

So, to recap: summer is great for laziness and eating and splashing and getting freckles on noses, but can kiss my rear in terms of anything even remotely productive. You gain time laughing but lose sanity. Somehow, in the fresh delight of SCHOOL’S OUT FOR ALL OF US! I actually thought my days would be perfectly balanced between tie dyeing, water slides, reading lakeside, paying the bills, and cooking a nutritious dinner with ingredients grown in our own weed-free garden (because I’d have all sorts of time – and a burning desire – to weed).

Which is kind of like how, pre-Ella, I envisioned Nick and me sprawled on our bed on weekend mornings, our newborn cooing between us, while we read the Sunday New York Times, sipped decaf, and ate lightly toasted bagels. In other words, I’d basically imagined giving birth to an iPad. (I’ve always had a very lively, if completely ludicrous, imagination.)

Instead, summer it is a vortex of disorientation (what day of the week is it again??), mysterious dirt stains (have those socks been changed since school got out?), unidentified rashes (is that poison ivy or a mosquito bite gone awry?), and boxes of popsicles. And flying kites.

So, if you’ve sent me an email since school got out and have been waiting for an answer, or if you noticed that I didn’t “like” your photo on Facebook, or I haven’t managed to pay that bill in time (I think I’m pretty much up on this, but vortex and all), I apologize. Summer Fun! is taking way more brain power and time than I’d anticipated, and even if I attempted to reply to your query, it would probably come out jumbled because of the children putting together a marching band in the kitchen.

* To wit: I began this post nearly a week ago, aka seven days after school got out, and it has taken me an additional six days to find the time to write. I still can’t promise it makes sense, and the items on my To-Do list have not yet been crossed off, but I do know that the glens we hiked this morning made for some great photo shoots. Summer Fun. Squee!

 

 

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A Camazing

So, you know how, when you were a kid, there were those things you were so excited for, you could hardly stand the anticipation? Your birthday (oh please please please let me get that Cabbage Patch doll and also could my best friend sit by me at the party because otherwise the universe will be out of alignment)… Christmas (IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE SANTA IS COMING OMG OMG OMG!!!!)… Summer vacation (there is NO. MORE. SCHOOL and I will eat push-pops and wear Jams and be filthy dirty all day long)… Grandma’s house (ARE WE THERE YET? ARE WE THERE YET?? ARE WE THERE YET???)… the latest episode of Family Ties (now that Mallory is dating Nick, this is gonna be awesome!)… when your parents finally allowed you to watch Dirty Dancing even though it was PG-13 (anyone who interrupts me watching Baby be put in a corner can suck it)…

The excitement was practically tangible; you thought you might crawl out of your skin, with each moment of the day ticking by at a glacial pace (especially if you were in algebra – or maybe that’s just me). And then you worried that The Big Thing, whatever you’d been waiting on and hoping for and dreaming about in your mind, wouldn’t live up to your expectations. After all, you’d been imagining it for so long, how could it possibly?

My freshman year at college, I joined an a cappella group, the Conn Chords. I had little singing experience and certainly no great solo voice, but I could blend nicely and pick out harmonies like nobody’s business. I also had a decent ear for arranging, and wound up creating a whole bunch of arrangements for our group, eventually becoming the leader (or “pitch,” in a cappella geek terms).

Nick was in an a capella group, too, which is how we first wound up meeting (well, save for the second day of school where I might have droned obnoxiously on and on about my AP classes to our mutual college advisor… but that’s another story…). Without any sororities or fraternities, these fellow singers became our college families; our undergraduate experiences were not only deeply enriched, but took on entirely new purpose and meaning by belonging to our respective groups.

As music majors, we were already music geeks (you know, the ones who make jokes about violists and the length of Wagnerian operas and use “deceptive cadence” as sexual innuendo…. Okay, maybe you don’t know, but trust me, we did), but singing a cappella – and learning how to listen to a cappella songs – took our nerdiness to a whole new level. Blend and tone and breathing in sync and vowel matching and resolving dissonance and omg, that bass can actually hit a low C became a second language, and also second nature. I already found joy in a cappella music, but after college, I sought it out actively, hoping to come upon that perfect sound, that moment when the voices come together and everything opens up and your body relaxes and leaps simultaneously because it is just so damn fantastic.

Glee obviously helped bring a cappella into the mainstream, with movies like Pitch Perfect fueling the fire. But Nick’s and my very favorite celebration of a cappella awesomeness is the NBC reality show The Sing Off, which features voices and only voices. That the judges are actually competent and musically intelligent is a huge boon (plus, Nick Lachey’s awfully easy on the eyes), but the best part is the music – hearing how the groups have arranged their songs, listening for new and interesting approaches, reveling in those gorgeous and powerful sounds that only a cappella singing can offer.

The first two seasons were fine – good, actually – but the third season was like nothing we’d ever witnessed before, all because of five unbelievable performers: Pentatonix. I can’t begin to do them justice, to describe how their music fills the room despite only having five singers; how they sound absolutely and completely like a “real” band even though they’re only using their voices; how they push the bounds of arranging and create music that I’ve never even imagined, much less heard; how they fill the space within the chords so that the sound is deep and rich and lush, like a full-on choir; how their voices blend so utterly perfectly; how their control and pitch are out of this world; how ridiculously good each performer is; how every time I hear another of their songs, my jaw drops open in shock and amazement and unadulterated joy – and no, I’m not even kidding, I watch them and my jaw drops. open.

They are ridiculous. They are sublime. They are making music that has never been made before, that none of us has ever heard before. They are fun. They are so freakin’ young. They possess more talent than the vast, vast majority of successful musicians and bands out there. They make me think and laugh, actually laugh out loud at the audacity of what they are attempting.  They make me smile.

Everything about Pentatonix makes me happy.

And so, after having adored them on The Sing Off, after watching each YouTube video clip 297 million times, after having purchased each of their songs, after having dissected their music with Nick a hundred times over, after reading their website every day and following them on every form of social media I can… when I learned that they would be performing in Buffalo, only a little more than an hour from us, I knew that we would need to attend.

There was no choice, really. Surely you understand.

I bought the tickets months ago from an online seller (after the show sold out almost immediately) and forced myself not to count the days until the big night. I knew that if I gave it too much thought, it would be Family Ties and Christmas and Cabbage Patch dolls all over again, and I’d hardly sleep a wink for weeks.

When yesterday finally arrived, that familiar wash of apprehension settled in. Could they possibly begin to live up to the hype? Could they truly be the most talented a cappella group in the history of ever? Could they really sound as good in person as they do online (yes, I know it’s a Christmas song, but it’s the best thing ever, so deal with it)?

The answer is no. They do not.
They sound even better.

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Excuse the poor quality of the photos; I didn’t realize I could take my big camera with me and used my iPhone instead. I was also maybe yelling a lot.

Since I’d bought the tickets second hand, I wasn’t 100% certain where the seats were… but I thought they might be in the first row.
They were.
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Yep, that’s them, only 20 feet from us.

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Or maybe only seven feet from us.
Holla! Literally.

One of the speakers was positioned directly in front of us, and in addition to, you know, magnifying and projecting the sound in general, it also did a bang-up job of putting out the bass and percussion sounds – so bang-up, actually, that there were moments when my chest hurt because I could feel the vibrations so strongly.

Vibrations, mind you, that were caused by human voices.
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Just because it’s a cappella doesn’t mean they can’t get down.
In an a cappellian way, of course. Yes, that’s a word. Because I said so.

Okay, so there was some cheating, because this guy, Kevin, beatboxes and plays the cello. Simultaneously.
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I can forgive them this discretion.
Amazeballs.

But, aside from that performance and one delicious performance with the cello as a supporting player, the show was, indeed, a cappella. And it was freakin’ awesome.

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Still rockin’ out during their final song, after the confetti and streamers had dropped (which, to quote this review, is basically “the a capella version of pyrotechnics”).

The crowd LOVED them, in that nerdy music geek way, shrieking like the Beatles had landed at the conclusion of each song. I may have yelled a bit myself.
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Just joking with the crowd… We totally ate it up.

I think I’m old enough to be their mother, but I spent the evening pinching myself like a teenaged fangirl that we were hearing them, for real, and that they really were as amazing as the hype.
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I did go rogue and break the official rules by videoing some of my favorite songs… but I won’t break the rules even further by posting the videos here. You can go to their YouTube site and check them out; what you’re hearing is no trick. There’s nothing added in. They really do sound like that.

I know, right?

It’s not often that our imaginations keep pace with reality, but in the case of Pentatonix, they more than met my expectations. The a cappella geek in me is awestruck. The music lover in me is satisfied. And the rest of me? I’m just damn freakin’ happy.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack

Ahhhh. The snowpiles have been reduced to the ones we see, filthy and gray, pushed aside in parking lots. The birds are making enough noise in the morning to make it thoroughly hard to fall back asleep if one awakens at 5:30 a.m. to use the commode (and also if one has ADHD and notices every. little. sound). The dogs are darkening the kitchen floor with layers of mud, brought in from each trip out back because where we once had “grass” we now have “dirt.” The kids are beginning to wear shorts to school (despite the temperatures not making it out of the lower 40s). There are no buds on the trees yet, but I did glimpse three crocuses poking defiantly out of the ground at one of my piano student’s houses.

It would appear that spring is – finally – officially springing, which can mean one thing: it’s baseball season.

For… oh… as long as I can remember, I guess, I’ve enjoyed baseball. Or, should I clarify, I enjoy watching and cheering on baseball. (I am terrible at the actual mechanics of baseball, myself, although I did play softball when I was in fifth grade and my dad proudly said I had “the nicest practice swing of anybody on the team.” I couldn’t hit the ball to save my soul, mind you, but my swing was beautiful.)

I grew up in a staunchly Yankees-rooting house, and they became “my” team sometime in high school. Right around the time I graduated from college, the Bronx Bombers acquired some incredible players – Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte – and went on a hot streak, scooping up several World Series titles in quick succession, and it became even more fun to be a fan of the team. (That’s one of the benefits of rooting for the winningest team in all of professional sports; I recommend it. Although this year hasn’t started off quite so grandly. Hm.)

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Playoffs, 2004, with Ella on board. I’m normally an avoid-messing-with-the-pregnant-belly-at-all-costs-because-ew-gross kind of person, but how often do you get to get to dress up like a baseball when your team is in the playoffs??
Okay, it’s still pretty
ew-gross. Fair enough.

Nick had the misfortune, sports-wise, of growing up in St. Paul, which made it natural for the Twins to become his team. I married him anyway, and have grown to root for the Twins myself (so long as they’re not playing the Yanks). In fact, the only MLB game that either of our girls has attended was a Twins game, back in ’05 when Ella was new.
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It may have been a Twinkies game, but she’s still in proper Yankees gear. Duh.

My mom and stepdad have had season tickets to the Yankees for quite some time, but making it down at exactly the right time for Ella or Annie to see a game just hasn’t happened. Plus also, there are only two tickets, meaning only one of our girls could attend… and, given that the seats cost about as much as rescuing an endangered dolphin pod, it seems a bit of a waste, considering that our offspring become bored with baseball almost immediately after the first pitch has been thrown.

Enter our minor league team, the Rochester Red Wings (who are, funnily enough, the Twins’ farm team). What it lacks in terms of major league grandiosity it makes up for in just about every other way. The stadium is less than twenty minutes from our house and parking is a breeze. Every seat is a good one and there’s room for the kids (and antsy adults) to run around on the grassy areas beside the field. The food is dandy (for a ballpark) and no one minds if you switch seats mid-game, so long as the seats you move to weren’t already occupied. (Given the lackluster attendance rates, it’s a good bet that they weren’t.)

And, at $8 a seat (when purchased at the box office; they’re cheaper online), Nick and I don’t care if the girls last half an inning or all nine; either way, we’ve gotten our money’s worth.

That the baseball itself is pretty damn good is a lovely bonus.

The Red Wings’ home opener was supposed to be on Saturday but, due to poor weather, was postponed till Sunday. Nick and I asked the girls if they’d rather attend a local children’s theater production of Pinocchio or the ballgame and they voted enthusiastically for the latter. At first, I chided myself for not doing a better job of properly raising little supporters of the arts, but then learned that the reason they’d chosen sports over theater was because Dippin’ Dots were available at the stadium.

And that, my friends, is something I can get behind, because I will do almost anything to get myself some good grub. Look at my little foodies in the making! Amen.

We arrived only minutes before the game’s slated 2:05 start, just in time to catch the Boy Scout color guard and the fireworks that were set off just outside of the stadium. I’ll admit, it was the first time I’d caught fireworks in the middle of the day, and it was kinda neat; good on ya, Red Wings. We were easily able to get ourselves four tickets to the game – third base line so we’d be in the sun (because even though it was nice out, a sharp chill still hung in the air) – and watched the first pitch under 55-degree, cloudless skies.

It’s not the majors, but it was fantastic.
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See: Really lovely.

Within minutes, ironically, we discovered that our “sunny” upper-deck seats placed us squarely in the area that was overtaken by shadows as the sun moved across the afternoon sky, and suddenly 55 degrees felt quite nippy. Rather than shiver it out in our original seats, we simply moved forward one row… and then another… and another… always inching ourselves into the sun-warmed bleachers.

We were hardly the only ones doing so, either. Rather, it seemed that the entire stadium’s worth of fans was ebbing and flowing, amoeba-like, seeking out the sunny spots like a dog looking for the warmest place to lie down for a nap. Around the fourth inning, I noticed that the fans on first base side had not only moved downward, but inward, in their search of the sun, crammed into one thin sliver of un-shaded glory.

To wit:
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If we just move a bit to the left – yep, just one more, keep scootching down – we’ll all fit in here…

Can’t see what I mean? How ’bout if I move in closer?
opening day2bSqueeeeezed in. Such is the benefit of a minor league ballpark: empty seats are free game, baby.

As predicted, the girls lost interest in the actual game as soon as it began, despite my whispered explanations (“See how that guy’s not touching the base? That’s called leading off…”), so we entertained them in the best way we knew how: by getting food. Yes, of course there were Dippin’ Dots — and also hot dogs, sausages, and some really nifty fresh-cut potato chips with dipping sauces.

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Some families like to take selfies of their faces while at the ball game. I prefer to catch us doing what we do best: eating.

It got exciting for a while – the Red Wings scored in the first inning and then had a three-run homer in the second (the girls’ first home run sighting) – but once the food had been gone through and my explanations began to fall flat, Nick did what fathers have been doing since the dawn of time to entertain their children at sporting events: he bought them silly trinkets and attempted to bribe them.

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Their first foam fingers! They were quite psyched.
I can’t even see the words “foam fingers” anymore without thinking disturbing thoughts (not like I was really seeing the words “foam fingers” a lot before). Thanks, Miley.

When Annie began poking us in the head with her finger (and, subsequently, Nick threatened to take it away for good) and Ella began muttering about how cold she had become (we finally reached a point where we could no longer move forward, and were swallowed in shadow shortly thereafter), we agreed that it was time to call it a day. Hey, they lasted five entire innings; that’s pretty much a double-header in our house.

Is our minor league park like attending a MLB game? Nope. Not at all. Everything’s pared down, the atmosphere isn’t quite as intense, and the fans are more subdued.

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Case in point: the crowd cheered the loudest when this sign came up on the field. 
This makes sense to me, though, because tacos are definitely something I support. WOLF WHISTLE, baby!

But that’s okay with me because, after all these years, it turns out that I just love baseball, any baseball. Some day, Ella and Annie will make it to Yankee Stadium (even if it’s not really Yankee Stadium anymore), and they’ll be able to sit through the entire game. With luck, they’ll even enjoy it. For the time being, though, being able to share baseball with my girls in a way that works for all of us is a pretty cool thing. Especially when the water is running and we don’t have to unzip our snowsuits to use the port-a-potties.

And it is the umpteenth reason why moving to Rochester was such a stellar decision those seven years ago.

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Yet another minor league ballpark perk… Bored? Looking for more sun? Just want to stretch your legs? Then get out of your damn seats and have a sit on the lawn, why don’t you!

If we can just make it through mud season and settle into spring that actually feels like spring, then I’ll really feel like giving Rochester a high five.

 

Snowing like the Dickens

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

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

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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.

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They really were as heavenly as they look.

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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.

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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.

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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.

NO SCHOOL. GOT IT. THANKS FOR MAKING SURE WE KNEW. FOUR EFFING TIMES.

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!)

Damn straight it is. AND YOU’RE STILL TEXTING ME. BEFORE SIX A.M.

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″).

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I think our sleds are buried somewhere beneath the tree…

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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…

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

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.

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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.”
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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.
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“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…”

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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!”
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“You have to hold a stick, too? AND try to catch a puck? But these are already heavy as lead!”

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

Which prompted Ella to join the fray…
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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.
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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.
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Sun on the path! So pretty!!

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Look how happy she is. In the SNOW!!!

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

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Hey, look – packing snow!!!

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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.
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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.

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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.

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Sun + snow = awesomeness.

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

Which is something I sorely regret now. I’M SORRY, EVERYONE. I THOUGHT THE SNOW WAS FUN AND PRETTY. I THOUGHT THE ARCTIC TEMPERATURES WERE INTERESTING. My bad.

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).

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Look out, Ann Arbor. We’re coming for you.

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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.