Are you there, Spring? It’s me, Emily.

There are as many varieties of anxiety and depression as there are people struggling with them. For some folks, the weather is a particularly powerful trigger – and for those of us who live in climates that are endlessly gray and snowy during the winter months, this can be doubly so. (Seasonal affective disorder is very real, yo.)

While there are a gazillion things that bring my anxiety and depression to the fore (I mean, with anxiety, it’s every single thing, amiright?!), the weather has – mercifully – never really been among them. That’s not to say that I haven’t been bummed when it’s snowed for 49 straight weeks or we haven’t seen sun since the Bush years, but overall, I like winter. I love Rochester. And spring has never not arrived, so I tend to not fret too much about the weather.

This year, though? I have had enough. I don’t mean that I’m ready to move on from winter… I mean that I am done. DONE. SO EFFING DONE AND UP TO HERE with the cold and the snow and the gray and the ice storms and the utter lack of anything even remotely springlike. If I see one more snowflake, I swear that I will wrestle winter to the ground with my bare hands.

There are the stats, of course: More than 121″ of snow this season (that’s more than 20% above normal). It snowed on 15 out of the first 19 days in April – nothing major, but when nearly every single gosh-darn day is gray and snowy and absolutely freezing (we’re on track for the coldest April since 1874), when it is supposed to be spring, Sweet Baby Jesus why, it’s really, really difficult.

And that’s for people who haven’t tried every antidepressant on the shelf.

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Screenshot of a Facebook Live graphic shared by our local weatherman.

My grandma used to say that it always snows on the daffodils – and that’s been true. So I try not to get my hopes too high that winter is officially caput the moment the crocuses pop through… but I also am reminded that this happens every single damned year, and the daffodils still thrive and the snow melts and spring emerges triumphant, so I don’t need to consider selling the house when there are flurries on Mother’s Day.

The difference this “spring” is that there are no daffodils yet to snow on. MY ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD IS DEVOID OF DAFFODIL BLOOMS. It’s one thing for winter to breathe a last gasp after spring’s arrival, like a grumpy old man reminding the whippersnappers that he was really something in his day; people are sympathetic and pat winter on the head, but it’s spring’s time now, thanks.

But when winter never left – when spring is a full month behind and has not showed up at all – there are no sympathy head-pats. There is rage and despair and threats and day drinking and an uptick in Google searches for “affordable places to move.” My therapist told me her schedule is unusually full because she’s had to take on several new clients; literally everyone who comes into her office mentions the weather and how defeating it is. This makes me feel less alone but not less rage-y.
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We were in D.C. over April break. It was not springy there, either.

I’ve always said that, although I love Rochester, I could live in any number of places so long as there were four distinct seasons of reasonable length. A few months ago, I was chatting with another volunteer on the playground who’d recently relocated from California back to western New York – a move that usually elicits sympathy head-pats. For her part, though, she was thrilled: they are closer to family. Housing is crazy affordable. Schools are excellent. And she was just so sick of Los Angeles weather.

Um, what?

She explained: yeah, it’s great to be warm and sunny, like, 364 days a year. It really is. But she had lost all sense of an inner time clock because there was virtually no difference between the seasons. Seeing me wonder what the heck she was talking about, she asked: What did I like about the seasons? Why were they so important to me?

How much time did she have?

I love the smells – spring rain is so fresh; fall leaves are earthy and cozy; winter smoke is warm and inviting; humid summer breezes carry with them such joy and contentment. There’s such excitement as the new season approaches; after a sweaty August, we’re ready to bundle up… but equally thrilled to ditch our parkas as the days lengthen in April.
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Ice storm trees… from April. When it’s supposed to be, you know, spring.

She nodded with understanding and then added a twist: the changes that accompany each season mentally help us set our calendars. In fall, we anticipate that Thanksgiving is coming when we feel the leaves crunching beneath our shoes. We know it’s almost time for the New Year when we have to shovel with regularity. As we switch out our sweaters for tank tops, we realize that Memorial Day will be here soon. We measure mid-summer by how often we need to mow the lawn and weed the garden.

In Rochester, our activities are season-dependent. We swim in the summer and eat dinner outside. In autumn, we pick apples and get out the long sleeves. Winter is the time for sledding and cozying up with a book by the fire. Spring means opening the windows and firing up the grill.

Without distinct seasons, the months just blend into one another. Whereas we western New Yorkers mark summer with frequent ice cream runs – because summer is ice cream season, by gosh – in Los Angeles, every single day is appropriate for ice cream. Which, she said, is cool at first… but eventually, nothing is special. Without seasons and their accompanying activities, time passed in a strange way, devoid of the usual markers; she felt lost.

Spot-on.

So it’s been this “spring.” Our usual markers are gone. There are no budding leaves, no lawns to mow, no *$(#! daffodils. Although it’s stayed light later, there’s no eating outside because it’s too damned cold. The birds have returned and make a ruckus in the morning, but when you open the blinds and see it’s snowing – again – there’s a total disconnect. Which is followed by wailing and gnashing of teeth and general desperation.

THIS IS NOT HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE.

Arlington was none too thrilled with this snow squall a couple of weeks ago.

We are ready for spring, for everything that comes along with it – and, in its absence, there is disorientation. For those of us prone to depression, this utter lack of normal, of forward motion, of hope that things will be different has been hard. Like, worse-than-usual hard.

Virtually the only thing that’s kept me from completely losing it is that, logically, I know spring will come. I mean, SPRING HAS TO COME does it not? It simply cannot remain winter forever. Some day – really damned soon, for the love of all things holy – it will be warmer. The snow will stop. We will see the sun again. .

Y’all, Mother Nature is a woman and I believe in her. Women are badass. Women persist. I BELIEVE IN MOTHER NATURE.

To everyone for whom this unending bear of a winter has been just awful: you are not alone. You are not the only ones refusing to bring your coat because it is SPRING, by God, and you’re sick of the coat that’s been on since Columbus Day, and you don’t care if you develop hypothermia walking to the car. I understand that you may still feel ragingly despondent, but at least we can be ragingly despondent together. And when spring does finally arrive,  we will celebrate as though we’ve won the freaking lottery.

The first person who complains that it’s too warm, however, will be wrestled to the ground with my bare hands.
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Frosty… but sunny. It’s a start.

 

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We Really Did It

It was cold tonight. I worried that the girls’ hair – still wet from showering just ten minutes ago – would crackle and freeze.

After the first tentative glides, grins spreading across our faces, I looked in disbelief from one to the other. “Oh my God. We did it. We really did it!”

~~~~~~~

It’s been a weird winter. A few cold days, sure. But the snow? It’s just not happening. Seven measly inches so far (compared normal average of 40″ by this time). While this is actually lovely in many ways, it has not boded well for one of our most favorite winter pastimes: the ice rink.

After our warmest December on record and not even the slightest chance of getting the ice to set, Nick declared shortly after January 1st that he just isn’t feeling the rink this year. Too much work, too few days when the ice might be skate-able; maybe next time.

I was crushed. I’m not sure if that’s because I actually love skating (given that I’m a terrible skater, this seems a bit unlikely) or just because I love the idea of skating, but the thought of not even having the chance to skate made me really freakin’ bummed. I decided to ask the girls what they thought; if I was the only one who wanted the rink, it was probably silly to have it. If they wanted it too, it was probably worth it.

They wanted it.

When I said I’d build it, they were incredulous. You’ll build the rink??” As though maybe I was suggesting that I’d capture a caribou and ride it across the lawn, Chuck Norris style. (I doubt that Chuck Norris has ridden a caribou, BUT HE COULD.)  I told them I most certainly could – and would – build the rink.

So I did.

I sized up the spot in the yard, conferred with the girls on how big we wanted it (smaller than last year so it would freeze more easily and be simpler to maintain), set up the planks (with the girls’ assistance), and put ’em together. With bracket-y things. And screws. And a drill. It was beautiful.

IMG_3532Exhibit A: NO SNOW. Nope. Nada.

Three days ago, the moment for filling the rink came: at least a week of lows in the teens and highs below freezing. It was time.

IMG_3568Exhibit B: January 10th. Still no snow.

I knew what I was doing; I’ve watched Nick for years. When I turned on the hose, it was 50* but was predicted to drop to the teens by nighttime – perfect.

While all of my plans went exactly as – well, planned  the weather decided to be… difficult. Oh, it dipped into the teens, all right. But it did so in the span of 90 minutes (rather than many hours), ushered in by a wind storm so violent, it knocked out power in our neighborhood for over three hours that night. Almost instantaneously, the once-pristine rink was filled not just with standing water but gazillions of leaves and several dozen sticks and branches.

In case you were wondering, an ice rink with the consistency of a thick soup doesn’t make for very good skating.

With Annie’s assistance, we removed as much junk as possible. Then, we waited. I hoped that by today – three days after filling – it would be frozen enough to go.

Things started off well (freezing as scheduled!), then took a turn for disaster (snow melted into the surface and turned it into very deep sandpaper). Disheartened, I had all but decided that maybe Nick was right to skip this year; maybe, with this bizarre weather, it was just impossible.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up, though. We were this close… So I crossed my fingers that maybe a few buckets of hot water would fix things up.

Six hours later, with just enough time to skate before the girls went to bed, I held my breath and examined the earlier repairs.

The ice was smooth.
Not perfect – some bumps remain – but absolutely skate-able.
Thirty minutes later, we were on it.

By God; I know how to make an ice rink. SWEET FANCY MOSES!!

~~~~~~~~~~

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The girls and I just kept laughing. Annie – ever the daredevil – took one hesitant step (slide?) onto the surface and then was ready, cutting curves around our little rink. Ella – ever more cautious – was surprisingly sure of herself. “Mama, we made this! So I know it’s good. I’m going to work on gaining confidence so I can skate more.”

We made “fishies” and practiced crossovers, spun and glided. At their request, I played Adele from my phone; we circled and soared to “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” and “Sweetest Devotion.” We watched snowflakes – huge, glittering – fall to the ice in the floodlights. The air was refreshingly crisp; we didn’t even notice the cold.

And over and over, we kept coming back to the same idea: We made this. We did it. We built it and it worked and now we are on it and it is glorious.

“Mom, how come everyone always asks if we have figure skates?”

“Yeah! It’s not like only boys can play hockey! Why couldn’t we have hockey skates?”

“Besides! Hockey skates are way more comfortable than figure skates!”

“Right! Girls can wear hockey skates, too.”

“Girls can do anything!”

~~~~~~

Tonight? We really felt like we could.

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So very proud of themselves.
Also? Wearing hockey skates. Because we can do anything.

You know you live in a snow belt when…

On Wednesday, I volunteered as a Parent on the Playground at my daughters’ school (which essentially amounts to being a referee for ninety minutes). There was snow up to my knees as far as the eye could see and the students had been prohibited from actually using the playground equipment (too slippery to navigate in bulky snow gear) or throwing snowballs (a byproduct of today’s Safety First! approach to childhood), but that didn’t stop the kids from racing around like maniacs, trudging through snow as deep as their thighs, building forts and snow piles, gleefully throwing themselves to the ground both forward and backward (because neither hurts when there’s enough snow to cushion the blow), burying their friends up to their chins in fluffy white goodness, and challenging one another to see how far they could plunge their heads downward before succumbing to the cold.

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Supposedly, this is fun…

To be sure, these are the types of games that all children would play if sent out for recess when there’s a crap-ton of snow on the ground; these kiddos are not unique in this respect. But, as I watched them traverse the snowbanks, tug their mittens on and off, and zip in and out of their snow gear quickly enough that no class was late for recess or lunch, it occurred to me that these youngsters don’t treat playing in the snow as a novelty; no, they are experts at it.

Living in Western New York, we are part of region that annually sees the most snow of any metropolitan area in the nation. Add to that the fact that we also experience a great deal of lake effect snow (that same stuff that drowned Buffalo in up to SEVEN FEET of snow in November) and, well… we know snow. Admittedly, we rarely get dumped on the way that Boston and the northeast have recently – our snow typically comes bit by bit and adds up over time – but still, we are super tight with Old Man Winter.

Nick and I have lived in Denver, which certainly sees its share of snow, and Nick grew up in Minnesota, which is known for its winters – so we are not strangers to frozen precipitation. But, after being completely flummoxed throughout most of our first couple of winters in Rochester seven years ago (It’s snowing!! It’s snowing!! OMG it’s snowing! Will you be able to get to work? How much will we get? Why are the forecasters so nonchalant? Why is nobody panicking? Why does no one care? People! It’s snowing!), I’ve come to learn that life in a snow belt is just a little different from other places. Snow is a way of being, woven into our culture in ways that just don’t happen when you get snow here and there (even in large amounts) rather than almost daily (24 out of 31 days in January alone).

And so, in thinking about those kids on the playground and how, unlike me, they know nothing else, I began to consider just how living in a snow belt – whether it’s Western New York or Northeastern Pennsylvania or Maine or Alaska or higher elevations in Arizona – is its own, special thing. To wit…

~~~~~~

YOU KNOW YOU LIVE IN A SNOW BELT WHEN
(in no particular order)…

1) It’s considered an annual romantic gesture every Thanksgiving weekend when your spouse makes sure you’ve got an ice scraper/snow brush in the car.

2) You don’t take that snow brush out of your car until mid-May.*

3) You can use a four-wheel-drive vehicle year-round… for the snow and ice in the winter and for the potholes in the summer.*

4) Children learn to put on their own snow gear – including the “tricks” for tucking mittens into coat sleeves and making sure the inner lining of the snow pants properly covers the boots –  before they are potty trained (this does not mean that they actually dress themselves, nor that doing so is anything other than a production… but they know how.)

5) Your neighbors use their snowblower to create a path for your kids to use so that they can more easily walk to school.
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6) You have an opinion on salting versus sanding and a well-honed, definitive shoveling strategy; you will silently eye neighbors who approach their driveways and sidewalks differently than you.

7) You receive a reminder from your child’s elementary school that appropriate snow gear is necessary every day because, unless the temperature is below 13*F, it’s raining, or the wind chill makes it feel like -10, the students will have outdoor recess.

8) You have mastered the art of smooshing snow onto your car’s headlights, license plates, and rear window as a way of wiping off the perma-salt.

9) You buy your daughter a beautiful Easter dress for tradition’s sake but know that it will likely never see the light of day; under that bulky winter coat, she could be wearing a potato sack — only you know the truth!*

10) Your employer – the largest in the region – sends an email to all staff asking that they bring shovels to work with them since they never plan on closing when there is inclement weather and they cannot guarantee you won’t need to shovel yourself out due to snowfall.*

11) You give up fighting the chalky white salt stains that decorate your shoes and jackets.
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It gives them character.

12) There’s no reason to bother checking for school closings or delays because they pretty much never happen.*

13) You carefully construct your child’s Halloween costume to make sure that heavy layers can go under it… or you simply assume that it will be completely covered by a coat and maybe snow boots.

14) You have serious doubts about the ability of your softball season to start on time… on May 1st.*

15) In discussions about the likelihood of a snow day, a friend declares – without a hint of irony – that she doubts school will close because, “It’s only supposed to snow 10 inches.”

16) There are debates about how many seasons your region actually has. Two? (Winter and construction/pothole season… Winter and summer…) Four? (Before-winter, winter, after-winter, and July 17th…) Five? (Spring, summer, fall, winter, and mud season…)*

17) Even pre-schoolers know one of the most important questions to ask about a snowfall: Is it packing snow or not??

18) You can’t help but chuckle at the national meteorologists as they warn about the latest “Snowpocalypse” or get blown into a slushy puddle while dramatically demonstrating just how treacherous the conditions are. (Sure, logically you understand that if a region isn’t accustomed to snow and doesn’t have enough equipment to clear things up quickly, it can be a disaster [likewise, everyone you know would positively melt if temperatures soared above 90*F in June – unthinkable!]. And, yeah, two storms that dump a couple of feet of snow at a time… in a one week stretch… would make for a helluva lot of snow no matter where you live…)
But still? You find the hysteria hysterical.*

19) You can sleep in a little bit later from December through March because your morning routine has shortened; why bother fixing your hair when it will just be wet/ icy/ flattened by a hat/ covered with a hood, anyway?

20) Except you can’t actually sleep later. Because shoveling. Because of course your employer will expect you to arrive on time and the school buses will be running on schedule, regardless of the five new inches of new snow on the ground.

21) You can take a break from any kind of yard care, however, because you won’t see the ground for at least four months.
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The dog can’t find his ball, either, but that doesn’t stop him from plunging his head into the snow as though he is looking for it beneath the surface of a pond.
Note: Labs are built for WNY winters. Smaller dogs will require that you shovel before they can do their business.*

22) As soon as the temperatures hit 40*F, virtually every child in the neighborhood can be seen playing outside… in short sleeves.

23) There’s never a run on bread and milk before a storm because no one’s terribly worried that they’ll get snowed in.

24) You can practically determine the date by the size of the snowbanks lining the sidewalks. “Calf-high? Almost time for Christmas!” “Up to my waist? Must be early February.”

25) You think of wading through snow up to your knees on playground duty as your exercise for the day.

26) Large, blackish mounds of snow remain in parking lots well into “spring.”

27) You appreciate spring and summer more than anyone else, anywhere, ever.

~~~~~~

Don’t get me wrong – I love living here, even with its snow insanity. I’m also not trying to diss other wintery areas where people know cold (hi, Twin Cities!). But there’s no denying that living in a super-snowy place has its own… peculiarities.

With that said, if we do manage to have another snow day on Monday and my girls miss five consecutive school Mondays, “peculiarities” may not be the word I’ll choose… But for today, come on over! The snow is fine!

 

 

* taken almost word-for-word off Facebook from my friends HWK, MGD, PCS, MK, SRW, AML, SLR, CB, and MLM, respectively. Thanks, all!

 

Throwback Thursday: All Cold Things Must Come To An End

When the girls were babies, I remember being confounded time and time again. Their sleeping is bad! They cry for no reason! They think it’s funny to poop in the shower!

More often than I can recount, exasperation was met by the sage advice: Don’t worry. They won’t still be using pacifiers in college. It has to end sometime.

Half of the time someone uttered such a phrase, I wanted to knock their teeth out. They may not make it to college if she won’t stop shouting “fuggin'” at the top her lungs each time we go out in public. The other half, however, I found some sort of comfort and consolation in the idea that this, too, would pass. They would eventually sleep. They would stop crying for no reason. Pooping would be kept to the toilet. Maybe.

I’ve found myself offering similar statements when local friends talk about the weather. (Heck, I’ve found myself saying it to the checkout people at the grocery store; the weather is a hot topic of conversation here in the ROC, let me tell you.)

“OMG, more snow. More cold. THIS WINTER WILL NEVER END.”

Well, yes… Except I tell myself that summer will actually get here sometime. It will not be winter forever. So, even though I’m not so great with The Math, it has to end at some point, does it not??

I know this to be true. And yet, there are times when I need proof… and I can find it in my (oodles and oodles) of old photographs.

To wit: It was a deliciously warm St. Patrick’s Day back in 2011.
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Annie does her best, cheese four year-old smile.

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Ella is six going on sixteen in this photo.
But the missing teeth give her away.

‘Twas so warm, in fact (by Rochester standards, anyway, which probably means it was about 60 degrees), that Ella took to lying on a towel outside in her pajamas to celebrate St. Pat’s in all her glory.
3.17 unexpectedly warm st pats
Yes, that’s an iPad, which should probably not be allowed outside – nature vs. technology and all. I like to be a rebel.

But then… While walking to the talent show on March 24th of the same year… There was snow.
3.24 walking to talent show
Have I mentioned how much I love living so close to school?

And on the 25th, there was this:
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Annie’s like a robin flitting about in the corner. A large, loud, hilarious robin.

By two weeks later, however? Gone. And green. And spring.4.14 two teddies
 
April 14, 2011 – just hanging around.

So, spring will surely come. One of these days. It can’t be winter forever.

Saying naughty words while we’re out in public, though, is something Nick will still have to work on.

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!

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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!!

Just call me McGyver

We’ve been experiencing an unusually cold winter in the ROC.

Wait, stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

The snow amounts, on the other hand, have pretty much been status quo – which is to say a lot. Like, we’re gonna reach our usual 100″ a lot. We live around the corner from our elementary school, so close, in fact, that Ella and Annie walk to and from school each day. A little while ago, I noticed that the snow was so deep, it was standing well past the top of Ella’s boots, meaning that she was arriving at school looking like she’d accidentally walked past a snow-making spigot at a ski hill.

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She miiiight also have deliberately sashayed through some higher banks just for effect, but nonetheless: white-out. Or, as my long-ago kindergarten buddy who lives in Stockholm called them, “Swedish legs.”

A few days later, Ella began complaining that the inside of her boots was wet. I chalked this up to tromping through a couple of feet snow each day, plus recess, and threw her boots in the dryer. (I’m probably not supposed to do this, but I was in a hurry and also kind of desperate; when your kid is getting hives on her feet after walking home from school, you might embrace the dryer, too. And some Pinot, but that wasn’t making the shoes any less wet.) It took more than one cycle, but at last the inside of her boots felt dry, so I set them out overnight and off she went in the morning.

After school, she declared that her feet felt wet all the way to school. I chided her – she must have been mistaken. They might have felt cold, but I’d double-checked them the night before and they were dry, dry, dry. Unless someone had accidentally poured the Pinot in them, it was simply impossible that they were wet before she even got to school.

They were, however, good and wet by the time she was home from school – not just a little damp, but wring-it-out wet. Was snow sliding down into her boots while she played? Did she take them off at recess and dump water inside? Why on earth were they so damn wet? She turned down all of my suggestions, and so I, once again, set about drying her boots that night, even going so far as to Google ideas on “how to dry wet boots.” After removing the inner liners, stuffing her boots with newspaper three times over (the newsprint absorbs dampness; who knew?) and running them, again, through the dryer more than once, I was certain – absolutely positive – that they were DRY.

But the next afternoon, you guessed it… Wet. Soaked. And she hadn’t even gone outside for recess that day. Completely stumped, I asked her to take off her boots so I could examine them – for what, I wasn’t sure, but I was sure that something wasn’t right.

Upon looking them over, I discovered this:

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Um, yeah. So maaaaaybe that’s why the shoes were a little… leaky.

Miraculously, we had some spare time that afternoon, so we rushed out to four (yes, FOUR) shoe and department stores… but nope. No dice. Either they were all sold out (’cause, you know, it’s the middle of winter, and most people already have boots) or they were super-uncomfortablre, an unfortunate side effect of Ella’s broken foot. I might have been able to order some online, but they wouldn’t appear instantaneously, nor could we be guaranteed that they’d fit. Our best best was to find another time when we could shop in person for shoes… which meant that Ella needed to continue wearing the ones with the four-inch holes in the heels.

(Side note: I did suggest that she wear several pairs of socks and some rain boots, but she would have none of that. Apparently, ’tis better to have freezing, wet, hive-y feet than to wear rain boots to school in the dead of winter. Or something.)

Because I couldn’t just send her to school like that – with gaping holes in her boots – I decided that I would do something to help. I do have a (small) crafty side, and I’ve got a great relationship with Gorilla Glue… and so, ten minutes later, BAM! Problem solved!

Eat your heart out, MacGyver:
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Why, yes, there are two layers of Gorilla Glue and Superglue on each shoe, as well as three layers of silver duct tape. Of course I let them dry overnight – what do you think I am, stupid?

I’d been fairly convinced that Ella would see these monstrosities beauties and decide that rain boots made a lot more sense, thanks very much… But no, she was quite excited to wear her patched-up boots to school. I crossed my fingers all day long (not really, ’cause that would be really awkward) hoping that she wouldn’t come home with soaking wet feet AND ugly, taped-together shoes… And, amazingly, she she got home, she informed me that they’d stayed dry all day long.

WHO IS THE LAZIEST ROCKIN-EST MOM EVER!

Our afternoon and evening were booked solid that day, but by the following afternoon, I decided that the taped-up boots weren’t really cutting it anymore, and so while Annie was at chess club, Ella and I booked it over to L.L. Bean. I usually shy away from buying the girls “good” winter boots because I know that they’re just going to outgrow them in, like, five minutes, but in this case, I was willing to purchase almost anything so long as they fit and didn’t, you know, have holes in them.

Plus also, perhaps the least expensive boots are prone to the heels falling apart. Hm.

On the first try, Ella found a pair that not only fit, but that she liked (AMEN), and we were out of there in five minutes flat.
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An added bonus to her new boots is that they come up higher than the old ones, so her Swedish legs are a thing of the past.

Which is probably good, because it sure as hell doesn’t look like winter’s ending any time soon.

Have I mentioned that yet?

A kingdom of isolation

I love winter. There is no sarcasm involved in that statement – I truly love it. I love the white blanket that the snow drapes over every tree branch and vista, filling our world with crystalline glitter. I love the excuse to drink hot chocolate any time you feel like it, and the chance to cozy up on the couch in one of our absurdly thick, warm blankets. I love fires in the fireplace just because, I love the way fresh snow squeaks under your boots, I love velvety red scarves tucked into jackets. I love the way fresh snow smells, the crispness of your breath on a cold morning, and finding new, hot Starbucks drinks to add to my menu. I love not having to shave, not having to worry about your hair because it’s going to be smooshed under a hat anyway, not picking up dog poop for weeks at a time because it’s hidden under the snow and I can’t find it (which means no one can see it so it’s not really there, la la laaaaa), and not washing the kitchen floor, like, ever* because it’s just going to get mucked up again in three minutes.
*exaggeration. Slightly.

Love. Me. Some. Winter.

This Rochester winter is on-track snow-wise (nearly 80″ so far, on our way to our typical 100″), but in terms of temperatures, it has been SO DAMN COLD this winter. Yeah, we get snow, and I’m used to that (hell, I’m one of the weird ones who even enjoys that), but this winter’s bitter, biting cold — the cold the keeps the kids from playing outside, the cold the unexpectedly closes schools, the cold that leaves you chilled to the bone nearly all day long — has really been a challenge.

In case you’ve been wondering just how cold it is (and, oh, I know you were), Canandaigua – the lake on which my family has a house – has actually frozen over this year. Big deal, you think (sarcastically, I might add). But it is a big deal. When my grandmother, who grew up in Rochester (and who, you may recall, is nearly ninety-four) says she cannot remember a time when the lake has frozen completely over, you know that it’s a pretty crazy thing. Even without my grandma’s extensive knowledge, you’d know it’s a big deal because Canandaigua is not only long (15.5 miles) but deep — 276 feet at its deepest spot, to be exact. For that much water to freeze over, it’s got to be effin’ COLD, y’all!

Tuesday was a bit nutty at our house; Nick was finishing up a whole slew of things at work (having not been at work on Monday due to our country’s festive celebration of our Presidents’ many achievements) and the girls and I were in a manic packing frenzy to get ready to go out of town on Wednesday. (More on that later…) Still, we made a point to find time in the afternoon to pick up Phoofsy and bring her down to the lake with us so we could see this tundra-like spectacle for our selves.

To say it was otherworldly is a ridiculous understatement.

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Taken at the north end of the lake, looking out over the vast expanse of white…

The wind was absolutely wild.


Couldn’t keep it  in heaven knows I’ve tried*

*if you have no idea what’s going on here, you need to see Frozen. Or at least google “Let it Go”. Fo’ real.

We then decided to attempt to venture to our house, because passing up the chance to see our own beach redone in Elsa’s magic was just not happening. I say “attempt” because our house sits at the end of a long private road, half of which is unplowed, and the last part of which is uphill. We knew it would be an adventure, but hey, if you can’t add a little adventure into your February break, what good are you?

When we got there, we discovered that there was still a good foot of packed-down snow on the road, but forged ahead anyway… until the car got stuck. We managed to back up and re-drive and inch our way forward, with Phoofsy, as usual, being an extremely good sport about our “exploring.” When we were still two houses away, it became clear that we could go no farther – but there was no way that we were going to come this close and not go down and check things out. And so, despite the snow being up to the girls’ mid-thighs at some points, we hiked the remaining distance to the house (this time, Phoofsy wisely chose to take the pass, and remained in the car).

After arriving and checking things out, the girls soon announced that they were getting awfully cold, and their cheeks were becoming really itchy – as their stellar mom, I’d forgotten to give them their antihistamines that day. Whoops. If you’re allergic to the cold, falling through the ice is probably a pretty quick way to go into anaphylaxis. So, we didn’t stay all that long… But, hot damn, am I glad we made it.

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For perspective, here’s our typical summer view…
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boats at night

And here… is Tuesday.

A kingdom of isola-e-tion…

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Here we stand, in the light of daaaaaay!

In the end, the cold did bother us anyway, so we hightailed it out of there and back up to the warm car where Phoofsy was waiting. I later learned that this was the first time in her life that she’d had the opportunity to see the lake like this, so to say that I’m glad we took her… doesn’t quite cover it.

This brutal winter’s cold may not have been good for much, but it did bring us this potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And that is pretty freakin’ cool. Literally.