Tag Archives: snow

Bits and Pieces


*Last night, after sending the kids to get their pajamas on, Paul and I settled down on the couch with our laptops to play a little World of Warcraft together.  Before long, out comes Caleb in his footie jammies, asking, “Can I sit with you guys?”  I patted the sofa next to me.  “Of course, kiddo,” I said.  Only then did I see that he was holding something in his hands.  “I have a computer of my own, see?” he exclaimed proudly.  He had taken a piece of orange construction paper, folded it in half, and drawn a keyboard and screen on it.  He sat back against the couch and set his “laptop” up on his knees to play, just like Mommy and Daddy.  How cute is that?

Dell and Crayola team up to create the ultimate in ultralight computing...

Dell and Crayola team up to create the ultimate in ultralight computing...

*Once, when I was a kindergartner in Michigan, I spent the entire recess getting dressed in my snowsuit and boots.  The teacher was going down the line zipping zippers and fastening gloves and tightening boot laces before sending each student to the playground, and I happened to be last in line that day.  Just as I was walking to the door to go outside, the bell rang and all the other kids came streaming back into the building, faces red with cold and laughing at their sledding adventures.  I burst into tears from the disappointment.

I hadn’t thought about that memory in a long time, until this year, when we came back to school from Christmas break with three feet of snow still on the ground.  Suddenly, the simple act of sending my students out to recess took on gargantuan complications, and it took me a day or two to realize that I had to make some adjustments in the procedure.  Now, I schedule ten minutes of class time before recess for getting into snowpants and hats and scarves and gloves and boots, and another ten minutes after for getting out of them.  (Yes, that’s twenty minutes of preparation for a fifteen minute recess, but such is life in North Idaho.)  Another lesson came from the K4 teacher in the room next to mine, who has been doing this for winters without number.  She doesn’t spend all that time on zippers and laces and stuffing tiny feet into puffy snowsuits like so many nylon-encased sausages.  Instead, she has a hands-off policy: she’ll talk a child through the process (“sit down and pull your snowpants on like you’re getting into a sleeping bag”, etc.) but she won’t do it for them.  As a result, her students get ready to go out all by themselves, and much more quickly than if they had to wait for her to get around to help everyone.  I started doing things the same way in my classroom this week, and it has helped immensely.

*Katie will be participating in the area-wide private school spelling bee next Thursday.  Knowing my proud history of spelling bee glory, her teacher has kindly invited me to come along and bear witness to the victories and defeats of the next generation of spelling wunderkind.  Kathy has agreed to take my class for a couple of hours in the morning, and I am looking forward to being there with Katie, either to share in her moment of triumph or to comfort her in her disappointment, as my mother comforted me.  Spell on, sweet girl!

*Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday.  What a joy it was to explain to my class why we celebrate the birthday of this remarkable man and the impact he had on American society!  His dedication to Christ’s teachings of love and equality burned through our national consciousness like a wildfire.  While we still have work to do to realize his vision of an America where men “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”, he made some of the first mighty strides toward that goal, and planted that dream deep in the soil of our country’s soul.  The reverend knew, as many of us today do not, that the first rule of positive change is love.  We can’t get anywhere we want to go without it.

Let it Slow, Let it Slow, Let it Slow!



We are running out of places to put the snow.

I love snow.  Truly.  But the berms on the sides of our driveway have grown so high that I had to plant warning flags on the crests to keep them from being hit by passing helicopters.  I chased a couple of mountaineers off of one yesterday.  Fortunately, one of them dropped his copy of Into Thin Air as he scrambled away over the lunar-looking landscape, so now I’ll have something to read today as we enjoy our fourth snow day of the year.  Yes, fourth.  The two days before our two-week Christmas vacation were wiped away by a record-breaking snowfall and subzero temperatures, and yesterday and today have been likewise canceled in the interests of keeping staff and students safely off of the widening ice skating rinks that nature has constructed all over town where there used to be roads.

Not that I’m complaining.  I need the snow days for, well, shoveling snow.

In the past three weeks, we’ve gotten over sixty inches of snow, breaking our town’s previous 24-hour snowfall record (16 inches) by a good 9 inches along the way.  We’ve shoveled the driveway nearly a dozen times, and at one point Paul borrowed his dad’s roof rake to pull some of the heavily caked snow off of the roof.  While Paul has done the lion’s share of the work, I’m proud to say I’ve taken a fair turn at the shovel, fighting to keep our precious forty feet of driveway clear of piled up precipitation so that our coming and going could continue unabated.

In the seven years we’ve lived in Idaho, I’ve learned a few things from winter.  I’ve learned to drive on snow and ice: go slow, pump the brakes, turn into the slide, don’t panic.  I’ve learned to traverse the slick expanse of a frozen parking lot with the graceful, floating movements of an ice skater, carefully maintaining my center of gravity over steady feet, knowing that any sudden motions could land me flat on my back in a most painful and unladylike position.  I’ve learned which kind of gloves are good for playing in the snow and which kind are merely ornamental, useless after the chilly fall days have given way to more arctic climes.

But until this year, I was still a snow shoveling novice.

I thought I knew about shoveling.  In our apartment, the landlord plowed the parking lot, and we tenants took it in turns (when we felt like it and had the spare time) to shovel the thin ribbon of sidewalk that wound from our doors to the parking area.  Only now do I realize: in the world of snow shoveling, that didn’t count.

Now that we have a driveway to shovel, I’m a little better acquainted with this Northwest rite of passage that makes grown men cry and compels otherwise sane people to level firearms and hatchets at innocent snow plow drivers.

I learned that the different types of snow make a huge difference to the snow shoveler.  Our first couple of feet were light and powdery snow, easy to lift, despite it’s irritating habit of leaping onto the wind and blowing back in your face instead of settling sedately down on the ground.  When the weather warmed up, the snow grew heavier, more substantial, making a nice, satisfying “whump” noise as it landed and raising the shoveler’s heart rate a bit.  The worse snow to shovel is the pile at the end of the driveway that the snowplow leaves in its wake.  Having been partially melted and mixed up with road dirt and ice chunks from the encroaching berms, it quickly refreezes and takes on the consistency and weight of concrete, and digging it out requires a well-muscled back, a tough shovel, and a sense of humor.  There is some sort of natural law at work that causes the snowplow driver to arrive at the very moment that you’ve finally finished clearing your driveway.  If you know that and expect it, perhaps you won’t be the one picking up the hatchet.

I met a lot of our neighbors while out shoveling snow, because they were out doing the same.  We even had one neighbor come over with his snowblower and finish up for us on a day when the load was especially heavy.  Several people with four wheelers attached small plow blades to the front of them and made an attempt at clearing the street, knowing that the city plows wouldn’t come through for hours.  There’s a sweet sense of camaraderie in working side by side to beat back the elements for survival (or at least for the ability to get out and go to the McDonald’s drive-thru.)

Make no mistake about it.  Shoveling snow is hard work.  Sweaty, difficult, back-breaking labor that is guaranteed to help you burn off the extra helpings of pumpkin pie you ate at Christmas dinner.  It is one series of motions–scoop, lift, turn, throw–repeated over and over, like the programming of some factory machine.  Except this machine is breathing harder than Paul Revere’s horse and soaking wet from mingled sweat and melting snow.  It’s an odd sensation to be simultaneously so hot that you long to throw your scarf and parka off in a handy snowbank and so cold that you can’t even feel your fingers or the dripping end of your nose.

Yes, it’s a good workout, and probably the one thing that saved my muscles from complete atrophy over the gloriously slothful two weeks of holiday vacation.  With the local authorities urging everyone who didn’t need to travel to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles and snowplows, it was no trouble at all to devote ourselves to lazy indoor pursuits, like watching movies, playing games, and reading books.  Still, thanks to the ever piling and drifting snow, I went to bed every night with a new ache in a muscle I hadn’t realized existed until the moment I used it to toss a shovel load of ice up to the top of the steadily growing white mounds flanking our drive.

Nice neighbors, beautiful snow-covered vistas, a healthy workout–it wasn’t so bad.  I feel like shoveling snow was the last step of the makeover transforming this Georgia girl into a true daughter of Idaho.

But at this moment, I’d trade our car for a working snowblower.


The Northwest equivalent of prairie dogs...

The Northwest equivalent of prairie dogs...

Spelunking, Idaho style

Spelunking, Idaho style

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful…


…but I rather like it.

There’s nothing quite like sitting inside your warm, comfortable home watching the swirling white dance of snowflakes outside your window.

It’s been snowing all day, making it difficult for the kids and I to concentrate on sight words and counting by tens instead of daydreams of snowball fights and sled runs.  I watched it piling up outside the window, an inch at a time, wondering about the road conditions and praying for safe journeys for me and my students.  The six mile trip to pick up Paul and return to the house took twice as long as normal with everyone inching along, testing the traction on their tires.

And still, it snows.  I’m as bad as the kids, hoping for a snow day, checking and rechecking the local news websites for information about school closures.  So far, no word, which means that I should be in bed right now.  Especially considering what happened this morning, when we woke up to the sound of a phone call, only to find that we had overslept our alarm.  We usually leave the house at 7:10, and it was 7:15 when we awoke and catapulted out of bed to a maelstrom of rushing and shrieking and throwing around clothes and breakfast.  It wasn’t a great way to start the day, and I wouldn’t like to repeat it.

Factor in the driveway shoveling we’ll have to do tomorrow morning to make it out of the garage, and I really should be snoring instead of typing right now.  But I’m not ready yet.

Just a few more minutes of watching the snow fall.  That’s all I ask.

And you, stay warm.


Update:  I got my snow day.  It takes a lot of snow to keep you home in North Idaho, but eighteen inches in a 12 hour period will do it rather efficiently, especially if you drive a Ford Escort and the county snowplows haven’t gotten around to you yet.  Even better, Paul is off, too.  He didn’t get the text message until he was late for work and three quarters of the way through digging out the driveway; he had a few choice words for the powers-that-be about waiting till the last minute, but now he’s warmly esconced on the couch with a root beer and his laptop, happy with the world.

It feels like a good day for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, for baking with the kids, for playing games and drinking hot drinks.

And for finally catching up on the three weeks of laundry hulking in my laundry basket, looking ever more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The White Stuff


Snow Day 1

“SNOWWWWW DAYYYYYYY!” squealed Katie as soon as she heard the news of today’s school closings. Paul very nearly squealed, too, upon finding out that his office also closed down for the day. A snow day for the whole family. That’s like being handed an extra Saturday out of the blue!

Twenty-six straight hours of snowfall dumped over a foot of snow on our little town and much of the rest of the Northwest yesterday. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem for Idaho, but it was the worst kind of snow: big, wet, heavy flakes, piled up in mountains of glutinous slush all along the roads and rooftops. Power lines are collapsing under its weight, and roofs are caving in from the strain. And if you have the bad fortune to have to drive in the muck, it alternately sucks at your tires like a bog monster or catapults you across lanes of traffic without your say so, causing numerous accidents and jackknifed tractor trailers. Overnight, the temperature dropped, and all that lovely slush froze into a treacherous lunar landscape of bumps and swirls and sheets of ice topped by crusty snow. Most school closures were announced last night in anticipation of today’s mess.

How nice it is to sit here now, cozy inside our apartment with no where to go, typing this while I look out the window over a dazzling world of white. I went out earlier, intending to shovel the walk. I got a couple of feet through the packed ice and heavy, sticky snow before I gave it up as a lost cause. We have good boots, I figure. I took out the trash, I checked the mail, and by the time I made my way back inside, my ears were aching with the cold. A quick check of weather.com revealed the temperature: 18 degrees. And sunny. Stinging ears or not, I had to stand outside for a few minutes just looking over the snow caked mountains and the bejeweled trees and the cerulean sky, praising God for setting me down in northern Idaho.

Snow Day 2

No Carrot? No Problem!


Yesterday was a perfect snowman day. It was about 34 degrees. The seven inches of powder which fell earlier this week, covering the icy sediment below and closing schools on Tuesday, had softened up into a beautiful, dewy slush. After dropping Paul at work and Katie at school, Caleb and I indulged in an impromptu snow fight, and every handful of snow became an instant snowball, no packing required. One missile, targeted at my head, missed and hit the side of our apartment building instead. It clung there in an icy clump of mush; I could almost see the word “splat” hanging in the air above it. Like I said, a perfect snowman day.

After we picked Katie up that afternoon, the three of us headed over to North Idaho College. The students hadn’t yet returned to class, and the campus was covered with acres of pristine, undisturbed snow. At least, it was undisturbed before we got there. After spending the whole school day obeying a “no snowball throwing” rule, Katie was eager to paste her brother with a couple of good ones, so the snowball fight continued with Katie in my place. (I declared myself off limits–you know, since I was holding a camera and all.)

Twenty minutes later, once the artillery ground to a halt and the mutual whitewashes petered out, we got down business: our snowman. Conditions were so ideal that the snow nearly rolled itself into balls, and before long we had the traditional three-tiered personage taking shape beneath our hands. But Katie seemed upset. “Wait a minute! How can we make a snowman when we didn’t bring a carrot for the nose?” she asked. I declared it a problem-solving opportunity and set her to finding embellishments for our icy friend while I worked at stabilizing and smoothing the snowman’s structure. She came back with two long sticks for arms, and for the nose, a short, fat twig that substituted very well for a carrot (with the added benefit of being less attractive to Bambi and his relatives, who often come down from the surrounding woods to graze.) Being fresh out of lumps of coal, I had to improvise some eyes and a mouth from the tiny, hard cones I found underneath a nearby fir tree.

Finally, we stood back to admire our handiwork. It was getting dark, but I snapped a few pictures with my pocket camera, praying that I wouldn’t drop it in the snow, since I couldn’t feel my fingertips anymore.

On our way back to the car, I asked the kids what they thought we should name our newly created frozen friend. Katie started to mull it over, but Caleb instantly piped up, “His name is Odie!” And Odie it was.

I know Odie won’t be with us long. The streets are running wet with ice melt today and every so often the silence outside is punctuated by the soft “whump” of piled up snow sliding off of the roof. Nevertheless, he’s already accomplished a lot in his short life. He’s helped to foster the creative spirit in two enthusiastic young minds. He’s brought smiles to the faces of passersby, invoking visions of their own snowmen and snowman days. And he’s contributed another brick to the house of happy childhood memories I hope we are building for Katie and Caleb.

Who needs a carrot?






Happy New Year!


The holiday break is coming to a close. As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t been blogging. I also haven’t been cleaning, shopping, doing laundry, or checking email.

I love vacation.

We’ve spent most of ours in a state of complete sloth. Of course, we’ve taken occasional breaks for loafing and idleness, and even managed to squeeze in some goofing off here and there. I haven’t gotten all my dilly-dallying in yet, but I’ve a got a big session of lazing planned for later tonight, so I don’t have much time to spend on this post.

In that spirit, I thought I’d just share some of our Christmas and New Year’s vacation highlights:

*We took the kids to see Santa at the mall the Saturday before Christmas. Katie’s not really into Santa anymore, but Caleb was eager to meet him. When we saw we were going to have to wait in a rather lengthy line, we tried to distract Caleb with offers to visit the game store or go get food, but he was having none of it. When the most impatient four year old in the world is willing to wait for forty minutes without complaining, you wait. This Santa was the best kind, truly jolly and sporting his own authentic beard. While standing in line, Paul and I waxed nostalgic about Katie’s first Santa photo, with a Santa who looked like at least two of the seven dwarves (Sleepy and Grumpy come to mind.) Another year, our Santa seemed to have tippled a little too much eggnog before showing up for work. Hopefully Rudolph did the driving. I guess when it comes to the mall Santas of the world, you just never know what you’re going to get!

*The kids were nearly vibrating with anticipation as Christmas Day approached. On Christmas morning, they let us sleep in until an amazing seven a.m. before a tiny voice in my ear was asking, “Is it time for stockings now?” The gifts and stocking stuffers carefully selected over the past several weeks lasted about three minutes under the onslaught of eager little hands, and before long all the plunder lay strewn across the living room floor. There were oohs and ahhs, an mp3 player for Katie, new superhero action figures for Caleb, and an Xbox360 game for Paul. As for me, my guy got me my heart’s desire: the wireless Bluetooth headphone/mic set I wanted for my laptop. Am I a lucky geek, or what?

*Christmas dinner at Grandpa and Grandma’s was truly a feast, thanks to Yvie’s culinary prowess. She and Dad really enjoyed their first Christmas together. We showed up the day after Christmas to partake of the traditional Turkey Hash: leftover turkey, dressing, and mashed potatoes fried up together on the stove. Heavenly! I wish every day was Turkey Hash day.

*The snow really started piling up last week, and we had promised the kids we’d go sledding, so when our friends Jen and Arrty invited us all over on Saturday for a day of snow fun, hot chocolate, and games, we happily piled into the car with sled and snow gear, ready to hit the hills behind their house. In no time, a great sledding run was carved out of the deep powder and children and adults alike were taking turns careening at full speed down the embankment. I was the only one in our family without snow pants, and before too long, I was soaked to the bone and shivering. That’s when Jen taught me another mark of a true friend: she lets you wear her pajamas while your clothes are in the dryer.

*After eight months without a haircut, my mane was getting out of control–split ends, flyaways, do-nothing limp locks that hung like strands of wet seaweed against my skull. Every day I wore it in the same style, caught up in a metal barrette on top of my head to keep it from laying over my eyes. Finally, fed up, I decided to pay a visit to my friend Ada’s hairstylist, a miracle worker named Brittany. Several of my friends have emerged from her chair of Hair Transformation with beautiful new dos, so it was only a tiny bit scary to walk in and say, “Do whatever you want.” Half an hour later, I had layers. I had body. I had a new bottle of hair gel! I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

*About a month ago, thanks to the wonders of Netflix, Paul and discovered the already-hit show, Smallville. We lapped up Season One a disk at a time, impatiently waiting in between for Netflix to send our next fix. When we mentioned our new addiction to our friends Ryan and Regina, they delightedly informed us that they owned Seasons One through Five and proceeded to deliver the next two boxed sets to our door. We’ve been watching one or two episodes a night for a while, but once vacation started, we went on a total binge. In the last week, we’ve plowed our way through thirty-something episodes, and even as I type this, we are watching the the first hour of Season Five. (Paul didn’t want me to tell you that, but what’s a blog for, if not confessing your embarrassing secrets?)

*Paul and I didn’t have New Year’s Eve plans this year until Kathy and Steve called to see if we were interested in joining a casual hullabaloo at their place. Have you ever heard a roomful of kids all blowing party noisemakers at the top of their lungs? It’s a sound you only hear once in a lifetime (the permanent hearing damage guarantees it.) We set a spread of appetizers and desserts that you wouldn’t believe and the twelve of us barely put a dent in it. The girls kicked the boys’ butts in Three For All, not once but twice, and we toasted the arrival of the new year with virgin cran-tinis. Of course, being over thirty and having kids to put to bed, we celebrated our midnight moment along with Arkansas, Texas, and the rest of the Central time zone, at a modest ten p.m. Idaho time. We had a wonderful night, and Paul and I were home in time for a New Year’s revel of our own.

I hope that all of your holidays were equally merry and unproductive. I think I’m ready for 2008 now!

Not Exactly Sick


Katie was absent from school yesterday. When I called the school secretary to let her know, she asked, so kindly, “Is she sick?”

“Um, no. Not sick. No.” Then there was this awkward pause, and after a moment I knew it was up to me to fill in the blanks.

“See, what happened is that this morning I had to get up super early and drive my husband into Post Falls in the snow (without my snow tires, since I waited too long to get them put on; I don’t know what I was thinking) because he’s doing some training for work all this week in Spokane and is carpooling with his friend, Jesse, and then after I dropped him off it was way too early to bring Katie to school, so we went back home and I decided to use the little bit of time we had left before we needed to leave to finish up a favor I had promised to a friend, because I just knew that I wouldn’t be home for the rest of the day and it really needed to be done this morning. But by the time I got the favor done, we were running like ten minutes late and I bundled everyone back up in mittens and coats and boots and got them into the car and then I was trying to hurry but trying to drive carefully (because our car is like a big ice skate without studs on it) and then we finally got there and I got both kids in their giant puffy coats out of the car and was dragging them through the snow on my way to check Katie in late at the school office when I realized she didn’t have her backpack with her lunch and her homework and everything in it. So I asked her, ‘Where’s your backpack?’ and when she realized she’d left it at home and took one look at my face, she burst into tears and I couldn’t get her to calm down, and at first I thought I’d drop her off anyway and go back to get the backpack at home and drive back to school and bring it in to her, but I called Wal-mart early this morning when I was dropping Paul off and their line for snow tires was already backed up four hours before they even opened and I knew if I didn’t go straight there, I’d never get in line in time for them to get done before I needed to come back and pick up Katie this afternoon and then she’d be standing in front of the school crying because I didn’t show up, so I just told her to get back in the car and now we’re on our way to get snow tires and I have to come up with entertainment for two kids for (at least) four hours at Wal-mart when what I really want to do is sit down somewhere and cry. So the reason for her absence is chaos. Utter chaos.”

The secretary, blessed woman, who I can imagine blinking once or twice under the onslaught of such a deranged outburst, simply smiled into the phone and said, “I’ll just mark her down as excused.”

Snow Tired


I knew I was taking a gamble, waiting so long to get my snow tires put on.

I love winter weather, but I hate winter roads.

Last night, the snow fell. And fell, and fell. This morning, I drove Paul to work, dropped Katie off at school, picked up Kelly for Bible study, and pulled into Michelle’s driveway ten minutes late, remembering at every stop sign and curve in the road why we once nicknamed our car The Ice Skate. All-weather tires might be fine for some, with their fancy anti-lock brakes and their four wheel drive, but when it comes to our Ford, we might as well be rolling around on plastic Big Wheel tires for all the grip they have. It’s only the first snow of the season, and already I’ve gotten stuck in the middle of a large intersection and slid through a stop sign right in front of a police officer (who seemed to be laughing too hard at the panicked look on my face and my wild brake-pumping to give me a ticket.)

And this morning, there were forty-three cars awaiting a tire change at Les Schwab in a line that just kept growing as the day passed. When I called a little before three to see how long the wait would be, the weary receptionist who answered the phone informed me that they weren’t taking any more cars today, thank you very much and try again tomorrow.

“How long?” I asked. “If I bring my car in first thing tomorrow morning, how long until you get to it?” “Well, we could probably have it back to you sometime in the afternoon,” she said.

“Sometime in the afternoon” does not work for me. I have a standing date to pick up a little girl who will not understand if I don’t show up in the school pick-up lane at 3:15 p.m. on the dot. Other tire places are equally swamped by procrastinators (you can tell the people who got their tires changed early by the smirks on their faces as they drive by), and I’m quickly despairing of getting my studs on before the next predicted winter storm hits on Thursday.

Finally, I think of Wal-mart. We’ve gotten our oil changed there many times, and I distinctly remember the sign on the garage saying “Tires and Lube”, so I give them a call. The prognosis is hopeful. If I drop my car off in the morning, I’m told, it will probably take until just past noon to get it back. Four hours at Walmart. Is that all? How hard can it be? We can do all of Caleb’s favorite things: tap on the lobster tank, get a free cookie at the bakery, visit the fish, look at all the toys in the toy department and press each and every button we can find. That will use up at least four hours, right?

No matter, I’m just happy to trade in The Ice Skate for a nice Cleat.