Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Winter We've Endured

I grew up in Idaho, and I am no stranger to cold, snowy Winters.  As a child, I remember riding in the car down roads that were basically tunnels of plowed snow.  My family lived out in the country across the street from large fields, and my dad was constantly out digging us out of our snowed-in state with his massive snow blower.  We rode the bus to school in all sorts of cold and blizzardy weather.  I lived for those rare days when my mom would share the good news of a Snow Day.

The Winters there have been much milder in the past years.  I have since lived in much more mild areas of the country.  Even after moving to MN, our first Winter here wasn't all that bad.

This one, though.  This one has tested my strength.  My fortitude.  My will to live.

I have struggled to get through it.  Apparently Pregnant Mindy + Extremely Cold Winter = Crazy!!!  For me, this winter sadly did come to This.  (Good for a laugh, take a moment to watch the video.)  "Plus One" seemed to be a thing to live for.

The only solace I have had was talking to native Minnesotans who, having lived here forever, all said it was the hardest Winter they have experienced in a long time, if ever.  So, for the record, let's remember together a few fun facts about the coldest Winter this area has had for 30 years.  I'm not doing this to complain.  It is really a record year, and certainly the most difficult Winter I remember living through, so I think it deserves some attention.

We lived through the Polar Vortex, versions One and Two.  The local schools closed several times because of dangerously cold temperatures, as low the -20s, and windchills hitting -45.  The hardest part about all of this for me was it being too cold for my kids to play outside.

We have reached a Winter Misery Index of 200 points, which puts us at "Severe Winter" status, and the 10th most severe winter on record.

The end of February put us at having 45 days of sub-zero temperatures.

And as of March 20, we have had 135 days below freezing.

February 11 brought news of a city-wide frozen pipe issue.  It had been so cold for so long that the frost had reached the city's pipes, which are buried 6 ft. under ground.  The part that stuck out to me was that in a normal year, the utility company would deal with about 3 cases of frozen pipes.  On that date this year, there were 70.  In the next few days, we would hear of more and more.  On my street alone, the four houses on the end of the culdesac lost water due to frozen pipes.  One neighbor was out of water for two weeks.  A family in our ward lives outside city limits and has a well.  They lost water a month ago and just have to wait until things thaw out in the Spring to get it back because no one has a pipe long enough to reach the frozen blockage at the end of their pipe.  We have been running water constantly to try to prevent ours from freezing up, and it have to say that it goes against everything my little Idaho Desert Water-Conservationist self believes.  But I don't want to lose my water.

We had a blizzard on Feb. 20 that resulted in a total of about 10 inches of snow.  The two days before the blizzard were 45 degrees.  They were the first days above freezing we had had in months.  Then the blizzard came through and left this for us:
 It then dipped right back down into below-freezing temperatures.  See the pretty snow-covered trees?  That snow stayed on the trees for Weeks!!!

A side effect of that storm was bad roads.  The snow got packed down on the roads, then it froze, and we were left with a 1-2 inch layer of ice on the roads that couldn't be plowed and didn't melt away for weeks because it was so cold.  The ice became patchy, and driving around the city was like driving down long roads just filled with pot holes!  I have never experienced anything like it. The kids didn't like it.  They said that the roads were "too bumpy."

Another thing about the winter is that we had PILES of snow!  It didn't snow all that much, but when it did, none of it ever melted.  The day after the blizzard, our snow piles looked like this:

We got a few more inches of snow a week or so later, and I created these piles:
(Notice how we almost buried the light post?!  I sooo wanted to.)

This past month has brought warmer temperatures.  I have watched as the locals here have shed their coats and clothing as temps reached the 20s.  (I did see a girl in a tank top.)  My own kids played on the deck in short sleeves and bare feet, at 32 degrees, flinging snow off the deck with garden trowels, exclaiming to me, "Mom, it's like Summer out here!"

So here we are, March 23.   I see and hear evidence of friends from around the country enjoying the beginnings of Spring.  Crocuses blooming, family bike rides, hikes, all sorts of outdoorsiness and signs of better weather.  Then I look at our forecast, and lows of 4 degrees, and I want to die a little.  Our current temperature is 19 degrees.  It's supposed to snow tomorrow.  It has been the toughest Winter in 30 years, and there still isn't any real signs of Spring.  I guess I should just count myself lucky that we are leaving for a two-month rotation in FL on Thursday.  I'll be happy to escape into warmth and sun.  I will also be patting myself on the back all the way there for having survived this tough season.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hobbes, Music, Food and Beds

I seriously cannot believe how fast Hobbes is growing.  He has thinned and stretch out like a string bean.  Besides the fact that he really doesn't like food, and it is a constant struggle to get him to eat real things, he is still the happiest, silliest, sweetest little kid, and I just adore him!

Here are some stories:

I have mentioned that I'm giving Gunner piano lessons.  Well, Hobbes has been taking them right alongside him.  He sits through every lesson and practice we do.  He doesn't always want to participate, but he pays attention.  He listens to the Lesson CD while we drive around in the car, and he knows all of the songs!  He sings them constantly!  (Well, his own jumbled versions of them, anyway.)  I have caught him sitting down to the piano with Gunner's books and "practicing" all on his own.  I am absolutely amazed at how much he is picking up all on his own!

Besides the piano lesson music, he otherwise sings constantly.  He hums or sings his own special versions of Christmas songs ("Away in a manger, no crying, no please."), themes from the HMS Pinafore, G's piano lessons, primary songs he learns in nursery, and themes from "Planes" and Angry Birds.  Always always always singing.  I love it.

I let the kids get cookies from the bakery at the grocery store the other day.  After taking a couple bites, Gunner dropped his cookie on the floor.  He was soooo very upset about losing his cookie, and in order to avoid such sadness, I was contemplating going back to the bakery to ask for another one.  Hobbes, saw Gunner's sad face and piped up with, "Here, Gunner.  You can have my cookie."  And he handed over his own cookie.  I still can't believe that he can possibly be that sweet.

I have reminded him of that story, and he says, "Mom, am I the sweetest boo-ey?"
He melts my heart.

Hobbes really doesn't like food.  He will eat when he wants to, and I think he's getting better about it in general.  But if he doesn't think something looks good, then he can't even have it touching his plate.  We have had some battles about it lately, most of which end in him showing us how much stronger his will is than ours.  He would rather go to bed hungry than eat what we are asking him to eat.

That's exactly what happened the other day.  He wouldn't eat his food and eventually dumped his plate on the floor.  That bought him an immediate bedtime.  I took him downstairs, quickly got him ready for bed, and tucked him into his crib.  I left the room, and we continued to eat dinner and listened to him cry himself to sleep.

An hour later, I got Gunner ready for bed.  As I went into the boys' room to tuck him in, I found Hobbes's crib…empty!!!  That was a shocker, as I wondered where in the world was my kid?!

He had dumped out his pillow and blankies, climbed out…and crawled into Gunner's bed, where we found him fast asleep.

He sure showed us!!!

We put the kids to bed fairly late the other night.  They were both pretty wired after spending an evening playing with friends.  We tucked them in and went upstairs.  A couple minutes later, I heard footsteps on the stairs and thought, "Ugh, Gunner!!!  Why is he up?!?!"

But Gunner didn't come talk to us.  I didn't hear anything for a couple of minutes and figured that he must have changed his mind and sneaked back to bed.

I heard another noise upstairs and got another shock when I saw Hobbes, quietly playing with some toys on the dining room floor!  Spiff tucked him back into his crib, and afterward reported that Hobbes had strategically dumped his blankets on the floor under his crib, to pad a potential fall.  Smart kid.

After those two stories, I decided that it was time to convert his crib to a toddler bed.  I took the side off a couple days ago.  I'm always hesitant to do this, and I wait as long as possible to transition my kids so that I can ward off bedtime battles.  But he seemed ready, and he seems to be doing okay so far.

He runs around the house in his swimming suit so that he can "be the Fastest Racer in Dee World!"
He loves playing with legos, and most recently called the Pilot Lego Guy a "Pilot Manner."
He also played Winter Olympic Lego guys and played with a "Ski Manner."
He prays to "Huvingah Fadder."

And now a couple of quotes:

After a mealtime battle where he refused to eat his lunch (of yogurt and ramen noodles!), he saw the leftovers sitting on the counter and said, "I already did not eat that yet.

While impatiently asking me for something:
Me: Sit down and hold your horses!
H: I don't have any more horses.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Gunner, Birds and Other Things

I was looking at pictures of my kids from the last couple of Summers.  I'm shocked at how much they change in so little time.  Just last Summer, Gunner looked so much younger, and Hobbes was still covered in chubby baby fat.  Six months later, they are both taller, thinner, doing amazing things, and continuing to keep my laughing with all the silly things they do and say.

I'll start with Gunner.

He really loves birds these days.  Like…Really loves them.  I think it all started months ago when he watched the movie, Rio, and fell in love with Jewel, the pretty Blue Macaw.  He loved that movie.  He would smile all the way through it, and then, unfortunately, completely break down and cry when it was over.  Every single time.  He said he was sad that the birds were captured.  I'm not sure he wasn't just sad because the movie was over and he couldn't see Jewel anymore, but he would get really sad and grumpy.  Sometimes we couldn't get him to snap out of his funk for two hours!  It was ridiculous, and I eventually had to stop letting him watch it.

However, even though he wasn't allowed to watch the movie anymore, he continued his little love affair with that bird by making up an imagination game which he calls his "Rio Game."  Not long after he made it up, we had this little conversation about his game:
Me: How do you play your Rio game?
G: You just sit there.
Me: And what else?
G: Um, you just think about it.

And then this one:
While I was responding to a mid-night call from Hobbes, I found G awake and whispering to himself in the dark.
Me: G, are you awake? (5:30 a.m)
G: I'm playing my Rio game.  It's kind of an awake game.

And this statement from him:
"I didn't get much sleep last night.  I played my Rio game all night long."

Soooo, he sits and thinks the game out in his head.  He has since told me that his game has different levels, kind of like the levels of a video game like Angry Birds.  He has added all sorts of other characters into the game, including the birds from Peep and the Big Wide World (another new favorite show), and some of the people in his life.

Anyway, the point of all this is that he has become infatuated with birds.  He wants to be a "Birder" like his great great grandparents.  He wants binoculars so that he can look for birds.  He talked to a lady at church about the bird charm necklace she was wearing and her favorite bird, the Black Cap Chickadee, and then he spent the next five days cheering for joy whenever he spotted his own "Black Cat Chickadee."

It's a little crazy to me.  I think birds are fine, but I have never thought of them as something to obsess over.  And really, I think it's all because he has a crush on a pretty cartoon bird.  But it's real to him, and he's pretty serious about it.

So much so that when we were with our good friend the other day, and she told him, "Gunner, I love you," he replied, "Well…I like birds."

That's brutal child honesty for you.

Here are a few more quotes that made me laugh recently:

At Christmas Time, we listened to an old favorite version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, and he insisted that the words went like this: "And a partih.  Genepair Tree."  Doesn't matter that those are not real words, I can't convince him that it goes any other way.

While listening to a recording of the HMS Pinafore, I have mentioned that I like the soprano's voice.  He asks me constantly why I like her voice so much.  At one point, he said, "Mom, is she your wishing voice?" Meaning: Do you wish your voice sounded like hers?  (I do, actually.)

Listening to Andrea Bocelli sing "Time to Say Goodbye":
"Whoever those Italians are, they sure have a nice voice."

During a playtime with a group of kids, Gunner got frustrated with some injustices of the playground.  Spiff was talking to him and trying to help him calm down.
Gunner said, "This speak up is getting us nowhere!"

Driving home looking at the pretty city lights:
"Wow!  There are trillions of them!  Brazilians of them!!!"

Friday, March 14, 2014

When Christmas Comes Early

My parents sent me a "Care Package" in February.  They were all secretive about it: "We're sending you a package.  Make sure you're home to sign for it when it's delivered." Etc.

The boys and I hung around the house one day waiting and waiting until two large boxes arrived.

 This is what was inside:

That is a new-in-the-box 1984 Model Bosch Mixer!!!

You read that right.  1984.
They found it on Ebay.  A purchase from an estate sale.
The owner of the estate had kept it in the box for 30 years!!!

I'm so beyond thrilled.  It is the same model my mom purchased new in 1984.  The same model that has seen her through thirty years of baking, and still runs as good as new.

Who keeps an unused Bosch mixer in a box for 30 years?!  
I don't know, but I'm glad it's mine now.

Thanks, Mom & Dad!  You are the best!!!