Snow Days

“OOOwwwwwww!,” Eli yelled.

Well, he kind of yelled ow.  It sounded a little funny because he was hopping up and down and his fingers were stuffed in his mouth.  I tried really hard to work up sympathy.  No luck.

I had just removed a pizza from the oven.  Eli was eyeing his lunch like a leopard contemplating a gimpy gazelle.  I knew what he was thinking.

“Don’t touch it,” I warned.  “It’s hot.”  The T sound was barely finished when he placed his fingers on the steamy crust.  I know I’m supposed to be a little more sympathetic, but I warned him.  Sympathy is hard to come by on the third consecutive snow day.

I looked down and just couldn’t let the street justice thing work.  I caught Eli in mid bounce and plopped his butt on the counter.  Some finger kisses and a hug eased the pain.  He showed me how he eats pizza with big chomping motions while I cut it and served it to him and his brother.

Lunch was served at home this Friday thanks to a scary and intense winter wind and rain storm that hit our part of Alaska Tuesday night.  OK, I know the calendar says winter starts December 21, but we scoff at your calendar here in the arctic.  Winter can start any time after Labor Day up here.

Along with scoffing at your calendar-based system of seasons, we also scoff, generally speaking, at your definition of bad weather.  We scoop enough snow out of our driveways on a typical winter Monday morning to completely shut down most lower-48 school districts.  When my oldest son Parker was a freshman at a college in southern Nebraska he stood in the courtyard of his closed-for-snow-issues college wearing shorts, tennis shoes and his fall-weight North Face jacket and called the entire student body weather pansies.  That’s how we generally roll up here.

In my area we realize we signed up for metric buttloads of snow and will-breaking cold temperatures by living here.   What we didn’t sign up for is 60 mile per hour winds, freezing rain and roads icier than an Internal Revenue auditor’s soul.  Wednesday morning, school district officials saw bad weather coming and cancelled school. Thursday the sun came up on downed trees, horribly slick roads, more freezing rain and a call cancelling school for the day.

Our power went out late Wednesday night.  I’ll spare you the boring details.  It started with me asking “Why aren’t the flashlights in this drawer?”  and culminated in my edict that nobody in the house is to touch the batteries but me . . . ever.  So the boys were a bit in trouble by the time the snow day was called.

As I mentioned, snowy weather doesn’t generally shut down schools here, icy rain closes schools here.  Icy, rainy weather sucks to play in, so a snow day here turns into a day of looking out the window and blaming Dad for can’t-play-outside weather.  Three days of crappy ice-storm weather and we are all extras in “The Shining”,  Charlie is seeing twin girls in the upstairs hallway and I am wondering where my axe is.

I know what you are thinking.  Just stop it.  Yes, I consider myself a stay at home Dad.  I am.  Really.  I am, hower, not a prison warden or whatever you call the head guy at an asylum.  There is a distinct difference between having the boys home with me and being iced in.  The former implies some level of freedom to take field trips while the latter is like spending a weekend in dungeon guest suite in Winterfell while you watch the apple juice slowly run out.

The boys were actually pretty good the first day.  They spent most of their time looking outside at the fallen trees.  They disappeared for a few minutes and I found them standing on the front deck with the door open looking up.

“What are you looking at boys?” I asked.

“That giant tree,” Charlie replied.

Our house is surrounded by aspens and birch trees.  We also have a couple of very large spruce trees down at the bottom of the front yard.  They were swaying ominously back and forth towards the house.  I’d been concerned about them all night.   I don’t know the actual measurements, but if they trees are 100 feet tall, then they are only about 60 feet from the house.

“You mean those really big ones?” I asked.

“Yeah, we were wondering if they would fall on the deck.”  Eli nodded his agreement, hypnotized into silence by the swaying trees.

“You mean the deck you’re standing on?”

“Yes,” Charlie said.  “What other deck . . .”.  It dawned on him slowly.  “OK, Eli time to go in.”

I’ve mentioned before that we kind of spoil the boys a little.  They have plenty of toys.  They have enough toys that they don’t have to invent games to play with toys they get from outdoor shows and happy meals.  This morning we had to break up a game played with a small hard rubber ball and two cheap Frisbee-like flying disks.  The game resembled jai alai played in pajamas with lots of screaming.  You can Google it if you want to or you can just trust me that jai alai is a game of Basque origins that involves a small ball travelling at horrifying speeds, played by small, limber men with bicycle helmets and big scoops on their arms.  You can also trust me that it isn’t appropriate for the kitchen.

My wife has been home with us, so I am not outnumbered.  She has noticed that the boys only dump out large buckets of Legos or ride their tricycles on the hardwood floor when we decide that we would like to have a conversation that doesn’t involve Batman, Power Rangers, when we are going to get more apple juice or Santa Claus.  yes, it’s getting to be THAT time of year.

Thanks to the internet, remote computer connections and an associate that lives close to her office, she has been able to avoid playing Volvo shuffleboard on road into town.  I think she might risk it soon.

Supplies could become an issue.  My mother-in-law works in disaster preparedness for the Department of Health and Social Services.  She is always giving us advice and encouragement in regards to being ready for a power outage or other emergency.  Apparently we have paid almost zero attention to her advice as evidenced by my midnight blind groping for flashlights and batteries.  We also managed to stash zero gallons of water for such emergencies.   The only thing we have run out of so far is apple juice.  Eli was trying to make a pair of snow shoes this morning and had my credit card in his pocket.  The kid has a serious apple juice monkey on his back.

We will have to work on our food situation.  We got our power back quicker than most so our fresh food stayed good.  The pantry was another issue.  We have lots of food in it.  The problem is that a good portion of it is not stocked as much as it is accumulated.  We have lots of specialty items, like when you need two cans of cranberry sauce and you buy three . . . sound familiar?

The freezer was a little more sobering.  Inside a small glacier I found fish sticks.  They were old, but keeping in mind how they start out it’s hard to say that fish sticks can go bad.  It’s not that they go bad as much as they might get worse.

We don’t, generally, eat fish sticks so it is a mystery how they got in our freezer.   Nobody is taking the rap for buying fish sticks.   I mean, we obviously purchased them.  I think that’s because we would occasionally see a new box in the freezer section of the grocery store with a picture of a lovely piece of battered fish on it and succumb to the urge to give it one more try.  Then we would get home and realize we bought fish sticks.  I would not be the least bit surprised if archeologist find evidence of a sizeable untouched stash of fish sticks situated inside the pioneer camp in Donner Pass.

The weather is clearing and the wind has died down.  The roads are still icy, but if the temperature drops, that would help a lot.  Really, it’s counter intuitive, but the colder it is the less icy the roads are.  We had friends in New York and New Jersey last year who were without power and services for weeks, so I realize we are lucky.  There are worse things then having three unexpected days with your family.  I have learned however, that family time is something you sometimes have to see coming to really enjoy.

It also helps if you can get out the house.

Diaper Extras:  Today is National Adoption Day, a day we hold kind of special at our house.  As part of National Adoption Month, Carrie Goldman has an annual event on her blog Portrait of an Adoption called 30 Adoption Stories in 30 days.  Each day in November she runs a different story about adoption.  This series is smart, intelligent and gives readers perspectives on adoption from all sides of the issue.  It’s worth checking out.  Google Carrie Goldman or ChicagoNow.

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