Tag Archives: winter

Snow joke

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My kitchen chairs have been taken from me. My sofa cushions are two rooms away from their sofa. The big brown blanket that belongs on my bed has been repurposed. Yes, it’s a blanket fort, and it’s been there for three days now because I can’t face the mutiny I would encounter if I told them to dismantle it.

Scratch that. I’ve told them to dismantle it. They haven’t, and I haven’t bothered to follow up. I take the blanket with me every night, we sit on the bench in the kitchen, and nobody used that sofa much anyway. The fort is in use as an animal hospital and they spent a good hour designing, engineering, building, fortifying, populating, guarding, and creating signage for it. That’s good enough. Standards are low.

It’s day nine of the weekend that never ended. They’ve been off school all this week plus Thursday and Friday of last week, for the snowstorm that ended on Sunday morning. We dug out on Sunday and Monday, our roads have been perfectly passable since Tuesday at the latest, and yet…

There are many reasons why this is so, even though it is far from ideal for all concerned. The Washington DC area is southerly enough that snow is not a sure thing every winter, but northern enough that sometimes snow happens in large quantities. That means the cities and towns and counties and school districts are somewhat equipped to deal with snow, but not as well prepared as places like Boston or Chicago, where this is just called winter and people get on with it. We got our season’s worth of snow in two days, and we’ve nowhere to put it. The roads were prioritized but the sidewalks and bus stops were left to languish under extra feet of ploughed snow. The school closure decisions are made county by county, not by smaller districts or a school at a time, and though our area dug out quickly some people didn’t even see a plough on their street till Thursday.

This is no joke for those people who were expected back at work on Tuesday morning but have had to scramble to find last-minute childcare for every other day of the week. It’s no joke for those children who depend on a free hot meal at school every weekday. (Some schools opened to provide lunches for those who could get there and needed it.) It’s not even much fun for the lucky ones like me who had nothing much else to do and could at least let their kids profit from late lazy mornings, seasonal outdoor exercise, an extension on the science fair project, and a few family movie nights instead of a workaday week of spelling tests and classroom spats, too little recess and too much homework.

By today I was actually going to feel a little inconvenienced if the kids did have school. Mabel’s annual checkup was this morning and it was much easier to bring Dash along too instead of rushing around trying to get them both to school – I even, finally, got him a flu shot, which certainly wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been with us. Afterwards we had lunch in IKEA and … well, maybe I’ll find another movie for this afternoon.


Brat bán sneachta

Mabel making a snow angel

Apparently every Irish essay I ever wrote in school involved the unlikely scenario of waking up to snow. I know this, because I can still write it.

Ar maidin, dúsigh me go luath mar bhí geal ait ins an seomra. Nuair a d’fhéach mé amach an fuinneog, chonaic me brat bán álainn sneachta ar fud na háite.

[In the morning I woke up early because there was a strange light in the room. When I looked out the window, I saw a beautiful white cloak of snow everywhere.]

(No correcting my Irish, please, from any of you Gaelgóirí. It’s mostly right, and I only looked up one word.)

I know this phenomenon is not limited to me, because the first thing my husband said to me this morning was that he was considering posting “Brat bán sneachta” as his Facebook status.

But I remember so well all the mornings I spent lying in bed trying to divine a geal ait (strange light) in the room, approaching the divide of the curtains slowly, wondering if what I was seeing through the crack was just plain white sky or if it might possibly be a brat álainn sneachta (beautiful cloak of snow) after all.

Almost always, it was not snow. In spite of all my Irish vocabulary had taught me, snowy winter days are not very common in Ireland.

But last night here, around 3am let’s say, when for some unknowable reason (Mabel) I was wandering around our house, the geal ait was completely obvious. Instead of an inky night sky  – Washington DC light pollution allowing – the sky was eerily light, illuminated somehow from within, or maybe as a reflection of the thick layer of white stuff it had already begun to lay down below it. I could see the softly falling flakes quite clearly everywhere without having to find the arc of a streetlight to show them to me.

So, snow day. I think the sled is buried somewhere at the bottom of the garden. Hope we can find it.

Dash making a snowman

Weather permitting

It’s clearly unfair that in America the concept of the snow day – when work or school is cancelled because of too much snow for your particular part of the country to handle – even exists. Ireland needs some days. I came up with a few you might like to try using on the establishment.

  • Rain days, for when the rain was pelting so hard against the window all night that you couldn’t get a wink of sleep.
  • Wind days, for when the wind is blowing your front door shut so you can’t leave the house.
  • Sheep days, for when the wind and rain are blowing the sheep sideways across the roads, causing a traffic hazard.
  • Mist days, for when you can’t see as far as the car in your driveway, let alone a bus stop. It would clearly be dangerous to venture out looking for it.
  • Radiance days, for when you’re blinded as soon as you go out by a strange shining orb in the sky. You’d better go straight back inside and take it easy in a darkened room.
  • Temperate days, for when it’s much too nice to go to school and you just have to play hooky.

Let me know how you get on with that.

Snow, trees, cars, houses

Round trip to Melodrama Central

Things Mabel had a meltdown about this morning:

  • 7am: I wouldn’t go downstairs with her. Daddy was already downstairs. I wanted to stay in bed for five more minutes. This was unacceptable.
  • 8am: She was asked not to sing Frozen songs loudly while jumping on the sofa in the room where Dash was trying to read. This was completely unfair. Also, she wasn’t hungry and didn’t want breakfast yet.
  • 8:55am: She doesn’t want to have to walk to school (in clement weather) when she goes to Kindergarten next year. That will be just too hard and she doesn’t like exercise.
  • 8:59am: Her best friend insists that he’s in charge when they play together. He never lets her be in charge and won’t even take turns. He says his mom says he’s in charge.

Things I believed this morning:

  • None of the above.

How happy am I that my county did not call a two-hour-delay on school this morning, even though we had freezing rain and they probably should have?

  • Very.

Small mercies

The best Christmas present was the one I bought us last weekend in the sales: an electric blanket.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get one here. I had one in Ireland and when I got it I felt the same way – that this was utterly the Greatest Invention of Mankind, ever. It actually came over, mistakenly, in the Shipment of Stuff, and is utterly useless here because of the difference in voltage. Even with an adapter, it wouldn’t work. So maybe I felt guilty about that, or something, but for whatever reason it’s been a long cold ten years of winter bedtimes (except in Texas, I suppose) before I finally decided that I was allowed to be happy again in those exquisite few minutes after I get into bed and stretch my be-socked feet gingerly down into the otherwise Polar no-man’s-land of sheet.

I’m always the first one to go to bed, see. So I do all the dirty work of warming things up, and by the time B gets there I’m into furnace mode and everything’s hunky dory. (Or I’ve already abandoned the bed and gone into Mabel, but let’s assume that’s going to happen less as time goes on.) But the PEB (pre-electric-blanket) era was no so much fun. Every square inch of exposed skin had to be protected, with pyjama bottoms tucked into big fluffy socks and pyjama top tucked into bottoms (very fetching, especially when you’re short-waisted, but then who’s looking at me in bed?), and even then the chill of the sheets would stop my feet warming up for a long time and it was all very tragic, you understand.

Anyway, now, everything is wonderful. Getting into a warm bed on a cold winter’s night is a bliss that simply cannot be overstated.

Or maybe I’m just getting tragically old. It might be that, I suppose.

Frozen eyeballs

The weather was fine. I mean, it was cold, and I got cold waiting for Dash to come out of school, and one of our cars didn’t start because it’s been acting up lately and this was probably the final straw, but happily we have two cars, and B was able to work from home, and my fingers didn’t drop off and by tomorrow things will be back to a much more normal around-freezing point and we have temperatures in the mid 50s forecast for the weekend which will be utterly tropical and we will all be outside basking in our bikinis, figuratively speaking.

So that’s good. I do have a new appreciation for those people of the frozen wastes of the North who deal with this sort of nonsense on a regular basis, but then again, they probably have structures put in place, both literally and organizationally, so that nobody is expected to stand outside the school for ten minutes even though they got there just about when the classes are theoretically supposed to be dismissed.

But mostly I think everyone should live in California, probably. Especially me.


Dash had his last vision therapy session on Monday. He has maintenance exercises to do and I think we’re getting some sort of computer game thing that should help with that, and he goes back in three months to make sure his vision doesn’t backslide, but for the most part he’s done. Graduated.

His final assessment showed that his eye teaming and tracking are vastly improved, and he can switch focus from near to far at a very acceptable speed. He can do fancy things with focus that I can’t do at all, like seeing the magic-eye pictures, and knows how to relax and then sharpen his focus to order.

He’s still a strange mixture of reluctant and eager reader. He won’t look to find out the title of a book unprompted, he won’t peruse a book out of interest; but he’ll demand that I order the next in the series from the library and happily pick it up and tell us how many pages he’s read during his mandated twenty minutes an evening.

Yesterday at the library he read the signs and found out for himself why I had gone to the shelves I went to in order to pick up the reserved books.

I think we’re getting there.

Dash reading


Onward and upward, people. Onward and upward and towards spring.


Weather, from both sides

Everything is about the weather right now. I know it’s a terrible topic, but I can’t help it.

In Ireland, something that looks awfully like a hurricane is bearing down on the west coast, bringing storm surges and flooding all over the country. In the US, most of the lower 48 states are facing record low temperatures, and everyone is complaining about how cold it is, or how cold it is somewhere else and how much those other people who think it’s cold have no idea what cold is.

I learned my temperatures in celsius, like any good European. In Ireland – I mention, for the sake of my US readers – the average temperature is 10 C (or 50 F), but things don’t vary much from there. A scorcher of a summer’s day right in the middle of the country might measure 29 C, but a more normal summer temperature might be 18. That’s about 64 F, which is barely Spring for much of the landmass I now occupy.

Similarly, the temperature might go down below freezing point now and then at nighttime during the winter, but not much below. Forty degrees F or 4 C would be a more normal winter temperature. The wind and rain do make it feel colder, but not an atrocious amount colder.

An atrocious amount, coincidentally, is about how much the temperature is dropping tonight where I live now. It’s just about freezing point at 7pm – that’s 0 C or 32 F, for those of you who like the numbers – and in the coming 12 hours it’s going to drop to a low of 6 F, with a windchill factor making it feel like minus-14. Fahrenheit. That’s minus 15 and minus 25 C, respectively.

I cannot begin to imagine what this will feel like. Of course, I have no intention of finding out, since I have every intention of being tucked up nice and warm in my bed. (Or quite possibly Mabel’s bed.) But by nine in the morning it promises to feel like minus-26 C (with windchill), which is quite cold enough. So far they haven’t cancelled school but have put it on a two-hour delay, which means that Dash will go in at eleven, when it’ll be a positively tropical minus-8 F or minus-22 C. And sunny. Sunny all day. Lovely!

When I first moved to the US, we lived in central Pennsylvania, and there were two very snowy winters. I do remember it being about 17 F one day, and wondering if there was anything I should know before venturing outside in all the clothes I owned. Would my nose fall off? Would my eyeballs freeze? Apparently not. But this will mark the first time I’ve ever encountered negative fahrenheit temperatures, a thing that has always seemed singularly unnecessary to me – surely once you’re below freezing point there isn’t much difference in how much.

Oh, ha ha, says everyone in Canada.

There’s actually hardly any snow left on the ground here today, thanks to our milder temperatures and some rain yesterday, so with luck there won’t be much moisture to cause dangerous road conditions. It’s just that I’m a little afraid of leaving the house at all, because my fingers might drop off like icicles, or my brain cells atomize themselves.

Snowy woods

Come back tomorrow to see if I’m still here.


This week is not going as planned, so far. But not all in a bad way.

Yesterday began not going to plan on Sunday night, when I realised that I was scheduled to co-op at nursery school the next morning. I had vaguely planned on going back to Target and finalizing some of the gift shopping – the gift shopping that I’d done a week earlier and that had been helpfully sitting on my bedroom floor for the next six days, waiting for me to do something else useful with it.

This problem was compounded on Monday afternoon when I discovered that that very day, not some vague date in the misty future, was the last day for posting by regular mail to Europe. Oops. Because of course 90% of the stuff in the bag on my bedroom floor was to be mailed to Europe, but I’d been waiting for this and that, for the perfect final present to present itself to me at the weekend’s craft fair or some other opportune place, before wrapping it. I also subconsciously felt that B. should partake in the wrapping so that he had some input in all this shopping I’d done for members of his family, but since I didn’t tell him that, and last week was busy with various meetings and whatnot, it hadn’t happened.

Finally, last night, we sat down and had our gift-wrapping extravaganza, and happily we did have enough wrapping paper and tape and I had even bought a box at the post office that was the right size, all of which are no trivial matters.

So that was ready to be mailed first thing this morning, which would only be one day late and therefore practically in time, and would probably make it to Ireland before the big day anyway. Which would have been simple if this was a normal Tuesday, but then we got a snow day.
                                           Ice on tree
Monday had already been a delayed-start for the schools thanks to Sunday night’s snow and ice storm, but then it snowed all morning here and they cancelled school entirely. It’s only about an inch, and melting already, but I suppose the schools didn’t want to deal with the potential mess of getting all the buses in during a snowstorm. We’re not in Colorado, you know. Maryland is technically the South, and thus Not Great With Winter.

However, it was the good sort of snow day. The sort when B. has one too. Yes, yes, he was “working from home,” but that also meant I could send him to the post office once the snow eased off, which it did at midday or so, and the roads had all been nicely treated so they were fine. So, BOOM, the parcel has been mailed and with a bit of luck everyone in Ireland will get their presents in time after all, and even if they don’t, it’s out of my hands now.

While he was doing that, I got off my arse and went through the recipes I’ve been meaning to try out and we made pretzels! BAM! Where’s my snow-day baking award?

And Dash made a snowman all by himself for the first time. It’s a little leafy, perhaps, but he’s proud of it.

Boy and snowman

In the afternoon, B went out with Dash and got a Christmas tree, which we hadn’t got around to doing yet, so that’s something else we don’t have to wait till next weekend for. DING!

Dash decorating the tree.

Mabel and the tree

Finished tree

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

A lucky escape

They are thick as thieves, these two, these days. The terrible twosome, double trouble, a handful indeed – at times, two handsful and then some.

She has some clothing on, I promise. You just can’t see it.

Remember last summer, when I was a little wistful because Mabel was in a hating phase, experimenting with mean words and cruel actions, and pushing her brother away? Since then she has definitely discovered the power of cooperation, the delights of teamwork and also how much fun it is to gang up on one defenseless parent. At bedtime. When the other has gone to a meeting. For instance.

I had a big long whiny rant here about how tired I am and how hard it is and why am I supposed to not just lock them into their rooms at bedtime to avoid all that undignified crying (of mine), but luckily for you, then I uploaded the photos and would much rather show you some more of those instead.

Then they noticed the snow.

Hooray for hand-me-down coats, thrift-store snowboots and yard-sale snow pants. Hat from Dunnes Stores.

Not enough for snowmen, but just about enough to make a grassy snow angel.

There’s a fence there before the big drop, you just can’t see it.

The snow brings all the kids to my back yard. (That’s Mabel and Dash on the left.) After half an hour’s sledding there was hardly any snow left on the grass, so they were forced to abandon sled and go to school instead.


It’s a gloriously sunny 20-degree day outside.

All my Irish readers just went “Aaahhhh” in jealous approval. All my American readers went “Brr” in sympathy – or empathy depending on where they are. Twenty degrees farenheit, you see. That’s minus six Celcius. Yes. A bit chilly.

I think, as a child, I had the idea that the temperature could only ever be below freezing in the middle of the night when everyone was tucked up warm in their beds. Freezing point, or “zero” as we funny Europeans call it, was the mark of civilization. Only Eskimos, probably, in their cosy igloos, lived where it was that cold on a regular basis.

Apparently I’d never heard of Canada. Or the northern half of the US. Or Russia or even Central Europe, I suppose. (Actually, I was very vague about what and where Canada was. It just never came up. I had no idea that Anne Shirley lived there and that it was not the USA, for instance, and when I read a book set in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, I assumed those were makey-uppey names. Because really. (And I’d just like to illustrate how far I’ve come by telling you that I just spelled that right first time without checking.))

Anyway, it’s very cold outside but pretty nice inside, and I’ve made the concession of wearing a thermal vest (that’s not a vest, if you’re American – undershirt?) and I’ve got my knee socks on and I’m quite toasty, thank you. I’m sure I’m not doing this right, but in this part of the country weather like this doesn’t happen often and doesn’t last very long, and for all that I complain about the summer weather (and yes, I do complain), I’m happy that we don’t live in Minnesota or Montana or even Maine at this time of the year.