Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry First Day of Christmas!

Merry Christmas! 
It's the first day of the 12 days of Christmas, and I've resolved to celebrate each and every one of those 12 days. Ok, so some might accuse me of lazy parenting. Not all of the gifts have arrived. Not all of the gifts have been made. A few gifts haven't even been shipped. But hey, we have 12 days to get it all in! And the girls are only opening 1 gift per day, so they won't miss the missing gifts for at least a week. 

But as I mentioned in my last post (hey, 2 posts in 2 days?!?!? What's going on?!?!), I'm appreciating the church calendar more and more, and think it's silly to limit Christmas to one day when it's allotted 12. Too much buildup and letdown. We're attempting a long-lasting joyful simmer instead of a Christmas morning explosion. 

Despite my previously-mentioned Pentatonix obsession, I won't fill each day of Christmas with a new Pentatonix song. But I will highlight one more Christmas song (that they happen to sing) that I've always loved, and to me demonstrates the hopeful joy of Christmas and the resolution to Advent's watchful anticipation. O Holy Night has always had the power to make me cry. I never could explain it before, other than it was just a really beautiful and touching song. But recently I realized how it so perfectly explains the joy and relief of Christ's coming at Christmas. 

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and e'er pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine.

What was it like to be the shepherds that received the good news first from a multitude of angels? What was it like to be Anna or Simeon meeting the week-old Christ child for the first time at the temple? What was it like to be the Wise Men seeing the star, realizing that the long-anticipated sign had finally arrived? What does the thrill of hope feel like?

I suppose we could ask Syrian refugees finding out that they're being welcomed into a safe community in which to raise their children. I suppose we could ask a military family what it's like to hear that their loved one will be shipping home from a war zone tomorrow. I bet a wrongly-imprisoned inmate who just got their sentence overturned would understand. And certainly prospective parents who get the news that, after years of tense waiting, a baby was born yesterday, theirs to meet tomorrow and adopt. 

Long pining, weary from hoping and waiting. The good news brings a new and glorious morn. The waiting is over. Certainly their hearts are overwhelmed. They can fall to their knees, they can jump for joy. That which they feared is gone. Their worries are gone. The news changes everything. That is the news of Christ's birth. It changes everything. The waiting for a Savior is over. He has finally arrived. Advent is over. Christmas can begin.

I pray that Christmas is a joyful season for you all. All 12 days of it!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Last Day of Advent

Today is the last day of Advent. We celebrate it with Christmas pageants and candlelight services. Most people know of today as Christmas Eve. The day before Christmas. So the last day of Advent.

What is Advent? Well, Advent is to Christmas as Lent is to Easter. (Anyone remember their old SAT analogies?) In other words, it's a time of preparation. It's a time when we focus on how sinful and depraved we are, and how desperately we need salvation. 

The world has made this easy lately. What do you see in the news? People kill each other because they are the wrong religion. People kill each other because they are the wrong skin color or nationality. Or because they just had a really bad day. People kill each other because they want to be famous. People kill children because they're too full of drugs to be responsible adults. People kill children before they're born because they happen to be inconvenient. 

Or just look inside yourself to find more sin. Your goals are more important than how you treat other people. Your comfort is more important than sharing with others who are in desperate need. Your need to be right is more important than others' feelings. If someone doesn't agree with you, they're obviously wrong and not worth listening to.

We're selfish. We're lazy. We're slow to truly empathize with and listen to others. We sin. Consistently. On a small and grand scale. By what we do, and by what we don't prevent. The world is a sick, sick place. And we all share the blame in making it sicker.

Who will fix it? Sorry, not Bernie. Not Trump. Nor Clinton. Nor Cruz. No politician can turn the world around. No single human can fix it. No group of humans, no matter how large or well-funded, can fix the world. Sin is insidious, and creeps its way into the core of every person, no matter how well-intentioned or righteous-seeming that person might be. We can wipe out murderous caliphates, but sin will still remain.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you might have picked up on the fact that I have a bit of an obsession with the vocal group Pentatonix. This might be because they happen to sing some of my favorite Christmas music. They also sing one of my favorite Advent songs, O Come O Come Emmanuel. They only sing two verses of a longer hymn, but those two verses have settled into this Advent perfectly:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Who is Israel? Us. God's people. God's people waiting for peace, waiting for deliverance from the evil depravity of our life on earth. There is much to mourn. It's all over network and cable news. Death. Destruction. Hatred. Sin. Selfishness. We need to be ransomed from our captivity here, our exile in this sinful world. 

The second verse is the verse that the children of our congregation helped sing a few Sundays ago in the worship service. We practiced it at home to help them sing it more confidently. I explained that the convoluted language was actually talking about God giving Moses the 10 Commandments, the Law that would help us follow God's will for us. They've been learning the 10 Commandments at home and in Sunday School, so I thought it was actually a good verse for them to sing. 

I did a horrible job of following my Advent prep plan this year. We never did manage to read one section of the Christmas story each night of Advent. So the other night, I read a big chunk while they munched on Christmas cookies. I read the beginning of the Christmas story in the book of Matthew. Now if you're not up on your comparative Gospel Christmas stories, I'll tell you that Matthew starts with the genealogy of Jesus. It starts at Abraham and the ancient Hebrews, and works its way through kings David and Solomon until it finally gets to Jesus. It's a long journey, a heck of a mouthful to read, and full of names that I'm pretty sure won't make it onto your baby-naming list. Unless you want a son named Azor, Zadok, or Jeconiah... Now the book of Luke does a better job of including the narrative we're used to seeing in Christmas pageants. But Matthew highlights the theme of Advent. God's people waited for Jesus' birth for a long, long time. They wandered in the desert. They were taken captive as slaves. They waited, suffering, hopeful, for many generations. Many many generations. 

And so now we wait. For many many generations, we wait for our Savior to return, to ransom us from our captivity in this cruel depraved world. To dwell on the waiting, the need for deliverance, that is Advent. To realize the sin we carry with us wherever we go, to realize how we can't completely rid ourselves of it, that is Advent. 

I'm gaining a greater appreciation as I get older for the cyclical liturgical seasons of the church year. Advent is a necessary precedent for the hopeful joy of Christmas, just as Lent is a necessary precedent for the exuberant joy of Easter. You can't appreciate a Savior unless you realize what you need to be saved from. 

Thank you media for painting the world in horrific colors. Ok, maybe not. No one should revel in the violence of the world as much as our news outlets do. But it does a good job of helping us remember what we need to be delivered from. And how badly we need our long-promised and long-awaited Savior. 

Blessed last day of Advent. I'm certainly looking forward to Christmas! We've been waiting for a long time!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

18 Weeks

I'm sitting at the computer with a hot cup of coffee. Let me repeat that. My coffee is hot. And I'm sitting while drinking it. This is worth savoring. Ok, so I'm supposed to be doing an online training thing for one of my new jobs right now. I'll get back to that in a minute. But I'm so accustomed to living with an interruption every 90 seconds that I can't really focus for longer than that any more.

In honor of my reduced attention span, I'll give you a short attention span update of life here.

I'm now 18 weeks along with Baby #4. (God help us all.) I'm still trying to dig out from the 16 weeks of nausea and exhaustion. This is why I'm doing online training today. It was due weeks ago. I have such a long backlog of stuff to do...

I'm addicted to Oreos. Obsessively addicted to Oreos. Can't eat enough Oreos. With HurricaneDebbie, I was addicted to Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. I guess this baby's nickname will be Oreo? A co-worker is pregnant with her first, with a due date within a week of mine. The other day she lamented, "Joy, I'm vegan. I do yoga 6 times a week. Or at least I used to. All I've done for the last few months is lie on the couch and eat pizza and burgers. I can't understand it!" Yup, welcome to motherhood. I'm going to chase my Oreos down with some vitamins and not worry a thing about it. As with most things with kids, it's just a phase. And I'm going to enjoy every single minute of it.

We get regular deliveries of hand-me-downs from my friend Kathy at church. Her daughter is a few years older than HeyMama, and she doesn't really like to wear dresses. So that means that her dresses are practically (or actually) brand new when we get them. It's like Christmas every time Kathy brings a bag to church. We switched over clothes for the season earlier this week, and got to pull out some of the clothes for the first time. There was great rejoicing in the household. HeyMama was trying on outfits for school, and brought in a pair of dance leggings to me. "What size are these? They're a little funny." I explained what they were, and said, "I think they'd be fine under your skirt in this weather. But if you don't like them, they should fit MeToo." She thought for a minute, and said, "I'll give them to her. She's just not as into fashion as I am." Apparently I have a fashionista on my hands. I should have taken a picture of her outfit. It did involve a sequined top, a tulle skirt, and her new multi-hued sneakers.

Now that the weather's cooler, I revived my sourdough starter and did some baking this week. I made my first loaf of cinnamon cranberry nut sourdough, which we all love for breakfast. My homemade breads are pretty dense, and toast more slowly than store bought breads. HeyMama was standing by the toaster oven, chatting while I packed my lunch and did things to get ready for the day. I asked her "How does the toast look?" She looked into the toaster oven. "It looks pretty comfortable."

HurricaneDebbie. What can we say about her? Our summer nanny came to HeyMama's 7th birthday party and said, "I hope to live to see the day HurricaneDebbie rules the world." That child is certainly training for something... Not sure if she'll be President or a dictator, but she's certainly not going to take life lying down. Her daycare teacher asked when we plan to have her potty trained. Oh yeah. I should get on that, huh? She's been doing really well at daycare. But follow-through at home? Poor 3rd kid... We set a goal for Undies in the New Year. So I pulled them out last night and let her try them on throughout dinner so that I could monitor her very closely. She did really well! We had to leave the table for a bathroom trip, but everyone was excited about the undies. And HurricaneDebbie had no intentions of taking them off. At all. BestestHusband had the task of getting her ready for bed. I heard a great deal of screaming as I cleaned up dinner. In the end, she wore a diaper to bed. With undies over it. Under jammies, like her big sisters. I call it a win-win. I'm just excited that she's excited. I have no spare excitement when it comes to potty training.

MeToo. My impish and delightful middle child has her head in the clouds. You never know what question she'll ask next. Stars. Angels. Snakes. Flags. Fairies. She's always thinking hard about something. She loves piano lessons, and has been experimenting with improv. Yes, she's still 5. Her creativity is boundless, and her ability for sentence construction just can't keep up with the ideas in her head. So sometimes she says some pretty funny things. Without trying to. It's really hard not to laugh... But her current way of expressing her frustration with things usually sounds something like, "I wish I had a fairy who was a clothes-put-away fairy. Then I'd never have to put my clothes away ever again!" Me too, honey, me too. She loves to read the Rainbow Fairies book series. It has a pretty comprehensive assortment of specialist fairies. But MeToo has come up with quite a few fairies that the book series doesn't cover.

I've switched over to herbal tea. It's still delightful to drink it warm, even without getting a buzz. Time to get more work done. In 90 second snatches, of course.

Have a great day!

Friday, October 2, 2015

17 Weeks

It's 3:30 am. I can't sleep. I wish I could. I have a lot to do tomorrow, and the biggest factor in my daily productivity is how much sleep I get the night before. Everyone else is asleep. The house is quiet and dark. The neighborhood is quiet and dark. Our new house is further removed from the city traffic that never really stops around here. We're in one of the pockets of quiet neighborhood peace that dot the city. There are no racing ambulances or lumbering delivery trucks to disturb the silence. The commuter train isn't running yet. Early morning flights haven't started roaring up into the sky. The street lights highlight the fact that nothing is happening outside. Dark-eyed old homes are asleep. A cool early-October briskness has developed outside these walls. The early-Fall dampness has settled in. But inside is warm. Under the covers is warm. Inside the curled spoon of BestestHusband's gently-snoring embrace, all is warm. In the beds of my 3 dreaming daughters, all is warm. As far as sleeping conditions go, all is perfect. But I'm awake. 


I blame it on The Baby. At 17 weeks, The Baby usually lets me sleep through the night now. Previously, I was awake 3 times a night, with the urgent need to get out of bed. But things are quieter now. Fully into the second trimester, I'm allowed to sleep more. And I'm allowed to be awake without persistent nausea. But The Baby keeps reminding me of her (his?) growing presence. Exhaustion still rules my days. Nausea occasionally rules my evenings. I have a map of some unknown river delta developing in the vasculature of my left leg. And I've grown past the phase of "Thick around the middle" and gone well into "Good gracious. Could she be pregnant AGAIN?!?!"

The girls have started talking about The Baby to friends and teachers. They all insist it's another girl. Even HurricaneDebbie, barely 2 years old, insists to her daycare provider that it's a girl. According to her, we don't need any boys. Daddy's a boy. That's all we need in our household. We'll know in 2 weeks whether or not they're right. If I need to track down a set of baby gear that's not pink, I'd like to know in advance. 

17 weeks is a pretty good place to be. I'm not so huge yet. But I'm past the worst of it. BestestHusband and my DearFriend have been celebrating the passing of each week with me. At 6 weeks, nauseous and with a test stick in hand, 17 weeks seemed a lifetime away. A patient and supportive family tolerated my need to be horizontal. They joined me in my prayers that I would feel better at 16 weeks, like I did with the other 3 pregnancies. Each passing day brought a prayer of "Thank you." I was one day closer. Each week felt like an accomplishment. Even now that I'm feeling better, the weeks still feel like an accomplishment. But now I can start looking forward to the end of waiting to meet The Baby instead of waiting for the end of the misery. 

But laying in bed at 3:30, unable to sleep, my mind has a chance to wander. I have time for other prayers. And I'm aware that others are praying for different things with their pregnancies. I've been joining her in the prayer of "Please. Please Lord. Please." Diana's 35 weeks along with her 5th child. Three of them were lost. Her twins were lost around 20 weeks. Her 3rd son was lost after a full term delivery. I've followed her blog, Diana Wrote, since the loss of DearFriend's son, also close to the 20 week mark. Diana writes openly about her losses, her struggles with grief and faith. I've been following more closely as she nears the end of this pregnancy. I've been joining her daily prayer of "Please. Please." Please Lord, let this one live. Please Lord, allow her to raise this child. Please Lord, don't make her bury yet another child. Please. I have other friends who are currently pregnant. Friends who have lost previous children. My prayer expands out to them, as well. "Please. Please Lord. Not this time."

And my mind wanders to other children, whose mothers aren't sharing my prayers. My Facebook feed is full of both sides of the shouting match. Shout your abortion! Defund Planned Parenthood! The shouting match online is deafening. There are mothers in the middle who aren't shouting. They're also looking at their midsections full of 17 weeks of life. They aren't saying "Thanks" or "Please". They're quietly saying "No no no. Just no." They aren't thankful for each passing week. They aren't begging for the life of their child. They have plans to make The Problem go away. It's not a simple issue for them to be shouted about. But they're not thinking about planning for clothes - pink or blue. They're not engaging in the eager guessing game of who the baby looks like. Their baby is exactly like mine. Fast heart rate, delicate little fingers and toes, cartilage is changing to bone. Our babies need us to be able to survive. A surrogate, an incubator or adoptive mother, isn't enough to allow them to live. They need us, their biological mothers, to survive. To even have a chance in the world. But some babies will be denied that chance. 

The world is not a fair place. It won't be in my lifetime. Or ever on this side of Heaven. I'm aware of that. In two weeks, we'll see an image of The Baby. We'll ooh and aah at every kick, every wiggle. We'll study the facial profile. Does it look more like HeyMama? More like MeToo? Their profiles were recognizably different at 18 weeks. Do we need boy names? Girl names? We'll show ultrasound pictures to family and friends. With each passing week, we'll continue to pray "Thank you!" 

But other lives will be terminated instead. The fate of each child depends not only on the developmental health and medical status, but on the opinion of the woman whose body supports that child. Does she call it The Baby? Or think of it as The Problem? That opinion alone is enough to determine the child's right to live. This is such a challenging thought as I alternate between prayers of "Thank you" and "Please". Friends who lost children at this age named their babies and had funerals. But other babies will be labeled only as medical waste. 

The topics of Rights and Fairness are so complex. Their nuances and realities get lost in the shouting. As the result of an accidental pregnancy who was put up for adoption after birth, I have some strong opinions on the matter. I was A Problem, but was also given the chance to be A Baby. Was it fair to my biological mother that she should carry a baby she didn't want to raise? Honestly, I don't care about fair when it's my life. I'm just happy to be alive. I'm glad she wasn't too concerned about prioritizing her rights, either. The question of "Who matters more?" becomes a different question when your life is in the balance. Is it fair that my child is carried by a woman who views it as "life" instead of something that could just be medical waste? No, it's not fair at all. It's another form of privilege in our society. Our child will not only benefit from skin privilege and economic privilege, but simple birth privilege. 

The dogs have joined me here in the office, and they're snoring. Since waking me up nearly an hour ago, The Baby informed me that I needed a snack (preferably another lemon cupcake with raspberry filling and a glass of milk), and is informing me that I can go back to sleep now. And the child that was formerly dreaming in her bed apparently peed in her bed, and is now washed and sleeping in my bed. So I'll go elbow my way back into the warmth under the covers. BestestHusband authorized me to turn off the alarm when our child joined him in bed. So I may yet get some good sleep tonight. 

To all expectant mothers out there, I wish you also a restful night of sleep. To all children at 17 weeks gestation, I wish you all the gift of birth privilege. It's personally very painful to think about the alternative right now. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What Are We Doing?

I woke earlier this week to a discussion on my alarm clock radio about Baby Doe. She has a name now. Bella. Her tiny 2 year old body had been discovered on a beach over the summer. In a trash bag. Intact. Perfect. But dead. Who was she? What had happened to this precious child? Why did no one claim her? Why did no one look desperately for her, report her missing?

Vigils were held. Strangers wept around the world for a precious baby girl who was dead, but not missed. What had gone wrong? Why was she in a bag on a beach instead of scooping sand and playing in the waves?

The mystery was solved. She was one of our own, a little girl from Boston. The daughter of drug addicts. Her mother's boyfriend allegedly beat her to death because he thought she was possessed. 

The conversation on the radio the other morning centered around the failings of Child Protective Services. This organization is an easy target. Too many children have died in their custody over the years. Neglect, violence, and incompetence have been associated with the organization. Why can't this group get their act together? Should we be adding more funds to their operating budget? Or defunding them completely? Why are they so incompetent? What is someone going to do about this?

But I think we're asking the wrong question. The proper question is "What are we going to do about this?"

How do you take a child from an unsafe situation if you don't have a safer place to put them? What are we doing to help? We. You. And me. What are WE doing about this today? Tomorrow? Next week? What are we doing to help children around us who don't have a peaceful and safe bed to sleep in at night? What are we doing to provide a safe refuge when their parents are too sickened with drugs and their own histories of abuse to give them the care and love they desperately need? What are we doing to break the cycles of mental illness, abuse, and dysfunctional relationships? We. You and me. What are we going to do about this?

Because obviously we are not doing enough.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Our Victory on 9/11

It's hard to believe it was 14 years ago already. But I guess that's what our elders said 14 years after the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy. That's what they said 14 years after Pearl Harbor. That's what we said 14 years after the Challenger blew up before our stunned eyes. Horror happens, time passes, and the moments and emotions stay etched in our memory despite the passage of time.

But today I'm declaring victory over 9/11. Terrorists brought their worst. But Americans and our friends brought our best. I love that people still remember and share stories of that horrible day. And the stories they share are what have declared our victory. I have not heard one thing about the terrorists. I don't remember their names. I don't care to. But I've heard endless stories of heros - people who sacrificed their lives to save others. We remember the flight full of people who hastened their own deaths to prevent the deaths of many others. We remember whole career fields of people who rushed into the bedlam while the rest of us ran away. I've heard stories of towns that welcomed thousands of stranded passengers whose flights were waylaid when air space was shut down that day. I've heard of employers who made sure that all of the children of their deceased employees were able to go to college for free. I've heard of friends who met in the horror of that day, only to have love triumph over tragedy, with a decade of marriage and a house full of kids to show for it. Americans became kinder to each other after that day. The international community showed sympathy and love to us. 

We don't celebrate death and fear on September 11th. We celebrate sacrificial love and service. We celebrate recovery. We celebrate compassion. We celebrate what's great about our country and our people. May we never forget. And may we all be able to rise to the occasion if we're called upon to serve.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Paul's Letter to a Bunch of Dead People

Yesterday we visited Ephesus. Ever heard of it? More likely you've heard of the people who lived there, the Ephesians. St Paul wrote a famous letter to them in the New Testament. That book of the Bible is only 6 chapters long. So I re-read it this morning as our tour bus began the 3 hour journey to our next stop in Turkey. I was curious if there were any insights to be gained by re-reading it after visiting the town. 

I should clarify that the term "town" should be taken loosely. Ephesus was once the second most important city in the Roman Empire. It had a large port, and was the end of the Silk Road, and was the big city of Asia Minor. So it was a bustling and wealthy metropolis of about 250,000 people surrounded by fertile agricultural land*. It was a nice place to live at the time. 

But Turkey is prone to earthquakes and mudslides. So the city was eventually destroyed, abandoned, and covered with mud, and it disappeared for centuries. Until some archeologists came along. 

Now Ephesus boasts some long marble-paved streets lined with columns and the painstakingly reassembled facades and walls of buildings. There's a hospital, a library, some temples, shops, houses, and theaters. If you squint hard and use your imagination, you can see the bustling port city coming back to life. You do have to drive 4 miles to find a port. The once deep u-shaped port was silted in over time. The columned commercial road that led there now leads to nowhere. 

There are no more Ephesians. They're all long dead. Their once lavish city adorned with ornately carved marble fell into nothingness. All that surrounded them, their art, their objects of pride, all of the physical aspects of their daily existence were consumed by the earth. Why should a letter to these people matter to us?

Interestingly, Paul's instructions to these dead people sounded oddly contemporary. He spoke of family relationships; he gave advice for marital relationships and child-rearing. He spoke of workplace relationships - how bosses should treat their employees and how employees should work for their employers. He spoke of community relationships. His words on patience, forbearance and gentleness never fail to convict me and highlight my daily failings.  

Despite all of the differences in technology and material wealth that we experience now, our human nature is no more advanced than it was in Ephesus' heyday. That should be a bit humbling. And the glory of Ephesus, once a marvel of civilization, was consumed by dust. Can we not assume that our now-lovely cities will, as well? What will happen to the physical objects that consume our resources and energy? Will they too be claimed by dust?

Touring the ruins of Ephesus is a great reminder to me that all material things of this earth will pass away. And reading the intro to Paul's letter to the Ephesians is a great reminder to me of what will not. 

I pray that, in the grind of daily life, I can keep this in perspective. 

*This info given by our tour guide, and not independently fact checked. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Bunny, The Bunny, Oh I Love The Bunny

If you're starting to sing right now, you've likely watched a lot of VeggieTales. If not, well, you've missed out on anthropomorphic produce teaching Christian values and re-telling Bible stories. You don't know about 3 veggie friends who did not worship the giant bunny idol and were thrown into a fiery furnace only to be joined by an angel and saved by God. 

And that's ok. It's actually irrelevant to the rest of this post. But I can't see a rabbit without singing the song about the bunny idol:  "the bunny, the bunny, oh I love the bunny..."

I came home today and the girls dragged me out to the back deck. "You've got to come see this! It's awesome!"

I expected to see some art project or creation. But the girls were standing still, watching a rabbit munch on our yard. According to the nanny, they'd been there for a while. Now this bunny frequents our yard, and our neighbors'. We've seen him pretty much every day since we moved. But we're still excited every time we see him. 

I guess we didn't really have neighborhood bunnies at the old place. Perhaps there were too many neighborhood coyotes and fisher cats? Or maybe this neighborhood is more bunny-friendly. More bucolic. With actual grassy yards. 

I went walking with a neighbor tonight, and we saw more bunnies. All over the    place. I miss living across the street from the Arboretum. But this neighborhood is definitely cuter than my old one...

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Spices of Life

I'm discovering today that it takes an extra long time to unpack a large amount of stuff into a small space. There's a process of prioritizing and purging that really slows things down. But there was one heavy box that I knew needed no purging. 

Spices. They filled a whole box. It was a heavy box. And I need them all. 
I love spices. We use spices. Lots of them. And my accomplishment for the evening? I found a place for them all. 

I only needed two cabinet shelves, one double-stacked drawer, and one spice rack to hold them all. They all fit. My job for tonight is done. I finally felt like I could open that bottle of bubbly I had bought for the closing and actually celebrate. 

Cheers to new chapters in life. And spices. 

The Fridge

So we found out the day of our house closing that the previous owners decided to take their fridge with them. We considered moving our old fridge with us, but realized that it was too large for the small opening in the cabinetry. So we decided to buy a small cheap fridge that would fit in the slot and become our basement fridge after we updated our kitchen. 

We went to Home Depot. They had a sale! But they couldn't get us the fridge until Thursday. Too long. We passed on the offer and went to Lowe's. 

The saleswoman told us that she had one of the fridges we were interested in actually in stock, and we could have it tomorrow! We could buy it on Saturday, and use it on Sunday! We were sold!

We plunked down some plastic, and waited for our phone call to tell us our delivery window. It never came. 

When we called to follow up, we discovered that we had been misinformed. Since we ordered after noon, we couldn't get it on Sunday. 

In conversation with the manager, I might have used the word "defrauded." He made a lot of phone calls to try to get us a fridge on Sunday. I talked to him half a dozen times. No luck. 

So he got it scheduled for end of day Monday so I wouldn't have to miss work. I got a call telling me it would be delivered between 3 and 5. Ok. 

Monday morning I got a call telling me it would be delivered around 1:00. I could accept the delivery at 1, or reschedule it for another day. I needed a fridge. So my boss kindly excused used me mid-day to get a fridge. 

The truck arrived at 1:10. I asked him to install the handle on the opposite side. He protested. I might have given him The Look. He did it. While yelling on his phone. 

The fridge was installed in my kitchen. It fit in the slot, and started cooling immediately. Finally! I could shop for groceries! I could feed my family! 

I went back to work, relieved. My stress level had dropped dramatically. I had to work late to recover the time. I rushed home to relieve the nanny and take the girls to my Dear Friend's house who graciously hosted a dinner play date so I could go shopping to fill the fridge. 

I came home and ogled the fridge briefly and check its cooling progress before leaving. And then it happened. 

The door fell off. Onto the floor. Completely off the fridge. 

My family needs food. Perishable food that needs refrigeration in July. 

I put the door back on. It stayed. As long as the door wasn't opened. 

Good enough. It could hold food. And keep it cold. We'd just have to be careful until the door was repaired. 

I played phone tag with the store manager throughout the evening. The frustrating conclusion came at 9:50 pm. Instead of ruining another work day, we'd reschedule a delivery of a new fridge for Wednesday, my day off. 

Sometimes expectations need to be violated to realize what your expectations are. 

Apparently my expectations include:
Salespeople understand the details of "next day delivery". 
Things get delivered during their pre-determined delivery times. 
Things get delivered in working order. 

How much money do you have to pay to get what you're promised? When it's promised?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Transylvanian Mover

The big stuff is gone. Our condo echoes with every noise I make. The movers wrapped up our furniture, and swooped out every last piece. I'm left to fill a few random boxes with the odds and ends that weren't ready to go. We'll be completely out by the end of the day. 

The moving crew was a group of 4 appropriately fit-looking guys. They were professional, courteous, and a flurry of energy. While the crew chief was American, the other 3 were European imports. I chatted up one of them briefly while we were simultaneously packing stuff in the girls' room. He told me he was Romanian. "You heard of Transylvania?" His English was great, although accented. He was an IT professional back home. But he came to the U.S. for the moving season every year, where he out-earned his yearly salary many times over. 

We talked about my new job, where many of the health aides were educated professionals in their home countries. But the chance to earn a living here in the U.S. is better, so they feed and bathe the elderly instead. 

The young gentleman from the moving crew described the ongoing corruption at home. "One group of Communists was just replaced by another." I mentioned the exchange student we'd had from Moldova when I was younger. She's living in the U.S. now. "So she escaped. Moldova's even worse," he said. "When the Berlin Wall fell, the only freedom we really got was the freedom

 to escape."

I consider it my job as a parent to make sure my girls know how lucky they are. We occasionally grouse about not living closer to family, but we don't have to live in a different country to find a job. My girls live in a country where smart people jump at the chance to move their belongings, babysit them, and care for their great-grandparents. They are growing up in what is considered the promised land by people all over the world. 

I find that to be a sobering thought. Certainly with that great privilege comes some great responsibility?

Occasionally, HeyMama will ask us if we're rich. Our standard answer is, "Well, you'll always find people who have more money than us. But we never have to worry about having enough food to eat. We never have to choose between heat in the winter and medicine. If you outgrow your shoes, we can get new ones. So yes. We are rich. "

And now I realize that we have to add to that definition. We live in a country that other people pray for the chance to come to. People jump at the chance to take menial jobs here. Are we rich? Yes. We're super rich. 

So good luck, Transylvanian mover. Kudos to you for taking the hand in life you were dealt and playing it well. I hope your back stays strong and the work keeps coming. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Little Gifts

The previous owners of our home were an elderly couple who needed help from their kids to move. And I'm finding more and more things left behind. The fridge was not, unfortunately. But these were:

I have some dirty dishes, and some chips. I guess they even out, right?

The New Chapter

So we closed on a house. After about two years of looking. 

I call it a restoration project. It has great bones, is very liveable, and is a great find. It needs a little help to be loveable. But we'll get there. I've set a five year deadline. The probable cost is more frightening, but hey, it's just money, right? (Cough, gag, hyperventilate...)

The big girls and I opened the house with our own key for the first time today. 

This is real. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Another Ode to Mr. Fariss

This is Teacher Appreciation Week. Earlier in the week, we were able to celebrate with the rest of the girls' school when one of the 5th grade teachers was named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. That's quite an honor. I'm not surprised it was bestowed on a teacher at our school. We have some super teachers. But I've been thinking about teachers in my life. I remember quite a few that were noteworthy. But I found myself quoting one of them in particular throughout the week.

I guess it makes sense that a band director, a teacher that I had for 4 years, would leave a huge impact. It makes even more sense when that band director is a larger-than-life character. I know he's known for quite a few signature sayings. Some were more colorful than others. But there are two that have stuck with me that I had the chance to pass along to my oldest daughter over the last few weeks.

HeyMama has been practicing a piano piece for tomorrow's school talent show. She's a kindergartener. She's been playing piano since this past September. So less than a year. And she wanted to play the Star Wars Theme. So with the help of a musician friend and some free online software, we obtained a version that was appropriate for a beginning pianist. Challenging, but attainable. She's been diligently practicing. Well, sometimes diligently.

"Practice like you'll perform."

This was one of Mr. Fariss' many sayings. If you practice something sloppily, you'll perform it sloppily. If you prepare and practice with the goal of a performance-worthy production, that's what you'll get when it's time to perform in front of an audience. I found it to be true in my marching band days. I found it to be true in non-musical endeavors since then. And these past few weeks, I've been saying it to HeyMama.

But as we've gotten closer to performance time, another saying has resurrected itself.

"Fake it 'til you make it."

HeyMama is concerned about what happens if she messes up during her performance. This is reasonable. I encouraged her to just keep going until she feels like she's got it under control again. In marching band, you can't stop moving on the field just because you forget what to do next. People are running all around you with instruments in their faces. Bloodshed would ensue. You keep moving until you figure it out. And if you've "practiced like you'll perform", it will come to you. And typically, no one is the wiser of your temporary lapse of memory. Again, I have found this advice to be helpful in professional and social situations.

But this week, I've had to take that advice to heart to merely get through the day.
This past Sunday, BestestHusband and I decided that we'd get the big girls on their bikes, HurricaneDebbie in the jog stroller, the dogs on their leashes, and running shoes on our feet. We'd take a family exercise excursion to the other side of the Arboretum to see the cherry trees in bloom. It was truly glorious. The weather was finally sunny and warm. The trees were extravagantly decked out in white and pink blossoms. The place was full of people basking in the glory of a warm spring day. And we had a great workout. I had to do some sprints to keep with the girls. The girls had fun on their bikes. And I think the run was even tolerable for BestestHusband. But two days later, it became apparent that the excursion was not the best idea. I had inhaled a lot of pollen, and my body was rebelling. I couldn't breathe. My nose was ok. It was my lungs that were in crisis. Here are some of the things that have left me out of breath:
Walking up stairs
Walking across a small room
Picking up HurricaneDebbie
Picking up a fork
Making phone calls
Sending emails
Lying still on the couch
Trying to sleep at night
Sitting quietly

I coughed so hard and so much that I strained my back. I went to the doctor, and got a nebulizer treatment and inhaler. I've been vaguely headachy and have had no appetite since then. I'm a mess.

But I had a job interview on Tuesday. I think I nailed it. I picked up extra work hours today. And I will on Friday and Saturday. Getting off the couch has required great effort. But the words "fake it 'til you make it" have echoed in my ears. It doesn't have to be easy. You just have to do it until it gets easier.

I only cooked dinner tonight because I was afraid of $15 worth of chicken going bad in my fridge. But I ended up making a pretty good meal. (Hey, I got BestestHusband to eat cauliflower and be happy doing it!) I only went to the grocery store tonight because buying ice cream sounded really appealing. (The fact that we were out of fresh fruit and a lot of food staples wasn't enough to get me there.) But I just got started doing the tasks, and they got done. Even though I really didn't feel like I could do it.

So the wisdom of my teacher's words becomes apparent yet again. And I am grateful for Mr. Fariss and all of my teachers that have gotten me here today. I just hope that my girls have at least one teacher who will leave an equally strong impression.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Locket

We had a great visit recently from BestestHusband's cousin and her family. Her two teenaged sons were interested in seeing some New England schools, her husband wanted to see some of his cousins, and the whole family wanted to take in the sights that the opposite coast had to offer. 

They were great to get to know, and were amazing house guests. It was such a joy to have them. But Lynda brought one gift that is more special than the girls understand. 

MeToo's middle name came from her Great Grandmother. She missed meeting her by a few weeks. BestestHusband was unable to attend his grandmother's funeral because of a looming due date. So we honored her by giving her name to MeToo. Interestingly, they have the same initials. 

Great Grandma had a locket with her initials on it. Inside was a picture of the little girl she lost. 

We learned that the picture was taken a month before her death. She had just started walking. You can see that adorable "wobble toddle" stance in the picture. She wasn't even a year old yet. When they took the picture, they had no idea she would get sick and die just a few weeks later. 

Some people say that measles is "just a rash." If that's true, why did BestestHusband lose an aunt? If measles is "no big deal", why did this little girl die? The older sister, BestestHusband's aunt, was about 5 years old. She caught measles too, and wasn't allowed to attend her own sister's funeral. But thankfully she survived to pass the story down to the rest of us. 

There are people who say that the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) is dangerous. But our family has stories on both sides that say that the real danger is from the diseases it protects us from. I've heard people say "I've never heard of anyone dying from measles. The vaccine isn't that important." But I'm pretty sure Great Grandma and BestestHusband's surviving aunt would disagree. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Purge

This post isn't about our recent stomach bug. No, this post is about our house. That kind of purging. 

I'm committing to a significant purge. I am accepting the challenge to get rid of 25% of the stuff in our house. I'm a prepper. I like to be prepared. Craft supplies? I got 'em. Extra mittens? I got em'. All of our baby stuff in case we're blessed with #4? I got it all!

But not for long. 

This will be a challenge for me. I pride myself in saving stuff and pulling it out at the perfect moment 2 years later. A flapper headband for a party? I have feathers and ribbon for that! I'd hate to throw something out and wish I had it 5 years later, only to spend money on it a second time. That would just be wasteful!

So this will be a serious change in mindset. Big time.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter in Review

This was our Easter:

We cooked for Feaster, the traditional Easter celebration hosted by dear friends. This year's theme country was Australia. Yum. 

We tried silk egg dying, where you wrap colored silk around eggs and boil to transfer the pattern. Pretty easy. And not messy. We have a winner!

Here are the Lamingtons. They are quite tasty. I think we'll keep this recipe. 

BedtestHusband cooked 3 hams. Then cut the bones to make broth. And rendered the fat. And made soup. Yum 

The girls helped me complete this list. We were busy. 

So there was a lot of cooking and preparation. And there was a ton of church prep. And a ton of church services. And a stomach bug. And a crockpot full of ham that spilled ham juice all over the back of the minivan. But we ended today in a blissful haze. And I'm posting pictures instead of thinking about what this week will bring. 

I pray the Joy of Easter will carry us through the Easter season. Or at least last longer than the candy! Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cleaning to get ready to be sick

A stomach bug hit our house today. I was looking forward to a day of Easter prep and a job interview. Until I got a call from HeyMama's school. And then HurricaneDebbie's daycare. So both girls and BestestHusband were home by noon. I didn't get much Easter prep done. But I did go to my job interview.

I went to Maundy Thursday services tonight. BestestHusband is going tomorrow night. It seemed like a great plan. But on the way to church, I was convinced I'd need to pull over at some point. Thankfully I didn't. I kept it together through the service, and even on my way home. My cookies have not been tossed.

But before going to bed, I'm cleaning our toilet with Bronner's Peppermint soap. Because I'm pretty sure my head will be in that toilet tonight. And when it is, I want to smell peppermint. Instead of other things. Moms, this is normal, right?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Proof of Spring

Spring is coming. I can see grass. 

See? See that little patch there? That used to be the entrance to the snow cave. 
Now it's grass. 
I'm psyched. 
Hey. We had snowmaggedon this winter. I'm allowed to get excited about stuff like this. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Poor Chewy

Oh Chewbacca, what have you become?

You've become a toy in a house full of girls. I'm so sorry. But you are rockin' that tutu...

Here comes the wookie?

I never envisioned him wearing white...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sick Day

What do you do when 2 of your kids wake up puking at midnight and seem perfectly fine the next day? Well, keep them home, of course. I'm not going to share whatever bug they're harboring with an unsuspecting group of school and daycare friends, even if it is my only day of the week to go to work. (Sigh. There have been a disproportionate number of snow and sick days on my only day to work. Sigh.)

Well, after you drop off the healthy sister at school, you heat up the bathroom. You fill up the bathtub. And you let your vomit-smelling kids play in the tub as long as they'd like. We're going on well over half an hour now.

And the rest of the day? Well, naps are a good bet. And I've found some Bollywood dance workouts on Hulu. And the puke bucket is clean and ready for more action, if needed.

Wish us luck.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

How to Torture Your Children

Bought a new cereal at the store tonight. 

I already know how this one will go over. 
Heh heh heh...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Because It's February

Once upon a time, BestestHusband was BestestBoyfriend, and he was trying to change that status. He had a ring and a big question, and he wanted me to relocate from sunny Austin to less-sunny Boston to wear that ring. Wearing the ring was an easy decision. Of course I'd marry him! But moving back to Boston? After giving away all of my sweaters and swearing I'd never return? So we made a deal. He agreed to take me somewhere warm and sunny every February if I never made him listen to NPR. It was a deal. 

Well, that first year of marriage, he realized the wisdom of making that deal. Well, other than just being able to spend his life with me... February is just not my month. It's really just not my month. February in Boston is when it's been dark for 3 months. The temps are at their yearly lowest, and the snow is at its deepest. Bostonians are miserable. Seasonal depression has set in. We're all vitamin D deficient. It's hard to go out and exercise in the snow and ice. Parking is a pain. Heating bills are high. It's all just bad Bad BAD. We all just want to hide in our beds under layers of warmth and wait for it all to go away. And it's really bad for me. There might be some moodiness and crying involved. This Texan does not do February.

So over the last 9+ years, I've come to just accept that some things will not happen - Because it's February. In my mind, that's a perfectly reasonable rationale for a lot of things. 

HurricaneDebbie is really interested in using the toilet. But we're not potty training right now. Because it's February. And I just can't manage the extra laundry and floor cleaning that potty training involves.

The pediatrician told me last week that HurricaneDebbie needs to give up the pacifier. I told her that I will do that in the spring. But not right now. Because it's February. And I just can't handle the extra whining and crying that will result from taking away the paci.

I want to really curb my diet and ramp up my exercise routine and lose a few pounds. But not right now. Because it's February. I just don't have the motivation or energy. And a bit of comfort eating is something I should allow for myself in February. 

I really need to clean the house and do some serious purging and reorg. But it's just not going to happen. I shouldn't even think about it yet. Because it's February. And I just don't have the energy.

I'm short-tempered. Because it's February.

I'm really not interested in doing much of anything. Because it's February.

Find a new job? No way. Because it's February.

Fun new craft projects? Not a chance. Because it's February.

Go outside? Heck no. Because it's February.

Even planning the Easter Egg Hunt feels like a huge burden. Because it's February. In March, it will sound like a lot more fun. In general, it's a highlight of my year. But there's no such thing as a highlight in February.

Every year, I start to get down on myself for feeling gross, tired, grouchy, and generally unpleasant. I ask, "What is wrong with me? Why does life suck?" And then I remember. Because it's February. 

February eventually passes. I have to remind myself that summer here doesn't really start until July, and I won't be truly WARM until then. But life starts to suck a lot less as soon as we can turn the calendar to March. Because it's no longer February. 

Thank you Lord for getting us to March. And for sending us only one February each year.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Things That Eat People

Believe it or not my Boston friends, there are places in the world that are not covered with 7+ feet of snow. And we are currently in such a place. 

Nana took the girls out to a warm and sunny driveway to play and draw with sidewalk chalk. They were drawing things that eat people. 

Bears eat people. 

Man-eating ghosts eat people. 

Sharks eat people. 

And according to MeToo, potholes eat people. 

She's right, you know. Boston potholes in the winter can be lethal. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Texas Wine Tasting

BestestHusband and I just returned from a wine tour, and the unimaginable has happened:  I think I drank too much wine. I actually ruined my appetite for wine. I never thought I'd say that...

We toured 3 wineries in one day and 1 the next morning. Yes, I was drinking wine before noon. I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a chaser to an order of Eggs Benedict. Or a warmup for hiking Enchanted Rock. But whatever. 

We drank about 25 different wines. Some of them were frightful. Some of them were wonderful. But the whole experience was truly Texan. 

There are wineries in Texas? Oh yes, there are quite a few in the Hill Country. And a lot of vineyards in north and south Texas, as well. The soil and climate are very similar to wine producing areas of France, Italy, and Spain. In fact, some of the varietals native to those countries actually do better in Texas. (Well of course! Everything's bigger and better in Texas!) The wineries tend to cluster along Highway 290 and highways that branch off of it. You could drive down 290 and find a dozen tasting rooms within a 10 mile stretch. 

We chose to head off the beaten path for our tour. Armed with recommendations from my parents and BestestHusband's iPhone, we turned off the highway onto sometimes-paved roads. 

The experience was well worth the drive. We saw ranches. We saw signs that warned of loose livestock. And we saw some loose livestock. We rumbled over cattle guards. We saw cacti, mesquite, and live oak. We saw Rosemary hedges. We saw deer. We saw cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys. We saw llamas and emu. We saw rolling hills and lovely  vistas. We saw windmills and rusty tractors. We saw lovely stretches of open nothingness. 

And then we sat at wine bars, learned a lot about the growing local wine industry, and we drank a lot of wine. As we looked out over the rolling Hill Country, capped by a gorgeous blue sky. 

Forget Napa. Texas wine country is the place to be. I'd highly recommend visiting in April, when the windflowers are in bloom. I saw them seeding the grass along the highway. They should be spectacular. And tell the llamas I say hi. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Snow

Existence in Boston currently is being controlled by The Snow.

"Oh stop whining," some might say. "You live in the Northeast. Snow happens. Get over it."
Some might say that. I do live in the Northeast. Snow does happen. But it rarely happens quite like this. 

Here's what usually happens:
It snows. Sometimes a foot or two. The city shuts down for a day. School is out for a day, maybe two. People plow, shovel, and blow snow into big piles. Then it gets warmer in a day or two. Sometimes it even rains. The snow piles disappear, and the roads and sidewalks are clear of snow within a week, usually sooner. More snow might come, but it too will disappear quickly. Boston's snow removal process is predicated on the idea that the snow will disappear on its own within a few days. Because often it does. 

Here's what happened this time:
It snowed. We got two feet of it. The snow was plowed, shoveled, and blown into big piles. And it was cold. It stayed cold. The snow blew around a bit in the wind, but it did not go away. Then we got another foot. That snow was also plowed, shoveled, and blown on top of the big piles. The piles got bigger. And it stayed really cold. And then it snowed again. Two more feet. So now we're up to 5 feet of snow in just a few weeks. And the plows and snowblowers add that snow to the existing big piles. But shovelers just can't. You can't throw that much snow on top of piles that big for very long. And it likes to fall back down on you when you try. And the piles are everywhere. They're in yards. They're along sidewalks. They're along streets - the narrow one-way streets lines with cars on either side that Boston is famous for. They're at entrances to driveways, blocking the view of oncoming traffic - traffic driving on sometimes icy but always narrowed roads. 

Snow is fun, right? It's great for sledding, throwing as balls, and building into snowmen. We should all just be having fun! Right? 

Here's why we're not having fun.
6:30am:  BestestHusband goes out to shovel the newest addition to our snow accumulation. Because it's actually been continuing to snow small amounts between the big storms. The snow just keeps coming. But it needs to be cleared from our sloped driveway before we get iced in and the minivan slides backwards into the house any time we try to go somewhere. Like, oh, the grocery store. Or school. 
7:30am: BestestHusband leaves early for work. He's got meetings to make it to, and he's not really sure how long it will take him to get the few miles to work. Some mornings, it's been over 2 hours. The busses are delayed from the traffic of our snow-narrowed streets, and the trains are breaking down constantly from the snow. The roads are too dangerous to bike. So he leaves early and hopes he'll be there in time for a 10am meeting.
8:45am: I start warning the girls to get ready to leave the house for school. They start donning snow suits, hats, mittens, and boots. It's cold, in the teens. I start chasing the baby around the house to get her bundled. She's fast. And heavy. I'm exhausted before we even get to the car.
9:00am: I ease the minivan up the icy driveway and pray we get out. We shovel and salt it, but the sun does melt some of the snow during the day, just enough to trickle down the driveway and ice up overnight. At the end of the driveway, I peer in vain around the snow piles to see oncoming traffic. The piles are too high. I ease forward slowly and pray no one hits me. 
9:15am: I drop off the girls at school. They usually take the bus. But there's no where to park at the bus stop anymore. And it's consistently been 45-60 minutes late because of the traffic. The school parking lot is too small to allow us to park in it for pickup in the afternoon, but they'll let us do quick drop offs in the morning. I tell them they'll ride the bus home instead of having me pick them up. There's nowhere to park near the school for pickup. 
This morning at 9:30am: I drop HurricaneDebbie off at a home daycare in our neighborhood. The provider's husband had left for the day, so I could park briefly in their driveway to drop her off. The snow piles had narrowed the road so much that I have to do a 6 point turn to back out and head the other way down the road. I have to get out and move a trash can mid way. The trash collectors came already and it was empty, so I perched it on top of the snow bank. I had to reach up to do so. 
I drove slowly down a narrow hill towards home. There's nowhere to park at the gym. I didn't have work lined up today, but was thankful I wasn't driving to patients' homes. There's just nowhere to park. 

This was just the first few hours of our day. The Snow has changed our entire morning routine. 

3:30pm: I started prepping to leave for the bus stop. There's nowhere to park, so I have to walk. I also have to pick up HurricaneDebbie from daycare, so I grab the hiking backpack carrier. The sidewalks are impassible for a stroller or pull sled. I've learned this the hard way. 
3:45pm: I'm still climbing over snow piles and slipping on poorly-shoveled sidewalks. I stop at a few houses to ring doorbells and inquire as to whether the owners need me to hire someone to help them shovel. Only one person is home, a healthy-looking 20ish young man. I point to the mountain of snow on his property, and the barely-shoveled sidewalk. I explain that it's impassible for my children trying to get to and from school. I know some young men looking to make some money shoveling. I could call them if he needs help shoveling. Would he like me to do so? He apologizes and says that he's perfectly capable of doing it himself. Of course he is. But he hasn't done it.
4:00pm:  The bus stop is an 8 ft pile of snow on the corner. I have to stand along the edge of the street to watch for the bus. The girls arrive, and we start walking to get their sister. Walking in packed snow is like walking in sand. They get tired quickly and complain all the way to the daycare. At corners, we clamber over mountains of snow to be able to cross the street. Sometimes there's no passageway from the street to the sidewalk. Sometimes we're forced to walk in the narrow street. HeyMama starts to cry. She's tired, cold, and fighting a cold. And she hates The Snow. Me too. 
4:15pm: HurricaneDebbie is bundled and in the hiking backpack. We're slowly making our way down the snowy sidewalk towards home. We climb over more snow piles. I stop occasionally to use my phone and the city's app to report negligent shovelers. Some people shovel the entire width of their sidewalk. God bless them. Some people shovel a rabbit path, only one shovel-width wide. Lazy asses. Some people just don't bother. Those are the ones I report. I ring doorbells first. I don't want a little old lady to pay a ticket because she's too old to shovel. But that's not the case here. People can shovel a rabbit path to their car and get their car out. But then they neglect to shovel their sidewalk. These people make our walk home dangerous. We walk in the street a bit. We climb over piles. The girls look like little hamsters trudging along in the narrow snow passageways. Our world is a maze of paths with 5+ foot snow banks on either side. We can't get to the cross walk. So we cross our busy street illegally. And pray we don't get hit. 
4:30pm: We're finally home. It took nearly an hour to do a daily task that usually takes 15 minutes. We're all exhausted from the effort. There are tears. None from me today, but that's just today...

I didn't try to do much outside of the house today, other than a dog walk that was a major production. When the daily necessities become exhausting, why try to do anything extra? We're lucky. We don't struggle to dig our a car parked on a street. We have a driveway. We have a backyard to move the snow into. Our patio has a retaining wall that drops 12ish feet to the grass below. We've been shoveling the patio over the wall. The mountain of accumulated snow is almost to the top of the wall. 

We're supposed to get another foot of snow this weekend. People are canceling plans in anticipation of another blizzard. Birthday parties, family gatherings, church plans... they're all getting cancelled. No one wants to go out in another storm. There's always the fear of never making it there. And given the snow mountains we already have, that fear's not so crazy right now. The Snow is in control.