Friday, November 26, 2010

The White and Drifted Snow

I probably shouldn't have chosen "Over the River and Through the Woods" as our folksong to learn this month. Repeatedly singing about the joys of an old New England Thanksgiving seems to have brought the appropriate weather out to the Northwest, where the proper Thanksgiving weather ought to be gray drizzle.

The adventure really started on Sunday after church, when we noticed a few flakes of snow. How charming, we thought. It will soon turn to rain, we thought. Or clear up and get cold. And so Wondergirl and Bookworm and I continued with our plans to take the ducklings to the zoo on Monday, since we had yet to make a second use of the zoo passes Wondergirl got for us back in July, what with car problems and busy grownups and all.

On Monday it looked a bit less promising. There was actual snow on the ground. But surely, it wouldn't stick to the roads, would it? Not the real roads that more than three cars use? Besides, Wondergirl used to live in the Northwoods and knew how to drive in snow. So even though it defied all expectations and kept on snowing, we ventured forth, confident that the roads would improve as we got further into civilization.

The snow kept coming, and the roads did not improve, but we were well bundled up and had lots of food in the car in case of emergencies and made it all the way to the zoo, at which point it seemed silly to give up and go back. So we went in. We were half an hour past opening, and the first people to arrive. We decided to stick with the aquarium, which had the advantage of being interesting AND indoors. It was really quite lovely to be able to browse at leisure without having to constantly worry about losing children in the crowd. According to their preferences, D3 stood and watched the same window for nearly the whole time, while the others ran around three times over. There was only one other family there the entire time.

Which was not a very long time, because a zookeeper came out and informed us they were closing the zoo. But we could take our time and head back out when we were ready. Since I was trying to get home for an online class at one, this gave us about as much time as we had planned on. We emerged from the aquarium to find the snow had progressed from powdered sugar sprinkle to cream cheese icing thick.

The good news about the return trip was that there was no danger of injury, because everyone was traveling so slowly. The bad news was, I was in serious danger of missing my class at one. However, we all remained in good holiday spirits and sang all the verses of all the Thanksgiving songs we know, which is quite a few. And I parceled out lunch in slow sequence so that the children would have something to munch on or at least look forward to for the entire long trip home.

We did arrive in one piece and I raced inside to start my class only to discover it really started at three. Which was a pity, because the snow got thicker and thicker and the wind got higher and higher, and it became evident that a class started at three was probably not going to get finished. But I tried anyway.

DOB was at the office and thought, when things started closing down and they started sending everyone home, that he'd just wait for everyone to get off the road and then proceed home himself. He decided against it, though, and therefore arrived all the way home a short while before the power winked out for good. The next morning he thought he would venture forth and discovered a very large tree across the road, pulling down the power lines. He tried to go up the hill on the other side, but gave up when he went more back than forward. It was just as well, as just over the next crest was another tree down.

So we were marooned. Fortunately Their Majesties are well stocked with wood stoves and flashlights and even a generator (except they'd forgotten to get gas) and it really was only a modest inconvenience. Once the wind had died down we went out and inspected the damage to all our favorite climbing trees and climbed on them horizontally instead.

We figured it was a bad sign when Her Majesty called the power company and in the message about the outage it said, cheerfully, "Did you know that if you are without power for more than 120 hours, you qualify for a $50 rebate?"

By Tuesday afternoon the roads were reasonably clear, but there was no sign of light. We had finally persuaded D4 that the power being out was not the end of the world, and that a man would come in a big truck to fix it, a thought which gave him much consolation although he continues to be afraid of the dark.

On Wednesday Her Majesty and I had the bright idea of doing a Christmas present craft project for the kids, which it was great to have done, and I was reminded that the reason I am not the sort of mom who does elaborate, creative crafts to build warm memories with my children is that the warmth in those memories would derive from the increasing vehemence of my feelings and the creativity would be primarily manifest in the language used to describe this paper backing of lamentable heritage and dubious prospects that won't just come off the recalcitrant fabric already. I think we'll stick to memorizing a lot of holiday songs.

Anyway, the power came back on Thursday afternoon, and since all the baking parts of Thanksgiving were taken care of by people whose power was already on, everything went fine. Except that D1 came down sick and we had to leave early. But still, we had much to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Assorted Craziness

1. DOB is learning to be a trial lawyer, so he took a class in it for a very intense weekend last month and then this past Saturday they did a mock trial in a real courtroom with a real judge and real objections (though not enough of them). I got to practice my evidence-fabricating skills by making up pictures to go with the fact scenario: D1 and D3 posed for childhood shots of the plaintiff, and I painstakingly modified a picture of "Mugsys Sports Bar" to become "Chuggies Sports Bar." (No apostrophe--what do sports bars know of apostrophes?) I also got to be a witness. We won, slightly. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun and then met up with some good friends for dinner and got home very, very late indeed.

2. The difference between the first and the fourth baby, as observed with our friends--people who have had their first baby find it turns their life upside down and they can't do *anything* for awhile. People who are on number four realize that they can pull extra babysitting and household help credits and take advantage of that quiet, portable newborn to get out for once.

3. Sunday morning after all of that, we were almost ready for church when D3 threw up all over our new carpet scraps. We decided not to go to church.

4. Carpet scraps--it turns out almost all of DOB's extra feet/ankle/knee problems over the past several months, which we thought were *car* related, were actually *floor* related. (The floors around here being tile, a variety with much value as, for instance, when people throw up all over it.) A quick trip to the carpet outlet and his feet are feeling much better and he can drive again. If only, if only . . .
However, it's very good to have him able to function again.

5. The illness has gone around at least with the kids, but the symptoms are so intermittent and mild it's hard to know when it begins or ends.

6. I'm progressing on taking my online courses, but not so fast as I wanted to. They don't always download so well--especially, some theorize, when it's windy. Or something. Anyway, only nine hours to go. I'm also getting to draft a whole motion for summary judgment. (Which is basically a paper explaining to the judge why you shouldn't bother with a trial because the other side couldn't possibly win.)

7. We also had a windstorm, power outage, and earthquake this week. But I didn't feel the earthquake.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Just In Case You Needed It

Or perhaps I'm the last person on the Interwebs to discover it, but we just found a new way to waste time this week: Wolfram Mathematica Demonstrations. I came across it looking for a way to demonstrate the tides (after we nearly got sloshed by one that was coming in faster than we thought) and we quickly got hooked on all kinds of cool little free doohickeys where you can change This and change That and ooo! See what it does!

And it's got "Mathematics" right there on the top, so it's got to be educational, right?

Friday, November 05, 2010


For many years I've been subject to a particular variety of slip of the tongue which as far as I know is an as-yet unobserved and unnamed phenomenon.

The situation is this: There are two words that have essentially the same meaning, and so your mind is unable to choose between them. Instead of one or the other, out comes a mishmash that combines half of each, which just happens to be another, quite unrelated word. Awkwardly, you grasp for the correct term--and instead produce a second mishmash with the remaining elements, which turns out to be yet another unrelated word.

The first time it happened was when I was much younger, driving about with my siblings, and observed a heavy-set woman working in front of her house. "There's someone working in her lard," I said, and then on further reflection corrected, "No, no, I mean her yawn!"

When I first studied corporate law, I spent a lot of time pondering what exactly happened when a corporation issued shocks--er, that is, stares.

And recently I was telling DOB about how the children went out in the puddles and got their shoots--that is, their booze--soaping, that is, socking, wet.

So I propose a term for this phenomenon: a synacism. Have you ever met one?