It snowed again. The forecast was originally for 10-12 inches, but they changed it to 15-18 in the afternoon. I have no idea how much actually fell—and continues to fall—since it's all mixed up with blowing snow from the last storm, but it's a lot. After we played quietly and happily inside for much of the day, the boys and I ventured outside, where I thought to try and clear the back steps and back door. I hadn't shoveled out that way after last week's storm, and without access to the bin the compost situation in the kitchen was becoming intolerable. I pitched it to the boys as an expedition.
Unfortunately, we were turned back; Zion by cold and discomfort, Harvey by the impossibility of finding a footing in the three feet of snow on the steps, and me by Harvey's refusal to let me use a shovel. He thought it would spoil the expeditional nature of the enterprise. Not that he wanted to give up: he whined bitterly when I turned back with Zion to look for easier footing in the front yard. But when Zion decided he actually wanted to go inside, Harvey was mollified by a "hike" across the street.
We probably went less than 100 yards, but it was over two plow piles and through deep snow all the way, so it wasn't easy. At one point I sunk in up to my waist and had some trouble getting out, so I understood how hard Harvey must have been working, up to his waist about half the time. But he loves it!
Since we were out we stopped by our next-door neighbors and invited the kids over to play. One taker was enough to provide a late-afternoon/early-evening of imaginative play, costumes, and dance, so all in all we made it through the day in fine form. Another day off tomorrow as the people in charge figure out where to put all the snow, but the forecast is for sun, so look for us to get out even more: maybe even further than a quarter mile from our house!
Our local friends probably have enough of their own snow and probably don't need to see ours, so this is for the out-of-towners. Not that I could write about much else; with another day off and plenty more clean-up shoveling today the snow is pretty much all-consuming. At least we got out to enjoy it: Leah went snowshoeing by herself for almost two hours this morning and I took the boys sledding in the afternoon (see photo above). And then we parents took a walk together, just the two of us! We agreed that active engagement with the snow makes it much more enjoyable.
There's lots of snow here. Without Harvey, I got the back porch shoveled out so we could finally take out the compost. Also now Rascal once again has two doors to scratch on when he wants to come in.
In the past I've told people that chickens are no work at all, but in weather like this that's not entirely true. I've spent as much time shoveling in and around their coop as I have on the walk and driveway. Not that I mind a bit: it makes me feel like a real farmer.
I have been a little nervous about the hens, since as well as snowy it's been quite cold, but so far they're all doing fine. I can't say they're enjoying the weather, but when the snow stops blowing in at them and they have fresh straw, newly-thawed water, and plenty of scratch and vegetable scraps to peck at, they seem as happy as anyone this time of year.
Back on Saturday (before the second blizzard) Harvey, Zion, and I took a trip out to Concord. I wanted some adventure and fresh air, and thought we might go take a look at the Concord river—which, given the persistent cold temperatures, I figured might be frozen over. And it was! Only the cold continued to persist—more than ever, perhaps—and we only walked over the bridge and back before we were all three chilled to the bone and forced back to the car. Oh well; at least Concord center has many other delightful attractions: like the toy store!
Harvey likes to go look at Lego sets, but Zion's needs are simpler. Frozen has been playing on that particular television since before Christmas, and we stop by this store every couple weeks; another month or so and he'll have seen the whole movie! Out of sequence, sure, and without sound, but that's the best you can do when you have dirty hippy parents like us. When we tired of toys and television (well, he didn't really tire, but you know) we moved on to the kitchen store. The wall of cookie cutters is almost as engrossing as an animated film.
We also took in the art supply store and the cheese shop, both of which offered not a single item which would have fit in our budget, if we were even looking to buy something. But at least the cheese shop offered delicious smells for free, and the prepared-food counter inspired Zion to ask for tuna salad for supper. In the event—after I made it deli-style with capers and red onion—he declined to eat it, but Harvey and I enjoyed it a great deal. So it was all worth it!
A moment from the week.
To my dear friends on facebook who post bikini selfies from some tropical island while New England is having the biggest snowfall ever and I can't step outside my house without a shovel and snow-pants and a hat that was the unfortunate end of a rabbit:
go on with your bad selves.
I had some thoughts earlier this week, some choice words for you, but your selifes have stirred in me a moral dilema. A moral dilema that is developing into a change of heart.
I want to be jealous or judgmental or flippant. But it goes agains my blogger moral code. After all, how can we truly share our lives with others if we don't TRULY SHARE with others.
Facebook is a fantastic medium for saying, "This is where I'm at right now." For some of you, where your at is a beautiful island that took a lot of money to fly to, wearing a bikini that you effortlessly slipped into four months postpartum. Even though I'm jealous to the point of rage, I'm gonna hold it in and bless you in your joy. Go ahead and snap a photo of your huge margarita. Your friends are dying to comment the word "Yum."
For other folks like me, where we're at is up all night with a baby for the 10th night in a row, in the same stupid messy house, and I can't possibly imagine what it would feel like to wear a bikini; I'm wondering whether I can fashion warmer more protective clothing out of blankets.
If you're like me, go on. Post your baby's sleep habits to facebook. No one is bored to tears by the number of hours you were or were not unconscious. Pretend that everyone wants to commiserate. Your friends are all waiting to comment, "Aw, boo."
Let's share our lives, people. Whether they're good or bad. Whether we're so tired we want to hurt ourselves, or whether we're so blessed that other people want to hurt us. Let's share.
I too have been guilty of the perfectly-timed selfie. There is a reason why all my profile pictures show me looking down and slightly to the side with a mischievous half-smile on my face. It's not because I always lovingly gaze at my children this way. It's an attempt to achieve the perfect nose-to-cheekbone ratio. In demi profile no one can see the full length of my schnoz, and the half smile is because I want my cheeks to pull up the fat under my chin, but not enough to unleash the crows feet around my eyes. It's a delicate balancing act, the pose I take on when I hear a camera click, and under different genetic circumstances I think I could have possessed the self-awareness to be a fashion model.
I think, "I don't wear makeup so my pics are progressive and helpful to the feminist conversation." But really, in the depths of my wicked heart I'm saying is, "Look at me, bitches! Look at how much my cheekbones love my baby! I am a good looking hippy mama!" This is pride and it's born of comparison which breeds jealousy. And jealousy keeps me from being happy when my friends experience good things. Instead of celebrating with them their financial and circumstantial and dieting success.
Here is my hope for facebook and this blog the "life-sharing economy." I hope that we can all get more honest about sharing, while simultaneously becoming more empathetic to the people around us. Let's rejoice with those who rejoice! Let's mourn with those who mourn! Let's write our "yums" and "boos" and really for a moment try to enter into the reality of someone else's life. It can only serve to make our lives richer and less lonely.
If I, on the other hand, follow my impulse is to close off, to judge or be jealous, or to label someone else's complaints as "first world problems," if I am more concerned with my own selfie than looking through the tiny windows into someone else's existence, then I am losing out. I want to FEEL with others people and their circumstances, just as I hope you will FEEL something when you read mine.
So bring it, vacation goers. Bring it skinny bitches. Bring it married people who go on dates, and people without kids who order really big portions at restaurants. Photograph all that shit. I want to see it and be happy for you.
And if you are sad, if you are tired of shoveling, if you are just plain tired, please share that too. I want to register my concern and my love for you, and if I just click "like" you'll know that I mean "I like you, but not your situation."
It's the weekend friends. Happy facebooking!
I'm sorry. In a moment of weakness, I drove to work yesterday, and it was a mistake. Not only for me personally—I had fine reasons, with a touch of sickness and a fairly broken bicycle, but it ended up taking me longer in the car than it would have on the snowy bike path—but for the city as a whole. There are too many cars everywhere, and I felt terrible for adding one more to the mess! The Greater Boston area just isn't built for this much snow.
At least, it isn't built for this much snow together with this many cars. As I sat on Mass Ave, stationary for minutes at a time, and watched the cyclists braver and wiser than I roll easily past through the slop, I wondered how much better the traffic situation would be if even, oh, ten percent of the folks in cars could be on bikes instead? Or what about a quarter? How many commuters could possibly bike instead of drive? Lots, I bet... if the infrastructure were better.
Because part of the problem is that, with the tremendous effort towns are putting into clearing the roads for cars, bike paths and sidewalks are being neglected. Sure, most of the main bikeways are now cleared shortly after each storm—for which I'm ever so grateful!—but they only get one pass for every ten or twenty on the roads, which means that they often end up with a messy inch or two of snow. They're not impassible by any means, but it does slow you down a lot. That's another reason why I wimped out yesterday.
I shouldn't have. As it turns out, side streets in Cambridge are even worse, covered with several inches of soft dirty snow still and hemmed in by cars embedded in snow banks. Those cars were probably parked there after the first storm or two, so they were already squeezing in on the road; now completely buried they turn what used to be two-way streets into narrow canyons that I felt nervous about being able to fit through. And that's just Cambridge... what must Boston be like?!
So yeah, I'm sorry I drove. I won't do it again. And if you need to get around this winter, try cycling! Even if you're not a very quick rider you'll get to enjoy the very pleasant experience of passing lots of cars... and of knowing you're no longer part of the problem, but part of the solution!
A moment from the week.
Another week, another blizzard. I thought I'd become inured to the tremendous amount of snow we have around here and another foot or so wouldn't make much of a difference, but I actually laughed out loud when I first went outside after the snow stopped: it turns out that a foot of blowy snow on top of several feet on the ground actually makes a very big difference indeed. I've never seen so much snow. Here, for example, is our fence:
It almost got covered in the last little-ish storm, then melted out a bit, but now it's seriously gone. Good thing the snow is the fluffiest powder, or else Rascal would just walk out of here! As it is he can't hardly walk at all: I threw a stick for him this morning and going to get it he entirely disappeared under the snow, like he'd fallen in water. That's a first. So he's not totally a fan of the conditions.
Neither are the boys, actually, but I forced them out when I saw our neighbors out sledding on the pile the plow made at the end of the street. Harvey came along first, and was soon part of a pretty good scene.
Snow is just the thing to get neighbors together. Besides taking my fair share of sled runs (and then jumps off the back of the pile into the deep powder, when we moved to that). As I shoveled I also chatted with more restrained (or dutiful) neighbors about the joys of dealing with so much snow. Harvey played and played.
Eventually Mama came out with the smaller boy and the baby, and they had their own enjoyable time. Mama and Lijah watched the fun for a while, then after they went in Zion stayed out for a good while playing with the bigger kids. It was a good afternoon.
Pictures don't really do justice to the scope of this snow event. It's pretty silly looking. The back of the house is especially ridiculous, but it was too dark to photograph well by the time I got back there with the camera. Maybe tomorrow I'll get some good shots. Unless you're all tired of snow already?
A wife of noble character who can find?
Seriously, who can find anybody of noble character anymore? At this point, I'd be happy with a playdate friend who doesn't introduce my children to Disney characters they've never seen.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
As long as he doesn't read on Facebook that she just dropped the coffee pot in the sink. Again.
During appropriate daylight hours when it looks like homesteading. And not at three in the morning when it looks like a slow descent into madness.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
Except not too far because that goes against our core values.
She gets up while it is still night;
(Yeah, no shit)
she provides food for her family
(If by 'provides' you mean 'nursing the baby while the rest of my family eats cheerios')
and portions for her female servants.
(wait a second, what?)
She considers a field it looks really pretty. Stunningly beautiful in fact. She stands there in mesmerized awe, the kind that can only be triggered by extreme physical exhaustion.
She sets about her work vigorously when her work is making coffee.
Her arms are strong from pushups because she's trying to be her own person for like five minutes a day dammit.
She sees that her trading is profitable when it involves trading snacks for getting little kids into the car.
Her lamp does not go out at night because she's researching purchases on Amazon.com
She extends her hands to the needy and then makes sure everyone uses hand sanitizer.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household
because she just want to BJs and there are A LOT of groceries in the pantry.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
"Many women do noble things, but this meatloaf is really good. Kids, I don't know why you don't like it, it's not at all spicy. You know what I was just thinking about your mother? I was thinking: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting" (Hey! Wait a minute!) "But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."
a moment from the week
I got a new camera this week, after taking over six months to determine that my previous camera was truly lost. This new point-and-shoot set me back not much further than a trip to Whole Foods. Proof of the wondrous technological age we live in and/or the exorbitant amount of money I spend on groceries. But that's a topic for another day. Today I want to talk about my 5-year-old budding photographer.
When we returned this afternoon from our homeschool coop Dan was up on the roof shoveling, and he asked us to take some photos to document his hard work. I had to see to the baby and get dinner on, so I handed Harvey my new camera and showed him how to turn it on, how to snap a photo, and to put the strap around his wrist.
30 minute later, after I had changed and nursed Elijah and put a chicken in the oven, Harvey brought my camera back to me with over a hundred pictures on the card.
I couldn't wait to download them onto my computer, to see what Harvey had chosen to photograph. I expected to have a chuckle. I expected to erase a lot of blurry images. But what I found struck me dumb instead.
The series of photographs was revelatory to me. While I made dinner, here came together a story came of a home that I never get to see.
This is a home at rest, a home at play, a home where the primary activity isn't work.
This is the home that exists outside of my field of vision. Here are toys ready to act out dramas. Here are interesting textures waiting to be discovered. If I enter any of these scenes they become work surfaces, areas to clean. But in my absence they are, to Harvey's camera, elements of beauty.
When I am elsewhere "working" the rest of my things are not lying fallow, waiting for my input. Photo by photo I see this come alive; my things are engaged with Harvey in a mutual collaboration of creation.
In other words, beauty in my home is where I'm not. Beauty and mess, and mess and beauty.
If I had known how much it would charm me to see half an hour through Harvey's eyes I would have bought him a camera long long ago. This boy of mine has such a refreshing perspective. It's worth far more than a week's groceries.
When he handed the camera back to me, Harvey cheerfully told me I could do whatever I wanted with the pictures. He also added, giggling, that he found a particularly silly thing to do at the end: "Sometimes I put the camera on my face" he said, "And, like, just took a picture of my own face!"
This boy, he laughs while inventing the selfie. I am so incredibly blessed to sometimes see the world through his eyes.
Even when it's super cold out, we still need to get out and take care of the chickens. All the more so! As I mentioned in passing earlier, this coldest and snowiest winter has added to the livestock workload here at the squibix farm. Aside from needing to thaw out the waterer daily (if not more often), I also need to do a fair amount of shoveling around the coop. See, I made a mistake when I built the thing, and made the door fit pretty tightly in its frame; and even worse, made it swing open—outwards, natch—right above ground level. That means that the four square feet of ground in front of our run is probably the only patch of visible dirt in all of Massachusetts! And keeping that dirt clear isn't easy.
In my defense, it's never been a problem before; somehow we managed without a problem the last three winters. And at least I built the thing strong! While I worried about the porch roof and the gutters and all, I didn't give a thought to the load of snow atop the henhouse and the covered run. And as the weeks passed that load went from this:
... and we've had even more snow after that! After the last bout of blowy snow I went in to the run to shovel out some of the snow that had drifted in, in order to give the poor hens somewhere dry to walk, I suddenly noticed how ominously the two-by-fours holding up the roof were bowing. Oh yeah, there's four feet of snow up on top of this roof too!
It's mostly off now (though the piles of junk I put up there for "storage" in the fall kind of complicated the removal efforts). And a thaw yesterday let me chip away most of the ice buildup around the door. But warm weather giveth and warm weather taketh away: I was actually pretty happy to have a thick blanket of snow around the henhouse to provide some insulation, but after just a couple hours above freezing it could no longer stick to the plastic roof.
And even worse, after the one warmish day the temperature took another dive, and tonight is forecast to be one of the coldest of the already pretty cold winter. So after taking that picture above I shoveled some more snow up on the roof to cover the gap. But not enough to collapse the roof. It's a balancing act.
So it's no Long Winter here, but it was thirteen below zero American degrees this morning, which is pretty cold for this neck of the woods. Our neighbors down the street built a beautiful half-shed from pallets this fall to keep their firewood dry, and I noticed this morning that it's just about all the way empty—with snow in the forecast overnight and weeks more of winter to go. Good thing they have baseboard heaters as backup!
Us, we're only dreaming of wood stoves (with our dishwasher out of commission we're dreaming of tearing it out and replacing it with a cook stove). But yesterday when we went out to the feed store to pick up the needful for our hungry hens—they have to eat a lot these days to keep warm!—I also asked for another bale of straw to keep their feet out of the ever-deepening snow in the run (not a lot gets in, but when it never melts it can only get deeper). Of course, as I should have expected, the straw bales are long-gone; we have to wait until more straw grows. That will be... a while. Look to see our consumption of pine shavings expand dramatically this spring! I asked Harvey (Zion was sleeping) if he thought we could grow our own straw some day, but he thought we needed more farm. Next November remind me: four bales.
At least we don't need the straw to fuel the wood stove! (and if you haven't read that story, you absolutely must—if nothing else, it'll make you feel better about our own long winter here!).
a moment from the week
A(nother) moment from the week.
Lijah will be one on Friday, and if you ask me he's really acting like it! After a couple weeks of standing on his own only by mistake—and falling as soon as he noticed he was doing it—now he's just letting go of whatever support and standing for as long as he wants, like it's no thing. Of course, he can't walk at all, so once he's standing he doesn't really have a next step, except to eventually sit down, but at least it's handy when, say, Zion pulls the chair he's leaning on away from him.
His language is also moving right along. He asks for food when he's hungry, and he's said (a baby version of) "brothers" a bunch of times. Of course he says "mama" plenty too. That's been going on for a while, but this evening he did something new: a little over an hour after Leah put him to bed he woke up (that's not new) but instead of crying he called out "mama? mama? mama!" with questioning inflection and everything! I was so confused: I didn't know if it was him or Zion! The next time he woke up he cried, as usual.
Do any of the developmental steps include better sleeping?