Monday, January 31, 2011

I just... I can't... WE HAVE NO SNOWBLOWER

Our snowblower broke before the first storm, the one right after Christmas. It was a hand-me-down from my in-laws who felt so guilty about it being broken that they practically had to be physically restrained from driving up fifty miles through the snowstorm to lend us their working one, and take ours to a repair shop. "Don't be silly!" we laughed. "We are young and strong!"

Here's what we got for our hubris:

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That is a photo taken at my eye level from the narrow walkway in between the eight-foot snow mountain in our front yard and the four-foot wall of plowed snow on the sidewalk's edge. Do you see that piece of a window at the very top? That is the living room window for the downstairs apartment; an apartment for which the ground floor starts three steps up. This is what happens when you have a teeny tiny front yard in which to put a four-car driveway's worth of snow. And this pile was built BY HAND.

We used to be young and strong. Now we are just young. OK, I suppose TECHNICALLY we are probably young and stronger if you take into account the actual effect of weight-lifting on a person's muscle mass, but why are you trying to rain on my pity parade? WE ARE WEARY.

The best part of all of this is how we have been trying to find somewhere to take our broken snowblower for repairs, but literally have not had time to load it up and drive it somewhere in between snowstorms. But last week we finally found a guy located a mere three miles from our house, and better yet, he was going to be open on Saturday! Unfortunately, Jack had to go to the doctor on Saturday for what turned out to be a massive ear infection, so by the time we were able to drive the snowplow over to the repair guy, it was 11:50 am. He was leaving at 12:30. This was a problem, because we had to dig the snowplow out of the shed before we could load it into Andrew's car and drive it over, and we couldn't do it in time. Did you get that? We didn't have time to shovel out the snowblower in time to get the snowblower over to the repair guy. Irony! Don't you love it? (I feel I should probably note here that I am typing "we," but I really mean "Andrew." ANDREW didn't have time to dig out the snowblower and load it into the car. I was not going to be involved in the digging or the loading. In my defense, I was also sick all week and still recovering. Fun times!)

ANYHOO. Andrew was going to try to drop it off on the way home from work yesterday, but the repair guy was out delivering repaired snowblowers to other, luckier snowblower-owners, so instead, Andrew had to just drive the snowblower back and forth to work, and then back and forth again today. (The good news there is that he apparently will drop ours off to us, assuming he ever gets a chance to fix it.) We can't drop it off TODAY of course, because it is snowing. Again. Naturally. As you all already know, because we are in the midst of a one-two wintery punch of national and historic proportions.

What all this means is that we will be throwing the snow, shovelful-by-shovelful, on top of the eight feet of snow already in our front yard. And then I will have a turn driving the snowblower back and forth to work before we're able to drop it off, God willing, on Thursday. We'll have to rush, because I hear there's a storm coming on Saturday. Sob.

But! I think I have decided to run a contest. Let's all place bets on the date the last bit of snow will melt from our front yard. I have made a rough estimation of the volume of snow in the mound. At this moment, I'd estimate our yard to be about 10x10 feet, and the pile to be 8 feet tall at its peak. If we assume a perfect pyramid with a square base, that is 267 cubic feet of snow. This is probably pretty close; the pile is of course not peaked in the center, it lists to one side. And neither is our yard a perfect square, but one side is probably longer than 10 feet, so I think this a reasonable estimate. What is for sure is that there is a hell of a lot of snow in my front yard.

And of course, this doesn't include the snow falling right now or what will fall all day tomorrow, so I'll be back with an update and more photos.

Right now, my guess is May 27.

See you all in the spring.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Giveaway! It’s at the end so feel free to skim!

I have three resolutions for 2011. The first is to run two 10Ks. That one is progressing reasonably well considering it’s virtually impossible to run outside right now because of the ice and snow and darkness, but I did join the gym on Monday, so there’s that. The second is to email and call people more, and to turn non-phone friends into phone friends. This one is harder than you might think as I have a phone phobia. I know that phone phobias are disproportionably common among bloggers, but I am a person who, on numerous occasions, has introduced myself to strangers and set up play dates. I usually do this under semi-normal circumstances; for example, asking a mom I’ve been chatting with for a while at the park for her phone number. Or setting up something with the mom of one of Jack’s school friends. But a few weeks ago, I stopped a stranger on the street who was pushing a double jogging stroller. A total stranger! I had seen her around in the past and had wanted to meet her since she had kids, liked walking, and clearly lived nearby. So when I saw her walking on the same side of the street as me, I grabbed my chance and introduced myself. And it turned out great; she’s wonderful. We’ve already gotten together once and our kids get along AND she lives up the street from me AND AND is home during the day. So if our kids’ preschool schedules didn’t completely clash, we’d be able to hang out all the time!

So why, then, if I am willing to accost strangers on the street, am I afraid to call people I already know and like? I think it’s actually a dread of awkward silences. In person, you there are visual signals and things to look at or sip or hold if the conversation hits a lull. But on the phone there’s… nothing. There’s just the two of you, on the phone, waiting for someone to start talking. As a result, I have very few phone friends; friends I feel comfortable calling just to talk without a specific thing to talk about. But I need more phone friends, because I get very very lonely round about 3:00 on a day when I’ve spoken to no one over the age of four, and I need people to call! Thus, my resolution to just bite the bullet and call more people. It’s almost the end of January. Have I done this yet? Sort of. The other day I finally worked up the nerve to call one of my Twitter friends, but I got her voicemail. Half credit.

(Incidentally, here is a tip for those who would LOVE to make friends with other moms at the park, the library, or walking down the street but don’t know how: For the first get-together, suggest meeting at a park or somewhere else outside. This gives both of you an easy escape if one of you turns out to be crazy. You don’t even have to give them your address! You just need an email or phone number. And remember, most stay-at-home moms are dying to make friends with other stay-at-home moms. So your friendly advances will probably be most welcome. Imagine how you would feel if that mom you always see at the library asks for your phone number!)

The last resolution, and the most important for my mental health, is to find a place for every single thing in my house. Lately, any time I try to put something away or get something from a storage area, I feel as though clutter is raining down on my head. I can’t live like this. So from now on, if I cannot find a place for something, it has to go.

I like to think I’ve made a lot of progress on this one. I’ve cleaned out many drawers. I’ve removed the giant, counter space hog of a knife block from the newly-toddler-accessible counter and put the most commonly used knives in a holder on the wall. I’ve given away cookbooks, purses, bags, clothes, toys, and various other things that I am happy to see the last of. I’ve thrown out trash we’ve been storing for years.

I’ve done a lot, but there is still a long way to go. We have an enormous walk-up attic that is a disaster area. If I allow myself to think about it as a single job, I start to panic, because it is IMPOSSIBLE. The attic is walk-up, but not insulated, so there are about four weeks total out of the entire year in which it is neither too hot nor too cold and bearable to be up there for more than three minutes. This means it’s very easy to run up there and dump a pile of junk, but kind of tricky to sort through five years of accumulated junk to organize it. So my plan is to have a place for everything in this house, including everything in the attic, but I’m honestly afraid it can’t be done in a year.

But! Thinking about the attic today, a day when I cannot do anything about it, will do nothing but upset me. And so I present you with this: I am making myself spend at least fifteen minutes every day decluttering. Any efforts made towards decluttering count, whether it be looking up places that are willing to accept half-used cans of latex paint (local high school drama club) or packing up twenty half-used cans of latex paint to donate. (Why so many half-used cans? Because we are very bad at picking paint.)

And thus, we have arrived at the giveaway portion of today’s blog post. My fifteen minutes today includes selecting and photographing some cookbooks and enticing you, my blog readers, to comment in the hopes of winning them. If nobody wants them, I’ll freecycle them; the last batch of cookbooks were snapped right up. But I recently learned about shipping books cheaply via media mail, and I thought one of you might want a cookbook!

Here they are:

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We’ve got The Kitchen Survival Guide by Lora Brody. An excellent resource for someone new to running his or her own kitchen. My mother gave this to me when I went to grad school, and I got a lot of use out of it, but I feel my skills have passed the point where this is useful.

The Taste of Home 1999 Annual is a good one. Taste of Home recipes are handy ones to have around because they’re all based around ingredients you have already. And they’re tasty. My favorite is the pumpkin pie, which I copied down.

Also shown are the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good and the Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies. I was thrilled to receive these books as gifts several years ago. THRILLED. And then I never opened them once.

Finally, we have 1973’s Good Housekeeping Cookbook. This one is… not so useful. Unless you want to make brains* and scrambled eggs? Oh, the seventies. How we miss you. I’ve only kept this one around only because I thought Andrew had sentimental attachment to it, but it turns out he doesn’t. So perhaps one of you has a vintage cookbook collection?

And, as an added bonus, the blue thing in that picture is a rubber placemat that suctions onto a table. It also has a little pocket that hangs off the end of the table to catch food. It’s an excellent product, and I used it all the time when Jack was a baby. Then we redid the kitchen and got a new table which has a wood grain that prevents the suction cups from sticking, so it became useless to us. Our misfortune is your gain!

If any of you who have actually stuck around long enough to read this far has any interest in any of the items pictured above, leave a comment telling me which one(s) you want. I will choose a winner on February 3 (my birthday) by picking a random number, but I’m willing to bet your odds will be excellent. Good luck!

*One pound of brains makes about four servings. Plan accordingly.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

She's got rhythm

Putting Nora to bed is one of my favorite jobs. It takes a long time, but that's mostly because we snuggle up on the chair reading stories, and after I've rocked her to sleep, I usually hang out in the chair reading, pausing occasionally to sniff her hair or kiss her cheek. Sometimes I doze off. It's not terrible, is what I'm saying.

The best part, however, is the way she talks and talks and talks to me about her day while I'm rocking her to sleep. She usually talks for a while, then snuggles her head on my chest only to pop up a few minutes later with important, key observations. One time, I thought she was almost asleep when she suddenly sat up and said, "Hair. Hair right there," while patting her head. And then my head. And then she said, "Head! Head right there! Head right there! Head right there!" for both our heads. She wouldn't stop saying it until I agreed that, indeed, our hair and heads were right there. When she heard Andrew and Jack in the dining room, we had to verbally confirm that THEIR heads were right there as well. Once satisfied that everyone's heads were right there, she put hers back down and went to sleep.

One time she was so tired, she literally fell over asleep right in the middle of telling me about how we had chicken for dinner. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what she was telling me. I have to use a lot of context clues to fill in the conversation with Nora since doesn't yet have the vocabulary to say all the things she needs to say. So what I think was probably, "We had fried chicken tonight and I like fried chicken it's yummy," came out as "Welf smuh fnuh shmliek wud ah chick-un....zzzzzzzzz."

Once the lights are out, we usually have to say "Good night" to a lot of things too: The moon, the room, the balloon, the cow jumping over the moon, Jack, Daddy, Jack and Daddy again, Dude (also Daddy), Gorilla, Dear (because the zookeeper's wife says, "Goodnight, dear" a few times in Goodnight, Gorilla), Bed, Jack, and Daddy. And Nora, sometimes. Have you ever heard a toddler chanting a litany of "Good-nights"? It's so fun.

But one of my absolute favorite parts is what she does when we say the Guardian Angel prayer. Long-time readers may remember Jack's story about the Guardian Angel prayer, but for Nora's you'll have to bear with me as I give you some background information. You see, there is a song we've learned at music class that goes,

I had a little frog
his name was Tiny Tim
I put him in the bathtub
To see if he could swim
He drank up all the water
He ate up all the soap
And then he BURPED last night
From a bubble in his throat!
Excuse me!


This song has hand motions that go with it, and there are three verses. In one verse, the frog is big and is named "Jumbo Jim," so you sing it with a deep voice. And now, whenever I say the Guardian Angel prayer, she sits right up and does the hand motions for "Tiny Tim" while babbling along, in rhythm, in a deep voice. I would never have noticed the rhythmic similarity between the song and the prayer without Nora, believe me.

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She took her own arm out through the neck hole, there. Oh, Nora. I love you so much.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Spoiled rotten

So did you all have a nice Christmas? I had a nice Christmas. I got a Kindle! It is totally awesome. I had been avoiding purchasing one because I was afraid that I would immediately spend thousands of dollars on books, because each one is so cheap! And all I have to do to buy it is push this button! But so far, I’ve only bought Mockingjay which I’d had on request at the library for weeks and which naturally arrived for me about thirty seconds after I bought it. I also bought Scrabble, because did you know you could play Scrabble on the Kindle? It’s excellent, because I have no one to play with. Andrew won’t play with me because he gets too mad when I slaughter him, which I routinely do. I don’t mean to brag*, but I’m pretty amazing at Scrabble.

What really helps with keeping the Kindle costs down is the plethora of free books available. They’re mostly old books that are out of copyright, several of which I downloaded with excellent intentions but which I will probably never read, thanks to Scrabble. I also got a newer book that was free because of some promotion, but it’s pretty terrible, and I may not finish it. We shall see.

More significantly, the Anne Shirley books by L.M. Montgomery are also free, and I have happily been rereading the ones I no longer own and sort of forget a little. But if you follow me on Twitter, you already know that for some mysterious reason, Amazon’s Kindle store doesn’t have two of the novels. I may have talked about this on Twitter quite a bit. I may have been fairly outraged. But it is outrageous! The Kindle store seems to think I have IMAGINED Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne of Ingleside. I even got to the point where I was willing to pay for Anne of Ingleside, but even the collection of “all eight Anne Shirley novels” you can buy in the Kindle store for 99 cents doesn’t include them. Instead, the collection includes Chronicles of Avonlea and Further Chronicles of Avonlea. These, my friends, are not “Anne Shirley novels.” These are not even novels. They are anthologies, and, OK, yes, Anne makes a cameo appearance in a few of the stories, but that in no way makes up for the fact that the Kindle store is pretending Anne of Ingleside and Anne of Windy Poplars didn’t happen. THEY HAPPENED, Kindle store. Do not MESS with my Anne of Green Gables books.

But I digress.

I also got a wall-mounted radio for the kitchen to replace my under-cabinet one with a broken CD player and completely snapped off power and volume-down buttons. The broken one was technically more than sufficient, since all I ever listen to is NPR and the remote turns it on and off, but it sure is nice to have a shiny new one with far better sound quality. Really shows off the timber of Carl Kassel’s rumbling baritone, you know?

Andrew, on the other hand, got a selection of the geekiest, nerdiest Christmas presents ever known to man. From me. And he loves them all. His “big” gift, the gift that I knew he’d be most excited about, was a TI-85 graphing calculator. Andrew’s original TI-85, the one he had in college, broke a few years ago. Since the TI-85 has been discontinued, Andrew thought he was out of luck. But then I blogged about it, and Arwen’s husband Bryan gave him his. Ah, the magic of the internet. (Well, the magic of the internet plus the magic of being internet friends with thoughtful, generous people.) Sadly, Andrew spilled Chinese food on Bryan's a few months ago, and it broke. Andrew has been bereft ever since. Bereft, I tell you. Where was he supposed to store his variables? Fortunately, I had a brainwave a few weeks before Christmas and harnessed the magic of the internet once again and bought him one on Ebay. Best Christmas present ever. The only thing missing, it turned out, was the manual. I got that for him off Ebay after Christmas, and the day it arrived, I found this scene on my way to bed:

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So what’s geekier? The way he lays out his breakfast along with his breakfast reading before he goes to bed? Or the fact that his breakfast reading is a CALCULATOR MANUAL?

If you check back a few paragraphs however, you’ll note that I claimed Andrew got a selection of geeky presents. You see, I had planned to write mainly about the calculator, but then I mentally ran through the list of gifts I got him, and it struck me as hilarious. So here you go:

1. A discontinued graphing calculator
2. A book about the elements
3. A book about being a geeky dad
4. Socks

I know I’ve gone on for quite a while here, but I can’t end this post without telling the internet about the set of tools my father-in-law bought for my four-year-old son. It included, among other things, a hammer, a saw, a screwdriver, and a hasp.

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Despite my father-in-law’s very indignant claim that “They’re plastic,” when we made fun of him, they are not, in fact, plastic. That there is a real saw. It is a small saw, yes. A child-sized saw, if you will. But a saw quite capable of cutting through wood – and therefore fingers – all the same.

Call us crazy, but we don’t allow our children to play with sharpened metal blades until they are at least five.



*Yes, I do.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nora playing "Wii"

This was on December 31st. I noticed her from the other room as Andrew was watching something on regular TV. Not, it is worth noting, the Wii. Also, that is the cable remote.

Untitled from Maureen on Vimeo.


My favorite part is how she waits for juuuuust the right moment to swing.