(Long) Weekend Warrior

The long weekend snuck up on me this year. I didn’t even realize it was a holiday until I was setting up our daycare schedule and realized I had an extra day with M. We had house guests all last week, which might explain why it already kind of felt like vacation! But Matt had to work all weekend, and there was that pesky snow thing, so it turned into a holiday weekend that was mostly spent in sweatpants watching movies with a toddler.

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May Long (or May 2-4, which I refuse to call it this year because it wasn’t anywhere near the 24th of the month) is supposed to be the time when Canadians go open their cottages, drink beer, and set off fireworks, something-something-Queen’s-birthday. For whatever reason, probably the risk of snow, there are no fireworks here. It is the opening of fishing season, but there was no way I was gonna haul a little one out to a lake somewhere with bait and sharp objects all by myself.

But let me back up — back to the house guests! My mom and her boyfriend visited the week prior to the long weekend, as I mentioned. Naturally, it snowed (as I also mentioned… repeatedly). We still had a good time, though, and got a bit of outdoor adventuring in. They left on Friday, and Matt went back to work, which is why M and I were alone all weekend.

Saturday was nice. It was our one deliciously sunny day and M and I went outside, where she literally covered herself head to toe in garden dirt. We dug out some of the creeping thyme that I’ve decided to give up on, and then she went in for a nap. I did a bit of housework but ultimately ditched it to sit outside knowing what was coming for the rest of the weekend…

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The next day it rained FOREVER. Seriously, torrential downpours. It was not nice. There was a tiny break of sun first thing in the morning but we missed it in lieu of breakfast. Every time I tried to get M out the door to the grocery store and bank it started raining harder. We had to get groceries, though, so we eventually just braved the wet. It wasn’t very fun.

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Then the next day, yesterday, we woke up to snow that continued falling all day long, because what’s a northern Ontario long weekend without every single type of weather possible?

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Note how all of the bad weather photos were snapped from the comfort of inside the house. Yesterday M kept wanting to go out and blow bubbles and play in the dirt, which obviously did not happen. 

Today we’re back to normal — it’s Matt’s last shift, M is presently in daycare, and the sun has come out to melt all the snow. I really, sincerely hope that was the last of it, because the weather apps are telling me that we’re in for sun, or at least rain, for the next 14 days.

So, we didn’t get fireworks, but we got a lot of weather excitement! How was your weekend?

Snowbound

I have officially had enough of winter. Which makes sense because it’s spring — except someone forgot to tell our weather about that fact. It started snowing over April Fool’s Day and it did not stop until we accumulated something like 50 centimeters, on top of what was already there.

That is the TOP of my couch. And the window starts at least a foot and a half off the ground. We cannot see anything out the front window now except for snow and a sliver of sky.

Matt spent the evening of the storm desperately trying to get home. His work is normally a five minute drive away from home, if that, but we are the people who failed to put winter tires on our new car, and one can’t exactly expect the town to mobilize all of their plows while there’s still 50 centimeters of snow falling (and we don’t live on a priority route). He drove around for over an hour trying every street in town in a zig-zag manner, hoping to find a path to our house.

Then he texted me a picture of the car stuck in an intersection. Did I mention the baby was having a total meltdown that day? The no-naps-during-the-day thing culiminated in red-faced rage at 6 p.m. so I decided to hurry her through a sped-up, early bedtime routine. So I glanced at the photo, winced, and carried on trying to convince my screaming baby that bath time was okay. That’s when Matt showed up.

“I ditched the car in the intersection [WAAAAAAAAAAAAH!] gotta get shovels [WAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!] cops are there. THIS IS AWFUL.”

Apparently by the time he got back our friend Bob had mercifully dug out the car and the cops went on their way. The two of them shoveled out his driveway so our car would have a home for the evening (because of course we bought a house with an uphill driveway the year winter lasts FOREVER).

Miraculously, UPS managed to deliver the stroller we were expecting on time, despite the fact that the Trans-Canada Highway was closed from two hours out of town all the way to Manitoba. It’s a lovely stroller, three-wheeled, shiny… and its currently glaring at me, taunting me from the corner, because I probably won’t get to use it ’till June at this rate.

So, winter, snow, ice — I’ve had enough. You took out my shed (fully collapsed). You twisted my knee this week. I worry about you taking down my roof, or my garage. You are trapping me in the house. Come on and melt already?!

Polar Vortex, Schmolar Schmortex

If there’s one thing I’ll can happily talk about all day long, it’s the weather. I don’t know if it’s a holdover from working so many jobs that required interacting with the public and thus dealing with weather-related small talk all day long, or if it’s some kind of intrinsic Canadian thing, but it’s a frequent conversational topic. And now with everyone I know being stuck with some kind of weather woes, it’s even more frequent!

First off — I am one of those people who thinks that if you live in a cold climate where winter comes every year and is cold and snowy, year in and year out, you should probably just stop fighting it and deal. Facebook people who are like OMG IT’S SNOWING every November, I will admit, I roll my eyes at you more often than not. Toronto calls a state of emergency for temperatures that we’re looking at and saying, “Oooh, it’s nice out today!” (except they don’t call states of emergency with Rob Ford in charge, I guess.) I mean, if you’re used to balmy breezes and you’re getting sleet that’s one thing, but regular winter? It happens.

Second — I used to think people who lived in warm climates who experienced a tiny bit of ‘cold’ and freaked out were equally silly. I was telling my boss about how, one year, Myrtle Beach busted out street sweepers to remove their snow, and he pointed out that to them, that tiny dusting of snow probably WAS a big deal because they don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it. Good point.

So. We just had the coldest December ever on record, here. As in, since they started tracking weather here in 1938. Our historic daily lows weren’t even our daily highs last month. And I frequently woke up to windchill warnings screaming EXPOSED SKIN WILL FREEZE IN FIVE MINUTES every day for a week straight in January, when they were forecasting windchill temps of -45 to -50 (that’s Celsius, but it’s the same as Fahrenheit at that point). But it still didn’t really feel like anything different than usual, to me.

Admittedly, I go outside a lot less now, so maybe it’s easy to say that from the warmth of my wood-heated living room. But when I did go outside it wasn’t unbearable. I wore mitts and a big coat and a hat and I tried to hustle from warm place to warm place. The baby is always bundled in several layers, and a fleece car seat cover with an attached blanket. We keep warm. And we’re back to normal-ish temperatures now, with highs in the minus-teens (I think I made that word up) and lows in the minus-twenties.

photo 1

November 17

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Last Wednesday

So what did we do differently in this abnormal cold?

We went through wood a lot faster. We mostly heat with the living room woodstove with electric as a backup if/when the fire goes out, and a pellet stove running in the basement to bring some heat up into the floor. I’m really thankful we moved into a place with wood heat because my mind boggles at what electric or oil could have been this year especially in an inefficient house (in our old solely electric heated house, we were paying $500+ a month through winter). Here, our windows are all good except the giant living room one, although our insulation and heat transfer throughout the house could use some work.

We aren’t going outside much. Part of this is having the baby — I just can’t feel comfortable taking her out in -40. There are a few outdoor things still happening, but even the ski report in the paper reads, “If you’re crazy enough to go for a ski…” so I don’t think we’re missing out. Now that it’s a bit more mild I’m trying to figure out what is a decent temperature to take baby outside — I feel like moms in cold climates MUST take their kids outdoors, but how cold is too cold?

Matt is killing himself shoveling. We have had a LOT of snow this winter already. It started around when M was born and hasn’t let up. He is literally out of places to put the snow from the driveway because our set-up is so awful and a conventional shovel isn’t cutting it. The snow pile at the front of the house is up over his head. I don’t know what we’re going to do about that, but we’re kind of screwed unless someone comes to clear out the giant pile or things start melting into the street.

The cats don’t go out when it’s really cold. Marbles begs and pleads so I let him out for five minutes and he inevitably comes rushing back in. Or he just doesn’t go, as soon as the door opens and he feels the air. Since the cold snap cleared over the weekend he’s been begging to go out a lot more often!

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We started plugging the car in. In -20, even -30 it doesn’t seem to need it to start, but any lower than that and it’s quite unhappy. We learned that in -40 and below it squeals until it’s been running for a certain amount of time, so that’s fun. Any environmentally conscious ‘DON’T IDLE’ stuff goes away when your car literally has square tires. (I also recently learned that people don’t know what plugging a car in means, which blew my mind until I thought about it and determined people who live in the south would never need to worry about heating their engines. I also couldn’t figure out why everyone I knew had exploding pipes until I realized ours are insulated and theirs aren’t.)

To sum it up, extra-cold weather just means winter is more wintery for us. It’s less fun because we can’t go outside and grin and bear it as easily. It takes more work and effort and for me it’s easier to just ignore it and stay indoors. But it’s winter, and it’ll go away, hopefully sometime before June.

Winter Justifications

 

November

This is not technically winter, I know, but it should be. It’s cold. We begrudgingly turn on the heat mid-month, and keep cranking it up as the days go by.

“It’s not that bad,” I say. “It’s only November.”

December

It’s cold. But there are occasional days where the snow melts before it creates anything more than a light dusting of white, and that’s enough to keep me going.

“Maybe it will be a late winter this year,” I hopefully declare.

Then I realize it’s not even winter yet. Luckily, the month is busy enough that I don’t really realize how many layers I am piling on.

January

The snow pants and big winter boots come out of the basement.

“Okay, so January is the coldest month,” I say. “But it’s the last of the bad stuff! February is short and March is practically spring.”

I sleep with my socks on and wake up a 6 a.m. to utter darkness. It is -30 outside, not factoring in windchill. All of my Facebook friends from Southern Ontario are complaining about how cold -10 is. Sometimes, Toronto declares a state of emergency due to cold and I laugh and laugh and laugh and then cry a bit.

February

February is not actually that short. It’s only two days less than most other months. And it’s still freaking cold. What was I thinking?!

March

There is still snow on the ground. March is not spring.

April

Flurries. Flurries, flurries, flurries. Why do we live here? Why don’t we move to Bermuda? We could bring the cats and get a hammock.

May

Guess what? It’s still frigid. But now it rains, too, along with sleet and snow. Sometimes it’s hot and sunny and everyone in town runs around in flip-flops and shorts screaming, “THIS IS SO UNSEASONABLE! I BET WE’RE GOING TO GET MORE SNOW!”

All of my Facebook friends from Southern Ontario are showing off their gardens and patio drinking sessions. I hate them.

June

The blackflies descend and we forget about the past six months.

July

Summer is awesome! How did we survive without it?

“I wish summer lasted as long as winter,” I mope.

August

Summer is leaving, and we are clinging to it as desperately as we can, clawing it back with all our might, quaking in fear of long underwear and window scrapers.

September

I start bargaining.

“This is the year we’ll try cross-country skiing,” I plead. “Maybe I’ll get skates! Just don’t let it get to -30.”

October

All of the leaves fall off of the trees at once. We don’t rake because we know it will snow the minute we clean up the yard.

November

This is not technically winter, I know, but it should be…

Marbles the Cat, Autumn 2012

Marbles is known to be a skittish cat. He immediately velcroed himself to us when we picked him up at the shelter, and displayed no signs of nervousness — until one day, we had house guests, and he tried to jump through a second-floor window. We’ve since discovered that he’s a bit of a scaredy-cat, especially around strangers, and especially outside. For the longest time, if either one of us so much as looked at him while he was out of the house, he’d go flying off into the trees and we wouldn’t see him until the next day.

The cats are on a new schedule for going out. We let them out first thing in the morning, they usually come around for lunch, and then they’re out again until we get home. I know that having semi-outdoor cats increases the risk that they’ll get hit by a car, but they’re smart about staying off the road, and really, they love being outside so much that we’ve decided their quality of life is probably bettered for it.

Anyway, since we started them on this new schedule, Marbles has been hanging around the house a lot more. I’m not sure if it’s because he doesn’t get fed in the morning so he’s hungrier, or because he’s not outside when dusk hits, but he’s been a lot more relaxed about letting one of us pet him every once in awhile, or sitting on the deck without freaking out if we open the door.

I was really surprised, though, when he came running up to me last week while I was sitting in the backyard with my camera. I heard a jingle and figured it was Maggie, but when I turned around, there was Marbles, positively gleeful to see me.

He really would not leave me alone. If I stopped petting him for ten seconds to try to take a picture he’d jump up on my legs and flat-out throw himself onto my face, desperate for attention… until he spotted something behind me and ran away.

Fickle kitty!

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