Winter Baby

Last winter M was always in her car seat when we left the house. We kept her in an infant carrier with a warm fleece and down cover. If it was really cold we’d put her in a furry bear suit before strapping her in (because it was an all-in-one layer that wasn’t too puffy for the car seat straps). This year? This year is insane.

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This is her one-piece Columbia suit (consignment!) and it’s only going to fit for another month or so. It’s actually not hard to put on — built in hand covers make it easy! But her jacket and ski pants (which are actually a teeny bit too big), those are another story. There are those two layers plus her boots and her mitts and her hat. We still need a baby balaclava for her. Her pants always ride up and expose her legs. It takes twenty minutes to get all her stuff on to go outside, and that’s just for the walk to daycare!

I miss the days of slipping a dress on her and putting her down in the sun, that’s for sure. And I don’t think next winter will be much better — in fact it could be worse. Anyone familiar with Robert Munsch and I Have to Go!?

Of course, part of surviving winter here is getting outside, bundled up and warm, so we go through the routine of seventeen million layers (half of which she takes off as we put another layer on). Here’s to winter, which hasn’t even officially started, yet…

Be Grateful

Fall always seems nostalgic and important and melancholy and beautiful to me. Maybe that’s overwrought but it’s true. Especially right now, with M’s birthday in two months, and our anniversary in a few days.

I keep thinking back to this time last year. What we planned for and hoped for and desired and how the year has played out. Some things have been awful and some, wonderful. We’ve still got a roof over our heads and a sense of love and joy.

What will this winter hold? I don’t know. Already we are better prepared than last year and I’m grateful to everyone who has helped make that possible.

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For whatever reason — one I can’t really place — I feel like we are on the cusp of something. I’m not sure what it is. It could just be the changing season. But there is no way to know what life has in store for us, and all I can do is ride out this feeling.

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.

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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.

Family Day Fire

The Ontario government decided, a while back, that we should have a long weekend in February. It’s allegedly to spend more time with one’s family, but we all know it’s a) because we didn’t have a stat between New Year’s and Easter and b) everyone else has a stat in February… oh, and c) February sucks and is cold.

Our Family Days are usually pretty anticlimactic. I read something over the weekend that said, basically, most Canadians will be using Family Day to get away from their family and it made me laugh. We spent actual Family Day cleaning (OK, I cleaned, Matt shoveled for three hours) but we had fun the day before.

Let me back up, actually — see, we intended to go out on Sunday with crazy carpets and a GT, in search of a not-busy sliding hill. It was me, Matt, Ashley, Jesse, Bob and Kathleen, and we didn’t want to share our fun with the local kids at the popular sliding hill in town. So, we drove all the way out to the quarry (we weren’t planning to slide into the quarry itself, but there are less steep gravel slopes that seemed like they’d work). It was snowing a tiny bit when we left, but the longer we stayed out the more it snowed, until we were in a bit of a blizzard without even realizing.

By the time we were almost there it dawned on all of us that it likely wouldn’t be plowed out, and there was no way we were walking through three feet of snow with all of our stuff. Seeing that unplowed road was a disappointment, but Jesse thought we could try out a sand pit a few minutes back. This is what happened when Matt tried to walk up the hill (also pictured):

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Jesse and Bob tried to literally scale the hill, and that didn’t work either. So, we were off to find another hill… preferably one that was closer to the highway and didn’t involve trekking through so much snow, a tall order in the weather conditions over the weekend.

We drove around a few places — down a road here, through train tracks there — and couldn’t find anything. I was starting to get carsick. Everyone was a bit hungry. So, we stopped on a side road (traffic-free) that looked like it might have a promising hill, right on the road. Turns out that it wasn’t steep enough, but there was plenty of space to dig out a fire pit on the side, which we did.

Fire-Outside

We enjoyed hot drinks, hot dogs and smokies… and some of the gentlemen enjoyed a thrill ride on the GT, towed behind the truck down the hill.

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(I stole the photo of me from Kathleen to prove I’m not a vampire — thanks Kat!).

As it got darker and we all got a bit colder, it was time to head home. It was a long, slow drive back thanks to the powdery snow accumulating on the roads, and I was happy to get home and get warm!

So, it wasn’t quite the day we had planned, but it was still fun. We just need to find a good sliding hill one of these days!

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