Snow More Problems

At some point towards the beginning of last week, I heard the first rumblings that our area was expecting a snow storm. The initial reports were all preliminary and tentative and subject to change and so on and so forth so I wasn’t overly concerned. Last winter the forecasters called a few storms really, really wrong so I definitely didn’t hit the panic button when I heard we were expecting a few flakes.

I do, however, remember having two distinct thoughts:

1. I should go pick up some more bottled water since our Apocalypse Shelves in the basement looked like this:

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Totally prepared for Bad Things to happen.

2. We don’t have any cookies at the house and I really like cookies. Cookies would be nice. I figured I should buy cookies in addition to the water.

Millie and I headed off to Target that Tuesday and purchased three giant containers of water. We also purchased two pairs of clearance girl’s shoes, one pair of Frozen-themed slippers, a lunchbox, two shirts for Henry, some mixed nuts, two boxes of Puffins cereal, approximately 20 pairs of socks for the boys and a new yoga bag for me. (I… don’t do yoga. Yet.)  We forgot to buy the cookies.

On Wednesday, weather reports claimed that the big storm was really actually probably going to happen and we should “start preparing” and be “weather aware.” I raised a doubtful eyebrow and decided, since things looked like they might be getting serious, to put Charlie in charge of our storm preparedness plans. If there’s anyone you want on your team in a crisis, it’s Charlie.

Charlie gathered flashlights, grabbed his BB gun, amassed the sleeping bags in one location and made a list of what food we would need to weather the storm. I couldn’t read anything on his list but I’m sure it was just all names of his favorite breakfast cereals. Charlie could live on nothing but cereal for weeks and weeks.

So, by Wednesday afternoon, it’s easy to see how well prepared we were with our bottled water, BB gun and our Frozen-themed slippers.

Sometime on Thursday morning, I saw the following weather forecast on Twitter:

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We live in that oval area at the very top of the state of Virginia that was expected to get so much snow that it had surpassed the top-of-the-chart red color and reverted back to bright white. I started to panic a bit because, good heavens, WHAT COMES AFTER RED? RED IS ALWAYS THE WORST THING ON ANY SCALE. IT’S THE CENTER OF THE SCALE. IT’S THE BULLSEYE. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GO WORSE THAN THE WORST? IS THIS WHAT BEING IN THE MATRIX IS LIKE?

I had a lot of questions on Thursday.

Thursday is also when I started worrying about keeping power. See, our house is all electric except for our propane-fueled fireplace. We’re also on a well and septic so when the power goes out, everything goes out. You better have A Plan in place. Normally, my plan for power failure involves putting everyone in the car and checking in at a hotel somewhere else that has better power but a blizzard would seriously compromise that effort. The idea of being stuck inside the house, unable to leave, without power and water or decent heat had me a skoch worked up.

My anxiety level by this point could best be summed up like such:

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When the first flakes started falling on Friday afternoon, I had two things running through my head:

1. We should have purchased a generator. WHY DON’T WE OWN A GENERATOR, BOB?

2. We have, like, 100 bucks in cash on us. How are we going to barter for goods and services in a snow-filled post-apocalyptic world with only 100 bucks?

When we awoke Saturday morning and the storm was in full swing, I was positively hand-flappy about the electricity. I spent the am hours basically running around from window to window, peering at the snow while yelling, “CHARGE ALL THE THINGS! DON’T YOU DARE WATCH THAT KINDLE OR PLAY ON THAT PHONE WITHOUT IT BEING PLUGGED IN!”

Bob expressed some mild concern at my panic before quickly darting out the garage door to begin shoveling. You know, an activity that was actually productive (if not completely futile at that point).

When we still had power by bedtime, Saturday, I relaxed a bit. I still did all the laundry, washed all of the dishes, filled the tub full of emergency water and made sure the kids were bathed, BECAUSE THIS COULD BE THE LAST TIME FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN.

The storm had cleared out by Sunday morning but I was so exhausted from all of the sitting around and fretting that I don’t think I got out of my pajamas all day. Luckily, Bob had some help dealing with the snow:

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Because his car looked like this:

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All told, we got around three feet of snow, maybe? I don’t know. I wasn’t really counting. But, the power stayed on the entire time! Hooray!

What we had in power, we lacked in food supplies. Charlie’s cereal collection was mostly used up, we’d run out of butter on, like, Day 2 and I had neglected to buy those cookies I wanted at Target. I’m not used to feeding five people three meals and two snacks each and every day. The kids eat at school and Bob eats breakfast and lunch at work so I’ll admit that I may have been caught a bit unprepared for the sheer volume of nourishment needed to keep my family fed and happy day after day after day after day.

As we stared out the kitchen window at the vast sea of unshoveled snow standing between us and the entrance to our neighborhood, Bob started to panic about our pantry inventory. I could almost see him mentally calculating how many days before our paltry supply of fresh fruit would run out. When I dropped a frozen blueberry on the kitchen floor, Bob rushed to rinse it off so it wouldn’t go to waste. At one point, I swear, I saw him hide a couple of oranges in the hall closet. Then, the final straw for him, Bob’s breaking point, was when he watched me use up the last of the dried cranberries in my morning oatmeal. He huffily accused me of being exactly like that one guy from the movie Unbroken. When they’re stuck in the life raft adrift at sea and one of the soldiers sneakily eats all of the remaining food in one shot while the others are asleep.

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I thought this a rather unfair accusation since the plow had essentially reached our front door by this point and a trip to the grocery store was imminent. Bob has intimated he will hold a grudge.

Now that the storm has passed, our driveway has been cleared and a bit of sanity, clear-thinking and citrus fruit has returned to the house, I feel like we can all benefit from reviewing what worked and what went wrong in this past weather event.

Obviously, the need for a significant stockpile of cookies should be the main takeaway.

Double Digits

Ten years ago this week, we brought a brand new baby Henry home from the hospital. Childbirth is one of those unique time stamp events you can pick pieces of from your memory with precision.

Ten years ago this very evening, Bob and I drove to the hospital after eating spaghetti for dinner.

Ten years ago this very morning, I woke up in labor and delivery with contractions.

Ten years ago this very afternoon, Bob went to eat lunch in the hospital cafeteria at the worst possible moment.

Ten years ago right this minute, Henry was born.

So many memories from the past decade of parenting have blurred together, a hazy hodgepodge of details, but the memories of the birth of my children remain large, like skyscrapers sticking up through the fog.

Henry was born by cesarean section after about 36 hours of increasingly unproductive labor. The long, complicated day that preceded his birth left me exhausted and utterly depleted. I fell asleep right on the operating table the minute I knew he had arrived safely. The first family photograph we have was taken in the surgery suite and just behind Bob, who is seen proudly holding a swaddled and slightly forsaken looking Henry, is me, asleep, my glasses askew.

I remember having absolutely no idea what to do with Henry once he finally arrived. My rather extensive babysitting experience accrued between the ages of twelve and sixteen proved surprisingly useless at thirty. Well, in every other baby-related area besides diaper changing. I knew exactly how to change Henry’s diaper. But, that was about it.

When a nurse popped in to check on the two of us that very first morning we were together, I commented that Henry had been fussing.

She looked at the two of us and asked, “Is he hungry? When was the last time you fed him?”

“Oh, right,” I sheepishly replied. “When am I supposed to start doing that?”

Right away. The answer is right away.

When I was finally able to climb out of my hospital bed, several hours after Henry’s birth, I relocated to a rocking chair in the room and Bob handed me Henry to cuddle. Having only seen him swaddled in a striped hospital blanket, I was eager to take a look at him. I wanted to really meet this little boy that was already changing everything. I remember unwrapping his blanket – just like you would a present – and peering in wonderment at his little toes and hands and knobby knees. Realizing with equal parts amazement and fear that he was finally here.

By the last evening of our hospital stay, I was already on the mend and we were beginning to find our groove with Henry’s care. We settled in after dinner to watch Washington play their final football game of the season. There we were, me in my hospital bed, Bob sitting in the recliner next to me, Henry swaddled and tucked into the bed between us. Our little family of three.

I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, this is it. We’ve done it. Here’s how it all begins. Here’s how the story starts.”

I’m not sure how much more of Henry’s story I’ll tell here. He is ten now and seems deserving of greater privacy. He is getting older and I can already see that the changes have begun.

A baby, a toddler, a young child, they’ll tell you exactly how they’re feeling. Every minute of every day, they make themselves known. But, after a decade of knowing just exactly how Henry is feeling – a decade of knowing everything about him – I can see him starting to pull away ever so gently. Keeping more of his thoughts, feelings and emotions to himself. Increasingly cognizant of the way others perceive him. Trying on sarcasm and new kinds of humor. Asking tough questions. Thinking about big ideas and concepts. All amazing things and all things I could never have imagined the day of his birth in 2005.

My newborn has grown up.

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