A Snowcabulary Lesson

This is a special service to my friends and family down south, who are evidently buried under 21 inches of fresh snow today.

Drawing on my personal snow experience that has accumulated over 14 Minnesota winters, I’ve compiled this brief snowcabulary list of seven snow-related words — complete with pictures of course!

1. dirty snow: (noun) older snow that has turned any color other than white — usually gray, brown or yellow

Dirty snow is not pleasant to behold, and it often causes Minnesotans to wish for some bright new snow, just to freshen things up again. 

2. black snow: (noun) snow that has been blackened by roadway contaminants; usually found along roadsides

We love snow plows, but they do tend to create heaps of black snow along the highways, not to mention the enormous mountains of black snow they pile up in parking lots.  

3. snow booger: (noun) a large clump of black snow that collects on the bottom of your vehicle as you drive

Hanging down and frozen to the underside of vehicles, snow boogers seem to defy gravity. Heartily kicking snow boogers off your vehicle helps vent any dirty, frustrated feelings you may have collected toward winter weather.

4. clean driveway: (noun) a driveway with at least 40% visible concrete

When it’s mid February, and you haven’t seen the grass since early November, and you’ve worn your snow shovel and snow blower to nubs, you lower your standards. You just accept those especially stubborn sheets of icy, snowy stuff that clutter up an otherwise “clear” driveway. You just pray they’ll melt on their own sometime in May.

5. death trap: (noun) an area where thick, relentlessly stubborn sheets of ice gang up with sharp, pointy icicles overhead and ruthlessly threaten to send innocent bystanders to the emergency room

  

The area in front of our third garage stall is a death trap. Areas like this are the primary reason you can still find Christmas lights up in late March. Nobody wants to climb a ladder here!

6. light-cicles: (noun) Christmas lights that have been vandalized by monstrous icicles

Light-cicles are the secondary reason you can still find Christmas lights up in late March. The intertwining mess begs for a meltdown.

7. snow-verwhelming: (adjective) laden with snow; characteristic of something that has been drastically transformed by accumulated snow 

This snow-verwhelming bush is an excellent tool for elevating young climbers. Never mind what I said about Christmas lights in March; I think my 8-year-old can probably reach to pull them off the house.

And while she’s out there, I think I’ll have her dust the tree tops — just for good measure.

Enjoy your snow-verwhelming weather down south, and don’t drive anywhere!

Snow Much Fun

To celebrate some reading accomplishments and our Minnesota heatwave — it was 31 degrees — we spent a few hours sledding this afternoon. My girls sled quite often on our neighborhood hill, but it’s rare for Michael and I to go sledding with them. When we do, we usually go to this ball field and take our sledding tube along — which makes it extra special fun for the girls.

Here’s a little slideshow of our joy rides. 

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7 Snow Survival Secrets from a Southerner-turned-Northerner

Dear Friends and Family in Snowklahoma,

I hear y’all down south. Some of you are calling it “snowmageddon” or “snowpocalypse.” That’s cute. It’s really a blizzard down there in Oklahoma — and elsewhere!

Having been an Oklahoman the first 22 years of my life, I sympathize with you. Really, I do. No matter where you live, temperatures below 10 degrees accompanied by 16 or more inches of snow in a short period of time are certainly cause for excitement. And that’s especially true when you just had a lovely 75 degree day earlier this week. Such a change in weather is quite shocking, no doubt.

So, as you sit trapped at home, sipping hot beverages, checking Facebook (again) and trying to decide whether to clean your closets or bake cookies, know that I am thinking of you.

And maybe you’re thinking about me, too? Maybe your crazy, record-breaking blizzard makes you wonder just how any native Oklahoman could possibly survive 5 minutes up here in the Frozen Tundra of Minnesota.

Well, somehow I have survived 13 Minnesota winters — practically every winter of my adult life! I’m still not sure how I have survived thus far, or if I will even survive this brutal, record-breaking winter we’ve been having here. But I do have a few secrets to share. These probably won’t help you in your current snowpocalypse conditions, but should you ever consider moving north, you will most certainly need to re-visit this list.

1. Get acquainted with a really good snow shovel. Even if you have a strong, energetic young husband who prefers to handle the job himself, he will most likely be on a business trip to Florida when the biggest snowfalls come, leaving you to regularly fend for yourself in the driveway. So, befriend your resident snow shovel and always keep track of its whereabouts. You will need to use it someday. Unless you live in a neighborhood that provides snow removal as part of your association dues. In which case, you will need a shovel anyway because the your neighborhood will inevitably be last on the snow removal guy’s route.

2. Stay on good terms with your neighbors and share some of your famous baked goods with them. Some of the really macho neighbor guys love to use their snowblowers and will occasionally compete to see who can get your driveway cleared first before you even notice it has snowed. If you can determine who to thank, it is appropriate to reward them with more baked goods.

3. Try to think kindly of snow plow drivers. Yes, their enormous orange plows create a deep ridge of chunky gray snow at the end of your driveway, which frustrates you and traps you at home even though you just spent a full hour shoveling snow in subzero weather. But really, they are only trying to clear the streets and highways so you can get to your destination easier. They are a priceless fleet of hard-working folks, and you simply cannot get to the grocery store without them.

4. Invest in a down parka with a hood. What I used to call a “coat” in Oklahoma is really only a lightweight jacket here in Minnesota.  For winter, you seriously need something substantial from The North Face, Patagonia or Columbia. But keep your jacket; you’ll need it frequently in late spring, early fall and maybe even on the 4th of July.

5. Learn to tie a scarf. As an Oklahoman, I always thought scarves were dorky and useless because we only wore them on the outside of the jacket collar. As a Minnesotan, I have learned that wearing a warm scarf tied snuggly around my neck increases my body temperature by about 42 degrees, and even more so if there’s a breeze. When not in use, my scarf stores nicely in the sleeve of my parka — except when it slips out unexpected and lands in a pile of melting snow on the mudroom floor, thereby sending me into the Anne-of-Green-Gables-like depths of despair and lowering my body temperature by 42 degrees. Perhaps owning two warm scarves is a good idea.

6. Don’t forget to accessorize appropriately. My how-did-I-ever-survive-without-this winter accessories include: my REI hat, Sorel snow boots, Cuddle Duds, Smart Wool socks, Thinsulate-lined leather gloves, and flannel sheets. Okay, maybe flannel sheets are not truly an accessory, but how did I ever survive without them?

 

7. Invest in snowpants, too. These are mandatory apparel for all Minnesota school children (they wear them during recess and on the bus because they almost never, ever, ever get a “snow day” off from school). Snowpants probably should be mandatory for adults, too. Most come with an elastic cuff that fits over your snow boots to ensure none of that powdery white stuff sneaks up against your skin. If you want to get any fresh air between November and April, wearing snowpants (along with the parka and accessories mentioned above) will keep you quite comfortable outdoors for at least 20 minutes, maybe longer if you’re actually able to move while wearing them. (Remember the little kid in A Christmas Story?) You can always add more layers and feel warm outside. Unless of course the wind is blowing. In which case you should just return the snowpants, parka and accessories mentioned above and use the money to buy a one-way ticket to anywhere in Mexico.

Stay warm!

Signed,

Starlight Writer, a Southerner-turned-Northerner

More Piles of White Stuff

As the snow continues to pile up in frightfully large amounts outside — they say it’s the snowiest December on record here in Minnesota — the girls and I are making some additional piles of white stuff in the kitchen. You know, piles of flour and powdered sugar and sparkling sugar sprinkles…

Ahh, sugar cookies. Michael and I had mixed up the dough last night, so it was nice and chilled this morning. The girls and I started rolling out the dough mid-morning, and I don’t think we stopped until nearly 3 p.m.! Whew! 

It’s been nearly two years since we’ve made sugar cookies, and my children’s decorating skills seem to have progressed noticeably. The funniest thing about today was the red hot cinnamon candies because Laurel kept referring to them as “hot rods.”  Linnea decided that was easier and more fun to say, so all day long it was “hot rod” this and that…

After shoveling in countless cookies topped with buttercream frosting, I put my “sugar rush” to good use by shoveling the entire the driveway. Sadly, the snow was coming down at a rate of one inch per hour, so the driveway was completely white again when Michael drove in from work. At least I still had some sugar cookies left to show for our efforts!

Piles Becoming Mountains

In December, everything seems to come in piles. You know, piles of Christmas cards in the mailbox, piles of presents under the tree, piles of cookies and other baked goods on the kitchen counter. And here in the Frozen Tundra of Minnesota, snow piles up, too. This fall we have piles like I’ve never seen before in the 13 years that I’ve lived here.

 It’s not officially winter yet, but the snow piles are already mountains. We’ve had two snow storms (12 inches each), an ice storm, a blizzard (23 inches last Saturday) plus 8 or 10 inches more just this morning. 

Thankfully, it has warmed up considerably (30 degrees!) so the kids can play outside. Here they are playing in the front yard on the pile of snow that my husband has created simply by clearing off the driveway.

In most places, the pile is taller than my 8-year-old and runs the entire length of the driveway on both sides.

I took this photo as a reference for my Oklahoma friends and family. That’s an Eskimo Joe’s cup sitting in my driveway. I think Stan Clark would be proud, don’t you?

The deep snow in the yard is a little challenging to wade through, but my little Minnesota girls plow right into it anyway.

The other thing that really tends to pile up around this time is laundry. Oh, all the layers we have to wear makes for double or triple the usual amount of dirty clothes! I better go switch another load!

How It Glistens

The fresh snow on our next-door neighbors’ tree this morning — with a little emphasis added — looks so peaceful.

What a snowfall we’ve had in the last 24+ hours. Of course it comes on a weekend already packed with a piano recital, company party, and church dinner — just to name a few activities. Yet somehow we managed to squeeze in a trip to see the movie Tangled, which was wonderful. We all loved it!

Peace to you this weekend!

The Snow Fort

What do you get when you combine 11 inches of surprisingly soupy, fresh snow, one lazy Saturday morning, two energetic girls, one playfully productive dad, and one plastic shoe box?  

A snow fort!

I hestiated to go out in the snow storm with my camera, which did get a little wet. But it was good that I shot these pictures when I did because a few hours later the snow fort collapsed. So sad. We still have several inches of snow on the ground.

And lots of chilly memories!

“I Knew She’d Love it!”

Linnea knew she’d love it!

The middle of January is drawing near, and I am supposed to be writing my Christmas thank-you notes. Actually, by now I think I am supposed to have already mailed my thank-you notes. 

To be exact, I’ve only put off writing my thank yous on paper until now. I’ve written them in my head over and over! I keep pondering the lovely, heartfelt gifts my family and I received this Christmas, and I feel so loved. Of course, I don’t usually write a note for every single gift I receive, especially if I’ve already thanked the gift-giver in person. But you know how it is. Some gifts are given with such love, thoughtfulness and effort, that you simply must express your gratitude thoroughly in writing! 

Anyone who knows me well knows that gift giving is one of my love languages. It’s how I show loved ones that I know them and care for them and treasure them dearly. 

I knew she'd love it!

 

I knew she'd love it!

 

I knew she'd love it!
I knew she'd love it!

 So I suppose the reverse is true to some degree; receiving good gifts is one way I feel loved because it shows that I am known and someone cares for and treasures me, too.

My oldest daughter, Linnea, shares this love language as well. She is constantly giving gifts to me, her father, her sister, and nearly anyone else within reach. She loves to give! And she often gives good gifts: a baby toy for a friend with a new baby, a toy cell phone for her little sister who loves talk and pretend, and a sweet song for her daddy who loves anything musical.  

This Christmas Linnea gave me a beautiful silver bracelet with three shiny silver charms; one says “joy,” which is Linnea’s middle name, another says “hope,” which is Laurel’s middle name, and the third one says, “Mom.” She picked out the charms all by herself, and according to my husband, the store clerk nearly broke down and bawled when Linnea told her the significance of the charms she selected. What a sweetie! 

Also, in her Friday art class, Linnea made me the cutest, most colorful little “pinch pot” with a lid. 

Linnea knew I'd love it!

 

What a treasure! I store my bracelet and earrings in it every night. 

Did you know that giving good gifts is related to the Golden Rule? In fact, Matthew 7:9-12 says, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” 

Ultimately, the greatest Gift-Giver is God. As James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift if from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” 

So in light of that verse, this is my thank-you note to God for some of the good, perfect and memorable gifts He has graciously given me and for which I am ever so thankful. 

Thank You, Father, for these gifts You knew I’d love. Thank You for… 

1. a smile that reveals what she didn’t for Christmas – teeth 

thank You

 

2. Christmas doodling by a 4-year-old who just rediscovered markers 

thank You

 

3. hot tea in a tiny teacup prepared just for me by a very lady-like 7-year-old 

thank You

 

4. groggy hugs just after naptime from a cuddly 4-year-old 

5. cozy storytimes together with a favorite book and two favorite bears 

thank You

 

6. warm, delicious home-cooked meals and uplifting conversations shared with very dear friends in Minnesota and in Iowa 

7. gleeful cries near the Advent Calendar day after day 

8. the feel and fragrance of a carefully selected Balsam Fir 

thank You

 

9. delicate little fingers plinking out “Away in a Manager” on the piano 

thank You

 

1o. little secrets that slip innocently from the lips of a 4-year-old overjoyed about buying a gift for her daddy 

11. little secrets that are broadcast loudly, yet innocently, from the observant lips of a 4-year-old who likes when packages arrive at the door 

thank You

 

12. carefully crafted gifts from the creative hands of a 7-year-old 

thank You

 

13. a deeply heartfelt “Oh, thank you, Mommy!” from a 4-year-old receiving her own copy of a treasured book 

14. the sweet little exchange of gifts between to very loving sisters on Christmas Eve 

thank You

 

15. the giddy, child-like excitement in a grown man receiving the latest accessory for his guitar  

16. the giddy, child-like excitement of a grown man heading off to pull an ice house onto a frozen lake 

17. the sweet creamy taste of homemade chocolate fudge 

18. the glow of Christmas lights crusted over with snow 

thank You

 

19. finding and catching up with very dear old friends who live far, far away 

20. and snow falling on snow falling on snow falling on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and many days thereafter 

thank You

 

I think I hear God saying, “I knew she’d love it!”

It’s not about the fish

Today I am feeling very Minnesotan. I overcame set aside my fear of walking on our frozen lake, and I joined Michael and the girls on this season’s first ice fishing adventure. The girls are veteran ice fishermen fishing chics, having gone out last winter and the winter before as well.  Anyway, here’s the proof that I really was out there.

I went today, for my first time, because I wanted to take pictures and because Michael really, really wanted me to go. He and his buddies recently joined forces to buy the ice house from another buddy who moved away. I haven’t seen Michael this excited since he put the sailboat in the water for the first time!

Trudging through the deep snow to cross to the middle of the lake where our shared ice house sits was especially strange because that’s usually the same part of the lake where we sail our boat in the summer! Only the shoreline doesn’t usually look like this.

“Should we really be doing this?” I kept asking myself. How odd for me to now walk on water, albeit deeply frozen and covered with knee-deep snow in some places.  How odd for me to follow Michael and my children who wore snowpants in lieu of life jackets and rode in a sledding tube instead of a sailboat. 

But the difficulty of maneuvering through the deep snow helped me not think so much about the icy waters below me, and it helped me file those “worse case scenarios” far back in my mind.

Welcome to our home sweet home on the lake!

The ice house culture, I have learned, is really not so much about catching fish. It’s more of a 10-year-old boy’s mentality of escaping to a secret tree house or fort where moms and sisters do not dare to tread. It’s about having a place where normal household rules and expectations do not apply.

It’s about eating too many snacks too close to mealtime, and no one nagging you.

It’s about hanging out with your closest buddies.

It’s about being outside in the fresh cold air.

And the fishing part? Well that  just makes it sound more official, dontcha know?

Today it was good that we packed goldfish crackers as a snack, because those were the only fish we saw. But that didn’t matter. I experienced ice fishing as firsthand as I legally could without a fishing license. I was really intrigued to peer down into the hole and see the lake water.

The sunlight makes such an eery glow in the icy waters.

Lunchtime drew near, so we headed back across the lake toward the marina where our truck was parked.

En route, we crossed paths with the marina owner, who was busy plowing the snow to make the road to one of the villages of ice houses.

 The ice is about 12-inches thick right now, but soon folks will be driving their trucks out to their ice houses. And the next time Michael takes the girls fishing, he will probably drive right up to the ice house. Oh, this mama does not like the thought of her precious babies driving on ice!

But at least all that ice fishing helps them sleep well!

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

We’ve been getting in the Christmas spirit around here. Since returning from our action-packed trip south in November (which I promise to post about later), we have:

played outside in the lightly falling snow,

rode a tractor-drawn wagon to hunt for a tree,

found the perfect tree,

smiled about finding the perfect tree,

lighted the perfect tree,

trimmed the perfect tree,

posed for a photo in front of the tree despite questionable nap hair,

hunted for candy canes,

sipped hot chocolate,

guzzled hot chocolate,

served hot chocolate,

taken a horse-drawn wagon ride, which would have been a sleigh ride if it had been AFTER the blizzard,

gotten all dressed up  to go see Cinderella live at the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis,

endured our first blizzard of the season (sorry, it was way too cold to document with a photograph)

performed “Away in a Manger” on piano at the local nursing home,

and sung “Away in a Manger” for the local nursing home residents.

Whew! It’s no wonder we’re tired!