Bambi Meets Snowzilla

(In case you’re wondering, the “Bambi” referred to in the title is ALL OF THE DC AREA.)

It snowed this weekend. I don’t know if you heard.

EVERYTHING shut down. It was amazing. The farthest I ventured from my house so far this weekend is four houses down to rescue my children on their return from sledding and I fell down twice and had to go inside and sit down after I was done. It is a SCENE out there.

It’s difficult to really show the magnitude of this snowfall because all the photos I took just look like us standing pathetically in a lumpy white landscape.

Photo of me in winter gear standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than my shoulders.

I made a hill.

Photo of Alex standing in a partially shovelled driveway, with heaps of snow piled along the side.

Alex made a whole series of hills.

And then it snowed for ten more hours.

Happily, we didn’t lose power all weekend, which, frankly, was just about the only thing I really cared about. The thought of hanging out through days of no heat sounded horrifying. I’m also grateful that no trees fell on my house.

Photo of my backyard covered in snow. On the far left, you can see the treehouse, still triumphantly up in the tree.

And the treehouse is still standing!

At one point on Saturday, Alex and I were busy shoveling and we sent the munchkins down the street and around the corner to the sledding hill. They didn’t last long.

Quinn reappeared first as a black dot way down the street. He got bigger and louder as he approached, but happily, he wasn’t crying. He actually seemed to be in pretty good cheer, which was a nice surprise. “One of my legs isn’t working!” he shouted. Then he fell down. “There goes the other one!”

Photo of a field of white snow, with a small black dot of Quinn approaching. He's falling over.

(Click to embiggen.) This photo perfectly exemplifies the verb “to trudge.”

Most people hadn’t shoveled their sidewalks yet, so the going was pretty tough. We cleared ours early. It was fun to watch kids walking to and from the sledding hill discover the sidewalk path. We were definitely the best house to walk past.

Sam and Jack had a tougher time making it home. Quinn had left Sam in charge of bringing home all three sleds and an extremely bummed out Jack. I noticed them slogging along together waaaay down the street. They were kind of blurry blobs. Then the bigger blurry blob picked up the smaller one and started to carry him. That’s when I knew there was trouble.

Photo of Sam carrying Jack, cradled in his arms. It's really hard to see though.

It’s hard to see that Sam has Jack cradled like a baby here. It was impressive, if short-lived.

By the time I reached them, Jack had lost a shoe and was lying in the snow crying because he couldn’t feel his foot. All said, it was a reasonable reaction. Also, the fact that Sam didn’t just leave Jack to fend for himself speaks very highly of him.

They didn’t leave the house again for a very long time.

Thank God there was sun today (coincidentally, Sunday). Also confused cats.

Photo of Sharky looking at the back sliding door, where snow is piled up against it.

Sharky: “Something is different, but I just can’t quite put my paw on it.”

When I looked out the window and saw that the street had finally been plowed, I was delighted.

Photo taken from second floor of my house of the very snowy street in front of my house. The road is plowed.

Do you see that beautiful flat road? That means access to the outside world.

Or so I thought. See that area at the end of the driveway between the two piles of snow? That’s, like, three-foot deep snow that had to be cleared. And sadly, it turns out that Alex and I are the adults in the situation and there was no one but us who was going to shovel it.

The munchkins fought their way out of the driveway and then took a much easier walk down the plowed road to the sledding hill while Alex and I chipped away at the snow.

Photo of Alex standing in the driveway next to almost waist high snow. The driveway is partially shoveled.

I was the first to battle my way out.

Sadly, however, one path that required a long step over a pile of ice chunks wasn’t going to release the car. So Alex and I kept at it, shovelful by shovelful, each of which had to be hurled over our quickly growing piles.

Me standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than me.

We made our pile bigger.

Our children eventually came back from sledding. Sam disappeared inside and Quinn made some microwave popcorn only to reappear twenty minutes later with the demand, “Mom! Make me an igloo!”

It must be nice to be ten and oblivious.

(I didn’t make him an igloo.)

Jack stuck around and helped us by chiseling away at the icy crust on the pile and throwing snowballs at me from his perch on top of our new hills.

Photo of Jack leaning over the top of a snowbank.

He’s lucky he’s cute.

It only took Alex and I a couple of hours to clear the driveway, remove the car’s snow hat, and make sure the car could back up out of its snow nest. Earlier in the day, I had wondered if I could put on my Yaktrax and go for a run in the streets. Now I just want to sit on the couch for the rest of my life and enjoy the thought that if I wanted to, I could go somewhere.

Screenshot of a facebook post of mine, which is a photo of Alex with arms up in celebration after I made it to the street. The caption reads "WE'RE FREE!!! WE MADE A HOLE TO THE STREET!!"

For the record, I don’t want to.

Christmas Prep, 14 Years Later

Fourteen years ago, Sam was two months old and Alex and I were looking to do Santa right. We spent significant brain power making sure that he had the best first visit with Santa possible. We checked with all the parents we knew to find out which Santa was The Best Santa and we ended up driving, like, an hour away to a mall where we had heard that The Best Santa worked.

We dressed Sam in a powder blue one-piece sweater and coordinated our visit with his naptime to ensure the best possible photo.

I wish I had the photo handy. It was adorable.

Also, that visit was pretty much meaningless to Sam.

This past weekend, we stopped our three visibly dirty children in the middle of a front-lawn wrestle match to stuff them in the car and take them to Santa, complete with dirt stains and twigs in their hair.

Things change.

Photo of my three kids sitting on Santa's lap. It's an okay photo.

It’s cute, but not powder blue sweater onesie cute.

It’s a trip to think of everything that has changed over the past fourteen years. One of those changes is definitely a willingness to let little things like perfection in Santa photos go.

In addition to our annual visit to Santa last weekend, we also made our annual visit to the local rescue squad that sells us our Christmas tree. Because we like to do things wrong, we arrived at the tree lot well before they opened for the day.

Fortunately, there was an EMT there who was more than happy to give us a tour of their trucks and explain all of the gear and medicines and also how drug dealers really don’t care about their customers.

It was totally awesome.

Photo of the interior of an ambulance. All three of my kids sit inside, focused on someone talking outside of the frame. Jack is buckled into one of the seats.

Jack explored every part of that ambulance that he was allowed to.

The kiddos also killed some time by hiding in the trees, which they tend to do every year.

Photo of Christmas tree greenery. Quinn's face is partially obscured behind a lot of it.

I swear that I take this same photo every year. I guess some things don’t change.

Naturally our tree was far too big for our limited corner space, but oh so very beautiful.

Photo of a decorated Christmas tree. Alex is holding Jack up in his arms so he can put the star on top of the tree.

My kids outdo themselves decorating it every year.

Things change, yes, but I think they’re getting ever better.

Still Alive!

Who is the motherfucking managing editor around here? Whoever it is has fallen down on the job, that’s all I have to say. November 4th? The last post was November 4th?

Shocking.

I don’t like that it has been so long. I hope to get back to a more regular posting schedule. I think it is mostly a matter of getting back in the habit and also figuring out how to use my laptop on my actual lap instead of at a desk, which is where I’ve always written before but where I spend far less time than I used to.

Anywho. I figured that since I’ve been away so long, I’d catch you up on stuff. Let’s see… Well, it’s December; how did that sneak up on us? We spent the Thanksgiving weekend decorating the outside of our house for Christmas because Alex says it’s less depressing to come home from work late at night when there is a festive deer and candy canes outside. I’m not sure what that says about his attitude about seeing us after a long day, but I’m not going to look at that too hard.

Photo of the outside of my house at night. there are lit up icicles, candy canes, a deer, and multi colored lights.

Look how preeeetttty!

As for Thanksgiving itself, we had a lovely day. We hung out and ate and we had a five-legged turkey.

Photo of a turkey that has five legs.

Did you know that you can buy EXTRA turkey legs? You should do it.

We call it a beetle turkey. It eliminates a lot of screaming at the Thanksgiving dinner table due to the traditional 3:2 children:turkey legs ratio.

Alex’s mom visited that weekend. Check out what she brought with her:

Five small cat figurines painted to look exactly like our cats.

THEY ARE OUR CATS!

These are amazing. She totally nailed all of their markings. Incredible.

So that’s Thanksgiving. What else?

Jack’s play is this weekend. I am so proud of him. He originally had two nonspeaking parts in the play, but at some point, the teacher eliminated the scene in which he had his bigger part, so now he has a veeeerrry small part somewhere in act two. But you know what Jack has done? He has spent HOURS at rehearsal. He has done so with good cheer and enthusiasm. He is ready to perform and I could not be more proud of him.

He has definitely struggled a little and I’m actually more than a little bit annoyed about some of the ways things have gone down over the past couple of months, but none of it is on Jack. He is a motherfucking champion. I’m so lucky he’s my kid. I’ll let you know how the play goes. I haven’t decided if I want to or should write about the stuff that’s pissed me off—most of it is how non-inclusive after school activities really are in practice—but I will absolutely come back and post photos of how awesome my kid is.

Sam is busy preparing for a test he has to take to get into the high school program he wants to attend. He’s also preparing for the three band concerts he has next week. The next seven or eight days are going to be pretty intense.

Quinn is doing pretty well. He has his ups and downs, but he is producing art like this:

A drawing of a cat wearing a black body suit, I think. There is a sash with a mustache on it and the cat seems to be wearing a fez.

Quinn’s imagination kinda rocks.

So, all in all, pretty all right.

Are we caught up? Am I properly chastised for my absence from this page? Are we all wishing Jack to break a leg this weekend? Okay then, I will see you soon!

Happy Birthday, Sam! Thanks for the Excuse to Glamorize the Cat!

I have been 100% remiss in wishing my very favorite teenager a happy 14th birthday on this here blog.

So, happy birthday, Sam!

Photo of Sam blowing out the candles on a Hello Kitty-themed cake. Jack and Quinn are in the background.

It’s like he’s middle aged; look at the fire from all those candles!

For the first time in his young life, we had to celebrate on not-his-birthday because he had a two-hour concert band rehearsal on the actual day and it seemed like a bummer to try to cram his whole birthday celebration into the hour and a half between when he got home from school and the time he went to practice so instead we feted him two days early on a Sunday when there was time for gifts and video games and watching the newest Avengers movie on DVD and going to dinner and still fitting in non birthday-related chores.

Per usual, Sam got some very lovely and thoughtful gifts from his family, but I am here to tell you about my favorite gift that he got, incidentally, from me.

It relates to this animal right here:

Photo of a black cat sitting on the edge of a wooden table.

This is Ruby. She belongs to Sam. She is a total goofball.

Remember when I commissioned a painting of Quinn’s cat and the rest of the family erupted in jealousy? Well, now it was Sam’s turn to live on happy street.

Photo of Sam looking at something in a frame. He is grinning. You only see the back of the frame.

This is him holding his portrait of Ruby that he has just unwrapped.

You want to see the portrait, don’t you? I know you do. Well, that is perfect, because I really want to show you.

Photo of a painting of the cat from the first picture in the post.

OH MY GOD I LOVE IT SO MUCH I ALMOST CAN’T BREATHE WHEN I LOOK AT IT.

The artist totally captured the goofballiness, didn’t she? Also, I should mention that you can find said artist on Etsy and I highly recommend that you do, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t make her so very busy that she can’t paint a picture of Starfire for Jack for Christmas.

Photo of hands trying to force a the cat from the painting to look at the painting. She will not.

There was only one harsh critic of the paining and that was Ruby. She did NOT want to be photographed next to it. (Did I mention that in addition to being a goofball, she is also a grumpball?)

Happy birthday, Sam! Happy portrait day, Ruby!

Treehouse Master

I don’t know if it was four years ago or five that Jack first started asking for a treehouse in the backyard. To my surprise, Alex was all, “Sure, Jack! I can build one for you!” He also said a lot of things about getting it done in a weekend, but the fact that he agreed to make one at all was the truly astonishing thing.

Then we waited and waited and waited and Jack kept asking and Alex kept insisting that he was going to build one and then we moved and we were glad that we didn’t build one at the old house and then every time we drove past a treehouse, Jack would say, “Why do they get a treehouse and we don’t?” and then we waited a little more.

Finally, late this past summer, Alex announced that it was finally time. He made a shopping list, stuffed us all into our van, and dragged us out to the first of many trips to Home Depot to buy lumber.

Photo of Alex and Sam putting a long 4x4 piece of wood on a cart.

We had a very strict Home Depot separation of labor: Alex and Sam did most of the heavy lifting, Jack sat on the cart, Quinn laid on the floor, and I took photos. That’s me, always sacrificing for the greater good.

It was fun to get started buying our supplies as a family. There was a wrinkle though.

Guess how many people can fit in a Chrysler Town & Country filled with a bunch of six- to 12-foot pieces of lumber?

Answer: two.

Guess how many people are in my family?

Answer: three more than two.

Guess which of us had to sit in the nearby Five Guys and grumble at each other while the other two took the lumber home?

Answer: Those of us not involved in most of the heavy lifting.

Alex had a plan to build the treehouse and fasten it to the tree. He started by attaching a brace to the tree and constructing a base. I helped nail the base together. Then Alex took out my crooked nails and re-hammered them in correctly.

Photo of Alex standing next to a tree. There is a triangle of wood attached to the tree and the frame of a base on the ground next to him. He looks vaguely annoyed.

See that vaguely annoyed look on his face? He wore that for the next week, especially when I said things like, “Are you sure this is how we’re supposed to do it?” and “Maybe we should have used a different screw,” and “Are treehouses supposed to be that wobbly?”

Even though Alex had the worst, fair-weather assistants in me and the munchkins, he still managed to maintain his sense of humor.

Alex standing at the tree, using a measuring tape to measure from the ground to the top of the brace on the tree.

Alex, measuring what needs to be a pretty precise measurement: “This is a cubit.” Not everyone can build a treehouse using cubits and smidgens.

Building the base was all well and good, except you have to build it on the ground, then position it in its spot in the tree to figure out where to dig your post holes. That means you have to figure out a way to hold the base in the tree without posts while you’re figuring out where those posts go. And that base is heeeeaaaavy.

Our treehouse plans suggested you have three people hold up the base while another person figures out where the posts go. Looking at our little family, we just couldn’t make that math work. So Alex and I recruited a slightly too short ladder to act as one of our people, forced Sam to help, and tried to move as fast as possible.

Once we figured out where we wanted the post holes, we rested the base on the ladder as we used every tool we could find to dig in the hard, hard ground.

Photo of treehouse base propped in a tree by resting on a ladder. Alex is digging a post hole. Sam is walking underneath in a cringing fashion.

There was a lot of screeching of “DO NOT WALK UNDER THE TREEHOUSE!!!!!!!”

Once the base was attached to the posts, things got easier. I mean, not in terms of our marriage suffering from me insisting that the structure was too wobbly and him insisting that I just shut the fuck up already. (He turned out to be right. Go figure.)

The whole family helped build the treehouse. Some helped more than others.

Photo of Jack digging with a shovel and Quinn chipping at a rock with a pickaxe.

Good job digging random holes in the yard, Jack and Quinn.

Actually, Jack was really into the whole thing and helped quite a bit. Quinn, less so. He really enjoyed that pickax though.

I won’t bore you with all the details of our exact process and our million trips to Home Depot and all of the curse words we used, but suffice it to say, we eventually ended up with a house-shaped structure attached to a tree.

Alex standing in front of the frame of a treehouse in the tree.

It is just a skeleton, but it is a treehouse skeleton.

Not everyone in the house understood why we were doing what we were doing.

Photo from outside the house of two kittens inside a sliding glass door looking outside at the saws and wood on the back porch.

Kittens: “We have a perfectly cromulent house already standing. Why are you doing all this work to build that tiny house in a tree?”

It got a little sketchy when Alex had to climb to the very top of a tall ladder to hammer in some of the siding and to put the shingles on the roof.

Photo of Alex on a ladder using a hammer. He looks worried.

I took this photo from my safe vantage point in the treehouse. He was in a much sketchier position on a ladder fifteen feet in the air. That’s his “I don’t want to die” face.

Photo of Alex at the bottom of a tall ladder. He is making a grouchy face at me.

This is Alex’s “stop making jokes about my imminent death” face.

I gotta tell you, building a treehouse is a tremendous amount of work. And it turns out that all the lumber is super pricey. AND you might end up near divorce if you try to build one. But you just might make your inspiration for building the damn thing super happy.

Photo of Jack giving a thumbs up while standing inside the treehouse.

That thumbs up was five years in the making.

It turns out that even though I took seventeen million photos of the building of the treehouse, I neglected to take one from the outside once it was done and it’s dark right now and I don’t want to go outside to take one, so I have to use this one that my mom took as we were finishing up the roof.

Photo of the treehouse with railings and stairs. Alex is on the balcony on a ladder nailing shingles to the roof. I am sitting on the stairs looking at my phone.

And, yes, I do mean WE. Sure, Alex is doing the heavy lifting here, but I was making sure everyone on Facebook knew of our progress, which was almost as important.

We’re Team Stimey, so we had to christen the thing with doughnut breakfast.

Three photos of us in the treehouse eating doughnuts. One is of Sam in the doorway, one is a selfie of me and Jack, and one is a photo of Quinn.

Not only is the treehouse stable, but it can fit a surprising number of people.

Sadly, we had said christening while Alex was at work. Being the dad can be a thankless job. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank him.

Photo taken from the treehouse platform of Alex on the ground. He is waving. He looks adorable.

Thank you, Alex. You did SO much work. The treehouse is amazing. Our kids are so lucky. I hope they truly understand that. Excellent job, sir. Thank you.

Go!

School went very well today. I am super proud of all three of my kids.

Here is where I would normally post photos of them on the first day, but I forgot (FORGOT!) to take photos, so instead I’m going to give you some drawings. I gave my kids a daily schedule when I worked this summer—a schedule that included art time. I have a whole series of blog posts planned featuring the art created then, and today I will start with what I had them draw the last day Sam babysat for me over the summer.

I told them to draw pictures of themselves at school.

The fact that they’d been doing art all summer and were tired of it may have something to do with the haphazard writing and drawing, but they still pretty accurately capture what my kids think of school.

For example, Sam considers school to be little other than a venue to create music.

A drawing labeled "practice room." It is a crudely drawn stick figure playing a bassoon that is taller than himself.

I like that the bassoon is 18 feet tall.

Quinn, quite obviously, was in denial about the whole thing,

Photo of a giant cat head next to a small stick figure labeled "me." The caption says "cat school.'

Welcome to the terrifying school of enormous cats. Quinn is apparently the dean.

My kids evidently have some difficulty with drawing to scale.

Aaaand then there is Jack. Jack’s art made me worried that he is planning some sort of shenanigans at his school.

Photo of a school building. A boot is sticking out of the door, kicking a person, presumably Jack, out of the door.

Let’s hope that Jack’s vision of being kicked out of school is aspirational rather than prophetic.

Reality may be nothing like their drawings (except in Sam’s case), but so far, so good.

(KNOCK ON WOOD.)

Ready…Set…

Photo of Sam standing in the school supplies section of Target. There is a pencil-shaped sign above his head that says "school shop."I am writing this the day before I send my kids back to school. We just put them in bed. Alex literally just said to Sam, “You can read 30 minutes of Euclid before you have to turn out your light.” I don’t understand either of those gentlemen. The other two are discussing Super Mario. Them, I get.

So, school. On the one hand, I am going to miss my kids when they’re at school. We had a lot of fun this summer and I’ve really enjoyed getting mass quantities of time with them. On the other, more important hand, I am going to have two days at home every single week without ANYONE to ask me for stuff, to drag along on errands, or to break up fights between.

I was a little worried about the start of school, especially for Quinn, because about halfway through summer he started dropping to the ground and erupting in sobs anytime I mentioned it, but I spent a couple of weeks supersaturating him in the idea of school in an effort to desensitize him to his distress. It seems to be working. KNOCK ON WOOD.

We did the bulk of our school shopping last week, when I dragged the munchkins to the mall for shoes, pants, and school supplies shopping. In retrospect, it might have been a mistake to try to do everything in one trip.

Photo of my three kids at the casheir in Target. Sam, in the background, looks pained. Jack is staring off into space. Qunn is in the foreground, collapsed onto the counter.

I posted this photo on Facebook and it turns out that we weren’t the only family to be entirely undone by back-to-school shopping.

Since then, we’ve been doing things to prepare for tomorrow, but it all really kicked into gear today because we are nothing if not procrastinators. I spent some time with each kid today setting up their binders for school.

Photo of Sam drawing a cat on the outside of his binder.

Part of this was the important task of decorating said binders, mostly with photos and drawings of cats.

Did I mention that we are procrastinators? We also spent part of the day finishing up summer homework packets.

Photo of Jack writing on a worksheet.

This is Jack writing about what her learned from his 300-page, adult-level chapter book that he finished last week. Like a boss.

Sharky helped us with our work.

Photo of Sharky the cat sitting on the table in a pile of school supply packaging. He's chewing on some paper.

And by “helped,” I mean, “caused as much trouble as possible.”

I also had to complete a project for Quinn. Quinn and I went to visit his school last Thursday to meet his teachers before open house. (We also went back on Friday for open house. See: supersaturation) When we were there, we discovered that both of his teachers are cat people. One of them showed us a photo of her late cat, which she’d made into a magnet.

*bing!* *lightbulb!*

As you may have noticed, Quinn’s cats are very comforting to him. Last year I put photos of his cats in his binder. But, for some bizarre reason, Quinn has a locker this year (he’s in 5th grade). After seeing his teacher’s cat magnet and the metal lockers, one of which he will be assigned, Quinn and I agreed that we’d make magnets of his cats.

Thus began the search for suitable photos, followed by printing, cutting, laminating, cutting, gluing, cutting, and eventually showing Quinn the finished product, which, if I do say so myself, is fucking amazing.

Photo of magnets on a fridge. Five are of cats and one is of Quinn.

I made a Quinn magnet, so he could be surrounded by his furry buddies.

We’ve bought lunch food and written down bus route numbers, we’ve attached emergency house keys to backpacks, and I have bravery M&Ms on standby in case Quinn needs some encouragement to get on the bus.

Let’s hope things go well and that the three munchkins have a good start to the school year.