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Waves of Cold

  • Posted on January 27, 2014 at 10:00 PM

The first time it came, they called it a “polar vortex” and canceled school for two days due to extreme cold. The second time it came, a meteorologist on the news feeds explained what a polar vortex was, why the second one wasn’t one, and why some of the dire reactions to “polar vortex” were wrong. School wasn’t closed, but it was still pretty cold. This time nobody seems to be talking about polar vortexes, but the extreme cold is here and school is again canceled for two days (at least).

These waves of cold are disruptive. The outdoors is dangerously cold, so along with school we’ve canceled any other appointments we have. Instead, we hunker down in our home, where it’s warm and safe. The boys go about their business as if it’s a continuation of the weekend and take the disruption in stride.

This is relatively new. When I was a child, I always celebrate snow days as an unexpected reprieve from school. It wasn’t that I disliked school—at least, most of the time I didn’t. I liked learning well enough and could, usually, tolerate the socialization problems I had at school well enough. But snow days were unexpected holidays. They were like sick days, except without the being sick part, which made them all the more precious. Whether I was bundled up to play outside (which wouldn’t happen in this kind of weather) or cuddled in a chair with a good book, I enjoyed the extra free time.

For years, my children had a very different response to snow days. Whether school was going well or not, they wanted to be there because that’s where they were “supposed” to be. If school was canceled without foreshadowing, well that was unacceptable. Especially, as happened occasionally, if I got them ready for school before I learned that the buses wouldn’t be coming—that was excruciating for everyone involved, namely the boys and I.

Now, they just adapt. They deal with it. They don’t long for snow days the way most kids do, but they tolerate them well enough. I’ll take that!

Winter Is Come

  • Posted on December 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM

All the signs are here.

Snow has fallen, blanketing the ground in temporary white. The snow is likely to stick, but pollutants will soon turn it a sickly gray. I’ve already cleared the way from our door to the bus. I’ll probably do some more shoveling before I’m through, so I can get the van out of the driveway without packing the snow into the cement.

This is the week of finals for my own coursework, which means I’ll be spending the week in a desperate bid to articulate my thoughts on the subject matter I’ve covered over the last fourteen weeks of study. This, too, is a sign that winter is come.

Christmas lingers on the horizon. After finals, I’ll have to start my preparations. The end of this week will be a family Christmas gathering with my husband’s side. Later this month, I’ll be driving up to Milwaukee to pick my brother up from the airport. Right now, however, I’m in denial about how much there’s left to do. This is another sign that winter is come.

And Willy’s counting down the days. Whether he’s eager for winter break or dreading it varies with his moods, but he’s aware that winter break is coming and soon he’ll lose his routine. Meanwhile, Alex and Ben are focusing on Christmas carols and Christmas stories, so they too know the holiday upheaval is coming.

Winter is come and I’m not quite prepared. But it’s here, ready or not.

Change and Predictability

  • Posted on June 5, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Sometimes we know the change is coming. We can plan. I’m big on planning. We can foreshadow. The boys are big on foreshadowing. This is something we can handle.

Sometimes we don’t know the change is coming. Sometimes it just hits. No plan. No foreshadowing. Mark used to describe these situations as duck-and-cover moments.

Lately, we’ve experienced a lot of slow, known changes. Gentle shifts are easy to handle. Some of these are cyclic. The boys like those best.

For example, on school nights Willy usually only gets one reading or it takes too long to get him to bed. On non-school nights Willy gets two or more readings. This helps him to adjust to the change in his routine, because there is a predictable shift in the routine itself.

This is the last week of school for the boys. It’s a predictable change. We are foreshadowing. We are adjusting our plans. And we are building predictable shifts into the changing routines. The boys seem to be looking forward to the end of school. Their routines are shifting and changing, but the predictability of it is familiar and comfortable.

This too is a skill to be cherished.

“The Bus Is Here!”

  • Posted on May 17, 2013 at 10:00 AM

It was Thursday morning, a good seven minutes before Ben’s bus is supposed to arrive. He was still in the tub. It was time to rush…

I don’t have a good relationship with time. You know how there’s those people who always seem to know what time it is, who can even wake themselves up exactly when they need to. I’m like the exact opposite. I can lose track of time easier than I can lose my car keys. And, unlike my car keys, I cannot designate a place to keep time so I always know where it is.

Using Sunday as a guidepost, I managed to make sure I was awake during the day on Monday and again on Tuesday. Tuesday I got flipped and it wasn’t even my fault. Ben refused to go to sleep. Even though he was content to play (almost) quietly in his room, I couldn’t let myself fall asleep. I lay in bed, resting, but the mother in me just couldn’t sleep and leave Ben unsupervised.

In the morning, he was chipper as could be, revving up for his day. I was dead on my feet, canceled my morning appointment, and crashed for a good long while—seven whole hours. By the time I woke up, I’d completely forgotten that it was Wednesday. So, that night, as I pushed to get the boys into bed so I could get some work done, I forgot all about their baths. I didn’t even dawn on me after the boys grew rather grumbly about going to bed. It’s not like either Alex or Ben would come out and say, “Hey, Mom! We can’t go to bed yet, because it’s Wednesday and we want our baths! We love our baths!” Nope, they were simply uncooperative and resistant, because I was doing it wrong.

It wasn’t until about two o’clock in the morning that I figured it out. So, I planned to do their baths first thing in the morning. I’d be awake, and they usually woke up early enough that we could do baths as long as I didn’t let them linger.

Alex’s bath went off without a hitch. He wasn’t nearly so grumbly about this change in routine. After all, he loves the water. Ben’s bath seemed to go fine…until the bus showed up seven minutes early. I really need to get me one of those internal clock thingamajees.


  • Posted on December 7, 2012 at 9:00 AM

As the weekend comes around again, I very much want to avoid what happened last weekend. Last Saturday night, Willy didn’t take his anti-seizure medicine. He didn’t take it Sunday morning either. Late Sunday afternoon, I checked, and made him take a dose right then, and then pushed back his evening dose. But that means he still missed a dose.

While he didn’t seem to have any seizures, it’s still a risk with every missed/delayed dose. The problem is that routine is a key factor in remembering to take it, and our weekend routines are rather muddled.

We need to get a good non-school day routine in place to make sure that we stay on top of this. I’ve never been very good at the whole medicine regimen thing, but this is too important to muff up. And Winter Break is coming.

Alex’s (Mis)Adventure

  • Posted on May 13, 2010 at 1:32 AM

Today was a big day.  I had quite the adventure planned for Alex.  We were going to try something new!  So, with great enthusiasm, I loaded Alex into the car.  And off we went!

We got about seven blocks from our house and stopped at a stoplight.  The light turned green and I pressed the gas to start into my turn.  The radio flickered and died.  Oh, great, I thought, now I’m going to have to find a way to replace the radio!  Stupid car.  Then—before we’d even moved—the rest of the car died.

With an inaudible sigh, the car just stopped.  I figured the engine stalled.  It’s happened before.  So, I turned the key.

Not even a sputter.  I mean nothing happened.  The car was dead.

So, thinking it might help, I turned everything off, and tried again.  Nothing.  Not a thing.

Being the car-savvy person I am, I hit the dashboard and told it, “You’ve got to start!”  I turned the key.  The car—thinking hard as cars do on bitter, cold Wisconsin mornings (which this wasn’t)—considered turning on.  The gas gauge flew from an 1/8th of a tank to a ½ a tank.  The bad lights that say the car needs a doctor flashed on.  For a moment, I thought the car had decided I was right.  The car was going to spark and perform a rumbling imitation of good health.  Then, with an almost audible sigh, it died.  The gas gauge, the lights, and all of it turned off.

By now, the people behind me figured out I wasn’t going anywhere.  They moved around me.  By now, Alex figured out we weren’t going anywhere.  He started fussing and bouncing in his seat belt.  He didn’t like this whole stopped-in-the-middle-of-the-road-with-a-car-that-won’t-go bit at all.  To tell the truth, neither did I.

Across the street I saw a car repair shop.  It seemed like my best guess, so I found the hazards (which were a bit off-center and up, considering I was just starting to turn when the car died) and flipped them on.  Then, I got out and let Alex out.  No, he said in his non-verbal way, you do not get out of the car when it’s in the middle of the road.  You don’t.  You make the car go!

But we did get out.  We crossed the street on foot.  Alex protested the whole way.  He continued his protest as I asked the nice gentlemen at the mechanic shop for assistance.  He continued his protest as we walked back to the car.  And when these fine gentlemen started pushing the car, of all the wrong-est of wrong things to do, he really let me have it, telling me in no uncertain terms that I was not supposed to let wrong, confusing, unscheduled events like this happen.

Cars go.  Mom drives.  The car does not die in the middle of the road.  Strangers do not push the car.  This is not how things work.  As the mom I should know this.  But push it they did—right into the mechanics’ parking lot.

Alex calmed down as he waited in the car and the men looked underneath the hood.  He calmed down further as they hooked the car up to a charger that whirred and purred.  You see, waiting inside a car that is parked in a parking lot is allowed.  This is how things are done.  You park in a parking lot, not in the road.  After a little while with no more deviations, Alex became quite content with his circumstances and even came up to the front of our minivan to sit on my lap.  Of course, we had to be buckled up, the two of us together, because you wear your seat belt in the car even if the car is stopped.

Turns out our alternator was not doing its alternating thing.  It’s supposed to go round and round at high speed, feeding juice into our battery.  It went round and round.  It even went at high speed.  But it wasn’t sending as much juice to the battery as the car was sucking out.  So, the battery died.  The kind servicemen charged my battery, gave me a quote on replacing the alternator, and sent us on our merry way.  Alex was quite pleased to see the car go as cars should.  He was blissful as we parked in our driveway and got out.  This was quite a trip, and he was more than satisfied with his adventure, though it wasn’t the one I’d planned.

All’s well that ends with a happy, things-working-as-they-should ending.  Just so long as you’re not the one who has to pay for the car repair.