Tonight, as the third polar vortex of the season bears down upon us, temperatures are expected to drop twenty-two degrees. Snow is also in the forecast. Really? Haven't we had ENOUGH this winter???!!!
Still, it's not just the multiple bouts of brutal cold we've been experiencing here in the Northeast (and elsewhere in the country) that are wearing people down. It's also the ridiculously frequent heavy snowstorms that have pounded the region. Put together, with barely any respite in between, they have spelled ONE SERIOUSLY GNARLY WINTER.
Exactly why have the freezing temps and abundance of snow been such a royal nuisance? Let me count the ways in no particular order.
1. The Unpleasant Factor. Frigidity just doesn't feel good against the skin, period. Dressing like a Michelin Man to keep warm is neither attractive nor comfortable.
2. School Closings. Amazingly, my sons' elementary school has had only two snow days this year, and one of them was actually a scheduled half day. That's because our district waits until the eleventh hour before making a decision on whether to hold classes or not or impose a start delay. We, the parents, receive a recorded phone message from the school superintendent at something like 5:40 a.m. on the day in question.
By contrast, other school systems call it the night before. The upside: parents get more time to prepare for the inconvenient problem of children being home instead of at school. The downside: mistakes are made, i.e. school is sometimes canceled when it doesn't need to be.
After all of last winter's five allotted snow days were taken, you can guess how happy I am that only two (or, technically, one and a half) have been used thus far this winter! The 2013 summer break lasted exactly two months, which is beyond pathetic. At least we are on track for a longer vacation this year.
Here's the thing about school closings: they are just one more way kids get to miss classes and parents are deprived of their time . . . desperately needed time! Other means to that end include Monday holidays, half days (for professional reasons, ahem, just kidding!), sick days, and doctor- or dentist-appointment days. (For the uninformed, which happily included me until very recently, tooth procedures beyond a standard cleaning are conducted during the school day, not after school. Regrettably, several such days of ours have been cut in two by a pulpectomy here, a pearly-white extraction there.)
"They're hardly ever in school!" is a running joke line among parents for a reason. Indeed, I'd have to go back to mid-December, if not earlier, to locate a week during which both of my sons put in the full 8:25 a.m.-2:55 p.m. school day five days in a row. (Last week was typical. Thursday was lost because my younger son, Charlie, was home sick.)
3. Driving. Does anyone enjoy taking the wheel in a snowstorm? Or an episode of freezing rain? I doubt it. I know I certainly don't! Yet that is exactly what must be done to get from Point A to Point B if the situation calls for it at that time.
4. Being in a Too-Frequent State of High Alert. The TV news puts us in a panic with its warnings of snow measured in feet rather than inches, coastal flooding into neighborhoods, pipes bursting, and tree limbs snapping. The Weather Channel piles on with its ridiculous naming of storms. Nemo. Hercules. Maximus. Come on! Who isn't going to freak out, at least a little, after learning that the storm arriving tonight is named Titan?!
5. Needing to be Constantly Ready. It's stressful to have to drop what you're doing every few days in order to head to the supermarket to stock up. The refrigerator and kitchen cabinets must be full in case we are snowed in. Canned goods must be on hand if the power goes out, and I can't cook. Are you prepared with spare flashlight batteries, extra toilet paper, plenty of milk and bread, and more? Is your shovel within easy reach? Thinking about all of this endlessly is a hassle!
6. Exhaustion/Pain. De-icing the car and shoveling the driveway and front walk over and over again is tiring and causes a middle-aged back like mine to hurt. Unlike many people, I am fortunate to have a carport, so I don't need to do the former. We live on a private street and contract out our snow removal. The plow driver comes during and/or after a significant snowfall. He clears our cul-de-sac and the three driveways shooting off of it then returns again and maybe even a third time if the storm is big enough. He does not show up for just a few inches of white, fluffy stuff. Street residents take care of that themselves.
Despite having someone to plow, I end up doing a fair amount of shoveling myself . . . when he chooses not to come and due to my somewhat anal obsession with keeping my driveway very clear. (I can't get my house in order for the life of me, but you should see the bang-up job I do on my driveway!) It is of medium length, neither what you would consider long nor legitimately qualifying as short. Sometimes I enlist my sons to help -- or Charlie volunteers, bless his soul! -- but we are presently down one shovel because a neighborhood kid broke it and hasn't replaced it.
7. Sickness. You don't have to be a PhD to recognize that people tend to get ill more frequently in the winter than other times of the year. I can't remember the last time I was under the weather for more than three days straight. Three years ago? I am frequently exhausted, however. Well, you guessed it! I am suffering from cold symptoms right now. I'm on Day 7, as a matter of fact. Chicken noodle soup is my new best friend. Like me, Charlie is hardly ever sick. Yet the winter of 2013-2014 has done even him in. He missed only his second day of school ever due to illness on Thursday. What a rare occurrence that was for the two of us to have to remain home!
8. Cabin Fever. Being stuck inside thanks to North Pole-like temperatures and wind-chill factors is challenging, much more so if you have children. They want to get out, play in the snow, and see their friends. But that is not possible for safety reasons. So they get cranky. They fight. Meanwhile, poor mom is slowly going insane because she needs a break from them!
9. Stress. Being pushed incessantly by the elements is tough to take mentally. It's that needing-a-warm-vacation feeling x 1,000. Sensing you might snap. Knowing you've reached your limit. Feeling sick of it, just all-out DONE WITH IT!!! Imagine if I didn't get that pre-first-polar-vortex trip to Florida over Christmas! Wow. I am so grateful for our first week-long sojourn in almost three years, even if we did return home with absolutely no color in our faces from mostly cold, rainy, and cloudy weather down south!
10. Expense. The exorbitant price of heating your home. In my case, the high cost of having my street and driveway plowed. It's $30 a pop for me. So far this season I've paid $270, and I still owe $90 more. That's twelve plowings! God forbid a pipe bursts, or you crash your car on black ice. Countless people around the country have endured these and other horrible fates this winter. I'm thanking my lucky stars I'm not one of them. (Knock on wood for the remaining eighteen days of the season!) Staying in a hotel or getting your vehicle repaired can really hit your wallet hard. Fortunately, I haven't had to get my roof cleared of snow like I did a few years ago. That adventure set me back a whopping $800! I almost had to buy my older son, Christopher, new snow pants the day before February vacation, though. Great time to lose them, right?! Thankfully, two friends came through for me, and we were able to borrow a pair.
Reading this list, you might think (but I suspect you won't because you agree with me): Oh, she just doesn't like winter! NO. I chose to live in northeastern Massachusetts. I chose to go to college in Vermont. I grew up in Connecticut. I am a proud New England woman through and through. (Well, other than my Big Apple-issued birth certificate; the first two years of my life in Westchester County, New York; and four years in Seattle.)
Downhill skiing is my favorite sport. I also cross-country ski, sled, and skate outdoors. I just bought myself a pair of snowshoes. And I've even camped in the snow -- though only once and, truth be told, it was an unseasonably warm night.
I'm bringing up my boys to love winter as well. To that end, we recently returned from our third February vacation trip to King Pine, a low-key family-friendly mountain in New Hampshire. There we skied, went tubing, and loved every minute of it.
Yet the winter of 2013-2014 has been excessive. EXCESSIVE. At this point, I am so ready to spot a purple crocus. I am so ready to glimpse a patch of green grass. I am so ready to watch a red-breasted robin build its nest.
Be gone, Old Man Winter!