El Nino goes on Spring Break

El Nino, that little dude who hangs out in the Pacific Ocean and messes with North America’s winter weather, has been doing a fine job of delivering us a mild winter with an unusual lack of snowstorms. We had one good storm in November, but since then I doubt we’ve had a single snowfall of more than four inches.

Then, just when we think we’re going to scoot right into spring unscathed, this happens.

These branches are supposed to go upward rather than sideways like this.

These branches are supposed to go upward rather than sideways like this.

As a cross-country skiing enthusiast, I don’t mind a little snow, if it’s a nice, powdery, slick kind that’s easy to shovel and fun to ski on. This storm was none of that.

Another tree shrub tackled by heavy snow.

Another tree shrub tackled by heavy snow.

This was a heavy, wet snow – the snow that makes one want spring. For those who live in warm places, like California or South Africa, where winter means brings a light jacket, it may be news to you that all snow is not created equal.

Heavy snow falls when the temperature is near the freezing point. It takes twice as long to shovel your driveway, but in my area that’s no big deal because it takes most of the day for a snowplow to come through. Snowplows are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they clear the streets so you have a chance to drive out of your neighborhood. But you can’t do that until you shovel again to clear the snow bank the snowplow has created at the end of your driveway. Snowplow banks are the hardest snow of all to shovel.

There's some shrubbery under there somewhere.

There’s some shrubbery under there somewhere.

I haven’t skied all year, and this storm will do nothing to change that. This sticky snow is good for building snowmen and making snowballs, but not for gliding over. What’s more, it will be melted by the weekend because that’s what happens to snow when the days get noticeably longer.

But it did close the schools, so at least the teachers are probably enjoying it.

Well, it is kind of pretty.

Well, it is kind of pretty.



We don’t need no stinking scarves; we’ve got fun to keep us warm

We’ve had old-school winter weather lately. It’s makes me nostalgic for Seals and Crofts music because it’s just like the ’70s again. Though I don’t hate snow, I don’t have the same high regard for it as I did when I was nine.

My boys love snow; that’s why I can’t dislike it. Shoveling is a pain, especially the re-shoveling after the snow plow has tossed all the street snow into my driveway. But I have two willing helpers, to the extent that they understand the goal of shoveling the driveway, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. There’s plenty else to sneeze at this time of year.

We got more than a foot of snow one day, followed by near-zero daytime temps, which is always a nice cherry on top of your winter woes. I no sooner got out my long underwear than my boys saw their chance to play in the snow. Thus began the ordeal.

The ordeal, if you don’t know the combination of snow and children, is the combination of snow and children. Finding all the pieces of snow attire, collecting them in one place, and getting them around the various edges of a child, is no mean feat. The last part of this circus should be performed with the child sedated, for if the child is conscious, the complaints will be incessant.

In the house, children rightfully complain about being restrained by the overburden of garments and the lack of suitable ingress for oxygen through the holes in their faces. They loathe breathing through scarves and similar impediments:

BOY: “Daddy, I can’t breathe!”

DAD: “You can breathe just fine.”

BOY: “No. I really can’t.”

DAD: “People who can’t breathe are too busy choking to complain.”

BOY: “No they’re not. They always say ‘I can’t breathe!’”

Two-foot drifts waited to be removed from the driveway, but we spent 15 minutes arguing about the habits of highly suffocated people.

His face soon extricated itself from the scarf, at which point he rightfully began to complain about his cold nose. I had no answers for him.

fort building

His nose may be a little cold, but at least he’s breathing again.

By now, Mommy had the little boy bubble wrapped in insulation. He joined us outside and immediately shed his mittens. Three trips back into the house later, he learned that keeping mittens on was prerequisite to staying outside.

Big Brother had given up clearing the concrete and was making a path to his fort beneath the pine tree by moving the excess snow into the driveway. He’d quit complaining; the idea of a fort always warms a kid’s soul.

going to the snow fort

Welcome to my fort. No mittens – no service.

Next, it was time to slide down the snowbanks I’d made with cast-off snow, bringing avalanches flowing back down into the driveway. Then we went back inside to leave a trail of snowy clothes through the house as we boys must do. It helps make it challenging to find all our gear next time, and that’s an integral part of the ordeal.

snowbank slide

There are lots of fun ways to get all this snow back into the driveway.

Later, I snuck out alone to shovel the driveway.


Finally made it to the end of the driveway. Now who’s gonna shovel the street?