Defying Logic

Defy logic.  That’s what 100 inches of snow and sub-normal temperatures do. I picked up one of my son’s friends for an overnight late one afternoon.  Popping open the swinging gate to their yard, I was greeted by two big, lick-happy dogs.  Two days and one 12-inch snowfall blizzard later, I took Will’s friend home and the dogs greeted me in the front yard.  I must have looked at the mom a little perplexed.  “I know!  With that last snow, they just walk over the fence!”  The four-foot high fence.  I don’t think I have ever seen such gleeful dogs.

Our 4-foot high fence -- two storms ago.


Where we stayed while skiing in Vermont was heated by forced air.  The bedrooms were on the cool side.  Liam slept like a rock and, back at home, said he missed that coolness.  I agreed.  I turned the heat down from our standard 69 degrees to 65.  The next morning when I turned the thermostat back up to 68, the heat wouldn’t come on.  I picked the wrong night to drop the tempurature, for I set off a domino effect:  I turned the heat to 65.  The water stopped flowing through the pipes.  The outdoor temperature dropped to minus something.  A cold breath of air found its way into the wall and gave the water pipes a cold blast.  The pipes froze.  I called therapists for the pipes.

First, just keep the heat up high in the rest of the house and that should take care of it within hours.  Many hours later, no change.  We ran our gas fireplace in the bedroom for hours a day and set up a little space heater in the boys’ room.  After days of a balmy 75 - 80 degrees on the main floor, I couldn’t do it any longer.  Then, let’s just wait until an above freezing day and that should take care of it.  That day came and went.  Finally, after Will came into our room with a morning chill, I scratched out all appointments for a day and pulled space heaters up to the walls and pipes in two suspicious rooms.  Bill pulled heavy furniture away from walls so the heat could get to hidden pipes.  Finally, ten days after the initial freeze, I felt a spring of hot water rush through the pipe to the boys’ bathroom radiator.  Oh the relief of having un-constipated heating pipes.


We Malcolms are fortunate to be a snow-loving family.  I use the royal “we” here as Bill is a ski-lover but not a snow-lover.  This year I found that a chairlift up the mountain is one place where small talk still exists.  Fingers would turn blue outside of gloves in -9 degree weather.  Plus, there is that long drop from the high-flying chairs to the slope: That keeps cell phones zippered tightly in pockets on the ride up.  The small talk experience is akin to flying in the 80's.


The spring thaw should be interesting.  We’ve installed two sump pumps in our basement in preparation for the inevitable week of 45-degree temps, a big brilliant full sun, and a ginormous melt.  Our sled inventory has suffered over this winter.  We are down to only one good sled and one duct-taped together -- and two others are under a snowbank.  Two saucers – dug out from the loft and used only in desperation – nearly disappeared in the scant four inches earlier this week, but I believe Bill rescued them.  I think there may also be a glove and a snow shovel re-appearing in May.  Thinking it might be good to replenish sleds soon, and these Paricon Winter Lightning Sled (3-Pack) look great!


Then, there are the ice jams… the science behind those is a whole wondrous story in and of itself.

Happy Winter!

(Fierce Mountain Gnomes also defy logic.)

Ski School

We put smooth boards on the bottoms of our feet last week and took advantage of the snow in Vermont.  The mountain was filled with winter break skiers from Massachusetts and New York – no school for us. Mid-week and on one of the coldest days, I booked a morning massage.  Timing was perfect: I could drop Liam off at 10:00 for his 2-hour lesson and walk 25 yards to the massage center.

Throughout the week, Bill took Will to the bigger mountain for his lesson while I took Liam.  After two days of running late, we made a big effort to be early the third day.  We got on the same shuttle – even though it took less time for me to get Liam to his mountain starting spot.

On the bus this -9 degree morning, Liam’s skin started crawling under all the layers.  I peeled layers off of his face, but it didn’t matter.  Once your skin crawls, it takes more than that to calm it.  I knew a cold lift to the top of the mountain and an exhilarating ride to the bottom was necessary.

Liam and I disembarked at our stop and headed to the lesson meet-up spot.  I was surprised to see so many kids waiting there so early.  We must have waited longer than I thought for the shuttle.

Liam was also in a fighting mood over what level he should be in.  Tuesday’s instructor said he was a solid Level 4; Wednesday’s instructor said he needed to be with the Level 3’s until he could skate with his skis.  This is the Malcolm boys’ mode of thinking: If I was a 4 yesterday, I will most likely be a 5 today and a 6 tomorrow.  I definitely won’t be a 3 today.

After consulting with the ski supervisor, who told Liam he had to parallel ski if he wanted to be in Level 4, Liam was still giving me an earful – over the level and the garments.

We met Liam for the first time on what would have been my Grandma Murphy’s 90th birthday.  She died in July, and we brought Liam home from Korea in September.  I swear there is a cosmic connection between those two: his stubbornness equals hers.  A trait that will serve Liam well when he’s an adult and standing up for what matters to him.

I put Liam’s skis on the Level 4 stand.  I glanced at the instructor’s name tag.  I was only inciting anger with my presence.  A lightening rod in the midst of a massive electrical storm.  I pointed to the stand and very clearly stated, “Liam, there are your poles and your skis.  Have fun.”  And, I walked away.

Once in the massage center, I realized what time is was: I had dropped him off at 9:30.  A half hour early.  Strange there were so many kids there that early.  I felt guilty for leaving him there to wait that long, but… There is a saying I often quote: “Parents are the bone upon which children sharpen their teeth.”   This bone needed some renewal.  I managed to defer the guilt.  Slightly.

After the massage, the therapist told me I had really needed it.  I could feel her pushing knots out of my shoulders; it was painful.  At 11:50, I left to pick up Liam, and the receptionist reminded me to drink lots of water throughout the day to clear out all those toxins that had been released during the massage.

A bit more centered – and with thicker bones and relaxed muscles – I watched and waited for Liam to come flying down that hill.  Around 12:10, I approached a Level 4 instructor – a different man than I had left Liam with that morning.  This instructor hadn’t had Liam in his group and said Liam must be with the other Level 4 instructor; this instructor would wait with me to make sure I had Liam.

At 12:20, I noticed that I was the only parent standing at the bottom of the hill.  The instructor agreed; it was getting late.

No Liam.  I fell the onset of panic.  Millions of little lungs in my muscles sucked those toxins right back inside.  Every muscle went stiff and prepared for battle.

The instructor assured me Liam had not been with him.  “I realize that.  I’m not doubting you.  I just need to know, what we do now? “  Had he gone in for hot cocoa?  I checked all the skis along the fence.  Had he gone back up the chairlift on his own?  No, that’s not Liam.

We scooted over to the ski school office, bumping into Will and Bill on the way.  “I can’t find Liam!” I exclaimed.  I stationed them at the bottom of the hill in case Liam came down while the instructor and I were in the office.

“We are missing a child,” the ski instructor told the man behind the ski school desk.  I gave this man the instructor’s name and the time I had left Liam with the group.

“OK, let me make a call.”  He showed no signs of distress.  He couldn’t turn off the informal chit-chat from the person who picked up the phone on the other end.  Finally, he got to the point.  We are missing a child.  With no thumbs-up, no smile, and no eye contact with me during the conversation, I went to the darkest spot a parent can turn.  The minute phone call felt like hours.

Finally, he hung up.  “Liam is having lunch on the other side of the mountain.  He’s with the all-day ski group; somehow he got mixed in with them.  Each of them wears a GPS on their ankle, so we located him that way.  Do you want to leave him in all day?”

NO!  I want him back!

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be early.  Being on time for ski lessons is better than being early -- particularly when the all-day ski lessons start at 9:30.

Fortunately for Liam, he didn’t know that he was lost, for that day, Bill and I were the bone that took that blow.

(Ski school... perhaps ski instructors could have helped with Bill's Ski Goggles?)

Glamour Aside

Outdoors is an equalizer.  If you do the outdoors, your body sweats and your hair is a mess.  This is Smuggler’s Notch, not Vail.  These are outdoor families and people that feel real. I like places like this and people who are comfortable being like this.  Dog walkers in Breakheart; bare-boaters sailing independently & living on a boat; scuba divers vacationing to dive all day & night; skiers on green runs; snow shoe-ers descending a mountain in the dark.

This is my outdoors persona this week:

I liken my look to Olympic “shredders” – even though I’m gliding my skis on gentle greens.  I know.  I’m taking extreme liberties in borrowing that term.  I’m 47.  I don’t snowboard.  But I do like pulling off the balaclava and knowing that massive hat head is OK here.

Much like Spring’s Gate Girl.

Bill's Ski Goggles

Skiing. Less than an hour from our house we can ski hills. Under two hours we can ski foothills. Over two hours we can ski mountains. For you New Englanders reading, this is not scientific measurement, just a Midwesterner’s flat wisdom of a few slopes. We are under two hours away from Crotched Mountain – which we all agree was a very unfortunate name. We are pronouncing it Crotch-ED Mountain. An expiring timeshare led to a quickly planned weekend ski trip where accommodation space was available.

With a still tender back and little confidence, I held down the fort in the cafeteria as Bill skied alternately with Will and Liam all weekend. Will has become an adventurous skier with little fear of falls and with lofty goals of skiing all the runs on every mountain. As Bill said, “Thank goodness there are no double-blacks at Crotch-ED Mountain.” When Will came back Sunday morning and gave the low-down on the terrain park jumps he landed, I looked wide-eyed, questioningly at Bill. “No, I didn’t do them; my body can’t take that any more.”

After lunch on Sunday, it was Liam’s turn to ski with Dad. Being a visual person, Liam starts at Point A (the top) and skis to Point B (the bottom). Horribly tough to watch for me, he points the skis downhill and takes off like a terror, edging the skis to a slice of pizza only to stop at the bottom. Bill tried to point out the virtues of taking longer swoops around curves, but Liam successfully skied his path, so why would he do it any differently?

Liam and Bill gathered their equipment and headed out, leaving Will and I to the art of cutting out intricate paper snowflakes and playing Set. An hour later, Bill brought Liam back to swap skiers. Looking straight at me, a red-cheeked Bill says, “Are my goggles here?” Crumbs, I (equipment girl) may have swept them onto a chair before lunch. I rummage through the bag and find nothing. I look back to Bill and in his silhouette I see his goggles on his helmet. More specifically, backwards on his helmet so the lenses are looking behind him.

With a question in my voice, I say, “They are on your helmet…?” “But I asked Liam and he said they weren’t there.” Liam had been looking at Bill’s face when he answered, and the black goggle strap blended seamlessly with the black helmet. The back of the black helmet.

We now know that Bill’s helmet is – apparently – completely reversible.