Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Birthday Blizzard

Devon's birthday is the day after Valentine's Day. It would have been on Valentine's Day if my mom hadn't waited to cut my brother's hair before she took Noni to the hospital. Don't even get Noni started on that. Trust me, you don't want to hear it!

But years ago we started the charming and special family tradition of holding birthdays on whatever day happens to be the most convenient nearest to the actual birthday. It adds such a spice to the whole affair. How sorry other children must be whose birthday is on the exact same boring day every single year.

So it was that Devon's birthday was celebrated this year on the 17th, not the 15th. Sunday began as a nice enough morning, but we were expecting an Alberta clipper to arrive later that afternoon. An Alberta clipper is a fast moving low pressure area which generally affects the central provinces of Canada and parts of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions of the United States. Most clippers occur between December and February, but can also occur occasionally in the month of November. Alberta clippers take their name from Alberta, Canada, the province from which they appear to descend, and from clipper ships of the 19th century, one of the fastest ships of that time.

Doesn't Wikipedia make me look smart?

Because of the approaching storm, we decided not to go to Plentywood for ice skating on their outdoor rink, so we planned a sledding party in the afternoon before the storm hit. It would be perfect, since I had gotten Devon snow gear and a new sled for his birthday.  Alas, our happy plans failed to factor in a birthday cake that took forever to finish baking

I made a delicious chocolate cake from scratch, but due to a series of difficulties I see no reason to go into detail about here, it was a little slow in baking. As soon as I decently could, I wrapped it in a towel and drove furiously into town. The first snowflakes were already beginning to fall, but the temperature was still a mild 28 degrees.

I made a quick stop at the hardware store to muster the troops, dropped the border collie back home (sledding is right by a road and thus bad for border collies), and went to pick up our guests. By that time, the snowflakes were driving in earnest.

Hurry! Hurry! Dash! Rush!

We drove south of town to the beautiful sloping hill I "discovered" one day. It's the perfect sledding hill---not too tall, but tall enough for a good run, ends in a field with no dangerous obstacles, and as mentioned before, right by a road so we don't have to haul our sleds too far.

I dropped my camera in the muddy snow taking this picture, then spent the next couple of minutes frantically trying to clean out the grit and muck. Stupid snow...

Party time!
The snow was heavy and wet. It felt like we were being pelted by snowballs, but the party must go on!

The sleds made good windbreaks when you were hiking up the hill directly into the storm.

 Tiggy and AvonlyRose did some tandem snowboarding.

Noni and Damon arrived a few minutes late. Noni was dressed very inadequately for snow play and mainly stood around rubbing her hands together to keep warm. Damon was wearing her snow boots because Devon was wearing his---and that left Noni with nothing but old tennis shoes. The things we mothers do for our kids. I'm sure she had a great time watching us play!

Damon dashing through the snow.

Shayla was a super trooper, dragging her sled up the steep hill over and over again while the wind tried to blow her away. A true Montana lass.

We had a great time, but even our sturdy spirits couldn't stay out there for too long. We made one more glorious run then climbed back up the hill to the cars.

Until next time, Sledding Hill. Until next time.

Cross-country Skiing

This winter has been a very bad one for ice skating. Our little pond was buried early on under a mountain of snow, and has since undergone several warm days that melted and hardened everything into impenetrable peaks and valleys. I don't think there's much hope for it.

With my Olympic career as a figure skater cut tragically short, I've had to cast about for other sports towards which to direct my athletic prowess. Which brings me to the subject of cross-country skiing.

When we moved out here, the kids unearthed a couple of pairs of skis in the barn. We goofed around with them a little the first year, but didn't do very much. Last winter had almost no snow, so there was little opportunity. This year, we've gotten them out again and figured out that they are cross-country skis.

Of course, we only have the skis and poles, no boots. But each ski has a little bar that can be pulled over your snow boots, forming a very loose and very temporary hold. I happen to be the only one with feet small enough to fit through, so I spend a lot less time falling off my skis and a lot more time skimming over the fields.....comparatively speaking.

I handle this with much grace and can be heard calling little words of encouragement back over my shoulder....


"You fell off AGAIN! Bwahahahahaha!"

"Bet you wish you had feet as small as mine!"

I should be a coach!

Last Sabbath I had Tiggy out for the afternoon. Caleb stayed at church to frolic since we were coming back for game night anyway. By the time we finished feeding and taking care of Grandpa, the sun was low in the western sky. It was almost 40 degrees and gorgeous weather for a ski adventure. This was Tiggy's first time cross-country skiing, so there was the added anticipation of seeing her flail around.

Sigh. Good times, good times.

Tiggy did not disappoint in  the flailing department. Eventually I let her in on the secret that she was supposed to take steps on the skis, not heave herself along using only the poles.

We made faster progress after that.

The fields were bathed in a sunset glow, little stalks from last year's wheat harvest still visible above the snow...

 Our skis cut crisp tracks through the snow....mostly going in straight lines because I don't know how to turn yet. We make a lot of geometrical figures.

Our little farm against the sunset. Time to head back...

Then we headed off into the sunset for a rollicking evening playing games with our Plentywood church family. What a fun day!

Snow bunnies!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Musings...

Today was Valentine's Day, and in honor of the day, the weather served up a heaping helping of Snowy, Cloudy, and Windy. The perfect kind of day to snuggle up inside with a mug of hot cocoa and your sweetheart----or at least a good book. Not that I got to. I got to go to Plentywood for the second day in a row. Goody for me!

But my day was not completely without romance. I also got some chocolates---that I bought myself. I have long since given up on waiting for Prince Charming to get me all the things I want. Now I get them myself, which, while not as exciting as all the knight-on-a-white-horse stuff, at least means I get what I actually want.

I'd still like a little romance to add some spice to my life, but until then I'm happy being me. My life is filled with good things---not that I wouldn't appreciate a hunk thrown in there, too! But I know if I can't be happy alone, then I'll never attain happiness with someone else.

So here's a little pictorial reminder to all the single ladies (and gents!) out there. No matter how gloomy, flat, or colorless your life may appear now, remember that yes, the sun does occasionally break through and shine. And the scenery that looks so plain today can be transformed into landscapes of incredible beauty. You just have to wait for it to happen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A North Dakota Road Trip in Winter

Yesterday I took a road trip down to Bismarck to visit Laura (Why, yes, we had a very nice visit. Thanks for asking.) That makes for one Very Long Day. It takes a little over 4 hours for me to drive down there, then several hours for visiting and errand running (because you never go to the city without shopping around here), and then an interminable trip back.

To while away the Very Long Trip, I occasionally took pictures out the window. Now you, too, can experience a winter road trip in North Dakota...

I left just before 8:00 and a beautiful sunrise was on display in the east...

I felt fresh and invigorated. How nice to be able to take such a charming drive!

By the time I got to Zahl, a half-hour's drive from my house, the sun was peeping over the horizon...

After that, there was nothing much to see for a couple hours.

The next big landmark on the trip is the Grand Canyon of North Dakota, White Earth ditch. It is a visual treat, after several hours of going up and down identical hills, to go down into a small valley. Someday I'm actually going to drive out to the little town of White Earth. I'm sure it's exciting.

After climbing up onto the prairie, there again wasn't much to see until Minot. But the weather was beautiful and the roads were clear. Very pretty and relaxing.

Minot provided a welcome relief and a chance to stretch my legs doing some shopping. I was already over half-way done with the trip! Only 100+ miles left to go!

 After leaving Minot, the scenery is much more diverse. Every 50 or so miles, there is something to look at. The first excitement you come to is the windmill farm about 30 minutes south. I enjoyed driving through what looks like a field of giant pinwheels. It lightened the monotony of my interminable journey for several minutes.

Next comes Lake Hard-to-Spell. I think it's Lake Sakakajwea, but I'm not sure. Just on the other side of the causeway it turns into Lake Audubon, a much easier name to spell (but I still had to look it up!). Why can't they call it Lake Water or something like that? The surface of the lake was dotted with little ice-fishing houses. So cute!

Almost to Bismarck now, but there's still one landmark left on the trip. The Falkirk Mines. I don't know what they mine there, but their plant looks very sinister, like something you'd see in an environmentalist's horror movie. So I edited the photo to make it look even more sinister.

I finally got to Bismarck at 1:00 in the afternoon. I spent the next 3 hours visiting Laura, then squeezed in a quick trip to Walmart before heading back north again. The sun was almost down, and I HATE night driving. What a joyful prospect to have 3.5 hours of it ahead of me!

Tense and exhausted, I came down the hill into Minot. The lights of the city provided a welcome reprieve from the dark sameness of the journey. Yay! And I only had 2.5 hours left to go!


For the first part of the final leg I snacked on stuff I'd picked up at Walmart. But there's only so many carrot sticks you can eat, especially when you run out of them. Then I tried to think peppy thoughts.

My thoughts had no pep.

I drove with the window cracked open, even though it was in the teens and I was wearing only a light jacket.

I thought longingly of my comfortable bed.

Oh, good. I'd made it another 10 miles......


Minot is on the edge of the oil country. Once you get past the city, you start to see signs of North Dakota's oil boom. The fields are dotted with brightly-lit drill rigs and finished oil wells, with their bright plumes of flame where the natural gas is being burned off. Sort of like driving through a very sparsely populated Dante's Inferno. "Dante's Inferno: Rural Edition."


At last, I reached the epic 13 Mile Corner, so called because it is only 13 miles from Williston.

 But I don't live in Williston, I live 45 miles to the north. So close.

 I kept myself going for the next little bit by taking tired self-portraits of myself. But eventually, I had to give it up because flashing oneself repeatedly in the eyes with a bright light makes it difficult for one to see the road. Phooey.

Home, sweet home at last. 10:00 at night, only 14 hours after leaving. Time for bed!

Monday, February 4, 2013

As the Sparks Fly Upward...

A beautiful and peaceful end to another day. A day that brought both joy....

And sorrow.

I spent the day in Williston blowing an obscene amount of money on my monthly shopping trip and three---count 'em----THREE cat spays. In one month. Take my advice. Don't try that at home. But the dreary slog of an all-day shopping trip was lifted by the cheering news when I returned.

"Your dad got the water going again....."

Oh, joy! Oh, great relief! And the fact that he hadn't actually had to do anything but turn the switch on did not detract at all from my elation. And yes, I knew the switch was off---I left it off so it wouldn't burn out the motor, but the water still wasn't pumping the last time I tried it. Either the pipes finally melted or my theory that a good bit of rest will cause mechanical problems to resolve on their own is actually true.

But alas, I was not allowed the pleasure of my happiness for long. On the heels of that great news came the equally tragic tidings....

"....Now your toilet's not working."

Sadly, the freshly-pumped water now sits in a toilet that leaks all over the floor if you try to----what we'll delicately call----flush.