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Spring and winter in a week

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Last week we had the most classic blizzard ever. Usually we just get ground blizzards here (not much new snow, but a lot of wind stirring around whatever's loose). This time, we got a foot of new snow at the same time we had high winds. We were out of school for two days. AGAIN.

Today, though, it was 70 degrees! So much snow melted that you can see the old Christmas trees that were frozen to the curb back at the beginning of the year. It was also warm enough that car thieves didn't have to worry about their footprints giving them away. Someone stole a van from a grocery store parking lot, only whoops! There was a five year old in it. (NEVER LEAVE YOUR KIDS ALONE IN THE CAR!!!) As a result, the city police put three schools on lockdown while they chased him. They found the van and the kid, but not the guy.

Of course, tomorrow won't be that nice, but we enjoy it when we get it.

We are still frozen

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I don't actually remember what green looks like. And 66 inside/13 outside is starting to feel warm and pleasant to me now. One of my son's friends (high school) wears shorts to school every single day, and I'm starting to see that as a real possibility. Maybe we should move to Greenland next...

My kids are finally all back in school today, too. YAY!! The 5YO has been home for quite a lot of days, but I think finally he's ready to go back. Still has a bit of a cough, but it's not very frequent, and he's certainly feeling a lot better. In the meantime, though, there's been an awful lot of Scooby Doo and Frozen at our house. The kid can recite almost the entire script of Frozen, complete with all the weird reindeer and Norwegian store clerk accents. Which means I've watched it a fair number of times this past week, too.

Some movies or books lessen with each time you watch them, but I have to say that I liked it the first time, and it's grown on me even more. The at is just SO beautiful! I look at ice every single day, and have gotten in the habit of noticing the details of light and ice, light and snow, frost and snow, clouds and ice, clear and ice--you name it, if it's got ice, I've seen it. And they really, really captured it. I love how they really paid attention to local details--the horses, if you notice, are all Norwegian Fjords (they have the black stripe in the middle of their blond manes.) Even as cartoons, the people LOOK Norwegian (I live in the state with the highest population of Norwegians in America and know of which I speak. :) ) And I swear Arendelle is based on a real place (google Sognefjord or look at this picture). Love the music (although perhaps a break from That Song would be okay by now...ahem). Love how the opening song (with the ice cutters) encapsulates the entire plot, as my 16YO pointed out. Love how the last musical line of the movie is the sisters song, only turned happy. I love the expressions on all the characters--the thing I love to draw most of all is humans,and the oh-so-accurate expressions of all kinds of feeeeelings leaves me with that same sense of, very cool! and man, I will NEVER be able to do that! that I get from a very well done book. And I love all the many different levels of truth in the story: how some things AREN'T easy to fix, and you have to do it Rubik's cube style (Elsa running away let her develop one part of her--but it wasn't the final solution by ANY means). How true love is not kissing the first boy you meet* but "putting someone else's needs before your own." And that line in the middle of the trolls' funny song keeps coming back to me whenever I see people in turmoil of their own making: "People make bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed./ Throw a little love their way, and you'll bring out their best." So true. Everyone needs that tattooed on their brain when dealing with angry people.

The thing I really wish was real, though, is the way the snow magically lifts into the air and disappears without any flooding. Now that's some magic/technology we need in this place! :) Happy spring to those who have it!


*Ahem, it is perfectly fine to marry the first boy you meet, but maybe let some time go by to get to know each other before you get engaged. *whistles*

On books

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Winter's still not over. See all past entries of winter for a recap. (It was zero yesterday morning when I got up. WHEN WILL IT END???) My husband (university) has spring break, but not the kids, so we can't flee for warmer climes. Besides, we've had various sick kids, but all of them are in school today. *knock on wood* Now I think I'm getting whatever it is.

Anyway. Some reading going on here. Firstly, Kung Pow Chicken, by Cyndi Marko.

Kung Pow Chicken #01: Let's Get Cracking! Cover It's like a graphic...chapter book? My 5YO loved it and ran around yelling Kung! Pow! Chicken every night for several nights. We're looking forward to more in the series.

Second, Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson:

Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2) CoverSecond in a projected 10-book series (The Stormlight Archives; The Way of Kings was the first one). It's the largest book Tor can bind in one volume, apparently. So if you are into extremely epic fantasy, look no further (just do watch you don't drop it on your toes, though--broken toes hurt.) There are a LOT of characters in here to keep straight, but you won't forget the major ones. Jasnah's ward Shallan knows she has to get to the Shattered Plains to give some information to Dalinor, the king's uncle, that will help in the war against the Parshendi. Dalinor isn't the king, but he keeps having visions of a coming disaster (the return of the Voidbringers, who almost destroyed the world in a past age), and is looking to the coming of the Knights Radiant to fight against the Voidbringers. And Kaladin, born low-caste but noble in spirit, is having growing pains over becoming the hero he's meant to be. I actually liked Kaladin's character arc the most. There are some awesome chapters for him towards the end. :) If you don't love Big Fat Fantasy, then this isn't for you--but if you're a Sanderson fan (or haven't tried any but like Big Fat Fantasy, though you should really start with the first one), you'll love it.

Feb. 19th, 2014

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I have not exactly been the queen of posting this winter, mostly because people get tired of hearing the same thing every day (ie WHEN WILL WINTER END??!!). Basically, every day looks just like this:

P1170134

This is at the park I drive by several times every day. I see all the sunrises and all the sunsets because of all the events before and after school (plus, just school--my district has no buses and I have five kids in school). It looks like a scene at the beach, doesn't it? Except...100 degrees colder. (It was -5 when I took this photo.)

Everyone who is not Lakota in this state is Norwegian, which pretty much means Elsa rules every day all the time. We've had 24 days since December where the HIGH did not get above zero, and some of those highs were in the double digits below. You remember Polar Vortex Round 1? We were in that bulls-eye where the windchills said -70. Don't talk to me about Antarctica.

Still. The snow is kind of pretty, as long as you don't touch the air too long. I've started running (all three days of it; today I had to rest so I don't get shin splints), and we're gone skating a couple times. We have the next two days off of school, and as long as it's above zero, we'll probably try skating again this weekend.

Needless to say, it's been a good winter for reading and writing. Speaking of, I have a kid waiting for me to finish off part 1 of Bedknob and Broomstick. Stay warm!

Jan. 28th, 2014

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Our heat is back. Whew! It was getting reeeeeally cold around here with the thermostat set so low!

So today I had a meeting with my 16YO and the counselor. They have four counselors at the high school, one assigned to each class, which I kind of like, since it means that one counselor gets to know the kids and can oversee their total progress. As part of that, each kid and parent has to meet with the counselor to sign up for next year's classes. Sigh. I get the feeling we keep jamming the poor woman's mind. We moved from a school with trimesters to a school with semesters, and they are veeeeery tied up over how many hours your backside sits in a class here. As a result, I've now had two discussions over the required speech class that my son took in 9th grade (as a trimester class, in which he gave the same number of speeches they give here in a semester). They decided to count it. Again. He is also off track on math, and the class he needed didn't even show up on the schedule, and we had to write it in. (He started algebra in 7th grade and they don't start until 8th here.) And then there's the whole bit about PE. PE was required in jr. high but NOT high school in Idaho. Here, you need 1.5 credits of it. We don't know how long we'll be here (the tenure track search that was on when we came was nixed by the new provost, and while it sounds like the department would still like my husband to be around to cover their classes, it really all depends on the administrators who are several levels removed.) So what happens if we move somewhere where they require PE every semester, all four years? It would be really stupid if my kid had As in every advanced AP class, but couldn't graduate because some school in the past didn't have PE... At any rate, I need to train my kids not to confuse counselors by suggesting we might move. Yes, it's a reality. But people who have never lived outside a 90-mile radius get really confused by things like that. Sigh.

Well, anyway, he has some classes picked out for if we're here next year.

A little chilly in here, plus NOMAD

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I feel like all my posts are about the weather, but it's been rather extreme this winter! Even the locals say so. We're in the midst of what is supposed to be the worst storm of the season. Everything in town was canceled today. We are starting to lose it in here! The wind swirled and the snow rolled past and we played board games and some of the kids watched The Wizard of Oz (they had never seen it, and thought it was...er, rather strange and melodramatic). And more baking. I hope we fit through the door once spring comes, but there is literally nothing else to do. And now tonight it's supposed to be 23 below zero, wind chills to -50. AND if that's not enough, a main gas pipe that brings us most of our heating gas ruptured up in Canada yesterday, and the power company is asking everyone to set their thermostats as low as possible to make sure everyone has at least some heat. We haven't set it quite as low as they'd like (55-60) because it's already only 61 at waist height, and it's significantly colder on the floor. I don't want the pipes to freeze. But man, talk about bad timing!

We've sure been doing a lot of reading, though. I stayed up late the other night to read RJ Anderson's latest faery book, NOMAD. It was lovely. (It follows Ivy, who's a piskey, banished from her home and still trying to convince her people that the cave they live in is slowly poisoning them. Meanwhile, she's in exile with Martin, half-faery and half-spriggen, who would like to find his own people. But it's she, not Martin, who keeps having dreams about a spriggen boy from hundreds of years ago...) One thing I think Rebecca does especially well is writing deep emotion for characters who hold their feelings in tight reserve. Trust me, that is NOT an easy thing to do! The only frustrating thing is that after book 2, the rest of the series isn't available in the US, so I've had to order from Amazon UK. But at least that works.

Now the difficult task of getting a bunch of kids in bed for school tomorrow (if we have it) who aren't tired because all they've done is sit and eat cookies all day... Wish me luck!

Sunny and cold

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It's so pretty and sunny out! I've decided I like snow that stays on the ground until spring because it throws the light around and makes it all much brighter and cheerier than if it all melted in between and was just brown. Of course...we are running out of places to PUT the snow. As I told my husband, we need the berm expansion pack... Unfortunately, the temperature started out around zero today and has been falling ever since, with the most wicked wind chill. I think we're down to -11 real, -36 wc? Brr! It's too bad--it looks so nice outside, and I sure wish we could go skating at the park, especially since today is a holiday and all. Ah, well--better luck in May? :)

Took a friend to the hospital today for a finger amputation. Worried about some old neighbors from Idaho, whose 6YO backed against a stovetop that was cooking, and set his shirt on fire, and now has severe burns on his back. He had skin grafts today, and...ow. The friend with(out) the finger is cause for worry, but she's an adult and hopefully this will prevent something worse. But the little boy, I just can't get out of my mind. He's the youngest of I think six kids, and I'm pretty sure it would be a lot harder to get through this if he didn't have every one of his siblings there to cheer him up and help him out. (And it was the 7YO who raised the alarm and the 12YO who put the fire out in the first place.) He looks a bit like my own 5YO and his next-older sister is a clone of my kids' cousin, so every time I see photos, it hits me like a parent. If you're into sending prayers for random children you don't know, little Cooper could sure use some.

Anyway, I'm very glad that everyone at our house is well (knock on wood!). When not worrying about other people in the hospital, I've been doing a series of critiques and also trying to revise my own stuff. I sent off my last crit today and my head is bubbling with things I've been learning. I think I need to find a book I don't need to crit, though--I need to relax for a moment in a story where I neither have to write nor edit it nor solve any of the plot issues the characters may have created, but rather, sit back and just enjoy someone else figuring it out. :) Then I'll be ready to hop back in and see what else I can do on my own book. I hope I can figure it out soon; I'm eager to write something new!

"Blizzard"

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We had a "blizzard" today. Yesterday broke the daily record for high temperatures--39 degrees--but it was actually super cold all day, and it didn't get warm until after the sun went down. Which is so crazy. Where does it get warmer the darker it gets??

Anyway, we also had this freakishly scary blizzard predicted. So we got calls from the school and university, saying everything was closed from 11 pm yesterday to 11 pm today. Snow! High winds! Total whiteout! Possibility of power outages! And around midnight it did start getting windy. It sounded like a train every time I woke up. They closed several highways and strongly recommended staying off the freeways. But when we woke up--hardly any snow, just wind. Well, we had 50-60 mph winds all the time in Idaho without undue panic. So...we all just sort of hung out at home and read books? Meanwhile, the kids have now missed two days of school related to winter, and several half days related to heat. Who knows when they'll get out for the year at this rate...

I finished a round of revisions and I'm not sure what to do next to make it better, so I've been critiquing books for other people. I always learn stuff that way, and since I'm stuck on my own, these came at a good time. Meanwhile, my 5YO who can only read a few sight words is getting frustrated at all the rest of us always writing things. So in the past week, he's written an episode of Ghostbusters (cartoon) and also an illustrated article about the life cycle of butterflies. "Because everyone else is writing," he says. Cool, but I do wish it was warm enough to go outside more often!

Snow

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If you count windchill, it was nearly 100 degrees warmer today than last Sunday!! Crazy. If you like variety in weather, come to North Dakota?? (As long as all the varieties you like involve cold, that is...) We went skating on Friday and Saturday because it was warm (upper 20s/near 30)--the nearby park has FREE skate rentals, as well as cross country skis and also snowshoes. The skating was pretty hard, but we decided to go for it, anyway. The second time, there was this 6YO who was a whiz on skates who gave us pointers and didn't laugh at us. We appreciated it. Also yesterday, my oldest turned 16. Hard to believe!

Today we were invited out to Crookston (about 30 minutes east of here, over in Minnesota) to dinner with a family we met at church. Very interesting people, and fantastic food (some kind of cilantro Indian dish, plus homemade naan. YUM.) Between here and there is basically a whole lot of nothing--the flattest fields you have ever ever seen in your life, all covered with snow and occasional lines of bare trees where a fence might run. As far as you can see on the horizon. Seriously, don't break down!! The top layer of snow had melted a bit in the sun and then refrozen, so it was all wet and glittery-looking, and the setting sun gave the snow a blueish cast while the clouds above were a hovery sort of pink. With the bare black trees against it all, it was kind of pretty. Good colors, anyway--I wished I'd brought the camera. Then on the way back, there was this massive bird on the side of the road that decided to take off into the air just as we reached it--it was a snowy owl--Hedwig herself!--that JUST barely cleared our car. Jonathan thinks he heard the wings brush the roof. I've heard owls before, but seen very few in the wild (once coming home from Craters of the Moon-but it wasn't a snowy white one). So anyway, I know we'll have a return to the cold, but it's sure been nice to have a break!

Jan. 5th, 2014

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It is currently -19 with a wind chill of -46. If you look at the wind chill forecast map for the US and southern Canada right now, you'll see a bull's eye in the middle where possible wind chills tonight may be as low as -70. We live in the very center of that bull's eye. Minnesota (right across the river from us) cancelled school tomorrow. I think Wisconsin may have as well. As far as I've heard, ND is still on, though! And we had church this morning, too. (Small attendance, but the locals who didn't have far to drive were all there.) As my kids would say, North Dakota is hard core, man.

So er, yeah, about that daily exercise... Mostly I've been working hard on a revision, switching out to critique a couple books for other people. It's all going well, but I just wish I had more time. Or could work faster. Or something. I'm glad I have it all to work on, since that's almost the ONLY thing we can do around here. It's cold here, yes--but not normally THIS cold!! I even had a look at all the highs and lows of the past several years here, and this is not normal. But--we are hard core. So we will survive.

One of the books my kids got for Christmas was Kurtis Scaletta's THE WINTER OF THE ROBOTS. Great book.

The Winter of the Robots Cover

I like all of Kurtis's books--the mushroom one (The Tanglewood Terror) is one of my particular favorites (especially since one of my kids was going through a major terror of live mushrooms at the time--it seemed fitting). But I dunno, I like this one at least as much if not more. It's Minneapolis in the winter, and Jim is tired of always being sidekick to his friend Oliver's science experiments. Which are ALWAYS about robots. So this year, he teams up with Rocky, a girl from down the street, instead. Their science fair project is supposed to be about observing otters at a nearby dump (observed with Jim's dad's security cameras, which he doesn't exactly have permission to use). But then the cameras are stolen. Not to mention people getting hurt and a lot of...really weird things happening at the site, which is not just a dump but the wreck of some kind of technology company where Oliver's dad used to work.

Loved the Minneapolis setting, the real-feeling kids, the really different kind of story (robotics, the kind that smart kids get into around middle school and sometimes go to competitions for). Loved the little sister. (They build a snow fort. "This will protect us," she said. "Protect us from what?" "Extremists," she said, which made me wonder what was going on in the puppet show she'd been watching." Or the moment much later on, where she's snooping around in Jim's room and discovers a disk he was hiding in a "horror book about fungus." The Tanglewood Terror, perhaps? ;) ) So if you're wanting a middle grade story that's realistic contemporary but bordering on the fantastical, this is a great pick.