Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Next Chapter

A crazy winter with mulitple feet of snow and 8 snow EF3 tornado whirls through my neighborhood on 6/1...a microburst hits town on 7/27....a hurricane passes by in August with over 5 inches of rain....two weeks later more than 5 inches of rain comes down again.  Since June we have had some significant, freak weather event on just about a monthly basis.  Our little town has suffered so much damage, we are all starting to think we are being punished. Just when we think we are safe and clear of freak weather...the next event hits. Here I describe in detail for my family and remember the next chapter of this horrid year.

A new month....October.  Two days before Halloween on the 29th a snowstorm is predicted. A Nor'easter even.  What's the big deal, right? Certainly we can handle snow....although we are all curious to see how the weakened trees hold up to snow and ice. 

Ben's soccer team has a playoff game Saturday morning the 29th. His team finishes the game and unfortunately loses.  The air is cold...and the sky is dark. You could feel the impending storm.  The forecasters are predicting lots of snow. The amounts have ranged all over the place, but seem to be indicating 8-12 inches.

The snow started in the early afternoon. The kids have some of their buddies over to play. The kids all decided to go out and play in the snow and before I knew it I was suiting up 6 kids in pants, boots, gloves, hats. I see the first snowball fight of the season.   I'm happy the kids are excited to play outside but dreading the wet clothes and boots that are going to come back in the house. The snow is very wet and heavy.

I had made a batch of chili for dinner and we invited our friends over to join their kids in having dinner with us.  The power went out about 5 - 5:30 pm.  At that point, I just assumed a tree had downed some wires nearby and maybe we'd be out for a few hours.  Out came our familiar friends...candles and lanterns. We made the best of the time with our friends, enjoying some chili and wine by candlelight.

Our friends leave and we all head to bed in the darkness once again.  Before bed Chris is outside for some reason and claims to be hearing the nonstop cracking of trees. I didn't think much of it.

We awake to a winter wonderland.  The sun is beaming through the graveyard of trees in the backyard.  I look out front and see that my two knew baby trees have broken limbs. I look around the neighborhood and see all of the remaining shrubs are practically flattened to the ground from the weight of the snow.

We get the generator fired up and a fire in the fireplace.  I decided to make the best use of the time without internet and television and scour all the fronts of my kitchen cabinets all morning. I hear that there are lots of tree branches down and that many streets are blocked.  Later in the afternoon I walk with the kids down the street.  That's when I realized the extent of damage that the storm had left. Trees down, branches down, electrical lines down, electrical poles snapped.  Depression instantly set in. I knew we were in for at least a few days with no power. I knew every neighborhood in town was going to look as bad as ours. What I didn't know was that we would be without power for 8 long days.

We were back to the dreaded life without power. The generator kept our fridges cold and gave us lights and power to play movies on the PS3 (and coffee in the morning!).  We made lots of fires in the fireplace...although that only warmed up the living room a bit.  The house stayed in the 50's all week until about Thursday when our friends the G's asked their electrician friend to come over and get our generator hooked up to our house. After that time we had finally had heat and hot water.  But it was a long, long week.  Although we were to bed early and slept comfortably in the cold, my body ached from the mental and emotional stress of more damage to our neighborhood and to our town. We ate out for dinner a bunch of times because I was too tired to think about cooking and having to clean dishes in cold water.  There was a craze for finding available gas in the area, and an equally big craze for finding generators. One afternoon on the way to a friend's house I got the fingertips on my right hand squeezed in between two garage panels when I was closing it by hand.  This was one of the most painful things in my life other than childbirth....but luckily the only result was numbing and bruising under the nails.  My kids missed 5 days of school and it wasn't even winter.  And the kids were completely crushed that Halloween was cancelled. The streets were just too unsafe with the downed wires and branches.  I don't ever remember a time with no Halloween.  The whole storm just added to the depressing freakishness of 2011.

The effects of the prior storms have left Buddy a nervous wreck. Every time the generator would kick on and the television and PS3 would beep from power he would start shaking uncontrollably and jump at me or on the couch with the kids seeking comfort. He obviously associates the beeps from power shutting on and off with that dreaded tornado. And our 'no dogs on the couch' rule went out the window.  Buddy need comfort and warmth.

For whatever reason, our neighborhood was the last in town to get power...on Sunday at about 6 pm.  Thankfully I had been able to do laundry at friends' houses during the week.  The kids went back to school on Monday like nothing ever happened.  It was a week of completely lost time.  If there weren't piles of tree branches lining every street in town I'd swear there was a time warp.  But the ugly piles are evidence that the Nor'easter had indeed come. 

Thankfully some great moms stepped up to the task of salvaging Halloween for the little ones.  A Halloween event was organized and held at our high school and all the kids were invited to come trick-or-treat one evening.  The kids and families followed a path through the hallways and collected donated candy at various classroom doorways.  The event didn't allow for running for house to house in the darkness with friends....but the little ones came home with the most important result: candy!!!

I finally feel up to writing about the storm three+ weeks later.  The debris is still being picked up around town.  Although I want to be hopeful that this is the end of the crazy weather for a while, I'm worried inside about what is yet to come.  For the near future, praying that our holidays are happy and uneventful!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

To the Peak of Peaked

The other day a friend and I packed up our cameras and took a hike up Peaked Mountain which is in a neighboring town. It was a glorious day and we were both excited to be outside, get a little exercise and take some pictures. We were careful to wear orange vests just in case any hunters were nearby.    The trails were fairly easy and well-marked and the sun shone gloriously on our way up the mountain.

We made it to our first stopping point...thinking it might be the top....and admired the views.  The clouds wreaked some havoc with our picture taking, covering big areas in shade. But the view was spectacular.

Onward and upward we continued...finding another beautiful spot with a lake. The cloud cover grew and light was not good for photographs.

We came to the highest spot and stayed for a while,  taking pictures with our cameras and iphones and just enjoying the peaceful quiet and the view.   We even had cell service up there at the peak.  At this spot, the view was panaoramic and beautiful.....miles of hills to the left and right. 

One last shot of the trail down. There were many beautiful yellows, reds and oranges along the path. I'm  so glad I went since it is the first time I've been able to appreciate the beauty of fall this year. Thanks Becky!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Texture Tuesday

While watching my son's soccer game last weekend I was pleasantly surprised when several horses appeared out of the woods and rode along the backdrop of trees next to the field.  It must have been some sort of riding club and I understand there are some great trails back in those woods.  I took this photo with another purpose in mind, but decided to add some textures for Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday. I used my two favorite textures....Stained Linen and Warn Vignette.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Big Sky

Ever since the tornado the sky has been large....grand....endless.  I'm mesmorized with cloud formations, the color of clouds, the blueness of the sky, the sunrises and sunsets, the moon that is so visible now....and just the amount of sky I can now see.  It's hard not to focus on the weather. The last year we have seen so much bad weather.....from multiple feet of snow to damaging funnel clouds to 10 inches of rain within a few weeks time. 

I have a friend that grew up here but now lives in California. He visited his parents back this past summer and the first thing he said after viewing our new landscape was, "Big Sky." And I thought, YES!!

The neighborhood up the hill now has a clear view of the whole mountain range on the other side of town. What I wouldn't give for that view!  But I've seen some pretty skies right outside our back windows recently. This view took my breath away and I ran for my camera. I'm glad I did because the vibrant orange and dark pink was gone within minutes.

Big skies....are definitely the new normal around these parts.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I've really come to realize that it's the small things in life that make you happy.  Today was the first day in several that I awoke to what I knew was going to be a sunny day.  When I went to wake up Chica for school I noticed the beautiful view from her bedroom window.  Well, even though the view in the back of the house is toppled trees and the ongoing reminder of the tornado, the sun coming through the trees and the beautiful sky and clouds made up for it.  I needed sunshine!!

The day got even better when I finally made a call to a local central vacuum company about the lack of suction on our second floor. A friendly man told me to plug the hose in and then cover the other end with my hand until the pressure stopped. I did this a few times and then let the hose run while I ran down stairs for a second.  Then suddenly I heard a strange loud banging noise followed by the sound of a strong suction from the hose upstairs. I knew whatever was clogging the line had dislodged and ran to the basement to see what ended up in the canister.  It was a Bob the Builder toothbrush that had caused my vacuuming issues!

So happy for the little things today!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Brits

When I signed Luke up for British Soccer this past summer I came across the box on the application where you check off if you want to host one of the coaches.  Our friends had done this in the past and really enjoyed it.  The outside of our house was certainly in no shape for visitors back in August (ala tornado), but the inside was fine and I knew I could comfortably host a coach. So I checked off "Maybe".  If they were desperate, I thought, I could rise to the occasion and host a coach. I knew it would be an experience we would never forget. 

Well then the microburst hit on July 27th, just days before the British Soccer Camp was supposed to start.  We lost power for a couple more days and the town was wrecked again from tree damage.  I had an unfamiliar call on my cell phone which turned out to be the British Soccer Camp coordinator looking for a host family for a coach. I had been the only one to express any interest in hosting.  I told the coordinator what we had been through with the tornado and the microburst and said we could probably host one coach, and possibly two if they were desperate (and the coaches were the same gender). 

A few days later I learned that I was indeed going to host two male coaches. I received their bios and before long I was driving to meet our new friends....Joe and Scott.

We met up with the coaches on the Sunday night before camp was to start.  The coaches were going to stay in Luke and Ben's room.  Ben was away on the Cape with his buddy Sam and Luke would sleep in our room. I didn't quite know what to expect. Did I need to have dinner for them for Sunday night? Would the coaches be scared when they saw our treeless street and wrecked yard?

We were happy to meet our new British friends. Joe, 22, was outgoing and friendly with a good sense of humor. Scott, 21, was tall, quieter and intriguing with some funky ear piercings.  Both were easy going, great guests and definitely passionate about soccer!

The coaches left for camp early in the morning and returned for dinner.  As host, I packed them lunches, drinks and snacks every day and also provided breakfast and dinner.  I certainly had to be on my game with planning meals and I found myself at the grocery store every day!  The coaches were pretty tired when they got home at night. They would shower, come down for dinner, have a little play time with the kids and then retire to bed.  The kids bugged Scott to play some video games with of his favorite past times back at home.  The kids also dragged the coaches for a swim in the pool a couple times.

At the end of the week at camp the kids all had the "World Cup" finals. The kids were broken into teams and played little games during the week.  The parents were invited to come and watch so I took that opportunity to snap some photos of our new friends.

Coach Joe 

Coach Demi - she was so sweet and ended up staying with our friends.

Coach Scott

Luke had an absolute blast at camp and loved having the coaches stay at the house.

This was Scott's attempt at imitating Prince Charles.

The kids all came up to receive their evaluations and high fives from the coaches.

The whole crew posed together

The morning after camp ended the coaches all took off for Boston for the day before they went onto their next adventures.  We had to wake the kids up early to say goodbye to the coaches and get a picture. 
Amy is going to miss her buddy, Scott, but hopefully we will keep in touch with the coaches and meet up again some day!

It was some work hosting the coaches....feeding them their meals and keeping up with their laundry. But it was WELL worth it because it is an experience the kids and I will never forget!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chatham, Part Deux

Back in August I took the kids to Cape Cod for a few days. I asked my Aunt to go with us since Chris wasn't able to go.  She is so good with the kids and they have a blast with her. Plus, she loves the beach so I was hoping it would be a special time for her. The weather forecast originally wasn't looking so great for our time away so we got on the road a little earlier than we had planned. Thankfully the weather patterns shifted and we ended up with three gorgeous days at the beach....days where we didn't want to leave (but had to eventually since the dogs were waiting for us back at the house!).  I wasn't planning on taking my good camera to the beach but I couldn't resist since it was so beautiful at the beach. And we met up with some special friends from town and I wanted to try and capture some photos with them. 

Nauset Beach was beautiful and low tide allowed the kids to play in the waves, ride the waves and skim board for hours. The surf was a little rough at times and the older boys got a taste of its strength.  I was happy when they took it upon themselves to come out together when they became unsure and a little nervous. Chica was amazing in the waves and quickly learned how to time her rides in just right.  I was amazed watching her 40 pound little self battle the waves as she walked out to catch bigger ones.  She got tossed around a few times...but that never stopped her.  It was Luke's first time playing in the big waves too. He loved it!

Our few days in Chatham left many memories that I hope the kids will always remember: time spent with Auntie Moe and her wonderful back and foot massages, endless hours playing at Nauset Beach, spending time with the Hills, Dowdings, Diefs and Garveys, dinner at The Squire (the beginning of Ben's Cape Cod fish-n-chips tradition), Candy Manor, our trip to see the seals on Lighthouse Point....