Sunday, February 27, 2011

All Miserables, All the Time

The school musical is upon us.  It is around us, above us, and even underneath us.  Yesterday during naptime, Oldest Daughter practiced her viola part, playing along with the CD blasting at full volume in the room just below the master bedroom.  Youngest Daughter listens to the recording every chance she gets.

The musical is Les Miserables, a truly monumental work, covering themes of redemption, mercy, and revolution.  My two teens play in the pit orchestra for the musical.  The whole endeavor is commanded by the dreaded Mr P.  In real life he is probably a nice man, but we all live in fear of him because of his philosophy that nothing is more important than this high school musical.  He offers neither redemption nor mercy.  Revolution is out of the question.  As the local dictator, he holds all the cards.

My friend, whose son is in the musical, calls me and says, “Do you want to pick up The Miserables tonight, or shall I?”  

Yesterday there was much singing of “One More Day” in the Common Household, because today is the final rehearsal.  This morning, the following exchanges took place shortly before my husband took the kids to Temple School (Sunday School at the syngagogue):

Son:  “I need a black shirt.”
Me, rushing out the door to church:  “Don’t you have a black shirt from the “Cats” musical?”
Son:  “It’s not entirely black.”
Dad: “What happens if you aren’t wearing a black shirt?”
Son:  “Mr. P will be really angry!”

I leave for church, giving thanks.  While I am away, the angst continues...

My husband is having breakfast.  The Son, who is usually a calm person, is standing over him, admonishing him thusly:
“Dad, we can’t linger at Temple today, because we need to be at rehearsal in our seats ready to play at 12:45, so – no sticking around talking to anybody!  We have to leave immediately!”  He is quite agitated, and is ruining my husband’s breakfast.  Then he adds,  “Dad, I need a black shirt.”
Dad:  “What do you want me to do, leap up from my breakfast and find you a black shirt?”
Son:  “Last year you had a black shirt that I used.”
Dad:  “Why don’t you go look in my closet for a black shirt?”
Son:  “You didn’t tell me I could look in your closet.  And don’t forget, we can’t be late to rehearsal!”
Dad:  “What are the consequences if you are late?”
Son:  “Mr P will be really annoyed at us!”

In the car on the way to Temple, Oldest Daughter is energetically chastising her brother, going on and on: “You can’t wear that to Temple School!  You have to be dressed for rehearsal now!  You won’t have time to change your clothes!  You won’t even have time to eat lunch!  We have to be at rehearsal at 12:45!”

Dad:  What happens if you aren’t there on time?

Youngest Daughter, who is not even in the musical, pipes up, “Mr P will get really mad!”

Rumor has it that someone was late for rehearsal.  The offender has been clapped in prison and will be released on parole in 19 years.  Mr P was heard to exclaim,

And so it has been and so it is written
On the doorway to paradise
That those who falter and those who fall
Must pay the price!

Friday, February 25, 2011

More Dinner Conversation

When I was a child, dinner conversation consisted of my father pontificating on how he solved some intractable problem at work, or my father drawing benzene rings on the napkin to illustrate some finer point of chemical engineering, or my father telling us how to sit: “Stomach in, chest up, and put your bottom against the back of your chair.”

In the Common Household, dinner conversation can go in many different directions. Here are just two categories:

(a) Dad as enthusiastic scientist, giving a summary of the interesting scientific lecture he heard that day;

(b) Mom as drill-sergeant (like father, like daughter), going over the platoon’s assignments for tomorrow, especially Sgt Mom’s transportation tasks.   All I want to know is who I am supposed to pick up when, and where. 

Sometimes one category just insists on breaking into another category.  As in this Actual Dinner Conversation we had one night last fall.

Me, looking at the calendar and realizing that there was a lot going on the next day:  “We have a lot of things to discuss and decide tonight, but we don’t have to discuss them during dinner.”

Husband:  “So we’re NOT going to discuss aneurysms during dinner?  Today I went to a really interesting lecture about aneurysms.”

Me:  (thinking, Yikes! Aneurysms!)  Outloud: “No.  We don’t have to decide anything about aneurysms.  They just happen.”

Youngest Daughter:  “What’s an aneurysm?”

Me:  (sigh)  “I guess we will discuss aneurysms after all.  Go ahead.”

Husband, clearly excited:  An aneurysm is when the blood vessel forms a bubble and then it can burst!  The blood vessel wall becomes thin, and then it can pop.  And then there is bleeding in the brain.

(Silently I blanch, and think fondly of the days of my father’s pontifications, benzene rings, and posture lessons.  I reach for the notepad.)

Oldest Daughter:  Mom, why are you writing this down? It’s not even funny.

Youngest Daughter:  Daddy, what is bleeding in the brain?

* * * * *
Honestly, what do most families talk about during dinner?  Please tell me it is not aneurysms.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snowstorms, Chapter 532

In which the Common Household Husband Saves the Day and God Answers Prayers

Here is the proof that no one was expecting this snowstorm:  the grocery store this morning was practically empty, with full shelves of milk and toilet paper.  The guy at the fish counter sold me a nice piece of salmon, even though he wasn’t officially open yet.

In the afternoon, by the time I realized this storm was serious, the kids were already up at the high school at the musical rehearsal.  Mr. P, who runs the musical, overrules God and the weather, and will not cancel rehearsal for anything. So I expected rehearsal to go to the bitter end at 6:30 pm.

My husband was able to leave work early.  He had been thinking of taking the bus, but in the end had driven the car.  I prayed for his safe arrival home.  On the way home he saw a city bus and a truck slide sideways right off the road. 

After a long and arduous trip he arrived home. But the Snow Fairy had been lulled into complacency by recent warm weather, and had not shoveled the driveway. So out he went to do the task. 

Then the kids called to report a small miracle: Musical rehearsal ended early; “please come pick us up.”  It turns out Mr P. was not at the rehearsal at all.

We had arranged to bring home our friends’ son, plus our two kids.  My husband and I had a brief argument about who would go get them. He challenged me, “Do you know how to drive in the snow?”  He thinks my answer to that should be No, I do not but he does

I said, “I drove around this afternoon,” thereby proving nothing.

“But do you know how to drive in the snow?” 

He grew up driving in snow, but on flat land.  It ain’t flat around here.  And the fact is we’ve lived in this town for 17 years and I have not yet had an accident while driving in the snow.  I will not mention the few Amusement Park Moments I have had.  I said, “You finish cooking dinner while I go get them.” 

He said, “No way!  I don’t want to make dinner!  I’m going.” So he did.  Everybody knows that at our house, cooking dinner is far worse than going out in a snowstorm.

I stayed and cooked, and prayed a quick prayer, and shoveled some more snow.  Youngest Daughter was surprisingly helpful. It turned out that in the afternoon my husband had told her she wasn’t being helpful enough, so she had taken his words to heart.   

Yesterday, my husband had just gotten 4 new tires for the van, just in time for this snowstorm.  The previous ones (put on by the car dealer) were practically bald.

My husband called when they were leaving the high school, and he said, “For reasons I can’t explain right now, I am going to take an alternate route home.  If I turn right at that street after the Wendy’s it will lead to Road X, right?” 

I said, trying desperately to remember which road he was talking about, “That road is really curvy.  Don’t you think you should come home on the main roads?”  He said no.  I tried again and said, “Okay, but I really think you’ll be better off coming back on the main road.”  I hung up and prayed a rather more fervent prayer.

About half an hour went by, and they weren’t home yet.  I figured they were lost or had to abandon the car in a ditch on Curvy Road X.  I called, and my husband said, “I’m at the bottom of our hill, but the car won’t go up.  I’m going to get the kids to push it.” 

It’s pretty handy to have three hale and hearty teenagers to push your car up a snow-covered hill.  But the car is a minivan, so I imagined teenagers pinned under the wheels.  I decided to head out with the snow shovel, the salt, and my Snow Fairy muscles, to help out.  But then I realized I needed to call my friends and tell them it’s hopeless – they won’t be able to get to our house to pick up their son.  So I went back in the house and called them, and then headed out again.  I saw three figures running towards me in the dark, and the lights of our van at the crest of the hill.  Impeccable timing on my part! The figures were the teenagers who had been excused from pushing, and had very cold feet. 

When my husband finished pulling the car into the garage, he went to close the garage door, and saw our friend, the father of the third teen, standing there.   !  “How did you get here?!” my husband said.  “I walked,” our friend said.  !  No, not from his house.  He had seen our van couldn’t make up the hill, so he parked at the bottom of the hill.  Eventually they too made it home safely, with some very wet and cold feet.

When our family got settled in, my husband said to me, “Next time that I call you while I am driving home in a snowstorm, and I tell you I am taking an alternate route, you must not allow me to do so.  You must insist that I come home by the main road.”

All those things my husband did!  He is my hero.  We also prayed for safe travel for everyone else still out there, and can only hope that prayer is answered positively also.  We sat down to our salmon dinner, and said a prayer of thanksgiving that we were all home safe and sound.

Tonight a friend posted this on facebook:  “If when you wake tomorrow, you only had what you thanked the Lord for today, what would you have?”  To which I reply, Well, we wouldn’t have any snow.  And I would have my family. 

And in fact I expect to have them around when I wake tomorrow:  it’s a TWO HOUR DELAY.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mom, I need this by 6 AM tomorrow

Kids sometimes come up with statements that challenge a mother’s coping skills.  Statements like these:

(a) “Mom, I need a monkey costume for school tomorrow.”


(b) “Mom, I need to bring 100 cupcakes with green icing to class tomorrow.”

Here is the modern high school version of that.

At 9 o’clock one evening, my son said, “Mom, I forgot to tell you – I need a calorimeter for chemistry class tomorrow.”  (Let’s say it together: “cal-o-RIM-e-ter.”)

My brain tends to shut down after 9 pm, so for a few seconds I just vaguely wondered what a calorimeter was.  When I opened my mouth to reply, all I could say was, “I don’t have one.”  

The Common Household Son replied, “I’m supposed to make one.” 

Me:  “What?! Do we have the ingredients?  Where are the instructions for how to make one?”  I was still wracking my brain to see if it knew what a calorimeter was.  It didn’t.

Son:  “I think I need an empty can.”  My son started rooting through the cupboard, and pulled out canned pumpkin.

Now I was on firmer ground.  I know what an empty can is.  That night was trash night, so all the empty cans were in the recycle bin, out at the curb waiting to be picked up the next morning.  “You’ll have to go out and dig through the trash.  You may not open a new can just to make... the thing you need to make.”

After awhile Son reappears with an empty can.  “I think I need another smaller can, too,” he said.  Every other mother would have responded with, “Why didn’t you get one while you were rooting around in the trash?”  But I was thinking on a higher plane, the plane of intellectual curiosity.  I responded, “What IS a calorimeter?”

It just so happened that my brother was visiting that night.  (This brother also helped my son with some Halloween Science.)  I turned to him in desperation.  “Can you help him make a calorimeter?  And maybe somebody can explain to me what a calorimeter is.”

A calorimeter, it turns out, is a device used to measure the number of calories in a sample of food.  You are supposed to set the food on fire right underneath a small amount of water.  (This chemistry teacher seems to like fire.)  You measure how much the temperature of the water increases due to the burning food, and get a measure of calories.  It’s easier but less fun to find this out by looking it up on the Weight Watcher’s chart.

My brother saved the day.  He said we needed a second, smaller can, preferably a thin one.  This would be the part where the water goes. We sacrificed one of my husband’s Cherry Coke Zeroes for science.  We also donated a pencil to science.  After some discussion (measure twice, cut once!), Son and his uncle got out a screwdriver and a hammer, made the appropriate holes and, voila, a calorimeter!

My own mother experienced the demand for a monkey costume [example (a) above] and came through with flying colors, making a great costume from scratch, in less than a day.  Some 45 years later, she still has the costume.  My husband made me throw out the calorimeter.  Where is that Weight Watcher's chart?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Israeli Cooking Night: Salad and Bread

Israeli Salad

Makes enough for a small army.  We made half of this, and it was enough for 8 people.

6 cucumbers, diced  (We were using what I call ‘European’ cucumbers)
4 roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and diced
5 green onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/3 cup chopped garlic
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup minced fresh mint leaves
½ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper

Toss the cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, garlic, parsley, and mint together in a LARGE bowl.  Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the salad and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to serve.
Partway through - before adding oil etc.

Pita Bread

Makes 10 to 12 pitas
Prep time: 45 minutes.  Cook time: 10 minutes.  Rising time: 1 hour 30  minutes.  Total time: 2.5 hours

2 Tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
1 ¼ cups warm water (about 110 to 115 degrees)
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt

Put yeast in ¼ cup of water; add sugar and let stand for 10 minutes.  Sift 2 ½ cups of flour and the salt into a warm bowl.  Form a well in the center; pour in yeast mixture and remaining warm water. Begin to mix with hand, wooden spoon, or dough hook, adding remaining flour as needed.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 to 15 minutes, until smooth and no longer sticky.

Oil a large bowl; place dough in bowl and turn to coat with oil.  Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place free of drafts for 1.5 to 2 hours.  Dough should be doubled in bulk.  Knead for a few minutes then divide into balls about 2.5 inches in diameter.  Roll balls into circles on a lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, or flatten into circles with hand. The circles should be about ¼ inch thick and about 7 inches in diameter.  Sandwich the circles between floured cloths and let rise for about 20 minutes in a warm place. 

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Sprinkle cookie sheets with flour or oil.  Place loaves on baking sheets and bake 5 to 10 minutes.  If baking sheets are oiled, turn pita loaves to brown both sides.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

Pitas after being rolled out

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Israeli Cooking Night - Felafel

At our cooking night, there was some discussion about why it was necessary to soak canned garbanzo beans. I was cooking a different dish, so I didn't really observe what happened to the soaking beans.  But the recipe seemed to work.  It wasn't very many beans, and I was surprised it made 16 balls.  We used wheat flour in place of the soy flour.  I asked which section of the grocery store had soy flour, but no one knew.


Makes 16 balls

1/3 cup canned garbanzo beans
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon baking soda
5 chopped garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
¼ cup soybean flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
½ slice of bread (for bread crumbs)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups vegetable oil

Small bowl, can opener, teaspoon, 1 cup measure, colander knife, food processor, juicer, bowl, wok, stove top, timer, potholders, spoon, paper towels

Cover garbanzo beans with water and stir in ½ teaspoon baking soda.  Soak for 20 minutes.

Drain garbanzo beans.

Add garlic, chopped onion, parsley and garbanzo beans. Put into a food processor and blend.

Add soybean flour, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, bread crumbs and baking powder.
Pour vegetable oil into the wok.  Set over medium heat.

Spoon out the felafel mixture and shape into ½ inch balls.  Deep fry in vegetable oil until golden brown.  Place felafel balls on paper towels to drain excess oil.  Serve in pita sandwiches with mixed vegetables and top with tehina sauce.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Israeli Cooking Night

This was a mother-daughter activity stemming from the Mothers Circle, a program of the Jewish Outreach Institute.  The Mothers Circle is a group of non-Jewish moms raising their children as Jews.  We met all last year, discussing the challenges of interfaith marriage and raising kids.  Last Sunday night, Oldest Daughter and I went to a cooking class which was taught by two young Israelis who are here as sort of ambassadors from Israel to Jewish communities in the U.S.  When I posted photos of our results on facebook, several people requested the recipes.  Here are a few.  More to come, when I get time.

My husband and I, before we had children, lived in New York City.  Sunday mornings we would go to church.  This was a sacrifice on my husband's part, that he, a nice Jewish boy, went to church with me.  After church, we would walk toward our apartment, getting to the corner with the felafel stand just as it opened. Church, followed by felafel in a pita with tehina sauce.  It doesn't get much more divine than that.  


Serves 4

½ cup chopped onion
juice of 2 lemons
2 garlic cloves
1 can drained garbanzo beans
1 tsp chopped parsley
¼ cup olive oil (plus 1 Tbsp for garnish)

Knife, chopping board, 1 cup measure, can opener, juicer, food processor, spatula, bowl

Chop onion.  Slice lemon in half and squeeze juice.  Place garlic, lemon juice, garbanzo beans, olive oil and onion into the food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Use spatula to remove Hummus from food processor.  Place in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve the hummus on a flat plate, swirl it a little with a spoon.  Add 1 tsp chopped parsley and 1 Tbsp of olive oil on top.

      Tehina Sauce

Serves 4

¾ cup tehina
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup water

Bowl, can opener, teaspoon, 1 cup measure, juicer, spoon.

Place tehina, lemon juice and garlic powder in a bowl.  Mix until smooth.

Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until sauce is thin enough to pour. 

Add salt and pepper.  Serve.  Use as a sauce for pita sandwiches.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Take that, Chef Ramsay!

Thank you, Annie, whoever you are, for making possible my gift to my husband for Valentine’s Day.

The Common Household Husband has been requesting Lobster Bisque for months. He and Oldest Daughter watch cooking competition shows and then ask me to duplicate the carefully orchestrated TV dishes.  Gordon Ramsay I am not. 

My husband had even gone so far as to give me a recipe for Lobster Bisque, but I was reluctant to spend all that money on lobster for something that probably wouldn’t taste remotely like Chef Ramsay made it.  And all those heavy cream calories!  I threw out that recipe.

Last week he asked what I would like for Valentine’s Day.  Chocolate, of course.  I asked him what he would like, and he said, “Lobster Bisque.”  Requesting it for Valentine’s Day raised the ante.  Uh oh.

The first recipe I found had instructions that included:
“Add lobsters head first and boil until cooked through, ....  Coarsely chop lobster shells and bodies;”

The next recipe I found said:
“Dispatch the lobster by plunging a sharp knife directly behind its head. Cut the lobster in half lengthwise; make sure to collect the juices that will run out. Remove the claws and tail pieces and set aside. Remove the head sac and liver and discard them; cut the body into pieces. Alternately, you can have your fishmonger do this.”

Those were the recipes on the big-name chef sites. Not only did they require me to execute the lobsters myself, but both sounded incredibly messy and time consuming.  Coarsely chopping lobster bodies probably requires an axe. I am not in the mood to be removing head sacs. I do not want to collect any juices flowing from any bodies; there was enough of that when the kids were in diapers.  And I don’t have a fishmonger.  Does anybody?

But then I found Annie’s recipe.  Oh, the beauty of it!  Onion! Wine! Tomato! Milk! Red pepper!  Perhaps it does not count as genuine lobster bisque because it uses chicken broth, rather than broth from coarsely chopped shells.  I used frozen lobster tail, another cheat in Chef Ramsay’s book, I’m sure.  Lucky for me, Chef Ramsey wasn’t here when I cooked it.

Last night I served my soup. It was a huge success, and very appropriate for Valentine’s Day because it is pink.

Did you make any Valentine's Day requests?  Receive any pink food?

Annie's Lobster Bisque
By: Annie

Prep Time: 15 Min             Cook Time: 45 Min             Ready In: 1 Hr              Yield 6 servings 

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, chopped [I used 1 cup of white onion, which was half of my gigantic onion}
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cooking sherry
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
half of a 6-ounce can of tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
5 cups milk (2%)  [Just for Valentine’s Day, I used 1 cup heavy cream and 4 cups 2% milk]
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste [I used slightly less than ¼ tsp]
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay®)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked lobster claw, cut into bite-sized pieces

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the chopped onion, and cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the white wine and sherry. Cook and stir until the liquid has reduced by half.

Sprinkle in the flour while stirring to ensure there are no lumps. Once a thick paste has formed, stir in the tomato paste, then pour in the chicken broth and milk. Season with cayenne pepper, black pepper, seafood seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and green onion.

Cook and stir over medium heat until the bisque begins to simmer, about 15 minutes. Stir in the lobster meat, and reheat before serving.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nighttime Barbie

Writing Challenge:  What if you were a Barbie that was only active at night?
(For an explanation of Writing Challenges, click here.)

The participants in this challenge were aged 8 and 14, plus 2 adults.  Our responses:

Writer 1 wrote:
Oh my gosh, it’s like, totally dark in here!  It’s like, you know, like summer, only without the sun.  OMG, how am I supposed to, like, find the phone?  If I cannot find the phone within the next, like, minute, I ‘m going to, like, die!  Because I need to, like, talk to all my friends, ‘cause we’re like, having a talking marathon and I’m like, gonna so kick their butts.  OMG, I just, like, bumped into something!  Is that, like, a mall?  Because I like need to be near a mall to survive.  OMG, this place is so weird.  Why is it so, like, dark in here?  Is anyone listening?

Writer 2 wrote:
Let’s take inventory:
light-up miner’s cap – check.
Glow in the dark compass – check.
Pink phosphorescent dune buggy – check.
Animal-repelling bikini with magnetic utility belt – check.
Fluorescent lipstick, spray-on hair sparkles, luminescent nail polish, and silk braided bull whip – check.
My name is “Indiana Barbie” and I am off to explore the Temple of Doom.

Writer 3 wrote:
I hopped on my bike and steered into the hall.  I had been doing this for weeks.  I loved it.  I was a Barbie active at night, a toy during the day.  I knew it would be light soon so I snapped off my helmet, climbed off my bike, and went back to see the sun rise.

Writer 4 wrote:
Hi!  I’m Nocturnal Barbie!  I come with a black leather outfit, a black ski mask, and infrared vision goggles!  My accessories include a lock pick, a crowbar, and, of course, gloves to prevent my fingerprints from being left behind ! ! You can use me when you want to play “Night-time Robbery” or “Breaking in to the Bank” ! !   Only from Mattel.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snow Fairy Labor Protest

Last night Mr. Weatherman predicted another 2-3 inches of snow overnight.  You would think Mr. W. would be tired of that prediction, and would predict something else like, say, sunny and warm with a high of 75 degrees.  Not today.   Instead we get “occasional snow, very cold, with a high of 21 (feels like 6).”

Let me tell you this, Mr. Weatherman: this Snow Fairy is tired of shoveling snow.  And I have a cold.  In order to protect my delicate lungs, I decided to be  proactive in gently suggesting that someone else, someone younger and more agile and without a cold, could do the shoveling the next morning.  So I put this sign on the inside of the front door, where the two resident teenagers would be sure to see it in the morning:

But this is what I saw in the morning:

Why bother to shovel snow when you can walk through it?  It’s only 3 inches of snow. I guess my children have better shoes than I do.  When I walk in 3 inches of snow, my feet get cold and wet.

And that’s when I decided.  The Snow Fairy is on a work slowdown.  As a labor protest I only shoveled half of the walk.  So there!  Take that!

Now the Snow Fairy wants to unionize.   Snow Fairies, Unite!  You have nothing to lose but your shovels!  

Friday, February 4, 2011

More Snow Physics

Long-time readers of this blog will recall last winter, when the Common Household Husband tried to pass off “Frank’s Law” as the formula for the rate of snowmelt.  This time, we have a slightly different physics lesson.

A few weeks ago, a fair-to-middling snowstorm descended on us, with the weatherman promising 6 to 8 inches of snow overnight.  Before dinner, I cajoled Oldest Daughter and Son into helping me shovel the driveway.  Then we all came in, but I went out again to shovel the front walk.   

At dinner time, my son asked, “Mom, why did you shovel the front walk when it’s just going to snow some more?”  I said, “Because I would rather shovel 3 inches now, and then 3 inches in the morning, than shovel 6 inches all at once.” 

He replied said, “But that’s twice the amount of work – you have to throw the snow twice over.”  My son is all in favor of the Law of Conservation of Energy.

The Common Household Husband (remember that he is a biologist, O Best Beloved), chimed in with some helpful theoretical physics.  “As you know, Work equals Mass times Acceleration.  So shoveling half the mass of snow requires less work....” 

The Common Household Son, who is going to the regional Science Bowl at the end of February, has been studying up on physics, although he has never had any formal class. He could not be fooled, and corrected his Dad's theoretical physics. “DAD, it’s F = ma.  That’s FORCE equals mass times acceleration.  Force is not the same as Work.  Work = Force times Distance.” 

His Dad said, “Exactly. Force is related to Work. So half the mass means half the work.  That’s half the work today and half the work tomorrow.” 

My son objected, “No!  It’s twice the work because you have to walk up and down the walk two times instead of one.” 

Dad said, “No.  It’s the distance you’re throwing the snow, not the distance you’re walking along the way. So the amount of work is the SAME.” 

This argument went on for some time. I finally decided that, according to the Law of Conservation of My Sanity, I needed to put an end to the discussion. So I said, “Okay, Son, I’m nominating YOU to go out and shovel the walk tomorrow morning.”

But the next morning, guess who did the Work of moving a Mass of snow a certain Distance? That’s right – me.  Because I am the only one around here who knows Applied Physics.

Advanced Applied Physics Equipment

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Groundhog Month, all over again?

In the Common Household, the calendar is king.  Our messy wall calendar is my Personal Data Assistant.  I sometimes carry this giant document to the orthodontist or dentist to make an appointment.  This causes the staff to chortle, but hey, we show up at our appointments, don’t we?

This calendar works.  It is the one thing that the Professional Organizer praised me for when she came to save my house from Burial By Stuff.  The key to its success is using pencil only to write on it.  And not to write too big.  One time my husband wrote, in pen, in large letters, DENTIST APPOINTMENT 8:00 AM.  As if he was the only one who would have something going on that day! 

When I first got the calendar for 2011 I was so delighted to have a restfully blank calendar that I took a photo of it.  

And then, just for comparison, a photo of February 2010.  About half the events on there had to be cancelled because of excessive snow. School closures are helpfully circled in red. 
So I am just wondering what is in store for us this February.  We are off to an inauspicious start, with a two-hour delay today.  Will we find ourselves stuck day after day, like Bill Murray, in a never-ending cascade of school closures?  Will the Boy Scout Klondike Derby – a winter skills competition – ironically be cancelled due to snow, as it was last year?  Will Andie MacDowell show up and teach us how to be less grumpy and more generous, in spite of the weather?  I think we have already paid our nasty weather dues this January, but it’s not up to me.

I give just as much credence to Punxatawney Phil as to rolling the dice, so there’s really no way to know.  But the “historic” ice storm we were expecting today did not materialize.  There are many happy events scheduled on the calendar now: Quidditch practice, bake sale at church, Shakespeare festival, Science Bowl, school concerts.  The list is exhaustive and exhausting. The one event that I hope will be cancelled is this Saturday:  another debate tournament that I have to judge.  But these are never, ever cancelled because of snow.  Not nobody not no-how.

What are your plans for February?