Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Family That Tries Together, Drinks Chai Together

Last week, we were hammered with a snowstorm, followed by sleet, followed by more snow. This all resulted in about 6 inches of a packed ice/ snow combination that was impossible to dig out from (a strong, healthy person could uncover about 50 feet of sidewalk in just under 5 hours using a pick-axe and heavy-duty shovel, but that wasn't happening in our flu-ridden, partially-asthmatic household). Even the plows from the transportation department couldn't get the roads clear... as you all saw on the national news. Schools were out for three days.

Well, over the last couple of days, temperatures have been rising, so I have gone out with my garden edger and garden shovel trying to hammer a path to the driveway and dig-out Frodo's van. (We have a wonderful neighbor who dug out our driveway with his Bobcat the day after the storm, and our Suburban was able to muscle its way out of its parking place.) Primo volunteered to help me, and in an hour's worth of work, we got nowhere with the van and only succeeded in digging a treacherous 6" x 6" hole in front of our back steps.

This morning, I woke up determined to get Frodo's van out and the path cleared before temperatures begin falling again. Again, Primo grabbed a coat, gloves and shovel and followed me outside. Because the ice had been melting on the bottom, we quickly discovered that we could use our tools to pry large chunks of snow and ice off of the driveway then pick them up and hurl them into the lawn and out from in front of Frodo's van. After about 45 minutes, we thought we had cleared enough to get the van out, so I climbed in and started it up. Primo ascended to a safe viewing spot atop the community snow fort at the end of our driveway. Her job was to let me know if the wheels were actually spinning (the tires were actually frozen to the driveway on our previous attempts to free the van).

I slowly press down on the gas and gently let up the clutch as Primo gives me a double thumbs up to let me know that the tires are spinning. Then, miracle of miracles, the van begins to crawl forward. Just when I think I've gotten the van free, it slips and gets wedged into a snowbank. Ugh! I now can't move the van forward or backward. I climb out of the van (which is now tilted slightly) and start to tell Primo to grab her shovel when it begins to downpour. Primo grabs all the tools, I navigate the ice on the driveway, and we head inside to work on spelling and lunch and wait for the rain to stop.

After lunch, the sun came out, so I decided to see if I could free the van... again. Fortunately, the rain had softened the snow, so I had the van dug out and pulled onto snow and ice free pavement within ten minutes. I decided to take advantage of my "success euphoria" and tackle the sidewalk. It was quickly apparent that it was going to take me a long time to uncover it by myself. I couldn't shovel it. I had to break off large chunks then put down the shovel and pick up the pieces by hand to move them then pick up the shovel and break off another section. I needed help. Since it was going to be rather difficult work and outside their normal duties, I went into the house and offered to hire two kids to help me with the sidewalk and one to watch Quarto. All jobs paid $2. Primo and Terzo offered to help me while Secondo offered to watch Quarto (she actually offered to help outside also, but quickly realized she could still earn the $2 and stay warm and dry and play with toys if she offered to babysit... smart kid). Primo and Terzo were real troopers. One of the chunks of ice took all three of us to lift. With lots of dedicated effort and sweat, we had that sidewalk cleared in 20 minutes.

Primo and I headed in to get the girls' grammar lesson finished, but Terzo wasn't satisfied with just getting the sidewalk cleared. He wanted to extend the path to the Suburban's parking space so that Frodo wouldn't have to walk in the snow when he got home. So he grabbed the shovel (which is about a foot taller than he is) and got to work:

It was amazing. He cleared a 2-shovel-width, 6-foot long section in about 15 minutes!

After everyone was back inside, we celebrated all of our hard work with steaming mugs of chai (vanilla ginger spice for Quarto and the girls, coconut for Terzo) then all went to take well-deserved naps... or write blog posts.

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