Blizzards and Birds

Chickadee on the feeder.

Chickadee on the feeder.

In case you have completely missed it, we’ve been enjoying a record-setting streak of weather here in Massachusetts. The amount of snow that has fallen over the last three weeks is a truly unbelievable 84.2 inches of snow! This is officially the most snow we’ve ever received in a single month, we are now the third snowiest winter on record.

More, our snow blower is broken. Dom came in to tell me the belt was gone and he was a broken man. All fight had just gone out of him. So I kissed him and put on my long underwear and an extra pair of wool socks, a couple pair of gloves, and a scarf and coat and boots. And together we went and shoveled out the end of the drive behind my car. But the mounds on either side of the driveway are more than five feet high. Eight feet at the street end. We simply had nowhere to put all the snow so I argued that we should focus on getting my car out so he could take it to get the part for the blower and pile all the snow behind Dom’s car. So that’s what we did. And we had to shovel twice because, of course, the plow came by just as we finished.

We got at least a foot in the storm that blew through last night and today. We’re supposed to get more snow on Tuesday. Estimates are for 4-8 inches. What do you want to bet we get the high end of that? If not more!

A cardinal, a sparrow, and a wren perching on the playhouse.

A cardinal, a sparrow, and a wren perching on the playhouse.

Chickadee perching on the icicle.

Chickadee perching on the icicle.

I love watching the snow swirl. I love looking out the window and marveling at the chest-high drifts and the one against the fence that is higher than my head. I love the way the icicles come down to touch the tops of the snow drift and make a little cage between the snow-filled yard and the house. I love the bleak whiteness, unrelieved by any color except the flash of cardinal and bluejay’s wings. And the buff on the undersides of the chickadees and tufted titmice and the gorgeous ruddy brown of the wren. Even the evergreens have such a dull shade of green it might as well be grey or brown, it does nothing to relieve the monochromatic feel of the landscape as the blizzard makes little snow devils dance across the yard.

But I do not love the frustration of trying to find a place to put the snow, the narrowing of our street to one lane between two high walls of white until it feels like an endurance challenge. I don’t love the frustration on my husband’s face, the noise and mess and noise of five children who have been cooped up in the house for too, too long. I don’t love the fear of ice dams and collapsing roofs and that terrible panic when the child you thought was climbing the snow mountain in the front yard decides to go to the back yard but you don’t realize it and your heart leaps into your throat as you imagine that she’s buried somewhere in a mountain of snow that is twice as tall as she is.

I’ve taken to keeping the camera at the dining room table where I can grab it and fire off shots when my favorite birds strike a charming pose at the feeder that’s suction cupped to the slider or perch on an icicle while they wait for another bird to finish. I’ve got some really good photos, I’m quite happy with them. And my kids are all learning the names of the birds and their calls. We hear the chickadees calling as they land to snatch a seed: “chickadee-dee-dee, chicka-dee-dee-dee.” I echo it back and the kids echo me.

The wren perches on an icicle.

The wren perches on an icicle.

Song sparrow on the snow.

Song sparrow on the snow.

I stay up too late, reading and writing and thinking or trying to think. During the day I’m tired and cranky and the kids are too noisy. The noise is really getting to me and the kids’ high energy. Anthony especially is getting wild because he’s really too little to enjoy being out in the snow and has so much excess energy. He picks fights because no one will play with him, he natters at Lucy because she will at least fight back and not ignore him.

When the weather isn’t too bad Bella and Sophie and Ben at least will go out in the snow and play and wear themselves out. Lucy’s too little to care. But Anthony just needs to run. He’s all boy. He starts destroying things not out of malice but just high spirits and excess energy. He climbed onto the changing table and pulled down the light in their room yesterday.

The house is a mess and I can’t bring myself to care enough to clean it right now. They’re just going to mess it up again anyway. The kids do a half-hearted job tidying up and I don’t have the wherewithal to do the last ten percent, so it’s in a constant state of not quite tidy enough to keep me from being annoyed.

Two cardinals

Two cardinals

Cardinal.

Cardinal.

I wish I spent more of the day reading something worthwhile instead of looking for amusement on Facebook. More poetry, more novels, more Shakespeare. Maybe that should be my Lenten goal? In addition to more prayer. And finding a way to get everyone out of the house!

Cardinal in the tree.

Cardinal in the tree.

Female cardinal.

Female cardinal.

Out the front window. Sophie added colorful suncatchers to all the windows. They do help.

Out the front window. Sophie added colorful suncatchers to all the windows. They do help.

Backyard. The trellises are almost covered. The fence is almost covered.

Backyard. The trellises are almost covered. The fence is almost covered.

The front of the house. The drifts are more than shoulder high in places.

The front of the house. The drifts are more than shoulder high in places.

The drift at the end of the house is higher than the fence. About a foot higher.

The drift at the end of the house is higher than the fence. About a foot higher.

No swinging today.

No swinging today.

Dom teaches Ben to make pancakes

Dom teaches Ben to make pancakes

Ben flips the pancakes off the griddle.

Ben flips the pancakes off the griddle.

4 Responses to Blizzards and Birds

  1. Lynda February 16, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    First time commenting here but I just had to say kudos for wanting to teach your kids about birds! Teaching them the names of birds and their songs will open a whole world to them and birding is a wonderful hobby that can lead them to some great places off the beaten track. As far as the snow goes, I really don’t know how you do it! Praying for spring to come to you soon.

    • Melanie Bettinelli February 20, 2015 at 11:17 pm #

      it’s been such a joy and a gift. I got our first feeder when my oldest was a toddler and a couple of bird books and started looking up the birds we saw and learning how to identify them. Now she’s able to identify just about any bird we get and know how to look for identifying marks on new birds so she can look them up herself. She’s becoming quite the budding naturalist. And I have very much enjoyed learning how to identify the birds that come to us. Maybe some day we can learn more about identifying birds we see out on our hikes and at the shore and such. Some of my mom’s best friends are avid birders and my grandmother always loved the bird that came to her feeder. I hope my kids will likewise find a passion there.

      The snow is beautiful, but certainly a mixed blessing. Thanks for the prayers.

  2. Stephanie February 20, 2015 at 3:48 am #

    Hi Melanie,
    I love your bird photos and the snow! I know it is a mixed blessing when you are living in it it but it looks so glorious to me. (Kids with cabin fever is another thing and for that I absolutely sympathise). What memories your children will have- maybe like the Ingalls in the Long Winter when at the reunion in De Smet years later those who’d been there wore badges!

    Back on the topic of daily routines one thing that helped me was something I saw my friend Jane do. She had her kids get sorted for tomorrow the night before along with doing teeth and toilet before bedtime story. Usually the children were happy to chose their first activity and put it on the table or in their pile on the floor because at that point there is no pressure to do it. Often my children would start on it before breakfast without me saying a word -maybe because it was there and I wasn’t telling them to. Oddly my kids liked to do music first and that was great because I’m slow and dopey in the mornings but happy to support. Also things which can flow easily early get harder and harder to cajole the later in the day it gets. For us, anyway.

    • Melanie Bettinelli February 20, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

      Thanks, Stephanie. The snow is gorgeous and exciting… and frustrating and a bit scary. It certainly does feel like we’re living in a story. Today Dom told me not only is this month a contender for snowiest, but also for coldest. It’s been pretty extreme. Yesterday it got up to 21 and it felt so warm, I was outside without a hat and gloves and even unbuttoned my coat as I shoveled the snow. When 21 feels warm, you know things have been harsh.

      I like the idea of picking a first activity and setting it out before bed. I wonder if I can be consistent enough to make that work? Very definitely something to give a try.

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