Saturday, January 26, 2013

Snowy stuff

When I was in a linguistics class in college, we began to discuss that myth that "Eskimo" languages have over 100 words for snow when in reality every culture/language/people who deal with a lot of snow tend to have a lot of words for it. The professor asked if anyone knew any other terms for snow and I scored mega points with the TA for suggesting "corn."

"You snowboard?" he asked.




"How do you know corn then?"



Canadians also have over 100 words for snow. I'm pretty sure that down south they have, like, three.

Okay, so I'm not actually sure where I picked up the term, though I do believe it was in science in grade nine—that Mr. Whatwashisname did some great lectures. (And seriously...what was his name? Also, where is my brain? I used to remember everything. Now it's a good memory day if I remember to buckle all three kids' seat belts).

I've dealt with a bit of snow in my life. Too much snow, really.

Today I saw something a bit different. We had an ice storm, sure—everything was covered with a thin layer of ice (see fig. 1—Andrew's motorcycle scooter cover, which wasn't blowing in the breeze because it was encased in ice).

fig. 1
The ice was pretty thin—not nearly thick enough to go ice skating on (see fig. 2). Bummer.

fig. 2
It was bizarre to see ice covering everything, sure, but I've seen ice cover things before. I've also not seen ice cover things—like, remember that one time I slipped down the driveway and slid underneath my friend's car? Yeah...I remember that.

Perhaps it was more bizarre to see ice covering things here where up until last week I wasn't sure it would ever get cold enough to actually freeze anything.

So, it got cold enough to freeze things and we had a bit of ice (not a ton), which was supercool (haha—get it?but here's what was completely new to me:

Ice pellets. Also known as sleet. 

Where I come from, sleet is rare. What I grew up calling sleet must've been something different.*

Ice pellets are different. They're not hail—they're smaller than hail and are always clear (because they're only ever one layer (hail can accumulate several layers), like little frozen rain drops. This is a good thing because playing in ice pellets is a lot less painful than playing in hailstones and if you work hard enough you can do everything with ice pellets that you might do with snow.

Rachel and I had a great time playing in the freshly fallen ice pellets while everyone else napped.

I am far less concerned about her eating snow here than in Utah—you should check out our air quality index (don't be jealous, Utah peeps).

I actually went inside to wake Miriam up from her nap so that should could play in this lovely winter precipitation with us. It was a little melty so I was afraid it would all freeze over tonight (it probably will) and then melt by the time we were finished ballet (it probably will) so if she didn't wake up to play then she'd miss winter altogether!


Admittedly that's not exactly a travesty in my books. Actually, hibernation was always something I could do. Sleep right through winter? Bring it on. 

Miriam isn't terribly fond of the cold either but she had fun in the snow for a little while.

Again, with the snow-eating...

She only lasted for a few minutes before she wanted to go back inside again. Her last straw with the cold was when the girls went to ask if the neighbour girls could come outside to play and were told they couldn't because they were having dinner (but that maybe they could come outside after dinner).

Miriam was the first party pooper and because she was going inside, Rachel decided to go inside and I sure wasn't going to stay outside if there wasn't any little person to supervise.

Just as we got warm the neighbour girls came knocking on the door so we got all dressed up again and went back outside. The ice pellets were sticking to the ground deck a little more so they got out shovels and things to scrape the pellets off the wood (the ice pellets on the ground were completely unusable—they'd melt and/or freeze on the spot) so that they could have a snowball fight.

Benjamin hung out with us for a while. He wasn't entirely impressed with the cold, though the snowball fight did get a few mildly-entertained guffaws out of him. He went inside early to hang out with Daddy.

The water in all our buckets froze and the girls were able to pry some of it out. Rachel thought this one looked like a telephone of sorts:

Miriam found a circle one:

The jumprope was crusty with ice, the hoola hoop was frosty, and the balls crunched a little when you kicked them, but the girls had fun with all our outdoor equipment (not that we have much).

This storm didn't seem too bad to me. The ice pellets were a nice touch—they added a little more traction to things than plain ice would have offered (the girls tried to go skating in their boots but either we didn't have enough accumulation or it wasn't slippery enough or their boots have awesome traction...whatever the reason boot-skating was minimal).

It was a fun day, though I do feel as though the south is crying wolf with these storms. I keep hearing such awful stories, though most of the ones I heard from locals were prefaced with "This one time in 2002..." That was a decade ago, folks.

But as a friend—and a local—pointed out, they aren't as bad here as they are in Florida, where the anniversary of a snowfall 36 years ago was newsworthy. I'm sure that will be like the hail storm we experienced in Egypt a few years back—no one was quite sure what to make of that (it felled trees, stopped the metro, halted traffic all over the city—there's no drainage system in the streets so the roads were rivers—it was a mess)!

I'm curious to know whether devastating storms are the norm here or if they're just a little more nervous about things like snow here. On the scale of mild-normal-crazy, how would a Carolinian (?) rate this storm?

I sent Andrew to the store for batteries because we have AA batteries up the wazoo but one of our big flashlights takes DD batteries and I wanted to be sure that we had enough DD batteries to last for a while—just in case. He wandered down the bread and milk aisles, just for a shufti because we'd heard about the milk/eggs/bread phenomenon down here (which is that whenever "there's a storm coming" the milk/eggs/bread disappear from the shelves). Apparently that's true:

He said he saw a lady grab about ten loaves of bread—five bags in each hand—and hustle to the checkout lines. Now what's she going to do with ten loaves of bread? Say the power was out for a week. Do people even go through ten loaves of bread in a week? I'm just wondering.

Our neighbour (the one at the bus stop with us) asked if we were good on bread and milk and eggs.

"We should be," I said. "We just went grocery shopping."

"Well, good," he said. "I don't know what it is about a storm but if you go shopping before a storm you can't find bread or milk or eggs. It's like storms make us crave French toast or something!"

(He said 'us' because he's from here).

It's an interesting phenomenon, but I wonder if it isn't self-perpetuating. Everyone keeps talking about the importance milk and eggs and bread in the anticipatory stage of the storm which probably causes people to go out and buy more milk and eggs and bread. Not that those things aren't important; just that there are other things that are equally important and/or useful in an emergency situation. 

This one time, a tornado ripped through my hometown (one of my hometowns, anyway), destroying some grain elevators and flipping a semi-truck but even though they still get tornado warnings (and treat them seriously) they don't bunker down every time it gets windy.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say or how I will ever manage to say it without offending someone, but I think this probably sums it up nicely:

And, in case you're wondering, there are so many words for snow.

*And, yes! Sleet in Canada means 'rain mixed with snow' which is certainly different from ice pellets but still allowed to be called sleet.


  1. We joke about our overreacting to snow as well. It's especially amusing when the news people are out in the field measuring the one inch with their rulers! Haha.

    And, yes, why bread and milk instead of chocolate and Coke or beer (for those who like alcohol)? I wonder if it has to do with the former being staples for many families so people don't want to run out. Or maybe it's just tradition. You know..chance of snow in the forecast = a rush to the store for bread and milk. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and glasses of milk for supper? :)

    I enjoy your commentary on life here. I suppose sometimes we remember the big storms (like the ones that took down trees and left us without power) so we prepare for those scenarios JUST IN CASE. (Sounds like something your religion would be okay with. Don't y'all stockpile canned goods in case the world ends tomorrow?) Sometimes the forecasters are wrong and we end up getting a bit more than expected... so why not be prepared?

    How are things in your neighborhood this morning? I've not been out, but my road is

    1. I think it's fine that people like to be prepared; we do believe that "if you are prepared you shall not fear." However, we're not preparing for an end of world scenario but for situations like these—when a winter storm knocks the power out or to hold us over through a job hunt when finances are tight or what have you. I applaud preparedness; I just find the bread and milk and eggs thing a little funny (and so do a lot of people down here (including those born and bred here (no pun intended)).

      We've certainly turned many heads when we go grocery shopping here. If we need one can of diced tomatoes we buy five. If we need rice we buy a big bag. If pasta's on sale we totally stock up. We often get comments from the cashiers about it. Once when we bought several small bags of flour (because unless you go to Walmart or Costco they don't seem to have big bags here) the cashier said, "Wow—are you planning on doing some baking?"

      "Nope," I said.

      She stopped scanning things and looked at our flour stash. "What's all this for, then?" she asked.

      "Oh. We just moved here and our flour bin is empty; we're trying to fill it up."

      "You keep this much flour on hand?" she asked.

      "We try to," I said.

      It's not even "a lot" but it was enough to get us through our first month of life here when we had absolutely no money to go shopping with at all (which is why the flour bin was empty when we finally got around to it).

      So while I think it's great that people want to be prepared (we prepared for this storm as well; I checked our flashlights and noted we had no spare DD batteries (which is why Andrew was sent to the store)), the last minute rush for milk and bread and eggs simply strikes me as humorous, that's all.

    2. Yes,we laugh about it, too. We even have those Facebook memes we share about it. :)

      We buy a lot of carrots because we have a juicer, and I often have people ask if we have horses.

      It's nice that you are prepared, and my dad is one who likes to stock up on things when he finds a good sale. Last week he was able to give away 100 cans of food to a needy family because he had acquired so much.

    3. That's awesome about your dad—that's another reason to have a good food supply: to help other people.

      And funny about the horse comment. :)

  2. white and since it wasn't really snowing, I'm guessing it's ice which is no fun driving on - at least not for me, the inexperienced Southern driver who has so few words for snow (haha...hey, that's fine with me. I hate winter after about two days. :))

    Cute pictures!

    Sorry I had to post two comments. I guess I'm chatty this morning because I've had to stay inside for too many hours and I am bored!! Bring on spring!

    1. Well, we got the girls ready for ballet and Andrew cleared the car off and took it for a test drive (he said he was trying to get the van to fishtail or donut and couldn't make it slip—there weren't any other cars around so he felt alright doing that) but we're staying home from ballet. It *is* icy.

      I called their teacher and she wasn't going to attempt the drive so there was little reason for us to; and we just got word from the studio owner that it would be closed until noon (so we'll go in for their afternoon practice).

      I *am* a little tempted to throw on my skates and see how that goes... ;)

      I hate winter, too. In fact, I despise it. But where I grew up winter didn't stop life—granted, we have more snowplows and a bigger stockpile of gravel/ice melt—so it's weird to have life come to a screeching halt (twice in two weeks!) over a little chilly weather. :)

    2. Can't wait to see pictures and read about your ice skating adventures! Sounds fun!

      Yeah, life stops here when it snows. But we have so little of it usually that many of us don't mind. It's a welcome break to just sit at home, attempt to sled, drink milk and use up all the bread we stockpiled. :)

  3. A guide to rating NC winter weather:
    Three most awesome moments in my memory.

    1989- Huge storm, hit the coast on Christmas, Wilmington had two feet of snow!!!! biggest snow in 120 years! Also my first winter in NC, it was a nice welcome to NC to a sad Utah family who thought they would never see snow again.

    1996- The triangle had a two week period where it ice stormed, snowed, and then ice stormed again, and we never went above freezing. Missed school for 10 days! We had to make it all up well into the summer.

    2005- Most awesome Raleigh winter weather moment. An ice storm came in much sooner than expected and the schools could not get kids home soon enough. Kids spent the night at school, the roads were a grid lock because parents wanted to get to their kids, but once on the road, realized why the schools didn't send the kids home, tons of accidents on the road, the freeway was a mess.

    How this current winter weather ranks..on a scale of 10. a 1. I mean you can normally get one good sled ride a year. This was pretty to look at, but gone, and has minimal impact on your life.

    Love blog stalking you all. Your blogs make me laugh, your kids are cute. :)

  4. It was just about as much fun to read the comments/conversations after the post as it was to read the post!

    Just wanted to say, I am not a really fabulous Canadian apparently, because: corn = snow? Who knew? How did YOU know? And how did I miss knowing that? Wait, I hate sports...especially snowy, outdoor, cold sports...

  5. Super awesome to see my girls in your blog :) We've had 2 really mild winters in a row as far as precipitation goes. I hope that doesn't mean we're in for wild weather next year!