Tuesday, November 16, 2010

S'now Joke

Before I moved to Calgary I received a number of stern warnings (mostly from friends and family who were trying, not very subtly, to dissuade me from moving here) about the harsh weather conditions of Alberta. Comments like "Do you know how cold it gets there?" and "How are you going to survive?" were bandied about only part-jokingly.

And I was all "Oh hahaha don't be ridiculous! How bad can it be? People live there and they're perfectly fine.".

I pictured cozy nights in front of a roaring fireplace, gazing out at the snowstorm from inside, hot chocolate in hand, cashmere throw over my legs. I pictured wool scarves and mittens and fur trimmed vests on a ski hill and dog-sled rides in the moonlight.

So maybe the dog-sled rides were a bit too far, but whatever. It was going to be fine, just fine.

The first winter here, I was in for a shock. One morning in October I stepped outside and straight into a foot of snow (more than England typically sees in a whole year). It was like someone had gone overboard with the white foam spray on the entire world.

By January, temperatures had dipped to horrific proportions of somewhere in the minus twenty- to thirty-degree range. We'd recently adopted our dog, Bongo, and I was determined to continue with our daily dog walks, so I traipsed out into the dog park, naively wearing my jeans and trainers and semi-winter coat. And almost died of frost bite and hypothermia and other cold diseases.

Finally someone showed me the ways of the arctic people: I was introduced to Sorrel snow shoes and goose down coats and, to my horror, long johns. Yes, long johns, under everything. Sexy, slinky long johns that cling so tight they make your legs itch like a bastard.

I quickly discovered that small things like nose hairs freezing within seconds of being outside and fingers turning blue from cold were just, you know, normal every day occurrences. Not things to worry, complain, or throw tantrums about, according to Calgary folk. Around this neck of the woods, you get on with it. Never mind the cold, the snow, the frozen nose hairs and the fingers almost gangrenous from frost bite.

My parents came out to Calgary to visit, the year after I moved here, during the coldest of the winter months. And basically, they were horrified. I tried to put on a brave face and show them "Ha, see, I can do this! This? Snow? This is nothing. I will even wear my flip flops because I am a tough Canadian now!" And then I quietly locked myself in the bathroom and wept, remembering how manageable the English winters really were.

Me with my husband and father, seven months after moving to Calgary, 
showing how magnificent! the snow really was (Lake Louise).

For me, one of the worst things about the snow was the driving. Even with winter tires, I was sliding around like a deer on ice, terrified of crashing into other motorists or veering into bus shelters. But, not to be put off, I enrolled myself on a winter driving course and learned the proper way to handle winter driving conditions. And things really started to look up when they let me drive out on an ice field and do a handbreak turn. Awesomeness.

After a few years I got used to the snow, kind of, and things were relatively normal again.

Until I had kids.

And then it wasn't the driving that I dreaded, nor was it the fear of freezing my face off, but the fear of going out with the kids, in the minus-ridiculousness temperatures.

Because, as anyone with young kids will attest, preparing for an outing with little ones during winter is about as simple as strapping a zebra and four goats to an elephant.

First there are the snow pants, which go over the regular pants, then the coats, then the hats, the mittens, the boots. Did I leave anything out? And after all the dressing is done, there's hardly a child left to be seen under all the layers. 

 But, like I said, I'm tough to this now. Right? And I shall not be deterred by a little snow. I shall go forth and brave the cold, carry on with my life as normal, I shall not transfer my hatred of winter to my sons. I shall find the bright side to this cold, slushy nightmare.

Insert smiley face here.

How about you? How do you cope with bitterly cold temperatures?

People from places like Florida need not reply. Seriously, if you still want to be friends.
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Midwest Mommy said...

I am crying about it being 39 here, good grief I'll take my 39, lol

If I Could Escape . . . said...

If I had money for every person who reminded me about how bad the British weather was before coming out here, I'd be a millionaire! We are living the cooler climate and the boys can't wait for snow. I am dreading driving in it having only driven in Florida my whole life. Yikes! Great post!

If I Could Escape . . . said...

Loving not living!!

If I Could Escape . . . said...

Loving not living!!

Mwa said...

That looks so hard to deal with if you have a small baby! I really feel for you.

Blondie said...

This is gorgeous! I'm so jealous with it being about 85 here...wondering when we will get some fall weather! Check out my Christmas giveaway if you haven't already!


Kori xoxo

Lady Mama said...

Midwest Mommy - I'll take your 39 too thank you.

If I Could Escape - Hope you get a little snow then (but not too much).

Mwa - it is not easy!

Elaine A. said...

I'm gonna just say that your child is cute all bundled up and keep my mouth shut after that. :-)

Sparkless said...

I live in Southern BC where we don't get that horrible cold. We get lots of snow and I love it. Nothing better than skiing and sledding.

Nikosmommy said...

I grew up with Alberta winters and quite frankly we are BLESSED for not living in Manitoba where my parents grew up (and of course remind me of this every time I complain about winter here.) At least we get Chinook winds that blow in and melt everything!...most of Canada has no such thing (poor souls)
I have the almost EXACT picture of my inlaws standing in front of the ice castle on Lake Louise. They came to visit for Christmas from Greece in 2005 and were traumatized by the cold (it was a super mild winter that year too!)
I guess it all depends on what you grew up with and what you're used to. Sounds like you've adapted very well though!
(I'm off to shovel my driveway...stay warm!!!)

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

Yep. Welcome to Minnesota as well. The kids and snowgear is the worst. You should even see a group of 4th graders trying to get all that gear on and off. When they are taking it off, it looks like a clothes tornado.

Lady Mama said...

Sara - sounds like a snow gear nightmare!

naomi said...

I don't know how you do it. I just cannot cope with the cold.

Metropolitan Mum said...

You should have moved to Gstaad with all your log fire and cashmere fantasies...

J said...

You didn't actually believe me when I said the winters here were fine, did you? Sorry about that! X

WhisperingWriter said...

I cope by eating a lot of chocolate.

But really, driving in it scares the CRAP out of me. We get a lot of snow in Wyoming too.

Kata Wagner Berg said...

I like how you write!

Snow...right now I am happy to not to see snow...cos we just moved from Norway to Spain few weeks ago!

But! I am sure for Christmas would be better in a place like you are! :)
Have a nice weekend with you beautiful family!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

The DC area isn't so bad. But we do have a blizzard now and again and then it seems like weeks of being snowbound. Since we don't get TONS of snow, we're kind of wimps about it anyway.

When you were talking about dressing the kids I pictured Randy from A Christmas story ("I can't put my arms down!")

LisaDay said...

I used to love winter. Now I am thinking of joining your Florida friends.

But you are right about the kids and snow (your recent post of your son flapping on the floor made me laugh out loud). It's such a pain.


Merry said...

I totally know how you feel! I found myself nodding through this entire post! I moved to Calgary from Texas 6 years ago and I'm still not used to it. That whole nose hair freezing thing sets me off every year!

Anonymous said...

So....if I was to write that here in Sydney, I can often wear a t-shirt in the middle of winter....you'd delete my comment right?

I guess I'd better not write that then! ;)

Seriously though...gorgeous photos...Canada is the first country on my list of countries that I want to visit one day...if I ever leave my bubble that is! Lol