Snowy Puppies

I recently hauled myself out of bed during one of the dark, cold hours of the morning so that I could be stuffed into an airplane with 900 other passengers on Christmas Eve and shipped over the course of nine hours to Idaho, and the only reason I did this was to see my parent’s new puppy.


That’s him chewing a strand of carpet he pulled out all by himself.

Sure, I also saw my family and we did Christmas things, but the rest of the time I took the puppy- I called him Derpy in my head- out for walks through quiet, snowy solitude, something I have greatly missed.


Never in New Jersey can you look this far and see nobody. There’s a whole mountain behind that wall of mist.

The thing about living on the east coast, as I may have said before, is that it’s crowded. It takes some effort to find a place where you can’t hear traffic. There’s no readily available fields for me to bound over or mountains for me to climb. In fact, where I live is as flat as the no I give the kids when they ask to bring worms inside.

So it was great to have the ability to take a young dog and just walk.


He doesn’t need to be leashed, because he gets nervous if you’re not within easy nipping distance.


You can almost hear his little brain deciding there might be dogs in there.

Every day on the east coast I feel a little itchy and restless, like I’m some kind of mouse living in an owl society. There’s nowhere to run that wouldn’t take a day or move of driving. I’m not sure how everyone here is comfortable living so close to everyone else.



So when I have the opportunity to come back to Idaho, it’s exciting just to have all the wide open spaces again. Also a puppy.


Really, you ought to just go find yourself a puppy and a lot of countryside, I think. It does wonders for the soul.

Or, actually, you can stay in the city and I’ll live in the country and never see you, which is better.

Vacation Like a Rich Person

If you want to escape it all for the weekend, to commune with nature in the wildest parts of America, I highly recommend anywhere besides the Poconos, which might have been nature at one point but is now just a lot of rich people pretending.

Still fun, though.

On the weekend my board gaming friends booked a “cabin” in the “woods,” although in this case “cabin” means “fancy wood-paneled home with Jacuzzi”, and “woods” means “some trees in a gated community surrounding a ski hill.” I had figured going into it that we were in danger of being hunted down by serial killers as we lay defenseless in our ramshackle cabin, but there was a security system and you couldn’t get through the gate if you looked like a murderer.


It’s a cabin because it’s brown.

While there were technically woods surrounding us, all the houses were very closely packed in, lining the twisting roads like an otherworldly suburb. It was quite nice, actually- they had clearly put in an effort to preserve the trees when they built, and regular suburbs could benefit from the increased amounts of nature.


All the other “cabins” were at least partially hidden by the trees, allowing you to pretend you weren’t within 200 yards of another vacationing family.

It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and we had hundreds of board games to get through. It was heaven.


I came very prepared for St. Patrick’s Day.


The hot tub was built into the enclosed porch, which was excellent because it allowed us to get very hot, step outside, roll around in the snow, and submerge ourselves again while icy.





I may have taken a creepy picture of two of my friends talking in the early morning, but they were very cute, and I have no shame.

We spent most of our time in intense relaxation, being as we are all introverts who need a little space throughout the day. We would converge in the kitchen for meals, feast merrily for an hour, and then retreat to quiet corners and watch Planet Earth for a time before board games commenced again. It was lovely.


And then, when it got too stuffy indoors, a group of us adults would swarm the nearby sledding hill and show the local kids just how slowly you could slide down a hill on a sled that was the 1971 Chevy C10 of racecars.

We returned to our normal lives reluctantly, but satisfied in the knowledge that we had made a lot of exceptionally lazy memories. We also learned that there’s no limit to how sick you can get in a minivan with six other people on a winding hilly road in the Poconos.

Can We Have Spring Now?

On very rare occasions parents can be right about things. In this case, that thing is snow- or, more accurately, that snow is not nearly as fun when you’re an adult.

Now, four walls and a fragile personal space bubble is the most separation I have from my workplace, and my morning commute is mostly me forcing myself to get out of bed and walk the ten foot hall to the kitchen, so driving isn’t really an issue. (Disappointingly. If I lived far away I could claim the weather was too bad to drive in.) Rather, the very reason I’m here is to be at the house when the children can’t go to school, such as during a snow day, or one of the forty-three vaguely patriotic holidays the teachers have off.

I’m watching the snow fall right now.


That, ladies and gentlemen, is an ornamental rich person fence. It keeps the poor people safe from the lawyers on the other side.

Fortunately, by the time it started snowing in earnest it was too late for the school to give them back, but Tuesday is gearing up to be another snow day, which means three to six stir-crazy boys frothing at the mouth to get outside, freeze to death for an hour, and then smuggle snow back inside and dump it all over the mud room, to be repeated in another hour.

All day long.

This wouldn’t be so bad if they were a little older, of course. After a certain age you can pitch them outside and keep an eye on them through the window, in the comfort of your well-heated home with a glass of warm milk. But with the mixture of ages, and their tendency to try and sacrifice the little ones to the snow gods, I need to be right out there with them the whole time.


Fortunately, there’s always one that volunteers to shovel the driveway.

I combat this in the only way I know how: By stalling in the garage so that I don’t have to venture out into the frigid wind, which the children can’t feel because children are blissfully unaware of temperature extremes. It’s the same reason these children can play outside in the 90F, 90% humidity of a summer day.


Here’s a good garage game: You take some cones, and you hide a container of bubble solution under one. And then, wait for it, here’s the good part- the child checks under them all until they find them! Now it’s their turn to hide and your turn to find it. Tip: It’s under the one they keep looking and giggling at.

As I was writing the entire power system flickered, which probably means the laundry has stopped and the kids will be coming home from school even earlier.

But good news, it’s Friday!

Good news for the nanny, at any rate. Possibly not so much for the parents.


Paper Dolls

Saturday was a good snowfall that turned the roads to ice and left my poor car sliding sporadically around like a young puppy on a frozen lake, but by Monday the roads had been cleared enough that school was back on, much to the children’s disappointment and the nanny’s delight.

Still, it’s been quite nice, and the children get to go outside after homework and bodily tackle each other into the snow until I decide I should intervene. The littlest ones wear hats made for two head sizes bigger, and it’s highly amusing to watch the gradual slippage until their eyes are completely covered and they have to stagger blindly over to me so I can right it again.

Childhood, am I right?

On Tuesdays Mrs. Parent and the housekeeper spend the day scouring the house for dirt (and with three to six boys, they don’t have to look very hard). In order to not upset the natural balance of things, I spend most of my time in my room while the children are at school.

Today, I thought I might try creating one of those Japanese paper dolls from the creation kit I was gifted.


My last attempt at Origami was making an elephant out of a dollar bill for the oldest boy, over a year ago. The oldest boy did not get an elephant made out of a dollar bill.


I started with the first doll in the book, the “Spring Doll,” on the assumption that I couldn’t possibly mess up the very first (and theoretically easiest) creation on the list.

Everything in the kit is very helpfully labeled, and to my surprise the instructions are very well done. As I had understood previously, origami instructions typically involve a picture of a flat, unfolded piece of paper, followed by a strange midway step that looks like an exploding elevated highway, and then the third and final step telling you to make a simple inverse overstimulated duck fold and voila, you have the completed Eiffel Tower.


This kit, on the other hand, really doesn’t want you to mess up. They give you lines to show you where to fold.


All right, I give them this, this looks like a kimono and I hardly had to do anything.


Sleeves? Arms? Cape?


This will become a head somehow.




It took me ten minutes of rifling through the available paper pieces before I realized there was a false bottom on this thing.


They instructed me to use a lot more tape than I thought an origami book typically would. Don’t get me wrong, I’m insanely grateful, but it feels like cheating.


Good enough!



…Tape for the head, then.



Overall, I rate this kit a good 5 points out of 5 stars, and recommend it to anyone who is generally so incompetent at paper folding that they need a perfect pre-made kit to complete anything worthwhile. I’m honestly astonished I managed to make anything out of it at all, because it looks much more intricate when you just glance at the box.

Now I’ll just leave these lying strategically around my room in the hopes that people think I casually put together elaborate paper dolls in my free time.

Who am I kidding, I don’t have people over, this isn’t my house.

The After-Christmas

Christmas is done and gone, the children are back in school, businesses are opening back up, and my friends are planning fun things forty minutes from me, which is why it’s now snowing so heavily that I can’t locate the driveway or two of the children.


These paper snowflakes feel kind of redundant now.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m conflicted about snow. I’m starting to realize that if you want the kids to go to school or want to be able to drive to Target, the roads need to be clear or you will inevitably end up upside-down in a ditch somewhere with children burying you in snow.

(Children never stop trying to bury you in snow after a certain age. It’s instinct.)

Fortunately, it’s snowing on a Saturday, which should give the schools ample time to shovel everything up in preparation for Monday. Unfortunately, it’s snowing so heavily at present that the roads aren’t really roads at all, but more like incidental logging trails covered in petroleum jelly. I foolishly tried to drive south to play some board games with friends today, and I drove for 40 minutes at 25 miles an hour on the highway. If you’re doing the math, that means it took me exactly an hour to realize I would be better off back at home with a cup of tea.

So now I’m back at home with a cup of tea, listening to the sounds of chaos outside my room, and I’m organizing the Christmas presents from my employers.

Yes, there are enough that they have to be organized.


Bottom left: Box of chocolates that are missing most of the coconut variety already.

My employers are very kind and generous people, and Mrs. Parent in particular loves giving gifts that are thoughtfully tailored to the recipient. I’m not sure they quite understand the all-consuming passion I have for magic, fairy tales, etc., but they really do their best. The purse she was particularly proud of, because she knows I like deep browns and across the chest straps.


My favorite, of course, is the tea.

The peculiar tea set they gave me was composed of one single teabag per type of tea, which is artistic if not very practical, and each tea bag has a little leaf on the end of it for decorative purposes. The covered teacup has a little hole in the top which lets the teabag string through, allowing one to steep their tea without it going cold.


Much like in fancy restaurants, you know the food is too classy for you when there’s so little of it.

Naturally the teacup can be re-purposed to fit regular teabags with enough folding and stuffing.

So now I’m stuck inside the house, but I have my own little oasis, lit by Christmas candles and smelling like chocolates and tea. It’s almost enough to forget that there are three to six boys outside my room, gleefully smacking each other with their new stuffed Pikachus.

I also gave them extreme dot-to-dot books so that they have something that requires sitting quietly for hours at a time. It doesn’t sound like they’re using them.


Don’t tell anyone I’m still playing holiday music. This could be the fourteenth day of Christmas.

Winter Wonderland, Etc.

Ten or so years ago, when it snowed, my sister and I would get all our peculiar friends together and go sledding up and down the canyon near our house. This was a poor choice for a few reasons:

  • It was a canyon.
  • The best part to sled on was a steep slope followed by a sudden three foot drop to small ledge, which was a great shock to your spine.
  • If you overshot the ledge, you had one more slope to stop on before you plummeted over the second drop and fell thirty feet onto the railroad tracks below.
  • There were trees placed very carefully every seven feet so that you couldn’t possibly avoid them all. (But if you couldn’t stop in time, it was better to run into a tree than to plummet thirty feet to the railroad tracks.)
  • It was a canyon.

We nearly killed ourselves many a time, but snow was snow, and snow must be appreciated.

Sadly, most of my Idahoan friends are off being grown-ups, with jobs and spouses and other adult things, so snow must be appreciated on my own, or perhaps with my mother and her abominable snow dog.


Yes, dog. Forge ahead and create a path for us, that our walk might be easier.


She’s not really a snow dog. This is her “Why are we doing this?” face.


If you ever wanted to shuffle through the snow like a drunken penguin with boards strapped to his feet, snowshoes are for you!

The great thing about where we live is that you can pick any direction and just walk. Sure, eventually you’ll leave your property and end up on someone else’s, but no one really cares out here. If you slip in and out without shooting a bunch of animals or chopping down trees, no one minds- heck, no one can really tell you were there. The forest around us is just big, and it makes you realize how long it must have taken people to get anywhere when they traveled by anything other than cars.




I did a lot of poking around for nostalgia’s sake. We used to spend all day running around the fields and forests as kids, doing normal things like pretending to be werewolves and burning our hands in strange club initiation rituals.


The unseen slope here, just over the crest, is the beginning of our vast sledding hill. Fortunately, my sister and I never broke anything on here. Only the neighbor boys broke things.


This egg-shaped mound of snow shows you just how deep it was around there. No, there’s nothing in the middle of it.

Coming back from Idaho, I miss this. Not necessarily Idaho, although Idaho is nice, but the vast open spaces. A “big” space in the suburbs is like my employer’s backyard, which is bigger than most of the neighbor’s, yet barely a fraction of the size of my parent’s- and my employer’s is worth three and a half of me, plus tax.

I mean, sure, my employers live near things like movie theaters and fire stations, I don’t know if ambulances are reeeaaally necessary in life.


Someday I’ll live somewhere like this again, just you wait.

Christmas in Idaho

I returned to the east coast at the hideous hour of two o’clock in the morning yesterday, which was appropriate because I left for Idaho at the hideous hour of two in the morning on Christmas Eve. I arrived at the airport over three hours early, because the last time I flew out on Christmas Eve there was an ungodly line through security of hundreds upon hundreds of people, and from which I had to be rescued ten minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave.

Naturally, when I arrived at the airport this time it was dead and I had just over three hours to kill, long before any of the shops had opened. I played a lot of Fallout.

I prepped myself for the most comfortable plane ride I could manage, because it’s a little over six hours to fly to Seattle. Of course, Seattle isn’t in Idaho, but it’s not like we have major airports in Idaho. We don’t even have Wawa in Idaho. We’ve barely even mastered highways in Idaho.

So every time I head home I fly first to Seattle, and then backtrack a couple hundred miles to Spokane (Washington), and then drive an hour or so to actually get into Idaho, and home.

When I left New Jersey, it was 45 degrees and muddy, so seeing the first hints of snow was exciting.


This. This is what I was really going home for. Not to see family or anything. It was always snow.



And Idaho delivered. Going home to Idaho was going home to a good foot of snow, lightly whipped up into drifts. It made the roads terrible, of course, but it made everything look just delightfully pretty.


For most of my stay, it looked like I was running my photos through a black and white filter.

Christmas Eve evening has always been the time that the Ludvig family opens presents (presents from Santa arrive Christmas morning). Because my parents chose to live as far away from phones, lights, motorcars, and other luxuries, our extended family likes to stay in California where it’s warm and they’re unlikely to be eaten by mountain men, so Christmas is usually the parents, my sister, myself, and the neighbor couple without children.


Not pictured here: The dog, the maniacal parrot velociraptor, chickens, cows, horse.

And it’s peaceful. Oh, so peaceful. It struck me again and again how quiet it all was. The people, who weren’t yelling at each other. The outdoors, which were silent and still and not interrupted by headlights and engines. The loudest thing in that house was the wind whistling so hard through my closed bedroom window that the curtains moved, but I digress.


My father ran out of regular wrapping paper. On left: Hint of dog’s tail.

I got a lot of neat things for Christmas, and I have pictures of none of them because they’re all on the way back to the east coast in a box, since they wouldn’t fit in my carry-on. Among other things, I received a book-shaped purse and a book-shaped backpack to go with my book-shaped wallet (I have a problem), a couple of actual books, and a really neat sundial for when I want to tell the time after the world ends.

I gave my father a nice copy of all three Lord of the Rings books, and my mother a cast iron skillet. I frequently give my mother things like spatulas and vacuum cleaner parts. She’s a very practical woman.

(My sister, being a college student working at a place where they try to sell wooden heart models, got money.)


No, really.

And it was all very merry.