Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Whirlwind of Weather, Gifts and Screaming Toddlers

A Christmas tornado in a trailer park? No. It was simply the Fleck family foray to Iowa for the Holly Day. We departed somewhat reluctantly on Saturday as we all felt crabby and the weather (like our direction of travel) was only supposed to go further south as the day progressed. Like many spur of the moment family decisions, the matter was decided out of mutual desperation for the inability to decide the best course of action -- i.e. "To hell with it! I don't care if we get stuck in a blizzard -- we're leaving anyway!"

BTW What's playing now? (A la Johnny Kohtz) Pink Floyd, "Dark Side of the Moon" (And, yeah, I'm remembering watching The Wizard of Oz many years ago, stoned out of my gourd, while a friend played this album ...)

The drive began uneventfully enough. A stop at a rest area about one hour south of Mpls left us with some doubts as the attendant shared a rumor that I-35 had been closed at Faribault due to glare ice. We pushed on wondering whether our sluggish start would result in a turnaround. Long story short, the coot was lying and everything was fine ... until Iowa.

Iowa, oh Iowa. Iowa most frigid and wintry considering the heat of the Democratic candidates' endless shuffling and hot-forced-air rhetoric. Things quickly got interesting in Iowa. I slid (figuratively, luckily) into the pump at our usual gas stop in Waterloo.
The ground was rapidly collecting a blanket of snow atop a thin layer of ice. It was entertaining actually to watch the cars slipping and sliding while I fueled the Subaru. Further on we spotted so many cars in the ditch I lost count. Traffic was backed up for a bit due to a flipped truck and attending emergency vehicles. Blowing snow blocked vision for occasional stretches of 100m or so. Only an hour behind schedule, we arrived safely and were happy to be out of the car.
The worst was yet to come overnight as the high winds drove snow into beautiful, deep drifts. Temperatures in the low teens made certain the snow would stick around for the day. We took off for some visiting and shopping. It was obvious that downtown Iowa City doesn't often have to deal with such weather carnage. Thankfully, the front wheel drive Subaru plows right through surprisingly deep banks of slush puppy mix. While downtown April and I even helped push one car out of the snow. A good samaritan with nothing better to do could have spent all day doing that.
Graffiti in downtown Iowa City reminding me that I am not far from home.

I had a fun time driving (gasp) since I'm not too afraid of the white stuff and I am well aware of what our car can and cannot do. I also believe in slowing down appropriately when bad weather hits and doing my best to think while I'm driving. I find that lack of knowledge (i.e. ignorance) and its attending deficit of mental awareness are problems of drivers at both ends of the spectrum: snow causes some people to crawl along at 20mph when they could safely be driving the speed limit because they are scared and fear is fed by ignorance; conversely, some drivers pass a line of cars on a snow-clogged road or continue to drive 75mph after the road is coated with ice because they are stupid (ignorant) and/or just aren't paying attention. I relish in the rare occasion when I see them in the ditch up ahead.
Anyhow, this is a merry post, not a rant, right? We'll just get into some snappy photos:

Grandma Alice is a marvel. Because we didn't make it the day before for the scheduled brunch she fed us leftover casseroles. They were amazing and wonderful (and probably not good for my recently discovered high cholesterol, but it's the holidays!) Grandma Alice made a trip to Italy last year and isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Here Sylvia endures a forced pose with her great-grandmother.

Coralville Mall -- Dad is dressed in dark colors carrying a bag (both of which seemed to be out of vogue. Oh, will I ever be "in"?) while Sylvia is in a seventh heaven driving her faux car. Why don't they make kids' toys in the shapes of bikes?! (I think I've pondered this rhetorical question before.)

April with her dear friend, Marcus. He lives in Ireland these days and will soon hold a PhD in math. I wish Marcus lived closer. I also wish I had a scanned copy of their senior homecoming portrait together as Merlin and Mordred.

The best (healthiest) meal we ate all weekend was Xmas eve dinner. We prepared side dishes like spaghetti squash salad and sauteed kale to match Brian's grilling of two pork loins.

Brian (aka Dad) in his element -- t-shirt, beer in hand and ready to go. The smoked pork was excellent, in case you were wondering.

Erin is pondering something but it doesn't appear to be the rather curious presence of her buttered bread atop her beer.

This was Sylvia's most gendered Xmas yet. Here she models her new princess outfit. I hope we have a son next so we can pass it down to him. ("Now, son, your sister worked hard for this princess outfit and you're going to wear it with pride.")

Hannah tries to snatch a private moment to read following the gifting festivities.

Chef Sylvia shows off her latest creations. She didn't put down that basting brush the whole way home. She even calls it a basting brush. How many 2 yr olds know what the hell a basting brush is? The mini wooden kitchen she received from her grandparents has seen non-stop use since we go home Tuesday evening.

And that's a wrap! Merry Christmas and all that jazz from Clan Fleck! We still haven't completed our family holiday newsletter ... maybe by Valentine's Day?

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