Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Since today is Groundhog Day, I’m predicting that Punxsutawney Phil, who is apparently the official groundhog to determine “scientifically” how much longer winter will last, will see his shadow and condemn us to six more weeks of winter. Hanging around Alex, who loves meteorology, statistics, probability, and the Internet, has made me a follower of Phil the groundhog. In fact, Alex introduced me to the official groundhog website, where we learned that in the past twenty years, Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow every year except 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2007. Therefore, the odds are in my favor in predicting that Phil will see his shadow today. Besides, here in Northwest Indiana, we don’t care what the groundhog sees or doesn’t see because we know we’re in for six more weeks of winter weather. Coincidentally, we’re under a blizzard warning today and could get nearly two feet of snow. I wonder what Phil would say about that.

Perhaps because he was born on one of the coldest days of the year, Alex doesn’t really mind winter weather. When he was younger, he used to anticipate eagerly when he could write his name in the snow with a stick. One of his early experiences in snow involved a makeshift sled I made for him by putting him in a laundry basket, wrapping blankets around him, and pulling him with a rope tied to the handle. He seemed to enjoy himself until I decided to go faster and wound up tipping over the basket and sending Alex face first into the snow. We have this incident on videotape, which he has watched repeatedly, yet he doesn’t seem traumatized by the memory of being dumped into the snow accidentally. Now he likes to look up Weather Channel videos on You Tube, looking for record cold temperatures and record snowfalls. One of his favorites is a weather report from February 3, 1989, before he was even born, from Winnipeg, Canada, when the temperature dipped to -35 degrees Celsius, or -31 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to enjoying watching these extreme temperatures go across the screen, he also likes their choice of background music—an odd choice but a pleasant song—Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” Alex has watched that video dozens of times, but it always brings the same response of swaying to the music as he smiles and laughs at the bitter cold temperature reports.

While Alex never seems to mind bundling up for cold weather, getting his hands covered is quite a trick. Putting gloves on him is nearly impossible; he can’t seem to figure out how to put his fingers and thumbs where they should go. When he was younger, finding mittens for him was the easy solution because he only had to navigate his thumbs into the proper positions. As his hands grew, I had trouble finding mittens that would fit his long fingers. However, this year, I was able to find men’s mittens at J.C. Penney’s, and this was the perfect solution for him. Another issue he solved for himself is dealing with his nervousness about going up our driveway in snowy weather. Since our driveway is on an incline, getting up the slope in the car when the pavement is snow-covered sometimes requires getting a running start, and at times we spin the tires trying to get into the garage. This makes Alex anxious, so he’ll grip the car door handle tightly and sometimes close his eyes until we reach the top of the slope. I would guess that he’ll never be a fan of roller coasters, judging by how he reacts to going up the minor hill of our driveway. Shoveling that driveway has become a task he has finally learned to do this winter under Ed’s guidance. This has been the first winter he has understood how to push the snow to the edges with a snow shovel, and he has seemed proud of this accomplishment. However, the novelty may have disappeared already in Alex’s desire to help. Last week, Ed asked Alex if he wanted to clear the driveway with him, and Alex didn’t seem particularly interested in the offer. Previously, Alex would immediately jump up, eager to go out in the snow. This time, he told Ed no and went on to explain that he was watching a basketball game on television. Although Alex’s enthusiasm for doing this task was nice while it lasted, his refusal to interrupt his leisure activity makes him more of a typical teenager. Progress is often measured in unusual ways, but we welcome it nonetheless.

“Praise the Lord from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him...” Psalm 148:7-8

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