Sunday, December 12, 2010


We have snow here and I have taken Stella sledding twice this week. Sledding has been an amazing experience because it has proved what I thought was a scientific impossibility: Stella can have fun outdoors in the winter. I always thought the idea of  Stella happily frolicking outside in the snow was akin to sightings of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker -- a nice idea, but you suspect that the birders were dipping into the Jägermeister before reporting seeing a bird previously thought to be extinct.

(Did you see that? I knew to put an umlaut on the ä in Jägermeister! I even know what Jägermeister means. Yes, I am certainly finding my undergraduate minor in German to come in handy, especially when it comes to accurately rending and translating liquor brand names.)

As long as I am contributing to the body of scientific knowledge, I would like to make another contribution, one based on months of rigorous scientific observation: The age at when boys begin to grab their junk is exactly 7 1/2 months. Hey, I know it's not the cure for cancer, but we all do what we can.

Stella may have been born here in Wisconsin but she does not like the cold. Perhaps the babies got mixed up at the hospital and somewhere in New Orleans there's a kid looking out the window right now, sighing and wishing for temperatures that make your nose hairs freeze. Stella is going to move south the moment she is able to, and I'm surprised she hasn't already set out for more moderate climates with her trusty princess bike (training wheels included) and a compass.

The lakes in town are going to freeze any day now, which means the ice fisherman will be out. People from reasonable climates -- defined as those where you don't lose an extremity to frostbite when you go out to bring the newspaper in -- are amazed to hear how popular ice fishing is, and that people will often drive out on the lake, either with a snowmobile or a truck, to get to their favorite spots. Ice fishers are very aggressive about what kind of ice they'll go out on. If the lake is frozen only to the extent that there is the equivalent of a single ice cube floating in the middle of the lake, then by golly there will be an ice fisherman on that ice cube.

That aggressive approach to getting out on the ice means that every year, some people (and their heavy machinery) go through the ice. It's very sad, and totally unexpected, because who could have predicted that a two-ton pickup would overload a surface that had been a liquid just weeks before? Who could possibly know that 4,000+ pounds would be too heavy for the ice, keeping in mind that a machine as limited as my blender has a function that can crush that same ice to a fine, powdery consistency that works just great for making margaritas?

When the lakes freeze, that's what I consider the real beginning of winter. And now that I know that Stella likes sledding, I foresee lots of trips to the hill, wearing our snow pants, boots, coats, hats, mittens, scarves, and long underwear. I usually bring along a little something else to keep me warm, too. It's called Jägermeister.

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