Crazy weather, I tell you. Last week it was well below zero with tons of snow falling from the sky. This week it has been in the mid-to-high 40s. Put those two together and you get frozen ground and a whole lot of melting snow.
It's not a catastrophe or anything, but there is a lot of water in Livingston right now. According to NBC Montana:
Livingston officials declared a state of emergency Thursday morning after melting snow flooded creeks and ditches and sent water down city streets.
As of Thursday morning, the areas most impacted in the city are South 9th Street to South 12th Street, from Park Street to the Yellowstone River. The city reports in some areas water is up to two feet deep.
Around 70 people have been evacuated. But emergency workers tell NBC Montana that as of 9:45 a.m. Thursday no homes had taken on water. A shelter has been set up at the Civic Center at 229 River Drive.
The flooding started around 8:00 p.m. Wednesday night when the irrigation ditch on north N Street topped its banks. Fleshman Creek is also flooding. Officials are blaming rapid melting of snow.
There was a request for people to help fill sandbags, so the boys and I went down to one of the city buildings and loaded up a bunch of bags. We were only there an hour, but I bet we filled at least 50 bags. Finn and I partnered up, and Anders found a nice gentleman that was willing to work with him. The boys held bags and I shoveled. It was a good opportunity to help out in their community.
That's another benefit of homeschooling; we are available for lending a hand whenever it comes up.
It's not just Livingston, there is flooding all over the state.
The Billings Gazette reported:
In southwestern Montana, rapid snowmelt sent water running over the highways near Boulder, Whitehall, Toston, Manhattan and Livingston. An evacuation order for a Livingston condominium complex was lifted Thursday afternoon.
In the northwestern part of the state, a series of avalanches Wednesday night and Thursday morning blocked the BNSF Railway tracks between Ennis and Marias Pass.
We're keeping our galoshes handy.
We are getting a lot of snow this winter. I haven’t looked at any statistics, but it seems like we are shoveling a lot more than usual. The weather here, as in the rest of the country, has been nutty.
It is minus 27 degrees one day, and 40 above a couple days later. Our bodies can hardly adjust. Scientists tell us we can expect more extreme weather events with global warming. Our chickens are not thrilled with that prospect. Nor are polar bears.
We are luckier than chickens and polar bears because we know how to make the most of this crazy winter by getting out and playing in the snow, ice, frigid temperatures, and balmy days. I wrote about cross-country skiing, wildlife sanctuaries, candy stores, and campfire programs in Red Lodge; ice-skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, and other winter fun in West Yellowstone; and date days with the kids chilling at the mall and skiing in Yellowstone.
Here are 10 more fun winter activities for kids (and the adults who love them).
Skim Across the Ice
Build a Snow Fort
Slide Down a Hill
Take a Walk
Make Ice Decorations
Play at a Park
Kick and Glide
Paint the Snow
Light a Fire
Whether you are buried in snow or basking in sunshine, what do you do to have fun in winter?
A few weeks ago, Henry and I had a date weekend. Just not with each other. We each spent one day, with one son, doing what they wanted.
Our kids spend a lot of time together. Since we homeschool, they are together all day, weekends are family time, and they share a bedroom. They have the same friends and are in most of the same activities. It's amazing how well they get along and love spending time together. Not every minute is idyllic, but they do pretty well.
Still, it's nice to have mom or dad to yourself once in awhile. It's nice for Finn to get a chance to talk without being overrun by his big brother. It's refreshing for Anders to not have to give in to Finn's meltdowns.
Finn and I started planning our Saturday. I suggested sledding, ice skating, hot springs, and playing in the snow. He wanted to go to the mall. That's not really my thing, but since this day was about spending time together, we went to the mall.
Finn loves those little "rides." You put in $.50 and they move up and down or back and forth. They're old, dingy, and kind of lame, in my opinion, but I gave him $5 and let him go for it. He had a blast. Then we walked down to the bookstore so he could show me all the books he hoped to buy some day.
Next up was lunch at the restaurant of his choice, building at the Children's Museum of Bozeman, and playing ranger at the Museum of the Rockies. Treats and a long dissertation about his favorite dinosaurs followed and then it was home.
We didn't get outside, but we did talk and connect. I am definitely one of those parents that pushes her agenda. When we have family time, I want it to be outside. I want our kids outside everyday, even if just for an hour. There are a zillion places where you can read about the importance of outdoor play, so I won't go into it here, but it does inform how we spend our days. And frankly, I just like being outside myself, so I make everyone go.
Finn likes to play outside, but the transition to get there is often difficult for him. He's a kid who like to be warm and comfortable and not exert himself too much, in a family that wants to get out there. I imagine that's a tough spot to be in. That's why days like these are important. He'll still have to hike and cross-country ski (and he usually has a great time once he gets past the whining), but once in awhile I want him to determine what we do. I want him to be in charge.
Sunday was Anders' day. He was a little easier to persuade to play outside. I suggested we go for a ski in the park. He usually skis up ahead of Finn and I and has to stop and wait a bunch. Today was his day to go at his speed and ski with mom.
We stopped at the Mammoth Inn for lunch and hot cocoa before setting off on the groomed trail around the Upper Terraces at Mammoth (that's in Yellowstone, if you are wondering). There are some big hills at the beginning, but Anders powered up them and loved the downhill.
He got to tell me every detail of a Lego story he read. And every detail of every other thought that was in his head. I got to point out how beautiful it was and how much I loved spending time on skis with him. Win-win.
Henry can pop in in the comments if he wants to share his days. I wasn't there to record it.
Since it is minus 15F this morning, I think we should talk about indoor things. We are cozy inside our house, enjoying the winter wonderland through the window and dreaming of the summer growing season.
I couldn't wait until June to start planting (I know, the short gardening season is ridiculous), so I took a few of the veggie scraps I would normally give the chickens and started regrowing them.
So far, I've planted a celery butt, two carrot stumps, and a spider plant baby. I start them in water on the kitchen windowsill. Once the roots start growing, I move them into organic soil and whatever container I can find.
I'm still waiting for the celery and carrot tops to grow enough to eat, but it's pretty nice having a tiny garden to play with. Next up: growing basil from cuttings.
17 Apart has a bunch of tutorials on regrowing vegetable from scraps. And their photos are much nicer than mine.
What's happening in your kitchen this winter?
For the second time in three years, we met our good friends in West Yellowstone for a long weekend (see the first time here). We got adjoining rooms so the kids could go back and forth. To save a little dinero, we brought all of our own food (and drinks for the moms).
There was skiing, ice skating, sledding, swimming, and lots of snacking. We tried to tire the kids out (twin seven-year-olds, a practically seven-year-old, and a five-and-a-half-year-old), but it was almost impossible despite the vigorous activity.
One of the great things about traveling with a friend is getting to spend a little time by yourself. Dorel snowshoed for a couple hours while I took the kids to a birds of prey talk and to visit grizzly bears and wolves. I got to ski 12K while Dorel put a movie on in our hotel room.
Here’s a few of the other things we did.
The Kids N’ Snow program gives kids the opportunity to try out new winter activities. They can learn to cross-country ski, ice fish, snowshoe, use GPS, or ride a snowmobile. There are educational talks about local wildlife, ranger walks, chances to ride into the park in a snowcoach, and more. The program takes place once a month in the winter.
We didn’t go to all the activities—I don’t think that’s even possible. We went to a few, and then made our own fun the rest of the time. It’s almost totally free, so it’s nice to be able to pop in and out of the things you are interested in.
My love, of course, is cross-country skiing. Who wouldn’t want to spend the day out in the snow in a beautiful place? Crazy people.
Rendezvous Ski Trails
The Rendezvous Ski Trails are “where gold medal grooming and reliable snow come together to create a Nordic skier’s dream. Easily accessible from the town of West Yellowstone, Montana, the Rendezvous Ski Trails consist of over 35 kilometers of gently rolling, beautifully groomed trails that wind through tall stands of lodgepole pine and open meadows.”
Dorel, the four kids and I skied out to the biathlon course and back, about 3.5 km. It wasn’t very far, but enough to get everyone out for a while. Then the rest of them went back to the hotel, and I skied alone. It was lovely.
Purchase a trail pass at the entrance. Check here for an updated grooming report.
Getting there: Drive to the south end of Geyser Street in West Yellowstone. There is a parking area, trailhead archway and a warming hut.
Baker’s Hole Campground
This is another short ski, but it can be linked to the Boundary Trail, which starts right in West Yellowstone. I like it because it is easy for the kids to get right next to the Madison River. The view is similar to the Riverside Ski Trail, but easier to access. It’s a nice place to stop on the way out of town. And did I mention how gorgeous it is? On a sunny day, with the snow sparkling, the willow branches bright red, and the river a brilliant blue…it’s one of my favorite sights.
Getting there: Drive north from West Yellowstone on Hwy 191, 2.8 miles to a plowed pull-off on the right (east) side of the road.
Ice Skating and Sledding
West Yellowstone has a little ice skating rink and sledding hill in Pioneer Park. One night during the Kids N’ Snow program we skated alongside a ton of other kids and parents. The music blared, marshmallows were prepped for roasting, and the kids had a blast. It was pure chaos.
Before we left town a couple days later, we took our sleds back to the park. The sledding hills are short, but steep. And rock hard. We took run after run under the bright sun and brilliant blue sky.
I don’t think I’ll ever stay at a hotel with the kids without a pool. The boys love swimming and it’s a great way to burn off some excess energy (you know, the energy that didn’t get burned off skiing, skating, sledding, and running around like maniacs.)
The pool doesn’t even have to be that nice. As long as it’s clean (my preference, not theirs), they are good to go. I pack goggles and a couple kickboards, so they have something to play with, and they do the rest. I don’t even get in the pool anymore; I’m happy to observe from the hot tub.
At the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, families can get face to face with bears, wolves, and birds of prey without having to keep the bear spray handy. The animals at the Discovery Center cannot be released into the wild. Instead they give visitors an opportunity to observe, learn and appreciate grizzly bears and gray wolves.
The new Naturalist’s Cabin located between the two wolf habitats let’s you view both packs while enjoying a roaring fire or watching a National Geographic film. The visitors center is the permanent home of the world-class exhibit BEARS: Imagination and Reality. The display is an interactive museum exhibit produced by the Science Museum of Minnesota comparing and contrasting the bear of myth, art, literature, history and folklore with the bear scientists, outdoors people, and researchers know.
We’ve stopped into the Grizzly Wolf Discovery Center several times over the years. This time the boys participated in “Keeper Kids.” Kids 5-12 years old can participate in this program that allows them to hide food in the bear habitat (the bears aren’t there at the same time as the kids). Participants learn about bear feeding habits and how bears sniff out and find food. Check the website to find out more about Discovery Center programs.
Hours: October 30—April 19, 2014 - 8:30am to 4:00pm
Rates: Adults (13 and older) $9.75, Seniors (62 +) $9.00, Child (5 - 12) $5.50, Child under 5 free.
Admission is good for two consecutive days.