Sunday, February 28, 2010

A snowfall - Feb 24th


From Facebook on Feb 24th: The snow is falling here in beautiful, gigantic snowflakes that look like they were shipped right off a Hollywood soundstage.

A normal, sedate day spent with LuLu

Saturday was a pretty good day, and very LuLu-centric.

After a leisurely morning I accompanied my mother-in-law as she took the girls to swim class. She takes them every Saturday but as of late LuLu had been refusing to get in the water, and I was asked to go and play the bad guy. She swam alright, and did fine. I was proud of both girls.

[btw, it was so odd seeing them in swimsuits w/out a summer tan. YaYa has my darker complexion but her Mom's skin; sensitive and dry. LuLu has my skin but Lisa's complexion. Looking at Lu you can see every vein and capillary. "It's like looking at an anatomy chart," I told her.]

YaYa went w/ her Grandma for an overnight, and LuLu and I took a nice, half mile or so stroll home. Then we made lunch and spent an hour searching for missing library books. A bit later in the afternoon we returned said books to the library and headed to Mass.

While there we turned in our parish census form. I belong to two parishes, one a thriving congregation, and the other (where we were married) a very small, very obscure church whose membership is dwindling quickly with age. Put it this way: Lisa and I were the last marriage in the church - 14 years ago - and only 28 people officially donated any money to the church in all of 2009.

The Archdiocese has long been contemplating the 80 year old parish, but hopefully my census form, which single-handily boosts the parish head count by double digit %'s, helps buy some time.

Then LuLu and I hit Wal-Mart, where we dealt with a clerk in the music section who pronounced Beyonce's name as BEE YON SEA. Hmm. Looking at it phonetically it doesn't sound as jarring and wrong as it did out of his mouth. Know your product sir, know your product.

After that we picked up Ginger from my Mom's place, stopped at Target to buy a NKOTB DVD, and headed home to have dinner and watch the disc.

All in all, a very nice day.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Crud I wrote for an internet gig that didn't work out

Debt Consolidation or Bankruptcy? Which is right for you

- Like too many people in America, you lost your job when the economy crashed. You always paid your bills on time in the past, but now you're forced to pick and choose: do you pay the mortgage this month, your utilities, or your credit card bill? Of course you can't risk losing your family's home, but you also can't live with the constant, humiliating harassment by your creditors.

Is debt consolidation the answer? Your creditors may say it is, since under consolidation they'll continue to make money even while your family suffers. But for you, and those you love, it may mean years of endless payments and interest; years where you'll be struggling under the burden of a debt you can't afford. When all is said and done, it may feel like less of a solution, and more like the status quo.

No one wants to declare bankruptcy. But in the end, what you really need is a clean slate, a way to start over and begin anew. Bankruptcy can give you that chance - and in most cases let you keep your house and car while you do so.

When you decide to consider bankruptcy, it's important to have the guidance of an experienced lawyer at your side. They can help you determine if its the right option for you, and determine what you owe and what you can keep. They can also can help you restore your credit rating in the quickest time possible, sometimes in as little as two years.

Remember, you are not alone. If you are in Houston, contact our lawyers at XXX-XXXX for a free consultation.


* * * *

GM must make deadline deal on debt or face Bankruptcy


- General Motors and Chrysler face an upcoming June 1st deadline to negotiate a deal with debt holders or risk defaulting on $1 billion in notes.

It's one of two high profile dates on the automakers calendar. On Tuesday the companies must submit a progress report to Washington on their post-stimulus restructuring program. If the data they present doesn't meet expectations, the Obama administration could call in the $17.4 billion loans, an action that would undoubtedly drive the companies under.

Washington has signaled that unpopular scenario is unlikely to happen.

More pressing is the $1 billion in bonds that mature on June 1st. Neither GM nor Chrysler appears ready to meet the requirements of the loans, despite viability plans submitted February 17th.

If they can't reach a deal with bondholders, GM has warned they will seek protection under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The main sticking point in negotiations is GM's $28 billion in unsecured debt. The loan terms require the company to try to shed all but a third of that total, as well as convince the United Auto Workers to accept half of the money owed to them for its retiree health care trust as stock, rather than cash.

Despite agreeing in principle to concessions with the automakers, UAW has accused bondholders of disrupting changes dictated in the loans. For their part, bondholders are critical of the viability plans, believing among other things that the sales projections in the plans are too optimistic for the U.S. market.

Sources say a last minute deal is unlikely to happen.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, summed up the atmosphere of the negotiations. “It's a cage match,” he said, “The idea is for everybody to come out of the game alive.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Smiley's IEP

A few weeks ago I promised I'd follow up on Smiley's IEP (Individualized Education Program) from his school. Here goes.

First:
Smiley appears to enjoy coming to school and interacting with his peers. He follows all classroom rules and routines independently. Smiley is eager to help and to learn. He completes his work and art projects independently.

Then:
Dad continues to have concerns regarding his speech production and Smiley knowing his letters and numbers.

Here's the pertinent part: Smiley's speech is approx. 50% intelligible during spontaneous speech to known listeners in known contexts. He often requires cues and/or reminders to slow his rate of speech and to use all hsi sounds. Smiley has difficulty producing the following sounds consistently and/or spontaneously: s, s blends, z, sh, ch, k, g, and th. He produces "s" and "s" blends at the word level w/ minimal verbal and or visual reminders. Smiley requires cues to use correct vowel production at the word level during spontaneous and imitative speech production. Smiley uses 3-4 word sentences to spontaneously to communicate. He uses correct prepositions during structured and unstructured language tasks. He continues to require cues to use articles and correct pronouns. He follows directions independently, answers "wh" questions with 75-100% accuracy and labels vocabulary w/ 80-100% accuracy. Smiley labels 9/9 colors and 8/8 shapes. He counts to eight, then skips to 10. He labels 4/20 numbers and 2/26 letters.

Then: Smiley's speech and language delays negatively impact his communication w/ peers and teachers and his ability to express wants, needs, and thoughts in an age appropriate manner.

Whew. Heavy stuff. Here it is in English. He still doesn't talk very well, but talks 1000% better than he would have if Lisa hadn't pushed to enroll him in therapy two years ago. If you know the boy, and have some idea about the subject that he's discussing, you have a 50/50 chance of comprehending him. I'd say it's closer to 60-70% for family.

The thing I find remarkable is that it really truly doesn't seem to wear him down. He just keeps plugging away. Oh, he gets happy when you understand him, and sometimes seems shocked when you do, but even when you don't he'll a) patiently repeat it until either you get it or b) he finds another way to communicate his needs. The only time I've seen him get annoyed is when a clerk at a store failed to understand him. After a few tries Smiley waved him off and said "nebber min'".

There's some drawbacks to his newfound intelligiblity. We discovered he's been 'secretly' sassing us, saying "shut up" and whatnot in Smiley talk. The first time we comprehended what he was saying we naturally scolded him. He was flabbergasted; he'd been saying it so long without a reaction I think he believed it to be a perfectly appropriate comment.

Forgetting that stuff, here's some famous Smiley quotes: "Di-ah-wee-ah!", said as often as possible in every context.

"Knock 'ock"

"Who's There?"

"Mommy"

"Mommy Who"

"Di-ah-wee-ah!"


He also very frequently asks "Is he weal?" of various characters in TV, movies, and in picture books. I think this is a developmental stage, but I don't recall it with the older girls. I think he's trying to sort out the real from the impossible, and fiction from reality. It's cute, but it's also fascinating to see his mind churn over the possiblities.

Anyhow, I've rambled on long enough. Have a good day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Danny Quote

One night last month a small group of our friends was sitting in my living room. Everyone was a little tipsy, and the mood grew melancholy. One by one folks started voicing their biggest regrets: that they never finished college, that they 'wasted' years on John Doe, that this error happened or that opportunity wasn't taken.

And then it was my turn. I sat there woefully underemployed, with a van that doesn't run, a gutter that needs replacement and a degree I don't use. And I thought, I really truly thought "Don't blow this off. Think hard and be honest. Deep down what's my one, most troubling regret of the last 35 years?"

After a moment it came to me, this deepest, most painful, most honest regret. And so I voiced it:

"I wish" I said, and sighed. "I wish I could rap."

Monday, February 22, 2010

A special anniversary

At ~ 3 AM this morning Lisa and I will mark the 15th anniversary of the first day we met. Feb 22nd 1995 remains the luckiest damn day of my life, and I wouldn't change a thing. Happy anniversary baby!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Smiley Breaks his Foot

Allright, I have another Smiley post planned but let's get this out of the way. Quoting my FB status at 7:51 PM this past Thursday:

Just back from wrestling w/ the kids, and Smiley hurt his foot goofing around w/ me. Now it looks like we're on our way to the urgent care. Lisa is furious @ me, I think they're both over-reacting. We'll see.

He and I ventured alone to St. Francis Hospital, where we spent a good two hours. All but five minutes of that was spent waiting in one place or another, and I must say the face-time with medical personnel was very limited. Two good things: they brought the X-Ray machine to the ER room, rather than make the little guy move. And two, the nurse was a dead ringer of Kendra from The Girls Next Door. Seriously.

Here was the result from 10:19 that night:

We're back. Smiley has a fracture of the 2nd metatarsal (sp?) of his left foot and was given a boot to wear. Offically its 'questionable'(?) and he has to see a specialist after this wknd. Lis is still mad at me & it will be a long night, but Smiley & I r cool. Most of Lisa's ire comes from my initial reaction - but yo...u know, Smiley is 4 & can be dramatic, and he was already moody in the hour leading up to the mishap.

The next morning at 11:19 AM:

Smiley's a mess. No complaining, but he can't put weight on the foot and he doesn't understand why, unlike his other booboos, this one isn't better in the morning. Plus he's wizzing all over the bathroom because he's hopping on one foot, and certain parts are too big to tuck sitting down :)

Lisa then took him to a follow up appt. At 1:33 PM:

Lisa's at the bone doc with Smiley. In her absence I should clean the house b4 work . . . but uh, yeah, no.

Finally, at 2:19 PM (I must really like sitting in front of the comp at 19 minutes past the hour):

Damn damn damn. Word from Lisa: the ER doc was full of sh*t. Smiley has not one 'questionable' fracture, but *three* clear broken bones that run up quite a-ways in his foot. He's gotten a cast, bright orange at his request. I'll have full details later.

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The details are this: breaks in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th metaparsal, halfway up the bone, running straight across the foot. The doc expects them to heal well and not need any extensive follow-up. This is the first broken bone among any of my kids.

So, Smiley is at times quite annoyed with me, but usually only when other people *cough* my sisters *cough* are instigating him to rebellion. It was clearly an accident. While seated I put my palms up, and he placed his palms down on mine and locked his elbows. I then lifted him straight in the air - 'levitated' him - just as I have 1500X with the kids. On the way down he got wibbly-wobbly and bent his arm, falling all of about 2 feet and landing on his feet. He just landed too hard on his feet, or twisted his foot on impact, I'm not sure. And yes, since this took place during a sports team practice where he'd already been moody and cried I assumed he was exaggerating for effect. I do feel bad for that.

Sorry Smiley :(

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Our Visit with TJ

Back on December 10th my friend Tre and his wife had their first child, a boy named Theodore John, or TJ. More than two months premature, he spent a month in the hospital before going home.

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Today I took YaYa and LuLu to visit the little guy. It was their first time meeting him, although YaYa made a Christmas stocking for him that hung in the hospital over the holiday.

First tho', I finished feeding and burping the little guy.

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Then it was YaYa's turn.

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Now obviously, the little guy has a problem around his left eye. It's a hemangioma that's put pressure on his optic nerves and threatened his vision. It's been treated with steroids and has retreated internally. The last-ditch option of chemotherapy has been discussed but has been shelved, and yay for that.

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Then it was LuLu's turn to hold him.

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Here's TJ high-fiving YaYa:

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A few minutes later, while distracted by talking to Tre, I looked over and found both of my girls talking to one another on the couch, their arms on each other's shoulders like the best of friends. Naturally, as soon as I drew attention to the fact they turned on one another, but they *tried* to pose for this shot:

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Whatever problems he may or may not have with his eye, the boy seemed chubby, content, alert, and glad to be doted on. He's a great big blessing, and we're glad to have him in our lives.

Welcome TJ!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Facebook Feb 6th - 9th

Feb 6th: MacMillan books are now back on Amazon. Correct me if I'm wrong, but BN and Borders did little to push that publisher's titles during the drama. It seems to me like waste of a golden opportunity to profit at Amazon's expense.

* Cases of whisky left behind by explorer Ernest Shackleton were found in the Antarctic

* LuLu is cute as can be, asleep on the couch, Ginger is coloring at the dining room table, and I can hear YaYa singing along upstairs to the soundtrack of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Me? I'm sitting here with a smile on my face because it's the little moments that make the day worthwhile.

* Re: the Super Bowl. I have no dog in this fight, so I'm good with either team getting the W. NO's a better story, no question, but as a Favre basher I recognize that another ring for Manning - one more than Brett - gives him even more ammo in 'best of' discussions. So . . . slight nod towards Indy.

* (re: a tazering at Southridge Mall) Screw the crime and tasering. They lost me when they lost Cinnabon's.

Feb 7th: Worked all day, didn't even know the outcome of the SB until minutes ago. Congrats N.O.! Meanwhile, my Dad took Grace rollerskating. On the bus trip back a drunk woman got on, stumbled, fell, and then began vomitting blood. The bus was evac'd by police and they stood in the cold for an hour until a replacement bus arrived. I guess the woman was only 16 or 17, so just a girl. My Dad and Grace said a 'friend' of the girl literally pushed her aboard. She spoke no English, and within a mile was doing her Ebola impersonation.

Feb 8th: Tonight we watched the Black Eyed Peas concert from Malta. What a crowd!
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Feb 9th: The poster above Grace's bed reads: "School prepares you for the real world . . . which also sucks"

Lisa's take on the poster: Is it wrong that when I saw a picture tacked above my daughter's bed that said "school prepares you for the real world....which also bites" I kinda was proud that she's got the gist of life down? LOL....I mean the resignation that things will be hard but you keep going anyway? Or should I be worried that at 8 she's alr...eady showing signs of my "glass is half empty" genetics? hmmmm....

* On our way out the door to go to Ginger's playgroup, snowstorm be damned. But I still can't believe MPS chose to stay open, not with 14 inches expected to fall.

* MPS cxl'd school halfway through the day for @ least the 2nd x this yr. WTH - either have the foresight to close in the AM or the courage to ride it out. Even tho' the girls attend Catholic school, I went & picked them up. I think we're housebound for the rest of Tuesday.

Valentines Pics

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A 3rd Grade Photo from 1983

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An old classmate posted this picture, dated June 7th 1983, on Facebook. I'd completely forgotten about this get-together in the intervening years.

I'm in the second row from the top, wearing a lovely red-white-and blue shirt with horizontal stripes. In those days I wore a newsboy hat, or a white leather cap that my Grandpa gave me, so the Brewers hat doesn't jibe with my memory. It's a shame I didn't recognize the value of my fantastic hair at that age. I would never have worn a hat and wasted the God-given gift.

The woman in the picture was Mrs. Kusch (sp?), my 3rd grade teacher, and at the end of the year she invited the entire class to her home. It was certainly a more innocent time, as I can't imagine a teacher risking the liability today. I don't remember much of the day. I have a flash of hurrying through her kitchen, and of actually posing for the picture, but that's about it.

Man, its 27 years later and I have a third grader of my own -yikes!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's Paczki Day!

Today is Fat Tuesday, the last hurrah before the solemnity of Lent, and here in Milwaukee Fat Tuesday means Paczki.

Although they look like a jelly donut, the Polish treat* is made from a very rich dough that contains eggs, fat, sugar and (sometimes) milk. A small amount of grain alcohol is added to the dough to prevent the oil from soaking in when it's deep fried. While certainly denser than a traditional donut, the influence of French chefs during the reign of Poland's August III made the dough much lighter than it reads in print.

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Inside the paczki a fruit filling - prune, raspberry, apple, lemon, cream, etc - and the outside is sprinkled with sugar or iced.

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This morning I stopped at the neighborhood bakery - an Italian one, but Milwaukee-fied enough to promote paczki's. I picked up two dozen, with 18 of those being shipped off to my parent's apartment.

Enjoy your Fat Tuesday!

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* (pronounced PAWNCH-kee or PONCH-kee but some speakers pronounce the word as POONCH-kee, PUNCH-kee or PANCH-kee)

Sleeping LuLu

Aren't you supposed to sleep on a sleepover? I guess not. Just a few hours after her sleepover ended, Lu was fast asleep on the loveseat.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

More Facebook Feb 3rd - 5th

Feb 3rd: I liked Lost, but we learned little other than the ID of the Smoke Monster. The Abomb worked to create a seperate timeline, but I'm not buying the 'everythign would suck anyhow' storyline (not the case for the hundreds of dead, no?) . . .and that's that. Jack's broken, so this season will be about his redemption.

* (from the UrbanDictionary.com)Dan - A man of unusual humor, consistently finding strange, and lewd comments amusing and/or entertaining in a way as to prevoke violent and uncontrolled outbursts of laughter

* re: a news article about how two of the Duggar children saved a little girls life A tip of the hat to the Duggar children. They were raised well.

* "The time has come to lip-sync . . . FOR YOUR LIFE! And remember - don't F**k it up!" How is it that Rupaul's Drag Race doesn't get more press? Watch the show already.

* I'm sick of all the cliched sob stories on American Idol. Every contestant grew up poor and unloved, had cancer and got knocked up with a Martian baby while working three jobs. At this point I know longer buy any of it at face value. I want proof - birth certificates, payroll records, hospital bills, sworn affidavits. Otherwise, STFU and sing.

Feb 4th (in response to a CNN link detailing how the DNA of newborns is collected by the government If you RTA, you'll note that the DNA collection is government mandated and often done without parental consent or even notification. In many states the DNA is then stored by the gov't indefinitely. Only in states like TX and MN do you have the option of demanding the destruction of the sample.

(posted by my Uncle George) Whoa, was that Smiley I saw at 3 pm running to Lisa's car with no shirt or shoes?!!

Me: [hangs head w/ shame] yes. I was heading into the shower when Lisa called to ask me to bring out LuLu's Daisy vest, so I sent Smiley in my place. It was a five second trip outside - how was I to know you'd be driving by? And in my day, not only did we go outside in winter without shirt and shoes, we thanked our lucky stars we had pants - and we walked three miles to school each day too!

Uncle George: I should have known that it ran in the family!


Feb 5th
: On his weekly Project Runway blog, Tim Gunn called Milwaukee native Anna's piece "one of the lowest points in the history of the show". Ouch. It's a brutally honest blog and worth a read.

The last of the Bo tribe of India passed away.

* The producers of Lost have announced the date of the series finale: Sun May 23rd, with the 24th therefore being a day of mourning.

* Smiley's IEP was this morning, and the news was largely posititve. Details to follow over the weekend on my blog.

* Our neighbor (the good one) just surrendered his Harley and had it towed away. He lost most of his income in '09 w/ the P. Cudahy fire. I went out to talk to him thinking the bike was going in for repair & he couldn't speak beyond telling me the bare bones . . Shitty. He's a good joe.

* Just got a(nother) rejection letter from an editor. It's a shame many come via email nowadays. If they still came exclusively by USPS I'd have enough to wallpaper the hallway.

* Jon Gosslin is willing to let TLC film the kids, provided they drop the legal action against him.

* LuLu's sleepover is not going well. One girl is already homesick and called home, and despite massive amounts of food they all claim to be starving. Plus a few kids brought their Nintendo DS's (!), which has created a schism in the group btwn the have and have nots. I think we'll do one kid over @ a time from now on.
(One girl did go home, and one was picked up TWO HOURS late. Other than that, it went OK)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentines Day!

Last year at this time Lisa made Smarties Valentines treats that looked like old propeller planes. They were wicked, but of course I failed to get a picture. This year we went a little more basic, making bags of what I've dubbed Angel Chow. We made bags for each student and teacher in their classes.

Lisa melted white chocolate, added red food coloring, and coated coco-puffs with the gooey goodness. She then sprinkled them with pink jimmies, and we formed an assembly line to bag them and tie each with a purple curling ribbon.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Facebook Feb 1-2nd.

Feb 1st: I kinda dig the smell of skunk - from a distance. We drove by a skunk spray the other day and I mentioned this to Lisa. She said nothing for a moment and then quietly said "You know, there are a lot of things wrong with you."

regarding an article dealing with home invaders who kidnapped, raped and killed: "'Punishment is the way in which society expresses its denunciation of wrongdoing: and, in order to maintain respect for law, it is essential that the punishment inflicted for grave crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of citizens for them.". - Lord Justice Denning. These men deserve nothing less than death.

* Bumped Family Night up a day this wk. L supervised homework & worked on valentines cards w/ the kids while I made mock chicken legs and mashed potatos (ckn breast for me and L). Then, after dishes, L played scrabble w/ YaYa, while Smiley & I played memory & watched Wizards of Waverly Place w/ LuLu. Then Ginger went and... rubbed blue toothpaste all over the bathroom and herself, so we cleaned her up and sent her to bed.

My buddy Tre responded that toothpaste was better than poop. He jinxed us. A few days later she had an accident and smeared the stuff all over her window, door and wall. Thanks Tre!

* **** Tune in to NBC tonight @ 1235am ET to catch NKOTB performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon! Check local listings for more info.**** It was a good, strong performance.

* Catholic scholar and mystery writer (the Father Dowling mysteries) Ralph McInerny has died. RIP.

I went on a bit of an Andy Kaufman video spree at this point. I'm not even a Kaufman fan, but I was in the right frame of mind.

Feb 2nd (regarding Sen. Harry Reid (D) taking undue credit in a Black History column:
If they cared at all, his own people should've told Reid to STFU. Like he needed to look like an ass to the African-American community - again.

* "The future of American space exploration came into question on Monday as President Obama released his 2011 budget. . .The plan leaves many open questions about the future of U.S. space travel, includingIF AND WHEN NASA will EVER build rockets of its own again, when astronauts will return to space and in what kind of s...pacecraft." Shortsighted, and a betrayal of our children's future.

* WTH? Reuters ran an article on 'back door' taxes - allowing current credits to expire, increasing the tax burden w/out press or actually 'raising' taxes. Now, it's pulled, reading only "The story Backdoor taxes to hit middle class has been withdrawn. A replacement story will run later in the week".

* It's a huge night for TV. American Idol, Fringe, Dirty Jobs, the start of season 2 of Rupaul's Drag Race, a brand new Duggar episode, and of course my beloved Lost. It's a shame I'm in such a deep, dark depressive funk or this just might rank as one of the greatest nights EVAH.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Snowstorm of Feb 9th and 10th

This past Tues/Wednesday featured a pretty decent snowstorm. I don't have the final tally but original predictions were for 10 to 14 inches of 'lake effect' snow, and I think we came close. School was never cancelled, and the roads were never very bad (by Milwaukee snowstorm standards), but it was still a chore to clear it all. Not so bad in the early stages, as the temperature was mild and the snow light and dry, but in the evening the wind picked up and this morning, after the storm, the temperature dropped.

These are a few pictures Lisa took while I was clearing the alley. I love this first picture:

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