Being a Maine-igrant I have made many rookie mistakes. Like arriving at a party at 6, when the invite says: 6-8. Six in Maine means six-ish and unless you don’t mind that awkward situation when the hostess is still in the shower and the husband is watching TV and there are no other cars in the drive way (also called door yahd, I believe), it’s much better to show up at 6-ish (meaning 6:30).
As for the winter, I have made so many rookie mistakes, I can’t even count them. If you are new to Maine (and her winter), let me list a few for you, so you’ll be better prepared that I was:
- Shoveling when it is still snowing. As Phyllis Diller once said: “Cleaning the house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” Now, to be honest, I don’t really know who Phyllis Diller is, but I know what she means. I have wasted so much time shoveling the driveway in the midst of a snow storm, thinking it would mean less work once it did stop snowing, but this turns out not to be true. Be like a Mainer and just sit it out playing cribbage.
- Going to get groceries right before a big blizzard or even at the start of one. As a true Mainer, you should be prepared. You should have a six-pack beer, a bottle of Allen’s coffee flavored brandy and a can of mackerel with some saltines stowed away somewhere so you can sit the blizzard out without having to leave your home. Turns out: not everyone who works at the grocery store lives right around the corner and not everyone in Maine is equally well prepared. What ends up happening is a super crowded store with limited staff and that might even get the most laid back Mainers grumpy.
- Not investing in the right gear. Okay, it is a good thing you can’t see me right now, as I am confessing to my most embarrassing Maine Rookie mistake: it took me seven years (7 years!!!!!) to realize that the winter is not all that bad if you have snow pants, good boots and warm mittens and jacket. I came prepared with a warm jacket, but never invested in good boots until just a few years ago. It makes all the difference. And even when my children were little and I would go sledding with them, I never had snow pants. I used my Dutch rain pants and thought that would do the trick. It didn’t, resulting in literally freezing my a#$ off. Especially if you are an adult and don’t expect to grow much more (in whatever direction), invest in good winter gear!
- Find a house with a mud room or breeze way. Snow is fun, but when it melts it turns into, yes, water and mud. This is what my breeze way looks like after the kids have played outside in the snow and I came back from shoveling the drive. If it is a snow day, expect everything at least double: two pairs of wet, soggy mittens or gloves per child, two wet snow pants: you’ll get the picture. You need space to dry everything.
- Learn your essentials. I was so happy to learn about these ‘trays’ for boots and wet shoes, great invention! Keeps my mud room a lot cleaner and takes care of frustration about wet socks too. I also learned about this fantastic invention called a Peet dryer. Works for boots and mittens too. I have two of these in my house now (Confession: this also took me 8 years to figure out…blush…)
- Snow tires shouldn’t be optional. I really thought I was okay. I am driving a pretty heavy car, the roads here get cleaned quite fast and I just wouldn’t go out in a snow storm. Sounded reasonable and all, but when I had to wait for the last child to be picked up at my preschool and I had to drive home through the blizzard that hit us much sooner than predicted, my drive home was treacherous and intense. The following year I did invest in snow tires and have not ever regretted that decision. I think I can now safely claim it might have saved my life. Do it! Your life is worth it!
- Learn your school’s cancellation or early dismissal policies. Sign up for text message notifications or check the local TV-channels. Always have a plan B for your kids: I recently started to work at the school and experienced the stress for the teachers when it became clear we had to dismiss early. The teacher had to figure out where her students had to go after school and was extremely busy with checking her email and phone for messages from parents who didn’t have a clear plan B. When you live in Maine where the weather can turn quickly, you have to be prepared.
- Clean your roof. Okay, this one is important. When I lived in the Netherlands and we had snow, like maybe 4 cm (that’s less than 2 inch for your metric challenged people) it made everything look so beautiful. I remember drawing on black paper with white chalk and giving the rooftops a cute little layer of snow. Pretty yes, but I learned that snow can be heavy. I learned that snow can melt during the day and freeze during the night and thus can create a thing that is called an ‘ice dam’. And I learned that these ice dams can create a lot of damage, as they will cause your roof to leak. This means replacing sheet rock, repainting walls and replacing your carpet. Not worth it (unless you’re into remodeling). For snow removal from the roof, you can buy a roof rake (such a cool device, I love it!) or when you already have a dam you can buy hockey puck like tablets to throw on the roof and they will melt the ice. Clever inventions. You can also do like us: install solar panels: the snow will slide right off and bonus feature: you’ll have free electricity!
- If you have a long drive way, invest in a snow blower. I love my “mighty beast” as I lovingly call it. It saves us a lot of money in the long run for a plow service and fits our needs because we don’t have to wait until someone comes and plows us out. Besides, it a really good workout and I easily get my 10.000 steps in by snow blowing the drive way.
- Learn to love the snow. I know, this might sound obvious, but when we had a particular hard winter and I kept craving for spring, I became all depressed. Thankfully, I had a good talk with myself and found a positive twist (“If winter is hard, you’ll appreciate spring much more!”). We built a sledding track in our back yard, and when it got dark, we placed tea lights in mason jars all the way next to the track and kept sledding until we had no feeling left in our hands, feet or ears. We carved seats in snow banks and drank hot cocoa outside and when in April the snowbanks were still a yard high, we used food coloring in spray bottles and painted flowers on the snow. Snow makes everything beautiful (despite sometimes being a nuisance): try to embrace that.
So there you have it: some solid advice from one Maine-igrant to another. And if you already made some of these mistakes: your secret is safe with me. Enjoy the winter!