Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ice Capades

After our trip to Jamaica got cut short, (see “No Problem” My Ass for back story) we decided to dive right into winter when we returned home.

I focused on Christmas and Tom decided to build an ice rink in our backyard.  Tom came in and asked if it was OK for him to delve into this project, gave me the budget and a look of an 8-year old boy in the body of a 35-year old man and I agreed.  Secretly, it really brought back memories of my own childhood because my grandpa used to freeze our backyard and when he didn’t, the park two blocks from our house had a rink each winter.  I gave Tom my blessing and developed a new motto, “When life gives you winter, make an ice rink.”

Now, normally Tom’s project management skills aren’t the strongest, but he had the help of our neighbors, one of which built a stellar rink in his yard last winter.  I figured between them and a few Miller Lite’s, the job would get done and I’d be practicing my double Lutz and triple Sow kows by December 10.  Of course, I forgot to factor in that we are the Stien Family and nothing ever goes smoothly no matter how hard we try. 

Let’s start at the beginning.  Within hours of agreeing to this project, I looked out in my backyard and saw a hockey rink suitable for the Chicago Blackhawks to practice on.  I must have missed the memo that the Winter Classic was being held in our yard.  See photo below.  These guys used so much lumber our neighbor came over to see if we were putting an addition on our house. 

Once the frame was up all we needed to do was wait for the liner to come so we could fill-er up.  The liner wasn’t going to be ready for several days but luckily the forecast looked too warm anyway.  Surely by the time the liner was ready, this unseasonable warm weather would be a thing of the past and we’d be fine, right?

We got a call that the liner was ready to be picked up, but the shop isn’t open on weekends, closes at 5 pm and did I mention it is in Wisconsin?  Guess who got to load the kids up and drive 45 minutes to pick it up?  Moi.  (That’s French for ME!)  Tom and I were going out that night and my mother-in-law was taking the kids to a movie and then watching them for the remainder of the evening.  I had to high-tail it up to Wisconsin (luckily just over the border) feed the kids a quick lunch at McDonald’s and hop back in the car and get them back to our house by 1:15 since the movie started at 1:40.  Of course, I am not a big fan of McDonald’s and I was lucky there was a Subway right next to it (I think the only 2 restaurants in the small town we were in) and grabbed a sandwich.  Of course the kids saw the massive array of chips and I was forced to buy them each a bag.  And by force I mean, Colin was pretty much shop lifting them and trying to smuggle them out of the Subway.  My intention was to skip the fries at McD’s, but somehow I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how to order just 8 nuggets, milk and apples (probably because they won’t let you…it is either 6, 10 or 20 piece…no in-between).  I said screw it and they both got Happy Meals. 

We scarfed our lunches and headed back home.  Mission accomplished.  I got them home in time, the liner was in our possession and I was on my way to meet Tom downtown for a Blackhawks game.  Whew.  Of course, the kids then went to the movies with Grandma, ate their weight in popcorn and sucked down blue slushies.  Just for good measure, they baked Christmas cookies later in the day.  Needless to say I awoke to Maddie covered in blue chunky puke at 3 a.m.

The next day the boys got to work installing the liner and despite the fact the temperature was a balmy 40 degrees, they decided to fill it with water.  I could hear the hose running and envisioned dollar bills exiting my house by the minute.  Luckily our neighbor brought his hose over to chip in some of the water.  I went out to check out the situation and said a prayer to my grandfather who is normally the patron saint of good weather.  I guess my prayer was lost in translation his definition of “good” is warm weather not cold.  We woke up in the morning and the rink was no longer filled with water.  Strike one.

Of course, the boys got to work fixing the back corner of the structure because apparently it wasn’t strong enough to hold the 20,000 pounds of water.  It also didn’t help that we have a slope in our yard, so the water at the far back was 4 feet deep and the water closer to the house was only a few inches.  We essentially had a zero depth pool in our yard.  Pretty snazzy.

They were able to fix it and set out to re-fill the pool, I mean rink again.  I was trying to get the kids settled down to watch a movie shortly before bedtime and have a little relaxation time myself.  Unfortunately, since Tom was spending all his spare time in the yard playing pool boy meant I got to be single-mom inside with the kids.  Rather than relax I found myself with a stomach-ache just listening to the water flowing, yet again.  I was cleaning up in the kitchen and looked out the back window and realized that the back panel of the rink was detached and could see water pouring out, yet again.  My Irish temper rose quickly and I raced out to the backyard.  Tom was nowhere in site, but our two neighbors turned and looked at me with the fear of God in their eyes.  My first instinct was to swear at them like a truck-driver and ask what the f*ck happened this time.  They gave me some smug answer that almost caused me to jump and run in my new swimming pool (Baywatch style), straight towards them and strangle them.  Instead, I dropped a few more f-bombs and threatened to divorce Tom.  Little did I know Tom was on the other side of the fence clearing out our neighbor’s (not involved in the project) storm sewer that was covered with mulch. Strike two.

I decided to put this day out of its misery and just go take a shower and go to bed.  Of course, I took about a 30 second shower in order to conserve water.  Tom came in and I tried my hardest not to come down on him about the second failed attempt since I knew he was just as angry as I was.  We agreed that they went overboard and made the rink too big and that filling it was like making ice cubes…without an ice tray…in Florida.  The ground was still too soft and there was no earthly way the water was going to freeze at this point.

I agreed, however, that since we were already in this project about $300, not including the forthcoming water bill that we needed to do something in order to have a rink.  He agreed to scale it down and give it one more shot.  He was pouting a bit because making it smaller meant only the kids would be able to skate.  Funny, I thought the rink was really for the kids anyway? The brain-trust of neighbor boys came the next morning to assess the situation yet again.   Out the window went the plan to “scale it down” and they decided to simply disassemble our swing-set and move it off to the side in order to make the rink longer length-wise and avoid creating such a deep end of the pool, I mean rink.

After trips 55 and 56 to Home Depot, the rink was disassembled, the swing set was moved and they worked to give it one more shot.  I’m not sure what measures they took to ensure this thing stayed together, but I heard something about rebars?  I wasn’t sure what the meant so I Googled it and here’s what by good friend Wikipedia told me:

A rebar (short for reinforcing bar), also known as reinforcing steel, reinforcement steel, rerod, or a deformed bar, is a common steel bar, and is commonly used as a tensioning device in reinforced concrete and reinforced masonry structures holding the concrete in compression.

….or putting up a Godforesaken pool, I mean ice rink in your yard when it doesn’t go below freezing.  Yup, despite the Farmer’s Almanac predicting we’d have one of the worst winters in history, the minute we put that rink up (and I bought the kids snow boots), global warming set in and we have had the warmest December in history.

Just to give you a snapshot of high temps in December:
December 6: 37degrees
December 7: 34 degrees
December 8: in the 20s
December 9: OMG IT SNOWED!!!
December 10: 27 degrees
December 11: 45 degrees
December 12: in the 40s
December 13: in the 50s
December 14: 56!!! (broke out that pink dress I never got to wear in Jamaica)
December 15: 57!!!! (broke out my new bikini I never got to wear in Jamaica)
December 16: 34 degrees
December 17:36 degrees
December 18: 40 degrees
December 19: 36 degrees
December 20: 35 degrees
December 21: 36 degrees
December 22: 34 degrees (close, but no cigar)
December 23: 34 degrees
December 24: 37 degrees
December 25: 44 degrees (I’m dreaming of a Brown Christmas?)
December 26: 44 degrees
December 27: 40 degrees
December 28: 30 degrees (WOOHOO!! Freezing!!!)
December 29: 46 degrees (Never mind.)
December 30: 40 degrees
December 31: 39 degrees (Happy Frickin’ New Year.)

Of course, everyone keeps telling us that this means we will be skating clear through April, but that doesn’t comfort me at all.  Right now, I just (and I can’t believe I am even typing this) want it to freeze already!  I woke up this morning and saw the water moving a great deal and got a little worried until I realized it was just the wind.  So, now we have a wave pool.  It is a regular water park at the Stien house.  I say if it doesn’t freeze, we just move the swing-set back over and have the slide go directly into the pool, I mean rink and then we can really have some fun!

Did I mention in the midst of all this, the kids got a case of pinkeye and double ear infections?  One of the last nights Tom was filling the pool, I mean rink, he looked inside the backdoor to see Colin vomiting all over the kitchen floor.  Of course, once Tom got the rink finished and just waiting for it to freeze, he got sick too.

So, I haven’t been able to act out my favorite scenes from Ice Castles (excluding the one where she wipes out into a bank of tables and chairs and goes blind) set to “Through The Eyes of Love,” but I have my figure skates sharpened and sparkly costume ready to go when it does.
Tom and I practicing our moves for our rink....

1 comment:

  1. Great story, I got my laughs in for the day. Here in NYC, it is a warm winter also. Yesterday, Jan 8 - it was 62! Maybe next year right? Leave it to our winters to only be unpredicatable when we really need them not to be.