Tag Archives: Snow

Snow-day thoughts in March

Last night it was cold, so we lit the fire, which is a wood-burning stove. Then one of the cats jumped up on top of the stove and hurt his paw and I spent the rest of the evening stressing out in case the other one did the same, now that it was even hotter and would probably burn all the flesh off his little pads. Of course, since they’re not used to there being a fire there, they’ve come to think that the stove is just a fun place to jump up and play on, and have no idea why it should be any different just because there’s a bright orange light behind the glass. So I guess we can never light a fire again. Oh well. I’ll just drink wine to keep warm.

Because. This entire winter has been a damp squib, more like a practice for winter than actual winter, where it got chilly for a few days and then stopped. We’ve had no snow days and only the barest sprinkling of snow. Social flakes, I think they call them, because it’s enough to chat about but nothing further. Now that it’s mid March, though, we’re expecting a doozie and we’ve forgotten how to deal with that. I’ve been thinking about sandals – I am not up for a snow day.

Snow on road under lamplight

There appears to be snow.

Now it’s Tuesday and here I am making snow-day French toast for lunch. It’s a snow day, though the snow is mostly ice and not much fun for playing in. Dash is still in pyjamas and hasn’t been outside at all – but he did utter the immortal words “You’re right, Mom” a little while ago when he finally agreed with me that his ipad game would never end and he’d have to just stop playing it. It only took about two hours for him to come around to my opinion, so those were two hours well spent (by me alternately nagging/not nagging).

You can’t hurry French toast, as Phil Collins always says. I think it’s done now though.

Then some friends called for us and we ended up going out to sled on the big hill behind the school for an hour, which was much better than staying at home all day.

Did I have a point? Was it about the cats? So one cat now has a sore paw (he’s not limping at all but it looks nasty) and his brother looks like he’s gone five rounds with Mike Tyson because he has scrapes around his eye and something weird going on with his nose. And one of his ears has seen better days. We should’ve called him Rocky.

Life with cats goes like this: they sleep on the end of our bed, unless we kick them out. And it’s so sweet to have them there, purring away like little happy engines, a comforting weight by your feet, that we leave them there. Then halfway through the night I find that there are two cats right where my legs want to be, and I have to put my legs somewhere else. And at 5 am or so they wake up and think it’s time to play, or to climb on my head or knead their paws on my hair or pounce on my toes under the blanket, and then I lie there waiting for them to run off and thunder through the house instead, until 6:30 when they decide it’s breakfast time and someone has to feed them. (They were quite delighted with the time change that moved feeding time up an hour. They won’t be so happy in the autumn when we’re an hour late one day.)

Drops of ice on the washing line


After a glass or two of wine my fingers fairly fly over the keyboard; but they fly up to the delete button twice as often too. Still, as a method for getting my thoughts directly to paper, I have nothing but good things to say about typing. I really wish Dash would practice his keyboarding more because I think once he can type his writing will take flight. Also, his spelling will improve.

I should add that it’s after dinner now so my mentioning of wine is entirely appropriate. Merely mentioning. It came to mind for no particular reason.

Now we are waiting to see if the schools are opening on time tomorrow, since I’ve made a vet appointment for Birchyboo (not Oakiepokes – you can see how their full names are coming along) in the morning and I suspect I’ll have to bring at least one child along to it. It’s the child who wants to be a vet, so that’s okay.

I just read The Long Winter to Mabel, being the sixth of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I know I’ve mentioned these before, because we’ve been reading the series since I happened on the first one when Mabel was four or five. I love going through it slowly like this – I just pick up the next book at the thrift store or the book sale, but we don’t rush to get it from the library to dash through the the way we do with other series. This means that it’s a slower process but much more part of her childhood instead of a momentary blip. And as I’ve never read this series before I’m enjoying it too.

Anyway, The Long Winter, as you might surmise, is about a particularly hard winter for the pioneer family, who have finally settled in De Smet, Dakota Territory, where the Little Town on the Prairie actually is. There are blizzards from October to April that year, they have to burn sticks of twisted hay and sit around the stove in the tiny kitchen all day, they have nothing left to eat but bread made from wheat they grind in a coffee grinder – and Ma still cares about getting the laundry done. I would fail Pioneer 101 instantly.

Happily, our one paltry snow day of the year comes with wine, Girl Scout cookies, and a fireplace we can’t light because of the cats but we still have central heating. I think we’ll survive.

Snowy sidewalk by road, child with sled

Coming back from sledding

The Bad Parent, skiing edition

You know when you talk your child into doing something, and then they hate it, and there they are trying not to cry in front of a well-meaning stranger who is invested in this thing and to whom you’ve paid money for it, wailing, “I never even wanted to come in the first place. I knew I’d hate this,” and you haven’t a leg to stand on because that’s exactly what happened and I thought you’d change your mind once you tried it is no defence at all and you feel like an idiot and a terrible parent …

Well, that’s nearly what it was like.

A month ago:
Me: Guess what, guys? We’re going skiing! It’s going to be fun!
Mabel: I don’t want to go. I don’t like skiing.
Me, to self: She’s just saying that because she doesn’t like the unknown.

Two weeks ago:
Me: Yay, skiing will be great!
Mabel: I don’t want to go! I can’t miss my ceramics class!
Me, to self: She’s just annoyed about missing ceramics. She’ll love it once she tries it.

A few days ago:
Me: Mabel, good news! The forecast says it’s going to be really really cold on Saturday so I’ve cancelled the second day of skiing. You won’t miss ceramics after all.
Mabel: Yay ceramics. But boo skiing. I still don’t want to go.
Me, to self: Yeah, yeah.

Yesterday, on the slopes, standing in front of our private ski instructor:
Me: Come on, put your boot in there.
Mabel: Noooooo! Waaaahhhhh! I never wanted to come but you made me!


Somehow, I managed to exude “We’re doing this” vibes instead of “Oh crap you meant it all along” ones, or maybe she decided it did look like it might be some fun, or maybe anything at all because the machinery in a seven-year-old’s mind works in mysterious ways, but she deigned to click her boots into her skis and shuffle over to the lift. And once you’re at the top, there’s only one way down, right?

The poor instructor had a quick introduction to all the things Mabel doesn’t like – being told she’s doing well, being called a princess, having anyone be nice to her when she’s on the verge of tears, being complimented, being told she’s smiling when she’s not… – and he soldiered on. I tried to keep out of it, and, well, there we were, with Mabel being towed down the mountain by a bearded guy skiing backwards. I swooshed and swooped and it all started to come back to me and I did not manage not to say “Whee” out loud at every turn, because skiing, even slowly, is exhilarating.

Mabel skiing with her instructor

Most expensive babysitter ever

We went up and down three times, and by then our hour was almost up and Mabel was done. We said thank-you to the very patient instructor (well, I did; Mabel growled) and went inside to warm up, where she had a full-on breakdown at me about how much she hated it and how she wasn’t going to ski any more and how we had to go home right now.

That was the lowest point, right there. After a little while we found B and Dash, who had had their own lesson wherein Dash had proved to be a natural and was immediately promoted to stage 4 and taken down the even bigger slope, and decided it was time for an early lunch.

Once large slice of pizza and an ice-cream sandwich later:
Me: So, do you think we might ski a bit more after all?
Mabel: Okay.
Me, to self: PHEW. And also, VINDICATED!!!

Dash skiing

Dash about to leave me in the dust

So then we all went back out and skied some more. And slept well last night. Ow, my legs.

Looking up the ski-slope

View from the lift

Snow joke

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My kitchen chairs have been taken from me. My sofa cushions are two rooms away from their sofa. The big brown blanket that belongs on my bed has been repurposed. Yes, it’s a blanket fort, and it’s been there for three days now because I can’t face the mutiny I would encounter if I told them to dismantle it.

Scratch that. I’ve told them to dismantle it. They haven’t, and I haven’t bothered to follow up. I take the blanket with me every night, we sit on the bench in the kitchen, and nobody used that sofa much anyway. The fort is in use as an animal hospital and they spent a good hour designing, engineering, building, fortifying, populating, guarding, and creating signage for it. That’s good enough. Standards are low.

It’s day nine of the weekend that never ended. They’ve been off school all this week plus Thursday and Friday of last week, for the snowstorm that ended on Sunday morning. We dug out on Sunday and Monday, our roads have been perfectly passable since Tuesday at the latest, and yet…

There are many reasons why this is so, even though it is far from ideal for all concerned. The Washington DC area is southerly enough that snow is not a sure thing every winter, but northern enough that sometimes snow happens in large quantities. That means the cities and towns and counties and school districts are somewhat equipped to deal with snow, but not as well prepared as places like Boston or Chicago, where this is just called winter and people get on with it. We got our season’s worth of snow in two days, and we’ve nowhere to put it. The roads were prioritized but the sidewalks and bus stops were left to languish under extra feet of ploughed snow. The school closure decisions are made county by county, not by smaller districts or a school at a time, and though our area dug out quickly some people didn’t even see a plough on their street till Thursday.

This is no joke for those people who were expected back at work on Tuesday morning but have had to scramble to find last-minute childcare for every other day of the week. It’s no joke for those children who depend on a free hot meal at school every weekday. (Some schools opened to provide lunches for those who could get there and needed it.) It’s not even much fun for the lucky ones like me who had nothing much else to do and could at least let their kids profit from late lazy mornings, seasonal outdoor exercise, an extension on the science fair project, and a few family movie nights instead of a workaday week of spelling tests and classroom spats, too little recess and too much homework.

By today I was actually going to feel a little inconvenienced if the kids did have school. Mabel’s annual checkup was this morning and it was much easier to bring Dash along too instead of rushing around trying to get them both to school – I even, finally, got him a flu shot, which certainly wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been with us. Afterwards we had lunch in IKEA and … well, maybe I’ll find another movie for this afternoon.



You think the hard part of the storm is going to be the storm. When you’re in the middle of it, with the snow swirling all around and the view out the windows looking very much like Hoth, and the constant nagging worry about whether you might lose power and if there’s anything you could be doing now to prevent that or make things easier when it happens; not to mention the worry about trees falling on the house or the roof caving in under the weight of the snow.

Looking down the street in the snow


Snow-covered bikes

Not bicycling weather

However, assuming that none of those terrible things happen and you didn’t really think they would, the aftermath is worse. Because then you have to venture out, and you have to shovel the stupid white wet stuff off your car and out of your driveway, and the kids are complaining because it’s no good for sledding (too deep, uncompacted) and no good for snowballs or snowmen either (too fluffy, not sticky), and because it’s too long a walk home from the place you took them to sled, and because their snowboots let in snow and their chins are numb and they can’t feel their fingers. And then the snowplough comes by (if you’re lucky) and shoves a whole lot more snow in front of your house.

Mabel playing in the snow

A mountain lion leaping from bank to bank

Dash sledding

Sledding fun

No, that didn’t really all happen to us, and yesterday, after the storm, wasn’t so bad. It’s quite nice, really, when the sun comes back and the wind dies down and all the neighbours come out and chat to each other about how great it is that we still have electricity. But today the white stuff is still there, and it’s hardly even pretty any more because it’s just all piled up getting in the way and not melting. And the schools have already announced that they’ll still be closed tomorrow, so who knows what the rest of the week will look like, and let’s not even think about the possible snow that’s forecast for Friday because by then we will absolutely all have died of tedium and irritation.

Shovelled walkways

Not so pretty

Clear sky over snowy road

The long road home

Snow, in pictures

Yesterday it was mild enough for the kids to stop at the playground on the way home, a day Irish in its temperatures and its greyness, but not really moist enough to be truly Irish. Dash played soccer with a bunch of older boys, Mabel mounted the swings with some other kindergarteners and presided over a long-drawn-out game of horsies. The forecast was for snow today, so we were making hay.

Bets were taken (virtually, on Facebook) among the parents on whether we’d get a delayed opening, a full snow day, or the rarely invoked early closing today. The snow was meant to come in the morning sometime, not overnight. There was no alert at 5am to tell us that school was delayed, and indeed when I came down at 7:45 it was as dry outside as it had been yesterday. School as usual, then, nothing to see here. Anyone who might have skipped working on a science project in order to join the soccer game might have been feeling a bit foolish in retrospect.

Light snow on the deck

A sprinkling

The first tiny snowflakes started around 10:30, as I sat by my window, typing some words in between frequent stops to make cups of tea and go to the loo. They were what the weather service calls conversational flakes. Mood snow. After a while, though, it was coming down pretty well. The time for early dismissal had passed, and the snow just about stopped by picking-up time. The roads had been treated and it was just above freezing so the snow didn’t stick, but I walked to get them anyway, and took some photos on the way.


The fat flakes sat heavy on the branches of all the trees, and there were suddenly more trees and more branches than I had noticed. We’re surrounded by them, but when each one is defined by a line of white, in sharp relief even though the sky behind is white and full of snow still too, they become a latticework over the streets and around the houses. It was sort of beautiful.

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Delayed opening tomorrow? What are the chances?

A slow snow week

On Monday morning, in the midst of my jubliation, I had a brief moment of sympathy for the children. “A full week,” I thought, “straight in, no respite; they’ll be exhausted by Friday.”

Then Tuesday was a snow day. Wednesday and Thursday were 11am starts due to the cold, and finally Friday was a full day again. I think that eased them in pretty nicely, thank you, and I’d quite like my unproductive week back to do over.

Trees in the snow

Snowy tangle of branches

In response to the cold, I sourced dinner from the freezer two nights in a row rather than go to the supermarket, and it would have been fine if the wine I’d planned to go with our fairly sad-looking veggie lasagne last night hadn’t been corked. But it was corked, and that was tragic, because the wierd dark lager that is the dregs of the beer selection box you bought for the party and nobody drank is not nearly as satisfying as a nice red on a winter’s night.

Crochet square

As threatened, I learned to crochet. Behold my square!

Today the thermometer went above freezing and I went to the supermarket and picked up lots of healthy! vegetables! to make hearty dinners with, but I still don’t have any wine because that was the wrong supermarket for wine, so I’m hoping someone reads this and brings home some wine before dinner. (You’ve got an hour. No pressure.)

Mabel in the snow

Mabel with her giant snowballs

As well as that, I’ve been working my way slowly through the more immediate bits of my to-do list, writing some stuff, some of which should come to light quite excitingly next week, and taking bad photos on my Kindle Fire and posting them to Instagram. If you look to the right you’ll find my Instagram feed there – isn’t that pretty? 

Oops, time to wine is only 35 minutes now. I’d better hit Publish. How was your first week back to school?

My day in Upworthy headlines

You Won’t Believe What This Mom Gave her Kids for Breakfast!
[Spoiler: not pancakes]

You’ll Be Amazed By How the County Reacted To These Three Inches Of Snow!
[Spoiler: They closed the schools. Again.]

These Children Had a Snow Day. You’ll Be Astounded by the Amount of Squabbling That Ensued.
[Spoiler: lots]

Ten Fabulous Ways to Entice Your Children to Turn Off the TV. [Spoiler: The TV is still on.]

You Won’t Believe How This Mother Chose to Entertain Her Kids for Yet Another Snow Day. [Spoiler: Something from the Clearance crafts aisle at Target.]

Quiz: Which piece of random crap on my carpet are you?
[Results will be either: 1×1 Lego brick, tiny elastic band, melty bead, sequin, cheerio, rice-cake morsel, or squishy inside of an Oreo cookie.]

Five beautiful Pinterest crafts that look far too much like hard work.

Seven snack foods that you can eat standing up while your kids are distracted.
[Hint: My countertops are exactly the color of dark chocolate. Or a Thin Mint.]

This Mother Served Leftovers for Dinner Again: Wait Till You See Her Husband’s Reaction! [Spoiler: He ate them.]

This Woman Has a Blog: You Won’t Believe Her Latest Post!
[Spoiler: Done.]

Children with melty beads

Newest snow-day activity: melty beads!

White stuff

All this white stuff is getting me down. It’s doing nothing except getting in the way at the moment. It’s piled up at the sides of the road, turning slowly black from the car exhausts, slushing in the driveways, lying slippily in wait in the shadows where you least expect it, blocking the way at every turn so people are walking on the roads and can’t get from the bus stop to the bus without clambering over an Everest and possibly leaving a shoe behind in it.

And even though forecast temperatures for the rest of the week are in the 50s, (that’s over 10C), we’re expecting possibly another inch or two tonight, as a sort of farewell gesture. If school’s cancelled tomorrow I’ll be … I’ll be… actually, I can’t even muster the energy to threaten anything. It’s been so long since Dash went to school (last Wednesday, it was) that I’ve forgotten what it’s like.

While it persists, never mind the ever-present children, I can’t get down to anything. Everything is too much work. Everything is temporary, about to melt away any moment (if only it would). Everything is on the long finger, for when things go back to normal, when everyone goes back to school, the ground goes back to looking like the ground instead of treacherous uneven cold wet stifling white stuff.

Snow and trees

Rubber bands

Just because both children had things to look forward to planned for school on Thursday – the 100th day party for Mabel and both his first honor-roll assembly and the opportunity to present his project in front of students and parents for Dash (and let’s just forget how I feel in theory about honor-roll; I still think it’s silly and unfair, but you can bet your bottom dollar I was planning to be there) – we had a ton of snow that night and school was cancelled. Then there was more snow the next night and Friday’s school was cancelled for Mabel too. (Dash had a long-standing day off for teacher training anyway.)

So the idea of this probable oncoming snow day struck fear into my heart on Wednesday. My kids do not always want to spend a lot of any given snow day actually outside in the white stuff, and Dash is not the best with unstructured free time. In spite of the zillion other things I had to do that morning while Mabel was at school, I made time to stop off at Target to buy 1400 rubber bands.

At this point you are either nodding in agreement or a bit confused. If you don’t have a tween girl you might not know that rubber band bracelets are the thing these days. When I was in second grade I remember making pompoms by wrapping wool around two donuts of cardboard. At some later date everyone was making friendship bracelets out of embroidery thread. I was never at the cutting edge of fads, and I’m neither crafty nor hailing from crafty stock, so if I did these, I can guarantee that pretty much every single other girl in school was doing them too just then.

A while ago the existence of this current craze came to my attention and I congratulated myself on not having a girl old enough to be interested in or find out about such things. The next day, as I dropped Mabel off to school, one of the boys in her class proudly showed me the bracelet he had made himself that weekend, so I was clearly wrong on both counts there; but I kept my head down and ignored the evidence. A few weeks later Dash mentioned that all the kids in his class were making bracelets with rubber bands and that he’d like to too. I filed that away under “future endeavours.”

It seemed that Thursday’s snow day would be just the time to unfile it. I had heard from the mom of the five-year-old boy that the loom was pretty complicated and that perfectly easy bracelets could be made using a pencil. Also that explanatory videos were to be found on YouTube. So on Wednesday I selected two packs of tiny rubber bands from the “current fads” section of Target (where they keep the Pokemon cards and the baseball cards – yes, really – and Skylanders cards and whatever else the kids are doing these days) and went on my way.

Thursday began, as I have mentioned, with a thick cloak of snow beautifully covering everything. After the cursory trip outside in it, at the point when life in general was weighing heavy upon the children, I announced that I had a new thing for us to do. I produced the rubber bands, we watched the video, and we got down to business. By the end of the day, Dash had made ten bracelets, Mabel six, and I had made four. (What? They made me do it.) By Friday afternoon there was a knock-down drag-out screaming fight over the last four red rubber bands, which I had to confiscate, and Dash had made another three or four.

Kids making bracelets, one in progress on two pencils, and the finished products.

The obvious next step is to figure out how I can leverage this industry for profit. Every second other family, apparently, has a surplus of these bracelets in the house, so I don’t think we can flog them to the unsuspecting public, lovely and unique as they are.

It might be time to teach him to knit.

Brat bán sneachta

Mabel making a snow angel

Apparently every Irish essay I ever wrote in school involved the unlikely scenario of waking up to snow. I know this, because I can still write it.

Ar maidin, dúsigh me go luath mar bhí geal ait ins an seomra. Nuair a d’fhéach mé amach an fuinneog, chonaic me brat bán álainn sneachta ar fud na háite.

[In the morning I woke up early because there was a strange light in the room. When I looked out the window, I saw a beautiful white cloak of snow everywhere.]

(No correcting my Irish, please, from any of you Gaelgóirí. It’s mostly right, and I only looked up one word.)

I know this phenomenon is not limited to me, because the first thing my husband said to me this morning was that he was considering posting “Brat bán sneachta” as his Facebook status.

But I remember so well all the mornings I spent lying in bed trying to divine a geal ait (strange light) in the room, approaching the divide of the curtains slowly, wondering if what I was seeing through the crack was just plain white sky or if it might possibly be a brat álainn sneachta (beautiful cloak of snow) after all.

Almost always, it was not snow. In spite of all my Irish vocabulary had taught me, snowy winter days are not very common in Ireland.

But last night here, around 3am let’s say, when for some unknowable reason (Mabel) I was wandering around our house, the geal ait was completely obvious. Instead of an inky night sky  – Washington DC light pollution allowing – the sky was eerily light, illuminated somehow from within, or maybe as a reflection of the thick layer of white stuff it had already begun to lay down below it. I could see the softly falling flakes quite clearly everywhere without having to find the arc of a streetlight to show them to me.

So, snow day. I think the sled is buried somewhere at the bottom of the garden. Hope we can find it.

Dash making a snowman