Snow Days: A Nightmarish Winter Wonderland

Julie Zickefoose's son Liam takes a breather after some snow play. i

Julie Zickefoose's son Liam takes a breather after some snow play. Julie Zickefoose hide caption

itoggle caption Julie Zickefoose
Julie Zickefoose's son Liam takes a breather after some snow play.

Julie Zickefoose's son Liam takes a breather after some snow play.

Julie Zickefoose

Julie Zickefoose is a writer and watercolor painter who lives on an 80-acre wildlife sanctuary in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio. She has concluded, through elaborate rationale, that hiking in the woods is actually part of her job. Her latest book is Letters from Eden, to be followed by an illustrated memoir about her life helping birds.

As I write, my two kids have been out of school for 20 days. Part of that was Christmas break, true. But, thanks to 7 inches of recalcitrant and apparently hazardous snow, which isn't being cleared from our country roads and won't go away by itself, their midwinter break has melted on into an extra week-and-a-half of enforced vacation.

"What do you DO with them??" my friend Nancy asked. I thought for a minute. "Well, they're building a snow fort. And they've figured out how to ride a small sled like a snowboard, and they go wobbling down the hill standing up and pitch forward on their faces. They call it 'snurfing.' Then, they come inside and play on the Wii. After that, they get online and play interactive games until they eat up all our bandwidth and crash the Internet for the next 24 hours. They strew their possessions around. They sneak marshmallows and mass quantities of Cinnamon Toast Crunch when I'm not looking. They come to me to settle disputes. They ask me what's for lunch and dinner. That's pretty much it."

Julie Zickefoose

Julie Zickefoose is a writer and watercolor painter who lives on an 80-acre wildlife sanctuary in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio. hide caption

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I know. I should be treasuring our time together: baking cookies with them; guiding them to write about the beauty of winter in their journals; helping them get a jump on algebra. In truth, I'm happy just to get through each day without hollering. I put a note on my studio door that says, "Hi, kids. Is it an emergency? Anything broken? Are you bleeding? Good. Then get it yourself. Love, Mommy."

Needless to say, I won't be a contender for Mother of the Year. When you're used to having the house to yourself on weekdays, when you're used to putting things in order and having them stay that way, having a couple of kids underfoot for 20 days in 20-degree weather is an extreme, yogic stretch of a mother's tolerance.

Each dawn, we wait for the robo-call from the school superintendent, informing us that today's school will be called off for the safety of our children. And each morning it comes, shattering the predawn dark. The days and nights roll into one another, an unbroken continuum of parenting. It could be worse, though. I work at home (or at least I remember working at home); I can take care of them. I don't have to hire or beg someone to do it for me.

My friend Lynne from Minnesota says she can't remember having a snow day for her kids in the past 10 years. What's with that? Are Minnesotans that much more cold adapted than Ohioans? Larger, bulkier, with thicker hair and smaller ears? Or is it as Garrison Keillor says: "If they started that in Minnesota, where would it stop?"

Every night, I turn on the porch light and peer out the frosty glass of our door. A few tablespoons of snow will have fallen, fully enough to cancel school in these slippery hills and hollers for yet another day. I suppress a scream, knowing that there's a 5 a.m. robo-call coming that will wake us with the news that the snurfing and sledding and Wiing and cereal crunching can go on for yet another day. The kids will smile, whoop softly and fall back to sleep. I'll get up and start my day. What to have for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Looks like time for another grocery run. Funny how one person's dream is another's ... recurring ... nightmare.

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