The Snow Queen and Other Snow Day Tales

With a son in high school and another in middle school, we’ve been flirting with the idea of letting all three kids stay at home alone without adult supervision. I know it might strike some as ridiculous that this would even be an issue at this point. As an eleven year old still in elementary school, I was babysitting infants. As a “safety patrol” armed with nothing but a frayed vinyl orange belt and a cheap badge slung over my scrawny little shoulder, I was in charge of a whole bus stop full of kids far from the watchful eyes of any of our parents. But that was a very different era. These days in our peaceful little neighborhood nestled in the bucolic countryside, I sometimes see parents waiting at the bus stop with their high school-age kids.

"The Voyage of Life: Youth," Thomas Cole, 1840.

“The Voyage of Life: Youth,” Thomas Cole, 1840.

The last time we asked the boys if they would feel comfortable staying home alone and in charge of their little sister, they looked at us wide-eyed with fear and vigorously shook their heads. Could it have been the fact that we began the discussion with exhortations to hide if they heard anyone at the door, to NOT answer the phone unless they recognized our number, and to call 911 IMMEDIATELY if their sister so much as coughed a little? Could it have been the scenarios we role-played in which evil sickos disguised as sweet old grannies would plead with them to open the door, because their car had broken down and they were hurt and needed to come in to use our phone and by the way they had a cute little puppy and sacks full of candy too? Possibly.

"The Voyage of Life: Manhood," Thomas Cole, 1840.

“The Voyage of Life: Manhood,” Thomas Cole, 1840.

We were very close to finally taking the plunge last week when the fairly modest snow we got here in Charlottesville shut down the school system for an entire week. Every day last week I would get a text from the county announcing that school would be closed for another day. Like clockwork, the next text I would receive shortly thereafter would be a one word expletive in response from my husband, who would be losing yet another day of work to stay home with the kids. Towards the end of the week, his one word text bombs would literally make me LOL.

We just couldn’t quite bring ourselves to leave our nine year old daughter home alone last week, even in the care of her older brothers, and despite the fact that my son has openly acknowledged her superior level of maturity. And so my husband and I traded our daughter back and forth throughout the entire week, while we fulfilled our various work obligations. This kind of shuffling has been going on for years. Once when my husband didn’t get back home in time to take over parenting duties, I was forced to bring my infant to a class I was teaching. I’ll never forget having to change my son’s diaper in the middle of my lecture on Russian literature. I’m sure the students will never forget it either. More recently, the kids have had to spend many a snow day or sick day sitting in on their dad’s political theory lectures. I’ll be so bitterly disappointed if after all this, they don’t have enough credits to earn their B.A.s by the time they get their high school diplomas.

It snowed again late last night and early this morning. School was cancelled for all three kids, but alas NOT for the parents. This morning we debated back and forth about how to handle this latest development. Finally, we decided that it was at last time to cross the Rubicon. We would leave all three kids at home.

A little while after getting to my office, I called home to check up on them.

“Mommy?” my daughter asked as she picked up the phone.

“Yes, it’s me!” I answered, “Oh YAY! You haven’t burned down the house yet!”

MOMMY!” she replied. Did you know it’s possible to actually hear the sound of rolling eyeballs?

“Have you gotten any homework done?”

“Yep! I’ve done some math and I’m going to do some word study.”

“And what are you guys going to have for lunch?”

“Actually, we’re in the middle of lunch right now,” she replied.

“Really? Already? It’s only 11:20…”

“Yeah!” my daughter replied, “We’re having a big fat cooking showdown.”

My heart sank.

Big fat cooking showdown sounds really scary to me. Are you guys making a big fat mess?”

No. So, N and T both made me dishes and I’m deciding which one tastes the best.”

“What are the dishes?”

“T made me macaroni & cheese and N made me some delicious noodles.”

I guess I know who won the showdown. I have to laugh as I imagine the boys microwaving the  ready-made macaroni & cheese and pouring boiling water over the instant noodles and then presenting their “dishes” to their sister with a flourish. I should probably start planning my outfit for the James Beard Award Ceremony.

I also have to laugh as I envision my daughter dispensing judgement upon her loyal subjects. It reminded me of the time a few years ago when I took the kids swimming. Eventually, I noticed that the boys were not frolicking and splashing about as one might expect two carefree kids on vacation to be doing. Instead, they were assiduously taking turns giving their little sister rides on their backs and then anxiously asking her to rate their performance. It turned out that my daughter had ruthlessly pitted her brothers against each other in a  “Best Brother Contest.”

“Well…I’d say you’ve got a 7.5 so far. N gave me a smoother ride, so he gets an 8.2, but maybe you could improve your score by giving me a longer ride.”

More bitter disappointment is coming my way if that girl doesn’t become Ruler of the Universe in my lifetime…

Until then? I’m pretty sure they’re all going to be just fine.

It’s Cold

Part I: It’s cold. It’s freezing. We’ve been saying the same two sentences all week long. Tired of repeating the same old hackneyed phrases? Here are some more colorful alternatives:

The Brassy Option

It’s colder than a witch’s teat in a brass bra.

It’s colder than a brass toilet seat on the shady side of an iceberg.

It’s cold enough to freeze the tail* off a brass monkey. *(Frequently substituted with spherically shaped male part of the anatomy).

It’s colder than a gravedigger’s shovel.* (Frequently substituted with word that rhymes with “brass”).

The Classy Option

“When the breath freezes into ice dust and falls almost silently to the ground, Siberians call it the whisper of stars.” from David K. Shipler’s Russia: Broken Idols, Solemn Dreams.

Part II: It could always be worse:

Here’s a reading suggestion that will put your shivering into perspective. Evgenii Zamiatin’s short story “The Cave” is about a couple trying to survive in an unheated apartment in the dead of winter. Post-revolutionary Petrograd is depicted as a prehistoric landscape of glaciers and woolly mammoths. The bitter cold drives the couple to desperate acts. The story is deeply depressing, of course. It is Russian literature after all. I know this doesn’t sound like much of a recommendation, but it’s a great story and I can guarantee you it will make you feel like you’re not so cold after all…If you have access to JSTOR, you can read the full text there for free. Otherwise, it’s in The Portable Twentieth-Century Russian Reader.

I spent the four coldest years of my life during my college days in frigid New Hampshire. I would run as fast as I could between classes trying to minimize my exposure…and there are very few things I hate more than running. As soon as the air hit my face, my ears would burn with an icy fire. The snot dripping from my nose would turn into miniature icicles. My eyes would start to water, the tears would freeze my eyelashes, and I would hear an icy tinkle every time I blinked. At least it’s not that cold…unless you’re reading this in New Hampshire.

It’s been widely reported recently that it’s colder in Winnipeg than it is on the surface of Mars. Again: no comfort at all if you happen to be reading this in Winnipeg.

And for more perspective…at least we didn’t get 26 inches of snow like we did in 2009!

Stay warm out there and have a wonderful weekend!

A new season

I’ve been finding it hard to let go of the Autumn, but this weekend was a turning point.

On Friday I got the kids their advent calendars:

IMG_0471On Saturday I dropped my son off at a party and took the younger two on a million and one errands. We found these very cute Christmas crackers:

IMG_0469We took a break from errands with a stop at one of my kids’ favorite places, a frozen yogurt shop called  Sweet Frog. My girl did her Happy Dance:

We all met back up at the garden center to pick out a Christmas tree.


My daughter found the perfect one:


Worried that the tree she picked would have to be lopped off at the top to fit into our living room, Colin tried to steer her toward a slightly shorter tree. IMG_0455Do you see her lower lip in this picture?

Of course, my daughter prevailed, as she always does. And she was absolutely right. It is the perfect tree and it fits perfectly in the living room, no lopping required:

IMG_0470Now she’s desperate to decorate the tree, but it’s just been too busy…My son has been working on his term paper all weekend, (thereby preventing me from using my computer, which is why I’m working on this post at 2 am). Various parties, piano lessons, etc. etc. have otherwise filled our days and nights all weekend.

While my son was slogging away at my computer, I cooled my heels working on these yarn and ribbon-covered styrofoam trees. I had to make 15 of these for the Holiday Fair at my kids’ school. I was grumbling and grousing for days as I made those 15 trees, gradually losing all sensation in two of my fingers from glue gun burns. I turned in my quota of trees, but for some reason, I decided to make a few more and now I simply. can’t. stop. Something is seriously wrong with me…

So, I guess what I’m saying is:  I’m moving on…Fall was glorious, but there’s a lot to look forward to this season, too…

And finally, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for…Powerball, pah! Mega Millions – meh! Here’s where the real action is as Alicia, Janel, and Jeanette will tell you. These  THREE, yes, count ’em THREE entrants left a reply and are now in the drawing for a prize. Thanks for your suggestions for stress-relief! Tomorrow I’ll have my daughter pick a name out of the hat & will send the winner a prize!

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