Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Snow Day Boredom!

It's another snow day, another day with a house full of kids - my own plus my cousin's daughter. They keep running to the window to look at the quarter-sized, fluffy white flakes stream down from the heavens as if the shower had been left on. The schools cancelled before the first flake but in the wake of the icy roads and impending storm, wisely called it off. I thought though, wisely for the parents or the kids? This morning I'm beginning to wonder.

My daughters normally don't wake up until after 9am, giving me 2-3 hours of quiet bliss to write and meditate on the day. This morning my phone rang at the get-mad-at-the-world-hour of 5:30am. It was a recorded message from the school system letting me know the kids would be cocooned at home today. I turned on the morning news report to see how much this was real or hype. I started dozing off when my phone rang at the haven't-had-a-latte-yet hour of 6:30am. It was my cousin asking if I would watch her 11-year-old daughter today, she still had to report to her job. I replied no problem and decided my morning of sleeping in was over.

After I showered and started a pot of French press, I thought about if this was going to truly be a snow day or just a miss by the weather folks on Channel 5. I poured myself a cup of good-morning java and sat at my computer to read the blogs on the primary in Texas and Ohio. I turned and the sky was starting its reluctant nudge from darkness to light without a snowflake in sight. I finished the first cup and the various articles on CNN.com and the Washington Post when I turned to look out the dining room window, a deluge had begun!

I thought about what I would do with the kids today. My youngest daughter padded her way down the stairs at 8am in time to see the snow coming down. She was rubbing her eyes in the really cute, still drowsy way only a four-year-old can. She nuzzled my nap and was preparing to go back-to-sleep when she noticed the SUV pull up to the house. It was my cousin and her daughter. My little one sprang into action as if her legs were made like a Slinky. She ran to the door to help me greet them from the winter blast. She knew it was going to be a fun day.

My little girl ran upstairs to get dressed while I settled her cousin in for the day. At the noise, my six-year-old also woke up and got dressed. They had the twinkle in their eye of an unexpected girl-fest. I just smile and wondered if I had enough snacks and games to keep them occupied.

I peaked in at my thirteen-year-old son and realized he probably didn't even know school was out. A brief, albeit mommy-mean, moment crossed my mind to pull the covers off him and drill him on why he missed the bus. I'm not maniacal, it's just I couldn't get my son to go to bed at a decent time last night and am almost always greeted with this herd-of-horses tumble down the stairs followed by the rafters-shaking door slam every morning that he sleeps late. My tenderness took over and I tip-toed to his bed, past the mountain of dirty clothes and strewn action figures, and pulled the covers up to his chin. He didn't stir when I leaned down and kissed him, he looked so sweet, I just let him sleep.

The morning wore on with the girls jumping up and down, running from the computer to the breakfast table and back again. I settled down at my desk just off the dining room and started my work when within an hour, I heard the dreaded phrase, "I'm bored." It had only been an hour! What was I going to do the rest of the day?

I thought back to my youth in the mid-1970s and how much fun we had on snow days. We couldn't wait to hear the report, "schools are cancelled today." My step-mother always made a big pot of hot chocolate - the old fashioned way - and just kept it simmering on the stove. We would rush through breakfast, don two or three layers of clothes, add hat & gloves, boots, jackets, and race out the door. We lived right in the middle of a big hill with perfect slopes down either side. My brother and step-brother would grab anything resembling a sled and get to work sliding down the hill, stomach first. My step-sisters and I, even the youngest one, would alternate between making snowmen or snow angels. We would stay out there for hours and hours, oblivious to the cold, the reddening of the nose and ears, and the numbing of fingers and toes. Our play would go on for hours and hours until one-by-one we would walk around to the back door and come inside.

We would shed the layers of clothes at the back door and emerge into the warmth of the family room and plop down on the floor, looking out the patio door at all the snow. Our thawing out process included warm soup and foamy mugs of hot chocolate. We would play games ranging from monopoly, war, or backgammon. If we tired of those games, we would pull out the dolls and race cars, the music would crank up and we would take turns learning the hustle or as the years went on, Michael Jackson's robot. We would watch the old black & white Abbott and Costello re-runs or some other show like the Partridge Family, Brady Bunch, Charlie's Angels, or Starksy & Hutch. My elder step-sister would escape to her room to get embroiled in the latest saga of General Hospital or The Young and The Restless, a ritual that was usually reserved for Christmas or summer break. One thing we never did on those coveted days was tell my step-mother "we're bored." We knew if we uttered that phrase, she would assign us some dreaded chore like cleaning out the basement, washing the walls, or polishing every bit of silver in the house. No, we knew not to say that, we kept ourselves busy and if she walked by the family room with all six of us lounging around, we would shake up the dice on a Yahtzee's game or deal some cards to make sure we appeared sufficiently engaged. We never got bored.

So here I am, thirty-five years or so since my youthful snow days and my girls have become bored after an hour of play. I pointed out all the things they had to occupy their time and after much prodding, sent them along to play dominoes. They are now upstairs, the thirteen-year-old is finally awake. The kids are crowded around his Nintendo playing a game.

The flakes are coming down with a vengeance, as if the universe wants to blast us with one more reminder that it really isn't spring until March 21 even though Easter comes early this year. The reminder is especially to us in the Midwest, the weather changes in St. Louis so rapidly, we all just say, keep watching. Today is Tuesday and it is 25-degrees. Sunday was a balmy 78-degrees, my girls went out flying kites with their father.

It is time for lunch and after a morning of computer game, a cartoon, 1/2 a movie, a quick game of dominoes, dressing dolls, running up and down the stairs, playing jump rope, and looking at a game, I wonder if I'll hear the "I'm bored" for the next six hours!

Spring, looking forward to it!

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