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COLUMN: Snowbound ... with children

I had always envisioned a blizzard raging outside while my family were huddled together inside, sitting by the fire, playing games and generally looking like a Norman Rockwell postcard.

Didn't happen.

Oh there were times this weekend when we sat by the fire: I let them toast marshmallows until they started catching them on fire to make "comets."

We played games too, though "Bug Mom While She's Trying to Work" wasn't really my first choice.

My husband, who has been a father for 12 years (and traveled for about 10 of them), still isn't used to being cooped up with his children for a long period of time. I don't consider "24 hours" a long period of time, but he started eyeing his car keys by Saturday afternoon.

As for me, I was just thankful that we got groceries early Friday night before the storm hit.

Then I did something I never thought I would do: I told the kids "no" when they wanted to go outside.

Saturday, when the storm was still raging, they wanted to go out and play. Normally, I would have to almost physically pick them up and toss them through the door to get them to go outside (well, at least two of my four kids).

I tried to discourage them saying it was too cold, too windy and anything else I could rationalize. But with the stubbornness they must have inherited from their father, they kept on asking and asking until finally I broke down and all but held the door open for them.

I think they were outside a total of 25 minutes. It took them longer to get all their snow gear on.

So they wiled the weekend hours away by running through the house, eating, watching TV, playing board games, making crafts, doing catch-up homework, watching movies, eating and reading.

Didn't see "doing chores" on that list, did you?

As they explained it to me, the weekend (and the subsequent snow day from school) are times when "kids can relax and just be kids." Silly me.

And speaking of snow days...

Any other day, I have to drag my kids out of bed. Because they don't ride the bus (and I haven't found a carpooling friend I can pawn them off to), I usually end up driving them to school. That means I have to get up in the freezing blackness of dawn as well.

However, we were notified the night before that they would not have school this past Monday. Translated: they got a three-day weekend for free.

In a rare moment of lax-ness, I let them stay up late Sunday night, thinking they would sleep in on Monday (since they had no school, you know). My husband and I had to get up anyway, and I figured it would be nice to have some time by myself in the morning.


For one thing, they forgot to turn their alarms off. I don't know why in the name of heaven my 9-year-old has her alarm set for 3:10 a.m., but when it went off, my 4-year-old leapt out of bed and into mine. It took me a bit of fumbling to get him back in his own bed, and even more fumbling to figure out how to turn that stupid alarm off in the dark. However, once I found the cord and pulled the plug, it was easy. My 9-year-old slept through it all.

My other daughters woke just after I tried to sneak into their room and shut their alarm off. I guess I'll never make a good cat burglar.

So, all four of them were up by 8 a.m. - still in their pajamas, but fixing their bowls of cereal and ready to sprawl out over the chairs and couches to watch TV. I half expected them to ask to be fanned with enormous feathers and fed grapes by hand.

I talked to my sister who lives in Nebraska and was caught in the snowstorm as well. She lives in a very small house and has a 2-year-old and 3-year-old -- both very active boys. She kept interrupting herself to scream -- I mean, correct -- her children as they were tearing through the house.

As I heard the chaos on the other end of the line, I looked back at my kids, lying comatose in the family room watching Scooby Doo and the gang solve another mystery.

I couldn't help but smile -- at least mine would be going back to school the next day.