postcards from the edge of snow day
Snow day! I remember the giddy, unparalleled delight I had on snow days when I was a child, knowing that I would spend the morning sledding in the park. I’d come home with my cheeks stinging and eat hot soup, grilled cheese, and cold grapes, and then after a hot shower, I would snuggle into a blanket on the couch to watch Die Hard or The Princess Bride.
This is one of the moments you wait for as a parent, like teaching your kid to ride a bike. Today, I teach my children how to Snow Day.
When my children wake up today I whisper to them like it’s Christmas morning. “Good morning, my darling! It’s going to be a magical day!”
They come into the kitchen where I’ve made them snowman pancakes with chocolate chip buttons. I scatter more chocolate chips across the buttery cakes, then drizzle on the syrup. “Eat up!” I say as I sip my coffee. “You’re going to need your energy today.”
I actually find the snow gear in a bin labeled “snow gear” and I feel certain that I am, if not the goddess, then surely a demi-goddess, at least.
Have you ever seen a 4-year-old in snow pants? I died, it’s so cute. Here, I’ll text you a picture of him. Here’s Chicken making a snow angel. Here’s Buster licking snow. Here’s… Buster licking more snow. I ask him if he’s thirsty. “Nah,” he says, scooping up another mittenful of ice to eat. It is so cute I take another picture and send it to all of my friends, even the ones who don’t have kids and prefer their cats and dogs and who will dutifully reply “lol” even though I seriously doubt it.
We tromp through the neighborhood until lunchtime when I bring the children inside and heat their soup and grill their cheese and cut their grapes (I actually have grapes! I can do my childhood PERFECTLY, you guyeeeeeez!")
After lunch we snuggle under a blanket by the window and I read “The Snowy Day” to them while their snow bibs click and rumble in the humming dryer.
Wow, really? I mean, okay. The road looks pretty clear from where I’m standing, but you’re the Superintendent! Thank you for your service! Better safe than sorry, right?
Snow angels and ice licking were yesterday’s game. Today we level up.
Yes. Today is the day we bust out the sleds and hit the hills at the YMCA.
Yes, those hills. The real hills. None of this cutesy patootsy “come over the driveway has a 7% grade” business. I’m talking about bonafide magical —
BUSTER THAT SNOW IS BLACK DON’T EAT THAT SNOW. BUSTER I SAID NO. BUSTER BADERGINSBURG, I AM TALKING TO YOU.
Thank you Buster.
Now what was I saying?
Oh right, let’s hit the hills! Holy shit is that a boulder! In the middle of the sledding hill! WAIT BUSTER DON’T—
To his credit, Buster sees the boulder and dives out of the sled to avoid hitting it. I see his head bounce off the hard packed snow and I make the same face you make when a football player’s leg bends the wrong direction in midair. I make the same sound, too: Wooooooophhhhh, plus this face.
Buster pops up, screaming. I jog down the hill to him. His eye is already swelling shut and I’m doing the mom math that weighs the severity of the injury against the amount of time it took to get the goddamn snowsuits and boots and mittens on these children. The calculation finishes: We’re staying for another 10 minutes and then, if he still wants to, we’ll go home. After that 10 minutes he decides to try again and we happily sled, snowball, snow angel, snow fort, and yes, snow eat, for the next two hours. I’ll text you pics. But for that first 10 minutes, I am the mother who is marching her crying, wounded child back up the sledding hill saying, “Look at Chicken go! WHEEEEEEEEEE!” And I can only imagine that it is as gruesome as watching someone force their screaming child onto a strange man’s lap and then screaming “SMILE MELODY” because I guess he’s Santa and this is supposed to be fun?
When we get home I throw their snowy clothes into a pile on the floor and let them watch Doc McStuffins until dinnertime, which is mashed potatoes and chicken and peas. After they go to bed I throw their clothes in the dryer and listen to the clips and zippers rattle and smack against the hard, hot metal drum.
Outside, it starts to snow again.
I’m just gonna refresh this school district announcement page to make sure it’s not…
Okay, yep, yeah. It’s another snow day. Okay. Okay. I don’t. I mean… What’s done is done, I guess. I’m trying not to freak out. I don’t think my kids want to make any more snow angels, and I’m not strong enough to take them sledding again.
I suit the kids up in their snow gear and send them out into the backyard.
OK but you have to understand that when I type “suit the kids up in their snow gear” makes it sound like “zip, zap, now you wear pants, go play!” when the reality is more like, “Sit down. Sit down. Chicken, sit down. Chicken. Sit. Sit. Sit down. Sit down. Sit sit sit sit SIT. DOWN. SO I CAN GET. YOUR FEET. THROUGH THE PANTS. (deep breath) OK, now stand up. Stand up. CHICKEN. STAND. UP.”
“Mom why are you so mad?”
“Tough question to answer kiddo. Hands out for your mittens, now. Hands out. Hands out. Hands. Hands. HANDS. NOW. PLEASE.”
(“Please” has become my euphemism for “Fucking shit, kid.”)
Warm, dry, and waddling, my little demon darlings sled down the slide on our swingset, squealing “Wahoo!” I stand in the kitchen window with my microwaved coffee and smile. They even ride together a couple of times. This is okay. I’m okay. We’re gonna make it.
Okay, Katie, but you can see the tunnel narrowing. No more fucking around.
It’s time to get organized. Take stock of what’s in the pantry. How many bottles in the cabinet. Make a plan. Make a list.
First of all, I shall create a snow station by the sliding glass door. I lay out towels to catch the clumps of snow they’ll shake off as soon as they’re inside. I designate this hamper by the sliding glass door the “Snow Gear” hamper. I am getting really fucking sick of finding mittens in the Lego drawer.
Hey, maybe this is an opportunity for our family to do something really special together. Like a puzzle! I saw someone on Facebook doing a puzzle with her kid! We could do that!
(imagines trying to do a puzzle with these children)
Ooooooorrrrr I could KonMari the spice cabinet while drinking an afternoon Pinot Gris and bingeing an NPR podcast about sex work. I love this! I’m flexible. I have a great attitude.
As a child, I loved how Snow Days created space to do nothing but lie in the snow and watch flakes swirl down to earth as my butt got colder and colder. After the initial flurry of manic must play in the snow compulsion wears off, Snow Days are really effective simplifiers. As an adult, I love how Snow Days can create space for projects that I’ve been putting off. My bathroom needs a re-org. The living room furniture rests on a pillowy burrow of dust bunnies.
They played so much yesterday and the day before. I can give them a movie day while I organize my bathroom drawers. Of course I can. Go easy on yourself, girl.
Question: How much screen time can my children reasonably have before they actually murder each other?
Answer: Approximately 30 minutes LESS than the screen time they get today.
Add it to my list of the day’s accomplishments: Cleaned bathroom. Folded laundry. Prevented fratricide. Gonna call it a win.
After I tuck them in, I listen to the children thunder and scrabble around in their bedrooms as they weather the aftershocks of a solid 4 hours of Pokemon. They sound like they’re trying to escape. In the kitchen, I eyeball the doors as they rattle in their frames.
I open a bottle of wine with my bare hands.
It’s a twist-cap, but still.
You can tell this Superintendent doesn’t have a fucking child in elementary school because if they did they’d be fucking calling in the Snow Cats to fucking drag buses of children away from home. I meant it when I said “better safe than sorry,” 4 days slash a lifetime ago. I still mean it. Take my children away from me immediately. For their own protection. Better safe than sorry.
The children have built up an immunity to the sound of my voice and we are out of fruit snacks. I could really use some fruit snacks right now.
The roads are clear enough this morning to make a grocery run for another gallon of milk. I buy the fixins to make lasagna. I buy brownie mix. The children wait in the car under fleecy blankets and read books while I dash into the deserted store. DON’T FUCKING LOOK AT ME JEANETTE. I needed a goddamn minute and some ricotta cheese.
When we get home, they careen into the play room with wild eyes. “iPad? iPad? Mom? Mom? Is it iPad time?”
When I say, “No,” it kind of comes out like a roar? Like, I am surprised I don’t singe anything with the sheer heat of rage I exhale on that single word? I send them to their rooms to “GET IN BED AND READ A BOOK” (unspoken addendum: “For fuck’s sake”) and they whine impressively about being asked to do literally the only thing I want to do for the rest of the day.
I have instituted a “don’t ask me for anything” policy for the forseeable future. The children are finding it hard to accept. To be fair, it may be an unreasonable ask.
“Mom, can I—”
“I was gonna ask for a band-aid. I scraped my thumb.”
“GET IT YOURSELF.”
(a minute later, after the crushing shame spiral)
”Hey, Buster? I’m sorry. I’ll get you a band-aid.”
”I already got one.”
He has covered his bed frame in band-aids. I don’t even care.
“Cool,” I say.
Ryan is in Los Angeles at a bachelor party.
High winds predicted for tonight. As soon as I hear the forecast, all of the energy that I’ve been putting into a) hating everything, then b) biting back expletive-laden catchphrases that I don’t want to hear coming out of my children’s mouths, followed by c) despising myself for my shitty attitude today, gets immediately routed into intense existential terror. I’m quite sure that a tree will fall on my house tonight. While I imagine what it would sound like, feel like, while I pray that none of us survive because it would be easier that way, Chicken tries to climb into my lap and I shudder. “Off. Off. Off me, please.”
I love him so much I don’t want to live without him, but that doesn’t mean I want him to touch me right now.
Sure, let’s go sledding again! Who the fuck cares! Sure we can! WE GOTTA BURN THESE HOURS SOMEHOW! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
We get to the sledding hill and we’re the only ones here. Our feet crunch and creak in the deep snow. The kids’ cheeks flush in the cold, sunny day. I’m so heels-over-head-over-heels in love with them. With this day. With my life.
Then they hit me with the sled going 10, maybe 20,000 miles per hour, and my heels are literally over my head.
I land on the snow flat on my back, and the back of my head slams against the hill.
My mother is in Colorado but even from 1,305 miles away, I can hear her:
I take them home and ice my neck. We read the first 5 chapters of a new book. I can feel my guts unclench. Their warm bodies are still, not jabbing, not wriggling, simply holding themselves against me under the blanket. We watch the sparrows leave spidery tracks in the snow on the porch railing.
I give the boys two hours of quiet time and then four hours of television and then it’s bedtime and oh hey look at that, it’s snowing again.
Jordan Peele’s next horror film should be called “I just got the email. School’s canceled again.”
I wake up unable to rotate my head. I’ve got whiplash for sure. The urgent care clinics are closed (#snowpocalypse) but they’re offering video appointments. I consider it, but then I imagine what the physician would see… a grainy feed… the sound of screams cutting in and out… “My neck (garble garble garble) CHICKEN PUT DOWN THE HAMMER (garble garble) sorry… (fuzz) so sorry…” I don’t want to haunt the poor doctor’s nightmares. Besides, they’ll just tell me to rest, ice, take Aleve, and see a chiropractor. Which I’ll do. If the snow ever melts. Until then…
One time I watched a documentary where a Komodo dragon bites a wildebeest and then follows it around for 6 days waiting for it to die from sepsis. These are my memories. These memories are my life. My children follow me as I stagger from room to room.
I send an email out to neighbors with kids my kids’ ages. There’s a Doodle poll attached. Should we start a co-op or a fight club. Nobody’s responded yet. I hope they’re okay. Because I’m okay! I’m totally okay.
Every morning I wake up certain that today is the day I’ll recover my equilibrium. I’ll figure out what projects can peacefully occupy my children for enough hours at a time that I can chase down the missing mittens (they’re not in the Lego drawer. I already checked) and eat some breakfast and change out the laundry that consists entirely of pajamas and snow pants. I’ll get a pot of soup on the stove. I’ll make homemade biscuits, and my homemade I mean I’ll open the box of biscuit mix here, at home, to make them by adding water and stirring.
Ten minutes in, I already feel myself slipping. NO, MACBOOK, I DO NOT WANT TO UPDATE MY OS, I’M GOING THROUGH SOME SHIT RIGHT NOW. Then I step on a wayward veggie straw and it crunches under my slippered foot. I sweep this kitchen every day, four times a day. It’s never clean. Yet I sweep. It is my sentence.
Chicken melts down because Buster “walked by him.”
I can’t even make myself look like I care. “That’s not… that’s not a thing, Chicken. You know I want to honor your feelings and respect your boundaries, but… no. Just… no… just… go to your room, please.”
This is a gross miscarriage of justice. He appeals, in scream form, starting now. I clarify. “It’s not a time out, Chicken. It’s just a chill break. Grab a book and go to your room.”
He screams to his room. It’s okay. You gotta express those screams. I know. Last night I had half a bottle of wine and watched an Alt Right documentary on Netflix and screamed all my favorite middle school burns at Richard Spencer. “UH DOY, DUMBASS. GOOD ONE, JERKFART.”
Can I tell you the hardest thing about screen time? When they’re watching a TV show together, these kids snuggle in one small chair, under a blanket. They share a bag of popcorn willingly and joyfully. “Chicken, do you want some more popcorn?” “Sure, Buster. Thanks!” “You’re welcome.”
Not only are they NOT fighting, but they’re so pleased to have screen time that they’re actively kind to each other. If screen time is meth for their little brains, their kindness is meth to mine.
I send up a prayer of thanks that my children are old enough to actually be occupied by television. I remember one snowy winter when Chicken didn’t yet have a single fuck to give about the moving pictures on the screen. Or, rather, I remember almost nothing about that snowy winter. I’m pretty sure that if you’d found my Shining typewriter at the spring thaw, it would have been pages and pages of “Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, I See The Eternal Void Looking At Me.”
So yes I give them a movie. And then another one. And then—
The date? February 11, 2019.
School? Canceled. Again. Possibly forever. Who can say at this point.
My children? Have returned to the wild from whence they came. They have the knowledge of man and the mercilessness of beast and I am treating this blog post as if it is my last. To whom it may concern, yes, I died screaming. Get Werner Herzog to listen to the tape and then hold your hands and tell you, “You must never listen to this,” just like in Grizzly Man.
Today so far they have beaten each other with plastic dinosaurs, fought over a single veggie straw from the full Costco bag of identical veggie straws. Chicken turned on the keyboard to play a stock house beat, turned up the volume to 7, and then walked away, leaving me alone in the room with the glowing, squealing, pulsing machine. It is 9:30 am.
I? Am dead inside. There’s a taste in my mouth that’s either bile, or the words I’ve thought and haven’t yet said to my children over the last week. “FIGURE IT THE FUCK OUT,” “FOR FUCK’S SAKE,” and “WIPE YOUR OWN ASS,” when thought repeatedly and swallowed back, leave pretty bad skid marks on the tongue.
I shall now make cinnamon bread french toast with garlic mashed potatoes (#lastmeal #Iwillneverpoopagain) and watch The Shining with my children. DON’T LOOK AT ME JEANETTE. THEY NEED TO KNOW WHAT THEY’RE PLAYING WITH.