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SAHM's Snow Day Survival Guide

Photograph by Getty Images

This fine Friday morning, my son woke up and went to school. But only for the third time this week. It is January in Chicago and, thanks to our new friend “Polar Vortex,” Januarys in Chicago now seem to involve unanticipated school closures due to extreme weather conditions.

This happened last year to us for the first time, and I have clear and distinct memories of practically clawing my way through those bitter days. Damn, they were hard, brutal really. We live in a condo, and our favorite memory is the 48-hour playdate that spontaneously happened with the upstairs neighbors. The kiddos would go to one home and hang out for a few hours, then tromp up or down the stairs and hit the second home. Aaaahhhh, memories!

This year, when the news hit of school closures due to subzero high temps and a wind chill (do you folks who live in Florida or Arizona even know what a wind chill is?) in the mid -20s range this week, the powers that be called it.

Schools would be closed.

Remember that photo image of Macaulay Culkin from his "Home Alone" stint? That is exactly what most stay-at-home moms look like when school closure news hits. Now, in my second year of this stuff, I want to share my hard-earned wisdom. I present to you the SAHM Snow Day Survival Guide. May it bring you warm comfort in these dark days of winter.

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1. Watch the weather reports.

The absolute worst thing is being caught off-guard at the top of a school closure period. Hell, you don’t know if it will run one day or five days (which happened here this week to a few schools). Give yourself the benefit of some extra time by checking out the 5-10 day forecasts. They are more sophisticated these days, so you never have to be surprised.

2. Stock provisions.

Get thee to a grocery store, Mama — alone, without the kids. Think milk, think eggs, thing bread, think coffee, think cereal, think chocolate, think toilet paper, think wine (if that’s your jam). Make certain your cabinets and pantries are stocked with any basics. You really, really, really don’t want to bundle up all the little ones for a gallon of milk when a wall of ice is bearing down on your minivan.

3. Shift gears.

This is a new trick that me and the boys used yesterday with great effect. I announced that we would make our own structure in the absence of a school day, and we tried to stick to it. There would be time for screens and play, but it was interspersed with some classwork and chores. I would give a five-minute warning that we would be “shifting gears” to the next activity. It seemed to aid the flow of the day and prevented an eight-hour screen coma for all of us.

4. Enjoy the domesticity.

This one was a total surprise. So often I feel oppressed by the folding of the laundry and the making of the dinner. Those tasks are relentless little beasts. But when you are free of outside responsibilities, no school drop-off or pick-up, no after-school activities, there is lots more time at your disposal. In the past 48 hours, I’ve dusted off the crock pot, baked, pulled last summer’s blueberries out of the freezer for pancakes and cooked enough dinners to last at least a week. And I enjoyed it. Be still my heart.

5. Be a kid.

Get down on that floor, play games, make a fort. For once, let the kids direct the activities. Say, “yes.” Enjoy the suspension of time that snow and cold closures allow. Remember those days from your own childhood. Indulge some wonder and get creative. Have breakfast for dinner, stay in your pajamas all day. Enjoy it.

6. Gas up that car.

OK, before you embody all that childlike wonder, make certain you stay an adult long enough to gas up the car before a deep freeze sets in. The last thing you want is to run out of milk or diapers and have no access to your car.

7. Make friends with Pinterest.

I generally use Pinterest in very limited quantities cause, well, Pinterest. But on snow days, when you’re grasping for straws and lacking all inspiration, Pinterest can be your new BFF. Plug in “cold weather activities” and scroll away. I guarantee your kids will find something they adore and you don’t find objectionable.

8. Read together.

I like to integrate this into the “shifting gears” schedule of the day. Yesterday, while the baby was napping, my older son and I huddled on my bed. Each had a new book and a warm blanket. It was lovely. And we woke up an hour later refreshed and in great moods! Ha!

9. Pretend to be Laura Ingalls Wilder.

With younger children, there is nothing better than reading books to them that your mom read to you back in the day. My favorite is the "Little House" series from Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those books are full of danger and naughty children and adventures and pioneer ways. Kids learn, you reminiscence and all are happy. Then, go pop a couple of potatoes in the oven to bake. Hold them when you run outside for a few minutes as a window into what it was like for the Ingalls family, during those long prairie winter sleigh rides.

10. Breathe.

This one is self-explanatory, I hope. Breathe, Mama. Soon it will be spring and the days will lengthen and the temperatures will rise again. You got this.

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