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
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.
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
6. Gas up that car.
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.
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.
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.