Good Sledding

The second snow day is always harder than the first one. I considered this fact this morning as I stumbled out of the bedroom at 6:40, bound for the bathroom, and Beth said, “School’s cancelled again.” It wasn’t exactly unexpected. An ice storm had been predicted, ice on top of the inch of snow that cancelled school yesterday. Since Monday was a teacher grading and planning day (there’s one at the end of every marking period), this was Noah’s third consecutive day off school and my third day of trying to figure out how to entertain both kids all day.

Tuesday was pretty easy. Both kids were thrilled to see our first significant snowfall since last winter. “There’s snow on the ground today!” June kept saying and running to the windows to check and make sure it was still there. We played in the yard. Noah and I pulled June around in her sled and I pushed her down the hill over and over. We made snowballs and threw them at the fence. (Noah devised a complicated scoring system depending on where they landed. He had some trouble deciding if the one that soared over the fence counted as landing between the pillars and over the crossbar, the prime target. In the end, he decided it did. “Well, it did go over the bar,” he reasoned.) We went to the library’s Circle Time where Noah was good-natured about doing the hoky-poky and playing Ring Around the Rosie with a bunch of toddlers, preschoolers and their out-of-school older siblings. Then we walked home in the snow. After Mr. Rogers, lunch and a nap, June was eager to go outside and play in the snow all over again, so Noah watched her while I shoveled as much of the walk as I could. It had gotten packed down and heavy in places so I only managed the front sidewalk. (We have a corner lot.) Then we came in and had hot chocolate. In between, I clipped newsletters, folded laundry and made squash risotto for dinner. The only thing I hoped to do and didn’t was make cookies.

This morning when I went outside for the paper (which had not arrived), I found the yard slick with ice. I wondered how feasible outside play would be, but I decided to give it a try. June’s music class was cancelled so we had nowhere to go. Also, June was running around the house beside herself with excitement that there was still snow on the ground and wanting to know when she could go outside. I gave her a bath, then unloaded the dishwasher and did the breakfast dishes while I waited for her hair to dry. This was a nearly unbearable delay for June, who kept letting me know she was ready to “go outside and take a walk in the snow.” I decided a walk was a good idea. It would be pretty down by the creek. It always is after an ice storm. June also expressed interest in riding in her sled instead of the stroller. If the sidewalks were unshoveled, as the path by the creek surely would be, it might actually be easier, I thought.

I took a peek down the block. Some of our neighbors had managed to shovel, but mostly I saw ice. As I fetched June’s sled and tried to chip the ice off it, the kids had fun walking around in the yard, delighting in its new texture and stomping their boots to crack the ice and sink into the snow underneath. I ran back inside for a towel so June wouldn’t be sitting directly on the ice I couldn’t remove from the sled and off we went. I pulled, June rode and Noah alternately darted ahead and fell behind. He had a yellow plastic baseball bat with which he was shattering the ice on every surface that captured his attention.

We didn’t make it very far down the creek path. We kept finding fun places to play, like the stand of bamboo weighted down with ice and leaning over the path to form a green, leafy cave. Then Noah found a leaf frozen into a chunk of ice and decided it was the fossil of an ancient plant. For a while after that we were archaeologists excavating gemstones (creek rocks) from the ice. We found a snowman someone must have made yesterday and Noah donated his leaf-in-ice, which was now a feathered hat for it. We threw rocks into the creek. Landing in open water was good if the splash was big enough; cracking the thin ice rimming the creek was better. I ran down the path in short bursts, pulling the sled while June called out for me to go “faster and faster.” Around 9:45 I declared it was time to turn around and head home, much to both kids’ dismay. It’s always hard to pick the going-home time that won’t result in chilled and tired kids whining all the way and I thought this was it.

As we neared home, we passed a man walking down the cleared street in the opposite direction. He wanted to know if was very slippery on the sidewalk. I nodded. “Good sledding,” I replied. On getting back inside the house, June and I watched Sesame Street. Noah stayed outside whacking ice with the bat for another ten minutes before joining us. I made hot chocolate for everyone again. Noah passed the rest of the morning playing on one computer while June and I looked at photo albums on the other one. Then Noah started whining because he was having trouble with the animation on the Power Point presentation about the evolution of language that he’s working on for a school project so I suggested he break for lunch.

After lunch I was trying to sneak in a little work time while the kids played in the living room, but on hearing both of them screaming, I came in and scooped June up without asking either of them what had happened. “It sounds like nap time to me,” I told her. She wailed even louder, but after a story and a brief cuddle, she was sound asleep. I read Noah part of a chapter of Me and My Little Brain and left him to finish it on his own. Noah reads a few years above grade level, but he’s always preferred adults to read to him. We have a new system for reading now in which he reads ten pages of each chapter on his own. Yesterday, he got so engrossed he went ahead and read an entire extra chapter on his own.

After nap I’d hoped to play outside again or maybe shovel part of the sidewalk I hadn’t done yesterday, but a cold rain was falling so I just cleared the parts of the front sidewalk that had iced over again. (Beth salted the walk before leaving for work and that helped a little.) I went back inside. The kids had started fighting again in the five minutes I’d been outside.

“Who wants to make cookies?” I asked. This was my ace in the hole, but Noah was uninterested. June wanted to help, though, so she sat on the kitchen floor and mixed the dough for Lebanese sesame seed biscuits and then stacked dominos into towers while I rolled the balls of dough into strips, twisted them into spirals, glazed them with milk and sprinkled them with seeds.

Around 5:15, June was asking to “go and take a walk on the ice.” I told her it was raining and cold and “yucky” outside. “You don’t want to go out there,” I said.

“Is it really, really yucky?” she asked, skeptically. I promised she could play outside again tomorrow. I don’t think it will all melt by then. I hope not. When the sun went down this afternoon, it stained our white yard all pink. It looked like strawberry yogurt, or frosting on a birthday cake. We really don’t see that particular sight often enough.

I do hope there’s school tomorrow, though. The kids are getting on each other’s nerves and I’d welcome a return to our normal routine. It hasn’t been all rough sledding, though. Some of it was pretty good.