Best Snow Day Ever (Really)

Six days ago, we were slammed by a ferocious windstorm. Not a series of tornadoes… Not a hurricane… Just wind. TONS of wind that barraged the region relentlessly for hours. Topping out with gusts at over 80 miles per hour (yowzers), these were no gentle breezes. Trees weren’t just snapped; they were uprooted, literally. Power was knocked out to over 150,000 homes. Utility poles bent and broke, sending power lines flying. (Amazingly, we never lost power.)
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These were just a few trees within a half-mile of our house; to see truly incredible images, check out this, this, and this.

Our district canceled school for two days; several schools remained without power, buildings were freezing, buses couldn’t be fueled. Ella’s middle school was turned into a weekend shelter; other local organizations (a community center, churches, the JCC, the Islamic Center) became warming stations, offering spaces to charge devices, get water, huddle up.

If you did venture out, everywhere you turned, you’d run into stately pine trees on their sides accompanied by gas and electric (and tree trimming) crews working overtime. We don’t get a lot of natural disasters in Rochester – the lack of hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches, earthquakes, tsunamis, and forest fires is a definite plus of living here – so this was a rather unprecedented occurrence.

It was a damned mess.

On the second “wind day,” the girls and I did something I’d been wanting to do for ages: brought flowers and notes of support to the JCC and Islamic Center. When I asked about other places that might need assistance, a friend suggested that we spread a little cheer to local fire stations, who were fielding emergency calls left and right, and gas and electric linemen who were working feverishly to restore the area to power. We did both, to astonished appreciation. It was kind of rad.

The following day was Annie’s Girl Scout troop’s cookie booth sale, which meant three hours of 4th grade girls freezing their tushes off in 18-degree snow while hawking boxes of Thin Mints from the gas station sidewalk. It was kind of surreal, cheerily shouting about cookies while watching people load up on bags of ice and cans of gas; obviously, 72 hours post-windpocalypse, there were still a lot of folks without power.

As a means to both move the cookies along and give us all a greater sense of purpose (not that Peanut Butter Patties aren’t life-changing), we set up a collection for boxes of cookies to be donated to gas and electric crews. The response was overwhelming; our box was overflowing. It seems, when faced with times of crisis, helping feels really, really good.
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Although our troop leader was able to deliver the bulk of the cookies over the course of the weekend, five additional boxes were donated last-minute. I bagged them up and stuck them on the front seat of my car, assuming, one way or another, that I’d come upon some utility folks sooner or later and could hand over the goods.

Because Jesus loves me, school was back in session yesterday. Today, however, we are being walloped by the edges of the blizzard-y storm that is thrashing away at Philly, New York, and Boston. With the governor declaring a state-wide state of emergency that called for no unnecessary travel and 12-18″ of non-stop snow predicted over the course of 36 hours, the district called official snow days today and tomorrow.

Yes, this means four cancelled school days in less than a week. Yes, this also means we have spent a boatload of time together.
Ask me how well my daughters are getting along. 

By 8 a.m., I’d decided that a Starbucks run was definitely “necessary” travel; my survival (and sanity) depended on it. It took me three hours to accomplish the rest of the stuff on my list, but shortly before lunch, Ella and Annie and I braved the roads to make quick stops at Target and Starbucks.

The roads were bad. I would’ve felt really crappy if I’d slid off the side and, when asked by the first responders why I’d ventured out in these conditions, I’d responded, “A latte.”

After explaining to the girls why this would not be a leisurely shopping excursion, I sheepishly admitted we really should get back to the house ASAP, with one caveat: if we happened upon any gas and electric crews, we’d lengthen our sojourn to drop off the cookies.

The roads were all but deserted (yet another sign that perhaps a latte wasn’t really “necessary”). The Target parking lot was much the same, with one notable exception: eight large, flashing-light bearing vehicles, idling side by side. The moment I glimpsed them, I startled the girls with a hearty, “OMG ARE THOSE GAS AND ELECTRIC GUYS?? WE’VE HIT THE MOTHERLODE!”
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Can you see the trucks back there?

We drove slowly by to get a closer look; the cabs of the trucks were empty, save for one guy on his phone and another taking a snooze at the wheel. I didn’t recognize the name of the company (National Grid) but a quick Google search told us they were, indeed, a gas and electric outfit. Gleefully, we took the car back toward them, coming to a stop in front of the gentleman we’d seen on his phone.

He exited his cab as we rolled down the window. (Considering we’d basically stalked him in the Target parking lot, he was understandably wary.) “Can I help you?”

So we explained – about the booth sale, the donations, driving around with the cookies. When we handed over the bag, his face registered only shock.

“For me? For us? You’re sure?”

We told him we were – very sure, in fact – but he was still incredulous. “You don’t understand. We’ve been here for a week. We’re eight hours from home and still can’t go back yet. This is the first time anyone has done anything like this. I honestly can’t thank you enough.”

He looked, standing in the wind-whipped snowstorm, as though maybe he might break down. Over a bag of Girl Scout cookies. Over people showing gratitude.

We explained further that it wasn’t so much us delivering the cookies and our thanks; it was the community, everyone who had donated the boxes and wanted to help. He truly could barely believe it. We exchanged a few more pleasantries and thank-yous and then were on our way. (Hey – at least now, if I slid off the road, I could say that I’d gone out for a latte and to hand over cookies.)

After the girls and I finished our shopping, I was placing our Starbucks mobile order (what? You thought we’d skip out on the lattes?) when I wondered aloud if I could put in for one of those ginormous box-o-coffee dispensers to bring to the National Grid crew on our way back… but there was no sign of them. They’d gone.

The rest of the (slow, slippery) drive home, we talked about the kind of person it takes to leave their families and travel to help others in times of crisis… how we wished we could do more to thank them… And then, just as we turned into our neighborhood, less than a quarter mile from home, there they were.
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I kid you not: a veritable fleet of National Grid trucks were lined up behind one another, lights on, crews out. (We soon discovered two more trucks were parked in our cul-de-sac.) The very same guys! It was our turn to be astonished. This one little crew from eight hours away… working in the Rochester area for a week… less than 30 minutes after we’d seen them in the Target parking lot and wished we could do more… was working on our street?? WHAT WERE THE CHANCES?

Slim, I tell you. VERY, VERY SLIM.

Since Fate had clearly spoken, we knew what we had to do: get these men a warm beverage. Which is how we found ourselves dispensing hot chocolate to the National Grid crew in the middle of a snowstorm.
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The guy said to us, “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate this. Some people have been really rude to us. This is so nice.” WHY ARE PEOPLE RUDE TO FOLKS DOING THE HELPING?? WTF??IMG_1225

Best. Snow day. Ever.
(It’s also Pi Day and we have two chocolate pies for dessert, so there’s that.)

I know there’s a lot of scary, mean, selfish stuff going on right now. I know – I do – how easy it is to slip into frustration, anger, despair. But I also know a really easy way to feel better: thank someone. Help someone. Do something for somebody else. It’s clichéd, but it’s true. Doing good feels good. Really simple math.

No, it won’t solve everything (and with another snow day tomorrow, my cherubs might face off, Hunger Games style). But I am positive that if we were all just, I don’t know – NICER – that we really could change the world. Or at least our windy, snowy corner of it.

Snowing like the Dickens

It was the best of times… It was the worst of times…
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I first got the news via text at 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday:

School will be closed on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 due to severe weather.

I received the news again at 5:38 p.m. via email. And again at 5:41 p.m. via robocall to my cell phone. And, finally, one last time at 5:42 p.m. via robocall to our home number.

I immediately took to Facebook to proclaim the startling news:

STOP THE PRESSES!! For the first time since we moved here, our kids have had a snow day declared (which, in itself, is really really rare) BEFORE the snow starts! We’ve had almost 90″ of snow this year but this is the FIRST snow day. Hot damn!!

That the girls are celebrating this while playing outside without their jackets because it’s FIFTY DEGREES at almost 6 p.m. is a fabulous irony.
Even more ironic: if I still DO have school. 😐

But hey… I’ll take what I can get.

Indeed, it had been fifty degrees – fifty-four, to be exact – which, after our interminably freezing winter, was so welcome, I practically open-mouth kissed it (Nick understood). I celebrated by picking up five bags’ worth of dog poop (no joke; it was one of the most disgusting things I’d ever witnessed – and, after having had a child poop through her onesie and up her back and into her hair while sitting on my lap on an airplane, that’s saying something), and then celebrated further when my own school district cancelled school as well.

We do not do snow days here in Rochester. We simply don’t. We get assloads of snow, but our road crews clear everything so quickly, travel is almost always possible, and schools are open. By all accounts, though, this was to be a doozy, even by Rochester standards — an honest-to-God blizzard, the likes of which the city hadn’t seen since 1999.

Snow day! BRING IT.

Because I have spent more than ten minutes with my offspring, I knew that there was the potential for disaster on a surprise day off of school… but my fingers were crossed for the best. Before the big snow got underway, we made a quick trip to the vet to drop off Jambi’s food and visit with her; she’s still in heat and, as such, is in quarantine, and we miss her, by gosh!

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Why, yes, I would like a belly rub, thank you.

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Come home soon, Beast!!
And yes, they’re in their pajamas at the vet’s office. Any questions?

The rest of the day was spent within the warm, cozy, safe confines of our house. Nick came home around 12:30; shortly thereafter, a state of emergency was declared for our county, parts of the thruway shut down, and the roads became all but impassable. The storm was as advertised: a true blizzard, blustery and snowy and really, really cold.


As I posted on Facebook: “I’m no expert… But when you can’t really see the house across the street, this *could* be why there’s no school today… 
(The girls are still playing outside, though, just for shorter amounts of time than usual. Duh.
But they did agree to wear hats. It took a damn blizzard, but they’re finally in hats.)”

This was not a lie: they were outside many times over the course of the day, tromping through the snow, climbing the tree in the front yard, and attempting to dye the snow with colored-water spray bottles. I nearly froze to death watching them; celebrating a snow day by baking Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding Cakes is much more my style.

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They really were as heavenly as they look.

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My children definitely agreed…

Okay, so the girls came downstairs to consume the pudding cakes dressed in only their underwear and had to go back upstairs and put on some clothes. And, yeah, there was that incident with the purposeful peeing on one of their beds (omg, don’t ask; they stripped the bed and changed the sheets so I’m pretending it never happened). Plus also the ridiculous mess in the living room and both bedrooms and the Xanax I took when I saw said messes so that I wouldn’t turn into an even bigger witch than I had already become and swallow both children whole.

But, overall, it was a successful snow day for everyone.

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In anticipation of the storm, we’d taken before and after photos in the same spot, twenty-four hours apart. Ohhh, March. You are one bipolar vixen.

One day. A single day off in the middle of a long, very difficult winter; in some ways, it felt as though we’d earned this damn snow day.

It was still coming down like gangbusters well into the night, but Nick used the snowblower at 9 p.m. anyway, hoping to spare us the bulk of the clearing-away come the morning when we both had to be at work. I took more than an hour to perform my usual school-night routine: make sure the girls’ backpacks and white board are set out, pack snacks and lunch, make juice for the morning, set out notes for the babysitter and money for the dog-sitter (since I’d be at school all day and then head straight to piano lessons), cut fruit for the girls for breakfast, and go through my lesson plans for the rest of the week, making adjustments for the missed day of school.

I’d enjoyed the day off of teaching, but I wasn’t too keen on having lost the day of instruction. For just this one missed lesson, I could combine and shift things so that we are sure to accomplish everything necessary this quarter, but still, I was eager to get back to things this morning. As such, I set my alarm nice and early so I could shovel out and get to school with plenty of time to settle in.

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A decent showing, no?

When my phone buzzed on the nightstand, I first thought it was my alarm going off, but then realized that, no, I was receiving a text. Given the early hour, I contemplated ignoring it until later, but decided that since I rarely receive texts in the wee small hours of the morning (5:41 a.m., to be exact), perhaps it was important and I should check. What I saw was this:

Schools are closed today, Thursday, March 14.

A quick check of my email confirmed what I’d just been texted; yup. Snow day. I had just turned to hiss at Nick, “Holy shit! There’s no school AGAIN today!” when it dawned on me that if my own school district was not closed today, we might be in trouble. While fumbling in the dark through my bleary-eyed haze to locate the Twitter feed for the district where I teach, I was interrupted by my cell phone ringing – at 5:46 a.m. – to robotically inform me that there was no school today.

The news was just starting to sink in — that we’d be home again (no school for me, either)… that my lessons would now be two days behind, which will be much more difficult to account for in the three short weeks remaining in the quarter… that, holy crap, because there’s no school tomorrow for my kids, they now have an unexpected five day weekend (due to a teacher workday, they’re off of school tomorrow)… — when the landline rang at 5:48 a.m.

NO SCHOOL. GOT IT. THANKS FOR MAKING SURE WE KNEW. FOUR EFFING TIMES.

My mind was racing, zigzagging between angst over my teaching curriculum and dread over how absolutely bonkers the girls would be when they learned they had five days off in a row. After a good ten minutes of reasoning with myself – come on, it’ll be fine! In fact, it’ll probably be fun! I bet girls will be great! Stop worrying so much! – I was just about to ease back to sleep when my cell phone buzzed again with this pithy text:

Correction: Schools are closed today, Thursday, March 13, 2014. (Apologize for the confusion. It’s early!)

Damn straight it is. AND YOU’RE STILL TEXTING ME. BEFORE SIX A.M.

I did eventually manage to drift off, only to be startled out of a deep sleep by a loud bang. It seems my previous inner-self pep-talk was for naught, as I wrote on Facebook:

Was awakened (once I’d finally fallen back asleep after receiving the two text messages, one email, and two separate phone calls alerting us to another – unprecedented – snow day) by an angry foot stomp, Annie yelling “It’s not my fault! I didn’t hit YOU so it’s not okay to hit ME!”, followed by a door slam that shook the upstairs.

It’s going to be a super fun day!!

I’m still not sure why there’s no school today. Yes, we got a lot of snow, but the roads are pretty clear, and Nick was able to head to work. After informing the girls that they might not make it to the end of the day alive if they didn’t stop arguing, they agreed to head outside and were quite delighted to discover the snow was up to their thighs (we got around 17″).

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I think our sleds are buried somewhere beneath the tree…

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The view from the other side of the circle; where’s Waldo??

Earlier this year, I’d bemoaned to friends that we couldn’t buy a freakin’ snow day. Here everyone else was, with oodles of days off of school, and we – despite our crazy amounts of snow and ridiculously cold temperatures – couldn’t beg, borrow, or steal one. But wait, they said. All these snow days suck! We have to go to school later! Our vacation days are being taken away! Our children are turning into feral animals and we’ve taken to drinking before noon. Be grateful!

And so I was. But still… just one snow day would have been nice…

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the children are at it again, and I feel I must step in. I did promise Nick that we’d all still be here when he returned from work this evening. I didn’t say what condition we’d be in… but I promised we’d be here. SNOW DAY!!