When Team WestEnders made the big decision to move to North Carolina, citing...how to phrase this delicately..."less-sucky Winter" as one of the reasons, residents of our adopted hometown seemed to feel it their...Southern Hospitality Duty, or something...to warn us about what happens during their own special version of the cold season. "Oh, it will snow," they would adamantly declare, before tacking onto the end "just...not a lot." Perhaps feeling that they hadn't quite transmitted the full picture of the conditions to which we would be exposed, they would then hasten to add, "But we do get ice...which is worse!" ("Not gonna argue that one!"...she says in a totally...foreshadowing...kind of way...) As a final note, they would make us aware of the fact that the Board of Education tends to err on the side of...extreme caution, let's say...sometimes decreeing that schools will be closed before a storm has even arrived and begun dropping whatever kind of precipitation it plans to bestow on the area. Hmm. No doubt, all of this is very useful information, to be filed away for a wintry day.
Aaannnd, apparently that time is right about now. On Monday--already a stay-at-home occasion to honor George and Abe--the forecast called for a snow/sleet mix, beginning in the afternoon and continuing overnight. Approximately, oh, 20 minutes or so after I spotted the first flake, we were notified that school was canceled for Tuesday. (And you wanna talk about thorough?: phone call to Husband, email to the home account, blazing red banner across the top of each school's website...all of which was completely unnecessary, actually, as Derek's posse had already blizzard-texted each other the details...ah, the Avalanche-of-Information Age...) "Well", we thought, "at least there's no mystery about it. No waking up at 5 a.m. to check the status and see if they've made the call yet."
In fact, the only preparations that needed to be taken care of involved me making a mad rush to the grocery store--not for the cliche milk, bread, and toilet paper, but instead for butter, brown sugar, and chocolate chips. Strange "stocking up" behavior? Perhaps, but in my humble opinion (cultivated from my own growing-up experiences with my mother), nothing says Snow Day quite like homemade chocolate chip bars. And, little did they know it, but the boys were about to get a crash course in Baking 101. (Because, somehow, I'd let them get to ages 14 and 11 without teaching them anything about the fine art of "creating delectable sugary treats in the kitchen". How. Did. This. Happen? Clearly, I'd shirked my sacred responsibilities as a parent in this area, and this tragic oversight needed to be corrected, ASAP. Plus: warm chocolate chips bars...enough said...)
Tuesday morning revealed a world that resembled nothing more than one enormous ice-skating rink. It was slippery, it was treacherous...it was a good thing no one had to go out in it. Oh, except that the Nutball Brothers of course had to use the natural feature to their advantage....by challenging each other to a sneaker-hockey match in the driveway. Otherwise, we all enjoyed an enforced Hooky Day--drinking hot chocolate, watching TV, and pretending it was just an extended weekend. And, of course, the baking....which was an outright comedy of ridiculousness. It turns out that my precious sons had NO IDEA how to perform even the most basic of tasks related to...culinary dessert creation.
For example, I watched Derek oh-so-carefully spoon flour into a measuring cup...leaving a good deal of empty space at the top. So he got an impromptu demonstration about how to fill, gently tamp down, and level the dry ingredients. Also a quick lecture about how--unlike regular cooking, where it's acceptable and encouraged to toss things in when inspiration strikes, and to eschew precise measurements for more of an "instinctive" method--baking involves scientific reactions, and therefore requires exact amounts of each item, and faithful following of the directions.
We even had to do a little math...since I'd accidentally turned to the wrong page in my recipe binder and started using the instructions for cookies...necessitating that we calculate fractions to come up with the correct amounts. (Hey, for a minute there, it was kind of like...class! Snow Day Bonus Points!) And getting Riley to attempt to crack an egg? Forgetaboutit. His exact words, as he ever-so-timidly tap-tap-tapped it on the edge of the bowl: "I can't do this. I'm gonna break it!" I think he meant that he was afraid to shatter it everywhere, and make a mess...but suffice it to say, he was removed from his egg-cracking post in disgrace. However, I'm delighted to report that finally, after much bumbling and a small amount of aggravation on my part, we did end up with an absolutely perfect pan of moist, chewy, golden-brown, chocolate-infused deliciousness. (Yum! And...Win!)
Meanwhile...Husband tackled the driveway, (not literally...because that would most likely prove to be both painful...and ineffective...) clearing as much as he could (with the one shovel we brought with us from Maryland--thank goodness!) to allow the sun to help with the thaw. This ended up being very important...as we discovered the children would NOT be returning to school on Wednesday. Wait, what? Sigh. To be fair, I grant you that rock-hard ice IS significantly more difficult to remove than the fluffy white stuff--especially when the temperatures stubbornly remain below freezing. Okay, fine...it's not like we weren't told to expect this. But on Wednesday the roads, at least, appeared to be in decent-enough shape for me to venture out in the Forester. Riley had arranged a playdate, (Can we still call it that when they're in Middle School? I suppose they still do "play", right?) so Derek and I drove him over to his friend's house.
Then the teenager and I headed out ourselves....for some retail therapy. You see, the night before, Derek had come into my room to chat....and stayed for an hour or so, just shooting the breeze. At one point he asked, "Do we have anything to do tomorrow?" When I answered that I was thinking of going to the Target that's near the mall, he chimed in, "Can I come?" Um...that's unusual and unexpected...but sure! (This would in fact be the first time in history that he's expressed interest of any kind in...shopping.) So we wandered around for a while, browsing...which for an adolescent male mostly means "looking at expensive sneakers Mom would never in a million years buy for me". And of course we opted for lunch before returning home...because, well...Panera was right there, how could we not? (Shhh! The deal was, we're not to tell Husband or younger sibling that we ate out without them...)
Whew, I have to admit that was a fun couple of days. Now it must be time to head back to the academic realm, yeah? Nooooooo. By 5 p.m., the barrage of messages had begun anew...no school AGAIN on Thursday. I mean, I know we had a snow shower for about 20 minutes Wednesday afternoon, but c'mon...they've gotta be just messing with us by now. Alas, it was not a joke. (Well...it kind of IS, yet no one seems to be laughing...) Sidewalks are still frozen...maybe that's the reason? I give up trying to figure it out. So...more blessed mother/son bonding time, I suppose.
At least I was able--in good conscience--to let Derek stay up past his usual school-night-lights-out-time to catch the UNC/Duke basketball game...which went into overtime, incidentally, causing it to drag on until...MY bedtime. Nevertheless, we entertained ourselves by rooting for the Tarheels (which by the way is soooooo weird, having spent our entire lives--yes, both of us--supporting the University of Maryland and shunning all North Carolina squads. But when you're talking about the local Battle of the Blues, there's no question that we choose Chapel Hill over that...Durham school-that-shall-not-be-named.)
But now...how to occupy ourselves for another unanticipated vacation day? Well, I'd noticed--based on an impromptu footwear inspection--that each kid appeared to need a new pair of sneakers. Rather than squeeze in a trip on the weekend, it seemed a good use of our free time to make the trip to DSW. (Which I'm absolutely certain the boys think of as "Dreaded Shoe Warehouse"...given how they react when faced with the prospect of visiting...) There you have it: shoe scavenging is what we've been reduced to, in an effort to amuse ourselves on this lengthy sabbatical. (Eh, could be worse, right? At least I'm not dragging them to Bed Bath & Beyond...although if they're home again tomorrow--Heaven forbid--that WILL happen, because it's on my To-Do List. Please, pleaaaaaasssse let there be school...)
And, that's the wrap on our scintillating Surprise Mid-Winter Break. Nothing remains but to wait with bated breath for the decision to be handed down about whether they'll be sent back to the hallowed halls of learning on Friday. Believe me, I'm keeping my fingers...toes...and anything else that I can manage...crossed. Time for one of those chocolate chip bars, I think...