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Phynix Blog

Stuck in the Tundra

Heather Neufeldt

I have been trapped in my house with my kids during a Minnesota snow/temperature emergency for what feels like forever (for all of us). We are all going full blown bonkers. I’ve moved as much wood as I possibly could (we have a wood burning stove for heat) And we have managed to keep the fire going. Seriously last time the kids were home this much I ran off and adopted a dog! This time I feel like taking said dog/dogs and hibernating in my basement while stuffing myself with junk food and watching tv until my eyeballs fall out. The girls are getting bored and the dogs are getting bored and freaked out. They, the dogs, cry for me to open the door and then I open the door and they look at my like “you don’t seriously expect me to go out there?”. Then they’re off to another door; because, surely it isn’t as cold outside the front door. I understand on all fronts: it’s no fun being sequestered for three days in a row with your mom. Even my youngest daughter, who was thrilled to miss school is getting tired of being inside. And since the cold temperatures have pretty much closed everything down there really isn’t anywhere to go either. They have started coming to me for entertainment. If Netflix isn’t cutting it I don’t know what I can offer: UNO? So far the dogs have been happy cuddling and chasing balls and getting extra chew toys. Lord knows what I’ll do when they get tired of that. I may have to hide in the basement all on my own. The amazing thing about the kids is that they can be watching something on the computer, texting friends and still be bored. Insanity will set in. There was a suggestion of cleaning out their back packs and washing coats to help fight germs when they return to school. I’m pretty sure that I have more than enough to worry about getting done (keeping pipes from freezing, extra laundry from all the days at home, cooking, cleaning and um working) The girls have reminded me that “I couldn’t possibly understand.” I have finally realized once my children passed into their teenage years: I ceased to have any function knowledge of anything. In fact, I am lucky I can still use the facilities! At any rate being in the same kettle of fish has not convinced my girls that we are sharing this particular strain of cabin fever. I have also been chasing the dogs around with a piddle pad desperate to catch them before their little bladders let lose. At -65 degrees I don’t want to be outside, much less, outside up to my ears in snow and attempting to use the toilet. So now I have started wracking my brain to come up with suggestions and activities for both kids and dogs. I’m at least hoping for something that will distract them from the third day inside the same walls with the same people/dogs.

It’s at times like these that my childhood comes rushing back to me. My mom had so much energy. Snow days were full of activities. She was a teacher so there were always exercises or papers to correct and if things got really dire there were the encyclopedias. But she LOVED (still does) the snow. She’d be the first one out the door with a sled ready to go for a ride or start a snowball fight. Growing up in Pittsburgh meant that we didn’t have many snow days - they were to be treasured. Sledding was obviously the top of the ‘snow is fun’ list. Our yard wasn’t particularly large but it was at a distinct angle. And starting from the top of the yard we could really build up some speed. Unfortunately our yard was separated from the patio with a row of hedges. Inevitably one of us would go careening down the hill and right into the shrubs. The sled would continue on its merry way and we would be left trying to untangle ourselves from the hedges. My brother was uniquely talented on this front. He even managed once to go through the hedges and down the concrete garden stairs. Thankfully that time the snow covered the steps so no harm no foul. But mom she was old school: stand up brush yourself off and go again. Or she’d be laughing too hard to say anything. Not giggling; nope, huge belly laughs and snorts. The weirder the landing the hard the laughs. And once mom started laughing we would all join in and the hedgebound sibling would be either stuck waiting for the laughing crowd to extract them or they’d have to wriggle their own way out. I am assuming she developed her love of slapstick in childhood while she was being laughed at by her siblings. In retrospect I think that she forbade my brother and I from watching Tom & Jerry and the Three Stooges; not because she was worried about our reaction but because she was afraid of her own. I think she forbade them because inevitably we’d try some of the jokes or stunts on each other (as long as the resulting injury wasn’t too bad) and she would go into such a fit of laughter that she wouldn’t be able to help us. And honestly I do believe my acorn has not fallen far from her tree. I myself have laughed at my childrens’, sometimes ridiculous, misfortunes. Human nature? Maybe but I have to say I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

If it were only snow as the reason for cancelling school, sledding would be an option, or cross country skiing, or snow shoeing, OR WALKING. But school has been canceled because of, should I say, terrifying negative temperatures and even lower windchills. Each night on the news they reiterate how many minutes you can spend outside before getting frost bite and the signs of hypothermia. The message has definitely gotten through, no ‘playing’ outside. Which after day one leaves us looking at each other like crazy people. We were assured that school would definitely go back tomorrow. No such luck. Tomorrow will be another day at home - UNO anyone?