When Iola school kids faced three days without classes this week, parents had to get creative to fill the hours.
Bitterly cold temperatures precluded all-day outdoor play, but that didn’t stop Madison and Haley Carlin from taking advantage of snow piles formed when driveways and streets were plowed.
“Yesterday we helped the neighbors build a couple of forts,” said nine-year-old Haley. “They just shoveled the snow into piles and we dug out tunnels.”
The girls, along with neighbors Chloe and Carter Wilson, Chase and Cole Regehr and Ben Cooper, tunneled as far as they could, said Madison.
“We were going to make (the tunnel go) the whole way through, but it collapsed.”
On Thursday, there was still enough space to wiggle a 10-year-old body into the hole, with only a head poking out.
“We worked outside until we felt like our toes were going to fall off,” Haley said of Wednesday’s endeavors.
Then, everyone poured indoors for cocoa.
“I think we used every mug in the house,” their mother, Terri, said, for cocoa and a cheesy chili dish that Haley pointed out could be eaten as either a soup or a dip.
“Some people like to eat it with chips,” she suggested.
The collection of neighbor kids also left a trail of wet mittens and clothes for Terri to contend with.
On Thursday, it was whole-house cleanup time.
“The girls shampooed this rug for me,” she said of the entrance hall where all the gear had been shed the day before.
And Haley was singing along to Hannah Montana while mopping the kitchen floor, her mom said.
Madison had the task of putting away a double load of laundry.
“We had a lot of different plans,” Terri said of ideas for filling the extra hours.
“We could work on our Valentines or young author assignments,” she said of school-related chores.
In the end, though, “We just ended up doing whatever.”
WEDNESDAY also became movie day. Being Groundhog’s Day, the family watched that iconic Bill Murray film. Also at home was dad, Roger, who teaches seventh grade at Iola Middle School.
“Roger kept wondering if that’s what was happening to him,” Terri said of the movie. “He’d wake up and every day would be a snow day,” Terri said.
“But he got out,” Terri said of her husband. “He went to the store for groceries. I never left the house” and yard, she said.
Other movies the family indulged in were the “High School Musical” trilogy.
“At one point I looked up and realized the girls had moved on to something else,” said Terri. “I was the only one still watching.”
Terri admitted to enjoying the down time, but also to missing her “other kids” — she teaches third grade at McKinley Elementary School. She wondered what some of her students were doing to fill their time.
A sound at the door led to another neighbor’s visit — this time dog Chloe, over to visit the Carlin’s dog, Libby.
“She loves running in this snow,” Terri said of their terrier/beagle mix.
Earlier, Terri showed off Libby’s repertoire of tricks — from jumping four feet for a piece of cheese to playing dead when she heard the word “Bang!”
Throughout the day’s activities, Madison kept up a constant conversation via text message with a friend who planned to visit later in the day.
“I asked her if, when she was over, they were going to actually talk to each other face-to-face,” Terri joked.
But phone calls also were a part of the family’s week, Terri added.
“We got to talk to my mom — she lives in Texas.”
Terri’s mom, “is not used to this much snow,” a topic of a number of their calls. Her mom’s town of Garland “had a lot of ice” she said, and also had shut down services — including her mom’s final chemotherapy treatment at her local hospital — until the weather cleared.
“She called and told me she’d be able to go in Friday,” Terri said.
ON THURSDAY afternoon, sunshine beckoned the girls back outside to explore the previous day’s creations and slide down mountains of snow bermed along the edge of the street. Snow angels appeared in pristine white and hats and scarves lost the day before were rediscovered.
Finally, a large bowl was used to scoop out clean snow and taken indoors.
The girls mixed “1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla and 2 cups milk with a gallon of snow,” they volunteered. “You stir it up in a big bowl until it gets creamy, then you eat it,” Haley announced.
The resultant “snow cream” was a delightful creamy blend with a texture that crossed gelato with granita.
It was a fitting treat.