Once Upon a Polar Vortex

“Are you going to write about this?” Axel asked me as I sat on the floor as Little L played with her “zoom-zooms” and the microwave clock counted down the minutes until nap time. 

“I wasn’t planning on it.” 

“You should,” Axel insisted. “Your readers will want to know.”

Monday morning: While working out in the gym in my building, I see the school closings flashing across the bottom of the screen. We start in the Ns and since my workout isn’t that long, we are only to Lakeville by the time I leave the gym again. At this rate, they should just post the ones that are in session.

I check my voicemail as soon as I get back upstairs. Minneapolis Public Schools called last night after I was asleep. Ugh.

You see, usually I would be thrilled with a snow day. But I don’t work on Mondays. And so the Monday Snow Day makes me think that it’s less likely that we’ll get any Cold Days later in the week, something there’s been talk of. 

However, it is fair. I work four days a week, so I shouldn’t get to take part in all of the snow days. I should get 80%. 

I text my friend Thom who is on paternity leave. “Ugh. Snow Day. From the only other teacher in Minneapolis not happy about this.” 

“I’m going to file a grievance,” he texts back. All that sick time he was using up for his leave and school isn’t even in session…

For some reason, Little L sleeps in, giving me a sort of Snow Morning. After I shower, I get to drink coffee and write in my journal for almost an hour. I write about how it’s not a snow day for dads on paternity leave or stay-at-home moms or part-time workers who don’t work Mondays.

Little L’s music class is cancelled, which I’m partly disappointed by – what will we do all day? – but mostly relieved by – we won’t have to drive in the snow. 

I text my new friend, who I’ll call Veronica. She and I met earlier this year on the street. We were both pushing strollers at 7:30AM on a Saturday and she crossed the street to continue the conversation I had started when we had first passed each other. It was friendship built on the early-morning desperation of wanting to interact with another adult, which is as good a reason as any. Veronica is at home with her one-year-old and I guessed that not being able to go outside was making her a little stir-crazy. 

“Music is cancelled! Want to come over? You can park in our garage!” 

She was there half an hour later with Baby D, who ate his breakfast at our counter while Little L partook in a second breakfast of some baby puffs that Veronica brought to share with her. 

Sadly for us, they left after just half an hour – Baby D’s nap was coming up. Little L and I had the whole day in front of us.

Little L went down for her nap around noon – she’s been toying around with just one nap these days. I had my fingers crossed that it would be a long one. While reclining on the sofa in the media room, I thought to text our nanny who comes on Tuesdays, just to make sure she was recovered from the sickness she’d had last week. 

She said that her flu had turned to a cold but that she could function. 

Uh-oh. Have I mentioned that we are germaphobes?

Plus we’ve been waiting to see Joanie and Wendall for weeks now – their kids have been off and on sick. We need to stay healthy for the sake of our friendship.

Now, I had been fantasizing about no school on either Tuesday or Wednesday because of the projected negative 50 windchill. If it was going to come on Wednesday, I would stay home with Little L and Grandma S would get the day off. If it was to come on Tuesday, well, we have the nanny that day and I planned to take advantage of some alone time. I was thinking I could brave it to get out to my favorite café for a couple leisurely hours then walk home to my car and go visit Thom and his baby for another few hours. Maybe I would end the day with a visit to my brother, who works from home, for a quick cup of free coffee from his lobby.

But this was just a fantasy since I figured school wouldn’t be closed both Monday and Tuesday. I was sure we could get a grandma in here to sub, so I told the nanny that she should take tomorrow as a sick day. 

But a sub wasn’t needed because shortly thereafter my friend Kole texted, “closed tomorrow and Wednesday.” 

They were announcing today that we were getting two days in a ROW!? This was unprecedented. But it made sense – students had been off last Thursday and Friday for staff work days; at this point parents with day jobs must have been desperate figuring out what to do with their kids. I guess the thought was to give them a little notice.

“Staff members should NOT report to work,” the phone call said an hour later. I danced around the kitchen as Axel and Little L listened along with me on speakerphone. 

I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get a day all to myself, but it was actually better this way – staying out all day in the negative 40 temps just to get my money’s worth from the nanny seemed a bit brutal. Little L and I would get some extra time together at home where blankets and extra layers of clothing abound. Plus I would get to lay down during nap time.

I texted Veronica. “School’s cancelled. Wanna come again tomorrow?” 

“We’ll be there at 8:30,” she texted back.

I texted Thom. “You must be mad.” 

“I’m at peace now,” he wrote back. 

Tuesday was much the same as Monday. Except that because Monday’s nap had only been an hour and a half, I decided to try an earlier nap time. 

“I want her to sleep longer,” I told Veronica. “And I want her nap to be later. But she’s only been taking long naps when it’s earlier.”

“Well if she’s only going to sleep longer when it’s earlier,” Veronica said, “maybe you should try that.” 

This was exactly what I’d been thinking, so I gave it a go. Little L got her earlier nap and slept… fifteen minutes less than the day before. We hadn’t even reached noon, and I would have no more naps to look forward to.

Axel, however, lucked out, because he had been hoping we’d give him a ride to his meeting on campus. Driving through the university, I saw students completely bundled, only their eyes peeping out between their hoods and scarves. I also saw several youth wearing nary a hat.

I so wanted to call their moms and tell them.

Little L and I returned home and it was still only 1PM. 

Little L, however, had some fun up her sleeve. She took some plastic bowls, a spoon, and a little container to a spot on the dining room floor. “Bay bih, bay bih.” 

I had no idea what she wanted. 

But then she patted her chest. 

“Oh, you want your bib?” Baby bib.

I put her bib on her, and she sat there on the floor, spooning imaginary food from the trough of her bib to the bowl, for like minutes in a row without getting up. 

I tried to sneak off to do some kitchen cleaning, but this was not part of the game. 

“Mama!” She took me by the hand and led me back to this spot on the floor. Perhaps there was an imaginary table there that I couldn’t see. She patted the floor. “Mama.” 

Later when I snuck off she came over saying “ma sih! ma sih!” She wanted music! I turned the stereo on.

She patted the ground. Mama sit.

So I was part of the entertainment. I sat there, and then laid there, yawning. I had used the first hour of nap time to scan some papers that had been building up. But then there was only one hour of nap time, so I never got around to the highly important part where you get to lay down. 

Little L was so excited about her plates, bowls, and spoons that she spent almost an hour playing with them. She was so happy just to sit next to me and pretend to eat egg out of a plastic container and hand me her spoon once in a while.

My friend whose alias I can’t remember insisted that I get the IKEA kids’ dish set. I resisted at first. But today, I am SO glad I gave in. Also, you know who you are. What’s your alias!?

I thought, this is so nice. 

I also thought, this is so boring.

I decided then that there would be an afternoon nap or at least a rest period. I put Little L in her crib around 3:15. She was wide awake, but I was not. I laid down on my bed and read all the while listening to what sounded like a gymnastic routine on Little L’s monitor. Around 3:45 I went back to get her, slightly rested. I like to think she had benefitted from her Alone Time too.

We went with our neighbor across the hall and her baby down to the lobby where we sat and chatted and Little L bounced up and down on the ottoman and let a few dogs lick her. One dog, who we’ll call Squash, was wearing a bright yellow padded coat. 

My neighbor Barb and her husband came by, all bundled up, going to Ginger Hop for Happy Hour. 

“Stay warm!” I told them. 

“We will! The real fun is tonight when we’ll go on a two mile walk.” 

I laughed. 

“Every year we pick the coldest night of the year and walk two miles.” 

Wait, they were serious! I couldn’t decide whether this was an incredibly dangerous or somewhat endearing tradition. Probably both.

That night I told Axel that we should open a bottle of wine. It wasn’t every Tuesday that you didn’t have to work the next day. Because that’s right – at this point the university had cancelled not just classes but work for all employees the next day too! 

My friend Alissa invited me out to listen to an author reading this evening, but after first using Little L’s bedtime as an excuse, I eventually told her it was just too cold for me. She and another friend went though – Hardcore Midwesterners!

We were both going to have a Cold Day!

“I still have to work,” Axel told me. “But from home.”

“What? How?”

“I have a call. Plus I have a lot to do. But they sent an email saying that if we work we get comp time later.” 

“So we both have off and I’m watching Little L and you get comp time? Do I get comp time too?” 

“You’ll have to talk to Grandma S about that,” Axel said. She was getting Wednesday off from her Grandma duties. I didn’t get the impression that she was really all that excited about it.

On Wednesday morning I pull up Little L’s shade to find circles of frost covering the window.

“Uh-oh. Ay ay ay,” Little L remarks.

She grabs one of her washcloths and starts to “kee” the windows. But it will be another day until the frost begins to melt even a little. 

Veronica and Baby D come over again. Later we sweep and eat lunch and look at books. Her nap is slightly longer. 

During nap time Megan texts me from Oregon and asks if I am staying safe. I tell her that I am and that we are only going to venture out to go to Whole Foods, which has an underground parking ramp, so we won’t be out in the elements at all – from covered garage to covered garage.

“Wait? What? No. That worries me. Can’t you get groceries delivered?”

“Ahh, I’m sorry to make you worry,” I text back. “That’s why I didn’t want to tell my mom! Amazon stopped delivering groceries. I’ll bundle us up. Don’t worry.”

It was about this time that I got a phone call. And you know who it was, don’t you? It was Minneapolis Public Schools telling me that schools will remain closed on Thursday and that all non-essential staff should NOT report to work.

“We WILL have class as scheduled on Friday, February 1. We look forward to welcoming all staff back to finish the week strong.” I ran into the bedroom where Axel was on a call, pointing frantically at my laptop where I had pulled up the MPS website showing “No School on Thursday.” His eyes bulged in jealousy and astonishment.

Soon after, Veronica texted. “Minneapolis is closed again! Does that mean you’re off?” She must have gotten a call because she and Baby D take classes through Minneapolis ECFE.

“Yes! Want to come over again? If you’re not too sick of us yet?” 

“If you don’t mind us coming again we’d love to!”

“You are really lucky you met her when you did,” Axel tells me. It seems unlikely we would have met strolling the streets this week.

On Thursday I get up early to go to the gym downstairs again. It is currently 23 below air temperature; the wind chill is colder. My body is starting to ache from the lack of moving, I think, or I guess possibly the cold. I see on the news that many people have lost power and that crews have been working – during the night!? – to fix it. They show images of workers wearing masks.

I also learn that local churches have opened up their doors to provide more beds for people who are homeless – how could anyone sleep outside in this? Then I see an unrelated bit about a local man who is sleeping outdoors in a hammock just for fun. 

When “Minneapolis Public Schools” flashes on the bottom of the screen I do a raise-the-roof dance on the treadmill. 

After Veronica and Baby D’s visit, Little L and I go out for a walk in the halls. We check the mail, which we haven’t picked up all week, but alas, our box is empty. The saying about “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” does NOT include the polar vortex. Rightfully so.

Little L and I have a good day and in the afternoon Nana J stops by – she and Grandpa J got the day off from Little L-care, but she still wanted to see us and bring us some food. I cleverly schedule the visit for after nap time and before dinner time – the time of day that seems to go on and on. After further consultation with Veronica, naptime will now happen around noon, because short or long, that is the time of day when I need a break.

All in all, I’ve done pretty well. I got to take advantage of 75% of our four unexpected days off, which is pretty darn close to my part-time appointment. The only way to make it perfectly even would be if Minneapolis called right about now to say they changed their mind about Friday.

But I’m not banking on it. For now, I’ll bundle up and head to work and finish the week strong. And with a one-day week, it shouldn’t be all that hard.

Which at this point, shouldn’t be all that hard.