The Polar Vortex…Continues?

“You’ll probably actually have to work most of this week,” Thom texted me on Tuesday.

“Most?” I responded. “Do you mean most, like my four normal days? Or do you mean most of my four days?” I didn’t try to hide the excitement in my words.

Since my last post, I had been alerted to the fact that Thom had spent much of then Polar Vortex week with not just his baby, but with his toddler who had stayed home from daycare because of the weather. “It was 20% fun, 40% hard, and 45% so hard that I lost my mind and can no longer do math.” 

This is why you don’t ask someone on paternity/maternity leave how their “vacation” is going.

This week was Thom’s last week home on paternity leave. For his sake, I hoped that there wouldn’t be another unexpected day off that he had to use his sick time for. 

But for my own sake, I hoped there would be.

Come Wednesday, there was talk of lots of snow! I heard a student at school ask the principal if school would be canceled on Thursday. “I don’t think so,” she said. “But it’s always a good idea to check.” 

To me, that meant a probable no. I have no evidence to support this, but I think there must be some undercover email chain for principals and office staff that lets them know ahead of time what is most likely going to happen with school cancellations. I remember the secretary at my former school smiling at me conspiratorially one day and saying, “Oh, I think they’ll cancel tomorrow.” They did.

Wednesday evening the snow began. I kept checking out the window, hopefully. Was it coming down hard enough? 

And then, around 6PM, as I was heating up some sweet potatoes for Little L’s dinner, the phone rang. 

It was a Minneapolis Public Schools number!

Jumping up and down, I answered.

“Please hold for a message from the Minneapolis Public Schools.” 

Oh yes! I could wait seconds to hear the good news!

“Hello families,” my principal’s voice said. “I want to remind you that tomorrow morning is Family Involvement Day.” 

I sighed. I had been duped. 

I woke up at 4:30AM the next morning as Little L coughed a bit in her crib. I checked my phone. Minneapolis Public Schools had a message on its website: “School WILL be in session on Thursday, February 7.” 

I checked the forecast. I had an acupuncture appointment at the U that afternoon and I would need to drive. 

“Do you think I should cancel?” I asked Axel. 

“I don’t think it’s supposed to be that bad, is it?” he asked.

I hadn’t made it to the gym that morning, so I hadn’t seen Sven Sungaard’s local forecast. 

But at 11:30 at recess duty, the snow was still coming down – hard. In fact, I could barely see the other side of the field. Did I really want to drive in this? 

On my lunch half-hour, I saw the art teacher. “Congrats on your commute!” she said. She lives near school too. But much of the staff would be driving to the suburbs, or further even, South Minneapolis.

I told her that I was going to maybe drive to acupuncture. “I think it helps me stay calm. But driving in this makes me anxious. So…” 

As I filed through my phone to call and cancel the appointment, the art teacher leaned in and smiled. “I think they might call it for tomorrow. This is supposed to continue all night and the windchill tomorrow morning is -35.” Negative 35 windchill is the requirement for a school cancellation!

“Really? You think? Oh wow, that would be way better than having needles stuck in me!”

A district email said that all after-school activities had been cancelled. Then the assistant from prekindergarten came up to my room and asked if I wanted any help this afternoon because the afternoon prekindergarten class had been cancelled!

Things were looking quite promising. 

I trudged home from work, thankful indeed for my short commute on foot. 

I was again checking out the window for snow and heating Little L’s sweet potatoes, when I noticed a missed call on my phone.

It was from the Minneapolis Public Schools. 

I dialed into my voicemail, and there it was. 

“Colleagues, there will be no school tomorrow, February 8.” The message was significantly shorter than the previous FOUR messages for snow/cold days. They didn’t even state the reason, though I later read on the district’s Twitter account that the combination of snow/ice and -30 degree windchill was enough to make them think it would be dangerous for students to be waiting outside in the morning for likely delayed buses. 

Little L saw me do my No School Dance yet again. 

I had gotten 80% of the Snow/Cold days. Fair enough.

Thom texted me. “Okay, this is starting to sting.” 

I texted my friend Alissa, a former Minneapolis teacher who had moved to another local district a few years ago. “No school tomorrow!?!?”

She texted back. “I know! I’m so happy for you! We’re still waiting to find out!”

I was impressed by her ability to feel sympathetic joy — i.e. happiness for someone else’s happiness — for me. I also got texts from Joanie and Ana who had seen on the news that I had won yet another day without school. “Yay! Enjoy!” they told me.

Last Friday Alissa and I went to Happy Hour after my long one-day Polar Vortex workweek. She told me about how last Monday when all of the other schools were closed, her school district already had a staff-only day on the books; staff was still to report, but two hours late. The teachers were in a  training that was supposed to end at 4PM. At 3:45, everyone’s phones began ringing and they got the news that school would be closed for the next two days. 

“Everyone was laughing and jumping up and down and screaming!” Alissa told me. “The presenter tried like three times to get us back on track, but we were so wild that he eventually said we would just end early.” 

Both Alissa and I lamented that this “Teachers Find Out They Get Two Unexpected Days Off” moment was not caught on video.

This morning I was down at the gym watching the school closings, I mean, the news, while I worked out. They got to the “R”s and Alissa’s district was not on the screen. When they cycled through, her son’s district was! Ana’s son’s district was closed too! Ana later told me her son said, “What? Again!!?” when he found out.

I of course gave a hoot when Minneapolis Public Schools flashed up on the bottom of the screen, which in retrospect may have looked to the other early-morning exercisers like I was cheering for whatever piece of bad news was on at the time.

On my way back upstairs I pulled up Alissa’s district’s website. I so wanted her to partake in this unexpected windfall (snowfall?). “IMPORTANT MESSAGE!” came across the screen along with a pop-up window.

This was it!

“School WILL be in session on Friday, February 8,” it said. 

It made me wonder – when Alissa decided to change districts, did she look into their data on snow/cold days? It could play an important factor for a potential student/family/employee. 

I found out later that although Joanie and Wendall’s son’s preschool was also open, they decided to keep him home that day. I’m sure the teachers who did have to teach that day didn’t mind their reduced class sizes. Joanie and Wendall, we hope to hang out with you again someday, but now Little L is sick. Go figure.

The highlight of this Snow Day was when Little L and I spotted a mini-plow cleaning the sidewalks on the street below. Snow was shooting out the top, at least 30 feet high! “Look, it’s a plow? A snowblower?” What was this contraption called? Then I saw its logo. “It’s a Bobcat,” I told her.

When Axel came home, we were still looking out the window. “Tell Daddy what we saw,” I coaxed her. 

“Bah-cuh.” 

“Books?” Axel guessed. 

“A Bobcat!” I told him. 

“Like with no tail?” He seemed puzzled. 

After we’d cleared up the confusion, we continued to watch for more Bobcats – they cleared the two bridges in the distance as well!

We have to clarify when people came over. To the untrained ear, it seems like Little L wanders around the living roo, asking us to lift her up so she can look for a “vaca” or a “vodka” out the window. 

“Bah-cuh, bah-cuh!”

Now that Thom is back at work with the rest of us, we’ll see what the rest of winter brings. It would be greedy for me to hope for more days off for myself. I got my 80%, fair and square.

But to have a friend’s best interests in mind? 

That’s just generosity.

This post was intended to be posted on the day it was begun, last Friday on my actual Snow Day off. It should be noted that a Snow Day caring for a sick toddler is much different than a Snow Day on one’s own. Hence the post a week later. Enjoy.