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Making the most of snow days

With winter in full swing, my son has been doing everything possible to conjure the snow, from wearing his pajamas inside out and flushing ice cubes down the toilet to sleeping with a spoon underneath his pillow.

I, on the other hand, am frantically checking the weather sites and hanging onto the lowest snow accumulation prediction. Inevitably, these rituals sometimes conjure the snow gods, and in all of the excitement of school being canceled, we are up at six o'clock in the morning with a whole day at home ahead of us.

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After the initial excitement settles down on a snow day, I usually use the quiet morning time as an opportunity to cook a hearty breakfast.

Either because of the standard morning rush to get out the door on weekdays or the early sports games on the weekends, it is rare that we get to have homemade chocolate chip smiley face pancakes or make-your-own omelets with fresh squeezed orange juice. My son usually lends a hand with the cooking by sprinkling the chocolate chips or adding the omelet toppings. With the benefit of not being in a hurry, I can take the time to let him participate. We then sit together, enjoying the chance to talk about school or his friends and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

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After breakfast is all cleaned up, we bundle up and head outside. Pulling out the snow pants, gloves, boots and hat and getting it all on can be somewhat of an event. In the past, after all of this preparation, my son would be outside for 20 minutes, get bored and want to come back in. Then it is off with the garb, leaving a big snowy mess on my hands. To avoid this short-lived outdoor trek, we have come up with a few outdoor activities to get some of his energy out and make the most of the snow.

If your child is old enough, ask him or her to help shovel snow. This is a great form of physical fitness as well as a way to instill a sense of responsibility. When my son was younger, we had a small child-size snow shovel he could use to help with the edges of the driveway. Now that he is older, he uses a full-size one, and it's a big help. He even helps shovel the neighbor's sidewalk, as well. After the hard work is done, it is time for some fun in the snow.

A neighbor of mine found a great activity for the kids that allows them to create snow graffiti. All you need to do is fill a few spray bottles with water and different colors of food coloring and your kids can go outside and create artwork in the snow. The snow acts as an immense canvas on which they can show off their creative talents. The color stays as long as the snow does; both kids and parents can enjoy the colorful snow for days.

All of the creating in the snow can work up an appetite. As far back as I remember, my brother, sister and I always looked forward to creating new "snow recipes" each time we had a snow day. One of our favorites was snow cream. We could either leave a bowl outside to catch some flakes the night before an expected snowfall, or scoop some fresh snow into a big bowl after it had fallen. You need a big amount of snow so I would put about eight cups in a bowl. You then add around a cup of powdered sugar — it works better than granulated because it melts faster — then add a dash of vanilla, almond or peppermint extract, and then the secret ingredient: half a can of evaporated milk. This is what makes the snow cream thick and creamy. You can then eat it right out of the bowl or divvy it out in cups and top it with chocolate syrup.

After the snow cream is devoured and we head in to warm up, it is time to get into some cozy clothes and relax.

Snow days are also a good time to catch up on some craft projects. A winter bird feeder is always a fun and practical craft for snowy days. With the birds' natural food supply in a winter shortage, they need food more than ever. We like to collect pine cones in the yard; you can then slather peanut butter all over the cone and roll it in bird seed. This is an easy craft even the little ones can help with. Homemade playdough or finger paints are also a great way to get creative.

While the kids are creating their masterpieces, you will have some free time to whip up some hearty comfort food for your snow day dinner. I love the smell of chili or beef stew in the slow cooker on a crisp winter day. After a home-cooked meal and the excitement of snow day fun, the kids may even get to bed a bit early.

Kelly Scible is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached via email at kellyscible@gmail.com.

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