Instead, the weather alternates between subzero temperatures, blizzard conditions and sleeting rain. Trapped inside, sibling fights break out. My house looks like it has been ransacked by wild chimpanzees. Their faces beam up at me, saying "Mooooooom. We're bored. There's nothing to do!" with their barely unwrapped Christmas gifts strewn at their feet. We play board games, but have to get creative because each one is missing a critical piece or two, or three. Norman Rockwell is nowhere to be found. Neither is Carol Brady. Or Alice, for that matter.
Finn, who is 4, gets particularly creative with large amounts of unstructured time. I was determined to try and relax a bit, stocked up on books to read, tried to sneak away now and again for some peace and quiet. I paid a price every time.
On Saturday Greta and Finn are playing happily in the playroom, some elaborate game involving Littlest Pet Shops and a large cardboard box. I doze off on the couch for a bit - I'm talking twenty minutes - and wake up to find Finn's face just inches from mine. "I didn't do it, Mom" he says. "The fairies did." He is holding a pair of kid's scissors behind his back. At his feet are seven or eight of my favorite Christmas tree ornaments, their little strings cut off. One Santa ornament is scandalously naked, his little red suit cut to shreds.
On Sunday there is a break in the weather - still freezing but the sun is out. I get them bundled up in their snowsuits, hats, mittens, scarves and boots and send them outside. I decide to take advantage of the quiet and return a quick phone call. Maybe five minutes goes by, and I peek outside to check on them. Greta is playing quietly in the snow, and Finn is marching around dressed only in his boots and pants, his coat, hat and mittens gone, with his scarf tied around his bare chest. "Why you so mad?" he asks when I whisk him inside. "I covered my boobies!"
On Monday we escape to higher ground for a few days: my parents' condo. As they always do around people who aren't me, the kids are angelic, polite and play nicely with each other. I get to sleep in two mornings in a row. Norman Rockwell makes his long anticipated appearance, and life is good.
We return home for New Year's Eve, head into Boston with friends and have a ball at the indoor activities at First Night. Monday rolls around, and they both head off to school. I wallow in a few hours of silence and peck away at the mess and the laundry, grateful to be back in a routine. 2010 is looking good, baby.
Finn comes home from school and I plug him into his new favorite movie, Snow Buddies. I sit down to read a chapter of my book, finally. After a few moments, he comes up to me with a long face.
"Da movie machine is bwoken," he says. "I don't know what happened."
Sure enough, the DVD player is on the floor, and the movie is stuck inside. I finally wrench the machine open, only to discover the interior is wet. It takes me a couple of minutes and one horrifying sniff to realize he has peed in the DVD slot.
Paint THAT, Norman Rockwell.