So three years later, when we were blessed with another substantial snowfall (read 10cm), we experienced some nostalgia as we enjoyed a family fun day in the snow. We weren't quite prepared for the snowfall this year, so we had to improvise. Being that we moved to our new home a month ago, our winter gear was still packed up in boxes. So my three year old got to enjoy wearing adult sized snow pants held up with elastic bands, and my son wore his fleecy one piece with a garbage bag tied around his waist. In fact, wearing "Mama's snowpants" was one of the highlights for my daughter; she felt so big and proud and talked about it for days. We couldn't find our toboggans, so we pulled our children around in boxes.
In addition to "sledding" down some nearby hills, my children had fun building our traditional Snow family. However, this year the Snow family welcomed an additional member. We still had the Snow Tatty, the Snow Mommy, and the Snow Girl, but Snow Baby Boy made his appearance. Our Snow family donned some of the same apparel this year, yet with different accessories, such as leaves for eyes, carrots for noses, and apple peels for their smiles. My one year old son truly loved experiencing snow for the very first time. He kept taking off his gloves only to start shivering after putting his hands in the snow. My preschooler tried to explain to her younger brother why the snow is cold, but even her best scientific reasoning couldn't stop him from putting his hands in the snow and trying to eat it.
Three years ago, our city's snowfall reaffirmed for me the importance of establishing family traditions through our customary "snow day meal" of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (just like my mother-in-law made for my husband and sister-in-law when they were a child). This year, the snow fall solidified a new lesson for me. It would have been so easy to tell the kids "sorry, we can't go play in the snow today" when they woke up to see the streets covered in snow. After all, it was Friday and we were having many Shabbat guests for both the night and day meals. So a simple, "Mommy has to cook for Shabbos" would have sufficed. Or, "sorry, Mommy has a headache, you can play in the snow when Tatty is done work." True and to the point. Or, "We just moved, and I can't find the box of snow gear, so we'll be too cold without it." I had every excuse in the book.
I'll be honest with you, I don't love the snow. Not only do I not love it, I don't even like it. If I could, I would live in Florida, California, Australia, or better yet the Bahamas. So I would have much rather stayed indoors on such a chilly day dreaming of white sandy beaches. But the excitement on my kids' faces as they were glued to their bedroom window from 6:30am onwards was palpable. Over breakfast, we discussed the games we would play in the snow, what we would build, and what type of attire we would creatively concoct. My daughter even insisted, "We need to do a mitzvah and rake our neighbour's driveway" (I think she meant shovel). How could I say no to that?
So I put on my brave face, we bundled up, and enjoyed playing in the snow for several hours. We came home and gobbled up our traditional snow day lunch (read more about that in the original Snow Day article). We were left with a brief 90 minutes to get ready for Shabbat. Thank G-d for my routine of doing the majority of the cooking Thursday evening, so it was just some finishing touches and setting the table that needed to be done.
In this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Bo, Hashem gives the Jewish people the very first mitzvah: establishing a calendar. Having a calendar is a very important aspect of life (in fact, one of my favourite aspects, I love to-do lists). It allows us to keep track of appointments, bookings, holidays, the holy Shabbat, and is an integral part of planning our days (and lives). Where would we be without our day timers, planners, agendas, and these days iPhone apps, to help us navigate our busy lives? There are certain slots or appointments that can't be changed, and only under extreme circumstances would one postpone them. But there are also parts of our day that can (and should) be changed so that we can truly live in the moment.
These are the times where all the planning and scheduling in the world cannot amount to the majestic smile of my children who just spent their time playing together and laughing in glee. When my daughter and I lit candles and welcomed Shabbos, we sat down on the couch together and reflected on our wonderful day. We talked about how much fun we had playing in the snow for a full four hours and how fast we managed to complete all our last minute Shabbos preparations. We reminisced how cool it was to use leaves as eyes for our Snow family. We discussed what a mitzvah it was to shovel our senior neighbour's driveway.
And then my dear daughter's face lit up in a huge smile, "Mama, next time it snows, can we spend all day outside together again?" So while planning is great and to-do lists are important, nothing can possibly beat living in the moment with our fun-loving adventurous children. Just as much as I dislike cold weather, soggy boots, and freezing hands, I love to see my children's vibrant smiles as they enjoy nature and building and exploring.
Wishing you a wonderful Rosh Chodesh Shevat,