Warm-mug moments

Just before my kids closed their eyes last Saturday night, I broke one of parenting’s Ten Commandments: Though Shalt Not Make Promises For Things Out of One’s Control.

What can I say? I’m a silver-haired, tired mom rebel.

“Guys, it’s going to snow tomorrow!” I blabbed.

My son immediately looked up, eyes shining. “Enough to have a snowball fight?” he asked eagerly.

“Enough to make a snowman?” his sister echoed.

Yes! I boomed. Absolutely!

Like I could control the weather. Though I would if I could for my children, of course.

Oliver and Hadley have been talking about a good snow since Hadley’s interest in “Frozen” began in earnest last year. We were all ecstatic when a dusting fell on Christmas Day, but it disappeared just as quickly as it had magically appeared. No snowballs. No snowmen.

Last weekend’s “storm” — all of three inches — was the most the Washington region had received in two years. And on a weekend! By Monday, I was frowning at the same scene while contemplating my commute. Icy Tuesday was even worse. My second vaccine dose was scheduled for 9:20 a.m., and I had an hour-long drive ahead of me. “Be cautious, but drive with confidence!” encouraged my boss, an Ohio native made of sterner stuff than me. But I took her advice seriously, white-knuckle coasting most of the way south. I arrived for my shot just in time.

But none of that worry was served on my Sunday plate. I was immensely proud that I’d remembered to buy hot chocolate mix, thinking of how my dad always made cocoa with tiny marshmallows after my sister and I “helped” clear the driveway. I can still feel the ice coating the hem of my jeans before I had slipped into sweatpants, bounding downstairs to find that special treat waiting.

I want to create warm-mug moments with my children. At five and three, I’ve already seen how simultaneously fast and slow these years have gone. I’m fascinated by the idea that any of these simple events could actually solidify, proving to be the kids’ earliest memories. How can I make them good ones?

Through the pandemic, I probably join many parents in believing I have not been my best self. While I try to enjoy the little things, day-to-day life cannot be separated from the fear and heaviness of everything else happening in the world. I’ve had so much on my mind lately. We all have.

And yet. Already the boots purchased in anticipation of a day like this were snug on my children’s feet. I’m Mom, not Mommy, and the last of the toddler clothes have all been packed away.

We jumped into the moment. My husband, a New Yorker also made of stern winter stuff, packed snowballs and chased the kids on a gleeful mission. Each time they ducked behind a vehicle or skittered around a corner, Spence found a way to arc the snowball into a hit. Even Ollie, who hates being cold or wet or uncomfortable in any way, tolerated these hijinks. Enjoyed them, even.

After we’d all had our fill, cheeks red and toes chilled, we shuffled inside and shucked wet jackets just inside the door. I wrestled Hadley and Ollie upstairs for warm baths while Spencer got to work over the stove. By the time we returned, the kids’ hair damp and eyes shining, Spence had prepared four mugs of cocoa — with tiny marshmallows. It tasted like simple happiness, with memories settled at the bottom like coarse sugar.

We hadn’t received enough to build a snowman, as I’d naively promised … but we definitely made good on the snowball fight.

And you can’t go wrong with a day ending in chocolate.

The new snow day


In today’s edition of Sometimes It’s No Fun To Be An Adult, I rarely get snow days.

And if I do, well . . . let’s just say that something really, really icy has happened. Like the Snowpocalypse of 2010, say — the only time I can ever recall my newspaper closing. We were permitted to leave an hour early two weeks ago when a storm came rumbling in, but we’d already sent everything to press for the day and were basically chillin’.


But oh, friends, I remember the glorious deliciousness that was the snow day as a kid. My sister/partner-in-crime was often awake before me, and I could tell by the way she was rumbling around and talking with my dad whether or not schools were closed.

Even without the Sister Barometer, though, I had the most scientific of all methods for determining whether we would be home for the day: observing how the light was slanting through the blinds in my bedroom. If the normally-dark pink was noticeably brighter — back-lit, say, though I didn’t know that word — it was probably safe to go back to sleep. Seeing that bright light meant we’d been blanketed with the fluffy stuff, and schools in Maryland don’t generally play around with that.

Once we finished helping Dad shovel out, we’d all pile inside to shed wet boots and jackets and wait (im)patiently for hot chocolate. If we were fortunate enough to get “snowball snow,” we’d fling ourselves around the yard for a while trying to create Mr. Snowman and, perhaps, his lovely (and shorter) wife. Mom would produce lollipops for his eyes and mouth, and we’d dig around for an old scarf to keep him “warm.”

Those were some happy, freewheelin’ snow days.

Even if apartment living means no outdoor space to build a snowman (and c’mon, I probably wouldn’t be out there, anyway), it’s nice to take in the scenery from our elevated view in winter. With all the slush, there’s been plenty to see right from our windows — you know, where it’s warm and quiet. Like this couple who were . . . drawing something? Signalling someone? Horsing around?


For me, the new snow day means reading inside with “Judge Judy” in the background, editing photos, sneaking pieces of chocolate from our stash. Baking cupcakes. Cleaning. We’ve had a few self-imposed “snow days” when the weather was dreary on a weekend — when we stayed in all day to get caught up on everything and nothing.

Before our wedding, Spencer and I used to talk about how cozy it would be to eventually snuggle up with blankets as the snow drifted down outside our own home — neither of us needing or wanting to be anywhere else.

That feeling hasn’t worn thin just yet.

And now I make hot chocolate for two.

Fluffy hot chocolate — yep, I’m in!

hot_chocolate I’ve decided there are some things I need more of in my life — and some things I need far less of! And landing squarely in the “must have more!” category is hot chocolate.

As the weather starts getting colder and I can no longer find my beloved pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, I have to get crazy and find something new to enjoy. I am a fan of hot apple cider and various other caffeinated drinks, but I don’t think anything can beat the feeling of holding a mug of delicious, simmering chocolate with a huge dollop of whipped cream or, if you hang out around my house, tons and tons of mini marshmellows.

Now, I’m no hot chocolate snob. I grab the Swiss Miss and pour in the little dehydrated marshmellow bits as often as the next drink lover. In fact, some of my all-time favorite hot chocolate moments involve drinks using just hot water, a mug, some chocolate powder and a microwave.

When it snows in Southern Maryland, things basically shut down. We’re not well equipped for cold weather or, as the case may be, ice covering our driveways, roads and places of employment. So when the first few flakes would fall and the blessing of all blessings would be sounded out on the radio and TV — A SNOW DAY! — Kate and I would grab our boots, shovels and big coats and pad out to help Dad dig out the driveway. And after the labor was done, of course, it was time for . . . hot chocolate. With tons and tons of marshmellows!

I think maybe I’ll do something crazy this year, though — making hot chocolate. From scatch. With milk . . . on a stovetop! I know, I’m thinking big these days! But here’s a cool recipe, submitted by Jo Ann Schimcek, I found on Allrecipes.com — my go-to for matters such as these. Sounds easy enough that even I could do it . . . hopefully. And it has melted marshmellows!:

Fluffy Hot Chocolate


• 8 teaspoons sugar
• 4 teaspoons baking cocoa
• 4 cups milk
• 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine the first four ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until the marshmallows are melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Ladle into mugs.