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Roxane Salonen, Published January 20 2009

Snow Mountain must be scaled

I am surveying the piles in my laundry room when I hear the dreaded words.

“Mo-ommmm! Can we play outside?”

Dreaded words, but anticipated, too, ever since the snowplows began circling our neighborhood this morning.

I freeze. A hard knot forms in my stomach. A sigh erupts.

I have little power over the Snow Mountain that appears every so often midwinter in the center of our cul-de-sac. It is a fleeting visitor. By tomorrow, it could be gone, and the kids know it.

Only 15 minutes ago, I reined in all five of them, their backpacks and the oodles of accompanying winter gear. School papers, boots, mittens and scarves flew wildly through the entryway as they marched upstairs and into the kitchen for an after-school snack.

I’d just completed a quick sweep of the pileup when the question hit me upside the head.

Here we go again.

“Sure,” I holler weakly.

What good mother would deny her children the pleasures of childhood?

“As long as you ...”

I don’t finish. All but the youngest have flown back downstairs to sift through baskets and the coat closet in a mad search for the proper apparel. It’s the Snow Mountain, after all. He requires layers.

“Hey, where’s my other glove?”

“It’s right here, Dufus!”

“Mom ... where are my snow pants?!!!”

Ten stressful minutes later, they bound outside and toward the mountain. The youngest has been in a television trance until now, but the abrupt quiet rouses him.

Finding me, he hugs my knees while I pour a capful of blue detergent into the washing machine.

“I wanna go outside, too!”

It takes another 10 minutes to find the right pair of Spider-Man socks and boots. By the time he’s bundled, only round eyes peeking out from his face mask, the other kids have reappeared at the doorstep, out of breath and giggling.

“It’s fun, but it’s too cold!” one says.

An onslaught of tears follows.

“Oh sweetie,” says his sister, “let me warm up a little, then I’ll go out again with you, ’K?”

And they do – for five whole minutes.

The dryer buzzes. I go downstairs to pull the load and hear jostling in the kitchen upstairs.

I know what they’re up to.

Emerging from the bowels of our bottom level, I weave through the scattering of clothes and boots, inadvertently soaking my sock in a puddle of now-melted dirty snow.

Tonight’s predicted flurries have come early – straight into my house in the form of a winter-clothing ground blizzard.

Making my way into the kitchen, I see cupboard doors open and a bottle of chocolate syrup tipped onto its side, dripping onto the countertop.

I hear laughter in the dining room, and the slurping of cocoa. It’s been poured into the fine china cups as usual, I’m sure.

When I enter their space, they’re all smiles.

“Mom, this is great, but next time could you buy some fresh marshmallows? These ones are all clumpy and hard.”

No doubt. They were for last summer’s S’mores.

Wintertime: What’s not to love?

Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and husband Troy are parents to five children. She also has a blog, www.areavoices.com/peacegarden