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Last Sunday, I finally broke.

It was about 8:45am and I was leaving for work.  Gerry was in the car with me.

We only had a couple of inches of snow fall the night before which in the grand scheme of all things winter wasn’t a lot. Tim had shoveled the driveway at midnight so it was clear.

The plows, however, had come through early that morning and created a crusty, slushy pile about three inches tall right along the edge of the driveway.

Just the perfect consistency for me to get my car stuck.

I haven’t been stuck in snow in my car in years.  I grew up in Vermont.  I got my driver’s license in the dead of winter and have been in every possible bad weather driving environment.  The last time I was stuck was high school maybe?  College?

I rocked the car back and forth to get it free, shifting to reverse and first gear like I was taught.  Still stuck.  I got out and shoveled around the tires and tried again.  My tires sank deeper into the muck of sand, snow and ice.

I got out of the car and went into the house. I was choking back tears at this point.

“I’m stuck,” I said to Tim.  “I need your help.”

Tim came out and shoveled around the car.  He did the shifting gears thing to rock the car and shoveled some more.  The wheels spun and finally broke through. I hopped back into the car and with Tim out in the road giving me the all clear, I pulled out from between the seven foot snowbanks that line our driveway and sped off to work.

“Are you okay, Mom?” Gerry asked.

“Yes,” my voice breaking a bit.  “I’m just running late now.”

“You know this is the first winter when I’m really tired of it,” Gerry said. “This is a lot to deal with.”

“It sure is, kiddo.  I’m done too.”

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I’ve lived in New England my whole life and I have never experienced a winter like this.  I’ve spent the last four weeks watching my mailbox disappear.  My view of our road out our bay window is now obstructed by snowbank taller than Rob Gronkowski. My usual “hey it’s winter we will make it through” attitude has been replaced with anxiety, claustrophobia and complete weariness over what will come next.

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At first it was ok.  Fun even.  A blizzard!  How exciting.  We watched the weather forecasts and marveled over the drops in pressure.  My human barometer ran laps inside the house as I watched the snow maps for our area change color to show a potential two feet of snow coming our way.  We stuck a yardstick in the snow to see how much we would get.  I baked cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  We watched movies and did crafts.

And then one snow day turned into two.  Back to back and one week after the next. The forecast showed no break.  Every storm was hitting us and we were in the target snow zone. The storms came one right after the other.  The storms had non-threatening names like “Juno” and “Linus” but they came charged with high winds, snow, and freezing temperatures.  Jim Cantore came to visit.

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With each forecast, my winter spirit broke.

Anxiety kicked in for my kids.  They would sit by the window and ask if school would be cancelled. Will we have a delay?  Will they close? Is it safe for Dad to go to work?  Will we lose power?  If we lose power, will the fish die? When will they make the call?

The questions would come in rapid fire.  Until every phone would ring and the texts would come in that yes, school was closed for the day.  Again.

Before it sounds like I’m a parent who doesn’t enjoy being with my kids, these school closings aren’t just about the kids not being in school.  We’ve had delayed, rescheduled, and delayed again IEP meetings.  When Howie and Lewis aren’t in school, they are missing those services that we’ve so carefully crafted and fought for in those IEPs.  If my kid happens to have lunch bunch or his social skills group on a Monday, he’s missed it four times. Their curriculum and routine is broken.  Lesson plans are thrown out the window. Our home services have been cancelled. I rely on those plans to help my kids navigate their world and help me at home to work with my kids.

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Is this life and death?  Not for us specifically but for so many it could be.  The worry and fear is real.  Tim spent seven hours clearing our roofs from snow to prevent a roof collapse.  I have friends with buckets in their kitchens, bathrooms, and playrooms as ice dams have created leaks all through their house.  At night, the house “pops” from frost quakes.  There are power outages and dangerous driving conditions.  My tiny small nonprofit business has had to close five times because of the weather.  We are dependent on that revenue from families visiting our sensory gym to stay open.

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I haven’t slept through the night since the Patriots won the Super Bowl.  Between the wind and the noises inside and outside the house and the “how am I going to make it through another snow day” anxiety inside my brain, there’s little calm to be had in my head. This is the first year I have actively researched schools and programs and real estate in Arizona.

Yesterday, a friend texted me after we had lunch together.  “You seemed glum today, winter got you down?”

I responded with “Just tired.  February has worn me out.”

People say to me you’re from Vermont, this should be normal for you. And it’s true that the cold and the snow is what winter is here.

But this isn’t “normal”.  It’s not called a historic winter for no reason.  And I am done.

As I write this, it’s snowing again.  Lightly.  But it’s snowing.

I know spring will come and there will be much joy in Mudville when the snow melts. But it will take a long time for us to recover – both outside our house and in our heads.

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Seasons change with the scenery;
Weaving time in a tapestry.
Won’t you stop and remember me
At any convenient time?
Funny how my memory skips
Looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme.

Drinking my vodka and lime,
I look around,
Leaves are brown,
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.” – Hazy Shade of Winter by Paul Simon

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My kids play this game called “The Deep Pit of Darkness”

Gerry, my oldest, will lay down on the couch with Howie behind him.  The object of the game is for Howie to push Gerry off of the couch onto the floor, or as they call it, the “deep pit of darkness”.  Gerry created this game after I told him that it helped Howie to do certain exercises that involved pushing or heavy lifting.  I was thinking more along the lines of, say, wheelbarrow walking or thumb wrestling.  My boys interpreted it as “Let’s wrestle while Mom is trying to make dinner.”

The “deep pit of darkness” game keeps them occupied for about 15 minutes, until inevitably someone gets pushed or kicked somewhere that hurts.

I realized that I have been in my own deep pit of darkness lately.  And it’s not a game.

We have had a lot of snow here in southern New England.  A lot.  I’ve lived in New England for most of my life so snow in winter isn’t usually this depressing.  Hell, I’m the girl who used to wait by the bus stop in high school in February with no socks.  The college student who walked in -20 degree weather to class with a wet head and no mittens.  I’m no stranger to winter.  I love living here and am very good at ignoring Facebook posts from friends telling me how nice it is where they live.

But this has been a particularly difficult winter in addition to the weather.  December brought the one year anniversary of our autism diagnosis.  Our annual IEP meeting.  And while we have been able to celebrate our progress up to this point, there are still reminders every day how different our lives are now.

Add all that to the many snow days and holidays this month, and I felt trapped in my house with three young boys.

And yes, I said trapped.  Because with 4 feet of snow outside, it felt like the door was closed shut.  My claustrophobia kicked in.  Like the walls were closing in on me.

I felt tired.  Tired of reading every detail on this last IEP to make sure all the words are right.  Tired of managing the chaos in that runs through this house and ignoring the clutter piled up around me.  Tired of pretending to care what we eat for dinner.  Tired of feeling like a bad parent because I want my kids to be at school and not home with me.  Tired of sitting in front of Lewis trying to get him to repeat my words.  Tired of not sleeping.  Just tired of everything.

I spent much of the last snow day just staring out the window, ice cold coffee in hand.  The boys were arguing if it was legal to have a jet pack to get out of the deep pit of darkness.  As I watched the giant snowflakes endlessly fall from the sky, I too was hoping for some way to escape this pit.  I closed my eyes and imagined Dorothy’s ruby slippers on my feet, and wondered what it would be like to just click my heels and be…

anywhere but here.

I went to bed that night with a headache.  The snowy weather forecast for the next week weighed heavily on my mind.

The next day the sun was out, but my mood was still in the dark pit.  It was affecting everyone in the house.  My husband came in from walking the dog and said “That’s it.  We’re going out.”

I had asked the boys several times if they wanted to go play in the snow.  The answer was always no.  But my husband didn’t ask.  He told them.  End of story.

My mood got darker and darker through the 20 minute adventure of getting dressed for outside.  Five sets of coats, boots, mittens, hats and snowpants had to be uncrumpled from the bottom of the closet from our last journey out together.  Once outside, the snow was so deep that with every step I had to pull Lewis back up again.

With every step, he laughed.

And soon, I was laughing too.

My husband got out our blue plastic sled and put Howie and Lewis in it.  He pulled them around the track he made in the yard and they squealed with delight.  Gerry and I ran around behind them, trying to push each other down into the deep snow.  A game I was winning, until my husband came up and hip-checked me right into a snowbank.

There I was.  Stuck in a deep pit of white.

And behind me?  A melody of giggles and calls for “do it again!”

Snuggling in bed that night, I asked Howie what his favorite thing was that day (as I always do).

“I liked playing with you.  I love you.”

in the snow

Won't bury himself in sand, but snow? No problem

I whispered back “I love you too.”  And closed my eyes again.

I didn’t need the ruby slippers to remind me that there’s no place like home.

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Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me” – Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz