Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Jan. 3, 2014

Sledding, shoveling and snowman-making

Just a few days before Christmas, a winter storm dumped more than six inches of snow in the Manhattan area and about twice that in Salina, where brother Dave and sister-in-law Linda live. We had planned to visit them and their sons and families on Dec. 22, but the freezing drizzle that accompanied the snow pretty much guaranteed we weren't going to venture out that day. And reports from nephew Paul and his wife Rachel - who had traveled from Dallas to Kansas the day before - didn't alleviate our fears. They told us they had to drive 20 mph from Wichita to Salina, using the tail lights of the car in front of them to serve as a guide.

"I was just hoping they didn't slide off the road because we probably would have just followed them," Rachel said.

Husband Art and I had experienced a small part of the bad weather ourselves. We had seen some of the big fluffy flakes early in the day, but had gotten involved in printing our Christmas newsletters and had lost track of time. By the time we left town, enough snow had accumulated that our vehicle had difficulty navigating some of the streets. It took nearly 30 minutes to go the normal 10-minute drive to our home outside Manhattan. During the night, we heard snow plows in the distance running up and down the highway trying to keep ahead of the drifting snow.

Although we were disappointed not to see that part of the family before Christmas, we were glad everyone was safe. It was also nice to enjoy the beautiful white stuff from inside our cozy home. Sometimes it takes nature to slow us down enough to quit scrambling and to just appreciate simple things.

It didn't take long for county road crews to clear our street so we got back into the swing of Christmas preparations. But for some reason, everything suddenly seemed more relaxing. On Dec. 24, rather than rush around and make a big meal as we usually have in the past, Art and I attended a Christmas Eve service where youngest daughter Katie was singing a "Silent Night" solo. She came home with us and later, older daughter Mariya and daughter-in-law Lacey joined us. All three spent the night.

On Christmas Day, we had waffles and bacon for breakfast and then slowly opened our presents. I thought the gift giving and the ham dinner at Mom's that night would be the extent of our activities. But before long, Mariya was rummaging in the hall closet to find snow pants for Katie and her. The girls had brought their snow disks with them and were planning on doing some sledding. Lacey was better prepared, having brought along her own pair of snow pants, complete with suspenders!

"Geez, the last time I had snow pants for you girls was when you were really young," I told her. "I did have some for myself at one time, but they've been gone awhile too."

I suggested the girls wear a pair of my jeans or sweat pants and then I could just wash and dry them later. So they put them on over their other clothes, bundled up and headed for the neighbor's driveway, which has about a 20-degree slope - perfect for sledding. Soon they were sailing down the driveway at a good clip, squealing all the way and trying to figure out how to stop before reaching the plowed road.

In the meantime, Art and I decided it was time to shovel the snow off our driveway. We had so much snow accumulation on the roof and in the gutters that icicles had formed above the steps and drive, making them treacherously slick. Our drive is on the north side and slopes toward the house and it usually takes awhile for any ice or snow on it to melt. Art chopped the ice with an ice chopper, scooped it into the snow shovel I was holding and then threw the shovelfuls to the side. Before long, Katie asked whether we'd like help. I didn't hesitate, turning the shovel over immediately to her. Mariya grabbed the other one. In no time, they had the driveway clear enough that we could get both vehicles out of the garage.

I thought by then the girls would be tired of being out in the snow. But instead of heading inside, they set to work building a snowman. And it wasn't just any run-of-the-mill snowman. They decided to pattern theirs after "Olaf," a character in the new Disney movie, "Frozen." Mariya made his feet and lower body while Katie fashioned his mid-section and head. Lacey gathered sticks for his hair and arms while I located a carrot for his nose and some small pine cones for his eyes and buttons. Every now and then, Katie would bring out her smart phone with an image of Olaf to make sure theirs was a reasonable likeness.

We did eventually make it to Mom's for dinner that night. And we made it to Salina to see brother Dave's gang the day after Christmas.

So, although we initially thought the snow might have ruined Christmas plans, what it did instead was add more dimensions to it. Sledding, shoveling and snowman-making weren't on the itinerary for Christmas, but they made ours another one for the memory books.

Left: Katie (left) and Lacey at the end of a sled run; right: l-r: Mariya, Katie, Olaf, Gloria and Lacey.

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