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Snow Day | Our Prairie Nest
Snow Days

What are your memories of snow days in your youth?

Mine is of listening to WBCN Boston 104.1, hoping for the snow song. It was a parody of Monty Python’s “Spam,” except it went, “Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow, snow, snow, snow…” When you heard that, you knew there was a possibility of a snow day!

If Bridgewater schools came up, we’d get giddy with excitement and prepare for a day of fun. Staying home, reading books, watching HBO, or playing on our Nintendo was fun, but it was even better if we could go sledding.

We had two favorite places for sledding. One was Tower Hill, behind Bridgewater State College (now Bridgewater State University). This was long before the commuter lots and MBTA parking, before the T Station, when the college was just a college. You’d walk up the hill to the tower for the best sledding in town, and what a walk it was!

We’d trudge up there through the snow, sled in hand, all the way to the top of the steep hill. It was lined on either side by trees and, at the bottom, the brick building now used for the campus police posed a potential threat if you picked up too much speed and didn’t stop in time. It was a good 4 or 5 minute walk just to get to the top of the hill, but well worth it. Because once you reached the summit, you had a view of that part of the campus and one heck of a trip ahead of you!

That was probably our favorite place to sled, because the hill was steep, smooth, and fast. With the campus building at the bottom, there was just enough potential danger to make it extra exciting. Would you crash into the building or avert calamity? That’s all any kid wanted when they were sledding – the wind in their face and the thrill of the ride.

The other place we’d go occasionally was informally known as Strawberry Hill at the Strawberry Valley Golf Course in Abington. It wasn’t as smooth, steep, or fast as Tower Hill in Bridgewater, but it had the added excitement of more bumps and potential jumps. The photo below shows my sister (in purple) joining many sledders on the hill for a day of fun.

I would love to take my own children to these places someday, or somewhere similar. In eastern Nebraska, we have beautiful rolling hills known as the Loess Hills. There are some unexpectedly sharp peaks and steep inclines. Most people think of Nebraska as flat, but that couldn’t be further from the truth along the east coast (yes, they call it a coast because of the Missouri River; technically, it’s a bank, but that’s neither here nor there; “Coaster” pride is all that matters).

Despite these glorious hill views, I’ve yet to find the perfect sledding spot. Our backyard is unsafe for sledding and I have to act as catcher to keep my daughter from ending up in the icy pond! We’ll do that from time to time, but it’s not at the top of my list of snow day activities. The front yard also isn’t that great. The incline is much too gentle.

About 2 lots up the street from us is a pretty good hill on another property. If the snow falls just right on this east-facing incline (and that’s not always a guarantee), it offers good sledding with an effortless climb back up to the top. The property owner built a workshop/garage at the bottom of the hill, so we have to be mindful of that, but otherwise it’s convenient and pretty safe.

We went out last weekend for some sledding in our backyard, since the hill up the street didn’t have any snow on it. Of course, with so little snow, our playtime turned into us basically flinging powdery white stuff at each other. That’s another thing about Nebraska snow – it’s just powder most of the time. Not wet enough to build anything or make a proper snowball, unlike wet, heavy New England snow.

But we still have fun and love a good snow day!

We Partied Like It's 1999 | Our Prairie Nest
We Partied Like It’s 1999 (2019 edition)

I have never been “a New Year’s Eve person.” Our normal thing was to stay up until midnight – if possible – and play Vigilante 8 on the Nintendo 64. It just sort of became our thing. Other than that, I’d get all worked up about writing out goals. Resolutions, rarely, but goals, always. That was enough for me, because I’m more of an action-oriented person than a “let’s celebrate the change of the Gregorian calendar!” sort of gal.

To me, the celebration was in making an action plan for productivity. Super exciting, I know. This year, I decided to give actual celebrating a try. I’ve been giving more attention to personal and family time lately, especially in light of various events in the fall of 2019. I’m all about making every moment count and choosing the path that’s right for me and my family.

So, without any further (somewhat heavy) ado, I give you our New Year’s Eve 2019!

We started off with Countdown Bags which I learned about by chance. When I decided to put in the effort to make New Year’s fun, while still relaxing at home, I turned to Google for ideas. Countdown Bags sounded like exactly what I wanted – something I could do inexpensively, that would give us something to look forward to hour after hour, while trying to reach that magical midnight hour.

Disclaimer: I am not a creative person when it comes to crafts and things to do with and for children. It’s just not in me. But I know what I like to look at and do, and I can do pretty much anything if there are instructions or lists of suggestions. So I started with pretty chalkboard New Year’s printables (you’ll see them below) from Catch My Party and the nifty clocks from The Idea Room.

As for what went into the bags, I hit up the dollar store and grocery store for:

  • Easy, pre-packaged crafts
  • A small activity book
  • Small toys
  • Noisemakers
  • Photo booth props
  • Happy New Year headbands
  • A shiny silver pen
  • Fortune cookies
  • Hershey Kisses
  • Other assorted candy

There were other things I wanted to include, but forgot, like slap bracelets and glow necklaces. But, all in all, I kept the purchases to about $20 for 8 fun surprise bags that kept my family curious about what they would find next. I used index cards to write a note in each bag, because some had activities instead of or along with treats.

We started at 5 p.m. by opening the first bag, which had a little activity book to keep my daughter busy while my husband and I made tacos. As a side note, I love the idea of tacos for New Year’s Eve! They’re fun and easy to make, and leave plenty of room for snacky foods, too. Normally, we’d pair them with rice, but we didn’t this time. We decided just the tacos were enough, because I put out some party food after dinner. I think the baby carrots, celery, broccoli, baguette, cheese, crackers, dressing, and sparkling grape juice cost about $20, as well. And this is only a small portion of it. Why spend $20 on a premade, store-bought platter when you can just do it yourself? We had fun walking by the table and picking up munchies throughout the night. I also nagged everyone to keep hydrating with plenty of water. Best way to stay awake and energized!

While my husband was working on the tacos and I had time to spare before putting together the lettuce, cheese, olives, and taco sauce, we put on some 90s music and tried some silly selfies.

Yeah, I’m not wearing makeup, even though I worked a normal day, and I have no idea where my daughter got the random lei that you see me wearing, but who cares? We were home doing our own thing and the party was just beginning.

It was fun to open bag after bag, hour after hour, and see my family’s reactions. They were delighted to find each and every item, especially the photo booth props. I had no idea my husband could be such a ham!

My daughter was all about stroking her new mustache. Well, she’s about to turn 7 a few days after New Year’s, so I guess it was time she grew one! Also, if you like my shirt, I bought it at The Jean Marie Boutique.

We got a kick out of our fortune cookies. My daughter’s fortune was especially appropriate.

I figured everyone would be getting tired by 9 p.m., so that was when we opened the bag that instructed us to choose a family game. It could be anything – good old fashioned charades, Mario Party, Uno. We chose Forbidden Island and it seemed like “Waters Rise” cards were just attracted to me last night. So we lost, but it was fun, as always!

When midnight rolled around, we were all somehow still awake. I don’t know if it was dancing around the house to 90s music from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. that did it, laughing until we cried with the photo props, or all the snacking. But we wore our Happy New Year headbands, blew our noisemakers, and looked outside to see if we could spot the random fireworks people were setting off.

We fell into bed pretty grateful that the time had come. Was it the most “productive” New Year’s Eve of goal-setting and planning? No. Was it fun? Oh, yeah. I would definitely do it all again.