The Inside Story Snowbound: It's either quality time or flakeout city as families stuck at home cope with forced togetherness. Staff writers Stephanie Shapiro, Arthur Hirsch, Patricia Meisol, Linell Smith and Susan Reimer contributed to this article.

January 10, 1996

It's Day 3 of the snow siege, and the plow still hasn't arrived. There's no way to get out of the neighborhood. There's no way to get to work. There's no way to get the kids to the babysitter's.

It's Day 3, and it's snowing hard again. It's Day 3, and everyone is still stuck in the house.

It's Day 3, and the world is divided into two types of people: those who are on the verge of losing their minds if they spend another day at home with their kids and those who have surrendered to the siege with almost Zen-like tranquility.

The blizzard at the Snows

"Share the popcorn, share," says Dale Snow to her son and daughter while trying to talk on the phone. "Guys, here, I'll split it into two bowls," Ms. Snow says.

She once fantasized that if she had two children, "they would play with each other," she mutters after the popcorn crisis. She knows better now.

Normally, this is the week that she and her husband, Jim, who teaches philosophy at Loyola College, work on their course outlines in their small apartment near Wyman Park. So far, they haven't found much time to prepare for classes.

The blizzard hit "in a very bad moment," Ms. Snow says. "Everything the children have gotten for Christmas is now officially an old toy. It doesn't make any sense, but there it is."

Actually, the kids are faring well. Son Carlyle is drawing on the computer and playing games with his sister Cordelia. Cordelia has borrowed a pile of books from a friend.

And "Batman," the movie, has returned more than once, their mom says.

Ms. Snow, also a professor of philosophy at Loyola, ponders the paradox of snow days: "Why is it that the joy of school being out never lasts long enough to sweeten the whole school day? By 10 a.m. they're dissipated, tapping their toes. They say, 'I'm bored,' in irritated, breathy voices."

Zen and the art of snowbound sanity

Linda Krone's neighborhood in Anne Arundel County is blanketed with snow and with resignation. A kind of peacefulness descended on the hearts and minds of families once they realized that they were not going anywhere for a while. "This must be God's way of telling everyone to stay home," says Ms. Krone of Edgewater. "There was some major screeching of brakes in the lives of people around here.

"It helps if you just get into a kind of meditation mode," she says.

Children in her neighborhood, who try to make snowmen the moment there is frost on the grass, have been parading between houses since Sunday, dropping wet clothes in a different front hall every time.

Mrs. Krone has been feeding whatever children, or adults, are at her home when the sun goes down.

"I am definitely the happy idiot," she says. "I could do this forever."

Neighbors Joe Macknis and Susan Elbert were among those who finished the day at the Krones for a pot-luck supper. They were supposed to be in Paris this week. "I was really disappointed," says Ms. Elbert. It was the second time their Paris vacation has been cancelled. "My husband keeps whispering things to me in French, in between pulling the children around the yard in sleds, but it isn't the same.

"I have a copy of Danielle Steel's 'Five Days in Paris' and I'm reading that instead. It has a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the cover. That will have to do."

Her husband exorcised his disappointment by shoveling snow. He ended the day in a neighbor's hot tub, smoking a rare cigar and drinking rare brandy.

"And when I woke up the next morning," he says, "I felt great."

The great escape

It took Lisa Brashears one hour and 20 minutes yesterday to drive from her home in Harford County to her job as a medical assistant at the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center in East Baltimore. That's twice as long as her normal commute, but Mrs. Brashears wasn't complaining. In fact, she was reveling in her escape from snowbound domesticity.

"I had to get out of my house," she announced to her colleagues.

Mrs. Brashears was home from Friday night to Tuesday morning with her two children, 8-month-old Jonathan and 14-year-old Jody. Her husband, John, spent most of Sunday and Monday shoveling while Mrs. Brashears kept the baby entertained. But after a while, she ran out of things to do with him. By yesterday morning, she couldn't wait to get to work.

"I hope they don't close early because I don't want to go home," she said. "I love my children, but I've had enough."

Finding some space

Kathy and Nathan Arnold were struggling to keep their two children, Judson, 10, and Amanda, 7, entertained for another day. And the Baltimore couple know they could be in the entertainment business for the rest of the week.

"You can just quote me: "AAAAGGGGHHHHH," says Mrs. Arnold, a Baltimore County music teacher who lives in Bolton Hill.

"Judson has been jogging up and down four flights of stairs for activity. Does that give you an idea of what we've been going through?

"Amanda wants me to constantly be working on her social agenda. All she wants is to be doing things with other girls.

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