THE BLIZZARD is behind us and so is the excitement of a storm that shut us in for unexpected solitude and family time. I think everyone in our household was ready for life to get back to normal, but we also were sad to see the snow days end.
Barbara Ceary, a Union Bridge mom who home-schools her three children, had no such problems.
Mrs. Ceary recommends getting the kids engaged in art projects. Keep a collection of the odds and ends you usually cast off -- soda bottles and paper towel holders, egg cartons and cardboard boxes -- then plant a project idea or two and let the kids take off with it.
Barbara said her stash of collectible junk, plus a home curriculum rich in history, science, math and wonder, has led her children to build such projects as an "absolutely wonderful medieval castle, complete with vines climbing up the castle walls, draw bridges that work and towers -- they even designed the castle to perch on a grassy mountain top. And they came up with this idea themselves."
You might want to link the art projects to what the kids are studying in school, something Mrs. Ceary can do naturally. Her boys' medieval castle was tied in to a study of medieval times.
Another project, an underwater city fit for habitation by their G. I. Joe action figures, was built with straws, paper and cardboard, and even included a minicomputer desk and watertight doors.
When one of her sons became interested in aviation, he built a model of the Wright brothers' first airplane.
Projects like this, assures Mrs. Ceary, "can keep a kid busy for days, even weeks." The projects need not be expensive. "Just let their creativity go," she said.
Mrs. Ceary has been home-schooling her children for years.
The eldest, Micah, now an honor student at Carroll Community College, initially was home-schooled to remedy a bad situation in the private school he attended. Being taught at home worked so well for his self-esteem, confidence and academic progress that the Ceary family decided to home-school all their children.
"Once we started, we loved it," Mrs. Ceary says.
She teaches Philip, 16, and Benjamin, 10, at home. The youngest, Christina, at age 3, watches her brothers learn, and they teach her the joys of the sandbox and imaginative play.
The boys often accompany their father on his business rounds (Dan Ceary is a chimney specialist), go on day trips and participate in organized home-school ventures, such as a gym group.
What is Mrs. Ceary's answer to those who question her decision to home-school, to those who wonder if the children might be missing important socialization they get from peers?
"The best socialization kids can receive is the unconditional love they get from their parents," she said.
"Because they feel good about themselves, they're ready to talk to others, and are interested in what people have to say," she said.
Mrs. Ceary says home- schooling gets easier all the time: "I guess a part of me would like people to think that it's hard, but it's not. It's really wonderful."
Lend a hand
The Caring and Sharing Ministries of Taneytown, an outreach program sponsored by a consortium of the town's churches, anticipates needing donations to help neighbors who might have been hit harder than most from the blizzard. The ministries has a community-needs fund, and all donations go directly to people who need help.
The Rev. Keith DeBord, of Grace United Church of Christ, anticipates that the blizzard may have created additional needs for some of Taneytown's families. Send contributions to the Community Needs Fund, P.O. Box 384, Taneytown 21787.
Mr. DeBord was grateful for the respite the storm provided, even though the church had to close for worship the first Sunday of the blizzard because the parking lot was impossible to clear.
"The snow slowed us down to do what we need to do as a community," he said. "It was really encouraging for me to see people coming together and helping each other."
Plow into Frederick
If you're looking for a place to remedy cabin fever, try driving to nearby Frederick for an afternoon. Many of us shop Frederick's "Golden Mile" when we need the basics, but you should consider heading into the historic district for a change.
The merchants are friendly; the district features specialty shops and antiques galore; and parking is free for several hours in parking garages if you stop at the Visitors' Center on Church Street to get your parking ticket validated. The historic district is easy to find from northwest Carroll: Take Route 26 west to Route 355, and follow the signs.
If you haven't been to Frederick for a while, make sure you stop FTC Options of Frederick, a new gift and specialty shop on South Market Street.
Another personal favorite is Golden Ring Russian Import Co. at 27 S. Market St.
When I walked into this small, intimate shop, music from Russia was being played quietly in the background, hand-painted babushka dolls in all colors and complexity lined the shelves, and filigree jewelry sparkled in glass cases.
A rack of handmade clothes from Russia, including colorful wool scarves, beckoned buyers.
Many thanks to the neighbors who helped make the snowstorm a week to remember: to Tom Holland, who dug us out of our driveway and helped countless others with his front-end loader; and to Cinda Sebastian and Scott Williams for an impromptu picnic and sled riding down on a handcrafted, Winter Olympics-quality sled run.