Even zeal can turn to slush

Boredom: Libraries, recreation centers and theaters are packed with parents and children losing enthusiasm for snow.

The Snowstorm Of 2003

February 21, 2003|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

The blizzard of this century and last is getting to be too much of a good thing for kids across Maryland who have started to develop mixed feelings about their seemingly never ending vacation.

Payam Sohrabi, for one, is annoyed: The weather is killing her plans for political protest.

The 13-year-old eighth-grader at Owen Brown Middle School in Columbia has twice had to cancel a schoolwide walkout she and five others have been organizing since late December to challenge potential war with Iraq.

"It's been pretty disappointing," Payam said. "We've had to reschedule a whole bunch of times."

Others are struggling with boredom by packing movie theaters and libraries, ticking chores off of lists left by their parents, sledding and generally avoiding thinking about the inevitable return to classes, tests and progress reports Monday.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun about boredom setting in for snowbound families incorrectly stated the gender of Payam Sohrabi, an eighth-grader at Owen Brown Middle School in Columbia. Payam is male.
The Sun regrets the error.

Izell Williams, 11, has an Xbox, a Playstation 2 and a Nintendo GameCube at his home in Southeast Baltimore, but after four school days stuck inside, even all that technology couldn't hold his attention.

So yesterday, a fed-up "Ike," as he is called by friends, trekked to the Patterson Park Recreation Center to play basketball and shoot some pool.

"It was boring in my house," the sixth-grader at Highlandtown Middle School said. "It was fun at first, but [by] Wednesday I was mad. I wanted to go to school."

Officials at the rec center said parents and kids in the community were ready to break the door down after two closed days.

In West Baltimore's Edmondson Village, Chanell Joines understands that kind of desperation. By yesterday, the mother of four had had about enough of hearing herself say, "Cut the noise down!" "Stop running!" "Stop bouncing that ball in the house."

Joines' two sons and two daughters - ages 9, 7, 5 and 2 - were eating her out of house and home, she said, and were nearing the end of their tolerance for the many DVDs they had once begged her to buy.

Parents of severely disabled children have found the days off particularly distressing.

Kathy Pearson's 13-year-old son Ryan is mentally and physically disabled, and changes in his routine can leave lasting effects.

"He can only go a few days drifting off a schedule until he deteriorates," said Pearson, who lives in Ellicott City. "And it's not like we can call the local babysitter for him. ... A lot of these kids require skilled medical care."

Pearson spent yesterday digging her disabled-accessible van out of the snow and giving her version of homeschooling to her 10-year-old daughter.

"She actually had to shovel yesterday much to her dismay," Pearson said. "She's learned how to do the laundry, and yesterday she learned how to go to the grocery store."

Dawn Shipley knows what real homeschooling is all about.

She teaches her two sons, Jared, 9, and Andrew, 7, from her Columbia home. But that doesn't mean they're any less stir crazy, she said yesterday from the East Columbia Branch Library, which had just re-opened after the storm.

"We've done just about everything we can think of with snow, including make ice cream and candy," Shipley said. "We couldn't wait to get out of the house."

The library was packed most of the day yesterday. The computers were all in use, the DVD shelves wiped out, and the book selection was severely diminished. "It's been wild," said children's librarian Irva Gabin.

"It's good for the kids to get out and see other kids," said Ann Marie Ferretti, 33, who was at the Westminster Public Library yesterday with her 2-year-old son Nicholas. "It's also good for the moms to hear other adult voices."

Ferretti and her family had been stuck in the house for 10 days, first because of sickness, then from the storm.

Children have been out of school for nearly as long in most areas. Three days last week were half days in Howard County and students were off Friday, for a total of 10 full days free - counting weekends and assuming they return to school Monday. Most other counties will have had about nine straight school-free days.

"My only concern is when they will be able to make up the days off," said Ginny Olson, an Ellicott City mother who had taken her three children to ExploraWorld, a play center in Columbia. "I'd hate for them to lose the instruction time."

Olson's oldest daughter, Sara, a sixth-grader at Mount View Middle School in Marriotsville, hasn't thought about school during this time off, she said.

"I haven't even done my homework yet," she said - from last week. She thought she might tackle that Sunday.

But in Severna Park, 13-year-old Brian Maranto has been working on getting ahead, reading and studying a little each day "just in case" teachers spring a quiz or two on pupils when they return to classes.

And in Baltimore County, some children were already hanging around school grounds yesterday, turning the hill in front of the school board building into an unlikely spot for their version of the local X-games. They used the mini-mountain of snow to sled, snowboard, hill-jump and launch snowball wars.

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