So, the snow has stopped falling. Schools are still closed and the job has called to say stay home. Or perhaps you called the job to say you weren't coming in.
Whatever. You're snowbound, stuck in the house. Just you and the children and that big, lurking question: What's a family to do?
During the Blizzard of '96, Jolene Ivey answered that question by gathering up her young sons and heading to the kitchen. She baked 14 loaves of bread with an assist from Alex, then 6, and David, 3, while managing her infant son, Julian.
Yesterday, the Iveys, of Cheverly, now including 2-year-old Troy, did something much more delightful: admiring the newest addition to their family.
A day earlier, while many Washington area families sat glued to their televisions, the Ivey boys watched a better show, that of their mother upstairs in her bedroom, giving birth to their youngest brother, Aaron. Ivey had delivered on her due date, with the help of two midwives, as planned.
"It just so happened that the storm came and the boys got to stay home, so they got to see everything," Ivey said. "I guess you can say the snow was a blessing."
For hundreds of thousands of other families, the storm has been more of a challenge.
Alina Frank, of Leesburg, was one of those parents who couldn't wait to get out of the house with her children, Sophie, 4, and Noah, 2. She took them to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
"We had a little cabin fever, so we decided to drive out here," said Frank, whose daughter was more impressed by the rat she spotted on the Mall than by the lunar modules she saw inside the museum.
Tuesday's weather also kept Carol Jahnke, 35, in her Alexandria home all day. She wasn't about to stay cooped up yesterday. So Jahnke tugged 18-month-old Madeline's stroller down the snowy streets to a lunch date.
"I had cabin fever, [but] it's harder being out," Jahnke said. "Like an idiot, I brought the stroller. . . . I feel like I've run a decathlon on unshoveled sidewalks."
Libraries, toy stores and video stores all reported brisk business.
Henry Rothkopf was one of the first people to arrive at the Silver Spring library with his sons David, 10, and Danny, 7. The boys said they enjoyed their time off, except for the broken furnace. "The plumber wanted $800, but the part cost $50 at Home Depot, so I did it myself," said Rothkopf, an engineer.
Crazy-but-fun was the mood at Jolene Ivey's house. There was Ivey in her nightgown and floral robe nursing her newborn while her husband, Glenn, a lawyer who works for the Maryland state government, scurried about making coffee and trying to keep the boys' voices down. A friend in from Boston and a teenager hired to help the family fixed lunch and tended to a recuperating Ivey.
In the living room, 4-year-old Julian jumped up and down on the couch, while a playroom filled with books, toys and games went untouched.
A neighbor, Ann Hegerott, had stopped by to offer congratulations and a helping hand.
"Now, do you have a meal set up for tonight?" Hegerott asked. "Are you tired of the red sauce yet? Because I could make chicken."
Chicken is good, the Iveys said.
"Mom!" yelled Alex, 10, the oldest. "Mom, can we go outside for a snowball fight?"
"Sure," said Ivey, who now was holding both the baby and 7-year-old David.
Fifteen minutes later, Alex was back in the house, a trail of wet, muddy snow behind him. A weary-looking Ivey and her husband motioned for Alex to go back outside or take off his boots.
Now, Julian was in his mother's lap with the baby, his arms wrapped around her neck.
"On days like this . . . when school is out and they're all home, it can get chaotic," Ivey said.
"But not as chaotic as it's going to get later," chimed in a giggling Julian.
Staff writers Brooke A. Masters, Eugene L. Meyer, Caryle Murphy and Angela Paik contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Jolene Ivey holds son Aaron while Troy, 2, rests on her lap. The family has enjoyed extra togetherness thanks to the snow, as Ivey's four older boys got to watch Aaron's at-home birth during the storm.
CAPTION: Glenn Ivey holds son Troy, 2, while helping Julian, 4, with his snow boots. At rear is Alex, 10. The snow added a twist to the birth of another boy.