For a moment, all was quiet in the Beasley household.
Gaynell Beasley, a Vienna mother of two, had just finished vacuuming and settled into a window seat in the family room when the banging started.
"Mommy, open the door!"
In came 4-year-old Alexis and 13-year-old Timothy, trailing melting ice, discarded outerwear and rapid-fire requests.
"Mom, can you make some Tater Tots?"
"Mommy, I want a hot dog cut in half -- with chips!"
"I'm going to stay inside for the rest of the day," Alexis declared.
That's not quite what Mommy, a scientist at Science Applications International Corp. in McLean, wanted to hear, but she sighed, put away their jackets and mentally calculated how much work she could still get done. Could she answer that e-mail while they ate lunch? Or would she do it after they went to bed? Or could it wait for a new dawn?
The first few snow days always have a holiday feel. But as they pile up -- today is the third in a row for many area school districts after the Monday holiday -- working parents say one snow day equals two work days -- because, while they stay home to operate a snowbound household, they feel obliged to keep office hours as well.
"I start work by 5 a.m., and by the time they wake up, I've put in four hours," said Beasley, 46, who recently remodeled her kitchen to give her computer a strategic view of the family room and the stove. "When my daughter takes a nap, I can do something. The two hours they watch TV is the two hours I can work."
A half-dozen videos -- including "Learning About Numbers," "Beethoven" and "Malcolm X" -- were stacked on the television, just feet away from Beasley's makeshift office. As hot dogs boiled and Tater Tots baked, Beasley logged on to her e-mail and learned that Fairfax County schools would be closed today -- again.
"I am definitely working tonight," she said. "And I will be up very early tomorrow."
This morning, Beasley planned to drive to her office and pick up some paperwork to make her time at home more productive. Her husband, Keith, a dentist, plans to return to work today after days spent shoveling, playing with the kids and writing an article for a dental journal.
True to her training, Beasley has her family's schedule down to a science. On regular school days, she leaves the house at 6:58 a.m. to drop Timothy off at the bus stop. She returns at 7:02 -- "7:03, if I am running late" -- to feed Alexis and braid her hair. She tries to be at her office by 8:30. Timothy has Boy Scouts on Monday nights, saxophone lessons on Tuesdays, basketball practice throughout the week. Alexis has piano lessons on Wednesdays.
This week, Beasley pieced together a schedule day by day, not knowing when normalcy might return and finding some comfort in the fact that her children haven't had to be anywhere but home.
"During the snow days, you're not watching the clocks," she said. "The snow allows us to slow down."
With that, she turned away from her e-mail account to tend to a crying Alexis, who said she wanted to play.