All across Flagstaff, children will be getting ready for bed Wednesday evening in a variety of very unusual ways.
Pajamas will be worn inside out and backwards, nightcaps will be fashioned from underwear, spoons will be distributed around the house and ice cubes will be thrown into toilet bowls and flushed away.
These are just some of the superstitions shared across playgrounds and whispered about in classrooms to help ensure that students have just as much say in the approaching weather as the meteorologists do.
While the decision to cancel school ultimately rests with Mike Penca, Flagstaff Unified School District's superintendent, his students hope that by carefully following traditions enough snow will fall to close school for the day.
As the National Weather Service is tracking a winter storm and forecasting up to two feet of snow on Flagstaff between late Wednesday evening and Friday, Nayeli Carbajal-Pettry, 10, and her brother Jando, 5, aren’t leaving anything to chance.
“Our snow day traditions are that we put three ice cubes down the toilet per kid. So if there are two kids in the house, we put six ice cubes in the toilet, then we brush our teeth with the opposite hands," Nayeli said. "You have to put your pajamas on backwards, and inside out, and before you go to sleep you put a spoon under your pillow.”
When asked if the snow day preparations worked Nayeli swore by them.
“It works every time, at least it’s worked every time we have tried it,” she said. “Sometimes if there’s a fun activity the next day at school and there’s a storm coming, we won’t do the traditions because we want to go to school.”
For Scarlett, 10, and Lilly Ellison, 7, there is some parental disagreement about the effectiveness of wishing for snow days. Travis, the girls' father, told the sisters there was no point in wishing on snow days, as they were not having much success. However, when their mother Shannon and their aunt got involved, the girls luck started to change.
The women shared the “voodoo tricks of the snow day” with the two girls, and Scarlett and Lilly have found success putting those traditions to use.
Scarlett learned the importance of using the right ice cubes.
“We use the small ones because they go down the gutter easily. We used daddy’s bourbon ice cubes once, but they are really big and got stuck in the toilet. We use the right ones because we don’t want another plumbing issue,” the girls said.
In addition to the ice cubes, the Ellison girls also put wooden spoons in their bedroom windows.
“I think wood is more natural with the trees," Scarlett said. We live in a pine forest and putting a wooden spoon in the window gives the snow a place to live like it does in the trees.”
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Adelaide Hart, 9, had heard of putting a white crayon in the freezer.
“I think the crayon has to be white because the snow is white and that relates to the snow day," Adelaide said. "I think that we have to put a metal spoon under a pillow so that we get a snow day. Maybe it’s because when you put a tooth under your pillow, you get money back. So when you put a metal spoon under your pillow, you get a snow day back.”
While many of the snow day traditions are the same in different households across the mountain, the reasons behind them are as varied as the homes where they are taking place.
In Timberline, the five Thom siblings each shared their differing thoughts on influencing the weather.
Russell Thom, 13, goes to bed wearing his underwear like a hat. His sister Emma, 15, puts an orange in the freezer when she is hoping for a snow day.
“I actually have no idea why I do it," Emma said. "I’ve just always associated the freezer with cold and cold with a snow day so why not put an orange in there?”
Elise, 9, puts her pajamas on inside out and backwards. Her sister told her that you wear your pajama’s inside out because “there’s magic inside of you and it comes out when you are wearing stuff. Wearing your stuff inside out lets the magic out.”
Claire, 5, said her snow day tradition was to stack pillows under her bed, explaining it is “because I like to do that and I think that makes a snow day happen.”
Of the five Thom siblings, Hannah, 11, had the most specific thoughts about ice cubes, the toilet and the workers at the sewage treatment plant downstream.
“They put them on the streets so that they are icy and we can’t go to school,” Hannah said of the reasoning behind flushing ice.
Jim Huchel, water reclamation manager for the city of Flagstaff, denied using ice flushed down toilets to make the roads too icy for school buses.
“We’ve noticed that on the night before heavy snow days, we see lots of ice cubes coming on through the wastewater plant. We do not pull those out, we just let them go right on by,” Huchel said with a smile.
When reached for comment on the efforts of thousands of children across northern Arizona working to influence the school schedule Zachery Fountain, FUSD associate director of communications and public relations, said, “We take all sorts of factors into account when calling for a snow day.”