Winter blahs? Nah.
As winter rages on in some part of the US, a stay-at-home mom of an infant finds ways to keep the walls of her apartment from closing in.
I became a stay-at-home mom at Christmas time, and since I was so excited to finally be home full time with my 10-month-old daughter, it was a pretty easy transition for the first month or so.
But recently, I started going stir crazy. What I normally considered a pleasantly small one-bedroom apartment started feeling like a broom closet, especially when I realized that the baby could crawl across the entire length of our home in about five seconds.
I started preparing dinner at 3 p.m., even though my husband doesn't get home from work until 6 p.m., so it would feel like the long afternoon stretch was shorter.
And as snowstorm after snowstorm continued to bombard Boston, I started feeling sluggish, since it wasn't very wise to take my little one out during storms and single-digit temperatures.
The Monitor reported in January that the US is seeing its coldest temperatures in almost two decades, not very baby friendly. Getting her dressed to go outside is a real wrestling match as she wriggles out of her snow pants, heavy jacket, mittens, booties, and hat. Poor thing, she can barely move, much less hold a toy to play with as I shop for groceries or stand in line at the post office.
Even with all the winter gear, her cheeks get really cold as soon as we step outside. So we stay in, for the most part. And the apartment keeps shrinking the more time we spend within its walls.
On the phone with a mom friend one afternoon, I confided that it has been tough being inside much more than when I worked outside the home.
She told me, "if you're not having fun, neither is your kid. Make it fun for you and she will love it!"
So in that spirit, I set out to make sure we have the most fun possible while cooped up at home. The activities I found we both enjoy and make the indoor days go by faster.
Music is a must. What is it about music that brings us together and lifts our spirits? Songs such as Pharrell Williams' "Happy" and Smash Mouth's "Believer" never fail to get my head bopping, feet tapping, and face smiling. The baby loves clapping along when she sees me busting a move.
At bath time, I make it extra fun by singing Raffi's "Baby Beluga" and "Down by the Bay" as the baby splashes around with fingers and toes pruning from the long time in the tub.
For an especially raucous afternoon, we form a Tupperware band. I pull out wooden spoons and measuring cups for my daughter to bang on Tupperware, and if I can stand the noise, give her the pots and pans, too.
Sometimes, I even flex my little-or-no-TV rule, make a mosh pit of blankets and pillows, and watch a kid-friendly movie such as "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." With its fantastic music and good moral messages, I don't feel guilty about giving her more screen time than usual.
Special treats make snowed-in days much more enjoyable. We love snuggling up with some special books, particularly board books, since my teething baby enjoys chewing on all things put in her hands. Reading is great for her development because she hears a bunch of new words and sounds, strengthening her budding vocabulary. Plus, her attention span increases as she practices sitting still and listening.
Another perfect winter treat is making homemade bread in our bread machine. It's easy, makes our home smell amazing, and tastes so much better than the store-bought kind.
My daughter also absolutely loves when I fashion a makeshift wagon out of a cardboard box for her to take a ride in. I cut a hole toward the top in the front and run a blanket through to pull the box around and she giggles gleefully.
Just because we're snowed in doesn't mean we have to be completely disconnected from our community of friends and family. Skype is an essential tool for keeping us connected – it’s like we're right in each other's living rooms. Or better yet, I invite folks to come on over if the weather's not completely impassable.
When the snow emergency lifts and the plows have done their work, we bundle up and attend our weekly story time at the local library, take daily walks around the neighborhood (waving at everyone we pass), and attend all kinds of fun events run by our local Meetup group for moms.
Remembering that we're in this together with other parents around the country really helps keep the winter doldrums at bay. Talking with older friends puts this winter in perspective.
Anytime I complain about the cold, a grandmother-type friend tells me about the winter of 1978, when a blizzard with more than two feet of snow (27.5") was dumped on Boston from Feb. 6-7. Even worst was the blizzard of Feb. 24-27, 1969, when it snowed for a record 101 consecutive hours. Suddenly, this winter doesn't seem so unbearable.
One thing's for sure, I can't wait to just slip on my flip flops, hoist the baby up on my hip, and go outside to enjoy some sunshine. It will be so well-deserved this year, after such a brutal winter. We'll really appreciate it when the thaw comes.
The good news is that it's already almost March. Buck up, parents, the worst is likely over already, and the beach will be calling your name soon.