Keys to Winter Survival for the Stay-at-Home Mom

The winter here in Iowa has been pretty brutal. Or at least that’s what I hear from non-stay-at-homers who actually have to get out in the weather. It’s true, the kids and I have pretty much spent the winter indoors, sheltered from sub-zero temperatures and blowing snow. So when I see memes on Facebook that say things like, “The air hurts my face. Why am I living in a place where the air hurts my face?” or “Just finished shoveling the driveway. Better go shovel the driveway,” I probably laugh a little bit harder than the guy who’s out there with a ski mask and a snow blower.

I don’t know whether to feel bad about my warm and sheltered stay-at-home privilege or whether to feel just plain wise for it, but either way, I can still claim that I’m experiencing the harsh elements in my own right. It’s called having four young children cooped up in the house because it’s too cold to play outside. (And this is where my fellow homeschooling moms begin nodding their heads in understanding agreement.)

Fortunately, we’ve found a few keys to keeping the cabin fever at bay.

1. Embracing Opportunities for (Indoor) Physical Activity

DMMB Play DateKids need to run. When they can’t do it outside, they find a way to do it inside. In my house, that usually translates to four kids racing through the living room and kitchen, making so much noise I can’t even think. I’m okay with that, but only to a certain point. (There is only so much loud commotion this momma can handle.) That’s where our outings for indoor physical activity become important. In addition to our weekly homeschool P.E. class and midweek church activities that give the kids a chance for exercise, all of our kids have a sporting practice each week where they can expel pent-up energy. We also try to attend one Des Moines Moms Blog play date each month, and during the wintertime, these often revolve around giving the kids an indoor place to run and play. What an invaluable outlet!

2. Encouraging Creative Play

Rainbow Loom BraceletMy kids have a lot of nice toys that give them hours of enjoyment, but going into this winter, I knew I wanted to equip them with some hands-on activities that would engage them in a productive sort of way. We were thrilled when they received Rainbow Loom® and Bandaloom™ kits for Christmas. We knew they’d be a hit, but we didn’t realize they would be THE activity of the season. All four of my kids spend hours out of their days, several days a week, making little rubberband creations. Not only does it keep them busy and happy, but it also gives them a creative outlet and a bonding opportunity as they sit and “loom” together. And thanks to YouTube and the iPad, they can work independently with little to no help from me.

3. Extending Permission for Gaming

Disney InfinityI tend to say no a lot when it comes to electronic devices. My son gets to play on his iPod a few hours a week, and my daughters play on our tablets even less than that–most weeks, not at all. But I do realize that kids need an outlet for adventure, especially when they’re trapped in the house, so I have loosened my grip on gaming control some this winter. Instead of conceding to more time on the handheld devices, however, we opt for the more interactive and group-play nature of the Wii U. “Santa” gave our family Disney Infinity for the Wii U this Christmas, and the kids have enjoyed their hours spent together, adventuring through the infinite possibilities the game affords.

What have been your best cabin-fever reducers this winter?

I Am the Slowest Shopper Ever.

Why am I so indecisive? I don’t think I used to be paralyzed by options, but I seem to be getting increasingly that way since becoming a mom. Or maybe since becoming a wife. With only nine months separating the two, who can be sure….

It’s kind of frustrating, really. I don’t have time to stand around debating options. My husband – and now my kids – know I’m the slowest shopper ever. I used to defend myself, but I’ve moved on to just sharing in their pain. After all, living with my own indecision isn’t always pleasant.

I went to Target yesterday to buy some new shower curtain liners, soap dispensers, and decorative towels. Easy, right? At least that’s what long-suffering little Abel said after minutes on end of watching me mull over potential color schemes. “No, it isn’t,” I told him. “It should be easy, but it isn’t for me.”

Maybe it’s my perfectionism? Or my particular-ism? Maybe it’s a fear of making a wrong decision. Or maybe it’s just my lack of ability to visualize. Whatever it is, it rends me a slow shopper. Period.

I guess there is a positive side: my kids are learning patience, my hubby doesn’t suffer for my hasty decisions (what are those?), and my bathrooms will look just like I hoped. I hope.

What about you? Are you more or less decisive since becoming a parent?

Achieving Greatness

Sometimes I get hung up on this idea of achieving greatness… almost feeling like I wouldn’t be doing enough with my life unless I dream big things and do big things. But what if big (whatever “big” is) isn’t in the cards for me? What if average and ordinary is all there is?

I came across a video in my Twitter feed today of the nation’s oldest known working teacher celebrating her 100th birthday. The woman looked fabulous – not a day over 80. Abel, watching the video from over my shoulder, said, “Wow, God must have something really special for her.” One hundred years old and still teaching Home Economics 35 hours a week? Something special indeed.

It kind of makes me wonder, “Why?…

The mystery of life and death and the number of our days grasps me at times and holds me down with a healthy fear of how very, very small I am. That there is a huge eternity waiting on the other side of this mortal existence, the next breath of which we have no promise, just absolutely blows my mind. I cannot comprehend it.

Just before Christmas, my 82-year-old grandma was conversing with a friend. “My kids are special,” and “God is so good,” she had said. Hours later, she passed away in her sleep. As that story was shared at her funeral, tears of joy welled up in my eyes. At what was to be the end of a long, rich life, my grandma’s ponderings had been on those she loved most… and they had deeply touched us who loved her most.

To think of the existence that was hers…. The experiences she learned from. The hardships she lived through. The missions she accomplished. The people she touched…. The number of days God gave her… and the moment that completed them.

My grandma wasn’t rich or famous. She didn’t do abnormally awesome things with her life. She just lived it. And her impact was huge. She was the mom who raised the mom who raised me, a mom. And even if that were all her ordinary life had encompassed – motherhood – it would still be extraordinary.

So the next time I get hung up on someone else’s idea of achieving greatness, I’m sure I’ll think of my grandma. Because living the life you have been given, no matter how average and ordinary it may seem, is about as great as it gets.

3 generations of moms. Miss you, Grandma.

3 generations of moms. Miss you, Grandma.

4 Books I’m Reading Right Now

It’s no secret around my house that I LOVE BOOKS. Our shelves are bursting with them, as is my heart at the thought of enjoying them. My biggest trouble with books – other than finding enough places to shelve them – is finding (or making?) the time to read them. I do better at some times than at others. I managed to stay busy with books this past summer, and my resolve to read has continued into the school year.

Currently, I’m in the midst of four books. I don’t typically read more than one book at a time because, inevitably, one seems to trump the others until I’ve turned the final page. However, these current four are so uniquely invigorating that I find myself carrying all of them with me at all times, torn over which I ought to open next.

4 Books I'm Reading

Towel of Babel by Bodie Hodge

I picked this book up while at the Creation Museum this summer. Intrigued by the history and common origin of nations, I took a chance on what looked to be a far-too-scholarly read for me and brought it home. As it turns out, the book has not been as intellectually threatening as I had feared, but it has been more intellectually – and spiritually – stimulating than I expected.

To consider how this singular event – the confusion of the languages at the Towel of Babel – changed the history of the world both enlarges my view of God and makes closer my view of “distant” nations.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

This little book was recommended to me by a writer-friend as a good authority on the usage of the English language. I know plenty of people who would shudder at the thought of reading through rules of grammar, composition, form, and usage; but I find such topics invigorating. In fact, when the watching of the football game from my leather recliner threatened to lull my tired eyes to sleep on Saturday afternoon, I dove into the chapter on “Elementary Rules of Usage” and perked right up.

Am I weird? Probably. But unashamedly so. :-)

Unleash the Writer Within by Cecil Murphey

This book was assigned to the Christian Writers group I’ve joined, and I was so excited to start reading it that I could hardly endure the two-day wait while it shipped. I love a book that makes me think, and four chapters in, I’m already pausing to ponder such questions as,

Why do I write?

What is behind my burning desire to express myself with words? 

Do I accept myself for who I am? and

Whom do I wish to please?

I pray expectantly that God will use the answers to these questions and more to speak to me and through me as I seek to live out a life of purpose and passion.

The School Story by Andrew Clements

Okay, so this is a read-aloud from our 2nd grade homeschool curriculum, but I include it here because I’m enjoying it just as much as (secretly, more than) the kids are. A book about a sixth grader who writes a novel and attempts to get it published, this fictional story of an unlikely author is inspiring to me.

Who knows…. Maybe even as I deepen my view of the world, grow my writing skills, and unleash my inner writer, I’m at the beginning of an unlikely story of my own. :-)

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