Wednesday, January 18, 2017

6 Tips for Winter with Littles (From a Mom Who has FAILED)

As a native Wisconsinite who as spent the past four years pregnant or breastfeeding, you’d think I’d be prepared for winter with little kids. And yet, I’ve failed. Miserably. On the bright side, I’ve compiled a list to help my fellow mommies not suck at winter!

1. Know Thyself,  Know Thykids, Know Thyclimate

In warmer months, I love to take my kids on walks down and back our dead-end road. I enjoy it so much that this November I started devising plans for how to keep up the habit through winter in our rural area. I would need snowshoes. Maybe a ski conversion kit for the stroller. A weather shield? Where were those winter boots I had bought Freshman year of college?

Soon enough the first cold snap hit and I remembered I HATE WINTER! Short of full snowmobile gear and helmet, no amount of motion-allowing clothing can protect you from weather that literally hurts your face.

Add little kids into the equation, and I was soon buried in an avalanche of reasons to just stay inside. Otto can’t do anything in the snow aside from being snuggled into his infant carrier. Victor can't walk in snow up to his knees. Louisa the threenager has an epic meltdown when five snowflakes make their way into her mitten-sleeve gap.

Now, I do realize that there are rare families who truly enjoy winter, and kudos to those silly folks! But I’ve finally come to the self-realization that my standard response to “Do you wanna build a snowman?” is going to be “Only if there’s a gun to my head!”

2. Get Active Indoors

That said, we drive each other crazy when we're cooped up inside (which has happened more often in these past few weeks as the kids have been home more while my mom helps with the farm in my dad's absence). A few extra episodes on PBS gives me enough time to tidy up the house, but leaves them at even more of an activity-deficit when I turn it off.

Lately I’ve been trying to make sure they get some gross-motor activity worked into their day. We’ve learned the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance. They’ve been playing tag, catch, hide-and-seek, anything to get them moving. I know girlfriends who have also had success getting their kids to play along with work-out videos, although I imagine that going downhill fast.

Bonus Tip: If you're going to spend the day indoors, you might as well stay in Pajamas. Also, gender-normativity is optional when it comes to PJs.

When cabin-fever really hits, we try to get out of the house…to other indoor places. Children’s museums, libraries, indoor pools/waterparks are all great places to explore in winter. Our usual standby, though, is just houses of friends with kids. It’s free and social and unlike those other great places, our friends serve drinks!
3. Prepare for the Shit-Show that Is Getting them Out the Door

When we do decide to open the door to the frozen tundra, it is not a pleasant experience. I seriously lacked preparation for this come December when we experienced our first sub-zero temps. I had already come to grips with the fact that they weren’t going outside anyways, so I had decided that there was no need yet to voyage through the black hole that is The Entry Closet to find mittens. The baby would be piled up with blankets, and the bigger ones could simply tuck their hands into coat sleeves until we got out to the car.

Cue the sub-zero temperatures, and I found myself sitting in a car amid blood-curdling screams that their hands were going to fall off! With premonitions of blackened appendages and a horrified mother-in-law (she was the babysitter that day), I ran back through the cold into our house and scurried around to find socks which would suffice for mittens for the day. Fortunately, my mother-in-law has a great sense of humor and a few tricks up her sleeve. She had a couple extra pairs of mittens (the ones that have an over-the-sleeve addition rock!) which she sewed to a ribbon and strung through the kids’ coat sleeves. Problem solved!

4. Mind Carseat Safety

Carseats and winter jackets don’t mix. Check out YouTube for some alarming examples of how hazardous winter jackets can be. I’ve been aware of this for a while but couldn’t figure out what to do about it. Infant carriers are helpful for the little ones, who can be buckled in with their clothes and then either piled with blankets or zipped into a fleece snuggler (although, do remember to unpile the blankets on longer car trips so baby doesn’t overheat). But what could I do about the older kids? We already know they’re not interested in getting frostbite. Then in the maternity ward last February a kind nurse told me about carseat ponchos that allow you to buckle the child under the outerwear. I wasn’t about to shell out $50 each on Etsy, and they looked simple enough to DIY, so I made plans to tackle them myself.

Only I don’t sew. (Know Thyself.)

Fortunately, my support network is pulling through again! A friend has volunteered to sew ponchos for my kids for the low, low price of the cost of fleece and her choice of a High Five or a Big Hug.

5. Don’t Freak-Out Over the Immune-Boosting Winter

This is a working theory based on all three of my kids and confirmed with a handful of friends. It seems that in the first few years of life most children go through what I call the Immune Boosting Winter in which they will be a constant snot factory for three solid months while sanctimonies clutch their precious babies to shield them from your spawn’s germ-spewing cough.  Depending on factors such as daycare, breastfeeding, other siblings, etc., this may hit in the first or second year. My baby’s going through it now (oh, how I wish I had kept breastfeeding him a few more months!).

There’s not much you can do about it. They don’t make cold medications for babies. Keep the nose as clear as possible (these booger suckers work better than traditional nasal aspirators), elevate them at night with a pillow under the crib mattress, use a vaporizer, and just wait. it. out. Keep a thermometer on hand as a fever of 103 degrees or above (if baby’s over six months) is a legit reason to haul them to the doctor. For a cold, anything less is futile.

If a well-meaning grandma or aunty does convince you to go through with the daunting feat of leaving the house in winter into the swarming virus hive that is the clinic, you’re experience will probably look something like this:

Doctor (looking into screaming child’s ear): “Well, he doesn’t have a fever, and it doesn’t look like he has an ear infection…”

Me (desperately apologetic): “I know…it’s probably just a cold….but it’s been so long…”

Doctor (checking watch and mentally noting how quickly he needs to get me out of here to get back on track with appointments): “You know, it does look just a little red. Why don’t I write you out a prescription for an antibiotic just in case.”


I know about antibiotic resistance, and I know it’s probably not an ear infection. I don’t want to start a course of antibiotics and be second-guessing myself for the next ten days. At the same time, I don’t want to be back here in a few days to get a prescription when he does have a fever. Here’s a trick I’ve learned: have the doc write out the scrip, but don’t have it filled right away. If the kid doesn’t have a fever, there’s no harm in waiting a few days, and it’s much easier to send hubby to the pharmacy later.

6. Enjoy the Sunshine While You Can

Honestly, I may have exaggerated when I said I hate winter. To be precise, I’m picky about winter. I don’t mind being outside in winter as long as it’s: 1) 20 degrees or above, 2.) not windy, 3.) daylight (meaning before 4:30 pm).

It’s not often, but every once in a while my criteria are met on a weekend when I can actually take advantage of it. I try to make the most of these moments, relishing the sun on my face and making sure we get photographic proof that I did indeed take them outside during the winter of 2017.


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