Celebrate Winter

I love having four seasons but winter has been the most challenging for me to embrace with my whole heart.

Not as a child mind you. Aside from the "inevitable" colds and flus I experienced, winter as a child was fun. (An aside about colds and flus - my own children are rarely sick, even in winter, and I attribute this to our diet. I really want to write more about this, especially when people are looking to improve their health but just don't have the time these days). Full disclosure: the morning this is set to publish my kids have scratchy, itchy throats. Still rarely sick, but not never.

I feel bad about the way this came across. When will I ever learn?

This is what I meant to say. As a mother, my own enjoyment of winter increased significantly with excellent family nutrition and having children outgrow the "put everything in the mouth stage". I enjoy winter so much more when we are healthy and so we work hard towards this end. 

photo credit: Becky Tougas (My sister in law)

When you've outgrown childhood winter can become a drag. Dark nights, cold cars, and high heating bills. But I'm finding that if I surrender to the season and not fight it the fun factor goes up.

  • Dark nights. Cuddle with your whole family on your bed (the warmest place in our house), reading, playing games and go to bed early.
  • Cold cars. Drive less.
  • High heating bills. Turn down the heat, wear some fun layers and save money.

In truth, my winter fun has increased now that my children have grown past the toddler and preschool age. Nothing against young children, I loved mine dearly. But all parents know that by the time you bundle them up and spend a few minutes outdoors they are ready to come back in. Which works out to 45 minutes of clothing prep and clean up for about 10 minutes of outdoors. Such is life with littles.

As I sit here typing this my children are donning their gear, with minimal help from me, to head outdoors for an hour or so while I write. No wonder I think winter is more fun!

But seriously, enjoying winter is a choice. I'm not always good at making that choice but at least I recognize it as such. I can choose to bundle up for a winter walk or a morning of sledding with my kids or I can give in to the temptation to park my butt down in this computer chair (which I'm doing right now) and miss out on the incredible beauty of winter.

The squeaky crunch of packed snow beneath my boots.

Winter's pink, purple and orange sunset making long shadows of bare trees.

Climbing city snow mounds pretending to summit Mt. Everest.

Sledding down mountain slopes on sparkly winter weekends.

The bright red barberries contrasting the white snow.

Making music with a row of thick hanging icicles.

The beauty of winter is all around, I just need to appreciate and celebrate it, not wish it away. 

Here are a few things we're doing to celebrate winter this month of February. 

  • Go outdoors, every weekend, as a family. We call this one day a week and it's a family ritual. This of course is our big weekly family time but throughout the week the kids and I spend time outdoors together also.
  • Winter camping. This weekend will be our third annual trip to Camden Hills State Park here in Maine. It is the highpoint of our winter. We've added another family to the mix this year. So it will be a full cabin with days outdoors, meals shared and evenings around the fire. 
  • Chinese New Year. For years I've wanted to do something to celebrate Chinese New Year. So why not? And why not make it into a homeschool study while we're at it.
  • Crafting. I think it's about time to use the Staedler Carving Block I've owned since 2009 to make hand carved stamps. I think we'll try some Chinese New Year inspired designs, maybe hearts for Valentines and then let our imaginations go from there.
  • Laurent's birthday. The boy turns 10 this year and I can't wait to make a special day to honor him.
  • Winter reading. I love reading all year round but winter reading is just so cozy. I keep a whole shelf of winter-related books at Goodreads if you're looking for inspiration.
  • Inspirational evenings. The first time I heard of this was in Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning. Inspirational evenings have revolutionized our winter nights. Winter is a time for ideas and evenings with the family are for inspiration (and fun). Adventure stories, documentaries, games and occasional nights out that inspire us to dream, explore and plan for our future with excitement and anticipation. All day I look forward to our inspirational time in the evenings.
  • Homeschool fun. February is a great month to plan a field trip. January is all about getting back to routine but February it's time to mix it up a bit. This month we plan to meet friends at our state museum (free for schools and homeschoolers) and we will join a local homeschool co-op. Our first co-op experience ever. And I don't have to teach anything, though I will volunteer in my kiddos' classes. 

And I think that might be all the fun we can manage for one month. Because there still is that one big project our family is getting ready for - moving out the country in just over 3 months.

Before I know it winter will be over. But I'm not wishing it away. Too much fun to be had in the moment. 

How are you celebrating winter this month?

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  • Whitney @ Nesting Season

    Whitney @ Nesting Season on Jan. 31, 2011, 6:50 a.m.

    Thank you for this, Renee. I've mentioned my recent wrestling with winter lately, wanting to continue embracing it, but having an emotional affair with thoughts of spring. I think what really got me down (this is me being vulnerable; I just read your last post) is that my kids got sick. All of them. As in your family, illness doesn't strike us often, and I attribute that blessing primarily to our diet (whole, organic, and local) and lifestyle. I'm kind of embarrassed that it wasn't enough this time. I know I don't have total control, here, but I also know that I made a couple of choices that might have enabled this trespass.

    We're over all that, though, and moving on. A new month, new perspective . . .

    I'm most excited about joining my husband's family (parents, four siblings, their spouses and kids) for a mountain retreat. Skiing, sledding, feasting, family--the perfect way to send off winter, which will be waning sooner than later in our neck of the woods.

    Lovely imagery in your description of winter's beauty.


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 31, 2011, 11:27 a.m.

      It's ok to be vulnerable and sick kids make winter very difficult. I think age has something to do with it also. My children aren't littles anymore and the older they get the less sick they get. That's definitely part of it. My youngest, who likes sugar the most (the very little we allow her to have), is most prone to getting a bug. Is it her age? A compromised immune system? Who knows. You can do all the right things and bad stuff will still happen. Take heart.


  • Penny

    Penny on Jan. 31, 2011, 12:13 p.m.

    I am loving Winter this year. Despite the cold and snow, I'm seeing the beauty and joy all 'round me, more than ever. Probably has something to do with my sled-loving children ;)

    That is such a great photo of you and your girls!


  • kyndale

    kyndale on Jan. 31, 2011, 4:32 p.m.

    We've been having a really warm winter here. I like it but I also wish we've been having more snow!! Jonathan has been going up to the mountains with the kids and sledding/making snow caves. We haven't managed to go snow camping but I still have a 4 year old. I do love the little ones but it takes on a whole set of challenges. We are planning our summer backpacking trips. We're going to the library and getting all kinds of books to dream. Amelia is particularly interested. I've always wanted to celebrate the Chinese New Year. I'll have to check out your links. I also believe that the way we eat makes us healthier. Some people think it's because we aren't around other kids all day long. But, we do go to co-op, the store, play dates, etc...I think it's our diet that keeps us healthy!


  • Hillary

    Hillary on Feb. 1, 2011, 3:23 a.m.

    I'm just going to soak in this amazing post. Can I come live at your house? We've been having a sick winter. The kids are just so little and snot covered and every time we leave the house they lick something weird and it's a nightmare to convince the 3 year old to wash his hands.

    Cough. cough. ;-)

    Anyways, I'm off to check out your winter reads because I desperately need some new inspiration. Especially for read out loud chapter books for my 6 year old.



    • renee

      renee on Feb. 1, 2011, 1:29 p.m.

      Hillary, you know you're totally right. Little kids are snot factories. I laughed out loud at "every time we leave the house they lick something weird". Yes, yes I remember.

      It is true that little kids get sick more often and I remember one time 4 years ago when all my kiddos were asleep on our futon couch at 12pm, they were just that exhausted from being ill and not sleeping well (mama neither) the night before. That was not a fun winter week, but it is ironically, one of the only weeks from that winter that I actually still remember. And I think fondly about all my babes asleep on the futon together in the middle of the day.

      I guess, like Kyndale said, compared to most families I know with children our age we are very healthy. Maybe because we fought so many germs when they were little!


  • Shelley R.

    Shelley R. on Feb. 1, 2011, 4:17 a.m.

    I've never really battled with winter, call it grace or call it the natural anti-freeze in my system that I'm sure I was born with being a native Minnesotian. The week of Jan. 20th I woke up to 3 or 5 days of negative double digit temps, with the high forcast being maybe at zero and not including wind chill. That was cold, and I know not as cold as some places but you've got to enjoy, celebrate winter to thrive. For a whole week the children and I stayed indoors. And I didn't become crazed. Why? I'm not sure, but I believe it may be with what you mentioned about choice. We choose to not complain. We choose to seek adventures out of the doldrums of boredom. We choose to use those 'stuck inside' days as project days, writing music days, read-aloud days. February will hopefully provide more flexibility for activity for it does warm up in average temp a little.....

    Oh, to address illness. Last year I put together a 'Sick Box' for the kids. The concept is take it out only when someone is sick and it's contents are only available during the illness. Some of what our box includes is: Audio CDs of great books, simple puzzles, bubble bath, a bell to 'ring' for me when throats are sore and it hurts to call for mom, streamers and ribbons (who can feel sick if your room is decorated for a party?) and so on. Funny thing is, not one child has been sick enough to take it out yet! But, I believe it will help whenever that time comes.

    So, that's how we celebrate winter. Recently, my son said, "Mama, snow is more fun than grass!"


  • Kara

    Kara on Feb. 1, 2011, 8:26 p.m.

    Last year, I decided I was going to learn to enjoy winter if it killed me!

    I thought about it a lot and came to the conclusion that my winter aversion comes from really, really disliking being cold.

    So last year was the first year that I made a big effort to outfit my family really well for winter. I spent the fall and early winter weeks knitting hats, mittens, scarves and sweaters (and attempting socks!)

    I found snow pants for everyone at the thrift store and made sure we all had good warm boots. We all put wool socks and long underwear on our Christmas lists. Our one splurge was on good quality coats, bought a little big so they could make it two years for the kids.

    Just being warm has helped me to enjoy winter so much more and worry so much less! Well, that and spending a lot of time planning our garden!!


  • Mel

    Mel on Feb. 1, 2011, 8:32 p.m.

    I love, love, love winter! Cross-country skiing, sledding, soaking in hot springs, ice skating, hiking in the snow--I love it all. And it doesn't hurt to have a warm house and good food to come home to after all the snow play.


  • Francesca

    Francesca on Feb. 2, 2011, 11:28 a.m.

    What beautiful photos! I feel this post is written for me - but as long as I live isolated up here in a cold stone house, and as long as my youngest is in danger with each winter illness, all I can do is wish winter away. Fast. Sorry ...


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 2, 2011, 11:52 a.m.

      Totally understand. If I had children with serious or past health problems (I'm not just talking about the flu or colds here) I would feel the same way. Also, if Damien wasn't so motivated to get out I would also feel different. His motivation to make the most of winter and have fun motivates me as well.

      I better make the most of it, where we are moving there is more winter!


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