This winter has been brutal. I’m not talking about the freezing-your-buns-off, slipping-and-sliding-on-the-sidewalks, snow-up-to-your-armpits kind of brutal. I’m referring to enduring repeated school cancellations due to cold air and slippery streets. (When I was young, we remedied these problems by wearing a thick coat and sprinkling salt on the roads, but I digress.)
After so much togetherness—particularly on the heels of a two-week winter break—everyone finds their breaking point. For me, I couldn’t bear to hear the words “May the force be with you” one more time. As it is, I go to bed with the Imperial March looping in my head. Then when I finally nod off, scores of storm troopers invade my dreams. In an effort to restore my sanity, I declared a moratorium on iPad and television viewing and started to brainstorm ways to not only pass the time but also get a few things accomplished.
If you’re in the same sinking, snowy icy ship as I am, I offer the following suggestions:
- Become a cleaning team! My house is constantly trashed due, in no small part, to my children, God love ’em. I was thrilled when my four-year-old Trevyn went through a fleeting sink-cleaning phase. Sure, he used half a bottle of Bath & Body Works’ foaming hand soap to do it, but my sinks never smelled better. Also, dust is like air. It’s always there, even if you just dusted yesterday, and who are we kidding? You did not just dust yesterday. Give your child a rag and let him have at it. You can also hand him a flashlight and tell him to search for dust bunnies. (Of course, in my house the flashlight quickly became a light saber, but it still serves to entertain for a good 30 minutes.)
- Ask your son or daughter to assist you in shredding the pile of recycled documents that has grown to ridiculous proportions over the past six months.
- Make a game of who can pick up the most pine needles from the family room floor. Winner gets a popsicle. This game works really well fresh into the new year, but you can usually still find a few stray brittle needles on the floor even in the heat of the summer.
- Let your child help you sort through that cluttered closet or overflowing junk drawer. I guarantee eyes will widen as forgotten treasures resurface and the old becomes new again. Your little darling will have a “new” old play thing to occupy herself, giving you time to get organized.
- Vacuum out your car while your child plays in the garage. After several months of being cooped up inside the house, the garage becomes a special playground all its own. “Hey, bubble wands!” “Hey, squirt guns!” “Hey, colored chalk!” They’re in heaven.
- While you do dishes, give your child a fun job like emptying the crumb tray from the toaster. Sure, it’ll make a mess, but let’s get real. Unless you own a dog, your kitchen floor is likely already littered with crumbs.
- My son adores Handy Manny. So I give him toy tools and a “honey do” list and see if he can complete home repairs before my husband does. (It’s entirely possible.)
- Go old-school and build forts by draping blankets over tables and chairs.
- Sort Tupperware. It teaches matching, and you can finally throw out the pieces lacking lids.
- Teach your child a game they don’t know. I got out the Chinese checkers and was astounded to see how excited Trevyn was to play with marbles.
- Do that thing you’re supposed to do every six months but realistically only do when the incessant beeping awakens you at 3 a.m. Go around the house and change all the smoke detector batteries. Believe me, your child’s interest will rise if a ladder is involved.
- Cook together. Last week I made chili while Trevyn concocted his own brand of soup, which consisted of corn flakes, goldfish crackers, and water all mixed together. He was happy so I was happy. Test-testing wasn’t quite such a happy experience, but I survived.
- Brave the great outdoors and sled on melting snow and half-frozen grass. Yes, cleaning mud stains is in your future but this is called childhood.
- Get out pictures and let your child help you scrapbook. Years down the road, it will be evident which cockeyed, over-glued, heavily stickered pages your child assisted you with; therein lies the beauty.
- Sort through your kid’s spring/summer wardrobe to assess what items you’ll need to buy before warm weather hits. This not only prepares you for the upcoming season, but it also helps you see a light at the end of this long, dark, gloomy tunnel called winter.
- Haul out those musty books from your youth. Trevyn loves one of my childhood favorites called “A Fish Out of Water.” It even has an old-time smell buried deep within the faded pages, and that smell sparks welcome nostalgia within me.
- Look through old photo albums and play the “guess who” game. It’s funny how your child will think every baby picture is of her.
- Play the “would you rather” game. Example: “Would you rather live at Cinderella’s castle for a week or eat cupcakes for breakfast for a month?”
- Take your son or daughter to a store with lots of yummy scents and sniff your way through the merchandise. Trevyn and I can easily spend an hour overloading our olfactory systems by sniffing lotions, soaps, perfumes, and candles.
- Turn on music and start singing and dancing. Even when Trevyn is cranky, whenever he hears One Direction’s “Best Song Ever,” his mood dramatically improves (no shocker; that tune is catchy). But my heart melts every time he belts out, “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher. And I must admit, during these snow and ice days, where one 24-hour period melds into the next, those lyrics really speak to my heart.
Please, Lord, bring on spring!
Note: This article first appeared on The Huffington Post on 1/13/15.