Monday, February 17, 2014

Frozen Toes, Warm Hearts. Or Something Like That

Copyright 2014 JSH
The frozen white stuff that falls from the sky, oh we have so much of it. So much fucking snow.

I live in Pennsylvania. It's Winter. Winter in Pennsylvania brings cold temperatures, gloomy skies, frozen white stuff, winds, cold rain. It's expected. Every few years, sometimes several in a row, we get hammered in the Winter. We get storm after storm bringing us snow, sleet, freezing rain, and any other type of frozen precipitation. And brutal cold. This is one of those years. Mama Nature has gone all dramatic with the Winter weather. We've had a constant stream of storms dumping this frozen white shit all over our lawns and streets. We even had an ice storm, which brought down many trees and power lines in this area - the worst natural disaster here since Hurricane Sandy. There are many reasons for this extreme active weather pattern, which also included the Polar Vortex drooping down over half the country like a big saggy frozen boob - there are pressure systems off the East Coast that keep other pressure systems close to the coast, allowing cold air to travel down to us and naughty storms to keep following the same pattern. There's the Jet Stream, which is pretty much just on "lather, rinse, repeat" this year. We've got Climate Change. It's really a thing. Generally, there is a typical interplay of all these systems and atmospheric streams on this planet that control which way storms go, how low temps go, and how fucking batshit crazy we'll go after we've been locked in our frozen homes for the 5th consecutive week. Also, because Obama. Just kidding.

We've had so much damn snow that I, a lover of my gentle Mother Earth, am about to shake my fist at the heavens and scream, "bitch, we ain't the cast of Frozen! Knock this shit off." My son has missed a ton of school. I have lost count of all of the snow days they've had, not to mention the early dismissals and late openings. They have a lot of days to make up. Our last storm, just a few days ago, dumped a foot of snow on us and resulted in two days off from school. Even my 7 year old son rolled his eyes at the forecast, stating that he is sick and tired of snow days. You know it's bad when the kids are complaining. There are only so many crafts, baking activities, and snowman building outings that you can do. Worse, this snow has resulted in about two months worth of rent lost in income. That is bad for a family like mine. While I respect the forces of nature, I'm also ready to get this frozen shit show on the road and get on with some which point I'll be hiding under my bed because of thunderstorms.

My kids have gone out and built so many snowmen and little igloos. We've sledded down the hill hundreds of times. We've thrown snowballs. We've run inside for hot chocolate and tea to warm up our frozen fingers. With the first few snowfalls, you bundle up merrily and run outside with your kids, snapping a billion pictures of every sled trip down the hill and every stage of building a snowman. By the 17th snow storm, complete with 18 inches of snow and ice layered on the ground, you drag yourself out in your pajama pants and boots, and tell your husband to grab a pic from the window with his phone. Snow is so love/hate for me. It's pretty to look at. I love the fact that my kids have such a blast in it. I'm just over it this year. I also believe that I suffer from SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have noticed it for the past few Winters. My mood and my energy level can get quite low during the Winter. I need sun. I am solar powered. Even on the coldest day, if that sunshine comes out, I'm running outside of my front door and spinning around in those golden rays of warmth - until I realize I'm only wearing a sports bra and my yoga pants with the hole in the crotch and that my nipples are indeed frozen solid.

I want to tell you that I spend every snow day curled up with a cozy blanket by the fire, book in one hand and piping hot cup of coffee in the other, warm fuzzy socks peeking out from under the blanket, and a cat on my lap. Such an Instagram moment. I want to tell you that my kids and I spend hours on those days creating all different kinds of crafts out of ecru cardstock, neon sharpies, and organic rose petals, while the aroma of various baked goods filled our home with warmth and sugary love. It's just not the reality. We've got cabin fever, yo, and we all out for blood.

Sure, we've done some crafts. I've got plenty of $1.00 sticky foam craft packs from A.C. Moore to entertain two kids for at least 6 minutes. My son is super artistic and can spend hours at a time working on a drawing or creating something out of things he found in the recycling bin. However, there is a two year old involved and, though she fancies herself an artist, crayons, paper, and stickers will only hold her attention for so long before someone melts down. While I have picked up a book this season, I only read for 5 minute spurts before someone is screaming, "mmmmaaaaaaaaaammmmmaaaaaaaa!!!!" or my two year old  runs in without her pants to inform me that her poop missed the bowl and she stepped in it. We've definitely baked a bit this Winter, so I guess that gets me a nod from Pinterest.

I won't lie - my kids have watched more T.V. than any self-respecting member of Mothering would approve of. I could probably act out quite a few episodes of Curious George or Barney in my sleep. And I sit there, feeling guilty, because nothing that we are doing would be worthy of a white-washed and over saturated Instagram photo or a Pin to someone's "Comfy, Cozy, Family Snow Day" board. I worry that I'm not doing enough for my kids while they're stuck home for another snow day. We're not doing enough crafts. We're not baking enough muffins. I'm not making enough soup in my crock pot (because I don't own one). My house isn't as clean as everyone says it should be when you're spending so much time indoors. In fact, it's trashed....because my kids are wild savages. The guilt seeps in. Dear God, I'm not a good enough mom because I didn't do an ice particle home study with my kids and we didn't create snowman crafts out of organic cotton balls picked by sparkle fairies. Fuck that shit. My cure for mom guilt - getting the hell outside, getting into nature, even if it's a vast gloomy frozen fuckhole at the moment.

Being outside always heals me. To be completely cliché, nature is my Church. I find so much spiritual fulfillment outside in nature. Even in the Winter, when everything is frozen over, half-dead, and gray, I still find beauty. There are birds and other critters who only visit in Winter. Some are here year round, but are more active in the Winter. Winter brings owl humping season, and we occasionally hear the love calls of Great Horned owls. The foxes around here are very active in Winter and their ...ummm.... unique calls are frequent this time of year. Getting outdoors allows me to calm my brain a little bit, focus on simple things such as the color of the sky, clouds, little signs of Spring in the scenery around me. It just helps to ground me.

This Winter, when I have those crappy guilt feelings and I'm out of craft ideas and tolerance for Barney tunes, I grab the winter coats, hats, scarves, gloves, and boots and pack the kids up in the car and drive to one of our favorite parks. We're typically among very few at the park during this time of year, especially when there in snow on the ground. We walk on some paved trails, which are never plowed or shoveled after snow, and then we veer off onto the regular dirt trails. My kids love being out there. They love he change of snow scenery. Instead of snowmen, forts, snowballs and all of the things you do when playing in your yard, they just walk through the snow, taking in all the sites, noticing how the snow changes the landscape and the shape of trees and bushes. They are fascinated by frozen streams, ponds, and lakes. A bonus with snow is animal tracks - it's so much easier to see them, even on a frozen lake. They enjoy trying to figure out which critter made which tracks. I make it a learning experience, but not forcefully so. I let them wander and walk ahead of me (always safely in sight), exploring, and I occasionally remark about something - a sign of spring, a bird we only see in Winter (Junco), vegetation that stays green all year, different berries, etc. They learn, but with ease and without pressure. The wintertime scene in the woods is different than Summer - obviously - as it's quieter, sometimes more serene, not as full of people. You can listen to the sounds of the various birds, or of water cracking the icy surface of a stream, without trying to filter through tons of human voices. It's nice. Peaceful.

So even though it's the same frozen white shit that we have at home, my kids get a change of scenery, I get to refresh myself and clear my brain, and we all get some exercise. Bonus, the 2 year old usually passes out for a good nap on the car ride home.

Outside: You should go there.

Copyright 2014 JSH I will cut you

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