Winter has got to be the most challenging season for stay at home parents. I am going to generalize and throw this out there, kids or not, it’s probably the most difficult season for everyone, no? These colder months all but gently force us into slowing down to a syrupy drip just about everywhere we go, which is rather nice when needing a break from the rush of the holidays…that is until the weather literally traps us indoors and our options narrow greatly. And then there’s the freezing cold, that unpredictable Midwest chill that we’ve come to know so well. Mother Nature can take a sunny week and turn it snowy on a dime! We’ve come to expect that and oddly enjoy this bizarre and unpredictable weather. I know about five people that prefer the colder months to the warmer ones, and although I love these souls dearly, I do not understand them. I am more of a fair weather girl myself…give me a seventy degree day with overcast skies, throw in a trip to the park, and I’m one happy camper. How about you? What’s your favorite kind of weather? I also love a good summer thunderstorm, I think that’s what I tend to miss most these shorter winter days. The smell of the wet earth after rain. Mmm. That’s the good stuff.
As a stay at home mom, I’ve come to look at the seasons in a different way because they affect our days so much. When I taught middle school a few years back, I was out the door rain or shine, but now that I’m home with the kids we tend to to plan our day around what’s going on outside these old, drafty windowpanes. And although this winter in particular started out as a challenge for me, it really has gotten so much better over time. In fact, this one has come to be one of my very favorites winters ever. My body and mind deeply needed this seasonal pause. Although I didn’t fully understand how weary I was at the time, I was badly craving it. These months have been able to give me such a welcomed reprieve. This was the season of figuring out delicate and raw matters of my heart, and with thankfulness, I have come out on the other end with a new appreciation for the slow that is winter, ready to see what spring beholds. But in the mean time, we have our days at home.
As wonderful as it is that I have been able to appreciate this winter more than ever before, it can be pretty difficult when at home all day with little ones. On stir crazy days where I’d normally scoot the kids outside to play on the porch or to run around the front yard, that’s not really an option. Or I suppose I is, but then I’d have to gear all three up and layer them like crazy, going through the whole scarfs and hats and boots rigamarole. With three babes that takes like a half and hour for maybe five to ten minutes of solid play? Sometimes it’s worth it. Most times it’s not. I’ll be honest, we are not much for frozen finger tips, so we stay indoors and fill our days with far too many carbs and endless games. We skip out on playdates and trips to the library when feeling cozy, and replace them with warm living room fires and movies and long naps in mama’s big bed. We generally spend a lot of time in the same room, trying not to drive each other nuts.
Now that this is my fourth year as a mama I’ve really come to understand the importance of routine and rhythm when caring for little ones at home. It helps me out in so many ways, and also serves as a constant comfort the kids continue to appreciate. They know what to expect and it eliminates the guessing game for everyone. As you can presume, winter rhythms are much different than our summer ones because we’ve pretty much taken out the ample time spent outside going for long walks and digging in the garden. That’s not to say we never go outdoors, it’s just far less than in the other seasons.
Once the new year rolls around and the excitement of Christmas has faded, it’s really important for us to stay grounded in a simple and consistent routine. The kids respond really well to this, for they seem to eat better, sleep better, and play harder when working within a foundation they are familiar with. What we have settled into seems to be working well for everyone, which is just dandy because it’s just about time to switch it up again for spring! Ha. That’s parenting though, right? Just as soon as you’ve figured something out it’s time to change it up again. Thank God for little ones to always keep us on our toes. Here’s our family’s typical winter rhythm, probably in far too much detail. But you know, just as I love taking a peek into the homes of others, I too love a candid look at how families with little ones spend their days. Here is ours in the winter time:
3:00 AM – Alfie usually stirs around this time, crying out in Stella’s room for mama, ready root around and nurse. I am usually a really deep sleeper, that is until one of our little ones cries. During these middle of the night feedings I’ll scoop him up and take him into our bed. I’ll wrap the warm covers over our tired bodies as he fills his little belly and I am able to find comfort and relief in letting down. We could let him cry it out but I’d rather just snuggle and feed him. If he’s not awake at this time, I wake him gently to nurse as I am always really full at that point. It works for us both. When he’s done and usually back asleep, I will rub one drop of calming lavender oil on his fuzzy head, place him back in his tiny wood crib, and he’ll sleep until seven, sometimes eight.
5:00ish AM – Theodore is the first of our family to wake up ready to start his day. His first request is cuddles and then a baba. We are trying to break the warm milk bottle habit, but he loves it dearly. And again, we could let him cry it out in his crib, but we’d rather cozy up with him in our bed. It’s clear he is comforted by this precious morning time with his mom and dad, and so are we. They are only so little for so long.
6:00 AM – Generally by this hour, we are all downstairs in the kitchen with me brewing coffee, an absolute necessity to starting my day. Andrew and I have been hooked on chicory coffee ever since we lived downtown and we brew it in our Chemex or espresso machine depending on what we’re craving. Either way, it’s delicious. The kids usually mosey on in once the coffee is made and settle into the kitchen nook to have breakfast. Lately we’ve been having sweet maple oatmeal, homemade bread and raspberry preserves with some sort of citrus, like grapefruit sprinkled with sugar. We’re also big egg lovers, too. I’ll crack half a dozen in our skillet and cook them sunny side up with a little bit of smashed avocado on top. That’s a house favorite for sure. We are routine breakfast eaters in this house and I like that it keeps the morning snacking to a minimum.
7:00 – 9:00 AM – The kids usually take this time to hang out in the living room playing with their toys while watching a few shows. Andrew is usually able to be home most mornings to help out since he’s able to make his own hours, so I’ll throw in a load of laundry and unload the dishes right away before heading into the dining room to write, edit photos, respond to emails and figure out what needs to be done that day. My mind is freshest in the morning with hot coffee nearby, so this time is always the best for me to be creative and most productive when it comes to organizing priorities. Some of our current favorite TV shows for little ones are: Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, Daniel Tiger, Little Einstein’s & The Magic Schoolbus. Games the kids are loving right now are building castles and towers with blocks, matching, racing cars and trains, sorting shapes, barbies, and playing with their baby dolls. I’d love to hear house favorites of yours!
9:00 – 10:00 AM – This winter we’ve been dedicating time each morning to music and art before the boys goes down for their naps. I have been so uplifted by classical music this season. We have a few presets on our music system and I’ll turn that on while the kids make creations together. I find instrumental music to be so soothing and inspiring. It’s a much better alternative to hearing the TV in the background which to be honest, tends to stress me out and make my mind race. We created a little art station for them and they’ll have at it with their paper and supplies. I try to be in the same room as them so they don’t paint the walls, but most days I will pop upstairs to do a few chores here and there. We have so much dirty laundry in this house that if I don’t do one load per day it gets out of hand fast.
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Nap time for the boys. We’ll start by reading a few books in the nursery, lately about trucks and farms and anything with an engine, and then I’ll spray their linens with my lavender oil & chamomile oil spray. After I tuck them in and lay them down, I always rub a little essential oil on their toes or on the crown of their head. They love this ritual and Theodore now requests it. This has been our routine since Stella was little and it works so well for us. Laying them both down at the same time is wonderful for me. Not only does it give me a little break to shower or make phone calls, but it gives me one on one time with Stella. I like using this time to prep for supper and spend time in the kitchen. On days these more time consuming chores are a priority, I will set Stella up with an activity to keep her engaged in something like a puzzle or game. She also enjoys helping me peel carrots, sweeping, and helping me sort clothes. Never too early to let them join in!
12:00 PM – Lunch time. Again, we head to our kitchen nook to eat.
1:00 – 4:00 PM – This time really varies depending on what day it is. On days that Stella has preschool, the boys and I will spend time at home playing together. Alfie goes down for his second nap sometime during this stretch and just like I had one on one time with Stella in the morning, I get to be with Theodore one on one. Lately we’ve been making car villages with his blocks. He also is a big helper in the kitchen and likes talking about all the ingredients I am using to make supper. I’ll ask him to point out various veggies and tell me the colors which we are working on. These times I get to spend with my babies by themselves without anything distracting us is such a gift.
5:00 PM – Andrew is likely home by this time and I am usually in the kitchen finishing up supper. Stella will help me set the table, placing cloth napkins and forks at each setting. That was always my favorite job as a little girl and I adore seeing her helpful spirit precisely set the utensils down just so. During the week we have early meals because it gives us more time hang out as a family before bedtime or do baths, so five o’clock means supper’s on!
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM After eating, Andrew and I will clean up the kitchen together while the kids run around, Alfie usually trying to crawl up our legs. We both love waking to a clean kitchen in the morning, so getting this space back into shape after supper is a priority. Plus, it never takes too long with the both of us working away. After that, we all head into the living room to be with one another before going upstairs to do bedtime rituals. The couch becomes a wrestling mat and every bin gets dumped. If a fire is not already rolling, Andrew will start one. This time is our favorite to just be with one another in the same room before the little ones go to bed. With these shorter days, we tend to get the kids down well before eight. Some nights they are ready by seven! It just depends on what we have done that day and how tired they are, nevertheless our ritual stays the same.
7:30 PM – Bedtime for the munchkins. For us, consistency for naps and bedtime is so important. Either Andrew or I will read Stella and Theo a story or two after change the boy’s diapers. All three get into jammies and the oldest two get their teeth brushed. We’ll give their dry skin some moisturizing with a gentle baby body butter which also calms the and helps them sleep. At some point, I will nurse Alfie in my room where it’s quiet and dark, getting him ready for a good night’s rest, and to keep warm, I will get him cozied up in a sleep sack. Each bed gets sprayed with a lavender linen spray and we will diffuse calming oils in their rooms while they sleep. This season I do two drops of thieves to keep them healthy and then four drops of lavender or chamomile. We turn on the night lights and say prayers and it’s big lights out. Right now Alfie is in Stella’s room because Theodore is still in his crib. He has no motivation to sleep in his big boy bed and we are not pushing it. We’ve found that forcing them into stages they are not ready for doesn’t do much good. He always gets a good ten plus hours of sleep and that’s all we want for his growing body right now.
8:00 PM – After the kids have been put to bed Andrew and I love opening a bottle of wine and relaxing by the fire. We’ll watch a movie or a show we have saved on DVR. Lately we have been all about Fixer Upper because Chip and Jojo are the bees knees. We also love getting into series on Netlix like How to Make a Murderer, Broadchurch and Chef’s Table. No matter what we’re doing really, we cherish this time we have together where we get to catch up as a couple without the sound of little ones running around to distract us. As much as we love our babies and all the silly noises they make, it’s so important for us to keep these hours for one another. It keeps our foundation strong and gives us an opportunity to reconnect as husband and wife at the end of the day. One night a week we get a sitter and date each other, giving us both something special to look forward to. We both switch off deciding what to do and where to go, which always makes it a surprise for the other person. This winter we have both bed retiring to bed rather early. With is getting so dark so early, it’s easy to do, and there’s no better comfort than snuggles in a warm bed.
I wasn’t kidding, that was a lot. Hopefully you found a peek into our typical winter days interesting! What are some of your winter family rituals, things that serve as a constant for your family? I’d love to hear more about the things you all find comforting during this slow season.