Sunday, December 20, 2009

"It's a Beautiful Day Out Here!"

These are the words spoken by my youngest the other day. It was 7:45 A.M. Eleven degrees. I was wrestling him into his car seat, trying to strap him in despite his puffy coat, hat that was crammed down over his eyes, mittens on upside-down, slush-covered pantlegs and one boot falling off.

I snapped to attention. Only moments before, I'd been silently griping to myself about my lost mittens, the icy air, the slush. I was annoyed that I had to scrape the car windows (again) and we were running late (again.) And it wasn't sunny outside, and I was cold.

How often do you comment on the weather these days? To friends, family, to your kids? How much of what you say is positive?

What does the winter season mean to you? To me, it means many different things: glorious shining snow, owls hooting, animal tracks and sledding...but I also think of being cold, of the flu, of hot uncomfortable coats, boots, slush, lost mittens, car-scraping and how we've gotta weatherproof our old drafty house. It sucks the enthusiasm right out of me. And why is it so easy and automatic to focus on the negative things rather than the positives? (just look at the size of each of my lists!)

During winter I try to be mindful of what I focus on so that I can help my kids find positive things to focus on too...their experiences are so shaped by what we adults say and do, how we react to things. I want to know what their experience of winter is like, untainted by mine.

So what do you talk about when the weather is not quite what you like?

When we all traipse outside and it's a nose-freezing 2 degrees, rather than say what I am tempted to say (Crap! It's COLD!) I comment instead on how sunny it is. How pretty the tree looks covered in snow. I wonder out loud what the dog thinks of this weather. I'm not overly saccharine or fakey, I just shift my attention a bit.

If it's too early, or I'm crabby and I can't think of a single positive thing, as was the case the other day, I take Thumper's advice: "If you can't say something nice, don't say nuthin' all." And when that happens, more often than not, my kids will say something nice so I don't have to.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Special Dark

One of the best things about wintertime is how early the darkness sets in. (I know, I know, this is also one of the worst things about wintertime, too)

In the summer, we have to wait so long until it's really dark, it can be a rare treat to experience the darkness outside. But in the winter, there's often time to play outside for a little while in the evening, before bed. And, up here in the hinterlands, it gets good and dark very early.

How often do you play outside at night? There is something just wonderful about playing outside in the darkness. Things look different. Even here in the city, most nights, we can see stars. At least a few. That's really exciting. And the moon, seen from the backyard, rather than through a window? That's thrilling too! It can be so exciting to experience familiar places like one's own backyard, or the sandbox, or even the driveway and a sidewalk or path you've walked every day, suddenly in the dark. It takes on a specialness that is almost sublime.

And what is the first thing we noticed when playing outside the other night? Things are quieter. Which somehow seems to encourage children to be quieter. Very few cars drive by. We can hear dogs barking from a few blocks away. We move more slowly, as if checking out the terrain for the first time (and, in a way, we are.) The snow (if you're lucky enough to be outside, at night, during a snowfall) twinkles and sparkles in the dark. You can create your own snowfall by throwing a shovelfull up into the sky, then watching it fall.

The snow on the ground casts a special glow that is just incredible to play in. Snow angels look more angelic. Everything is more enchanting.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bring it on

The snow is coming! It's been lightly snowing all day here and the past couple of mornings we've found snow on the ground when we got up. It's supposed to stay in the 20's or below this week. The kids are beside themselves.

So this is it! Winter is finally upon us. This morning the kids could barely contain their excitement. L looked at me after she had her face pressed against the window, "The snow is coming, the snow is coming! Are you sad?"

Now granted, it's no secret which season I prefer. Despite this, I do know how to have a good time in the winter, and have grown to love many different outdoor activities: snowshoeing, skiing, winter hikes, etc. But still. Give me an 85 degree day with sunshine over snow anytime. The kids and their father refer to themselves as "winter people," while I am the sole "summer person" in the family.

It is easy for me to gripe and moan about the season's change. I'm cold. Winter is so messy. I don't have gloves yet. I want just a few more weeks that are "unseasonably warm." But this morning, I wasn't crying. Despite the gray sky, the cold temperatures, and the oh-so-dry indoor air, I think I'm ready for this.

It helps to have kids who are so enthusiastic. Truly, they are my role models. I will receive this snow, this season with all the wonder and delight that they do. I will catch snowflakes on my tongue, I will drop everything and play outside with them, even if I'm not in the mood. We will play with ice, eat snow, and go sledding. I am counting on them to remind me how fun this can be.