A Few Ways to Improve February

A Few Ways to Improve February February 2, 2013

I have to admit to being the builder who wrote the email with a subject line: I’m not whining, but…

As you can imagine, that email contained some whining, but I don’t want to spend too much of my time just whining and surviving, so I am trying to think of things that have made some winter days better than others.

1.  Grapefruit.  This wonderful citrus is in season right now, and it feels and tastes like a burst of sunshine every morning.  I cannot tell you what a difference it has made to eat half a grapefruit every morning this week.

2.  Smoothies.  Frozen fruit, plain Kefir and some OJ in the blender take me straight to the tropics, and, I have some hope, give us a better shot at fighting off whatever is going around.

3.  Homemade Granola.  Come February, the children and I have had enough of oatmeal.  It was cozy in January, but now it just seems lumpy and depressing, so we are switching over to an easy maple granola.  Our batch uses a whole large container of oats, so it lasts a while, and now I don’t have a pot to scrub in the mornings.

4.  Long play baths.  My 4 year old can spend an hour playing with boats in the bath, and he often does.  If I am worried about dry skin I might throw a little oil in there, and the bright, warm, steamy bathroom is a mood lifter for him and me.

5.  Push-ups.  I am not getting into any sort of regular exercise routine these days, but when I am really feeling gross I get down and do 5 knee push-ups.  It is not exhausting, but it does seem to kick in some endorphins and adrenaline, and make me feel powerful.  If I do more than that (sometimes a set of 5, 5, then max), my arms hurt a little bit all day, and I kind of love that feeling, too, knowing that my muscles are still alive.

6.  Planning and dreaming.  I am thinking about doing some redecoration in the big boys room this spring, so I am having fun looking at paint colors and shelf layouts and planning for what we might do.  One caveat, I have to keep this in check or planning and dreaming turns in to coveting, but as long as I am reasonable, it is a great diversion.  I’m also researching cruises, and while it doesn’t look like I’ll be taking one anytime soon, I am having fun thinking about itineraries.  Let’s see, what would be more interesting, Istanbul or Hong Kong?  Actually, I may have the kids play travel agent, research a foreign city and present a trip on a poster board, then stamp all of our fake passports.

How about you?  26 days to go, what’s getting you through?

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  • Juris Mater

    Could you post your granola recipe?

  • Juris Mater

    Your breakfast routine sounds excellent.

    My trouble is about 4pm every day. As I previously said, a salad mid-afternoon helps a lot, but it’s still such a slump-y hour at this time of the year w/the decreased sunlight. Since my kids get home from school at 3:15, I’d prefer to not crash a half-hour later. How do you survive that time of the day and make it out the other side (to dinner prep!).

  • Kellie “Red”

    We are planning a trip to Disney World! Which probably isn’t that helpful to everyone here, but it is getting me through and I can’t wait to leave very soon. I think planning some sort of February excursion will be a must in future years — if it is only a long weekend to visit friends.

    I usually survive February by having a baby in January, and that probably isn’t very helpful either. So some additional thoughts —
    1) Citrus is amazing! The oranges are great right now too.
    2) Ice Skating, roller skating, indoor soccer, indoor baseball, anything to get your bigger kids out of the house and running around.
    3) Reorganize an area of your house, like the basement or an office/desk that is driving you nuts but you never have time to address. Obviously redecorating a room is more fun than this, but this suggestion is probably free 😉
    4) Join a full service gym or the Y. Preferably one with child care. Many have monthly options
    5) Throw a cabin fever party

  • When we lived in Chicago, we had a gross unfinished basement, but it was great in the winter because we turned it into a floor hockey area. We set up two goals, used kids’ golf clubs and soft balls, and went at it.
    In Texas, our tough time of year is really the summer – the heat is oppressive, the humidity is gross and exhausting, and no one really wants to be outside. Since the pool opens at the end of April and swim team runs through May and June, everyone is sick of going to the pool by the end of June. That leaves 2 whole months with all of the kids out of school and organized activities – enough for any mother to go crazy! We spend lots of time at the library, at friends’ houses, and anywhere else air-conditioned. VBS is also a great option. Camp is terribly expensive, especially x3, but I’m thinking of setting up some sort of co-op with friends this summer – the big kids can go one place, the little kids another…we’ll see.

  • AMDG

    This is a challenging time for us as well. However, last week, in what I can only call a moment of inspiration, I put on some great upbeat music and the kids and I danced and sang for 20 min. I went from being on the verge of loosing it to feeling energetic and happy and the kids forgot that they both wanted to wear the chef costume. Afterwards, I was able to get dinner ready as the kids continued to sing and play. Music is part of our late-afternoon routine from now on :).

  • maryalice

    I think something like roller skating is a great idea, also any sort of free babysitting including Wegman’s Kids (LOVE) and the ball pit room at IKEA, although part of me prefers to stay isolated and healthy.

    For the afternoon slump, could tea and snacks be part of the coming home routine? Because a nice cup of tea and a slice of banana bread might be calming for them and give you a little energy for the next few hours? Another idea, crazy, would be to try to put on a show for the littles at 2:30 if they are out of quiet time and take a quick shower with some citrus body wash?

  • Juris Mater

    AMDG and Alice, these are great suggestions. Thank you. Agreed, Alice, I like to stay healthy w/two babies at home, so the Y childcare and IKEA kid land freak me out until about April. And Alice, you are so right about having 30 minutes of quiet time to prepare for the homecoming at 3:15. I usually am scrambling to get the last 150 things done, but it’s not worth it, because then I’m already tired and frazzled.

    AMDG, I like how your suggestion incorporates kids. Any more suggestions of that kind? We have been having milkshakes at the 50s diner some afternoons. We also have an extra crib mattress that they use as a trampoline in the basement sometimes. It’s hard to find activities that incorporate my “older kids” (ages 4, 6, and 7) and my toddler, that they can do safely and independently while I hold my infant. This is no cake walk! : )

  • KC

    So this is kind of silly, but the mention of a dance party made me think of it right away–almost every day at about five, when we’re all at our wits end and trying to clean up/prep for dinner before dad gets home, we watch this video at least twice:
    My kids haven’t yet figured out what the “title” is with the words all running together, but they’ve learned a lot of countries names and everyone–from six down to one–dances in front of the computer while I thank God that they’re all happy for a few minutes. It also helps remove me from my focus on my own little life, which is helpful, too!

  • I thought of a few more suggestions:
    Building Forts: my kids love to do this, and our “family gift” this Christmas was one of these sets:
    The kids just build the shape and then we use blankets to cover it up – lots of fun! I would recommend buying 2 sets if you have the space in your play area.
    Trips to Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods – there are always samples, and lots of healthy food to choose from. Some of the food may be pricey, but there are also lots of great deals.

  • We actually had a bounce castle in our basement for a while, we inherited it from a Princeton Reunion class, but it might be a good Christmas gift to all of the kids from grandparents one year, boy did that make winter afternoons more manageable:


  • Also, what about inverting your evening — baths all around as soon as they get home, then pajamas, then fort building while you make dinner? That way, after dinner is done, you don’t have as much of the bedtime routine in front of you? My kindergartner would probably have loved a bath as soon as he came home from school some days.