The Nonchalantdad: Cabin Fever!

So, the same thing seems to happen each year - even though you tell yourself you're not going to fall for it this time. After approximately 4 long months of Winter Cold, Wet, Ice... you get the picture.... up pops that one single day when the weather outside suddenly gives you a taste of warmer things to come. That day happened last week, when the outside daytime temperature reached a wopping 60F at our house. Now, if you happen to live in year-round warmer climes then, of course, you can't relate to this kind of elation. But, let me tell you - I was practically outside running around naked with one of those pool floating donut things around my waist,
heading for the swimming pool.... except, at my age, I already have one of those donut things naturally around my waist - and further more, the sight of me naked.... well...... lets just leave
the topic shall we?

Anyway, it was warm enough to feel like Spring had arrived. But, that's Mother Nature's trick you see? Next day we dropped down to about 30F again. By this time of year you've just about had it up to here with the winter doldrums. The snow doesn't seem like much fun any more after the 10th time you've had to shovel the stuff, nor does the routine of dressing the kids in about 30 layers of clothing each and every time they want to step outside. You become tired of the winter restrictions - not sick and tired, but just a bit tired. So, that one warm day gives you the impression that the hibernation is over.... except, it isn't.... not quite yet. It's just a taster of things come. You've still got some weeks left before your bones start to thaw out! Yet, you allowed yourself the trick of thinking that, just like that, winter dropped it's blaster and left town
quickly. And, now, emotionally, you're out on a limb - neither mentally prepared for winter any longer, and no where near ready to relax into Spring and Summer.

You're about to GO CRAZY!!!

As happens, the end of Winter brings one last little bite to remind you that it is still lingering. Our area, and kids (much like I'm sure yours have had), has been hit with a fairly severe case of the flu - this one either hitting the stomach, or sticking to the chest. Lots of coughing and stomach aches - fever. And, if that wasn't enough, my wife took the kids ice-skating recently and promptly tried some fancy move to show the kids how well she skates... and BANG, right onto her back she crashed - hitting her head! An ambulance ride, emergency room fixer upper, tests, staples, and two very excited kids (they rode in the ambulance with her) later - we were pretty much confined to home. (the wife had six stitches and a very minor concussion - fine after a few days rest - but she was more upset that a lock of hair had been cut away and that her clothes had some blood stains).

So, what to do when you are confined to the home one more time? Well, by this time of year you are pretty much resigned to letting the kids do whatever they want since you have just about exhausted every creative entertainment you can think of: drawing and painting just doesn't cut it, reading book after book just isn't working as well, and their toys have all been used to much. You can just turn on the TV and let them be entertained by that. But, that's to easy. So, in order to keep one step ahead of the end of winter doldrums, you have to think outside of the box - or go for the grand gesture - like allowing things to take place that normally you don't allow the kids. It's guaranteed FUN, and breaking the rules a bit makes you seem like the coolest parent on earth. Everyone loves something special and different.

In our house, we start to allow things that might normally only take place outside. Like the other day we had a contest with a POGO stick and one of those bouncy balls - things that normally are reserved for outside. Of course, it is worth noting that we have concrete floors so the wear and tear isn't so severe. We just moved a bunch of stuff out of the way and set to it. The kids loved it and it sure as heck burns energy! If you can't quite bring yourself to do that, then try this: we take some of our softer furniture and turn it upside down and lean it against our master bed, gather a bunch of loose pillows, etc and create a sort of play room where the kids can climb to the top of the sofa (for instance) and jump off into the pillows and mattress. Our favorite is the kids climb and jump while I try to bash them (softly) with pillows. The kids are so having fun with this trick that they are actually burning up by the time we call a time out later. They can't even believe that Mom and Dad would even allow them to jump all over the furniture in the first place, let alone make a mountain out of it!

Then, if the kids are bored with their toys - we super-size them. I take every damned thing in the house that can be a building material, including every conceivable building block and we make huge towers, bridges, and castles. Then, we combine this with other toys that the kids don't normally think to put together at play time. For example, a good one for us is taking our sons 'HotWheel' tracks and creating a race course so that the cars travel to the end of the road and go flying into the castle or tower for instance. The kids start devising plans to create holes for the cars to jump through, or better yet, they build elaborate structures only to have the race cars pound them into destruction.... this building and destroying can go on for a good few hours! The kids are jumping around with excitement and figuring new ways to build the track, or set up a jump, or create a new obstruction..... it may be different, but it builds the creative juices.

As the grand gesture, and when Dad can muster the energy and patience needed, we pull out the grand prize: a house wide obstacle course. This activity is not for the faint of heart and is usually reserved for that special day when the weather outside is so dismal that nobody even wants to try and venture outside. And this activity is a definite energy burner - just in case you need to settle the kids down a bit and get them focused. I pull out every item of furniture and create new obstacles or challenges by combining things like pillows with tables, etc. You set up a whole path of things to crawl under, climb over, hop through, and tumble in - spreading through various rooms in the house. Then, depending on the age of your kids, you devise a system by which you time them as they try to finish the course. I usually get them to try to beat their own time so that they aren't competing with one another and eventually arguing and teasing each other. And, it works like a charm. There's lots of screaming and yelling, cheering too!!! But, after an hour of that, the kids will be totally spent for a while and willing to settle down to quieter entertainment.

If you've got any good ideas for burning the kids energy in your house, I'd sure love to hear about it - the more options the better.

The only thing left to do, in my opinion, when the weather just won't cut you a break is to take the outside and bring it in. If your kids are like mine, and they probably are, then burning energy is job #1. And, if you're willing to make a bit of a temporary mess - the house can be the perfect playground! You may be tired out a bit in the process - but at least you won't feel so CRAZY any more! And, soon enough, you'll be able to open all the doors and windows and Spring will be in the air!!! Just like that!