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Cold-Weather Moms: How Do You Handle the Winter Months?

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

I’m writing to you from a blustery and cold Chicago, where it’s supposed to drop to 20 below freaking zero today. That’s right: It’s not even technically the middle of December and it’s absolutely BEYOND freezing in my dear hometown.

It’s days like today that I can’t remember why I’ve chosen to live my entire life here, save for a four-year stint in Lawrence, Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) and a six-month stint in sunny Tel-Aviv, Israel, where I basically lived on the beach while “studying” abroad.

Oh, yeah, I remember: Because I was born and raised in this arctic city. The Cubs. Deep-dish pizza. Michael Jordan. Chicago-style hot dogs. Lake Michigan. That down-to-earth Midwestern sensibility. Blah, blah, blah.

When people ask why I live here? I always say it’s because of these brutal winters that we appreciate what a beautiful city this actually is in the spring, summer and fall. It is a magnificent town, really, when you can actually enjoy it, and deep down under all those layers I do truly love it here -- after all, it’s where my family and friends are -- but I’m not gonna lie, now that I have a kid of my own the idea of making him suffer the cold his entire life, just for those 3-4 months of nice weather (if we’re lucky) makes me think twice about us living here forever.

Last year around this time Preston was too young to notice it. And bundling him up was easier; he was still a newborn, so he didn’t really have a say in the matter. But this year it’s a whole different ball game. Anyone with a toddler knows the difficulties of layering them up in onesies, underneath long-sleeve shirts, underneath lined hoodies, underneath puffy down jackets. The gloves, the hats, the boots…it’s enough to make you want to stay in seclusion for the next four months.

Which is what we basically did this weekend, except for one outing to get his hair cut -- Preston’s very first (see before and after photos), which we got at Snippets, a darling place and brilliant concept. (They record the experience for you on a disc, and put their first locks in a keepsake box!) Other than that, we stayed in the rest of the weekend, because we were experiencing 50 mile-per-hour winds and I just couldn’t risk him getting sick again. (Or me.)

By Sunday night I think Preston started getting cabin fever. We have some great indoor kids’ places close by, but it would still require us getting in the car, parking on the street, going outside, and navigating this horrible weather. That's city living for ya.

So I look to you, my fellow cold-weather moms, for some advice: What are some fun activities for 16-month-olds when you’re cooped-up indoors? At this point, I could run a small toy shop out of my house, we have every imaginable Fisher-Price and Little Tikes toy worth having, not to mention Melissa and Doug puzzles coming out of our ears. (I, er, Preston loves his toys!) But even those start to get boring after a few days straight of playing with them. Boring for both of us…

In exchange for your tips, I’ll leave you with some of mine:

I love all of Parenting’s cold-weather clothes ideas. But for outer-ware, check out this bunting bag by 7 A.M. Enfant.

When Preston was born, I was talked into buying it from our favorite baby boutique in Chicago, Twinkle Twinkle Little One. It’s very pricey ($199) so I second-guessed my decision of course, but for below-zero weather it’s a great thing to have. It’s suitable for both an infant and toddler (they say it even lasts till your little one is four, how’s that for an investment?), because of its nifty, removable bottom that zips on and off. It’s like an adjustable down sleeping bag that attaches onto infant car seats and strollers. It’s so warm and protective from the elements that your little one doesn’t even need a jacket on walks around your neighborhood, even when it’s this cold out. (Frankly, it kicks J.J. Cole’s butt.)

Also, check out babytalk’s annual list of must-have holiday gifts; we actually have two of the items on their list that I’m obsessed with (or, I mean, Preston is).

Fisher-Price Stride-to-Ride Dino: I bought this for Preston for Hanukkah this year, and he loves it! It’s a walker and he can ride on it. It’s actually helping Preston learn to walk and balance, and he loves how it lights up and plays music. And I love that it doesn't take up a ton of room, and it's a multi-purpose toy with two distinct functions. I am a big fan of multi-purpose toys that grow with your child, more bang for the buck.

Fisher-Price Lil’ Zoomers Spinnin’ Sounds Speedway: The box says it’s for 6-months-plus, but Preston’s almost 16 months and still totally loving this. He throws everything within reach onto its spinning track; he even tries putting himself on it. He can maneuver this one himself too with its easy-to-control gear shift. It makes  a lot of noise, and provides endless entertainment for him. Brilliantly designed, if you ask me.

P.S. Fisher-Price, if you need a toy-tester, I'd be happy to oblige!

Moms, do you have any cold-weather tricks, or toys, up your sleeves? Please share them!