12.07.2013

Weathering winter

Welcome to December, the Official Month of Lost Gloves.

As colder weather settles over the nation, we're all indoors more, getting on each other's nerves. We must wear more clothing to brave the elements. Driving and walking outdoors take on an air of ice-slick danger.

We here at The Home Front want your winter to be safe and happy, so we've developed the following Winter Survival Guide to help you weather the months ahead:

CABIN FEVER

Being shut up in a cozy house seems romantic when portrayed on TV -- flames dancing in the fireplace, frost on the windows, fuzzy slippers and candlelight. But let's face it, unless you're on an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Aspen, life indoors just isn't that pleasant, especially if children are around. A few days cooped up with kids will make you long for summer, when "Go outside and play" worked as a remedy for frayed nerves.

Even happily married, child-free couples start to annoy each other if they're trapped together indoors. An innocent habit, such as gum-cracking or mindless sniffing, easy to ignore when you're outside a lot, becomes unbearably grating when you're indoors together for days on end. Pretty soon, homicide starts to look like a viable solution.

How to cope with cabin fever? Brandy seems to have medicinal qualities (why do you think those St. Bernards carry it around in the Alps?), and hot cocoa can soothe. But the best treatment remains time alone. You and your spouse should occupy opposite ends of the house as much as possible. And kids can still be forced to go outside if you slather on enough outergarments, which brings us to:

BUNDLING UP

When it gets really cold outside, responsible parents provide their children with the following: long underwear, jeans or ski pants, two pairs of socks, waterproof shoes, T-shirt, sweatshirt, flannel shirt, anorak, heavy coat, gloves or mittens, a woolly scarf and a warm hat. Each of these items will be greeted by objections from the children, who see nothing wrong with dressing like Tarzan when it's snowing. Parents should calmly ignore the complaints and apply each layer as carefully as if it were a coat of paint. By the time you're done, you won't be able to tell whether there's a child inside all those garments. If the child can move freely, he's probably not wearing enough clothes.

The only exception to child clothing complaints: Kids want the biggest, bulkiest ski gloves they can possibly find, because those are the kind that shoot lasers.

SCHEDULING

Even a quick trip to the convenience store becomes an Arctic expedition during bad weather. If the kids are going with you, allow an extra 30 minutes for preparation and protests. Slick roads slow you down, so allow for that in your daily schedule. And, unexpected storms can bring the whole city to a halt. In fact, if you've got anywhere to go between now and Christmas, you'd better get started now.

HOUSEWORK

If you must spend so much time indoors, at least it can be in an orderly environment. But, naturally, winter presents its own set of problems here, too, the worst being gravity. All those clothes mentioned earlier? They end up on the floor. So you won't need to exercise much during the winter. You'll be doing toe-touches all day long, bending over to pick up mittens and mufflers.

This problem is compounded by the fact that basketball season occurs during winter. Nothing can be put away normally. Every item can be discarded only in the following manner: "He shoots! He scores!" If you, the parent, hear "He shoots!" followed by silence, then you know that's another item you'll be picking up later.

All those clothes must be kept clean. Expect your weekly laundry load to double.

Another problem: All the snow/ice/sludge/dead leaves tracked into the house. Ignore this at your peril. Soon, the footing inside won't be any better than the icy sidewalks outside.

PETS

Keep them in the house with you as much as possible. Otherwise, they'll go missing and you'll have a big surprise when the snowdrifts melt.

There you have it. If you follow this advice, you can survive the coming winter and all its hazards. And remember, spring is only 18 months away.

(Ed. note: This is a Home Front column from several years ago. It certainly applies this week. Brr.)