Baby, It’s Cold Outside! Keeping Warm When the Temperature Plummets

Ah, the temperature has hit the teens in mid Michigan and the windchill factor has been four degrees and below. For you Southerners, it is kind of like the heat index- how hot it REALLY feels on any given day. Having lived in both the Midwest and the Southwest, I have experienced the best of both worlds. Blistering my hands from grabbing the steering wheel in my car when the temperature is hovering around 100 degrees. Getting frostbite on one ear from cracking the window in my car to smoke a cigarette on the ride home from work. My philosophy for living in the Southwest was “you can only get so naked,” but I imagine that was also because the air conditioner in my shoe box sized apartment could not cool the place below 80 degrees, and still it ran constantly in July.

I think it is easier to get used to the cold than to the heat. I have spent an equal number of years in both climates, and it just seems right. Then again, there is nothing like visiting the Southwest in February, leaving behind the snow and cold of Michigan!

I knew I was fully acclimated when I observed one night on a bank sign that it was now 23 degrees. Wow, I thought to myself, it has finally warmed up some! Because there really are varying degrees of cold. If you have the proper, slow build up to freezing, you can adjust. A sudden drop to the teens, and wow! It is pretty chilly!

The teens are when your nose hairs freeze upon stepping outside. That is when, if your hair has the slightest bit of dampness, it will freeze into a hard mass. If you wear a scarf over your mouth and nose, it will freeze solid from the moisture of your breath. It isn’t fun, but sometimes going outside is a necessity. You have to shovel the snow out of your driveway or brave the weather to mail out a bill.

As a stay at home mom, I now have the luxury of not necessarily leaving the house on a bad weather day if I don’t want to. I like to keep enough food and such on hand that I can be home for a good length of time without deprivation. If snow isn’t a factor, I merely have to bundle up enough to get the older son to the bus stop. This is a good thing, because I am not a big fan of bundling up, and I notice that others who live near me aren’t either. Really, it takes wind chills at this level to see us wearing hats and gloves. My husband is a warm blooded man, and I know it is cold if he actually wears his winter coat rather the light fall one he seems to prefer!

There are ways to make these dreary, freezing days seem less so. We are fortunate enough to have a corn/wood pellet burner, and that source of constant heat is a blessing. Our natural gas furnace would seem to take forever to kick back on, and we would add sweaters and slippers as we waited for it do so. Our guests would bring their slippers and an extra sweater as well! Now, if we get chilled, we can get right in front of the stove and get toasty. The boys run right to it after their baths, as that is where I toast their jammies before bedtime.

Another favorite of mine is baking. There is nothing like a day where you are afraid to even venture out to get the daily newspaper or mail to do some baking. Cookies, muffins, bread, a casserole. Anything to fire that oven up! I am sure there is some psychological aspect that the smell of food cooking just makes you feel warmer as well. I find that it almost soothes my rambunctious boys. The lack of good fresh air is made up for by the aroma of something yummy coming. Just a day ago they both set their trains up in the kitchen so they could monitor the progress of the blueberry muffins, and no doubt soak up some heat from the oven.

My one secret weapon for the days I just cannot get warm no matter what (aside from hot chocolate) is the rice bag. My grandma taught me this one. The rice bag is simply two washclothes sewn together and filled with rice. You can also buy such things, some with relaxing herbs like lavender added as well. I drip a little water on the bag, and microwave it for three minutes or so. Instant warmth, great for menstrual cramps, sore muscles from shoveling snow, or icy feet that no socks or slippers can cure. I would heat it up and place it in my son’s bed next to his back when he had difficulty sleeping on his own.

Cold days are also a good excuse to experiment with a spicy new dish you have been meaning to try, although only if you have what you need on hand!

Sadly, sometimes you really do have to leave the house. Our library reduced its hours to two days a week, so I would have to choose between bundling the kids up, scraping the Mommymobile, and freezing, or massive late fees. My inner cheapskate couldn’t handle the late fees, and usually the kids were more than ready to risk frostbite to frolic with the toys and hopefully other children at the library.

I discovered the joys of fleece lined jeans for the kids, and flannel lined for myself. They can save you the trouble of a snowsuit for the quick trip to the store, but when you know regular pants just won’t be warm enough. They aren’t too hot, so if your house is a bit on the cool side, they are comfortable enough to wear. They can be found on Ebay, which seems to be a tad less expensive that some of the regular retailers or catalogs you might see.

I also realized that two little diaper pins can keep mittens on even the most stubborn child. You simply pin the mitten to the coat sleeve and try to ignore the protests of your toddler! I do not recommend this for trips that will take longer than seven minutes door to door.

I do tend to take the advice of the weather reporters. If they say you shouldn’t go out, I don’t plan on it unless absolutely necessary. It is always a good idea to have blankets and extras like hats and mittens for everyone, just in case you end up in a snowbank or other unfortunate incident unplanned. Munchies are easy enough to keep on hand as well. While I am sure I could find enough french fries under my seats to survive a day or two, I cannot say it is the most desirable option!

Stay safe, and stay warm. At least for mid Michigan, they are predicting a thaw, although a brief one, in a day or two.

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