Tips for Surviving Winter if You’re New to the Midwest

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Not long after moving to Michigan, when we were brand new to the Midwest, my husband and I showed up for a new church small group. When it came time for us to introduce ourselves, we fessed up:

“We both have lived in Florida our entire lives. We don’t have any idea what we’re doing here.”

It was October, and we knew the first snow could arrive any day. I had so many questions. We all laughed together, and everyone offered encouragement and advice. Mostly, they assured us we would be just fine…but I wasn’t convinced. We showed up again the following week and stood around the dining table, munching on our chips and salsa, when suddenly, a man named John handed us a gift.

A snow scraper.

“This is the kind you need,” he said, “with the scraper on one end and the brush on the other. Just keep it in your car, and you’ll be set.”

I could have cried.

Almost five years have passed since that first midwest winter, and last summer, we moved a bit further south to here in Indianapolis. We’ve grown to love the changing seasons, but as a lifelong Floridian, the culture shock was real. That small gift was not the only help I would need over the next several years.

If you have lived most of your life in a cold-weather climate (or, heck, changing seasons at all!), it can be easy to overlook what a jarring experience it can be for those of us who are new to it. Nowadays, I scroll through Instagram and see my Florida friends and family outside in short sleeves, and then look up and out my window at the gray sky and frosty ground. Am I living on a different planet? I wonder. It certainly can seem so.

Since moving to the Midwest, I have learned to absolutely love the changing seasons. When the tulips start blooming, and when I sit on my porch on a summer morning, and when I throw on my first scarf next fall, I’m thrilled.

Even so, learning to adjust to winter was quite the ordeal.

If you’re there, know that you are not alone! Here are my best tips for surviving winter if you are new to the midwest.

If you’re worried about keeping your kids warm:

1. Buy a car seat poncho already. Keep your kids safe, but don’t lose your mind. I don’t know why I never bought one of these.

2. Put the baby in a carrier, and then put your own coat on backward. This is an easy way to handle those quick walks through parking lots or out to your garage.

3. Aquaphor is good for shielding baby noses, lips, and cheeks from the cold. Slather a little bit on before they head outside to play; they’ll whine, but it will help!

If you are always cold:

1. Know that not all socks are created equal. A high-quality wool sock is a game-changer.

2. Do not worry about what you are wearing. You know how middle schoolers are convinced everyone is looking at them and thinks they are dressed weird? That’s how I felt when I moved to the midwest. I’ve since learned that everyone just wants to be warm, and they’ll wear whatever they like to make that happen. The same goes for you. Don’t stress.

3. Stock your kitchen with coffee, tea, and hot cocoa. I indulge more this time of year, and I call it a survival tactic.

4. Make a big batch of soup on the weekend, and eat it for lunch each day. For the rest of the year, I will just snack on veggies, cheese, and crackers for lunch (or eat my kid’s leftovers). But in winter, I crave something warm, and leftover soup is my easy solution.

5. Consider a heated blanket, flannel sheets, or fleece-lined leggings (my latest and best discovery). In her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin says to “Treat yourself like a toddler.” You want your kids to be as warm and cozy as possible, right? Treat yourself the same way.

If the cold, gray days bum you out:

1. Add candles, twinkle lights, and extra blankets to up the cozy factor at home. Hygge has been such a buzzword that it’s easy to roll your eyes, but there is something to it!

2. Don’t ignore your body. Even if you don’t have full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder, a long string of days with no sunshine can easily affect your mood. Consider a happy lamp, and ask your doctor about upping your Vitamin D intake.

3. Make a list of what you’re looking forward to.  I make a list of everything I’m looking forward to each winter and spring, and it helps remind me that winter will end.

4. Make a list of things to do with your kids when you don’t want to venture out into the snow. Keeping a list in my planner or on the fridge means I don’t have to think of anything when the kids are whining, and I’m tired.

5. Get outside. I know, I know, I know. But seriously. It helps. Just stand on your front porch with your coffee for a few minutes, or go on a walk around the block one time.

Don’t worry, mamas. Spring is coming! In the meantime, trust me: you can survive this winter!

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