‘All the complicated details’

Here's what I've come to conclude about taking little kids outside in the winter: 

It's always tiring.

And it's always worth it. 

Strapping four kids ages 6 and under into winter gear tests my patience. If I'm lacing ice skates, I have to get even more creative and ditch the baby carrier. 

But to see my girls gliding and leaping and tumbling in their skates is such a sweet reward.

Last night we played "Into The Unknown" as they skated, and I could tell they were harboring visions of grandeur. 

Rosy cheeks, runny noses and a faraway look in their eyes.

Arendelle right in Inver Grove Heights.

Over the weekend I outfitted five kiddos in skates, and as soon as I had finished the last one, the youngest child asked for his skates to be removed. Ha! 

I insisted on a group photo to document my feat before he could be extricated from his skates. 


This little figurine, which I've tucked in a mail cubby, reminds me to not just endure but embrace winter. She looks like my daughters and appears to be gazing up at a snowy sky and saying, "Bring it on!" 


I also find solidarity in other Minnesota moms making the effort to get their littles outside this season. 

"There is about an hour of daylight each day after school gets out," Mindy Johnson wrote in a recent Instagram post. "It takes approximately 45 minutes to get them all bundled up and their skates laced. That leaves 15 minutes on the ice. And in these temps, that's just the right amount of time. Their smiles make all that work totally worth it! That, and the easy bedtime of super exhausted babes."  

Nell O'Leary lamented "winter nature walks that I never feel like and they always love" as an opportunity to practice "giving from a place of fatigue." 

And just today a Maple Grove mom offered up an encouraging Instagram post, artfully excerpting "Christopher Robin Leads an Expotition to the North Pole" and interspersing her own thoughts: "Sometimes you may not have the energy or time or desire, but I’d encourage you to strap your boots on and do it anyway. The first step is sprucing yourself up and announcing an adventure. It doesn’t have to be grand. Just go outside, traipse around, and ‘be ready for anything.’ Time spent out of doors is always worth it."

In my better moments, I see the sparkling beauty of winter. I recognize it in wide shots.

And in small things right under my nose. 

 I know I'm raising hardy Minnesotans, and I take pride in that fact.   

(The kids had SUCH a blast tubing at Elm Creek in Maple Grove. Well worth the drive and $15 price tag!) 

I'm spurred in my search for winter beauty by Nosy Crow's incredible book "Sing A Song For Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year." 

It includes Robert Frost's poem "Dust Of Snow," which speaks to me: 

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

The other day, down on the pond, I found myself admiring how the tree tops glistened in the setting sun.

Hours later, I stumbled upon Mary Oliver's poem "White-Eyes," which begins:

"In winter all the singing is in the tops of the trees

where the wind-bird

with its white eyes

shoves and pushes among the branches." 

Perhaps the most encouraging seasonal poem comes from William Carlos Williams' "Winter Trees," which strikes me as a poem about parenting as much as winter: 

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold. 
This dad gets it. And he raised his sons in the late 1910s and '20s -- before children's clothing and jackets had zippers!
So here's to enduring "all the complicated details" of winter gear, to noticing tree tops and long purple shadows and the liquid moon.
Here's to tiresome laces and happy skaters who fall asleep quickly at night. 
 Here's to the dust of snow that can give your heart "a change of mood" and save some part of the day you had rued. 


 Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and four children in Inver Grove Heights. Read all her posts at mnparent.com/charmed