When a 60 percent chance of snow was predicted last week, I did what any good Southern mom would do — I bought milk and bread, although who knows really why because we already had a full loaf at home. I picked up ingredients for red-hot apple cider, because the candy-colored warm concoction brings back instant memories of my childhood snow. And I swung by the local hardware store and bought a plastic sled.

When it snowed early last month, I took my two oldest kids sledding for the first time. There was barely any snow left, we got soaked from the wet snow and I may have broken the plastic disc while going downhill, resulting in a bruised and beaten behind — but it was worth every minute. We built a large snowman and we had snowball fights. It was the kind of snow day I hope my kids remember.

And so, with a trunkload of groceries and a shiny, lime-green plastic sled, I felt prepared last week — chipper, even — when schools announced they would be closed out of an “abundance of caution” because of the chance of snow

But as the snow started to fall, the snowflakes barely collected on our grass or back deck. I realized there would be no sledding, no snowball fights. Instead, it was yet another day of cabin fever.

In the last five weeks, through a combination of Christmas break, Alabama’s football championship win and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I’ve worked a total of about seven days. Having the time off in December and January is a definitely perk of working in higher education, and I realize how lucky I am. But, I’ve realized — this year especially — what too much time at home can mean.

Right before Christmas, I was counting down the days until we got off from work. I made plans to finish wrapping presents and I finished packing to go see family over the holidays. There was an anticipation of the Christmas to come.

Then, post-Christmas, there was a flurry of unpacking, doing laundry, putting away presents and getting back to a somewhat normal routine. But it’s around that point when the days start to melt together. It’s easy to confuse whether it’s Saturday or Monday, it’s simple to forget to put the trash can out for pickup, and it’s tempting to stay in your pajamas all day because, well, there’s really no reason to get dressed, especially when it’s freezing outside.

We did set goals for ourselves. My husband braved the 30 degree weather with my dad and built a bike shed for those shiny new bikes that Santa brought this year. We took down the Christmas decorations, cleaned the gutters outside and trimmed tree branches that hung too low over our roof. I repainted our living room and dining room and bought new bedding for our master bedroom.

And meanwhile, our kids played. One minute, they’d act like angels, playing and sharing, only to fight like cats and dogs the next. Our toddler refused to wear anything but princess dresses 24 hours a day. She even went to bed with her princess dress-up shoes — which are apparently her new security blanket.

While I enjoy the time off with my kids, it can be disconcerting when your daily goals include sleeping past 8 a.m., taking a hot shower while the toddler is taking a nap and actually getting dressed. During times like Christmas break or snow days, even getting dressed in yoga pants, an old college T-shirt and fluffy socks seems like a minor accomplishment. It gave me new respect for stay-at-home moms.

And so, last week, there was no sledding or playing in the snow. Instead, we spent two days laying around in our PJs, watching Disney movies on TV and eating popcorn. I made grilled cheese sandwiches three lunches in a row, actually going through that entire loaf of bread, and we never did actually make that red hot apple cider.

But that’s OK, because not every snow day has to be epic.

Cabin fever is OK, because sometimes you need so much family time to be grateful for your little ones, and to make you so very grateful for getting back to work, too.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.