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Challenge: Cabin Fever

Maximize Your Family Snow Days! Wisconsin mom of 8 shares her best cabin-fever tips...

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1. Make snow ice-cream with the kids! It’s always a hit and it's super easy and fun. But be sure to only use fresh snow for this activity.

Recipe: When it starts to snow, place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the flakes. When full, stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk (or condensed milk) for the desired consistency. Serve at once.

Note: If you love condensed milk (like do!) you can also find condensed milk snow ice-cream recipes online.

2. Coloring Party! All kids love to color - even the older ones, and it can be a very relaxing activity for everyone. Plus, with the current craze for adult coloring books, you won't be limited to coloring Disney princesses or superheroes. Adult coloring books are challenging, even rewarding. So make a big bowl of popcorn, bust out the crayons and coloring pencils and get the party started.

3. Bake Something Challenging! How many times have you wanted to make a chocolate cake from scratch or prove you can make a flakey crust as good as your grandmother’s....but you just don't have the time! A snow day is the perfect day to enlist the kids with no time pressure, or worse, dinner guests to impress. This treat is just for you and the kids, so if the souffle deflates, you can still eat the yummy remains with no stress! You'll be surprised how into cooking and experimenting with exotic or sophisticated recipes kids are these days. I think it has a lot to do with the popularity of all those cooking and baking challenges on the Foodnetwork - especially the ones that feature kids! What's better than the smell of home backed treats wafting through your house? Plus, no one ever loses the thrill of watching delicious things come out of the oven and eating them while their still warm and gooey - especially on a cold, snowy day.

4. Curl Up With Old Movies. I still remember how me and my husband spent 30 minutes trying to convince our then 10 and 12 year old son and daughter that they really would love this black and white movie called, "It's a Wonderful Life". They whined through the first 15 minutes, annoyingly questioning why anyone would ever watch something as visually dull as a black and white film...until they got hooked on the storyline and the characters. Now, "It’s a Wonderful Life" is their all-time favorite film, the one they can't wait for us to all sit around together and watch every New Years Eve. The best part of all is that since then, they’ve actually developed a taste for old films, and not just of the black and white variety -though any Frank Capra film is a hit in my house. They adore 1950s beach movies (remember Elvis in Blue Hawaii?), and Alfred Hitchcock, and of course the golden age of American musicals. Use these cold, lazy days to help your kids appreciate a more wholesome time in American popular culture. And don’t give in when they give you that initial push back. You can't knock it till you try it. It'll make them a little more well-rounded and you'll all love


cozying up with blankets, snacks, a warm fire and an old classic American film. Singing in the Rain, anyone?

5. Check Off A Few Chores! If the idea of a day off conjures up visions of checking off those chores you never get to - that messy linen closet, sorting out toys and board games to donate to goodwill, or reorganizing your food pantry - well, don't feel guilty about enlisting all the free captive labor you now have in the house. Just keep the task manageable and with a finite ending (i.e. "I promise we'll be done by 11am”). Equally important is the promise of a group reward at the end. In my house, making cookies with mom is enough to get the little ones motivated. For my older kids, I let them DJ and crank the tunes loud during the task so the time passes quicker. Occasionally, depending on the job, I offer a cash reward. Keep it light and fun and they won’t run and hide the next time you ask. In my opinion, it's totally OK to use some of this down time to model family cooperation, a good work ethic, and the notion that hard work leads to a reward - even on a lazy snow day.

6. Get out there! I’m a sun-worshipping Arizona girl who moved to north-central Wisconsin 17 years ago because I fell in love with a lumberjack (for real!). It snows a lot here, so most snow days, you won’t catch me outside. I’m the mom taking videos of the kids sledding or making a snowman through a window in my cozy (always warm) living room. I make no apologies for not being very outdoorsy and for not really enjoying the cold. But sometimes, you just have to brave it and join the fun outside. Once you're out there, you'll warm up, have blast, and create memories you and the kids will never forget.

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