💡 Daylight Savings and Seasonal Darkness - Our Family Plan

Get outside, eat soup, take a sun break and decorate your home

The thing no one told me when I was going to become a parent is the injustice of Daylight Savings. My entire life (until I had kids), I loved Daylight Savings Sunday because I got an extra hour in the morning to sleep. And now, as a parent, I brace myself every year for the knock on my door at 5am (6am if I’m lucky), because our kids body clock rightfully thinks it is time to get up.

In addition to Daylight Savings being a mean trick on all parents, the days are dark and wet (if you live in the Pacific Northwest) and you know that it’s time to settle in for the season of darkness.

Having said that, this is my favorite time of the year - I love the fall season that brings football Sundays and soups, and the anticipation and planning for the holidays, and the winter wonderland and snow sports.

In this post, I want to share the things we do as a family and the approach and perspective we take to make this time of year be positive and enjoyable. Some of it has evolved over time as our family has grown so hopefully wherever you are on your journey, you’ll find this applicable. If you have tips and tricks that have worked for you, please share.

⏱ Surviving Daylight Savings with Kids

Before I get into some of the fun ways to pass the time between Daylight Savings and Spring Forward, I want to touch on surviving daylight savings with young children.

The one piece of advice I have on kids and Daylight Savings is to opportunistically line up any schedule change you are planning to do with your kids around sleep to daylight savings.

There was a time when our oldest had gone through a sleep regression (she was 10 months old) and we were debating how to get back on track. Since Daylight Savings was just around the corner, we decided to postpone any new attempt at sleep normalcy we were going to instill and wait until Daylight Savings weekend since we’d have to adjust to that anyway.

Also, WSJ has a good write up on four ways to win the transition - to avoid 5am kid wake ups try:

Pushing your child’s bedtime 30 minutes later starting three nights before the time change—that is, this Thursday—allows early-rising young children to adjust to waking up later. “You can shift their sleep schedule a little more gently,” Dr. Canapari says.

🍲 🏈 Fall: Soup and Football

When I was moving to Washington state (in February, nonetheless), one of the big warnings I received was that the days are dark. I decided that the Seattle gloom was not going to get me down so I made a plan for how I was going to cope with it - my plan for the fall, was going to center around soups and football.  

I planned to cherish the lazy days of having the TV on in the background and a simmering soup on the stove followed with friends over for dinner.  And while this rhythm only worked before we had kids, I have come to truly enjoy and look forward to this time. I also discovered some new recipes as well as went back to some of my favorites from childhood (my mom is a believer that soup is a critical part of a person’s diet).

Here are some of my favorite fall soup recipes: 

Borsht - A classic Russian soup made of beets, potatoes and meat (optional). Most important ingredient for me is to add sour cream once serving and a piece of rye bread to accompany it.

Butternut Squash with Apple - This is a frequent favorite and super easy to make as long as you have pre-cut squash. I also love the smell of numeg and cinnamon that spreads through the house.

Split Pea Soup  - A comfort food that is easy to make. I made this soup this weekend and unlike the other two, I can even get my kids to eat this one.

Chili with meat - An easy weeknight meal that can be prepped on the weekend is chili. I usually add a quick cornbread as a side.

🍂 Fall and Winter: Decorating and celebrating the holidays

One of the other reasons I look forward to fall is all the house decorating. I now have a closet of holiday decor to keep the house festive and cozy.

I find that the milestones around decorating really help and fill the weekends from early September through early January. We try to get one new piece of holiday decor a year to keep things fresh and new.

Unsurprisingly, as the days get longer and warmer, I do not feel the need to nest and decorate, so spring and summer, I prefer to keep the house airy and un-themed, but visit us in the fall and the smells of potpourri and happy fall and then winter signs are all around.

We also now have traditions such as hosting family for Thanksgiving and an annual themed holiday dessert party, which gives me fun moments to look forward to and enjoy. Adam and I started the dessert part over 10 years now, when we gather with friends and co-workers and have a friendly competition on the best dessert. We’ve had to skip this in 2020 and 2021, but I can’t wait to get back to it.

🏝 Winter or Early Spring: Take a sun break

An additional key activity that helps everyone stay sane through fall and then the long wet merge of winter/spring in the PNW is a sun break. We are usually able to insert a trip somewhere warm for a week or two between October and March to get out of the gloom. I highly recommend a change of scenery even for a weekend with vitamin D if you are prone to seasonal anxiety.

☔️ Always: Get outside 

There really is very little reason to ever not go outside. And I have learned that while, yes, there are a lot of days when there is some drizzle in the PNW, it is very rare that it is raining so hard all day long and you can’t do some outside playtime. The fresh air continues to be the best cure for bad moods and wiggles in our household.

I vividly remember when our oldest was born in the middle of the winter, my mom insisted that we go for a walk every single day - it did wonders for my mood during my postpartum days.

The best product I remember using when kids were in the stroller or carrier during the colder seasons was this Rain or Shine Kids blanket:

It’s two sided and easy to wrap around a stroller. This blanket also comes in a pouch variety if you’d prefer that but it’s slightly less versatile.

For clothing, a friend recommended Polarn o. Pyret - they have a great assortment of waterproof pants, jackets and long underwear that last for years (good investment if you have multiple kids).

⛷ Winter Sports

The other way in which we embrace this period of the year is through winter sports. We are fortunate to live close to Stevens Pass and we’ve made it a point to give our kids the opportunity to get into skiing. It’s also been great to discover how much more there is to winter sports than just downslope skiing - we now enjoy sledding, cross-country skiing, snow mazes, snow shoeing and ice skating on most weekends of winter and early spring. Our children are also now hot chocolate connoisseurs as that is a pre-requisite to a good day of outdoor play in the snow.

👩🏻‍🍳 When you aren’t outside: bake (with kids is fun too)

While the pandemic has resulted in a lot more baking (mainly bundt cakes), I have a few go-to recipes that are fun to do with young kids - one is from Bringing Up Bebe called Yogurt cake. While the book is not my favorite, the recipe is quite easy and delightful to make with kids.

As kids have gotten older, we do quite a bit of cookie baking and decorating, but this weekend we are making fishy cupcakes to pass the time and the rain:

My biggest takeaway on baking with kids is that their attention spans are pretty short so lay out all your ingredients ahead of time so that their excitement isn’t wasted on prep time. And of course, be prepared for a mess and lean into the fun of it as opposed to perfection (this is why I make two batches for cookie decorating, one for the kids and one for me).   

Wrapping it up

As it turns out traditions exist for a reason, and it is no wonder that there are so many holidays and rituals during the darkest months of the year - it is to help us as a community gather around and spend time together and support each other through these periods.

This was also the hardest part of COVID last year and the loss that I felt the most acute. We did not see our family for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years - and it was a meaningful loss. I’m optimistic that we are able to do that safely this year and gather as a family.