Winters here in the PNW are very strange. The temperature is actually pretty mild, and it can fool you into thinking "hey, this isn't so bad." Truly it isn't... you're not as likely to be shoveling snow and breaking icicles off the car as you would in the same latitudes, anywhere else in the country. However we do get the blustery winter winds, and given our direct proximity to both massive glaciers and the freezing gold Pacific ocean, the wind can and will knock the warmth right out of you.
Add to that the rain: the famous rain of the Northwest that seems to fall all at once during the winter. We're also far north, compared to the "sunshine days," as G calls our past in South Carolina, which means the days seem particularly dark for us. Sun up and sun down are very close together, the sun is just not as close to the latitude as we're accustomed to, and with the marine cloud layer and constant rain you end up with this forecast:
44 degrees, drizzling rain and blue. Every day. For three months.
It does stop the constant raining, long about the middle of January, but it stays blue (but getting brighter every day) until May. Occasionally there are "sunbreaks," a phenomenon which is just exactly what it sounds like it is. Just as in the South a cloud may stray across the sun, here in the wintry PNW, occasionally the clouds will part, temporarily letting in the sun.
There are extreme benefits to this, but it's difficult to remember what they are while you're in the midst of it. Last year, at the end of November we travelled to SC and made certain to call our friends here, as we lazed half naked on the beach. That cruelty will be rewarded this year, as we are without travel plans for this winter.
We had coping mechanisms last year. We would make sure to see our friends for indoor playdates; we visited museums and the human habitrail; as homeschoolers, we had plenty of engrossing, hands-on, at-home activities. My personal favorite coping mechanism was the sunbreak alert. We stayed dressed, because at any given moment someone--whoever notices first-- will scream "SUUUUUNN!!!!!!!!" and we all dash outside. We installed natural-spectrum lighting inside.
This year, we are taking steps. Not only is the school room SO IN ORDER that it has never shone this bright, (SCHANNNNNNNNNNNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYGUUURRRRRRRRRLLLL!!!!!!!!) we have turned the garage into a sort of hobby shop / gym. Our large easels are out there (spill pain on the floor? why, go right ahead?), as is the futon and some large muscle equipment. We have a stereo out there and hopefully, that's going to be the Wiggle Room in lieu of hours of free-roaming, outside activity. Uncle Monkey gave the kids a giant, colored, light-tube tree, so that will be out there adding to the groovy coolness, as will racing stripes on the floor for them to ride their bikes and trikes in dizzying circles.
Here's to less squirreliness! Think it will work?