Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yarn Along

Well, here we are again for the weekly Yarn Along hosted by Ginny over at Small Things.  This is such a great motivator - I find myself actually getting some knitting done just so that I have something to include in the picture.

This week:
Reading - I just finished the Alexander McCall Smith novel that I started and posted last week and, as always, it was brilliant.  How as a man he can write about a woman's feelings about her child and be so accurate is mystifying to me.  This man is brilliant.  I have just started a new Jennifer Chiaverini Elm Creek novel, "The Aloha Quilt."  It seems like it's going to follow in her usual fine form.  I also thought I would share my devotions book I am following right now.  Just before the new year, I went into the Christian bookstore and had a good browse, looking for the right devotional book for the new year.  I wasn't seeing anything that leapt out at me and then I saw Beth Moore's name and my interest was piqued.  She has four "90 Days with..." books and obviously, Jesus was the place to begin.  I am really enjoying it so far.  I think I may buy her David book next.

Knitting - I finished LB's hat/scarf combo and I LOVE it.  I did it in Spud and Chloe and it's a nice weight.  I love having the scarf attached to the hat.  I'm a bit paranoid about scarves and the risk of being strangled.  This is a perfect solution and was a quick and easy knit.  I may make him another one because we do have a bad habit of misplacing hats.  Next, I'm starting this wrap.  I am not a huge fan of the pattern but it seemed like a good way to use this yarn.  A friend gave it to me for Christmas and I was a bit unsure about what to do.  I  know this makes me a bit unusual in the knitting world but I don't have a yarn stash and I don't buy yarn unless I have a project in mind.  To start with the yarn instead of the pattern was strange to me.  I'm terrified I won't have enough.  Oh, well, it looks like it will be super cozy and I love the brown colour.

Grouchiness Continued

Wow, I really am in a bad mood.  It might have to do with the fact that we had LB back at the emergency ward last night since his breathing was kind of scary.  Fortunately, on the plus side, it's bronchiolitis and that should clear up with the inhalers he is on and time, the antiobiotics should get at the bad ear infection and maybe, just maybe, we might get some sleep around here soon.  Bronchiolitis sounds so much less serious than pneumonia, even if he is still having some problems.

I don't really think that's the problem, though.  For me, it's some people.  Regardless of the fact that I know that there are reasons for why they think what they do and say what they do, I can't seem to let things go.  They just drive me crazy.

Sometimes, it's hard to be a Christian, especially when you are a Christian whose politics and moral beliefs might be more to the liberal bent.  I'm not saying that I'm all for sex in the street (my friends would probably tell you that I am more conservative than most on some of that stuff) but my ruling principle is that God did not put me on this earth to judge anyone else and my job is to show His love.  In one of my favourite sermons from Andy Stanley at Northpoint, which I love to listen to on podcast, he said, and I paraphrase here, that we should love so hard that our critics can't really tell what we believe because we love those who disagree with us so much.  That's my view.  I don't always manage it but I try.

So, there are these two women from my church.  They are nice women, kind women, generous women.  They are also huge small "c" conservatives who LOVE to share their views about the downfall of the world.  It would seem that public schools, lack of prayer and lack of beating our children has led to the downfall of our society.  I really should leave it but I just can't.  It drives me insane, especially since one of these mothers homeschools (which obviously makes her an expert on the failings of the public school system) and the other has a family that is entirely dedicated to hockey and they don't come to church because that's hockey time.

This morning, one of them shared yet another Facebook status on the decline of Western civilization being connected to the fact that there is no prayer in the public school system.  I should just ignore it and let it go but sometimes, I just need to sound off.  Here I go, my counter arguments, which I didn't bother to post on her page since she probably wouldn't get it anyway.

1.  It is not the school's job or the church's job, for that matter, to parent and teach my children.  It's mine.  Read Mark Holmen's book, "Faith at Home."  His research clearly shows that it's having a mother with a strong faith that is lived out in the home that is the number one determinant for whether a child lives in faith as an adult.

2.  I may be wrong but if your child wants to pray in school, I don't think anyone will mind as long as it isn't in the middle of a lesson.  Sure, we don't bring in ministers to lead the prayer but if they want to pray, go for it.  I'd love to have a kid ask.  It would start a great conversation.

3.  The lack of empathy in our kids and the lack of manners is because:
a.  We don't model it.
b.  We don't teach it.
c.  We let them watch t.v. shows, movies and play video games that show the antithesis of it.
d.  We are too busy doing our own thing to focus on our kids.
e.  Our families are organized around getting through the day instead of living the way that we believe to be most important.

4.  Spanking children does not teach them empathy or kindness or consideration or respect.  It teaches them that it's o.k. to use force against those who are smaller than you are.

5.  You shouldn't criticize everyone else when your own kids act like they are feral and you don't even notice.

6.  Learning and study does not lead to the downfall of civilization - ignorance does.

7.  Teachers should teach children.  I don't care whether the parent is a teacher or a paid educator is a teacher.  Buying a programme and throwing in a DVD does not a teacher make.  Please do not read this as an attack on homeschoolers.  There are some blogs written by homeschoolers that I follow closely and those parents are giving their children a wonderful education that is as sound as they would get in a good public school.  That being said, teachers are educated to be teachers.  Teaching out of ignorance is not a good plan.

8.  God told us to be a light in the darkness, not to hide away in caves and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist.  Jesus did not run from what he didn't like.  He faced it head on.  Homeschooling because you value your children's education, you have some skill and you want to be involved are good reasons for homeschooling.   Homeschooling because you are afraid of everything that is different or because you don't want to face that your children have issues that need to be addressed are not good reasons for homeschooling.

9.  In most cases, the reason that Christianity isn't welcome is because of the way that "Christians" have treated others in the past (and, in some cases, treat people now).  Perhaps we should earn our way back by living so that people want us there instead of complaining and whining all the time.

10.  If you really think the world is that bad, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  Teach your children to ask questions.  Write letters.  Offer other options.  Work to positively impact the world around you instead of whining that things aren't how they should be.  For heaven's sake, READ YOUR BIBLE.  I mean truly read it, not just pick a few verses that make you feel better than other people.  Live the message so that without words but with actions you can communicate the message of the Gospels.

O.k., I feel much better.  I've had my say.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

M is for Movie

This year, I am truly discovering why I am a primary teacher, LOL.  These "themes" are so much fun.  I wish the curriculum gave us more time for this kind of fun in class.  I remember, when I started teaching, when we used to have so much fun with themes.  I understand all the reasons behind the changes but truly, there are days that I feel as if most of the fun has been taken out of school.

That's another topic.  For today, let's stick with fun with letter M.  To begin, we made maple syrup muffins.  These are seriously good.  I found the recipe here.  It's the brushing the tops with maple syrup that made these so seriously good.  I'm thinking I'd like to try that with a few other muffin recipes I have that are a little better for you than this recipe.  LB in particular was very fond of these.  Pk thought the brushing of the syrup was the best part.  Food was a big part of M - macaroni, meatballs, mangos and milk all played a part in our week.

Our "big idea" for M was a movie.  The original plan was for daddy to take Pk to see "The Muppet Movie" at the theatre.  Uncle J tried to take her in December but she "got scared that mummy and daddy would be scared without me".  We thought we would try again and that it might be more successful with daddy.  Sadly, these movies don't stay around long.  We even checked the listings for the local multiplex (we usually go to a wonderful, inexpensive little retro theatre in a nearby small town) but we were too late.   Plan B was to take her to busy a movie.  Dh and I discussed it and decided that, while we are not big Disney fans,  we would cave a little bit and let her buy "Beauty and the Beast" since character is more of an emphasis in that one.  She was so excited.  Of course, the store at which we planned to make our purchase was out but we did manage to find it and, as you can see, Pk was very excited.
 M is for magazine.  Each year, the school (both mine and Pk's) do a big magazine fundraiser.  The prices really aren't especially great but at least we don't have to sell chocolate bars.  This year, I decided to buy National Geographics "Little Kids".  It's terrific.  A friend also gave Pk a subscription to Chickadee and that's o.k. but a bit busy and above her yet.  We've been taking the National Wildlife Federation's Wild Animal Baby out of the library and enjoying that one, too.
 And, of course, we couldn't resist.  I debated whether to do this but it's not as if my kids never get it and, frankly, everybody needs some junk food some of the time.  The moms I know who never allow anything always seem to be so joyless.  Yes, I try to keep things healthy and to be as natural as we can, but there are limits.
We actually had a lot of other M's this week but most were photos of people in our lives and I haven't asked to post their photos so I had better not.

It's so funny, N started out as being so hard but now, I can't wait!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tough Times

The last few days have been tough.  LB has been really sick.  He started with a bad cold and a fever.  Fevers really scare me and tend to be fairly rare around here.  Runny noses, yes, all the time but other than feeling slightly warm with the odd virus, my kids don't seem to be prone to them.  That's a great thing because they terrify me.  I know that they are supposed to be the body's defense mechanism but I can't get the fear of febrile seizures away.  I taught a boy who had two febrile seizures, the parents were told they were nothing and he would be fine and by the time he came to me, it was very obvious that he was not fine and he had major neurological damage.  At the first sign of fever around here, we break out the Advil and the Tylenol (I was amazed when the doctor first told me you could do that and we have been told that by several since).

Anyway, LB just kept getting sicker.  His nose was constantly running, he had a horrible cough, he was sleeping maybe ten minutes at a time but he wanted to do nothing other than to cuddle on one of us.  By Sunday night I was getting worried.  Dh and I talked and decided that if he seemed bad on Monday morning, Dh would take the day off.

We got LB up and he could barely open his eyes, they were so filled with gunk.  Dh, being a man (sorry, but I have come to the conclusion that men are not capable of these decisions) said that he thought he could probably go to daycare.  My "mommy-dar" was going off and I just had a gut feeling that none of this was normal.  I insisted that Dh take the day and take LB to the hospital in a neighbouring town (not the big hospital in which they would wait 8 hours and catch 3 nasty viral infections while waiting) but the small one with the kind doctors and the short wait time, knowing that if things were really bad, we'd be transferred to the big hospital.  Dh called at around 11 a.m. to say that LB had a probable case of significant pneumonia and an ear infection and the doctor had said that it was a very good thing we had taken him in when we did.  We now have two inhalers, antibiotics, strict directions to continue the Advil and Tylenol and have been told to take him back in 7 days.  It's been over 24 hours and we are starting to see a small improvement but this is one sick little boy.  I was off work today, Dh will be off tomorrow and we will see about Wednesday.

This all makes me very, very grouchy.  On the one hand, there is something beautiful about mothering a sick child.  I love the way they cuddle in, the way that I can feel like I am being useful and bringing them comfort.  I love cuddling them and making sure they are safe.  There are those poignant (and exhausting) moments in the middle of the night when you exhaustedly think that this is what parenting is all about.

Then, there are all of the frustrations.  There is the fact that I wish I could stay home with my kids so that I didn't have to struggle with myself about whether to send them to daycare.  I wish that other people were in the position to keep their kids home when they are sick so we don't catch all this stuff.  I wish that I didn't feel so much doubt about when it's time to actually take them to emergency (I always struggle with whether I am wasting time of the hospital staff or whether I might have actually waited too long).  I wish that a friend with whom I disagree about flu shots wouldn't look at me with this knowing look that implies that my kids wouldn't be sick if we got the shot (why do people who are committed to flu shots so often convince themselves that flu shots prevent all seasonal illnesses and viral infections when they are normally smart enough to know that the measles vaccine won't prevent chicken pox???)  Most of all, I wish that those people who claim that "family should come first" make the most demands on me when they know that I have a very sick child at home?  I wish I was better at saying NO.

So, there's my rant.  I'm off to listen for the first waking of the evening (which should be anytime) and to pray that Pk doesn't get this.  We've already had to use up a lot of sick time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yarn Along

I haven't participated in Ginny's "Yarn Along" over at Small Things in a while and I have really missed it.  Sadly, there has been VERY little knitting time these days.  I am hoping that as this set of report cards gets written, life will ease up for a while and I will be able to do some more.  The local cable t.v. station is coming to film our "knitting guild" at the library on Thursday night, so I had to get something started.

Knitting - this is a cute hat/scarf combo that I found.  The pattern is here.  It's been easy to follow so far.  I'm not 100% convinced on the colour for LB - I bought the yarn during Boxing Week and the store was crazy and I had both kids and the salewoman was less than efficient.  I just grabbed the first thing that looked decent.  I just hope it will fit his big head :-)

Reading - I've been steadily reading through the pile from the library, slipping in reading time when I can.  I must admit, I've been really tired from the crazy pace at work and I don't often get far before my eyes get heavy.  I do love Alexander McCall Smith.  I was pondering how ironic that is, given that, especially in the Isable Dalhousie series, things wander off into philosophical ponderings, something that would drive me crazy in a conversation and yet I love it in his books.

I can't wait to see what everyone else is working on!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

L is for Library

L was a very easy letter for our family.  If anything, we quickly discovered that we were going to have to limit our "L" photos a bit for Pk's book for school otherwise we wouldn't be able to fit them all.  It was a fun letter.

Of course, our outing had to be to the library.  I have raved about our library here before but I will say it again, our town has a wonderful library with marvelous staff.  It isn't huge but for a library of its size, it has a surprisingly good collection and we have enjoyed the children's programming since Pk was about 4 months old.  At this stage, we try to get to the Wednesday evening bedtime stories when the littles aren't seeming too tired, mommy goes to the twice-monthly knitting club (and hey, we have now become a guild - not sure what that means other than that I get a card and discounts at several knitting stores!) and Pk goes to the once-a-month "Crafty Kids" on Saturday and the once-a-month "Groove and Play."  We've met many of our closest friends in town (any friend of ours has to be a friend of books LOL) at library activities, too.

 Then, of course, there's Lunatic Lucie.  She is a sweet dog who has been sent to test us.  Pk loves putting her on a leash.  Sadly, she is such a leash-fiend (and before you make suggestions, she had over a year of serious obedience, a pinch collar, a gentle-leader, a halti, a harness and, at times, I use a pointer hitch, none of which works).  She was quite willing to have her photo taken.

Then, we had lights.  Unfortunately, in a rash of organization for the new year, we packed away all of our Christmas decorations in rubbermaid tubs.  It was a nice idea but I couldn't face going through the stack to find the lights so we cheated and pulled out an old photo.

L is for lollipop and this lollipop is one that Pk has been eying for a very long time at the England store.  We have been strong and resisted but, in the name of our alphabet project, we relented and were immediately told that she needed two... Our first reaction was a resounding no until she informed us that her best friend needed one too.  When we dropped it off, I am not so sure her friend's mother was soon keen, LOL.
 Then, of course, L is for laundry.  I have high hopes of trading off some of these jobs someday.  No success yet.  Just getting laundry into the hamper in our bathroom is an accomplishment with the littles.
 Lego was a suggestion of mine which Pk embraced.  We have some and she hasn't seemed all that keen.  I loved it as a child and then, when I saw this ad from 1981, it renewed my interested in having one of my children enjoy Lego.   I must also admit, I have also seen many, many wonderful Lego birthday ideas on Pinterest and I am seriously hoping to have someone who would like a Lego party one of these days.
 Finally, in our family, L is for lamb.  I find it a bit surprising that the kids eat lamb because I loathed it as a child.  Part of that may have been due to the fact that my mother, whom I love dearly, is a terrible cook (something which she will freely admit).  I came well into adulthood convinced that lamb was disgusting and then, my friend A insisted that I had to try their grilled lamb chops.  I. WAS. IN. LOVE.  I now would have grilled lamb with mint sauce (must be sauce, not ever jelly, yuck) over just about any other meat.  Dh cooked a lovely leg of lamb in the oven and then, we had so much left over that I went on a quest to find a recipe for leftovers (not being a fan of cold lamb).  I wasn't sure about this recipe but I should never have doubted.  When will one ever go wrong with onions and butter???  Yum!  Even the kids couldn't get enough.

We have "m"agical plans for M (ha!)  bit I'm struggling a bit on something great for N.  I'd love suggestions (and we'd thought about Niagara Falls but we just don't have the time for the drive).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

K is for Kettles

It's rather funny.  I have mentioned to several people at work our "alphabet adventure" and I have so many people who have gotten involved in it.  I go into work on a Monday morning and people want to know what we have come up with for that week.  I even had another teacher tell me that she had told her husband that she needed to have another baby, just so that she could do this.  Seriously, we are having so much fun but then, I guess that's why we are teachers - we love stuff like this.

It took me a bit of effort to get back into the swing of this after the winter break.  Fortunately, k gave us a few special opportunities.  First of all, there is Pk's cousin, K.  She totally worships both her big girl cousins so to take a picture of her into class was a big excitement.  

We also had the good fortune of going up to visit my parents-in-law.  There's a restaurant on the highway that is a favourite of the locals and it happens to be called "Kettles".  The food was fairly rustic but delicious (my potato/corn chowder was the height of comfort food!)  The best part - the door handle was in the shape of a letter k!

Food was a bit of a challenge but we figured it out.  We gave Pk "Oven baked kale chips" (a favourite around here, I thought she was going to eat the entire pan before any went into her lunchbox),  kiwi fruit, which Pk discovered that she loves after insisting that it "tastes like yuck" before trying it and, I am embarrassed to say, I tried a total junk food ketchup recipe which was a huge hit with both Pk and Dh.  I had a photo of Pk with a kite, too, but I can't seem to find that at the moment.

Onto letter L!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Simple Pleasures

One of the things that first drew me to Dh, those many (many, many, many) years ago was his ability to be who he was.  He had learned that he didn't need to please anyone else and that he wasn't going to change his interests or his clothing to suit someone else's opinion.  He isn't insensitive - he cares very much when he thinks that he might have hurt someone, but he has always been his own person and he doesn't apologize for that.  For me, who has always been so much of a people pleaser that I compromise myself far to often to fit in, it is a characteristic that I have admired very much.

I'm really excited that, at least at this stage, Pk seems to be following in his footsteps.  We see it in little things.  She loves passionately and when she loves something, it becomes almost an obsession.  I think she has seen every episode of Word World 200 times (hence why her reading is coming on so nicely), it's been Veggietale everything since she was about 18 months and Rudolph is the current fixation.  We are seeing signs of a move to "The Lion King", about which we have mixed feelings - ANYTHING other than Rudolph would be a nice relief but if you have been around here very long, you know how we feel about Disney.

I heard a nice little story today that confirmed it for me.  Back in November, when people started asking Pk what she wanted from Santa, she always came up with the same answer - a chocolate egg and some Rudolph toys.  The Rudolph toys were fairly easy to find as there seems to be a huge resurgence but the chocolate egg was a bit more of a challenge.  I wanted to find something special but, after an extensive search of local chocolate sources, the best I could do was a large kindersurprise egg.  Christmas morning, she got up to open her egg and was thrilled.  Given the sheer amount of Christmas junk that has come into this house, we hadn't opened it until today.  It was a big event.

The best part was the call I got this evening.  My friend had been volunteering in Pk's class and she called beacuse there was a story she thought I would want to hear.  I gather that before Christmas, Pk's teacher had her write a sentence about what she wanted for Christmas.  Obviously, she said a chocolate egg.  Today, her teacher had them use the sentence starter "I got a ..."  My friend said that Pk eagerly sat down to write and when the teacher when over to check on her, she very loudly announced, "I got a chocolate egg," with great pride.  

I love that she is pleased by the small things and, frankly, it's also nice that the things she wants are cheap, LOL.  I just hope that she keeps that strong sense of what gives her pleasure and her lack of apology for it.  I could learn a lot from her.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Joy Dare

I just wrote and then accidently deleted a wonderful post about a great post that my bloggy-friend and brilliant Christian inspiration Jill wrote.  You need to go and read it and then go to the blog that she is talking about.  Like Jill, I have not entirely joined the cult of 1000 Gifts but certainly, the practice of cultivating gratitude has made a huge difference for me, especially at a crazy time like the return to work after our winter break.
Go visit Jill and read this post.  She's worth it, I promise!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Just Wonderin'

Am I in the minority of women my age (pushing the later end of the 30s, if I am being honest), who, at times, still gets flashes of the insecurities of high school?  I work with several women, all nice enough (to your face... oops, did I just say that), who like to function as the kind of "in" crowd at work (I work at a very large school).  I'm too busy for crowds myself, I have friends at work but I'm too busy to go out for lunch - I go to work, I work all day, including through breaks, and leave as soon as the work is done because I'd rather be with my family.

So, we were invited to the 2nd b-day party of the son of one of these women.  He went to daycare with LB until recently.  Even though we probably make as much money as these people and they live in the heart of suburbia (sorry, I'd much rather be in either the city or a small town, I don't really like housing development after housing development), there is just something about these people that makes me doubt myself in so many ways.  I am usually fairly comfortable with what I have and one of the reasons we moved to the small town was to get away from the pressure to keep up.  I want to have a comfy home and I don't pretend that we have a lot of money and I know that we are not fashionable in any sense of the word.  Most of the time, I don't care.  Today, though, I felt really out of place and came home and the house just looked that little bit shabbier and the kids looked that little bit scruffier and I was filled with doubt about everything.

I'll get over it and, as the therapist I saw for a while two years ago told me, I need to stop buying the image that everyone wants to put forward and start seeing through to the person underneath, warts and all, but, yet again, I hit that feeling like I had when I was 15.  It's not so nice.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Eve (and the end of the December Daily)

December 30th

On the 30th, we spent a lot of time having fun as a family.  I had just finished this hat (the "shroom" made from Spud and Chloe) and I was really excited to get out and have Pk wear it.  I don't often like bulky knits, especially ones that are kind of "funky" (which leaves me in a small minority in knitting these days - most people seem to really like odd-looking stuff) but I loved the way this hat turned out and while the photos don't do it justice, Pk looked adorable.  Dh wanted to go out and shovel as much as he could given that the forecast was for a warm-up (which to Dh immediately leads to concerns about a flooded basement) and then a freeze over (being sued for someone falling on our property).  

We bundled up and went outside.  The plan was that Dh would shovel and snow blow (that was one of our best-ever investments!) and the kids and I would make a snowman.  The snowman didn't work - while the snow was wet, I just couldn't get it to pack properly.  I seem to be hopeless at making snowmen and the snow never seems to be right.  I'm hoping it's the snow, not me!

We had fun making snow angels, throwing snow and watching LB look like the little brother in "A Christmas Story" - his mobility was seriously limited and he and I fought a lot about his mitts.  They are  wonderfully warm but rather bulky (I bought the size up since they were expensive enough that I didn't want to have to buy another pair next year - perhaps a mistake).

We had a lovely nap together (nothing like fresh air) and as a special treat, we went into town for dinner at "the" Chinese buffet restaurant.  The food was o.k. but we don't have to wait for service, which, for Little Bean, is huge.  They also have fountains and fish tanks, another thing that can stretch our meal past 20 minutes.  The best part - Dh took me to Wild Birds Unlimited to buy a squirrel-proof feeder, which I have wanted for ages.  I LOVE birds in winter but to date, we tend to only really attract squirrels.

If only I didn't have to pay bills, I could really get used to these days together as a family!

December 29th

Excuse the quality of the photos.  We decided that, with some snow, we wanted to take the kids sledding but since it gets dark so early, the photos aren't great.  It was fun, though.  The view down the hill in the schoolyard was gorgeous.  I tend to hibernate in winter but this year, I want us to get out and have lots of fun!

December 28th

The 28th was our first day without anything to do.  Well, that's not entirely true - the 27th we decided that the kids were in desperate need of a decompression day and we took a day just to rest and keep things quiet.  On the 28th, we felt like we were ready to start doing a few things again.

It really didn't end up being an especially exciting day.  For the most part, we stayed close to home.  We did venture out to give the dogs a run in the forest.  LB got to wear his new hat (when I asked Pk what she wanted to give him for Christmas, she insisted that he wanted a lion hat and I found this cute on on Etsy).  It wasn't an especially cold day, which made it perfect for a walk.

I love the fact that LB still fits in the Ergo (the best investment I ever made!)  He loves being on my back and usually, as you can see, either sleeps or goes into a super-relaxed state.  It amazes me that the weight on my back doesn't bother me at all.

 Dh and I were so excited!  About five years ago, on a walk through this forest, we stumbled across this tree that someone had decorated.  It seemed really magical, hidden away at the intersection of three  paths in the heart of the forest.  We checked back following years and nobody had repeated the decorating.  We talked about decorating it ourselves but just never got around to it.  This year, we discovered that someone had decorated it again!  I wish I still had the photo from five years ago - the tree has done a lot of growing but it's still charming!
 It the evening, the snow started.  It looks lovely and made being inside so comfy.  I love looking at the trees coated in snow, especially when I don't have to drive in it.  Everything was especially pretty with the Christmas lights - I don't know why people take them down so soon after Christmas.  I wish we kept them up into February to lighten the January darkness.  Dh and I have decided that we are going to leave our snowflake lights up.