This winter has been different. I think it’s been different for everyone. I don’t know if it’s the whole “polar vortex” or if it’s just a colder winter. I recently learned that a volcanic eruption can cause such a disturbance in the atmosphere that it can cause unusually cold winters or beautiful sunsets for up to a few years after the event. I guess there’s also the possibility that a large enough volcanic eruption can cause a mini ice age, weird, huh? I’ve not seen this much snow since I was a wee lass, but back then I was also smaller, so maybe there’s more than before? I love the snow, but I’m not going to say that I love the negative temperatures. I am now quite glad that we’re heading toward an equatorial region! One night, we all piled into the van and drove through 9 inches of snow to go see the Hobbit with my sisters and cousin. We only got stuck the last 1/10th of a mile down my parent’s street and all had to push each others cars out. Gotta love snow and icicles!My youngest sister, Hope, has actually already missed 6 days of school, and it’s barely the end of January! I’m okay with that since it means more time to hang out and she’ll be 100% grown up by the time we’ve made it back from our first term on the field. In our family, the right of passage is getting your ears pierced at 16. So, I got to watch as the final Bates girl got holes put in her ears!Time with family was also bountiful over the holidays. I loved spending time with my grandparents as they braved the cold for a week over Christmas before heading back to Florida. Below is a picture of everyone crammed into my parent’s house for Christmas dinner. I was able to do some video interviews with Grandpa and Grandma, which someday I’d love to compile into a small documentary for our family. There’s a long list before that will ever happen, but I just felt like the time was right to capture some of their story on film before we leave. I can’t remember the voices of my other grandparents, and they’ve only been gone a few years, which makes me sad. Plus, after our training and the tribal simulation, I have a much deeper appreciation for history and stories than I used to!