The last few days brought the familiarity of a friendship that’s so old it feels like home. The beauty of watching how people change and grow, and of knowing there is so much more to come.

The boys spent their time breaking the ice on the lake, then picking out sheets of ice to throw, revelling in the sight of it smashing into hundreds of tiny pieces as it skittered across the frozen top. Faces flushed, noses pink, hands frozen.

Today brought a trip to a new quarry, accessed by weaving along an overgrown miniature railway and climbing down slippery, moss-covered rocks until we reached the bottom.

We found Crinoids in the rock, and the boys took endless photographs of their finds. Pockets and hands were full of jagged rocks; treasure to small boys. Their unadulterated joy fills me with warmth. It’s January, and still they love to be outside. The mud that they trail through the house leaves me, at first, frustrated, then feeling so incredibly blessed. I wouldn’t change these days outside for cleaner floors or less laundry. They are perfect, and I am reminded of one of the reasons we are home educating. We want to raise boys that love being outside. We want three boys to know that fresh air is the antidote to so many ailments in life.

I don’t understand people that say, ‘I hate winter.’ What’s not to love? The way the cold creeps into your lungs, snaking down through the back of your nose, leaving you refreshed and full of life? Or the sound of the ice crunching underfoot as you pass through frozen puddles and crisp leaves? The skeleton trees bereft of any sign of life, the tyre tracks frozen solid in mud, the first snowdrops pushing through the hard, winter soil that promise year on year that summer will come once more.

The cold, hard remnants of the seasonal year remind me that life is nothing without hope. If hope cannot take root in your heart, then life, like the canvas of winter, is bleak.

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