For us east-coasters, this was obviously a big weather week. New England was more or less spared from the worst of this winter storm but our neighbors to the south are still digging out. North of Boston, we only received about five inches of snow this time around, which if you ask me is just about perfect. It’s enough to look pretty, it’s enough for sledding, and it’s enough to easily shovel and pile out of the way (for now). We are feeling lucky and looking starry-eyed down the tunnel towards the last month of snow before the thaw begins.

January 27, 2015 - the first of four weeks of back-to-back blizzards.

January 27, 2015 – the first of four weeks of back-to-back blizzards.

Well, not so fast. I hate to be a debbie-downer, but I did just look through the dates on my camera roll to confirm that last year’s first truly substantial snowfall for us didn’t come until January 27. That’s this week. And after that, it was 8 feet of snow in a month. It felt almost suffocating. And it’s still feasible that we could have a repeat this year. But I will also point out that last year’s snow deluge followed an exceptionally cold fall. Last winter, our first thin coating of snow fell on November 2nd and temperatures seemed to hover below freezing from then until the procession of blizzards began. This year, we had barefoot beach days well into November and temperatures nearing 70 at Christmas. This year, the cold still seems new and novel so we aren’t complaining. The addition of snow, so far, just means more possibilities. Snow is always exciting at the beginning.

And don’t worry, I’ll be sure to refer back to this post in a month when I’ve had it with the fluffy white stuff.

For now, here’s what our week held.

Break from sledding to kick back with some hot chocolate.

Break from sledding to kick back with some hot chocolate.

 Monday: The holiday meant that we had a chance to sled with friends in a fresh couple inches of powder. We were excited to check out a new sledding hill but the kids were pooped after just half an hour. Luckily we had planned ahead and took a cozy hot chocolate break right on the hill. Afterwards the kids were refreshed and ready to go again. I ended up having to bribe them to leave! Lesson of the day: By taking it slow outside, everyone is able to build stamina without reaching their limit before the fun is done.

The hill behind this bench shielded us completely from the wind and we were able to enjoy a picnic lunch without the bitter windchill.

The hill behind this bench shielded us completely from the wind and we were able to enjoy a picnic lunch without the bitter windchill.

Tuesday: A day for strategy with a high temperature of 10 degrees with windchill. We checked the forecast, knew the wind direction, and chose a local spot that we knew would be sheltered for a picnic lunch. Find a couple local spots and learn which work best in each wind direction. Next time the wind kicks up, put your local knowledge to use and choose someplace that will work to your advantage.

Little Bear, spotting deer at nature class. Can you see them just above the righthand side of his hat?

Little Bear, spotting deer at nature class. Can you see them just above the righthand side of his hat?

Wednesday:  We had a forest meltdown. At the end of Little Bear’s nature class, he wanted to turn right and keep walking when the rest of the class was turning left to go inside and make a bird feeder. He wouldn’t budge and soon there was a full blown tantrum happening in the snow.

The rest of the class moved on and Little Bear finally calmed down when we focused on looking for deer (we saw almost a dozen!) and feeling the sun on our cheeks. Eventually we rejoined class to finish our bird feeder.

The whole episode reminded me of a Japanese tradition that several friends have mentioned in the past. Shinrinyoku, or forest bathing, is the concept of stress reduction and immune boosting through immersion in nature. Proponents suggest that you absorb your surroundings with all five senses (and believe me, there was some snow ingestion happening so we did) and experience an almost meditative calming effect.

Little Bear was definitely tired and probably cold, but taking an extra couple minutes outside allowed him to calm down and finish his class happily.

For more information about forest bathing, see here.

Thursday: I woke and rushed the boys out of the house to spend the day with their Omi. (I love Thursdays!) As I drank my morning coffee, I read a friend’s Facebook post about enjoying her coffee outside and enjoying the quiet. I love little tidbits of inspiration like that, so I took my own coffee outside too, with a cozy blanket and a deck chair.

Later, I took a quiet wander through the woods without the kids. It was still bitterly cold and the wind was still howling, but in this tiny sheltered clearing the sun felt so warm on my face. Another little reminder to soak it up.

Junior with his frozen sun catcher which we hung in front of a window where we could enjoy it every day.

Junior with his frozen sun catcher which we hung in front of a window where we could enjoy it every day.

Friday: In preparation for the weekend’s winter storm, I shared one of our favorite cold weather crafts – frozen sun catchers. You could even make this in the freezer if you live someplace warm. Check out full directions here.

Saturday:  January’s full moon, the Wolf Moon, thusly named because during Native American and early Colonial times its appearance was often accompanied by the howling of hungry wolves who gathered around the villages.

With the Christmas full moon, we started a family tradition of full moon walks. Saturday was cloudy and by nightfall the snow was falling steadily and the wind was picking up again. After dinner and building a roaring fire in our wood stove, the last thing I felt like doing was putting on snow gear and heading out into the storm. Lucky for me, Little Bear would not be dissuaded so out we went.

And it was magical. Full moon walks will definitely be a longtime tradition around here. Even though we couldn’t see the moon, it was fun to be out after dark and the fresh snow made it seem extra special. Little Bear couldn’t remember ever being out in such heavy snow, and he kept joyfully looking up into the sky and pointing, “Look at that storm, Mama!”

A magical night walk during a snow storm for January's full Wolf Moon.

A magical night walk during a snow storm for January’s full Wolf Moon.

Looking forward to the week to come, we are down to our last week for sign ups for the 365Outside Challenge: 2016. If you haven’t signed up yet, don’t be shy! You don’t have to commit to a full 365 (or 366) days; there are options for every comfort level.

This week will also see our family heading out for our first weekend of winter cabin camping. We have never done this before and I’m beyond excited. I can’t wait to share the adventure with you, so stay tuned.