December 19
       My, but the time has been flying lately.  Between work, church, the kids' activities and Christmas preparations I've hardly had a moment to catch my breath let alone jot down what we've been up to here on the hill.  It just doesn't seem possible that time has flown so quickly and another year is nearly passed.
       We've been in the grip of a cold spell here in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  Today's high is just 25 degrees.  Brrrrrrr!  Plenty of snow and
 ice to go along with the cold, too.  Both this morning and Wednesday morning small snow storms hit the area just as the school buses were setting out.  How did that go, you ask?  Wellllllll.....I was pretty sure it wasn't a good sign on Wednesday when I went down my first hill virtually sideways....and up the next one in the same condition.  That was pretty much my method of movement, creep and slide up a hill and slide down the other side.  I wasn't much concerned with what direction the bus was pointed as long as I was still on the road.  I made it to my turn around point and started back and was nearly to the top of the longest, steepest hill I travel (it's curvy, too, with a lake at the bottom) when the back end of the bus went into a slide and nothing I did would correct it.  The best I could do was keep it in a nice easy slide and land us softly in a ditch.......where we had to sit and wait 45 minutes for the bus company's mechanics to come pull us out.  They weren't that far away, but buses were going off the road every few minutes that morning.  Whew!  Talk about white-knuckle driving!  This morning was not quite so bad, but the bus still went sliding in a few places and it sure is an experience to meet a big snow plow coming the other way on a one-lane road.  Hopefully any snow we get the rest of the winter will come early enough to warrant a delay or cancelation.  Even the most experienced drivers were nervous wrecks on Wednesday.  Much as I like a white Christmas, I'm thankful that the forcast for the beginning of next week is for temperatures in the upper 40's.  Christmas vacation starts Wednesday.  It can snow all it wants after that!
       Last night was Megan's school concert.  She is in the girls' chorus.  The teacher made a lot of parents happy with a show that only lasted 30 minutes.  Much better than some I've sat through that were 2 hours long on a school night!  Much too long for the younger ones.  Anyway, the kids did a great job.  This was just the 6th grade last night....mixed chorus, ensemble and girls' chorus so it was the same group of kids I've been seeing every year for the last 3.  I couldn't believe what a difference a year had made.  Their voices have really grown....and so has their talent.  It was a great show and really got everyone in the Christmas spirit.  Sunday is to be the Christmas program at church, but we've had a lot happening there with both pastors resigning and a lot of people leaving (us included after Christmas) so I'm not sure it's still going to take place.  They have lost a lot of the kids.  It's really very sad to see a church fall apart, especially at this time of year.  I know it's been a very hard decision for us to decide to leave.  It's the church Tim and I were married in and it's the only church the kids have ever known.
       As we lose one set of friends (from the church) we are beginning to gather new ones from the people I work with.  Last Saturday was my company Christmas party and we sat with the women I talk with most and their husbands.  Turns out Tim had been great friends with one of the husbands back in high school and he had a great time....better than at his own company parties!  We had such fun talking with everyone and it's the first time we've been out dancing in years.  So, we were really tickled this week when we got an invite to join them all on New Year's Eve.
       I haven't gotten any baking done yet and am beginning to stress just a bit about it.  That and the molded chocolates I make every year to give as gifts.  I am really going to have to get busy this weekend and Monday and Tuesday.  I also have to do some shopping over the weekend to get everything I need for Christmas dinner.  I always cook and my mom, her husband, my grandmother and sometimes my aunt join us.  I haven't thought of what to take to our annual Christmas Eve get-together with church friends, either.  Usually I take shrimp, but that's so expensive.  I guess tonight will find me curled up with cookbooks, paper and pencil.
       The bus company had it's annual Christmas breakfast this morning at the main office.  Quite a lot of food for all of us-scrambled eggs, cheesy potatoes, bacon, sausage and toast.  We all received a glass mug with the company logo, a grocery gift certificate and our pay stub (we're paid by direct deposit).  It's nice that the owner does that.  I was amazed by how much grumbling I heard among the employees that it wasn't more.  In this day and age, I say we need to be thankful for anything we're given when so many do without.
       Today is Tim's birthday.  I gave him his gifts this morning, but am hoping he will get home at a decent time tonight so we can at least spend some time with him.  He is supervising the installation of a parking lot and the asphalt plant will be closing down for the winter break at the end of the month so the bank is breathing down everyone's necks and pushing to get it done.  He leaves at 5:00 in the morning and hasn't been home before 8:00 yet this week.  He is exhausted.  Last night he got home while we were at the concert and started his bath water then wandered out to find something to eat.  I got home in time to find the tub overflowing and at least an inch of water on the floor.  He was so tired he just forgot about it.  He is hoping he can take tomorrow off.
       We have been burning the kerosene heater daily to help with heating.  What a difference it has made!  The house has been toasty warm and the furnace doesn't run much at all.  Our older dog, Abby, just loves it.  The heat must feel good on her old bones as she is never far from it and more often than not, sleeps with her head resting on it.  I don't know how she can stand it.  We lock the dogs in the kitchen when no one is home and as soon as I get home from the morning run Abby is standing at the gate barking to be let out to get to the heater.
       One last thing......I got an early Christmas present.  My only surviving hen finally started laying eggs!!  They are large, brown, smooth and as yummy as they can be.  She is laying at least one a day, sometimes two.  Either Matt or I get them as Megan won't go in the coop.  She is absolutely terrified of Hannibal.  Not that I can blame her.  He is very large and puts on quite a show of looking fearsome.  And every now and then he does fly up at whoever opens the door.  I go armed with a handful of scratch and a broom, but I talk to him and he never gives me a problem.
       Well, time to head back out into the snow and ice so I will close and wish you all a blessed and very MERRY CHRISTMAS!