Monday, December 29, 2008

Sun Peaks

Wow I'm behind. This trip is part of the reason for that, so I don't really have any regrets. On December 14th we packed up the car and the kids and embarked on a six hour drive up to Sun Peaks Resort in Canada. The boys were amazing, and only got a little squirrelly after we'd already been driving for four hours. We really couldn't have asked for better road-trip behavior. The views on the drive up were pretty amazing. I'm a chicken about driving in the snow, but Aaron is all coolness and calm control. He drove, and I took pictures and handed out snacks and coloring supplies. It was so unbelievably cold that we only took Matteas out once, on the warmest day, which was a sweltering 7 degrees. Fahrenheit. Yeah, it was cold. The second you stepped outside, your breath would freeze in your nose. Tiny ice crystals, all up inside your nose. It was disconcerting, but after a while you sort of got used to it. Daddy and Matteas during his fifteen minutes of outdoor time, about to sled down the hill next to the house. Matteas, screaming angrily at Daddy after getting snow sprayed in his face while sledding. Two years ago we had enough snow on the ground in December to sled. Jack loved the slide at the park, so I thought he'd like sledding. I was mistaken. He wouldn't even get on the sled, and freaked out at the sight of anyone else on a sled. We're talking full-on hysterics. No amount of coaxing would get him anywhere near a sled, and he preferred to stay inside whenever it snowed. It's hard to know when to push your kids to work through their fear and when to let them set their own boundaries, but I'm really glad we didn't try to force Jack that winter. It made it that much more rewarding to see him fearlessly tackle the sled run we made next to the house, shooting down the hill at break-neck speeds over and over again. It was one of those distinct moments in parenting when I thought to myself, here is a breakthrough. And it wouldn't be a proper post if it didn't include at least one picture of food. We had some amazing meals; the above shot was from our second night there, when Briana and I made roasted pork tenderloin with wine-poached apples, mashed potatoes and a tomato, cucumber and blue cheese salad. The house came pre-decorated with a fake tree. You can't really tell from this picture, but the tree was about twelve feet tall. The fireplace was gas, and it stayed on pretty much the entire time.
Some views from the living room windows.
It was an absolutely amazing time; Briana and Shane were so generous to share their vacation with us, and the kids got along really well. We made sure to get them outside at least once a day for some sledding time, which helped a lot. Then the couples took turns watching each other's kids so everyone got to log some time on the mountain. Shane taught Briana to snowboard and Aaron took me skiing for the second time, which I'm pleased to report went much better than the first. I attribute my greater success to two things: chiropractic care and the words lean forward. The first time Aaron took me skiing, I hadn't had my back adjusted at all. After skiing with entirely the wrong technique for a few hours, my lower back was so tired that the muscles simply gave up and I would fall over no matter how hard I tried to stay up. This time, my back felt great and was able to give me the support I needed so that when I was finally driven inside it was from cold and not exhaustion. Thank you, Dr. White. The first time Aaron took me skiing, I borrowed boots and skis from my aunt who is a little taller than I am. This time I rented skis, and a little chat I had with the guy fitting my boots was the beginning of a light-bulb moment for me. He was a friendly little French-Canadian guy, and after measuring my feet he had me try on a killer-looking pair of red and silver ski boots(think Star Wars). "Your boots, they feel okay, no?" he asked very Frenchly. "My toes feel kind of pinched," I replied very naively. "Oui," he said patiently, "lean forward." I complied. And felt really stupid as I pressed my shins into the front of the boot and my toes slid back to a place of comfort and control. In my defense, it's a little counter-intuitive to lean that way when you're facing down-hill. Also, skiing feels totally different than it looks. I was under the impression that it would involve a lot of turning with my hips and upper body. Turns out, not so much. It's mostly about which foot your weight is on, and leaning forward. I cannot emphasize enough how useless it is to try to ski without doing this. This time, something clicked and I became ten times the skier I was before. Which isn't really saying much, but I was still happy. Aaron was very patient with me as I took baby steps down the bunny hills before braving the chair lift, which as far as I'm concerned is the scariest part of skiing. Aaron is an amazing skier(he can ski backwards, people) and instead of shooting expertly down the mountain and leaving me in the frozen dust, he kept me company all the way down, patiently giving me non-condescending instructions whenever I needed them. It was a pretty incredible experience to stand at the top of a snow-covered mountain with my husband and then ski all the way down together. My only regret about the trip was that we got home on the 19th, and it cut into my Christmas preparations a bit. If I had packed better I could have taken some things with me to work on, but it seemed a little absurd to take my sewing machine all the way up to Canada.

Friday, December 12, 2008

For Grandpa

Last night we took the boys over to the grandparents' house and went on a date. My father-in-law mentioned that it's been a long time since I updated my blog; I have some good posts brewing but it's been pretty busy around here, so in the meantime I thought I'd just share a little bit of what we've been up to. Matteas is obsessed with the fireplace. He loves helping Daddy bring wood inside and then, with Daddy's help, putting it on the fire.
Matteas takes his work very seriously.
Waiting for Daddy to come help...
Focus, focus.
Another thing Matteas takes very seriously is his oral hygiene. He has nightly flossing sessions, also with Daddy.
For his next trick, Matteas will start baking. He likes to put on my oven mitt and rub the oven with it.
They haven't seen Lady and the Tramp; I guess this is the sort of thing that just comes naturally.
One morning before school, Jack said "Mom, I want you to spike my hair up crazy for school!"
It's cozy sock weather, especially since we have tile on our kitchen floor; it's chilly making breakfast in the morning barefoot. One morning I couldn't find my fuzzy purple socks. That is, until I looked under the table. And now, I'm off to pack our snow clothes. Along with every piece of warm clothing we own because we're headed to ski country on Sunday, and the forecast is -20F.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A More Meaningful Christmas

Aaron and I have been talking about ways to make Christmas more meaningful and simultaneously more budget-friendly. To that end, I've been working on beefing up my crafting skills. Something homemade might well come from the heart, but not everyone wants one of those woven loop potholders for Christmas. After reading about the Wal-mart employee who was trampled to death the day after Thanksgiving, my already budget-conscious gift ideas were given new resolve to actually mean something; it seems so anti-Christmas to turn gift giving into something so competitive and nasty. That being said, I think my gift to everyone this year will be to dispense with gift-giving entirely; most people can't afford much this year, and plus I'm really picky. So if you are dying to give me something for Christmas and you find something affordable that you think I'll love, I'd be happy to have it, but if the perfect gift idea eludes you just cross me off your list; if we are good friends it won't ruin our relationship that I don't get a gift from you this year, and if we're not good friends, even the most extravagant gift won't make up for it. I plan on simplifying the gifts I plan to give this year, inspired by some of the best gifts I've received. Personally, I don't like having a bunch of stuff that only comes in handy once or twice a year. I like things that I can use in every day life and think of the person who gave it to me. Soap, candles, hand towels, socks, something edible, a cozy throw blanket; these are the kind of gifts that really speak to me. Everybody needs soap and towels, so it's always nice to receive some extra-lovely versions of necessary things and turn an ordinary task like washing your hands into a pleasure-infused experience. Jack is forever asking me for art projects, so I'm always pleased when I come up with one that he can do all by himself and also do it more than once. One of my recent thrifting scores was a huge piece of beautiful green wool felt, and I've been putting it to good use. Most of the time I find that fabric at Goodwill is outrageously priced, often well above what I'd pay for it at Joann's, but this piece was three yards of wool felt for $3.99. I made Jack a Christmas tree, then cut out some ornaments from the cheaper synthetic felt I had from previous art projects.
I trimmed off the extra inch on the sides; I was still fiddling with my pattern.
This project I am particularly pleased with. I got the idea from(where else?) Soulemama's The Creative Family but since I'd already returned it to the library I made up my own pattern. It would be a great gift for any little artist in your life(I think several of my nieces and nephews will be getting one of these this year), and costs very little to make. Also, it was super easy, and I am an extremely amateur sewer/crafter. I bought Jack a dozen pencils for Christmas, so that's how many slots I made in my roll but obviously it can be made to fit any number of art supplies. I allowed 1 inch for each pocket and factored in a 1/2 seam allowance for each side. Using cotton fabric, measure a piece that is 13 inches wide and 10 inches tall. Fold it in half width wise, so you have a piece that measures 13x5. Press. Fold in the sides and the bottom 1/2 inch and press. Your piece should now measure 12x4 1/2. Cut out a piece of felt that's 12 inches wide and 7 1/2 inches tall. Cut out another piece of felt that's 12 inches wide and 10 1/2 inches tall. Cut a piece of ribbon 24 inches long. Lining up the edges, pin the cotton piece to the taller piece of felt so the folded side of the cotton makes the top of the pockets and sew around the three outside edges of the cotton. Then sew a seam at one inch intervals so that you have twelve pockets that are each one inch wide. Lining up the edges, pin the the shorter piece of felt to the back of the taller piece with pockets. Fold the ribbon in half and insert the folded end 1/2 inch, so that it is sandwiched between the two pieces of felt and lines up with the top of the cotton pockets. Pin in place. Using a 1/8 inch seam allowance, sew around the outside edge of the 12x 7 1/2 piece. I picked up a dozen colored pencils from a local toy shop for $1.90, and I'm guessing I used about .75 cents in materials for a grand total of $2.65. You don't have to use wool felt, you could use any fabric you have but using felt saves you a lot of time because it won't fray and you can leave the sides unfinished. This one's for the grandparents. I call it "Pinky and the Brain." I'm pretty sure they talk about how to take over the world.