Sunday, February 5, 2012

In Search of Winter

It's been a crazy winter, unseasonably warm and very dry. With the roads so clear and the weather so mild, Jeff's been on bike rides every month (although February still hasn't seen him on the road...yet!). This is the year that Jeff and I finally upgraded our 15+ year-old skate skis to brand new really nice ones. And this is the year that we have no snow to skate ski on! It's dreadful!
So when we've had time, we've gone up north to find snow. Three times we've taken the whole family to Harriman State Park (Island Park) to ski. The kids do great, even "Little Legs", our four-year-old Charlotte, makes the 3-mile round trip ski in to the warming hut and back. Eleanor stays with me, more or less, and I stay with Charlotte, while the boys go on up ahead at their own pace. When Jeff comes to spot me, then I get a chance to skate ski a while.

Our last trip on Friday (no school!) was simply amazing. The warm sun and breathtaking beauty of the snow-topped trees just made us happy. When the snow sparkles, Eleanor says that the stars have fallen on the ground. The sparkling snow sure looked starry on that sunny day! Little Legs skis remarkably well, gliding and using poles appropriately, as do the other kids, but she tends to take a little - okay, a lot - more time to cover the distance. So to pass the time as we made our way to the warming hut, the girls and I took turns reciting parts of one our favorite books, "The Gruffalo" by Julia Donaldson (Alex Scheffler did the great illustrating).
Eleanor narrated,
"A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood
A Fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good."

Mom (me) spoke the animal part,
"Where are you going to, little brown mouse,
come and have lunch in my underground house."

Then Charlotte was the mouse,
"It's terribly kind of you fox, but no,
I'm going to have lunch with a grufflo."

And so it went, on and on until we'd recited verbatim (more or less) the entire book.
Then it was on to the next book, "The Gruffalo's Child", with special attention to the parts that went, "Aha, oho, tracks in the snow! Whose are these footprints, where do they go?"

It was just plain fun. Samuel and Oliver, meanwhile, had found a hill up ahead and were gleefully nearly killing themselves skiing down on their cross-country skis, then up, then down, again and again.

We caught up to them, then all headed up to the warming hut (which was closed this time, but has been open in the past) for a snack on the picnic table outside the hut.

Jeff was skiing with a couple of friends - Brian and Dave - who met us at the warming hut. On the way back to the car I got to take some skate skiing time for myself. I absolutely love the exhilaration, the thrill, the pure joy of skate skiing. The feeling of moving through air, across snow, gliding like flying, the sun shining, the woods deep and sleepy, it all makes me feel so alive and free... Until I get tired, then I just feel like plopping down in the snow. It's all good.

Last month, for a Christmas present, my parents watched the children overnight while Jeff and I took a trip to West Yellowstone.

That has to be the best Christmas present ever. The kids love being with the grandparents, the grandparents go overboard on spoiling the kids, and Jeff and I get some time to ourselves. We spent Friday and Saturday skate skiing on the Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone.

That weekend were the qualifying races for Junior Nationals, so we got to watch teams from around the region compete in the skate skiing races. It was delightful, especially because I remembered all the excitement and nerves of racing on a skate skiing team when I was their age, too. I never would ever have come close to qualifying for Junior Nationals, but I did have the fun of racing. I have to admit, as fun as the memories were, I didn't envy those kids one bit. It's a lot of pressure and it's nice to skate just for the fun of it.

I've been pretty sick the past few weeks with a terrible cough that keeps me up all night. I'm trying to avoid narcotics - they make me itchy - and just endure until it ends. Thankfully all the aches and sore throat and fever are gone, so other than fatigue I feel fine. My abs have certainly had a workout with all the coughing fits! I've been swimming pretty regularly, taking a swim clinic from an Olympic triathlete and learning tons. The boys are playing indoor soccer "Futsal" and loving it. I actually think they like their neon-bright shoes as much as they do playing. The girls are considering a gymnastics class, but I'm still on the fence with that. The three older kids take piano, the boys have scouts, I'm on the PTO board, Jeff's a just seems like there's already too much to do. Plus I'm supposedly beginning training for my May marathon (being sick hasn't helped). Anyway, I'm grateful for the life we've been given and the many many many blessings God has given us as a family - especially that of being a family.