Sunday, January 31


Did you know that it takes 107,000 frequent flyer miles to fly from Montana to London? I am 77,000 miles short. Do you know why I know this? Because it's Sunday afternoon ... in January ... in Montana. And there are four people in my house rattling around in about 300 square feet. So I am looking up how far I can get on my meager miles.

When my husband and I are feeling sorry for ourselves, we think we might as well live in a one-room shack in a third-world country with kids and chickens underfoot. Except we're nothing like that for a million reasons, not the least of which is that there are way more toys than chickens spread across that 300 square feet. I wonder if the kids will still want to play at our feet when we live in more than 900 s.f. (really), in which case, why bother heating and maintaining 1000 more square feet? Or will they actually play in the family room while my husband and I read the paper two whole rooms away in the living room or even in, be still my beating heart, a dining room?

Friday, January 29

New Parents in a Foreign Land

From Anthony Doerr's memoir Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World

"Maybe being a new parent is like moving to a foreign country. There is the Before and the After, an Old Life and a New Life. Sometimes we wonder who we were before. Sometimes we wonder who we are now. Sometimes our feet get tired. Sometimes we find ourselves reaching for guidebooks.

We are humbled over and over—humility hangs over our heads like a sledgehammer. Oh, your novel got a nice review? That's great. You can read it after you scrub the feces out of your child's pajamas. Oh, you think you've been here long enough to barter at the street markets? Guess what, you just spent 8 lira on three plastic clothes hangers.

Every few days there are moments of excruciating beauty. We are simultaneously more happy and more worn out than we have ever been in our lives. We communicate by grinning and pointing and waving food in the air. We don't sleep as well as we used to. Our expectations (today I might take a shower; the #75 bus might actually show up) are routinely dashed. Just when we think we have the system (two naps a day; Shauna finds a rosticceria with chickens on spits that is open on Sundays), the system collapses. Just when we think we know our way around, we get lost. Just when we think we know what's coming next, everything changes."

Isn't that a beautiful description of parenthood? I haven't lived a foreign country but when I came home with a new baby I might as well have been sent to Mars! No amount of 21st century preparation (read the books, take the classes, search the web) provided any guidance on how to really live with a tiny being that didn't gain weight or sleep or speak up about how to fix it. I remember the biggest difference between baby #1 and baby #2 was that I knew we would all probably survive those early months of baby #2 - the first time around I absolutely did not know how it would all work out. And now, sometimes, I feel like an expert - at least with my two children - until the system collapses and everything changes ... again.

Thursday, January 28

Secrets to Succeeding at Skiing with Kids

Before my husband and I had children, we went skiing. We went from lying in bed to standing on skis in an hour flat– plus or minus driving time. We got up, got gear, got parked and got skiing with, in retrospect, laughable ease.

Then we had kids.

Now our ski season begins in September, on that first cold morning when someone needs a hat. Then someone else needs mittens. Then begins an annual inventory of all things wintery, of coats and snow pants, neckgaters and goggles, helmets and skis, boots of all kinds – snow boots, downhill ski boots, cross country ski boots, ice skates, snowshoes – and sleds.

So here are some secrets to snowy fun that I've learned somewhere between the minivan and the mountains.

Secret #1: Follow the child's lead. If your child is more interested in eating snow than sliding down it, maybe that should be the big achievement of the day. So relax, count snowflakes, throw snowballs, and try not to think of the time, money and effort it took to get there.

Secret #2: You set the tone, for better or worse. That's why it's okay to throw snowballs, especially at dad. While searching for ski gear in the fall, practice saying, "Isn't this an adventure?" Or, "Whoa dude, that was a really cool wreck!" And, "Let's see how long we can stand on one ski while waiting in this lift line."

Secret #3: Sleds, or how to actually get a Sherpa's worth of gear to the chairlift. Before children, I didn't give a moment's thought to walking a quarter mile across a parking lot and stomping up stairs to the ticket office. Then I had to get a five and a three-year-old from the car to the lift … by myself. How? A sled. A cheap sled … because you're going to leave it in a snowbank by the chairlift until the end of the day.

But first, pile skis into sled, pile duffle bag/backpack on top of that, and pile children on top of that. Pull sled across parking lot. Stop for a snack. Finish expedition through parking area. Reach the lodge steps. Unload children. Balance four little skis in one hand and take smallest child in other. Shepherd bigger child in front of you and tackle the stairs. Drag empty sled behind you with your teeth. Put it all down to purchase tickets. Pick it all back up to continue to staging area. Stash sled. Then go throw snowballs and follow rabbit tracks in the snow.

Secret #4: Glove gators. I saw these little fleece gizmos in a gear store and ran right home to make my own. It's a tube of fleece with a thumbhole that goes over mittens and jackets sleeves to cover that crack of skin in between. They keep snow out and mittens on.

Secret #5: Quit before the crying. Do not continue until children (or parents) are crying. Always quit at the halfway point of the energy so that there is still some left to return home on. It's sort of like flying to the moon and not saving some fuel for the trip home. If you pass the point of no return and are still on the slopes with a kid in a total meltdown, you'll wish you were on the moon where there are no witnesses.

Secret #6: And finally, as with any outdoor activity with children, the more the merrier. Other kids and/or grandparents promote more playfulness and just enough competition to help everyone go a little faster and a little further. Lots of prep work, especially the night before, also increases the merriness for everyone. Though there are times I wish for the simplicity of skiing before kids, I treasure the sight of my two kids gliding down the bunny hill holding hands and laughing together. Someday, hopefully, they will be hauling their own little ones up the hill to ski with me!