Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bumpy Enemies

Have you ever had a day of skiing so bad, you cut the day short after two shockingly miserable runs, then just sat in the lodge with a beer and a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos in your hands, put your head down on the table and laughed incredulously into the void? If not, I will share a bit about how that might go.

The roads were slick up into the mountains on our recent ski day; a big dumping of snow had many people frantic to hit the slopes but in their haste, they instead spun out on Snoqualmie Pass. We, thankfully, did not spin, but that was the last thing to go right.

There were ominous whispers in the wind as Coco tried to put her ski boot on at the car but lost her balance and planted her socked foot directly in a foot of snow. It got worse when we boarded the chairlift and it stopped for a lengthy amount of time while we dangled fifty feet in the air. I fought rising panic when the chair just.... well, it just didn't move, dammit. And then it didn't move some more. And then some more.

I silently and desperately ran through rescue scenarios. How were they going to get us down from all the way up here? Do they have cherry pickers mounted on snow cats at the ready? Were we going to have to bungee? Would we have to jump down onto inflatable bouncy things and if so, how long would it take to inflate those things and wouldn't they just slide down the mountain anyway? Alex cheerfully chatted with the kids to distract them from the fact Mom had suddenly gone silent, wide-eyed and white knuckled. Mom had gone to her unhappy place.

The chair began blessed movement again after nine agonizing minutes of non movement. I began to breathe again, though my relief was short lived. After we dismounted from the chair and started getting PUMPED for skiing, we realized there was no easy way down. We had unknowingly jumped onto a chair that serviced only black runs, which are for experts, and one blue run (intermediate) that was so steep, it is my opinion it should be labeled blackish-blue, kind of like the color of a really bad and violently inflicted bruise.

My kids have the skills for the easiest green runs only. They are very much beginners, still skiing without poles and using wide snowplow stances to master their balance. They do not remotely have the skill sets nor confidence to tackle a blackish-blue, especially one with a fresh dumping of snow that was thick, deep, and quickly being shaped into moguls -- a.k.a. bumpy enemies.

Coco said flatly, "No, I am not doing this" as we stared down the steep slope from the top and I said without any confidence in my heart, "You can do it, we'll do it together, one turn at a time, nice and slow." I took one very slow, wide, careful turn in front of her to demonstrate how we were going to get down. She attempted the same, panicked in the middle, picked up speed, and face planted in the snow. And then she was crying and refusing to move any more.

I got a little crabby with her after many minutes of her sitting, crying, and pounding the snow. She was not reacting to my rational, "Coco, you've got to move, we have to get down somehow, we have no choice" and instead just shook her head "no" with her mouth set in a grim line.

I tried teaching her how to sidestep down the slope but the moguls (bumpy enemies) prevented it. I eventually convinced her to stand up and give it another go -- pretty much by threatening to maim all her stuffed animals at home if she didn't move -- but after a couple more turn attempts and a couple more hard falls, Coco was done. She took off her skis in the deep snow and left them in a pile as she stomped down the mountain -- though with the steep pitch she occasionally fell forward onto her chest and slid a few feet. I skied awkwardly behind her, holding her skis in one hand and my poles in the other and staying as close to her as possible to protect her from skiers and snowboarders rocketing down the slope from above. They could anticipate avoiding me, but no one would expect a small angry girl on foot.

It took us 45 minutes to get down that slope, made longer than it needed to be because she stopped every few feet to turn around and yell, "I'M NEVER SKIING AGAIN." My patience stretched to the breaking point and my enjoyment of skiing at a complete standstill, I yelled back, "GREAT, NEITHER AM I!"

Ahhh, making family memories!

Lucien fared better, at least he kept his skis on, and Alex got him down the mountain fairly intact despite a handful of confidence rattling falls. We breathed heavily at the bottom, where we were met by our good friend German Dad and his son, one of Lucien's best friends. We had all eagerly anticipated a day of skiing together the day before but in the moment, we all just kind of looked at each other in horror and wished we'd taken up another winter hobby.

I had to get Coco over to another area of the mountain where we could access some green runs. Everyone else was winded by that first terrible run, too, so decided they would join for a breather and a regroup on easier terrain. Unfortunately, the only way to get to the other part of the mountain was to traverse straight across a couple runs then take off our skis and walk twenty feet uphill to a pass-through.

It was like a little game of Frogger as the six of us skittered straight across the slope between downhill skiers and snowboarders. Then Lucien lost his balance and fell into a deep snowbank where he could not free himself. What a shitshow.

The chairlift for the green runs did not improve our rapidly deteriorating spirits. It was crowded and full of beginners, which is never an efficient nor easy scenario. There were people slipping and sliding everywhere, challenged with keeping their skis under them even when standing still. The woman in front of me in line just suddenly fell over to the side. She was standing there one moment then, with no explanation or seeming disturbance, she was suddenly on the ground. Her three family members standing to her left just turned, looked down at her, and returned to facing forward. They didn't say a word to her.

The woman tried and tried to stand but her skis kept getting jumbled. I leaned forward and helped her get her skis parallel, then told her to plant her pole in the snow and push up from it, and she would pop right up. She didn't pop, instead she slid sideways into her teenage daughter who just looked ticked off and said, "JESUS, MOM!" with an angry face. That poor lady, on the ground, embarrassed, and with total dick kids to boot.

I tried to help her a few more times but finally suggested she just take off her skis, stand up, and put them back on again. And that's what she did. From her face, I could tell she was never going to ski again -- which now made three of us.

The beginner chairlift line was not well managed nor marked so quickly devolved into chaos. It was a two-person chair but often six people shuffled forward shoulder-to-shoulder then all just kind of fought it out at the actual boarding platform. Alex, German Dad, the kids and I ended up far from each other as the mishmash of the line continued to mishmash. Coco and I went up first. As we were whisked away on the chair, I saw Lucien and his friend were about six people behind us, and Alex and German Dad about ten people behind them.

Coco crash landed getting off the chair so I picked her up, brushed her off, and said, "OK, you ready to ski for real? This one will be fun!" I could tell she wasn't convinced because she was crying again.

Halfway down the slope, as I skied behind Coco, I heard a voice yelling my name from up on the chairlift. It was German Dad and he was alone. Why was he alone? He looked as confused as I did.

He yelled down something like, "Hey, MJ, wait for me, I think something went wrong." I yelled back, "Why are you alone? Where's Alex?" and he said, "I don't know." Then I said "Where's your son?"and he said, "I have no idea." Incredible how everyone had gotten lost and separated somewhere between the chairlift and the top of a short beginner hill. "So.....where's Lucien?" I yelled and he said, "I think he got kicked out of the chairlift line."

For fuck's sake, people, skiing is not this hard!!!

I skied down quickly to find Lucien alone and fuming at the bottom. The operator had told him his lift ticket was not valid (it was) so pulled him out of line. Alex was stomping around somewhere demanding to speak to a manager about the ticket situation. German Dad and German Dad's Kid eventually found each other on the green run and made their way down to us. Lucien was so embarrassed and so angry by then, he announced he was done and was going to the lodge to eat a hot dog. I had to admit it sounded pretty good.

The Dads and I literally dragged the kids to the lodge because it involved yet another uphill traverse. We each had a kid hold onto the ends of our poles as we pushed uphill on our skis, pulling kids behind us as if we were well trained sled dogs. We may not have done much skiing that day but we got a really good workout dragging kids all over the place and carrying their equipment down steep slopes and fishing them out of snowbanks.

German Dad was pulling Lucien up that hill when Lucien lost his grip on the ski poles. The Loosh began to slide backwards, to which he yelled with what was intended to be rage, "Oh! and now I'm going backwards! Exactly how I planned!" Then he fell over and while lying in the snow, stuck his fist straight up in the air and yelled, "AWESOME!"

Lucien said all these things in anger but frankly, that's when things started to get funny for us adults. We tucked our chins into our chests and started laughing, that kind of laugh you don't want anyone to see (your very mad kids) but can't keep inside any longer. Sometimes it reaches a point of absolute absurdity and that's when it gets fun again.

German Dad and Alex shuffled off to the chairlift to do a few runs together, trying hard to salvage something from our shitty day, while I secretly giggled my way to a table in the cafeteria. The kids' spirits rose as I promised them hot dogs but plummeted again when we learned there was a water line problem in the cafeteria so there was no food.

I bought 500 bags of junk food of all shapes and sizes and a round of beers for the adults, which were very much appreciated when German Dad and Alex staggered in soaking wet about fifteen minutes later. The snow had turned to heavy drippy snow-rain while they were on the chairlift and Alex's "waterproof" jacket had failed him. He was drenched and shivering and could no longer feel his body. So we sat him on a heater and I bought another round of beers.

I call this one "dazed misery."
(photo courtesy of German Dad)

German Dad began giggling again as we sat across from our grumpy babies and said, "Gosh, this day was so great, I'm having a hard time choosing my favorite part!" The giggles soon overcame us adults, which was especially hard for Alex because his face was frozen. The kids got angry at our laughter, said, "I can't believe you guys are laughing at this right now, we hate you, you ruined our weekend!" We knew we should have kept the laughter on the downlow.

Grumpy babies
but the beer was friendly
(photo by German Dad)

Alex and I decided to turn our day passes into season passes that day. We stood in line at guest services and had our pictures taken on our way out, and we now all have laminated passes permanently affixed to our ski jackets. You may wonder why we did that after our worst day of skiing in recent memory and we certainly wondered why we were doing it in the moment, too.

The short answer is a greater force was compelling us. We are skiers at heart. Skiers strap slippery boards onto their feet and head straight down mountains; they are not a sane nor rational people. Terrible ski days will not keep true skiers away for long. Just don't tell the kids we're going back, and often.

Subject change. Did you know all Amazon boxes are labeled with numbers on the sides designating the size and shape of the box? I didn't know that until my parents picked up a new box number identifying hobby. They know them all and like to call out a box's number from a distance. Once when they were at my house, they said, "Wow, a 1AB, we've never seen that one before." It also tickled them immensely to say, "MJ, you got a 1B4 coming in the mail with Lucien's gift inside."

Lucien received a 1B4 from Colorado because he recently turned 12. Every day he looks more grown up and pushes away from us just a tiny bit more. He's still letting me squeeze him when we're on the couch watching a movie, though, and he still runs his ideas past me and asks my opinions. He's gonna have to find his way without me someday but I secretly wish I could hang onto his ankles and drag along behind him forever. He's always going to be my little dude.

The Loosh is funny, clever and quick-witted beyond his now-12 years. Some of his quips are approaching legendary status in our friend community and are repeated often. He added to his reputation recently when a friend said, "I prefer white rice to brown rice" and Lucien said, "That's rice-ist."

And you should have seen his face when he found out that annual ski pass was one of his presents!

Until next time,
it is likely,
I will continue to ruin my children's weekends.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

I gotta have more Winnebago

I live! Truly, I live. There are no excuses for me being away from the blog except for ALL of the excuses. Things are off the rails here, or at least more so than usual, which is saying a lot because we are not known for calm and measured living.

It is impossible to catch up on all the events of the past few months. There were many happenings -- some very good and some very, very bad -- but after all those things we are still here, still well, still living our best-ish lives as we stagger and stumble into 2018 hoping for good things.

When it comes to blog catch ups, they are usually impossibly long, fairly boring, and involve many pictures but not much insight. This time shall be no different, and will play out like a "recent holiday greatest hits" kind of compilation. Sorry for being unoriginal, let's just do this.

It's probably best to start with Christmas, as it is freshest in my memory so I won't have to make up as many fanciful details. Seattle had a white Christmas this year. Snow on the ground, especially at Christmas, is rare in these parts; we woke up and ran in circles outside, laughing like giddy school children (two of us are actual school children but I hope the simile is not weaker for that fact).

Natani, the dog born in a desert, is a snow fanatic and ran through the yard like a snowplow, mouth open and skimming the ground in parallel lines back and forth to put ALL of the snow into her mouth. Her lawn mowing-type precision surprised me because she is a hot mess when it comes to most other things. She accidentally overturns her food bowl then stares at it confused and whimpering, she tries to jump off the couch and lands on her face, she whines while trying to find her ball under the couch, not realizing the ball is sitting several feet behind her. When it comes to snow, however, attention to detail is important to her.

She also likes to chill in the front window with her paw up on the sill and her ball resting nearby for emotional comfort --

Before Christmas, we took the Winnebago up to Vancouver, B.C. for a couple days. We made the kids try virtual reality games and they both got terribly motion sick. The googly eyes applied to the VR masks made it worth it. For Alex and me, anyway --

We then plopped down at a nearby brewery and told the kids we were going to be there for hours to watch the Seahawks game. Oh, the utter betrayal on their faces when they learned they'd been taken football prisoners. Coco immediately asked to play games on my phone, and not in a nice way --

This is the choosing of our Christmas tree. Alex said, as the tree began to slowly slip from Coco's grip, "Lucien, help her, quick, extend your arm!" and Lucien, because he is The Loosh, extended his arm in the exact perpendicular direction from where it needed to be to catch the tree.

I caught the moment on camera, 
as Lucien cracked himself up with his non-helpfulness 
and the tree fell to the ground.

Our Christmas tree this year was anchored to the wall with a bungee cord because we couldn't get it to stand directly upright in the tree stand.

As Alex hooked the bungee cord to the trunk of our tree in the living room and secured it to the window sill, I said, "Alex, I appreciate your efforts in trying to keep our tree upright but... it's a bungee cord, man." Alex agreed it wasn't the best option but said it was the only thing he could find; we are apparently fresh out of rope and string and other taughter, less stretchy things. I sat in that room with many cups of coffee in the following days and pictured the tree falling over then bouncing up and down at the length of the bungee while squealing, "Whee, I feel so alive!"

Christmas Eve was celebrated at our friends' house with delicious things like ham with cherry sauce and smoked sea bass. The kids played in the snow across the street in an empty parking lot. When you live in the middle of the city, empty parking lots are the substitute for large yards. This particular lot is gated after hours so cars are not a hazard. It's where most of the kids learned to ride bikes, and where scooter races have been known to occur fairly regularly.

We brought a nice bottle of Calvados to share on Christmas Eve (I miss you, France) so suffice it to say, terrible Calvados-inspired dancing to '90s hip-hop happened --

We went to the Nutcracker, where Coco did some impressive dabbing during intermission --

After Christmas Day present opening mania, we climbed into the Winnie B again and ferried to a nearby island, where my sister and sister-in-law live on 12 acres complete with a stable full of horses and an A-frame ski lodge-type house. It's bucolic stuff. We parked the Winnebago on their property and in an attempt to find a level spot, did irreparable damage to a large section of their grass.

We like spending time in the Winnie B, especially in winter. There is something incomparably cozy about waking up in the Winnebago, preferably in a camping spot near the water or nestled amongst a ton of trees, and enjoying a cup of coffee while looking out the window. We dream of scrapping everything and heading off in the Winnie B for years, carrying along only bottled water, a ton of RV-friendly toilet paper, and a dream.

After Christmas we Winnebagoed over to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. It has likely become evident by now that the theme to our holiday break was "I gotta have more Winnebago."

This was our favorite trip in a long time. We camped both at old Fort Worden outside Port Townsend, and the following night in downtown Port Townsend next to the water. Fort Worden is where An Officer and a Gentleman was filmed. It is picturesque with its white barracks and stately old officers' homes surrounding rolling fields of green.

The abandoned, rusted, creaky bunkers at Fort Worden, however, are creepy as hell. I think I impressed my nervous children with my willingness to plunge into empty drippy spaces and straight down pitch dark stairways.

Creepy bunkers.
Coco said, "no."

machine gunnery something

Lucien's photobomb game is on point

(If it sounds familiar, Fort Worden is where Alex and I stayed in the haunted tiny castle and then locked our keys in the RV a couple years ago.)

After Port Townsend, we ferried to Victoria, B.C. Alex was living in Victoria when we met over 20 years ago, and a couple of his dear friends are still there. The female half of the couple made our wedding invitations by hand all those many years ago. The tiny daughter they brought to our wedding is now in college. What the hell is that all about.

Beautiful Victoria

High tea at The Butchart Gardens.
We may not be high tea people.
We were louder than most, and broke two glasses.

Family selfie in front of the 10 lords-a-leapin' from the 12 Days of Christmas display.
We are not sure why the lords were frogs.

old friends,
and a daughter doing something odd

Where to next? I can give Halloween a shout-out because I mentioned in my last post I would write about it and then promptly never did.

I don't really remember what happened there, partially due to the passage of time and partially due to the fact my "Vampire's Kiss" cocktail mix was a little stronger this year. I know we had a lot of fun. I know it was the largest turnout in the six years I've thrown the party and was full of very enthusiastic adults with reliable babysitters at home. The adults in our lives look forward to this event every year like kids do Christmas. Some refuse to leave at the end, clinging to the posts on our front stoop and wailing something about "no, please, the children are there...." It makes for a very late night.

I skipped the tarot card/crystal ball guy this year and instead hired a numerologist to do numerology readings in the TV room. He told me I don't suffer no fools, which I'd love to believe about myself but the truth is I suffer fools all the time.

My costume this year was Frida, of course --

Everyone told me it was a very good costume but I still lost to the guy who came dressed as Edward Scissorhands. He's a surgeon by trade so I felt his costume was a bit on the nose, but must admit (grumble grumble) he won by a longshot.

He may not be invited back next year.

What the hell, let's do more holiday. My mom and dad and brother were here for Thanksgiving. I do not dread spending holidays with my family; I look forward to it. They are a fun group of people and we are all on the same page politically speaking. When I hear of other's Thanksgivings, I realize I am very lucky. While my family was doing a jigsaw puzzle and watching Best in Show, one of my oldest friends was defending the #metoo movement to her Uncle Bert. I hope she had a nice bottle of wine at her fingertips. Or two. Or three.

My parents, brother and I rented a home on the island where Raba and Zee live for the long Thanksgiving weekend. We believe the house was haunted because Natani refused to walk down the back hallway. She would stop several feet away from it, hair raised on the back of her neck, and growl a very low growl as she backed away slowly. To our non-dog eyes, there was nothing there but an empty hallway. So that made for some restful nights.

Raba and Zee's A-frame ski lodge-type bucolic setting home.
They are doing living right.

One more holiday! Just one more! A friend organized a family soccer game New Years Day. It was adults versus kids and several soccer balls were used at the same time "to increase the chances of someone scoring." It was absolute mayhem. Then a football got busted out and tossed into the mix and I just don't even know what was happening out there.

Hot mess soccer

 Some kids didn't fare so well.
The adults were competitive, and came to play.

And nearly all the adults wore puffer jackets.
We are very Seattle in this picture.

It's been a good couple months, blog friends, but not all has been good. I am not yet ready to talk about the parts that aren't good but trust it, as fun as life has been in recent days, nobody escapes the grind without some pain, heartache, fear, and intense anxiety. Or maybe it's just me? I hope it's not just me. That would be lonely.

I'm going to end this with a couple recent Lucien (and one Lucien friend) quotes because these pre-teen boys are always good for a laugh during hard, weird times.

Me: Lucien! I am so excited. I am taking you to my favorite musical this summer!
Him: Which musical?
Me: Les Miserables.
Him: My name is Rob? That sounds like a terrible musical.

Lucien, eating a hot dog: This tastes amazing.
Lucien's friend: Mom, can I have a hot dog, too?
Friend's mom: No
Lucien's friend: OH come on, Mom!
Lucien: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I wake your inner hot dog?

Teacher at school: The human body is about 65% water.
Lucien's friend: So we're basically cucumbers with anxiety?
(We say this one around the house a lot now, bit of a family motto)

Well that was a long and rambling and pretty damn terrible summary of recent holiday happenings. At least you know I'm still alive, and still in love with a Winnebago.

Here's to 2018.

Your loyal though fairly absentee fellow cucumber with anxiety,