Saturday, March 29, 2014

Taking On The Blues

On the chair with Kaitlin Connor and Katie

Sometimes you get a ski lesson when you go to the hill. On Day 2 at Whitefish Mountain I learned a lot about cooking chili. My brother and my sister-in-law have 6 kids and they have season passes to Whitefish. When they take the family up for the day, they mix up a crockpot of chili and plug it into an outlet in the Base Lodge, and it is ready to serve at lunchtime. They bring a up disposable plates and bowls, shredded cheese, a bag of dinner rolls, some corn chips, and Dixie cups for water, and even some hot chocolate and marshmallows for dessert. We commandeered a table for 10 and sat down to a banquet. It was truly inspiring to be a part of this operation, and I wish I had captured it with a photo.

Afton and Scotty show their teeth

Usually when the cousins play, Scott likes to hang out with Cannon and Katie plays with Bailey or Afton. But when we get out on the ski hill, thrill-seekers Scott and Afton tear up the slopes together and Katie spends more time with Cannon on the bunny hill. Although, this time around, Katie was getting good enough that she could keep up with Bailey quite well, while Cannon got some pointers from Krissy.

Bailey and Katie

Including the earlier January trip, by lunchtime on Friday our kids had spent 3.5 whole days on essentially one green run at Whitefish (under chair 6), and it seemed like it was time to try something new. We spent the afternoon exploring a few other runs, riding way up the mountain on Chair 2 to take the easy way down. I won't mention the EXTREMELY AWKWARD group photo that we got taken at the top of Chair 2. I thought we might stand together for a quick group shot, but the photographer seemed determined to create something better. We will never speak of it again.

Scott & Afton

It was a warm day and yesterday's powder was steadily becoming today's slush, so it was easy for the kids to manage their speed on the steeper runs. I loved that there was a little space to the side of the run with some decent powder where I could stretch my legs just a little. It was very enjoyable and I caught glimpses of what future family trips might hold for us.

Snowplow City

Katie in Action

Cannon & Krissy

Eventually, it was time to head back to the lodge. On that final run, Katie and Scott tried their first Blue (Intermediate) runs ever. They also had their worst wipeouts to date. Katie's wipeout was not on the blue run. She handled that quite well. Her problem was that some sleet or hail had started falling just as we set off from the top of the hill and she didn't have her goggles pulled down. She couldn't see very well and eventually she lost her balance and fell forward, sliding down the hill on her face. She never seems to reach her hands out to break her fall. I knelt down and picked her up and just hugged her for a long time while she stopped crying. She wasn't hurt, but it had scared her a bit. I got the snow out of her goggles and set them in place so she could continue on her way down while I followed a short distance behind.

The problem with being one parent skiing with two young kids is that you can't be out front with one without leaving the other behind just a bit, or vice-versa. After I was sure Katie was doing fine I looked back for Scott. I had seen him just behind me as we traversed a wide cat track, but then he had dipped from view and I hadn't seen him pop back up again. Just as I was about to start hiking back up to check on him he appeared in view, shoulders hunched and hands by his sides, obviously distraught. As he usually does, he accused me of various crimes and then we continued down the hill again. Eventually we got to the blue run, and he had another wipeout, but this time it twisted his knee. He tried to ski but he said that it hurt his knee to turn right, so I pulled off my snowboard and had him sit on the back while I sat in the middle between the bindings. I held his skis and poles in my hands and used my feet as brakes while we tobogganed the rest of the way down the steep blue slope to the waiting group, a huge spray of snow shooting out from each heel. It was pretty awesome.

When we got down, Katie was starting to cry because she was tired of waiting in her snowplow position for so long. I asked Connor to lead her down to the lodge by the easiest way possible, while Scott and I kept sledding down to the main lodge, where he was comfortable putting his skis back on again. Why is that final run always like that?

It was a pretty full day, and it took Katie about 4 minutes to drop off to sleep, despite having the sun shining straight in her face and her helmet still on.

Worn Out

Friday, March 28, 2014

Shredding the Greens at The Fish

Friday the Kalispell kids were still in school, so the three of us took the slopes on our own. There was about a foot of recent snow and the conditions were wonderful.

Katie is getting used to riding the chair lift, but she is also happy to just cruise the magic carpets sometimes as well. While we there, the photographer got a picture of each of us. I couldn't resist Katie's cuteness, so I bought one. And how often does someone get a picture of me? I got one of each of us.

Scott found this little trail that went off behind some cabins and then through a tunnel before looping back to the lift. There were a few big bumps as you came out of the tunnel, so Katie didn't really want to do it again. Scott did it all day long. He essentially abandoned us and did his own thing, keeping track of how many laps he could do. He wouldn't even ride the chair with us if we were close to him, because he didn't want to lose any time.

Because he was always off in some tunnel through the trees, the on-slope photographer never got a picture of him. But I managed to find him at the end of the day.

On the way back from the hill we met up with our cousins to see Muppets Most Wanted, which was absolutely hilarious. It was a pretty full day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pray for Blankie

Katie's blankie went missing recently. At bedtime, I looked all over for it with no success. In the end, Katie settled for her Violet pony and went to sleep.

The next day, the search continued while I was away at work. R helped Katie check all the usual places without success. Katie suggested that they could "pray to Jesus" to help find her blankie. R was delighted that Katie immediately thought to pray. At the same time, she knew that she now needed to do her best to help find this blankie.

Finally, they found it in Katie's room, tucked between a toy baby cradle and the foot of Katie's bed. Whew! R suggested that we figure out a place on each floor of the house where Katie should try to put her blankie if she's not using it. Katie agreed, saying, "Then we wouldn't have to pray to Jesus so much."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Tooth is Out!

That tooth has been dangling there for two weeks. In the end the method that worked was the classic "string tied to a doorknob" technique.

R had described to Scott and he thought it was a great idea. He also thought yanking it out himself with pliers was a great idea. He wasn't really worried about either technique hurting, actually. He is either really brave or fairly naive, but either way I was impressed by his nerve.

He found me some string in his craft drawer and we looped it around his front tooth. We didn't really need to tie it tightly because it easily dropped into the gap between the incomplete root and the gums. He showed no reservations when I asked him if he was ready. His mom couldn't stand to stay in the room. Katie was way too interested to follow her out.

I slammed the door.

Instantly, I wondered if maybe I should have stood him another few inches farther from the door, since the string was still hanging from the tooth in his mouth, which had started to bleed just a bit. I asked him if he was okay, and if it was hurting. He said that it did hurt, but I think he was mostly reflecting my own worried reaction, because he didn't well up with tears or anything. Instead of dithering about to try the door again, I just reached in and pulled the tooth the rest of the way out. It gave way easily, so the door had done its job.

I was quite interested to inspect the tooth, since this is the one that was badly broken and then repaired a few years earlier, after an unfortunate wipeout at Calaway Park. It was evident on the backside where our trusty dentist had done his work, but from the front the fix was still pretty invisible. No, we could not see any trace of Spiderman painted on the back of the tooth, despite promises from the dentist that he would be sure to paint it on there if Scott held still during the procedure. We wonder if that dentist was pulling our leg the whole time.

Scott and this tooth have been through a lot. He certainly earned his dollar with this one.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Skiing

Katie is really comfortable on the magic carpet conveyor belts in the beginner area. She sings to herself as she does laps up and down that little hill.

However, Scott is becoming a big-boy skier and he likes to ride the chair lifts. So it was time for Katie's first run from the blue chair. She did some turns at the top and then just went straight down in full snowplow mode.

Next time up, I told her to try to do some big turns to help her ski slowly. That's when she had her first wipe out. She was moving along pretty quickly and tried to spread the plow wider and wider until one ski hit a bumpy spot and stopped suddenly and she toppled over shoulder-first. I watched it all happen just short distance behind her and I was surprised how she never put her hands out to break her fall. She continued to clutch her poles down near her waist while she skidded forward on her shoulder, her head on its side, bobbing up and down inside her little purple helmet.

I fully expected to find her face full of sharp ice crystals and tears. She had somehow avoided getting a total face-wash, which was a relief, but I was right about the tears. Down on my knees I was just the right height to give her a big hug. She didn't cry about the pain too much, although her knee did hurt a bit. Instead, she was heartbroken that her second run hadn't lived up to her first: "I did it better on the first try."

I hugged her there on the slope for quite a while. Then I pointed to the top of the hill. "Look Katie. Look how far you already came down the hill! You are doing SO well!" She was delighted with that, and after a few uncertain attempts to start up again, she locked into her snowplow and went straight down the rest of the hill, giggling. Later on, she was telling Scott the story about how she fell over sideways on her head. I got a photo of her demonstrating the angle.

Scott also had a wipe out, although his might have been on the first run. He mostly blamed me, because I had told him to work on doing more "french fry" parallel skiing and less "pizza" snowplowing. I was too far down the hill to come and help him get up and by the time he pulled himself to his feet and skied down to me he was still pretty emotional--
S: My leg was hurting and you didn't even help me.
D: Where does it hurt?
S: My leg.
D: Where on your leg?
S: My leg. I just told you.
D: Where on your leg?
S: The whole leg.
D: Seriously? I don't think you're entire leg is broken and smashed. Please point to the spot.
S: [points]
D: Your knee hurts. Okay. You must have fallen on your knee. I see.

We took a break for a snack after that and enjoyed some actual french fries (but no pizza, sadly) on the patio as the sun was going down. Then we went to the magic carpet area and had a competition to see who could do the most runs before it was time to go home. Scott won with 11. Katie and I had about 9. Scott was delighted with the win.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Down in the Mouth

It's hard to say whether the loose front tooth caused the strep throat,
but their joint arrival will always seem suspicious to me.

Scott's front tooth has been dangling for over a week. And you know that he has had his hands in his mouth, wiggling that thing around. And you know those hands have been dragged through all sorts of fabulous germs at school and around town. So it was no real surprise when he announced one evening that he had a very sore throat.

It hurt to eat. The poor guy sat at the dinner table and sobbed, his throat was so sore. It hurt to think about eating. Playing games on the tablet helped soothe the pain, but the moment he stopped that and sat at the table he was overwhelmed. He hated opening wide so that we could get a look at his throat. I kept asking him to open wider because I couldn't see his throat very well. Then I realized it was hard to see because his tonsils were so swollen that they were in the way.

The next morning R had an appointment that she really couldn't miss, so I took the kids to the doctor. Katie was slow to get ready until I said that we were going to watch the doctor do all kinds of tests on Scotty. She suddenly snapped to life and grabbed her jacket. Morbid curiosity, I suppose.

At the doctor's office they fought over the elevator buttons a bit. Finally they agreed that Scott could push the inside buttons on the way up if Katie could push them on the way back down. Whoever wasn't on inside-button-duty would get outside buttons. We had to sit in the exam room for a while, and R joined us while we waited. She started up a game of I-Spy to pass the time. Most things in that room were grey, white or black, except for Scott's Spiderman pajamas (you can wear PJs to the doctor when you're sick). On my final turn, I said that I spied something that was "red, swollen and sore."

Scott: "It's in my mouth."

They weighed him at 50 pounds. They peeked in his ear. The nurse and doctor both commented how swollen his glands and tonsils were. He nearly gagged as they swabbed his throat, and he bravely held back the tears just below the surface. In the end he was rewarded with a superhero sticker. And Katie got one too.

A day or two later was Saturday, and I told Scott we should take care of that tooth. For previous teeth, Scott had used a paper towel to help get a good grip on the tooth and had just yanked it out himself. He tried that again without success. I distinctly remember my Dad pulling out the needle-nose pliers to help some stubborn teeth when I was a kid. I told Scott that we could do the same. He seemed hopeful, so I handed him the pliers.

He gave it a pretty honest effort and even drew a little blood, but the pliers kept slipping off the tooth before he could quite yank it out. He preferred to do it himself, so I never got to try, which is probably better anyway. For his efforts, he got a piece of McIntosh toffee. I hoped his tooth would stick in the toffee but it was too wobbly to bite into it enough to stick.

The strep throat has now passed, but the tooth remains. Where will it take us next?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

West Ed: Day 4

[Feb 15 2014]

Our last day at the mall was a Saturday, and we weren't anxious to fight the crowds, since we had basically tried everything once. True to form, we hit Galaxyland before it was too crazy.

We were among the very first customers ever to play at Dragon's Tale glow-in-the-dark mini golf. The setting was pretty awesome, although the game play was less inspiring. We managed to jam the gears on one of their mechanical obstacles, which the operator had believed was "bullet-proof". I felt bad for him, and I hoped that wasn't the first of many such incidents. I was able to fix the problem by jamming my putter handle into the intake port, dislodging Katie's glowing-pink golf ball.

With the weekend crowds pouring in from every entrance, we retreated to the west end of the mall to watch The Lego Movie. As with pretty much any movie, Katie was pretty freaked out by the bad guys and any other suspense. By the mid-way point she was sitting in my lap. And just like any other movie, when we cleared the apex, she was suddenly so relieved that she was laughing and celebrating out loud with the characters in the film. She is so funny about movies. We try our best to find things that won't be scary, but she has too much empathy for the characters. The upside to this is that she is more delighted than anyone by a happy ending. Both of them said their favourite part was when Batman throws tons of little batarangs at a button and then says "First Try!" when it finally lights up green.

After the movie we bowled another round. The kids argued a little bit about who would get to ride on top of the ball return, but they mostly had fun. Scott loves the competition and could play longer, but ten frames is maybe a bit much for Katie. This is interesting, because she never wants to stop skiing or skating or swimming.

After bowling we had time to do one last thing, so we asked the kids to choose what they wanted to do. They both wanted totally different things, so we split up.

Scott: yellow roller coaster

Katie: penguins

We somehow forgot the zip line yet again. We will just have to go back to Edmonton again, I suppose. A day or two after we got home we polled the kids to see if they would still be excited to go or if they were sick of it. They shouted with one voice "YES!"

It was a great family vacation. One the best we have ever had. Despite being -25C the whole time. Edmonton is pretty much the happiest place on earth, as far as we are concerned.

Monday, March 10, 2014

West Ed: Day 3 (Valentine's Day)

[Feb 14 2013]

Katie's Build-A-Bear/Pony came with a sheet of Valentine's cards that we punched out and addressed to each other, as well as to the Smith cousins who were coming up join us at the waterpark for the day. We got to mall a bit early and went on some rides while we were waiting for them to arrive at the food court for lunch.

Let me tell you, going on Scott's favourite spinning-roller-coaster ride is not the best warm-up for lunch. Eugh.

At the World Waterpark

We didn't take any pictures at the waterpark until we were on our way out. I noticed one group of girls who had brought their bedazzled iPhones into the hot tub to snap some quality photos. Perhaps the pink glitter also doubles as waterproofing?

The bottom line is that we didn't get any photos of us tearing down all sorts of slides, including one corkscrew-shaped slide where you go upside-down. You would think that would be the scary part, but the worst is at the top, when you step into the breech of the tilted purple phonebooth and they close the coffin-door-hatch, lock it with a key, and then an electronic voice counts down from three before the floor drops out below you. Those three seconds that you are locked in there are the scariest -- and that includes the sensation of having the floor drop out on you from 6 stories up.

Katie was a bit freaked out by the slides at first, but she found one that she really liked and she and her cousin Adalia did loops on that slide for an hour at least. They just needed an adult to stand on the stairs and watch as they did laps.

Scott and the older kids enjoyed the wave pool more than anything, although they did try every slide they were big enough to ride. We fully intended to pay the $10 to ride the zip line that streaks across the length of the waterpark, but we were having so much fun on the slides that we ran out of time. We snapped a quick photo on our way out to the foodcourt that we called home. Katie and Adalia disappeared during the meal, causing a bit of a panic. They turned up at the other end of the food court, and Katie's version of the story is that she went along to try to convince Adalia to come back. After bidding farewell to our cousins, we settled our pasta dinner with a few more spinny rides before heading back to the hotel.

Only one day left.

Friday, March 07, 2014


[Feb 21 2014]

During the Olympics the entire country came to a halt while Canada played in some pretty important hockey games. Rather than sit at our desks and pretend like we were working, our boss ordered in some pizza and we pulled up some chairs to the office TV and made an event of it. I heard that Scott's school also tuned into the game. It's awesome that everyone is so excited about it. It is also awesome that both the men and women's teams won the gold.

Now whenever we see a sporting event of any kind happening, Katie asks us which one is Canada. She struggles a bit with the concept that in the local minor soccer league, BOTH teams can be from Canada. This makes it hard for her to figure out who to cheer for.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

West Ed: Day 2

[Feb 13 2013]

Day 2 at the mall was jam-packed with fun. The first day at the mall was also fun, but it was really only half of a day because we arrived after lunch. On Day 2 we really got down to business.

The kids tried skating for their first time. Scott had done rollerblading at school, so it wasn't long before he could let go of the boards and scoot around on his own a bit.

Katie needed someone to hold her hand all of the time. She was enthralled with the figure skaters she had seen on TV and often lifted a leg out behind her or tried little hops to pretend like she was a big-time figure skater.

We witnessed a training session with a tiny boy and his very intense Russian father-coach. The boy was probably 5 years old but he was pretty amazing to watch. There were lots of tears though, as coach-dad didn't think his arms were straight enough, or his hands pointed the right way.

I think we were too easy on Katie. I probably should have gotten on her case a bit more about her technique and then maybe we would have seen greater results. Maybe not. It's hard to say without proper judges on site -- and even that can be problematic, as we saw in the Olympics this year.

Katie never wanted to stop skating. She loved it more than we anticipated. Still, the public skating time was up and we needed to move on. Scott and I headed over to the ropes course, where you are strapped into a harness while you try to walk across balance beams and other tricky obstacles as high as 3 stories up up in the air. You could hang onto your anchor line if you didn't want to fall off of anything, or you could let go and literally walk a tightrope.

Since Katie wasn't big enough for the ropes, she went with R to the Build-A-Bear Workshop to make her own My Little Pony purple winged unicorn, which she named Violet. She was one happy little girl.

After lunch we planned to hit the sea lion show, so we climbed aboard the replica Santa Maria before taking our seats for the show. The Santa Maria wasn't a very large vessel, really. That is a long time to spend in such a confined space. We only spent 5 or 6 minutes on it before our kids were ready to discover the sea lions instead.

Sea lions are pretty awesome. They look sort of chubby and immobile, but the are pretty amazing swimmers and even on land they have a knack for making the most of their sliding ability. We learned that the easiest way to tell a sea lion from a seal is to look for the little ears poking out, as sea lions have them and seals don't. Apparently, sea lions are sensitive about people always calling them seals.

We followed up the sea lions show with a visit to the aquarium cavern for some hands-on marine life displays. I don't really like touching the animals. It's partially because of the texture, but it's mostly because I don't like to get my hands dirty. There were 40 kids there from a pre-school lined up for the wash station ahead of us and nobody wants to wait for that.

We went to Galaxyland at least once each day. When you don't have to wait in lines, it doesn't take too long to get your fill of spins and loops.

Scott wasn't big enough for this blast-off ride, so I flew solo. I screamed so much all the way up and down that I attracted several more people to try the ride, which had seen so little traffic that people probably had thought it wasn't even running. Several of the rides operated in 15-minute blocks -- staff would alternate between those rides every 15 minutes -- because it just isn't that busy. If you are going to visit Galaxyland, go during the week. It's amazing.

We finally started running out of steam so we headed back to the hotel and I took the kids swimming in the hotel pool as a bit of a warm-up for the next day: Waterpark Day!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Four Days at West Ed: Day 1

[Feb 12 2014]

The last few years we have managed to get away for a week or so during the winter and it has been so fantastic to have the break. So, when last summer was over we already started looking ahead to winter plans.

Our first thought was Disneyland. Lots of fun and warmer than here. However, we remembered how cold and rainy it was the other time we had tried Disneyland in the winter, and we thought maybe we should try somewhere that would be considerably warmer. Arizona and Florida were marginally warmer, but not so much that we were jumping up and down about it, and Florida was going to be a long flight anyway.

How about Mexico? We started looking at some all-inclusive places that seemed really nice. We were a little concerned about gluten-free eating, but it seemed that there were definitely options available, particularly at the nicer resorts. This sounded like it would cost more than California.

Then we thought of Edmonton. Sure, it's not as exotic, but the travel time is less than 3 hours by car and there is tons to do inside West Edmonton Mall. We found out we could get a 5-day pass to all the mall attractions for our family of four for less than it would cost for one of us to do a few days at Disneyland. Our kids were sooooo excited about it when we told them the news that we would spend 4 days there in February.

Day 1:

We had the Galaxyland amusement park pretty much to ourselves. The kids could go on their favourite rides over and over again.

We did a round of bowling and then tried out some mini-golf. At the bowling alley we were next to a foursome of 20-somethings who had been dipping in the sauce pretty heavy. This one girl recruited Scott to help her bowl her turns. I don't think he figured out the real reason why she was so overly outgoing. He did his best for her, making strategic use of the granny guide to knock down a decent number of pins.

Finished up with Pinkberry before heading back to the hotel.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


The kids rediscovered sports games on Grandma's Wii. If it wasn't their turn to play, they had to sit on the couch to avoid injuries from flailing controllers. It made for a cute photo opportunity.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Katie's Coping Strategies

Katie sometimes tells us that she is shy about things. For example, that is what she would say about nursery the last few months of the year, when she struggled with going to class. She has also occasionally clung to R's leg when it has come time to attend certain of her other sports/music/dance classes. Usually, she has lots of fun once she goes in and engages with the group. We found she did really well the last few weeks, when she would get a gold medal for going to all her classes without a fuss. But then this last week she wouldn't go into her ballet class and she said she didn't want to go to her other pre-school class when she heard her cousins wouldn't be there either.

R discussed it with her hairdresser, who has dealt with similar issues and had some good advice. The next day, R and Katie discussed several coping strategies.

The main one is breathing. R showed Katie that she could take a few deep breaths. R held her hand on her stomach to help demonstrate how it would move as she would slowly inhale and exhale. When it came time for music class, Katie paused outside the door with her hand on her stomach for a few moments, and then she went it without trouble.

On the weekend I was holding K and she was worried about going in somewhere. I asked her what she could do to feel braver. She said she could try "her breathing". But first she would need me to move my arm so that she could reach her hand to her tummy to do it properly. So cute.

R noticed Katie doing her breathing at home with no one else really around. Apparently, she felt a tinge of anxiety and she immediately put her new strategy to work.

Katie told R of another thing she could do to cope with stress. She said that Jesus would help her when she needed it. She told R that she could say a little prayer when she was nervous and it would help.

So precious.