Why We Are Skiing, Toddler and All

Glop and I have not done any alpine skiing in 10 years.  I have not skied more than three times in my entire life.  So why is our family of five, toddler included, suddenly embracing this terribly expensive, environmentally unfriendly, dangerous, not to mention cold, winter sport?

Well, we live in New Hampshire, for one thing.  Every dismal, gloomy winter we battle seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Even the girls’ spirits seem to sag. Glop proclaimed that this year we must get outside, and we must do it as a family.  Sure, we could just spend 20 minutes outside at noon every day, as many studies suggest.  But that would be too easy, and we do everything the hard way here.

I thought snowshoeing might be a manageable for all of us, but I was instantly shot down.  Too hard for the kids, said Glop.  Ice skating?  Going round and round in circles is boring, Mommy, said my eight-year-old.  Sledding? Good old-fashioned snowman-making? Who does that anymore?

So we (well, ultimately Glop) decided on downhill skiing, which has been a bit of an uphill battle.  But, I should be grateful we are not climbing glaciers.

Am I totally disappointed in our pursuit of this heinously costly hobby?  No.  It’s actually been pretty hilarious and, occasionally, gratifying.  Here are a few of the pros and cons.

The Cons (bear with me, the list is long):

  1. It. Is. Cold.  Last weekend we went skiing and it was 15 degrees.  BEFORE the wind chill.  But do they cancel lessons or close the mountain?  No way.  So you suck it up and go skiing because you feel the need to maximize all the money you spent on your season pass.
  2. It is dangerous.  Even when you know what you are doing.  I am comfortable right now because all the girls are taking lessons, surrounded by instructors on the bunny hill.  But my anxiety is growing as they get closer and closer to taking the chairlift.
  3. “Skiing” and “on a shoestring” just don’t go together. Even when you buy the cheapest, crappiest ski swap equipment you can find, and rent “gently used” skis and boots for the kids, it adds up quickly to much more than a mortgage payment.  And then you need lift tickets or a season pass, lessons, more specialized winter gear, and so on.
  4. We know nothing about skiing and are completely ignorant when it comes to what one should do/wear/say when skiing, talking about skiing, or buying skis.  Case in point:  I found awesome-looking skis at a ski swap for a great price.  I later learned that they were super cheap because the bindings are completely outdated and it is illegal for any ski shops to adjust my bindings.  Luckily, a ski shop employee took pity on Glop and showed him how to do it himself.  So now I feel super safe as I ride down the bunny hill.
  5. It’s the terrible twos. On skis. Sure, toddler’s adorable in her helmet and little pink Alpinas. But it wears off quickly after manhandling her up the slope three or four times.  Not even the promise of hot chocolate will get her through her 60 minute weekly lesson.  I’m not sure a pony would either. Renting one would surely cost as much as her ski class.
  6. There’s no snow.  Really?  We took up skiing the one winter it has not snowed more than a few inches of snow in one 24-hour period. In New Hampshire. Come on, mother nature.  I’m paying premium here, so show me the snow!
  7. Try lugging skis, ski boots, snow pants, hats, scarves, and mittens for five from your minivan to the slope.  Ab can barely manage to carry one boot and toddler is useless.  I need a forklift.
  8. Who’s doing all the cooking/cleaning/laundry while we’re out skiing?  Certainly not any hired help.  It’s all there waiting for me when we get back, plus a bonus load of thermal underwear and socks.  Yay.
  9. Will I ever get off the bunny hill? No, I will probably have to part with more money to make that happen.

The Pros

  1. We get outside.  For thousands of dollars, we are getting a nice healthy dose of Vitamin D.  It’s probably going too far to say all this will help us avoid the stomach flu this year, but one can hope.
  2. We get exercise.  Always a plus.  But we do spend a lot of time on the automated wonder carpet.  Not a cardio workout at this point.
  3. Said “exercise” gives us an excuse to eat more chocolate.  Also a plus.
  4. Confidence.  I mean this seriously.  The big girls are all over this ski thing and as they gain more skills they are also gaining more confidence.  They are not scared out there, like I am.  I’m very proud of them.

The number one reason I might consider doing this all again next year:

Skiing is bringing us closer together as a family.  We’re having a shared experience, and that, to me, trumps all. From the toddler to the breadwinner, we have something in common.  There have been so many times over the last two years (since we had number three) when we have had to split up, with one parent going off in one direction with the two big girls, and the other staying home with the caboose.  Sure, getting everyone out the door for skiing is a really big pain in the ass, but the payoff is proving to be great.  From getting our pictures for our season passes together (high point, before we knew what we were getting into) to whining about the cold and our ghetto gear, we’re all in this adventure together. I actually feel way better this winter than I did last, but I’m not sure how much it has to do with the extra sunlight.  Though it pains me to write it:  Glop’s quest to fight SAD on skis is actually working, in a way he probably never imagined.



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Climbing Mount Monadnock: A Birthday Wish Fulfilled

Mount Monadnock

Mount Monadnock (the easy part)

Last Saturday was the kind of chilly, drizzly autumn day in New Hampshire that makes you want to sleep in and lounge around in your pajamas.   Who would want to climb a mountain in weather like that, for fun, on his birthday?  Glop, of course.

Glop’s birthday wish was to climb Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH, just under an hour from our house.  Elevation: 3,166 ft.  According to the NH State Parks website, it is “said to be the world’s third most climbed mountain, following Japan’s Mount Fuji and China’s Mount Tai.”

It’s not like Glop wanted a new car or even a new grill.  I’m a good sport, so I agreed to go with him.  I was also interested in seeing whether or not mountain climbing was for me.  So we rose early, got the kids situated with the in-laws, packed up some food, and hit the road.

I thought I was just in for a long, rocky hike.  After all, Glop had taken S. and A. camping and hiking on Monadnock when A. was just three, and she’d made it three quarters of the way up the mountain.  If a three-year-old could almost make the summit, certainly I could, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  The weather should have been my first clue that I might not meet with success on Mount Monadnock.  My total lack of appropriate gear, and experience, should also have tipped me off.

I was nervous as we drove the winding road leading to Monadnock State Park.  The leaves were peeking in fiery orange and red glory, but dark gray clouds lurked low over the landscape.  The air was thick with white mist.  Foreboding.

I mentioned to Glop that it might not be the best day for a hike.  He assured me would be fine, that the weather would clear and we’d be treated to a fabulous view from the mountain top.  I was less than convinced, and requested we turn back if no one else was climbing that day.  I had visions of being stranded on the mountain with nary a soul in sight, the rangers unable to find us in the fog.

Well, I hardly had to worry about being alone.  We waited on line to enter the parking lot, which was already filled with about three hundred cars.  It was Columbus Day weekend in New England and every man, woman, and child in the area was hoping for a view of the fall colors from on high.  I’ll be lucky if I can elbow my way to the top, I thought.

Glop was, of course, dismayed that so many others were there.  But such is life.  Fall is to New England what summer is to the Jersey Shore:  Crowded.

We checked our gear, if you could call it that, in the parking lot.  We had one pair of Keenes and one lightweight Columbia rain jacket between us.  The Keenes weren’t mine.  We had power bars, waters, trail mix, apples and matches (just in case).  I had stuffed everything into one of the girls’ old flower-power backpacks.   Glop had an old computer bag.  Stylin’.

The temperature was in the mid-fifties when we took to the White Dot Trail.  The start was deceptively benign, through a flat stretch of woods at the base of the mountain.  Then we started to climb.  And climb.  And climb.  Pretty soon we were scrambling over rocks and hopping up felled logs.  I felt like Spiderman.  I could see why the girls had liked this hike.  So far.

Then the route became more vertical, the rocks slicker.  My sneakers quickly became wet and lost their grip.  I was sweating one minute, from all the effort, and freezing cold the next, as the wind picked up.  The knees of my jeans were soaked through from crawling on all fours (mostly out of fear).  I was absurdly afraid of tumbling off the mountain, like a cartoon character.  At one point, Glop had to push me up a steep rock face because I froze like a deer in the headlights.  (Just want to say I was not the only one, people!)  What kept me going was the thought that we’d be taking the easier way down, and I definitely didn’t want to retrace my steps.

All the while we were hiking, I wondered “How did S. and A. ever do this?”  I consoled myself with the thought that children so little probably didn’t even know to be afraid, or realize how high up they were.  This was probably no more than a day at the playground to them.  I felt wimpy and a little weepy.  All thoughts of being a mountaineer were evaporating.

Eventually, after about two hours of following white dots here and there, we reached what I thought was the summit of Mount Monadnock.  We were above the tree line and there was fog, fog, everywhere.  I was cold, wet through, and uncomfortable.  The promised clearing had not happened.  There was no view.  I posed for a picture and thought, well, that’s that.  Time to go down the mountain.

Then Glop spotted another white dot leading off  up into the distance.  “We’re not at the summit yet!” he exclaimed,  a little too gleefully.

I started to whine, “Do we really have to…”

“Yes, of course,” Glop said.

Mount Monadnock

Here’s me at what I thought was the summit (though this was probably the view at the top, too).

Not what I wanted to hear.  I couldn’t even see ten feet in front of my face.  I could only wonder what lay ahead.  I downed some water and trail mix.  I asked another hiker coming down how far we had to go. “Uh,” he said, looking doubtfully at my gear.  “Probably another fifteen minutes.”  Fifteen minutes!  Thirty there and back! My quads were killing me, and I knew I had to get down the mountain, too.

Team player that I am, I hiked on for five more minutes, until we got to yet another bed of slippery granite.  I had noticed that even the more experienced hikers around us were complaining about conditions on the summit.  Glop stayed with me while I surveyed the situation.

I really wanted to be tough and stick it out.  It would be great to say I had made it to the summit of Mount Monadnock.  If I didn’t do it, would it prove I had no mettle?  What if I did it and I fell, or worse?  I waffled back and forth before finally deciding I just couldn’t do it.  As usual, my imagination got the best of me.  I didn’t want to risk breaking anything, like my head.  I thought I could probably make the summit but maybe lose it, mentally and/or physically, on the way down, and so I called it quits.  We did what you’re not supposed to do, which is separate, and Glop continued up.  With so many people around we felt it was an acceptable option.

As I waited for Glop to finish the ascent and return to the wet rock where I sat, my legs stiffened and I started to shiver.  What they say about weather changing quickly in the mountains is so true.  At that point, I wanted a winter coat, a hat, and gloves.  And a nice warm fire.

I stared into the mist where Glop had just disappeared, and I felt in my gut that I’d done the right thing for me.  That feeling was validated just a few minutes later, when the rangers decided to close the summit just after Glop came down.  The wind was blowing forty miles per hour at the top, the going was treacherous, and it was crowded with people trying to see a whole lot of nothing.

I had started the hike up Mount Monadnock hoping for a magical adventure, a transforming event that would lead to…what…a new passion?  A great story?  A great picture?  Romance?  Ha. Nothing really happened, when all was said and done.  A mom and dad in their mid-thirties hiked up a mountain and came down again (that last part, my friends, is another story).   And, of course, I helped Glop fulfill a birthday wish.  That’s what we supportive spouses do, right?  When it’s my birthday, maybe he’ll come purse shopping with me.

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Thoughts on Rejoining Facebook

I recently rejoined Facebook after about a three-year hiatus.  I had suspended my account after realizing a) how much time I was spending perusing posts from people, some of whom I hardly even know and b) how annoyed I was that everyone else’s life appeared to be so picture perfect in all those postings.  But I have been lured back to Facebook for several reasons.

Not being on Facebook these days is like not having a telephone, at least for a mom with school-age kids.  I realized today that I am in jeopardy of missing play dates, PTO meetings, special discounts at my favorite retailers and restaurants, and more.  I was winning back some “me” time, and probably some privacy, by not being on Facebook, but I was losing touch by not being able to be “messaged” on Facebook.  It’s like everyone at work getting the memo but you.  And no one bothers to send you an email or a text (and forget about snail-mail – does that even exist any more?).  You just get left out.  And as a SAHM of three, I already feel pretty left out of the universe.  The middle-schooler in me just can’t stand it.  But by not being on Facebook, my kids are also being left out.  And the mama in me can’t stand that even more.

Now, I’m not about to go “Friending” people all over the place.  And I’m not going to get sucked into “Liking” everyone’s posts and pictures. But I am going to “Like” my children’s preschool, elementary school, the YMCA, a slew of retailers (Target, of course), and certain not-for-profit organizations.  I am going to monitor my privacy settings diligently, to make sure they are not reset by some mysterious “computer glitch.”  I am going to welcome invitations parents of my girls’ friends, teachers, actual people I have met, and, of course, friends and family.

I also realized that the day is coming soon when I will need to “Friend” my daughters, and hope to God that they will accept.  For this reason, also, I need to understand the politics of Facebook.

I should note here that I did not have to completely rejoin Facebook, for anyone out there contemplating staying or leaving.  I went back thinking I would need to create a whole new account and discovered that all my information was still there in storage – my contacts, my pictures, my likes.  Somehow they knew I’d be back.  Kind of scary.  Wonder if all that stuff would still have been there if I had waited 10 years?

Maybe some of you out there will be disappointed in me for giving in and “joining” up again.  I totally understand. Just know I’m still the same person I used to be, no matter how my life looks, or doesn’t look, on Facebook.

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Race Day: What I Won

Applefest Medal

Everyone’s a winner! We did the 13.1 mi relay course in 2:18:57. I ran 11:23 miles for my leg – better than I’d hoped.

No cramps. No aches. No pains. No drama.  (No pictures of me running, either, but that’s what happens when your key supporter has to stay home and babysit!)  We finished the Applefest Half Marathon Relay without incident or injury, with a respectable time.  And we got free apple crisp at the end.  Success!

After all my moaning and groaning about running, I did enjoy the race.  I certainly didn’t worry about my competition – I’m way too slow for that!  We had a beautiful fall day – not too cool, not too warm – perfect for running (or jogging, in my case) through the rolling hills of Hollis, NH.  And I do mean rolling.  I had the more challenging half of the race, with some pretty steep grades.  I was a little concerned that my hips might give out on me, as they did when I took to these hills during the 2011 race, but it didn’t happen.  The weather held, my hips held, and I found a rhythm I could manage for most of the course.  At one point, I did walk for a teensy bit to catch my breath.  After all, “there is a hill as steep as the road up Mt. Washington with a 10-12 percent grade.”   It’s not very long, but it still is brutal.

As I chugged toward the finish line, I could feel my heart pounding in my ears, and everything started to get stiff, but I still felt strong.  I’d been running for over an hour, thinking just about running, about making it from here to there, breathing through each step.  Crossing the finish line was satisfying.  I’d actually finished something I’d started.  How often do I get to do that in a day?

I didn’t win the race, but I did win back confidence in myself as a runner.

Enough to do another road race?  Maybe a nice flat 5K.  Bottom line is, I’m not quitting.  There’s too much of myself wrapped up in this sport I’ve been doing for the last 23 years.  I  just need to adjust my expectations of myself as a runner, given my current lifestyle.  Who knows? Maybe I’ll even do a marathon some day, when my life feels like less of one.

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Portraits of Mommy: A Series by Ab

Sparkle portrait of mommy

Sparkly mommy, ready for a night out.

Calm mommy

Zen mommy, ready for anything.

Mommy being mommy

Mommy being mommy, herding her children (three yellow strokes) to their next exciting event.

I was the “star” of Ab’s artwork this week.  A nice switch from Rapunzel.  Thanks for making me look so good, Ab!

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Running Myself Into the Ground

That’s what it feels like I’ve been doing for the past few months.  And I mean it literally.  I’m due at the starting line of the Applefest half-marathon relay race in four days, and I’m not feeling too good about it.  Taking on 6.4 miles was never gonna come easy.  But this time around, training, and finding time to train, has been a bit more stressful than soul-soothing.

Running has always been a constant in my life, my go-to for both physical and mental fitness.  There’s nothing like the runner’s high.  And I’m no stranger to road races, from 5Ks to half-marathons.  I’ve always enjoyed training, because I love to run.  But then I’ve never done as much running around on my “day job” as I do now.

When I signed up for Applefest months ago, I was very optimistic that it would be a great way to shed baby weight and get back into running after nine months of being a sedentary blob.  I thought, for some deluded reason, that I would have all the time in the world to pound pavement.  But hello, people with three small children in various stages of development do not have all the time in the world.  We rarely have a minute to use the bathroom or put on fresh clothes.  I multitask to the point where I blather incomprehensible commands to my children, like “put your shoes on your book bag” and “make sure you eat your milk.”

I’ve tried my best to fit long runs in between weekend yard clean-ups and grocery store runs, do push-ups during nap time, even use Julie as a free weight.  I’ve got a dedicated running partner who’s been there to bolster me up when I’ve felt like I couldn’t run another step.  I know I can do the mileage on Saturday.  But I’m just not feeling the magic.  I’m not uplifted, I’m not inspired.  I’m just so damn tired. (Hmm…Taylor Swift’s next song?)

I’m going to take a moment here and mommy rant, so some readers may want to skip to the end.  But I think anyone who does, or ever did, a lot of manual labor in a day can relate.  On my job, I run around all day.  Take the 20 foot sprint from the family room to the bathroom, to prevent the toddler from playing in the toilet.  I repeat that sprint about 20 times a day to keep dirt/toys/rocks/old food/and whatever else the tot finds under the baseboards out of her mouth.  Then there are the laps at the grocery store, the drug store, Target (that’s a BIG store, you know), the craft store, etc.  Then there are the quarter-milers around the block with the kids, trips to the playground and evening bike rides.  The fatigue builds.  Some days, I pray for rain.  Throw in a few 3 AM wake-up calls for bad dreams/teething/illness and this mama is spent.  Running isn’t the release it used to be because I’m already a wet noodle by the end of the day.  There’s no angst left to fuel a four mile-run!

You would think all this running around would help me be a better runner, but indeed it has just the opposite effect.  And can you tell it makes me cranky?

I hope the adrenaline kicks in on race day, and I feel the love again.  But I’m thinking it might be time to trade in the running shoes for something that seems a little less like work.  Reading?  Knitting? Meditating? I’ll settle for just sitting in one place for five minutes.

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My Little Apple Lover

J first visit to the apple orchard

JuJu Bee shares highlights from her first trip to the apple orchard:   “These apples are mine. All mine!”

J eats an apple at the apple orchard

“I think I can eat every apple here. Today. What, ma? We have to pay for these? Put it on my tab.”

S in the apple orchard

“Look at S. clowning around when she could be eating apples!”


“A. shows me apples, apples everywhere.”

J running through the apple orchard.

“La, la, la…I’m just going to run away and steal as many apples as I can while mom and dad yell at my silly siblings.”

J eating ice cream in the orchard

“What is this? Incredible. Even better than apples!”

J smiling in the apple orchard

“Best day ever.”

And this is why we keep having children.  They’re so darn cute!

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