Team Pickles celebrated a very happy New Year’s with friends, family, food, skiing, and Harry Potter-watching up at the chalet!
Team Pickles celebrated a very happy New Year’s with friends, family, food, skiing, and Harry Potter-watching up at the chalet!
Team Pickles moseyed* our way down to Maryland this weekend where Ian, Ben, and Molly hung out with Uncle Chris while I got back in touch with my inner university student at Blog University. I’m not going to bore you with the details because if you’re reading this you were either there or you’re one of my other 4 readers and are like, “Riiight…blogging conference…that’s nice. Now have you got a pithy, pun-filled story about something cute my grandkids did or not?”
I will tell you that going back to university, unfettered by worldly concerns of husband and children; released from practical considerations like laundry, pull-ups, and how on earth I’m going to work off the calories in those cupcakes; and free to pretend I was 21 again with open heart, open mind, and open bar, resulted in deep self-reflection and soul-searching.
As such, I want to share with you The Top 6 Things I Learned Going Back to School:
♪♫♪“If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends…” ♪♫♪ *shakes fist at Becoming Supermommy*
*Correct spelling – “moseyed,” not “mosied,” as I had originally guessed. Sometimes you can be pretty ducking annoying, but thanks for having my back on that one, Spellcheck!
I hate Vaguebooking more than many things in life, and I did it all day today, so my apologies to those of you would saw my day bookended by the twin statii
Dear Driver Who Slowed Down to Look as He/She passed Me Lying In the Snow Trying to Dig Out My Car in My Driveway on a Private Road with Only About 30 Residents and then Continued His/Her Merry Way,
You are a jerk.
No love, Me.
Quick PSA: When someone is having a complete breakdown in front of you and just barely holding it together because they’ve had a really shitty day and this is the last straw, the appropriate answer is NEVER, EVER “Oooh…well, it could be worse.” Yes, it could be worse. I could be dying of cancer. I could have a splinter in my foot. I could be having my arm gnawed off by a walrus. Yes, things could be worse. But right now, at this moment, for me, it is bad enough. Don’t minimize that.
To clear up the mystery that I’m sure has been haunting each of you all day – “What the heck happened to Karyn today?” I present to you “The Last 12 Hours of My Life” [as in, the 12 hours immediately preceding the time that is now, not to be confused with the final 12 hours of my life, which I hope will take place far in the future].
Prologue: It’s March Break. Ben, Molly and I are up at my parents’ ski chalet, which is on very small, private (as in, not municipally maintained) crescent. There are 20, maybe 30 chalets in all on this road. Ben and Molly are in a ski day camp. Yesterday the weather was balmy. Today there was a massive snow storm.
9:10 AM Realized we had plenty of time. Let Ben and Molly continue playing before getting ready to go.
9:30 AM Told Ben and Molly it was time to get ready to go. They did not share my sense of urgency.
10:00 AM Actually got out the door and into the car. Realized that my decision to park in the middle of the half-circle driveway facing the steeper exit was not my best ever.
10:02 AM Ben: “We’re stuck, aren’t we?” Car: “whuh-ERRRRRRR” Ben: “Yep. We’re stuck.”
10:02-10:30 AM Tried to dig the car out with bare hands and a snow brush.
10:30 AM Abandoned the idea of getting the kids to ski school and sent them inside. Put on mitts. Searched, unsuccessfully, for a shovel. Continued, unsuccessfully, to try to dig car out with snow brush. Watched Jerk #1 drive by slowly.
10:45 AM Gave up and went inside.
12:00 PM Dressed warmly, armed myself with a broom, and went back out to try again.
12:00-12:30 PM Alternated laying on the ground digging under the car with broom handle and trying to rock the car out in reverse. Watched Jerk #2 drive by, slowing down for a good look at the chick lying under her car.
12:30 PM Knocked on neighbours’ door.
12:30-1:00 PM Lovely older couple with much better tools than my broom and snow brush dug the car out. With me and her pushing, he successfully backed the car out of the snowbank and into the snowbank on the other side of the driveway.
1:00-1:10 PM Dug the car out of that snowbank and pushed it up onto the road.
1:15 PM Loaded the kids into the car and took them up to the hill for their afternoon session.
1:45 PM Molly refused to ski.
2:50 PM Put Molly into the car and tried to pull out of parking space. Stuck. For once someone ACTUALLY STOPPED and pushed me out. Yay!
3:00 PM Picked Ben up and drove back down the hill. Discovered that the entrance to the private road had been blocked by the municipal plow. Tried to dig it out with Ben’s ski. Municipal plow drove by, presumably laughing at me.
3:15 PM Drove back up to the ski hill and explained the situation, and asked to borrow a shovel. Lady at the desk said, “Oh my! You’re about to have a breakdown, aren’t you?” Burst into tears. She had a girl take me out to find the shovel. Girl said comfortingly, “Oh, well…it could be worse though.” I said, “
True. I could be facing charges for having kicked in your stupid teeth, you utter moron… Uh-huh.”
3:25-3:40 PM Shoveled out the road, stopping to give thumbs up to Jerks #3-12, who drove by without stopping. Special honourable mention to Giant Jerkwad Supreme in the pick-up truck with the plow attachment who could have done it for me in one pass. Drove home to the chalet. Backed into parking space. Pretty sure I’m stuck again but no longer care.
3:45 PM Phoned Municipal Public Works office and was assured that blocking in the private road was standard practice, as was ignoring motorists stranded by the aforementioned action. “If the plow driver stopped to help ever stranded motorist, we’d never get the roads cleared.” Hung up on him. Got a big cuddle from Ben. Felt marginally better.
4:00 PM My mom called. She agreed that John from Public Works was a dick and all the people who didn’t stop were jerks. Felt somewhat better.
4:15-5:30 PM Chatted with friends and received “likes” on Vaguebook. Felt significantly better.
5:30 PM Built a fire and toasted and ate 1 bag of marshmallows (with the help of the kids). Felt quite a lot better but now slightly ill.
9:10 PM Finally was able to see the humour and wrote this post.
Epilogue: In conclusion
1. Yes, it definitely could be worse. I have a pretty awesome life, and at no point was I or any of my loved ones in danger of losing it. But still, sometimes things suck and you get upset…and whatever has caused it, telling a person who is upset about their particular circumstances, “It could be worse,” is not comforting, it is invalidating and minimizing. So if, “smack upside the head to give perspective,” is what you’re going for, then by all means, say that, but if you’re aiming for “comfort and console,” try a simple, “That sucks. I’m sorry.”
2. People are stupid jerks, but it’s nothing a roaring fire and a bag of toasted icing sugar, artificial vanilla flavouring, and gelatin can’t fix.
When it comes to Team Pickles, babies, and sleep, our luck has been pretty even.
Actually, when it comes to EVERYTHING, our luck is pretty even. My friend Catherine once said of Ian and I that we have the most luck of anyone she’s ever met. The problem is that on any given day we have no idea if it’s going to be GOOD luck or BAD luck. One day we’re winning a top-of-the-line trampoline because of a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post and the next we’re burning down our apartment 6 days after our wedding (true story – I’ll post about that some other time).
But I digress.
Ben was an easy sleeper pretty much from day one. Like any newborn, he woke in the night to eat, but by about 4 months he was easily sleeping through. To make things even simpler, he would sleep anywhere and everywhere – in the car…in the stroller…in his highchair…in the middle of the floor if that was where he happened to be when he got tired, and he slept so soundly that I used to clip his nails while he napped.
When he was a toddler, his afternoon routine was lunch followed by a bottle in his highchair, after which he would immediately fall asleep and I would recline the highchair, turn off the kitchen light, and go down to the basement to work for a few hours while he napped.
Bedtime was just as easy – if we were the slightest bit late starting his bedtime routine, Ben would bring us a bottle, grab our hands and beg, “Bed? Bed now?”
Molly, on the other hand…Oh, my Molly-Monkey…Baby Molly was the complete polar opposite. Molly woke up frequently to feed, and the frequency increased rather than decreased with age. As a newborn, Molly would only sleep in her swing or in Ian or my arms. For her first three months, I slept on the futon in her room with her swaddled in the swing beside me. Every morning I would carry the swing downstairs to the family room so she could nap in it there, and then Ian would carry it back upstairs for the night. I perfected the art of transferring her seamlessly from my arms into the swing while it was rocking (the trick is to start rocking your arms to match the motion of the swing before you put her down, then slide your arms out from under). She slept fitfully, waking up at the slightest noise or change in atmosphere. The sounds of a sneeze used to send her into orbit.
If at this point you’re thinking something like, “OMG I wonder if she knows that babies aren’t supposed to sleep in swings I’d better comment and tell her that it’s not recommended,” please rest assured that I’ve had that same conversation with many a Public Health nurse and that I’m quite comfortable with the decisions I made.
Around 3 months, Molly (my future Olympic gymnast) discovered that she could, while tightly swaddled, somehow flip herself over onto her stomach and wriggle backwards out of the swing. The first time I heard a “thud” and found her on the floor in front of the empty swing grinning, I thought it was a fluke, but by the third I had to concede that the days of her sleeping safely in the swing were over.
She transitioned (unhappily) to the crib at night, waking about every half-hour to hour, and during the day would nap for a half-hour to an hour at a time, but only in my arms. My work productivity suffered significantly, but on the flip side I got really, really good at online euchre.
Finally we hit a breaking point around 7 months, which, probably not coincidentally, is also when my PPD starting hitting pretty hard. Molly wouldn’t sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time and had no predictable sleep schedule. I was a zombie and Ian wasn’t much better.
Completely at the end of my rope, I did what I always do in these situations, and I went to Chapters, sat on the floor in the “Parenting” section, and flipped through books until I found one I liked. The book I selected was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. As with most, if not all parenting books, this one has its supporters and its detractors, so all I can say is that without hyperbole, this book literally saved, if not my life, at least my sanity, marriage, and relationship with my children.
What I really like about the book (which we took to calling “The Book” – bolded and capitalized) was that Dr. Weissbluth does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution; instead he describes different infant temperaments and sleep problem and offers suggestions tailored to your needs.
Babies like Molly are described as suffering from extreme fussiness/colic. He notes that it he adds the “extreme fussiness” designation because not all of these babies experience the level of crying that would be deemed “colic”, but instead experience “an unsettled, agitated, wakeful state that would lead to crying if ignored by parents.” (p 142). This certainly described Molly as an infant!
Dr. Weissbluth’s overall theory is that most children are not getting as much sleep as they need, and the more overtired they get, the more difficulty they have falling asleep, compounding the issue by building an ever-increasing sleep debt.
For all infants (and really, all children) he recommends watching for “drowsy signs” (such as decreased activity, slower motions, quieter, calmer, yawning) to determine the optimal time to put them to bed. Actions such as fussing, rubbing eyes, and being irritable or cranky actually indicate overtiredness; if the infant is showing those signs, she is already overtired and will have more difficulty falling asleep.
For sleep-training a fussy/high-needs/colicky infant like Molly, he recommends the admittedly controversial “cry-it-out” method – putting her down in her crib when drowsy and then leaving her alone to fall asleep. “Cry-it-out” is not for everyone, but I was willing to give it a shot, since responding when she cried was clearly not the answer.
Dr. Weissbluth also makes a point that resonates with me given my educational background in psychology and behaviour management: The only thing that graduated crying methods such as Ferber’s (in which leave the infant for longer and longer periods of time before responding) teach the baby is that they have to continue crying for longer each night to get a response. You still eventually reach the point where you have to let your baby cry-it-out indefinitely; all you have done is prolonged the agony for both of you.
So Cry-It-Out it would be: We picked the night, and for the first time in her 7 months, I put Molly down at the first “drowsy signs,” much earlier than usual, still awake but calm, and left the room. She cried, and I cried, but I didn’t go back in, and 17 minutes later she fell asleep and slept through the night for the first time EVER.
The next morning she woke up in a fantastic mood, and bolstered by this initial success I put her down for three Dr. Weissbluth-recommended naps – a morning nap, an afternoon nap, and an early evening nap – the next day, and I’ll be damned if she didn’t fall asleep instantly and sleep for 2 hours each time.
Seventeen minutes, I tell you. Seventeen Dr. Weissbluth-approved minutes, and I had a different baby on my hands.
Molly remains a difficult sleeper, which will probably never change. Our paediatrician points at poor sleepers (*ahem* myself included) on both sides of the family and says we may have lucked out with Ben but we were pretty much guaranteed at least one terrible sleeper.
Any change to the routine derails her sleep habits. Travel is a nightmare – we can basically count on her being awake until after we fall asleep and eventually collapsing out of sheer exhaustion. When we went to Germany last year Ian and I took turns – every night one of us stayed with Molly while the other ate dinner with the grown-ups. If one of us didn’t stay upstairs with her, she would scream for hours, waking up Ben and her cousins.
After that 2 week trip it was another 6 weeks before we could get her to go to sleep without one of us sitting with her and at least another 6 weeks after that until things were completely back to “normal” – please clearly visualize those as mimed air-quotes, because Molly’s “normal” is anything but.
“Normal” sleep for Molly goes in cycles. She will go for a couple of months with no problems, then wake up crying one night, and if we go in to soothe her, she’ll wake up twice the next night…then 3 times…then 5….until we do a night or two of crying-it-out to “reset” her back to…again that funny little air-quoted word “normal.” But at least that normal is a far cry (so to speak) from what we experienced in her first year, and for that I am immeasurably thankful.
Of course, it can’t last, can it?
I love Today’s Parent. I don’t always agree with everything in it, but it’s always a good read, and gosh-dang-it, y’all know I’m a sucker for any kind of child development material!
The topic of this month’s “Debate” column is “Should you use a leash to control your toddler?” and I felt it missed the mark. I was frankly offended by Nadine Silverthorne’s assertion that “parents who use leashes look lazy,” and although Amy Morrison’s “Yes” column made a great case for leashes, I was saddened by the caveat that she never actually used one herself due to fear of judgement – a fear that was clearly justified!
Since Today’s Parent hasn’t been able to find anyone willing to admit to actually using a toddler leash, I feel compelled (anyone surprised by that?) to add my own two cents!
Although I use the term “toddler leash” facetiously among friends, it is not at all the same as an animal leash. There is no “obedience training” involved and it is not a punitive device used to jerk back a disobedient pet to ensure compliance born out of fear of a repeat performance. A toddler “leash” or harness is a safety device that allows your child the freedom of walking a few steps away from you while giving you the means to respond effectively to any unexpected danger.
Toddlers value independence above all else. The “Terrible Twos” exist because it is around that age that children first learn to do for themselves, at their own pace, and heaven help the parent who says, “Just let me do it for you!” Is it really fair to strap your fearless little explorer into a 5-point stroller harness just because he or she is too dazzled by the wonderful world around him or her to stop dead every time you shout, “Freeze!”?
Going back to the statement that toddler leash-toting parents “look lazy,” I asked my own mother, who, as a full-time doctor and mother of 3 in the 1980’s is the least lazy person I know (Case in point: She recently returned to work on crutches 9 days after breaking her hip in a skiing accident), what she thinks of parents who use toddler leashes. She responded dryly, “Karyn, if I hadn’t used a toddler leash, your brother Chris wouldn’t be around today.”
When Ben was a toddler, I kept his lightweight harness in my diaper bag, ready to throw on him any time the situation warranted. If I was going to be wandering the Eaton’s Centre or downtown Toronto, or taking a trip to a train station or waterfront with a 2 year-old, you bet your bippy I’d have that leash at the ready!
It was the best option for both of us – Ben was free to explore without being stuck in the stroller or having his hand held (just take a minute to imagine how uncomfortable it must be to have someone much taller than you holding your hand up above your head until it falls asleep, gripping it hard enough that you can’t pull away) and I had the security of knowing that I could stop him if he suddenly bolted towards a hazard.
There are certain situations in which even the most anti-leash parent would be unlikely to argue that a safety harness isn’t a good idea:
(For the record, the harness Ben is wearing in the preceding photograph is actually an adult boating harness intended for sailboat racing – safety devices ain’t just for toddlers, y’know.)
And how about in the case of special needs children? If you don’t think that’s appropriate, take a minute to walk a mile in some other parents’ shoes by reading the testimonials on this website from users of special needs child-to-adult harnesses. Or take it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak:
I’ve got the best harness in the world. When I first got it I didn’t like wearing it, but now I love my harness. I never get lost and I don’t have to keep holding hands all the time and its comfortable to wear. Big kids and little kids should wear a harness because you are never too old to be kept safe. And I love the colours.
– Tyler, Australia, Age 9, http://www.childharness.ca/testimonials.html
There are important guidelines to follow when using a toddler harness:
1. The whole idea is to give your child the freedom to explore on his or her own terms, so try to follow at his or her pace and guide your child with your words (“Time to go this way! Come on!”). Your child is not a puppy, and the harness is not an choke-chain, so do not jerk him or her back to you.
2. If you aren’t holding the harness, tuck it firmly out of the way, and take it off completely if your child is playing on something like a climber or slide where it could become a strangulation hazard.
3. When it comes to wrist straps, just don’t: If you can manage to get them tight enough to stay on, they’re just a broken wrist waiting to happen.
4. And of course, make sure that you come prepared with pithy rejoinders for those inevitable judgments, such as,
“Well, the breeder suggested that we try this first, but if his behaviour doesn’t improve soon, it’s off to obedience school!”
“Dear God! You’re right! This isn’t my dachshund Olympus – it’s my neighbour’s kid! I can’t believe I did it AGAIN!”
Or the classic, “You know what they say about people in glass houses.”
As Nadine Silverthorne points out, it is our job as parents to teach our children “the rules,” including the expectation that when we say “Freeze,” they will. I say that even more importantly, it is our job to know our own children and to keep them safe whether they are listening or not. The call-and-response method that she describes is an excellent training tool, but at the toddler age it is simply not foolproof. There is always potential for distraction, and the use of a toddler leash can ensure that a moment’s impulsiveness doesn’t turn into a life-altering tragedy.
~ karyn (aka that horrible, lazy, toddler-leash-using mom everybody love to judge!)
I’m ba-a-ack!! Sorry about the bloggy hiatus. It’s been a bit of a hectic couple of weeks around here! My car has been fixed, no thanks to Mazda (I won’t get into that though…feel free to scroll back through my Twitter for details). So far I haven’t received the bill, so I’m just pretending it doesn’t exist…not necessarily a sustainable plan over the long term, but it’s working for me right now!
It seems that Mother Nature has decided to tack the winter she forgot to give us last year onto the end of this one. Watching the blowing snow out my living room window day after day I’m starting to feel like I’m trapped in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. But I digress.
We had a great March Break but I don’t think you can really call it a “break!” We went up to my parents’ ski chalet for the week, bringing friends and our babysitter Victoria with us. When we got there, Ben and Molly spent an hour bouncing off the walls – “When are Noah and Ella going to be here? Are they here yet? When are they going to get here? AREN’T THEY HERE YET???” I think that was when Victoria started wondering what she had gotten herself into…
Noah and Ella and their parents arrived and the kids settled right in together:
Ben and Noah went to ski day camp in the mornings and both improved immensely skiing-wise. Michael (Noah and Ella’s dad) and I got some great skiing in too. I think we managed to go through every snow condition possible – warm, sticky spring, fresh powder, icy pellets, freezing cold dead of winter. It was like the entire ski season compressed itself into 3 days!
With a 2-hour group lesson every day, Ben and Noah both improved immensely. Ben continues to work his way through the fast-food metaphors, having now graduated from doing “pizza slices” and onto “french fries.” They also became quite well-known at the hill – “Are you Ben’s mom? Oh my gosh, he and Noah are SO. CUTE. They are so chatty! And they were holding hands while they were waiting for the lift.”
Much to their mommies’ terror, the reward for a good day of skiing seemed to be a trip down the free-style terrain park. There’s nothing quite like seeing your 5 year-old sliding across rails and off ski jumps to strike cold fear into your heart!
Molly also tried her hand…er…her feet at skiing. Boy, was my back sore after that…
As I’m sure you gathered from her expression, she hated it! She wasn’t totally satisfied though – I asked how she liked it and she said, “Great! But faster next time, Mommy, okay? Faster!”
Ben finally got to experience his first sleepover. We’ve tried a few times letting him and Molly share a room, and sadly it always ends in disaster. The closest they came to making it work was a few weeks ago when Ben finally fell asleep and stayed that way, despite Molly sitting up beside him kicking him with both legs yelling, “Ben? BEN? Wake up, Ben! I want to play! BEEEEENNNNN!!!”
Ben and Noah, happily, were able to make it work, much to Ben’s delight – “A sleepover with my BEST FRIEND? THIS IS THE GREATEST NIGHT EVER!!” Towards the early hours of the morning we did discover that Ben, like his parents before him, is a cover-hog. My advice for marital harmony, folks? Two words: Separate duvets.
Thanks to Victoria, we grown-ups were able to enjoy a lovely night out at a beautiful local restaurant called Mrs. Mitchell’s, named after the last and longest-serving teacher at the one-room schoolhouse that now houses the restaurant. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it! (If you can’t get there, at least try making their famous spoon bread at home). The waitress told us one of the best stories ever about my mom and aunt (identical twins): “You know how they look exactly alike but one of them is chattier than the other? For years I thought they were the same person but with multiple personalities. Then one day they came in together and I nearly fell off my chair!”
Mrs. Mitchell’s is also famous for their afternoon tea, which has been a favourite of mine (and hasn’t changed much!) since I was little. Karen and I brought Molly and Ella for a “Princess Tea Party” on our last afternoon.
Really, what could be better than an individual basket of fresh-baked scones and sweet potato and walnut muffins served with strawberry preserves, cream, and whipped butter? Not much, say I!
Ben and Noah made good use of their time while the girls were gone, converting the chalet into a bookstore, complete with window display and “employees only” area.
When we got back, they were down in the “staff only” area hard at work writing and illustrating their debut novel, “Journey To The End Of The Pine River.” [*Spoiler alert*] I assume that part of the story will deal with the existential futility of trying to play Poohsticks with pieces of ice…
All in all, an excellent but exhausting week! Like I said at the beginning, I don’t know if you can really call it a “break.” Perhaps the concept was pioneered by a childless school principal – “EUREKA! I’ve just had the Greatest! Idea! Ever!!”
Or maybe it’s actually a clever acronym: March B.R.E.A.K. (Begetting Really Exhausted parents And Kids).
Ben went away after Christmas for a “special trip with Nana and Grandad.” We perhaps should have prepared Molly better, because she was absolutely devastated when he left:
She cried for hours – “But I need BEN! I can’t go to sleep without BEN! No, you can’t sing me a lullaby – ONLY BEN CAN SING ME A LULLABY!” She finally rolled over in bed and poured her heart out to her doll, Charlie – “Charlie, I miss BEN! Will you do a craft with me tomorrow, Charlie? With pink, and sparkles, and then we can call Ben and tell him about it?”
Ben and Molly’s reunion three days later was a sight to see. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of it, but he threw open the car door and jumped in and they embraced and cheered and gushed, “I missed you, Molly!!” “I missed you too Ben!” “I love you, Molly!!” “I love you, Ben!!” and you couldn’t pry them apart for the rest of the day.
For days after we got home, Molly would occasionally smile and say, “Now Ben is back where he belongs – with Molly.” I know they’ll have their sibling ups and downs, but as one friend put it, we must be doing something right!
The purpose of Ben’s special trip, aside from having a fun time with Nana and Grandad, was to give him the opportunity to learn to ski. In my family, we traditionally are put on skis pretty well as soon as we can walk reliably and there’s snow on the ground, so we started both Ben and Molly on skis the winters before their 2nd birthdays. At that age, though, you’re mostly just holding the child up and getting them used to the idea of sliding down the hill standing up.
A friend who is an extremely talented pianist and piano teacher (shameless plug – if you’re in the Toronto area and looking for piano lessons, check her out) suggested that in most cases it’s good idea to hold off on private piano lessons until a child is old enough to have the fine motor control to physically do what they want to do on the instrument or they will get frustrated. She suggests starting lessons at 6 and notices that in general children who start piano lessons at that age very quickly catch up to their peers who started at a younger age.
I suspect that the same is true of sports like skiing – I think that each child has a threshold for when they are physically capable of learning the sport, and while introducing them to it earlier will help them become comfortable with the sensations, once they hit that threshold they will literally and figuratively take off.
In Ben’s case, that threshold was age 5 1/2! He left with Nana and Grandad on Boxing Day to go up to the chalet, and Molly and I joined them on the 29th. He left a non-skier who hadn’t even been on skis in a year, and this is what I found when I went up:
He was skiing down the freaking black diamonds!! In skiing speak, those are the “Advanced” slopes, as compared to the green circles (Beginner), blue squares (Intermediate), and double- or triple- black diamonds (!!☠☠!! and !!!☠☠☠!!!). This is all, of course, relative – Ontario black diamonds are not the same level as BC or Quebec black diamonds, let alone others found worldwide. But still – pretty amazing stuff for a 5 year-old after 4 days of lessons!
Please also note my prodigious talent at photographing a moving target whilst skiing myself – I may not excel at many sports, but when it comes to skiing I got mad skillZ! And if you don’t believe me, take it from The Evil Snowman:
After skiing, it was back to the chalet for some (EVIL) snowman-building followed by warm chocolate with marshmallows (Ben and Molly feel that hot chocolate would be too hot) and a dip in the hot tub.
Ian and I reprised the dip in the hot tub on New Year’s Eve and participated in the classic chalet tradition of making snow angels in bathing suits. Before you say anything, let he among you who can resist a double-dare cast the first
Ian went for a wander with his camera and took some great pictures:
And along with Nana, we managed (just) to stay up until midnight, raise a glass, and then collapse into bed.
I know it’s a little late, but from our home to yours, I hope you had a very Happy New Year and that your hopes and dreams for the coming year all come true!
Once upon a time, I bought the greatest stroller known to man, the phil&teds Explorer Sport with double attachment. Greatest. Stroller. Ever.
I loved that stroller. I took it everywhere and recommended it to everyone who would listen (at least those who asked me about it…I didn’t run up to random strangers like a crazy person and scream at them to buy this stroller. Much.).
When we planned our trip to Germany this summer, we originally planned to bring 2 cheap umbrella strollers to the airport but at the last minute decided to take the phil&teds instead, thinking that it would be more useful in our travels. Unfortunately, fate was not on our side and it came to pass that a terrible dragon, in the form of a careless baggage handler, wrecked it during the flight. Actually, my guess, judging from the type of damage, is that he – and I say he not out of sexism but because it was taken from me by 2 young men – dropped it to the tarmac while carrying it down the stairs before the flight ever began.
At first I hoped to keep using the broken stroller, at least for the trip, and did managed to get a bit of use out if it in the first few days with packing tape holding the handle together.
Unfortunately some new damage quickly came to light – I think the front wheel assembly must have been bent too so with continued use the tire popped. Despondent, I gave it up for lost, figuring that my kids were a bit older and I could probably get by with a cheap umbrella stroller until they outgrew strollers completely (see the October 2012 issue of Today’s Parent for a good debate on topic of strollering your toddler or preschooler), and I would be better off taking a cash settlement.
I even composed a haiku in its honour:
Careless baggage guys/dropped my stroller down the stairs/Condor owes me big.
After a fair bit of frustration and some back-and-forthing through social media and then email with Condor Airlines, it came down to a choice between a significantly depreciated cash value versus full reimbursement for a replacement stroller so I opted for the replacement – which means I was able to purchase the brand new just-released phil&teds Navigator in pretty robins-egg blue!
Things that I loved about my Explorer:
– SO maneuverable
– double stroller without the double width
– double attachment let Ben jump in and ride when he needed to and didn’t get in my way when he didn’t
– driveable in all seasons and on all terrains
Things that I loved less:
– stiff wire brake needed a lot of force to flip on or off with foot (and not doable in sandals – ouch!)
– deep fabric footwell caught crumbs and dirt and you had to flip stroller upside down and shake get them out
– long dangly tails on harness straps
– waist straps that you had to dig out from under your kid to buckle
– very small sunshade that didn’t really shade at all
– no clip to prevent stroller from opening when folded
– soft fabric back of seat was oh so tempting for kid in double attachment seat to kick or push, earning a “Hey!!” or just a wail as they woke up from the kid above
– permanently attached seat cover cannot be washed
Don’t get me wrong – these were all minor annoyances and certainly did not detract from this being the BEST STROLLER EVER MADE.
With the Navigator, phil&teds have stared deep within my soul, discovered all of the things I found mildly irritating about the Explorer, and FIXED THEM. Every last one of them. The Navigator has a one-touch toggle brake; a firm plastic footwell with vents for the crumbs to fall through; a new tail-less harness system (I didn’t even know you could do that!); a harness system that while still having shoulder and waist restraints, only has 2 clips; a hard plastic back to minimize those “Hey!”s; and a detachable, machine-washable seat cover. They even fixed the bar that goes across the front – I took it off originally because my kids were biting chunks of foam off it, and apparently this issue was not unique to me because the new incarnation has a fabric sleeve.
It also has the biggest freaking sunshade I’ve ever seen (Ben and Molly like to pull it all the way down to enclose them in a kind of sunshade cocoon) – and again, since they either have secret video cameras recording my life or else someone in R&D is my creepy long-lost brain twin, they KNEW that I always put stuff like my keys or wallet on top of the sunshade while I walk around and I’ve lost a cell phone as a result, and built freaking POCKETS into the sides of the sunshade so that when things inevitably slide off, instead of falling to the ground they get caught in the pockets.
Another really neat feature is that it assembles completely without tools – I took it out of the box, popped the wheels on, and was ready to go. It also handles like a dream, even more smoothly than the Explorer did, and all this at the exact same price I paid for my Explorer originally.
If I have one complaint, it’s the the colour is not as bright and the fabric slightly coarser than I expected, but since I ordered it online without seeing it in person, I can’t really blame phil&teds for that.
Ben and Molly heartily approve of the new stroller, and if it has half the staying power of the last one (barring being dropped down a flight of stairs onto asphalt) it should last through a few more kids after mine. Thank you, thank you, thank you, phil&teds, for making my stroller dreams come true, and thank you Condor Airlines for making things right.
Here are the last few Germany bits and pieces to wrap up the trip diary:
One of the highlights of the vacation was the trip up the mountain on a cable car.
We went about 1800 m up, to the third of four stations (we couldn’t go all the way to the top as the timing meant that we would have had to ride back down on the same car without actually disembarking). Before we reached the third station we were in the clouds and the kids had a great time playing in the ethereal, misty playground (as described in Ben’s guest post).
We then rode back down and enjoyed dinner al fresco at a lovely Italian restaurant, which was interrupted at one point by the sound of cowbells as a farmer brought his herd down from the mountain for the night. (“My family’s been bringing the cows down this road every night for 3 generations and we’re not going to stop now just because this damn town is overrun with tourists!”).
On the way home we passed the brewery that had been supporting our pils habit for the 2 weeks…mmm…I still miss the beer!
Apparently there were a number of town festivals going on while we were there, which meant that for most of the trip many people were dressed in traditional Bavarian “tract.” These Bavarians certainly have the right idea when it comes to flattering clothing, especially for those of us with, let’s say, “hourglass” figures (I like to think of them as “good, strong childbearing hips.”)! I tried on a dirndl but unfortunately I just didn’t think it would translate well to home.
I also tried to convince Ian to get a pair of lederhosen but no dice. (Come on! Even Santa wears them in the off-season!)
One area where Germany is way ahead seems to be the use of sustainable energy, particularly solar power. Everywhere we looked it seemed that people had solar panels on their roofs, sometimes just a few, sometimes covering every available inch.
We also passed fields of row upon row of solar panels along the highways. Pretty cool stuff. I know we’re starting to experiment with it; in our town there are 2 towers with panels but it’s on such a small scale, comparatively. These Bavarians really seem to have it down to a science.
As a small side note, if you think back to the Kurpark post, this is the photograph that Ian was taking when he was hiding in the flowers:
Finally, the time came for us to make our exit. In Germany this is indicated by highway signs reading, “Ausfahrt,” and I remain convinced that I can’t be the only English-speaker in the world whose inner 15 year-old giggles uncontrollably at that.
I have invited a guest blogger to contribute to this post, and I will let him introduce himself:
My name is Benjamin. I am 5 years old. We went to Germany this August to see Grandma and Grandad and some of my uncles and aunts and cousins. We did some fun things there. We played in lots of parks and I’m going to tell you about the parks.
* Molly, 2 1/2, also contributed some thoughts.
The first park we went to was close to the river. This is a picture of the climber. All the parks in Germany were made of logs and ropes and chains and tires. I thought that was really cool.
This is a picture of me on the log stairs. You had to climb and hold onto the rope to balance.
This is the rope bridge. We needed to use a rope on this bridge too. After we went on the rope bridge we got to the shaky bridge which I call the “Shake-shake bridge.”
After you went across the Shake-shake bridge you got to the climber! This is a picture of Molly at the top of the slide.
There was a swing made out of rope and it looked like a spider web. You could put 3 kids in that swing!
You could pull the bucket in the sandpit up with the chain. It felt light! If you let go of the chain the bucket would fall down fast!
There was a stump in the sandpit with little holes you could put sand through.
Everyone had fun at the park, even my daddy Ian!
One day we went to a Rodelbahn. We went up a mountain on a chairlift and then we came down on a big slide. At the bottom there was a playground with a ride-on clam-digger. We had to put money into the slot to turn the motor on and then when we pulled the levers it would work. The scoop picked up stones and moved them around and dumped them.
There was also a helicopter. On the helicopter you also had to put money in the slot and then it would go up. The helicopter’s lever didn’t move but you could push the screw on the top of the lever and it would make sounds.
There were also trampolines and we had fun jumping on them.
There was also a slide and a sandbox but we don’t have any pictures of them.
One day, we took a walk in the woods and we found a playground! There were stairs to come down to look at the stream. This is a picture of us playing in the stream. Molly added, “That park we went to. I liked it. We went to see a river and grandad come with us and grandma come with us too.”
This is a picture of the shaky bridge, which I call the “Shake-shake bridge” too. This shake-shake bridge goes over the river. I called the river that the shake-shake bridge went over “the Logging Pond.” The bridge was really shaky and really high.
There was a wooden train. You could only sit on it because it was made of wood and it didn’t make steam because it had a wood funnel but you could pretend you were driving it. Molly says, “And I went on that choo-choo train.”
This is a picture of me (Ben) on the climbing tree. I think it was made out of a tree with the leaves taken off and parts of the branches sawed off.
This is a picture of grandma swinging. I think she is having fun!
We all had a lot of fun playing at that park.
On another day we went on another walk in the woods. There was a xylophone made of wood. I didn’t play a song, I just played it, but Molly played, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life,” and sang.
This is a picture of me on the see-saw. There was also a jungle gym and a sandbox. To get to the stream you had to go to the other side of the grass. You have to go down the bank to get to the water but you can still see it from the top. You didn’t have to climb down the bank because there were stairs.
We went wading in the stream. It was cold! We didn’t see any fish. There weren’t fish in any of the streams but there were fish in the lake.
I think this is a picture Molly and Uncle Martin. I think Uncle Martin was going to lift Molly into the swing. This is the swing set and the climber. The slide is really slippery, especially when you’re wet!
The last park we went to was on top of a mountain! We took a cable car up the mountain to get to it. When the cable car got to us, so many people got out that I said, “Is this a cable car or a party?”
We went so high that we went in the cloud so it was misty at the park because we were inside a cloud. This is a picture of the high tower. It was the highest climber that I have ever seen!
There was a shaky bridge which I called a “Shake-shake bridge” too. It was made out of logs hanging with chains.
This is a picture of Ian on the zip line. There was a green circle that you had to sit and then you pushed off and went really, really fast, as fast as me!! You would go all the way to the end and then come back.
This is a picture of Molly and her doll Charlie on the swing. I think the swing was a chair from a chairlift like one at the Rodelbahn. Two people can fit in this swing together.
This is the rope climber. It also had those green circles like on the zip line but this time they were for swinging. We could climb all the way up to the top.
We were so high up and this is a picture of our view from when we looked down from the cable car on the way down.
I thought that the parks in Germany were a lot different then the ones back in Canada. They were a lot of fun. I loved the clam-digger and I love all the Shake-shake bridges. I really want to back and play on them again one day!
(dictated to mommy)