When we think back on our last Christmas in Vancouver, all anyone remembers is the brutal stomach virus that worked its way through everyone in the entire household (other than Ethan, who worried himself sick nonetheless). We were all a bit nervous that this year could be a repeat of last year since nasty bugs have been circulating both down here and up there. But no one got sick, and it was one of the best vacations ever....
There was over a foot of snow on the ground when we arrived, and it kept snowing throughout the week. It was Allyson's first time to play in the snow, and she wore herself out. She and her cousins made a snowman and a snow slide in the back yard, and they played until their cheeks were rosy red and their hands were icy.
So near the ocean, they usually don't get so much snow, and Bill's family was enjoying it as much as we were. Personally, I mostly avoided going outside because I can't bear being cold, but I felt so cozy sitting in the kitchen and drinking cocoa or hot tea while I watched the fluffy flakes drifting down. At one point, the snow seemed to be falling in tiny, loosely packed snowballs. It was mesmerizing.
Skiing at Manning Park
On Tuesday morning, we left Allyson with Nana and drove two hours up a winding, snow-covered road to Manning Park. When we arrived, Bill and his sister Lisa immediately hit the slopes for a couple hours of kid-free snowboarding. Meanwhile, her husband Cory worked with four-year-old Katie on the bunny slope. Ethan and Kurtis headed out for their first snowboarding lessons with a very cool-looking instructor who looked to be in his teens.
Even though this was my third time to ski, I opted for a lesson since it had been four years since I'd last skied. Bill and Lisa teased me because my only classmate was seven-year-old Travis; they warned me not to let him show me up TOO badly.
During the lesson, it was my chance to shine. I ruled the bunny slope! Our instructor, a kind, patient older gentleman, mainly focused on Travis--reminding him to look where he wanted to go, not at his skis. As I smoothly executed my turns, I marveled at how much easier this seemed than the last time. I followed the instructor's tips meticulously, and it all seemed to come together. I was so glad I'd decided to come along; I'd been hesitant because downhill skiing always fills me with a vague dread--the same way I feel when we encounter turbulence on a flight.
After a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, which we ate standing outside our cars, we all took the chair lift up to the top. The view was breathtaking, but I couldn't really focus because I was so nervous about getting off the lift. I was immensely grateful that I didn't fall.
The first couple of slopes were really fun, but then we hit a long, steep section. I was no longer the star pupil. As my speed picked up, my turns were no longer smooth and even. I drug my poles and tried to rein in my panic as I careened erratically back and forth. I tried to remember all the tips I'd learned that morning, but mainly I just tried to stay alive and in one piece.
Meanwhile, Travis barreled blithely down the same slopes, and so did little Katie! Actually, in the steepest spots, Cory picked her up and carried her. I can't IMAGINE doing that! I suppose Katie and Travis fell more often than I did, but they were having fun. I had flashes of fun interspersed with moments of terror and occasional pangs of embarrassment.
Luckily, I had no idea at the time just how ridiculous I looked. Bill commented a couple of times on how I was leaning so far forward that my nose was nearly touching the ground. I hollered that it was easier to balance that way. Incredibly, Bill was videotaping me and Ethan while simultaneously snowboarding with a broken binding.
"I Think I'm Having Fun!"
When I watched the video a few days later, I was mortified by how silly I looked. I comforted myself with the possibility that no one had noticed me due to the distraction of Cory's late-80s ski jacket. At 6'4", he's hard to miss, and he wore a vivid blue jacket with a swatch of hot pink across the chest. He was impervious to teasing; he said it was an awesome jacket and still perfectly good. I had to admire his confidence--and his skiing skills.
Ethan and Kurtis were the stars of the day. I'd warned Ethan that he should expect to spend a lot of time on his behind, that most people don't get too far on the first day of snowboarding lessons. He proved me wrong, though. Both he and Kurtis were able to make it down the mountain with very few falls and only a little whining. Ethan said the instructor was very complimentary and even challenged him to add a "bunny hop" to his turns. I was so proud of both of them.
Cards and Rock Band
We rang in the New Year at Lisa and Cory's house, along with one other family. The kids played video games and watched TV while the adults played the card game Sequence. It was girls against guys, best of 15, and it was a very close match. The girls won in the end, and I got to play the winning card.
After midnight, we played some Rock Band, which was really fun! Ethan made me proud on the drums--you can tell he plays percussion in the school band. Bill's performance on the guitar was none too shabby, either, and my vocals were rated "awesome" according to the game. I think it must be tone deaf, though, because I was singing "Roxanne" by Sting, and the melody is pretty awkward. The best part was when Ethan really hammed it up on the microphone. He belted out a couple of tunes as he danced around. A couple of times, he lunged down on one knee while he threw his head back, the microphone against his lips. He is such a character!
Of course, the highlight of our visit was meeting our little nephew James, the first child of Bill's brother Trevor and his wife Sheryl. James was just three weeks old, and he was the sweetest little guy. Holding such a tiny baby gave me a twisty feeling in my heart as I tried not to entertain the idea of having another baby of my own. We're done, I know, but sometimes I just get that longing for a moment. I felt the same way when I saw Bill cradling him and gazing into his sleeping face.
Trevor is such a proud daddy, and Sheryl looked positively radiant (despite the dark circles under her eyes). Seeing their little family brought tears to my eyes.
Not For General Consumption!
Of course, I also have to mention the array of treats that Mom made for us. Everyone has a favorite--mine being a tossup between shortbread and chocolate crackle cookies--but I had to sample them all.
Lisa's favorite is reindeer noses, chocolate cookies with a cherry in the center. Mom had baked another batch and sent them over with us on New Year's Eve, along with some appetizers and sparkling apple cider for the kids. I innocently noted that Lisa had forgotten to set out the cookies, but she hissed, "They're not for general consumption."
I hesitated, but when her friend Leanne walked over, Lisa laughed and said she was just kidding. But then she said, "No, really. They're not for general consumption.... Just kidding."
I put them on the table with the appetizers, and by the end of the night there were only about three left. Lisa harassed me about those cookies for the rest of the trip, and I felt a little bad. I would have felt the same way about the chocolate crackle cookies.
The Best Part
All the fun in the snow and the eating was wonderful, but my favorite times were the quiet moments. I loved visiting in the living room, chatting in the car, and sipping tea together in the TV room. I loved hearing Allyson's giggles while Nana bathed her. I loved listening to Allyson and Grandpa singing "Sitting On My Grandpa's Knee" when he tucked her in. I loved eating oatmeal with Gram in the mornings.
I could go on and on. It really was an amazing visit. We're already looking forward to the next one.