The ice-skating debut

Northstar-Village-Ice-Skating

Skating at Northstar (not my kids)

They were so excited to go ice-skating, I wasn’t about to stand in the way. And so, on our first full day of our annual trip to Tahoe this weekend, I waltzed L and R into the skate rental shop at the Village at Northstar and got us our skates.

“What’s it like, Daddy?” L asked.

“Are we gonna fall?” R followed-up, not even giving me a chance to respond to her sister’s query.

“It’s…fun,” I said, trying to be as convincing as possible. “We’ll take it slowly and I’m sure you girls are gonna love it.”

Before you start thinking about what a great dad I am, know this: I abhor ice skating, much like I despise a great many other winter sports. I don’t like the way the shoes feel on my feet, I can’t ever skate for more than three or four sweeps of my feet before I fall on my ass, and I’m SUPER neurotic about any sport during which I can fall and break my wrist and impact my life as a writer. There are an infinite number of things I’d rather do than ice-skate.

Yet there I was, wobbling my way over to the rink, desperately trying not to fall while I held the girls’ hands and tried to keep them from falling as well.

When we got to the entrance, a bunch of drunk dudes clapped to commemorate my successful walk from the bench where we laced up. The girls turned around and smiled. I was mortified but my kids had no clue. They were loving every minute of it.

Our “session” began with both girls trying to skate out into the middle of the rink—and both girls falling squarely on their butts in a matter of seconds. Neither got frustrated, but both looked to me for guidance. So I did what any other self-respecting parent would do in that situation: I encouraged them to “get comfortable” by holding on to the railing while they “skated” around the perimeter of the rink.

Around the rink we went, one-half skating, one-half walking. Every few panels of glass, one of the girls would slip and fall on the ice with a thud. Every time, the fallen child resumed the position of the afternoon and continued unabashedly.

When we finished our first lap, I asked the kids if they’d had enough. “NO!” they both shouted.

When we finished our second lap, I asked them again if they’d had enough. “No way Daddy!” they shouted.

When we finished our third lap, before I could even ask the girls how they were feeling, they both turned around and told me we were going to continue.

Mercifully, however, it was Zamboni time. Workers rushed onto the ice and guided everybody off. The girls and I followed suit. When we made it safely outside of the rink, Powerwoman convinced the kids to put their boots back on. Miraculously, we had survived, and nobody had chipped a tooth.

To say I was relieved by the sudden change in plans would be an understatement. But the girls were genuinely bummed. Even though they never really got the hang of ice-skating, the kids loved it. Even though I wasn’t much of an instructor in the rink, they were thankful and appreciative of the time I spent with them inside.

The whole experience was a lesson in opening the mind. The kids didn’t care that they didn’t “succeed” at this new sport. They had fun trying. They felt awesome doing it. And that was enough.

Moving forward, perhaps it can be enough for me, too.

Everybody loves sledding

L at top, R at bottom.

L at top, R at bottom.

The one winter sport everyone in our pod loves: Sledding.

We’ve been in Lake Tahoe for three days at this point, and we’ve managed to hit the sledding hills every day.

Our sledfest began yesterday in the backyard of the house we’re renting near Carnelian Bay. I built L and R a course and they spent the better part of two hours slipping and sliding all over it. Some of the runs they used the saucers we found in the shed. Most of the runs the girls just went down on their bellies.

Yesterday, we took the show on the road, heading over to North Tahoe Regional Park, where a friend (and local public relations maven) said the hills might be good. Inside the park we came across two separate hills—a considerably steep one that dropped almost straight down into a cul-de-sac and a less formidable one that bottomed out into a snowdrift.

Naturally (see this post), the girls opted for the easier hill. And after some hemming and hawing from L (she was frustrated her younger sister was so good), both of them got busy.

The next three hours were highlighted by cheers and giggles and wipeouts and declarations that each girl was “the best sledder in the world!” Powerwoman and I had a blast, too, taking turns holding the baby while the other could careen down the hill after our other kids.

In one sequence, R and I went down the longest of the runs on the easy hill and wiped out into a tree. I feared my middle child was hurt. Until she turned around and told me “crashing was awesome.”

By the time we had to leave for lunch, none of us wanted to leave. So when we got back to the house, the big girls and I hit the backyard course again, incorporating a beach ball into the fun. Years from now, when my kids look back on this trip, something tells me they’ll remember the sledding above everything else. I probably will, too.

What are your family’s favorite winter pastimes?

Testing limits on a family trip to Lake Tahoe

Big Girls. Waiting for a tether to the top.

Big Girls. Waiting for a tether to the top.

The last eight hours of our Lake Tahoe sojourn comprised an exercise in testing the limits of the big girls’ comfort zones.

There were tears. There were laughs. And everybody learned a bit along the way.

The scenes played out at Northstar California, a great ski resort outside of Truckee in the northern part of the Lake Tahoe region. We were here last in January 2015 (I wrote about parts of that trip in this Expedia Viewfinder piece), but L and R really didn’t do more than drink hot cocoa. This time, I was determined to get them to do something different. I was determined to get them out on the slopes.

I knew neither of them would go for skiing—L is way too much of a control freak to surrender to gravity, and R is scared of anything she considers to be “fast.” So I told them snow tubes were like giant pool floaties, and convinced them to go snow-tubing.

Before we could go tubing, however, we had to get ourselves up the mountain. So we hit the gondolas.

I could tell when we approached that both girls had serious misgivings about the ride. R kept asking if the gondolas ever fell off the cables. L kept wondering whether we sat or stood. Thankfully, because the gondolas move (slowly) as you embark, the girls had no time to overthink it when we boarded; they just got in and sat down. As the gondola started climbing up the mountain, both kids relaxed considerably. They smiled. They laughed. L marveled at the silence. R hooted at some skiers below.

When we arrived at mid-mountain, I led the girls hand-in-hand across the ski slopes to the snow-tubing center. We checked in at a yurt. We walked out to the tubes. We clipped in to a cable that towed us about 600 feet up the hill. Through this point, the kids were having the time of their lives, giggling and joking about the giant floaties in the snow.

As we walked over to the top of the J-shaped snow-tube course, their moods changed considerably. L asked how we’d get down. R wondered if the floaties tipped.

Just as I was starting to wonder how I was going to talk them through the experience, the man who was helping people into their tubes suggested that the three of us go down together. I thought this was a great idea. The girls were too petrified to respond.

So he used our tethers to tie us together. Then he pushed us down the hill.

What followed was, quite literally, a blur. I remember our flotilla spinning and banking high up a wall at the bottom of the run. I remember noticing both girls had their eyes closed. That’s about it.

When we came to a stop, both girls were bawling. As I helped them out of their tubes, L hit me a few times on the arm, yelling about how she’d never forgive me. R just kept asking: “Why did you make us do that? Why, Daddy? Why? WHY?”

Looking back, I guess maybe the snow tubes were a bit adventuresome for my kids. Still, IMHO, the only way they’re going to appreciate new experiences is if they try ‘em. Once the tantrums subsided, both girls were excited to take the gondola back down the hill. That’s a victory in my book. And hopefully the start of some limit pushing we can extend next winter.

The wonder of family travel in winter

Sleds and snow-brick makers.

Sleds and snow-brick makers.

The four of us are gearing up for a post-Christmas vacation (with dear friends) in Lake Tahoe, which means Powerwoman and I have been prepping the girls for snow (and enduring all of the concomitant Elsa references) and stocking up on cold-weather supplies.

It also means L and R have learned a whole lot about winter travel in a relatively short period of time.

My favorite of the lessons came earlier this week during a family excursion to the local Target. After the groceries, after the Xmas lights, we made our way over to the sporting goods section, where I proceeded to pick up two snow-brick molds (IMHO a critical tool for snowy winters) and two saucer-shaped sleds.

“What’s that giant Frisbee, Dad?” asked the Big Girl.

“This?” I responded, pointing to the pink saucer. “This is a sled, honey.”

“What’s a sled, Daddy?” chimed R.

It was at that moment that I realized: Our girls have visited five countries and lived in London and hung out in Hawaii six times, but THEY NEVER HAVE PLAYED IN SNOW.

On one hand, this is inexcusable—we pride ourselves on taking them everywhere, it’s hard to believe they’ve never played in snow. (For the record, they did *see* snow last fall, in the Lake District of England.) On the other hand, the reality is perfectly understandable; we live in a place where temperatures rarely drop below freezing, and most of the places we visit are warm.

Either way, all of this means the girls are going to be STOKED when we get up there and they get up close and personal with fresh powder.

We’ve been to Tahoe as a family before, but only in the spring and summer.  For me, what’s going to make this trip so fun is that the winter wonderland will make an old favorite seem like new. The girls think they know what to expect from another family vacation in Tahoe. I can’t wait until they realize how mistaken they are.

What kind of family trips do you like to take in winter?

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