Sunday, July 17, 2011

Finally - Snow!

Ok, so we've been sick and housebound for ten days. I'd like to point out here that James has been on holidays. For fourteen days. THAT LEFT US FOUR DAYS! Yep, four days, people, to soak up being happy, healthy and in each other's company. For better or worse those four days happened at the start of his break, so we were all well for the snow but we didn't have that wonderful hey-we're-healthy-let's-get-out-and-go-crazy kind of appeal after we all got better, you know? As it is we're here on the last day of the holidays, exhausted after what feels like an epic battle to try and get the children in to bed before 10pm. Because they've been just lying around the house (Harriet's preferred state of existence) they haven't burnt any energy at all, which has meant come 10pm they're still bouncing off the walls while James and I wearily catch eyes across the top of their heads wondering when we'll ever get a chance to just sit the hell down and watch a movie. Parenting while sick sucks. And parenting sick children whilst being sick yourself double-sucks. I'm sure that's written down in an important tome somewhere.

But I promised a snow post and it shall come! In fact - it is here! Bugger it that it's 11pm on a Sunday night before the first day back at work/school/routine. I'm here to provide! So we all bundled out to the snow. Sounds simple, huh? Well first we had to pack our car. The game of logistics there had been played out manys a time on Tetris screens the world over before it came to our little excursion. We hired skis for Harriet, snow outfits for all of us (except Ted, whose fantabulous snowsuit is courtesy of the ever-obliging Tempe op shop for all of $7) and two toboggans. I'd just like to point out that I needed to use the spellchecker for that. I have never had to write toboggans in my life before this very moment. Double b? Who the hell knows. Thank you Northern Hemisphere spell-checking equipment. But anyway, come our pull-out from downtown Rockdale we were packed to within an inch of our lives. We had food for four days for four people, snow equipment, snow clothing, entertainment, two pairs of shoes and boots each and all sorts of stuff. Oh man, the stuff!

But having never been to the snow before, I had no real idea on what to pack. How much woudl we wear each day? What would we wear each day? Is a full body snowsuit in bright aqua appropriate attire for someone over the age of 10? Luckily I never bought that off JB, so I didn't have to push that particular social boundary. We arrived in Canberra to the sanctuary that is Georgia, Nathan and Andy's house. We do love them, our Canberra friends. Even better - they have an excellent Aldi around the corner from their house. Staying in Canberra it was suddenly a whole lot easier to visualise the snow experience. It was going to be cold. Like actually, really cold. So I was suddenly spurred on to purchase thermal underwear. Is there anything Aldi doesn't sell?

We drove to the snow from Georgia's house and watched as slowly, slowly, the trees changed. They seemed to be bowing down lower, lower, until we noticed patches of white...then large clumps of snow on the ground by the side of the road and...hang on a sec...was that a SNOWMAN by the side of the road?! Hang on Dorothy, this is definitely some whole other Technicolour experience.

We stopped in Cooma to get some snow chains for the car (more about those babies later). It really was very freaking cold in Cooma. I even overheard a local on the phone saying it was cold, so that gave me courage that it wasn't just my cold-naive city-fied bones being all weak and warm. On the drive up to the mountain I remember looking out and seeing both sheep and gum trees with a thick layer of snow on top of them and feeling as if I'd landed in some alien landscape.

We arrived at the lodge where we were staying and I supervised the children while they played in the sludges of snow near the entrance (listen to me sounding like a snow snob. At this stage I had never seen settled snow before and it was at least an inch thick all over the *cleared* ground where we were standing). Ted found it absolutely essential to play with the only two mud puddles visible and also insisted on running over highly icy looking snow. Turns out it was icy. *ouch* Lesson learnt? Who do you think I'm writing about here? Look carefully in that first photo. See the grazes on his chin, lips and under his nose? Oh yep, they happened soon after we arrived.

The singularly most frustrating experience in the snow was getting the children ready. Each time it was an absolute battle. Seriously, Sun Tzu was writing about getting children ready for the snow, I'm sure of it. Harriet would cry and moan about getting ready. I would patiently explain the need to get ready for the snow and how we couldn't just run outside. Cue Teddy jumping around our room like a maniac. Cue me trying to tackle him and get him dressed as much as possible. Cue Harriet getting bored halfway through this process and sitting down to read a book. Cue me starting all over again with the dressing explanation. I learnt by about day two that if I got myself ready, no matter how hot I was getting ready, it was infinitely more acceptable than having Ted trying to run off into the snow without me able to follow. And Harriet still sitting there moaning and crying (about what half the time I honestly had no idea, she was just miserable...*sigh*).

So the first day was a blur of getting everyone ready, getting the room ready (it only slept three not four as we had all been lead to believe due to recent renovations so it was...interesting), unpacking all the food and trying to explain to the children about what all the processes were in the lodge and just about snow in general.

There's definitely a knack to taking photos in the snow. I don't have it. But the first knack would definitely be don't have a toddler who demands being picked up and carried everywhere. It's impossible to carry a toboggan, toddler and $5k worth of DSLR equipment with any confidence and believe me, I wasn't going to push my luck. A few times when we walked down to the (non)tobogganing hill I was whipped across the body with the toboggan and Ted was adamant that he wanted to go back inside. That is, until he experienced his first downhill run on a toboggan. Woot!

Harriet entered the fray with her first skiing lesson on the second day. It went for two and a half hours, was held in freezing strong winds that were literally knocking children down like tenpins and she still powered through it all. Go Harry! We also had experienced skier Georgia able to put her through some paces the next day. But apparently these aren't the things you talk about when you go to the snow. It's not about what you did. It's not about where you stayed. It is all about the TYPE of snow.

"What was the snow like?"
"Was there fresh powder?"
"Were the runs clear?"

These were the questions we've been peppered with upon our return by these snow experienced types and to be honest, I had no idea. But what I do know is that on the second(?) day it really was clear and bright and I so wished I could take my camera out with me. Then overnight it snowed and the next day was cold and darker and full of soft, fresh snow everywhere. Ted refused to leave the lodge after Georgia and I took the boys (Andy and Ted) on the bus to Perisher during a particularly cold afternoon. So when it was beautiful and perfect for building snowmen, Ted just cried and cried and held my hand saying "no Mama, I'm not going out in the snow". So we watched Harriet, Andy and James enjoy the awesome snow through the window. They were having a blast. And when they came back in I thought stuff it, I'm going out too! So I went out to have a little wander around the village and in the delicious snow. I threw myself into fresh snow drifts, made snow angels, threw snowballs at random children and rolled down snow hills. All without my own children. I turned to one woman (as I threw my body into the fresh, untouched snow bank I was walking past) and yelled out "This is my first time in the snow. It's awesome!" to which she laughed and said "It looks like you're really enjoying it!". Hee hee. I was.

But definitely the highlight of the trip for me was on the last night. We were sitting inside the lodge. I was drinking Frangelico - I opened a window, pushed a spoon out through the gale winds and into the snow at the window, and shovelled the snowflakes into my glass. Honestly, that was the best Frangelico I have ever drunk in my life. We looked outside and there was a serious blizzard starting up. It was CRAZY! It was INSANE! And all the preteens went running out into it straight away!

After watching them for all of about ten minutes, Harriet, James and I thought stuff this, pulled on our boots, hats and jackets and ran out there too. We threw snowballs at each other, ran around in the snow covered deck, ate snow, ran in the blizzard winds, Harriet helped build a snow fort and James and I acted like crazy children.

There's a beautiful children's book we own and at the end the children find a sparrow and watch as it makes her nest. And after seeing all of these amazing but captured and organised animals, the text reads "And that's what we loved best. Seeing the sparrow and her nest". I think of that quote often. Because it's often like this that the most memorable parts of our lives expose themselves. Unplanned, chaotic, spontaneous. For all of our planned trips out to the snow from the past three days, for our hiring of snow gear, skiing lessons, organisation...for all of that, this was what we loved best. Running out in the dark in the middle of the night, in a blizzard, half-dressed, throwing snowballs at each other, laughing, running, just being. 'That's what we loved best. Seeing the sparrow and her nest'

(Yes, Harriet is in just her thermals which she was wearing as pyjamas).

The day we left the blizzard hadn't abated - if anything it had grown stronger. We found ourselves with a car that was completely snowed in. Ted fell asleep within about ten minutes of getting into the car because he was so exhausted, but Harriet was freaking out and I had to stay in the car with her to make sure she didn't get hysterical. I just had to calmly talk her through what was happening and explain that if we couldn't make it out, well, it just meant we'd go back inside the lodge. But make it out we did, thanks to the inexhaustible efforts of James and Nathan and at least three other strangers who came to our aid. It really is quite confronting videoing people in distress, so this was the only little video that I took. Now we're home and warm and dry James admits I had taken more, but I'm not sure he was enjoying being part of the sideshow at the time.

At least three different people attempted to put on the snow chains for our car and no-one could accomplish it. Of course when we went to complain at the service station where we got them the teenage boy popped them on with nary a second glance. *grumble grumble* It was a total white out driving down the mountain. We saw a BMW that had slid off the road and was up to its windows in snow off to the side (and only metres from plunging down an almost ravine but that's another heart stopping story).

And then, almost as soon as we drove out from the National Park, we turned a corner and there it was. This most beautiful rainbow, from one end to another, complete, stark, and we even got to see where it ended. James pulled over so I could take a photo (what a guy) and then we were on the road, driving to Canberra.

Wow. What an experience. We managed to pack it all in. And by the last day the children all seemed to understand the need for dressing properly, there weren't too many tears shed each time we headed to the drying room to get ready, and the rhythm of the day was more established. I think next time we'll need to go for a couple more days to get our worth from it.

And what would I recommend to others attempting the venture? Pack less. We didn't wear half the clothes I thought we would, because you just get about in snow pants when you're inside as well. Ensure your older child has an MP3 player packed with audio books ready to go. Ensure your younger child knows they are only to play with said MP3 player and headphones when the older child is in bed. Keep all children in thermal underwear all the time to keep your changing times as quick as possible. Take board games. Harriet played Scotland Yard and even played as Mr X which we thought was quite impressive for only a nearly 6yr old! Take marshmallows, even if they're full of refined sugar - sometimes you just gotta live a little (we forgot).

And hope for midnight blizzards. And if you see one, run out there, even if you can't find your gloves. Throw a snowball at a stranger. Get thee to a toboggan. Have fun. Then get the hell inside, warm up and drink a Frangelico.


jay said...

Cass, yet again you put our needs, our desire to know more, ahead of a basic human need for your survival; sleep. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, you have quenched my thirst, heck you have quenched it and covered it in frangelico and snow no less. Amazing. Wow what an adventure, my most favourite bit besides the frangelico was imagining you making snow angels and throwing yourself about with such delight, ah an image that will bring a smile to my face for a very long time. xxxxxx

Lou said...

It sounds so great Cass! Hey, the rest of your holidays may have been spent sick and grumpy (!!) but at least you had this wonderful adventure at the beginning. Thanks for post - you can go to bed earlier this evening! Xx

JennieMo said...

You silly! You should have called me...for snow adivse being a seasoned professional at snow experience. LOL!! I would have reminded you of the importance of boardgames...card cocoa, kahlua and SMORES SMORES SMORES (Marshmellows, chocolate and graham crackers). Sigh...jealous. I miss snow and snowboarding. Sounds like you all had a blast! I never realised never seen snow. I agree there is nothing like making your first snow angel. :)

Brenda said...

oh my goodness, you are so brave hitting the snow!!
I am such a pussy when it comes to the cold.
Although your Frangelico does sound pretty damn good...........

Brenda said...

oh my goodness, you are so brave hitting the snow!!
I am such a pussy when it comes to the cold.
Although your Frangelico does sound pretty damn good...........