|Joulupukki Vizovice style.
|Our hamster Sunny left us suddenly and unexpectedly.
As I had already written, our Christmas preparations got out of control. There
was always something more important than Christmas (e.g. my goaties). And thus
we found ourselves a week before the Christmas Eve, with a tree in a bucket
in our back yard instead of decorated in the living room. Americans decorate
their trees right after Thanksgiving, which falls on the first Advent Sunday
— and then they discard them on December 26. We had begun to decorate
tree earlier after the American fashion, as our children were worried whether
Santa would come to us, not having a tree soon enough — and it may not be
so easy to find a tree on the weekend before Christmas. Hence not having one
ready now was a bit alarming.
Fortunately we managed, thanks to bad weather during Thanksgiving, to bake our
Vizovice style decorations. Lisa invited friends and mass production of baked
pendants ensued. We figured out how to make little goats out of Vizovice dough,
for our crazy family identifies with a Finnish minority, where Joulupukki,
a Christmas buck, represents one of the main symbols of Christmas.
It was worse with presents, and my tepid attempts to buy some in
brick-and-mortar stores resulted in my mental exhaustion and ordering on Amazon.
In the end I even ordered online a wooden house for Sunny's cage - Sunny being
Lisa's hamster. Lisa had bought her a larger cage some time earlier in the fall,
because Sunny tried to dig through the plastic bottom of a house integrated with
a smaller cage model. Besides that we did not find it a healthy activity, you
can imagine how entertaining is the sound of furious scratching of little claws
on plastic at three in the morning.
|News of lots of beautiful snow proved correct.
Alas, Sunny had enjoyed her new cage only about a month, when she suddenly died.
It was a complete shock; we had her for fourteen months, and our previous
hamsters lived about two and half years; we did not expect it. She also died
during Lisa's absence. We left for a vaulting practice and a completely
devastated Tom called that the hamster lied in her cage, not moving. Thus we
are also puzzled what actually happened. I hold as the most probably a theory
that we had bought Sunny already aged some — she seemed a bit bonier
during her last weeks — but since she kept her appetite, seemed active
and perky, I did not try to deal with it. Only now instead of Christmas
preparations, we've made a hamster funeral in our back yard.
More than neglected Christmas, I begrudged our neglected skiing. Snow had
fallen and according to more responsible skiers, rocks and little trees were
well covered; hence I talked Tom into setting out with me to ski. Kids did not
have any school on Friday, but Lisa was vaulting, which she prefers over skiing,
and did not want to go. I arranged for Laura, mother of Lisa's friend Lucy, to
take her to Garrods — Lucy helps with horses at Garrods, for which she
gets free Friday riding lessons.
|Road after a storm.
|It kept snowing at times.
Thus I could stop worrying about one of my offspring; I pulled the other out of
his bed by seven o'clock and by seven thirty we were driving out with skis and
boots just tossed in the back. Everything went smoothly up to our stop at
Racheria. There I bought myself coffee, filled up gas, and when we drove on
up to the mountains, I asked Tom for my snack which he had packed in the
morning. Inspection of the car insides revealed aforementioned skis and boots
and jackets — but also a fact that our snacks had probably stayed back
home on the kitchen counter. We did not intend to buy food at Kirkwood; their
resort surcharge is shameless (e.g. coffee is $5.50), but we could not stay
hungry all day (Tom eats like a miner stuck in a shaft, he could not possibly
last without food those few hours of skiing). We continued driving and looked
in those last villages for SOME store. The first one had a selection of a gas
station, only in the next Tom succeeded in buying us salami and cheese, and
eventually neither of us starved to death or had been eaten.
We had thus reached Kirkwood mildly delayed, but since it was a weekday, we
accrued no more tardiness and skied like crazy until the moment we lost all
sense of sight. This close to solstice, on a northern slope of the mountain,
darkness starts forming by two thirty, and one stops seeing where one is going.
Fortunately we caught a beautiful day, with fluffy and soft powder snow,
which one could plough through almost blindly.
|Everything bathed in sunshine on the next day.
|We had somehow missed that Lisa, too, has grown.
We spent the weekend making last preparations for Christmas. We had originally
planned to leave for Kirkwood on Sunday and stay with our whole family until
Tuesday or Wednesday, but another storm has arrived, and we foreshortened it to
only two days, returning on Christmas Eve. It was probably a good thing, too,
for it came to our attention during Sunday's packing that Lisa had neither skis
nor boots that would fit her. I don't know why we expected development (growth)
with Tom, buying him ski boots already in November, and did not think that Lisa
grew TOO and her now larger foot wouldn't fit in kid boots. Meanwhile I bought
her new vaulting shoes in December, and because she has a large size, we got an
unexpected present in the shape of two pairs — store owner had sent us
an extra pair on account of having too many of this size.
But back to our ski gear — no fairy would show up here, and when Sid
went shopping with Lisa for used skis, they came back empty-handed —
the last store which still supported used gear consignment, had stopped doing
so. We had to improvise with our gear at hand. Lisa could theoretically wear
Tom's almost-new old boots, but they were so big that they would not fit the
binding of my (165 cm long) skis — and longer (175 cm) ones
Lisa could not handle with her ninety pounds (and being herself 160 cm).
So she was issued my newer boots and my skis, and I resorted to my old boots
and the long spare skis, hoping that it would work out somehow.
|Caples Crest — it's crazy cold.
Well, it worked for Lisa more or less, but she complained that my boots pinched
her ankles. My gear was a complete disaster. Although I had skied in those old
boots for many years, looking back I had to admit that they were never good,
they don't really fit my feet, and I have to work hard. Old skis had dull edges
and they are ten centimeters longer than those I'm used to, so I moved on the
slopes with the elegance of a goat on ice. Besides, I really don't know how to
ski in powder — or rather, it was not really powder what the locals like
to call powder — yes, it was a fresh snow, but relatively heavy.
Not that I ever have been
a phenomenal skier, but this was a real shock to my self-esteem. And not be
alone in it, Sid had managed to fall off the lift right with our first ride,
and it hit him in his back; that day we were really a strong couple.
When Lisa started whimpering that her back hurts and that she wants to have
a coffee, I silently rejoiced and soon took MY boots off her at the cafeteria,
grabbed MY skis and went to do some real skiing. It was a feeling as if I could
suddenly fly. Tom flew with me, and Sid with Lisa went to check whether it would
be possible for the next day to rent boots and skis for Lisa at the resort, to
allow us BOTH good time. We met Pavel and Vendula over our final coffee, and
thus managed to say Merry Christmas and chat with friends.
|Awesome views at Kirkwood.
We had reserved a room at Motor Lodge in Minden that night. There are a few good
dinner places in town, while the Lodge belongs to a neighboring casino, where
one can get coffee and pastries in the morning; we did not have to pack food
along. Going back up to Kirkwood in the morning, everything looked great,
a sunny day with glittering new snow, illustrating a beautiful Christmas.
Yet I had got so bamboozled by the sun that I took off my sweat jacket at the
parking lot, which was a basic mistake. For the rest of the day I sought
sunshine in vain attempts to warm up, but it was just as cold as I.
We got back home by seven on the Christmas Eve; fortunately the kids are big
enough that they joined, without the need to tell them, our unpacking, cleaning
up and last moment preparations for our fancy dinner. Thus we were able to sit
down to our table washed and changed; who cares that we had only fries with our
fish. Presents appeared under the tree and everything worked out. Although, only
on Christmas Day I could finally make my traditional potato salad, pour some
egg nog, and watch my Christmas fairy tale — I had to make up for all the
missed Christmas spirit. For me, it's not about presents under the tree, but
about things around it.
|In the end we manged to ski and a tree with presents.
|Baby goat on ultrasound.
Twenty-sixth December is not a holiday here, Sid went to work and we began to
operate in a post-Christmas mode. For example, Subaru needed an oil change.
Our poor wagon has grown noticeably used (being as old as Lisa, and we completed
its two hundred thousand miles with it already in the spring) and wheezy, but we
still hope that it shall carry us through this winter. Subaru is a
four-wheel-drive and it saves us from having to put on snow chains to reach our
mountains at all.
But when I went with the wagon to Tony's he insisted that we should seriously
afford ourselves new tires. Subsequently I underwent a small pilgrimage after
At our closest Costco, after I had waited about forty minutes in a line,
they admitted that they had such tires, but have no time to install them,
certainly not by Monday evening. I was issued a phone number for another
warehouse, where I was told they have alleged tires too, and so I repeated the
waiting in the line exercise, yet with the result that they'd change the tires
on the same day. It was then a child's play to pull Sid off work so that he
could drive me home (and I would not have to wait for hours at a parking lot),
and subsequently let him drive me back in the evening to pick up our wagon.
Lisa still needed new skis — we reckoned in the end that we would rent
them for the season, and next year would see whether she could get hand-me-downs
from Vendula. I was a bit worried whether it would work this fast, whether they
would even have skis this close to New Year, but Sports Basement Rentals is
apparently ready to cope even with such desperate customers like us. We were
out again in a few minutes, clutching skis adjusted to Tom's old boots.
My last chore of the year was to take care of my goats, check their pen and
talk with the stable hands about not being around for a few days, so that they
would check on my goats then. I even managed, during holidays, chase down my
vet to make an ultrasound scan and confirm potential pregnancies. The result
was, both goats were pregnant, with at least one baby in Licky, and at least
two in Twilight. Finally I could breath out — car's taken care of,
goats taken care of, skis taken care of — we could leave — for
a change — to ski on New Year's.