Thursday, March 17, 2016

Because Photos Don't Do It Justice

Finally posting a few videos on YouTube from the last several months. Here are three from December 1, 2015, and another three from the final day of Tor's first week of skiing, February 19, 2016 (featuring Pakka as guest narrator).

Every day with the boys

Col, laser pointer. Laser pointer, Col's mouth.

Decorating the tree

Short slalom I

Short slalom II

The big hill

Friday, March 11, 2016


There is no US equivalent to this time off of school: whereas US kids sensibly get a week off for spring break, UK kids get a week off in February, then two weeks off over Easter. It is a childcare nightmare.

So we decided to forego the logistical headaches for the February week and take the entire family on vacation. And where better to go than somewhere with elevation and snow, the two qualities most notably absent from Oxford?

Avid readers may remember Hinterstoder, Austria, from our summer vacation there. It was sleepy in the summer but in the winter it buzzes with skiers. It's had a mild winter, and for a few days it was wickedly foggy, but the snow felt good and we were outside--and it's been a goal to get Tor into ski school, so we ripped off the bandaid there.

The view from the top

Joining us were Ahbee and Pakka and the Siglers, happily (at least for us). We had a night in Vienna on either end and six nights in Hinterstoder itself, the latter in the same hotel which featured a downstairs with Legos and a train set as well as a tunnel connecting to a neighboring restaurant. (We ate there a lot.)

Vienna: Ahbee escapes the dominion of midgets


Arriving at the hotel . . . with iPad

In one of history's great acts of generosity, Ahbee volunteered to hang out with Col while the rest of us skied. The relatively mild winter let them stroll around the town, and of course they spent plenty of time reading, singing, playing with all manner of toys, and coaxing Col to nap. The first day, they came up the mountain with the rest of us to check out the slopes, riding the same gondola that we took last summer.

100% covered in hand-me-downs

We'd booked Tor for all-day ski school before arriving: two hours of skiing in the morning, 1.5 hours for lunch, then two more hours of skiing in the afternoon. Keep in mind this was his first time on skis. Ahbee and Pakka got him some sweet ski outfits, so he was warm in the snow and amped to get out there.

Facing day 1 head on

Tor stuck it out like a champ on days 1 and 2. He was tired in the afternoons, but not too tired to want to show us his new skills after we collected him from the kids' area. This led to repeated magic carpet rides and short, shallow-sloped runs that alternated between Tor making some legit turns by focusing on his pizza and Tor bombing down the hill on his French fries. (Those are technical skiing terms.)

Magic carpet in action

Pizza at work

Child-free skiing--this may not happen again for a good decade

On day 2, the instructor told us that Tor wasn't keeping pace with the other newbies, so she recommended he move to a half-day course plus lunch. Frankly this suited us fine, since we'd been getting pretty tired by the early afternoon and were willing to pick him up then and head down the hill. (One of the days he even talked us out of putting him in the lunch program, since "I can't understand anybody and I'm lonely." First solid experience with a language barrier: check.)

Hot chocolate: the best reward

On day 5, Tor's class had a slalom "race" where each kid got to make their own run and get timed. This was followed by an award ceremony where all the kids got medals. Tor came in third because he missed every gate--clearly disqualification was not an option for these long-suffering teachers.

Still smiling after a long day

Recovering from his sprint down the hill

"Third place and didn't hit a gate, suckers"
Hitching a ride
On day 5 we skied all the way down the mountain with Tor instead of taking the gondola. It took about an hour, and he melted down a few times, but a very patient DaDa and continuous encouragement from Josh and April held him together in the main.

Following the leader
While not skiing, we filled our hours by visiting nearly every restaurant in town, the local mountain museum, and the very chilly playground, and of course by simply chilling at the hotel together.

For our final night in Austria, we drove back to Vienna (well, Pakka drove--a 9-passenger rental van). We took the afternoon/evening to explore Stefansdom, a huge cathedral, and the Prater, a public amusement park where you pay per ride but the grounds are open to all. This included a ride on the Riesenrad, Vienna's famous ferris wheel.

Traveling in style

Clowning at the cathedral

"View, shmew. Check out this bar!"

The bell did not ring.

"How much is that doggie in the window?"

Round 2 of 3 on this particular attraction

The most froufrou sheets they'll ever sleep on

Highly impressed by Viennese public transport

Toddler's first headphones: the Heathrow bus back to Oxford

Home! and slipping into something more comfortable