Last Tahoe Trip with Elin

Elin was hoping to go on one last ski trip with. us before returning to Sweden. Thanks to some early snow, we went for a short weekend up to Northstar at Tahoe. We rare (if ever) leave early on Saturday morning, but somehow we made it out the door and onto the mountain by 11am, which is about when we would be skiing even if we had stayed overnight.

We had a late night in the arcade after dinner. Sunday morning, we had a full breakfast and Elin helped us with our holiday card. There was some more snow on Saturday night, which made Sunday skiing one of the best days ever on the mountain that I can recall. Grace opted out of skiing on Sunday, which meant that Lucas, Olivia, Elin and I went to explore the mountain. We found a lot of fresh powder out there.

Hopefully we’ll ski again with Elin, maybe next time in Europe!

Bon Voyage, Elin!

This past year was significant for our family, with changes in schools and jobs. The biggest change we had was with our child care, as we had our first au pair. We didn’t exactly know what to expect and the truth is we didn’t know how it would be to have someone living with us.

All those fears were washed away after Elin arrived. She had already spent a year in Australia, so was used to being away. Still, we all had to take some time to adjust to each other, but very quickly, she became part of the family. We explored Disney togetherskied at Beaver Creek (she worked on a ski mountain back home in Sweden), and had an amazing week in Tahoe together.

We exposed her to Korean food and she taught the kids Swedish. Her lovely parents came to visit during Spring Break and we enjoyed spending time with them. As she made friends and found a life of her own in the Bay Area, she was still very present with Olivia and Lucas, and was an amazing care giver and responsibility reminder to them.

Lucas had been having a tough transition while starting 4th grade for a lot of reasons, but in retrospect, the looming departure of Elin must have weighed heavily on him. As October 1st arrived, he couldn’t hide his sadness.

We had one last dinner together at Il Fornaio and exchanged some cards and small gifts at home. At the airport, it was tough for everyone. Lucas was inconsolable there and at home. Besides the passing of Snickers, this was the first real loss the kids had suffered and it was palpable. When I asked Lucas where it hurt, he pointed to his heart.

Elin had matched with a new family on the East Coast, which is where she wanted to explore. I knew this wasn’t goodbye, as we’ll see each other again for sure. I know the kids will always remember the year we spent together with Elin and hopefully they’ll stay in touch. This was an amazing and enriching year for all of us and I’m so thankful we took the leap to hosting an au pair.

Elin, we all miss you very much.

Update: November 25th – We had some company and Lucas was showing the kids his Origami. There was some misunderstanding as they were leaving and he was encouraged to give what they had created for the guest to take home. Afterwards, he was very upset because each of the little pieces he had made with Elin and now they were all gone. We’re going to try to get them back for him. It turns out I’m not the only sentimental one in the family.

Elin’s Birthday

On August 24th, we celebrated Elin’s birthday in San Francisco at Sociale. Now that her time with us is coming to a close, I wish we had more time to experience the Bay Area together. We’re going to miss her!

Happy Birthday, Elin!

Week in Tahoe with the Moons

We’ve had many Tahoe adventures with the Moons over the years. Now that their home is finally ready, we were honored to be the first guests to break in the house (figuratively and literally). I guess the real honor goes to Ed’s bachelor party, but there wasn’t a speck of glitter anywhere, so it’s like it never happened.

We arrived on Monday and had lunch at the family barn, which is just a short walk from their home. It wasn’t hard to keep busy for a week with so much to do. The kids got started on a fort, which kept them busy throughout the week. Olivia is really wanting a dog, so spending time with Thando was good practice.

On Tuesday, Elin, Mike and I took the kids to the ropes course, which was challenging and a lot of fun for everyone. It’s a little bit Truman Show to be able to either fish or go bowling only 100 yards apart, but those were our options in the afternoon. Elin took Nico and Lucas bowling while Alex, Olivia and I went fishing. We heard they’re getting smarter and they did prove hard to catch. I got lucky and snagged a 10-12″ trout. Eventually the others found us and both Nico and Olivia hooked a fish but both fell off before landing them.

On July 4th, Mike wanted to go on a hike/adventure he had heard about at Crystal Peak. Apparently, the Crystal Mine trail ends on a mountain of quartz, which is there for the taking (one bucket-full per car per day). We had no real idea where we were going and there was a dispute between Google Maps, Waze and the internet. We also ended up off-roading for miles and had read that the last part of the trail required 4-wheel drive and clearance. I think we looked a bit out of place with all of the 4-wheel dune buggies whizzing by, but we made it all the way up. The kids thought it was fun.

There was no real objective when looking at a huge pile of rocks, so we told them to start digging up a huge crystal embedded in the mountain. That kept them busy for an hour or so (not even close to dislodging it). Eventually they started to search for and collect clear crystals, which were also hard to come by. After a couple hours, we decided to head out and went out a different way, which we were hoping was a little easier on the car. It wasn’t. The rugged terrain lulled everyone to sleep for what turned out to be a 65-mile drive deep into Nevada and back to Tahoe.

Grace brought a lot of food, which included a colorful 4th of July BBQ featuring Fred Steaks. We finished early enough to head down to Tahoe City to catch the fireworks. Things didn’t get underway until well past 9:30pm when it got truly dark out. Of the 600+ photos I took on the trip, it’s possible that 300+ were of fireworks. I posted one, which still looks terrible. I think the iPhone has those nailed.

Thursday, we wanted to go to the beach on Lake Tahoe. Thando was joining us, so it had to be dog-friendly, which ruled out our usual Sand Harbor. Mike determined that Chimney Beach was the place to go, but it has limited parking so we got a very early start and were one of the first people there. Elin and I were trying to guess the water temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. Either way, it was super cold, but the kids and Elin braved it (well, Lucas was less brave). We stopped at the Lone Eagle restaurant in Incline Village for lunch, which was well deserved after the big hike back to the cars. Clara, Mike, Grace and I had one adults-only dinner out at Plumpjack Cafe at Squaw Valley.

Friday, we played putt-putt, which wasn’t the hit it through the windmill type, but rather real greens meandering through the neighborhood. There was a lot of slope to the greens, which resulted in some big scores. Some of the group stopped after 9 holes, but Elin, Nico, Lucas and I pressed on to finish 18. There was a great family festival going on, which kept the kids busy for a while. Mike, Grace and I left early to play real golf. The Martis Camp course is so beautiful and is in amazing condition (until we came along). Mike got some advice to stay out of the bunkers, which was sage. It didn’t help.

On Saturday, we had one last meal together and prepared to head home to the real world. The kids were excited to show us their fort, which was a legit lean-to. We were sad to leave after such a fun-filled week with our gracious hosts. Thank you, Moons, for another amazing vacation together.

Skiing in Beaver Creek and Vail before Christmas

The kids had the week off before Christmas so we decided to ski again before the holidays. We had settled on Beaver Creek, but didn’t make our plans until the last minute. I was showing the kids the World Cup, which was held in Beaver Creek at the end of November and it seemed fine. It wasn’t until after we made our arrangements and checked the weather that I found out there was hardly any snow and very little open. Uh oh.

We were locked in, so we just decided to make the best of it. Like last year, we were on our way to our holiday destination (Michigan this year), so we had 8 bags of luggage on the way there, as Elin was joining us for the week. Thankfully it all fit in the car. We have bad luck on I-70 as the road was closed at the Eisenhower Tunnel and we were forced to take the Loveland Pass, which caused a little delay.

On the way there I saw that our old friends, Betty and Andrew were already in Beaver Creek so we hoped to meet up. When we arrived at the mountain the next morning, they were the first people we saw. We met up with them again at lunch as they were leaving the next day.

The kids didn’t get to show Elin all their favorite runs because none of them were open. Despite that, there was still plenty of terrain to ride and we spent the whole week working on our turns (and hockey stop for Lucas). For months I was getting Lucas mentally ready to ski parallel this year. Up until this year, he skied a very wide stance, which made skiing parallel virtually impossible. We started with hockey stops (on both sides) and lots of sliding. I realized that both Olivia and Lucas could turn and stop pretty well when going right, but going left, not so much. From then on, they were only allowed to stop left (though there wasn’t full compliance).

We stayed at the Westin in Beaver Creek again and got a little more space for the five of us. We finally made it to Grouse Mountain Grill as a family, which I enjoyed for Nick’s birthday during the last season. On our third day, we skied a half day and headed over to Vail to watch Star Wars. Afterwards, Arthur invited us over for dinner. It was great to spend time with his mom and his sister’s family, who we see often in Vail.

We skied Vail on Thursday. The coverage was surprisingly thinner than Beaver Creek and it was a day of unsuccessfully avoiding rocks. Arthur made it out in the afternoon for a few runs together. We had more meals at some familiar places as well as tried some new restaurants in Vail during the week.

By week’s end, it snowed a few more inches and actually got quite cold. The last afternoon on Saturday were the windiest conditions in which I’ve skied (seemingly hurricane force). But, it was only my second chance during the week to let my new skis run as Grace and the kids called it a day early.

Even though the snow wasn’t the best (i.e., the worst), we still had a great time and both kids made great progress on their form and speed. I’d call it a success. Can’t wait to get back on the mountain under better conditions.