I needed to put this picture first, simply because I can't stop looking at it. Purely gratuitous, I know...but this is possibly the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life. Of course, I am a besotted mommy. Plus, this little smooch-pout was something of an achievement for a kid who had such heavy surgery on her mouth. For a long time, the dense, thick scar tissue on her upper lip made a maneuver like this impossible. It's a testament to the skill of our plastic surgeon that she has such a mobile, symmetrical, functional mouth just eight months after her second surgery. We had plans to meet up with some old friends for a playdate with our little ones at the ice rink in the morning, so Q and I went out and bought her her first helmet. Hello Kitty was her choice. The knee pads were a bonus, and she instantly loved them. This is a kid who lives for sports and (shudder) stunts. She can already mimic kick-flips and other tricks on a toy skateboard, and has been known to attempt to balance on the handlebars of her trike. So, though it was very nearly bedtime and she was halfway into her pajamas, this was the outfit she chose to wear on our first night in Vail. (Galoshes, for some mysterious reason, are her default accessory - she puts them on no matter what she is (or isn't) wearing). I think that in these shots she was contemplating making a death-leap from the landing down the first flight of stairs. Fortunately, I was there to block her. Base jumping may be next on her agenda. Wouldn't you know it, our first morning in the highcountry marked the start of the winter's first deep freeze. A deep freeze is a serious thing in the mountains, and overnight temps can dip to -16 F at this elevation (the Vail Valley sits at about 8,500 feet). And yes, I realize this is nothing for those of you in Canada, so please just bear with me! These spells don't last all that long (this is, after all, gentle, forgiving Colorado with its sunny skies and moderate climate), but they can be grueling nonetheless.
We bundled Q as well as we could for the morning trip to the ice rink. Inside, it was positively balmy compared to the outdoor temps, and we all stripped off our outer layers bit by bit. We were lucky enough to meet up with our old friends Matt and Judi (whom we hadn't visited in ages) and their two daughters. We have Matt and Judi to thank for introducing us to toddler-hour at the local ice arena.
This ice rink, as it happens, bears some of my earliest memories of the area, from my first days as a volunteer for Ski Club Vail just weeks after arriving from my previous life in NYC. Amazing to think that I went on to spend some 16 years in the Vail Valley, working first in ski shops, then in antique restoration and faux painting, then in the newsroom of the local paper, and, in my last months before moving to Denver, as a freelance magazine writer and commercial illustrator for various local businesses, including the resort itself. This was Q's first time on skates, and if you click on the photo you will be able to see her expression, which is along the lines of, "are you INSANE???? You expect me to walk on these????"
This expression was repeated when, that same night, we removed her clothing on the slate tiles outside the outdoor hot tub in sub-freezing temps after dark. Once again, she quickly adapted and was soon paddling happily through the bubbles, pink-cheeked and fearless. This is Matt, my BFF from the newsroom days, now an editor of the local paper, with his eldest daughter. Later in our mutual history, Matt was my now-husband's BFF, which is sort of how we met (long story). My husband and I moved to Denver before either of our families had kids, so this was our first time introducing the munchkins to one another. Matt has two girls, Maisie and Willa. We have just the one Q, slightly older than one, slightly younger than the other (and taller than both!) Now, let me tell you that when we first stepped out on the ice, Q was not happy. She didn't cry or panic, but you could see the abject expression on her face, and the white-knuckle deathgrip of her hands on the "walker" they use to teach toddlers on the ice.
But...well, this is Q we're talking about. She's a serious jock, and a natural athlete. She overcame her trepidation and caught on pretty quick, especially when she realized there were BALLS for her to chase! Plus, her daddy was a hockey player in school, and a hockey coach at camp... ...and her mommy did a bit of figure skating in her early teens, so all around she had a solid support system. After a successful skating session (of which the Q was and is very proud, and which she recounts repeatedly in her half-sign, half-speech) we headed across the road to the library for story time with her new friends. (To be continued...)