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Thrills on a Hill

I love going sledding. Just yesterday, in the middle of a 17-hour workday, I took a break to walk to the closest hill with my kids and a neighbor’s child. With 4-6 more inches of snow coming tonight I thought I’d bring this post back out–it’s one of my favorites and includes many cheerful photos.

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Zipping down a hill on a plastic board will give you the cheapest thrill to share with your kids next to throwing snowballs. I love to speed down a hill with my arms wrapped around one of my children, the memory of which I will treasure for a lifetime. My babies are growing so fast that all too soon they’ll be heading to the hill without me.

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There are a few things I know to be true about sledding.

Sleds, of course, are a wonderful on a hill but you can also use them on level ground. Children, new walkers, kids on ice, and babies love being pulled in sleds. Who wouldn’t? When my daughter was little, I pulled her to preschool while I cross-country skied. This form of transport was inspired by one of my fondest memories with my father. He pulled me on a sled to the corner store as he skied. The candy bar we shared there was not nearly as sweet as the love I felt being pulled behind my father in the snow-quieted neighborhood. I only remember it happening once, but I am determined to give the experience to my children again and again, with hopes that they will carry the fond memory into their adult lives.

Fun is proportional to group size.  You can have races, link arms and try to reach the bottom together, or make one long train. How many ways are there to ride a sled? A big hill packed with sledders is a brainstorming session in snow. The larger the crowd of kids, the wider variety of techniques and games you’ll see. Groups can work together to create slalom course or ramps for a higher starting point. The more the merrier.

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Bigger hills are better. Although little children prefer smaller hills. They can make do at the bottom of a big one, and even piles of snow by the driveway can work.

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You can’t outgrow a sled. Your kids will outgrow any number of skates, skis, and snow pants, but they will never grow out of their sleds, and neither will you. Sleds come in different sizes, but even the smallest sleds work for everyone. But having a sled that holds more than one rider opens up many possibilities.

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Sharing sleds is part of the culture of many hills. Kids we’ve never met before think nothing of asking, “May we please borrow your sled?” People even offer up their sleds unprompted, as one woman did for me with her giant inner tube.  I’m still kicking myself for turning her down.

Bundle up!  Although you’ll certainly work up a sweat trudging back up the hill each time, catching a chill will cut short a great time.  Throw an extra neck warmer in your pocket for when your son face-plants after an absurd stunt and bursts into tears.

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(photo credit to Deirdre Confar)

If you’re hoping to go for a few hours pack a snack. Prevent bonking.

If you’re in the market for a sled, I recommend a new design we’ve been using that is made of a thick slab of flexible foam with handles on the sides. It slides effortlessly over all kinds of snow, can accommodate more than one rider, and its soft foam material absorbs a lot of shock from bumps and chunks of ice. (The material is 4-5 cm thick, compared to 1 cm of our other foam sled.) My son prefers it because in distance races it travels the farthest, my daughter selects it because it is the fastest, and my tush demands the shock absorption.

Some awesome sleds:

A Pull-your-little-one sled

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(photo credit Amy Priestley-Roy)

Our New Favorite


A Simple Classic

A great sled is wonderful, but you don’t need one to have a wonderful time. You can slide downhill over snow on just about anything.  The kids at the Boston public school where I taught years ago used cardboard boxes and they had a supremely good time.  A friend of mine uses an air mattress!  Whether you use a cafeteria tray or a 6-person toboggan, you’re bound to have a memorable time.

A Dark Time of the Year

Today I bought a box of dark chocolate sea salt caramels from Trader Joe’s. I also melted cheese on tortilla chips and didn’t share them with my kids. I’m seeking comfort food but ultimately I’m not comforted, for long anyway, from these foods. This is a dark time of the year for me. Turning the clocks back makes it almost impossible to get outside to catch some vitamin D, plus when I do go out, I’m bundled from head to toe leaving little opportunity to get that vitamin D zing I crave.  This year has been particularly hard.  Maybe it is because my mother moved to Florida and I miss her deeply, maybe it is due to my plantar fasciitis that has kept me from getting a hardcore-cardio workout for many months, and it might also be because I’ve been obsessively watching Breaking Bad (that is some crazy dark shit). But, every year at this time, I feel both tremendously lonely while also wanting to be alone. I’d be happiest in a cabin in the woods with books, a pot of soup, and the heat of a wood stove with a mailbox full of invitations to holiday parties.  Contradictory? Certainly, but this is me at the darkest time of the year.

Why am I sharing all of this? Because I know this time is hard for a lot of people.  I also know that even though I am in a dark place that I also feel so much better when I’m outside. I bundle up tightly, move briskly through my urban neighbor or on a trail through the woods, and naturally breathe more deeply. I manipulate my schedule to get outside during daylight hours and when I’m out there, I take a moment to stand still, to tilt my face to the sun with my eyes shut, and to simply breath.

Recently I’ve started going to Lila, an incredible yoga studio on the east end of Portland. The first month for new clients is only $60 for unlimited yoga. I’m loving trying out all of the instructors and finding the openings in my body that are so darn tight and dark. It is helping. It is a bit of drive from my house but once I’m there I’m only .5 miles from the ocean.  So, I try and connect my outdoor time to either end of my yoga classes. Getting outside at this time of year and doing yoga is my therapy.

Here are some photos from the East End Beach.  A spot I’ve visited three times in the last week.

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How about you–if you struggle with this time of the year, what are some ways you cope until the daylight hours are longer?