On December 26th, we left for our two hour drive up to Sirdal. It is a little mountain town that is inland and uphill from our Sola home. We have been there several times before and this is our second annual Boxing Day run to the hyttes up there. A hytte is a cabin - not always owned by one person...but generally open to the public. You bring your own sheets and towels and food...and clean up when you leave. The group of hyttes we go to are owned by the Norwegian military. As members of NATO, we have access to use them as well. We just make a reservation, pick up the key and then drop it off when we are done. The boys and Rich went sledding for awhile when we arrived on Dec 26th...but it gets dark so early here (about 3:30) that they didn't get much sledding time in before we were all delegated indoors to play card games. The boys each get to take a different "exploratory" class each quarter at ISS. This past quarter, Joe has been taking card games with his basketball coach. Mr. Knudsen is from Milwaulkee, WI and is MAYBE 25 years old. Anyhow, every Wednesday afternoon, the class of 7 learn and play different card games for 90 minutes. This means Joe's cribbage game has improved quite a bit. He also taught us a new game called "Slaps" which is a ton of fun. We can't wait to teach it to my parents when they come to visit next fall!
On Saturday, the Messina men all left to try their hand at snowboarding. They are all good skiiers but none of them have a lot of time on snow boards. The only time the boys ever were on snowboards was in Colorado several years ago, where they both ended up with frost bite at the ski school. (got them a free day of skiing but I was still not very happy). They came back all moving quite slowly...evidently there was only one run at the resort they went to...a combination of blue and black diamond stuff (per American standards). Tim was convinced he had broken his tailbone and Joe's shoulders are still sore from catching himself when he fell backwards. Luckily they all had helmets on (my requirement) and Rich didn't injure himself. I was concerned about his shoulder,which is still healing. Evidently he was as well. The snow was not very condusive to much up there. There wasn't much snow...it was old and it had evidently gotten warmer at one point and then refrozen recently. It was quite cold while we were up there... -10 C. I loved it....I love the cold weather. However, there was about 8 inches of snow on the ground with about 3/4 of an inch of ice on top of it. You step on it and it holds for a millisecond, then you fall through. Not good snowman-making or snow angel-forming kind of stuff. Lily was a bit heartbroken about that. She, weighing all of 30 lbs with her snowsuit on, walked like a little elf on top of the icy snow while I trudging through it behind her. I took her to a tiny hill...not even qualifying for a hill in my mind (see the video) and she just took off...and kept sliding..and sliding...until I realized that beyond the posts, several meters away, was a drop off and a brook (not yet fully frozen). So I ran after here to catch (she stopped with about 3 meters yet to go til the plunge). She got cold pretty quickly so we didn't spend a ton of time outside. We had a really great few days there and always love going where there is snow. Rich and the boys are going to go back up with a group of NATO skiiers in mid January for a trip. I think they'll be skiing that time. I am not going...it's a lot of work to keep track of Lily and two dogs when I am away from the comforts of home and we have limited entertainment resources. All in all, it was a great family bonding time for us.