Our New Normal

Our New Normal - Under the Monkey Bars blog

As I type, my patient sleeps. My husband Don now knows what a 10 feels like on a pain scale, because when his ski boot was pulled off his foot with a dislocated knee and broken leg: he was a 10. It’s the first time the monkeys and I have seen true pain on his face. We’ve been through a lot together in our almost 15 years of marriage. But this? I wasn’t ready for this. It’s our new normal for as far as we can see.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me start this story on March 5th when a regular Saturday in Stowe turned into one of the scariest days of our lives.

I skied down Nosedive behind Don on one of the most gorgeous mornings of the season. The sky was blue. The conditions were better than we expected. The snow was groomed beautifully over this season’s dreaded New England ice. We were on our second run of our usual Saturday ski date while the monkeys were conquering Mt Mansfield with their Buster teams. 

The moment he fell still plays in my mind like a video. Don was in the middle of a right turn, almost in a lunge when his already bent left leg slid into a groove in the ice. His knee popped and dislocated before he even fell. Then his femur came down on his tibia like a hammer. It was a total fluke thing. I’ve seen Don take some pretty sick falls; this was not one of them. When his knee gave, he twisted around on his back clutching his left leg. 

I skied down below him and yelled, “Should I call Ski Patrol?” I’ve asked him this question dozens of times. The answer is always no. We always joke about how predictable he is. I wish on that day he could have been more predictable. Instead of no, my sweet husband cried out, “YES!” in a voice I’ve never heard before.

I pulled out my phone to call Ski Patrol, realizing instantly that I didn’t have the number. I looked up in a panic and magically 2 red coats with white crosses appeared gliding down the snowy trail. Ski Patrol expertly tended to Don, initially assessing a fracture based on the fact that his knee was not where it should be. These guys were our angels that day, and I’ll never forget their professionalism, how they took control, and eased my nerves. 

While we waited for a sled to arrive, Bean skied down the trail with her team. I tried to reassure her that Daddy would be okay, but even I wasn’t sure if my words were true. After a much needed hug, I asked her to look out for Sweet Pea. I knew their coaches would take care of the monkeys while I stayed with Don wherever this awful day would take us.

You never know how you’ll handle a crisis until you are in the situation. Apparently I’m pretty good under pressure — especially with friends by my side. 

All of the decisions that go along with a trauma injury have been the hardest part. Does the surgery need to be done asap? Do we trust these doctors? Should we go back to Newburyport or stay in Stowe? Should we keep the monkeys with us or get them back to school?

Ultimately, we decided to put our trust in the local doctors here in Vermont, and they didn’t disappoint. The ambulance took Don to Copley Hospital in Morrisville where an orthopedist performed his first surgery, installing an external fixator to set the break and reduce the swelling for his next surgery. Catastrophic was the word the surgeon used to describe Don’s injury. Not a good sign.

That contraption of metal pins sticking out of his leg, known as an “x-fix” in medical lingo, stayed on for 10 excruciating days. I lived in fear of bumping it and causing him more pain all day every day (I ended up only stepping on his foot once…not bad for my debut as a nurse).

We chose to have Don’s second surgery at UVM Medical Center with a rock star orthopedist who repairs this type of injury at least once a month. That 4 hour surgery on March 14th was successful in repairing his tibial plateau, ACL, and meniscus. Between surgeries, Don suffered through complications that brought us to the UVM ER. His pain has been off the charts, with bad days around 8 or 9. Every day has been a challenge. 

The monkeys were with us until this past Sunday when their grandparents graciously brought them back to Newburyport for school (only to be met by a snow day!). While friends and family thought we should get the girls back to school and their routine right away, I’m so glad we kept our family together. We decided that their routine is with us. Missing two weeks of school isn’t nearly as important as our family. We needed them as much as they needed us, and we’re all stronger because of what we’ve been through together.

Our new community in Stowe overflowed with support for our family. We truly couldn’t have managed without them. Family and friends both near and far were there for us in every way imaginable. Help came by way of packages to keep the monkeys busy, grocery shopping, babysitting, and rides for the monkeys. I’m forever grateful to the friends that cheered us on with texts and messages. Funny stories from home and pictures from friends were the best distraction. 

Here’s what Don went through so far by the numbers: 1 ambulance ride, 2 ER visits, 2 surgeries at 2 different hospitals, 6 hours in the OR, 3 X-rays, 1 MRI, 2 CT scans, 1 ultrasound, 4 pins, 8 screws, 2 plates, 2 roommates, 8 nights in the hospital, 2 crutches, and we’re not counting pain killers because I lost track long ago. I think we’ve met our deductible. 

In the wise words of a nurse on our first night at the hospital, “You never know where you’re going to end up when you wake up each morning.” These past few weeks were definitely not how we planned to spend the last days of winter. But we’re okay and it could have been much worse. Don’s pain lessens a bit each day and we’ve accepted our new normal. He’ll be in the immobilizer for 12 weeks with a possible 3rd surgery in a few months. Until then, I’ll be healing him in the way I know best: with food as medicine.

Thanks for reading and supporting Under the Monkey Bars. Blogging is an important part of my life, but my family will always come first.

February Vacation in Stowe

February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe- Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog
February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Twelve pictures must tell a hell of a story!

We managed to strike a beautiful balance between getting outdoors and downtime during our February Vacation week in Stowe with the monkeys. Highlights included bowling, ice skating, night sledding, the library, shopping, dinner with friends, and of course skiing.

The freezing temperatures gave us extra time for reading and baking. We made 3 batches of those honey biscuits

I know I speak for all 4 of us when I say that we’re well rested and recharged — and I didn’t even make it to the spa! Back to reality.

Cheers to Ceia!

Cheers to Ceia - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

It’s not often that you land a seat at the bar at a place like Cheers. A seat that welcomes you back time after time, with that cozy feeling of home. Here in Newburyport, Ceia Kitchen + Bar is our Cheers.

With restaurants coming and going, not much stays the same long enough to become part of you. We’ve tried most of the 80 restaurants in Newburyport during the 6 years that we’ve lived here. In fact, we’ve lived in Newburyport longer than any other city since Don and I got married almost 15 years ago.

It’s almost momentous, realizing that you’ve found that perfect spot. Many heated discussions have taken place in Ceia’s leather barstools. Don and I chose to celebrate buying our home there. We’ve shared drinks with friends, celebrated birthdays, enjoyed family meals, and slipped away for date nights.

When we got back from our trip to Paris and Madrid a few years ago, Ceia was where we wanted to be. The restaurant always magically transports me to Europe, even if it’s only for a few hours. The brick walls and copper bar create that old world feel with a modern edge. There’s bistro style seating on the sidewalk for people watching in the warmer weather. House made charcuterie plates are presented artfully on slate. Incredible smells drift through the restaurant from the open 2nd floor kitchen. And all those European wines!

JeremyGlover, Executive Chef at Ceia Kitchen and Bar in Newburyport - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

I recently had the chance to chat with Ceia’s Executive Chef, Jeremy Glover. He chooses to drive 45 minutes from Maine to Newburyport because he totally loves his job at Ceia, mostly because he has an amazing boss in Nancy Batista-Caswell, proprietor and wine director.

Chef Jeremy runs a scratch kitchen, which means everything is made fresh at the restaurant. This is super important to me as a food allergy mom because less suppliers means more control in the kitchen. I was really impressed with Jeremy’s philosophy on food allergies. Here’s how he handles food allergies in the kitchen at Ceia:

I try to not put allergens on the menu. 80% of our entrees and apps are gluten free. I don’t have pine nuts or peanuts, and no soy products. If we do get a food allergy customer, we take precautionary steps. Wash your hands. Wash all utensils. Put on gloves. If someone has been using nuts all night, and we get a nut allergy order, I’ll have another chef make it. I try to minimize it rather than having allergens everywhere and trying to control a chaotic event.

A food allergy Mom’s dream! There aren’t many restaurants that I trust to feed my monkeys because of their severe food allergies (peanut and Celiac). We feel safe at Ceia, and a lot of that has to do with the tone the chef sets in the kitchen. Here are some snippets from our chat:

UTMB :: Menu inspiration?
JG :: Usually what’s coming into season and what I want to eat.
UTMB :: Favorite kitchen gadget?
JG :: Blazen knives from Epic Edge.
UTMB :: Best olive oil?
JG :: Frantoia Barbera Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (#shoplocal at Grand Trunk!)
UTMB :: Advice for home chefs?
JG :: Use salt! Don’t be afraid of real butter.
UTMB :: Make at home?
JG :: Comfort food like roast chickens with root vegetables.

Check the blog next week for a recipe from Jeremy Glover’s kitchen. I’ll be telling more Food Stories from different areas of the industry in 2016. Until next time, friends!

Choose Gratitude

Choose Gratitude - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

November plants the seed of thanks in our minds because of Thanksgiving. It’s easy to say, “thank you” and be thankful for all of the goodness around us. But let’s go a little deeper this month and be grateful.

Gratitude is a way of being that’s different from giving thanks in one fleeting moment. It’s recognizing the importance of a source of happiness and then showing deep appreciation for it. Gratitude becomes a state of mind when you are openly conscious of it and embrace it.

You might be reading this thinking, “What a bunch of hippy dippy baloney” (from the Lego Movie, hee he). It’s not.

There’s science behind it, specifically as a facet of positive psychology. Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, increasing our well-being and happiness. So if gratitude can make us happier and healthier, why not incorporate it into our lives every day?

Take a second to absorb this quote from British psychologist Robert Holden:

The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.

Being present is a concept that comes up often in yoga class. What does it mean to be present? It means to bring awareness to your thoughts and actions in the moment. To me, being present means that I put my phone away along with other distractions as many times a day as possible to really BE with the people I love. Whether it’s reading a book with my daughters after school or making plans to have tea with a friend, it’s so important to be where you are in both body and mind — without your mind drifting off.

To be present during the holiday season takes it up a notch. There is so much to do and so little time. How can we be more grateful and mindful during the holiday season? Start by simplifying your list. So many of us (myself included) go overboard with the consumerism of shopping and gifts during the holidays. Less is more, and time together is even better. Make gifts together as a family. Fill the calendar with quality time among friends and family instead of To-Do’s. While you’re there, listen and really connect without running your list through your head. Be mindful of where your mind goes and consciously bring it back to the present.

Before jumping headfirst into the madness of the holiday season, take this precious month of November to be grateful and make it a more meaningful time. Express gratitude and appreciation for what you have in a non-consumer way or want. Practice gratitude by noticing the positive things in life, taking time to enjoy people and the world, and giving back to others.

Be grateful for loving friends and family. Be grateful for health, even if you’re not exactly where you want to be. Be grateful for the gifts of the season in nature. Be grateful for a warm, sunny day in November or a pile of leaves for jumping. Be grateful for the rolling waves of the ocean and the flowing water of the rivers. Be grateful for our beautiful beaches. Be grateful for where you live…for me, the lively city of Newburyport.

Can you see the world with a glass half full? Sometimes it helps to take the point of view of a child or watch a little one being grateful for the simple pleasures in life. We as adults have so many preconceived notions that it takes a conscious change of mental state to truly open our minds. Take the time to retreat and reflect. Wake up in the morning thankful for the rising sun. Eat your meals mindful of where the food came from and be grateful for the farmers who harvested those vegetables. Appreciate and acknowledge all of the people who are part of your day to day life. Maybe then we can see the world with wonder and gratitude like we once did as children.

This holiday season, give time, energy, and donations to help our community. Plant the seed for giving now, and carry it throughout the year. It will add gratitude and appreciation to your life and those around you. There are so many organizations locally and nationally that need our help. Here are some ideas:
– Serve a meal at Pettengill House or Our Neighbor’s Table
– Volunteer at the MSPCA
– Fill a Thanksgiving basket for the Salvation Army
– Donate items that no longer serve you to organizations like the Community Giving TreeLeeward Light, or Goodwill
– Host a coffee with friends to raise awareness for education foundations like the Newburyport Education Foundation
– Build hope and homes for families with Habitat for Humanity
– Give blood with the Red Cross to help our hospitals keep up with extra demand

Enjoy the harvest of the season with friends, neighbors, and family. Be happy, thankful, and fill your heart with peace. This month, choose gratitude. 

Fall in Love with Fall

Falling In Love with Fall - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Falling back into a routine after a busy yet relaxing summer.
Enjoying quiet time reading and snuggling on the couch — alone or with my monkeys.
Roasting a chicken with veggies in the oven.
Watching the tips of the leaves change like painted fingernails.
Riding bikes over crunching leaves.
Breathing in crisp fresh air at a football game.
Wearing cozy sweaters, wool socks, and boots.
Hiking in the colorful woods.
Smelling freshly baked pumpkin muffins.
Jumping in a big pile of leaves, and then raking it up again.

I fall in love with Fall every year. If you’ve never spent time in New England when the leaves change, put it on your bucket list. It’s good for the soul.

Can’t make it here? Order leaves online for yourself or friends. For reals.

What do you love most about Fall?

XOXO from Newburyport