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.

Chasing Winter


I’m sure you are totally over winter — as most normal people are. And then there’s my family…chasing winter for the last fresh snow of the season.

Don and I left our Stowe, Vermont vacation earlier this month wanting more. We had such an amazing time and kept saying how we couldn’t wait to take the girls. How they would love the mountain, the ski conditions (no ice!), the shopping, and most of all, that they would be able to go out to eat! There was talk about going next season, maybe a few weekend trips.

And then you have one of those moments when you realize that life is too short to wait. So on a whim, we found a townhouse to rent for the weekend and within five days, we were at Stowe with our monkeys for an absolutely perfect winter family weekend.


For those of you who don’t ski, Stowe Mountain is a much more difficult, challenging mountain than what we’re used to at Loon Mountain. It’s a steeper vertical with more black diamond and double black diamond terrain. I was super nervous that one of my monkeys (not mentioning any names here!!) would head down a double black trail ahead of us. I’m so proud that she didn’t! The monkeys stayed with us, listened, and skied their socks off! Don and I can’t believe how much more confidence and control they have on skis this year; we couldn’t stop smiling all weekend. Can you tell I’m a proud mama?



I cooked up a storm last week to get ready for our weekend away (pumpkin muffins, blueberry beast bars, cornbread, roasted veggies, chicken salad). Eating breakfast and lunch at the townhouse would minimize the risk of allergic reactions. As you can imagine, it’s really difficult for us to eat out. Sweet Pea can’t eat at a restaurant that has peanuts in the kitchen and Bean needs a scratch kitchen without flour flying around (no pizza on the menu, not a lot of baking, etc). So happy to report that Bean didn’t get glutened! We had delicious meals at Flannel (Topnotch Resort) and Crop Bistro & Brewery. Both restaurants took great care of us and we were so grateful to relax and enjoy a meal together!



We didn’t realize how long it had been since we went away with the girls — not including staying with family. A few years, at least. The girls were giddy with excitement exploring the townhouse, playing hide and go seek while we unpacked and got settled. We rented the “Village Retreat” through Stowe Country Homes, who did an amazing job cleaning the kitchen in preparation of our stay. Not a crumb in sight! We ran the dishwasher and washed all of the pots and pans to avoid contamination. Traveling with these two is no walk in the park…but it’s 100% worth it. We didn’t have to spend much time in the kitchen because I did most of the cooking in advance. After skiing both days, we were able to shower up and hit the town to walk around, shop, and hang out at the coffee shop.


There were so many laughs and moments of true happiness last weekend. And even some tears as we packed up Knight to head home. Don and I have always felt a special connection to Stowe, and now we know the monkeys feel it too. They have already asked if the mountain will be open for April vacation. Oh, those monkeys! We will ski this weekend at Loon for the last time this season, then hang up our skis and pray that the snow here in Newburyport melts soon. As Sweet Pea said, “It’s almost hiking season!”


Blueberry Beast Bars


When I started blogging, Don found himself some fitness and cycling blogs to follow. He’s really gotten into a few of them, sending me recipes now and then. This recipe is our favorite so far!

I made these Blueberry Beast Bars for our weekend trip to Stowe, Vermont. They are ridiculously delicious and made of whole food ingredients. You can’t buy a bar like this at the grocery store — or even at a health food store.  Beast bars will fill you up and keep you going because they have a good mix of fat, carbs, and natural sugar. I can speak for my whole crew when I say that we looked forward to our snack at the lodge after skiing Stowe Mountain on Saturday and Sunday!

We really missed granola bars when we went gluten free because most of the lesser processed bars contain peanuts or are manufactured with peanuts. We haven’t found a granola bar off the shelf that we love, both taste and ingredient wise. Bananas work well in most situations when you would normally grab a bar, but these beast bars work better.  Let’s face it: a banana is a banana. It’s not dense or crunchy or balanced like the Beast (the monkeys were calling them “the Beast” all weekend!).

After I made this recipe a few times, I bought a pastry roller and I’m so glad I did. The back of a spatula doesn’t pack the mixture down enough. When you get to that point in the recipe, really bare down hard and evenly press the mixture into the pan. It takes a few minutes and some patience to get it even, but it’s totally worth it.

Blueberry Beast Bars
Yields 10
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Total Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 1/4 cup unsweetened big flake coconut
  2. 1/4 cup sunflower seed kernels
  3. 1/2 cup whole toasted nuts
  4. 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  5. 2 cups quick oats
  6. 2 cups brown rice cereal
  7. 1 cup creamy roasted almond butter
  8. 1 cup maple syrup
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut, sunflower seeds, nuts, blueberries, oats, and rice cereal. Set aside.
  3. In a small sauce pan, gently warm the syrup and the almond butter. Once the maple butter mixture is warm, stir until smooth and homogenous. Add the vanilla.
  4. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until all of the dry ingredients are well coated. Next, top with parchment paper. Press the mixture into the prepared pan with a pastry roller or the back of a spatula.
  5. Let cool completely in the refrigerator. Once cool, slice and eat! Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze.
Adapted from Strava
Adapted from Strava
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/

– Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
– We toast raw pecans for this recipe because they’re the monkeys favorite. Blue Mountain Organics does not process any peanuts so their nuts are safe for Sweet Pea (Use code TAKE5 at Blue Mountain Organics for $5 off a minimum purchase of $50!).
– For a nut-free beast bar, substitute chocolate chips for the nuts and use sunbutter instead of almond butter.
– Use certified gluten free oats if you’re avoiding gluten. We like this brand, which I order through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program for an extra 15% off.
– I use parchment paper a lot for our gluten free baking. It makes for a much easier clean up too!
– Check the ingredients in the brown rice cereal you choose. I buy this kind because it’s organic and only contains three ingredients. And no, we never eat it in a bowl as cereal! 
– I prefer Grade B maple syrup because it’s produced later in the season and has a darker color, which means more minerals including manganese, riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
– Substitute another freeze dried fruit if you can’t get freeze dried blueberries (I found organic at Whole Foods).

Cómelo todo!

Trail Map Placemats


We’re ski junkies. Could you tell? I was trying to think of creative gifts one day, and came up with the idea of turning trail maps into placemats. 

You know I hate crafts, so I outsourced to our local print shop. Then I called Loon and Stowe, our favorite places to ski here in New England, and they mailed me six trail maps each. The print shop did a fantastic job of cutting the map to the exact size I wanted, adding card stock, and laminating to turn it into a placemat. Such a deal at $5 each!

I gave the placemats to Don and the monkeys for a little surprise. We’ve used them every day since! Bean and Sweet Pea quiz each other on trail names, elevation, and random spots from the map key. They want to make placemats from every mountain we conquer.

If you think about it, you could make placemats out of anything: a theme park brochure, city map, kids artwork…the sky’s the limit!  It would be a thoughtful gift too, right? Something different. Don’t forget to pin it!  

Speaking of Pinterest, do you ever make any of the crafts or recipes that you pin? I’m rather new to Pinterest and can see the pins piling up already. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever do anything with my pins? Wait — do I smell a challenge?  Let’s make some of our pins!  I’ll even write a post about it: The Pin Challenge. What do you think? Will you join me? This will be fun!

Oh, and here’s Sweet Pea planning this weekend’s adventure to Stowe! We just decided a few days ago to rent a condo and bring the monkeys.  It’s a bit of a production to travel with these allergy girls so I’m scrambling, but we’re so excited to tear it up at Stowe Mountain. Watch out, Stowe. Here come the monkeys!