Long Winter Farm

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They did it. Our friends purchased a 49 acre farm in Stowe, Vermont. Long Winter Farm is truly magical! 

It’s not just a farm. Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, Long Winter Farm is an organically driven farm with a vision of nourishing the Nebraska Valley. It’s a work in progress like most things in life, but in our eyes, it’s already perfect. 

We met the farm’s owners, Annie and Andrew Paradee, through the Busters ski program at Stowe Mountain. Annie was Sweet Pea’s ski coach last season. We wouldn’t have made it through the dark days of March after Don’s injury without her grocery deliveries and hours of babysitting. She’s quickly become an irreplaceable part of our village.

I’m so incredibly proud of these two! Annie and Andrew had a dream, and now it’s become a reality. They’re actually farmers. Along with some help from friends and family, they’ve been working extra long days to set up their start-up farm since passing papers through Stowe Land Trust this past April. A few of their many accomplishments include cleaning out the barns, planting organic seeds, and building a chicken coop.

We visited Long Winter Farm for the first time a few weeks ago. I’d been following updates on Facebook and Instagram since the winter, so couldn’t wait to actually see the farm in person and, of course, give Annie a big hug.

But seeing everything through the monkeys eyes was even better than seeing it for myself. The girls were beyond excited with tons of questions. What kind of fruits and vegetables will you grow? Do the chickens peck you? Can I pet one? How many eggs do they lay a day? What other animals will you have at the farm? There’s so much to learn about farm life.

Annie is no longer just Coach Annie. She now owns a farm with crops, chickens, eggs, pigs, and a shiny blue tractor. She’s the same person we know and love but now she and her husband have made their dream of owning a farm come true.

When we got in the car to head home, Sweet Pea said, “I wonder what their next dream will be….” She noticed that a dream came true for our friends, truly a powerful moment for me as a Mom. I couldn’t have picked better role models for the monkeys if I tried. 

We’re so honored to have these two in our lives. Do you know a farmer? I highly recommend it.

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

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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.

You Make My Heart Glow

You Make My Heart Glow - Under the Monkey Bars blog

YOU GUYS make my heart glow. For real! Thank you for being here and joining me on this blogging journey. I’m seriously beyond grateful. Will you be my Valentine?

The monkeys gave their school friends these super cute glow stick valentines. Our local print shop printed and cut the valentines, making it really easy this year. I ordered way too many glow sticks, but I’m sure we’ll use them for dance parties. I got the idea for glow stick valentines on Pinterest from Delia Creates. Never too early to collect ideas for next year, right? 

Homemade valentines are our family tradition. Don and I gave up on flowers and gifts years ago. I’d much rather give and receive simple homemade valentines and be with my loves than anything else. I sometimes cheat and cut up a few store bought or recycled cards. Another one of my Mommy short cuts. Shhhh! Don’t tell.

Bean wrote this poem for a heart themed poetry contest this month: 

Whenever I look at the night sky,
I see a little star-heart.
Blinking, winking, shining.
Smiling right at me.
For me.
With me.
My star.
My home away from home.
My anchor.
My heavenly friend.
I twirl and bloom under the
Protection of my heart.

Words can’t describe how proud I am of my strong, creative 10-year old. Her writing skills have really blossomed this year. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this little lady. 

What are you up to this chilly February 14th? We’re in Stowe for the week with plans for a cozy family pajama day today. Don’s going to stoke a roaring fire while we read books and play games together. No cooking for me tonight! We have a reservation at one of our favorite restaurants here in Stowe: Idletyme (owned by Chef Michael Kloeti of Michael’s on the Hill).  Fantastic prices for farm to table food — and they are extra attentive with food allergies. 

I’m super excited for a vacation with my monkeys. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for us with my Lyme symptoms starting up again. February vacation came just at the right time. Thank you Massachusetts 🙂 

Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope your day is filled with sweetness and love.

This and That…

This and That - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Happy 2016! How were your holidays? We had a blast skiing and sledding over winter vacation despite the lack of snow in New England. We found a balance between time with family and friends, as well as special time with just the four of us. Cuddling up by the fire with my monkeys was the best!

Who else is having trouble getting back in the swing? I’ve been busy restocking the house, catching up on laundry, and digging out of email. It was wonderful to disconnect for a week and a half, but boy does everything pile up!

January is one of my absolute favorite months. I feel the urge to purge and I have to go with it because most of the time I want to keep my stuff. I’m only a few chapters into Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I’m dying to dig my hands in. No shopping until I get this house in ship-shape! How’s that for motivation? 

Warning: this this glossary of Boston slang will cause fits of laughter whether you live in Massachusetts or not. I was shocked that Don didn’t know that “wiffle” is a boy’s short haircut, which is how we found this gem. Thank you Google!

Find out what kind of calls cops in ski towns receive in the Best of Stowe’s 2015 police blotter. More laughs, guaranteed.

What were your favorite holiday gifts? I’m in love with the little wool lamb that Bean made me (it looks nothing like the picture, which is why I love it more). Sweet Pea made us a glittery snowman plaque that we’ll hang proudly all winter. Also loving this clean eating cookbook, cozy slippers, and this tote

Turns Out Monkey Bars And Kickball Might Be Good For The Brain. Love this NPR story. Hopefully more school districts and states will jump on board. 

“A horse, a bachelorette and a unicorn walk into a mansion…” The Bachelor is back! Lots of interesting ladies, and plenty of characters. Another entertaining season ahead. I can feel my brain cells evaporating while I’m watching but I can’t look away (#addicted). Please tell me I’m not alone!