Summer’s Providence

Hi there.

You know, it’s an odd thing. I used to write here so often that I’d instinctively know where the last post’s timeline ended and the new one should begin, each having been only a few days apart.

Now, with month(s)-long hiatuses between posts, I have to go back and review where I left off the last time, then try to figure out a narrative on what’s happened since.

For example, when I left you all last it was somewhere around Memorial Day, and the beginning of Daphne’s summer…

“Gloriosky. And I absolutely needed the break, dahling.”

Initially, we’d planned to enroll Daph in the local Kingdom Autism school over in St. Johnsbury (“Saint J” to the locals) for supplemental summer classes and therapy. However it seems they have a lengthier waiting list than we’d expected, and we’re told it’ll be at least a few months before we’re able to get her enrolled.

Totally understandable. Which also means that I’m glad we went when we did, so she’ll hopefully be able to be enrolled by the next school year.

She’s not getting off that light, though. As a matter of fact, she and her mother are upstairs doing addition and subtraction problems as I’m typing this…

We’re obviously still making time for a real summer break for her. For example, we took a trip over to Burlington a few weeks ago for the white-hot excitement of the L.L. Bean Grand Opening in Williston! Replete with free ice cream, bracelet weaving stations, and yes…

The Bean Bootmobile.

We also went to Church Street, which is rapidly becoming one of our favorite spots when we’re in need of a “city fix.” There’s a solid selection of shopping, outdoor music (Daphne loved a cello soloist and spent quite a while dancing to his music), and there’s some damn fine pizza at Ken’s that goes wonderfully well with sipping a beer on their patio.

And, at the risk of a bit of gloating, the weather here has been absolutely perfect for over a month now. Sunny, mid-70s, with just the right amount of rain to keep things growing and green. The aforementioned garden has been loving it, and we’re already harvesting more lettuce than we know what to do with…

These berries (well, the ripe ones) have been delicious too.

I realize that a large part of the country has been suffering through what sounds like a miserable heat wave since June. And I can totally commiserate, as we suffered through those for way too long before moving to Vermont.

The summer up here has been exactly what we’d hoped for though, and Daphne has been outside nearly every day. And the rest of you don’t see -30 F in February either, so no geographical climate’s perfect.

We also purchased our first shed/outbuilding for the farm. The garage is “perpetually nearing completion,” and so we needed somewhere else to winnow away our winter tires, weed whacker, and wheelbarrow.

Those of you who’ve been paying attention have undoubtedly seen the blue tarps all over the yard, as if we’re suffering a chronic case of Smurfpox.

Back it up! Yep! Smurf it over there by the henhouse. And don’t worry! It’s not smurftagious. You won’t catch anything by smurfing near them.

We bought it from the same folks who sold us the Chicken Hut around this time last year, Livingston Farms. I wouldn’t call them “inexpensive” exactly, but they’re good folks over there and we’ve had solid experiences with them both times.

Next step is to get a real fence (with a gate and everything!), up around the garden.

Oh! So this has been another development…

That’s right! We’ve signed Daphne up for the local hockey team. (You should see the defenseman.)

Yes, the ever-amusing, missing front tooth. Kid’s growing up fast.

The new one is already levering its way down through her gum line, which means all my “bah, she’s gonna lose those teeth anyway…” handwaving about eating sweets has to come to an abrupt end.

In other news, we took a trip down to Providence a couple weeks ago as a family mini-getaway. I’ve had a particularly challenging month at work, so I needed some recharge time.

After an long-ish afternoon on the road, we eventually arrived at the Omni Providence with a little girl that was supremely happy to be out of the car and in a hotel room.

Mad silliness.

Oh! That little pink tablet she has there bears some explanation, doesn’t it?

So that’s Daphne’s AAC (Augmentative & Alternative Communication) device. Basically we purchased a stock iPad and a program called TouchChat, and she uses it as her “talker.”

With it, she can tell us what she needs and/or wants. So, for example, if she’s thirsty she can hit the buttons for “water” and “ice” or “Capri Sun.”
Or, if she’s hungry, she can tell us what she’d like to eat. Granted, usually the reply is “cereal” and “toast,” but occasionally we get “chicken nuggets” or “hot dog” in the evenings.
She tells us what songs she’d like us to sing, that she wants to watch YouTube or listen to music, “good night,” “I love you,” and she’s learning more of them every day.

I’d like to say that my insurance helped us out with that little purchase, since it is technically a medical device. But we live in the U.S. so, yeah, not so much.
In fact, while we’re on the subject, would you like to know how much monetary assistance we have ever gotten from our commercial insurers to cover Daphne’s various therapies, schooling, devices, and/or assessments?

Zero. Zilch. Goose egg. Bupkis. Not a dime.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel incredibly fortunate that I earn enough to be able to provide for the things she needs, but…I mean…I pay about 15% of my monthly take home salary on health insurance. You’d think there’d be some benefit there other than “I guess if one of us gets really hurt we won’t have to declare bankruptcy, maybe.”

Wait…where am I? And what’s this soapbox doing under my Bean boots?

Anyway, back to Providence.

Daph got to swim in the hotel pool with Mommy….


Then we ventured into…The Mall.

Now, I feel equal parts confident and abashed to tell you that I’ve spent more time in a mall than the vast majority of human beings that have ever existed on this planet. I worked in one for years, ate lunch in one every day even when I wasn’t working there, and have spent an unhealthy amount of my free time walking around in one.

I loved the damn mall.

But this was the first time I’d darkened the automatic doorway of one since moving to Vermont (which means it was way pre-COVID).

After about 5 minutes, the weird pizza smell they pipe into the ventilation units as “scent marketing” (yes, that’s a thing) became chokingly acrid.
The competing music blasting out of every commercial cave hutch proclaiming there was an even BIGGER good time to be had in their store versus those all other ones, was discordant and disorienting.
People felt like they were way too close to us (although this particular mall wasn’t even all that crowded), and they craned their heads around like worried chickens, randomly stopping in place lest they “miss something.”
The candy-colored signs blazing in gaudy neon were aesthetically offensive…
You get the idea.

It all became too much for us. More so for Daphne, who strode the mallways with both hands clamped over her ears and eyes pointed fixedly down at the carpet. So we decided to head back to the room, and made the conscious pact to, if at all possible, avoid malls forever.

Clearly our little quiet farm life up here has drawn some indelible sensory boundaries around us, outlining just how vivid things should be. Definitely a Country Mouse moment.

We also took Daphne for to Sand Hill Cove, which was one of my favorite beaches as a kid…

This is the international symbol for: “Behold! There is sand in my bathing suit.

Dad stayed on dryland for this one, acting as the keeper of all the stuff. Besides, I’ve been swimming at Sand Hill Cove a dozen times; could totally sit this one out.
I did, however, roll up my sleeves with the intent of blending a bit of color into the serious farmer tan I have going. Alas, all I succeeded in doing was sunburning my shoulders. The result of which is still causing me to shed like a python with eczema.

Some other highlights of the trip were, going to Roger Williams Zoo…

“Octopuses have NINE brains. I know, right? Crazy!”

We stopped by the street where I was born and took Daph to another beach where I swam as a kid.

“You mean the seas weren’t frozen from the Ice Age when you were young?”

And we drove over to Colt State Park, which was another favorite haunt, albeit in my later years when we’d come up to R.I. for the summer.

We were also in Providence for Water Fire, which is a thing everyone should check out at least once. Makes for a really nice evening stroll along the river.

And finally, no first trip to Rhode Island would be complete without an Awful Awful at Newport Creamery. (Don’t start with me; we’re saving clam cakes and Del’s for next time.)

“Why, that’s not ‘awful’ at all!”

Overall it was a really nice trip…with one exception.

We unfortunately got a text from our farmsitter on Friday night that we were down one chicken.
Our rooster, Marty, had gone missing and there was a pile of red feathers on the ground not too far from their coop.

He obviously felt terrible, but we reassured him that this was the risk we accepted when decided to free range our flock, and that it was unquestionably not his fault. I’m not sure it made him feel any better, but it was the truth. And the rest of the girls were none the worse for wear, so it seems he did his job protecting them. Requiem for a rooster.

But then, the 4th of July happened.

So late that evening I noticed that our hens were wandering past my office window a bit later than normal. So I got up and headed outside to check on them.

On the way, I noticed Daphne had left one of her spiky vinyl balls in the driveway. So I picked it up, intending to carry it back into the house after I shooed the chickens back toward their run. (That’s Chekhov’s Ball, folks.)

And then, as I rounded the corner to where I saw the chickens pass by, I saw him.

A fox.

A fox with one of my wife’s chickens in its mouth, running right across my path.

Before I’d entirely processed what I was looking at, I barked “HEY!” in a guttural voice and sidearm flung the ball at it as hard as I could…

And hit the fox squarely in the ribs.

The fox was knocked sideways which caused it to loosen its jaws around poor Mildred just enough for her to bounce upward in a flurry of flapping wings and loose black feathers. The fox darted off into the rows of Christmas trees, a mass of black feathers still in its mouth.

Foxbane, Protector of Poultry

Between us, I have no idea how I pulled that maneuver off. I wasn’t even consciously thinking about what I was doing. I do feel like I should include “can hit a fox with a dodgeball” on my resume somewhere, though.

The bad news is, I found a different patch of black feathers by the lilac bush…and we were missing another chicken. So best guess is that The Fu*@#ng Mr. Fox had already taken one chicken, and had come back for seconds.

I scoured the yard and tree line for over an hour looking for that chicken, to no avail. The search was also set to the dulcet tones of coyotes “singing” from the forest behind the house, which lent an unsettling air to the proceedings.

So I locked the other 4 hens up for the night and went inside, saddened by the loss of yet another of our chickens.

Later that night, just before I headed to bed, I decided to make one last check outside to see if she’d come back and might perhaps be waiting by the coop.

So I flipped on the porch light, opened the front door, and took about four steps out before a VERY large dark blur ran from the front of our car and scampered up the driveway.

A black bear was sitting on my Subaru…fifteen feet in front of me.

The bear ran off to my right while I backpedaled into the house, tripped over the jam, and kicked the door shut, my heart bouncing off the inside of my ribcage. I locked the door (because who knows if lockpicking bears are a thing) and went upstairs to bed…after some calming breathing exercises.

About an hour later, I heard a WHUMP! from just outside our bedroom window. The damn bear had come back, and was after the leftovers from our 4th of July BBQ that were in the trashcan. (We’d double-bagged them, but I guess he could smell it anyway.)

In the bear’s defense, it was a delicious brisket, overnighted from Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX.

So I leapt out of bed and ran downstairs, once again having no idea what I was going to do when I got there.

Turns out, my genius plan was to simply open the door and shout “WHOA, BEAR!” really loudly into the night…then slam the door and lock it again.

This was about as effective as you’d imagine. Although I have to believe that it at least amused the hell out of a black bear for an hour or so.

When we awoke the following morning, we found the bear had returned at some point in the night and clawed the trash can open (despite the bungie cord holding it shut), and had scattered trash all over the yard.

Turns out, ours is actually the fourth house this bear has hit, and he’s becoming increasingly brazen and unafraid of people. Sadly, that’s when bears end up getting shot.

So I just took a short break from writing this as Jen found a concert that was happening at Burke Mountain this evening. It seems the Vermont Symphony Orchestra traveled here to play an outdoor program and, since we want to support the Vermont arts wherever possible, we went to see them.

And it was a lovely evening, albeit a bit cooler than average. So much so that they had to cut their program short so as not to damage any instruments in the evening’s chill.

That’s Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor in the background there… No, I’m not sure which is which.

The three of us sat there on a blanket, Daphne on my lap and Jen leaning next to me, our hands all clasped together, and we listened to some lovely music that echoed along the mountainside as the sun set ahead and the moon rose behind us. Was a beautiful moment and made me, once again, incredibly thankful for my life.

And since this post became way past long enough about 5 paragraphs ago, I think we’ll call this thing here.

See you soon.

Birds, Bees, & Trees

Oh, hi! I totally didn’t see you there… Um, wait.

Exactly how long have you been standing over there?

So you’ll all be happy to know that we’ve long since rounded the corner past our familial bouts with COVID (Daphne had it twice, actually) and we’re all doing well. Doing wonderfully well, in fact.

The weather has been beautiful, as only Vermont in the springtime can be, and we’ve been enjoying being outside on the daily.

Chicken chicks...and bastard chicken Marty.
The Lilac whale

And with the warmer weather came the conscious familial decision to reverse our last decree of “no bees this year!” (the “beecree,” if you will), and we set about ordering two different kinds of hives from the Internet.

I’m told that bees go in here.

First, we purchased a Hoover Hive, from the folks over at Galena Farms. Pretty standard stuff, and quite easy to assemble. Those dovetail joints on the sides? They just kinda whack together. And with a few strategically placed nails here and there the whole thing shaped up quite nicely.

And then, there was the Flow Hive.

I suppose I could’ve just dumped the bees in these boxes and called it a day.

The Flow Hive proved to be slightly more challenging to assemble.

BumbleRule #385: Avoid attempting to build anything that has an “observation window.”

The whole thing took a couple days to construct. Then a couple more to paint and stain. But finally it was structurally perfect, brass trimmings fastened, wood immaculately detailed, and ready for tens of thousands of insects to regurgitate all over the inside of it.

In the days that followed I spent an unhealthy amount of time fretting over where exactly to put the hives…and finally landed on the lowland area at the base of our hill. And so there they went.

The bee path.

The next step in this process was, you know, getting the bugs that actually live in these things. And we found a bee seller (The B Farm) that was about an hour drive away.

Which brings me to an important safety tip: Do not attempt to store bee hives inside a car.

As I say, not as I do.

I am exceptionally glad the bee guy over there had these lovely teal mesh bags hanging around. Because after 20 minutes the bees were officially OVER their car ride and started buzzing angrily in the back-back.

Then, after about an hour, I noticed one or two climbing on the inside windows of the car. So I surreptitiously, so as not to alarm my other passengers, cracked the window open and shut with a quickness. (The bee equivalent of being sucked out of an airlock.)

By the time we got home, the insides of those bags had bees crawling all over them.

Which meant it was time for…


Feeling equal parts ridiculous and impenetrable (sometimes concurrently), I carried the angry, buzzing duffle bags out to their new home, poured as many as I could inside the hives, and then left their travel boxes nearby for the bees who were relocation reluctant.

And, as of today, I’m happy to report that they’re doing just fine.

Flo & Hooverville

And no, so far none of us have been stung since I brought them home. (That said, I may or may not have taken a couple stingers to the armpit while picking them up.)

The hope is that we’ll have fresh honey on the farm by August. But for that to happen I need the worker bees of the world to unite. We’ll see.

Now, on to the garden…

So as many of you might remember, our “garden” plot looked like this earlier this year:

Casa del Weedy Weederson

We recently had our landscapers come out and till/level the land for us, however, and turn this patch of scrubgrass into…

a filthy tabula rasa.

After some more building, and a couple nursery trips, this is what it looks like today.

Jen planted cucumbers along the fence line on the left…

Pickles in potentia

Then there’s celery, lettuce, and strawberries inside the planter boxes, interspersed with some herbs here and there. (Rosemary, oregano, thyme, and basil.)

Oh, that dark patch there at the top right? That’s a bunch of carrots. A bunch. And, lemme tell you, carrot seeds are ridiculously small, man.

At some point I stopped trying to obsessively line them up and just went Rip Taylor on the whole business.

Daphne has been a huge help in this process too (because Dad won’t let her help with the bees) and assisted Mom in watering all our new plants.

“When do they become Lunchables?”

Daph also helped me tote all the dirt and tools back and forth to the garden.

No Texas hat comments, please. Thank you.

Oh! And as you can see there over my shoulder, work has resumed on the garage/mud room. We actually have cement in there now. Progress!

In addition, we have a similar foundation poured for our new shed outbuilding that should be here next week, so we can finally start hiding all the various farming implements and accoutrements that we’ve accumulated over the past year.

That’s it there on the right. Between the Chicken Hut and Vegetable Jail.

So, all told, things round the farmstead are coming together this spring. We will have hit all of our goals and then some for the year if these endeavors, you know, actually work.

Despite how busy we’ve been, we also found time to hit up Crystal Lake on Memorial Day for some well-earned rest, which was absolutely lovely.

Oh, right. That t-shirt bears explanation…

So, as it turned out, there was ZERO chance of keeping Daphne from swimming in the lake. And she waded straight in while wearing her summer dress. Thus, after letting her swim for a bit, we put her in this giant grey t-shirt that I happened to have in the car.

I, however, was not in a swimming frame of mind.

Fortunately our neighbors, whom we were having the BBQ with, had the foresight to bring an extra bathing suit…and so Daph got to swim comfortably after all.

And after spending the entire day playing in the water and sun, and eating Fenway Franks hot off the grill, we headed back home for a bit more rest and/or silly faces before the school week started back up.

And I think that pretty much catches everyone up!

See you all soon.


COVID Stove In

Yeah… I guess it was finally our turn.

We ducked, dodged, moved, masked, sanitized, and social distanced that thing for over 2 years. But just 5 days after they lifted the mask mandate from Vermont schools, Daphne came home lethargic one afternoon, then spiked a fever the following day.

In-home tests proved she was COVID positive. And yours truly followed 4 days later. (Although strangely, two different in-home tests assured me that I was negative throughout the illness.)

The good news is that it completely bounced off Jen’s vaccination/immune system and Daphne shrugged it off after just a couple days.

But it beat the hell out of me.

I don’t recall having ever performed a “doubling over in pain” maneuver in my life up to this point. Between you and me, I’d always assumed it was a dramatic literary device, and not a thing that people actually did. However after waking on Wednesday of last week and coughing for the first time in the morning, that’s exactly what happened. What felt like rattling fishhooks lodged between my sternum and neck took me entirely by surprise and truly did bend me in half at the waist as I gasped at the sudden pain.

I think that was the point where all of us became moderately concerned as to just how bad this thing was going to get…

Unfortunately I also had a brutal week of work last week, and couldn’t take any PTO to simply rest. So I tilted my office chair back as far as it would go and adjusted the angle of my conference camera to “Dutch/Oblique” so, unless they were really paying attention, people in meetings wouldn’t be able to tell that I was nearly prone during our meetings. It also kinda gave the impression that my home office was in a 1960’s Batman villain’s lair…but I’m starting to get all freshman film study on you with that one.

I am starting to improve, though. I mean, my chest still doesn’t feel great. And I definitely still have COVID-head, as I’ve been wandering around the house confused for days at this point… (The hours of binging shows across various different streaming services hasn’t helped there either.) But I think I’ve leveled out after the nose dive and have started the climb back up to a proper altitude.
I’m probably at about 65% at this point. Yeah that sounds right; I’d give my health a D+ right now.

To the question you’re likely asking yourself right now, rest assured it’s the same one that I’ve wondered about as well. I have no idea how well the whole vaccine/booster thing worked. I mean, I assume it helped. Maybe it would’ve been much, much worse if I hadn’t had them… Maybe it would’ve been the same. No way of really telling, I suppose. I’m sure they didn’t hinder the recovery process, though, so they were worth the shot. (ZANG!)

Anyway, here’s hoping next week proves to be easier than the last one.

See you soon.

Arcing Back Toward the Sun

Well… That was a quick 4 months.

Between the holidays, preparing for winter, and a whole lotta day job (and the need to rest after all the hours at said day job), there just hasn’t been time for me to write.

So, let’s try to catch you all up… And we’ll need to go quite a ways back to do that, won’t we? Brace your Internet connection, because there are a whole lot of pictures coming…

First, and I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this prior, my neighbor and I split the cost of a moonbounce for all the kids back in October.

Yes, I have a bouncy castle timeshare

And so, with winter fast approaching, we were getting as many uses out of it as possible. The below video is Daph’s second round of jumping…

She jumped around like that for at least 2 hours while I raked up all the fallen cherry tree leaves in the yard. Which, as it would turn out, would be a Sisyphean effort…

The bouncing was not to last, though. Shortly after this video was shot cooler weather arrived and jumping around in bouncy castles would have to wait until spring.

Instead, Halloween was suddenly upon us…

Solid Force Push pose happening here.

Yes, sometimes Padawans wear Nikes. And they also occasionally get Jedi Halloween care packages from family back in Texas…

Llama Llama Trick or Treat was a hit.
The pumpkin-shaped popper on the right I totally get, but what’s that pink one there on the left? A spleen?

Our chickens did just fine throughout the fall as well, growing like little feathery weeds. Partly from the Himalayan mountain of chicken feed they went though and partly, I’m convinced, of how much one of our residents happens to love them…

“Our house now, you big bearded rooster. Out you go.”

And as of yesterday, they are officially no longer freeloaders.


Shortly after Halloween came our first (mild) snowfall of the season.

Which meant I was officially running out of time to winterize the house.

Fortunately, the wood stove we’d ordered back in July arrived and they came to install it the week before Thanksgiving.

Yes, that’s a very large hole in our wall. And yes, I was so uneasy at this point that I took a picture of their progress.

But they did a nearly flawless job with the installation. I say “nearly” because they did forget to give all the bolts a final tightening, which caused each handle on the stove to fly off in my hand in the following weeks.

But, after purchasing the requisite Allen wrenches and replacement hex nuts, we’ve been extraordinarily happy with it.

The ability to keep the house livable in the event of a power failure was something very high on my list of priorities after the Texas Grid Debacle of 2021. And I can say that having this woodstove has alleviated much of the stress where that’s concerned. With it, my family will stay warm, even in the absence of electricity…

This is actually a picture of it today, after a winter of near daily use…

The thing has been rock solid all winter. And so I wholeheartedly recommend Vermont Castings stoves, should one of you be in the market for one of these. And no, I have not been compensated in any way for saying this. Quite the opposite, in fact. (They aren’t exactly cheap.)

But bourbon by the fire when it’s snowing outside is a lovely thing.

What we’re desperately looking for at this point is a mason able to put a brick veneer behind the stove, which will hide those lines where the built-in shelves were, and generally hygge-fy that corner a bit. Alas, we haven’t been able to find one willing to do the work yet. The search continues…

Anyway, as we’re all aware, it’s roughly seven breaths after Halloween before Thanksgiving arrives. And our first holiday in Vermont was a good one.

All our usual dishes were represented, including green bean casserole, my hyper-garlicky mashed potatoes, and one of those alien cranberry cylinder things.

J.T. came back up to spend the holiday with us, so that was awesome as well.

There was, however, moderate concern when, just before dinner, the neighbor’s dogs decided to come by and let us know how thankful they were to have us in the neighborhood by utterly terrorizing our chickens.

They chased them in circles around the yard until our entire flock ran off and hid in the Christmas trees, with the exception of Mabel who’d been caught and was bitten/shaken by one of the dogs.

We actually thought we’d have to put her down since when we found her she was unable to walk without falling over.

But I’m happy to say that they all returned home a couple hours later, and little Mabel staggered her way back to the hen house and spent the next few days recooperating. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist that one…)

Then, on Black Friday, the first “real” snow came.

And I must say that the world has been pretty snow-covered up here ever since…

Of course, this officially began the Christmas season and we obviously didn’t have to go that far to pick out a tree this year…

Right around here, somewhere.

This trudge through the snow to find a tree slowly turned into…

A WILD interpretive dance of Christmas tree selection!

“Annnnd…YOU! You’re the one! You’re our tree!”

And so, I dutifully cut the tree down…

Gave a quick pose or two for manliness points since I wasn’t wearing gloves…

And now here’s the moment when it hit me that we were a full quarter-mile from our house, and I was going to have to drag that tree all the way back there, bare-handed.

But getting it into the living room, then lighting and decorating it, made the whole thing worth it. It smelled absolutely amazing throughout our downstairs.

A couple weeks before Christmas, we took a drive down to Newport to visit Grammy and Munka who’d come up to use their annual timeshare. (I mean, it’s not a bouncy castle or anything…but it’s pretty nice nonetheless.)

We also found what has become one of Jen’s favorite stores, Kiel James Patrick.

Daphne, however, was not nearly as excited.
She did like the dog outside the door, though.

And she definitely enjoyed climbing on the giant anchor with Grammy.

Unfortunately, I became rather ill on Saturday evening and ended up bedridden for the entirety of Sunday. No idea what hit me, but fortunately it left as quickly as it came on and we headed back home on Monday morning.

Then, Christmas. And I’m happy to say that Santa was quite kind this year.

This, in addition to the snowboards that were technically part of Christmas, made for a lovely day. And Daphne opened nearly all of her own gifts this year, which was a first.

Speaking of snowboards… Daph had her first lesson (without bindings just yet) and did amazingly well. Turn the volume up and you can hear how much fun she’s having…

And, as it would turn out, she seems to be goofy footed, just like her father. Although I suppose that’s not entirely surprising. She inherited his “I aim to misbehave” grin as well.

God help us.

Those of you looking closely at the Christmas morning picture up there will also note a rather large, plaid-cushioned toboggan being ridden by a stuffed bear. And the answer to your next question is, yes. We have indeed taken it down our big hill.

Several times in fact.

You might also have noted some snowshoes in that Xmas picture, which Jen and I now use 2 or 3 times a week to take walks in the morning after she drops Daphne off at school. You may even have seen us livestreaming said walks on Facebook, during which time she strolls quietly with her coffee, taking in the stark beauty of a Vermont winter morning, while I pant like an asthmatic bulldog.

This brings us neatly to January which was, as you might imagine, cold.

“Sunny. As if it matters.”

There were several admonishments from the National Weather Service throughout the month about -45° wind chills and to not go outside for longer than 10 minutes, lest frostbite ensue. But, on the flipside, I seem to recall similar statements being made back in Houston about heatstroke during the summer…

So it would seem the weather is trying to kill us no matter where we live.

I will say that the cold did a number on the hot water pipe to our kitchen, though. Froze the thing up twice, which in turn caused a crack in part of our dishwasher and forced us to pay for rather costly replacement parts labor.

But overall it’s been a fantastic first winter up here. Daphne absolutely loves the snow.

And we aren’t going to need snowshoes much longer, as it definitely feels like we’re on our way out of winter. Today the high is well above freezing, and as I write this I can hear ice and snow sloughing off the roof and onto the ground in satisfying “shhhrrrrlump!” noises.

Okay! I think the last bit for us to cover here is Daphne’s AAC device, which was provided to us by the State of Vermont.

An AAC, or what we call Daphne’s “Talker” is essentially an iPad that has a sequence of pictures and words on it that help Daphne communicate. So by using this she can tell that she’s hungry, AND exactly what it is she wants to eat as well. (Which, more often than not, is yogurt and Goldfish.)

She’s really enjoying using it. And you can see how excited she is about being able to communicate something as simple as “Yes!” back and forth with me.

I’m actually signing “yes!” back to her, which is apparently why it’s so funny.

We’re super happy about this development and… sigh… Okay, I’m afraid I’m going to have to take a shot here…

We’re very appreciative of being in a state like Vermont, and in a school district like Kingdom East, that readily provides these kinds of assistive devices to kids who need them without forcing their residents into countless interviews, consultations, diagnosis referrals, waivers, contracts, etc.

Do better, Katy ISD. You might just have some happier kids.

You’d certainly have happier parents.

Okay, off my soapbox. Sorry about that.

That’s just about everything from up here. Hopefully it won’t be another 4 months before I make a post… Then again, I’m not promising anything either.

See you then.

Leaving Leaves

Hi there.

Seasons have indeed swung up here…

Beer & Candle (and Gourd) night!

It appears that the Northeast Kingdom is at the vanguard of that whole “autumn foliage” thing. The trees began to noticeably change colors here in the last week in September…

As you can see from what is still a moderately erratic drone flight, said foliage did get pretty impressive. I took this video 2 weeks ago and, for anyone interested in the timing of such things, I would say the first 10 days of October seem to be the peak of color. Sadly, as of the time of writing this there are very few of these golden leaves still clinging to their branches.

We did get out for another hike last weekend, though, this time with 100% fewer ticks and 33% more family.

Kilburn Crags

And those leaves make exactly the noise you’d think they would when walking on them.

We actually had my uncle in town for the weekend and Daphne, having been on this trail before, acted as his Wilderness Guide so he wouldn’t get lost.

After the hike we were all pretty famished, so we headed over to the Littleton Freehouse for some lunch and an Oktoberfest pint.

Well, not Daphne, of course. She actually drank 4 pints of water instead, which had the expected outcome whilst on our way home.

As for Daph, her school seems to be regularly requiring us to pick her up because she’s coughed, or sneezed, or hasn’t eaten her lunch, or seems tired, or has too many strands of hair out of place… So that’s been a minor source of frustration.

It’s made it difficult for us to settle her into a comfortable routine since, just about the time we finish a full week of classroom instruction, they either require us to come pick her up and administer a COVID test and keep her home until we get the results (this actually happened yesterday), or someone else in her class tests positive and they shut the whole thing down for 8-10 days.

Worst. Lollipops. Ever.

Anecdotal evidence from other parents across the country would suggest that we’re not alone in this frustration. I’m sure we’re all, her school included, doing the best we can to keep our kids safe and healthy. But that means Daph has had a lot of at-home time, which means a lot of swinging outside in between regular work sessions with Mom.

No, she’s not being eaten by a giant, pink, nylon fish; that’s the sensory swing we bought her a while ago.

But, other than not being able to get into a steady routine with school, she’s doing quite well. As I mentioned earlier, she really enjoyed the hike we went on last weekend…

And, in even further outdoorsiness, one of her Christmas gifts has arrived early…

Which has prompted an important existential, self-actualizing question…

Is Daphne regular-footed, or goofy-footed?

Now, for my non-surf/skate/snowboard crowd out there, this means does she naturally prefer to ride with her left foot forward on the board (regular-footed) or her right foot forward (goofy-footed).

Sounds silly, but this is indeed an important distinction. Her father is goofy. (I mean…you know what I mean.) And given that we can’t really discuss with her which stance feels right, I’m having to get clever with distilling this information from her daily mechanics.

Meaning I’m doing things like watching which foot she uses most often when kicking a ball, or when taking the first step on the stairs. I threatened to sneak up behind her and give her a quick push to see which foot she uses to catch herself…but her mother put the brakes on that little experiment. She’s probably right (typically is); I can see how that might end in tears.

Anyway, once I can determine her stance, I can attach the bindings and we can work on getting her comfortable being strapped into the board. This kind of thing usually happens by bouncing on the bed with the board attached.

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Talk to you soon.