Celebrating the First Day of Spring in Killington, VT


 Last weekend, we went on a short excursion to Killington, VT.  

During the weeks before the trip, I waivered back and forth on whether we should actually go.  First, my husband and I are not vaccinated yet (although we just recently got our first shots this week).  Second, we would be leaving my mom alone with our puppy, Bruce.  Third, we would be spending a lot of money for a short two-day, two-night trip.  Would the trip really be worth all the worry?

We received our answer, and it was a resounding, YES!!  Having not gone on any trips or vacations since December 2019, we needed this one--not just to reconnect as a family but to remember what it was like to enjoy activities, to sightsee, and to PLAY!  We called my mom every day to make sure she was doing well at home with Bruce, and thankfully, we did have our neighbor/friend across the street who would have gladly checked up on my mom if we asked her to.

We started our vacation by renting a cute cabin in Mendon, VT through Vrbo.  I didn't know much about the place other than it received excellent reviews for its cleanliness and the friendliness of the owners.  Well, the cabin was PERFECT.  We soon discovered that it's centrally located to Rutland, Killington, Plymouth, and Woodstock, VT, and the owner couldn't have been nicer.  First, he greeted us at 8 p.m. Friday night with a key (after a series of texts back and forth), and he also gave us a map where he starred favorite restaurants (after I asked him for eating recommendations).  On Saturday, he gave us firewood, so we could use the firepit in front of the cabin. (Fun fact--we all think we saw a UFO as we were gazing at the stars from the firepit.)  The cabin itself was roomy, clean, and warm.  I packed a number of blankets and pillows just in case, which we didn't need for the entire trip.

On Saturday, our "vacation" finally began.  Here were some of the highlights from our weekend, and some places, activities and restaurants we would HIGHLY recommend.

Maple Sugar and Vermont Spice, Mendon, VT:  This family restaurant is a MUST if you are staying anywhere near Rutland, Killington, Plymouth, Woodstock, or Mendon, VT.  The building itself is a working sugar house, and in the spring, you can actually watch them boil the maple syrup right from your table.  Because of COVID, we ordered our breakfasts to go on both Saturday and Sunday morning, but on Sunday, I did give myself a few minutes to browse through their giftshop, which is full of maple syrup goodies like butter, cream, hard candy, cotton candy, and nuts.  Their breakfasts were also kid and husband approved with dishes like French toast, waffles and ice-cream, and steak and eggs.

Calvin Coolidge Historic Site, Plymouth, VT:  We drove to and walked around the Calvin Coolidge Homestead since we were right near Plymouth.  Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President of the United States back in the 1920's, and it was interesting to learn a little about his conservative values and legacy on the website.  (He was definitely a product of his times.)  The site, which seemed to include a museum, two houses (his childhood home and his adult home), and a church were all closed for the winter, but even with the snow, I could tell the grounds are BEAUTIFUL.  I would have loved to see the inside of the buildings and to have learned more about VT life and American life from the late 1800's and early 1900's.  I'm thinking this would be a good summer/fall trip to take with my mom!  (P.S.  Dogs are allowed to walk here on a leash.  We didn't have our Bruce with us, but it's always nice to know he would have been welcomed if we did!)

Snowmobile Vermont and Back Country Tours, Plymouth, VT:  We haven't gone snowmobiling since Lewie was six (exactly six years ago), and we were hoping there would be enough snow on the ground in March to enjoy an excursion.  Thankfully, there was still about 6 to 12 inches of snow left (although it was melting quickly).  Lew rented a double snowmobile for him and Lewie, and I rode on the back with the tour guide.  We chose the "back country tour" because it's a two hour jaunt through Calvin Coolidge State Forest, which is located right across the street from the snowmobile shop.   

Although our tour wasn't exactly through the State Forest (our tour guide told us they had to change the route because the snow was melting too much in the forest), we did get to ride around the campground area, which was just as much fun!  Sometimes we went at a leisurely pace, and sometimes we sped up super fast, watching trees, cabins, and even cemeteries (yes, VT has a lot of historic cemetery plots in their woods) whizz by!  We stopped to get a glorious picture with Mount Killington in the background, and then we went to an open area where both hubby AND Little Lewie had a chance to test their skills.  Hubby did a couple of rounds super fast, and then he let Lewie take the front seat, so he could drive around a few times.  My son, thank you God, is more cautious than my husband, so he had fun driving, but he was not interested in going fast.  

The ride was exhilarating, scenic, and refreshing.  We were able to get such nice pictures, and we lucked out to have such beautiful sunny weather.  It was one of the last perfect ways to frolic in the snow.

Our tour guide is on the left.  It was wear a suit Saturday for the guides.

The Lincoln Covered Bridge, Woodstock, VT:  What is a vacation to VT without a covered bridge sighting?  I made the family drive about 20 minutes North of Plymouth, so we could check out this beauty.  In short, the Lincoln Covered Bridge was built in 1877 and is the only known example of a wooden Pratt truss bridge in the United States.  It has undergone some restorations over the years, but today, it still serves as a functional one-lane bridge.  Of course, I not only needed a selfie with it, but I had to walk through it!

Flannels Bar and Grill, Mendon, VT:  I don't always post about everywhere we eat, and quite honestly, I couldn't tell you about the ambiance of Flannels because we did take-out.  (Again, darn COVID spoils the full-experience again.)  Still, I have to mention this restaurant because I had one of the BEST foodie experiences ever!  I ordered the Mendon Grilled Cheese because I just had to try it--a house specialty with Vermont Cheddar Cheese, maple bacon, maple syrup, and apple served on sourdough bread.  The sandwich was one of the best I've ever had in my life--it was like a dessert sandwich.  I'm honestly thinking about making this trip again, just so I can come back and have this sandwich!!

Mountain Top Inn and Resort, Chittenden, VT:  On our last day in VT (Sunday), we decided to go snowshoeing and have lunch before our 3.5 hour trip home.  A blog had recommended this resort for winter activities, and they weren't kidding.  This resort has EVERYTHING winter--cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sleighrides, ice skating, and sledding.  (They also have snowmobile trails for those with their own.)  We rented snowshoes for the morning and had access to their trail system, which included soft, groomed snow.  It was just glorious to walk in the snow on a 60 degree day!  In fact, Little Lewie became so warm, he asked if he could remove his sweatshirt and just wear his t-shirt while we were hiking up the trail.   

In the beginning, the "peanut gallery" (that's my husband and Little Lewie) complained a little about having to stop and go snowshoeing.  They seemed to be satisfied with the snowmobiling experience; however, after about 10 minutes of walking on the trails, we were all so glad we did it.  There's something so rejuvenating about the fresh mountain air, and we laughed and laughed, mostly at daddy's antics, as we tried climbing to the peak of the mountain.  (Spoiler alert: we were supposed to walk up to the "lookout," but after all our climbing, we never found it!)  

Hubby jumping on the ice.  I told him I should have bought a life insurance policy.

Going down the trail was a lot easier than going up, and we were back to the "activities building" in no-time.  Before leaving, I suggested we grab take-out at their tavern, but when we went downstairs to the tavern to place our order, we discovered they had a beautiful patio with some tables and chairs.  "Can we eat outside?" I gushed.  The weather was so warm.  The answer, or course, was yes, and we spent the next 40 minutes looking at this view (below) before leaving.   

The scenery from the patio.

My favorite picture of the trip.  Little Lewie and I look so happy here.

It was quite honestly the perfect end to the perfect trip.  I didn't know how we got so lucky with EVERYTHING, but we did.  The year of quarantine was worth it.  I couldn't have asked for a better experience, plus, I left knowing we were SAFE about everything to boot.  My cup is full.

This (12 Year-Old) Kid!


This kid, my twelve year-old Lewie, is AMAZING.  (A mom can brag, right?)  Where do I begin?

My 'tween' turned twelve during the pandemic.  Like most kids, he was stripped from having a traditional birthday party, and instead, we celebrated quietly with just our immediate family at home.  When it was time for school, we made the joint decision to keep Lewie as a 'distance learning' student even though most kids his age were heading back to the classroom.   Indeed, Lewie's twelfth year was looking rather grim...  no birthday party; no friends' birthday parties; no school days, activities, or functions; no sleepovers; and only a few sparse playdates with friends outside.  (We had to keep our family safe and that included my 77 year-old mom!!)

Still, life works in mysterious ways, and while it seemed like 2020/2021 would go down in history as the worst year ever, I, instead, watched my son grow into a responsible, compassionate, and thoughtful young man.  Here are just a few reasons why he's made me so proud!

He thinks of others.
I was prepared to have a difficult conversation with Lewie when it was time to talk to him about him NOT going back to school.  Similarly, I thought battles would ensue when I told him he couldn't go to birthday parties or sleepovers.  Instead, he surprised me by saying Grammy was more important.  

Sure he was sad about not going back to school, and he told me he was worried about his "socialization skills" because he wasn't seeing anyone in person anymore, but in many cases, he made some of these tough decisions on his own.  For example, in August I really wanted to see if we could have our annual fun day at Lake Quassy Amusement Park:  "We'll be outside," I explained, and "we'll wear masks.  I'm sure we'll be safe if we keep our distance and use hand sanitizer."

"That's okay, Mommy," Lewie replied.  "I can wait until it's safe again."

Lewie and my mom on his birthday.

His light shines through.
Lewie is a super friendly kid.  When we walk, he tells random strangers to "have a nice day," and he's quick to compliment his friends and family.  As a distance learning student in a new school (Lewie started middle school this year), I was afraid he would be easily passed over by his teachers and classmates.  (After all, do kids in the classroom really pay attention to who's on the computer screen from home?)

Well, Lewie made it his mission early on to say "good morning" or "hello" to everyone when he signed in to class, and when his classes ended, he'd tell everyone, "Have a great day!"  His cheery attitude didn't go unnoticed.  Lewie was the first kid in 6th grade during the 2020/2021 school year to be recognized as "Student of the Month."  The teachers awarded him for his "kindness" and then said he was also the very first "distance learning" student to receive the honor.   We were all so surprised!  A few days after the announcement was made in school, his certificate arrived in the mail.  We couldn't be more proud of this kid that was recognized just for being authentically, Lewie.

Lewie's first day of school.

He loves deeply.   
In October, our sweet, silly, loving aunt (Aunty Kiki) passed away from Cancer.  Her decline was rapid, and Little Lewie couldn't see her when she was in the hospital because of COVID restrictions.  Once she was admitted to hospice, COVID protocol was less strict, so Lewie would be able to see her (if he wanted to).  I forewarned him: "Lewie, Aunty Kiki is not herself anymore.  She's sleepy and confused and very, very sick."

He didn't care.  In his eyes, Aunty Kiki was like a best friend.  He needed to see her to say goodbye, and he helped roll her bed outside by the ocean while we visited with her.  (The hospice center is located right next to the shore.)  It was painful to watch her slip in and out of conciousness, and yet, this kid sat by her side and stayed so brave.  We cried like babies driving home, but he still had no regrets.  "I will always be thankful for having Aunty Kiki in my life," he said.

During her funeral, Lewie was offered a chance to say a few words about her during the wake.  He wrote a beautiful tribute by himself  and read it so eloquently to everyone in the audience.   His words were pure and straight from the heart.  Even now, he's very sentimental. Any chance he gets, he still likes to wear the shirt/s she's bought for him over the years. 

Our last picture of Aunty Kiki--two months before she left us.

He's responsible.
It's no secret that kids, high school students, college students, and even adults have a difficult time navigating the world of "distance learning."  To be effective at online learning, students need to pay attention to schedules and deadlines; they need to be willing to ask questions and advocate for themselves when they don't understand an assignment; and they need to be motivated to get their work done.  I know the challenges all too well since I teach online college students, and many lack the self-discipline to stay on track.

When we signed up Lewie for "distance learning," I was worried.  Would he learn as much as the other kids?  Would he stay motivated?  Would he be old enough to handle the responsibility?  Finally, how could I help him stay on track when I had my own Zoom meetings and work to get done?  During the first two weeks, I spent time with Lewie to make sure he understood his schedule and helped advocate for him when he was having difficulty signing into his classes via Google Meet.  (It turned out that not every teacher remembered to send a valid Google Meet link to their distance learning students.)

However, once he became acclimated to the format, it was smooth sailing for Lewie.  Before long, he was signing into his first class at school and all his consecutive classes without any guidance from me.  He was keeping tabs on all of his assignments that were due for the day, making sure to submit them before their deadlines.  Even more, he was earning As in his classes with some classes earning a perfect score!  I was amazed at his motivation, his time management skills, his ability to participate and advocate for himself, and his eagerness to learn.  It was as if "distance learning" became a natural fit for him, and as a result, he made high honors with teachers praising him for his work ethic.

He's funny.
Lewie loves to laugh, and he'll often entertain us by showing funny videos (usually of Minecraft) made by his favorite YouTubers.  He likes to experiment with being the 'class clown' on his own, too.  One day he told me he had his entire English class (including his teacher) in stiches because he could make his voice sound funny in Google Meet using the microphone.  Not too long after, the 'funny microphone voice' started to come out while playing with his friends online, too.

The other day, Lewie was getting ready to record himself doing ten good pushups for his gym teacher (a requirement for school).  He said to me, "Okay, ready?  I''m going to do one good pushup for the camera.  Then, I'll just loop it nine more times."  He made this comment with a dead serious face, and we both crackdc up.

 Another day, he came downstairs quite perturbed that 'puberty' might have hit overnight.  "Why?" I asked, "your voice doesn't sound any different."  
"No, but I found a hair under my armpit."
"Oh, is that all?" I asked.
"Yea, I plucked it out."

He's creative.
This kid enjoys coding in Minecraft, graphic design, and video editing.  Once upon a time, he practiced these skills using free software on his computer, but this year, I agreed to pay for Adobe Creative Cloud after I saw that he really had a talent.  I don't know if it's normal to be self-taught in this area, but Lewie seems to have no problem using visual effects and editing on his own.  In fact, for his money class, Lewie had to develop a skit to show how to save money.  Rather than just writing the skit, he asked his dad to record it while he acted it out.  (Daddy had a few 'one liners' in the short film, too.)  A few hours  later, Lewie used his editing prowess to produce a masterpiece for his teacher.  We were all super-impressed!

                                                                   *     *     *

I guess I come across like a gloating mom in this post.  My intention was just to write about my twelve year-old kid, and yet, as I started to write this post, I realized that so much of this narrative is influenced by COVID.  Would Lewie have been a different kid at this time if he had a regular year of school?   Would he still have been named 'Student of the Month'?  Would he still have been so thoughtful about keeping his grandmother safe?  Would he still have excelled in his school work?  

A year ago to this date, no one could have predicted the unthinkable--a pandemic!  No one could have predicted that the lockdown or this strange "in-between" would have lasted for so long.  No one could have predicted how much the pandemic would impact our daily lives and our mental health.  At first, I was terrified--not just from the potential of getting my mom sick but from 'a lost year' in Lewie's schooling.  Surely, the pandemic was going to impact him intellectually, social-emotionally, and everything in between.

Instead, the opposite happened.  We grew closer as a family, and through the hardship, Lewie learned how to be a survivor.  In fact, we all learned how to be survivors.  We worked, we took breaks, we laughed, and sometimes we cried, and yet, we got through it.  It built character, and in Lewie's case, it taught him how to be flexible and resilient.   Did COVID make my twelve year-old grow up faster than he would have?  Maybe.  But, then again, maybe it just brought out the best parts of him that have been there all along.  Either way, I LOVE this 12 year-old kid!!