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Winter Can Be A Wonderland, But Safety Comes First

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Winter wonderland from the officeI think I may be doing a lot of writing this winter from my home office, by the looks of it. It seems like just yesterday that I was listening to the hummingbirds three feet away from my desk. Today the snow falls deep, giving me an opportunity to take it slow,  and have fun snow shoeing in the winter wonderland.

Early this morning, as a major New England winter storm began, a friend and I went for a long snowshoe adventure on the conservation trails all around my home. As cold and quiet as it was deep in the woods, we marveled at the stillness of life. Just a month before we were kayaking on the now frozen river, which now provides safe passage for the deer and coyotes. We were tempted to cross at Caleb's Cove to explore the paths across from my home, but decided to wait and try in two-week's time.

While my friend was almost certain that the ice was solid, and urged me to "come on, it's a wonderland over there," I was not so sure. I promised him that if it remained below freezing for the next two weeks I would be game to join him. In situations like this I need to be 110% sure. When kids are involved I need to be 150% certain.

As the wind and snow began to pick up, and the trudging became more difficult, I let my mind drift to the halcyon winter days when my sons were very young. Some of the happiest times we had were sledding down the local hills. (Looking back over the years, I wonder why I never bought my sons snow shoes. They are safe, fun and provide an excellent opportunity for family fun.)  Our dog Caleb (yes, the swimming cove is now named for him) loved to sit on my lap as we raced his "brothers" down the hills. He let me hold him like a kid, with his legs out front. Maybe a bit dangerous but I reasoned that as long as we did not go over any jumps or head in the direction of trees it was safe.

I think winter sports bring out the little kid in us all. What adult is not tempted to sit on a sno-tube and barrel down a local hill? Who can say no to the chance to ice-skate on a glass-smooth frozen pond? Or toss a snow ball at a friend, or pitch in with the snow man production?

When it came to protecting my kids I was very cautious and educated enough on the potential winter dangers to keep them safe. At least I thought I was educated. Looking back over the years at some of the hazards and accidents I know I am much wiser now. Two of the worst accidents that happened (like most accidents) were preventable and I pass them on to you in the hopes that they may help prevent a needless trip to the hospital, cutting short your fun. 

Winter wonderland.One of our favorite sledding hills was at the local high school. As long as the kids stayed away from the line of trees to one side (my only rule), I thought they were safe. One day as I was loading up the car and the kids were taking some last runs, I turned to head back to the hill just in time to see Spencer veer of course as he hit an ice patch, catapulting him in the direction of the guard-rail that separated the hill from the road at the back of the school. Seconds later, unable to bail out he careened into the metal rail full force. An emergency trip to the hospital and fifteen stitches above his lip later, we all agreed that he was "lucky" it was not worse. From that time on I made sure that the high school custodians put bales of hay all along the rail to protect all the sledders. Sadly, they no longer put out the hay. Instead, there is a large sign that reads "Sled At Your Own Risk."

The second serious accident involved a helmet-less head crashing backwards on to a mogul during a snow boarding trip. A concussion can bring a wonderful trip to an end very quickly. Enough said.

And be sure to check out the MomsTeam Feature Article  this week.