Dan and Hannah Hike the Tunnel Trail above Santa Barbara, California

A Maine woman in Maine winter

A Maine woman in Maine winter

Maine!  I love you.  I really do.  On a regular basis I tell people we live in paradise.  And we do. But you are not perfect, damn good, but not perfect.  Let’s talk.

It has to do with your winter. Though Hannah and I have lived in New England for 33 years we have never warmed to your winter sports.  Sure we ran in your sub-zero temperatures and your snows for 20 some years, but we just never got into your skiing thing, be it cross country or downhill.  Skating? Please?  I can’t believe I am saying this, but maybe my future is as a snowbird.

8 month old Max and his big brother Owen

8 month old Max and his big brother Owen

So when the days are short and the dark rules New England, I want to take a big bite out of winter by traveling to where it’s warm. It used to be Florida. And Florida still is in our future as we plan to rent a VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) house in Englewood, FL next year so our kids and grandkids can visit.  But until then, we have found gold in the Golden State.

SB1 VA planeWaking early on a January day that will top out at 15F and then go down to -10F by the following morning, we drive in the predawn to Logan Airport to fly Virgin America for the first time.  Virgin America?  Is it a real airline or just puddle jumper?  We know of the celebrity of Richard Branson; the price is right and it’s a non-stop flight; so I am trusting the FAA on this one.  Settling in for six hours crossing the country, I have visual platinum in front of me – the mini-TV.  Arriving in LA by noon, we steal a day of vacation by flying east to west; this Tuesday is not just a travel but, but we have the entire afternoon and evening in California.

From the front seat of our rented Toyota Corolla as we approach the 101

The haze in the valley photographed from the front seat of our rented Toyota Corolla as we approach the 101

Before we flee Los Angeles for Santa Barbara 100 miles to the north, we rent a car from Fox. We like Fox Rent-a-Car; it’s inexpensive.  That said, the counter guy says “Do you want to have coverage for roadside assistance?” Really? Isn’t that part of the deal that when we pay you $468 for two weeks, you provide us with a car that works or you fix it?  It’s like the Post Office asking if you want to pay for coverage for lost or damaged parcels.   Isn’t that part of your job to make sure the package arrives safely?

SB2E parasailingCalifornia Dreaming!  An easy going life in tee shirts and shorts.  A place to be whomever you want, with as many tattoos and piercings as you want!  Horace Greeley’s  exhortation of “Go West young man, Go West” still applies to the tech savvy and the dreamers and Maine residents.  Why tomorrow we will see a young man para-sailing high above our heads at the mountain top.

Santa Barbara, our stopover for two days, is a community with lush, year round vegetation and Spanish architecture that has a Mediterranean vibe.  Palm and olive trees abound; athletic and tanned folks bike to work or just because they can.  And all of this is done in January!  In a heart beat I would move here as a snowbird (spending the winter in a warm climate) but for one rather significant reason: it’s just too far away.  With grandkids Owen and Max in the picture, no place can trump family in our lives.

SB 2AA H at Tunnel Trail signAwaking in the still dark of Wednesday after sleeping poorly having not yet acclimated to the three hour time difference from the East Coast, we breakfast at our Quality Inn and prepare for the the Tunnel Trail under blue skies with full 60F degree sun.

Taking Foothill Road to Mission Canyon Road, we veer left onto Tunnel Road.  Along the winding road near the trailhead we squeeze into a roadside parking spot in an exclusive, upscale residential neighborhood.  Soccer moms are running and soon students from University of California at Santa Barbara will be hiking in packs of fun.

On the shady north side of the mountain

On the shady north side of the mountain

Thought of as one of Santa Barbara’s most popular trails, the Tunnel Trail is a macho hike to be sure at 11 miles roundtrip with a gain in elevation of 3000 feet!  But it’s just what the doctor ordered on this first day of our hiking vacation.

As we climb steadily for a mile into the foothills, the trail begins on a cracked paved access road that the local power company uses . With very little shade, the trail speaks to sun lovers like Hannah or really anyone who is sentenced to winter in New England. The green landscape of grasses and bushes hide the fact that California remains in a serious drought. Over the next few weeks, we’ll learn that low flow toilets are everywhere and residents harvest rain water from roofs.

SB 2H very rocky trail

The rocky trail of dusty sandstone makes hiking boots a must. Though climbing on the cliff edge, we never feel in peril. Wearing three pairs of wool socks to buffer my feet from the rocky under footing, I wear my floppy hiker’s hat for protection from the sun.  In the past on this mountain we have shared the trail with mountain bikers, who, to a person, have been respectful of us hiking sort.

SB 2G  rocky trailSoon we ascend on eroded rocky sandstone trails into the mountains.  The desert landscape is no match for the heavy rains of last month having run rough shod on the switchbacks that take us up the steep mountainside.  Hiking in the foothills of the Inez Mountains at each turn we have views of the Channel Islands just off shore.  It’s mid-60s, feeling like 70s in the full sun, and a million miles from Maine in distance and disposition.

Within a mile of the summit

Within a mile of the summit

Four and a half miles into our climb, the trail becomes a paved road to the top that makes for an easy rhythm of walking and conversation.  The views of the Pacific Ocean above Santa Barbara are stunning.  Climbing relentlessly, we burst with pent up hiking energy and are on top of the world this first hiking day of our two weeks in California.

Lunch with the Pacific in the distance

Lunch with the Pacific in the distance

At the top we find a cell phone tower which allows me to Instagram pictures to family and friends.  After we deboot and desock with the Pacific Ocean in front of us, we feast on our homemade pb and j at a picnic table at the summit.

Atop La Cumbre Peak

Atop La Cumbre Peak

Hannah calls this a “good workout.” You know her standards are high when we hike two hours up over 3000 feet to La Cumbre Peak at 3995′. Great Day Hikes in Santa Barbara rates the Tunnel Trail as 4 of 5 for difficulty. It’s a workout but not a killer one or a hike that has you begging for mercy.  Over the next sweet two hours of downhill, we feel our knees creak, but that is small price to pay to hike in California in January.

At trail's end after four hours of glorious hiking above Santa Barbara

At trail’s end after four hours of glorious hiking above Santa Barbara

Twenty minutes by car back to our Quality Inn, we celebrate as Dan and Hannah are wont to do – poolside with Dos Equis on ice.  Let our California bite of  Maine winter begin.

Tunnel Trail rating: Four stars.  It’s for macho women and men.  That said, we did it and so can you if you think four hours under the sun in January is your idea of a good time.

Dan Lands His Dream Job

From the beginning, my dream job was to teach teachers.  After twenty plus years in public school classrooms in California, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Maine, I was fried.  At 48 I didn’t have the energy to keep up the pace.  I needed and wanted something else and something more.  I resigned from the Kittery, Maine schools to follow my dream, which basically meant I needed a PhD.  While Hannah took a job as an activities director in a local nursing home, I became a graduate teaching assistant and full-time PhD student at the University of New Hampshire (UNH).

My office in Webb Hall was to the right of this library at Eastern.

My office in Webb Hall was to the right of the library at Eastern.

Hired for my first tenure-track job in the Department of Education at the Eastern Connecticut State University in 1999, I was expected to teach the Teaching Writing course among others. That was in my wheelhouse; it was my bread and butter course thanks to my own writing education at the New Hampshire Summer Writing Program.  One fundamental to the effective teaching of writing is having teachers who write themselves.

During the first four weeks of the semester at Eastern, I had my students participate in a writing workshop for the entire three hour class.  They would have choice in topics, write drafts, and meet in peer response groups.  In the end, they would read one of their pieces at a Reading Celebration to their classmates.

To model what I believed about the successful teaching of writing, I wrote with them and read my piece at the Reading Celebration as well.  Below is the piece I wrote during the fall semester of 2001 while a junior faculty member working for the State of Connecticut.

He’s Da Man!

            With a shock of white hair and big enough to truly believe he played varsity basketball at Dartmouth in the Fifties, he says on the first day of this graduate level education course, “How many of you know how to write papers?”  Most of the thirty plus raise their hands. “That’s what I thought,” he continues with a wide smile.

            “Now, how many of you have no trouble with the relationships you have with your family, friends, and colleagues.  We in the class smile, grin at each other, and not a single hand is raised. “Therefore,” he continues,” there will be no papers in this class.  In fact, in this class you will be developing your communication skills and be the ones doing most of the work during our weekly class time.”

            Since Charlie had the reputation of being a superb teacher, I signed up for his class on Monday afternoons.  In time, Charlie joined the pantheon of memorable teachers that have contributed mightily to the teacher I am today.  He joined: Mr. Bien, my fifth grade teacher at Radburn School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey who had a great sense of humor and let us play softball whenever we finished our work; Jane Hansen, a reading professor at UNH, who had us write regularly, valued my voice, and saw the good in what I was doing; Dan Garvey, also of UNH, who taught me to have students learn experientially and to value the wisdom of the students as learners by debriefing each learning experience.  Simply, they inspired me.

            In classes, Charlie was always giving us problems to discuss and negotiate. In one class, he gave us the classic man-goes-into-the-shoe-store-to-buy-a-pair-of-shoes problem.

CA $20 2            “The man selects a $12 pair of shoes and gives the clerk a twenty. Being early in the morning, the clerk has no change and goes to the baker who gives him twenty ones for the 20 dollar bill. The clerk gives $8 to the shoe buyer as change for the purchase of shoes. Later the baker finds out the twenty dollar bill is a phony. The clerk apologizes and gives the baker two tens to pay back the phony twenty. How much has the shoe clerk lost?

            “Now that you have heard the problem, I want you to come to a consensus as a group for the answer.  There is only one answer, but get a commitment from everyone in your group before you respond.”  From this experience, I learned about myself in a group setting and how to become a more  successful group member.  (Check the end of the blog for the one answer to this riddle.) 

             In another course for undergraduates, I was surprised one morning before a class with many undergraduates when Charlie said to me, “Dan, I would like you to play the role of the teacher and show us how you would deal with disruptive students.”   OMG.  I was petrified.

            Though I had been a classroom teacher for 19 years at the time, I don’t think of myself as quick on my feet, and especially when only having five minutes to prepare.  I am the kind of teacher who thoroughly plans so the class goes well; I can then freelance off my plan.  But not wanting to let down one of my teaching idols, I said, “Sure.”

The home of the Department of Education at UNH, Morrill Hall

The home of the Department of Education at UNH, Morrill Hall

            While I was in the hallway of Morrill Hall with the door shut, he asked three students to volunteer to be disruptive students. When I entered the class, Charlie set the scene. “I’ve asked Dan to teach today anything he wants to these three students.”  I wrote on the board, “What makes for a good school?”  I also wrote the schedule that included a check-in, discussion, and teacher and student writing.

            As I turned to the three students who sat in a Class Meeting circle, while thirty others looked on, I said, “Let’s check in before we start. Is there anything we need to talk about before we get started?”  The first thing I heard was “This is stupid.”  Then a wadded up of piece of paper whistled by my ear.

            “Sharon, I’ll have to remove you from the Class Meeting if you continue to disrupt.”  Before I went any further another piece of paper came flying by. With the other two students turning sideways in their chairs, I remember little else of what happened next.

            “That’s enough,” Charlie eventually said.  He thanked us all for participating and we all received a round of applause.   He then asked the students, “What did you learn and what questions about classroom management do you have?”  I relaxed now that the attention was no longer squarely on me.  I felt acknowledged and affirmed by Charlie’s choice and pleased that I didn’t shy away from the challenge.

            Every day as I teach here at Eastern, I try to give a little Charlie Ashley to all my students.


“The clerk, the baker and the shoes dilemma” with excerpts of some of the reasoning.

One vote for $8 lost.  From just north of town, our Ogunquit friend says $8 lost.

One vote for $12 lost.

Six votes for $28 lost.  From the west, a good friend living out West, an English major, says he was out $28.  This got a second vote from ping pong nation.  A third vote from San Diego for $28.  A California transplant says $28.00 unless the “two tens” are a pair of size ten shoes; then he is out $8.00 and two pairs of shoes:)

A classmate of Hannah’s said, Okay.   The answer is $28.  Right.  I did go to the College of Wooster.   I think I can figure this out, but I have a feeling that there is something we may be missing.  Hannah agrees with her classmate and in fact, says she KNOWS that that is the answer.

Three votes for $20 lost.A young mother of two and her UNH grad husband thought the clerk is down $20.  Eight dollars in cash and $12 for the cost of the shoes.

My high school buddy, the good doctor agrees.   The clerk loses $20 overall. The baker comes out even. The crook is ahead $20.  He lost the $12 pair of shoes, lost $20 to the baker, and still has the $12 in singles from the baker so he has lost $20.

Another vote for $20 from America’s Heartland –  I’m going to go with $20 – He lost $20 to the fraudster ($12 in product, $8 in cash) and then $20 to the baker to redeem the phony bill. This makes it seem like he lost $40.  But don’t forget, he also received $20 in $1 bills from the baker, offsetting his losses.  But I could be wrong!

Six votes for $40 lost.  From the Canadian north – It looks to me like the clerk lost $40, if you include the cost of the shoes but that is probably too obvious.  A recently married Mainer couple agrees.  The soul of our local hospital thinks $40, too.
A Southern lady said the clerk did not loose any money. The store did!  A lanky lad from the South thought He lost $0 if he made the counterfeit bill or he lost $20 if he didn’t.
You can see the wisdom of Charlie Ashley in promoting conversation with a riddle with all these possibilities.
Actually get out the bills and go through the transaction and you will likely come to the answer that the shoe clerk lost $20.  He never lost anything to the baker.  All he lost was the $20 ($12 shoes and $8) to the shoe buyer.


Dan Fills You in on 50 Things You Might Not Know About Hannah

She chooses to park in the distant reaches of parking lots to get more exercise.

She loves a glass of wine each night. Truth be told, her wine standards are quite low and she enjoys whatever is set in front of her.  Just no white Zinfandel.

As a kid she loved going with her dad on house calls.  It’s when her love for the elderly was born.

She is a homebody. She is also a damn good sport about my itch to travel.

On the Cabot Trail

On the Cabot Trail

She is done with long distance biking.  After 175 miles on the Confederation Trail in Prince Edward Island and 190 miles on the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, she says no mas.  I have to agree.

Years ago she and I had friends for Christmas dinner at our house in Tempe, Arizona on a day that was 85 degrees!

On Sunday mornings before we had kids and the city woke up, she and I would run six miles on the canal paths in Phoenix, breakfast at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple, and go to the swap meet at the nearby Greyhound Park.

Max and Owen

Max and Owen

She wondered if she would be a good grandmother.  Let me tell you, she is an All-Star Omi to Owen and Max.

As a hairdresser, she sometimes does the hair of the recently deceased at Pelkey’s Funeral Home in Kittery, Maine.  She thinks of it as a sacred moment-shared.

She writes every morning.  Letters, postcards, emails.  She takes after her mother Elizabeth in that way.

When Owen or Max needs to have his diaper changed, she is the first to volunteer.

0722121648At the age of 63 she broke her left leg water skiing.  She taught water skiing as a teenager at a girls summer camp.

She took a full time job with health benefits as the activities director at the Homestead Nursing Home in Kittery so I could be a full time PhD student at the University of New Hampshire.

She is a past champion of our family Fantasy Football League.

She has a Masters in Health Education from Arizona State University.

Mrs. ClausShe dresses up as Mrs. Claus each Holiday season as part of troupe of actors who delight the residents at the Durgin Pines Nursing Home in Kittery.

At a party she swallowed a hard-boiled egg whole to win a team-eating contest .

With Los Ninos of Santa Barbara, CA, she and I went to the garbage dumps of Tijuana, Mexico to provide food and clothing to the families that live there.

She is the fifth of seven children of Elizabeth and John Kraai. (pronounced “cry”)

Of her six siblings, she was closest to her brother Doug, the fourth child.  His death in 2002 left a hole in her heart.

HS 2 Chick bfastHer favorite breakfast out is biscuits and gravy.

At home she has oatmeal every morning.

She has had spasmodic dysphonia for thirteen years.

She does not like cut flowers as a gift, unless they are from a funeral home.

She stopped chewing her nails when as a college girl she waitressed and thought customers would not want food served by a “nail biter.”

One of Hannah's never fail mouse traps

One of Hannah’s never-fail mouse traps

In our family she is the one who sets mouse traps and marks her nightly successes with a black mark on the side of the trap.

Her first year out of college she taught physical education at Thornell Road Elementary School in Pittsford, New York.

Her feet are always cold.  On all but five days per year, she wears double wool socks.

Hairdressers-in-training at the Portsmouth (NH) Beauty School are required to complete 1500 hours and as such graduate at random times throughout the year.  She wrote and read a poem for each of the 35 girls when they graduated.

She never needed or wanted a clothes dryer during the ten years we lived in Tempe, Arizona.  By the time we finished hanging the laundry on our backyard umbrella clothes line, the first clothes hung were dry.

Surprisingly, being a hairdresser, she never uses a blow dryer herself.

Allan JacksonShe likes her country music. Alan Jackson and Vince Gill are two of her favorites.

Her mother-in-law Jean called her a keeper when I first brought her home to Fair Lawn, NJ.   My mom added, Don’t be a fool and let her go.  Mama knows best.

When living in Tempe, Arizona, she would pick oranges and grapefruit off our backyard trees for breakfast.

She likes to solve problems (not the mathematical kind, but the practical, around-the-house kind).

She taught two sections of Intro to Health Education as a graduate assistant at ASU.

College of WoosterFreshman year at the College of Wooster, she and I were in the same French and Sociology classes.

When our son Will was a preschooler, she and he would sing along with the country music singers on the car radio.

She and I were all ready to move from Arizona to Montana in the late 1970s.  Then came Molly.

She plays Happy Birthday on the harmonica when birthdays come around.

For years she led a ten week training for people wanting to become hospice volunteers.  She is the former president of Hospice of York.

She once bought a banjo, left it at a repair shop in Tempe, AZ for 18 months, and needed her friend Ralph to rescue it.  And he did!

Southwest AirlinesOn our honeymoon in 1972 we drove from New York to Arizona in seven days so I could begin grad school at Arizona State. By Albuquerque I was ready to put her on a plane to Phoenix, and she was equally “thrilled” with me.

Twenty years later we had a second honeymoon at the Fun Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

She hopes Owen is left handed to join her in that family club.

She was a physical education major at the College of Wooster.

Similar to Hannah's 1970 Mustang

Similar to Hannah’s 1970 Mustang

Her first car was a dark green, two door 1967 Mustang.

She cries easily when she’s happy.

She drank tea one morning before the Nubble Light 10K here in York, Maine and ended up in the hospital due to dehydration. She was on pace for a sub-40 minute 10K.

She whistles. Who does that? Well, her Dad did.

One of her favorite movies is Love Actually.  Mine is The Graduate, but this isn’t about me.

She is a big fan of John Lennon, George Harrison, and David Kraai, our musical nephew.

Every Thursday you will find her cutting hair at the Durgin Pines Nursing Home.

She was a varsity tennis player at the College of Wooster, Ohio.  She dabbled at field hockey and gymnastics there.

Above the Virgin River on the way to Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

Above the Virgin River on the way to Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park

When our children and I wanted no part of clinging to mountainside chains 1500 feet above the canyon floor on the way to Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park, she was raring to go.

She is all she seems and more.

Dan Sleeps Fine, Not Great, but Fine

SL Sleep image of not sleepingIf a good night’s sleep eludes you more often than you would like, perhaps my experience of going from a lousy to a better sleeper will be helpful.  Some of us have super powers.  Sleeping through the night is not one of mine.

Tip #1 – Some six or seven years ago, I just changed my attitude about not sleeping through the night.  When I stopped stressing over how not getting enough sleep would be screwing up my next day, I slept better almost immediately.  If I am in bed awake, at least I am resting.

SL MelatoninTip #2 – I take melatonin, the natural, over-the-counter sleep aid. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. It is believed that melatonin levels in humans decline with age.  I sleep better when I take it. I sleep like crapola when I don’t. It certainly doesn’t knock me out. I still wake once most every night.

At night after reading or doing a crossword puzzle in bed, I usually fall asleep quite easily. The challenge is that I wake in the middle of the night.  I get up, do my business, and (Tip #3) never look at the clock.

SL SI coverTip #4 – If I don’t fall asleep in minutes, I turn on my night light and read, often from the latest Sports Illustrated.  Within minutes my concentration wanders and I know it’s time to turn the light off.  Often that is enough to take me to Never Neverland.

But after a few minutes, if I am still not asleep, I begin my inspirational recitations silently in the dark (Tip #5).

SL Starting Points coverAs a middle school language arts teacher, I wrote Starting Points: How to Set Up and Run a Writing Workshop and Much More. In that book for teachers, I listed Rothermel’s Reasons for Memorizing. (e.g., Reciting allows students to excel in a very visible way, Successful reciting helps develop self-confidence).

It did not include Reciting helps seniors fall asleep. It will in the next edition.  You must have had things you had to memorize by rote in school or in church or temple. They become a part of your being. We all know our favorite songs by heart.  In the middle of the night, I go for the inspirational sayings and verses that seep into my unconscious and positively affect my days ahead.

(Click on any of these links below for the full text.)

I begin by reciting the opening song at our Unity service. Surely, The Presence of the Lord is in this Place.  Chorally at Unity on Sundays, we all sing a variation of Lanny Wolfe’s original piece .  It’s short and sweet.

SL peace on earthI then move on to the concluding song at our Sunday Unity service – Now, There is Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with Me.  Vince Gill rocks a version of this on YouTube.  At night, I lip sync it to myself. I like its rhythm and certainly its message.

Then it’s two classics, Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. I learned these as a kid when I attended Good Shepard Lutheran Church in Glen Rock, NJ.  I like me some King James versions of these time honored favorites.  I can literally say them in my sleep. (That is what passes for humor here.)

Usually my mind wanders and often it’s dawn before I know it.

But if these four don’t take me away, I then recite the Serenity Prayer, the longer version. It’s still not all that long.

SL Desiderata 2Then I finish with the coup de grace – The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. It’s the 60s classic written in 1927 that begins Go placidly among the noise and haste and concludes with the universe is unfolding as it should.

MacArthur’s Park by Richard Harris and Meatloaf’s Two out of Three Ain’t Bad are on deck to lull me to sleep.

Tip #6 – Of course, if all else fails, I lie in bed and meditate by focusing on my breath as I breathe in and breathe out.

Most importantly, I have a mellow attitude when I am not asleep. I read, recite, plan for tomorrow, and think about my next blog.  And then it’s morning.

Tip #7 – Retire.  Okay, I am aware this tip is not viable for many of you; but my sleeping improved the day I retired from the University of New England.

These may not be for everyone, but they work for me.

Please post your suggestions for sleeping well in the comments section of my blog for all to read.  Here’s one that I just saw yesterday on the Internet (4-7-8 technique)

You simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.    http://www.byrdie.com/how-to-fall-asleep-fast

I tried last night.  It has potential.  It’s an extension of my Tip #6.

Dan and Hannah – Weekend with Owen and Max

Mom and Dad 1Thank you Mom and Dad.  Years ago, you gave Hannah and me the gift we needed most – taking our young kids for a weekend while we got away.   So….

Owen with Mom and Dad

Owen with Mom and Dad

…when Molly asks if we are free to take two year old Owen and six month old Max for an early November weekend so she and Tip can getaway to Vermont, we are all in.   As a woman who has “yes” on the tip of her tongue, Hannah regularly leaps before she looks. I’m becoming a better leaper as I learn from an All-Pro.

Max as caterpillar in a costume made by his Aunt Robyn

Max as caterpillar in a costume made by his Auntie Robyn

I would tell my friend Joe, you are living the dream having your grandkids down the road. Well, now we are too, since the Family Rawding moved back to New England from Virginia four months ago.

The Rawding Boys

The Rawding Boys

With Molly teaching in nearby Lexington, MA, Tip stays home with the boys. That decision opens the door for Billerica Tuesdays. Driving 65 miles south from our home in York, Maine, throughout fall afternoons we usually take the Rawding Boys to the playground and the Billerica Library.

But for this first weekend in November, the forecast is nasty – rain, maybe snow, high winds, and cold temps in the 30s. The playground is out. But we have sunshine and rainbows in the form of Wegman’s, a Super Duper Grocery Store. It has four rockin’ features for every grandparent of a two year old.

Nov 7 train at Wegman'sModel trains. Wegman’s has a thirteen car model train running above the dairy section on a constant loop in the back of the store. Enthralling for two year olds, the train’s whistle blows as we can watch the train go ‘round and ‘round like the wheels on the bus.

Nov 6BB O shown lobsterLive lobsters. In a glass tank on the shopping aisle, lobsters climb over each other. Today the seafood manager pulls out a lobster for Owen.  Employees aiming to please is the vibe at Wegman’s.

Cookies.   Without missing a beat, the pastry chef opens a plastic container of new cookies and offers a chocolate chip one to Owen.  At two, Owen sits in the grocery cart nibbling his cookie for a good two aisles worth.

Nov 7B O and H on escalatorEscalators!   The piece de resistance.  Taking my hand, Owen lights up as we glide up this Disneyland ride for a two year old. Jumping off the escalator at the top, he leads me on the return trip down. Without missing a beat he grabs his Omi’s hand and does it again.

Nov 8C M sleeping on floorAs all parents and grandparents can imagine, we do not mess with Owen’s nap time.  Back by noon from Wegman’s, we feed and read to him; then we all have as much quiet time as Owen deems reasonable.

Nov 8B D feeding MMealtime for Max is simple – eight ounces of Molly’s milk from a bottle. Not into solid food or formula yet, he polishes off four to five bottles per day; he chugs it down with rounded belly and a milk-logged look. Owen is a little different.

Nov 2 Owen in high chairAs he sits in his high chair, Owen knows what he likes and doesn’t like.  When he says, “I don’t want that” or “no thank you,” we have learned to push his food to the center of the table. Usually within 15 seconds he reaches for it anyway and starts eating.  At Saturday breakfast we play this game as he knocks down cantaloupe slices, scrambled eggs, yogurt-buttered toast, and Craisins.

Nov 3B O at sink excellent oneOwen loves to stand on a chair next to his Omi “cleaning up” or “making oatmeal” in the sink by sloshing around in the water. For 30 minutes he splashes and asks us to guess where things are (e.g., Where’s the water? When he covers the half cup measure of water with a lid). He takes such joy in it; and as two year olds will do, he will ask it ten times in a row.

Nov 4 changing padThis weekend I finally step up and start changing diapers. About time is an appropriate response. In the past, I’d read to Owen, sing with him, put on his clothes, but I left the messiness of changing to Hannah.  Moderately competent, I now clean with fresh wipes, spread the butt paste, sprinkle baby powder, and attach the diaper.  Sorry, I don’t take these talents on the road.

Flipping over from front to back and back to front, Max can cover the entire living room floor. Smiling from 20 feet away, he has inherited the sweet disposition of his maternal great grandparents, Jean and Dan.

Owen spontaneously reading a book to Max

Unprompted, Owen reads to Max

Since Molly and Tip have been reading to Owen since he was a baby, reading is soothing and comforting to both Owen and me. Snuggled as one, he and I read the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak (who knew?). We are introduced to playful stories that interest kids and adults alike: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dawalt and The Three Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague.

Owen and Max's mom and dad getting away to Camel's Hump in Vermont

Owen and Max’s mom and dad getting away to Camel’s Hump in Vermont

After arriving at 730A, we finally put the boys to bed twelve hours later on this Saturday night of Daylight Savings Time.

I love when the time changes and we gain an extra hour said no grandparents ever when taking care of their grandkids!  Though others may get an extra hour of sleep, preschoolers arise an hour earlier for the next week or two.

Nov 5 Wegmans balloonsClicking glasses of Shiraz, Hannah and I sit together, surprisingly not wasted or fried at all. It’s been very cool being with Owen and Max.

Even with the forecast of snow, winds, and rain for Sunday; we have a plan –

Wegman’s!  God Bless you Wegman’s.