Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 5 of 6

Part 4 ended with Hannah prepped for surgery in the ER at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.  Three hours before on the San Ysidro Trail in nearby Montecito, she fell 15’ into a 40’ ravine of jagged rocks when the trail gave way beneath her feet.  The two significant, deep left leg wounds are on the very same leg that she busted while water skiing five years ago.  Click here for the first of the three part series on Hannah fracturing her tibia while water skiing in 2012.

SY2 ER 3 Tony surgeon

Tony our surgeon, another angel

In walks another angel on Hannah’s journey.  Dr. Anthony Anagnostou introduces himself as Tony, her surgeon.  As he looks around the wound, he is calm, professional, and encouraging.  After getting the details from Hannah of the accident, he says, This is a deep cut.  It must be thoroughly irrigated to reduce the risk of infection.  I will place needles of medication around the wound in your thigh.  The anesthesia will take about ten minutes to kick in.  This is a serious cut, but it is something I have seen before and it is routine.

With those words (it is routine), I feel elation and relief knowing that this isn’t his first rodeo and Hannah is going to be okay.

SY2 ER 3B Tony irrigating

Tony irrigating the wound

Explaining that he will first repair the deepest tissues near her thigh bone, then sew the middle layer of tissue and finally the outer layer.  There will be staples to keep it all altogether until they are removed in 10 to 14 days.  Amazingly, no muscles have been ripped, no tendons torn nor bones broken.

Three two-quart bottles of saline cleanse the wounds.  Hannah and I both feel she has been most fortunate that her capri pants weren’t torn away by the slide over the sharp rocks when she fell.   In fact, the upper part of her capris never ripped.  How could they not tear at all when she had such a deep wound?  They kept more dirt and grit from infecting the wound.

One Ed Tech squirts the solution from the first bottle while another siphons out the bloody liquid, like dental hygienists do as they clean your teeth.

SY2 ER 3C Tony with five watching

At this point, Tony comes in to irrigate the wound with the final two bottles.  Always looking to his expression for signs of good news, I see a dedicated professional going about his business.  Later, he is referred to as an Ivy Leaguer who wants to save the world; he’s going to Africa.  That is music to my ears that we have such a man.

Now that the medication has kicked in, Tony goes to work.  Karen and the Ed Techs all watch the deep tissue work, something I cannot see, or even want to see, sitting opposite where Tony is operating.

When he needs assistance, he is professionally polite, and appreciative of their support.  As he works calmly and intently, Tony pulls out his smart phone to take pictures of the wound and the stages of his care.  Later, he mentions that the wound on her thigh was so deep that he could put his hand in up to his wrist.  He says he will send the pictures of Hannah’s wound for us to see, if she wants.  (Two weeks later, Hannah sees them, but I am still not ready to look at them.)  Though Hannah will have scars from the surgery, Tony wants Hannah to know how fortunate she is with just scars.  Hannah knows!

SY2 ER 3D Tony

Hannah, eyes closed, face turned my way, feels nothing.  She is on major painkillers that will keep her in a fog till she gets to bed tonight.  Only later do we count the 8 staples in her lower leg wound and the 17 staples to close the thigh wound.

Soon an orderly comes in and says that there is a need for examination room 4.  Tony turns matter of factly and responds that he’ll be done in five minutes.  That works for everyone and pleases me no end that he is almost done 40 minutes after he began.

SY2 ER 4 wrapping leg

Tony our surgeon and RN Karen wrap first her lower leg, then upper leg in gauze; they then put a compression bandage over each section.  She is good to go.  That said, when she looks at me, she says, You have three noses.

 

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Cleveland Clinic’s attention to the patient

This six-minute video from the Cleveland Clinic captures the importance of encouraging words when doctors are dealing with patients.  Tony our surgeon could have starred in this video.

 

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 4 of 6

(Part 3 ended with Hannah strapped onto the ambulance gurney on her way to the ER of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.)

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With eight miles to go to the county’s trauma hospital, I sit up front with Dominique, an EMT for six months, while Hannah is in the back with Zach, the more experienced EMT.  And Zach does what good EMTs do, he lifts Hannah’s spirits by keeping up the conversation by providing information and asking her questions – all to keep her mind off the subjunctive – the what ifs, the might have beens.

While Dominque drives through Montecito and then on The 101 for the hospital, I notice there are no lights and sirens.  Wondering to her if that is a good sign, I see Dominique smile and nod that it is.

Once within ten minutes, Zach calls in our ETA to the hospital ER; it is not lost on me that it is a call I couldn’t have made if I were driving Hannah to the hospital myself.

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ER entrance on the right

Arriving at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in the downtown of this city of 90,000, we have still another advantage since I didn’t drive Hannah to the ER – we bypass the waiting room as they whisk us through the dedicated ambulance entrance, directly into an operating room of the ER.  I hear that room 4 is ready, and within 60 seconds the Ed Techs are lifting Hannah off the gurney and onto the operating table.

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RN Karen (far right) prepping Hannah for surgery as the Ed Techs look on

Karen, an RN, takes charge with assurance and warmth.  Soon, she puts a clip on Hannah’s finger to measure her oxygen level.  An IV is inserted for the pain medication.  A nasal cannula breathing tube is put in her nose to deliver supplemental oxygen.  Throughout this time as I sit next to the operating table, Hannah is alert and turns my way to remind me how fortunate she feels.

Throughout the 1.5 mile hike out of the woods after the trail gave way beneath her feet, Hannah has mentioned how lucky it was that it was she and not our grandsons or their mom and dad.  She tears up with that realization.  The subjunctive, when it goes down to the dark place of what ifs, what might have beens, can cloud judgment and focus on regrets rather than the beautiful present.  Karen and the Ed Techs can’t believe she is not in any pain since they now have all seen the wound that goes to the bone in her upper thigh.   This is the same leg that she fractured her tibia five years ago when water skiing.

SY2 ER 3A preparing for irrigation

Karen asks about medications, allergies, blood thinners or diabetes.  Hannah’s answers are none, none, no, and no.  Coincidentally, they describe Hannah as the patient-of-the-year, just as the EMTs had, because, despite the large wounds, her disposition remains sunny.

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Dr. Richmond, head of the ER, examines Hannah’s wounds

Dr. Richmond, the head doc of the ER, comes in upbeat and talks to Hannah as he examines both the deep calf and the deeper thigh wounds.  Turns out he had been hiking on the very same San Ysidro Trail that we were this morning.  Looking for clues, I see no distress in his voice or worry lines on his face.  It seems Hannah’s upcoming surgery is not crisis surgery; and for that I am again grateful.

We don’t know who, but another angel is about to come upon the scene.

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Phuc Tran on the TED stage

With my use of the term subjunctive, you would be correct if you had guessed that I had recently listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast on the subject.  Here is the thought- provoking Dark Side of the Subjunctive by Phuc Tran, a resident of Portland, Maine (15 minutes).

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 3 of 6

(Part 2 ended with our son-in-law Tip bringing Hannah off the ledge to my waiting arms.)

After Tip brings Hannah up from the cliffside, she and I hug and hug some more.  I put aside the subjunctive – the what ifs, the what could have happened.   Startled and so grateful, as is her outlook on life anyway, Hannah lets the tears flow, knowing how fortunate she is to be on terra firma.  Looking down at her left leg, I see some scrapes above her ankle below her capris but am oblivious to the sizable gash that Tip and Hannah have both seen.  With no time to lose, we begin the mile and a half trek to get Hannah and her left leg out of the woods and to the trailhead.

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The side creek that we just passed before the trail gave way beneath Hannah’s feet

With an hour on the rocky trail ahead, I clutch her left elbow as she takes her first tentatively step and leans forward.  On a trail of sharply angled rocks, I brace her left side as she puts her weight on her solid right foot.  Fortunately, we have already crossed the widest side creek, but there are still others to navigate with Hannah on one good leg.

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The San Ysidro Trail that Hannah descends

I have no clue to the gaping gash on Hannah’s calf, which is a good thing, as I focus on supporting her as she gingerly steps down the trail from rock to rock.  When the trail levels out, she says to me, we can go faster; knowing that the sooner we get to the bottom, the sooner she will get the medical care she needs.  Remember, while I think she has just a few scraps, she has seen the deep gouge in her lower left leg.

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Picture Tip took as he followed us down the trail with Hannah and her three tourniquets

On our slow walk down the trail on this Thursday in the last week of February, I think how Hannah and I usually never hike with others; but again good fortune smiles on us as today we have Molly and Tip.  That said, if it had been just us two on this trail just above suburban Montecito in metropolitan Santa Barbara, we would have had many other hikers here to support us.

Stepping carefully and rarely looking up, we take no breaks and beeline it for the trailhead.  The three tourniquets Tip tied on her leg are working as Hannah never complains, in fact, smiles her way down the mountain.

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The San Ysidro Trail that we came down; earlier in the hike Hannah and I had hiked up it with Molly, Tip, Owen, and Max

Both Hannah’s sunny disposition and our steady pace off the mountain has fooled me into thinking that she is okay and that the medical attention she will need may be minor.

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Hand in hand, hiking to the trailhead

At the junction with the McMenemy Trail to Saddlerock Mountain, we have a mile down, with just a half a mile to go.  Our daughter Molly has gone ahead with our four-year-old grandson, Owen, to get our car in position for me to take Hannah for medical attention.

Fifteen minutes later, we see Molly waving from behind a chain link fence with their rented Toyota in the foreground.  Behind them, we are surprised to see three bright red vehicles: a full-length fire truck, an American Medical Response ambulance, and a fire department SUV.

Hannah turns to me as says, I don’t want to go in an ambulance.  I want you to take me to the hospital.  How bad can her leg be if she doesn’t think she needs an ambulance?

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Zach explaining the reality of her injuries to Hannah

Arriving at the staging area, we see Zach, an EMT, who says, you must be Hannah?  Hannah smiles and nods, as he leads her to the back end of the ambulance to sit and be examined.  Still convinced I can take her to the hospital ER, Hannah is smiling, in no pain, as Zach checks out her lower leg; he quickly assesses that this is no simple gash that just a few stitches will heal.

Saying to Hannah, It is your choice to go with your husband or go with us in the ambulance, but our service is free.  Hannah remains unconvinced that she needs an ambulance.

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American Medical Response ambulance

As the four EMTs gather around, they are stunned that she is feeling no pain.   To a person, they call her the patient of the year.   Maybe they say that all the time, but I doubt it.  Hannah is a rock star who has walked out a mile and a half with a gaping wound – never complaining.

As they are about to wrap up, Hannah mentions a spot of blood on her capris on her left thigh.   Asking if it is okay that he cut away her capris, Zach soon sees a much larger and longer gash, twice the size of the lower one, that goes all the way to the bone.

Zach looks at Hannah and says, You can do what you want, but you are coming with me.  Hannah readily agrees.

 

I asked Molly to write a reflection of what she was thinking when she went ahead for help.  In Molly’s words:

Owen and I walked/ran ahead. Owen seemed to be leading the pace.  We sang some songs together as we ran, as a way to pass time and keep our focus on getting down back to the car.  We talked about how far he has hiked that day.  I told Owen that   “Omi is one tough cookie,” to which he asked, “what does tough cookie mean?”   I explained that even though she was hurt, she was walking to get down the mountain.  I told Owen that we were going to get the car to go back up part of the side road to pick her up when she got back down to the access road.  And then she would get help. 

As we got to the bottom of the trail, we ran 200 feet on the road to my car. As we got to the white rental car parked behind Omi and Poppa’s car, a man in a white Audi wagon pulled up right behind our car. Not sure whether to call 911 or not, I asked him if I could get through the locked gates on the access road to get closer to my injured mom.  I explained that my mom fell and hurt her leg near the top of the hike – and was coming behind us with my husband and dad and another son.  The man said that I could call 911 to get support – he was very encouraging and reminded me that “this is what they do — and they are close by.” 

After realizing that I had no idea if mom was getting worse or if she was even able to walk at this point, I decided to call. It crossed my mind that my mom probably would not want an ambulance, I figured I’d rather be on the safe side and get medical attention if she needed it.  I called 911 as I sat in my car.  Owen was sitting in the back seat eating mixed nuts.  

In general I felt pretty calm until I started talking to the dispatcher because I had somewhat incomplete responses to her questions – where exactly I was, how my mom was doing…  I tried to describe where I was and where my mom might be.  I knew they were walking down, but not sure at what pace. I told her that I wasn’t sure if she’d need medical attention but she had a bad fall 1.8 miles up the trail… the dispatcher said they were sending an ambulance to meet me at the trail head.

Owen and I drove up the access road to get closer to where Omi would be coming down and wait for the ambulance.  We saw the man (from earlier) again who was hiking up the trail as I was talking to Tip (who had just come back into cell reception area).

Tip wanted me to look up a hospital in the area – and the man was walking by and heard the conversation – and told me about Cottage Hospital. He said it’s close and it’s the best in the vicinity!  The man continued hiking – and I told him that he’d see my mom soon and asked if he could relay about how far they had to go when they crossed paths. Within 3 minutes, I could see Omi, Poppa, and Tip at the top of a hill — and simultaneously the ambulance pulled up the access road.  Since the road was locked at the gate, the EMTs encouraged Omi to keep coming down the trail – and they met her there. 

 

Here’s Tip’s take on the hike out after the accident in his own words.

So, after Hannah and I had climbed back up on the trail we were going to take a look at the “gash” on her thigh that was hidden under her capris, but then I thought better of opening up the wound to the elements even more, so we grabbed another long sleeve T-shirt and wrapped around her thigh to slow the bleeding.  Once we all started moving down the trail toward the car and help, I had Max on my back and just watched Hannah slowly make her way down the narrow path. 

I knew the cuts I saw were deep, but they didn’t seem to be gushing blood and Hannah just kept on going–there was no stopping her. 

I was trying to think of a way to support her to get down, but other than carrying her on my back, which I offered, there didn’t seem to be much I could do. 

When we’d pass hikers going the other direction many that noticed her injury would offer help and Hannah would say something like “I have these two guys to watch over me, I’m good.”  Some would then look at me with questions on their face and I would just shrug my shoulders and then give a nod of thanks. 

I’m not sure if we should have taken them up on their offer, and if so, what they could have done. 

Once the trail was wide enough for two to walk down Dan was there to support Hannah. 

Once we had cell service I got in contact with Molly, about a half a mile away from her, I knew she called someone for help. I wasn’t sure who was coming whether it was just a police officer to open a gate Molly’s car was stuck at or the ambulance. I didn’t mention that to Hannah and Dan. I thought that Hannah was a little embarrassed by the whole thing. 

When we got close enough to see Molly and the car we also saw multiple rescue vehicles pull up. After we saw them Hannah told Dan that “she wasn’t going anywhere unless it was in his car.”  I wasn’t sure that was the case and was glad there was someone professional who could look at her leg. 

As we went down the trail, I felt like I wanted to do something but there wasn’t much I could do. I am grateful she is okay.  

 

 

 

 

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 2 of 6

(Part 1 ended with the cliffside San Ysidro Trail giving way under Hannah’s feet)

Hannah immediately slides down the rocky cliffside, 15’ or more, into the ravine; and I know because I am standing directly behind her.  The vertical drop between Hannah and me now is jagged with rocks and unstable dirt due to the recent heavy rains in the Santa Barbara area.  As a human mudslide, she later told us she grabbed for saplings on her descent down this nearly vertical rocky cliff.

And then suddenly, she is perched on a small promontory, some 25’ above the San Ysidro Creek, rich with boulders and trouble.  On the good news/bad news continuum, the good news is that it appears she has not hit her head on the way down.  I don’t know if there is any bad news… It turns out she and Tip do.

Rescuing her down the hillside of rocks and mud where she slid is not an option.  Any effort to save her that way will just push more rocks and mud onto Hannah and may propel her further down the steep chasm.

SY2 6 side of trail after hannah fell

Tip on the cliffside preparing to take Hannah back to the main trail.  See the sheer cliff, the occasional sapling, and the creek far below

At this point, Tip passes their son Owen off to Molly, who is hugging their son Max, and sprints fifteen feet down the trail to a point parallel to where Hannah is.  Shaken, Hannah knows the enormity of the danger that she is in.  Tip uses the saplings sprouting from the hillside for support and steps carefully along the side hill to reach her.

Her left leg has taken the brunt of the rocky slide.  Though there are abrasions by her ankle, a major gash has been ripped open on her lower leg.  Hannah and Tip see it all; he quickly takes off his long sleeve tee shirt to make the first of three tourniquets on her left leg.  At the time, I am half way down the same path Tip has taken but see nothing that they have seen.

Later Hannah told me, Tip said to her, Omi, Omi, (her grandmother name) with a tone that “this is serious, but with the reassurance that we’ll get you through this.”  Comforted, Hannah knows she is in good hands.

SY2 4C rocky trail with all

Earlier in the hike on the way to the falls, Hannah in her capris.  The trail gives you an idea of the jagged rocks of the trail.

Wearing capris down to her mid-calf, Hannah feels a strong pain in her upper thigh, but neither she nor Tip can see if there is a wound there.  Surprisingly, there is no tear to the capris above her knee.  But Tip has seen enough of the gaping gash in her lower leg to know that she could use more tourniquets, one below her knee and another around her upper thigh.  It appears nothing is broken, but adrenaline might mask a break anyway.

With all the skill of a veteran EMT, Tip slowly moves Hannah along the side of the cliff, towards the main trail.  All the while Molly, above on the trail, is distracting Owen and Max.  She is especially thankful when Max notices a bug on the side of the hillside that grabs both boys’ attention.

With Tip leading Hannah to the trail, I reach for her, and see a smiling and thankful Hannah.  Her sunny disposition belies the wounds to her left leg; I have no idea what lurks beneath her capris on her upper thigh, nor does she or Tip.

SY2 4A five on trail

Hannah and I rarely hike with others.  Fortunate this day that Molly holding Owen and Tip with Max in his backpack joined Hannah and me for the hike.

Later Hannah remembers four things about the fall: (1) the loud pop as she hit the first sharp rock (perhaps the puncture of her leg that didn’t rip her capris! Whoa!), (2) looking down at her lower leg and seeing a gaping gash that she quickly decides she doesn’t need to look at anymore, (3) when her fall stopped on the small promontory, she could see the drop to the boulders and rocks in the creek below, and (4) her good fortune that our son-in-law Tip was the reassuring rescuer that she and we all needed.

By the way, when Tip chooses his next career after being the Tom Brady of stay-at-home dads, the world will be a better place if he considers being an EMT or a firefighter.  Hannah remembers how cool and encouraging he was under “saving her life” pressure!

Holding Hannah tightly, I now hug her with all the gratitude that she is safe.  Having seen none of what Tip has seen and buoyed by Hannah’s belief that she is doing well and can walk the mile and a half to the trailhead, she and I step carefully down the trail.

SY2 3 family on trail with cactus

Earlier in the hike, Molly with Owen and Tip with Max.  Molly’s quick thinking had her and Owen hike ahead to get transportation at the trailhead.

Thinking quickly to save time at the other end of the trail, Molly goes ahead with Owen to get our car as close to the trailhead as possible.  Molly is doing what we need on this sunny day in the 60s, though ironically she herself is in the dark, uncertain if her  mother will even make it out without additional support.

 

 

Dan and Hannah Hike to the San Ysidro Falls with the Family Rawding and Then…  Part 1 of 6

sy2-2-family-at-start-of-trailEarlier this past February, Hannah and I had hiked the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara, California.  With the relentless rains of the winter of 2017, the waterfalls at the end of the trail had grown from a trickle to a thunderous applause of water.  That waterfall trail jumped it to the top of our list of favorite hikes in Santa Barbara.  Click here for that blog.

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Raging stream for stick throwing, not for crossing

Five days ago, our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandsons, Owen (4.5) and Max (nearly 3) flew from Massachusetts to spend their school vacation week with us at our rented cottage in nearby Summerland.  On Molly and Tip’s first full day in California, they hiked this very trail while we took Owen and Max to Carpinteria Beach.   Molly and Tip got sidetracked onto other trails and never ended up at the San Ysidro Falls.

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Max by San Ysidro Creek

So, with sunny weather this last Thursday in February, we all decide to hit the San Ysidro Trail for the ideal “family” hike.  “Ideal” if you have two athletic, vigilant, and relentlessly encouraging parents like Molly and Tip to deal with the challenges of hiking with preschoolers; who begin the hike moving and grooving, then get tired, and finally want to be carried.

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Tip with thier sons, Owen (left) and Max (right)

Driving in two rental cars, we six arrive at the trailhead on East Mountain Drive and park beside the hedges of five to ten million dollar houses of Montecito, home to Oprah, Kenny Loggins, and Ellen.   Thankfully, long ago the Montecito Trail Foundation established trails up the mountain so the public can enjoy the same scenery as do the landed gentry.

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Athletic Omi with her grandson Owen

When you hike with preschoolers, you are in for a “stop and smell the roses” kind of hike.  Not wanting to control the boys’ enthusiasm, Molly and Tip watch Owen and Max explore, run, sometimes fall, and then they are there to help Owen and Max throw away their “ouchies.”  At the end of the hike, Max will need three band-aids on his knees.

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The boys race, we follow while Molly and Tip remain alert.  Trees with hollowed trunks are favorite stopping points for the boys as is the storm-fueled river where they watch their thrown sticks follow the current past stones and boulders in the stream.

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A six to eight-inch rain storm fell just six days ago, so the trail has puddles and mud that Molly and Tip swing their boys over.  The trail is rocky with side creeks that require careful stone-stepping to cross.  Having Tip’s strength and agility makes all the difference.

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After a mile of the two to the falls, Max finally turns around, raises his arms up, the signal that he is ready for the backpack.  Interestingly twenty minutes later he wants to get down; but Tip has seen this show before on other hikes.  First down, then literally 30 seconds later Max wants to go back up in the backpack.

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Last week’s rock slide impeding our hike

Along the way, we see boulders from mudslides that block the trail that we step around and over; not impenetrable, but testament to the power of the recent storm.

Within two hundred yards of the waterfall, we come upon the widest side creek, where seven days ago, Hannah and I easily stone-stepped across.  Today, Tip climbs atop the larger boulder (see below) mid-creek and extends his arm to each of us, all the time having 40-pound Max on his back.

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San Ysidro Falls

And then, just around the bend is the San Ysidro Falls in all its storm-fueled glory.  Hannah and I see that the trail in front of the falls has narrowed to 18”, due to the erosion caused by the storm.  The force of the water over the headwaters is double what it was just ten days ago.

It’s been two hours for two miles; about par when hiking with preschoolers on a trail into the mountains.  Older brother Owen has impressively walked the entire two rocky miles with 1150’ of elevation gain – a chip off his mom and dad’s block.

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The rock Tip perched on to get us all across the side creek, within 200 yards of the falls

A little after 1230P, we head back for the trailhead on East Mountain Drive, which requires Tip’s strength and balance to support us again over the side creek torrent that we just negotiated twenty minutes before.

And then…

… with Molly in front with Max, Owen on Tip’s shoulders, Hannah following them, and me just behind her on the trail, the trail above the forty-foot ravine suddenly gives way beneath Hannah’s feet.  One minute Hannah is there, the next she is feet-first, rock surfing down the vertical cliff side towards the ravine 40′ below.

 

Dan and Hannah Have Grandson Fever

Ever since our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip moved north from Virginia to Massachusetts with our grandsons, Owen and Max, we are living the dream.

Below are three 12 seconds or less videos of our preschoolers for you to catch a glimpse of what we experience on a weekly basis.

First, the acrobatic four-year-old Owen.

And now his equally athletic two and a half-year-old brother, Max, ready to take the place of a certain New England Patriot quarterback.

Finally, during the last week of December 2016, Owen takes flight thanks to his Unkie (Will) –

The featured picture to open the blog is Owen and Max toasting their Omi with the morning glory muffins she made for them.

 

Dan and Hannah Love Them Some 24 Hours of Owen and Max

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A Family of Pirates – Molly and Tip behind Owen and Max for Halloween 2016

Ever since our daughter Molly’s family moved from Virginia to Massachusetts, Hannah and I are living the grandparents’ dream.  Just an hour away, the Family Rawding is our Tuesday destination.  Many the afternoon, we take our grandsons, Owen (4.5) and Max (2.5) to Edwards Beach in warm weather or to the Loch Ness Fun Center in winter.

Then, after nighttime reading and tucking them in, we have an evening with Molly and Tip; first a glass of wine, then a sweet meal that Hannah prepares for us all as the good conversation flows.

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Max at the York Hospital aquarium

But on occasion, we love us some 24 hours with just Owen and Max at our place on the coast of Maine.  Molly and Tip get 24 hours to be “off” to do some house painting, set up dinner with friends, have an uninterrupted night’s sleep, wake when they want, and then go out for bagels.

We arrange for this first weekend of November to be such a 24 hours of Owen and Max.   At noon this Saturday, I drive 30 miles to a mid-point Dunkin Donuts on I-495 where Molly meets me with Owen and Max buckled into their car seats.  She takes our car while I drive north in theirs for “adventures” with the boys.

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Owen and Max at the York Public Library train set

Now, Hannah and I aren’t as young as we used to be, but who is?  Do I hear an Amen?  But in the years since we have been Omi and Poppa, we have learned a thing or two about grandparenting.  You see, in the past when we had the boys for 24 hours, Hannah and I would do everything together with them:  Go to the library, go to the gym, go to the York Beach playground, and hang around the living room while the boys played.  ALL TOGETHER.   Individually, Hannah and I never had a chance to catch our breath.

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Ah, but no more.   Today, while Hannah is home having some peace and quiet, it is just I who picks up the boys and heads directly to the York Public Library.   There, the boys play with the trains and trucks; Owen asks me to read him a story.   Today, I read a trio of books, including one of my all-time favorites, Sheep in the Jeep!!   If you have preschool kids or grandkids or know someone who does, run, don’t walk, to borrow Sheep in the Jeep from your local library!

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Under the ocean at York Hospital

From there I take them across the street to York Hospital.  If you don’t know York Hospital, make a beeline for it as soon as you can (i.e., before you actually need it).  In addition to preparing world class tuna paninis in their café open to all town residents and visitors, they have submarine and hot air balloon rides on site.   You see, the elevators are decorated to look like the insides of these two rides.

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In addition, fantastic aquariums in both the front and emergency room lobbies have “Nemo” fish, as Owen calls them.   They each select a mini-muffin, that they willingly wait to eat until they are buckled into their booster car seats.

Three hours after picking up Owen and Max, I pass them off to Hannah.  Rested, she is all in as the boys race the hot wheels on our driveway, swat and kick balls, fly kites from the deck, snack on honey dew melon.  And then it’s the leaves!

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While I am chilling inside, Hannah rakes a pile of brown oak leaves for splashing, jumping, and kicking about.   After, Hannah pulls the boys in our grandkids’ wagon to see a neighbor’s free range chickens before the sun goes down.

Once inside, the boys scarf popcorn a la Poppa, then enter into imaginary worlds of trains and trucks in our living room.  For dinner, they feast on tortellini, cold peas in yogurt, and meat balls – all the while, in the loving embrace of their Omi and Poppa.

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Max sawing logs

You see, our goal is to have Owen And Max be so active throughout the day that they immediately fall asleep at bedtime.   No naps for these guys when they are with us.   You see, Hannah and I want/need to have a little evening time for ourselves to recuperate in front of our gas fireplace with a glass of wine. We are not superheroes.  Twenty-four hours with Owen and Max is consuming.  It’s 24/7, well, 24.

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Owen fast asleep

At bedtime, while I read the pop-up book, Beach Bugs in one room to Max, Hannah reads Owen’s favorite, Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street.  By 715P Max is snuggled in and sawing logs.  Owen, too, soon crashes.  Mission accomplished!

Tip for grandfathers everywhere.  Don’t let grandmothers get away with changing all the diapers.  For the first six months after Owen was born, I let Hannah change the diapers when we traveled to Virginia to be with the Family Rawding.   But oh, was I ever the loser!  We pops miss the full experience of our grandchildren if we don’t participate in the messiness of diaper changing.   When we change diapers, we become card-carrying members of the Grandpas Union, not just potted plants.   Kids see that we have some of the talents of their grandmothers.

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And tonight having the diaper changing skill comes in handy when two-year old Max cries out in the darkness, a little past midnight.  Slipping out of bed, I let Hannah sleep as I quickly change Max’s diaper and talk him back to sleep.

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Mornings are mellow.  Breakfast at Omi and Poppa’s continues to be the healthy fare that the boys are used to at home: cantaloupe and honey dew melon, then scrambled eggs.  While sitting on his Omi’s lap, Max takes bites of her oatmeal while Owen and I share our love for complex carbohydrates, by sharing Hannah’s toasted homemade bread with a dab of honey.

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Later it’s ping pong, then baths in the kitchen sink.   By 1115A we are packing them up for the Dunkin Donuts, where we made the exchange 24 hours before.   Owen falls asleep during the 35-minute car ride while Max listens to kids’ songs on the car CD player with me.

Indeed, we are living the dream.  And then, when I get home, the boys now with their youthful parents, I take one sweet nap!

PS  The Truth.  Let’s give credit where credit is due. Hannah and I may be fine grandparents, but it’s the intentional and loving parenting of Molly and Tip that make Owen and Max delights to be around.  The boys’ sweetness does not just happen by chance.  At a very young age, the boys are learning to be responsible and empathetic with social skills that will serve them a lifetime.  New parents, buy Molly and Tip coffee and bagels out and spend some quality time with them.

Dan and Hannah Spend Thanksgiving Tuesday with Owen and Max

It came out of nowhere.  Middle of the night darkness made it all the more surprising.  This never happened before.  Hannah and I had no time to think.

Buck O and M Halloween

But let me set the scene.  For the last year and a half, Hannah and I have spent Tuesdays with our grandsons Owen (3) and Max (18 months).  Let me tell you, grandparenting is all it’s cracked up to be.

After driving an hour from our home on the coast of Maine, we arrive to Molly and Tip’s place in Chelmsford, a suburb of Boston.  Lunching with the boys and Tip, we are soon off on one of our weekly adventures.

Imajine That indoor playground

Imajine That indoor playground

In warmer weather we go to local playgrounds and then to a nearby library.  Last week with winter coming, we spent the afternoon at Imajine That, an indoor playground in a remodeled mill on the Merrimack River in nearby Lawrence, MA.

Today we begin at Wegman’s grocery store some 12 miles away in Burlington, MA.  Wegman’s has it all for preschoolers.  Lifting the boys into a grocery cart with two steering wheels, we arrive just before 3P to see the mechanical rooster come out of its “barn.”   Both boys are enthralled, though Owen holds his ears.

A Wegman's lobster

A Wegman’s lobster

At the back of the store, we all stare up at the model train that runs twelve feet above our heads.  Later the gracious fish counter guy pulls out a lobster to show Owen and Max.  Soon we are off to the bakery where the boys scarf down a chocolate chip cookie.

Then it’s the active indoor experience we all love – riding the escalators up and down.  Four, five, six times.  Back in the car, we are off to the Chelmsford Public Library where Max explores the book aisles with me in tow while Owen listens to a story on the computer and then another read by his Omi.

Buck Family pic

Once home around 530P it’s dinner time for Owen and Max.  As an incentive for Owen to finish his fish, corn, and yogurt, Molly or Tip read a story during dinner time.  Tonight it is Monster Needs a Party.

Then Hannah and I get to put the boys to bed.  I take Max, change his diaper, and get him into his pajamas.  I quasi-read a story to him, but soon he is more than ready for his crib.  Hannah supports Owen brushing his teeth and reads another Monster story to him.

Buck O sleeping

With the boys quickly fast asleep, Hannah and I red wine it with Molly and Tip, checking in on all our lives over the past week.  Usually Hannah makes a dinner for us all, but tonight we feast on the humongous subs from Wegman’s.  (So large that a third of one fills me up.)

By 9P we are on I-495 north heading for home.  Usually I listen to Pandora (Richard Harris or Dionne Warwick) while Hannah naps.  Tonight we both listen to a CD of Rev. Ogun Holder of Unity on the River (Amesbury, MA) that we were given when we visited that church for the first time just two days ago.

The Rev draws us both in and soon I’ve turned off I-95 onto Chases Pond Road where we live.  Still listening, I turn on our Hyundai Elantra’s bright lights to better see up our quite dark and winding country road.

Buck deer itself

And then biggest buck I have ever seen darts across the road right in front of us; so close I can see his right eye.  I brake quickly, but not so hard that we skid.  I have no time to think; I just react.  As you can imagine, the buck is gone in an instant.

Where I once might have gone to what could have happened tonight (playing the fear card), I just drive on another hundred yards more and turn left into our driveway.  I am surprised I am not shaken as I once might have been.

Tonight I just think about what happened and it’s gratefulness that I feel.

Grateful that the buck didn’t die crushing our car.  Grateful we can just go to bed without a major incident.  Grateful for the blessing that is being in the lives of our grandsons, Owen and Max.  Grateful for the friendship we have with Molly and Tip.

Not thinking in fear about what might have been, but being so very thankful.

Dan and Hannah Hike with Owen and Max at Great Falls National Park

GF Richmond mapThe Family Rothermel is descending upon Richmond, Virginia for the marriage of our son Will to Laurel Ann Crane. While Robyn flies in from Syracuse, Molly and family drive south from Massachusetts. Hannah and I leave five days before the late April wedding to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Great Falls National Park straddles the Potomac River with  Maryland and Virginia sides

Great Falls National Park straddles the Potomac River with Maryland and Virginia sides

After hiking the AT, Hannah and I head south to meet up with Molly and her gang at the Great Falls National Park just off the I-495 Washington beltway in Maryland. Arriving almost simultaneously at the parking area across from the Angler’s Inn on this mid-week Wednesday morning, we find two parking places still available. On the weekends, unless one arrives by 7A, none of these spots are open. In that case, drive further on the Cabin John Road to the extensive parking lots inside the park itself.

Max and his Omi at the playground in Billerica

Max and his Omi at the playground in Billerica

Since Molly and Tip moved north from Virginia, Hannah and I love our Billerica Tuesdays with Owen and Max.  We drive an hour south from York each week to spend the mid-week afternoon with the boys in Billerica; in the winter we head to the Loch Ness Fun Center, Wegman’s Supermarket, or the Billerica Library. In the warmer weather, we take the boys in strollers to the local playground, and then it’s off to the library.

The Family Rawding with Omi and Boppa

The Family Rawding with Omi and Poppa

After we change the boys’ diapers, read and sing to them on these Billerica Tuesdays, we then have dinner with Molly and Tip. Over one of Hannah’s homemade dinners, we have conversation as good as her cuisine.

Owen ready to roll

Owen ready to roll

Again today, Molly and Tip make time 400 miles from their home in Massachusetts to include us in their family life. On the road, getting two boys under the age of three ready for anything just takes time. They need to be changed; it usually takes us going two-on-one to make this happen for 11 month old Max. Today Tip packs Owen in a high rise backpack while Molly has Max in a Baby Bjorn for our hike.

Packing up across the street from the Angler's Inn

Packing up across the street from the Angler’s Inn

From the parking lot, we immediately find the canal walk along the Potomac River. It is a part of the C and O (Chesapeake and Ohio) trail system that goes 180 miles from the Washington area to Cumberland, MD.

On the Cheasepeake and Ohio Canal Path

On the Cheasepeake and Ohio Canal Path

Though rain is in the forecast for the afternoon, we have most satisfying warm, muggy weather, without it being too muggy; a welcome change for us six who have endured another long, cold, and snowy winter in New England. Late April weather in the Border States is just about ideal.

GF 1H MM canal path 3With the boys now abackpacked, we have time for easy conversation as we pair up with Molly and Tip. First Tip and I talk while Molly and Hannah walk ahead. Later we’ll switch it up. It’s a blessing when your daughter marries a trifecta man – one who makes a priority of their relationship, their family, and sees the good in life all around him.  That said, he hit the jackpot in Molly.

GF 5 rushing riverAn hour into the walk, we head to the Great Falls themselves. The Potomac’s white water rages beyond the fences, which keep the ever curious and energetic Owen out of harm’s way. After two challenging AT hikes, we much appreciate today’s mellow walk with the Family Rawding.

The mighty Potomac rushing to the Atlantic Ocean

The mighty Potomac rushing to the Atlantic Ocean

As Max begins to fade with the gentle jostling from walking the trail, Owen gets out of his backpack and runs. He notices everything – the planes in the distance, and every pebble and stick along the way. Bending down and grabbing them, he steps close enough to the canal to throw them to make a splash. Herein lays the challenge of being his Poppa and the one responsible for Owen, The Energetic, at Great Falls.

How Max loves to have his picture taken!

How Max loves to have his picture taken!

On one side is the mellow canal, to the other the raging tributaries of the Potomac River. Recent rains have made the river a torrent of brown water. As I shepherd Owen, I see nothing but Owen; when he zigs towards the canal, I zig; then abruptly, we zag towards the river. When he veers too close I grab his hand with an unspoken message – close enough!

GF 2E MT at falls

In conversation, we fill Molly and Tip in on our two recent hikes of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania and Maryland while we learn of the $1100 damage to Molly’s car due to her hitting a raccoon at 65 mph on the Interstate by their home.  Since Molly and Tip lived in the Arlington, VA for nearly seven years, they fill us in on their pre-wedding plans – the breakfasts out, play dates, dinners, and overnights they will have with friends in the DC area.

GF 3B  H with MaxDue to the rains, the Billy Goat Trail is closed. Though the canal walk is as level as level can be, the Billy Goat Trail clearly represents its namesake. There is modest rock scrambling and eventually a 60 foot climb over a challenging, but not insurmounable rock face. Three years ago we were introduced to the Billy Goat Trail by our Virginians – longtime friend Amelia and her son Brandon, Molly, five months pregnant with Owen, and Tip. We’ll just have to come back.

GF 5A stormy skiesAs dark clouds gather, we head back to the cars a mile and a half away where we’ll have lunch together. Max is zonked out and Owen is still in exploring mode finding the joy in pebbles and sticks to throw.   As we hike, the clouds turn cobalt black behind us.   With excellent timing, we arrive at the cars just as the raindrops join forces and begin their soaking fall from the sky.

Will and Laurel Ann with her soon to be in-laws

Will and Laurel Ann with her soon to be in-laws

Though we each must eat lunch in our own cars, we’ll all meet again in three days at the Vintager B and B vineyard in Quinton, VA for Will and Laurel Ann’s marriage.

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.