Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

The next day we were all still exhausted and trying to adjust back to pacific time. Porter seemed happy to have all his trains to play with again.

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The kids, not yet fully recovered.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


The Plane Home

We made good time to the Philadelphia airport and returned the car. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed by two hours which meant another three hours waiting in the airport. The kids did very well under the circumstances and we finally boarded the plane around eight o'clock. Porter slept again most of the flight and Alice did almost as well. We got the bulkhead again and despite the flight being practically empty, people still sat next to a baby and a toddler while whole rows lay empty in the back. Eventually, they figured out they could stretch out in back though Sarah had to actually suggest it to the woman who sat next to her. We got into Oakland about midnight, which was three a.m. Pennsylvania time, exhausted but happy to be home.


Portrait of the Sister by the Older Brother

This is Porter's first portrait photograph, and he chose his sister Alice as his first subject. A far cry from his earlier, more abstract work, he captured her essence quite well. Look out, Richard Avedon.

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A Visit with Aunt Helen

After packing up and leaving my Grandmother's house for the last time, we went to the Reading Hospital to visit my Aunt Helen before flying back to California. She seemed to be doing well, but there are lots of tests to be done yet before we know more.

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Aunt Helen meets Alice for the first time.

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Alice, Sarah and my Aunt Helen.

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Porter and I at the hospital.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Moving Day Monday

We woke Monday to pouring rain. We hired a truck to ship back to California some items from my Grandmother's house. They dropped it off a little after eight. My friends Frank and Phil helped me pack the truck. There were maybe a dozen pieces of furniture to pack into a 6 by 8 foot space. Because of the downpour, it much longer than I expected but we finally got it done around four. It was an exhausting day.

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Frank and his parents.

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Frank's folks next door neighbor is another good friend of mine, Bob. Bob was the band director of the Wyomissing Band that I played with for several years from when I was fourteen through the end of highschool. Bob's retired now and I rarely get to see him. Here he is with Porter and me.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


The Great Egg Hunt of '05

Last Easter, we tried an egg hunt with Porter on the back deck but he didn't seem to quite get the concept. This year, however, was different. This year he got it. He had a fabulous time running around in the rain outside hunting for hidden eggs. And he found quite a few.

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Chomping at the bit to begin the hunt.

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Finding another egg.

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Porter with his almost full bucket of found eggs.


Bad Easter News

Image hosted by When we got to Jim and Bernie's, we learned that my Great Aunt Helen, who's 95, was taken to the hospital with fluid in her lungs. It turned out to be congenital heart failure and she'll be in the hospital at least a week. We went to visit her on our way home from Easter dinner.


Easter Sunday

For Easter Dinner, we went to my Uncle Jim and Aunt Bernie's house. Jim was my Mom's half-brother and they were very close. In fact, she introduced him to his wife, my Aunt Bernie, who, like my Mom, is a nurse. In addition to them, also present were ten other relatives, significant others and kids. True to form, Porter fell asleep on the way over and was zonked out at least the first hour we were there. He seemed to be getting used to falling asleeo and then waking up in a strange house surrounded by countless strangers. Dinner was quite yummy and it was fun seeing everyone again.

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Porter opens an egg.

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What do I do with this stuff called candy?

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My cousin Sue and George's two sons Willem and Aaron with Alice. Willem is holding Alice and he seemed very taken with her.

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Porter plays with his new trucks that the Easter Bunny brought him (and left at Sue and George's house).

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Aaron, Porter and Willem watch TV in the upstairs bedroom. It was nice to see Porter interact a little with people closer to his own age. Luckily, Willem and Aaron were both very patient (unusual in other kids) with Porter and made him feel at ease, which was great for him.


I Am the Eggman Koo Koo Ka Choo

Saturday we boiled a dozen eggs in anticipation of Easter Sunday. Sunday, Porter colored the eggs so we could take them with us to Easter Dinner at my Uncle Jim and Aunt Bernie's.

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Porter at the ready to begin the coloring.

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Here goes the first egg.

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Waiting, waiting, waiting ...

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Alice and I egg Porter on.

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The finished eggs, with the proud artiste watching them dry.


A Surprise Visit

Our friend Jim from California, who moved to upstate New York a few years ago, surprised us by driving four hours from his home to join us at the party. It was a real treat to see him and he spent the night at G'Ma's so we had a chance to catch up and talk about this and that before he headed back home Sunday afternoon.

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Jim and Porter Easter morning.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Saturday Night: Time to Party

Saturday evening my good friend Frank graciously offered to host an impromptu party with several old friends that I don't get to see very often. It was a blast seeing everybody and many fine beers were consumed, including several from local fave Stoudt's Brewery. Porter slept through the first two hours of the party but made up for lost time at the train table in the basement.

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Lori, Joe's wife, seemed to have the right touch with Alice.

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Left to right: Everybody.


Chuck E. Cheese

Saturday afternoon we had lunch with a friend of Sarah's who lives in nearby Kutztown. Sarah knows her from the parenting message board she's an active member of. Our two families met at the Chuck E. Cheese in Wyomissing, by the Berkshire Mall.

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Sarah and her friend Denise.

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Porter gets his school bus fix.

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Alice and I watch the mayhem.

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Denise's daugher Sierra with Porter and Alice play with Chuck E. Cheese's telephone.

Friday, March 25, 2005


The Mohnton Navy Yard

My cousins opened a restaurant in Mohnton almost seven years ago. They serve wood-fired pizza and all manner of hoagies and yummy cheesesteaks. But the real genius, in my opinion, was the name they chose: The Mohnton Navy Yard. It would have been impossible to not have heard about the Mohnton Navy Yard if you grew up in the area. As famous as it was mysterious, people mentioned it all the time but no one seemed to know what it was. Was it a joke? A World War 2 reference? Did it really exist? Well, yes there really was a Mohnton Navy Yard, and it was jokingly called that almost from the beginning but its original name was Lake Valmont, a seven acre man-made lake that was built to accomodate boating in the summer and skating in the winter. Read the history of the lake here. But regardless of its true history, it's a brillant name for a restaurant, situated as it is on the original site of the lake. And the T-shirts are cool, too.

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The original Mohnton Navy Yard, Lake Valmont.


Barbie and Kent

Image hosted by After a disasterous trip to the Reading Outlet stores - Outlet Capitol of the World! - where both kids were on their worst behavior and especially Porter who let us know in no uncertain terms just how unhappy he was to be out shopping, we took them home to G'Ma's to nap. We also aborted a planned lunch date with good friends Phil and Diane.

Happily, the kids were in a much better mood for our evening at my cousin Barbie and her husband Kent's house for an evening of pizza and fun with them and their two daughters Lauren and Christin. Porter had simply a fabulous time eating half a pizza and roughhousing with the girls and Kent. He was also quite taken with Gary the goldfish who was upstairs in an aquarium. It's been really great to reconnect with my cousin after so many years and we've stopped by to see them now during each of our last few visits to Dutch Wonderland. Barb was my father's older brother's daughter and was often around my Bushie's (my paternal grandmother) house when I was a child. She's a few years older than me (sorry about that, Barb) and was probably the reason I took up the clarinet, too. It's been really great being back in their lives and the lives of her younger sister Donna and her family, as well.

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Clockwise from left: Me, Lauren, Sarah, Alice, Porter and Christin.

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Lauren, Christin, Kent and Barb.


Alice's Second Word!

Alice clearly gave us her second word today, effectively doubling her confirmed vocabulary. Her second word was mama, and we've heard it several times since, as well.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


First Tooth

In the midst of everything going on this week, Alice's first tooth started pushing through today. It's on the bottom right of center and is obviously causing her to teethe a little more that usual.


Bouncing Ben

After the funeral, we spent a pleasant hour or so with my Grandmother's sister Ann, her daughter Debbie and her husband, Seldon before they headed back to New Jersey. Then we began the task of cleaning out the house and getting it ready to list for sale. One of the neighbors had a real estate agent they suggested and it turned out he was the older brother of a very good friend from high school, who I've kept in somewhat spotty but consistent contact with over the years. After meeting with him, we set upon the task of staging thr house so it would be more presentable for the potential buyer. We cleaned out most of the closets, furniture drawers, and the endless knick knacks so the house looked less cluttered and roomy. Up in the attic, however, we struck gold as I found the long lost Bouncing Ben, a toy from when I was an infant, which makes it something like 45 years old.

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Porter goes for a workout ride.

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Alice's ride it much more tentative and more like a leisurely walk.


The Funeral

Image hosted by Thursday morning at eleven was the funeral. Mercifully, it stopped raining but it was still a depressing gray. The only other direct relatives to my Grandmother, her sister and her sister's daughter, arrived from New Jersey early and we waited at my Grandmother's house until it was time to go to the cemetary.

More people came then we expected and the attendees included (apart from us) neighbors, relatives of mine on my Mom's side, and even a few close friends I grew up with here. Frank and Joe were actually pallbearers at my mother's funeral twenty-four years before.

The kids were very well-behaved. Alice slept through the ceremony and Sarah and I took turns holding Porter. I wasn't sure how I'd feel at the cemetary, my Grandmother was being buried right next to my Mom in the last spot in the family plot. I did get choked up during the proceedings primarily because I kept reflecting on our kids and my own childhood.

I felt a little disconnected and had my usual feelings of being the family outsider that I so often get when I'm home. I had virtually nothing to do with the ceremony and will have even less to do with the estate since my cousin Debbie will be the Executrix. My Grandmother was, to be kind, a difficult woman and though I loved her she made life very difficult for my Mom and started to do the same to me when I was younger, as well. Since I moved away from Pennsylvania, over twenty years ago, I only saw her every few years and she made it very clear to me on numerous occasions that she didn't want or need any help from me as she got older. She was a very proud person and could not admit to needing that kind of help. It made things tense as her mind began to deteriorate, which began over a decade ago and I learned to stay out of her affairs. Her sister, my Great Aunt Ann, was in a much better position to force her way into helping her and, happily, that is what she did.

The last time I saw her was the week before Christmas two years ago when Sarah was working in New York City and we made a quick trip down to see her. She wasn't lucid when we were there and so I don't think she knew we were even there. Regrettably, she never got to meet alice, her second great-grandchild.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Back at G'Ma's

After the rain-soaked trip to the railroad, we relaxed at our home away from home.

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Here Porter models his new Thomas backpack that he got in Strasburg and tries on a necklace of my Grandmothers and looks through her magnifying glass.


The Strasburg Railroad

Before we left California, we promised Porter that if he behaved himself on the plane that we'd take him on a train ride in Pennsylvania. We didn't really expect it to have any effect and we'd didn't even think he'd remember it once we got to Dutch Wonderland. Silly us. From pretty much the moment we woke up Porter after we landed, he began saying "go ride train?" or variations on that theme. Over and over again. And over again. Since the funeral wasn't until Thursday, we decided for our sanity to take Porter to the Strasburg Railroad on Wednesday.

Only about 45 minutes from Reading, the Strasburg Railroad is a pretty cool short-line old steam engine that takes an hour train ride around Amish Country in Lancaster County. Even though it rained on Wednesday, Porter still had a great time.

This is what the train looks like on a nice day.

This is what it looks like in the pouring rain when we were there.

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Porter on the train.

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Porter, just after handing our tickets to the conductor. He was very excited to give the conductor the tickets.

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