We’ve joined Dolly Parton’s book club

Little Engine
The Little Engine That Could — Imagination Library version

We have a 3-year old in our house who knows his way around an iPad better than most of us who are 65+ in age. However, we’ve been challenged to get him interested in even the most simple of age-appropriate books.

Solomon will usually stick with a book — even those he brings to you to read with him — for maybe a page or three. Then he’s off to something — anything — else.

Until now.

Last week, we received the first book from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which sends a free, age-appropriate book monthly to those who sign up.

It was The Little Engine That Could.

The book has great illustrations, and also includes some helpful tips on reading it to your child. There’s also a welcome page from Dolly.

My wife, Paula, broke it out as we were all settling down for the night. She put some real expression into it as she read the text to Solomon.

To my surprise, Solomon listened closely and stayed with it for the entire story. He neither tried to find something else to do nor have her hurry through the pages as his usual mode.

Here’s Paula’s take on the experience.

“When the first book came in the mail, I think we were more excited than Solomon,” she said. “But Solomon loved The Little Engine That Could. We will definitely read it again and look forward to the next one that comes.”

Dolly quoter

Paula learned about the Imagination Library from a news article, and then found the website to register. Not every geographic area qualified, but ours did (after a couple of registration attempts).

I don’t know if all of Dolly’s Imagination Library books will hold his attention like the Little Engine That Could, but so far the program is a huge hit with Solomon — and his grandparents.

Thank you, The Little Engine That Could. It could, and it did keep the interest of our restless grandson.

And thank you, Dolly for this creative reading program. You will make a reader out of Solomon yet.

And millions of aspiring young readers like him across the world.

Hotwheels fire alarm in the kitchen

After the smoke cleared in the microwave

I was on kitchen patrol earlier this week, focused on rinsing a bowl in the sink when some unexpected loud popping and sizzling noises from a few feet away caught my attention.

So, I turned and saw smoke billowing out of a microwave that sits on a cart and serves us as our emergency backup microwave.


I scrambled around the edge of the kitchen counter and peered in, but all I could see was a cloud of gray smoke and flames while being hit with an incredible stench.

As I screamed for help from my wife, our son, Sam the Chihuahua — anyone — I found the right button and shut the microwave down.

When the smoke cleared, I saw four Hotwheels cars inside the machine. Flames were still coming out of two of them.

The culprit

Meanwhile, our 3-year-old grandson was in the living room screaming and crying.

it wasn’t a coincidence.

While his Papa’s attention was focused on the dishes, Solomon had loaded up the microwave with his favorite toys and somehow found the power button.

Now he was distraught because he thought he had destroyed his favorite Hotwheels.

We gave it a few minutes and then removed the cars with a wet paper towel in case they were still hot. The Hotwheels were all badly singed, and a tire had begun to melt on one of them.

I told this story to my friends Ed Godfrey and Linda Lynn, and all they could come up with were some bad puns.

“This gives new meaning to Hotwheels,” Ed said.

“Were the tires FIREstone?” Linda asked.


We consoled Solomon while also making it clear that he is never again to touch the microwave or put anything in it. Ever.

The cow had long left the barn, but we took the ultimate step to prevent a repeat of the near disaster.

We unplugged it.

Coffee shop discovery on the road to nowhere

Solomon sits at the bar at Kingfisher’s Strange Brew coffee shop as our barista, Trent, makes our drink in the background.

Our 2-year-old grandson suffered from a case of cabin fever this afternoon, which meant that toys were strewn across the living room and nothing pleased the frustrated boy.

We decided a road trip was in order.

As I gathered Solomon into my arms and carried him to the car, my wife asked me where we were going. I told her I didn’t know, but would let her know when we got there.

So, we pulled out of the driveway about 2 p.m. with no destination in mind, but thinking about discovering a cool coffee shop in a nearby small town.

I headed northwest out of Edmond and decided that Kingfisher might make a good destination. It’s only about 40 minutes from our house, and I love the Main Street look of its downtown.

I figured the town with a population of about 5,000 was bound to have a local coffee shop or two.

Sure enough, we passed a billboard advertising a coffee shop named Strange Brew Coffee House and Tea Room as we entered Kingfisher’s city limits. And that’s where we landed at 2:50 p.m., 10 minutes before its 3 p.m. closing.

The shop was empty except for “Trent,” our barista, as we stepped in. I apologized for barging in so near closing, but he welcomed us in. I ordered an iced mocha and looked around the place as Trent made the beverage.

Strange Brew — also the name of an Eric Clapton recording — has sort of a classic rock theme with posters and faux records on the tables. Trent wore a Led Zeppelin T-shirt that matched the decor of the small shop.

I placed Solomon on a chair at the bar and explored for a few minutes. Trent said the busiest times were early mornings on certain days and the 11 o’clock hour during the work week.

The iced drink arrived within a few minutes, and it was perfect for an 80-degree March afternoon. Trent also rewarded Solomon with some complementary whipped cream for the road.

We loaded back in our car and headed east out of Kingfisher precisely at the Strange Brew’s 3 p.m. closing time.

For a Saturday afternoon drive that began without a destination, Kingfisher and the Strange Brew made it an excellent road trip. And Solomon was a happy boy as we pulled back into our driveway.

Now I’m plotting future drives on the road to nowhere.

Traffic stop on the Lake Road

lake road
The Lake Hefner Parkway

I was focused on the sports radio banter this morning and negotiating heavy traffic on the Lake Hefner Parkway when my 2-year-old grandson began shouting “GiGi! GiGi!”

I didn’t pick up on it immediately.

However, Solomon was relentless from his car seat in the back. “GiGi! GiGi!”

Suddenly, a red Ford Escape cut sharply into my lane just in front of me. I looked at it and thought that it resembled my family’s vehicle. Then the Ford Escape slowed, put on its blinker and began pulling to the shoulder amid the heavy traffic.

That’s when I saw it. The small sticker on the bumper. That WAS our car. Then it hit me why Solomon was shouting GiGi! My wife Paula, his grandmother, had cut us off on the Lake Road and was pulling us over.

So, I pulled in behind her. She hopped out of her car and began running to our car.

I imagined the worst. Had someone in our family died and this is how she was going to break the news to me, here on the shoulder of the Lake Hefner Parkway?

I rolled down my window and she said, “I think I left my phone in your car.”


Apparently, she had left the phone in the car when she buckled Solomon into his car seat. And her phone was critical to her work-from-home job.

After we left for Solomon’s appointment, Paula realized she didn’t have her phone, jumped in the car and began chasing after us. She managed to catch up on the Lake Road, but couldn’t get my attention until she cut me off with Solomon shouting “GiGi!,” his favorite name for her.

Paula crawled into the back seat and said “call my phone.” I called it and her phone began ringing from the back seat. She couldn’t find it and crawled back out.

“Call it again,” she said. I called, and it started ringing. She crawled across the back seat again.

I glanced back and saw it.

Paula’s phone was sticking out of the back pocket of her jeans. It had been there the entire time.

We both (sort of) laughed when we realized where the phone actually was.

And I’ll never let her live it down.

One year ago, breaking news in Capitola: My grandson has arrived

My grandson, Solomon (above), has brightened our lives as a happy 1-year-old


One year ago today, I woke up about 7 am in Capitola, California, and picked up my phone. There was a text alert on the screen from Jane Loafman back in Edmond, OK. It said something on the order of “congratulations on Solomon’s birth.”

Wait, what?

Turns out that my daughter had given birth overnight, and I slept through her calls and text messages. So, I got the news from Jane, with whom I have attended church for many years at The Springs Church of Christ in Edmond.

While I was in California, Solomon Stafford was born 8 weeks premature on May 29, 2019.

Solomon’s mother, my daughter, Sarah, still won’t forgive me for not being present during the birth.

I had a great excuse for being 1,600 miles away.

My 86-year-old mother had suffered a heart attack and undergone emergency bypass surgery while visiting a friend in California about a week earlier.

So, I flew out to give her support from a familiar face while she recovered, first in the hospital, and then in a rehab center. She was unable to fly back to her home in Fort Smith, Ark., for about three weeks.

Papa holding Solomon soon after birth while he was still in the hospital

After staying with her for about 10 days, I flew back to OKC on a Sunday evening. My friend Ed picked me up at the airport and drove me straight to the hospital, where I met Solomon for the first time.

The timing of Solomon’s birth was a big surprise for all of us, because he was 8 weeks premature. He weighed only 3 pounds and change.

Sarah and my wife, Paula, urged me to hold him that first day, which I nervously did for just a few seconds.

I remained in Oklahoma for a week, then flew back to San Jose and Ubered down to Capitola to continue providing support for my mom until the doctor gave her permission to return home later that week. We flew back to Fort Smith together.

Now, a year later, my Mom is thriving as an 87-year-old widow who still lives on her own.

And Solomon has made tremendous progress, as well. He’s now a 20-pound, almost-toddler, crawling, climbing and bringing joy to our lives.