Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chips, Salsa and An Ice-Pack

     I make it a practice to try to return all of my children's friends home safely to their mothers without a trip to the Emergency Room or an intrarcranial hematoma.    This particular day, my daughter brought along a new friend whose mother trusted me with her daughter's safety. We stopped in Chili's for lunch and I walked into the restroom at the exact moment that my two girls discovered that one should not use their head as a door stop and that the other had the power of a freight train.   The Red Cross First Aid steps ran through my head (Check, Call Care) as this baseball size knot began growing on this poor child's head and I realized that these simple steps were only good when giving first aid to a mannequin named Red Cross Annie in a classroom setting.    I checked her head, called for the waitress to hold the appetizers and just bring an ice pack and care was evident as Abby posed for the kids to snap photos to quickly upload to Facebook.  I knew I had to call her mother as they were photo-shopping a large horn coming from her head and preparing to send it out to 462 friends of friends.   This is not the photo you want her mother to run across with 17 "likes"next to it and no knowledge of what has happened.   The fourth step in the Red Cross First Aid plan should be to secure everyone's cell phones and control all outgoing messages and photos until you have properly notified the child's mother. After that, the kids are free to upload messages, photos and videos.  You know it's bad when the table next to you is trying to take a picture, too and they don't even know you.

     My heart sank as I knew I would be unable to return this child unharmed.  According to Abby's mother, some guy on yahoo answers and a quickly googled up version of the American Medical Pediatric Guidelines, she should be okay since there were no signs of  nausea, blurred vision, headache, or exposed skull.   But let's face it... a giant knot is just a horrible thing to return a kid with.   We finished our chips and salsa, refilled our ice-pack and prepared to leave as the girls announced that they needed to go to the restroom.   I begged them to open the door with their hands and not their heads this time. Last thing we needed was a matching knot on the other side.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Making of Nerds and Other School Projects

    It is normally close to bedtime when we discover that our kids have forgotten to make that scaled model of DNA or an interactive mobile of the planets aligning in preparation for some magnetic shift certain to change the world as we know it.  Because of this, I keep a supply of poster board, hot glue and assorted candy that I can quickly craft into chromosomes, solar systems and  working models of pulley and lever systems should I need to do so in a moment’s notice.    I also keep an assortment of costumes on hand for Book Parade day so we can dress as just about any Newberry Award winning character should we need to.   
    It was an exceptionally long day, recently, when my daughter informed me that tomorrow was “Nerd Day” at school and we would need a complete Nerd wardrobe.  Since this is the child with 42 pairs of shoes and a closet full of designer jeans, this was going to be a more difficult project.   Thanks to a 24 hour Wal-Mart and items from my Book parade collection, she transformed herself into an adorable “nerdy” girl.   Something inside of me tugged at me, though, as I wondered if this was really an appropriate activity.  It’s probably not so fun for the kids that already appear a bit nerdy and I was worried for them.   We had stepped upon the fine line between having fun and being rude.  I finally decided my over-analysis was a useless effort and just let my kid go with the school activity. The next day was sports day and that was followed by school color day.  Both of these were easy to pull off.    I kept my glue gun handy should I need to hot glue some candy ribbons into smooth endoplasmic reticulum, but it looked like Jr. High might be easier than elementary school and my crafting days may be numbered.  

    When my son reached Jr. High, he and his friend had to build a model of a roller coaster.  I was so excited as I mapped out plans for piping and tubing and tiny mechanical lifts until my son informed me he was doing this on his own.  My bubble burst as I realized I had to let go of control.  I handed him my glue gun, which has never been the same since, and sent him on his way.   I asked for project review at key milestones such as 60 and 90% completion and my son gave me that look that said, “let go.”    I saw him take his father’s drill to school and wondered how they were going to build this without a safety briefing and a proper assortment of drill bits.  Alas… they finished their project and I would get to see it on Project night.  

    When I arrived, there were roller coasters in the shapes of snakes and little coaster cars shot out of the eyes with such mechanical precision it made your head spin.  Another coaster dived under water amongst a complete ecosystem of fish and plants.  They failed to incorporate in oxygen, so the fish were all dead, but the idea was grand.  My son and his friend’s roller coaster did not have the flare of the others so they tacked on a home-made sign that said Vegas and duct taped his sister’s Barbie to a support pole.  She donned a tiny grey duct tape miniskirt and tube top and her feet and hands were bound to the pole.  I stood there in shock as the other mothers walked by quietly shaking their heads in disapproval.   Next to us, was a small crowd awed by the coaster built by a child whose parent was obviously a mechanical engineer.  I glanced over to see Barbie hanging from a strut and knew that one day soon, I would be asked again to help with school projects.  I can build coasters, nerds, life forms and more.   It is good to know you are needed! 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spinning Reindeer and Mountainous Treks

    It was 1975 and as I walked out of elementary school for the last time, my grandparents were waiting for me in the parking lot in a Midnight Blue Lincoln Continental with a full size Airstream trailer hitched to the back.  It was summer and we were off to see America.  My cousin Ramonna, who is several years younger than I am, sat in the oversized back seat with me, as our feet stuck straight out in front of us and we headed West.   The car smelled of new leather, Old Spice and expensive perfume.    I was young enough that many of the memories have since faded, but I can still clearly see the wild storms in Kansas and the never ending highway that carried us to Colorado.

    We landed at Garden of the Gods Campground in mid June only to be met by an unseasonable snowfall.  We jumped in the big car, with trailer still attached, and headed to K-Mart where my grandparents bought us all winter clothes to replace the suitcase full of summer wear we had packed.  Hoping now that it was actually fashionable in the 70s, I remember leaving the store in a lime green pair of bell bottom pants with a giant cat embroidered on the leg.  The finishing touch was the white pom pom on the tail that gave it a 3-D effect.  Gosh, I loved those pants!     

    The next morning my grandparents would take us to “The North Pole,” an amusement park at the base of Pike's Peak.  It was a magical place with summer snow all around.  This trip would not be complete, however, without a journey to the top of the mountain.   Forty years later, I have to recommend that one do this without a 30 foot trailer dragging behind you.   At the age of 11, I had no clue to the danger we were in or the small heart attack that my grandfather certainly must have been facing as we climbed higher and higher on narrow roads with steep drops off the side and no place to turn around.   These were the days before break stations, runaway vehicle ramps and nitroglycerin in the glove box.   I only remember the amusement park and the view from the top and both were absolutely wonderful.

    Years later, I took my own family to Colorado and we ventured down to the Springs to see “The North Pole.”   My daughter was one year old and looked like a tiny Babushka doll in her headscarf intentionally donned to protect her ears from a late summer wind.   My son was five and wanted to ride some spinning reindeer sleigh ride.  I had forgotten about the Disney Tea Cups of Death not intended for any child with motion sickness and should have remembered to stay away from such rides.  The first time the reindeer passed us in its large circular course, I noticed my son’s color had faded.  The second time he flew by, he was looking a bit green.  On the third rotation, his head was down and I was leaping over reindeer to signal the operator to let the boy off the ride.  He had turned green and was in the full throws of motion sickness.

    We headed to the car and decided a slow ride to the top of Pike’s Peak was what we needed to relax.  I had no idea how slow that ride would actually be as we stopped every few miles for me to hold a sick child on the side of the road and curse those spinning reindeer.  As we got closer to the top I saw the dangerous two lane gravel strips of road with steep drops hundreds of feet below that we had to travel.  I thought back to the Lincoln and the Airstream trailer and wondered how worse this road had to have been forty years earlier.   It was bad enough now and I felt the energy of my grandfather’s courage that still remained on the mountain.  We continued our periodic stops on the side of the road and I wished that the car smelled like new leather, Old Spice and perfume, but it did not.  It was more of a sweaty child, cotton candy, carbonated soda and dust smell that filled our car.

    We eventually made it to the top and as we pulled into the parking lot a large dark cloud floated overhead and we found ourselves in a miniautre snowstorm.  We stood there in our shorts as the snow pounded down on us.   I had to smile as I found myself standing where I had once stood before and secretly wished that I now had that pair of lime green cat pants purchased for events such as this one.   I forced everyone from the car so we could take a picture. My son sported a post traumatic sweaty pre-hypothermia look.  The Babushka baby gave me that look of total discomfort and disgust and my husband stood in the background desperately trying to light a cigarette in the storm force winds.   I wished that my grandfather was there with his silver trailer and we could have climbed inside to take shelter from the storm.  I imagine he was one of the few who has actually pulled a small house to the top of Pike’s Peak and I felt honored to be a part of that.  Perhaps forty years from now my children will take this same path in their eco-friendly suburban utility vehicle and remember the flying reindeer and unseasonable snow storm.  My daughter won’t know why, but she’ll remember the warmth of a scarf on her head and the smell of cotton candy.  My son will breath in the cool mountain air and remember down deep somewhere how wonderful the air felt as we stood on the side of the road catching our breath and stilling the world for just a moment in time.

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...