Archive for August, 2006

Apple Battery Recall

August 30, 2006

Img_0574Apple has recalled my laptop battery. According to the recall notice, I’m supposed to stop using the battery immediately, removing it from the laptop, or the laptop might overheat. That’s all the notice says, but I mentally extend the sentence, with “causing it to burst into flames, melting the laptop into a pool of metal and plastic and burning down my entire house, including all the baby and toddler keepsakes and photos, and leaving my family homeless.” 
    Anyway, I’m then supposed to wait, computer plugged in, four to six weeks until my new battery arrives.
    I’m paranoid about fire. All my nightmares of a kid were of “firebugs” (not sure where I heard about them) burning my house down. I come by this genetically—my grandmother eventually got past her need to leave buckets of water all around the house, but as long as she could walk continued to unplug every electrical cord at night, woe the person who woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to turn on a light. Good thing her era predated digital clock displays, or my mother would have spent her entire mornings resetting clocks.
    So of course I yanked out the battery. And then I put it back in, because the thought of being tethered to a power outlet after years of laptop use made me feel claustrophobic. Yeah, I spend a fair number of hours a day sitting at my desk with the computer plugged in; I work in a home office and telecommute. But I can’t write first drafts in an office; I never could, not even in the days of typewriters. I can just find too many things to distract myself. "Oh look, a phone, I need to call that person whose call I was supposed to return three weeks ago. And those six months of magazines piled in the corner, I’d better read them right now! And clearly it’s time to reorganize my file cabinets."
    Back in high school I had a teeny tiny light blue portable typewriter I could take anywhere, even to summer camp. It was not much bigger than my current laptop. (Come to think of it, it didn’t need to be plugged in either, which was a good thing because the cabins at camp did not have electrical outlets.) And I had one of the first Apple laptops ever made. I’m a café writer, and proud of it.
    Even when I’m not writing a first draft I can’t sit at my desk all day; a neck injury last year limits my vertical time, I have to take the occasional half hour break reclining on the couch, laptop on my knees. It’s the best position for catching up on on-line news—try it! I suppose I could get an extension cord and stay wired, but likely I would trip over it and injure yet another part of my body.
    So my laptop battery stays in, except sometimes I remember to take it out at night, or at least unplug the thing. And while I know a bucket of water would be really dumb to throw on an electrical fire, I’m fighting the urge to put one in the corner of my office….

Ten things my kids learned on our summer vacation

August 29, 2006

—That the Secret Service guys in front of the White House are hard to amuse, even if they do look funny in their bicycle shorts.

—That Pat Sajak and Ollie North hang out at the same restaurant. And that Pat Sajak is not the one in the dress that turns the letters, he’s the boring one.

—That 105 degrees at 90 percent humidity is really really hot, and when you sweat your clothes get wet and stay that way.

—That the soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are hard to amuse.

—That if a jellyfish stings you, you should ask your brother to pee on the spot that hurts. (Well, that’s what the lifeguard said to do. Child in question decided pain was preferable to pee.)

—That if you pick up a crab by its back swim paddles it doesn’t pinch you with its claws and you can chase your sister with it, but this doesn’t work if the crab is missing one of its back swimmers.

—That the cops in New Jersey are hard to amuse. And if you’re in New Jersey on the beach at night, and you draw a labyrinth on the sand and plan to spend the next 20 minutes walking the labyrinth and meditating, you might get interrupted with a spotlight in your face and two cops who think you are perhaps confused (i.e., drunk or stoned). And that when you tell them what you’re doing they might not know what a labyrinth is and might think it’s a cult symbol.

—That the waves don’t necessary read the tide schedules in the newspaper, so if the paper says high tide is 3 pm, and at 3 pm your blanket is safely eight feet back from the high-water mark, that doesn’t mean that if you’re napping on that blanket at 4 pm, a rogue wave might not drench you, your book, and all your towels, miraculously leaving all the people around you dry. (Actually, that was something I learned, the kids were playing in the dry sand.)

—That chapstick is a liquid, forget what your science teacher told you, and therefore is not allowed on an airplane.

—That the security screeners at the airport are hard to amuse.

My new set of wheels

August 26, 2006

F0onmybI got rid of my last stroller more than a year ago. Once I owned four—simultaneously. I had the umbrella stroller for the car, the single with the standing bar on the back for long trips with one kid or shorter trips with two, the regular double that I knicknamed the greyhound bus, and the double jogger. And then there were none. I wouldn’t have given any of them up without my husband’s nagging. He had a point; when I finally sent the last one, the umbrella stroller, off to goodwill my youngest was turning seven and hadn’t sat in it in six months. But I knew I would miss them all desperately.
    And I do. Yeah, I know I don’t need them for the kids anymore. Sure, I liked my walks a lot better when I could put the kids in a stroller and enjoy the scenery; these days I take less walks since I’ve got to keep my eyes on the kids. But that ship, as they say, has sailed.
    These days I miss my strollers for their hauling power. We’re out at a picnic, the kids hand me their sweatshirts and hats, and my arms are full for the next two hours; I used to just dump it all in the stroller. When I bring in snacks and juice to the elementary school I feel absolutely ridiculous driving two blocks, but I do, and I miss that double stroller that used to handle a tray of cupcakes and three jugs of juice without a squeak. I haven’t gone to the local farmer’s market since I sold the double—there’s no place to park a car, and I always buy too much to carry home if I’m walking. (For about two minutes I thought maybe I’d get one of those wire-mesh
carts that old ladies in New York push to the grocery store. But
they’re called granny carts, so I just couldn’t do it,  I mean, come
on, I don’t have blue hair yet.) For the past two summers we’ve driven to the Palo Alto twilight concerts; again, we used to walk, with a kid and a cooler in the stroller and the other kids on scooters.
    But this horrible hole in my life left by the departure of all my strollers is about to be filled.
Because earlier this month, on our annual shore vacation, I met the WonderWheeler.
    You see, in New Jersey, no one goes to the beach with just a towel and sunglasses. Jersey Girls are serious about the beach. We hit the sand right after our breakfast coffee and, if at all possible, stay until the sun sets and the seagulls are picking through the garbage cans for pizza crusts. Such long beach days require major amounts of gear. Specifically, for my current family of five, I need six striped towels, five sand chairs, three boogie boards, two beach bags (full of books, newspapers, extra t-shirts, extra lotion, sunglasses, plastic cups, pencils for the crossword puzzle, cameras, and shells we forgot to take out the night before), two long-handled shovels, one big blanket, one beach umbrella, one jug of lemonade, and a giant bag stuffed with sand toys.
    It’s not a long walk from our beach rental to the sand, but it’s still long enough that all that stuff gets heavy. And it’s a matter of pride not to do two trips. So my husband and I load up the kids as best we can (life is better now that we have a 5-foot 9-inch teenager in the party, but still, someone is usually whining about the unfairness of the load distribution), grab whatever’s left ourselves, and lead the march to the water’s edge.
    This summer, as we set off on our first trip to the beach, looking like a bunch of sherpas attacking the Himalayas, I noticed that none of the other families around us looked quite so burdened. In fact, everyone else had all their gear loaded onto hip looking navy blue carts that the dads were pushing; the moms were blissfully emptyhanded. The carts looked almost like strollers, or at least like my strollers used to look when I piled them nose-high with stuff. Where did these carts come from? How come I didn’t get the memo?
    I confronted one cart-pushing family (between the aunts and grandparents they had three blue carts). I wanted information, and I wanted it now. "Wonderwheeler….Rio Beach…" they stammered. "60 bucks online, 40 if you can find it at Sam’s Club." I scribbled the details on the back of my trashy paperback, and ordered it the next time I got in front of a computer.
    It shipped today, and I have a feeling that it’s going to be my new best friend. So look for me at the farmer’s market, the next school picnic, and just tooling around downtown; this girl’s finally got some new wheels.