Archive for November, 2007

On the lookout for hitchhiking ghosts

November 29, 2007

Haunted_mansionWe’re off to Disneyland this weekend, my kids have been before, but it turns out two out of three have very little or no memory of that trip, so it doesn’t count; according to them, we’ve never gone.

Disneyland (or World, they’re basically interchangeable for me) is one of those places that I’ve only visited a handful of times, with the visits far enough apart so each one is distinct. There was my first trip, during a college spring break. That time, I discovered my favorite metaphor of all time, plastered on a sign inside the Haunted Mansion: “Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts.” I’ve used it a few times to impress writing teachers; they always seemed to like it.

Anyway, I have a feeling that on this trip to Disneyland I’m going to run into quite a few hitchhiking ghosts. There’s the ghost of three-year-old Alex, who truly believed Mickey and Goofy and Winnie the

Pooh were real, and treasured his autographed Tigger hat, signed by Tigger personally, for years. (He’ll be hitching a ride on the shoulders of 16-year-old Alex, hair newly shaved into a Mohawk. Note to self; get a picture of him with Tigger, find old picture, frame together) There’ll be pregnant me, sitting on the bench next to the Flying Dumbos, and on the bench next to Peter Pan’s ride, and on the bench next to the castle; I sat on a lot of benches when I was pregnant with Nadya. I might also catch the pregnant me on the first drop of Pirates of the Caribbean—that was when that second child finally decided to flip over and stop threatening to be a breech birth. (I’m thinking doctors should do a study on this one, it might work better than external versions for turning breeches.)

And there’s the ghost of that same child at age 4 ½, wearing a party dress, and trying to meet every Disney Princess in a single day while I chase after her pushing her baby brother in a stroller. She’s too grown up for princesses these days, and for ruffly party dresses, but it will be nice to catch a glimpse of the four-year-old who once liked both.

And if ghosts are really good at hitchhiking, can make it cross country, say, then when I ride the Small World boats I might see myself at six years old, on my favorite ride at the New York World’s Fair.

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I just wish the police had called

November 25, 2007

Picpolbadge
My son and a friend of his, both 16, were walking from the friend’s house towards ours at around 7:45 pm yesterday evening when they were stopped by police. Lots of police. There had just been an armed robbery in the neighborhood, and the kids fit the description of the perpetrators—teen boys, one taller than the other, white or light-skinned Hispanic, one wearing a sweatshirt, the other a nylon jacket. They were frisked, fingerprinted, and then had to sit on the curb while a witness was brought in. The witness cleared them. The whole thing took about half an hour.

My kid seemed fine when he got home. He was respectful to the police, they were polite to him, and at the end they apologized for taking up his time.

I understand why they stopped the boys—in the wrong place, at the wrong time, dressed in the wrong clothes.

What I don’t understand is why the police didn’t call. The kids were clearly juveniles, and told the police they were close to home. The police had plenty of time, there was a fair wait before the witness arrived, there were lots of officers on the scene. They had already taken
down his name and address and phone number. My husband and I were home
and likely would have picked up the phone on the second ring. If my
child is being fingerprinted and is then sitting in the cold surrounded
by police, not knowing what is going to happen next, I’d like a chance
to come and be with him.

Or maybe a police officer could have called afterwards, and told us
what happened and asked if we had any questions. I’d like to know, for
example, if the fingerprint record gets erased, or gets stored
somewhere. And what if my kid hadn’t come home and told me what
happened, if he had been embarrassed for some reason, and was trying to
deal with it on his own. Then a phone call from one of the officers
would have been really important.

We’re still waiting.

I’m getting Thanksgiving back, I just hope it’s not too late

November 21, 2007

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When my husband and I first got married, we had it all worked out. My family back east had a lot of Christmas traditions, his down in southern California was big on Thanksgiving. So we’d spend alternate Christmases visiting my family, Thanksgivings on the stay-home-for-Christmas years with his. And each year we’d end up celebrating one of those two major holidays at home.

It all went smoothly for quite a while. Then, for some reason, I forget why, maybe his mother’s knee surgery, we went off the schedule and did Thanksgiving with his family two years in a row. It made sense at the time. Then one more year in a row, so we could get back to alternating with the Christmas trips. Then I had an injury and was out of commission for Thanksgiving, so he took the kids to San Diego for the fourth year in a row. Then another year heading south, since I didn’t go the previous year, and suddenly, it’s been six Thanksgivings since I cooked the turkey.

This, I realize as I invite friends and plan the menu and shop, means that my kids have no memory of Thanksgiving at home, as my littlest confirmed when he asked what night we’d go see the Christmas lights at the Del Mar race track. This worries me. The alternate Christmases worked out just fine, our kids have Christmas traditions
back east (a favorite involves making decorated Christmas chocolates
with their little cousins) and Christmas traditions at home (like
caroling on Christmas tree lane). But somewhere along the way I lost
Thanksgiving. In the short run, it’s not a big deal. But with my oldest
child college shopping right now, the days when my kids leave the house
seem to be coming awfully quick, and I want them to have Thanksgiving
memories that will draw them back here year after year. Here, not San
Diego, because San Diego Thanksgivings, by the time my kids are married
and have kids, are not likely to be an option. And I wonder if it’s
already too late, and Christmas will have to be enough.

November 21, 2007

Images
When my husband and I first got married, we had it all worked out. My family back east had a lot of Christmas traditions, his down in southern California was big on Thanksgiving. So we’d spend alternate Christmases visiting my family, Thanksgivings on the stay-home-for-Christmas years with his. And each year we’d end up celebrating one of those two major holidays at home.

It all went smoothly for quite a while. Then, for some reason, I forget why, maybe his mother’s knee surgery, we went off the schedule and did Thanksgiving with his family two years in a row. It made sense at the time. Then one more year in a row, so we could get back to alternating with the Christmas trips. Then I had an injury and was out of commission for Thanksgiving, so he took the kids to San Diego for the fourth year in a row. Then another year heading south, since I didn’t go the previous year, and suddenly, it’s been six Thanksgivings since I cooked the turkey.

This, I realize as I invite friends and plan the menu and shop, means that my kids have no memory of Thanksgiving at home, as my littlest confirmed when he asked what night we’d go see the Christmas lights at the Del Mar race track. This worries me. The alternate Christmases worked out just fine, our kids have Christmas traditions
back east (a favorite involves making decorated Christmas chocolates
with their little cousins) and Christmas traditions at home (like
caroling on Christmas tree lane). But somewhere along the way I lost
Thanksgiving. In the short run, it’s not a big deal. But with my oldest
child college shopping right now, the days when my kids leave the house
seem to be coming awfully quick, and I want them to have Thanksgiving
memories that will draw them back here year after year. Here, not San
Diego, because San Diego Thanksgivings, by the time my kids are married
and have kids, are not likely to be an option. And I wonder if it’s
already too late, and Christmas will have to be enough.

Ick ick eww ick ick ick

November 20, 2007

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So about four weeks ago, on a business trip, I stayed at a horrid Holiday Inn in Olathe, Kansas. I had been looking forward to a relaxing evening before my meetings, hot tub, lovely meal from room service, and lots of quiet time. The hotel was in the midst of a huge renovation, the hot tub was torn up, restaurant closed, and quiet time, well, the workers stayed pretty late. So I didn’t get much on that wish list.

Instead I got scabies.

I found out today. I’ve been itching a lot lately, seemingly more and more. Had a little trouble during drive time yesterday because it was hard to concentrate on the road while fighting the urge to itch, so decided I really needed to get myself to a doctor. I had lots of theories about the itching that did trace it

back to that Holiday Inn—a reaction to the nasty shower soap at the
hotel; some kind of poisoning from the horrid chemical smell that
permeated my room one evening (apparently the workers had stored some
supplies in the room next to mine, they quickly  moved them and gave me
an air purifier after I complained); I even wondered if they had washed
the sheets in some particularly nasty detergent.

It didn’t occur to me, however, that perhaps they hadn’t washed the sheets at all.

Ick ick eww ick ick ick.

So now I have to put that nasty permethrin stuff (think lice
shampoo) all over my entire body for eight to ten lovely hours. And
wash everything in sight. And toast my pillows in the dryer. And vacuum,
vacuum, vacuum and throw the bag far far away. And then continue to
itch for another couple of weeks while the now-hopefully-dead buggies
work their way off of my body.

Ewwww ick ick ick ewww ick ick.

And for once, I’m glad my youngest has been too grown up for big
hugfests lately, even though I’ll get back to missing them hugely once
life gets back to normal; and that my husband’s had a bad cold and
hasn’t been particularly huggy himself. So hopefully this little
infestation will stop with me.

At least the house will be really clean for Thanksgiving.

Neighborhood play grows up

November 12, 2007

There’s been a fair amount of chat lately about neighborhood play, that is, unplanned, unstructured, just kids having fun without parental involvement kind of play. Much of this talk has bemoaned it’s disappearance.

Well, it hasn’t disappeared in my neighborhood. We’ve got a pack of boys in third, fourth, and fifth grades that are embracing neighborhood play with a vengeance (much to the dismay of the childless couple on the block, who used to quietly sip wine on their front porch, but have been driven away by the racket of skateboards slamming down makeshift ramps and the flying soccer balls that regularly land in their front yard). This means homework is regularly interrupted by a ringing doorbell and a group of little boy faces pressed against the glass (I rarely have the heart to keep my guy inside when his friends are outside, which means I’m nagging about piano practice and homework long into the night instead of having it all wrapped up before dinner.) It also means that I feel no remorse when I boot my kids outside because they’re driving me nuts.

We’ve got a few natural circumstances going for us, kids roughly in the same age group and a quiet street (they aren’t supposed to play in the street, but it is reassuring that if a ball goes in the street their isn’t much traffic to worry about). We’ve also got front porches or stoops, which meant that when the kids

were younger, we could sort of supervise them with comfort. (We
don’t supervise them any more). But mostly, we’ve got parents who are
the sociable sort, so would rather sit in front of their houses
watching the world go by than in privacy in the back, and think their
kids should, too.

What I haven’t told the rest of the group, who only have younger
kids, is that neighborhood play evolves as the kids get older, and the
neighborhood gets bigger. And when you’re sitting on your porch
drinking a glass of wine as your kid is out playing somewhere, well,
you’ll appreciate that glass of wine.

Because for teens in Palo Alto, I discovered a few years ago, the
neighborhood is the entire town. My teen and his friends, when they’re
bored and antsy, will do “parcours”, a wild urban race game. The video
that opens this post will give you just a little idea of what
neighborhood play looks like when it grows up. (The kid with the cut up
hands at the end is mine.) They’ll race their bikes into the dry lake
bed at Stanford and build jumps in the center. If they round up a big
enough group, they’ll play capture the flag or cops and
robbers—downtown, on University Ave., in the bank plaza, in the parking
garage. And it’s cute, sort of, and a little dangerous, or it wouldn’t
be fun. And sometimes you’ll wish you hadn’t gone to watch them jump in
the lake bed that one time, or they hadn’t let a friend video them, because now that you know exactly what
they’re doing, it worries you more.