Archive for April, 2008

Drawing different hands in the genetics gamble

April 25, 2008

J0351958 Sometimes you see a family in which it’s clear that each kid drew nearly the same set of cards in the genetics gamble. I recently interviewed a guy in his office; on the top of his bookshelves were five pictures of a blonde boy; they looked like the exact same boy at different ages. Actually, they looked like the guy must have looked as a child. “Are those your old school photos?” I asked. Nope, they were his five sons.

A friend of mine calls his eight siblings the evens and odds—the odds, numbers one, three, five, seven, and nine in the birth order—all have red hair, freckles, and aren’t particularly tall. The evens are tall and blonde.

My daughter and sons don’t seem to hold very many matching gene cards; the two boys look somewhat alike, my daughter not much like either. And it’s not just looks. My 16-year-old already sings professionally, my daughter is tone deaf (just like me) but has great rhythm (clearly tempo and pitch are different genetically). Pretty much nothing disgusts my daughter; she’s the kid that at age seven helped the other kids at summer camp with their squid dissections and then enjoyed a meal of the leftover squid; my youngest son can’t look into a compost bin without losing his lunch. Each

kid has one food that they just can’t choke down; for my oldest son, it’s peas; for my daughter, it’s ground beef; and for my youngest son, it’s angel hair pasta. Of course, one kid’s poison is another kid’s favorite; I figure everyone is entitled to a free pass on one food, and try to rotate the misery.

This all came home to me last night when the two younger kids came in from the garage to report that one of our cats took out the blue jay that had been harassing her earlier, and blood and feathers were all over the place. (BTW, could we save the comments from people who think my cat is an evil creature for another time?)  “Would you mind cleaning it up,” I asked. My 12-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy grabbed plastic bags and paper towels and headed out to the garage; my 9-year-old reappeared almost instantly, retching, suddenly remembering he needed to practice for his piano recital. My daughter calmly cleaned up the mess, carefully placing the few uneaten organs on a paper towel. For the next half hour or so she examined the heart, identifying the major veins, arteries, and chambers, and marveling at how similar the bird heart is to the human heart she’d been studying this year and the sheep heart she dissected in fifth grade; meanwhile, her brother pounded on the piano. We talked about trying to preserve the heart in some way to take into her science class, but eventually she decided she’d done all she needed to do with it and threw it way, ending what had turned into a really long piano practice, and inspiring this post.

Mom, can I take a banana to school tomorrow?

April 15, 2008

Fd00458_ “Mom, can I take a banana to school tomorrow?”

“Sure,” I answered my 16-year-old son at the dinner table last night. “For a snack, do you mean?”

“Uh, no.”

“Then for what?”

“For Living Skills class.”

OK then, now I knew what he was talking about. Living Skills, for the uninitiated, is not about balancing your checkbook and basic cooking, it’s a euphemism for sex-and-drugs 101.

I glanced over at the rapidly diminishing bunch of bananas in the fruit bowl, debating if we’d have enough to make it through the week. I wasn’t sure.

“How about a zucchini?” I offered.

“Zucchini, banana, whatever.”

“Maybe if you took a banana you could have it for your snack later?” (I was having trouble with the concept of wasting food.)


My 12-year-old could barely contain herself. She had figured out what this discussion was about. My 9-year-old wanted in on the joke. I matter-of-factly explained what the fruit or vegetable would be used for as my 12-year-old squirmed. My 9-year-old wondered why any one would want to do that. My 12-year-old wanted to know if the girls had to bring in bananas too, and if so, why. I came up with an answer. She then said she’d never be able to look at a banana with a straight face again, and thank you very much for ruining her dinner. I was wondering why the heck my husband picked tonight to volunteer for a phone bank and miss dinner.

After what was probably way too much discussion, I told my 16-year-old to check in the fridge, if we had more than two zucchini, take one, otherwise, take a banana. So he went to school with the banana.

Next month the electronic baby comes home. I can’t wait.

Even Bruce has some rude fans

April 6, 2008

Liveimage Fellow blogger Martha and I went to the Bruce Springsteen concert in San Jose this weekend. Martha scored general admission tickets for us, which means, if you’re lucky, you stand up front, if not, you stand a bit back, but still reasonably close. Bruce, of course, was Magic. My one disappointment with the concert itself—no Patti! As a Jersey Girl, I’m as much of a Patti fan as I am a Bruce fan, but Patti stayed home, Bruce explained, because they have three teenagers now. To paraphrase, “As we were leaving, the hash brownies were coming out of the oven, 100 pizzas had been delivered, and the Girls Gone Wild bus pulled up, so Patti decided one of us had to hold down the fort.” That’s life as a 50-something rocker mom.

Anyway, this post isn’t about the great concert (though you should have been there to see Bruce and Clarence canoodle in “Fire,” a great moment). It’s about the crowd, the good people, and the three not-so-good people we had to deal with.

First I have to explain the General Admission system. You arrive between 2 and 5 (we got there around 3:40) and get a numbered armband. At 5 pm, the 800 people with armbands lined up in numerical order.

Everybody was in a good mood, chatty, patient, even passing a box of clementines around. Then the organizers had someone pull a number from a jar; that number represented the head of the line (it was 451), so 451 through 800 went first, then 1 through 451 got in line behind them. The first 500 got into the pit below the stage, the rest of us behind a railing that separated the pit from the riff-raff. The good news was those of us who had patiently participated in the lottery had first dibs on the railing, so ended up at most three people back from the railing, still a pretty good view. We organized ourselves so we could all see, took turns on bathroom breaks, and kept it all pretty fair. Then they opened the gates to the folks who came too late for the armband lottery. Most of them fell in behind us, nice and orderly, but a few pushed, shoved, and elbowed their way to the front.

One of those late-arriving shovers was a very large woman in blue, who pushed Martha off to the side in line three while I was in the bathroom and jammed herself into what had been my spot. When I returned, one of the guys who had been in front of us, since my spot was gone, slipped me in between him and his friend in line two. This totally ticked off the lady in blue, and she proceeded to try to crush me, she basically turned around and leaned into me, and since she outweighed me easily by a factor of three, I couldn’t hold on for long, so I switched places with one of the guys; he was pretty big, so she backed off. For a while.

While I was trying not to get squished, two other late arrivals (you could tell by their armbands) plowed through the crowd literally elbowing people aside. Hard, from the sound a British woman standing in front of me made, she took an elbow in the ribs and it was pretty painful. While people were checking their wounds and dusting themselves off, the two plunked themselves at the rail and shoved the people at their sides away to take up enough room for four. The rest of us started mumbling about what to do; at that point the pushy two called the guard over and told him that they were getting a hostile vibe from the people around them, and they were afraid we were going to hurt them. The guard told us if we couldn’t get along we’d have to go stand in the back. He didn’t bother to check their armbands.

Just as the concert started, the lady in blue switched around so she was behind  me again, and started pushing really hard. But now elbow-warrior was in front of me, and I was afraid if I moved even an inch forward she was going to head-butt me, she kept flinging her head back, which did keep people away. A sweet guy from Arizona, not much taller than me, but stronger, saw what was going on and slid over to switch places with me. Lady in blue tried shoving him a bit, but gave up, and went to her secret weapon, her piercing scream, and kept it up most of the concert (sorry for not clapping much, Bruce, Arizona guy and I had to cover our ears between songs in what may have been a futile attempt to save our hearing, my left ear is still ringing).

On the plus side, the pushy three, though unfortunately, getting away with their behavior, did give the rest of us something to bond over, and we parted after the lights came up with warm goodbyes. But next time, along with that lottery, I’d suggest a Survivor-style vote, because there were definitely a few people that needed to be voted off the island.

A little dig from Digg

April 2, 2008

J0404325 Maybe I’m just sensitive. But I think Digg could have phrased it. I finally signed up for Digg, just filling out the basics, name, age, city. A few days later, I discovered that Digg turns that formulaic info into a description, and my description is “A 50 year-old lady from Palo Alto, CA ( US ) who joined Digg on February 26th.”

This was probably the first time I saw myself described as 50 (it was only a week or so after my birthday). And it must have gotten to me, because the first time I read the sentence, I thought it said “a 50-year-old old lady.”

Until then I didn’t think that I was tripping out about the turning 50 thing, but Digg proved me wrong.