Monday, October 20, 2014

Up in the air

Don't look down

My grandson is courageous.
He loves to walk the ropes at the new Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point.
So when my son offered to pay the way for two granddaughters and him, we naturally planned on Hayden playing in the sky.
He loves a challenge and isn't afraid of heights.
He also enjoys watching his grandma worry!
So we were dismayed when we got to the front of the line and the lady at the counter wouldn't sell us a ticket for the ropes.
"Are you his legal guardian?" she asked.
"Uh, no, but I'm his grandma," I said, hoping that would be enough.
"We need a legal guardian to sign for him," she said. "Is there one here?"
I looked around. Just me and the kids.
"What can we do? Can I call his dad and let him vouch for me?" I asked.
"You could email him and get a waiver," she said.
I wondered how I could do that without a computer, a printer and a scanner.
I looked at Hayden who shrugged at me.
"What do you suggest?" I asked the lady, trying to look sure of myself and ignoring the growing line of people behind us waiting to buy tickets.
The lady sighed, looked at me and went over to the wall.
She brought back a piece of paper with a list of instructions.
"Here," she said. "Do this."
I looked at the paper. It told me call the proposed guardian and then go online to the event website.
Then the lucky guardian was to print off  the waiver, fill it out, sign it, scan it and send it back to the website after which my grandson would be granted permission to go aloft.
I called my son who didn't really have time for this. (That's why I had the grandkids. My son needed to focus on his business.)
He agreed to follow the instructions.
Hayden and I waited. His sisters waited. Time went by.
After about 10 minutes we had scanned documents, one on my phone, one at the events counter.
"Wait," said the counter lady. "Hmmm." She frowned. "He signed on the wrong line."
Really? Did it matter? All the other lines looked fine to me.
"Yeah. It has to be right," the lady said. "Have him resend it."
I called my son again and he did everything again, this time signing on the bottom-most line.
As a result, in another 20 minutes, Hayden was in the air, having fun, trying to stay balanced and grinning down at me.
I think it was worth it,
I'm just not sure there isn't an easier way to do this.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Off the rails

We noticed a "Ticket to Ride" game in the room of one of the residents in one of the Beehive Homes we visit on a weekly basis.
The lady who lives in the room is fun and lively so we offered to come play a game with her when we had a free night.
Yesterday we dropped in on her.
"We're here to play you a game!" we announced cheerfully.
(I think she was a little taken aback. This meant she had to take a deep breath, get the game down out of the closet and turn down an invitation to a movie with her daughter.)
But she was game.
We were soon seated at the dining room table in the commons area and getting out all the little plastic train pieces which were strangely heavy.
"My sister glued magnets to all of the trains," she explained. "And we added some tracks where there weren't enough lines."
We examined the board more closely.
In her game, sure enough, there were magnets glued solidly to the board everywhere the tracks were supposed to be.
Some were painted with nail polish and others marked with an "X."
Some were carefully cut in two so the board could still be folded up and put away.
There were way more options than we were used to having.
There was obviously a lot of work that had gone into making the board a one-of-a-kind version.
But, other than the magnets covered up a couple of the city names, it was fine.
We began to play.
Our friend took a locomotive and a train car card.
Neither Marc nor I had the heart to tell her you can't do both.
She put out her trains, counted her points and drew again.
"No," Marc said gently. "You can do one or the other. Not both."
She shot him a look.
Next a fellow in the TV area noticed us sitting at the table.
"Is it time for supper?" he asked, climbing out of his chair and shuffling over. "What are we having?"
We told him dinner was a while ago. We weren't eating just now.
He was clearly disappointed but headed back to his seat.
Next, the door opened and people came in. The commotion put us back another 20 minutes.
Then "we" needed water and "we" needed to check on another resident.
The TV was on full blast. Residents came in and out needing help with this and that.
We carried merrily on.
After two hours, we were down to four trains and the end. We'd had a good time, provided some diversion for some lonely souls and I won. That's the important thing.
Not bad when you're playing a 90-year-old lady in a retirement home, right?

Friday, October 10, 2014

When in London

The outside of Ripley's
You never know when you might end up in London looking for things to do with kids.
We had been to London several times before we ended up with a 7-year-old who wanted more from life than riding in a black cab or looking at Buckingham Palace from afar.
This time around we were specifically searching for adventures that would appeal to Jack the grandson.
We started with the London Zoo which is a far cry from the San Diego Zoo experience or even the Hogle Zoo.
This is a low-key, smaller-scale zoo with lots of monkeys and a butterfly exhibit.
It's a charity endeavor so the price is a little steep unless you shop in England at their version of Costco.
It's also very English so there are quite a few things for children to do. The English are big on entertaining the youngsters with little games and puzzles all about.
Ripley's Believe It or Not is another option, again, fairly expensive but the young boy's idea of sheer fun.
creepy cow
Jack without legs
There are lots of creepy and odd things to look at, a mirrored maze to work through, magic tables, a Hogwart's Castle made of 600,000 matchsticks, the elephant with two trunks, a knitted Ferrari, an all-wooden Ferrari, shrunken heads, torture devices, whatever trips your trigger.
Go there if you have kids between about 8-14.
It's their kind of deal.
Another choice would be to climb on board the Cutty Sark and see what a tea importing sailing ship looked like.
Children can play the games that are set up here and there, figuring out how to load the ship without tipping it over, guiding the ship through the harbor.
They can try out the bunks designed for crew members who were short.
Jack and a very tall guy
They can man the wheel.
If you like you can talk with the captain for a bit.
And, if you have cash in your pocket, you can spend an afternoon in the Hamley's toy store: six stories of all kinds of gadgets and gizmos.
The marketing folks have set up demonstrators about every five feet so you can see how the latest toy works and salivate after it.
It takes a good while to see everything and even longer to make a decision about what to buy.
It took Jack a couple of hours to choose.
creepy head
If we'd had more kids with us, we'd probably still be there.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Prizefighter gramma

I was all ready to go when I thought my eyelid surgery was set for 9:30 a.m. I wouldn't have to fast all day and it would be over by noon.
Or so I thought.
I hadn't had time to really freak out about this little basel cell carcinoma that popped up on my right eyelid.
I hadn't had a great deal of time to do Internet research about it.
All I knew was my doctor on Monday took one look and said he was putting me in touch with a plastic surgeon who specializes in eyelid reconstruction.
His office told me to come in on Wednesday. They'd work me in.
They scheduled me for the procedure on Thursday.
I had time to wrap up a couple of stories and deadline projects.
My husband took work off in the morning.
I cleared my calendar but I really thought I could get to a family meeting at 8 in the evening.
That was before the phone started ringing.
Chalise from UVRMC was calling to postpone my 9:30 apt. to 11:00 so Marc and I went shopping.
While we were in Costco, she called again to move the surgery to 11:30.
While we were getting onto the freeway, she called again. "How does 12:30 work?" she asked. "We've had an emergency."
By now, we were getting aggravated.
I was way hungry having dutifully started fasting from food and water at 11 p.m. the night before.
Marc was in limbo feeling like he couldn't go to work, start mowing the lawn or go bike riding.
I fed him lunch just before noon and we gingerly headed out again, stressing every time the phone rang.
Is this the right shade for me?
We were late checking in but — guess what — that was fine since the doctor was running behind.
"Take a seat. We'll call you when they're ready for you!" said a nice nurse.
At 2 p.m. they said I was next. At 2:34, they said, "Almost!"
At 3:05 p.m. they handed me a magazine to read in the prep room.
Then I started to panic. Wait? Did I really want to do this? Maybe I could live with just a small, annoying little, itchy bump on my eye?
Too late. By 5 p.m. it was gone and now I have a bunch of tiny stitches and really pretty semi-permanent purple eye shadow on my eye.
Looks great, don't you think? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Playing games

The Treasure Island Catan game
To pass the time, Marc and I play games when we travel.
We used to play a travel Scrabble game that had little teeny tiles on a kind of board that folded open and held the tiles — except when we dropped one on the way to the board. Then it required some serious bending and stretching to find the tile under the seats.
For the most part, though, it was great and served us for many voyages.
People all around us would offer suggestions and cheer when one of us scored a big word.
But it's a new age now and this time around Marc bought a bunch of games for his iPad: Scrabble, Carcasonne, Settlers of Catan and Puerto Rico.
Instead of toting along a game board and bags of tiny pieces, we just opened up the device and selected something to play. We usually had a couple of computerized opponents joining the fray.
The Siena sunset
It took some getting used to since we didn't have any cards or little pieces to hold or see.
It was difficult to know what the other guy had when you needed to negotiate a trade or steal something worthwhile.
But we persevered and pretty soon we were loving the fact that we didn't have to set up or take down anything.
Wherever we were when we were interrupted, the game came back at that spot.
We could play for five minutes or two hours, as long as the battery was charged.
We could play waiting for our food at a restaurant or on the plane as we waited to take off.
It didn't matter whether we had table space or not.
In Siena, we played waiting for the sun to set and in Florence in the Boboli Gardens when it was too hot to walk around anymore.
So now we're spoiled.
We're home and we're still playing our games on the iPad in our spare time — plus we've added a few, new ones, mostly variations of Catan.
It's really quite enjoyable except that Marc wins most of the time.
That's annoying.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Beating up grandpa

It wouldn't surprise me to get a call from the folks who monitor elder abuse and neglect.
My aged father currently looks like he's been going the rounds in the boxing ring.
He has a huge bump on the back of his head, cuts and bruises on both arms and on his knee and 10 stitches across his right eyebrow.
He is also sporting a couple of fractured ribs.
But we kids had nothing to do with this.
In fact, if it wasn't for a little email message I got from my stepmother's daughter, I wouldn't even know he went to the hospital — twice this week.
Seems he went out to dinner Monday night and misjudged the distance when he stepped out of the SUV.
He fell down. He banged his head and went to the emergency room in the ambulance.
He was released around midnight and went back to the retirement center where he resides, not telling anybody about it.
Then yesterday around lunchtime he was mailing a letter at the front desk on his way to lunch and fell again.
This time he apparently hit his walker on the way down because he got a serious cut near his eye and smashed his ribcage.
When I saw him yesterday he looked pretty rough.
He was sitting in the bed trying to watch tennis on the hospital TV without any sound because he couldn't find a remote. (It's on the bedside unit used to call the nurse.)
He was hungry because he'd missed lunch and looked like he would miss dinner. (I got him a box lunch from the nurse's station.)
He was unhappy because whenever he breathed in hard or coughed or laughed, it hurt — a lot. He thinks the answer is to go home, get into his easy chair and stay still.
I sat with him most of the afternoon trying to figure out what is going on and what we are going to do.
Sure, he's past 90 and can be expected to have some difficulties now and then.
But two emergency room runs in four days?
I wondered myself when the doctors asked him (and me) what was going on here?
He thinks he's fine, no worries. He's getting good care and he likes the attention.
He still believes he isn't ready for an assisted living center. He doesn't see what all the fuss is about.
I'm thinking we're in big trouble here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sliders for lunch

The fashion-conscious customer on an angle

Waiting on the waiter...notice the blocks
There's a lovely little place in Siena, Italy, that serves lunch and dinner.
The food is freshly cooked.
The service is good.
The view is spectacular.
It's a treat to eat there — if you don't mind sitting at a table and chairs that are in danger of sliding down the road at a moment's notice.
See, most of the roads in Siena are steep and laid with cobblestone.

The merchants in the town have to adapt.
So this little restaurant has cut the legs of the table and stools at an angle and then put down little wooden studs to act like brakes that will stop the furniture from sliding.

The typical Siena road
You have to make sure you don't move the legs out from behind or from fitting into the studs.
One has to plan one's entry and exit in advance.
The waitresses have learned to walk backwards most of the time so they don't develop shin splints during their shifts.
It's entertaining to watch and a good example of adapting to the environment.
We enjoyed our meal there.
Gives a whole new meaning to eating up  — er, out!