Thursday, June 22, 2017

Behind you...

I was picking up children for Grandma's Movie Day and because we had a cousin we were taking Grandpa's SUV.
We had a total of six kids and one grandma.
I gathered all my chicks and headed to the car with one in the front, three in the back and two in the extra row.
Everyone was busily fastening their seat belts and I was finding my keys since the Leaf I usually drive just needs the keys nearby and not in the keyhole.
"Cael's not in the car," said Breanne, the cousin.
"What?" I asked, looking around and counting noses.
"Cael's not in the car," she said again, looking steadily at me.
I swiveled.
I couldn't see Cael but he's three and short and if he was in the back row, I wouldn't be able to see the top of his head.
We were running close on time but I got out and went around the back of the car to see if I could find Cael.
There he was, standing patiently behind the car waiting for somebody to open the door.
I gasped as I realized that it was quite possible I could have started the car and rolled back on him.
I opened the door, helped him in and buckled him tight.
It wasn't until I was on the road that it really hit me.
What if Breanne hadn't said anything to me?
What if I hadn't taken a few minutes finding my keys?
What if I had backed into or over this precious little guy?
My Leaf has a back-up camera so I am used to checking out what's behind me on that screen.
It's also not as high profile so I can see out the back window.
Whatever the situation, I had made myself a new rule.
When I am driving anywhere and backing up, I will first walk around the car, without fail.
I think this was my wake-up call.
Thank you Breanne.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The real zucchini killers...

Marc is exonerated.
For the past several years, he's been Suspect Number One when it comes to the question of who killed our zucchini.
We'd buy seed and plant the seedlings and they'd wither and die.
We'd buy plants that were well along in development and they'd shrink to nothing and die.
I figured he was overwatering...He figured it was too hot and dry.
I'd issue strict orders that he leave the zucchini alone and last year, the plant lived. We harvested a crop of several.
This year we bought two healthy-looking plants from a reputable nursery and Marc planted them in the ground.
We stood back and waited and sure enough, in a couple of days the two young plants bit the dust, almost literally.
I righteously declared that his brown thumb had struck again and marched off to the store to buy yet another one.
Marc replaced the dirt so as to give this plant a decent chance,
I built up a small hill and tucked it into a hole, watering around it and pushing the soil all up around it like a blanket around a baby.
Imagine my dismay when the next morning the plant leaves were skeletal. It looked awful so fast.
The leaves had been ravaged. I'd never seen damage like it that came on so fast.
I ran to the Internet...looking for expert advice and comfort.
I found a site dedicated to "holes in zucchini leaves."
This lady had run into similar plant disaster and after trying a couple of things, rigged up a camera to film what happened overnight to her babies.
Earwigs happened!
An army of the critters swarmed over the plant during the dark hours and ate all they could hold.
To defeat them, it would take an insecticide that had to be dusted all around the plant and over its leaves.
I went to the store, bought the appropriate deadly dust, put on my rubber gloves, my gas mask and went to work.
This morning everything seems stable. No further damage but no little dead bugs that I can see.
Maybe they ingest the poison and crawl away to die. Maybe they took a Sunday break.
When it isn't Marc's fault, I don't know what to think.
I'm on this though.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Give it the proper spin...

I have a couple of new friends at Walmart.
It didn't start out that way but now we're buds, the people who work in returns and me.
See, what happened was my granddaughter Adell bought a new, purple, 18-speed bike with mostly her own hard-earned cash.
A bike that promptly exhibited problems.
A spoke broke.
The gears wouldn't shift up.
The brake was erratic.
All in all, it made for a dangerous ride, even with a helmet.
Adell was sad.
Her mother was too busy with a new home business to worry about returning the bike so, intrepid grandma that I am, I offered to help.
Adell and I loaded the bike in the back of my Leaf and off we went to the Cedar Hills store.
I explained the situation to the workers, expecting an offer for an exchange or a refund since it was obviously new and barely used.
The lady at the service counter called in her supervisor.
She asked me for the card used for the purchase.
I offered one my daughter had sent with me.
Wrong card.
I called my busy daughter. She gave me the number for another credit card.
The ladies started looking it up.
"When did she buy it?" they asked. "Did she buy it here?"
I called my busy daughter again. She gave me a date.
Wrong date.
The ladies looked at the day ahead and the day after, then the week ahead and the week after.
Then they took a picture of the bike's serial number.
"It says there's no record of a bike like this being sold for the past two weeks," the lady said.
I looked at her in despair.
"You mean, I have to make another trip when I have the date?" I asked.
"Yes, I'm sorry," said the supervisor, not looking very sorry.
Other customers were now backing up in line behind us.
I called my busy daughter one more time. I told her she'd have to do some research and find the transaction on her credit card history.
We returned to Adell's house with the broken bike, dismayed and defeated.
However...ta we went back armed with a transaction receipt and the proper card and the bike and a little brother.
We made our case. Somehow the supervisor remembered us and we got a new bike.
We were wheeling it up to the counter to buy it again when we saw a man looking over the broken bike.
"This isn't even our bike!" he said. "We don't sell this kind."
I drew in a breath. Adell stopped in her tracks.
Taking a cue from our reaction, the supervisor stepped in.
"Yes, we do," she said. "They had a receipt."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

One migraine headache, please, to go...

open wide
I knew when I called to make my appointment that it wasn't necessarily the best idea.
I've had dilated eye exams before and my memories are fuzzy. (Ha ha.)
But the insurance company was sort of insisting that I get one and I like to do what I'm told when it involves insurance and co-pays and my good health.
I got an appointment for mid-day, deliberately selecting a time that wouldn't interfere with my main duties of delivering grandchildren to various birthday parties and social events or with my shopping and/or errands. (I'm a busy girl.)
I took a book and prepared to wait a bit.
When it was my turn, I took a seat in the exam room and rattled off my history.
I recited the letters on the eye chart, forwards and backwards. I think I got an "A."
Eventually the actual eye doctor came in and did his thing.
He looked all around in my eyes and then he put in sticky drops.
He told me to wait in the outer foyer for 30 minutes.
That's when the trouble began.
My vision began to get a little fuzzy.
Everything started to get brighter.
When I finally returned to the exam chair, I was a touch wobbly.
The doctor shone bright white and yellow lights directly into my eyes.
I started, recognizing the kinds of triggers I try to avoid so I don't get migraine headaches...things like strobe lights, mirror balls, hot sun, flashing mirrors.
I said something about it but the doctor was unimpressed and he had his task to complete.
Finally, he was finished with a flourish and a pronouncement that my eyes were healthy.
He handed me the bill and a funny slip-in pair of shades.
My pupils were huge and the world around me shimmered.
I drove to where Marc and I were buying dinner for the grandkids.
I put my temporary shades in my purse and then couldn't find them again.
In the restaurant, I was on sensory overload. The music seemed really loud.
On the way to Salt Lake, I was miserable, nauseus, disoriented and, according to Marc, a little cranky.
It wasn't until several hours later that the effects wore off.
I'm supposed to have one of these every year now because of my diabetes. I believe it's probably a wise plan.
I just can't see it from here.

Friday, June 9, 2017

There must be something...

The mighty Leaf
I took our Leaf in to have the tires rotated.
Every year, that's our maintenance plan, move the tires around each 7,500 miles and keep the car battery charged.
(Plus, keep me from banging it into things like other cars and solid snowbanks, but that's another story I've already told.)
I've been faithful about the rotation even though it drives the service department at Ken Garff Nissan a little crazy,
I drive into the bay and hand the man the keys.
"Just a rotation?" he says, looking over my sky blue, electric vehicle that quietly stole into the area.
"How much do we charge you for that?" he asked, writing down "$40" on his paper.
"Uh, usually nothing," I said. "It's a lease and that was part of the deal."
"Oh, ok," he said and erased his note. "It'll be ready in about 30 minutes."
In 30 minutes I came back and he handed me a 15-point checklist with everything checked off as fine.
Amazingly my sweet little car didn't need any fluids, air filters, any gaskets, anything at all.
Because it's all electric there's no engine debris, no oil and no fuss.
It's a zero emission so there's no exhaust system to worry about.
I think it's great.
I feel like I'm doing my part to keep the planet clean and I love the economy.
So far, my only problem is feeling a touch guilty as I drive away having paid the service guy nothing for his time.
(He did try to talk me into four new tires because one on the left back side is starting to show some wear, he said. The other three are in good shape but "it's a good idea to replace all four at the same time" for a mere $500.)
I think we're good.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A big tree, a big ocean and fat starfish...

As good as it gets...North California beach

Fern Canyon ferns
Underwater Marc

A pair of hooligans

Starfish in love

Rocks to die for

A Happy Birthday girl

I didn't ask for much for my 66th birthday.
I told Marc I just wanted to go to the beach, stand where I could hear and feel the roar of the surf and see the Redwoods in California.
I wanted to stay in a place that offered more than the standard hotel experience. I'd pay a little extra for the ocean front view and the solitude.
Oh, and our visit would have to be sandwiched in between high school graduations and writing deadlines.
We'd have to fly over and back in a jet and a puddle-jumper that could land in the Eureka/Arcata airport.
Marc signed on and off we went for three days.
We hiked and splashed and discovered all kinds of natural beauty on the northern California coast.
We stood almost face to hindquarters with a major herd of elk that weren't that impressed with us.
We climbed down the dangerous face of a cliff to get to the beach rocks and then up again so our leg muscles could claim a serious workout.
One morning we combed the beach tide pools with about a hundred schoolkids looking for critters, finding big, fat, pink, orange and red starfish tucked in all the crevasses and masses of anemones.
We explored Fern Canyon which is really a magical kind of trail through the water back, back, back into a place where the walls drip and sparkle and rain down on everyone who comes in for a look. (It's actually where Steven Spielberg filmed "Jurassic Park, the Lost World" because it feels so primeval and ethereal.)
From our bed and breakfast (Turtle Rocks Oceanfront Inn), we could hear the barking sea lions covering the rocks in the ocean...all day and all night!
Inside the trail dedicated to Lady Bird Johnson, we stretched our necks to see to the top of giant Redwoods that are thousands of years old and huge!
Some are Fire Trees, trees that have been completely burnt out inside yet still live to support others.
For a mini-vacation for me, it completely worked.
I came away fulfilled, aware that there's still so much more to see in this world and it's a good idea to stay healthy enough to check more of it out!
I just have to live another 66 years or so.
Mini me, bottom right...honest..I'm only a centimeter tall

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A tree house for Mia

Mia wants a tree house but she needs a tree...and some wood, some nails and a ladder.
She has it all worked out in her 5-year-old mind.
She is a problem solver.
She has seen a tree house like she wants at her friend's house.
It's cozy and up in the air and she can take cookies up there.
The main obstacle is the absence of a tree.
There used to be a tree in Mia's backyard but it was a mean tree with thorns and a rough scaly trunk.
Her dad cut it down to keep kids from scratching their legs as they attempted to climb it and because it was very old and leaning dangerously in the wind.
It now makes for an interesting stump to jump on.
So Mia is searching for a new tree.
She asked me if she could use our tree, looking at me with hope in her big blue eyes.
We have a cottonwood in the back that has some potential as far as she can understand it.
It's tall. It has lots of branches and it's right here in Grandma and Grandpa's yard.
She knows I would help her.
We went out to look at it.
Hmm. Most of the branches didn't look up to the task.
I told this to Mia.
She dismissed my concerns.
"I know where you keep your wood. We can put it up there and then try it. You could get some nails and a ladder and I could climb up there!" she said.
I sighed.
I asked Marc about it.
He was aghast and he fears for our precious tree.
"Mia might just have to do without a tree house," he said, looking at me pointedly.
I'll just have one more surveying look. Maybe if we propped a piece of plywood on the lower branch or hung a kind of hammock between two of the stronger ones?
Maybe a double-decker?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A roller coaster ride...

As a rule, I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to roller coasters.
I like mine to be sort of leisurely with limited surprises.
So when we went to Orlando this past month I had to buck up a little.
I only agreed to ride the Rip Ride Rocket because my grandson really wanted me to. "You'll like it, gramma!" Jack promised. (He'd never been on it but he was sure about how much I'd like it.)
Not your grandma's ride
I went on the Dragon Challenge at Diagon Alley because I thought it was the benign Hippogryff ride I've been on several years earlier.
Watch out, the monster's torn out the track!
I rode backwards in the dark at high speed on the Everest Expedition because no one told me I'd be doing that after the Abominable Snowman wrecked the track.
Stomach dropper!
This is grandma's ride!
In all I figure we went on more than a dozen roller coasters — mostly back to back and several involving getting soaked — during the week I was in Univeral Studios and Disney World.
I'm pretty sure my doctor would not have approved. He's been concerned about my spinal cord for a while now.
But "Big Thunder Railroad" is a keeper. So is Space Mountain.
I love "The Hulk" because it shoots me out fast and I don't have time to panic. (The California Screamer is similar.)
The Gringotts bank ride is quick.
As we journeyed from line to line and thrill to thrill I tried to be a sport but I drew the line at Transformers and again at The Mummy ride. The Tonight Show ride through New York was sold out until 8 p.m. so I didn't get to form an opinion on it.
I thought for a senior citizen I gave it all a fair shot.
After all, I won't ride Wicked at Lagoon or the new Cannibal ride because I have a lot of time to reconsider my choices as the cars are pulled up the hill.
I prefer the Bat where you just sort of drift around in the sky.
In Florida, I liked the Hogwarts Express because you stay on the ground and the African Safari because the bouncy jeep we rode it was rugged and dependable.
I found I could mostly work with a scary coaster by closing my eyes all the way through or pushing up against the back rest really hard.
Or I could ride the bench and watch the others get knocked around and drop-kicked.
That's my kind of fun.
Right off the edge!
Holy smoke!
It looks scary and it is.
Rocking and rolling...
The Hulk is a keeper!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ski season

Conner and Brayden at Brighton

Adell on the downhill
Poor Marc.
This winter he had to go skiing time after time in order to get all the grandkids who wanted to try the sport on the hill.
He had to log more ski miles this year than he's covered in years.
This 65-year-old grandpa did the improbable.
He had 11-year-old Adell who qualified for the program for 5th/6th graders that allowed a child to ski three times at each of the local resorts for a $35 fee.
In order to capitalize on her passport, he felt he needed to get her on the hill as much as he could.
He had Brayden, the senior who was just coming into his own on his snowboard.
Marc wanted to get him up on the powder so he could try out his newly honed skills.
He had Conner, the younger brother, who wanted to try it.
And you can't go just once.
Skiing demands a time or two — minimum — after the first go.
So Marc simply had to keep loading up the ski-rack and driving up the hill.
He even had to buy a new pair of skis and replace the ski boots that have become outdated and tight.
He had to pay the high prices for lunch at the lodge.
And I had to support him taking whole days here and there while I warmed the home fires.
(I didn't mind because my skiing days ended when I blew out a knee several years back. I like the fact that he can get some quality time with some grandkids as well.)
Happy skiers
So now that the snow is melting and we're turning back to biking and visits to the zoo, I'm a little sad.
It came and went really fast.
We do, however, have the photos!
Tough duty I say!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Upping my game

I've had to improve my smashing and bashing skills since Cael discovered Rampage! in our ancient video game collection.
He's 3 and doesn't like it when I die and ruin the game.
So I've had to learn to kick, grab and jump up and down on the buildings in Salt Lake City, Denver, Madrid, Los Angeles and Barcelona.
I have to pay attention to where the food is and make sure I don't run out of energy as we go along.
Cael also has a problem with my character punching his or getting tangled up with him as he tries to climb a skyscraper.
The problem is I didn't pay enough attention when my sons were playing this game years ago.
Usually I just wanted them to turn it off because the monsters make all kinds of noise as they destroy virtual communities.
(This is for a game we've had for 30 years!)
Cael and I are usually here alone when he comes to visit so I can't just rely on his older sister to help me.
She has shown me the codes to enter so I can get a stronger guy to do my destroying and Cael waits patiently while I input the letters and numbers.
But despite my best efforts, I still die too soon.
I'll be playing along trying not to get shot down or injured by fire and flying bullets when Cael will suddenly wilt in his banana chair.
"Died!" he'll cry. "Died!"
He means I died and it kind of puts a damper on our game as one player is left to finish knocking down buildings.
I've decided I will add in some practice time when he's not here and upgrade my game.
Instead of cleaning and cooking and writing stories, I will work on my kicking holes in the walls and plucking hapless people out of windows.
After all, that's the least a good grandma can do, right?

Monday, April 17, 2017

A crown of a different color

I paid a hefty sum for our tickets to the Medieval Feast in Orlando, Florida, which I didn't begrudge at the time.
I remembered taking three kids to this joust and dinner about 15 years back and it was entertaining. (You're all shuffled into a long table/seating area and pretty much left to make your way through the chicken and soup and salad with your fingers while knights and horses square off in the sand in the middle of the arena. The King and his daughter choose the victor for the hand of the princess.)
My son remembered it too and he wanted his son to experience the drama, the adventure and the fun.
So we bought tickets well in advance online.
Our knight is the one in yellow and red
We talked about what knight we might get to champion.
On the night of the feast, we arrived an hour early so as to claim good seats and a clear line of view.
(Turns out we were roughly assigned seats depending on how much we spent for our seats.)
When I declined an upgrade, we were summarily handed paper crowns that were red and yellow striped and basically dismissed.
We gathered in the big room where there were drinks for sale and souvenirs with high price tags...chess sets, feather fans, masks and leather-bound journals.
We hung around there killing time until the master of ceremonies starting announcing our entrances.
"Those with VIP tags and gold crowns may enter through the gates!" the man said.
"Those with VIP tags and blue crowns may enter through the gates," he sang.
"Those with VIP tags and silver crowns may now enter through the gates," he continued and on and on he went, inviting those who had spent more money than we to go in first.
One group after another marched through the doors into the arena leaving us with the wrong color crowns standing behind.
It was somewhat humiliating.
We didn't have red crowns or green crowns or blue crowns or black-and-white striped crowns.
We were the lower caste crown folk and it became evident within minutes.
Finally, we were allowed through the double doors but not until we'd been shown the color of money and of the right color crowns and what that could buy.
We ate well.
We saw an impressive show.
My grandson loved the horses, the clanging swords and the colors.
It's an event to remember but you know, somehow I think there's a better way to have done this.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Monkey business

At first glance, Marc and I knew the "Funtopia" place in Lehi was something our grandkids would enjoy.
Hannah conquering her fears
We could easily envision Mia at the top of the plastic tower of blocks. We could see Cael climbing the rope ladders.
Mia monkey
We just weren't sure that Hannah would like it just because she's unpredictable in what she'll try.
But we signed on anyway since we were having them for a week while their parents and oldest sister went to Maui.
It looked like something different and fun.
We signed up Marc as well because he likes to try everything and we might need him to help bring somebody back down once they climbed clear up.
Turns out no one had to do that and in fact, the only one that fell off with a terrific thump was Marc!
My job was to monitor the process.
The only real trouble we had was that Cael, being 3, was a bit too lightweight.
His safety rope kept taking him up when he wanted to stay down or where he was.
Grandpa trying to keep up
Someone had to hang onto him to keep him on top of the blocks.
Cael coming down!
But the attendants were very helpful and one guy even went all the way from block to block hanging onto Cael's safety line so he could reach the top one. (He was a pretty proud little boy!)
Mia is a natural climber with no fear so she had a ball. Up, down, all around.
Hannah had done this once before, sort of.
She'd come to a climbing place with a birthday party group and found herself paralyzed with fear.
This time she was determined to give it an honest go.
During the safety video I noticed she was shaking so I offered her my jacket.
"It's OK," she said, "I'm not cold, just worried."
We progressed and everyone got hooked up to a line and off we went.
Bravely, she started up a wall.
Next thing we knew, she was grinning at us from the top.
She climbed the walls, the ropes and the towers.
She hung from all kinds of contraptions.
She never complained or cried or asked to quit.
I think we have successfully created a monster. (Funtopia is expensive!)
Oh well, that's what grandparents are for, right?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A week with the kiddos

Staying with the kiddos while mom and dad vacation in Maui hasn't been a problem.
Cael holding still as Capt. Kirk
I somehow raised six children so I know the basics.
But what's interesting to me is that no matter how well I've planned or prepared, there are mini-disasters that test my ability to come through like a super grandma.
I really prepared.
I made menus, froze a couple of meals ahead, laid in extra supplies of cookies and snacks.
I outlined a sleeping plan with each child to his or her own room.
I made a flow chart that read a little like a train at 8 for Hannah, kindergarten at noon for Mia, ACT class on Wednesday, dance on Monday.
I had my writing work all caught up and freed myself from a variety of tasks.
I planned a few outings and adventures.
And we were mostly good...
- except for the day we went to buy Bundt cakes for teacher appreciation day. The store ran out of samples before Cael got one so we had to wait around in the front where there were all kinds of glass dishes and display items. When Cael finally got his chocolate chip cake sample, he dropped it on the floor. He picked up what he could before I could stop him and took a bite. "Yucky!" he said and threw it back down.
- except when we discovered the girls needed to dress like superheroes on Thursday and here I was without access to a fabric store and a good idea. I dug through my costumes. I had an ancient Princess Leia costume that would fit Mia but nothing for Hannah. "That's OK," she said, "You could just make me a cape or something." (We came up with her big sister's Red Riding Hood cape and some nerdy glasses so she could pretend to be Supergirl's everyday persona..) The disaster came after we had Mia's hair in Princess Leia buns and tried on the costume. The pants were 5 inches too long...Emergency stitching!)
- except for the day I heard some anxious cries..."Gramma! We can't get out! Gramma!" The doorknob to Cael's bedroom was slipping around and not engaging. We had to do the screwdriver operation for a day or so.
Nothing like peering through the doorknob holes and making eye contact with a 3-year-old who wants you to get him out.
- The best part, however, was when we were trying to watch "Supergirl" so Hannah could see what Kara looks like. It was way more violent than we all expected so I asked the girls if we should turn it off.
"That's OK, gramma," said Mia. "We can just say a lot of prayers!"

Thursday, February 23, 2017

OVO bugs and bendy things

The ants play with their food in OVO

The red ants, the cockroaches, jumping spiders and walking sticks that crawl, roll and wiggled their way into The Maverick Center Wednesday night haven't been told that most of the things they do are, in fact, impossible to do.
People and insects don't bend that way. They can probably jump that high but to land in a heap without injury is a real trick.
To see the "OVO" show is to accept an invitation to live in the chaotic, wild world of tiny creatures for a couple of hours, a world where something wooly called a "Creatura" folds, flops over, shrinks and peers about with no discernible substance to it.
It's a world that is filled with stunts performed by artists who can walk on the tight wire bearing a chair or a cycle with no hesitation, artists who fly through the air and disappear into the floor with no apparent effort.
Acrobats swing and catch hold and release with no worry as to whether somebody is going to catch them. They're fearless.
This is a show of talent and song and dance and color.
The costuming alone is stunning, from the blue-colored, spiky insect who shows up dragging the egg he found to the green grasshoppers and spinning spiders.
The egg they've found has everybody curious along with the audience.
As they attempt to understand it, OVO becomes basically a series of inventive circus acts that defy physics.
There's really no narrative but it's fairly simple to follow the "story" if one doesn't insist on it all making sense.
The insects are curious.
The Ladybug and friends
They hop, jump, climb and dance — even sword fight with imaginary swords and war over females — without stopping.
Right off, the industrious-minded ants twirl and juggle giant kiwi and corn cobs with their feet.
They spin food discs like pizza.
Which way to bend?
A yo-yo trickster does the splits as he send the yo-yo wheels 50 feet into the air (one, two, three and four at once!).
Youngsters and teens and adults will like this although really little kids will cotton to some parts more than others.
OVO is different. It's colorful. The choreography is bold, the performers are skilled, doing tricks that amaze and make one gasp, especially in the second half.
There's plenty to marvel at, from the tarantula to the wall-climbers.
It's also a chance to see where working hard in gymnastics class can pay off someday.
OVO is in town through the 26th with tickets costing between $25 for children and $39-$135 for adults. More information available at the website: Be aware parking is $10 a car and it takes forever to get out of the lot after the show.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Scorekeeping and science

I hope I didn't dash anyone's dreams last night.
I helped judge a science fair and it was a challenge for me.
Not that I don't understand basic science and how to make a decent presentation. (I'm the kid who made a whole solar system out of salt dough and toothpicks, after all!)
But weighing the pros and cons of 10 projects that all looked to me like tons of work is difficult.
I wanted to give every one 100 points.
But there were barriers to that kind of outcome.
First of all, I was working from a smart device that was challenging me.
To be fair, I showed up late for the training so the people showing me the ropes had to hurry and gloss over the finer points.
I learned to get onto the Wifi and to pull up the judging form.
I understood there were 100 points possible and I knew I wasn't supposed to be a scary judge. I was also told NOT to give everybody the maximum points.
What I didn't know was what to do with situations like where no one showed up. After I put down a zero for those missing projects, someone made an announcement on the overhead speaker: "Please do NOT put a zero for missing projects. It messes up our system."
(When I told the guy in charge I'd already done that twice, he sighed. "It's okay. Someone always does that. I'll fix it.")
I also couldn't figure out how to put subjective impressions into numerical conclusions.
There were several projects I liked because they were more fun than most of the others. One pair of girls had made what they called a "Fidget Phone," designed to give your fingers something to do while you're waiting for a test, a lecturer to finish or a light to change.
I also enjoyed a project about using the Golden Mean to measure beauty.
I thought that was creative but did it beat the guy's 5-foot tall poster about an obscure gene that predicts cancer?
Did fish feces fed to plants mean more in the long run than whether or not distilled water froze better and harder than soft and hard water?
What about the fact that when plants were subjected to heavy metal music, they withered and died?
How about the kid who decided it didn't matter if you stayed up late the night before a test. "It doesn't affect me," he said, "or my friends." He had spent one whole evening measuring the effect.
I did my best.
I listened.
I read the boards.
I looked at the pictures and the charts.
I tried to sense whether the kids competing really learned very much from their experiements and effort.
At the same time, I tried to avoid losing the judging form into cyberspace.
We had to leave before I heard the final results and I can't help but worry a little.
What if I've nipped an Einstein in the bud?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Checking it out....

I almost didn't do it.
I felt a little sheepish as I headed to the elementary school to check one of my granddaughters out for a visit to the bakery.
She'd won a participation prize in the school art contest and couldn't wait to collect it.
Her mom hadn't had the chance to take her to get it. (Besides which she had three other children to consider who hadn't won a prize.)
So I had offered to take her.
I'm usually running around doing errands about that time and it would be easy for me to get her and take her.
But as I approached the school I began to think about what I would say if the office personnel asked me why I was taking her out.
It wasn't a wholly legitimate thing. She didn't have to see a doctor or a dentist or anything like that.
She'd only miss about a half hour of school but I didn't want to make her think I don't consider going to school very important.
Fortunately, no one asked me why I wanted to check her out.
The lady at the desk simply said, "She'll be down in a minute."
I went over to the stairs to meet her and found this 8-year-old girl flying down the hall with a huge grin on her face.
She was absolutely thrilled.
I hadn't told her I was coming so when she heard her name on the overhead speaker she was surprised.
She grabbed her backpack and headed for the door but not before telling her friends she was getting checked out.
They were all jealous, she said.
She grooved on it.
She told me it had been the most boring day of school ever up until then.
She said they weren't doing anything important and, in fact, she said usually they all got in trouble during the last part of the day. Kids would misbehave and then everybody in the class ended up having to put their heads down on the desks "when it wasn't even their fault!"
She thanked me over and over.
We had a good time.
So I'm happy I went ahead and got her. I'm glad I could spare her that heads-down experience.
The question is, what about tomorrow?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Things that go bump...

I heard an odd crunch as I backed my car out of the parking space at UVU.
Since there was a lot of snow on the road and more piled up behind the lot plus construction fencing spread out along the way, I figured I had run over a lump of ice. I was headed for an important interview, focused on my mission, so I drove away.
Fortunately, there was no one else involved. Just me and my car.
I had hoped to be able to park at the space reserved for electric vehicles and not only power up my little Nissan Leaf while I was doing the interview but also save me from having to pay to park.
It was not be be.
The charge space was not free as it once was. I had to have a Charge Point card or one of several other options. I didn't have any of them with me.
So I gave up the quest and decided to go on around to the north side of campus to the parking garage.
But again, as I backed up, I heard this funny sound. I looked all around, seeing nothing, no one.
It wasn't until much later that I looked at the back of my car.
It looked a little funny.
I turned on the garage lights and opened the door.
There was the little concave area that didn't use to be there. I noticed a couple of scratches and scrapes.
I obviously had collided with something solid, maybe solid ice?
I sighed.
Now I once again had to tell Marc I'd dented our little car. That's twice now in two years.
I had to call State Farm again, go back to the body shop again, pay out several hundred dollars again.
I've been without my car for several days. I'm having to learn to ask friends for favors.
I am sure I'll be paying more for my insurance for the next couple of years.
This is not a habit I wish to develop.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hopping along with Frog and Toad

Just one cookie more!

If you're looking for something to do that'll break up the winter doldrums, consider buying a ticket to see "Frog and Toad" at the SCERA Center for the Arts.
It's playing now until January 21 and is perfect for kids and families, especially fans of the Arnold Lobel books.
I took three grandchildren, ages 8-11, and they loved it.
So did I.
Shawn Mortensen plays a great Frog, trying to break out of hibernation and bring Toad along with him to swim, picnic and try new things.
Eric Smith is Toad with wide eyes and a chin that juts out when he's making a point.
Toad is certain that nothing will go quite right.
He's worried about it all. He, for instance, assumes he's dead when he falls out of the sled at the bottom of the hill. He's quite amazed when his kite actually flies. (It's a neat special effect.)
He is waiting patiently for a letter for the whole year and the whole show.
Frog and Toad go throughout that year, sharing adventures that are simple but challenging: sledding, raking leaves, celebrating Christmas, eating cookies! (Thank goodness, the SCERA offers five cookies for $2 at intermission.)
The show is a delight.
It's clever, funny and when the snail finally delivers the mail at the end of the story, it's so rewarding.
(Actually, every time the snail (played by Andrew Walsh) comes on stage, it's sweet.)
The great and terrible meany toad is just menacing enough to be a little scary but obviously just a giant balloon so children don't have to worry.
The thunder and lightning storm is actually kind of fun to watch.
The birds and squirrels who wreak a little havoc with Frog and Toad's yards are harmless.
Mortensen and Smith clearly have fun playing their parts and bringing these two friends to life.
The colors are bright. The set is cute; a couple of little houses with comfortable beds, a broken clock, chairs, presents and an oven for baking cookies.
The songs are easy to enjoy, easy to remember. My grandchildren are still singing the snail's mail song!
I recommend this.

My flight got cancelled

Once we figured out that Marc's son was in Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood airport at the time of the shooting, we started to become concerned.
Was he all right?
Was he in the baggage claim area when the guy who hauled off and started randomly shooting people opened fire?
Was he traumatized?
Did he fear for his life?
We were expecting him and his girlfriend at our house for a family party Saturday. They were late so Marc tried to call him.
He didn't pick up but he texted.
"I'm in Ft. Lauderdale for work and my flight got cancelled," he wrote.
No more than that.
Later on, he said he thought he would have to try and get to Jacksonville to catch a flight out. He ended up driving more than five hours to get there and flew all night to reach Salt Lake.
He was so very understated.
After he finally got to our house, the story came out in bits.
He HAD been in the airport at the very time when bullets started flying.
He HAD been checking his luggage when he heard noise, commotion and shots.
He HAD taken cover with fellow travelers who hid out in the bathrooms, behind counters and under desks.
He HAD been delayed for seven hours until he and all the other passengers in the airport could be interviewed and cleared to leave.
"It was no big deal," he said. "What could I do about it? Why talk about it?"
Oh, I don't know.
Just because he's safe and sound and alive to tell the tale?

Friday, January 6, 2017

That ties it...

So Marc and I are standing in line for my chance to get a picture of me busting through the wall at 9 3/4 station in London.
A flying...
It wasn't hard to find the line. We came into King's Cross station and almost immediately found the crowd bunched around the wall on the side.
There apparently was no charge for standing by the wall even though someone had gone to a bit of trouble to put half of a trolley right into the bricks.
It was great!
We could snap a picture and take home a photograph that had real opposed to the ones of natural landmarks like Stonehenge and Lincoln Castle.
We would just have to wait a little and the line was similar to a line in Disneyland. It looked much shorter than it actually was.
We stepped into place and watched while Harry Potter fan after Harry Potter fan walked up to the wall and the trolley, flipped his or her scarf and became digital history.
It was interesting, especially since everybody involved was really into character.
But it wasn't long before I noticed a couple of things.
I was the only grandma in line.
Mostly there were punk kids and young people with tattoos and nose rings and really short skirts.
The next thing I noticed were the scarves involved.
The kid in charge had four scarves on the iron fence holding in the line of people: you could pick your colors, HufflePuff, Gryffindor, Slytherin, and RavenClaw.
The teenage boy at the station gate picked out the one you indicated and tossed it over your shoulders and neck. Then on the count of 3, he'd flip it up — out of the line of sight — and the camera man took the shot.
It made for an effective look. The scarf seemed to be floating behind you as you hit the wall.,
I gulped as I watched stranger after stranger ask for the Gryffindor scarf and this kid laid the same scarf on the hair of dozens.
I looked at Marc who picked right up on my dismay.
"I'll go get you your own!" he offered, indicating the gift shop so conveniently located right next to the picture-taking area.
So 18 pounds or the equivalent of $22 later, I approached the magic spot near the wall.
I jumped when the camera man said to jump.
I tried not to look as odd as I felt, pretending to leap into a solid wall of bricks with abandon.
It made for a good picture.
And now I have my own Harry Potter scarf.
Mine. All mine.