Monday, February 28, 2011

Southern California Trip

Our annual trip to visit my snow-bird parents started out kind of rough this year.  Hubby was in town but working, so we couldn't leave until he got home.  And the snowstorm that started just got worse and worse, until when we finally left at about 7:30 pm on the 16th of February it was whipping up to be a blizzard.
It's a 12 hour drive, or so, and we lost nearly two hours the first night by slowing down because we COULDN'T SEE A DARNED THING on the road.  It was pretty harrowing, one of the scariest driving experiences I've had.
We had arranged to go the same time as my brother's family this year.  They left an hour ahead of us, and ran just ahead of the storm, where we were right in the middle of it.  They made it to Vegas for the night.  We made it to Cedar City (175 miles behind them) the same time they did (1:30 am.).
The next day Hubby was beat from the stress of driving the night before, so I drove.  I was so relieved to not be driving into a blinding snowstorm, I didn't pay attention to the car and I RAN OUT OF GAS about 20 miles north of Vegas.  It took AAA about an hour to get to us.
So my brother's family left an hour before us, but got to the beach about four hours ahead of us, long enough to play on the beach for the afternoon before we even got there.  Dagnabbit!

We went to Disneyland on Friday, and had one of the best times we've ever had.  My brother's youngest daughter and Thing 2 braved each other into going on the Tower of Terror.  Thing 2 talked her cousin into the California Screamer roller coaster and Thunder Mountain.  Thing 1 is more tentative about the Tower of Terror and the Screamer, and she sat back with my brother's 2nd oldest who is also not as into the rides.  So it worked out for everyone!

All in all it was a great day, until we got rained out.  Thing 1 was drenched from the bottom of her raincoat to her socks, and so we bugged out around 9:00 pm.  My brother and his die-hard family stayed until nearly 11:30 or so.

The next day we spent at the beach, with the little girls boogie boarding and burying each other in the sand.  My brother's older daughters boogie boarded and body surfed, while the parents lined up their beach chairs and read their books.
There was also some shopping going on, who can bypass the Carlsbad Outlet mall?

My brother's family had to get back, so they left Monday morning.  We moved out of the condo we had rented and into the spare room of my parent's condo for the rest of our trip.  We mostly spent our days on the beach after the left, but did take the girls to Legoland, and had a great time there.

It was a wonderful trip!  AND one of the bonuses was we drove back Friday to avoid a storm, and we did!  And we didn't run out of gas, either!
And since it's a pain to manipulate them into the appropriate place in the story, the photos are all just dumped at the end.

My brother's oldest, 3rd, and 2nd daughters...

My sister-in-law (who I rarely get pictures of because she's camera shy) and Thing 2.

 In California Adventure Thing 2 was picked to participate with the Super Dudes.  She exhibited great strength by lifting this huge weight over her head using the controversial "thumbs behind" grip.

Here you see the backs of Hubby, Thing 1's head, then Nieces 1 and 2, my brother, his wife, and Niece 4 all heading to the exit in the rain.

Back at the beach the "adults" and my oldest niece didn't get in the water as much, everyone had a book to read while we monitored the younger kids.

Thing 1 and my youngest niece did a lot of boogie boarding.

At one point my two and my brother's youngest were all out boogie boarding.

 My brother's middle daughters were very good sports and helped bury my two and their younger sister.  Left to right they are my brother's youngest, 2nd oldest, and 3rd oldest, Thing 1, and Thing 2's head attached to the sand... octopus or whatever it is.

At Legoland Hubby and Thing 1 spent some quality time at the building table in Legoland.  Thing 2 and I joined them after we were done playing video games in the other room.

 We waited in line for this ride for the LONGEST time... even though the park wasn't that crowded and the line wasn't that long... it was just SO SLOW.  Legoland hasn't quite figured out the quick line system like Disneyland has.
Back at the beach Hubby and Thing 2 did some boogie boarding.

 Mostly when Hubby or I go out with the girls, we stand in the water and then rocket them ahead of the wave so they have a good ride.

 Thing 2 had had enough of the beach, she wanted to spend the last day at the pool.

Grandma and I had to go out to see the sandcastle that Hubby and Thing 1 had built before the sun set and the water washed it away.

Yet another marvelous trip, made even more marvelous by playing with the cousins for a couple of days!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

HIV/AIDS Presentations for 3rd Grade

Thing 1, in 3rd grade, brought home a note last week that said:

"HIV/AIDS Presentations will be held on Tuesday, February 8th.  Listed below is the time schedule for grades 3 - 6.  Each presentation will only last approximately 50 minutes. All presentations will be held ina classroom of the particular grade level.  Permission slips were distributed for all students in the registration packets.  Thank you."

AIDS?  You're teaching my 9 year old about AIDS!?

It kind of bubbled to the bottom of my priority pot, until the night before when I saw the note on the bulletin board of "Things I Need To Deal With."

I logged on the district website and was horrified to see an outline of related school topics mandated for discussion which included naming male and female body parts, and explaining the mechanics of how to get pregnant...
(In retrospect the list was a broad outline for all sex-related discussions for the whole district. A break down of what grade level would be discussing what topics would have been REALLY HELPFUL.)
Anyway I nearly swallowed my tongue.  Thing 1 is NOT ready for any sort of frank discussion of sex.  She is desperately trying to not grow up any faster than she has to. She was very unhappy to be turning 9, she wanted to remain 8 years old a few more years.  Which is fine with me.

The morning of the presentation I tried to briefly tell the girls over breakfast that there might be some movie and a discussion in Thing 1's class about a disease called AIDS, which is a pretty serious disease but no, little kids don't get it.  No, honey Mommy and Daddy won't get it, and I could already see panic starting to rise in Thing 1's face so I quickly wrapped it up and changed the subject.  Thing 1 has been having a nightmare that Hubby and I are eaten by a shark and lately his and my safety is her top priority.

I called the school after I dropped off the kids to see if I had signed the permission slip with the registration packet.  I was told the whole class was going, but I could speak with the principal.  The principal told me this is a 'district mandated' and 'required' program, that I could come in and sign a waiver if I felt it absolutely necessary, but eventually if she stays in this school she will be required to see this program.  I was really upset on the phone with the principal, not wanting them to tell my 9 year old about AIDS, yet embarrassed to be apparently the only parent who feels this way, and frustrated and angry and I started tearing up.  The principal was very kind, and assured me all parents don't want their kids to grow up so fast... she concluded by inviting me to come in and sit with Thing 1 and watch the presentation with her.

The timing wasn't very good, I had planned some other things - including my a shower and washing my hair during that time frame.  But I threw on a hat and ran over to the school stinky as I was.

Two student nurses, probably in their 20s, ran the class.  There was a movie, a power point, a play, and a question and answer period.  There was one other parent, and the teachers.  Thing 1 sat next to me.

Sex was never discussed.  It was all about germs, viruses, and diseases.  The most risky topic that was brought up was not touching anything that comes out of someone else's body, including blood, saliva, vomit, urine, stuff like that, and not letting anyone else touch yours.  Lots of emphasis on washing your hands, and a demonstration of what to do if you have a scratch or bloody nose, and how to help someone with a scratch or bloody nose (don't touch it, the person whose blood it is should throw away their own tissues/paper towels).  Cover your mouth with something when you sneeze, wash your hands.  And never touch a medical needle you find anywhere, get an adult.  It was mildly humorous in an appropriate 3rd grade level way - the little girl in the movie showing what to do with a bloody nose also demonstrated how you should NOT go running crazy down the hall screaming.  Stuff like that.

The play was a demonstration of how the body fights diseases, with the kids dressed up to act out the parts of the blood that identify the disease, attack the disease, and clean up.  There are scout cells, the memory cell, the commander cells, the clean up cells, stuff like that.  One little girl was the HIV cell, who teamed up with the commander cell, and then none of the other cells would do their jobs.  

That was it.

The question and answer period was rather innocent, how far does it shoot out when you sneeze, and what happens if you change a baby's diaper and get poop on your hands, etc.  My favorite question was "Are there new disease in space that we don't know about yet?"  Yes, I expect there are. 
I want my kids to know about sex, I don't want it to be mysterious and frightening.  I intend to teach them about it, and I expect them to have some instruction about it in the school.  Just not when they're 9.  Safety is important when they're 9, sex is not.

In the end I was satisfied that the presentation had been appropriate, it was all about disease prevention.  That's fine.
I was also frustrated that the flyer and the district page had been so cagey, and told me enough to get me in a tizzy, but not enough to really explain what was going on.  At some point in the phone conversation could the principal have emphasized to me, "this is about disease prevention and washing your hands and not picking up needles.  This is not about sex."  No, instead I get to work myself up to a tizzy, and lose an hour of my day making sure my 9 year old isn't going to have nightmares for the next year.

But I'm glad I found out for sure.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Flying Backpack

Last year Thing 1 drew a blueprint for a "Flying Backpack" in her 2nd grade school journal.  She decided she was going to revolutionize the commuting child's getting-to-school experience.  She was going to put a flying backpack into the hands and onto the backs of children across the globe.

Last week she decided the time had come to build it.

She took advantage of a day when Thing 2 had a playdate after school - allowing her to put off her homework until Thing 2 came home to do hers too.
She started by trying to find an existing backpack.  She asked me if there was a backpack around the house that she could cut holes in.
The "cutting holes in" severely limited my willingness to donate existing backpacks to her experiment.  Finally we agreed on a reusable grocery bag, one of those faux fabric bags.  She could loop the handles over her shoulders like a backpack.

Then she needed something for the wing framework... I found some fairly lightweight florist wire in the craft cabinet.  I gave her a pair of needle nose pliers just in case, but she happily showed me she didn't need them, she could bend it with her fingers.
She used notebook paper for the wings...
Anyone with any familiarity at all of any kind of structural engineering would already see her project is fraught with hazards.  I decided not to intervene.
She went into another room and was working industriously for a while, and I made a few phone calls.
Then I heard her race up the stairs, and a few moments later heard a significant yet familiar THUMP which rattled the kitchen lights.  There was no ensuing cries, so I wrapped up my call and waited.
A minute later she came downstairs and walked into the kitchen looking a little sheepish.  She handed me the shopping bag with the tangled florist wires and notebook paper attached to it.  The wires were bent, the notebook paper had ripped in several places where the florist wires had pulled through it.  She announced sadly that she was giving up on her design.  It hadn't survived the test flight from jumping off the top bunk.
It is not a really high top bunk, and the girls have jumped off of it before, which is why I didn't go pelting up the stairs when I heard the distinctive THUMP.
I'm just sad she didn't let me know there would be a test flight that I could catch on video.  Or even to get a picture of her wearing it pre-flight. 
We have reached the end of the flying backpack era.  I'm just glad she didn't test it off the roof of the garage.