Thursday, February 11, 2010

Travelling With Kids: Vomit Stories

Had dinner with new friends across the street last week. They told us about their Christmas trip to England. England was lovely. The ferry wasn't bad. They survived the seven hour drive north, plus the seven hour delay waiting for the ferry. (It was snowing and Chunnel workers were on strike.)

On the way back one of the kids got sick in the car. Followed a short while later by another one.

"When we got here," Omar concluded. "We thought we were going to travel all over Europe. Now I don't even want to get in the car with them anymore."

I'll see your two vomiting kids in the Netherlands and raise you a vomiting two-year old on the way to Belgium. On me. Three times. After a three hour traffic delay. And a large amount of chocolate cake.

The stomach flu to Florida story is legend among our playgroup by now. Which means I get to hear everytime someone else does a repeat performance, on the way to South Africa for example.

There are plenty of travel commentaries on how to travel with kids; what to pack, sites to see, activities to entertain.

All of which you can skip when one - or more - of your kids is losing his travel meal all over you.

What to pack? A sense of humor. Sites to see? The stewardess reaching for a vomit bag as she watches Matthew vomit all over me upon landing.

Seeing Europe is highly overrated anyway, Omar. The kids can vomit just as well in a beer garden here in Germany!

Perspective: Airline Travel

Damon's a little worried right now. Germany's been hit with a bit of snow; nothing like the northeast United States but enough to shut down domestic flights. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, anything north of North Carolina requires snowshoes to get there.

I'm flying to Florida tomorrow.

"I don't know how we are going to get you there unless you arrive four hours early." he says.

"That's okay; don't have kids with me."

"And it'll be really bad if you get delayed." he continues.

"That's okay; I can grab a bite to eat, buy a book. Goodness, I can WRITE a book. Don't have kids with me."

"If the flight gets cancelled we'll have to turn around and pick you up again."

"Are you kidding me? I am getting to Florida one way or another. I can spend the night in the airport. Need I remind you, I don't have the kids with me."

"Yeah, I guess you can always take a reroute to wherever" he concedes.


The ultimate objective is to get to Grandma's, MY Grandma's. But, in the meantime, HOW I get there doesn't bother me.

The last time I flew to Florida I was accompanied by an 8 year old, a 6 year old and TWO sick eighteen month olds. Okay, Damon was there too, and we were both covered in vomit by the time we landed. Courtesy of Aidan and Matthew who both had a severe case of stomach flu. When they weren't vomitting it was coming out the other end. Even the stewardess looked green. I made it through customs without a shirt on - zippered jacket only - because I was worried the stench of vomit would cause them to question our fitness to enter the U.S. Then, Andrew vomited in the car on the way to the hotel. By the time we made it to Grandma's we needed antivomiting medication to keep everyone else from getting sick just at the sight of us.

Go ahead, pile on the delays. Make me take off my shoes. Do a strip search.

There is honestly no amount of torture they can put me through that will compare with that of travelling with a large family.

And, at the end, I get to see Grandma!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Reflections:Modern Technology

One hundred years ago I would have been too busy feeding and clothing the kids to become the person I can become today.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Brave New World

I joined my writers' group because I wanted to write. Ideally a novel. I want to inspire others to see things from a different perspective, to open their minds to a different world.

I did not envision myself blogging. Certainly not on facebook. And I am still avoiding Twitter.

It's not only a question of snobbery, although I'll be the first to admit there is something of that in there. I'd like to write LITERATURE, not some easy-to-read, dumbed-down mini-thought of the day for people too superficial to pick up a book.

Karenne has dragged a whole slew of us into blogging, kicking and screaming the whole way. I can't call myself a blogger, and I still don't think it is my art-form, but my blog has gotten me to write. I don't know that I want to commit myself to the networking a serious blog requires to grow and reach a larger audience. In fact, I'm quite sure I don't. And I don't work on the technology or format enough to make my blog user friendly.

I just write. Which, for someone who wants to be a writer, isn't a bad thing. I figure once the writing becomes as second nature as breathing, then I can work on the outlets for it. For now, blogging is writing and writing is what it's all about.

This topic of new technology comes up quite often in our writers' group. "I don't want to have to answer all those emails." "I don't know that I have the time to commit to facebook." (Twitter. Sorry, I'm not sold on that level of brevity yet.)

My aversion to Twitter is similar to a friend's aversions to email or facebook. Does someone have to know what I am doing EVERY minute of the day? Do I need to check in and keep up with everyone all the time?

The answer, as I am fast discovering, is NO.

Most of us check into our facebook accounts sporadically. Some weeks you live on it, managing your pig farm and vegetable garden, and some weeks you don't tune in at all. Some emails, some facebook remarks, get answered right away and inspire you to write the next chapter of your novel. Others disappear unanswered into the realm of the forgotten email, maybe to surface again in two months, or never again.

This seems to be accepted and okay. facebook is a superficial window onto a bigger world. You can either connect into it and explore that cyber world deeper. Or you can ignore it and concentrate on your own life in the real world. The nice thing, and the thing you have to remember, is that you get to CHOOSE your level of involvement. The technology does not own you. (Unless you let it.)

We're that in-between generation that still feels responsible for answering every letter, returning every phone call. But that's not how facebook at least seems to work.

I use the Internet, and social networking, to inspire me to greater things.

You CAN choose to ignore them altogether, of course.

The problem is that as everyone else is beginning to use them to connect, you are going to miss out on some of the conversation.

It IS a brave, new world. One hundred years ago most homes didn't even have a telephone. Radios were still over a decade away. We now have information, and the ability to comment on it, at our fingertips.

I want to write. I need to gather information and ideas. I like to connect to people who encourage and inspire me.

One hundred years ago, most homes still didn't have a refrigerator or a washing machine. One hundred years ago I would have been too busy feeding and clothing the kids to become the person I can become today.

Ignoring the Internet, and social networking, today, is like washing your clothes on rocks down by the river. You can do it, but you're wasting a lot of time and energy ignoring something that really can make your life better.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Hero

For ten years I've been telling my daughter that she is good enough. Good enough to do what the others do, good enough to be like everybody else.

Because I'm a wimp and always made sure I could go with the grain before I went against it.

Ryan was supposed to be like me, surpass academic expectations and then do whatever she wanted.

Fit in first. THEN do what you want. Where the hell has that gotten me?

Ryan is her own person regardless of whether she fits in or not. And don't get me wrong here, she doesn't fit in at all. She's a bit odd, flighty, spacey, slow, dreamy, creative, and in her own world. And she doesn't mind; she does what she wants.

How brave.

She's in constant trouble at school. You see, she doesn't know her place. She is smaller, slower, darker and weirder than the other kids. Which would be fine if she would just acknowledge her inferiority and take her proper place in the heirarchy. Do this. Play that. Be completely grateful that she is a part of it at all.

The teachers certainly don't know what to make of her. Ryan is perfectly content to just be herself, regardless of what the others think. How rare.

I'm taking lessons from her now.

I was trying to give Ryan self-worth by having her fit in.

She is teaching me self-worth by showing me I don't have to.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fourth Grade Math - Simply Ridiculous

I've got the answer to why Germany is doing so poorly in international math standings.

In order to arrive at the answer you take the original number, multiply its last numeral by two and subtract this answer from the original number minus its last numeral.

Are you people kidding me?

What a complete waste of time.

The other thing you could do, since the above describes how to determine if a large number is divisible by seven or not, is just to divide the damn number by SEVEN!

This is in fourth grade. In second grade you aren't allowed to simply learn how to add the numbers, you need to prove you can do it in pyramid form, in line-graph form and in stick-figure form. All of which were originally meant to be aids to understanding, but have somehow turned into the objective itself.

Adding two numbers together is also wrong, regardless of a correct answer, if you haven't solved it according to the latest mind game that day. Next day, a completely new way. Again, meant to get the kids to THINK, but awfully confusing when they aren't allowed to digest the first way before heading on to the next.

By trying to prove to the whole world that our kids can do EVERYTHING, Germany isn't TEACHING them much of ANYTHING. (Americans learn it one way, the French another, but look look, we're so clever we can do it ALL!)

The smart kids ignore the whole thing. And can.

The rest don't seem to have any idea what is expected of them.

All of which seems to be perfectly fine with the teachers as long as they use rulers to make certain the lines are perfectly straight, and PEN to make it look neater.

Pen. If you take that pen, subtract it from two other pens and then twirl it counter clockwise around in your left hand, well, I think you know where you can stick it!