Tuesday, June 30, 2009

common sense isn't always so 'common'

Last week, at random times throughout the day, I started pulling together the driver safety training posts that I had intended to publish, over the course of the day, today. At night, I'd put the finishing touches on each of the posts.

There were a total of seven, in all.

I had included figures from the training manual I had received during my class - photographs of pictures I have received, or taken - and I peppered in a few personal stories to keep it interesting.

Beginning at midnight - and every few hours throughout today - I had planned for these posts to automatically publish. And wow, they looked SO good. Educational and fun to read and laden with good safety information which I hoped would keep all of you safer on the road.

But today, when I logged on and I saw the first two posts in all their glory on the world wide web, it was as if something clicked in my head.

Something didn't seem right.

So I flipped through my training manual ... and right there ... in font size two at the very bottom of the very first page ... it read clear as day, "No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the copyright owner."

DOH.

Double DOH.

How did I miss that?!

So I picked up the phone and I called the copyright owner. And I told them what I wanted to do. As it currently stands, I'm working with the Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Smith System to figure out what I can communicate publicly - without violating their copyright.

See, when I wrote the posts, I wrote them as if I was explaining this stuff to my mother. Or my neighbor. Or someone who was sitting on my couch in my living room sharing a bowl of popcorn. Because that's what you people are to me. You are guests, dropping in on our lives.

You aren't just "the whole wide world" that needs to pay to receive training on how to stay safe on the road. This is common sense information that will save lives!! Everyone needs to know this. Especially the people that live in Eastern Europe. Or drive along the traffic congested highways of southern California. Or Washington, D.C. which purportedly has the highest car accident statistics in the country.

Violation of copyright?? Intellectual property??

What?!

Alas, almost all of the information that I wrote in my seven separate posts, is protected under copyright and any publication that I would make of material from the Smith System training booklets is illegal.

So, I pulled down the one post that had already published where a figure from their training manual was directly copied ... and ... I suspended publishing the remaining six posts until I can get the legality component squared away.

Because I want to be a law abiding citizen, as much as possible.

Say, while we're on that topic. In response to the questions that people have been sending to me regarding cancer-research fund raising raffles?

Those have been suspended indefinitely.

Because, as it turns out, those are illegal, too.

Margaret expressed concern about that, because raffles are apparently illegal in South Carolina. But my sleuth investigative skills yielded that raffles are not illegal for charitable purposes in California. Which is why I hosted so many of them.

But as it turns out, internet raffles are illegal.

I picked up that golden nugget of information last week as I was planning to host a new raffle for the blind stoker organization. My goal was to help my neighbor, Tom, in his fundraising efforts, as he tries to raise money for a bicycle organization designed to help the blind and visually impaired. Tom will be riding from Santa Barbara to San Diego later this summer - on a tandem - with a 14-year old boy who is totally blind. The raffle prize was going to be a beautiful, brand new bicycle with all of the gear to go with it. Helmet, lock, water bottle.

But as Tom started digging deeper in to the logistics of online raffles, he wound up talking to someone in the Attorney General's Office who said, they are - without a doubt - illegal.

I didn't believe him, so I called the Attorney General's Office, myself. As they were telling me, "Yes, Ma'am they are illegal", I kept repeating, "No way. Nu-huh. They can't be illegal. We are raising money for a GOOD cause. Surely there's a loophole...? Who else can I talk to?? Can you please pass me through to the Senator? We need an IMMEDIATE change in Legislature!!"

Even though we, personally, are not making any money off the raffle...

Even though we, personally, are forking out our own money to fund the raffle...

Even though, all of the money earned from the raffle would go directly to the charitable cause...

They are illegal.
(At least for now. But believe me, I'm working on it.)

DOH.

TRIPLE DOH.

Blasted!!

Let's see. What else is there to tell you?

Here are my children attempting to climb over the fence to a community pool, that isn't in the community in which we live. The apple apparently doesn't fall far from the corrupted tree.

Perhaps I should add that to my résumé.

Renegade Lawbreaker.

safe driving 101, part 1

I recently completed my annual driver safety refresher training.

Seeing as traffic will be at an all-year high this holiday weekend, as people around the United States take to traveling far and wide in celebration of Independence Day, I thought this would be a perfect time to share the knowledge that I learned ... with all of you ... in an effort to keep you safe.

Because I care about you that way.


And since you may be on the same road with me or my precious family, I believe it is important to impart whatever knowledge I have about driving safely to those who read this little blog.

This Driver Safety post has taken me several days to write. I will be publishing it in segments throughout the day, as opposed to one huge post at once, because I fear anyone who tries to read it all at once would lose consciousness. But I will be taking roll and I fully expect you to read it in all of it's entirety.

There will be a quiz at the end.


Now before I dive in to this critically important post - I think it's important to note that I work for a company that takes safe operations very seriously.

In all of the training seminars that we take in order to insure that our activities are executed flawlessly, it is stressed that our behavior dictates our safety. As such, we subscribe to a philosophy that in industry, is commonly referred to as "Behavior-Based Loss Prevention."

The driving safety program that our company subscribes to is from the Smith-System Driver Improvement Institute, and it falls under this Behavior-Based Loss Prevention category. Almost everything included in this post series, has been taken directly from the Smith-System Driver program.

The five keys that I'll be referencing in these posts are registered by Smith-System and are noted, accordingly. Although I've done my absolute best to include an overview of the program here, if you ever have the opportunity to attend a Smith-System Driver Safety program, I would highly (highly, highly) recommend it. There is absolutely NO comparison to reading about how to drive safely and taking a real class, where you are required to get behind the wheel while a Smith-System Trained Instructor analyzes your driving.

Just ask Charlie.

I'm not even a Trained Instructor but since I've had the training at least five times, I critique him constantly when we're on the road. It's awesome and a great marriage builder. (Or not.)

OK. Pour yourself a cup of tea and let's get started.

Every year, thousands and thousands of people die in pointless traffic accidents.

Why?

There are many answers to this question. But the most important answer is that precautions were rarely taken to prevent these tragic accidents. True, some accidents are inescapable. But of the MILLIONS of accidents happening every year, only a small percentage are truly non-preventable.

Yet, the right precautions do prevent accidents. And seeing as we spend a large portion of our lives driving, we need to be cognizant of what those precautions are. Especially considering many of us are transporting life's most precious cargo.

These pictures below were sent to me, today, by a colleague at work.

Do you see the motorcycle?

How about now?

The driver and the passenger in the car were talking on a cell phone. The driver of the car didn't see the motorcycle and the motorcyclist, who was driving at 85 miles per hour, didn't notice the bright red car - edging out at the intersection. When the paramedics arrived, they extracted three victims from the red car. The motorcycle driver - the driver - and the passenger.

They were all killed instantly.

The Smith-System is a series of interlocking techniques for preventing accidents. They help drivers to see, think and act their way through the multitude of driving environments, challenges and changes that exist no matter where they travel or what types of vehicles they operate.

Total awareness, perceptive anticipation, accurate forecasting, early detection and deliberate reaction are the primary features of these techniques.

Behind the variety of unique reasons for every accident are common contributing factors that repeatedly come in to play. But most of these factors include human error. They include:

Inattention: It might surprise you that most of the drivers on the road don't pay enough attention to the serious business of driving. Yet change is the most constant thing on the road. There are an endless variety of things that must be identified and analyzed, at every moment.

Too Much Attention to Too Little:
Some drivers concentrate too much attention for too long one item, while missing others of equal or greater importance.

Not Enough Time: Drivers often do not allow themselves adequate time to make important decisions and act upon them. This is usually caused by not seeing enough, soon enough.

Not Enough Space: Drivers frequently accompany each other in close-knit packs, leaving themselves no maneuvering room if they need to steer clear of a sudden problem. They tailgate both inside and outside of packs.

Not Allowing for the Mistakes of Others: Drivers often fail to see or anticipate the mistakes of others in time to avoid conflict.

Not Enough Training:
Fundamental training is often very inadequate. Many drivers are turned loose in the traffic world after gaining only limited knowledge of local laws and the basics of vehicle handling.

Failure to Adjust to Conditions:
Changing road and weather conditions require drivers to adapt and to modify driving techniques. Many drivers don't adapt to circumstances, or are slow to recognize their importance.

Driver Impairment: The influences of alcohol, drugs, fatigue and illness can lead to accidents.

Vehicle Failure: This causes a very small percentage of accidents. Many of them can be avoided if drivers take the proper precautions.

Up next ... the first of Five Keys to Driving Safely.

Go grab yourself a donut.

Monday, June 29, 2009

a new meaning for "boxed lunch"

One of Henry's all-time favorite activities is playing with a cardboard box.

He likes to climb in.

He likes to climb out.

He likes to sit down and stay awhile.

So one day last week, when the triplets wanted to eat their lunch outside ...

At the front of our house...

In an area where there is absolutely no fencing to hold in a curious toddler ...

I served Henry his lunch in a box.

He was happily and safely contained...

And sat for the entire duration of time we were outside, contentedly eating a grilled cheese sandwich, alongside his Toy Story posse.

When lunch time was over, we just pushed Henry and his box back in to the house. Then I dumped out all of his uneaten lunch and used it for him again, the very next day. (I just noticed that his box was for apples. Maybe that's why he liked it so much?)

Clean up is a snap!

Baby is contained and happy!

Change of scenery at the front of the house is fun and exciting!

All in all, this very well might be one of the most brilliant things I've ever thought up. (And quite possibly, the cutest.)

my stud and my little muffins

My husband is amazing. He finished his triathlon today. And while he had a great experience on the course - and finished with a very impressive time - he was humbled to discover that a 78-year old man beat him by two minutes.

I told him that if he keeps practicing, just think how good he will be 36 years from now.

William, meanwhile, was so inspired by what he saw on the race course today, that he came home and started training immediately. He told me that once the training wheels come off his bike, he wants to sign up for his first race.

And, would it be OK if he wore his Superman cape?

If Charlie keeps up with these triathlons - and our children follow in his footsteps ...

I love the idea that 36 years from now, they could be taking the triathlon race circuit by storm in their matching superhero capes.

Personally, I think that would be a really good look.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

give me strength

Yesterday, Jim had an appointment with his oncologist, and apparently, there is a 50% chance that the tumor on his pancreas is benign. And ... because he is not exhibiting any of the symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer, and he is in his mid-80's, the doctors have suggested that rather than subject him to invasive surgery or treatment, we should take a wait and see approach.

All of this sounded like great news to us. So we immediately began planning for the whole lot of us ... Mom and Jim and me and Charlie and all the kids ... to take a seven-day cruise for the triplet's fifth birthday in October.

Today, my mom called to tell us that Jim suffered a massive stroke in the shower this morning. He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and was exhibiting signs of paralysis on his left side. Although Mom is optimistic that Jim will pull through this ... and an e-mail that she sent out tonight suggests that he might be regaining some of the feeling on his left side ... we're sad to think that someone we care for so much is having such significant health struggles.

But we're also extremely thankful for the good health that we have and are fully aware that life can change in a moment.

This afternoon, we went to the expo for the triathlon Charlie, and 15 of my co-workers, will be competing in, tomorrow morning. My husband took our two girls to go pick up his race packet, and I took the boys on a last-minute shopping trip to pick up a few items that my husband will need in the morning.

While I was darting my attention between William and the various triathlon shorts, my four-year-old son, who I had told explicitly to hold the handle of the stroller, had tiptoed away and was trying to play hide-n-go seek in the middle of 20 high-end race bikes that were precariously perched in racks. High-end bicycles that had price tags of $8,999.00 and up and which the owner of the store observed would make a mighty nice present for Daddy, if William toppled them all.

I met up with Charlie who had taken the girls to the expo and he told me that it was like the Bataan Death March trying to get the girls from one tent to the next. They were laying down to look at bugs. Staring at the clouds. Hungry for something to eat. Thirsty for something to drink. Unhappy with their shoes that they wanted to take off and put back on again. And whining - all the while - "I can't waaaaalk! Carrrrry Meeeee!"

We get the race packets and go out to dinner with half of the folks that will be racing, tomorrow. The restaurant I selected is classic Italian with eccentric art all over the walls and various sculptures placed throughout the establishment.

The food is great, but the atmosphere is even better.

In attendance at dinner is a friend of a friend, who has a son that just recently turned six-years-old. While at dinner, I determined that the only thing more crazy than four-year-old triplets and an almost two-year-old toddler who believes he is invincible, is that same combination WITH a newly turned six-year-old boy.

Because after tonight, I can honestly say that in my entire life - I have never seen so much crazy energy.

The bouncing.

The jumping.

The jousting.

The jabbing.

It wasn't even possible to pull the kids aside and talk any amount of reason to them. It was like the six-year-old had gotten them in to some kind of kid-freak-frenzy and the only thing that would successfully shake them out of it, would be submersion in to a pool of ice water.

Now, under normal circumstances, I would have just left. But tonight we couldn't just leave. We had ordered dinner and everyone needed to eat. We had to discuss logistics for tomorrow. The racers had to "carbo" load. So to try and calm the kids down, a few adults took the rambunctious kids for a walk around the restaurant to look at the art work. Henry was dodging servers carrying trays of food. I was trying to dodge after him all the while herding kids from one picture to the next.

"Look!" I'd tell the kids. "There's a picture of a baby with a bowl of spaghetti on it's head. That poor baby. Isn't it funny?!"
While I was pondering if the baby, or photographer, put all that spaghetti atop the little head, the six-year-old had spotted something that he thought was hilarious.

Michelangelo?

Side-splitting.

This fountain?

Our kids have never been exposed to "this" kind of humor before. But tonight, they were laughing so hard, I was afraid they were going to turn blue and stop breathing. I actually think one of them wet their pants.

So, this is the influence of older kids? Great. Now I have to figure out how to isolate them from society until they join the monastery.

Tomorrow, we need to be up and out of the house - with all four children - by 5:30 AM. We will rejoin the families that we had dinner with tonight, including the six-year-old boy whose father will be competing with Charlie. While my husband
swims 1 kilometer, bicycles 30 kilometers and runs 10 kilometers, I will shuttle children and gear from one place to the next and try my darnedest not to lose my mind.

Please, say a prayer for me.

For us.

For Jim.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

favorite thing friday

When Charlie and I first started dating, one of the (many, many) things that drew me to my future-husband, was his family. They are a great group of people and I really admired the way that they celebrated the family unit and embraced certain traditions.

For instance, at the end of every day when his father would walk in the door from work, he would give a little whistle to indicate that he was home. And every evening, just before dinner, his mother and father would freshen themselves up, and sit down with a glass of wine and a bowl of popcorn at 6:00 PM.

Charlie's mom would put on a clean dress and powder her nose. Charlie's dad would change his shirt and shoes. Then, they'd pop open a bottle of wine and sit down to reflect on the day, while dinner finished cooking.

It was a simple thing ... yet, very bonding.

All of their children, and any friends that were visiting, were invited to join in on this "cocktail hour" and depending upon their ages, they could either have a glass of juice - or a glass of wine - along with the patriarch and matriarch of the family.

According to my husband, this was such a standard thing that his family did, that it was really no big deal to him. But whenever friends would be visiting - and his parents would furnish a big bowl of popcorn and drinks - they would think it was the coolest thing ever.

Some of the fondest memories my husband has as a child growing up, were times spent, sitting with his parents and just chatting during cocktail hour. It is for that reason that when we were married in 1994, the very first thing that we registered for was the same style Electric Popcorn Popper that Charlie had growing up.

This was the gift that Charlie's brother Steve and his wife, Kathy, gave to us and we have used the same popcorn popper approximately 200 nights a year, for the past 15 years. Although we don't make popcorn and drink a glass of wine every night, we do it often.

There are a lot of different opinions on when you should feed children popcorn.

The popular consensus is that children shouldn't be fed popcorn until they are at least four years old. We've been feeding popcorn to our children since they were about 18-months old, but we've been very careful to break the "kernels" off the popcorn, before we let them eat it. (OK. Sometimes, not always. But we do try. Does it make us more responsible that we don't ever let them ride bikes without wearing helmets??)

To cook, we pour a tablespoon full of vegetable oil in to the base of the electric popper and add approximately 1/2 cup of Orville Redenbacher's popcorn. Because Orville's the best.

Then, we turn on the popper and let it spin until all the popcorn has finished popping.

This is always a fun event for everyone involved.

We flip it the popper over and transfer our popped corn in to a large bowl. Then, we top it with just a slight sprinkle of kosher salt. At first I thought it was a little dry without butter dripping off each piece. But, with time, I have come to embrace this healthier - and tastier - version of the popped corn. It's certainly better than any microwave popcorn I've ever had and it doesn't leave an oily residue in your mouth.

I suspect that as our children grow older, cocktail hour - whether with a bowl of popcorn, or perhaps some cheese and crackers - will be something that we will fully embrace as an evening ritual. Along with that evening ritual of eating a small ice cream cone just before bath time.

But that one comes from my side of the family.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

because cleanliness is important to us

When an entire bag of goldfish crackers were spilled on the floor today, by a toddler who goes by the name of Henry ...

I did my best to pick out any hairs and sticks and gobs of dried up Playdoh, before scooping them in to a large Ziploc bag.

Then I wrote, "Floor Fish" on the bag...

So we're sure not to serve them to any guests that might come visit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

what's in you wednesday

Charlie had to run to the office for a few hours today, so I took the children to our local park.

They rode their bikes there. Which they often do, because although it's dangerous to ride around our neighborhood - what with undulating sidewalks and driveways spaced every 10 feet - there is a nice path, about six feet wide, that goes the entire way around our park where the kids can practice their cycling skills.

Typical for a midweek morning, when we arrived, the park was nearly empty.

We played for a while on the playground. We ran around and took turns throwing a football. We took a drink of water from the water fountain and then, we started to make our way home.

Everyone was happy. Including me. I was chipper, almost.

Because we were on the far side of the park, we needed to wind around the pathway back to the entrance. I had already started to walk - and push Henry who was in the stroller - and the kids were riding behind me, in a single file line.

As we were walking out of the park, and I was glancing over my shoulder every so often to make sure that my little riders were all OK, I happened to notice that there was a 50'ish year old man running, almost sprinting, around the path. He was wearing headphones and looked like he was in pretty good shape. Which was obvious to me, because he wasn't wearing a shirt.

So he's running towards us - and I'm looking back at the kids to make sure that they are in single file line, out of his way, and not hogging up the pathway.

They are riding perfectly.

In a nice neat row, just to the right of center.

There is plenty of room for Mr. No Shirt to run by.

But as he runs past my three little children on their training-wheeled-bicycles, he holds his hand down, like he is swatting at a fly, and yells out, "GET OUT OF THE WAY!"

Then to my next child he swats and yells, "PAY ATTENTION!"

Then to the third child he swatted and yelled something, I don't know what, because at this point William caught up to me and said, "Mommy, that man was mean to me!" and the blood was boiling so loudly in my ears all I could hear was a low thunder beginning to rumble.

I stopped in my tracks and stood there for a moment, watching the guy running and thinking, hoping - praying - he didn't pass us again. Because if he did and if he said ONE WORD to my children, or attempted to SWAT at them again ... he might die.

At the hands of me.


So we keep walking. And already I'm talking out loud, rehearsing what I am going to say if Mr. No Shirt passes us again. The kids are looking at me, a little scared, because they can tell that I'm very angry and yet, they have no idea why.

I tell the kids to go ahead of me, because if he passes us and if he swats at them or so much OPENS HIS MOUTH, I am going to pounce like a ravenous bear on a fat seal.

We are only about 100 yards from the exit of the park, but just then, I see Mr. No Shirt is barreling down on our side of the path. I shout that the kids need to stay in a single file line and to the far RIGHT so he can pass on the left. The kids know exactly what this mean and they oblige. They scoot to the far side so Mr. No Shirt has ample room to run past.

But guess what that bastard Mr. No Shirt did?

HE SWATTED AT MY KIDS AGAIN.

He put his hand down and shooed at them, while loudly growling, "PAY ATTENTION!" and "STAY OUT OF THE WAY!"

And guess what I did?

I whipped off my sunglasses and yelled, "HEY! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?! DID YOU NOT SEE THE SIGN OVER THERE THAT READS THIS IS A PUBLIC PARK?! HOW DARE YOU SWAT AT MY CHILDREN!"

Mr. No Shirt stops running and throws his arms up in the air before he starts yelling at me.

"HEY LADY! I'M DOING YOU A FAVOR! I WAS TELLING THEM TO MOVE SO I WOULDN'T RUN THEM OVER! I DIDN'T YELL AT THEM TO GET OUT OF THE WAY!"

This guy was infuriated. Totally furious. I could tell that whatever anger issues I might be harboring, he was harboring more. He was spitting and started cursing that he had his headphones on and the music is loud and he yelled out, "WHAT THE $%@* IS WRONG WITH YOU?!"

He was trying to intimidate me. But he didn't. Because although I wish I could run away from conflict, I totally lack that ability. There are times when I feel possessed by doing Goodwill for my fellow man and want to blow kisses to the Universe, and there are other times, I feel like I could kill my fellow man with my own two hands and launch their corpses in to outer space.

Especially this guy, who was probably a woman beater.

I yelled back at him, "I HEARD YOU YELL AT MY CHILDREN TO GET OUT OF YOUR WAY AND THEY WEREN'T IN YOUR WAY! IF YOU'VE GOT A PROBLEM - GO RUN ON THAT TRACK ..." arms gesturing to the adjacent field ... "OVER THERE!"

He started screaming something about me being stupid and an idiot. "LADY, YOU ARE A STUPID IDIOT! YOU ARE STUPID!! I WAS DOING YOU A FAVOR!!" Then, just before he took off running again, he yelled, "YOU SHOULDN'T START SOMETHING YOU AREN'T GOING TO FINISH!!!"

Seriously?? This is what Mr. No Shirt says to a woman with four small children under her direct supervision?? Wow. What a stud. What a stand up, honorable man.

I shouldn't start something I'm not going to finish.

Well, it's too bad he took off running like a pansy, because I'm pretty sure that I could have finished him off pretty well. My strategy consisted of poking out his eyeballs and shoving them in his ears. After I kicked his gems up to his larynx and coated him with pepper spray.

I was pumped.


Charged.


I had four little
cubs children to protect and I was hungry for blood.

Once he ran away like a skunk and we exited the park, I could tell the kids were shaken and I felt like dirt. Why couldn't I have just left and not said anything?? I'm not sure how to explain it, except to say some other being took over.

Again.

(And ... I clearly lack sense.)

When we were out of the park, I pulled all the children close and told them that I'm very sorry they saw me get so upset. I really love them and I don't want any one to hurt them. Then I told them that the word of the day is JERK. "That man running around the park is a JERK."

The moral of this story is I may not be able to do a pull-over on the bar, but I'm pretty sure I could take anyone who threatens me or my children ... singlehandedly. And, I'm really glad that it was me at the park and not Charlie, because after discussing the incident with my husband, he assures me that he too would have spoken up - a fight most likely would have ensued - and I'd be looking for a good defense attorney.

Or, at least, some way to dispose Mr. No Shirt's body.

Isn't it great that I've been going to a Christian Church?

Yes. I know!!

It's really been doing WONDERS for me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

the bad samaritan(s)

I took all four children in to a public restroom today.

Upon our entry, it was evident we were the only ones in there. Which is a good thing because I like having a public restroom all to myself. Or ourselves, as the case may be. But while we were in the stall - someone came in and took up the stall next to us.

And well.

They had gas.

A lot of gas.

If you haven't spent time around a four-year-old lately, you might not know they are extremely observant and they enjoy talking. A lot.

So there I am. With four little children. Three of whom are very loud talkers and they ask me in a startled tone, "What's THAT noise?!" Almost immediately, they realize what THAT noise is and they begin commenting on the person in the stall directly next to us.

"Mommy! Someone is going TOOT TOOT on the TOOT train!!"

Followed by the four-year-old symphony of, "Beans, beans, the magic fruit! The more you eat, the more you TOOT!"

Instead of shushing my children, which really wouldn't have had much effect, I did what any other horrified mother, born of the 70's might do. I burst in to singing some totally random Carpenters song as loudly as I could to try and drown out my offspring.

"SUCH A FEELING'S COMING OVER ME! THERE IS WONDER IN MOST EVERYTHING I SEE! NOT A CLOUD IN THE SKY GOT THE SUN IN MY EYE AND I WON'T BE SURPRISED IF IT'S A DREAM!"

I finish lifting three children on and off the toilet, while trying to keep the toddler from pulling used feminine products out of the small wall-mounted trashcan and we make, what I hope, is a very hasty exit to the sinks.

While I'm standing at the sinks desperately trying to wash my children's hands and thinking that perhaps a squirt of Purell might do the job just as well because I've never been in such a rush to get out of a public bathroom, the occupant of the adjacent stall joins us at the sink.

Now I will go to my grave wondering why this woman couldn't have waited 30 seconds for me and my brood of chatters to leave before she came out. But there she was. Next to us at the sinks. And while I expeditiously tried to get the excessive amount of soap off my children's hands that they had squirted up to their elbows, one of my children looked up at this woman and sweetly inquired if she felt better?

And gosh, what did she eat?

I know that our children will one day soon learn that talking about someone's flatulence in a public restroom is inappropriate. But I didn't feel it would be appropriate for me to give them that lesson - at that very moment in time. Just like I didn't feel like it would be appropriate to give a lecture on anatomy in the public restroom at Costco.

So, I just kept smiling and singing and trying to appear oblivious to the conversation taking place two feet below me. All the while my children looked up at me with confused expressions as I tried to encourage them to stop! talking! and! start! singing!

"I'M ON THE TOP OF THE WORLD LOOKING DOWN ON CREATION AND THE ONLY EXPLANATION I CAN FIND IS THE LOVE THAT I FOUND EVER SINCE YOU'VE BEEN AROUND, YOUR LOVE PUTS ME AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD!"

I'm hopeful that one day, I'll look back on this and think it's hilarious.

Today, I'm just really thankful that I'm so good at remembering song lyrics.

the good samaritan

I've been a mess of tears today.

My blogging cousins, Lisa and Anne Marie, both wrote the most beautiful tributes to their fathers on their blogs today. And since I love both of these men dearly - I was positively verklempt.

As I was reading Lisa's blog about my Uncle Bill, I was reminded of a story I had almost completely forgotten. When Lisa was 16-years old, she received a speeding ticket and had to go to court. Uncle Bill went with her - because he always did whatever he could to help support his children. Or nieces and nephews. Or whomever happened to be lucky enough to be considered a friend to this great man. Borrowing directly from Lisa's post:
As we waited in the court room, there was a young man standing in front of the judge who was in trouble for something pretty minor ... I can't even remember what it was now. The young man was visibly shaking. The judge asked him some questions and then charged him a fine that he could not pay. The judge then gave this young guy jail time because he had NO money.

When my father heard this, he jumped up form his seat and said, "What? You're sending this young kid to jail because he is down on his luck?" The judge asked, "Who are you?" And then she asked the kid, "Do you know this man?"

He said, "No..."

My father was told to sit down. He told the court he would not. He couldn't sit there and listen to the judge send this young man to jail for something so minor and asked how much he owed the court. He also asked if the fine was paid would the young man be free to go? (I can't remember the price of the fine now, but I remember the shaking kid ... I know he was all alone ... and I know he couldn't believe what he was hearing.)

I remember my father approaching the judge and asking if he could stand with this young man and represent him. The kid told my father he could not repay him and my father said he didn't want the money back. I remember my father saying, "I don't care about the money. I have it and I want to pay your fine. I just don't see this happening." He told the kid he wanted him to get in to school and make something out of himself and give "it" back to someone else ... when he could.

Now that I think of it ... he was paying it forward ... way before it was popular.
What Lisa forgot to mention in her post is that once Uncle Bill paid this young man's fine, he didn't have enough for hers - so she was put in jail for two weeks.

(No. That didn't really happen. But I nearly cracked up just thinking of it!!)

Lisa's story is a perfect example of my Uncle Bill. He is an extraordinary man who genuinely cares about his fellow man. Whether he knows them or not.


This morning I called Child Protective Services in San Diego. They told me that based on my experience at the park yesterday, I did the right thing in contacting the police. But they too, couldn't understand why the police wouldn't have conducted a more depth investigation as to who this woman was and whether or not she and her son needed help.

So, I hung up from CPS and called the police department.

I spoke to the same dispatcher that I had spoken to yesterday morning. She told me that the police officer had responded to the park and had spoken with the woman. He gave her a warning and said that she needed to get up and watch her child. Then, he left.

When I told her that the woman had laid back down and fallen asleep as soon as he pulled out of the parking lot, she sounded surprised - and sad. She said that what I should have done, is called the police back. Which I didn't do. But in hindsight, I really wish I had.

I also really wish that I had spoken to the woman.

I wish that I had asked her if she was OK and if she needed any help. I wonder if I had spoken with her, mother to mother, woman to woman, if she might have told me what was going on? Perhaps she had just driven all the way to San Diego from Canada. Perhaps she was down on her luck and needed some food. Or, maybe I could have provided her directions to the nearest shelter?

Going forward, if I'm ever in a similar situation again, I will call the police. But, I will also summon whatever courage I can to talk with the person and tell them that I don't see "this" happening. I will tell them that I am worried about them, and their child. And I will not leave until the issue is resolved, even if that means I have to summon the police two or more times.

I never should have walked away yesterday. As soon as I saw it, I was involved. So I should have stayed there and called the police again and I should have talked to the woman and done whatever I could to help her and Joshua.

I should have done more.

Not just because that would have been the right thing to do, but because that's what my Uncle Bill would have done.

Monday, June 22, 2009

what would you do?

This morning Charlie and I loaded up the children and drove to Spanish Landing, which is a nice park area along the San Diego Harbor.

The purpose of this trip was so that my husband could meet with the San Diego Triathlon Club and see the course that he will be completing as part of his triathlon, a week from today.

Once Charlie had learned all there was to learn about the race course, we made our way over to a small playground that was adjacent to the parking lot. The playground was situated on the sandy beach, approximately 100 feet from the bay. As our children were set loose to climb all over the play structure, I noticed that there was a little boy, with beautiful brown curly hair, playing by himself. When he saw our tribe of children, he quickly came over to join us.

After playing for 30 minutes or so, it dawned on me that there was no one checking in on him. By this point, I knew that his name was Joshua and he was five years old. When I asked him where his mother was, he pointed to a person who was curled up under a blanket and sound asleep on the ground.

Charlie and I exchanged confused looks before I climbed off the play structure to go investigate.

There was a carriage parked about 50 feet from the play structure and directly beneath, was what appeared to be a woman, totally unconscious.

In the same general vicinity, there were two picnic tables that were occupied by what looked like one large family. I walked over to the picnic table and the people who had been gathered around, began walking towards me. I pointed to the woman laying on the ground and asked if perhaps she was with them?

They shook their heads no and said she wasn't with them, and she had been passed out for the two hours that they had been there. One of the men in the group said that he had bent down and asked her to move - before yelling that there was no loitering allowed - and she didn't budge.

When I told the people that our children were playing with what I believed to be her son, they nodded and said that they noticed that there was a little boy running around and they thought that perhaps he was her child but they weren't quite sure.

Now, I've experienced people who are too busy socializing or reading a book to pay attention to the children under their care. But I've never once seen someone who intentionally falls asleep - in a public place under a blanket - while their young child runs around.

So. I walked back to the beach area and Joshua was now playing at the water's edge with our children. While our kids were hanging back on the sand, he had walked in to the water - up to his knees - and his blue jeans, socks and shoes were soaked. I coaxed him out of the water and asked him where he lives. He said that he had lived in Canada but now he doesn't know where he lives and he'd need to ask his mom.

My mind was reeling with what to do.

There was no way I was going to leave the park without knowing that Joshua was being looked after by a conscious adult. But should I go over and try to wake the mother up? After a brief exchange with Charlie, I decided to call the police.

Because:

1) I was genuinely concerned for Joshua's welfare and in my opinion, this was a clear cut case of NEGLECT. What if he waded too deep in the water and drowned? What if someone picked him up and took off? Although there is evidence to suggest that crime rates are down, terribly bad things still happen to children.

2) So what if I woke her up? I doubted that this was the first time his mother fell asleep in a public area - and what was to stop her from doing it again?

3) What if the woman was on drugs and woke up belligerent?

While I waited for the police to show up, and Joshua's mother slept on, I struck up a conversation with the family at the picnic table. They believed that she had rolled in and noticed that there was a playground which would attract families with small children - so she decided that while she slept - other people would watch her son. Which is pretty much exactly what happened.

After 10 minutes, the police arrived. I met the officer as he walked towards us and I repeated the entire story to him. We had been there for about an hour and Joshua's mother never once woke up. I was concerned that someone could take off with him. I was concerned that he could fall in the water and drown. The officer nodded in agreement and then walked over to where Joshua's mom lay sleeping. He bent down to talk with her and she sat up and groggily rubbed her eyes.

They talked for about 15 minutes. Then, he left.

Joshua's mother pulled out a cell phone and made a call. But after a few minutes, once the police officer had driven away, she pulled the blanket over her shoulders and fell back to sleep. By this point, Joshua had attached himself to a new family and I felt like I done all that I could, or should. Since it was time for us to feed the kids lunch, we made our way back to the car.

But on the drive home I felt totally perplexed.

Was I interfering? Was it my place to get involved? Did I do the right thing? If I did the right thing, why did the police turn their back and leave? What classifies neglect? And at what point should the authorities step in to make sure that a child is safe?

What would you have done?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

public service announcement

There have been small scale struggles erupting in our house every day for the past few weeks, because our children have learned how to log on to the computer and play Curious George on the PBS website. And when they're not clashing with each other over computer time, they are telling me - or Charlie - that our time is up and it is now their turn. And I can't help but think, five years ago these people who are now negotiating with me over computer time were still in my womb.

It boggles my mind.

But since everything that the children are doing online is at the high end of the educational spectrum, I generally oblige with their requests. Although when I noticed that they had adjusted a few of my settings to the internet, I became a little paranoid that they were going to cause some problems from their random clicking of this and that and dragging this here and there.

My fear was confirmed when I tried to log on to my blog from my husband's lap top earlier this week and discovered that it was gone. As in, my blog was no longer there.

IT WAS GONE.


A slight amount of panic ensued as I tried to understand what had happened. (Who am I kidding? A whole heckuva lot of panic ensued.) Ultimately, I discovered that Blogger was no longer routing traffic from my old address to my new address. Within a day of me realizing this, I started receiving emails and telephone calls from people wondering why I had deleted my blog?

So, if it turns out that you have had the same issue, you might want to consider deleting www.amazingtrips.blogspot.com from your bookmark and replacing it with www.TheAmazingTrips.com.

It's simple and easy to do.

Just as simple as receiving and returning your donation packet to Be The Match.

You have until Monday, June 22 to receive your free donation packet so if you haven't contacted them yet about joining the Bone Marrow Registry - and you feel like this is something you'd like to do - you've got two days remaining.

(Virtual HIGH FIVES to all of you who have already registered, including my cousin Margaret who reconsidered after telling me no, no, NO way.)

And many, many prayers going out and up and all around for our dear friend, Deana, who received her bone marrow stem cell transplant yesterday at MD Anderson in Texas. GO STEM CELLS!! GO STEM CELLS!! MAKE DEANA STRONG!! GET THAT WOMAN HOME TO HER BABIES!!

This picture is totally unrelated to anything except to point out that I really need to improve my photography skills and am seriously thinking about taking a digital photography and web design class at the local community college.

You know, once I can figure how to squeeze an additional three hours out of the day.