Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Baby Driver



You are such a big girl now, off to the DMV to get your license –

all this at 7:25 am after getting home at 5:30am from San Diego

but I remember when you were small and every car ride was an adventure.
I remember when we brought you home from the hospital, your very first car ride. Dad and I weren’t sure we did the car seat right. It was a nerve wracking drive from Visalia to Exeter.
I remember how you liked to sing in the car. In Romania, you sang to us from the back seat of our blue station wagon. You loved to sing the “ABC” song. Before you could even speak, you made noises in tune with the song. We all knew exactly what you meant.
Once we didn’t know what you meant. On vacation, we drove Chris Brown to Sienna, Italy, dropped him off and then picked up Mary Kay there. We drove through the evening back to our Tuscan villa. The whole way you said something over and over. When we all finally got out of the car, we saw a huge full moon low on the horizon and realized you had been saying “moon” over and over again for three hours. We thought you were so observant.
When we moved to Silver Spring, we got a minivan that we named the Lucky Caravan. Parents were in the front, baby twins were in the middle row and you were way in the back. I worried about you in the way back but you were fine. You sang along with our Wee Sing tapes. You loved the Dinosaur tape best. The twins would often fall asleep in their car seats. You rarely did.
In Hong Kong, you mostly rode in taxis. The car seats did not work so I made you wear seatbelts. Sometimes the taxis did not have seatbelts. Then you sat on my lap and I held on to you very tightly. I didn’t mind this mode of travel.
We drove our car, named Silvery, to Chung Hong Kok every Sunday. We had a picnic dinner on the beach. On the way home Dad would tell ghost stories. The twins would scream and you would laugh. All the way home.
When we moved to Germany, we bought a car named Blueberry. We had lots of “adventures” with Blueberry. You were always a good sport.
There was the time the diesel fuel froze, Blueberry stopped and I was taking you to your first swim practice. I flagged down a car with an Australian rugby sticker. They took you to swimming. I came later.
There were all those times driving over Brenner Pass, straight up through the Alps from Germany into Austria. We always held our breath and cheered Blueberry on.
There were those times when Blueberry overheated in Italy and Dad made us all get out and walk. Royce wrote a letter to the next owner of Blueberry and said to relax and wait when Blueberry gets too hot. We did that many times.
In Germany, we discovered podcasts. We would drive to early morning swim practice, past foggy fields, listening to 99PI. Driving back from Garmisch once (after a great hike through the gorge and a swim in a lake), we listened to the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut podcast. I pulled off the autobahn because I was laughing so hard. We were still laughing one hour later when we got home.
I remember when you told us you were in Driver’s Education at high school. I said I did not sign you up for that. You said it was required. Immediately you started to comment on my driving. It all seemed kind of funny when you were 15.
Then you turned 16 and a friend of yours drove up to our house with her Dad. She was 3 days younger than you and already driving. You decided you wanted to drive then too. I said why? You said you wanted to drive to Sperry Observatory where you and I took a class. I said we do that together. You said we could take separate cars.
You and I went to the car park behind the big church and practiced at night. You got the hang of it right away. I did not get the hang of you getting the hang of it. Not right away.
After your first driving lesson, you were so excited. You told us your driving instructor was a former race car driver. She came into the house and told me how great you did. She said someone honked at you. She was not happy. I was not happy. But you were happy. You got your driver’s permit right after that.
You told me you were so nervous for your driver’s test. You wanted to pass. Before that I did not want you to pass. I did not care. But then you cared. So I cared. I wanted you to pass- just a little bit.
Today it snowed. I was so worried. About snow, about ice, about mean drivers cutting you off. About just about everything but mostly about you.
You passed. You said it was fine. You bonded with other kids at the DMV. The instructor drove the other kids home. You went back to school. We were proud of you for passing. And for going back to school. And now you are a driving person and the world seems bigger. Be safe baby driver. Happy Birthday.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Surf and sun



After weeks of freezing temps in New Jersey, we jumped at the chance to get out to San Diego for a bit of sun. Like all of our trips these days, they do involve a bit of college touring and there were a few we wanted Tori to see out there. So we went and were so glad we did. For the sun. And the college info. And just a different pace of life for a few brief days.
We rented a place in Pacific Beach, near where my friend Stacey used to live. We wandered down to the beach and took it all in. For about one minute...and then the kids first surf lesson started! The kids had surf lessons every day and loved it. Tori got to standing pretty regularly, Royce got up a few times and Adam did once. After the lessons, the kids turned in their wetsuits and boards and went back out into the ocean. They swam and chased waves for hours, some of the only people out there without wet suits. And probably the only New Jersey residents on the beach, loving the 70 degree weather. Who knows what the water temperature was- and who cares!
We considered doing more- the zoo, Sea World, etc but didn’t. We sat on the beach and we sat on our deck. We got caught up on Olympic Trials. It was lovely and quiet and just what we needed. Per usual, with the requisite groaning from the kids, we rented bikes and rode around. But really, we only rode a few miles into La Jolla. We saw the sea lions, ate some tacos and rode our bikes back down the coast. We did do a little hike at Torrey Pines State Park but that was mostly because of the namesake potential.
The day of college tours was done by Phil and Tori. They drove, they saw, they liked. Phil, doing extra duty, even got Tori to a college swim meet, which I appreciated. All colleges were gorgeous. Tori could see herself going to all of them. But Tori also feels that the college talk is a bit too soon, there are too many unknowns. But the twins were listening to some of it. Royce particularly liked the college life vibe and said she could see herself going to school in San Diego and surfing every day. We stressed that she had to go to school in addition to the surfing. She waved us off and discussed in detail what kind of surf board she wanted. Perhaps too nice?
We flew home on a red-eye flight, on which four of us sort of slept. One of us, Adam, took Phil’s business class seat and reported that he slept just fine. We came home to frigid cold but after the few days break we felt that we could take it. Sort of. 3 of us fell into bed and slept until 7:30. 2 of us practiced parallel parking in the dark. Why? Tori was picked up at 7:25am for her driver’s test! Stay tuned for those results!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pre-Party: The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade



After hearing a piece on NPR about the inflation event on the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, the girls and I decided to give it a try. The kids had a half day at school. They got out at noon and we were on the 12:37 train into NYC. All was grey and overcast and we were trying to be enthusiastic. Once we got to the site, on the streets outside the Museum of Natural History, the sun came out and we were transfixed. So fun! So big! So New York!
There was some reality to the surreal giant balloons and Central Park in its fall glory.  The police presence, heightened of course in light of recent attacks. We followed the crowd to the Museum of Natural History where the balloons would be lined up around the museum. Foot traffic was channeled through a one directional path. We walked with armed police posted every few feet. Sniffer dogs and more police wove throughout the crowd. Additionally, the whole event was moved up a couple hours so it would be done during day light hours. But despite all that, it still felt fun and festive. And every police person wished us a Happy Thanksgiving.
We’ve always been a fan of the balloons, though we have only watched the parade once. Overseas, the parade does not get much coverage but Melissa Sweet’s book Balloons over Broadway got us interested. It is hard to resist the creative follow your dream story of Tony Sarg, the puppeteer behind the Macy’s Parade. I bought a few art supplies and sort of hoped we might follow along with Sweet’s instruction and make our own marionettes at home. We did not but then again the kids are now teens, with much less arts and crafts time. The crayon box is still in our home but only because I can’t quite throw it out.
We wandered around watching the balloons fill up with helium. We recognized a number of the balloon characters but many were new to us. I was surprised at how many we did not know then one of the girls noted a sign in front of each balloon indicating its first flight. These balloons were new to everyone. We knew Charlie Brown and the Pillsbury Dough man but PAWS Patrol and a good dinosaur were new to us. We saw a duck from an insurance commercial that plays during football games and we missed Adam (who stayed at home for basketball).
After a look at balloons, we wandered back to the train through Central Park. The sun was out, the fields were green. The leaves were modestly colorful. The girls had balloons tied to their wrists from the inflation event. Littler kids in the park looked at them with envy. We listened in on a family speaking German. Royce jumped from rock to rock. And I was very happy to have another day of childhood- happy kids, balloons and hot chocolate.