Mary from Peru to Visit

September 13, 2009

Some time back, I wrote about hosting a party at the mommies’ house for my two favorite volunteers: Mary (not Maria) from Peru and S from Romania.

My wife was quite taken with Mary. I think because they are much alike. Each is very intelligent but does not think she is. Each does exactly as she pleases regardless of what other people think they “ought” to do. Of course, they are different as well. Mary has a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering. My wife took one college class.

In any case, I asked my wife, “Do you want to invite Mary to visit us?” My wife seldom wants people to visit us unless she had decided to invite them. However, in this case, she said, “Yes.”

Mary said she has bought a condo and that things are going well at her job for a utility company and that she will visit us next month.

My wife said, “Be sure to tell her we will pay for her ferry ticket.”

I let the mommies know about the visit, but their lives are so busy and complicated I don’t know if they will join us. Perhaps Random Granddaughter can invite her entire kindergarten class from the school for very bright children. On the way, they could stop and visit the used car dealer that sells used fire trucks and as a project they could take a fire engine apart and put it back together.

Apparently, Random Granddaughter has become the official cell phone notifier. “Hello,” the phone told me this morning, “We will be on the 11:30 ferry.”The family stopped at the house. We had lunch, leaving tea to serve as dinner. RG built a perilous tower out of blocks that never fell. She played stair monster with her mommies. Sometimes making monster noise from behind the curtain that keeps heat from rising in winter; other times screaming in pleased terror when they make monster noises from behind the curtain. After a while, I asked her to come over to the chair where I was sitting. I looked deep into her eyes: “I am the stare monster,” I told her.

She brought two dollies with her to the “Baby Doll” tea: Sarah, a china doll about 6 inches high, and Brown Baby Rosie, a doll that integrates RG’s doll family. (I don’t know if Rosie is related to the Obama family dolls or not.)

Two groups were at the tea shop when we arrived. One consisted of three adults; I presume their presence was a coincidence. One mother brought Maurina (who turned out to be four, though she was as big as RG, who is quite big for her age and Rosalina, six years old. Another family arrived after us with Macy, a cute little girl with a fashionable flip haircut. Introvert RG was very shy and reluctant to approach the other little girls.

As the adults chose tea, RG selected hot chocolate. The tea came with cream and sugar cubes. A bit to my surprise, the mommies let RG take a sugar cube and put it in her mouth. The tea shop gives each child one tiny teacup for the dolls; they get to keep the teacup. RG had brought her own highchair for the dolls; she put them side by side. She poured some water as “tea” and placed the cup and a sugar cube in front of the dolls.

After a while RG picked up the second sugar cube; it began to approach her mouth. Rosalina, evidently a child well-indoctrinated in the evils of sugar, walked over to our table and politely told RG that the sugar cube was only for the dolls and she shouldn’t put it in her mouth. RG regarded the child’s advice with the same polite interest she might have displayed if Sylvie (her family’s small cat) had started to give her instructions on table manners.

RG poured herself some hot chocolate, filling the cup perilously full. I regarded her adventures with the hot chocolate with the same watchful interest as I had earlier observed her tower building with the blocks. The result was similar; disaster seemed to threaten at every moment, but no accidents occurred. Is this an indication of RG’s life to come?

The waitress brought two saucers with balls of butter and jam, one for the mommies at their table and another for RG, Grandma, and me at our table. RG was obviously considering eating some butter and jam directly. Mommy (birth mother) told her that a) she should wait for scones to arrive and b) share the spreads with Grandma and Grandpa.

I could tell by the expression on RG’s face that she considered this a difficult philosophical problem that merited deep thought. While she was still pondering, scones and finger sandwiches arrived. Mommy explained that the procedure for dealing with a scone was to break up the scone and apply the spreads to the different portions.

RG had acquiesced on sharing the spreads; at this point her inner food serving artist took command. In action, she communicated: this is not how I serve and consume scones. She spread jam on top of the scone, then placed a ball of butter on top of the jam, contemplating the creation with the judicious eye of an experienced craftswoman. Everyone else regarded her work with silent awe. With a look of All right, I will go a little way toward your sensibilities, RG then mashed the butter into the jam and spread it on top of the jam, and then began to eat the scone with serious attention and concentration.

RG is finally beginning to learn to eat a meal. She ate all her finger sandwiches in a methodical way, except for the tuna sandwich. I learned that RG does not do tuna.

The meal ended with white cupcakes with jelly beans on top. RG worked her way through the cupcake; some of it splashed over herself and the chair. She completed dessert by eating the jelly beans. All and all, however, her table manners and savoir faire were excellent for a child of almost five years old.

As a shy introvert, RG held back from approaching the other children, though she regarded them from time to time with sly curiosity. At the end of the meal, Maurina and then Rosalina approached RG, showed her their dolls and engaged in a little conversation.

She held back quite a bit and regarded them shyly and did not contribute much to the conversation.

As an introvert myself, I am quite lacking in skills such as making small talk, though over the years I have gone from about 10% skill to perhaps 20% skill. It’s not like color blindness or deafness; it’s a skill that can be learned. I think it would be useful for the mommies to pay some attention to this as she grows up and teach her how to function a bit as an extrovert in a world where extroverts set much of the agenda.

After the tea, Mrs. Random talked a bit with the owner. In the years since the tea shop has opened, it has gone through three owners. The current owner is planning to try and sell it in January. She has found it to be exhausting work. Even in the current environment of financial panic, deathly to espresso stands and restaurants as they are such obvious places for people noticing financial calamity likely to fall upon them to cut back, the tea shop has been getting quite a bit of business. The owner finds that unless she works herself to death, she loses the money she might make by hiring help.

RG  and I went outside. She had been a little subdued by the end of the meal, but she perked up and talked about playing tag and showed me how Rosie could stand by herself. Eventually the mommies came out. They played London Bridge with RG, but after some excitement, the falling bridge bonked her nose and she dissolved in tears for a few minutes.

On the way home in the car, she looked exhausted and complained that her stomach hurt. The mommies dropped us at our car in the supermarket parking lot; and decided to stop in the market before heading for the ferry. The last we saw was RG running again.

I will spend tomorrow night at the Barely Extended Family’s house in the city and take care of her tomorrow as the mommies have to work and her preschool is closed.

I hope she has recovered by then. As I’ve mentioned before, adults are often oblivious to how hard small children work.

3S Ferry Dangerous

August 22, 2007

On the trail of ferry terrorists.

On part of my trip to work, I ride a ferry. Generally, there are one or two state patrol cars parked at the ferry dock, observing as we load. Usually, at least one of the police cars includes a dog to sniff the cars before they start to drive on board the ferry.

Last Friday morning, there was a brief news item in the paper that someone on one of the state ferries had observed suspicious looking people taking photographs on board a ferry (different route than mine). That evening as I boarded my evening ferry, besides noticing four state patrol cars, I also observed four black-clad men wearing conspicuous side arms boarding the ferries and observing all the cars as they boarded. Later, the men, whose black outfits bore the letters, “United States Coast Guard,” patrolled the passenger decks. Their hands were relaxed, but not far from their pistols.

Last night, Thursday, the black clad Coast Guardsmen (this time with one black clad woman among them) were back again, once more observing the boarding and departing cars and patrolling the passenger decks. The news media have been very quite about ferry activity after that one brief news item, with no mention of any special Coast Guard Activity.

Yesterday, I ran an errand near the used car dealer who also sells used fire engines. Gathering up all my courage (as I’m still struggle with my desire when younger not to let people know I’m an idiot), I went in to ask about renting a fire engine to impress my granddaughter (who knows she is a fire chief).

The owner, named Terry, was in, and reacted to my query with amiable good humor. He told me that it costs $50 to rent a fire engine for a day (plus gas, which I imagine adds to the cost considerably these days). He said fire engines are rented by people doing some burning on private property.

“I frequently get requests from people who want to rent one for their child’s birthday party, but I usually have to turn them down. The liability issues are just too difficult.

“The children always want to climb all over it and play with everything and turn all the dials and pull all the knobs. There are sharp objects, and they can hurt themselves; it’s a working fire engine, and they can break vital parts.

“However, if you make arrangements in advance, so I can be sure I will be here, you can bring your granddaughter and she can climb in the driver’s seat and turn the steering wheel. You can do that for free.”

When I talked to my Daughter out of Law last night, I told her that we should make such an arrangement for the next time they visit. We would meet them at the car lot and all share the fire truck experience with Random Granddaughter.

However, I am still scheming. First, I want to see if RG really gets a kick out of being on a fire engine. Adults often think they know what children want, and arrange something for them, and then get all bent out of shape if the children  don’t react as the adults want them to.

Second, I think most of Terry’s objections could be met by hiring him to drive the fire truck to RG’s preschool. He could supervise the children’s use of the fire truck; RG cold happily gloat about “her” fire truck and show it off to the rest of the children, and Grandpa could quietly gloat in the background and sneer at Grandma, who thinks his idea is crazy. I figure with the gas and Terry’s time and the ferry tolls, etc. we’re probably talking about $400 or $500 dollars for a day of fire truck fun.

Also, I am a thinking about something to sell to the readers of my blog to help raise money for the “Spoil Random Granddaughter (but just a little bit) Fund.” More about that in a bit.




To get to work, I ride a ferry for part of the journey. I buy ferry tickets online. When the Barely Extended Family is going to visit us, I send them electronic tickets as attachments to an email.

When I recently sent my daughter tickets, I wrote:

“These tickets are so you can get to us. Bring Child for admission.”

Below is a summary of the email discussion that ensued.

My daughter’s questions are shown in italic. My replies are shown in bold.

hmm. any child?

Preferably a child named “Random Granddaughter.” Children named “Gertrude,” or “Whilhelmina,” or “Insipia,” or “Ernistine,” are less likely to get you in.

does child have to be in good mood?

One melt-down per day is allowed. If child engages in more than one, it will have to take its nap in the nettle bushes.


If covered with dirt on arrival, child may find itself being hosed off before entry into house.

willing to eat vegetables?

Child should eat one vegetable. For example, one green bean.

say “please” and “thank you” without prompting?

Child may prompt Grandma and Grandpa to say, “Please.”

please advise on child specifications.

Child should be special.