Thursday, August 6, 2009

No batteries required

I've been friends with MIT Mommy since we were just teenagers, living in the same dorm and doing our homework (and getting into trouble) together.

I'm a toy designer (technically, director of engineering for a small toy company). Many of our toys are technology-based, which means that the games do cool things using sounds and interactivity, or that they include lights and speakers and cameras and other cool techie features. I'm proud of the work I do, and when we get it right, the toys are cool and very fun. When we really get it right, they enhance that imaginary world that children inhabit.

Now I have my own toy tester (J) at home. He's almost three, and it's interesting to see how he interacts with the things we create. Over the past few months, he's tested a lot of toys for me. He really liked the zoo animals and the construction trucks, and he loves anything that lights up.
Nothing has given him as much joy as this pair of rain boots.

J goes to preschool just a half-block away from our house. I walk him to school in the morning on my way to catch the train to SF, and I pick him up again after work. During the rainy season, the gutter fills with water runing down our hill, and the resulting river is too tempting for all the little ones leaving school. One day, J already had his boots on, so he started splashing.
Another child joined him. One slightly germ phobic 4-year-old anxiously warned us about the "anebas that will get in your brain." The next day, there were more. By the end of the week, I was met at the front door by a barrage of kids asking if they could come splash in the puddles with J.

I imagined the other parents seething as they poured water out of boots and loaded cold, wet children into their car seats.

Then I got out my camera and started taking pictures.

As a parent, I sometimes get too worried about the wet and the cold and the "anebas." As toy designers, we try to ask ourselves, "is it fun?" The photos tell the truth. This is just plain, boot-stomping fun.

No batteries required.

A note from MIT Mommy:

I should be back from my trip today. I want to thank everyone who has blogged for me. I am writing this the day before I leave and I'm already anxious to see what is on my blog!

When I received the above post from my 'MIT buddy' I just about fell out of my chair laughing. She is an amazing designer, and who better to realize that sometimes the best designs are no designs at all. How beautifully ironic that her son would be enamoured by a pair of boots!

She also is the creative genius behind the gear kids at the top of this blog. And, if you would like to see more of her ongoing work, she and her colleague have a eco-friendly design blog out in SF.

Thanks again to all of you who blogged, and all of you who read and commented on their labors.
I'll have a lot of catching up to do!
MIT Mommy

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Oh, for the love of Freedom

This is my last post until September. I haven't found a corporate sponsor to pay for housekeeping. I tried to enslave my mother in law, but soon realized such activity would ruin any future shot at public office, and anyway she wriggled out. So, I am taking a break to dive into a local project. It won't change the world, but will have a positive effect on my corner of it (and maybe improve a few personal skills for future endeavors). I'll be back.

And, if I'm well-rested, watch out.

What is it about having two friends outstretching their hands? You might as well hold all 24 of those birthday candles up against my bare backside.

I often write about finding silver linings. The more frustrated I become, the angrier I am, the more I rely on this forum to find the humor, to laugh at myself, and to remember why those I love are, in fact, those I love so very much.

When I see glue on my floor, I take pictures and laugh.

When I see apathy, I dig deep in my memory for all of those people who are NOT apathetic.

Last Thursday, I wrote about apathy. In my camera are pictures of my son’s absolutely wonderful seventh birthday party, trips to the park, silly games played under my laundry basket. I haven’t been able to write about any of it. It isn’t that it wasn’t wonderful and I can’t put together a lovely essay. I could, I suppose. I could. I just don’t want to.

I find it difficult to sip my coffee dantily when I am watching a train wreck.

I’m a little hot under the collar.

But, that piece about apathy was about me in a way. (I don’t really have an apathetic bone in my body – call it a fault – but I don’t, really, call it aggressive avoidance).

Although it would be highly self-centered to assume that I was the intended audience for either Pauline or Brigette’s blogs, they spoke to me as if I were. Isn’t that why we read?

I have been intending to write about all of the various issues of the day, to add my two cents like I did last Fall, but I have been cleverly delaying it.
I was having an otherwise fine day hatching an excellent plan to further technology and education in the Cleveland area. I am very happy with my fine, new project and even mentioned to my husband last week that I might stop blogging, at least for awhile.

So. There.

But, that isn't the end of it, is it? We need our voices to be heard. We also need to balance our lives, and we all know that is as rediculous as some current policies (I'll avoid the cheap shot that I wanted to include here).

I am concerned about our schools losing millions dollars over the next couple of years. It makes me want to scream. My staying at home is not compatible with my kids going to an expensive private school. I must be the only one who cannot afford it.

I am concerned about health care. I’ve been in a dirty hospital overseas. I have had a doctor tell me that if my knees are hurting me, I should just stop running. I was told I don’t need a vaccine, but if I get that disease, don’t come back to their office.

I am concerned about the economy. I have made a lifetime worth of decisions based on the fact that my children can go to school and make as much money as their achievements are worth. They can shoot for the moon, even if their peers are apathetic.

I think ‘cash for clunkers’ is ridiculous.

I do think an awful lot of people spend too much time on absolutely nothing. The apathy incenses me. Instead of blogging last night, I sat next to my husband and actually watched part of a show about ‘celebrity plastic surgery.’ My husband switched to it every time the History Channel show about Zeus went to commercial.

Was someone actually watching that on purpose?? Have we nothing better to do?

Maybe that is what freedom is all about. We have the freedom to be stupid if we wish. I recall talking to someone who had met a WWII veteran and asked that veteran if he was upset that ‘kids these days don’t care about the sacrifices he made.’ You know what he said? He said that he was happy that kids these days don’t worry about it, because that is exactly what he was fighting for. Yeah. Really?

Perhaps, but I do believe that our ‘freedom’ is simply based on how we define our relationship with others. Our system of government is the structure within which we have those relationships. It is like a marriage, a friendship, or any other relationship.
Relationships are based on mutual respect. And, frankly, take a little bit of maintenance.

Our freedom requires constant maintenance. It takes work. It is not an unchallengeable god-given fact that we can make our own decisions.

I’m no good sitting idly by and watching a train wreck any more than I can watch celebrity TV.

Pauline and Brigette, I probably don’t need you to hold my hand. A little fire under my bare backside will do the trick just fine. But, now that I have received that gift, I would be honored to stand and hold hands with you – and everyone else too.

In September.