Monday, June 24, 2013

A Grand time.

Last week, my husband and I spent four days with three teenagers in one car driving to the Grand Canyon.
It was all my husband’s idea. “We’re going to the Grand Canyon!” he declared a few months ago. Seeing as the oldest Huffman daughter is college age and beginning that whole parent/child separation thing we simultaneously dread and can’t wait for, he figured it was now or never to herd all five of us into a family road trip.
Traveling with three teens is easier and harder than when they were little kids. For one, I don’t have to pack assortments of juice boxes, Polly Pockets and Littlest Pets to entertain them. On the other hand, there was still plenty of “Don't touch me,” and “Stop it” plus a whole bunch of fighting over iPhone charging cords.  
Arriving in Las Vegas via frequent-flyer miles, we hit the road to Hoover Dam. That’s when we noticed the temperature on our car’s dashboard — 114 degrees. From inside our air-conditioned car, this was merely a curiosity, as in, “Gosh, it’s 114 degrees out there.”
The full power of such Hades-like heat wasn’t fully realized until we arrived at the dam. It was hot. Mind-numbingly, stupefyingly hot.
Thankfully, the visitor’s center was air-conditioned. Dad and middle daughter were handling the heat better than swooning mom, so I parked myself next to an air vent. An hour later, I managed to stumble back to our car without being rendered unconscious from our visit to Hoover Oven, I mean, Dam.
We took a detour down Route 66, stopping in Seligman, Ariz. I think the town was the inspiration for the movie “Cars,” because the girls started making all kinds of references to Radiator Springs and Lightning McQueen. A carful of happy teens makes for happy parents, so we gladly let them explore the trinket shops that completely enthralled them. If the price for family harmony includes two leather bracelets, three postcards and one “Route 66” refrigerator magnet made in China, I say “Where do I pay?”
They say the Grand Canyon is big. That’s not true. It’s not big. It’s ginormous. It feels like you’ve stepped inside a huge painting at a natural history museum. I almost expected a mountain goat to amble by. Or a small plane to fly by at eye level.
Even these “Where’s the Wi-Fi” teens were impressed. But when I insisted on taking group photos, one Huffman teen loudly accused me of: 1. Taking too many pictures. 2. Caring too much about taking pictures. 3. Bugging certain people too much about posing for pictures. Let’s just say it was a good thing that at that point we were standing at a part of the Grand Canyon that had railings.
Gritting my teeth, I eventually “persuaded” all three to pose for a group shot, which I was already mentally placing into a Christmas card. And then it was time to leave. I took one last look on my way back to the car. Who knows when we’ll be at the Grand Canyon together again?
At least I have the pictures.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Lights out

What is it with our kids and lights? Our girls never met a lamp or other light they couldn’t turn on … and leave on, long after they’ve left that particular room, or even the house. Thomas Edison would feel right at home at my house: plenty of lightbulbs in every room, and most of them burning brightly.
When they were little, it was easy enough to flip switches off and keep them off. The kids were too small to reach them in the first place. But now that they’re taller, I find myself trailing after them, like their own personal light turner-offer.
It seems so obvious to me: leave a room, turn the lights off. But these kids seem oblivious to the concept. It’s like they think PG&E stands for Probably Gonna Exit (and leave all the lights on).
A child of the 1970s, I know where my “lights off” campaign comes from. My mom was always chasing after us during that era’s energy crisis.
“You’re wasting electricity,” she’d call out, slapping down switches every chance she got.
Lately, lights have become a bigger issue at home after I got what seemed like a great invitation from PG&E. Apparently, if I’d sign up for their SmartRate program, on most days during summer our electric rates will be lower. Of course there’s a catch. On up to 14 days, from 2 to 7 p.m., our electric rates will be higher.
My eyes skipped right over the “higher” bit and went right to the “lower” part. Sign me up.
Now I just had to inform the other Huffman residents of our new arrangement. I broke it to them over dinner one night.
We’re going to save money on our PG&E bill this summer, I said brightly, like they even knew what a PG&E bill was. It’ll be easy, I told them. No problem. On a few afternoons, we’ll just take a little vacation from the TV and computers, I said. As a test run, a few days later, I told the girls that we were having a SmartRate afternoon. No TV, computer or lights after school, I warned them.
Six suspicious eyeballs looked back at me. Don’t worry, I told them. After 7 p.m. you can turn it all back on. I wasn’t sure how much buy-in I’d get, so just to be sure I took all the TV remotes, computer keyboards and mice with me to work that day.
That afternoon I reminded them about our plan.
But I’m at 17 percent, complained one daughter, holding out her iPhone and showing me her declining battery status.
Try not to do much texting for the next few hours, I told her.
She looked at me woefully.
You can do it, I told her.
Sure enough, the world did not end during our “brownout.” At 7 p.m., I unpacked the keyboards and remotes and passed them out to eager hands. Summer has only begun, but I’m sure they’ve seen the light.