Sunday, September 29, 2013

A compact experience

So the oldest Huffman has disappeared to her new college, leaving behind enough old clothes to start our own Goodwill, 4,582 art pens and several half-eaten boxes of cereal in her room.
Then there’s her car. Well, it’s not exactly her car. It’s a “family car” that she happened to drive. The car, unlike the girl, did not leave for college.
After she left, I wondered about the car. It’s parked on the street, where a car can only remain for so long, lest the police or neighbors think it abandoned and one of those orange stickers gets plastered on its windshield. Not that it’s a junker — it’s a 2000-something Scion, and all its bumpers are in place. Sure, it has 108,000 miles on it, but who’s counting?
The little compact came preloaded with a bike rack on top, a Coldplay sticker on one window and a Giants sticker on the other. Inside there’s a USB plug and a button to choose the color of the inside dash lights — turquoise, green, yellow, red or purple.
This car definitely says 20-something. It does not say “Mom or Dad of 20-something.”
But that didn’t stop my husband from driving it one day. Might as well get some use out of it, he said. The fact that he was missing her had nothing to do with it. Not at all.
He came home that night with a look of wonder on his face. I drove the Scion to Lodi and back; it got 41 miles per gallon, he said, awestruck. Forty-one, he repeated. This is a man who for the past 10 years has driven an SUV the size of a small house. He knows gas mileage.
I’m taking her car again tomorrow, he said.
I like good gas mileage, too. I decided I should drive the car to the next school volleyball game in Santa Rosa. Sure enough, 90 miles later, the gas gauge had barely moved at all. It was like driving a Prius, but without the attitude.
Here’s another nifty thing about the little car. Some cars think they’re a compact. This car really is a compact. It’s so compact that when you have a passenger in the front seat, you can practically hear his or her heartbeat next to you. There’s no sharing the armrest in this car. There’s only one, and there’s only room for one arm on it.
Driving a real compact means you get to choose from a whole world of parking spaces. Compact parking here, compact parking there, compact parking everywhere!
It’s no show car, so I don’t worry about where I park it. Someone dings the door? No sweat. Wayward shopping carts, pooping seagulls, trees that drip sticky berries — I fear them not.
The little car reminds me of the last time I owned a real compact — before children moved in along with their strollers, car seats and jumbo boxes of diapers. Now the kid paraphernalia is gone. And I’m back in a compact car.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Take care

A very last-minute acceptance to a very small university very far from Napa had the oldest Huffman daughter scrambling to leave home the very next morning.
While this mom was still trying to swallow the news of our girl’s imminent departure, I tried to keep myself occupied by attempting to help her pack — the 40-pound limit on checked baggage would definitely impact what college girl would take with her on her solo plane ride to her new school.
She’d be living in a dorm, so we knew at least a bed and desk awaited her. Practical Mom gathered up bed sheets and towels. I think she packed few pairs of shoes, shorts and T-shirts, some sketchbooks, her favorite pillow and her childhood blankie.
At 5:15 a.m. the next day, our girl left home dragging a giant duffle bag and backpack behind her. I went to work that morning feeling dazed from the whirlwind packing session and abrupt disappearance of our first-born.
She’d been gone for about four days when she informed us we could send her a care package now. Aha! Never mind that she lives down the street from a Target and a Safeway. Nothing spurs a mom into action like the words “daughter needs care package.”
I wandered around the house thinking of what to send her. Lip balm, a favorite T-shirt and some art pens were gathered in a box. I stuck in some stamps and a few envelopes, too. I know — stamps and envelopes — so 1986, right? I put them in anyway.
A proper care package should always include food, so I picked out some granola bars. Post-it notes, a flash drive and even a Napa Valley Register refrigerator magnet were added. I was sure she hadn’t thought to pack scissors, so I included a kid-sized pair that she’d used in junior high school. As I put them in the box, I noticed her name was still visible on the side of the plastic handles where I had written it with a Sharpie pen many years ago. Leave it to an old pair of scissors to turn College Mom into a blubbering mess.
At the last minute, I added a small cross she’d been given by her grandparents for graduation. After 18 years of Catholic school parenting, old habits die hard.
The first box was barely shipped off when College Girl made her second request. Could we send her yellow and red Converse sneakers and running shoes? she texted.
Grabbing a bigger box this time, in went the Converse and the running shoes, which I had insisted on washing first. To save packing space, inside the shoes I stuffed extras like nail clippers, more lip balm (god forbid she get chapped lips!), nail polish, a notepad, more pens and a stuffed turtle I found in her room.
The next day, our daughter texted to say she’d gotten the first box.
“Thanks,” she wrote. “I needed scissors sooo bad.”
It’s good to be needed, even 1,200 miles away.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Birthin' Bunnies

Here’s the thing about pregnant bunnies. You never actually know they’re pregnant until one day you come home from work and find a baby bunny or three rooting around in your backyard rabbit cage.
Which is kind of what happened to us about two months ago. To recap: The youngest Huffman is raising rabbits for 4-H. After a first failed mating attempt, a new stud bunny had been found for her bunny Bonnie, and 31 days later the results were waiting for us after school one Wednesday afternoon.
Unfortunately, this surprise didn’t start out so well. The first baby rabbit found in the bunny condo was stillborn.
Peering inside the cage at the little creature, I didn’t know what to do. Of course, my husband, our resident animal expert, would be out of town that afternoon, so it was all on me. And to that point I had been a witness to exactly zero other rabbit births.
Do I pick it up? Take it out of the cage? Was it really dead? Can you do CPR on a bunny? What if it came back to life? Should I call a vet? Is there such thing as a bunny vet, anyway?
Looking for some advice, we called our rabbit breeder guru, Jessica. Jessica had raised dozens of rabbits. Jessica would know what to do.
Jessica’s mom answered.
Take it out of the cage, she said, obviously. Then Jessica’s mom asked if there were any other baby bunnies born.
No, I said confidently. This was the only one we found, I told her. Like I was an expert at baby rabbit finding.
I admit I had only looked at the shoebox-size “nesting” box inside Bonnie’s cage. I hadn’t actually investigated under the shredded bedding material inside it. Did I mention yet that I had no idea what I was doing?
Well, check inside the box, she said patiently.
I hesitated. As in, put my hand in the box? Yeah, I was chicken.
What if there was something in there? What if I touched it? What if it bit me?
Every so hesitantly, I put my hand in the box, felt around ... and lo and behold, there was a newborn bunny! A hairless little thing about as big as the palm of your hand with tiny rabbit ears and closed eyes.
Well, that changed everything.
We have a live one! I announced. He’s moving. He’s breathing.
Our daughter quickly scooped him up in an old towel.
Look for more, said Jessica’s mom.
Oh, jeez, here we go again.
Gingerly feeling around inside the box, sure enough, I found a second bunny, and then a third.
Our daughter’s sadness about the one that didn’t make it was replaced by the amazement of the three tiny creatures in front of us. Protectively she pulled more bedding around their little nest.
For the rest of the night we couldn’t stop peering inside the box and talking about what had happened. Sure, animals give birth every day, but not in our backyard.