Things to Get Alarmed About. And Things to NOT Get Alarmed About.

No sooner had I arrived at my volunteering gig at the boys’ track meet this afternoon than my cell phone started ringing. It took me a while to notice: I am not good with phones.

When I finally picked up, poor J was frantic. She had tried to bake something when the oven started making loud noises. There were sparks, possibly flames, a strange green light, and smoke coming from inside the oven.

“Where are you now?” I asked first. We established that she was already outside the house. That she had had the presence of mind to turn off the oven. That, looking in, it didn’t seem like there was more smoke, and the fire alarm wasn’t sounding.

The track races were starting, and I hadn’t actually done anything helpful yet. Also, possibly there was a fire at my house. I kept J on the phone and asked her to go next door to see if the neighbors were home. When they didn’t respond immediately–because they were likely, you know, living their lives–I advised J on the best way to stalk them in an expeditious manner. This is the kind of know-how one only gets after years of living with good neighbors. Soon we were on speaker phone, and I was grateful to have Responsible Adults who could go check the kitchen out with J. Meanwhile, since the other volunteers were coping quite well without me at the timing-and-recording tent, I was reassigned to the pole vault.

This was a bit of a bummer, because I was looking forward to a chance to get to observe the cast of characters that forms the boys’ track team, especially since some of them seem to be making appearances in my daughter’s social life. Sadly, no one on from our school was pole-vaulting. I was pleased to find out that volunteering at pole vaulting was just as unskilled as I’d hoped it would be, so this can be my go-to gig from now on, I hope.

Ten minutes into my important pole-vault-bar-rehanging  job, I got a follow-up call from J and the neighbors. There was no smoke or fire. They’d checked the circuit breakers and they didn’t think that was it. “You might want to clean your oven,” the male neighbor suggested. “No! That wasn’t it! It wasn’t because of a dirty oven,” the female neighbor called out. I thanked them and got off so as another teen boy crashed onto the mat.

When my shift was over and I got home, J was eager to re-enact the whole terrifying drama at the house. I’d thought that J had perhaps been an alarmist, but when she opened the oven, it was entirely coated with dust or ash from a clearly dangerous event. The neighbors kindly offered up their oven for the two pans-full of dinner I’d prepped before the meet (Chicken, peppers, and mushrooms with Mexican-ish stuffing). That hadn’t been what J was planning on baking–she was working on an experimental, quiche-like thing with some spare phyllo dough we had in the fridge. But when I suggested that she pop it into the toaster oven, she hesitated, still too traumatized by her recent experience to venture into the kitchen. She finally finished it off a couple of hours later.

So. Poor J was alarmed, and rightfully so. But I was impressed that she coped as well as she did, and of course I was grateful to have good neighbors handy.

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Earlier today, I received an email from the school district about a summer camp that J will be attending for the second year, called the Engineering Institute for Young Women. It included some details about drop-off and pick-up times and what to bring as well as some pre-program materials. The pre-program materials looked very creative and fun! The idea is that there would be a simulation project where the campers would “work to solve problems using concepts related to robotics and coding.” The project is called “Outbreak: Pythrobodronosis,” and they sent along an attachment of a very official-looking document to introduce the simulation. I didn’t look at it very carefully, but I thought, “Oh, that’s cool,” and then I forwarded the email to J as an FYI and to Cute W so that he could print the attachment at work on a color printer, because the official-looking introductory packet was in multiple colors and would look more authentic that way.

Oh my gosh, you guys. Less than 2 hours later, the same organizer who’d sent the original email sent a follow-up email with a subject line that now included “clarification.” In the email itself, they said, “*Please note that there is no actual disease called ‘Pythrobodronosis’.” 

Bwah, hah, hah, hah!! What sort of email replies did they get, don’t you wonder, to prompt that clarification? And this is, like, a smarty-pants camp! Let’s hope the girls are more attentive and observant than their parents. I mean, seriously, you would think that the header on the packet would have tipped them off!

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