Saturday, September 25, 2010

I found this foto in a junque shop last weekend and it pretty much nailed the theme of an assignment due in my construction materials class. We were supposed to research (explore? discover?) a playground surfacing material and write a report about the surface we selected.My first inclination after perusing the list of rubber-this and synthetic-that was to stick with good old-fashion sand, but there are issues of critical height and accessibility. I have to take these design considerations to heart given my chosen profession.

My next choice was 'engineered wood fiber'. This surfacing material addresses fall zones, heights, and access AND it also has a more natural look and feel for those little bottoms to land on. I cannot speak for all LA's, but I think this is actually one of the more important issues for the kiddies today. The profession has addressed the consequences of raising a generation of 'nature deficit' children and yet we 'play' along when are offered these suspect products to coat their playgrounds. Yek!

Most serious playground injuries are caused by children falling from heights sufficient to do damage to their heads and bones. The emergency room stats prove it. However, replacing parental involvement with rubber products on the playground just seems to be feeding into this childhood sensory deprivation of the natural world.

I talked with a mother of a 3- and a 1-year old. She thought the rubber mats on the playground were wonderful, except....they got too hot to play on when the temperature climbed; they were too slippery when wet. Tests of these recycled rubber products also indicate dangerous levels of zinc and lead...serious drawbacks considering these are supposed to be safe places for children.

My kids learned to climb trees and rocks and they busied themselves in their sandbox for hours on end. Tess discovered an old serving spoon buried in the sandbox one day. She was delighted when she pulled it out of the sand. She pretended to 'sip' sand from the bowl of the spoon, then quickly emptied the contents of the spoon into her mouth. OK. I would not freak. I figured this would be a one-time thing, an experience in the discovery of the grittiness of sand in one's mouth! I was wrong. Next day, she tried it again. More crunching and spitting. When I asked her why she was eating sand, she told me she wanted to see if it was still crunchy. I assured her that every spoonful would feel the same in her mouth...every time. And to the best of my knowledge, she has never tried it again. What parent would deprive their child of such a great sensory experience : {

Ev's favorite climbing structure still grows down the street. I have, on occasion, seen him walk down there as a high school-er and college student, swing his leg up and over the lowest branch to hoist himself up into the crotch of that Amur Maple. It has grown along with him over the years and he still talks about those early Sunday morning walks which always started and ended at this tree. He would crawl out of the stroller, (jump off his trike, dismount his tiny bike decked out with baseball cards/clothespins and training wheels) to wait for a boost, so he could swing his leg up and over that lowest branch. His experience included having me there to spot him, to catch him if he slipped, but mostly to bolster his confidence as he mastered this natural climbing structure of a tree.

Call me old-fashioned, call me a mother, but sand and pea gravel, grass and wood fiber mulch, boulders and trees offer a more natural playground than metal/plastic play structures and synthetic surfaces. Falling into the arms of a parent or guardian seems a much safer fall zone from critical height than landing unattended on a 30-pound chunk of recycled rubber tile.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Safe and Sound

Ev has Facebooked. Skyped. And gmailed. He arrived and is safely tucked into a beautiful townhouse with a friend. Has been job-hunting. Is hopeful.

His words were fact, he sounded wonderful. I am always amazed at that kid's way with words. He weaves a beautiful story. And this was just his first day!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


We are in the final countdown, waiting to hear that Ev has arrived safely in Saigon, South Vietnam. I am staying close to the phone today; I don't want to miss his call.

The first three messages on our answering machine have been there for what seems like forever. Each time there has been a missed call of Ev's from some distant land, we have saved the sound of his voice sending his love. Rather than skip thru them to find our real messages for the day, I always listen to each one, again, treasuring my son's humor, listening to the background noises from far away...and hearing the changes in this maturing young man.

The first one is Ev calling to wish me "Happy Bastille Day" (my birthday) from the salmon factory out on the Alaska Peninsula. The next message carries snarky panic in his voice as he tries to figure out what the *&%# he is going to do as he stands in a northern airport in India far, far away from his waiting entourage in southern India. That call came at 2:14 a.m.; we missed it because we were sleeping. When we found it the next morning and were unable to get ahold of Ev, I starting a slow steam directed toward my husband for ever allowing him to travel by himself. He sensed that I was about to spout, so he placed both his hands on each of my shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and assured me that "he will figure this out."

Ev figured "this" out, but as I recall, there were a couple of panicked phone calls placed by my husband to the Institute where Ev was supposed to land for the semester. The timing was perfect on the third call. The desk attendant announced that Mr. Hudson had just arrived and the celebration on his behalf was commencing. My husband patiently explained that we would like to talk with our son, so we waited as the gentleman ran to retrieve him. Ev came on the line out of breath and full of joy and love. He had arrived safely, tired and hungry; everyone was attending to his every need. "Guys, guys, I am OK....besides there is an elephant at my party and I want to meet him!

The third message arrived on March 17, 2009. I had driven to Iowa City to take my son to lunch, then to the airport in Cedar Rapids so he could spend Spring Break in DC with a high school friend. They were going to go to a political rally on The Mall. When I found this message later that evening, his voice was full of gratefulness. He wanted us to know that he had arrived safely. He also wanted to say thanks for the plane ticket and the extra $$$ I had slipped him for food/cab fare...just in case....and that he had figured out the bus schedule to get to Drew's. "I love you guys."

My husband received a text message on his phone at noon yesterday. Ev was about to board plane #2 for Seoul, South Korea on his way to Vietnam. In his "last purely American act", he had just consumed a he normally never eats. But then this was not a normal day for him. His departing words, which I am sure Paul will keep on his phone, reads, "And I am off!!!!"