Seldom has vacation been more sorely anticipated SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

NEIGHBORS

August 10, 1993|By MAUREEN RICE

"Why does everyone take a vacation?" asked my son.

How do you explain to a child what happens when Murphy's laws are enforced? How do you explain . . .

Take the Wednesday before vacation. It was preceded by two ear infections, canine and human (juvenile), in the two previous days; a broken foot the week before. It ended with a case of poison ivy.

Now, poison ivy was not on the agenda when the day began. The sun rose harmlessly enough -- I was awake to see it, and I know -- but as my friend arrived to drop off her daughter who was to spend the day with us while her brothers won medals at a swim competition, another friend's dog, who was with us while she tanned on the beach, decided to take his world tour.

Without accompaniment, of course, leading to the biggest individual hunt since Jimmy Hoffa disappeared.

In the midst of this hunt we must also have trod upon the poison ivy, which had been waiting, probably for all its life, for just that bare foot.

Scratching our feet, we discovered that we had trapped the first groundhog of the year, and the man who was to miraculously fix the chimney that has leaked since the house was built 4 1/2 years ago imparted the news that the chimney is fine, it's the roof that needs repairs. Serious repairs. The wood is squishy.

What do you say?

"Thank you for sharing that with me," I said, the very picture of smiling imbecility.

The dog did not return -- Lassie he is not. The groundhog died a miserable death in the Have-A-Heart trap, and I prepared to lose my friend along with her dog.

On Friday, the day before vacation, the car needed a tuneup and the tires rotated. After a fun-filled, 2 1/2 -hour shopping spree with the kids in the mall while this was accomplished, we went to the post office to stop the mail in a car that drove like the Titanic on its way down.

"Silly me," said the mechanic when we returned, wild-eyed. "I guess I forgot to balance the tires or something."

We spent the next hour learning how to rotate and balance tires (I felt compelled, for some reason, to watch) and the kids enjoyed a great lesson in making the mechanic listen to reason.

Why do people take vacations? Do you have to ask?

*

Odyssey of the Mind. You don't have to be a rocket scientist.

You don't even have to be 18. As a matter of fact, children as young as 5 can participate.

"Odyssey of the Mind," said Paul Baity, who organized the new program for Eldersburg Elementary School, "was originally designed to foster divergent thinking. It encourages children to think unconventionally."

The first meeting, for children enrolled at the school, is Aug. 10, in the Eldersburg Library. Children will complete practice "drills," and parents along with their children will come to understand the dictates of a program that has exactly the same parameters for college students as first-graders.

"Kindergartners can participate," Mr. Baity said, "although they don't have the same guidelines as all the rest, and they don't participate in competitions.

"All the other teams, which are divided by age, have the same instructions. More, of course, is expected of college students."

The students will learn to complete drills that expect the unexpected.

"Each meeting opens with an imagination expedition," Mr. Baity said. "The children are given an object, hopefully one they don't recognize, and asked what it is for, how it is made, etc.

"If it is a can opener, nobody wants to know that -- what we're looking for are alternative uses, like it's a key to a spaceship, and you use it when you've lost the other, etc."

The Eldersburg team will have slightly more competition than will many other groups in the state. Because of the group's PTA funding, and the promise that any child can participate, more than the usual number of participants will meet to explore the region of the unknown.

"If we have the number of participants we expect," Mr. Baity said, "we'll have to have a schoolwide competition for best team to send to regional competition. This is fine, my kids have done this before, and when their program ended they begged me to start another one that they could participate in.

"They've done Scouts, and every type of sport, and as far as we can determine they got more out of Odyssey of the Mind than all of the others put together."

The students work each week on a long-range problem, such as what to do in the regional competition, and short-range problems, such as what could this object be for.

No adult leadership is permissible, other than to guide the meeting.

"If the students go to competition, the judges will ask them questions about how they made costumes, came up with an idea, or solved some problem. If they say, 'Our leader said . . ' they will be docked points," Mr. Baity said.

"Actually, the kids are very good at this kind of thing. They can come up with more ideas than many adults, and, from what I saw with my kids' competition, each and every one of them is different."

*

Those who waited in vain at the Second Annual Music Festival in Sykesville last June for the chance to hear for Caballero's "hot" country music will have another opportunity at Millard Cooper Park in Sykesville on Friday, Aug. 13, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the third of the Sykesville Recreation and Parks Department's "Concerts in the Park" series.

"We were rained out," said Ed Caballer, musician. "I sure hope it doesn't happen again."

Rain is scarce this summer, so plan to pack a picnic and enjoy original titles from a group that can produce harmonies reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young -- albeit in a lower scale -- with the whole family.

"We've had a great reception this summer," said Terry Reyes, organizer. "The acoustics in the park are great, and the playground is always packed with kids having a wonderful time."

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