Tag Archives: travel with kids

June 1, 2009

only travel to saudi arabia could explain religion

Traveling around the world with your child is a gift that keeps on giving. Our little citizen of the world has continued to amaze us with her adoption of other cultures into her ways. I adore that she kisses friends hello and goodbye on both cheeks. It pleases me when she answers the question “how are you?” with “nos nos” which is Arabic for so-so. It is entertaining when she looks to a pointy sculpture and exclaims “hey, an obelisk!” It is silly when she adamantly refuses ever returning to Mexico because there are “too many mosquitoes.” A recent conversation with Olivia validated all our past travels and all future travels.

First, let me tell you, fighting for a kindergarten school in San Francisco is quite a battle. Private schools require you participate in a specific tour prior to applying. We, of course, were out of the country for the tours. This left us with the choice of public or catholic schools as our only options. My husband and I are recovering Catholics. That left us with public school. Currently, kindergarten at Olivia’s public school is nearing an end and I felt it was time to shop around for the potential of other school’s 1st grade. Test the waters and see if there was a better option. I woke Olivia up on a Sunday morning and said, “lets go check out St. Brendan’s!” She moaned and groaned and very clearly but politely told me “I really don’t want to go to a Church school.” Perhaps it had to do with my teaching her to say the pledge of allegiance with a “one nation, under science” and ending it with a giggle to each other. Yes, I am thinking that may have been a catalyst. What never occurred to me is that she has absolutely no idea what Christianity is about.

I took her, against her will, that morning to the Catholic School’s open house. Olivia is a very calm, go-with-the-flow kind of girl. On the drive to the school, I was hit with an uncharacteristic barrage of question after question with moments of contemplation between. “Mommy. Do church people go to lunch?”

“Yes Sweetie, people who go to church are like everyone else.”

“Mommy, do church people play outside?”

“Of course Honey, church people are people.”

“Do they study science at Church schools?”

“Yes Darling, it is a school like every other school except for the whole evolution part.”

I could tell I wasn’t communicating to her the normalcy of “church people.” She had a fear of the unknown and every answer I was giving her was making no progress so I went another angle and said to her, “Baby, remember when we were in Saudi Arabia and Egypt? Remember how they went to the Mosque five times everyday and prayed, remember the voices over the loud speaker calling to prayer? Church people are the same as that but they don’t go to a Mosque, they go to a church and they usually only go one time a week.”

With a tone of complete understanding, a true “why didn’t you say so sooner” moment, Olivia said with her voice rising and falling, “Oooohhhh. Like Muslims!” It was all clear to her at that point. And in my mind with a tone of complete understanding, I thought… Wow, how special is it to briefly explain religion that is evident daily and everywhere in our own country with an explanation from a culture so radically different such as the one she experienced in Saudi Arabia. The only way she understood that christians are just people like everyone else was in terms of Islam. I love that. Olivia is truly a citizen of the world.

As I was feeling a inner sense of pride for being able to parent such a unique way, we drove up to the school located next to the Church and Olivia said, “Wow Mom, Church people have nice flowers.”

kids are everybody’s business with the turks

IMG_0254Turkey has the “it takes a village” mentality when it comes to children, even in the metropolis of Istanbul. Turks trust each other with their children and they expect us, as visitors to their country, to trust them with our children as well. Everybody notices children and jumps to help with them, cuddle them or soothe them during a tough moment.

Turks simply love children and have created a culture where it’s fine to express that. The most common form of attention is the cheek-pinching. I’m surprised Grace doesn’t have bruised cheeks from the number of pinches but she has endured it with surprising, well, grace. A maitre’d standing outside his restaurant as we passed noticed her face was dirty and summoned a waiter to bring him a cloth to scrub it clean. As we boarded a public bus heavy-laden with bags and a stroller a kind young woman scooped up Grace, held her on her lap and sang songs to her as if she were her own. On a scenic boat trip up the Bosphorus where Grace quickly became bored, a young man who spoke no English picked her up and read her one of her picture books. She’s been given many pieces of candy from strangers, led away by a security guard museum to show her off to his friends, had shopkeepers adjust her clothing and received all kinds of free food in restaurants from thoughtful waitstaff.

Such lavish attention from strangers is disarming for us Americans, so accustomed to adults in keeping their distance from children unless they are 1) related to them 2) know them well or 3) have some kind of malintent. At first we (Grace included) were a bit taken aback by the attention total strangers would shower on our tiny two-year old. Once we realized the approach was universal and well-meaning though, we relaxed and, as long as Grace still felt comfortable, we tried to be as well. As we head home after two weeks in Turkey we’ll have to readjust to strangers remaining just that, while trying to maintain that caring attitude towards other children ourselves.

May 10, 2009

just what the doctor ordered

Each spring, the world outside our home is invaded. Not by aliens or evil monsters, but they might as well be. This invasion is a thick dusting of yellow pollen which sends innocent victims clamoring for tissues and the safety of the indoors. The simple phrase “in bloom” sends me into a panic. For any seasonal allergy sufferer, there is only one cure – skipping town.While this is not an option for all, Annie P is my current ticket out.  With mandatory school attendance still years away, I book a flight south, to my hometown, to paradise.

Since the railroad made its way through Florida at the end of the 19th century, the allure of the healing properties of a tropical climate became one of its main selling points. The social elite from the northern states found places like Palm Beach a respite from the cold weather and a balm for winter ailments.  For some, they literally came south on doctor’s orders. Those doctors were no fools. Who doesn’t know the benefits of salt water alone? I consider myself fortunate that, as a child, many a cut and scrape were soothed in the healing waters off Miami’s beaches. Have a cold?  No worries. Just take a dip. Or breathe in that dewy air. You’ll feel better in no time.

Annie P and I left home sniffling, sneezing and coughing. To top it off, Annie P had a nasty case of eczema. So we came, gave it the recommended two days necessary for the winds, the sun, the air itself to work its magic. And wouldn’t you know it – by day three the tissues were put away.

As for Annie P, her grandmother’s backyard is a whole new world from the last time she visited. Feeling herself again, eczema clear, our newly walking toddler couldn’t wait to head outside each morning. The flora and fauna of the tropics fascinate and soothe her, just like her mom. Hibiscus and jasmine tempt her to touch them. Birds sing to her from the rooftops. The palm trees, almost whimsical in appearance, elicit giggles from a child who lives surrounded by oak and pine and cherry. Stumbling through her this tropical jungle, I can only describe her demeanor as one of pure delight. The marketing campaign luring people to the Sunshine State all those years ago was spot on. With all it has to offer, South Florida can still soothe the soul.

May 3, 2009

moving stuff, protecting memories.

Moving creates stress. Moving fosters arguments and moving SURE adds an extra level of uncertainty to your relationships.

 

Moving can even breed bitterness and contempt as one starts the process of packing. How could something that people do every day, cause such anxiety? How could the things that are contained inside of four walls create such havoc?

 

It’s because we as humans – and even more so as mothers – attach our memories to things. We cling to physical objects in the hopes that maybe we can allow our little ones’ childhoods to linger a bit more. We desperately want to never forget the small moments that helped to form who our children are becoming.

 

What about looking at it from the opposite side of things? What about finding the positives of purging, cleaning out and making do with less. What if we all took a more creative approach to protecting memories, instead of holding on to the clutter?

 

When we started purging the house for our upcoming move to India, I got incredibly overwhelmed. How could I possibly take a home, that we had all lived, loved and played in for so long … and simply label everything either “ship” – “store” or “send away to Salvation Army”

 

We had alot of stuff. Sure, some of it was memories and some of it was necessities, but most of it … well, most of it just collected dust, interrupted our daily routine and caused more worry than any of it is really worth.

 

I decided to start with the kids’ bedrooms, followed by their toy room. As I spent several days sorting and creating various piles, I found that the “memory” pile was growing larger and larger. Toys that we had spent hours playing with, or artwork that the kiddos had labored over. Board games that we enjoyed together as a family, collections of matchbox cars and legos. Dressup clothes that no longer fit or were tattered and ripped.

 

All of those things somehow ended up in the “keep forever” pile. It wasn’t because they were worth anything monetarily. It sure wasn’t because I would ever mend the dressup clothes for continued play and most of those toys they had long outgrown and forgotten about.

 

That pile of things ‘to keep’ simply had memories attached to them.

 

In the several weeks that have gone by since I started sorting and purging, I have begun to let go of the attachment to these things, and have begun to journal my memories instead. I’ve replaced the physical ‘holding on’ mentality with a written form of keepsakes. I am choosing to do away with the stuff, and instead keep a longer lasting recollection of the emotions and moments that go along with the stuff.

 

By writing about those experiences (the puppet shows, the 100s of dressup escapades, the family board game nights, and arts & crafts time) and capturing what they meant to me, I am creating a much more important treasure box, so to speak, than if I chose to keep the items that were attached to those memories.

 

What creative ways can you keep memories alive, without keeping the stuff? How can you preserve your children’s childhood and keep it alive in your minds, without cluttering your living space?

April 2, 2009

homeward bound

In times like these, Americans are examining the value of a dollar. Whether by choice or, in increasing cases, out of necessity we are laying aside our wants to meet our needs. For many, the quick weekend getaway isn’t as easy to come by. Enter the staycation. As our economy fails, the concept has become, dare I say, en vogue. All the cool kids are doing it.

That’s just the line I gave my husband to convince him to give it a shot. It worked. One Friday, he took the day off (rare) and we ventured into the city (rarer still) with Annie P.

Atlanta, often coined the capital of the New South, has much to offer the casual tourist. One of its newest attractions is the Georgia Aquarium. Touted the world’s largest, we couldn’t think of a better place to take a kid who just learned to point at everything she sees than to a record sized fish bowl. Ordinarily, my husband and I prefer a more ‘off the beaten path’ itinerary for our adventures. But kids love animals, and who would deny Annie P the pleasure of seeing the biggest fish in the world, a whale shark, because the place might be overrun with tourists? After all, we ourselves would be tourists if even for a day.

The place was packed. No matter. Annie P is small. I just made my way to the front of the displays and we had a blast watching her animated face. She had fun, thus we had fun. After our fill, we headed across the street to Atlanta’s location of a famous Boston-based restaurant my husband and I enjoy. Annie P was a charmer to the wait staff and a pleasant little diner. We had lobster rolls and reminisced about our idyllic trip to Nantucket the September before our daughter joined this great big world. As we talked, I realized I truly felt as if we were on vacation, even if it was simply for the morning. The ingredients that brought our staycation together were simple. We had a destination and we took the time to enjoy it. The best part was, we still made it home for naptime.

March 19, 2009

cootie bug solution

Is there not a mother alive that is not simultaneously amazed and disgusted by both the frequency and interval with which a child can touch every surface in a public bathroom? Have we not all experienced saying in our begging yet sing-song voice, “Now honey, don’t touch ANYthing…okay?” while entering the tiny stall of a public restroom and once you are both inside the cramped stall you wiggle-turn around to see your child opening and closing the small “door” on the tampon disposal container? “Baby! I told you don’t touch ANYthing!” “Oh sorry Mommy” is the casual reply while moving on to explore the butt-gasket dispenser. “SWEETIE, STOP IT!”

I discovered I am way too Aries to be having that particular experience over and over. I came up with a solution that has generated many a kudos amongst eavesdropping stall-mates. Often times it was mothers of older children that wished they had thought of it too. When Olivia was very young I would say “Can you touch your eyes?” A young child’s natural response is to put both hands on their eyes. There in lies the beauty of the task. “Can you touch your ears?” Both hands touch her ears. And my personal favorite “Can you touch your elbows?” which was just funny to watch. This goes on and on until we make a clean exit and leave E-coli Central.

Once Olivia learned the names of all her parts, I panicked. The game was over for her and she was now touching everything again. I had to do something and do it quick. Spanish! I began asking “Donde estan tus ojos?” “Where are your dedos?”

Once Olivia learned the names of her parts in Spanish, I again panicked. I don’t know French. What will I do? Anatomy! Ah, thank goodness for Anatomy! I began asking “Where your femors?” Where are your phalanges?” “Honey, where is your mandible? Tell me?”

Now Olivia is 5 and a half and squeezing around in the stall becomes increasingly more like a Cirque du Soleil audition. We no longer have to play the game because she is old enough now to understand. I meet far less new friends at the sink now that we don’t have the neurotic-mommy method to discuss but Olivia now knows the names of her parts in English, Spanish and proper Anatomical terms. That is all a bonus.

January 28, 2009

introducing a world of winter sports

My husband and I love to ski and ever since our 16-month-old daughter Zoe was born we have been anxious to get her on skis. We first brought her to Jackson Hole, WY when she was 3 months old but of course she spent most of her time indoors on that trip. This year, at 15 months we brought her back to Jackson Hole and she actually did get an introduction to snow and winter sports.
The first time that we took her out in the snow we just let her walk around and get a feel for it. She didn’t like the fact that it was slippery and difficult to walk. I guess when you’ve only learned to walk a few months ago it’s probably pretty annoying when something like snow interferes with this new freedom. She also got cold very quickly because she refused to keep her mittens on. A passer-by suggested duct tape and that worked wonders!
After this initial time out in the snow we decided it was time for her to try skiing. We bought little skis that are made specifically for the under-two set and strap on to regular snow boots. When we first put them on her she was not happy at all, but once we got her sliding down the mountain (well it was technically just a pile of snow in the driveway) she was having the time of her life. Afterwards we built a snowman which she was intrigued by and pulled her around on a makeshift sled which she loved.
Zoe’s least favorite snow activity was definitely the horse-drawn sled through the Elk Reserve. We thought she would love this because she loves animals. As it turned out the snow was coming down in her face and she was cold and so she hardly even noticed the horses or the elk even when we pointed them out. I don’t think anyone on the sled was too happy with us! Maybe we’ll try it again someday but not until she’s at least 6 or 7!