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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
This is #9 of an on going dialog of our travel, which includes 5 countries and a 4 year old.Please check the prior archives for the previous sagas.
On a cold Sunday winter day last January, 2008, my husband Mike and 4 year old daughter Olivia walked with me along Rue de Marignan between the Champs-Elyees the fashionable Avenue Montaigne on our way back to our hotel.We had walked along this sidewalk many times but this time I happened to look up and notice a marble plaque on the building situated next to our hotel.In gold stamped writing, the plaques said:
American Impressionist Painter
Friend & Colleague of Edgar Degas
Lived in this Apartment from 1887
Until her death in 1926
THE AMERICAN CLUB OF PARIS
We felt obligated to take a few pictures of Olivia and I with respect to Mary Cassat who painted so many pictures of Mommies and Babies.There we stood in the drizzling rain of Paris snapping pictures and hoping to get a good one.A French couple strolled up and stood behind Mike watching with interest.After a few more shots we finished and they asked why we were taking a photo there.This was a perfect exit time for Mike to duck into the hotel with Olivia following after him hop-scotching on the sidewalk while counting her hops une, duex, trois…ocho, nueve, DIES!So I stood in the rain telling them that my daughter loves the mommy/baby paintings of Mary Cassat and that we were excited to find this hidden treat on our walk home.I went on to tell them that we were also in search of the Mona Lisa and that we would be going to the Louvre in the following week.They told me their favorite museum (Musee de l’Orangerie) to visit and then they both got the look of “aha!” on their faces at the same time.“Zee Louvre ez FREE t’day.All zee museums are free on zee first Sunday of zee month.You must go RIGHT NOW!Eet will close in a few hours.”I merci beaucoup-ed them and went to quickly gather my family to hustle over to the museum.
When we arrived at Musee du Louvre, there was the very long line, which one would expect to see on a Free Musee day.Depressed, we got into line and began the long wait.Olivia was in her usual seat on Mike’s shoulders…luckily.A man tending the front of the line saw her, left his post to collect us and point us through the special children’s entrance.Two lucky breaks in one day! Free Musee and head of the line.This must be our lucky day.
Once inside we found the map (see previous blog post) and headed for the Mona Lisa.There is a lot to see on the way to the Mona Lisa, let me tell you.Side tracked over and over.Wrong turn again and again.Stopping for explanation of painting of the dark bloody dying man….and then…we saw it.A room directly off of the corridor we were in.The room seemed to have glow emanating out of it. Was that angels we heard? Laaaaaa! It must be her. Could it be we at last found The Mona Lisa?
We entered the room and the painting was hanging on the backside of a small divisional wall.We went around the corner and to our amazement there it was……a huge crowd in front of the Mona Lisa
The museum was obviously expecting this as they had velvet-roped off a perimeter to keep adults behind.Then we noticed the most wonderful velvet rope.There was an inner velvet rope to allow children an unobstructed close-up view of the art piece.We asked the rope wrangler if Olivia could go in and she was allowed but not with an adult.Off she went, alone, to stand right in front of the Mona Lisa.I was feeling a bit disappointed in not being able to talk to her and give her information about the artist and the painting as we often do.I wondered if she would even look at it more than a brief second.I wondered if she would be too scared to be one of two children in the special area with a horde of a crowd standing behind her seemingly looking right at her.Neurotic Mom.
When she was done looking, she returned to us and Mike immediately suggested we take a picture with the Mona Lisa behind us.I swooped her up in my arms and we took our photo.Only when we returned home and uploaded the pictures did I notice that Olivia was posed EXACTLY in the same pose as the Mona Lisa.The ½ smile, the slight turn of the head, and the arm placement were identical.I guess she did just fine on her own with such an important piece of art.
So in the end, if you were traveling to Paris with a child, I would HIGHLY recommend the following:
Barefoot Cay is an exquisite piece of paradise in the otherwise rough-around-the-edges island of Roatan, Honduras. For Thanksgiving our extended family of seven (including our two-year old, Grace) traveled there and had almost the whole cay (tiny island) to ourselves. We took over three of the four bungalows and enjoyed getting to know the handful of other guests who were staying in the fourth bungalow, in several yachts at the marina and in the new lofts the resort has built on the mainland.
Some of the best amenities of this beautiful little cay include the palapa on a dock out over the water, the clear blue water, delicious, well-prepared food in an intimate dining area, and the well-appointed bungalows completely furnished down to the food processor and blender! We felt very comfortable at Barefoot Cay with our 2-year old, Grace. The staff went out of their way to fix special meals for her, entertain her, and suggest outings for the whole family she would also enjoy.
We were also overwhelmed by the wonderful staff at Barefoot Cay. Mel and Fernand at the front desk were there for every little need we had, from taxi service to laundry to ideas for where to go out to dinner. Owners Milesse and John made us feel like personal guests in their home, not as paying guests of a resort. Staff in the dining room, dive shop, housekeeping, and spa were all so friendly but always professional. We have stayed elsewhere in the Caribbean with very little contact with resort staff, but everyone at Barefoot Cay was always happy to see us and so warm.
One highlight for our party was the dive shop. None of us were divers before but three of us did the Discover scuba class and were amazed by the personalized, professional service of the instructors at the dive shop. Most of the time we had a one-on-one ratio instructor to student, and at one point we even had two instructors to one student. They made us feel so safe and comfortable with the new sport. We were lucky to have grandparents along to watch Grace while we were out diving.
Another daily highlight were meals. We ate about half of our dinners in the resort dining room and they all were deliciously prepared, including the special meals for Grace. The rest of the time we cooked for ourselves in our bungalows after stocking up at a nearby grocery store.
The only downsides of Barefoot Cay are not actually the fault of Barefoot Cay. They are the same downsides we posted previously about all of Roatan. Here they are: 1) garbage floating in the water 2) sand flies and mosquitoes and 3) the ugly shipping dock next door. The reality is, Barefoot Cay is in a developing nation. Garbage-polluted water is a problem in every developing nation. It wasn’t always an issue at the cay but seemed to be worse after heavy rains. We’ve heard it’s not a problem at all in the dry season (first part of the year). As for the bugs, Barefoot Cay staff work tirelessly to keep the bugs down, spraying day and night with non-toxic sprays and handing out complimentary bug repellent to guests. Still I think they’d have to drop a pesticide bomb on Roatan to get rid of them all. The one or two times we forgot bug spray resulted in literally hundreds of sand fly bites on all of us, which are still itching a week later. Finally, there is a ship yard next door but it really isn’t that bad. It never bothered us but you may want to look the other way if it bothers you.
All in all, we LOVED Barefoot Cay and highly recommend it to families traveling to Roatan. Milesse, John and their staff have obviously worked incredibly hard to create a beautiful spot in a harsh environment. It’s a wonderful destination for the whole family if you’re looking for a Caribbean destination off the beaten path, but still comfortable and affordable.