Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blistering, Blustering Cold in Baltimore

There are lots of fun things for tiny-tots to do in Baltimore. The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Port Discovery Children's Museum, and the Maryland Science Center are all within walking distance in downtown Baltimore's beautifully restored Inner Harbor, one of America's oldest seaports. Unfortunately, we didn't get to visit any of these places. With blistering winds whipping the cold air around outside and finger tips frosting, we had hoped to burn up some kinetic energy by playing with the stingrays. Apparently, every other parent in Baltimore had the same idea and by noon on Sunday in early December all events had sold out for day. If you didn't have a ticket, there was no reason to stand in the long line just to get in. With little other choice, we skipped the downtown, cruised the campus at the University of Maryland instead and were lucky to visit family and friends.

Before little Alex was born, trips East, West and across the Atlantic were a lot more frequent and a lot less challenging. There was a time when I lived in Los Angeles, maintained a room in New York City and flew the coasts roundtrip weekly. Now it requires an tectonic shift in order negotiate such a move. If your the last flight into DC-Dulles after midnight, make sure you don't miss the people movers that take you from the outer terminals to the main terminal. We got stranded at 1am and had to call security for a special service. It took an hour. (I'm not sure what the airport does if there is a genuine emergency.) By the time we got to baggage claim, the luggage was locked. It turns out Dollar Rent-A-Car isn't open 24 hours despite it postings. Hertz will charge you three times as much, but the GPS won't necessarily include the address you have to get to. The toll lanes only accept coins (which, of course, we didn't have) and the hotel wouldn't let us check in because the room wasn't registered in the right name. Meanwhile, the roads coated with ice.....but all in a day of travels for jetsetter Alex, who took it all in stride.

As for advice? Try not to cry and next time, we'll try Baltimore in the spring time.

Friday, December 14, 2007

High Tech Toys for High Tech Kids

If you want to be the hip, high tech mom this Christmas, then skip the trikes, trains, and treehouses. Go for the gadgets. But beware -- if its not the real thing, you won't fool the kid.

The New York Times reports (November 29) that For Toddlers, Toy of Choice is High Tech: "Cellphones, laptops, digital cameras and MP3 music players are among the hottest gift items this year. For preschoolers. Toy makers and retailers are filling shelves with new tech devices for children ages 3 and up, and sometimes even down. They say they are catering to junior consumers who want to emulate their parents and are not satisfied with fake gadgets."

My own little junior consumer loves all the gizmos; cell phones, laptops, cameras, and anything that flashes, blinks, blips, clicks or has buttons can entertain for ...well, let's be honest....minutes. But, he knows the only phones worth talking on are the real ones that actually work. Mom's computer has more buttons than any other device in the house. And, the camera captures every moment. Anything less than the real deal just isn't fun.

(Un)Lucky for us, in our neighborhood Toys R Us and Best Buy are side-by-side. A trip to either can send all your child's sensories into overload. All the buzzes, jingles, jangles, and bling can make you spin. This year, Alex will celebrate Christmas the good ole' fashion way...you know, like back in the 20th century with traditional gifts like Hot Wheels, Thomas the Train and a very first tricycle. Even jetsetting moms and their traveling kids need to turn off the blackberry now and then. I'll wait til he's at least 2-years-old before I paralyze him with his first play station.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Thanksgiving Open

The table was set, the family was there, the turkey was stuffed....and then the tennis ball was lobbed into the air. It recoiled off the glasses and richocetted off the salad, then it sliced across the plate and landed with a plop. As the family circled the table with giving thanks and counting blessing, it was the bounce of the ball that made Alex's Thanksgiving Day complete.

But, as the family rallied around the food and Alex carved the ball down the table, I knew that I was the one that had already hit the ultimate Grandslam: Alex, Family, Home and Love. In tennis, love means nothing; in life, love means everything.

With another year of matches won and lost, here's a tip for any holiday....don't mix your long stem glassware where with your toddler -- something will break.

My Skype address is....., Find me on Facebook.......

Every 21st Centurty kid needs the basics: cell phone, laptop, skype address, Facebook page, personal website and email account. Alex is 100% covered with all forms of technology. You are guaranteed to reach him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week...just don't call at nap time when all communications are temporarily suspended by mom.

Perhaps I should have worried at 6 months, when Alex knew how to work the remote control from his walker. By one year, he would run at lightning speed to answer any ringing phone. And, at still less than 2 years, he likes to check his blog, skype with his new friends Noam & Lisa, talk endlessly on the phone with Grandma, and check out his favorite video. For better and for worse, 21st century moms are blazing new trails and our children are right behind us in ways never known before. Alex isn't just packing his backpack with me, he's also checking the blackberry.

I'm sure the experts will soon report this is all detrimental. After all, research already tells us that Baby Einsteins will harm our children. So, what's a mom to do? Every major toy imported from China this year was loaded with lead tainted paint, which, by the way, that is every toy. Some brands of baby formula and all brands of infant cold medicine were recalled from the shelves by the FDA. Predators are stalking our children on the internet. No child is to be left behind, but US schools are slipping further behind worldwide comparisons year-after-year. It's enough to wreck havoc on any parent's heart.

Alex and I like to take it one day at a time with a trip to the park, a dunk in the pool, a walk around the neighborhood, some jumping at the Gymboree, or just a few dozen laps around the kitchen island. We turn off the phones, the TV, the computer, the blackberry and we have some fun and run. We eat healthy snacks. We try to read, not just throw, our books. We brush our teeth. We play, and play, and play. We do the best we can. Oh, and, then...we check our email too.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oasis of Peace

When Alexander was only 2 months old, he took his first trip to the Middle East where he visited the Old City of Jerusalem and the village of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the only place in the world where Palestinians and Jews have made a determined effort to live, work and educate their children together with mutual respect and genuine equality for all people. Here is a video -- with special guest appearance by Alex (watch and listen closely) -- as we jetset around the world sharing the message that peace is possible!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Trick or Treat?

Alex may have traveled the world, but he didn’t make it far on Halloween. Trick-or-Treating at only a few houses in the neighborhood, Alex was the best astronaut ever. Maybe by this time next year, he’ll have explored the solar system. In the meantime, we prefer to keep him on planet Earth.

Walking for Hope

Having hope isn’t always easy. And, Walking for Hope also takes a lot of work – especially when you are only two feet tall. Alex may be the youngest peacemaker logging miles on a pedometer for the sake of saving the planet. But working for peace will come naturally for Alex. His given name, meaning “defender of humanity,” leaves him a daunting future.

One Saturday this fall, Alex walked three miles for peace as a part of the annual Walk for Hope (http://www.bethecause.org/walksite/). Alongside a breadth of organizations interested in changing our planet, Alex walked for Palestinian children who have lost arms, legs, eyes and more as the result of violent conflict. The Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (http://www.pcrf.net/first.html) is seeking medical support so that children may know another future -- one free of pain. And, Alex walked for Jews and Arabs who’ve made a determined effort to live, work and raise their children together in the “Oasis of Peace” Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (http://www.oasisofpeace.og/). It’s taken for granted that Alex is growing up in a home learning about equality, respect, cooperation and genuine peace for all peoples. In the Arab-Jewish village, “Oasis of Peace,” they are teaching it one person at a time.

Spending only the last short leg in his stroller, Alex walked for peace, for hope. The power of hope should not be underestimated. In moments of severe crisis, it is hope that keeps humans living and believing that things can be different. So, the next time you think the situation in the Middle East or the world is hopeless, that there is nothing you can do…think again. If Alex can do it, then so can you. With all the miles that Alex has flown and strolled, these may just be the three most important of all.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hasta La Vista, Baby

For every mom who travels, the worst part is leaving baby behind. Alex spent the first year plus of his life tagging along with me on every long haul and short overnight. As a result, one of his first words is “vamos,” Spanish meaning “to go.” He can already snap himself into his car seat. And, he’s not the kid that can stay home even for a day without at least a trip to the park, the market, the neighbors or some faraway place.

Now that he’s approaching the terrible 2s, it’s harder to make a professional presentation at an international conference when your child is running laps around the auditorium. After all, when do you leap off the stage to make sure that he doesn’t fall off the chairs he’s climbed onto? Should you hold him in your arms in front of a crowd of a few hundred to answer questions? At what point do you step out of the round table discussion when you can, and everyone in the hall can, hear him screaming rooms away? How tolerant is the Board of Trustees when you have to stop the meeting to clean up the cheerios, and chips, and juice ground into the board table? And, when do you pretend he’s not your kid and just let the person who kindly volunteered to ‘watch’ him for you take the heat? (All true Alex and mom stories!)

A few weeks ago, Alex was left behind for the first time in the arms of loving friends for 48 hours when dad and mom’s schedules collided and we jetted off to different parts of the US. I worried for weeks prior, documented endless details for babysitters, stocked the house with enough food, toys and other resources to last for weeks, and then left. I spend most of the flight imaging every worst case scenario – earthquakes, hurricanes, plane crashes, car accidents, and a few more less realistic disasters. I ticked off the trip hour-by-hour, refrained from calling to ‘check in’ every 10 minutes, and hoped for the best. In the end, everyone survived. Alex missed his parents. The babysitters should get purple stars for their efforts. And, even I endured.

Next week, Alex will stay home alone again as I fly south, and dad flies north. I’m no less worried than last time, but at least I know we’ll make it through the experience….oh, unless I get kidnapped by the Mexican mafia, attacked by chupacabras, or detained by immigration. Until then…check out our ChaChaCha (below). Hasta La Vista, Baby!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Open Wide!

Some trips are more fun than others. Traveling for work, visits to family faraway and the rarely experienced (but often fantasized about) vacation each have their own levels of preparation, anxiety and pleasure. Alex’s latest outing, taking him exactly 1.2 miles from home, was just as anticipated as journeys far away – a trip to the dentist!

I enjoy selecting docs according to how cleverly their name matches their profession. When I had my wisdom teeth pulled, Dr. Hitchcock was a fitting reminder of the frightful filmmaker who could induce goose bumps and screams. Once, I consulted with a cardiologist, Dr. Corazon (Spanish, meaning heart). I joke about visiting Dr. Runyon, the podiatrist, but haven’t complained of any bunions yet. So, when it was time to take my toddler to the dentist for the first time, Dr. Dove, struck me as a calm and peaceful choice. He was. Alex wasn’t. With me laying back in the dental chair and Alex held down by two dental assistants on top of me, it might have been easier to wrestle a baby bull. I’m not sure which one of us liked it less. But it was over fast and Alex popped up, flashed a smile, blew kisses to all, and picked out a treat from the toy box on the way out the door. He was, as Dr. Dove indicated, “an experienced patient.” Another mission complete.

By the time you take your kid to kindergarten, every parent should be pro at keeping up with vaccinations, administering children’s Tylenol for fevers, passing out extra kisses for bumped heads and bruised knees, putting on fun band-aids for minor cuts, encouraging Flintstone vitamins instead of candy and making teeth brushing extra fun. I was surprised to learn that children as young as 1 year are getting root canals, and with the Disney Channel pitching healthy snacks & yoga between episodes of Tigger and Pooh, it’s obvious that we all need to work a little harder to keep our kids healthy. I would never think of driving on the freeway without Alex strapped into his car seat. And, when Alex and I pack our snacks for trips around the world (or just to the park), we stock up on his favorite raisins, granola bars and string cheese. I’ll make a million mistakes as a mom, but I hope that forgetting to teach a healthy lifestyle won’t be one of them.

Only a few thousand more trips to the doctor and dentist before Alex turns 18. But, I was pleased this week when Dr. Dove confirmed he has a healthy pair of lungs. OH..and, the teeth look good too.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Stuck in an Ant Hole on Labor Day Weekend

It was quite literally 106 degrees outside, and I was quite literally stuck in an ant hole with my little son, Alexander. Even for a mom willing to try anything, this was an uncomfortable predicament. I haven’t read any of those “how to be a good mommy” books yet, but I started to wonder if they’ve got this covered in their survival sections.
Labor Day Weekend is the one weekend a year when this traveling mom prefers to keep her bags unpacked and stay home for some local fun instead. (Why battle all those novice travelers through the security lines at the airport, or spend the holiday stuck on the I-5?)
The Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena, CA is highly hyped in my new “Fun Places to Go with Kids” book and seemed like a good place to escape the heat. At first glance, I was disappointed, and wondered why I had dropped the $8 a person when the Children’s Department at IKEA offers more. (Last weekend, Alex refused to leave the store.) And, I suppose it was technically 25 degrees cooler inside the museum than the 100 plus degree blazing heat wave, but it wasn’t quite the cool expectation I had in mind. Then, we ventured past the baby room, where staff did try to get kids to sing and dance, and got to the big kid exhibits and burned off some steam.
Alex cheerfully climbed three full stories to the top of the Rain Drop Tower, (big clear circles representing giant raindrops that spiral around), jumped into the driver’s seat of a full-size jeep for some off road adventure, and then he found his way into an ant hole. From the basement of the museum, a child can enter the hole through an ultra-tiny opening, and then wiggle their way through, in total darkness, up one story and pop out through the top of an ant hill. Alex had made his way to the opening of the hole again and again, watching child after child find their way through. At one point, I had nudged him in and thought he might actually give it try. But, then when another little boy used his powers of persuasion….“But dad, I don’t just want you to crawl in there with me, I need you to crawl in,” I decided that maybe Alex needed me to lead the way.
So, down on hands-and-knees, and still crouching lower, I crawled into the darkness with Alex close behind. We slowly made our way to the top of the ant egg pile, pushed off the other little boy who had convinced us to try it, but then Alex didn’t know which way to go and the tears started to flow. It didn’t look good. Who do you call for help in situations like this? There's no emergency call box on the ant expressway. (Suddenly, I was the novice traveler.) But, quickly, like the Queen ant herself, I grabbed Alex and “dug” our way up through the hole.
We didn’t brave the heat to check out the 2-acre backyard of the museum with mazes, ponds, tricycle paths and trains. And we’ll save the Nature Center for a visit in about 4 years. We could have saved the 50 mile round trip and instead gone to the local mall to play, but then Alex wouldn’t know where ants live, and mommy wouldn’t be reminded that it’s easy to want to rush your child into trying out all the bigger kid adventures even when it’s really best to cherish all he can do, and all he can’t do, now.

Monday, August 27, 2007

License and Registration, please....

Once you announce “you’re expecting,” baby toys, baby clothes and baby stuff begin invading your home long before the baby is born. If you don’t yet have a kid, the list will overwhelm you; and if you do, you already know it can go on ad nauseam.

Back in my pre-baby days, I was committed to blocking off certain rooms, keeping things in their place, and not letting the bright yellow, red, and blue plastic toys take over the entire house. I was under the illusion that I could keep some of my things from little fingers that like to break them. I gave up protecting my space when Alex started crawling, then walking. We now officially reside in “Casa de Alex,” which sort of looks like one big play room. Stuffed animals have replaced all the cute little knick-knacks I collected as reminders of travels. The tables and bookcases have been stripped down to only those things we are willing to have destroyed. The cupboards are locked. And, just inside the front door is a veritable parking lot – stroller, plastic push lawn mower, plastic school bus made for riding and the hot red sports car.

Every kid needs this car. Alex is the envy of “el barrio.” Speeding through the neighborhood, Alex makes heads turn – adults smile, and kids gaze in awe. He likes to make the 'vroom, 'vroom sounds and wave to passerbys. Driving through Costco, we were reminded by smiling clerks that there are no cars allowed inside the store. To add to the fun, one tried to check his driver's license. Every kid has got a stroller, but only the coolest get a car.

Unfortunately, I can already see the future…last week in the park, Alex checked out another little boy's 3-wheeler. Alex couldn't reach the peddles, but that didn't stop him. He's also tried hard to climb onto the neighbor kids' bikes. I worry what he’ll want by age 16…a Lexus like dad or an F-150 like mommy wants? Or maybe he'll want a hot red Nissan Z?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Digging for Dinos and Ghosts in Utah

The State of Utah boasts a lot more than magnificent national parks, excellent skiing and the Great Salt Lake. For some real adventure with your tiny tot, you can dig for dinosaurs that roamed the land millions of years ago or catch a glimpse of one of the rarest creatures of our time. On a weekend getaway to visit friends, Alex and I opted to do both!

We rushed immediately to Utah’s Hogel Zoo in Salt Lake City to discover the Ghost of the Bayou – a rare white alligator on special loan for a limited time only. Discovered in 1987 southwest of New Orleans, there are only 18 white alligators known to exist worldwide. Alex raced by the gator at warp speed, but if you can get your kid to slow down, the zoo is also home to red pandas, nose-to-nose views of white rhinos, peccaries and other exotics.

To take a giant leap back in time, we headed about 30 minutes south of SLC to the Museum of Ancient Life to see a Supersaurus, an ancient sea turtle, and the bones of a pre-historic gigantic sloth. Zooming up and down the museum’s Jurassic Hall, Alex dodged Brachiosaurus, stegosaurus, and even eluded a couple of T-Rexes. While other junior-paleontologists excavated at erosion tables complete with sand, flowing water and mini-dinos or dug for bones in the museum’s own mini-quarry, we tried hard just to not climb into the exhibits.

We’ll probably have to repeat this trip in a couple of years when little Alex is not seeking to set new speed records, but he did learn a new word this weekend – “awesome.”

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Blowing Kisses and Splashing Around

Have you ever stood on a busy street corner and blown kisses at the cars? Probably not. People would think you're crazy.

Have you ever jumped into a fountain at the entrance of a world famous museum and splashed about? Probably not. Security would escort you off the property.

A few weeks ago, my little son Alex and I stood in downtown Anchorage, Alaska on a busy weekday morning blowing kisses to cars racing by us. Some drivers ignored us, but many more smiled and I am pretty sure we almost caused an accident as one driver blew a kiss back. Some 10 days later, and 3700 miles south, in the City of Los Angeles, Alex jumped into a fountain at the Getty Museum. I jumped in to get him out. No one ignored us, a few people smiled and only Alex blew kisses.

At just 18-months, I can see my son is just like me. He wants to do everything and he can do it all by himself. For me, traveling everywhere with Alex means often having to do things his way. He will push his stroller when he wants to, he will choose when to sit in a high chair in a restaurant, and he will jump into fountains now and then. My mother will say, I need to start enforcing some rules. But, I like that Alex has brought out my own inner child that's been secretly buried since sometime in college. (What would have happened if I had jumped in the fountain then?) As a mom on the road with baby along for the ride, Alex gets strapped down in car seats for extended road trips and dragged through airports. He is forced to tolerate temperatures from 100 degrees to minus 30, and adjust to time zones stretching the globe. So, every now and then....you just gotta jump in, splash around and blow kisses to the crowd.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reward: Lost Dog...please call!

Attention shoppers, there is a small boy who has lost his stuffed puppy. If you see this small, light brown dog, can you please advise a clerk immediately,” blasted the announcement on the store’s loud speakers.

When did I become this woman? I am frantically and meticulously retracing every step I took through a huge warehouse store searching for my son’s favorite toy, Coco. Alex doesn’t even realize Coco is missing – yet. But, he will later tonight when he tries to fall asleep, and this little ragged animal is no where to be found. Given the possibility of even more lost sleep on my end as I worry about how I’ll try to explain to Alex that Coco “went away to some place safe,” I think I’d rather lose my wallet. Credit cards are replaceable. Coco is not. You can negotiate with the bank. You cannot with your kid.

Traveling with children means lugging half the toy box too, keeping a careful inventory of what’s they’ve stocked for the trip, and most importantly, never, ever losing sight of that special toy. A few holidays back, before I had my own kid, my nephew’s favorite GI Joe was chewed to pieces by a family dog. It totally ruined the day. I didn’t quite “get” how devastating it was to lose an $8 toy, but today as I raced up-and-down the aisles all I could think about was putting a dog tag on that little puppy with a plea to be called if found. Big Reward!

What to do if you see a Grizzly Bear...

Denali National Park in Alaska is an area as large as the state of Massachusetts. It has one road leading 89 miles into the park, and the same road leads you back out. There are only two real choices to visit the park – hike it or bus it. We took the bus. But, before you sign up for the 6, 8 or 11 hour tour, make sure you know your child’s breaking point. We took the 8 hour tour. Alex had enough of the moose, caribou, Dall sheep, red fox, hares and one lone wolf we saw at about 6 hours. Some people think it’s brave to take your child to the edge of no where and then back. I’m tending to believe it’s a bit crazy.

The road into Denali starts out paved and two way, but by mile 64, at the Fish Creek Turnaround, you will have been weaved on a refurbished, painted green school bus up, down and around a steep, gravel, windy, one-lane path that looks like rock is added annually to replace what was washed away during the 9 month winter. If you don’t look down, or think too hard about it – it’s awesome. I guess that’s why they tell you to bring the car seat.

Alaska is stunning, and Denali, meaning 'tall one,' boasts North America’s highest mountain at 20,320 feet. It is one of the most magnificent places on earth. There are about 300 grizzly bears in the park, and signs posted to remind you to be alert. Here are the rules if you see a grizzly bear:

* Don’t run.
* Back away slowly.
* Should the bear approach or charge you – do not run.
* If a grizzly makes contact with you, play dead.
* If the attack is prolonged, fight back vigorously.

It doesn’t say what to do with your child. I’d recommend you just stay on the bus.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

3-2-1 Blast-Off

If you ever want to know what it feels like to launch into outer space, then you’ll have to take your aspiring astronaut to Kennedy Space Center (KSC), and ride the new Shuttle Launch Experience that will lean you back, blast you off and make you feel like you are traveling at 4g’s into the Milky Way. Since I tend to get freaked-out by something as tame as a tilt-a-whirl, I used my “get-out-of-the-activity-because-I-have-to-take-care-of-the-baby” card and Alex & skipped it altogether. But, the rest of the family said it was totally cool.

Alex’s dad is a genuine NASA rocket scientist, so a family trip to check out the rockets was almost inevitable. Almost forty years ago, Kennedy Space Center was the place where humans lifted off the Earth to travel to the Moon. And, today it is the place where astronauts launch aboard the Space Shuttle and travel to space.

In our visit there, we barely scratched the surface of everything there is to see and do. Alex cruised through the Rocket Garden in the stroller, got his photo snapped in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building where they put the shuttles together before placing them on crawlers that go at super-slow speeds to carry them to the launch pads, and ran laps below the Apollo / Saturn V Rocket, the most complex machine ever built. Where else on the planet can your toddler do that?

I can’t wait to go back when Alex is a little bit older. But, who knows, maybe someday he’ll actually fly into outer space!?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bye, bye plane

It happened again. Another mother was thrown off of another plane with her baby by an intolerant flight attendant who thinks she's got superpowers. Alex and I haven't been thrown off of any planes ...yet. But, I'm convinced its just a matter of time. A child can fly on your lap until he's 2-years-old. You haven't really experienced plane travel until you've tried to confine your 18-month-old to an area that's about 18" x 18". It's hard to know what's more exciting -- banging on the seat in front of you, trying to grab the laptop on your left, or spilling the orange juice on your right.

People stare at you when you have a baby. Some of them smile in admiration for the cutsy with you, but others glare in disdain for whatever your kid is doing. As more and more airlines continue to lose their cool, the only thing we moms can do is try to ignore the stares and glares, and do what we can to keep our little ones happy. Here's the stories so you know what you are dealing with:

Mom Says She, Toddler Kicked Off Plane
A woman said she and her toddler son were kicked off a plane after she refused a flight attendant's request to medicate her son to get him to quiet down and stop saying "Bye bye, plane."
Kate Penland, of suburban Atlanta, said she and her 19-month-old son, Garren, were flying from Atlanta to Oklahoma last month on a Continental Express flight that made a stop in Houston. As the plane was taxiing in Houston en route to Oklahoma, "he started saying 'Bye, bye plane,' Penland told WSB-TV in Atlanta. The flight attendant objected, she said.
"At the end of her speech, she leaned over the gentleman beside me and said, 'It's not funny anymore. You need to shut your baby up,'" Penland told WSB-TV in Atlanta.
When Penland asked the woman if she was joking, she said the stewardess replied, "You know, it's called baby Benadryl."
"And I said, 'Well, I'm not going to drug my child so you have a pleasant flight,'" Penland told the TV station.

Crying Child and Parents Removed From Flight
AirTran Ejected 3-Year-Old and Her Parents After Tantrum
Every parent has dealt with a child having a tantrum and causing embarrassment at the worst times -- in a grocery store, in a restaurant, and at weddings.
For a Massachusetts mom and dad, however, their toddler's tantrum cost them their flight home
On Jan. 14, 3-year-old Elly Kulesza and her parents, Julie and Gerald, were kicked off an AirTran Airways flight from Florida to their Worcester, Mass., home because Elly would not stop crying.
Elly, who had been a model passenger on the flight to Florida four days earlier, began to cry uncontrollably once she got on the plane, throwing a temper tantrum on the floor.
AirTran employees demanded that the Kuleszas calm down their child. When Elly didn't stop crying, the crew banned the Kuleszas from flying for 24 hours. Later, AirTran offered an apology to the family along with a refund on their tickets.

Nine months pregnant woman turned off bus because of a toddler tantrum
Joanne Uzzell was not having a good day. Nine months pregnant and on the point of giving birth – she had been to the shops with her two year old daughter Molly. The journey home was just half a mile, but hugely pregnant and with two bags of shopping and a petulant toddler, Joanne took the sensible decision to take a bus home.
But when daughter Molly threw a toddler tantrum on the bus, Joanne was told to either calm her daughter down or get off the bus. 'Molly had a temper tantrum and I could not make her stop — but the driver went potty and told me to shut her up,' Joanne told The Sun. 'I was trying my best to calm her down but the driver started tutting and huffing and puffing.
'Molly is two years old — what did he expect. I was nine months pregnant and had a crying child, but to contend with that sort of treatment was the last thing I needed.'
“He then pulled over and said that he couldn’t drive as he couldn’t concentrate. I asked him if he expected me to get off and he smirked and nodded. I felt like I had no choice.” The Wilts and Dorset bus company have since apologised to Joanne saying; 'We expect our drivers to behave courteously to all customers. We will try to ensure this does not happen again.'

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Don't Let Your Kid Get Eaten by an Alligator!

When families visit Orlando, Florida, most kids go to Disneyland, Epcot Center, Universal Studios or SeaWorld. Alex got to go to Gatorland for some “swamp stompin’ adventure!” Gatorland is the alligator capital of the world. Visitors can catch the Gator Jumparoo Show where alligators jump several feet vertically out of the water to compete for lunch. Or, you can get your photo snapped on the back of an eight-footer at the Gator Wrestlin’ Show. Alex and I decided to hand-feed a pack of ‘em. It was awesome! You can buy raw wieners and drop them into the big pond where gators line up along the edges waiting for you. Or, you can sign up for the VIP feeding and get right up close to them without any fences between you. (I recommend keeping your toddler held tightly in your arms for this tour.)

So what's the difference between an alligator and a crocodile? It’s mostly the snout. What’s the difference between Gatorland and one of those giant theme parks? Not having to keep your kid on a leash. Alex ran around the park carefree with happy giggles. He splashed at Gator Gully, rode the Gatorland Express and had up-close-encounters with alligators, crocodiles, emus, turtles, goats, llamas, parrots and more. We weren’t rushed, didn’t have to stand in line, spent way less money and could see it all. Only along the adventure walk around the gator-packed lake did I have to make sure he kept his hands and toes inside the fences.

For the jet set mom, it’s tempting to seek the big adventure. For baby, everything is a big adventure. So, if you are dying to take your child – alone – to one of those big theme parks, make sure she/he can handle the heat, the people and the time it will take to drive, park and explore. Otherwise, for the little guys and gals, try something more their size. For us – a visit with giant alligators was the perfect stop. Mickey & Minnie and the Magic Castle will be there for the next trip.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Singapore Bling

At the Southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is just 85 miles north of the equator. It takes about 19 hours to fly from Los Angeles to Singapore. If you have a 6-month-old baby on your lap, that’s 1140 minutes or 68,400 seconds. You’ll start counting the time somewhere over Hawaii, but you still won’t be half-way there. Singapore Airlines gave Alex a welcome bag filled with diapers, wet wipes and an adorable little toy, and once we arrived at the Changai Airport, we found private changing rooms for moms with babes. So, it’s worth the trip.

And, once you get there, you can have breakfast with Orang utans, howl with hyenas, kiss a rare pink dolphin or dive with dugongs like Gracie. From insects and butterflies, bird parks, night safaris and underwater worlds, the various zoos and botanical gardens of Singapore are simply not to be missed even if you are not an animal or nature fanatic. (We are wildlife warriors, so it was like paradise!)

Alex gives Singapore two thumbs-up for being stroller friendly. Alone we cruised the downtown, scouted across the bridges along the river walk, got up-close to the Merlion on the waterfront, and even kicked back for a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel. But, while the ‘sling’ will set you back a good $20, the ‘bling’ will set you back much more. Shopping is not for the novice. Raid the saving account before the trip, bring extra bags, and plan nap times carefully. (Note: If you are seeking souvenirs, get to the airport early – the best shop with everything you need is there!)

Singapore was one of the first international trips with Alex. For me, it proved that I could still do it all – be a mom and see the world. I was excited to see everything, but didn’t know how travel would be with a toddler in tow. I learned to balance what I wanted to see and do with Alex's needs too. So, what’s the best advice? The official website for what to do and see in Singapore gives great information about a great many things to do. But if you asked Alex for his best bets he’ll recommend you stand lobby of the Pan Pacific Hotel watching the six glass-lit elevators race up-and-down. Mommy and baby both found their bling.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

China's 'Forbidden City' forbids Babies?

The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is located in the center of Beijing, China. The complex is comprised of 9,999 rooms -- and, what feels like that many tourists. But, there are no babies allowed inside the Forbidden City. (OK, that is absolutely not true. But, I didn't see any. In fact, I didn't see any babies in China at all.)

When Alex was 6-months-old, he visited Beijing in intense summer heat. At every step, we were followed, photographed, and stopped by throngs of Chinese excited to see our little boy. If you ever want to know what it feels like to be stalked by paparazzi, then take your baby to China. With over 1.31 billion people, China has the largest population of any country in the world. The crunch of people on the roads and sidewalks is felt as you ping-pong your way down any street. Even the tourist spots are shoulder-to-shoulder with Chinese teens and adults snapping pictures. But there were no babies, toddlers or small children to be seen. The Chinese prefer to keep their children at home. And, that made us a big hit!

At Tian'anmen Square we were followed by excited teenagers. Navigating the stroller through the main gates for the Forbidden City became a bigger challenge as everyone tried to sneek a peek inside. On the exquisite grounds of the Summer Palace a police officer actually had to break up the crowd gathered around us. At the panda exhibit at the zoo, there were more people taking pictures of us then taking pictures of the near extinct pandas. And even on the hottest of days, as we made the ultimate climb up a very small portion of the 4,000 mile-long Great Wall of China, heads turned and cameras from all directions were pointed at little Alex.

I can't help but wonder how many Chinese scrapbooks, camera phones and even blogs my son is posted on. The chance to visit China was a trip that I'll cherish a lifetime. But more than the Ming Tombs, beautiful jade factories or the anticipation of the 2008 Olympics slated for Beijing, what I'll remember most is the thousands of smiles Alex brought to the faces of China!

Monday, June 25, 2007

No Sex in the City

I've been watching Sex in the City in syndicated re-runs on late night network television. Since I never watched as each episode premiered, its easy to get lost when one night the show's central star and narrator, Carrie, is dating Mr. Big, but then the next night she isn't, but wait no..... somehow they magically get back together again. Or when Charlotte (the cute, perky one) is married to tall, semi-handsome Scottish-skirt wearing guy, but then a week later she's married to short, fat, likes-to-run-around naked guy. (I don't seem to have any trouble following the plot line for ultra-sensual Samantha's one-man-after-another sexcipades.)

The worst part about watching the show in re-runs is not that the chronological order is out of sync, but that there's no sex! Turns out if I was watching the show when it was on the air, it would be a lot more fun. So, what's the point of living the single life vicariously for less than 30 minutes a night through four hip, smart, sexy New York women, if you don't get to live to the max?

I remember my single days -- especially those enjoying the late night scenes in Manhattan --fondly. Those memories forever bring a ridiculous chestshire cat smile to my face. In those days, I could do, eat, sleep, and drink whatever & whenever I wanted. I was completely carefree, willing to try everything and seeking fun. I only had to worry about myself and my friends.

Today, my life runs on a clock....baby's clock. Everything revolves around baby's eating, playing, diaper changes, good moods and screaming tears. I can only leave the house Monday through Friday after the nanny arrives and have to race home daily by 4:29pm to release the nanny on time. In between, I have a handful of hours to work, visit the dentist, get a haircut, squeeze in lunches friends, work some more, run any impossible errands that you just can't handle with the baby and drive to every point in between on over-crowded Los Angeles freeways.

Most days hang in a delicate balance. As long as nothing serious goes out of whack, I can manage it all. But, then there's those days when the nanny can't make it....whack! The world stops. Instead of pushing through hundreds of emails, juggling conference calls, and being late for meetings, I'm off to the park. And, its on those days (after I cope with the fact that nothing will get done) that I realize its just like my single days. As Alex and I push his little red car through the neighborhood, practice swimming or climb on the play equipment in the mall with all the other mommies that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. We are free -- to jump, and scream, and smile and laugh, and play!

This week, I took Alex to the pool and as he wavered between utter fear and complete enjoyment, with the cool water splashing around him, he clutched me tightly, gazed into my arms, and kissed me again and again. And, in that moment, I realize that I don't need to live my life through Sex in the City, because no man can beat those little baby boy kisses. I've got the whole world in my arms.

If someone forced me to pick my Sex in the City personality, I'd be a realitively easy match for the overworked, type-A, hyper yet methodical character Miranda on the show. (It doesn't help that we're both redheads, and she's the one who ends up having a kid by the end of the series.) But, by the end Miranda seems to get that life is more than work, more than just enjoying time with your friends, but allowing yourself to be who you are -- even when you least expected it.

On the rare occasion I get back to NYC, I long for those moments walking its streets, watching the people, absorbing the smells, the noise and even the silence of the late night. I miss the Broadway shows and the expensive dinners. I seek out old friends who remind me of those times and carry me back to those moments. And in those moments, I can imagine my old single life again.

But, I love that its a memory. And, I wouldn't trade this moment -- kissing Alex in the swimming pool -- for any memory.

Sippy Cup: Weapon of Mass Destruction

When Monica Emmerson sparked off the national media attention earlier this month at Reagan National Airport after TSA officials seized her child's sippy cup, it occurred to me that I could be that mom who "accidentally" spills the water and then is surrounded by seven security personnel.

Let's imagine the scene .... After a few hours of sleep, I've gotten myself and my son somehow packed meticulously into the car in the wee hours of the morning. We've got the car seat, the stroller, the pack'n'play, the big bag we're going to check, the diaper bag, my computer bag, and all of our liquids packaged carefully into one quart size clear bags. We've managed to get to the off airport parking, from the off airport parking to the airport, checked in our bag and we are heading through security. We've placed all of our items on the conveyer belt (as everyone who can carefully avoids getting behind us in line). We've got the car seat, the stroller, the diaper bag, my computer bag, my computer, our shoes (baby shoes too!), our jackets, the baby blanket and all of liquids strewn from one end to the other. I've carefully minded the 3.4 oz rule. (Being just a little neurotic, I've printed out and brought with me the posting from the TSA website.) And, then that last sip of water that is still left in the sippy cup clutched in my son's hand escapes my mind. It could be because its the only thing keeping him from having a complete meltdown and managing to stay semi-sweet before we board our endless hour flight.

That's when TSA catches me and I've been marked for the list of terrorists -- my weapon of choice? The ingenious sippy cup -- because you know, they will never look there for that secret potion I've mixed up and my son is chugging away at. When they go to seize the WMD, I've "accidentially" spilled its contents and now I'm on the national news.

The moral of this story? Moms of the world -- don't let them know you are human or you might end up with a video of yourself blasted on CNN. Just another way to be judged to see if you're a good mom.