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 just gotta jump in, splash around and blow kisses to the crowd.