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.