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.