Saturday, August 30, 2008

Boating on Big Bear Lake

When our friends got married at Big Bear Lake in California this summer, Alex got the chance to enjoy the scenery of the lake and the surrounding woods. Just an hour or two from Los Angeles, the Big Bear area is best known for skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and jet skiing and boat tours in the summer. For a tamed down trip with a toddler, take a boat ride aboard Miss Liberty, a replica of the Mississippi River paddle boats of the 1800s, where your little one can wonder around, and even play captain for a few minutes. If a Pirate Ship suits your fancy instead, then the lake has that too -- with pirates aboard and a working cannon. Both boats dock and offer tours year-round from the Pine Knot Marina just north of the area the locals refer to as The Village. The boat tours give you some history of the region and the guides will point out the attractions of the lake including mansions, movie sets, and the Big Bear Solar Observatory.

By the way....we never did see any bears.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Miska Mouska, Mickey Mouse!

The old days of the Mickey Mouse Club may be over, but Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Daisy, Donald and the gang can still dance the night away. Actually, it took Alex a little while to get into the swing of things during his first trip to Disneyland. The train and monorail tours were instant hits, and we went round-and-round the carousel. But, standing in line to fly with Dumbo took all the patience that a kid could muster.

The highlight of the day was giving a ‘high-5’ to “the Mouse” as Alex calls him. Mickey took the time to greet the whole family, and we took home the traditional mouse ears as a souvenir of Alex’s first trip to Toon Town. The park is now known as the Disneyland Resort, which includes California Adventure, Downtown Disney and numerous hotels. A simple one day pass will cost $69, but there are endless park-hopper, multi-day, and annual passes. For rides, Disneyland still offers the traditional favorites like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted House, but the new favorites are the re-designed submarine, the upgraded Space Mountain and Indiana Jones. (“It’s a Small World” is closed). If you’ve only got a day, then come at 8am when it opens and stay until after the fireworks at 10pm. The Fast Pass will get you on more of the rides. Or, even if you are a local to SoCal, plan a family vacation and see all the treats of Anaheim.

Alex’s next trip to the happiest place on earth will probably be longer than the half day we lasted, and it definitely will not be in the hot month of July while flooded with tourists, but now that he is expert at standing in line, we’ll be ready for many more rides.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Calling All Gold Medal Mothers!

Just when you think you are the only woman on the planet crazy enough to drag her kid(s) from one end of it to the other, be reassured that there are others like you, including some of the women of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Softball Team. This story, A Journey Toward the Games, With the Kids in the Back, tells of how gold medal winners didn’t ride with the team around the States for the qualifying games to travel to China, but instead tugged their toddlers along in a RV. While the women of softball aren’t the only athletes alternating trainings with diaper changes and carpool duty, all moms who tackle jobs, travel, study, and more alongside family should be Gold Medal winners.

Since Alex was born, he’s traveled alone with mom from California to Idaho to Texas to Kentucky to the Middle East all on behalf of mommy’s work. At just one year old, and barely able to master walking, the three hour drive in Idaho from Boise took him trekking through the soft snow of Sun Valley. Things warmed up in Houston, but he slept all along the beautiful River Walk of San Antonio. A year later, he hopped skipped and jumped his way from the hills of downtown San Francisco to exquisite horse farms in Lexington, KY. Two trips to the Middle East already under his belt will soon make him an expert on the region.

But, while the women of the US Softball team were able to pull together the $75,000 needed for the daycare on wheels, the rest of us are not so lucky. What would I pay for a nanny-on-the-go? Even accepting the help of family, friends, business contacts and strangers in planes, trains, rental cars, airports, hotels and more is never enough to make the challenge of travel much easier, but the prospects leaving Alex behind is far more difficult. So until I win the lottery to cover the costs of a traveling nanny, Alex and I will continue the journeys alone.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

8.8.08 “One World, One Dream”

Two years ago, when Alex was not yet 6 months old, he made his second trip half way around the world and back. At less than three months, he’d already been to the Middle East and now double that age, he took on Singapore and China.

Beijing was literally marking the days until the 2008 Olympic Games with a large countdown clock rolling back the hours in Tian'anmen Square. On that muggy July day, there were still 754 days to go before opening ceremonies, but the Chinese government and people were preparing for the throngs of international tourists.

Like the Olympic Rings from which they draw their color and inspiration, the five official mascots of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, known as Fuwa, carry a message of friendship, peace and good wishes from China to children all over the world. Each of mascots has a rhyming two-syllable name -- a traditional way of expressing affection for children in China. Beibei is the Fish, Jingjing is the Panda, Huanhuan is the Olympic Flame, Yingying is the Tibetan Antelope and Nini is the Swallow. When you put their names together -- Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni -- they say "Welcome to Beijing.

Alex was a star during his visit to Beijing – touring the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, shopping and climbing the Great Wall – as hundreds of Chinese people surrounded him to snap a picture of the little American baby who’d come from so far. (Check out this blog’s story from July 2007). As I took pictures of delicacies like scorpions on a stick and panda bears, Alex somehow became a mascot of goodwill too as he brought smiles and joy to so many with just a smile.

As the countdown clock shows just hours until China commences the Games of the XXIX Olympiad , the whole world is watching and waiting. But on 8.8.08, Alex will be practicing for the 2028 Olympics by jumping across the living room, shrieking in glee and waiting for his marks from his parents. You never know…maybe he’ll win the Gold for the high jump, the long jump, gymnastics or be able to dunk a basketball! He’s already got the Gold, Silver & Bronze from mom!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

All Aboard!

Travel Town is like heaven for little boys who love trains. Founded in the 1950s, the outdoor museum is situated on the edge of Griffith Park in the center of Greater Los Angeles. It features retired locomotives, freight cars, cabooses, passenger cars, dining cars, and more. The grounds are shaded, easy to walk and you can climb on nearly every engine.

Alex was so overwhelmed with excitement that I prepared myself for the first case of a heart attack for a 2-year-old. Once he got onboard with the place, he was a true conductor testing his own toy trains on the real tracks.

A good place to begin the visit is on the miniature train that adults and children can ride together. Lapping the park twice, the ride is longer, faster and the train is bigger than most of the kiddie train rides elsewhere. While this rest of the park is free of charge, the ride will cost kids of all ages $2.50 per ride. The gift shop will set you back if you (or your child) is a Thomas the Tank enthusiast. It is fully stocked with party supplies, T-shirts, books, videos, and every possible character in the Thomas and Friends collection. We enjoyed a picnic and planned for future birthday parties, as there are plenty of places for pinatas, cake and the party treats will be great! While the museum is popular with little boys, this recommendation is for all the 21st century little girls too....All Aboard!