Tag Archives: kids

How To Check Your Kid As A Carry-On And Get Rich At The Same Time

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I love traveling with my children, especially now that they can schlep my bags. But there was a time when I actually had to haul them around the airport, and that kind of sucked.

Nothing ruins a brand new pedicure like a toddler who’s broken free of his LoJack-inspired five point harness stroller restraints and is stomping on your airport-inappropriate footwear in an impromptu game of “Slam My Sister’s Face Into The Moving Sidewalk” to pass away the painful minutes of a four hour flight delay due to a malfunctioning windshield wiper.

Trust me on that.

These toes are traveling sans-children. Image via Stacie Chadwick, who, by the way, is traveling without children this weekend.

As I stood solo* in the security line this morning en route to L.A. with a cold latte in one hand, a People magazine under my arm, and my iPhone camera balanced on top of my fingertips in an effort to find out if the plane was gonna crash through some kind of free palm reading app called “Lose Those Lines On Your Face, But Use The Ones On Your Hand!” I came across something I found incredibly disturbing.

Palm Reading: “My apologies, but the clairvoyant Madame McBouvier cannot predict your future at this time because she can’t see through those nasty spider veins popping out of the top of your hand. Please try again after visiting your friendly, neighborhood plastic surgeon for a quick tune-up, preferably with a sandblaster.” Image via Stacie Chadwick.

To the naked, un-potty trained eye, the picture below captures the look of a happy, self-reliant two year-old, and that’s where I have a problem. When I traveled with children back in the Mesozoic Era, there was no such thing as a happy, self-reliant two year-old. Not even close.

Why isn’t this kid screaming for her pacifier at the top of her lungs while simultaneously upchucking organic acai berry juice all over her mother’s airport-inappropriate footwear and demanding her parents sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” in two-part harmony while a steady lava-like flow of snot erupts from her left nostril?”

Problem #1: The Ride

This genius contraption actually has a collapsible handle and is designed so that the toddler-in-transit is positioned backwards. Perfectly placed, she requires no face-to-face human interaction and can be rocked to sleep while her parents use three unencumbered hands to enjoy unlimited Mai Tais and plot their upcoming vacation using the free palm reading app their two year-old downloaded on the way to the airport.

Problem #2: The Portfolio

This cherubic child is holding an iPhone, probably a 5. As her parents wait patiently at the gate three Mai Tais down, she’s killing it trading oil futures. While they get tanked, she’s getting rich, lining mom’s and dad’s IRAs as she doubles down against the Fed.

Problem #3: The Luggage Tag

Notice that this kid is pre-approved as a carry-on. This means her parents get to send her down the jetway with the strollers, and stow her under the bulkhead area of the plane with all of the tiny, kenneled rat-dogs while they suck down even more Mai Tais, use the palm reading app to predict coastal surf conditions, buy a vacation home in Cabo with all their extra cash, and power nap.

I left my baby in baggage claim!

Why do I have a problem with all of this? Because it’s not me. Not even close. But it could be you. If you’re wondering whether or not to have a child in this uncertain economy, I say go for it. Things have changed. While I bask in the glow of a child-free trip to California funded entirely by American Express, you’ll be catching waves in Mexico, drinking Mai Tais on your lanai, and wondering what took you so long.

*Solo: verb /ˈsōlō/ Perform something unaccompanied.

Notice the bold, italicized letters in the text. This refers not to some mind-crushing revelation that will change your life. It’s about a mind-crushing revelation that changed mine: travel without children.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

How Skate World Changed My Life

An Open Letter to Steve Wynn; Why The Forty Year Oldish Woman Is Your Ideal Guest

Are Our Children at the Core of the Next Entitlement Demographic?

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There’s nothing that tugs at a parent’s heart like the hollow face of a hungry child. On the other hand, there’s nothing that makes a parent’s eyeballs distend, roll backwards, and practically dislocate themselves, like witnessing the antics of a child who feels a little hungry, complains about it, and expects a custom-made meal to be delivered on the spot.

The child, in this example, is mine.

Yesterday, my husband, son, and I hooked up to play a late afternoon front nine (keep in mind that I didn’t know what “front nine” meant until I was about thirty years old) on our neighborhood course (also keep in mind that, growing up, the closest thing our family had to a neighborhood course was, well…nothing). As we repeatedly made our way from the rough to the fairway, into a sand trap, and over the green, my twelve year-old son, Taylor, began to shank his drives. The more balls he shanked, the testier he got, the testier he got, the more he shanked. Why the male gender has failed to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between these two variables is beyond me. But he’s young and I digress.

Even though his facial expression is familiar, that’s not my son. Image via sportsillustrated.com

Exhausted by a transition from summer to middle school that pushes him out the door every day by 6:45 a.m., frustrated, and possibly a bit disinterested, he stood on the green ignoring a view that could have inspired the creation of the earth itself and asked a simple question.

This is the view my son couldn’t see. Image via ccatcastlepines.com

“Where’s the beverage cart?”

“I don’t know. It’s late in the day, but I’m sure it’ll be around soon,” I said.

“I can’t believe it isn’t here. This is ridiculous,” he replied, grabbing his ball from the fairway and storming toward the next hole (keep in mind that if I had pulled a move like that on my mother, she would have coldcocked me before I had the chance to take a step…by the time I staggered up from my face plant into a bunker, stunned and babbling course etiquette backwards, she would have finished the hole and moved on, with or without me).

That’s not my mom. That’s a vampire. Image via http://www.reasonforchange.com

At the time, my reaction to his mini-outburst was much less measured than I’d like to admit, but I can say in retrospect that he was having a moment. We all have them. Even Oprah. In fact, I have about a dozen an hour on that fateful day each month when standing anywhere within my peripheral vision holds the equivalent danger as juggling molten-hot machetes on a tightrope (keep in mind that if you mess with me on the Tuesday before the Thursday, you’re taking a risk that’s not worth the reward). As the saying goes, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Image via mszigzag.typepad.com

In hindsight, Taylor was as within his rights to complain as any kid invited to walk a beautiful golf course with his parents could be, which is to say, not at all.

And that’s where I have a problem.

My problem rests on the premise that even though he knew it wasn’t right to lose his temper, he didn’t know that the reason he lost it, contextually, was wrong.

The math breaks down like this: every time we play golf, we walk the course. Every time we walk the course, the beverage cart comes around at about hole five or six. Every time the beverage cart rolls up, Taylor gets a snack, often something more spectacular than anything he could ever pull from our pantry. Every time he gets a snack, we sign the bill.

My husband likes the beverage cart too. Image via golfdigest.com

We do this because we want him to experience things that we didn’t as kids. All parents hope their children have more than they did growing up. By popular definition, “success” is another way of saying “Congratulations, you’ve achieved the American Dream.” The words are practically interchangeable in our culture, even if they sometimes sound hollow.

But I’m finding that for a generation of children being raised today, “have more” doesn’t necessarily mean “do more”, and that’s not good (keep in mind, that our kids will most likely need to “do” a lot more than we did to get ahead when they’re adults).

What did Taylor do to earn a one-on-one trip to the golf course with Mom and Dad? Nothing. Yesterday, that’s pretty much how he treated it. Like nothing. The instant gratification he derives from getting a snack-on-demand wasn’t there, and because of that, he lost sight of the things around him that are much more important.

In many respects, our children are growing up in a world that we never knew existed when we were kids, because it didn’t. Where we played with blocks, our toddlers manipulate touch screens. Remember the days when your Dad schlepped you to the library so you could spend an hour deciphering the Dewey Decimal system to look through an ancient card catalogue and find the one book in the entire city on yellow-bellied marmots for a report? Taylor doesn’t, but he can pull up more images of that nasty rodent than you’d ever want to scroll through on his phone. Do you channel the Von Trapp family and sing songs with your children in the car? Me neither, because my kids’ headphones are shoved so far into their ear canals that they automatically de-wax themselves pushing them in and back out.

The Dewey Decimal System is almost as old as Joan Rivers. Almost. Image via http://www.afterelton.com

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. With the best of intentions, we damage our children. Keeping that thought in mind, I can’t help but wonder if parents who are willing to give their kids anything also take away something critical that means everything. Do I fall into that category? Sometimes. There are things I do well when it comes to raising my children to become responsible adults, but today I’m focusing on what I do wrong.

As the debate around our nation’s entitlement state roars down a bloated, bipartisan road toward a November 6 collision with itself, perhaps, instead of simply targeting the entitlements already being given, we should also focus on how we ensure that our children avoid this path. Does the current road need repair? Yes, but future generations can get a better start if they walk down a street that begins with chores and ends with education. Or begins with education and ends with validation. Or begins with validation and ends with communication. Or maybe our kids should just take out the trash.

If life’s about the journey, our children had better develop strong calves. Image via media.knownew.com

As humans, we’re a complicated mixture of nature and nurture, and it’s the combination of the two that makes us who we are to become. Yesterday? Taylor wasn’t the kid I wanted him to be, but most of the time, he is. He now understands (more fully than he’d like) that a trip to the golf course is earned, not given. I’m not writing this to embarrass him, rather, I’m putting this out there to call attention to myself, with the hope that through my children’s eyes, I learn the exact lessons I’m supposed to teach.

How Do You Move Forward When You’re Grinding All Your Gears?

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As humans, we’re constantly in motion. But motion and movement are two very different things. Just because you’re in motion doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going anywhere.

Trust me on this, I know.

If I could catch a ride with Richard Branson on his uber-expensive Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, I’d easily be able to assess the difference between the two. But first I’d hit him up for drink. Specifically? A glass of 1907 Heidsieck. At $275,000 a bottle, it would help defray my ticket price while momentarily absolving me of the guilt associated with blowing the kids’ college tuition just to prove a point. BOGO at its highest and best use.

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

The second thing I’d do is settle in to check out the real estate, because isn’t leveraging my children’s future to see the world from a different point of view all about perspective? I imagine myself staring out the window at an earth below that looks less and less like the picture we all try to paint on a daily basis. Not so much a three-dimensional place anymore, but from way up above? A ginormous chessboard marked with clearly defined grids, gateways, and boundaries, as tiny balls of energy collide, advance, deflect, promote, dodge, gather, seek and recede in an endless effort to check the king.

Image via portwallpaper.com

Image via portwallpaper.com

Fascinated with the sparkly surface patterns of intricate motion that everyone on earth longs to be, and all happy-tingly-woozy from my six-figure, speed of sound buzz, I’d almost miss what I didn’t know I flew so high to see. Something small and seemingly insignificant situated inside the massive advance of energy that everyone else on board paid a lifetime of 401K savings to witness.

I’m talking about inert matter. Those pinpricks of light that mimic motion, but whose movement is an optical illusion: running in circles, dancing in place, and bumping up against imaginary walls. As everyone else on board focuses on the obvious, I’d be able to drill down a little deeper. But only because I’ve been there. Stuck. In motion, but not really going anywhere.

Image via trojantimes.org

Image via trojantimes.org

Looking back at my adult life, it’s easy to categorize it into a series of phases.

Phase 1/1980s: The Sussana Hoffs era of Big Hair and Big Dreams.

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Phase 2/1990s: The Yves Saint Laurent era of Big Black Suit and Big Career.

Don't look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Don’t look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via http://www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Phase 3/2000s: The Barbara Billingsley era of Big Belly and Big Bills.

That’s not me. OK it is. On the verge of birthing an alien.

I’ve always considered myself fairly stealth, able to move seamlessly in and out of various roles at-will to the beat of a metronome perfectly synchronized to my tune. But about three years ago, on the cusp of my 40th birthday, everything changed. For someone who’s always been confident enough to chart her own course, I suddenly found myself drifting. I was lost and knee-deep in the weeds without a compass, while a storm of my own design grew larger than it appeared in my peripheral view.

Somewhere between my career and the kids, buried in a pile of laundry or possibly lurking inside a box in the basement that I hadn’t opened for years, I lost my perspective and appreciation for the life I’d so carefully built. I don’t know how it happened, but it felt like I simply woke up one day yearning to be anywhere and anyone but who I was. Confused, I couldn’t seem to recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror when I washed my face every night.

No matter how enlightened I become, I will always hate matching socks.

It’s easy to get lost in a pile of socks.

I was that person who, although constantly in motion, wasn’t actually moving. Busy with my responsibilities as a parent and a wife, I had somehow forgotten about the inner workings that support the common denominator between the two, and then the kids went off to school, and could tie their own shoes, and make sound decisions without being told how, and I realized that I had unintentionally parked myself on an island and hadn’t taken the time to learn to swim. Even in the middle of paradise, isolation is lonely, and days on end of the most beautiful sunset somehow lose their color. Things that shine on the surface, like the tiny balls of energy you might see from outer space, sometimes look entirely different from the inside out.

Telluride, CO August 2011

When you’re stuck, you’re forced to stop. You don’t have a choice. And then when you’re ready to move forward, you have to look around and figure out where you want to go next rather than simply allowing the tide to sweep you along. That initial inertia and subsequent plotting of a new path has great value, even though in the moment it feels miserable, like treading water in quicksand.

One of the side effects of getting lost is the unexpected places you get to visit on your way to a new destination. Like for me? Writing. This blog is a direct result of a yearlong, step-by-step, rocky hike on a circuitous path. And I’m still going. I’m a constant work in progress, but I’m now comfortable with my ever-changing state of being because I’m doing the work to figure out where I want to end up. Plus I reserve the right to change my mind, which is a great back-up plan when all else fails.

I believe that in life, we all get stuck at some point. Whether it’s due to things like divorce, disease, death, or distraction, almost everyone loses their way. Sometimes we have to move backwards to go forward, or hit a bottom so hard that the force of impact acts like a catapult up to the top, but the a-ha realization at the end, when lessons are learned and intersecting lines actually connect, is priceless. It isn’t easy, but almost everything worth accomplishing in life is born from some type of hardship or loss. So what about you? Are you simply in motion or are you actually moving? It’s a question worth asking, even if the answer isn’t what you want to hear.

Taking the road less traveled and finding my way.

A Strange Tale of Rodents, NyQuil, and Random Christmas Lessons

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Let me start by inserting a spoiler alert.  I’m writing this having just shotgunned about a gallon of NyQuil.

Yesterday I was bragging to my husband, Scot (who is fighting off a tiny cold and is bed-ridden for the foreseeable future, likely until next year’s elections) that due to my impervious genetic make-up, I‘ve not been sick for two or three years.

Today I’m tired, achy, sore, cranky, and my voice has dropped a couple of octaves (which is actually kind of cool in a Darth Vader-like way when I yell at my kids: “You don’t know the power of the dark side!”).

To top it all off, I’m really annoyed by the presence of a mouse we are rodent-sitting for my daughter Essa’s 2nd grade class during winter break.

Clearly, I’m sick, which brings me to Christmas Lesson #1: Don’t bring strange animals into your home during the holiday season.  Or ever. 

I’m sure, due to my clinically proven bionic DNA, that I’m not sick in the traditional fa-la-la-la-la kind of way, but have contracted Hantavirus from the vermin presently residing in a cage in the hall, and must immediately enter a self-constructed isolation chamber to keep my germs from spreading.  That my dwelling will contain a posh “heavenly bed” overnight air-shipped from the W hotel downtown, soundproofed walls meant to muffle the screams of my children as they beat each other due to lack of parental supervision (remember, Scot is sick too), and the entire Twilight series on DVD is really none of your business.

As I wait for someone to help me self-construct my self-constructed parallel wellness universe, I decide to crawl into my daughter Grace’s bed (because it’s all about my health after all and Scot is in ours, with his baby cold) and sleep.  Due to my spiking fever, I also sweat; a lot, and dream not about sugar plums fairies and stockings hung by the chimney with care, but mimes….evil clown-like ones walking around my house naked with 80s-style boom boxes on their shoulders blaring Kajagoogoo.

Christmas Lesson #2: Read all warning labels before self-medicating and resist the urge to download any bad 80s music while ignoring the aforementioned warning labels.

So, after about an hour of tossing and turning and stalking that cute guy in the A-Ha video, I wake up to find a plate of cold spaghetti, fourteen low-salt Ritz crackers, and a glass of something that looks suspiciously like Michelob Ultra by Grace’s bed.  If nothing else, my kids know that alcohol makes mommy a better person.

In a traditional blog post, this is the part where I tell you how amazing my children are, imply or directly state that they are infinitely more caring than yours due to my superior parenting skills, and incidentally, that each just won the world-series championship of their respective sports (I don’t disclose that they competed in the loser’s bracket and rode the bench the entire season).

But I know my kids better than that, and as you’ve probably figured out, my fever is at its peak, the Nyquil is coursing through my veins (I can’t feel my cheekbones), and there is nothing normal about what I’m sharing right now.

Not to be fooled by my children’s faux-sympathy, I realize that in my over-the-counter-drug-induced fog, I promised them they could open presents sent from their grandparents in Kentucky after lunch, because I’m not ashamed to buy time at someone else’s expense when I need to sleep.  And I need to sleep.  Desperately.   But they need me to eat.

Incidentally, before passing out, I also added that they had to clean the house and sanitize the mouse cage, because really, why should I be the only one in the family with a lab-rat disease scrubbing toilets?

Christmas lesson #3: If your children want any big-ticket items, pawn them off on your out-of-town parents who feel like it’s somehow their fault that you live so far away.

And now here I sit, semi-alert on the sofa and banging out this post that may or may not be based on actual events.  The kids are skillfully playing the video games I asked their grandparents to send, gifts I requested not to improve their vocabulary or build their tender IQs, but to buy me the much-needed time to do nothing that every parent should have during the holiday season, and really, all year long.

As I fade in and out of consciousness, there’s a rhythmic hum of machine-gun fire in the background as they earn the required points to upgrade their MP5Ks to M14s and shoot each other into oblivion.  I just love the good tidings of comfort and joy I feel when I chug cough syrup, I mean, when our family is spending true quality time together.

I’m getting sleepy again, so that’s it for my Christmas Tale.  It doesn’t really make any sense, and yet here I am, happily typing away as everything below my kneecaps goes numb.  If you don’t like it, feel free to say so.  I’ve developed a thick skin (literally, it’s all rubbery and translucent due to my Hantavirus) and can take it.  Plus everything feels all warm and fuzzy and blurry right now which is awesome.

If you DO like my story, consider gathering your loved ones around the fire tonight and passing it on.  Maybe it will become one of your childrens’ most beloved holiday tales, a tradition cherished and requested over and over, so much so that I’ll be forced to self-publish and sell millions of copies so you can read it to them for years to come and I can actually build my aforementioned isolation chamber.  In Hawaii.

Truth be told though, I actually need the latter to happen because NyQuil is expensive, and at the rate I’m going, and I could use the cash.