Last week a wonderful thing happened—our local representative from Barefoot Books (www.barefoot-books.com ) visited our son’s preschool.The entire lobby was canvassed with the most beautiful, diverse and intriguing books, music CDs, artwork and toys.It was all I could do to control my retail impulses.But that’s the great thing about buying books—no guilt!
With Halloween coming up quickly and the Holidays right around the corner, it’s fun for me to get in the gift-giving mood now.Like everyone else, our family has been impacted by the economy, so it feels smart to zero in on presents that help us celebrate our loved ones without going broke.Plus, there is something magical about buying and giving books to children.When I find a great story, I feel just as great about sharing it.Books are cost-effective, provide endless entertainment, and often generate opportunities for children and parents to discuss new topics that were inspired by the stories in greater depth.
I was doubly excited about Barefoot Books when I saw an entire table of titles with an international theme.Some were fables and legends lifted directly from other cultures, like Russia, Japan, India, France, Senegal and Polynesia.Others were focused more on teaching American children about foreign geographies, histories, cultures and languages.Some of my favorites combined multiple short stories into single volumes, such as “Grandmothers’ Stories: Wise Woman Tales from Many Cultures,” which included a read-along CD narrated by Olympia Dukakis.Another colorful book, called “Elephant Dance,” is a perfect fit for our family, because it is about a little boy “interviewing” his grandfather who comes from India.
There are so many ways to introduce little ones to other cultures: food, movies, music, museums, and of course travel.From my perspective, all of those efforts are worthwhile and complemented perfectly by a bookshelf full of fun and interesting stories.I hope we’re fostering a curiosity about the world in our son as well as a love for reading.I also hope that both become lifelong passions that inspire him to run barefoot whenever he can.
I came across a wonderful video about global citizenship earlier this week from A Place of Our Own. If you have a few minutes, click here to watch the short movie. Its a great piece on how you can teach your little citizens about the great big world.
Our daughter was 16 months old when we took her for two weeks to Buenos Aires. She absolutely loved it (as did we). Here are a few things we are glad we did and/ or wish we had known:
Avoid red-eye flights – All flights from the U.S. to Buenos Aires are red-eye flights. We had the time and didn’t think our daughter would do well on a red-eye, so instead we flew Mexicana airlines to Mexico City during the day. We stayed at the airport Ramada hotel (recommended) and continued on the next day to Buenos Aires. This worked well for all of us, especially for Grace as she only had to nap on the plane, not try to get a full night’s sleep. This plan backfired on us on the return though when Mexicana canceled our return flight and we ended up on a red-eye anyway. Some parents say their kids do well on red-eyes by sleeping all the way through, so do what you think will work best for you and your child(ren).
Rent an apartment – Apartments for rent are widely available in Buenos Aires because of a hotel room shortage and because of investment real estate. Many of them are cheaper than comparable hotels. We paid $120/ night for a very nice 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment in Palermo, a great neighborhood to stay in with a child. We rented through ApartmentsBA and found them professional and, apart from a few minor hiccups, easy to work with.
Keep your child on the time at home – If you’re from the West Coast that is. If you’re from the east coast the time difference is only 1 or 2 hours (depending on time of year), from the west coast it’s 4 or 5 hours. We kept our daughter on Oregon time by still feeding her dinner an hour before bedtime but at 8 or 9pm instead of 5 or 6pm. This way we were able to stay out until 9 or 10pm and sleep in until at least 8am. Argentines don’t even think about dinner until 9pm so by keeping her on a later schedule we could actually eat when locals eat.
Bring a portable booster seat – While most restaurants in Argentina have high chairs, some don’t. Of those that do have them, every single one we saw was actually just a tall chair with no straps or even bar to keep the child in. This might work with an older child but our daughter would have simply slid right out. Thankfully we had brought The First Years On The Go Booster Seat which fit nicely into the restaurant high chairs and kept our daughter in place.
Don’t bring diapers and wipes – We had heard diapers and wipes would be expensive but they really weren’t. Major U.S. brands (Pampers, Huggies) were available in every grocery store and pharmacy, so we were never without a place to buy them.
Do bring baby food – If your child is still eating pureed baby food you’ll need to bring it with you or bring a hand grinder to make your own. We had heard jarred baby food would be available but we checked in multiple large grocery stores and it never was. Our daughter was old enough that she was also eating table food, so it wasn’t a problem for us but could be a big headache for someone with a smaller baby. Our daughter drinks whole milk which was easy to find but formula also seemed easy to come by.
Bring a baby carrier – We highly recommend the Ergo baby carrier, no matter where you are traveling. See our list of essential travel gear for more information. We used it daily in Buenos Aires.
Bring a plastic changing pad. Diaper changing stations were very rare in public bathrooms. We either changed Grace’s diaper on the floor on a changing pad or just waited until we returned to the apartment. Since we returned at least once a day for naps this worked most days but there were a few emergencies where the bathroom floor had to do. We were told all McDonald’s have changing stations and McDonald’s are everywhere.
“Miss Valerie, I love you.” Mila dictates as I write on the back of one of the post cards she has picked out for her dearest little friend, who has recently moved away. The two girls were born within days of each other three years ago and have been nearly inseparable since. We saw her and her family off several weeks ago with some sadness but also with expectations of many more years of friendship ahead. Although Valerie and her family will be living in England, much too far for play dates, the two girls have already begun what I hope will be a long and cherished correspondence.
For the moment their correspondence consists of post cards from the zoo, descriptions of pets, colored drawings, and passionate declarations of affection such as only a toddler can muster. “I miss you! I made this card for you and it’s so lovely!” “I love you…Miss Valerie, I love you!” It’s endearing in the extreme.
Even now, however, I encourage Mila to consider describing in her letters some of the sights she’s just seen on her trip to the Windy City or to her grandma and grandpa’s Midwest farm, sharing with Valerie the experiences she’s having in the world that her little friend can no longer experience at her side. In turn, Mila can learn about life in another country through Valerie’s descriptions of the places she sees and the things she does as she settles into her new life across the ocean.
It dawns on me that this is an avenue of learning about the world that we’ve taken pitiably small advantage of until now. Valerie has been Mila’s dearest little companion and, of course, it is natural that they wish to be able to continue to share their small experiences and that we, as their parents, should wish to encourage it. What a great opportunity for developing as an early habit the lost art of correspondence. But what of the child we sponsor overseas, a child not many years older than Mila herself…might he not also be excited to receive letters and Mila in turn to learn about what life is like for a child whose home and situation are vastly different from her own? What about old college friends now living in other countries, friends with children who might enjoy a pen pal as well? Would Mila be able to develop friendships by mail, to forge connections through these children to Haiti, Croatia, India, China? Of course there would be less history involved than there is with Valerie, so there may be fewer passionate declarations of love and affection, but the potential for cultural exchange must surely be there.
I find myself making mental lists of all the young children we know on an international basis. It’s a bit much to expect that Mila will be interested or able to correspond with all of them, but she loves to send cards and she loves to receive them so, as I say, the potential must surely be there…and it occurs to me as an afterthought that I’m definitely going to need more stamps!
Our friends and family are not surprised that at one-year-old our daughter has already traveled more than many adults. With a great-grandmother in London who was anxious to finally meet her first great-grandchild, a trip to England within Zoe’s first year was a given. We decided while we were over there why not make an adventure out of it. So, as a friend of mine put it, at nine-months-old Zoe “did Europe.”
Our first stop was London and of course introducing Zoe to her G.G. Nita for the first time was truly amazing. Of course all Zoe knew was that she was getting lots of attention from a lot of people in London who had been waiting to see her.
We moved on to Vienna where we visited an old friend of mine and her Austrian husband and their 22-month-old son. They live in a house with another family with two small kids and have a steady stream of friends with little children coming and going. Zoe had a blast playing with all of the “older” kids. Best of all we got to see Vienna not only with locals but with local babies. The Vienna zoo and the kiddie pool were not only highlights for Zoe but for us too. As New Yorkers with a baby it was great to see how Austrian babies spend their days.
In Prague we realized some of the limitations that go along with travel with baby. After a long lunch in the main square during which Zoe sat in her stroller for a little too long we attempted to take a tour of the Jewish quarters. I don’t know what we were thinking! No more than five minutes into the two hour tour Zoe made it clear that sitting in her stroller inside a temple with nothing to entertain her other than an old lady telling the history of the Jews in Prague was just not going to happen. We left and gave ourselves the abbreviated version of the tour –basically we walked in and out of a few of the temples and museums.
Considering how young she was, I don’t know how much Zoe got out of the trip. But for her mom and dad this trip was a major step in reclaiming our sense of adventure post-baby. The trip was the proof we were looking for that we can still get out and do the things we love to do –at least many of them. Not only is travel with a baby possible, it was even enjoyable. We plan to continue to take family adventures and know that each year Zoe will take a little bit more from the trip.
Friends with older kids have told us that we lucked out because Zoe was at an age where she happily sat in the stroller –that travel will only get harder (we’ll let you know if this is true later this month when we take her to Costa Rica). But the way I look at it travel was never about easy –staying home is easy. So why not grab the umbrella stroller, throw some diapers (and Daily Tea clothes) in a suitcase and get on that plane!
Have you ever “lost” you kid?Maybe you haven’t admitted it publicly but it happens to many families.It happened to us at Disneyland last weekend.I was parking the stroller and asked our daughter to hop out and get in line with Dad.A cast member told me I would need to move my stroller to “stroller parking.”I followed a path to stroller parking far removed from the ride which we were waiting.I quickly parked the stroller and did a brisk walked back to the Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland, almost a jog.I was unaware that my daughter had followed me.I returned to the ride with my husband in line.We looked at each other simultaneously saying, “Where is Olivia?I thought she was with you!”Quick expression of panic and we both take off running.
This is the part that saved us.Every time we go to a public place like Disneyland, Del Mar fair, Legoland, Sea World, San Diego Zoo, San Francisco zoo or any of the other places we would never had been found 6 years ago….we take pictures of our daughter on our cell phones.Front, side and back view pictures AT the site.This would allow us to show a picture of her in the outfit she was wearing and the hairstyle she had on the same day if she got separated from us.We always figured if we had a current picture on our cell phones we could easily show it and forward it to others if needed.
And we needed.Within seconds of missing Olivia at Disneyland, I showed the picture to the man who made me move the stroller and he began pointing and saying“Ohhh the little girl with pigtails.She is right there with another cast member!”
Slump of relief.
She did all the right things, found a “manager” and stayed put once she felt she couldn’t find us.But having the picture expedited the situation.Once back at Astro Orbiter, another family asked us if would like our place back in line and confessed they had a stomach ache too from the sympathy pains.I told them how I found Olivia and they immediately took out their cameras and took a picture of their 7 year old.I am sure that will become part of their “public place” routine.I can now personally recommend it to all parents.
I never was one to obsess about my style of dress, or for that matter, care if I even matched. My perspective on clothing certainly changed after a trip to Greece. From the picturesque side-streets to the amphitheater, everyone seemed to have a certain air of elegance about them. From time to time I could imagine ancient Greece around me in the very way the Greeks used to simply drape fabric around the human frame. Those ancient garbs certainly had an impact on modern day Greek style. The dresses and skirts that women were wearing seemed to float upon their bodies; the very clothes themselves had a life of their own. It seemed to be infused in the very air. I even got a whiff of it!
While in Greece I purchased an item of a stylish quality that I shall always remember. There was this pair of shoes that distinctly reminded me of the stylish icon Audrey Hepburn. They were these black, ballet inspired, backless shoes with just a hint of heel to entice the wearer. When I wore them walking around the streets of Athens, I felt divine, empowered. They had a certain understated romance about them that I adored. Perhaps it reflects the hint of confidence in Greek clothing that I had observed in the locals, understated, without airs, but decidedly striking at the same time.
It was at this moment that I saw the connection between art and fashion. Just as a painting can have an impact on the viewer, so can a beautifully draped dress or a fabulous pair of shoes have an impact on the wearer. Fashion is a state of mind, reflecting the very thoughts and beliefs of the one who wears a particular style. To obtain clothing from diverse areas of the world is to begin to have an understanding of those areas. Dressing our children in clothing inspired by styles around the world is a wonderful conversation starter about diversity, breaking the stereotype that one particular group of people must dress in a uniform fashion. Perhaps I cannot afford to take my daughter to exotic locations as of yet, but I can certainly bring some of it back with me via Tea Collection.