Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The ultimate road trip accessory

Let's start with a disclaimer - I like sports cars. Curve hugging, throw you back in the seat acceleration sports cars. My boys know how to identify the Porsche Carrera Convertibles we see, whenever we see them. Suffice to say, driving a minivan was never on my life short list. But with three kids, an au pair and out of town parents who visit frequently, it became an imperative that I recognized as a practical parent. We bought our minivan on March 31. Eight seater with integrated DVD and four wireless headsets. We realized a month later than our kindergartener had off the three days prior to Memorial Day through Memorial Day for observation of Shavout. Six days without school or grandparents = ROADTRIP. Apparently, Shavout is Hebrew for - I'm going to Disneyland.

We decided to pile into the minivan that inexplicably makes me think of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang (bought the movie to explain that to the kids). Livia (our au pair) and Jammer in the back, Taylor and Ariel in the middle and Neal and I in the front. We rationed out movies to make sure we spent some time talking and observing nature. We made a number of wrong turns and stopped for a leisurely dinner. All told, the 5 hour trip took 8 - and we didn't notice. It was so good that we decided to take US 1 north rather than US 5 - more scenic, but adds 3-5 hours to the trip. After two fun days at Disneyland, one hanging out and one at the Santa Monica pier, we piled back into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and headed out to Malibu and up the coast. We found Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. We stopped at Hearst Castle to learn that we needed a reservation for a tour. We found out that you can tour the Air Force Space Command at Vandenberg Air Force base (which is huge) every other Wednesday. But it was Sunday. So we stayed in the car. No accidents (auto or biological), no whining, some movies and some looking at the ocean and forests. All told, 12 hours trapped in a vehicle with our kids and we still like them and each other. So much so that our appetite for roadtrips has only increased - we found the ulimate road trip accessory - the eight seater Toyota Sienna. Now, if only the cooler was integrated instead of next to Livia!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lego Diving

My kindergartener, Benjamin, is a lego fanatic and he was given a model set for a three or four wheel vehicle/bike. He made the three wheeler and was very proud and then took it apart to build the four wheeler. As he approached completion (this set is for 8-14 year olds, so we were amazed at his focus and dexterity - it's amazing what personal interest can bring out), I heard an outburst from the playroom. Apparently, my preschooler, Taylor, had dumped some of the tupperware holding the tiny Lego parts (which probably seemed like a fun idea at the time) and we lost a key part for the four wheeler bike.

It was about half an inch, black, and necessary for building the decorative struts on his four wheeler. And it was a crisis at 7:30am as we get ready for school. What's a practical parent to do?

We talked about his model and what he needed. We looked for the part together. And then I told him that it was time for school and we needed to put the lego away to go to kindergarten. We agreed that we'd figure out what to do about the missing black piece when we were home that evening. It's important that he learns that all problems are not solved immediately and that he has to tend to his responsibilities in spite of having a crisis. And Taylor needed to know that his actions upset his brother...

We are lucky in that we have a Lego store in a shopping mall about 15 minutes from our house and 10 minutes from my office. This is a Technic lego set - not your standard blocks. But I figured that if there was a chance to find the part, the Lego store was my best bet. So, during lunch, I went to the mall with our 2 month old baby in tow and entered the Lego store. The delightful and frighteningly young sales associate led me to the lego play table with a large (and apparently bottomless) bucket of legos in its middle. After informing me that I can order the part online (a terrific service by Lego), he invited me to "lego dive". Hand over hand we dug through the bottomless bucket. In our palms we sorted through the tiny lego pieces in search of a 1/2 inch, black molded tube that fit the Technic bike. At what I think was half way through the bottomless bucket, we found two. He offered them to me gratis and into my jeans pocket they went.

That evening, I arrived home after the boys. They were playing in the playroom - having found something other than the partially built bike to use. I watched them and then walked up to Benjamin and asked him if he knew where Mommy went today. Without missing a beat, he said - the Lego Store? And out of my pocket came the magic piece. He finished the bike and showed it off using iChat on the Mac to his proud grandparents in Florida.