Monday, November 19, 2012

Thank goodness for grandparents

Ah grandparents. I will never forget the smell of Old Spice or the happiness I felt as I opened up my grandpa's car door during the summers when he picked me up from swim practice. he was always there and in my corner. He was the only person in the family that shared my and my brother's dislike for steamed brussel sprouts and would say it.  When my dad would make us eat them,  we would all laugh when my grandpa would say, "These damn things are just cabbages that never had a chance." I think my grandpa's presence in my life is the reason I cherish every moment my parents get to be around my kids and vice versa. 

There are so many things that grandparents can share with their grandchildren that you just can't give them. My parents teach my kids with a perspective and wisdom I'm haven't experienced yet, and nothing beats their "I want to spoil you at all cost" love.  I make it a point to schedule grandparent time so that they can build lasting memories together…and while it isn't easy living 1,000 miles apart, it is so very worth it. 

So as the holidays approach, and you begin to debate if it's worth the long ride or the hectic flight for such a short trip, remember that. If your grandparents are still alive, don't take them for granted. I never take for granted the fact that my parents are not only still around but still able to keep up with the little rugrats.  The memories of my time with my grandfather are a huge part of what I remember about my youth, and my grandpa's presence had a big affect on me. I want my kids to share in that revelry. We were so lucky to have my mom with us in London this summer, and I know that both my kids and my mom will never forget that special time they got to share together.

Let's face it, life is just better with grandparents. Their hugs and their love and their stories are unmatched.   

Monday, November 12, 2012

Not going to Africa: Making the decision

I have never been good at making decisions, but I generally go with my gut. Just this Friday I was all packed and ready to take a trip with my charity, a trip I had been looking forward to for more than six months, when I was faced with a decision...

You see, I was supposed to go to Africa to work in the field with Right To Play. The last time I visited Rwanda was 1996, and the country I saw was in the ruins of war and despair.  I was so excited to see how this beautiful country had put itself back together, and to learn about the the role our Right To Play programs were playing as part in its development.  But nothing went right. I spent the night before my flight comforting my son, who was up with a stomach bug. And while I felt bad for him, I was also relieved he got sick while I was home and not at some point during the next few days because I wouldn't have been there, and I would have felt awful.  For my first two trips to Africa with RTP, I wasn't married and I didn't have kids, so it's a whole different emotional ball game now.

The next hurdle was the weather. Over night the weather turned, and was snowing heavily for my departure. Not necessarily dumping, but definitely Salt Lake's first real snow accumulation of the season. And that's when I first got the feeling that this travel schedule of mine was not going to run smoothly. But I said goodbye, all be it through tears, when my husband and son dropped me off at the airport. (I made them drive away while I stood and waved until I couldn't see them anymore.) Then I tried to be proactive.  I asked if I could start looking for alternative flight plans, but everyone assured me I would be ok, that "No plans are delayed yet." And there it was, that feeling again.  You know the one, it's the same one you get as soon as a commentator says, "He hasn't missed a field goal this season inside 40 yards."  But we were, in fact,  early boarding and pushing back from the gate so I chalked it up to nerves. Then the deicer issues began, and tick-tock….after almost 2 hours delayed...we finally took off.  My plane pulled into the Seattle gate as my Amsterdam flight was pushing back.  And that was it.  That was my only way to Africa Friday and it was only 1:48pm PT.  It was completely out of my hands.  

To make matters worse, I wasn't feeling well and was super worried about getting really sick on either of my two remaining 10 hour flights. So the decisions started to pile up. Do I stay over night in the airport or at a close hotel and take the 1:20pm flight tomorrow, getting me into Africa on Nov 11th at 8pm?  I could get on the first leg of my flight, but the KLM leg (my second 10 hour connection) would have to settled at the counter in Amsterdam, and with the way this trip was going, THAT was unsettling.  To top it off, due to the whole day delay, my 4 days on the ground had turned into just 2.5 days.  I wanted to go so badly, wanted to see those kids in Kigali and Kuvoa, but when is too much, too much? And that's where my wise husband brought me back to my own reality.  I love my charity and wanted to be there to support their efforts and be a part of it all, but my main happiness is my family. And 48 hours of flying wasn't worth getting only 60 hours on the ground if it meant my health. My one girlfriend put it best when she said, "I know you must be so disappointed, but it looks like the stars weren't aligned for this trip." And they weren't so my heart still aches a bit.  But I know the amazing Athlete Ambassadors making the trip -- Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly), Heather Petri (@PeteIsAGirl ) and Natalie Coughlin (@NatalieCoughlin) -- will soak up every second of their journey and pour it into my waiting heart when they get back. 

In the meantime, I will consider these 5 unexpected days at home as a gift.  I will snuggle when asked, cheer at every event that I would have missed, and trust that that is exactly what Right To Play is doing for so many kids around the world. Until next time Africa. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What our kids hear about the world & how they feel

Recently, as I was cruising through twitter, I stumbled upon the video of a 4-year-old little girl who was crying about the Presidential Election. Reactions to it are varied, but I found it to be precious, authentic and real because I live with a 4-year-old who listens intently to everything, is super curious, and feels deeply.  How many parents are wondering, just like me, whether they should tell their kids about major events or asking themselves, "Can they handle it?" 

I can't imagine what is was like for parents in 2001, trying to explain the terrorist attacks to their children. Our kids are smarter than we give them credit for, but their emotions are often a little more extreme or off balance. They feel more compassion, happiness, excitement, and sorrow. For example, I find that with my kids, they either feel too much or they don't feel enough compared to my own adult reactions. 

Thus, as Sandy was hitting the east coast, I had to determine how to approach it with my 6-and 4-year-olds. I decided to turn the TV on at dinner so that we, as a family, could watch what was happening to our friends on the east coast and to a city we've spend so much time in.  I lived in NYC for 8 years and our family has spent months at a time in the city. The coverage captivated Spider for quite awhile and he listen intently to our conversation, then he said "Can we turn this off, it's scaring me!" So I asked him why he was scared, and basically he was convinced Sandy was coming to Park City.  Once I assured him that Sandy was not coming to, as he calls it "our town in America", he became more curios. He was listening to the reports as we started cleaning up, and later announced to the family that "Sandy was heading to Canada."  He talked about Sandy at school and corrected his friends, who were convinced Sandy was a person, by telling them it was a hurricane that turned into a cyclone. 

His absorption of the situation was amazing. I am consistently in awe of the way kids handle information with such a pure level of intrigue and interest. It warms my heart that they have the desire to learn, and breaks my heart when they feel so much emotion when trying to digest the information.

So as events occur within our world, from presidential elections to natural disasters, think about how you share it with your children. They are more acutely aware of what's happening in their surroundings than we give them credit for.