Saturday, May 5, 2018


TRAVELING WITH LITTLE CHILDREN                                    

What is the absolutely worst thing you can think of doing?  Something you shudder to recall, repressing it to the deepest recesses of your memory banks?  The stuff of nightmares and cold sweats? Is it Christmas shopping?  Maybe hitting up coworkers to buy your cub scout’s raffle tickets?  How about going to the DMV on a Monday without an appointment?  Or maybe setting up a new piece of techie equipment that you were too cheap to pay an installation fee on?  To all these horror memories I say, “Nah, not even close!”  For me the height of masochism are trips.  Not just any trips (actually I like to travel), but trips to family in the company of tiny children, my own tiny children, specifically.
It came back to me on a recent flight to Colorado over  Easter break  at Denver International Airport.  This airport is super high tech, massive, and challenging. I got lost, by the way. I saw hordes of people and convoys of strollers laden with every  baby item found in baby stores and pushed by tired women herding crabby kids.  It was a migration from one part of the country to the other, crammed into a few days of free time, arranged most likely for the lowest internet fare, planned months in advance, to finally culminate in a desperate attempt at rebonding, at showing off the cute kids to other family members, be they grandparents, brothers, sisters, whoever, so the kids could be smooched , hugged, carried, weighed , and measured, and adored for a few precious days.
My wife and I also took part in this ritual once.  When our first two babies were one and two we realized they were not christened.  Although we were both given a faith neither of us were regular church goers.  Nancy is Lutheran.  I am Catholic.  Having seen the potential conflicts religious differences can cause in marriage, neither of us stressed a particular faith.  But now being good parents, wanting the best for our children, we certainly did not want them to go to hell, either, should, God forbid, anything happen to them.  So, we tried to get the little heathens baptized.  Well, now, it soon became apparent after trying several churches that baptism was not just for anyone.  It was only for members of a parish.  I’m not sure how a one and two year old could become a member since neither one of them drove or knew how to fill out a form or put money in the basket.  Actually little Mark could drop money in but Nicki liked to put it in her mouth.  Joining a church  seemed even less attractive than ever for us just so the kids could be baptized, given the Christian spirit displayed by our local parishes.  I began to rationalize.  So we raise little savages.  God likes everyone, even savages.  God would not practice segregation, would he?  And if he did, so what.  It would probably be just as nice as for Christians, probably more fun, too.
My wife did not see the levity in this.  She was determined to get them christened.
Then, in a moment of insanity, I thought of a solution.  Why not visit my parents?  They were churchgoing, contributing, practicing Catholics and members in good standing of St Mary’s Parish in Denver.  We could, so to speak, christen two birds with one stone.  My parents, who did not like traveling, could see the grandkids and get them baptized at the same time. 
Now Nancy was not  fond of my parents.  My parents were not fond of Nancy.  For one thing, they thought she was far too pretty for me.  For another she was not Ukrainian but English Welsh.  On top of that Nancy is Modern American.  They were Old World European. Any innocent slight or innocuous remark was scrutinized, dissected and analyzed by them for any sign of affront or lack of hospitality. It goes on and on, but you get the idea.  But Nancy was desperate.  After all, her children’s spiritual well being was at stake.  She thought.  She agonized.  She consented.
Nancy is a very sensible mother.  Even with little children we travel light.  We don’t take strollers; we hold our babies.  We carry a minimum of baggage, a small supply of diapers, clothes , bottles and snacks.  What we don’t have we can always buy in this wonderful country.  We have learned that little children travel well when they are fed, changed, and given a nap after two hours.  That’s been the rule whenever we went to Disneyland:  two hours, no matter how much you paid to get in and how much you’d like to see the Electric Light Parade or the midnight fireworks.  Sea World: two hours.  San Diego Zoo: lunch, diaper change, two hours of sights, then back in the  station wagon for the ride home.  Longer, they get crabby not because they are bad kids but because they are exhausted.
The trip from Los Angeles to Denver is two hours long on “Ideal Airlines.”  On United it’s a different story.  Add travel time to the airport, parking and  check in and you are getting seriously past two hours.  Then throw in ear pain from unequal pressure on the tympanic membranes ( try explaining to a two year old how to equalize his ear pressure), a full flight with no vacant seats, full diapers and you are on your way to miserable kids and uncomfortable parents.  Throw in other families with similar situations and pretty soon one of the tiny passengers starts to complain and loudly.  The wail is picked up from other regions of the airplane.  Kids get the evil eye from people traveling alone.  Snide comments follow. I can’t have a martini because my  kid would want to have a sip.  Oh what fun.
We make the trip.  My Mom and Dad are delighted to see the grandkids.  The kids are smooched, hugged, weighed, and measured, and recorded.  It’s an old Ukrainian custom; don’t ask, OK.  Baptism for our out of staters  has been approved and scheduled for Sunday after Mass.  We meet with the priest and promise to give our children a Catholic education.  After 12 o’clock Mass we bring the kids to church.  My son Mark is baptized first.  While we are holding our daughter Nicki by the baptismal font, Mark gets away from my mother.  Happy to be free he heads for the votive candles.  The priest reassures us it’s OK.  Mark learned how to blow out candles on his second birthday and he proceeds to show us how by blowing out as many votive candles as he can.  The priest is baptizing Nicki.  Mark runs around looking for more candles.  The activity stimulates his gastrocolonic reflex.  The church  begins to reek.  Thank goodness only our little party is present. I do not think I  can stand more evil stares from strangers.  The priest gamely concludes the ceremony.  We thank.  We contribute.  We leave with our little Catholics. 
That evening both kids start to get sick.  Nancy wants an early flight home to be near their doctor if they should get worse.  I reschedule.  The trip back is even more onerous because both kids have diarrhea and diaper rashes.  I take a week off  to recuperate and help out.  Nancy gets sick and takes to her bed for that week .  In spite of all that it is wonderful to be back home.  We will not do this trip by air again until they are older.  We have two more children.  Next time we travel by camper, but that is another story.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

This young woman from central Ukraine welcomed our diaspora with traditional bread and salt. Afterwards she graciously posed for us.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Misty morning in Morro Bay.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Low Tide Ride

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tiburon Ranch


Friday, October 6, 2017

Oceano Dunes

Friday, September 29, 2017

San Luis Village