Brand Baby 5: Never fly with young kids or babies

The show biz saying goes never work with animals or kids. A similar adage could be applied to flying and kids. As part of our relocation package we’re fortunate to get annual business class flights back to the UK for all the family. This has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. During every one of the flights we’ve taken so far our fellow passengers have made negative comments about our travelling in business with our three young boys. They range from the passive, said by a fellow passenger to their travelling companion in a slightly too loud whisper - “if they’re near me I’m asking to be moved” through to the personal and aggressive. One female passenger accused us of being inept parents when our then three year old laughed loudly at a film. Perhaps muzzling or sedating him would have been preferable for her? These experiences made us feel like social pariahs just because we’re travelling with kids. The knock on effect is the memory of them has transformed flying from a pleasurable experience into an anxious one.  We plan meticulously, booking flights that fit with the boys sleeping schedules, preferably at night, deciding who sits next to whom, the order we go and off in, and our hand luggage has swelled threefold as we pack every trick in the book designed to distract or occupy the kids  – iPods, ipads, pretzels, colouring books and Ring Pops spill out of our bags at security. For our annual transatlantic flight we’ve always plumped for Virgin’s Upper Class specifically because of its reputation for being family...

Brand Baby 4: Apple a day keeps mommy’s psychotherapist at bay

Deeply asleep.  My eyelids are pried open. Two huge blue eyes meet my hazy gaze. They belong to my cherubic two-year old son.  I glance at the clock, and groan - 4.50am. IPAD, IPAD he says persistently.  Until a few weeks ago he could barely say his brother’s names, yet the clarity of his articulation when it comes to brand names, and the range of names he knows would make a speech therapist stutter. Without flinching I drag the IPAD from its residence under the bed. He deftly strokes the screen, whispering in delight – IPAD.  He’s totally absorbed by its’ apps.  As a child it must feel good to be in control.  Especially as a two-year-old, when most of your day is determined by others. I stop intellectualising and enjoy the opportunity to eek out sleep. Later in the day, my six-year old returns home from school.  A blood-curdling yell reverberates around the house.  “That’s MY toy”.  “ It’s mine now or I’ll break it” replies his four-year-old brother.  I intervene - trying by-the-book parenting tactics; counting to three, time out, reminding them of their reward chart, and that screeching at one another isn’t exactly good social protocol.  Nothing works.  Now it’s getting bloody – they’re pulling at each other’s hair and punching - hard.  I take the desperate tactic that never fails to work - “Anyone like some time on the IPAD”?  Suddenly they are best of friends plotting a “strategy” for their shared game of Angry Birds. I’m relieved to make dinner without acting as a referee. On occasion, when the IPAD is being charged, the...

I’ve got… BMW envy

Last year we moved from the UK to the States. There’s not much I miss about England – certainly not the British weather, whining as a national sport or even the National Health Service.  Yet, one thing I miss more and more is our BMW.  We were proud owners of a silver 5 series touring.  It could comfortably accommodate our rabble of boys and its capacious trunk warmly coveted the significant amount of gear that comes with a family of five. However, being a BMW owner isn’t cheap, the purchase alone could pay three lots of annual school fees and the servicing bill used to bring on a migraine.  Little wonder one of the acronyms for the brand is Borrows My Wallet. So when we moved to New York we decided to plump for a more pragmatic version of premium.  We bought an Acura MDX (for those outside the Americas, an Acura is to Honda what Lexus is to Toyota).  So what was its main attraction?  It met our practical requirements as a family, it was cheaper than a BMW, and unlike some of the American luxury car brands, I didn’t feel like I was driving a bus or a tank.  People told me an Acura was an equivalent car to the likes of BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volvo.  In my view BMW uniquely delivers an aligned brand experience that leaves its peers at the green light. The experience of being in our BMW was like taking a long deep, calming breath.  I often hypothesized if every person owned a BMW road rage would be a thing of the past...
Mini me

Mini me

I’m not a car person.  Well at least I don’t like to think of myself as one.  And, until about two or so years ago when I admitted there’s a little bit of a car person in each of us, I never put that much of a priority on the car I drove. As a city-girl, I viewed a car as a way to leave town, not something that defined me or even identified who I was to others.  In point of fact, I proudly drove my used Toyota Corolla from B-school for five or more years after I graduated.  After paying for the Corolla many times over in NYC garage fees, my husband and I gave in to our SUV envy.  We toyed with the idea of a Cherokee, but everyone we knew had one and, well, the Range Rover felt just a bit too luxurious to us, especially in contrast to our beloved Corolla. In the end, we opted for a Pathfinder because it spoke to us. Pathfinders were a bit smaller and far less prevalent then and Nissan embodied the idea of life being a journey to enjoy.  Chiat Day understood we were in that phase of taking life too seriously and desired to hold on to some of the freedom work and family obligations were stealing from us. Eventually, we moved to London and although Chelsea tractors, as SUVs are labelled, were appearing, my husband adopted more of a European attitude and chose a Saab 9.5 estate wagon.  Not quite a Renault or Smart Car but moderately better than an SUV.  I liked the Saab...

Brand Baby 3: If only Target did day camp.

This summer marked our first foray into day camp.  Coming from the UK, where the concept of camp doesn’t widely exist, I initially felt guilty about filling up my kids’ summer holiday with more routine.  But, then I remembered last summer.  June 2010 and freshly off the plane, I knew no one and had the kids solo 24/7 for three months.  By Labor Day I was ready to outsource them to a chimney sweep or rug weaver.  So this year the idea of camp was much more appealing. We spent lots of time researching different camps.  Analysis over, we settled on a camp in Armonk, NY.  It promised to be action-packed with tennis, swimming, water slides – a kid’s fantasy, especially for those coming from the UK where any summer activity involves an interval of huddling miserably under an umbrella.  But, to my  disappointment my 6-year-old found camp to be overwhelmingly tiring and didn’t enjoy being with relative strangers.  Drying his tears each morning and wrestling with my conscience I wondered how great it would be if Target offered camp. For my boys, despite endless complaints about going to any other shop, a trip to Target is always met with an enthusiastic response.  They love Target! The red Bull’s-eye logo, (my two-year-old can spot it on the side of a truck at 90 mph on I-684) and the big  red balls outside the store which they energetically climb every time we go.  They love that Target is that rare place that sells so much stuff for a dollar.  However, the overriding reason they love Target?  Lots and lots and...

Better than the Gap?

I went to see ‘Crazy, Stupid Love’ this weekend.  While I can’t say it offered me much more than a quick escape from the afternoon rain and depressing reminders of a  looming double dip and global economic woes, one scene left me wondering.  Is Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) really better than the Gap? Much of the film is dedicated to the transformation of Cal from boring, middle-aged, divorcee stripped of his manhood into a smooth, confident bachelor even his ex-wife would lust after.  During a shopping excursion to acquire the fashion items the slickly  dressed womanizing Jacob (Ryan Gosling) insists he needs to fit the part, Cal is  faced with embracing his new look, his new designer jeans, and…. dropping the  Gap.  In the middle of Century Plaza, in a Tony Robinson convention-esque way, Jacob coaches Cal into declaring aloud “I am better than the Gap.” Initially, I cringed – yikes I wonder how the Gap feels about that product mention.  But then all I could wonder was, hey… what happened to the Gap? I used to shop at the Gap regularly.  Didn’t we all?  For years, when I needed a quick reliable new addition to my wardrobe, I’d hit the Gap.  It was never just jeans to me,  although I’ve bought many a pair there. No, the Gap provided a solution for belts,  t-shirts definitely, a funky little top for that evening’s outing.  I counted on the Gap.  But somewhere along the way, and I couldn’t pinpoint when, that changed. The last time I bought anything for myself at the Gap was out of dire necessity.  Eighteen months ago,  the middle of winter...
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