Together or apart?

Being a parent of twins is great; two babies for the price of one pregnancy, a full-time play mate and the realisation that so much of kids’ personalities and behaviours is down to the individual child, not how you raise them.

Saying that, when you find out you’re having more than one, it’s hard to get past the first twelve months; How do I feed two at once? How do I get any rest? Will I be able to cope?

I’ve found that although those times are hard and thankfully become a bit of a blur when you look back, there are still issues to be faced when you get to school age.

I met with the principal of the school the boys will attend here in Boston, and I asked for them to be placed in the same class. There is quite a bit of international research stating that it’s best for multiples to be kept together for the first year of school, then it should be reviewed by each family with the school, each year. Given we’re a long way from home, we don’t know anyone here and that we want school to be a happy secure place I put my case forward to the principal.

He stated that he’d read the research but didn’t necessarily prescribe to it. Would I be open to a compromise of having the boys in adjacent rooms if he couldn’t put them together? Me, being a first time school parent said ok, but as I tried to go to sleep that night I realised I really wasn’t ok with that solution.

I hadn’t told him that I was Chairperson of AMBA, just that I was heavily involved, and I didn’t push as I didn’t want to come across as ‘that kind of parent’. As I thought more about it, who else is going to push for what’s best for my kids if it’s not me? Sure they would adapt if they were in separate classes, but there would potentially be two or so weeks of transition difficulties which wouldn’t happen if they were together.

The next morning I drafted an email to the school outlining my concerns and asked for another chat with the principal. Of course we didn’t have a phone organised at that stage so I waited until Monday afternoon. We spoke for about 10 minutes and he acknowledged my concerns and confirmed the boys will be together, and in fact it was a decision he’d made before he received my email. I felt so much better, I know they would have been ok apart, but it wasn’t my preference and I’m not used to not getting what I want 🙂

Interestingly, if they were to be starting school back home, I was much less concerned whether they would be together or not as there’s about a dozen kids from their daycare centre attending our local primary school and they would have had friends in their class regardless. I guess that just proves why the best policy is a flexible one that needs annual reviews.

We’ll see in two weeks how it goes, look out for some starting school photos in early September!

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Moving to the US – part 3, Boston!

After a great weekend in Legoland, we caught a red eye from LAX to Boston. Leaving at 930 at night wasn’t too bad and because we were really early to the airport we were allocated row 4.

The pilots were lovely and let the kids have a look around the cockpit and gave them a badge. Brought back memories of when I was a kid flying back to NZ, we loved going up to the cockpit and seeing all those buttons.

Unfortunately when we sat down there was a man on the row in front of us who shooshed the kids as soon as we got on. Not necessary. I had to comment – ‘don’t worry, they’ll be fine they’ll sleep on the plane.’ Of course this didn’t happen.

Having been used to the skycouches on the way over, it was a noticeable difference in the seat depth on a normal seat. Woo and Hutch can sleep sitting up fairly well, Skets tried his hardest with his sister lying all over him and wriggling constantly. Unfortunately for me and the man in front, every time Meema moved she grizzled. And that was every 15 minutes or so. I didn’t get a lot of sleep and neither did the man in front probably.

We arrived, scoffed blueberry muffins and caught a maxi taxi to our house. Our driver was lovely, gave us a running commentary of the areas we were going through and dropped us off around 7am.

The house is great, a three storey townhouse fully furnished. I mean fully, there is everything here we could ever need. We were told to eat what ever was in the pantry and to make ourselves at home. A trip to the supermarket was required, the fruit here is very cheap – $10 a kilo for blueberries! It’s been lovely to get summer fruits in August, and having berries on my cereal is very decadent. I haven’t been able to find any cordial anywhere so our usual Lemon Lime and Bitters has had to be adapted and yoghurt is 90% low or no fat. There does seem to be high sugar content in everything, even the garlic salt that was already here has sugar in it. I’m sticking to the as fresh as possible plan and hopefully we can keep the sugar intake low.

We’re sticking to a fairly tight budget while were here, $100 per day. I’ve downloaded an app to track our spending and I’m pleased to say at the end of week one we’re spot on where we should be.

We’ve spent the first week checking out the local area. Having chosen not to buy a car we walk everywhere and can navigate the T (subway) pretty easily now. Hutch commented today that we are living really healthily, lots of walking, green smoothies and spending time at the park. A dad today wandered over to see what exactly that ball was when he saw our footy lying in the playground 🙂

We have been over to Harvard in Cambridge for Hutch to register, a lovely man overheard us on the T saying we needed to buy the kids shoes and he told us where to go. We ended up at Sears and bought three pairs of kids shoes for $26! Phones are organised, bank accounts opened and the kids enrolled at school. The kids have to take their lunches so I am now getting my head around what they will be eating, the allergy rates seem a lot lower so I’m expecting the request of peanut butter sandwiches – seems bizarre to be allowed to take them to school as we’ve been so indoctrinated back home that nuts are banned.

When meeting with the principal I asked if the kids have to wear hats outside and he didn’t fully understand my question, then laughed when he realised I was talking about sun protection. The kids haven’t worn sunscreen since california and we’ve been outside for hours each day in mid 20s weather and there is no sign of sunburn. I think they have the opposite problem that the kids have vitamin D deficiency in the winter because there’s not enough time spent outside.

I’m really looking forward to getting school started, it will hopefully be a great chance to meet some other families and get our routine established.

Moving to the US – part 2 Legoland

We arrived at Legoland around 7 o’clock with three hungry and hot kids. They’d snoozed in the car, but it had been a long journey and they were over travelling. As were we! We’d been given token directions to the hotel, i.e. get off the Interstate 5 at the Palomar Airport exit, but nothing more than that and there weren’t any signposts. For anyone reading who might be going, you need to turn left off the interstate, not right like we did.

We pulled up at the hotel entrance and Woo was suitably excited, but Skets burst in to tears. Poor boy, he was so hot and hungry and not as much of a fan of Lego as his brother.  We’d kept it all as a surprise so I had to manage him a bit and talk up the water slides etc. Once we got to our room which was themed as ‘Kingdom‘ so had knights and castles and cool shields.

We headed straight to dinner, which is a full buffet, with kid specific bain maries. A reasonable range of food including the usual spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese. There was also a mexican stand, roast, pasta, salad and dessert bar. With the obligatory soft serve machine the kids were in heaven! Oddly you had to ask a waitress for a glass of cold water, but apart from that it was just what we needed. Kids under 3 go free so poor Meema had to cope with us saying she was nearly three everywhere we went. She wasn’t happy about that at all!

Everyone slept really well both nights we were there, I think being out all day in the sunshine helps with getting acclimatised, and the flight over was mostly night time so the jet lag wasn’t bad.

We spent the first day on the left side of the park, going through the junior driving school, up in the Sky Patrol (stationary) helicopters and the Splash Battle. It was hot and our kids aren’t great at walking so we rented a stroller for $11. Well worth it, definitely saved us carrying Miss M. A friend had warned me to wear our bathers as some of the rides you get very wet and I’m glad we took her advice.  At the back of the park is the Water Park. You have to pay extra to get in which we did as part of our accommodation package and do need to pay $3 for the under 3s and the queue was massive. Saying all that though, we spent a good three hours there, with the kids very happily playing in the pools and on the water slides. Hutch took the boys up onto a bigger water slide and they loved it. They were tall enough to go down the rest on their own; poor Hutch was hoping he’d be needed for a few more years on water slides, but it was great to see the boys wanting to spend time together and racing off to go down again. Hilariously, the pool was closed for floaties (of the stinky kind) twice.  Yuck!

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Back to the hotel pool for the end of the day for more swimming, and an early meal and bed.

On Sunday we tried to get up early and use the priority queue for hotel guests, but again were too slow off the mark. The boys were desperate to go on a roller coaster that we’d said no to the day before because the queues were too long and of course when we got there on day 2 the line was even longer. Luckily there was a sandpit next door for Meema and I to hang out in while the boys waited. I was a bit nervous for them, I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters, but they loved it! I see a trip to the Gold Coast in the future, well, the next 5 years.

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This time I hired a double stroller which took me back to the days when the boys were small, that was $17 dollars I think and they all squished on at various stages. We went right in the park after the roller coaster and saw the Star Wars X-Wing model which had 5 million pieces in it. Fairly impressive.

Star Wars X-Wing

The boys then spent some time in the construction zone, building cars to race against other down a short track. I think I could have left them all there for at least an hour, but M and I were ready to go. This side of the park was geared to older kids with some bigger roller coasters, so we wandered through and had some ribs and chicken for lunch. The food options weren’t great, everything came with fries and a soft drink, but I guess that’s fairly standard for theme parks. The kids had a great time in the massive Hideaways fort, it was huge and gave them a chance to run around in the shade and for Hutch and I to chill for a few minutes. We ended up at the Pirates Reef, a splashdown rollercoaster in which you were guaranteed to get soaked. Of course we all went on and realised afterwards that perhaps it was a bit much for a three year old. whoops. She’s ok though. The rides were all clearly marked with the height restrictions and did have fairly long queues but they moved quickly and the kids didn’t mind too much.

The kids had some birthday money we said they could spend in the shop on the way out. needless to say, Woo suffered from buyer’s remorse and ruined the family photo on our departure. You may see him as extra elbows by Skets’ head below. Oh well, a funny story for later.

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We left for our drive back to LAX giving ourselves plenty of time after the bad experience picking up the car, and had a relaxed arrival at the airport ready for our red eye flight to Boston.

Moving to the US – part 1, the flight over

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Moving house and moving overseas is full on. I’m so glad we outsourced most of the cleaning, that we had my parents to stay with for a few days and that we had factored a couple of bonus days into the schedule in case things went wrong. Nothing did so we got to chill out before the flight.

We’d lived in our house for 6 years so there was a fair amount of stuff that needed to be thrown out especially as we’re through the baby phase. I’m much more ruthless than Hutch but he did comment at one stage as he was adding to the fourth charity box that next time he wants to keep something ‘for later’ I’m allowed to remind him of moving. I’d done a lot of the packing and a couple of very good friends came over to help with the last ditch fill of boxes on Sunday while Hutch was at work. Movers came through on Monday and of course there was a mad scramble to pack the last few as they loaded the van. The bigger of the two removalists didn’t speak a lot of English and as we were getting to the final couple of boxes he asked Hutch, ‘where is the big TV?’
Hutch said “this is it’ and pointed to our cather ray tube type TV, nothing fancy in our house. The removalist was quite confused. I’ve been wanting an upgrade for ages but this trip and Hutch’s frugalness has prevented us getting a decent TV. At least he can laugh at himself for being tight!

Final clean was on Tuesday and I realised too late in the day that the tip was closed and we had a ute full of stuff to get rid of. I’d done about six hours in the garden weeding etc so was knackered and went off to pick up the boys from kinder and drive down to Mum and Dad’s. I promised to come back the next morning to get the last lot of bits and pieces before we handed back the keys. Hutch was a bit late back that night and I asked him what was there left to do.
‘Nothing’ he said.
‘What do you mean, where’s all our stuff, the front porch was full?”
It was bin night, so he managed to fit a ute full of rubbish in our neighbours’ bins, then filled the ute up with our things to keep and came back.
I was over the moon at not having to go back to Melbourne (Mum and Dad live about an hour’s drive from us) the next day, he couldn’t have made me any happier.

So for the next two days we did wash after wash after wash and juggled suitcases’ capacities.
We ended up with 13 bags; five checked in and eight carry on. Pretty good for a family of five moving overseas for a year, but a definite pain to lug around.

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The flight from Melbourne to Auckland was fairly uneventful, Hutch’s headset port didn’t work so he moved half a dozen seats in front. The kids were just excited to be allowed to watch TV the whole time. They had all sorts of activities to keep them occupied that a gorgeous friend put together as a farewell present, but they only came into play in the airports and were sorely needed then! I’d bought everyone neck pillows (don’t bother, not very comfy and they take up room in bags), headphones ($8 each from Kmart for the kids, I got myself good ones online) but the most useful gadget was an airline port which plugs into the two pronged airline jack and you can plug normal headphones into it (about $7 from Dick Smith or JB HiFi).

After a couple of movies it was an hour or so in Auckland airport running off some energy before we boarded the long leg. We booked two skycouches so had six seats between the five of us. Our flight was at 7pm NZ time so 5pm in Melbourne so the kids could watch another movie before we tried to get them to sleep. The skycouches were fantastic. The footrests lock into position level with the seat so you get an extra 30 or so cms to relax with. Sitting cross legged was comfortable, as was stretching out sideways. We were also given an underlay, pillows and a blanket each, as well as special ‘cuddle’ seatbelts so you could be safely belted without lying on buckles. I could lie down with Skets and slept quite well, Hutch sat up next to Woo and Meema which wasn’t so great but the kids at least got nearly a full night’s sleep. I would definitely choose Air New Zealand again for the use of the skycouches, even with the cost involved. The flight attendants were all lovely, the kids meals on both flights came out before the adults’ and were impressive, not that my fussy kids could see past the choccy provided 🙂

We’d been warned about getting through LAX but it actually wasn’t that bad. The queue was long but moved ok and the luggage was waiting on the carousel when we got through. We then went to pick up our hire car for the trip to Legoland, which is about an hour and a half south of LAX. We arrived at the pick up place feeling hot and a little stinky after a long flight, went inside and the queue to collect keys was nearly out the door. A two hour wait with no updates, no apologies and when Hutch finally got to the front desk he was told that they didn’t have the car we had booked – and paid for – available and we had to upgrade to a minivan for an extra $60 per day. Not thrilled to say the least. Apparently it’s always like that, and appeared no different when we went and dropped the car off two days later. I’ve told our travel agent about it and hope no one has to repeat our experience.

We then joined the LA peak hour traffic south to Legoland and after two hours arrived to tears and awesomeness… more on that next time.

It’s 30 degrees in LA and 28 in Boston!

As I sit in our study, right near the heater, listening to fighting children and surrounded by boxes, I’m holding on to today’s weather forecast for LA and Boston; 30 and 28 degrees. This time in two weeks we’ll be getting settled into our new adventure, we would have had our weekend at Legoland and will be checking out the school and parks. Still feels very strange that we’re going, and I don’t think it will feel real until most of the people we talk to have American accents.

Hutch has deferred his PhD, it’s not finished and it won’t be submitted before we go. I’m actually more relieved that disappointed, at least now it can be put to one side and his focus and energy can be helping get this house packed up and ready to go. My biggest concern was that I’d be doing it all myself while he was still staring at a computer screen trying to get the last bits completed so now that shouldn’t happen.

We had a lovely farewell over the weekend, I’ve finished up work and I packed 10 boxes yesterday but there still seems a long way to go. Our friends have been amazing, taking kids, offering to help pack and providing meals and I hope when we get home we’re able to return the favour.

This time next week I’ll be giving back the keys and saying good bye to this fantastic house. One door has nearly closed, and an amazing one is about to open.