Boston marathon

We weren’t in Boston last year for the marathon so I’ve never felt it was my place to get on board with the Boston strong tag line. Today though I was excited to be part of the day. To be honest, you kind of have to, the city is pretty much shut down.

We wandered up to Beacon Street which was the 24mile mark. The sky was blue and full of helicopters, police everywhere and it felt really safe. Now I’m no runner, but my friend Tina has taught me how important it is to cheer for the participants, so with Aussie and American flags in hand we found a spot on the railing.

We cheered and cheered and cheered. Well I did, the kids got bored quite quickly. I *think* we saw a friend of my parents, if not a random guy was encouraged quite loudly. Every Aussie that ran past got an extra ‘go Aussie’ and I even saw someone wearing a essendon footy top and he managed a high fist pump when he heard me.

I was so proud of all the runners, a marathon is not on my to do list at all and I hope that the crowd support helped them along. All I know is that if I was in a race half way around the world it would give me a bit of a boost hearing someone from home and I’d run that little bit further and little bit faster.

Well done to every participant, just by competing you’ve done so brilliantly.

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Chicago

Taking full advantage of having in laws staying, Hutch and I escaped to Chicago for a mini break sans kids. It’s the first time he’s had away from them since we got to the US, I’ve disappeared a couple of times to NYC, but no real time out together in over a year. It was a toss up between Chicago and Montreal. I was keen on Canada, but Hutch had googled Michelin star restaurants and there are plenty in Chicago. Flights were cheap, we used Expedia and paid $380 return for both of us, and we found a lovely studio on Air b’n’b that was a steal! I left it to Hutch to plan the restaurants but vetoed Alinea, three stars it may be, but way too expensive.

We checked in online on Thursday night and the website said there was a possibility that the flight was overbooked and would we be interested in volunteering to take a later flight, compensation would be provided? I figured that we weren’t in a hurry, and that there were probably other people who needed to get to Chicago quicker than we did. When we got to the airport we were bumped, given hundreds of dollars in compo vouchers and access to the United lounge. Happy days! Hutch got to watch a replay of the Bombers game against the Hawks, and we ended up leaving at 930.

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Dinner on Friday night was at Sixteen on the 16th floor of the Trump Tower and Hotel. It’s got 2 Michelin stars and is fancy. Lots and lots of waiting staff, a set nine course menu with two themes; Day or Night. The day menu focusses on the springtime, new growth and fresh flavours, the night menu focusses on things that grow without light, and has more of a seafood bent. We chose the Day menu, and it was very entertaining.

 

My favourite flavoured courses were the first, ‘The Rising Sun’ was cured salmon, kumquat, haricot vert, lemongrass chantilly and osetra caviar, and the last ‘May Flowers’ huckleberry filled goat cheese mousse, with almond financier and mountain mint ice cream.

The most entertaining was ‘Melting Snow’ which involved a mushroom tea being brought to our table, heated with a small gas flame and the liquid was sucked into a top chamber to be flavoured by nasturtium and other greenery. On cooling it flowed back into the bottom chamber and was then poured over a hollow ball of ice, symbolising the melting snow. It was amazing from a drama point of view, but unfortunately because the hot tea was poured over the cold ice, actually meant the meal was tepid and probably my least favourite taste.

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The view from the 16th floor of the Trump Tower feels as though you aren’t very high within the skyscrapers of Chicago, a great view of the Wrigley building (of chewing gum fame) that has now been taken over by Groupon. Here’s before and after sunset.

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The architecture of Chicago is very interesting, it feels like a really old city, the train system is wooden and badly maintained, and the buildings are a mix of old and new. The great Chicago fire back in the 1870s wiped out over 60% of the CBD so there isn’t much left from before that time. There seems to have been lots of building done in the last 20 years and most of them are lovely.

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Saturday we didn’t have a reservation anywhere and after the hammering of the wallet on Friday night, it was probably a good thing. The apartment we were staying in was in Old Town, a few train stops north of the CBD, just near Lincoln Park. We wandered around to the International Museum of Surgical Science and spent an hour or so there, I think I was more keen than Hutch. It had a variety of examples of surgical techniques over the ages, along with some statues of important figures in medical history.

It was freezing on Saturday, about 2 degrees and low visibility. A walk down The Magnificent Mile (also known as North Michigan St) to Eataly for some lunch was about all we could manage. Eataly Chicago is just as good as Eataly NYC, think David Jones Food Hall on steroids, and only focussed on Italian food. We shared a plate of cheese and cured meats and I restrained myself from buying anything.

A short train ride took us to the Art Institute of Chicago. (Just as an aside, the train system is a bit weird, the stations are named for the streets they are on, so there are two Harlem Stations on the Blue line in very different parts of town. There are duplicates on other lines too as well as another Harlem station on the Green line. The city loop runs mostly aboveground on an old system. We quite liked the bus.)

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The Art institute is amazing. If you go, enter from Monroe st, the queues are much shorter and you get straight in to the modern section. We stuck to the art from 1900 onwards and that took us ages. It’s a fantastic collection even with the European section being closed. American Gothic is a great piece, there are lots of Georgia O’Keeffe who I’ve seen in other galleries, but she and her husband Alfred Steiglitz donated quite a bit, so it’s a comprehensive display of their work and collection. A little bit of Warhol, some Pollock, some de Kooning, a lonely Lichtenstein, brilliant. I’d have it in my top galleries in the world.

Saturday night was very low key, dinner in the Old Town and an early night.

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On Sunday we woke to a glorious day, well 11 degrees and clear skies, so we were very happy. A mile or so walk through Lincoln Park, past the zoo and up to North Pond, our brunch destination. It’s still very heavy density a few miles north of the business district, the apartment buildings are massive, probably taking advantage of the view of Lake Michigan. We noticed lots of car parking buildings and lots around the city, it seems the public transport isn’t reliable enough for people to commute in by rail or bus. With a population of around 10mil in Chicago and surrounds it’s a big city with some challenges.

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After a gorgeous brunch, we caught the bus downtown to join a river and lake cruise. Hutch got fleeced by a shoe shine guy, his lovely brown shoes were polished up nicely, ‘obligation free’ until the end when he was told it was $8 a shoe! I only had a $20 and handed it over way too quickly. After some heated discussion we walked away with $9 change, total rip off.

The river cruise was 90 minutes and the commentator was impressive, she spoke for at least 75 minutes and has a head full of facts and figures. Did you know it’s not called the Sears Tower anymore, it’s the Willis Tower? Naming rights go to the largest tenant. They have also reversed the flow of the Chicago river so the waste water goes down to the Gulf of Mexico. The lock that’s been built to make it all happen has to report to Michigan and Wisconsin every day notifying them of how much water they are taking out of the lake. It seemed quite contentious, a little bit dodgy and a lot of lawyer fees to get approval to change the river. Unfortunately the tap water is fairly gross, very chloriney which seems weird coming from a big lake. The big building in the second photo is Merchandise Mart, so large it used to have its own postcode.

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Off to the Museum of Contemporary Art after that which was much smaller than I expected. It’s supposed to be Chicago’s answer to MOMA but is nowhere near the scale.

Dinner on Sunday night was at Sepia, a one star restaurant than Hutch picked because he liked the website. Again a tasting menu with paired wines, lovely ambiance, dark with big light fittings and brown tones. Fresh flavours with peas featuring, not quite as fancy as Sixteen, but some tasty wine that was very well matched to the food.

Back to the apartment to bed before an early flight back to Boston. A few dramas there, American Airlines won’t let you store more than one boarding pass on your phone so we didn’t have one for Hutch and we arrived as boarding was commencing, a sprint to the gate after pushing to the front of the line at security, and we were allowed on the plane one minute before they drew back the air bridge. Oh and I left my passport in Chicago.

Most cities aren’t at their best at the end of the winter, snow has melted and the springtime isn’t in full bloom. Chicago is an interesting city, one that is great for foodies and with a bit of local knowledge would be a happy place for families too.

 

Perceptions

Before we moved to the US there were quite a few negative opinions of America when we told people we were going away. A lack of gun control, no universal healthcare, tipping. Most people would say they loved parts of the country; New York, Las Vegas, Disneyland, but that they weren’t necessarily fond of the people. Visions of brash overweight Americans wearing visors and bum bags, Presidents like GW Bush who didn’t have a passport until he gained office, people who had no idea of global geography.

Now we’ve been here a couple of months I feel I can confidently say that for all those stereotypes, there are a hundred more reasons to enjoy this place. The people are truly friendly; from school parents to shop assistants, everyone is happy to help out, talk to you and engage in the interaction. The landscape is beautiful, Melbourne could get some tips from the Boston Public Transport system (it actually works across buses and trains). Yes they have massive problems with gun control, but universal healthcare is slowly coming in, Obamacare seems to be making a difference. The state of Vermont has implemented a program that covers everyone – yes universal healthcare – and on initial budgetary projections looks to save the state millions of dollars. Tipping I am getting used to, and although I don’t agree with it, am comfortable not punishing the staff that are getting so poorly paid by trying to prove a point. It seems like Obama is actually getting somewhere. A huge advantage that he’s not up for re-election so can actually get on with the job, but he has to fight with Congress every step of the way.

I’ve been following the Australian political scene a little bit since being away and you know what? There are plenty of reasons not to be proud of our country. Our treatment of asylum seekers, the life expectancy of the Aboriginal community, and a government who continue to embarrass us all in their lack of integrity. I read today that Minister Pyne has thrown out the Gonski report, without any great explanation. Why? Just because Labour thought of it? We need political leaders that are prepared to see beyond themselves and identify what is best for humanity, regardless of where the ideas come from, and be proud to look back at the next election and be able to honestly say they made Australia and the world a better place to live. Australians are happy people, and should be strive to be open minded, inclusive and willing to help those who need a hand no matter where they come from.

Yoo Nork

I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in New York, (or Yoo Nork if you ask Meema) with a friend from back home, TP. She and her family have been travelling around the US for a couple of months and planned to come and stay with us at the end of October. She and Hutch organised to send me to NY on the train while Pato and the kids came up to Boston to have a dads and kids weekend. Hutch is not great at keeping secrets from me, and accidentally sent me the Amtrak reservation a week before we were due to leave. Whoops. I was happy to know in advance, it meant I could spend the week getting excited about 48 hours kid free time in a most amazing city.

TP is a very organised person so by the time I got to Penn Station she’d booked dinner for both nights and brunch on Saturday. I must say it made things so much easier not having to decide what to do.

Friday night we wandered up to the Met in Central Park to go up to the rooftop and look over the city. Did you know you don’t actually have to pay the $25 entrance fee to the Met if you say you’re going up to the rooftop? We made a very small donation and took our time going up to the top floor. Unfortunately the bar was shut but the view was still spectacular. If only I had a decent camera and actually had some skill in photography I’d have a great shot to show you.

TP had some new shoes on, bought in a bit of a hurry which turned out to be were way too big so we took our time strolling down 5th Avenue to Tao for dinner. Vibe was amazing. A busy friday night, loud music, huge restaurant and great food. It’s asian fusion, so a little bit of this and a little bit of that. TP had the Ginger scallion broth with kobe beef that came with its own hot stone and candle so we could dip the beef in the broth to cook it lightly, fondue style. I finished off with the biggest fortune cookie I’ve ever seen, filled with dark and white chocolate mousse.

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We crashed pretty quickly, both enjoying having a bed to ourselves with no small people needing a cuddle in the middle of the night.

Brunch the next morning was at Pastis, in the meatpacking district. Think busy French Bistro in a funky part of town. With much better shoes we decided we needed to walk off a big eggy meal so we wandered across the Highline, an old freight railway track that runs down the east side of Manhattan about four storeys above ground. I had my first celebrity spotting moment when I saw Emily Mortimer, an English actress currently starring in The Newsroom. I heard her before I saw her, the accent stood out a mile. Back across town to ground zero which was understandably busy with other tourists. The Freedom Tower is nearly done but the rest of the development is still a few years away. I left New York on September 9 2001 and was at the top of the twin towers on the 8th. I remember seeing the towers go down on TV and feeling so lucky that I’d left the USA. TP and Pato were living in NYC at the time of the attack and knew people who were affected, it really doesn’t seem that long ago. I don’t know if I’d want to work in that building, it seems like it’s tempting fate a little.

After ground zero we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, the day was cold and windy but sunny and the view of Manhattan from Brooklyn is pretty good. We’d been talking solidly the whole day, TP and I have known each other since our sons were born, so we filled in the pre-kids stuff, you know, what we did in our twenties, how we got engaged, married and all that jazz. That kind of conversation doesn’t really happen when you’re pushing kids on a swing, or making sure they’re not running onto a road.

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Catching the subway back to Manhattan we had the obligatory visit to Victoria’s Secret, half an hour shopping was enough for both of us. Dinner that night was early – 6pm  – so we headed straight to La Esquina in Little Italy. First impressions were not great. It looks like a diner attached to a building, a few bar stools and a taco truck type kitchen. TP had been recommended it by a few people so was a little confused that it had come so highly regarded. We were told to queue by the door and wait.

So we did.

At 6 on the dot an internal door opened and a harried looking lady with a walkie talkie greeted us and ticked us off her list. We were sent down stairs, through the kitchen where we saw the chefs mincing meat and prepping for the night’s service. Handing our belongings in at the coat room we were directed around another corner and came out in an underground cave. I’m not sure if it’s an old subway tunnel or sewer but it’s amazing. A fantastic bar with a million types of tequila, and seating below a row of corona buckets suspended from the ceiling. We left the ordering of our food to the waiter and shared five different meals. I must say the food wasn’t brilliant, quite a few of the dishes felt like they’d been in the fridge too long and what should have been room temperature was a little too cold. Saying that, as far as a cool New York experience goes it was impressive.

Because we’d had such an early reservation we were done by 730 and TP had one more place to show me. Off to Pravda we went. A Russian vodka bar, beneath Lafayette St. Barely sign posted, with a red light at the top of a staircase you had to know what you were looking for. A few cocktails here, we stayed a few hours trying a variety of flavours (I don’t recommend the horseradish vodka) and we stumbled above ground in a very jovial mood. (Can I just interrupt for a moment, both Tao and Pravda try to be tricky in their bathrooms, Tao is marked Yin and Yang and Pravda is written in Russian. How’s a girl to know which one to use???)

The Red Sox were playing in the World Series finals, not something to be mentioned in Yankee town but I was keen to know the score. We got back to the hotel and saw the last five minutes of the game and fell into a slumber. I woke up the next morning regretting not having a glass of water by my bed and quite a manly voice which cleared up after the first coffee.

Sunday’s plan was fairly fluid, a late breakfast and a wander up to MOMA before catching the train back to Boston. MOMA didn’t thrill me this time and I’m a big fan of modern art, it was just a bit too full of interpretive dance and art critic wankery. My last visit five years ago was much better. I do like a bit of Lichtenstein though.

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We sat very happily on the train with Kindles and devices in hand and occasionally looked out the window to see the gorgeous country side.  Autumn is truly a glorious time of year to be in the North East.

The dads had a great weekend, we were all glad to be back together and get ready for the excitement of Halloween.

Blending in

We’ve been here over two months now and we’re definitely settling in. Hutch and I are currently sitting in bed watching the first game of the World Series Baseball, a game I never would have watched back home. Given that the Red Sox are in the World Series we obviously have more of an interest when the game is being played about a 10 minute walk away. I now know what a baseball grand slam means, what a switch hitter is (someone who bats left and right handed) and that the players who are just on the roster are getting paid $500k pa – the good guys are getting $21m!!! They play a lot though, six or so games a week so lots and lots of travelling, and you have to have nerves of steel, it feels that sometimes it’s like a game of chicken between the pitcher and the batter. The good stuff seems to happen towards the end of the games, which can last 4 hours, so I’m expecting a few late nights this week – games don’t start until 8pm.

I had a bit of a revelation in the shower the other day, I can now understand why some Americans don’t see the need to go overseas. This country is so big with so many things to see and so many cultures within this one nation that you could travel every year domestically and still have a totally different experience. Having said that, of course there is huge benefit in getting a passport but I think I get it a bit better now.

Hutch is coming into final exams, already. He’s still loving the study and is doing really well. I haven’t seen his timetable for next term yet, I hope it is similar to this one, it worked out perfectly with the boys’ school routine.

Skets has turned into a little American, the Aussie accent is fading as he strives to fit in. As expected, Woo is taking a little longer to settle, he’s happy in his own company but had a tough day last week and I wonder if that has affected his friendships.

Meema is introducing herself to every dog that goes past, along with anyone else that looks interesting. I must credit her with all our friends here, it’s through her going up to random people that we’ve established our network. She has also realised that there are big boys (aged around 12) who will happily chase her across the field as she giggles and looks back over her shoulder. God help me when she’s 15!

I am the luckiest girl in the world, I’m off to New York for the weekend, Hutch organised for me to meet a friend on Friday for a girlie weekend, kid free for both of us. Two nights away from the family, while the Dads hold the fort here in Boston. I can’t wait! I’ll make sure I take lots of photos, that is if I remember. Is it wrong to take a middle sized suitcase for two days, just so there’s room for shopping?

Exploring the countryside

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Last weekend we decided to explore New Hampshire, about two hours drive north of here (if you know where you’re going) to see the gorgeous colours of the changing Autumn leaves.

We found a much better car hire place than we had in LA, and they even pick you up if you need them to. Good service offering if you ask me. We hit the road about 230 on Friday afternoon, Hutch’s last class for the week was cancelled and the boys finish school at 140 so we thought we’d head straight out of town. Of course, with me navigating on a phone rather than with a GPS, meant we went the scenic way through Cambridge, instead of straight onto the interstate, and the traffic was quite heavy so it took a little longer than we thought.

We had a plan for a few activities, but nothing set in stone so we waited to see what the weather was going to do before we committed to anything. The kids are at quite a good age in that they go along with our ideas, no teenage eye rolling yet, they are happy so long as they’ve got full tummies and a little bit of Gorillaz and Gotye to listen to.

Saturday morning we decided to check out a ropes course about 10 min drive from where we were staying in Laconia. I always like the idea of ropes courses, I loved them in high school and quite enjoy the zip lines (flying foxes). Meema was too small to go, so Hutch stayed with her while the boys went through the kids’ course and I navigated the adults’. The boys got the knack of the safety really quickly, six point harnesses and two ‘monkey paws’ that had to be attached to the lines at all times. They hooned around their course very happily, with some lovely team work along the way, finishing off with a little zip line at the end.

I could see all this happening because I got up to the top of the course at the beginning of a zip line and had to ‘rest’. I sat there for quite a while, way too long really cos I couldn’t convince myself to step off the edge and go. The top platform was about four storeys up, attached to a pole which swayed a little as people tugged on the lines. The course staff ended up coming up to check on me. We had a lovely chat, (turns out he’s a twin who works with his brother and they’re very close, I found out quite a bit, anything to distract me from what I had to do) and he gave me the sensible advice of looking up not down. I was quite happy with that, I trusted the monkey paws to hold me up, I just didn’t like the stepping over the edge part. Choice sucks really, I mean I’ve jumped out of an aeroplane before and LOVED it, but then I was attached to someone who wasn’t going to kill himself so it was much easier. This time I just had to distract my brain and latch onto something that made sense. So I wriggled to the edge of the platform on my bottom, looked to the sky and slipped off. It was a lovely ride, over a pond and came in gently to the other side where I had to do it over again. Was much easier the second time once I knew what I had to do.

I never used to be afraid of heights and there really hasn’t been an occasion for me to develop one, but it seems here to stay as I had the same issue back in January with Tough Mudder.

We did some more touristy things and went back to our accommodation where Hutch and the kids spent the late afternoon in the indoor pool, with two little waterslides.

On Sunday morning it was very drizzly (or sprinkly as they call it here) so we set off for home via Walmart (they don’t have a Walmart in Boston, apparently the wages are really bad or something) and a short walk through the state park which was luckily not affected by the government shutdown. The boys had to collect Fall specimens for school so we gathered a bag full of pine cones, acorns and leaves for them to take home.

Another stop at LLBean for some winter clothes, Meema looks way too cute in a snow suit, and we hit the interstate and were home very quickly.

We were supposed to have a block party that afternoon but it was bucketing so we thought it would be called off. It was for most people, but our new friends from Sydney and one of the boys’ classmates had pulled out the BBQ and were having a party anyway, so we took the scooters, umbrellas and some beers and let the kids cruise around and we had a very relaxing end to the weekend.

It was quite a different weekend than what we would have done if it was just the two of us, but we all had a great time and I think that’s mostly because we didn’t try to do too much. In April it’s Maple Syrup harvest in Vermont so we’ll definitely have to go to check that out, and do some tasting!

We are all very happy here, and will definitely do some more weekends away. Hutch is loving learning in an environment broader than medicine and hopes he can share those skills and knowledge through uni when we get home.

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.