Halloween

The boys were so excited it felt like Christmas Eve. They’d been talking about their costumes for weeks and the parade they were having at school. I was not sure what the fuss was about really, it’s not a big deal back home, but so many parents had told me that the kids were going to have such a brilliant time I was a little intrigued.

Because we had friends staying who could watch Meema I was able to go into school and help the kids get their costumes on for the parade. About six mums came in to help with lots of giggling and excitement. All classes up to fourth grade get dressed up, and the kinder and first graders do a lap of the oval while the bigger kids cheer them on. Add proud parents to that and there are quite a few people in the crowd.

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In the boys’ class there were ninjas, supergirls, turtles, genies, vampires, sharks, crayons and princesses. The teachers went as scrabble pieces that were supposed to spell out a word, but I never figured out what it was. A quick change and then home to wait until it was time to go trick or treating. Trying to fill kids’ tummies with something vaguely nutritious before we went out was challenging, and about 6 o’clock we were ready to hit the road. A big difference in Halloween here and back home is that by 6 o’clock here the sun has set and it’s dark. Adds a lot to the atmosphere of the night. We popped into our neighbours place who made us yell ‘trick or ‘treat’ before he’d give us anything, then through the neighbourhood. Most people were sitting on their front porch so we knew they were participating, other houses without pumpkins or decorations were bypassed. We’d been told by quite a few people to check out one particular street which is blocked off to traffic especially for Halloween. It was crazy busy. Lots of families, some older kids who I would have thought may have grown out of it, but no. By this stage we told the kids we were just looking at the lights as their lolly buckets were getting full, and the lights were amazing. For those readers in Melbourne, it was like going to Ivanhoe at Christmas time, families had put in a huge amount of effort; remote control bats, animatronic skeletons with scary music, pvc pipes that delivered sweets from the top floor window into bowls on the footpath.

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We walked for about an hour, saw friends from school and the playground and felt really part of the community. Lots of the people around here are new to the area so it was their first Halloween too, and we were all very impressed.

By the time we got home Hutch had nearly run out of lollies to give away – probably 250 pieces – and our street isn’t particularly busy.

Skets still has some left, Meema has been caught twice eating her brothers’ supplies and Woo has started giving his away. Hutch has been very good at resisting helping himself, I just tell the kids if they want two then they have to give me one 🙂

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.

Brookline Day

Last weekend I woke up to the sound of a major storm. Normally not an issue, but three boys had signed up for a fun run at 9am on Sunday. The event was being run at Larz Anderson Park, not easy to get to with public transport so I thought we’d catch a cab to get there, then the shuttle bus back home. We got ourselves organised, packing a change of clothes just in case. Our taxi driver ripped us off; turning back after a wrong turn and going quite a convoluted way. Annoying, but not the end of the world. We were dropped off at the wrong part of the park (our fault, not the driver’s) so had to walk quite quickly to get to the start line for the kids’ race.

I rushed to get the bib numbers but wasn’t quite fast enough and the starter’s gun went. Woo shot off, ready to race but Skets got stage fright and refused to run. Poor Hutch who was in the adults race after that, jogged with Meema, who was sure she should be competing too, and then raced off to catch up with Woo once I got to the start. Skets ran off into the trees, quite annoyed with himself I think, and by then Woo had disappeared around the bend. As soon as I saw them coming back I started cheering. A good friend of mine who competes in lots of fun runs has taught me how helpful a good cheer can be for the participants. I must say I was bursting with pride as Woo came down the hill, lots of yelling from me and Meema he came down with a big smile on his face. I gave him a big hug and told him how thrilled I was and how proud, and he went over to talk to Skets and ask why he didn’t join in. Skets was still grumpy so wanted to poke Woo with a stick, and Woo said, “Why didn’t you run? I came last and I don’t care I ran my best, even though I walked a little bit”. How cool can kids be?

We then got ready for Hutch’s race and got our ‘go daddy go’ cheer warmed up as he took off. The route was quite hilly but very picturesque apparently. While he’s was running, the kids got face painting and balloon hats – always fun.

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I set myself up near the finish line, I must say it seemed strange that no one was cheering on the other racers, so I cheered everyone! Hutch came 10th in his age group, happy with that.

We then went to spend the rest of the afternoon at Brookline day, the local festival. The rain had cleared to a gloriously sunny day so we wandered around checking out all the stalls. Two new yoga studios are opening up in the next month so I’ve picked up some brochures from them, the usual police officers, food trucks and six amazing jumping castles all free.

The return shuttle wasn’t great, over 45 minutes late, but it was on an all American yellow school bus 🙂

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Lovely day all round. And I only had to yell about 45 times.

High heels, red lipstick and a glass of sangria

A beep on my phone from one of my Irish friends suggesting drinks on a Saturday night made me smile for about an hour. You know life is good when you feel like you’re settling in, not just observing like a tourist. Hutch decided to stay home and finish some homework so I could have a girls night.

I got dressed up in high heels and bright red lipstick, jammed the earbuds in my ear, cranked up Scissor Sisters and strutted my way to the T station. I’d left plenty of time to get there so I could have a sneaky trip to Sephora on the way in and it was well worth it. I bought a few things and of those that are stocked in Australia, I paid nearly $30 less. It’s crazy how much more  expensive makeup is back home and Sephora doesn’t ship internationally.

A lovely stroll to the spanish bar where we were all meeting was really rejuvenating, time on my own, good tunes in my ear and generally feeling more than a mother who screeches at her kids to stop fighting or to leave her alone.

A dodgy photo of the walk I took – iphones aren’t great at night time shots. It was about 18 degrees at 9pm, perfect. It didn’t even occur to me to take a selfie all dressed up, clearly I’m too old!

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There ended up being about 15 people at the bar that I met, I was the only Australian in a crowd of Irish (what’s the collective noun for Irish I wonder?) and it was great fun. Drinks on a saturday night? I’ll do that again for sure.

Who gets the sleep in when you’re both hungover?

A couple of weeks ago we met a family with an Australian mum and a Spanish dad. She approached Hutch in the playground after seeing him kicking a footy with Skets. She’s lovely, and it turns out they live really close by, so we strolled to their place on Friday night for pizzas and wine. Three kids very similar in age to ours meant we only had to referee dramas a couple of times, other than that the grown ups happily chatted in the kitchen. I may have polished off the better part of a bottle of wine but in the new world of parenting, we were home by 9pm.

Unfortunately both Hutch and I woke up on Saturday feeling a little dusty and those are always the days when the kids are just a little annoying aren’t they?

We eventually left the house with the sole mission of getting a coffee from the only place that knows how to do a good latte, 4A coffee. Woo annoyingly has become fussier and fussier, food he would eat on arrival in the US are now off the list, he doesn’t like soft tacos, only hard, and he’s so determined he’d rather go without than even try something really plain. It’s quite frustrating as you know that within an hour he’ll be crying because he’s hungry, but he’s not to be negotiated with when he’s set his mind to something.

A bit of a wander further along the street took us to a TJ Maxx store, kind of a clearance place for last year’s fashion and some budget items. We spent about 20 minutes around the Halloween costume rack and finally decided on one and they had great fun trying it all out. I’ll post pics in October. School does a halloween dress up apparently and the neighbours have told me there are streets around here that people drive to because it’s so good. I still haven’t decided if I’ll dress up too, or just stay home and give out the lollies. Did you know toffee isn’t a word in the American vernacular? I made some for the school picnic a week ago and didn’t know what to call them, sticky candy? Taffy? Oh well they sold out 🙂

The song that lasts forever

A long long time ago before Hutch and I got together, one of the few things I wanted for my wedding was the song ‘Even when I’m sleeping’ by Leonardo’s Bride. It’s a beautiful song and one that I’ll never tire of. It didn’t make the final cut as we ended up having a flute trio so the song slipped off my radar for a good few years.

Before we came to the US, I used to have a day a week at home with Woo. With the childcare juggle it worked out that he and I would spend Fridays together and I really enjoyed his company. He’s very happy in his own space and we’d do the usual errands, he’d build some Lego and I’d get some work done.

Occasionally I’d throw the iPod on shuffle and one day this song came on. I asked Woo to dance with me, and for once he agreed. It was such a snapshot moment as I realised the love I had for this song and the potential it had to demonstrate that love for Hutch during our wedding, was even more applicable for the kids. Everyone knows that even after the hardest day, looking at sleeping babies makes it all worth while. Even though the lyrics refer to loving someone when I’m sleeping, they could easily apply to loving you when you’re asleep.

We played it tonight for Skets who was in a grump because Meema went to bed 2 minutes after him… It’s tough being 5, but for him a cuddle with someone he loves is enough to set him right.

First day of school

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This is a day we’ve been waiting for for a long time. I hadn’t anticipated how much Skets would miss having buddies to play with, and three weeks without anyone but his siblings around has meant he’s been quite bored and grumpy. We’ve been counting the sleeps for nearly two weeks and finally we got to start school. A good friend from home is staying with us for a little while and she’s got a very good camera, and I’m so glad such a big moment in the boys’ lives has been captured so beautifully, well apart from trying to get them to smile at the same time.

Woo was trying 'Blue Steel'. Didn't really pull it off.

Woo was trying ‘Blue Steel’. Didn’t really pull it off.

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We dropped them off this morning, a little nervous and excited and that was just Hutch! Woo wasn’t interested in the Lego surprisingly, but wandered around the room looking for something new to do. Skets was happy sitting down to the puzzle table and the colouring in. There were lots of other parents hovering around making sure their cherubs were ok. Liz is brilliant, she’s clearly taught this year level before and was great at helping the kids settle. They have short days (8-12.40) for the first couple of days then normal hours (8-2.30) after that.

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Rookie mum error, I thought because it was a short day that they wouldn’t need lunch. Nup. Lucky we live so close I could drop off a sandwich and some cheese and crackers, most of which came home. Of course.

They had a great day, Skets didn’t want to go home and they’ve both made a new friend, and I’ve got the number of a Boston mom. Win.

 

Finding friends in the playground

I’ve read a few things online about the spectrum of ‘vert’ (I just invented a word – look out Oxford dictionary)! People used to be either an introvert or an extrovert and had personality types and expectations set on them accordingly. Now, you can be an introverted extrovert, or an extroverted introvert. It pretty much comes down to how you recharge your batteries, alone time or with other people. If I were to label myself I’d be an extroverted introvert. I love catching up with my friends, I talk a lot and I think that I’m fairly welcoming to new people to a group. I have a limit though. Too much socialising is hard for me, I need time out to read a book or spend time on my own to reset the balance.

You don’t get much time on your own when you’ve got three kids home all day and a husband studying. We spend a fair amount of the day at the playgrounds around here (pushing the swings is still tedious), the kids love to be outside and Meema is most definitely not shy and will play with anyone.

Knowing we need to meet people and actually putting yourself out there beyond just chatting feels a bit like dating. The asking for phone numbers, wondering if people want to see you again, making sure you’re polite, your breath doesn’t smell, all of that.

We’ve been really lucky so far to meet a couple of lovely friendly Irish mums who have similar aged kids, similar reasons for being here, and similar concerns about finding a tribe. So the baby step of making friends with other expats is going really well, the next challenge is to make friends with some local families too. The boys starting school today, so we’ve got a new families morning tomorrow so we’ll see who we meet then. I may have to have the afternoon in silence to be recharged enough to make the most of it.