Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Long Time Gone


Wow it has been a long time! So much has happened since our last post I don't even know where to start. The long and short is that we are officially residents of the Netherlands now. 

It was definitely a crazy end to our six years in India. Without going into detail in regards to the India-United States drama that transpired, we really couldn't bring ourselves to blog in the final months in India. We loved our time in India, but we are very happy we made the decision to leave when we did.

We moved two adults, twin two and a half year olds, a labrador, seven suitcases, and one hundred and two boxes from New Delhi to Amsterdam. The actual moving was painless thanks to wonderful relocation packages from our employers. 

Our new house is fantastic. We rented with only seeing photos and are very happy with our selection. We are about a fifteen minute walk and a five minute bike ride to work. Also we are only a five minute bike ride away from a giant shopping center, and a massive forest to explore in.

In our first few weeks in the Netherlands we have met several new people and are having a great time. We were greeted with fantastic weather the first week. Lately though we have been experiencing the normal rain that is typical for the region.

Amsterdam is refreshing and clean, and just all around easy to navigate. Cedric and Ezra are loving all of the public transportation... trains, trams, busses, and bikes they love it all! 

Our family is in love with our new home. We look forward to getting to know this place as we get settled in. 

Oh and we also plan to get back into regular blogging now that life is a bit more calm.

Here are a few pictures since we last posted.
Chad & Cedric in Mauritius
Mary, Douglas, Cedric @ brunch
102 boxes enroute to The Netherlands
This is our life
Ezra - "Jet lag stinks"
Grandpa's story time
Quick trip through DC 
Douglas & Ezra giant slip and slide fun
Chad & Cedric giant slip and slide fun
Fried everything at Columbus Pride 2014
Ezra surfs up in Outer Banks NC
Douglas & Cedric go to Ivanhoes!
Cousin play time
Fresh haircuts
Cedric - "Take my picture!"
Baltimore MD
Our first family bike ride
Playing in our new back garden
Kitchen singing time
Cheese!

Chad

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Twin Travel Tips

Our twins are 27 months old. They were born in India. So far, we've traveled with them to the following destinations on planes:
  • Delhi - Newark - Indianapolis - 5 weeks 
  • Indianapolis - Houston - Frankfort - Delhi - 8 weeks
  • Delhi - Goa, India (and return) - 4 months
  • Delhi - Istanbul - Paris, France - 6 months
  • Paris - Newark - Indianapolis - 7 months
  • Indianapolis - Newark - Delhi - 9 months
  • Delhi - Hong Kong (and return) - 10 months
  • Delhi - Istanbul (and return) - 12 months
  • Delhi - Bangkok - Koh Chang (and return) - 13 months
  • Delhi - Goa (and return) - 16 months
  • Delhi - Newark - Indianapolis - 19 Months
  • Indianapolis - Newark - Delhi - 21 Months
  • Delhi - Istanbul - Prague (and return) - 25 Months
Over the course of those 13 trips, we've learned a thing or two about traveling with twins. Some of these tips you could probably figure out for yourself. Others may surprise you. 

1. Keep calm and carry on! You choose your attitude during your trip. Having realistic expectations for your child(ren) is helpful in maintaining a cool head. Your child will get fussy or cry at some point. The world will not end. Even if you have to take your screaming child and sit in the bathroom cabin for 30 minutes, the world will still not end.

2. Organize your packing with google docs - Chad and I keep a packing list on a google doc. We can both edit it from anywhere. So, when we're out and about and have a brain flash, we can jump on a smart phone and jot down that we have to remember to take the sleep sheep. Our list has evolved over time as the boys have grown. Things that didn't get much use during one trip get crossed off the list for the next trip.

3. Travel with a friend - This one isn't always possible, and lord knows we've made plenty of trans-Atlantic flights without anyone helping us. But this is really less about the flying than it is about having more possibilities once you arrive at your destination. During our most recent trip to Prague, we travelled with a friend who LOVES the boys. Having her there made the vacation so much better for everyone. When one of us parents needed to stay at the apartment with the boys, the other two adults could still go out and enjoy the city. Our friend even volunteered to babysit once while we ran out and got a bite to eat by ourselves.

4. Know your airline and airplane - Things you need to know include, but aren't limited to: how to book a bassinet, what counts or doesn't count as luggage, whether or not you can take your stroller through security and gate check it, what can and can't go in your diaper bag, how many kids can sit in the same row on a plane (see #5). Finding out all the details before you show up at the airport will save you from stress during your travels.

5. Carry two diaper bags - Not because you have so much stuff (which you will), but because you never know when you're going to be separated. We learned this the hard way on a return flight from Indianapolis to Delhi when our flight got cancelled and we got rerouted through Houston and Frankfort. Because of the configuration of oxygen masks on planes (see #4), we haven't always been able to sit in the same row. On most flights, we're either across the aisle from each other (one parent with one child), or in consecutive rows. On this flight, though, we were 5 rows apart and only had one diaper bag. When you're on a flight and your child needs a bottle, you definitely don't want to have to go hunting to find it.

6. Pay for upgrades to lounges - Seriously! We've had 7-9 hour layovers in Newark, Bangkok and Istanbul. In all of those places, we had access to the lounge and it made the layover easier. In the Newark Star Alliance lounge, there is a private family room with a TV and couches. The boys could lay down, have a proper nap and spread out and play. In the Istanbul airport, there is a play room, changing room (with complimentary diapers and wipes) and nap room with a legitimate crib and frequently changed bedding. In the Bangkok airport (Thai Airways Lounge), there are small rooms similar to the Newark lounge. All of these lounges are so much better than waiting in uncomfortable terminals.

7. Book apartments rather than hotels - Apartments are often bigger, have a separate room for the kids and a kitchen. If you have a place where you can cook your own food, it takes some of the stress out of always having to find a restaurant that is kid-friendly. Also, the kids always enjoy havinga bigger space where they can play. And the apartments we've found are frequently cheaper than hotels.

8.  Book an extra seat on the plane - If you can't get a bassinet, book a seat for your twins even if they're really little (or ask for one on flights that aren't full). On long flights (flights over 10 hours), if both parents have to hold a baby for the entire flight, it gets REALLY tiring -- parents of singletons, never EVER complain! When Cedric and Ezra were little, we were on a flight from Delhi to the US and the bassinets had already been booked by someone else. Luckily, we had a seat in between us where we could make a small bed for the boys (seems funny to me now to think that both of them could lay down in the same seat and have room to spare!) and give our arms a break. When they got a little older, but still could technically be lap babies, we booked them a seat on the long flight from Delhi to Newark and we were all so much more comfortable and less tired on arrival. Trust me, it's worth the money!

9. Soothe the transitions - We have been weaning the boys off of bottles. For several months now, they haven't had a bottle during the day and only have one bottle before bed. They also don't have much time in front of TVs or iPads. However, when we're traveling, all bets are off. During our trip to Prague, they must have watched Cars at least 3 times. They also had a bottle whenever they wanted. They we're super happy to sit with a bottle and a movie on the plane. And when we got home, we resumed our normal routine and the twins didn't miss a beat! (we're totally off the bottle now... but that's another post for another day) When they were just over a year old and had already transitioned to real food instead of baby food, we took along a bunch of baby food on our trip to Thailand on a whim. Turns out, that was all they were interested in eating as they didn't really care for the food on the children's menu at the resort where we stayed.

10. Plan to do less/Let them have space and time to do what they want - This is about managing your expectations (see #1). You aren't going to go see the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay and the Eiffel Tower in one day with your twins and enjoy the experience. You need to plan days that are manageable and include things like play time, visits to parks and naps. Realize that your trip isn't all about you. It's about your kids too. Once they get old enough to do things other than eat/sleep/poop, they will want to have time to play and have fun. A jam packed schedule full of adult things will not make for a happy set of twins.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Vacation: Traveling Home

A much-belated Happy New Year to all of our friends in the blogosphere. Here is one final post about our winter vacation. Ezra pretty much represents how we all felt after traveling back to India. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Vacation Interlude

We live in India, but we're not unaware of the things going on in the US on social media and the discussion (not sure that it's really a discussion so much as people yelling at each other on Facebook) that's taking place surrounding reality television and the LGBT community.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. The freedoms of speech and religion are not in jeopardy in the USA. Lets stop--rather hysterically--pretending that they are. Last time I checked, the government didn't have anything to do with anyone being censored. Recently, a reality television star made several prejudicial statements about gay people. Those statements were not in keeping with the values of the network that airs his reality television show, so they temporarily suspended him from the show. Most of us who are employed by a company have contracts that also limit the things we say in the public arena. If I were to make disparaging comments in a public arena, I would also, most likely, loose my job. Yes, you have the right to say most of what you want. You do not, however, have the right to continue being employed if you say something that makes your employer look bad. [Before anyone gets carried away with thinking that A&E might actually share the values that a majority of Americans now share regarding the LGBT community, I think we're fooling ourselves if we think this is anything but a massive PR stunt that will make both A&E and the show in question even more popular]

2. Can't we agree that reality television is really trite and that there are more important things going on in the US and in the world? Take a second a compare the US CNN site and the International CNN site if you think that Americans aren't distracted by nonsense. Shouldn't topics such as wars in Syria and Afghanistan, high poverty rates among children in the US, and a growing income gap grab our attention more than what some celebrity said? 

3.  In the ruling of the recent court case in Utah, the judge reaffirmed what should by now be common sense: families with gay or lesbian parents pose no threat to families with opposite sex parents. The repeal of parts of DOMA highlighted the completely disengenuous and wholly unsubstantiated argument that proponents of anti-equality amendments and laws have been spewing. They said that my family harms them; finally, the courts are standing up and saying "prove it!" And, guess what, the defenders of these hateful laws have been unable to do it. These laws are totally about private religion, or private animous, invading the public sector. In the USA, we have strong laws that prevent us from passing other laws only to demonstrate hate or discrimination to one segment of society. The various laws or constitutional amendments that bar same sex couples from getting married do not protect "straight marriage" as they are purported to do. They only promulgate hate. 

4. If your religious convictions mandate that you don't get married to someone of the same sex, then you are free to put those principles into practice in your own life. I do not subscribe to any such religion and I would prefer if you keep your views to yourself and practice your religion respectfully and privately. Thankfully now, a majority of people in America are in support of marriage equality. Our laws in the US are slowly, but surely, catching up to this new reality. I'm thankful for these strides toward social justice as they have a real and practical impact on my family. One thing I learned from our recent job search is that the world-wide marriage equality movement is not about abstract ideas. It's about security and safety for families like mine in many states and countries. If we've finally reached the point as a society where we can say that blatant homophobia doesn't meet with our beliefs and values, then I say happy new year. 

In other news, we're back from Prague and all four have a pretty nast case of jet lag. Here's to an easy day of unpacking and movies!  

Cheers, 
Douglas  


Friday, December 27, 2013

Prague: Day 6

We've been enjoying roaming around the various playgrounds and the markets right near our apartment. On day six, we got a little more adventurous and took a walk to the Prague Castle. The walk there was brisk as it was early in the morning. There weren't many pedestrians out on the street. Nyssa helped us find our way through the windy corridors once we crossed over the Vltava. The map, however, was not our friend, as it turned out that our chosen path included about 22 sets of stairs. We formed a team with Chad and Nyssa taking both strollers at the back and me picking both up at the front and we climbed the stairs one by one, much to the amusement of the people strolling leisurely down in the opposite direction. Once we reached the summit, we enjoyed some breathtaking views of the city covered in the mists of the morning air. It was truly refreshing to see actual fog that isn't laced in pollution... Ah, Delhi! I will not miss your sketchy air quality!

After seeing a quick guard changing ceremony at the government buildings, our tour commenced. We visited the Old Palace, a 12th century Romanesque church that had been beautifully restored, and a quaint row of houses where smithies and bars from days gone by were preserved to give us a taste of what Prague must have been like long ago. Finally, we went to the Cathedral and marveled at the beautiful stained glass. The boys took it all in from the comfort of their strollers. We stopped a few times to let them stretch their legs and push their own strollers around. All in all, they were perfectly behaved little tourist-gentlemen. 

Until all hell broke loose. During the last few minutes of the last stop on our tour, Cedric decided he had had enough stroller time and wanted to be carried. Since we'd pushed our luck and had kept the boys out past their nap time, I carried him for as long as I could. But , at the end of the first mile on our two-mile walk back to our apartment, my arms had had enough, and--much to his dismay--I put him back in his stroller. Yikes! He screamed all the way back to our hotel while we quickly rushed down streets and through squares. I've never pushed a stroller so quickly in my life. 

Finally back at the apartment, we quickly got them changed and put down for a nap. They slept for three and a half hours. Poor little guys were tuckered out from a morning of strolling and sight seeing. 

The evening was spent playing around the apartment, eating dinner, and then going for a stroll on the square to see the evening Christmas events. There was a very interesting Czech folk band that played on the main stage as we walked. We ate a few more helpings of trdlo, the sweet bread that is gently rolled over the fire and coated with sweet cinnamon and sugar. A few more glasses of mulled wine and some cold beers were also enjoyed by the adults. 
Back at our apartment, we Skyped with my family who was having their Christmas celebrations on the 26th instead of the 25th. It was nice to see everyone opening the presents we bought and sent. Internet shopping finally made manifest. And, sadly, we said goodbye to Nyssa. She was flying early the next morning to Berlin to see family. We've so enjoyed having her on the trip and the twins LOVE their Aunt Nyssa time. 

One more full day is all we have left in Prague. This vacation is flying by. Hopefully the pounds of food we've eaten will fly off of our waistlines just as quickly once we return to Delhi. 

Love and Peace, 
Douglas 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Prague: Day 5 - Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone. We're having a great time here in Prague. Christmas Day with the boys was very laid back. We spent the morning at home playing with toys and having a great time. In the afternoon we walked to Zofin Island, where the boys ran around and played on the excellent playground equipment. In the evening, we had our Christmas meal and then we all took turns calling our family members on Skype. Then we went out and walked around the square. All in all, it was an excellent Christmas Day in Prague.



All the Best, 
Douglas and Family

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Prague: Day 4

Christmas Eve!

Like most of Europe, Christmas Eve is when the celebration happens. We spent the day with the boys shopping for presents and feasting on the local cuisine. We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas Eve meal right on the Old Town Square. 

The apartment we've rented for this week is ideally located just a minute from the festivities and when we walk outside we often hear the bells tolling from the astronomical clock. Here's a video of our walk from our apartment to the main square where the Christmas Market is located. 




In other news, the boys have mostly recovered from the jet lag, but were still quite tired. They took two long naps during the day. Their appetites are also returning. We are looking forward to hearing from friends and family over the next few days as celebrations and gatherings of those near and dear to us take place in various locations throughout the world.

Love and Peace,
Douglas, Chad, Cedric and Ezra