Tuesday, 25 September 2012

More whingeing, I'm afraid

I've not been in the best mood recently so you'll forgive me if this time, it's my turn to whinge. The main reason for my mood is that I've injured my knees, and have not only had to pull out of my planned half marathon, but am presently not able to exercise at all.

This may sound like a minor (and admittedly First World) problem, but I was enjoying running so much, and not being able to do it (hopefully temporarily) has put my whole life off-kilter.  In the space of a few weeks I feel as if I have gone from feeling like a physically fit and active person to an old biddy who hobbles round the house with ice packs attached to her legs and has to go for physical therapy sessions. (And these, thanks to lovely American health insurance and their "deductibles", are costing a small fortune).

Somehow this turn of events has managed to put me in a strop about everything else. The usual irritations that I normally brush off - the annoying kid over the road, the constant demands from the school to send in items that I don't just have lying around, the idea that Mitt Romney still might win the US elections in spite of being completely awful- are getting to me too.

And when I found this piece of work in Littleboy 2's school bag?

Now, his teacher this year is lovely and normally I would laugh at this sort of thing (and I am, sort of), and if it were any other word I would readily accept an American spelling. But, really! Can't a little English boy be allowed NOT to have a Mommy? Even if he did get "Good Job".......

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Whinge-ington DC

 I wonder if Obama's kids moan about sightseeing?

Perhaps we didn't prepare the Littleboys for our trip to Washington DC in the best way. We had spent the previous two days in Virginia with a luxurious pool, tennis court, full size soccer pitch and enormous mansion at our disposal. (No, we have not suddenly become billionaires. But it turns out one of the Doctor's American cousins, who let us borrow his house for the weekend, started his own hedge fund. 'Nuff said).

The boys had revelled in swimming, football, luxuriating in the hot tub, playing with the farm cat and generally having a whale of a time. By Sunday night, they were exhausted. So when, on a rather grey Monday morning, we decamped from Hotel Hedge Fund to the confines of a Holiday Inn in Washington, they were not best impressed.

I had never been to Washington DC before, so was rather excited to see it all - the huge dome of the Capitol, the National Mall, the Washington Monument were all within spitting distance and, even though you've seen the White House a million times on TV, seeing it for real was something special. The boys, however, were having none of it.

"Where are we going? Why is it so far? I'm hungry! I'm tired. I want to go home."

And this was all in the first 10 minutes, on the way to get lunch. Bear in mind these are the boys who happily did a five mile hike in New Hampshire, so it's not as if they are not capable of walking.

So we ended up on one of those open-top bus tours that we'd always laughed at in London as being ridiculously touristy. It was full of the old, overweight and, of course, a few others with small kids. But it seemed like the only way to get around the various landmarks without too much walking or whinging.

Naturally our offpsring were not excited by us pointing out the places where US laws are decided and debated. But they were slightly more enthusiastic about seeing the White House, and the theatre where Lincoln was shot (having learned about it all at school). And, despite saying they didn't want to walk, they would have sudden bursts of energy such as running up towards the Washington Monument and climbing on every wall in sight. But by the evening they were spent. Littleboy 2 steadfastly refused to eat his favourite food, pizza, at the lovely restaurant we'd headed out to, asking why we couldn't just eat in the hotel cafe.

The next morning, they did enjoy the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Well, what little boy wouldn't want to see real NASA rockets, fighter jets and space suits from the Moon landings? But, honestly, they seemed equally happy to get home to their toys that evening. And when Littleboy 2 was asked by his teacher to describe his trip to America's capital city, what did he write? According to him, anyway. "I wrote that I went to one hotel. Then I went to someone's house for two nights and played with a cat. Then I went to another hotel. Then I came home."

Not sure we'll be heading on any more city breaks until they're quite a bit older....

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A week in the White Mountains

As we entered New Hampshire for the first time, I noticed something. Although only just over the border of the Connecticut River, it seemed very different from Vermont. Much more low key, more "country" somehow, although equally rural. Vermont is chocolate box rural New England, with tonnes of farm stands, country stores selling delicious cured ham and maple syrup, idyllic looking log-cabin homes. In northern New Hampshire you seemed more likely to find a ramshackle general store selling tins of food (and the odd pitcher of maple syrup), with a sign telling you where to register your deer.

 In New York, you register your car. In New Hampshire, you register your deer.

There were signs of run-downness - boarded up holiday cabin parks, which had once obviously been pristine, lined the highway. Clearly, although popular for ski-ing, northern New Hampshire isn't so much of a summer holiday destination as Vermont, which everyone loves. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't have anything to offer.

There was so much to do: for a start, the White Mountains contain literally hundreds of beautiful hiking trails, many leading to gorgeous waterfalls and lakes. We bought an excellent book: Best Hikes with Children in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine which told us where we could realistically hike with the boys, detailing the terrain, things to look out for and even games to play on the way. The Littleboys surpassed themselves, doing a demanding five mile hike one day (note to self/The Doctor: even though you yourself can run five miles in under an hour, climbing up slippery boulders and fording streams for five miles with small kids actually takes about four hours) and not even complaining.

 We hiked to the beautiful Arethusa Falls with the boys.

If you like mountaintop views, the White Mountains are also excellent. There are many ski resorts where you can take chairlifts, cable cars and gondolas up to the top, even in summer, and admire the views. You can also take the Mount Washington Cog Railway to the top of the Northeast's highest mountain, which famously boasts the highest windspeed ever recorded (and man, was it windy up there). Combining trains and mountains is a sure-fire hit for small boys.

 The Mount Washington Cog Railway.

What else? You can visit gorges, swim in lakes, canoe or kayak, or (and this is the part the boys loved most) visit a waterpark for the day. While I wouldn't say there are hundreds of great restaurants, we managed to identify a couple, and visited them both twice - they were incredibly child-friendly as well as offering delicious food. Fabyans Station, near the Cog Railway, even has a model railway which goes round the walls of this former station building, while Rosa Flamingo's in Bethlehem had excellent food for both adults and children - and most importantly, crayons.

We stayed in a cabin on a KOA campsite - a good option for those who don't have a tent (or in my case, don't enjoy sleeping in one much). You get a bathroom and a proper bed, but there's no kitchen so you still cook outside. Inside, it's fairly cosy (two small boys rampaging can get a bit much on a rainy morning) but in the end we didn't spend much time there; even at the campsite, we were usually outside or at the pool. All meals were outdoors (the boys loved having breakfast al fresco) and surprisingly fearless chipmunks often appeared to eat up our crumbs. We spent one particularly memorable evening playing a family game of Junior Monopoly outside in the darkness, lit only by a camping lamp. And luckily, the mosquitoes, the bane of our life in Long Island, were virtually non-existent.

Lake swimming near Cannon Mountain.

The holiday nearly ended before it had started on day one, when Littleboy 2 managed to fall backwards and put his hand on the metal casing of the campfire pit (despite numerous warnings to stay away from the fire). This necessitated a trip to the local ER, and a lot of panic, but to be honest I thought it was going to be much worse than it turned out to be - the burn didn't hurt him after the first night, and it healed so quickly that he was swimming again by Day 4. When quizzed, he says that losing his toy turtle in a waterfall a few days later was "much worser" than the burn incident. However, I will be even more vigilant now about children and fires - even if you think they know not to go near it, give them a torch and a Scooby Doo game to play and all common sense goes out the window.

All in all, it was a successful trip and I'd recommend New Hampshire to any family looking for outdoorsy fun in a beautiful region of the US. You could get there easily from London (fly to Boston and it's a few hours away). And if you fancy having a look at maple-sweet Vermont too, it's just a quick trip over the border.