Daytripping to Malahide

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In the space of 24 hours, a month’s worth of rain has fallen. There is flooding on certain streets but we are all fine. Yesterday, sitting in some areas of the house where the skylights are above us, I felt … Continue reading

Special Guest Post: Sascha on not so super-supermarkets

As promised, our very own Sascha is here to regale you with his tale of shopping while I have a night off to wander around Grafton St:

Life with twins is great. Dublin is great. And grocery shopping can, under the right circumstances, be great.

However, grocery shopping with twins in Dublin is most definitely not great.

Exhibit A: Last Saturday morning. I volunteered to take the boys to the supermarket, optimistically thinking I could accomplish three major things in one fell swoop:

1. Get some much-needed groceries for our Hobbit-sized fridge.

2. Bring the boys out to get some air.

3. Be a good husband and son-in-law by giving my wife and mother-in-law some quiet time after being with the boys nonstop for days.

I can report that I did achieve those three items, however there was a great human cost involved. The boys and I survived, but barely. And things will never be the same.

The scene of the actual incident. Looks spacious according to this photo from Daft, but don't let it fool you.

I arrived at our local grocery store, the Superquinn, around 9:15am, knowing that I had a challenge ahead of me. Since I had the double stroller, I had a choice of two maneuvers:

1. The Two-Handed-Backwards-Shopping-Cart-Plus-Forward-Facing-Stroller Roller

OR

2. Balance-the-Basket-on-Top-of-the-Stroller-and-Try-Not-to-Drop-Groceries-on-my-Sons’-Heads

I took one look at the aisles of that supermarket and knew that option number one wasn’t happening. There was barely room for a cart, let alone a double stroller and a cart. That must be why they charge you a Euro to use a shopping cart – as a deterrent.

So, I had no choice. Balance-the-Basket. I rolled my extra large, Americano double stroller down the super narrow, dainty European aisles as I balanced the empty cart on the handles. Look, I appreciate that things in Europe are smaller than they are in the United States. There is less waste here and that’s good. But why cut corners on supermarket aisles? That just isn’t right.

I admit that when it comes to grocery shopping, I am an overachiever. I like to get everything on the list, and plus it out so we don’t have to shop again for a while. That basket was full in no time, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for not dropping any plums on my sons’ heads. They were pretty mellow, too. But then it was time to check out.

The cashier was ringing me up when it happened. I tried to push the stroller through the aisle so I could bag the groceries, and then…creak. The stroller was stuck. I couldn’t push forward. I couldn’t pull back. Behind me, the line started to grow, people started looking impatient – this was the only aisle open. My formerly mellow sons started to cry, no doubt fearing that they would be stuck in a Superquinn check-out aisle for months. I was suddenly the center of attention. Friendly Irish people didn’t seem so friendly anymore. I apologized meekly. The crying got louder, the stroller wouldn’t budge. What would I do?

When Erin talks about worst-case, nightmare scenarios of living in a city with twins, these are the pictures she paints: being out in public, the twins screaming, causing a scene, being the center of attention. I realized at that moment: I was living her nightmare.

I knew I’d have get the boys out and fold up the stroller to get it unstuck. So as they continued to wail, I unbuckled them. Unfortunately I was stuck on the other side of the stroller from them. C. went limp like a ragdoll and slid to the floor as he does when he’s angry, and G. stomped off towards the ice cream case in a huff. The cashier dashed from behind the counter and tried to distract them with Superquinn super-saver circulars while I madly tried to fold up the stroller. It wouldn’t fold. The line behind me was growing longer. I tried to stay Zen. As a coping strategy, my mind took me miles away. I imagined I was in a nice, spacious, comfy, enormous Target in suburban Connecticut. The check-out aisle was the size of a football field. Bliss.

Things were simpler then. Our shopping carts were SUVs and the aisles stretched on gloriously as far as the eye could see. Target, how we miss ye.

I snapped back to reailty and somehow found the strength to fold the stroller, wrangle the boys, unfold the stroller, get the wriggling boys back into the stroller, bag the groceries in my eco-friendly reusable bags, balance them on the handle, and then promptly slam the stroller into a bucket of flowers, causing the water to spill out across the floor of the store. The last thing I remember is sprinting through the inch of water in my sneakers, pushing the double stroller out of the narrow doors as fast as I could as the boys’ cries rang throughout Superquinn.

From now on, we will be having our groceries delivered.

Making a mountain out of peanuts

The stress of packing and everything we have to do in these final weeks before leaving the U.S. has finally gotten to me, in what should be known as the Great Crib Fiasco of 2011, or, How I Ended Up Crying Over Boxes of Peanuts (not even the corn-based water soluble ones, which hurt my green little heart even more.)

We are renting a lovely house in Dublin that is fully-furnished, except, of course, that no place would actually come set up with two cribs. G. and C. are at the age where they are likely to launch themselves out of the crib any day now, but to transition right into toddler beds when we get there and are adjusting to the five hour time change seems a bit much. I know that time is coming, but why rush it? At that point, I will surely be consulting with my friend Vivian. Her method of keeping her son in his room involved something like a tale of a monster waiting for him outside the door and her creeping up to his room to hold her hand against the door, which he interpreted as proof of the monster’s existence.

I didn’t break the bank on their cribs, but their mattresses were all organic cotton and wool, because I didn’t want them breathing plastic or chemical flame retardants. They were expensive, but because our cribs came with the toddler rails for conversion to beds, I expected that they would be in these for at least three years. Though the boys were born in southern California and we knew we’d be leaving at some point, I believed they would grow up with these beds.

We got an estimate on shipping the crib frames and mattresses, and it appeared that though expensive, it would be around what we might spend to re-buy new cribs and mattresses there anyway. Trouble was, we had to get them shipped within a few days to ensure they would arrive exactly when Sascha was there the following week. Otherwise, the only other time to set up cribs would be when we stumbled in at dawn from the overnight flight that would be delivering us into our new lives later in September. This seemed ill-advised, on account of the jetlag fog that would surely cling to us and the fact that the boys would be bonkers from the break in routine.

We spent an entire day and a half on this project, which involved breaking down the cribs, setting up borrowed pack ‘n plays, going to the local shipping store to make sure they had boxes big enough, taking out the car seats from our car to make room, and then bringing the crib frames to be professionally packed. At the end of the second day, when we had the final dimensions and weights of the boxes, we hit some major snags: the shipper revised their estimate to be hundreds of dollars more, and also the box containing the crib frames was so large that the shippers couldn’t pick it up, but instead we would have to drive it out to a facility near the airport. We quickly realized that if it was this hard to get it out of there, what would we do in Ireland, on our tiny hobbit-ville like street? Sascha warned me he wasn’t sure delivery trucks could even make it down the street, since we have to put our trash out on a neighboring road.

Option B was to send only the mattresses. I quickly jumped online and trolled around IKEA.ie and IKEA (US), Mothercare, and other baby stores, and frantically did inches-to-centimeter conversions, because there were varying differences in crib (or cot, as they call them) sizes. It was hot, late, and we were tired. This is where my brain began to melt down. (Decision fatigue, perhaps?) I realized that even if we got the mattresses there, they wouldn’t actually fit in anything. And suddenly I started crying. Because my sons’ beds were not going to make it, and they were just large reminders that our life was in total chaos, and I had no idea when we would ever have a permanent home, with our own things. A vital day in our preparations had been wasted on an utterly futile endeavor.

While sniffling, I knew it was absurd to be crying over the waste of the peanuts and the fact that their chewed up cribs would go into storage, along with most everything else in our lives. But because I lack information about the future, every small decision is fraught with emotion. Perhaps we will stay only a year. Perhaps it will be five, or we will move to somewhere else in Europe, since Sascha is a dual citizen and can work anywhere in the EU.

I also knew the next day I would be better. The cribs would not be a global issue in my life, but a minor detail. But at that moment, they came to symbolize my fear that we have no plan. This never bothered me when it was just us, but now that my sons are here, the future is more present for me. I want to map it out. I want them to have some stability.

The next day, Sascha and I spent a few hours removing the packed up cribs and mattresses, which required shoveling an amazing amount of suddenly liberated packing peanuts that threatened to blanket our neighborhood.

The thing about having children, though, is that you will laugh, every day, despite yourself. Sweating in the humidity, we put together their cribs and made their beds for the last time with the sheets we bought in Pasadena when I was huge and happy and feeling them move inside me. When they woke up from their naps, the box of useless peanuts transformed itself into a magical playpit:

Joy in a Box from Other Side of the Road on Vimeo.