Have Twins, Will Travel


Please get in touch to share your experiences traveling with your kids (good and bad!) so we can learn and laugh and commiserate and celebrate together. mara@ havetwinswilltravel.com

Recent Posts

  1. North End
    Thursday, April 03, 2014
  2. History Lesson
    Saturday, March 29, 2014
  3. New Balance Climb
    Thursday, March 27, 2014
  4. Raising Bilingual Kids - Preschool
    Thursday, March 20, 2014
  5. Lonely Planet New England
    Wednesday, March 12, 2014
  6. Back to Reality
    Sunday, March 09, 2014
  7. World Food for Kids: The Amsterdam Edition
    Wednesday, March 05, 2014
  8. Twin-Free
    Saturday, March 01, 2014
  9. Bliny
    Monday, February 24, 2014
  10. Snow Day
    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Recent Comments

  1. Ruru on New Balance Climb
  2. Mara Vorhees on Belize for Children
  3. Hopkins Guide on Belize for Children
  4. Mara Vorhees on Moomins & Monsters
  5. Karen on Moomins & Monsters
  6. Mara Vorhees on Legoland Discovery Center
  7. Karen on Legoland Discovery Center
  8. Mara Vorhees on About
  9. Lois Josimovich on About
  10. Mara Vorhees on Jet Lag


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Mara Vorhees | Family Travel | Have Twins Will Travel

North End

Boston, Mass - I succeeded piquing the twins' interest in American history. All it took was a comic book about Paul Revere and a few guns. 

I have been taking the boys on some of my research outings around town lately, so we took a vote about our destination yesterday. Much to my surprise, the landslide victor was Paul Revere's house in the North End. (I might have swung the election when I told them we would be able to see Paul Revere's gun. They went for it.)

We took the T downtown and followed the red line of the Freedom Trail from Haymarket into the North End. This was fun for the twins, because they could navigate and lead the way. And of course it led right to the Paul Revere House, an unassuming clapboard house which also is the oldest house in Boston.

I think it was a little anticlimactic. The house is tiny. How Paul Revere lived there with his 16 kids, I cannot imagine. (Clearly they didn't have all they gear.) The twins did learn a bit about life in the 17th century, such as how they baked bread in the fireplace. Twin S was particularly intrigued by the curtain around the bed (and later, he would hang blankets from the top bunk so he could have some privacy too). What they came to see, however, was Paul Revere's gun. Sadly, it was not a blunderbuss, as Daddio had predicted, but rather a pistol (not from the war). I'm not sure whether to be amused or distressed that my three-year-olds know what a blunderbuss is. But anyway... it's history, right?

Afterwards, we resumed our trek along the Freedom Trail. I promised the twins a treat if they would cooperate. That explains why they went along with me to the Old North Church, where the sexton hung two lanterns in the belfry to warn the Patriots that the British soldiers were coming by boat. The twins were slightly interested in the candle-burning chandeliers and the rickety ladder up to the belfry. But mostly, they amused themselves climbing around in the pew boxes.

Then we continued along the Freedom Trail, one more block to Copp's Hill Burying Ground, which was an unexpected highlight. There, we found the headstone of Daniel Malcom, which had been "shot up" by British soldiers. Apparently, the Regulars were not impressed by his epitaph:

A true Son of Liberty
A Friend to the Publick
An Enemy to Oppression
And one of the foremost in opposing 
The Revenue Acts on America

I'm not sure the twins understood why this guy's headstone had been marred, although I tried to offer the simplest explanation that I could. But anyway, they sure were fascinated by those bullet marks. That's when I felt I had achieved what I set out to do... to show them that history is fascinating, especially when you can see first-hand where and how it transpired.

Our final stop was Modern Pastry. It can't hurt to reinforce the history lesson with a cannoli.

History Lesson

Boston, Mass - In anticipation of Patriot's Day, I brought home a sort of comic book, Paul Revere's Ride, by Xavier Niz and Brian Bascle. The twins are into comics these days. It's interesting to me how they are willing to look at them and try to understand them, even when the story line is complicated. I thought it might be a good way to sneak in a little history lesson, and I was right.

Of course, a three-year-old defines all conflict in terms of who is "mean" and who is "nice." That's what comic books are all about, but it does not make for the most nuanced version of history. At first, I explained that the Patriots did what they had to do because they didn't think the taxes were fair. We have been talking a lot about fairness and it seems like a good message that it's okay to protest if something is unfair. 

I'm not sure they got it. After many questions and clarifications, I finally had to admit that the British soldiers were "mean." And then everything made sense and the twins were satisfied.

Anyway, we might as well just get a few of the facts out for now—like who is Paul Revere and what is his horse's name—even if the bigger picture presents a rather dichotomous view of history. Hopefully, it will instill an awareness that these events took place right here, and defined what became of our country. And maybe, just maybe, it will foster enough curiosity for them to explore further. Someday.

New Balance Climb

Boston, Mass - It's been a year since our last visit to the Boston Children's Museum. There is always a ton for the twins to do there, but I have to admit that I have felt a little gypped in the past because they were always too timid to play in the museum's centerpiece, the New Balance Climb.

This awesome three-story climbing structure is totally enclosed by netting, so it is perfectly safe, but it requires navigating, climbing, squeezing and sliding (not to mention overcoming acrophobia and claustrophobia) to make one's way to the top and back down again. Most intimidating for my kids, I think, is that it is often packed with other (older) kids, so it's easy to feel crowded out of an already small space. I saw one mom venture in to rescue her kid—very impressive maneuvering on her part!

I'm thrilled to report that when we visited this week, my guys finally got their courage up. It took a few tries, but eventually they were finding secret passageways, hiding in dead ends and exploring that crazy maze with no inhibitions. Twin V was definitely the more cautious climber (once again defying my characterizations of who's who), but he gained a lot of confidence from being with his brother. Watching them from the sidelines, it made my heart glad to see them exploring together and showing each other what they discovered. 

One time, Twin V got separated from his brother and he got confused about how to get down (and out) from the climbing structure. He started to freak out. I was right nearby, but I was on the outside, so all I could do was talk him down and try to show him the route. It wasn't so easy— partly because I wasn't sure, and partly because Twin V was starting to panic so he was not really listening to me. 

Then a little angel appeared. It was a little boy with black hair and blue eyes, a year or two older than mine. "I'll show you the way out," he said. "Come this way." Twin V immediately trusted him, and followed him, and they arrived at the entrance/exit within a few moments. It was a simple act, but it meant so much to Twin V, who gushed about his new friend for the remainder of the day.

It was not the only time I witnessed such cooperation on the climbing structure. Later on, Twin S had ventured pretty far up and he couldn't figure out how to get down. A group of older kids invited him to follow them down to the ground. The funny thing was that they didn't really know the way—at least not the most direct way—but Twin S tagged along anyway and felt better just for being included in their group.

On the Children's Museum website, it indicates that playing on the New Balance Climb teaches kids communication, problem-solving, mathematics and visual-spatial thinking, as well as good old-fashioned physical fitness. I'm not sure about the math part, but I watched my kids (and others) practice their skills in all of these other areas. And I never would have guessed it, but the one that impressed me the most was they way they used their communication skills to cooperate and help each other out.

Raising Bilingual Kids - Preschool

Somerville, Mass - The twins are turning four this spring, and it's time to make some decisions about next year. Are we going to keep them at the wonderful, nurturing, supportive, private preschool where they have been learning Spanish for the past year? Or are we going to save $16K and send them to public school? 

We never intended to send the twins to a fancy private preschool. But the programs for three-year-olds in Somerville were limited, so we had to look around for other options.

We chose their current school because it is close to our house and it is relatively affordable (although only 12 hours a week). The language immersion program was an added bonus, which supported our efforts to raise bilingual kids

As it turned out, we fell in love with this school because, well, mostly because the twins fell in love with this school. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming; the teachers are nurturing and supportive (for kids as well as parents); and yes, the twins have begun singing songs, reciting words and occasionally speaking spontaneously in Spanish. It has been everything I hoped for, and more. 

I love that the parents are invited to a weekly assembly, where the classes sing songs in their respective languages. I love that the kids cook and try new foods every week. I love that the teachers took a leading role in toilet training the twins (because god knows, I was not getting anywhere on my own). And I love that the twins are crazy about their teachers and several of the kids in their class. Daddio and I love this place. The twins love this place. Why would we mess with that?

I can think of 16,000 reasons...

Money aside, this is a complicated issue. Back in Somerville, there is a beautiful, new Early Childhood Education Center that local parents rave about, and it practically guarantees a place for my twins, now that they will be four. Even better, the neighborhood school—also a brand new facility—now has a preschool classroom too. These are state-of-the-art facilities with excellent teachers, and most importantly, they are right here in the community, serving the families that we see at the park and at the farmer's market and on our street. 

But it's definitely public school. The class sizes are bigger than at their current school. The places are more institutional. And—at least for now—there is no Spanish program.

On the other hand, 45% of the student body is Hispanic.

I never expected this to be a difficult decision. But I guess it's a good problem, as it means we have several viable options. ┬┐Que hacer?


Lonely Planet New England

Somerville, Mass - A box of these guidebooks was waiting for me upon my return home. When I worked on the previous edition of New England, I was very very pregnant. Here we are—nearly four years later—a new edition is out and I'm still going at it. This is somehow gratifying.

Less gratifying is the fact that my special section on Travel with Children has been removed from this edition. But anyway, this book is still a beaut.

In other news, it was 50 degrees here today. Time to start planning a trip to New England.

Back to Reality

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Ten days in Europe sans enfants has been wonderful and bizarre. And now... back to reality, which is also wonderful and bizarre, in a different way. Tot ziens, fair city.

World Food for Kids: The Amsterdam Edition

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Daddio and I have had some lovely, delicious and romantic dinners while on work-ation (without twins) in Amsterdam. But we are here for more than a week, so we can't go out for fancy meals all the time. On the off days, we seem to be filling up on fare that the twins would approve of. 

I admit that the Netherlands is not known for its cuisine, but as far as kids are concerned, they've got you covered. 

Bitterballen & Kroketten These are essentially deep-fried meat ragout, creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, dipped in mustard (optional). The bitterballen are small snack balls, often served as an accompaniment to beer. The kroketten are slightly larger logs, served on bread. Both are irresistible to kids because, well, they're deep-fried. Here's your authentic local alternative to chicken nuggets.

Dutch pancakes are as big as the plate that holds them, and a guaranteed kid favorite. The sweet or savory flavor (fruit, cheese, meat) is usually cooked right into them. The most traditional offering is apple syrup, but nowadays anything goes. And the local pancake houses usually offer dozens of options. If this sounds familiar it's because I was just feeding my family Russian pancakes last week

Pekelvlees In English we call it corned beef, and I never knew it could taste so good. We walked into this old-school Amsterdam sandwich shop—Van Dobben—and I was in heaven. But of course you could make this at home. It's just thinly sliced pekelvlees piled high on a hamburger bun. It was so good that we went back for more, but the second time around we ordered halfom, which adds sliced liver to the mix. (Don't tell your kids what it is: just give it to them; they will love it.)

Never fear, vegetarians, there is plenty here for you to eat. Street markets, cheese mongers and tourist shops abound with local cheeses, and they always offer samples. Pick one you like, buy a baguette and you've got yourself a meal.


Amsterdam, Netherlands - I know I like to go on and on about how great it is to travel with kids, but you know what? It's really great to travel without kids.

Daddio and I just embarked on a 10-day, twin-free, work-ation in lovely Amsterdam.

From the moment we left, we have reverted to our former childless selves, indulging in all kinds of wild and crazy activities....

Like reading on the airplane (and not Dr Seuss). I had completely forgotten about this enjoyable part of air travel — the forced down time — and I didn't bring anything to read. I bought The Most Beautiful Book in the World by Eric Emmanuel-Schmidt at the airport, and I don't even like it much, but I still read half the novellas on the airplane, just because I could.

And sleeping in. Oh, sweet luxury. Especially after reading (and not sleeping) on the airplane, Daddio and I arrived at our apartment exhausted. So guess what we did... we went to bed! We just crawled into bed and went to sleep for four hours in the middle of the day. It was amazing.

And when we got up, we walked around for the rest of the afternoon and late into the evening, with absolutely no destination in mind. We just walked, and took pictures, and stopped for beers, and dodged  cyclists, and stopped for more beers, and devoured Indonesian food, and stopped for beers again. And worked (no really, we were working!) It's going to be a good week.


Somerville, Mass - This weekend we hosted our second annual party celebrating Maslenitsa, the Russian festival that bids farewell (perhaps prematurely) to winter. And before anyone calls me on it, I'm aware that we were a week early, but my guests are not... so keep quiet, okay?

Last year, I realized that this is a serious kid-friendly holiday that is not being exploited in our part of the world. It's true... There are plenty of fun Maslentisa festivities, but the main one is the eating of bliny (thin pancakes like crepes), which are a guaranteed hit with the little ones. I had to do a trial run before the party, so we've been eating them for a week straight and we're still not tired of them.

So in honor of Maslenitsa (which technically starts today), here is my no-fail recipe for bliny.

4 cups milk
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Juice of 1/2-lemon
4 cups flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup boiling water
2/3 cup butter

Beat together milk and eggs, then add salt, sugar, baking soda and citric acid. Add flour and beat until smooth. Add vegetable oil and boiling water, stirring constantly. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Melt a pad of butter in an 8-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. Pick up the pan and pour in a ladle of batter, rotating your wrist so the batter coats the bottom of the pan. Return the pan to the heat for about two minutes. 

Once the blin begins to brown, slide it onto a spatula and flip. If it does not slide easily, it's not quite ready. Cook on the opposite side for an additional minute or two. Transfer to a plate and cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm. Add another pad of butter to the pan and repeat.

This recipe will make about 40 bliny. (Word to the wise: if you're making all 40, you might want to get two pans going.) They can be prepared in advance and heated in the microwave or served at room temperature. 

Fill with the sweet or savory of your choice. For my guests, we stuffed them with caviar, or smoked salmon and sour cream, or porcini mushrooms and raclette cheese. The twins' favorite is strawberries and whipped cream, although they also love them plain. My secret indulgence is bliny with nutella. Fold and roll and enjoy!

Snow Day

Somerville, Mass - More snow? Bring it on...