Hadn't realised just how long it had been since I last posted! We had friends from the UK stay with us for our Easter Holiday (or Spring Break, in US terms). They had two boys a little older than our pair, so we were eight people in the house. Accordingly, I was pretty busy getting ready for them, we had two weeks of madness, and it's taken me another week to recover!
So here are the random things I learned with this that I'd like to pass on for those interested.
Sleeping arrangements! Our children ended up sharing a room for the first time--previously, my daughter has shared with us if we needed the extra bedroom. But since there's a twin bed in her room (and she sleeps on the floor mattress next to it), the simplest thing to do was move her brother into that bed. On the advice of a friend, we put them to sleep at different times, which worked like a charm. I think there was one night where my daughter couldn't sleep, and we let her sit up for a little while, to let her brother go to sleep before trying again.
The first night, my son rolled out of his bed, landing on top of my daughter, which set them both screaming in the middle of the night. Fortunately, they both settled pretty quickly and that was a one-off. The biggest drawback was the wakeup times. If he woke up, he'd leave the room, but slam the door on his way out which would mean she woke up too. If she woke up, she would start crying and he'd wake up. For the most part, this meant they were both up before 6:30 everyday, which is hardly the end of the world, but I frequently wished I only had one to entertain in my pre-7am state.
We did a couple of excursions that required a night in a hotel, where all three of us shared one room: us in one bed, my son in another, and my daughter in a travel cot. On the whole, the children handled this fine, but I lay awake listening to them, which made me tired and snappy the following day. I have sleep issues anyway, so it doesn't take much to trigger insomnia. Learning from this lesson, we're going to try and avoid room-sharing with us in future trips.
We had learned from our trip to the UK last summer that keeping the nap routine was vital when there was so much stimulation and upheaval during the day. Our son is in the middle of dropping his afternoon nap, some days he takes it, some he doesn't, and we did fairly well at keeping on top of that. Our friends were very good about scheduling the days to incorporate an afternoon nap at home most of the time (we also had our daughter nap in the stroller/car-seat a few times). Their youngest son was four and hadn't napped for well over a year, but he ended up taking a few afternoon naps as well, due to all the activity.
The spread of ages (six years between our daughter and the oldest boy) wasn't as difficult as I'd expected. Most of our daytrips were to places we'd done before and knew that they were hands-on. My daughter didn't understand what was going on, but enjoyed messing with everything, the oldest boy (seven) could grasp the educational aspect and the other two ranged in between. Our friends speculated that it would be more difficult in another couple of years when their eldest might be rolling his eyes at what the younger children wanted to do.
We had a one adult to child ratio, which worked out pretty well for catering to their individual ages, and also for letting each adult have a break at different times. The three boys in particular could usually be grouped together with just one or two adults supervising.
We did Busch Gardens, VA, which was the first time my daughter had been able to get involved in a theme park trip. The minimum requirement for most of the children's rides there is walking ability. I had remembered that when I first took my son on the rides a couple of years ago, we had started in the Sesame Street area which is very loud and busy. We'd gone on the first ride we saw, without actually watching it first and it had been a little more exciting than we'd realised. My son had freaked out and it took us the rest of the day to get him on another ride.
So with my daughter, we went to a quieter area, started with a peaceful ride and let her watch it first. She caught on very quickly and went on anything and everything she could after that. She was outraged when we let her brother go on the bumper cars without her.
We had hired an eight-seater car for the driving, so we were all together. The three boys sat in the back and were more or less self-entertaining for the road trips (we rarely drove for more than an hour). My daughter sat between me and the other Mum and loved it, but tended to get needy and stroppy. She actually did a lot better when I transferred back to the front seat and she couldn't see me any more.
We did a drive up to Washington DC at the end of the holiday, which is four hours away. For that, we started at the children's bedtime (having brushed their teeth and got them in their pajamas), so most of them slept on the way up. We drove for three hours, stopped for the night and then did the final hour into DC in the morning. Spent the day there (did a lot of walking), then got the kids in their pajamas and drove home from 6-10pm. That worked very well for us and we will probably do that trick again.
Phew! Will try and get back to regular updates now.