JEN ARNOLD & BILL KLEIN Q&A
One of TLC’s favourite families is back, as Bill Klein, Jen Arnold, and their two adopted children – Will and Zoey – return for a new season of The Little Couple. No two days look the same in the Klein-Arnold household; with two little rug rats getting up to mischief daily, a business to look after, and a simulation centre to manage – not to mention the fact that all four family members are under four feet tall – they certainly have their hands full! We sat down with Bill and Jen to talk about parenthood, how the kids have adjusted to life in the US, and how they manage to stay on top of everything, without breaking a sweat!
What does a typical day in the Arnold-Klein household look like?
J: Well I guess a typical day involves getting up for school and work. I’m usually the first one out of bed so I get the coffee going; sometimes I’m making lunch for the kids for school, and then Bill gets up and he’s typically the one to get the kids out of bed and get them dressed. Then we’ll meet downstairs when everyone is ready, and have breakfast. One of us takes the kids to school – this is usually Bill – and then I’m off to work. Sometimes the kids are picked up after school by their nanny or they have after-school activities like karate, speech therapy or ballet, and then we all reconvene and have a nice dinner together as a family. Then it’s a little bit of hang out time, book time before bed, and then it’s off to sleep.
Between the two of you, you have a lot on! How do you juggle owning a business/working full time with caring for two dogs and looking after two very active kids?
J: We definitely have a lot going on – we balance it all, but it’s not easy. We live by our calendar – smartphones help a lot! Bill is obviously very busy, he’s about to redesign the pet shop and start franchising, and he’s also got an invention he’s working on, and of course for me with work it’s all the craziness of running a simulation centre. So we’ve both got pretty busy lives but we have a lot of help around us, our calendars that we rely on and we just communicate as much as possible and work together to try and make it all fit.
You’ve both been really open about your struggles with fertility over the years; how did it feel when you made the decision to adopt and what was that process like?
J: I think for both of us we really started off being open-minded about wanting to be parents - that was the goal, so we actually started looking into adoption as early as looking into fertility. But we knew with fertility there would be a biological clock ticking, so we were more aggressive in the beginning about pursuing that option and then when we realised that that was not working out, we put more of our eggs into the adoption basket, and within not long we were both pursuing adoption, so we were very blessed and fortunate to have just found two amazing kids at the right time.
Coming from such different cultures, was there a bit of an adjustment period when the Will and Zoey first came to their new home in the US?
J: I don’t think there was too much, I think it was more of an adjustment from being in an orphanage type setting to coming into a family, and the cultural change. They were young – Zoey was only two and Will was only three – so I think Will had an unusually easy transition. Growing up in orphanages there are some struggles with attachments and understanding that they are no longer in a facility with caretakers and other kids, once they move into a home environment. But I would say for both of them, we’ve been so fortunate that they have really acclimated as well as they have. Language is probably the hardest thing sometimes, but they really didn’t have a ton of language even in their home so I would say for the most part it went really well and the culture adjustment was more from going from and orphanage to a home environment.
The kids have both been part of your family for more than a year now, and it’s been a lot of fun seeing their personalities come out as they’ve gotten older and bonded with each other. They definitely know how to push each other’s buttons…!
B: Yeah they definitely have figured out what makes the other one tick or explode. They took on the role of brother and sister pretty quickly and they learned all of the ins and outs of how to get away with murder. But at the same time, they are probably two of the closest siblings I have seen interact because of their general affection for each other and the way that they treat each other. While they would be happy trying to steal each other’s toys and play with them and irritate each other, if you were to give them a cookie, they would break it in half and make sure the other one got just as much.
J: the other one wouldn’t eat the cookie until the other one is ready. They really do look out for each other and care for each other.
B: I think that the relationship there is a typical brother-sister relationship which is what you want, you know, what you expect, and then there’s some stuff that I can’t necessarily explain, and some emotional ecology that these two have, that you wouldn’t expect.
You share a lot of special moments as a family with the rest of the world, one of which comes to mind was your beautiful wedding vow renewal. You’ve also shared a number of difficult experiences such as Jen’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, and Bill’s back surgery. Is it hard having a camera crew around when you’re dealing with something so personal?
J: I think for sure it is challenging, but what makes it work is that fact that we have some control over when we shoot and when we don’t. I think that having a good relationship with the production crew helps to make all of those very momentous, big moments, much easier to put on camera, you know? When you feel like your camera man or producer is a friend, it kinda all flows and feels okay. And of course having the support of having each other makes getting through all of those times as good as they could possibly be, even when they aren’t so good ones.
And how have the kids adjusted to having a film crew around?
J: They call them the crew! “Is the crew coming with us today?” (laughs) They have fun with it for the most part. They get spoiled by the crew sometimes which helps, and they are more aware now than they were the first couple of years since we’ve brought them home because they are older and they understand that these people are here and they have cameras. I think they are now starting to understand that they are on television. I’m not quite sure, but I think for the most part I think that they think that every kid is on television!
Sesu Cleopatra Seau asks: How have you both found parenthood so far?
B: It’s been a lot of fun! We were talking about it the other day when there would be times when Jennifer and I would come home from work, we’d make up a little dinner, hang out for a little bit, do a little work on the computer, stay up until 11 or 12, watch a little late night TV… Now, we feed the kids, we bring the kids upstairs, we brush their teeth, read books, the kids go to bed, and our head reaches the pillow, we fall asleep, and we know we’ve had a good day
J: It’s definitely a whirlwind, but so much fun, every stage, every couple of months they’re a little bit different and I miss the younger stages, but I am so excited to see them grow. Every day is a new day, and something different and exciting!
Kirstin Harvey asks: How is Will doing with his English? And has Zoey become more confident around strangers?
J: I would have to say yes. Will is talking up a storm, his language is fantastic now. As Bill mentioned they both have great emotional intelligence, and are very perceptive, so I think that has helped them with their language skills. And Zoey is definitely much better; she is definitely going to be a confident woman! She will definitely give me grey hair, but it’s a good thing because when she is a grownup it will serve her very well, so she is becoming quite the strong, assertive young lady, which is good. Tiring for mum and dad, but a good thing for her!
Eliza Mahoney asks: Would you like to adopt any more children?
B: I can’t tell you what the future might hold, however, at this point in time, I think we are very very happy with our family of four, and I think we will just have to wait and see what the world has in store for us.
J: I think that we can both say that the adoption of Will & Zoey has been the best thing we have done in our lives and of course you start to think ‘oh we could have more’ but also oh my goodness we have our hands full and we're very happy with two amazing kids so we should just be very thankful with where we're at.
Rana Ngatiwest asks: What is the most fun thing you do as a family and how are the kids doing at school?
J: Well at school, the kids are doing very well. They have blossomed and they are catching up, and doing a fantastic job. As far as fun things we do as a family… Bike riding, we like swimming, anything to keep fit; I mean we live in Houston so it’s warm so we can spend a lot of time outside by the pool. Zoey and I have bonded over the beach, so us girls really enjoy our beach time. The boys tend to enjoy solace… and movie time! (laughs)
Heidi Taylor-Mitchell asks: As Will and Zoey get older and become more curious about where they came from, their heritage and their culture, how will you approach this and do you plan to integrate their respective cultures into their upbringing?
J: We both have embraced Will and Zoey’s culture, not that we are experts at it and I think that is the hardest part, knowing how to integrate it more. But we have definitely tried as much as possible to integrate them and remind them of their culture. They both know; Zoey knows that she is from India and Will knows that he is from China, and he loves China, he loves Chinese things, and learning about his culture. Zoey is a little bit younger but she seems interested as well, so we are hoping that as she gets older she will continue to want to know more about her culture. Our goal is to support that as much as we can. We want to make trips back to their countries and continue to support that. I don’t know if they quite understand the concept of adoption versus not being adopted, so I think they just know that they’re ours, and that they came from China and India and that we couldn’t wait to bring them home.
B: We haven’t ever really shied away from talking about it, but we haven’t really sat them down, like the birds and the bees kinda talk that you would imagine people do to get it over with. I think that what we have always treated it like is that we are proud to be where they are from, and we are even more proud that they are ours, and that we want to do whatever we can to make them feel like they can explore their heritage to whatever degree they have interest. So, quite the opposite of shy! We are outgoing about it and I think that isn’t necessarily the recipe for everybody but it is the option that we took with our kids because Jen and I are both very proud of the fact that they are both from China and India and there’s so much wonderful culture in both of those countries. It’d be a downright shame for us to not embrace that and take advantage of the fact that we have two kids that will likely want to learn more about it.
Nicole Lonsdale asks: What do Will and Zoey say they want to be when they grow up?
J: Well, as of late – and it does change at this age – but as of now Will has three top things he wants to be. He wants to be an astronaut, he wants to be a pilot, and the third is either a fireman or a policeman. He is going to be a very busy grown up!
B: And Zoey, she has more of a veterinarian kind-of outlook.
J: Yeah, she is truly a horse lover; she loves animals, particularly dogs and horses and has always been drawn to them. She is not afraid of any animal except for maybe birds, and she just loves them. So I think that while she doesn’t quite understand yet that caring for animals versus just having them, I think she does like doctoring, so maybe a veterinarian, she hasn’t expressed it yet, but clearly her tendencies are in that direction.
Maria Katsiotis asks: Do you have any exciting holidays planned for this season?
J: Well we had a big trip to England, and Scotland; I had a big trip for work where I presented to the national pediatric simulation convention in Glasgow, Scotland and so we brought the kids and we made it into a family vacation and we spent a couple of days in London and a couple of days in Scotland and we really just explored which was a blast. And these guys, the one thing that I will say, no matter where we go whether it is Florida to visit family or New York, or a family vacation to the Caribbean, or a work trip to Scotland, they are fantastic travelers. They love to fly, they love to travel and see new things, and so that makes it really easy and a lot of fun to sort of see and explore. When Will hasn’t been on a plane in a few months, he’ll ask ‘when are we going on another trip?’. He loves to explore and we love that about them – it makes for good family fun!
All new The Little Couple starts on Thursday 23 March at 8:30pm AEDT!
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