Car Park Robbery

A new restaurant opened up in front of our apartment block a few months ago. We have been watching them renovate the place since we moved in, over a year ago. The day after they opened a team of ten or so people turned up to rip up the car park and resurface it. The work started at 7 am…7 am I sat bolt up right from my beautiful slumber to the sound of metal being scraped along tarmac. Think nails on the blackboard times a million. This lasted the whole day, the next day large lorries turn up with tarmac and large roller machines (much to the excitement of the kids). And bosh, job done! 26 car lot complete in two days. Super quick huh?!

The evening after, opening hours and a valet service turns up to take cars from customers and park them so they don’t have to. Now, here is my issue. It’s a 26 car lot. People are paying $5-$6 to let a man park their car between one or 20 meters from the entrance of the lot. They are also then waiting in line to have this unnecessary paid luxury forced upon them. Every time a car comes into the lot I have to use every bone in my body to restrain myself from screaming “free street parking, FREE STREET PAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRKIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGG”

Have they gone mad? It seems like a big scam to me. Not even a clever one. Just one that everyone here has accepted, it’s car park robbery, or parking lot robbery. Does everyone one here need to feel special and valet parking is one of the ways to meet these self inflicted standards.

Being true to my Scottish self. I won’t pay for parking. I’ll park ten blocks away and walk for 20 minutes to avoid this unnecessary evil. I sometimes even use PUBLIC TRANSPORT…really naughty words to typical Los Angelenos.

A while ago I suggest to someone that we take the bus along the road (a 10 minutes journey) to avoid paying a $20 parking charge that the establishment we were going to charges…the bus costs $1.75 so for the two of us that is a $16.50 saving. That’s a few drinks, a family outing to Menchies, a burger for one. So many possibilities with that $16.50. The person in question looked at me as though I had actually gone mad and said “well I’ve never been on the bus so, let’s just drive”

Why do people fear the public transport system here? The buses are fine, the trains are super quick. Let’s ride public Folks!

Socks

Sometimes you have to take a big step back and really look at your life. What makes you happy? What makes you sad? Do you fail to see the little things that you should be grateful for because the daily grind starts working it’s magic cogs?

Yes. I’m thankful that I have a happy, healthy family. I’m thankful that we had a dream of moving a far and we followed it. I’m thankful that Jacob works his ass off so that I can spend everyday working my ass off looking after the kids rather than in some job I would resent. But those are the big things. What about the little daily things that make a smile appear or disappear.

Socks…I hate socks! Wearing them. Washing them. Pairing them. Having a constant flow of odd socks.

Since moving, we don’t really wear the devils mitten. No more having to deal with the evils of weak elastic. Making, what you thought in the house was a functioning sock turn into the one piece of clothing that is not just invading your foot arch but every corner of your brain. Step, by step.

Then there are toe seams, why…just why?! There are no words to explain my discontent for those nasty little toe crushing lines.

So, I’m grateful for sunshine, warmth, sandals and nail polish.

De-loused

I’ve basically been neglecting this blog and any social networking for the past five weeks – my mum has been visiting. She is such a lovely lady and always comes to my rescue when Jacob is on tour. This time though, it was a five week visit. No quick train ride down to London from Fife anymore. Nope, a long 11 hours on a plane is needed. Mum, doesn’t like flying. So I appreciate that she has had to man up and get her ass on a plane just for me to get a hair cut and join a Pilates class…Thanks mum!

So, since I last picked up the laptop there has been an epidemic at school. One that, judging by the reaction of parents – it was as bad as Ebola outbreak. The dreaded infestation of lice.

One morning at drop off, I walked up to a group of mums looking highly freaked out.

“Everything okay?” I said. I got these replies….

“There’s lice in the class”

“Seven Children”

“Oh, no. What will we do?”

Being a sarcastic arse, I burst out laughing and said “oh, yeah, eeeek, nits. Whatever will we do. Call the Doctor!”

So I really thought their reactions were a joke. Turns out, it was not a joke and in fact they are crazy mofos about a wee scabby nit. I heard one mother shrieking  “oh, my gosh. It’s so unsanitary” While another spoke of their first ‘traumatizing’ experience with lice when their child was younger.

One lovely mum, removed anything and everything made of material from the class room to boil wash it. But there was a long stare and conversation about the carpet. What was to be done about it?

Nits to me, is a normal childhood problem. They are more of an annoyance than anything. If you treat them naturally, it takes forever and who wants to go around their whole family with that little nit comb hearing the screams of pain as you scrape it across each scalp in turn. But if you take the chemical route, well, you’re putting chemicals on your kid.

Some inventive people have found a great way to make some cash out of these freaked out parents. Salons with names like ‘The Magic Nit Pick’ and ‘Hairwizards’ are dotted around. Where people drive to with the whole family and pay $100 per person to get De-Loused. De-Loused at the Combatorium if you will. Yeah, yeah, I know I added a B for all those Mars Volta fans. Nearly bald fathers, sitting in chairs while the nit nurse is hysterically laughing, riding that gravy train.

I’m not really sure what to think of peoples’ reaction to these nasty nits. Am I too relaxed about it? Are they too uptight? Will I feel differently when I have to deal with them? Summer has the longest hair so I’m sure one day they will catch on. Lets hope I’m still that sarcastic cow when it does happen or that’ll be $500 out the window for all us Quists.

Twinkle light fear.

I like to think that I am pretty easy going with regards to noisy neighbours. Having been a music loving party gal. I lived for loud music. I played my tunes loud and bass even louder. Now the situation is a little different.

My kids are the loud ones. They split eardrums at 100ft and I am so apologetic to those nearby.  But they are kids, right!?

I always say ‘at least the noise will stop at around 7:30’. Bedtime. Peacetime. Beer time.

The block that we have moved into is a lovely little complex with 10 apartments. There are a range people living here – A couple of families. An amazing older couple at the other end of the hall. A sweet little lady that speaks no English. The partiers and a whole lot of dogs.

The complex wraps around a little swimming pool and communal space. People are happy to sit out together and have a chat. It’s a really friendly atmosphere.

It all sounds so exotic compared to the grey of my old victorian converted flat but this place is not perfect. The palm trees in the grounds need trimmed and I’m actually told that they are a fire hazard in the summer heat. But us Scots have not had to deal with a whole load of palm tree so I really don’t know so much about that!

The pool cleaning days and complex cleaning days seem to be a little mixed up – the pool guy will come on, say a Tuesday and it’ll then look all lovely and sparkly with no crap floating in it then the next day the complex cleaner will come with his leaf blower and blow all the surrounding shit back into the pool. It all seems really strange.

Having always lived in close vicinity to others, I’m used to seeing and hearing all sorts of stuff that I really could have done without. Once I watched a man poop in an envelope in the back of his 4×4. I’ve witnessed a young fella chase another fella down the street with an axe. And lay in my bed listening to helicopters hovering above the house while people were looting and setting cars on fire near by (London Riots).

Right now though I have developed “twinkle light fear”. This is when my next door neighbours puts their twinkle lights on and sit directly outside my bedroom window on an evening. They turn on the lights a while before they actually go and sit there. It’s like they are giving me an hour’s notice to maybe go set up my bed in another room. It’s not so bad when there’s only two of them. But when a party situation arises, well let’s just say that we don’t have double glazing…or indeed windows that close properly. I can hear and smell everything. There are certain things that you do not want to hear people doing and other times when I think to myself “god, how can they sit there and talk such crap” – Then I remember that Marijuana is legal here (for medical use of course). The sweet aroma is often in the air when I’m drifting off to sleep. It is there when I wake up too. Seriously these guys must be smoking all night long. I don’t think they actually sleep, which is weird as they are so stoned all the time Shouldn’t it be more chilled, munchies then sleep?

Luckily they are all very sweet.

Placid, sweet, stoned, but noisy neighbours with twinkle lights.

Spring Break

School is such a buzzkill. I know that in reality we can’t have an eternal Spring break and that actually I would probably go totally insane having all three kids with me all the time, but this week has been sort of magical. Even though Jacob has been missing for some of it, we totally made up for it at the weekend.

Our Easter week started with a bang. That bang being a friend (Rebecca) and her two kids arriving from London. Summer and Rebecca’s eldest were in the same class in London so they were super excited to see each other and talk about who was a bit naughty back in her old class and who was the funniest person ever.

Our apartment is not really the best for having seven people staying in it but we made it work. I now quite like the idea of having a wife or living in a commune. Seriously things just got done. We worked well around dinner, cleaned up after with such synchronicity that in next to no time we had all the kids in bed asleep and were sitting out on the balcony with a cocktail. Not once did I have to ask for anything to get done, it was just done. Beautiful!

We started the week with a trip to Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This is also my first trip to one of the local museums. Summer went here on a school trip a few weeks ago so she was really happy to show us around. In true London style we got on a couple of buses to make our way there. Not really sure why everyone uses their cars all the time here as it was super easy, although I’m sure it would be hell getting out to the beach on a bus…must google that!

The outside of the museum was pretty amazing, lots of room for the kids to run around. Inside the various buildings were photographs, paintings, sculptures…everything you would expect from a Museum of Art. It was not the most child friendly of museums, lots of marshalls around telling off the children for being too loud or fast. One fella said that art was not interactive and also not for children.. Not sure I agree with that one! However, they did have a children’s area where the kids could paint for a while and we could relax a little.

The next day we decided to go to Universal Studios. We had originally said we should go to Disney but it takes 15 min on the bus to Universal compared to a two hour drive to Disney, so it was kind of a no brainer with five kids in tow. We arrived at the park nice and early to make the most of the day. The older children wanted to go on all the rides, while the younger kids either couldn’t or wouldn’t. So Rebecca took the older kids while I took my young ones for a walk around. After a while of walking, Phoenix, Silver and I decided to take the studio tour. It could not be that frightening, right?! Hmm. Turns out that after 15 minutes of sitting on a train looking at various famous street sets you enter a dark tunnel. Then – in 4D – dinosaurs start attacking the train, spraying water and rocking the carriage back and forth. Phoenix and Silver both start screaming and shaking uncontrollably, fighting over who is going to be closest to me. I hung my head in shame for taking them on the tour…I could see the glares from the old biddies!

Next up was the famous animals show. I double checked with a steward that there was nothing remotely scary in this show. Apart from a few pigeons flying over head we were totally safe. Phoenix and Silver loved it, especially when one of the dogs from Beverly Hills Chihuahua came on stage. Oh, what a treat that was!!!

Then lunch and a run about in the water fountains and onto the next show, Waterworld. Seriously amazing. I love this stuff. Explosions and water flying everywhere. A crappy plot line. It’s so cheesy and fabulous…next time I’m going on my own and sitting in the splash area!

We caught a couple more shows and then it was time to head home with five tired kids –  and two even more tired Mums.

The rest for the week was filled up with kids arguing, winding each other up, then laughing and chatting. Kids are so amazing, I do wish I could wear my emotions on my sleeve the way they do.
Poor Jacob arrives home, tired and Jetlagged and I get him straight back into family life. Best way to get over the lag I say!

I had the weekend planned. It is Easter and we must find somewhere amazingly American to do an Easter egg hunt. Underwood Family Farm in Moorpark was going to be the place. So with a picnic packed we headed over to the land of oversized egg baskets. We hunted for sweetie filled eggs in a hay covered field and avoided the rather creepy looking Easter bunny. Really, what more could you want. Well, a little less sun, as being deep in the valley it was baking. We were baking. Being the pasty Brits we are (with the exception of Jacob) I was slightly fearful of us looking like “Brits on holiday” – you know, the lobster look. We did manage the whole day, taking a sun break in the hillbilly ranch style cafe and seeking trees to hide under. It was a perfect way to spend a family Saturday.

Easter Sunday arrived and we were going to a friend’s potluck lunch. I baked my Spanish Omelette just in time. The kids were all ready and off we went. Not really knowing what to expect as the friend (Tiffany) who invited us is really a new friend. Jacob and I actually met her the day before we got married in Vegas a couple of years ago. She was a gorgeous maitre d at the Paradise Cove in Malibu. She gave us her email and lots of advice on the different areas in L.A to live with kids. But on an actual day to day friendship level she is pretty new. Turning up at her house in North Hollywood for Easter Sunday was so fun. Her family and friends are just as amazing as she is. All gorgeous and welcoming. I felt like I had known some of them for years!

The Kids played outside. Summer playing catch, Phoenix running around with a boy his age trying out skateboards and Silver became the doorman for the day (or door person – don’t want to be sexist).

The Holidays are always so special, but this is our first one in Los Angeles so maybe that’s why it was extra special. Or maybe it was the friends visiting from the U.K or even the new friends making us feel welcome. What ever the magic factor was I don’t want it to end. Maybe I should home school. Maybe I should try unschooling, maybe I should go set that alarm.

It’s all about the kids.

After spending way too many years in London, I felt like I lost my identity. A lot of this also corresponded with becoming a mother and stopping that crazy thing called work, because before that I really did feel like I knew who I was. I was a ballsy bass playing grunge rock gal. I wore clothes too tight, drank like a fish and swore like a fishwife (sorry mum!). This move to another city is making me remember what it was like when I first moved to London – that excitement – but this time I get to share it with four other people, all of whom are having their own individual reaction to the change… well, not Silver really – she so little and is pretty much just happy as long as I am nearby.

Summer starting at the local school was probably really hard for her but she a tough nut to crack. She is really friendly and always wants to please everyone so I was not too worried about her. There was always going to be an adjustment period. She stands out a little with her London accent. The other kids have been together since kindergarden so they have pretty tight friendships going on.

Summer mentioned once that she had no one to play with during break but what seven year old kid doesn’t say that every so often. We had a little chat about it and now she is bouncing to school, not needing those extra hugs in the morning…I miss those hugs!

The school itself is really really good. She is back to getting weekly homework, which her London school stopped for some reason in favour of termly homework. Her teacher is beautifully scatty, super easy going but gets the work done. What stands out the most though is the after school clubs. There seem to be hundreds of them. My experience of after school clubs is that you sign up for anything you can and they allocate you a place on one…the one the school choose for your child. Here things are a little different. There’s Drama, Glee, Dance, Art, Knitting, film making, lego robotics, woodwork…the list goes on. It is so interesting, the schools are used as a community. They don’t lock down at the end of the school day, they open up. There is a tuck shop with a massive queue all the time. A running track with kids counting laps for others. A stage where some make up dance routines. Every inch of the campus is covered with kids having fun.Their parents are able to be there, sitting in the sun enjoying a popsicle.

The acting, singing, theater after school enrichment is run by a wonderful but crazy lady. I never really knew what to think of her until Saturday past. Summer and I went along to a kids production of ‘Wicked’ in the school auditorium. The whole thing was so elaborate. The costumes, the lighting, the set. So much effort was put into this. It was more like a theater production in the East End rather than a simple school play.

The drama teacher sat in front of the stage the whole time, she knew the performance back to front. Helping anyone that got a little stuck for words. You could tell the kids doated on her and that she really cared. She had so obviously been up all night going over things in her head – and yet her energy was through the roof!

What struck me the most though was that all the children were in charge. Even the back stage. The ones not in the play were doing makeup and wardrobe. Some choose to do lighting so had a spotlight that was theirs. They all had little ear pieces and mics to communicate to each other. They were trusted to do the adult jobs. They sell the tickets, they man the door, they smile and help.

A few Americans have said to me “why have you moved here from the UK? The UK has a much better school system” and that may be right. I am yet to find this out. It’ll take longer than a few months to really see if there’s a difference in class room education, but for community spirit and child involvement, it’s one up for America.

Just (do it to yourself)

Today I decided after weeks of debating to cut Phoenix’s hair.

Summer was off sick from school. Jacob went foraging at Ralph’s for the items on a list that I had handed him. Popcorn, sweeties, cheese. All the things I needed for a day stuck in the apartment with three kids. As it hit mid-afternoon everyone was getting a little tired. The paper volcano Summer and I had been making for science week was not entertaining anymore.

So this was it, the moment I had been waiting for. I powered up the Wii, clicked on youtube and picked a film that we had not watched before.

I don’t know why, but with every task I need to do, my brain doesn’t seem to realise up until launch moment that I do not have the correct tools to do the job. Yesterday I was stood on a chair with a curtain pole, screws and a spirit level before it clicked that I don’t have my electric screwdriver. It’s in the frickin shipping container.

Today was no different. Phoenix was in position, which with our lack of, well… anything, meant him sitting on the kids table and I just ran around him like the hunchback of notre dame. I had scissors at the ready but no comb. I have a comb. I’ve always had a comb…oh, no comb…with a little quick thinking I remembered that deep within a toiletries bag was a nit comb. So this became my hair cutting comb (not recommended).

As those first few strands fell to the floor I start singing Radiohead’s Just (do it to yourself) in my head. I realised why I shouldn’t cut my kids’ hair. A realisation I have every time but being a thrifty Scot it goes against my instinct to spend cash on kids haircuts. Phoenix’s head was swinging around everywhere, picture the exorcist scene but with me trying to clamp his head in place. The scissors were cutting up anything they could find, I was basically gouging out hollows in his hair which meant it was getting shorter and shorter.

All the while Silver was scraping chairs across the floor to sit next to me, declaring it was her turn. I managed to finish the hair cut with only one huge tantrum from Phoenix. He walked away half cut (haha). Telling me that he was itchy and wanted a bath. “NOW”. I coaxed him back onto the table and he underwent the last of the ‘do’ with promise of sweeties and a bath overflowing with bubbles.

The film ended before the haircut.

We kept our eyes locked on each other as I fumbled with the wii controller. Me wondering if he was going to stay sitting on his arse. Him wondering if he could make a run for it. I won! Go me!

So with a new program on I finish up. Rather happy with the result as long as I don’t turn the light up too high… bloody brilliant.

After the bath it still looked pretty good.

Wonder what Jacob will say when he gets in….

Don’t look back

We are living right next to the L.A River, well I say river, it’s a big storm drain. The one from terminator, when Edward is riding that bike trying not to be caught (not that exact location but it’s all connected huh!?). Anyway, it’s actually a really nice walk for the kids. We take some paper bags from Ralph’s to fill with pine cones which I end up carrying. They then get left on the balcony to rot. I figure we could get lots of them, then spray paint them for Christmas. HAHAHA, who am I kidding, I suck at this sort of stuff but I guess it’s the thought that counts. Esh I hope the kids have forgotten about this idea long before Christmas!

So our nice walk goes like this. Me trying to get three kids’ shoes and jackets on, by time I get one all ready then I move to the next whilst the first one takes everything off while lying on the floor screaming that he or she doesn’t want to go for a walk. After a 20 minute tantrum, I then resort to the “Okay, I’m leaving, see ya all later” which results in everyone running for the door screaming that they want to go out… bloody kids! Actually this fight is reserved for the younger two as Summer pretty much wants to be out all the time.

The river itself is cute, little ducks paddling around. The embankment has obviously had a lot of work done to it over the years with a nice little fish mural, information posts to tell people what plants and animals live in the surrounding area. The kids make me read these and then the rest of the way along the river they inform me every time they see deer grass (it’s everywhere).

There are always a few joggers around, people walking their teeny tiny little pooches and occasionally a man wearing what I think is an all in one chicken outfit, although he is topless. The top half is tied around his waist while the bottom half flaps open and rides low. Luckily he is aware of it riding low so he has a grip of the front, saving us from getting a real eye full. We pass him without the kids taking any notice as they are so busy with ‘who has the biggest stick’. After a little while I take a look back to see that chicken man doesn’t have the same dedication in covering the back as he has to covering the front…why oh why did I look back?

Where’s my stuff?

As my skin slowly changes to a colour that far more resembles a human being than the pale mottled blue colour that it has been all my life, I begin to think ‘where the hell is my stuff?’ So

I spent the last four months in London selling furniture, packing things into boxes for shipping, being super organised and yet it has not left England. It is sitting in some warehouse gathering mould and collecting the odd spider that will jump out at me when it arrives. That’s assuming it will arrive before our visas run out in 3 years. Although it was really therapeutic and it felt good to go down to a minimal life, enough is enough. It’s been 11 weeks and I want my kids toys!

The reality is though it did feel great but we consume, and like many other parents around we love buying those little monkeys treats, a jigsaw here, a disney toy there. Jeez, does it add up.

I’m thinking that we will need to make a charity shop run before the year is out, considering we came here on the plane with 5 overweight suitcases, that’s crazy!

We have had some things donated to us by people we know, to get us going and make this place feel more like home. The first person to come round with a car full of kids books, cutlery, a kitchen unit, a hair drier…the essentials, was a lady that we met in 2013. The day before we got married. We were on Malibu beach having dinner in a cute restaurant that served the biggest cobb salad known to man, she was the hostess. She gave us tips for living in L.A with kids then her email in case we needed more information and we just kept in touch.

A few days after landing at LAX it was new years eve. we went round to her house and spent a few jet lagged hours trying to keep the kids awake so we may finally hit normal california time. She got the kids making christmas cookies and made us a massive cup of tea. We then all sat around in her beautiful spanish house, with a fire burning, looking at the 5 christmas trees she had up in her living room, all varying sizes and colours. all twinkling away. With the smell of cookies in the air, I was totally happy with the choice we made, it was all pretty damn enchanting, it could also have been the equal part caffeine buzz to spaced out ratio but we will never know, I’m going for enchantment, much more special!