Kindle be gone.

Road trips with young ones are just not what the used to be and I blame the invention of tablets. Up until last Christmas we did not own a tablet, or that’s a lie, I did, but it was mine and the little rats were not getting their filthy paws on it. Then along came amazon with a deal…$35 for a kindle fire. How could I refuse? Number one was getting older and as much I had resisted the electronic madness there comes a time when you have to let them enter that world. But you can’t get one child something without getting the others the same…Right? So before I knew it there were three Kindles all wrapped up and under the tree. The kids seemed easy about it start, only playing in them every so often. Still interested in all their other toys and actually socialising with one another. But slowly, slowly the beast grew and now I don’t have any idea how to moderate this unruly monster that I, myself brought though the door.

For me, sometimes it’s an easy out. I need to make dinner or clean the house in peace so out comes the tablets. In the past few months I’ve become unceasingly lackadaisical, handing it over to stop the constant whine “Mum, can I have my Kindle?” “Mum, when can I have my Kindle?” “Mum, Mummy, Mum, I really need the Kindle!” Then there’s the harrowing screams when the battery runs out, I always think someone is close to death. The arguments the ensue when one kid realises that one of the others have 100% battery but theirs only has 98%. But when will the madness stop? What’s a mum to do? The husband I have had talks about how to moderate it, how to give them a little but not make it so they are like shit faced junkies waiting for their next hit. Do we time it? just an hour a day? or only allow it at weekends? The guidelines on these things are ever changing and I can’t keep up.

We don’t take them to use them out of the house (The kindles, we do take the children out of the house!) unless we are travelling. Which brings me back to road trips. This past Thanksgiving week we spent a lot of time in the car. We drove up to Sacramento, which is about a six hour drive but then add in dinner and toilet breaks, we talking more seven hours. So the Kindles came with. It was great to start, they played happily, still talking to one another, requesting Alicia Keys to be on the stereo constantly. And may I point out the The Element of Freedom was released in 2009 – I mean seriously, I thought it was about two years ago, what happened to those years?

While in Sacramento (the state capital of California), we looked around the amazing old town, which has a history with the Gold rush in 1848. The area has 53 historic buildings and is registered as a national and California historic landmark. It also has a darker side, and was once known as the worst skid row west of Chicago. Today is it still super rough around the edges. Due to it’s river location it is very industrial with lots of edgy graffiti on disused buildings running the length of river from our hotel to tower bridge. Perfect for a rock band photo shoot! But the area still has a huge homeless population, it pains me to see so many people wandering around, kicking the dirt, looking completely lost when you know that they should be receiving real medical help. I guess the cost of medications and healthcare will make it nearly impossible for these people to stand a chance.

A friend recommended that we take a trip to the rail museum, which is located in the old town. The place was filled with historic trains and employees in costume who had the knowledge to answered every question. The carriages were filled with artifacts, and placed on moving platforms that swayed gently, so you really get a feel what it would be like to travel in these trains back when they were operational. The play area for kids had…yip…trains. They could watch the vintage train sets bimbling around in their vintage tracks, then play with the wooden trains. Pretty much a perfect day out for anyone. Even if you’re not a trainspotter(which I am not!) But throughout the day I heard the word Kindle, 700 million times. They kids dreamed of the drive back to L.A. so that they can play their bloody kindles. The immediate moment was lost. Screw the trains, who gives a shit about historic train or even playing for that matter when there is a Kindle sitting in a hotel room all lonely and sad. How could we have left them there? What if someone breaks in and steals their precious box of plastic and microchips.

The journey home was quiet, apart from the cogs of my brain ticking around trying to work out a solution that will end this madness.

A few days later we were headed to Carlsbad for the night. I was quite excited, having seen friends photos for the area. It always looks beautiful with lovely beaches and desperate housewives style homes. And yeah, the Kindles came with…they needed to experience the beach life too…right?! While driving down the freeway I noticed a massive building wrapped up like a giant Christmas present, with a freaking huge red bow on top…I tried and tried to get the kids attention but their eyes were glued to their screens. How could they miss such an amazing Christmas miracle? The bow itself was about 3 stories high. What the hell were they thinking? How can Plants vs Zombies or slither.io be better then a giant bow on a building? ugh I give up!

I’d love to tell you that Carlsbad was as good as I expected but the weather was crap, with two storms headed our way. We pretty much hid in our hotel room watching out the window as other hotel residents took pictures of the palm trees blowing sideways. The next afternoon we had a cold, windy walk on the beach.  Then lunch at Benihanas before enduring another quiet ride home.

This past week I’ve come to the conclusion that, I’ve had enough, no child of mine is going to miss the craziness that is America. Or miss the songs we can sing, the chatting that we can do. The good family times that we are missing out on due to a $35 piece of plastic. But now comes the hard part…weaning them off. I’ve had a few people who don’t have children telling me that they would just lay down the law. Which is lovely and slightly naive. I want to understanding their needs and really, Jacob and I are the only ones who have to live with that crap, so a full cut off may not be the right thing!

So, What’s the right thing to do? What are the limits? What do you all do?

I’m wondering if a mysterious ant colony may invade the house and eat up or carry off the kindles! That’s a totally realistic reason for their disappearance, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.