Day 1: LAX
After a 16 hour flight on a strangely battered plane we arrived in sunny L.A. J refused to seep anywhere but in my seat, using me as a mattress. I felt as battered as the plane was by the end of it.
We did our usual customs routine where M carried the baby so that he looked more affable and people were nicer to him and got through with no problems. This works on the way out, through the security check, as well. But then he has all three kids with him in one line while I am in the other line. Usually when they see that he is handling all 3 by himself they go easy on him. We all still get ‘random’ checks every time but they tend to go faster and the people tend to be nicer.
We arrived at the rental house late afternoon. All was in order and the house was perfect. Nice pool, big yard, fully furnished, blackouts in the bedroom. Perfect! (Blackouts are essential for probably all the Saudi’s I know) The kids were full of beans and in such good moods! No groceries were bought yet so we decided to go out to dinner. Baby B was too tired and crashed pretty early.
Loaded kids into the rental car where they proceeded to talk like they were on speed. We got out onto the main road and this was what I saw when I looked back at them.
We contemplated going back inside but if we did we would have 2 hungry kids awake at 4 am wanting to be fed. So we pushed on. It did look a little like we had 2 drugged kids who kept falling of their seat or crawling into a fetal position all through dinner but we managed to keep them up till 7 pm.
Day 2: Santa Monica
Breakfast, into car, onto Santa Monica (Or Santa Motika as M keeps saying. Verbal typo).
Walked up and down 3rd street a few times. Saw a sculpture of a dolphin with a coin slot in its head. Spent 10 minutes explaining to J that if she put some money in it would go to help saving the dolphins. Then had S tell me that was all gobeldy goop because he read the plaque in front of the sculpture and it said the money went to the homeless. Spent another 10 minutes trying to explain to J that it’s a good thing and promising her we will find somewhere to save dolphins.
Had lunch. Watched dogs. The amount of dogs in LA would put france to shame. And they are allowed everywhere! How didn’t I notice this last year? After lunch we walked down beside the beach towards the Santa Monica pier. We stopped twice so S and J could climb huge cannons that were facing the ocean (If I had read the plaque I could have told you what they are but alas I didn’t and S was too busy saying stuff like ‘ahoy maty’ and ‘shiver me timbers’ to read it for me). We saw the most beautiful and colorful houses along the beach.
Baby B spent the time chasing birds and running happily. When we finally reached the pier it was getting late and crowded and we made the decision to head home. Yes, we took them all the way to where the Ferris wheel and the fair was and we said “nope, ya can’t go in” Gold stars for horrible parenting. But it was too windy and late. S and J said they wanted to get on the cannon again and ran off and wouldn’t stop running. So when we finally caught up with them they got and ear full from M and a grounding the next day.
Day 3: Best grounding EVER!
Woke up early. S cooked breakfast for the first time. He made pancakes and was so proud of himself as it was the first time he used the stove. Kids jumped into the pool. Swam for hours. Then they got out and cooked lunch. Then they found a net and a ball, set it up in the yard and played volley ball (or bolly ball as J calls it). They then jumped back in the pool for a few more hour and were waiting for dinner. Not so effective punishment I guess.
Day 4: The Drake Institute
10 a.m. arrived at J’s appointment at The Drake Institute. It was recommended to me by my cousin whose daughter had some anxiety issues as my little J does. They use a technology called Neurofeedback. I won’t explain too much as I am sure I will just confuse you since I am a little confused still but click here if you want to know more. What brought me to the institute are J’s anxieties and wanting to know how to deal with them so they don’t grow out of proportion and so I don’t make them worse. I will have to dedicate another post to say more about this in detail but we left 2 hours later with J miserable and tired. We were meant to have a girls day but J opted to skip and go meet S and his friends where they were.
Day 5: Troubles, Toothbrushes and Too much junk
New nanny is really not working out. We are having hygiene issues. Not her’s alone but now the children’s. We are having conversations like “Have they brushed their teeth? When was the last time they brushed their teeth?”. Not conversations I want to have with a nanny. Also, the children wanted a snack and she gave them toast with butter and syrup “Because that’s what they wanted” yeah… They are 8 and 5 years old of course thats what they wanted!! Doesn’t mean you have to give it to them.
Day 6: French and Brain Games
Took J to her first Neurofeedback session. She lasted 15 mins then put her head down and refused to do the rest. This is the first of 16 sessions… not looking good. Arrived back home at 10.30 am. Took shoes off, put one of those whitening teeth strip thingy’s and sat down to write a post. Door bell rang. Picked up the intercom and heard “Hello? This is Christophe”. Oh damn it! I booked french lessons for myself! What was I thinking! Conversational french for an hour with a stranger. “Coming! Sorry one second!” ripped the strip off my teeth (thankfully remembered to do that) and ran to answer the door.
An hour later it wasn’t so bad! I found that I remembered more french than I expected! Turns out Christophe is originally Algerian. He has a couple of children as well and is a dog behaviorist. So we spoke about Algeria, politics, kids, LA and dogs. Next lesson we are going to cook crêpe for the children (The children will be in camp but I am still gonna cook crêpe cause I love it!). The kids kept coming to see what I was doing and thought it brilliant that I had a teacher and was learning something. They kept testing me on my french (and I kept making up words cause really, how are they gonna know?)
Day 7: Pasadena.
We went to Pasadena a couple of times last year and really liked it. So we invited some friends of ours with their daughter to lunch there. We ate at a restaurant called Cafe Santorini. The food was really tasty. If you ever go have the Calamari. We wanted to go to Gold Class Cinema (Lounge chairs, waiters to bring you your pop corn, really nice cinema) to see cars 2 but why we thought we would find tickets to go see cars 2 on its opening day on a sunday without booking in advance still baffles me. One thing about S that constantly amazes me is how he can be O.K. with any situation. Especially disappointments. He gets over them quickly and I sometimes wonder if he is just bottling it up.
Day 8: First Day Of Camp
We set off at 8.45 and arrived almost an hour later thanks to traffic and not knowing exactly where we were going. S jumped out of the car and sped off in the direction of his area of camp without even a good-bye. J was a little more reluctant. She wanted to be in the same group her best friend was in. She wasn’t. I hung around to watch her in her group. Now S deals with disappointments but getting a little sad for a fraction of a second then getting on with it. J deals with them by getting worried and not wanting to show her disappointment to strangers. So she stood around with a furrowed brow and a half-smile trying to be ok.
They led her group off down a path and I went to make sure they had all the correct contact details on file. When I went back to see her they were sitting on bleachers listening to one of the counselors. I stood behind a short hedge and watched. J had her head turned away from me and I could see her shoulders slowly going up and down and knew she was crying. She didn’t want anyone to see this so she had her head turned away and tucked in beside the little girl sitting next to her who kept looking at her, not quite sure what to do.
I felt horrible! I felt like what I was doing was ridiculous! Sending her to a camp to ‘have fun’ and leaving her crying in a place she clearly didn’t want to be in. The loud voice inside me said taker her home you idiot! Thank God I ignored that voice screaming at me to go carry her out of there and tell her she never has to go again because not 5 minutes later she was playing with the other kids and smiling like 5 minutes ago never happened!
When they got back from camp I asked S what was the best part of his day and he said “dirty dog” (a bike game they played) then I asked what the worst part of his day was and they both said in union “NOTHING!”. S came home with a full-blown fake American accent with lots of “Awesome”‘s and “Oh Meaaaaan”‘s and J sticks a “like” between every other word.
Day 9: Relief of Pressure
I woke up worried about J’s appointments. She woke up worried about her appointments. She didn’t want to go to camp and was just generally in a horrible mood. I spent the day trying to figure out how I am supposed to get her from camp that ends at 3 to an appointment at 5 without ruining S’s day as well in the process. There was no time to drop him off at home then go because it was too far. If we all went together then we would be there too early and S would have to do nothing till J was done. If we dropped him off at his cousins then J would have to see that he was going off to play while she was going off on a 45 minute car ride with her mother to half an hour of something she frankly hated doing that was supposed to relax her.
After watching how happy she and S were when they came back from camp and how excited they were telling us about it and making plans for the coming weeks of vacation I felt that by trying to help her get over her anxiety I am causing more stress and anxiety. Instead of her vacation being about having fun, exploring and relaxing it is now a color coded calendar of how we are supposed to get to her appointments without dragging everybody else there or stranding everybody else at home.
On my way down to dinner I made the final decision to take her out of the sessions. It just didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t even finish the recommended course and I felt like it was becoming an issue for J and wouldn’t be helpful because of that.
The relief I felt was huge! I could give her the summer back! To top it all off I found a place that does the same thing in London. At least it is relatively close to Saudi and I can take a week before one of the school vacations and go with J to get the sessions done in a less stressful environment. Hooray for me and J.
Day 10: Today… Still in my PJ’s
Saw the kids off to camp and Baby B off to his play date with his little cousins. This is my 100th post! I wanted to write something momentous but that’s why I was so late posting this to begin with. the pressure was too much! So I decided my life is momentous enough to commemorate this special occasion. (slightly delusional but it makes me happy). So, Happy 100th post Mama B :-) Now officially running late for my second french lesson. Have to run!