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Monday, March 28, 2011

cock-a-doodle nightmare

We never set our alarm clock in our house.  Not even when we have to get up early.  Our iHome doesn’t know what to make of us.  What kind of people NEVER set their alarm?  Hobos that’s who. 

We are hobos. 

Monday, 6:11 am:  Max enters our room.  “Mom, I had a nightmare” as he crawls into our bed.

Tuesday, 5:54 am:  Max standing over me.  “I had a nightmare, Mom” and then he slips into our bed.

Wednesday, 6:04 am:  Max suddenly in our bed.  “I dreamt I had a nightmare.”

Thursday, 5:48 am:  I roll over to find Max.  “Had a nightmare.”

Friday, crack of crack am:  Max.   Bed.  Me.  “Nightmare.”

Almost daily this morning routine happens.  Unfortunately the only one to blame for my seven-year-old son being a scared little rooster is me. 

I dwell.  If there is any tragedy or disaster or kidnapping or accident on the other side of the freeway, I have to know what is going on.  I’d like to think it’s the journalist in me that has to know the facts -- I aced a Journalism 101 class my first year in college eighty-seven years ago -- but I know it’s more because I can’t help but think, that could’ve been me!  After I think of all the victims and their families and the motherless/fatherless/brotherless/sisterless/grandparentless children left behind of course.  Then, that could’ve been me!  I’m not proud of this.  Seems a little narcissistic if you ask me.  Airplane crashes into the ocean on the way to Paris.  Those poor passengers.  Hey, I went to Paris a year before on almost exactly the very same flight – that could’ve been me!  Toyota can’t brake on the freeway and crashes into retaining wall.  That poor driver.  Hey, I have a Toyota and go on the freeway and sometimes think my brakes act a little wonky – that could’ve been me!   Mother of two kidnapped at grocery store and later found dismembered in her trunk.  That poor woman.  Hey, I’m a mother of two who shops at grocery stores and has a trunk!   I never took Journalism 201 if you’re wondering why those headlines aren’t better.  But you get the picture.  I dwell. 

I am a facebook friend with CNN.

Cut to poor Japan a couple of weeks ago.  Earthquake.  Tsunami.  And then a volcano erupts?!  I felt so terrible for that country – really, really, REALLY terrible – and thought a lot about those poor people on that dinky little island in the ocean.  Those poor people on that dinky little island in the ocean.  Then.  Hey!  I live on a dinky little island in the ocean – that could happen to me!  And, well, it’s true.  Earthquakes happen in New Zealand.  We are surrounded by water on all sides.  And I can see a volcano from the end of my street.  I think, for once, I felt justified in my narcissistic thinking.  It really could happen to me and my family.  I knocked on endless wood.  I updated all three of my earthquake kits which are now known as my earthquake/tsunami/volcano/dear-God-I-hope-I-never-have-to-use-these kits.  And I watched A LOT of news.  Normally I try to shield my children from bad things.  They don’t need to dwell on stuff that doesn’t affect them.  I’ve got that covered.  But with Japan it was different.  Max was raising money for the tragedy at school (by coming to me and asking for a gold coin – NZ $1 or $2 – every other day) and it was important to know why. 

CNN packed a bag and moved into our hobo house.

Monday morning/this morning, some God-awful hour a.m.:  Max crawls into bed with me and it went exactly like this:

Max:  “Mom?” 
Me:    “Yes, honey.”  
Max:  “I had a nightmare.” 
Me:    “Oh no.  What was it about?”
Max:  “I dreamt that a volcano erupted and hot lava knocked over the Corunna Avenue (our street) sign and came down our driveway.  And then I went to China in my flying car to see Donny.”
Me:    “Who’s Donny?”
Max:  “Kid from school who’s from China.”
Me:    “Oh, well, it’s a good thing you had a flying car.”
Max:  “I always have a flying car in my dreams.  Just in case.”

So now I’m looking into getting a flying car.  Just in case.

Monday, March 14, 2011

a close nit family

One of the great things about living in New Zealand is how cute everything sounds.  Sunglasses:  sunnies.  Breakfast:  brekkie.  A lot of anything:  heaps.  Lice:  nits.  Yep, nits are cuter sounding than lice.  I dare someone to tell me otherwise. 

My first introduction to nits was at my 3-year-old’s preschool.  At drop off one day I found a sign attached to the sign-in sheet.  “Nits have recently been found on a child at this school.  Please check your child’s hair daily.”  The sign was laminated which meant this happens heaps.  My initial, knee-jerk response was, “oh, dear God!”  Then, “these people are vile!”  Followed by, “I can’t leave my clean, nit-free child here!”  I was appalled by the cute-sounding bugs camping out in some toddler’s part.  I wanted to take Charlie home, disinfect him and put him in a bubble where he’d be safe.  But I had to write that day (I have make-believe deadlines that I try to meet and then invariably miss) so Charlie had to stay.  Still, I was grossed out and instantly formed severe negative opinions of the unnamed nit family at Charlie’s school. 

Cut to three weeks later.  Last week.  It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  A whole hour before I had to start collecting kids.  I was home working on my screenplay (this is year two, people – I need better deadlines and/or stop moving out of the country) when the phone rang.  The phone never rings.  I have two friends here and we don’t talk on the phone.  One lives right next door and the other is a cricket mom.  Not the mom of an actual cricket but the other kind.  Anyway, phone rang, I answered.  It was Charlie’s preschool.  Uh-oh, I thought.  Scraped knee.  Or cut lip.  Or green snot.  Never did I think I would hear this:  “I know you’re going to be here soon but we just noticed Charlie was scratching his head and, well, it seems he has nits.”  Egads!  (I know this is an outdated expression but I really think it captures my feeling at this point so I’m going with it.)  I abandoned my screenplay (buh-bye, make-believe deadline) and zipped over to my son’s school.  Which is five minutes away by foot and one and a half minutes in a car.  Another great thing about New Zealand.  It is small.  The country.  The island.  The city of Auckland.  I usually walk but nits = car so I’m there before they knew it.  I apologized profusely to the teachers who were oh so kind and understanding and then go to sign Charlie out and there it was:  the laminated nit sign.  Double egads!  We were the gross, dirty, vile unnamed nit family at Charlie’s school!   We walked to the car in shame.

Four seconds later, Charlie and I were at my seven-year-old son’s school one block away.  My sons canoodle more than Cameron and A Rod so I knew Max was infested, too.  His teacher was appreciative of the early intervention and we were on our way to the chemist (way cuter word than pharmacist).  Now I grew up in the 70s in Texas.  There was no such thing as organic or non-toxic back then.  I drank Coke like water, we regularly flea-bombed our house and my parents smoked indoors and often with the windows shut.  Growing up like that makes you either do exactly the same things with your kids or the complete opposite.  I went opposite and then some.  We drink filtered water like water, we don’t use any toxic pesticides ever and smoking is banned in restaurants, airplanes and our house.  So, I called my husband on the way to the chemist to alert him of the situation.  He had one request of me:  please please please just get the chemical treatment so we can be done with them.  He did not grow up with Coke, fleas or second-hand smoke.  I said I would try and then proceeded to ask the chemist what the most effective nit treatment was and it was for kids so I’d like it to be as natural as possible.  I tried.  I did.  But I couldn’t.  The chemist had just the answer for me.  A box of Mr. Nits.  All the treatments had been personally tried by him and this was the one he liked the best.  I was sold.  The nits were dubious. 

Thirty-five NZ dollars and an hour later all three of our heads were slathered with the Mr. Nits solution.  A really drippy, non-toxic combination of coconut, sunflower and jojoba oils.  And we waited.  Watched TV.  Did some maths (questionable cuter name for math).  Skipped cricket practice and seeing my cricket mom friend.  Scratched our heads.  And then waited some more.  The good thing about non-toxic treatments is you can leave it on your head for hours and hours and it will do you no harm.  You can not do this with a mouthful of Coke and expect to keep your teeth.  After many hours, it was time to run the nit comb through the hair.  One by one, like a mama chimpanzee, I de-nitted my babies.  First up, Charlie.  He had a few little guys and some eggs.  Then came Max.  He had a lot of little guys, some eggs and a couple of big ass adults.  I was horrified by this but then remembered they were on the head of my child and they were nits and not lice.  Same thing, yes, but the cuter name made it slightly less disgusting.  And then I did my own hair.  And oh my, not a good day to be me.  Max may have had the most nits but I had the most hair and the most hair loss and nits.  Because you use a tiny, wire comb, you tear out a lot of hair.  Unfortunately I was already going through some involuntary hair loss from the stress of the move here four months ago so intentionally pulling out my own hair was not what my look needed.  But it is what it got.  Every tug of the comb resulted in a few eggs, maybe a nit and ten strands of stressed-out hair.  Do that over and over and hairless cats everywhere start to think you’re one of them.  I immediately traded in my adult-sized ponytail holders for mini child-sized one and I still had to wrap them three times around.

The thing about Mr. Nits is it kills nothing except your self-confidence from lack of hair.  The oils are supposed to separate the nits and the eggs from your strands and scalp and the comb removes them.  It is a safe system but one that requires maintenance.  Every day we’ve had to run that Mr. Nits nit comb though our hair.  Each day we found less and less evidence of how gross we used to be.  It has now been a week since my phone rang.  It is advised to repeat the whole treatment seven days later for any eggs that weren’t removed and may have hatched.  So here I sit with a garden of botanical oils on my head.  The nit comb eagerly awaits my attention.  I will no doubt lose more hair.  But I know that the last strands standing will be the shiniest and smoothest ones in town.  Mr. Nits is not only a semi-effective nit removal system that requires seven full days of action, it is an above average deep conditioning hair treatment. 

I should probably tell my cricket mom friend about it tonight at practice.  Her hair has been looking a little limp and dodgy (not good).  But that would mean naming the unnamed nit family.  With only two friends in my back pocket?   Bloody-hell (all-purpose expletive) no!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

give me a summer break

Here’s the thing about summer breaks.  They are great.  Everything about them is great.  The long, leisurely days.  The hot sun.  The super fun play dates.  The endless daylight.  Day camp!  Like I said, great!

If you’re a kid.

If you’re a parent, summer breaks include all the ingredients of a nightmare.  Long, leisurely days equals really bored, whiny kids.  A hot sun means gobs of extra sunscreen on bored, whiny kids.  Super fun play dates require endless amounts of parental energy to make them super and/or fun.  Too much daylight keeps kids wide awake hours after they should be dead asleep.  And then there’s day camp.  The middle of the night on-line registration because your son has to has to has to be in Rocket Launcher camp, the inflated fees, the lack of parking for drop-off and then again at pick-up, and the reality that the kids are not there long enough during the day for it to be called “day” camp and should instead be called “a couple hours in the morning” camp.  You see, and I’ll say it, as great as summer breaks is for kids, they can be completely exhausting for the parents of the kids. 

Me.  I’m talking about me. 

Now times that by two.  Not by two children.  Which I do have.   But by two summer breaks.  One full summer break (with two children) followed immediately after with another full summer break (with the same aforementioned two children).  And now you’re reading a page from my tear-filled diary.

My children weren’t supposed to have two summer breaks.  They were supposed to have one.  Like every other kid on this one-summer-break-per-kid planet but then the unthinkable happened.  At the end of May 2010, just before Summer Break One (which will from here on out be called SB1) was to happen, my husband came home and told me he got a job offer.  My simple “where?” was knocked off its feet with a “not in this city, state, country or hemisphere.”  After my brain temporarily shut down and my mouth spat out “Mexico?!” my husband spared me further embarrassment and told me the answer.  The answer was so not Mexico because it was too busy being New Zealand.

New Zealand!!!

Don’t try to imagine what took place next because you can’t.  My husband took the job and flew to Auckland the next month to start.  And left me.  Alone.  With the kids.  And the city of Los Angeles.  And (gulp…) SB1.  Everything that was hard about summer breaks was now fifty-four thousand times harder because I was doing it by myself.  The relentlessness of the days.  The sunscreen battles.  It was Groundhog’s Day with SPF30.  Every day, my children were shocked that I wanted to apply sunscreen to their (gasp!) faces.  Play dates!  I actually appreciated the play dates because they meant I wasn’t the only source of entertainment for my children but, since I’m on a complaining rampage, the PLAY DATES!   And the stupid three-hours-out-of-twenty-four-is-not-day-camp day camp.   I was exhausted by day two.  Luckily, summer break is only three months so I had only 88 more days to go.  And I had to pack up the entire house.  Shoot me with a Nerf gun. 

I barely survived.  If Jeff Probst knew I existed, he would’ve given me a lit torch and then immediately put it out.   

But I did survive.  With the help of friends, family and buckets of wine.  And somehow, we all ended up in New Zealand.  At the, ahem, end of September.  Now, if you’re following along with your school-issued calendar, this means I got three extra bonus weeks of SB1.  (Note to future moving-to-New-Zealand-from-LA-at-the-end-of-September families, you’re strongly advised not to enroll your children in school because it would be too disruptive to start school and then pull them out after only three weeks.  To them.)  But there we were.  In Auckland.  And it was beautiful and quiet and air so clean you could breathe it and… school was on a break.  My kids couldn’t start until October 11th.  So, tack on a few more weeks to SB1.  But it was okay.  What’s two more weeks after three months and three weeks?  It’s four months and a week is what it is.  Still, the break was soon over and the boys were FINALLY in school.  I ran around my rental house naked and joyous.  For about four seconds until I realized this was one son’s school’s 4th term.  It was to last only six weeks and then…

Summer.  Bleeping.  Break.  TWO!

I had SB1 from June through mid-October and was now about to have SB2 from December through February.  Where is Jeff Probst when you need him??? 

In a blink of a very tired eye, I found myself knee deep in SB2.  And it sucked way more than SB1 did.  Time on this side of the equator goes by very slowly so our days seemed like fortnights.  Ozone layer?  Not so much over here.  So, every morning I threatened death or sunscreen.  Our play dates were neither super nor fun because we didn’t have any because we had no friends.  And “day camp” was me refereeing two little boys fighting in a trolley at a grocery store mid-day.   SB2 was brutal.

Jeff Probst was oblivious. 

But somehow I survived.  You know what they say, what doesn’t kill you.  I was as strong as an ox who ate an ox who could lift an ox.  Don’t examine that sentence too much because it may not work.  My point is, it is the 1st of March and there are no children here.  Because they’re in school.  And not on summer break.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t naked and joyous.  Okay, maybe not naked.  Our rental house was furnished with clear fiberglass chairs from Italy and I’ve had two children that way.  But I am joyous and I intend to stay that way.  And when we return to the States?  We’re coming back at the very end of the month of August.  Hear that, summer break!