Having set myself the almost impossible task on catching upon my posts by writing each episode in detail I am officially throwing in the towel on this ridiculous expectation. For this post I am going to choose the bullet point option to sum up the end of 2009. 1. We got our Green Cards in record time thanks Philip being "An Alien of Extraordinary Ability" and my constant protestations about not being legally allowed to work and wanting a social security card. We made the decision in June and went to our trusty immigration lawyer Warren Winston who filed our case in October. We had to have medicals to prove we dont have HIV and by mid December we had received our Green Cards through the post . The cards are actually pink. 2. the second triumph of the year is our new sofa. We bought our first us sofa off Craigs List when we first arrived in 2006 and after 4 years of having every sticky and slimy food substance known to man smeared into it by the children it looked like it had things growing in it. The torn brown leather had been lovingly patched by Philip with gaffer tape . It was a blot on our living room landscape and gave our house a drunken -student- abode sort of feel. I cant deny my house shame when guests were invited to sit down on this reeking rubbishy piece of furniture. It was also hideously uncomfortable. One day my saintly friend Michaela gave me the tip-off that there was a beauitful sofa for sale at the Santa Monica Salvation Army Thrift shop . I had long time coveted a sofa she had bought there herself which looked like a very fashionable and expensive thing and so I raced over there . There were several mexicans hanging around outside with their pick up vans so I guessed this was a popular choice for furniture. I snapped up the L shaped powder blue sofa immediately plus 2 sets of heavy oak drawers all for $500 and enlisted the mexicans to schlep them back to West Hollywood. The new sofa looks glorious and I guard it religiously from from abuse by spillage and smear. Drinks and food are not allowed near it and the powder blue is covered by throws and blankets..I made myself draw the line at plastic coverlets -.that really would have gone too far. I am sure the powder blue will not be "powder" for too long but I enjoy it while I can.. So much for the bullet points.
Yet another six weeks of blog-abuse by neglect. It has been a year packed with both minor misfortunes and triumphs but whatever the case these events have managed to swallow up large amounts of my time. Poor Gabriel got appendicitis - some of us thought it was stomach flu!! We were called by the school one day and I came to pick up a deathly green boy who could not bear to eat. There were several other green-looking children waiting to be picked up so I assumed it was all the same bug..perhaps even the swine flu. To my shame I decided to wait to see if the "bug ' passed only to watch the normally robust energetic and cheeky prankster slide into semi conciousness. No matter how ill Gabe has been in the past there has always been some enthusiasm about food..but the mere mention of it seemed to repulse him. I finally went into full on panic and we rushed him to our wonderful pediatrician Dr Sachs . Strangely enough the nurse also thought he had flu but one look from the good Doctor and we were sent straight away to our local emergency room at Cedars Hospital. Within minutes Gabreil was being examined by the surgeon Dr Chen and his assistant also named Dr Chen . A burst appendix was diagnosed and Gabe was whisked into the operating theatre while I sobbed. Parents reading this will know that there is nothing worse than watching your gravely ill child suffer. I cursed myself for the misdiagnosis. The wonders of modern medicine ..Gabe was out after half an hour. They had operated laprascopicaly using a tiny camera and four tiny incisions to his abdomen. I remember the appendix casualties as a child with their four inch scars across the belly. Oh releif and so much gratitude to Dr Chen and Dr Chen. Then began the 4 day vigil at Cedars with Gabriel in his hospital room. It was challenging. I slept in a fold down bed designed for a Dwarf . Every 2 hours the bleeber would scream to remind the nurse to change the IV . Sometimes the nurse would come and sometimes not ,leaving the torturous bleeber screeching for 20 minutes. If it was not our bleeper going it was some other patients as these things are designed so the nurse can hear them from some distance. I wondered how any of these children got any rest with all the interruptions throughout the night. Mercifully on visiting Gabe Dr Sachs could see that my mental health was being effected and persuaded the Doctors Chen to discharge Gabriel after 4 days rather than a week. Again we were thankful for good insurance and wondered about other children who might not be so fortunate.
Well we have had enough drama packed into this year to last a decade . I am hoping I have had my fair share of crises for 2009. There have been very few gaps to blog and as I write now I am also micro managing squabbles between children with one eyeball on the computer and the other on the watch out for potential mischief. Silence is always a bad sign. Both Gabe and Grace have started at new schools . Grace at her new High School LACHSA -specialising in the Arts where she is studying Drama. She had to go through several grueling auditions to get a place . It is a 15 mile commute on the freeway from our part of town and luckily I have joined a car pool along with several other "Moms" and we take turns to schlep across LA . I am learning terms like "freshman' "Sophemore" etc . Going to the school is like walking on the set of "Fame" , youths doing piroettes in the halls, singing at full blast and trombones playing in the corridors . The children all have vocations and seem to love the school. I breath a sigh a relief that its no longer about competative child spoiling ...that one is not "less than " for not wearing the $200 jeans that are so' In". It no longer "So and so has a credit card and a new lap top and a digital camera and an account at Nordsrums , not to mention a giant flat screen in their bedroom etc etc" and so "Why can't I?" We are so lucky to have found good public schools where material pressure is noticeably less. Gabriels school is near the airport and mercifully take s the yellow school bus departing at 7.20 am sharp . The school "Open Charter Magnet" which is a constructivist school where children learn about subjects in context rather than from a curriculum . Gabriel has responded well and has regain his love of learning . The children do not sit at desks , they move around the class room, they do writers workshops they explore , they garden..The whole thing is inspirational..and he has learnt more in this public school in a month than he did from his previous private school in a year.
I have always been intrigued by Northern California . Many friends have raved about it and urged me as a painter to visit it . In February we had the great fortune to meet a very friendly woman at my friend Doris party who when I proclaimed that I would love to explore Nocal promptly offered us her holiday home on Pebble Beach between Monterey and Carmel. I had no idea where these places were but thought we should take her up on this kind offer given that money was tight and that we probably could not afford a holiday for 5 this year. I hurriedly informed the lady that I had 3 children ranging from 14 to 4 thinking this might be a deal breaker but she still appeared keen. I offered her a painting in exchange for such generosity. She told me it was an old house and I honestly expected an old shack with the basics.When we arrived we were astounded to find an enormous villa with two guest houses filled with antiques and china looking straight onto the pacific ocean. Otters would swim by and seals lolled on the rocks. It was also in a wild life sanctuary. The country side around Monterey is stunning and the weather cool and its a little like Scotland in the sun. Carmel was over-restored and saccherine with "cutsy little stores" and cottage -like hotels and both a tourist trap and ghetto for the wealthy.Its the sort of place that makes me want to march up and down the streets yelling profanities. Monterey on the other hand which is a few miles north of Carmel has grit and character and a great Aquarium. It a proper old fishing town with no frills and beautiful architecture and it even had a second hand book store. One of the down sides of staying in a beautiful house with fragile and valuable contents is one is contantly having to watch small wandering hands. I practically had to use a tranquilizer gun to stop the kids touching and playing with all the objects (alot of which I hid on arrival ) The contant supervision was exhausting and I needed surveillance cameras and eyes in the back of my head to keep check on my ginger brood. The one time I could relax was when we were out of the house . This meant frequent visits to Big Sur and the spectacular journey along the Pacific Coast Highway. So many people had enthused about this drive and I was not in the least disapointed.I felt so grateful to our lovely friend who gave us the opportunity to see this amazing part of the world, I was releived to get back to LA and to our house where there is nothing worth breaking.
After a great deal of nagging and against My better judgement I chose to take the ginger minions to NYC for one night. Had it been only myself i would have headed straight for Moma and the the Met followed by a stroll in central park. I would have taken the circle line ferry and seen Manhatten from the Hudson River. Alas I was harangued into visiting the worlds biggest Toy shop FAO Schwarz which was a dissapointment after much build up and huge expectations. My son marched right up to the manager and demanded to be lead to "the weapons department'. The manager stifled a gasp and explained in a whisper "we do not sell toy weapons here!' My children who have become die hard Angelinos have become very unaccustomed to walking. Due to heavy traffic and no subway we had no choice but to walk 2 or 3 blocks to our hotel in humid heat . My children started to fade and feign illness saying they could not cope with this prospect and would probably swoon. So I cajouled ,carried ,bribed ,beseached and begged them back to our tiny shared room on 7th ave. I was mentally exhausted by my cohersing but no rest for the wicked as it was straight on to TOp Shop for my teenager.This time we tried the subway. After about an hour of figuring out how to get through the barrier we managed to get on the train. This was the first time they had used public transport in 4 years and it was shocking. The noise, to be nose to nose with people we did not know. Quel horror! Top Shop was also a let down . In England it is affordable accessable glamour but in New York it it high end and exclusive . my poor teenager , ! we bought a t shirt. Next stop was my glorious friend John Barratt ,an amazing hairdresser who is a dear old friend. He had invited us for dinner at his vast Soho appartment . I thought it would be just me and the kids who made themselves at home immediately on his pristine bed eating ice cream and watching videos. I soon discovered that he was holding the party in my honor and had invited 30 of his closest friends.He peraded me around like a visiting Duchess saying that I was Sarah from LA which was the reason for the party. I met a variety of very entertaining people but felt somewhat self concious. After a predictably uncomfortable night sharing a tiny bed with my 8 year old son we headed for Times Square which I thought would be a "hit' . Sure enough we found the 2nd largest toy shop with a weapons dept and a policemans booth . My son who is facinated by law inforcement was allowed into the lockup and quizzed the policeman on criminals. My 4 year old girl asked innocently "Do you mainly arrest black people?" awkward silence ensued and I'm sure buttocks were clenched as it was also within 2 weeks of the unfortunate Dr Gates incident.
So the children and myself have been on the East Coast enjoyng the wonderful hospitality of my dear friend Maureen.I have always said that a good form of torture is 1 adult plus 3 (preferably under 5) children on long haul flight..you will reach depths of despair you did not know existed. The flight pain factor measured at about a 6 out of 10 and it was only 5 hours of mediocre distress from LAX to JFK. Of course I did NOT get to watch the Virgin America in flight entertainment , nor did I get to read a sentence of Middle march. My time was taken up with managing fisticuffs, squabbling and attending to demands and whinges and trying not to disturb my fellow passengers too much.I tried but alas failed. There was the inevitable tutting from all around.This flight however was a picnic compared to my epic and disasterous journey from London,s Heathrow airport to Sydney Australia in 2002 when I flew alone with my two very young children who did sleep a wink in 24 hrs.I dined out on the martydom of that flight for some time. We arrived to torrential rain in NY which my children found quite a novelty and were picked up my the marvellous Pat who drove us the Maureens beautiful house in South Hampton. The house is in a small colony about 5 miles from South Hampton village where most of the inhabitants have been coming every summer for 40 years . Children roam free around the colony and the beach is 2 minutes walk away.People drop by, children are in and out of each others houses and bikes are ridden . It s like England but warm.Maureen and I met in London when our eldest daughters were two . She went on to have 3 more kids and I lagged behind at only have 2 more.Maureen was a wonderfully generous and relaxed host and we had many years to catch up on. So with 7 children and no husbands we went sailing ,kyacking, painting , played tennis,swimming ,sat by the Atlantic. It was Idyllic We became well acquainted with the Long Island insects. Due to a record amount of rain and storms this summer the mosquitos have mutated into these super bugs which were delighted to feed upon my 3 children and myself.As well as the mozzies there were Tics that embed themselves under you skin. Grace was bitten by some tiny spider and we nearly ended up having to pay a visit to the notorious Dr Kot-known by the local women as Dr Hot due to his extreme handsomeness. Maureen gave me a tour of the various tennis and beach clubs which I was entertained to hear one was only allowed to join if you had the "right breeding" I was shocked! This is America for God sake..Is this an East coast thing? However the local community has obviously worked very hard to preserve the charm of this place. Parts of Sag Harbour looked so pretty it was like being on a film set, I am now so used to the ugliness of LA that beauty can look inauthentic. It was great being able to meander down small streets looking in shops.It felt like a great privilage to be able to see this beautiful , unspoilt part of the world.