La La Land revisited

Two years ago my dearest friend, her husband (also my dear friend, Nicky) and their 4 month old baby girl upped sticks and head off to start a new life in LA – extremely selfish I hear you cry, my thoughts exactly – how dare they leave London (leave me more to the point) and head off to a land where people don’t age (physically at least), the sun always seems to shine, frozen yogurt is on tap and celebrities & Scientologists gather in equal measure.

“I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.” Andy Warhol

At school both our families lived overseas so we spent many happy summers in America with her parents driving down to the Jersey Shore from NYC, where we would live out all our teenage angst to the dulcet tones of Green Day, Ben Folds Five, Third Eye Blind etc –  my diaries of those summers make me smile and cringe in equal measure. So it is without question that when the move to LA came that I was plotting my first trip out there.

The trip came last July. When they initially moved I had my own newborn and we had just moved house while we were renovating. I bided my time and pitched the holiday to Brute only to be told he didn’t have enough holiday time and needed to train for his mammoth bike ride across the mountains of Europe. There was only one thing for it, go solo, with the kids…easy!

The strange thing was that whenever I told people in my over excitement, they seemed to give me a look of excitement mixed with confusion and possibly fear.

“You’re travelling to LA by yourself with a 3.5 yr old and 1.5 yr old”?

“Sure! I mean how hard can it be” I’m not the kind of person that gives myself too long to think about these things, I tend to go with the ‘it’ll be fine’ approach and then I find it generally is, I don’t research, ask too many questions or do anything that could put me off and on this occasion it was for the best…

Loaded into the cab we headed for Gatwick, smooth sailing so far. Exit cab, hmmm no trolleys, throw a child under each arm, leave luggage on the pavement and run a good 300 meters to the nearest trolley to find that you have to put £1in the damn thing to use it!! Obviously I have not one piece of shrapnel in my wallet other than the usual couple of 2p, 1p and a few random euro. Borrow £1 from some unsuspecting holiday maker, load up and start the roughly 100 mile walk to the check in desk one hand pushing a loaded up trolley and the other pushing a loaded up double buggy. Major crashes avoided, luggage dropped, security passed we made our way to the gate and I may have blacked things out but we got onto the plane.

I was ready for Rex to sit happily for a few hours watching movies and then calmly fall asleep and prepared to do a bit of pacing of the aisles until stella did the same. Incase you’re wondering, that’s not what happened. Instead I had made the fatal error of booking an outward bound flight at 2pm in the afternoon so both children had gone entirely feral being confined to a small space. I glanced across at my neighbour, praying that he would have mercy on me, he was a young musician with a bobbed haircut who was clearly leaving a loved one back in London as he said over and over on the phone before takeoff in a very delicate Australian accent how much he loved this person whilst my children screamed and bashed their feet on the windows and kicked the chairs in front of me and I swore intensely under my breath and attempted to pin them to their shared chair. The last hurrah was when I called the air hostess for an emergency large glass of wine which, after a second of it being placed down on my tray one of the children smacked their hand down on the table and the whole glass ended up on my neighbours lap without so much of a sip of it entering my mouth…I won’t go into detail, but he was the kindest stranger I have ever come across, no stress and offered me another wine – an angel in indie band clothing.

Feral for the first 5 hours, passed out for the last 6…I don’t need to say which half of the journey was preferable.

 

The most important thing is, we made it and from then on it was the most wonderful trip – we staggered out of LAX which must be the worst organised most stressful airport on the planet and into the arms of my dear friend, Koz – it was the evening in LA and we were smelly and tired and broken but we were also overexcited, Koz and I particularly so. We cracked open the wine immediately, put the kids to bed and next thing I know I woke up in my underwear on my bed, it was the next morning and my head was beating…testament to the fact that we shouldn’t be separated for long periods of time.

I’ve been to LA a couple of times before, but not as a mother, and it did not disappoint, particularly as they had based themselves in the gorgeous Santa Monica area of LA. They definitely have the weather on their side so we went to the beach almost daily (closest being a ten minute drive from the house), or to the many splash pads that they have around the city to help cool down from the mid summer heat.

Then when you’re suitably tired, hot and bothered there are frozen yogurt places almost everywhere you look and they are the best –  for some ungodly reason we don’t seem to pay homage to the frozen yogurt like the Americans do. Everything is bigger in America and their idea of a selection of frozen yogurt toppings is a full on pick n mix sensation and though the connotation of frozen yogurt makes one think of health and wellness if you’re anything like me your toppings to yogurt ratio is going to weigh heavily in on the side of toppings!

 

 

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hardly visible Fro Yo smothered by sweets & choc = perfect

One of my favourite things to discuss  is food and one of my favourite things to do is eat so lets do more of that –  my gosh does LA do food well – there is an abundance of farmers markets open on the weekends, from the fresh fruit and veg at Brentwood Farmers’ Market to the Smorgasbord in downtown LA there are endless options all super child friendly and a great thing to do and place to grab lunch.

 

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Brentwood Farmers’ Market

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Give them fresh peaches and they will comply

 

 

Photography skills not up to much here – sign flagged by the bins – but you get the gist  – this is the smorgasburg.

Let’s be real though this is a holiday so there needs to be some non child fun too, we learnt early that it does not pay to try and take 3 toddlers out to dinner even if it is early when you want to relax and have a drink…on night 3 we went down to the famous Gjelina on Abbot Kinney, I mean the food is major but my god did my two make a scene, made worse by the fact that darling little Zoe behaved like an angel the whole time while my two took in turns to see who could scream the loudest. Deciding that we probably needed to order quickly and get them fed and home the almost unbearably hipster waiter/struggling actor sauntered over and when asked if he could recommend some options “no, no its impossible for me to do that, you need to just go with what you feel” …I mean are you KIDDING ME – glances shot round the table between us as we bit our tongues in equal measure – could he not see the tension in my face, could he not see the desperate looks of the other diners, willing us to eat and get out as quickly as possible so they could enjoy their evenings in peace! When we eventually got our food, the madness was at an all time high with us taking it in turns to take Rex and Stella outside to blow off some steam. Needless to say we bailed with food in hand back to the safety of home.

BUT we had some fabulous meals without them too – Sitting outside on the rooftop at Margot in Culver City offering the best of Mediterranean coastal food. Yours Truly  on Abbot Kinney in Venice, a girls night out in West Hollywood at E.P and L.P and obviously you can’t go to LA without a long boozy lunch at Nobu Malibu. There are so many great places, there is no real public transport though so you’re gonna have to flex that Uber account.

 

Nobu Malibu showing off

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Not at all thrilled to be having a child free Boozy lunch 

Sitting here after 100 days of Lockdown in London and reminiscing about being in LA this time last year is almost torture and I feel like I could really ramble on, but everyday was happiness, it really was. There was never pressure to do anything, but so many easy and fun things to do for us and the kids, cruising down to the beach and not just local ones, we also went down to Manhattan Beach to see some other dear friends that have moved back to LA from London which is beautiful. Or just sitting in the garden with the giant paddling pool (and a glass of cold rose). Going to the incredible Cayton children museum or even watching the LA philharmonic warm up at the Hollywood Bowl, well that is until you are ushered out due to slightly over excited small people who don’t adhere to rules or noise levels.

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Hollywood Bowl

 

Not just any old cafe or Fire engine – its all part of the magic of the Cayton Childrens Museum.

 

When you think LA any honest human will wonder if they’ll spot a celeb – I  mean i’m not afraid to say my eyes are peeled as soon as I got off the plane, will I see the Hadid sisters sauntering through the airport (ideally not, I’m not sure my mental state could handle that). Or god forbid Jen Anniston on her daily hike, I would likely drop dead on the spot. But you know who we did see and who rocked my world…Henry Winkler, I mean obviously it wasn’t the spot I thought I would get but hey who didn’t love Happy Days!!! Just wandering around the Brentwood Country Mart with his wife, daughter and grandchild  – his wife, walked past Koz and I and said “you have your hands full!” but not in a snarky way, but a knowing way and It cemented our love for them.

So if you couldn’t tell already, the trip was the biggest of successes, it was just all happiness and sorry (not sorry) for sounding so gushy, but hey you have to tell it as it is. On our last full day, we booked in Koz’s baby sitters to look after the children and we went shopping…and had the most bizarre encounter, I can’t remember the name of the shop but it had lots of gorgeous over priced clothes and we were just mooching when this quite over zealous attendant came over to see if we needed anything, she then kept coming back to check we were ok (every Brits worst nightmare, right?) and upon realising we were both English she then out of nowhere said “R-I-P Princess Diana, I’m so sorry for your loss” to which we both sort of nodded and in our awkward British way muttered something like “yes it was very sad” she then proceeded to go off on a tangent about conspiracy theory’s surrounding her death as if it happened last week. Bear in mind this lady was no more than late 20’s (and was likely was on a come down from the night before) and when I say she went off on a tangent, I mean it, she went on and on and when she eventually stopped so we could shop, when we saw her again she would say again “I just wanted to say again, that I’m sorry for your loss & RIP Princess Diana” at which point we just grabbed some over priced clothes for the kids, paid and fled before bursting into hysterical laughter. No better way to leave La La Land hey.

The only thing missing from this trip was Brute, but that gives us even more reason to head back there when all this chaos is over and who knows maybe by the there might be a new president there…one can but hope!

There are too many special moments and memories so I made a little video compilation below instead, enjoy 🙂

 

 

 

‘For the love of…Amazon’ – A tale of two birthdays’

Have you ever wondered how it could be possible for Jeff Bezos, the inimitable force behind Amazon, to be worth a whopping $137 billion – well in the lead up to my children joint birthday party I found out…It’s down to my husband and I.

I knew before the party that we had a verging on dangerous relationship with Amazon, relying on it for any and every last minute need. But as we got closer to the day in question the deliveries starting mounting at an unprecedented rate, everyday we were receiving several parcels and at this point I had not once but on several occasions been stopped whilst out walking the dog by the delivery driver, sometimes just to say Hi as I now saw him more than my own family and sometimes to say he had yet more parcels and should he just leave them in the front garden if I was going to be out for the day. We had gone beyond the awkward stage of when you open the door a couple of days in a row to the same delivery man and do that awkward chuckle and a bit of a ‘yup its me again smile/grimace’ we had now grown to be acquaintances, maybe even friends.

This was our first full on, firing on all cylinders childrens party that we had thrown, Rex was turning three and is now at an age where we couldn’t get away with essentially having a party for ourselves with our friends whilst the children, mostly unable to move sit around dribbling, cooing, giggling and crying. Instead he told us in no uncertain terms that he wanted a super hero party with lots of cake (Stella, who was turning 1 sadly didn’t get much of a look in when it came to the theme) and Just like that, like any good bossed around parent we set about planning this double whammy monstrosity.

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Stella turns 1 and Rex turns 3 and just these two balloons cost about 5 times their combined age…

We booked the venue and then I set about finding an entertainer, now having absolutely no idea what I was looking for I went solely on reviews, and found a lovely company called JoJo Fun Kids and after much toing and froing about whether they could in fact provide the correct super hero, Spiderman was booked. Spiderman, also known as Dom, called me to introduce himself, I knew almost has soon as he’d said ‘Hello Sophie, this is Dom’ that a springy, camp and almost certainly a musical theatre practitioner was on the other end of the phone and naturally was thrilled, we clicked immediately. It was only post party that my darling friend who has his own events company gently raised his eyebrows when I said how much we were paying dearest Dom…note to self, must.do.more.research.

Then it was down to the nitty gritty and this is really where things pick up pace, because I don’t know about you, but once the big things are in place (venue, entertainment) its down to the fun part, the details and this is where Mr Bezos starts ringing up his enormous bill.

Party Bags – straight to Amazon obv – literally everything related to super hero – ADD TO CART.

Fancy Dress Outfits

Me: ‘OMG look at this amazing Hulk outfit’ ADD TO CARD

My Husband: ‘oooooh and these huge Hulk Gloves ‘ADD TO CART’

Me: ‘oh and look a mask’ ADD TO CART

MY Husband: ‘and face paints, we could paint him green too (event though he’s wearing a suit) ADD TO THE DAMN CART

Then onto Stellas outfit..oh and ours…

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Outfits on point thought, so totally worth it

 

Cake – I actually home made both of the cakes but hell would freeze over if we didn’t quickly add in some edible paper super heroes to pop on top of them  – Amazon here we come!

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Just showing me cakes off 

 

Balloons – I left the shop (yes an actual physical shop) with 10 huge balloons plus a bunch of normal ones thinking how nice and seemingly extremely lucrative it would be to own a balloon shop – I would be rich without hardly needing to do anything.

More Balloons – Hmmmm not sure if we have enough balloons, ill just nip onto Amazon and buy some more, sure why not.

Now I am actually all for small brands and I do my best to buy from them, but when it comes to dealing with this kind of situation, Amazon is your one stop shop, it’s also our one stop shop for every random thought that we have and think we therefore need to buy: Horrendous Polyester Fancy dress outfits, boxes of 10 roles of wrapping paper, 3 million straws etc etc i’m just V jealous I didn’t think of this before Jeff

The party was in fact a huge success (thank god) and Dom was everything I had hoped for and more, he arrived bang on time though possibly looking ever so like he had come straight in from the night before, I imagined him slipping out the doors of G.A.Y dressed to party and straight through the doors of our local church hall  dressed head to toe in his finest polyester spiderman outfit, which really left very little to the imagination. That said, he had the children, all 30 of them, singing to the beat of his drum, screaming with laughter (as were the parents as he dropped innuendo filled comments, leaving some of the fathers blushing for their lives) and when his part was over they followed him quietly and in a perfect line through for tea…whilst I stood thinking how many years of ageing he had saved me.

I mean look at Hulk (AKA Rex) rushing over to meet Spider-Man (AKA Dom).

 

Once tea was finished, E numbers had reached peak highs and sugar crashes were just around the corner we packed up the enormous amount of mess that children have a wonderful talent for making and made our way home, children straight to bed, us straight towards anything with a cork…and relax.

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The site of 30 children chowing down without a care in the world, surrounded by a tonne of manic parents

 

So party done, Bezos et al significantly richer and us significantly poorer party season is over for this year. It is to my absolute relief that the childrens birthdays are both in January as they will be having joint birthday parties until they are old enough to come to us with a bullet proof argument as to why this is no longer possible.

 

 

The Baby Adjustment Bureau

Im going to start this blog with a video which if you don’t find heart warming well do you even have a heart? I took a video of Rex coming home from staying with my sister and brother-in-law and his cousin Ivo (who he ADORES) to meet baby Stella – I have just re-watched it and it is beyond lovely, the sheer look of wonder in his eyes as he see’s her for the first time is magical. Also it really makes me laugh that he storms in and cruises down the slide on the way over. Now its no feature film and I really must work on my directing skills, but still, what a memory to have on tape.

On a side note please excuse the war zone that is our house – if you read my last post you’ll know we were packing the place up ready for gutting.

If i thought we had a lot going on, I can only imagine how much that all is to a two year old. I think Rex’s initial thoughts on Stella coming home were ‘cool, sweet little baby, she seems great and can definitely stay a day or two’ then a few days later ‘ok, hold up why is this baby still here and why on earth is she taking away the attention from me and why is she constantly attached to my mother like some kind of limpet’? Cue attention seeking tantrums from hell and heavy handed ‘hugs’ for Stella – that child will be made of tough stuff when she’s older.

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it’s important to note, that he adores his sister, he just doesn’t know his own strength yet.

If that wasn’t hard enough to see, the 5 day post natal blues then come a-calling – I remember after I had Rex I would just sit in the bath and cry, I couldn’t understand quite why I was so tearful, I was missing my momma more than ever at that time for obvious reasons, I had no idea what I was doing (who does) and needed that support, that big hug when exhaustion had taken over. So I knew what to expect the second time round, but it hit me in a different way. This time my emotions were entirely directed to Rex, he was acting up in quite a big way and most of his anger seemed to be directed at me, me and the limpet seemingly taking up permanent residence on my breast. I was no longer able to give all my attention to him and that was more upsetting than I had thought. It’s amazing how you don’t realise the bond you have with a child until things change and you can’t give him your undivided attention. He started waking up in the night (this is a child that was sleeping through the night from about 8 weeks old), he was throwing tantrums on an insane scale, I mean throw yourself to the floor in a fit of rage insane, screaming till he lost his voice, hitting me and only wanting ‘daddy’ and it was breaking my heart. I was finding myself losing my temper constantly. On top trying to look after Stella, field Rex’s mood swings (and my own) we were packing up our house and living in general hell so when we actually did get to our rental house I felt a huge sense of calm.

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Nailed the serious look of defiance – on a side note I can’t even with those perfect pouty lips and big blue eyes

Next step was settling Rex into a new nursery and that first settling in day was just the worst…the teachers took him off outside to the playground and I could see him from inside, he was there with no-one around him not wailing but with tears rolling down his cheek, looking frightened and unsure of what to do, totally vulnerable. In that moment as I stood watching him with tears filling my eyes as one of the teachers tried to get me to fill in endless forms I realised that I was in fact part of the problem (I know, unimaginable). My dearest friend charlotte who I have leaned on in an immeasurable  way through both my pregnancies had mentioned to me, when I was regaling her with my latest issue, that it’s easy to forget just how young the elder child is when you have a second baby and here I was doing exactly that. Tired and getting frustrated and talking to him as a child MUCH older than his years, expecting him to understand and forgetting that he is a baby himself, only just two and with all the changes that come with turning two he was having to deal with an enormous amount of extra emotional baggage.

We still have tears and screaming at bed time but instead of letting us all go into meltdown I try and take a deep breath (a glug of something alcoholic) and remember that patience is key and that all he needs is to know we’re there and he’s safe and listened to. Boy has my new zen parenting style paid off as two nights ago a rather genius thought came to me. I was home alone and Rex had started his screaming as soon as I said goodnight, I sat there thinking, how am I going to keep doing this on the nights I’m home alone? Particularly while Stella is so reliant on me, I can’t lay with him for 20 minutes like I can when Brute is home and able to hold the baby (a screaming baby is hardly the best lullaby). So I went in to see him and he was saying he was scared (another emotion that can flood a two year old) at that moment Tony appeared at the door keen to see what the fuss was about and wondering when he would get some peace and quiet to carry on his own napping…cue lightbulb…I gently said to Rex ‘Would you like Tony to sleep in here with you?’ ‘YES’ he said eyes wide like saucers so I popped Tony on the bed, told him Tony would love to sleep in with him and keep him company (I imagine an internal eye roll from Tony at this moment) and said goodnight to them both and that was that, no noise just straight to sleep and last night Tony just wandered straight in and hopped onto Rex’s bed and off they went to sleep. I suppose if you think about it, it’s like being told you can have a sleep over with your best friend every night so no wonder he is feeling more settled. I realise this may not be the long term solution, but while it works and he is happy then we’re all happy.

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The answer to all our prayers, the long standing hero of our household and the best of friends to Rex

 

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Never far from each others sides

Alongside that I’m trying to have special ‘us time’ going out for tea and cake or going for a walk and having lunch – anything so he knows that he is still very much at the forefront of my mind and my heart.

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looking on proud as punch as my son devours handfuls of marshmallows and chocolate cake

All I know is it’s a minefield and I have no clue as to what I’m doing but just try each day to do the best I can. It makes me realise how amazing all my friends are too, I can’t tell you the amount of time I have sent needy messages desperate for answers on what to do next and they never fail to come through for me. From all this chaos has come so much learning so whilst parts of it have been painful, I’ll take that pain for immeasurable happiness.

Right I realise my last couple of blogs have been rather serious and possibly also a bit ‘woe is me’ (who’s the attention seeker now) so next blog I promise to bring back the laughter of blogs gone by.

There is Power in Positivity – 2nd Trimester Feels

 

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One Multi Tasking Mummy