Our canteens are filled to the brim. I could barely muster the energy to down one final bean burrito at our last supper, and Jason had to practically escort me into the Gap outlet on our last day. I was shopped out and all Mexcian fooded out. And that's a good place to be. One thing we could never get enough of, though, was being surrounded by some of our favorite people on the entire planet. And the sun. Ohhhhhh the sun. Five days sober and I'm still mourning its loss. Before we moved out here I didn't think I would want to go home for a visit. I thought we would want to use any free vacation days to explore the island, and I would gladly take salt in a hundred paper cuts over repeating that 25 hr travel day anytime in the next millenium. But Target has a funny way of luring you back from the other side of the world. We have been on some pretty incredible trips since we've been here, in fact we have been on some pretty incredible trips in our lifetime, but I have never seen our kids this excited to go anywhere. Even Disneyland couldn't hold a candle to this. Maddox said he was more excited to go to America than to eat candy. And that's saying a lot. That morning I saw it fit to introduce the kids to a little Neil Diamond. They thought the song was a little weird, but before long they were all singing along with great gusto, "we're coming to America--TODAY!". Judy heard us next door and came over to join in the party, leading to a slight wardrobe malfunction as she jumped up and down in nothing but her bath robe. Everyone needs a grandma Judy in their life. The kids headed off to school with nothing but cheese and peanuts in their lunch, hey obligatory pre-trip fridge cleanse, while Ryder and I continued along with our dance party. There may or may not have been some Miley Cyrus "Party in the USA" involved too. Along with some serious bed head.
That evening we loaded up over $100 worth of chocolates to take with us just so I could have my Oprah moment, "And you get a chocolate bar! And you get a chocolate bar! And you get a chocolate bar!", then we headed out like thieves in the night.
For someone who hates to fly, I actually don't mind the international flight. There's only enough room for two boys and my left leg to sleep on the sky couch, but while they slept for a solid 8 hours I was left to my own devices, which means I finally got a chance to watch all the new releases that still haven't come out in New Zealand.
I'll never forget what it felt like to take our first steps on American soil. Or the soiled carpets of the dirty LAX terminal. Kylie and Ryder took selfies on the pile of suitcases while Jason and Jayden got the rental car (oh the luxury of a full sized mini-van!) and Maddox wondered why the "toilets" were called "restrooms" (if you think about it, nobody's taking a bath or a rest in those rooms, so I'm siding with the kiwi's on this one. Just say it how it is). And one sip out of the drinking fountain reminded us just how spoiled we are with our artesian Christchurch water that tastes like straight up gold out of the tap. But that was neither here nor there because we were in the land of the practically free and home of the .99 cent value menus. Before we even checked into our hotel, or changed out of our pajama's, or brushed our teeth or even bothered combing our hair, we went straight to Cafe Rio, then loaded up on American candy at the grocery store, then had an outer body experience at Target, then Carl's Jr for a post dinner snack, then Wal-mart where I bought like $60 worth of socks and underwear. And THEN we checked into the hotel where we slept like a rock, or at least someone who hasn't experienced sleeping in a climate controlled room for an entire year.
We finally rolled out of bed at 11:00 am, a little disappointed to have missed the long awaited continental breakfast, but excited to take on the world. Or at least the mall. As luck would have it, one of our favorite families, the Herrera's were staying in a beach house in Cali so it was very fitting that they were the first people we saw. Each one of our kids has a best friend in that family and seeing them reunited after an entire year was priceless.
We let Kylie stay with the Herrera's for a few nights while we stayed with another one of our favorites, the Andersons. It was probably for the best since it was boy heaven. Legos, cold cereal, wii. Wash, rinse and repeat. And a few sides of 7-11 slurpees. It was just as much fun seeing Jason reunited with his best pal, Shawn, as it was to see the little guys reunited with theirs.
I was giddy with excitement to buy up all the watermelon and fresh produce without breaking the bank. At $1.25 per tomato and $10/kg grapes, our fruit and veggie diet was slowly dwindling away.
We went swimming at the neighborhood pool, which marks the first time all year that they weren't freezing in their swimsuits. And I took it upon myself to sit on the sidelines and catch up on all the latest Hollywood sleaze. Apparently Jennifer Aniston has been pregnant for the past 5 years and it's about time J-Lo kicked Casper to the curb.
I have been so excited to spend the fourth of July here and it satisfied all of my wildest dreams. A hot day on the beach followed by a real American barbecue where I successfully ate my body weight in watermelon. The warm evening air filled with the scent of hot dogs and the sound of kids laughter mingled with fireworks exploding in the background. I didn't take a single picture of that night, I was too busy soaking up the moment.
This was our compound. 5 families, 19 kids and year's supply of sunscreen and Doritos.