|Goodbye Van that Fit Our Whole Family|
I haven't regretted selling the van. With our kids old enough to be left home alone or with a sibling, we rarely take the whole family places where two cars are more than a minor annoyance. And we've saved a lot on insurance and maintenance (we replaced that battery a whole bunch because it wasn't driven enough), not to mention gas. Given the gas mileage in our two remaining vehicles -- 22ish and 25ish, as I recall -- it doesn't even cost that much more in gas than the big red van, which got an abysmmal 13.
Still, I was a little nervous about taking two cars on a family trip. I've been spoiled all these years because my husband is great about driving almost all the time on our trips. I usually spell him for an hour or so here and there, but otherwise, he's the driver and I'm the peacekeeper/referree/treat fairy.
But it turned out fine. Part of that was that we didn't do the full 9.5 hours in one day -- we spent a night in Las Vegas (about 5.5 hours away) on the way there and one on the way back. And it was nice to be able to divide up the kids by interests. In DH's car, Lillian, Joey, and a rotating third or fourth kid listened to Ender's Game, while in my van, we watched Toy Story, Little House on the Prairie and Hotel Transylvania, on a tiny DVD player. We also listened to the third book of Adventurers Wanted. Both cars were stocked with plenty of snacks and goodies -- grapes, homemade cookies, Oreos, chips, and rice crispy treats. Michael was usually the oldest kid in my car, and he's a great companion with a good sense of humor and a peace-making attitude with the younger ones.
And it was nice to have the option to swap kids between cars when there were squabbles or when I was a little tired of a whiny 4-year-old.
I was a little sad to be leaving Utah. Fall had just barely reached the valley when we left, and I was itching to get more fall landscapes and families done. And California, pretty as it is, just can't compare to a Utah fall. And with the drought, it was even less spectacular. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen California so dry and brown. It made me sad.
But it was wonderful to spend time together as a family, and the stunning sunsets on the beach were unforgettable.
We didn't really do a ton.
We went to three museums. The Natural History Museum in Las Vegas was surprisingly fun -- live fish and animals along with stuffed, and an interesting exhibit on King Tut.
The Natural History Museum in San Diego was all right, and the Fleet Science Center was a fun hands-on place, but not as cool as the one in Phoenix.
We spent one day at Sea World, where I was able to meet up with a friend and her son (thanks, Carrie!). Soon after we got there, I was approached by two perky Sea World employees who asked me personal questions and were a little too friendly. I was a little stand-offish, just waiting for the time-share presentation. But it turned out they were handing out special passes in honor of some anniversary. So our entire family got wristbands that gave us access to special reserved seating at all the shows AND allowed us to walk on all the rides using their QuickQue line. It was pretty awesome, though the park wasn't too crowded so it didn't save us a ton of time. (No pictures yet, as I have yet to go through the 800 pictures my kids took on my old camera).
The shows were fun. The dolphin one was a little skimpy on dolphins and big on people dressed as birds flying around and diving from big platforms. And Shamu was a bit of a let-down. Now that they don't let the trainers into the water with the animals, it's just huge animals splashing the crowds and doing a couple of jumps. But otherwise, we had fun. We divided up the big kids and I ended up on Cami and Katie duty. Despite my best efforts to get them excited to go see penguins, fish, and tidepools, they mostly wanted to stay in the Sesame Street Playland. And by the end of the day, they were tired and cranky. DH owes me one!
The rest of our time was spent at either the resort or the beach (we did go to Church on Sunday). We own a timeshare through Marriott and had traded into the Welk Resort in Escondido and it was quite nice. The rooms were large and there was plenty of storage and the kitchen was plenty big. It had a washer/dryer as well. They had three pools, two of them with water slides and the kids went swimming nearly every day. They also had a nice recreation center with games and activities and unlimited inexpensive crafts, so we really enjoyed that.
But gee, inexpensive or not, when you have nine kids doing three or four projects each, it can add up.
We had a nice back patio overlooking the dry and scruffy golf course. You could tell that they were doing their best to conserve water and that in a normal year, the course would be stunning.
|Joey's a goofball. I told him he needs to join Facebook so this can be his profile picture.|
My only complaint about the resort is that it was so far from everything. It was thirty minutes to the beach, forty-five to Sea World or downtown. But we didn't let that stop us from spending nearly every evening at the beach, reading (Lillian and Michael), taking pictures (me and Michael), playing in the waves, building sand castles, fending off hungry seagulls, and just having a lovely time.
|Building awesome castles|
|And it's just as much fun to tear them down.|
|Cami's joy and excitement is contagious.|
On our way home, we drove through Tehachapi to visit DH's grandma, an amazing woman who at 92 takes care of her home and beautiful yard and still reads the books for her book club and is sharp and smart, not to mention a great cook. She had a lovely spread of banana bread, chili, homemade mac and cheese, veggies and dip, and pigs in a blanket for our kids to enjoy.
We also got to pick raspberries and pumpkins from Aunt Margaret's farm.
Another highlight was having dinner with Kelli, my dear friend from high school, who has settled in this small town with her husband and four adorable kids. My kids call her "the cookie lady" because she has made them monster cookies many times as we've invaded her home on our way through town.
We got surprisingly few comments on the size of our family this trip. Perhaps it was the two cars or the fact that we divide up a lot more now that the kids are older. We did have one older man come up to my husband as we were eating breakfast at our hotel on the way home. He clapped my husband on his shoulder and told him he was a blessed man and that he was impressed with how our children all help each other.
With Lillian getting older, we likely only have a few more trips before she graduates. I'm glad that we've made family travel a priority and that we have so many fun memories together.