Well, we did it. We drove to California. From Maryland. With four young children. And honestly, it wasn't bad. Mackenna did cry for about 10-15 minutes solid in the car for the first time around Lake Tahoe, but all things considered, that's not bad, is it? Overall, this trip has been surprisingly pleasant.
My best friend from my BYU days, Melissa, lives just north of Sacramento. We've made sure to see each other every year or two since we've both left Utah and this time the ball was in my court. When I was planning the drive to Boise and saw on the map how close we'd be, I thought this would be a great way to get our whole families together. (The last time my whole family went out to California to visit her was when Mason was a baby; the last time she brought her entire family out east was when Maia was a baby.) She kept telling me I was crazy and her husband, Brad, kept waiting for us to call and cancel the last leg of our trip. Of course, we didn't cancel and happily I can report that the extra day in the car was well worth it.
Sunday night we enjoyed some delicious grilled chicken and then got the kids in bed. Maia and Jessie slept out in Jessie's playhouse; those two were inseparable! I was more than a little surprised that Maia was willing to sleep so far away from the main house, but she quite enjoyed it. She and Jessie spent quite a bit of time out at the play house for the three full days we were there. They totally organized all the toys, swept the floors and did other housework characteristic of “Cleaning Talent Fairies.” When they weren't wearing their wings themselves, they were playing with fairy figurines or fairy dolls. Two peas in a pod, just like their mothers! Melissa and I could watch them play all day.
Monday morning Melissa took us to an old granite quarry where the kids ran from marker to maker discovering treasures like a century plant and an abandoned well.
It was quite hot outside so from there we went to a splash park for the kids to cool off. After the playing in the water, we went to lunch where Michael had his first In-N-Out burger (“very fresh!”). My kids ate those fries endlessly; I've never seen them consume anything like that!
Monday night we loaded up Melissa and Brad's boat and took it out on Folsom Lake. Since their boat only holds seven, we had to make two trips out from the dock. Brad and I took some kids out for the first trip. Brad chose to enter a little secluded inlet to drop off me and the kids before returning to pick up Michael, Melissa and the rest of the kids. Well, when we entered the little cove I said, “It looks like we're interrupting something.” I could see a mass up on the hill a little ways away. Brad looked up and laughingly said, “You're right!” Soon the mass started to disentangle and we could discern two separate bodies (one dismounting the other!). Anyway, that is probably already more detail than anyone needs to know; suffice it to say that that little area will always be referred to by us as “Coitus Cove.” After the lovebirds left and our entire group was reunited we took turns going out to be pulled by the boat on an inner tube. To my amazement, Maia actually tried it; however, she promptly fell off the tube and announced that she would never do anything like that ever again. Mason did it and liked it. Michael and I also took turns. I must take a moment to say that I had a rougher ride than Michael and at one point even got a couple feet of air—and still held on! OK, I'm done being a braggart now.
After we got home from our boating expedition we put the kids to bed and had a Harry Potter reading fest. Michael had finished Sunday night but Mel, Brad, Jared and I were still plowing through. Anytime anyone started to say anything (or gasp and make a face) about the book, I quickly stopped them by chiding, “You've said too much!” It quickly became our catch phrase until I (the last one) finally finished the novel.
Tuesday morning we had to scratch our original plans because all the kids slept in too late! I think three weeks on the road is finally getting to my kids. Instead, we imposed on Melissa' s dear friend Robin and used her pool for an hour or so. My little Teensy was giddy to see the diving board and quickly went from jumping feet-first to diving to doing front flips off the board. She is a maniac in the water, that one. I don't know how she'll go back to the pool behind our house with no diving board!
After coming home for the little ones' naps, we got a couple of babysitters to watch the seven kids while the four adults went to the movies to see Hairspray. I quite liked seeing a good musical and laughed at the hilarity of John Travolta and Christopher Watkins singing a love duet. I'll be singing “Good Morning, Baltimore” for a long time.
After the movies we ran home to inhale some delicious roast beast and potatoes (my smart Mel had put them in the crock pot that morning) before loading up all the kids and heading to the ward Pioneer Day activity. Melissa and I allowed our husbands the pleasure of finishing the sawing job we started on a log. Maia, Mason, and Teensy all loved getting rides in a handcart (Kenna's screaming indicated she was meant to be born in this century). Mackenna liked walking around watering the grass and drinking the homemade rootbeer. Teensy also got rag curls put in her hair by some sweet woman who couldn't believe we'd driven the whole way from Maryland. The activity was at their stake park which had huge rocks all around. The kids climbed on those boulders until well past nightfall.
Wednesday we took the kids to Pump It Up! Then we came home for lunch and naps. Melissa and I made a quiet exit while my dear Michael watched the kids. We took my car through a car wash (boy, did it need it!) and then to get an oil change (ditto!). Right across the street from the car place was a strip mall with a little place called Nails! You can clearly see how we were the victims in this tale. We walked across the street and passed the time waiting for the car by getting pedicures. We let those chairs massage our backs while the pedicurists made-over our feet as we read People magazines. I won't lie: it was heavenly.
After our pedis, we picked up the car and headed home to rejoin Michael and the kids. Michael, my own personal Robin Hood, had had the clever idea of making his own bow and arrow set. He walked all over Mel and Brad's property and found the perfect stick for the bow. He started to carve it and the knife slipped. When Melissa and I got home we saw the gash on his hand and insisted that he take a trip to urgent care. This time Mel got stuck with kid duty and I went with Michael. The people at the urgent care facility were very kind and gave Michael the required five stitches to close the wound and a tetanus booster for good measure. Never a dull moment on this vacation, let me tell you!
For our final night in California we took the kids to a place called Incredible John's. It's like Chuck E. Cheese's but 100 times bigger with better food options and even small carnival-type rides in addition to the video games. At Brad's prompting, Michael tried the Spicy Peanut Butter Pizza (he said at first it tasted odd, but got more and more delicious with each bite), but I stuck with a Caesar salad and Hawaiian pizza. Marlee's favorite ride was The Frog Hopper; I think she went on it three or four times. Mason and Michael braved the bumper cars while I chased the more timid Maia and Mackenna.
I am so glad we spent the extra time in the car to go to California and visit our dear friends. Mason got to play Nintendo Game Cube a ton with Jared and Ryan. Marlee loved tagging along with Maia and Jessie wherever they went. Michael liked catching up with Brad and discussing the world of project management. I absolutely loved just being with my friend, laughing with her, watching Overboard and just visiting. It'll be hard trip home :(