We went on an adventure last month. Its been a long time (about 3 1/2 years long) since we went that many thousands of miles for that long, but thankfully the kids are all still the fabulous travelers they were way back when. We just went as far as aunt Jen's house the first day, and man alive were my kids excited to see their cousins! Thanks to relative proximity (and the fact that these cousins stayed with us when they'd come visit California), my kids feel really connected to hers and feel right at home at her house. We were only there one night, but there were many games of various varieties and lots of laughing and giggling. I'm glad they're only 6 hours away--we need to make that trip more often. We kept Jen and Paul up too late talking, and hopefully we can be better about talking to them regularly so they don't have to put up with us so long. ;) It made me remember how much I loved it when they would come stay at our house.
The next day we did the big push from Pleasant Grove to Visalia via Las Vegas/I-15. Its a remarkably boring drive, but thankfully Cove Fort is along the way and makes a nice pit stop. The kids enjoyed exploring the Fort and outbuildings. Keira especially liked the view from on top:
We pushed on to Visalia and auntie Manda's house. She had turned her family room into a huge kid bunkhouse. That was the last time I had to interact much with my kids the whole time we were at our house. They were so excited to see her and all her kids that they were pretty much done with me and Doug. Amanda stayed up talking with us till 3am, which was an excellent reminder of why we both miss her so much. She's a great sister. She proved that the next day by giving everyone much needed haircuts!
It was hard to get any of the kids out of the pool and spa. It really wasn't even hot while we were there, but they swam every second they could.
On Sunday, we spent the day celebrating Christa's 30th birthday with family and a few friends.
Monday evening, after visiting with Grandpa and making a quick stop at Katy's to see all the upgrades they've done on the house, we started to head over to Lindsay. Driving down Prosperity toward the mountains, pulling up to the Lindsay stoplight on 137, that's when I started to feel at home. Doug grew up in Tulare, spent several years living in Visalia, but those places were never "mine". The east side of the valley, along the mountains and foothills, is where I spent my time. Not just in Lindsay, but driving and exploring in the foothills and mountains. It was a little strange to drive past our old house, go by McDermont, the park, the pool. The older kids barely remember any of it. The younger ones don't at all. But so much of who I am a mother, all my own memories as a young mother, are formed around these places. But they aren't mine any more, and it was both a relief and a sadness that settled on me at that realization.
And then we pulled up to the Ashcraft's house, and I felt at home all over again. It felt good to see those smiling faces, the Ashcrafts and the Cregors, welcoming us to this place where we had always felt so loved. Birthday parties, Family Home Evenings, baby showers--it felt like a second home in many ways. The kids were bigger, and there were a few more of them, but otherwise it felt very much the same.
Tuesday we said our goodbyes to Amanda and the VanderArk cousins, and headed to Mimi and Papa's house to visit for a couple of hours before starting back. We drove to Papa Clark's house that evening, and the next day he took us all to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Keira had been soooooo excited to see the sea otters (and to be quite honest, it was awesome to see her light up and squeal with glee when we went to see them first), but she decided the aquarium had some other cool stuff, too.
Thursday we headed up to Sacramento, one of our favorite vacation haunts when we lived in California. Old Town is full of fun shops. And a lot of candy stores, which Dylan was pretty jazzed about.
(Photo credit: Keilana)
Thursday night, we headed over the hill to Reno, where my uncle Kenny took us in for the night (side note: which he did cheerfully despite the fact that we got stuck behind a major wreck on the pass and didn't make it to his house til a little after 11). He chatted with us into the wee hours of the morning, and told my kids a bed time story that came from Umpy (his dad, my Grandpa Umphrey). It was one I'd never heard, though I'd heard my grandpa tell a lot of stories--he was a fabulous story teller. I love those connections that keep the people we love alive in little ways. The last time I'd seen him was when my grandma passed away last year, so it was nice to be together again in happier circumstances.
We marathoned it home from Reno on Friday, and were home just over 24 hours before heading to Yaya's house for Memorial Day. . . . .