Well, our trip to California was a smashing success! I wouldn't have considered this trip even a possibility before, especially because it was going to be a 22 hour drive, but now that it's over I feel like I've learned a lot about traveling with small children. Will had just turned three, and the twins are now 19 months old, so it was a formidable challenge!
First, I made sure I had TONS of snacks in all different varieties that would be relatively easy to clean up. I also brought two packages of Capri Sun drinks and a cooler with water to make sure I was only giving them a half formula of sugar. My dear friend Shastina let me borrow her two screen DVD player, and I had oodles of DVD's to keep their attention. We used it only when the kids really started to melt down to divert their attention. Getting out every two hours to let them stretch their legs was great, too, but in retrospect I kind of wish I had a leash for each kid with me! :D
Still, there were moments that challenged my sanity.... kids screaming and throwing cheeseburger particles at each other, my "country driving skills" being put to the test in 7 lanes of traffic at rush hour with three screaming children in the back, Will making friends with random people at rest stops and trying to take whatever food they had, Shane and Matthew screaming at the top of their lungs REFUSING to go to sleep the one night we stayed in a hotel forcing me to hold them both while standing and bouncing so that my dad could at least sleep.... but overall it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated.
My dad rode with me on the way down, so I had an extra helping hand with the kiddos. We planned diversions for ourselves that were "foodie dream stops" and we had an absolute blast making life long memories. I rarely get to spend so much time with my father, and I felt blessed to get to hear so much about his life and to be able to navigate the open road. It has already brought us closer together.
We stayed with family the first night, and quickly realized that it was going to be a significant disturbance for their daily life, so they graciously put us up in a hotel nearer to the hotel venue in Mission Viejo. It was perfect! I didn't have to use my pack-n-plays if I didn't want to, because the hotel had some for our use. But, because I wanted that space freed up in our car, I just used the ones I had brought. The free breakfast really helped our budget, too!
We had tons of things planned to do when we arrived - mostly to visit my sick grandfather, but also for me to be a bridesmaid in my Aunt's wedding, for Will to be the ringbearer, and to take the kiddos to Disneyland. The latter being what I was most excited about... it was a very important place to me as a child... living only a few minutes from the gate enabled me to go daily at times. I know the layout so well I could draw up my OWN map! :)
The wedding was phenomenal. My new uncle is an incredible wedding photographer, and he had 5 of his photo-biz friends taking pics of the event. They had such an amazing ceremony - dove release, incredible DJ, dancing around the pool, lifeguards to watch the children swim into the evening, enormous buffet style meal with different entree options.... it was all impeccably done. We also managed to get the first true family portrait done with EVERYONE included in more than 10 years! I can't wait to see how they turned out. Of course, it will be a few weeks before we see pictures, but I know it will be worth the wait!
The whole experience made me feel so lucky to be a part of the wonderful family I have. I don't think I had that much fun in YEARS. Growing up in Southern California and moving to Idaho when I was ten made me feel somewhat disconnected from my roots and who I am, but the time I spent with everyone re-connected my heart to things so wonderful I *wanted* to forget them. I somehow feel stronger, more beautiful and significantly ready to attack the challenges to come my way.