Where to even start? The thing with blogging is that I do it a lot when I have little to say and plenty of time to say it. Today, for example, I have a hundred things I could say and Christmas already breathing heavily down my neck. (I guess that puts Christmas on the "naughty" list.)
In an attempt to organize my thoughts, I will break up my experiences the post into two categories--Awesome. Not Awesome.
1. San Fransisco. What a cool city. I would dearly love to go and visit with a few girlfriends next spring to see a show and more of the city. We decided to go the public transport route, which was a good choice, but it also meant that there were parts of the city we couldn't really get to. The weather was gorgeous and sunny. It wasn't the easiest place to take kids, but seeing their faces as they climbed in and out of the submarine was pretty great.
2. Exchanging presents with my sister that we have been collecting and/or making for months . With one sickish child and one baby, she had a very long and difficult week.
3. Meeting up with my family at Disneyland on November 15, which also happens to be my youngest brother's birthday. It was a blast to wait in line for the Peter Pan Ride with each other, swapping stories and joking with one another. We told my mom that for his birthday next year (he'll be 30) we are expecting a cruise! After all, we teased her, he IS the baby and still the favorite. We broke into a spontaneous birthday song while my forever mocking youngest sib turned red with embarrassment. Too bad we forgot to pick up one of these:
And don't forget these bad boys:
4. Everything about California Adventure. That place is really wonderful. I had more fun there than in Disneyland. I loved the way it was all lit up at night down by the water, like an old-fashioned amusement park. A couple of really fun "big-kid" rides are over on that side. We got to see the World of Color show, wherein Disney magic uses a wall of water instead of a screen on which to project images from their shows. (Now available on DVD!!) I thought they should have ended with "Paint With All the Colors of the Wind" however, instead of the cheesy written-for-the-show number called "World of Color" set to the princess-fest images.
5. Seeing the Jedi Knight really come out of his shell as one of the big kid cousins. He tried every "scary" ride except for one and for the most part really loved them, working out some complicated ranking system for the rides. The only one he didn't love was Space Mountain. "That was the worst experience of my life!" he said more than once when he came out. Still, it didn't scar him too bad. He told somebody the other day that the vacation, as a whole, was the "best experience of his life."
6. Mostly short lines and gorgeous, temperate weather. Don't tell anyone, but the week before Thanksgiving is the time to go.
7. Watching all four cousins who wanted to participate get picked for the Jedi show at the same time. One of the boys has tried four times. Jedi Knight stared down a very realistic Darth Maul, with no small amount of terror in his face, but his training kicked in and he didn't join the Dark Side, I'm happy to report. I have had some worry on that point.
8. Shamu. Duh. The Youngling had picked up a stuffed Shamu after the first show and carried her around all day. When we went to another Shamu show, he acted out all of Shamu's best "moves" with his stuffy. Youngling has hardly been able to part from her since we got home.
9. Spending the night with my lovely cousin in San Diego. She holds a very special place in my heart, and we relate to one another on a level that isn't always there with other members of my extended family. Her kids were hilarious and an instant bond was struck with five boys ages 3 to barely 9. I remembered just how much I liked her husband and how grateful I am to the Angel who sent him to her. I wish we could see them more often. Maybe they need to come north next time--a house on the coast would be just the thing when the 100 degree days rage across southern California again next summer.
10. Rides. Even the stupid ones. I love rides. I love getting scared out of my mind and leaving my stomach at the top of a ledge or slope or loop. I love the cheesy blacklight Disney paraphernalia and the ridiculously dated animatronics. I fell down at the end of each day just as exhausted as my children. It is remarkable what eight hours of sleep every night for a week can do to your outlook. Oh, and not having to cook a single meal.
11. Legoland. Everything about it. Everything. My kiddos were the perfect ages and we were able to see nearly all of the park in just a day. JK got the hard-to-find set of Legos that he's been saving months and months to buy. He was so happy.
12. Park food. Really. I don't think we had a bad meal inside any of the parks. We were pretty selective, and you do pay through the nose for it (what does that mean, anyway? If they would take what was coming through my nose then why didn't we just spend that?), but I felt like we at least didn't have to eat disgusting or greasy food. I especially loved my broccoli cheddar soup in a Boudin bread bowl on our last, cold night in California Adventures. Little did we know just what that chill in the air was going to mean!
13. The matching shirts that made my mom so happy and were a source of endless amusement.
1. Getting lost in San Fransisco while trying to navigate our way to a hotel, and then a busy Saturday in the city with three kids.
2. Waiting 40 minutes for Peter Pan (almost the worst line of the week!) only to create an absolute terror of the dark in Padawan. The rest of the week, the question that preceded each ride was, "Is it dark?" Mostly I was truthful, but my memory from so many years back wasn't great and we made a few mistakes. For future reference, if you tell a youngish child that Splash Mountain will "not get them very wet, isn't dark, and isn't scary," then you are lying through your teeth.
3. Missing most of the Dolphin show because Plantboy took JK down to the "splash zone" while I sat with the little ones who got too hot and had too much sun in their eyes. We walked across the stadium and down to the shade, risking the splash zone wrath. We'd been seated for about 40 seconds when the Youngling had to pee. In fact, much of the whole trip seemed to involve either Plantboy or myself hunting desperately for a public toilet, and then convincing him that the gaping, noisy hole wouldn't suck his tiny butt right down. I quickly realized that all exits, except those at the TOP of the 50 stairs I'd just come down were closed. I ran him to the top, found my mom to sit next to Padawan and circled around the whole stadium to find a toilet that was 20 feet the opposite direction. "No accidents mom!" Back up the stairs to the top of the stadium and back down. I caught less than ten minutes of the Dolphin show. Raspberries.
4. Too many people EVERYWHERE. California is a nice place to visit very occasionally, but wouldn't want to live there. Twice this year (Redwoods, March) was ample.
5. The matching shirts that made my mom so happy and were a source of endless amusement.
In this blog, I have tried to take the experiences I have on the journey and try to learn from them. Memories and lessons are, after all, the best souvenirs. After one particularly long letter from my mission, my mother wrote to say that I was the kind of person who "could glean a lot of living out of ordinary experiences." I think she meant it as a compliment, though sometimes I wonder if she was saying that I needed to just stop over thinking things!
To the purpose of gleaning some living, I'd like to share about our last day of vacation. The original plan had been to drive to Sacramento on Saturday and then the rest of the way home Sunday. This would break the trip into two 7-8 hour legs. Upon finding out the Primary Program was that Sunday, and consulting with the kids, we were in agreement--we had to be back on Sunday. It was better all around--we would avoid LA traffic completely by leaving at 3 in the morning, we would arrive home in time for everyone to have a good night's rest, and the kids would sleep at least a third of the ride in the car.
As of Redding, California, we were right on track, even with a long lunch. We were about 150 miles from the border and my calculations put us home at about 7 o'clock. Just time for grilled cheese sandwiches and bed. Then the snow started.
And didn't stop.
We got to the top of the pass in the Cascades in a near standstill. I was shaking like a leaf when we came to the road worker near an exit called Pollard Flats. (Don't bother finding it on the map; I don't think it is a real city. Just a gas station with a greasy spoon diner inside. And a bathroom. Thank heavens for that.
It was about four o'clock and here is the information we had: I-5 North was closed down for several miles while they tried to clear a wreck despite the ice and snow. Plows hadn't been down there yet. Nobody was going through without chains. "It might be open in an hour. It might be closed for three days. You just never know."
In short, we had very little information. We did, however, have chains. Why we had them defies all logic. Dressed in our southern California gear--I was in a light, matchy sweatsuit and Plantboy in shorts and a tee shirt--we figured out how to put the chains on using the waterproof (thank goodness for that) instructions.
While struggling to tighten the chains with numb fingers and soaked to the knees, I had a major epiphany. I knew that in just a couple of minutes I would be able to get inside the car and turn the heat all the way up if needed. We could go into the station and get some hot chocolate to warm the inside too. Even in the worst case scenario we'd be home safe and snug in bed in a few days. My kids were warm and dry. We had a full gas tank in the event that we'd need to run the car all night. We had food in the car and a few clean clothes.
I thought about my pioneer ancestors and bit back complaint. I thought about how pathetic and modern and useless I am.
After consulting with the kids, who were completely broken-hearted at the prospect of missing Sunday, we prayed at length and comforted one another. Prayer finished, we looked up to see five snowplows getting ready to head north. Miracles come in many forms.
But still we waited. I reminded Padawan about his talk for the next day: how Nephi was obedient even when it was hard. We decided we would do the same. An iPod with video capability, a charged laptop, the DVD player and a couple of good books didn't hurt our patience a bit. We ended up with two more bathroom stops. I reminded myself to be grateful even as I tried desperately not to touch anything in the filthy public restroom, even when the power went out while I was on the commode. There was a tub in there, which was odd enough, but somebody had hilariously added a really grotesque mannequin to it. Just weird. And don't get me started on the bumper stickers papering the walls; I really am grateful that the kind of folks of Pollard Flats decided to come to work that day.
Three hours later we gratefully left that little town, crawling along at 30 mph (speed limit 70) for the 70 miles it took to get to Weed, California. Yes, really. We de-chained two-hundred miles from home. It was 10:30 pm and we had to change drivers three more times to keep from falling asleep. Plantboy and I went to bed at 2 am.
But we were on time for church. Padawan's talk was wonderful and perfect. His little freckly face spoke straight from his heart and my own spirit was deeply touched.
Our six hour delay taught me so much.
* Before I knew what was happening, my stress was so palpable that I could, quite literally, feel my muscles stiffening as my heart beat faster and faster. Once we had something to DO, even something as miserable as trying to put chains on our van, I felt so much better. So stress will kill me, but when I'm busy I don't feel stressed. It has helped me to see that the fog I've felt for the last year or so is probably because of uncertainty. Having plenty to do is not the problem.
* Being exhausted and stressed makes me snarly and mean. Plantboy, patient man, is still kind to me. By the time we snuggled into our covers in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I couldn't believe how blessed I am to be married to him. And while this isn't a NEW revelation, certainly, it is always a good reminder.
* I need to get a lot better about letting go of things I cannot control. I tried a lot harder this last week to just take deep breaths when things get crazy and just be in the moment. I feel a lot better. More committed to what really matters. More conscious of the gifts I've been given.
Happy Christmas, all.