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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Guest Post: Have 6 kids, 32 pairs of shoes, 1 golf bag - Will Travel

I am taking a Spring Break this week and am lucky to have some guests posts. Today's post is by Heather from Café!

Traveling with kids is always an adventure. An adventure that begins the moment you start packing. I found this out the hard way when I began gathering all the necessities for our family of eight to travel from Ohio to San Diego for my brother’s wedding.

To give you a little background, we are a blended family. My husband has two daughters (ages 9 and 11) and I have four children (two daughters, ages 6 and 10 and twin sons age 9). Yes, we have six children living with us who range from 6 to 11 years of age. Some call us crazy, others know we are blessed. I like to think of our home as chaotic love. When we went on the trip the youngest was 4 and the oldest was 9.

Getting back to the story, I was so thankful my brother asked all six of our kids to be in the wedding. I really wanted my stepdaughters to feel included. I was so excited that my parents were also flying out and so was my other brother, his wife and their three kids. We thought it would be super fun to all rent a beach house and stay together for the week. We obviously were not thinking clearly.

As I began packing, I realized that all the activities my brother planned for us were great but they also translated in to many different types of clothes and worst yet – shoes that needed to be packed.

At a minimum, each of us needed a pair of flip flops, tennis shoes, dress shoes and wedding shoes. Take those four types of shoes times eight people and you get 32 pairs of shoes or 64 individual shoes to pack. As I was sitting on the floor amidst a sea of rubber soles, my husband came to the rescue. He brought up his golf bag. “Throw all the shoes in here,” he said. Thank God for a clear thinking man.

Next on the list was packing the clothes. I packed a few outfits for everyone, two bathing suits a piece, beach towels, wedding attire and clothes for the rehearsal and dinner. Knowing that my parents were staying in the top part of the beach house with our family, I packed a few going out ensembles thinking my husband and I would be able to steal away for a night or two. That turned out to be yet another one of my wonderful expectations about the trip that never came to fruition – we never got to go out alone.

Got everything packed and loaded in our 12 passenger van. Two giant suitcases, 1 golf bag full of shoes, a carry on for me and each of the kids were allowed to pack a backpack full of whatever they wanted to keep themselves busy on the plane. We were ready to go.

We get to the airport and I was not prepared for all the stares and comments we would get as we walked through the terminal. “Are those all your kids?” people would ask and then seem surprised when we said yes. And our favorite was all the pointing at the golf bag my husband carried. “Look at that poor woman with six kids and her husband is going to play golf,” we overhead one lady say. Little did she know that my man had traded golf for his family. They were actually staring at a very wonderful guy with a whole lotta shoes.

Well, the flight went amazingly well. We were so proud of the kids. We did have to divide and conquer so my husband and I didn’t get to sit together but the peace we had by splitting up certain siblings was well worth it. When we got to the rental car area, we called to check if my parents had landed. My brother had already picked them up at the airport and they did not rent a car as they were planning on riding with us all week. We had rented a minivan that seats 8 only. Since my parents didn’t seem to get the picture very clearly, my husband rented a car which meant I had to drive my parents around all week and couldn’t ride in the same vehicle as him. Who thought traveling with my parents was a good idea?

We get to the beach house and my family loved it. It was literally right on the ocean and I was just happy to be on land and relax for the first night. But no, we have to get ready and go to my soon to be sister-in-law’s parents house for dinner. My kids are tired and crabby but we put on our smiles and go. My sister-in-law’s family is from Greece and so they prepared this authentic Greek dinner for us. The dinner was delicious but our kids were craving Mickey D’s. Their house was full of marble and statues and I was afraid something very valuable was going to get broken. Luckily our kids were so tired that they nearly all feel asleep.

Next day it was off to Sea World where we got to go behind the scenes and meet Shamu, train a beluga whale and swim with the dolphins. Amazing. Next day we were at Disneyland. We had one day to do Disney so we were all about the rides while my brother was all about the food and shopping. We had to split up. My kids badgered me to go on Space Mountain and then shortly after getting off the ride, they found out why mommy can’t ride roller coasters anymore. The hard way. They won’t be asking again.

Next day it was beach day. Finally a day to relax or so I thought. We were awoken at exactly 7 am by a call from my brother who was staying in the unit below us. Turns out he had seen a bug late the night before and was calling to inform us he was moving his family to a hotel. We are staying on the beach and there are bugs near water and sand yet my brother is a nurse and a germ a phobe and there was no convincing him to stay. Still don’t know why we needed a 7am wake up call to find out but so goes the trip.

We enjoyed our day at the beach. Our family went boogie boarding, collected shells, buried my husband in the sand and had a great time. My one son found what he calls an Octopus leg on the beach and picked it up. He chased the girls around the beach with it for quite some time. Then he got really mad at me when I told him he couldn’t take it home with him. Such a terrible mom.

The next day we went to the San Diego Zoo. What an incredible place. Loved the panda, giraffe and elephant exhibits best. My boys were totally fascinated with the meerkats. From there it was off to my brother’s for dinner. Next day was another beach day. Off to Hollywood the following day. Got to see Tim Robbins get his star on the walk of fame. The kids did not know who he was but we thought it was cool to see him and Susan Sarandon. The kids did recognize Jack Black who was there for the festivities.

We went to the Kodak Theater to have an Idol moment and it was there that I heard my greatest question of the vacation. It came from a lady on Hollywood Boulevard who was soliciting tours.” Excuse me miss,” she said “are you the supervisor of this group?” With a hearty chuckle I responded “no, I’m the mother of this group.” She smiled and went on to another herd of people. Don’t think she hears that response very often.

The rehearsal dinner went great but the wedding day was quite the deal. My sister-in-law made appointments for the girls to get their hair done – all with the same “do”. Two of my girls loved it and two hated having their hair look exactly like everyone else. Why did I get all the complaining? I’m just the driver. It was “picture city” the morning of the wedding so my husband and I had to split duties again. He had the boys where they needed to be and I took the girls to the park. Problem was, I was never told where in the park to go and this was a huge park filled with many different wedding parties taking photos. We didn’t find the bride and her bridesmaids til the last picture was being taken and then it was off to the Church.

The ceremony was beautiful. It was a traditional Greek Orthodox wedding and my son, Charlie, nearly dropped the crown as he was carrying it down the aisle. It was true comic genius that can never be duplicated in print. You should have seen the look on the priest’s face. Priceless. My nephew, who was two at the time, refused to walk down the aisle much to his mother’s chagrin. Another priceless moment.

It was finally time to head home. We arrived at the San Diego Airport and were running tight on time so my husband dropped us off and then went to return the rental car. The kids and I walked through the airport and went through security. When I emptied my pockets, I had glow in the dark plastic teeth, lip gloss, loose change, sea shells and Polly Pocket shoes in my bin. The lady behind me started laughing. I laughed too and knew she had to be a mom herself to appreciate how things you don’t own can end up in your pocket w/out you knowing. I found out after my sister-in-law sent us the wedding photos that my son, Charlie, had worn the fake teeth in the guys’ only wedding shots. Don’t think she was too happy but I actually found it quite humorous.

All in all it was a great trip. Despite getting handed a bill by my new sister-in-law at the end trip for the cost of all the attraction tickets (which we were originally told would be comped), having to rent a car for both ourselves and my parents, my brother and his family moving out of the beach house because they found a bug, my parents complaining it was too hot (constantly), and my son Charlie getting bit in the privates by a sand crab, it was a wonderful vacation.

What gives me the biggest giggle is to listen to the response from each of our kids when asked what the best part of the trip to California was. It’s not Disney, or Sea World. It’s not going to Hollywood or body surfing in the ocean. No, my kids’ favorite part of the vacation is the street performer that we saw at the pier. He was dressed in silver from head to toe and danced to Michael Jackson songs. We gave him a few bucks and he put on quite a show. My kids loved it. Loved it. We could have gone to Downtown Cleveland and saw the same thing. Smile. I just love how kids truly do appreciate the simple and somewhat bizarre things in life. As parents, we often try too hard to impress.

We all made it home safe and sound from the trip; two adults, six kids and 32 pairs of shoes (courtesy of one great husband and his dusty golf bag).

I am taking a Spring Break this week and am lucky to have some guests posts. Today's post is by Heather from Café!

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