I think the beach is magnificent. I love the sand, the water, the air, the sneaky seagulls, and the entire experience. Last year we spent a lovely few days in Laguna Beach (minus Josie's face plant accident). This year we all looked forward to another few days near a beach. I wanted to try camping so found a decent place for a decent price. What better way to vacation than with more kids than adults? Courtenay and her crew plus Lia Lance joined us at the San Diego Metro KOA for 5 days, 4 nights of lots of fun. Courtenay drove down a couple days early to spend time with a friend in Vegas. We arrived in San Diego around the same time, give or take 30 minutes. Justin and I realized the day before that fitting everything into one vehicle was going to challenge every inch of space in the van. We splurged and took the truck and van. It was no nice to spread out the camping gear and beach stuff between two vehicles...plus spread out the kids between vehicles. The temperatures were hovering near 98 before 8:30 am! We were happy to leave the heat behind. Well, that did take almost 5 hours to leave the heat behind. Our drive was quite uneventful, mostly just interrupted with whining questions from Evelyn every 5 minutes, "how much longer?" We set up our tent then left Justin to sort out the disc-o cot bunk while we took the energetic pack of kids on a walk about the camp grounds. A frequent vacationer said that the KOA was renovated 3 years ago with lots of fun amenities! We discovered a large pool with two hot tubs, showers, nice bathrooms, bouncing pillows, rental bikes, a cafe, gaga ball pits, basketball courts, and a large open field. The California air smelled divine! Balmy, floral, gorgeous smells. The campsites were packed close together, just feet away from our neighbors. We scored a corner lot with lots of wire fencing to hang all our wet swim stuff on. I ordered a couple bundles of wood, delivered via golf cart and employee. That was handy. We made a quick dinner of cowboy hot dogs using Court's quite handy electric skillet. The little girls sprinkled their hair with flowers! After dinner I took the kids swimming while Court took a break and Justin worked on inflating a pile of sleeping pads...and relaxing. Everett immediately made a friend (course a girl, 2-3 years older) named Lucy that he played with whenever we went swimming. Next to our site were a couple of tiny barking dogs. Seemed their owners were no where in sight, just the dogs tied to picnic table. Courtenay called the front desk to report the yapping dogs, the owners were apparently squatting and left immediately...with the dogs. Everyone around was quite relieved. Charlie finally got to sleep afterwards. We rounded out the evening with s'mores and campfire fun.
Tuesday was BEACH day! The kids woke us up to a rousing rendition of Purple Soup, sang over 40 million times. The soup kettle was the fire pit, ashes floating all over as the kids stirred. The little ones were quite amused with the song. While the adults ambled about getting ready the kids explored the gaga ball pit and bouncing pillows. We finally left for La Jolla around 9:15 am. Finding a gas station to feed our tired bodies was quite a challenge. Utah and Arizona are ripe with soda fountained gas stations every other corner. Everyone slathered up with a thick layer of sun block before leaving. The beach was overcast until after well after noon. We barely saw Mia and Lia, those two commandeered the boogie boards and spent the entire day in the water. I stole a couple of glimpses of them only when I followed them into the water for photos. I think they ate, I think they got some drinks of water....not sure! We certainly were not very efficient about sun block reapplication. All the kids ended up with some sun burned part of their body. Everett and Phillip had white stripes down their cheeks showing where their fingers pulled down some lotion. Still, the water and sand, and later the sun were intoxicating. Josie crawled into my lap after her sandy-wich for a nap. I quite enjoyed watching Charlie amble about. He is quite adept at escaping our line of sight. Evelyn and Emmie finally got turns on the boogie boards, the girls took quickly to instruction and were racing down the waves. Evelyn and Josie got sandy mermaid tails. I dug a hole deep enough for Everett to stand in up to his chest! The boys soon had my hole enlarged and much deeper. We watched the waves rolling in for high tide. It was time to go! I washed off Evelyn before we packed up. Of course she rolled in the sand like a piggie, she was crusted absolutely crusted with sand. After we hauled everything up to the grass I had to drag her back for an ocean dunk to remove her sand crust. She wailed like a banshee. The drive back was twice the time due to rush hour. We washed off all the salt in the pool and shower. Poor Lia earned quite the nasty sunburn. She was roasted on her back and face. All the adults hung heads in shame, we neglected sun blocking the mermaid twins. I made Greek Gyros for dinner. Lia commented that the meat was gross, I handed her a pita and said good luck. She later tried the meat and ate her allotment plus some! That dinner did not last long. Court provided sunbursts to toast over the fire as a treat. Yum. Poor Penny reached the end of her rope, she went to bed screaming. Girl, I feel ya! Court and I escaped for a late night Walmart run to find swimming shorts (the girls were chafing), swim shoes, and more boogie boards.
Next day Everett Call woke up all the adults with high pitched screaming at the Gaga Ball pit. His sense of rules was severely violated when he was called out for a hit that was only a brush of the ball. To be a nerd he hunkered down in the middle hogging the balls "playing with Charlie" while all the other kids yelled at him. Amelia made it worse by hitting him, he kicked her back hard, she hit back. All in all a pretty good fight ensued. Everett was banned from the pit for the rest of the trip. We decided to give all the sunburned skin a break from the beach. We slathered miles of skin with sun block to protect lobster red skin. Most of the kids were over the top crabby and whining, Evelyn, Everett, Josie, Amelia, Lia, Emmie, and Penny (and Jenni). Ha ha. We spent a lovely few hours exploring Old Town San Diego. Our first stop was a penny press machine, the kids were enthralled with the process of spending 51 cents to get a penny stretched and stamped in return. We ate some lunch first since the restaurant was not busy and everyone was hangry. Charlie entertained me unawares, he shoved all his silverware into his cup over and over again. Toddlers make me laugh. We headed toward the only store that matters...the candy shop. The kids spent their hard earned allowances on favorite candy treats. Evelyn chose a container of unicorn whips, Josie a pink lollipop, Phillip a poop flashlight, Amelia and Everett had a bag of various choices from the candy jars. Amelia and Lia also bought some fudge, mint and huckleberry. The souvenir shops caught out attention next, we skipped over all the educational stuff in favor of the glitz of the shops. Josie was fixated on getting her own fan. All the little girls ended up with cute colored leather purses, Court got her girls and Lia purses first. We went back because my girls also needed purses, am I right? The boys got leather bracelets as well. Justin sagely sat on a bench and let the ladies go. A fun street musician had us all entertained with versions of Baby Shark, Twinkle Little Star, and the Macarena. We had a dance party right there in the square. We headed toward the Mormon Battalion Museum. The Lance kids were excited to see their Uncle Nate starring in the movie there. This time we got to pan for gold, hand scrub laundry, and bake mud bricks after the presentation. We headed up to the tower for a view of the city. We tried to make it back to KOA in time for the littles to enjoy a train ride but missed it by 5 minutes. So we went swimming again! Courtenay went to Costco for pizza while Justin and I managed the swimming horde of kids. At dusk some of us went to the large field to watch The Good Dinosaur. We snacked on popcorn and loads of water. I quite enjoy how well the employees keep the sound curfew maintained. It's quite a dull roar until 10-10:30, then everything settles down to silence for the night.
Justin woke up the next morning to find all the females in the flutter. Amelia started her first period, while camping!!!! I so appreciate Courtenay's excited reaction! Amelia was all in a tizzy flapping her arms while I calmly and slowly gathered some supplies. She was soon squared away, complete with a dose of Tylenol for those pesky cramps. We headed to the beach again for a few hours. Well covered and slathered this time. Lia was not the mood at all to swim, her burn was to severe to enjoy much of anything. Amelia was anxious about missing out on swimming, she was reassured several times it was ok to swim. So she did get in the water for a couple of hours. The beach remained overcast for the day. Justin tangled up his kite strings. That spaghetti mess of string took me an hour to sort out. The kids amused themselves digging holes using sand shovels I got at Walmart. At first the boys and girls were in a contest for the largest and deepest holes. The boys won. The waves were quite substantial that day! Amelia and I spent a good hour out in the deeper water with our boogie boards. We love the waves that shoot you straight up into the air! Evelyn wanted to board so I helped her catch a few waves. She wandered back to the sand so I thought she was done. A few moments later I realized she was not with the family. I am not one to get anxious about missing kids, usually I'm quite low key. In my mind's eye Evelyn got caught in the undertow (which was quite strong that day) and pulled out to the deeper water. She did not have her floatie on as well so there was no way she'd keep her head above water. I enlisted Justin to help me find her. I found her 1/2 mile down the beach crying, she lost us. That was a good heart workout for us both. We had a pretty good spot directly in front of a play area and the bathrooms. We headed back early, everyone was tired, cold, and ready to rest at the KOA. Traffic delayed us enough that we missed the train rides again. So we rented a surry bike, three banana bikes, and a large trike for the kids to enjoy. I even squeezed myself into a banana bike made for an 8 year old. The surry gave us a really good 20 minutes of exercise. Court made walking tacos. My silly girls insisted on walking about with their tacos just because. The kids went swimming again, hogging the hot tubs, which stung our burns for a moment then felt pretty darn good. Everett played for the last time with his Lucy friend. Evelyn practiced her water handstands. She found her swimming skills from last year! We made banana boats for treat, most burned so we finished off with more s'mores. Courtenay worked on packing up her van for an early departure the next day. The kids gave Charlie and new nickname of Charzard or Charmander, a Pokemon character.
Courtenay packed up quickly since she had a 13 hour drive home. The kids played gaga ball and bounce pillows bright and early for the last time. Lia really wanted Amelia to travel back with them. She was not feeling comfortable with her current situation, lack of clothing, and supplies, plus I'm not sure there was even room in the Lance van for a Call. Ha ha ha. Hug, hug, kiss, kiss and the Lances were off...to the bathroom. We ran up a pair of shorts and caught them at the bathroom still, phew. Justin and I took our time to pack up and store things away in the truck and van. So much sand, so much. We pulled out around 10 am to head back to 100+ temps in Arizona. We miss those balmy 70 degree days already. The drive back was quiet, the kids napped half the way. That first rest stop was brutal. Walked out to dry, furnace winds at a 107! Take me back! We got home around 5 pm. Soon we had the vehicles cleared out and the house cluttered with stuff. I got the van vacuumed before the sand took over.
Saturday I worked on the massive pile of laundry. Took about 11 loads of laundry to catch up with all the dirty, smoke infused, camp stuff. The kids set up the slip n'slide as an afternoon diversion. I captured some pretty silly slo-mo videos of their antics. Our impressive 12' sunflower bloomed, several of the smaller flowers also bloomed while we were gone. Those flowers gave me some "saudades" of Nebraska. Justin and I attended Stake Conference meetings towards the evening. Thanks to Amelia for holding down the fort while we went to the adult session. One idea really stuck out to me that session: that the Mosaic Law was retired for the Higher Law of Love, now that law is retired for an even higher law, that of Ministering as the Lord does. Just a thought!
Sunday Justin woke up to a very excited Evelyn. She almost spoiled his Father's Day surprise due to her excitement. She held it together! I got Justin a huge card which we all signed. He got the card and three awesome new ties from the littles. We enjoyed a Justin approved meal of BBQ ribs, baked potatoes, and salad. We are so blessed with a humble, hard-working father for our family.
I wish there was a way to encapsulate all the emotions, busy-ness, commaderie, laughter, and tantrums, etc of our trip. I wish there were words to describe Charlie's one-word raspy way of communicating. I wish we could just wrap up all that cousin time, the feelings, love, joy, etc of spending time with folks we love. The faces on our kids faces when making emergency potty runs down the way. Everett's little feelings hurting more than possible over some small faux pas. The older girls giggling in their own tent, being big girls and all grown up, but still impossibly young. I'm really good at describing the little motions we go through it's the other things that escape me. My camera captures a bit of those feelings, better than my words at least. I wish I could tell you how my heart expanded when Everett Lance randomly held Evelyn's hand just because he was near and a great big brother. Or Josie's sticky face whining for a flimsy wooden fan that broke 5 minutes later. Those are the things vacations are made of, real life included.
**the kids reminded me, I have to tell about my well-timed toot. I could feel a good one brewing so I pointed out all the blisters on Mia's face, here, here, here, and here....and toot! I'm pretty proud it worked out so well. We had a good laugh.
Amelia: favorite part was the beach, catching the big ones, the cramps, learning to deal with being a "woman"
Phillip: Loved the KOA, palling about with Everett
Everett: Loved KOA, the pool especially, loved the waves and getting his own boogie board, the yummy food
Evelyn: I learned to boogie board on the waves all by myself! I am awesome, cool. I loved playing with Penny