California Twenty Twenty

Another summer, another California trip. We go back home. Except Washington is home. Over 14 years now, with no plans to move. I’m not sure when back home is no longer where you grew up? California wasn’t supposed to be back home for long… we were only going to stay in Washington a few years, never going to have kids, and California was going to just be home. Hahahahaha.

Since having those kiddos we weren’t going to have—they ended up being planned, well number five was a bonus—and deciding to make Washington home, we have naturally gravitated toward going down for a week or two in summer, sometimes piggybacking on another trip. Like in 2017, we hit Cannon Beach for the eclipse. In 2018, we added Legoland to the trip. Legoland was glorious. We timed that trip so right. The first week of September—the first week of school. There were no lines and the park was pretty dead. Crowd avoidance at its finest. I can still go on and on about how wonderful of a trip it was. Clearly. But this year, we just went down to visit family for a week. Pandemic times.

And all we did was swim all day, every day. Mostly. I like how the kiddos get to experience a slice of summer the way ours were spent back in the day. My childhood summer memories are waking up and swimming, stopping for lunch before swimming again, and stopping for dinner before swimming until bedtime. And if I wasn’t swimming in our backyard, I was swimming in a friend’s backyard. Because everyone has pools. It’s freaking hot in Sacramento, especially in August.

The original plan was to leave Saturday and drive all day, like usual. It’s anywhere from 12-16 hours, depending on traffic, kiddos, whatnot. Flying is quicker. Driving is easier. Kiddos, Melvin, car seats, packing… driving wins. Last minute, we decided to leave Friday afternoon and stay in Oregon, breaking the drive into two days. It worked out well. It was 3:30pm when we pulled out of our driveway. Blaise had summer camp until 3pm. We made it to Medford just after midnight. And we only stopped once. Well, twice technically: 1. We grabbed McDonald’s and then 2. Drove to a rest stop to eat picnic-style and then had the kiddos run off their energy.

Rest stop picnic and energy exertion.

Medford is one of our standard stopping spots. They have everything. I remember buying our first Xbox there back in 2007, avoiding sales tax. But with kiddos, we know a few parks, the different fast food joints they’ll all agree on, and gas stations with easy access. I booked a random hotel—the only one that allowed seven people in a room and was dog-friendly. Homewood Suites I think it was? It was fine. It met our needs. And bonus, we actually scored a ground-floor room as requested.

I have traveling down. If I do say so myself. With five kiddos and Melvin. I packed a hotel bag with a change of clothes and toothbrushes for each of us, and Mel supplies. All we needed to take into the room was this one bag. We checked in, slept, woke up, and left. We weren’t even there eight hours.


Back on the road, we grabbed gas and breakfast in Medford before hopping on the 5 South. We didn’t stop again. We made it to Sacramento about noon. And within 10 minutes, the kiddos were in the pool. They swam, swam some more, and swam again before calling it a day.


Sunday was more swimming. With uncles and aunts. Laine requested Papa’s ribs for dinner. Brian makes the same ribs, with the same rub, using the same directions, and same smoker his dad uses… Laine says Papa’s ribs are better.

The swimming crew.

Monday was—take a guess—more swimming. I took the morning to nose around HomeGoods, Target, and Costco in Woodland, enjoying some alone time. Shockingly, I bought nothing! Except at Costco. Somehow the vegetarian is always the one who buys meat. This time, a 21 pound brisket. Brian has become the brisket guy, and was on tap to smoke one for Thursday’s dinner.

Maive enjoying some time in the air conditioned house. It was hot! She’s our little pandemic baby and never really goes anywhere. Super exciting being somewhere totally new! With people!

Mel was exhausted from traveling and keeping up with the four beagles.

Tuesday was swimming. And Tuesday morning Brian and his dad took the four kiddos miniature golfing. When it was already 85 degrees. At 10am. Apparently the miniature golf place is also a water park that isn’t supposed to be open under California guidelines. The owners ignore the rules. And people were there. The kids said the lines were long and nobody was social distancing or wearing masks. Haha. Covid kids. They are so used to all this new stuff and super resilient, kids are pretty amazing.


The kiddos were exhausted by the afternoon every day. Between visiting with family, swimming, the heat, and keeping up with online classes, they looked like zombies for a few hours every afternoon before they recharged.

Californiaing is tiring.

Wednesday they went swimming all day, again. With cousins. My sister and her kiddos came over and they caught up with one another in the pool.


Saige was the cooler-downer. It was in the upper 90s so Saige would squirt my sister—as requested—to cool her down.

Thursday was more swimming. And fishing. Saige really wanted to go fishing. And since neither Brian nor I fish, it’s become a Papa thing. He’s taken Blaise and Laine in past years, and this year all four older kiddos. I hear they only lasted maybe 20 minutes. It’s the experience.

Exciting at first, then boredom.

More swimming.

Thursday night was brisket night. Brian started smoking the brisket Wednesday night at 8pm—even setting his alarm for 4am to wrap and check on the slab of meat—letting it smoke until mid-morning Thursday. We had a nice family dinner Thursday night, our last dinner before heading home. We missed some family; it’s tough to get everyone together at one time.

Brisket Brian and Maive admiring dad while dinnering. She didn’t partake in any brisket. She’s still my little partner in vegetarianism for now. By default, being a baby. I keep prolonging giving her meat.

Also Thursday night after brisket—and every night we were there—sundaes. We have Sundae Sunday at home, where every Sunday night the kiddos have sundaes after dinner. But at the grandparents’, every night is sundae night. This is the spread. Lucky kiddos!

Sundaes galore.

Friday the kiddos jumped in the pool after breakfast for one last swim. After their online class… they kept up on their online classes during the week. Brian grabbed In-N-Out while they were in the pool to eat for lunch before we headed home. We pulled out just after noon, with another hotel booked in Oregon for the night. Eugene this time. We should have learned our lesson by now, we do this often on the way home… we end up driving straight home. No need for a hotel, even though we pay for the night. I called and had the dog fee waived so there’s that.

Baby ready to head home. I’m glad we left when we did… the heat for the following days after we left, insane.

It was just past midnight when we made it home. I think this was record time with kiddos, 12 hours. We stopped once. No, twice. We needed gas so close to home. Federal Way is an interesting place to stop at 11:30pm on a Friday night.

The kiddos were amazing! Both ways. We were so concerned about Maive, being a Covid baby who hasn’t been in the car much. She was the perfect roadtripper. I think it helped that she could see all of her siblings from her car seat. The only bad part of the drive was the kiddos lost Animal Crossing. The Switch cartridge. It fell under the back seat, down into the guts of the car. It’s there but it’s not coming out any time soon. Oh well.

It felt amazing to be home. I am obsessive (shocker) about leaving a clean house… with the sink and dishwasher empty; laundry baskets, and washer and dryer empty; everything vacuumed and dusted; and everything in its place, including beds neatly made (as in I made them before we left, not the kiddos). It’s a must that I come home to a clean house, so all that needs to be done is unpacking and car cleaning. Which we did first thing Saturday morning.

I always enjoy our time back home in California, and I always enjoy coming home to Washington. Until next summer, when we hit up California again. In the extreme heat to swim again all day, every day. Maybe we’ll tack on another trip if pandemic times are looking better.

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