Thursday, April 5, 2018

Birthday Trip

Or: Large Family Vacation, "keeping it real" edition

Sunday before last, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of my turning 29 years old. Earlier in March, my husband had talked me into turning the occasion into a little family vacation. 

I love traveling with my husband, and enjoy taking one of the kids with me whenever I travel by myself, but taking the entire family out of state is a major undertaking. One that can easily require a separate vacation just to recover from. Without some prodding, I would probably never leave the city. While I was packing, I did find myself remembering, "This is why we don't do vacations with the entire family any more." But once we actually get to our destination, I am always glad to have gone through the trouble of packing and driving down the road for hours with ten kids within touching distance of me. 

Packing - it's a feat, I tell you! Imagine how much packing would go into preparing for a 12-day vacation by yourself. That's how much packing/planning I have to do for every day that we will be gone. We were gone for 5 days - the equivalent of a 60-day solo trip. That is the same as TWO MONTHS worth of packing for a single person! My left eye is starting to twitch just thinking about the reality of large family logistics. 

You might be wondering, "Don't the older kids pack for themselves?" Oh, they sure do! Being thoughtful and responsible teenagers, they DO pack all the necessities such as video games for the road, and forget such small details as shoes or a clean shirt for church. So let's just say they still need some assistance. 

We rented a small U-Haul trailer to pull behind our van, which does not have much cargo space once every one of the 12 seats is taken. Having the trailer made for pretty easy loading and unloading of our cargo. Also, the house we were staying in had a washer and dryer, which I used every night. Next time, I think it will be easier to pack just two outfits per person, and keep washing and wearing them throughout the trip. It would cut down on the packing of clothes considerably. 

We left on Thursday morning after breakfast. Peter, who hates the car seat even for short runs to the store, did absolutely amazing and slept all the way from here to Indio, CA (a 4-hour drive) where we stopped for the lunch buffet at Round Table Pizza. We do not have Round Table in Arizona, so I went a bit hog-wild on the pizza.

From there, it was only another 2 hours drive to our destination, Tustin (in the L.A. area). The house had a heated pool and spa, so in spite of the cool and drizzly weather (a welcome change for us parched desert dwellers), the kids had fun blowing off steam in the pool.

For dinner, we went to Island's, where our family took up three tables to be seated. By the time we got back from that, it was well past everyone's bed time.

(Side note: One of the free crayons from this restaurant got left in a pants pocket, and destroyed an entire load of light laundry. Waaaaaaah! This load contained two new sweaters and my ring sling!)

On Friday, we met up at Knott's Berry Farm with my husband's brother's family (our kids' cousins) and friends of ours from AZ whom we had invited to join us on this trip. In all, our group consisted of 21 people. We had booked homeschool group tickets at the park in advance, for greatly reduced admission. It being a weekday, the lines were very short (5 - 20 mins) for all rides but one. The weather was perfect - sunny but cool.




We were at the park from the time they opened at 10 a.m. almost until 10 p.m. when they closed. My husband took the little kids for the first few hours, so I could do the rides with the older kids. Peter was with me, of course. I would "baby swap" him with someone else in our group whenever they would finish a ride, and I was allowed to enter through the exit, so we would not have to wait a second time for the same ride. 

Miriam, not a fan of roller coasters, chose to stay with the little kids. Becca and Anna were in my group. Becca is fearless, but Anna is a bit timid. I told her we'd do one of the milder rides first, the wooden roller coaster I had seen on the way in. I figured it being wood meant it did not go upside down, and would be a good introduction. Boy oh boy was I wrong!! This particular roller coaster, "GhostRider," does in fact not go upside down. Still, it is THE most radical ride at this theme park, and probably the most radical roller coaster I have been on in my entire life!! Poor little Anna was scared out of her wits the second the train left the station. It reached maximum speeds of almost 60 mph, and lasted THREE full minutes, which seemed like an eternity. Anna was literally scared for her life. I had forgotten to take my glasses off before we left the station, so I was clutching them with one hand, while trying to hold onto and reassure Anna with the other hand. Which effectively left me with zero hands to hang on for dear life. It was horrible. I could laugh about it afterward, but poor little Anna was so shook up, she started shivering every time she went on another ride the entire day. In better news, her teenage brothers were really impressed when they heard she had gone on that ride, though they were less impressed once they found out it was by mistake.


The rest of the day was much less eventful. Knott's Berry Farm is a truly unique and beautifully decorated theme park. Even just walking around, not riding any rides, is a treat in itself. In addition to the kiddie area, there were tons of attractions scattered throughout the park that were suitable for all ages.


By the time we got back to the house it was well past 10 p.m., and we pretty much just crashed into bed and passed out.

On Saturday, we slept in, had a late breakfast at Panera Bread, and then met up with the cousins at a local playground to spend some time with them before they had to head back that afternoon. We all had lunch at Olive Garden, and then they had to go back home to Sacramento, a 6-hour drive.

After they left, we quickly went back to the house to get ready for "Medieval Times," where we were going that afternoon. Our friends from Arizona who had joined us on this trip had gifted us with tickets for the entire family for my birthday! Whoa! We are very close with this family. They are always super thoughtful and generous. It was just like them to plan something so awesome!

The dinner show was something else! It exceeded all of our expectations. The two oldest girls had talked me into sewing them fancy princess dresses the week before our trip. Anna had chosen light pink fabric for hers, so after finding out that the dinner show did not serve utensils to maintain a medieval feel, I talked her into wearing a different princess dress for this outing and not ruin her brand new dress.

After the show, we went back to the house for another evening of playing in the pool before bed.

On Sunday, we once again had breakfast at Panera. On the entire trip, I never cooked a single meal, and even only served breakfast twice - cereal. Not having to do any cooking, shopping, or cleanup was a welcome change of pace!


My husband preached at our Los Angeles church plant in the morning and evening service. I had never been to this church, and was excited to meet the people there. They were all incredibly friendly. On top of that, they spoiled me with birthday cards, flowers, cake, ice cream, gifts, and other treats. They also gave my husband this funny shirt they had made for him. It lists the countries he has been banned from (not including the most recent, Jamaica).

Between the services, I took half of the kids to the beach to play in the ocean for a little bit. It was extremely windy, so we didn't stay long. It was perfect weather for kite surfing, though, which we had fun watching.

On Monday, after four days of playing much and sleeping little, we slept in ridiculously late, packed up, and headed home.

Two hours into the drive, before leaving civilization and heading into the desert, we stopped off at the Air Museum in Palm Springs and spent a couple of hours looking at their aircraft, touring a B-17, etc.

We again had lunch at Round Table Pizza for a last hurrah, and then we stopped in at Aldi, which has come to California in the last year. Rumor has it they will start opening stores in Arizona within the next two years, and none too soon! Aldi is a German store, and as such, they carry quite a few "made in Germany" foods, particularly candy. I loaded up on things I cannot get anywhere else. After that, we set out on the long drive across the desert, back home. Peter did really well in the car again.

We got into town around dusk on Monday. After we got home, the big boys unloaded the van and trailer while I got the little people to bed. We spent all day Tuesday getting caught up from the trip, and were back into our everyday routine by Wednesday.

It was a wonderful and memorable trip. There probably won't be very many more with the entire family before the older kids starting growing up and moving out to start their own families.

Good times!


  1. Yes, that ride shook me up also when I was younger. The wood seemed to creak and I felt boxed in, so I held my arms in tight. She can say she tried it though and made it!
    My son hates his car seat as well, I wonder if it's a boy thing? My daughters loved theirs but he also loves being held all the time, it could be that...
    It looks like it was a lot of fun!

  2. Sounds like a wonderful time had by all. Happy belated Birthday!

  3. Looks like you all had a great time. Kudos to you for the packing. Packing for that many grown people would be hard, packing for children (of all ages) quite an undertaking!!

    As always, beautiful family, I love watching the children grow up!

  4. Thank you for sharing Szuszanna. I always enjoy reading your blog. It's always very well written. You would never know that American wasn't your first language. You write better than most of us But more importantly your stories are always very interesting. 😀

  5. Thank you for sharing your vacation experience and pictures,you have a wonderful family.

  6. How fun. Love that shirt they made him. 😁

  7. Sounds fun! And exhausting! The story about the roller coaster was sad and hilarious all at the same time...poor Anna! A similar thing happened on a ride with my six year old...she didn't know what she was in for, and boy, was it scary for her! We have the picture of her face when the ride went from 0-60 in seconds!
    I love Aldi. If it wasn't for that store, I wouldn't make it on my sparse grocery budget. It's an amazing store.
    Do you know, we have a Medieval Times within an hour and a half of us, and I have never been? I keep telling my husband we need to go! It looks like something I would really enjoy!
    I enjoy reading your need to, more..��

    1. I agree with Mrs. Cassandra, you need to post more. You know, in your spare-what-is-that-? time.

  8. What an awesome trip! I love hearing about your experiences. You always make me laugh. I’m so happy for you that you had such a great time for your birthday!!

  9. Sounds like a great time. Always enjoy reading your posts!!

  10. Looks like great memories were made...Happy belated birthday !!

  11. Did you take the picture of the boys on the ride where their feet are dangling? It’s really good! That would be a good one to frame. Even the sky is clear and a beautiful blue hue.

    Also, Miriam’s outfit for church is so cute. I LOVE the sneakers and the button down shirt is a nice color on her.

  12. We have an interesting thing happening here in VA...Aldi and Lidl building stores on competing corners! ��Do you recommend one over the other? Love that shirt and the vacation post!

  13. I love these posts!! Thank you for sharing! I love seeing what y'all have been doing, and I always get some great ideas for our own family. You guys were in my old stomping grounds, though I haven't been to Knott's since just before we were married, and I've never been to Medieval Times (even though I grew up in that area!!). I'm so glad you had a fun time!

  14. Happy Belated Birthday Mrs Anderson

  15. Your family is so beautiful, but I feel so sorry for your children. I can't imagine being raised by parents who think it's funny for their father to be banned from certain countries because of the hate he spews forth. None of what your husband preaches is remotely Christ-like, and I think you and your husband would be wise to think before you speak and ask yourselves, "what would Jesus do? What would Jesus say?" You can cite scriptures all day long to justify your hate speech but not one of them are the words spoken by Jesus himself. NOT ONE. I would love to see your eyes opened in time to spare your daughters a lifetime of not believing they are as good as a man and your sons a lifetime of believing themselves to be superior to women. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." The reason so many commenters on your blog think you are just an ignorant, uneducated American is because it is so hard to believe that a well-educated, multi-lingual European could be so taken in by a slick talking American "snake oil salesman". You are educated and you know better.


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