Early Wednesday morning, 4:30 to be exact, we were on our way to Fresno.
I have to brag on my kids because they are terrific on long car rides (maybe we should do this more often). We always split them up, with Tyler in the front next to the driver, Justin and me in the middle, Jason and Katelyn in the back.
The kids always have lots of books and activities, but the little ones are often content just to ride and look out the window. We don't even have to stop all that many times.
I've learned through the years to pack breakfast so that we don't have to stop right away. Getting all the way to Blythe or Indio before we have to stop is a huge boost and is key to surviving the trip. I usually bake pop-a-can biscuits and fry up sausage patties really fast while Jim's loading up the van so we can eat fresh sausage biscuits.
We also pack snacks and drinks so that the only thing we have to buy is lunch. We've learned where all of the playland fast food places are, so we always stop there. The kids get to run around while Jim and I eat, then they can eat in the car as we head down the road again.
It takes us about 10 hours to get to Fresno.
This year, same as last, we stayed at the Days Inn on Blackstone. It's a good deal, easy access to the freeway, free breakfast and adequate accomadations. We are definitely getting closer to needing a bigger room, or two rooms, though.
Or, as someone reminded me, having to stay at the Radison. Because someone is going to be "that age" in just a few years, sigh.
But, anyway, this year we were at the Days Inn. When I checked in I was told our room was on the second floor. Not a good idea with four kids. However, the front desk man told me that they had a lot of highway construction workers staying on the first floor and he thought that we would be better off on the second floor.
Oh, uh, yes, I see the wisdom in that, thanks.
So we wound up being right above the workers, who liked to congregate outside their rooms, right under our windows. All in all, they seemed tame, but I did see beer bottles. The kids were totally freaked out by this and convinced that these guys were escapees from prisoner or something. They kept peeking from behind the curtain and then squealing and diving back. Whatever entertains them, I guess.
The workers must finish on Thursday, because they were gone by Thursday night. So, all in all, no big deal there.
If I could describe my experience during West Coast Conference, I would sum it up in one word: Ironing. It seems like I spent the whole time outside of church ironing. I had five people to get ready every service. And I hate those little half boards that cheap motels give you.
One thing that I did to try to make things easier was to pack bags of the clothes needed for Fresno separate from the clothes needed for the rest of our trip. This is where my clothing grid really came in handy. As I sorted clothes, I noted what each person was going to wear at what occasion. The items for Fresno went into specific bags, which I noted. Same with things needed at Disney and things needed in Modesto. Then, when Jim loaded up the van, he put in the things for Modesto first, then Disney, then Fresno. When we got to Fresno, he only had to unpack the Fresno bags rather than the whole entire van (which gets very scary on our trips!)
Then, when I was ready to pull out everyone's clothes for service, I just had to look at my grid to see who was wearing what suit with what shirt and tie. It was so nice because I didn't have to hunt around, wondering if it was okay to wear this shirt or was I going to need it again. I had already mapped everything out and folded everything together so it was right at my fingertips. (Side note: I can tell as I type this post that I've been reading Taste of Home magazines lately. "In a snap" "at my fingertips" "made it a breeze" Ugh)
Church itself was awesome and the kids did great! I was really concerned about my little ones, but they were exceptionally good (to the surprise of everyone who has every sat anywhere close to us at church, I'm sure). Jason was able to go to nursery during the night services, and did fine during the day services. Justin was good, too, surprisingly, except for the last night, when, of course, Jim was ushering. I think he was just tired, because I took him out and issued the rod of correction and when I brought him back in, he feel asleep quickly.
Last year we discovered the joys of Hometown Buffet, so we went there for lunch both Thursday and Friday. We love it because it's very affordable, the food is pretty good (compared to, say, McDonald's) and everyone can get whatever they want, which is key when you have a picky child. It's just set in stone now, we got to Hometown.
We also packed Cup Noodles and snacks, so anyone who was hungry could eat before church. Then we went through the drive-thru after church. Yup, we're loads of fun ;)
One of the highlights of West Coast every year is seeing Bro Bryan and Sis Dorethea Jones, who were our youth pastors in Modesto. We were also thrilled to see some of our old church family at West Coast.
All in all, it seemed to fly by. Before we knew it, it was Saturday morning and we were packing up the van and heading south to Anaheim.