Almost two weeks ago, on August 13th, my husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. We were happy and excited newlyweds, but it truly does get better and better! If you have never read the story of how we met and married, my husband did a series on that on his blog. To keep reading the next chapter, just keep clicking "next post."
Since we had no babysitter for our anniversary this year, we knew that whatever we did would have to involve the kids, too. With just having spent a lot of money on our house (termites, a/c), and the medical expenses from Stephen's recent hospital stay (it takes a couple of months for the money to come back from Samaritan Ministries members), funds were a bit tight. At the same time, 15 years of marriage is a big deal, and we knew that if we stayed home, the day would be like any other, because just to keep the kids dressed, fed, and alive requires a full day's work at this season of life.
We decided to take a short anniversary trip to Southern California. It's not too far, nice hotels are inexpensive, the weather at the West Coast is always perfect, and we had a gift card for a whale watching tour for all of us in Newport Beach that my husband got for his birthday from a family at church.
We left after breakfast on Thursday morning, the day of our anniversary, and drove four hours to Palm Springs, where we had lunch at Round Table Pizza - a California must! As I was biting into a fresh, hot, cheesy slice (something I rarely do these days since being on THM most of the time), I remarked that in spite of virtually never having had a Coke in close to a decade, I still crave it every single time I eat pizza. My husband, being the great and wise man that he is, promptly bought me one to make the dining experience perfect. The kids looked at me with a mixture of surprise, jealously, and horror as I actually drank it. I did end up watering it down a bit with plain soda water just because I am not used to the sticky sweetness any more, but it was just perfect! ;)
After lunch, we continued on to Cabazon and toured the (creation-based) Dinosaur Museum. It was a very hot day, but we still had a great time.
After the museum, we headed back to Palm Springs and checked into our hotel. By staying in Palm Springs, we were able to break up the drive, and saved even more on hotels. These days, our family of ten requires two rooms with two queen beds each to comfortably fit, and thanks to the Express Deals on Priceline, getting a nice hotel in a great location for a low price was a snap.
In the evening, my husband and the kids spent time playing in the hotel pool while I was able to relax in our rooms. They were adjoining rooms, so we were able to leave the door between them open during our stay, which really made for spacious accommodations. I then went and bought dinner for the kids (thank you to everyone who sent Chipotle gift cards for my husband's birthday - they are always much appreciated, and helped make this trip affordable), which they ate by the pool side. No mess in the room, nice! :) I also picked up pastries, milk, and OJ at Whole Foods so we could do breakfast quickly in the morning. My husband and I were holding out for our special anniversary dinner: The Cheesecake Factory was right by the hotel, so my husband bought us a nice dinner there, which we enjoyed by ourselves in peace and quiet after the kids were asleep.
Friday morning, we got up early-ish, and after breakfast, drove two hours to Long Beach where we had booked a homeschool field trip for the Aquarium of the Pacific. Tip: If you are a homeschool family and traveling, you can call ahead to the places you plan to visit, and inquire if they offer school rates for homeschoooled students. Few will give you the school group rate at the door, but virtually all will honor it if booked in advance. We were able to get into the aquarium for $6 per person, which is a huge discount compared to regular admission.
The kids wore their matching "field trip day" shirts again, which makes it easy to spot them in a crowd.
A rare picture of yours truly
Big helpers and little charges
People watching from the parking garage
The Aquarium is super cool, and even though we were only there for less than 3 hours, we got to see every exhibit because it is laid out so well.
The kids loved touching the sharks.
Big love and littlest love
From the aquarium, we headed down Highway 1 to Newport Beach, where we were going to go whale watching. Highway 1 is another California must, of course, and we enjoyed the drive.
Flowers from my sweetie. At his age, they are usually accompanied by a marriage proposal, much to the horror of the older kids.
Anna followed Boaz around like this the whole time,very protective of him.
The whale watching cruise was a lot of fun. At first, I was a bit unnerved by how much the boat was rolling and going up and down in the water, which was not exactly calm that day. None of the kids were in life jackets, and I was mildly alarmed about them going overboard. We did get to see three whales, which was great, as none of the tours before us that day had spotted any. And nobody went overboard, so it really was a great outing!
We arrived back at our hotel late on Friday night, and crashed after such a long, full day.
On Saturday, we slept in for as long as the kids let us. Then we played a DVD for them on the laptop, and got another hour of quiet that way. My husband went and picked up breakfast for us at Panera, which is a rare treat for us because they used to only be in California and none in Arizona (there are a few branches now, but I still only go there on vacation). After a leisurely breakfast, he took the kids to the pool to play while I was able to pack up and straighten the rooms without any little ones underfoot.
Originally, my husband had wanted to stop at the Salton Sea on the way home, but I was able to dissuade him from that idea when I started looking into why I had never heard of this place if it was supposedly the "Riviera of the Desert". Oh yeah, in my support, we also could smell the stench from it from the hotel parking lot, even though it was about 20 miles or more away. Ha! So instead, we headed home after lunch on Saturday. Thankfully the little kids slept through most of the 4-hour drive.
Just a short trip, but we had a wonderful time. This was our only "vacation" this summer, but we enjoyed it. Traveling with as many kids as we have is not exactly a break, but it is a nice change of pace from our usual routine, and we got to see a bunch of new places.