And so, bright and early Monday morning, the 7 of us loaded into our 8 passenger SUV (the small kind) and started singing, "California, here I come...". Actually, there was no singing...most of us aren't morning people. ha! But, we did squeeze into the car (luggage rack on top) and we did start the long day's drive. The seating arrangement for pretty much the entire trip was, Brian and Cooper in the front (height won over age), Gatlin and Bennet in the middle (with one seat down in that middle row so that the computer could be there for movie watching, and so I could stretch out my legs onto that seat, when needed, as I've had four knee operations and can't have them bent for long periods of time - yes, insert sad violin music here). We made a hotel reservation in Amarillo for the night, and drove the 15ish hours to get there. Honestly, not too bad. I find the car to be relaxing - it's just really nice not to be able to do anything but sit there and fall in and out of sleep. We got to Amarillo at 11:00. Went to sleep and got up early the next morning to do the same thing again.
However, I thought that both days were going to be 15ish hours of driving...lo and behold, the second day was 17ish hours. Fun stuff right there. So, after 17ish hours of driving that day, we made it to California. People asked me why we didn't divide it into three days, but honestly, we just wanted to kick it out and get there. I have family in Oklahoma so we could have stayed there, but then it would have been getting it all out of the car and putting it all back...nope, just decided to suck it up and go for it. Cooper help Brian a little with the driving, so it just really wasn't that bad.
**inserting an important note** As soon as we found the first In-n-Out burger on our journey, we stopped and ate there! We absolutely LOVE In-n-Out and thank the Lord, the new kids do, too. It would have been tragic had they not. ha!! Crisis averted.
Now, I have to tell you that we had THREE people offer to let us stay with them so that we didn't have to incur hotel expenses. Isn't that amazing! Friends that offer to let SEVEN of you stay in their home are true friends, indeed! Our awesome friend, Laura, actually moved out of her house and into another friend's house so that we could have her place to ourselves and nobody would have to sleep on the floor. Can you believe how wonderful my friends are!!!
We hit the ground running in CA and it was first things first - a trip to the salon to get hair cuts for everyone. We have a great guy in Tennessee that we use, but we also adore our girl, Ivonne, out there, so we wanted to not only stop in and see her, but also let her make us all beautiful for our time there. We rotated in and out of her place and figured out which of our favorite eateries we would hit first. We decided on Philippe's in downtown Los Angeles, which is famous for their dipped beef sandwiches. They are SO good and I crave them often. Our friends, the Shada family, joined us for lunch and it was wonderful to see them AND have a delicious lunch!
It was really great cause we were there on a Wednesday and Cooper was very excited to go to Wednesday night youth group. We are so blessed to have fabulous churches both here and there and the kids are active at both. Cooper has often led worship for the youth group out there and was thankful to get to hang with his buddies that night. On one of the days (I just can't remember which one) we had lunch with the Roberts family. Dave is the pastor of our church out there (Montrose Church) and his wife, Cyndi, is a sweet friend of mine, and their two youngest daughters, Sunni and Brandi, are friends with Cooper and Gatlin. They treated us to a delicious Chinese lunch and I was so glad that we got to spend a little time with them and that they got to meet the new kiddos!
Thursday was a busy day because we were blessed by a professional photographer named, Deidhra Fahey, who offered to take pictures of our family for FREE. This one brought me to tears because I have been wanting new pictures so badly, but just haven't been able to spend the money on it right now. So, when my friend told me that Deidhra wanted to gift us with a photo session, I was just blown out of the water. A true blessing from God. Honestly, I'm not making enough of this....I had been thinking about this pretty much every day for a long time cause we just don't have very many pictures of the new kids in our house. Honestly, we don't have a lot of pictures of anyone, but we do have a couple large pictures of Cooper and Gatlin from when they were younger and I've been wanting to replace those with a family picture and then individual pictures of each of the kids. But, like I said, that costs money, and when you've just adopted three kids, there's not much (if any!) left over...so, we just haven't been able to look into getting pictures made. Deidhra blessed our socks off. She took individual pictures of each of the kids, and then the five of them together and then our family. THEN, to top it off, she asked if Cooper and Gatlin could come back another day so that she could take head shots of them for their acting!! The pictures she took are AWESOME! I will admit to breaking down like a baby and crying in her den when I saw them. It blows me away when people do stuff like that as a blessing for me. It is just so humbling. I can't express the gratitude I have for Deihdra and the blessing of the pictures.
From there we went straight over to a studio taping of the Disney XD show, "Pair of Kings". My friend, Kathy Musso, got tickets for us to see the taping and meet the entire cast. Honestly, could I be anymore blessed by my friends, I don't think so!! What a BLAST! We've been to a few show tapings and it is always such a fun time, but this was extra special since Bennet, Kaleb and Kali had no idea what to expect, and they just love the show. We got to take pictures with everyone and it will be something they will never forget. I owe Kathy a world of thanks for making it happen!! I hope my friends know how truly grateful I am for their acts of kindness towards us.
Ok, I can't remember what we did on Friday (maybe that was the day we ate with the Roberts?) ha! But, on Friday night we went to one of our favorite little restaurants called, Sharkey's. It's nothing fancy, but their nachos are SO yummy and I knew Bennet would love that. We let our friends know that we would be there from 7:00-9:00 and asked for anyone who wanted to, to come by and hang out with us. It was so fun to gather there with so many people who have prayed for us during our adoption journey and so many who have given so much to us. Loved getting to visit and catch up with these precious friends that we just don't get to see often enough.
On Saturday we headed to the beach. It was a gorgeous 85 degrees inland, but when we got to Malibu, it was only about 70. Oh my! I should have worn sweats!! It was chilly, folks!! The kids didn't care one bit. They LOVED the beach. They ran around like crazy people - in and out of the water - in the sand, under the sand....they were in heaven. It was so much fun to watch. Courtney Hitchcok and her daughter, Bryce, joined us, as did the Charles and Shada families. OH, but poor Cooper woke up feeling really sick and Brian had to take him to the CVS clinic, where he was diagnosed with Strep. It was such a bummer. He stayed home all day Saturday to rest and get better. We stayed at the beach for a couple hours (and did I mention we had In-n-Out for lunch!!) and then home to get ready for our dinner at the Shada's house.
Our friends, Dean and Linda Shada, let me invite a group of people over to their home for dinner Saturday night. I just love them. I love knowing that they wouldn't mind at all if we invaded their home. True friends! I made White BBQ chicken and Dean grilled it for us and then everyone else brought a side dish. In addition to the peeps at the beach, the Gipson family joined us and it was so great getting to spend a little time with them! We all had such a nice time visiting and catching up and, of course, eating!! Man, I love my friends.
And, the blessings from friends just kept on coming.
To be continued...