A Long Overdue Overview of a Tween in California

Since before we even had seven kids, Alexis and Ryan have said that they want to have each of them come to CA to visit for a week when they reach a certain age.  We've always thought it was a great idea, but somehow, the summer of Jakob's 10th birthday arrived and our thoughts were somewhere along the lines of "No possible way!"  Let me clarify by saying that we weren't ready to feel like Jakob was ready--mature enough, responsible enough, etc.  (At that time I think we were feeling like he may need to be 27 before he could go).  Another year came and went and as the summer of his 11th birthday approached, there were several factors involved in deciding whether or not he would be traveling to CA.  It was a crazy busy summer, and we were still feeling like we were constantly saying, "That decision you just made to do ___ indicates to us that you aren't ready to travel across the country by yourself or spend a week with your aunt and uncle."  One more year we hoped would make the difference we were looking for to find a higher level of comfort.  There would still be the challenge of finding the right time to go...in between school, baseball, camp, and Alexis and Ryan's schedules.   This spring we spontaneously made arrangements for the long-awaited trip after being together in Colorado for a family wedding and realizing that Jakob would have a week long break from school after Easter.

I thought for sure that would be the hardest part of this whole thing, but it was only the first of many new experiences for all of us.  Alexis made flight arrangements, and we learned the ins and outs of flying for an unaccompanied minor.  I helped Jakob obtain a picture ID (nothing like getting a jump start on part of the "old-enough-to-drive" experience a few years early!)  We packed and repacked, making sure to try to have everything needed.  We prepped and prepped again for any situation we could think of that may come up while he was by himself.  We printed schedules, documents, rules and guidelines, etc, to make sure that his departure would go smoothly.  Sunglasses, camera, extra batteries, gum, insurance card and medical information, ID, clothing, rosary...I went over the list a hundred times I'm sure.  There is nothing easy about putting your oldest child on a plane by himself and then waiting 4 hours to know that he has arrived safely.  I'm sure it still won't be easy by the time Amelia is ready to go.  The first time is most often the hardest. 

Ryan called from the airport when Jakob arrived and I could begin breathing again.  OK, that wasn't THAT bad.  I know I was much more nervous than Jakob was, but now I could be really excited for him...and I know that he was excited too.  Alexis and Ryan were good to update me frequently...I'm sure they knew that it would help.  :)  In the course of  the next week, all three of them got to do and see and experience so many fun things together.  Some of the events made the list to do again with Joshua, and others dropped off.  I think there was learning by all (each of his siblings, we parents and by Jakob, Ryan and Alexis)  I know that even though Aunt and Uncle were tired at the week's end, they had a wonderful time with their nephew.  When I met Jakob at the airport in Omaha, it seemed of course that he had matured into a young man (for a few moments anyway), and I could tell by the expression in his eyes that he had a marvelous time.  He had with him a few gifts for his brothers and sisters and his prize possession souveniers from the trip of the "Fart Book", a Denver Broncos hat and a few pieces of candy.

The USS Hornet

Jakob was amazed at the size of the anchor chain!

Monteray Bay Aquarium

The Golden Gate Bridge

Trying to beat the waves.

Cold California spring

They stayed overnight at this lighthouse.
Santa Cruz...one of Jakob's top memories!

I think this may be Jakob's personal paradise!  He looks pretty excited doesn't he??

Eating sushi

On the Wharf there are all kinds of exciting things and people to see.

Pope Benedict XVI at the wax museum.  Jakob said this will have to do until he can meet the Pope in person.

This is Alexis's friend Julie's dog...imagine our grocery bill if we had 5 boys AND a dog this big???

Another "Top of the list" event.  Jakob really enjoyed spending time with Uncle Ryan in his DJ studio.  He even created his own mix of music.  It was too cold to surf, so that will have to wait until another day, but Jakob had a blast the entire week. 

Joshua asks often, "When is it my turn to go?"  I think this will be an occasion that none of them will ever
forget, and I'm so happy they have the special opportunity!  All the money spent on attractions and candy and souveneirs added up I'm sure, but the time with family was absolutely priceless!  He'll remember it all well!  Thanks Aunt Lexi and Uncle Ryan for making it all happen!!!