This post is going to be long and rambling but also full of pictures because I currently have 30 free minutes and who knows when that will happen again, so I’m just doing this all at once.
We survived flying to California with 4 kids! A 5 week old who basically just eats and sleeps is a very easy traveler. School-age kids who whine until you buy them in-flight entertainment are slightly more difficult but still manageable. A 2-year-old is awful. He only slept on the way home after hours of rolling around and crying. Ok, it wasn’t hours. But it felt like hours to his two parents who were desperate to get him to be quiet so we could nap for at least a few minutes.
I had been really worried about the logistics of our travel, but it worked out well. We brought our Joovy Caboose stroller and both car seats to the airport, along with a Tula baby carrier and a babywearing wrap. After we parked, we loaded everything we could onto the stroller, I wore Linc on my back and we had the kids pull our rolling carry on. At the check-in counter, we checked two big suitcases and Linc’s car seat in a car seat bag. At the gate we checked the stroller and Finnegan’s car seat, so I wore him in the wrap and E wore Linc. On the plane itself, we each had a personal item, I ahad the diaper bag and E had the rolling carry-on with all our wedding clothes. It all worked in reverse in San Francisco perfectly. If we hadn’t been flying direct, we would have also gate checked Linc’s car seat (I was very worried they might lose it).
I won’t tell you about the bathroom incident on the plane ride, but let’s just say I recommend packing at least an extra set of underpants (if not a whole extra change of clothes) for EVERY child.
For our stay, my parents rented a house from Home Away or Air BnB or one of those places, so our family could all stay together. It was the 6 of us, my mom and dad, my brother, my grandmother and my uncle. A house was SO much nicer than a hotel for a lot of reasons. The big kids had their own room, there was a general area we could all congregate to watch TV or have snacks, we kept the fridge stocked with milk and Diet Coke, and when Finn cried in the middle of the night there was space to take him so he didn’t wake EVERYONE up. I will definitely look for houses vs hotels for any future family travel.
On Friday morning, we had some free time before the wedding obligations and since everyone was on East Coast time we were awake and ready to explore by 8 am. Our first stop was Battery Spencer, an old fort overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. I needed to readjust my expectations of “old” for the West Coast – in Connecticut, 1700’s is old. Battery Spencer was built around 1900, so just slightly old. The actual fort wasn’t impressive but the views of the bridge were AMAZING. It was easy to find, an easy walk from the parking area, and totally doable both with the kids and the stroller.
After our visit to the fort, we took a very very narrow, very very very VERY windy road through the hills down to Muir Woods. It’s a really popular National Park with a remarkably small parking lot, so we parked in the second overflow lot. Since none of our group had been there before – and there was no cell phone service in the valley – we didn’t know if it was going to be stroller-friendly or not. So I let the kids go ahead with my parents and E hung out with me while I fed and changed Baby Finn, then wrapped him up on my chest so we could go stroller-free. For the record, the main path is a very wide, well-tended boardwalk, so the stroller would have been fine. There are lots and lots of trails but if you do the main one you never have to really hike at all. It took ages to find the rest of my family because our phones only worked half a dozen times in 2 hours, but eventually we met up again.
It was amazingly beautiful and the weather was perfect – nice and cool and quiet. I suspect it’s like that a lot down in the woods. I would very much like to go back some time without so many kids so we can do a full hike up the mountain (hill?) and down to the beach. I have major regrets that we never made it to a beach in California.
P.S. The National Parks offer a year-long pass for active duty military that lets them (plus 3 dependents) in for free. At Muir Woods, kids under 15 were also free. They gave E the card right at the register, no planning ahead needed, so we enjoyed our day for zero dollars.
I told Caroline this was the area where she could say anything she wanted and she said she wanted ice cream for lunch.
The rest of Friday was the wedding rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. I’ll spare you too many family photos, but the location (the groom’s parents’ newly renovated smart house) was so beautiful.
They had these instant Fujifilm cameras around for guests to take photos. It was a great idea, except for all the photos the kids wasted (and the ones I wasted. Backlight does not mix with instant photos).
At about 6:30 pm I made the call that we were done. Taking my kids at their best to a fancy restaurant is tough. Taking my kids who were still on East Coast time after 5 hours of running around is impossible. Evenings are Finn’s fussy time too, so I was at the end of my rope, patience-wise. I felt like kind of a jerk skipping the dinner when I was the maid of honor but I am 100% sure everyone enjoyed themselves a lot more without us there.
And then Saturday was wedding day! I was not the wedding photographer. I wish I had been, but only if someone else had been maid of honor and some other someone else had watched all of my kids all day, because there were so many beautiful details to photograph (not to mention the bride!!) and I didn’t get any of them because I was busy being IN the wedding. I’m just super jealous someone gets this gorgeousness in their portfolio and I only have a handful of pictures to document it.
This is my brother, who has a promising career in leaning casually.
The catering was actually done by someone we went to high school with, so in my head she’s 15 years old and performing in The Wiz with me. But it was INCREDIBLE. The best food I’ve had in years.
The day after the wedding, the bride and groom hosted a brunch with lots of delicious food at Mountain Lake Park in the city. They even picked up In-n-Out burgers for us (although, I’m not gonna lie, Five Guys is still my true burger love). The kids had a wonderful time running around and tiring themselves out. The California trees were great for climbing and we found a pre-made fort slash fairy house in one of the groves. I’m definitely dreaming of moving to San Francisco and selling my soul to afford an apartment that backs up to that park. I might even bring one or two of my kids.
While I made them pose for this photo, literally every other person at the picnic started asking them SO WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE KIDS LOOK HOW CUTE YOU LOOK AS A LITTLE FAMILY I BET THAT IS WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE EVEN GOING TO LOOK LIKE???!?!?!?! Apologies to you both, guys. Please remember I said NOTHING about you having kids at the wedding or during my speech.
And then we said goodbye to San Francisco.
The last known photo of Everest. We can’t find him now, so I think he got left at those chairs during the shuffle to get everyone and everything on the plane. I think I’m more upset than Lincoln was.