Thursday, January 07, 2016

Midwest Girls in a West Coast World

When I run into friends I haven't seen in a few months, the first question they ask is, "How was California?!" To which I look confused and say, "What are you talking a--- oooohhhh! Yes! I did go to California!" So I thought I'd better document it lest I forget the entire trip altogether.

After we decided to take each of the kids on a trip to begin their teenage years (thank you, Jen Hatmaker, for the idea) I sat down to plan one with our first teenager...Reese.  

I immediately thought of a nice, relaxing, beach vacation...except...Reese abhors everything about the beach.  Seriously, it's like a chore to her when we bee bop down to Gulf Shores in the Summer. The sun, sand, saltwater, tiny little fish swimming around her.  She's a little trooper and endures it for the sake of the family, but I didn't want to subject her to that for her own personal celebration.  

Drue and Tate have ideas for everything.  Places they want to go, food they want to eat, presents they'd like to receive.  But not Reese.  She just shrugs her shoulders, smiles sweetly, and says, "I don't know."

Next, I thought about the Mall of America.  An easy trip.  Somewhere she's never been.  But David suggested I go bigger.  (He and Tate are kicking around the idea of going on an African safari in 3 years.)

One of my all-time favorite shows is Full House.  And I've gotten the kids hooked on it too.  We regularly have Full House marathons when David's out of town.  So I came up with the idea to try and attend a taping of Fuller House.  Turns out, tickets are actually free online.  BUT they're only released 30 days before a taping, and you have to be online at a certain time to snatch them up.  So each time I went to check, they were already "sold out". 

It was coming down the wire, and I still hadn't planned what we were going to do.  Reese's birthday was in 11 days.  I checked tickets one more time and it showed there were some available for November 5th! I filled in the info for us with shaking hands. When I checked again, it said "sold out" so I'm pretty sure we got the last two available.  As I continued reading about it, it said, "This ticket does not guarantee entrance into the show" and I panicked.  What if we got all the way out to California and couldn't get in?! That right there almost stopped me from going any further.  But I decided to put my practical self behind and take a chance.  Completely unlike me at all. 

Thanks to David's travel points, our airfare was $22 and he booked us at a Hilton overlooking Universal Studios. Hogwarts was right outside our window! Harry Potter world doesn't open 'til Spring but it was still fun to wake up to.

I was so excited to plan the trip I left out one of the most important we were going to get around once we got there.  In the back of my head I feel like every major vacation destination is all inclusive and shuttles you from place to place like our trip to Disneyworld a few years back.  I frantically began comparing airport shuttles and taxi prices when David suggested matter-of-factly, "Just rent a car." So that's what we decided to do.

We landed at 10:30pm (12:30am our time) and drug our weary selves and luggage to the rental car counter which was a long haul from the terminal. "What kind of car would you like?" was the first question.  "Oh...I don't know...something small." Something small?  This was my first mistake.  I haven't driven "something small" since 1998. I've either had little suv's or a van.  But he found me something small...a tiny Ford with a windshield the size of a matchbox car.  "The keys are in it," he smiled as he handed me the agreement with the parking spot number on it.

Well, that turned out to be a bold-faced lie.  No, the keys were not in it...because it had a keyless car start! Did he not know a middle-aged Mom from the Midwest, who up until last Spring, drove a minivan, would have no clue how to start this vehicle?! Let alone, I'm unable to process any new information past 9pm.  I grabbed the key fob and started running my hands all over the dashboard and steering area.

"What are you doing?" Reese asked, confused.

"I'm trying to find where to stick this in!" I may have answered a little impatiently.

"You don't stick it in anywhere. You press that button that says 'start'."

So I pressed it.  And nothing happened.

"This. Is. Not. Happening." I picked up my phone to call David but remembered what time it was and put it back.  I was on my own with this one.

After about 5 more minutes of me searching the dash, and saying unkind things about progress and technology, Reese said, "Just go ask them how to start it."

"That would be totally embarrassing!" I replied. (Not unlike my retelling of the whole scenario). I pressed the button again and we started rolling forward slightly.  But the car wasn't actually turned on yet.  Part of me was tempted to jump out of the car and catch the first flight home to Kansas, but I paused, took a deep breath, and noticed a little tag on the key fob with directions on how to start it.  The engine revved and we were on our way.  But I was afraid the entire drive to the hotel that the car was just going to stop suddenly in the middle of the road and turn itself off.

We finally made it and pulled into the parking garage.  Another fear inducing trigger for me.  Even though we were in the tiniest car known to man, I still ducked my head as we drove through.

We collapsed into bed and I made a mental note to send David (lover of all things Harry Potter) a picture of our view of Hogwarts from the 21st floor.  Then my "Mom Worry" hit me full force.  21st floor?! We're in California!  If there's an earthquake I had no idea what to do.  Great, I drug Reese out here for a fun time and we're both going to perish in an earthquake.  I made another mental note to Google what to do in an earthquake the next morning also.

The next day was the show taping.  We set out ridiculously early to get there.  I was a nervous Nellie driving in California and my phone GPS seemed to be working a few microseconds too slow. My co-navigator certainly wasn't much help. She has no idea where she is if our destination isn't near the Chik-Fil-A in Olathe.  No matter where we drive in the KC area she'll say, "I have no idea where we are...are we by Chik-fil-A?" Now, I can zip around KC highways no problem, but the thought of getting on one in California freaked me the heck out.  I feel intimidated when I get out of my zip code bubble. Any time the GPS said to "take a slight right on such and such highway" I panicked. "Nooooo! I don't want to get on the highway!" Reese tried half-heartedly to comfort me, "Mom, you drive on highways all the time back home." "Yeah, but they don't have songs written about them! Ohhhh...Ventura Blvd! Quick, take a picture!"

Needless to say, we missed a crucial turn to the WB studios.  No biggie.  We were super early.  I would just turn around up ahead.  Only "up ahead" ended up being miles and miles away.  And it involved me getting back on the highway.  We finally made it to the parking garage where we needed to be and found a spot in line to wait on some benches.  There were only a few people ahead of us.  And there we sat.  For four hours. Looooong story short, we made it in.  Since it was the taping of the season finale, the VIP guest list was long and not many people with regular tickets got in.  I didn't relax until we were actually sitting in the studio.  Then an usher came over and told me to come with him.  I'm sure you're sensing a theme here... I panicked.  "But she's with me!" I signaled toward Reese.  "She can come too," he explained.  This was it.  We'd come all this way and were getting kicked out to make room for a VIP.  But it was actually the opposite.  A few VIPs didn't show so we got moved to the front row.

I could contain my excitement no longer.  "We made it!  And we're in the front row! I can't believe this is happening!" Reese looked around to make sure no one was watching my bubbly display of happiness. Oh, she was excited too, she just shows it less enthusiastically.  The whole experience was surreal. The curtain went up and there was the Tanner's living room and DJ, Stephanie, and Kimi all grown up.  And they were real people.  Who danced to the music in between takes, got their makeup and hair touched up about 282 times, and laughed at their own bloopers.  No wonder I feel like a frumpy, middle-aged Mom...I need someone to follow me around with a little caddy of makeup products and hairspray and do a few touch ups after every conversation I have. When DJ walked by, I leaned over to Reese and said, "She's my age!" in disbelief. Reese looked at her, then looked at me and said (in equal disbelief) "She is?!"

It took over 4 hours for them to shoot the show.  No spoilers here, but in one of the last scenes, the girls are eating cake.  They had to do a few takes.  And a brand new cake was brought in each time!  So we all got to eat a piece of the leftovers.  It tasted heavenly. We also got a rose from one of the scenes from Becky and Jesse's apartment.  

The next day we ventured out to see the Hollywood sign.  Made another wrong turn, ended up at the top of the mountain and had to turn around in someone's driveway.  I guess so cars don't slide down the mountain, the driveways have weird curbs at the end of them.  And I crunched the front of the rental car backing out.  I felt so guilty, I called David to confess and he found the whole predicament hilarious.  "I rent cars 24 weeks per year and have never damaged one.  You rent ONE car and have a mishap!" Thankfully, the bumper was just whacked out of place and the rental car company was able to whack it back into place. 

We spent the rest of the day at Universal Studios.  I even sprung for a late afternoon snack at the park since I just had one kid to buy for and it wouldn't break the bank just to get ice cream. We both had on our Royals shirts and people were congratulating us for our well-deserved win.  
We took a tour of some movie sets and saw where Three Amigos and Jaws were filmed.

Reese kept looking around at everyone and finally announced, "I'm the palest girl in California!" And she wouldn't let us walk the few miles from our hotel to the nearest In-and-Out Burger for supper in the dark, so I braved the roads yet again.

At one point, as I quietly concentrated on maneuvering our hot wheels through the traffic, she looked at me and said, "Are you shutting down?". "What?" I cried. She continued, "Daddy said you would probably shut down at some point during this trip." Good ol' Daddy. "No, I am not shutting down! I can't! I'm the only adult there...oh gracious day in the morning...there's a highway up ahead!"

I will say one nice thing about California.  It has beautiful scenery.  I positioned Reese just so against a lovely sunset reflected off the mountains.  I may have gone a little crazy with the pictures, because she finally said, "You've taken a picture of me next to every Palm tree in California!"

As we got ready to leave for the airport the next day, I thought aloud, "Should I wash my hair? Or just wear a hat?"

"A hat? To the airport?" Reese questioned. "You don't want to look suspicious!"

Yes, because I'm pretty sure most terrorists sport baseball caps and ponytails.

I've mentioned before how Reese is extremely time oriented.  And always wants to know the exact times events are happening and the exact time of our departure and arrival somewhere.  When she'd ask me what time our plane would land in such and such a place and what time that would be back home, etc I really tried at first to figure it out.  But since we were landing and flying through multiple time zones I finally gave up and said, "We'll get there when we get there!"

As we compared tickets at the airport she groaned, "Ugh...I have to save you a seat on both flights!" when she saw she would board first.  "I am so sorry to put you out like that.  How inconvenient for you to have to come on this awesome trip to the West Coast and be burdened with having to save your own Mother a seat," I sympathized sarcastically.

When I finally plopped down beside her and thanked her profusely for bearing that burden, she confessed, "I'm just saying, if a Royals player had come on this plane, I would have sold you out and said to them, 'Sure, you can sit here.' You would have been on your own."

I nestled our In-and-Out burger carton containing our John Stamos roses securely under the seat in front of me and said, "Oh yeah?  Well if they hadn't let us board with these roses and I would have had to pick between you and them...I would have had to think about it.  Really hard."

We made it home around 10pm to our excited family who couldn't wait to hug us and hear all about our adventures.  Or that's how I imagined it would be. We actually let ourselves in to a completely dark and quiet house because everyone had already gone to bed.

All in all, I had a great time with our first teenager. Hopefully it will stall her turning crazy on us for a little bit.  I'm already looking forward to my trip with Drue in 2 years.  She has her sights set on Hawaii. But I'll probably try and trick her and take her to Florida instead.  I'll just make sure she has her earbuds in when the flight attendant announces where we're headed.  

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