Our last couple weeks are blurry in my memory. I better write what I remember or it will be lost.
Last week we camped in an RV park about 70 miles south of San Francisco. We spent hours driving around the Bay Area as I taught workshops and had photo sessions. The kids were good sports and came with us everywhere. Mostly I think they came with us in hopes we’d eat out and they wouldn’t be stuck with pb&j at the bus. Growing teenage boys think with their appetite.
During our stay we explored Santa Cruz and its boardwalk. We scouted photo locations in Los Altos (hello gorgeous homes!). We found the steepest road in San Francisco and drove it repeatedly. It was great (free!) fun and Miss B thought we were on a roller coaster. We had lunch at In N Out Burger and ate dinner in Chinatown. We traversed the Golden Gate Bridge and took pictures in its shadow. We drove to Healdsburg and perused little shoppes and stopped for lunch at the local hamburger joint.
My sister and her kids came out and camped with us for a couple nights. The first night the boys slept in a tent and the second night they chose to crowd the bus and sleep wherever they could find a spot. It was a bit cramped with all ten of us shoved in there, but it worked. I’ll keep the details of what the bus smelled like the next morning myself (as 5 of the 10 people were teenage boys).
We introduced them to the art of showering in a public bathhouse. I don’t think the boys minded, but by the end of the weekend my sister and her 15 year old daughter were ready to go home.
*Dinner on the bus
It was an interesting experience having them stay with us and seeing our life through their eyes. They aren’t opposed to the nomadic life, in fact they anticipate joining the fun within the next few months as soon as their house sells. But we are definitely roughing it. Our life looks a lot like camping.
Except this week. This week the Big Blue Bus is in Sacramento parked outside my sister’s 4000 sq ft home. I only mention the square footage because in a home this size, it is easy for all 11 of us to spread out and have our own space. Jake and I even have our own bedroom… with a door.
We’re in the lap of luxury around here. Private showers daily, sometimes twice. Miss B begs for baths. A kitchen stocked with all the essentials including two ovens. Josh and Sam have cousins their own age and Miss B is a constant shadow to her 15 year old cousin Katrina. Jake and I are thoroughly enjoying the adult conversation with Amanda and Brady and have spent several nights relaxing in front of their 60″ television watching movies compete with surround sound.
We even spent an entire day (SEVEN HOURS) at an outlet mall as we searched for clothes to wear at our family photo session with Blue Lily. It wouldn’t have taken so long had I known ahead of time what we were going to wear. Which is ironic because I give advice all day long about how to dress for your family photo session. It’s best to pick an outfit or specific article of clothing and build around that. What I failed to recognize is that it should be MOM’S outfit you build everything around. Here’s how it went down…
We arrived at the outlet mall at 9:50am, the whole family (including Amanda and her three children) in tow. It was a glorious day and everyone was in great spirits. The boys understood the importance of this event. Shopping for outfits for our family photos is a big deal. Especially when our entire wardrobe consists of bus clothes (essentially tattered blue jeans and “My other ride is a Blue Bird Bus” tshirts). Add to that the knowledge that we’re having someone else (Yay Blue Lily!) take the pictures. Can I put in a plug here that every photographer should have another photographer take their family pictures? Really. Just do it. It’s worth it to witness someone else bossing your family around and capturing the moments… with YOU in them!!
*Exhibit A = Bus Clothes
Needless to say, the boys (including Jake) were well aware of the stakes of our outing and on notice to do whatever it took to find what we needed. We were on a bit of a time crunch. Due to our travels, we had only this ONE day to secure the six outfits we would be wearing the following morning at 9am.
The shops opened at 10am and we were the first through the doors. Our first stop was American Eagle. My goal there was jeans for everyone, and luckily they were on sale. I sent Jacob and Josh out to scout their size and choose a fit while I helped Sam find his. Meanwhile Betsy and her cousins darted among the fixtures, already bored.
We procured the jeans, but after spending 45 minutes looking through sweaters, tshirts, vests, jackets, henleys, v-necks, and button ups, I was still unable to get a feel for what the session was going to look like for the rest of us. I berated myself for not having a better handle on what style I was going for or at least have a color scheme picked out! Why had I not spent more time on Pinterest finalizing this decision?!
Gap was next. Our visit there lasted over an hour and closer to two. Would anyone like to guess what that was like? Particularly with Miss B? Yeah. The majority of the time, the children camped out near the dressing rooms trying on the hoards of clothing I would bring back. It was there that a vision began to meld. I switched back and forth through several color palettes and settled on blue and red (surprised?) with a sort of ski lodge feel. Josh would wear a puffy vest over a flannel shirt, Jacob had a sweater over a plaid shirt. Sam was thrilled with his denim jacket layered over a red sweater v-neck with wide cream stripe. We purchased some other odds and ends and checked out with a couple huge bags filled with our harvest.
The kids had been pleasant and obedient, but we knew we were pushing our luck if we asked them to stay any longer. Hallelujah that Jacob is old enough to drive. He loaded up our van with all the kids and took them out to lunch (their reward for good behavior) and then home. Amanda, Jake and I breathed a sigh of relief as they departed. That part of the battle was won. Now I simply needed an outfit for Jake, Miss B and myself. How difficult could that be?
More difficult than you would think.
Our next stop was Eddie Bauer, Jake’s clothier of choice. He’s 6′ 4″ tall and wears a 34″ inseam, which means his torso is really, really tall. Eddie Bauer’s tall sizes fit Jake perfectly and I don’t believe he owns a shirt made anywhere else. Unfortunately, we found nothing there that fit the colors we were going for. Next door was a big and tall store and we tried that. Nope. Nothing there.
Back to Eddie Bauer. I tried on a few outfits, but nothing I fell in love with. I’m not sure if you knew, but I recently lost 80 pounds after having gastric bypass 7 months ago. (I’m working on a post about that.) Buying clothes was always a matter of finding something that fit, I didn’t have much say in the matter. Having more choices than one or two shirts was overwhelming to me.
We left Eddie Bauer and split up. Amanda had a store she wanted to check out, Jake was famished and on the hunt for something to eat and I was left to my own devices. I stopped at Sperry and bought Sam some shoes. I picked up some clip-on earrings for myself at Claire’s (little piece of trivia – I never had my ears pierced). I then visited Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, The Gap (again – this time for myself), Children’s Place, Gymboree, Levis, and finally Dress Barn. (Really? Who names a women’s store Dress BARN?!) Turns out I was in Dress Barn Women which carries only plus sizes. I thought nothing of it as I wandered through the store looking for something red or blue to coordinate what the boys were going to wear – since up to that point I had come up dry looking for something for myself.
A sales lady approached me and asked if I was shopping for myself. I responded yes. She then informed me that I was in a store that carried plus sized fashions. I looked at her questioningly, smiled and nodded, thinking to myself, “And your point is…?” She gathered that I didn’t get her drift. She went on to further explain, “We don’t carry anything here that would fit you.”
Oh. Wow. I was taken back by her comment and not sure how to answer. I wanted to cry out, “But wait! This is where I am comfortable! This store is for my people!” Instead I just nodded again and left quietly. Unsure of where to go next.
It was time for a mini melt down. We were now 4 hours into our excursion, I had visited almost every store and was no further ahead than I was ninety minutes before. And I’d just been tossed out of the only store I felt really comfortable in. Jake came and rescued me and perceived that I needed to eat. It was time for a break.
During lunch Amanda and I discussed options. I decided to go back to Eddie Bauer and buy the red cardigan that I had initially tried on. It was perfectly acceptable. Jake would wear his vest and then we’d find something simple for Miss B. Armed with a game plan, we headed out again.
We made a quick stop at Kenneth Cole on the way to buy the red cardigan. A mustard yellow leather jacket caught my eye as soon as we walked through the door. It was on serious sale and I felt like a million bucks when I slipped it on. It was so completely different than anything I’d ever owned, but I couldn’t help but think, why not? Poor Amanda and Jake – so patient as I went back and forth. Should I? Really? I couldn’t, could I? It meant completely upsetting the apple cart and starting all over for everyone, but in the end I even bought a pair of leopard print flats to go with it.
It meant another couple hours seeking out clothes for everyone in a whole different style (urban chic) and color palette, this time with mustard yellow, plum, navy, and charcoal – as well as a leopard print jacket and black tutu with boots for Miss B. The bags filled the back of Amanda’s van, many filled with clothes that needed to be returned – but there was not enough time.
Our day still wasn’t done. The boys needed haircuts and I was determined to get my eyebrows waxed and a pedicure – even if it meant staying out until 9pm after an exhausting day (it did, but it was worth it!!).
I learned my lesson good that day. Mom’s outfit comes first. Find something you love and feel like a million bucks in. The kids and dad come second. They’ll look great no matter what. Also – don’t try to do it all in one day – especially if you are shopping for more than a couple people. You’ll save yourself a few grey hairs.
The next morning we met Blue Lily at the park and had a fabulous time with them. They are even making a movie for us. A big splurge, but it’s our last family pictures in two years since Jacob leaves on his mission in February. We’ll be glad we have them. And the good news is, I felt fabulous in my awesome leather jacket and leopard shoes. Who would have thought?
Now we’re waiting on Thanksgiving. We’re spreading it out over two days. Thursday and Friday will be filled with good food and family, games, movies, and laughter. The best kind of holiday.
Jake and I just planned our itinerary for the next couple weeks. We’ll be traveling 2800 miles before Christmas. Holy Moly! I’m glad for this respite we have here in the lap of luxury before we head into that.