Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Christenson Family Vacation of '82

I'm writing about my Christenson family's super, extraordinary vacation trip of 1982 for one reason: my dad recently purchased this:

I think it's a Chevy Traveler van. It may not be a Chevy, but knowing my dad, it is. My dad was a Chevrolet dealer in Burley for many years when I was young. He later bought his own used car dealership, but his heart always remained with Chevy.

In 1982, my mom's family, the McEuens, had their first ever family reunion. Well, the first reunion that I remember. It was to be in Redding, California.

My dad had use of any car on the Don Ovitt Chevrolet lot, so he brought home a new traveler van for our road trip to Redding. How many people do you think can safely travel in a traveler van? Here's a picture of the inside of one of these vans:

Four bucket seats and a bench in the back. So does seven sound about right? Well, my parents had seven kids at the time, so that answer would be correct. Except, we still needed to fit Mom and Dad in the front seats. Oh, and Grandma and Grandpa Christenson needed to come.

So what does that total? Eleven. We crammed eleven people into that traveler van. I was six at the time, so that meant that I almost never got to actually sit in a seat of my own. I sat on my mom's lap, or Amy's lap (my big sister), but mostly I sat on the floor. I think it was Mary, the baby at that time, who got to sit on Grandma's lap for nearly the entire trip. Mary! Mary! Mary!

But it was a glorious trip and ranks in my memory as one of the best trips ever. If you know my parents, you know they like to take the long way to anywhere. Did we take the direct route to Redding from Idaho? Oh no.

We first traveled south through Utah. Stopped at Bryce Canyon. Then we meandered to southern California to visit Disneyland and Grandma and Grandpa McEuen, but not without stopping for Indian jewelry along the way.

I remember it being very hot through the Arizona desert. The car had air conditioning, but with that many bodies in the car, it still got hot, especially in the back. We would dip our paper towels in this big pitcher of water my mom brought, then wring the paper towels over our heads.

And my mom taught us a song that we sang during the whole journey: "California here I come, right back where I started from." That's all I can remember.

And I'm sure we stopped for treats at gas stations along the way. And I'm sure my dad grumbled about it being so expensive, but still allowed each of us one treat. You can bet that my oldest brother Doug always chose jerky as his treat.

After visiting Gma and Gpa McEuen, we took Highway 1 as far north as we could. Highway 1 is very winding but beautiful. It follows the California Coast. I remember stopping in Carmel for one night.

Mary threw up during one of the winding parts of the journey. We stopped to take pictures every 50 miles or so (maybe a slight exaggeration, but maybe an under exaggeration as well. I don't remember all the details).

And we finally made it to Redding for a memorable reunion complete with a tandem bike, a trampoline, a pinata, and all the makings for a great family reunion.

And it's always been my dad's dream to actually own a traveler van. And now that he has it, he continues his travels on the road east. He and Mom took my sister Kathy's family on an unforgettable journey east through Nauvoo and Indiana, through Pennsylvania where he served his mission, and up to Palmyra, New York. And then they're traveling through West Virginia to visit Kathy's mission, and somehow they'll make it back home.

I hope the van doesn't break down. Or luggage doesn't fly off the top.


As a parent of more than one child, it's a juggling act to make sure each child is given a fair dose of personal attention from mom and dad. Even on this blog, I fear I've written about some of my children more than others.

So this post is all about Lissy, my second child and who we refer to as "the Toader." Why do we call her Toad? Check out these pictures:

Lissy has huge, bulging eyes, like a toad's eyes--or like two martini olives in James Bond's glass. But we went with Toad.

Lissy will start first grade in the fall. If I were to predict what career choice Lissy will pursure based on her interests of today, I would guess she will either go into forestry, farming, veterinary science, food sciences, art, or child development. She is our domestic goddess. She loves everything "domesticky."

When I work in the garden, she's the first to help. When we find earthworms and bugs, she gets excited and grabs her bug collecting jar. When we go on hikes, she stops to pick the wild flowers and comments on the beautiful scenery. She is the first to volunteer to hold Lehua.

When Jesse our dog was hit by a car and scraped up his back legs, Lissy went into full-on emotional meltdown. Jesse almost went to doggy heaven, but Lissy's tears saved him. We couldn't put him down and dissappoint Lissy, so we paid the $750 veterenary bill to keep him alive.

She can also be very emotional and cries more than any of my other kids. In that respect, she takes after me. We've tried to help "thicken her skin" and give her tools to help her control her crying. Sometimes I'll ask her to do 10 jumping jacks. Her kindergarten teacher told me that she had Lissy get up and get a drink of water when crying ensued. One time she tried to mask her crying by saying, "Something is in the air. My eyes are watering."

She likes to follow whatever Lilia is doing, but she doesn't like Lilia or us to know she's secretly following Lilia. For example, I asked Lilia what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her answer was an artist or a chef. Then I asked Lissy what she wanted to be.

"Well, either a chef or an artist."

Lilia says, "That's what I said."

Lissy: "No, it's not."

Here's a picture of Lissy holding a feather. We were waiting outside Hot Doug's in Chicago, and Lissy and I went for a walk around the block. Leave it to Lissy to find a multi-colored feather in the grass.

This is a snack Lissy made me. I think she thinks I'm a rabbit or a gorilla or something. Grapes with cut-up vegetables. I like how she tried to make the food look pretty by spacing the grapes around the vegetables. It was delicious!

We love our Toad!