Carnett: What could be better than a visit from the kids

It was spring break last week at the Carnett household in Costa Mesa.

Our three daughters, their husbands and eight grandchildren were all on hand to squeeze into our Mesa del Mar abode for the entire week. The grandkids range in age from 15 months to nearly 15 years. It was chaos! It was bedlam! It was beautiful!

We divvied up bedrooms, beds and bathrooms and, somehow, the whole group of us survived. Three granddaughters slept in one double bed. A long and lanky grandson slept on a mattress in my computer room/library.

We're a dyed-in-the-wool Newport-Mesa family. All three of our daughters were born at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach and grew up in Costa Mesa. One graduated from Costa Mesa High School, the other two from Estancia High School. All three went to Orange Coast College.

To further illustrate our family's local connections, I'm a Mesa product myself, and my wife, Hedy, matriculated from Estancia. We're both OCC graduates.

Our daughter Jade brought her husband and four children to our home last week from North Carolina. They hadn't been in SoCal (or "Cali" as they call it in their neck of the woods) in seven years. It was our first full family reunion in seven years. In fact, we'd never previously had all eight grandkids together in the same room at the same time.

It was awesome, as my grandkids are prone to utter!

Daughters Jenn and Melissa each brought their two children from less distant locations in Southern California. We see them quite frequently, but with no less affection and enthusiasm.

The historic family photos that abound throughout our residence fascinated Jade's North Carolina contingent.

"Momma, is that really you in the seventh grade?" asked Jade's seventh-grade daughter, Emma, in her rich Tar Heel State accent. Emma held up an 8-by-10 school portrait of her mother. "What's with the big hairdo, girlfriend?"

The style was rather popular in Orange County circa 1987. It was kinda gauzy, extraordinarily full-bodied and obviously held together with liberal amounts of hairspray.

"Did you mean for the hair on top to be all wispy like that?" innocently inquired fifth-grader Ellarie. "How'd ya'll even get it to do that?"

Fourteen-year-old grandson Ethan saw a photo of his mother and his auntie as adolescents, seated next to their mother, my wife, Hedy. I was the photographer and, as I recall, it was an Easter Sunday morning in about 1980.

"Who's that lady with you Momma?" Ethan inquired.

"Why, that's your oma [grandmother]," Jade responded.

"Wow, she was hot," he yelped, doing a double take. I agree with your assessment, buddy boy!

The hit of spring break week at our house was oma's daily morning array of waffles, pancakes and French toast. A close second was our youngest grandchild, 15-month-old Judah.

The gang from North Carolina had never seen him before.

Six of our eight grandchildren are girls, and they wouldn't let Judah out of their sight. He's never been so pestered, coddled and pampered as he was last week. And he loved every minute of it.

Eight-year-old cousins Eva and Selah rekindled a close relationship that hadn't been nurtured in three years, since Selah last visited North Carolina. Lexi and Bella, ages 2 and 4, respectively, were thrilled to hang out with the four cousins they'd only heard about but never seen.

The kids did the obligatory trips to Disneyland, Universal Studios, Sea World and the beach. They attended an L.A. Galaxy soccer game, rode the Balboa Island Ferry, walked the Newport Pier, played at TeWinkle Park, ate dinner at Ruby's Diner, and shopped at South Coast Plaza.

The Carolina kids marveled at the number of cars on the Southland's freeways.

"Buildings are everywhere," Ethan remarked. "In North Carolina, you drive through the countryside between towns. In Cali, all the towns are squeezed next to one another."

We had a big Sunday family party at our home, complete with a bounce house in the backyard. The kids jumped and squealed, and squealed and jumped.

It was awesome! The best spring break ever!

JIM CARNETT, who lives in Costa Mesa, worked for Orange Coast College for 37 years.

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