Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Lord went before them...Exodus 13:21

Yes! We are back! We had a wonderful time and I've spent the last 2 weeks recuperating and trying to catch up on things around the house. So sorry if I left y'all hanging.

Short story: We made it there and back all safe, sound, and feeling totally blessed.

Long, long, long story: Read on...

Our van was returned to us in working condition, so the kids and I used it for the four-hour journey to the airport. Coincidentally, Grandma was leaving that afternoon from the same airport so we got to eat lunch with her before our flights.

The flight to Chicago was interesting since we had to fly up through Canada and approach Chicago from the east due to storms. Our anticipated 3-hour layover in Chicago was shortened to just 1 hour. By the time we made it to Chicago it was just after 10 pm in Chicago. After we found our gate we ate supper and waited for our flight.

The flight was late in leaving, but at least it went. An earlier flight to our destination was completely canceled, so there were a lot of stranded passengers trying to get on our flight.

While we did experience some wet weather while at camp meeting in Indiana, we weren't in an area that experienced the horrible flooding. Lots of lightning and thunder, but we managed to stay relatively dry.

Between my parents, siblings, nieces, and us, there were 3 adults and 9 kids. The kids especially enjoyed their meetings with their aunt, uncles, and cousins. I think every day at least one of the kids brought a permission slip for a special afternoon activity such as swimming, miniature golf, or rock climbing. M's group spent one afternoon doing community service activities. M was assigned to weed flower beds at a care facility. The kid that was working with M commented on how fast M was weeding. I told M that he ought to be fast...he's a professional now! At the end of the week J and some of the other kids in his class were presented with Bibles. J also got a pocket-sized hymnal. I'll have to ask him again why they got them (I know he told me, but I've forgotten!).

Here is a list of the adult meetings. This was the first time the kids have been big enough to attend meetings without me. I actually got to go to the adult meetings, which were very good also.

Pictures? We were having too much fun for pictures? Do you believe that? No? OK. There were times I thought about going to get the camera to take a picture, but that would have involved 1) getting up from a comfortable chair, 2) walking to get the camera, 3) taking the picture, and 4) putting the camera away. I wasn't totally lazy the whole time. I did do a lot of walking to and from the meetings, but the times I was sitting in a comfortable chair, inertia won out most of the time.

Too soon the week was over and it was time to go home. The kids were anxious to get home, especially since it was Father's Day and it had been a whole week since they had seen The Man.

We got up about 5 am Indiana time to go to the airport. We were dropped off in plenty of time for our 8:30 flight. Once again, we ate at the gate while waiting for our flight.
We boarded the flight right on schedule. The plane pulled away from the gate and we waited...and waited...and waited. Chicago was closed! Nearly two hours later, when the weather in Chicago cleared, our plane took off for the 1-hour flight.

As soon as we landed I turned on my cell phone and got the news that our flight back to Sacramento was delayed by 20 minutes. That was good news since it was supposed to have left just as we were landing.
We got off the plane and ran to the gate. No plane. It was gone. Without us.

We joined the line of several dozen other people in our predicament and I called the airline. They were sorry, but the other two flights to Sacramento that day were already full. The nice employee suggested I just wait in line and work out something with the agent in Chicago.

The kids were hungry, but I thought getting home was a bit more important at that point. I doled out the granola bars I had in my carry-on and we waited...and waited...and waited. Two and a half hours later we made it to the front of the line. Whenever a child mentioned not wanting to wait in line any longer, I told him or her we could leave the line and go get more food, but we would then have to re-join the line later. I then allowed them to go and see how long the line had become since we had first joined. O'Hare was a mess that day!

After working with us 30 minutes, the agent was able to find a flight for all of us to San Francisco, where we would spend the night, and then a flight on to Sacramento on Monday morning. "I'm not supposed to do this because it is weather related, but here are some meal vouchers for you. Your kids have been so good!" Yay! I felt so blessed by such a small token. I'm not sure if she felt more sorry for the kids or me, the pregnant lady with four kids, but either way, we were extremely grateful for her thoughtfulness.

The kids were good, considering the circumstances. I must say that they handled the situation better than a lot of the adults in line. The agent told us take the "scenic" route to our new terminal and see the sites along the way since we had plenty of time before our flight. O'Hare does have plenty for the kids (big and little) to do.

A dinosaur (The camera was already with me and I wasn't sitting in a comfortable chair)...

The type of airplane flown by Butch O'Hare...
An airport just for kids (sorry, bad lighting and my battery was going). Sacagawea throwing handling the baggage...

S pedaling the copter...

Along the way to the new terminal we stopped and found some food. While waiting for the order a couple stopped to let me know that they had been behind us in the airline customer service line and they were impressed with my children and their behavior during the long wait. Awwww. Sometimes a mom needs to hear that, especially when fuses are short during such an ordeal.

Our flight to San Francisco was on a different airline. I found the seating much more comfortable. The boys were stopped by the flight attendant as we boarded to take a peek into the cockpit. I went on back to our seats and got Sacagawea settled into her seat and our carry-on luggage stowed. I made my way back up to the front of the airplane and took the boys' carry-on luggage back to their seats a few rows in front of Sacagawea's and mine.

The flight attendant escorted the boys back to their seats and told me what fine young men I had. How many times a day can a mama be told that without it going to her head? She then asked for my email address so she could send a photo of the boys in the cockpit that she had taken with her iphone. So, The Man did get to see the boys on Father's Day, if only through an email.

The flight was blissfully non-eventful, so Sacagawea and I were able to get a few hours of sleep. I went up to check on the boys before landing and found that J and S were also getting some sleep. I was glad, since I wasn't planning on venturing outside of the San Francisco airport that night.

A different flight attendant stopped and complimented me again on the kids. She said they were the best kids they had seen all day. I'm sure it didn't hurt her opinion that 3/4 of them slept most of the flight. I thought it was a good time to ask her if that was the last flight for the plane for the evening (it was) and I let her know that we would be spending some time in SFO before our next flight as I held up one of the airline's little pillows. "Oh, absolutely! Take a pillow and blanket for everyone!" Yay!

I was glad I'd "asked" permission. I stowed the blankets in one of our carry-on bags and told the kids to carry their pillows off the plane. One of the other flight attendants raised her eyebrows as we were de-planing and whispered to the attendant next to her. "It's OK! I TOLD them they could take them," I heard the other reply.

As soon as we arrived in San Francisco I found the terminal of our original airline, which we would be flying with to Sacramento, to obtain seat assignments for our morning flight. It was nearly 10 pm, but I found a gate where people were boarding a plane and an agent was present. I told him I wanted to get some seat assignments for our morning flight.

After getting the assignments the gentleman looked us over. "You're not planning on spending the night here, are you?" I shrugged my shoulders, too tired to say or do much else. "No, you have young children. I'm not supposed to do this since the delay was weather related, but you need a hotel." He soon produced a hotel voucher and $75 worth of meal vouchers for the 5 of us. Wow.

We followed his directions to leave the airport and wait for the shuttle to take us to our hotel. Soon a van stopped with our hotel's name on the side. We stepped aboard as I showed the driver our voucher with the hotel's address on it. "No, this is for a different hotel. Their shuttle should be along later." We got off the shuttle and waited some more. Finally I called the hotel's number printed on the voucher and was told that they didn't send shuttles to the airport!

I went back inside to the airline's main ticket counter and explained the situation. After a bit of back and forth amongst themselves, the employees who were there (and anxious to close up on schedule at 10:30) produced a replacement voucher for a different hotel.
We went back out to the sidewalk until the van that we had originally tried to get on stopped again. This time the driver told us it was one of his hotels and we were on our way. "How did you get a new voucher?" he asked. "I've never known of an airline changing a hotel like that before."

We were checked in at the hotel by 11 pm and I requested a 4:30 wake-up call so we could be on the first shuttle back to the airport by 5 am. We used the airline blankets to make up a bed for S on the floor, while M and J got one of the beds, and Sacagawea and I shared the other. M's alarm went off at 4:20 am. I got up to take a shower and told him what to do when the wake-up call came at 4:30. M got a shower also and we were out the door by 4:55.
We were soon back at the airport, through more security lines, and then we found a place to get some breakfast food. I wasn't sure how I could possibly spend $75 worth of food vouchers. Obviously I'd never bought breakfast at the San Francisco airport. For our breakfast I chose:
5 bagel, egg and cheese sandwiches
5 cups of cereal
3 small cartons of milk

5 yogurts

The total came to over $51. Since they couldn't give change on the vouchers, I added 5 juice boxes to bring the total to $60.02. That is more than half what I usually spend at the grocery store each week! I didn't use the last voucher since everyone was full with just that food.

After eating and calling The Man, we walked down the stairs, across the tarmac, and boarded a small prop plane. An hour later we were in Sacramento. After retrieving ALL our luggage from the baggage claim office (it seems that our luggage had a more diverse route than we did!) we drove HOME!
The Man didn't spend all week at home without us. He had spent most of the time on a Wilderness Medical Society continuing education class/expedition. He did some rafting, mountain climbing, etc. while learning about emergency medical stuff. He had a good time also. Unfortunately one of the hoses in his pickup truck busted and he spent several hours fixing that before he was able to come home. I'm so glad he was driving it and not me since he knew how to fix it!

Friday, June 06, 2008

And the swallow a nest (part 2)...Psalm 84:3

Sorry it's been so long since my last update. Let's see...the kids had their end-of-year music recital, we took our van back to the mechanic because it was making a rumbling noise, and we're trying to get ready to leave on a trip on Sunday.

What else could go wrong with the van? I am regretting asking that question. We picked up the van last Friday with a diagnosis of failing muffler. We were planning on getting that fixed after our vacation. About 15-20 miles later the van was towed back to the mechanic after it stalled while The Man was driving it. They have replaced the fuel pump and are checking out the "check engine" light that stays brightly lit. I have asked for a decent horse & buggy, but it has been pointed out to me that that would bring a whole new set of challenges.

The Man's truck was also giving me problems yesterday while I was trying to shift gears. Maybe the transmission needs some more work. At least the trash truck is still puttering along.

They're baaaack. I haven't taken as many pictures, because they're just about as exciting as last year's photos. Just click on the link and imagine they were taken this year. I didn't want them to stay, but since everyone else in the family wished them to, I didn't interrupt the nest building activities. I'm not so much opposed to the nest as I am to the mess that I was cleaning up under the nest. Due to my delicate condition, I refuse to do that job this summer. Maybe if the children clean up the mess they won't be quite so eager for them to build in the same place next year. I did show them the documentation from last year, but they still begged for me to leave the nest building activities alone.

The only difference is that this year they aren't building on the hinge side of the door, but the other side. That means that I open the front door and pause before exiting just to give the swallows a chance to fly away before I walk under the nest. I will be laughing at the first person who gets a surprise on his/her head while using the door. I certainly hope I won't be laughing at myself.

Have a good weekend...I'll be back after our vacation!