Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I wait all the day...Psalm 25:5

Hello! We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We went to New York for Christmas. We are home now.

Here is the long saga:

On the afternoon of December 22, while I was busy with last-minute packing, S came and told me that Sacagawea had just gotten sick all over the couch. Packing ceased while I simultaneously took the slipcover off the couch and threw it into the washing machine, put Sacagawea in the tub for a scrubbing and hair-washing, and gave orders for everyone to take a dose of charcoal.

After The Man came home from work, we loaded up the van and set out for the airport 4 hours away. We even packed a bucket for Sacagawea to use in case she needed it. She did.

Our flight wasn't until 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, but with unpredictable weather, we wanted to get over the local mountain passes while they were still passable without chains. We arrived at a rest area just north of the airport about 1 a.m. After a few hours of fitful sleep at the rest area, we went to the airport. S got out of the van and threw up. After careful questioning it was determined that he was the only one that didn't get a dose of charcoal. Fortunately, there was no more throwing up after that.

We were kept on the ground for awhile due to extreme weather conditions in Chicago. We had nearly a 2-hour scheduled layover there so I wasn't concerned. G enjoyed his first flight.
When we arrived at Chicago O'Hare we discovered that our flight to New York was one of the hundreds that had been canceled. in, it's not happening. Deep breath. Ok, I'd done this before. We could handle it.

I approached a lady at a counter and asked her to point me in the direction of where to go. She did and we all set off to stand in a looooong line. A few minutes later the same lady came by and took me out of line to a kiosk where she entered our information to get us waitlisted for the next flight. I went back to where The Man and children were in line. Soon another lady came and told me that I was welcome to sit on bench behind the information booth with some of the children while The Man was in line. That was wonderful.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much that could be worked out for us, so we made our way to the terminal and gate of the next flight, and the next, and the next, and the next. By 1 a.m. the next morning we had actual tickets for Christmas morning and we were on the waitlist for the 6 a.m. flight Christmas Eve.

The most frustrating thing about our experience was not knowing until right before the doors closed after boarding whether or not we could get on the plane. We literally had to be ready with coats on and carry-on luggage ready by the door for each and every flight. It was tiring for all of us except G. G didn't get put down the entire time we were at the airport. We had tried to gate-check his carseat, but the agent said we couldn't. It was checked all the way to New York.

M used his "free time" well. While waiting for the 11 p.m. flight, which didn't leave until after midnight, he got out his violin. J was enlisted to hold the hymn book, and M played Christmas carols for the fellow passengers that were waiting.
Considering it was after 10 p.m. at night, I was impressed that other passengers appreciated his playing to the tune of $28.84 tossed into his violin case. J was excited that M gave him $5 for holding the book.

After the flight left after midnight, the terminal quieted down. I took G to the bathroom for a bath. The kids stretched out on the seats to sleep and The Man and I took turns staying awake.

About 4 a.m. we roused the children and made our way to the terminal of the 6 a.m. flight. At that point I had the brilliant idea of getting a cart on which to put all of carry-on luggage. It was the best $1 we spent at the airport.

We didn't make that flight, although we were offered 4 seats. Nor did we get on the next flight. When we arrived at the gate for the 2:30 p.m. flight (24 hours after we were supposed to leave), the agent pulled us aside and told us there would be some folks that wouldn't make the flight due to misconnects. Chances were good that we would all make it on the next flight, but we should be willing to split up if only 4 seats were available. Ugh. There were only 4 confirmed seats available, but there were also 2 other seats availble at the end of boarding, so we all left O'Hare together. Sort of.

After we were in the air, it occured to me that I knew The Man was on board, I knew Sacagawea and G were on board, and I was pretty certain I saw the other boys go down the jetway, but I had no idea where the other boys were sitting. Between sleep deprivation and the last-second boarding, I can easily see how those "Child Left at Airport" headlines occur. The Man later assured me that
he knew we were all on board before we left the gate. Whew.

We finally made it to New York! However, all of those "Don't you dare ask us about your luggage because it is already at your final destination" (I'm paraphrasing) recorded annoucements that were played over and over and over and over and over again at O'Hare were not true! So, after waiting around for the bag lady (heh) to go borrow some car seats from another airline because all of theirs were nasty (her words) and giving the address where our luggage could be delivered the next day, we were out of the airport.

I missed supper because I fell asleep on the couch while feeding G. The rest of the week was wonderful, but kind of a blur. I didn't feel like I was caught up on my sleep until we were ready to go home.

The kids loved meeting some of their cousins for the first time and had lots of fun playing. I didn't take as many pictures as I should have, but you can find some here. Sacagawea especially enjoyed playing with Play-do. Grandma gave them some tin pie plates and they made many pied pies.

Sacagawea was also introduced to the American Girl catalog. The girls brought me a sheet of paper with a bunch of numbers carefully printed on it. "These are the item numbers of what Sacagawea wants. And those numbers are the ones you have to dial to order."

Yesterday we got up early and were back at the airport along with a goodie bags full of food so we wouldn't have to pay exorbinate airport prices and tissues for our headcolds (THANK YOU!). Uneventful. Wonderful!

When we got to our gate in Chicago the agents were begging people to take a later flight in exchange for free tickets. I was told that they had overbooked the flight by 34 seats! They were offering first class tickets on a later flight. No thanks. We weren't the least bit interested. Any other time and it might have been tempting, but we all wanted to get out of O'Hare as quickly as possible.

The next flight was ok, except the altitude changes coupled with my cold did a number on my ears. I wasn't able to hear properly again until we were driving up in the mountains near home.

We made it home just after 7 p.m. last night. I still have a cold. Most of the luggage has been unpacked and I need to go fold some laundry.

We hope you all have a wonderful New Year! Given our year of flights, we aren't planning on traveling through Chicago O'Hare next year!


Rachael said...

It sounds like medieval torture. Glad you all survived. Sorry we didn't get to see you this year. Hopefully, O'Hare is not on your black-list FOREVER. There's always Midway, though!

Happy New Year to you too! Hope the kids liked their gifts. My kids LOVE their gift cards. And the best part? Jack asked me today if after he made his purchase he could keep the actual card, and when he found out you could, it was like the best present ever. (the card! not the money... ha.)

Natalie said...

Oh what a terrible travel story! Very interesting, even though I already knew most of the details. Too bad the kids were sick in the car! That is a terrible feeling. The charcoal part kinda made me chuckle inside. Bob used to come up with some pretty interesting remedies. My least favorite was the zinc tablets under my tongue. THat was terrible! It was great to see you guys. I hope it isn't really another couple of years, but realistically (spell-check please) that may be the case. Nice use of "pied" I better get mine in. I forgot to. lol. Glad you guys are home safe.

Lori said...

I can't imagine how awful that was. I would have a hard time if I alone was stuck in an airport for 24 hours, let alone with 5 kids! What a nightmare. Although I am a sucker for a free ticket, and a week later, I may have taken them up on the offer for free tickets plus first class upgrades. That's a pretty good deal.
That is so funny about how the girls brought you the American Girl catalog with all the numbers written down for you, icluding the one to call.
Glad you had the energy to type the whole story for us, it was a good story if nothing else!

Lori said...

Oh and that is so funny that the boys made money playing the violin! What a good idea.

Tina in CT said...

My daughter, the two girls and I are off to NYC tomorrow for lunch at American Girl and shopping and then the Museum of Natural History. Going to American Girl after New Year's has become a yearly tradition when they are visiting from Moscow. My daughter and I love it as much as the girls do.