We had a really great vacation with family over the holidays. They went up on the 17th and I followed behind on Christmas Day. There was plenty of time with family as 4 of CavWife’s 5 siblings were there for New Year’s and the annual White Elephant Gift exchange which gets more interesting as the kids get older and start participating. For the 2nd year in a row I got the Taylor ham- a NJ breakfast meat that I have grown to love.
One sibling built a pond this summer and this winter it was a skating pond. So our daughters learned how to skate. The boys were not so inclined, though the youngest enjoyed playing on the ice and with a hockey stick by the time we left. There was a guys night out as the 4 of us went out to Bar Vino for a few beers and appetizers. I like for us to get away and talk: sometimes serious and sometimes not.
There were a few snow storms, including Hercules who dumped over a foot of powder on us. As a result there was some sledding. On the downside, I didn’t have a good window of snow-less driving to visit my parents. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease this fall. Since I haven’t driven in snow much in the last 20 years I really didn’t want to get stuck in the mountains of VT in a snow storm. Another factor was the older CavGirl’s birthday and our 12th anniversary. Not really the days I want to be away from family to visit my parents.
Since we had an early flight home, my in-laws used some of their points to get us a hotel room for the night before we left. Sunday night, after one last get together and skate party the snow turned to rain as the temperatures soared. Monday was the great meltdown before the temperatures plummeted as a result of the arctic blast that crippled the country. It was slippery near the house but after we got off the hill the roads were much better. The only problem was our rear tire. While loading the Envoy I realized the tire was nearly flat. Usually my father-in-law is all over these things. This winter I was the one to catch 3 really low tires. The other 2 were on our lunch trip to Glens Falls. Up there in the mountains, there are no gas stations right around the corner. I thought I could get to Warrensburg and inflate the tire. The last 100 yards or so I could hear the thump-thump-thump because it had moved past low to officially flat. I filled it and off we were to meet our in-laws in Albany for dinner and they would drive both vehicles back to their home.
While driving we learned that our friend who was going to pick us up had his own flight home canceled and was re-booked to arrive home Wednesday. He’d be stranded in Dallas. So we left a message with another friend to see if they could pick us up.
I made a big mistake though. There was no sun on the way to Warrensburg so I kept my sun glasses in my briefcase. By the time we got to Glens Falls the sun was relentlessly beating into my right eye as we drove south to Albany. As we drew closer a migraine began to set in. I felt pretty lousy. It was also much colder in Albany as we unloaded the Envoy at the hotel.
We heard from our friend that she was willing to pick us up, but the other friend had gotten a flight from Dallas to Phoenix so he would be home in time to pick us up. He would have to go to the airport anyway since his bags were going to Tucson.
CavWife had inadvertently started the movie for the kids that we rented from iTunes. It was now going to expire the next morning before we got on the flight. So the kids started to watch Despicable Me 2 while I napped. Around 4:30 we left to meet with my in-laws for dinner at Moe’s. We didn’t want to eat too late since we didn’t want the roads to freeze on their way home. We love Moe’s and wish there was one in Tucson. CavWife got her usual John Coctostan, while I got the Home Wrecker which I re-dubbed the Hotel Wrecker. Then it was time for good byes in the cold.
The kids were going to shower before they finished the movie. Still feeling the effects of the migraine, I sat in front of the TV. That was when two things happened.
1. We realized these kids of ours can’t take showers in hotels. They had the shower curtain on the outside of the tube and put the towel for the floor in the tub so it got soaked, and the floor got soaked. You’d think they had never taken a shower before.
2. While noting the “excessive delays’ in Chicago I noticed that Southwest had suspended flights in Chicago.
Why did we care? Because our flight the next day went through Chicago, of course. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to get home the next day. So we moved from cleaning up the bathroom floor to calling Southwest.
Earlier in the day CavWife had noticed travel advisories for Chicago and had spent 2 hours on hold with Southwest. She didn’t get a satisfactory answer. Now we decided we’d better call again to see if they had any idea about the next day. The wait was 2 minutes. This time they offered to call back in 2 minutes. The system had been overloaded earlier in the day but now was in a quiet stretch.
We weren’t sure we liked the news. They were not sure about tomorrow. IF our flight was canceled the earliest flight they could get the 6 of us one was Sunday. Yeah, Sunday.
At this point the oldest and most dramatic child overheard the conversation because at this moment the movie ended. This is the problem with “suites” that aren’t really suites. In my mind a suite has more than one room, not just a fridge and a “partial wall”. Really, what good is a partial wall, you still can’t watch TV while the kids sleep. But that isn’t pertinent yet. The daughter is freaking out while we are realizing all the things that are affected if our flight is canceled.
- We were closing on our home the day after we get back. We’d have to postpone that.
- The people watching our animals were leaving for vacation a few days after we got back. We’d have to find someone else to watch them.
- I figured I probably had better notify at least one elder that I might be back later than expected. It was not a big deal since I wasn’t preaching Sunday anyway, but still.
- The Farm house was rented out Saturday for a week. We could stay there until then, and then move over to the annex where her parents lived since they head for FL on Thursday, but then they can’t bring us to the airport. We’d actually have to borrow her sister’s Suburban to go anywhere since her parents would take the Envoy.
That’s only if we find out before we left for Chicago. There were supposedly plenty of seats still available for the flight on Sunday. So we quickly decided to try to catch the flight the next morning and use Sunday as a fall back since we were already spending the night in Albany.
We got the daughter reasonably calm, reminding her that we are not in control of these things and therefore such worry does no good. God is in control, so pray. I had a measure of peace about it figuring that the early flights would be delayed and the later ones possibly suspended. I really didn’t want to be stranded in Chicago with 4 kids 9 and under, but I’m not in control of all that.
As we got the kids ready for bed we realized there was no way 2 kids were sleeping on that pull out love seat. This means that CavSon #1 would sleep on the floor on the cushions by the adjoining door. He was delighted. Now daughter #1 wanted to sleep on the love seat, alone so the 2 younger ones could share the 2nd bed. Suddenly all their whining and worrying about where they would sleep evaporated. All their wishes had been granted.
I showered since they had a pulsating shower head and perhaps that would help my neck and migraine. At this point I’m realizing that the bathroom was not in great shape BEFORE the kids flooded it. My muscles began to relax and I began to feel better.
We got the kids to bed, and feeling better I wanted to watch the National Championship Game. No way that was happening in the room with the partial wall. I made my way to the lobby and asked the guy if he could put the game on. He handed me the remote and I found the game. Having lived in FL for nearly 20 years, I had more affinity for FSU than Auburn (especially since an ex-girlfriend, who dumped me, went to Auburn). But I was not highly invested in this game for obvious reasons. After a good start by the Seminoles, Auburn began to dominate. With the scored 21-3 and the fact that we were taking a 5 am shuttle to the airport the bed was calling my name. I went to bed thinking that Auburn would most likely win the game.
And then began one of those horrible nights when you get little to no sleep. I started well, getting in about 2 1/2 hours before things fell apart. I started to think about what would happen if we got stranded in Chicago. CavWife’s brother didn’t live in a place large enough to accommodate us, or have enough car seats to transport us. We had some other friends with a big enough home, but they had no car seats. Zero. Zip, Nada. You get the picture. I kept praying that God would give us grace and patience the next day. While expressing my desires I was willing to submit to his plan even if it wasn’t what I particularly wanted. Perhaps I’ve matured since the last time I was in such a situation years ago. And I didn’t have kids then.
At various points I wake up and have to pee because the white noise app playing on the iPad is a rainstorm which makes me want to pee. And the room is pretty hot due to the hot air heater. So I have a scratchy throat and need to pee. Or maybe it was the mold. And of course there are the side effects of the Hotel Wrecker burrito.
Around 2 is when Son #1 started hacking away. I noticed at some point that Son #2 was sleeping sideways and his sister was way over on the far side of the bed. Sure she was glad she got her wish!
Then #1 Daughter woke up and started her rocking/humming/singing thing. It is like 2:30 in the morning.
Soon she has comforted herself back to sleep but Son #1 is up and making crashing noises as he plays. When he isn’t coughing that is. There is an endless cacophony emanating from his part of the room. This is just not going well.
Every time I start to settle into a decent sleep CavWife goes “roll over” because I’m snoring. This is turning into an existentialist nightmare. I was wanting it to be 4:30 just so it could be over.
4:30 came and our flight had not yet been canceled. So we got dressed and then I took the boys to get the luggage cart. When you are that age little is more fun than riding on a luggage cart. All I had on was a fleece and a knit hat over my clothes- the fleece that had pizza sauce and Darby the Great Dane’s drool on it. It was so cold betting into that shuttle. It was on this really cold shuttle that CavWife informed me that our Seminole friends were actually happy this morning, that they had had an amazing turnaround. Now if only we can have an amazing turnaround.
When we arrived at the airport there were 2 lines at the Southwest desk. It took asking an employee which line was for us. Thankfully it was the faster moving line. The other line was for people whose flights had been canceled. So far so good. We with our 4 kids, 6 suitcases, 1 box, 4 back packs, 1 briefcase and 1 immense handbag slowly moved to the front of the line. Then we deposited 5 bags and the box with Southwest taking the rest up to security to go to our gate. It was one of the longer waits we’ve had there in Albany. It was about 25 minutes. Nothing by some airport standards.
As we sit by the gate the kids are watching TV and an unhappy traveler starts to argue with the SW personnel. He leaves and then comes back. Soon a few officers show up. At this point they announce that in a moment they will tell us which connecting flights have been canceled. So, were the cops for the cussing guy or did they expect a small riot to break out? They did not want the people whose connecting flights were canceled to get on the flight to Chicago- there were enough people stranded there. They didn’t want to develop a tent city there. They started reading off the cities: Portland, Seattle, Houston, St. Louis … No Tucson. Looks like we are still a go. But we haven’t boarded yet.
Turns out the crew couldn’t leave their hotel since the shuttle driver didn’t show so they were running late. Soon they begin the pre-boards. That is us thanks to the sling on CavWife’s left arm- her good one. Right before leaving for vacation she fell and fractured the radial head. I did not what her to re-injure it tossing around kids or luggage. So I had her put on the sling to protect her from … her. This means we get 2 rows right up front so we can get out quickly since we are running late and have a short layover in Chicago, we hope.
While we are waiting I overheard a stewardess say why the flights were suspended. It was so cold that fuel pumps were freezing. It was slightly warmer today in Chicago- slightly- but every little bit helps. Before they closed the door they read the newly expanded list of canceled connections. Still no Tucson. But the others were forewarned if they refused to get off.
Flying with really tired kids is always a joy. There was no small amount of drama, particularly with the 2 oldest due to their disposition and nocturnal activity. This is the shorter flight, and we break out the bagels and Clementines for breakfast. I, of course, with 2 good arms and closer proximity have to dig through the suitcase wedged under the seat to my left that the food items.
We made up our time heading to Chicago. I was surprised by the lack of traffic on the roads as people stayed home. As we deplaned it was very cold in the jet way but thankfully no wind. I didn’t bother with the variously stained fleece.
Our new gate wasn’t far away and we had a few minutes. I noticed signs about a new “rest area” opened with cots so the stranded masses I didn’t want to join could get some rest. When we got to the gate, the kids settled in in front of a TV. Underneath that TV a guy was sound asleep, oblivious to all that was going on around him.
We talked with one lady who had been in Tucson on vacation and was trying to return home to Buffalo. The previous day they couldn’t land in Chicago but were diverted to Kansas City. Though they made it Chicago they couldn’t continue to Buffalo, and couldn’t rent a car because the NY State freeway was closed to traffic. They were returning to Tucson to extend their vacation instead of hanging around Chicago-Midway with the stranded masses.
We did not join those masses. We were exhausted and sleep deprived but we got on that flight and left on time. Despite all our very realistic fears we arrived home a few minutes early. Our friend whose own flight had been canceled the day before picked us up since he had to get his luggage that made the trip without him.
Home to shower with water pressure. Home to sleep in our own beds. Home….