Thursday, July 28, 2016

Canada - the Story and Surprise

Well, it all happened mid-January. I got a phone call from Lauryn "Mark found an incredible seat sale, we're going to go to visit Mom & Dad, do you think you'd want to come too?" I was in the middle of our little geography and animals co-op (two other little boys would come over Friday mornings and I'd teach it), so I really couldn't talk. All I said was, we'd love to, and we'll check the finances, and don't tell Mom, call Jared. Talk later.

So she called Jared to confirm approximate dates and I got on board, once the extra people left my house, and we contacted all the other out-of-town siblings, and it was a resounding yes! We were all on board to go to Saskatchewan! By the end of that very day, all plane tickets had been purchased except Brian's. The flight sale was really a GREAT deal, but it was only from Toronto to Regina. Not a huge deal, I just built in a few extra days to drive to Toronto, and then fly from there, and then drive back to Virginia on the other end. It made it very affordable, and really the drive is pretty low stress at this point, with the ages of the kids. It's about 13 hrs with traffic and stops, and it's not a big deal anymore since we've done it so often.

There were a few disadvantages to keeping the whole trip under wraps, mostly for all the locals (having to buy & store all the extra food, meal plan etc). Those SK siblings did an AMAZING of preparing for us, being flexible, and planning yummy meals that were pretty low-key (aka: easy to get on the table with minimal effort). When Mom is involved, she handles all these details! So without her, they really thought of everything. That was a real blessing to all of us out-of-towners.

Then we got some good news, and plan alterning news - Brent and Chantelle were planning a trip to VA in the summer, and now they would be having a baby in the summer instead. They were disappointed in having to cancel the vacay plans, but then decided not to cancel them at all - just to move them up! So they decided to butt one trip right up to the next one. It worked out really well, though I did feel bad that I had to leave town and drive up to ON leaving them to fly directly. Brian was also flying directly, but I wasn't able to get him on their exact flight.

So - Darla leaves Wed morning and drives to ON. Brian flies out early morning on Thurs and arrives noon-ish in SK. Brent & Chantelle fly out later on Thurs, and their last leg on Thurs evening is actually the same flight that Darla, Mark & Lauryn & kids will all be on. So Brian will beat us all there by half a day/an evening, but we'll join in at 10pm when we arrive in SK. This was the plan. It was a good plan, but was threatened in so many ways!!

There was some debate on the best way to go about surprising Mom & Dad. They were expecting Brent & Chantelle back at 10pm, and we'd all be on the same flight - so either we surprise them all at the airport late at night (getting all the local kids out of bed), or we keep them from going to the airport at all. Brian would already be in town, hiding away with various locals, and Logan & Kari & kids would fly in just an hour or so before all the rest of us. An airport surprise was possible. It was discussed and debated, and I think we determined that locals sort of *had* to be at church because of various responsibilities there, and the non-locals weren't overly interested in attending the early morning Good Friday service and would rest/recover from the travel - so we decided on a Lunchtime Surprise. This ended up being a blessing in disguise, though we couldn't foresee it yet!

Wednesday, I left and drove to Canada. Perfect weather and driving conditions until about Buffalo. Then it started to rain. Then it started to basically pour ice down from the sky. It has been 12+ years since I have driven in a snow storm, and this was a bad one at that! I had decided to spend Wed evening and Thurs with my Grandpa, and leave Thurs night from there, and I was glad of that decision now - he lives closer to the Border - less driving through this weather! He was holding dinner for us, and we were really right on target. We left at 7:30am, and it was about 7pm. We'd be there soon. If we didn't die first. The kids started to fuss about being hungry and when would we get there...I tried to convey to them through my white knuckled grip that their next meal was the least of their worries, because they were about to be stranded in a ditch, or worse. Not only am I unpracticed in driving in the snow and ice, but I was seriously hoping our "all weather tires" were going to be enough. I don't think "All Weather" means quite the same in the south as it does up north. They were new tires though (7 months old), and recently rotated (the week before), so I hoped that if those things mattered, they'd be enough. The fact that I don't even know if those things matter should be indication enough that I probably most definitely a southern girl now, and have no business driving in such weather.

I held onto my head, and remembered all sorts of old driving techniques about breaking and steering, and although the roads were SLICK, we never slid or spun! We made it in one piece, whew! It was about 8:30pm, and the starving children were both grateful for food, and life:-)
Thursday morning my van was *coated* in ice. We couldn't even chip it off! I had to leave it running forever, and Grandpa and I worked away it. I was honestly scared all the smashing on the windows would break them. The picture is meant to give a little idea of how thick the ice was, but it really doesn't do it justice at all. Just trying to chip it off the handle, so I could open the door! There wasn't a single part of the van that wasn't under a thick thick layer of ice. Well, bad weather does terrible things for airplanes, we all know this. But our flight wasn't until nighttime, and I kept checking everything online, we were "on time" for departure. Yay.

Brian flew out early Thursday to SK, because he was flying straight west, through MN, he was completely unaffected by the weather, and arrived on time. Brent and Chantelle were flying up the east coast to Toronto, and then west, sooooo. They had the worst of it. Stuck in New Jersey, with no flights heading out, it seemed likely that they'd be stuck there an extra day. IN the airport. NOOOO!

I arrived at the Park N Fly, and guess who pulled in behind me? Mark! We were all on time and ready to go Thursday evening, confident that they update the flight schedules online. Well, they don't. Or they lie. Whichever. Upon checking in to the airport, we realized our flight was delayed 2 hrs. Pretty soon it was delayed 3 hrs. It became fairly obvious that we were in for a ride here, so we ate dinner in a sit down restaurant. And we got Starbucks. And just a shout out to Pearson Int'l Airport for not inflating prices (because it seems like whenever I fly or travel, things always cost more at the airport than anywhere else - because they got you! Trapped!). All three kids and myself ordered our own meals, and it was only $35 Cdn for the food. And Starbucks was exactly the same price as always. And that was nice. What wasn't nice was that we realized we'd be up all night...with 6 kids between us. What was supposed to be "It'll be late, but they'll be sleeping on the plane" was turning into "uh oh". We were to land in SK at 10pm ish, which would be 12midnight to our eastern bodies. But it's a 3 hour flight. So in Perfect-World we board the plane at 8:30, and it flies from 9-midnight while they sleep, and that's actually not terrible.
 It was getting really late - like 10pm. The kids were being totally fine, actually! Very well behaved, not crazy, etc. But the writing is on the wall when you keep kids up late. Eventually they just fall apart, and there's usually no redeeming that one. It's too late, and they're done. Especially for Lauryn's kids because they are younger than mine.
We tried to get them to lay down and "rest" at the airport. So the lights in an airport must be special ones that give you energy. People should get those in their homes! It's just so so so bright and bustling constantly, and it's really impossible to settle. They tossed, turned, fidgeted, it just wasn't going to happen.

All the while, we're stuck in TO airport, Brent's stuck in NJ airport, and Brian's just hiding away in SK, trying not to get discovered:-) The miracle of this surprise was that EVERYBODY knew about it. Brian had, not unlike Debbie Downer, told me this surprise would never work out because too many knew about it. There were too many chances to slip up. That was so true. And Brian got to see and hang out with just about everyone that day, with Mom & Dad none the wiser. Janessa told me later "Brian's fallen asleep at 3 of our houses so far!" Haha!!

Mom and Dad had been alerted to the fact that weather was keeping Brent and Chantelle in NJ. This was actually a relief - because - the text messages flying around from our point of contact in SK (Davis, because Jared doesn't have a phone;-), and us in TO, and them in NJ - it was so confusing, like, seriously seriously confusing.

Jillaine had fallen semi-ill and Mom didn't want her out late at music practice and then picking up Brent & Tilly at the airport, she had to go home to bed, and Dad would take care of it. There was no reasonable way that they could prevent Dad from going, without arousing suspicion. So Dad was coming to the airport, and we'd have to stay back until they were gone. Dad always comes inside to help with luggage, so it was just unavoidable. But it's a small airport, and full of windows, it would not be very easy to keep 9 people out of site long enough for bags to be collected, but it's all we had to work with at this point. 

Well, then the word that they were stuck in NJ and not making it out that night. That took the pressure off because Dad wouldn't be going to the airport! Then the news that they were getting on a flight! Please don't tell Dad! I don't know if they got our texts about it prior to take off, but thankfully they didn't tell them they might be arriving after all. While they flew from NJ to TO, we waited at the airport. They arrived in TO, and we were still waiting to board. 

But the computers were all messed up due to all the flight changes that day. They were showing our flight as "departed" even though it had not. They were being re-ticketed and put on another flight the next day down at one counter, while I was talking to them on the phone while talking to an agent at our flight gate - there are seats still left on this plane, and we have not departed. Apparently handing phones over to the ticket agents at both counters is not allowed. So it was like a weird game of telephone - my agent telling me what to say to Brent to say to that agent, so they'd let them come to this gate for this flight. They were finally allowed to come, and were running, literally full on running down the terminal and got to us just as we boarded. It was 1am on Friday morning.

Finally boarded, you'd think things were looking up, but no. They've just discovered there is no water on the plane (for the bathrooms etc). So we waited 30 mins for that. Now it's time to de-ice the plane. And we waited another 40 for that. It was INSANE. Thankfully the kids were out the second they sat down, they were so tired.

When we finally arrived in SK, we were greeted by Davis, Janessa and Kaden. They got us all collected and delivered to the correct houses. It was about 4-5am (SK time, if I recall correctly. Feeling like 6-7am to us) by the time I fell into a real bed. Whew! I was able to sleep for a little bit. And then it was time to get ready for the big surprise!
That first "night", we hid out at Davis & Dani's house, and they have two doll-baby girls, one of which is brand new! She looks like she could be one of my own kids too. Such a sweet little face:-) This is Samantha, and it was so nice to meet her. I was really tired, but adrenaline is pretty amazing, isn't it? We were all so pumped for this surprise!

So Vaskabon! That's VA, SK, AB & ON - family in all locations! Since we were in SK, those people are considered "locals". That is 14 locals (16 including Mom & Dad), and 20 non-locals from VA, AB & ON. That's a total of 36 people (now soon to be 38 with 1 local and 1 non-local babies coming) I like the Vaskabon hashtag. It sounds gruff and German or something! You can exclaim Vaskabon! and people might think you are saying a real thing;-)

Anyway, Mom and Dad had absolutely zero clue about any of this. As suspected, Mom's first thought was "We won't have enough food". We called that one! Most likely her second thought was "and I didn't make any chore charts", but she kept that one under wraps.
The unfortunate thing about the drama in getting to Saskatchewan, was that many of us ended up getting sick (including me). Just too much with travel, new germ exposure, so many people, and not enough sleep. BUT, it was worth it all to see their faces and enjoy that moment of surprising them. It's probably safe to say that was a once in a lifetime though. We'll go easy on the local siblings in the future, and either not converge all at once, or at least tell mom we're coming beforehand.

It was the first time the ENTIRE original Kennedy family (13 people) had been together since 2005, at Jared's wedding. At that time, I (and that day Jared) was the only one married, and I was about halfway through my pregnancy with Kenna, so the family was decidedly smaller with no babies yet, and Brian & Liana as the only in-laws.

I guess I haven't heard everyones take on this recent Surprise trip, but I'm under the impression we all had a wonderful time!! Speaking for the VA contingency - we sure did!!

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