Thursday, December 31, 2009

odyssey part !!

Wednesday morning I shower, but since our clothes are vacuum packed in the suitcase and we are still apprehensive about whether our luggage will fit in the car, I get to return to my same clothes.  My favorite.  Charles accompanies me to the airport to contact Renault again.  They have a remote office so the kind information ladies call again for us.  We wait 15 minutes then are driven to pick up our car.  Car is very small, but has seven seats.  I drive around the parking lot for a while since I haven't driven a stick shift for years, but then feel able to follow him back to our hotel with the grinding gears only making the car smell a little bit bad.  We load up the car and see that we either have to sit on laps or Charles and Matthew will have to take the train.  They go to the airport to see about that while I try to find my way over there.  I paid extra for GPS and it had been working when I picked up the car, but then with all of the packing and jostling something had been bumped and I couldn't get it to turn on.  After a short 10 minute relationship I was already completely dependent!  How could I get back to the airport?  I hesitantly found my way over there and pulled over to talk to Matthew.  A security parking person made me move so I pulled up a little and we tried to talk again.  I was mostly worried about the GPS not working so when the very large bus started honking at me and I had to move, we hadn't quite talked out our plan for the day.  I was still stressed about using the clutch, French traffic, having no idea where I was, etc. so I was pulled into some kind of vortex and had driven for quite some time before I could find a place to pull over.  We then fiddled with the GPS for a while and finally got it to work.  Yea!  Ella suggested we return to the airport to talk to daddy, but I thought they had probably gone to the train since it had been awhile.  I decided to head out and meet them later at the house.  We had to get gasoline and no one had eaten anything so we stopped and nervously waded through those transactions.  I realized that I had Matthew and Charles' passports, but they had all of the euros.  I asked at the convenience store if I could get some cash with my debit card since I could see that I had a toll road ahead of me.  They wouldn't, but assured me that I could use my credit card at the toll booth.  We finally relax as the sweet GPS lady tells us where to turn and really feel like we are on our way.  The first toll booth I pull out my credit card.  It doesn't work.  Try another card. It doesn't work.  My debit card.  No luck.  Call the attendant, "Je n'ai pas l'argent."  I have no money.  She comes over looking completely annoyed, cars are honking at me (am I supposed to run through the gate people?), and am told to pull over and go into the transportation building.  I go in, need my passport in the car, go in again, sign my life away.  We're on our way again.  Another toll booth.  Just take a ticket which I can handle.  Another toll booth.  Talk to attendant, pull over and go into building, up stairs, sign my life away.  Back to regular roads.  We are getting closer!  Drive around.  GPS betraying me by telling me to go the wrong way on a one-way street.  Street we live on about three feet wide.  Parking down the hill.  Bringing the luggage in several trips up the hill.  Half expecting Matthew and Charles to be there before us since our trip took longer than we expected, but no.  Leaving the kids while I find food since I am afraid of stores closing early, but now quite afraid of round abouts so just walking and walking and walking.  Find a store, make sure I can use my credit card, buy only what I can carry, walking, walking, walking home.  Boys still not there and starting to worry.  Did they need their passports?  Do they know the address?  I tell Ella to start some pasta since it is now dinnertime and I will go look for the menfolk.  First I go to the train station closest to our house.  No one speaks English, but I communicate that I am looking for my husband and son.  Well, guess what -- there is a local train strike.  Lovely.  So I wait to see if they come on a bus, but no.  I then find another train station, but when my GPS friend tells me I have arrived at my destination I can't see any building at all and figure she is wrong.  The line of cars behind me as well as the complete darkness also helps me make the decision to not investigate too closely.  I then decide to drive to the Toulon train station.  That takes longer than I think it should, so instead of parking there I just drive slowly along the front looking closely at everyone standing outside.  No sign of them, but I figure that I have been gone so long they are probably at the house by now.  I drive home, find a parking space far, far away and approach the house hoping Matthew and Charles are there and everyone has saved me some dinner.  Open the door and no boys and it turns out that the stove doesn't turn on.  The girls eat some bread and I begin to despair.  We have a phone, but I don't know the number.  We have computers, but I can't get the internet to work.  I have no idea if the boys even ever left the airport.  I try to call my parents, but realize later I was using the wrong country code.  I need to get the little kids to bed, but don't want to unpack or anything just in case I need to accompany the body bags to the U.S. in the next few days.  I think about going to the police, calling the airport, etc. and I keep hearing them tell me, "Il est mort."  I pray and pray, wander around outside thinking they might know the street, but not the house number, make a little sign for the door and despair some more.  We make up beds, put babies to sleep, sit on the couch in a discouraged stupor.  How will I sleep not knowing where they are?  I should have gone back to the airport, we should have found out the phone number to our house before we left the U.S., I should have given them their passports, I shouldn't have been more stressed about the GPS working than finding out what our plans were before the bus ran me down.  I started to plan what I would do in the morning when I heard a noise at the door and in they walked after 10 p.m.   I was crying in relief -- I had never been so happy to see anyone!  And they were hungry and tired.  Their journey from house to house had taken 52 hours.  But as I pointed out, it is still much better than John Adams' trek, right?   I may or may not relate their story.  I have been writing too long already.

So as I sit here on Thursday morning wearing the same clothes in which I left my house on Monday, let us look on the bright side:  We are all together safe and sound; worrying pays off since nothing I actually worried about happening happened; and after surviving the journey in the wilderness it must follow that there is only promised land ahead.  (crossing fingers)

it's the toilet's fault, as usual

(Why did we decide to do this?)  You can't quote me if I put it in parentheses and write really small.  I will start at the beginning of this tale that is, unfortunately, worth telling.  Monday morning was understandably crazy as we did some last minute cleaning, packing, running errands, etc.  We got to the bus stop with plenty of time, but then began to be dismayed as we saw the line (unorganized crowd) forming.  The bus arrived, but there was not enough room for everyone (oh my!  oh my!  breathe...).  The bus driver took everyone that was going to Midway and then called another bus to drive directly to O'Hare.  How nice, much better.  At the airport, one of our bags was a little bit overweight (too much to eat for Christmas), but the kind employee didn't charge us.  She even commented that we seemed to have packed light for such an extended trip.  Security was what I imagined it would be with every carry-on opened, reprimands for this and that, and trying to get everyone packed up again (yes, we used our children as mules).  Phin had just fallen asleep so that was sad when his one short nap of the day was cut short by folding up the stroller, etc.  The plane was very full and we ended up having to put our carry on bags in the first class berths since ours were all full.  Other passengers were going to far flung places like Africa and India and I smugly considered how much shorter our trip would be than theirs.  Then we sat and sat because there was some sort of problem with the lavatories.  That was fine by me.  I was in no way excited about crossing the Atlantic with no loo.  The trip was uneventful with baby only crying a bit when I tried to get him to sleep.  I never could get very comfortable, but I think everyone else slept a bit.  Because of the toilet difficulties we arrived late to Brussels and barely, barely, barely missed our connection to Nice (I am pretty sure that I saw it depart).  They met us at the gate with cheerful smiles and the news that rather than arriving in Nice at 11:30 a.m. we would now be waiting in Brussels until noon, flying to Madrid, waiting two more hours, then flying to Nice arriving at 6 p.m.  Okay.  The worst part of the Brussels airport was that we had to go through security again.  We tried to be smarter about it, but there simply wasn't a better way to do things.  Then another long walk and wait, another chasing Phin through terminals.  A smaller plane, but now everything in Spanish.  The stewardess being pretty buggy and asking me if I am pregnant.  Listen, I have five kids and the youngest is only one.  I am wearing comfy clothes.  Just leave me alone. Sleeping through that flight, chasing Phin around pillars in Madrid, plane 40 minutes late.  An even smaller plane with boarding out on the rainy tarmac.  It was stormy so an extremely bumpy take-off.  Lucy was crying, a few others were nauseated, but baby was delighted!  He would laugh with each dip of the plane and would applaud for a particularly splendid dive.  Finally to Nice.  Actually united with our luggage and went to find our rental car.  Scouring the airport, calling from the information booth -- no one.  They had left for the day.  It wasn't that late!  We talked to Renault head office who felt bad about everything, but said it wasn't their fault we were late.  Then a very kind British Airways employee calling American airlines (since they weren't in Nice) for us.  He explained everything with his lovely French accent, "It is your obliga-tion.  This family is so very tired." And they agreed to pay for our hotel.  We walked to the hotel with some luggage carts, but after losing everything twice in the middle of the road and children barely avoiding accidents, we then just started carrying everything in spurts.  A funny little hotel and sleeeeeeeep.  We had by then been traveling for about 30 hours.  The next morning we were awakened by an excited cleaning lady asking what time we were leaving, 10:00.  Matthew didn't understand and I was still sleeping, but eventually I told her we were leaving at 9:00.  She said okay and left.  Then Matthew informed me that it was already 9:20.  So funny.  Stay tuned for Wednesday.

Monday, December 28, 2009

today is the day

The day has finally arrived and the future is pregnant with possibilities.  Except that rather than feeling hopeful I have been walking around the last few weeks feeling as if I am falling off of a precipice complete with stomach in throat.  That feeling can be thrilling at first, but I have long since passed the excitement phase and have reached full blown panic.  On a roller coaster, one can release this kind of tension by screaming, but I can't very well go around screaming all the time because that would be weird.  I am worried about really being ready when it is time to go.  I am worried about forgetting something important (like passports).  I am worried about getting to the airport on time because of snow covered roads and the bus being off schedule.  I am worried about not really having a ticket because it was all electronic and there is nothing official in hand and we were somehow scammed.  I am worried about checking in because even though we have weighed and reweighed everything, we still might be reprimanded for the sheer volume.  I am worried that getting through security will be a Nightmare (note the capital N) because Matthew has his equipment scattered throughout everyone's carry-on bags and they are going to wonder what all those wires are and want to take everything out and we are going to have to take our shoes off and baby out of the stroller and he is going to run away and someone is going to steal our computers and why did someone have to try to blow up a plane this week of all weeks?  I am worried about waiting to get on the plane and then boarding and having everyone look at us and all of our kids with displeasure.  I am worried about being on a plane for nine hours and no one sleeping and the things I packed to do on the plane being interesting for about five minutes and baby screaming by 1:00 a.m. when he hasn't been sleeping.  I am worried about getting up to get a drink and just falling from the sky (that has been a recurring image as I try to go to sleep every  night -- no plane crash, just me).  I am worried about arriving in Belgium and going through customs and making our connecting flight.  I am worried about getting to France and not speaking French and people being rude to us (gasp!).  I am worried about the logistics of picking up our car.  I am worried that all of our luggage won't fit in our car and we won't be able to figure out what to do in our sleep deprived state.  I am worried that we are going to get lost which isn't fun when one is cranky.  I am worried that it will be gray, rainy, and dark the whole time we are there.  I am worried about living in less than half the space we are used to and doing home school in a pleasant way whilst also being quiet enough for Matthew to work.  I am worried about people not getting along (i.e. me being irritated, C teasing, E being impatient, L talking too much, I crying too much, P being too needy and not having a crib or a high chair or any other restraining devices).  I am worried about shopping and cooking and finding a good park.  I am worried that since I haven't planned every little detail of our trip that we will waste time and not get everything out of our trip that we could.  I am worried that since I haven't planned every little detail of our trip that we will try to do too much and get worn out and not get everything out of our trip that we could.  I am worried about one of us getting really sick or hurt while we are there which would just be so inconvenient.  I am worried about eating too much bread and chocolate and gaining weight (that is on top of the seven pounds that I have gained in the last few weeks just trying to keep the hysteria monsters at bay, which works for a moment, but soon the stomach is creeping up the esophagus).  I am worried that Phin has left an open banana behind a couch somewhere and the girl living here is going to be disgusted.  And I am sure there are many more things that I haven't even considered.  In short ~~ AAAAAAAAAAAGH!  I think that I need to throw up and then hope that my next step isn't in to midair.

I will see you all on the other side!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

holiday spirit

On Friday I had to walk at the mall by myself.  Joy was nice enough to join me on the phone.  The stores have been opening early so it was pretty crowded by the time I was leaving.  Do you know what this means?  My parking space was a fairly hot commodity.  So hot, in fact, that a man was willing to wait for me to unbuckle baby, put him in his car seat, fold up my stroller, get everything stashed, etc.  I know!  I tried to hurry.  Unfortunately, I had to exit the parking lot in the same direction he was in so he had to wait until I was all the way out and then out of NOWHERE a car zoomed into my space from behind me.  The man that had been waiting (for quite some time) started honking at him, but the new car did not care one whit!  I felt so bad and wished that I could have accommodated the patient waiter a bit more by, I don't know, ramming into the other guy, for example.  As I was exiting the parking lot, I saw them involved in a heated exchange, but the new guy didn't move.  Wouldn't you totally not park there if you saw that someone had been waiting?  And then if you hadn't noticed, but someone tried to alert you to that fact, wouldn't you just let them park there?   Aaaah, the Christmas Cheese, I mean Season.  While we were in Japan, we would always try to figure out what the topic of our church meetings were.  One Sunday a man, talking in very rapid Japanese, kept repeating the same phrase "kurisumasu chizu" was what I heard.  I turned to Matthew and said, "I think the first word is Christmas and the second word is either cheese or map."  It wouldn't have surprised me if there was some Japanese christmas cheese tradition that I had never heard of, after all the entire country has been convinced by KFC that everyone eats fried chicken on Christmas Eve whilst waiting for Santa.  Or perhaps it was a story about finding something using a map.  I didn't know.  Finally, 20 minutes later we realized he had been saying Christmas season the whole time, but now I always think Christmas Cheese.  Probably had to be there.

No I am not packed.  In case you were wondering.  Everyone seems to have been wondering.  For the past six weeks.  Let's see where we are next week at this time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

why can't we be friends?

My baby changed.  On Monday.  He learned how to say no.  He has been shaking his head for months when he didn't want something, but that whole action has a comical aspect as your head wobbles back and forth and one becomes slightly dizzy, so it wasn't personality altering.  But the actual word?  Quite transformative as it turns out.  Ask him almost any question and he says, "Nah" in a growly, clipped way with a little scowl on his face, his shoulders bunching up combatively.  He is a pleasant little fellow for the most part, so when that word passes his lips his whole demeanor changes into someone quite different.  Of course, we all think it's adorable when his mouth stays in a little "O" for emphasis, but we are trying to not let him know that we think it's cute.  He needs no encouragement for it is no, no, no day and night.  Even when he wakes up his first word is no when I go to fetch him, but then he realizes that that isn't what he really wants and reaches out for me to get him.

I suspect that this new independent streak stems from my attempts at weaning him.  It was getting so that I couldn't walk past a chair, much less sit down, without him starting to grab me suggestively.  Church was becoming a farce because we couldn't possibly sit there for that long without wanting to nurse and any other food or drink offering was often thrown a couple of rows away.  At home, he would routinely bring me a boppy and a magazine in an encouraging and hopeful kind of way.  I didn't want to stop breastfeeding completely, but he would never just sit on my lap in a more non-committal way.  So a couple of weeks ago I was determined to nurse him once in the morning, once after his nap, and once before bed.  He was mad at first, but adjusted really well and now doesn't even ask except at the appropriate times.  He calls it nuh, nuh which sounds eerily similar to that other word he has lately mastered.

He is also accomplishing positive goals like blinking really fast, barking, lubba-dubbing with his tongue, pointing to Christmas lights, and wearing cowboy boots.

By the way, "feels like -18˚" isn't going over very well in my unheated room here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

counting down

We got out our Christmas decorations last night finally.  Everyone in my house that is over 12 years old is being rather scrooge-y about it all in my opinion.  They think that since we are leaving we should pretend that Christmas isn't happening.  We are not leaving until after Christmas people!  It was frustrating because lights weren't working, trees were tilting, and people were yelling (that couldn't have possibly been the sweet mommy spreading holiday cheer...).  We are definitely paring down this season, but it is still nice to have some of it up.  I got an advent calendar from Garnet Hill on clearance last year (I am so very grateful for wonderful sales ~~ they make me happy).  I found a very nice idea on another blog of putting in scriptures leading up to the birth of Christ on Christmas day so I am eager to fill mine up.  Like I always say, better three days late than never!
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