So the last time I posted, it was just to cut and paste and article about me and GHF in the Austin American-Statesman just after Dickens on the Strand. Since then, things have been going at a feverish pace. First of all, Dickens weekend was 2 weeks before our trip to Cali, with other friends & family Christmas parties on the weekend in between. With shopping, work, packing, PTO, etc. those 2 weeks went by in a total blur of activity. Then FINALLY we were on vacation. And so the fun began...
First off, thanks to Santa coming to Sacramento we had 8 checked bags for 6 people, plus a carry-on per person. Trying to manage all that plus my Dad in a wheelchair made the airport an adventure, but we were able to board without too much ado. When we arrived in Oakland, the weather was beautiful. I took the shuttle to get our reserved van while Big L man-handled the luggage, the kids and Dad. That's where I encountered problem numero uno. The van that National had reserved for me was NOT a full-sized van capable of handling 6 people and 11 bags, but was instead a mini-van. In fact, they didn't even HAVE full sized vans. Considering I'd have a very specific conversation about our needs with the reservationist, I was NOT happy. Not to mention my phone was dead and I actually had to call Big L COLLECT from a PAY PHONE. When's the last time you used a payphone? Do you know what happens when you call another cell phone collect? Me either. Turns out you wait on the other end while that person inputs a credit card number, billing address, zip code, phone number and DNA on the other end. Then you get to talk. Once I'd informed Big L as to the situation, I procedeeded to go to every rental car company withing walking distance begging for a van. Finally, at the Budget counter, I found one company that rented full-sized vans in the entire airport. He had one left. He was supposed to get his manager's permission before renting it. He called the manager and got no answer. My tears worked, and he rented me the van without the manager's approval, although considering the bill I doubt the manager was anything less than ecstatic!
So, finally we set off on our drive to Sacramento, which was a glorious drive. We could see San Francisco, the Golden Gate and the Oakland Bay Bridge all from our windows. When we finally checked into our hotel, we finally felt like we were on vacation. Two bedrooms, one with a king and one with 2 queens, 2 bathrooms and a Christmas tree that my sister had put up for us earlier that day. WOOHOO!!
It took me a few days to really relax, though, and not feel like i was carrying an elephant on my shoulers. We played 42, we ate (thanks to Big L's cooking!), we shopped, we went to church and we wrapped. My sister and I compared stocking stuffers down to the last piece of gum to make sure Santa was equitable to both the Texan kids and the West Coasters. We made sure to only use special Santa paper and tags, never before seen by anyone under the age of 16. And best of all....we went to the snowpark in the foothills on the way to Tahoe! All of us had an absolute BLAST sledding down the hill. At one point, the kids and Big L made snow forts in the woods and had a giant snowball fight...it was awesome.
Then we hunkered down for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which were wonderful.
On the 26th, which was my nephew's 9th birthday, we out for Sushi and Japanes food which really hit the spot after our Prime Rib dinner the night before. And all too soon, it was time to pack up the clothes and loot and head home.
At the Oakland airport, we got off the rental shuttle in the middle of a boulevard type road. We had to cross the street to get to the terminal. It took 2 carts to get all our luggage, plus each of us pulling/carrying a carry on bag. In the midst of this chaos, mom accidentally misjudged the edge of a wheelchair ramp and my Dad, who was riding on the seat of his walker while she pushed, ended up falling straight backward on his head in the street, pulling my mom over with him. Everyone ran to help, and by some miracle we got him up and back sitting on his walker seat where he stayed until we could go in and get a wheelchair. He had a strawberry on the back of his head and his right elbow was bruised....same elbow that caused his hospitalization just a few months ago. Needless to say, I was pretty rattled by that incident.
The flight home was nice...the kids and I all with our new iPods in our ears. Once we landed, though, chaos insued again. This time in the form of a broken walker, compliments of Southwest Airlines. We got down to baggage claim with Dad in a wheelchair, and Mom and Big L gathered all our bags off the belt while I filed a claim in the baggage office. Luckily they had a loaner walker right there for him to use to get home. Big L retrieved the truck and we loaded up to go home. Due to the walker issue, we were much later than planned getting home, and most importantly picking up our dogs!! Our pet loving friends had graciously hosted the little fur angels for the holidays and we were anxious to get our hands on them.
The next day, we must've been wiped out becuase the first time the kids woke up and, as a result, I woke up, it was 1pm!!! Now that's only 11am Cali time, but STILL. Finally, we started to unload the bags that Big L had stored in Bart's garage overnight, and we realized what had happened. We had a bag that belonged to someone else. And we were short a bag. One that held nothing but kids' Christmas gifts. The Wii and all components, plus a lot of other nonsense. At this point I looked at Big L and said "vacation's over!"
We loaded the bag that some poor person somewhere was probably frantic over, and we headed back to the airport. So much for all the laundry and cleaning we were going to get done! By some miracle, SWA still had our bag, and we were able to make the switch. They did, however, give me a bit of a lecture on checking names on bags before leaving. I relayed the message to Big L who said "that's easy when you're not handling 11 bags, 2 monkeys and 2 80 year olds, one of whom is in a wheelchair!!"
And so, with that, we are back to our "normal" lives...hahaha! I *think* today is the day that our attorney files a demand letter with our insurance agent's E&O policy. I sure hope so becuase it gives them 30 days to look at the evidence (aka the carcass of our house) before we can finally bulldoze it. 30 days and counting!
Photo - Wreaths Across America at Arlington
3 days ago