There are few things in this world that you can truly count on without fail. Three things about me however, do fall in to that category: 1. Despite being habitually early for everything prior to having my children, I am now a fairly constant few minutes late. As an off-shoot to this, if I plan on leaving for anywhere at a certain time and I do not have a time constraint (ie. specific flight/ferry/train/what-have-you to catch), add roughly an hour to what I've aimed for to have an idea of when I'll really be leaving.
2. I will always leave my packing 'till the last minute, regardless of how much I have to do.
3. Despite my procrastination and inability to keep to a schedule unless I have to, I never forget anything and everyone always has everything they need and then some. With my two kids, this is no small accomplishment.
Flashback to Thursday night last week. I stay up all night packing and getting Blue's Clues episodes downloaded on to Josh's new i-Pad (subject for a future post) to be ready for the trip. My plan was to leave by 7 am in order to make the 10:15 am ferry. Given that the drive to the ferry takes about 2.5 hrs and there could be traffic on the way as well as at the border, I had even thought we should try to leave a little earlier to be on the safe side. What I had not done, was make a reservation for the 10:15 ferry. This was a conscious decision on my part. They are not required, though they are recommended for busy times of the year. I had checked the website right up until Thursday evening when it still said there was plenty of available space left. I didn't want to be locked in to trying to get that ferry. I figured if I couldn't get going on time, if Josh was having a rough go of things, if border traffic was really bad, I didn't want to be faced with losing our reservation fee. So I aimed for 10:15 figuring if we didn't make that one, we could grab the 12:45 pm one instead. This way I'm not stressing out. I think I'm pretty smart.
6:45, then 7am came and went, and despite my efforts, we did not actually leave the house until 8am. I knew this was going to make it almost impossible to make the 10:15 am ferry, but, knew we could get the next one so I still wasn't worried. Just as we were leaving the neighborhood I realized that I'd forgotten to print out the directions to where we were headed. Wow, what?! I never do that... ok. Well, since the house is only about 2 minutes away I could turn around and run back to get them. But Josh was already in high-stress mode from taking longer than he decided was acceptable to actually leave the garage and had gotten out of his seat to attack his brother because of that, so, I decided not to aggravate him further and just kept going. It's ok. I've been up there before. I mostly know where we're going and really, there is only 1 highway that cuts across Vancouver Island so I shouldn't really have any trouble...
And so it began.
Josh settled down once it was clear that the car was moving and wasn't stopping any time soon. I wasn't going to worry about the ferry or the directions, everything was going to be fine.
Over the years with Josh because of his inability to communicate beyond very basic requests or scripting, I have learned signals from him that indicate certain things, for example, when he's in pain, when he's not feeling well, when he's tired, etc. In my rear view mirror I noticed that Josh was yawning. A lot. Which is not normal for him, even if he's been up all night, which he hadn't been. He was also coughing every now and then. Oh. Shit. No, no no no no no no no no.... I knew what it meant. I've seen it enough before to know what was about to happen. And happen it did. Josh threw up on himself about an hour and a half in to the drive. For whatever reason, repeated yawning and coughing is Josh-alert for "I'm going to throw up". SO, some luck was with us as he managed to do this just as I passed a sign for a rest area ahead. We stopped there and I cleaned him up (so THAT's what all those McD's napkins I have stored up in my arm rest are for! And thank goodness he hadn't had anything to eat since the night before, so it wasn't impossible). Given the time at this point there was no possible way of making that 10:15 ferry so I told Zach that we'd be getting the 12:45 one but that would mean a bit of a wait at the terminal. He wasn't thrilled, but I assured him all would be ok. I KNOW YOUR BROTHER JUST THREW UP BUT EVERYTHING IS FINE, I REFUSE TO FREAK OUT. It will all be fine. Trust me.
We head back out and Josh doesn't seem to be planning a repeat performance and actually seems in a good mood. Hmmm. Weird, random vomiting episode. Whatever. I have moved on. Focused on getting over the border and to the damned ferry. Funny thing about the border, though. When you have kids, and you travel alone with them (ie. the other parent is not with you) if you intend to cross a border they like you to have a letter - a notarized letter, stating that it is ok for you to be taking the children across said border and signed by the other parent. This is to help prevent kidnapping by parents in divorce cases. I had a letter. For years. Had it with me every time I took the boys up to visit my family. In all the years I've been doing this I have only been asked for it once. ONCE. The letter was long out of date. The addresses were not even correct any more. I figured that even if I was asked for it and gave them that one, they wouldn't accept it now. So I didn't bring it. They rarely ask anyway.
We get to the border. I ask Zach to pick which line we should get in and he tells me. It's a slower line. We seem to have an agent who is going to do his job well. The people in the van in front of us were questioned by him for about 7 minutes. Which is a long time. Then they were told to pull over. I started getting a bad feeling in my stomach. We had a VERY thorough agent. I pull up to the booth, hand him our passports. He asks the usual questions about where I'm going and why. Sees the boys' passports and starts asking about them. Then wants to know where their dad is. I tell him. He asks if I have a letter from him saying it's ok for me to be taking the kids across the border. Oh yes, he did. I feel my face flush. I play dumb. Tell him I didn't know I had to have one. I then receive a long lecture from border agent man about how it's not required by law, BUT.... and on and on about why they ask for it and why I should have it, all of which I knew, and now felt like an ass. Once he's finished with me, he says he needs to talk to the boys because it's the only way he can be satisfied I'm not doing anything wrong. I tell him he won't be able to talk to Josh, but Zach was more than capable. So I roll down the window and border agent man asks Zach if his dad knows where he is and if it's ok with him that he's here with me, etc. Why is it that despite the fact that I was not doing anything wrong, I felt guilty anyway??? Probably because I knew I should have had the damned letter with me.
He is satisfied with Zach's responses and lets us go. Aye. Ok. Now all I have to do is get us to the ferry. Well then there's the ferry ride and then more driving but ONE THING AT A FREAKING TIME, geez.
We get to the ferry terminal which is only about 20 minutes from the border. I pull up to Mr Ticket Booth Man. He cheerfully asks me where we'd like to go, I cheerfully tell him. He becomes less cheerful. Asks me if I have a reservation. Um, no, no I don't... (remembering that I chose not to make one, I now felt nauseous) Well, says Mr Ticket Booth Man, right now there is no way you will get to Nanaimo this afternoon, maybe later tonight, but probably not. I'm telling people to go to Schwartz Bay (Victoria) and then they can drive up from there if you really need to get over today. You can get on the 12pm ferry and it's shorter, all you have to do is drive back up to Nanaimo from there. OK. Zach is giving me shit because I didn't make a reservation. It's fine. We will take the ferry to Schwartz Bay, and we'll just have a bit longer drive once we get over there, IT'S FINE. Actually, it was starting to not be fine at all. But I didn't want Zach fussing at me the whole time. I had NO idea how to get from Schwartz Bay to Nanaimo and wasn't sure I could rely on there being enough in the way of signage to ensure I'd not get lost. I started making calls to members of my family to see if I could get some direction. My brother wasn't answering his cell. I didn't have my sister's number... wtf?! My mom wasn't home. I finally reached my dad. I tell him what's up and he gives me directions. Ok, I'm feeling better, this shouldn't be a big deal. We're STILL FINE. Really.
We get on the ferry and grab lunch in the cafeteria which meant fries for Josh - things are looking up! He's a happy boy. It's a nice ride over. We get off in Schwartz Bay and I follow my dad's directions. But the street that he had told me to look for that would take us to the highway to get back up to where we needed to be, wasn't anywhere to be found. We were heading further and further south - completely opposite to where we needed to be going. I started to panic. This street wasn't anywhere on my GPS map. At every stop light I toggled ahead as far as I could on the map to see if I could see it anywhere. By this point we were actually IN Victoria, bottom end of the island and SO not where we wanted to be. Beside myself now, I finally found our street on the GPS - waaaaaaaaay ahead still. Holy. Crap. Seriously? We have to drive almost 45 minutes in the WRONG direction to finally get to a point where we can turn around and head north?? Wtf. Cursing Victoria's clearly evil plot to force everyone to go there even if they don't want to, I had forgotten that Schwartz Bay is right at the tippy top of a long peninsula - with no other way to go but south when you get off that ferry. Sigh. Failing pretty hard all over the place I was, let me tell you. I was feeling pretty crummy too, I am usually far better at managing my travels.
So in a terrible mood now, in bumper to bumper traffic all the way up from Victoria to where should have arrived in Nanaimo, we still had a good 3 hours ahead of us. Josh had been asleep for a little but was now up and asking for fries. Ok. I'll find a McD's and stop, get gas too, and we'll be good till we get to the other side of the island. I see a sign with Golden Arches on it as well as a gas station symbol and pull off. Find the gas station, but where the hell is the MacDonald's?? Seriously, WHERE IS IT??? I can't find the damned thing. Oh wait, it's in the mall.... in. the. mall. No. I'm not parking at the mall, getting everyone out, and going in there to eat. Where the hell is a the drive-through? Not there. So we head out again, no fries for Josh. He's asking again. We will get them honey, next place we find them, I'll stop. We get up to Parksville which is where we need to turn on to the cross-island highway, and I head in to town to look for any sort of drive through that will produce fries. Nada. I see a sign for a MacDonalds but cannot find it for the life of me. So not only is Josh getting anxious because we're not getting fries, but we are wasting a lot of time looking for them when we've already been in the car a long time and still have hours to go.
No one is happy. I say screw it and head for the west coast. There MUST be somewhere to get fries along the way. Pass through small towns, nothing. We finally get to Port Alberni which is still a small town, but, bigger than the smaller towns we'd been through. It looks promising. I see pizza places, grocery stores, more pizza... ok, where're the fries people??? WHERE THE HELL ARE THE FRIES? At which point, I start an anti-Canadian, expletive ridden rant which had Zach face-palming in the back seat (remember, I AM Canadian...). Then, as if the universe finally decided enough was enough with its screwing with me that day, as I came to the top of a hill, there rising up as though by magic were the Golden Arches we so desperately needed. I hit the drive-through, and all was good in Josh-land again.
Until we were about 30 minutes away from our destination and he'd finally decided that 11 hours was pretty much all he was willing to tolerate in the car. He climbed out of his car seat belt and seat and started attacking poor Zach. Fabulous. The road through that part of the island is twisty and curvy and dangerous, with very few safe places to pull over to put a child back in his car seat. Zach works very hard to get the middle seat belt around his brother. I am now in full-on universe hating mode. My cell phone rings. It's my brother-in-law, wants to know if we're ok and how close we are. I tell him about 20 minutes out but things aren't good. He tells me to call them when we get to the front gate so that they can meet me. With Zach yelling at Josh and angry at me and Josh just angry at everything and me just wanting to cry, we manage to get to our destination. I call my brother-in-law and he and my sister are waiting for us at the front office, with a luggage cart. They unloaded my car, took everything to the condo the boys and I were in. Helped me check-in, put up with my barely able to speak mood and once they had us settled, poured me a large glass of wine and gave me a hug.
I love my family.
The boys were fine once we were out of the bloody car. Barrie (brother-in-law) even parked it for me after we had it un packed. He and my dad even picked things up at the store for me the next day so that I wouldn't have to get back in it again until it was time to go home.
Did I mention that I love my family?
They are the best. They took good care of us all weekend. Zach had a blast with his cousins, Josh loved playing in the sand and water, and I got to just hang out my family and even took a couple of naps, wtf?! The wine was good, the food was great, the company was the best.
And one of the first things I did after getting settled there on Friday night was get on the laptop and make a reservation on the ferry for Monday's trip home...