Thursday, July 21, 2016

O Canada!

On July 1, which happens to be Canada Day, we headed off to Canada for our first international trip as a large family (only missing Micah). My mom said she tells people I'm so far north that I practically live in Canada anyway, so I guess this trip is not big news. We were gone for 10 12 days, so I won't be able to tackle this all in one shot.

Genna is not a good traveler. She doesn't like her car seat and will cry persistently. Up to this point, we hadn't really had to endure her screaming for more than short trips. She proved her endurance on our journey, which was not less than 7.5 hours of straight driving (which we did not manage to do). During one rest stop I flipped her car seat around forward facing, hoping that the change of scenery would improve her mood. As you can see, it did not...

Being forward-facing also made it harder to sleep upright in the carseat. Everyone else seemed to do ok. We have more kids than we have electronic devices (believe it or not!), so there were a few squabbles (naturally), but they did ok for the most part. I have more big kids than I have ever had before on a road trip and that definitely helped. This trip was significantly shorter than the trip we made out to Virginia with Patrick and the trip we made out to Colorado and Yellowstone with Kathi. I was left wondering how in the world my younger self managed those trips. Oh I know--I didn't have Genna. ;) Sorry, cutie. At least she fell asleep for a few minutes...

We reached this point where we thought we had passed the last outpost in the US and we would be crossing the Canadian border imminently. Then we didn't. And we still didn't. Miles and miles of flat land with minimal tree lines rolled by. Then finally, it came. I was a bit nervous at the crossing. The border agent asked us to pull to the side and he said someone would help us. We pulled over and waited and waited and no one came. Finally Mitch decided to go inside to see if we had heard correctly. A few minutes later he came out and said that they wanted to see his wife also. I asked if they wanted to see all the kids and he said no. Where's the fun in that? I think they should have had all of us piling in there! At any rate, Miss Crabby Pants wouldn't be left in her carseat, so she got a "get out of jail free" card. We were on our best behavior during our interview with the border agent, but we did share some chuckles as we got on our way. Some of the questions he asked us:
"How do you know these people?" (meaning the ones in the van)
What Mitch wanted to say: I made them.
"How do you know these people?" (The Canadians you are going to visit)
What we said: We met them online.
We could have said oh so much more...
We're sounding real responsible here.
"How much cash are you bringing with you?"
Followed by: "How much cash do you have access to?"
"We just want to make sure you can provide for yourself in case of an emergency." (Canadian nice...I obviously should have asked him for money, right? Haha...just kidding. Don't do that. Getting denied entry into a country is a serious problem.)
 "Do these people have room for all of you to stay with them?"
What Mitch wanted to say: I sure hope so!
What I wanted to say: Is that a question on your screen or are you going to ask me one of the other large family questions next? (Do you know what causes that? Do you have your own reality show? I don't know how you do it!)

Joking aside, I did feel a little like I had just taken a scolding from the border agent. And when I get to the end of our trip...well, if you already know that part from Facebook, then I can't help but feel his money questions were foreshadowing. On a funny (or not) note, I activated two credit cards to use in Canada in case of an emergency. I forgot one of them at home, and no one in Canada accepted the other one (despite their website claiming the opposite). I failed to tell our bank that we were traveling out of country, so when I used my debit card, it triggered fraud protection (naturally). Thankfully after telling them the names and birthdays of all 10 of our children (not really, but almost) we were able to prove our identities over the phone and had access to our cash. Lesson learned. And I'm thankful that our end-of-the-trip troubles didn't happen until we were back on US soil.

So after a long journey, we finally landed somewhere in Winnipeg. Cam and Wes picked out this really nice park in the city. It was buzzing with activity in celebration of Canada Day. We met up with Wes, whom we hadn't seen since Easter 2015, and met his new baby. Then the big guy, Cam, showed up! It was so fun to meet Cam on his side of the border. We met so many of Cam's attendants over the week, and that was really fun. We started off the trip with Emilio, whom we had met this past spring. Emilio loves playing with our kids and he's a great cook too! I never got to blog about their spring trip, but we were spoiled rotten when Emilio cooked for us. Maybe I will dig up those pictures, because what we did to get Cam into our house was EPIC. Anyway, that was then and this is July.

We had lunch in the park and the kids climbed all over the play area. They got some of their wiggles out before we got back on the road.

After this, we didn't really know where we were going. We just hopped in our van and followed Cam as he led us deeper into Manitoba. But not seriously deep. We were still in the populated area (which, contrary to rumors, is more than 10 miles from the border). We stopped in a town that boasts the best rural fireworks in all of Manitoba and set out blankets and chairs to hold our spot. Then we drove to the cabin where Cam's parents live (and where they were hosting our tribe for the week). They not only made room for us, they went above and beyond to make us feel at home for the week. I was humbled to receive the gift of their space. At this point I had been awake since 3 am. Genna was so "done" with the carseat. Mercy was pretty tired too. I opted to stay home and put the girls to bed, and Zeke hung out at home with me too. I was bummed to miss the fireworks, which were pretty great according to everyone else. But I did get to snap a picture of this serene sunset...and that was almost as great...

Ok, so that wraps up day one. I won't write a blog post for each day, but I will end this one here and come back for more later. :)

P.S. I love Minnesota summers because the sun rises early and sets very, very late. By driving north into Manitoba, we gained another half-hour of sunlight. Wow, that was fun! I wouldn't like having to pay it back in December/January, but it was really nice in July!

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