During Christmas break, Anne (his older sister) and I started talking about what we could do to celebrate Rapha's birthday. She lives about an hour and a half from Joel and I, and about three hours from Anne and Pierre. Since it was a bit far for us to go just for the evening, we decided to surprise her with a whole birthday week-end! I mean, a surprise week-end, with her favorite brother, sister and siblings-in-law!? What's not to love?!
The planning started. Joel changed around his work schedule. Pierre got the sled ready (in case of snow). I made cinnamon rolls and soup. And Anne took up communication with our newly formed allies: Rapha's roommate and close friend that live in her city. Their mission: making sure Rapha's week-end schedule stayed clear, communicating to her the week of that she was leaving on a surprise week-end getaway, and, helping her pack her bag. They went above and beyond. This was the "message in code" that they delivered to her, right on schedule! Sorry about the picture quality. Basically, it says that she is going away on a surprise week-end, and to not be afraid. :)
Anne found an amazing place for us to stay -- a restored barn, hidden up in the mountains in a tiny little village of about 40 people. It was just right for the 5 of us, and the owners were so sweet, even bringing us breakfast both mornings!
So anyway, back to how Rapha actually got to the village! On Friday of our week-end getaway, her roommates gave her a bus ticket, told her to get off at the final destination (which she saw was Lyon) and that someone would be there to take care of her. She had her doubts that it was her sneaky siblings, but wasn't convinced. Our allies had done a very good job of keeping things mysterious. She bravely got on the bus, and started her 1.5 hour trek to us.
Over in Lyon, Anne and I were beside ourselves with excitement about the weekend and meeting Rapha at the bus stop.
Wanting to keep the surprise for Rapha as long as we could, we asked a girl waiting at the bus station if she could help us out. "You see, it's our little sister's birthday, and we are trying to surprise her..." we explained excitedly to the girl. We asked her to simply walk up to Rapha, hand her the sign and leave. She agreed, though was a tad less enthusiastic than we would have liked. But we were not deterred. We started describing Rapha to her, when all of a sudden her bus pulled up. Anne and I dashed behind another bus stop to hide, all the while giggling and going "shhhhhh!" to each other. The poor girl just stood there, holding our sign. "There she is!!!!" we half whispered half screamed, as we saw Rapha get down from the bus. The girl walked up to Rapha, said, "are you Raphaelle?" and with an affirmative nod from Rapha, she was handed the sign, and the girl left. Haha. Anne and I couldn't keep it a surprise any longer and we jumped out yelling "SURPRISE!" It was a great moment.
We left to go pick Joel, who had been saving lives all day, and then started the scary drive up snowy, mountain roads to our place.
We had no idea that it was going to snow while we were there, but we were so thankful for such a beautiful added blessing (and for safety on the roads)!
Or, even before they got to the bottom!
Joel and Pierre tried a few "creative ways" of going down together.... which didn't always work out.
Anne was a much better partner for Pierre. :)
It was such a joy to be away for the week-end, especially with such wonderful people that I am blessed to call family!