Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Coming Home!!

7/7/12 - The travel home, on my birthday nonetheless.
Slept ok - stomach not doing the best, but trying to pop the medicine (Cypro and Imodium) to hopefully take care of it. Woke up at 4:45 or so and took a shower and packed up as much as I could. then woke Wedly up and we had some breakfast. Wedly had the rest of the corn flakes, toast and a banana - I just stuck with a banana and couple pieces of toast. All packed up and the crew came over to say goodbyes to Wedly. Chante, Mateja, Adam, Carla, Sheila, and Nikki. He spent a few minutes with each - then we packed our stuff to the truck with Nick and headed out. A minute or two into the ride Nick suggested that I count the number of times that he said "Airplane" - I started, and 7-8 minutes later he was up to 33. I didn't make it any further, figuring would make for a long day.
We arrived at the airport and went to check in, only to realize that I didn't have my ticket. We thought it was with the one that Nick had but must have been with the one that was used for my baggage claim. They are a bit antiquated and have to have the paper ticket - so in the end they let me buy another one. $120, but worth not starting everything out on the wrong foot. So we got our bags checked - Nick made sure they put them on the manifest so they would make the flight for sure since if they didn't, there isn't a good way to get them home (once they are stuck in Port Au Prince). A few minutes later we were boarding the airplane, with a few Haitians and a group of 10 or so from a mission trip. Many of the kids from the mission trip were eying Wedly for sure and saying how cute he was. 

The plane ride went well, broke out one of the snacks Sarah sent for eating on takeoff and landing (keep his ears cleared). Wedly did great and things went smoothly. When we got off, one of the airport guys grabbed my luggage stubs from me, I later realized this meant he was going to carry them out for me and thus a tip. It's all good. Ivange (sp?) met us in the airport - didn't see him at first, but then he came up. He had all our paper work which was another piece to the puzzle. We headed out to the taxi (Isuzu Trooper, which had something I'd not seen in a taxi - working air conditioning). Wedly was a bit on edge when I placed him in the taxi - he definitely wants the comfort of holding my hand or preferably me holding him while things are new and/or crazy - or he thinks potentially that I was going to be separated from him. Not sure. So either way transitions to vehicles can be challenging. If I go first he worries, if he goes first he worries. It got better. Made the short trip over to the other airport, I passed off some other paperwork I was transporting to Ivange, and we headed into the airport.
This was potentially one of the harder (though short) portions. I was managing 2 big roller bags, 2 backpacks, Wedly's backpack, and Wedly wouldn't let me put him down. Thankfully was able to go right into the first class aisle and there was no line. So was able to get the 2 bags checked pretty quickly and that made things more manageable. Though it was long enough to work up a nice sweat.
We stopped in the restroom next before going through customs. Possibly Wedly's first exposure to urinals... "Don't touch!". He figures stuff out very quickly. We went through customs and Security, and then another security before getting to the American Airlines waiting area. Plenty of people (especially missionary trippers) ogling at Wedly and several that took our pictures for us. Perks of having business class tickets made quick work of boarding. Wedly got the window seat and the words "Airplane" and "Truck" were flying. I figured out that the jerky that I had was a better snack for takeoffs and landings because I could give him very small pieces and he had to chew them quite a bit which is good for ear clearing. We never had any trouble with his ears (or at least that I could tell). 


Breakfast was Omelet with potatoes and a bagel. Wedly cleaned his up so I started to anticipate the diaper fun ahead...

Wedly was super good in general - sometimes he would get a little worked up over things that I needed him to do but that wasn't his preference (like getting off my lap to put his seatbelt on) and he often wanted a snack. But for the most part was excellent. I'd say a 9 out of 10 on the good traveler scale. I think the people around were amazed. Especially the ones that I told this was his first day in the United States. One gentlemen came up to us at our seats and chatted for a few minutes - his name was Mark and he had previously adopted three Haitians - he was in Port Au Prince helping with some other adoptions of some friends I think. He asked how long it took for us and seemed very encouraged when I told him 15 months after the referral was made. He said he'd be praying for us.
When we landed in Ft Lauderdale, because we were fortunate enough to be in Business class we were first off the plane and were the first in line for immigration. A very nice gentleman walked us over to a separate waiting room for the additional work we needed for processing our paper work (I had a full packet of paperwork that I provided to them). There was only one other lady waiting in the room. The man at the desk worked out Wedly's info shortly thereafter and I think all we ended up needing to do was give him an updated address. He gave us back and passports and said we were done, that we'd be mailed documents (Wedly's US citizenship docs I think) in a few weeks. So we headed out the door and on our way, what was warned to be up to 5 hours took 15min (at most).
We headed out the door and started the trek to customs. Mark was just getting up to the immigration line and waved and asked how it went, I said we were good to go. He was super happy for us. We went and collected our baggage, which only took a few minutes as well and breezed through customs. As we were heading to re-check our bags, Mark caught up with us and we chatted further. He said that he had called his wife when they landed and asked her to round up some people to pray for us as we went into Immigration. Their experience in bringing their 3 out of Haiti and then into Immigration had been a significant proceeding (theirs somehow was initially a student visa, so things were different). We chatted with Mark as we dropped off our checked bags and took a shuttle to the other terminal - he shared about his 3 kids and their story. We arrived at the terminal and went through security and walked to the gate together (we were both on the same plane heading to Dallas Fort Worth next).
At the gate Mark watched our bags while we took a rest room break, then after a bit he went to get something to eat and was on the phone with his family. Wedly played with some of his toys (cars this time I think, and his plastic animals). This nice lady next to us pulled out a yellow balloon and gave it to us. I blew it up and we played catch. A number of times he hit it over to others around, everyone was very accommodating and joined in the fun. Wedly spent a few minutes doing some circles around the line guides (poles with straps between them). When it was time to board, we were on economy for this leg so didn't board first. Mark boarded earlier because he has frequent flier status from his work - he said he'd put his backpack in the overhead to make sure that we had a space for our larger backpack. Super nice guy. Wedly started to get antsy a bit as we had to wait our turn to get on - he didn't understand and was ready to get on the plane! Finally it was close enough so we went and they let us on.



 
Our tickets were an isle and middle, but so far Wedly had only known window seats - we arrived at our row and Wedly went straight to the window. Just then a young lady in her late twenties came to claim the window seat. She then offered to take the isle so Wedly could have the window - probably was in her best interest vs. having him be next to her and peering over the window. We'd find out more later that her name was Laura, she was coming from Haiti as well (Jeremy), worked for Water.org managing water projects in Haiti, and had taken this route a number of times to Kansas City.
The flight went well, until we started circling Dallas. There were severe thunder cells over the airport and it was effectively closed with flights getting diverted to all sorts of different airports. We circled for 1/2hour or more and then ended up taking 1/2hr trip to another Texas airport in Abilene. We landed - it was in the middle of nowhere and was a very small airport. There were 6-7 American Airline planes just parked around waiting. We sat for several hours amidst some somewhat cantankerous travelers, who were trying to figure out what this meant for their connections of evening plans. It wasn't a perfect world on either side - some passengers just didn't get that the flight attendants couldn't do anything about the weather or what they were forced to do and that they couldn't re-plan people's travel from the plane. On the other hand, they weren't very accommodating or friendly either. It was somewhat of a bummer that this was the leg that we didn't have first class though, since we ended up being on the plane for so long and it appeared that they continued to serve refreshments to 1st class where they didn't have enough to serve the economy cabin.
Time became a bit of a blur here, but we sat for a couple hours and then they moved us to a gate where it seemed a couple people got off and they refueled the plane at this point as well. The irritated passengers got worse every time they would move the plane, because they would be told to sit down and we had to do the whole seat belt and tray table thing, even though the plane was just going to roll a little. Wedly again did remarkably well, we went from toy to toy. We used my phone to video Skype with Sarah for a while, so that passed some time. It was some good additional prep time for Wedly to get introduced to Sarah and Gabriel. He kept saying "Hi Mommy", and "There's mommy". So that was fun, but after a bit we had trouble keeping the connection - so I just called back on the cell phone for more. When I hung up, Wedly would say "Mommy Alle?" which means Mommy left.
After re-fueling we took off and headed for Dallas, landed only to find that we'd be on the tarmac for at least an hour since there were 119 airplanes down looking for a gate. They did finally bring by some additional water and granola bars (which was right up Wedly's alley). When we finally arrived, I think it was 11:15 or so - we were originally supposed to arrive at 5pm - so we spent an additional 6 hours on that flight (vs. the original 2.5hour it was supposed to be). In hind sight, it is amazing that it went as fast as it did and that Wedly didn't fall apart at all. I mean at all - he was consistent through the whole thing, occasionally at little agitated and worked up if he wanted a snack and I wasn't forthcoming fast enough, but otherwise great. Though I was just a little concerned with the people around us, that they would be overly tired at hearing "airplane" or "truck" exclaimed - throughout and as we were leaving heard others around commenting to each other and to me about how amazing his behavior was. It was probably better than the lady in front of me who kept giving the flight attendant a bad time about the diversion from the weather and how she was supposed to figure out her flights!
When we landed, there was Mark - looking to help us try to make a connecting flight. Per direction of the agent we needed to go to another terminal. Mark carried 2 of our bags, I carried another and Wedly and we ran. When we got there - we had missed that one. We looked for an agent, then since I was first class tried to go to the "Admiral club" - we came across a door open for it with people exiting and another man and wife going in. Turned out it was the exit as they were closed. As we went up the elevator and arrived at the desks, the lady there indicated that they were closed and we shouldn't have come up that way. The other man (who I'd already seen making a scene elsewhere) took his stand and said he wasn't going anywhere, that they'd have to call the police. We weren't interested in that so we made an about face and went elsewhere. Not a good idea making a scene in an airport, police will haul you out. And this guy was ridiculous, like it was American's fault the airport was closed.
I went out and jumped on a phone for rebooking. After getting off hold, the lady said there was another flight that she could get me on, but we might not make it. We ran!!! too late... :-( Got in the ticket line and waited for a bit - nice lady started looking for options. Initial response was that everything to Portland was sold out for the next day. Wonderful. In the conversation they commented how well behaved Wedly was, i then threw in it was his first day in the States which added to the awe (and I think the compassion and help). Next the lady said she found a flight to Seattle and then Portland on Sunday, arriving at 2pm, not first class. But then a second later, said that it was gone. We went to the restroom, came back and she was still looking. She found one through LA to get us into Portland at 12:30 - with 1st class to LA, coach to PDX. I said that would work and she said she would keep working on it while we went to grab some food at McDonalds (before it closed). So we went and grabbed a chicken nuggets happy meal (our first Happy meal - wonderful...) and a burger. The coke was good (I must have been very thirsty and didn't realize it), but the rest was kind of blah. Felt bad for Wedly's digestive system - he preferred my burger, though enjoyed the fries and picked right up on dipping them in the BBQ sauce. He ate some of the nuggets. We didn't finish the fries, we seemed on deep fry overload. As we finished, the ticket lady came and found us and gave us our tickets. Then she was nice enough to go off and see if she could find cots for us. She came back shortly and said the cots were out, but provided a couple of blankets.
We went and staked out a sleeping spot - Wedly, in a daze working to stay awake was watching Airplanes and Trucks out the window. I laid down and asked if he wanted to come lay down with me. I laid down, stretched out my arms and he came over, sprawled on top of me, and was asleep in less than 1 minute. 



Right afterward I noticed an ugly diaper smell, but had pictures of waking him up to change it and him being in a half awake fit - so opted to wait it out. After a bit, rolled him off me and I joined him in sleep. I got 3+ hours of sleep before waking and then debating whether to wake him to change him (wasn't smelling good) - but I also only had a few diapers and needed to be able to make it home. Eventually woke him up and we went and changed a monster diaper. At this point very very glad that I had thrown in an extra set of clothes in our carry on (for both of us) - because those shorts didn't smell good at all. We had a snack and packed up - at first he balked at coming with me. Another time where for some reason he thought he knew where we needed to go (to the airplane in front of us) and thought I was taking him elsewhere. But after not too much persuading he consented. We had plenty of time, so leisurely made our way to the gate where I was able to have the lady change our seats so we could sit together.
We boarded the flight and had some orange juice. Wedly played with his cars more - driving them all over the seats and daddy. Breakfast came - Wedly had crispix, a bagel, banana, blueberries, strawberry. I don't think he was feeling perfect and wasn't sure about the food. He wouldn't eat the cereal - went right to the familiar banana, ate the strawberry, and munched on about half the bagel. I guess he doesn't eat any food none withstanding. He does have limits! After breakfast he asked to get on my lap. He fell right asleep and slept the rest of the 1.5 hours of the flight. As we were landing, I put him back in his seat w/ seat belt and he remained asleep sitting up.

We deplaned and our next gate was just a few down - we took advantage of the nice family restroom for another diaper change - just one left now. Even though we didn't have first class for this leg - turned out that we were in the next best - row6 right behind first class. lots of leg room. Next to us was a flight attendant traveling who then took an upgrade to first class so we had the whole row - this was probably the best thing for her since Wedly had developed a serious case of gas (and they were the silent smelly kind) - o my. Lots of toy playing and reading the flight magazine a couple times. Always the worry that this guy was eventually going to break down, but someone was giving him a little extra today I think. 3/4 of the way through as Wedly was sitting on my lap I realized I was getting wet. Doh!!! was leaking through, dang. We had done so well. We made our way to the back of the plane and changed. I took the old shorts as a backup - but decided that the slightly wet shorts were way better than those smelly things - uggh. Hopefully this last diaper would get us through the rest of the way.
We landed and were finally in PDX!!!! However - we had to kill a little time and/or get ahold of someone to make sure everyone was at the arrival party before we crashed it. So we looked at airplanes and trucks for a little while till I got ahold of Dad. 



Sounded like it was time, so I told Wedly it was time to go see Mommy - had been working to prepare him for this most of the last couple days. However - we had the last time where he thought he knew better. He balked at coming for a few minutes, then abruptly decided I must be right. He had his backpack on and was willing to walk!!!! I was really hoping he would come in that way. We were not far from the security blockade where our friends and family would be waiting to greet us. I hadn't rounded the corner yet and tears started coming to my eyes - oh great, looks like I wasn't going to make it.
We came around the corner and I couldn't look long because of the increasing tears - but there was a throng of family and friends with a Welcome home sign for Wedly!! It was an awesome reunion to mommy and Gabriel with a chance for Wedly to meet most of his cousins and aunts and uncles and both sets of Grandparents as well as some close friends who had been walking with us through the long process. 







After some time for introductions, "Hello's", and pictures we went down to see if our bags had been stashed for us. Found them quickly and Rick & family walked us to our car helping us with our bags. Just before we left Zach and Carrie were able to make it (they couldn't make the arrival time) - so we were able to say hi to them and Brielle and Elli as well before we embarked on the last leg of our journey. We were unsure how the drive would go (everything is unknown at this point!). Would he even get in the car seat? The answer - Yes, no problemo. The way home was mostly subdued observation, with occasional strings of "truck!" or "car!".


We arrived at the house and Wedly seemed to pick up very quickly that this was home - funniest thing was right as we entered in the door, Wedly saw the shoes and said "shoes off!" and took off his shoes and put in the pile. Then a peek in the utility bathroom and into the kitchen and dining room. Everything stopped for the swing and a first ride. we showed him his room, the toy box which he played with for a little bit. We put Gabe in the bath hoping to entice Wedly as well as to clean up a blow-out diaper, but he wasn't interested. Rather than force it, I took a shower and then was able to coerce him to shower as well - we both needed it! After shower it was straight to a nice long nap (after reading 3 books).
After the long nap, we played quite a bit with a cool dump truck he loved (Thanks Dan and Kristina I think?) and played chase upstairs. Then dinner, short walk up our driveway and in the "backyard" as he knows it from our picture book - down to the bottom of the property to water our recently planted tree. When we finally got back into bed in the late evening, Wedly was a little resistant to laying down, but more was in his half asleep / fidgety mode - Sarah pulled him in and he melted into her arms - was asleep in just a couple minutes.
Now the adventure of parenting begins...

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