August 19, 2012

Goodbye, USA!

August 15, 2012

Our long day o' travel began bright and early after a rough night of sleep.  Zaden even woke up earlier than usual, at 5:30 a.m.  The other kids were still sound asleep, so Ted took Zaden to get breakfast, then came back to finish packing and let Zaden get a nap while I took the other 5 kiddos to fill our bellies.  The hotel shuttle was ready for us before 9:30, and we loaded all our stuff up and made the quick trip to the St. Louis airport.

Here we are with all our bags!  Not bad for 8 people!
We managed to get all of our bags inside to check in without too much drama.  Total items checked:  10--four suitcases, 2 duffle bags, 3 booster seats, and 1 car seat.  Praise the Lord, we were able to check our items all the way to Naples!  We had plenty of time to get through security and find our gate, where we made some last phone calls and had a pizza lunch before boarding.

The first flight went quite smoothly.  Zaden was starting to get a little overstimulated, as he was awakened at 9:30 a.m. from a sound sleep and this flight didn't begin until 1 p.m.  But he managed to stay pretty happy during the 1.5 hour flight, thankfully.

Zaden, Kenna, and Lucan's first flight!  (Oh, and "Doof Dog's" first flight, too, LOL!)
We took our time getting off in Atlanta, since we were at the very back of the aircraft and had plenty of time to get to our gate for the international flight.  We even rode a little train to get to the next concourse, which made Lucan exclaim quite a bit!  It wasn't terribly long before we boarded; we passed the time in the airport by letting Lucan walk to the windows to watch planes taking off.  Our seats were in the middle of the aircraft, so we had two rows of 4 seats, one in front of the other.  It worked out very well.  I sat in the back of our two rows, with Zaden beside me, then Charis, then Lucan.  Ted sat in front of Lucan, knowing that he would be prone to kick the seat in front of him and figuring it would be better if he kicked someone he knew rather than someone he didn't!  Kenna sat next to Ted, and then Tobin and Arden.

Charis was such a help with the little boys!
Unfortunately, we experienced a lot of turbulence at the beginning of the flight, which meant that our dinner serving time was delayed.  We didn't get food until close to 8:30 p.m., and by that time we had mowed our way through the limited snack supply I had available.  But hey...the airline was Air France, and they DO know how to do food!  It was worth the wait!

Zaden was quite a little trooper.  I thought that, being close to bedtime with no nap since early morning, he would be ready for dinner, nursing, and SLEEPING.  Nothing could have been further from the truth!  Two sisters sat across the aisle from me, and they were utterly charmed by our little guy and his big, bright eyes!  They were obviously from Atlanta, with their sweet southern accents, and they had a ball watching and exclaiming over everything Zaden did.  It was obvious that he was so, so tired, but he just couldn't give in and get to sleep until at least halfway through our 8-hour flight.  Thankfully, he wasn't terribly loud when he was fussing.  Meanwhile, the older kids enjoyed watching movies on demand (I was thankful they had decent ones to choose from!), and I managed to get through the 2-hour movie Hugo in about 3.5 hours with all the interruptions.  FINALLY most of us fell asleep for at least a couple of hours...

...and at least one of us fell asleep for the rest of the flight!

As we approached Paris, we received breakfast (not nearly as good as dinner, but it would have to suffice) and prepared for our next stop, which was going to be a bit of a squeeze for time.  My Atlanta friends held Zaden for a little while and just swooned over the opportunity to cuddle him.  I think he liked having his own little fan club!  I changed him out of his pajamas and into a clean onesie, which was good--the airport in Paris was HOT, and we had to hoof it!

We had a system for maneuvering around the airport:  either Ted or I would lead the pack, and the other would bring up the rear, with all the walking children in between.  I pushed Zaden in an umbrella stroller and carried my backpack (a.k.a. the diaper bag) and large purse.  Ted carried his ginormous backpack and my laptop case.  The older 3 kids had various carry on bags, and Kenna and Lucan each had a rolling backpack that they could pull along behind them.  Lucan took his job very seriously--he gripped Doof Dog in one hand and his rolling bag in the other, and he would NOT let anyone help him with his bag!  The little trooper marched all over the airport, happily catching up to Mom or Dad, whoever was in front at the time, and looking everywhere but right in front of him...sigh!  Thankfully we had lots of older kids to help herd him in the right direction!

We had to go through customs and security all over again, and then we finally made it to our gate with just enough time to zip into the bathrooms and freshen up a bit.  Once more we herded everyone onto the plane, a much smaller aircraft this time, but not super full.  Up to this point everything had gone about as smoothly as possible.  But...and yes, there is a but!...the captain came out several times to make announcements in French and then in English, the gist of which was that there were some mechanical issues that were causing delays.  Thankfully, we did not have to switch to another aircraft (which was mentioned as a possibility at one point), and the issues were resolved, so finally, after two hours of sitting on the ground, we departed.

Once we were in the air and had our snacks, 7 of us promptly fell asleep.  Charis alone was awake to see the wonder of the tops of the Alps peeking through the clouds!  I awoke as we were beginning our descent into Naples and was delighted to find the area rather mountainous.  (Not mountainous as in Rocky Mountain National Park, but definitely more than rolling hills!)  We could see Mt. Vesuvius as we made the final descent--so exciting!

We managed to convince Lucan to allow a flight attendant to help him with his bag down the stairs--this was his first time exiting an airplane directly down to the flight line.  He was groggy and grumpy (as were a number of the rest of us, to be honest!), but we finally got him and everyone else going in the right direction.  Our baggage was ready for us to pluck off the conveyor belt almost immediately--thank the Lord that went so smoothly!  As we had no Euros for the push carts, Ted belted all 4 of our suitcases together, piled the duffle bags and a few miscellaneous items on top, and rolled the whole kit and caboodle out the door to where we immediately found our sponsor, Ted's boss, and another co-worker.  Three vehicles were ready and waiting to whisk us to the Naval Support Center, where our temporary living facilities are located.

The whole traveling experience couldn't have gone more smoothly!  Even the two-hour delay in Paris could have been so much more it was, the kids were tired enough that they were just kind of dazed through it all, and Lucan and Zaden stayed more or less content with little activities here and there.

Traveling overseas with children is much different than without!  I think I made it through 2 or 3 magazine articles, plus watched one movie.  Other than that, I was feeding a child, cleaning up after a child, or trying to entertain a child most of my waking hours!  But I am not complaining...I am SO thankful for God's graciousness in allowing the children to be so good-spirited.  We tried preparing them for the experience as much as possible, and for the most part, I think they adapted very well to everything that happened.  They listened and responded very well in the airport as well as in the airplanes, and we give glory to God for His mercy and the numerous compliments we received on how well behaved they were.  (One flight attendant told us that our six children were better behaved than many single children on flights with both parents!)  We can't take credit for this...other than the fact that we covered this whole trip with much prayer, and we're thankful for the many folks who prayed us along our journey as well.

Next report:  First impressions of Naples!


Sarah said...

Oh yes, international travel with a gang of kids! Not something I wish to do again any time soon, but I'm like you, seeing the blessing in how smooth everything went considering the distance and sheer number of people! Glad you're there safely and can't wait to see more!

Charlane Rack said...

What a special blessing to read of your traveling adventures and to know that things went so well. Amazing that you've had time to write these interesting details with jet lag and all that must be going on with a big family adjusting to life in Italy. Will be praying for you and be looking forward to hearing from you again!!

Krista said...

Oh, what a trip! And isn't it so crazy that you've just been on an international flight, but in Paris you have to go outside to another part of the airport and then go through check in and security all over??? We did it the other way, being inside the Eurozone and then coming home, but still, we'd already been flying so you'd think we were safe! ;)
And I can definitely see the difference taking care of many kids... on that flight I mentioned above I only had one child... I'm sure I wouldn't get to do much with 4 now! But maybe they'd entertain each other better, Cory was so bored for our 24 hours of travel. It would have been worse if Grandma and Grandpa weren't with us!