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!|
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!)|
|Charis was such a help with the little boys!|
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 painful...as 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!