"You're my baby sister! Yes, you are!"
Yesterday got off to a rough start and never got much better... until the end.
I can't remember the last time I didn't partake in Lent. Those 40 days are usually tough, but effective for my spiritual growth. I couldn't really get my head around it this year and was going to write it off. This morning I realized that my time IN country, not counting travel days, was exactly 40 days. Consider me tested. And grown.
I didn't sleep at all the night before. Niko was supposed to come at 2:45am. At 3:30am, I still hadn't heard from him.
Finally, my friend Kate called to say they would be there in 10 minutes. She had called and woken him up. We made it to the airport just an hour before our flight. He helped us getting our boarding passes and bags checked, put us on an elevator and wished us luck. We had no idea where to go. Figured it out, but I'm so glad we were together!
Security was fine. The lady at passport control tried to make things harder than they had to be, but we got through.
We had a 2 1/2 (?) hour flight to Frankfurt. I cried the entire time.
We were in Frankfurt for a couple of hours, giving the kids (and moms) some time to stretch out and burn some energy before the long flight ahead.
When we got on the plane, we were all separated (Kate had a friend there to help). Kind of by chance, they ended up moving the friend and Kate and her kids, and we all ended up together in one row with bulkhead seating (the greatest thing ever). Annie spent most of the flight in her bunk. I really wanted to get her out and hold her a few times, but she was happy so I left her.
When we started to take off and the screen showed the map of the plane and the little red dots leading to the U.S., I started sobbing. The flight attendant (who was AMAZING for us) looked at me so pitifully. I mouthed to her that I was excited!
Again, SO SO glad Kate and I were together.
The flight itself wasn't that bad. It's just that we had three kids who were exhausted and confused. They didn't know where they were, where they were going, or when it would be over. It was hard on us, of course it was hard on them.
We both cried off and on the whole flight. Or rather, I should say we ALL cried off and on the whole flight.
Not as much as we did when we landed in Chicago though!! By the end of this flight, I was covered in tears. And formula, orange juice, water, snot, spit up, and some Indian food from an aluminum tray.
I held my breath thru customs and immigration (while carrying the extraordinary packet that made EVERYTHING official). It was a breeze and suddenly, I was holding the cutest little American citizen!!
Chicago got a little complicated after that. Kate and I had to split ways quickly when she nearly missed her flight. I was still arguing with two different airlines over where my bags were being sent. I cried (again), just asked that they eventually send them to Nashville, gave up and headed to my gate. We waited two hours before finding out our flight was delayed and possibly cancelled. Guess what I did?
Initially, all the people standing around me thought I was nuts. Then they realized I was desperate and were trying to help in any way they could. At this point, we had been traveling for 24 hours. I hadn't slept in more than two days. Anna Gray was screaming. I was out of formula.
I just wanted to go home.
There were four flights and enough people to fill four flights standing around the gate. When they *finally* said they were boarding for Nashville, the crowd parted like the red sea to get me on that plane. Not exaggerating even a little bit.
Once on the plane, they moved me three times for various reasons. Annie and I were both in tears. DONE. Absolutely done.
Once we took off, AG passed out. Hard. It was 2am in Ukraine. Her eye looked TERRIBLE and was clearly bothering her. She was sleepy, hungry, probably sore. Poor baby :(
I was an absolute zombie. I didn't move. I didn't speak. I didn't cry. I just stared.
The flight attendant put a bottle of wine in my backpack.
I thought I would sob when we started our descent. I didn't. I was numb.
But when that plane hit the ground "I did it! We did it!!" just sort of erupted out of me.
Again, the other passengers got me off the plane and brought my bags to me. I loaded up... baby on the front. Backpack on the back. Carry-on rolling behind. Blanket dripping off the side. I couldn't even see where I was going.
Next thing I know, there's a beautiful brown blur coming at me screaming "Annie! Annie!".
I think I collapsed.
I thought I was all dried up by now, but I cried. HARD.
I really don't remember much after that.
Thankfully, there were cameras everywhere to catch it so I can see it later. We were surrounded by family and friends, all of whom felt every emotion we did throughout the entire process. I touched all of them, I think. I even hugged a stranger.
My father in law tracked down my suitcase, which made it to Nashville afterall. We eventually trickled out of the airport covered in flowers and gifts and happy tears.
I know it sounds dramatic, but I could barely get myself out of the car when we got home. I hadn't slept in 2 1/2 days and every bit of me ached. It really felt like I had just run a marathon.
We got in bed around 11pm. We crashed. All SIX of us.
I was in the shower by 4am for no particular reason. Anna Gray got up around 5:30. Her eye looks much better this morning after some rest and a warm washcloth. God bless my sweet husband who drove to Starbucks to get me a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Not long after he left for work, my big kids starting making their way out. I'd love it if he hadn't had to work today, but I'm really glad to get some alone time with them :)
They were so excited. Everything was so chaotic when we arrived last night, they hadn't really gotten a chance to just sit and take her in (or her, them).
Layla held her for a long time. She told me she would like to read the Bible to Anna Gray every night, starting with Genesis. "I want her to know where she really came from."
She can't wait to get to Luke, because it's her favorite.
When did my first baby get so big?!!?
Brynn was up next. As expected, she had AG (and me) laughing in no time! She is just "so way way way happy" to have her sister here. She thinks she's perfect and wants to teach her "everything I know... which is everything."
Cale got up and went strait to her. He rubbed her back and kissed her hand. I asked what he thought about having a baby here and he said, "It's kind of weird and kind of great." Not long after, it was "This is a rotten baby, put her in the bath!" So we did! A 5 minute bath took 20 minutes with all the extra hands. Everyone wanted a turn brushing her hair and they all worked together to decide what comfy outfit she would like to wear.
She's asleep now. Cale has checked on her four times so far. He just touches her gently and comes back out.
Anna Gray seems to be adjusting well in these first hours. Eating, sleeping, playing, smiling.
My big kids have so much to tell me and I am soaking up every bit of it! I can't believe they changed so much in (the) six (longest) weeks (ever).
My heart is so full.
Four amazing children. The husband God made for me. Family and friends I couldn't live without.
Nothing else really matters.
**Separate post coming with homecoming pics!**