Thursday, December 10, 2009

Travel adventures of a mom, a two-year-old, and a 3-month-old

Beth, Tim, and Katya arrived in Texas Wednesday evening. The only notable delay was a 2-hour wait in the airplane at the gate in Paris while they replaced a part on the airplane. But when you already have an 11-hour flight, what difference does it really make if it becomes 13 hours?

Back to the beginning of the trip. Beth here. Here are a few more details for those of you who like such things.

When trying to work through this thing with the insurance company, they originally wanted to evacuate us to Paris. With the help of our organization's home office, we lobbied to be sent to Texas where we have the support of family and friends, a place to stay, transportation, Katie's peditrician, etc. Had we been sent to Paris, Steve would have, without question, needed to travel with me. Since we were headed straight for Texas, however, I felt prepared for this crazy international voyage alone with two small children.

At first, we thought we might have to hop on a plane with three hours notice Monday evening. When they were trying to get us out on the "next possible flight," they asked at 7:00 Monday evening if we could be ready to leave on the midnight flight. So we had exactly three hours to pack and get ourselves ready to go. After about 45 minutes of scurrying around, throwing things in suitcases, they told us there was no room on the flight. So they put us on another midnight flight, but the following day, Tuesday. So we had a whole day to prepare.

Normally an infant ticket requires a paper ticket, but there was not time to turn that around. So upon arrival at the airport Tuesday night, we had to hassle with Air France for awhile to get Katie on the flight. Thankfully Steve was there, 'cause I spent that time changing an astonishingly dirty diaper that Tim had made me -- one that made me wonder if the 20 diapers I had packed for the trip were going to be enough. That whole process took so long that we barely made it on the flight. We were the only ones on the bus out to the plane. When we got to the plane, one of the airport personnel grabbed Tim and rushed him up the stairs, which were empty by that point because everyone else was already on the plane. The plus was that we didn't have to wait too long for take-off. :)

No bassinets were available, but the flight was not too full, so they kindly gave us our own row of four seats! After Tim fell asleep in my lap, I laid him across two of the seats to my left. Then after Katie nursed, I laid her sideways on the seat to my right.

I thanked God so many times during this trip that she's such a good eater. That little girl didn't miss a beat: every two to three hours, then she was calm! And am I ever thankful to be nursing! That trip would have been decidedly impossible had I had to shuffle bottles of formula...

Amazingly the children slept 3 hours or so, and I think I may have gotten an hour or two myself. We got off the plane in Paris around 6 am. We had gate-checked the stroller, telling them that we really needed it in Paris. It was nowhere to be seen, and upon further investigation we realized that European regulations don't allow retrieval of strollers during layovers. Thankfully we had a six-hour layover, so I, with my 3-month-old strapped to the front of me, fell in step with my two-year-old.
We mosied our way over to get our boarding passes for the next leg, get on the train for a terminal on the other side of the airport, and go through security again. That only took a little over two hours, so we still had plenty of time to spare. We had some tuna for breakfast (thank goodness two-year-olds don't know the difference) and played on the little playground in the terminal. There was another mom traveling alone with her two small children: two boys, ages one and three, so Tim even had a playmate!

We had a direct flight from Paris to DFW, which was a huge blessing! Usually we have to go through another city in the US before arriving at DFW. It made for a slightly longer flight: 11 hours instead of 9 or 10, but it was wonderful to not have to shuffle everybody yet one more time. As I mentioned earlier, we sat at the gate for two hours before taking off. Tim slept the whole two hours, which sounds great, but the problem is that he didn't sleep again until the last hour of the flight! We did have a bassinet on this flight, but the arm rests in the bulkhead row didn't fold up, so Tim didn't sleep as well trying to curl up in the bucket-type seat. He actually did great -- was so well behaved considering everything. When we first sat down, there was a lady next to us who kept giving us dirty looks and whispering to the flight attendant before disappearing to another part of the plane. It turns out that the guys that were getting drunk across the aisle from us made more ruckus than we did. I take that back: We had a major melt-down/grand finale at the end when the plane was landing where both children were screaming, but I think everyone understood. The rest of the flight I think Tim and Katie did great.

The flight attendants were so nice to us. They kept asking if they could help. I pushed the call button every time I had to go to the bathroom to change Tim's diaper, and they came and kept an eye on Katie (I just changed Katie's diapers in my lap since she's so little). One of the times, I put the flight attendant to work fishing out Tim's plastic airplane that he had dropped down slot where the tray folds up in the armrest. I told him the airplane is not as important as their being able to fold up their tray. He got it out without bending it too much and was a great sport about it.

I don't even remember what happened after we arrived except somehow we got ourselves to immigration. In Europe, they rush everyone with small chidren to the front of the line. Not so in the US. The lady who was herding everyone through the line started to talk to me, and I thought she might just be planning to let me go through. Instead, she said gruffly, "Ma'am, don't take the escalator after you finish here. There's an elevator to your right that you should use." Then when I got to the front of the line, she reminded me, "Remember what I said about the elevator!"

I miraculously had enough hands for everything up to this point, but I had a little harder time after I retrieved our luggage. I put the large suitcase on a luggage cart and Tim in the stroller. Katie was still hanging on my front. I distributed the carryons between the stroller and the luggage cart, then couldn't quite figure out how to push both at the same time. One woman at the baggage info desk convinced me that she was going outside anyway, so she didn't mind helping, so she pushed the luggage to the customs desk. From the customs desk, one of the officials pushed it the 50 steps or so out the door where the transportation service guy was standing with a sign with our name on it. We were home-free! He took us home to 2109 where we got a wonderful welcome from my sweet family.


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