Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Homeward Bound: Part 1

I don't know how we got here, but there are now six occupied seats at the dinner table....breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Each morning when I wake up there are still four children calling me Mommy and that includes my almost 11 year old son who also occasionally calls me "Sweetie."

Four children under one roof means we made it home.  That whole "getting home" thing quite possibly could have been what has challenged me the most on this journey so far...in all 10 months of it!  Never in my life have I experienced such a comedy of errors.  Everything started well.  Got some sleep before leaving the apartment at 3:00am to head to Borispyl airport outside Kyiv.

The kids told me they did not need to sleep the night before we left.  This is what it looks like not to sleep.
We immediately headed to the "bag wrap" station to ensure no one would accidentally sample the chocolate we brought home.  With bags wrapped we stood in "line" to get check said bags and received boarding passes for our 3 flights home.  Line is really a relative term in Ukraine so the mama bear in me ensured that the 5 Ukrainian not-so-gentleman assumed their place behind us rather than in front.  Apparently they thought the line worked in reverse.

With cellophane wrapped bags checked, we headed to security.  I chose the line with the mostly friendly looking young man thinking that perhaps he would be kindest to us.  Thankfully I was correct and he laughed when he realized the kids understood each word he spoke, whereas I on the other hand waited until he finished his spiel to utter just one word, "Onleeskooyu" ("English").  I actually do know how to speak in a complete sentence to say that I do not speak Ukrainian, but in those awkward moments I'm usually not interested in waiting the 10 seconds to sound like I know what I'm talking about!

We proceeded through to Customs.  I handed over our passports, one American and two Ukrainian, to the military uniform clad man sitting behind the window of Booth #8.  Passports weren't enough for him, however, so he asked for supporting documents.  Thanks to a wonderful friend, I was prepared in the event that this might happen so I handed over the kids' new birth certificates, the court decree and the power of attorney which granted me permission to leave the country with the kids but not Adam.

The man disappeared into a back office for what was probably just 20 minutes, but seemed much longer.  We stood and stood and stood at the booth until finally they seated us in chairs nearer the back office.  There we continued to wait.  It's a bit of an unsettling feeling to hand over all critical documents as I did to a strange man who takes them into an office and does who knows what with them.  You kind of just sit and pray that even if they don't let you through Customs at least they return the documents to you.  So, I breathed a sigh of relief when our Customs man returned with our documents AND allowed us to pass through to our gate.

There wasn't a lot of time to wait at the gate before we boarded Lufthansa flight 1493 bound for Frankfurt.  The kids were excited at this point, but also knew we had 3 flights ahead of us and it would be a long time before we actually arrived home.

All smiles!

One last look at his home country.
Just over two hours later, we arrived in Frankfurt with a five hour layover ahead of us before our next flight to America!  Those five hours were mostly fun and games...

...and McDonald's...
...and naps...
...and Minion Rush...
...and watching large aircraft.
We even got to board an airplane at the end of the five hour layover.

We thought we were headed to America.
It was the deboarding 45 minutes later that stirred everything up.  There we sat, a mom who was beyond eager to get home by this time with two children whose hearts were America-bound, dying to cross that great ocean.  Happiness and excitement all around.  Until the pilot got on the loudspeaker to announce that we would be delayed at least an hour getting out of Frankfurt because of a faulty emergency light.  We would get to sit an extra hour on the aircraft...while on the ground.  Good times, especially when you have to explain to two non-English speaking children what's going on.

Explanations were made and while the kids were disappointed, their hearts were still set on happy.  Then the captain made a second announcement.  Of course, when it's an international flight on a German airline the first announcement is not in English.  I didn't even need to hear the English version to know that it was bad news.  I had the faces of the German speaking folks next to me to quickly understand that I probably didn't even want to hear the English announcement.  But it came anyway..."Folks, unfortunately we will need to ask you to leave this aircraft.  The mechanical issue is bigger than what we initially thought and cannot be fixed in an hour.  We will wait for a new aircraft to arrive."

Discouraged.  Now, I have to figure out how I'm going to explain this one to the kids.  "Well kids, this was just a test run to see what you thought of your seats...just to give you a little sample of what the 10 hour flight will feel like...eventually."  Faces definitely dropped this time around, including my own.

We deboarded the aircraft and moved to a new gate where the friendly Lufthansa staff informed us they "hoped" our new aircraft would soon and we would leave in the next hour or so.  Their "hope" did nothing to comfort me or any of the other passengers at this point.  Over an hour later, the aircraft had not arrived so another friendly staff person's voice was heard at the gate explaining another delay.

more naps

I was so thankful at this point that both the kids had fallen asleep.  Their sleeping allowed me time to cry.  As I listened to the conversations of other passengers about how they were going to have to spend extra time in the office because of this and wouldn't be able to get home that evening to see the kids I felt like screaming, "You have no idea!  Listen up people.  I've been away from home for weeks alone in a country on the brink of war and now I have two 10 year old children with me who speak little English that just want to get home...and our final destination is not Washington D.C. ....and my iPad battery is getting low from all this Minion Rush....oh, and would you like to sit by us on the airplane because my daughter gets severe motion sickness and I don't know if I'll be able to get her take the Dramamine I have for her."

Sinful, selfish, unloving, not trusting of the Lord...yep, that was me in that moment.  I'll admit it.

Finally, 9 hours from the time time we landed in Frankfurt, we were boarding a plane headed to the United States.  By this time, I was thankful.  Thankful that even though we would miss our flight out of D.C., we would still have feet on the ground in America.

Trooper 1

Trooper 2

Truly, the kids did so well.  We actually enjoyed a relatively uneventful flight into Dulles.  Kate didn't get sick because she took the Dramamine I offered her.  My iPad battery was saved because of the plethora of in-flight movies and music offered.  And we only had to spend an extra 45 minutes in air circling over D.C. before we could land due to weather...ha!  By this time, I was pretty much confident that the rest of the trip would continue to be as comical as the first well not-even-half.  And alas, the rest of our traveling experience did not disappoint.


  1. Wow you've got some serious guts!! Absolutely amazing. Can't wait to read more!

  2. Love those cuties so much!!! Can't wait to be reunited with my soon to be son in law and that spunky little K!

  3. So glad you got through all the precarious moments! It's such a brave adventure for you! I am in awe! I hope they are learning some English now and you can communicate better. What a magnificent challenge!


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