I am very happy to report that the only horrible thing to happen to us 3 girls on the journey home was the dauntingly long itinerary that the airline put us through to save us $650 per ticket. After a very stressful week of goodbyes and packing in Berlin, the first leg of our journey took us only as far as London. We were EXTREMELY lucky to be able to have friends in Berlin to both haul all of our stuff away and to bring us to the airport with all of our bags. The luck continued at the airport when the lady who checked us in was able to check our bags all the way through to our final destination--mostly. The short flight to London from Berlin was a breeze, and we used the oh so generously shared English pounds from our friends to take a taxi. Annika managed to squeal "everybody speaks En-ga-lish" at least 10 times by the time we got to our hotel room. We have a cousin who lives in London, but he and his new husband were home in the states visiting. Instead of our British cousins, we got to see our Floridian cousin who had just arrived in London that morning for a visit. It was so great to see a friendly face at the end of a long day, and I was seriously grateful for the hugs from my now gigantic ex-marine of a cousin.
Our wake-up call came at 4am London time, and we caught a taxi at 5am from the hotel to check-in for our 7:30am flight from London to Chicago. The flight was pretty empty, but our tickets were still messed up. The gate agent adjusted our seats so that I was actually sitting WITH my children AND upgraded us to Economy-Plus. I suspect the upgrade had something to do with either feeling sorry for me or giving my children extra room so that they'd kick the seat in front of them less--maybe both. The 8 hour & 40 minute flight wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected, and my children were extraordinarily well-behaved, especially for a 2 and 4 year old. It could have had something to do with the magic sleepy travel gum that my friend gave me for them--bless that magic gum!! They both slept for a least half of the trip, though it still eluded me despite my best efforts and a complete lack of any movies that I actually had any interest in seeing.
We arrived in Chicago and breezed through immigration--finally able to take the shorter line after a year of non-EU long lines. We collected our bags from the carousel, and just as I started to wonder how in the world I was going to push a cart loaded with 4 giant suitcases AND a stroller filled with 2 kids and a car seat, a man working for the airport walked up to me and asked if I needed help. We all 4 skipped to the front of the line at customs and jogged over to re-check our bags in no time. That man seriously saved my butt! We made it through airport security for the 3rd time in 2 days one WD-40 can less (I swear I had no idea it was wrapped up in my rain cover in the stroller pocket and it had made it through 2 other screenings).
Naturally, our last and shortest flight from Chicago to Louisville was delayed and moved gates 3 times. I was unphase-able at that point though. The 53 minute flight was a little turbulent, but Annika kept yelling "Wee, it tickles my belly!". She also thought it was funny to say "We're going to crash," though I was surely not the only passenger to NOT see the humor in those words.
We were the last ones off the plane, and we then had to go to the back of the line to wait for our gate checked stroller. When we finally emerged from the security area to Nana's friendly face, there were hugs all around! <3<3<3<3
The girls stayed awake the whole 2 hour drive back from the airport. We made it home in one piece.
About 10 minutes away from the door, Andy called to see if maybe I could possibly meet him at his company's big dinner they were having to close a 4 day conference and celebrate 35 years of being in business. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have said no, but on the side of yes was the fact that I already had people to watch the kids, that I had a once-worn party dress hanging in the closet, and that I hadn't seen my husband in a month. I did look rather stunning when I arrived, especially surrounded by people wearing khakis and polo shirts. Unintentional first impressions are usually the easiest to make, so hopefully I didn't say anything too ridiculous in my jet-lagged exhaustion.
That was our journey home. We're here staying at Andy's parents' house temporarily, until we get organized for the next step. We're very much looking forward to getting out of the business of liminal living.