Coming Home!

I just couldn’t sleep any longer.  I don’t know if it was L coming to bed with us, first time in Costa Rica, in the middle of the night or the fact I needed to use the restroom at 4 a.m., first time for me as well.  But I just couldn’t sleep.
 
I lay in bed, realizing how tired I was going to feel if I just didn’t get a few more minutes of sleep before our alarm went off.  But sure enough, 30 minutes past in a flash and 4:30 a.m. was here.
It was the first time, in Costa Rica, I had woken in the morning to see it still dark.  We had grown accustom to sun rays coming through our curtains at 5:00 a.m. and us fighting to sleep through it.  This was strange for us all.
Paul woke the children, helped them get dressed and I did the girl’s hair, as well as my own.  We were all so excited!  The kids couldn’t help it.  It honestly felt better than anticipating a day at Disneyland (having fun Heather and Dave?)  The kids wanted this to happen more than anything.
 
We grabbed everything we could think of, piled into the car and then reverently said a family prayer.  We breathed a sigh of “we’ll miss you Costa Rica house” and backed out of our two car garage.
It only took a few minutes to arrive at the car rental agency.  Of course, I forgot to fill the tank to full.  They charged us $30 for 1/4th a tank.  A full tank cost us $50 at the gas station.  ALWAYS FILL YOUR TANK WITH GAS THE NIGHT BEFORE!!  Ooops!
 Paul loaded our luggage onto the shuttle and then hopped in.  I was surprised.  I thought we were saying our goodbyes here.  But he decided to help us as far as he was allowed.  I was SO GRATEFUL!  
 
The airport was a ZOO!  I would have been stressed out in an instant.  But with Paul there, I just stood patiently with the kids, feeding them my homemade banana bread, while waiting in line to check in our luggage.  It seemed to take forever, but that wasn’t forever compared to the rest of our day. 
After our luggage was checked in, Paul weaved us through the crowded airport to security.  This is where he had to say goodbye.  The kids were still pumped to leave, so they quickly hugged their dad in excitement to get to the plane.  Paul and I embraced for as long as the kids allowed us.  It was hard to leave him there and I could see in his eyes that it was hard for him to see us go, leaving him here, ALL ALONE!
But we had to go!  We showed our passports to the 1st security agent and joined the 100’s of people in line for security.  The line was SO LONG!  It just weaved around and around and around.  We saw a university soccer team from Mexico in line with us. We had enough time in line to look them up and see if we knew any of the players in line.  That was fun for E but the little kids had fun teasing and bugging eachother – not so fun for mom.  
 
As we made it to the scanner, I noticed a line that went straight to the front, by-passing all this “weaving”.  The people were elderly or had babies in strollers.  I wondered why I hadn’t been sent to that line.  Paul told me later that if the security agents had known I was a “GOLD MEDALLION” with Delta, that I could have gone in that line as well.  Oh Paul, don’t tell me that now.  AHHHH!
I should have known that this was going to be a foreshadowing of our day.  But I chose to brush it off and just move forward.  We got to the gate and the seats were filled, every other one, with people.  Where was my family of 5 to sit together?  Well . . . on the floor!  No one offered to move or make room.  What happened to civil behavior, manners and kindness to women and children?  Nope, survival of the fittest baby!
 
 
 By the way, this is an image that came up on Google, when I typed in “gentlemanly kindness to women and children.”  Pretty cool huh!  That is quite the reputation if Google puts your picture with that search!  Way to go President Thomas S. Monson!  (Love that man!)

After we “got comfortable,” I called Paul to tell him we made it to the gate and we’re getting ready to board the plane.  He was so sad.  I could hear the home sickness settling into his chest.  I could feel the pain this was causing him.  I figured that anything I was going to go through today was going to be better than what he had to face for a week and a half, ALL ALONE in Costa Rica.  Poor Guy!
I heard, in mumbled Spanish, that they were boarding our plane and Zone 1 was being called to board.  I grabbed the kids in a hurry and pushed/weaved our way through the line that had already formed.  (I hate to do this.  I always feel that I am assuming no one else is Zone 1 in this huge line.  Yes, I am usually right but what if someone yells out, “HEY LADY, GET TO THE BACK OF THE LINE?”  Then what?  How embarrassing!)
So we made it to the check-in agent, scanned our tickets but then each and every one of us was “wanded” for security.  SERIOUSLY!  Yes, the kids too!  Then they had to check our bags – all 5! CRAZY HUH!  I would have let it bother me but they were doing it to EVERYONE!  Got to love Costa Rican security!
After that, a long plane ride to Atlanta looked like a welcomed rest.  We got situated.  Me and the boys shared three seats on one side of the plane.  The girls shared their seats with a woman who had been in line with us since the luggage check in.  At first I didn’t know how she would handle being with children.  But she did just fine.  Actually more than fine!  She took care of and looked after the girls.  She shared the food she ordered and also helped K, the millions of times she needed to put her tray up to reach under the chair and get something.  SUPER PATIENT and a SUPER BLESSING!
The first plane trip went fairly well.  E was in heaven because he had been asking Paul and I if we thought he was old enough to watch “The Avengers” with one of us by his side.  I didn’t think he could handle it, being rated PG13.  But guess what was being shown as the in-flight movie? 
 
 “The Avengers!’  SERIOUSLY!  So E, K, and sometimes G, had fun watching this movie.  I kept my eye on E, asking him periodically to fill me in on the details.  E turned his eyes away or pulled out the ear plugs from time to time, when he wasn’t sure if he could handle what “might” happen.  I was proud of him for that.  But overall, he did well and handled the “edited” version of the movie.  What a blessing!  E was able to satisfy a desire and was blessed to do it in a safer way than I could have ever provided him!  Are we counting the blessings yet?  I should be!
During the flight, the only real issue was food.  Delta didn’t serve a menu.  Don’t know why?  But they didn’t.  All they provided were snack boxes, luckily I had free vouchers to buy some.  We got 2 and a fruit plate (that was $7.50) and shared it between the 5 of us.  At first the kids didn’t like the food but after an hour or so, it was eaten before we landed.
The landing of a plane at sea level is MY WORST NIGHTMARE!  I DISLIKE IT SO MUCH that I wonder if I should just puke and get it over with?  But with 4 children to care for, puking isn’t a good choice!  So, I “deal with it” and pray we land any minute.  After the landing, I have to get my “sea legs” back.  No fun with 4 children tearing out of a plane.  
I don’t know why they were in such a hurry, because we only had MORE LINES to get through before we could even enter the actual airport of Atlanta, Georgia.  This is where my mom comes in.  She equipped me with backpack leashes for my two littlest children.  
(If only we looked this cute!)
At first, I was truly for it.  Then I saw how demeaning it must look from other viewer’s perspectives.  
(This is what L looked like at many points during our long day.  Yes, I AM BEING SERIOUS!)
But with CROWDS of people, grumpy/impatient security guards, lines, lines and MORE LINES, the chaos sets in and I become GRATEFUL for those leashes.  It was the ONLY WAY I could keep G & L safe, so I did it and it worked!
The night before, I had said family prayer and asked Heavenly Father for patience, kind people around us, and helpful hearts.  Well, we received all of that!  In Atlanta, you must collect your luggage and re-check it before you can go to your next flight.  Seems easy for one or two people, right?  Well, try 4 children, 2 of which are leashed and want to test out these new restraints, and 8 large/heavy pieces of luggage.  I NEEDED HELP!
Fortunately the sweetest man, an employee who gets tipped for helping with luggage, offered his services.  Now, I am a cheap skate, remember?  So for me to say yes was completely out of desperation.  He jumped at the chance.  But as we were walking to the luggage turn-styles, I realized I didn’t have any tipping money on me.  I said, “Stop.  I can’t let you help me.  I don’t have any money to tip you.”  He looked at me for only a moment and said, “That’s okay Ma’am, I need to do a good turn daily anyway.  You will be mine today!”  I wanted to cry.  How could I humble myself enough to let this man help me and NOT pay him?
(This is what people must have seen.  Woman, small children, LOTS of luggage.  But Phillip packed our bags MUCH nicer than this and with gentle care.)
I just HAD TO!  I needed the help and he wanted the chance to serve.  I had to suck it up and let him.  He was so patient.  He waited for all 8 of our bags, picking each one up with care, like I was going to tip him $100 for helping us out.  He was so proud to help “this woman and her kids.”  I was nervous about where to go next and asked him.  He said, “Don’t worry Ma’am, just right down this way.”  And he lead us down a skinny line, pushing a huge cargo cart loaded with our bags.  He then took the luggage and checked it in for us.  I didn’t lift one figure to help him.  He did it ALL on his own.  What a true gentleman.  What a true saint!
I reached out my hand and thanked him from my heart.  I asked him his name, he said, “Phillip, ma’am!”  I said, “My name is Wendi.  Thank you Phillip for helping us today.  Thank you!”  I gave him my softest smile and warmest regards and off we went to ANOTHER security area.
This time, the people weren’t so friendly.  But we made it through.  Luckily only E and myself had to remove our shoes.  In Costa Rica, ALL of us had to.  After the last security check, we were done and ready to find some food.  We asked for a Wendy’s in the GIGANTIC airport and found one, two terminals away from the terminal we were leaving from.
(The Atlanta Terminal Train – FAST moving.  Just enough time to hop in and hold on for dear life!)
I don’t know if you have been to Atlanta’s airport, but it is HUGE.  We found the train to take us to terminal C and hopped on (my biggest worry!  These things are FAST and not kid friendly.)  We made it in one piece.  The kids ran to the moving walkways, thinking this was the way to the food, but we found we were going the wrong direction.  OH WELL!  They got to go back the way they came.  It made their day!
We ordered a nice lunch: chicken sandwich – littlest 3 shared, baconator for E (growing?), single for me, fries, 2 baked potatoes and a frosty.  YUM!  We still had a half an hour before we needed to leave for our gate, so we found the Delta Sky Club at terminal A.  We used the restroom, tried to charge our batteries, grabbed some apples for the plane, ate cheese, celery, and carrots.  Relaxed a few minutes and then left for our gate.
We boarded the plane, got settled and waited.  And waited.  AND waited.  AND WAITED!  The pilot would come on the intercom from time to time and say, “About 10-15 more minutes and we should be on our way.”  After an hour, we finally shut the door to the plane and taxied to the runway.  That was when ANOTHER light came on, that there were other issues.  So we turned back.  We sat at the gate for another hour, when they finally said, “Everyone off the plane.”  Seriously!  Now what?
(The plane was already practically empty by the time they asked us to leave.  I think the kids are happy to get off the plane?)
I wondered what Delta was planning to do?  With so many people waiting at the gate, we couldn’t hear ANY of the announcements they were making in the airport.  Many of us just huddled together, asking what each of us knew.  We FINALLY found out that another plane was coming to take our plane’s place and we would be flying soon.  Soon?  How soon? Now it was running into dinner time.  My kids would be starving on this flight if I didn’t feed them.  Would I have time to run them all down to the food court and pick up some food?  
How was I up to this point?  Well, frustrated that I didn’t know what to do but I chose to stay positive.  MANY of the people on the plane lost their patience and insisted on leaving the plane immediately upon arriving at the gate, to catch another flight.  They were so “put out” and rude about the problems the plane was having.  I for one was grateful the pilot turned the plane around.  My life was worth more than a few hours or even a day.  I was willing to chose patience, but I also didn’t have a connecting flight.  But I did have 5 people to take care of and what airline would just “happen” to have 5 seats together for me to transfer to.  Not any, I am guessing.
So, I chilled out and tried to cheer up as many people around me that I could. Fortunately two nice men, one from India (wearing a head wrap) and another who used to work on ships in Alaska, played with the kids.  They talked to the kids, made them several paper airplanes and even let the kids climb all over them.  They were another blessing for us that day.
  Finally, I decided I better run and get food, it looked as though things were going to happen soon.  As I left, this cute lady/woman, Sarah, (someone I and the kids had made friends with on the plane) called and told me about meal vouchers from Delta.  I ran back, got $64.00 in food vouchers from Delta.  Sarah also gave me her $12 she got.  I ran, purchased not much food but spent alot of the money.  Ran back, just in time to get seated in Zone 1.  CRAZY!  Luckily I hadn’t used my money to pay for the food. It was NASTY!!!
Looked so good, tasted TERRIBLE!
We got situated, buckled up and the plane took off!  The kids watched an hour of t.v. – no movies this flight (satellite TV only) and then they all fell asleep.  I had the rest of the time to myself. I channel surfed.  Watched a “Rock Center” on the Mormons (bugged me – I am super sensitive to Mormon criticism) and then I realized I had better wake the kids.  I couldn’t carry them through the airport.  They needed to walk themselves to the shuttle. 
I gentled started to wake them.  Got their shoes on.  Packed up our belongings.  And then the plane landed.  Poor Kids.  We were at the front of the plane – Economy Comfort, behind 1st class – so we NEEDED TO MOVE and FAST!  They did great!  I had to carry two bags and L but I did it and never stopped to rest.  My arms are still sore today, but we made it.  We found our bags, said goodbye to Sarah, my angel and “sister wife” and loaded up in the Express Shuttle to drive home at 12:00 a.m.
I have NEVER been so happy to be home!
After 18.5 hours, life looks pretty great!  I am SUPER GRATEFUL for this experience.  This is something I would have NEVER created for myself to work through.  I am grateful that my Father in Heaven knew I could handle this and blessed me with WONDERFUL PEOPLE and an ABUNDANCE of PATIENCE Thursday.  I KNOW I didn’t make it through this journey alone!
By the way, almost all of the pictures used today were from google images.
Lots of Love  ~  Wendi

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