I am sitting by a warm fire, Myka is reading a book near by, and Emery is napping in his room. Being in Pennsylvania is wonderful. I really miss Stephen, and I am glad it will only be a week until he is here too. Grandparents are amazing and I think those Grandmas actually Enjoy changing diapers! (At least, I’m going to continue pretending they do…) There is snow outside, we went to church this morning, and we will have a relaxing football filled afternoon. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Our journey here was long. So very long. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t horrible either. I kept a list of the things we used or that I wished we had with us, so I could pack better next time. It’s been helpful to look back over those notes and think about what went well and what I want to do differently.
This was our itinerary:
6:30 pm on Thursday – 1 hour drive to airport
10:00 pm – 2 1/2 hour flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
8 hour layover in Jeddah
8:30 am on Friday – 13 1/2 hour flight to Dulles (Washington DC)
2 hour drive to our home away from home – the Grandparent’s house
6:00 pm – arrive!
The two hour time span we gave ourselves to get checked into our flight, through security, and to our gate worked really well. We didn’t have much time just sitting and waiting, but I didn’t feel rushed. We realized on the drive to the airport that the stroller was left at home. It was the first thing I wished we had! Emery wanted to run all the time and everywhere. We had two small suitcase type of carry-ons, a diaper bag, and my mom had a backpack. With the stroller we could have hung the diaper bag on the handles, one person would have pushed the stroller, and the other pulled the two carry ons. With Emery, containment is critical. I had a wrap, but I didn’t take the time to try it. Plus, he is super heavy. Even with the added challenge of keeping Emery with us, this first part of the trip went smoothly.
On our first flight we used crayons, notebooks, books, small toy cars, rice cakes, sippy cups for each child, two Ipads for movies, headphones for each child, and pretzels. I was Sure the kids would fall asleep on this flight. They didn’t. Not a bit. They didn’t even act tired. So they were quite tired, though in denial, when we got to Jeddah.
I over packed in preparation for our long, overnight layover in Jeddah. I felt like I was in limbo there. Maybe purgatory… We had to get our checked bags, so we had all of our luggage. We couldn’t check in until four hours before take off. We were stuck in the waiting area at the check in gates until 4:30 am, and I wasn’t going to move sleeping kids even if I could go somewhere nicer at that point. The seats were uncomfortable, the announcements were loud, and no one got a lot of sleep. Stephen suggested that we take our little play tent from Ikea. Best. Idea. Ever. The kids didn’t go to sleep in it. We tried that for about 45 minutes, but they just giggled and wiggled and did not sleep. We had to hold them and cuddle, and then they fell asleep. We carefully laid them in the tent. I had Myka and Emery’s blankets plus a couple extra ones. I used an Iphone and an Ipad to play white noise (rain, actually) to help block out all the other noises and keep them asleep as long as possible. They slept from 2:15 am until almost 6:00 am. I checked in at 5:30 while everyone else was sleeping. (Is it important for gate agents to see the person they are checking in? I’m glad they let the children sleep anyway.) Then an employee of Saudia Airlines came over to ask us why we were there for so long. They noticed we were there for a while and thought we had missed our flight or something. They ended up inviting us to the first class lounge, and we were escorted through security.
The most important part of the lounge: Clean Bathrooms! with toilet paper, paper towels, and soap! My mom was pretty disappointed in the bathrooms in the main part of the airport. They also had a ton of food and drinks. Too bad we were too tired to eat or drink any of it. That still makes me feel disappointed. I like free things. We were only there for about an hour, but Myka and my mom got some more sleep. We then struggled with Emery to the gate and headed toward the plane. This is when I Really should have put him in the wrap. And Myka was so tired; she was crying and whining a lot.
Sometimes, Myka has the worst timing. But really it’s my fault. I should have taken her to the bathroom in the lounge. As we exit security and are waiting in a crowded room to board the bus that will take us to the plane, Myka announces that she has to go to the bathroom. Before I can find out if there is one I can get to without going through security again, we start moving toward the busses. But actually we just all move to another room to wait for the bus. When I see that the bus is filling up and we may end up waiting for another one, I ask an employee if we could possible get on the first bus (I apologize to everyone we butted in front of). After much fumbling of passports we get on the bus, and then the bus gets to the airplane, but then we sit. And sit. And wait. And good golly could we just get on the plane already! Finally they open the doors and my mom and Myka hurry ahead. Now I have the two suitcases and Emery. I just don’t have enough hands. A very nice person helps me get my bags off the bus and onto the tarmac. It would have been ok if Emery could have managed the stairs on his own, but the height bothers him, so he was barely crawling up them. Until some other lovely people help me get my bags up the stairs. And then another lady carries my one bag through the airplane to my seat. Thank you, all you wonderful people. I can’t thank you enough, but I promise to help others whenever I can. When I have it together. Whenever that happens… Anyway, Myka got to the bathroom, we all got to our seats, and we were settled and ready for our long flight.
The kids didn’t sleep much on this flight either. Emery took two naps and Myka took one. They watched movies on the seat back tvs and played games on the Ipad. They each had a little backpack with things to play with, and Emery especially liked the small plastic animals Grandma Becky brought for him. Myka had many fits and mini melt downs before she finally slept at 3:30 pm. With a delay before take off, it was a good fourteen hours on the plane. That is a long time, and they did pretty well considering the circumstances. Having my mom with me was a life saver. I don’t know how I would do it without another person along to help. The three of us wouldn’t fit in the bathroom. How do people do this on their own?!
We were all shattered by the time we got to Dulles, but so glad to be back in the US. It didn’t take us long to get through customs, and we were soon being picked up by Grandpa Sands and heading towards a home and bed. It was pretty cold out, but it was great to see snow! We had the kids coats ready, but the car was warm and we got them inside quickly. I kinda appreciated the briskness in the air. Haha! They both fell sleep on the ride home. Myka didn’t ever really wake up when we got to Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Grandma Gail held her, and she would stir, whine, and go back to sleep. Emery woke up all cheery and talkative, however. He had lots of questions. “What’s this? Oh. Chatter chatter. Plane! Laugh! Snow! Chatter…” He was charming.
Things I Will Do Differently:
- I always think I will freshen up at some point on these long flights, but visiting the bathroom on the airplane never makes me feel ‘fresh’. But I could have used a comb. I had one along, but it was in one of the bigger carry ons and was up in the overhead compartment. I didn’t get those down unless I absolutely had to. Next time I will definitely pack less, even with the long lay over. I had tons of snacks and hardly used any of them. Lots of activities, but we just stuck to the ones in the kids small backpacks. So we will carry less next time.
- I like the idea of carrying extra sets of clothes for an emergency or big mess, but I don’t think I’ve ever used the extra clothes I tote around. I realize this is like insurance.. The one time I don’t have extra clothes someone will throw up or spill a drink all over themselves. I find this whole train of thought annoying.
- Bring the stroller.
- Bring more books. When we were waiting for take off or landing and couldn’t have electronics out, books kept the children’s attention well. We borrowed some children’s books from a friend (a great idea!) and the new-to-us books really kept them quiet and still.
- I won’t worry about the kids sleeping or not sleeping. Our first night here they slept great, and we are pretty much on a normal schedule. I’m making that statement a little early; sometimes that jet lag hits a couple days after traveling. We will see how the week plays out, but so far so good.
- Be patient. Poor Myka. She was so very tired and was bursting into tears about everything and nothing. Maybe I should have put her in the wrap… I was always hurrying her along, but we were never late for anything. I could have been more patient.
Thinking about what I want to do differently makes me excited about doing it again. Is that crazy? Talk to me in six weeks, right before we head back, and see how I’m doing!