You may have noticed the blog has been dormant for awhile. That's because we were in Uganda, of course. But more than that, we had some limitations on what we were able to share publicly so out of an abundance of caution we just let the blog sit while we were overseas. I kept a journal of our trip while we were gone but rather than bore you with all of the entries I thought it would be neat for you to read about our last day(s) in Uganda and the flights home. We've been home for just over a week and everyone is settling into their new roles. We're making progress everyday but still in survival mode. Enjoy the below journal entry!
12 APR – Kids actually slept in this morning, of all mornings! Morning ritual was without incident, left just after 9 to head to the Embassy to pick up the kids’ passports and visas not quite knowing what to expect. Walked out of the Embassy with all the paperwork we needed at 10:20. We had some time to kill and after we left Mish Mash yesterday, Julie had a friend that said she wanted a pair of those sandals so we had Farouk drop me off at the nearby mall to get copies of the kids’ visas and a haircut while she picked up the sandals. Timing worked out perfect and we were off for the airport at about 11:20 and quickly running out of things that could prevent us from boarding our plane with these precious children.
We found out that checking in for our flight didn’t begin until 1330 so we were still projected to arrive with 60 minutes or so to spare so we had Farouk recommend a place for lunch. He took us to a little hotel/restaurant about 5 miles from the airport entrance called the Gately Inn. The food was great, maybe the best meal we had while in Uganda.
Arrived at the airport and there were no parking spots to be had so we just stopped in the middle of the parking lot and unloaded our baggage onto two luggage carts and said our goodbyes to Farouk. What a tremendous blessing that man has been to our trip. I told him we need to come up with something to call him besides just a driver; he is so much more than that!
We had no idea how stressful the airport would be with all that luggage and two friendly and curious kids! It was quite the ordeal unloading all the luggage to screen at security, as well as our shoes and what not while keeping an eye on the children. We managed to get through that mess unscathed, with all of our luggage being under the weight restrictions, Praise Jesus! Next up, immigration. You may remember that we have some friends that we met in Uganda who were stopped at the gate before boarding their flight by immigration because the officer believed they were trafficking their child. That stop resulted in an extra 4 weeks of chasing paperwork for that family before they could leave the country. Needless to say, we were pretty stressed about immigration. We had already spoken to those friends and others about what we would need to submit at immigration to receive safe passage. I had a nice little envelope with copies of all those documents (and then some) ready for immigration, we were as ready as we could be, the rest was up to God. I got in what appeared to be the shortest line while Julie filled out the customs documents. A nice Indian family was in front of us and they were immediately turned away because of being “disorganized” and the official waved us forward, here goes nothing. When the official saw that we did not have our customs forms placed neatly inside their respective passports (each of us had to fill one out) he called us disorganized as well and called the next family. Luckily the Indian family had gotten their act together by then so we organized while they processed through the checkpoint. It took us less than 5 minutes to get through immigration; the official spent more time lining us up for our picture than he did reviewing the nice little packet I made for him. J We got everyone’s passports stamped and were on our way to the gate but not before giving high-fives all around, we did it!!
By this time, Malachi had not had a nap yet and we were at a loss for how this 5.5 hour flight would go so we decided to just let nature take its course. We were saving our ammunition for the 13 hour flight to NYC later today. We had the entire center row on our flight so Julie and I bookended the kids with Malachi next to me and Macy with Julie. The kids had no issue with being buckled into their seats which was nice, but we made the mistake of buckling them in as soon as we sat down so about 20 minutes later when the glamour of the airplane seat wore off Malachi decided he no longer wanted to be buckled in. Luckily there was no meltdown but we definitely had to stay on him until we were in the air. The seat in front of you on these planes has a touch screen monitor where you can control what kind of entertainment you’d like. Macy figured it out quickly that once you have something you want to watch, just leave the monitor alone. Malachi, on the other hand, could NOT keep his hands off that thing! He’d start a show then stop it then pause it then get completely out of it then break his headphones then try to stand up and walk around then fuss then smile then try to color then play with his baby doll then….for 5.5 hours! The kid didn’t even so much as yawn much less give an indication that he wanted to sleep. About 2/3 into the flight I told Julie across the row, “he’s all yours on the next one”.
We arrived in Dubai at 10pm their time (9pm Uganda time) and the kids were wide awake. Julie and I made a solemn oath to NOT let them sleep during the 4 plus hour layover we had in Dubai so that they could sleep a long time on the 13 hour flight to NYC. We spent the vast majority of the layover walking from one end of the terminal to the other with a quick stop for some food along the way. The terminals in the Dubai airport are like mini-shopping malls with nearly the entire area being one huge duty free shop where you can buy everything from camel’s milk chocolate to a Hijab for your wife to a $1,000 bottle of liquor to a Rolex to a smoothie. As you might imagine the kids were enamored and had no trouble staying awake walking back and forth calling to each of the sales ladies, “Hello!, How are you?!”. By the time we left they were quite the celebrities! J With about an hour left, the excitement was starting to wear off for both of them but especially Malachi. He was done; too tired to throw a fit if he wanted to. We caught him walking with his eyes closed a couple of times, felt bad for the little guy.
So we finally were able to board the flight for NYC; we were given the entire middle row again, this time the row without another row in front of it so we had tons of legroom, cool! After the last flight and with the kids as tired as they were, Julie and I decided to hold them for as long as they would let us before putting them in their seats. Hopefully, after a dose of Benadryl and some cuddling, they would fall asleep and we could just move them while they slept. Malachi literally took about 2 minutes to fall asleep, it was amazing! Macy took a little longer but they were both OUT well before we started to taxi away from the gate. Eventually, the flight attendants made us put them in their seats and buckle them; luckily we were able to do it without incident. We decided that as soon as the seat belt light went out we were going to use the extra legroom to put Macy on the floor in front of us and spread Malachi across the two seats they had. Worked like a charm…until the flight attendant notified us it was against their policy to allow passengers to sleep on the floor. So we pulled Macy back up into her seat and slided Malachi over. Malachi was not pleased and threw himself on the floor and into a fit; Macy could have cared less. After about 30 minutes he fell back asleep…on the floor. When another flight attendant stopped to notify us (again) that passengers were not allowed to sleep on the floor I politely asked her what the ramifications would be if I just refused to move him. (those of you that know me well know this is a favorite tactic of mine, the ‘ole “or else what” technique) The attendant left to retrieve her boss to speak with me so at least Malachi would get a few more minutes of sleep before (if) I moved him. After about 15 minutes Jason (the head attendant) came by and explained to me that it wasn’t only a company policy it was against GCA rules (the UAE’s FAA) and if I refused to comply they would consider my actions to be endangering the safety of the flight and its passengers (i.e. I was going to jail when I got off the plane). I decided that would probably delay our arrival to Tampa even further so I gave it the ole college try and moved Malachi (again) placing him in Julie’s arms instead of his seat. He and Macy stayed asleep through that ordeal and ultimately slept for about 5 hours of the 13-hour flight but not without a few more breakdowns. Within a minute or two of each child crying a flight attendant would come check on us; one of them told us they had 2 sleeping pilots upstairs and several resting crew members and they could hear the kids crying from there. They asked if I could take the child on a walk around the cabin to quiet them down. I actually impressed myself with the amount of restraint I showed in keeping my mouth shut. Honestly, though, aside from not being comfortable with crying babies (which we’ve grown accustomed to) the flight wasn’t that bad, at least not as bad as it could have been.
Once we landed in NYC it was off to customs and immigration. We had been warned that this would take awhile so we were expecting it, but that didn’t make it any easier. Once we figured out which line we needed to be in we were close to the last in line faced with yet another opportunity to grow our patience. About 20 minutes into waiting Malachi decided he had had enough and started acting up which resulted in him throwing a fit. After about 15 minutes of being rebellious and fussy and downright crying the man who was running the queue of the line waved us to the front! Praise Jesus; this boy’s fit has actually helped us, I love America! Of course, shortly after being waved to the front of the line, Malachi gathered his composure and was fine; I’m sure the people in line thought we intentionally had him throw a tantrum. J I checked my watch on our way to baggage claim; it was 11:15, we landed at 0900. We initially talked about meeting some friends who lived near NYC; but they would have had to leave the airport at noon so we are very glad we determined the timing would not have worked otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten to see us much at all! By the time we made it to baggage claim the belt had stopped turning and someone had been kind enough to take all our luggage off the belt and stack it neatly so we loaded it up and headed to terminal 5 for our flight to Tampa, the last one in our trip!
Our itinerary had us on the 7:30 flight giving us nearly 8 (more) hours of layover time in NYC. On the flight from Dubai I checked JetBlue’s flight schedule and they still had seats on their 3:00 flight so I was hoping we could talk to the counter and they would let us switch our 7:30 seats for seats on the 3:00 flight saving us a ton of layover time! At the counter, the lady told us the flight was not that full and we had two options, we could either put our names in to fly standby at no charge or pay $50/person to get a confirmed seat on the flight. After hearing it was “highly likely” that they would have standby seats available we decided to save the $200 and risk it. We had just enough time to get some lunch before heading to the ticket counter and waiting for them to call our names. So we’re sitting at the counter as the flight starts to board with families with children being permitted to board pretty early in the process. I left Julie and the kids nearby and went to the counter to wait. Eventually the attendant looked at Julie and said, “you’re free to board, ma’am” so I took that as my opportunity to tell them we were waiting for standby seats. The lady took my passport as if to say “well, why didn’t you say so” and immediately issued us 4 boarding passes with seats right next to each other! We had been praying the days leading up to our travel day and into it that the Lord would go before us and for smooth transitions and speedy flights; He was coming through for us big time! It really couldn’t have been any smoother, had the flight left any sooner we would have been rushed; had it been any later the kids were so tired they would not have done well waiting in the airport for any length of time; isn’t His timing always perfect though? J
The flight to Tampa was pretty uneventful; Malachi had a window seat, our first of the entire trip, so he got a kick out of seeing everything. Malachi actually slept for the majority of the flight; Macy was too delirious to sleep much to my chagrin because that means I didn’t sleep. By the time we landed in Tampa we had been traveling for over 30 hours and neither Julie nor I had slept for any length of time; we were zombies but still found a way to be excited about seeing our little girls again. We stopped at a bathroom before getting on the tram to make sure the kids’ bladders were empty and to put on our jerseys. Julie and I purchased 6 Uganda Cranes jerseys (Uganda’s national soccer team) while there and had the name “Adams” put on the back of them. We thought it would be a neat way to show the unity of our family and a creative way to introduce the kids as members of our family.
We were the only ones on our tram from the gate back to the main terminal at Tampa International. As soon as we walked off the tram, Abigail and Madelyn ran to us. I could NOT believe how big they were!! It’s amazing how fast they grow! We gave the bios their jerseys and helped them put them on and managed to get a family picture or two of us. The rest after that is pretty much a blur; I remember being so touched at how many of our friends and family were there to greet us and feeling guilty about not getting a chance to chat at length with everyone. I also remember Macy running around like she was on drugs, she was SO TIRED and over stimulated. Malachi was pretty wild too but a little more in control. Luckily, the terminal wasn’t that crowded so we had plenty of time to chat and were able to let the kids play without intervening much. Two of my friends were kind enough to go down and pick up our luggage for us so it was wonderful to not have that to worry about.
It was about 8:00 before we finally made it to the car and realized we had more luggage than space. Luckily some of our friends lived close to us and brought the rest with them. We were pretty hungry so swung through the Chick-Fil-A drive through on our way home; none of you shoudl be surprised to hear that! The kids actually did pretty well in the car seats; Macy was out cold before we made it to I-4; Malachi was too tired to care about being strapped into his seat but never did fall asleep (he just woke up before we landed). As I backed into our driveway, our lovely neighbors who had been taking care of the pool and cats for us came out and were able to say hello to the kids and welcome us home. As I walked into the home and flipped the kitchen lights on we were greeted to a counter full of groceries and an obviously freshly cleaned house. The smell of a clean house is such a wonderful way to be welcomed back home! We truly have the best friends in the world!!!
Julie and I unloaded the van and the kids sans Macy (she was still sleeping) and gave Malachi the 10-cent tour of his new home. After getting everything out of the car and into the house I unbuckled Macy and by the grace of God was able to move her into her bed without waking her up (something we had yet to do successfully in Uganda). It took Malachi about 6 minutes to fall back asleep and after putting the girls to sleep Julie and I called it a night.
Macy woke up crying at about 0530 this morning but Julie was able to get her and take her out to the living room where they laid peacefully until I woke up at about 0800. None of the other kids hade made a peep yet (a new record for Malachi). We didn’t want Malachi to sleep too late and mess up his nap schedule so I went ahead and woke him up. We’ve been mostly unpacking and doing laundry today; the kids have been playing together very peacefully, it’s kind of weird actually how little “parenting” we have done today. We took the kids to a nearby park this afternoon to hopefully meet up with some families from our church and give the kids an opportunity to expend some energy in a controlled environment. The kids had a blast and came to me numerous times saying “daddy, come” to show me their latest discovery. The kids are awake enough now to care about being strapped into their car seats but they are taking it much better than I expected. So far, they haven’t really fought us getting into their seats and it’s only after sitting in them for several minutes that they start to fidget and complain about being confined. Macy had a pretty good fit today that started out with being mad about her car seat but I think had more to do with mommy leaving her to go into Wal-Mart than being stuck in a car seat and even then she settled down after a few minutes. All in all, things are going better than we expected; I had a heart to heart with Madelyn an hour or so ago. I noticed that she looked kind of glum at the park so I pulled her onto my lap to ask her if everything was ok. After initially saying she was fine, she told me that she liked it better “before” and that our lives were all “crazy” now. I think she’s struggling with not being the baby anymore and having to help instead of be helped. We had a good talk and after telling her it was ok to feel that way and not to be afraid to talk to me or mommy about it she went back to playing. It will be interesting to see how these things develop over time.