Well not our island, of course, but the island we live on. Terceira island. Azores.
We left a family of five. Six if you count the dog.
We return a family of six. Seven if you count big ol' Scrubby.
Our adventure begin on Tuesday morning. My parents dropped us off at Ft. Lauderdale airport around 10:30am.
We were blessed by a number of things on leg one of our trip. These things included:
There was a very cool kids' table in the Southwest terminal. We avoided using any technology with room to spread out, and instead utilized some of our very fun new stuff in the airport. (Grama Di bought the boys a travel Hungry Hungry Hippo game. She got Abigail some Mickey stickers with scenes to decorate. I bought them some Wonder Markers and coloring pads.) Things like that. Tip: Always ask people who work at the airport if there is somewhere "for kids" in your terminal!
Adana kabobs. Seriously? Yep. There was a Mediterranean restaurant right next to our gate. They actually had "Adana kabobs", the food that the part of Turkey we lived in was known for. Sure, it wasn't lamb. But beef is pretty good too. I opted for some Pidi (Turkish-style pizza) instead of the kabob. Yum! While packing food is obviously cheaper, we instead budget in the fact that we are going to spend a ton of money eating on our trip. Yes, it is much more expensive than a restaurant out of the airport, but it is easy and as a parent, you are obviously already carrying so much stuff as it is. Tip: Plan on spending extra money to limit the amount of things you have to bring/carry with you.
The flight was not full! This meant that we were allowed to bring Hannah's car seat onto the plane and have a seat for her (that we didn't pay for.) Tip: Anytime you take a lap child onto a flight, ASK whether the flight is full. If it is not full, they will allow you to take the child's seat onto the plane. If this wouldn't have happened, one of us would have had to be holding Hannah the entire trip! Obviously worth not paying for an extra ticket but still not a ton of fun.
Abigail's love for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! She was an entirely new child with something "to do" on the plane. On past trips, she would do one little thing for about 4 minutes a piece. It was so exhausting for me. But with something that she will do for a long time, I was able to even doze at one point. (Imagine that!) Tip: Do what it takes to make the trip more pleasurable for you and your kids and the people around you.
These snack bags were a huge hit! I let the kids see me make them and see them on the counter waiting to go, but I tell them that they can't have them until we get on the flight. I made one bag for each flight, but in hindsight, I think I'll do something different for each flight. Either way, they were very excited to get seated and get their goodie bags (even if Abigail thought there were not nearly enough jelly beans in the bag.) Tip: New things and sugary things are always a hit. Anything that can kill at least 20 minutes is a good thing.
There was a USO (United Service Organizations) in first the commercial airport we landed in and then in the military airport we had to switch to. These are run and staffed with donations and volunteers and available for active duty military personnel and their families. They are always, no matter how big or small they are, wonderful stops! We spent about three hours in the commercial USO (pictured above). The kids watched a movie, and we got some dinner, and we waited for a 630pm shuttle that took us onto the military base. From there, we checked in for our flight and waited for the 10pm announcement that our family was on the flight. Then, at 1230p, we took off for the island. Believe it or not, none of the kids (except Hannah) slept before that 1230p departure. JB and I debated and finally opted to let them stay awake in hopes that they would all sleep on the plane.
Our plan worked! JB took one row with Isaac on one side of him and Abigail on the other. I was behind them with Sidge and Hannah (who has to be in the middle because that is the place her carseat was required to go.) While Hannah was up to eat numerous times, the three older kiddos were down and out within the first 15 minutes, and they stayed that way through most of the flight.
We touched down in Lajes around 5:00am South Florida time (9:00am Lajes time.) As is typical of the Lajes community, there was a large group of people there to welcome the flight home. This is always a nice tought. People are there to offer applause and thanks to returning deployed members. (Or to greet a new baby, like Hannah.) They then help you get your stuff to the car. It's quite a blessing. Our new friends: Josh and Rebekah (and their three boys: Elijah, Judah, and Joel) were there too. Well, Josh had to work, but Rebekah was there with the kiddos. They had left our van there for us too which was a blessing, and later that evening, we walked over to their house for dinner outside on their patio.
However, jet lag with a newborn baby is not an ideal combination. I was so tired that I fell asleep while feeding Hannah many times yesterday. We are slowly getting our sleep flipped over, and even more importantly, are excitedly waiting JB's mom's arrival. She comes in on Friday morning to live with us! (His Dad will follow about a month later.) So excited!