Monday, May 24, 2010

The Longest Day of My Life

One month ago today I had the longest. day. of. my. life.

I had just spent an AMAZING week in Tulsa with my family, but the time had come to pack up my girls and return home. They've both been traveling by plane since they were a couple months old and had been SO great on our trip down. Despite having to say goodbye to my family, I was in good spirits and very optimistic for our return trip home.

Before we even checked in at the airport, we ran into our first bump in the road. I had borrowed a portable DVD player from a friend in PA and had forgotten to charge it the night before. We had stopped at my sister's house so that my kids could burn off some energy before being stuck on a plane for several hours. I took this opportunity to charge the DVD player while we were there because, on the plane movies are what keep us from climbing up the walls (or all over random strangers seated near us). After an hour of playing, we said goodbye to my sister and went to the airport. As SOON as we arrived I realized the the DVD player was still sitting on my sister's counter. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! I tried calling to see if she could bring it to me, but there was no answer. My dad, quickly dropped us off and then headed back to my sister's house to get it. I was nervous. I needed that DVD player. I was staking the entire outcome of my travel day on it. My dad arrived in the nick of time DVD player in hand. I was saved. My day would turn out great after all. Or so I thought.

We made it through security and to our gate just a couple minutes before they began boarding. We jumped on the plane, found our seats and were ready for take off. Only... due to inclement weather, Chicago wasn't ready for us. So we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes and I did my best to entertain the girls. Once we finally took off, things started going our way. Kylie fell asleep for half the flight and Kyra was perfectly content to color and watch movies. We landed in Chicago and I instantly planned out every minute of our scheduled hour and a half layover. When you're traveling alone with 2 toddlers, you've got to have a plan.

Stop #1 - The bathroom. Where I asked Kyra 57 times if she needed to go potty to which she replied "NO!" every time. So... we moved on.
Stop #2 - Food. I got the girls some pizza, found a table and got us all situated. Both girls were out of the stroller. I had cut and served them each a slice and was about to sit down myself when Kyra announced, "Mommy, I have to go pee pee".


I threw both girls back in the stroller, loaded up all our carry on luggage on my back and scooped up the pizza in one hand. I ran like a crazy person in the most logical direction for a restroom and got lucky my instincts had been correct. I pulled up in front of a stall, got Kyra out, pants down, and on the potty just barely in time. Whew.

Stop #4 - Back to the food court. Where I ate (choked down) the WORST sandwich ever. When we finished Kylie started chanting "bink, bink". I began searching all our belongings for her little pink pacifier that I KNOW had been at the table with us the FIRST time we sat down to eat. It was gone. I had a very vivid mental image of it sitting on our first lunch table which was now occupied by a couple of pilots. But the bink was not there. I retraced my crazy trail back to the bathrooms, but alas, it was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, I always travel with an extra bink, just. in. case. Way to go Kesh. Way to be prepared.

Stop #5 - Our gate. All was well. We had survived the airport layover and were boarding our flight to Philadelphia.

The last passenger boarded and I began to breathe easier and prep for the flight home. But then all of a sudden.... "I'm sorry ladies and gentlemen, but this flight to Philadelphia has been cancelled. Please gather all your belongings and deplane. You can visit the rebooking centers located in this terminal to find another flight."


I had been holding it together all day, so in the chaos of the moment a few tears finally were able to push their way through my solid demeanor and down my cheeks. I had to quickly gather everything back together and then convince Kyra to get off the plane. She didn't understand what was happening and she just kept repeating, "I don't want to get off the plane. I want to go home and see daddy and Chay Chay!" It broke my heart. It was so tough trying to explain to her what was happening and than another airplane would take us to daddy.

Kyra finally relented and we got off the plane and set out to find one of the dreaded rebooking stations. We found it fairly quickly thanks to the noticeably long line of stranded passengers in front of it. I got in line and gave the girls lollipops as a bribe to keep them in the stroller. After standing in the line for a few minutes it hit me like a ton of bricks that there was a HUGE banner over top with an 800 number to call for rebooking. I didn't need to stand in line to use one of these "special red rebooking phones". I could call the number from my handy dandy cell phone. Duh. Why this hadn't occurred to the mass of people in front of me I do not know, but I wasn't going to hang around to find out.

I got through immediately and began the process of finding another flight home. It wasn't easy. The next available flight on American wasn't for another 26 hours. Yeah.... that wasn't going to cut it AT ALL. So we tried other airlines. Nothing. So we tried the next closest airport in NJ. Nada. So I asked what the NEXT next closest airport was after that and she said Harrisburg. "OK", I said, "check that." There was a flight scheduled to depart at 7:35 pm with available seats. That was only 4 hours from now, so I told her to book it. Four. more. hours. I could do this.

I immediately went back into planning mode to ensure that the next 4 hours would pass by quickly. We found an information booth and got directions to the kid's play area in another terminal. On our long walk to the play area, I asked Kyra another 34 times if she needed to use the potty. And again she said no every time. So I let both girls loose in the fenced in kid's zone. Five minutes later......."MOMMY I NEED TO GO POTTY!" Of course she did.

I could see the bathroom from where we were, but what I couldn't see was Kylie. I quickly maneuvered my way through the tunnels and snatched her up so we could race to the bathroom. We made it. We looked like a crazy parade, but we made it.

We played until dinner time and then made our way to a different food court. We grabbed food, found a table, and began to eat. Kyra immediately spilled her entire jug of milk all over the floor and the shoes of the couple sitting next to us. But there's no use crying over spilled milk, so we got on with our evening.

It was now about 45 minutes before our flight was scheduled to take off so we headed to our gate. I made sure Kylie had her bink in her mouth as we left the food court, but somehow as soon as we pulled in to our gate, it was no longer there. It was close to the girls bedtime and they'd had a very eventful day, so Kylie was especially whiny. I turned us around and carefully retraced our exact route back to the food court. Twice. But my super clever back up bink was now also gone.

I bought a two pack of pacifiers at the nearest news stand. But they weren't the same shape or texture Kylie is used to, so she kept spitting them out and then immediately would scream "want bink!". It was frustrating. But not nearly as frustrating as the fact that in the time I'd been on my bink hunt, our flight time had gotten bumped back a half hour.

And then they changed our gate.

And then when we got to that gate they pushed our flight time back another hour.

So we returned to the kid's play zone. And we did the whole "Kyra do you need to potty?" questioning routine again. But this time it ended differently. A few minutes into our playing time she came up to me and said, "mommy, I peed in my panties." O.K.

We went back to the bathroom and changed her clothes. Then back to the play area. Then a few minutes later, Kylie pooped in her diaper, so we were once again back in our bathroom. And then back to the play area. There I realized my phone battery was getting very low. It was after 9:00 at night. Our flight to Harrisburg was the ONLY possible way we would make it home. And it kept getting delayed. I had already accepted the fact that there was a good chance we weren't going to get out of Chicago that night. And we'd have to spend the night without any luggage, or my phone charger, and repeat this day all over again tomorrow. It was so disheartening. I was exhausted and there wasn't a clear end in sight.

But I put on my happy face and loaded the girls once again into the stroller and headed back to our terminal. Our gate had changed again. And so had the flight time. So we grabbed a snack and waited.

Our gate changed one more time. And the flight time got bumped back another 20 minutes. So with the help of a stranger, I found a place to sit and put a movie on the trusty DVD player for the girls as we continued to wait. The gentlemen who had helped us to our little waiting area offered to let me use his iPhone charger so I could charge my phone just in case. His small kind gestures gave me hope that we would still make it home that night. And moments later, our flight began to board.


We were at the bulkhead on this flight, so at least I knew we'd be the first ones off when we landed. As soon as the flight attendant closed the door, Kyra said those 6 dreaded words, "mommy, I have to go potty." "Can you hold it?", I asked. "No." So I flagged down the flight attendant and asked her if we could use the bathroom REALLY FAST. She called the captain to tell him we needed to potty and then said, "ok, go!" Holding Kylie in front of me and dragging Kyra behind me, we sprinted down the center aisle to the bathroom. The light wouldn't come on, so I had the door barely cracked but was mostly helping Kyra by feel in the dark. She finished. I grabbed a handi-wipe and we ran back to our seats.

Then Kylie started chanting, "bink, bink!" It had been in her mouth during our sprint back to the bathroom, so I guess it had to at least be somewhere on the plane. We were already taxiing to the runway, so I called the flight attendant (again) and asked if she could look for it. She returned a few minutes later with the bink and a handful of alcohol wipes. "It was on the floor in front of the toilet. You may want to use these", she said. "Thanks."

As we turned onto the runway for take off, both girls fell asleep, one on each arm. Ten minutes into the flight my arms were aching. But I didn't care. We were on our way HOME! Finally. I even managed to drift off for a while myself until I felt the plane begin to descend. Yessssssssssssss. We were almost there.

All of a sudden both girls woke up in a screaming and crying stupor. Their ears were popping and they were completely delusional as to their whereabouts. We had only just begun our descent so I did my absolute best to do EVERYTHING I could to calm them down so the hundred other sleeping passengers on the flight wouldn't hate me. But it was no use. There was NO calming them down. They were just too EX.HAUST.ED. and confused. (It was around 1:00 am now.) So for the next 20 minutes, through the rest of the descent, landing, and taxiing to the gate, I held my two hysterical little girls on my lap.

The millisecond the seat belt sign was off, I was up and frantically grabbing all our carryon bags while still trying to hold both kids. In the midst of it all I realized I was the only one standing on the entire plane. Not even the guy on the very last row was about to get up until my girls and I were successfully off the plane. I could feel every eye sizing up our chaos and I assumed they were all judging me. Until a man behind me jumped up and said very simply,

"Can I carry something for you?"

Those 6 words oozed with compassion. And as soon as I heard them I burst into tears. I was sobbing uncontrollably as I replied, "yes. could you carry these bags?" Then all of a sudden, as if my tears had set a storm in motion, people began popping up out of their seats left and right and rushing to my aid. Another gentleman offered to wait at the bottom of the jet bridge for my stroller so I could take the girls up to the gate. Women were offering to carry my kids. People were pouring out comments of compassion. One lady was emptying her purse trying to find something that would entertain my still hysterically crying children.

It was a sight. I mean a real neck breaking train wreck. But just knowing that these strangers felt sorry for us rather than annoyed at us made me feel a little bit better and I began to calm down. Long enough to realize that my being calm was causing the girls to calm down. So even though I knew there were more tears that needed to be shed, I forced them back for my girls sake.

My husband was waiting for us in the van and I sent him in to get our luggage. We loaded the girls and all our stuff and as we began to drive away Jim said, "It's okay. You can cry now."

So I did.

I cried harder than I have in years, maybe ever. In fact, I cried so hard it caused Jim to cry. So for a while we just cried as we drove toward home in the rain. And as strange as it may sound, it was a very special moment between us.

We finally made it home and got the girls in their beds just before 2:30 am. It had been a long day. The longest day of my life. And writing it all down in this blog made me realize just how long it really was. It took me 3 days to write it all out. So I hope it didn't take you more than 2 days to read it.

How come the totally amazing fun days aren't the ones that drag on forever?


Katie said...

can I just say that I CRIED reading this?!! I would have gotten in the car and broken down too! I love that Jim cried, too. Now that I'm a mom (holy crap, I can say that), I cry at everything...but wow--what a day. you are such an awesome mommy...with all your extra changes of clothes, and binks, and rock.

The Wards said...

WOW Kesh, I can picture that whole story in my mind. I am so sorry you had to go through that. I have had some long days of travel with my kids but I always had another adult with me to bear the burden. I am so glad Jim cried with you, I am sure that was just what you needed, someone to empathize with you. You deserve the mother of the year award!

Grammy Jean said...

I AM SO PROUD OF YOU FOR BEING SUCH A GREAT MOM. (I am like Katie, I had to cry too!)

Amy Smith said...

I'm tearing up too! Wonderful writing... I became you and know EXACTLY what that would have felt like. I had a similar horrible experience, BEFORE KIDS, and at the time, that made me cry. I can't even imagine going through all the delays and cancellations with two kids!