I blogged about our trip from the States to Germany, so I guess I can do the same now that we’re headed back. I admit that I fell off the blogging bandwagon in the four years we lived in Bruchmuhlbach-Miesau. Hopefully, I still have my flair.
I should back up and start this on the day we left our house. Shawn got us booked in on-base lodging for the ten days before our flight. My wonderful friend and team mate, Jeniece (aka Half Pint Havoc) made room in her day to come get me, some of my luggage, and both of my cats while Shawn followed us to the hotel with the remainder of our luggage. The kids were in school, the house was empty; our time in our little village was done. Half Pint, Ms. Sippi Queen (another team mate of mine), and I arrived at the base hotel before Shawn. I carried the cats out of the bitter wind and into the hotel lobby while Half Pint and Queen unloaded the luggage from the car. I was greeted with a non-greeting: “You can’t bring those cats in here; this hotel does not allow pets.”
Even though Shawn had booked a pet-friendly room, someone managed to overlook that small detail and put us in the wrong hotel. The one we were supposed to be in was on an entirely different base, on the base that would have been much more convenient, actually, since the kids go to school on that base, and I have friends who live there to boot. I had to carry the cats back out into the icky weather and stop the girls from unloading the car. Shawn had not yet arrived (he had stayed behind to speak a little longer with our landlord), so we put everything back in the car to stay warm while we waited for him. I went back into the hotel to figure out if we could possibly be transferred to the correct hotel. Shawn showed up while I was waiting, so I went back out to the girls and my cats.
When Shawn came back outside, he informed me that the other hotel was completely booked and would be until the day we were scheduled to fly. Of course. I had to find a cat sitter and fast. One of the girls suggested yet another friend and team mate, Debby (aka Dolly Voodoo). She’s a cat people. I called and asked. She was willing. Until she said yes, I didn’t realize just how freaked and stressed I was over the ordeal. Such relief flooded through me. My scritty scrats would be cared for by someone I trust. Good. Shawn had gotten our room keys, so he helped us get everything unloaded from Half Pint’s car so she and Queen could leave. He took care of getting our stuff up to the room while I drove the cats to Voodoo’s house… on the base where we wanted to be in the first place. Oi.
Everything else went pretty smoothly for the rest of the day. That is, until it was time for bed. The hotel room had a bedroom off of the main living and kitchen area; Shawn and I had lordship over that. I pulled the bed out of the couch for Callista the Bed Hog who can dominate a queen size. But when Shawn removed the cushion from the love seat, there was no bed to pull out for Ian. Shawn pulled on his jacket and went two buildings over to request a chair swap. We aren’t picky or pushy people; we just didn’t want our seven-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter to share a bed. That’s not too much to ask, right? “We’ll swap it for you tomorrow.” *FLAIL*
Ever consistent, Callista sprawled as far out as she could for the first couple of hours in bed. She was sound asleep and would not budge when Ian tried to push her back over to her side. He moaned and whined every time her knee touched him. I had to keep getting up to pick her up and place her back on her side, but as soon as I would tuck her back in, she’d flop out again. I ended up putting them sideways on the bed and rolling a pair of pillows in a blanket to place in between them. Callista did not climb the mountain I made, and that was what finally allowed Ian (and me) to sleep.
The next nine days were largely uneventful, and I have nothing to report.
Then we have today.
Or should I say yesterday. I didn’t have the laptop plugged in as I was blogging, so battery power had to be conserved. Yesterday was pretty normal as far as hotel checking out is concerned. Shawn started getting a little stressed, but that was to be expected, and I tried not to hold it against him. We got everything loaded into the rental car and to the terminal. I took the car to go get my cats from Voodoo. I considered giving them baths, but it was far too cold, windy, and rainy for that nonsense. Once I arrived with the cats, Shawn took the car to turn it in. The place was within walking distance, so that made it very easy. As we checked in, we found out that the flight would be delayed. For just over six hours. Joy.
It wasn’t all bad, though. There is a play area for kids in that terminal, and a bank of chairs on one side actually pulled out into loungers. We laid claim to the three closest to the corner. It could have been better, though. The jungle gym equipment in the play area was roped off (just on one side, but roped nonetheless) with signs saying it was off limits due to necessary repairs. All of the parents had to keep reminding our kids to get down, get out, get off of there. Well, almost all. There was one family who didn’t come near enough the area to see the signs, so when their four kids came screaming in, they didn’t have adults to tell them that they weren’t supposed to be ducking under the ropes and climbing on the equipment. The smallest one climbed all the way to the top of the structure, inside the rocket ship, and was literally (not an incorrect usage of the word) screaming at the top of his lungs. I think he liked how it echoed inside there. Luckily for us, that started happening shortly before we headed over for pet check-in, so we didn’t have to put up with it for long.
Food had been eaten, toys had been played with and put away, cats had been walked (unsuccessfully) twice, and it was time to go upstairs to get us two-legged creatures through security. One great thing about having kids: they get you front-of-line privileges in some places. In this case, as soon as we finished going through security, we walked along to a waiting area that smelled strongly of recycled farts and soldiers (no, I’m not being redundant), and instead of having to wait, we were ushered right to the line to board since we were travelling with children. Woot! Once those of us who were PCSing and those travelling Space A finished boarding, the soldiers who had been on the flight got back on. They were on their way home from Al Udied. Most of them were Army, but I spotted a couple of Marines and Airmen in the mix.
The plane itself was old fashioned and tight. I barely had room to stretch my legs under the seat in front of me, so I know Shawn didn’t have that luxury since he's nearly a foot taller than me. We were placed in the center four seats between the aisles separating us from the three seats on either side of the plane. In an effort to keep the kids apart, Shawn and I gave them the aisle seats with Shawn sitting by Ian and me by Callista. After takeoff, we were given a dinner meal. I made the smart choice of not getting the meat platter. Never get meat on an airplane. Shawn and the kids ended up with chicken slathered in some kind of red sauce with boiled chunks of potato and mushy mixed veggies. I got tortellini in white sauce, sprinkled with diced sun-dried tomatoes. It was actually pretty good, but I’ve been spoiled with Shawn’s cooking, so I found myself wanting some bit of spice. The dessert left much to be desired. It tasted like a very dense, lemon-flavoured sponge. I only had one bite of mine.
Sleeeeeeeeeeeeep. Yeah, right. The kids conked out. Shawn made to do the same, but he took a little longer to settle. Me? I couldn’t. I tried. I was tired. But it was just too impossible to get comfortable enough to sleep. I also have a bad habit of twitching when I can’t sleep. I scratch at imaginary itches, I tense muscles, I’m just a huge pain in the ass and a terrible bed partner. So instead of doing that to both Shawn and Callista, I put my ear buds back in and finished watching the movie I had started before dinner: “Transcendence.” Good movie, by the way. I rather enjoyed it. When it was over, I forced myself to be still and managed a few hours of sleep.
The flight took eight hours. That was crazy! The itinerary said it would be ten!
Because of the delay, Shawn had called ahead and cancelled our hotel reservations. It didn’t seem worth the hassle to get our luggage through a hotel, into a pair of taxis, get to a hotel (that Shawn wasn’t even sure would accept the cats after what had happened with the first one), sleep for just a couple hours if we could manage, and then turn right back around to return to the airport. Then it turns out we’d be in this airport for a little longer than we anticipated. No worries. The USO would take care of us.
It took a veeeerrry long time to get through Customs. Because both of the kids wanted to use the bathroom as soon as we got off the plane, we were close to the last people in the line. The upside to that is once we got through, all of our luggage and our cats were already waiting for us in baggage claim. Score! I grabbed two luggage carts and the cats as Shawn snatched our bags off the carousel. As we left baggage claim, Shawn pushing a cart with three suitcases and a cat, me pushing a cart with three suitcases and a cat, all of us lugging our carry-on bags on our backs, we went through a set of double doors…
…and were greeted by a large gathering of people! They were holding up signs and ringing bells. Welcome Home! We’re Proud of You! Thank You for Your Service!
I figured they were there for the soldiers. It made sense, and I thought it was nice. But then I realized these people were making eye contact with me. And saying these nice things to me. And taking pictures of my whole family. I was handed a goodie bag filled with candy, a bottle of water, a handmade card from a child, and a flyer explaining who they were. It was the work of a volunteer group in Maryland. They wanted to thank not just the soldiers, but their family members too. Awww! I was really touched. What a great group of people.
We made it to the USO room. The cats and kids were parked at a bench directly across the hall, and Shawn and I pushed the carts into the reception area. I parked my cart against a wall for Shawn to handle after he had checked in so I could go back and keep an eye on my four littles. First order of business was to remove the soiled piddle pads from the cats’ carriers and replace them. Callista helped me with that. Just as I had closed the second cat into his carrier, Shawn was back with two bits of information. Thing one: pets are not allowed into the USO apartment. Thing two: I had to go show my ID and sign in.
I wasn’t touching anything until I had washed my hands. Callista agreed. We buzzed right past the USO desk and went for the bathroom beyond, both of us holding our hands forward and up. The lady behind the desk was not having it. She chases us and intercepted us as we waited for the bathroom to open up. “Ma’am, you can’t come back here until after you’ve shown ID and signed in.” I explained my plight. It was not good enough. I could not use her bathroom. She gave us hand sanitizer and insisted I join her at the desk.
The rest of the stay at this airport has been me and Shawn taking turns sitting with the cats. All four of us went outside to walk them, but since messes had already been made in the carriers, it didn’t surprise me that the walks were unsuccessful. Shawn has taken a few walks around the airport (once coming back with food). I’ve stayed largely in one spot, trading off to take the kids into the Family Room of the USO apartment for a little while.
As of this writing, Shawn has the kids in the Family Room while I’m sitting in baggage claim 14 just outside the USO apartment. Though my body feels as though it’s half past noon, the clock insists it’s only 0630. Our next flight is scheduled to leave in three and a half hours. Thankfully, that one will only last just over an hour. Though this trip was not nearly as painful as the one to Germany four years ago, I am so done with airports for a good long while.