Well, we are back in the land of sand, sun and shocking amounts of dust...
...and are so glad to be here! The dust shouldn't be shocking me; after all, I was expecting it... perhaps I'd just romanticized it a bit in my mind in the year that I was away... silly me! Our trip went about as well as could be expected... considering how much we took and how many we are traveling... lots of folks have asked about it, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to let you know the nitty gritty!
Traveling back to Niger is a process... a long process that must be done in several steps. Our first step was getting to the airport, Indianapolis, which was no small feat when you've got 26 bags, 16 carry-ons, 8 children and one husband to keep track of. Fortunately, both sets of our parents were able to make the trip with us... and we caught up and passed (first time that has EVER happened) my sis and brother-in-law in a rest area somewhere in northern Indiana. They had started their trek back to California earlier in the day - and all of the cousins got a few giggles out of that.
Once in Indy, we were able to stop by our mission's home office where the staff there had a special time of prayer for our family and our parents were able to put some faces to names of people they sometimes need to contact as they handle things for us on the American side of the ocean. Leaving the office, we headed straight to our hotel to spend a special evening with grandparents and grandkids. Richelle's dad grilled steaks, we "ate out" at the hotel patio and the kids swam in the pool (although the water was cold enough that some spent all their time in the hot tub), showing off for Grandma, Grandpa, Gammie and Gampy. This was the first time ever, since I made my first trip to the mission field, that I spent my last night visiting and relaxing some instead of packing all night long. It is a much better alternative, I'll add!
The next morning, we all enjoyed breakfast, provided by the hotel, and just sat around visiting until it was time to load up the suitcases, check out and drive to the airport. There were a few moments of panic... the lady checking us in was telling us that the computer was telling her we'd have to pay for each individual bag... until she figured out that the problem was due to the wrong airport code. She was great, all of our luggage stayed at or just barely under the 50 lb limit, and she let us send baby clothes as our baby "item" - one less extra bag to pay for!
As we headed over to the departure gate and security, the under 15 squad and their mama were delighted to see that there was a McDonalds in the food court... one last Happy Meal for them, one last Carmel Frappe for me!
Then came the hardest part of all - hugging our parents goodbye... watching them hug and kiss their grandbabies goodbye... we don't ever forget the sacrifice they are making in supporting us wholeheartedly in the ministry to which God has called our family. "We've got the best parents and grandparents in the whole wide world" is the 100% consensus here!
As we headed off down the hall to security, we were relieved and so pleased to find that they had a separate line to expedite families through the process... all laptops (we had 4) out of bags, jackets and pockets emptied, shoes off, strollers folded, bags with electronic equipment emptied into shallow plastic tubs, anything that might set off the metal detector removed from your person... for everything to be scanned. Each one of the kids walked through the metal detector - they think that is hilarious - and this was Mary Michelle's first time to self locomote through the thing. She was a bit reluctant at first.. or perhaps she was waiting for a bigger crowd of security agents to stop and watch her? ...but she finally toddled through to her big sister. Once everyone and everything was on the other side... anything that had appeared questionable in the scan had been rescanned or hand searched... we began the process of loading the bags back up, reshoe-ing all the kids, matching carry-ons with their appropriate porter, opening up the strollers to strap Elsie and the little peanut back in, checking and rechecking to make sure we had everything (particularly children) with which we started out... and then we headed for our gate to wait.
TO BE CONTINUED...check back tomorrow!