We survived it! Exactly 8 months after moving to the UK, we made our first trip home. . .for Christmas! I had my reservations about coming home during the most stressful, emotionally taxing, and cruddiest weather in Chicago time of year, but it we had a really good time and it was wonderful to see everyone!
We flew out of Heathrow on Boxing Day--December 26th. I had been fairly calm through the packing and getting ready for Christmas; I had come around to the conclusion that relaxation was a better choice than insanity. The morning of our departure, however, was almost disastrous. We made it out the door a little late--which would have been fine if we hadn't completely underestimated how long our Tom-Tom would say the trip to the airport would take. As our loaded-down people mover (love that one! :) flew down the motorway, I alternated between deep breathing, tears, and praying. We had an ETA of 8:35am for a 10:05am flight. Just Keith and me--no problem. . we've done the airport sprint before. With the girls--no way. We still had to find the parking garage and unload the car. We still had to check-in because we couldn't check Charlotte's reservation in on-line. We still had to check our luggage. We still had to go through security. We still had to make the LONG walk to the international gates. We were in trouble.
The Tom-Tom's estimated arrival kept dropping minutes as we drove, so I began to calm down and started to give the family a pep-talk about moving quickly through our airport tasks. We found the parking garage I had pre-booked on the second try, parked right by some luggage carts, and flew to United's desk. Not much of a queue. . that helped. Very helpful and sympathetic United employee to check us in. . that helped some more. A kind security official that let us sneak into the First-Class security line. . .someone was watching over us!
We made it half-way to the gate and I realized I had two diapers in the carry-on. Keith went on with the girls and I ran back to Boots (like Walgreens) to grab a pack. Another underestimated decision: I am far too out of shape for a run through the airport. I got back to the gate just as we were able to board--pouring sweat and breathing heavy--and was met with the news that they had a seat for Charlotte, who we had only bought a lap-child ticket. Hooray for United Airlines!!
All was well. . .we made it on the plane. . .and the 9 hour trip (which arrived 40 minutes early!!) was thankfully uneventful. There was a little turbulence over the ocean, but not enough to worry the girls. Keith, Charlotte, and I got a little sleep, and she stayed happy pretty much the whole time. Hannah and Maggie played, watched Toy Story (in French and Spanish--the English audio feed was off), and enjoyed having drinks delivered to their seats. Hannah liked being able to get up for the toilet--on her own--whenever she wanted!
After arriving at O'Hare and getting through customs and baggage claim, we were met with a welcoming committee complete with a welcome home sign and balloons. Thanks to Pa and Grammy, Grandpa and Grandma, Uncle Mike, Aunt Beth, Brynn, and Anne for being there to welcome us back. We were all so excited to see familiar faces!
Our first stop? Red Robin for a real burger made with good beef, free refills on drinks, and ranch dressing!!