We arrived at the airport, and while Samuel, Alex and I watched our gobs of luggage, Brent, Lilly Grace, and our translator went to the tax exemption line so get some money back on some of our in-country purchases. After doing all that was necessary, Brent was told that since we did not have tourist visas (ours were specific for adoption), we did not qualify for any refund. Had we had the girls' names written on the receipts instead of ours, we could have qualified. We were bummed, but at least we can pass this information on to others.
Then, it was time to check out baggage. Samuel goes bezerk when our luggage gets checked and taken away. We convinced him he would see it again, but he still can't stand it! We aren't sure if he is scared his toys and clothes are gone forever, or if he just really likes having everything close by. Once he recovered from the luggage withdrawals, we headed to emigration. We were given a packet of stuff to hand to the emigration officer. (Don't think I am a moron, but the Colombian word says "Emigration" at the airport, and isn't emigration when you leave a country, and immigration when you enter a country, or do I have this all backwards?) The staff at Julyana Adoptions made everything so easy and organized our paperwork, so emigration was a breeze. We were cleared to leave the country.
The next step in the airport was customs, then security. Aside from juggling three energetic kiddos, who were behaving fantastically, security was so easy. You don't have to get anything out of your bags, they just scan it all. Shoes stay on. We simply had to remove jackets and anything in our pockets. Additionally, their security people are always smiling and incredibly nice. Can TSA please take some lessons in this respect?
We headed to one of the airline clubs to get a quick bite and try to sleep for a bit. Samuel basically gets comfortable and falls asleep instantly. He is a parent's dream child when it comes to bedtime. Alex was surprisingly quiet, but is a tornado. Once she finally fell asleep, Brent and I got so tickled because at one point she was talking and waving in her sleep. The child truly never slows down - awake or not. Lilly Grace had the most difficult time. She was being so good, but the noises were really bothering her. Brent spent the rest of our Colombian pesos in the airport while I watched the munchkins.
Eventually, it was time to board the plane. Alex slept in her stroller and in my arms until we boarded. The big kids woke up to walk, but stayed in a fog. It was close to midnight after all. The flight went perfectly. Alex and Brent were beside a nice Colombian gentleman, and Alex slept the entire flight. Brent woke up once to find Alex semi on top of this gentleman, and semi snuggling him. Samuel and Lilly Grace slept the entire flight, despite having their feet in each other's faces. We were anxious about taking a red eye, but it worked out perfectly because the six hours went by really quickly.
We landed in Dallas and had to go through customs. It was incredible having Samuel on American soil! We were originally told once he landed he was officially a US citizen, but have since heard conflicting information. Customs took about 30 minutes altogether, and we were escorted to a room that had a play area. Though it was only 6am, the kids had a great time playing while Brent dealt with the customs officer.
Once we claimed and rechecked our luggage, we went to the Centurion Club for breakfast... an amazing American breakfast! Fruit, quiches, french toast, potatoes, yogurt, muffins, juices, coffee. That french toast was pretty incredible. The kids and I stayed at the table waiting for Samuel to finish eating while Brent took a shower. He was still feeling pretty horrendous at this point, but at least did fine on the six hour flight. Once we were finally finished, I took the kids to the bathroom to potty, freshen up, and I tried to make myself look somewhat decent.
Our layover was over before we knew it. The timing was perfect and we boarded the plane to Montgomery. It was an easy hour and a half. Samuel and Lilly Grace sat side by side and honestly did not get reprimanded or in trouble once. They played on their LeapPads most of the time and had some little snacks every so often to pass the time. Brent was in a seat alone right across the aisle from the big kids. Fortunately, he was able to cat-nap a tad on the flight. I was next to Alex behind the others. Her traveling attitude and behavior has done a 180 degree turn. She was a delight! It made the time pass quickly.
At 10:35 am we landed in Montgomery. I am so thankful the airport is tiny, because we couldn't wait to see friends and family! We were welcomed by the best, happiest, most loving crowd there has ever been. My sister took pictures for us, as did several of our friends. It was one of the best moments of our lives! I think Samuel knows how much he is loved by so many people. He isn't shy at all and was quick to give high fives, hand shakes, and hugs.
Along with these amazing people, we were greeted with balloons, posters, candies and more, but nothing can compare to the welcome these friends and family gave Samuel and the rest of our family. For months and months, all we thought about was when we could finally go to Colombia to meet our son. We weren't mentally prepared for the eight weeks because our brains couldn't get past the awesomeness of the expected "Gotcha Day." Not only that, we weren't prepared for the awesomeness of coming home. It was emotional and perfect. It makes us realize that we have been blessed with the best families in the world and the best friends in the world as well!
Following a lot of photos, hugs, tears, smiles, and celebration, we loaded up the luggage and headed to our house. My mother had cleaned the house immaculately, and she had decorated! We had new decorative pillows on our bed, candles around the house, two vases of flowers downstairs, a wreath on the front door, scent packets to make the house smell amazing, trimmed bushes, photo frames with all three children, and tons of other precious and generous touches. My mother-in-law had gifts on the fireplace for the children and a gorgeous bow on the mailbox. My grandmother had gone grocery shopping. Our sweet friends the Cowdens and the McDaniels had gifts for all three kiddos, and Beth McDaniel and her infinite medical knowledge gave Brent advice on what to do for his illness and what to do if he didn't get better.
Samuel had an absolutely blast exploring his house. He seemed a little overwhelmed, but did an wonderful job taking it all in. He loves his room, the toys, the yard, and especially our dog, Lucy. It was so fun seeing him explore the house.
Within a few minutes, our families arrived. My mother had lunch for everybody: a Chappy's sandwich tray, chips, and cookies. Brent's grandparents brought YooHoo's - a treat Lilly Grace loves when she goes to their house. The kids played so hard in the backyard, and the kids' dear friend Anna Catherine came to play as well. They played soccer, swang, ran, jumped on the trampoline, and played on the see-saw. They were drenched in sweat and had that fantastic kid stench. Everybody went their own ways, and Brent bathed our kids and put them down for naps. We watched some disappointing football and fell asleep as well.
Once the five of us were able to peel ourselves from our comas, we began to unpack a little bit. Believe me, unpacking two months world of clothes, toiletries, toys, etc is a daunting task. Brent, being the kind-hearted man that he is, praises every little bit that I get accomplished and keeps reassuring me not to stress about it and to take my time on the unloading and reorganizing. Hopefully, I can get it all done within the next couple of days and the house can be back in great shape.
My phenomenal mother also had dinner ready for us: macaroni and cheese, rotisserie chicken, steamed vegetables, and carrots with hummus. Delicious. We all ate well, and played together after dinner. Because of the excitement of the day and their long naps, we let the kids stay up a little past bedtime, which meant they were able to hang out some with their aunts and uncles that came over that night.
Brent and I put the kids to bed, then got to spend time with his siblings and their significant others. It is always so much fun when it is the six of us, and they truly are the best in-laws ever! In just two weeks, we all get to go to the Highlands of North Carolina together for a long weekend to celebrate the wedding of one of their cousins. All of the siblings are sharing a house, and it should be a ton of fun.
Eventually, they headed out and Brent and I headed to bed. Our own bed. Our own pillows. In our own house. It felt tremendous! Although we were excited about going to church in the morning and seeing our wonderful church family, I think we passed out as soon as our heads hit the pillows.
The all-too-wonderful family and friends awaiting Samuel's Alabama debut at the Montgomery Airport.
(Photo credit to my sis- Stephanie Parsons. She does wonderful pictures if anybody is in search of a photographer. )
Samuel walking in and grinning as he sees everybody welcoming him!
(Another photo from my sister)