Wednesday, March 19, 2008

little rock? been there.

We're home, after a solid 36 hours of travel.

If you caught the news yesterday, you might have seen that there was a "small" storm that caused the Dallas-Fort Worth International airport to be completely shutdown. There were winds of 100 miles per hour, torrential rain, severe thunder storms and lightening, the air traffic control tower had to be evacuated, and over 1,000 flights were either diverted or canceled - including every single American Airlines flight that was scheduled to depart from the DFW hub.

When we set out yesterday morning from West Palm Beach, Florida - en route to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas - we had no idea what lay in store.

We didn't know that we would board our American Airlines plane - sit next to a woman who could speak little to no English - and had a worse fear of flying than me. (If that's possible.)

We didn't expect that my little baby Henry would bring so much joy to so many people, and would be held by this woman for the majority of the flight, successfully distracting her from the panic attack she had been suffering.

We didn't know that minutes before we were set to take off - while we were on the runway - we would be told that we would have to wait for an hour because there were some thunderstorms in the Dallas area. And then, once we were cleared for take off, and were in the air - we would hit turbulence that had me convinced the wings were going to snap clean off the plane and caused people sitting around me to fill their airsick bags with whatever they'd had for breakfast.

But not me!

Thankfully, I didn't throw up.


Nor did any of my children. At least not on the plane. Elizabeth might have, if she hadn't thrown up the entire contents of her stomach in to my cupped hands on the drive to the airport. Which, subsequently, resulted in a complete outfit change for her, a partial change for me - and the mandatory retirement of primary bunny in a plastic bag.

We never expected that less then 30 minutes before we were scheduled to land in Dallas, we would be diverted to Little Rock, Arkansas ... along with 5,000 other fliers. We'd have to walk out the rear of our plane - and for the next hour - wait our turn as shuttle buses loaded no more than 15 people at a time. We would leave behind our luggage and most critical piece of baby equipment, BOB single stroller on the plane, with every intention that we'd be back within the hour.

But instead, we would sit (or more appropriately, stand) for the next six hours in Little Rock, listening to conflicting information.

Our flight was canceled.

We'd need to make alternate plans to get home from Arkansas.


We were being sent to Texas.


We were being sent back to West Palm Beach.


Even as I sat watching news crews come in and film people in the terminal, the gravity of the situation didn't really hit me. Perhaps I was too distracted by the loss of feeling from my neck down as a result of holding my 21-pound son, because otherwise, he would crawl all over stranded travelers and chomp on stomped upon popcorn from the floor.

After being loaded back on to our airplane, we spent the next two hours bouncing out of Arkansas over Oklahoma, Kansas and arriving in Texas. When we got off our plane and I dropped to my knees kissing the ground, I fully expected that our flight - that was scheduled to depart three hours earlier - would have been delayed and we'd be on track to board soon.

But alas.

Every flight out of Dallas-Fort Worth was canceled.

Except that one that was heading to San Paulo, Brazil.

Oh. And. There were no hotel rooms in the area because of the 7,000-plus stranded travelers.

And. There were no rental cars available because of the 7,000-plus stranded travelers.

And. By the time we arrived, there were no cots available because of the 7,000-plus stranded travelers that didn't get a hotel - or a rental car - and were stuck sleeping in the airport until they could be jetted out of there to their final destination.

So, we were handed a few blankets and with a pat on our heads, sent off to find a comfy, cozy spot to sleep on the cold, hard floor of the Dallas-Fort Worth International airport.

But instead!!!

We rode the tram around the airport for two hours. And the moving side walk at least 30 times. And the elevator. And we ate at McDonald's while I lamented the loss of my watch - that fell off my wrist somewhere between Terminal A and C. Or B and D.

I also lamented that I didn't replace my cell phone that conked out on me the day before we were scheduled to leave on vacation. Because now, not only could I not call my family to give them frequent updates - I had absolutely no idea what time it was - and you don't realize just how scarce clocks and pay phones are ... until you really need them.

Eventually - at around 1:00 AM, we made our way to gate D40, where we were on standby to depart the following morning at 8:30. After wrapping her in a bathrobe (that I fortuitously had in one of the bags that I had to carry on because the sky cap printed out the wrong number of check-tickets), I tucked Elizabeth under a seat (to block the glaring florescent lights) and nursed Henry, almost nonstop, while sitting upright in a chair for the next six hours. I did this not just because my baby needed to nurse or else he would cry out and wake up the people that were camped out around us - but because it was so cold in the terminal - that I needed his body heat to keep me from freezing solid.

At around 7:30 AM, as I made my way to check on our standby status, I discovered that the flight I wanted had been switched to gate A19, which was a train ride and moving sidewalk ways away. Or, approximately 120 miles. Sleeping children were carefully placed in to the stroller - and Bjorn - and then I RAN to the other side of the airport.

Only to learn that there were 86 people on standby. We were number 33 and 34. And there were only spots for eight people. And the soonest that we could be confirmed on a flight out of Dallas-Fort Worth was Thursday. But, if we could wait until then, we'd be bumped up to First Class.

While I sat pondering what to do. What to do. What to do. I spotted chewed gum in my daughter's hair. Gum that she, herself, hadn't chewed, and probably found it's way there when she was sleeping on the floor of the airport. And as much fun as it had been - laying my children to rest on the floor of the airport - it was something that I'd done once, and really didn't see the need to do again. Even if I was tempted to stay another day, just so we could fly back to California in First Class.

So, after some discussion with the ticketing supervisor - we were booked on to a flight for Palm Springs later in the morning.

I called Charlie and told him the good news.

Yes! I was finally coming home!!

But, he'd have to drive three hours to pick me up. Because there was no way I could drive three hours after having gone almost two days without any sleep. And I needed carseats that were at home.

Oh, but wait!!

We only had three carseats - because we had one spare - and the two carseats that I had checked were probably trapped in the underbelly of some airplane in Texas and who knows when I'd get them out again. So I need for Charlie to go buy a new carseat, which we'll need anyway because Henry has outgrown his infant carrier, and he needs to install it before picking me up in Palm Springs.

In four hours.

And that's what my husband did. He fed and dressed William and Carolyn, went out and bought a new carseat, drove three hours to pick me up, installed the new carseat, we had lunch - and Charlie drove three hours back home again.

Tomorrow, I really hope that our luggage arrives.

But today, I can truthfully say that as much of a hassle as it was to be diverted and displaced and delayed and rerouted to a different city ... we had a blast.

I am a control freak by nature. But every so often, there comes a point when you realize that you have no control. And when that happens, there are two options.

1) Fight it. Get pissed off and angry and blame everyone for your misery. (Sadly, this was the majority of the people that we saw, yesterday. And ha! Most of them didn't have little children in tow. And they had cots!!)

Or.

2) Go with the flow. Take a jog on the moving sidewalk, hop on the train, ride the elevator, and smile at everyone you see.

Despite his fussiness at being kept up all night, Henry never cried - not a single time - on the plane ride going or coming from Florida. Elizabeth cried only when she fell down and skinned her knee when she was running full speed off the moving sidewalk and came in to contact with ground that wasn't moving. At all.

I'm not sure if I picked up my good attitude from them - or them from me.

But wherever it came from, I really hope it sticks. Because now that we're all back together again, four kids are exponentially more difficult than two. More specifically, the triplet tornado is at full force and they are making that storm that shut down the Dallas-Fort Worth airport yesterday look like a spring shower.

34 comments:

  1. Yes, I did think about you guys and that DFW airport. Sleeping on the floor sucks as I had that experience once in Cancun, Mexico when I was evacuated during Hurricane Roxanne. I didn't have any kids, but they were evacuated with us and were all smiles!

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  2. Oh. My. But I love that you had fun with it. That's our Jenna.

    Welcome home. When you're up to it, let's play.

    -Debbie

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  3. Jen you really are amazing! Truly we could all learn very valuable life lessons from your sense of humor, ability to see the good in the situation (or positive), ability to smile, to go with the flow...wow. Thanks for sharing this...and I am SO sorry that you had to go through ALL of that crazy mess, but I am so glad you are back--not only because I really know youwere worried and I wanted you to make it back to your family/home, but because I REALLY missed your blogging! :)

    You'll have to let us know how Charlie's trip up north went...and how your time was actually in Palm Springs :)

    You're a trooper...way to go!

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  4. Oh wow! That sure does take patience! Or Xanex - Either way you are amazing! Good for you! Welcome back. Can't wait to read about both trips.

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  5. Oh. my. word. I could feel a bit of panic rising up in my chest as I read this. I'm very impressed and in awe that you were able to keep up such a great attitude and Elizabeth probably had a ball!

    My father has worked in the airline industry for 30 years now. I spent much of my youth flying stand by and getting bumped and flights canceled and what not. We spent 4 days/3 nights in London's Gatwick airport (my mother, my 8-year-old brother and my 12-year-old self) trying to get a flight out when one of the airlines shutdown and rolled everyone onto the one we were on. My mother did such a great job of keeping us happy those 4 days. I think we only cried once.

    Whew, I'm going to go email her now. Welcome back! How was the actual trip?

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  6. Welcome home!

    Glad you made it safely. Way to make the most of it.

    What an experience!
    Wendy

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  7. OMG Jen, what a horrible experience!!! You are so awesome to have such a great attitude through it all. I'm glad you're back safe and sound and look forward to hearing all about your trip!

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  8. Oh My! Living only 5 minutes from DFW airport, let me be the first to say that they close on a whim. If only you had a computer, you could have put out a SOS to all your 3000 blog readers!

    What a blessing that your kids were so wonderful during this whole mess!

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  9. GREAT post! Just all around great story.
    You are super mom (and dad did pretty well too, there at the end!)

    Leeann

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  10. I'm glad your home and can't wait to hear more about your trip. To have two children who didn't cry and scream during all that is a miracle. :)

    Cristy

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  11. One of many cuzzins'3/20/08, 7:27 AM

    No flight, no watch, no phone, no stroller....but, thank Heavens you did have a camera to give us a glimpse of your travel experience!!

    ....In that picture of people boarding the little plane I can't help but wonder...does the groundskeeper have to go potty? And, look closely...what did Elizabeth find on the underseat where she rests....could it be some ABC gum?

    Love that you posted the picture of Henry with his new lady friend...he would make anyone forget about their troubles.

    Glad you made it home. Finally. Safe and sound. Looking forward to your tales and photos with Auntie.

    ~Regina

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  12. Holy cow! Well that certainly is one way to end your vacation! Glad to hear that it all turned out...hopefully everyone is well rested now and the triple three year old tornado hasn't leveled anything...

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  13. Oh no! Wow, I am so sorry. You have an amazing attitude about the whole thing. I'm glad everyone is home safely.

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  14. YIKES!!! Next time, take the cell phone... and my number. I'd have fetched you from the airport in Little Rock or Dallas or gotten a friend to! At least you could have slept in a warm bed! Hugs!

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  15. JEN! I live in Dallas! I so wish I had known you were stuck...you could have stayed with me. Little Henry could have played with Jon Kai and your sweet girl would have charmed us all.

    Oh well...maybe next time! :-)

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  16. Oh my goodness! I totally forgot about you having to go through DFW. My sisieter was coming back from Puerto Rico after a cruise and got stuck in the same mess. Welcome home. Were the airport bars at least open.

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  17. I too live in Dallas. Although with no cell phone, contacting any of us would be difficult. Email me and I will send you my contact info - with 4 kids here already, what is 4 more, right? :)

    lossofmemory@gmail.com

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  18. Hey, I've slept on the floor at DFW. Does that make us relatives? LOL

    A big welcome home to you, Elizabeth and Henry. What an adventure you made for yourselves. You are so amazing Jen.

    I'm glad that the camera wasn't lost in the shuffle.

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  19. Hey, I've slept on the floor at DFW. Does that make us relatives? LOL

    A big welcome home to you, Elizabeth and Henry. What an adventure you made for yourselves. You are so amazing Jen.

    I'm glad that the camera wasn't lost in the shuffle.

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  20. WOW! I certainly thin you held up much better than I would have. I'm happy you finally arrived home safely and I hope you all had a great night's sleep in your own bed!

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  21. I was impressed with you before, but now, I am in awe. You AND Charlie, are pros. I'm taking notes. Oh, and I lived in Arkansas for 7 years. I don't envy you, the layover.

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  22. Sorry to hear you got stuck in the DFW airport mess too. My sister was stuck there as well and also traveling alone with two children (3 and 4).

    Close to tears when I read that you had to put your little girl to sleep on the floor and woke up with gum in her hair. Poor thing! Oh my, but I'm sure she thought it was an adventure.

    Love what you wrote about the good attitudes. I was just talking to my sister about that today. It's so hard because I know that many times I get caught up in wanting the world to revolve around me. Luckily as I get older,I calm down and realize to enjoy life and slow down.

    By the way, my sister is here with her 3 and 4 year old. I have a 3 year old and 6 month old. So we closely match your numbers. Triplets and a baby, KUDOS to you girl. It is tough to get them ready and out of the house and then then breakdowns when in public. Wow!

    BTW< love your blog

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  23. oh my gosh, what an experience! Major respect to you for handling it tso well with two little ones - I would have lost my freaking mind in your situation. So glad you're home. Hope you had a hot shower, good cup of tea, and a warm bed waiting for you. :)

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  24. Im so glad you are back to blogging. You had quite an adventure. I look forward to reading your blog for two reasons. One - you update almost daily. :) And two - I have four kids too and its nice to know I am not the only one dealing with kid craziness. My kids are 6,5,2,and 18 months. Your blog rocks and gratz on being home.

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  25. OMG! What a story! I'm happy that you returned home safely!

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  26. Oh Jen, I'm so glad ya'll are home safe and sound. We live just three hours south of Dallas and I would have driven and picked ya'll up in a heartbeat if ya'll hadn't been able to get home... of course not that you have my number or for that fact a working cell phone! ;o)

    I'm so glad ya'll had fun trip, can't wait to read all about it! Isn't it amazing how flexible kids are, too bad we can't all be like that!

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  27. Hot damn, that is one War Story of a travel adventure.

    I'm glad that
    1) everyone is home safe
    2) you didn't pull out your hair because your kids were wonderful
    and
    3) you have an amazing husband

    Hmmmm, the last 2 also say a lot about you!
    The photo of Henry with your seat neighbor is precious - what a great story to tell him when he is older.

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  28. I missed you while you were gone ~ sorry you had such a challenging trip home but you're soooo right about going with the flow. You & your beloved did great traveling!!

    Great things await your Henry ~ he's a charmer :)

    Glad your home & looking forward to the news of your family! Good going Charlie ~You're a hero!

    Tam

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  29. I needed to read this for an attitude adjustment of my own! Great post - thank you.

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  30. Good grief, Jen! I'm so glad to read that you held it together. But of course you would, you have triplets. You fear nothing. :)

    Can't wait to hear how the rest of the trip went and how the reunion was with your kids.

    Welcome home!

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  31. http://palcopiniao.blogspot.com/search/label/C%C3%82MARA%20MUNICIPAL%20DE%20COIMBRA%20URBANISMO

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  32. UGH! Deja vu! I had an eerily similar experience flying in and out of DFW by myself with 2 kids a few years ago. Right down to the lack of car seats and sleeping in a terminal. And that is part of the reason I hate to fly!

    I'm so glad you are home safely and that you had an exciting trip! Now you need a vacation to recover from the vacation.

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  33. Wow! You are awesome! I don't know if I would have been able to stay even half as positive as you did.

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  34. Just wow. That trumps all my trip from hell stories!
    I'm glad the three of you saw the fun side of being stranded. You're right, it's all about the attitude you bring to the party.
    Welcome home!

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