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October 28, 2006

It’s a Long Road Home

Things started smoothly enough.  Both girls slept for the first wing of the trip (Almaty to Frankfurt), and they were, for the most part, great in the airport.  They experienced their first McDonald’s (though it was too early for Happy Meals) and did great until one child spilled the orange juice and the other child dumped out all the baby wipes.  I’m still not sure which was which, but it was a big ol’ mess any way you looked at it.  At some point Ryn hit Maggie and before I could even get across the table Maggie was screaming bloody murder.  Dave had gone to a bar a little further down the terminal in the airport to get a newspaper (and I think to get away from us for a little while), but he heard the scream from that far away and came running.  The way she was screaming he was convinced she must have, at the very least, chopped off her hand somehow.  Once Dae Dae was back, she was calm and ready to go play.  This was about the time he started telling me that we would probably not be seeing him again for at least the next six months once we got home.  Can’t say that I blame him.

The second part of the trip was far less enjoyable.  Maggie entertained herself pretty well, but Ryn was bored out of her mind and decided that trying to crawl over Mommy’s head, kicking and biting every inch of the way, was the only thing that was going to make her happy.  I tried all the wonderful suggestions from every good parenting book I’ve ever read – including wisdom from Mr. Rogers – but somehow speaking firmly and calmly to a wild child who doesn’t understand a word you’re saying and who is committed to getting at least one whole foot in your mouth if it kills her just doesn’t cut it.  And considering we were all stuck in the middle seats in the middle of the plane, there was nowhere to go for time-out.  I even tried the raised eyebrow “you’re going to be in SO much trouble if you don’t stop NOW” stare, but she just thought that was funny.  I, however, didn’t find any of it even a little bit funny.  Mostly I was just trying to find comfort from all the stories other adoptive parents had told about traveling with their new little darlings.  One woman described it as the “hellish labor story” that she’s planning to throw at her kids as they’re growing up.  I might not be able to say “…and to think I was in labor with you for 18 hours…”, but after this trip I think the 18 hours on various planes is right up there with that misery. 

When we got off the plane a very nice lady sitting behind us commented on how precious my little angels were and how nicely they behaved on the flight.  I nearly hit her…

We, of course, were the very last people off the plane.  Dad always said it was a Hunter family tradition.  No matter where we are and how early we start trying to get it together and get out, somehow the Hunters are always going to be the last ones out of the building.  I’ve decided the new Hunter girls definitely fit that tradition.  We were all exhausted and grimy and just a breath away from being downright gross.  As we were heading toward the customs area, Dave asked me if I had planned on changing the girls.  Well, yes, I had, but I wasn’t altogether sure at this point that it could happen in under an hour.  Still, we decided to give it a shot.

I took them into the first bathroom we came across and changed my nasty little hellions into pretty little angels.  It’s amazing what you can do in an airport restroom with the right motivation.  Maggie was so excited about putting on her little red dress with the white fur on it that, even exhausted, she pretty much dressed herself.  Ryn, on the other hand, was still working on trying my last nerve.  I didn’t think we were ever going to get her into those little tights.  Still, by the time we walked out of the restroom I had the two most beautiful little girls all ready to become American citizens.  (Wow – I got a little chill just writing that!)

We made it through Customs fairly easily, but then we still had all kinds of lines to stand in and clearances to walk through before we finally made it to Immigration.  We handed the girls’ paperwork in and then waited and waited and waited a little more.  I think Uncle Dave was thrilled out of his mind at this point to have an excuse to get as far away from us as he could go.  He decided that somebody absolutely had to stay with the luggage, and he was the man for the job!  So, until it was time for the final “interview”, he stayed with the luggage and I stayed with the girls.

Finally they called our name and I was given the last papers the girls needed to get out of the airport and go home!!  I had watched the guy at the desk the whole time we were waiting, and he had been very stern and business-like with everyone who had gone through.  However, when the girls went up to the desk he was so sweet.  He complimented them on their pretty dresses and welcomed them to the United States of America.  If I hadn’t been so exhausted and so absolutely ready to get out of there I might have been touched.  At that point I just wanted to grab the girls and run as hard as I could out of the airport!

By this point, our family had been waiting for about two hours for us to come through the gates.  I think they were nearly ready to give up all hope that we were even coming home today.  Still, when we came through, there they were waiting to welcome home the newest members of the Hunter family.

  Aunt Peg & Mimi waiting on the newest Hunter girls!!

  Maggie’s being shy

   But Ryn has a new best friend…Love it my Toppy!

Just in case the girls were feeling completely scared and overwhelmed, Abbie and Lance had brought them gifts to hopefully help them feel a little more at ease.  Abbie told me that Lance picked them out himself, but since the girls had never even seen pictures of him he decided it might be better for Abbie to give the gifts to them.  They were the sweetest, softest little Care Bears.  Heck, by that point I was kind of feeling the need for one of those myself. 

Abbie’s got one for each of you…

Maggie and her very own Care Bear

I started out with the best intentions of introducing the girls slowly to their new family.  I’ve heard all the conventional wisdom about spending at least the first two weeks (preferably two months) at home with your new children with few visitors and no one else doing any feeding, bathing, changing, etc.  It’s important that you have a strong and healthy bond between parent and child before you start throwing extra people at them.  Sounds smart, doesn’t it?  Think it happened that way?  Nope.

My original plan was to go straight to our house from the airport, but then I remembered that I had no food at my house.  Hmmm… stick to the plan or feed my hungry children?  So much for that plan…Mimi had already prepared things for a wonderful dinner at her house before they left for the airport, and it just needed a few minutes before we’d be ready to eat.  So, we went to Mimi’s house.  It was definitely the right thing to do.  For starters, Mimi and Papa’s house is essentially Fantasy Land for children.  That was always Dad’s idea of the way things were supposed to be.  He wanted to make sure his grandbabies (and really any children) would be happy and feel secure and well loved in their home.  The girls went straight in and started playing like they had been playing there their entire lives.  Secondly, by going to Mimi’s house, we extended the Welcome Home party a little longer and the girls had a chance to get to know all the people from the photo album a little better.  They still looked to me for anything they needed, but I was amazed out how relaxed and happy they were so quickly. 

  Maggie’s new friend, Elmo

  And Ryn’s new friend Toppy

Finally, it was time to go home.  Today was a huge day for the girls and they were exhausted.  When we got home Ryn was asleep and didn’t even wiggle when I put her in her bed, but Maggie woke up and was a little upset and confused.  I decided she deserved at least a little tour of her new home, so I took her out of the bed and walked back outside with her.  She recognized the red door from the pictures of our house and started to calm down.  I gave her a quick tour of the main floor of the house, carried her upstairs and gave her a tour of Mommy’s room and bathroom, Maggie and Ryn’s bathroom, the guest room, and finally carried her back to their bedroom.  Apparently that was all she needed.  She settled in as soon as I laid her on the bed and went back to sleep.

What a remarkable day!  Welcome home little Hunter girls.  Welcome home.