The drive between the beach and Raleigh. I will definitely miss all that green!
The drive to Raleigh was smooth except it ended up being an hour shorter than Google maps told me it was. After we got back home I Googled the route again and it was right, so I have no idea why our route said an hour longer. Anyway, no harm done. It just meant we were super early to turn in the car.
Kaden, a half hour after we left the house.
These are some convicts cleaning up the freeway. I love community-minded projects like these. :)
The whole process of turning in the car, riding the bus to the airport, checking in, and going through security all took less than a half hour (since we’re superstars at security checkpoints these days, hehe) so we got to the waiting area about 3 ½ hours before our flight boarded. Stu and I took turns going on walks with Kaden to give the other a break. Kaden was full of energy (always a great thing when he must then sit for the next whole day…) and was pretty whiny, but ok considering what we could have been up against. We took advantage of being in Raleigh and the last opportunity to have NC BBQ, and we had barbeque sandwiches and coleslaw for dinner at the airport.
The flight to London was pretty easy. Stu and I didn’t get any sleep, which is really never good, but Kaden slept quite a bit and skipped both provided meals. I got to watch a movie (17 Again is just as good the second time around) from start-to-finish, which must be some sort of record with the Monk.
We landed in London and went through security where they “confiscated” our 118 ml bottles of children’s Tylenol and Benadryl. Now, I have been through the London airport two other times before this (and countless other airports), carrying the SAME exact bottles in Kaden’s diaper bag, however this is the first time I pulled them out while I was pulling out his sippy cups (which they just made me pretend to sip and then let pass no problem). They made a huge deal out of it saying we could only carry 100 ml bottles through security (though the actual liquid in them was far less than 100 ml total). So stupid. So we went to a little store and paid more (it turned out) for empty plastic bottles than for a new, full bottle of Benadryl. Nice. We made it back to the bitch at security and poured the scant contents of the bottles into new bottles and were on our way. The moral of the story? Keep your contraband in a pocket in your bag and they probably won't find it anyway. Ugh!
Due to our longer-than-planned stay at security, Kaden’s too-full diaper had leaked through his diaper and through his clothes (and through his stroller, if we’re being quite honest) so we had an emergency rendezvous with the changing room.
We tried to catch an earlier flight to Abu Dhabi, but due to our frugality when purchasing the tickets, they were unchangeable and would require us to go out to the front of the airport to the kiosk, re-buy tickets, and get back through security and boarded all within the half-hour remaining before the flight left. Lame. So we settled in for an 8-hour layover.
Having been through Heathrow a couple times now, we know right where everything is located, so we headed back to the uncrowded bathrooms and then to wait in the special assistance room (which also happens to be the only place in the whole airport that is properly air conditioned) to wait out our time. They have little cot-like seating here that you can stretch out on, so Stu and I again took turns walking Kaden around in his stroller and then we ate breakfast at TGIFriday’s, which has become something of a tradition for us. Lol.
After another hour or so of fussy Monkey, he finally fell asleep in his stroller on my walking shift and then I took him back to where Stu was laying down. I hooked my foot through his stroller and rested it on his lap and we all got a little snooze for about an hour or so, which turned out to be amazingly important after so many hours of no sleep. Kaden woke up just in time for our gate to be assigned and we headed down to wait to board the plane.
Stu and I briefly discussed the pros and cons of giving Kaden more Benadryl, but agreed that because it says it can be given every 4-6 hours (it had been about 12 hours), if he got upset again, we’d just do it and deal with future sleeping issues when we got home. Sure enough, he began to lose his mind about two hours into the flight (after watching the same episode of Barney 4 times in a row on the TV[ thank you, thank you, wonderful Etihad for being so passenger-friendly]). He got his sleep and Mom and Dad watched more TV and ate more food in peace.
I would like to take the opportunity here to say how seriously wonderful Etihad is. There are plenty of things about this country that irk me, but when it comes to airlines, they are at the head of the pack. Our flight attendants, once again, were amazingly helpful and courteous (ours was an obviously gay slight black man who asked me if I was Canadian and was bummed when he found out that I was not, too, of America's Hat). It's impossible to be uncomfortable or bored on Etihad and I'm telling you, if you ever get the chance, fly with them. I feel so strongly about it that I have become willing to pay nearly double for our last flight home in a few months just so we can avoid European airports (just shoot me, please) and American carriers. Etihad flies direct to New York and Chicago and I'm determined to get on one of those flights.
We got to Abu Dhabi around 2:30 AM and sluggishly made our way through immigration and got to the baggage claim to find no baggage. After an hour of back-and-forth with the lost baggage lady, when I had already decided that we would file a claim and worry about it later, (I needed sleep BAD) they figured out that they put about 4 families’ baggage on the wrong carrousel. So we headed down to “4” which is in a different area of the airport and finally got all of our bags.
We took the bus to the rental car place and got our car easily and were on the road home. After such a long day of travel, it felt comforting to see the endless sand and familiar roads and trees and landmarks. Stu already started feeling down about being back, but I was curiously lifted by the fact that this place had become our home, for now, and that being back, though it definitely has its downfalls, was oddly comforting to me.
We got to our building, which Kaden calls “the place” (not sure where or why he picked that up, lol) and he sleepily announced, “Ooohh, the place!” He totally recognized his home and sounded relieved to be back. We went in and aside from a suspicious 2-foot pile of about 200 dead gnats and a broken air conditioner, it was just as we’d left it.
After much-needed showers for everyone, I vacuumed the gnats (at 3 AM) and stripped to the bare essentials and we all went to bed. Our nasty, uncomfortable bed has never felt so comfy or been so large! We’d been sleeping in a double sized bed for a week and it felt nice not to HAVE to touch! Haha. (And with having an air conditioner broken, it was also a necessity.)
Of course, upon our return, the house and country problems all started again with a vengeance, but I am pleased to say that after a week, our A/C was fixed and they also made good on the promise of a “new” washer for our apartment! It works (today at least...) and I hope other than doing bed sheets, I’ll never have to use the ones upstairs again (though I’m probably not that lucky).
The day after we got back, Ramadan officially started, marking the beginning of the end of the misery for me here. I have associated the “end” with Ramadan both because of the restrictions on eating and drinking, etc, and because of the heat of the summer. After Ramadan is over, it will again be cool enough to go outside and play, we can picnic again, and Kaden can play at the parks. It also means we’re one month closer to going home. So here’s to surviving the holy month without much more added damage! We’re one week down, three to go! Ramadan Kareem!