Join Angela, Axel, Abel and Asher as they welcome their new sibling home.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Trip Home and wheelchairs

There won't be many pictures on this post, because it wasn't easy to manage Axel, two heavy backpacks AND my camera. The camera just ended up packed away in one of those backpacks. LOL But this will be a LONG post, because HELLO! It was a long trip home!!!!

I had only slept 90 minutes the night before we left. I just could not force myself to wind down. Axel loved helping me pack up all his toys, and was very excited to know where we were going THIS time. I showed him the airplane videos again, and told him that he and Mama were going in one of those things!

I woke up at 3:30 and got the last minute items packed, and did last rounds in the apartment to make sure I wasn't leaving anything behind (and all messes were picked up!) I woke Axel at 4:00. He was so funny! He kept looking at me like I was crazying for waking him when it's dark outside. As I started making his bed, he signed to me, "I bed" with a disgusted look on his face. LOL As I was getting his groggy self dressed he signed to me, "airplane", so I knew he understood what I had told him the night before. Have I mentioned how amazing this child is?

My friend Zoran picked us up at 4:30 and we arrived at the airport a little after 5:00. Zoran was such an amazing friend to us there, and it was hard to say goodbye. Except that I was going HOME, so I only cried a couple of tears. They would be the first of many tears shed along the trip home.

I had checked in and printed boarding passes online the night before, so I only needed to check my HUGE duffle bag. We had time to grab a juice at the coffee shop. THANK GOD because my blood sugar was dropping because I hadn't eaten since lunch the day before.

We visited with some Embassy staff who were also traveling. When she discovered our story she said, "Oh, I heard about this story at work yesterday."


The flight out of Belgrade was very late taking off because they had to de-ice the plane twice. We had window seats so Axel enjoyed looking out at all the things there are to see at an airport. His eyes were WIDE open, taking it all in. Unfortunately the de-icing stuff covered his window so he couldn't see out during take off and really was oblivious to what was going on. I was sad I didn't get too see his reaction, but there were more flights ahead of us! LOL

He was excellent on that 2 1/2 hour flight to Frankfurt. It helped that embassy staff person and her 11 year old son were sitting right in front of us. They were very nice, and her son made a paper airplane that Axel played with most of the flight.

We got off the plane in frankfurt at 9:25, and boarding for my next flight was due to start at 9:40. If you've been in the Frankfurt airport before, you know usually you end up having to get from one side of the very huge airport to the other. This time was no different. Honestly, I had to go from one EXTREME and of the airport to the opposite EXTREME 15 minutes.

This picture is a description of Axel's speed most of the time:

A few days before coming home my friend Ellen suggested I get a wheelchair for Axel. I am so glad I listened to her. Now, instead of dragging Mr. Pokey through the crowded airport, I was instead SPRINTING with him in a wheelchair in order to make our flight! Seriously, SPRINTING! (in fact, I am SO stiff today. LOL) It was probably a total of 1 1/2 mile run. The whole time I was fighting back tears at the though of missing our flight. Twice I had to stop for directions and could barely speak because letting words out of my mouth would have opened the flood gates and I would started the "ugly cry".

I finally made it to the security check point right before me gate. I could SEE my gate, and the people boarding, and here was me, with my arm setting off the *&%$ alarm! ( I shattered my wrist a couple of years ago and have a couple plates and A LOT of screws in there now.) So now they wanted to do the EXTENSIVE pat down, (yes, THAT pat down...the one everyone dreads.) They ran the wand SLOWLY over every inch of me, and even inspected the surgical scar on my arm. Made me lift my hair so they could see under it. Checked out the under-support thingy on my bra. All the while I have tears spilling down my face, saying, "Really, do you see the people boarding that plane over there? That is MY PLANE!" They didn't move any faster. All this while Axel was sitting in the wheelchair trying to figure out how to move the wheels to get himself going a different direction. LOL

Security check done, I was trying to get my shoes back on really fast, only to turn around and see I had to produce my passports YET AGAIN, and I hadn't even gone 30 feet! Oh, and could the guy see Axel's visa paperwork too. Now when you adopt, the visa is in a SEALED envelope and that seal CANNOT be broken except by immigration in your port of entry in the U.S. (which was Chicago for us) I kind of freaked out on the guy a little bit. (I'm claiming insanity at this point) and said, "If you so much as wrinkle that envelope, I will start crying hysterically right here on the spot! Now PLEASE hurry, my plane is BOARDING!"

"No it's not, you have 10 minutes before your flight boards."

"Umm, I can see my flight boarding from here, and I don't have time to sit here and argue with you."

He turned around to see the gate I was talking about, and turn to write something on my boarding pass. "You flight has moved. That is gate C14, your flight is at C15. They're not quite ready to board yet."

Seriously? I just trained for the Boston Marathon within the airport, cried at nearly every stop along the way, and they're not boarding yet?????? As soon as I got through that last check point, I forced myself to stop and take giant cleansing breaths. I was wearing a wool sweater and my down coat, and had just run forever, so was dripping wet. I stood there and let my tears fall for a second, then gathered my wits to move on with the rest of my trip. Apparently traveling when overtired is not a good thing.

We boarded the plane with the first passengers who needed more time. We had seats in the middle of the middle row by the bulkhead. In walked a woman from India with a TINY baby (not yet holding up his head) He was SCREAMING, and she was struggling with her HUGE backpack thing (too big for carry on!) I was talking to Axel when all of a sudden she hands me her baby! Ummm...ok! He was beautiful, and in the 5 minutes she wrestled with her bags and getting situated I was able to put him to sleep. :-) Axel LOVED that baby. He was so soft and gentle with him.

Axel hadn't got to the bathroom in quite some time, so I took him before take off. Umm...yeah. Axel doesn't DO airplane bathrooms. I had to FORCE him into that tiny space, which, with two of us in there made wrestling him to get his pants down quite interesting. It didn't help that he was petrified, and clinging to me like a spider monkey. Have you ever wrestled clothes off a spider monkey? I HAVE NOW!!! Thankfully he went. Switching places so that I could go was just plain clown-car competition. (I only had to take him once more on that flight, which he was NOT happy about AT ALL!)

There was much arguing about seats in the row behind us, and one of the men ended up sitting in the empty seat to my right. As soon as he sat down he started complaining about EVERYTHING around us. This was NOT his seat. (but it was a better seat!) and he wanted the seat that he had chosen 4 months ago because he paid for it. (the woman who got his seat had sat there by mistake but she had trouble walking (umm not) and refused to move. It was all entertaining until the complainer guy was sitting next to me. Wow, 8 hours with this guy who smells like he bathed in annis...ugh! We were just getting ready to settle down for take off when a flight attendant asked if I would be willing to change seats with a woman who had two small children. They were better ISLE seats at the forward bulkhead, and Axel would be able to see the TV better. Absolutely, I said. Mr. Complainer guy was now going to get THREE small children sitting next to him. HA! I could hear those babies screaming off and on for the entire flight!

Axel was mostly great on this flight. Considering this was all so new to him, really he was amazing. About 2 hours in, we had just eaten our in-flight meal, and he was sitting quietly playing with something and jabbering to himself. All of a sudden he went into PANIC mode. He started crying, and clawing at his seatbelt, and was just very panicky. It occurred to me he might be getting sick!!! They guy sitting next to me was a father of 6. "I think he's going to get sick." He said, (and he didn't even have that look of "crap, and I'm sitting next to them." look.) He helped me scramble and search the pouches in front of us for an airsick bag but there were none. A flight attendant walked past and I grabbed her, and she searched a nearby pocket and produced 3 bags. Axel did not get sick, and I never did figure out what thats sudden panic was about. Other than that there were a few moments of testing here and there, but nothing that was overwhelming at all.

When we were coming down in Chicago it occurred to me that touching ground there was quite significant to Axel's life story. My tears started to flow, and I was having a hard time controlling them. They guy next to me knew our story and understood (though I'm sure he was thinking Lovely, I have a hysterical woman here.) A flight attendant noticed me and asked if everything was ok. "Yes" I squeaked, "It's just that I just adopted him and now we're going to touch down and he's going to be a US citizen FINALLY!" and followed by rushing tears. She turned stood up and announced to those around us, "We have a new US citizen with us! Axel has found his forever family is will be a citizen when we touch down!"


When we got off the plane, the wheelchair was waiting for us. So was an ESCORT!!! This was our ticket to a stress free airport experience. I didn't have to think AT ALL going through the O'Hare airport. This guy brought us through every single step AND we bypassed ALL lines. (and they were Long!) We got to passport control, and the officer asked how our adoption experience was in Serbia, etc. He was very nice. Then when he was done he said, "Congratulations on your new son."

Tears started running down my face yet again as I followed my guide.

We went to baggage claim, then to Immigration. They opened that envelope I'd been guarding with my life, and handed Axel's passport back to me. "Don't I get the other documents?" I asked. "No, just the passport." umm...hmm...ok. (this would prove to be a problem the next day.) "Congratulations on completing your adoption. Your son is now a US citizen."

Tears. Many more tears here, but no time to cry, I must follow my guide.

We had to put my bags through an xray thing again, but it was not a security point. I was confused, but exhausted and no longer cared. My guide said to it so I did.

He got us on the train, and to the other side of the airport where we found our gate with an hour to until boarding time. Axel and I found a restroom, then got a juice for him and a coke for me. Then we turned on my cell phone to call Papa and let him know we were safely on US soil. As soon as Dean and answered the phone I put it to Axel's ear, so the first voice Dean heard was Axel's.

I'm pretty sure I could hear tears falling on the other end of the line.

The last flight from Chicago to Minneapolis is a short one, only 59 minutes, but we had a strong tail wind so it was only 50 minutes. :-) Axel was great until the last 15 minutes. That's when my tired boy, who had been up for 24 hours, hit the psychological and emotional wall. He was DONE with these planes, and he made sure everyone knew it! But this was not with tears, but with hysterical, MANIC laughter and a body he could not in any way control. He kicked, he pulled hair, he shredded paper, he spit...all while laughing hysterically. At one point he was laughing so hard he crossed his arms to try containing HIMSELF, unable to even breath he was laughing so hard. Praise God we were seconds from the wheels touching down. He could NOT get off that plane fast enough. There was a wheelchair waiting for us, but I said no thanks. At this point, Axel needed to be able to MOVE!

And then we saw Papa and Angela.....


  1. Sobbing here. I cannot imagne how frustrating, amazing, emotoinal, and exhausting that day was to actually live through. You must be superwoman. Thank you for sharing this journey.

  2. Thank you for sharing your journey....

  3. Awesome! Crying a river here... loved the part where everyone realized he would be a US citizen when the plane landed. What troopers! Both of you :)

  4. Yep, crying here as well! Love reading all about your journey!!! Who did you call to get the wheel chair? We'll be bringing back our boys next week and neither of them walk yet. A wheel chair would be sooooooooo helpful through the airports!!!!!

    bringing home Matthew and Michael, (4)