Thursday, September 24, 2009

Some pics from my trip, and the saga of my return to IL...

My cool dude, going out to dinner with me, Liisa, and Jesse, while his mommy and daddy were at the hospital with Alexis.  We had a really fun dinner, then we had a sleep over at his house: Justin slept on the floor in his sleeping bag, and I slept on the couch.  When he woke up the next morning, he gave me the most adorable, mischievious grin, and dove under the blankets to cuddle with me on the couch.  Brought back memories of when I was in El Paso with them and Alexis was in the NICU; every morning he would toddle down and find me on the couch and we would cuddle while I woke fully up.

This was the day before her surgery; I went with Andrea and the kids to Target to get groceries and I bought each of the kids a treat.  Alexis picked out a package of 7 Disney Princess figurines, which she then carried throughout the store.  She wouldn't even give it to the sales clerk to ring it out--she had to sneak a scan of the bar code while Alexis tried to hide the package from her!  Alexis calls Belle the "Scary Princess"; we have no idea why! Justin picked out a Batman plane with a small figurine as well and some discs that shoot out of it.  He was very happy too.

Justin found the tinker toys at my mom's.  He loves to build and he made an amazing creation that he could park his plane on and Batman could sit near the top "flag" of.  He was thrilled when Neal and Jen came over with their girls--he loves them to pieces and calls them his "Girlfriend-cousins".

This is Sweet-tea's dog bed, being shared with her brother Popcorn.  Liisa made one for each of them and they really like them.  Unfortunately, Sweet-tea likes to chew and she put a hole in the corner of her bed already (and it wasn't even more than a couple hours old!) so Liisa has already had to patch it.  The beds are made out of colored denim, and two regular sized bed pillows line the inside of them, laid side by side for added width. They came out very nicely, and for $24 each (including the price of the fabric and the pillows) and a half hour or less of sewing time, she was quite pleased.  The ones she looked at in the pet shop ran almost $100 each!

This is Liisa's "Couch Blanket", with monkeys and frogs on the front, and a "mottled" green on the back; her other one, which she calls her "Vacation" blanket, has pink flamingos and other beachy images, with a mottled yellow for the reverse side.  I didn't get a pic of that one.  We had such fun making these and hanging out together.  I was glad I could help her get the fabrics for them--her roommate was quite impressed with "our" sewing skills (I wore the sleep pants I had made and which are, if I say so myself, are adorable!). 

So my trip home was a nightmare of many sorts.  I got to MSP with plenty of time, thank goodness, because I needed it!  I had purchased 2 small Yankee candles from the Mall of America, and they had wrapped them in tissue paper for me.  When I packed, I rolled them in a sweater to protect them.  The TSA agent scanning my suitcase panicked when seeing them (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it felt that way) and next thing you know, my suitcase was being inspected, some sort of chemical scan thing was being wiped on all surfaces, and the candles were taken and scanned in a "private" scanner...  They allowed me to take everything back with me, so nothing was confiscated, but it was nerve wracking to wait, and I was initially quite confused until I saw them taking out my sweater and the wrapped candles for further inspection...

Then, I got to my gate, at the very end of one of the longer terminals.  I was one of the last to board, and my seat was in the middle of the plan.  It was a 5 pm flight to Chicago (NEVER AGAIN!) and everyone apparently had more than their 2 alloted bags, because by the time I got on, there was NO overhead bin space for my suitcase, which also contained my laptop (so that I only had the 2 allotted carryons).  The steward told me to put my suitcase by the front of the plane and they would gate check it for me, and I would get it back on arrival in Chicago.  The flight itself was easy, no turbulence or anything, but once we were on the ground, I watched MY suitcase get taken off the conveyor and thrown hard, face down (where my laptop was located) into the luggage trolley, with subsequent bags thrown on top of it.  I tried to convince myself that it wasn't mine, that I was just jumping to conclusions, but when I got off the plane, it was NOT at the gate as they had said.  I asked the steward about it, explaining I had to make a connecting flight, and he directed me to the attendants at the top of the ramp.....who were non-existant. 

I must have looked panicked, because someone in uniform (a pilot perhaps?) asked me what the problem was, and when I explained I needed my suitcase, told me that I would need to get it from BAGGAGE claim.  Apparently they only bring things back to the gate on the small planes, not the full size ones, and didn't the attendant ask me about connecting flights or anything?  I said no, and asked if this meant I would need to re-go through TSA etc., to which he answered in the affirmative.  I was just nauseous and ready to cry.  I feared the worst, that my beloved laptop was smashed or shattered, and that I would then also miss my flight home in all the run-around.  But I went to the baggage claim area, and sure enough, there was my suitcase rotating in the conveyor belt.  I grabbed it and went right into Delta/NWA's office area for lost bags, opened my suitcase, and turned on my laptop.  Thank goodness, it worked fine (it was in a case, and I fortunately had things in the outside pockets of the suitcase that added extra insulation I think).  I did complain about them not asking me about my connecting flight etc. as well as how blase they were about my getting my bag back, then asked how to get back to the correct terminal for my next flight. Had I known what they were doing re: gate checking, I would have at least removed the laptop from the suitcase and I am sure there would have been room for that in an overhead bin by itself...

I ended up leaving the building of terminal 2, and walking along the sidewalk til I came to the entrance of terminal 3, then went to the second level, where I was to go through security all over again.  I had my bag/purse slung over my shoulder, my laptop also slung over my shoulder, and my suitcase as I approached the queue.  I got stopped before I could enter and was informed I could only have 2 bags, and needed to check one.  I explained my laptop goes into my suitcase, leaving me with just 2 bags, but the woman would not let me pass until I put it in there, even knowing it would have to come out once I reached the scanners!  Then the agent asked me if I had a current boarding pass, as the one I had was already initialled (both flights were listed on one pass).  I explained what happened, so he finally initialled it again for the second flight, and I approached security.  I ended up with 4 bins and my suitcase; my laptop in one, my purse/bag and shoes in a second one, my laptop case in a third, and my unwrapped candles in a fourth, and my suitcase.  I actually sent an impatient male ahead of me in the line just so I could be sure I was appropriately revealling of any "contraband" I might be carrying.  They still took a close look at the candles (note to self, never travel with candles again--mail 'em back with the quilt I sent home by USPS) but they did let me pass, and with everything.  My almost 2 hour layover was now shrunk to just minutes, and I grabbed a small container of fried rice to eat (I was hungry but almost too upset to eat; I figured that would be bland and quiet my upset tummy).  I didn't even fully finish eating when it was time to board.

I got on my second flight with no difficulty, and arrived on time in St. Louis.  I called Eric to say I was on the ground and he told me he was on the train, by the arenas (about a half hour away).  I told him I would meet him at the airport train stop, and headed there.  I was muscle achey, I was thirsty, and I was headachy from tension, the long flight, and all the walking (my one foot is getting really bad!).  Eric then called and said they were kicking him off the train at a stop 5 away from the airport because they were going to be "one-tracking" the trains from that point on...  I said fine, I would get on my train and meet him at his stop.  As the train started moving we were informed we would need to get off at the third stop from the airport for this same "one tracking", and I was 2 stops from Eric!  I got off at my stop, and was told I would need to get on a shuttle bus that would take me to Eric's stop, where the trains would continue normally to Scott AFB; but then Eric called and said he was on a train to me...  So I waited.  By the time he got to me his 2 hour pass was almost expired, and I was tired and frustrated and cranky.  We were told the next train east would go straight through though, so we got on it, and it did take us to the AFB where he was parked.  It took longer to get from the airport to the car than it took me to fly each way to Chicago, then St Louis (minus the layover times in between)!  We got home just before 11:30 and we were both exhausted--me from the day, him from working his shift, then trying to come get me.  I was so very glad to be home and get to bed! 

Yesterday I was still somewhat travel fatigued, but I taught my class that got rescheduled to yesterday afternoon, and I tried to make it a quiet day/night.  Eric worked yesterday, but he is off today and tomorrow--had class this morning, then he picks up Brianne tomorrow at Ft. Leonardwood.  I teach tomorrow, then work Sat-Monday 5 hours each day.  I also work Thursday and the following Saturday. So today is essentially my only "day off" til mid next week.

Essentially, I loved the convenience of flying, and even with the layovers, 4 hours vs 10 hours for travelling was wonderful.  But my trip home had me thinking longingly of driving, because there would have been less headaches.  Still, I am glad I went, and I am glad Alexis is doing ok.  She has an incision on her belly that is quite sore, but she is active as much as they will let her, and she is feeling ok.  I am grateful to know she is gonna be ok, and once she is healed they can test to be sure it was all a success.

Now that I have shared this, it is time to get something to eat and more coffee.  Then it is on to tackle the chores that didn't get done with Mama being gone...  It never ends, does it!

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