I knew from the get go that I would be traveling with three young children overseas by myself...this was not a secret. I knew that I would have months to agonize and stress over this trip...I know, so godly of me. Before Jake and I visited Switzerland for our house hunting trip (and before I knew I was pregnant), I thought to myself - I am kind of amazing and could handle this trip with my boys on my own (this would also guarantee me some type of awesome "I am going to hold this over your head" gift from Jake...because let's be real - traveling overseas (sixteen hours of travel and plane change...and customs) with three young boys (four and under) solo should get you something...I would pretty much be a martyr). Well, then I found out I was pregnant and I started doubting my awesomeness. And then Jake and I did the trip and we did customs after being awake for twenty-four hours straight...and reality set in, I would not be able to do this by myself...customs with three young boys would kill me...actually kill me. So, I did what any self-respecting daughter would do and guilted my mother into making the trip with us. Luckily, she loves me and had never been to Switzerland...so, win for all (at least in my book). My sanity started to return knowing that I would not have to make this trip on my own (however, I am fairly certain that if my mom wasn't able to go...Jake would have come back and made the trip...because he knows I would have made his life miserable reminding him constantly of my martyrdom).
Obviously, this was a BIG trip. Flying anywhere with young kids is a big deal, but international and long flights makes it an even bigger deal. I decided early on (and since I was the one traveling with the boys, I got to make the decisions) that I would buy another iPad for this trip. I am sure some people thought it was quite ridiculous to purchase another iPad for a flight and especially for a child. All I can say is, probably one of the best decisions I have ever made as a parent...hands down. Two boys fighting over an iPad...ain't nobody got time for that. I also bought LeapPads, movies and annoying baby shows with the music that makes you want to pull your hair out, every snack you can think of, candy galore, all sorts of small toys...and a tranquilizer gun (just kidding on that one, but if I could have, I would have). I was ready for this flight (but no, I didn't put those cutsie little bags together letting everyone around me know that it was Sam's first flight (you know the bags...all over Pinterest)...I have a life and ain't nobody got time for that...and trust me, some Hershey kisses and ear plugs isn't going to get anyone to like a screaming kid for six hours...trust me). In all of this preparation, the one thing I forgot was that my mom and I each only have two arms...and two of those four arms belonged to me...the pregnant girl (and I found out before leaving that I had placenta previa and needed to not put too much stress on my body...ha). We also had a double stroller to push and a car seat (you know the HUGE Britax ones) to carry on the plane as well. Oh, and did I mention my mom was recovering from a surgery that she had on her wrist?!? Ugh. We were a total circus. Ok, back to the trip. We had lots of family see us off at the airport the morning we left - it was very sweet and I was a hot mess. Overall, I know God is leading us on this adventure and there is no other place I would rather be than with my husband and boys...but it doesn't change the fact that it is emotional and hard to leave "home" and "family". We asked United if my dad could come back and help us get through security...seeing that I was pregnant and my mom was wearing a brace...and we were a total circus. And United said, "No." United holds a special place in my heart after our whole experience with them...I'll leave it at that. So, we make our way through security and we get through fairly unscathed (I have to remind myself that we are only ten minutes into the trip). We find the elevator and make way to our gate...so, we get on the elevator and the door has a hard time closing...we don't see any issues, so we force the door to close. And then, whoosh (think of a very dramatic sound)...I get pulled to the ground...that ridiculously long seatbelt strap (by the way, what is the point of that strap?!?) was caught in the elevator door. Yes, the elevator door was smarter than us. This will forever be etched in my head - it was scary...no joke. The boys were all freaked out and scared. It was the perfect way to start our trip...and no worries, the strap survived. So, we head to the gate (a little shaky...but all alive) - and we find out that United does not allow children to board early...shoot me now...but they'll let my mom board early because she is really old (kidding...because she is wearing a wrist brace)...and reluctantly, they let us all board early...thank goodness for my mom's wrist brace. I am fairly certain I would have burst into tears if we couldn't board early. I am not a person who likes to board early, but we had so much gear. So, we board...it is super awesome to board a plane with three small boys, an enormous car seat, ten bags, and breaking down a double stroller. Do you know how wide the aisles on an airplane are? If we had not boarded early, we would have taken out every last person sitting on the aisle on the way back to our seats (and we were sitting in the back of that big bus)...seriously. Honestly, the hardest part of our flights was boarding them. Sam was by far the biggest wild card of the trip - overall, he did really well...he didn't sleep much (even with the dose of Tylenol codeine (yep, no shame here)...but I bet he was feeling good). He had his moments of crying, but they were few and far between (nothing like his brother, Judah, on the infamous flights to and from Alaska)...just glad he had his own seat and was strapped into a car seat. Before the trip, Jake had said to me, "Of course, you'll take Sam out during the flight to give him a break from his seat." It was one of those smile and nod moments for me...knowing full well I would NOT be letting that monkey free at any moment on that flight...that is what the layover was for...I made a good call...a really good call. We were delayed on our connecting flight about an hour, which was a total bummer...because we were waiting in line to board (again, we had the issue with United about boarding early, but I won...sometimes, you gotta go all crazy and win). But, once we boarded and we were settled - all was fine. Judah fell asleep almost immediately and slept two plus hours...of our sixteen hour flight, this was the most that was slept by anyone. A few highlights from this flight: hearing Judah scream from the bathroom when my mom took the big boys (I assumed it was a disobedience issue, but he was just deathly afraid of the toilet flushing), having the worst arm cramp of my life after holding Sam's feet down for ten hours (I cannot control crying, but I can control my kid kicking the seat in front of him), the car seat getting stuck on the plane (that one sent me into a bit of panic - after no sleep for twenty-four hours, I just wanted to get off that plane...they were finally able to get seat off, but it was a nightmare)...overall, the flight went as well as it could have gone. And, for the next five years - I will always get to pick which two kids I want to manage on any flight we go on...and I will be booking my seats with those said two kids in a different location than Jake...fair is fair. And for my mom, she gets a medal.
Once we got to Switzerland, we assumed smooth sailing...except we needed to go downstairs for Customs...seems simple enough because of course it is 2013 and we are in a first world country...so, of course Switzerland would have an elevator...but we were wrong, so very wrong. We had stairs or an escalator....hmmm. We also had a double stroller with two tired children strapped in it, a whiney four-year-old, a massive car seat, and like twelve carry-on bags...ugh. So, I say to my mom, "You get Hugh, the car seat, and some of the bags and I'll get the double stroller and the other bags." And off to the escalator I went. In hindsight, there is always a better plan...but hindsight is only called hindsight for a reason...it is "hind", not "fore". So, I get on the escalator with the double stroller (with Sam and Judah strapped in - thank God) and some of the bags and we go down...and I come within a second of losing my grip on that double stroller and letting it fly down and take out six women in front of us. By God's sweet grace, I was able to bear down and grab ahold of that stroller. That experience was definitely the cherry on top of this trip (thankful I had the double stroller, I am fairly certain my mom would have lost the grip with her wrist...once again, God's grace). Customs was long, but we all made it through - some miscommunication, but with no really issues. And, off to baggage we went...the last step before we could see Jake (yes, in Geneva, you have to get through baggage before you can meet your peeps...shoot me...pretty sure the Geneva airport was thinking of how many ways they could torture me without killing me). We walk into baggage and praise the Lord, we see Jake...best surprise ever (at this point my cell phone was dead and my mom's cell phone didn't work at all...so, I had no idea where Jake was or where we would even meet him so seeing him was awesome). The boys were honestly more dazed and confused than excited, but once they realized it was Daddy and not just Daddy on iPad, they got excited. Our luggage was already there - thankful! So, we could just be on our way...oh shoot...there was no way we were fitting six people and all our luggage in our van...not.a.chance. So, after spending thirty minutes really trying to make it work...I put my tail in a taxi and left my kids...peace out...I deserved this break! The $250 taxi ride to the hotel was only forty minute sans kids...so, it didn't really count. I had told Jake for two weeks prior that once we got to Switzerland, I would be checked out...all done. I would want to sleep and I didn't want to see or hear my kids for at least three to four hours. This was no joke...I was dead serious. Call me a horrible mother, call me whatever - I called myself smart. I think Jake thought I was joking...but once we got to Switzerland, he knew I meant business...serious biznass. So, my mom and I went to sleep and Jake took his spawn...and I slept...glorious sleep. And, we began life in Switzerland...I officially became an "ex-pat"...here is to a new adventure!