A huge, heartfelt Thank You to all of you who were praying us home! It was a hard trip, but I could tell that God was carrying us the whole way. I'll give a little summary:
We put the kids to bed at their usual time, then woke them at 10:25pm for our scheduled 10:30 drive to the airport. Jack woke excited, and Safita happy. Owen was going to drive us (me, the kids, and my brother Sam) in our rental car with all the luggage, but the luggage kind of took over the car. One of the other fellows from ACOR--James--turned out to be on our same flight to Paris, and offered to let us ride with him in his taxi, which was our first lifesaver. The taxi driver wasn't terribly reliable, however, and showed up half an hour late, then proceeded to take the busiest roads out of the city and also drive between 10-20 km under the speed limit (which is extra crazy in Amman) the entire way to the airport. We were seriously concerned we were going to miss our flight. He kept trying to have us promise to call him when we come back to Jordan, but I was like, "Yeah right! As far as I can help it, I will never use you again!"
Owen helped us inside with the bags; it was sad to say goodbye. We went through the usual chaos of unpacking & undressing then repacking & redressing for security, and got to check-in to meet Sam there who informed me (somewhat frantically, since we were so late) that I needed to repack all my bags because they were overweight. He had checked in with a different person, however, and much praise to the Lord, the lady who checked me in let the extra kilo or two pass with no fee (and no repacking of bags!). I think people are kinder when they see you laden with children.
Immigration provided more excitement, when we discovered that our visas had only been extended through August 25th instead of the 30th. I'm not sure who was responsible for that, but there was a fine and they only accepted Jordanian Dinar cash...which I didn't have, because I left it all with Owen. If I'd had to find an ATM to get the money, we would've missed our flight. But, exactly at the right moment, our friend James had seen me at the cashier's counter and came to see if everything was okay, and without even being asked whipped out some cash to save us.
We went through another line of security and made it to our gate just in time to board.
The first flight to Paris was about 5 hours...Safita fell asleep right away, but Jack was too excited and waited halfway through the flight to sleep. I had to wake him to get off the plane. Both of them were exceptional.
We arrived in Paris at 5:15am to face a long 8-hour layover...in a very uncomfortable airport. People had warned us that the airport was cold and there was no food. We found this to be true, with one exception: there was food, but it was so overpriced who could pay for it? A small bottle of water for 5 EUR (a little over $7 USD), a small slice of pizza for 6 EUR, a small piece of lasagna for 10 EUR, etc. Also, going through security, a businessman wasn't watching and tripped over Jack, and instead of apologizing for nearly hurting my small child, looked at me angrily like "how dare your child get in my way" and started chastising the security personnel in French. Oh, French people. This incident was my first culture shock episode...so different than children-loving Jordanians. The kids did not sleep at all during the layover but were in surprisingly happy spirits, for being tired and having no food. Jack occupied himself by playing with his toy airplane and climbing on the furniture, and Safita just hung out contentedly. They made themselves giggle every so often. The time, fortunately, did not drag on endlessly as it sometimes can under those circumstances.
For the Paris-Detroit flight, the boarding line was ridiculously long, but to my delight I was waved to the front of the line. Flight attendants on the plane swarmed me to help me get settled...which actually was a bit overwhelming at the time and caused the kids to become stressed out and both were wailing uncontrollably. Jack also disappeared shortly after we got to our seats, and we discovered him across the aisle making himself comfortable at a nice window seat. He was heartbroken that he wasn't allowed to stay. Sam did not have a seat next to us on this flight, but it worked out okay as the people next to us (in the 4-seat middle section of the plane) were a sweet, young, Indian couple who proactively helped me with the kids the entire flight. The girl was the sweetest thing, even Safita went to her and stayed with her while I changed Jack's diaper in the bathroom, and never cried. They even advocated for me with the flight attendants to find me a space where I could spread out with the kids instead of being cramped there, but to no avail.
On this flight, after we'd gotten settled, Jack curled up in his seat and fell asleep before the plane even took off. Safita fought it a little bit longer, but was asleep shortly after takeoff. Both slept for a solid 4 hours, and then were happy and good for the remaining 4. The flight attendants were so helpful, as well--one of them even took the time while serving a meal to open all of the sealed coverings on the food for me, because she saw that I had no free hands. At one point in the flight, I was feeling so moved and grateful for God's goodness that I couldn't help but weep. Upon landing, everyone around us gushed with compliments about the children, how beautiful, how good, how happy...and someone also said their mother was a saint, ha ha, which was kind and nice to hear.
We got through customs fine, and a porter was there to help us with the bags; one bag was missing, but we're hopeful for it's quick return. We got some dinner, then the kids and I fell right to sleep for the 5 hour drive to my parent's home. Amazingly, the kids also slept normally through the night and seem to not be struggling with jet lag at all.
Truly, God has blessed our trip.