Our flight to the North Pole… and back

We were so excited to actually be going somewhere this week! We spent Monday packing up all our stuff and putting the rest of our stuff in the storage unit, I went to the store for some last minute items, and I had another midwife appointment. Tuesday, we found out our flight was delayed due to maintenance issues, so we took our time and arrived in the airport, in the United lounge 3 hours before take-off. No problem. Landon took a stroller nap and we ate lunch in the lounge. We got on our airplane and after taxiing for a REALLY long time, we finally took off. Things seemed to be actually happening. When we pulled away from the gate, I even posted a Facebook status, which I had reserved doing until it was official that we were on our way to Beijing. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

The flight was actually going pretty well. Instead of leaving around lunch time, we left around dinner time and the flight attendants were very nice and attentive- getting meals out on time, and even treating Landon and I to the custom ice cream sundaes that usually only first and business class receive (Austin arranged that and we love him for it!) About three hours into the flight, Landon and I took our third trip to the bathroom and noticed that there wasn’t any water coming out of the spigot. Not a good sign! We went back to our seats and a few minutes later, the pilot came over the intercom- also not a good sign so soon into the flight! He apologized for interrupting everyone’s sleep but said that anyone who was asleep should wake up for the announcement anyway- 3rd terrible sign! He said that although there were no mechanical issues with the plane- phew!- that the aircraft was completely out of water. This meant that the toilets could not flush solids correctly, and there would be no more hot drinks. He implored us to only use the restroom if it was an emergency, and even with that, with over 300 people onboard our 747, the bathrooms would “detiorate quickly.” I quickly resolved to hold it for the remainder of the flight. He said with over 8 hours of flight time to go to Beijing, it was going to be too much of a health hazard to continue, so we were going back to Chicago, the nearest United hub.

Despair set in. Landon had been waiting so long to go to China, and we were finally going, and now we weren’t. We were stuck in an airplane near the North Pole,s 3.5 hours from Chicago and it was all for nothing. At that point, I was pretty sure we were going to be on the rescheduled flight, so I was looking at one day of 10 hours total in an airplane, followed by a day with 13+hours on an airplane. This was not healthy or even really possible with a toddler. This was all going on in my head, but I think Landon picked up on it. Even though it was getting to be really late at night and he was tired, he refused to fall asleep. He wanted to snuggle in my arms vs. sitting in his seat, so we did that for over an hour. The whole time he was struggling to find a comfortable position, but the only position he could really be in was completely vertical leaning on my chest because he’s so long! At some point, my arms became too tired to continue wrestling him. I gave up and just buckled him in his seat and told him to go to sleep. He finally went down with an hour left in the flight back. He slept through the landing and taxiing and was kind of half awake as we sorted out hotel vouchers and food vouchers and boarding passes for the next morning. By the time we reached the hotel shuttle bus, though, he was jazzed to be alive! It was almost 2:00 in the morning and he was so excited to be on a bus. For awhile, he thought we had made it to China, but we explained to him what happened and he seemed to get it.

At this point, I was sincerely wishing we had packed a more thorough “emergency” carry-on. We had PJs for Landon, some travel wisp toothbrushes, pull-ups, and lots of snacks and wipes but no changes of clothes for Austin and I. I had deodorant but no brush. The thought of getting back on a flight in the morning in stinky, worn, stained clothes was icky. However, not packing a carry-on like this is worth it when we have to tote Landon’s giant car seat, his bag, our backpacks, and Landon to our seats on the airplane. Adding a carryon is just not worth it for us. 
Wet bar with all things breakable on it

Fast forward a half hour as we get our room situation sorted out at the Hyatt Regency. I’m so grateful Austin was in business class because they told all the people in coach to get cots at the airport! Only those in higher cabins got hotel rooms. We were the last of the people on the flight to check in, which ended up being a blessing because all they had left for us was the Presidential suite- the largest, nicest room in the hotel. Landon raced around and around the lobby while Austin got the room situation squared away. He was yelling “I’M ALL DONE WITH NAP! I WANT TO PLAY!” as he zoomed around the lobby pretending the lines on the carpets were railroad tracks. It was exhausting trying to corral him at this time at night- I hadn’t slept at all on the flight because Landon was not sleeping! We finally get to our room and there are several hand-blown glass sculptures on low tables. I quickly grab those and place them safely out of reach on the wet bar. While I’m doing that, he grabs a spiral horn of some sort of African animal, and immediately starts slamming the point of it on the ground like the ice men in Frozen. The horn also went up on the counter.

Landon liked the bedroom!

As I settled Landon down and got him ready for bed at 2:45 am, Austin checked his email and called to change our second flight from Beijing to Dongying and our hotel reservation in Beijing. Landon had a hard time calming down, but before he was completely asleep on one of the couches in the main room, Austin called me into our room. At the airport, we had been informed our flight was leaving at 8:00 am, which meant we were only getting a few hours of sleep at the hotel before heading back to the airport to do it all over again. Our bags were on our old plane, and in the morning, they were going to be moved to a new plane that was already at the gate. Austin received an email from his chief in China telling him that things were again, delayed, and that if at all possible we should wait another week before trying to go to China again. This email came in while we were in the air, so if the plane had not been diverted, we would be spending a week in Beijing right now. That would have been OK, as Austin could essentially “work” from our hotel and we could see some of the sights of Beijing! Alas, since we were back on U.S. soil and were exhausted, we decided to move our flight a week, go retrieve the bags from the airport, and enjoy our Presidential suite for the whole day instead of for only 4 hours.

Living area

Austin called the airline to see about getting our checked bags off of the plane. They told him to wait until the morning and go to the airport baggage area with our bag tags and descriptions of our bags and they would try to help us. After a few hours, he was able to retrieve the bags right before the flight took off! I was so dead to the world I did not even hear him get up to go to the airport. Austin spent a few hours on the phone with his company’s travel coordinators at AMEX travel getting all of the trip details in line for next week. Landon and I were still sleeping… Finally Landon woke up and had soaked his diaper, so we checked out the shower in our room.

Bath/super shower

This shower deserves its own paragraph. Along with two overhead shower heads and a rain shower on the ceiling, there were four body sprayers as well for each shower head. As Landon and I cleaned off, I couldn’t help but imagine the “presidential”  type people who stay in this room. There was room enough in this hotel room for 10-15 people to sit comfortably, and they could hold meetings with 6-7 people in this shower! We tried out all the nozzles and Landon seemed a little overwhelmed with the amount of water raining down on his head. It was pretty intense.

We had breakfast in the club and then decided to just take a lazy day. We asked for a super late checkout, I took advantage of the amazing tub with its own TV, and we just lazed about. Our room had a table with seating for 8, wine cooler, Keurig coffee machine, wet bar, two normal couches, four chairs, and a large wrap around couch surrounding a big screen TV with Bose sound system. That was all outside of the separate bedroom with the amazing shower, deep bath, and closet.  Landon took a good nap, which was a great thing since he only got a few hours of sleep overnight, and we ate lunch in the restaurant before getting a rental car and heading back out to our normal extended stay out in the suburbs.

Austin busy working at the desk complete with fax machine!

In conclusion, we are jet-lagged from our middle of the night shenanigans, but we are in the same city we started in. We ate “breakfast” before getting off the plane so our normal hungry/full cycles are all messed up. The best part is, for the 5th time in the last month and a half, we don’t know when we are leaving, or even if we will make an appearance in China this summer. Although our whole ordeal was frustrating and stressful, more stressful for me is again not knowing where we are going or when. I really try to prepare Landon for these long trips because he always does better when he is mentally and physically prepared, but it is getting exhausting to do so much preparation and not go anywhere. Hopefully we can go somewhere soon. Until then, we will enjoy fattening American food, attending normal church services, library books, and playing with friends. Oh! and I get to have my 20 week ultrasound tomorrow to determine gender and that the baby is anatomically intact, so that should be super fun! Stay tuned for the results!

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