We ate breakfast at McDonalds, sipped on my last Starbucks drink for a long while (caramel brulee latte, hope it still exists when we return!) and pre-boarded after a small wait due to arriving early. We loaded the plane and it was off without a hitch. The kids LOVED it and settled in quickly. Sissy nursed during take-off and fell asleep. She ended up napping for a little over half of a hour, then woke and played on my lap, then B's before falling back asleep. Peanut watched some shows on my iPad and was asleep within the first hour and a half and slept up until the pilot announced decent into New York. Bubba fell asleep at some point (not sure when, he was sitting by B) and Pookie only slept for maybe half an hour. He had little dark circles under his eyes when we arrived at JFK!
JFK wasn't even stressful, boring and long but it went okay. We arrived in one terminal, had to take a shuttle to the international terminal which in itself isn't a problem. But the pet relief area was in the terminal we landed in. However to get to it, you had to leave the airport and reenter, of course going through security. That was not going to happen as the lines were RIDICULOUSLY long. So Rascal had to hold it until after our shuttle ride to the new terminal. Then B took just him out (no kids, no bags) and re-entered through the international security (which was much shorter so early in the day). Then we waited. From noon until our flight left at 6pm. This was the most challenging part of the trip. After eating lunch there wasn't much to do but walk the dinky terminal. I would have loved to hit up a Starbucks, see the shops, etc but I wasn't going to go through security again so we stayed. Played games, drew pictures, ate and ate some more. Finally it was time to pre-board. The kids were doing well, Pooks was exhausted. Once we boarded, he fell asleep before we even took off! He remained asleep until breakfast was served (7 hours later). The other kids also fell asleep quickly. At some point after the dinner service (tortellini in a creamy sauce, side salad, roll, cheese chunk, and blonde brownie) I slept as well though not very good. I couldn't get comfortable at all, the people diagonal from me were awake and talking loudly, in Italian. I was surprised (though I'm not sure why, lol) our flight was fully packed and the majority were Italian nationals not touristy Americans like I had expected. Everyone was nice and it was good flight. Minimal turbulence and we ended up landing a full hour ahead of schedule. Surprisingly even only getting maybe 4 hours of interrupted sleep, I still felt semi rested.
The worst part of the flight, hands down was the arrival process once we were in Venice. The kids were still tired and didn't want to carry push their carry-on or wear their little backpacks so B and I had to do that in addition to all the other carryons and the dog. I was wearing Sissy, he was wearing Peanut, then we were strapped down with everything else. We had to ride this escalator down from our gate and it was a challege. The pilots and crew were with us and offered to help which sounds amazing but then somehow we ended up at the bottom of the escaltor readjusting all of our stuff and realized we were missing Peanut's carry-on. No time to worry about that at the moment, we had to show our passports and proceed to get our other luggage which was freakishly fast coming down to baggage claim. B was trying to quickly grab all of our luggage, I was trying to keep the kids back, get the dog to stop barking, keep an eye on our carry-ons and try to calm Peanut down who was upset about his lost bag. B needed a cart to carry luggage and they only accepted Euro, which we didn't have. So B continued to grab carseat and shove them off to the side when suddenly the empty carousel we were standing by, suddenly started moving and we had to move all of it again. While he used a machine to get Euro change while watching the kids, I walked around to find the US military liaison. No luck. Apparently the liaison is outside of security. I returned to B, helped him load up all nine bags on three carts, and (with people staring) pushed everything out into the main part of the airport. B looked around for his sponsor but didn't see her. Not a huge surprise since our flight was over an hour early! We finally spotted a sign that was a ''Welcome" sign for our installation with an arrow to the liaison booth. We drag everyone and everything over to discover that the booth is empty.
At this point we were tired, thirsty, in a place where we couldn't speak to dang near anyone and the kids who had been wonderful were starting to lose it. They were sick of sitting, sick of being patient and sick of airports. B went and bought a bottle of Limone! Gatorade, it was 3 euros for one 1/2L bottle...apparently Gatorade is a hot commodity over here! Then B let Rascal out to go potty, then look for his sponsor again. I wrangled up the kids, the luggage and parked it near a bench. Boy were we a sight, lol. I ransacked all our our bags coming up with a bag of animal crackers. It bought me some time but not much. As I'm standing there completely frazzled, the liaison approached me. Apparently we screamed ''desperate Americans!". He called B's sponsor (who was on her way) and then allowed me to call my parents and let them know we made it safely. While the liaison and B were talking, I went over to the the ''lost luggage" station to see if they had Peanut's lost carry-on....they did! With his carry-on in hand, I went back to the booth to find that our sponsor had shown up too! The guys quickly loaded up the luggage, installed the car seats and we were on our way to our new home!
Part 2, our arrival to post and our first outing, will be written shortly!