We made it. It was a grueling and challenging ordeal but we're finally here. In hindsight I think I'll choose to think of it all as a character building exercise or else I may never fly again!
The cab was scheduled to come at 9am and as I'd booked a twelve seater maxi taxi several days in advance, I didn't think we'd have any trouble fitting ourselves and some fifteen bags into the vehicle. But, notoriously unreliable Canberra Cabs sent us a seven seater mini van, at 9:20 am no less, which clearly wasn't going to fit us and our things comfortably. A lengthy and irritating phone conversation with an operator who said they didn't actually have twelve seaters, led to him concluding that there must have been some error in the booking. Ya think? After a bit of jiggery pokery we were able to push on.
Arriving at Canberra airport, stressed and exhausted, we checked in and were told that they were putting us on an earlier flight. Great, we thought - more time in Sydney to get lunch and make it to the international terminal. After waiting for ages however, we came to realize that after delays due to fog, the flight they put us on was actually later than the flight we were supposed to be on, landing us in Sydney with very little time to spare. They wouldn't put us on the earlier flight to give us more time, but told us they would give us express passes to get us through customs, then they wouldn't actually give us the passes, then they approached us at our seats with the passes and apologies - ugh. The flight was uneventful once we did board. Ari slept and Riker was entertained by Brian and no one had any ear issues whatsoever. I had a nice conversation with my seat mate about parenting and schools in Canberra.
We landed in Sydney and realized just how little time we had. Carrying bags for four and two small children we must have looked like a bit of a circus rushing ourselves through the airport. Thankfully, my seatmate pulled some strings and with a single phone call had one of those electric cars at our feet within a minute to pick us up and deliver us to the transfer desk. I only caught his name when the driver called me to confirm and said Mr Evans requested a vehicle and it'll be right there. Not sure who he was, but a big thanks to Mr Evans.
Before we could take the bus to the international terminal, Brian had to collect our stroller from oversize baggage and go back through security. We'd have run to the gate if we could, but Riker was very tired by that point and crying to be held. I was wearing the baby and pulling a suitcase and Brian was laden with bags. A kind older couple helped me with all my bags so that I could carry both kids and we arrived at the gate sweating and panting with the last few stragglers before the gate closed. Whew.
Our seats were great at least. We had four seats to ourselves behind the bulkhead, with a bassinet for Ari to sleep in so we would be as comfortable as could be expected in economy. We juggled and entertained the kids as best as possible and made it through a long night of frequent feedings and miserable sleep for a congested Riker. Brian caught a few winks but I was up all night as the kids woke at precisely opposite times all night long. No thanks to the passengers behind us who wouldn't turn off their reading light until the wee hours despite holding my hand up in the air to shield the eyes of my cranky and tired and kids who were trying to sleep.
Finally, the sixteen hours were over and we found ourselves with six hours on our hands in Dallas. A kids play area passed the time nicely while we sipped smoothies and coffees. Then we had Mexican for dinner. Twice. The first place we found near our gate was a fast food sort of Mexican (no not Taco Bell - real food) and we had tacos and horchata. Yum. Then we found our gate had changed and we had to get back on the train to go to another part of the airport. We arrived with 45 minutes to spare and found a Mexican cantina next to our gate so we had margaritas, quesadillas, chips and salsa. Finally, we boarded our last plane of the day for Cleveland. With very few passengers, we had plenty of space and the kids were tired so we thought this flight was going to be easy. Except that the pilot felt the need to tell us every little thing he was doing despite the fact that is was nearing midnight. This woke up both of the kids several times and I wanted to scream as I was getting the only rest I'd had in ages. So awake and cranky, Riker and Ari screamed through the whole descent and we found ourselves in Cleveland, thirty some hours after we'd left our doorstep.
Brian's parents collected us from the airport and we spent an hour or two drinking mead and chatting before collapsing into sleep. Ari and I slept until 2pm and I actually woke feeling rejuvenated. It was a great first day back with everyone - introducing the kids and watching them play with their cousins was delightful. So there you have it. The gory details of how Riker and Ari first arrive in their country of citizenship.