First day of school in the US.
We've been home for one week, but we were meant to be home for longer. A few more days, not much extra, but a few more days to adjust to life in Texas and to get familiar with our new world.
But that's worried mama speak. Caroline is handling it like a champ.
We were a few days late arriving home because we had trouble getting her visa because we had trouble getting her unabridged birth certificate.
We spent the Tuesday through Friday of our last week in South Africa bouncing between the US Consulate and the Department of Home Affairs - one moment elated the next moment crushed. It was a wild roller coaster of emotion for all of us - canceling plans with friends at the last minute so we could run to one institution or the other, believing we were going to finally get either the birth certificate or the visa and not, quick Facebook and email updates asking for prayers and letting people at home know what was going on. It was exhausting and not a good way to spend our last days in South Africa.
In the end the consulate finally granted us a visa without the unabridged birth certificate. We collected it on the Friday morning and then jumped on the Gautrain from Sandton to OR Tambo International so Auntie Jill could make her flight home - Caroline and I would not be traveling until Monday.
It was hard to stay behind and watch Jill walk through security beyond our sight, but at least we knew in a few days we would be following. An extra weekend in Jo'burg also meant getting to say goodbye well to friends and family there - getting to reschedule canceled plans and getting to spend a few quite moments with those we love.
The 34-hour journey home was long and grueling, but Caroline did great. She watched movie after movie on the first 8-hour flight to Dubai. We both got a bit grumpy waiting in the Dubai airport at what for us was 1:00am. And then Caroline slept for most of the 15-hour flight to Dallas. In Dallas we went through customs and immigration and Caroline entered the US as a US citizen.
We waited in immigration for about an hour before being released to recheck our baggage and freshen up.
A quick phone call, and we found our way to Andy who incredibly and amazingly flew to DFW to spend the time with us while our seven hour layover lapsed. (Yes, he's that wonderful.)
Caroline had her first taco and loved it. Then we wondered the airport, played at the "play place", and sipped coffees and hot chocolate until it was time to get on our last flight to Lubbock. (Thankfully a very kind lady switched seats with us and we were all able to sit together for the 45 minute flight.)
At last we were home.
We walked through the arrivals gate, and there waiting for us were Nana and Grandad, Auntie Jill and Uncle Jake, Benjamin, Katharine and Grandmommie with a big sign, saying "Welcome to Texas, Sweet Caroline!"
Hugs all around, and then the family drove us home.
The days since our arrival have been spent getting familiar with our home, celebrating Caroline's 9th birthday which occurred while we were still in South Africa, attending the cousin's soccer game, shopping for school clothes, buying our first ever Halloween costume, playing Barbies, and getting to know our new world.
There have been sweet moments and hard moments, nervous moments and confused moments, tantrum moments (for both of us) and tender moments. But Caroline seems to be making the initial adjustments well and bonding well with her new family.
We owe a lot of people a lot of thanks.
Anandi, our social worker in Jo'burg, who walked with us every step of the way - stressed with us and rejoiced with us.
Brad, Debby, Rose and Kim at Wandisa, who pushed the whole adoption through from the very initial stages all the way through to getting the visa.
Catherine at Bethany, who walked through every step with me on this side of the pond.
Nicholus at the US Consulate who took up our cause and pushed the visa through without the birth certificate.
Bev and Johan and their whole family who let us stay in their home for weeks while we completed the adoption processes and let us come back for our last weekend when we had to stay a few extra days.
Sioux and James, Sarinah, Beth and Louise who invited us over for meals and tea, met us for dinner and made South Africa home for me once again.
All our family for their amazing support - calls, emails, messages and the like - while we were away and since we've been home.
Andy for his amazing support while we were away but also for meeting us at the airport and helping us get through those last hours and the amazing support he's been since our arrival.
All the good people out in Facebook land who've been following our journey and you who have been following our journey here.
We're so blessed to be home and are enjoying and looking forward to life together.