Monday, September 27, 2010

Ali Danger Flegal (*said with a Brittish accent*)

Eliza and Henry accrued a healthy dose of SkyMiles this past week.

Considering how well (meaning: I did not go into labor) our unborn daughter traveled, it's a shame she is ineligible to participate in said miles earning program.
DAD!?! Eliza!? ANYBODY!!
Stop my Mom!
Not.Another.TRAVELOGUE!

(*Ignoring Henry completely*)

Traveling with children via airplane has become a mundane experience. Replacing my middle name with "danger," we thought we'd spice things up by throwing in a 35-36 week waddling whale of an expectant Mother.

The un-pleasantries included:
  • frequent trips to the undersized airplane restrooms,
  • the displeasure felt when ill-timed braxton hicks met a batch of unfriendly turbulence,
  • bending over to rescue rogue crayons
  • and a criminalistic desire to hijack the airport's golf cart type transportation vehicles while hastily making our way to and from each gate.
Each item listed is easily forgivable when looking at how fortunate we were to collect all of our luggage, pay NOTHING for our baggage (thank you very much American Gold Express cards), smoothly make each connection, watch happy children drift to sleep on our laps and earn the compliments of fellow passengers.

The only time I was tempted to scream my head off was after meeting the dragon agent lady at gate C7. It began with our family's cue:

"We'd like to invite anyone traveling with young children
or in need of special assistance to begin boarding now."

The entitled first class passengers didn't like the idea of being cut in line. Forgiving them, we stepped aside to let them board ahead of us. Zone 1, general boarding, was called. We made our move.

"Ahem. This ticket is for Zone 4" the agent sneered.

"Ma'm. These are my children." I point to our stroller. My focus shifts to my stomach. "And THIS is our special need." If we're not qualified to board early then who is? The lady with the horrid hair bow dished back a load of crap-a-tude. After all our travels, her snide remarks were definitely a first. And for the record, I was traveling with He-Man. His stroller collapsing skills combined with the precise execution of my motherly commands ensured our efficiency. We didn't inconvenience anyone. In terms of gifts and skills, I don't have much to offer; but I'm pretty sure I could teach Angelina Jolie a few things about traveling with kids.

Useless rant is over.

I'm returning to the travelogue that, sadly, hasn't moved past the airport. I should have listened to Henry.

Our week was spent with family. Rather than focusing on play-dates for myself, we did our best to hook-up with our siblings, grandparents and cousins. To my friends who are devastated (wishful thinking!!) that we didn't meet up, please know that our time was limited a.k.a I am vain. We'll get together next time. When I'm skinny.

Eliza was ecstatic to meet up with Emilee right away. Henry surprised me when he came up with the nickname, "Emee-cake." The cuteness of it melted my heart. The Mays crew soon joined in the fun.
Coincidentally, Andrew's sister Liz and her son Truman were wrapping up a trip of their own to Utah. What a lucky thing it was to get those boys together in Utah for a few days. The highlight of that visit happened at Aunt Becky's house. We were treated to a most delightful brunch. The kids loved catching up with their second cousins and I loved me some Belgian waffles. The 16+ chickens Aunt Becky has in her backyard were an added bonus.

The play-dates on the Mays side extended from Nana Marie's backyard to Emilee's house, to Jungle Jims Playland as well as a park play date with the Chamberlains. We were able to get together with Andrew's beloved Grandma Flegal on three different occasions. Seeing her eyes fill with tears as we said our "goodbyes" was one of the hardest moments of the week. Her capacity to love is simply amazing.

Speaking of amazing, my in-laws were super stars. They were so helpful in watching our kids, tucking them in at bed time, transporting them to where they needed to be and spoiling them with love and attention.Silver Lake was definitely a high point for the group.

I was happiest tagging along with my Mom on her wedding related errands. Her ability to stay on top of things really impresses me. Sure, she was the Mother of the groom this time, but she still had her fair share of To-do's. When it was up to me to decide, we found ourselves dress shopping at Target and getting a pedicure. I love having pretty feet.

Andrew was able to do a wee bit of off-roading in my brother's new jeep, butcher an elk or two (sad I missed out on that experience. not.), spend time in his parent's garden and hang out with his sister Katie (who is as thoughtful as ever) and her husband Brent. Playing games with them was a favorite.

As great as our outings were, Andrew and I are both in agreement that attending Matt and Allison's wedding was the pinnacle event. As I took in the site of my brother's beautiful bride, identified the emotion written on his face (I know Matt so well) and listened to the perfect blend of advice, humor and spirituality from Elder Sontag, I was filled with gratitude.

(Pictures of the bride to come. None of the ones I took do her beauty justice. Pictures of me to come = Never. Sadly, each one I have does my size justice.)

Living far away, being pregnant, the expense involved, juggling vacation days, etc... are all reasons why we could have missed out.

To be there with Andrew, to immediate welcome a new sister to my family and to see my kids strengthen their family bonds was a super big blessing. Hearing about it second hand wouldn't have come close (no matter the strength of detail) to capture that moment. Thank you Mom and Dad, Matt and Allison, the pilots at Delta, the strength of my amniotic sac (over share?), and a supportive Doctor's office for making it possible.

The wedding dinner (mmm, that food) was superb, the visits with friends and family at the reception and dressing my daughter like a princess were likewise wonderful experiences. Watching my stealthy husband hop in the back of Matt and Allison's get-away car was a great way to end the night. Allison's shocked reaction could be seen from the glass doors. It was hilarious.

"Hey guys! Where are we going?" he hollered.

It's a shame he opted out as soon as he did. Who knows what he would have been privy too. Lucky you, dear reader, Eliza's informed me that our game of Hi-ho Cherry oh is ready to go. Until next time.

Their "Happily Ever After" begins

3,932 miles
Airfare x 4
36 weeks pregnant

Completely. Worth. It.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I should be packing.

My plate is full.

And sadly, the "plate" that I'm referring too doesn't involve food.
(awesome meatloaf recipe found here)

That
I could handle. Easily.

The idea of recapping all that last week entailed makes me want to take a nap. As much as I would like to remind my future self that last weekend was CRAZY busy, I'm just going to have to take my word for it.

However, there is one experience that I'd like to have documented. Last Saturday, my family and I attended our friend Jennifer's baptism.

Alma 5:26:

And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

Not wanting to belittle her experience with my over-use of verbal cheese, I have to say that I could hear her song. She was filled with such a bright light. These past few months, it has been our privilege to watch her learn, accept and act.

The adversity she's endured prepared her to receive the message of the restored gospel. As she once explained, she came to know her Savior through those trials. When those Elders knocked, she was ready because (and this is my opinion) she had already made Christ apart of her daily life. She's amazing and I feel that my happiness for her is about to spill over.

The few of us who attended were blessed. She bore her testimony in the moments following her baptism. Her words penetrated my heart. At that moment, I wanted access to her level of joy. I know what weaknesses hinder me and I know what I can do to remedy them. Her example of faith and diligence has motivated me to be a better latter-day saint.

The only 'low point' of the meeting came courtesy of my four year old child. Eliza was sitting front and center with the rest of the children when Jennifer was baptized. It alarmed her greatly to see Jennifer fully submersed in the font. Eliza bolted from the floor over to where Andrew and I sat.

"I NEVER, EVER WANT TO DO THAT!" She exclaimed. Thankfully, the moment wasn't entirely tainted by Eliza's reaction, but it definitely didn't go unnoticed by the rest of the attendees. As for Eliza, she's made it clear every day since Jen's baptism that she will not be participating in that ordinance. Ever.

Oh Eliza! She's been on my case lately. Apparently, her request that I make her a "Welcome Home" sign from preschool was actually an expectation. Monday afternoon, I fulfilled that duty. She was thrilled by it.

As for Henry, his latest catchphrase has become a fast favorite.

"Cuddle me up!" He'll instruct. Happily, I obey. Nestling under my arm with that blue blanket of his (note to self: it's in desperate need of a washing), he melts into his human cushion of a Mother. Does he know that life's about to change? He says "Hi Baby Sister!" regularly. Wondering how her arrival will affect him, I snuggle him closer. Out of no where, he starts tickling my belly.

"I'm tickling baby sister!!" He giggles. I kiss his head, breathe in his scent and wish his need for me would last forever. And while he tries my patience and challenges me every day, he has a special gift of making me forget.

And on that note, it would be nice to conclude with saying that it's back to "business as usual," for the Flegal family; but it's not.

(Typical Flegal Business)

Wednesday morning my doctor gave me the green light to fly to Utah for my brother's wedding! The news that the pregnancy continues to go well was happily received. However, it's with trepidation and caution that I begin our travel preparations. It would seem that my ears have been a magnet for freaky, fluke-type, premature and/or incredibly painful labor stories. And while I respect these brave Mothers deeply, I would like to remain a non-member of the "I thought I was going to die but then I gave birth" club.

(**Ali knocks on wood**).

Read my friend Stephanie's heroic story here (unless you're pregnant).

Despite my heightened nerves, I can't wait to waddle down the terminal and hug that cute Mom of mine. Oh how I miss her. Our time in Utah will pass by too fast (as usual) and before I know it, I'll be heading back to the South to NEST!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wrapping up Charleston

Let me begin by saying I have no idea who the men Ive circled in red are.

My inner-creep insists that pointing them out serves a purpose. Despite the fact they are strangers to us, their expressions were familiar. The stares of disbelief, the smiles of amusement and the occasional grimace born of annoyance followed our group of adorable chaos wherever we went.

We stood out at the beach. Our friends may claim the attention we attracted at the beach was derived from the Flegal's shockingly white shade of skin.
One couple pulled us aside as we were leaving to mention that they were recent empty-nesters.

"Watching y'all has been such a joy." They then asked, "Who belongs to who?" (in regard to our children).
The "coordinated" boogie boarding surfer chick and the dump truck loving sprite who shadows her, belong to us (a.k.a. the brunettes). As Eliza bonded with that board in the waves, her bravery thickened. I was both anxious and proud as she allowed those waves to propel/pummel her forward.

Strolling along Waterfront Park, I was too focused on finding a bathroom (the story of this trimester) to appreciate the smiles of those we passed by. I wandered away from the park in pursuit of a bathroom. As I sputtered around the French Quarter, I willed myself to soak up the enchantment of my surroundings. Alas, it was in vain as I was fearful I'd be soaking up something else if I didn't hurry.

Playing up the pregnancy card, I walked into a renovated hotel and asked for directions. And boom! Just like that I was being escorted through the hotel's historic halls to the fanciest little bathroom I ever did see. Finding myself alone, I totally signed the prestigious looking guest book on my way back out to the street.

I rejoined our family in time to see the kids revving up their engines for round one of 'Red light/Green light.'

(I have zero idea who that marshmallow is my husband has his arm around)

Sunday night we invaded the Angel Oak just as they were preparing to lock the gate. We flooded right past their intention to close up for the night as we made our way to the magnificent tree. Giving the remaining tourists quite a show, we did our best to rally our troops for pictures.

(Meet the Fletchers and Blasers!
Andrew pays them to be our friends.
I'm alright with this.)


However, the best reactions our group inspired happened during our bike ride. Our bike parade consisted of eight bikes, three full to capacity bike trailers and one baby bike seat.
I'm not sure if it was the combined number of our brood, that six of the nine kids there were four years old or younger, or the fact that two out of the three Moms were obviously pregnant. Either way, I'm hoping we're able to get us all together again for a repeat experience. We had the best time.

The botanical charms that are unique to this area, the historical homes, the temperature of the ocean, the mandate that all Southern properties be equipped with an over sized porch with its accompanying swing and rockers - makes Charleston, South Carolina one of my absolute favorite places to be.
The Porch
What's better than eating an otter pop on the porch swing?
*enter Hallmark response here*
Sharing one with a friend.

In conclusion, this is what happens when you tell your kids that the Keebler Elves live at the Angel Oak.


Cute Henry

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kiawah-some

Dear Mother Nature,

This morning I feel indebted to you.

Your hospitality was at its peak as we explored Kiawah Island this weekend with our friends.

You should know that my husband is one of your greatest fans. While the attraction of sleep kept me firmly rooted to my bed, the appeal of watching the sun rise on the beach pulled him away from it. Twice he ventured out early to explore your beaches and its wildlife. Speaking of wildlife...

Take a look at that sneaky fellow!

Not to worry (*insert a note of sarcasm here), the kids and I were with him when he snapped this picture. The alligator was spotted as we peddled past a pond during a morning bike ride with our friends.

(You read that right, dear reader. A 33 week pregnant Ali Flegal rode a bike this weekend. I'm not sure if my bum has forgiven me yet for those 15 miles. However, the scenery and the delight expressed by my children made each of those Braxton Hicks worth it.)

Confused as to why everyone seemed calm in the gator's presence, I did my best to be discreet as I waddled my bike further up the path. As the adults took turns pointing out the alligator to the children, I heard the comment that explained their laid back reactions. If the alligator suddenly turned hostile, Jimmy had a plan.

"I just know that I can run faster than Ali."

If he hadn't been then one to help reunite me to my spouse after the kids and I spent 35 minutes LOST on the island the day before, I would have pelted him with a small object. Consider yourself spared of the details involving that particular misadventure. Had a Jack, Desmond or a Sawyer been involved, I would be singing a merrier tune.

Kiawah's pristine beaches were calm as the expected crowd of holiday tourists were busy occupying other tourist related hot spots. Eliza's appreciation compensated for the small number of vacationers. I have yet to witness my daughter grow weary of the sand and waves.
While Eliza focused on the waves, Henry's attention stayed on the sand. Mustering up a batch of social skills I didn't know he had, Henry did his best to charm his way into the good graces of a family we'd never met. It was clear that they were well seasoned in the art of beaching as they came prepared with kick ball equipment, boogie boards, an assortment of Disney princesses and last but not least, a convoy of dump trucks.

He.Could.Not.Help.Himself.

I mean, really.
How could they resist that level of charm?

"Oh please, may I use these?!?"

His schmoozing paid off. He was in dump truck heaven.
Andrew brought along his favorite "beach toy."
Such a simple thing, a pile of sand.


Hours of enjoyment were derived from that mound... as well as the remaining puddle/hole it left behind.

Que the parents:

"Hey kids, come here." Ignoring our request entirely, we whip out a serving of reverse psychology.

"Uh-oh! You better not pour that bucket of water on my head!"

Running at full speed, our trusting four year-old kids unknowingly head straight for the hidden pit that has recently been covered by the incoming tide. We laugh as they unexpectedly plunge into the man-made hole. Their contributing laughter erases the guilt in tricking them.

The weather, scenery and absence of a hurricane named Earl was appreciated by all. As ideal as the conditions were, the best part of our trip was the company we kept. More to come on the awesome nature of our friends, our return to Charleston and the fancy schmancy bathroom I discovered while meandering through the French Quarter.

Friday, September 3, 2010

"Clean up on aisle four!"

In case you're wondering, baked beans are on sale this week at Bi-Lo. I made this discovery after pummeling into the display shelf that housed the canned beans with my rocket ship grocery cart. Feeling helpless, I watched as 40+ cans fell in a slow motion type fashion onto the floor and into my cart.

"Well, crap." Distress flooded through me as I stared dumbfounded at the mass of cans. When I realized that the store was officially void of a good Samaritan, I began to re-stock the blasted shelves. As my awkward pregnant self tackled the project solo, I realized that I didn't feel bad one bit that most of the cans were now dented. In fact, the burgeoning couponer within hoped that all future bean shoppers would be awarded an additional discount due to their imperfect form. To them I say, "You're welcome."

The fun continued when my body informed me of its urgent need to use the bathroom. Gritting my teeth, I pushed open the public bathroom (*shudder) door with my little ducklings in tow. Exercising my right for privacy, I didn't invite them into the stall.

"Stay by the sink" I instructed. "Please don't touch anything. Especially if it's wet." Two seconds later,

"Mom! I have to go potty too!" Grateful for her bathroom independence, I give Eliza the green light to help herself to the remaining loo.

"Henry! Do not come in. I need my privacy." Eliza hollered. Ignoring his second Mother, Henry continued to spin in circles. Satisfied with his lack of attention, she and I began conversing on the serious topic of bowel movements from our respective stalls.

Having already crossing the line of "over-share" in this post, I'll just say that her questions were in-depth and I took my time in answering them. I provided her with the personal detail she may (or may not) have wanted in my poop-related responses. A minute or so later, I exit the stall and discover that another shopper had entered the bathroom, was waiting to use my stall and just heard our entire crap-inspired conversation.

I was horrified.

"Well, crap." I thought. I quickly turned my attention to Eliza's need for toilet paper as I graciously allowed the stranger passage into the stall I had just exited. I wanted to bury myself alive for a second time that hour.

Needless to say, I'm ready to leave all this crap behind (pun intended) and enjoy the weekend. We're cooking up something special for our kids and I can't wait. Happy Labor Day weekend one and all.