Prelude to a Vacation
The day finally arrived. It was hard to believe considering this trip had been on the books for almost a year! Pages of a typed Flegal family schedule had been printed; along with pages of "tips and tricks" in dealing with our children (mostly Forrest). The fridge and pantry had been stocked full of easy, go-to, snacks and meals.
When the the time came to organize and pack my single suitcase, I fell into a frenzy as I realized that my load of laundry had totally vanished from the washing machine. In a frustrated panic, I text Andrew; begging him for help!
"nice expensive clothes" translates to:
I bought them from Target.
Scratch the last six messages was right! I had already switched the laundry through to the dryer, neatly folded each item and placed it in my suitcase. At least that's what I assumed happened since that's where I found it all. The scary part is I have zero memory of doing it. So yes, in the days leading up to my trip I was a basket case. That's just the one example I'm choosing to share.
The night before, I allowed the children to stay up later than normal. I was enjoying their company while doing my best not to become visibly emotional.
"Nana Marie will be here when you wake up. You will probably still be sleeping when Daddy takes me to the airport tomorrow." After bidding one another a (tearful) goodbye, they promised they would behave well for their Grandma's.
My goodbye to Forrest happened sometime around 2:00 am when I heard a little cry from his crib. On any other night, I would have helped him find his pacifier and head back to bed, but instead I scooped him up and nursed him awhile. Oh what's that? I didn't mention that I am still nursing my 13 month old baby? Not often, but often enough that I wasn't ready to call it quits before my trip. I kissed his face repeatedly before returning him to his crib. It was a good thing I was more tired than emotional as I returned to my room, otherwise I would have been a sobbing mess.
The next morning I was surprised to see Eliza pop into my room as I was getting ready. My happy surprise turned into horror as she and I discovered that both of her earrings had been swallowed whole by her earlobe. Her earrings were now trapped behind a freshly grown layer of skin. It was a terrible, bloody, crusty mess. Andrew actually took a picture, but I will spare you the visual. Andrew, Eliza and I were completely stressed and concerned as we came to the conclusion that we'd have to push it back through the front of her ear. "Ewww!" and "Ouch!" best sum up this experience. I don't know how it happened, but this insanely squeemish Mother of four was able to wiggle those earrings free. In retrospect, I was grateful that Eliza woke up when she did so that my Mom didn't have to handle the situation on her own; although she did manage to successfully put in a new pair of earrings in a short while later. Gross. I need a moment... remembering this is making me feel woozy.
Loading my things into the car Andrew informs me that the suitcase I chose has a broken wheel. Perfect. He then says that we don't have time to transfer my belongings into the other suitcase. There's always something, right? As we back the car out of the driveway, I look up to see that Lottie and Henry have joined my Mom and Eliza on the porch. We stop so I can give them a proper goodbye. And with that, I was officially on my way.
The airport experience was uneventful with the exception that I seriously considered stopping at the Cafe Rio that's just past security at 10:00 a.m. in the morning. I mean, why not? Loads of other people were doing it... and I had time to spare. But alas, I decided against it. And so my ridiculously light carry on bag and I headed for our gate. What does one pack in a carry on bag when traveling solo? I can't remember. A wave of homesickness hit me as I waited to board the plane. I was missing my babies already. Just about this time, I started receiving text messages from my friends who were saying they were excited to see me (this made me feel special and happy). Knowing I had a group of friends looking forward to my arrival shifted my mood entirely.
Day One: The Socially Awkward Friend Arrives (me)
I was welcomed to Orange County by Felipe, my cab driver, who did a terrific job safely transporting me to the hotel. Lugging my semi-broken piece of luggage to my room, I was welcomed with cheers and hugs. I had arrived! And so did my rambling, I spew out words faster than I can think, mouth. It was time to settle in with the ladies!
Meet Ang, Laura and Brittany
*Names have changed to protect the innocent.
That night I learned that sleeping isn't a huge priority on a girls trip. Sure, it's definitely something you think about when you're laying out at the pool or on the beach but it rarely happens. And that's okay because being tired is bearable when you're laughing for no reason and eating an unhealthy amount of treats.
Day two: Breakfast on the Beach and Ali poses for the life guards
By the skin of our teeth, we made it to breakfast the next morning. Even though it was my first time eating breakfast on a beach, I confess that I was more interested in the food that we were waiting for than the stunning view out the window. I suppose that happens when it's nearing 11:30 am!
I feel bad that Brit was left out of this photo. So to make up for it:
(said in the voice of Scuttle from the movie, The Little Mermaid:) "Would you take a look at that!"
Exploring tide pools, an embarrassing encounter with two life guards and our first dip in the ocean came next. On our steep walk back to the hotel we came across a snake which caused quite the reaction. Our number grew from five to six as we welcomed another friend, Lindsay, that afternoon. We caught up with her at the pool. I know. It was a rough life. ;)
Actually, at this point, the biggest hiccup of my trip was the fact that I came ill prepared with a breast pump that didn't work. It was the first time in Forrest's life that I actually had a need for it and I had failed to take the time to make sure it worked properly before coming. Enter my friend, Laura.
"Hi friend of mine who also is using a breast pump that I haven't seen in months..." awkward pause. I continue: "How are you?"
"Great! No really. I'm so glad you're doing well." Another awkward pause. "So, um hey. Guess what? My breast pump isn't working. And I would just be heartbroken if I had to put the kibosh on nursing him while I'm here...Oh, that reminds me! I'm pretty sure I spotted you a dollar at the vending machine once in high school so I'm wondering if you could do me a solid and lend me your expensive breast pump...oh, I don't know... everyday this week, once or twice a day?!" My face is burning with embarrassment. If it wasn't for my love for Forrest, I would have simply let it go.
Okay. It didn't go down quite like that. Despite my friend's graciousness and kindness, I still felt bad about borrowing it. Not everyone would want to share boob related germs. Even so, we did our absolute best to infuse the situation with hygiene, but gosh... I am so grateful that I came home with my milk supply. Thank you Laura. Truly, whether you like it or not, we are bosom buddies now.
Day three: We become an instagram sensation
I didn't miss my children as much as I thought simply because of the fantastic, continual distraction in the form of my friends and gorgeous scenery. However, each morning as I debated whether or not I was really up for the day, thoughts of their sweet faces raced through my head. I longed to hear their voices, kiss their cheeks and touch their small fingers. I was homesick. I called, exchanged texts with Eliza and requested photos. Andrew obliged by sending me this:
Three more friends arrived on Wednesday and just like that, the energy level soared higher. The highlight from that day's trip to the pool was watching from my lawn chair as a clueless guy tried to "befriend" my friends in the hot tub. I wasn't privy to the full conversation, but i didn't need to be. His attentive body language said it all. He was trying to work his way in! Despite the fact that they all have gorgeous rings on their fingers and were talking about ways to reduce a fever in a toddler (among other hot Mom topics), he kept chiming in. It was quite hilarious to watch as they all stood, exited the hot tub and left him sitting there all alone.
Next came dinner at a charming pizzeria near the beach called BJ's.
Day four: Suns out! Let's go to the beach! (but first I have to pump)
We parked it at the beach the next morning where we continued to do what we do best: talk. At lunch time, we proceeded to gorge on delicious food while over looking the ocean. Rather than growing tired of the now familiar ocean view, I grew more fond of it.
"Are you okay?" We'd ask; checking in with each other as we promptly readjusted our swimming suits.
"You lost your sunglasses!" Gasp! Oh no! That's not the only thing that was lost in the ocean...
A return visit to the Cheesecake Factory, a little souvenir shopping for my kids and a movie at the ritziest (read: over priced) theater ended the day's official outings. As for the movie, we'd all committed to seeing "The Fault In Our Stars" together. Like everyone else on planet earth, we did our share of crying. Being a big fan of the novel, I was sure pleased with the details of the movie. Reflecting on the week's pattern of getting to bed super late, it suddenly clicked in my brain how poor of a decision it was that Sheena and I were flying out at 7:00 a.m. We were up at 4:30 to leave for the airport after attempting to go to bed around 2:00...
"I didn't sleep at all." Sheena said as we made our way out the door.
"Me neither." A familiar sense of dread washed through me. Experience with my four newborns had instilled within me the following warning. It states:
The haze of exhaustion will only thicken.
Tomorrow will suck more than this moment does.
I tossed the expectation of sleeping on the plane out the window. I'm not that person; sadly.
Even at 4:30 a.m., the weather in Southern California is nearly perfect. In the dark, I do my best to navigate my disabled suitcase down the sidewalk when I realize that our hero driver's car was in a parking lot higher up on the bluff. This meant it was up to me to carry my 45 lbs suitcase up a massive, steep, flight of stairs. Did I mention that I'm out of shape in more ways than one? You already knew? Of course you did. By the time we get to Lara Osmond's car, my poor confused body rebels. It wants to re-live my Cheesecake Factory experience backwards (read: I'm about to throw up). Thankfully that doesn't happen, but oh man... I came close.
With Tina Fey's audiobook, Bossy Pants, as our third traveling companion; Sheena and I settle in for our flight home. I'm not sure exactly how loud we were laughing as we listened to the always hilarious Ms. Fey, but we were too tired to care; at least I was.
Day five: Wait. It is day five, right? A Hero's Welcome!
Andrew's delicious lips greeted me at the airport. What can I say? I love a good reunion! Pulling onto my street, I could see my four kids, along with Nanna Teresa, outside on the driveway. I could hardly stand my excitement as we approached our house. Once I was out of the car, the three older kids had me surrounded. While giving them a squeeze, I watch as a frantic little thirteen month old, walks down the driveway as fast as his new-to-walking legs can carry him. His mouth has spread into a huge smile and to my complete surprise and delight, he is waving to me!!! Waving as people 'come and go' is a new skill.
Be still my heart! Scooping him up, I kiss his face and smother him with reckless abandon.
I notice a sweet "Welcome Home" sign on my garage door and my affection for my Mother in law grows even more as it symbolizes all of the care and thoughtfulness she put into her week with my kids. She points out the sweet little details. Henry is finishing up a sidewalk chalk message on the driveway. It was the BEST thing ever. No really, it was. It said:
I Mist U Varee Varee Much!
I was kind of a big deal at bedtime that night.
And while I was certainly one of the most tired Mom's on the planet when I returned home, I was reminded of what a blessed Mom I am too. Their enthusiasm to my return was the perfect exclamation point to a fantastic week. My trip was the greatest Christmas/Valentines/30th Birthday/Mother's Day/ gift I've ever received.
Thank you Andrew for sponsoring said adventure. Thank you Nana Marie and Nanna Teresa for taking perfect care of my kids. Each day since coming home, I've pieced together and/or discovered another act of your kindness. Opening my microwave, as an example, I was stunned to see my reflection looking back at me! And for all the other sweet things you did for my family that I am not aware of, THANK YOU!
Per the children's request (and mine, who am I kidding) would you please move in with us? They said I could stay too, which is a relief!
Whitney, Laura, me, Linden, Angela, Lara, Brittany, Sheena and Lindsay