The e-mail arrived late last Thursday afternoon, an entire day before our flight was scheduled to depart Newark, NJ and take us to Minnesota where, after four months, a few medical emergencies and a canceled trip, we would finally see Lyndsay, her growing belly, and an ultrasound view of our baby, Aria. "Flight Cancellation Notice" read the subject line. "But it's supposed to stop by noon!" I whined, referring to the April snowstorm that was currently causing chaos in Minnesota. "We weren't even supposed to land until four!" I scoured my messages for another from United Airlines with rebooking information. There wasn't anything there. The last few times United had preemptively canceled my flight before it was totally necessary to do so, they'd automatically booked me on the next available flight that was still actually leaving the airport.
Get “Decked Out” Like a Seadog
Not this time.
Being the forward thinker that I am, I had checked alternate flights on Wednesday, as soon as the Winter Storm Warning blinked its red headline across the weather page. If we still wanted to arrive in time to have pregnancy photos taken with Lyndsay on Saturday, there was only one option available at 8:00 AM the same day. And, the last time I'd looked online, there were only two seats left on that flight. I grabbed the phone and dialed quickly. I was relieved when the reservation specialist who answered the call spoke to me in clear English, without any detectable accent that might make the conversation difficult. In less than five minutes the last two seats on the 8:02 AM flight from Newark to Minneapolis were assigned to Jimmi and me and I hung up with a sigh of relief. As much as it was going to suck leaving the house at 5:45 AM, I was glad we had a new plan. I went down the list of phone calls I needed to make to continue the change. I notified Lyndsay first, then my friend, Jenn, who was going to take the boys after school until their dad could pick them up, then I texted their dad to let him know he would be picking them up from me. I called the car service to give them our new flight info so they could get us to the airport on time, I rang the car rental company to ask them to hold our vehicle until the morning and, finally, I spoke to Marriott about our hotel room, which we had to keep for that night anyway if we wanted to be guaranteed check-in early in the morning.
On Friday morning, as I was getting the boys ready for school, I checked the latest weather update in Minneapolis. The red warning had been removed and it seemed there were only a few scattered flurries left in the area. I shook my head in annoyance at the fact that United had jumped so quickly to cancel my original flight, which obviously would've arrived hours after the last flake had fallen. Then I remembered the last time United had canceled my flight they were able to rebook me on Delta at no extra charge. I immediately pulled up the day's Newark to Minneapolis flight schedule on Delta.com. The long list of departures, every two hours or so, appeared before my eyes with green status bars announcing "on time" next to each one. It was 7:30 AM, at that point, and the earliest flight was leaving at 9:00. I called Delta to make sure the planes were actually taking off since United seemed to think the snow was causing the world to end. The agent who answered the phone assured me that, not only were the flights all still going out, they were all currently on schedule. I thanked her, hung up and called United to plead my case. A few sob stories and an understanding agent later, we were booked through United on a Delta flight leaving that evening at 6:38 PM. Of course, I had to then call Delta to request a seat with extra legroom for Jimmi and a wheelchair escort in the airport. I then had to get back on the line with the car service, rental car agency, my friend who I now needed to watch the boys again and the boys' dad.
Shortly thereafter, Jimmi returned from his early-morning follow-up with the surgeon who had removed the infection from his knee. His stitches were gone and replaced with butterfly tape. He was still limping but moving a bit more freely. "The car is coming at three forty-five," I said. "We need to pack." Deciding what to bring was easy, for the most part, except that Jimmi was still living in shorts due to pain and swelling in his leg. "You're gonna be cold," I stated the obvious, realizing there wasn't much he'd be able to do about it. Then the control-freak in me spoke up, "Do you think you'll be able to squeeze into jeans for the pictures?" My husband gave me a look that told me he was not in the mood for my criticism, but I pushed my luck anyway. "I don't have a problem with shorts, if you have to, but jeans will look much better in the photos." As he threw another pair of shorts into our suitcase I suggested, "Why don't you bring one pair of jeans, just in case." He grumbled audibly as he grabbed the pants from his shelf and tossed them into the bag.
The car arrived a few minutes after I'd counted out and packed up a small cooler bag with 20 antibiotic bulbs and four ice packs and a messenger bag with 20 alcohol wipes, 40 syringes of saline and 20 syringes of Heparin. We loaded up the car with one large suitcase and a small suitcase filled with gifts for Lyndsay and her family. "Have everything?" asked the driver. I went through a checklist in my head before answering, "Yup!" And off we went. But just as we were getting onto the highway I exclaimed, "Shit!" Jimmi, startled, looked up from his phone. "I forgot the baby shoes and ultrasound photo the photographer asked me to bring for the pregnancy portraits!" Jimmi shrugged, clearly not understanding the emergency, and returned to his never-ending online quest to find the ultimate drum set for his collection. "We can always stop at Babies R Us and get shoes before the shoot tomorrow," I said out loud, mostly to myself. "But the ultrasound photo...Wait! I have one on my phone! I'll e-mail it to her. She can probably print it out, right?" Jimmi nodded, "I'm sure she can."
We continued on the highway and I wanted to speak up as the driver passed the exit for the most direct route to the airport, but Jimmi assured me he must know a different way to go. If I had known that "different way" was right through the heart of Newark, during rush hour traffic, I wouldn't have held my tongue. The car stopped and started and stopped and started as we jerked back and forth, light after light after light. My patience was wearing thin and my stomach was becoming increasingly queasy until we eventually made it to the airport.
I wrapped the cooler bag of medicine around my body and estimated its weight at about 15 lbs. I then grabbed my pocketbook, which wasn't exactly lightweight either, and tilted the large suitcase on its side so I could wheel it along. I allowed Jimmi to pull the small suitcase as he limped slightly behind me. Within seconds of typing our confirmation number into the airport kiosk a man with a red wheelchair appeared and signaled Jimmi to sit down. My husband's face turned six shades of embarrassed as he dropped down into the seat and allowed the porter to strap him in.
I finished check-in for both of us then the wheelchair driver led us to the security line, where we were given VIP access. Not exactly the type of backstage pass I'm used to, but it didn't hurt. Jimmi got up from the wheelchair and all of our bags were placed on the belt for us. He was scanned first but I waited by the belt for the bags to go through because I knew there'd be questions. Predictably, the belt came to a halt on the cooler bag. The guard carefully stared at the X-ray monitor, which presented a plethora of paraphernalia which needed to be identified. "It's IV antibiotics," I explained. The scanner didn't acknowlege me as he waved another guard over with his hand then pointed to the suspicious bag with brightly colored polka dots. "I need to look in the bag, ma'am." Said rent-a-cop #2. I nodded and repeated, "It's antibiotics. I have a doctor's note if you'd like to see it." He shook his head and said, "It's fine. I just need you to go through the detector then come with me, please." Was I in trouble? I stepped into the scanner and held my hands over my head as the machine took three seconds to circle my body. When it was confirmed that I would not pose a threat to those around me I was called to a table where the guard unzipped the cooler and asked, "Is there anything sharp or dangerous in here that could hurt me?" I held back every sarcastic remark that was itching to erupt from my mouth. "Nope. The lines just connect into his PICC by twisting them together." He nodded as if he'd seen these types of medications before. After a few swipes back and forth we were back in business, rolling down to the gate.
Once our escort dropped us off, there was just enough time for me to grab a couple of sandwiches before the boarding process began. Or, so I thought. When I returned with the food I noticed our departure time had changed from 6:38 to 7:00. Not a big deal. It just meant we'd have to give Jimmi his infusion more publicly, at the crowded gate, instead of in our own row on the airplane. I walked over to Jimmi, set the bag of food on the seat next to him and broke the news. "Flight is delayed. We need to do your meds now." Without another word I started to set up a drug laboratory using our carry-on suitcase as a table. I lined up the two saline syringes, antibiotic bulb and Heparin syringe in S.A.S.H. order then squirted sanitizer onto both of our hands. Jimmi pulled down the mesh cuff that holds the long tube in place so it doesn't dangle all around his arm. I ripped open an alcohol wipe and proceeded to clean off the end of the tube that attaches to all the infused liquids, allowing them to travel up the line, directly into a vein leading to his chest. The woman to Jimmi's left stared, horrified by what she was witnessing only one seat away. The woman to my right was speaking loudly into her phone until she caught sight of my husband shooting up beside me. She jumped out of her seat and changed her tone to a whisper as she hurried off to the window to tell the recipient of her call about the tattooed man who must be dying of some terrible disease caused by sharing dirty needles and engaging in promiscuous sex. Forty minutes later the last syringe had been squeezed, the mesh was holding the line in place again, our food was gone and our flight still hadn't started boarding. It was now 7:15 PM, fifteen minutes later than our first delayed departure time. But I didn't care. As long as we arrived safely that night, I was fine to wait. A new escort with a wheelchair arrived barely five minutes later and motioned for Jimmi to hop in. "Let's go, Mr. Kane. You get to board first." I followed as he was wheeled down the gangway and released at the door to the plane.
The aircraft filled up relatively quickly, as everyone was anxious to get in the air already. The flight attendant announced the closing of the main cabin doors, signaling preparation for takeoff. But we didn't take off. Actually, we didn't move at all. "What's going on?" asked a passenger a few rows in front of us about 30 minutes later. No one could give us an answer but it didn't seem to matter. We finally started moving away from the gate and out to the runway. Until we stopped again. Five, ten, twenty, thirty minutes turned into an hour and we still had only moved a short distance from the terminal before resuming our resting position. That's when the baby next to us decided she'd had just about enough and started screaming her five month-old brains out. "Awwww," I said and looked at Jimmi longingly. I could actually see the sweat starting to bead up on his forehead as the piercing wails penetrated the tiny airplane's understood code of silence. "Is that what I have to look forward to?" he asked me as his body tensed up and his heart started pounding outside his chest. All I could do was laugh. "Yup!" Another half an hour later, the baby had finally quieted down and the captain finally decided to make an announcement, "Hi folks. Sorry about the delay. There's a lot of construction going on at the terminal and there's only one runway currently open for use. That means all the airplanes have to take off and land on the same runway and it's causing quite a backup." The moans came in unison from the cabin. The pilot continued, "We're currently number fifteen in line to take off, but since they need to squeeze in the landing flights, too, it will slow the process down a bit more. We're looking at another forty-five minutes to an hour." More moans and some swearing. "Why did you put us on the plane ninety minutes ago if we weren't gonna be able to leave for another hour?" an angry passenger yelled at a helpless flight attendant. "We needed to secure our place in line if we want to get out, Sir." The captain came back over the speaker, "And one more thing, folks. You're free to use your cellular devices at this time, but please do not get up and move about the cabin. That will delay us further and we'll lose our place in line. Please just sit tight and wait until we're cleared to take off." Awesome. Not only were we looking at a total of about two and a half hours of being trapped in what felt like a steel coffin, but we weren't even allowed to move from our seats to stretch our legs. "I guess I should make some calls," I said to Jimmi as I opened my e-mail to find the phone number for the rental car agency. "Hi, I was supposed to pick up a car in five minutes but my flight hasn't even left the airport yet," I explained. The representative asked for my name and my confirmation number and then, "What time will you be landing now?" Oh, how I wished I knew the answer to that simple question. "I have no idea," I said with exasperation. "We've been told we're leaving in thirty minutes three times in the last hour and a half. And that doesn't include the first hour when they weren't telling us anything at all. If I had to guess, I'd say midnight?" The agent typed away on her keyboard. "Hmmm, the rental desk at the Minneapolis Airport location closes at eleven."
Of course it does.
"Ok, well, I won't be there by eleven. How will I get my car?" I asked, clearly not in the mood for any other complications, and internally regretting my earlier thoughts of, "I don't care if we're delayed as long as we arrive safely, tonight." The rep asked if she could put me on hold for a moment to find out if the rental desk would stay open long enough to wait for my arrival. "Yes, I can hold if it's quick. We're on the runway and we could leave at any moment." She told me she understood before the sleepy hold music took over the line. It wasn't long before she returned to tell me, "Hertz will honor your reservation and they're open all night." It was too simple of a solution to believe so I asked for her name, which I had her repeat three times and still couldn't understand, then I thanked her and hung up. I then called the hotel to make sure they wouldn't give our room away and, last, my parents, who would worry if they didn't hear from me soon. "Hi," I said when I heard my mom's voice. "How's the weather out there?" She asked. "I dunno. We're still in Newark." There was silence on the other end of the line until, "Weren't you supposed to land a few minutes ago?" I confirmed her thoughts then explained the whole situation. By the time I'd finished telling my tale of woe, the captain announced our departure and the plane began to move. "I have to go!" I said abruptly. "Leaving now!"
Jimmi had his next dose of medicine on the plane...
And I had mine...
As predicted, we touched down in Minneapolis at exactly midnight, which was actually 1:00 AM, EST, and we were already exhausted. We disembarked the aircraft and found the next porter waiting to wheel Jimmi around, and he was slightly less embarrassed when he sat in the chair this time. The escort tried to make smalltalk with us but I was too tired and annoyed to try and be nice so I one-worded him, hoping he'd just stop. No such luck. I was able to break free from his conversational hold for a few seconds when I insisted he stay with Jimmi while I collected our bag from the carousel.
The Minneapolis airport is enormous but I've learned my way around over the last few months. When the porter got lost looking for the terminal shuttle then insisted I ignore the clear sign for Hertz on the second floor and exit the elevator on the third, I'd had enough. Once we were back down on 2, where we obviously belonged, Jimmi assured the man that he would be ok sitting on the bench by the rental desk while I secured our car. We thanked him and sent him on his way. It was now 1:00 AM, but definitely 2:00 in my brain, and I was quickly running out of steam when I approached the too-cheery-for-that-hour desk agent. "Hello!" She sang with a toothy smile. I explained my situation and she was able to find my reservation and, as promised, honor it. "What brings you to snowy Minnesota tonight?" asked Little Miss Sunshine. I considered answering with a simple, "visiting" so I wouldn't be forced to answer the barrage of follow-up questions that would inevitably come if I told her the real reason, but the desire to see the look on her face when she heard the truth took over and I blurted out, "My husband and I are having a baby with a gestational carrier who lives here, so we're coming to visit her and see our baby." If only I could hire a hidden photographer to capture moments like this, I'd be able to enjoy them for years to come. "Well...I...wow," were the sounds that came out first, followed by the start of her twenty questions, "Is it someone you know?" I answered honestly, "We know her now."
And then the verbal diarrhea began:
"Are you scared she'll want to keep the baby? Is it expensive? Do you like her? Does she have her own kids? Is she married? When is she due? Do you get to take the baby home right away? Is she giving birth in Minnesota? Will you be here for the birth?"
Let me see…
"No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. May. Yes. Yes. I sure hope so."
When we finally returned to the actual reason I was standing there I was asked to sign a few screens with an electronic pen, hand over my license and a credit card, and make sure I didn't want to buy additional insurance on the vehicle. "No, my insurance will cover everything," I said. But she pushed some more, "Are you sure you don't want to take advantage of our worry-free guarantee? For just eighteen dollars a day you can walk away from any damage to the car, no matter how big or small, with just a signature." I knew I was only paying $11 a day to rent the car to begin with and I also knew my insurance would take care of any damage, but I wasn't in the mood to argue and, with the way things had been going lately, I didn't think it would be smart to tempt fate, so I gave in and excepted her sales pitch. "Ok, I can't seem to find a compact car with a GPS, as you requested, so I'm going to upgrade you for no extra charge. How's a Volkswagen Passat?" I shook my head at the sheer luck that we'd end up in Jimmi's favorite car brand, Volkswagen; the brand I insult and tease him about on a regular basis. "It's fine," I said. "My husband will be very happy."
Key in hand, I walked to the bench to collect Jimmi and our bags and finally get on the road. We still had almost a 90 minute ride ahead of us. We got situated in the powder blue VW, set the navigation to lead us to our hotel and we were on our way. Within 30 seconds I realized there was a problem. "Stay in your lane!" Jimmi scolded. "I can't see!" I snapped back. "Are your lights on?" I gave him a look that told him I wasn't as stupid as he thought before answering, "They're on but they're the same lights that were on my Volkswagen and they SUCK!" He growled, "Put your high beams on." I looked around at the mostly empty road before clicking the handle to brighten the headlights. "Oh, that helps," I said sarcastically, noticing quickly that the car's high beams were no brighter than a normal car's regular lights. But, instead of seeing only two feet in front of us I could now see about five. I guess that was better than nothing. With every curve of the road Jimmi would shriek, "Watch out!" or "What are you doing?" I was ready to tape his mouth shut when he yelled, "Suzanne, TURN!!" I was almost on top of the cows in the grassy pasture that hugged the road before I could see that the pavement curved left and I was aiming perfectly straight. "Shit!" I screamed as both hands turned the wheel left and saved us from making our own hamburgers. "Pay attention!" Jimmi commanded and I yelled back, "I am! I can't see!" He was sick of my excuses, "Do you want me to drive?" he asked. "You can't," I said. "I didn't put your name on the contract because of your leg." The legality of that detail didn't matter much to him but I refused to switch seats, just in case. I continued driving the dark roads like a grandma on her way to church on Sunday before realizing, "There aren't any reflectors in the road. That's why I can't predict where it will turn ahead of me. It's so dangerous!" I crawled along, making the long ride even longer until, finally, we reached the hotel at 2:30 AM.
I rolled out of bed at 11:30 on Saturday morning, still not feeling refreshed. I showered and blew my hair out straight, packed up my makeup, cute shoes and a picture-worthy outfit, then I emptied the contents of the small carry-on suitcase onto the couch in our hotel room. I separated the stash in front of me and filled two small, pastel, egg-decorated gift bags with Easter candy and a third, slightly larger, bunny gift bag with Lyndsay's favorites, chocolate mini-eggs, and a pink t-shirt with the words "Extreme Babysitting" printed in white, above an arrow pointing down to the belly. Then I folded the 4 year-old-sized Princess Elsa dress and stuffed it, along with a matching Princess Elsa tiara, into a larger bag with cut-out words reading "Birthday Girl." I was proud of myself for finding those items at face value (actually, my mom found the tiara) because, with the world going crazy over the movie Frozen, people are paying five times as much online for the same princess-wear. Last, I gathered up a pile of papers, one in a frame, and a small chalkboard that my friend, Jenn, had decorated and put them all into a large bag with Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck gracing the outside. This was the gift I was looking forward to giving the most. This was the one I'd agonized over for months. I mean, really, how exactly do you repay someone who is carrying your baby for you? It's impossible. And, not only is Lyndsay's body going through Hell to give us a child, her husband and kids are along for the ride. All four of them have played a part in the last eight months and they all deserve something special. The thought of their faces when they opened the gift made me feel giddy with excitement and I hoped they would feel the same. I stuffed the last few sheets of tissue paper into the top of the bag and called out to Jimmi, "Ok, I'm ready!" He was just finishing packing up his cooler of antibiotics and syringes for the day then we grabbed the seven bags we needed and headed out to the car.
We were running behind schedule and we still hadn't eaten or stopped at Babies R Us for the baby shoes I needed for the pregnancy photos we'd be taking an hour later. Google gave us the the address we were looking for and we spotted a Panera along the way. We decided to stop there after our shoe excursion. I parked in the "Expectant Mother" spot at Babies R Us, because I can, and ran inside. Jimmi hobbled, slightly behind me, and I half waited for him to catch up. Within seconds I found the perfect pair of tiny pink and white sneakers tied with a twirly pink bow, ran up to the register, paid and exited the store in under five minutes. We grabbed our Panera to go and, finally, we were off to Lyndsay's house.
We arrived 30 minutes later to a little boy's face pressed up against the storm door. He started jumping up and down when he saw us and, soon, his little sister joined him to greet us. Their big blue eyes widened when they saw the mounds of gifts they knew would be theirs and I put them out of their misery pretty quickly. "This is for you," I told Hunter, handing him one of the Easter bags. "And this is for you," I told Hallie, giving out the other one. "But, wait! Does someone have a birthday coming up?" Hallie's almost four-year old face lit up as she announced, "I do!" which landed her another bag. The Elsa costume was removed in one yank followed by a gasp and immediate disappearance to her room, where she would transform herself into the Frozen star. "I have one for you, too," I told Lyndsay. She pulled out the t-shirt and four bags of mini-eggs with a laugh, "You want your kid to be all jacked up on sugar, huh?" The pitter patter of tiny feet signaled the return of Princess Elsa, who looked even more adorable than I thought possible.
"What's in here?" asked Hunter, attempting to sneak a peek inside the final, unopened bag. "That's a special gift for all of you," I explained. "But you have to wait until after Jimmi, Mom and I take our pictures so we have more time." He wasn't thrilled with the idea of having to wait, but he didn't make a fuss about it. I looked at the clock and realized we needed to get going if we wanted to be on time for our photo session. The photographer only lives a few doors down from Lyndsay and they're friends, but I didn't want to make her wait around all day. I threw on my new jeans, a coral tank top and a lightweight, white jacket. I applied more makeup than usual to avoid looking washed out in the photos then I grabbed my coral wedges with bows on the straps and exited the bathroom. "Your turn," I told Jimmi and he headed to the bathroom to attempt fitting jeans over his still swollen right leg. When he came out wearing the pants I was relieved. Although he didn't look comfortable, I was hoping he'd be able to deal with it long enough to avoid wearing short in the photos.
The weather outside was surprisingly beautiful and I was thankful I didn't have to freeze on the walk down the street. The photographer answered the door and introduced herself as Jenny. "Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your journey," she said as she led us up to her living room to choose one of the backgrounds that were neatly placed on the floor. While we looked through the choices I told Jenny about an idea I had. "I still haven't felt the baby kick and I'm hoping you can capture my face the first time I do." Jenny loved the idea and Lyndsay was prepared to stop whatever we were doing to let me grab her belly at the first sign of movement. Jenny brought us to a large window that would allow natural lighting for the photos. "I'm so sorry about my makeshift studio. The weather didn't exactly cooperate for outside photos, which I like much better." She was referring to the melting snow from the day before, which had caused a muddy mess on the warm spring day. I assured her we were fine with whatever accommodations she had for us, but we did face a few challenges. "Are you able to kneel?" she asked Jimmi, who seemed to be feeling more pain than he had a few minutes earlier. "I can try," Jimmi said, not wanting to make things difficult. "I usually photograph kids inside so my backdrops don't go higher than five feet," she explained. "If I want your faces in the shots you'll either have to sit or kneel down." We tried one pose, then another and another. The easiest ones were belly shots with only our hands showing, as we could stand for those. Jimmi was able to kneel on his left knee but, each time he did, his jeans would pull against his right knee and I could see him cringing in pain. "Can he sit on that box?" I asked Jenny and she pulled out the prop, which worked for a few shots. "Would it be better for you to sit on the floor?" Jenny asked. "Sure, I can sit," Jimmi replied. "It'll just take a second to get down there." I watched Jimmi descend slowly to the floor, followed by a very pregnant Lyndsay. I giggled while I watched the scene play out in front of me. "Can you get down on the floor?" I asked Lyndsay. She answered, "Getting down is fine. It's getting back up that'll be a problem!" The two of them had to make each move in small steps and I couldn't help teasing them by doing a few quick sit-and-stands to prove that I was the only one with full use of my body. "Oh, shut it!" Jimmi scolded jokingly. That's when Lyndsay's hand went to her belly and she urgently called me over so she could place my hand in the right spot. "Just wait a second," she said. "I'm sure she'll do it again." I stood there, motionless, feeling for any signs of life. And then it happened! A tiny little tap from the inside. "Oh my God!" I exclaimed. "Is she kicking?" Jimmi asked as he hurried over to join the hands-on-Lyndsay party, but Aria instantly stopped her performance and Daddy didn't feel a thing. We finally called it quits after close to an hour of awkward positioning which, in the end, made for such beautiful photos you'd never even know we weren't all standing comfortably upright. I am so thankful for Jenny Munson for her creative angles which resulted in these amazing memories:
When the shoot was over Jimmi went back to Lyndsay's house with her husband and kids, who were waiting for him outside on their golf cart. Josh dropped off Jimmi and Hunter and came back for me. I was sure I could walk the few houses up but Hallie insisted I sit down so she could jump into my lap. After they dropped me off they went back for Lyndsay. As I was walking into the house I heard the faint sound of a little boy crying and Jimmi ran to the door. "He took a little spill," he told me about Hunter. With both of his parents still up the road I went to assess the situation, which turned out to be a couple of scraped knees and a tiny wound on his left hand where he'd met the pavement after he tried to show Jimmi he could stay on his scooter if he rode it down the hill. I looked at Jimmi, who was surprisingly calm, then back at Hunter's pouty face. A single tear fell down his cheek and he sniffled as he waited for someone to fix him. "Ok, let's go into the bathroom," I said and they followed me. Hunter sat down on the toilet and I asked him where I could find a washcloth and some Band-Aids. He pointed to the closet and I pulled out the supplies. I handed the cloth to Jimmi and said, "Here ya go!" I watched as my husband ran some warm water on the towel then wrung out the excess. Without a second thought, he gently dabbed each of Hunter's knees which, luckily, had been covered by his pants when he fell. Then Jimmi moved on to Hunter's wounded hand. "Which one would you like?" I said to Hunter as I held up the two choices of colored bandages. He pointed to the green polka dotted one and I placed it on the counter for Jimmi to apply. With the ease of an experienced father, my husband finished wiping blood and dirt from the five year-old then stuck the colorful cover over the only place that actually needed it. "All good, Little Man!" Jimmi announced with a smile. Hunter popped up from the toilet and off he went. I was a pile of mush after watching Jimmi's actions. "You're gonna be a great daddy," I cooed.
Lyndsay, Josh and Hallie returned shortly, followed by Lyndsay's brother, who had popped in for a visit. A conversation about tattoos ensued and we teased Josh because he didn't have any. "I still want to have my eyeliner done when this is all over!" Lyndsay exclaimed, pointing to our baby bump. Months back, right before the embryo transfer, Lyndsay mentioned having an appointment to have her eyeliner tattooed on permanently. According to the surrogacy agency, that kind of procedure was not allowed so close to the transfer date so she was forced to cancel. Of course, after all was said and done, the fertility clinic never even asked Lyndsay if she'd had any recent tattoos after all. "I have no idea how you'll be able to do it," I said to Lyndsay. "How will you sit through someone tattooing around your eyes?" She responded with the laugh of a superhero, "Shit, if I can have a baby for someone else, I can get my damn eyeliner tattooed!"
The adults' conversation went on a little too long for the kids and they kept impatiently walking over to the remaining gift bag. "What's in here?" Hunter asked more than once until I finally agreed to tell them. "Ok, it's time to see!" I thought about how to reveal the family surprise and decided it would be best to pull out each item in a specific order so it would all make sense. "Stand here," I instructed to all four of them. "Now close your eyes." I reached into the bag and took out an 8x10 picture frame. "Keep your eyes closed until I say to open them," I instructed. "Hallie, hold out your hands but don't look until I tell you to." I placed the frame in her little hands then got myself ready with my camera. "Ok," I said. "Open your eyes!"
Lyndsay and Josh were able to read much more quickly than Hunter could sound out the words and their faces immediately lit up. Hunter caught on quickly enough and exclaimed, "Disney World? Are we going there?" Lyndsay confirmed his question and Hunter balled his hand into a fist, pulled it back in a swift motion and let out a, "YESSS!!!" then both kids started jumping up and down with excitement.
"But, wait!" I interrupted. "There's more!" I removed the small pile of papers inside the bag and explained each one. "After you get off the plane…" Hunter interrupted, "We're going on a plane?!" I nodded and continued, "A bus called 'Disney's Magical Express' will take you from the airport to your hotel." I held up the first sheet with a photo of giant dalmatian statues surrounding a building and a Fantasia-themed pool. "This is where you'll be staying. It's called 'Disney's All-Star Movies Resort.'" Hunter grabbed the paper from my hand. "Whoooaaa," he said. I went on, "I have something just for you, Hunter!" His blue eyes were enormous as he waited for what would come next. "You get to be a member of the The Pirate's League!" He didn't know what that meant yet, but he was giggling with excitement anyway. I handed him the next sheet of paper with the description of his special treat:
Avast! Captain Jack and his crew of scallywags are scouring the high seas in search of treasure—and new recruits! Sail away with The Pirates League, and transform ye self into a living, breathing swashbuckler from the days of olde.
First, be ye christened with yer Official Pirate Name from the leather-bound captain’s log. Then, make yer way o’er to the Muster Station, where the League’s veteran pirates will give you a marauder’s makeover as the adventurer of yer choosing:
A Fairy Tale Come to Life
"I have something for you, too, Hallie," I said to the little girl, who was patiently waiting her turn. "Bring your Elsa costume with you because you get to go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and become a princess!" I handed her the description and Lyndsay read it to her: