Sunday

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We still have to be up early, as we have to be at the airport at 8 AM. We are in the car and out the door in plenty of time, and we stop to grab a coffee on the way. Yay.

We arrived at our gate and I think Holy cow, this is great! We are here super early! I’m so proud of myself for getting everyone out the door on time, and then I find out that the gate has been switched. We have to go to a whole ‘nother terminal. Off we trudge, me and the girls, because Jim went to return the rental car and hasn’t gotten back yet. We find the new gate, and Granuaile is thirsty, so I set off to find orange juice, since they are eating Tastykakes for breakfast. I find juice in the magazine shop, and head back, then head off to the bathroom. As I am walking that way, Jim turns up, and after I get back from the bathroom, he and I go grab a couple of bottles of water and some magazines. It’s only a few minutes until we board, and we are really the second ones on the plane, behind one handicapped woman. Jim and Eilis are supposed to sit together but she would rather sit with Brighid, so Jim switches. Granuaile has a mini-meltdown, as only she can do, but just a few minutes into the flight, she is soundly sleeping. That makes the trip so pleasant!

Our arrival in Orlando is about 20 minutes early, and as soon as we are off of the plane, Jim heads out to get the rental car and the girls and I grab the bags. We meet him out front, and our first stop is to try and find Eilis a bathing suit at the oh so many bathing suit shops we will find in Orlando. I have it on good authority that WalMart is the place to go, so we head to the one just down the street from Downtown Disney, because I have it on second good authority that if there isn’t a suit at WalMart, there will be one at one or more of the shops at Downtown Disney.

Once inside WalMart, I quickly find the bathing suit section. They have a handful of suits in Granuaile’s size, a larger selection of adult suits, and only one Eilis’ size. We end up trying on a few junior sizes on her, but none fit properly. No worries. We are headed to Downtown Disney, and there is really little else that would make me as happy as a stop there will.

We find a parking spot fairly quickly, considering this is the middle of the day and Downtown Disney. The first stop we make is at the I DO NOT REMEMBER THE NAME OF THIS SHOP. There is a large selection of adult swim suits that are pretty pricey, so I send Brighid over to the Wonderful World of Disney to see if they have any suits before I invest an enormous sum of money into a bathing suit that may not fit Eilis by summer. No go. She does a thorough search and checks with a salesperson and they have no suits. We end up with a nice suit, although we spend nearly $100 on it – yes, that is not a typo.

I do not get nearly my fill of Disney on this way too brief trip, and I’m tired and hungry besides. We leave DTD and call Jim’s mom to let her know we are going to grab lunch before we head to her house. We head to the Taco Bell at the Crossroads, and enjoy an outside table while we eat lunch. After lunch, we decide to take a ride out to University of Central Florida, so Brighid can see the school campus. It’s about an hour and 10 minutes by the time we get there, and we drive around the campus before heading back out and going to Jim’s mom’s in Poinciana. WHEW! We’ve done so much driving today, it feels like we DID do a full day’s drive from Jersey!

We settle in, order pizzas, and get all the paperwork in order for the trip. Jim and Russell pack up the car with everything that can be packed and the kids get their showers. I turn in, and Jim soon follows. It’s another very early morning – we have to be up at 5 AM!

Jolly Holidays Thursday

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The whole reason for us being here this week instead of a week that would have been way more convenient for school schedules and vacation schedules is because Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure does not start their holiday festivities until the second week of December.  Don’t ask me why.  It’s a tragedy that we have had annual passes to these parks forever and have never gotten to enjoy their Christmas offerings because they start them so close to Christmas.  I say get on the ball, Universal Studios.  The rest of the known world has their holiday decorations up at the crack of October.  What nerve you have waiting until CHRISTMAS to decorate for CHRISTMAS!!

So here we are, just in time for the holiday happenings at Universal, so that’s our plan today.  Except when we get there, the only time the Macy’s parade is marching is at dusk, just before the park closes.  Well, we don’t want to stay that late.  We have to be up early tomorrow to be on an airplane.  And the Islands of Adventure park ONLY has Christmas in Dr. Seuss island.  We can be done that in about 15 minutes.  So disappointing.

Anyway, we head in to Islands of Adventure for the Grinchmas celebration.  The stage show, new this year for the 50th anniversary of the story How the Grinch Stole Christmas, doesn’t start until noon, so we are way early for that.  We do the rides, we meet the Grinch, and the girls run into a few of the Whos from Whoville, who are wandering the area, telling people to be careful of the Grinch.  The Whos seem reluctant to pose for pictures, so I more or less took a few pictures of the kids talking to the Whos.  We putzed around a while, and Eilis got to ride the roller coaster, and then we went back for the stage show.  It was cute.  That’s all.  I wasn’t bawling my eyes out from the warm and fuzzy Christmas sentiment.  It was more like the Jim Carrey version of the Grinch, where you don’t much like the Grinch, even after he’s good.  But Eilis got to go up on stage and sing with the Da Who Doraze part of the show, so that was cool.

As a side note here, some woman passed out behind me.  The way they seat the show, all the kids can go up front and sit with one adult from their party close to the stage.  The rest of the adults have to stand at the back.  It was crowded and pretty hot, and an elderly woman fainted behind me with about 10 minutes left in the show.  She was still laying on the ground, appearing to be unconscious, when we exited the show, and the medics were walking over, confused about where to go.  I don’t know if they got lost, they didn’t call them right away, or it took them that long to get there.  Whatever the story, I hope they were able to get medical attention for this woman and she has recovered fully from her ordeal.

We rode a few other things, then had lunch at the rib place that Jim is so fond of.  We started to head out of the park at about 3:30 to head to Jim’s mother’s house for dinner.  We skipped Universal altogether, since the only thing I really wanted to see was the parade, and they had it so much later than I had hoped it would be.  There was not a line for ANYTHING that we wanted to ride at IOA today – even the roller coasters were a 5 minute wait.  I know when we go back after Christmas we won’t be so lucky, so I’m glad we got to take advantage of the short lines this trip.

Jolly Holidays Wednesday – And a HUGE Thank You!!!

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First, before this blog goes anywhere, I went to post a HUGE THANK YOU to my father-in-law’s friend Richard.  We can’t tell him how grateful we are to him for gaining our admission to EPCOT.  We all had a great time, got a big dose of the Christmas spirit, and truly appreciate you going out of your way for us.  Thank you so much!

So, I am determined to get this gang up and out the door at oh dark something this morning, to make sure we are at the park in time.  We are meeting Jim’s parents and their friend Richard at 9 AM, and I want to make sure we are there with time to spare.  YAY – we get there at 8:35!!  We get a great parking spot, and I find Richard right away.  He is such a pleasure to talk to, and we all had a nice conversation when I wasn’t chasing my youngest daughter.

Dot and Russ got there a few minutes before 9, and we spent another couple of minutes talking before we headed into EPCOT for the day.  Our first stop – The Land, where we ride the boat ride.  This is one of my favorite things at EPCOT, although I am disappointed to see that they no longer have a guide on the boat – it’s all recorded.  I guess this is just another way to save Disney money, but it does take a little away from the ride.  It’s still fascinating to me, though, to see the garden part of the tour.  Not being able to grow anything in the traditional fashion makes me all the more interested in how they grow things the way they do!

We leave the boat ride, and Jim, Russ and Eilis head to Soarin’.  The wait is 20 minutes, which for this ride is really good, so they stay while I go up to the top of the building to wait with Dot.  During the wait, a lady comments to me about how very good and patient Granuaile is.  Well isn’t that a beaming mommy moment!!  I want to tell her that this is unusual for her, and it might be that she was drugged with a Triaminic strip for a cough this morning and we kept her awake until the wee hours of the morning, so she is probably sleeping with her eyes open, but I thank the very nice lady and appreciate for a few minutes that the terrible twos aren’t always so terrible.

We are closing in on lunch time, so we decide to head over to the World Showcase and the Amercian Adventure area, where we see the giant and smelling oh so good Gingerbread house.  They will be selling the delicious gingerbread here later on, but right now, it’s closed.  And so is the restaurant.  They don’t start serving until 11:30 and it’s only 11:05.  We just hang out, meet a nice lady in line with us who went to Boston College and discouraged us from letting Brighid consider Northeastern.  Finally, we purchase our enjoyable lunch, and just as we are finishing, Granuaile hears the fife and drum corps and runs to hear it.  She loves them!  She’s so musical.

The afternoon goes well, bouncing from ride to show to shop, and we soon find it time to eat again.  Dinner is at Le Cellier, and it’s an early meal so that we can go to the 6:45 Candlelight Processional.  I’ll review the restaurant later, but we eat, and we are on our way.  It’s pretty much time to go wait in line for the Candlelight Processional, which tonight is being narrated by Chita Rivera.  Jim loved her from Kiss of the Spider Woman.  I think that’s the show that turned him on to the theatre, because up until then, he had shown very little interest.  Anyway…

Midway through the show, Eilis has to go to the bathroom.  I figure I will wait until the Hallelujah chorus is being sung so I can slip out without really disturbing anyone.  Granuaile, however, decides to whisper in that OH SO LOUD baby whisper that Eilis has to go Baf-room!!  Now!  Mommy!  Eilis has to go baf-room!  UGH.  We do manage to make it to the Hallelujah Chorus, and we run to the bathroom.

We had a few pictures taken during this trip, and the one photographer helped me with my camera by teaching me how great night mode is.  He was great.

I hate to see the day come to an end, but the kids are tired, and it’s getting late, and we really have done a lot today.  The Candlelight Processional is my favorite Christmas moment, and I leave EPCOT feeling really good.  Back at the hotel, the girls get a snack and climb into bed, and it’s just been a terrific day.

Jolly Holidays Tuesday

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Tonight is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, so we’re going to try to take the morning easy.  We get up when we’re ready – which for me means by 6:30, and the rest of the crew by about 8:30.  I offer the kids breakfast now, pool later or reverse, and of course, they are kids.  They want to go to the pool NOW.  The AKL pool is so nice.  It’s a zero entry pool, which means you don’t climb down steps, you go in like you do at the beach, and the water gradually gets deeper.  It’s also HEATED – YAY!!!  The air temperature is still a bit cool – low 70’s – but the water feels pretty good and the kids go right in.  The water slide is closed, since there are no life guards on duty yet, but I don’t think the kids would use the slide anyway.  We hang out at the pool about an hour and a half, and the girls have worked up an appetite for some breakfast.  We head on up to the room, and I throw breakfast together while Jim puts the kids in the shower, then while they eat, I hop in the shower.  We are going to head to Downtown Disney to get Granuaile’s silhouette done.  I have one of each of the other girls at age 2, so it’s her turn.

 We arrive to find out that the silhouette booth won’t be open for another 20 minutes, so we go into the World of Disney to do a little shopping.  The check out line is pretty long, so Jim ends up taking Granuaile over to the silhouette stand and Eilis and I check out with our purchases.  Because we spent $50, we also picked up an adorable snowman throw blanket for only $10 more!  A great addition to the holiday decorations at our house!

With Granuaile’s silhouette in hand, we take a ride back to the hotel for Jim to take a call for work and for us to eat lunch and change for the party.  We are out the door by about 4:30 to head to Magic Kingdom, and that puts us there just in time to see the transformation of Cinderella’s castle!  Oh my gosh – it’s so beautiful!

We have a dinner reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern.  Uh oh.  Something got stuck.  I’m not really sure what it’s called, but stuck is what it feels like.  It’s when I eat something that seems to stick somewhere in my upper chest region.  I feel lumpy there, and I feel like I should throw up but often can’t.  It’s such an uncomfortable feeling, and I end up making 3 trips to the bathroom, praying to be able to throw up or for the walking to help it move down.  Finally, it did move, and I felt better.  I also got great pictures of the kids with the characters, so that made the meal worth it, despite not being able to eat much.  And, as a bonus, they only charged me a kid’s price!

The party is wonderful!  I love the special events at Disney World.  The party was sold out, but there didn’t seem to be lines for anything.  The kids rode a few rides, we saw a fantastic Christmas parade, the fireworks were amazing.  This year, in addition to giving guests hot chocolate and sugar cookies, you could also select apple juice and apple slices – they were a huge hit with my kids.

We ended up staying at the park until just past 11 o’clock.  Tomorrow will be a long day at EPCOT, and I know the girls will be tired.  They are back at the hotel and in bed around 11:45, but both of them fell asleep in the car on the way home.  That will certainly help in the morning 🙂

Cafe TuTu Tango A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

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As a person who has had a gastric bypass procedure, it can sometimes be challenging to find something on the menu at a mainstream restaurant that I can – or want to – eat.  As an overweight person, I didn’t realize how absolutely HUGE the portions can be at restaurants, so no matter where I go now, I end up taking most of my meal home with me – and even doing that, much of it ends up going to waste.  I try to steer clear of the things that are fried, things that have rice or pasta, anything with bread.  It really does wake you up to the fact that my options are limited wherever we go.

Cafe TuTu Tango was one of our favorite places to get a bite to eat when we lived in Orlando.  Jim even organized an office Christmas party there one year, and everyone had a blast.  While driving down International Drive in Orlando during our recent trip, thinking we might find a new restaurant to try, Cafe TuTu Tango popped up and a quick decision was made to revisit our old stomping grounds.

The “theme” of Tutu Tango is “Food for the Starving Artist”.  Everything here is served tapas style – or appetizer sized.  This keeps the cost of getting something to eat at a reasonable level, and it allows you to try a couple of things, or a table to try several things, that can be passed and shared.  This place is a gastric bypass patient’s dream come true!

On our lunch visit, we walked in to find the restaurant virtually empty.  We were quickly seated, and both girls given crayons and pictures of Backyardigans characters to color.  Granuaile LOVES the Backyardigans, and she was thrilled.  Jim and I browsed the menu, and quickly discouraged Eilis from ordering off of the children’s menu and allowing us to pick some things we thought she might like to try.  The kids’ menu at Cafe TuTu Tango is similar to every other children’s menu you’ve seen – heavy on the fried and fatty.  Any kid would be glad to have something – corn dogs, chicken strips, the usual fare.  But we’re emphasizing healthy eating, and the adult menu has a bigger variety of better for you choices.

The specials menu features a hummus with pita chips, and it’s only $3 for a good sized portion.  I order that, as I currently love hummus, but Eilis apparently enjoys it as well and is scooping up quite a bit of it on the tiny pitas and pita chips.  Jim orders a bowl of black bean soup for he and I to share, and I have to say, of all the foods we ate, this was the one disappointment for me.  There was an overwhelming citrusy taste to it, and very little of any other flavor.  I felt like I should add salt, but then didn’t want to add salt because it tasted so citrusy that I thought the salt would make it taste funny.  Jim ended up with the whole bowl after I braved a second bite to determine I really didn’t like it.

The kids practically devoured the shrimp and chicken potstickers, which you can order steamed like we did or deep fried.  Eilis didn’t even try the sauce until the very end, and then was dipping everything into it.  We also ordered a chicken pizza to give the kids something familiar.  The flavorful, thin crusted pizza had chunks of chicken, carmelized onion, and three cheeses.  The chicken pizza is a white pizza with a nice garlicky flavor.  Another big hit was the scallops – broiled to perfection and with a lime sauce that was really tasty.  Scallops are one of the foods I can easily eat, and after sharing one of the large scallops between Granuaile and Eilis, I ate one whole one myself and split the last one with Jim. 

With drinks – a very nicely flavored unsweetened ice tea for me, and sodas for the kids (Jim only drinks water), and a magnificent looking dessert of banana pizza (bananas, caramel, and ice cream atop a pizza crust), the bill came to about $50 for the 4 of us.  Because the portions are smaller sized, there really is no waste for someone who has a compromised gastrointestinal tract like we do after weight loss surgery, and you really can choose from a good selection of proteins, salads, the soup (there are two on the menu).  I would have been more than content with the scallop dish and a small salad (there are 5 salads on the menu, and 3 contain some form of protein) if I was there eating alone, but had PLENTY to eat even in choosing foods I knew the kids would like.  The pizza crust is thin enough that I could easily eat it without getting sick, which a lot of pizza crust can do to me, and there are many other options on the menu I could have tried with a table full of WLS patients that would have skipped any type of bread/crust at all. 

The added bonus to Cafe TuTu Tango is they feature art work throughout the restaurant from local artists.  You can purchase any of the pieces on display, and you really get a good sampling of local talent – in everything from sculpture to painting. 

This is definitely a must do restaurant for Gastric Bypass patients – and anyone who is looking for a menu filled with delicious surprises, international flavors and eclectic flair.

Jolly Holidays Monday

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You know when you plan the perfect vacation, and everything is falling into place, and you can’t wait to get started, watching the kids enjoy themselves and then you start to relax and enjoy yourself?  Yeah.  Ain’t happenin’.  This is a Skamarakas family trip – did you expect the Brady Bunch?

I woke up early this morning – what else is new? – and went to the bathroom before waking Jim and asking him if he wanted to get up early with me, eat breakfast out on the balcony watching the animals before the kids got up.  He reluctantly agreed.  I quickly made breakfast for Jim, grabbed a protein bar for myself, and sat outside.  Then had to go to the bathroom.  Then ran back outside.  Then had to go to the bathroom.  Yes, ladies, you might recognize this as a symptom of a urinary tract infection.  I drink a gallon of water – give or take an ounce – and hope for the best.  The plan is to go to SeaWorld, then hit Walmart for a few things I didn’t know I needed – cranberry juice and Azo tablets – and to pick up a bag of groceries that never made it into our shopping cart yesterday.  We also left a bunch of stuff at Jim’s mom’s house, but I realize how low in importance it is when the pain from the UTI kicks in. 

We get the kids up, dressed, and fed, and we are on our way to SeaWorld.  The gallon of water is helping minimally, and I am in such great discomfort walking around SeaWorld that by 1 o’clock, I really can’t stand it anymore.  We decide to head out of the park and grab some lunch and then hit Walmart for the stuff we need.  Not sure where we want to eat, Jim starts heading down International Drive from SeaWorld, and we figure we’ll find some place we’ve never eaten to try, and then we pass Cafe TuTu Tango.  This was one of our favorite places when we lived in Orlando, but we haven’t been here in years.  If you have never been, this is a tapas style restaurant – basically, a menu full of appetizers.  It’s perfect for someone who has had gastric bypass surgery!  We choose a few things we think the kids will enjoy – steamed dumplings, chicken pizza, scallops, hummus and chips, and black bean soup.  It really makes a full meal for everyone at the table, and the girls are given pictures to color of Backyardigans characters – Granuaile’s favorite.  Another of the neat things about TuTu Tango is that they display the works of local artists all over the walls, and when the girls are done their pictures, the waitress brings them tape so they can add their art to the beautiful displays.  Eilis puts a price tag of $2 on hers – a bargain at twice the price.

Bordering on agony, I am finally on my way to Walmart.  I grab a six pack of diet cranberry juice and the box of Azo, a nightgown, since I forgot to pack one, and we get the groceries that we left behind the day before.  I pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner, and we are on our way back to the hotel.  Tonight in the lobby there is a craft set up.  The kids can pay $5 and make a Christmas ornament using dyed broken ostrich egg shells.  We pay for Eilis to do one – the money goes to animal conservation – and she happily sets about making a blue giraffe, which, of course, is exquisite 🙂  They give her a button which says she has helped with animal conservation, and we head up to the room for dinner.  The Azo is kicking in THANK YOU MAKERS OF AZO!!, and I am finally feeling a little bit better.  I take the girls downstairs and at the gift shop, they are getting ready to hold a parade.  The kids get to choose an instrument from the shop, and they parade around the immense lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge singing, “We are in Africa!” over and over again.  It’s so much fun for the kids, they want to do it every night of the vacation!

We head back upstairs, have a bedtime snack of cookies and milk (thank you, Jim, for the nice cookies you picked up for the kids – they loved them as much as you do), and head off to bed.  No rush to get out tomorrow, since the plan is just to go to Magic Kingdom for the Very Merry Christmas Party.

Jolly Holidays, Sunday

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I am up way too early.  My internal alarm clock seems permanently set on 6 something in the morning, and I don’t know how to break the habit!  I may have to find out during Christmas break!

I get up, and quietly start to pack our stuff.  At some point, Jim wakes up, and he starts getting himself ready.  When the girls get up, so as not to disturb anyone, I give them cereal and juice, and then I start to get them ready to go.  At that point, Dot and Russ wake up, and the kids decide they need “second breakfast” – a hot and delicious eggs and bacon, which certainly makes them forget the cereal they have already eaten. 

We take our time, load up the car, and we all head to CiCi’s Pizza for lunch. When lunch is over, we head to our hotel – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This is our first trip “home” as Animal Kingdom DVC owners.  We checked in and found our room was not ready, so we headed over to do the grocery shopping.  The thing I like best about the villas at DVC is the kitchen and laundry facilities in your room.  It’s a great money saver to have the ability to make some meals – especially breakfast – and to keep snacks and drinks handy.  And going home with all clean clothes is AWESOME!  We hit Walmart and do our shopping, picking up more than we need of everything (come on, who doesn’t do that at Walmart?).  By then, we can check into our villa.

I had booked a 2 bedroom, working on the assumption that my mom would be coming with us.  She doesn’t feel up to it, and we have a ton of room.  The thing is, this is a lock off – meaning it’s really a 1 bedroom and a studio that are opened up at the connecting door to make it a 2 bedroom.  I feel a little cheated here, because I have tried to change our reservation to a 1 bedroom several times, only to be told they are not available.  They could have made another family happy by closing this unit off. 

This is, as I said, our first trip to AKL villas, and they are GORGEOUS!  The counter tops are all granite, and the color scheme is very earthy.  The CM who brought up our luggage tells us that AKL is now the largest African museum in America, and every piece in the unit is authentic – from the carved wood headboard and armoire to the art work.  I love how they incorporated things from The Lion King – my all time favorite Disney movie.  The room is just beautiful.

We have a nice dinner – Granuaile’s favorite – hot dogs.  And then we sit on the balcony and watch the animals.  We also have a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks, and we watch them each night that we are in the room.  We headed to the gift shop and rented a couple of movies, and Granuaile falls asleep early.  We’re visiting SeaWorld tomorrow, so we’re trying to be well rested.  The rest of us head to bed about 11 with no plan to rush getting up in the morning.  They’re saying the weather will be beautiful all week.  I can’t wait!