Monday

I think WE are up at the crack of dawn, but by the time we wake up, Russell is already dressed and getting something to eat. I get a quick shower, then wake Jim, who’s lazy ass is still in bed instead of trying to get things ready. He wakes Brighid, who throws her clothes on, and then she wakes the other two girls and we get them ready. Figuring they will fall back to sleep in the car, we don’t feed them, and we have to return the rental car to the airport before we can be on our way, so Jim and I head out to try and get the paperwork to return the car done before Russell can make it to the airport. On the way to the airport, Jim asks if I packed his razor, and I did not, so we have to stop at Walgreens to get a razor and shaving cream. That gives Russell the opportunity to pass us and he beats us to the airport. When we finally get there, of course Jim has a problem with the return, he ends up standing at the counter on the phone with a manager, until I come up behind him and tell him we HAVE TO LEAVE NOW. Russell has been waiting, and it’s time to get on the road.

We stop at a rest area on the turnpike and the kids grab breakfast. Eilis and Granuaile get french toast sticks and the rest of us grab something from Starbucks. That holds everyone until we get to another rest stop, where we all hit the bathroom before making the rest of the trip down to Miami. We are at the port around 11:30, which is just about when we can start checking in.

Up until now, Eilis and Granuaile do not know where we are going on this vacation. When we pull into the port, Eilis made the comment that she was going to be Sea Sick – not sea sick, but sick of the sea ūüôĀ That was disappointing. Granuaile wants to go home. Another disappointment. I am hoping that when we get onboard, and Eilis gets into the kids club, she’ll feel better about the vacation. Granuaile is just going to have to get over herself.

Sunday

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!

Saturday

So Saturday rolls around.¬† I get up, as I usually do, around 6:30.¬† I go downstairs, check my email, load the dishwasher with the few things that were used the night before, and wake Jim.¬† He goes downstairs, sees the mountain of unfolded socks, towels, and underwear on the love seat and says we are not leaving until the mountain is folded and put away.¬† Does he offer to help with that endeavor?¬† No, he does not.¬† He settles down in front of his computer to play his game, and I know that if he did not have a game he was interested in, we would be in the car by 7 AM.¬† I tell him i have at least 3 hours worth of clothes folding – this is, after all, a MOUNTAIN of socks, and socks are so difficult for me.¬† Eilis, Brighid and I wear nearly the same size.¬† Eilis still has some socks that are similar to Granuaile’s.¬† I hate sorting socks.¬† He wakes Brighid to help me, and eventually, the other two girls come down and interfere with the process.¬† It takes me 2 hours, and I finish at about 9 AM.

While I am sorting socks, as I said, Jim is gaming, so the car does not get loaded.  He later complains that we should have finished packing the night before so he could have loaded the car, ignoring the fact that we were done packing by 1 AM the night before, and he could have loaded the car.  He waits until we are done sorting socks to get dressed himself, and then Brighid and I get Eilis and Granuaile dressed.  Jim then decides we have packed incorrectly, and some rearranging needs to be done.  He wants nothing in the bag for the cruise except what we are taking on the cruise, and nothing in the other bags except what is NOT going on the cruise.  We are supposed to have a bag to stay overnight, with clothes that we will put on Monday morning as we leave for the cruise.  We have to have the stuff we are going to put on Saturday and Sunday when we are off of the cruise.  And we have to do all of this without letting the other two kids know we are going on the cruise.

So FINALLY at about 10 AM, all loaded in the car, we head to Starbucks to grab my coffee.¬† On the way back from Starbucks, we stop back at home to retrieve the belt I forgot to pack for Jim, who didn’t want to help pack.¬† We are not officially on our way to Florida until just about 11 AM.¬† The plan is to stop for the night just before we hit Georgia, and continue the last leg of the trip on Sunday.

And then the fighting starts.¬† The girls, all three in the back seat of a rented Grand Marquis, are fidgeting, arguing over space, and overall just crabby.¬† So Jim says, “I wonder how much airfare is to Orlando.”¬† A quick call to US Airways, despite my protests that it’s a holiday and airfare is going to be outrageously high, Jim finds airfare to Orlando for $59.¬† At just a few minutes shy of Delaware, we turn the car around, race home, and book airfare to Orlando, leaving on Sunday.¬† Brighid and I spent the day Christmas shopping, and we all got a good night’s sleep at home ūüôā¬† What a great way to start the trip!

Thanksgiving Vacation Planning Events

After deciding we were not going to be able to take the trip to Vero Beach that I had planned due to the uncertainty of his contract at work, Jim surprised the whole family, including his mother and Russell, by calling on the phone late one night from Minneapolis, telling us he wanted to go on a Thanksgiving week cruise.  He had seen an advertisement, and Carnival was running specials that started at $139 per person, and he thought it would be a great idea for us all to go.  Well, of course, by the time we chose a cruise we actually wanted, minimizing the time out of school for the kids, maximizing our time to just relax and not feel pressure to book excursions and visit exotic ports, we ended up actually paying on average about $350 per person, but that was reasonable enough to book, so we did!  We are off for 5 days to Key West and Cozumel, having our turkey onboard the Carnival Imagination!

I did very little planning for this trip.¬† I really expected this to be the kind of vacation I’ve heard other people have – you know, where you go, you sleep late, you order room service, you lounge in pajamas, catch up on your reading, and just enjoy not having to do anything.¬† So, with only one formal night on a very casual cruise line, I expect to just throw some stuff in a suitcase and be on my way.

As the day draws closer, I realize that Eilis has gotten tall over the past couple of months, and her bathing suits, which were really close to not fitting over the summer, are way too short.¬† I am assured by several sources that in Florida, bathing suits grow on trees, and will be readily available when I arrive, so I put my mind at ease about Eilis having to skinny dip in the middle of the ocean.¬† Then I come up with the idea that during that formal night, I can have the girls dressed in holiday attire and get their Christmas picture taken without the agony of trying to get a photo taken during the holidays at Sears or Penney’s.¬† That requires the rest of us to be equally as festive in our attire, so I am now scouring malls for Jim’s Christmas tuxedo accessories.¬† They want an outrageous amount of money for a one shot deal when I look at tux shops – like $99 for a vest and bow tie.¬† Russell finds a cummerbund and bow tie for just about $20, and I tell him to get one for Jim also, so he does.¬† I also end up picking up some things while I’m out shopping for myself – since I have to be ready almost as soon as I get home to take with me on my trip to Disney for the Moms’ Panel training, so it ends up being an expensive pre-trip week or so.

The plan is originally to leave Friday after school with the kids, drive as far as we can, finish the trip on Saturday morning, then spend Saturday evening and Sunday at the theme parks.¬† Well, this being the weekend before Thanksgiving, I start to anticipate traffic is going to be heavy, and additionally, if we leave right after school, we are going to hit some heavy duty Washington D.C. traffic.¬† The urgency to get everything packed is gone now that I feel like I have an extra day, and I putz around, do things I don’t really need to do, wash every article of clothing in the house, and take my time.¬† As a result, at 1 AM Saturday morning, Brighid and I are just finishing packing.¬† But, everything is at the door, we are ready to go, and the plan is to leave whenever everyone gets up on Saturday.

2008 Christmas party planning – step 1

This year it will be a simple affair, as shown in the picture attached. Jim and the kids will do all the work and I will mingle around all day, and end the night with a foot massage, back rub, a hot cup of tea, a pumpkin scone and a nice night of undisturbed sleep in a new pair of warm Christmas¬†flannel PJ’s

Step 1 – start seeing if we are going to have a Christmas party. This involves Jim asking me if we are going to have a 2008 Christmas party around December 1st, after I’ve been asking him since July 1st.

Step 2 – We are having a 2008 Christmas Party!!!!

Step 3 – I ask Jim what to do and he tells me “Um, go read your Christmas party blog entries from the previous years”

I am on Step 3 now….unless reading about the earlier parties reminds me of how much work they are and we just order Dominoes

Super Bowl party tips for Bariatric surgery patients

Super Bowl XLII Party tips for Bariatric Surgery PatientsSuper Bowl XLII is upon us, and I know what you’re thinking.¬† What the hell did I do to my intestines, and how is it going to prevent me from having fun at my Super Bowl party?¬† Well, get over it.¬† The fun is in the company you invite, and I’m here to save you from crying in the beer you shouldn’t be drinking with some tips on enjoying some gastric bypass friendly party foods.

When planning your Super Bowl party, there are some foods that just naturally make their way to the top of the list.¬† If you are inviting intestinally intact guests, you don’t want them to feel deprived of any of their football food favorites, but you can make foods that they will recognize as tail gating must haves, only slightly altered for those of us who are gastrically altered.

One thing your Super Bowl party can’t be without is chili, and that’s a GREAT food for bypass patients.¬† Loaded with protein packed beans, choose a lean meat in making your chili, like a lean ground beef, ground ostrich,¬†or a ground WHITE MEAT turkey (you may have to ask for this specifically at your grocery store – don’t assume ground turkey is all white meat, and if it isn’t, you are getting a lot of fat from the dark meat).¬† Use toppers to your favorite chili recipe that include fat free shredded cheese and fat free sour cream.¬† Your guests won’t know that you’ve chosen this because it’s gastric bypass friendly, they’ll just know it’s a Super Bowl party must have.

I have a terrific recipe for chicken that your guests will think came straight from Buffalo.  The difference is, in regular Buffalo Chicken wings, you are consuming close to 70% fat.  Check my recipe blog to get a recipe that cuts the amount of fat by more than half.  You can enjoy a small portion of the wings, and your guests can go hog wild (or is it chicken wild??) and not know the difference.

Some snack foods easily lend¬† themselves to gastric bypass patients, but having them at your party won’t make your guests feel like they are eating diet foods.¬† A nice tray of cheese (stick to low fat varieties), veggeroni (tofu based pepperoni) or turkey pepperoni, and most dips made with fat free sour cream are excellent snack options for a weight loss surgery patient, but they will all be welcome additions to your selection of party food.¬† You can even do something that looks really fattening and decadent, like a baked mozzarella cheese (purchase the fat free cheese sticks, dip in egg, roll lightly in Panko bread crumbs, bake in the oven until cheese is warm), with a sugar free tomato sauce.

Do a web search for fat free dips, and add things you know you can eat around them.  Most gastric bypass patients can eat pretzels and crackers, although you want to watch how much you eat of these types of foods.  The key to enjoying the dips with the pretzels or crackers is to take a spoonful of the dip on your plate, a few of the pretzels or crackers, and then move yourself away from the dip bowls. 

Pizza is not as bad as you have been led to believe, and if you make it yourself, you can do¬†a lot to make it more gastric bypass friendly.¬† Use a very thin pizza crust – one you make yourself, buy already made, or roll out from the Pillsbury tubes.¬† Top it with a brush of olive oil, crushed garlic, and fat free mozzarella.¬† Or you can top the pizza with crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, and the cheese.¬† You can even find sugar free pizza sauce – or make your own – and use that with fat free mozzarella.¬† You can add more protein to the top of your pizza by topping a white pizza with lump crab meat or shrimp (if you can eat shrimp – it’s still too hard for me), or top a tomato pizza with chopped clams or chicken.¬† This is something your guests will love and you can enjoy.¬† Cut the pizzas into smaller slices or even into strips, that way you can feel like you can indulge in two pieces!

And don’t dismiss a salad option.¬† Of course, if your guests are used to hoagies and creamy salads like potato and macaroni, you may not win them over with a green salad.¬† But offer a salad fixings bar, including gastric bypass friendly options like shredded cheese, chopped egg, crumbled turkey bacon, diced turkey, etc.¬† Offer a selection of salad dressings ranging from simple vinegar and oil to the thicker, richer thousand island or ranch.¬† You can opt for fat free versions of the dressings, or offer the standard dressings for your guests and choose your favorite fat free variety.¬†

For desserts, include a fruit salad that you can have with a chocolate sauce or a light cheesecake dip.  It sounds a little frou-frou, but your guests will enjoy it.  A sheet cake with your team colors on it is an option for your guests, and many bakeries now carry low carb options made with Splenda that you can usually have a taste of (Cheesecake Factory restaurant makes a low carb cheesecake that is terrific, just eat a SMALL portion). 

When picking up paper goods, make sure to pick up smaller sized plates so that you can have a full sized plate of food using the smaller sized plate, and feel like you are not denying yourself anything.¬† And invest in the Super Bowl themed cups so no one will know if you’re drinking water or unsweetened iced tea while they are guzzling down the Bud Lights.¬†

Most of all, enjoy your company.¬† Enjoy showing off the new you, and showing people that celebrating – even your team’s win in the Super Bowl – doesn’t have to be all about fattening food.

Beef O’Brady’s – A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

Beef O’Brady’s bills itself as a “family sports pub”.¬† I know this is going to be a little off topic for those of you who are only interested in the gastric bypass friendliness of this restaurant, but I want to go a little into the restaurant itself.¬† First of all, “family” and “sports pub” are diametrically opposed terms.¬† I am pretty sure that sports pubs were invented by men who wanted to get the hell away from their families and enjoy the football game over a pint or two.¬† And I don’t know too many women and children who relish the thought of being dragged out to the local bar to sit at a table, eat pub grub, and be ignored by a husband who is risking whiplash by trying to watch the soccer game, the football game, ESPN Sports Center, and a college basketball game all at the same time.¬† Also, this particular Beef O’Brady’s (on¬†West Irlo Bronson Highway¬†in Kissimmee) provided an obstacle course to get in and out of the ladies room – hardly kid or handicapped person friendly, so if your family includes any of these types of people, you might want to go to a different family sports pub.

Okay, off of that soapbox and onto how food friendly it is for Gastric bypass patients.¬† Um, this is a sports bar.¬† ‘Nuff said?¬† You’re going to find the menu here heavy on the fried, greasy, carb loaded types of food.¬† Feeling like a burger with your baseball game?¬† It’s here.¬† Feeling like fries with your football game?¬† You got it.¬† Nachos with your NASCAR?¬† You get the picture.¬† This is food that’s not really “good” for anyone, but it all tastes good and your sports crazy family will want to eat here, so what options are there for you, my gastrically challenged compadres?¬† I’ll tell you.

The soup of the day on the day I was here was chicken noodle, and while the noodles were a little bigger than what I usually like in my soup (pasta is not my friend), there was plenty of chicken and a nicely flavored broth.  My biggest complaint is the horse carrots that sank to the bottom of my cup of soup.  They were huge and not cooked all the way, and huge, and too crunchy to be suitable for my digestive system, and huge.  Oh, and they were huge. 

Beyond the soup, the menu options were limited in terms of saving yourself the unpleasant experience of dumping.¬† Nearly everything is deep fat fried, covered in breading of some sort, heavily decorated with some sort of cheese, and dipped in bleu cheese dressing.¬† There is a small selection of salads, but if you look at it, it’s all basically a chicken caesar salad – except one is true caesar, one is southwestern, one is chicken with mushrooms, one is chicken with buffalo sauce – and you know, sometimes I just don’t feel like chicken on a salad.¬† They do offer a chef’s salad, but I didn’t think I’d want that much food with the bowl of soup.

The salad I did get was a small garden variety salad, topped with a little shredded cheese.  It was pretty average Рa little onion, a little tomato Рnothing out of the ordinary.

As for the other diners at my table – those who are gastrically intact – well, it seemed the food was hit or miss.¬† My oldest daughter ordered the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, and nibbled her way around the outside of it.¬† The enormous burger (1/2 pound burgers here at Beef O’Brady’s) had a pretty good sized slice of cheese, a generous slathering of BBQ sauce, and then was topped with a mountain of french fried onions.¬† It proved to be too much food and too ooey gooey for her liking, and as the BBQ sauce mixed with the french fried onions, she had soggy slivers of BBQ sauce coated onion that she scraped off of the burger and left on her plate.¬† The burger – and all the sandwich platters – come with a choice of fries, cole slaw, potato salad or a bag of chips.¬† Since we decided to order a large side of curly fries for everyone to share, everyone ordered chips with their platters.¬† My mother-in-law had what she called a GREAT sandwich.¬† The sandwich, called a Watterson, after one of the early Beef O’Brady customers, was roast beef on grilled rye bread, topped with swiss cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle.¬† It sounds good to me!¬† But, I can’t do bread, and I’m sure the amount of fat between the mayo and the cheese would have sent me running.¬† The comments from the rest of the table were that the food was “alright” – nothing to write home about (so what the heck am I doing writing home about it???)

There are definitely better restaurant choices out there for those of you who are stapled.¬† My advice would be to drink a protein shake before you go or nosh on a protein bar after you leave.¬† You won’t find many ways to get protein here without dumping.¬† And let me tell you, dumping all over the guy at the bar with the Guinness in his hand while he’s screaming at the rugby game won’t go over too well.¬† No, I didn’t try it.¬† I’m assuming.¬†

Don Pablo’s Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

Prior to having gastric bypass surgery, I might have LOVED eating at Don Pablo’s.¬† As with many Mexican restaurants, the portions here are large, generally covered in cheese, and served by request with a huge, fruit flavored Margarita.¬† Since having gastric bypass surgery, my success with finding things I can eat at Don Pablo’s – or many other Mexican restaurants – has been limited.

Today, fortunately, was a fairly successful visit.  To begin with, I have NO trouble eating the chips and salsa Рnot necessarily a good thing.  We were promptly seated at a booth in the nearly empty restaurant, and after taking our drink order, our waitress brought us a heaping basket of warm tortilla chips and two small bowls of salsa.  Jim quickly tucked in to one of the bowls, and I positioned the other in between Eilis and I, but soon found I was the only one dipping my chips.  The chips here are fresh, served toasty warm and pleasantly salted, and come with a mild, just chunky enough salsa. 

In my past experiences eating here, I have learned that the steak and chicken served with the fajitas is usually too tough for me to eat and digest properly, so I have to skip them.¬† The soups and the chilis are generally too spicy, and I was not a fan of spicy prior to gastric bypass surgery.¬† The surgery and the increased risk of stomach ulcers is a good enough excuse for me to skip the spicier foods here.¬† The guacamole shrimp cocktail the one time I had it proved to be tough to get down.¬† The shrimp was overcooked, rubbery and cold, and the guacamole reminded me of the gross green vomit from The Exorcist.¬† The fat content in the enchiladas and burritos frightens me away without even trying them, and on many of my other visits here, I have found myself eating just queso dip with more chips.¬† Today, I venture into Don Pablo’s world of salads.

Not being the adventurous type, I ask the waitress about the spiciness of the taco salad.¬† She says if I have no trouble eating the salsa, I should do fine with it, so I take a chance and order it.¬† The salad can be ordered with either the spicy ground beef or grilled chicken, but having struggled through chicken dishes here in the past, I opt for the ground beef version of the dish.¬† The salad – served in a crispy tortilla bowl (yeah, I had a bite or two) – is a very typical salad, but for my purposes, it was just perfect.¬† The lettuce was finely shredded, and all of the vegetables were diced small.¬† The dish is advertised with sauteed onions and peppers, but I only found a few strongly flavored onions and nary a pepper in mine.¬† I ordered ranch dressing on the side, in case the beef was spicy enough to need a ranch cool down, but the meat was mildly spiced – enough that you knew you were eating taco meat, but not so spicy you sat with your eyes watering down your iced tea as you gulped.¬† The dish also contains what Don Pablo’s refers to as “refritos” – refried pinto beans – although the portion in mine was limited to a thin coating on the bottom of the tortilla bowl.¬† It comes with one small scoop of sour cream and another of guacamole, but if you are watching your fats closely, you can either easily scoop those off yourself or ask that they be left off of the dish.¬† I mixed the guacamole in with my salad, while leaving the scoop of sour cream pretty much intact.

After eating about half of the salad, I was definitely full.¬† I recommend that you ask for a box immediately, and remove half of the salad for later.¬† If you eat your taco salad like I do, you mix all of the ingredients together to eat them, and that doesn’t make for good left overs.¬† Take half away before you mix the wet tomatoes in with the crisp lettuce, and you have a chance of making this last for another meal.

I cannot rave about Don Pablo’s restaurant because I find it difficult to find food there that works for me, however, by sticking with something simple and basic like the taco salad, I was able to eat a pleasant – although nothing spectacular – meal with my family.¬†

And for the record Рthe steak and chicken served with the two orders of fajitas WAS overcooked, and would have been virtually impossible for me to eat.