Friday, May 21, 2004

Dr. Pan called today and said Anthony's three month scans looked good! There were no changes since the last set in Feb. and he said he was happy with them.

The scan procedure itself went fine. Anthony was crying as they were looking for a vein to do the IV contrast. The radiologist heard him and came in. She asked if we had prior scans with us, and fortunately I did bring them with me. She looked at them and said we wouldn't need the contrast. That made Anthony instantly cooperative. He did everything they said, as long as they didn't stick him with that needle.

They were pretty good over at Jersey Shore Medical. Everyone was very nice and the scans and X-rays were done very quickly. Maria did have to drive the films over to RWJ, though. Anyway, now we can sort of relax for another 3 months.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

We go for Anthony's thee month scans today. We have to go over to Jersey Shore University Medical Center since Robert Wood Johnson is pulling one of its barganing tactic moves by not accepting Cigna for outpatient radiology. This whole disaster we call a health care system is really getting to me. It is probably getting to Maria even more since she is the one on the phone with Cigna at least twice a week. Anyway...we're hoping that the new radologist who looks at these films will not raise all kinds of red flags when he sees what is inside Anthony from the surgery. Maybe they will be smart enough to ask for previous films for reference. In any case, we will be taking these films back to RWJ to have their radiologist look at them. I might also ask for a copy to be sent to Memorial Sloan-Kettering to cover all the bases.

Wish Anthony well...

Sunday, May 16, 2004

OK, where was I... (If you didn't read yesterday's post, read it before you read this one.)

Ah, yes...May 10th
On our second day, we went to the Magic Kingdom. This is probably the best place of all the Disney parks to take small kids. The first ride we went on was the Dumbo ride. All the kids loved it, but Anthony was making me sick by moving the elephant up and down and up and down. He loved it. We also went on the Pirates of the Caribbean. We forgot that there was a little waterfall drop while in the complete darkness. Sarah didn't like that too much. After that, she put her hands over her eyes and kept saying "close eyes, close eyes." Emily really wanted to go on "It's a Small World", since she is learning to play the song on the piano, but the ride was being renovated. We went on a few other rides, including the Haunted Mansion, which Anthony loved. But the ride that Anthony like the most was the Buzz Lightyear ride, where you try to shoot all the bad guys with a laser. We went on that one 4 times, and Anthony's high score was 120,000. We were able to bypass all of the long lines using Anthony's button or Special Assistance card. All of the employees there were so nice to us when they saw his button. Even if we were waiting on the full line, they would see that button and take us right to the front.

We decided to stay late to see the fireworks, so we ate dinner in the Magic Kingdom. We ate at Tony's Restaurant (from Lady and the Tramp) right at the entrance to the park on Main Street. Our philosophy was that we would have one full service meal a day at a nice place and avoid doing the cafeteria style thing at least once. After dinner, we went over to Tomrrowland to see the fireworks and all the kids stayed up to see the whole show. It was a really fun time.

May 11th:
We went over to Disney/MGM studios on our second full day. The first thing we did was the Playhouse Disney show. They brought us right up front and we sat on the floor next to another "Give Kids the World" family. They were from Marlboro, NJ of all places. The kids loved seeing Bear in the Big Blue House, Stanley, Rolie Polie Olie, and Pooh live. They got up and danced a couple of times. We also saw the Muppets 3-D show, which was really cool. We made it a short visit and decided to go back to the village for a while.

At the village, we all went in the pool, then Anthony and I went fishing in the lake for a bit. Nothing was caught (at least by us). We decided to try to get back to the Magic Kingdom to try to see the SpectroMagic (Light Parade) show.

We ate dinner in Cinderella's Castle and timed our exit perfectly so that we were stuck at the entrance to the castle right before the parade. They rope off the castle area before the parade so they can do the fireworks afterward. We were behind the ropes on the elevated platform in front of the castle, so we could see the parade perfectly. Emily and Anthony loved the parade, but Sarah kept trying to make an escape. After the parade, we went on the Buzz Lightyear ride two times in a row.

May 12th:
We decided to take a break from Disney, and we went to Sea World. It was a very relaxing day there, since it is all shows and no rides. It was also less crowded than the Disney parks. We saw a Sea Otter show and the Shamu show. They loved seeing the huge killer whales splash people in the first 14 rows. That's right, 14 rows got soaked with 52 degree water. It's a good thing we decided not to use the button to get into the first section again.

We ate lunch at the Sharks restaurant, where our table was up against a giant (660,000 gallon) shark tank. We have a couple of pictures with the kids eating as a shark swims by (check out the pictures section).

We left the park at about 4PM and headed back to the village, where we ate dinner in the Gingerbread House. We had some ice cream afterwards and then played miniature golf at Marc's Dino Putt. It is a dinosaur themed golf course with lots of surprises that tended to scare the kids. At one hole, Emily hit her ball into the cup and a dinosaur squirted Anthony in the neck with water. He was a little surprised. I think they like being a little scared, because they kept begging to go again.

The kids finally went to bed at a decent hour. Or, at least we put them to bed at a decent hour. We heard them all cracking-up for quite some time after we left the room (they all slept in the second bedroom together).

May 13:
Back to the Disney parks. This time, we went to Animal Kingdom. It was very crowded. The walkways are much narrower than many of the other parks to give it a jungle feel, but it just makes it difficult to get around. The big hit of this park was the African Safari ride in a real jeep, with real animals roaming around outside the jeep (no fences). They saw a lion, some zebras, Thompson's Gazelles, monkeys, and many more cool animals.

We left Animal Kingdom early and headed over to Epcot for a while. The kids played in a fountain area for a while and got soaked. They really loved that. Maria and I just sat in the shade and watched. We walked around the World Showcase, listened to some music, ate some food, and relaxed for a while. The kids liked running around some of the areas and liked the Mexico water ride a lot.

At one point, I was walking back from the bathroom and saw Maria waving to me, trying to tell me something. As I walked across the path, two golf carts passed by me about 5 feet away. I looked into the first cart and thought..."that looks a lot like George Bush, Sr." When they passed, I looked at the back of the cart and though..."that looks a lot like Barbara Bush." That is what Maria was trying to tell me. We are certain the it WAS the George Sr. and Barbara. They passed by again and I got video of Barbara, but only the back of George's head.

We stayed late again and watched the fireworks. We were kind of far away, so we couldn't see the stuff in the water too well. When they were over, we raced out of the park to get onto the monorail before the crowd made it out.

When we first planned our stay, we weren't going to go to Epcot, since there isn't a whole lot for little kids, but I'm glad we did. We had a good time there.

May 14th:
We headed over to Universal, where the kids were excited about seeing the Nickelodeon area. We went on the Jimmy Neutron ride first. They loved that one. We then went into the Slime Time Live show, where Anthony was picked to do a game for the Blue team. The host asked his name, how old he was, and where he was from. Amazingly, he answered right away and then turned to us with his big smile and waved. He was so proud of himself. Sadly, though, the blue team didn't win. He didn't care.

Later, Maria went on the Back to the Future ride with Emily and Anthony while I walked around with Sarah. We grabbed a bite before we had to head to the airport. Oh, the airport...

Our flight was supposed to be delayed until 8:50PM (from 6:50PM originally) and we got to the airport at 4PM (with Sarah!!)! We took off around 7:30PM after all. Sarah was quite a handful in the airport and on the plane. She would not stay in one place at the airport. If we let her go, she would have run through the entire terminal without looking back. She screamed for a long while on the flight when Maria tried to keep her in one place to go to sleep. In the meantime, behind us, a little girl was vomiting. A lovely flight all around.

Then, we arrive at Newark airport. That airport needs a complete overhaul. After taxing for what seemed like an hour, we get to the gate and there was no one to wave us in. We sat about 100 yards from the terminal for about 10 minutes. We then went to the baggage carousel where it took almost an hour to get our bags. The stretch limo took us home again, but we only arrived at 1AM. Altogether, from the time we left Universal, until the time we got home, it took about 10 hours. That is about 2/3 the time it would take to drive all the way, non-stop. Next time, I think we'll drive.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Well, we're back from Anthony's Wish Trip. Everyone had a great time! The "Give Kids the World Village" is really a great place that deserves every donation dollar it gets. If you are looking for a good charity, "Give Kids the World" would be a great one.

I'll go over the trip day by day for those who like to read my long and boring posts.

May 9th:
A stretch limo came to get us at 6AM. We got everyone up just 15 minutes before that, threw on their clothes and got into the limo. The kids were excited about the limo ride and didn't fall asleep the way we thought they might. Once we got to the airport we checked-in and stood in Continental's ridiculously long line to have our bags screened with the CTX scanner. They had 5 machines that I could see, but only one that was operational. That's Newark Airport for you (wait till you read about the return trip). We got on the plane at about 8:45AM and were in the air at about 9:30AM. The flight was fine, with Sarah falling asleep and Emily and Anthony playing Gameboy and coloring. Once we arrived, we took the monorail from the gate area to the main part of the Orlando airport. Sarah enjoyed the monorail ride about as much as any ride at Disney. She would say "wheee" and "whoa" as we were riding.

A greeter (Ruth) from "Give Kids the World" came to meet us, help us with our luggage, and get the rental van. Ruth was great and helped us out quite a bit. She took Anthony and Emily by the hand and helped us get over to our van. She is a volunteer, just like the many, many other great volunteers at the village. If I can remember right, there are about 1,000 (that's right, 1,000) volunteers and 90 full time staff members at the village. It is a truly wonderful thing that these people do. It really makes you feel good about the human race.

After we got the car, we drove to the village (about 10 miles), where they gave Anthony a big stuffed Mickey, and gave Emily and Sarah a stuffed Shamu the killer whale from Sea World (more about Sea World later). They gave us a map of the village and told us all about it. Here's the short version of what's there. They have 2 swimming pools, a lake stocked with fish, a movie theater, a mini-golf course, an arcade, and a train ride for the little kids. You don't have to pay to do any of these things. While you're there you eat at the Gingerbread House, a cafeteria-style dining hall staffed with all volunteers. They also have an ice-cream palace that is open all day (9AM-9PM) where you can get all the ice cream you can eat (donated by Friendly's). The Castle of Miracles has a Merry-Go-Round right outside of it, and inside, they have games and books for the kids. On the ceiling of the castle, they place a star with each wish child's name. There are currently about 11,000 stars on the ceiling. Now, Anthony has his own star there.

After we got the intro, we went over to our villa, which is a two bedroom, two bath apartment with a kitchen and a living room. The bath room had a giant Jacuzzi where we gave all three kids a bath at the same time with plenty of room to spare. Each villa has two apartments in it, each with its own driveway. The kids made themselves at home right away. After we unpacked a bit, we went over to the pool, where all three kids had a ball. Every day, even when we were at Disney, they asked to go back to the village to go to that pool.

That night, at about 8PM, they had an orientation where the gave us the tickets to the parks. We had 3 day park-hopper passes for Disney World (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney/MGM studios), a 1 day park-hopper pass to Universal Studios two parks, and a 1 day pass to Sea World. They also explained how, by showing Anthony's "Give Kids the World" button at the parks, we could get a free stroller rental and bypass all the long lines for the rides. It was amazing what that little button would do.

I think that is about it for day one. I'll write about day 2 tomorrow, since it is 11:30PM right now, and I'm still recuperating from our vacation and I need to go to sleep.