The Daughter Chronicles

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Poking and prodding at Mia

Norah turned 4 yesterday, by the way. We had no party because we figured going to Disneyland was birthday present enough. If you're interested, you can read all about her first day in the world here. Yay, Norah at 4 years old!

Meanwhile, Mia is still having issues. As long-term readers of the blog know, after her hip surgery she stopped eating. We've taken her to a gastroenterologist twice, and the second time she decided to do some investigating, because the steps we took after the first visit weren't working. So she scheduled her for an endoscopy, which occurred today. Actually, Mia had an EGD, which is (very) short for esophagogastroduodenoscopy, which looks at the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract to the duodenum. How about that for a word? It's awesome.

We went in this morning (two hours prior to the procedure, of course, because if you're not sitting around a waiting room in a hospital, you're just not having fun!) and met with the doctor and the anesthesiologist. Mia has done this so many times that I could probably give the prepared speeches to them, but it's always necessary to go over it again. The procedure was scheduled for 9.30, and it was mighty quick - no more than 30 minutes, and possibly as short as 20. I wasn't really looking at the clock too much, but I know it was quick. The doctor didn't find much - she was looking for an infection that Mia might have sustained in the hospital when she had her surgery, but her esophagus, stomach, and duodenum were all clean. I wasn't surprised - if she had an infection, I imagine she would have been sick by now, and as usual, she's as healthy as a horse (well, except for the boo-boo on her brain, but you know what I mean). The doctor did say there's some "old blood" on her stomach walls, and she biopsied them even though she doesn't think they're ulcers and doesn't think they're causing any problems. It's best to be sure! Check out the small blood spots:

She came out of the anesthesia and soon afterward was keen to go home. She drank and ate her usual allotment today - as in very little - and she seemed fine. She's always very good about going under the anesthesia and coming out - the doctor even said that kids who freak out when they get the gas are easier to put under because they're gulping in air, while kids like Mia, who just lie there calmly, take a bit longer. But she was fine, as per usual.

The doctor prescribed Prevacid for her, mainly because she isn't totally sure those specks aren't ulcers and also because Mia may have acid reflux, which is unlikely but remotely possible. I'm not sure how we're supposed to get her to drink the water in which the tablets are dissolved, but we'll figure something out.

Next up: a barium swallow! Whoo-hoo! She's had a modified barium swallow before, back in the day when she just got off the tube through her nose and we wanted to know if she could eat. Now we need to see if there's anything wrong with her gastric system that might be inhibiting the progress of food through her body. We're trying to rule out any medical reason for her problems. I'm still convinced it's all psychological, as it's the only thing in her life she can control. But we have to eliminate all possible medical reasons for it. That certainly leads to some fun stuff!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Adventures in Disneyland, Part Two

Okay, we left off at the end of Tuesday, when we had visited both parks, ridden on a bunch of rides, and had a ton o' fun. So let's move on to Wednesday, 3 June 2009!

Wednesday was our day off. I wanted to visit a comic book store in Ventura, which is 90 miles away from Anaheim, so my dad and I drove out there and had a grand old time (read about it here!) while the wife and mother and kids went shopping and then hit the beach! Newport Beach, in particular. Norah actually went in the ocean, which surprised us because we thought she'd be terrified of the water attacking her. But she loved it, and now she wants to go in the ocean all the time! Luckily, we live in the middle of the desert, so she can go ... oh, wait a minute, she's out of luck there. We're visiting San Diego in July, however, so she can check out the ocean again. Let's hope she's not terrified then. Who knows - she's fickle.

My dad and I joined them in Newport and we wandered around for a bit. We walked down the pier, saw some seals in the water (or maybe they were sea lions?), and had a nice time. We were going to eat dinner down there, but it was still early, so we headed back to Anaheim. It was a nice day to decompress after running around for three straight days with the children.

On Thursday we headed back to California Adventure. We wanted to take the kids to some of the shows, because we figured they would like them. We first went to the Playhouse Disney show, which features puppets of the early morning television shows. So Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Pluto were having an issue, and they needed to consult with the other TV stars to solve it. So there were vignettes with the Little Einsteins, Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger, and Handy Manny. As Mia was in her chair, she had to stay in one certain area, and Krys and Norah had wandered off before we got to that spot, so we were separated for the show. Norah appeared to enjoy it, at least whenever I looked over at her. Mia, however, LOVED it. She was rocking with the music, laughing a lot, and clapping all the time. I took a bunch of pictures just of her, because it's so nice to see her so happy. I mean, she's often happy, but it's rare to see her so joyful, and I paid less attention to the show and more to her, because I'm a dad, after all. Here are some more!

After the show, we went to the Muppet Show Theater, where we watched a brief 3-D film, which Norah did not find to her liking. Much like the bug show we saw on Sunday, Mia liked it but didn't keep her 3-D glasses on, so I don't know how much she really saw, as it was very fuzzy without the glasses. But it was short, and Norah didn't freak out like she did in the bug show, so that was okay. Then we went over to watch the Aladdin show, which was quite the spectacle. The line was already long when we arrived, about 45 minutes early, and although we got good seats, I had to wait separately with Mia because she needed to take the elevator up to the seats. So we got in, and the show was pretty cool. It was basically a 45-minute synopsis of the movie, with all the highlights and a fairly funny genie. Mia, as usual, thought it was pretty awesome, and Norah liked it until the end, when Jafar becomes the giant cobra. They had one of those long, thin balloons like you see on the side of the road advertising car sales and whatnot, and the balloon had a giant cobra head on top of it. So when it sprang to life, Norah was a bit upset. But she calmed down pretty quickly, and I think, overall, she dug the show. It was pretty impressive - they had a large elephant, and when Aladdin takes Jasmine on the flying carpet, they had a prop that flew over the seats, which was pretty keen. So that was fun.

After that, Norah desperately wanted to go on the Ferris wheel again. She and Krys headed over there while the rest of us went to Disneyland to get a Fast Pass for the Indiana Jones ride. Apparently Norah and Krys went on the swinging gondola this time, and Norah dug that immensely. We got our Fast Passes and went on the jungle cruise ride next to it, which Mia did not enjoy too much. The seats were long benches, so she couldn't really sit too well on it, and the ride wasn't that exciting for her to look at, so by the end, she was ready to go. We went back and found Krys and Norah, then returned to the Indiana Jones ride, which was closed. Apparently this happens quite often, and they never know how long it's going to be shut down, so we waited for a bit. They told us we could use our Fast Passes even if it was after the designated time, so that was nice. We wanted to ride it about 4 o'clock (our Fast Passes were for between 4 and 5), but that wasn't going to happen. We waited about an hour before the kids really started to get whiny. So we left. We hoped that we could use our Fast Passes the next day, but we figured we could just get different ones if we couldn't.

Friday was our last day at Disneyland, but we decided to go in the pool in the morning just for fun. We didn't buy a bus pass for the day, so we figured we'd walk over to the park and we didn't want to spend the entire day tramping around there and then have to walk back when we were tired. Plus, we had done most of what we wanted to do, so we didn't think we'd have to spend too long at the park. So we walked over around noon and went back to the Indiana Jones ride, where we were able to use our Fast Passes from the day before. That was swell. Then we decided to watch one of the parades that go down Main Street. It wasn't the official parade, but more of a show; it was called Celebrate Disney and it consisted of about five vehicles with various characters on them, and they would stop every 200-300 yards or so along Main Street and do a song-and-dance routine. We figured the kids would dig it, and they did. Mia was smiling and laughing, while Norah, who was bit frightened at the beginning of the show, warmed up to it quickly. At one point the dancers took her out onto the street for a conga line, and we didn't think she'd go, but she mustered up her courage and went out. She didn't look too happy with it, but she didn't cry and went around for a few minutes. It was a nice way for the kids to end their time at the park.

We went back to the hotel and hung out for a while, and then Krys and I tried to go out to dinner. Unfortunately, Norah was still awake, and she freaked out. She was screaming, writhing around on the floor, and generally being a pain in the butt. We finally went with my mother and her down to the street and we left them there so she could get all her screaming out and not bother Mia or my dad. According to them, she calmed down eventually, but she was very concerned that we were coming back. We think that she was so upset partly because she wants to be with Mommy all the time but also because she was in a strange environment with her grandparents, who she doesn't know all that well. But she was fine going to sleep, apparently, so that's nice.

Krys and I walked back to the park because we hadn't been there yet at night. We wanted to go in California Adventure and go on the ride that "flies" you above California, but when we arrived, the park was closing. Yes, California Adventure closes at 9 o'clock in the evening on a Friday night. Sheesh. Apparently, that ride is pretty keen, and it's the only thing I wish we had gone on. We didn't know it existed until, I think, Friday, because we were too busy doing other things, especially when we were in California Adventure. So that was disappointing. We zipped over to Disneyland (which closes at 11) and went on the Lucas Tour ride, in which you sit in a "shuttle" and are thrown around as you fly to the moon of Endor. When we got out of the ride, it was almost time for the fireworks display. We were herded by "cast members" around the central cul-de-sac in front of the castle, around from Tomorrowland toward Adventureland and Frontierland and then back down Main Street. This has to be the worst part of the Disney employees' jobs, because everyone who was walking wanted to stop on the sidewalk and watch the fireworks, but of course that was not allowed, and the cast members had to keep reminding everyone of this fact. Krys and I weren't really there to watch the fireworks, although we wouldn't ignore them if we happened to be there, so we kept looking for a spot to watch them. As we passed the very front of the assembled throng, we passed a spot with no rope separating them from us. Krys suggested we slip into the crowd right there. I looked at the people, who were almost all children. I suggested that if she didn't want to get killed by the parents, perhaps we should move on. Along the side of the crowd, where people were breaking off to enter Frontierland, there was a small spot right on the other side of the rope where we could stand. We slipped underneath the rope and claimed it. It was lucky we did, because a few minutes later, a rather large group tried to stop in the other side of the rope, and the cast members had to urge them away from it. When we got back to Arizona, a friend of mine told me he's seen cast members have to get physical with people who won't move. Luckily, we didn't see any of that.

So the fireworks began, and although there was a tree in front of us so we couldn't see the castle too well, we saw the fireworks perfectly fine (they're in the sky, after all). I like fireworks, although I'm never exactly dazzled by them. It seems the technology was perfected years ago and nothing ever changes with them. So it was nice, but nothing different from fireworks I've seen for thirty years. Afterward, we decided to ride the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster one more time, and even though we had to stand in the regular line (the Fast Pass was for much later), it wasn't that long. Then we decided it was time to go to bed, so we walked back to the hotel.

The drive home was uneventful. The kids were relatively well behaved, and even though Norah whined about being tired, she refused to sleep. She often does this - if she's in the car with one parent, she'll fall asleep. If Mia's in the car, she'll stay awake, even if she's tired. It's not that she and Mia play together - Norah spent a great deal of the trip whining because Mia had cooler toys than she did - but for some reason, she just doesn't want to fall asleep. I assume she thinks she'll miss something exciting, because exciting things always happen when you drive across 300 miles of desert, right?

So that was our journey to the West. We had a pretty good time, although it was quite exhausting. We all slept well, though. Next time I think we'll go to Disney World. I've been there twice, and I remember liking it a lot more than Disneyland. Disneyland is limited by space, while Disney World sprawls over acres and acres of Florida swamp land like a medieval fiefdom. Plus, it has a water park. I dig water parks.

More pictures below! I hope you like them!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Adventures in Disneyland, Part One

Last week the family went to Disneyland. We had been planning it for a while, as my mom wanted to take a vacation with us, as she felt guilty that she was always taking vacations with my sister and her family (they live only about four hours from each other). My parents have a timeshare, so they got one in Anaheim so we could all go to Disneyland. The kids, obviously, have never been there, and my lovely wife had never been anywhere Disney either. I had been to Disney World in my youth, but I'd never been to the original. So on Saturday, 30 May, we piled into the Toyota Sienna and took off!

Now, driving seven hours anywhere is brutal. Driving seven hours with an almost-seven-year-old and an almost four-year-old is borderline insane. They're generally good kids, of course, but sitting in the back of a van for that long will try anyone's patience. Krys drove the first part of the trip, and the kids behaved rather well. I think they realized that Mommy was doing something, so they couldn't whine to her, and they know better than to whine to me. We drove west across the desert, ate lunch in beautiful Quartzsite, Arizone (yes, that's the name of the town), and finally switched driving duties a bit west of Blythe, California (which is right on the border). Then the whining began! They thought: Hey, Mommy isn't doing anything anymore! Let's bug her! Krys was prepared, however. She had bought a portable DVD player for when the kids inevitably became annoyed. She set it up - while we were moving, mind you - and put in a DVD. Unfortunately, she put the screen with the controls (it has two screens, one for each seat) on the passenger seat so she would have easy access to it. That meant it was on Mia's side, and Mia enjoyed pushing buttons on the player, which usually reset the movie they were watching back to the beginning. Oh, that wacky Mia! So the second half of the drive wasn't quite as pleasant as the first half, although I didn't care because I was driving and I had my new funky iPod Nano hooked up to the stereo, so I was groovin' to the tunes! (Krys got to pick the music on the first half of the trip, and the stuff on her iPod is so much less cool than what's on mine it's just not funny. I mean, the English Beat? Really, Wife O' Mine?)

By the time we reached Anaheim it was almost 6 o'clock, and the kids were tuckered out. They had still behaved pretty well the whole trip, so that was nice of them. We were staying at a hotel not too far from the park and right around the corner from the Anaheim Garden Walk, a nifty mall that had a bunch of restaurants. So that night we walked over to a place there and ate dinner. The weather was very nice all week. It was never too hot, it very rarely was too sunny, and although it was overcast most of the time, it was never cold and it rained only briefly. The first night it was a bit breezy, but it felt very nice as we walked to the mall. Mia, naturally, didn't eat anything, but we had brought several boxes of Kid Essentials with us, so we knew she'd get some sustenance!

Sunday morning was the only time we really had to get up early. Krys had made reservations for "Breakfast With The Princesses" - yes, you can eat breakfast and some of the Disney princesses. It was held at Ariel's Grotto in California Adventure, so when we entered, the kids could get professional pictures taken with Ariel. After breakfast the other princesses - Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora (from Sleeping Beauty), and Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) - came out and made the rounds to the tables, so we got photographs with them as well. The kids had a nice time, which was nice for them. Not for the first time, we got sticker shock when the bill arrived. Sheesh - talk about gouging!

That day (Sunday the 31st) we wandered around California Adventure. We had five-day passes for the two parks, so we didn't feel rushed at all, which was nice. We tried to have a good mix of grown-up rides and kids' rides, so the kids went on the carousel (which they liked a lot), then we went on the roller coaster, and then we all went on the Ferris wheel, for instance. Mia and Norah dug the Ferris wheel - Norah went on it a few days later, as she was insistent that she ride it again. With Mia, we went in the "non-swinging gondola" - there weren't any seatbelts, and just keeping her on the seat and upright was tough enough, and we didn't feel like adding the swinging to it. When Norah went on it again, she and Krys went on a swinging car, and she loved it.

We went into the section of California Adventure that is bug-themed - it's called "It's a Bug Land," named after the movie A Bug's Life, and characters from that movie show up in a few places. We saw a brief show in a theater equipped with the cutting-edge 3D tech, which Norah did not like at all. It was dark and loud and things kept jumping out at her, and she decided she really needed to scream loudly. Mia thought it was pretty groovy, but Mia tends to roll with the punches, so to speak. Norah recovered pretty quickly, of course, and the rest of the afternoon was spent on kids' rides in that section of the park. They went on a short train ride, the spinning cups ride, and a few others. It was getting late in the day, so we took off.

The nice thing about going to a park like Disneyland is that it totally wears the kids out but they never have a chance to get really cranky. Norah, as a three-year-old, reserves the right to get whiny in an instant, but even she was relatively well-behaved (I'll get to her general behavior at some point). So when it was time to go to bed, they went down very easily, and even Mia didn't put up much of a fuss. And Norah actually slept in in the morning, which she never does (if she sleeps past 6 a.m., she's sleeping late). So on Monday we got up a bit later (no breakfast plans) and then headed off to Disneyland.

It was quite a good day. This time we took the stroller for Norah, because we made her walk the entire day on Sunday, which wasn't very nice. We decided to get the kids' stuff out of the way so that we could hit the roller coasters on Tuesday, so we started in Tomorrowland on the Astro Blaster ride, which Norah had a bit of a problem with, as it was dark and loud. Once she figured out the laser pistols, though, she started to dig it. Mia liked it, too, even though she couldn't quite get the hang of the lasers. Then we went to Fantasyland to go on the various Alice in Wonderland-themed rides. As we went through the castle gates, Norah had a bit of a meltdown. She claimed she wanted to go through the castle, but then didn't like how dark it was. When Krys and my parents said they wanted to go, I said I'd wait with the kids. Norah then decided she wanted to go in the castle, but by that time, everyone was already in there, and I couldn't leave Mia, so she freaked out. Oh, it was quite fun! Once Mommy came back, she was fine, but this was the basic pattern of the week - she was fine until Krys tried to walk away, and then the screaming would begin. It was quite vexing. Anyway, we went on the carousel, ate lunch, and then hit the rides again. Norah dug the tea cups (whatever it's called), but Mia wasn't too keen on it. They both liked Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, however. We went toward the back of the park where It's a Small World is, because my parents, inexplicably, wanted to ride it. I went on It's a Small World 25 years ago, and I still hate it! But we knew the kids would like it, and they did, especially Mia. Then it was back to Mickey's Toon Town, which was somewhat fun. As we entered, we saw Goofy walk by. We followed him and he stopped to take pictures. His handler told us he couldn't stay long, but we were near the front of the line, so we figured we'd get pictures. The group in front of us was a woman with a couple of kids, and the group in front of them was ... three young men. Okay, these guys looked like some of my ex-students. They were Hispanic, in their early 20s or late teens, and had the long shorts and long shirts, and although they were clean-cut, they still looked like gang members (that's not to say they were; I taught lots of kids who looked like gang members who were very nice kids). My point is, they didn't look like guys who would get their pictures taken with Goofy, yet they each took individual photographs with him! Sheesh. They left, the group in front of us took pictures, and then ... Goofy walked away. Leaving a kid in a wheelchair in line. Good job, Goofy!

The kids then waited in line to see Minnie and her house, so they got pictures taken with her. My dad and I didn't wait in that line, but then we went into Mickey's house, and he was back in the house, so the line wasn't that long, and we got pictures taken with him. It was a photo fest! Then we took the train around the park to the New Orleans section. We went on the river boat and Krys and I went in the Haunted Mansion, which was quite lame. We took the kids on Pirates of the Caribbean, which Mia really liked (Norah didn't have too big a problem with it, but she wasn't as enthralled with it as Mia was). We wandered up to Adventureland, went to the petting zoo, and saw Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger taking pictures with kids. So they stood in line for that, which was nice for them. Finally, we actually went on a roller coaster - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. That was fun. It was getting late, though, so it was time to go!

On Tuesday, it was a bit more adult-oriented, as we went on the roller coasters and skipped some of the kids' rides. We did go on the Finding Nemo submarine ride, which both kids liked, and the Autopia ride, which Mia didn't find too groovy. The adults went on Space Mountain and the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which were fun. One problem I have with Disneyland is that it's definitely kid-oriented, so even the roller coasters really aren't that great. I mean, they're all okay, but only California Screamin', the coaster at California Adventure, is really cool. I like my roller coasters to have high and steep rises, precipitous drops, and it wouldn't hurt to have a loop or two. I'm not sure if the coasters in Disneyland don't have these because of space constraints, but they rely much more on twists and turns for their thrills, and as I get older, I'm not as jazzed by those as I used to be. I'd love to go to someplace like Cedar Point, where it's all about the roller coasters! Maybe some day ...

So that's the first part of our vacation in Disneyland. I figured I'd better split it into two parts, especially because I have a great deal to say about Norah's behavior. Yes, she could have behaved better. But she was generally good. More in a day or two! Until then, here are more photographs!