Thursday, February 28, 2013

Disney Diary, Day 3

(An ongoing recap of our nine-day trip to Disney World.)

This just might have been my most favorite day of the trip.

We went to Epcot, the park I was least looking forward to and Ray was most looking forward to (that's about par for the course with us - we're seldom on the same page).

Anyhow, we got the Epcot, wandered around for a few minutes and then started the day off on the lowest note of all: Ellen's Energy Adventure.

In theory, it was right up Ray's alley. A film/ride/thing exploring the history and future of energy. It really would have been a nice experience...


It has huge, scary dinosaurs in it.

Lola was terrifed.

And she cowered next to me, shaking as she covered her eyes, begging for it to end.


It was not the best-ever beginning to the day.

But we all survived. And Lola actually learned an important lesson: the scariness all comes to an end, eventually.

Within moments of exiting, she was just fine and excited to try something else.

We then went to meet up with Ray's sister's family. They go to Disney fairly often so they were super helpful, pointing out some of the must-sees and offering ideas on what the kids might be most interested in.

We went on the new-ish Nemo ride, which was really great. Lola loved it. And Millie was very interested in the sighs and what was happening all around her. Extra bonus: The line wasn't long at all and it moves quickly.

Afterward, we checked out some of the "real" fish and let Millie look around a bit.

We stopped for lunch at what would become our favorite Disney eatery in the "Mexico" portion of the World Showcase.

And Millie and I met Donald Duck.

Then it was time for another Princess meeting.

OK, technically, I don't think Disney considers Mulan a "princess" but she's my absolute favorite (and the movie, obviously). And that has rubbed off on Lola, which is just fine with me.

After that, we walked throughout the World.

And had a marvelous time.

Watching a street performer in Italy...

Taking in the scenery...


Even having a Mickey pretzel.

We also met another Princess...

(And her beau).

Lola met Pocahontas. (One of my favorite princess encounters, by the way. She was super sweet.)

And then Alice, who showed Lola how to use her skirt to make a tulip type of flower pose. (This was another favorite character. She was very patient, gentle even. This, also, is a favorite picture of mine.)

After meeting back up with our traveling buddies, Lola saw Belle again (in a less formal setting this time around).

Meanwhile, Millie got a much-deserved gift. (She had her choice of anything in the store, more or less, and Chip and Dale were the only toys/cuddles she was remotely interested in. So sweet.)

Then we just kind of hung out and fed (and chased) some birds around for a bit.

After a while, we went back to the main part of Epcot and the kids did a bit more, like leraning about imagination and then creating their own Figment.

(The Figment ride was a huge hit. Millie adored him. And Lola thought the whole experience was amazing.)

The day ended on a high note. Literally.

Ray's brother-in-law and nephew walked Millie around the stroller as the rest of us used our FastPasses to go on Soarin', a ride simulating a hang-gliding experience over California. They harness you into your seat and then lift you off the ground, bringing you face-to-face with the huge screen.

You really feel like you're flying.

Lola was tall enough for this ride but I thought she'd be terrified (remember the dinosaurs?).

The ride itself was fantastic. It was super fun. And extra special because Ray, Lola and I could all go together.

And Lola? She loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Even today, if you ask her what her favorite ride was, "the flying one" is always either No. 1 or No. 2.

The other fave?

Well, that one came on Day 4...
- Bethany :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

growing up...

"She has really come out of her shell, hasn't she?"

One of Lola's preschool teachers said that to me recently as I went to pick her up to go home. Lola was talking a mile-a-minute, jabbering on about having had peanut butter during school that day.

I agreed, noting that things seemed to have really clicked into place for her in the last two weeks.

The teacher said she had assumed - as I did as well - that Lola, our shy girl, would have returned from vacation, after nearly two weeks off of school, having regressed back into herself a bit.

Instead, the opposite happened.

Before Disney, every single drop-off in the mornings ended with me prying Lola's hands from my own, or from my leg, and practically dragging her into the gymnasium to a teacher, who would then take hold of her hand and lead her away from me.

It wasn't so much that she cried at every goodbye; it was more whimpering and soft, sad, scared goodbyes.

Every single (preschool) morning.

But on her first day back to school, we went to the gym hand in hand, not because Lola was afraid to go in, but because she thought it would be fun to skip with Mommy the whole way. (I figured why not? At least she wasn't begging me not to leave for once.)

At the gym doorway, she gave me a quick, light hug and bounded inside, right past the teacher who usually coaxes her away from me.

The teacher and I exchanged a confused, relieved, smile with one other before going our separate way.

I figured it was a fluke.

But then, on next school day, I didn't even get to the gym.

Lola stopped to give me a hug about halfway down the hallway.

"I'm going to go by myself today, Mommy," she announced, so proud of herself.

I grinned, hugged her back, and wished her a happy, successful day.

We've had nothing but progress since.

So what happened?

I think, during Disney, Lola tried new things, lived through new experiences and loved them. She went on roller coasters, underwent a makeover, learned to swim a bit. And even if she didn't love a new experience (i.e. go-carts), nothing terrible happened. She survived.

Specifically, though, I think it was meeting Princesses that truly affected her. For the first Princess - Merida - she insisted that I go with her. But after that, she insisted on going alone (except when she met Jasmine and Aladdin - Aladdin's presence, for some reason, prompted her to need my split-second support).

But she did nearly all of the Princess meetings on her own. Not just going up to say hi, but talking with them, asking for photographs, posing for photos.

She gained confidence in herself.

Even now, she'll proudly announce to anyone who will listen that she met all the Princesses at Disney World ... and she did it by herself.

I think that spread into her "regular" life as well.

We're proud of her.

So very proud.
- Bethany :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Disney Diary, Day 2

(An ongoing recap of our nine-day trip to Disney World. Again, I apologize in advance if they're boring blog entries, but I really want to remember our family vacation.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Millie update

We had a visit with Millie's neurologist after we returned from Disney.

Overall, Amelia (who turns 20 months old on Friday) is doing really well.

In addition to regularly saying dada and mama, she is tossing out new words fairly regularly. Or at least saying approximations of those words, such as "hi kitty" (more like "I it-tee"), "Elmo" "(emmo), "TV" ("eev-a"), "num-num" ("mm-mm"), "all done" ("aaah-umm") and others.

We might only hear them once or twice, but she is making progress, trying to communicate, which is great!

She also is working with us to learn to dress herself, putting an arm through a sleeve or presenting her feet for socks and shoes. It's super sweet. And she's so very proud of herself. (As we are of her. Always.)

She continues to work toward building confidence in standing and moving around vertically. She can stand on her own (without holding anything) - we've seen her do it - but as soon as she realizes she isn't holding on to something, she panics.

We've been trying to encourage her to walk, either through finger-walking or on her own. But she kind of just falls forward and expects you to catch her. She can walk while holding onto us - she does it occasionally - but she doesn't trust herself enough.

NEWS: Last night, Millie crawled up the stairs from the basement. All on her own. This is rather big. She usually will crawl up two steps and then freak out because she's too far from the floor. But Lola was encouraging her from a few steps up and I was all the way at the top in the kitchen.

Ray was behind her, ready to move if she slipped. Which she did of course. About halfway up. She stepped on her too-long pants leg and slipped, falling back one step. She caught herself before Ray had to actually intervene. Afterward, she whined and tried like mad to get Ray to pick her and comfort her.

But we continued to encourage her to keep coming.

And eventually she did.  

All the way up to me.

It was awesome.

Lola was so excited for her, "I didn't know 'Milia could do that Mommy!"

Anyhow, the focus of her neurologist appointment was to talk about her most recent ER visit (prompted by more seizure activity) and to discuss some increasingly perplexing behaviors that I'll call episodes.

I've noticed occasionally that Millie goes blank. She just ... disappears ... as she gazes off for a while, not really blinking.

It doesn't last long at all. At most maybe 45 seconds.

Because of they're so short and infrequent, I kind of half-wonder if I imagine them. But Ray admitted, too, that he's seen familiar episodes on occasion as well.

So we talked a lot of about them, too, with her neurologist.

We love our neurologist. We do. She listens to us. At this appointment, she listened for about 15-20 minutes as Ray and I babbled on about Millie's latest quirks and our concerns, what we've noticed.

The neurologist also is interested enough, based on the very little information available about what Millie has, to want to learn more. The more we know - such as the type and frequency of seizures - will help her determine the amount and type of medication that will help her best.

So. We move forward. In March, Amelia will undergo several tests, including a 48-hour EEG, another swallow study and another sedated MRI. We also will have our first consultation with the geneticist.

Should be a rather tough few days, but we'll all get through it.

The more information we have, the better...
- Bethany :)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Disney Diary, Day 1

(Note: I want to remember our vacation, so I will post in the coming weeks occasional journal-esque entries recapping each day of our trip. They might get long and fairly detailed, so I apologize in advance if I bore you.)

The day before we left was Friday. I had requested the whole day off so we could take our time getting ready. Ray loaded the car that morning and we left for the Cities early in the day.

The check-engine light in our already-damaged vehicle came on around St. Cloud. We got an oil change, stopped for lunch at Friday's (where Lola devoured her mac and cheese and proclaimed it the best lunch she'd ever had) and got back on the road, praying that the check-engine light would go away (it did).

The girls saw Ray's parents that afternoon as Ray and I went on a last-minute shopping trip for a few necessities (and a few non-necessities). We grabbed dinner all together and then left for my parents' as the snow fell rather steadily.

That night, we finalized our packing and ironed on Mickey-ear letters on the girls' T-shirts, spelling their names. They wore them the next day, as we finally embarked on our long-awaited trip to Disney World.

We woke up Saturday at 4:10 a.m. (Actually, I think I was already up, afraid to oversleep.)
Lola, who had been oh-so-excited about the trip, surprised every one of us with a meltdown as we approached the door, ready to leave.

"I don't want to go on the airplane," she wailed. It was a full-out breakdown. And she had been so excited to fly, to go to Disney World. It scared the crap out of me. I had finally come to believe that she was going to be just fine on the plane, despite the noise, ear pressure, etc.

Luckily, it was all for naught. I think she was just extra nervous, overtired. By the time we got to the airport, she was back to being excited and super happy. She loved watching the airplanes and came to understand how to board and what would happen.

When we got on the plane, she insisted on taking my window seat. And that was (mostly) OK with me. We watched them de-ice the airplane (which was a bit unsettling) and I held her hand as we prepared to take off, telling her when we would be going fast, when it might get loud.

She loved every minute of it. She was awed by the whole experience, watching everything get smaller and smaller down below.

With time, she settled into the plane and Millie, who was lap-sitting for the flight, fell asleep (after me) for the final hour or so.

We were greeted in Orlando, about 11 a.m., to sunshine and 70-degree temperatures. It was hot. And wonderful.

We made our way through the Magical Express process, taking a bus to our Art of Animation resort, which was absolutely breathtaking from the moment we walked in.

We checked in, without our luggage as it was supposed to arrive by the end of the day (more on that later), saw our room, dropped our stuff and within what seemed like minutes, we went to board another bus for the Magic Kingdom.

It was an eye-opening experience when we arrived. The crowds, the sun, the activity. Saturday was a crazy busy day there and I wondered more than once just what we had signed up for.

Lola was less focused on Cindeella's castle than she was the monorail. But it was extremely cool to see her happy reaction to the whole place.

We saw Merida, the main character from Brave. Lola was timid and asked that I go up there with her. But I could have easily stepped away once it was her turn. She hugged Merida and had her sign her autograph book.

And, just as we turned to leave, Lola ran back and asked Merida where her three silly brothers were. Merida was amazing, telling her that she didn't know, that they were probably up to some mischief and asked that we keep an eye open for them on her behalf.

Soon after, Lola got her first souvenir-gift: a Rapunzel princess hat.

Then we went off to an enchanted storytime with princess Belle. Lola wouldn't take part in the interactiveness of the attraction, but she enjoyed watching it all and, especially, getting to meet one of her favorite Disney princesses.

And then it was time for some rides.

We got "home" to the resort in the evening, enjoyed some food and then got the kids ready for bed.

Our luggage still had not arrived. And this was more than a little unsettling. Fortunately, I planned for a possible mishap and had packed Millie's medications with my carry-on. And we had shipped down there in advance boxes of baby food, yogurt and other necessities. Still, we wanted our clothes, especially our pajamas and our shorts.

After a long, full day, both girls slept like champs that first night.

We were off to a great start.
- Bethany :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

* happy sigh *

We're home.

We had a fantastic trip.

Lots of sunshine and loads of smiles.

It was wonderful.

- Bethany :)