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The Eyes Have It

Some of you are new to my blog, so I will give you the short history of my husband and his incredibly sexy bedroom eyes. 

Jim woke up one day about 6 years ago, got ready to go to work, then realized he was unable to see clearly.  He has had a history of corneal surgery, due to scarring on his corneas as a result of a chemical accident, so we contacted his corneal surgeon, Dr. Irving Raber.  Dr. Raber immediately suggested Jim call his associate, Dr. Jay Federman, who specializes in retinas.  5 retinal detachments, two cataracts surgeries, and numerous painful eye days later, Jim now has only 20/200 vision in his left eye (which makes that eye legally blind in most states), and 20/25 vision in his right eye.

So two weeks ago, Jim started complaining about pain in his right eye.  This is not a new pain – it has happened occasionally in the past, and has been a pain that Jim describes as a spike going down through the eye.  In the past, the pain has lasted a few hours, and we give him some pain reliever and a good long nap, and it goes away.  This time, the pain didn’t go away.  I whined about it being related to the amount of time he has been spending on the computer, gaming at EVE Online (are there more than 24 hours in a day?  I think he’s found a few extra to spend on that game!).  I notice he is spending some extra time laying down with his eyes closed, and they don’t seem to be getting any better.  By Saturday, I offered to take him to Wills Eye Hospital, but in the past, every time we have talked about going to Wills (and even the one time we actually went), by the time we see a doctor, the pain is gone and all is well. 

By Sunday of that weekend, when things didn’t get any better, Jim decided we should go.  Now, this is a Skamarakas family decision, so of course any thing that could go wrong will.  We arrive on a Sunday evening, about 5:30, expecting everyone else to be down the shore enjoying the brief bit of spring weather we are being treated to.  We walk into the Wills Eye emergency room to find it packed, standing room only.  Not only that, but there is an opthalmology convention in town and there are only handful of doctors in the hospital, and not too many of them apparently work here in the ER.

We debate staying or going and just seeing Dr. Raber in the morning, but Jim is in pain, and the longer we wait, the more we think it may eventually be our turn.  At some point, we find out that they have brought three emergencies in the back, and we move lower on the totem pole of triage.

12 hours after our arrival, we learn that Jim’s corneas are deteriorating, and the pain he feels is because he has layers of skin flaking off – well, that’s not exactly it, but that’s kind of how it’s described to us.  The ER doc does a small procedure where she pulls off a layer that has flaked partially off and is scratching Jim’s eye, causing the pain.  Um, ewwww.  Then she gives him some antibiotic ointment and artifical tears, and we go home.  Just in time to get the kids up for school 🙂

We’re two weeks past the ER visit now, and he’s gotten increasingly better.  But it’s so scary when stuff goes wrong with his eyes.  I hope we can continue to hold our finger in the dam, but it does make you nervous to think about the deluge on the other side.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park Review

Okay, who does not think this is an amazing idea?  When I first saw that Disney was going to be adding the Picnic in the Park meal at Animal Kingdom, I knew that I wanted to try it as soon as I could!  How fortunate that just a week or so after the meal option became available, Granuaile wanted to celebrate her birthday at Animal Kingdom!

Being on the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel, with all the expert knowledge I possess of all things Disney World, of course I had no clue where to go or what to do to order the picnic, other than I remembered something in my notes about going to Kusafiri bakery.  Next time, remind me to take my wealth of knowledge with me when I actually need it at Walt Disney World. 

I made my way to Kusafiri, which is the one thing I remembered, and I figured they would be able to tell me there what I needed to do.  Imagine my surprise when I asked the lady at the podium where you pay for your Kusafiri food if she had any information about the Picnic in the Park and she stared blankly at me and said, “Um, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I never heard of such a thing.”  I stared equally as blankly back, until she finally offered to go ask someone for me. 

When she came back, she had the list of picnic locations, but said she still didn’t know anything about it, and advised me to go ask at Tusker House.  Tusker House told me that I needed to go back to the entrance of the theme park, and there was a podium there where you could order.  Oh yeah – it’s all coming back to me now.

The lovely Cast Member, from Canberra, Australia, was very helpful – not to mention really friendly.  She gave us a leaflet explaining the picnic to us, and showing us the map where the picnic locations where.  She also pointed out that you are not obligated to eat your lunch at the designated picnic areas, and you could eat in line if you wanted to – which might be a great way for people to save time if they can’t get a Fast Pass for something with a long wait!

You get a choice of two types of baskets (and basket is used with liberal poetic license here, as it’s actually the canvas, reusable bag that is available to purchase throughout Disney World right now) – Tier 1 and Tier 2.  Tier 1 is the sandwich tier, and you can choose from a variety of cold sandwiches, which include a Turkey Focaccia; chicken wrap; ham grinder; or tuna pita.  Tier 2 features a hot entree – either rotisserie chicken or ham. 

Included with either tier, you get a choice of side dishes (how many depends on how many people you purchase your meal for), and your options here include individual bags of Lays potato chips; mashed potatoes and gravy; coleslaw; orzo pasta; and several other choices.  The side dishes are the same with either meal.  You also get bottled water – the short bottles – for each member of your party, and you get to each choose a dessert.  Desserts include a brownie, cookie, cornbread, orange, apple or crisped rice treat (also known as Rice Krispie Treats). 

There were four of us at the park today for Granuaile’s birthday, but one was me – with that whole gastric bypass, minimum stomach capacity thing I have going; and the other one was Granuaile, who eats as if the world is a buffet and another bite to eat is just around the corner.  We opted to purchase the meal for three – the smallest meal available – and we chose the rotisserie chicken option on Tier 2.  As our side items, we opted for macaroni and cheese, figuring if Princess Birthday Party refused all other sorts of food, she will always eat some mac and cheese; and the seasonal fruit salad.  For dessert, we opted for an apple (again, Granuaile might pass up many things, but almost never an apple); a brownie; and a cookie.

Tier 2 Rotisserie Chicken
Tier 2 Rotisserie Chicken

When you go to the podium to order your meal, they take down all of your choices, and ask what time you would like to pick your picnic up.  They request two hours, so I asked Miss Canberra CM what the earliest time was that I could get it was, and she told me any time after 12:30.  We chose 12:45, she gave us a pink slip, and told us to just present it at Kusafiri when it was time to pick up our picnic.

With two hours to kill, we rode the safari and the Triceratops Spin.  With still an hour to kill, we decided to go scope out a picnic spot.  We went to the area behind Tusker House, to find plenty of tables, most of which were pretty well shaded; piped in music; and a comfortable breeze. 

Picnic Area Behind Tusker House
Picnic Area Behind Tusker House

So Jim decides it’s lunch time.  I tell him we haven’t given them the proper amount of time, and he decides to go see.  Obnoxious, no? 

The girls and I relax at our table,

View from our table
View from our table

and Jim heads over to Kusafiri – and guess who’s there?  The same CM who told me she had no idea what I was talking about.  Jim hands her his slip and she says to him, “You know, I don’t know anything about this.  I just heard about it for the first time today.”  She now has to leave again and go find out what she is supposed to do.  She comes back and tells him that he does not pay her, he has to go wait in line at the bakery window, and they will tell him what to do. 

At the window, he gives them the slip, and they assemble the bag while he waits.  When I get home, I am going to insert photos here of the picnic, but it is just wonderful!  Oh wait, I’m not there yet.  You do not pay at the cashier like you would if you are buying pastries – you pay directly at the window.  If you want anything besides your picnic, you have to pay that separately for those other items.

The picnic is wonderful!  The green bag includes utensils, paper plates, napkins, condiments, our cookie, brownie, and apple, the fruit salad, our macaroni and cheese, three bottles of water, and the chicken.  The chicken is delicous – seasoned with rosemary and peppercorns, and so moist!  Jim wants to know why they don’t just sell the skin because he really enjoys it.  The mac and cheese is creamy and delicious, and the container is just the right amount for the four of us – Granuaile using it as the main part of her meal, me taking just a coupl of bites, and Eilis and Jim having it as a real side dish.  We eat most of the fruit salad, and it’s fresh – containing watermelon, pineapple, honeydew and cantaloupe. 

Another picture of the contents
Another picture of the contents

 Jim struggles to finish off the chicken – there is a bit too much for us, even though it’s only six pieces. 

Jim Inhales His Own Hand, Mistaking It for Juicy Delicious Chicken
Jim Inhales His Own Hand, Mistaking It for Juicy Delicious Chicken

We’re pretty stuffed, so I cut the brownie in half, then in quarters, and each of the girls takes a quarter.  Chocolately, rich, and very brownie tasting.  We don’t touch the apple or the cookie. 

The Tier 2 option for 3 was $29.99 plus tax.  Since this more than fed all four of  us, we’re talking $5 per person for lunch – at Disney!

On my way out, I stopped at a table where another family was eating their picnic and introduced myself as Anna from the Disney Moms Panel – only because it’s cool to do that.  But just so I didn’t look like a complete idiot, I asked them how they liked their sandwiches.  They all  had the tuna, and thought they were very generous with their stuffing, everything tasted good and fresh, and they thought it was a great value. 

Animal Kingdom really lends itself to this type of thing, and it really added a lot to our day.  We truly enjoyed the experience.  The only things I could say negative are that we were in a picnic area that was in fairly close proximity to a smoking section.  It was fine at the beginning of the meal, but at the end of the meal, there were quite a few smokers, so if you are sensitive to that type of thing, avoid this location.  Also, you have to order a minimum of a meal for three.  This uses 3 adult meal credits (quick service) if you are on the dining plan.  If you are a solo traveler or a couple, you might want to grab strangers off the street to share the meal with you.

I can’t say enough about what a lovely meal this was!  Here’s Jim’s final word on the picnic in the park –

Happy Jim Loves the Picnic In The Park
Happy Jim Loves the Picnic In The Park

From Crusader to Knight

The whole family packed into the minvan this week to take Brighid to the University of Central Florida, where she will be one of a small city of young adults entering as a freshman this coming fall.  The odd thing about this picture is that when Brighid applied to the University of Florida, I appealed to her to consider UCF.  We took her over Christmas break to see the campus, and she refused to get out of the car, saying she didn’t want to go to school there.  We took her again on another more recent trip, and after  making a quick potty stop about 15 minutes away from the campus, she told us not to bother and to just head back to the hotel.

So how funny is it that here we are, teenage daughter in tow, wandering the UCF campus?

She has bought in hook, line, and sinker at this point.  She has bought the t-shirt, the sweatpants, the sweatshirt, drank the Kool-Aid, and is excited about starting school in August. 

It is beautiful to wander around the campus – with the trees and the reflecting pool, and the grassy areas.  There are tons of kids, so if she doesn’t make friends, it will not be due to a lack of opportunities.  She might even find a boy among this throng of kids that she likes and can tolerate for longer than 13 minutes!

I admit, I’m feeling a little old.  I could not imagine 17 and a half years ago standing in a college bookstore with my then 2 pound, 10 ounce little girl, picking out the UCF Mom t-shirt.  It was easy to dream of what she would become and the possibilities before her, but not so easy to really imagine myself standing here, on the brink of her adulthood, trying to figure out how to be happy about cutting those apron strings.

If you’ve been through all of this before – or you’re going through it now – let me know how you do it.  I for one can clearly see a need to up the minutes on my cell phone plan…

T-Rex Orlando Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

A restaurant that bills itself as a Prehistoric Family Adventure sounds like the perfect way to spend a lunch, and my daughters Eilis and Granuaile did just that on our recent visit to Downtown Disney in Orlando.  Seeing an obvious lack of a lunch crowd, we walked into the restaurant and were seated right away – well, right away after the girls at the podium finished discussing their nail polish and how long it doesn’t last.  Hmmmm, can you tell where this might be going?

When you go to a restaurant named T-Rex, you can probably assume you could feed a “dinosaur” of an appetite with their “mammoth” portions (why am I not in advertising??), and you would be correct.  Everything here is big – the animatronics, the gift shop, the dining room, the portions, and the delay in service.  We’ll take it all one step at a time.

We are seated in the Coral Reef room, which is supposed to be an underwater adventure type atmosphere.  The good thing about being seated here is that there aren’t any dinosaurs that will frighten small children – meaning Granuaile – during the meteor shower that occurs during the course of your meal.  The bad thing about being seated here is that we’re not quite sure what it has to do with dinosaurs.  It’s darned cute here, though.  Another area of the restaurant that seems pretty insulated from the dinosaurs is the Glacier room – very cool (no pun intended – oh who am I kidding, of course there was).

Our waitress comes over and takes a drink order, then disappears for a period of time equal to the length of the Mesozoic Era (alright, maybe she wasn’t gone for 180 million years, but when you’re thirsty, it certainly seems that long!).  We played musical chairs a bit, because once we were settled, Eilis couldn’t see the dinosaurs and Granuaile could see too much of them, and then she couldn’t see the fish tank, and by the time we all finally settled into our seats, the waitress came back to take our order.  Yay!

  The kids meal is pretty typical kids meal fare.  Pizza, pasta, mac and cheese, burgers.  Eilis ordered the Shrimpkens – popcorn shrimp and chicken tidbits.  The meal comes with a choice of side dishes, but Eilis was not offered a choice.  They delivered her meal with baked beans, which she loves about as much as she loves having teeth pulled, without novacaine, using gardening tools.  The other options, which I did not know until after lunch when Eilis showed me the menu, include a fresh banana, cinnamon apples, carrot sticks, potato chips, Jello, or mashed potatoes.  They did add some chips after she told the waitress she could keep the baked beans.

Granuaile ordered the macaroni and cheese. which came with a slice of a cheesy garlic bread.  Granuaile’s meal was $7 and Eilis’ was $8. 

I started with a soup, and those that know me and how much I loathe tomato soup will be suprised to learn I ordered the tomato basil soup.  When we were at WDW Moms Panel training, we were served a soup with lunch one day that I tried without considering what it might be.  It was a blush color – almost like a vodka sauce in an Italian restaurant, and it was SOOOO good.  I was optimistic that this soup would be as good, and it did not disappoint.  My problem with traditional tomato soup is that it’s, ummm, what’s the technical term?  Oh yeah – yucky.  It’s acidy tasting and like drinking a can of tomato juice, only without the best part of drinking tomato juice – the vodka.  But the tomato basil, again a blush color, is thick and flavorful on a number of levels – not just the acid, tomato taste.  It is garnished with a thin slice of Parmesan cheese that melts as I’m eating it, and it’s just delicious. 

When I asked our waitress how big the soup portion was, she said it came in a little cup like thing.  It does not.  It comes in a small cauldron type thing, and had I known it was going to be such a huge portion, I would not have ordered anything else.  The thick, rich soup was a pouch filler, and that was after sharing a good bit with Granuaile and a bite or two for Eilis.  If you are recently post-op and just moving onto soft foods from liquids, there is no way you’ll be able to finish this – in two meals.  Two years post op, I got through about half of it before wanting to call it quits. 

Thinking I was going to get a small cup of soup, I also ordered the Footprints Flatbread.  The description makes your mouth water – mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan and goat cheese with rotisserie chicken and carmelized onion on flatbread, drizzled with balsamic glaze.  You’re drooling, right?  Who could blame you! 

I must say, I am not now a waitress, although I have been one in the past.  Admittedly, my waitress days were at an ice cream parlor in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and in a Hardees restaurant, also in Manteo, NC.  I have not waited tables in a busy restaurant with a huge menu, like our waitress here at T-Rex.  But I might make mention of the fact that the appetizer a single person is ordering is likely going to feed half of the room before I jot down her order.  Our waitress did not.  So, here’s my appetizer – remember the “mammoth portions” thing? 

  Okay, so you notice it’s way too much for a typical individual to eat.  But then you’ll notice a clump of green stuff on one end – not so much anywhere else; and a glop of balsamic drizzle at the other end; and one corner had not much of anything but red sauce.  And it was a bit mushy – like there was too much moisture on top of the pizza and they couldn’t cook it long enough to make it less mushy without burning the crust.  The flavors, on a good day, would have been spectacular.  This was not a good day. 

I managed to eat one slice of the pizza, but picked the chicken off.  It was too dry.  The edges were actually very good, and I really would have enjoyed this had it been better thought out.  I think they tried to do too much on a flat bread – maybe lighten the toppings? – but on a more substantial crust, this is a good pizza.

When the waitress eventually came back – after a lengthy conversation off to the side with two other members of the waitstaff, and after cleaning the floors along the row of booths behind our table – I asked for a box to wrap the pizza in.  This is when she tells me “Yeah, that’s much better heated up the next day than it is the first day.”  Good to know.  Of course, most people coming here are on vacation, without the option of taking the pizza to go and heating it the next day when it would actually be good.  So why is this on the menu?

We decide to skip dessert in favor of a walk over to Goofy’s Candy Company, where I let the kids choose something to snack on later.  We also pick up some Jordan almonds for Grandmom and some Rice Krispie treats for Pop-Pop. 

Overall, you are going here for the theming, so food might be secondary, and if it is, then you’ll enjoy your meal.  It’s great fun to come here, browse around, check out the shop, and appreciate the atmosphere.  You can find foods your pouch will tolerate, and you will probably find things you would enjoy.  Just know that portions here are large, so you’ll want to share or be prepared to take home left overs. 


Friday – Tiny Hiney Kicking Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

As a mom, there is very little in life as exciting as having the opportunity to defeat your children at something that resembles a video game.  My daughters spend their lives telling me how I am an epic failure at things like Wii, XBox, World of Warcraft.  But today is the day I exact my revenge on these pint sized people, and that revenge comes in the form of Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

 Okay, pay no attention to the fact that the person sitting in the seat next to my incredible score of over 114,000 is 3.  In human years.  This is, my friends, a victory for moms everywhere!  Anytime you can kick baby butt at a video game is a good day – one mothers across the universe are celebrating with me.  Come on ladies, show me the love 🙂

Eilis, who rode in the car in front of us, performed exceedingly well – but I kicked her butt, too.  Go me!

We start wandering around, and we notice one thing – it’s freakin’ crowded here!  Where’s the recession?  What’s up with that?  Lines every where you turn!

We decide to go see Bolt, as the girls saw the movie recently and are in love with him.  Granuaile is super excited, but when she sees that Bolt is not a fuzzy little puppy who is going to run into her lap and lavish her with puppy dog kisses, she decides he is NOT her favorite anymore and opts to exclude herself from the Bolt pictures.  Eilis, however, uses the opportunity to get some Hamster hugs!

Hamster Hugs
Hamster HugsEilis Meets Bolt

After we’ve done our meet and greet with Bolt, checked ourselves for fleas and unwanted dog hairs, we decide to head to Playhouse Disney Live!  Remember back in the day, when the show included Bear in a Big Blue House?  I loved him.  The thing I loved most about him was that he was big and real, and I felt like he was there.     Well, he was there.  Now we have puppets, and they are low on the stage instead of up and lively and animated, and I seriously do not enjoy this show as much as I used to.

I digress.  This is of course not a show for the appreciation of jaded grown-ups.  It is meant to appeal to the peanut posse.  Granuaile, ever reserved in public, sits on my lap and taps her hand on her thigh to the music, and Eilis has to move to a seat on the aisle because she can’t see – which is what happens with puppets that are on the floor of the stage. 
Fresh from her thigh tapping good time at Playhouse Disney Live!, Granuaile finds the intestinal fortitude necessary to meet some of her favorites from The Little Einsteins (or Eimstimes, as she calls them), so we head out to join the line of excited children.  Eilis deems herself Way. Too. Cool.  She refuses to get in line at all, so she stands off to the side where I can keep an eye on her, but if any of her friends or fans walks by, she appears like she definitely could care less about the preschool set’s celebrities.
Leo's Biggest Fan
LeoGranuaile and the Little Einsteins
With the enormous crowds, and the American Idol Experience newly opened, I expect a mob for each of the shows there, so I am not only pleasantly surprised to see that we can pretty much walk right in and have our choice of seats, I have to be scooped up off the ground after fainting from the shock!  When we saw the set during Moms Panel training, I was impressed at how closely they captured what we see on TV.  But here today, it really is amazing!  They’ve gone to great lengths to make this the experience I imagine you have if you are in actuality sitting in Hollywood, cheering on your favorite Vote for the Worst Idol – or the good ones, whomever you happen to favor.  The guy that comes out and warms up the crowd is phenomenal – funny, energetic, even got the grumpy old guy sitting next to me clapping his hands!  Granuaile fell asleep, but Eilis loved this experience, and if she could have, she would have spent the entire day sitting right in her chair!

My American Idol
My American Idol

Have I mentioned the park is absolutely mobbed?  And now the kids are hungry.  We head over to Star Tours, and we ride this, now that Granuaile is big enough to ride!!    The wait here isn’t too bad, but with the hungries about to take over the world and the excellent behavior I’ve enjoyed from both of my girls, we decide to head out to find lunch.

The plan is to go outside of Walt Disney World and see what we can find in a Taco Bell or other culinary delight of similar budget.  Eilis asks about coming back to see the Create a Tee shop at Downtown Disney, so I get the brilliant idea that maybe we’ll take a chance and grab a bite at Earl of Sandwich, then let the kids go make a shirt – if it’s not all too crowded.  It’s past the official lunch hour, so maybe we’ll be lucky and not have to wait at the Earl!
Parking here is outrageous, and we end up parking way in the back of the lot all the way down at the new T-Rex restaurant.  Eilis automatically assumes I have decided to surprise them by taking them there – so I do.  And guess what?  All of these cars in the parking lot and absolutely ZERO wait for a table.  We walk right in and are seated immediately.
Eilis at T-Rex
Eilis at T-Rex

The food was about as I expected, and I’ll post a separate review of the restaurant.

After lunch, we headed over to spend the money Nannie gave the girls.  They both want to Create a Tee or Make your own mouse ears, but when I inquire at the World of Disney where I can go to do those things, the lady stares at me as if I’ve just asked her to direct me to the ET Ride.  She goes and asks another Cast Member, and guess what?  She doesn’t know either! 
We head over to where I think it is – and there it is – in the store that has the art stuff.  What’s that store called again?  Better go ask someone on the Moms Panel 🙂
We spend about 30 minutes waiting in line for a computer to open up, and then the girls each make a shirt.  They love their creations, but they won’t be ready until after six tonight, so we decide we’ll just pick them up when we come back this way tomorrow.
We browse a few more shops, pick up a few more souvenirs, and head back to Grandmom and Pop-pop’s house.  We’re exhausted!