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Goodnight, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite

I love my sister, Megan.  She’s fun, she’s funny, and she’s a wealth of hypochondriacal (is that even a word) information.

So it should come as no surprise that Megan, who is planning a trip to Orlando, found a website called www.bedbugregistry.com .  If anyone was going to find this website, it would be my sister.

She went and checked on her hotel for her upcoming trip, and thank goodness – both for her sake and the hotel’s – they have not had any reports on bedbug problems.

“What hotel are you staying at?” she wants to know.  Saratoga Springs, I tell her.  And of course, being a Disney World resort hotel, loaded with magic and filled with pixie dust, there aren’t any bedbugs there.  “You’d better check it out anyway.”  And I do.

Ummm, oh. my. gosh.

While there are no reports at www.bedbugregistry.com regarding my specific resort, there are 23 reports relating to Walt Disney World resort hotels!  23!!!  They include everywhere from Disney’s Value resorts (Pop Century and the All Stars), some of the moderates (Port Orleans is mentioned), deluxe resorts (the Polynesian), and even Disney Vacation Club properties (Kidani Village).

When I finished scratching myself from head to toe, I realized that this is a big problem – not just for Walt Disney World – but for hotels all over the United States.  There are very few chains not affected, and it doesn’t look like any state in the country has been spared the resurgence.

I’m coming up with a list of things you can do to make sure you don’t end up suffering the consequences of bedbugs.  While you go figure out a way to stop scratching, I’ll be right back with that list so we don’t all end up looking like this guy

Jolly Holidays Wednesday – And a HUGE Thank You!!!

First, before this blog goes anywhere, I went to post a HUGE THANK YOU to my father-in-law’s friend Richard.  We can’t tell him how grateful we are to him for gaining our admission to EPCOT.  We all had a great time, got a big dose of the Christmas spirit, and truly appreciate you going out of your way for us.  Thank you so much!

So, I am determined to get this gang up and out the door at oh dark something this morning, to make sure we are at the park in time.  We are meeting Jim’s parents and their friend Richard at 9 AM, and I want to make sure we are there with time to spare.  YAY – we get there at 8:35!!  We get a great parking spot, and I find Richard right away.  He is such a pleasure to talk to, and we all had a nice conversation when I wasn’t chasing my youngest daughter.

Dot and Russ got there a few minutes before 9, and we spent another couple of minutes talking before we headed into EPCOT for the day.  Our first stop – The Land, where we ride the boat ride.  This is one of my favorite things at EPCOT, although I am disappointed to see that they no longer have a guide on the boat – it’s all recorded.  I guess this is just another way to save Disney money, but it does take a little away from the ride.  It’s still fascinating to me, though, to see the garden part of the tour.  Not being able to grow anything in the traditional fashion makes me all the more interested in how they grow things the way they do!

We leave the boat ride, and Jim, Russ and Eilis head to Soarin’.  The wait is 20 minutes, which for this ride is really good, so they stay while I go up to the top of the building to wait with Dot.  During the wait, a lady comments to me about how very good and patient Granuaile is.  Well isn’t that a beaming mommy moment!!  I want to tell her that this is unusual for her, and it might be that she was drugged with a Triaminic strip for a cough this morning and we kept her awake until the wee hours of the morning, so she is probably sleeping with her eyes open, but I thank the very nice lady and appreciate for a few minutes that the terrible twos aren’t always so terrible.

We are closing in on lunch time, so we decide to head over to the World Showcase and the Amercian Adventure area, where we see the giant and smelling oh so good Gingerbread house.  They will be selling the delicious gingerbread here later on, but right now, it’s closed.  And so is the restaurant.  They don’t start serving until 11:30 and it’s only 11:05.  We just hang out, meet a nice lady in line with us who went to Boston College and discouraged us from letting Brighid consider Northeastern.  Finally, we purchase our enjoyable lunch, and just as we are finishing, Granuaile hears the fife and drum corps and runs to hear it.  She loves them!  She’s so musical.

The afternoon goes well, bouncing from ride to show to shop, and we soon find it time to eat again.  Dinner is at Le Cellier, and it’s an early meal so that we can go to the 6:45 Candlelight Processional.  I’ll review the restaurant later, but we eat, and we are on our way.  It’s pretty much time to go wait in line for the Candlelight Processional, which tonight is being narrated by Chita Rivera.  Jim loved her from Kiss of the Spider Woman.  I think that’s the show that turned him on to the theatre, because up until then, he had shown very little interest.  Anyway…

Midway through the show, Eilis has to go to the bathroom.  I figure I will wait until the Hallelujah chorus is being sung so I can slip out without really disturbing anyone.  Granuaile, however, decides to whisper in that OH SO LOUD baby whisper that Eilis has to go Baf-room!!  Now!  Mommy!  Eilis has to go baf-room!  UGH.  We do manage to make it to the Hallelujah Chorus, and we run to the bathroom.

We had a few pictures taken during this trip, and the one photographer helped me with my camera by teaching me how great night mode is.  He was great.

I hate to see the day come to an end, but the kids are tired, and it’s getting late, and we really have done a lot today.  The Candlelight Processional is my favorite Christmas moment, and I leave EPCOT feeling really good.  Back at the hotel, the girls get a snack and climb into bed, and it’s just been a terrific day.

Jolly Holidays Tuesday

Tonight is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, so we’re going to try to take the morning easy.  We get up when we’re ready – which for me means by 6:30, and the rest of the crew by about 8:30.  I offer the kids breakfast now, pool later or reverse, and of course, they are kids.  They want to go to the pool NOW.  The AKL pool is so nice.  It’s a zero entry pool, which means you don’t climb down steps, you go in like you do at the beach, and the water gradually gets deeper.  It’s also HEATED – YAY!!!  The air temperature is still a bit cool – low 70’s – but the water feels pretty good and the kids go right in.  The water slide is closed, since there are no life guards on duty yet, but I don’t think the kids would use the slide anyway.  We hang out at the pool about an hour and a half, and the girls have worked up an appetite for some breakfast.  We head on up to the room, and I throw breakfast together while Jim puts the kids in the shower, then while they eat, I hop in the shower.  We are going to head to Downtown Disney to get Granuaile’s silhouette done.  I have one of each of the other girls at age 2, so it’s her turn.

 We arrive to find out that the silhouette booth won’t be open for another 20 minutes, so we go into the World of Disney to do a little shopping.  The check out line is pretty long, so Jim ends up taking Granuaile over to the silhouette stand and Eilis and I check out with our purchases.  Because we spent $50, we also picked up an adorable snowman throw blanket for only $10 more!  A great addition to the holiday decorations at our house!

With Granuaile’s silhouette in hand, we take a ride back to the hotel for Jim to take a call for work and for us to eat lunch and change for the party.  We are out the door by about 4:30 to head to Magic Kingdom, and that puts us there just in time to see the transformation of Cinderella’s castle!  Oh my gosh – it’s so beautiful!

We have a dinner reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern.  Uh oh.  Something got stuck.  I’m not really sure what it’s called, but stuck is what it feels like.  It’s when I eat something that seems to stick somewhere in my upper chest region.  I feel lumpy there, and I feel like I should throw up but often can’t.  It’s such an uncomfortable feeling, and I end up making 3 trips to the bathroom, praying to be able to throw up or for the walking to help it move down.  Finally, it did move, and I felt better.  I also got great pictures of the kids with the characters, so that made the meal worth it, despite not being able to eat much.  And, as a bonus, they only charged me a kid’s price!

The party is wonderful!  I love the special events at Disney World.  The party was sold out, but there didn’t seem to be lines for anything.  The kids rode a few rides, we saw a fantastic Christmas parade, the fireworks were amazing.  This year, in addition to giving guests hot chocolate and sugar cookies, you could also select apple juice and apple slices – they were a huge hit with my kids.

We ended up staying at the park until just past 11 o’clock.  Tomorrow will be a long day at EPCOT, and I know the girls will be tired.  They are back at the hotel and in bed around 11:45, but both of them fell asleep in the car on the way home.  That will certainly help in the morning 🙂

Jolly Holidays Monday

You know when you plan the perfect vacation, and everything is falling into place, and you can’t wait to get started, watching the kids enjoy themselves and then you start to relax and enjoy yourself?  Yeah.  Ain’t happenin’.  This is a Skamarakas family trip – did you expect the Brady Bunch?

I woke up early this morning – what else is new? – and went to the bathroom before waking Jim and asking him if he wanted to get up early with me, eat breakfast out on the balcony watching the animals before the kids got up.  He reluctantly agreed.  I quickly made breakfast for Jim, grabbed a protein bar for myself, and sat outside.  Then had to go to the bathroom.  Then ran back outside.  Then had to go to the bathroom.  Yes, ladies, you might recognize this as a symptom of a urinary tract infection.  I drink a gallon of water – give or take an ounce – and hope for the best.  The plan is to go to SeaWorld, then hit Walmart for a few things I didn’t know I needed – cranberry juice and Azo tablets – and to pick up a bag of groceries that never made it into our shopping cart yesterday.  We also left a bunch of stuff at Jim’s mom’s house, but I realize how low in importance it is when the pain from the UTI kicks in. 

We get the kids up, dressed, and fed, and we are on our way to SeaWorld.  The gallon of water is helping minimally, and I am in such great discomfort walking around SeaWorld that by 1 o’clock, I really can’t stand it anymore.  We decide to head out of the park and grab some lunch and then hit Walmart for the stuff we need.  Not sure where we want to eat, Jim starts heading down International Drive from SeaWorld, and we figure we’ll find some place we’ve never eaten to try, and then we pass Cafe TuTu Tango.  This was one of our favorite places when we lived in Orlando, but we haven’t been here in years.  If you have never been, this is a tapas style restaurant – basically, a menu full of appetizers.  It’s perfect for someone who has had gastric bypass surgery!  We choose a few things we think the kids will enjoy – steamed dumplings, chicken pizza, scallops, hummus and chips, and black bean soup.  It really makes a full meal for everyone at the table, and the girls are given pictures to color of Backyardigans characters – Granuaile’s favorite.  Another of the neat things about TuTu Tango is that they display the works of local artists all over the walls, and when the girls are done their pictures, the waitress brings them tape so they can add their art to the beautiful displays.  Eilis puts a price tag of $2 on hers – a bargain at twice the price.

Bordering on agony, I am finally on my way to Walmart.  I grab a six pack of diet cranberry juice and the box of Azo, a nightgown, since I forgot to pack one, and we get the groceries that we left behind the day before.  I pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner, and we are on our way back to the hotel.  Tonight in the lobby there is a craft set up.  The kids can pay $5 and make a Christmas ornament using dyed broken ostrich egg shells.  We pay for Eilis to do one – the money goes to animal conservation – and she happily sets about making a blue giraffe, which, of course, is exquisite 🙂  They give her a button which says she has helped with animal conservation, and we head up to the room for dinner.  The Azo is kicking in THANK YOU MAKERS OF AZO!!, and I am finally feeling a little bit better.  I take the girls downstairs and at the gift shop, they are getting ready to hold a parade.  The kids get to choose an instrument from the shop, and they parade around the immense lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge singing, “We are in Africa!” over and over again.  It’s so much fun for the kids, they want to do it every night of the vacation!

We head back upstairs, have a bedtime snack of cookies and milk (thank you, Jim, for the nice cookies you picked up for the kids – they loved them as much as you do), and head off to bed.  No rush to get out tomorrow, since the plan is just to go to Magic Kingdom for the Very Merry Christmas Party.

Jolly Holidays, Sunday

I am up way too early.  My internal alarm clock seems permanently set on 6 something in the morning, and I don’t know how to break the habit!  I may have to find out during Christmas break!

I get up, and quietly start to pack our stuff.  At some point, Jim wakes up, and he starts getting himself ready.  When the girls get up, so as not to disturb anyone, I give them cereal and juice, and then I start to get them ready to go.  At that point, Dot and Russ wake up, and the kids decide they need “second breakfast” – a hot and delicious eggs and bacon, which certainly makes them forget the cereal they have already eaten. 

We take our time, load up the car, and we all head to CiCi’s Pizza for lunch. When lunch is over, we head to our hotel – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This is our first trip “home” as Animal Kingdom DVC owners.  We checked in and found our room was not ready, so we headed over to do the grocery shopping.  The thing I like best about the villas at DVC is the kitchen and laundry facilities in your room.  It’s a great money saver to have the ability to make some meals – especially breakfast – and to keep snacks and drinks handy.  And going home with all clean clothes is AWESOME!  We hit Walmart and do our shopping, picking up more than we need of everything (come on, who doesn’t do that at Walmart?).  By then, we can check into our villa.

I had booked a 2 bedroom, working on the assumption that my mom would be coming with us.  She doesn’t feel up to it, and we have a ton of room.  The thing is, this is a lock off – meaning it’s really a 1 bedroom and a studio that are opened up at the connecting door to make it a 2 bedroom.  I feel a little cheated here, because I have tried to change our reservation to a 1 bedroom several times, only to be told they are not available.  They could have made another family happy by closing this unit off. 

This is, as I said, our first trip to AKL villas, and they are GORGEOUS!  The counter tops are all granite, and the color scheme is very earthy.  The CM who brought up our luggage tells us that AKL is now the largest African museum in America, and every piece in the unit is authentic – from the carved wood headboard and armoire to the art work.  I love how they incorporated things from The Lion King – my all time favorite Disney movie.  The room is just beautiful.

We have a nice dinner – Granuaile’s favorite – hot dogs.  And then we sit on the balcony and watch the animals.  We also have a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks, and we watch them each night that we are in the room.  We headed to the gift shop and rented a couple of movies, and Granuaile falls asleep early.  We’re visiting SeaWorld tomorrow, so we’re trying to be well rested.  The rest of us head to bed about 11 with no plan to rush getting up in the morning.  They’re saying the weather will be beautiful all week.  I can’t wait!

Jolly Holidays, Saturday

So, we sleep a little bit later than usual this morning, and no one is really anxious to get up and moving, since we were up so late last night. Grace bounced from bed to bed until Jim finally put her down, asleep, with Eilis on the fold out sofa.  Jim’s mom has to work later today at a holiday function in their community, so we don’t make any real plans to go anywhere or do anything, other than run out for coffee.  We spend quite a bit of time on the phone and online with British Airways, but the end result – all of our travel reservations for next summer are made!  We got a pretty good deal by booking with the British Airways credit card.  We had to buy upgraded seats (not REAL upgrades, like first class, but upgrades like two across instead of 3), but it was a buy one ticket, get a companion ticket for free deal, so it worked out to be the same price – a few dollars less – than paying for all 7 of us.  We were able to book the odd ticket as a regular coach fare, but then with the frequent flier miles we got from booking the rest of the tickets, we got a free upgrade on the 7th seat, so we’re all together.  London won’t know what hit them when this crew arrives!!

We had a delicious dinner of roast beef, and then after dinner, Russell took us all out on the golf cart to see the holiday lights.  I was surprised how many people were really decked out for Christmas.  I had figured that since it was an over 55 community, there would be a percentage of people not even home over the holidays, since they were traveling to visit their children or grandchildren; and then I figured there is a percentage of homes not occupied for whatever reason.  Add into that however many people don’t celebrate Christmas or might be too old or not up to decorating, and I really assumed there would be way more un-decorated houses.  And some of the people really go all out!  Dot and Russ had one of the best decorated – the kids could have stood outside for hours watching all the things they have outside!

I headed to bed early – around 10 PM – and left Jim out with the girls.  I don’t think they stayed up much later though – they were just as tired as I was. 

Disney – AGAIN! – Skamarakas Style

Day One and Two

Brighid is planning to spend a week with her grandparents at their home in Florida.  An airline ticket is bought, and she is excited and ready to go.  And then a terror plot is discovered in the UK that causes chaos at airports all over the country.  I am really nervous about her flying alone now, and worried even more that messages might get crossed, her plane would be delayed, and her grandparents will be worrying as much as I am. 

Jim and I go back and forth, and finally the decision is made that we will all drive down.  Our annual passes are going to expire in a couple of weeks, and we’ll take the two little kids to Disney while Brighid vacations with her grandparents. 

Usually, in these situations, I make sure the comedy of errors is based on things my children do.  This trip, it’s all on me.  Really, we do make trips to Disney World that are stress and problem free.  No one gets sick, no one loses shoes, no one is threatened to be left on I-95 for the buzzards to pick them clean.  This is not one of those trips.

I am recovering from bariatric surgery, and I am only on week 2, which entitles me to eat full liquids and mashed potatoes.  I have packed lunch meat and sandwiches for the kids and Jim, and I ask if we can stop at KFC so I can get a small portion of potatoes to eat at the start of the trip.  Jim decides we should give the kids a hot dinner, since we’re leaving late in the day (4:30), so we end up with a bucket of mixed up chicken things (strips, pop corns, and real chicken), and macaroni and cheese for the kids, mashed potatoes for me and whoever else wants them.

By the time we are 5 minutes from home, I am busy making platters to pass back to all of the kids.  I have a huge dashboard, perfect for platter making.  I am convinced that was the original intent of my dashboard.  I put Eilis platter up there, including a healthy portion of steaming hot macaroni and cheese, and I bend over to try and get a biscuit.  While I am in this position, Jim pulls away from a stop light, causing the platter to slide off of the amazing food preparation dash board and onto my bare legs.  Did I mention the steaming hot macaroni and cheese?   Did I mention the bare legs?   As soon as the macaroni hits my thighs, I am screaming and swatting away at pieces of elbow macaroni as if I am being attacked by killer bees.  My husband is trying not to get hysterical laughing, but he’s not sure if I’m in pain or in shock.  Shock would be really funny.  Pain is just moderately funny.  He pulls into a diner, and Brighid runs around to my seat, and she is now helping me swat the macaroni off and clean it up as it hits the door.  20 minutes later, everyone is happily munching their chicken, and I am trying to think of the name of the lawyer who won that guy a bazillion dollars from McDonald’s because they served him hot coffee.  The nerve of these restaurants and their damn hot food.

After dinner, Eilis, who has just this morning come home from an exhausting week at the seashore with Nannie, Uncle Danny, Aunt Angela, and her cousins, has fallen asleep, and we’re making good time.  We get into Virginia, and we are nearing Manassas when Eilis wakes up and decides to watch a movie.  Now, I am not allowed to lift anything yet, so when I saw Eilis carrying the DVD case out to the car, it looked much easier than I remember it to be.  I figure the salt air from the sea shore has given the kid the strength of Hercules.  I ask Brighid to check and see if the DVD player is in the case.  She assures me that it is.  Guess what we find out in Manassas?   That we could cut Eilis’ hair and it will not have any impact on her strength.  Samson she is not.  Empty is what the DVD case was.

A quick call is made to Aunt Megan, who lives in the area, to see if there is a Wal Mart near where we are, but she is off with weekend company.  Fortunately, we come upon the Potomac Mills Mall and a Target store, so I run in and buy a new DVD player for the car.  Crisis averted. 

Another few hours go by without incident, and it is getting bedtime.  I always stop.  Jim hates to stop.  He has already said we are not stopping, we are driving straight through, so I do not dare ask to stop when Granuaile starts fussing.  Of all three of my children, this is the only one not good on car trips.  She hates them.  By 10 PM, she is crying hysterically, unable to fall asleep, and we are on the phone with Marriott reservations trying to find a room.  We are in Emporia, VA when we place our first call.  Our experience with them takes a bad turn for 2 solid hours, and we end up not finding anyplace with a vacancy until 2 AM.  It is not even a Marriott.  We go up to the room, I make sandwiches for everyone who is now WIDE awake, including Gracie, and we embark on a journey that takes us until 5 AM, when Gracie finally falls asleep.  Who is the first one awake the next morning?   That’s right – our little party animal. 

We are back on the road by 10 AM, planning to be in Orlando at 6.  We call Jim’s parents and arrange to have them meet us at the All Star Music, where we are staying, and we will all eat at the food court.


We check in at exactly 6 PM, and the front desk guy, BJ, is super nice.  He tells us we are getting one of the best rooms on property!   It’s pool side, first floor, and in the Calypso Building, right next to Melody Hall.  Jim heads off to find the room with Grace in tow, and I go to get the car to drive it around to the building.

By the time I get into the room, Jim is already on the phone.  For Jim, me, Eilis, and Granuaile, there is one king size bed.  He has been on hold for 5 minutes already, and is getting fairly steamed that they could have made this kind of mistake. 

He hands me the phone, and a few minutes later, a woman gets on, apologizes for the confusion, and she tells me they are upgrading my room, at no additional cost.  We are already in a preferred room.  What kind of stunt is she pulling?   Then she tells me that we will be assigned in to one of the new FAMILY SUITES!!   Holy cow, SOMETHING has gone right!

The room is spacious and has storage galore and two bathrooms and a small kitchenette – it’s wonderful!   We change quickly, because we are going to the food court, but when we get back and settle in, I can’t believe how quickly everything gets put away somewhere.  We will absolutely not be tripping over each other or each other’s stuff!   This is great!

So, after a rather dubious beginning, the start of our trip really turns out for the best.  It had to be those prayers to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost causes, that I started saying at about 4 this morning!

Planning a Trip to Ireland

Jim and I have been talking about taking a trip to Ireland.  It’s a tough thing to plan with three kids, three vastly different ages.  To do a bus tour – the best thing for seeing everything you want to see in the most efficient way – you have to be 8 years old.  That leaves out two of our kids unless I wait 2 years, which still only allows us to bring one more child.  Do we not take any children to be fair and just go ourselves?   That seems harsh – especially to Brighid, who would love nothing more than to go to Ireland.  We’re starting the research now, and we’ll see if this ends up being  a second honeymoon or a family vacation.

Skamarakas Family – Are We Nuts or What? Trip Report

Cast – Mom Anna (41); Dad Jim (29 – for the 10th year in a row); DDs Brighid (so close to 15 she can taste it); Eilis (5); and Granuaile (15 months)

Day 1 and 2, July 20 and early on the 21st

Okay, as we were leaving Disney after our last trip in June, I had Brighid phone and see about booking one of the Deluxe resorts with the AP discount that was being offered.  I figured if we got a discounted room, our next trip was meant to be.  If we didn’t get the discounted room, our next trip was meant to be spent at a moderate resort 😉

Lo and behold, there was a discounted room at the Boardwalk Inn!   We’ve never stayed there!   Jim worked here when we lived in Orlando when they were opening up, and I toured the place when I started my job in Central Reservations, but we have never stayed at the resort.  Brighid and I are just about bouncing out of our seats in the car with excitement, and when Jim agreed to the trip without suffering a major cardiac incident, I figured we were good to go.

Now, the problem is, Brighid is still in the summer math program.  I can’t pick a later date, because my surgery is scheduled for August 1st.  So we really only have 2 days – and that’s with Brighid taking Monday off from school.  Jim and I decide with two of us driving, we’ll do the trip without stopping, and that way, we’ll get all day Friday to do the parks and stuff.

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