Monday, March 26, 2012

Her 2nd Disney World trip

A little over two years ago, we headed south for Summer's Make-A-Wish trip. Of the Disney parks, we visited the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. This year we added Epcot and Hollywood Studios to the mix and spent 7 fun filled days going from park to park to our heart's content. We visited Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios three times each. Epcot we went to twice, but in one day. Our evening trip, with a sushi dinner at a Japanese restaurant in the park, was brought to an end by a fabulous show and fireworks display (IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth). We all agreed it topped The Magic, The Memories and You! and Wishes™ Nighttime Spectacular at Magic Kingdom which was a pretty close 2nd. When Tinker Bell flies down from the castle over your head, it is pretty amazing and exciting. At least it was to me! I liked our view from the bridges coming out of Tomorrowland onto Main Street. She went pretty much right over us giving us a great view of her flight. Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios was our least favorite evening ender. We didn't go to Animal Kingdom in the evening since it closes earlier than the other parks, but we did spend two mornings there.

Summer's favorite way to end a day at the park is always getting a souvenir. The first few days I was able to steer clear of the stores telling her not until the end of the trip, but after she had a few days to look things over I knew she was ready to pick what she really wanted. She got a Minnie Mouse that goes on her back like a backpack. One evening we found a charm necklace with no charms on it. Let's just say we ended up buying at least 5 charms at $4.21 each including tax. That free necklace ended up costing much more than I imagined, but it is a cool souvenir that I hope will keep giving as the years come and we can add more charms to it. She picked all of them out by herself but one. I picked a charm with Belle, Cinderella and Aurora on it since those princess stand for me, Lexie and Summer. One charm she chose was a black and white cat which I'm not sure what character/movie he represents. Maybe Aristocats??? She also picked a pink crown, Aurora's portrait in heart shaped frame and a pink Mickey head. Clint and I both wanted her to get an S for Summer which also had Mickey ears, but she wouldn't when I wouldn't let her also get the C. Those were really the only souvenirs she got except for the t-shirt I picked out for her while we were waiting for a table at Rain Forest Cafe. We did well compared to what I saw others buying at the parks. That place has got the money making scheme going on with most rides exiting through gift shops, but it truly was a magically good time and I think I would do it all over again.

Her favorite ride was Expedition Everest, followed by The Barnstormer at Goofy's Miniacres Farm. Both roller coasters!!! She is definitely a hands up girl on the coasters. She even chanted "Hands up! Hands up!" a few times. That's my girl! Unlike two years ago, she would not ride the carousel. She said she doesn't like it because it is too slow. So, at age 5 3/4 she is too big for the carousels. What a sad day! They used to be her favorite. She also loved Soarin'™ at Epcot which was a hang gliding simulation. We got to ride it twice thanks to the handy fast passes (FP) they have for some of the rides at the parks. They really did allow us to ride more. At Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Mania!® so we also rode it twice thanks to the FP. We tried to ride it when we went back the two other times which happened to be in the evening, but the fast passes were already gone by the time we got there and the line was over an hour long.

Her least favorite ride was probably Haunted Mansion which Clint insisted we go on. I was cool with that though because I was also going to insist we go on "it's a small world" to their dismay. We had done the Haunted Mansion last year when we went to Disneyland so she was not really frightened, but she did not enjoy it either. Another spooky ride she said she would not do again was The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™. It was an elevator ride with drops which definitely got the heart to pumping. She didn't cry on any rides which was a plus! Dinosoar at Animal Kingdom was also a definite "No" on riding it again unlike Expedition Everest which we rode 5 times all together. Hands up!

Her favorite show was Beauty and The Beast. We almost didn't watch it because it only showed at certain times, but we were all glad we made a point to go see it. Her 2nd favorite show was also at Hollywood Studios and was The American Idol Experience finale. Clint talked us into watching since he had watched it the day before. We were both skeptical at first, but afterwards we were glad we tried something that wasn't at the top of our lists. Turtle Talk with Crush was cute and made us all laugh. Actually, we enjoyed all the shows and 3D attractions we saw. They were generally nice and cool and the lines were not too long.

Of course, there were lots of photo opportunities with famous Disney characters. After a visit to the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique in Downtown Disney, we headed to Magic Kingdom to find some princesses. She had a good time choosing her hair style and nail color. After getting all prettied up, she was a good poser for the camera. I was amazed by her beauty as I am most every time I look at her. She is truly a princess to me!!! These pictures are very similar to the ones we had taken two years ago. She said her favorite character she saw was Daisy Duck and the favorite one she posed with was Pluto. She also posed with Winnie the Pooh, Eyore, Tigger, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Snow White, the fairy Godmother, and Thumper. Unlike a lot of the kids, she did not have an autograph book. It was not something I wanted to add to my tote bag, and I think the pictures are worth more anyway. That did not stop her from asking for one when she saw the other kids with them, but she did not put up a big fight for one and let it go pretty quickly. There were bigger things on her list of wants! LOL Park visits were broken up with visits to the pool, unless you are lucky to be the daddy and mostly spend that time resting in the bed and watching TV. I enjoy the sun though and had some good times swimming with Summer. We both had our goggles on and went to the deep end where she swam like a little fish. Her goal to reach the bottom of the pool with both her hands and feet was accomplished. She never did sit on the bottom with me though. She is getting really good at standing on her hands; I was very impressed with her skills anyway. She loved the pool closest to our room better than the big pool with the water slides and entertainment activities in the center of the resort. She said it was easier to swim in, and I have to agree. There was a lot less going on there so it was easier to do all the stuff she wanted. We ran into some kids from her school while waiting our turn to go down one of the water slides. Turns out they shared our Aruba pool too. Its a small world!

The shuttle buses we rode to and from the parks were also lots of fun for Summer. She got to ride standing a few times which was more exciting for her than me, but I guess when you are five and don't have to buckle up, it's all good. One afternoon, we rented a big 4 or 5 person bicycle and went around the resort a few times. Summer really wanted to do it so there was no getting out of it. I actually thought it would be a little more fun than it was, but it turned out to be harder than I anticipated. Oh well, it was good exercise! I wish we would've done the paddle boats instead, but getting her on a boat would not have been an easy task. She does not seem to really enjoy them much. I hope maybe she will change her tune this summer when we put the boat in the water, but that is probably the reason she doesn't like them. It did a few too many nose dives into the lake last summer. We built a sandcastle on the beach by the lake one morning when the pool was a little too cool for her. We also played hide and seek with various objects. We took turns hiding them in the sand with a big X to mark the spot so we would know when we found them. The hammocks they had on the beach were very nice for relaxing when I got the chance which wasn't but a few times. I guess when your 5 relaxing isn't at the top of your list. I can't say that Disney World is the best place to go and relax, but it is a great place to go to have fun and do and see lots of different things. Our family gives it two thumbs up!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Three years ago today

Three years ago, we left the pediatricians office with a prescription for pin worms and headed to T. C. Thompson Children's Hospital for an ultrasound. It was then that Summer's rhabdoid tumor was found. The next day it along with her right kidney were removed. Despite the cancer being contained within the kidney, she was prescribed 11 radiation treatments and 8 cycles of chemotherapy which was to be administered over about nine months. I had my doubts about what to do, but now I know I made the right choices. Today, I have a beautiful, healthy 5 year old. Besides the cancer, she's never been sick much and is just a bundle of joy and energy that I feel so fortunate to have in my life. Being faced with losing a child was scary. I didn't know how I would get through it all, but I just had to let go and accept that whatever was meant to be would be. I'm definitely a stronger person now. Getting through it all and coming out on top is PRICELESS!!! I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful, loving daughter. She's silly at times and not at others. I don't know what I'd do without her, but I know my life would not be as full as it is now. Taking care of her and seeing her through the ups and downs in life is one of the things I treasure most in my life. I am so thankful for all the blessings I've received in life, but I believe she is the biggest blessing of all.

My little princess is growing up fast. She's not a baby like she was three years ago, at age 2. Her favorite Disney princess is Aurora. So, today I'm splurging and buying her a new princess outfit for our trip to Disney World. After all, you only live once. I can't wait to see her in it! My sweet Princess Summer.....

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fun times in Atlanta

Yesterday, we headed to Atlanta because we had four tickets to the Atlanta Hawks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game thanks to Clint's bidding at the St. Peter's auction. After looking into the area we were going to be staying in, I saw two others attractions I thought would be fun for us to visit. So, we packed up and Summer, my dad, myself and Clint headed south. My dad and Summer napped a little on the way down, but that was interrupted by a stop at Red Lobster for lunch. Summer wanted clam chowder and popcorn shrimp, so what do you think she got? Yep, both. Of course, I helped her finish them both too which I wish I could've resisted, but I could not. After that, we were on our way to downtown Atlanta.

After checking into our hotel. which turned out to only be one block from the arena where the game was held, we walked across Centennial Park heading to the World of Coca-Cola. We came across two playgrounds while we were walking through the park. Summer just had to stop and play. We had a little extra time, so she monkeyed around for a while. She did the monkey bars, several slides and lots of climbing. When I was finally able to pry her away, she asked if we could come back after we did the soda factory. I said we'd have to see if we had enough time before the game.

At the factory, which Clint and I visited with Amanda six or so years ago, we looked at lots of Coca-Cola memorabilia from years past. Summer was only focused on when we were going to get to taste test the different sodas which in hindsight I wish I would not have told her beforehand. Then, maybe she would've been a little more patient with the history/memorabilia part. She did enjoy looking at the different machines they use in the bottling process. There was a really cool polar bear you could have your picture taken with at the beginning of the self tour. Summer thought it was a robot, but I'm pretty sure there was a human in there. It was very silly and made us smile numerous times whiles we were waiting our turn. Of course my camera died right after that picture. There was a 4D movie with moving seats which Summer and I both enjoyed. My dad and Clint got sucked into the sampling part first and missed out on this neat experience. When we came out of the theater and found them, Clint had already picked out his favorite - grape Fanta. He insisted on Summer trying it first. Then he tried to get my to try the nastiest one - Beverly - which is an Italian soda. I had been there before so I knew what he was up to. After filling up our bellies with carbonation, we left through the gift shop. Guess who wanted a souvenir? She tried to get her daddy to buy her a polar bear a few times with no luck. On our way out, we came across some pins which I told her she could pick from if she really had to get something. She ended up getting one that said something like give a coke and a smile. I can't remember exactly right now. But, she was happy and so was I.

It was too late for another visit to the playground when we finally got out of there. We needed to eat dinner and get to the ballgame. We settled on the closest and fastest thing, Subway, which Summer does not eat (at least I've never seen her eat a sub). Her daddy said she could just have cookies and that suited her fine. She had a chocolate chip cookie and apparently that was enough for her. At the game, we got a bottomless popcorn and Coke. To be honest, it was the worst popcorn I've had. It definitely couldn't compare to the movies or even the stuff we got at the Lady Mocs game. I thought maybe it was just a fluke, but after a refill, I realized it just was not good--very plain tasting. Summer spotted the cotton candy man shortly after the game started and just had to have some. However, he did not come back to our section until half time so she had to wait to get some. Our seats were pretty good, about seven rows up from the floor. She thought they were not high enough because the Chic-fil-a cows that parachuted from the ceiling at one point in the game never got to seat that were as low as ours. She and I cheered the Hawks on throughtout the game, and she actually impressed me with her increased level of excitement from the Lady Mocs game. At that game, she said my cheering hurt her ears, but this time, she was right there with me. I wonder if I have a future cheerleader on my hands? Her daddy hopes not, but I just want her to do something that she enjoys. Only time will tell......

After the game, we headed back to our rooms and wound down until we all fell asleep. After a decent night's sleep and a yummy breakfast at the hotel, we headed back across Centennial Park for another stop at the playground while we waited for the aquarium to open. She had a blast all over again. I'm so happy that they had something cool like that for kids. It was a great surprise for her and I both.

The Georgia Aquarium was pretty cool. It is set up quite different than the Tennessee Aquarium, having several different sections in the building rather than flowing exhibits where you don't have to decide what to see next. The dolphin show was entertaining, although Clint feel asleep due to his last of interest in the musical theatrics that accompanied the performing dolphins. Summer and I definitely did our share of oohing and aahing. There were several exhibits that I thought were very cool, including getting to touch sea stars, sea urchins, live shrimp, and sea anemones. They also have shark and ray petting, but that was nothing new for me. The lion fish and whale shark exhibits were both pretty cool in my opinion. Summer liked the play area they had with tunnels and slides. Of course in her mind, she did not get to play on them long enough, but we had to get to the dolphin show. It was good times for sure, but Summer got hungry about half way through it so she was not in the mood to stay in linger any longer than it took to see it all.

I'm not sure what the best part of the weekend was, but it was good times with people we love. What else could we ask for?

Favorite things

Here are a few of Summer's favorite things as she approaches her 6th birthday.

Soups - clam chowder and chili
Food - steak
Ice cream - McDonalds vanilla but she doesn't eat the cone
Soda - diet Coke (which I won't drink but her Nanny does I guess that's where shes had it)
Cookies - "chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven"
Cartoon - Lazy town (which she hardly ever watches but she still claims it's her favorite, Calliou is her 2nd fave)
Movie - Mickey Mouse Villians
TV show - America's Funniest Home Videos
Color - "rainbow sparkly"
Best friends - Willow and Giada
Candy - sour warheads
Candy bar - Nestlé Crunch
Thing to do - crafts
Person - me (I'm just assuming, but I think it's a pretty safe assumption)

She's growing so fast (about two inches in past few months). It amazes me how times flies and how much her likes change over time. She will not drink apple juice and hardly ever drinks milk. She did have a chocolate milk today, but I'd say it's the first one in months. Water is definitely her preferred beverage. I'm not complaining there. Now if only I could get her to eat all the veggies she used to...... She did recently start drinking red grape juice. I got her a bottle of sparkling red grape juice for New Years. and apparently she loved it. This past week she has started asking for it. I'll probably be picking up some more when I hit the grocery store later this week.