Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving....despite the wallpaper.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day was just as enjoyable and relaxing as ours was. All three of us started out the day in relaxation mode because we all slept in a little bit. After a light cereal breakfast, Papa and Madeline watched the Thanksgiving Day parade while Mama got busy in the kitchen. No lie, I spent *all day* in the kitchen and produced 3 dishwasher loads of dishes plus a load of hand-washable items too! Lucky for me, I enjoy cooking. David helped tremendously by keeping Madeline occupied. Yet, we laughed that he can claim he helped me in the kitchen because he opened a can of corn for me. Instead of lunch, we ate appetizers that tided us over until dinner time.

Before dinner, David, Madeline and I went on a little walk through the neighborhood. The house smelled soooooo good when we got home. After a few last minute preparations, we were ready to dig in. I must admit, my turkey was pretty darn good this year. I didn't even have to set knives if I didn't want to because you could cut the turkey with your fork. Also, I tried a new concoction for the stuffing this year, which David said was "a keeper". I made a corn bread stuffing and added sauteed onions and celery along with chirizo sausage, the turkey giblets, diced chilies, and chopped cilantro. I was afraid that the flavors would be too overpowering but they were not.

As this was the first Thanksgiving in our new home, David insisted that we eat our dinner in the dining room. The only reason that I was a little hesitant was because I started the project of stripping the wallpaper in that room and have not finished the project. The room looked like a construction zone. But, after a little tidying up, the room was somewhat passable. I spruced up the room a little more by pulling out the China that was passed down to me by my mom. And since this was our first Thanksgiving dinner at the table that used to be my mom's (and thus in my childhood home) along with the buffet piece and China, I oddly felt like I was at home....I mean, my childhood home (despite the fact that I was in my own home, in a room that was a "work in progress") Yet, all the "decor" pieces offered me a very comforting feeling. Although this was a very positive, warm/fuzzy feeling, it also made me miss my mom bunches today. Yet, despite having that empty feeling as a result of missing my mom, I do know and try very hard to appreciate *every day*, not just Thanksgiving, all the gifts that I have been blessed with. I am very fortunate to have the best hubby, a wonderful daughter, great friends and family. Although these blessings are, by far, the most important, they are only some of what I have to be thankful for. What else can I say except, "Thank you, God!"!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Disney-ed Out! - Orlando Day 5 & 6

We are home - and Disney-ed out! I know that Grandma (and friends) have been anxiously waiting for the last round of Orlando here goes. Sorry for the delay but we had some action packed moments trying to make the most of the rest of our time in Orlando.

Knowing that we would be at the Magic Kingdom until very late, we decided to sleep in. More importantly, we allowed for Madeline to sleep in an get energized for the long day ahead. After arriving at the park, the first thing I thought is that we should've spent more time at the Magic Kingdom during the week. Disney, in general, was quite slow during the week but PACKED on Saturday. Oh well. The only thing we felt we *had to* do was see Madeline's favorite Disney Princess, Ariel (from the Little Mermaid). And so, we stood in line for about 45 minutes. Luckily there was a water spouting play area for the kids to run around in that amused Madeline for a good part of the wait.

After seeing Ariel, the three of us just picked and chose rides that had lighter wait times. I am sure there were some "favorites" out there that we missed but David and I saw all of this last year and Madeline could care less about any specific ride....she just wanted to ride *any* ride. And therefore we bopped around the park, spending the majority of our day in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

Now, before I continue with the rest of our adventures I must repeat myself.....I am Disney-ed out. After my 4th day in the parks, I was done. Yes, Disney is a wonderful family vacation but if I don't go again for another 5 years or so, I am completely fine with that. I really, really, really don't understand why some people go year after year after year - every single family vacation they take. Now, don't get me wrong, if an opportunity to tag along with David on another work conference comes up again next year, we would probably take advantage of that. My goodness, with David's air and hotel taken care of how could we not?? Yet, families out there go year after year and pay top dollar for this. The world is sooooo much larger than Orlando! Okay, I will now step down from my soap box.

During the evening on Saturday, we were able to meet up with my sister, Margaret, and her family. Yes, you read that correctly! My sister and her family arrived in Orlando late on Friday night. We did not plan to have our time in Orlando coincide, it was just a coincidence. So, we took advantage of this. With Margaret's kids being older, they certainly didn't care to hang out in the Magic Kingdom all day so they started their day in Epcot and met us in the Magic Kingdom at dinner time. Margaret, Mark, Chris, Kate, David, Madeline and I were able to share dinner time, ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (in action ride photo below with David), watch the evening's SpectroMagic light parade and watch the fireworks. Madeline was in her glory because she was able to tag along with her cousin, Kate. And while the 3 guys chatted, I was pleased to be able to have some silly sister time......which made me that much more excited about my upcoming sister time in the beginning of December. Although we left the park after the fireworks, so did the entire rest of the getting back to our hotel took quite a long time. However, Madeline was so exhausted that she fell asleep on my shoulder on the shuttle bus.

On Sunday, our flight did not depart from Orlando until after 6pm. David, Madeline and I slept in and then enjoyed a leisurely poolside breakfast before heading into the swimming pool. This was a wonderful relaxing cap to our time in Orlando (late hotel check-outs are a wonderful thing!) Our flight back home was an uneventful direct flight....which is a good thing! Madeline's Usborne Sticker book got Madeline (and therefore me & David too) through the flights both to AND from Orlando as well as several restaurant trips while there. That was definitely the best $9 I ever spent in my life.

After a good amount of family time, I am saddened that David had to head to work this morning. Luckily, Thanksgiving is upon us and David will be home for a 4 day weekend. Can't wait!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vacation Needed! - Orlando Day 4

Whewwww! We are all beat around here. The activity level is getting the best of us where we will need a vacation when we get home. We obviously tuckered out Madeline yesterday because she slept until almost 11am today! This late start worked out perfectly because I was planning "down time" during the day while David worked. By the time Madeline and I actually got our butts moving, showered, dressed and out of the hotel room, Madeline's & my "breakfast" was actually lunch. I decided to have our lunch poolside....ohhhh what a treat! The weather has been so nice here.

David's conference stuff finished up in the late afternoon and the three of us had enough time to head to the Magic Kingdom for a couple of hours before they closed. We were able to catch a parade (Madeline had a ball waving at all the characters in the parade) and work our way through Adventure Land and Frontier Land as well as see the Disney Fairies. While in Frontier Land, Madeline rode her first non-kiddie roller coaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. During this entire roller coaster experience I had my dad on my mind as I still remember my first non-kiddie roller coaster experience when I was a little older than Madeline. However, my 1st experience wasn't in Orlando, it was on the yellow roller coaster a Crystal Beach with my dad. Anyway, Madeline loved the roller coaster and wanted to go on again. Instead of re-riding this coaster we hopped on Splash Mountain....she liked that ride just as much.

As the Magic Kingdom was about to close, we hopped on the Monorail over to Epcot for a late dinner in the UK (we were going to eat in Morocco but David really waned Sticky Toffee UK it was) Just as we finished up our dessert the Illuminations show/fireworks was about to start. The fireworks were a nice cap to another busy day and the signal for us to head toward the buses to catch the last shuttle back to our hotel.

Tonight, I think Madeline fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow and once again, that sounds like a plan for me!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Getting Animalistic! - Orlando Day 3

This morning, David was out of the hotel room early as he had to attend conference stuff all day. I tried to get Madeline to sleep as long as possible as the last couple of days have been a whirlwind. When she and I finally got in motion we decided to head over to Disney's Animal Kingdom. That place is huge and quite impressive. You know that anything done by Disney is always over the top. The first place that we ventured (not intentionally) ended up being where there were more Disney characters. Madeline wanted to do more meet and greets. Although we were there to see the animals, Madeline definitely enjoyed seeing the characters and was actually more excited about interacting with them than she was about seeing any of the park's animals. Even though we already saw some of the same characters yesterda,y I didn't mind going back to try to get a few more pictures because the charachers were wearing Christmas gear. Also, for the Buffalo Sabres fans out there, you know that they have a "I've Been Everywhere" segment on the jumbo tron during the home games that includes photos of people with Sabres gear on various vacations. I thought I might try to submit the photo of Madeline holding Sabretooth with the Santa Goofy.

After spending wayyyy too much time with the characters, we headed into "Africa". When I walked into this area of the Animal Kingdom, I felt like I was walking into a village somewhere in Africa. Actually, while there, I thought I might like to go on a real African Safari one day (we actually have friends that went on one and said it was awesome). Madeline and I went on the Kilimanjaro Safari to see some wildlife. We also did some walking trails to see the hippos and gorillas. Madeline was only partially impressed with the whole Animal Kingdom experience. The only thing that my dear daughter found entertaining was pointing and laughing at he hippos and gorillas butts.....gotta love the bathroom humor stage.

Madeline and I barely made a dent in the Animal Kingdom. I think we only saw about a third of it. After a few hours I didn't mind if we headed out and therefore I chose to give Madeline the option of staying or leaving and Madeline chose to leave. Perfect! I knew that David, Madeline and I would be heading out to dinner later and that we would most likely have Lorrie, a co-worker of David's, with us so I really did not want to have a grumpy child on my hands. We got back to the room and
Madeline actually took a nap!!!!

Luckily Madeline's rest was a power nap which made for much easier dining. In the evening, the three of us headed to Downtown Disney with Lorrie for dinner. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we were able to dine outside at an Italian restaurant, Portobello. After dinner, the four of us spent a little bit of time strolling around Downtown Disney before heading back to the hotel (Yes, Mr. Potato Head has my head, the model of Russia's St. Basil is made out of Legos and....Holy Crap!!! Buzz Lightyear is grabbing my ass!!). It is now 11:30pm and Madeline has yet to fall asleep. I guess that is what a nap does to her. As for me, I am quite ready to hit the hay!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Characters R Us - Orlando Day 2

Yes, I know....*WE* are characters, but I was referring to the Disney Characters in today's blog post title. I will speak more of the characters later....

Luckily, a good night's rest did all of us some good. Madeline had a much better day today - not stellar, yet much improved. David had some business stuff to attend to - pre-conference/meet & greet things however we were still able to pack our day with activities of our own as well.

When we headed out of the hotel, our first stop was Hollywood Studios. I was amazed at how quickly we were able to see the main attractions there with little to no wait time. There is totally something to be said about us being here during off season. We were able to see a mini-stage performance with Ariel (Little Mermaid), ride a few rides, play in the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" area, see the "Block Party", and meet and greet Woody and Buzz Lightyear from the movie Toy Story.

Side note: Regarding the character meetings, I have to say that I am *totally* proud of my pre-Orlando purchase. Target had a Disney autograph book in their $1 bin. I bought one at home and brought it with us. Madeline had so much fun getting character autographs today (of course I forgot to bring it to the character dinner last night) and the autograph books here are about $10. Also, Madeline hasn't yet had a chance to wear her Sleeping Beauty costume that I bought for $7 and gave to her for her birthday. I will bring that along to Magic Kingdom when we go but....those costumes are going for $60 here!! (and of course we won't be doing the Bippity Boppity Bo spa treatments of $100+ either)

Anyway....back to today's adventures. The main ride that we actually rode was the Tower of Terror. Yes, you know...the one that drops you 13 stories!! Yes, Madeline rode it. And yes, I can say that she wasn't thrilled about it. And yes, David felt the need to tell Madeline that these types of thrill rides are Mama's idea of a good time..... Thanks David, I am trying to raise a thrill seeking amusement park-loving, roller coaster addicted child that will be my ride partner as she gets older!

After several hours at Hollywood Studios, Madeline was pretty much in sensory overload. After we left the park we decided to opt for the more serene mode of transportation to the next park. We rode the water shuttle (instead of bus) to Epcot. This was a perfect switch as Epcot was very slow when we arrived. We took the opportunity to enforce "relaxation time" in the stroller (no, again, I *never* mentioned the word nap. That word does not exist in Madeline's vocabulary.) The "relaxation time" offered the opportunity for Madeline to build up more steam for the evening and it also offered the opportunity for a leisurely stroll for Mama and Papa. We enjoyed the themes of the various countries. We had tea in China and dinner in Mexico and our plan is to return later in the week for dessert - sticky toffee pudding in England. We can say that, from the actual travel we have done, Epcot did do a nice job of representing the various areas we've seen. In fact, David even commented on the similarity in Epcot's China to what he saw in China (minus the smog of course). This would all certainly be a big bore for Madeline however Epcot was filled with characters. While at Epcot tonight Madeline saw Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Donald Duck, Mulan, Jasmine, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Marie (from Aristocats) and Belle and she got photos and autographs of all of them!

After a looong day we hopped on our shuttle bus back to the hotel and Madeline pretty much fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Later, as I was writing this blog, our room phone rang and it was my sister, Margaret saying that some guy called her to tell her that he found my phone. Yep, my phone fell out of my pocket while on the shuttle bus and the bus driver just called the last number dialed on my phone. Margaret had no idea where I was staying but the bus driver mentioned the hotel that he was near. Margaret took a chance and looked up the hotel that he mentioned, called them and asked to be connected to us......and viola, we were found!!! We were able to reconnect with the bus driver (who went out of his way off duty) and my phone. Whhhhewwww......thanks Margaret and Mr. Bus Driver Man!!

Okay.....enough excitement for today! Time for bed!! (more pictures below)


Sleeping Beauty

Marie (from Aristocats)


and....David and Madeline playing 3D Toy Story Game (in Hollywood Studios)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Disney To The East...I Mean West...I Mean SOUTH!!! - Orlando Day 1

Being regular travelers has gotten us a bit lax in travel preparation. Previously I would double and triple check flight times, etc etc. David told me that the flight out of Buffalo was at 10:20am. Hmmmm.....guess I should've double checked. If our flight from Buffalo to Baltimore was actually at 10:20, we would have arrived at the airport in plenty of time. But was not. You guessed it, we missed our flight by only 1 minute! Luckily for us, we were able to be rescheduled on the next flight out of Buffalo which departed only a half-hour later. Instead of flying east to Baltimore for our connection we flew west to Chicago and our flight to Chicago arrived in Orlando only about an hour later than we would've.

The flights were hit or miss (yes, miss....ha ha ha, very pun intended) with Madeline. She has been going through this behavioral thing lately that is making David and me ready to pull our hair out (opppsss....David has no hair, but you know what I mean) So, we off and on struggled the whole day with a lack of listening. Plus, she has already developed a bit of an attitude that I can only imagine what it will develop into by the time her teen years roll in. We'd like to think that David and I are pretty strict and consistent....but holy crap! I was ready to take the next flight back to Buffalo and lock her in her room for a week. Yet, now she is sleeping and so darn angelic. And here David and I sit, sipping wine with dueling laptops and trying to regroup and brace ourselves for the next day. Yes.....for lack of better words, it really was a WTF kind of day!, I vented above. Yet, not every moment with Madeline was a battle, so below are some of the highlights. After a small rest (nooooo, I did not say nap) we headed to dinner at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian. We went to the "Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner". This was very enjoyable. Madeline was able to meet Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Wicked Step-mother and the two Step-Sisters (Drizella and Anastasia). We completely lucked into an awesome table for this character dining experience as we had the first table when the characters entered so Madeline was the first and last person they interacted with. There were some funny interactions. For example, when Prince Charming first arrived Madeline had just gotten her food and couldn't decide between her food or the prince. Leave it to my girl to decide to eat while talking to the prince. Also, Madeline realized that the step-sisters and the step-mother were not nice characters. She gave Anastasia the "stink eye" but then ended up taking a nice picture with her. Also, the picture with Drizella looks as though it were posed but was completely candid....thus proving Madeline's dislike for the villains of Cinderella. Aside from the characters, the food was also very good and the major bonus was that the character appearances distracted Madeline so much that she did at least behave at the restaurant.

After a very long day, we were not about to have an excursion other than the character dining (Epcot fireworks were just caught in transit from dinner back to the hotel). We are not staying on Disney property, although very close. There are shuttles from our hotel to various Disney attractions yet they do not run quite as frequent as the Disney shuttles. So, getting back to our hotel took a little longer than we had hoped.....and thus added to our already long day. So needless to say, I need to get off this computer and get to bed.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Travel To Russia With Lisa

On one hand it seems like a lifetime since David and I began our adoption journey and on the other hand it feels like yesterday. What a wild emotional roller coaster ride that was....but one that was worth every tear, gray hair and, of course, every smile.

Over the past several weeks I have been in contact with a girl that I went to high school with. Lisa was a year younger than me and we didn't quite hang out with the same people in high school, yet my alma matter was a very small private girls' school in which everyone knew everyone. Recently, Lisa began her own journey to adopt and through a mutual high school Facebook friend Lisa heard of my own journey to Russia. Through the wonders of Facebook Lisa and I were able to reconnect and discuss all the emotions and excitement associated with adoption. or quite a while, the cat was not officially let out of the bag, yet, today, it was made official and Lisa shared her news. Yes, she shared her news to, not only her friends but to the world by announcing the beginning of her blog (click here or see link to right under "Russian Adoption Blogs) and thus, the story of her family.....which she and her husband are currently in the process of writing. Best wishes Lisa!!! The adoption community is strong and we will all be rooting for you and following your journey to bring Marat home.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's A Sabretooth World

Last night, David, Madeline and I had another opportunity to head to the hockey game. David's boss originally had claim to the company's season tickets but had to cancel out of attending at the last minute. As a result, the tickets were passed back to David who had a hard time getting a business contact to attend on such short, off to the game we went. The last time we attended the game was Madeline's first hockey game and she did well with all the excitement, despite the late hours. This time, however, Madeline was a bit more testy. I guess it was all old hat for her this time around.

The other comparison between games was that this game was a bit more heated. And for those of you that know anything about hockey, know that means a fight (or two or three or four) will break out on the ice. Luckily Madeline was usually in her own little world and didn't notice anything was really going on until the fight was breaking up. The one time Madeline asked, "What happened?" and we explained that one of the players wasn't being nice and hit another player so now they have to go into a "time-out"....and then we showed her the player skating off into the penalty box. Another time, as a bunch of players were in a heap on the ice, Madeline asked, "What happened" and David told her that "one of the players fell down and the other players were helping him up" Oh, brother!

At Madeline's first game, we were lucky enough to chase after and hug Sabretooth (the Sabres mascot). Madeline really has no idea how lucky she was for that to happen so I wasn't surprised when half the game she kept asking, "Where's Sabretooth?" and telling me, "I want to go see Sabretooth". Certainly, this girl was bound to be disappointed. With approximately 17,000 people, what are the chances of getting another close encounter with the team's mascot? Finally, half-way thorough the 3rd period, Madeline was getting more difficult. It was, of course 10pm and wayyyyy past her bedtime so the fact that we did not have to pay for our tickets made the decision to leave (even though the game was tied) easier. As we were walking down the corridor, we weren't paying attention to what we were doing. Mama and Papa were fidgeting with coats, etc, and Madeline was waving around her stuffed Sabretooth that she brought from home. Needless to say, we were quite surprised when we finally looked up and saw Sabretooth only about 5 feet in front of us and heading right toward us. As we were about to pass him, Sabretooth stopped, waved directly at Madeline and then bent down and gave Madeline a huge, over-sized Sabretooth hug. Wow! How exciting!! Of course, now, without a doubt, Madeline will assume that she will hug Sabretooth at *every* game.

BTW, we got home in enough time to catch the end of the game while Madeline was getting into her PJs. The game went into overtime and the Sabres ended up winning the game through a shootout. Go Sabres!