Friday, December 25, 2009

Baby Jesus - Thank You

It's Christmas. As a Catholic, a Christian, it's the time of year to especially focus on God and on our Saviour, a little baby who was born thousands of years ago who taught and inspired and performed miracles, and who sacrificed his life to save ours. It oversimplifies things, but in the preschool world Lilly and I live in, playing with her "Little People" nativity scene, we see Baby Jesus and we sing "Happy Birthday" and say "Thank you." And then Lilly points out the sheep next to Him and she says "Baaaaaa!"

Aside from the fact that we are celebrating Jesus's birth this time of year, I have a much more personal reason to give thanks to Him this time of year. As I've mentioned before, exactly 4 years ago Jon and I were lost, or at least we felt that way. 3 months pregnant, armed with the news that our child was not "perfect," we were looking for somewhere to turn. We were in Atlanta for Christmas, announcing the news that we were expecting, hiding our tears and fears that there was something different about our child that others and perhaps even ourselves in some ways would find it hard to accept. We knew right away that we would have this child no matter what, and we knew that we would love this child completely and give her everything she needed. But yet we were sad, looking for a place to turn. I would have loved at the time to have talked to someone like myself, a mom who has been there are raised a child with Down syndrome who had a million and one positive things to say - but I would not meet other parents until after Lilly was born. I would have loved a book like "Gifts" and "Gifts II" which tell a hundred stories of real families living real lives, influenced by their wonderful gift of a child with Down syndrome. Yet those books would not be published for a couple more years. All the prior guides that I had used in my pregnancy that told me what not to eat, when to go to the doctor, etc, like the What to Expect book, were pretty bare when it came to "what to think about having a child with special needs."

We were in Atlanta. We were feeling sorry for ourselves, and wanting our baby to know she was loved, but unsure of what the next step was for us. How were we supposed to survive the next 6 months of pregnancy knowing that our child might be different? I was so protective of my child but I wondered and feared for her future - how others would react, what her life would be like. It was Christmas 4 years ago, dealing with these emotions, looking for inspiration. And then it pretty much smacked me on the head.

It was Christmas. We were celebrating a mom giving birth to her special son. God came to her months before and told her something was different about her child, but to not be afraid. Her child might not be a "typical" child but he would save the world. Despite her fears, she was to stay strong. Her husband got a similar message, to stay by her and their family, and support them. Christmas Eve mass 4 years ago had a homily dedicated to Joseph. About what he was thinking and feeling, how he knew to support his new wife and their child, and to have faith that it would all be ok. I sobbed through the entire message.

I understood these parents, their fears and their love for their child. I understood Mary, young and pregnant and unsure of the future her new family would face. She was ready for the challenge, and suddenly so was I. She gave me the faith and courage that this would turn out just fine. While our baby was not God, it was a precious gift from God - children with Down syndrome are not accidents or mistakes. Lilly was entrusted to our care because God knew we were a perfect match - not only because we would be good parents to her, but that she would teach us so much as well.

4 years ago, I was uncertain but suddenly had faith that it would all turn out ok. And it did; my beautiful 3 year old is sleeping peacefully with her red snowman nightgown in her white big girl bed, and I am anxiously awaiting her to wake up (and Jon to get home from work this morning) so that we can run downstairs and see what Santa left for her. She certainly has been a good girl, and she's so excited about Christmas this year. We did a trial run with presents last night, as Jon's parents sent her lots of gifts that she loved tearing the wrapping paper off and appreciating each thing that was inside. And we baked cookies for Santa and I had her leave two cookies and three carrots and a cup of milk out for him underneath the chimney. And she promply ran off with both the cookies and ate one of the carrots and drank most of his milk before posing for a picture with Santa's snacks. My daughter is indeed perfect, and we are ever so grateful things turned out the way they did. She is a Christmas gift, our little miracle. So for so many reasons - "Baby Jesus, Thank You."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Disney... Again

We found out a few months ago that Lilly has a small hole in her heart, that needs to be repaired. Fixing it entails a catheterization procedure that brings a little device up to her heart that will permanently clamp the hole shut, and we've set it up for January. As far as heart surgeries go, it's a relatively minor deal - but it's my baby, and it's her heart, and it's scary. So upon hearing the news, it's obvious what we did next:

We planned a trip to Disney World.

Obviously. Because when we found out that our daughter would be born with a chromosome abnormality, we took a babymoon to Disney World. And when we found out she'd get her tonsils taken out at 13 months of age, we took her to Disney World. And when we moved to New Zealand, we went to Disneyland on the way out and Disney World on the way back. So to subside the guilt and anxiety over her upcoming procedure, we *had* to take her to the happiest place on earth. :)

But we just went to Disney World for a week in June - which was such a wonderful trip - so we wanted to do it differently. In June, we hit every character meal, every ride, every thing we could do to make it a magical trip for Lilly. With a week, we were able to relax, hit the pool each day, and really immerse ourselves in the Disney magic. And honestly, while I love Disney World, thinking about doing it that way again just 6 months later did not sound that exciting. So we decided to think outside the box.

How about a Disney Cruise? we decided. We had never been on a cruise, and I've heard so many wonderful things about Disney Cruises from my cousin Suzanne. In researching, I found that there were great deals for mid-December. We booked a 3 night cruise, and I was so excited that I mentioned it to my whole family. And suddenly, one by one... they all booked it too! So then we had me, Jon, Lilly, Jon's twin brother & his wife and their son, and my three sisters and their spouses and kids. 15 of us going on a Disney Cruise! And to top it off, we booked an additional 3 nights at the new Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary with Jon's brother's family. I couldn't wait to see Walt Disney Resort's holiday decorations!

We just got back a few days ago... did we have a good time or was a big family vacation too much for us to handle? And would we get seasick on our first cruise? You'll have to wait and see...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Over 35

I got my hair cut today at a new salon. I talked to the stylist for an hour - subjects from straightening irons, travel, my year in New Zealand, and our families (she has 2 girls age 6 and 2). And then at one point she said she'd like to have another child - but, in her words, she is 33 and she wouldn't risk having a child after the age of 35.


I hear things like this all the time. All The Time. In many cases such as my new hairstylist, the person is somewhat of a stranger and doesn't know about Lilly - it is just a statement many women say (and believe, I guess) because they have fears of the "higher risks" of a pregnancy in your late thirties. On one hand, I get that fertility goes down as a woman ages, so I understand wanting to have kids while you still can. But really, I don't think that's what many women are talking about.

What's more surprising to me are the people that say this fully knowing our situation. Who see Lilly playing, singing, dancing, and still think it's a good comment to make that they wouldn't "risk" having a child in their late thirties or older. Really? Even if you believed that, there are some things you just don't say to someone because it is rude.

Don't get me wrong - there are a variety of higher risks of pregnancies in the late thirties and forties and I'm not trivializing these - but it seems as though the "risk" that most people are referring to is Down syndrome. That is the one that is all over the "What to Expect" books and the "first and second trimester ultrasound screenings" for pregnancy. It is so common to talk about - and try to "rule out" a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome, that before I went in for my first ultrasound at 3 months of pregnancy - at the age of 24 - I had it on my mind. Because all the stupid baby message boards talked about ultrasounds and ruling out Down syndrome and the chance of a "bad" test result which would lead to an amnio which "of course" would turn out ok. Yet I was the odd seed that went into that first ultrasound, before even knowing anything about my ladybug, feeling strongly that I did not want any genetic testing because I would love my child regardless, and it would just make me worry the entire pregnancy if the results came out positive for Down syndrome.

I am the exception. But thank God, I was also the lucky one in 700 that was blessed with a child with Down syndrome, because we chose to have and love our baby girl regardless of her chromosomes. And now we see that it is such a small part of who she is.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm in denial. Because I look at my child and see a perfect little girl. I see me in her, and Jon, and a little of my mom and my Grandma Lillian for whom she is named after, and I see her cousins in her, and half of her is total princess as well. (I even see a little Julie Andrews in her lately.) :) But I wonder - what the heck is going on when I am living life each day with such a fun, sweet, cheeky, smart, beautiful little girl? Why is the abortion rate for kids with DS 90%, when I feel like we won the lottery, not that we got hit by lightening like other couples seem to feel. I wonder if I am in denial - because is there something going on that I can't see? Is our life horrible and I just didn't get the memo? Is Lilly so challenging but I just don't realize because I'm a (relatively) new parent?

Absolutely no. Lilly is delightful and a joy because that's who she is. I mean, I have to think that because I'm her mommy, but the fact that her teachers, her family, her friends, and everyone she meets seems to think she's amazing just justifies that I'm not delusional. She really is a great little kid.

And I do recognize that there are differences about Lilly - it takes her longer to learn certain things - but not all things, and usually she's just a few months behind the "typically developing" curve. She does have a heart defect that we will fix in January through a catheterization surgery which will put a tiny device to close a little hole. And while I completely acknowledge that it's a big deal, I put Lilly in God's hands and pray that he will take good care of our little girl.

The ways that Lilly is "different" that are likely attributed to Down syndrome, do not make her less than a wonderful person - but they do make me love her even more, and they make her a more special person. I see every accomplishment of Lilly's as being amazing, whether it is a new skill (like putting on her coat all by herself) or a new word that she says (or reads! She can now sight read a handful of words, including Daddy!) or whether it is memorizing the words and choreography to "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" and acts/sings the entire song out with her daddy. I hate to be "gushy" or "sentimental" but I am just in so much awe of everything she does, and the hard work and effort that goes along with it.

So I don't know. I don't know if there is something wrong with me that I don't see the "bad" in my child the way so many strangers with no association to Down syndrome feel. But I do know that everyone who meets Lilly falls in love with her. I know that children and adults with Down syndrome are incredible for overcoming so many things - from medical issues to working hard in school and graduating high school - and these amazing people couldn't do it without supportive people in their lives.

So it just kind of seems like there is this runaway train of negativity, led by outdated stereotypes and genetic counselors and ob's who have no real knowledge of what life is really like for a family with a child with Down syndrome, which seems to make people believe that it really would be a "worst case scenario" to end up in our shoes.

I know a child with special needs is not what a parent asks for when they get pregnant. There are tough things that go along with it. But for anyone who's read my blog on a regular basis, you see that we are just normal people living a normal life. A resident husband who works a million hours a week but who loves his wife and child with all his heart. A lawyer wife who also works full time who is a constant advocate for her child with special needs but who is also very concerned with making sure that her daughter learns how to bake, and that they get the right princess dress for Halloween. A beautiful 3 year old girl who has flown more than the average adult and who has traveled all over the world, and lived in New Zealand for a third of her life. Proud parents, and a little girl with the funniest sense of humor and feet that are like speedy gonzales when she's running around the house - faster than I can chase her! Parents who will give their girl the best that life can offer, and will be proud of her successes no matter what they are - the bar is not set too high nor too low for this little girl; in fact, there is no bar but a fairy wand which Lilly holds and gracefully twirls with mommy and then wacks daddy upside the head with it. She is a child who makes friends easily, who catches on to new things at preschool, who is so proud of herself when she accomplishes anything, and who does a victory dance & shouts "hooway!" in the middle of the grocery store aisle when I let her pick out cookie mix. This is a little girl whose favorite songs to sing are Michael Jackson's "I'll be there" and "It's a Small World" and "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt." She is a little girl with powerful hugs which embrace my entire heart.

Not that our lives are perfect. But my biggest complaint is Jon's busy schedule (although I 100% support his career, but I'm just saying); and I'm sure his biggest complaint is that I'm a backseat driver. And if we had anything remotely negative to say about Lilly, I'd think Jon would say it was the time she peed on his shoe - while he was wearing it - on purpose, because she was fairly potty trained so she should have known better; and for me I'd say I wish she didn't always want to type on my laptop. Our family complaints have nothing to do with Down syndrome, and we are blessed that there is so much love between the three of us (especially when Lilly hugs both of us and sings at the top of her lungs the "I love you, you love me" Barney song). And for the record, Lilly's complaints about her parents are that her daddy washes her hair, which annoys her, and that I won't let her wear makeup more often. It's a tough life for her, I know.

I wish in the midst of the fear of being an "older mom" and its associated risks, a woman and her doctor could take a little peek into our world, Lilly's World, and see how amazing our lives really are.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


My little girl is growing up too fast! And every day, she is learning new skills. Lilly amazes me with all the things she can do.

Just want to share all the wonderful things she can do:

Lilly can go potty all by herself - in fact, she prefers no help. She pulls down her pants, goes, flushes, washes her hands all on her own. No more diapers or pullups for this little girl! (During the day, at least.)

Lilly can also drink out of an open cup, get her own water from the fridge, and she can eat with chopsticks!

Lilly is learning to dress herself. She can put on her own jacket (the preschool upside down flip way), put on her own socks, and she loves putting on and wearing headbands and hats.

Lilly is also talking so much, and I love hearing her sing. She and I also have our first "inside joke" - I'd share it but it's inside - but she came up with it herself. She has a wonderful sense of humor. Also she has just come up with a "sign" for "cheeky" and has started signing sentences.

Lilly is also pre-reading. She is recognizing the words "sesame street" "hannah montana" and "mcdonalds" among others.

I also like to call Lilly my "backseat garmin" - she has a good sense of direction, and when we're in the car, she always tells me "go dat way" or "go da oder way" and points. She knows if you go right on a certain street, you end up at her school, and which road goes down to her neighborhood. She yells out if I don't go the way she wants when we drive around town.

I am so proud of my girl. She is a quick learner and seems to be a sponge when it comes to taking in new things.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Halloween 09!

2006, Lilly was a baby chick.

2007, Lilly was a neurosurgeon (and Jon & I were her residents).

2008, Halloween wasn't really celebrated in New Zealand (no trick or treating!) so Lilly was Cinderella (we got the costume from our Disneyland trip). Lilly's twin boyfriends came over for a party and wore their Thomas the Train shirts and boots.

This year, Lilly dressed up as the Holiday edition of Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The dress was so super gorgeous (and multi-purpose - she's going to wear it on our December trip to Disney World/Disney Cruise).

We carved an Elmo pumpkin, which Lilly LOVED. She even liked eating the pumpking seeds that I baked - half the batch was salt and the other half was cinnamon sugar.

We went to the Lawn at UVA on Friday afternoon to do trick or treating - it was packed with people!

Yes, those are hair extensions.

On Saturday (Halloween), we only went to a few houses for trick or treating. After the first house, Lilly opened up her M&M's that she just got and started eating them, which kind of took away the incentive to do too much more trick or treating. Then after another house or two, Lilly started singing "Rain, rain, go away, come again another day." Jon and I looked at each other confused and then we felt the rain drops. :)

Then we handed out candy for awhile at the house. Our subdivision must get most of the trick or treating population in Charlottesville - it was busy until we turned the lights out at 9 pm! Lilly loved opening the door and distributing candy. Although, she tried to give one piece of candy that was half eaten (by her). She also liked going outside and walking halfway down the driveway, and then coming back to the door like she was a trick or treater, and she got lots of candy from us that way! Overall it was a low key but good Halloween. :)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What a Life!

When I think about all that Lilly is/does/has, I get so jealous. She has such a great little life! But then I realize I get to experience it all with her, so it's not so bad for me either!

For the record, she's never had a "bad" age. Every phase that she's gone through, she's been such a joy & little blessing; but this age - 3 - is especially wonderful. A few nights ago I was talking with a couple other moms who have kids Lilly's age, and I mentioned how 3 was so much easier than 2, and they completely adamently disagreed with me - so every child is different. But for example, 6 months ago, I had bought a book in New Zealand called "Taming Your Toddler" - I was trying to get through the toddler tantrums and trying to really understand my child. But at this new age, I feel like I truly understand her. She is so expressive, and even when something doesn't go her way, she doesn't totally melt down.
A few days ago, I gave her a veggie burger for dinner (which is apparently against the code of toddler eating) so of course Lilly pushed the plate off the table and the food landed on the floor. For 10 minutes, I tried to convince my little girl to pick it back up, and she refused. Didn't cry, didn't argue, just really didn't want to comply. I told her that she would end up in her room for a time out if she didn't pick it up, and she still refused. I put her in her room for 2 minutes, and the entire time, she didn't have a tantrum or cry - she just really was standing by her "I don't want to pick up the food" and was totally calm about it. But after the 2 minutes I asked for a hug and for her to pick up the food, and she did - no problem. I guess my point is, she's a little negotiator, and she definitely knows what she wants and doesn't want, but she makes sense; I can reason with her.

Lilly is talking so much now, and we are just blown away by all the new words. Especially when she sings - she has so many words and such a pretty voice. Lilly, Jon & I sing the song from Barney every night "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family..." and Lilly's voice is loud and clear and it is so sweet to hear her sing along. And as always, she has so many songs memorized - from her Children's song CD's, from movies, from Sesame Street. I love hearing her voice. Except... two weeks ago we were at a party at Jon's boss's house and Lilly pointed across the room to a guy and said loudly, clearly: "beer!" Yes, Lilly, that's a beer that he's holding... shhhh.... Don't show off all your words!

Mixed with her newfound language skills are her newfound abilities to "do" so many things - which has got to feel so wonderful to her. Lilly is in big girl underpants during the day now, and is doing very well - she has accidents here or there but for the most part she is wanting to go on the potty, except when she forgets when playing. And she can count to 10, and sing the ABC's (ok, some of the letters are jumbled, but who really needs "LMNO" anyways?!). She can easily climb all kinds of playground equipment, and is making a lot of friends at school. But the coolest thing, evey better than the actual abilities that she has, is the pride that she has in the things she can do. She knows that they are hard things that she has learned and that she's a very cool little kid for mastering these skills.

She still loves all the same shows: High School Musical, Elmo/Sesame Street, Mary Poppins, Mamma Mia, Dirty Dancing, Grease, Hairspray, Hannah Montana, Annie, Enchanted, etc. And she still loves Mickey Mouse and Princesses, although she hasn't gotten into tv shows/movies with those particular characters yet - she'll watch a little of Micky Mouse Clubhouse or Little Mermaid/Cinderella but it doesn't totally hold her interest the way the other shows do. But if she sees Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck or Cinderella or Snow White, she gets SO excited. She has a Cinderella Castle dollhouse with all the princesses and loves playing with it. (A few days ago I moved it from the dining room to the living room so she could play with it there, and when she came in from school and saw it in it's new location she said "YAY!!!!" - like it was a whole new toy!). Oh and she loves going on swings and slides still, and says "Wheeeee!" enthusiastically on them.

Lilly has been sleeping in a "big girl" bed for the past couple months since we've been back, and she loves it. I found a great deal on it at JC Penny; it looks just like the Pottery Barn Kids beds but about a third of the price. So now her room looks very grown up, with princess bedding (thanks to Lyndsey & Julianne's hand-me-downs), a High School Musical Troy/Gabriella pillow, and her big girl bed. Our nighttime routine is relatively easy these days; she takes a bath, watches a little tv, and then goes up to bed. Sometimes she's unhappy for a couple minutes when we first put her in bed, or thinks of excuses to get out (like saying Potty 48 times), but after a little bit we tell her to put her head on "Troy" and go to bed. She gives the pillow version of him a kiss and puts her head down. It sometimes takes a little while for her to fall asleep, as we sing her to sleep and now that she loves singing, she sings along with us so it doesn't really wind her down! But it is such a precious time for Jon and I to put her to sleep, as we talking about her day, sing to/with her, and sometimes she gives us a million kisses before drifting off.

Ballet! She started dance classes a month or so, and she loves getting dressed up like a ballerina. For the first few classes she didn't want to go in by herself, and cried (or looked really sad) for a lot of the class; but the past couple classes she's gone in and holds the teacher's hand for most of the class, but does all the moves with the other kids. I think it's sad for her to know I'm right outside the door; but she does love dancing and especially loves the costume - she knows that it's really special to dress in a leotard and ballet shoes.

Here's Lilly at our neighborhood block party watching & dancing to the band - she is such a groupie!

Lilly going to school on a rainy day!

Horses! Lilly started hippotherapy a month ago, which is riding horses while doing therapy. Another very cool thing for her (I'm jealous!) and aside from the therapy benefits, she is so proud of herself up on the horse. She's a little nervous as she gets on, but then settles in perfectly.

Well gotta go for now... Lilly has ballet in an hour and we have to get ready! Hopefully I will get back into documenting Lilly's life on a regular basis. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More Disney Adventures - the last installment

A couple months ago I left you (yes you, all my many readers) with the cliffhanger after our second hectic day of Disney. After being tired and getting off schedule for our Hollywood Studios day, would we catch up (and stay on-spreadsheet-schedule) for the next day - and the rest of the trip? Would Florida continue to be so frickin hot?!
We woke up on Thursday morning with a plan. Animal Kingdom day, all day. The only thing we "had" to do was a breakfast reservation at 10:20. We woke up refreshed and full of energy, the bus came fairly quickly, and we arrived at Animal Kingdom 10 minutes before opening. Which means, tons of people in line to get in. I swiftly led Jon and Lilly down the left side of the masses, where we went to Rainforest Cafe. Jon may have thought I was crazy, as we rushed through the gift shop, and out the back entrance, but then he saw it: the secret (or not so secret) entrance to Animal Kingdom. There were just 7 people ahead of us here, and a minute later they started admitting us. We walked quickly to the rope drop (where they have everyone gather inside the park for an opening show, right before the official opening), and we watched as Micky Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and a couple other characters welcomed us. So far, so good.

Our main plan of attack for Animal Kingdom was Lilly-centric. Most people who arrive first thing in the morning are headed either to Kilimajaro Safari, Expedition Everest (a big roller coaster), or Kali River Rapids (a water ride). However, we went straight to where we knew we would get the most impact: Tricera Top Spin. This ride is exactly like Dumbo, and Lilly LOVED it. I can't remember if we went on it 3 times or 10 times in a row but we sure did get our money's worth, especially since there was no line at this point in the morning. After that, we went over to the Safari to get fast passes, and went on a quick walk through of the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This trail was not so interesting to Lilly - the only thing she loved was a small aquarium; otherwise, the monkeys, birds, etc, were just not her thing. Oh, but she actually liked the laminated guide map in the area telling you what kind of bird you were looking at - that, to Lilly, was interesting.

Anyways, by this point it was a little after 10 am and 100 degrees, so we went to check in to breakfast, featuring Donald Duck and friends at Tusker House. I can't describe in words the incredible feeling of being in 100 degree sweltering heat and walking inside to 65 degree air conditioning, sitting down at a table, being immediately greeted by a cup of coffee and some kind of special juice (can't remember what it was, a mixture of a few different juices but REALLY good), having the characters immediately start heading our way, and then going up to a HUGE buffet of all my favorites plus many unique options, including lots of vegetarian dishes. This was probably one of my favorite meals, both in variety & yumminess, mixed with amazing character interation. It was Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, and Goofy or Pluto - and they all came by twice. Lilly got to give the ducks huge hugs, as they bent down to her height. I know I'm super cheesy but this is what Disney Magic is all about - your child's priceless expression on their face as they experience a moment of a lifetime.

An hour later, we were released back into the hot Florida heat and we decided to go ahead and use our fastpass for the safari, even though it was now about 200 degrees outside! While the Safari is always great (especially compared to a typical "zoo" experience), I think it was too hot outside, we were very tired already, and it just wasn't so interesting this time around - especially to Lilly, who tried to look when we pointed, but by the time she turned to see, we had already passed whatever animal we were looking at. And it goes without saying, that in a moving vehicle, Jon definitely fell asleep. :)

I remembered once again that this trip was about Lilly, and to make it the happiest trip for her, we needed to not push ourselves - it was nearly noon and too hot to be outside, so we went back to Coronado Springs. I'm pretty sure we went to the pool, and then lay down for a nap. Did I mention that every day on the trip, ALL THREE of us took a nap? The heat, jet lag, our nonstop schedule - we needed the rest!

We felt great when we woke up, and decided to head back to Animal Kingdom since we hadn't really done too much there yet. We arrived right in time for a showing of Festival of the Lion King, which is probably my favorite "show" at Disney. It's music, trampoline, trapeze, swinging people, fire eaters, all the favorites. At one point, 4 kids from the audience were picked to dance with the performers, and one of them was a little boy about age 5 who has Down syndrome and was in a wheel chair. Not only did he get to fully participate (they had a performer push him around with the rest of the kids), but at the end, Simba came over to him and thanked everyone for participating, and then said to the boy "and especially YOU!" Well, just as much as you know that Jon fell asleep on the Safari, you KNOW I cried at that point in the show.

Afterwards we got dinner at Pizzafari (actually, Jon went and got ribs from somewhere, but he brought them back to eat with us). Lilly wasn't really in an eating mood, so I polished off the pizza and we decided to go over to Expedition Everest, grabbing popcorn along the way so Miss Lilly could have a snack. The plan was for Jon to ride the "single riders" line at Expedition Everest; but when we arrived that line was 20-30 minutes; and the regular line was an hour. When Jon asked the cast member if the single rider line was really that long, and she saw that Lilly and I were waiting behind him, she gave him a Fast Pass to the ride so he could ride it immediately. (Can you tell that everything was going our way today?) When he was done, it was about 6:30, and we had time for just one more thing... which meant... Lilly & I were back on Triceratop Spin (multiple times!), while Jon went on Dinosaur. Then Jon came back and rode Triceratop Spin with Lilly another time. The park closed at 7, and that's when we walked out.

We were back at Coronado Springs by 7:20, and my parents arrived an hour later. They checked in, and... we had requested that they have a room near us... but instead they were upgraded to a room on the other side of the resort - but a 2 room suite! I don't think they hesitated in being so far away from us. :) It was HUGE, and it was funny because usually my parents travel with extra kids - they have 7 grandkids now - but this was the one time when they had all that space all to themselves. (We did give Lilly to them two of the next nights though - couldn't let that space go to waste!)

The next morning, all of us were up and ready to get to Epcot by opening at 9 am. Again, this trip was all about Lilly (partly), so instead of being in the packs of people headed towards Soarin and Test Track, we were in the tiny minority of families with toddlers walking to The Seas with Nemo. (Jon did split up though and get fast passes for us to Soarin, of course.) We rode the ride, looked at the aquarium, Lilly colored at the Kidcot station, and we went to Turtle Talk (Lilly still wouldn't sit with the other kids in the front, but she liked the show).

Then, we went on Living with the Land as a family, and then my mom and Lilly hung out while my dad, Jon and I went out Soarin. Afterwards, Jon went to get more fast passes (to Test Track I think?) while my parents, Lilly and I went on Imagination. Lilly liked the little room afterwards with musical carpet squares that you can jump on. Finally, it was lunchtime, and we ate burgers. We all headed back to the hotel, where we all went down for a nap.

Late that afternoon, my parents took Lilly shoe shopping at the nearby outlets (she had no summer shoes that fit, since it had been winter in NZ). And Jon and I had date night. :) We headed back over to Epcot, first we went on Test Track using the fast passes from earlier. Then, our plan was to drink our way around the world, before dinner at Canada. Well, we split one margarita in Mexico before realizing we were running late. We got to Le Celier for dinner right on time, and had a very good meal. I can see why it gets such good reviews; but I can't honestly say it was a "must do" meal every time. (Although, it was a steak house and I'm a vegetarian, so I'm probably biased - although my meal was excellent.) After dinner, we were overstuffed and needed to walk it off - so instead of our grand plans of "drinking around the world," we walked from Epcot - out the back entrance - past the Boardwalk - and to Hollywood Studios. I had never done that whole walk before, so I wasn't sure how long it was, but I knew that it was possible. It wasn't a short walk, but it was nice, especially being so full. We went straight to Aerosmith's Rockin Roller Coaster, 10 minutes before it was closing, and stood in the single rider line for the next 20-30 minutes. (Apparently once you're in line, they let everyone ride even after the park is "closed.") By the time it was our turn, they actually put Jon and I together (which is unusual in single rider line) so that was a bonus. At 9:30, we headed out of Hollywood Studios, and called my parents to check on our adorable sleeping... "What? Lilly's still awake? She's eating ice cream?" Oh well! I think we all fell asleep at 10 pm that night. :)

Finally it was Saturday. Apparently you don't go to Magic Kingdom on Saturday, because all the locals come. However, I had strategized, read various conflicting theories on the subject, and finally decided that many people arrive at Disney World for a week's stay, and arrive on Saturday or Sunday. So their first day in the parks (which, usually MK is their first park), is Sunday or Monday. Plus, the night before was Extra Magic Hours at MK and it was open until 1 am, so people participating in that were going to a) sleep in and b) not go back to the same park. I gambled right: compared to other days in other parks, Magic Kingdom was indeed relatively managable that morning. (Plus, again, this trip was about Lilly, and her favorites are not the most crowded.)

We headed straight to Jungle Cruise, then Pirates of the Caribbean, then Magic Carpets of Aladdin (which, Aladdin and Jasmine rode at the same time, in a different "car-pet"), then Haunted Mansion, then It's a Small World, then Country Bear Jamboree. She might have ridden the Carousel too, I can't remember. (Note to self: write trip report sooner than 3 months after trip.) We ate lunch at the quick service place across from Haunted Mansion, and were back to the resort in time for our nap by 1.

That night, we went to 'Ohana for dinner (best salad dressing!), and walked around the Polynesian. It's a gorgeous hotel, and I think before living in the South Pacific and visiting Fiji, I never really "got" the theme - but it really makes sense now, and now I'd like to stay there, at some point when I can afford it! Afterwards, Jon and I went back to Magic Kingdom while my parents watched Lilly, and we rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and, I'll admit it, Peter Pan's Flight (I think we had spare fast passes from earlier). The oddest thing about Jon and I when we are out together without Lilly, is that we are used to getting so much attention from when she is with us, that it is really bizarre to basically be invisible when she's not with us. I'm still half expecting people to wave and me & Jon when we're sitting on the bus, but of course we are just another random couple, we don't have a little princess on our lap commanding attention.

On Sunday, my parents left to drive back to Atlanta in the morning. Jon, Lilly and I walked over to the playground at Coronado Springs first - it was perfect for Lilly - it's for ages 2 to 6 I think, so all the equipment isn't too crazy and it's all the right height. She was so proud of herself climbing up everything!

Then we went over to Animal Kingdom in the morning. We were a little early for the first Finding Nemo show, so we walked around and came upon some musical in a little clearing. We went in and Lilly started dancing, and suddenly Pocahontas came out to read a story to all the children. Lilly sat down with the other kids, and the story began. A minute later, characters came out of nowhere and sat amongst the kids - Chip and Dale, two random bear-type guys, and a raccoon. Lilly sat right in between Chip and Dale and loved their attention during the story. This was the best unexpected surprise of the morning! Afterwards they posed for pictures with all the families.

Then on the way to Finding Nemo we came upon a band playing funny instruments on the street. Lilly danced and played these stick things - and when we left they let her keep her stick. We watched Finding Nemo, which is a broadway style musical, and it was good, but not amazing. We went back to the hotel afterwards for - you guessed it - our daily nap.

After the nap, we went to Epcot. We got there just in enough time to visit the Voices of Liberty - a beautiful a capella group in the USA pavillion. However... it was on the complete opposite end of the park from the entrance. We put Lilly in the stroller and RAN as fast as we could (in 100 degree heat), and arrived for the last half of the concert. Then we backtracked to Norway, for our princess dinner. Another wonderful character meal experience; the princesses go out of their way to make every child feel so special, and the food was great (it's a cold buffet of salads, fruit, meats, etc for appetizers, and then you order your individual entree). Lilly ate her share of cantaloupe at this meal, and I think she ate a lot of cold peas from the salad bar as well. They brought out a cupcake to celebrate her birthday (as they had been doing at most meals this week, since it was her birthday the Saturday after our trip), and our wonderful server surprised Lilly with a princess autograph book, so she could get the princesses' signatures.

After dinner, we went to England and found Winnie the Pooh & friends at the back of a little store; Lilly got to give them big hugs (and it was perfect timing since the next morning we were eating with them, so it got her excited). Then we started walking towards the front of the park, and went on "the big ball" aka Spaceship Earth. Then we found a character greeting area where the lines weren't too long, and Lilly got to give huge hugs to Mickey Mouse & all his friends. What a wonderful ending to another wonderful day!

On Monday morning, we headed out to Magic Kingdom at 9 am. We went on Astro Orbitor and Mad Tea Party, before heading over to Crystal Palace for breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends. This is another one of my favorite meals, and I think it's the same reason as the Donald Duck Tusker House breakfast: immediately upon sitting, they poured juice and coffee. Perfectly relaxing for busy tired parents! I think we debated what to do afterwards: I can't remember if we went on (or got fast passes for) Peter Pan; but I know we went over to Mickey's Toontown Fair and thought about standing in line for the princesses (the line was already long, so we vetoed that idea) and we started to go through Mickey Mouse's house, but it was crowded and the line is typically long to see Mickey here. I think we might have gotten on the railroad at some point as well. Finally the heat was getting to us, and the park was crowded (we try not to stand in lines if we can avoid it, and we had already done so many fun things this week), so we headed out around noon. On the way - this is the best part - a band started playing the song from Mary Poppins "Sister Suffragette" or something - and Lilly LOVED it - (she loves that song in the movie) and she started dancing to it. Then, we look around on our way out and see Mary Poppins signing autographs - so we get in line. So funny that Lilly already knows and likes her!

After our afternoon nap, and possibly a swim at the pool, we went to dinner at Chef Mickey's. Another great meal, although this one seems a little less personal, but the amount and variety of food was great, and all the main characters are there. After Chef Mickey's, we went to Magic Kingdom and saw Tiki Room and possibly used fast passes to Peter Pan. I think we caught part of Spectromagic, and once we got back to the car, we saw the fireworks as we left the parking lot. Lilly was asleep 3 seconds into it!

Last day. We went to Magic Kingdom and stood in line for the princesses, and Lilly loved Cinderella so much that she kept pointing out Cinderella to Belle. Then we went to get a haircut for Lilly at the Main Street Barber shop - her third haircut of her life, and her second at Disney World. While we waited 5 minutes for her turn, Lilly and I caught a parade outside the barber shop - perfect timing! She loved her hair cut (and just loves seeing herself in the mirror) - and it was just $14 including styling and "pixie dust" (glitter). They made a big deal over the fact that the comb and scissors were the same ones they cut Cinderella's hair with, which was the absolute right thing to tell a toddler sized princess who is obsessed with Cinderella. (Although, Zac Efron's name would have worked just as well for Lilly.) :)
We went back to the hotel, packed really quickly, and got in the car for one last stop before driving back to Atlanta. We went to Fort Wilderness, and Lilly got to see the horses.

It really was a great trip for our family. The key for us, at Lilly's age, is to research a lot so that we know where things are/what she'll like, but then when we're actually there, going with the flow so that she really is enjoying the journey of it all. And getting out first thing in the morning so that we accomplished a lot before the lines started, and then taking a nap midday and taking it easy at nighttime worked well this time around. (Remember that we were also getting used to the 16 hour time difference a week after arriving in the US, so it was twice as exhausting for us.) I'm so glad Lilly got to experience such a great week though, and can't wait for us to do it all again... soon!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Buddy Walk 2009

Four years ago, Jon and I decided that it was the right time to think about having a baby. Since we got married the year before, we had prayed about this decision, that we would have the "right child at the right time." Suddenly it hit us, it was the right time. In December 2005, at our three month doctor's appointment, we had an ultrasound of our little peanut. We were so excited to see her for the first time. Then the doctor gave us some unexpected news based on various measurements, and all of a sudden we were uncertain of how to react. But, we had made the decision months before to get pregnant, and unlike an estimated 90% of people in our shoes, nothing would change our minds. I hope to not offend anyone in saying, we were in the right 10% - our beautiful daughter is the most wonderful person I've ever known. There is nothing negative about Lilly. There is nothing sad, or confusing, or anything that has ever made me question her right to live, and her right to have an amazing life.

When I was pregnant, when she was born, when she turned 1 - why did no one tell me how amazing she would be? Each step along the way, I learned for myself, and I had faith in her, and each time she exceeded my expectations. When I was pregnant and everything we knew about Down syndrome - which wasn't much at all - was presented in a negative light - Lilly danced in my belly, doing the funniest moves, making me laugh out loud during boring meetings at work. When she was born, and she needed to stay in the hospital for 2 weeks - she gave me funny little smiles, she looked at me with such love that we were instantly bonded and I'd do anything for her. During her first year, when I was told by strangers how limited her future would be - her babysitter asked if I'd rather Lilly be a lawyer like her mommy or a brain surgeon like her daddy - and I suddenly realized not to limit her options, she can accomplish whatever she wants. I wondered if Lilly would have friends as she grew up, and if her new school in New Zealand would be accepting - and she turned out to be one of the most popular kids. I wondered if she would have difficulty learning, and yesterday out of nowhere she counted to 10 by herself, and can sing along to the ABC's. I didn't know if raising a child with quote "special needs" would be depressing, and now I've never laughed so much in my life. I wondered if it would strain our marriage; instead she inspires so much love within our family. I wondered if she'd do the same things as other kids, and for the past year she has memorized songs and dance routines based on popular movies (I literally can't keep up with the dance moves!). Today after school, she starts her first dance class - Jazzy Bugs at Little Gym.

Lilly is certainly no exception to the rule, as we've discovered in meeting other friends with Down syndrome. These kids are motivated, bright, beautiful, and charismatic. I don't worry for my daughter like I thought I'd need to; I know there is so much potential inside her and I love finding ways to inspire her. The one area that she will need help, though, is in breaking stereotypes, and raising awareness, that there are no limits in what she can achieve. I watch her do this every day just by existing. A homeless guy on the Downtown mall gets a huge wave and dance, as he plays his guitar for money. A business man at the airport stops for a minute to blow a kiss back to my little sweetie, who has taken his mind off whatever business deal he's worried about. A teacher who has never worked with a child with Down syndrome gets inspired by all that my girl can learn. And randomly, daily, people come up to me to tell me how beautiful my little princess is - which of course, I know. I am the luckiest person in the scenario, because I get to live with my role model and watch her grow and thrive and flourish.

On Saturday October 17th, we will be walking in the Northern Virginia Buddy Walk, which supports and raises awareness for Down syndrome. This is so important to us. Our future, Lilly's future, is in the hands of people who may not realize how amazing she is, and will be. I want the world to know how incredible a gift I've been given, and it starts with simple efforts like a Buddy Walk. Positive Down syndrome awareness is so important. When I was pregnant, the National Down Syndrome Society sent us their "welcome parents" packet. For the first time during my pregnancy, information was presented to me in a positive light, with current data and beautiful pictures of children and adults with Down syndrome. We were ready to accept this "challenge" which instead has become such a wonderful opportunity.

If you would like to support us walking in the Buddy Walk, you are more than welcome to do so financially by going to our webpage But more important than money, I would love for you to continue the awareness - spread the word that Down syndrome is not something to be sad about or want to avoid. I would not change a thing about my little princess, and I thank God so much for sending her to us. I can't imagine it any other way. I want Lilly to grow up feeling accepted by society, and to be able to follow her dreams no matter what they are, and that starts with simple awareness and inclusiveness. It is amazing what a child like Lilly can accomplish when we give her every opportunity to succeed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Good to be home

Here it is. What you've all been waiting for. A kind of wrap up of the New Zealand year (which ended 6 weeks ago!) mixed with a "how are we settling back into the US" theme.

New Zealand was good and bad. Luckily, the bad was first so looking back, our memories are mostly positive. The first few months were cold and rainy and we weren't settled in yet - just starting to meet people but not a lot of friends. And I feel like for almost the first six months, we were still buying things that we needed for the house and for Lilly, so it was still a period of transition, and an expensive one at that. But we gradually met some friends, and getting used to the lifestyle. We figured out the layout of Auckland, and we began traveling a lot outside of the city. I loved getting in the car (or plane) and leaving Auckland; there was something symbolic to me about fleeing - probably that I still wanted to head straight back to the US at times. But we survived, and in the last few months had a great time. Lilly became the most popular girl in her preschool class, Jon and I found a group of friends who we loved, and then... we moved back home.

Since we've been back, we've been overwhelmed with things like the huge size of Target stores, the big portions at Atlanta Bread Company, and the wide variety of "stuff" you can buy anywhere. I was shocked, when we went to buy a new potty for Lilly, that there are about 20 different models we could choose from. Plus more online. And things like electronics and clothes, are so cheap! Cars are so big! Roads are so wide! Seriously, these are the things that are shocking Jon and I, and making us feel incredibly overwhelmed, wide-eyed, and culture shocked.

And our house... which we hadn't seen in 12 months... I think we had forgotten what it's like to live in America, and what our house was like, and how much stuff we had, and how comfortable it all is, etc, etc. Our experience in NZ was pretty much having the bare minimum, partially because we were there for a short time, and partly because everything was so expensive, but also because there is less "stuff" generally, and it doesn't seem like people are buying things just to have them. Not so, here in America, where a store like Bed Bath and Beyond can convince a person they need wicker baskets for storing toys, and certain shaped bowls just for eating fruit. We are definitely grateful for all we have here in the US, but some of it does seem excessive - we probably own over a dozen pillows, and they are all fairly new and in good shape. And don't get me started on TV... besides the fact that there are a gazillion channels (and we just have regular cable!), and that there is *always something interesting to watch, we are super-impressed by DVR, because we can now always watch anything we want. It is (from a sheltered Kiwi girl's perspective) mind blowing. Ya'll don't understand because you haven't been away from it; but trust me. I won't even get into my newfound fascination with frozen dinners. :)

My point on it all? I'm not sure. New Zealand was nice, we had a good experience overall. Being back in the US is really nice, and feels so much more like home, although we're now getting used to life here all over again. One thing I've noticed that might be symbolic: in New Zealand, I wore jeans every day. On Sundays, I'd occasionally wear a dress or nice pants to church; but most days I was in jeans. Here? I've barely worn jeans at all. I'm wearing dresses, skirts, shorts, accessories, jewelry... I think that, even when I really liked New Zealand, I didn't feel comfortable there - I was an outsider, with a strange accent, and even though everyone was totally friendly, I was trying to blend in, to hide a bit. Back here, I'm ready to stand out; I have much more confidence. Either way, it's nice to be home. But I still miss my friends in New Zealand.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


My camera is broken, so at least I can partially explain my recent lack-of-blogging on that. (The new one is already ordered and on it's way; once I receive it next week I will promptly wrap it so that Jon can give it to me for my birthday present. :) )

In lieu of adorable pictures, I thought I'd just give you a few "snapshots" of what we've been up to. *Edited to add that I just uploaded some pics from a couple weeks ago.*
  1. My cousin Christopher's wedding, June 27th. Of course it was great catching up with family, and I always love a good wedding, but the highlight of the weekend was Lilly's reaction to everything. She had the BEST time! It started with the ceremony - we were lucky that Lilly just got back from Disney World. She was totally in "princess" mode, and since brides are obviously princesses in their dresses, as soon as I whispered we were watching "Princess Lisa" get married, she sat quietly through the entire ceremony. Of course she had to wave a little to the princess and her prince while they were exchanging vows (she was so used to waving to Cinderella from the week before!). And then the wedding reception... she had the best time ever dancing and boogying. She swayed and twirled to the slow songs, and danced hard to the fast songs, learning new moves along the way. At 11:30 pm, we literally had to drag her from the dance floor.

  2. Lilly's adjustment to moving back: Lilly is back at Malcolm Cole daycare, and she loves her teachers and friends. She's totally used to the house again, and she loves her new big girl room (princess themed, obviously) with a big girl bed. The only side effect to her adjustmend is the same thing that happened when we moved to NZ, or when we do major traveling: Lilly has become a picky eater, to control part of her environment. It's not so bad, as she is eating something in every food group (for example, she likes chicken nuggets, cheese, yogurt, peas, raw carrots, bread, cantaloupe, grapes, etc); but she randomly doesn't like a certain favorite food one day, and yet at other times she'll want to experiment.

  3. Little Gym. Her new favorite place to hang out on the weekends. She loves the songs and the equipment and the activities. It's amazing to see her back here, a year+ later, when the last time she was there she couldn't even walk yet, and now she's running. Her very first class, she volunteered to walk the balance beam in a demonstration, and she did great. Last week, we celebrated her boyfriend Jack's birthday there, and at one point they were holding hands walking around a circle together - super adorableness. :)

  4. CHEEEEEESE! We have a little ham on our hands! Her new hit trick is putting her arm around us and saying "Cheese!" like she's posing for a camera. Doesn't matter if there is a camera involved or not, but it is a little helpful if we are actually taking her picture.

  5. Fridays After 5. The free Charlottesville concert at the Pavillion behind my work. We've gone the past 3 weeks, and she loves standing down in the front and dancing hard. She's such a little groupie. Funny thing is that the rest of the weekend she is recognized everywhere we go!

  6. 3 versus 2. While Lilly has never had a "bad" age, 3 is such a fun age so far. She is more grown up, understands so much, and seems to have more common sense. She humors me by sitting with me each night before bed so we can watch parts of Full House together, and at my request copies the cute "Michelle" parts. And then I humor her by watching a few minutes of America's Got Talent. Sometimes we watch a few minutes of America's Funniest Home Videos, which she seems bored with until people get hit with balls or bats - then she laughs hysterically. Also, she's more easy going in getting dressed, brushing her hair, etc. She's saying a lot more too (yesterday she said "Go away" to me!).

  7. Smartie pants! We are complete slackers lately in "teaching" her things like letters and numbers and colors, etc, but she is a sponge and picks things up naturally. Today, I realized she can read/word recognition "Sesame Street" and "Fall." Actually, fall is kind of random because there was a book about seasons at the doctor's office, and she was looking at it herself, and on one page there was "Fall" with a bunch of leaves underneath and a man raking them. And Lilly looked at the page, saw the word fall, and said "Ohh!" and put her hand over her mouth, like she does if someone falls down. There was nothing in the picture to make her think the guy was falling besides the word (b/c it actually looked like he was just standing there). So clearly, she's a genius. :) And, when we count to 10 or sing ABC's she totally says/sings it with us. She's starting to learn her shapes, although she clearly prefers circles (which she calls "round").
  8. Good night! Like I said before, Lilly is now sleeping in a big girl bed. She was ok with it, although the first few nights she got up and wandered around. Since she can easily open any door, we got her a gate for her room. When she wakes up in the morning, she opens her door but can't get past the gate. So she stands there and shouts "Hello!" It's actually a great morning alarm for me. If I don't get her right away, she shuts the door and starts reading books. After she's finished, she opens the door again and shouts "Mama!" This time she means business, and I go get her. She is SO cute at night when we put her to bed. First we read her a book or two, and then she lies down and we tell her a story. We've been working on memory/cognitive skills, so I either tell her what happened to her that day or a story from her past, or retell a storyline from Sesame Street/High School Musical. Sometimes we go over what we'll do tomorrow, or when she'll see family members soon. I think it's very important because since she's at school all day and we don't have much time with her, it opens the door of communication with us, and is such a special time. Sometimes she anticipates what's coming next, and tells me (like when Big Bird sits on Elmo's tricyle, she goes "bam" and claps her hands together because, of course, he breaks it). Anyways, we then turn on her music and she's pretty relaxed and goes right to sleep. It is definitely my favorite part of the day with her.
We're definitely having a good time together. Lilly is so very charming, and she wraps her daddy and mommy around her little fingers. Nothing better than her wonderful kisses and hugs!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Disney - Continued

Lilly in the car early in the morning on our way driving from Atlanta to Orlando...
she was so excited but so tired!

Two weeks ago, Jon updated you about our first day of Disney, which as I will remind you, was definitely magical. An easy drive down, a beautiful hotel room, a High School Musical Parade (twice!) and American Idol (which was probably Lilly's favorite show the entire trip) at Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM), a magical dinner & fireworks experience at Cinderella's Castle, and a few rides, including Lilly's first roller coaster, Goofy's Barnstormer. We got back to the room at almost midnight, after a completely wonderful day. Which means, of course...
... our plans for the next day were ruined. Not ruined, actually, but we had to switch gears.

Originally, we were planning on hitting Magic Kingdom first thing (arriving at 8:30 for a 9 am rope drop opening), riding all our favorites, and back to the room by lunchtime. Yeah, right. Lilly was still getting used to the 8 hour time difference from New Zealand, plus the late night out... So we decided that in order to make this the most perfect trip, we had to be flexible. Plus, we did 5 rides during our late night the night before (It's a Small World, Winnie the Pooh, Goofy's Barnstormer, Carousel, and Buzz Lightyear), so we were already ahead with what we had accomplished. Looking over the schedule in my head (the actual Excel spreadsheet schedule never had to be consulted because I had memorized it), I knew that our only deficiency was that we didn't have a solid block of time at Hollywood Studios due to the stupid Star Wars weekend that we wanted to avoid. So, Wednesday was a sleep-in day and then on to Studios.
Unfortunately, I didn't get the memo regarding sleeping in, so I woke up at 6:30, walked down to get a cup of coffee, and walked around the entire lake of the resort. I sat in a hammock, strolled by the pool, and called the two people who might be awake at that time of day (Melanie, and my mom). Finally, Jon & Lilly arose, they went down to breakfast (Pepper Market) while I got ready, and then we were off. We arrived at Hollywood Studios around 11 am and went directly to Toy Story Mania to get fast passes (it typically has a 2 hour wait, and our fast pass was not until 5 pm). From there we went to the Backlot Studios Tour, as most everything else had a long wait, and then on to Mickey's Clubhouse for the 12 pm show (Lilly loved singing and dancing along). By the time it was over, it was 12:40 and about 100 degrees, but I really wanted to catch Beauty and the Beast (a broadway-style show), so I sent Jon ahead and stopped for an ice cream bar to tide Lilly over until lunch, and cool her off. The pro's of this decision: she loved the ice cream, and we caught the once a week version where they have sign language interpreters, which I loved seeing. The downside: it pushed our entire schedule back, and Lilly was not only a big mess eating her Micky Bar, but she also didn't pay attention to the show because of the ice cream. Oh well. After it was over, we got lunch at a nearby bakery (great sandwiches, chips, cookies, etc.), and skedaddled out of the park so that an overtired Lilly could catch a nap.
We arrived back at Coronado Springs by 2, and Lilly took a nap by 3. We all fell asleep, but had to wake Lilly up by 4 so that we could get to our dinner that night. Which meant, Lilly was a cranky girl, bless her heart, for the next hour until we got to the Grand Floridian for 1900 Park Faire for dinner with Cinderella, the stepsisters & stepmom, and the prince. She had a great time before dinner dancing to a band upstairs (and we went up to wave to them for awhile), and finally we went into dinner. Cinderella is her absolute favorite, so Lilly was very impressed that she saw her two nights in a row. The prince swept Lilly off her feet with his charm. But the hit of the night was one of the stepsisters, who made us laugh and Lilly loved. The food was great too - a buffet with lots of options, including a variety of salads, international foods, a kids buffet, and a dessert bar. Lilly especially loved the endless supply of cantaloupe.

Lilly charming Prince Charming...

Lilly loved Cinderella except she was a little shy up close in person.

But she was totally impressed by the stepsisters!

After dinner (around 6:30), we were all exhausted from the heat and the late night the night before. In order to not push ourselves too much so that we could keep early hours the rest of the week, we decided to head back to Hollywood Studios for just one ride (using the hard-to-get Toy Story Mania fast passes). As we were parking the stroller, I handed the fast passes off to Jon and... one dropped into a grate in the ground. Just our luck! I played the good guy and said I'd sit out (even though it's a new ride we all wanted to ride), but Jon told the ticket-checker about the situation and they waved me through. Yay! So we all rode after all. It was actually a pretty cool ride; although I would certainly not stand in a 2 hour line for it; but certainly worth riding using a fastpass. We got back to the room by 8 and went right to sleep.

Next up... will our early night mean that we'll have a relaxed and refreshed
experience the next day at Animal Kingdom? To be continued...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lilly's Super Sweet Third Birthday!

Today was Lilly's Super Sweet 3rd Birthday, and it was such a great day I was almost in happy-tears throughout the day. God has given us such a blessing in our little girl and she sure exploited all her charm today. As background, we've only been back in Charlottesville for 2 days, so we are half-unpacked and the house is a mess. But this morning when we woke up, we decided the organization can wait, because today is about Lilly. None of our NZ boxes have arrived yet (we just have the 5 suitcases we took on the plane so far) so Lilly doesn't have many toys set out; but we went through our bonus room storage and found some age-appropriate things for her to play with and set up her playroom downstairs. She now has a play kitchen, table, pretend stuff, blocks, and, most importantly, a karaoke machine set up. We played for awhile with all her "new" (old) things, and she also got to open her gifts from daddy - a "my first" t-ball set and golf set. Oh what a lucky girl to be swinging bats and clubs at balls and mommy & daddy. But we survived.
Then Lilly and I decided that, since it was her birthday, we would go shopping. I know I have a reputation but really we haven't bought much in the year we were gone, and I've barely been in a clothes store since I've been back. So, we went out to buy Lilly and I new dresses for her birthday party tonite. Lilly was an excellent shopper, and managed to talk us both into two dresses each instead of one. Oh well, it's her birthday. :)
So then we went to Giant Food to pick up her princess birthday cake. She got a balloon and a free cookie. What a lucky girl! We drove home, ate lunch, and she took a nice nap while we cleaned up for the party.
After her nap, Lilly and I decided to have a dance party. She is an incredible dancer, and follows directions really well, so I was making up little dance routines and she was copying me. Like, "twirl, twirl, twirl, then jump up, come down, and clap your hands." She loved it. We put in Christine & Chris's cd from their wedding, and we danced for about an hour. It was one of the most precious moments I've ever had with my daughter. Since Lilly was in such a great mood, I decided she should try karaoke for the first time (well not really the first but first time since she was really little). We dusted off the old karaoke machine, found a high school musical karaoke cd that we just happened to have (it came free with one of her dvds), and spent the next 20 minutes singing & dancing. She knows all the words to the songs, but was shy at first, but then started getting into it.
By this time, her boyfriend Jack and his parents and adorable baby sister Erin came over (we hadn't met her yet as she was born while we were in NZ), and we celebrated Lilly's birthday with pizza, ice cream, and cake. Lilly opened her big present from us (well, from me - Jon's gift was the sporty things), so my gift to Lilly was appropriately a Cinderella's castle that's like a dollhouse - it opens up and comes with 5 princesses and their princes, and lots of furniture, etc. What a lucky girl! After our friends left, Lilly, mommy & daddy karaoke-ed some more, and this time Lilly sang along to all of it. If you look at the pictures, Lilly & Jon are totally mouthing the same exact thing at the same time.
The day ended with me putting the princess to sleep, in her new "big girl bed" (it's her 3rd night to sleep in it, and is doing well besides some late night wandering and sometimes waking up across the room instead of on the mattress). Of course I get emotional and start telling Lilly about the day she was born, and she interrupts my heartfelt story to sing "where is thumbkin." She was so cute with the hand movements for it (and I love when she sings on her own) but she couldn't get that song out of her head, as she did it about 100 times before falling asleep. Oh well, it's her birthday.
We did all our favorite things today - eating, shopping, playing, dancing, and singing. We were so fortunate 3 years ago when Lilly arrived in our lives. Lilly is the best little girl a mommy could ever hope for.
***I promise that I will get to writing the rest of our Disney Trip Report. Not trying to make it a huge cliffhanger; we had a wonderful time but there are too many memories and pictures for me to tackle! I will get the next installment written this week.***