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Friday, December 1

We planned to leave Julia at her grandfather's house for the weekend while we attended some company Christmas parties, one tonight and another tomorrow night. Julia did, if fact, go for the weekend. However, I have been hit with a nasty case of the flu. I've been sleeping 14 hours a day (I usually sleep 6) and feeling generally miserable. I took a double dose of decongestant and we headed out to my wife's Christmas party. They had a nice buffet meal, and then had Las Vegas-style games afterwards. The idea was to win so that you could have more chances at the door prizes. We did not stay late; my wife was being very sympathetic to my plight.

Sunday, December 3

We went to get Julia from her grandfather's house and had a rather full Sunday morning. Julia had regular choir practice, then we went to Mass, and Julia sang her first solo! It was just a couple of lines, but she did a very good job. Then she celebrated Sacrament of the Sick, followed immediately by an extra choir practice for the kids in the Christmas show.

Tuesday, December 5

Per our doctors instructions, we are lowering Julia's Prednisone dose by 1mg without lab work to confirm it. It's frankly a little scary, but she's been doing great and we have no reason to suspect a problem.

Current Drug Dose: Prednisone: 3mg/day Quinacrine: 100mg/day Folic Acid: 1mg/day Calcium: 900mg/day Methotrexate: 25mg/week

Thursday, December 7

I got one of the biggest surprises of my life today. Tonight, my family informed me that, to celebrate my 40th birthday last weekend, we were leaving tomorrow morning for a 4-day mini-vacation in Orlando Florida! I had an idea that something was happening this weekend, but this floored me. We spent the evening packing and thenwent to bed early to catch an early flight.

Friday, December 8

We got to the Airport early to beat the predicted snow. Just as we arrived, it was very cold (about 15°) and starting to snow a bit. By the time our plane took off, there was already a coating of snow on the ground and it was coming down at a moderate clip. But who cares?!? Within 3 hours, we touched down in Orlando, where it was 75° and sunny! Talk about culture shock.

An airport limo was waiting to whisk us off to our hotel, the Portofino Bay Hotel. The hotel is on the property of Universal Studios, and just opened earlier this year. It's a beautiful hotel with an Italian setting. The room was very nice, the pool was lovely and the service was excellent.

A few minutes after we arrived, we unpacked, changed into shorts (in December!), and headed out to the Universal Studios theme park. The transportation is by boat, a quick 10 minute ride from the hotel to a dock at City Walk, an area of shops, clubs, and restaurants. From there. it's just a 2 minute walk to the park.

The park was all but empty! There was no wait to speak of at any of the rides or attractions. In just a few hours, we'd hit all the big rides and shows - Twister, Back To The Future, T-2 3-D, Kongfrontation, Earthquake, MIB, the Alfred Hitchcock 3-D show, and more! The weird thing about the whole experience was sweating in 80° heat while listening to Christmas carols being piped in over the sound system. None of us has ever been to a warm place in the cold months before.

It was a long day with a early start and travel, but we all held up well, especially Julia. She got plenty of sunscreen and seemed to have plenty of energy all day. After we left the park, we had a nice dinner at NBA City, a restaurant with an NBA basketball there. It was complete with hardwood floors, big-screen TVs everywhere, and a real basketball hoop to shoot dirty paper towels through in the restrooms. We enjoyed some good food and extremely attentive service. if you're at all an NBA fan, be sure to check this place out if you're in Orlando!

Saturday, December 9

Day 2 in Orlando, and if anything, it's hotter than yesterday. Today we went to the Islands of Adventure theme park. We got there early and started over at the Jurassic Park area. Anyone who has seen the movie will recognize the entrance arch to that area of the park. They picked up a lot of cues from the movie, with food available at "The Watering Hole" and "The Burger Digs", and shopping at the "Dinostore". We visited the Visitor's Center, the Ticeratops Encounter, and rode the River Adventure ride, which got us all somewhere between wet and soaked. However, it was warm and it felt good.

Next, we went to the Lost Continent area which has a middle eastern theme. I rode the Dueling Dragons coaster, which is a dangling-feet coaster. This is actually a 2-in-1 coaster which operate simultaneously and which come within just a few feet of each other several times during the ride. This is one wild coaster! We also took the Poseidon's Fury show, which featured water, fire, explosions, and an old guy. Julia also got a hair wrap in here, which has now become an Orlando tradition.

Next stop, Seuss Landing. This section is abviously geared for the littler kids, but there was a lot fo fun stuff for the bigger kids and adults, too. Everything here is decorated for Christmas ("Grinchmas") in Whoville, in conjunction with the movie. We didn't really ride any rides in here, but we grabbed some lunch in Circus McGurkus, and took in the wonderful job of decorating.

After lunch we headed over to Toon Lagoon. We rode Popeye & Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges, a raft ride that got us all soaked. Since we were already all wet, we headed over to Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, a log flume ride that got us even wetter. Soaked to the skin, we headed back to the hotel to change clothes and dry off - we used the hair dryer so much to dry our stuff that its cirucit breaker tripped!

After drying off, we headed back. The girls wanted to do some shopping, and I wanted to ride the Incredible Hulk coaster. Wow! What a coaster! This reminded me of the outstanding Superman Ride of Steel back at Six Flags New England. This coaster starts you up the incline, and about halfway up, you start accelerating and shoot out of the top at high speed. When you don't expect this (most coasters just slowly cart you to the top of the first incline), it's an incredible rush! I rode this thing 3 times before I went to meet the girls. Here's a picture I took that I like a lot (click it for a larger version):

Click for larger (41K) image

We went through the rest of the park and checked out a few more attractions. We left just before they closed the park at 7:00, and headed over to eat at the NASCAR Cafe. Obviously, this is a NASCAR racing theme restaurant, with memorabilia all over the place, racing stuff on all the video monitors, and two race cars suspended from the ceiling of the dining area. They also had a motion ride whch took you through some NASCAR racing sequences, which Julia & I rode. We're not really into the NASCAR thing, but the theme was cool and the food was very good.

Sunday, December 10

Today we headed back to Universal Studios to ride some of our favorites again, and catch anything we missed on Friday. We did see the Twister show again (hint: it's better from the *back* row), and we saw the T-2 3-D show again. Both are spectacular.

After those, we went over to the Nickelodeon area. This was very cool - this is the actual production studio for many of the Nick shows. We got to see the production stages, some of the director's equipment, and some other cool stuff. Then we got to watch a high-energy Nick pseudo-show where kids and parents got to do stunts and games on a stage. Julia did volunteer and managed to embarrass her mom very nicely by making her dress up in half of a CatDog suit. Very fun.

After Nick, we grabbed some lunch, then Julia wanted to go to the hotel pool and swim. I decided to stay in the park and catch a couple more shows and things while the girls went off to the pool. I went on the Hanna-Barbera ride (a motion ride with a cartoon theme), then took in the Beetlejuice musical revue, and the Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show, which was very entertaining. Julia had a blast at the hotel's beach pool, complete with a faux sand beach. Mom was poolside soaking up the rays and the margaritas.

We met up back at the hotel and I learned that a minor disaster has happened. Julia's stuffed friend, "Saturday" the bear that she'd made at Build-A-Bear a couple of weeks ago was missing. Apparently, she tucked it in her bed before we left this morning and the housekeeping staff must have accidentally taken it with the laundry. We called several times, but no one had seen the bear. They promised to do a thorough search and that we'd have the bear before we checked out tomorrow.

A slightly sad Julia joined us for nice dinner at City Walk. We ate at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. We ate on the deck and it was a wonderful evening to eat outdoors. After dinner, we walked around and visited a couple of shops.

Monday, December 11

Sadly, our time in Orlando had to come to an all-too quick end. We got up and packed this morning, and noticed that Julia seems to have gotten a bit of sun on her face and shoulders. It's not a big deal, but we'll keep an eye out on it.

After packing our stuff, we had several hours to kill before our early afternoon flight back to New England. Julia's mom wanted to visit a local rubber stamping store called the Stamp Cabana. We took a taxi out to it. It was situated in an area of small shops, and since I had no interest in this place, I wandered around for a while. I did manage to get some Christmas shopping done (stocking stuffers mostly), and mom got her fill of rubber stamping stuff.

When we got back to the hotel, we went to check out and they hotel staff had still not turned up Julia's bear! She was so disappointed, she was weepy about it the whole rest of the day. The manager of the hotel was very nice and was extremely understanding. He offered to let Julia find a replacement friend in the hotel gift shop and they would reimburse us for it. That was a very nice gesture, and we took him up on it rather than go home with no bear and no compensation. Julia picked a sad-looking owl, which was somehow very appropriate.

Our trip home was mostly uneventful. Our plane was coming in from Chicago, which was socked with a blizzard that delayed everything in and out of there. We did finally get off the ground an hour late, but arrived home only about half an hour after the schedule.

Overall, Julia held up very well for this vacation. I'd have to say she even showed more stamina than our trip to Dianey back in May. She never showed any hint of being tired or cranky. I'd have to say she even held up better than her mom ;-)

Tuesday, December 12

Well, it looks like the missing bear saga will have a happy ending after all. The manager of the hotel called us today and said that they had found the bear! They will be shipping it to us post haste.

The redness on Julia's face from the sun has mostly cleared up. She doesn't seem to be suffering any other bad effects from the trip.

Thursday, December 14

The missing bear arrived today and in perfect shape (although stuffed into a box that was a bit too small for it). Julia was ecstatic. We plan to be doing our Christmas cards this weekend, and we'll be sure to send the Manager one with a hearty Thank You note.

Sunday, December 17

Today was a very weird weather day. It was rainy and very windy and unseasonably warm - it got up to almost 70° which is unusual for this time of year and a lot warmer than it's been the past couple of weeks. Well, the winds turned nasty, and a lot of electic customers in the area lost power. A big dead tree fell on a power line down our street, and we, too, lost power for about 8 hours!

Mom had to go in to work to help coordinate power restoration. We stayed home and worked on finishing up the Christmas cards. The majority of them went out with a photo of Julia, her school picture this year:

Click for a larger photo

Julia was a bit scared of the wind and the rain and the dark, but she was very brave and managed to get a good night's sleep.

Monday, December 18

Just before bedtime tonight, Julia lost another tooth - her third in the past month. There's a fourth that looks like it's going to come out any day now. We think this is good news, and sign that she's growing again.

Sunday, December 24

It's Christmas Eve, and Julia has a "reader" part in the Christmas Gospel presenatation in church this afternoon. The Readers are supposed to have their parts memorized, but a couple of the younger ones cheat a bit. Julia has her part down flawlessly (even though she froze up during the dress rehersal and forgot her lines), and I think she is by far the best of the eight readers. We are so proud of her!

We sent cards (with photos) to several families at church, and many of them commented to us on how good Julia looks. This is very gratifying, and a nice confirmation of how well she is doing compared even to last Christmas.

Our usual Christmas Eve routine of visiting Julia's grandfather was changed this year because of Julia's part in church. Instead of going there, they came to see Julia in church, then came to our house for dinner and presents. It was wonderful! There was a lot more for us to do, of course, but it was really all worth it.

Monday, December 25

Merry Christmas, everyone! Since we went to Church last night, we didn't have to go this morning. This made for a much more leisurely and relaxed Christmas morning at home. We exchanged our presents to each other and had a late breakfast. Very nice.

Thursday, December 28

Julia commented to us at bedtime that she felt a little weird. This turned out to be a severe understatement.

Friday, December 29

In the wee hours of this morning, Julia was up out of bed several times vomiting. The first time, she lost most of what she ate for supper, and after that there wasn't much volume but still plenty of action. SHe was basically miserable. It's a very helpless feeling to hear and see her being so sick and being utterly unable to do anything to help.

When she got up in the morning (she was able to sleep late because of school vacation), she vomited some more, then had a couple of bouts of diarrhea. She was running a slight fever (99.6°F). She was also unable to keep any fluids down; even just drinking a little tepid water would make her vomit all over again. We called the doctor and scheduled an appointment; we were worried about Julia getting dehydrated with all those fluids going ot and nothing going in to replace them. We were fortunate to actually get an appointement with her regular pediatrician, Dr. L. He's much more aware of Julia's history than anyone else at our health center.

He examined her and said it might be food poisioning, but more likely it was a stomach flu. Apparently there have been other similar cases recently. He suggested that we let Julia rest, sleep as much as she wants, and give her fluids like slightly warmed soda and clear soup. If it doesn't improve, we should bring her back.

Well, by late afternoon, she was indeed able to keep down some soda and a tiny bit of soup. After she went to the doctor, there was no more vomiting, and only a little more diarrhea. By bedtime, Julia was feeling a bit better, but still tired, and went to bed early despite resting and napping all day. Being sick really takes it out of you.

Saturday, December 30

Julia was still feeling tired early today. However, she was able to get some more liquids down, and as the day progressed, she was able to eat more and more solid food. By the end of the day, she was back to her old self! Her resiliency, except when she was on high doses of Prednisone, is amazing - she always seems to bounce back from illness very well.

Sunday, December 31

This is the last day of the year, century, and millennium (for those who argue that the millennium ended a year ago, click here for the best explanation of the situation I've seen). We went to church, grabbed some lunch at home, then headed out to the mall. Julia & I spent a couple of hours at Buster & David's, a restaurant that also has a huge arcade of video and other games. She and I played a lot of skee ball, hoop shooting, and some other fun stuff. It was a blast! In the meantime, mom got to do what she wanted - shop. Cool.

After we got home, we settled in with junk food for supper and watched Titanic, which we did last year and seems to be our new New Year's Eve tradition. Near the end of the movie, Julia asked me to pass her a tissue. I did. A minute later, she announced that she had pulled her loose tooth! That's 4 teeth gone in the past 2 months. She seems to have more gaps than teeth right now!! Oh, and she also announced that she has another loose tooth. Yikes!

Anyway, we didn't even make it until midnight. We all went to bed at about 10:30. Oh, well! Happy New Millennium, everyone!

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Updated January 5, 2001
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