Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Highlights of the Mediterranean Cruise - Pompeii

Continuing the recap of our European Vacation...our next stop was...

Walking Tour of Pompeii, Italia -- June 7, 2012

 Thinking that it was not going to be very wheelchair accessible, we decided to backpack Aidan here as we walked around to see the ancient ruins.  We made the unwise decision to leave the stroller on the tour bus.  That turned out to be a painful mistake (painful for Aidan and labor-intensive for us)!  
A lot of it was quite accessible.  Pushing Aidan in the stroller could have saved him a lot of pain and agony, as we learned that too much time in the backpack carrier was very uncomfortable for Aidan.  The soft carrier that I got for this Europe trip just did not have enough support for him.  The lack of support in the backpack carrier coupled with Aidan’s severe scoliosis made the ride in the backpack carrier quite uncomfortable for him.
 He would shriek with tears rolling down his face. Ugh! It pained me to see him so uncomfortable!  Instead, Monica and I took turns carrying him in our arms and slowly bringing up the rear of the tour group.  That was the labor-intensive part, walking and carrying about 48 lbs in your arms but we did get to sit and rest when the guide would talk.  Aidan was happier and more comfortable so it had to be done.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

We're back!!

We’re back!  We’re still here…alive and kickin’!!  I know it’s been almost a year and half since I last posted here.  I was victim to the comforts of my couch and snoozing in front of the TV instead of writing for this blog.  Sometimes as a mom, special needs or not, we’ll take sleep whenever we can get it.  And if Aidan is in a good stretch and sleeping well, I get to sleep well.  Though sometimes, instead of going to sleep, I stay up and watch a movie or a favorite TV show.  And more times than not, I usually fall asleep about 20 minutes into it.  Kevin then gets upset when it’s a movie that I chose and one for which he didn’t really care.  Then I get penalized and lose my movie choosing privilege for the next 2 movie-watching occasions.  After the boys are in bed and long past counting sheep, what I should really do is go to bed.  They always tell new moms, “You should sleep when the baby sleeps!”  While that is excellent advice, it’s a little impractical for the mom who wants some semblance of self to enjoy the little things like catching up on “Scandal” or dreaming of competing on “The Amazing Race” or even just to take a shower and shave her legs?!  That time when the child is asleep, is high-value ME time, and personally, I don’t want to squander it away by sleeping.  I really can’t complain though.  I’ve got really great support with a live-in nanny and her husband, who are just like another set of grandparents to my kids, and tremendous overall help to our family.  I’ve also got a wonderful, young male caregiver, who has become Aidan’s activity-enabler and big brother-buddy, and an understanding husband who I can wake up and tag team with me on Aidan’s bad nights.  Overall though, Aidan doesn’t have too many bad nights that often.  Though recently, Aidan has had several bad nights that I cannot quite figure out what is bothering him.  As a mom, it’s the most agonizing and heartbreaking feeling when your child is bothered by something and you can’t help make it better.  Aidan also gets frustrated and tears up after a while, and that is when I feel the most helpless.  My hypothesis is that he has had some adult teeth cutting through the gums.  Though I can’t remember how that felt from my childhood, I am sure it must be painful.  Another hypothesis is that he has reflux issues.  There have been a few nights where I've had to put him sleeping in his wheelchair reclined.  He settled down and seemed more comfortable when he was positioned more upright.  So, we bear through those bad days and move forward.  Fortunately the good days outnumber the bad days by a lot.  Even so, I have gotten used to sleeping less than 5 hours and can actually function quite well.
            So now I want to try to revive this blog and bring it up to date.  We last left off in the middle of our European cruise.  The next few posts may be more pictorial to catch everyone up to what’s been going on with us.  Aidan is a busy dude and he gets around.  J

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Cruise stops in Turkey and Greece, "Special" Vacation, 4

May 15, 2012
Today we docked at Kusadasi, Turkey.
Connor woke up not feeling well.  He had a bit of vomiting and stomach pains.  We all still went out to the ancient city of Ephesus by a private van and tour guide which Kevin arranged.  This works well for us, as we can determine our own schedule and order of sites to see and also helps in accommodating the extra time to get Aidan on and off.  Monica volunteered to backpack Connor since he wasn't feeling well.  And Kevin backpacked Aidan thru the walk of the ancient ruins.
The ancient city of Ephesus, is mind-blowing.  It is an entire city of ancient ruins thousands years old, so well-preserved.  To think that man could have built such elaborate and sophisticated structures back then is unfathomable.  We also went to the religious shrine of The Virgin Mary's House, which is believed to be where Mary went to live out her days after the Resurrection of Christ.  There was a prayer wall there where people would write prayers on napkins or pieces of paper and tied them onto the wall.  I made my standard prayer and wish for my Aidan, its always the same wish that I make when I go to temples or churches, or blowout birthday candles.  Its the wish that my Aidan will walk, talk and be independent.  I figure that this could be the holiest, and closest point to the Higher Power, it may have the best chance of being granted.

Prayer Wall at the Virgin Mary's House
Our guide took us to a lunch place co-op where we had traditional Turkish food, lots of grilled meats and side sauces.  At the same place they also demonstrated to us how they get silk from the silk worms and make them into different color threads for making the famous Turkish rugs.  We saw how the ladies produce these hand-made rugs by labor-intensive, time-consuming meticulous work.  It takes about 15 months to make one rug, so its no wonder that Turkish rugs have the high quality and high price reputation (e.g., $6-12,000 for an 8x10ft).  Kevin and I almost got lured into buying a rug.  We did considerate it, but luckily we did not do it, because the prices turned out to be inflated compared to the bazaar prices.  
We also went thru the Turkish grand bazaar, a shoppers headquarters.   Personally, I love to shop anywhere and anytime, but I did not enjoy shopping at the Turkish bazaar as there was too much pressure to buy.

May 16, 2012
Today we docked at Rhodes, Greece.
It was a leisure day of exploring on our own in Rhodes.  It was an ancient walled-in city.  The wall around the city still exists and there is a castle which was called the Palace of the Knights.  Luckily Connor by now was back to himself.  We all walked around the city which had shop after shop; we walked around in the castle then continued on walking the shops and restaurants.  We settled in at a street cafĂ© for lunch.  Many people see us and look and stare at Aidan.  I sometimes wonder what they are saying to each other when they are staring, pointing and talking to each other.  My guess is, most of those people are wondering what's wrong with him and why he's out with us, so I just try to ignore them. 

May 17, 2012
Today we docked at Santorini Greece. 

Santorini is the picturesque scene that one thinks of when they think of Greece.  It’s got the beautiful cliffside homes and gorgeous blue waters.  We took a bus ride from the harbor to the town.  It would seem to me that this would be a difficult place to get around.  Its definitely not wheelchair accessible.  

Its got cobble stones, and paver stone that makes for a very bumpy ride.  And steps randomly all over because the town is built into the hillside and its very uneven.  Nevertheless we still got Aidan around.  Though as we anticipated much of this for most of Europe, I had bought a soft backpack carrier to transport Aidan around.   Kevin would backpack him and I carried the stroller.  This allowed us to put Aidan down in the stroller when we got to flat even land.  Santorini was incredibly gorgeous and even more beautiful depicted in the movies.  I would love to go back there one day and spend more time, but it definitely seems more of an adult getaway kind of place.

May 18, 2012
Today we docked at Mykonos, Greece

 It was cloudy, cold and rainy.  The port was small so our cruiseship had to dock further out and we had to take a tender boat to get to the port.  Later in the afternoon it stopped raining and we got off the cruiseship and walked around Mykonos.  Because it was rather chilly and still spotty rain, Aidan stayed on the ship with Monica.  Luckily he did because it was really not very wheelchair accessible strolling around Mykonos.  It was gravely and had large paver stones and would have been a very bumpy stroll, and also random stairs here and there.  All the better because there wasn’t really much to see there for us anyway, just shops and boutiques and cafes.  I was amazed at all the small cars driving thru the narrowly tight alleys and roads with just inches to spare from scraping the walls. Apparently, Mykonos is known more for its nightlife.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Cruise goes to Athens, Greece- Our "Special" Europe Vacation, 3

May 13, 2012
Something I ate yesterday did not settle well with me,  I think it was a short bout of food poisoning.  I woke up in the middle of the night feeling quesy and thought it was me feeling motion sickness from the cruiseship.  But I had to run to the toilet and needless to say, I had waste coming out of me from both ends.  It was ugly!  Kevin seemed to have something bugging him too as he said he was fighting a fever and couldn’t regulate his body temperature.  He was thinking it was the canoli he ate after lunch in Taormina.  He and I shared it a bit.  It must have been it because, luckily, the rest of the family did not get ill, because we all ate nearly the same food in the same dining hall for dinner.
We both just about laid up in bed most of the day.  Fortunately, with Monica around, she was able to take care of the boys.  She’s been tremendously helpful with the boys.  Being a mom herself, Monica, seems to enjoy the interaction of the brothers and doesn’t mind caring for both of them. 
Fortunately, our day of illness was a day at sea for us.  So we didn’t miss any shore excursions.  It was a chill on the ship day, and we sure needed it.  In the evening we got dressed up for the first formal night of the cruise.  Cruises have these formal nights where all guests can dress up and take formal studio-like pictures before or after dinner.  You then have the opportunity to buy the photos at an inflated price.  The photos can be nice momentos for the guests and they also turn out to be pretty good money makers for the cruiseships.

May 14, 2012
Today we docked at Athens, Greece.
We saw the old Olympic stadium which was made entirely out of marble.  It's roped off and people are not allowed to walk into the stadium but can take pictures from the outside.  We also went to the Acropolis and it was such an amazing site.  Lucky for us, they had a special lift (elevator) on the side of the mountain and Aidan and I rode up that to get to the top of the Acropolis.  The rest of the family 
The special lift chair at the Acropolis

Aidan at the Acropolis

walked up the stairs to the top.  It was very cool that they added something like that.  Once we got to the top though, Kevin backpack-carried Aidan because the ground was gravel and quite uneven.  But, I thought it must have been a nice change for Aidan to have the same view we always have at our eye level.  He seemed to enjoy himself.  After taking many pictures at the top, Aidan and I rode back down the lift again while the rest of the family took the stairs down.

The Leungs in front of the Parthenon

The Leung Boys with full view of the Parthenon
We went to lunch in town and Aidan fell asleep.  He got in a good long nap during our lunch.  He’s had difficulty adjusting to the time difference and I think all the activity moving around and seeing things really tires him out. 
We also walked around town.  Our guide took us to the top of a hill and we had a beautiful 360 view of Athens.  The city is so tremendously dense.  Building after building all around, but no skyscrapers.
Athens, Greece

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rome & The Celebrity Equinox- Our "Special" European Vacation, 2

May 11, 2012 -- Rome, Italy

We had breakfast at our hotel in Rome.  As we walked around the hotel with Aidan, we got several pleasant smiles and remarks from the hotel staffers.  I would even hear many remarking in Italian, "Que bella!" (meaning "So Beautiful").  At the breakfast buffet, the very nice Italian cook guy came over to our table just to greet Aidan, and said "hi," and touched him, saying, "Bella!" (beautiful).  It was so nice to get such a warm and happy greeting from the Italians.  Surely, they have not seen too many children in wheelchairs out and about in Rome, and yet the Italians still greeted Aidan with a friendly smile...rather than the awkward stare that we so often get here in America.
With Grandma and Grandpa Leung at the Trevi Fountain, Rome
Kevin had arranged a private van and tour guide to take us to see the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, the Coliseum, The Vatican at St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel.  Since we had a good size party (7 of us), and for the convenience of getting Aidan in and out of transport, we figured private transportation and tours made things easier and more flexible for us.

At the Coliseum, Rome
To navigate easier through the big crowds and some stairs at the Sistine Chapel, we backpacked Aidan.  It was so cute to see Connor insisting on holding Aidan's hand while he was in the backpack.  It was one way to keep him close while wading through the crowds of tourists.  Having the private tour guide was great too, because she took us through some shortcuts which made things more accessible and saved us a lot of time and avoided the crowds.  I was really pleasantly surprised by the overall warmth and friendliness of the Italians towards Aidan.  So many of them would smile at us and were wanting to talk to him and not afraid to touch him and remarked how beautiful he was.

Walking thru the Sistine Chapel, Rome
After the quick tour of Rome, we setoff to board our cruise ship, the Celebrity Equinox.  This would be Aidan's 3rd cruise!  The first cruise we did was to the Caribbean, when Aidan was about 2 years old, before Connor was born.  The second cruise we did was to Alaska in 20007.  Aidan was about 4 and Connor was about 2.  Cruises seem to work well when you have kids and you want to see a lot of places in a short period of time.  You don't have to worry so much about logistics and everything is self-contained on the ship.  These cruise ships are truly marvels on water…a virtual floating, moving city on water.   Our Celebrity Equinox ship had 16 decks, about 6 different restaurants, 3 swimming pools, a casino, a running track, a basketball court and a full service spa.  Our suite was quite large because our travel agent upgraded us for free.  It even had a grand piano in it!  Lucky for Connor, he could continue his piano practice while on the cruise.  So we've gotten used to needing more space to navigate Aidan around and for overall comfort.  

The big Leung clan boarding our cruise ship, Celebrity Equinox

May 12, 2012 -- Messina, Italy

Our first port of call was at Messina, in the Sicily region of Italy.  We took a group bus ride to Taormina.  We walked around the town and the tour guide took us all to a restaurant that had a flight of stairs and no elevator.  I rather figured most of Europe would be like that since the country's origins were much more older than America.  So we carried Aidan and the stroller, separately, down the flight of stairs.  The restaurant was on a cliff side so it had a beautiful view of the ocean beach of the town.  We had lunch and traditional Sicilian pizza.  Connor loved it, thin and crispy crust the way he liked it.  We also had the first of many gelatos in Italy.

On board the Celebrity Equinox
Strolling thru Taormina, Italy
Taking in the view at Taormina, Italy
I had the tour guide save the first few seats on the bus for us so that it would be easier for us to carry Aidan on and off the bus..  But, apparently he had saved the very first seat which had a divider bar and made the legroom rather a tight fit for Aidan’s Special Tomato chair.  Monica said it was quite an uncomfortable ride.  We re-boarded the ship in the late afternoon.

*Certain names have been changed to protect individuals' privacy.

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