Travel the World in a Day

Today I loaded up my children and our two house guests – Holland, 10, and Roman, 9, and headed to Jungle Jim’s in Fairlfield, Ohio. This 35-40 minute drive allowed us to travel the world in about 90 minutes. We visited Asia, Italy, Holland, Mexico, England, Germany and much more. We even saw Elvis and the singing Campbell’s soup can! The kids were super excited to see the Prize-winning restrooms that look like port-o-lets on the outside.

Before heading out, the kids teamed up and picked a dessert recipe. We then made a list of ingredients for each team knowing that when we got there they would search for their ingredients. Roman and Andi chose to make Italian lemon tiramisu and Joey and Holland decided to make a raspberry delight.

Holland and Roman had never been to Jungle Jim’s so they were excited when we pulled out front. They loved the waterfalls and characters out front. We were all disappointed though when we couldn’t find a handicap parking spot (Read Catching Up to see why we need a handicap spot) and discovered that most of the cars in those spots did not have handicap tags or stickers.  I ended up dropping the four kids, ranging from 9 to 13, off in front of the store; parking the car and meeting back up with them. I actually counted on my way to the store and saw at least a dozen cars without tags in handicap spots. That was very upsetting to my 10-year-old who needs a walker and it made me think that the author of People I’d Like to Punch In the Throat should give those people a good punch!

Once inside, we started our hunt. It would be easy to spend hours in there with the incredible wine section, olive bar, cheese counter, bakery, pet area, produce department and so much more. In addition to featuring all the different countries, there is a garden area, bank, post office and cell phone store.

I allowed each kid to pick one fruit they had never tried. I believe we ended up with a banana mango, star fruit, some weird thing none of us can remember the name of and the dragon fruit. Each child was also given $2 to buy some type of candy or treat. The girls combined their money and the girls did the same. The girls picked Italian chocolate, I chose an orange German chocolate and the boys… well they picked gum balls.

We couldn’t find certain ingredients so we asked a worker in the isle near the olive bar. She didn’t know and told us to ask at the olive bar. The woman at the bar didn’t know and told us to go to the bakery. Now remember, this is not a small store and my son is using a walker. So we went to the bakery where we were able to find one item and told us what area the other item might be in. After asking the fourth employee we saw, we found the item. I do wish the customer service would have been better. We did have a map but it just labeled the departments.

On our way to the checkout we found bananas dipped in chocolate ice cream. I bought a box of 5 for $2.99 and it was completely worth it! They were so good and it was a nice cold treat to enjoy on the way home.  I also grabbed a nice bone for puppy. She was very happy!

Our bill was about $90. I was a little shocked by this. We are making two desserts and just picked up a couple other items. We did have to get things like sugar, flour and vanilla extract, which definitely cost more there than they would have at Kroger. As soon as we got home, the kids started making their desserts. It was fun to watch them work together and enjoy cooking.

This is definitely an activity I would do again with the kids. However, next time, I will pick basic items up at the local grocery store and just purchase the unique items at Jungle Jim’s. I would also like to do the tour, which cost $5 each.

Overall, it was a fun activity for the kids and a great way to spend the day. Big thanks to Stockpiling Moms and Family Friendly Cincinnati for the idea. What unique activities do you do with the kids in the summer?

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Catching Up

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I have not had a new entry since late March and a lot has happened between then and now. A LOT – LIFE CHANGING EVENTS.

Let’s see…

  1. Attacked by a dog
  2. Son diagnosed with a cancer-like condition, had a bone graph and was in a wheel chair
  3. Daughter turned 13

Yes, I, the crazy dog lover who goes to the dog park every single day and has had a dog her whole life, was attacked on March 31. Very long story short, my neighbor’s dog got loose and she was not home. I was on the sidewalk in front of her house deciding what I should do when the 150 pound Rottweiler mix lunged toward me. He seemed to be going for my face but I blocked him with my arm. Thank goodness because muscles were actually hanging out of my arm when it was over. He actually got my arm and leg a few times. Thank goodness for another neighbor, who in spite of having a baby in a Snuggy on his chest, beat the dog off me because the dog was not going to stop. Unfortunately, my daughter, who is now 13, witnessed the whole thing from maybe 10 feet away. We both still have nightmares. Mine often include seeing her face watching the attack. Thank goodness it was me and not Andi. I did end up with five stitches in my arm, a nasty infection, permanent scars on my arm and leg, a little bit of nerve damage and a new fear of strange dogs. Yes, the neighbor is taking care of things through her insurance and the dog no longer lives on my street.

My son had been complaining for a few weeks about pain in his leg. It first appeared as a pulled muscle in his thigh but it kept getting worse and seemed to be spreading. I took him to the pediatrician who after blood work and x-rays told me it was growing pains. My gut told me it was much more. I scheduled an appointment with Commonwealth Orthopedics in Northern Kentucky hoping they would do a MRI. They refused to do the MRI saying it would be emotional for him and that it was just growing pains. Again, my gut told me it was much more. He literally fell to the ground the next morning when he tried to get out of bed. I called the pediatrician insisting it was more and was finally given a referral to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Orthopedic Center. At this point, I was convinced my son had Muscular Dystrophy. His leg literally dragged behind him, he didn’t want to do any activities at all and eventually started using crutches. The doctor at Children’s took it serious, agreed it was much more than growing pains and scheduled an MRI for the next day, Saturday, April 21. Within five minutes of leaving the MRI, they called and said they saw something and figured it was just an infection. The woman told me we’d need to see the doctor early in the week for an antibiotic. I was so relieved to know they had an answer that I cried of joy. That quickly changed on Monday, April 23.

Dr. Johnson of Cincinnati Children’s had his nurse Judy call me Monday morning. “Ms. Holt, we need you to bring Joey in this afternoon and you might want to bring your husband,” she says. I explain that we are divorced and that his job is not nearly as flexible as mine. I ask if it’s okay if I come by myself. “Yes, that’s fine.” At this point I’m still thinking he just has some infection and needs an antibiotic. I quickly wished Joey’s dad, my dad, my mom, brother or some other adult had been with me.

“It’s not the big C,” Dr. Johnson immediately says. Joey jumps in with “I know what the big C is.” He’s a funny kid. The doctor continues by telling me that his hip bone has been eaten away, he has a rare condition called Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), which is only found in about 5 in 1 million kids. Adults can have it but it’s usually diagnosed in children between birth and 4-years-old (Joey is 10). He explained that it’s in the cancer family but there is debate about whether it is a cancer or not. He told me that they don’t know much about it, including how it is caused. I remember him saying something about chemo if the bone graph of his hip doesn’t work. I believe my mind went completely blank at this point. I am not sure that I heard or understood anything else.

Joey was sitting right there for all of this so I stayed as strong as I possibly could. I was so numb. Next thing I know, we are in x-ray so he can have more tests. I asked to step out of the room for a second and just break down completely. I called his dad and explained what was going on the best I could. I then got myself together for Joey and headed home. Once I wheeled him inside, I called my parents, siblings and best friends. His dad came over and we started looking the disease up on the computer and preparing ourselves for the surgery that was to take place just two days later.

To recap, we were told for weeks that it was growing pains, saw the Children’s Hospital orthopedic on a Friday, MRI on Saturday, diagnosis on Monday and a biopsy and bone graph on Wednesday. It was crazy!

The 5 hour surgery went as well as could be expected and he was sent home in a wheel chair. We were told that he could not bear weight at all for 8 to 10 weeks (it was 9). I have a steep hill and several steps up to my house. My son had to be carried in and out the first few weeks. We only left for doctor appointments because it was too hard to get in and out of the house. Luckily some friends helped me track down a stair lift and get it installed at a reasonable price. This made our lives so MUCH EASIER. It’s amazing how the little things do that.

He was recovering extremely well for two weeks. We sent him back to school in the wheel chair on a Monday. He came home tired but I figured that was expected. He ended up screaming out in pain all night. It was awful. We called the doctor the next morning and went in. Our orthopedic wasn’t there but another one came in to see Joe. At one point we were told he was going to be in a hip spica cast which meant he wouldn’t be able to sit up, go to the bathroom or anything on his own. I once again was in complete shock. Luckily there was a nurse named Kelly who was a true advocate for my son. She asked all the right questions and demanded tests that made the doctors realize the cast wasn’t needed. Apparently he had a nerve issue from a piece of the graph that had moved and hit a nerve in his leg. Seriously??? He would just scream out in pain over and over again. He was admitted to the hospital for five days where they ran more tests and tried to manage his pain. I finally just asked to come home and manage the pain myself.

Pain management suggested we try acupuncture so we did. Kristen at Tiny Needle Acupuncture was truly amazing. Once the needles were in, Joey said “this is the first time I have been pain free in months.” Tears just rolled down my face. I was so thrilled my son was pain-free, even if momentarily. After a few visits though, he was completely pain-free. I was a skeptic but not anymore. I even tried it for my lower back and it was great.

After nine weeks in a wheel chair, Joey now uses a walker. He even took a few steps on his own today. He should be able to walk normally in just a few weeks. He probably won’t ever be able to play sports but we don’t even care about that at this point. We have come so far. Unfortunately, LCH can reactivate at any time and in any part of the body. The treatment could vary from surgery and steroid treatments to chemo and many other invasive treatments. Luckily there is only a 33 percent chance it will reactivate in Joey’s bones or skin. It’s a very small chance that it will infect his organs (Thank God). Joey will have regular scans and tests to check for LCH.

Joey did develop a talent through all of this. Thanks to my co-worker Amy for delivering library items and Artie’s Magic Shop in Covington, Joey has become a magician. He has a lot of fun showing neighbors, friends and family his tricks.

So in the midst of all this, my daughter Andi officially became a teenager on May 28. She had three friends stay the night and had a cake decorating contest. I think it just made me feel older.

So now that you are all caught up… I will try to post regularly and keep my posts much shorter.