Ok, so lets start in order: NYC! We spent a glorious week in my favorite city with ALL 4 KIDS. Yes, you read that correctly, we had both toddlers and both teens and it went surprisingly well. Being Gluten Free in NYC doesn't mean you will starve, there are surprisingly more options than most large cities AND if they are not on the "Gluten free registry"it doesn't mean they won't make you a GF meal. There were several accidental finds that were FABULOUS and Miss Princess didn't get sick ONCE the whole trip! There were even allergy posters up in certain restaurants, I thought that was so interesting. We did visit a few famous gfree places to give them a try: #1 was Babycakes which offers doughnuts and cupcakes and other sweet treats. Although Isabelle, Noah and I approved, the teens noticed a major difference and weren't big fans, BUT Isabelle had breakfast for a week and enjoyed every bite; their staff was very knowledgeable and helpful and their shop was wistful yet small and in an out of the way area. #2 was Pala and most notable for pizzas and Italian cuisine on the lower east side of Manhattan. The atmosphere was sweet and I plan to visit again when I'm there in the summer and eat outside but absolutely everyone LOVED the pizza, spaghetti and experience. It was amazing food, and the sweetest staff EVER. But as wonderful as that was, there were two other experiences we had that topped that if you can believe it. The night my sister and her family arrived we decided we would venture out for dinner and decided on a Mexican restaurant close to our hotel but upon arrival there was an hour wait and it was a super trendy bar type restaurant with no moving around in....no way was that gonna work. I remembered seeing another mexican restaurant up the road when we were headed to a local grocery store to grab some gfree snacks. We walked the couple of blocks to find it was closed and we were thinking - "really?" The next door neighbor to this restaurant was a Chinese restaurant. I was like...no way can Izzy eat dinner there but at this point it was raining and we had a bunch of hungry kids.... Jason walked in the front door and asked the owner if he could accomodate gluten free and much to my surprise they could and there were great options as well. It turned out that they were so careful Izzy truly did not get any cross contamination whatsoever and ate like a HORSE! It was one of the BEST Chinese restaurants that we have ever eaten at EVER. It was SOOOOO good!!!!!! ChinChin will defintely be on our list again. I cannot talk about how amazing the food was! The other exciting experience was my sweet niece, Charlotte, turned 4 while we were there and we took all the girls to the American Girl Doll Store. Last year when we were in NYC in Oct I bought Izzy and Charlotte their first AG dolls and boy am I glad I did. It made this whole trip so amazing! So for Charlotte's birthday we took a trip first thing in the morning to the most amazing store on the list. We spent so much time there we decided to see if their restaurant could accomodate the 6 of us girls while the guys were off seeing the Intrepid. THEY COULD. As most mom's of celiacs, it was exciting and scary and I wondered if there was anything Izzy would be able to eat at all. Well, guess what....they deal with this all the time and had an entire meal plan just for her. Seriously it was AWESOME! They have a prefix lunch/brunch menu and they did everything for Isabelle and had a special desert for her and for the birthday girl and it was really such an amazing trip for everyone. I cannot say enough about asking about allergies first thing because the two best places weren't listed as gfree restaurants or having gfree options but we got two amazing meals in a big city with zero cross contamination. AMAZING! In the interim we ate in other locations, shopped, ice skated, shopped, ate, shopped and had an absolutely amazing trip with so much more of NYC to discover with the kids....
SO, we got back on the evening on the 23rd and then there was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.....why did we do this to ourselves? UMMMMMMM because that's what I do best.....work under pressure:). We got back, babies and I started with allergies and all sorts of congestion right before we left the city and the flight home was miserable for me as I couldn't clear my ears at all on the flight. It was terrible and coming home, all I wanted to do was get home, get some soup and get to bed. Wasn't exactly that great but I woke up on the 24th ready to go. We had grocery shopping to do and wrapping of a few things and ALOT of cooking. Feast of the 7 fishes is typically a Catholic/Italian Christmas Eve dinner where you have 7 different fishes or 7 different fish dishes as the focus the meal, We had an great time figuring out our 7 dishes and all was so good. I made crab legs, ceasar salad with anchovies in the dressing, shrimp scampi over creamy polenta with gorgonzola, tilapia en Papillote, Cod "gfree fish sticks", seared ahi tuna, and mussels in white wine and butter garlic sauce. I made some CHEBE GF cheddar garlic biscuits that everyone loved and we were done. YAY! Christmas was a great conglomerate and we had brunch that was fantastic. Sausage, turkey bacon, gf chocolate chip pancakes, cheese grits, scrambled eggs, gf biscuits, and gf french toast. Normally we have Pannetone that we make french toast out of but I didn't get to make it with such short timing. So next year plan that into the menu!!!! It was good with our coffee, mimosas and real drinking chocolate.
Christmas afternoon we had a fried turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, steamed green beans and glazed carrots, cheesecake, pumpkin pie. It was so nice to just relax as I had alot of this frozen already before we left for our NYC trip and it was thawing out and warming up. Smartest thing I ever did!
So, for my year in review or HOLY CRAP I cannot believe we made it through 2011!
As I sit and write this I remember that last NYE there was this looming essance over our family. We had been told at Thanksgiving last year that Lana wasn't doing well and that eventually she would be at a point that she would need to be admitted and moved up the transplant list. Her heart was way sicker than she was on the outside. I spent the next few weeks in a pitty party, depression, nostalgic and every other emotion you could imagine with your child being in iminant danger. I still am not sure how I survived those weeks and the months to come but here I sit and able to write you this NYE. Lana told me on Christmas break she did not think she'd be able to go back to school after the NY because she was truly too tired to do anything. I knew then it was time. I called my ex husband and told him what was going on, we decided to call the hospital after the new year and see what they say yet knowing that would mean we were headed for admition to Little Rock for an indefinate amount of time and an indefinate future. But it wasn't until we called on the 3rd that that became our reality. My mother and I loaded up 3 of my 4 kids, and all the luggage, clothes, and necessities we would need for at least a month so that we had everything with us that we would need and we drove to Little Rock and Arkansas Children's Hospital which would be our home for the next several months. 21 days into 2011 my daughter was admitted into the hospital, they then put her under quarantine due to a flu epidemic, I lived in a hotel for 2 weeks until we found an apartment, I could only see my oldest child for brief moments at a time, one of my closest friends from jr. high succomed to breast cancer, my family was split over 3 states trying to figure out what to do and then as we were figuring it all out....I got a phone call while pumping gas to exchange kids and spend the night in the hospital that they had a heart. They had a heart for my amazing child. That meant someone lost their child, to make a heart available to mine, yet all I could think about was that my child was going to go through the most traumatic, scary thing I've ever even imagined and hopefully both lives were not in vain but our donor heart would save the life of my child. To me, thinking back on those first 21 days in January of 2011, are a blur. Actually alot of 2011 was such a stressed, emotional mess it is something that amazes me that we are alive and we made it through what felt like a pergatory to me for a brief moment or blink of an eye. It felt like an eternity at the time but as I write this, it is over now. It's such a surreal experience. The 25th of January, 2011 started at 4 am when I awoke in Lana's hospital room with all three of my daughters exactly where we were the last evening, all holding hands and fell asleep watching a movie in a conglomerate of beds strewn across her room. The dad's and our priest found other accomodations for the night and various parts of my family were up making arrangments to get to us. They came into the room and readied us for what was to come a very long day. They took Lana early back to surgery and we spent the day laughing, crying, ready to vomit at any minute with bad news and just stress all together holding hands, holding phones, updating everyone and keeping busy for some period of time and praying our end was good. The end of the night we needed to sleep some and hope she was ok throughout the night, although she was bleeding heavily and losing blood pressure. We made it through, she is alive, she has many years left to prove the world wrong and that she can conquer all but those first 21 days almost killed me....Today as I close this year I could not be more grateful for anything in my life than the donor and the family of the donor who saved my amazingly gorgeous and beautiful child's life. There were many great things that happened throughout the year but Lana's heart transplant takes the cake. I close this year with the health of my 4 children who endured more in 2011 than any family deserves, and so much promise and hope for the new year. I will breathe much more freely on January 20th when she has her 1 year biopsy but I know that 2012 will ring in alot calmer than 2011. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers this year for Lana and all of us. You all have helped this family in more ways that you can imagine. I am excited about the prospects of 2012! Much love, happiness, success and life in the new year to all of you. Let all your dreams come true. There is much planned in 2012 in my life as well as my family's so stay tuned!!!