Sunday, 28 September 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

The next stage of our adventure was Las Vegas! In itself, Las Vegas probably wouldn't be top of our list of places to go but Candi had agreed to meet us there so we were very excited! Candi lost her baby daughter, Avery, 3 days after we lost Theo and she's written about it on her blog. (Please pray for her right now as she's going through a really hard time.) She brought along her good friend Katie. Here they both are outside the New York, New York casino.

Candi took us to the Cheesecake factory in Caesar's Palace. This is an amazing place because not only are the main courses gorgeous but they have about 50 different types of cheesecakes to choose from! Coming to a decision is not easy!

We took it in turns to relate our stories to each other and it was comforting to talk it through with someone who could really understand where we were coming from.

After the meal, we went for a walk along the strip, taking in the sights, sounds and most of all the heat! Even though it was night time, the temperature was still about 100 degrees. We stopped to take in several of the fountain shows outside the Bellagio. They play every 15 minutes and are set to music. The grace and movement of each water jet is incredibly spell-binding...Highly recommended.

The next day, we met up with Katie and Candi again for lunch at the hard-rock cafe. This was a definite favourite of mine because of all the rock memorabilia lining the walls.

One whole day of our Las Vegas leg was spent on a Grand Canyon tour. This was easily the most breath-taking sights in all of our trip. We flew 45 minutes in a 10 seater aeroplane from Las Vegas to a landing strip on the West Rim of the Canyon. This is one of the fantastic views from the air.

From there, we took a 5 minute coach journey to Eagle point and then to Guano point. The scale of the Canyon is beyond belief and in many places there are no safety rails so we felt like quite the adventurers!

On the way back we flew over the Hoover Dam. The trip included a sizable buffet lunch, making it a great day out. If any one is thinking of visiting the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, we would definitely recommend the tour operator.

More of our Las Vegas pictures can be found here.

All too soon, it was time to move on again. But there were still two more cities to take in before heading back back home. Next stop: L.A.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

All that Jazz!

Having left Tonya's, feeling quite sad, we took a 5 hour train journey to our next location... Chicago! Of all the places on our itinerary, this was the biggest unknown. We'd picked it because it was close to Tonya's but probably knew the least about this city.

We were pleasantly surprised! Chicago is an amazing town with loads to do... but the most amazing and surprising thing about it was that everything seemed free! Free trams, free fireworks, free Jazz , free dance lessons, free zoo, free open-air cinema, free fountain display... this list just went on!

Although home to the Sears Tower, a few people had told us that the best view was from the Hancock Observatory. It costs about the same as going up the Sears tower but you get an excellent audio commentary (narrated by Friends, David Schwimmer) which gives you extensive information as you walk round the 360 degree vista. Here's one of the views from the top.

Chicago is on the edge of Lake Michigan (which to us looks more like an ocean!). In the centre of the picture is Navy Pier, which has all sorts of entertainment including a big Ferris Wheel and free firework displays on some nights.

This is a view, looking back at the city, as we went round the Ferris wheel. There were many boat tours operating from the Pier and we opted for the Sea Dog speedboat tour!

The picture above is the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park, affectionately known as "the bean" It's quite an impressive piece and provided lots of opportunities for taking warped photos! The park also offered a free, open-air showing of Hitchcock's "Touch of Evil". Here is our view of the Chicago skyline at dusk just before the film started.

And as if all this wasn't enough, we went to visit Lincoln Zoo (also free!) to get close to some fantastic animals including Gorillas, Pygmy Hippos and this Polar Bear. He liked to show off by swimming right at the glass and then darting away at the last minute.

So although we were only in Chicago for a few days, we managed to pack a lot in! You can see the rest of our Chicago photos here.

Next stop: Las Vegas!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Party!

First of all, apologies for taking so long to post the next installment of our trip to Tonya's. We all know how hectic life can be but there's really no excuse to keep you all hanging. Sorry!

On the second day we were with Tonya, she organised a party for us and invited some of the people we'd been in email contact with. This was great fun and certainly another fantastic highlight of our trip. It was really nice to be able to finally meet in person all the people we had been emailing.

So here are some quick introductions!

First up there is Cat, Dan and their son Owen.

Cat has a blog which we started following very soon after we found out Theo had Achondroplasia. If you haven't check out their story, please do (or at least check out the latest set of pictures they've posted... Owen is so cute!). Just to prove the point, here he is!

Next there is Jennifer, Cat's mum. Jennifer has been tremendously supportive and regularly checks our blog. She always has time to send us a thoughtful email or post an encouraging comment. Unsurprisingly, she bought us a little present of a Willow Tree statue to add to the many in Clare's collection. We were very touched by this gesture. It was also lovely to meet Jennifer's mother who, just like her daughter, kept us entertained with humour and wit!

This is Clare with Sarah and Kaela. Check out her blog here. Kaela is such sweet little girl and it was nice to meet her family (including Dad and brother Will) and talk through their trials and joys.

We also got to meet Aiden's family and so, all in all, it was quite an overwhelming experience!

The party was fantastic! As you would expect, there was a fair amount of eating done. My personal favourite was the giant cookie that Jennifer had made for us (but then it would be!)

It was great to get to know all these people a bit better. We all talked the afternoon and evening away, comparing our stories and discussing the differences between America and the UK... hours of fun!

A big thank you for all those who travelled to see us and to Tonya for organising and hosting the day. We were incredibly touched by your hospitality and friendship.

Next stop: Chicago!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Visiting Tonya!!

There were so many highlights of our American trip but one of the major ones was definitely visiting Tonya. When we found out Theo had dwarfism at his 20-week scan, it was Tonya's blog - and the delightfully cute pictures of Knoah - that convinced us that everything was going to be ok. We've communicated a lot over the last year but it was an amazing experience to finally meet her and her family face to face.

I can't believe that anyone reading this blog doesn't know who Tonya is because she seems to be the social and information nerve centre for so many people who have kids with dwarfism. But in case you haven't heard of her...

From left (going clockwise) we have Will, Jacob, Tonya, Knoah, me and Hannah

Here's Knoah again!

Clare and I arrived at Detroit airport and found a welcome committee waiting for us.

Tonya's family live in Monroe, Michigan which was about a half hour drive from the airport. They live in a lovely house which Clare and I decided was typically American... all that was missing was the swing-chair on the front porch.

The first evening was spent at their favourite restaurant (excellent Italian food!) followed by a Jazz festival which was running over the weekend we were there. Much to my delight, we ended up at a lovely ice-cream place where I enjoyed what I thought was the best ice-cream ever (my opinion would soon change when we went to Maggie Moos the next day!)

The next day, we were lucky enough to have a party to meet lots of other people who we've met via the blog and who have supported us tremendously over the last year. I'm not going to say anything more about that... it's the subject for another post!

After the party, we went to the ultimate ice-cream experience! Maggie Moos serves the most amazing ice-cream ever. They make it on the premises and you can choose not only which flavour you want, but also from a whole array of sweets and goodies to have with it. I eventually decided on Peaniut Butter fudge with pieces of Reese's peanut butter cups and snickers. Definitely a peanutty extravaganza!

During our time in Monroe, we got to know the family really well. It was fantastic to finally get to meet people we had been emailing for so long. The experience was every bit as amazing as we thought it would be. Even though we were only there for a short time, we found a really close bond, especially with Tonya and Knoah.

How could you not love Koaah? Here he is doing "Monster Baby"!

I think this video captures the essence of Monster Baby a bit better!

Overall we had an superb time! Both Clare and I had a little cry once Tonya and Knoah left us at the train station. We missed them already! But I don't want to end on a sad note... tune in next time for details about the fantastic party Tonya organised for us where we got to meet even more people we had made contact with through the blog!

If you want to see more of our time with Tonya, check out the pictures here.