Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The Madrid Zoo and other things



After a day full of museums, it was time to take the boys to their natural habitat - a zoo!  We weren't sure what to expect from the Madrid Zoo but we did know one important fact, the Madrid zoo has PANDA BEARS.  Quinn was ecstatic to say the least.

The zoo was too far to walk to so we called a taxi and headed to a new part of the city, a part that was much more suburban. On the drive we saw some schools, some parks and playgrounds, and a much more residential, all be it still apartments, part of the city.

The entrance to the zoo felt a lot like when we went to the Tampa Zoo.  Very wooded and green and pretty lush.  Past the main gate, it wasn't quite as beautiful as the entrance but it was still good just the same.

Zoo Highlights:

  • 3 giant pandas, two of them awake, doing panda things - walking around, climbing trees and eating bamboo.
  • Giant ant eaters - we've never seen them before.  They were asleep, but they still get checked off the list.
  • 2 baby Asian elephants.  Quinn had never seen Asian elephants before, only African so he was sure to tell us all the major differences.
  • Baby gorillas and chimpanzees (in different enclosures of course).
  • Sea lion show, exotic bird show, dolphin show.  This zoo also had a small aquarium attached and did a sea world like show with their 9 dolphins on exhibit.
  • Sloth bear
  • "American animals" - on exhibit they had several bison and even an enclosure with raccoons, which seems pretty silly, but it's not every day you see a gaggle of raccoons staring right back at you.
  • Food - we ate lunch at the zoo.  Not a single gift shop or concessions stand opened until well after, maybe 2 in the afternoon and by then we were starving.  But, when we finally found, along with everyone else at the zoo, the one food stand that was open it was surprisingly good.  Madrid was huge on burgers and fries and the only thing the zoo offered for food was - yes - burgers and fries.
Zoo low lights:
  • Many of the animal exhibits and enclosures were very old fashioned.  Lots of concrete, little shade, no visible animal enrichment.  My little zoologist was pretty upset by a lot of the stuff he saw because he's used to seeing animals at American zoos.  The tiger looked sickly and the sloth bear (which we'd never seen before) looked very sad and lonely on his concrete perch. 
  • The zoo had grizzly bears.  Four of them.  They were the biggest bears I have ever seen in my life.  The four bears were much too large to be all together and they were definitely people trained.  They were begging for food from spectators and people were obliging.
  • Humans.  We were the only people at the zoo I heard speaking English, but there were more languages being spoken during our visit than I probably could ever guess.  But....BUT, there were so many people who were harassing animals, poking animals up close to fences and FEEDING THE BEARS.  It was sad and awful.  The boys were so distraught that people were clearly breaking the rules of the zoo and Quinn and Wyatt wanted us to find someone to complain to, but I'm not sure we saw a zoo keeper the entire time we were there.
We were at the zoo a long time.  Like, maybe 6 hours?  I was so surprised at the amount of time but it was a nice way to spend the day - in spite of the "sad" parts.  After the zoo, we got another cab and headed to another new part of town.  We were dropped off at a small church - the burial site of Francisco Goya.  There were no cameras allowed and the small chapel was guarded by two over bearing women in black, but it was truly beautiful.  Goya had painted all the fresco's on the ceilings and was entombed in the front of the church (is that part called the nave?).  I was a little nervous that the boys were going to knock something over in this church and get us into trouble, but luckily our quick visit was incident free.

After the church we walked down a very busy street towards a train station that also had a mall.    We got a small treat, rested our feet and then got another cab to take us back to our apartment.


We wrapped up the night with dinner and then heading to bed.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Madrid, day two :: Museums

Getting all five of us up, dressed, fed and watered on our second day was a little rough.  Jet lag was bringing us down.  Ross and I thought a good first full day would be a museum day - walking, but not too much and the boys like art.

We started our day at the Prado museum.  Once we figured out how to turn our printed tickets into real tickets and got through security and got past the woman who was just sitting inside and thought we were gullible enough to pay her for a tour and once we found the actual entrance to the museum we were all set!

The Prado was huge.  The Prado was elbow to elbow crowded.  The Prado was full of art depicting wars, greek and roman gods, with a little bit of the Renaissance thrown in.  The Prado had a great exhibit of paintings from Francisco Goya (famous Spanish Painter) and a lot of cool stuff that Rick Steves (the PBS Travel Guy) told us to see.  Most importantly though, the Prado was full of naked ladies...and a few naked men.

We warned the boys about the naked ladies.  We were all surprised by so many statues and paintings of naked men.  The boys were very mature about the whole thing, but the museum was just so big, and after a couple of hours so hot and they were so hungry that we ended up leaving.  Ross wanted to push through and see EVERYTHING but if we didn't get some food in Elliott's stomach soon, the trip was going to be over before it started.

So, we left.

We found pizza.  It was delicious.  We each drank two coke zeros.  We were ready for more art.

The second museum of the day was the Thyssen.  It was more modern, and practically empty.  It was awesome!  At school, the boys do a program called "art smart" where each month parent volunteers come and teach them about a famous artist.  They've been doing it for years and have a pretty good knowledge of some of the big names in art.

Wyatt was able to pick out van Gogh's all on his own.  Elliott knew Lichtenstein without us telling him.  Quinn was able to notice details in landscapes of the American west as places we've been too, or at least look like places we've been too.  As a mom who loves art, it made my heart so happy to see them so interested.  We saw so many of the big names in Impressionism through more modern art like Monet and Pissaro, Hopper, Georgia O'Keefe, Rothko and Pollack.  It really was such an amazing museum and a fun place to spend a couple of hours.

Our apartment was about a 5 minute walk from the Thyssen museum so once we were finished, we headed back to rest for a bit - still so tired - before venturing out for dinner and to explore Madrid some more.

For dinner we found a very tasty (and expensive) Argentine restaurant.  The boys were brave eaters, and tried some new foods as well as mounds of french fries.  Thank heavens for french fries.  We walked off our late dinner through Plaza Mayor where we got harassed by street vendors, explored a few souvenir shops and ate some more gelato before heading back for another deep sleep.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Madrid, Day One

We left Salt Lake City in the mid morning on a Sunday afternoon and flew non-stop to Amsterdam, arriving on a Monday morning.  Seven movies and 5 wide awake Howden's later, we arrived in Amsterdam to race through passport inspection (assisted by one very handsome, very tall and very blond Netherlander).  Once we got through security we raced to our gate to catch our next flight.  The boys were so psyched for the trip on the first flight, that no one slept.  But, the second we got on the flight to Madrid, we were all out cold for the entire three hours.  After the plane landed and taxied, we were taken by shuttle to the main airport.  The plane was so full and Quinn was so asleep that we didnt make the first shuttle - and had to wait almost half an hour on the steps that were wheeled up to the plane on the tarmac for the next shuttle.


Upon arriving in Madrid and getting our luggage we waited - some more patiently than others - for a taxi big enough to carry the 5 of us and all our bags to our apartment in the heart of the city.  Once we got to our home for a few days we were only able to drop our luggage because the cleaning lady wasn't finished.  Because we were all starving we left the apartment and found a small bakery for croissants, some potato chips and a few coke zeros.

All was well except that Quinn's chocolate croissant must have had some hazelnut paste in it because after one bite he was finished and a few hours later was having a hard time breathing and was covered in a rash.  So our first adventure in Spain was to find a pharmacy, get some benadryl, and drug the six year old.  After Quinn was sufficiently drugged the next item on our agenda was to find dinner get a few grocery items and then head back to our apartment to go to bed because we were exhausted.


We took a nice walking tour of the city center and some main plaza's and found a "food court" to get dinner.  We opted for hamburgers (pizza and burgers were all the rage in Madrid) and it was one of the more interesting burgers I've eaten in my life.  Everything was mixed into the meat, which gave it a pretty strange texture and flavor, but the fries were good and we were starving.  We also learned pretty quickly that coke zero is the officially beverage of Spain and we drank it.  A lot of it.

After finding our first of many gelato shops while in Madrid we headed back home to go to bed.  We were exhausted and had no trouble getting anyone to sleep on the first night.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


On February 10th I woke in the middle of the night with a very sharp pain in my lower left abdomen.  It kept me awake for about an hour but after some tylenol I was able to go back to sleep.  Ross was out of town for work and I felt better in the morning so I didn't bother to tell hi about it.  Unfortunately, off and on over the next three days the pain came back at all sorts of random times of day.

Then, it went away.

It went away for over a week, like 10 days.  I figured that it was some sort of muscle pull or maybe a "groin" injury and forgot about it.

On February 26th the pain came back with a vengeance. Pain all day.  Pain all night.  It was bad enough that on the 28th I called an internal medicine specialist that I have been seeing and got an appointment for Monday, March 4th. 

At that appointment, the doctor felt that based off of my symptoms, I probably had diverticulitis - an inflammation of the lower intestine.  She sent me directly to get a CT scan.  Thank heavens!  A call later that night told me that I had a "nodule" of unknown tissue compressing my ureter, casing the pain.  The radiologist and my doctor felt that I should see a urologist.  I got an appointment for a few days later.

I sat in the office waiting for the urologist to show up longer than the actual appointment.  He seemed very disappointed that I was a woman and not a middle aged man with an enlarged prostate.  He looked over my CT scan with me and told me that even though my ureter was indeed being moderately blocked he didn't feel like it was a urological issue - that it was probably gynecological - and he didn't want to help me, even though he still made me schedule a follow-up appointment for four weeks later.

After the appointment I called Ross, pretty frustrated.  We decided that I might as well schedule an appointment with the OB/GYN who did a procedure for me last year.  I got home, called and had an appointment for the next day.

My appointment with Dr. Johnson was only 15 minutes.  He looked at the CT scan, told me that there was a small ovarian cyst in the scan as well as the "nodule" causing me pain.  He poked around my belly and then decided that I probably needed surgery.  We walked out of the exam room, looked at his calendar and scheduled an "Exploratory laparoscopy" for Wednesday March 13.

Already long story short. 
Horrible snow storm made us late to the hospital.
The one hour surgical procedure ended up taking three.

I had a baseball sized ovarian cyst that had to be removed.  The cyst and other tissue had damaged my left Fallopian tube so that was taken out.  The "nodule" was a giant mass of endometrial tissue that had to be removed as well as a biopsy of a lymph node that was inflamed.

My doctor said it was a "gnarly" surgery.  He had to add a 4th laparoscopic hole to get at everything.  He also told Ross that I was a "bad ass" for dealing with so much pain and so many problems.

It took me a few days to start feeling better and it's taken a good month to finally feel mostly "normal" again.  Minus a very itchy belly button and some sort of string coming out of three of my incision sites, all is well.

Generally speaking, I ignore health problems, hoping that they will go away.  I'm pretty happy that I was motivated enough to take care of this one and not let it fester until it became something really severe. 


Monday, April 08, 2019

Conference Weekend Visitors

Over the weekend we had visitors.

Luke, Jonah and Craig came to town for General Conference.

They stayed at our house and it was, maybe, the loudest weekend I've ever experienced.  FIVE boys is no joke!

They caught the end of a Monarchs game.  We took them to Crown Burgers.  The boys lego-ed, origami-ed and watched America's Funniest Home Videos.  We walked around the lake.  More video games and laser tag was played this weekend than in many months combined.  All five boys had a great time.





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