Wednesday, December 30, 2015

5 Ways to Deal with Pain in Disney

I have had the not so much a pleasure of traveling to Walt Disney World twice while dealing with chronic pain and am about to make that the charming third time. First time around was my shoulder and now I'm fighting with my lovely left ankle, the latter of which has flared up and will likely be a bit of an issue during our upcoming January 2016 trip.

Surviving Disney, preventing further injury, not slowing down your family or friends, all while still enjoying yourself can seem like a daunting task. But there are steps you can take that hopefully will still give you the chance to have a magical park experience.

#1 - Identify those things that are going to cause you more pain or difficulty - there might be some that surprise you!
When we went to Walt Disney World back in August 2015, I was actually in a pretty good place ankle wise. It held up a lot better than any of us expected and wasn't really until the last two days out of a five-day trip that it even slowed me down. I had planned ahead for a lot of walking through the parks but did not anticipate the rides. A number of the rides required a fair amount of bracing, which put a lot of stress on my ankle. Space Mountain, in particular, was hard to enjoy. I was really caught off guard by that, but now going into this upcoming trip I know to be more careful or to just be the official bag holder for some of the most intense rides.

#2 - Train for your trip
Now that you've identified those things that might cause you problems during your trip, do what you can in advance to prepare yourself. Worried about walking a lot? Try to take small walks every day to build up your stamina. Worried about jostling? Talk with your family about football-style blocking for you in the crowded walkways (this is what my dad and brother did during our 2010 trip!).

#3 - Take breaks. Lots and lots of breaks. 
My first Disney trip with chronic pain was way back in 2010, pre-scapular muscle reattachment surgery. My family's usual pace through the parks was frenetic to say the least, and I just physically couldn't have kept that up. So instead of sprinting from ride to ride, we got the Dining Plan. We sat down and ate meals instead of eating on the run, we talked to each other, we relaxed. And our day at Universal after getting jerked around by the Spiderman ride, I called a cab and went back to the hotel. I was really bummed to miss part of a day, but it meant that I was alive the next day when we went swimming with manatees (still to this day one of the coolest things I have ever done).

During our trip last August, we had just finished the Finding Nemo show and my in-laws and husband decided that they wanted to do the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Now, I don't know how good your Animal Kingdom geography is, but those are pretty much opposite sides of the park, and the "trail" is a self-guided stroll.  After some internal debate, I let them know that I would be happy to meet up with them once they were done, grabbed myself a bottle of soda, and parked on a nice flat wall where I could people watch and just bask in the awesomeness that is the Tree of Life. Did I miss that walk? Yup. But was I more alive and present for more of the trip because I took a break? Absolutely.

#4 - Bring supplies
What physical items will help make your trip easier? For me, I'll always have Aleve in my purse and I'm going to be wearing my ankle brace. A cane would probably also help me out, but I'm going to be too stubborn for that. I'll also have plastic bags with me and will ice my ankle in the evenings once we get back to our room using ice from the handy dandy ice machine in the hotel. There are some supplies you can get when you're in the parks, but they'll be more limited.

My last ditch if everything is awful plan is to rent a wheelchair when we're in the parks. The cost per day from Disney is $12, $10 if you're renting for multiple days. Wheelchairs don't leave their respective park. Disney also has a partnership with five different rental companies who can deliver right to your resort, but for me the idea of traveling in the buses with a wheelchair seems cumbersome and I am not that limited mobility wise. The website All Ears has put together a much more comprehensive explanation of dealing with the parks while in a wheelchair, and I won't repeat their well-arranged information here!

If you've looked other places for information on dealing with mobility issues in the parks, you've probably heard about the Disability Access Service Card, formerly known as the Guest Assistance Card. Please note that Disney has modified how the card works and it is no longer available for wheelchair guests. You can see get more information about the new DACS card from Disney themselves.

#5 - Don't be afraid to ask for help
This can mean a lot of things depending on yourself and the people you're going with. Need a wheelchair? Don't be afraid to ask someone for help up a hill, especially in Animal Kingdom. Need to slow down for a bit? My family walks VERY quickly (I'm the shortest legged at 5'7") so I occasionally need to remind them that I'm falling behind. Need to sit down and take a break? Maybe suggest that it is time for your daily Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar break. Every family does one of those, right? (BTW, swap out the rando in that picture for a golden retriever and that is the most "my mom" photograph ever taken.)

I hope that this helps you, and takes some of the nerves out of your trip. I'm starting to get kind of anxious about my visit, which is in less than a month. I can't get in for physical therapy for another week, so I will only have a few sessions under my belt before the trip. I am thinking that if it is the week before and I still have a lot of inflammation and pain, I may see about getting a cortisone shot. I had one right before our wedding and it let me dance at the reception and wander around Quebec for our honeymoon.

Have you dealt with pain in the parks? Is there a piece of advice I missed that you think would be useful for someone else?

Monday, December 28, 2015

All-American Surgery One Year Later

This Wednesday, just three hundred and seventy days after my All-American Surgery, I had my one-year follow-up appointment with my surgeon. It has been a long and tough twelve months, but I wanted to take some time to talk about where I'm at now and what work is still left.

Let's start with a high note. November was the healthiest month I've had in probably two years. On Thanksgiving, I went running. Outside. I went 2.3 miles alternating running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 and felt great. Like, might have sat down and cried a little bit from happiness once I was done. That wasn't the first time I'd run, I'd gone on several on the treadmill at the gym. I also was very successfully meeting with a personal trainer once a week and doing a variety of strengthening and stretching exercises, not just with my ankle but in general.

And now the low note. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, my husband and I were doing yard work (in Upstate NY. CRAZY weather this year). We've had one spot on our gutters that drips onto a windowsill when it rains, so we decided to go up and clean the gutters out. Ladders + unsteady ankles do not equal a good plan, so I asked my wonderful husband to go up for me while I held the bottom. We successfully cleaned the gutters out, he didn't fall off the ladder, and as he was coming down I took a step backwards to get out of his way and rolled my ankle on a clump of grass.

What has followed has been very frustrating. My Achilles tendon swelled right back up, and I'm having pain on the outside of my ankle joint, right where I was having problems prior to the surgery. I've stopped running and training, cut way back on my daily physical activity, and still have quite a bit of swelling.

The good news is that I had my one-year follow-up appointment on the 16th. As part of the regular appointment, we took x-rays of the ankle and bone wise, everything looks great. He gave me a script to restart physical therapy, and if things haven't improved after a few weeks I'm supposed to come back in for an MRI. The trick has been that we did a lot of traveling over the holidays (been gone since the 20th, heading home this afternoon) and we are heading back to Disney World with my family on January 19th. That doesn't give me as much physical therapy before our trip as I'd like, but we'll make do.

All-in-all, I'm glad I did the surgery but the recovery has been difficult. They said that full recovery was at least a year out and boy, I did not believe them. The sprain is absolutely because my ankle is still weaker than it should be, which just means I need to be more vigilant about doing my exercises. In my ideal happy world, once the swelling goes down I'll start doing yoga consistently to help keep everything flexible and strong. If you saw in the photo, I still have a lot of swelling but also quite a bit of bruising which at this point I'm just assuming I'll have from here on out.

So, sorry that this wasn't the glowing and excited one-year report I was expecting to write after Thanksgiving. Check back soon for my 2016 goals and ambitions.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chefs de France Dinner Review

 I love France. I studied French in college, I've visited the country six times, lived in Nantes for a semester, Paris for two separate months, and of course visited Disneyland Paris twice. So it is a given that whenever we're in Epcot, I love getting to eat at the France Pavilion. Our first in-park stop on our first day of our last trip was to try the first of our Drinks Around the World at Les Vins des Chefs de France (I went with the Grey Goose Slush, yum!). Our last day I'd actually been planning to eat lunch at the quick service Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie, but we ended up eating dinner at Chefs de France so we ended up eating our last lunch in Japan at Kastura Grill (review coming soon!).

Saturday, October 31, 2015

La Hacienda de San Angel Dinner Review

One of my favorite things to do in Walt Disney World is to eat, especially around the World Showcase. Sure, a lot of the food is a slightly watered down version of what you might get if you actually traveled to those countries, but it would much harder to eat lunch in Japan and dinner in France. My parents were never big on Mexican food, but my in-laws (who we took this trip with) eat it quite often so I knew this was a safe bet. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

All American Surgery: Nine & Ten Month Recovery

I think that, at this stage in my recovery, it is easy to forget how far I've come. In the last two months, I went to and danced at a friend's wedding, I spent an entire day walking around the Adirondack Museum with a friend, and as you'll see below I'm even rocking walking tours at work. I no longer have to plan my schedule around my ankle, and that is amazing. It still hurts, it still definitely gets tired at the end of the day. My left hip aches quite a bit, largely because of my stride. But, I have come SUCH a long way from where I was even three months ago, and I'd be remiss if I get into the grumbling about not moving fast enough without mentioning that fact.

I'll probably give one year its own post, but the last two months have blown by so quickly and change at this stage is slow and incremental, so I didn't feel like each month warranted its own post. Sorry those of you who were waiting on baited breath!

What I Would Have Done Differently - Been More Consisent
Unfortunately some of this was out of my hands. I managed to get a really nasty sinus infection that is still sticking around, even post-antibiotics, and it has slowed me down a bit. But, most weeks I am making it to the gym twice a week, huzzah! It still isn't a habit yet, which is my next goal for sure.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Starring Rolls Cafe Lunch Review

Our day at Disney Hollywood Studios went by very quickly, but we still managed to ride all of our top choices. Between Rockin' Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, and strolling through the exhibit before "Walt Disney: One Man's Dream" (you can take the girl out of the museum...) we managed to squeeze in lunch at Starring Rolls Cafe. My husband and I are big sushi fans and I knew they served sushi as well as cafe style sandwiches, which would appease my non-sushi eating in-laws. Plus, they are known for their cupcakes. Hard to go wrong there!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Big River Grille & Brewing Works Lunch Review

During our trip to Walt Disney World in August we stayed at the Boardwalk Inn. My husband and I arrived (via Magical Express) just after noon, and my in-laws pulled in around 1:30. Before jumping into the parks, we decided to start with our bellies full. As a family we like to visit craft breweries, so my father-in-law voted that we visit the Big River Grille & Brewing Works, located right on the Boardwalk next to our hotel.

Also, I managed to take exactly 0 pictures while we were at lunch, so my apologies for not having images to go along with this review. You'll have to channel your inner Figment and use your imagination!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Be Our Guest Breakfast Review

We had the chance to eat at so many awesome places during our trip to Disney World in August, and I wanted to share my experiences with you. There are so many options for dining in the parks that it can get very overwhelming. I may or may not have a spreadsheet just to help me keep everything sorted. Here's the breakdown of the only real breakfast we had in the parks (my husband and his parents are not big breakfast eaters).

Be Our Guest Breakfast, August 2015
Making Reservations
I feel like we really lucked out in terms of our reservations. Being slightly Disney obsessed, I get a lot of news updates for new and exciting things happening around the parks. I knew they had been doing a test-run of breakfast at Be Our Guest, but it was scheduled to end before our trip and all the remaining lunches and dinners for the duration of our stay were already booked. Luckily, I saw the news that breakfast was being extended, and after a brief consultation with my mother-in-law we made the booking. The process was very easy online, and you use a credit card to hold your reservation.

Monday, August 31, 2015

All American Surgery: Seven & Eight Month Recovery

Sorry to lump two months together, but with all the hullabaloo with our Disney trip I didn't get last month's post up.

What I Would Have Done Differently - Pushed on PT
Going back to physical therapy has made a night and day difference in my ankle. After my first follow up with the PA after my hardware removal, I didn't push him on letting me head back to physical therapy. I wish I would have, as I would have been a full two weeks ahead of where I am now. But, what I'm doing is working, and I'm making progress!

What is Frustrating - Tortoise not Hare

SO SLOW. I just want to go run. I know I am making definite, appreciable progress, but I want to really start moving again. I had my regular physical the other day, and I am at the highest weight of my life which is definitely not ideal. When I get stressed, instead of going for a run and sweating out the frustration, right now I'm stuck on the couch eating ice cream. But, again, we'll get there.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Prepping for Disney: Animal Kingdom Must Watch Movies

For those of you following along from home, you might have seen my last post about the week's worth of movies you should watch before visiting Magic Kingdom. Of all of the parks, that one was probably the easiest in terms of available material, but also the hardest because there are just so many movies.

On the flip-side of that, Animal Kingdom is one that I found tough. Unlike most of the other parks, there are only a small handful of rides and shows based directly off of movies. A lot of it is pure atmosphere. But, I did my best, and here is my list of the top seven movies you should check out before heading to Animal Kingdom.

Photo by pallndrome6996
The Lion King - There are so many great tie-ins to the Lion King at Animal Kingdom, the most obvious of which being the "Festival of the Lion King" show. It is always one of my favorites, especially with the aerial ballet and acrobatics. 

Photo by ckramer
Finding Nemo - Another great show at Animal Kingdom is "Finding Nemo: The Musical." It really showcases Disney's ability to blend puppeteering and real people together (a la Lion King on Broadway) and makes for a really fun show. Plus, the movie is one of my all-time favorites. You'll see it make the list again in Epcot with the Living Seas area. 

Photo by Jeremy Thompson
A Bug's Life - I'll be honest, this movie wasn't my favorite and I never liked "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" in Epcot, so "It's Tough to be a Bug" just isn't up my alley. But, it is still a big part of the park, and it is a foundational Pixar movie, so you should definitely add this one to your list.  

Photo by HarshLight
Dinosaur - This ride is a little intense for me (hey, I get scared!) but the theming expands even beyond the movie. The entirety of "DinoLand" is a lot of fun, and I've always enjoyed it. Like most of Disney, everything from the restaurants to the shops to the kids activities are on point. This sign above is one of my favorites!

Photo by Sam Howzit
Avatar - With the soon to open Avatar Land, this one is a must watch. I'm curious to see what the reaction to the park will be as I'm not sure the movie itself has had the lasting impression that other newly announced themed lands have had (Toy Story, Star Wars) but with the new changes to MK this is an important film!

Photo by erin leigh mcconnell
Earth & African Cats - I will fully admit that these two are a bit of a cop-out. Once "The Good Dinosaur" and "Zootopia" are released, maybe we can swap those out, but you really can't go wrong with any of the Disney Nature films. There are some gorgeous animals living in the park!

What do you think/? Would these be your top 7 Animal Kingdom movies? What am I missing?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Prepping for Disney: Magic Kingdom Must-Watch Movies

Yesterday was the official one month mark for my upcoming Disney World trip and I thought to myself, hey, I should watch some movies to prep for my trip. And then I thought, I wonder if there's a good list of movies for each park? I found a couple, but none that I thought were really an in-depth breakdown.

Now, I work full-time and try to do regular grownup things like eat and sleep, so I don't think I have quite enough time to watch every park-related movie before the 19th. So, since I've got thirty days and four parks (sorry resorts, water parks, and Downtown/Springs, I'm not even going to bother) I've put together the top seven movies (or shorts) you MUST watch for each park before your Disney World trip. Want my all-inclusive list? I've got that too! I'll start today with Magic Kingdom, but check back for the full list!

Friday, July 17, 2015

What I'm Wearing to Disney

In honor of today being the 60th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland, I thought I'd share with you my outfits for my own upcoming Disney trip next month. Although we're heading to the Florida park, not California, I figure in August there won't be much of a difference between the two. 

My big goals for these outfits was to be comfortable, drawn from things I either already had or could buy without breaking the bank, and to be sneaky about paying homage to a different Disney character. My in-laws flat out laugh at people who wear Disney paraphernalia (why!??!) so I thought this could be my subtle way of still going about it. 

Ready? Alright, here's my starting lineup:
Kim Possible: August 2015

Day 1: Travel & Epcot
I want something cool enough to handle being out in the parks, but with the sweater for the plane ride. They've replaced the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure with Phineas & Ferb, so I'm calling this a throwback.

Buzz Lightyear: August 2015

Day Two: Magic Kingdom
Starting off with breakfast, we're spending the majority of the day in my favorite park. Ugh that's tough. Tied for favorite with Epcot. As an homage to one of my family's favorite rides, I've got my Buzz Lightyear of Star Command outfit all ready to go!

Minnie Mouse: August 2015

Day Three: Disney Hollywood Studios
When you're talking movies, there are so many options in terms of characters. Do you go Muppets? Indiana Jones? Old Hollywood? I figured since it all started with a man and a mouse, I'd stick with the classics. The mouse's sweetheart (Girlfriend? Wife? They had separate houses in Toon Town...) is about as classic as you get. 
Dory: August 2015

Day Four: Animal Kingdom
One of my favorite movies is Finding Nemo, and spending most of the day in Animal Kingdmo (and seeing the Finding Nemo show) makes Dory a good pick. I've also found Animal Kingdom to be the warmest of the parks, so hopefully this will help me stay cool!

Aladdin: August 2015

Day Five: Epcot & Travel
All good things must come to an end. We're spending our last day in Florida running around Epcot, and although the story of Aladdin is NOT set in Morocco, you'll often find the characters there. The World Showcase is one of my favorite places in the whole world, and inspired me to study other cultures and languages so I thought that this outfit would be fitting.

I will definitely try to make sure I get a good photo each day so you can see how it turned out. The shoes may change as we get closer too. I'm eyeing the new Vans line, and might go ahead and grab something there. Or, I'll end up in just regular tennis shoes and pretend like the shoes don't matter to the outfit as a whole.

So what do you think? Do you have a favorite? Which characters inspire your outfits?