Sunday, March 18, 2018

Life lately with another blizzard

Can you live with diastasis recti?

Someone landed on my blog not too long ago after searching for this.  Yes, you can live with diastasis recti, separation of the abdominal muscles, but I have to tell you that it's been quite a painful month.  I wrote this post just about three years ago providing more information about my situation and not much has changed since then.  With my weak core, I know what will cause back pain and I try to head it off before it becomes too bad.  On a daily basis, standing at the sink washing dishes will cause pain in my lower back.  When I start to feel it coming on, I'll take a break and sit down to stretch out my back.

What I cannot control are the random back pulls that happen for the stupidest reasons.  Such as reaching over to pick up my brush.  This should not blow out my back but it has.  Here and there, maybe once a year, I'll turn and my back will blow out and I'll be in excruciating pain.  I've had to miss days of work because of it.  There were other days where I would pop some ibuprofen and slowly make my way into work, praying for a seat on the train.

Two weeks ago, as I was getting ready to bring the girls to school, I turned in such a way, causing something in my back to pull.  I didn't notice it at first.  My back just felt tight but then as I was brushing my teeth, I couldn't figure out why it hurt to take a deep breath.  Not only did I have to bring the girls to school, but I had a big bag of Anna's supplies for the nurses.  As I was walking into the school, this sharp pain went right up and down my back.  And then Anna realized that she had forgotten her math book so after I dropped off the supplies, I had to go home and retrieve the book and drive back up to the school.  I was pretty much useless trying to not move for the rest of the day but by the end of the day, it was feeling much better.

This past Thursday, my back was feeling achy but I didn't think much of it.  That sometimes happens and it wasn't anything like what I had felt two weeks ago.  But then that night, I sat on the couch for an hour or so editing photos and when I got up to go to bed, I could barely move.  Here we go again.  I was basically useless on Friday, which is becoming an issue because I do have stuff to do.  I had tap class on Friday night and I really didn't want to have to miss it.  Rich massaged it out for me, I applied heat and popped some painkillers.  I was able to go to my class but I was soooo bad.  I think I was focused on my back and there were certain moves I couldn't really do because of it.

As I sit here typing this, it's Sunday night and I'm still having some pain.  I've been able to move around and function, taking care of laundry, etc. but there's a dull ache and if I move a certain way, pain.  As I was sitting on the couch the other night, I realized that my shoulders were pulled up.  It's like I can't relax those muscles and that definitely isn't helping the situation.

I can't pinpoint anything I've been doing differently.  Rich wondered if my running speedwork was contributing to it and then he mentioned all the sewing I've been doing lately.  When I sew, I actually have good posture.  For these latest projects, it seems like I've spent more time cutting fabric than sewing and I always feel all hunched over when I cut fabric.  But I've always sewn (and cut fabric.)  This isn't new.  I don't know!  (I have projects to share this week though.)

Okay, so on to other things.  Like snow.

Last week, for the third week in a row, we were hit with a strong storm.  This one dumped 18 inches of snow in our area, giving the girls two more snow days, unfortunately.





This was the last photo I took of the deck.


Rich was home from work on the first day but on the second, he left early in the morning.  When the girls came in and woke me up, I thought it was before 8:00.  Nope, it was after 9:00.  I couldn't believe that I had slept through Rich getting up and leaving for work.  Although, I was running a fan to block out noise.

I went outside to take photos and the snow was so deep, I couldn't even see my boots.






Between this month's snow days, the girls attended their last father/daughter dance.  Let's be real though.  At this point, Dad is the driver who coordinates the post-dance frozen yogurt party.    



At least the storm(s) originally in the forecast for this upcoming week appear to be in the miss category.  Although, my weather app is back to showing snow with a high of 34 on Wednesday.  Hooray for spring!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New! Parking fees for guests of Walt Disney World Resorts


To the frustration of many Walt Disney World fans, yesterday morning Disney officially announced to authorized travel planners the addition of parking fees for resort guests.  The resort parking fee rumor has been floating around for awhile and with the increase to park tickets, this move by Disney does not surprise me at all.

What do you need to know?

1.  The parking fee does not apply to existing reservations.  If you make a reservation on or after March 21, 2018 to stay at a WDW resort in Florida and you park a vehicle overnight, a parking fee will be added to your bill upon check-out.

2.  The amount of the parking fee is dependent upon the classification of the resort:
  • Value resorts = $13 per night
  • Moderate resorts = $19 per night
  • Deluxe resorts = $24 per night
  • Valet parking at deluxe resorts = $33 per night

3.  The following guests will not be charged a parking fee for self-parking:
  • Guests staying at the campsites at Fort Wilderness
  • Guests who are shopping, dining or enjoying entertainment for the day at a resort
  • Disney Vacation Club Member staying at a DVC Deluxe Villa
  • Guests with disabilities

What do I think of this change?

Obviously this new fee is a revenue generator, which I find interesting considering Disney overall has seen significant growth in revenue and net income.  In other words, they're not hurting.  Companies of this size analyze the impact of these types of decisions and apparently, Disney was able to come to the conclusion that lost guests due to the new expense would not be enough to offset the revenue generated from the parking fee.

The unofficial response from Disney regarding the negativity surrounding the parking fee has been "it's industry standard" and "Disneyland hotels already charge for parking."  Industry standard? Well, yes and no.  Typically, one would be charged hotel parking fees in crowded, urban areas.  Disney World resorts and parking lots are located on large plots of land with plenty of space.

The revenue generating impact of this fee is twofold.  Not only will guests with vehicles be charged a new fee but guests are more likely to forego a rental car and opt to use Disney's transportation.  Without a rental car, guests will probably spend their entire vacation inside the Disney bubble.  This also generates revenue.  Disney does not want you spending your money at Universal or Sea World.  They want you to spend your money at Disney restaurants, stores, etc.  I have to say that Disney does a good job with this.  With all of our Disney vacations, I never once felt the need to travel "offsite."

I've come across the argument that Disney guests without cars can easily leave the bubble by calling an Uber or Lyft.  I don't know if I agree with this thought process though.  Most guests have young children and don't these children need to be in car or booster seats?  I know Uber now has a program where you can get a car with one car seat.  Florida also has fairly lenient car seat laws.  My girls are almost eleven years old and, under Massachusetts state law, still required to use booster seats due to their size.  Grabbing an Uber is not so easy for young families.            

What's next?  $15 resort fee per room per night?  That's another rumor floating around.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Destruction at Nauset Beach

Due to the severity of the storms we've experienced this month, we drove down to the Cape this past weekend to check on the cottage.  I assumed that someone would have called us if a pine had fallen on it, but who knows.  Anyway, the cottage itself is fine.  There is a wire draped across the driveway.  It appears that the hook holding it up to the house blew off.  Also, a portion of the back fence was knocked down and another portion is only standing because it's against our shed.  I'm pretty sure that this fence belongs to our neighbors behind us.  We don't know who owns that house though and it was mainly unoccupied last summer.  I think we saw people there two or three times and that's it.

I had seen the news reports covering the severe beach erosion along certain parts of the Cape so we drove up to Nauset Beach to check it out.  Nauset Beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  It's mostly a sightseeing beach for use due to the heavy surf and frequent (great white) shark sightings.  The water is usually frigid as well.  It's a beautiful beach though.


(From last summer)

There is (was) a snack shack, Liam's, located at the main entrance to the beach.  We ate dinner there a few years ago and despite rave reviews online, we did not enjoy our food.  We're thinking that they just had an off night.  This past summer, we did order french fries for a snack one afternoon and they were tasty.  Liam's is (was) known for their onion rings, which unfortunately we never tried.  Rich can't eat onions so it's not something we typically order.

During the summer months, there are tables located across from the ordering windows at Liam's and then behind Liam's in the sand.  The dune sloped down to the beach after those tables.  The following photos are from summertime.  I want to show you what it used to look like.

Liam's is located to the right and a little bit back of this row of signs.  To the left you can see the tables and chairs and then the shark warning sign before you descend to the beach.


Here's the shark warning sign you can see in the background of the above photo.  Liam's is to the right after a bunch of tables.


This is what Liam's looks like now after these recent storms.




All of those signs, the sandy area for tables and the dune leading down to the beach are gone.

In this photo from a few years ago, Emily is sitting at a table across from the ordering windows at Liam's.  The building in the background is an admin office along with bathrooms.


Here's the admin building now.


The dunes separating it from the beach are almost completely gone.





This next photo is technically a fail but I'm including it because it's a wide view of the area.


Before the storms, those cement towers had all been under the sand.  I'm not sure exactly what they are but one news article I read indicated that they were remnants from a septic system.

Here's a photo I took a few years ago showing the same area, just from a slightly different angle.


This is just a crop of the above photo.  The roof on the left belongs to Liam's.


The building that houses Liam's was originally built in the mid-1950s as a clam shack.  The current owner took over and named it Liam's in 1990.  On Monday, the selectman in conjunction with park commissioners voted to end their lease with the owner of Liam's and the building will be torn down.  Everyone keeps commenting on the sadness of the situation and while I agree that it's sad, it's also terrifying to see the destruction caused by a handful of powerful storms over two months' time.  These storms were labeled nor'easters and bomb cyclones.  Or nor'easters with bomb cyclones.  What could a major hurricane wipe out?


Monday, March 12, 2018

Scheduling your Disney days by park + Crowd Calendars

Before I could make my dining reservations for our Disney vacation, I needed to decide the parks we would be visiting on each specific day.  This is an important step because you don't want to book dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table (in the castle) in Magic Kingdom on a day you plan to spend at Epcot.  Well, what about Park Hoppers?  Yes, if you had Hopper Passes, you could do this.  I typically do not recommend the added expense of Park Hopper Passes for families with younger children and we do not add on the Hopper option.  One park a day is time and energy consuming enough.  We tried Park Hoppers once and quickly realized that it didn't make sense for us at the time.  Maybe when the girls are teens, but not now.


I want to reiterate the importance of researching the vacation days you plan to spend at specific parks with a real life example.  Our favorite park is Magic Kingdom so it made sense to want to visit MK on our first full day in Orlando.  I'm glad I did my research because Magic Kingdom is scheduled to close at 6:00 pm that evening, presumably for a private event or Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  We would have been extremely disappointed if we hadn't realized that until we were in the park on that day.

Does stuff like that happen?  I'm sure it does.  And this isn't to snark on anyone because I realize that my level of planning is very detailed (although not nearly as detailed as others) but we've witnessed other guests' planning errors.  There was the mom who thought Crystal Palace restaurant was in Cinderella's castle and the family looking around Magic Kingdom for a restaurant located at Disney Springs.  If mistakes such as these are happening, I think it's safe to assume not every guest is checking park hours in advance.

Planning Resources

Your first stop should be to the main source.  The WDW website publishes park hours, parade times, special events and attractions closed for refurbishment.  This calendar extends for six months.  So today, March 12, I can only see information through September 8.

Crowd Calendars

Kenny the Pirate

While the park hours on the Disney website only extend out six months, the crowd calendars on this website go beyond that.  I'm linking this website as a resource because the hours for my vacation dates were not yet up on Disney's website when I needed to plan and so this is where I discovered that Magic Kingdom was closing at 6:00 on our first full vacation day.  I double checked the Disney website later when it had updated and the times match.    


A few thoughts on crowd calendars. . . Disney itself does not publish attendance records.  I think the best you can find is a combined total of attendance at all the parks for the entire year.  There are many websites offering their predictions on what crowds will be like on specific days.  I have mixed feelings on using crowd calendars for a few different reasons.  Disney does make public wait times for rides and attractions.  Unofficial crowd calendars are created using historical wait times, knowledge of events and Disney special offers.  I think it's more important to take into account the time of year your trip is taking place versus obsessing over whether to visit Epcot on a day with an 8/10 rating or Magic Kingdom with a 7/10 rating.  Also keep in mind that often parks will be rated more crowded for the very reason you want to visit that day.  Extra Magic Hours and night parades/fireworks bring in more crowds.

Interestingly enough, many Disney bloggers believe "slow" times of the year at Disney are disappearing because of 1. the special offers made by Disney to draw in guests during known slower times and 2. all the planning information available on the internet.  I disagree.  The beginning of September may not be as slow as it used to be but it certainly can't compare to summer crowds.

If crowd calendars are telling you Magic Kingdom is the worst park to visit on a certain day, wouldn't that be the best park to visit because everyone else will be avoiding it?  In theory.  But we all know not everyone follows crowd calendars and they do vary, depending on the source.  Just run a google search for "Disney crowd calendars" and you'll see what I mean.

I've reached the point in planning where I look at our vacation as a whole.  What park is most important to us?  Right now, it's Magic Kingdom so I look for the days where Magic Kingdom works best.  For us, the park closing at 6:00 is not a positive.  Some of the crowd calendars show Magic Kingdom as the best park to visit on that day where it's closing at 6:00.  Their justification is that crowds will be lower because guests won't want to visit on a day when the park closes at 6:00.  Will lower crowds reduce wait times enough to make the park worth visiting that day?  No one can say for sure.  Is every guest aware of the park's closing time before they reach the park that day?  I'm guessing no.  Other "negatives" for crowd calendars are Extra Magic Hours and night parades and fireworks.  Those are positive for us though.  How would we ever see a parade if we always avoid the park on parade days?

Once I figure out the most important dates/parks for us, then I fill in the other days.  For our upcoming trip, I have Epcot booked for a day when some of the crowd calendars say Epcot is the worst pick of the day.  But other crowd calendars disagree. We'll see what happens!

To see an outline of how I plan out our Disney vacations, please check out my post Plan Your Walt Disney World Vacation in 8 Steps.

You can find links to trip reports from our previous 5 Disney vacations and other planning tips HERE.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Winter Wonderland

Seven inches of heavy, wet snow.

Color with the appearance of a black and white world.

Another school snow day.