2016 was a pretty sucky year for me personally, but I have high hopes for 2017. So far, it hasn't let me down with a trip to Orlando and a chance to see my mom, uncle, sister, brother-in-law, and my two nephews.
My uncle Larry told my sister, mom, and I that if we could pay for airfare to Orlando, he would pay for all of us to stay at Disney's Polynesian Resort along with meal plans and 4 days of park tickets. For this reason, my mother-in-law would like to adopt my uncle Larry into Betsy's side of the family, preferably before summer break.
So, we got to go to Disney World AGAIN after having gone a couple years ago. How lucky could we be?? I'm worried Grace will start thinking these sorts of trips and luxury resort stays are commonplace, so we've started forcing her to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. That reminds me, Betsy and I decided to fly down to Florida a couple days early so we could spend a day at Universal Studios' The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Grace and I have been dying to see it, so we spent two nights at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and visited the park on New Year's Eve.
The Cabana Bay was a great place to stay, other than the constant annoying 50s music. It's cheaper than the other hotels at the park. I ate most of my meals at their cafeteria. I could just order a meal, put it in my blender, find an outlet near our table, and blend up my food right there. I had two breakfasts and a dinner this way.
Grace is making her just-finish-eating-so-we-can-go-to-the-park face
On New Year's Eve, we ate at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville where I ordered a chicken Cobb salad. I could've ordered a burger with gluten-free bun, but I'm always afraid to order stuff like bread, potatoes, rice, or pasta because it thickens the blend, and the volume of the meal turns out really big. I'm also afraid to get steak because the Vitamix often misses fat or gristle that ends up getting stuck in the tube. So, I usually opt for salad or seafood.
|"If they play 'Margaritaville' one more time, I will murder someone."|
We spent a day at Diagon Alley--which was AMAZING. It took us a while to convince Grace to ride the Escape From Gringott's ride, but she liked it so much, she had to ride two more times. Betsy and Grace had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and I had a couple Real Food Blends. Grace tried her hardest to stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year, but only made it to 11:30.
|Fun fact: Butterbeer is 15% butter by volume|
|I have the Dumbledore wand, Grace has Hermione's|
|Just a muggle eating his Real Food Blend and his half-blood princess|
The next day, my uncle picked us up at Universal and drove us over to Shades of Green military resort, across the street from Disney World's Polynesian resort. After checking in, we ate dinner at the Italian restaurant there, where I had the veal piccata (I know this breaks my 'salad or seafood' rule, but I figured veal was a safe bet).
|Hi, Uncle Larry! He doesn't use the internet so I doubt he'll ever read this.|
My sister, her family, and my mom flew in from Germany that evening and we spent one night at Shades of Green, before moving over to the Polynesian the next day. They served gluten-free waffles at the Polynesian's Capt. Cook's so I had breakfast there before we headed out to Animal Kingdom. I think last time we went to Disney, I said Animal Kingdom is like a really crowded zoo. I still think that's an accurate assessment. Pretty much all the animals I saw are also at Knoxville's zoo and I don't have to fight a mob of people to see them. However, I also still think Everest is the best roller coaster in the park. Grace and the other kids were too afraid to ride, but my brother-in-law, Betsy and I rode it. We all rode the Kali River Rapids twice too. Grace loves that one and at 80 degrees, we were all hot enough to go. Once again, I had a Real Food Blend for lunch in the park.
You do a bunch of walking at the Disney parks. I didn't do a whole lot of exercising last year, especially after my surgery, so I was worried I'd have a hard time keeping up with everyone. But, I did pretty well. My iphone tracks my steps and the distance I've walked every day. I don't know how precise it is, but according to the Health app, from Friday, Dec. 30, to Friday, Jan. 6, I walked 107,452 steps for a total of 38.6 miles. I know it's not that impressive, but I felt good about not needing a cane and still being able to hang out with the kids without any falls.
That first night at Disney, I had dinner over at the Contemporary Resort at a restaurant called The Wave. I got chicken breasts and had a horrible time with clogs. Has anyone else blended their meals in one of the wider pitchers that come with the commercial Vitamix? If so, please reply in the comments. Our chef at The Wave was super nice. He offered to blend my meal up in their own Vitamix so I wouldn't have to get my own dirty. But, as soon as I tried to push the food in, I got a clog. We sent the blend back and asked him to blend some more. This happens sometimes, but it always gets fixed after we send it back. But my tube STILL clogged. So, we sent it back again...clog...and again...clog. Finally, we asked the chef (Betsy thought he was really hot; is that why she kept asking to see him?) if he could blend the meal in my pitcher and it worked the first time. We think that the narrower pitchers condense the food up better as it blends to ensure every little bit gets liquified. Does that make sense? Anyone else have this experience? Regardless, from then on, we always asked the chefs if they were blending my meal up in a Vitamix with a narrow pitcher.
Disney, of course, will bend over backward to make sure their guests get the full, 'Happiest Place on Earth' experience. We ate at Magic Kingdom's Crystal Palace for lunch on Tuesday (thank you, chef Ruben!), Hollywood Studios' Sci-fi Dine-in Theater for lunch on Wednesday, and Epcot's Coral Reef Restaurant on Thursday (thank you, Chef Nathan!) and every time, the restaurant used their own Vitamix (with a narrow pitcher) so I didn't have to carry mine around the park. The one exception was the luau at the Polynesian on Thursday night (very impressive fire dancer!). They didn't have a Vitamix, but I didn't mind eating a couple Real Food Blends for dinner.
|Chef Ruben is not at all concerned about his restaurant's rodent problem|
|I had honey in my meal and this bear wouldn't leave me alone!|
|My youngest nephew loves watching me eat and now Betsy wants to kidnap him|
|Chef Nathan at the Coral Reef|
My Uncle Larry got us a meal plan for the week. Not sure where he got all the money for this but I have heard him mention that Walter White is loosely based on him? Don't know what that means, but thank you, Uncle Larry!! My nephews have celiac disease so both my sister and I ordered gluten free meals for breakfast every morning (gluten free waffles, eggs and bacon for me!). I just plugged up my Vitamix in the breakfast area where all the guests ate, blended my meal, and ate with whoever happened to be up.
It was awesome to see Grace together with her cousins. They get along really well and had a fantastic time at the parks. When we went to Disney two years ago, The Force Awakens hadn't come out in theaters yet, so there wasn't a whole lot of Star Wars stuff. This time, at Hollywood Studios, it was EVERYWHERE. There were storm troopers walking around asking little kids for their identification. Grace and her cousins did Jedi training, where they faced off against Darth Vader AND Kylo Ren (not at the same time; that would be suicide). There was a storm trooper march with Captain Phasma leading a squadron of troops up the street to their shuttle. There was a live show outside. There were a couple short films to watch in two different theaters. We waited in line to meet Chewbacca (we all hugged him and said we were sorry for his loss). We could've waited to meet Kylo Ren, but who wants to meet that asshole? And, naturally, we were encouraged to buy Star Wars merchandise. Uncle Larry gave us money to spend on souvenirs so the kids each got a remote control BB8 droid. I got a Lego Tie Fighter (because I'm 42, and I like Legos), then got home to discover I got a MODEL of a Tie Fighter, not the Lego. Models are way too grown up for me, so I'm going to return that sucker and get the toy I wanted (again, I'm 42).
|Sorry kids, but you don't get to meet the wookie until I'm finished|
|Grace said she wished he would've tried harder, so next time, could you use a real light saber, you pansy?|
|Grace had more sugar on this trip than she's ever had in her life|
Since there was a forecast for snow back in Tennessee, I naturally went swimming every chance I got. I've heard some people don't go swimming with their feeding tubes, especially not in hot tubs, oceans, lakes, or rivers. I know parents, especially, are nervous about letting their tubie children expose themselves to potential toxins. I haven't let the tube stop me from swimming. I might be playing with fire but I've had the tube in all those environments, plus public swimming pools. I normally try to take a shower right afterward to rinse out the tube, but I haven't always. I remember one time, specifically, a couple years ago when we went camping and tubing in the Smoky Mountains and it was two nights before I took a shower. I'm definitely not encouraging others to do this. I know parents are very nervous about being responsible for their children getting bad germs through the tube. I personally haven't had a problem with it, and this trip was no exception. I went swimming in the saltwater pool, the saltwater hot tub, the chlorinated pool filled with screaming kids, and the chlorinated hot tub. At some point in the future, you can all laugh at me when I get some horrible stomach illness from mutant lake algae.
Betsy and I renewed our wedding vows for the 15th time. Our anniversary isn't until Feb. 2, but we thought we would take the opportunity to get married at Disney World. Initially, we wanted to do it in front of the Chinese Pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase, but we ran out of time on Thursday (it would probably take a week to see everything at Epcot) so Grace had us say our vows on the beach at the Polynesian and then Betsy and I went to Magic Kingdom Thursday night to see the fireworks. You want to know what attracts a lot of attention? A one-armed guy in uniform and his wife wearing her wedding dress posing for pictures in front of the crystal palace at night. Whoa. The photographer had us kiss and the whole crowd erupted in cheers. I'm a little disappointed we couldn't do it in China. I guess now we'll have to go to the REAL China to renew our wedding vows. Maybe Uncle Larry has some money left to spend on those tickets? The Shanghai Disney Resort just opened last year!!! I'm sure that won't be crowded at all.