Wednesday, January 11, 2017

LEGOLAND California

This one is a post I've been waiting to write for years, in a place we've been wanting to visit for years. LEGOLAND California is a dream come true for us. Our whole family are huge LEGO fans. An amusement park designed around our favorite toy? Yes please!

LEGOLAND did NOT disappoint!

Costco has this great deal for an annual pass for less than the price of a one day ticket. It covers LEGOLAND, the LEGOLAND water parks, and the Sea Life Aquarium. It does NOT cover parking, but still, even if you only go twice, it ends up being cheaper than buying tickets twice. 

For us, this is a great deal because we are not a family who can do a whole amusement park in one day. We need time to walk around and acclimate, time to stop and rest without feeling pressured to do more, and time to think about whether we're ready to go on that roller coaster. And our limit is about four hours, which is definitely not enough time to do a whole amusement park. So being able to return as much as the weather and open times allow is a good way for us to eventually get to everything we want to see at the park.

 LEGOLAND was SO much better laid out than Universal Studios was. It's much more spacious firstly, which makes it seem much less crowded for the most part. But also it has trees and lots of benches for sitting, and also lots of places that are full of LEGO to build and benches for the parents to sit while the kids build for awhile. And NOTHING is artifically scented!

Not only that, but there are LEGO sculptures everywhere to give everyone something to look at while you're walking or resting. It's loud in places but they're spread out so it isn't a nervous system overload - also most of the loud is happy children rather than noisy rides or music.

We loved every bit of it so much, and we didn't even go on a single ride. We DID go to the BIG shop because my son really wanted the LEGO Moana set. It wasn't in stock in the BIG Shop, but they called around the park to the other gift shops and found it at King's Marketplace in the Castle area, so across the park we went to get it. They'll send your purchases to the front for you to pick them up when you're ready to go so you don't have to carry them around all day.

Of course because the Castle was next to the Star Wars area, after going through the Enchanted Walk, we had to go see the Star Wars area. How could we not? So many fantastic miniature sets from the original movies. And the Death Star! And Darth Vader!

And then there's Miniland. A whole ares of scenes from famous places around the United States. My favorite scene was the UFO crash in Las Vegas with the Men in Black. I love that there was so much fun and humor in the details of the scenes. There was SO much to look at in each scene. I'm not sure if Santa IS an alien, or speaking to them, but it's a great touch.

We also went to the Sea Life Aquarium, but that's its own post because it was pretty darn cool for a small aquarium. We only ended up lasting about four hours, and I of course needed my wheelchair to do it, but I did NOT need my mask! And that was pretty amazing.

 Oddly, even after my family was worn out, I wanted to keep going, but I had been riding in the wheelchair after all. But the difference in my stamina without all the scented everything was just phenomenal. Thank you, LEGOLAND, for actually having breathable air! 


Monday, January 9, 2017

Universal Studios Hollywood - Spoonie Perspective

The good thing is that my son had a (mostly) good time the first time we went, particularly in the Simpsons and Minions areas. But it was super crowded, they do not ever ask people to make way for wheelchairs or other differently abled humans, they pump in scents everywhere (I could NOT take off my mask even outside). I didn't see it the first time we went because my husband dropped us off at the front, but the second time we went, I noticed this at the tollbooth for parking. In California (and I love this) Prop 65 requires anyone using toxic chemicals to post this warning. 

 Every shop smelled like "cake" (no food being sold in them though), and outside and inside everywhere else smelled like fabric softener. We didn't go into most of the shops or restaurants. I thought I was going to see the inside of Hogwarts, but all I got to see was all the ways Universal is scheming to take even more money from people. Because charging $119 per person per day isn't enough somehow. This place was a chronically ill human's nightmare. I'm glad my son had a good time, though. 

 I think if one really makes an effort to go on a less crowded day it would be slightly better. But according to Google, less crowded only happens if you get there at 8 AM, which we just weren't willing to try and do when it already makes for such a long day even being in the park. Also bear in mind that in a wheelchair I'm about crotch height to overyone else and it really does make it a lot worse for me. Even with my mask, the petrochemical scents overwhelm my nervous system and cause brain fog, anxiety and general overwhelm, not to mention physical symptoms like pain. 

We did go back a second time to try and get our money's worth out of the tickets. Having the wheelchair does bump you up in the lines for the rides - even if the wheelchair user doesn't go on the rides, members of their party can still go through the wheelchair part of the line and just wait at the exit for them, which makes it easier because not as much waiting around, which also drains energy resources. (Spoons). But trying to push a wheelchair through the crowds is rather brutal. ESPECIALLY over cobblestone. People don't necessarily move out of your way or let you through, and they will even do things like run in front of you if they see space. 

The first time we went, we made some rookie mistakes - partly because my nervous system was so overwhelmed, my brain forgot to tell my body it had needs other than "shut down", or "escape this nightmare". Among them, that were correctable the second time, were:

  1. Not checking the busy times on Google first. ApparentlyMondays (the first time we went) are a super busy time, but also so are any days around the holiday. So we were kind of SOL there. 
  2. Not having a hat with a visor. When the sun is high, it's brutal and shines in your eyes, making it unpleasant. They seem to know this and sell baseball hats and other hats with brims at every gift shop, but BYO is so much cheaper. Which we of course did the second time. 
  3. Staying too long. We just wanted to see so much, and I think for our first day we just stayed longer than was good. The second time we didn't stay as long, but we also didn't get to do but one ride. This was largely due to an accident (that's all you'll get from me on that -  everyone is fine) that cut our visit short (but the whole visit was still beyond overwhelming). 
  4. Not eating regularly enough. This is for me personally. I need an infusion of fruit and greens (lettuce, celery, whatever) every hour or hour and a half. I've posted about the 16 adrenal snacks before, and I REALLY need to be eating those on the regular. I only ate once in the 3-4 hours we were there, and it was not enough. I did better the second time, makind sure to eat the adrenal snack rather than just a piece of fruit. It makes a difference, believe me. 
  5. I also should have been drinking ALL the liquids I brought (lemon water) instead of practically forgetting I'd brought any. The second time I did way better on this. 
  6. Also, extra supplements like B12, which I did bring but forgot to use - because B12 gets depleted really quickly when the nervous system is under stress. The second time I literally set alarms on my phone for all of this and FOLLOWED THEM. If I am properly supported nutritionally, I do MUCH better. At home this is so much easier, of course. I need to learn how to do it outside of my home now. Bringing the food/drinks/supplements isn't enough, I have to actually ingest them. This is a learning process.
The scents aren't anything I can change, so I still very much needed to wear the mask to be there. Even my husband said that the shops "smelled like cake" when there was no cake anywhere, and the rest of the place "smelled like fabric softener" so even Muggles can smell this stuff around. I wish when they have the toxic chemical warning at the tollbooth that they would also have a list of what chemicals are used, so you know what you're getting into. Had I had my wits about me, I'd have asked. I wonder if they are required to have a list? If you know, please comment and tell me.

Today I'm okay again with the help of a lot of cleansing foods and supplemental support. I don't want to gloss over what hapened, because it was a big deal, and I SO wish Universal would have "sensory sensitive days" without all of the extra sensory input or scents, because everything was VERY LOUD (one might even do well to have a pair of earplugs to help filter it out, too). It  wasn't the crowds so much as the loud music playing everywhere  - the noise of the park itself - and there was nowhere to go to get away from it. Or the scents.

I am not at all used to going out into crowds anymore, having been homebound for the past couple of years, and at the most going to a quiet grocery store with almost no people in it, or a Target, which is about as busy a situation as I've been in. So that bears mentioning as well. Someone more accustomed to crowds might fare better.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

that time I got stung by a bee at the beach and I didn't die

A few days ago we landed in our new spot in Oceanside, California. The RV park we're staying in is a very short walk from the beach - only four minutes! And it's quite a lovely walk at that. There is a little inlet that connects to the ocean, and the ducks, gulls and other assorted birds and squirrels like to gather there. On the other side is a small park with a playground, complete with swings (our favorite). Then you walk past what I think is a cafe, cross the street, and you're on the beach watching the ocean. It's so cool! And this beach is great - fine, powdery sand plus random rocks strewn about, just ready to be thrown back in. My son and husband LOVE throwing rocks into the water.

So of course we had to go there and throw rocks in the water and watch the sunset, because we were there at the perfect time of day. We took off our shoes by the bigger rocks that you could sit on, and then got up to go walk to the water. Only I felt something soft under my foot. I was trying to rub it off and then felt a stabbing pain through my foot, and I wondered if it was a splinter, or....then I felt the unmistakable feeling of venom spreading through my foot - it was a sting. What had I stepped on?

I didn't see what stung me, just the stinger that was pulled from the bottom of my foot. It looked like a bee stinger, and I am convinced that is what it was. I've seen enough bee stingers to know what they look like. I know that, it being the beach, there is a possibility of jellyfish or urchins or any number of things, but this didn't look at all like it came from the sea. And a search on the internet revealed that it's a pretty common place for bees to die, so it's definitely not unheard of.

It HURT. So much so that I had to tell my family to go away from me because I couldn't process anything but the pain for about 30 minutes. They kept coming to check on me and I was just like, "Go throw rocks in the ocean, I just need a minute here." That whole, "I couldn't see straight," thing that people say? Well, I actually couldn't see straight.

It bears mentioning here that I am supposed to be allergic to bee stings - I have the blood tests and an Epi Pen to prove it. I did NOT have the Epi with me, however, and as I sat there just trying to see through the pain, and asking the angels and the Universe to please take the pain, I was also very aware that I would either come out of this or die right there on the beach.
 *spoiler alert* I didn't die. I didn't even react, other than the blinding pain and not being able to walk. the sting was on the ball of my foot, so it took a couple of days, but also, it only took a couple of days for it to completely return to normal. When we got back to the RV, I soaked it in baking soda first, since we were out of Epsom Salts. I don't know how that happened, but whatever, my husband went and got more.
We also made a paste of baking soda and apple cider vinegar and put it on my foot for about a half hour, followed by some lavendar essential oil. The pain was still throbbing, but somehow not only did I fall asleep, but I slept fairly well. The next day, the pain was replaced by itching - it was beginning to heal! It was still insanely tender to the touch, so I just did another epsom salt foot bath and tried not to itch it - until I realized that the towel I used to dry my foot also doubled as a scratching towel that I could run back and forth under my foot. Then it became my best friend for the rest of the day, because the itching was as strong as the pain had been the first day.
Day three still a bit of itching, but the swelling seemed to be going down and I could walk again, even pressing on my foot. Honestly I was shocked - firstly, I'm supposed to be anaphylactic. And I wasn't. Secondly, the way it hurt I thought it could be days - but it wasn't. And I attribute that to the healing foods and supplements I'm eating. My body is healing, so it's getting more and more able to process things that happen - like a bee sting. Like I could before I got so sick.

I decided to blog about it because it meant so much to me to see that happen - I was already eating foods I thought I'd never eat again, and I have been feeling so much healthier and more capable. But I had a blood test for this, and an Epi Pen. I didn't think that my body would process this this quickly or well. The whole thing blew my mind - how quickly it healed, and also, how I didn't die.
An amazing surprise indeed. Oh, and lest you worry - I'm still keeping the Epi Pen - I'm not going to get cocky. It's one of those things that is way better to have than not to have, just in case. But WOW that I didn't need it. By the way, I took all of these photos as this process happened. We just wanted to see the sunset at the beach!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach  - I'd call it a must stop if you're traveling through California anywhere nearby. It's on the edge of an adorable little beach town that I didn't have the stamina to explore. I'm still healing, and my energy gets used in only the most important places - like on the sand and in the water. Not IN the water, but my feet in the water.

But I DID have the stamina to spend a couple of hours with my family on the beach, letting the gentle waves caress our feet, watching Muffins running in and out of the water, laughing and allowing the healing that the ocean and sand provide. A true gift. 

Muffins loves the water and the ocean so much that as soon as she smelled the sea air she started crying to get out of the car -  while we were still moving and nowhere near the parking lot. She was ready to go!

Muffins, my husband and my son play a game where they chase the waves as they wash out, then run away as they wash in. Muffins usually doesn't go in beyond the depth of her legs, but this time she felt bold and went in all the way past her belly, to
where the water was halfway up her sides before she decided to run back onto land. It was hilarious to watch, and she had us laughing SO hard.

She was also particularly interested in those birds. 

Laughing! Now even there is something I had done so rarely in my life with chronic illness, if ever. It's not easy to laugh when a person is in so much pain that it's all they can do to breathe, or when they're so exhausted that they can't see straight.

And here I was, laughing joyfully. Happythankyoumoreplease! This day, this beach, so much healing, so much life. 

So much life! The bird life was abundant at the beach. I don't know them all but we saw plovers, gulls, pigeons, pelicans, hawks....and those are just the ones I was able to recognize.

I think these birds are western snowy plovers. I'm no bird expert but I sure am fascinated by them. Birds have such grace and personality, and they are so funny to watch sometimes. 

These little guys would run in as the tide washed out and start eating something - brine shrimp or brine fly larvae perhaps. Something too small for us to see, but clearly a delicious treat for them. It was like a meditation watching them over and over as the tide washed in and out.

The pier against the sky. What contrast! There were so many beautiful visuals here. And apparently the water gets pretty high at times, we just lucked out with a lower tide day.

The water made these ripples in the sand. The sand itself was so fine it felt velvety on our feet rather than sand-papery. This beach just made me want to live here.

After a couple of hours (on my feet the whole time, go me!) we decided it was time to go, so I climbed the stiars to the pier to sit on the bench with Muffins while my guys enjoyed swinging on the beach.

So to recap: I spent almost two hole hours on my feet in the sand and water, and I don't remember it hurting until the end - whoa! That is unheard of for me. Then I walked UP THE STAIRS of the pier to sit on a bench to recover a bit - pretty impressive after already being on my feet all that time!

 Now, I'm not saying that it will only get better every day from here on in, because let's face it - flares happen. My body still has a great deal of healing to do from the onslaught of viruses it's been carrying around all its life, and the damage they have done. My liver has a lot of cleansing and healing to do yet. And that's okay with me. 

I know I AM healing now, finally, after years of seeking answers. I see the difference and how each outing shows me that I AM moving forward, I do keep improving, and sometimes I am blown away at what I can do now. Things I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to do again. It feels amazing.Talking with a dear friend tonight I realized that when I was first on this healing path, trying the Medical Medium recommendations, if a flare would happen sometimes I'd get that panicky feeling like, "No, it's not working, it's all coming back, nothing can heal this." It would terrify me to have a flare of my symptoms or feel more pain or even have a day of grumpiness from not enough sleep.

But I'm noticing now that it doesn't scare me anymore, because it's a part of the process, and I really KNOW that I am healing, and if I just do the things I need to do to keep that going, it will keep happening. And that's pretty amazing in and of itself.

I had been watching the hawks soaring over the beach, just gliding, circling, flowing so gracefully back and forth. I have been thrilled be the sheer number of raptors I've seen in the skies everywhere we've been in California - I think hawk must be one of my spirit animals, because I have been so completely drawn to them these last few years. I really wanted to get a good photo, but my lens isn't very long, and I didn't know if I could. 

As we were leaving, however, the hawk must have heard my wishes, because it literally flew right above our heads, over the pier we were walking down, and I took as many photos as my camera would allow as it flew over. I could have cried with joy. So close! I was actually calling out thanks to the hawk as it flew overhead and I was clicking away.

I'm not exactly sure the type of hawk - I tried to look it up and maybe it's a 
Ferruginous Hawk? If you know more about birds than I do (likely), and know what kind this is, please educate me, I really want to know!

We even remembered to take a family selfie. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA

So far we've been really lucky with the places we've stayed. We use RV Park Reviews to find places that meet all of our needs, and I look at the reviews to find out extra information the websites don't tell you, like train tracks nearby, traffic noise, level sites, etc. Thus far it's been a win.

Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA has by far for our needs been our favorite campground/RV Park ever. It has cabins, RV spaces, spaces for longer term stays, staff spots for RVs and then....the amenities. KOAs are known for being family-friendly, and some of them take that designation VERY seriously, making the park itself the attraction rather than relying on what's nearby. This KOA was so much fun that we would have just stayed in the park and had plenty to do.

For us, our main attraction (and the spot we chose to park in) was the Bounce Pillow. This is a huge inflatable pillow made from the same material gym mats are made of, and it is for bouncing upon. Not quite the give and bounce of a trampoline, but enough bounce and enjoyment to give my son some happiness at having a place to bounce his cares away, because yes, he does.

Just like at home on the trampoline, with the exception of the rainy days, he was bouncing.

 The KOA also had a playground with five different slides, a climbing structure, and swings. It had an outdoor pool and hot tub which were both open, but it was a bit cold and we never did get to them (the bounce pillow was right outside our door, whereas the pool was a bit of a walk away and down the hill by the office). 

There were recumbent bike rentals in several different sizes, and my husband and son made good use of these while we stayed - they rode three or four times. And the KOA is so large, there is plenty of space to ride, as well. There was also (upon request since we were in the odd season) a train that would take you around the park in the afternoons. And a mini golf course as well as an indoor game room with billiards and ping pong tables.

 And for Muffins, in addition to the whole of the park and plenty of things to sniff as we took her on walks, there were two fenced in dog areas for her to enjoy, with a great view of the hillside and farms across the way. And an outdoor dog wash - which did not have hot water though, so we only did that once - she cried because the water was cold, so that was that.

RV speak: all the sites (that we could see) were gravel and sand but not difficult to level on. There were full hookups with 50 AMP power. Oh, what a joy is having 50 whole AMPS of power after having been hooked up to our 20 amp house for months! We can run alltheappliances at once! (We don't.) We can do laundry, run the heater and cook at the same time! It's so wonderful to have those 50 AMPs, let me tell you. Even 30 AMP is a huge step up from not being able to run the washer and the heater at the same time. Or anything and the heater (laptops excluded).

 Oh, electricity, how we love having you! (And water and sewer, which is just grey water for us, but so important still). 

Also, the staff was friendly and always had a smile for the guests, and rode by several times a day to pick up trash and recycling from the sites, do general tidying and maintenance of the property. And yes, they did offer recycling - a great plus to us, because not a lot of parks do, at least in our brief experience. 

We enjoyed this particular KOA so much that we very seriously considered staying on an extra month and pushing the rest of our travel plans. But several repeated checks of the weather (like the refrigerator, maybe it's different now if we look again?) told us that no, it wasn't going to be this nice for another month, so it was time to roll down the road to the next place.

We were there in the off season, so we pretty much had the run of the place while we were there, and that works well for us. Kiddo doesn't like a lot of other humans around, because he finds it overstimulating, and he doesn't feel comfortable injecting himself into the unpredictability of group play. But on weekends and sometimes beyond there would be other kids there, and he did even start feeling okay about talking to some of them and even bouncing with them as well. That was pretty cool.

 We would absolutely stay there again, long term even. It has pretty much spoiled us for other KOAs and even other RV Parks, because when they say "family friendly" at a KOA, they really really mean it. If you're an RV family and you ever get the chance, stay there. It's not that far to Monterey or Santa Cruz, it's pretty darn easy to find organic groceries and sushi (we really really loved Ocean Sushi Deli in Monterey - it's a deli-style restaurant that serves sushi made by authentic Japanese sushi chefs), and there is so much great stuff to do, you will never get bored. KOAs vary widely by location, but this one is the one that will impress.