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New York Trip Day 3: Niagara Falls & Casino

So yesterday we left off when we were on the observation deck at Niagara Falls. After we enjoyed the view we made our way down to take the Maid of the Mist boat tour. 


We didn’t even have to wait in line, as soon as we got down there they were filling up a boat so we got to load right away. It was so funny to watch the kids trying to put on those blue rain ponchos with the wind swirling around. After several attempts that ended in kids with their heads shoved through the arm holes they were finally all decked out and ready. We took some pictures before the boat launched. 




Once the boat tour started I was really glad that my iPhone 7 is water resistant! Or I wouldn’t have gotten any good pictures at all because of the spray from the Falls. It was intense.








The Falls were so very gorgeous up close. I’m so glad we decided to do the boat tour. Amazing!




See that platform up there? That’s the observation deck that we were standing on in some of the earlier pictures. It did not seem quite so high when we were up there. 









After the boat tour we decided it would be fun to climb the stairs that are right next to the Falls so we could see them really up close. We totally underestimated how wet we would get. Ha!


The view was spectacular! It was a rough climb and the kids were good sports about getting totally soaked. I saw more smiles out of Tyler during the climb than I did for the entire rest of the trip. What can I say? The boy loves a challenge. But it was so worth it to get to the top. 





Zoey and Mason are in there somewhere. They were smart, hiding behind the adults to avoid the spray. Ha! I snapped as many pictures as I could in a couple of minutes because that was about as long as we could stand the massive amounts of water spray smacking us in the face. The wind was intense and it was a hard climb back down. But I would do it again in a hot second, talk about some amazing memories! After we arrived back up at the top of the Falls we had an hour or so to kill before meeting everyone at the casino for dinner, plus we were soaking wet, so we decided to take a trolley tour.


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By the time the trolley tour ended it was time to walk up to the casino. We stopped for a picture in front of the Hard Rock Cafe Niagara Falls on the way.


We ate dinner at the all you can eat buffet in the casino and it was so good. I think we gained 10 pounds each just on Sunday. Never in my life have I done 2 all you can eat buffets in one day. I regret nothing.



After dinner Matt’s dad and uncle took the kids to the arcade so the adults could lose some money in the casino.




Poor Tyler. He almost made it into the casino but at the last minute they asked for his ID so he was stuck in the arcade with the kids. I paid him $20 to watch the little kids. Money well spent considering when we got back Matt’s dad was asleep on a bench and his uncle was in the bathroom. Ha!


Matt was very excited about his $10.64 winning on the penny slots. He felt very good about it until his aunt came out and said she won $480 on the same penny slots. Ha! I guess sometimes it does pay to be a gambler. We had a great time even if we didn’t win a jackpot. It was a really fun trip and I’m so glad we went. We left early the next morning at 8am for the 12 hour drive back home. 


New York Trip Day 3: Family Reunion & Niagara Pt 1

We knew Sunday was going to be a busy day for us because our first stop was the family reunion brunch that was also a graduation celebration for Matt’s second cousins and we wanted to make it up to Niagara Falls before meeting everyone at the casino for dinner. The brunch was fun. We got to see family and friends that we hadn’t seen in 20 years, the food was excellent, and we enjoyed chatting with Matt’s older brother and his family who were at our table. 






After we ate for 2 hours- it was an all you can eat brunch and we ate a whole lot- we had the kids change into more casual clothes so we could head up to Niagara Falls. It took us another hour to get out of there while plans were made and changed and then changed again….and again. 



Finally we were ready to go! The kids were so excited to see Niagara Falls. We had to stick to the American side because we didn’t have our passports with us. But that was fine. Matt and I have already done the Canadian side but we’d never seen the American side. It was beautiful and so much fun! The kids were vibrating in their seats the minute we started crossing the bridge.



We drove separately from Matt’s brother so we had a few minutes to enjoy the view while we waited to meet up with them. It was gorgeous. The kids were totally enthralled. 


Before long our group was all together and we took a bunch of photos. Even Tyler consented to appear in some photos. That was the magic of the Falls. 










The kids wanted to get closer and see more of the Falls. We decided to take the boat tour, called Maid of the Mist, which also included access to the Observation Deck. It was AMAZING and if you’re going to do Niagara Falls, I highly recommend shelling out the money for the boat and the observation deck. It was worth every single penny. The views from the deck were spectacular.





Tomorrow I’m going to share all of our pictures from the boat tour, the trolley tour, and the casino. The boat tour pictures are by far my most favorite from the trip. You’ll see why. ha!


New York Trip Day 2: Buffalo Zoo

So we left off the last post on Friday night when we arrived at Matt’s aunt’s house. There wasn’t a lot of sleeping that night between all the beer drinking and catching up we were doing with relatives. Matt’s older brother was already there with his wife and 5 year old son and we hadn’t seen them in over a year. When we finally did crash into bed it was near 3am and we were all crammed into the living room between a pull out sofa and a pallet bed on the floor. So believe me, when I say there wasn’t a lot of sleep happening. And everyone was awake bright and early the next morning. We had all day on Saturday to do what we wanted until our hotel check in time at 4pm. We decided to take the kids to the Buffalo Zoo since it was only in the mid-70’s up in Buffalo instead of the high 90’s that we are used to at this time of year. 



The kids were so excited to get to explore and run around a bit after being stuck in a car for 12 hours the day before. Well, Tyler was less excited than the little kids but he survived. ha! 




We got to see a lot of animals but a few were not out including the hyenas, the polar bear, and the panda. Mason was disappointed not to see any wolves but there were enough animals to keep him happy. 



These 2 are exactly one year and 5 days apart in age and they were thick as thieves during this trip. Zoey is usually the youngest one with nobody near her age so this was nice for her. They held hands and played together the whole day.





My sister-in-law and I found a great informational poster that proves that females are indeed in charge in all species. ha! The menfolk were not impressed. But they also didn’t disagree. 




By the time we walked through the whole zoo, with Tyler acting as our guide with the map, the little kids were tired and a bit bored. Two seconds after Zoey whined about her sore feet and hitched a piggyback ride from Matt, we saw a playground and all of a sudden she was full of energy again. Amazing how that works.




We let the little kids play for awhile, they were the only ones short enough to play on this playground and that rule was enforced by a guy walking around with a ruler stick. By this time it was near 4:00 so we headed back to Matt’s aunt’s house to pack up our stuff so we could check into our hotel. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in downtown Buffalo, only about a 10 minute drive from his aunt’s house, and it was super nice! His brother had rooms at the Westin, which is where we were going to stay until we realized that it didn’t have a pool. 



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We got checked in and settled in our room rather quickly and just hung around until Matt’s brother and family got there to come swim with us at our hotel pool. It was really nice with a huge hot tub that we all enjoyed. 





We had about an hour to swim before we had to get ready to head back to the aunt’s house for dinner. The only thing we found out about staying in a downtown hotel is that you must do the valet parking. It’s not optional because parking is so hard to find and so expensive when you do find it. So we did a lot of sitting in the lobby waiting for our car.




Matt’s aunt and uncle did a huge cookout that night with SO MUCH FOOD! Seriously. There was fried fish, hot dogs, italian sausages, NY strip steaks…just so much deliciousness. We stuffed ourselves full! 



The kids got to hang out and enjoy cupcakes and running around in the garden. And Maia looks WAY too old in that picture. No. How is that possible?

Day 2 was super fun and busy and we slept like babies that night! I think all of us were crashed by 11pm. ha! And that was a good thing because day 3 was so very busy!


New York Trip Day 1

If you follow me on Instagram then you know we made a long weekend trip up to New York, specifically Buffalo, last week. Matt’s cousin’s twins graduated from high school and his aunt threw a family reunion/graduation celebration. The last time we went up to see them in Buffalo was 20 years ago when we were newly married and kid-free. So it was definitely time for a trip. It was a last minute decision for us because we had to work around Tyler’s football camp schedule but we managed to carve out a few days. We left Friday morning bright and early and arrived in Buffalo a short 12 hours later. Note the sarcasm there. 


We crossed into Virginia about an hour into our trip and Zoey immediately began asking if we were there yet. ha. Sorry kid, no. 


We hit the East River Mountain tunnel an hour later and the children were forced to suffer through 5 whole minutes of no internet and no music because xm radio does not get a signal in the tunnel. Matt and I tried to sing them a song to help them through those long hard minutes but they remained grouchy and ungrateful. 


5 minutes later we crossed into West Virginia. I had no idea just how long we would be spending in WV. I always thought it was a relatively small state. So why did it take us nearly 5 hours to get through? I’m perplexed. 


We stopped for lunch at Chick-fil-a and filled the kids with food thus ensuring us at least an hour of no whining, fighting, or complaining. Theoretically anyway.





We came across a little sight seeing look out on the side of the interstate about an hour and a half after we stopped for lunch so it seemed like a good time to stop and stretch our legs. Tyler was asleep and refused to wake up so Maia had to climb over the back seat to get out. She was displeased. She got over it. 

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An hour and a half later we hit our first thunderstorm. The skies opened up and dumped massive amounts of rain on us. And every car on the road immediately slowed down to 35 mph on the interstate because they clearly do not understand the benefits of Rain-X on their windshields. Amateurs. The thunder woke up all 4 sleeping kids who then immediately asked “are we there yet?” No. 


Half an hour later we finally crossed over into Pennsylvania. Again, the kids began asking “are we there yet?” No.


We were trucking along at a speedy 70 mph until just after this bridge. Then BAM. Dead stop traffic. For miles and miles and miles and miles. Ugly words were said, bargains were made with God. Nothing. 


2 hours into the stop and go traffic we reached the “shove powdered donuts into our faces” stage of the road trip. 


Shortly after we finally crossed into New York, prompting an immediate chorus of…wait for it….ARE WE THERE YET? Sigh. No we are not there yet, FORTHELOVEOFGOD stop asking that question!


An hour later we passed through our last toll booth of the trip and were so close we could taste the freedom!


By 10:30 we had arrived, been stuffed full of food, snuggled in our jammies, and were enjoying time with our relatives. We had 14 people crammed into a 3 bedroom house with 1 working bathroom. Nothing says family like claustrophobia. But it was only for one night- we didn’t see the point in paying for a hotel room when we were arriving so late and Matt’s aunt and uncle graciously opened their home to all our craziness. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning drinking beer with Matt’s brother and his family and just chatting. It was awesome! And bonus- we drank enough beer that we didn’t care where we slept! 

Day 2 coming tomorrow. Spoiler alert- we went to the zoo!


5 Tips For A Successful Summer With Older Kids


Now that my kids are older summer break has taken on a completely different dimension. It used to be something I dreaded. 12 weeks of little kids who require total supervision every single hour of the day and woke up at dark o’thirty every morning? That’s a nightmare. But now that my kids are older it’s so much better. That being said there are still things you can do to make sure your summer break is successful.

1. Keep the food fully stocked. We have 2 pantries and 3 fridge/freezers. I keep them fully stocked at all times in the summer. I buy most of our snacks at either Sam’s Club or Aldi to cut costs and I always keep a ton of fruit on hand. My kids expend a lot of energy at the pool and they eat a lot. I keep the freezer stocked with things they can microwave easily by themselves- hot pockets, taco wraps, quesadillas, mini pizzas, chicken melts, etc. 

2. Let them sleep. Remember those days when the kids woke you up before the sun? Well those days are long gone in my house. My kids don’t wake up before 10am unless we physically wake them up. And I only wake them if we have somewhere to be. Otherwise I let them sleep as long as they want. Poor Tyler has to be at football by 8am four days a week so he’s leaving the house at 7:15am. I remember my mom always waking me up by 8am during the summer and it was awful. So I don’t do it. They sleep late, sometimes they take afternoon naps after swimming, and they stay up late. That’s exactly what summer should be. 

3. Keep the plans to a minimum. I used to have a schedule and plans for nearly every day of summer break. Vacation Bible Schools, splash parks, play dates, dollar movies, camps…we did it all. If every minute wasn’t scheduled the kids were fighting, bored, and annoying each other. Now that they’re older they do not want to have all those plans. They want to chill. Which works well because I also want to just chill. 

4. Spend as much time at the pool as possible. We’re lucky to have a great neighborhood pool right down the street from our house and a hot tub right on our own back deck. We spend as much time in them as possible. It keeps the kids active, keeps them busy, and limits the fighting. They’re too tired to whine and all their friends are swimming with them instead of messing up my house. It’s perfect. 

5. Relax the rules. During summer I am flexible with the rules we maintain during the school year. The kids are allowed to drink select sodas during the summer when I never ever buy it during the school year. We make Coke Floats and Root Beer slushes. I don’t enforce bedtimes. They are expected to be in their bedrooms by 9:30 unless it’s family night but they can play, read, or watch a movie for as long as they want. I also don’t enforce any limits on screens or electronics. The kids spend a lot of time outside and in the pool so unless I see them spending days upon days glued to a screen I just let it go. Their friends are welcome to come over and play anytime during the hours we’ve established- 11am to 8pm. They just come and go all day and it’s great. My backyard is always full of laughing kids. 

Cheers to a great summer!