Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point

Disclosure: As a #BloggingatCP blogger for Cedar Point my family stayed one night at the renovated Hotel Breakers and entered the park for free.  Food, travel and all other purchases were on my dime. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own.

I have lived in Ohio my whole life and an annual (or more!) trip to Cedar Point is a must. While I’ve been going there for decades I’ve always lived close enough to not necessitate an overnight stay. I recently learned that there is no reason to “need” to stay overnight when the accommodations are enough of an¬†attraction to stand on their own.

When Cedar Point offered me a stay in the newly renovated Hotel Breakers I very literally gasped at the offer. Hotel Breakers has always been the fanciest place to stay near Cedar Point. The U.S. National Historic Landmark¬†beachfront hotel has¬†been there for 110 years and has¬†always been “THE place” to stay when going to Cedar Point. In it’s heyday it hosted celebrities like John D. Rockefeller, ¬†Hellen Keller and many US Presidents. I said yes immediately and started counting down the days to our trip.

The reason I was invited was to see the new renovations Р2 years in the making and the largest cost project ever at Cedar Point. The results are stunning.


With an indoor pool, outdoor pool, zero-depth entry splash pool with watersides and¬†the beach there is something for everyone. Plus each pool is watched by some of the most alert and attentive lifeguards I’ve ever encountered.


The indoor pool was a good size, guarded and had plenty of chairs. Bonus Рit overlooks the lake! IMG_6192

They each got 2 trips down the slide before the thunder started rumbling, sending us inside. This pool has 2 very alert guards and is enclosed by a fence. The opposite end is zero entry and has all kids of splash/spray stuff. 


Lots of room on the beach to enjoy the sun and sand.

Of course, there are two more lifeguards keeping watch over the Lake Erie swimming area.

If dry activities are more your thing there is an arcade, fire-pits overlooking the lake, a bar with views of the beach, lots¬†of lounge chairs and rocking chairs . Plus tons of eating options including an ice cream shop serving delicious, local Toft’s ice cream, and a full-service Starbucks.


With the storms keeping us inside, we had lots of time to explore the hotel. We found this great ice cream parlor tucked away near the doors to the outdoor pool area.



When your kids are up before 7:00 AM no matter what, you are some of the first guests at the on-site Perkins restaurant

View from Starbucks on Sunday morning.
Lake Erie was angry that day and the rain was pouring down.

Guests staying at all Cedar Point resorts get early entry into Cedar Point, discounted tickets, free shuttle service, and free¬†parking. From Hotel Breakers you can enter the park at the beach entrance – a 2 minute walk with no lines, no crowds. Due to the thunderstorms¬†the weekend we stayed we didn’t get to take advantage of these options but it would make for a very easy trip. Plus the early entry would mean getting to ride a number of rides before there are any crowds! That is worth a lot.

The rooms are playful with punches of red in the decor and the best headboards around. The desk chairs are so cute I was looking at the bottom to see who made them because I want to buy them for our kitchen table.



A seagull nest was right outside our window and the kids checked on the bird constantly. 

But what really stood out throughout the whole hotel was the family-friendly attention to detail:


The area near the front desk has tons of seating and the kids immediately started making faces in the fun-house mirrors on the wall. It made checking in so easy to have them entertained nearby. 


The rooms have a dorm-sized fridge with a real freezer – an unexpected bonus – plus a microwave and shelves to stash snacks. I loved this set-up.


This seems so silly but this drying rack in the bathroom MADE MY DAY. We are always draping wet suits and bath towels all over the bathroom when we’re at¬†hotel and they get in the way. I have been know to travel with those Command removable hooks just to have a place to hang wet swim gear. Having a¬†bathroom with plenty of hooks is a DREAM.


We got to say goodnight to Snoopy, who was dressed for bed himself.


The room had plenty of space for the 4 of us and our stuff. It was very comfortable. 


I think she was excited to ride. Too bad the storms meant we couldn’t¬†go the following morning.

Mark and I also really enjoyed the attention to detail they took when renovating and decorating. As owners of our second¬†100-year old home we could appreciate the craftsmanship and care they took in the work of updating the historic Hotel Breakers. From the beautiful stained glass in the entry to the often-photographed rotunda. Everything was well done and well cared for. We also enjoyed the artwork – nostalgic photos of the park’s 145-year history.



We went back to the park to ride 2 weeks after our stay and I found myself wishing we had booked a room for the night on this very hot day. Even so, we had a great time as always:


After 2 Cedar Point trips with him refusing to ride anything but the CP & LE Railroad it was fun to watch him ride a few things this year.


¬†I can’t leave the park without taking this pictureIMG_6345

Checking out the view of Hotel Breakers from the top of the Giant WheelIMG_6336

She has refused to even think about riding the Gemini ever since her first time in 2013¬†that included the train stopping while going up the first hill. After a little bribery (I promised to ride the Pipe Scream with her) she conquered her fear and declared the Gemini “the best ride ever”.¬†

Madman and I spent some time in the (air conditioned) Town Hall Museum in Frontier Town while Matilda and Mark rode the Mine Ride. It was there that we found this great Gemini photo set up.



It was Matilda’s idea to recreate this shot to copy the artwork from the Hotel Breakers bathroom.


THIS is how you end a 95 degree day at Cedar Point.
Which leads me to my #1 Cedar Point tip: ALWAYS bring a complete change of clothes, including shoes, for every person!

The Monday-est of Mondays

Scene: Monday morning. 7:20 AM. First day of camp and our summer schedule, which has us leaving about 45 minutes earlier than the school year. Includes me driving another kid to camp.
Internal monolog in italics.

  • [Up early, backpacks¬†packed, kids eating breakfast. I go to load the car about 30 minutes¬†before we leave.] “New schedule, I OWN YOU.”
  • “Hmmmm, my keys aren’t on the hook. Must be in my purse”
  • “Um, where is my purse? Not on the hook, did I leave it on the table?” “OMG DID IT GET¬†STOLEN LAST NIGHT?!?!”
  • “Calm down, Kate. No one broke in to the house and took only your purse then locked up behind them. You last had it at the hardware store yesterday. Where is it? Let’s see… when you came home you went right into the garage to glaze windows….oh crap! It’s in the car!”
  • [Walking out to car, which is parked in driveway] “Please let it be there, oh please oh please.” ¬†“YAY there is is!”
  • [Goes to open door] “CRAP! LOCKED!! NOOOOOO!”
  • “Ok ok, it has this nifty keyless entry button… maybe that will work” [tries both front doors] “SH*T”
  • [texts Mark to tell him I’m an idiot]
  • [texts mom of car pool kid to tell her I’m an idiot]
  • [calls police to ask if they can help – they can and they will be there “soon”]
  • [text Mark to say he doesn’t have to come home with his key after all]
  • [flurry of texts – girls will get to camp thanks to other kid’s dad who has the week off. whew!]
  • [25 minutes later the cops arrive] “Hooray! we’ll be out of here in a few seconds!”
  • [10 minutes pass]
  • Madman thinks it’s the coolest thing ever that a cop is outside and the squad car is in our driveway so he digs out his old police car toy


  • Cop: “Ma’am, I can’t seem to get it unlocked. There’s an anti-theft bar blocking the tool. I’ve called for backup and a different tool”
  • [2 more cops arrive, they fuss with car] “This does NOT look promising”¬†
  • [Mark texts to say he’s coming home anyway because the A/C in his office is broken. He’s on the train already]
  • [car is still not open] “Sir, my husband is on his way home with the extra key. You can stop¬†trying. Thanks so much for coming over to help” [cops leave]
  • [about 10 minutes¬†pass] “I should go check to see if they damaged anything while they were trying to unlock it”
  • [sees a few small scratches. Tries door handle just for fun. IT OPENS. Car alarm blares] “WUT?!?! OMG IT’S OPEN”¬†
  • [flurry of texts to Mark. he’s almost home. dangit!]
  • [pick him up at train stop and drop him at home]
  • [take Madman to daycare, nearly get hit head-on by an F150 speeding the wrong way down Courtland Blvd] “Are you freaking KIDDING ME WITH THIS DAY RIGHT NOW?!”
  • [text from Mark. He forgot about a meeting downtown so he has to go back. I feel terrible] “OH COME ON, MONDAY!”
  • [realize I have a Starbucks gift card in my purse and if any day needs a venti iced double¬†dirty chai it’s today]



End Scene

On Money and Budgets

I’m not one for resolutions or setting real goals. For me they don’t make sense. But there’s something about a fresh, new year and wanting to make a few changes. One of the things we’re working on in our house is our budget [groaaaan]. From when we got married nearly 15(!) years ago, Mark and I have always shared finances. With the exception of retirement accounts, all of our money goes into the same pot and we make joint decisions about how to spend nearly all of it.

This is not so say we have a perfect situation set up here, or that I would ever claim that our way is the best way. In fact we need some help in setting budget parameters and living within them without texting things like “I’m going to spend $75 at Target – any reason I shouldn’t?” while we’re at the store.¬†So we are slowing working on setting up “YNAB“.

Setting up realistic numbers should be pretty easy as nearly every penny of our spending¬†has filtered through Quicken over the last 15 years. Seriously. And yet, even with that kind of tracking we don’t always do well with sticking to a realistic budget. More often then not our spending decision is “nope, can’t afford it”. Because with 2 kids, one still in daycare, we likely can’t. We expect¬†YNAB to¬†help us both see exactly were we stand on any given day in regards to all areas of our money. Hopefully this will give us a bit more accountability and maybe even some freedom.

Oh, and here’s a confession: we don’t have credit cards. In fact, 2015 is year 3 with no credit cards. It’s scary at times, but also almost a relief (?), I guess. I mean, if we don’t have the cash to buy something we don’t buy it. Simple decision. No hidden purchases stashed in the trunk (come on, we all do it), no spontaneous purchases. Yes, we have an emergency fund for real emergencies but we don’t touch that unless we have to. It’s the reason we can’t just go to Disney like we desperately want to. We plan to go in about 13 months because the cost of a trip like Disney takes about 18 months to save cash for. That’s just our reality and¬†what¬†works for us right now.

Things should loosen up in the fall when Madman starts kindergarten. But the truth is that most of the savings from tuition will be redirected to¬†the items towards which we are saving. And can I just tell you how wonderful it is that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after NINE YEARS of childcare? I mean we’ll still pay for aftercare and summer camps but it’s about one fifth of what we are paying now. (And those 2 years they were BOTH in daycare?¬†Thinking about those bills makes me hyperventilate).

Right now some of the big, immediate things we are saving cash for include:

РSummer camps for Matilda. She is all signed up for 9 weeks of various camps and we need to pay off the balances before June 1.

– Having the house painted & garage doors replaced this summer

Р3 trips to see my parents in South Carolina in 2015

– Disney in early 2016

By the time bills are paid, food is purchased and savings are stashed away, there is little left for things like my make-up desires or new running shoes.

This lifestyle can be quite hard in today’s society (that sounds very pompous, it’s not meant to be). I can be pouty about seeing a great deal on something and not being able to take advantage of that deal because it’s not in the budget. Or having to turn down opportunities to go out because it’s not in the budget. It’s not to say we are broke, because we aren’t. But when you don’t have a credit card to fall back on those immediate wants aren’t nearly as gratifying to purchase.

But the big picture is this: by the end of 2016 we’ll should¬†enough saved up to rewire the entire house and upgrade our electrical panel¬†(we have old knob and tube wiring and not enough amps), and replace our 90+ year old boiler.

The 5 year plan includes a new roof, complete renovation of our 3rd floor including the¬†existing bathroom into a full master suite. Basically I want it to be this with built-in dressers and bookshelves¬†in the walls. I can’t wait. The 10 year plan will include the start of college(!) for Matilda and full kitchen gut-job and renovation. We’ll do as much of it with cash as we can.

I’m not sure how to wrap this all up with a nice bow. These are just the thoughts rattling around in my head right now.

The Shopping Games

I’m one of those people who typically try to have my Christmas shopping done by the first week of December. I try not to step foot in any store between Thanksgiving and Christmas and since I do lots of shopping online I want to leave ample time for shipping. This year I had all of my shopping completed as of Black Friday.

Of course, today is Cyber Monday so I checked out some of the sales to see how they compared to what I got.

First up: Land’s End. Last week I purchased clothes for the kids – 4 shirts, a dress and a 3-pack of socks (added to get my total to the free shipping level). A few items were on sale and I had a code for an additional 20% off. Today the whole site is 40% with free shipping on all orders. I loaded up my cart with the same things I got last week, added the 40% off code and… my total was $5 more than what I paid last week! Mmmm. Looks like the stuff that was on sale is no longer on sale, while the stuff that was full price is now on sale. So while 2 of the shirts are now¬†$6 cheaper each, the whole order was more. I technically didn’t NEED the socks but now I almost see them as a bonus. ¬†Final total: +$5 to me.

Next: Kohl’s. I got some Ohio State and Miami Dolphins gear for my nephew on sale and with an additional 15% off on Thursday. Plus I got $15 in Kohl’s Cash because I spent $50 to get to free shipping. Today they have 20% off site-wide¬†and shipping is free for orders of $25+, so I re-loaded my cart. The items were on deeper discount plus the additional discount was bigger so the total was $18 less than a few days ago. I seriously thought about re-buying it all then returning the first purchase. Then I remembered the¬†Kohl’s Cash, which I do plan on spending… and all of sudden doing a return and re-buy for $3 seems ridiculous. Final total: -$3

Next: Target. They had an amazing deal for 10% off gift cards so I picked up one for each teacher. I’ve never seen a discounted gift card for Target before so this was my favorite deal.¬†Final total: +$6

Finally: Amazon – I bought some toys for the kids on Friday and did my pricing research using this site. ¬†Things looked good on the price front so I ordered (side note: if you have Amazon Prime and select “no rush shipping” you get $1 towards a video rental… so I did a separate order for each toy and racked up the credits).¬†¬†Then yesterday I was at Target and spotted this Marker Maker¬†for Maggie and it was more than $10 cheaper in the store. I looked at and the price was the same. I called Amazon and they refused to price match. So that one I AM sending back. I got the cheaper one, plus a refill pack and even with the cost of return shipping we’ll break even. Final total: +/-$0 out of pocket. But I did get the bonus refill pack¬†so I’m going to call this +$7.

Also, I recently signed up for Ebates¬†(referral link) and have been religiously shopping through their site. ¬†So far I have a whopping $0.40 cash-back. Maybe it takes some time for the cash back to show up? So far I’m not impressed.

All in all it looks like I actually SAVED about $15 by shopping before Cyber Monday.

What have been your best deals this year?

Twitter Life Lessons – the diaper vs. the stroller

I love twitter. I have met some amazing people there, some of which have become real-life friends. I usually have great conversations, and learn a thing or two. But sometimes something happens on Twitter that makes me both shake my head and laugh. Today was one of those days. First the backstory…

Several months ago as I was checking out local CraigsList listings I came across a used stroller priced at $800 (or something close to that…it was near the $1000 mark). I was shocked… a USED stroller that costs a rent payment?! I looked up the brand (UppaBaby) and saw they had several models that started north of the $850 mark. I took to twitter saying I couldn’t believe anyone would pay that much for a stroller. Or would pay $800 for a used stroller. I think my words were “Who the hell spends $800 on a stroller?”

To say I got a smackdown in response would be an understatement. I got replies and DMs from dozens, all chiding me for judging their buying choices. “I own an UppaBaby and it was a great purchase and I would do it again!” “You don’t know my financial situation!” “I’ve got 2 and they are great, worth every penny” “I spend my money on what I want, who are you to judge?”. ¬†Well ok then. In fact, I got so much negative response to that tweet that I ended up deleting it, which is why I can’t quote it exactly.

Maybe it’s my Midwestern-ness showing or the fact that I live in an area with a low cost of living or the fact that when I was buying a stroller that thousand dollar Bugaboo’s were the celebrity fashion and most non-celebrities gasped at the¬†cost and said they were all about image. But I still maintain that a $800 stroller is a luxury and that if you are going to have one you at least need to own the¬†fact that many think that price is a crazy amount to pay for a baby item.

Fast forward to today. A twitter friend¬†posted about a used “rare” diaper selling on a cloth diaper site for $210. The hilarity of the price! Who would spend $200 on a diaper? And more than 20 people agreed – a $210 diaper is¬†crazy. A $210 USED diaper? Ridiculous. “lost their minds”, “WTF”, “freaking insane” were some of the responses.


I agreed and¬†jokingly warned her not to comment about the price of baby items¬†…learn from my experience!


And you know what happened? I GOT SCOLDED AGAIN. I got scolded about by months-ago tweet about an expensive stroller! And people favorited the scolding tweet!

So that happened.


Like I said sometimes you learn things on twitter.

Today’s lesson:¬†it’s ok to make fun of a $210 diaper and those who would buy it, but it’s not ok to express the same things about a $800+¬†stroller.

It’s either that or:¬†those who buy super-expensive strollers are really defensive about them on twitter, and¬†those who by¬†super-expensive¬†diapers are not.

THANKS, TWITTER for these life lessons.

That Article on Salon

It started last night when Pauline posted it on FB and asked for thoughts. Then today I saw it all over my twitter feed. It’s an article on called¬†The day I left my son in the car by Kim Brooks. The article is very long but extremely well-written – it’s worth your time.

An article she mentions is also worth your read: The Overprotected Kid, by Hanna Rosin. If you haven’t read them both please go and read them, then come back.

Edited to add these other links:

This step-by-step story about a mom who is investigated by CPS for allowing her 6 year old walk alone in their neighborhood.

This interesting article by¬†law professor David Pimentel which says among other things:¬†“Of particular concern is how the trend toward overprotective parenting is reinforced by legal standards.”

I’m interested in your thoughts.


As for me, it was around last year at this time that we allowed Matilda to walk to school on her own. She was at the end of kindergarten, school is just under a mile away and there are 4 crossing guards on the route. After a practice walk or two we let her go, hearts in our throats the entire time. And we got raised eyebrows over our decision. Weren’t we worried? What if something happens? It’s a residential route, full of other (older) kids walking and riding their bikes and yet I felt judged because we let our 6 year old walk.

In fact, just today¬†today Matilda and another 1st grader¬†neighbor walked to school together. I saw another mom and her 1st grader leaving to walk and I suggested he just join the girls “no, I feel safer if I go with him!” was her reply. Everyone has their own reasons, but even in a safe and pretty tight-knit community that fear is still there.

And now I’ll transition to the “did-our-parents-really-let-us-do-that” game that Ms. Brooks mentions in her article. I played around with google maps today and learned that from 1st grade on I walked a half a mile to school every day – my older brother and I walked with some neighbors. I’m pretty sure we walked home, too. I know when I was older I was a latch-key kid (my mom was a teacher at my school, so she got home a bit after I did). In middle school the walk was closer to a mile. In the summer we’d sometimes walk or ride bikes about 2 miles to the pool – which was on a pretty busy road with no sidewalks. I’d walk to soccer practice at the park about .5 mile up the hill.

All the kids in my neighborhood spent countless hours in the woods and ravine behind our houses. We built a city of forts, caught crayfish and built damns. We swung on vines and hunted for wildflowers. In the winter we’d drag our sleds to an awesome hill on the other side of the woods and spend hours sledding and building ramps to see who could get the most air. I don’t think anyone ever broke a bone. I have no idea who owned the land, but us kids were allowed to roam free through the woods.


that red mark was my house, the woods were our domain. So many great memories spent in those trees.

There are stories of my brother and his friends “trying to find the end of the road” on their bikes,¬†which was nearly 6 miles away. I remember a few times in middle school being allowed to walk to Friendly’s over a mile away, so I could get ice cream with friends. Summer nights were spent playing in packs until long after sundown. We’d have epic games of “ghost in the graveyard” that spanned several blocks.

I do wish my kids could have that kind of freedom. And they are still so young, perhaps they will. Part of the reason why they won’t is just location. Looking back now, the location of my childhood house was ideal. It was a neighborhood full of families and our houses backed up to a large wooded area. There is nothing like that were we live now. Yes, there are parks and streams and places to explore nearby, but they aren’t places you can build a fort or pick wildflowers. And while our immediate neighborhood has sidewalks and is easy to navigate, the pool and ice cream and even the library require crossing major 4-lane roads in heavy traffic.

But the biggest issue is this fear of leaving kids alone to explore and learn and be independent and then being judged, or worse – arrested ¬†– for it. It’s not necessarily actual danger most people are worried about. It’s the fear of being judged, of being labeled a bad parent.

I just saw a parent on FB talking about a great volunteer program for 14-16 year olds which will be run by the city this summer… “it’s from 9-3 but¬†there is after-care available!” she said. Because we live in a world that makes us fee like 14-16 year olds need a babysitter after 3 pm.

I’m not sure the solution. What do you think?

My Bookshelf

I know I’m oh, about 4 years behind the masses, but OMG did you know you can get library books on your Kindle? I knew about it yet only set up my account about 4¬†months ago. I used to be a much better reader – reading 2-3 books each month. In fact, in Toledo I was part of the best bookclub ever. No really – we were awesome. When I moved we were just shy of our 8¬†year anniversary, with all but one original member (she moved away). I think many of that core group is¬†still going strong, 14 years after the first meeting.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that with the kids being older I feel like I finally got my reading mojo back and being able to get books on my Kindle is feeding my obsession. During vacation I finished one book and completed 2 more. I’m burning through titles left and right and need your suggestions. Here’s are my most recent reads and my thoughts… if you like similar stuff, hit me with titles I should check out!

The Book Thief¬†by Markus Zusak – I started out not liking the narrative style of this book but was quickly swept up in the story. I found myself craving it when I wasn’t reading. I burned through it in about 2.5 days on vacation.¬†

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell Рcount me among the millions of fans of this book. I adored it. I stayed up way too late to read it. I was sad when it was over. The characters were so real it was like I knew them. Two thumbs way up.

Fangirl¬†by Rainbow¬†Rowell – Once I finished E&P I eagerly downloaded Fangirl. It was ok, I just didn’t relate to the characters. I enjoyed the writing but I didn’t devour it like E&P.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell РI had started this just before vacation and at first I was feeling more Fangirl than E&P about it. But it grew on me and I was cheering for Lincoln by the end. I read this trying to figure out who would play each part in the movie. 

Wild¬†by Cheryl Strayed – I went into this book expecting to hate it. For some reason I thought it would be like Eat, Pray, Love (which I hated… like threw the book at the wall hated…but finished because I was reading for above-mentioned bookclub). Turned out that I really enjoyed Wild and now I want to hike more.

The Invention of Wings¬†by Sue Monk Kidd – I picked this because I enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees¬†when we read it in bookclub¬†and went into reading it not knowing anything about the story.¬†Oh I loved this book, I found myself wanting to visit Charleston again and seek out the street where the house was and then I was was shocked to find out when reading the author’s notes that¬†Sarah Grimk√©¬†is a historical figure. Now I want to read more about her.

Life After Life¬†by Kate Atkinson¬†– I just could not get into the style of this one. I gave up after about 120 pages. It reminded me of the “choose your own adventure” books of the 80’s but not in a good way. The rewinding and starting over was too much. I usually don’t stop reading mid-book but I found myself dreading reading so I returned it.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty Рnothing heavy, just an easy read which delighted me. I began reading on vacation and finished the day after we got home. 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple –¬†I really liked the first half of the book but then it kind of fell off a cliff and seemed rushed and odd. I liked it ok – I think the characters were well developed, but only until the midpoint when everything got weird. It was a fun distraction, but not sure I’d recommend it.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson – I loved Devil in the White City and enjoyed Thunderstruck so I thought I’d give this one a try.¬†I really wanted to like this book…the subject matter (Americans living in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich) was interesting but I found myself constantly bored. I felt like I was slogging through pages. Gave this one up when another book became available and don’t regret not finishing.¬†

Didn’t I tell you I was on a reading roll?

Currently on hold at the library:
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion Рjust downloaded Рwill start tonight!
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn- I had a love/hate relationship with Gone Girl, so we’ll see if I like this one.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore¬†by Robin Sloan
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

What else should I add to my list? Any titles to avoid?