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 – 2 years in the making and the largest cost project ever at Cedar Point. The results are stunning.

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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.

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The indoor pool was a good size, guarded and had plenty of chairs. Bonus – it 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. 

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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:

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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”. 
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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.

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

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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!

What the kids are getting for Christmas

I’ve asked for gift idea help on twitter and A’Dell posted her gift list for her kids and I thought it was interesting and helpful so I’m posting mine here.

We typically do the want/need/wear/read categories for gifts but cut that back this year to just wear and read because when you add in gifts from siblings and Santa and family it was just TOO MUCH. So, here’s what they are getting…

(Editor’s note: Amazon pricing is drunk as these prices are not what I paid. Photo sources: LandsEnd.com, HM.com, Amazon.com and lakeshorelearning.com. Links are not affiliate links).

Matilda, age 8:
Wear – flannel swim team pants, 2 long sleeved tees, another version of her favorite dress, and one Harry Potter tee I picked up on clearance somewhere a while ago.

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Read – 2 Minecraft books

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From Madman – Crayola Melt ‘N Mold Factory

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From Santa – Crayola Maker Maker and a Chatster Interactive Doll (OMG, I’m scared of this thing). She also got an early visit from the big guy who brought her tickets to the Nutcracker.

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In her stocking- hair chalk (as suggested by Marianne), and I’ll pick up some things from World Market.

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On her wish-list given to my family: swim team warm ups, DohVinci kit, Charmazing kit, and Crayola Virtual Design Pro (apparently Crayola’s marketing team did a terrific job with the 8 year old audience this year)

Matthew, age 4.5:
Wear – 3 long sleeved tees and shark socks

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Read – I went nontraditional here and instead of books got him some letter and number cards from Lakeshore Learning since he needs to work on those

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From Matilda – LEGO Junior Fire Emergency

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From Santa – Gears! Gears! Gears! and LEGO Junior Police

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Stocking – 2 Switch and Go Dinos, and coloring books (thank you 60% off Cartwheel discount!)

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On his wish-list given to my family: any LEGO Junior sets (do you see a theme here?), MagForms, an Avenger hoodie, any Transformer.

Are you done shopping? Any exciting gifts this year?

A Day of Memories at Cedar Point

Disclosure: I was invited to the #BloggingatCP blogger day at Cedar Point and my family entered the park for free.  As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. See bottom of post for some Father’s Day offers.

Was Memorial Day weekend really 3 weeks ago already? How did that happen? Maybe it’s taken this long for me to recover from a weekend of pure fun. It all started Friday night when the ClassyChaos crew rolled into their old stomping grounds of NE Ohio. We hosted a little get-together at our house and as always this group of 7 kids got along like BFFs and laughed well into the night.

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After a later-than-usual night, Saturday dawned with perfect blue skies and 70-degree temps which meant the #BloggingatCP blogger day at Cedar Point would be amazing. We arrived shortly after the park opened and quickly met up with TeamSawyer who we caught on the brand new Pipe Scream.

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After that the kids scrambled over the other new ride for 2014, the Lake Erie Eagles.

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Since we were right there, we hung out in Camp Snoopy for a bit so the kids could do a few rides. Since it was the beginning of the season and a beautiful holiday weekend, lines were longer than I’m used to… but the kids had buddies to chat with no one got cranky. Before we knew it, it was time to eat so we headed to the #BloggingatCP lunch where we met up again with Pauline and her fam. We ate a delicious lunch while looking out over the lake. This reminded me of all the times as a kid that we’d pack a cooler with lunch and eat a picnic and eat in the pavilion at the front of the park. That’s one way to save a few bucks. Or you can get the new CP all-day dining plan which lets you get food every 90 minutes throughout the whole day – what a sweet deal for an always-hungry teenager!

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After lunch the older kids took charge and declared it time to ride the water rides. Shout out to both Jeff and Jonathan who took the kids on Shoot the Rapids. Jonathan was the hero of the day when he agreed to take one for the team and ride Thunder Canyon, too. This ride gives you a 50/50 chance of getting completely soaked. You can probably guess what happened to Jon.

10346631_10152419635282674_6439873088178376276_nAbout 30 seconds before going under a huge waterfall. Photo by Pauline. 

 After that the kids took some time to visit the animals in the petting zoo (I had NO IDEA Cedar Point had a petting zoo!) And ride some of the smaller rides.

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By this time it was around 4 PM and Madman hadn’t ridden a single ride. He was more than happy to just hang out in his stroller and watch it all. So we decided to check out Dinosaurs Alive which has 40  life-sized animatronic dinosaurs. The area where the dinos are is the where the Paddlewheel boat used to be. If you remember the Paddlewheel you’ll remember the groan-worthy jokes the captain used to make. I’m happy to say that along with all kinds of paleontological education, the lame jokes still exist. DinosaursAliveJoke

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The C.P. & L.E. Railroad was the only thing he would ride – but he was happy 

It was a wonderful day filled with friends, fun and lots of laughs. Memories were made for all 7 kids and the grown-ups, too! We can’t wait to head back to “the Point” later this summer.

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Cedar Point is celebrating all fathers this Sunday, June 15, with great money-saving offers:

On Father’s Day, all Season Passholders can bring their dad (or a friend) to Cedar Point for just $19.99. Also this Sunday, when you buy one Meal Deal for just $13.99 plus tax, dad enjoys his meal for free (limit one free meal per group). Dads also get free admission to Dinosaurs Alive this Sunday!

All guests can still take advantage of the H2O offer where they can purchase a one-day Cedar Point admission ticket now through Sunday, June 15 and receive a FREE Soak City ticket! The Cedar Point one-day ticket for this offer is $39.99, a savings of $20 off the gate price and must be used by Sunday, June 15, 2014. For more details, log on to cedarpoint.com 

 

 

Castaway Bay Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: Castaway Bay provided one night of accommodations with water park passes, as well as four day passes to give away to one reader. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

Update: Congratulations to commenter #6 – Andrea! Please check your email!

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Confession time: While I’ve been to Cedar Point probably one hundred times in my life I’d never been to any of their water parks. In fact, I’ve never been to any indoor water park. So when I was invited to be part of an overnight at Castaway Bay as part of #CPMoms I jumped at the chance.

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Timing was perfect – right in the middle of (another) polar vortex and we were all itching for something different, something warm, something fun. The 82 degree air of the indoor water park was calling our name. We didn’t tell the kids where we were going so they were super excited when we pulled into the parking lot and they saw the three tube slides that snake their way out of the building. We wasted no time checking in and getting ourselves ready to hit the slides. We were given a “Starfish” room with 2 queen beds, a closet, a mini fridge, a microwave, a small table with 2 chairs, a bathroom with a bathtub/shower, and a screened balcony with view of the frozen bay. The room was nice and was clean (and the fridge was great to have), but it’s nothing special. It’s a standard, if a little dated, hotel room. Castaway Bay also has suites with bunk beds and 2-room suites for bigger families.

But, you’re not at Castaway Bay for the hotel rooms, are you? You’re there for the WATER PARK! Which is why as soon as our bags were in the room and we grabbed some pizza we suited up and headed to the slides. And here is where I totally fail as blogger… because I didn’t take my camera with me into the water park and therefore I have no pictures. You guys, I’m so sorry. But the thought of chasing kids around the water with a camera just sounded like a disaster.

However, here is what I can report… the park is perfect for young families. Matilda, at age 7, was able to roam the park freely. Castaway Bay had plenty to keep her entertained without being enormous. She beelined for the wave pool and rode the waves for awhile before exploring the Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse. She spent a ton of time running up and down the stairs, going down the smaller slides and cheering as the giant bucket dumped 1,000 gallons of water over the whole structure. She finally found her way up to the top of Rendezvous Run water roller coaster that shoots you uphill using water jets. After her first run she was hooked! And I have to agree. Mark and I both rode this ride several times and it was really fun.

While Matilda was feeling all “big kid” and having free rein, Madman found his bliss in the Toddler Tide Pool. With a few shorter slides, water pipes and lots of room to splash he was a happy dude. And with the set up, it meant he was able to do what he wanted (go down the tandem slides over and over and over) while either Mark or I hung out near the pool edge keeping an eye on him. I honestly was worried about the logistics of wrangling 2 kids at a water park, but the set up of Castaway Bay gave us parents peace of mind. Neither kid could really get out of our sight at anytime so we were able to breathe easy. And it also meant that Mark and I could take turns checking out the bigger slides like the Paradise Plunge and Tropical Tube Slides.

This seems like a good time for me to give a shout out to the Castaway Bay Lifeguards. They are trained as are part of Ellis & Associates National Pool & Waterpark Lifeguard Training Program. As a former guard myself, I know that Ellis guards are some of the best trained in the industry as they have very rigorous standards. Castaway Bay has received numerous awards of excellence from Ellis and the guards were attentive and friendly. I was completely at ease with Matilda and Madman going on all the slides and in each pool even if Mark or I weren’t right at their sides.

Fun at CB doesn’t stop when you leave the water park. We took a swim break to check out the arcade and later we did some crafts including decorate-your-own beach towels. We also got info on Club Castaway but didn’t partake (the kids wanted MORE SWIMMING!). But in Club Castaway kids can sing karaoke, attend a dance party with the Peanuts gang and even watch a Peanuts movie or have a bedtime story with Snoopy. There is a Club Castaway schedule at the front desk and most activities are free. Mark, the coffee addict, wants you to know that there’s a Starbucks on-site, as well.

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Now that we’re no longer water park newbies we’ll definitely be going back to Castaway Bay to break up the winter doldrums. It was a perfect quick getaway (only 90 minutes from the eastern Cleveland ‘burbs!) and it was a much, much needed family break from being trapped inside our house. Even if we don’t go for the full overnight again this winter, it’s nice to know that it’s totally worth the drive for a tropical day trip.

And now the giveaway… Castaway Bay gave me 4 day-passes for one reader ($100 value!). Just leave a comment before midnight (eastern) on 2/12 telling me why you want to win.

Playing Tourist

My dear friend Pauline has always said you should play tourist in your hometown. And she’s right. Six years of living in Cleveland and we’re still discovering new things. We love to spend weekends exploring new parks, markets, restaurants and places. But a few weeks ago, we were able to have a fun overnight tourist adventure in Uptown thanks to the InterContinental Suites and Cleveland Botanical Gardens. See, they had a little contest on FB and Twitter and I won! So the weekend after Christmas we secretly packed a bag, put the kids in the car and told them we were going on adventure.

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Our first stop on this unseasonably warm Saturday was CBG for the Glow – their awesome annual holiday show. We took advantage of the daylight and explored the outdoor gardens. The kids ran off some energy on the paths before heading in to check out the array of gingerbread houses, indoor camping, dozens of Christmas trees and more. We’re frequent visitors of CBG and we love the Glow exhibit!

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After the sun started to set we got back in the car and said “I don’t feel like going home. Do you? It would be fun to not go home tonight!” The kids were a bit surprised. Well, Matilda was flabbergasted: “What!? We HAVE to go home! We can’t sleep in the car!”. After a discussion about how cold the car would be overnight we ended up at ABC Tavern for some dinner. Since it was only 5:00 we were basically the only ones in there. The kids loved all the open space, the juke box, and the bowling game.

IMG_0540Cheers to adventure in our own town!

After dinner we walked over to one of the newest Mitchell’s for our favorite dessert. Then strolled over to Constantino‘s for a few provisions.

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By this point Matilda was nearly beside herself. We had been out for almost 4 hours and Mark and I kept talking about stating uptown all night but she was adamant about going home. She wanted a bed to sleep in! She couldn’t sleep in the car! So when we pulled up outside of the InterContinental Suites Hotel and Mark said “why don’t we just stay here tonight?” she was aghast: “I don’t have any books to read! I need my pajamas!” I smiled and as I pulled the packed bag out of the trunk and her eyes grew wide. “Are we really staying here?” she asked over and over.

Their Director of Sales & Marketing, who set up our stay, put us in an suite with an adjoining room for the kids since they were not at full capacity that night. I knew InterContinental’s were nice (I’ve stayed in other properties) but this was almost too much! Mark and I were SHOCKED at our set-up. A full suite with living room, bed room and kitchenette PLUS an adjoining standard room (it was huge) with a king bed and other kitchenette. The best part is that we took up a full corner of the hall and had no neighbors we had to worry about disturbing.

The kids took no time to get settled in. They were on the bed, watching cartoons (we don’t have cable at home, so the TV as a luxury to them) and drawing on the notepads within minutes.

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Soon they had discovered the bathrobes. Once they were wrapped up Madman kept saying “I’m a king!” And Matilda just sighed, leaned back on the couch and said “this is the life” as she put her slippered feet up.

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They were thrilled to cozy up in bed and watch a movie. Something they only get to do on vacation!

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We all slept well, given that we were spread out across a huge area. The next morning after a delicious breakfast at C2 (also part of the prize package), we did some more serious lounging in the room before checkout. Matilda even took a bath, if only to wrap up in the robe and try out the phone in the bathroom.

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Nearly a month later and the kids are still talking about our surprise overnight adventure. I’m so grateful to InterContinental Suites and Cleveland Botanical Gardens for providing such a memorable weekend. I can’t wait to do it again!

Have you ever done an overnight adventure in your town? Or just a surprise trip? We may do another one sooner than the kids think… (like tomorrow night! Shhh! It’s a secret!)

I have a blog? Or Christmas Wrap-Up 2013

Yes, I know Christmas was 23 days ago and it FEELS like it was 2 months ago. But whatever… I want to document what the kids got and what we did over our break. So let’s pretend I have my stuff together and this posted about 22 days ago.

We did our family holiday the weekend before Christmas so the kids basically were showered with gifts for several days. Matilda got a k’nex roller coaster from my parents. The box says age 7+ but there is NO WAY this thing would have been assembled without the help of my 16 year old nephew. It took him, a few adults and several hours for it to be assembled. The parts are many and tiny – even worse then LEGO. However it is very, very cool when assembled and running. Madman got a Tinker Toy set. Madman had played with our old wooden tinker toys when we visited my parents this fall so we knew this would be a hit. I’ve got to say this is the knock-out hit of the year. Both Matilda and Madman have been playing with them non-stop since they were opened.

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My sister’s family got Matilda a set of learn to draw books, HeadBandz and gave Matthew the Imaginext SuperMan Set. From my brother Matilda go Mario Kart while Madman got more Imaginext super hero stuff and a cool rocket.

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On Christmas eve they get to open presents from our dear friend “Aunt” Lindsay. She set Matilda up with great Kirsten accessories – mittens (with matching ones for Matilda), a mini doll for Kirsten and stockings for both stuffed with old-fashioned peppermint sticks and maple candy. Matilda was thrilled she got “pioneer” candy. Madman got a claw grabber which he went crazy over – “I am a robot” he would say as he tormented his sister with the claw. He also got a really great robot book.

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Matilda and Madman also get to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve… Matilda picked out a Spider-Man set for Madman, and he got her the My Little Pony Equestria Girls Twilight Sparkle Doll*. Both were thrilled.

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This year Matilda’s big gift from Santa was a new bike. It was time for her to move up to a larger frame. After doing some research Santa decided that Giant was the way to go. But Santa is cheap and there was no way he was buying a $250 kids bike. Luckily Santa and Craigslist are BFFs and he found a Giant MTX 125 for less than half price. The “boys” and “girls” MTX are the exact same bike but in different colors. So Santa, being practical, got a graphite gray bike since it will eventually be passed down to Madman. Santa thinks ahead like that. He also put some fun reflective decals in Matilda’s stocking so she could decorate it herself. Result: happy girl on her new bike…

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Madman’s big gift from Santa was a crazy Hot Wheels track**, which Santa smartly got during a pre-Thanksgiving sale. Some additional cars in the stocking made this a big hit. That is after Mark put it all together. Santa should think more about assembly next year.

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Rounding out the Santa gifts… Matilda got a skirt, a mini pillow pet, and the Rainbow Dash Equestria Girl. In her stocking she found lip balm and a set of Magic Treehouse books, in addition to the decals mentioned above. Madman got the movie Planes, a mini pillow pet, a few books, and those hot wheels in his stocking.

From us Matilda got a Nurf Rebelle Bow (she LOVES it), Super Mario Brothers for the Wii and more books.

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We gave Madman a remote control car, clothes (which he literally threw over this shoulder, A Christmas Story-style), the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game (you guys – this game is awesome for preschoolers!), a Tegu set (I found a great deal on Woot!) and more books.

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Together they got an overnight trip to Maui Sands (thanks Living Social deals!) which we’ll do in February.

Whew! My kids are pretty spoiled! Luckily we did a decent cleaning out of toys before Christmas and donated some older things.

Adding this in just for myself so I remember things in the future… Christmas morning I had prepared cinnamon rolls using the Pioneer Woman’s recipe (I sent half of them to my sister’s house with my parents). Verdict: the icing was WAY too sweet. Will try it again with different icing. Also posting this photo here to record the tree and mantle:

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What was the big gift in your house this year? Can you believe Christmas was less than a month ago?

* Equestria Girls are a terrifying new spin-off of My Little Pony in which the ponies become these weird human-pony hybrids who attend high school… or something. Basically it’s an attempt to keep the little girls who loved MLP interested in the brand as they get older. Matilda has bought into it hook, line and sinker.

**Pay no attention to any of these prices because holy crap, Amazon prizing is crazy. I did most of my shopping before Thanksgiving and the prices were WAY LOWER then. Also, links are not affiliate, just there as an FYI.

Indians Family Social Suite

Earlier in the summer I had applied to attend a Tribe game in the Family Social Suite. I asked to attend this last weekend because Mark is a life-long Mets fan and it was my birthday weekend. I was overjoyed when the Indians told me I was selected to attend and we were looking forward to taking Madman to his first Tribe game.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the Indians know what families want and need and they cater to it. From the Kids Clubhouse  to adding the Family Social Suite to the popular Social Suite this year, they are a fantastic organization. Having been in the regular Social Suite before, I was excited to take the kids this time.

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Being selected gets you access to the wifi enabled suite (hello private bathroom!) – everything else is on your own dime. We were in the suite with 2 other families. Friday night was dollar dog night and we were visited by all three of the racing Hot Dogs…I’ll tell you now that Ketchup is very sweet and Mustard is a prankster!

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Mark was “attacked” by Onion and Ketchup as he ate his second Dollar Dog. Not awkward at all to be eating
hot dogs when the Hot Dogs visit the suite.

Matilda, who is terrified of people in costume, hid in the bathroom the whole time.

The game was a good one (GRAND SLAM!), the weather was perfect and the suite had enough space and things to do to keep the kids entertained while we watched the game. (The family suite is stocked with games, puzzles and drawing materials!)

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Madman preferred to watch the game inside the suite on the TV from the comfy chairs, of course. 

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Even Slider made a visit to the suite! 

During the 7th inning we took the kids down to the Rookie Suite where they could blow off some steam while we still watched the game. Seriously, if you haven’t been to a game with little kids in the last 2 seasons, get there ASAP. The Kids Clubhouse is situated so the parents can still see the game while the kids climb, play, and craft.

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Seventh Inning Stretch

When we got back up to to the suite the real surprise of the night happened. We were going to watch the post-game fireworks from a dugout! As soon as the game ended we gathered up our stuff and hustled down to the field with strict instructions to stay off the grass.

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After some family photographs on the field we went into the (sunflower seed shell covered) dugout. It was then that the Mets ball boy (it think it was their ball boy), who was getting something from the dugout, handed Madman a game ball! Mark was just over the moon. The kids were excited because “cool! a ball!” – they have no idea how awesome it is that they got a game ball while in the dugout after a MLB game.

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Soon the fireworks started and we had the best seats in the house, hands down.

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The entire night was unforgettable. We had such a fantastic time with the Tribe. There are 11 home games left as they chase the postseason. Tickets start at just $10 and you can always apply to be in the Social Suites.

I applied for and was granted access to the Family Social Suite. I was not asked to post about the game nor was I given any compensation. I just wanted to write about a fantastic night with the Tribe. 

Sky Zone Westlake Review and Giveaway

UPDATE: Congratulations to lucky number 1: Ashley, who won the 4 1-hour passes. Please check your email!

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Disclosure: I was invited to bring my family to Sky Zone Westlake to try it out for free but I was not compensated for this post. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

Awhile back, one of my favorite bloggers mentioned taking her boys to an indoor trampoline park and I thought “OMG that sounds so cool! Cleveland needs one of those”. Fast forward to this summer and now we do! And let me tell you, it’s a blast!

Sky Zone Westlake opened in July and it has not taken long for the word to get out. In fact, the first time we made the trip, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, the parking lot was overflowing with parked cars lining the street surrounding the brand new facility. We didn’t even try to go in that day. We came back another weekend, bright and early on a Saturday morning. We arrived when they opened at 9:00 AM and basically had the place to ourselves.

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Sky Zone Jump Shoes – they are required to jump and included in the price. 
Don’t forget your socks!

I opted not to jump due to an old knee injury (torn ACL) that makes me scared to jump. But Mark and the kids took no time to check it all out. From the open jump area (a floor of trampolines, with trampoline walls) to the foam pit, they ran back and forth like crazy hopping frogs.

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Sorry for the blur – the kids never stood still!

I was worried that at age 3.5, Madman would have a hard time. I didn’t need to worry. He buzzed around enjoying all the features. Our only problem  with him was keeping him from sitting down on the trampolines (against the rules) and running along the padded edges (blue strips between the trampolines – also against the rules). I think for a regular day, age 3-3.5 may be as young as you want to go. But they just started a toddler time which sounds be perfect for the littles as parents are allowed on the pads to supervise. Madman found his true love in the foam pit. That dude spent most of the hour flinging himself into the pit then climbing back out.

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The pit is so fun, even Mark did a few dives.
Madman loved it even though he did sometimes struggle to get out of the pit, but there was
always a Sky Zone employee there to give him a hand.

One last thing – while a 30 minute ($10) or even 60 minute ($14) session doesn’t sound that long, my kids could only jump for about 10 minutes at a time before having to take a break. They were wiped out after an hour. Even Mr. Marathon Runner Mark was tired and sore the next day. This place is going to be awesome this winter – a perfect place to get the energy out!

The facility  was clean, they had friendly, helpful staff and they offer all kinds of programs – from dodgeball, SkySlam Basketball and SkyRobics (fitness classes on the trampoline floor) to teen nights and birthday parties. There are quarter-operated lockers for your stuff, a snack bar, and lots of areas to sit and watch (or rest!)

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View from upper viewing area and the private party room

Tips for when you visit Sky Zone Westlake:
1) bring your socks!
2) go close to opening time for less crowds
3) fill out your waiver before you go to save time
4) bring quarters to stash your stuff in the lockers.

Ready to give it a try? One reader will win passes for one (1) hour jump time for a family of four (4). All you need to do is visit Sky Zone’s website and tell me in comments what you want to try out or why you want to go OR tweet the following phrase and leave a comment letting me know you tweeted: I want to jump at @SkyZoneWestlake thanks to @kakaty : http://wp.me/p3i9i6-Fw 

 One comment/entry per person, winner will be selected on Friday, September 6.

How to Cheer at a Marathon

I’m not a runner. I never will be. I tried it for a while but I hated it. But ever since Mark started the C25K program nearly 3 years ago, he’s been addicted. That means the kids and I have cheered at a LOT of races – 5k, 10k, half and full marathons – we’ve done them and I have a few tips for anyone who wants become a professional run spectator like me. I probably should have posted this last week, before the Cleveland Marathon, but now you’ll know what to do the next time a crazy friend or family member says they are running a “mary”.

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Cheering with my cousin & his family at the Oktoberfest Half in Grand Haven, MI

Here’s what I take when I cheer, especially with the kids:

  1. Snacks – race cheering is all about waiting for hours to watch someone run by in 30 seconds. Snacks and drinks are a must.
  2. Noise makers – it doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s noisy take it. We usually take 2 cowbells with us. Side note: why are cowbells a marathon tradition? Just to be obnoxious? This time I also took a tambourine (from the toy box), in the past I’ve taken whistles, maracas and once, a harmonica.
  3. Something visual – pompoms are always in our bag. Small flags work, too.
  4. SIGNS – of course make them for all of your friends running. But make some generic ones for runners to enjoy why you’re waiting. They really do like them. My other tip is to laminate a few with clear contact paper – this will protect them from rain & water stations and makes them sturdy enough to keep for a few races. (You’ll see some sign repeats in the photos).Image
  5. Course Map – this is critical, especially when the races’ website crashes on race day (cough *CLE Marathon* cough)
  6. Distractions – race spectating is a hurry-up-and-wait game. It can also be totally boring. Take a book, a phone, and if you have kids with you, toys. They will save you.
  7. Camera – I don’t lug my big camera with me because I’d rather cheer when I see my runner then have a camera in my face. I do, however, try to snap a shot or two on my phone or a point and shoot.
  8. Pack all of this in a backpack and wear comfortable shoes. You’ll likely be hoofing it for several blocks at each cheering spot. Take a stroller for little kids.

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Cheering at the Shaker Father’s Day 5k

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Cheering with friends is best – at the Blossom Time Run with the ClassyChaos Crew

When it comes to long races (half-marathons and above), I like to move around and catch my runner(s) a few places on the course. Here’s what I do pre-race.

  1. Print course map and look at recommended cheering spots. Almost every long race will have some “official cheer stations” and these can give you a good idea of where you can easily part near the course. I don’t normally cheer at these official spots, but go a mile or so on either side.
  2. Find 3-4 areas I want to cheer that are 5-7 miles apart, which gives me about 35-60 minutes to get from place to place. (Unless your runner is crazy-fast, then you’ll have to scale back to 2-3 areas).
  3. SCOUT YOUR CHEERING SPOTS. This is critical – something that Mark learned this past weekend. Where can you park? What streets will be closed? What’s the best route from A to B; can I walk or should I ride? I can spend more than an hour pouring over Google Maps looking for parking, access to public restrooms, and how everything interconnects. Don’t forget to look for a list of road-closures in the area. Even better – drive the course the day before and find your spots – I do this for out of town races so I can learn the area a little better.
  4. Print driving maps for each section (i.e. map from cheering spot A to cheering spot B) AND have a phone/gps with you on race day in case you run into any obstacles.
  5. Sign up for up for text alerts so you know where your runners are on the course. You’ll start to get anxious without these updates… remember that even if you know their usual pace, they may be slow for the first few miles before the pack thins out.

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Finish line cheering at the Perfect 10-Miler

Race Day!

  1. Have your runner(s) text you a photo of what they are wearing that day. This gives you something to look for in the herd of runners. This was critical for me finding Jenna on Sunday.
  2. If you are cheering with a group, you can all wear matching shirts, hats, headbands – something for your runner to look for.
  3. Let your runner know where you will be. I’m not talking exact locations, but “somewhere between miles 9 and 11” will give them something to look forward to.
  4. Dress in layers – most races start early when it’s chilly but warm up fast. And don’t forget your sunscreen!
  5. If you want to see your runner cross the finish line make sure you arrive at least 35 minutes before you anticipate them crossing. This is the most crowded area, it’s hardest to find parking and people will be jockeying for space on the curb.
  6. CHEER! Cheer for everyone – shake those noisemakers and randomly yell encouragement. Many runners have their names written on their shirts so use it when you cheer.

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Cheering at the Flying Pig Marathon with my parents

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Cleveland Fall Classic Half Marathon cheering squad – this one is ALWAYS cold!

That’s about it. All my knowledge about being a good cheerleader for the runners in your life. Have something to add? Put it in comments!

 Coming soon… our Cleveland Marathon Cheer Experience.

Eating Out with Kids in Cleveland

Continuing on the theme from the last post… Never underestimate the power of a good meal that you didn’t cook or have to clean up after. We usually eat out on Friday or Saturday night when Mark and I are just too tired to think about preparing a meal. While it might not burn energy, it burns daylight which can be just as important if you’re counting the minutes until bedtime. We are lucky to have lots of fantastic, kid-friendly local restaurants in Cleveland. No need to subject yourself to Olive Garden or Red Robin to get a good meal out with the kids. Yes, I am a straight-up food snob and refuse to eat at Applebee’s and the like…not when there are literally dozens of wonderful local joints to choose from.

Note: I always keep crayons and paper in my purse, I also sometimes have stickers (these are fantastic, too), and those little mini play dough containers are easy to keep stashed for long waits. I’m thinking of getting a Tegu pocket set based on a recommendation from Ashley. We try to keep the kids device-free at dinner but know that waiting can be a pain for them so having a couple of distractions is key to a somewhat peaceful outing.

Here are our Cleveland-area, kid-tested favorites:

NoodleCat
What kid doesn’t love noodles? The kids portions here are just $4 plus they offer some diversity in addition to just plain noodles and broth that even the pickiest kids will enjoy. This is usually Matilda’s first choice for a good reason. Delicious, local food, great music, easy-going staff. Our kids are 100% NoodleKids. Matilda even tried my octopus last time we went!

No kid portions for this kid! A full order of College Ramen is her “usual”

Geraci’s
Our kids are hungry at 5:00 so getting a table isn’t hard. Come later and you will wait. When we are there it’s usually a crowd of AARP members, most of which are pretty tolerant of kids. The staff is very nice to families but this is a place where the distractions in my purse help a lot since the pizza can take a while. Matilda and Mark LOVE their meatballs while Madman and I love their pizza. We do take out from Geraci’s pretty often, too. It’s cash only, so be prepared.

Superior Pho
Again with the noodles. We are all pho fans and there is nothing in town that beats Superior Pho. The staff is good with kids and the no-frills dining room takes away the worry about dining with kids. It’s a great place to warm up on a sub-zero winter evening. One down-side: the bathrooms are communal with the rest of the building and kid of gross. Not a reason to avoid, just know before you go!

Matilda couldn’t wait to introduce her cousin to pho when he visited this summer!

Liquid Planet
A healthy “fast food” place with smoothies and kid-approved PB&J pitas. I love their rice bowls and we all love their quick service. It can get pricy but overall it’s worth it if you just want a good, healthy(ish) meal fast. We do sometimes get looks from the CWRU students studying at the Cleveland Heights location but whatever, you’re in a restaurant, not a library!

B Spot
$5 dollar burgers during happy hour are a beautiful thing. Add a beer for $3 for mom and dad and Friday night is perfect. Both kids love it here, especially the pickle bar. Everyone is loud and messy in here so your kid won’t be any different from the 20-something at the next table. East-side bonus: let the kids run around the inside of Eaton mall or check out the kids section of B&N to burn some energy before heading home.

mmmmmm…..Lola burger

The Tavern Company
I don’t know why, but this place was a surprise find for us. Perhaps because I didn’t think a pub would be family-friendly, but they are. The food here is quite good, much more upscale than we expected for a pub. It is also extremely kid friendly with crayons and coloring books; TVs help, too. Their mac & cheese (Madman’s favorite) is delicious and Matilda is a fan of their burger.

Vero Pizza
We’re big fans of Vero and we usually get a seat upstairs which provides fun views of the pizza oven. Again, due to our early-bird dining status we typically have the place pretty much to ourselves. Matilda is a huge fan of the bruschetta and the beet salad here while Madman will gobble up slices of the delicious pizza. Mark and I are fans of everything and we’ve never been let down by their specials. Of course, bribing the kids with gelato helps with good behavior.

Madman can polish off 1/2 a Vero pie – extra mushrooms, please!

What are your favorite family-friendly non-chains in the the Cleveland area? This list is obviously eastside-heavy but we’re always willing to venture out to try a new place!