Back to the Ocean

We have a lovely Maine tradition going on for the past few years. This year we decided to kick it up a notch and stay the night. Truthfully I think about it every year, but this is the first year I’ve gotten my act together enough to book a hotel room. :) It wasn’t the best hotel (motel, really) but we had fun.

I was hoping to head up first thing Saturday morning, but Alan had his company picnic that morning we we did that first. Delicious food, good company, and a little swingset mediation. Good times all around.

image

She “meditated” like this for six minutes. I know because she insisted I time her. It was the longest stretch of quiet from her in ages. :)

After that we headed to the ocean!! We had a yummy meal at Inn on the Blues and then put our toes in the ocean. It was a beautiful night!

image

Such a beautiful night.

image

Boogie boarding past bedtime.

image

I like this picture. :) Handsome hubby. Kids playing in the background. Sweetness.

The next morning we headed to breakfast at the Lobster Cove to take advantage of our “free breakfast” as advertised by the hotel. Turns out it was “free” as long as you don’t eat more than $6 worth. :)

image

Waiting for breakfast.

image

Pre-breakfast selfie.

Then off to the beach to set up camp.

image

The beach was CROWDED by 10am when we got there!

image

Luckily we found a little place to snug in our fancy new red “easy-up” tent. It was an excellent addition the beach gear!

image

This one had chocolate pancakes and pancake syrup for breakfast. Can ya tell!?

image

This one did too!

image

Sand beard!

image

Boogie boarding!  The water was so cold it was painful.  It literally brought tears to my eyes and each wave crashing in felt like torture.  The kids loved it!

image

I love his face. :)

image

Beach babe!

image

Handsome beach boys.

When were were done at the beach we headed for ice cream and taffy. It’s important to get good and sugared up before a long trip home.

image

Can’t do a Maine trip without checking out the taffy shop.

Next summer maybe we’ll try for two nights! :) Good times at the Atlantic!

Niagara Falls!

This weekend we took an awesome trip to Niagara Falls! I have been planning it for awhile, and thinking about it for even longer! We got passports for everyone and the kids are now international travelers!

We left bright and early Friday morning, preparing for the long drive. The map said 7hr15m but it took us closer to nine hours! I lost track of how many times we stopped! But we made it, eventually. :)

A little rock throwing break.  Things got a bit tense in the car so we took a break to walk around and get some space.  The kids immediately found some rocks and a little pond and went to town! :)

A little rock throwing break. Things got a bit tense in the car so we took a break to walk around and get some space. The kids immediately found some rocks and a little pond and went to town! :)

Instead of getting three hotel rooms, I rented a sweet little house through HomeAway. My first time doing such a thing, but it went really well!

The adorable little house we rented.   It was so much better than a hotel, especially when you're traveling with seven people!

The adorable little house we rented. It was so much better than a hotel, especially when you’re traveling with seven people! Lex declared it an excellent place to play hide and seek. :)

Friday was nice and sunny, but the forecast was rain, rain, rain for the weekend, so we hurried down to the falls Friday night to get our first glimpse.

We made it to the falls!

We made it to the falls!

This made the long drive worth it!

This made the long drive worth it!

The Canadian Falls

The Canadian Falls

Feel the power!

Feel the power!

Saturday morning we woke to rain, as expected. We gathered up the umbrellas and went out anyway. The plan for the day was the Butterfly Conservatory and the Floral Showhouse, both indoors.

These two make my heart happy, even in the rain.

These two make my heart happy, even in the rain.

The Butterfly Conservatory was very cool, full of beautiful butterflies (of course) and plants. The kids each had cameras and took lots of pictures. It was a beautiful place to visit.

Eve, standing very still hoping a butterfly will land on her. :)

Eve, standing very still hoping a butterfly will land on her. :)

Lots of bright colors to attract the butterflies.

Lots of bright colors to attract the butterflies.

Eve is big into selfies these days.  She wanted to take pictures with everyone so she could make herself an album. :)

Eve is big into selfies these days. She wanted to take pictures with everyone so she could make herself an album. :)

This little guy hitched a ride on Mema's shoulder as she wandered around.

This little guy hitched a ride on Mema’s shoulder as she wandered around.

Alan made a new friend at the Butterfly Conservatory.  It stayed on his ear for a really long time and had to be physically encouraged to fly away before we left the area.

Alan made a new friend at the Butterfly Conservatory. It stayed on his ear for a really long time and had to be physically encouraged to fly away before we left the area.

After we left the Butterfly Conservatory we took advantage of our bus passes and took the WeGo bus to the Floral Showhouse. Lex was excited to ride the bus. Despite the downpour, we huddled under our umbrellas and waited for the bus. It was fun for awhile. :)

Although the Floral Showhouse was technically indoors, it was still quite rainy in there.  I'm not sure if parts of the roof were just screens, or if it was just super damp for the plants or what.

Although the Floral Showhouse was technically indoors, it was still quite rainy in there. I’m not sure if parts of the roof were just screens, or if it was just super damp for the plants or what.

Rocking out at the Floral Showhouse.  It wasn't a terribly exciting place so the kids made their own fun.

Rocking out at the Floral Showhouse. It wasn’t a terribly exciting place so the kids made their own fun.

There was a whole mini-village outside the Floral Showhouse.  It would have been cool to explore, on a less rainy day.

There was a whole mini-village outside the Floral Showhouse. It would have been cool to explore, on a less rainy day.

Waiting for the bus, in the rain.

Waiting for the bus, in the rain.

Saturday was actually Mom’s birthday and we talked about going out to a fancy restaurant for dinner, but by the time we got home we were all wet and cold so instead of going back out to a fancy dinner we instead bundled in warm clothes and ate enchiladas at home.

The original plan was to do the Journey Behind the Falls adventure and the Hornblower Cruise on Sunday, but since the weather as so awful we decided to reschedule those for Monday and just kick back and relax on Sunday. It took a little running around (for me and Rose) to get it all set, but it was totally worth it!

That day Rosy and I decided to buy matching "on sale" fleecies and go hang at the falls in the rain.  Good times.

That day Rosy and I decided to buy matching “on sale” fleecies and go hang at the falls in the rain. Good times.

Sunday afternoon cleared up a bit (well, the rain stopped anyway), so we went for the Aero Car trip across the whirlpools.

You cross the US/Canada border four times on this trip in the Aero Car.

You cross the US/Canada border four times on this trip in the Aero Car.

Mema and Grandpa Tom, enjoying the view!  Not too scary.

Mema and Grandpa Tom, enjoying the view! Not too scary.

Dad wanted to go on the white white jet boat seen here.  We stuck to the arial view from the Aero Car instead.  :)

Dad wanted to go on the white white jet boat seen here. We stuck to the arial view from the Aero Car instead. :)

Then we went up to the Skylon Tower! I originally thought it would be fun to have dinner up there, but the prices were higher than the tower so I reconsidered that idea! Instead we just went up to the viewing deck and hung out. Great views of the whole Niagara area. I imagine the views would be even better if it weren’t so overcast!

Up in the Skylon Tower.

Up in the Skylon Tower.

The Horseshoe Falls as seen from the Skylon Tower.

The Horseshoe Falls as seen from the Skylon Tower.

Monday we woke to blue skies and sunshine. Excellent! We packed up and “checked out” of our house and headed for the Journey Behind the Falls.

Can you see where the mist from the falls mixes with the clouds in the sky?  So cool.

Can you see where the mist from the falls mixes with the clouds in the sky? So cool.

This place is so awesome.

This place is so awesome.

Lex at the falls.

Lex at the falls.

International travelers!

International travelers!

The Horseshoe falls, crashing down.

The Horseshoe falls, crashing down.

Journey Behind the Falls.  Up close and personal with the Horseshoe Falls.

Journey Behind the Falls. Up close and personal with the Horseshoe Falls.

Then we grabbed some ice cream and headed over to the Hornblower Cruise. I’m so glad we got at least one day of sunshine. It was beautiful.

Foggy family.  My camera was misty from the Journey Behind the Falls.

Foggy family. My camera was misty from the Journey Behind the Falls.

The American Falls

The American Falls

I purchased Adventure Passes online before our trip so we were able to skip the ticket lines and head straight to the boat!

Waiting to board the Hornblower Cruise under the falls.

Waiting to board the Hornblower Cruise under the falls.

The Canadian Falls, from the Hornblower Cruise.

The Canadian Falls, from the Hornblower Cruise.

The American Falls, from the Hornblower Cruise.

The American Falls, from the Hornblower Cruise.

After our cruise we parted ways with the rest of the family. They headed home and we headed to Coco’s for lunch! Then we crossed back into the USA and drove an hour and a half to visit Jim and Julie! The kids are all so big now, but they still hit it off like old friends. :)

I ask the girls if I can take a picture and this is what they give me.  Pure silliness.

I ask the girls if I can take a picture and this is what they give me. Pure silliness.

We took a drive over to Jim’s brother’s farm to visit the baby animals, then stopped at Wegmans for dinner (love that store!), then headed home for games and silliness.

Lots of baby piggies.

Lots of baby piggies.

Playing with the chickens.  Lex decided they feel soft, but weird.

Playing with the chickens. Lex decided they feel soft, but weird.

Games with the Kirkwoods are always the best.

Games with the Kirkwoods are always the best.

Sweet girls cuddling before bedtime.

Sweet girls cuddling before bedtime.

Silly goodbyes.  I'm so glad that they still like each other and get along after so much time.  I wish we were all a little closer!

Silly goodbyes. I’m so glad that they still like each other and get along after so much time. I wish we were all a little closer!

Tuesday morning, bright and early, we headed home. The return trip was a little bit faster thanks to an excellent audio book and a huge rain cloud that accompanied us most of the way.

The kids are already asking when we can go back. :)

If you care to see all of the 500+ pictures I took, feel free to check out the Google album. I can’t figure out how to add captions. I swear Google makes this photo thing harder and harder every time I try to use it. If you’re not sharing with the world on Google+ they don’t want anything to do with you. Sigh.

A walk in the country

The kids were playing outside today (all on their own without me kicking them out!) and I suggested we take a walk. Much to my surprise, they agreed! They grabbed their safari gear and off we went.

image

Checking out the wildlife.

image

When going on a safari it’s best to wear your pajamas.

image

Happiness is.

image

Catching tadpoles.

image

Catching tadpoles at pond number one. The kids wanted frogs and we only found tadpoles. so we decided to head over to another pond.

image

Pond number two. Surveying the area.

image

This boy. <3

image

Catching frogs.

image

Froggy girl. <3

image

Catching frogs.

image

Lex caught one!! They worked together to get it from the small container to the bigger container, gave it some grass and rocks, and a friend (they accidentally caught a stick bug as well) and then sat back and enjoyed their new pet.

image

Ben the Frog, or Jumpy, depending on who you ask. :)

image

Just a boy and his frog.

image

Ben the Frog/Jumpy, happy to be free again.

image

We found a newt on the way home, inspiring a newt-related rap for the walk home.

image

Life in the country. Fresh air and open spaces.

image

Eve really liked these flowers. The look like dandelions, but much bigger!

Life in the country. Happiness is.

Flying high and diving deep

image

Waffles for breakfast, again. 

This weather is just not cooperating with our plans this trip. Or with our visitors’ plans, I suppose. We headed to SkyZone today for some high-flying fun.

The plan was for Julie and her girls to come up and spend the day with us, but the weather did not cooperate and she didn’t make it, so we were on our own. Turns out that was maybe for the best. Things are SkyZone were crazy!! We didn’t pre-buy tickets, despite the website strongly encouraging us to do so, and so when we got there they were pretty full up. We were hoping to stay for a few hours, but there were only a few time slots available. We got the kids tickets to jump from 10:30-11:00am while Alan and I watched. The place was a bit overwhelming at first and the ticket lady said grownups had to jump on the other side of the room from kids and I wasn’t sure what that exactly looked like, so I decided to let the kids jump first. Turns out “the other side of the room” was really just not that far away.

image

Trampolines everywhere! Do you see the kids way in the back?

 

 

At 11am we left SkyZone and went to the Olive Garden for lunch. YUMMY!!! Before leaving SkyZone we purchased tickets for all four of us to jump from 12:30-1:00pm. I wanted to do longer, but again, there was limited time available. So we had lunch then came back. This second time was soooo much better… because I jumped too! As a grownup watching the place is boring, loud, and chaotic. But as a jumper jumping, OMG it is so much fun!!! You can go so high and do all sorts of fun tricks. I wasn’t brave enough for flips and somersaults, but other people were. Lex mastered the “jumping off the wall” trick and Alan worked on getting as high in the air as possible. So much fun!!!

After half an hour we were all hot and sweaty. I could have stayed longer, but our time was up and everyone was exhausted so it was a good time to head back to the hotel… for swimming! What better way to cool down. I didn’t get any pictures in the pool because I was swimming too, but I really wished I had an underwater camera. There are skylights in the pool area and the sunshine coming in made everything really beautiful. It would have been a great day for swimming pictures. Oh well. By 3:00 we were all worn out and hungry, so we headed back upstairs. It’s a good vacation when everyone is showered and in PJs by 4pm, right?! :)

image

Vacation leftovers! Pizza from the hotel, various options from Cheesecake Factory, pasta from the OG, and carrots so we can pretend we’re eating healthy on vacation. I know what’s for dinner tonight!

A day at the mall

The day finally arrived!  Our big trip to Destiny USA!  We had a little time to kill in the morning so Eve took a swim.

image

A pre-mall swim.

 

At the mall.  First things first, the ropes course!  The moment Lex has been eagerly awaiting for the last five months!

image

Harnesses on!

 

image

Here they go!

 

image

Turns out it was a little scary! Look at that serious face!

 

While Lex and Alan did the ropes course, Eve and I went to Build-A-Bear, the thing Eve has been eagerly awaiting.  She saved up all her money to buy this bear and some clothes.

image

Stuffing the new bear.

 

image

They had a whole rack of Girl Scout clothes you could buy for your bear, including GS undies! I was amused, but we didn’t buy any.

 

image

Eve and Chocolate, her new teddy bear.

Rosy joined us at this point and we headed back to the ropes course to check on Alan and Lex.  They were having a blast!!

 

image

Having fun.

 

image

Such concentration! This one had no railings, just the tether to hang on to.

 

image

So high!!

 

image

This one made Alan say “whee!” The beams swayed as he walked over them!

 

image

These boys survived the ropes course!! And LOVED it!

We had lunch at the food court, then headed for the carousel.

 

image

Fun on the ponies.

Then right back upstairs for the Mirror Maze.  We went through a bunch of times and loved every time.  The place makes me laugh and smile the whole time.  It was crowded this time, which introduces a new kind of fun to the experience.

 

image

Selfie in the Mirror Maze.

 

image

Eve

 

image

Lex

This is what Alan has been eagerly awaiting!  Pole Position!  He raced hard and was #1 in best lap time!  They gave him a little award certificate and all.  He LOVED it!  :)

 

image

Alan is in car #18.

 

image

Coming around the corner.

After Pole Position we headed downstairs for glow in the dark mini-golf.  It was an interesting experience and a tough course!

 

image

Lex putting.  It was pretty dark in there!

 

image

Eve putting. She had the best shirt for black light fun! :)

By this time we were all really tired, so we headed to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  Dinner was delicious, of course, and we were sure to save room for dessert!

 

image

I think this is the first time the kids have had cheesecake. Lex was slightly hesitant, but that piece was full of candy so he overcame his fear and dug in. If only everything new came coated in candy! :)

 

image

After dinner and dessert we did a little of this. Well, they did. There rest of us steeled ourselves for the cold air and drive home.

 

 

image

Goodbye Aunt Rosy! Thanks for spending the day at the mall with us! :)

 

image

Back at the hotel this was about all we could manage.

 

Now it is late and the morning will come early. It always does in a hotel. I am off to bed! Tomorrow is another busy day.

A drive to Syracuse

We drove to Syracuse yesterday.  Everyone else was heading to warmer weather for vacation, but not us!  This is what our vacation trip looked like…

image

Crazy winter icicles at a rest area on the thruway.

 

image

The Erie Canal, buried in snow!

 

image

Evening is when it really got fun. By the time we got to Syracuse it was total blizzard conditions! We were very happy to finally be off the road!

 

And then, once we got to the hotel, it looked more like this…

image

Hello Merlot.

 

image

The kids wanted to sit at their own table so we decided to have a Valentine’s Day dinner on our own. :) Very romantic! Syracuse v. Duke on the screen. It was a good game, but sadly SU lost.

 

image

Watching the end of the game. Alan was happy to be off the road and on the couch!

 

That’s how this family likes to spend Valentine’s Day and the first day of vacation!

NYC!

Joyce’s trip home started at JFK airport, which necessitated a trip for someone to NYC to drop her off. What could have been an obnoxious chore turned into a great mini-vacation as Rosy, Joyce, and I all headed to NYC for a few days. Barney and Lorie also flew out of JFK, but they had a rental and wanted a little more tourist time, so they went down a day before us. We mostly just walked around, saw the sights, ate expensive food (normal food, really, but expensive because it’s NYC), and had a blast! NYC is such a party city. Everything happens late. Dinner at 10pm, of course. The next morning the whole city looks hung over with litter on the street and people heads down and bundled up. Everyone just hanging in there until the sun sets and the party starts again. :)

FullSizeRender

I posted all of my pictures online.

On the final day I took an Amtrak train home. It was a 7+ hour ride, but so nice and comfortable. It was the first day of a new station opening, so the president of Amtrak was on the train for awhile and a whole bunch of train groupies, which made for some crowding and excitement. Otherwise it was a peaceful journey home, where I was greeted by a very eager family happy to see me.

Life is good.

Good times in Orange town!

We had an awesome weekend in Syracuse! After all the planning (done mostly by others, thankfully!) the weekend finally arrived and we were off. Friday, our travel day, was beautiful. Saturday, our campus tour and park day, was a rainy mess. Then Sunday, another travel day, was beautiful again.

I posted all of my pictures in a Google album, but I’ll add a few here as well.

We packed Friday morning and headed to Syracuse. When we arrived at the hotel we had a few minutes to hang out with friends who were already there, then we headed out to a SU football game. We watched the Orange get crushed by the Louisville Cardinals. We also dropped a small fortune on “dinner” at the Dome, consisting of soft pretzels, nachos, popcorn, and ice cream. Alan had a Dome Dog too. Sounds like a nice healthy meal, right?! All bets are off when it comes to vacation food! :)

group

We went with Mark and his daughter Victoria, and Amy and her son Andrew. Plus apparently a grumpy guy in the back. :)

us

The Johnsons go to a football game. Go Orange!

Mark and Amy left at half-time, but we made it almost to the end. If the game had been any good we would have stayed for the whole thing, but since Syracuse was getting a beating we decided to be fair-weather fans and high-tail it out of there before the storm and the crowds! And the storm did come.

Saturday we had planned a lovely day of touring the campus, lunch and shopping on M-Street, and then an afternoon at the park. Unfortunately the weather had different plans! We rallied and dragged our spouses and children through a typical day in Syracuse. We figured it would be best to give them the true look at Syracuse. :) Seriously though, we actually had a pretty good time, despite the rain and a few grumpy children (mine!).

kids

The kids (L-R) Greg (Mark’s step son), Andrew (Amy’s), Devorah (Ron and Laura’s), Joe (Mike’s), Cassandra (Ron and Laura’s), Victoria (Mark’s), Lex and Eve, Andy and Bethany (Ron and Laura’s), Lucas (Mike’s)

grownups

The grown-ups (L-R) Mark and Barbara, Amy, Andrea and Mike, me and Alan, Ron and Laura

After our walking tour we took our soggy selves to The Varsity for lunch and a little shopping. Then we headed back to the hotel where Jim and Julie met us for an afternoon in the pool. They aren’t technically SU alum, but they knew most of us and they live so close we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit!

We swam…
swimming

we snuggled…
kate and me

we played games…
games

and then we said goodbyes.
goodbye girls

Then the Kirkwoods had to leave and the rest of us moseyed into the fancy banquet room we rented for the evening. The hotel catered a delicious meal for us and we spent the rest of the evening hanging out, eating, drinking, playing games, and enjoying each others company after so many years apart.

girls and games

me and amy

wrestling boys

eve and mark

It was so nice just hanging out, getting to know each other’s spouses and children better, letting the kids play together, etc. Just what we wanted for that evening!

The next day we woke bright and early. NOT! The kids actually slept until 8am!! A new record in our family, I think. We met a few friends for breakfast before saying goodbye and heading our separate ways. Alan and I decided to take the kids to the mall, after hearing rumors that it has grown a bit since our time. Boy, has it!! They now call it Destiny USA instead of the Carousel Mall. It still has the carousel, but it also has sooo much more! I can’t even imagine that place on a Friday night. If they had a hotel a person could feasibly live their entire life in the mall.

glass elevator

mirror maze

carousel

There was so much more we wanted to do at the mall, especially a really amazing looking indoor ropes course that Lex was eager to try. Unfortunately they said it typically takes a least an hour and we just didn’t have the time. Lex was very disappointed and we immediately started making plans to come back! Destiny USA, we will return!!

After leaving the mall, and before heading home, we went back to M-Street to exchange a pair of pants Alan had bought the day before. While we were there we did a little more shopping and a quick trip the Syracuse Bookstore, just for fun.

hol

One final family photo and then we were off – heading home with a very tired crew. The return trip seemed to take forever, perhaps because everyone was was tired but no one slept, or perhaps because we stopped frequently for drinks and bathrooms. Finally we got home around 8pm, rushed the unpack, and went right to bed!

It was a great trip! I hope it doesn’t take another 15 years before we can get the crew together again. I think we’ll be back in Syracuse this February though. Anyone want to join us?!?

In the meantime, you can check out all of the pictures, with captions, in the Google album.