A Grace Full Life

7.06.2015

Return To Snake Island. Cedar Point Vacation 2015.




We got to go on a little family getaway last week to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio last week.
What is Cedar Point, you ask?
Well, it is only THE best amusement park in the Midwest, one could even argue the best amusement park in the USA really.
The self proclaimed "rollerCOAST" because Cedar Point is a peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie hence the POINT part.
The Cedar part isn't really clear any more.
I am sure there used to be many cedar's there at one time but were cleared out for all those roller coasters.


We had met up with my brother and his family at Cedar Point a few years ago and decided to do that again this year as well as meet our dear friends Vikki and Kari and their families as well.
The planning began back in March and it was something to look forward to in the cold and snow.
We hemmed and hawed on dates then finally I threw out a random date in June when I found out my oldest daughter's break from cheer camp.
June 29th was the day I said we could go to Cedar Point all day.
A Monday, but it worked for everyone involved thankfully and they all worked around my husband's ridiculous schedule, thank you all for that.
It was a week before we left for Ohio that Vikki told me June 29th was more than just a random Monday.
It would have been her brother's 55th birthday.
David had passed away two years ago from cancer in October of 2013.

Vikki with her brother, David.

It hit me right where my heart and my stomach meet.
It wasn't an accident that we picked this date.
This date picked us.

But I am getting ahead of myself.


We had seen the weather fluctuate between rain and sun for 10 days for the day we were supposed to spend at Cedar Point but at last we had checked, it was supposed to be sunny and 75 for our day.
YES!
We were so happy!
Then on the trip out, I was texting my friends and my mom when I happened to check my Weather Channel app.
Rain and thunderstorms.
80% chance.
All day.
I was just sick.
I could hear Anna chatting with her friend in the backseat and Ella singing with her headphones on as I thought of their only vacation this summer being ruined.
Tears started running down my face.



How could this have happened overnight?
IT JUST SAID SUNNY AND 75 YESTERDAY!
I got some tears out, sent a few texts and had some chocolate.
I talked it through to my husband and wiped my tears.
We will buy ponchos and stomp through the rain!
Sure this is our only vacation but we are lucky to even have any vacation at all!
We have each other, our family, our dear friends.
If we are having fun and making the best of it, so will they.
We will make it fun dammit!

We got to our cabin on Lake Erie safely, met up with my brother and his family.
But not before we had a casualty.




He fell off the cooler in the back of our car.
Because my husband felt he would be safer back there.
Did I mention he is the Michigan fan.




Home sweet cabin.




Yay!! Let's go to the pool!! When it is only 73 degrees!! OKAY!!! The husbands were gracious enough to go in the pool with the kids and good thing too because the water in the pool was 65 degrees.






After the pool, the gnome and the husbands kicked back with a cold one.
But not before a very sobering realization.
See what I did there??



Looking at ALL our new pet snakes



We find out when we get back from the pool that the teenagers were planning on going swimming in the lake but were stopped.
By something moving in the rocks.
Snakes.
Long story short, we find out that we have a snake problem.
Or rather they have a human problem.





That snake was just one of many living in the rocks just a stones throw away from our cabin.
Heh heh heh.
So this is the Lake Erie water snake, say hello.
They like to lay on the rocks and sun themselves all day long.
Lazy snakes, GET A JOB!
This was just one.
There were, at final count, 11 snakes at our cabin, on one particular afternoon.
JUST OUR CABIN.
Not any of the other cabins, only ours.
Funny, I do remember many mention of the "bug problems" at these cabins right on Lake Erie on Trip Advisor.
But I don't remember any mention of a "snake problem".
Probably because the person who wrote about it, ended up with a box of snakes on their front porch three days later.
I kid, I kid.


Our cabin was beautiful and so peaceful if you looked beyond the snakes.
Hisssssss hisssssss.
WHAT WAS THAT?????

Oh and apparently they are good at getting rid of the bugs.
Yeah, no we still had bugs.
THEY WEREN'T EVEN DOING THEIR JOB!


Oh and the snakes swim too.
My sister in law and I were sitting on the deck on the first night and I said, "umm Kristy, is that a snake swimming? Yes. Yes it is." CHECK PLEASE."
It was like we were in Hell.
If my grandmother were still alive, she would have never left the car.

So if you were thinking of swimming at the beach here?
Just know, you would have company.
Little snakes wearing life jackets.
I SWEAR I AM NOT TRYING TO KEEP YOU FROM VISITING.
It gets better.
Keep reading.



We were ready to tackle Cedar Point the next day!
RAIN OR NOT, WE WILL NOT BE DETERRED!!!
Even with a broken foot and snakes that can swim!!!!





We woke up and saw the snakes popping their little heads out of the rocks because we had donuts.
Snakes love donuts!
I even said good morning to the snakes.
They were growing on me.
We woke to beautiful skies, I sat on the deck and listened to the waves and said a thank you to the sky.
This would be a great day to spend with some beautiful people.

 
 
 


We missed the petting zoo by an hour but they left the animals out as a teaser.
Thanks a lot Cedar Point.
Yes, I know they must live there but how's about that life as a "farm" animal?
Living on a peninsula on Lake Erie full of roller coasters.
Of course, they looked well fed.
Kind of like those Lake Erie snakes.
SHIVER.

 
 
 


Something about little behinds.







This is Vikki's dad, Jack and he holds my heart.
So I mentioned earlier about this day being David's birthday.
I thought about him throughout the day and would occasionally hug Vikki or her dad.
I know this day had to be hard on him as well. 
But this is what is so cool about this man: he is 80 years old but he I don't think he knows he is.
Shhh don't tell him.
He rode approximately 8-10 roller coaster rides on this day.
He also feels as thought he might be "slowing down a little bit".
I WANT TO BE HIM WHEN I GROW UP.



This picture makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it.
Ella loved these cars so much and wanted to ride them over and over and over.
AND OVER.
This is Vikki's daughter, Beth aka my twin, in the passenger seat and her sweet friend Emily, in the backseat.
The greatest part of this whole thing is that these two teenagers were just as excited to ride with her as she was to ride with them.
There are so many bad things written about teenagers out there and I am here to say this: there are really amazing teens among us and I am witness to quite a few.



Case in point.
This train filled with teens riding with kids.
At the end of the night, my daughter Anna and her friend Abby, as well as Beth, her friend and Emily ran from ride to ride in Camp Snoopy, with my nephew and my daughter as they squealed with glee.
Those two kids will never forget that.
I am forever grateful for teenagers who do deeds like that.
They have no idea how much children look up to them for things like this.
It leaves lasting impressions.
God bless them all.





Ella was by Jack's side or "Grampa" as she called him, almost the entire day.
She told him long stories, lovingly pushed him in his wheelchair and just loved being around him.

 
 


Ella doesn't have a grandfather figure in her daily life and I know she misses it.
This day was therapeutic for her, filling a void she desperately needs.




It was good for both of them, I think, to have this day.



OMG CAN WE TALK ABOUT FUNNEL CAKE FRIES??
Do we have these in Chicago?
I had never heard of these before or was completely oblivious to them because when I saw the cart for these I heard angels singing and the clouds parted.
No, seriously, the clouds parted and it stopped raining.
The best part of the funnel cake are the outside edges because the inside gets all mushy, so what a perfect invention!
Now, I wasn't thinking that an hour later on the third run on the Gemini roller coaster when I almost vomited in Kristy's lap.....BUT OMG FUNNEL CAKE FRIES?????


My all time favorite part of Cedar Point is the older Frontier part.
We were trying to find out how to get to this area and Vikki asked a young employee how to get here, mentioning some kind of frontier trail to a blank look.
Then she asked him where the Panda Express was and he was all OH YEAH! TAKE A LEFT THAN A RIGHT THEN ANOTHER LEFT!
It's located in the woods and has all sorts of little shops and cool leather making exhibits etc.
I hope they never get rid of this section but a sure fire way not to is to stick a Panera or a Panda Express in here.
OR A FUNNEL CAKE FRIES STAND.
YES.
MUCH BETTER.
Frontier people would have loved those.




It was so sad to say goodbye to our family, friends and to Cedar Point but we decided we need to make it an annual trip.
Because it was so much fun to spend the day with our loved ones in such a fun place.
We got to talk, hold hands and make lots of memories.
AND HELLO, FUNNEL CAKE FRIES.
By the way, we didn't get rained out.
This day turned out to be absolutely gorgeous and because of the forecast, the longest lines were only 15 minutes long.
My teenager and her friend got to ride every roller coaster in the park, some four times.
It was the perfect day.
One could even say, it was Heaven sent.





We always stop at our favorite lighthouse in Marblehead on the way out of town.
Which is about 40 minutes drive from Sandusky.
It sounds like a long way but it is just a roundabout drive.
Trust me, it is worth the drive.



Going to Cedar Point without stopping at some of the cool little towns along Lake Erie is really doing yourself an injustice.
So allow yourself an extra morning or at least an extra day if you are from out of state.
Oh and by the way Cedar Point, here is a tip: your employees were amazingly friendly on the grounds of the place we stayed but they knew nothing about the area.
Which leads me to believe that they aren't from the area.
You need to work on that BIG TIME by training them to learn the area.
They didn't even offer to help us to find Marblehead.
Mad props to the Ohio family in the lobby of the registration center who not only helped us re- route a way that was better than GPS could send us but also gave us their map.
I love Ohio people.



The girls loved walking into the water.
Especially because we were far from those snakes.



Since they were across the lake over there.
HELOOOOO SNAKES.
I didn't have the heart to tell the girls that they swim.
Or that they wear little life jackets.





So back to that lighthouse:






Looks innocent enough, right?
So it was open to the public, which is very rare.
My husband and I are both afraid of heights.
I can do roller coasters but I can't do things like ferris wheels, fire towers in state parks, lighthouses along great lakes.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT WAS WRONG WITH US.

Maybe we were on a Cedar Point high or something but we had balls.
Balls of steel.
But we decided that on this day, we needed to go to the top of the Marblehead lighthouse.

So Anna and her friend were in front, essentially skipping up the narrow, winding staircase two steps at a time.
Followed by Mike, Ella in the middle, me and then a lady behind me who was probably in her late sixties who made me laugh so hard that I thank God she was in the lighthouse of death with us.
I named her Barbara because I love to name people and dogs.
And inanimate objects.
I named the snakes.
Don't ask.

The problem with being afraid of heights is that once you go up, you can't look anywhere but straight ahead but there was no room to look anywhere else.
Because lighthouse of death.
THOSE FISHERMEN PEOPLE WERE BAD ASS.
CAN YOU IMAGINE CLIMBING UP THOSE METAL STEPS WITH RUBBER WHALING BOOTS ON??
Omg all slippery and sh#$.
Yeah, that is all I could think of, meanwhile Barbara behind me is all "omg, this is horrible this is awful, oh I don't know if I can do this, that is a long way down, oh dear heavens, oh my goodness, we just keep getting higher and higher, look how far down the bottom is, no, don't look, keep looking straight ahead, yeah that is better".

Her running dialogue is why I am still here today, ladies and gentlemen.
I might even re-name this blog A Barbara Life, because God Bless her soul, she saved me that day.
By the way, when we got to the top, Mike and I literally clung to the wall for five seconds, breathed like we were giving birth and threw ourselves back into the stairwell.
Barbara never left the stairwell.
Barbara might still be there.




On the way home, we stopped at a place that is kind of a tradition.
Cheesehaven.
We used to go here when we were little and we would go up to Lake Erie.
I am sure a lot of kids get upset when stopping here on the way to Cedar Point because when you are little the last place you want to go is a metal building filled with cheese and smoked meat.
When you are an adult that is the FIRST place you want to go.
So when I told my children about Cheesehaven, they didn't complain because FOOD.
My kids love food more than what is probably normal.
So when we pulled up and they saw the sign then read it, I could hear the collective ooh's and ahh's from the backseat.
Even the teenager that wasn't ours was impressed.
By the way, it is pronounced CheeseHEAVEN.
It is.  Really.

We stopped at Notre Dame on the way home because none of us had ever seen the campus and we wanted to break up the trip on the way home.
It is the most beautiful campus I have ever been on but the Buckeye in me definitely felt uncomfortable being there.






 
 
Ella met a friend by Touchdown Jesus.





My husband really only wanted to see this campus because he likes the movie Rudy.
He has an aversion to Notre Dame that rivals his aversion to Ohio State.





And I yelled Go Buckeyes into the stadium when no one was looking.
See how many touchdowns that gets ya.





Umm, Jesus doesn't even like football.
SMH.


It was such a fun trip, a memory maker for sure and it makes me glad that we do these trips.
The beach would be fun, going to distant lands would be cool but spending time with loved ones can't be beat, that is for sure.
Can't wait for next year.
I want to get my parents in on the action next time.
Only we will rent cabin FOUR next year.

Hey snakes! There will be two more next year! You can't handle all that awesome!

HISS HISS!!

That was Harold.
He was very feisty.

WHAT??



This post is dedicated to the memory of David A. Schuster Gabriel

7.01.2015

It's Not THAT Kind of Cruise. Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter. Shoreline Sightseeing Giveaway.

Last summer, I was approached by Shoreline Sightseeing if I would be interested in going on one of their river cruises.
To which I replied, are you kidding me?? OF COURSE!!
Because I love me a cruise.
Sail the open seas, limbo until your thighs are Jello and all you can eat shrimp?? WAHOOOO!!!
Wait.
This isn't that kind of CRUISE???

Oh.

OK sure!!!

We had a great time and I wrote about my experience for Chicago Parent here so please read about it because I am quite proud of my Chicago Parent articles and I don't send you over there often enough.

So when Shoreline contacted me again this spring, I was excited!
For many reasons but the main one was that they liked me!
They really, really, Sally Field liked me in order for them to get back to me again!
I mean, isn't that how it works in the river cruise business?
ISN'T IT???
I assumed because I wrote the Nobel Prize winning Chicago Parent piece that I did, that they were all, GET ME KARI WAGNER ON THE HORN ON THE DOUBLE!!

AND TELL HER THAT WE DON'T DO THE LIMBO ON THE DECKS OF OUR BOATS.
NOR DO WE OFFER ALL YOU CAN EAT SHRIMP.

Honest mistake, really.
Geez.


We decided this year to shake things up a bit and do the lake tour instead of a river tour since we did that up that last year.
We got to the boat dock, gave them our tickets and hopped on board!
The whole process is so easy but this is what you need to know before you go: allow enough time.
If you are going to Navy Pier, especially mid day or evening? GO EARLY.
Traffic can be kind of crazy at times, so by the time you find a parking spot in the garage, then walk to the ticket booth, you may be late.
So definitely make sure you allow yourself enough time.


courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org


Once you get on the boat, you can then relax.
Sit back and get ready to enjoy the ride.
Here is where I get to play Julie the Cruise Director from the Love Boat and try and sell you on the different cruise options that Shoreline offers.
There are so many cool ones to choose from such as Chicago architecture tours, classic lake tours (the one we are about to go on), fireworks tours, and they even offer water taxi service too.

There is also a bar on board, so you can get drinks if you are thirsty and they have chips too!
No shrimp.
Or bring your own.
That is probably frowned upon.
Because bring your own shrimp......yeah.
Never mind.


Now, let's get to the fun part!
Taking selfies!!
WHAT??
We have a few minutes before the boat departs so we have time.




I know I don't normally share pictures of my children on here but I am slowly breaking that rule, why, I honestly don't know.
But I love this one so much because look at that happy smile?
It was on her face the entire boat ride.
So this is why I broke the rule because damn if this isn't a happy picture.
Doesn't this want to make you go and buy a boat ticket??


Off we go!




You will get to see some amazing sights on this tour such as Navy Pier!
Of course that is because that's from where you will be taking off.
But you get to see it from afar now and isn't it so pretty???



Look at that skyline.
See how small the Ferris Wheel looks from far away?
Still couldn't get my butt on it.
Nope.
Nopety, nope, nope.
 
Nope.
 
Nope.
 
 
I have no problem with roller coasters but boxes of metal holding you up in the air?
No.
 By the way, the day after we were here, we found out that they are replacing the Ferris Wheel with a brand new and improved Ferris Wheel next year.
They are adding flat screen televisions to each car.
That is called staying at home.
Still nope.
 
 
 


Look at the pretty sailboat, the glistening lake...... can you just hear the sounds of the sea gulls and the lapping water?
Ahhh all of your troubles are far away at Navy Pier, at that pesky Ferris Wheel.
Still nope.

The pictures you will take are worth the price of admission of the boat ride.






These are all pictures I took on the boat ride, not pictures provided to me by Shoreline.
Oh and they were taken with my phone.


So I shared this next picture with my family and friends on social media.
I went into some detail about it but I wanted to share it here with you as well.
I love this city for so many reasons: State Street, THE FOOD, the cool movies that have been filmed here, the people.
But the main reason is because essentially Chicago was a matchmaker to my husband and I.
Our first real meeting was at the Taste of Chicago.
Our first date was at a White Sox game.
The first time he said he loved me was at the top of the John Hancock building.
We didn't go on a honeymoon but instead opted a few weeks later to spend a day walking around our favorite big city together, hand in hand exploring new neighborhoods and eating our favorite foods.
The city of Chicago is very important to our relationship.

So we are out on this lake tour, in the middle of the morning and our normally can't sit still second grader, calmly walks up to the railing, stops, leans up against it and pauses.

To look at this:



The exact building where my husband told me he loved me for the first time.

I looked at my husband and the tears just started to come right there at 11 in the morning for everyone and God to see and I told him, "this city, this city, it just holds so much of us".
It was a full circle moment that wasn't lost on me.
This tour was so special, I mean, I didn't learn that much about Chicago history on this particular tour but I won't ever forget this day.
I guess we will just have to go again.
Yes, I think we will have to do that.
Much better than a Ferris Wheel ride, if you ask me.
Because still, nope.



The great thing about Shoreline is that once you take off into Lake Michigan, you are free to meander around the deck of the boat to take pictures and take in the beautiful scenery.
It is perfect for kids who are wiggly, want to explore and in Ella's case who wanted to take pictures with our phone camera.
But it is just a really cool laid back feeling.
Here is a picture to show you that vibe:





People just hanging out and meandering.
Just being.
Not at all structured.
I love tours like that.
The river tour is a little more structured, has a tour guide, J.J. who was kick a#$ by the way.
I am still looking for him, not stalking per se but looking.
By the way, his voice is used on the lake tour.
My husband picked up on that right away because he still has a man crush on J.J. that lingers from last year.
DOWN BOY.


By the way, Ella wanted me to make sure I added a picture she took that day into this post:








She also took this picture:



I swear we are good parents.
 



After the boat tour, we went into Navy Pier and decided it would be fun to be tourists for the day!





We had never eaten at Billy Goat Tavern before!
We will never eat at Billy Goat Tavern again!
Don't get me wrong, it was hilarious and fun for all ages.
But the food was just okay.
But you should go for the experience.
BUT DO NOT SKIP GARRETT'S.
Have to say though, it was fun pretending to be a tourist for a day.
Chicago is a fun tourist destination!
Except for the Ferris Wheel because still NOPE.

And guess what??
Shoreline is hooking you up with four tickets to a cruise of your choice!!
NOT a Ferris Wheel ride!!!!


NOW THIS IS WHERE I AM GOING TO GET STRICT AND SISTER MARY CATHERINE GALLAGHER ON YO BUTT.

The last couple of giveaways I have held, I have had people try to enter by emailing me.
No.
You need to enter via Rafflecopter.
If you do not, you are not entered.
Got it?
It is easy.
Trust me.
I need these giveaways to be fair to everyone that is why they are run through Rafflecopter.
I do not pick the winner, the winner is picked via random generator.
So then it is fair.
Just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter app below.
Trust me, it is EASY.

Also, you need to comment in order to be qualified.
No comment? No chance to win.
I want to know what is your favorite thing to do in Chicago??

Here is the link to the different schedules that Shoreline offers.

The contest ends on Sunday night!
Good luck!












 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

6.26.2015

Scooby Dooby Doo Has To Poo. Netflix Wants To Get Me Into Big Doo Doo.

I love to create blog titles that have the word poop in them, if you haven't noticed yet.
I also like to push the envelope with major corporations.
Not to be mean, of course.
Just to see if they really know what they are getting into with me.
Netflix is the shizzle.
They really are.
Because I was pulling this stuff last year and they kept me on.
So BIG FLUFFY PROPS.
NETFLIX IS MY BIG, HAIRY CHESTED SOUL MATE.

So it makes total sense that I am writing inappropriately poop titled blog posts because this month, there are all sorts of cool retro cartoons being featured over on Netflix!
This will all make sense at the end of this post....trust me!

Titles such as Inspector Gadget!

Courtesy of Netflix

Garfield!



Courtesy of Netflix

Spiderman!


Courtesy of Netflix


and my youngest daughter's current favorite, Scooby Dooby Doo!


Courtesy of Netflix

My oldest daughter never really went through a Scooby Dooby Doo phase.
Which saddens me a little bit.
Because Scooby Dooby Doo is a big part of my childhood.
It is a definite #TBT for me.

I have fond memories of getting off the school bus, running home, getting a snack and sitting in front of the television with my little brother and watching hours, er, I mean minutes of Scooby Doo.
After we did homework of course.
OF COURSE!

Ah the good old days.
When you could belch and fart and be happy.
When you didn't have to have to be busy all the time.
When you could play in the dirt and that could be considered an "extracurricular activity".
When nutty bars by Little Debbie and milk were considered a healthy after school snack.
Damn, I miss the good old days.

My brother and I even made up a theme song to Scooby Dooby Doo!

Let me see if I can remember it....uhh.....hmmmm....ohh yes!

Scooby Dooby Doo, where are youuuu?
I'm on the pot, reading Time magazine!


"On the pot" isn't code for "on the marijuana" either.


By the way, we got in big trouble for singing that loudly around the neighborhood because "that isn't appropriate" and "your father doesn't do that".

Please, my dad is lucky we didn't grow up in THIS generation or that song would end up on You Tube.



Yeah, I sure miss being little.
Relive the good old days by watching the classics with your little ones today!


I love you Dad!






I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Meaning, for the next year, once a month I will be writing posts about how my family is using our Netflix. They provided me with a Roku and a voucher for my Netflix account.
 
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