Vacation Should Be A Four Letter Word

Vacation. The word sounds relaxing and exciting, right? When you think of vacation, you think of a warm beach, a crystal clear pool, a snowy ski slope and of course oceans of wine. Am I right?

As a kid I always remembered our vacations as a fun escape from school and fun with the family. It was a time to go somewhere fun and new and exciting. We always had great ones like Washington DC, Myrtle Beach, Skyline Drive, Disney, Williamsburg and Busch Gardens, and a million other ones in between. I guess that they were such a blast in my memory book because I was the kid and not the parent. I didn’t have to plan entertainment, plan for car rides, traffic, book hotels and figure out ways to pay for everything. Everything just always seemed to flow seamlessly as a kid. Now that we are adults and we have to plan these vacations with our own kids, vacations might as well be a four letter word. Because I have used a ton of them during the past few vacations. Vacations are tough.

When my husband and I start planning out our next vacation will be, we go into it with as much excitement as a kid waking up on Christmas morning.  It’s fun trying to decide where we are going to blow our money each year. We used to take annual trips to Avalon, NJ but now we have been trying out a few new places. We have done Hershey Park, Rehoboth Beach and we were even going to attempt Disney.  We had the trip 75% booked, but then we ended up buying a house and couldn’t do the trip.  And as I look back I am probably happy that we didn’t go, who the hell wants to spend a 10 days in Disney with their kids?? Oh yeah, I guess a lot of people! We were definitely sad to give up the trip but we couldn’t pass up on upgrading to a new house.

This summer we did get to enjoy a few days in Lake George (with 2 out of 3 kids) and then Rehoboth Beach with all 3 boys. Lake George was awesome and so relaxing.  Then spending a few days at Rehoboth Beach boardwalk with all of the cheap rides, arcades, the beach and the hotel pool was great. I always like to take pictures of our trip and post them online. But not everything I post is as pretty as it seems. Yes, of course I post the fun, sweet pictures, but we all know that vacations can be pure hell with kids — especially 3 boys!  Does anyone else feel this way? Or is it just me? Why is vacationing with kids the most difficult thing in the world? I mean look at these sweet little faces from the summer, how could they cause so much trouble and drama?

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What you don’t see in the pictures that I post (and what everyone in the world posts online) is that 4 minutes before this one of them was screaming about sunscreen in their eyes and the other one was fighting with his brother because he splashed him.   It may look like we had a picture perfect trip, but trust me, we didn’t.  That’s the thing with online social media.  Everything seems perfect in everyone’s lives…. but it’s not. And that’s okay. I get it that no one wants to talk about the fighting that goes on before and after the perfect shot. But I don’t mind talking about it. Here’s our little story of our last vacation!

Lake George October 2016

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The boys had a four day weekend from school and we thought that it would be a great time to go on another trip. Four days away sounded nice. Like I said when we booked it, we were happy and thrilled to get away. We decided that we loved Lake George so much this summer  that we would go back again in the fall — with all three boys.

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Ben missed it over the summer because, well to put it nicely, we all needed a break. He definitely needed a break from us and his brothers.  Don’t get me wrong, mom guilt was with me the entire time we were away, but it was necessary and we all ended up having a great time. He wasn’t in 1/2 of our pictures because he wasn’t even with us for half of our trip.  Like I said, vacation is not always fun and exciting. It’s just like life but in a very expensive location.  Hey, he enjoyed time with his grandparents and we enjoyed some time with a little less fighting.  It was a win-win situation. Would I do that again, probably not but at the time in our lives, we all needed to regroup.

Well as this fall mini vacation got closer, I was becoming very nervous for a variety of reasons. The main being that the boys had lost their iPads the week before for bad behavior and there was no way that we were going to cave and give them back. We had done that one too many times and this time we had to stick to our punishment. So this meant 5 hours in a car (each way) with three kids and no electronics. This mommy had to plan. So when did I plan their in car entertainment???? ummmm 11pm two nights before our trip. Thank goodness for some great ideas from friends and for Amazon same day delivery.

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Well the day arrived, we were set to head up to Lake George! I was so sick to my stomach. Wasn’t vacation supposed to be exciting? Why was it such a hassle this time? But after we got on the road, something strange happened on the way up to New York – the kids were good. Sean read his book for almost three hours. And if you know this kid it’s not easy to get him to sit and read. He finally finished his very first chapter book! I was practically in tears. Owen watched some tv and then took a very long nap. And Ben worked on a Road Trip Journal and a few other mini activity books. He also spent a lot of time drawing pictures. It was strange but for almost 5 hours the car was silent. It was amazing. Of course I knew that this wouldn’t last the entire trip. So I sat there in silence and savored every moment of it.

A happy moment in the car vs. the moment his brother started to annoy him at the end of the trip by resting his feet up around his seat. See I can post the nice pictures vs. the reality.

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We finally arrived at our hotel (which is awesome by the way – The Holiday Inn) and then all hell broke loose. There’s just something about hotels that makes kids lose their shit. It must be the beds that they can jump across. Or the fancy bath soaps, or maybe it’s the key cards that they all fight over using. Who the hell knows but whatever air they pump into the rooms makes these boys turn into wild animals.  So after we unpacked and rested for a short time, we walked a bit around the hotel to show Ben all of the fun things.  Then we hopped in the car and headed to dinner.  This crew was hungry! We headed to one of our favorite spots in town Adirondack Pub and Brewery.  They have great beers and great food. We have hit this spot several times over the past few trips to Lake George. The kids were pretty good at dinner, and we still enjoyed some good old fashioned entertainment (Mad Libs, Word Searches, etc).  Thankfully the food was quick and we had a decent dinner! There was minimal fighting and we survived without the iPads. It was a Christmas miracle!

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The next morning we woke up and went down to the hotel for breakfast. So we ordered our yummy buffet while the kids devoured pancakes and chocolate milk! We decided to spend the day walking around in downtown Lake George. There are tons of stores, arcades, restaurants, etc. It’s a bit touristy but it’s fun. Our first stop of course was for mommy at the winery.  There’s a cute little tasting room for Adirondack Winery right on the main street. Over the summer we stopped in there for a quick tasting about bought a few bottles of wine.  This time around we found a front row parking spot so I got to run in without any children and do my sampling.  Delish!!! After a few samples, I purchased a bunch of wine for vacation and to take home. If you are ever in Lake George, stop by the winery! The barrel aged chardonnay is my favorite!

So now I was happy and ready to take on the day with these clowns.  Our next stop was the arcade. The boys were dying to go all morning long.  So we finally strolled in and I knew right away that a meltdown from Ben was on the horizon.  One of the prizes was a Five Nights at Freddy’s toy. Well it was at least 750 tickets and after all four of us playing for an hour we still weren’t close even if we combined our tickets. Ugh! Finally after 20 minutes of convincing him that he would never have enough tickets, he settled on candy. Yes we spent an hour in the arcade and at least $50 so he could buy $3 worth of candy! Fun times. But Sean picked out a few small things and was a happy camper. That kid is easy to please. It was a fun time. I was happy that I could play skee-ball and the boys were happy running around just throwing quarters into random games. I would have snapped pictures of the meltdown but I couldn’t get out my camera in between talking Ben down from his breakdown on why he just couldn’t play for more tickets.

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After the arcade mommy and daddy needed some refreshments, so we stopped off at a nice little bar called the 163 Tap Room for a quick beer.  It was nice to sit outside on the main street and have a cold glass of some IPA. The kids were being good at this point – mainly because Ben spent 45 minutes eating all of his candy (thankfully he shared some with his brother).  After our beer we headed over to Adirondack Brewing for a late lunch. Probably not the smartest move after two of your kids just ate a ton of candy. But we were hungry.

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This is where the second of the major meltdowns occurred.  We sat outside since it wasn’t too crowded and I was hoping we could have another nice meal like our dinner the night before. I was wrong, very, very wrong. This is one of the meals where I never sat down, Owen wouldn’t sit in a chair, Sean wasn’t hungry and Ben was yelling because he didn’t have enough fries. I was crying of embarrassment. Let’s just say that the young couple that was seated next to us won’t be having kids anytime soon.  I don’t know if they were just tired or having a meltdown from the sugar overload. So we scarfed down our delicious meals and I took off for the car.  Back to the hotel so the kids could explore the hotel and pool again and to work off their wild behavior.

The hotel has so much to offer for kids – that’s why we decided to go back to this one instead of trying something new.  We just spent an hour or so walking around playing on the playground, the putting green, basketball and shuffleboard.  Ben even attempted chess. I think he was just trying to make patterns with the pieces but he was having fun outside!

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After playing outside for awhile, we decided to go to the pool for a little bit before dinner. The boys were in heaven, they now had Sean’s new ball from the arcade to play with and thankfully they all got along.  They made a friend or two in the hot tub, which quickly became their favorite spot. Even I got into the hot tub. It was outside and since it was in the 50s, it felt wonderful. I think Owen enjoyed it the most since it wasn’t as intimidating as the pool.  The meltdowns stopped and we had a great time.

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After the pool, we cleaned ourselves up for some dinner. Dinner didn’t go as smoothly tonight, but we survived.  Thankfully the restaurant was dead (since we spent a lot of time swimming and had a late dinner) and we didn’t scare away too many people.  That’s the thing about traveling with kids.  No matter how much you have planned, no matter how much you spend or where you go, there will be meltdowns.  It’s inevitable with three boys who don’t get along in the real world, so why would they get along on vacation.  Dinner took a lot longer than expected and we had a few impatient kids.  The massive amounts of question games and Mad Libs that we played while waiting just wasn’t enough.  By the time dinner was over we were all ready for bed.  But it was such a nice night and the fire pit was going so we tried to sit by it for a few minutes.  Over the summer Joey, Sean, Owen and myself sat there for at least two hours.  I think this time around we got 2 minutes.  Owen was running all over the place and Joey and I just couldn’t relax and deal with chasing them around.  Ben was screaming he wanted to go to bed, so off we went.  It was pretty for the two minutes that we were there.

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We all crashed that night and were ready for our next and final full day of vacation. Joey and I decided to drive down to Saratoga, which is only about a 30 minute drive away from the hotel.  During the car ride and once we arrived, Ben was being very rude and had a horrible attitude about walking around town. We went into a nice toy store and he had a meltdown because he couldn’t get a book.  I was going to buy it but Joey reminded me about his attitude that morning and we agreed it wasn’t right to reward him for his behavior.  Well you can see what happened next.  I spent the next 15 minutes trying to calm an out of control kid on the side of a gorgeous downtown main street while in front of a wine store!!!!! Why was it too early to drink???? AHHHHHH

After walking around for a bit we needed some lunch.  And since Ben was hangry and only wanted pizza so of course we had to stop into a pizza shop to feed him. I knew if he didn’t get pizza the day would just go downhill, especially since we were headed into a nice restaurant for lunch. I mean look how happy the kid was now that he had a few slices of pizza.

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The rest of us found a nice Mexican restaurant to enjoy our lunch and mommy finally got her glass of wine! AHHHHH The kids did well here (mainly because hangry Ben was full).  He spent our lunch drawing pictures in his notebook.

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On the ride back to Lake George, we decided to stop and visit this mountain drive that was right outside our hotel.  It’s called Prospect Mountain and was a great spot to see gorgeous views of the lake.  We were going to do it that morning but it was too foggy out.  It was mid afternoon so the perfect time to check out this spot. Now of course we had the typical Callaway boy reactions – Sean was all into it and Ben complained. At Prospect Mountain, you can either hike the trail or drive up to the top and then walk the last 1/4 mile up the trail or road.  We of course decided to drive up.  We are not hikers, Joey’s legs and back are still killing him and were not dressed to hike. Oh and from what I have read it’s steep in a few spots and not recommended for kids. Especially our kids who can barely walk to the car without complaining how far away it is.   The mountain is about 2030 feet above sea level and has the most gorgeous view of the bottom of Lake George.  There are three lookout spots to park your car and then you park at the summit. We walked up the road for the last viewpoint. Whew! Just getting up that hill was a hike. But we made it to the top and it was worth it.  Ben cried every step up the hill but he was in heaven when he saw the lookout viewer. Thank goodness I had a few quarters in my pocket to keep him entertained while we actually admired the view (and made sure that Owen didn’t walk off the cliff). Definitely worth a visit during the fall months.

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After Prospect Mountain we hit the pool and hot tub one last time.  You spend all of this money to go to a nice fun town and all the kids ever care about is the hotel pool. Oh well, I’ll take it. It’s one of the very few times where Sean and Ben get along so it was worth it.

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This time Joey took the kids to the pool so I could have a few minutes of quiet in the hotel room. And by quiet, I mean drink two glasses of wine without having to entertain the kids.

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Ahhhh just mommy and her wine which only lasted about 8 minutes until I was asked to bring Sean’s ball down to the pool! DOH!

Dinner that night was pure hell. The boys would not settle down. I thought that after a day walking around town, doing a mini hike and spending an hour in the pool that they would be a little tired! NOPE! Dinner was a disaster. We tried Mad Libs again but this time everyone had run out of adjectives. Well Joey and I had a few that we could use but probably not ones that were appropriate for the kids to hear.  Owen again wouldn’t sit still.  Next time no matter if the kids eat free or not, I might do room service! Worth the extra $15 in meals – haha!

I wanted to do the fire pit again but that lasted about 8 seconds. It was time to go back to the room again. After an episode of some kids show, they all fell asleep! FINALLY!

The next day it was time to head home.  We went down for a quick breakfast – which wasn’t so bad this time around.  The kids were happy to have their pancakes again and by this point we just wanted to get on the road.  So we loaded up the car and took a short drive to the west side of the lake to check out the views and the drive.  Then we jumped on that interstate and booked it home!

Vacationing with kids is so exhausting. Kids fight, people cry, someone doesn’t get their way but in the end, you do it all over again.  You do it because you do have those few moments where everyone gets along, where the view is absolutely amazing or you find a restaurant that everyone enjoys. Or maybe you just drink enough wine to get through the trip!  I guess in a way it’s just like childbirth…. it’s horrific at the time but you forget about all of the bad parts when you decide to have another child.  So when Joey and I start planning our next vacation, I pray that we forget all about the horrible dinners, the fighting in the hotel room, the bratty behavior when God forbid I force a kid to walk 1/4 mile and I remember that one special moment, that was captured in one picture, that showed me why we do this to ourselves as parents…….

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The Constant Struggle

So let’s talk about ADHD otherwise known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a very common thing these days and I’m sure they everyone knows someone that has it. Whether it’s your friends child, your child or even an adult friend. It may seem like something that is just another common thing but when you are in the midst of it, it can be scary, dangerous and very difficult to understand.

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Well, I am here to say that we are a family that is in the midst of it all. Many parents choose to medicate and many choose not too. It is definitely a huge struggle as a parent on what to do. And with all of the mommy/parent shaming going on these days I have really held back about our struggle with Sean. I really wanted to share our story but dear God, I didn’t want the judgement and shaming from “friends” if we chose the medication route? Well I finally decided to say screw it and to share our story. I’m not ashamed of anything that we have done. We have done what works for our family and I could care less what anyone thinks. I have often held back on the blog because I was ripped to shreds last year for taking my kids into a family friendly brewery by a family member of mine. But I decided that I can’t hold back anymore. My life, my blog, my story. I want to share my stories with everyone. We all go through it. Whether we share it or not. This is my life. Whether you like it or not.

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So here it goes….

From the moment Sean was born we knew that he was going to be an interesting and fun but difficult kid. He had some minor breathing issues when he was born that put him in the NICU for a few hours and then he had a bad case of jaundice for a few weeks. He was also a screamer and from the moment that he was born we used to joke that he was he a pterodactyl because he was so loud.

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To this day the kid cannot talk without screaming. I think that’s how our family got to be so loud. We were never ones to yell or scream but once Sean came along our decibel levels greatly increased {sorry to our neighbors}. And after spending a week on vacation with him, I apologize to all of those sleeping in the hotel rooms surrounding us! At least he is cute.

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When he started preschool, we knew that something was a little different. I tried not to compare kids, but Ben always understood things, potty trained like a champ and never gave us any trouble {boy times have changed with him}. Sean was the kid that would dart into traffic, open the front door to the house and go outside at any random moment. He would run away from us, destroy everything in the house and no matter how much I watched him, he found trouble. So we of course we alarmed all our doors, locked our cabinets and I kept that kid in a stroller as long as possible {oh crap, I just realized that Owen is even worse}. But we brushed things off. He was 3, this is what kids did. He wasn’t too much trouble in school but he still had some problems. But hey, it’s preschool what can you expect from a 3-4 year old. He was just different than what we were used too. Finally around 4, I had him tested to see if he qualified for any special classes through our school district. Nope, he was just a typical child but did show signs of ADHD, but at this age, you do nothing. You can’t tell at this age whether the kid had any real issues or if he was just being a kid. Deep down I knew something else was going on. But again, he’s just 4 years old. What can you do?

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These past 3 years were challenging. Especially when you know that something is going on, but your child is so young there’s really nothing that you can do about it but survive and work with him the best that you can. You try to understand and not explode but it is so hard when you have a kid that can’t focus on one task for more than 30 seconds. When that child can’t even remember why he went upstairs, or what he walked 3 feet away to get from the kitchen. It was just continuing to build and build. We knew that he was struggling and therefore, we were struggling.  We tried to understand because we have all been that way and shit the kid was only 3, then 4, and then 5. When he was in kindergarten I had him tested for ADHD and of course he showed signs of it again {just like in preschool} But since his teacher said that he was still doing well and he was only 5 we didn’t do anything, I prayed that maybe he was still just trying to come into his own. We just went into survival mode and at that time we weren’t ready to medicate him {plus he was still too young}. I asked his teacher if he should repeat kindergarten. He was almost 9 months to a year younger than his classmates. She said no.

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He was having a great year in kindergarten but some safety issues started to appear at home — unsafe bike riding, running through parking lots, wandering off and a ton of other issues that are too nerve wracking to mention. So again we just dealt with it all the best that we could and wouldn’t let him out of our sight.

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Then we knew……. safety issues were beginning to rear it’s ugly head, a busted eye for not paying attention on the ice, a busted lip for smacking into some kids head on the playground and then the broken wrist…. which is still too traumatic for me to talk about.

Here are a few pics of our traumas, busted eye, busted lip, broken wrist….. this were the major issues.

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Well this year in 1st grade, his school work started to suffer. He kept getting in trouble for acting up and not paying attention. He struggled with reading and math. I knew it was time to test him again. He was off the charts for ADHD. And since he was so far behind in school and the safety issues were a huge concern, my husband and I made the difficult decision to use medication. We spent a long time talking to his doctor about various medications and side effects. We decided that for him to succeed in school and for his own safety that we would start him on Adderall. It was a capsule and I thought that he would swallow the pill, but he wouldn’t.  We tried every which way to get him to take the capsule.  I thought of all of my kids this would be the one that could handle the pill.  NOPE.  No biggie, we could sprinkle on applesauce. Yeah, that didn’t work well either. We tried chocolate icing, jello, pudding, smoothies, anything that the damn kid liked I tried to sprinkle in the medicine.  It didn’t work one bit.  It was a 45 minute fight every morning trying to get his medicine in him.

I cried a lot because I felt like it wasn’t worth the pain and suffering. What was I doing to my child? Why was I fighting to get this drug in him. I felt like a horrible mom. Should I risk the bad behavior in school and the running in traffic at home or should I fight him to get his medicine in him each morning. I chose the medicine of course. The safety issues were just too frightening for me.

But we fought every morning and somehow, someway we got him to take his medicine. And you know what? He started to excel in school. He became a new kid. Reading and writing finally clicked, he was paying attention and when his teacher came back from maternity leave, she barely recognized him. He was doing so well. I kept telling myself that the struggle each morning was worth it. The kicking and yelling, the screaming and crying was all worth it, but one day Joey and I decided that it wasn’t worth it. We needed something new.  I couldn’t spend 45 minutes to an hour fighting him to take this medicine. I had two other kids that I had to feed and take care of. I just hated fighting with him to get this drug into his body.  Yes, I knew that it was working but at what cost???  So we had to come up with a new plan.

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So at his latest weight check appointment we decided to switch meds. It was a tough decision because I know that the first one worked and we found the correct dosage so quickly {which can be very difficult with ADHD kids}. How do I know that this new one will work? But on day one he begged to try it and loved it. Day two, same thing. It was amazing. We finally found one that he enjoyed taking but it still isn’t working as well. We still need to play around with the dosage because I don’t think it’s enough yet but we will get there {hopefully}. It’s hard now that he’s not in school and I don’t have feedback on his behavior from his teacher. But I know it’s going to be okay. I know that Sean is going to be okay. It’s all going to be okay.

I talk so much about how difficult Sean can be but let me tell you this…..Sean is one of the sweetest, cheerful, thoughtful and emotional kids on earth. He will cry over the smallest thing but he will take care of you whenever you need him too. I would do anything for him. I never thought that I would medicate him but honestly it’s been the best for him. I love him so much and I see now that this has helped him out so much. I love that kid to the moon and back. I would give my life for his {as I would for any of my kids}. It’s just a struggle as parents on what you need to do. You constantly second guess every decision, every fight, every doctors appointment.

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In the long run I know that this is what’s best for Sean. He is finally reading like a champ — and loves it. He’s no longer crying over reading. Just the other night I sent him to his room for bed. He was bored and not tired. 45 minutes later he walked downstairs and told me that he read 5 books and that they were awesome. That right there showed me that my husband and I made the right decision!

I have talked to so many parents who have medicated their children.  It shouldn’t be something that we have to hide in a secret moms club. Just like all of the parent shaming going on these days, we have to stick together.  Each of us would die for our kids to have a better, safer, healthier life. So if medication is something that is going to keep my son learning, excelling and staying safe then I sure as hell am going to give it a try!  Don’t judge, just pat my husband and I on the back and say ” you are doing great with your kids”.  That’s all any parent ever wants to hear. Trust me, no one wants to hear “oh your kids on ADHD meds”.  We struggle enough we don’t need any backlash from anyone.

Feel free to share your stories with me on my FB page or here in the comments section.  We are new {only 7 months in with the medicine route} and could use all of your suggestions, stories, etc.

Thanks for letting me share this with you all.

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Complete Denial

I am 100% in complete denial that summer break starts tomorrow at 1:30pm. I don’t think that there is enough wine in New Jersey to get me through this summer. This will probably be the hardest summer home with the boys yet.  I really do want to be that mom that enjoys having my kids around all summer, I miss them when they are at school but when all three of them are home together, it’s a nightmare. I have 3 little minions who can entertain me and show me all of the joys of summertime that I have long forgotten but unfortunately, that’s not what happens in our house. I love them all to death, I would give my life for theirs, but man, summer is hard!  But we are going to try our best to have one awesome summer….just as long as the boys cooperate!

Sidenote…. now that school is ending, everything that my kids could possibly hoard at school has been sent home in their backpacks over the past week.   I have this endless pile of papers to go through. Time to reduce and recycle their gorgeous math worksheets. I have been pretty good about trashing things this year but they just quadrupled my pile of papers.  This is my project for the first week of summer vacation.

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The past few weeks have really been rough for us.  Joey has been dealing with a serious leg injury preventing him from doing a lot of things.  He has been resting that leg as much as possible.  The boys have also been giving us a hard time, we are at our breaking point with the oldest boys and I have never had so much anxiety about spending a summer with all three of them.  I really want to be able to do fun and exciting things with the kids but when all they do is act up, I refuse to reward them.  I attempt one or two things and if they misbehave then I just want to skip out on the rest of the fun.  It’s a nightmare.  Why should we even bother.  One of these days I hope that they realize all of the fun things that we could have been doing if they just stopped fighting and acting up.  One on one they are awesome and fun.  But put them together and it’s mayhem. I mean these boys got into a huge fight at the local Veterans Cemetery minutes before they placed flags on all of the graves.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, those are my kids.  It’s embarrassing and I can’t control them so that’s why I struggle taking all of the boys somewhere by myself.  It’s hard even when Joey is with us, I can’t imagine all by myself.  I give so much credit to those parents that venture out with all of their kids.  It takes a village but some days even the village throws up the white flag.

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Even tonight at Ben’s basketball evaluations, it was nonstop fighting.  The car ride over was a nightmare, then it rained and we were moved to another court, more fighting.  Then when we finally get there they are fighting and punching and kicking right up until Ben got called onto the court.  It’s NEVERENDING!!!!!!!

Now Owen, let’s talk about that little minion.  He’s cute but don’t be fooled by that adorable face and his cute, kind words.

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We will all be sitting outside on the deck or playing basketball and Owen will catch my eye, give me a smirk and then take off. And when he takes of he doesn’t stop or look.  This kid is going to give me a heart attack.  Everyone always laughs that I still keep him in his stroller, but I have a valid reason for it.  It’s not to make my life easier, it’s to keep him safe. But every time I chase after him, the other boys freak out.  Just last week, Owen took off up the sidewalk.  He was on his big wheel so I caught him only 2 houses away.  Well I ended up running into a neighbor and started chatting.  10 minutes later I walk back and Ben and Sean were in tears.  They thought that I got kidnapped.  So not only does Owen give me heart palpitations but he is causing his brothers to stress out as well.

I did finally sit down and book some camps for them {THANK GOD}. See my pile of medical forms, pickup authorizations, emergency contact forms, etc….

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They both will go to cub scout camp and a local summer camp for a few weeks. Sean will also do two weeks of basketball camp and Ben is going to play in a nighttime basketball league {which I mentioned started tonight}. Oh and Sean needs a little help with math so he is doing the school’s summer math program. I am glad that he will be getting some extra help, he’s not as excited about that camp as I am.  So Sean will be booked up pretty much the entire summer.  Ben, not so much. I am also hoping and praying that since Sean will be gone a lot, that the fighting will be minimal but I also need a ton of new ideas to entertain Ben when he isn’t at camp.  He really thinks that he is going to spend his entire summer on the iPad.  NOPE, NOT HAPPENING!!!!   He is not the easiest child on the planet so it will be a struggle but I plan on helping him with his handwriting, some math skills and some good old fashioned fun. Ben will regret not wanting to do more camps! But we do have a fun vacation planned, and I will squeeze in some bowling, slip and slides, swimming, play dates and sleepovers and some other fun activities. It won’t all be camps and work!

Mommy and daddy even have some fun plans this summer. We just saw Dave Matthew’s last week and are headed back again this weekend. I can’t wait to spend an evening out with Joey, our cousin and our friends. It should be a fun weekend.  We also are going to see Coldplay in August.  We saw them a long time ago at MSG in NYC and I absolutely loved their live show. I just hope that they are still as good as they were 12 or so years ago!

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So tell me guys, what are your plans for your kids this summer.  Tell me that I am not alone with my anxiety? I really do want to have fun with them, but they make it soooooo difficult????  The only thing that makes me super excited about summertime is that Big Brother starts tomorrow night!! WOO HOO!!!!

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Checking Off the Sacraments

My first born Benjamin is well on his way to becoming a smart, kind and holy little gentleman, at least according to the Catholic Church.  Now as I type this is he is definitely on my naughty list.  The kid has really been pushing the limits lately with his behavior.  Talking back, hitting his brothers, not listening when put in timeout, the list goes on an on.  He was having such a good streak lately but the past three weeks he has been quite the handful. He has been so disrespectful. Let’s hope he is just in the middle of spring fever and needs a break from school.  Just a few more weeks left.

Over the course of the school year, both Ben and Sean have been attending CCD.  I “think” that they are learning wonderful things in class but I can never tell.  The moment I pick them up from class, they always get into a full on fist fight in the car. EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK.  I always ask why they have to go nuts and attack one another while getting into the car in the church parking lot.  Why after an hour of learning about God and all of his wonderful creations, they have to tear each other down.  I can’t figure it out. But after all of these past few months of classes, it was time for Ben to continue on with two sacraments.

Back in February? March? I can’t even remember, Ben was scheduled to make his First Reconciliation. I kept joking that he would finally be free of sin and I wondered how long that would last. Stay tuned and you will find out….

The day of his Reconciliation he was terrified.  It was a very casual service but I completely understood his fear. He has the same anxiety that I have when doing something for the first time.  When we got to church he was a mess and his CCD teacher noticed.  So she helped us out and when it was time to confess those sins, she let Joey and I walk him over to the priest. Plus he was able to go at the beginning of his group so he wouldn’t have to wait long.  He looked so adorable and grown up sitting there talking to the pastor confessing those sins {i.e. I hurt my brother, I talk back to my parents, you know the standard 8 year old sins}.  I wish that I could have snapped a picture but it was confession and all so I couldn’t. I did snap this picture after mass but the lighting was terrible and my phone was the only camera that I had.

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P.S.  In case you were wondering, Ben was free of sins for approximately 8 minutes after his confession.  He got into the car and started running his mouth and talking back to us. But he was finally relieved that it was over with.  He also came away knowing that it’s not as scary as he thought.  He could bring his cheat sheet of prayers and he wouldn’t get in trouble.

Now just 3 weeks ago Benjamin celebrated his First Communion. It was a beautiful day. We were supposed to get rain all day but thankfully it held off until after our dinner.  Ben wasn’t as nervous for his First Communion as he was for Reconciliation. I think it’s because it wasn’t one on one with the priest like confession was. Mass was packed but we were able to get decent seats. We couldn’t see him perfectly but we were still able to get some pictures. And thank goodness for a few friends and family who sent me some other pictures that were much better!

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Not nervous at all. He found time to do a little dancing before heading off to Mass.

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He did everything beautifully {except that he forgot to make the sign of the cross aftewards but that’s okay}. Oh and he did not go into the line for wine.

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After mass our family headed back to our house to celebrate his big day.  We had a great afternoon, eating, relaxing and enjoying our time together.  Ben was in heaven because his cousin gifted him some of his older Pokemon cards from a decade or so ago! We were also able to celebrate my uncle’s 60th birthday and I was able to meet one of the newest members of our family, my cousin’s son.  It was a wonderful day!

So now Ben has completed 3 sacraments {Baptism, Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist}.  He has a few years off before his next one {Confirmation}. But next year, Sean will get to go through all of this as well.  I cannot wait for that.  I might need to monitor his confession.  God only knows what he will tell the priest.

Have a great weekend.

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Cub Scouts: Pinewood Derby Day

Over the past few months I have been deep into the world of Cub Scouts. Both Sean and Ben are now scouts.  Sean is a Tiger and Ben is a Wolf. I have also become a den leader for Sean’s den. I work with two other moms to prepare the schedule of achievements, activities and meetings. We have been meeting once a month as a den and then monthly all of the dens get together for awards and events.

It’s been a fun year so far. I really do enjoy all of the work that we’ve put into it.  It’s been exciting and fun. We have learned about fire safety, healthy eating, working together as a team, playing games and just having fun.  In the coming months we will be exploring a lot more outdoor stuff, plus rock climbing, banquets and a sleep in at the Liberty Science Center. It’s going to be great!

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The one Cub Scout activity that did make me a bit nervous was the Pinewood Derby.

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I knew very little about the Pinewood Derby and I didn’t have time to really research everything that goes into creating the right car. So I just tried to ignore it for as long as possible. It all seemed too overwhelming for me. I was going to pass this project along to Joey. In the end it was fun, very tiring, but it was also a great learning experience. We were amateurs going into it and now I think that we know what needs to be done for next year to be in competition for speed!

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The boys decided on car designs {Minecraft of course}. Then Joey took the wood blocks to a car cutting day that our pack provides.  We helped the boys paint and design their cars. It wasn’t easy and there were tears but they were finished in time for derby day! The wheels became our downfall as well as some weight issues, but both of the cars made it to the finish line. Even if they both were last place cars in each of their heats.

Here’s a pic of Sean’s Minecraft Creeper Car

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During the the trophy ceremony both boys felt defeated and wanted to go home. I explained to them that even though they weren’t getting 1st place trophies they should still support their friends. Well Ben was very happy that we stayed. The kid walked away with a best in show trophy for his Wolf Den. It was for 3rd place but he didn’t care. He still won a trophy!

Here’s Ben holding up his Minecraft Steve car along with his trophy 

 

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Next year I feel that we will be better prepared with design, weights, themes, etc. Bring it on!

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It’s Been 8 Long Years But I Had 31 Great Ones

Over the past few years I have shared many stories, pictures and jokes about my dad.  Today on the 8th anniversary of his death, I wanted to share with you some pictures from the early years. Below the pictures is a post that I shared a few years ago. It still has so much meaning and I will always continue to share it each year.

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Taking selfies with an old fashioned camera.  They weren’t even called selfies then!

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What have you done over the past 8 years?

I have tried to raise three insane boys. I have gone grocery shopping. I have cooked dinners {okay that one is questionable}. I have attended weddings. I moved into several new homes. I have made friends and I have lost friends.  I have sent two of my babies to school.  I have spent weeks at the beach. I have gone to the zoo, aquarium, and many other museums and events.  I started a blog, I celebrated high school reunions and I discovered that I love wine.  I celebrated holidays. I have cleaned rooms. I moved forward.

They tell you that you will move forward. That your life will go on. Eight years ago I never would have believed you. Eight years ago my life changed forever. But you know what, life did go on. We did move forward. We did continue on with our lives. Never once forgetting. Never once taking life for granted. Never once not laughing or enjoying the funny things in life. We have laughed. We have cried. We have celebrated.

Eight years ago today I lost my father to the most horrific and fastest moving forms of cancer. I never even knew stomach cancer existed until he was diagnosed with it. Four months later, he was gone. So little time.

Eight years ago I witnessed someone moving on to another life. I witnessed death. I remember the phone call from my mom, telling us to get down to the house ASAP. I knew. I just knew it would be the last time that I would rush down there to visit with him.  Joey and I packed up what we needed for Ben {he was only 3 weeks old that day}.

But here we are eight years later. We miss him every day but we have moved forward. We had too. We had to support each other. I had a husband, a child (now three), a sister and a mother. We had too. We could not stay stuck.

We miss him each and every day but I am thankful that we were able to move on together as a family. We are stronger than ever and we never take each other for granted. The memories are painful but we choose to remember the good ones. Never the bad ones. Just remembering the greatest father on earth. My father.

We love you and miss you more and more as each day passes by. I still can’t believe it’s been eight years. You would be so proud of us dad! I hate that you don’t get to see my boys. We hate that you have missed so much. But I know somewhere you are watching over us laughing non stop. I just wish that we could talk to you about it….

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PS – So Dad, I wanted to let you know that mom sold your house and moved into a new one… We threw some stuff out, just thought I would let you know! She couldn’t take care of your damn pool anymore!

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Christmas with the Callaways

This post is only 2 months late, oops!  I thought that I posted it back on New Years!

Even though we have an extremely hectic life we still have found some time to squeeze in some fun this holiday season. It’s not always ideal and there may be fights, kicking, hitting and throwing of iPads (note… by the kids not me LOL).

I am so thankful that we had Owen, for a variety of reason.  One of the perks of having another boy is that we were able to experience the live experience of Thomas the Tank Engine.  I really did miss going to Strasburg, PA to see Thomas.  It’s always a wonderful day, we have been there so many times and each time has been a great experience for the boys.  This year was Owen’s first time.  He loved it.  And the older boys had an awesome time as well. I think that they forgot how much that they really enjoyed riding the train, and the gift shop. Of course, they loved the gift shop.  The kids haven’t played with the trains since they discovered the iPad but this year they HAD to buy stuff.  Of course, we gave in.

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We also had a great day picking out our tree. The first few years we used an artificial tree but I really wanted the tradition of going to a tree farm and chopping down a tree. I love it. Joey may disagree since he has to do the dirty work.

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After decorating the house for Christmas, we had a wonderful night celebrating with Ben and the second grade class during their Snowflake Spectacular.  They did an awesome job singing holiday songs!

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One night, my friend Wendi and I took the kids over to Shadybrook Farms in PA to see their awesome Christmas lights display!  Considering that we have 5 WILD and CRAZY kids in the car they did behave pretty well.  Wendi and I came prepared.  She brought presents and treats and I had a scavenger hunt for light displays.  It was an awesome night.

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In the midst of it all I had my 20th High School Reunion.  The St. Mark’s Class off 1995 ROCKS!  An awesome night with great friends!  It really was a wonderful night.

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Finally, on the 24th we had time to go and visit with the best Santa Claus in the world.  He is so sweet and kind and caring.  We have been to him every year for the past  7 years (even though I have a year or two without pictures)

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The kids had a wonderful Christmas.  We got to spend time with our families and it was great.  Despite some minor fights, they did have a great holiday. I just love seeing the smiles on their faces on Christmas morning.  Worth all of the stress and hassle.

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New Year’s Eve

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The only one who could hang with me until midnight!!!!

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 I hope that everyone had a nice and safe Christmas and New Years {and now a happy Groundhogs Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day and all of the other holidays that have passed since I originally typed out this email}!

Oh and Ben also celebrated his 8th Birthday recently… I will try and get a post up about that one shortly {hopefully before we hit Memorial Day}. I also have some posts coming on our blizzard, Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby Day, and a few other small ones coming soon. So keep on reading and check in often. I am trying to get all caught up!

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Fly Eagles Fly

So if you are friends with me on my regular Facebook page you might have noticed my massive dump of Philadelphia Eagles pictures a few days after Chistmas. If you are not, get ready because they are coming up in this post.

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Everyone that knows me knows that I love football. I love my University of Delaware Blue Hens and I love my Philadelphia Eagles.  When we first moved away from Delaware I was so upset that I couldn’t watch or listen to my two favorite teams (it was a long time ago before you could stream everything online). Now that we are in NJ I can watch my Eagles and play my Blue Hens on the Apple TV. Thank God for technology. I support my teams with shirts, pint glasses, wine glasses and of course basement decor.

Yes, I know that the Eagles season came to a sad and depressing end, but I still support them no matter what!!!!!!

I have only been to 2 Eagles games in my life. One with my dad and sister many, many years ago and the other with Joey almost 6 years ago to date.  Both were awesome experiences in two different stadiums — The Vet and the Linc.  Well you can imagine my jealousy excitement when I heard that my cousin got a job with the Eagles right out of college. I mean a dream come true for me him.  Well the amazing kid just made this old ladies dream come true. I got to check one thing off my bucket list — a behind the scenes tour of the stadium.

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I saw how the rich fans experienced the game, I saw what goes on under the stadium, I saw the press box and I even saw the video control room with every computer that runs all of the big screens.

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But the best part was running out of the same tunnel as my favorite Eagles (who have all been traded — damn you Chip Kelly). I got to step onto the actual field. Ok not the actual field because it was just airated and seeded, but the sidelines, so basically the field. I know that most people don’t think that it’s a big deal (just like I don’t get my husbands obsession with Phish) but we like what we like!

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It was a dream come true. I was in heaven. I loved every minute of it. My cousin Jim is such a great kid. He did such a great job showing us everything. He’s also so great with the kids — even the one acting like a brat that day (ahem … Ben).

 

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I will be forever grateful for that day. I got to spend it with my mom, sister, cousin and all the kids. The only things missing from that day was my hubby (damn work), my brother in law (stupid cowboys fan) and my dad (damn cancer). But we had a great day together. Thanks again Jim for taking time out of your day to show us all of the secret elevators, corridors and especially the Eagles wings that blast off the fireworks!!!

 

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Family Game Night

I have always wanted to start the tradition of family game night.  Right now it’s very hard to do with the baby, Joey’s work schedule and homework.  But I know that soon we will pick a night that works best and start our “official” game night.  But we do try and squeeze in games every now and again to pass the time on a rainy day or just for fun.  The kids discovered UNO this fall and have been obsessed with it ever since. I remember playing it as a young kid and I love that my boys are enjoying the same games!

A few weeks ago I received a box from Gamesformotion filled with a stack of familiar games. But there was a twist. These games had their pieces and tiles replaced with some very yummy Belgium chocolate! Yup that’s right, I said CHOCOLATE! Now we can play Candy Land, Scrabble, Battleship and many other games with actual pieces of chocolate.  The rules of the games have been modified a bit but nothing too confusing and who cares, you are playing with chocolate!

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I finally had the perfect time to break open Candy Lane and play it with the boys. Of course it was a huge hit.  The boys had a blast playing. Candy Land is already a great game but it’s even better with chocolate. Yummy! Sean won the big 1st Place medal (made out of chocolate of course). But he ate it before I could get a picture of it! Sneaky Kid!

Guess Who? Is next on our list to play.

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All games will be available for purchase at mass retail stores such as Target, CVS, at select SuperValu store locations, Kmart, Amazon.com, Meijer and Fred Meyer, Bed Bath & Beyond and select smaller distributors with retail prices starting at only $9.99.

I was in Target this past weekend and found a display in the Christmas section.  I would have snapped a cute photo but my phone was dead! So keep an eye out for these fun {and delicious} games! They are the perfect gift this holiday season!  But you really don’t need to wait. Enjoy them today.

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I did not receive compensation for this review but I did receive sample products from Gamesformotion.  All of the opinions stated above are my own.

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Vacation Part II: Rehoboth Beach & Hershey Park

So I am back for round two of my vacation diary!  You can catch up on Week 1 here!

The kids spent a few days at my inlaws while Owen and I headed back to New Jersey to catch up on housework and laundry!  I also had to get everything packed for the second week of our vacation.  This year we didn’t go to Avalon for our normal week.  We ended up staying local while the kids enjoyed weeks at basketball, CCD, camps and swimming lessons.  We had a very busy summer.  But towards the end of July, Joey and I were really missing our week away at the shore.  It was a little late to book a house in Avalon so we decided to head on down to Rehoboth.  We both grew up right in Delaware {Joey was only 15 minutes away from the beach town} but we never really vacationed in Rehoboth.  Yes, we spent tons of time there growing up but neither one of us actually stayed down there for a vacation.  It was so nice staying at a hotel right on the boardwalk!  We just parked our car for a few days and walked everywhere!  It was great! The beach and boardwalk were right outside our window.  Plus all of the restaurants, rides and games were a few blocks south on the boards, it was awesome!

Joey and I were in NJ and packed up and left Saturday morning to head down to the beach {for all your Jersey folks, we call it the beach in Delaware … I know it’s the shore in NJ}.  We took our time traveling down.  It is only a 3 hour drive but we decided that since we only had Owen that we would stop for lunch and hit up a few beer stores that we can never get into when we have the whole gang!  I think this trip took us 6-7 hours but it was fine.  Owen was a trooper!  We stopped for lunch at Two Stones Pub in Wilmington, DE.  We love this place! The food is awesome and the beer is superb!  We have never been disappointed!

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We finally arrived at Joey’s parents around dinnertime!  We picked up some pizza and had dinner while we were reunited with our other two boys!  They almost forgot about us!  They have a blast down there in the open yard.  They swing, play basketball and we cook s’mores on the firepit!  It’s always a nice and relaxing time! Plus they live 2 minutes from Dogfish Head Brewery so we always stop in to see what’s new.   We spent the night there and the next morning headed into our hotel in Rehoboth.

We stayed at the Henlopen Hotel.  It’s nothing fancy but it has a great view and the rooms are decent.  It definitely needs some upgrades but it was perfect for us!  We couldn’t check in right away so we decided to go to Dogfish Head for lunch!  The kids always enjoy the food and mommy and daddy always enjoy the beers!

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After lunch we headed to the beach for a few hours while we waited on our room.  I think that the kids were still a little nervous about the rough waves after last weeks knockdown.  But they still had a blast.  It was another rough day but they managed to get wet and sandy!  Owen on the other hand hid from the sun!  The kid sat like this for a good 10 minutes!  He cracks me up!

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At this point we were all anxious to get into our room.  Luckily it was ready.  So we unpacked the car and headed on up!  I fell in love with our view.   I mean look at this!  I love falling asleep to the sounds of waves crashing and since it was a cool night we slept with the door open so we could hear all the wonderful sounds of the Atlantic!

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After we checked in and unpacked a bit we headed on down to the boardwalk! Walking the boardwalk with my kids brought back sooooo many memories of my childhood.

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I remember walking up and down the boards holding my dads hand as we walked past the “hotel that had the pool out front”.  It was my favorite place to look at. I loved how my boys had to stop and check out the pool as we walked down.  I loved taking my guys into Ryan’s Gems and Junk {I think that they just call it Ryan’s now}.  They sold some of the same “junk” from when I was a kid. I made Sean pose in front of the sea shell jewelry boxes! I guess that they never go out of style {were they ever in style}.

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We stopped off at Obie’s by the Sea for dinner that night {after a hit up Candy Kitchen and the arcade}. I mean how can you not love this view at dinner!???

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The boys were a little crazy but we somehow managed to get through dinner {after I had to remove one of them from the restaurant}.  The next morning was a little windy so we decided to go for a nice walk around Rehoboth and hit up the park for a little bit and then Grotto Pizza for lunch!  We can’t go down to Rehoboth without getting some slices from Grotto’s.

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Then it was off to Funland. The rides were opening so we had to get there as soon as we could.  My inlaws came into town to spend the afternoon with us.   We had one major meltdown because of a game that we will never mention again.  Okay it was that damn claw game! Come on, it’s rigged… The 6 year old boy never win it!  But despite the breakdown we did get on a few rides! Owen went on the boats for the very first time! It’s a tradition that all kids must ride those boats {there are quite a few generations in our families that have spent many of summers ridding those boats}.

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After the rides, we decided to go down to the beach for a few hours before dinner.  It was such a gorgeous night!

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Since we loved Obie’s the night before we decided to go back again! It was the perfect spot to bring the kids and the stroller.  This night was a little smoother and the kids were pretty well behaved!

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Tuesday morning we met up with some good friends on the beach in the morning.  We spent a few hours down there playing and relaxing in the sand.  After they left it was off to lunch at Nicola Pizza and then back to the beach! That night was our last night in town so we had to go big!  We spent a ton of time back at the rides and the boys went into the Haunted Mansion for the very first time! Again this ride has been there FOREVER so we knew it was time for them to get on it. I love how they pretended to be so scared waiting in line but their faces as they came out of it were priceless! They were scared to death!  It was awesome!

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After the rides we hit up the ice cream shop and ran into a skunk in the dunes before heading back home to get some rest.

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The next morning was checkout time! Since we were so close to Joey’s parents we decided to drive there and drop off Owen.  We had a few more things that we wanted to do with the boys and it was just easier if we didn’t have the stroller {sorry Owen}!  We just had to squeeze in one more day of rides and miniature golf!!

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After we finished up the day in Rehoboth it was time to head back to my inlaws!  That leg of our trip was coming to an end!

We spent a few days relaxing at my inlaws before we packed up the car and headed to Hershey Park!  That was an interesting trip.  The boys were soooo naughty that night in the hotel that we almost didn’t go to the park the next morning.  But we sucked it up and took them!  They weren’t on their best behavior but I think that they still had a blast!

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Overall, we had an awesome time.  Yes there were a lot of moments where the boys were fighting and we were all yelling, but I know that we will look back and only remember all of the fun times and memories that were made that week.  Ok I’ll still remember Ben’s breakdown when he didn’t win the Despicable Me minion at that claw game!  But I will mainly remember the skee-ball games, the rides, and of course the massive amounts of pizza and ice cream that we consumed! I can’t wait to see what next summer brings for us!

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