Tuesday, June 30, 2015

summer road trip {destination: myrtle beach!}

Checking out of our hotel and gearing up for a day in the car!  We decided to visit Myrtle Beach this time, and have Mary and Nash drive up to meet us.  Charleston is about 2 hours away, so we thought they could just crash with us and we'd all have so much fun! 

Teacher me, I implemented this lovely little system to keep our sanity while driving.  I scoured Pinterest ahead of time looking for ideas for how to get kids to behave on road trips.  Last year they were near perfect, but for some reason, they are in a season of fighting.  As in, they can't get along for more than 5 minutes without one of them screaming or punching or yelling.  So I was a little worried about our car time! 
 I didn't find anything simple on Pinterest, so because of my lack of time and motivation to make a cutesy chart with stickers, etc... I grabbed 4 clips out of our junk drawer (4 being the amount of times I was willing to listen to screaming or arguing).  The rule was, they had to get along.  No fighting or screaming.  Every time they broke that rule, a clip came down.  Period.  By the time we got to our destination for that day, they had to have one clip remaining.  If they did, they both got a present.  I had purchased gifts ahead of time, mostly from the dollar store and wrapped them up.  This worked like a charm.  They totally got into it.  They knew they had 3 chances.  A couple of the driving days there was only one clip left, but they still got their reward!  

We pulled into Myrtle Beach at about 10:00pm.  After a very long day in the car (10+ hours).  And lets just say I don't have any pictures of the day of driving because it was long.  And boring.  And exhausting.  Ha.  We had no fun stops along the way.  And Andrew lost his lovey he's had since birth (more on this coming later!) and our hotel was awful.  So no pictures.  We were a mess.  Literally. 
(This picture is at the Waffle House the next morning). 
We regretted not spending a little more time researching Myrtle Beach.  And that there is basically a long strip of hotels along Ocean Blvd.  And that the farther south you go, the worse the hotels get.  
Picture taken outside our NEW and improved hotel
 Literally when we saw our hotel that night, we knew we had to do something different.  The reviews were not truthful (we found out later that workers at these hotels get on and give good reviews to even out the bad ones!)  I barely slept and kept waking up every hour to check the bed for bedbugs (seriously.  It was that bad).  We didn't even want to stay but had already paid and it was so late and the kids were exhausted.  Mom went down to the desk to ask for our money back and to get out of the contract for the rest of the days, she had no luck.  So I took a turn.  I knew we had to do it that night or they would not let us out of it.  Long story short, I ended up paying for just that one night and the rest of our money back.  The next morning we couldn't get out of there fast enough.  We grabbed breakfast at the Waffle House (our new favorite place! Oh my YUM!) and headed to our new hotel.  Farther north.  MUCH farther north. 
So.  We all felt much better after we got settled into a very nice hotel right on the beach!  While we waited to check in, they let us use the pools and the beach!
Somehow seeing the ocean made everything better!
The kids played and played and we all had a blast the whole afternoon!
Andrew just wanted to run farther and jump into the huge waves the whole time!  He was loving it!
I turned my sweet girl into a mermaid!  She thought it was the coolest thing ever!
After spending the afternoon at the beach, we got checked in to our nice room and showered to get ready for our fun evening!
I had purchased tickets for us online for this show I knew the kids would enjoy.
They got made up to look like a pirate and a mermaid!
She was so excited to look like a mermaid!  She's kind of obsessed with them currently!
All done!  Ready for the show!
You can sort of see how it is set up.  On each side there is a huge pirate ship, one blue and one crimson.  We were on the crimson side.  Each side competes with each other in some silly pirate races and games and they keep score throughout (see the red flag by the water?)  The "deck" was slippery and wet and it was like a trampoline so the pirates could bounce and do flips, etc.  It was really neat!
She had to stand by the mermaids
I wish I had taken pictures of all the amazing food.  But mom and I got one of our long island iced teas instead!  Ha!  We needed them after the day we had the day before!  Served in pirate glasses.  Yes, please!
So when the show started the kids looked like this.  They were mesmerized.  It was pretty cool I must admit.  And somehow I scored us front row seats.  I paid a little extra to sit in a certain area of the arena (I knew we didn't want to be in the way back or on the sides) but I wasn't expecting front row center!
Throughout the show, they would bring out different courses, first a yummy soup and bread, then delicious chicken and BBQ pork!  Next came potatoes, and corn on the cob!  Complete with dessert!  It was an amazing meal!  We were stuffed!
My handsome pirate and sweet mermaid!
So there were mermaids...
And a sea lion!
Kerigan was flipping out at this point.  Real mermaids!?!  Wow!
The "treasure" at the end!
They did an amazing job performing!
We took some pictures afterwards in the little boat they had set up outside.
I thought he looked so cute as a pirate!  Ha!  He wasn't too thrilled about getting make up on but he ended up really getting into it and enjoying it!
Arrrrrrgh!  Yay for an awesome day!

And look who drove to meet us when we got back!
We were so so excited to see Mary and Nash!  Kerigan wanted to show them her face, but Andrew wanted his washed off before they came so he wouldn't scare Nash!  How cute is that?

We put all the kids to bed and Mary and I left Ga Ga with them while we headed out to Broadway on the Beach!  I wish I had taken a picture of us!  Mary was so cute, I had to take a screen shot of what she put on Facebook:
Mary is truly the sister I never had.  I am so grateful for her (and her brother!) because we all grew up like siblings.  I was 7 when Mary was born and if I didn't know better I would have thought we were sisters from day 1.  We were cracking up about driving the minivan and both of us being moms now- we rarely get out alone to socialize so we were super excited!  Ha!

We had a great evening and couldn't wait to spend our next couple of days together!

Monday, June 29, 2015

summer road trip {stop 2: mammoth cave}

The next morning after a yummy breakfast at the hotel we headed out on our next adventure!  Again, we drove just a 5 hour day and it was a perfect amount of time in the car.
We were heading to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky!  I was so excited to take the kids on a cave tour.  I didn't take many pictures in the car because seriously, a lot of the trip had signs like this.  We were lost more than a few times and I think it took us an extra hour due to the gps not taking us to the right places!  By the time we saw this sign, we were on the other side of the national park, where evidently they have a boat ride (that was closed) that took you to the correct section where the caves are.  How to get there by car?  We had no clue.  Ha!  We hadn't seen a gas station or bathroom for miles, and when we saw this sign we just had to stop and laugh.  And take a picture, of course.
We finally found it and thank goodness we had planned for extra time and our cave tour wasn't for another hour!  I was starting to get nervous we would miss it!
So, mom and I were both a little nervous about this spelunking adventure.  We hate bats.  I mean HATE them.  Like, are terrified of them.  I didn't want to make a big deal out of it in front of the kids.  And we had a positive attitude about it.  But still... BATS!!  So I actually called the offices before I booked and asked if there were bats in the caves.  Ha!  After a long pause, I think they either thought I was crazy, or it was a prank call.  
There are bats.  But apparently they don't like the parts of the caves where the people are so they stay away.  Usually.  One can hope.  So here we were waiting for our tour.
The kids were so excited.
And most of my pictures look like this.  Because seriously.  We were in a cave.  And it was dark, and there was very little light.  We couldn't use a flash.  And I was watching for bats.
It was absolutely breathtaking though.  Something else I had never seen or done before.  It was super hot outside and it was like 50 degrees cooler in here.  It felt awesome.
I tried to take a picture of our group walking along a path in the cave.
Some places had a little more light- but not much!
We walked down a bunch of stairs and the view looking up was just amazing.  It is hard to describe.  I just recommend visiting!  It is another must see!
Then we had this awesome tour guide that saw my frustration with not being able to use a flash so he flashed his flashlight on the kids for a nanosecond so I could snap one picture of them!
On our way out!  We saw no bats!  So I call it a win-win.
We have yet to go anywhere they don't take you through a gift shop on your way out.  Even cave tours!  Ha.  They wanted these spelunking hats...I had to admit they looked pretty cute.  And would have been very handy in the cave!

After our tour we drove to Bowling Green, which is about 30 minutes away from the caves.  We had an awesome dinner at Smoky Bones!  It was a BBQ place we all loved.  Then we headed to our hotel for some swimming and relaxing!  We had a longer drive coming up the next day!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

summer road trip {stop 1: st. louis}

It's time to start my summer vacation update series!  There's so many pictures and stories to tell from our trip, and our first day deserves a post all on it's own because it was such a FUN place!  Last year we took a similar trip, and this year I wanted to take a different route so that we could enjoy some stops along the way and shorten a couple of driving days.  
The kids have their maps ready to color in as we drive through each state!
So my niece, Mary, lives in Charleston SC with her adorable little guy Nash.  We miss them so much and only get to see her a couple times a year.  So last summer when Nash was born, my mom and I decided to drive to Charleston to meet him and stay with them for a few days.  We hit it hard and drove straight through, 2 days of driving 10 hours straight.  I wanted to do it different this time!  Craig was busy working again so mom and I took the kids and had a great time!
We only drove 5 hours on day 1, and made it to St. Louis just in time for lunch and a fun afternoon at the City Museum!  I can't say enough about this place!  It was so wonderfully....weird!!!  And fun!!  And crazy!!
There was a lot of this!  Kids climbing in tunnels and tons of slides and caves and nooks and crannies... I read the reviews online ahead of time and I will admit I was VERY nervous to take the kids here for fear I'd never see them again!  Ha!
The reviews said that the second you walk in and your kids run off... they disappear into holes and tunnels and slides and you might not see them again for 30 minutes!  It said if you have any kind of anxiety at all, then this wasn't the place for you.  Well...if anyone knows me at all (or my mother!) you know that our middle name is anxiety!  Ha!
Yet still... here we are!  Don't get me wrong, it had great reviews, but just lots of advice and things to expect, like, you know, losing your kids for a while.
So.  That being said, I felt prepared.  I had done my research and I decided that if it was as scary and crazy as they said, we would just leave (once we located both children and hopefully none of them had lost a finger.  Seriously!  That happened to someone!)
I'm glad I followed the tip about wearing jeans.  The kids would have been totally beat up had they been wearing shorts.  There was just a lot of climbing around on your hands and knees.  Someone had suggested knee pads so I also bought those and had them ready, but the kids never needed them.  When we arrived they could literally not wait another second to run and play.  Let me tell you it is not a "museum" at all.  More like a giant 3 story jungle gym made of wrought iron!
But.  I MADE us all sit down for lunch and we talked.  I explained how serious it was that they could not get far away from us and we did not want to lose them.  Everyone gets wristbands and there's a place on them for a phone number (yeah, it's that likey to get lost!)  I showed them my number on their bands and I think I scared them just enough to still have fun, but to be conscious of where we were at all times.
The atmosphere was just so incredible.  We have been a lot of places and on a lot of trips, and I have to say, this place is like nothing we had ever seen!
I could barely even get him to stop for any pictures!  The tough part is, they would climb in a hole somewhere, and there could be a slide, or tunnel that either goes up or down, and sometimes they even end up on a different level of the place!  It is definitely one of those places where you have to just "let go" and let them be kids.  Anxiety has to be knocked down a few notches or one could go crazy.
Mom and I liked the train ride.  We could sit and let them go around and around and knew they would eventually come back to us!

This was an awesome huge slide!  The kids had a blast!

I didn't get a lot of pictures inside, because I was going through these tunnels too.  The ones adults couldn't fit in, I was rushing to where I thought they came out the other side, only to find a dead end, or another tunnel or slide leading somewhere else.  It was quite an adventure.
I have to say Andrew was really good about telling me where he was going and coming back to check in.  He would look in a tunnel, and come back out to tell me where it went and what direction.  We worked as a good team!  My mom kept close eyes on Kerigan and she didn't stray too far.
So it all worked out well!  Much better than I thought.  I think because my expectations were that this was a super dangerous, scary place full of opportunities to lose your children!  It wasn't that bad at all.  At least not for us!
Then this guy and I attempted this.  He's giving a thumbs up because he's tall enough (see his head just above the line?)  And I don't have any more pictures of this slide because what you see above is exactly what it was.  A 10 story slide.  So yes, we walked up 10 stories.  I was sweating bullets and exhausted on about story 4... ha!  Andrew loved it and went twice.  I sat the last one out and waited for him at the bottom since I knew where he would come out!
As if this place wasn't big enough, they have a whole different roof top section.  More of the same stuff but outside, 10 stories high!
They have more huge slides and even a ferris wheel!
My girl and I on the ferris wheel.  She loved it!
Then my mom took our picture going down this super fast slide- it was insane!  I'm pretty sure I was screaming the entire time!
You could walk across these stones in the water... I'm not sure what they do if kids fall in!  I'm sure they have!  Another thing the reviews I read about said that you never see any people working here, and there are no maps.  They want to encourage you to "explore."  Ha!  Their plan works, since there's never anyone around you just sort of do your own thing and go where the kids lead!
There's an old school bus on the roof top where the kids can go in and play!
Then in the front of the "museum" they have even more slides and play areas outside.
It was seriously never-ending.
There's Andrew on a giant slide above the parking lot!
Behind him is an old airplane you could also walk up and go inside it.  It was very, very high off the ground!
You could crawl in basically every single spot you could find, they had everything caged in and the kids all just went everywhere.  Andrew said it was the coolest place he's ever been!  I tend to agree!  It was definitely unique.  I would say it's a St. Louis "must see."  We can't wait to go back and take daddy!
We were pretty exhausted (and hot!) after that adventure so we picked up dinner on our way to the hotel and ate at the hotel and went swimming!  It was so nice to cool off and enjoy our evening and relax after a fun day!  I was so glad we hadn't driven for 10 hours!  It was great to stop halfway and make time for St. Louis.  

Up next... stop 2... another fun adventure!

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