This year, one of my cousins got married the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in Zanesville, Ohio. Zanesville happens to be only 1.5 hours from my aunt and uncle who live in Green, Ohio (outskirts of Akron). Even though I have seen them fairly often in the past 2-3 years, I hadn’t been to visit them in something like 20 years, so we decided to make a week-long trip out of it!
Since the uncle we were visiting is my dad’s only brother and we’d be flying out of the same airport, we asked my dad if he wanted to join us. He did, so we met up at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport (Travis, the girls, and I flew in from Brainerd) and rented a minivan together once we got to Cleveland.The Wednesday we flew in, we stopped by the Cleveland Aquarium right after leaving the airport, mostly to minimize the amount of driving we’d be doing (it was about an hour drive between Cleveland and Green). Annabelle was mostly interested in climbing on things, but did enjoy seeing the big fish and sharks. Emma enjoyed running around on her own (too much), trying to touch the sting rays in the interactive area, drawing on the chalkboard areas, and using lots of hand sanitizer–looking at fish is not quite exciting enough for her, though I do think she liked the glass tunnel (that’s always my favorite part).
After the aquarium, we hit the road and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Noel and Pat at their house, and grilling burgers for dinner. We stayed at Noel and Pat’s house the whole time we were up in the Cleveland/Akron area. Travis, the girls, and I slept in their really nice fifth wheel camper (which gave us a bunch of room to spread out), and my dad slept in their guest room. I usually dread nighttime on vacation because the girls have a track record of sleeping horribly, but they actually did REALLY well. Almost better than they do at home!
Thursday, my dad helped Noel work on one of the camper’s slide-outs that was broken, and Travis, the girls, and I headed to the Akron Zoo. It was a really fun time! Annabelle is old enough to enjoy looking at animals, and Emma had a blast running around. Emma asked to ride the carousel, so we all went on it. Annabelle did not like how the animal she was riding moved up and down. She started crying the minute the carousel started moving, but was fine if I just held her. Emma loved it though.
Emma also asked to ride a little train they had in the kids’ area. It was $2 a person, and looked completely lame for an adult, so we convinced Emma to ride on it by herself if she really wanted to go. And she did! Another mom befriended her in line and offered that Emma could sit with them, but when they opened the gate to let them get on the train, Emma wandered down to the caboose at the end and sat all by herself! Her expression was priceless.
When she got off, I told her that I was proud of her for being so brave and riding the train all by herself, and she told me, “I was scared.” Cutie.
At the river otter habitat, the zoo had a clear plastic slide that went through the river otter tank. There were a bunch of kids there going down the slide over and over. Emma went down the slide a bunch of times too, but the last couple of times she went down, she stopped herself halfway done and tried to climb back up. The last time, I had to reach/climb up into the slide from the bottom and pull Emma out because she refused to move. And that was that.
Friday morning, Travis and Noel headed to the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton while my dad, Pat, the girls, and I headed to an outdoor pool in nearby Hartsville. The one thing I had forgotten to pack (there’s always something!) was a swimsuit for myself. I thought I could get by without one, but once we got to the pool, it became apparent that it would really be nice if I had a suit. So my dad and I went to Target as quickly as we could (still took us about 45 minutes roundtrip with traffic, even though the store was only 6 miles away) and I bought a suit. Once we got back, we stayed at the pool for about another hour. There was a big (lazy) waterslide that I tried to convince Emma to go on with me, but she refused. She wouldn’t even go down the kiddie one after sliding off the end into the water a little too fast. Annabelle had a blast climbing on the kiddie waterslide. I took both girls through the water falling from the mushroom/tree thing, but neither of them liked it.
After the pool, we packed up our stuff and headed down to Columbus to see my oldest brother Jeremy, his wife Jen, and their two boys, Jensen and Jackson. We went out for pizza at a place called Bexley Pizza Plus. It was delicious! We sat out on the patio, and Emma and Jensen had a great time running around chasing each other. After we got back to the hotel, Travis took Emma to the pool for a bit while I put Annabelle down for bed.
Saturday was the day of my cousin’s wedding. We ate the hotel’s continental breakfast, and then swam in the pool for a bit before getting ready for the wedding and driving the hour from Columbus to Zanesville. Once we got to Zanesville, we quickly ate soup and salad at Olive Garden before heading to the church.
Tim and Mary’s wedding was held at a beautiful Catholic church and I’m sure the 1.5-hour service was wonderful–we just didn’t hear almost a single word between the low volume on the priest’s microphone, the echo of the wooden pews and stone walls, and the screeching/crying/whispering/banging/general chaos of the 40 kids in back. Seriously, there were a lot of kids at the wedding. One of the only things I did hear the priest say at the end of his homily was, “It sounds like a rainforest in here.”
Even though Emma colored on her own and Annabelle’s face in washable marker and threw one of the hymnals at Annabelle during the service (causing me to remove and discipline her), I think our kids actually did pretty well, all things considered. (But as we continually discovered during this vacation, there is a huge difference between things “going well” in terms of no major meltdowns and things “going well” in terms of getting to actually pay attention to and enjoy what you’re there for. By that latter definition, things definitely did not go well. But let’s be honest, they never do when you’re at a wedding with young kids.)
After the service, we checked into our hotel and got situated, and then headed to the reception, which was about 40 minutes away on Mary’s family’s farm. It was such a lovely evening–the weather was perfect, the reception was such a great mix of rustic farm charm and wedding formal, they had rented a bouncy house for the kids. Emma had a blast playing in the bouncy house, with various other toys, and running around the farm. Annabelle, on the other hand, had a hard time. She’s just at a hard age where she isn’t content to just sit or be held, but is also very limited in what she can do, especially outside on a farm where there is either cement or hay fields to crawl on. We made do, enjoyed as much of the reception as we could, and headed home a little before 10 pm.
Sunday morning, we snuck in a quick swim before meeting my whole family in the hotel lobby for the continental breakfast. We chatted for a little over an hour before we all needed to pack up and go our respective ways. Travis, the girls, my dad, my aunt and uncle, and I all headed back up to Cleveland to go to an Indians game at 1:10 pm.
Emma was very hesitant about going into the ballpark at first (she’s never been anywhere like that before) but once we got in, she relaxed. I, however, was extremely frustrated for the first few innings because the girls were thirsty but we had read online that you couldn’t bring sippy cups or water bottles into the ballpark, and there were no cups or straws to be found (neither Emma nor Annabelle can drink out of a water bottle without a straw). I did, however, see many people who had brought their own sippy cups in! Grrrr…. Luckily, as I was complaining, a lady in front of me overheard and offered me one of her straws that she had brought along for her toddler. I was so grateful! That helped settle me down.
I seriously didn’t watch really any of the game, but Travis said that he saw enough of it to feel like it had been worth it. And it was really for him that we went, so that’s good enough for me. Besides sitting in our seats for about 20 minutes total, we raced a ghost runner to first base (one of the kid activities they had), ate $6 hot dogs (Emma and Annabelle both almost ate an entire one by themselves!), and checked out the Kids Club area, which had a bunch of Step2 toys and its own private viewing deck (where Travis caught almost an entire 2 innings while “watching” Emma!).There was a big tunnel slide in the Kids Area, and just like at the zoo, Emma stopped herself halfway down and wouldn’t come out. So Travis had to go in after her, but by the time he had gotten to where she had been in the slide, she had decided to go down and was already out. So he popped out the bottom looking like he had just gone down the slide by himself, ha.
Sunday evening, we were feeling burned out and wishing that we had gone home that day instead of staying until Tuesday. But Monday (Memorial Day) ended up being really fun and redeemed our longer stay. We stopped by a car show on a whim and ended up staying a couple of hours. While my dad and Noel looked at cars (they were loving it!), Travis and I played at the playground with the girls. Then we ate a free picnic lunch, complete with ice cream bars. We also stopped to look at the two pink cars we saw (Emma’s favorite color) and take pictures. After naptime, we drove to the Erie Canal and checked that out. Beautiful, but hot.
For dinner, we ate ribs and corn on the cob at Noel and Pat’s, and then went out for ice cream at Pav’s Creamery.
Tuesday morning, we were up bright and early to catch our flight from the Cleveland airport back to Minneapolis/St. Paul. We had a 3-hour layover there before our flight back up to Brainerd, so my dad ate lunch with us at Rock Bottom before taking off. The rest of the layover we spent walking on the moving sidewalks, playing at the airport playground, getting coffee, eating snacks, changing diapers, and checking out the nursing moms room (very nice, I might add!). It actually was a very enjoyable time. The girls were having a blast. The thing about kids is, they don’t care that they’re playing on a playground at the airport. A playground is fun anywhere! The play area also had coin-operated rides, and the girls rode those probably a half a dozen times.
We made a lot of great memories during our week in Ohio, and it’s always great spending time with family (seriously, it’s one of my favorite things in life), but we were SO GLAD to get home. Traveling with young kids is no joke. I may have been a homebody before having kids, but I really am one now. Like they say, with young kids, you don’t go on vacations… you go on family trips. Now I need a real vacation!