Tag Archives: kids

The Rainforest Cafe, Niagara Falls, and the Sheraton with Kids

Jake’s job is so glamourous, taking him to places like Utica, Jamestown, and New Rochelle, even Niagara Falls. I know, you’re super jealous. Nothing like a Hampton Inn next to the highway in an area with no sidewalks to really make business travel exciting. Niagara Falls is only two hours away but the days are long, so he stays in town and this time Adam and I joined him for a night.

The state park work is finally finished; the walkways and guardrails look great, even attractive and more in line with what one might see on the Canadian side. I’m so pleased that the architects decided form was as important as function as I feel like this is often missing from our modern tax funded projects. I think of the really beautiful building that is Detroit’s pumping station compared to many concrete utilitarian public works buildings of today. Adam made the short-for-adults/long-for-kids walk from the Sheraton to the falls and Goat Island, all the way to Luna Island, where he leaned against the railing and was, for the first time, really impressed by the water.

As four year old legs are wont to do, Adam’s were tired and we headed back to the hotel for dinner. The newly opened Rainforest Cafe is certainly a draw for children. Adam really likes Red Eyed Tree Frogs, and Cha-Cha, the RC’s mascot was instantly a hit (see our instagram feed @onafullstomach for shots of his enjoyment with that Cha-Cha headband!).

So here’s the list of Do and Don’t:

1. Pay attention to the kids menu: It’s a picture menu that leaves off pictures of french fries and coke products! Adam would choose french fries morning, noon, and night if allowed and this menu made it easy to make other choices. I’m not saying that all the options are healthy, but it’s better than every other kids menu out there. We looked at the cartoon images of each main dish, side and drink and he was able to choose for himself chicken, corn and apple juice and then point and tell the waitress himself as well. For a preschooler this was a great tool to force some better choices, work on manners in a restaurant, and feel a bit empowered. I know, all from a kids menu. They put the light up kid cups on a supplemental menu you can hide from your kid, but he’s going to see other get them and he’s going to ask. Note that they have a smaller version for little guys and consider NOT getting the Icee (I should have asked for juice…).

2. Suck up the prices. My salad at Rainforest was $17. A pretty average salad, while fresh and large, was a little expensive for what it was. But good freakin’ God, the Starbucks is insane. $25 for two egg sandwiches, one coffee, one chocolate milk and a granola bar. We had the same meal a few days later at home for $12. Consider the Sheraton buffet breakfast instead, at least you get more choices and a table.

3. You can get big wine, but not really very good wine. It’s not awful, Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, I drink it on the porch sometimes when quantity needs to win out over quality, and they will sell you 6, 9 and 12 ounce glasses of it. 

4. Get a suite at the Sheraton, it’s not a suite with a lock off living room, but there is a dividing wall and the bathroom is located in the bedroom section. You can put a couple kids to sleep in the living room area, and still watch TV, use the bathroom, and make coffee without bothering them. If you have one in a packnplay it will fit in the walk-in closet, allow for a nap or early bed time while the rest of the family hangs out in the living room.

5. Don’t forget quarters for the viewing machines. Just don’t. You really don’t want to listen to that complaint for days.

6. Stay tuned for some new development of the old Rainbow Mall area. Word is hotel and indoor water park will be part of the repurposing of that eyesore. And a Wyndam property is on the list as well. Old Falls Street is beginning to feel family and pedestrian friendly, but the vestages of shabby, old NF are still there (empty storefronts, vacant Rainbow Mall, weird Haunted House, tourist trap stores). It’s changing and while it’s slow, it’s been steady. With an upcoming Blues Festival, Taste of Niagara Falls, and it’s family fun nights I think we’ll see a very family friendly version of Niagara Falls as part of this rebirth.


Taking a Preschooler to Disney World: Dos and Don’ts

We’ve been back for a month and Raddy G is STILL talking about Disney; the pool slide, Splash Mountain, his chair/bed (ched? bair?), and when he will be tall enough for Space Mountain.

Can someone tell me when four-year-olds finally understand the difference between their age and their height? He continues to tell me that he’s big because he’s four…

Rather than recap every detail, I’m just going to make a list of stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t.

What Worked:

1. Roll with it. I did plan ahead and acquire Fastpasses using My Disney Experience, but we were also very open to changes made at the last minute. Who knew he would want to go on Splash Mountain? He hates water in his face, but loves this ride. So, we roll with it, and change FPs, and wait in long lines, but if the wee man is happy, we’re happy.

2. Roll with it, part 2: We also planned to be in particular parks on particular days, with one day just for the hotel and pool. But after a morning swimming, the boy said he wanted to go on rides, so used My Disney Experience to get some FPs for Animal Kingdom and away we went.

3. Get as much ticket as you can afford. We get annual passes because we go twice in one year, 51 weeks apart, then repeat that the following year. The great thing about having more days than you need (or an annual pass) is that you don’t feel back running to a park on the day you arrive, or on a day you planned off. The additional days once you get to 4 or 5 aren’t significantly more expensive, and if you can swing it, it really allows your to be flexible.

4. Take your prepared kid to “Fancy, Grown Up Restaurants” (prepared is the operative word!). Originally we were going to have my parents along, allowing a date night for us, but that fell through. Rather than cancel that reservation, we made it for much earlier in the evening. Then we had a talk about expected behavior and really pushed how special it was for a kid to go to a nice restaurant. Then I packed my purse with a Smuckers Uncrustable and a new box of Lego City bricks. The waiters were excellent, even plating his sandwich for him (sooooo picky, but we bought a fruit side and the sandwich came from the quick service in the same hotel) and the Lego toy kept him entertained when needed. It was a total success.

5. Order Kid desserts!! The children’s dessert menu at Jiko included a donut decoration platter. He got three mini donuts, three small sides of different sauces/frostings, and mickey sprinkles. Again, don’t hesitate to take your small kids to the signature restaurants; Disney knows what they are doing!

6. Show videos of rides before you leave. Adam was prepared for ride ques and possible ‘scary’ parts. The big surprise was when he asked to go on Splash having not seen anything about it. The videos were how he learned about Big Thunder Mountain, Soarin’, Mine Train, Toy Story, and Haunted Mansion. For kids who dislike change/transition this can be a great solution.

7. Bring some pool toys. We have diving sticks shaped like squids even though our kid won’t swim or go under water. However, those diving sticks made him friends everyday at the pool and meant that he always had someone to play with besides us. I wish I’d brought six instead of three!

8. Have the bartender split the virgin frozen drinks into two cups, one for your kid to have today, one in your freezer for him to have tomorrow.

9. Give your kid a specific budget or item list for souvenirs. Adam knew before we left he was allowed to get one new stuffed animal and one new vehicle (matchbox sized). He was insistent that he get them right away, but after that he also knew he was done with trinkets from stores.

10.  Bring clothes pins. My kingdom for clothes pins!!! To hold the curtain shut while your little boy sleeps in for the first time in his life, for example. Or to hang your wet swimsuits somewhere other than over the chairs.

What Didn’t Work:

1. Fireworks. They were just too late at night. Parades were close, but as it turned out, the wee man didn’t like the Main Street Electric Parade because it lacked firetrucks. Who knew. We did enjoy Illuninations with him, as that happens at 9. (9 was pushing it for him, given the bus ride back to the hotel).

2. Singing and Dancing Shows–total bust for our guy. Your mileage may vary.

3. Carrying a backpack of crap around. This sucked and in the end, we hardly ever needed anything in it. We sunscreened up before we left the room and came back at lunch, so carrying more was silly. Snacks in the bag just get warm and/or crushed. Plus, who wants a bag of pirate booty or an apple when there is Dole Whip around? Next year, we’ll go bagless. It’s Disney, anything you discover you need is for sale somewhere nearby. Also, the entrance line is way shorter for bagless ticket holders!

4. Early AM flights on departure day. It was direct, that’s why I booked it, but if you want to use the check in service in the hotel lobby you must be there three hours ahead of time and they don’t open until 6:30 AM. Lesson learned.

5. Trying to stick to a plan made months beforehand. On the first day I was diligent about “the plan” but quickly came to realize that having fun was way more important than doing it all. So we had fun and didn’t do much. It’s okay, we’ll be back.

6. Working out. I brought the stuff and pre-kid I would absolutely have made time to run or go to the gym. But after carrying nearly 40 pounds of kid around at the end of each day I didn’t feel compelled to do additional exercise. We also learned that we walked pretty far (not as far as many claim they do at Disney–all that shuffling your feet in line is not really taking a step!), about 4-5 miles each day, sometimes more. Consider the hallways, walks to and from the bus stops and the pool and the steps do add up fast.

We had a great time, better than expected and I think it’s because we let some of the planning go. It’s important to plan, to have an idea of what is where, what you like and how you want to spend time. It’s important to make dinner reservations if you need them. But it’s also important to listen to your kid and willingly wait in the Splash Mountain line, again, and again, because he’s having a good time!

He’s Here!!!

Adam arrived on 3/24 like it was a race to be born, going from no signs of labor (seriously, not a single contraction, no dilation, no nothing) to final push 6 hours later! My water broke after breakfast, in my kitchen. Jake was starting his car to leave for work and I was standing at the sink when I felt it; my first thought (TMI–for those who’ve been pregnant, you’ll know what I’m talking about) was “not again, this f’in’ discharge sh*t has got to stop, I’m running out of underwear” but then I quickly realized that about a quart of water had just run out of me. Why my first instinct was to drop my pants I’ll never know, but Jake came back inside to see me standing at the sink with my PJs around my ankles, water all over the floor, and a plate in one hand.

We knew from our hypnobirthing class that water breaking without contractions could mean 12-72 hours before you actually go into labor and we were very sure we didn’t want to be put on the hospital’s time line–you know, no labor yet, we’ll give you pitocin blah blah blah. We called the birth coach and she said to just stall them on any actions, buying an hour at a time. So we puttered around; I took a shower, finished the dishes, ate another breakfast in case they wouldn’t let me eat at the hospital.

We left for the hospital about an hour later, its a 45-60 minute drive, still nothing happening. I’d had some further water floodage and Jake made me sit on a towel with my pants around my knees on the way there, lest I ruin the seats and have to walk to maternity in wet pants. We stopped at McDonald’s: I’d been very good about the caffeine during pregnancy, one can of soda a day…but Jake said if there was ever a day not to worry about how much caffeine would or would not do to our baby today was it and he ordered me the tanker sized diet coke. Heaven!! We also stopped at the grocery to buy Guinness, for after, of course.

We parked in the garage at the hospital and left the bags in the car figuring it would be hours and I’d probably end up being sent to walk around to get labor started. I’d had two contractions at this point, 10 minutes apart, lasting for 20-30 seconds and really mild. They brought me into triage, made me pee in the cup, hooked me to the monitor etc. Turns out my blood pressure was super high; the whole nine months it was super low, so the doctor was very concerned about pre-e and explained that she was going to do an exam, take some blood and determine if I needed to be admitted to a high risk birthing room. The exam established that I was at 2cm. The blood test would take about an hour to tell us anything, so we had to just sit tight.

Jake was timing the contractions that had begun, I was doing everything I learned in hypnobirthing; had my ipod relaxation stuff going, breathing patterns, visualization, etc. For awhile it was very helpful, but the contractions weren’t quite what had been described in birthing class. I fully expected pain, I didn’t expect that my contractions would last 5-6 minutes at a time with 20-30 seconds in between. Basically I went from really mild cramps to stabbing pain that was essentially non-stop. I continued with the hypnosis stuff, but because my breaks were so short I couldn’t compose myself in between. All I could think was if this is what 2-3cm feels like, I can’t imagine what 9 and 10 will be.

And then the noises started.

I sounded like a mortally wounded cow or elephant or other really large animal that makes terrible braying sounds.

The nurses all have this look on their faces like I was going to be “one of those” patients; the girl who would scream and yell and be totally unable to handle labor. Jake is just holding my hand and trying to remind me to “visualize my muscles opening and squeezing the baby down…” Finally, the test results are back and they have decided to move to a high risk room for the remainder of labor. I’m wheeled on the bed through maternity, sounding for all the world like a herd of cattle lit on fire and telling Jake that natural childbirth is not happening for me, I want the epidural!

We get to the high risk room and as Jake tells it, the nurses are really looking like they don’t want to deal with me. Who can blame them, 60 minutes ago I was at 2cm, at average right now I should be 3cm, maybe 4. The doctor comes in to do an exam, very casual, the room isn’t set up for labor, the anesthesiologist has been called but isn’t in a hurry. She gloves up and checks my cervix.


That’s right, I went from 2 to 9 in 90 minutes or so, no drugs, no inducement, just a baby that wants to get the heck our of dodge now! That epidural? I’m not sure how they got it in me as fast as they did, but it worked. I guess (I’m fuzzy on this part) she gave me a spinal first, as it is instantaneous and then the epi, which takes 20 minutes or so to take effect. All I know is that in minutes everything was tolerable and I was feeling very much like pushing.

I had an awesome doctor (not my regular, but from the same practice) who allowed me to go slowly and push when it hit me, my epi was low enough that I could move my own legs and feel the urge to push, but pushing is a challenging thing. Its a coordinated effort of muscles you don’t normally use while trying to stop using muscles you do normally use–try pooping without tensing your legs or stomach or back anything else. Also keep your eyes open and hold your breath. And make sure its a super enormous poop that requires some work. That’s sort of it.

I was able to use the squat bar to brace my feet and a towel to pull on, but Adam was having some trouble getting his head to move. In the end that was good, the 2 hours of pushing (really, only 7 or 8 rounds of pushing) meant that I didn’t get cut or tear or need stitches or anything.

3PM on March 24 he was finally here. 8lbs, 12 oz, 21 inches long (that’s 80% percentile on weight and 90th on length, for those keeping score at home).

I was told by the doctor that I had an extremely atypical birth–broken water with no contractions, very fast labor with no drug intervention, and a giant baby with no damage to the goods. Whatever, he’s here, he’s super pissed off about leaving the balmy tropics of the land of uterus, and he has feet like flippers.

My parents are still promising to take him for four days in October. He’ll be 6 months old and I’m already looking forward to the uninterrupted sleep! But not looking forward to missing my baby boy!!

We had pictures done last friday and I will post the link when I get it.