Monday, August 13, 2012

Family Fun Weekend

Craig has worked for a lacrosse team in Hamilton for at least two seasons now.  Might be more, but I think it's only been two.  The Hamilton Nationals are owned by the Knighthawks' owner, and they play in the same league as the Rochester Rattlers, who Craig (and I) worked for a few years back.  In fact, he won a championship with the Rattlers back in 2008, a couple months after Jacob was born.  After that season, the team moved to Toronto (we went to a game there in 2009), and after a season or two there it moved to Hamilton.  In the meantime another franchise moved to Rochester and picked up the Rattlers name, so now both teams are in the league and it's a little odd going to a Rattlers game and cheering against the hometown team!  I have more Rattlers gear in my wardrobe than Nationals!  Jacob is well-stocked, though!

The downside of the setup is that every weekend is a road game for him.  He's either in Hamilton or he's off to another city for an actual road game.  That means that most weekends from May through mid-August involve a game somewhere else.  Since Hamilton isn't a long drive, it usually means that we can squeak out a decent Sunday most of the time, even though Craig will usually have gotten in sometime after 1am.  A few weekends this summer we've been in Buffalo for the weekend so he'll usually have a midnight arrival there.  Not bad.  Not ideal, but it could be worse.  He has a job, after all.

Anyway, in the two years Craig has worked there, we'd never been to a game.  I had always planned on going at some point, but it never happened...and suddenly this weekend posed the last chance, at least until next year.  And in this league, I never really trust next year!  So, off we went.

We drove to my parents' on Friday night to make our Saturday trip shorter.  Overnight Friday I came down with some sort of digestive issue, leading to quite a few middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.  I managed to only get a little bit of sleep and spent most of the morning eating toast and drinking water, trying to gauge if I could physically manage the trip.  Everything seemed to be working okay, even if I didn't feel fantastic, so I decided to chance it.  Thank goodness things really were getting better, because we had an extra long wait at the border and an emergency bathroom trip would have been problematic in the middle of the bridge!

Once we got up to Hamilton, we checked into our hotel room so Craig could get ready for the game and I could get a little cat nap.  Jacob and I dropped Craig off at the stadium on the campus of McMaster University, and then headed off on our own little adventure--a trip to IKEA!  I had originally planned on sticking Jacob in the kids' play area, but they were full and he was suddenly showing some resistance anyway, so off we went into the store.  He was actually very well behaved considering the fact that the store is a total sensory-overload type of place.  Fortunately he was allowed to touch most things, sit on chairs and beds, and hug stuffed animals to his heart's content, so he did a lot of that and I only had to rein him in a couple of times.  We were running short on time by the time we finished walking around (I didn't end up buying anything but had a handful of things I wanted to look at), so we stayed and ate at the restaurant.  It was very busy so we had to wait a while, but the food was good and cheap.  He took forever to eat as usual, so we were a little late getting to the game (as usual).  This was the view of the stadium as we were walking around to the entrance.
Sadly, the game had already started, yet the crowd is pretty sparse...hence why I said I never trust "next season"!
And once we were inside, this was the view from one of our seats...since we moved around a lot...
It's a really nice stadium, though I couldn't help but smirk when I noticed that the football yardage and goalposts were set up for Canadian football.  Notice midfield is the 55 yard line!
It ended up being a slightly chilly evening (haven't had many of those this summer, that's for sure!), but the team won (an essentially meaningless game, of course) and all in all it was a good night.  Even better, Jacob fell asleep in the car and stayed asleep getting into the hotel room, so we managed to avoid our usual problems with getting him to fall asleep in a hotel room.  Of course, it didn't do me any good this time around since I was far too tired to stay up and play on my computer like I normally would.  We were all in bed by a little after 11, I think, and Jacob slept until 8:30!  Hallelujah!  Oh, and he slept in his own big bed, which doesn't happen often in hotel rooms since he usually manages to convince Daddy to join him.  So it was a double win for us! 

We had a heck of a time finding a nearby Tim Hortons for breakfast (ironic considering they're everywhere in Canada), and discovered that Canadian malls don't open until noon on Sunday (boo!), so we hit Timmy's up at a rest area on the way back.  The day just sort of evolved from there.  We decided to stop in Niagara Falls, Canada, to walk Clifton Hill and grab some lunch.  I feel like we've taken Jacob there once before but haven't yet found photo proof, so maybe I imagined it.  We've been there a few times by ourselves since he was born, but it's been a while again so it seemed like we were due.  It was a pleasant day (at the time) so we thought it would be fun.

We tried to get some good photo ops at one of the stores... 
Lots of attempts, but this was the best we got!

Again, lots of attempts...at least he was smiling.  Notice his hat...
...And again outside the dinosaur-themed mini golf.  Jacob really wanted to play a round, but we didn't really have time.  We did stop for this photo op, though...
A little hard to see, but Jacob is looking up at the dinosaurs...because a couple seconds before I snapped the picture, there was this dinosaur-screech sound effect that made him jump for a second, like, "Where'd that come from?!"  It was cute.
And here's one with me...in front of a moose that has seen many Rybczynski photo ops over the years...
We did get a decent one after this, but the frog one was funnier.
Jacob liked this hat...along with the rest of the Sesame Street-themed ones at this particular store.  I, however, did not like the $30 price tag!  Cute, but CRAZY.

We had lunch at Pizza Pizza (my favorite!) on our way back up the hill, then stopped briefly outside "Brick City", a Lego-based attraction that we will no doubt have to visit for real one of these days, so Jacob could check out this crazy sculpture.  Maybe next time we'll head in to see the Lego version of Niagara Falls...

Having Jacob at Clifton Hill brought back some interesting memories, since it was the first place we went to spend an overnight without him.  We've done more since that first one, but we laughed as we walked by the souvenir shop that sold the "Mommy only wanted a backrub" onesies that we laughed at and briefly considered buying for Jacob at the time.  It was fun sharing the place with him because it is the ultimate family fun spot and I have great memories of visiting there when I was a kid.  Usually we'd have one afternoon each summer where we'd head up to Canada, walk Clifton Hill and get some ice cream, then check out the Falls.  And way back when, we'd also go to Maple Leaf Village, the amusement park and mall that used to be where Casino Niagara and its parking lot sit now.  Those were the days.  How I loved the fudge shop, the cheesy tourist photo ops (antique photos, barrel-over-the-falls pics, etc.), the water wheel outside the Japanese restaurant, and the "That's Incredible" museum, complete with a "genie" type woman who would magically talk to you from her little bottle.  Oh, and there was always a family ride on the giant ferris wheel.  I loved those trips and look forward to sharing parts of that with Jacob now that he's older.

When we were still in Toronto I had suggested that a stop on our way home could be the Niagara Falls Aquarium.  I hadn't been there since I was a kid--probably a school field trip--and I knew that we could go there for free thanks to our membership at the zoo here in Rochester.  I love those reciprocals.  It's gotten us into the Pittsburgh Zoo free a couple times, and saved us a boatload of cash in Philly last year.  One of these days we'll go to the Buffalo Zoo, which we'll have to pay 50% admission for (like Philly), but it's better than nothing.  It makes every visit to a new city exciting because we always have to check and see if we get a discount or freebie at the local zoo.  It's a nice perk.  Anyway, you can't beat free and I'd been waiting for a rainy day (literally) to take Jacob there.  Turned out a dark cloud was rolling in as we left Clifton Hill anyway, and by the time we got over the bridge the drops were falling.  Of course, Jacob had also fallen asleep by that point, so once we made it to the aquarium, we sat in the car for a bit to dodge the worst of the rain and let Jacob get in a few more minutes of rest.

I don't have much of a recollection of the aquarium back in the day other than the central tank which used to hold dolphins.  Now it has sea lions.  There are seals in an outdoor pool, and some small penguins inside.  There are sharks and various fish, along with some fun theming and decent displays.  The place isn't quite full of the bells and whistles that most modern ones have--like no touch tank, for example, and not too many exotic creatures outside of one octopus--but it was still enjoyable nonetheless.  I'm now hoping that some rich person will come in and dump some money on their laps so they can improve or even expand.  Good bones, all things considered, but it could use some sprucing up.

Here are the boys after walking through the shark cage...

And here's one of my favorite pics of the day, this crazy turtle on top of another one...

And here are Jacob and me doing our best penguin impersonations...

Jacob was obsessed with this little stingray guy because the verbiage near his tank talked about him being "flat as a pancake".  We saw him floating around looking like this...

And then a minute later he looked like this...
 I guess he wanted some privacy!  Not sure how he did that, but it was fast and very impressive camouflage!
The highlight of the visit was probably watching the sea lion show, which we just happened to catch  as we were leaving.  We actually watched it from the gift shop, which has windows into the tank (which the entire aquarium is based around).  We could have watched it from upstairs or other windows on the main floor, but by the time we realized it was happening the good spots were snatched up.  The windows were water-spotted so my pictures didn't really turn out, but suffice it to say that these sea lions were a far cry from the ones at our zoo.  Ours swim a lot and put on a good show for feeding time, but these ones were hardcore.  They'd clap, jump into the pool on command, swim with the trainer, balance on their flippers to kick up their tail, give kisses, jump out of the water to touch hanging targets, jump through hoops, make themselves into a living ring toss, and balance a ball on their nose.  It was really impressive.  That alone makes me want to go back and watch the show from up above so I can get some better pictures.

On the way out I snapped this cute shot of one of the seals:

And that was it for our busy day, minus the drive home, some dinner and some playtime.  It was a full, fun weekend, and other than a handful of frustrating moments, Jacob was pretty good.  And there were some moments that could have been major disasters, like getting stuck in a long wait at customs, not being able to find a Tim Hortons, if my stomach issues would have resurfaced, or running around IKEA or Clifton Hill like crazy people, but they weren't.  We did have to tell him to be quiet a few times--he talks incessantly, often about the most random stuff--just so we could hear the GPS or just make a rational decision without constant background noise, but overall it went surprisingly well.  Nice change of pace from some of our other recent trips.

And the best news of all?  Craig doesn't have another road trip for months!  Woohoo!


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