Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who's Afraid of Great Wolf Lodge?

We came, we saw, we howled.

I'm not quoting hipster beat poetry. I'm talking about Sunday night at Great Wolf Lodge.

Yes, we did it. Because we are either: clinically insane, suspiciously self-punishing, or just not very good at remembering how poorly we sleep in a hotel room with children.

Our last whirlwind trip, 4th of July, was somewhat of a bust. We still don't speak of "Kaboom Town" in my house, and the mere mention of Addison, Texas, causes us to recoil and squeal "Voldemort" while retreating under the covers with bug spray and wine.

Okay, possibly that's just me. But my point is this: our first "fun family adventure" was heavy on the 'adventure' part, light on the fun. And, as previously mentioned, I had decided to forgo an extended family trip this year in favor of Fridays off and more time with the kids. Clearly I forgot that I actually meant my kids, not 5,000 other random kids I don't know.

And their parents.
And everyone else.
In the world.

Sunday morning started out ... not really well, to be honest. I had promised the boys we'd wake up early and go on a pre-dawn bike ride, which is something we like to do because ... I'm an idiot and we did it once and then I bought these bike lights and was all "yeah, we're gonna do this every weekend." And the boys were all excited (okay, the youngest was excited, the other was like, "so what, I hate everything!" because he's in training for puberty).

I overslept. So no early dawn bike ride with glimpses of woodland creatures (on Saturday we saw a bunny! and a rat!) Lucky for me, my youngest was so excited about Great Wolf Lodge, he woke me up at 6:45 am to ask if it was already light outside (it was).

And what time are we leaving for Great Wolf Lodge? (noon)

And what year were you born, Mommy? (none of your business)

When I answered this question, he scrunched up his face and asked, "But wouldn't that make you, like, 85?" And then he cackled hysterically and left the room to pack.

Within ten minutes, he was sporting a matching ensemble, including footwear and showing me that "of course I packed two swimsuits, matching swim shirts and extra underwear!" His brother told me he packed his own bag, too, but I checked it and found a swimsuit, one flip flop and three stuffed alligators.

Two loads of laundry, one wet dog and an angry meltdown later (rage, thy name is 3rd grade), we were on the road. Oh, and a quick stop at Steak and Shake, where my youngest SWORE he liked the hot dogs, and then it came and it was sliced down the middle and he said, "Oh. I changed my mind. I'm not hungry" at which point, his brother seized the opportunity and piped up with a breakout monologue about how much he loved his burger. Because with two boys?
A Competition.

40 minutes later (when are we going to get there? Can I play on your Kindle? Is this Grapevine yet? Are we going on an airplane? Is there a gift shop?) we rolled into the parking lot. In spite of myself, I was a little excited, I mean, there was a giant wolf statue. That's kind of cool, right?

Then I hit the registration line. You know when you go to an amusement park and the lines are all zig-zaggy because they make you snake your way through an obstacle course before getting on a roller coaster? This was kind of the same, only instead of making me throw up by flinging me upside down, they just flashed a bunch of numbers and forms that made me dizzy and suddenly buying the optional add-on "wolf pack" passes for my kids made perfect sense.

They're very clever, those wolves. I suspect coyotes are working behind the scenes. Anyway, we finally got our passes and our wristbands and our room was ready. The kids could barely contain themselves. They raced down the hall (joke was on them, though, because guess whose wristband opened the door?)

And it was everything they dreamed of.

Bunk bed? Check
"Wolf den" sign? Check
Their own TV? Oh yeah, check.

Seriously, we could have spent the first hour watching FIFA soccer because so they were drunk with the power of their own television, I think they might have forgotten about the water park. Silly us, we told them to turn off the TV.

You know what I like about water parks? I don't.

I like swimming, but not with 10,000 new friends. And the "lazy river" was more of a "hey, don't scrape your knees as the waves pound you into the belly of a perfect stranger" river.

So we moved onto the wave pool, which was kind of fun, if your idea of fun is hoping your kids don't drown. I say "hope" because you can't actually see them anymore, so you have no choice but to adopt a Blanche DuBois attitude about the whole thing. "Ah have always depended on the kindness of strangers ... to save mah kids."

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the water slides beckoned.

Alas, the youngest was too short to ride the "Tornado," so he and I headed for the kiddie slide. It was was pretty crowded so I hung out below and tried to find him in line. I didn't notice other people, bigger kids and grown men, coming to stand near me. Didn't notice when a sound like a train whistle came from above. I figured that was part of the water slide.

Didn't notice anything, as a matter of fact, until 50,000 gallons of water crashed down on my head.

Because yeah, I'm the dummy standing under the giant water bucket. Spying another adult similarly soaked, I said (thinking I was commiserating) "I did not see that coming."

"Really?" He asked, before shooting a pointed glance up at the bucket and then back down at me. And then I realized all the other guys were standing there to get smacked by water on purpose.

Dudes, the Atlantic Ocean will do that to you for free.

Apres le deluge, moi. And after the waterslide, we found my husband. He had just taken our oldest on the Tornado.

Remember the scene in Death at a Funeral where Alan scoots across the room with an awful smile of fear, trying to pretend there is not a possibly-dead Peter in the study?

If you haven't seen it, stop reading this and go watch it right now. Then picture that face on a man who has just gone down a water slide with his 8-year-old.

"Hey," I asked, trying to be peppy. "How was the tornado?"

My son surprised me by grinning and saying, "Really, really scary! Like, really scary! And I want do it again!"

After he swam away, I asked my husband, "So ... how was it?"

"It was really, really scary," he mumbled through gritted teeth. "And, I don't want to do it again. I just want to sit in this pee-filled pool and try to forget that ever happened."

Since he was clearly suffering from Tornado-induced PTSD, I volunteered for "let's buy a bunch of crap we don't need because Mommy's a sucker and bought the wolf pass" duty.

Swim goggles I could have bought at Target? Check
Glitter tattoos? Check
Magic wands, along with a clue book and instructions I didn't understand for playing MagicQuest? Check

Then we hit the Creation Station/aka build-a-wolf. I was on such a roll, I thought this would be easy. But there was unepxected confusion on my kids' part as they looked at the limp, unstuffed bodies and thought they were getting screwed out of an actual stuffed animal. Finally, one of them said, "Oh, we get to pick any one of these AND it's going to be a real toy? That we can keep? FOR FREE?"

The 20-something kid manning the cash register cracked a jaded smile. "Yeah, that's right, kids," he said making air quotes as he said, "it's free, right, Mom?"

I think someone might have spent too many hours in the build-a-wolf booth.

But the kids didn't notice, they were too busy pumping the pedal on the creepy stuffing machine (because nothing's more adorable than kids pretending to work in a sweat shop).

And yes, I got suckered further into purchasing the "optional" clothing for the critters. Naked wolves? Not on my watch, pal -- this is a family trip.

I didn't even care that I just spent $18 on clothing for toys. Because it was only 5:30 and we'd knocked out half the Wolf Pass list. Then my youngest took off running up the stairs to some treehouse, bent down and promptly lost his brand-new ball cap and wolf ears. In all of 2 seconds.

We raced back down to the first level, I looked everywhere & was starting to sweat when my son found his hat. On some other kid's head.

Confession: I wasn't 100% sure it was his hat. To be honest, I barely remembered the hat, except that it was new and it was Under Armour, which is a big deal among the K-3 crowd.

I take no credit for this - my 6 year old walked over to the kid, started talking and soon a small crowd had formed. Then he walked back to me smiling and wearing his hat. I'm not sure what he said, but I think he may have a bright future in the legal field someday.

Then we limped up to the lobby, where they made him howl for a second pair of wolf ears. I'm not kidding and yes, he did it. I told you -- future lawyer.

The rest of the evening was a blur.

Dinner - check!
3-D family portraits - check!
Personalized leather bracelets they've already lost - check!

Goth girls sporting wolf ears, magic wands, and too much makeup - check! (Because nothing spells dark and edgy like staying at a theme park hotel. With your parents).

Youth and black eyeliner are so wasted on the young.

Story time in the lobby with a very peppy guy named Jonathan who led the kids in games and stories and then told all the kids there was a dance party at 9:30 pm and they could stay up ALL NIGHT and wouldn't that be AWESOME - check!

Angry trek to elevators with 2 kids who wanted to swim and dance ALL NIGHT - check!

Cue montage of wrestling kids, semi-dressed build-a-wolves and TV volume turned up WAY HIGHER THAN ANYONE SHOULD EVER LISTEN TO A SOCCER GAME, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Somehow by 10:30ish, both kids were asleep. My husband, playing the role previously established by me in "Kaboom town" had come down with a tubucular cough. That, and the dulcet tones of snoring, lulled us to a few restless hours of sleep.

The good news for me? I had to work the next day, and I left the Lodge at 7 am.

The bad news for my husband? See above.

They rolled into the house around 2:30, still clutching build-a-wolves, sticky cups of soda, and for some reason, rubber sharks, peppering everything with "Next time we go to Great Wolf Lodge..."

When they'd taken their wolfen booty up the stairs, I took my husband aside. "Did you tell them when the 'next time' we'd go to Great Wolf Lodge might be?"

"Sure," he said, coughing. "When they have kids of their own."


So yeah, who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Not us.

And 2 weeks from now, my husband is taking our oldest to NYC -- maybe I'll get HIM to write a post for that trip,. Me, I'll just be hanging at home with the 6-year-old. Maybe catching up on Cupcake Wars. Or maybe we'll have a sleepover. That'll be super calm and relaxing.

But, guess what book I just pre-ordered? Birnbaum's Guide to Disney 2016.

Because yes.

We're going to Disneyland.

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