I was warned – by several people. I laughed them off and scolded them for being too snobbish. I can handle anything, I thought to myself. I am very tolerant.
We walked into Great Wolf Lodge at 4:10 pm. Check-in started at 4 pm. The line was 30 people deep. Kids were running around everywhere. Rock music blared in the corner of the lobby and an over-sized furry wolf hopped around among a group of toddlers. Jon gave me the look “you gotta be kidding me.”
I smiled at him. I was determined to keep a good attitude. A burly man in front of me inched back and bumped right into me. He tussled with his bags in front of him and did not even bother to turn around to say sorry. A woman held her crying infant behind me and screamed at her child who was running too far away from her.
I witnessed a plethora of lovely behavior as I stood in line – including my own behavior after Ri hit me with a bag and I snapped at her. There’s something about standing in line, watching parents jam wolf ears on their kids’ heads and hearing screams from crazed toddlers that just makes you lose it.
Forty minutes later, I was given wristbands and told all about the breakfast buffet and the late night MagiQuest game. We walked back to our room and the kids loved the fact that your wristband opened the room door. The kids ran in the room and checked out their bunk beds in their “cabin.” This is what grabbed Mario’s attention when he reviewed Great Wolf on his iPad. He thought it would be cool to have his own cabin. They fought over the top bunk and jumped from the top to the day bed. Jon and I cringed at the full size bed on our side of the room. There was no way we were fitting in that bad boy. Pull out sofa here I come.
We threw on our swim suits and headed to the water park. Joy. It was as packed as the check-in line. I thought Jon would die but he did very well. He did not cuss anyone out or shove anyone even though he was bumped and brushed against on numerous occasions. We hit the wave pool and the family raft ride. The kids loved the lily pad crossing – Mario especially. He must have tried to cross 15 times. He made it each time – even when he fell in the water – because he could crawl back on the lily pad. His little body is one big muscle.
We cranked out a couple of hours and then headed back to the room. The kids love room service when we stay at hotels. They just want to sit in their pjs, watch tv, and eat in bed. So I headed out for LaRosas carry out. Yum. I pray they get a LaRosas in Columbus soon. The sauce is so good. We chowed down and headed back to the pool to close it down at 10 pm. The kids loved returning to our room to watch tv until 11. Ahh, vacation.
On Monday, we took Jon to the Entertrainment Junction. It has a killer train layout that we thought Jon would like. It also has a fun house with different rooms that the kids love. Jon got a kick out of them too, and kept making me go through the House of Mirrors, which terrified me and gave Jon and the kids much joy.
Oddly enough, they had a Santa exhibit with a jolly ol’ Santa sitting in his chair. I think Ri has an idea that Santa is not real because she kept pushing me away when I told her to tell Santa what she wants for Christmas. Meanwhile, Mario spouted off what he wanted with ease: a tv, x box, phone….
We ate at Frisch’s Big Boy for lunch. I remember going there with my grandma Heile when I was young. I love their Big Boy sandwiches and have not chowed down on one of those for years. It still tasted heavenly.
On Monday, Jon caved in and allowed a Perkins trip for breakfast. It did not disappoint. Their pancakes are incredible. I went through all my experiences as a waitress at Perkins while we waited for our food… here’s the seating chart, this is how I’d introduce myself, these were the breakfast options…. I think Ri is the only one who appreciated it.
After Perkins, we headed south to the Newport Aquarium. It was not as big as I expected or have as many things to do as we hoped. We thought it would be a full day trip with the amount it cost to get into the place. But it still brought joy. The kids got to touch a shark and watch penguins dance around and witness me squeal in delight over baby frogs.
We returned to Great Wolf Lodge in the late afternoon. Jon and I were trying to figure out another place to go before heading back (oh please!) but the kids wanted to return. These vacations are all about them and so we sucked it up. This is when Mario found out about MagiQuest. This is yet another plot to reel kids in and force parents to dole out cash. $80 later we had our swords and our booklet. Mario was on a mission. Ri hung with him for a bit but then got worn out. The game requires you to go up and down stairs and through hallways. You do get your exercise, at least. We got Ri her ice cream cone and took her back to the room. Then Mario spent from 9:45 to 11 pm finding runes.
He was addicted. As soon as we woke up on Wednesday, he was ready to go find more runes. He would have skipped the Reds game in a heartbeat. But us mean parents made him go. Downtown Cincy has changed so much since I was a kid. I was filled with nostalgia as I walked to the stadium. All my Reds’ trips with Lisa and my love for Dave Parker. I dragged the kids and Jon everywhere.
We had an hour to wait around not realizing that the doors didn’t open until an hour and a half before the game. We bought obligatory Reds hats and a jersey for Mario at the souvenir shop and big foam fingers, of course.
We were the first ones in when the doors opened. Our seats were two rows back in front of 1st base. That is the closest I have ever sat to the players. I was in heaven. Ri and I walked up to the rail and waited with throngs of others for autographs. I had not thought to bring a sharpie so all we had was our ticket stubs and an old pen. But Ri cranked one out from Rosie Red and Donald Lunz. Mario ran up when Ri was getting Lunz’s and was able to get one, too. We kept trying but ushers were pushing back. As we were walking away, Billy Hamilton came out. We happened to be standing close. Mario took off his hat and swung it at him begging for an autograph. A man standing close shared his sharpie and it was history. Mario had his first autographed cap. Ri was dejected at first but then we talked about being happy for one another and sharing in the joy that others’ feel. She really gets that at her young age and she shook it off and started waving her foam finger.
I loved watching the game with Jon and the kids. M&M really got into it. I think part of that was the fact that we were so close and the usher told us that after each inning, we could run to the rail and yell for the manager, Billy Hatcher, to throw us the ball. This excited the kids and sure enough after the first inning, Mario and Ri ran up to the railing along with ten other kids. Jon stood behind them. Billy Hatcher threw the ball to Mario and he dropped it. He threw it again and Jon reached in to catch it. Mario was charged up. Ri was dejected – again. Broke my heart.
Now, I have family and friends that would immediately tell Ri “that’s life, suck it up.” And I agree that life doesn’t always go your way and you need to learn that. But I also thought it wise to put the situation in perspective. How much did she really want a ball? Would she cherish it for years to come or would she toss it in her toy bin and forget about it? Again, my girl is wiser than her years. She nodded her head understanding my point although she still stood up every inning to try for a ball . Finally, in the 7th, after Hatcher had heard me screaming to give the ball to my daughter a dozen times, he tossed it to her. Unfortunately, her head was down in her Dippin’ Dots. Fortunately, I was paying attention and caught it for her. She smiled and waved at Hatcher. However, an inning later, she was ready to give it to a little boy who started to cry when Hatcher didn’t throw a ball to him. That’s my girl. She wants the thrill of winning something but then she wants to give it away to someone in need.
We had such a good time throughout the game – I would head back in a second. Little do the kids know how spoiled they were to have such amazing seats. If you would have told me at age 10 that I’d have those seats one day, I would have thought you were nuts.
After the game, Sarah called to tell us her and mom and Elena were at REI off the highway. Ri begged to go visit with them. Just a week ago, Ri had insisted we keep this as our family vacation only and not allow any others to visit. But Elena trumped Ri’s rule. We dropped Ri off to sit with this precious girl for a few hours…
Needless to say, she had no desire to return to the hotel. Mario and I got some kick-butt time on the slides when we got back to the Lodge. There was hardly anyone there. We must have went down the slides 10 times. He even got a pass to go on the 48 inches one, which made him happy as a clam. He wanted to try the other 48 inch slide – the HydroPlunge – but the line was forever and he did not have the patience to wait (Ri, on the other hand did, and she and I went on it a few times – she loved hearing me scream). Mario would ask me every time “are you scared mom?” I’d respond yes and he’d smile big because he loved the thought of me being scared and him not.
We picked up Ri at 9 pm (much to her dismay) and came back to play more MagiQuest. Ri hung in there with us this time for a bit longer but decided she could care less about slaying the dragon. Mario, on the other hand, refused to give up. Jon and I were cracking up at his persistence. And also at the slew of kids and parents running around trying to get runes and powers. It was quite surreal.
We ended our last night at the arcade. I have a love/hate relationship with arcades. I loved them as a kid and would be thrilled if I won a stuffed animal or a glow bracelet. That love is still present today as I feel the excitement of M&M when they win. But I hate how quickly you spend $75 to only win a blow up bat, peace ring, and tootsie rolls. Seriously?! I finally got us out of the arcade only to find one of those claw machines in the lobby with an x box In it. Mario had to try to win it. Two teenagers egged him on – “it’s almost ready to fall, you can get it!” Mario was convinced he could do it. I told him no way. But again, that kid comes out in me and I secretly think he has a chance. So we spent $10 trying with no luck. Ri finally had to put the kaboosh on the Xbox game for Mario and me! Thank goodness she has some sense.
We woke up Thursday morning and engaged in one last romp at the water park. We went down the family raft ride and laughed hysterically as we slid up the side walls and got drenched. We played in the wave pool and watched Ri dive like a mermaid and Mario fight the incoming waves. We rooted them on as they crossed the lily pads.
And then we packed up. Grabbed the wolf ears and wands. Stuffed the five foot snake in the duffel. Carefully held the balloon animals. And walked out the door.
“Did you guys have fun?”
“Yes!” they both shouted.
“Did we?” I whispered to
Jon with a smirk on my face.
I knew the answer. Of course we did. How can you not when you have a 6 and 9 year old keeping you laughing. That is not to say that there weren’t some “arghhh” times during the trip (maybe a few more than other trips due to 4 days at a water park) but now that we are home, all we tend to recall are the good times – riding the family raft ride, catching Reds’ baseballs, laughing at the puffer fish, and scaring each other in the house of mirrors. I wouldn’t trade our vacation for anything … but I do believe that a secluded beach is on tap for the next one.