Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

So the main attraction at the Great Wolf Lodge resorts is supposed to be the huge, completely awesome, indoor water park. It’s actually a decent deal because your water park passes are included with your hotel stay, but they make their money off of people like us:

Boy One is the perfect combination of addictive personality and electronics junkie and he can not – CAN NOT – walk by an arcade without going inside. When he’s in the arcade, he is in his element, along with all of the other scrawny, pasty kids that look like their eyes haven’t left the screen or seen sunlight in about two years. He probably has the makings of a fairly serious gambling addiction. He enters the arcade like he is Rain Man (or Alan from The Hangover), coming down the escalator, ready to count some cards. I should probably discourage this behavior or preemptively send him to some Gambling Anonymous classes or something, but it’s actually kind of fun to watch him do his thing.

So anyway, I play the part of Charlie Babbitt and enter the arcade behind him. He pauses to get the lay of the floor and scope out the hot machines. He first goes for a claw game full of rolls of tickets. He expertly maneuvers the claw and nets 125 tickets in one grab.  Bam! Then he moves on to a wheel-spinning game and gains another 40. He’s on a streak and it continues for the 45 minutes that my $75 worth of tokens lasts. He ends up with about 700 tickets and he’s happy with his take. Then comes the fun part.

With the money I spent, which took me roughly half of a workday to earn, he can cash in his tickets for a small pillow shaped like a smiley face, a two-ounce bottle of disappearing ink, or a miscellaneous combination of single pieces of candy and slappy bracelets. Hey, at least he got 45 minutes worth of fun out of it though, right?

But he has his eye on this “Annoying Orange” talking plush toy, which is apparently the brand of some “You-Tuber” that he is a follower of. Most of these You-Tubers are incredibly annoying, and this one even has the word “annoying” in its name so you know it has to be one of the worst. He doesn’t have nearly enough tickets, so I’m trying to explain to him that he needs to pick something else when The Husband comes up to tell me he’s figured out how to beat the house. There is a Connect Four game – winner gets 50 tickets and loser gets 20 tickets, so we’re guaranteed 70 tickets each game. So, rather than teaching Boy One to live within his means and avoid excessive gambling, we spend another $15 on tokens and play each other on Connect Four while the tickets pour in and Boy One cheers us on. And yes, a portion of our drive home was spent calculating how many tokens we would have needed to buy to get the 20,000 tickets for the Xbox prize (about $600 worth) while listening to the Annoying Orange incessantly repeat its three annoying phrases until Boy Two thankfully managed to “accidentally” break it. $90 well spent.

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave

Vacationing once you have kids is nothing like it was pre-parenthood. First of all, if you work a 9-5, you probably only have a couple of weeks of vacation per year. You’ll spend at least half of that sitting at home being puked on by other people, sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office/dentist’s office, attending a parent-teacher conference listening to what a terror your child is, etc. Not my idea of a great vacation. So you might be left with one week for an actual “vacation.”

My idea of a vacation is a beach, all-inclusive alcohol delivered to me (at the beach) until I pass out in my chair, getting all dressed up for a dinner where they serve a bunch of crap I won’t eat (lobster, fatty steak, things I can’t pronounce), a comfortable suite with a balcony overlooking the ocean, mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice…you get the point. That’s what a vacation should be.

The vacation I’m on now is a little less of all of that and a little more chasing kids around a huge, probably urine-filled, water structure; almost losing my lunch on a three story water slide, which I have to go on because my kids are only 42″ tall (6″ shy of being able to ride alone); screaming kids accompanied by even louder screaming parents; and a family suite adorned with wolves, timber, and other forest-themed ornamentation. The one redeeming quality of this room is that it has two queen-sized beds and a pull-out couch to accommodate our entire family. If you’re smart parents, like us, you talk up the pull-out couch:

Oh my gosh, look kids! This is a couch and a bed! Coolest thing ever! Almost like a transformer!

Then have all of them sleep on it together so you and The Husband each get your own queen-sized bed. I know, easy on the romance, there are children present.

Moving on.

The other problem about vacationing, besides the vacation itself, is getting there. The Husband refuses to fly.

Swans are flightless birds, he says. What he actually means is: I’m a control freak and I don’t trust a pilot who has been through extensive training to learn how to safely get me to my destination; I don’t believe the mathematical truth that a car crash is far more likely than a plane crash; and I’m a coward. 

So even if we weren’t too cheap to spend hundreds of dollars on plane tickets for our whole brood, we couldn’t unless we left The Husband behind (which I actually did when we went to Disney World – he says it was one of the best weeks of his life).

I’m not even going to get into the laundry list of issues of riding in the car with kids. That’s something that deserves its own post. One of my biggest annoyances during a road trip is The Husband. There are two main things he does that make me want to prove to him that the danger of an irritated wife in a car is actually more concerning than a plane crash and a car crash combined:

First of all, he always decides to do extensive car maintenance before we leave. Not a few days before we leave, but RIGHT BEFORE we leave. As in, we’re in the car waiting and he’s under the hood changing the oil. On the way to Tennessee, he actually stopped at an Auto Zone along the way to purchase items to do some sort of routine maintenance. Yesterday, we were a mile down the road when he decided to turn around for something of that nature. It’s as if we just woke up that day and decided to leave and he had no warning and no time to do these things in advance.

Second of all, similar to the way he doesn’t trust pilots, he doesn’t trust GPS. So he uses an Atlas like he is freaking Christopher Columbus in uncharted territory:

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As you can see, the atlas takes up the entire car. Every time he’s done consulting it, he tosses it in my lap and I have to try to shove it between the seats and it flops over on my lap and I have to wrestle it into submission. I can’t put it on the floor because he may need me to hand it to him quickly if he has a question. He can’t have me find the answer for him because 1) I get carsick 2) Why the hell would I know how to read a map? and 3) I refuse. Use a GPS like every other person in the world.

The atlas is sure to get us lost at some point because he’s been using the same one since we’ve been married, which I believe was handed down by his father (and I’m pretty sure they stopped making these things hundreds of years ago) so there is no way it’s up to date.

Anyway, vacation is great. Family time, togetherness, etc. I’m so confident in our ability to enjoy each other’s company that I had a small glass (or two) of wine yesterday at 6:30 a.m. while I was waiting on the car maintenance to be completed. Don’t judge. I’m on vacation.