Monday, July 19, 2010

OCH Takes Their Show On The Road

My childhood is rich with memories of family vacations. Almost every summer my parents would plan a getaway for our family of four. Our family vacations usually weren't fancy affairs but rather an escape from the daily grind of home for some rest, relaxation, and a lot of family togetherness. Sometimes we'd travel as close as Springfield for an educational trip through our state's capital; as we got older car rides got longer with 10 hour trips to a week on the lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Before we left, my mom would spend hours cleaning the house and packing suitcases. It was my dad's duty to find the largest, most comfortable demo vehicle he could snag off the Rub lot. Early in the morning on our day of departure my parents would carry their two sleeping children out to their seats, dad would check the oil in our vehicle, mom would settle in with map in hand, and we'd be on our way. Regardless of the early morning hour, my brother was usually awake and asking for a) breakfast or b) an estimated time of arrival to our destination within 20 minutes of leaving the driveway. I, on the other hand, spent most of our travel time either a) sleeping or b) reading. It's been years since we took a family vacation, yet we still frequently laugh about moments from our adventures around this great country of ours. They are memories that will last a lifetime.

For years people have often asked, "So, are you taking the girls on vacation this summer?". I always tried really hard not to laugh when faced with that inquiry. Up until this year, my canned response was always, "No way". The idea of vacationing with children who were young enough to still require naps, diapers, cribs, strollers, bottles, frequent potty breaks, and multiple changes of clothes during the day was not something I was prepared to deal with. Life with little ones is hard enough at home; I couldn't imagine the planning it would require to do that in a hotel room or on the road. Plus, I always rationalized that any vacation we took with them as infants would be pointless - they're not going to remember it anyway, so why bother? They'd be just as happy at home.

This summer though. This summer was different. Both girls are confidently potty trained. We are a stroller free household for the first time in six years. They will eat at least one option off any children's menu. Although naps are still held dear to our hearts and occasionally required, they are not a necessity to getting through a day. So it was with all of this in mind and a strong desire to start exposing the girls to the wonderful world around them that I asked The General on a night in May if he was prepared to begin this journey of family vacations. It didn't take much convincing, and by the next morning I was researching water park resorts in Wisconsin Dells.

We decided to stay at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells for three days and two nights of family fun. The idea of having everything we needed right on site was intriguing, and I liked that if we were faced with unfavorable weather conditions we'd still be able to enjoy the indoor water parks. We planned our trip for the only three day stretch of free time we'll have while The General is on vacation, and it just so happened that our first day in the Dells was also Shortcake's birthday. For those who are wondering, she officially declared it "the best birthday ever".

The night before we left I packed the car with a variety of activities to keep the girls occupied (and quiet) on the longest car trip of their short lives. Bags were loaded, coolers were stocked, and by noon on Wednesday we were off. I'll admit that I was almost giddy with excitement. For me, taking my family on vacation was one of those pivotal parenting moments. Before I was a mom I would wonder what it would be like to have a family of my own. Almost always those dreams would include family vacation fun. To finally see that come to fruition with my husband and daughters was an exciting moment. I'm a dork, I realize.

I know some of you will be angry with me at this point. You've suffered through all this text, and by now you're probably wondering when I'll just get to the pictures. Shockingly, I took a total of two photos while at the Wilderness. Initially I was afraid to bring the camera with us to the water parks for fear that it would either get wet (and ruined) or stolen. The second day I brought it with us but you know what? We were too busy having fun (and keeping children from drowning) to be bothered with picture taking. It's great to have pictures to look back on, but trust me when I tell you I have permanent pictures burned into my brain from our three days in the Wilderness.

So, instead of adorable pictures of my children enjoying water park fun, I'll provide a few valuable lessons provided by my time at the Wilderness Resort:
  1. Portable DVD players are a gift sent straight from the gates of Heaven.
  2. A bit of friendly advice: Wisconsin Dells is not the new Cancun, so please reconsider wearing a white tank top as a bathing suit top down the water slides. Wet t-shirts contests do not have a place in a family friendly resort.
  3. The food at the Thirsty Buffalo is delicious.
  4. I conquered my long standing fear of the wave pool after a near death experience many years ago and learned to safely ride the waves. The girls declared this portion of the park their favorite.
  5. Life jackets were, both literally and figuratively, life savers on this trip.
  6. Shortcake is content to spend 12 hours in the water. She is even willing to pass up food if it means staying near the water.
  7. Some people are not afraid to put it all out there. Maybe some of them should be.
  8. A full day at the water park = an hour long nap in the middle of all the loud action for Punkin.
  9. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Pringles, and a chocolate pudding snack was declared the perfect water park lunch by The General.
  10. Lazy rivers are anything but lazy when you are trying to wrangle a child into a tube while fighting a strong current. Additional advice to pre-teens in the lazy river: this is not the bumper boat pool; please sit your ass in that raft and just enjoy the ride like the rest of us sloth-wannabes.
  11. You always know when Punkin is coming down a slide because - shocking! - she screams from start to finish. The General mentioned several times that her lung capacity is nothing short of impressive.
  12. While people watching, I came to the realization that I don't look that bad in a bathing suit. I am fully aware that in less than two weeks on our houseboat getaway I will struggle to come to that same conclusion.
  13. We need to purchase room darkening shades for the girls' rooms. They were life savers on this trip helping the girls sleeping until almost 8 am both mornings.
  14. The General is not fond of Wisconsin drivers.
  15. Well timed announcements for the need to use the bathroom are much appreciated.
We had a fantastic time in the Dells. I can't wait to start planning our vacation for Summer 2011!


Parker said...

Welcome back! Having lived in Wisconsin Dells for 3 years, I have a few things to say...

1. You are right...people are certainly not afraid to put it all out there...In Wisconsin, this is not limited to summer at water parks...also holds true for football season foot ball season and NASCAR.

2. Wisconsin drivers are not fans of Illinois drivers, including but not limited to the General.

3. Next time you go to the Dells, eat at Zap's Tap. The food is great and incredibly affordable. And, although it is a is completely family friendly. Even better, you can get to it without dealing with all the Dells traffic!

Glad you had fun!

The Page Turner said...

I have great family vacation memories with my kids. We took the food "box." We did marathon drives. There would be one long stop a day to play, run, and eat a picnic at a rest stop. Good times.

Munchkin said...

Three years ago while in a water park in Tampa, A very accurately renamed it the "do work river"

A said...

true statement, there was nothing lazy about that river

Cancun Carol said...

You are a good writer, your trips as a kid sounds memorable, and Im glad you are continuing the tradition with your girls, we still have one kids in diapers, so I totally understand about waiting. but im not sure thats going to stop us this year, thanks for sharing.


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