Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Awkward Mom vs. Lodge Expectations

When Awkward Mom presented the idea of going to northern Michigan for the first Awkward Family Vacation ever, she talked about the unspoiled scenery, the beaches, the lighthouses, the rolling hills. It painted a picture of a Norman Rockwellian summer vacation with barefoot children collecting shells and romping in the bounty of nature. Who wouldn't want that? So, therefore, it makes perfect sense that she would book the Supers in a hotel that has a waterpark in it. Oh, and an arcade. And an interactive video game. And animatronic Chucky-Cheese-like creatures that pop out of a clock and sing once an hour. And an anime convention. Did I mention the salon or the gift shop? No? Well, let's let Awkward Mom tell you, shall we?

For the record, I had no idea about the anime convention.

I really did not intend to take the children to a resort for their vacation. I really didn't. What happened was that I did a search on Travelocity. Or was it Expedia? Which one does Captain Kirk work for? Oh well, nevermind; one of those sites. I was looking for a hotel that wasn't a chain. Something fun and quaint and unique. Something to perfectly capture the great family vacation to northern Michigan that I was looking for. And this Great Wolf Lodge thing popped up. The rates seemed fair and I thought it would be nice to stay in a lodge for our trip to northern Michigan. It just seemed a lodgey place, you know?

Well, for those of you too lazy to click on the link above, the Great Wolf Lodge is a chain. Don't feel bad about being lazy, I clearly didn't click on it because I didn't even know it was a chain until I walked into the lobby and saw all the flags from their different locations. Flags, Readers. There was a theme-song playing too. A theme song. In a lobby about as un-lodgey as can be, by the way. Well, that isn't really fair. It was actually massively lodgey. There were stuffed animals everywhere. Like Norman-Bates-taxidermy stuffed animals. Not children's playthings; although there were plenty of those in the gift shop. There was a big fireplace. There were wooden beams and tons of wooden furniture and bear pelts and lodge stuff. Like a ton of lodge stuff. Lodge stuff hanging off of nearly everything and nailed to every single wall. It was like the Cracker Barrel of lodge-stuff. But mostly, it was kinda like if Disneyland made a lodge, you know. Totally lodged out in every direction, and therefore, not really lodgey at all. Does that make sense at all? Here, this might help:

This is a photo of the clock tower (and residents) that sings throughout the day (more on that later). Do you see what I mean? Lodgey but Disney-lodgey.

Now, I have to confess something right away. I have never been to Disneyland. Or Disneyworld. Or EuroDisney. Or any of them. Is there one on the moon yet? Anywho, the point is, I don't really know what Disneyland is like. I have an idea about what it might be like. A prejudiced, exaggerated, mostly based on a Jim Gaffigan video I once saw, idea about Disneyland. I think of Disneyland as someplace rather sanitized, really bright, ultra peppy, super clean, and kinda fake. Now Readers, don't get the wrong idea! An idea like: "Hey, Awkward Mom wants to take her kids to dirty, dark, dank, real places." I would love to go to Disneyland. Or Disneyworld. Or Disneymoon. It hasn't been in the cards yet (as in the credit cards), but we'll make it there. I just wouldn't have referred to the Great Wolf Lodge as a lodge. I would have called it a resort. And here is the rub, I have never been to one of those either.

Now, before you get more wrong ideas and start thinking that the Awkward Grandparents had us working in sweatshops and kept us chained to our desks, we totally took vacations. Have you meet my mother? Of course, we took vacations. What is that? Oh no, I didn't mean literally, although I am sure she would love to have you over. She loves guests. We should all hang out sometime. What I really mean is: have you read about my mother here and here? The woman adores adventure and travel. She just never seems to adore staying at a resort or going on a cruise, and I am pretty sure she has never been to Disneyland. She is creative and wants to plan her own travel. She always wants to see something off the beaten path. This is the woman who once planned an entire Illinois road trip based around weird Abraham Lincoln statues. She had us trolling graveyards and peeking around trees on that one. Of course, the best part was when we nearly drove into a demolition derby to see a water tower with "an angry Abraham Lincoln, clutching the Emancipation Proclamation" on the side of it. I'll tell you about it sometime. My parents took us to Yellowstone, the Black Hills, the Badlands, the Rocky Mountains, Washington D.C., the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Alamo, Alaska, and even Northern Michigan. I have seen Hitler's Bicycle and a double-decker outhouse, but those are tales for another time.

My point is (I seem to be saying that a lot this post....) that my childhood vacations tended to be the home-grown, put it together yourself, travel book at the ready, Ikea-like vacations. The hiking around, picking rocks off the beach, going were the wind takes you, dirty, gas station bathrooms, meeting locals, eating fast food, getting ice in a bucket with no liner, entering the motel from an outside door (you know what I am talking about), nomadic vacation. Now, don't you feel sorry for me, Readers. I had it great. Talk to Awkward Dad if you wanna hear about traveling west in the summer with no air-conditioning, a basket of baloney sandwiches and RC colas, and just 1 Huey Lewis tape to listen to. You'll pull out your violins for that one. Unless, of course, you love baloney and rocking out to the Power of Love.

OK, here is my point (last time, I swear): while I would love to take a cruise or a tour or go to a resort or go to Disneyland, I never have. To me, a family vacation involves a lot of driving, a lot of walking, and a lot of really weird sight-seeing. Now, this Great Wolf Lodge is acing that last one, but it wasn't what I was expecting. And we all know how dangerous expectations are. The ugly dirty shameful truth is that I kinda wanted to recapture my childhood a little bit. (Horrors!)

But I did. You know, watch my kids go romping down the beach, oohing and aahing over pretty rocks. Actually watch them. Have the time to sit there and watch them play without having to race here or do this or feel all the million tiny pressures of the house. I wanted that feeling of adventure and freedom again. I wanted to see them pleased; I just thought it would be with things other than giant water slides. But if there is one thing I have learned about parenting, it is that your expectations will always be shattered. But I could have the idyllic family vacation I wanted with my family. I just had to recalculate my expectations a little. And I did. Very quickly. Like the second the Supers went tearing across the lobby to press their faces up against the windows into the water park. Well, it might have taken until second 2, when Awkward Dad went tearing after them to do that same thing. Or maybe, it was second 3, when they all turned to me with grins the size of Texas and asked, "Can we go?"

"Yes, we can go."

"Just let me check out this weird clock thingie first."

And we'll tell you all about the clock thingie when you tune in next time, Readers! Stay tuned. And don't feel too bad for Awkward Mom and her expectations. Sometimes, they are met perfectly:


  1. I love, love, love the idea of Awkward vacations. Definitely some of my best vacation moments were ones that were unplanned or off the beaten track. I'm so glad there are other people out there who understand that! :)

    That said, I think you already know that I adore Disneyland. I'm crossing my fingers that the Awkward Family gets to experience it before Super P outgrows princesses!

    1. Oh, we are gonna get there! I am hoping that it is before he outgrows princesses, but since he has been into them since he could talk, I have high hopes!

      Hope you guys get an awkward vacation or 2 in soon!