We made good time on our drive, even staying at 100 kilometres an hour through Toronto and got to the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls by 2:30. I’m sure that the oversized, synthetic log cabin looks the same at any of their many locations but it’s fun to get your first glimpse of it. Reid and I actually beat Aunt Karin here. (Aunt Karin has the reputation of a speedy racer.) Aunt Karin had joked that if I said we’d be here at 2:30 or 3:00, she would plan to arrive at 3:30 and be here when I arrived. Or at least I told myself that she was joking.
Reid and I waited in line at the reception desk while the 3 business men in front of us checked in. From their reactions to the wristbands and mention of the waterpark, I don’t think they’d read about where they were coming for their meetings. Just as the last fellow walked away, Reid announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. We’d driven straight from Frankford, about 3 hours, and so it was a reasonable, if inconveniently-timed, request. There was no line when we returned and I was able to check-in quickly. The woman at the desk heard me tell Reid to go look to see if Aunt Karin had arrived and asked if I wanted adjacent rooms. I explained that I had no man with me and Aunt Karin had brought no kids but thought it was smart of the woman to offer to put 2 parties together. We received our wristbands and were headed to the car with a luggage cart as Aunt Karin walked in. The wrist bands function as room keys, lock and unlock the lockers in the waterpark and are scanned in the stores and cafes when you charge items to your room. It’s so convenient not to have to worry about where to keep a key card or money when you’re wandering the hotel or waterpark. As someone who once found herself on the wrong side of the locked hotel door in a bathrobe – and thank goodness for the bathrobe’s the Delta Montreal provides – I’m always looking for easy ways to keep my key. (Yes, I do have trouble with keys.)
In the short time we were in line, Reid had time to be awed by the animatronic animals in the lobby. There are wolves and racoons on the wall above the fireplace and a moose, bear and owl by the wold’s den and also a talking tree. Reid also discovered a couple of chipmunks in the rocks that make up the registration desk. At first, she touched the handprint on the wall without knowing what would happen. She jumped back a couple of feet, covering her mouth with her hands and staring in amazement as the chipmunk chattered at her. Once she was more comfortable, she still took a couple of hurried steps backward once she triggered the chipmunk. The moose, bear, owl and tree are much bigger than the chipmunks, of course, but don’t seem to be as disconcerting to Reid. Perhaps they don’t surprise her as they are in plain sight or because they don’t have the high-energy and high-pitched voices of the chipmunks. Seeing Reid’s smiles and knowing how much time we’d whiled away without even getting to the room, I was pretty optimistic that I’d chosen a good location for our mini-vacation.
I had booked a room with a Wolf Den this year. Last year, we were upgraded for free from a regular room to a room with Kid’s Cabin and so I switched to the Wolf Den because I’m nosey. The Wolf Den is a mini-room within the main room that looks like it is recessed into rocks. It has a window and doorway (no door) and a bunk bed, small table and a flat panel monitor tv with video game controller. The Kid’s Cabin had an additional bed but the rest was the same. I don’t know what system the controller works with or how to get the games since Reid doesn’t play and neither do I. The walls are papered as a mural with wolves and over forest creatures. Reid immediately headed for the ladder to the top bunk but required some assistance. As always I was pleased with her caution, I think it is a healthy reaction as long as she still tries the activity. I’m glad she isn’t a daredevil.
With only minimal, but mandatory, unpacking accomplished, we got into our swimsuits and headed to the waterparks. Unlike last year, I’d remembered sandals for both Reid and me. We put our things into lockers and I dragged Reid away from the first pool and on a tour of the waterpark so that she would know what her options were. Reid was most interested in the first pool with its floating snake, beaver, acorn and leaf pile. We returned there and she climbed on each of the floating things in turn – the snake is big enough to warrant climbing onto the head and tail separately. I climbed onto the snake with her and just as quickly slipped back off, to the amusement of both Aunt Karin and Reid. Undaunted, I climbed back on although I was a bit more careful the second time. Reid was quite taken with the pool where you’re supposed to hold onto a rope netting and walk across lily pads, leaves and slices of logs but it isn’t for girls who are 3.
I got both Aunt Karin and Reid to agree to a ride on inner tubes on Crystal River. It’s somewhat challenging to get yourself and a 3 year old comfortably seated in a round inner tube – Reid refused the figure 8 version – but I managed (Supermama!) and we enjoyed the ride. The river is *really* lazy. I’m not sure that one could complete a circuit without assisting the current or if you just have to be much more patient that Aunt Karin and I were. We both ended up walking or paddling a bit. Reid insisted on bringing our inner tube out of the water herself, paying no regard to the fact that the tube was rounder than she was tall. Determined girl, that Reid. Isn’t “determined” so much nicer than “stubborn”?
When we got to the “beach”, we played in the calm water for a while. Once the waves started, I looked at Reid to see what we’d do next. She was grinning and so Aunt Karin and I walked her a bit deeper and helped her to jump the waves as they broke at our feet. Reid laughed as the water splashed in her face and as she jumped. She encouraged us to go deeper. This was not the same daughter I’d carried from the waves last year. That girl was a mere toddler, brave in her way but still a toddler. The “new” Reid, at 38 months, talks through her fears and plans how she’ll act. When we first discussed the waterpark, Reid declared – unprompted – that she was not going to cry or move her head from side to side (like she does when I’m rinsing her hair in the tub) at the waterpark. Instead she would be getting her whole head wet, even her forehead. She would get wet all over, just like a fish. And she has. Last year, the big breakthrough she experienced was making Reid comfortable enough in the water that she was willing to break the vice grip on my neck that she applied whenever we got into a pool. This year, I’ve seen Reid’s confidence bloom.
We ate supper in our room, thanks to Grandma Joyce making spagetti rice at my request to send with Aunt Karin. She sent fresh cut veggies, too. Aren’t I spoiled? The room has a bar fridge and microwave along with the usual coffee pot. The microwave has a warning on it about being careful when cooking popcorn and instructions on what to do if the popcorn burns, including the requirement to call the front desk and open the patio door and direction NOT to open the room door. I wonder what they pay each time the fire department comes out for a false alarm triggered by burnt popcorn. Our microwave at home is on its last legs and takes forever to heat things. This one is very powerful. Supper didn’t come a moment too soon for Reid. She pulled the food out of the fridge and was setting the table as soon as she took her bathing suit off. We’d had an early lunch and skipped snack in favour of the waterpark. When her bowl of spagetti rice was in front of her, she declared it a favourite food and dug in. I had to go to one of the coffee shops to buy milk for supper. They didn’t have any skim milk in cartons but the woman working did sell me some in a coffee cup. I haven’t seen any comment cards but I’ll have to look for one. That little bit of effort made me a happy woman.
After supper we had time for another half hour or so in the waterpark before we had to get ready for storytime. Aunt Karin supervised from the deck, where she sat with a book, and Reid and I spent most of our time in Chipmunk Cove. This pool has 4 slides – 2 straight ones and 2 gently twisting ones – and is about waist-deep on Reid. It is reserved for people under 4 feet tall and those accompanying a child. Reid liked playing in this pool with water that came to her waist. She particularly liked the low basketball hoops when someone would lift her up so that she could slam dunk the ball.
With Reid in her pajamas, we headed to the lobby for the forest friends show and storytime. Reid had milk and cookies as a bedtime snack. There were Teddy Grahams in a clear plastic cup with a lid that had a noise-maker and straw sticking from the top. It was really festive. I think it would be good as a take-home treat at a birthday party. We listened to the mother bear and her cubs as they talked with the moose, raccoon and tree. Reid clapped along with the songs, doing the actions when prompted. The fellow from the Cub Club performed a very energetic reading of Mmm, Cookies! and Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch. I was a bit worried that Reid would get too wound up to sleep but when it was time for the Great Wolf Lodge howl, Reid laid her head on my shoulder. The only flaw in the proceedings was that Wiley Wolf didn’t come out for the stories. Biko the Bear came in his place but Reid didn’t see it as a fair exchange.
After a brief discussion of why Reid couldn’t sleep on the top bunk, Reid asked to sleep in the queen size bed and Aunt Karin agreed to sleep on the bottom bunk. I managed a brief call to Ken that would have convinced him that I was drunk had he not been familiar with how I get when I’m tired. We all stumbled to the bathroom and into our beds.