This year we are about increasing the "Christmas Spirit", and decreasing "Christmas Accumulation". We wanted to make the whole Christmas season special for the kids, and for ourselves. We are trying to fill the Christmas lead up with family time. As I mentioned yesterday I am trying to make memories for them. I want them to look at their childhood with loving nostalgia.
We asked the kids how they felt about having a mini-vacation in place of "some" gifts. They were all onboard. Phase one of the mini vacation was traveling to the Adirondack Mountains. The drive was breath taking. I kept asking Christopher if the people who live there know how lucky they are to be surrounded by such beauty. It was shortly after that we saw a sign for one of the small hamlets that said "A nice place to visit, but a better place to live." The kids are good travelers and there was limited "How much longer until we get there?" We had found a Christmas radio station and had the carols cranked and sang along. It was a really nice drive.
As we pulled up in front The Six Flags Great Escape Lodge, the kids all let out squeals of delight. The building was stunning in and of itself, but they had it all decorated for Christmas. There were giant Lego blocks stacked in front of pine trees done up to the nines with sparkling lights. There were rocking horses and giant gifts. Two huge nutcrackers decorated the entrance to the lodge. The kids were so excited that they were vibrating.
When we walked into the lobby the kids were even more excited than they were out front. The lodge was stunningly decorated. It was magic. They darted around not even sure where to begin looking while Christopher checked us in. I will admit that I felt the same as the kids did, I just tried to keep it shut up inside so that I looked like a grown up.
We were very fortunate that we arrived on the Sunday in really great time, and because they were not busy we were able to get into our room earlier. The kids ran around our room looking at everything, but the whole time they were desperate to get to the water park. We told them that we would not be going to the water park until 4, but that there were all kinds of activities planned.
One of the wonderful things about the week-ends are all of the family Christmas activities that the lodge has. The kids had their picture taken with Santa. There was caroling. There were so many activities that it was difficult for the kids to decide just what they wanted to do.
After they had their picture taken with Santa we decided to end their agony, and we all went up to our room to change into our bathing suits. The water park is the perfect size. It was small enough and when we went quiet enough that we could allow the big kids some freedom to do things by themselves as long as they stuck together. The big kids were most excited about trying out the surfing. There is a big surf machine that allows the kids to ride a surfboard. They lined up, excited and nervous. I was in hysterics as I watched my poor little Rowan thrown around, knowing that I should be feeling sympathetic, but unable to contain my hysterical laugher. When it came time for Grace to go, she was scared. She just stood there at the top of the surf wave, unable to make herself hurl down. The line behind her waited patiently. I walked up to the side and tried to encourage her, knowing that if she did not push past her fear, she would regret not trying. Riley and Rowan and I started chanting "Go Grace Go... Go Grace Go!" We were amazed when that chant became louder with "You Can DO IT!" The other people in line were all cheering her on. Tears came freely to my eyes, as she swallowed her fear and dove in. The line all exploded into applause and cheers when she had finished. She wore this great smile of accomplishment and amazement.
After a few hours of fun at the water park we got dressed and headed to the arcade. Again it was big enough for there to be lots to do, but small enough that we could allow the kids some freedom, I really appreciated that. They all found something fun. The favourite game of everyone was hands down Skeet ball. Even Elly got into the joy of Skeet ball. They all proudly walked up to the counter with their receipt in hand ready to claim their prize. I felt sorry for the kid behind the counter. He stood patiently waiting for them to agonize over which junky prize to pick. If I were him I would have been shouting "HURRY UP AND PICK YOUR STUPID PRIZE KID!" He stood patiently as they pressed their faces up against the glass examining all of the little plastic prizes, terrified of making the wrong choice. Eventually I did shout at them "HURRY UP AND PICK YOUR STUPID PRIZE!".
After the trip to the arcade we stumbled upon Santa's magic show. The kids all found places on the floor, settling in to watch the magic. They wore faces full of wonder and awe. After Santa's magic show, it was Mrs. Claus's turn. She read the children a story. All of the little eyes were upon her, listening intently to her every word, not a peep could be heard from the crowd.
At the end of Mrs. Claus's story, Santa had one more trick to share with the kids. He asked them all to close their eyes, and when they opened them, he would show them his magic. When they opened their eyes Santa had made it snow inside. I stood there blinded by tears hoping that no other adult was looking at me. The little faces were so excited to see Santa's magic. They were jumping trying to catch the snowflakes. It truly was magic.
After the snow Santa asked the kids to all line up behind him. He then told them that he and Mrs. Claus would like to give them each a good night hug and a little kiss. They all sat on Santa's lap and he talked to each one of them. While they were in his presence he made them feel like they had his full attention and his love. As they were leaving, Mrs. Claus handed them each a Hershey's Kiss.
We then went up to get ready for bed. The kids were so excited, but little did they know what excitement was yet to come. The lodge has a wonderful fee based activity. For $12.95 a child, Santa will come to your room and bring your child(ren) cookies and milk and tuck them in. When there was a knock on the door Christopher told them it must be maintenance. Standing at the door was Santa. The kids were beside themselves. He came in and asked who would like some milk and cookies. The then sat on the bed and talked to them all. Just before he left he told the kids "I know what you would like for Christmas, but what do you think I should bring for Mommy and Daddy?" Riley shouted out "A new Car" "I think that's maybe too big" Then Rowan thought for a moment "Santa, my Mom really likes Coke, maybe you could bring her some Coke." After he had left Riley turned to me and said "I think that's the real Santa Mommy." I asked her why. "Because you know that he loves kids Mommy, I could see it in his eyes. I know that was the real Santa!"
We stayed for two nights. On the second night we were the only guests at the hotel. It was amazing. We all went down to the big beautiful fireplace with books and read. It was a slice of heaven. I think that vacation added years to my life. The staff were amazing and accommodating. The lodge was spotless. When it came time for us to leave the kids were all in tears because they did not want that magic to end.
As we drove away from the lodge all of their little heads were craned looking back. "Can we please come back next year?" "This was worth giving up gifts for. Thank you Mommy and Daddy for bringing us."