Home Ownership 101

Sir Monkeypants and I have been home owners now for 16 years, and yet, I still feel like I know nothing about home ownership. We bought our first home because we could afford to do so and it felt like the logical next step, but I really didn’t know anything about home repair or maintenance. When we sold that place, we had lived there for six years, and the home inspection that the buyers did revealed that the “furnace was dirty.” And I was all, of course it’s dirty! It’s a furnace! But then it turned out that you are actually supposed to have your furnace cleaned from time to time, DOH. Ours still had drywall dust in it from when the place was built. WHO KNEW.

So we moved to a new house and I was all, I know about having the furnace cleaned now, we are SOLID. But approximately once a week something breaks around here and we are left running to Google (thank God for the internet) to figure out what is going on. This is what happens when you don’t have any grandfathers living in town – my mom is actually pretty handy around the house but when it was something serious, she’d call my Papa over for help, and he always knew what to do.

Side story about my Papa: once, when he and my Nana were newlyweds, they rented a floor of a house. On the floor above them were some noisy neighbours who would play their record player late at night, loud. My genius Papa opened up the wall in their closet to access the wiring, and when the upstairs neighbours started to get their late night party on, he’d get out of bed and go to the closet and disconnect the wiring, and that would be the end of it. GENIUS.

Anyway! Last winter a plastic vent cover on the side of the house got broken through overzealous sled action, and I thought it was the dryer vent, so a while back Sir Monkeypants went out and bought a new dryer vent to replace it. This weekend we finally got around to getting it done and when Sir Monkeypants took the old vent off – there was nothing at all behind it. Like, it was literally a hole in the foundation, going from outside right into the basement.

At first we panicked, like, why is there a giant hole in our house? Then we Googled, and it seems this is an air intake valve – a place for an otherwise sealed up home to take in air, to equalize pressure differences caused by exhaust fans and central vac use. It’s common in cold-weather homes – if air is leaving the home, and there’s no other way for air to get back in because everything else is properly sealed up, then small gaps around windows, doors, and hose outlets start to get bigger and bigger.

So it’s good, right? But then we noticed that ours was a) totally blocked on the basement side by a wad of insulation, and b) totally missing the insulated hose that is supposed to bring the fresh air into the house and down to the floor. Meaning: random hole in the wall, required for our house to function properly, was never properly installed when the house was built, TEN YEARS AGO.

Sir Monkeypants fixed it, but this is the kind of thing that makes me wonder what else is wrong/broken/improper in this house, and eventually going to kill us or else make the place fall down to ruin around our ears.

When do I get to be all grown up, again?

The Cost of Things

Three times now in the past month I have had serious sticker shock at the cash register.

First, I was out with Gal Smiley at a bookstore and she found some little toy – a special effects noise maker. It’s a little box that fits in the palm of your hand like a smartphone, with a bunch of buttons on it, and when you press one there’s the sound of hands clapping, or a spring going BOING, or burp sounds, or other such hilarity. They have one like it on iCarly, which is an old TV show no longer airing but we have recently burned through on Netflix, and she really wanted it, and her birthday was coming up (was actually yesterday, she’s 10 now, but that’s a whole other crisis). So I agreed to get it for her, figuring it was a loot bag type trinket that cost maybe $4, but then, upon arriving at the cash, found out it was $16. SIXTEEN DOLLARS. I almost balked but she offered to pay for $10 with her own birthday money to bring the cost back into a reasonable range, so we made the deal, but STILL.

Then, we were out at Best Buy shopping for a new TV for our basement (pics coming soon! I swear!), and one of the children who shall remain nameless was having a Breath Issue, so I went over to the cash to buy a pack of gum. They only had these plastic cup style things of gum that have a bunch of chicklet style pieces, and when I went to pay for it, it was $5.30. OVER FIVE DOLLARS. FOR GUM. If it hadn’t been such a serious Breathing On Me Emergency, I wouldn’t have paid it.

And THEN, I was at IKEA getting some plastic storage boxes for the basement, and I needed these specific ones to fit into the unit we already owned, and I had already planned out the contents of each box, so there was no going back, but these (somewhat) crappy plastic bins cost $18. EACH. And I needed like, 10 of them. Spending $180 on storage solutions for my sewing stuff in the basement seemed absolutely ridiculous, but the plan was in place and I feared piles of fabric scraps all over the place for years to come while I tried to think of some less expensive solution, so I just did it, but I felt all kinds of dirty doing it.

So my point here is: a) is this how one becomes an old crone who says things like “back in my day” and “young whippersnappers”; b) how long will it be before I am giving poor teenagers who work the cash a hard time about the cost of things (admisssion: the young lady at the Best Buy did get an earful about the gum before I realized how I must seem to her); and c) are things suddenly more expensive now, or have I just been out of the retail loop for so long I didn’t notice, or d) have I been asleep, Rip Van Winkle like, for a couple of decades without noticing?

I feel old. But still: FIVE DOLLAR GUM. Excuse me while I make clucking noises and clutch my pearls. I mean, REALLY.

Most Non-Celebratory Family Ever, Apparently

Bedtime. The Little Miss is always chatty at bedtime.

Her: Something sad happened at school today.

Me: Oh really? What’s that, honey?

Her: We were working on our family tree project, and we had to say what celebration we celebrate the most.

Me: Oh, you mean like Christmas or Ramadan or Kwanzaa?

Her: Only I didn’t know what to say! I had NO IDEA! It was too confusing!

Me: That’s okay.

Her: So I just wrote, “Olympics.”

Me: SNORT.

Guess this is what I get for being a flag geek.

The Three Week Incubation

We’re into the third week of school and naturally that means I have a sick kid. Sir Monkeypants said yesterday morning, as I was calling the school to report an absence, that in the future I should just book off the third and maybe forth weeks of September to do no work at all, because there will obviously be sick kids parading through in a revolving door of sneezing, hacking, and lying around feverish on the couch in front of Indiana Jones/iCarly/The Little Mermaid (as applicable). Grrrr.

At the moment it’s Little Miss Sunshine on the couch, into her second day of illness. It’s just a cold, but a rotten one, and no one else wants my kid coughing all over their kid at school. But despite the fact that it was an easy call today, I’m still super pouty about it. Kids who stay home sick get a stern lecture about how this is Mommy’s Work Time and they are to Remain Quiet and Rest and that Mommy Is Not Available For Play. That does not stop them, though, from needing to eat, and needing to be comforted with a hot water bottle, and needing to ask for help with the DVD player, and needing to be SUPER BORED and annoy the pants out of me as they beg me to PLAY WITH THEM, just for a little while, please.

So it always ends up that I do no work, and fret about it all day long, and then get cranky, and then no one is happy. Why can’t my kids just live in a bubble and never get sick? Is that too much to ask? I THINK NOT.

While the Little Miss is at home we fortunately (well, not for her, but for me) have her homework book here to work away on, and she has an assignment this week to build a family tree, so we have been looking into that a bit. She has to write down the names of her parents and grandparents and siblings, and talk about her heritage, and then list a few key events from her life. This has led to an interesting point of discussion (at least for me) about how long a family history has to go back in a country to be considered “from” that country.

For example, filling out Sir Monkeypants’ side of things was pretty easy – where it said “my father’s relatives come from …” we wrote “India”, because he is of Indian heritage but also, his parents were actually born in India (although raised in Africa, but that’s another story). So you could clearly point to a family link to India and familiarity with Indian languages and customs and food.

But for me, answering this question was a lot harder. I’m a mongrel mix of various European cultures, mostly English and Scottish, but my family has been in Canada for like, five generations now, and I certainly no longer have any relatives that live overseas. But I think the idea of the project is to get an idea of how other cultures influence your history, so in the end I told her to write “my mother’s relatives come from England” even though my full knowledge of English culture comes from James Bond movies and articles in People magazine about Prince George and his future sibling (Royal Baby Watch, SQUEE).

So what do you think – how long before I can just say, “my mother’s relatives come from Canada”? Are North Americans ever “from” here? Or are we all, in perpetuity, “from” somewhere else?

Guess taking care of a sick kid puts me in a philosophical frame of mind.

Cat Deely: For Your Consideration

So Ricky ended up winning So You Think You Can Dance Season 11, and that is as it should be. I was a little disappointed, not in the final result but in the finale itself, as I felt it failed to show many of my favourite numbers, and in fact, did not show a wide variety of dances at all. There were THREE selections each by Sonia and Travis, while NO selections at all from Mandy Moore, Sean Cheeseman, Jean-Marc, or Spencer Liff, four of my favourites. There was no ballroom at all. GAH. I would definitely have preferred fewer guest stars, fewer “stars” from the audition rounds, and fewer “hilarious” clips of stuff happening on the show, in order to include more actual dancing.

On the plus side, Cat Deely was luminous. I feel strongly that she deserves an Emmy. I used to be pretty angry that she’d never been nominated, but at least that barrier is broken – she’s been nominated at least the last two years, I think. But seriously, have a look at this clip:

The way she holds everything together in the Big Moment, the way she is happy and excited herself – helping add to our own feelings of love and celebration – and yet is still clear headed and calm. And the way she guides Ricky and Valerie around effortlessly, and the way she dazzles even in the face of a million pieces of confetti hitting her (Gal Smiley’s Comment: “They must have spent like, TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS on confetti, geez”). She’s a super pro.

And while I’m going on about reality TV, let me just say that I am RATHER disappointed with The Amazing Race Canada and its seeming determination to save my most disliked team, Ryan and Rob, a.k.a. The Two Most Boring Humans On Earth. Their total lack of personality was making me pretty angry (these are the most interesting people in Canada, casting staff? REALLY?), so now I have to watch the show pretending the entire time that their interviews are so heavily laden with graphic profanity that they just can’t show any of it on TV, and instead must filter out their most banal of comments to present to the world. It’s the ONLY POSSIBLE EXPLANATION.

So yes, very disappointed that my hopes of their elimination were dashed YET AGAIN by ANOTHER non-elimination leg…fingers crossed for this week. GAH.

Back to School Blues

Tuesday was good. The kids got dropped off in the usual first-day madness (our school does not post class lists in advance, so all the kids and parents are mobbing the teachers trying to figure out where everyone should be – does your school do this?). Each of them got some – not all, but enough – of their friends in their classes; each one got a really great combination of teachers. So all in all it is looking to be a good year.

I spent Tuesday in a flurry of activity, getting tons of work done I’d been putting off for all of August, thinking, “Just a few more weeks and I’ll have time to do that in a quieter setting.” Wednesday, too, I was working on a dozen different for-work projects while simultaneously making bagels and doing laundry and feeling like a rock star boss.

And yet…now I find I am having some sort of school-related let down. It’s not loneliness, or concern about the kids. And after a whole summer of managing bickering and constantly renegotiating rules and packing picnics for various day trips, you would think that the relative sanity of a daily schedule, combined with time to sit with a cup of tea for 15 minutes all by myself whenever I feel like it, would be refreshingly comforting. But I’m still super cranky about…well, everything, really, getting frustrated at the lack of help around here, and then it not being exactly the RIGHT kind of help, and then no one caring about me, me, me.

I don’t know, maybe this is my midlife crisis. More likely it’s just getting back into the routine and feeling the flow again.

It does not help that my son’s new grade 6 teacher sent home an essay-style form for me to fill out yesterday, asking all about his personal interests, hobbies, and the amount of reading he does. I was forced to admit that he has exactly one interest (videogames) and exactly one hobby (videogames) and the amount of reading he does for fun is zero. Sigh. I felt like she’d be reading it thinking he was a huge, uninteresting blob, the product of huge, uninteresting parents who can’t even be bothered to get off the couch for a second to take their child for a walk around the block or a trip to the library. GAH.

So now on top of being cranky and oddly sad and generally out of sorts with everyone, I’m particularly harping on him to get a freakin’ hobby already, which I’m sure is confusing to the poor boy after a summer of basically unlimited access to his iPod, and I have new resolve to force him to read something or other every day, which I’m sure is going to be big fun for us both, but will happen, I swear.

Gritting my teeth over here, and determined to white knuckle it through the September Blues.

Basement Storage Opinions Needed

So we’re still working on finishing the basement, and progress has been slow but steady. I’ll post pictures when we’re ready for a more dramatic big reveal, but in the meantime, I’m soliciting advice on what to store where.

Our whole point in finishing the basement was to create some kid space downstairs – to stop using our dining room as a walk-in toy closet, and give the kids a more private (and contained) place to play with their friends. So for sure we’ll be putting all the LEGO, Playmobil, Hot Wheels, and Barbies downstairs.

(Even though I shudder at the thought of an ankle-deep layer of small sharp plastic objects coating the entire floor. Breathe, Lynn, breathe.)

Now we’re getting close to making the big move and there’s several other things that could or could maybe not go down there and I’m not sure what to do about them. Where do you keep the following items:

  1. Board Games. Our kids rarely bust out a board game on their own but we are avid gamers as a family. So should we store them all downstairs, and become downstairs game players? Or should we keep them upstairs so we can grab one and play on the (planned) dining room table after dinner? Should we put kiddie games like Snap and Snakes and Ladders downstairs, but keep the more grown up ones upstairs? Is there any chance of them all getting dumped out at once and adding every game piece ever to the ankle deep layer? SHUDDER.

    Related: puzzles. I like a good puzzle and I have a couple of bigger ones that are actually mine. Keep upstairs? Or all downstairs?

  2. Craft Supplies. My original plan was to put all the girls’ craft stuff downstairs – things like coloring books, beads for stringing, stamps, scrap paper. But now I’m afraid of what kind of damage they might do downstairs with no supervision. On the other hand, the craft stuff takes up a HUGE amount of space in our office, and we have lots of fresh new shelf space downstairs, so…trust them? Maybe? And what about stuff they use all the time for school, like basic pencil crayons, rulers, and erasers? Maybe keep some upstairs and some downstairs?

     

  3. Craft and Science Kits. Unlike general art supplies, craft and science kits usually create serious mess. I don’t want them exploding a volcano or creating glitter glue mosaics or sculpting bake-your-own charms or doing airbrush tattoos in the basement. But we have a shelf full of these kits and I really don’t want to give them primo real estate in my office. I thought of putting them downstairs on the highest possible shelf – but that probably means they will languish there unused for several years until I finally throw them out when the kids go to university. Hm, come to think of it…I could live with that. Sold!

     

  4. Costumes. In the toy closet/dining room, we have hooks on the wall for the most frequently used costumes; the others used to hang on hangers on a rack in the basement. Not sure I want to devote so much space to costumes downstairs though – the kids don’t use them as much as they used to, and the thought of putting hooks on our brand new walls hurts. How do you store your costume stuff so that kids can access it easily? Do you have a tickle trunk? Hooks? Shelves?

     

  5. Photo Albums. This isn’t really a kid thing, but I have decades worth of carefully curated photo albums and they also take up a ton of space in my office where they are in a closed cabinet, and no one ever looks at them. We have some nice new open shelving built into the under-stairs area and I was thinking of putting all the photo albums down there, where they might get pulled out and looked at (and at least, would be easier to access). But I’m nervous about putting photos in the basement – is it an okay environment for storage? Is it too humid? What if we ever got a flood? What if the kids treat them like colouring books? Is it too dangerous to keep adult stuff in the kid space?

     

Where do you keep your stuff?

Dance Show Top 4

So I think tonight is the Dance Show Finale, but I’m not sure, it’s all so confusing. I thought Cat said last week that last week’s votes would be added to this week’s votes to choose the winner, but then she described this week’s show as being the Finale, and the Facebook page seems to imply that this is the Finale, so I guess they are letting people vote during the show for the winner, then will announce it in the end, through the wonders of lightning fast computer tabulation?

I am a blogger of too little brain for this sort of thing.

In any case, setting aside discussion of tonight’s show, I have HUGE NEWS to share (many, many thanks to Sarah for letting me know about this).

Brace yourselves: DANCE SHOW IS COMING TO OTTAWA.

The Top 10/All-Stars tour will be in Ottawa, at the Canadian Tire Centre, on Friday, October 24, at 8 p.m. SQUEE. I’m totally going! You should come too! But join me in the cheap seats – even I don’t love Dance Show enough to pay $365 for a VIP front row seat.

(Maybe. If anyone reading this is with the press and wants to give me front row seats in exchange for a lavishly glowing review, I can easily be bought, is what I’m saying.)

So! Last week we lost Casey and Jacque, showing once more I am dreadful at predicting this show. I really thought I was not attached to anyone on this show, even Ricky, who I think is the best dancer but don’t really feel bonded with. But man, I was super sad when Casey got eliminated. I didn’t realize how much I had come to root for the little guy. Sniff. At least he went out on a high note and I’ll see him on the TOUR WHICH IS COMING TO MY CITY OMG.

Also, while I’m being ridiculously over-the-top excited about things: CHBEEB. I thought I might pass out from glee. Man, I love that guy, and the number he choreographed for Fikshun and Zack rocked. AND there was Sean Cheeseman rocking it with that amazing red balloon/ball number, AND there was Spencer Liff, who is my second favourite choreographer, rocking it with a giant swing, AND there was Jean-Marc being his adorably wacky Jean-Marc self, AND Jessica and Casey did the best disco I have seen on this show in YEARS. (And there was a Ray Leeper nightclub number which we will just say nothing about.)

So all in all – FABULOUS Top 6 show.

This week – Valerie and Zack have made it to the top 4 which means some awesome tapping awaits me, and that is a super bonus. Predictions: not sure I should even bother, but I will call Ricky for the win, although it does seem to me that Valerie has that Melanie-type smile about her that may carry her through. I have to say, any of the top 4 could win and I’d be fine with it, which is usually how a Dance Show season ends up for me, but I’m still super pumped and excited.

Which is all good. Dance Show forever!

A list of some favourite numbers from this season I’d like to see in the Finale (and in the LIVE SHOW OMG):

Valerie and Zack’s tap number to Sing, from the first week showcase show
Jessica and Stanley’s jazz number by Tyce D’Orio (the “flying carpet” number)
Tanisha and Rudy’s broadway number (Sing Sing Sing)
Both of the top 8 numbers – one to So Broken by Sonya Tayeh, one to Love Runs Out by Travis Wall
Zack and Jacque’s paso doble to Dragula
Jessica and Casey’s contemporary routine by Travis Wall (the one with The Kiss in the middle)
Emilio and Bridget’s jive to Happy
Both of the top 7 numbers – the girls to My Immortal by Mandy Moore, the guys to Wave by Travis Wall
Jacque and Chehon’s ballet
Ricky and Lauren’s rockabilly jazz by Mandy Moore
Jessica and Will’s Earth Song (where he’s the Earth, and she’s in the red dress)
Casey and Comfort’s hip hop (where she is the spider woman)
Valerie and Ricky’s broadway number from this week, with the swing
Jacque and Will’s number from this week, with the red ball/balloons
Zack and Fikshun’s ink blot number from this week, because CHBEEB

Ah Dance Show. I’ll never quit you.

Great Wolf Lodge

Last week we took a little trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls. For me, it was a test run for a potential bigger trip next year – this was the first time ever we have stayed somewhere where we didn’t have a kitchen. Due to the food allergy thing, a holiday for us never means a vacation-from-cooking for me, but Great Wolf came really highly recommended to us for food stuff, so we crossed our fingers and booked it back in the winter.

A quick overview: Great Wolf Lodge is a hotel in Niagara Falls that has an indoor water park. There are at least a half-dozen pools of various types, a dozen or so huge water slides, and tons of other water fun, all right inside the hotel. There’s also an arcade, mini golf, bowling, and other entertainments – and oh yeah, there’s this thing nearby called The Falls, if you can pull yourself away for an afternoon.

So! How was it?

Let me first say this: I never knew so many people had tattoos.

Second, there’s this: Great Wolf Lodge is a totally awesome time.

[Disclosure! Totally not a sponsored post, nor did we get any freebies or anything, because I'm too lazy to seek out such things.]

Thinking about going there? Here’s some tips I’ve got for you.

The Rooms: We had a Kids’ Cabin, which is a big room featuring a smaller “cabin” inside it, to give the kids and parents a little separation. Our cabin area had bunk beds and a day bed, to accommodate our three kids. We really liked the room and it was nice to stay somewhere that didn’t have a four-person limit, but know that the “cabin” beds were pretty small. They are smaller than a full twin for sure, just about five feet long and thinner too. So I’d say, if you have kids that are 12 or older, you’d be pushing the limit of the kid camp/cabin suites – time to look at a Family Suite or Loft Suite. (You can see pictures and details of all the suites here.)

The Water Park: The water park is SO MUCH FUN. We go to Mont Cascades every year and this was even more, packed into a smaller area. For babies and toddlers, there’s a gradual entry pool with a couple very small simple slides; plus there’s a lovely Crystal River where you can load yourself and your kid into a tube and just float around in a loop. For older kids (5 to 8 range), there’s a whole treehouse play structure where you can attack each other with water in a hundred different ways, and then slide down two rocket-fast slides to get to the bottom; you can also go on a few of the bigger slides in a tube with an adult. Older kids than that can ride the really big slides and they are zippy and fun and fast; my older two loved the slides but actually had just as much fun in the wave pool, on the Crystal River, and doing the “ninja warrior” course where you try to walk across floating lily pads.

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How were the wait times? The park is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and waits were definitely the smallest in the first two hours and last two hours, so we tried our best to be there for those times, and spend the afternoons doing something else. But even if afternoons work best for you, you can always get into the pool for some splashing fun, and the lines for the rides do move fairly quickly. We found the longest lines – for the Vortex, Niagara Rapids Run, and Wooly Mammoth – featured about five minutes of waiting in off-peak times, and no more than 15 minutes of waiting in peak times. So that’s not too bad, and probably what you’d see in any other water park. Note that we were there on a Monday through Thursday, so it may be busier on weekends and almost certainly is busier at Christmas and March Break.

Worried about safety? Don’t be. This is one thing I can say I was super impressed about – the lifeguarding staff was plentiful and always, always on high alert. They were constantly walking up and down the edges of pools, blowing the whistle at anyone doing anything remotely dangerous; at the top of each slide, even the little baby/kiddy slides, lines are tightly monitored and it’s strictly one person at a time. Once I got caught up talking to Gal Smiley at the edge of the wave pool, and the Little Miss got more than a 20 feet from me, and the lifeguard was on her in about two seconds asking where her parents were (kids smaller than 48 inches tall must be supervised in the wave pool). I saw them testing the water for quality often, and once I saw them run a lifeguard test where they secretly dropped a dummy into the deep end of the wave pool and timed how long it took the lifeguards to notice and rescue (um, about five seconds). It was all extremely reassuring.

The Food: I have to say a lot about the food, because it was hugely important to us, and a major feature of our visit. They have a meal plan at Great Wolf – $22 for kids per day, and $44 for parents per day. That covers your three main meals but no off-hours snacks. We bought the meal plan because we did not intend to leave the water park like, EVER, and also because our major food issues mean that we can’t just go off and eat wherever, so we knew we wanted to stay where we could work with the kitchen staff.

The hotel serves a massive breakfast buffet in the morning and a massive dinner buffet in the evening (both part of your meal plan, or you can just go there for individual meals as desired). For lunches, there’s a bunch of “fast food” type places in and around the water park, serving things like sandwiches, salad, chicken fingers and fries, pizza, and ice cream. If you’re on the meal plan you can get one “meal” (like a sandwich and drink, or a pizza slice, chips and drink) from these places; if not, you can pick and choose what you want from wherever.

Our overall impression of the food was that the two buffets were great, but the lunch time options were sort of typical theme-park stuff, which is not bad for a single outing but after three days it’s a little too much. But the advantage is that all that food is right there – if you are in the water park, you don’t need to get dressed and go out somewhere, you just hand your dripping-wet kid a five dollar bill and send them over to grab some nachos. So although it’s maybe not gourmet fare, it’s super convenient and good enough. The breakfast buffet is absolutely worth it, I don’t know why anyone would eat anywhere else, and the dinners were good too with plenty of options for everyone.

So in the end I definitely felt like the meal plan was worth it, especially if you have no intention of leaving the hotel (which we did not, as we have been with the kids to Niagara three times before so the Falls and Marineland and the Butterfly Conservatory and the main strip had all been done before).

A note on allergies: how it worked was that every time we went to eat something anywhere (either in the buffet restaurant or at the “fast food” type places), we just told them we had allergies and had to see a chef. Then a chef would come out and either walk us through our available options, or just make us something to-order based on what we can and can’t eat. Everyone was SUPER nice and helpful and our kids ate hearty. Still, it’s a lot of work at every mealtime to manage so I’m not sure I’m sold on the “stay someplace without a kitchen” idea – really a lot of the time it just would have been easier for me to make something. But that’s just me, I hate the feeling of bothering people or putting people out – rest assured that if you do have allergies, you WILL find food, help, and total understanding at Great Wolf Lodge.

What to Bring: Here’s a list of things we wished we had brought:

  • Band Aids – We had a few, but the bottoms of the pools are rough (so no one slips) and scrapes can and will happen. I happened to have some Elastoplast Fabric bandages with us and they did remarkably well at staying on even through multiple days at the water park.
  • Waterproof Watch – I had one, but Sir Monkeypants didn’t, making it hard to say “meet us at this slide at this time” when we split up.
  • Moisturizer – Bring a lot. Bring all the good stuff. Between being wet all day and showering afterwards, skin gets very, very dry.
  • Hair Dryer – There’s one in the room, but it’s tiny and the overheating shut-off mark is almost comically low (count on a minute or so of drying time, tops). A good dryer is handy for drying suits and kids’ hair before bed (but forget about maintaining your own ‘do in the humidity of the park – just bring a lot of hairbands and clips and elastics).
  • Warm Clothes – The park is kept very warm and you’ll never feel chilly. But once you leave the park area – it’s cold, especially if you’re wet, and and especially if you’re tired and hungry and wet. I only brought one pair of pants and one sweatshirt per kid, and they basically lived in that one outfit for the three days we were there. Definitely pack warmer PJs than you think you will need – long sleeves and pants recommended – and some cozy track pants.
  • Refillable Water Bottles – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! It is really easy, once you are in the water park, not to notice how much work it is. We forced the kids to break for mealtimes, even though most of us weren’t really that hungry. But what we often didn’t realize until we were out of the park was how incredibly THIRSTY we were, and it was hard to rehydrate once we were at that point. So on the second day we started bringing two refillable water bottles into the park with us and making the kids have a few gulps every time we went past our table, and it was much better.
  • More Bathing Suits – We brought two each and that was not bad, but if you have little kids who may be in and out of the pool area several times a day, working around meals and nap times, three or four suits wouldn’t be a bad idea.
  • Towels – This one is controversial. They provide towels in the park area and they’re good towels, all you will need there. In your room, there’s plenty of towels and fresh ones every day. But the problem is that you can’t take the park towels back to your room, or the room towels to the park. This means you will likely end up walking wet from the park back to your room, and it’s chilly in the hallways. So, should you bring your own towels, just for the hallway walk? We just sucked it up and braved it, but for little kids I would recommend bringing something thick and cozy (maybe a bathrobe?) to wrap them up in for the walk back to the room. You can also bring your clothes with you to the water park and dry off and change there before walking back to your room, but we decided to go for more privacy and walked back wet.
  • Floaties – Life jackets are provided (on a first-come, first-served basis, but there were always dozens available when we went), but if you have special floaties your kid likes (like water wings) they are absolutely allowed. The only place you can’t wear a life jacket or floatie is on the non-tube slides (Beaver and Squirrel Falls, which are at the top of the big treehouse thing). Your kid might want goggles, too, although my kids rarely wore them and were just fine.

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Money stuff: Use of the water park is totally included in your stay. If you get the meal plan, note that tips for the waitstaff at the buffets is INCLUDED (we did not know this the first two days, and were leaving cash tips for the waitstaff that brought our drinks and cleared away our buffet plates). Extra cash is required for add-on activities like bowling, the arcade, the spa, and mini golf, as well as kids’ craft activities (which are supervised, so parents can have a little adult time if you want to go on the big rides without your wee ones). You’ll also need a little extra for snacking or treats (although, we didn’t buy any additional food, just used some granola bar/cookie/bagel type snacks I had brought with us in our room – note that no outside food is allowed inside the water park). Just about everything there can be charged to your room, though, so no need to actually walk around with cash or a wallet – in fact, we went to the water park with nothing except our suits on and flip flops, because even your room key is just a plastic bracelet you all wear.

How Long Should You Go For? You can start using the water park as early as 1 p.m. on the day you arrive (official check-in is at 4 p.m.) and you can stay until closing on the day you leave (but you have to be out of your room by 11 a.m., or 1 p.m. if you pay a little extra for a late checkout). Driving from Ottawa, we left around 9 in the morning and, thanks to construction on the 401, didn’t arrive at Great Wolf until 4, but we still managed get in a couple of hours in the water park after an early dinner. We then had two full days of water park fun, and by the fourth day, our kids were pooped. Everything was still great, but when we hit our check-out time of 1 p.m., we were ready to get going – and looking forward to a few days of lazing about to recover. So I’d say the three-night stay was perfect for us, but a two-night stay would be great, too, if you are able to just do water park and ignore the rest of Niagara. If you’re going for longer than that, plan for some other activities – like visiting the Falls or going to Marineland – to break things up.

Overall I’d say we had a really, really great time. The kids said many, many, many times that this was the best trip ever. We had to drag them away and I actually thought Gal Smiley was going to make a break for it and hide in the change room so she could live there. The food was good and everyone ate and they did a great job of managing our zillion allergies. The staff was SO friendly and helpful.

Worth it? 100%.