My Tips for a Fun Trip to The Great Wolf Lodge

Another trip to the Lodge, another blog post to commemorate it!  I've shared my other posts with friends, to give an idea of what The Great Wolf Lodge is like.  So, I figured it was time to put an easy little list of things that I've learned and what works well for us when we visit.

balloon spider!
  • Book early and only with coupons.  If you've never visited, they always have a new customer deal and others listed on their website.  We got a new customer discount on our first visit.  After that, we are on the mailing list and get emailed great deals.  Also, keep an eye out for Groupons/Living Socials and book midweek if you can.  It was so nice to go on a Thursday, instead of a Saturday this time around!  Less expensive AND less crowded.
  • When booking, prepay for the breakfast buffet.  If you are a family of 4, they have a great deal for a breakfast voucher for only $40.  This is a great savings and includes your drinks.  We've done this for each stay, because we are DOWN with the buffet and it's an easy was to save nearly $20.
  • Keep your eye out for a link to coupons in reservation confirmation emails.  We used at least one for our tradition of buying souvenirs for the kids and another for MagiQuest.
  • Eat an early lunch, or lunch in the car ride there, and bring a separate pool bag to easily stow in the lockers.  On our last trip, we weren't able to check into our rooms right away and we just brought bathing suits, goggles, a few small toiletries, and shower shoes/flip flops (a must for all the walking around in bathing suits) in a small bag.  That way, we were able to head straight to the pool to start enjoying the water park right at 1pm. 
  • When checking in, it doesn't hurt to ask for a room on a higher floor and away from the elevator.  Specifically, you'd want floor 6 or higher in Grand Mound, due to all the MagiQuest shenanigans.  Plus the views with balconies were pretty nice!
  • Bring goggles and have everyone wear them around their neck so as not to lose them.  If your kids are anything like mine, swimming in the wave pool gets the most attention and it saves a major red eye situation.
  • DON'T BRING life vests/floaties, or towels.  They have plenty!
  • Tips on slides: the big ones (Howlin' Tornado and River Canyon Run) are cool but over really fast.  Also, the Tornado can be SCARY and may involve tears (mine) the first time around.  The ones where you carry your own inner tube up the stairs (Alberta Falls) are WAY more fun, have shorter lines and seem to last longer.  
  • Bring big bottles of water to keep in the room fridge.  You need to hydrate with all the activity and water is way expensive at the lodge.
  • Go during October for Howl-o-Ween!  This was an unexpected perk, as I was just trying to plan a trip over an school in-service day.  Trick or treating was a FANTASTIC distraction to get the kids out of the water, which is normally like pulling teeth.  
  • When you do pull the kids away from the water park, get them showered in the locker rooms regardless of whether you checked into your room.  I take my daughter and my husband takes my son and we get them showered up before going back to the room.  Saves time and the adults can take turns showering in the room while the kids enjoy the OMG BUNKBEDS and some time with their Kindles.  Speaking of...
  • If your kids play Minecraft, it automatically connects to the free Wifi and they can play in the 'worlds' of other guests at the resort.  I'm fine with this and my boy actually sparked up conversations with other kids and had a lot of fun building and seeing new stuff.
  • Go off site for dinner!  Specifically, if you're in Grand Mound, go to McMenamins!  They have great food for the adults and kids. 

  • Get a Mai Tai for the clock tower show.  You might need one by the end of the day and they are DELICIOUS.  Really, you can get your drink on any time of day at The Great Wolf Lodge...
  • If your kids are a bit older (6ish plus), you really don't need to stick around for the story hour.  It's usually really crowded and hard for them to hear anyway.  We spend the after dinner time picking out souvenirs and spending a little time in the arcade. 
  • If you play MagiQuest, definitely plan for at least an hour or more of time to complete quests.  We swim on the first day and then do quests on the second day before heading home, and the kids are a-OK with that!

  • If you bought a MagiQuest game on a previous visit, but didn't finish, ask if they can extend the time.  We still have at least one quest left over after two visits - so extend the game if you can.  It's worth asking, and luckily, they added time for us without charging us.
  • Ask for help if you need it!  The folks at the MagiQuest store will be more than happy to help, especially if you've exhausted all avenues and they'll usually give you a tip or two on the final challenges (as shown above).
  • Wands only light up things around the resort if you've paid for a game.  This was a new and SAD development, as my five year old is not really at the age to play MagiQuest.  Yet she has a wand and used it on previous visits to light up all the fun stuff around the resort.  No longer.  Womp.  She was pretty upset about it, so I guess we'll pony up for a game next time - whether she plays it through or not.
That's all I can think of for now, and I hope it's helpful!  If you've visited and have other tips to share, I'd LOVE to hear them. 


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This Weeks Eats 10.25.15 (And Pumpkin Carving!)

Another year, another pumpkin carving session DONE.  I know I get a little crotchety about Halloween, so I tried my best to get into the spirit.  My son is old enough to do his own carving with those serrated carving kit knives, and that made it a faster and more fun process.  

He made a Minecraft Creeper (of course), with a full moon and a cloud with a lightning strike - in case you didn't catch that.

We also decorated tiny gourds and I even roasted the pumpkin seeds!  (A little olive oil, sea salt and a few dashes of Lawry's seasoned salt at 300 for about 45 minutes - tossing a couple of times.)

The smell of cut up pumpkins and roasting seeds was rather nostalgic for me, and I suppose I can get a little bit more enthused about the whole process next year...  In addition to pumpkin seeds, here are this week's eats:
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


A Few of My Favorite Things

Another long hiatus since I did a favorite things post, and it's time to remedy!

A few weeks ago we made a very quick stop at Whole Foods (emphasis on quick, because the only thing we spend money on at Whole Paycheck is the fresh Parmesan cheese), and they had huge bottles of Everyone Soap for Every Kid on sale at the checkout.  Six bucks for 32oz of non-irritating kid soap!  SOLD.  It smells sooooo good and will last us a good long time.  

Speaking of the kids, we are OBSESSED with Song of the Sea, which is streaming on Amazon.
It's a old Irish folktale about selkies, and my son happened to be reading a Magic Tree House book involving selkies when we watched the movie.  Needless to say, my kids are way into the idea of people that can turn into seals.  I just adore it and can watch it daily, at least for now.  The music is lovely, the animation is dreamy, and the main character is named Saoirse - which I secretly wanted to name my baby girl, but knew that my husband would veto and no one in America would be able to pronounce it.

For the adult viewing, have you binge watched Bloodline yet?  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?
I could watch coach, I mean Kyle Chandler, read the phone book, so maybe I'm biased...

For days when I'm short on time and don't get to checking out the news online or otherwise, I love getting The Skimm for just a straight-up, un-biased breakdown of what's going on in the world.  It's a daily email, Monday through Friday - which I appreciate, that skims all the important news stories of the day for you.  Sign up here

I was SO lucky to get a complimentary pair of Stance socks while at Bird Camp this year, and they have quickly become my favorite.  Especially the crew length socks - they keep dirt from getting in your socks, feel a little extra supportive, without having to wear full on compression to your knees.  Plus, how FUN are they??

Is it weird to recommend underwear?  If so, I apologize, but I gave these cute lace runner undies from Aerie a shot and loved them so much I bought a second round of seven pairs (7 for $27.50).  
I recommend sizing up if you're in between sizes, and the lace lays perfectly flat/doesn't dig in, so they are really low on the, ahem, VPL scale.

Okay, I've been heavily pod-casting during my runs, so no new songs for the playlist.  However if you're not already listening to The Nerdist, This American Life or Another Mother Runner, you should!


This Weeks Eats 10.18.15 (and a Visit to McMenamins Olympic Club)

Another fabulous time at The Great Wolf Lodge was had by all this week, and I'll probably go into more detail on that later.  However, I must tell all locals who visit the Lodge to definitely check out McMenamins Olympic Club in Centralia.  

It's SO worth taking the quick 15 minute drive from the resort for some tasty drinks and the best freaking tater tots.
I had a nice little Rye Whiskey Sidecar and my husband got one of their own tasty brews (the Hammerhead Ale).  We shared the Cajun Tots and I ordered the baked mac and cheese with Cajun chicken, blue cheese and toasted bread crumbs.  I don't usually go for rich cheesy entrees, but I'm glad I splurged! 

The kids menu also had great choices, even though my kids went for their usual: pizza for the boy child, mac and cheese for my girl.  And they were QUALITY.  We definitely snuck a few bites.

It did feel a little weird bringing them into the restaurant, as it was reminiscent of some of my favorite old Chicago bars!  Lots of 'No Minors' signs, but everyone was very welcoming and pointed us in the right direction to the dining room.  Plus, the always appreciated crayons and coloring pages were supplied.
Since it was a weeknight, it wasn't too busy and the kids poked around a bit.  We gave them their tablets after they ate so we could decompress.  And we got back to the Lodge right on time for the evening story time and clock tower show.  Best decision ever.  It seems that everyone in my Facebook feed was visiting the new McMenamins in Bothell on the same night.  The grand opening was on Thursday and it's only five minutes away from our house.  Hopefully we'll make it there soon!

This week...

Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Slow Cooker Spicy and Creamy Pumpkin Soup (trying this recipe from Cooking and Beer)
Wednesday - Grilled Chicken with Rice and Veggies (trying this new marinade from Blogging Over Thyme)  
Thursday - Hot Dogs on the Grill and Alexa Tots (easy soccer practice night meal)
Friday - Quinoa Enchilada Casserole (from Damn Delicious)
Saturday - Korean Short Ribs and Wasabi Mashed Potatoes (recipe from Williams Sonoma)
Sunday - Grilled Chicken Chopped Antipasto Salad (dying to try this recipe from Lexi's Clean Kitchen)

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


This Weeks Eats 10.11.15

Another busy fall week has come to an end.  I started my regular volunteering gig at the kids' school the same week that I was helping out with the biking unit in PE class, as well as the annual jog-a-thon.  

I put in at least six hours last week, but it was all so much fun - especially the jog-a-thon.  I'm really impressed at how big brother paced himself to run the entire time this year, since he's prone to sprinting and walking or chatting.  He got way more laps this year. 

Soccer is also taking up a fair bit of our time.  The games are much later in the day this year, leaving less time to prep our Saturday night (after the kids go to bed) dinners.  We're getting pretty good about doing what we can ahead of time.  And I think we're going to do the One Pot Cheesy Italian Sausage and Spinach to make things even easier this weekend, since we'll be recovering from a little trip to the Great Wolf Lodge...

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


Books I Read in September 2015

I only got through three books in September.  Boo.  Maybe due to the fact that there is less beach time, and lots of crazy back to school shenanigans in September?  The fact that I took my time reading Once A Runner, because it was a) hard for me to get into and b) I had to dissect it for the #LDRclub were also contributing factors, methinks.

Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durant

So, I know I get a little annoyed with all the "It's the next Gone Girl!" proclamations, but this had VERY similar nuances and pacing.  It reminded me of Gillian Flynn in a good way.  The story was creepy as hell and I was definitely still guessing how the plot would unfold until the bitter end.  My one complaint was that I felt mired down in so many extraneous characters - still a good yarn.


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I was reluctant to give this novel a go, since I couldn't even finish the first book in Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series.  However, so many book buddies just adore the Raven Cycle stories, and my curiosity got the better of me.  I'm SO glad I read it!  It took me a little bit to warm up to the story, as it's not quite linear; even after finishing it, there are still mysteries to be solved.  But once you get to know these FANTASTIC characters, the story just takes off.  I adored the friendship dynamic the Raven boys have with each other and with Blue.  It's a totally odd, very cool and magical (in every sense of the word) novel and I've already acquired the second book to read this month.  


Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr.

Oh, where do I begin with this book?  Clearly I didn't like it, if you followed along (or go back and read) our Twitter chat.  It's a self-published novel that really seems like one: heavy use of a thesaurus, a lot of indulgent scenes and characters that just disappear.  There were a few great moments and descriptions, but not worth the slog and misogynistic tone.  Some of this can be blamed on the times in which it was written (in the mid-70s) and the fact that it's directed toward a very narrow audience.  Either way, I don't usually read books about running, as I sort of compartmentalize the running as escapism part of my life from my reading books as escapism.  But, I did love The Running Dream and HIGHLY RECOMMEND that book for inspiration.  I'm also looking forward to some of the titles that were already been discussed for next month.  As for Once a Runner, if you're a runner (especially a competitive male one) and like to read a story to nod your head along to while proclaiming "TOTALLY!" - then this is the book for you.


Favorite Crock Pot Recipes Round Up (and This Weeks Eats 10.4.15)

I'm settling in for some Sunday night football, with Jalapeno Popper Chili in the crock pot, and it smells deeeelicious.  It got me thinking that I should have all of my favorite slow cooker recipes in one place for this time of year.  Chilly fall nights, especially football game or hectic soccer practice nights, call for an easy hot meal.

In no particular order, here are all my ten favorite taste tested and approved recipes:

  1. Crock Pot Barbacoa Beef (from Skinnytaste)
  2. Slow Cooker Cream Cheese Chicken Chili (from Plain Chicken)
  3. Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Salad (from Everyday Reading)
  4. Jalapeno Popper Chili (also from Everyday Reading, in the pot tonight!)
  5. Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup (from Real Mom Kitchen)
  6. Pioneer Woman's Chicken Chili Adapted for the Crock Pot (my adaptation of this recipe pictured above)
  7. Bridesmaid Pumpkin Soup (also my recipe)
  8. Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Blue Cheese Slaw (from Mountain Momma Cooks)
  9. Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken (from Just a Taste)
  10. Slow Cooker Jalapeno Popper Chicken Taquitos (from Creme de la Crumb)
I also did a small crock pot chili round up last year, and we'll be making one of those this week along with one listed above!  And if you're into roundups, I put together my favorite freezer meals here (also making one of those to half and freeze this week).
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


October Goals and September Recap

Where did September go?  That was a crazy whirlwind month, as usual.  And it really doesn't show signs of slowing down in October!  But before I get to that, gotta do a little self evaluation on last month's goals...

September Goals

Establish a routine, and try my everloving best to be patient with homework. 

The first part is still a work in progress.  Morning routines are down pat, which is the most critical.  And homework has been a BREEZE.  My kinder only has a reading log - not a five page packet of doom that her brother had when he was five.  This is a load off.  Plus, the third grade teacher is really easing us in slowly with just math and reading logs so far!  I wonder if the "homework isn't always beneficial" memo has gotten out?

Check off all school commitments: new year paperwork, volunteer application renewal, volunteer training, curriculum night, etc. 

Phew!  All those events and to-dos are done.  Just in time for the conferences and the school jog-a-thon to pop up in October...

Fill out a new day planner. 

Yay!  Isn't it cute?  I finally caved to one that has a weekly view, but it's still not an enormous thing to cart around in my purse.  Highly recommend Ban.do planners.

Go bowling!  

This was, obviously, a fun one to check off the list.  I'm amazed at how easy they make things for families nowadays.  Computerized bumpers that go up when it's the kid's turn, and back down again when it's the adult's.  Plus little ramps for the five year old to roll her ball down.  So cute!  
And, of course, black lights and rock music.

Get myself a haircut!

Done!  Aaaah, another fall chop - pretty much like the last time I got a big cut.

Tackle downloading/organizing those iPhone pics.

Yeah, I nearly broke my computer waiting for them all to download, but it's done.

October Goals
  • Get the kids (and ourselves) scheduled for flu shots.  (Fun!)
  • Get cracking on Halloween costumes, decor, carving pumpkins, trick or treat plans on the same night as a soccer game, blahhhhhh. (I kinda hate Halloween.)
  • Finish up fundraising/paperwork/volunteering for the kid's jog-a-thon.
  • Schedule the dogs for boarding and get ready for another trip to the Great Wolf Lodge.  Oh yeah!
  • Start training for a 5K!  I recently realized that the Snohomish River Run was moved to a Sunday this year and don't think it'll work with our schedule, so I opted for the Redmond Turkey Trot instead.  I'm really glad about this, because I've wanted to tackle another 5K and don't really feel like another 10K goal race after doing two last year.
  • Finish up Once A Runner and prepare for the in-store wrap up of Oiselle's inaugural Long Distance Reading Club - last month I was tasked with leading up the Q&A for this new book club venture and you can get the gist of how the first half discussion went down on Twitter via the #LDRclub hashtag.  The wrap up will be another Twitter chat on the 13th at 5:30 PST, as well as an in store gathering at 6:30 - come on out and help me dissect this book!