Our family spent Thanksgiving in a hotel this year, a first for all of us. Two of our daughters were in a cheerleading competition the Friday after turkey day, which required them to be awake and functioning at an illogical hour - so instead of getting up way too early and driving the morning of the competition, we decided to use the opportunity to make a mini vacation.
We haven't taken a lot of family trips, mostly because of our schedules being already slam packed - oh and that fact that we have too many children to ever take advantage of family deals, yet not enough to qualify for a group discount.
Also, traveling with 5 children is a lot of work...unless you have 6 children, then its a piece of cake - or if you have multiple nannies, and your own tour bus...that sounds awesome. Unfortunately we don't have either of those things, all we have is a van, with a tiny TV (that is NOT a TV, its a DVD player...which means I cannot "change the channel" - so stop asking kids!) and a broken remote control.
This time it seemed appropriate to take the children - I was going regardless, the discounted rate at the hotel was undeniable. After all, it was their competition not mine (I was told this several time when trying to practice with them...) so I guess they had to come. Oh yeah, and it was thanksgiving.
We made reservations at a shmancy fancy restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner, invited both grandmothers and had a few other surprises planned.
I spent entirely too much time doing an AWFUL job packing the morning that we were scheduled to leave for our vaca...I think I had convinced myself that there would be a closet full of new clothes at the hotel - because I barely packed enough clean underwear for everyone.
We hit the road by noon Wednesday and made it to the hotel not too shortly after that. The hotel, actually a resort, was beautiful, 4 pools, several places to eat, 2 lobbies (which still doesn't make sense to me) , an arcade!! It really was fantastic.
The first thing my kids had to do was go swimming. Regardless of the fact that it was 50 degrees outside. Their dad took them down stairs, while I did all the guests a favor by not putting my bikini on. I watched them through the window from the room, jumping into the pool and then running to the hot tub. They spent a good amount of time down there. When they came back up, one of my girls had a huge gash on her nose. I asked what happened, she said, that she had her eyes closed and didn't realize how shallow the pool was, scraping her face against the floor - ouch...and eww. She had a competition the next day - hopefully they didn't take points off for appearance.
That night we decided to go downtown for dinner. There is a permanant production of cirque du soleil in that area, which I had seen 10 years earlier when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. James surprised all of us by purchasing tickets to see the show while we were there.
While watching the show, I couldn't help but feel a little nostalgic. My oldest sat a row in front of me with my mom and her two sisters, my son and youngest daughter were on either side of me. I watched my children more than the stage. I loved seeing their faces light up, the seriousness of their brow line, and the whispers of surprise and amazement. I too felt those feelings, but for them. It overwhelmed me to think of myself sitting their 10 years earlier and being at the end of my childhood- only 18 at the time. Now as I sat there with my children, I felt the same joy, through them, and five times more significant.
After we left, I asked the kids what they thought, they told me their favorite parts and how their grandma kept telling them to "listen to the music" - which they were trying to do...but she kept interrupting. We laughed...and it felt wonderful to share that moment with them.
The next day, we had Thanksgiving dinner at a resturaunt not intended for children, after removing the 16 glasses and 8 steak knives from the table, my brood was on their best behavior. The food was delicious, and the service top notch. It was another experience that I hoped my children would later appreciate.
On Friday the girls had their competition, which lasted 5 hours...no no they didn't cheer for 5 hours, their actual performance was literally two and a half minutes - however awards are at the END of the competition. It was a long day. They didn't place in the top five, which I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little relieved for cheerleading season to officially be over now.
One of my girls took it pretty hard, luckily we had another surprise planned for that night, which would hopefully take her mind off of the loss.
My son's birthday was the week before and we decided to celebrate it on our trip.
We had made reservations to a pirate dinner show (our family really likes to eat...and my son likes pirates...win win). James purchased the "VIP" package for us that night, which included front row seats, interaction with the pirates, and special attention for the birthday boy.
When we arrived to dinner, we were swept away to a private room, filled with appetizers, a bar and a pirate who mingled with us. It was very "VIPish". James was asked to volunteer for the pre-dinner show, and was lead backstage. As the pre-dinner show started, we all waited with cameras out for his big debut...but he never came out. Even as we were walking into the dining room for dinner, he was M.I.A. A server lead us to our seat, less James. The server sat the children and their grandmothers front and center, and then showed me to my seat...away from the family! I was livid...James was still missing. Finally James appeared at the table, explaining that they had forgotten about him backstage, hence not including him in the show. That was strike two...I was furious. We got up to speak with the manager, and explained how they had separated our family - to the point that I could not even see my children, and kept James backstage for 30 minutes, missing out on part of the experience. The manager was very apologetic, bought us a round, moved us closer together and ended up refunding half of our money.
The show starts, I feel a lot better now, being able to at least see my children's faces. The show is really bad....they tried tying Christmas in with pirates, with a horrible plot about a magical treasure chest and there was this female elf - Pixy, who was...well..."talented", she climbed the ropes with no hands...I'm pretty sure, her sole purpose was to entertain the dads in the audience. As James and I are making innaproraite jokes, I look to see my children's reactions...they are completely enthralled. They are all wearing pirate hates and the girls are singing pirate songs, my son is pointing at the ship and making gestures about going up on the stage.
Dinner is served next. There is a woman with a cart dishing out steak, green beans and carrots. When I say one of the grossest meals I have ever eaten, I am not exaggerating. It was that bad. My kids ate it all up, hoping for dessert and wishing to be part of the show. Their wish was soon granted as a pirate came over and ushered them all up a ramp onto the prop ship. My son needed a little pep talk from his daddy, but once he was told that it was OK, he ran after his sisters, up the ramp as well. They were given another opportunity later in the show to go on stage, and this time no pep talk was needed.
After dinner, my son was presented with a "real" pirate hat and a birthday cake - which was rock solid frozen..and it wasn't icecream cake....he mostly licked it.
When the show was over, we had the opportunity to take pictures with the cast, which included santa...weird, yes...exciting for my kids though. We then went into another room with a DJ, where we did the chacha slide, and someone stole my sons hat off of his head...don't worry though, we got him a new one.
Overall the night was, strange. I personally would never recommend the place to anyone, but if you asked my kids, it was the highlight of their vacation.
Forget the 5 star resort we stayed at, the once in a life time restaurant, or the multi-million dollar - world famous cirque du soleil act that we took them too. Their favorite moment was being on a pirate ship, and taking a picture with (a very poor attempt at) some guy dressed as santa. And swimming....regardless of any injury, swimming is always thoroughly enjoyed.
Kids don't no better..for their own good. They enjoy things that are worth enjoying, and can't really appreciate a dollar amount. We try to provide them with great stuff, when all they need is great moments. I am sure they will look back when they are older and say "wow we did some nice things", but more importantly they found the fun in the less nice, the less luxurious, and the company in which they had. I am proud of my children, and a little disappointed in myself. For a moment, I forgot that it isn't what we do, it's who we do it with, that makes a moment magical.
I hope you all made memories this Thanksgiving!
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