by Melanie Nicholas
Well, I ended 2019 spectacularly: my first solo vacation with the kiddos to the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine.
Now, I know a lot of you might not understand my sense of triumph, but let me just say these two words -- Dallas traffic. That place is nuts. I have never seen so many people driving so fast with absolutely no idea where they are going. Or how to get there. See an exit? No reason to move on over, one lane at a time using a turn signal. Much easier to accelerate to 95 and cut across all four lanes and then slam on your brakes just as you careen into the exit lane. Miss the exit? Pull over to the shoulder, throw it in reverse and, hell bent for leather, back it up until you get there!
I am like the tortoise, slow and steady. But Dallas traffic does not appreciate my methods, and I get lots of evil eyes from people swerving about while trying to cut me off. So I just smile and wave and keep rolling on.
Second, I am a helicopter parent. I want eyes on my kids at all times. I take Bodacious to the bathroom, The Hubs takes our son. But not having Dad along for the trip caused a little friction for myself and the boy when it came time to use the facilities. Apparently, almost 12 is too old to use the women’s bathroom with your mother. So on this trip, we had to compromise. That looked a little like this. I walked him to the door of the men’s bathroom and looked inside. Then I stood there, giving every other man walking into the restroom the “don’t even THINK about messing with my kid” eye. If it started to feel like he was in there a little longer than he should be, I began yelling inside the door whenever someone else came through it to check on him and prod him along. I am sure everyone was mortified but I did not care one bit.
The Hubs and I also have a nice little division of labor going on when it comes to luggage. He does all the labor. Without him to carry all the stuff, I was a little concerned about being able to manage everything. Now, my kids are old enough to carry their suitcases themselves. It’s everything else that travels with them. What starts as one suitcase per person quickly evolves into one suitcase, one coat, one pillow, one blanket, one electronic device plus headphones and chargers, one book and two stuffed animals. And folks, they just simply cannot manage all that. Even when you stuff it all into the pillowcase and wear a blanket as a shawl, it can’t be done.
Now, if you haven’t been to the Gaylord, it really isn’t the kind of place you should pull up to looking like the Beverly Hillbillies. But invariably, there we were, sliding into the valet with a million plastic bags, a Batman mask and a flurry of Pop-Tart wrappers falling out of the car.
Finally I managed to get us all together in some semblance of Look Like You Have A Mother, and we headed into the lobby. I explained to my son that with his dad MIA, he was going to have to step up his gentleman game. He would need to help with bags and, most importantly, navigation in the hotel. I cannot for the life of me ever remember where our room is or the elevators are. He assured me that he was up to the task.
After we made it to the room, we decided to get a snack and change into our warm clothes. We were there to meet my sweet friend Posh Spice and her family for Gaylord ICE!, the hotel’s annual winter celebration. The hotel connects to a convention center filled with ice sculptures, ice slides and ice skating. The ice sculpture exhibit is kept at a finger-numbing 9 degrees, so I packed everyone into long johns, sweats, hats, gloves and coats. I am not exaggerating when I say I worked up a bit of a sweat getting the kids dressed for icepocolypse in our balmy 70-degree hotel room. We looked a lot like Randy from “A Christmas Story,” waddling around in his red snow suit. I don’t know how Yankee moms do that all the time!
We met our friends in the hall and headed on over for our wintry adventure. I have to say, the ice sculptures were stunning. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was the theme, and it was incredible to see all the vignettes and characters carved from two million pounds of ice.
The kids decided to do the snow slides next. Up and down, up and down, until they were all sweaty and soggy. Posh and I opted out of ice skating, she is recovering from a broken arm and I don’t want to recover from one. We decided to go make gingerbread houses instead. Bodacious and Parksalot were hard-pressed to finish decorating their house after eating so much of the candy, but it was fun to watch them negotiate who was in charge of what. Both of my kids have leadership skills, a strong sense of design and like to decide what’s fair for the other person. Their skill sets rarely line up when they have to work together as a team, so they are learning the not-so-gentle arts of compromise and choose your battles wisely. After we finished decorating, we decided to head back to our rooms to rest and clean up a little before dinner.
Dinner was great, we ate at the hotel’s Italian restaurant. The kids were not feeling it though, and declined the calamari appetizer Posh ordered for us. Plain noodles, gelato and a baked Alaska were a big hit with them though!
The next day, we did a lot more eating and a little more ice sliding. We toured the rest of the exhibits and took pictures of the hotel’s amazing decorations. We ended the day at the hotel’s Build-A-Bear workshop. If you haven’t been to a Build-A-Bear, you pick out a stuffed animal “shell” and then you get to stuff it with poly fluff. You add a plastic heart, a scent, and an outfit to complete your experience.
My kids had seemed so grown-up to me during our stay, wanting to dress for dinner, getting along so well, following directions when asked. And my son was flawless in his navigation of the giant hotel and all its attractions, helping me with bags and helping keep an eye on the littles. To see them doting on these sweet bears and dressing them in these little outfits was profoundly poignant to me. My children may be growing tall and strong, but there is a part of them that is still so very tender and little.
I have yearned for another baby for so long. It feels like the older these kids get, and the less they seem to need me, the more I want a newborn that just lets me hold her all day. But this trip helped me see that I still have babies. Babies that can carry a suitcase, yes, but babies that love stuffies and holding hands and sticky post-ice cream kisses.
And for this middle-aged momma, those are the very best babies for me!