A snob’s guide to surviving the Great Wolf Lodge

If you’ve been following along, you know that Steve and I decided to take the kids to the Great Wolf Lodge for 25 hours during mid-winter break. Before we left, I polled my friends on Facebook to get some advice. I also got pretty freaked out, because I heard that the clientele was “interesting,” that the place wasn’t particularly clean, that the food was lousy, and expensive, to boot. Now that we’ve taken the plunge — get it? — I’m gonna give you my own special spin on the place.

  1. Do not go for two nights. That was our original plan, as we didn’t want to drive 90 minutes to Grand Mound, Wash., only to turn around the next day and come back. But as one friend put it, there is not enough fun in the place for two whole nights. She was 100 percent right. Overnight guests get access to the water park starting at 1:00, and you can change in the changing rooms. We were able to get into our suite early, which was nice. (See #3.)
  2. I wouldn’t classify the “suites” as an actual suite. We booked a Wolf Den Suite, so named for the partially walled-off kids’ sleeping space. Inside, there was a bunk bed and a private TV. We got a queen bed which was the smallest queen bed I’ve ever slept in, a dusty couch and a carpet that I insisted only be trod upon with slippers or socks. I mean, can you imagine what goes on in these rooms? Anyway. A suite, as far as I know, is a hotel room with a separate living area that HAS A DOOR. The Wolf Den Suite did not have a door.
  3. Bini enjoying his second ice cream of the day.
    Bini enjoying his second ice cream of the day.

    If your kids are adopted, find the check-in agent who is also adopted. So, I need to ‘fess up to something here. I’d heard that you should tell the Great Wolf Lodge that it’s your kid’s birthday, so they can get free ice cream. I didn’t feel right doing that, but since we’re about two weeks away from our Adoption Day for Evan, I was prepared to exploit that for some free stuff. I didn’t need to, though. Somehow, we got the check-in agent who was also adopted, and when she saw our little rainbow family she got all teary and started handing out free ice cream wristbands. I didn’t need to say a word. I wish that I hadn’t pre-paid for the late check-out or the buffet breakfast, though (see #9) because she was prepared to throw those in too, but couldn’t take it off our invoice. She did hook us up with a room three hours early, though.

  4. Go with friends. We didn’t do this, and I so wish we had. Not only so we’d have other adults with which to share our pain, but because then we’d have people to tag-team with for kid-minding. I didn’t get to go on the Howlin’ Tornado, which looks awesome, because Bini did it once with Steve and then wouldn’t go again. I spent a lot of time in the wave pool going “whee!” with Evan, and in the baby pool area. It would have been nice to run off with Steve and go on water slides. I guess we’ll have to go back.
  5. The baby pool will be contaminated at some point. I’m not a germaphobe (which is helpful at the GWL), but I did wonder what might be commingling with the heavily chlorinated water in the baby pool. On the second morning, they closed the thing, and we all know what that means.
  6. It wasn’t as gross as I’d feared. I don’t know what I was worried about. A human head floating in the hot tub? Feces in Fort Mackenzie? The clientele was “interesting,” and I think I may have spotted some prison tattoos. But there were plenty of “normal” people there too — pale-bellied software developers and moms in sensible swimsuits, just trying to get through the day.
  7. I did get a rash, though. I can’t prove it, but I suspect the rash that I got on my neck, chin and upper lip was somehow related to our visit. Was it from Big Foot Pass? Or was it from the vegan, organic Eminence Apricot Oil that I had to buy because I forgot my body lotion?
  8. Don’t forget your body lotion. In order to filter out all the gross stuff, the Great Wolf Lodge employs “state-of-the-art water treatment equipment,” which I think means a shit ton of chlorine and saline. Your skin, my skin, everyone’s skin is no match for that. Bring body lotion. Lots of it. And hair conditioner, which I also forgot, and had to buy a travel-sized Aveda thing for $8.
  9. No, I will not enjoy your overpriced Dasani water. I will drink Grand Mound tap water. On ice. From Starbucks.
    No, I will not enjoy your overpriced Dasani water. I will drink Grand Mound tap water. On ice. From Starbucks.

    Prepare to be nickel-and-dimed TO DEATH. Everything, except life jackets and towels, costs extra. Those kids running around the hotel with magic wands? That’s extra. Wiley’s Story Time? Extra. Late checkout? Extra. Buffet breakfast and dinner? A fortune. (See #14.)

  10. Do not buy bottled water. I learned this from a barista in the lobby Starbucks (which is mobbed at breakfast time): Buy a Venti ice water for $.73, and you get free refills your whole stay.
  11. The spa actually sells good stuff. I might have to try it next time.
  12. There are kids everywhere. Even the goddamned exercise room. As Steve and I told the kids, there is nothing, NOTHING at the Great Wolf Lodge for adults. Except booze (see next tip). It’s like Vegas for kids, and they LOVE IT. But if you think you can escape to the gym for a little alone time, you can forget it. The sign on the door clearly says that no children under 18 are allowed without “proper supervision,” but the dumbass on the treadmill next to me seemed to think that that meant it was OK to have four kids clanging on the weight machines and yapping away on the elliptical while she ran. She kept saying, “Behave, you guys!” and “Almost done!” But she wasn’t almost done. So, after 20 minutes of it, I stopped my treadmill, turned to face her, and said through clenched teeth: “Get your kids out of here.” I must have looked scary, because she did. And then I changed all the TVs from Fox News to CNN.
    Tip generously, and you too can enjoy two very strong margaritas for the price of one.

    13. Bring your own booze. Or, tip generously when you buy booze from the bartender. After spending almost three hours in the water with the kids, Steve and I felt deserving of a drink. He took the boys to get ice cream, and I bellied up to the bar. I ordered a Mac & Jack’s for Steve and a margarita for me. The bartender had a full blender going when she handed me the receipt, and my swim-addled brain wasn’t thinking clearly, and I gave her a $5 tip on a $13 bill. She looked at it, looked at me, looked at it again, and said, very sincerely, “Thank you, honey.” And then she dumped the entire contents of the blender into two cups, and gave them to me. (They were strong, too.)

  13. Bring your own food. I’d heard from some people that the food at Great Wolf Lodge was awful, and I remember thinking they must be high-maintenance. No. The food at Great Wolf Lodge is indeed awful. And it costs a fortune. We did the dinner buffet, because we were too tired to get in the car and go somewhere else, and it’s $20 per person. I gotta hand it to them — the buffet is huge. And has all the bells and whistles: Pizza, “Mexican” food, salad bar, carving station — even salmon for the fancy types. There was no way I was eating the salmon at this joint, so I had a $20 salad. And got a stomach ache. I swear. Steve grimaced while eating the salmon. The kids loved their pizza and Costco taquitos, as well as the dessert bar. Next time, we’ll rally and go off property.
  14. Get down to the water park as early in the morning as possible, or, go after dinner. These are the least-busy times, and you’ll actually be able to snag a table or a solitary chair to dump your stuff. We ended up having to clump our shoes and towels and duffel along the wall with 100 other people’s shoes, towels and duffels.
  15. When a table opens up, be ruthless. Evan and I were waterlogged and hungry, but Steve and Bini wanted to do one more ride, so we nabbed a table as it was being vacated. It had pretzel salt all over it, but I didn’t care. These teenage boys had claimed two of the chairs accompanying the table, but I was undeterred. Cool as a cucumber, I ignored them and placed our stuff on the remaining two chairs, and the table top. “Um, is this your table?” one of the kids asked. “Yes,” I said, giving them the best haughty stare I could muster with a towel wrapped around my head. (They went away.)
  16. Yes. I actually had a good time.
    Yes. I actually had a good time.

    The cabanas are stupid. Don’t waste your money. We actually considered renting one of these, to the tune of $159 a day, so that we didn’t have to fight for space. But these aren’t Seahawk Suites at Century Link, for God’s sake — they’re just little nooks with a place to sit, a safe and a TV. If you’re a guest in the hotel, the cabanas make no sense. They make no sense anyway. They’re stupid.

  17. Get late checkout. It’s worth the $50 splurge. That way, you can enjoy the delicious breakfast, take advantage of the exercise room and use the water park one more time. And your kids might fall asleep in the car on the way home, like mine did.
  18. Watching your kids have a blast is infectious. The Great Wolf Lodge was tied with Pyongyang on my list of Places Not to Visit. But as one friend said, it’s kinda magical seeing your kids having The Best Time Ever. Bini was beside himself when we pulled in to the parking lot, for God’s sake. The looks on their faces when we walked into the water park? Pretty awesome. At some point, you’ve gotta just let go of the fact that you’re in an indoor water park in Grand Mound, Wash., and roll with it. And think about what you’ll do next time.

Who’s coming with us?

Great Wolf Lodge or: Why I stopped complaining and finally went to the damned place

Look at how much fun they’re having! What was I supposed to do?

About a month after winter break,  and eight weeks before spring break, Bini’s school district takes a “mid-winter” break. If it seems like the kids are out of school more than they’re in school, you’d be right. And don’t get me started on Evan’s school, which didn’t sync its weeklong mid-winter break with the local school district.

Still, it is mid-winter and dreary here in the Pacific Northwest, so it seemed like a good time to get out of town. I lobbied for a Southern California trip, where we could visit with friends in Los Angeles and then head down to San Diego to go to Legoland.

It was a lot of traveling (fly to L.A., stay somewhere, drive to San Diego, stay somewhere, fly back) and it was also pretty expensive. Also, after flying to the Bay Area twice in 10 days, I was weary of airplanes. It was snowing a lot by then, so Steve and I booked three nights at Suncadia, a mountain resort about 90 minutes away.

Two weeks ago, we were getting really excited about our fun family trip filled with snowshoeing, sledding and snow tubing. Then I looked at the long-range weather forecast: Rain, rain and more rain, which meant melting mountain snow and a trip spent indoors.

“Well, what should we do?” Steve said.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

We had this same conversation about three dozen times over the next few days, and finally, I said: What about Great Wolf Lodge?

I don’t think I could have surprised Steve more if I’d come home and said: “Honey, I’ve decided to live my life as a armadillo.” Great Wolf Lodge is an indoor waterpark and hotel in Grand Mound, Wash., and since becoming a mother almost seven years ago, I’ve always said never. Ever. Ever, ever, ever, over my dead BODY. Nope.

“I hate the idea of it,” I would say whenever we passed the exit for Grand Mound, on the way down to Portland. “It’s my version of hell, being trapped inside like that.”

Bini was forever telling me that he was the only kid never to have been there, but I wouldn’t relent. I even remember, at a playgroup, telling the assembled women that I would rather endure my children whining and complaining through back-to-back museum visits than go to an indoor waterpark.

But here I was, suggesting it. Why?

The only answer I have is motherhood. It’s somewhat easy to cling to your pre-child ideals when you only have one child. Like: “I will never buy my kid a Happy Meal!” Like: “I will never let him watch more than an hour of TV a day!” Like: “I will never  hand him my phone while I get my hair cut/try on clothes/finish up dinner at a restaurant!”

When one has more than one child, however, one’s righteousness begins to lose out to one’s weariness. As in: “Sure. You can stand on the end of the shopping cart.” As in: “Don’t cry– Mommy has 15 Oreos for you!” As in: “Oh, did Bruno Mars just use the ‘f’ word? Just don’t say it on the playground.”

And that’s how I found myself rebooking our luxurious mountain suite at Suncadia for later this summer, and reserving a Wolf Den Suite at the Great Wolf Lodge for one night. Also: blog fodder.

How’d it go? More on that later.

My dog has a peeing problem. But I love him anyway.

Jones, asleep on his small bed, while Kona hogs the giant, expensive bed that I hoped they would share.

I have a secret: My dog, Jones, is incontinent. And his incontinence rules our lives.

It started happening about six months ago, and initially, we blamed it on poor Kona. She was from Hawaii, she’d never been an indoor dog, she’s weird, etc. It never occurred to us that the culprit could be Jones. But then we started putting it together:

  • A year ago, the week before Christmas 2014, Jones ate three stuffed animals. We were totally gobsmacked. Jones loves to eat broccoli and salmon and anything else that drops on the floor, but prior to that incident, had never shown an iota of interest in anything that wasn’t food. We hoped it was a one-time deal and moved on.
  • Also about a year ago, our inexhaustible ball dog became noticeably slower, and stiffer. We’re not entirely sure of his age, but we assumed it was arthritis, which an expensive trip to the vet confirmed. We put him on daily pain medication.
  • Over the last six months, we’ve noticed Jones pacing in circles, and sort of … staring. You can’t do cognitive tests on a dog, but we assume it’s mild dementia. And dementia is often accompanied by incontinence.

This past Christmas, during dinner, Jones unleashed a torrent of urine right in front of our guests. It was mortifying, but not totally unexpected, since his inside accidents had increased to the point where we were having him wear a diaper. In fact, we now own five diapers, the washing machine is always going, and my laundry room smells like pee.

IMG_7648 (1)
Jones at the vet, after pooping on the waiting room floor.

The day after Christmas, I took Jones to a new vet. What if there was something neurological going on? Or what if Jones’ stiffness was making it hard for him to make it outside in time to do his business? As we were making our way from the waiting room to the exam room, Jones pooped all over the floor.

The vet did a thorough examination and reviewed the voluminous records I’d had sent from our other vet. Jones’ blood work is perfect, with no sign of cancer. His vitals are great. His x-rays confirmed arthritis, but no other masses. We opted to do an ultrasound, to rule out an abdominal mass, and we consulted with a neurologist.

There’s nothing in Jones’ stomach that would be causing the incontinence. We don’t know if he has a brain tumor without an MRI, and both the vet and our neurologist steered us away from that. It’s expensive, and even if there is a tumor, there’s not much we can do about it. It’d be more for confirmation purposes. So at the moment, we have no definitive diagnosis for Jones.

The neurologist recommended a course of steroids, to reduce any inflammation in his spine that could be preventing his brain from communicating with his hindquarters. We started those a week ago, and while Jones’ mobility is slightly improved, the steroids make him drink more water, and hence, pee more.

On Friday, I was answering e-mail when I heard his nails going tap, tap, tap, tap on the hardwoods. By the time I got downstairs to find his soaking wet diaper, he’d tracked droplets of urine all over the downstairs — in the playroom, on the hardwoods, on the area rugs. I was supposed to go to a training to be a health room volunteer at Bini’s school, but instead, I scrubbed carpets and washed dog diapers.

“I give up,” I texted Steve during the clean-up. (Which, by the way, I’m very efficient at.) But that’s not true. I can’t give up on him.

I’ve had well-meaning friends talk to me about Jones’ quality of life, and I get it. Sophie, my beautiful German Shepherd, died of blood cancer three years ago, and it was an awful death. We kept her alive too long, because we just couldn’t bear to let her go. It’s a fine line most pet owners will have to walk at some point. I wish vets handed out a decision tree to help make this horrible choice easier (If incontinent + healthy –> keep alive. If incontinent + immobile + confused –> let go). Our vets aren’t advising anything, though. I suspect they don’t want the liability of a bereaved, deranged pet owner.

Is Jones ready to go? His lab tests indicate that he’s healthy and cancer-free. His appetite is great, and he gets around fine, albeit slower than he used to. He doesn’t bound and play like he once did, and he wears a diaper, but he’s old.  We don’t kill our grandmothers when they get old, so I’m not going to put my dog to sleep because he’s an inconvenience. I’ll grit my teeth and wash soiled linens and come to terms with the fact that I will need to rip up the carpets in my nearly new house at some point. Because what else can I do?

What would you do?

And we said yes

This is one of the first pictures we ever received of Xiao-Jie.

“Hi Kristin, this is Ashley at WACAP…kind of an interesting situation came up and I wanted to run some information past you. If you could give me a call back as soon as possible, that’d be great.”

It was one year ago today when I got that call. I was in the produce aisle of the Metropolitan Market in Kirkland, looking at Pink Lady apples and drinking a 12-ounce Americano. I was in workout clothes. I’d just been to barre3 class. And earlier that we had decided to decline our latest referral. It was number five.

When I saw our adoption agency’s number pop up on my phone that day, I put my phone back in my pocket and kept trudging toward the market. I was expecting yet another pep talk from Ashley, our adoption coordinator, about how we’d know when it was right, etc. But the whole process — reviewing children like they were dogs on Petfinder  — was becoming unbearable. I didn’t want to talk.

I don’t know why I checked my voicemail while choosing apples. But when I heard the message, it was like an electric shock. My stomach turned to ice, despite my hot coffee, and my hands started shaking. I parked my cart and dialed the phone. Ashley picked up on first ring. And she told me about a little boy named Xiao-Jie.

I can’t remember if I’ve described the process for Chinese adoption, and I’m too lazy to go back and read all of my posts to see. So here’s the deal: Families can either find a child, or they can wait to be matched. We went the latter route. Our first match was for a special-focus child, a little boy who’d been on the Shared List for several months without a match. These children usually have significant or complicated special needs, and are the most vulnerable.  For this little boy, we were given a month to make up our mind. Within that time, we requested (and received) medical updates that we then had reviewed by Dr. Julia Bledsoe at the University of Washington’s Center for Adoption Medicine. 

Then, there’s the Shared List, maintained by the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption. The list is shared with many adoption agencies, who can all see the same children’s files at the same time. Adoption agencies “lock” a child’s file for review for a specific family on their wait list. We were shown four such files between August and Nov. 19, and we declined all of them.

The problem with the shared list is the time element. Families have 72 hours from the time of a file lock to make up their minds and send a letter of intent. So if you have questions about a child, it’s very unlikely you’ll have the answers you want in time to make this momentous decision. That’s why we said no to those four other little boys: We didn’t have enough information. And to be fair, the Chinese government wants to find homes for these children. I understand why they have hard-and-fast rules. It’s just hard to make a decision about the rest of your life when you have 18-month-old medical information on a 3-year-old child.

Xiao-Jie was 2 1/2 when we heard about him a year ago. He was born with a cleft palate, and another family in our agency had just said no to him. They were heartbroken, but their 72 hours were up, and they hadn’t received their requested medical update in time. But between the time that they declined his file and his next appearance on the Shared List, the orphanage had sent his update. So when Xia0-Jie popped up, WACAP locked his file again. And called us.

I gave Ashley permission to send us the password-protected file, and finished my grocery shopping. I was still shaking, and my heart was thudding like I’d just run a race, but I willed myself to continue my errand as normal. Just finish up, drive home, and be calm, I told myself.

Before I drove home, I texted Steve: We got a new referral. It sounds really promising. Steve’s response: Already? We just turned one down. Me: Let’s keep an open mind. Him: OK. Let’s see how it looks.

My determination to stay cool lasted about two blocks. As I drove down State Street and passed the Kirkland Transit Center, I started crying uncontrollably. “Come on God,” I yelled to  my empty car. “Please let this be the one. We are good people, damn it! We are good parents! Please! Let him be the one!”

I opened the email from Ashley waited an interminable minute for the files to download. When I opened those first pictures, I knew — just as everyone said I would.

I’ve never had a biological child, but I imagine that moment when you see your new baby for the first time is not dissimilar to how it felt for me to see both of my children’s pictures for the first time. It’s such a specific mix of wonder, and awe, and trepidation, and exhilaration and so much fierce, wild love crashing like a wave. It took my breath away because I knew what it meant — I’d felt it once before, when I saw Bini’s picture for the first time.  I saw his face and his eyes and I knew with absolute certainty that I loved him, and wanted him more than I’d ever wanted anything.

I scanned Xiao-Jie’s medical files with baited breath: Cleft palate, repaired at 9 months, height (small), weight (small), developmental milestones. I looked at pictures of the palate repair. And then I called Steve.

Steve sounded hopeful, but still wary. Once again, the clock was ticking: It was 11 a.m. on a Friday, and we had to make a choice by Sunday. We couldn’t make a choice without a medical consult, and those were $450 a pop. We had already paid for several consultations, only to end up saying no. How many more times were we going to do this? One more, we agreed.

I called the Center for Adoptive Medicine repeatedly, and got voice mail. I left two messages, and wrote an urgent email, but then, I remembered my reporter training. I found the cell number for Dr. Julian Davies, one of the other consulting docs at the Center for Adoption Medicine, and I called it.

Dr. Davies asked me to forward the file, and we set up a consult for 3:00 that day. I arranged for a friend to pick up Bini at school and keep him, and tried to go about my day. I couldn’t, though.

I spent two hours in front of the computer, looking at Xiao-Jie’s picture, checking his measurements on the World Health Organization’s website, and researching cleft palate. I called the Cleft Palate Foundation in Chapel Hill, N.C., and spoke at length with a very kind woman whose name now escapes me. I followed links and more links and ended up nearly in despair about the what ifs. I signed up for a Yahoo group on cleft lip and palate. I went crazy with the waiting.

At 3:05, my cell phone rang. Dr. Davies was cautiously optimistic about Xiao-Jie, but told us that cleft palate in isolation can signal brain abnormalities and other complications. He gave us a list of questions to have answered by the orphanage: Did Xiao-Jie have pain or weakness in the legs? Are bladder and bowel functions normal? Did he have any markings (fatty lump, a hemangioma, a dark spot or deep dimple) on his spine?

We submitted the questions to Ashley, who told us what we already suspected: It was unlikely that we would receive a reply within the allotted 72 hours. We could accept the referral, and if the update came back signifying additional needs that we didn’t feel equipped for, we could change our minds. It was frowned upon, obviously, but it was an option.

Steve and I had decided not to tell anyone about Xiao-Jie yet — even Bini. I’d made the mistake of showing him one of the previous little boys, and he was very upset when we declined that referral. My dog, Kona, seemed to be catching our keyed-up vibe, and relieved herself all over the upstairs hallway. In fact, I was on the phone with Ashley while blotting one of five urine spots. Steve and I were united in our nervy excitement. All weekend, we’d lock eyes and, without a word, ask and answer: Are we going to do this?

Ashley was out of town on Sunday, and we had instructions to call Lindsey, another adoption coordinator in the China program, to give her our answer. At 11 a.m., I asked Steve one more time: Are we doing this? And then I made the call. Yes, we wanted to accept the referral. Yes, we wanted Xiao-Jie.

The next week was Thanksgiving, but still, we told no one. We went to a friend’s house for a big Thanksgiving party, and everyone there knew that we were trying to adopt again. Everyone asked us how it was going, but we both kept mum. I already loved Xiao-Jie, and I felt protective. And I think Steve and I both wanted this one so bad that we didn’t want to jinx it by saying it out loud.

On Dec. 1, we got the update from China. Dr. Davies reviewed it, and sent back this response: “Thanks for this … nice update on his development, with typical speech for his situation, felt to be smart. They have not noted any associated congenital anomalies here, but are describing absence of symptoms and typical function – when he gets home we may choose to do some screening imaging tests.” When he gets home.

Last night, I didn’t sleep downstairs, even though I was on Eggs duty this morning. I didn’t mind if Xiao-Jie, who we now call Evan, woke me up at dawn. At 5:30 on the dot, he appeared at my bedside in his footed puppy pajamas and said, “Mama.” Even though I was exhausted, I let that word — that one little word — sit inside my heart for a moment. I sent up a silent thank you to God, for listening to my pleas one year ago, and for allowing me to be Xiao-Jie’s Mama.

I sleep alone.

I spend half my nights sleeping in my guest bedroom. Sometimes, the cat joins me. Mostly, I am alone.
I spend half my nights sleeping in my guest bedroom. Sometimes, the cat joins me. Usually, I am alone.

I am happily married. But lately, I sleep alone. So does Steve. And it’s all Evan’s fault.

You’re not supposed to blame the kids when the family hits a rough patch, but I’m going to anyway. Evan is a wonderful child of boundless joy, but he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. Every goddamned day. It’s been like this, more or less, since we got back from China on March 20, so Steve and I  have been operating on interrupted, truncated and/or inadequate sleep for over seven months. I know I’m not gonna get any sympathy from parents of infants, but it’s my blog, and I’m exhausted.

Steve and I have always done Evan Duty in shifts. One night, one of us would be on for the early wake-up, and the other would sleep until 6:15 — the time we’ve decided is acceptable to begin the day. We call the 6:15 shift “Eggs,” because it’s what the little prince usually wants for his breakfast. The next night, we’d switch. But the fact is, when Evan comes trundling in at 5:30 a.m., he inevitably wakes the off-duty parent, too. So a few weeks ago, we reluctantly decided that one of us should get a decent night’s sleep, and spend the night in the blissfully quiet guest room. And sleep alone.

Here is a list of things we’ve tried to get Evan to sleep through the night, which includes waking up at a normal time:

  • Bringing him into our bed. He wasn’t into it.
  • Making a bed next to our bed. He wasn’t into it.
  • One parent sleeping on the floor in Evan’s room. Evan was super into this, but sleeping on a profoundly uncomfortable Thermarest is not a longterm solution. Also, our pediatrician told us we were prolonging the problem.
  • Taking out his tonsils and adenoids. Evan had very enlarged tonsils, which is common with kids who’ve had cleft palate. We hoped the surgery would help with his godawful snoring and his night waking. And it did do that. It just didn’t do anything about his urge to get up before dawn.
  • Killing his nap. This made Evan unbearable by 5:00 p.m., and also, he fell asleep in the car if we were in it for longer than 90 seconds. Once, I had Bini and his buddy in the car, and they were singing “Uptown Funk” at the top of their lungs and Evan still fell asleep.
  • Waking him in the middle of the night to go potty, which is normally what wakes him up at dawn. This was horrible.
  • Cutting off liquids an hour before bed. That did nothing.
  • Putting him to bed later. He still appeared next to me at 5:30 a.m. groaning “Maaaaammaaaaaaaaa…..”

I’ve consulted several sleep books, and our pediatrician. The books all said that some children are just early risers, which is just not acceptable. NOT ACCEPTABLE. 6:15? I can live with that. 6:30? Sounds luxurious at this point. But 5:30 a.m. is just too early. It is. It is it is it is. Our pediatrician was very empathetic and promised that Evan would grow out of it. OK. Not super comforting, but I’m clinging to that. Until then, this is the hell that we’re living:

7:30 p.m. Evan goes to bed.

7:45 p.m. Evan is asleep.

10:00 p.m. Steve and I look forlornly at each other and say good night. One of us stays upstairs to sleep, and the other goes to the guest bedroom.

5:30 a.m. Upstairs sleeper intercepts Evan and takes him to pee. Returns him to his bed and, depending on how tired he seems, tries to get him to go back to sleep, or flips on the light and lets him play until his “OK to Wake” clock turns green at 6:15.

5:40 a.m. Upstairs sleeper tries to go back to sleep, but it’s pointless. Particularly considering that Evan often comes out at 5:50 a.m. and reports that he needs to poop. Other times, he stays in his room and falls asleep. Sometimes, he is defiant and comes out, screaming, but we’re FIRM PARENTS and we take him back to bed and Bini usually wakes up at this point and is surly as all get-out and that’s when you know it’s going to be a really crappy day.

6:15 a.m. Evan appears by the bed with his glowing clock crowing “Green! Green!” Meanwhile, the downstairs sleeper’s alarm goes off.

6:20 a.m. Downstairs sleeper and upstairs sleeper meet in the kitchen with Evan. Downstairs sleeper takes over Evan-wrangling, and usually, Bini-wrangling because Bini hears Evan get up and thinks it’s “unfair” that Evan “gets” to be up early. We’ve given up yelling at him about it.

6:21 a.m. Upstairs sleeper staggers back to bed until 7:45.

6:22 a.m. Downstairs sleeper begins to make eggs.

Last night, we went to a party and at 10:45 p.m. Steve and I starting looking at each other in a panic. I couldn’t even enjoy my last cocktail because I knew I would pay for it dearly at 5:30. This is no kind of life, where you can’t enjoy a cocktail at 10:45 p.m. because of your 3-year-old child. This is tyranny. This is madness. And until Evan can wipe his own butt, this is our reality.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s 10:03.