If there is one thing that comes with parenthood, it's planning ahead - sheesh!  And boy, am I good at procrastinating.  Mom, what are we having for dinner tonight?  I'm not sure, I'll tell you at about 5:55 p.m.  Mom, where is my blanket for school?  Doh!  Still drying in the dryer, but we're late, let's go!  Mom, I need help with my shoes!  Great, another shoelace has been devoured by the knot-monster...but I learned that last week, I think.  Mom, when are we going to Great Wolf LodgeWait a minute - I know this one!

Our next trip to Great Wolf Lodge is scheduled in precisely 6 weeks and 2 days from now.  But don't think for a minute that I'll be quick to share that...with the kids.  Hee hee hee...Although I'm late on dinner and slow on new shoes, family vacation planning slacker I am not!  And my one reward for all of this awesomely secretive planning is this:  The Surprise.

Here's my plan:

5 Days to Howl:  Break out the wolf gear.  I don't draw attention to my choices, but - hey! - how ironic that my kids are dressed in random shirts with paw prints, bears and tents on them, we're reading wolfie storybooks and howling at bedtime, and - what's that?! - Mom's doing the laundry with her wolf ears on.  Fascinating.

4 Days to Howl:  84 degrees of WHA?  Chit-chat at the dinner table is now very strategic and the hubs and the cat are both in on it.  Gee, sure wish it was warmer out, don't you?  What does your swim suit look like again?  Oh that's right, it has a blue shark.  Hey, I wonder if those water shoes from last summer still fit - please, try them on!  Nobody suspects, but yes, we're headed right towards 84 degrees of fun.

3 Days to Howl:  The MagiQuest wand makes a mysterious appearance at the table.  What is THAT?!  I ask, as if I've never seen it before.  The "I don't know" response tries to steal my glory, but I persist.  Isn't it that wand from...oh, where did you get that thing from?  "Great Wolf Lodge!"  Bingo.  I go on and on, drawing the memories out of them of all the things they like most about their trips to the lodge.  By the end of the night, we're all giggling and swirling with happiness that seem to be only fit for dreams.

2 Days to Howl:  Origami Mommy.  It turns out that a Grand Lobby isn't the only place you can go on a Wolf Walk.  After dinner, I pass around a square sheet of paper and teach everyone how to master the origami wolf (okay, I'm crafty and I've practiced over 1200 times, but I'll share the instructions - it's easy!).  We raise them up and howl for fun and then go on a hunt.  It "seems" these little origami pups have seemingly left their paw prints all over our home - and we're out to find them.  [I've left] one in the swimsuit drawer. Another on the piggy bank we painted in Cub Club on the last trip.  Oh - there's a whole pile of them on the suitcase! 

What could this mean?  The kids guess something about a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, but I'm not so sure.  I put in a "call" to Wiley the Wolf to find out.  He's not there, so I leave a message and we wait overnight for his call back.  The kids take an extra hour to fall asleep.

Origami Wolf

1 Day to Howl:  Breakfast is nuts in the morning.  The boys argue with me about everything - from how many marshmallows they didn't get in their cereal bowl to how close they should or shouldn't be sitting near each other.  I'm magnificently patient with them, pacing and faking my own stress and muttering things like "I can't believe that wolf didn't call me back yet..."

When the phone rings (I mean when Dad's cell phone secretly calls to make Mom's cell phone ring)... Hello?  I continue the conversation with Wiley, who has graciously called me back to inform us that those little origamis need a lift back to Great Wolf Lodge, and wouldn't we be so kind to give them a ride?  He'd love to have us stay overnight, if we wouldn't mind the trouble.  I'm repeating his "conversation" out loud so the kids can hear me.  Their eyes and ears are literally growing right off their heads in my direction.  Why, of course Wiley, WE wouldn't mind coming to Great Wolf Lodge - we will leave right away!

I hang up the phone and their are woo hoo's and howls all around.  Perfection achieved.  We grab the already-packed-suitcase and STOMP-STOMP, CLAP-CLAP, HOWLLL our way right out the door.