The $5 bet

Before the $5 bet waylaid us.

The trip to Bronner’s was a long time coming. We had talked about taking the boys to “The World’s Largest Christmas Store” in Frankenmuth since they were born. Now, with the oldest 13, we finally made the trip.

But our foray into the Christmas wonderland was not without a few mishaps.

First, we were forced to make our jolly way downstate, a full three hours, through glorious sunshine and balmy temperatures, not exactly the weather that gets you into the holiday spirit. The kids wore shorts, while I led some front-seat caroling.

We had booked a room at Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Indoor Waterpark. This, upon our arrival, made the trip feel even more like a true summer getaway, complete with swimming, humidity and my too-tight swimsuit.

But the town, bedecked in its Christmas attire, was beautiful. I couldn’t wait until dark, when we could pretend it was actually December.

We hit the waterpark first, and that’s where the trouble started. There was a drop slide—a six-story-high slide that drops, if you haven’t guessed, straight down. You stand in a clear capsule, with your arms hugged around you, looking out into the sky through the glass ceiling. It looks like the capsule could either launch up, to the stars, or down, to certain death. Then the floor drops out of the contraption, plunging the adventure seeker into the slide.

We sent the boys up to give it a go. Tim and I stood at the bottom, waiting. Finally, Kendall shot out of the waterslide and stumbled to his feet. The first thing he said (caught on camera): “DO NOT LET NELSON DO THAT! I ALMOST DIED!”

Just then, we saw Nelson coming down the steps. Yes, he was walking back down six flights of stairs, dry. I felt a mixture of pride (he’d never jump off a building just because his friends were doing it!) and dread (we were only five minutes into this trip).

We quickly rebounded by offering to ride the also six-story-high family raft ride with him.


You’d think a family raft ride would imply niceties such as mom-sized drops and baby-sized splashes.


Tim and I climbed onto the four-person tube with the boys and were sent down a tunnel of madness. I screamed and whimpered and cried. We were tossed up on the side and held in place for a few terrifying moments before being dropped back down into the flow of water.

It was over in 30 seconds. Nelson was now happy but, guess what, Tim was now sick. The ride had been terrifying enough to knock the stomach out of a man over six feet tall in steel-toed boots.

More pride arrived: I was not sick. Little, ol’ scaredy-cat mom. I sauntered around that park like I owned it while Tim nursed himself back to health at the snack bar.

After an hour, it was time to hit Bronner’s. The place was amazing. I was thinking we’d pick out one ornament each. But I wasn’t even all the way into the store before I’d picked out an ornament for the cat. It looked just like her.

Things progressed like that for the next hour. We picked out ornaments of: chess pieces (Kendall), trains (Nelson), golden retrievers (Cookie), bow, arrow and deer skull (Tim. Yes, a skull is now hanging on our tree), angels (for my mom!).

And, because why stop now, a Snoopy Christmas nightlight for my children who no longer use a nightlight.

Next, I put a hat on every one of my boys and wrangled them into one tiny iPhone square for a picture. They looked so cute! When I turned to show everyone, they’d already thrown their hats back on the pile and scampered off, done with my idea of fun.

Then we headed to Zehnder’s Restaurant for their “world-famous chicken dinner.” It’s served family style, all you can eat. This was a first for our family.

One plate after another arrived at the table. First bread, then cranberry sauce, chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and more. (The only misstep: liver pâté, which no one touched.) We were overflowing with the bounty of good food and tired family.

“It’s like we’re rich!” Kendall said. And it was. Usually we split a club sandwich, forced the tweens to order off the kids’ menu and drank tap water. We were blowing the bank during our Christmas weekend getaway.

Which is when Tim, feeling benevolent, said, “Nelson, I’ll give you $5 if you can eat all that chicken.”

He didn’t flinch: “Deal.”

I screeched in protest: “That much will make you sick!”

Tim produced a $5 bill for effect.

I upped the ante: “I’ll give you $6 not to eat it.”

But there was no glory in that. So we watched Nelson eat his way gleefully through his plate.

Back at the hotel, we settled into bed.

And, at about 4 a.m., the chicken was back on the scene.

“I told you!” I said, as I got the ice bucket by the light of Snoopy.

By morning, we were all ready to head home, having had our fill of the Christmas wonderland. And then some. Ahem.

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