Vegas Vacation – A Surprisingly Great Family Destination

Vacations with kids are a unique experience where one does not relax, rest, or get rejuvenated. This is why I was enlightened and elated to have had such a positive experience on our family vacation to Las Vegas in July. Finding the perfect spot where one can try to accomplish a smidgeon of those 3 “R” words takes fine tuned planning. My husband and I never thought in a million years the trip would go off without a hitch.

This past summer, we triumphed, and somehow managed to shock ourselves into realizing we had somehow done it. We had managed a solid vacation with the kids and did not feel exhausted or defeated afterwards. The oddness of it all- we didn’t arrive home and need to nap for days to catch up on sleep feeling worse than before we had left (which does happen for most trips with kids as most parents will share). I want to share our agenda in hopes that families might also try this out and experience a memorable, lovely vacation that doesn’t leave you positively exhausted and in need of a second vacation immediately upon getting your PJs on and getting into your own bed for the first time in 5 days.

We selected a hotel geared specifically toward kids: Circus Circus. Is it the prettiest hotel? Not so much, and it is actually a dinosaur, considering how long it has been around.What made it so clutch as a place to stay, was the fact that there is a waterpark on the premises, along with a circus on one of the floors of the hotel, and an amusement park as well. I mean what more do you need to entertain children? Oh, and I almost forgot, there is also Vince Neil’s restaurant which has a stage for karaoke- so if you have little hams like we do…they can own that stage for a song or two. While there are many pros to this hotel, note that it is a bit separated from the strip. This means (nonsensically) that a cab ride to go 2 miles to the center of town will easily cost you $20. Ubering is half the cost, so try to go that route if possible.

I recommend buying the pick 3 MGM passes as well. You select 3 attractions online for a bargain cost of $57. It saved our family of 4 approximately $100. We selected the Titanic museum, the white tiger/dolphin exhibit, and the Adventuredome. The Titanic museum was incredible, and honestly, is the main reason my kids picked Vegas for the vacation- I know-it’s weird and morbid. The white tiger and dolphin exhibit left something to be desired though. While the dolphin portion was good because there are options to interact with the dolphins, the tiger part was sad and depressing. There was no white tiger as far as I remember. Instead we saw a few animals and a tiger lying down in very small enclosures with bars. We weren’t really fans of that part , it just kind of made you feel bad for the animals. The Adventuredome, which is the amusement park at Circus Circus was a homerun. It has rides for all ages, both my 6 year old and my 10 year old were thrilled with it.

IMG_20190628_095502

Everyone knows that shows in Vegas are abundant and a huge attraction in terms of reasons to visit the city. I was over the moon that one of my dance show obsessions, the Jabbawockeez, has a residency there and performs on the regular. I took my 6 year old and about 2 minutes after the lights went down and the show was about to start, they moved us from the upper far left section to front row and center seats! They interacted with my son during the show and when it was over, we both floated out of there we were so insanely happy.

IMG_20190629_184147

While we were at that show, my husband and 10 year old son went to the MJ Live concert at the Stratosphere hotel. Not to be confused with the Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson show, that one is different. Note that this was prior to me watching the Leaving Neverland documentary and now I’m sick to my stomach everytime I even hear his name or his music, but I digress. My son never stopped dancing from start to finish and there was a meet and greet with the impersonator after the show for all who wanted to get a photo.

There are so many amazing shows to choose from, you obviously have many options at your fingertips. I’ve heard the Cirque shows are incredible and well worth it.

As if that wasn’t enough, I haven’t even touched on the best part of the trip yet. A hike through Red Rock Canyon, was hands down one of the best days of both my husband and my lives. The scenery is just breathtaking and your pictures will come out looking professional no matter what angle you take them. We tried to come across the wild horses that exist there, but did not have luck. We did see lizards which was cool for the boys.

IMG_20190629_072349

Randomly, there are tiny flies that hang out near your ears when you stop moving. Our youngest son was very put off by this, as certain sounds really annoy him (chewing mainly) so he was over the hike pretty quick. See photo below for the full effect of his annoyance. Prepare to give your kids shoulder rides if you do this hike, as the heat does wear them out sooner than you would think.

00100lPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20190629075619818_COVER

We threw in a surprise, and decided to renew our vows while there. The boys have always talked about wanting to wear tuxes and be in a wedding since they’ve never been. So I ordered them up some Amazon tuxedos for a grand total of $40 (gotta love Amazon), and snuck them under our clothes in the luggage so they would not see them. The day of the vow renewal, we pulled out the tuxes awaiting their excitement at the surprise, and they looked at us like we were positively nuts. Either way, if you want to renew your vows with your children there, it’s fairly simple to do in Vegas and costs start at $200. Maybe your children’s reactions will be better than ours! They looked handsome though.

IMG_20190630_113510

My original plan for this 40th birthday trip was to hike, raft, tour wineries, and site see near where Goonies was filmed in Oregon, but that meant a trip sans the kids. We hadn’t been on a vacation for 5 days or more since our honeymoon 12 years ago, so regardless of what we ended up doing, it had to be unique and fun.

When I asked them one day for fun to pick a destination they’d love to go to in the future, they both said Vegas (mainly because of that Titanic museum). Since I had two other short trips over the summer I was taking without them, I was having major mom guilt about taking a 5 day trip without them. So we decided to forego the Oregon trip and do the Vegas one with the kids and honestly, I cannot explain how happy I am that we made that decision. It’ll be hard to top that trip! Trust me, Vegas was the LAST place I wanted to go with them, having been there so much for work in the past, it had lost its luster a bit.

In short, trips with kids are not easy, but somehow this trip was unreal and felt easier than anything. That is purely why I wanted to share this Twilight Zone of a vacation with you all. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, so I’ll be shocked if we can repeat this one elsewhere, but there’s always wishful thinking. Happy planning, I hope you get to have a magical vacation like this one with your kids too!

IMG_20190630_110510 (1)

I Had the Leggings Conversation With My Sons

Recently, I read an article published by Scary Mommy that really stirred something in me. The article was titled Notre Dame Mom Writes Op-Ed Begging Girls To Stop Wearing Leggings. I’m thankful to the author, Valerie Williams, who brought to light this story of a Catholic mother, begging the women and girls of the world to stop wearing leggings. Her reason for this plea you ask? Because leggings invite boys and men to ogle, stare, and think sinful thoughts apparently. The Catholic mom goes on to say she wants to throw a blanket on these girls. She takes it one step further toward the end of her op-ed to say choose jeans instead. “Leggings are so naked, so form fitting, so exposing. Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead?”

I was as fired up as Valerie was about this article. Personally, I’m late to the leggings party and have owned 2 pairs of sweatpants in my whole life. It’s like being welcomed to the world of comfort as a late bloomer. The first pair of sweatpants I ever owned came from my boyfriend (who is now my husband) back in 2002 at the age of 22. I consider myself woke now that I own a few leggings and more than 2 pairs of sweatpants. So to read the original op-ed by Maryanne White, and be told basically-hey do me a favor and don’t wear what you’re comfortable in because you’re inviting both the good and bad men to stare at you and possibly do a whole lot worse to you- made me cringe. Not only did it make me cringe, it also made me think- I have to discuss this with my kids!

Because I’m a huge believer in open communication with my sons, I decided they were ready for this lesson. Additionally, I could not wait to hear what they had to say on this topic. It was both comical and sensible.

My sons are 9 and 6 and this is how the conversation went:

Me: I’m going to tell you guys a story and then ask what you think is right or wrong and ask you how it makes you feel OK?

Sons: OK, fun!

Me: Let’s pretend that you were told by fathers of all the girls at school there was going to be a new rule only for boys. The rule was that you could no longer wear tank tops to school because your shoulders, peck muscles, and collar bones invite girls to follow you, beg you to be their boyfriend, stare at you, stalk you, touch you, and not respect your personal space. How would that make you feel?

Sons: (Both looking confused and grimacing) 9 year old: But how is that the boys’ fault that the girls are doing those things? Why can’t the boys just live their life and wear what they want? That’s not fair. I would tell those fathers they can’t make rules for us like that.They need to tell their daughters to stop it. 6 year old: Yeah, I would tell those girls don’t touch me, I want to wear this shirt.

Me: OK, so now what if I told you, this is really happening in the world? Except it’s with girls. A mom of boys wrote an article saying she wants girls to stop wearing leggings and likely in some schools leggings are not allowed to be worn because people think it forces boys to stare, grab, follow, say inappropriate things, not respect their personal space, and beg these girls to be their girlfriends.

Sons: Gasp. That’s not fair.

Me: What would you say to that mom that wrote that or to people who tell girls they can’t wear a certain type of pants because they force boys to do things they “can’t control” like stare, etc.

Sons: 9 year old: Well I have a question first. What if the girl has a wedgie? We should tell her right? Who would want to walk around all day with a wedgie and not know? That’s just embarrassing. Am I doing something bad by telling her that? Will she think I was staring at her butt?

Me: (Silently cracking up) If you are friends with this person, you could politely say hey you may want to go to the bathroom and fix your pants in the rear area. I’m honestly trying to help you out. But if you’re not friends with this person, no you should not just randomly tell a stranger hey go fix your wedgie -even though you’re heart is in the right place.

Sons: 6 year old: We don’t touch other people and we don’t stare because it’s not nice. They can wear the pants. But we don’t touch people’s butts because we get in trouble.

9 year old: Yeah, let the girls wear the pants. Why does it matter? I don’t understand why parents of boys could control what girls are wearing. And they aren’t even their own parents right? That’s just weird.

My little lesson/test with the boys proved to me that it’s pretty straightforward. Teach your sons and daughters to be respectful human beings. Don’t make a specific gender the bad guy because they choose to wear a form fitting, comfortable clothing article.

When You Enter The Uncool Zone With Your Kids

We’d all like to think we’ve still got it. I’m not talking about that “it” factor that makes people attracted to you. You know, like when the college boy working the ice cream counter appears to have done a double take, and you walk out of there with an extra skip in your step.  I’m talking about the cool factor with your kids. Somehow, we’re hip in our kids’ minds for a certain time. We are infallible for a hot second and, on occasion, they look up to us. Maybe it’s because of the stories we share with them, or the things we participate in with them, or perhaps it’s purely because they feel the love.

Don’t be fooled friends, this can all change on a dime. I’m sure some of you are already being nicknamed and called things by your kids as they chuckle under their breath. You’ve crossed over into the uncool zone if this is happening. On this note, according to my 6 year old, I am what he likes to call “Derpy“.  He learned this word from the FTG family on YouTube and, apparently, it is the opposite of cool.

We went out to dinner recently and I was shamelessly pointing and whispering about a famous person that was dining nearby. Kids, that guy is definitely famous. Teetering on being obvious, I tried a bit too hard to be enthusiastic to hype them up about it. For what reason- I can’t even tell you. I guess I wanted them to have the same excitement I was having so I was behaving like Lenny Kravitz had just blown me a kiss. I guess you could say it’s never quite as fun to spot a celebrity without someone else to enjoy the moment with.

We carried on with a relatively uneventful dinner and about half way through I connected the dots with who the guy was. He was simply someone who worked in the same building as I had for many years. A celebrity he was not! Once I realized this, I almost spit out my delicious margarita. I proceeded to laugh off and on about it throughout the rest of dinner. I thought it was hysterical. My kids and husband sat there shaking their heads at my ridiculousness. Mom, you’re SO derpy my youngest proclaimed.

I pick my kids up from school each day and usually we’ll pass by someone I know. According to my 6 year old, even the way I say hi to my friends is derpy. Mom why did you say “hi ladies” like that? You’re so derpy.

During a playdate, while making him and his friend a snack, I started chatting with my son’s buddy. He whispered to her, she’s SO derpy and rolled his eyes.

Now it’s a face I make in a photo, an outfit I wear, etc….it’s all…you guessed it….SO derpy.

This is surely payback from the universe for all the awful things I nicknamed my mom growing up: Splinter (the rat from Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles), Skeletor (the bad guy from He-Man), and Bronto, short for brontosaurus (because of her long neck and smallish head).

My 6 year old calling me derpy is way better than the mean things I called my mom the moment I deemed her uncool. Think back to what you called your parents or teased them about and get ready for it my fellow P’s.

Mom, you have my permission to call me Derpy whenever you want.

When Your Child Discovers The Big Lie

Standing in the toy aisle in Kohl’s and concentrating on which item to buy for a friend’s son’s birthday, I hesitated before asking my son to repeat what he had just said.

“Can you repeat what you just said, but can you whisper it to me?” If it was what I thought it was, I didn’t want his 5 year old brother to overhear.

“I know that Santa’s not real, Mom.”

The color likely drained from my face as it was probably the last thing I was expecting him to say at that moment, but it was, in fact, what I thought he had just said.

giphy

“Ok, if you want to have this discussion, it has to be in private, with both me and your father. It needs to be away from your brother.”

“Oh! So you’re saying he isn’t then? I knew it!” His voice getting more shrill with each word.

“I said let’s talk about this later. Now is not the time.”

Thankfully, he forgot about it.

Two weeks later, after walking in the door from school, he reminded me that he wanted to have that talk. He said he knew about Santa and the Tooth Fairy because he had set up his iPad to video us sneaking around.

“That’s bologna.” I said. He smiled and admitted to fibbing.

“Well, I know they’re not real because you say you will tell Santa if we are misbehaving. That made me realize you’re lying. How could you tell Santa? It’s not like you have his phone number. What you think you can fool me by saying you’ll just dial him up? Or email him! It’s lies!”

“We’ll talk about it at bedtime.” I silenced him for the moment.

At bedtime, his father and I sat down and told him in so many words that he was right. Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny were pretend magical stories to make the holidays and losing teeth more fun and special for children. It was a lie coming from a good place (uh, confusing), and he would understand one day and do the same for his children.

Anger was the emotion that seemed to settle right in when we confirmed the bad news. He got emotional and went on to say he was hurt and surprised we had lied to him for 8 years. Then my husband corrected him and said, “Well, actually 9. We lied for 9.” Thank you, husband.

giphy3

He pushed us away when we tried to hug him. We didn’t “deserve” hugs. We were horrible parents. He was sulking like an irritated teenager. Then he asked about Elf on the Shelf which we only started doing these last two Christmases. He seemed more upset about the Elf for some reason. We gave him the ol’ “you can help keep the magic going and be part of it for your brother now…” spiel and it simply ignited more upsetment.

“How can you ask me to LIE to my own BROTHER? What kind of parents ARE you?” The drama was over the top. I wanted to laugh, but then I couldn’t, because he was so genuinely upset, the humorous vibe evaporated. We explained that he better not tell his brother or his friends.

The saga continued as he ran into our bedroom and grabbed his framed baby picture off of my nightstand and stared at it. I felt like we were in REM’s “Everybody Hurts” music video except it was, “J’s found out there’s no Santa.” This was like a made for TV moment.

giphy1

For the first time, we didn’t get a warm goodnight (he’s a lovey dovey kid), and we were sad about this phase being over. We shuffled back to the living room feeling a sort of grief only parents that have just gone through this experience can understand. It was the end of an era, which is sad for parents too. As your children go through different phases, some good and some bad, when the phases come to an end, there is a small sense of mourning. Not really for the bad phases though… adios to those!

We thought about any possible way to lift his spirits. Since our son had stayed home sick that day, we didn’t know if he had made drama club.The school had a lottery system in which they select children who are interested at random and there are a limited number of spots. My husband posted on the school’s parent group on Facebook to see if there was a way to find out and wa-la (thank you Facebook and the parent who got right back to us) we found out he had made it!

giphy2

We agreed to tell our son right away in hopes to cheer him up, but he was pretty stoic after we shared the good news. He wanted to crash in our bed for the night which he hasn’t done for years. He kept saying he didn’t know how he would fall asleep because this was the worst day of his life.

The next morning he was still thinking about it and said to his dad, ” So what’s up with the Santa tracker then?” It was obviously still on his mind. So much for hoping it would pass!

I guess with parenting, one never knows how much something will impact their child until it actually happens. My son clearly believed HARD in the magical things we told him about. For that I’m glad because those years were SO MUCH FUN. This was definitely a learning experience. The anger carried on the entire next day, but slowly it dissipated and we got him to agree not to tell his friends or his brother. I do believe we just witnessed his first major disappointment in life. Sure he’s had other let downs, but nothing to this degree. Of course there will be many more to come. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s so interesting what we learn from parenting. It’s a front row seat to the growing changing of the human being you’ve created-physically, mentally, and emotionally. You can’t help but be riveted, worried, and grateful simultaneously during the whole experience. Hopefully, we can still get a few more years of Santa, the bunny, and the Tooth Fairy with our youngest!

adult-background-beard-716658

Could Teaching Empathy Start With Bugs?

Here’s my latest on Medium. Be sure to clap for my article if you enjoy it and follow me on Medium so you don’t miss my future stories.

I used to think it was a little much. My husband was firm with the kids when urging them not to hurt or kill the ants, spiders, ladybugs, or any other random bug they were toying with outside. Over time, I grew to love how gently they would handle the ants that were building their little sandy huts on our patio in the backyard. They would pick them up with great care, and talk about how cute each one was, while it scurried in between each finger across their little hands. This little teaching about being respectful to bugs, seems to have stretched across all living creatures for the kids and it seems to have stuck. Our sons treat our cat with great care, express concern when someone gets injured or sick, and have randomly shown empathy for birds’ “feelings” as of late. Maybe this “be nice to the bugs” business has transformed into more than we could have imagined in the way of teaching life lessons.

Continue reading here.

Working Parent Guilt-What I’ve Learned May Surprise You

Going from a full-time to part-time working mom has been an enormous shift. One that is reshaping our family and how we do things pretty much on the daily. Big change brings about learning and a fresh perspective. Over the last 8 months I’ve learned quite a bit- not only about myself, but about my children, my husband, and about my expectations for the extra time I would have with my kids. A recent realization prompted me to write one of the more shocking things I’ve come to understand.  Something that I hope will give full-time working parents a splash of cold water on the face of guilt they wear each day as they trudge off to work.

Continue reading here.

Ownership Involves Things – Not People

Today’s article is brought to you by the word “Simmer”.

Enjoying looking through some quotes and anecdotes about children modeling the behavior they learn in the home, I came across one that set my pleasant mood on fire. It stuck out like a sore thumb, and did not belong alongside such positive tones. The title was something along the lines of Rules for Dating My Son.

Pausing, taking a deep breath, and re-reading the list of rules, I tried to turn down the flame of anger and let it simmer a moment. The musing was written by a mother who thought she was writing a warning to future female suitors and a powerful message of unification to all mothers of sons. The words she used made it feel as though she was speaking of her most prized possession. Something she owned and held close for no one else to enjoy or love, like that of a caged bird she fed and adored. It was a message to mothers of sons that no one can take your son away from you. That she will be watching his girlfriend or wife’s every move with a skeptic’s eye. It was a message to send fear into the woman that would come to love her son or perhaps that already does. That the love of his girlfriend or wife would never match his mother’s and she will always be his number one love. That he is hers and always will be.

I don’t feel this way as a mother. I don’t feel ownership over my children. I don’t feel they need to put me first in their lives, because, truth be told, they should focus on becoming the best versions of themselves so they can benefit society as a whole. It has nothing to do with me. They are allowed to love and love freely. I’ll never feel jealous of a girlfriend or a wife, a friend, or a partner of theirs. That would be silly. I’m their mother and of course I always will be until I’m no longer here. I birthed them, but they owe me nothing because they did not ask to be born. Their father and I chose to bring them into this world and it is our duty to raise them to be compassionate, loving, generous, confident, thoughtful, to make sound decisions, and to keep them safe. It is not their duty to make me number one their entire lives.

I know they love me, and that is more than enough.

When and if they marry someday, I will be crying tears of joy and nostalgia. Not tears of insecurity and jealousy. I will not wish harm upon their lovers. They are my children, not things I own or possess. I can only hope the woman who wrote that selfish and scary musing comes across this post to understand she has much work to do on herself and the many roles we each play in the game of life. She is not only a mother, she is a woman, a worker, a daughter, a friend, perhaps a wife, or a sister. My advice to mothers who feel this way would be to diversify and put energy into each of these roles instead of only defining yourself as the doting, overprotective mother.

If you truly love someone, set them free. This is an anecdote I can get behind.

 

via Daily Prompt: Simmer