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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Colorful thought bursts and unfiltered ideas in a child’s mind are endlessly humorous. Who doesn’t love to share or hear stories about the random and sometimes shocking sentences that tumble out of children’s mouths? Living on my phone, in the Google Keep app, is a list of both of my sons’ hilarious and interesting ponderings for their father and I to cherish forever. I highly recommend keeping a log of the funny things your child says so you can go back and revisit it as they get older. It was so entertaining to type the list out and re-live the hilarity. From food to movies to general observations about life…their quips are little snack packs of funny.

Let’s talk about food and drink

E: “I like avocado.”

Me: “What do you like most about it?”

E: “It helps you survive earthquakes.”

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J: “Mom, I’m ready to stop being picky now. I’m ready to try new and exciting foods. Make me a salad.”

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E: “You can get arrested for bringing food into play areas. That’s why the signs say ‘NO FOOD ALLOWED’.”

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J: “You can’t drink Mom’s Diet Coke.”

E: “Why?”

J: “Because it’s wine.”

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E: “I know what food they give you in jail!

J: “What?”

E: “Spinach.”

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Commercials, Famous People & Politicians

A commercial comes on the television and J exclaims, “Mom, come in the living room- quick!”

“What? What is it?”

J: “This stuff is for you! You should get it. It’s for hair loss.”

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E: “I’m five now. Do you know what that means I can do? I can watch the movie IT.”

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“Who has a birthday party at THAT age?” said while watching the Spiderman movie and hearing Jamie Foxx’s line about his birthday party.

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E: “I want to watch Deadpool even though it’s inappropriate. Can you tell me again why it’s inappropriate?

Me: It’s inappropriate for lots of reasons. For starters, there are lots of bad words.

E: Well, I’m going to be the Director of an inappropriate movie about Washington D.C. and there will be lots of bad words.”

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E: “Why can’t Donald Trump just be nice? His ties are nice. I like his ties.”

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E: “Can we steal a body from that graveyard? I want to make a real Frankenstein.”

Everyday Observations

“Why is that guy trying to make you fall in love with him?” Said my eight year old about the restaurant manager of a diner we frequent.

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E: “Mom, I got sweaty AND handsome today…. just like Harry Styles.”

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At bedtime, as I’m getting into my son’s bed to lie next to him, he says, “Stop, wait!”

“How come?” I ask while giving him a death stare and wondering what he’s trying to negotiate for now;more snacks, water, bathroom, etc.

“Take a load off. Go get your comfy cozies on so you can relax while you’re putting me to bed.”

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J: “Mom, your memory is so bad.”

Me: “I know, I forgot I already got the milk out and just opened the fridge to get the milk again.”

J: “Mom, what did I just say?”

I repeat back what he’s just said and give him a quizzical look.

J: “Just checking your memory.”

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E: “I got sent to the principal’s office and I didn’t run away from her! I wasn’t even scared!”

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J: “Is there such thing as kid jail? How bad is it?”

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E: “Mom, can you go away and never come back? I only want Daddy now. It’s better that way.”

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J: “What’s re-incarnated mean again?” We explain reincarnation….

“OK, then I’m definitely reincarnated. I think I’m the last survivor of the Titanic. She died a few weeks before I was born.”

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“Who is Harvey Weinstein?” my five year old asked after overhearing an NPR news bite.

Me (so many different ways to approach this one): “A man that says inappropriate stuff to women.”

He sits quietly with that answer for a minute. “Oh, yeah. You mean like the stuff Daddy says to you?”

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While the family is busting out dance moves in the kitchen, “Stop!” J says.

“Why, we’re having fun?” I ask.

“Because only I can be the cool one.”