Monday, September 22, 2014

Act 5; Scene 4: Las Vegas Vacation--Pictures!

Tommy and I thought we might as well take advantage of Robert's accounting conference for an almost free vacation for us! And plus, St. George is on the way to Vegas, which gave us a lovely excuse to spend some more time with the Centers. 

And it just turned out that the Saturday of our departure was the Harvest Festival at Young Living Family Farm in tiny Mona, UT, about an hour into our drive down South. So we decided to be adventurous and check it out.

What a riot! We had a blast looking at all the animals, especially the giant black horses, taking a wagon ride and pony rides, watching a jousting tournament (of all things! A farm, and...a medieval jousting arena. weird.)

Robert axe-throwing at the medieval village


I even got a knife to stick!
The Knights

Black swan at the pond

Trying to paddle boat in the pond
After a lovely Saturday evening and Sunday morning/afternoon, we headed to our grand destination--The Luxor, Las Vegas.

We finally made it to a parking spot and after trekking about a mile to get checked in and into our room, we were ready for bed. And Thomas was having tons of fun playing with...the shower:

We put Thomas to bed and had lights out in our hotel room by...7:20 LV time. Robert and I spent a very quiet, slightly bored evening together until we hit the sack around 9:30. 

Monday morning Thomas and I headed out to see what there was to see. We walked through the Excalibur, and made friends with a big dragon with light-up eyes that would growl at passersby. We ended up spending a lot of time with that dragon on this trip. Then we made our way over to M&M World, and spent some time buying candy and looking around. 

Oh yeah, these guys were there when we got out of the elevator onto the street for the first time. I was excited to see them! Until they told me to give them money for talking to Thomas...I mentioned these guys in my earlier post: 

We kept walking all the way down to the Flamingo, where I had heard there was a mini aviary with some cool birds. It did take some guts for me to actually decide to enter the huge casino and walk around through all that...stuff...before we found the birds. But found them we did, and it was one of our favorite things!

This is a white swan, cleaning her feathers

sleeping pelicans!

Of course, the flamingos

Giant fish. They were 3 feet long!

He wanted a picture by the dirt...

More big fish! And waterfalls!
After the Flamingo we started the 2 mile trek back...and ended up getting lost going the wrong way. So we added about a half mile onto that, and then trekked back. Oh, PS--it was 100 degrees. Surrounded by hot pavement and big buildings. Yuck. By the time we made it back to the hotel, we were starving and so ready for that blast of AC. We walked into the room...and...sauna. Our AC wasn't on. After cranking it for an hour, it still was blowing warm air. So I called maintenance and we went swimming.

Thomas was the only kid in the pool, and man did he have a blast. I think the others had a good time watching him laughing and playing, too. As long as they didn't get splashed, which I tried really hard to prevent. I did notice that there was a very wide berth around us...haha...

And after swimming, came to the room, and...sauna. Yuck! So after showers and attempting to nap, I called again and they agreed to switch our rooms. Which meant I had to spend an hour packing up everything, and standing in line at the front desk to get a new key, (if you haven't been to one of these hotels, you should just know that the Luxor is HUGE. I mean, standing in line is like waiting for security at the airport.) and trying to figure out if we can move all of this stuff and still get to dinner on time. 

We decided to go get frozen yogurt before Robert got back for the big move. Partially out of hunger, partially out of heat, and partially out of stress. It was delicious.

Robert finally got home, we got our things moved to the OTHER SIDE OF THE HOTEL. I'm telling you, it's like a mile walk over there! And finally headed out around 6 to walk to the famous Hash House a Go Go for dinner. 

Poor Tommy pooped out in the stroller. Which we counted as fortunate, since the sights of Las Vegas are a bit different at night than they are in the mornings. Oh, did I mention it was a 2 mile walk to the restaurant, in 99 degree weather? Robert was NOT HAPPY. Plus the smell and the loud music and the confusing streets (and the lateness of dinner) were really piling up the unhappiness. 

We finally found the restaurant and came in sweaty, found a place to lay the stroller back so Thomas could continue sleeping, and thought there is no way this food is going to be worth this, no matter what people say.

Well...we were wrong. The food was the best part of this trip:

Tommy's stroller leaned back against the booth

So this sort of turned out to be a date! Since Tommy slept through most of it!

Sage fried chicken eggs benedict, ala Man vs. Food. Notice also the giant biscuits in the back, and the side of cheddar bacon mashed potatoes (my personal favorite). Soooo good!

Thomas woke up, ate some melon, then conked out again, this time lying down on the bench
On our way back we stopped by the Bellagio to see the fountain display. Pretty cool!

Our view on the way back to the Luxor through Excalibur
We made it back to the hotel and finally conked out around 10. Of course Tommy got his second wind and ran around the room and jumped on the bed for like an hour before he could settle down to sleep for the night. Sheesh!

Tuesday was a day of hanging out. Thomas begged to watch TV, so we just sat in the hotel room and watched Curious George for an hour or so, while lying on the bed. Relaxation!

Soon we both got restless, so we headed back to the candy stores and made it to M&M World in time for the free 3D movie. It was hysterical to watch Tommy view the little movie with his 3D glasses. At first he would try to reach out and touch everything, then when the "action" started he was pretty terrified--shaking on my lap. He now frequently points to his M&M souvenir toy and says "scary!"

Picked up smoothies for lunch--perfect for the hot weather--then met Robert to go to the Shark Reef Aquarium.

I think this dragon has the cutest face!

Looking for Dori

Sting rays and horseshoe crabs

Touching a sting ray!

Lion fish. These guys are awesome.

You can't see it in the picture, but this guy had rows of giant teeth!

It was really fun to see all the different sharks swimming all around us. We just parked it and watched them for a while. I love hearing Tommy yell out "Rark!!!"

After this we trekked to the car. Really, being in these casinos feels like being in one giant airport--there's airport food, airport moving walkways, different "wings" that are all connected (you can walk to almost all of the casino/hotels without going outside...just like an airport). We were so glad to get in the car and head back to peaceful St. George!

Wednesday morning we enjoyed some swimming in Grandma and Grandpa's pool, then leisurely packed our things and headed back home.

This was probably the longest post I've written...but I'm glad I have it down for our memories. Sorry if it was too long and boring for you!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Act 5; Scene 3: My Purpose

I was walking Tommy up and down the Las Vegas strip in his umbrella stroller. Hauling a diaper bag and a few M&M World gift bags, sporting a getting-bigish pregnant belly. We were determined to have some fun during Robert’s accounting conference. And despite the heat (100+!) and the smell (cigarettes and BO) and the loud music, we did manage to make friends with a dragon and try a lot of Hershey and M&M candy.

I was expecting the foul smells, the hot air, the almost-naked ladies posing for pictures with tourists, the big lights and fantastic buildings, alcohol and slot machines. What I wasn’t expecting was the amazing sense of purpose I felt for my life while visiting this strange city. While I wasn’t the ONLY one pushing around a stroller, I was close to the only one. And the sight of Thomas brought a smile to every person’s face that we saw in an elevator, waiting in line, waiting at the crosswalk. And I mean a genuine, childlike, grin. We heard many stories of “ours are 18 and 20 now!” or “I remember those days,” or “If mine look like him I’ll have 10!” Here we were in the “city of fun,” and the most genuine smiles I saw were on the faces of those who looked at my child.

I looked at everyone around me in the city—there to have a good time—to go out to eat, to spend some time at the black jack tables or slot machines, see some (dirty!) shows, and have a few drinks. I looked at so many glamorous people living/working on the strip that were just looking for the next “good time.” I saw young men dressing up in superhero costumes and asking for tips from every picture or interaction, so obviously trying to find a way to make enough money to go have a good time.  I looked at everyone having a good time in the city, and thought they all looked so…lost.

I have never felt so much purpose for my life than while walking that strip. I had no makeup on, looked kind of frumpy in my ill-fitting clothes, and had to constantly find a way to entertain Thomas whenever we had to wait in line. Instead of going to see a Broadway show or glamming up, or going shopping or doing something for myself, we went to look at the ducks; we spent LOTS of time looking at the dragon that growled; I spent an hour catching Tommy as he jumped into the pool. Boy, we really stuck out (especially Tommy’s high-pitched, enthusiastic little voice). And I have never been gladder. I have a Purpose in my life—and it is a real, and powerful Purpose. Although there are many other purposes in my life, my children and role as a mother is the most important and overarching I could imagine. My purpose is so much more than to have a “good time.” Working hard and making a sacrifice for something that really matters is what real fun is. My purpose is to teach my children what real fun is, and that they have a Purpose so that they don’t have to be always looking for the next “good time” Las Vegas style.

In Las Vegas, my Purpose shone brighter than I ever noticed it before. I think it may have been the first time that it really struck me what an absolute blessing dedicating life to family can be. Maybe because it was against a backdrop of so many who seemed without Purpose. Against a city thriving on the lost.

I felt strong and confident walking down the Strip with my stroller and frumpy clothes and Divine Purpose.

…And we’ve decided we’ve seen enough of Vegas to last a life time. :-)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Act 5; Scene 2: Wrap Up of Summer

Well folks, it appears summer has come to an end. August is gone, my BYU class and Broadway Bound classes have started, Tommy's co-op preschool has started,  and there's been rain and some chill in the breeze. My giant dahlias still haven't bloomed, but I hear they're more of a fall flower anyway. 

We celebrated the end of summer by going to the Land of Summer--St. George--for Labor Day Weekend. Here's a little picture tour of some of our weekend:

First time I've seen a real scorpion in the "wild"

Kolob Canyon morning hike

Notice Grandpa carrying Tommy

The perfect walking stick

Fun in the splash pad

St. George carousel

Went to feed the ducks, found out turtles like the bread even more!

One of three friendly, bread-eating turtles

Can you spot the humming bird?
We also spent some quality time playing with Roy and Rosie, eating delicious caprese pizza as well as pumpkin and apple pie, watching "Captain Phillips" (we highly recommend this one!), and just having a good time together.

And now we say...bring on the fall!