Thursday, June 24, 2010

Making the Most of It

I tried to post last night but for whatever reason my computer was in SLOW motion. Even when I typed, my fingers would have been typing THIS, while the computer would have been showing "I tried..." I guess it just needed a break because it seems to be back in motion today. Of course, today I have very limited time. The story of my life. :)

Recently we have been asked a time or two where we are going for vacation. I typically joke, "We are going to play in the oil at the Gulf." It is kind of amusing to watch...typically eyes drop as the other person responds in pity, "Oh, I am sorry."

The thing is we are willingly choosing to go. As you know, the beach is my little bit of heaven every year. I don't look like a beach bum. I am pale as a sheet of paper. I burn easily and am now reduced to wearing hats to protect my scalp. I don't look remotely good in a bathing suit and I won't even wear shorts much of the time. However, the beach is like an oasis to me. I could really sit for hours just listening to the waves crash upon the shores. I love to take walks barefoot in the sand, to find seashell treasures, to smell the salty air. I sometimes wonder if I wasn't made to live near the water and have often wondered if given a short time to live if I wouldn't go there. It is just my little bit of calm in a very stressed life of kids, house, responsibilities, work, etc.

There are SO many places I want to go on vacations, like the Grand Canyon (with kids), San Francisco again, Chicago (for a long weekend), NYC (for a long weekend), Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania/Amish country, etc. I really do want to. But most of the time we are limited to how much travel we can do with our schedules and more importantly our bank accounts. And the thought of giving up that week at the beach...well, I shudder to think.

It is usually in about January when we are in the dead of winter that I start to dream of it. I can almost feel the warmth of the sun shining down on the sand. I can imagine myself on the balcony in the morning, listening to the waves wash ashore. So the beach search starts.

Last year we had a wonderful time at Destin, but this year due to finances and time, we chose to stay a bit closer to home...Gulf Shores (Redneck "Riviera"). It isn't quite the same as Destin, but it is still the beach. I love the Gulf. The water is typically a bit warmer, and you can walk a long way out and still have the water only come to your knees. That is such a comfort with children. I would love to visit the beaches on the East Coast again, but the Gulf is where my heart is.

When I first hear about the oil "spill", for some reason, that seemed so removed from me. I felt so sad for the families who lost loved ones. We have a member of our family (Mark's side) who does work out on the water. But it still seemed a world away.

When I finally did realize that the oil "spill" would have some global effects, my heart hurt for my precious Gulf. It also hurt for my children. We look forward to this all year. Our daughter asks constantly when we are going back. (Our first big vacation with her involved the beach) Just today, our youngest asked me if it was summer and we were going to the beach. (Sidenote: Mark enjoys it but I don't think it is quite the same for him as it is for me!)

Since then, I have struggled with whether we are doing the right thing. This is not the vacation I imagined. What about my love for walking along the shore and feeling the waves wash up on my toes? And how about my children? Our tradition is as soon as we arrive, they go running out into the ocean water fully dressed?

After much discussion, prayer, search/research, we have decided to continue with our vacation. We will not be getting in the water. I had already decided that based upon some things I had read about the safety of it currently, then it was further confirmed through swim advisories in the area. Thankfully, most of the seafood (which is one of my favorite things to do while!) does not come from that area. We can still walk along the beach, just not close to the water. I have been researching things to do and actually have a longer list of things to do in the area (not ocean related) than days we have there. There is a big concert that just came up all of a sudden one day we are there...we will probably stay close to "home" that day because of the masses of people in the area. But otherwise, we are going to get out and explore. Mark has a couple of golf opportunities, and we have a swimming pool in our complex.

Will it be the same? Not quite. I will miss the ocean water. My heart will hurt to see the oil and to see the wildlife affected by the oil ; a friend of ours visiting the coast this week saw a rescue of an oil covered died :( Seeing the beautiful white sand stained is an image I am not completely prepared for.

But we will be together. We will still hear the water (and maybe a "glub, glub"...just kidding...I have to laugh or I will cry) on the shore when we wake up in the morning. And hopefully that tropical storm will stay AWAY.

We will just make the most of it.
PS Today I explained to our youngrst again that we were going to the beach. He said, "We not get in the is yucky!" I told him he was right but that we can get in the swimming pool. He screamed, "Yeah!!!!" So he is thinking positively anyway...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Old Gray Mare...

She ain't what she used to be...

Okay, just for the record, I am NOT referring to myself. Or any person. But rather summer.

Every year as the school year wraps up, my thoughts drift to the days of summers. I immediately think of lazy mornings sleeping in, days spent hanging around the house, playing in the sprinkler, eating ice cream. I imagine nights of sitting outside with Mark, hand in hand, as we watch the children chase lightning bugs around the house. I dream of our beach vacation, picking up seashells and running in the waves. I envision weekend hikes to new places, happening on a fishing hole with NO snakes. And to make it all even better, I dream big...I dream of organizing our house, just a little each day, until it is where I want it to be. Sigh.

Thus far, that hasn't happened. Not one little bit. Note: I am not complaining necessarily. I am thankful for a job that I love that also allows me to be home in the summer...the very short summer.

This year my summer is about two months long. Two months and one day to be exact. So I was already feeling the frantic emotions of "where did the time go?" on the first day!

So far, I think there has been maybe one or two days that I haven't had to get up by a certain time or not set the alarm...even on the weekend! Even the days I haven't set it, I usually wake up when Mark leaves for work, which means I am still not sleeping in. Of course, the kids don't sleep in anyway most of the time. I have trained the oldest ones to wait until they hear me stir, but the youngest one hasn't learned that trick yet.

Our days have been filled with activities, appointments, and camps. Not necessarily bad things but obligations to our day nonetheless. Looking at our calendar for the summer, I see that will continue. And I support our kids in pursuing activities, like our oldest attending a sports camp. That is good for him. It just takes up a lot of time usually in a car with the other kiddos riding along.

We are still headed to the beach, but not with as much gusto as before. We likely will NOT be getting in the water. I cannot seem to get a clear picture of how safe it is. And that is okay...we will make the most of it. The important thing is that we will be together, enjoying family time. It just won't quite be what I had hoped. (Though I am not an ocean swimmer typically, I do usually love to walk barefoot right on the edge of the water, letting the water roll in on my feet...not getting that this year :()

The organization efforts have been minimal. It isn't that I am doing nothing all day (though I admit taking naps each afternoon to compensate for the lack of sleep at night due to leg cramps)...I am just buried in laundry, unpacking (then repacking), the girls' party, church stuff, etc. I think the frustrating part is that I know if I don't get it done now, I won't even have a chance to do it until next summer. And I don't know if I can live with that. The funny thing is that at some point this summer, the three oldest children are going places for a few days...just never at the same time. It really doesn't matter because the youngest is stuck here with me, and he is delightful and fun but not a lot of help around the house. :)

So far, little time has been spent outside. It has been too stinkin' hot. Typically June is a rainy month for us, with cooler temperatures. Then July becomes this sauna. Well, this year June is the sauna. What does that mean for July??? Even my children won't go out and play right now due to the heat. It is times like this I may covet, just a bit, the swimming pools so many have in their yards. I am pretty sure we would use one...when we aren't out and running around.

Then there is our getaway. Mark and I have had a "getaway" for the last couple years around my birthday in August. It has always been a treat to have that time to "get away" from it all before starting another school year. This year, we had our getaway at the beginning of the Vegas. Since Mark had to be there for work, and I had never been, it seemed like a perfect plan. Only it wasn't so cheap. We budget in for our beach vacation, but we did not budget in for this. And while I was able to cross a couple things (The Vegas strip of hotels, Grand Canyon) off my "bucket list" that I haven't taken the time to actually write, I honestly wasn't that crazy about the city itself. Or at least the parts I saw (other than the trip to the Grand Canyon). I always love to get away with my main squeeze. I am just pretty sure in August, I will be sad when I don't get to do it. That and when we have to pay the bills this next month for that trip! (We were fortunate with our San Francisco was paid for through some promotion Mark won, and our trip last year to Mt. Magazine was a fraction of the cost of the other trips)

Not to say it has all been bad. I love that my sister and her kids usually come at least once in the summer for a week or two, though I never get to see her as much as I want. And I do get to take care of some household stuff during the day which could leave me more time at night if I didn't have so much going on right now. Of course, I also get to enjoy more time with the kids, which I may joke about but truly do enjoy doing.

I just think summer has lost a little of its magic...

The Old Gray Mare just ain't what she used to be!

More later,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Hole in My Heart

I have never been an overly clingy mom. I think we left our firstborn with my parents overnight for the first time when he was about a month old. We don't go out very often, but we aren't afraid to take a weekend to get away (much like last weekend). I always have my mouth hanging open in shock when I hear a mom say, "We have never left our six year old with anyone overnight." Not in a judgmental sort of way, just in a surprised sort of way because we aren't like that.

And it works both ways. We have never discouraged the kids from leaving us to do things, like one riding with my parents to a wedding a day ahead of me or the big kids hanging out with grandparents in Mississippi for a few days. In fact, that is where one child is headed next week. She is BEYOND excited about it.

So when our oldest was invited to a church camp this week by his friend L., I didn't blink an eye. I knew it was something he would enjoy doing. I also know that as he gets older, those times of independence away from Mom and Dad's watchful eyes will be good for him and for me. Besides, it is only four days, three nights. No big deal, right?

Um, right.

Sounds good anyway.

When I dropped my camper off, there was no fanfare. In fact, I just said, "Be good, see ya later" and I walked out. In fact, it was the youngest who said, "I miss him" (in the parking lot). I was too busy thinking about other things, mentally making sure we had packed
everything, etc.

Except today I realize. This is different. He is gone. I really have no way to contact him (though if I were desperate enough, I could figure something out). And I miss him. Terribly.

This child was designed to be in our family. He was meant to be our firstborn, a big brother. He brings so much to our family...humor, sensibility, knowledge beyond his years. And when he is gone, our family has a hole in it.

So does my heart.

PS I am thankful that a friend of mine who is helping the nurse there wrote on my "wall" on FB that my camper is doing fine. I needed to hear those words.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Leaving Las Vegas

So after our trek to the Grand Canyon, we went back to our hotel and chilled. Literally. I was still a little cold from the day's outing which hadn't been nearly as hot in temperatures as I had expected it to be! We caught up on e-mail, t.v., news, etc and just enjoyed being still.

I had found a restaurant on Trip Advisor (which is where I find most of my reviews/information) that sounded good, so we had made reservations. Casa Di Amore. One of the neat things about Casa Di Amore is that if you call and make reservations, you can request a complimentary limo to pick you up. Since we hadn't gotten a rental car, that came in handy.

Not knowing exactly when we would get back from our excursion, we took a later reservation. Around 6:30 (which is really 8:30 our time at home), my stomach was growling. Finally around 8, we headed downstairs to wait for our limo. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a maroon limo showed up to take us to the restaurant. A hummer and a limo in the same day. Cool, huh?

The restaurant was not on the strip, thus the need for a limo. From the outside, it is just a regular looking building. However, from the inside...very cool. It is very "Old Vegas". In fact, you feel like you have stepped back in time. We were seated right away; that was the only thing that happened right away. The food was very good, the service was slow. And by this point (8:30 which is 10:30 home time), I was starving. Thankfully it all arrived at some point, and we chowed down, enjoying the atmosphere.

The next day, we got up fairly early, waved good bye to the clip, and headed down the road to the airport. We had been advised to get to the airport two hours early due to crowds. Apparently the crowds thing doesn't apply all of the time. The line to get in and go through security was not near the length of what we had dealt with in our home airport! So we ended up with quite a while to sit and wait. That was an experience in itself. Somehow a mom and a teenage girl caught up in some kind of drama ended up sitting next to me (even though there were a LOT of empty chairs at that point). It was quite interesting.

Finally, we boarded the plane and headed out. I was excited that we had about an hour and a half layover in Chicago to eat lunch/dinner because of the time we were flying. Thankfully this flight had a movie (Chipmunks- The Squeakal); I had seen some of with the kids but it was a nice distraction. Funny too. I also finally finished my book.

Unfortunately, our perfect flying record eluded us yet again. (We never have a good track record with our flights other than we have been fortunate they have all landed successfully...I guess that is the most important one anyway) Our flight was fine, but apparently there were storms over Chicago, so we were asked to fly in circles for a while. And we did. Around and around and around. Finally we landed with half an hour before our next flight. Thankfully, due to Chicago's flight history, the first thing we discovered was our next flight was delayed too, so we were able to enjoy some Chicago pizza for lunch/dinner. Yum, yum!

We then waited for a while for our next flight which was pushed back a little more. One fun thing was a family...a mother with three kids (flying to meet up with her husband). They were coming here from Hungary. They had a little boy who will be two in September. He was entertainment and definitely a stress reliever. He played ball and would throw it to just about anyone who came along. Soon, kids of all ages were scrambling to get him the ball. Meanwhile, several people from our area were able to chat with the mom; they are moving to our area due to the University. (The two older girls slept the whole time; they were on like hour 26 of flying by that point) It was just kind of neat to see one little boy bring together a whole terminal/gate area!

On the plane, we sat down in our seats near the front. Right away, Mark noticed that our seats were nicer than those we have had before. The plane was a little one so no official first class but apparently they were testing these seats for some other planes, so we had our first first class experience! We had our drink orders taken (my coke came in a GLASS rather than a plastic cup), had access to a blanket (which I needed because I was so cold), and had complimentary snacks. It was really cool. I don't think I would ever pay the extra for first class but I would never turn it down! The only negative is that the mom was sitting across from us and her two girls were in the back. Partway through the flight I realized the situation (I was so tired at that time) and felt so bad we hadn't offered to switch seats, first class or not. Sigh. Live and learn. I did enjoy chatting with the mom though.

Finally, we arrived at home, a couple hours late. When I walked in, the kids looked up and said, "You are back already?" They had it in their minds that we would be coming home later than we did. That was about it. No other reaction. Later though I received lots of hugs and kisses and sweet words. I know that I missed them for sure!

And that is that. Our experience in Vegas and leaving Vegas.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programs...

More later,

Monday, June 14, 2010


I had a feeling that I would want to do something "outdoorsy" when we went to Vegas. I am just not a flashy, glitter kind of girl. I am not a party girl by any means, nor do I get into the gambling scene. (I could easily with the slots, but knowing how hard I worked for that money, I would rather not just throw it away :) Basically, I am a boring kind of girl. And I am okay with that.

I immediately started searching the Trip Advisor board for information on outdoor activities and tours. Mark had to work on Friday (attending a convention), so my thought was that I would find something to do for that time period. Most tours I found were for ALL day, and I didn't want to be gone that long. I finally found a tour called Bighorn Wild West Tours that I could take that would take me by Hoover Dam and to the West side of the Grand Canyon; I had never seen the Grand Canyon. That sounded exactly like what I wanted. None of the tours I researched were "cheap" by my standards but since it was just going to be me, I thought a little splurge wouldn't hurt.

I told Mark about my plans and showed him the website. He then decided we really needed to do it together. I think it was the idea of riding around in a hummer that piqued his interest. :)So he called and made arrangements for a tour for Saturday. Suddenly it was a pretty big splurge. However, out of all of the things we had planned, that was by far the one I most looked forward to.

We got up VERY early on Saturday morning and waited for the Hummer (and guide) to show up. There are a lot of entrances to the hotels around Vegas, and apparently we were waiting at the wrong one. However, our guide Marie found us anyway, right on time. We headed out for our tour. The weather was slightly cool (which is completely opposite of what I had been told to expect in Vegas) and very cloudy. In fact, it kept trying to sprinkle on us, another rare event in Vegas. Our first landmark was the famous Hoover Dam. This was my first time to see it. We didn't stop but I did get a picture. After we had passed over the Dam and driven a while longer, we stopped at Rosie's for some breakfast. It was a classic cafe/diner set up. It was a fun way to start our morning. As we drove on to the Grand Canyon, the clouds increased until it was raining. I think for Vegas it was raining pretty hard. I had visions that our day would be a bust; flash floods are an issue in that area. (We had just seen the devastation of the flash floods in Arkansas at the campground on the news...very sad. :() I managed to take some pictures of the Joshua tree "forest" along the way when it wasn't raining.

Finally after a long, windy ride (beautiful views), we arrived at Grand Canyon West which is located on an Indian nation. We had to park the Hummer and ride on a big bus to our first stop, Eagle Point.
Here is Eagle Point. Like I said, I had never seen the Grand Canyon. I realize there is a lot more to see. But for a first taste, this was perfect. It was more than I could ever imagine. Pictures and video do not do it justice...
Looking down at the Colorado River. Our travel guide Marie said that it actually has a red tint for the summer, but for today it was brown.
Mark takes in the views. There were no guard rails of any kind. We kept laughing because Mark walked right up to the edge, while if our kids had been there, he wouldn't have let them near it...
Isn't it gorgeous?

The reason it is called Eagle Point? If you look at the rock formation in the middle, it looks like an Eagle. It is hard to tell in this picture, but it really does. I am going to have to go back to watch the movie Fools Rush In with Matthew Perry because it was filmed near this; you can see that eagle in the movie!
Someone was trying to be funny...
Just another shot. Trust me, I narrowed down the pictures. I took over 280 that day...

Our tour guide took this picture of us. You can see the Eagle well in this one, right behind us. I cannot say enough good things about our tour guide. She knew her stuff. She had lots of information to share and was fun to talk to. We also appreciated how she gave us time to ourselves, but was right there to share or help if needed.

In this picture, you can see the Skywalk which is a glass bottom "bridge" that extends 70 feet out over the Canyon. We chose not to walk it (it cost quite a bit to do); I had read enough reviews to decide it wasn't worth it. We had the same views for less money. In pictures, it looks like it is way out there, but in reality, it really wasn't.

After we had spent enough time taking it all in, we walked around the "Indian village" which showcased different Native American homes. The whole time I was thinking, "Hunter would LOVE this." It was fun and interesting.
Afterward, a few Native Americans (Navajos I think) showed us some traditional dances. It was fun to watch, even though it was a bit chilly. We watched, then we were invited to participate. Mark got to be a warrior. I got to wrap up in a blanket. It was very welcome since it was so cool out there. Oh, and we had rain "spit" on us a few times, but most of the time, we were under this opening in the clouds. Our tour guide pointed out it was like there was a break in the clouds just for us.

After we left Eagle Point, we traveled via bus to Guano Point. It was even more beautiful.

The views were just incredible.
There is another view of the Colorado.
We saw lizards but thankfully NO snakes. It did cross my mind every time I stepped. (We also saw a mule deer and some antelope during our travels)

I am always astounded that in the very dry conditions, surrounded by rocks, a little color grows...

More pics...
The reason this is named Guano Point, several years ago, money (3 million dollars) was invested to mine guano in a cave way out on in the Canyon. An elaborate pulley system was set up to "mine" the guano (bat droppings) to be used in fertilizer, make up, and explosives. Here is one part of the pulley system. I cannot fathom how it must have worked going across the Canyon. I cannot imagine how or why anyone would have gone out is REALLY far to fall!
That last picture was taken from the top of this "rock pile" we scrambled up.
Here Mark is standing next to a plant that I should remember the name has a sweetness to it. Kind of like a sugar cane. (I was told that, I didn't try to eat it)
A view from another "rock pile".
Mark took this picture. Would have been MUCH cooler had it been an eagle or a hawk, but still cool, nonetheless. :)
More Joshua tree pictures...
We ate lunch at a "ranch" on the reservation. The lunch was good. The cool part though was Norman. Remember Norman? He was the baby calf born in the movie City Slickers. This is Norman several years later. You can tell by his face.

Mark and a Joshua tree...By the way, touching them is like touching a cactus.
On the way back, the traffic by Hoover Dam was backed up. It gave me plenty of photo ops. We also stopped at one point where we could get out and take pictures like this. I had no idea how very tall the dam was! Here is looking out over the Colorado from the Dam. The white line on the rocks shows how very high the water has been before.
More cool parts of the dam...
This picture shows the new bypass being built (taken from the top of the dam itself). Eventually, all traffic will go over it, not the dam. The new bridge is REALLY high above the river.

An "us" picture
The rest of the trip back to the hotel was very pleasant. We learned so much about the area from our guide Marie. I don't typically "advertise" on here, but I give a big thumbs up to Bighorn Tours and Marie. Thank you so much for the memories!
More to come...

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I am a day behind in posting. And what I REALLY want to post is about today. But I also like things in order, so I will just have to put that on hold and post about yesterday. Yesterday (Friday), Mark had to be on the other end of the Strip for a convention. I did not. I stayed in bed. I lounged. I blogged. I took my time getting up. I will not lie. It was just WONDERFUL!!!

When I finally did get up and around, I ate my little breakfast from home, then headed down the Strip. I am so glad we had walked it the night before, so I had an idea what I was doing, where I was going. I had on comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes, and was happy that the "flickers" for the most part were gone. I have noticed that a lot of people here aren't very interactive (not quite like back home where you wave to everyone). Mark and I think that is because you have to constantly look straight ahead to avoid eye contact with the "flickers", the show salesmen, etc. Anyway...

So I walked down the Strip, which looks very different in the daytime. This picture is for my mother. Mom, we wanted to get you a shirt too but didn't really see one that just screamed "Grams".I didn't get to see the water fountain show up close, but the hotel itself (the Bellagio) was absolutely gorgeous.
Another picture completely for my son...

I finally found Caeser's Palace. I had heard there were some nice "shops" there (called the Forum Shops) so I did a little window shopping. I was pretty sure I couldn't afford to even walk into most of the stores. I told Mark I am not a high class lady apparently...I felt a little like Julia Roberts (different occupation though) on Pretty Woman when she is trying to shop. :) Anyway, while I was there, I texted Mark to let him know where I was. I took a few minutes to rest (it was a bit of a hike from our hotel). Suddenly there was my hubby next to me. A nice treat!

First things first, we were hungry and needed to eat. So we went to a restaurant called "Joe's Seafood Steakhouse and Stone Crab" which should not at all be confused with "Joe's Crab Shack". :) It looked pretty classy and I worried because I was pretty casual, but thankfully in Vegas, just about anything goes. I don't do very many "reviews" but I will say that it was one of my favorite meals in a long time. I started with crab bisque which I LOVED and ate every last bit. Then I had crab stuffed sole with lobster sauce. Really, what is more seafood than that? (Mark had mahi mahi) A very nice diner near us advised us on buying sides to share due to the large size. She was very helpful, and I appreciate that! The whole meal was wonderful. Unfortunately, I was miserable for a long time afterward because I had eaten WAY too much. It sure was good though! (And a pretty good value, especially compared to our meal the night before).

After lunch, we strolled through the mall area a bit more. We enjoyed some of the statues...then we stopped by one of the bigger statues to watch the "show" where the statues come to "life". That was entertaining.

Afterward, I thought we should stop by the Mirage to see the tigers. So we walked right next door. Apparently they have dolphins there too (a dolphin habitat anyway). Tigers and dolphins are quite a combination if you ask me. :)

Sadly, it cost money to see the tigers (which apparently used to be free to view) and I didn't want to see them THAT much. So we hopped on the monorail to head down the strip (or up the strip, I have no idea which way) to MGM. There we were able to see lions...for free!
We also visited New York, New York. This was the first sight we spotted. I had to take a picture for my daughter and her very sweet tooth. The whole thing is made from candy. :)
We had talked about watching a show, but were undecided about what to watch. I have wanted to see Cirque du Soleil. I will admit, I was naive. I thought it was more like a circus on a higher level. I knew nothing. For one thing, there are SEVERAL shows under the Cirque name. We called their ticket box and nearly choked on the ticket prices. Friends at home had suggested visiting a ticket kiosk; they try to sell tickets not bought yet for a cheaper price. Well, usually. Apparently not Cirque tickets. Just that morning, Mark had talked to a friend about Ka which is one of the Cirque shows. He had told Mark that it was his favorite one. As we were walking back to our hotel, we passed by the Ka ticket booth in MGM (where the lions are). However, we thought we should check out the kiosk first. After that disappointment, we decided to go to the ticket office to see what our options were. On our way back into MGM, a lady handed us a coupon. Honestly, we usually wouldn't take ANYTHING from ANYONE passing things out on the Strip. But it just so happens that it was a coupon for "buy one, get one free" for Ka. So we headed inside, and sure enough, it was a true coupon. So later that night, we headed out for a show...

I really didn't know what to expect. Like I said, I was thinking "Circus". And in some ways it was. The acrobatics and "tricks" and dances were just incredible to watch. The show had a story, though it wasn't just a typical American play. I got parts of the story (very few words spoken, and none were a language I could identify), though I am sure I missed some parts. Looking back, I should have researched the story a bit so I knew what it was about. I spent the first half trying to figure that out. However, it was a very neat experience and quite a show! I am glad we went. And I am glad it wasn't that pricey after all. (Now I would like to see a different Cirque show to see how they compare)

After dinner, we decided to stroll down the Strip. We were a little hungry (finally after our large lunch), so we sought a "light late dinner". You never know who you might meet on the street, like WonderWoman, Freddy Kreuger, Darth Vader, or maybe...

We finally stopped at Paris and found a French sports grill. I am not sure how French it was...I do know that the servers (women) had on some very French kind of outfits. Anyway, we shared an appetizer combination plate for dinner. And I finally got a Mtn. Dew. It was a treat because I hadn't had any since getting here. Afterward, we walked through "Paris" and took a picture for our son who loves France.
We finally got back to our hotel and found this guy along the way. This is for all of my munchkins at home.

We are having a wonderful time but I will not lie. I miss my kiddos a little. :)

Okay, now I have this done, maybe tomorrow some time I can share today's experience, my favorite thus far!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bright Lights, Big City

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling like I had been given a gift. You see, I thought we were flying out at 10, then Mark informed me it was actually 2. I was given a gift of four hours to get ready that I didn't think I had.

I got up, headed out the door for some errands, and returned home with just enough time to pack (I had gotten some things on the errands that I needed to take). Mark was already there packing. I was watching the clock, happy that I had about twenty more minutes to finish up the final details. Then I made this comment, "Honey, it is so fun going on a trip that I didn't plan." You see, I am typically the trip planner of the family. However, since this trip is for Mark's job, he was the planner, though I have inserted some of my own plans. :) But for the most part, the details have been his job. I love my husband, love so many things about him. I will be the first to admit (well, probably behind him) that details are not really his strength. He is a big picture person. I am a details person. See how that works? Well, it usually works. Yesterday it did not. I am not joking about this, because there was not a smile on my face, trust me. I made that comment at the exact same time that Mark pulled out a copy of our flight details and informed me (at 11:40) that it appeared we actually were flying out at 1:00. I went very pale (which is tough to do when you are already as pale as I am) and said, "You have got to be kidding me!" Only he wasn't. One of my biggest frustrations is having to rush in my packing. Suddenly we kicked it into overdrive and somehow managed to get out the door with what we needed. At least I think so.

I will say that the first hour of the trip was not our most romantic getaway because it was a bit tense. Mark apologized and joked all the way to the airport, I imagined us being stuck in the airport the rest of the day trying to fly out since we missed the flight. It didn't help that traffic was terrible, the lines for dropping off luggage were REALLY long, and then security lines were the longest I have ever seen for our little airport. I will give him this much. We did make it on time (barely). For once, our flight was on time. In fact, both flights, including the one connecting in Dallas which is my despised place to fly through, were on time, and actually both arrived a bit early. So that helped ease the tension. At least a little bit. :)

As you know, I am not much of a flyer. I did okay on this trip other than lots of prayers, especially on take off and landing. One of my errands involved a stop at a Christian bookstore to pick up some cheap novels. The bad part is that I only brought one, thinking I would save the other two for our trip to the beach. Unfortunately, part way through the trip I had to stop reading just to save SOMETHING for me to read on the way home. And it is killing me not to go finish it. :)

I am not naive by any means (well, maybe a little). I have heard enough about Vegas, seen enough, etc, to know what kinds of things we would encounter. For some reason though, seeing slot machines as soon as I got off the plane was still a surprise to me. I also had to laugh when the shuttle company gave us our "tickets" to ride the shuttle to the hotel in casino chips.

Anyway, here are a few pictures from our first night here (we didn't arrive until late afternoon). Probably not the most exciting pics, but I took many of them with my own kids in mind. I kept seeing things that I knew they would like, though I would be hard pressed to ever bring my children here!

One of the first things on the strip I saw was New York, New York. I knew our son would LOVE this picture. The funny thing is that I have been wanting to go to New York for some time, more than my desire to come to Vegas. I told Mark he should have booked our hotel there, so I got a little bit of both. :)

This is where we are actually staying...the Luxor. I haven't gotten a photo from the front. It is actually shaped like a pyramid. When we ride the elevator, it goes up and sideways...very strange feeling! I think I thought the accommodations would be a little "glitzier" being here and all. And it is decent for sure. But the internet is wired (we are SO spoiled at home), and the t.v. is last decade's model. And no refrigerator which was a bummer for me since I brought my own breakfast and bought some juice when I got here. We are using the ice bucket instead... Anyway, it is not bad, just not quite what I expected for the price. I am finding there is a lot of that in Vegas. :)
For dinner, we took the tram over to Mandolay Bay to search for a restaurant. We were in the mood for Mexican food, so we ate at Border Grill. It was pretty good food (kind of like the hotel, not quite what you would expect for the price :). I think the view was even better! (Please disregard the fact that I had traveled all day and had given up looking decent back in Dallas)

After dinner, I was still eager to look around. I know Mark was tired, but I appreciate the fact that he was willing to walk with me down part of the strip. We took the tram to the Ex Caliber...
then we crossed a pedestrian bridge to New York, New York...
then we walked down the strip. I spotted the famous M and M World store that everybody said we must check out. Unfortunately it was on the OTHER side of the strip... Had to take a picture of this for my little Frenchman at home. :)
Halfway down the strip, we crossed another pedestrian bridge to the other side of the strip. Here is a shot of a bedraggled me looking back toward our hotel which was WAY down there.
While on the bridge, we looked the other direction and caught the water show at the Bellagio. It was really pretty to watch. (I know it looks like it is at Caesar's Palace, but it truly is at the Bellagio.

Another photo for my son...We did make it to M and M World. I had no idea there was so much M and M merchandise out there. I may have to go back to that one...
This is for my sweet toothed daughter. :)
We finally made it back to the hotel and were ready for some sleep. My time clock is a little off due to the time change. Right now, Mark is at a conference, and I am lounging, checking e-mail and writing this. I suppose I will get up and around.
Hope to check in later...

PS I learned very quickly to walk with my eyes straight ahead when people tried to give BOTH of us cards for things we would rather not see. What hurt my heart with that is that everyone I saw was a minority...some very young. I also have gotten spoiled in NWArk where it is prohibited to smoke in most public places. The smoking EVERYWHERE and the open alcohol/drunkenness everywhere has been a bit of a surprise. It is not that I didn't realize it was out there, I just don't usually see it in a public setting...