Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A very Diznee Christmas

I must preface the forthcoming disparagement of a quaint, local holiday tradition with this disclaimer:  My family enjoyed meandering along the wooded paths of Storybook Lane viewing hundreds of painted cutouts of (mostly) beloved storybook characters. It is clear that this family-friendly exhibition on a resident's personal property is the result of years of hard work and passion, and the fact that it is offered to the community for free is greatly appreciated.  I happened to find the occasional bit of unintended humor along the way, and would like to share it with like-minded friends. But I mean no disrespect.

It was our first visit to "Storybook Lane," which is presented bi-annually by three generations of a local family at their estate. I'd heard about it. I'd read an archived newspaper article about it. But I did not know entirely what to expect. My imagination conjured up something like a very amateur Enchanted Forest (please tell me you know what I'm talking about), and that is a fairly apt description of what we found.

The very first display made me worrying about what we'd find by venturing further.  That's really not a bad rendition of Ms. DeVille. But look closely at her name on the sign.

I worried that we'd also find "Mickeney Mouse" and "Ronald Ruck" as attempted legal protection, but since the rest of the characters were clearly labeled with their Disney-given names, it became apparent that somebody simply misspelled "Cruella."

The army of mechanical snowmen was just a little too creepy for my taste.

Whoa, slow down! Carousel on fast-forward.

Here's Robin Hood hunting down his Thanksgiving turkey. Or Bambi and friends. Or some of the 101 Dalmations.  Look out, cute little animals!

I am so confused. The one character without a name tag looks suspiciously like Harry Potter ("or," as Gary dared to say, "his lesbian sister").  The glasses, the broom, he's the famous wizard, right? But "Harry" is navigating some sort of Christmas bubble helicopter, which was labeled as the Santa Express or something. Now, I didn't actually read all those books, so maybe I'm missing something when I say, "Huh?"

This video gives a nice representation of one of the more elaborate displays. You can see that this has been a labor of love, and I admire and appreciate that. A little WD-40 might make the experience slightly more magical, though.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Slow (comma) children present

I have some issues with School Zones.

First of all, why are the circumstances under which the Speed limit is reduced to 20 MPH different for each school? When children are present. School days 7am to 5pm. When flashing. When the third moon of Jupiter is in its second phase.

I like the flashing yellow light because it does not require me to back up and re-read the sign and there is no way to misinterpret that boldly blinking orb.

On the other hand, does "when children are present" encompass only the times when you can physically see children, or is that supposed to mean "during times of the day when children could possibly be in the vicinity of this school"?

And the sign specifying hours on school days doesn't give me the break from a snail's pace on any teacher work day I'm not aware of.

Secondly, I find that being forced to drive 20 miles per hour only gives a false sense of security.  At that dreadfully slow speed, I become easily entranced with a bird flitting about in the soccer field or a leaf caught mercilessly under my windshield wiper. The world becomes distracting when I'm not moving fast enough to require focus on the road.

But here's the biggest concern I have by far. It's similar to the first one, regarding a lack of consistency.  But rather than circumstances, this is about existence. In my town, there is a giant upper-elementary school (it looks big enough to be a high school but has only 4th and 5th graders enrolled) that boasts a half-mile school zone, coordinated by lovely flashing lights at both ends. I miss this one as long as I'm on time getting Madelyn to school, but have to drive through it on my way home.  I might see one or two children along that half-mile route on a good day, and the actual school building is at least 50 yards away from the road.  In addition, the entire campus is enclosed by a chain link fence, meaning that once on the property, students are only in danger of being struck by a vehicle in the parking lot.

Several blocks away is the relatively new "Community School."  This is a "free public charter school" in our district, which means it's paid for by taxes but runs more like a hippie-ish private school (and I mean that in a good way).  The school is housed in a quaint commercial building along one of the "downtown" streets of our small city.  Every morning on my way home from dropping Madelyn off, I drive along the two-lane, major one-way street in front of the Community School.  And every morning I see at least a dozen children on the sidewalks around the building, parking their bikes in front, or being escorted across the street by a parent.  I don't think this school even has a parking lot to speak of, and I highly doubt there is bus service, so parents pull into street parking spaces and shuffle their kids across to school if the children don't just walk there.  

There is no school zone for the Community School. Not one sign indicating to reduce speed for these particular students.  The front door of the school is literally a stone's throw from the cars passing by. So why doesn't the Community School get a School Zone when the safety of those children is clearly much more compromised due to its proximity to the street?

I really don't think that School Zones magically create a safe environment. I even admitted that I think in some ways only a false sense of protection is achieved. But it seems like if these zones are going to exist, it should be consistent, or if anything, they should only be enforced where danger from nearby traffic truly does exist!

At least Oregon repealed that crazy law we briefly had to endure which mandated School Zones be in effect "at all times."  Twenty miles per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Just in case there are some kids having a cram session on the playground at 2am on Sunday night, you know.  I'll be happy with my flashing yellow lights, thank you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Latest 'oh crap' moment

You know those moments where life is going along pleasant as pie and then you see something, remember something, or reach for something and everything suddenly changes? Do you ever have those "oh crap!" moments?

My most recent occurred Sunday night when I was gathering my family's things and preparing to leave my brother's house toward the end of a birthday party for my daughter and two nieces.  It had been a busy day and a very fun party, and I was looking forward to getting home, with a 30-minute drive home still ahead.  We piled Madelyn's newly unwrapped presents in a box and leftover cake in another. Coats had been donned and Madelyn was graciously saying goodbye to the family members that still remained.

The moment hit me specifically as I braced myself against the impending chill to take an armful of stuff out to the car before laying down the final "it's time to go" ultimatum. I went for my keys, and instantaneously recalled where I had put them: inside the blue bag I brought for my husband containing a change of clothes since he had to join us there directly from work.  After a long day of said work, he left the party about an hour earlier than we, and--you guessed it--took the bag home with him.


A quick glance around the room allowed that distinct probability to fuse its way into reality.  I made the dreadful call to my exhausted husband, who had already made the 30-minute drive home: "remember when I told you I was putting the keys in that blue bag?" The question was at first met with aggravated silence, understandably.

Now, my sister lives near me, so perhaps Madelyn and I could have ridden home with her family and returned to get my truck the next day.  I had even left it unlocked, so having a carseat for Madelyn would not be a problem. One minor detail prevented this reasonable solution, however. I had chosen to park in my brother's narrow driveway directly behind his carpet cleaning van--and he had jobs scheduled early the next morning.

We also considered a convoluted plan of riding with my parents to the extra car they had left at their church, then having my mom take me to meet Gary partway and get the keys from him. But when we realized that either my mom or Gary would have to drive me all the way back to my brother's house anyway, it became obvious that having Gary just bring me the keys was the simplest, least burdensome solution under the circumstances.

Such a bummer.  Mostly for Gary, unfortunately, since he had to leave home and spend an extra hour driving, whereas I (despite my eagerness to get home) was able to enjoy a few more minutes visiting with my brother, and Madelyn got to play with her cousin's new Tinkerbell dress-up dolls.

What are your memorable "oh crap" moments?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Flashback Friday: Alaska

We've done the proposal, the bachelorette party, some wedding photos and reflections, so now on to the honeymoon!

I haven't mentioned much about our wedding theme: Winter in July. You may have noticed some elements of it in the pictures, but it actually holds quite a bit of significance.  To add another layer, we chose to take the Alaska Inside Passage cruise for our honeymoon. Gary is not a lover of tropical destinations, but we're both wild about outdoor adventures, so this was a great choice. Here are some random memories and experiences from our trip.

1-Dinner guests
On this Holland America cruise, we were assigned a dinner time, and a dinner table in the main restaurant. On the first night, when we were guided to our table set for six, I was slightly disappointed.  Why would they seat the honeymooning couple (yes, they were aware) with a group of strangers?

As it turned out, our dinners with these two Texas Ranch couples were a highlight of the whole vacation. They were a lot of fun, and let's face it: no matter how much you love your spouse, when you have 7 days straight to spend together, occasionally enjoying the added company of others is welcome.
I used to scoff at people who feared getting seasick on a cruise--I mean those ships are so huge compared to waves, right? Our first day of sailing was spent in the open Pacific Ocean along the western coast of Canada, before reaching the calm Inside Passage. I could not believe the tempestuous rocking and rolling we experienced that day and the first night. I went to one of the sundry shops and purchased some Bonine tablets for motion sickness. They cost $6.99, which I know because I just looked at the box that is still hanging out in my medicine cabinet since I only needed them that one day.  Later that same day I told someone--probably one of our new rancher friends at the dinner table--about picking those up.  I was then swiftly informed that those tablets are available at the concierge desk for free. FREE. This brings up two pertinent questions: 1) Why do they even stock them in the store then? 2) Why didn't the cashier tell me that I could get them for free by stumbling a few more feet down the hall?  I remember distinctly waking up in the middle of the night feeling as though I were riding inside a front loading washing machine.

3-Once in a lifetime opportunity, missed
We saw many beautiful glaciers on our cruise and learned a great deal about them too. Some lucky people get to witness glacial calving, where huge pieces of the ice break off into the water. Gary was one of those people, but due to a poorly-timed restroom break, I was not. Thankfully, he knows how to use a camera.

Can you see the big chunk breaking off?


4-Deceiving distance
I found it fascinating to comprehend that Johns Hopkins Glacier is about 8 miles from our cruise ship as pictured below. Perspective is strange.

I couldn't be more pleased with each of our choices of excursions in port. In Juneau, after riding the Mt. Roberts Tramway up a mountain and taking a short hike, we boarded a float plane for a bird's eye view of some amazing scenery, including glacial formations.

I had no idea glaciers were so dirty. The ice at the forefront originated from snow that fell in the mountains 75 to 200 years ago.

This looks like meringue.

You must believe me on this one: all three of the colors around the trees in the above photograph are water. So close to one another, and yet all so different.

By the way, did you know that Juneau can only be accessed by plane or boat? I didn't know that before we went there. Although debate surrounds the current project to build a highway connecting Juneau to the Alaskan road system.

6-Bear pee delight
The float plane delivered us to historic Taku Lodge for an amazing Alaskan salmon feast. After dinner we had the distinct pleasure of witnessing a black bear climb atop the grill which had prepared our feast, lick it clean, and pee all over it.


7-Bike, hike, kayak

A great way to get off the beaten path and experience some natural parts of Sitka that the less adventurous tourists won't see.

Kayaking from Ketchikan, we were lucky to spot a few bald eagles catching prey on the rocky shore.

This trip truly was incredible. Gary and I agreed, however, that one day we must tour Alaska in our own vehicle so that we can see more and take everything in at our own pace--as opposed to that of the sailing schedule.  I would certainly recommend an Alaskan cruise as well, though. It's a great way to see a lot in a short amount of time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You're getting warmer...

While leaders of the global warming pack arrive in Copenhagen by way of 140 private jets and 1200 limousines, some of us are freezing our butts off.

In Portland this morning, a 37-year-old low temperature record was broken when the mercury dropped to a chilly twelve degrees.  I can't go outside without a hat and gloves.  It warmed up to 25 degrees during my run yesterday, and I have to say the feeling of my legs being warm on the inside and numb on the outside was uncomfortably eerie.

In a city where snowfall is rare, flurries on Friday set a new record for early snowfall in Houston.  The previous record for early snow on December 10 was set in 1944 and matched last year.

Baby, it's cold outside. So as long as Climategate's carbon footprint doesn't tip the scales, I think the (thriving) polar bears are going to be okay.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

You can't argue with a bargain

This place is going to give Dollar Tree a run for their money.  Or is it?

A couple of months ago I noticed a new store open up on Main Street in my quaint little town. Big yellow signs proclaim in red lettering that it is called Mia's Dollar Plus Store. Sounds to me like the kind of place that would be fun to check out, but not a shopping destination I'd find myself ever requiring. So it took me until last night, after sitting on the curb across from Mia's Dollar Plus watching our town's Holiday Light Parade, that I had the opportunity to venture inside.

The interior of the store was rather dim and smelled musty. I quickly realized that this operation was more like the Viet-Thai Food Market that used to be next door to our Curves than a traditional chain discount store.  Just for fun, I wandered the aisles, chuckling inconspicuously a number of times as I went.

Two displays in particular, however, had me struggling to maintain a composed facade. Thankfully I was prepared with my camera and the only worker in the store was hidden behind stacks of knick-knacks for sale at the checkout counter and couldn't see me snapping photographic mockery down the narrow aisle.

There were two very odd sealed packages of diapers on the top rack--certainly not a local brand, but just because they aren't Huggies or Pampers doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them, right? But below that...bundles of diapers wrapped in rubber bands.  On the front of each is a post-it note on which is written either a 7 or an L--they went both directions. These are for sale. You may pay money at a store for a handful of diapers wrapped in a rubber band.

A little further down the same aisle were pantyliners, and just above those, logically, were the VHS tapes.  Actually the shelf of videocassettes stretched down the entire row above other such necessities found near diapers as flashlights, shoe polish, and keychains.  But these aren't just any videos.  They are used, and the cardboard jackets (on those lucky enough to still have one) are in poor repair. I mean, it's not like you can buy new VHS tapes anywhere these days, but the concept of part store/part garage sale is foreign to me.

In summary, if you are in need of just a few diapers or an instructional video on Intermediate Golf for your VCR, give me a call and I'll totally hook you up.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Flashback Friday: Perfectly imperfect wedding

It's a good thing that throughout my wedding day I was in a state of bliss.  I believed the entire experience was a bride's dream come true: the perfect wedding.

In the days and weeks and years that have passed since Gary and I were married on July 15, 2005, I have periodically contemplated an array of minor regrets. I wonder if this is a common post-bridal-bliss phenomenon. It's probably a natural thought process following any once-in-a-lifetime type of event (even couples who eventually divorce presumably view their wedding day in those terms, right?).  Most brides get only one dress. One cake. One ring. One suite of bridesmaid dresses. One chance to make the perfect choices and to execute each one perfectly.

So when that one day you've laboriously planned for over many exciting months is suddenly over, is it common for the analysis to begin, and little disappointments that weren't there on the Big Day to settle? Especially if a gal were to keep her nose in bridal magazines or be forced to attend wedding after wedding for friends and family members--finding new and better options, seeing fresh ideas and styles as your own choices are left in an era behind, and being reminded of how things could have been done--could potentially exacerbate all this nuptial mourning nonsense.

What I've described does not reflect my own experience to any disturbing degree.  But I have spoken to married women who make me wonder about the universality of longing to re-do at least certain aspects of such a treasured, momentous occasion as our own wedding.  If nothing else, the photos I've seen from early nineties' weddings might be enough to confirm the suspicion.

My nearly-perfect wedding began for me the night before. After Gary and I hosted our immediate family members at a dinner celebration at the restaurant where we met when both employed there, I drove with my mother and my only sister to the bed and breakfast in the foothills of Mt. Hood where I would be married.  This girls' night together chatting and giggling and squeezing together into a huge king bed was the perfect conclusion for my un-married life. The next morning we were elegantly served the most delicious German Pancakes (a first for me) topped with raspberries picked fresh from the garden outside our log cabin. YUM.

We woke up to this day:

Yeah, that's where I got married. NO regrets there! Which was a close call, because we overcame distinct opposition to the idea of requesting that guests travel over an hour from Portland to attend.  I am so glad we held strong to our conviction on this decision, because this venue is one of the most memorable and special aspects of our wedding, and the people who made the effort to attend are the ones who matter most.

Also perfect: my wedding dress.

I had no intentions of selecting a strapless gown; it isn't the most flattering style on my broad shoulders.  This dress really didn't fit the vague idea I was concocting of the perfect dress, but when I tried it on, it literally became the embodiment of my perfect dress. I love the lace-up back. I love the intricate beading and silver-threaded leaf design. I love the organza overlay. It made me feel so beautiful.

We were very pleased with our photographer--actually we got two for the price of one because they were instructing a new guy on the team.  So there were two cameras shooting most of the time, which is why we also got a few precious shots of our actual photographer:

Brian took our engagement photos in NE Portland too, and he was super easy to work with, really fun, and took excellent photos.

The last piece of my wedding puzzle that I've remained especially happy about is serenading my new husband.

My very talented mother accompanied me singing "The Nearness of You" by Norah Jones. I'll never forget that my older brother Bryan told me he had a hard time determining whether I was actually singing or lip-syncing to a professional recording, and also that it isn't right for his sister to sing "like that."  It's a fairly sultry song.

Even these points of near-perfection hit their snags.  The weather was beautiful, but in Columbia River Gorge style, turned windy.  My dress didn't fit quite as well after 8 hours, so the evening photos feature a hefty portion of armpit fat spilling over the top.  That might be the absolute worst part, but just in case I'll go ahead and describe a few more things I've secretly wished could have been different.  I hope it is clear that these are minor blemishes to an otherwise joyful celebration of love.

It's a fact that disappointment always results from unmet expectations. I loved every bit of my wedding while I was experiencing it, but revisiting pictures and memories offers the unfortunate perspective to unwittingly compare reality to the fantasy I thought I was living.

My hair ended up far too perfectly curled, when what I wanted was the loose, messy look from this magazine ad:

I actually love our unique cake, and knew we wouldn't get exactly the same look we fell in love with in a magazine.  It was just an inspiration photo, after all.  Hopefully not tragic enough to be worthy of submission to the glorious cakewrecks.com, but kind of fun to see the departure.

We planned a butterfly release for the grand finale of our ceremony, only it was more comical than grand, since the butterflies struggled to fly away. It was more of a butterfly "drop."  You can see a few insects fluttering about, plenty on the ground, and Gary trying to shake the rest out of the box.

We visited Mt. Hood Bed and Breakfast on our 2nd anniversary, and the owners told us that the Monarchs and Painted Ladies enjoying their flowers were the spawn of our wedding release. They claimed to enjoy the  beautiful mark we left behind.

So far I've listed the petty little shortfalls of expectation, unimportant in the grand scheme of a beautiful wedding.  But not all of my regrets are so trivial.  For example, like probably any number of newlyweds, I wish we had visited more with our guests throughout the evening.  But that just comes with the territory I think, and considering we didn't have a reception line, I guess it's pretty good that I at least greeted just about everybody there.

We ended up having to arrange for an alternate officiant with very little notice. Originally a dear friend of mine was to officiate the ceremony, but with less than two weeks to spare, she abandoned us.  While each detail of our wedding and reception were carefully orchestrated, the all-important individual who would do the honors of solemnizing our union suddenly became a matter subject to availability rather than preference.  The woman we found (with the unfailing assistance of our amazing wedding coordinator) was fine, but didn't necessarily exemplify our ultimate match.  Also, she lost her place in her cue cards once, resulting in an awkward few moments when she repeated herself and then struggled to regain composure and continue from the right spot.  We did have two beautiful readings offered by Angie, Gary's best friend from high school, and my sister, Diana.  We both got a little choked up reading our wedding vows, and our huskies presented the wedding rings, led up the aisle by their breeder, with whom we had become good friends.

It might sound a little silly, but if I was offered a chance to change only one thing about my wedding day, after seriously considering having someone tell me my armpit fat was spilling, I would probably ultimately decide to go back and make sure my mother watched our first dance. I don't know where she was, but somehow my mom missed that whole performance. And I say 'performance' because Gary and I took lessons and had an entire dance choreographed to Michael Buble's "Moondance." Yes, I know that's really cheesy, but we had a lot of fun at our lessons. Here is the victory pose after we pulled it off:

So maybe my wedding wasn't perfect.  But the entire day I thought that it was.  That's what being in love feels like.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The stranger side of Vegas

Alright, alright. Las Vegas is kind of a strange place any way you look at it.

At least I'm not aware of any other city where you can order a drink in one building and carry the glass with you outside and into the mall across the street and no one cares about the missing glass or the public drunkenness. And come to think of it, where else are you better off keeping your eyes off the sidewalk, which is littered with frighteningly large, star-nippled boobs (pictures of them, that is).

Despite all that, I will now showcase a few of the strangest things we encountered in this interesting city when we visited during Thanksgiving week--things you won't see on any tourist website.

The first is easily my favorite, and I am deeply grateful that Wiyaka had her camera along on our exciting trip to Albertson's, because there is no way I could possibly describe this contraption to you:

Imagine with me, if you will. You pull out a cart from the row outside the building. You push the cart through the sliding-door entrance and come face to face with this chrome barricade. No helpful explanatory signage can be found, but it is clear that the only way to enter the store is to send your cart through the squarish opening with protective top bars and swinging metal gates while you enter through the separate turnstiles to retrieve it from the other side.

What the what?

Go back. At first glance it would seem that this is an elaborate contrivance designed to foil would-be cart-stealers.  But remember, you got that cart from outside in the parking lot, and there is no similar apparatus keeping you from leaving the store after paying.

And this, my friends, is the moment in which I suddenly comprehend its purpose.  "After paying."  The cart can come in that gate but not out of it, and there is a horizontal bar at diaphragm height over what would be the turnstile exit.  Shoplifting prevention, of course. The only way out is through the checkout lines and back to that same door, on the other side of the gate. Ah. Still weird though, don't you think?

What might make it more strange is that when we asked the grocery bagging lady about it, she said, "In all the years I've worked here, I've never figured out what that's for."  Shouldn't somebody explain it to her?  Of course, once I put my mind to it, I figured it out, so maybe they just assume it's obvious.

Now that I understand the purpose of that peculiar device, it might not be my favorite anymore.  On to the fancy-pants Japanese tourist!

I had to engage in a serious stealth operation to nonchalantly take this picture. But really, wearing pants like that is only asking to be photographed by strangers, so the guy probably would have posed if I'd asked him.  And I'd wager a Jackson he'd flash the peace sign for my camera too.

I can't believe we settled for our hotel pool when we could have done this:

A healthy respect for personal property has kept me from ever conceiving of the idea that a person could jump right into the Bellagio fountain if he/she were wont to (read: drunk enough).  Now that I've seen it with my own eyes, I realize it wouldn't be far-fetched to wonder if this large pool falls victim to unruly punks on a semi-regular basis. A quick search on youtube confirms that this man and his Heineken aren't the first to have braved the waters.  Except I didn't find any videos of brave swimmers getting showered--they all took less-risky dips when the waters were calm.

I would think, in this situation, there would be a crowd of Crazy Guy's friends cheering him on and laughing in disbelief from the bridge.  But there was no one.  Who would do this but to answer a dare or impress his peers? When the song was over and Hotel Security had yet to make their appearance to escort him out, this dude floated around awkwardly for a minute, then stood up and wandered pathetically toward dry land.

This daring feat could have been the crown jewel of any man's Vegas experience.  Instead, it was kind of sad.

So yes, Las Vegas is strange.  But I do think it is pretty impressive that I can travel a mere 1,000 miles from home and see the Statue of Liberty, a Great Pyramid, the canals of Venice, the Eiffel Tower, and a medieval castle within walking distance of one another.  Forget traveling overseas, just go to Vegas!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Las Vegas with toddlers

We didn't really intend to take our little one to Las Vegas.  Some stars aligned to allow us to take a quick, inexpensive getaway when my husband would miss very little work, and we decided to make this adventure a family affair.

First we looked into Disneyland, but soon realized that even with our accumulation of various points and miles (the primary reason for taking this trip in the first place), we would be forced to spend more than we were comfortable with for a seriously sub-par vacation.  The alternate choices that fit our criteria were somewhat limited, thus we ended up settling on Las Vegas as the best option. We had enough points for a two-bedroom suite and were very happy to find a good friend who was able to join us with her two children as well.

There was a period of about 6 of the last 10 years during which the city of Las Vegas toiled to make its image more "family-friendly."  Casinos added roller coasters and arcades, and much of the marketing imagery tended to resemble Summer Camp more than Sin City.  People began to change their mindsets to view Vegas as a place with perfectly acceptable entertainment for the whole family.  Whatever the reasons for forming this respectable image, it seems that the entities who "run" Las Vegas have realized the futility of such an effort.

This trip was my 8th visit to Las Vegas, but my first bringing along an actual child.  I probably wouldn't have noticed the attitude shift if it weren't for the results of my pre-departure search for child-friendly activities in the vicinity.  I came across a legitimate article that reluctantly provided ideas for family fun on the Strip after a not-too-subtle announcement that Vegas is not a place for children. Okay, I suppose that is generally a true statement, and has been all along.

Other than the constant construction of new and more scintillating hotel/ casinos, not much has actually changed in the city over the past decade. By this I mean that even when Vegas was allegedly campaigning for recognition as a family-oriented place, the cabs still featured scantily-clad showgirls, smoking was still allowed everywhere, and a person could still expect to be accosted by dozens of pornographic flyers walking down the sidewalk after 4pm.  So perhaps it was an errantly perpetuated myth that Vegas ever wanted to cater to families (those arcades were for the grown-ups...yeah).  My more likely guess is that either casinos lost a lot of money having too many people visit but not gamble, or the loyal, typical Strip-crowd advocated against the unwelcome wholesomeness.

At any rate, only once were we outwardly condemned for the presence of our children. This was by a man snapping call-girl cards at people along the sidewalk, who asked (rhetorically, I'm sure) why we would bring our family to a place we didn't like. By which I assume he referred to our polite declination of his lewd advertisement. The rest of the time we were generally left alone, save the occasional raised eyebrow.

I believe we did a mighty good job of finding the perfect ways to enjoy Las Vegas with children.  Our entourage consisted of three adults, two around-3-year-olds, and one 3-month old. You probably won't be too surprised to learn that this is the ONLY picture I have of all six of us, out of around 300 pictures.

Kristen, Madelyn, Gary, Lilly, Kylah, Wiyaka
Venetian ~ Las Vegas

If anyone else is searching for activities for kids in Las Vegas, here are some ideas:

I expected more sharks, actually. A really nice aquarium, kind of expensive, but the kids got in free.

A peaceful break (except for overhead aircraft, but you can also choose an indoor ride if you prefer the sounds of shopping), and perfect for my little one who loves water and boats. There is a state-regulated four-bodies-per-boat maximum regardless of age, so consider how you can divide your group.

We kind of stumbled upon information about this little show, and it turned out to be a highlight of the trip. We worried about the attention span of preschoolers, but it was highly entertaining for all ages from start to finish.

The water show is obviously a must-see no matter your age. I've never missed it on any trip--except I'm not sure it existed when I first visited as a teenager (with my family).

But you should also venture inside the grand Bellagio hotel and check out the amazing Botanical Gardens.

The only thing we did that I wouldn't recommend for children is a visit to the Fremont Street Experience. I've visited Fremont Street a couple of times before and always been underwhelmed, but I did think that the overhead light show would entertain the wee ones. To my disappointment, they have replaced the 1.9 billion lightbulbs with an LED light system. This "upgrade" trades the intrigue of a coordinated light show for all the excitement of a really huge television screen. And to top that off, the "show" was basically a giant (literally) advertisement for Vegas: bikini girls, martinis, poker chips, etc. all glamorized and set to hip music.  Every time I leave Fremont Street I determine that I have no reason to ever return there, but this time I mean it!

But we did get to be up on the largest TV screen in the world, so that was pretty cool.

It was challenging being in such a busy place with such small children and an equal child to adult ratio. They were all young enough not to be affected by the scandalous surroundings, and could be entertained by something as simple as an escalator.  Getting around took triple the normal allotted time because we would frequently have to stop to let one child out of a stroller, then later the other one in. Pick up a dropped toy. Find a bathroom and go through that whole process. Stop and explain the importance of holding hands when crossing the street. Change a diaper. Calm a stolen-toy induced tantrum.  Ride the escalator an extra time just for fun. But everybody got a night out child-free while one parent stayed in the room with the sleeping kids.We managed to have a really good time in spite of the inherent obstacles of our situation.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback Friday: Winter in July, in photos

Naturally, what comes next in the progression of personal history? I hope to explore some thoughts about our wedding in a subsequent Flashback Friday, but for today I bring you a photographic journey through my wedding day. I intentionally selected representations of details rather than people for this particular concept. 

live butterfly release

ring bearers

thank-you gifts for guests

Mount Hood Bed & Breakfast
July 15, 2005


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