Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Surviving Las Vegas with kids and Road trip tips

This Memorial weekend, I drove to Las Vegas with the kids by - my - self. I'm either insane or I really love my husband (or both). Oh, and did I mention the CD player and DVD player in the car were broken?
The hubby was in Vegas working. He called to let me know he was staying at a nice, family-friendly resort and he had a large room with kitchenette. So I braved the holiday traffic
and headed for the city of lights.

Before hitting the road, I made sure I packed plenty of kid distractions, snacks and drinks.

*Travel games (age appropriate)
*Coloring books/crayons
*Interactive toys
(my son loves his fisher-price piano toy & cause & effect toys & they sit well in his lap)
*A child's favorite (be it a toy, stuffed animal, doll, etc)
*A new toy (something new is great for travel and holds the child's interest longer)
*Snacks (crackers, pretzels, fruit snacks, apples, bananas, dried fruit, nuts, etc-I included gummy bears as a reward for good travel behavior)
*Drinks (fruit juice boxes, water bottles, prepared sippy cups of child's favorite drink)
*Cooler (if room allows for a regular or travel size-it's great for drinks and snacks-even a lunch if you'd rather picnic at a rest stop than eat fast food)
*Kid CD's (music sing-a-longs or books on tape)
*DVD's (if your car or portable DVD player are in working order)
*Portable potty (the kids' always need to go before or after the rest stops-a travel potty makes pulling over on the side of the road to pee easier and legal)
*Shades for the side &/or back windows (the sun can get hot and the shades make for a darker nap environment-here's hoping!)
*FOR REST STOPS-bubbles, a ball or Frisbee make great stretch-your-leg activities

I planned leaving at nap time. I knew the lulling movement of the car would get the kids to sleep quickly and keep them asleep for at least an hour and half. The toys occupied my kids intermittently and some new lip gloss kept my daughter happy. We didn't have a CD player to sing-a-long to so we sang ourselves. My daughter practiced her ABC's as my son tried to copy her with his toddler babble. I also worked with my daughter on several Spanish words.

About three to four hours into the trip, we needed a break and some food. We stopped at the Burger King in Baker, CA. Then, to stretch our legs, we checked out the World's Largest Thermometer in Baker. (The toys in the kid's meals kept the kids' attention for the next leg of the trip)

Since the hotel room included a kitchenette, I brought microwavable entrees and instant oatmeal. I could save a little on food expenses for the kids and my daughter just loves her oatmeal. I wish I'd brought coffee, because the stuff the hotel provided must have been dirt. I purchased milk and juice at a store near the hotel to keep in the small fridge provided in the room. My hubby mentioned the room was large enough for the kids to play. Along with the toys I packed, I brought the kids' tunnel toy. They enjoy crawling through it and hiding in it. Plus, it folds flat making for easy packing. Also, it's a great place to stick all the toys so the hotel room doesn't look so cluttered (like home).
Additionally, the hotel had several pools. I remembered bathing suits, but I forgot floaties and pool toys. I cursed myself for that oversight.

Now, Vegas is not the kid-friendliest town. Kids can be in the casinos, but only to pass through. If ever I stopped the double stroller for a minute on the casino floor maze to get my bearings-I'd get a tap on the shoulder to "keep moving." "Hey, I'm just trying to find an exit or a bathroom!" I obviously couldn't gamble. And come to find out, if you're with kids, it's difficult to order a drink even from a street vendor on Fremont Street. If you want a beer (which you do-you're traveling with kids) have someone else order it for you.

My son is 16-months and my daughter is almost 4-years-old. Both enjoyed the lights and sounds of the casinos. I suggest strolling through many of them.

Here's a list of some activities to do in Vegas with kids:
*Treasure Island has a great Pirate Show nightly
*Enjoy a Medieval times dinner at Excalibur and their Midway arcade

*See Sharks at Mandalay Bay (their beach also has a lazy river)

*At the Venetian take a gondola ride
*Circus Circus is old, but has a mini Circus through the day
*The massive water fountain show outside the Bellagio
*Caesar's Palace Forum Shops includes an FAO Schwartz toy store with candy shop & soda fountain-there is also an animatronic Poseidon water fountain laser light show
*The Flamingo houses large, tropical pools and wildlife habitat
*FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE Old Las Vegas with live music, street vendors and huge canopy light and sound show
*Mall Of America offers many kid-friendly attractions

I had no luck with child care. Some hotels offer child care starting at age 2 or 3. You'll need to call ahead for details. Check out LAS VEGAS FOR KIDS for more info on child care and kid activities.

The drive back from Vegas was planned at nap time too. I borrowed the lap top from my husband to play a DVD. I knew the Memorial Day traffic was going to cost me an extra hour or two. The return drive took six hours and that last hour was wearing on my nerves. But, you have to be prepared to zone out and drive-through all the crying and screaming. No amount of planning, no favorite toy, no song, no game, no DVD is going to quell a child's urge to get-the-hell-out of that straight-jacket-of-a-car seat! They'd much rather be in their mom's arms or out running free...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Call me Old Fashioned, but I sincerely believe in THANK YOU notes.

This past weekend, I attended a birthday party for my daughter's former daycare friend. Her friend turned 6 and started kindergarten last fall. I was shocked to hear from the birthday boy's mom that none of the kids from his class send out thank you notes any more. She felt if others weren't doing them-she wasn't going to waste her time. I couldn't blame her, but I couldn't agree. She did attach a nice card to the party favor bags which read: "Thanks for coming to my party."

I would think the older a child gets the MORE you want them to learn to respect people, appreciate things and be gracious as well as grateful.

Thank you cards don't have to be a hassle and it's okay for them to be the same. Keep them simple, short and sweet.

Name of guest,
Thank you for the ___________
and coming to my party.
birthday kid's name

I think it's so important for the note to specify the gift received. It makes the "thank you" more personal and appreciated. The cards don't have to expensive or match the party theme-they can be generic or hand-made.

Even though my daughter can't write, she enjoys coloring the thank you cards that I write out for her. She practices her letters and gets to be creative.

I love to include pictures of the guests at the party along with the thank you card if time allows. I prefer handwritten notes, but I'm also a fan of printed out note cards with a few added touches by my daughter.

At Christmas time, I've even sent electronic thank you cards. My daughter likes assisting at the computer and picking out the animation. It may not be as personal, but it's still a "thank you."
(I do insist the cards are mailed out for my kids' birthdays since that day is truly dedicated to just them)

The following is a link for thank you card etiquette from clubmom.com and about.com (there are lots of links on this subject).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What my mother taught me

My friend sent this funny email to me & I had to share....

1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE .
"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning."

2. My mother taught me RELIGION .
"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL .
"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

4. My mother taught me LOGIC .
"Because I said so, that's why."

5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC .
"If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're
not going to the store with me."

6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT .
"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an

7. My mother taught me IRONY.
"Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."

8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS.
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

9. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM.
"Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"

10. My mother taught me about STAMINA.
"You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."

11. My mother taught me about WEATHER.
"This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."

12. My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY.
"If I told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate!"

13. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE.
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

14. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION.
"Stop acting like your father!"

15. My mother taught me about ENVY.
"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do."

16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.
"Just wait until we get home."

17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING.
"You are going to get it when you get home!"

18. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE.
"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to get stuck that way."

19. My mother taught me ESP.
"Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?"

20. My mother taught me HUMOR.
"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

21. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT.
"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."

22. My mother taught me GENETICS.
"You're just like your father."

23. My mother taught me about my ROOTS.
"Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?"

24. My mother taught me WISDOM.
"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

25. And my favorite: My mother taught me about JUSTICE.
"One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you."

any of these sound familiar?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"Kids say the darndest things"

My daughter, trying to avoid going to bed, complained about her tummy the other night. She told me in her most drawn-out-pitiful voice,
"Mama, I have a stomach egg."

I had to bite the side of my cheek while I made sure she was comfortable and tucked her back in bed.

A few days ago, my daughter asked my completely caught-off-guard husband,
"Why you got a horn growing out of your legs?"


More Silence.

I later explained what the "horn" was to my daughter- citing her brother since she's always pointing and asking what "that" is while I'm changing his diaper.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day in the real world

So I can't say my Mother's Day was completely relaxing or a day dedicated solely to me...well, those words don't describe motherhood either! And I quite enjoyed my crazy Mother's Day with my family.
The kids woke up earlier than usual- ending my dreams of sleeping in until nine. But, they were well behaved and allowed me to enjoy two cups of coffee while reading my Women's Health magazine in peace.
My husband gave me the Mother's Day gift set from Philosophy! I was so excited and very impressed. My husband had been paying attention when I mentioned how much I loved the Philosophy beauty products.
My husband had to work this weekend, but luckily the call time for his shoot was late on Sunday. We decided to take advantage of brunch time and went out to eat. Not wanting to fight Mother's Day crowds, we opted for a favorite, low-key Indian place-sadly it was not open on Sundays. My hubby mentioned Philly cheese steak- which I'd been craving for about 2 weeks now. I called the free 411 info line to get the location of South Street Philly. The computer prompter repeated the number back so fast I couldn't write it down in time (free 411 doesn't connect you automatically to a phone number). I called back twice and the service informed me they couldn't locate the business phone number. Unlike the 411 info service you pay $1.25 for, free 411 just hangs up on you if they can't find your request. All we were eating was the small window of time my husband had before having to go to work. I called regular 411 and we made it to the restaurant. $1.25 well spent!
We were the first customers in the place and the Philly cheese steak and beer really hit the spot! Mother's Day brunch doesn't always have to be about quiche and mimosas! During the meal, my daughter asked to go "peepee." I took her to the restroom. She didn't sit back far enough on the toilet and created a pee waterfall and thus soaked her little panties. I wrapped her undies in some paper towels and stuffed them in the diaper bag when we returned to the table. My daughter really wanted her underwear back on and insisted she could dry them. She retrieved the wet undies and wrung them with the paper towels. She then quietly proceeded to hang them on a near by door knob to air dry. I was busy chowing down on my cheese steak and didn't notice the hanging panties until my daughter pointed them out to me. I was so relieved the place was not yet crowded!
When we were leaving, my son was running around the empty parking lot under my husband's supervision. My daughter ran over to her brother to "help" him to our car. Right after my husband told our daughter, "He's okay, don't help him," she pushed her brother towards the direction of the car. He fell face first into the hot asphalt and busted his lip. As my husband disciplined our daughter, I consoled our son. His little top lip swelled in the center to a knot the size of a dime. I used the ice from my daughter's lemonade to soothe the pain. My husband drove us back home. He and I held hands and exchanged quiet, defeated laughter while both kids screamed and cried the entire drive. Once we returned home, I gave our son Children's Motrin and a popsicle. My husband then got his stuff together for work and I started the laundry. Before he left, my hubby kissed me lovingly good bye. My daughter wrinkled her nose at our affection and deemed it "ew, gross." Later the kids played in the backyard and I called my mom, mom-in-law and sister. I had nice conversations with all. Then, after several attempts, I finally got the kids down for a nap. I finished the laundry and took a much needed, albeit short, bath with my new Mother's Day bubble bath gift! For dinner, I made spaghetti with homemade sauce and turkey meatballs. Delicioso! What a wonderful Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

More about Mother's Day

The History of Mother's Day-

"You might think this was a holiday invented by Hallmark, but it's not so.
The story of Mother's Day in America is the stuff of soap opera."

(from fabulousfoods.com)

Click here
to read about the tragic heroine behind this sentimental day.

Here are a few links to gift ideas & freebees for moms:

--DIRECTV is offering the newly launched BABY FIRST channel for FREE May 10th-31st

--It's late for gifts but Ivillage has some great ideas including this very unique gift

--Ivillage "Just for Moms" will also email you free Daily Indulgence ideas-sign up here

--Find Free ecards, poems and more at 101mothersday.net

--If you're interested in learning how to be a Hot Mama (and Botox)-Vicki Iovine, author of the Girlfriend's Guide series, has a free download from her latest book.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pamper yourself this Mother's Day

I hope you receive a special, homemade gift from your child and an elegant spa package too!! YOU DESERVE IT!

Pampers diapers and Baby's R Us are hosting some free seminars this Mother's Day

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bring the Zoo to You!

My kids want to go to the zoo
but the sky is full of gloom
Oh, what are we to do?
The zoo can come to you!
In this webcam age,
see monkies in their cage
or a
swamp and a gator.
See them now, not later!
Watch an eagle soar
and view hatchlings in her nest
elephants dancing
or a
polar bear take a rest.
So bring the zoo to you
a computer's all you need.
Type what animal to see
you'll have fun indeed!

A fellow mom at my kids' daycare told me to check out a website about eagles. The site has a webcam allowing you to view newly hatched eagles.
She did a search on google- type live animals + webcam
You'll find numerous sites from zoos, aquariums & wildlife preserves.
I found several links on this webcam locator site.
My daughter really enjoyed it!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Answer the question

Kids are curious. As soon as they are talking, it seems they only ask questions. Over and over and over and over again...
The WHY? stage.
It doesn't have to be annoying.

At around 3-years-old, my daughter started asking a lot of questions and wanted the answers repeated just as often.
I put a limit on how many times I'd repeat myself-THREE TIMES. On the third time I'd tell my daughter, "Mommy, has told you three times now." At that point, she would usually repeat the answer I'd told her three times. I knew she heard me the first time, but where's the fun in asking a question once?

My daughter is almost four now. She's still asking questions; though not asking for repeat answers. Most of the questions my daughter asks occur while we're driving.
I've tried to make a creative game of it so I don't go insane.

WHAT'S THAT MAMA? Since I am driving and can't see what my daughter's asking about-I ask her, "Did you see a building, a tree, a sign?" Usually she'll point and say, "no, that." I'll explain that mommy's driving and can't look right now and ask that she explain what's she pointing at to me.

WHY THOSE BIRDS SIT ON THE WIRE LIKE THAT? The birds like to hang out there and talk.

WHAT THOSE BIRDS LOOKING AT? They like to look at cars and look for food someone might throw on the ground.

WHO THAT GUY? He looks like a jogger. He's getting some exercise.

WHO PAINTED THAT (mural at a high school)? The students at the school painted that. It's called a mural.

I often don't know the answers to my daughter's questions. I just make them up...you can too.

Monday, May 01, 2006

So yesterday...

My daughter is almost 4. Her vocabulary skills are improving dramatically day by day. It's truly amazing to watch the learning process. And it's sometimes funny to listen to how she puts words and ideas she hears together in her own special way.
My daughter is often getting her words mixed up or switched around-

She'll say crackerfire instead of firecracker
or table coffee instead of coffee table
or cookie girl instead of Girl Scout cookie

Her concept of days and time has not yet fully developed.
My daughter believes that everything happened yesterday:

She was a baby. "Yes ter day, I was a baby in your tummy."
She saw her cousins Parker and Cameryn (she saw them at least a month ago)
She went to Disneyland (she went several months ago)
It's all so yesterday...