28 May 2012

Las Vegas, May 2012

Warning: Lengthy post, but lots of pictures towards the bottom!

Matt's Allstate National Forum was in Las Vegas this year, so we bought a few extra flights, extended our stay, and turned it into a family vacation. We had a wonderful time! We stayed with Aunt Pam and Uncle Sandy the first few days we were in town, and then we moved to The Venetian for the second half of the trip.

Uncle Sandy and Aunt Pam were very gracious hosts! They took us to The Hoover Dam, to Red Rock Canyon, and to The Springs Preserve. We hit the Dam the first day we arrived, and I think Noah was too tired to enjoy it fully, but he did appreciate it on and off throughout his mood swings. What he seemed to notice more than the massive scape of concrete and water, was the "golden treasure" (aka, the doors and many of the hand rails were made of shiny brass). Go figure! It was Matt's first time seeing the Dam, and he found it quite interesting. And little London was a good sport just hanging out in the stroller! Afterward, we stopped by a park where wild mountain goat-sheep were grazing, and that was pretty neat. Noah enjoyed them for a few seconds before bee-lining it towards the playground.

Day two, London and I went to church with Aunt Pam while the boys stayed behind to take it easy and go to a nearby park. I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Aunt Pam's faith and getting to meet some of her church friends. Later that day, we headed out to Red Rock Canyon and this is where Noah discovered his love of hiking! He led the way and kept us all on our toes. And I have to say, it was not the easiest trail either. I was carrying London in the Bjorn, and almost fell one time. Thankfully, while Matt was trying to keep up with Noah, Uncle Sandy helped me keep my footing as we trekked on. It wasn't that dangerous necessarily, just lots of rocks! On the way back down, Matt took London, which was a relief for me. Uncle Sandy took the initiative of keeping up with Noah on the return, and I think he got a little exercise out of it. Matt and I were both really impressed and excited for Noah to have enjoyed it as much as he did. He was ready to hike all day! And I love the sense of adventure that Uncle Sandy and Aunt Pam have. Doesn't seem like there's much they aren't ready to take on.

On Monday, we went to the Springs Preserve which is a nature center with gardens and science initiative-type exhibits. We had a nice time, and enjoyed a gourmet lunch at the cafe that overlooked the dessert and city. We saw a dust tornado out in the dessert while we were eating, and that was really interesting! London also discovered her love of watermelon at this particular lunch! This is also the lunch that Uncle Sandy and Aunt Pam offered to watch the kids, so Matt and I could have a night on the town! Of course we took them up on such a generous offer, and we were able to get into The Beatles Cirque De Soleil show, Love. It was really good, but by the time we left, we were exhausted!

Throughout our stay at Uncle Sandy and Aunt Pam's, we had a lot of time to relax, hang out outside, play with Roxy and Sadie (their two Dachshunds), and look through old pictures (which I did not do nearly enough...I love looking through albums). A couple of my favorite memories include: Noah crawling through the doggie door, Noah climbing up unexpectedly in Uncle Sandy's lap at the table, Aunt Pam sweetly holding London while reading the paper, London's initial scared reaction to the dogs and later her incessant giggling while they licked her, and London's reaction to Matt the first time she saw him after he shaved his beard.  She was frightened and couldn't quite figure out who this weird man was that looked a little bit like her daddy, but something was distinctively different. It took her a while to warm up to him again. I felt so sad for her, but at the same time, it was hilarious!

On Tuesday, we checked in to our hotel, and were surprised by how nice it was. We generally stay at fairly nice, clean hotels, but The Venetian was one of the nicest "base" rooms we've ever had the pleasure to stay in. Noah loved it and didn't want to leave! Matt's conference started that day, so he was in meetings most of the time. The kids and I had a lot of time together from that point forward, and it was such a blast. We walked some of the Vegas strip, explored Caesar's Palace and all of it's fountains and some shops, dined at some yummy restaurants, went to The M n' M's Factory, saw the Bellagio Fountains, and spent a good amount of time at the pool. Every night, Noah would fall asleep in the stroller and if London would have done the same, I could have stayed out all night! That child will only sleep in her bed though. Stubborn! So, I was in fairly early each evening. We took several baths in the giant bathtub in our room, and watched lots of cartoons! I was able to get a little bit of reading done, but not a whole lot. I felt like we had a good balance of being out exploring or swimming and relaxing in the room.

On Thursday, Aunt Pam came to the hotel to see me and the kiddos. She about melted in the hot sun while hanging out with us by the pool. It's amazing how intense the sun is there. And that night, Uncle Sandy met us at the hotel and took us to dinner. Both kids were a bit fussy, so Uncle Sandy walked London around the casino floor to distract her. He said she just stared at all the lights around her! Aunt Pam and I tried to get Noah to eat more and wrapped things up at the table. We headed to The Bellagio to explore the conservatory and the fountains, but sadly, Noah slept through it all! He was exhausted. Matt was able to get out of his dinner meeting early, so he met us and we had a lovely time watching the dancing fountains and eating delicious desserts.

The kids and I would have been happy to stay another few days, but alas Friday came too soon. That morning, we spent a couple of hours at the pool before packing and checking out. Our flight didn't leave until that evening, so we spent some time with Gary and Marilyn at their beautiful home in Henderson. We had a really nice lunch and were able to catch up with them. It was a very nice way to end our trip.

I'm sure most people do, but I have to say, I LOVE vacationing! And it always seems to go by too quickly!

These pictures are sadly not in order. Blogger makes it so hard to move uploaded pictures into different positions, so if anyone reading this has suggestions on how to do it, please let me know!

20 May 2012

We Will Raise You Up In Christ

We dedicated London at church this weekend! We feel like it's important for us to make a commitment in front of our brothers and sisters in Christ to raise our kids with the knowledge that they are sinners who can not save themselves. Their goodness will never be good enough for a pure and perfectly holy God. They need Jesus' redemptive work to stand in the place of their imperfect hearts. And we pray that one day, with conviction from the Spirit, the Lord will urge them to respond to His call, and they will follow Him all of their days. And then, hopefully, they'll obediently follow with the sacrament of baptism.

London (and Noah, who was dedicated in 2009),
We, by the grace and mercy of God, will teach you what the Spirit has graciously taught and continues to teach us about dying to self and living for the glory of our Father God. I guarantee that we will screw up A LOT, but we trust that our efforts don't thwart God's will. He will catch you despite our feebleness. We will pray and pray and pray for your salvation. We love you unlike we love anyone else, but somehow God loves you more.

Grams flew from Florida and Nana and Papa drove up from Kimberling City to witness and be a part of the celebration. The Gourley's joined us in the service and also came over afterward to eat and hang out. It was a lovely evening. As a side note, I was getting Noah and Aidan changed into their swimsuits, and Aidan mooned me, and then shook his behind in my face...he and Noah thought it was hilarious, and Noah of course tried to do it to me today! I laughed and told him to pull his pants up! All the kids (except London who was fast asleep during her dedication celebration), played until they were shivering in the pool!

The next day I made the saddest blueberry pancakes for breakfast (Martha really let me down with that recipe), but that flop of a meal was redeemed by a lunch for our moms at Crushed Red, a new, fresh little lunch spot in Clayton. We wanted to treat them to a nice lunch as a late Mother's Day gift. We were all entertained by London gnawing on some pizza crust, however, Grams had about 50 heart attacks thinking she was going to choke! Every time we attempted to take the crust away from her though, she would scream like her arm was being cut off. So we (really I) went with the choking option versus the screaming one. I'm a risk taker. ;) Before lunch, Noah had requested that everyone take him to The Disney Store at the mall. He told Grams that if no one wanted to go, just she and he would go. But of course Nana and Papa wanted to go too and each grandparent spoiled him with a little gift! After lunch, we snapped a few photos and hugged Nana and Papa goodbye as they headed home. Both kids fell asleep on our way home and we all had a much needed rest time. It's been a great weekend!