Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy 33rd Birthday, Mike!

Our oven broke last week, and the apartment complex have yet to fix it.

Which put a real damper on the homemade cheesecake that Mike requested for his birthday.

And I forgot to plug in the crock-pot for his favorite "Chalupas" meal.

I was trying to figure out some way to make his birthday special, when I got an email letting me know that Chili's was having a "Kids Eat Free" night on his birthday. And, I already had a gift card there.

I knew he wouldn't want to spend any money for his birthday, but I decided he couldn't say no to free!

So, we surprised him and took him out to dinner at Chili's.

It wasn't exactly how I had pictured his birthday, but we had a really fun time together. Josh even did a lot better at a restaurant than I thought he would.

We love Mike so much! There are way more than 33 reasons; however, the reason today that I love him the most is that he scrubbed the bathtub the other day for me.

Clean bathtubs are the way to my heart.

Happy 33rd Birthday, Mike!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Springs Preserve

We've always wanted to visit the Springs Preserve, but have never gotten around to it... it's a little pricey. However, on Memorial Day they had a free day! Admission and all attractions were absolutely free.

We knew it would probably be packed, but we decided to brave it anyways.

I'm glad we did... we had so much fun!

Las Vegas was (ironically) founded by the Mormons, who came here (ironically) because of the spring water source.

If they could see it now... this place is dry.

And probably not exactly what Brigham Young had envisioned when he sent the pioneers out here to begin things.

But, we like it.

The Springs Preserve is a 180-acres institution, and is all about preserving the spring, the history of Las Vegas, the animals and plants of the Mojave desert, and conservation. It has a little bit of everything. We spent about 4 hours there, before Josh decided he had had enough, and didn't see half of it.

She let me do her hair. In pigtails! And they are kinda-sorta even. Go me!

Super-strong lizard-lifting boy.

Feeling the different types of soil in the Mojave.

A snack + water break.

A palm mohawk that was totally taken by accident.


Climbing. I loved that there was a kids area, where kids could climb and run and explore. Totally allowed.

A rattlesnake. That rattled every 30 seconds. For Grammy.

Spinning in the desert tortoise shells.

Train. The train business was big business in early Las Vegas.

Checking out the "spring."

They LOVED rebuilding the early town and Hotel Nevada. And, yeah, so did I.

We're getting tired by this point. Can ya tell?

Digging for "archaelogical trash". That's not really trash. Because archaelogical trash tells a story.

Adam, my little scientist, was so in love with trying to read everything and take it all in... he was so disappointed when we had to leave!

We had such a fun day. It was the most perfect weather (low 80s!) for Memorial Day ever and we got to spend it at a new place together. SO fun!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

10 Years

10 years, 9 jobs, 8 years living away from family, 7 (hundred) trips to the ER, 6 years in school, 5 cars, 4 moves, 3 kids, 2 degrees, and 1 sealing for time & all eternity.

He makes me laugh. He drives me crazy. He's the most perfect person for me.

We spent the day celebrating our 10th anniversary as a family. We did our traditional coin-dump ($23 in coins in the jar this year!) and went out to dinner as a family with it, because I'm a chicken and I can't leave my kids.

It was a blast, though!

The past 10 years have been... hard, crazy, fun, and wonderful.

I'm most looking forward to the next 10.

But, I hope that time slows down just a little and the next 10 go by a little slower. Please?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Splashin' in the Rain

It was cool today and rainy.

Cool and rainy just happens to be my most favorite kind of weather.

So, I celebrated by going outside with my most favorite people and having some fun in it.

Just when I thought that my day couldn't get any better, Grace fell down.

(I know that sounds mean. Wait! It gets better.)

AND... Adam helped her up and escorted her back to me.

I melted.

I love them.

Made my rainy-and-cool day even better.


Now, I bring you my bad-mom confessions of the day PLUS bad grammar.

It's late at night here, people.

Proceed with caution:

So, in the above photos, you may notice some tell-tale bad mom signs.

Like, yeah, Grace is still wearing her pajamas at 4:00 in the afternoon. But, she does have a raincoat on, so give me some props here.

Then go ahead and take away those props because I let Josh play barefoot in the cold puddle.

I may or may not be using the word "props" correctly.

Then, again, it's not really a word.

And, I'm not really sure what it means or if it's even cool to use anymore.

If it ever was.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lic-Car Ice Cream

Every week our family holds Family Home Evening (FHE). We do a lesson, song, and dessert on Sunday, and then a family activity on Monday.

It's what works for us.

We all take turns with the various jobs. Mike and I generally choose the lesson topics, with what we think our family needs to learn that week, and we help the kids prepare the lessons when its their turn.

When it comes to dessert, though, we let them choose whatever they want, and we help them make it.

They don't like the usual box of brownies, either.

They get creative.

On Sunday, Adam announced that his dessert was going to consist of vanilla ice cream, topped with licorice pieces and caramel sauce.

He made up the bowls, and proudly announced the name of his dessert was "Lic-car Ice Cream."

It makes sense. "Lic" for licorice. "Car" for caramel.

Except he pronounces "lic-car" like "liquor".

I thought it was funny, until I overheard him telling his friend the next day on our porch, about his "awesome lic-car ice cream" invention, and how she should come over for a bowl.

We (apparently) will not be giving the missionaries any referral business any time soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Helldorado Parade

Every year, Las Vegas locals' celebrate Helldorado Days, a celebration of the anniversary of Las Vegas and its western heritage.

(As far as I know, the word Helldorado has nothing to do with the swear word, and has something to do with the wild west. If this isn't the case, and I've offended anyone, I apologize).

There is a gold treasure hunt, a carnvial, a rodeo, and lots of other fun events to celebrate. We went down for the parade this year, and had so much fun!

The kids loved the floats, bands, and CANDY!

Grace enjoyed waving at EVERYONE and that they all waved back and told her how cute she was.

She is not a humble girl. And when you're 4, that's okay.

At the end there was a great fireworks show... it made me so excited for the Fourth of July!

We had such a fun night! I love finding fun, free, family-oriented stuff to do AND when Mike ends up with a night off to do those fun, free, family-oriented things with us!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


A few months ago, Adam made Miis (sp?) on the Wii of our extended family members.

Last night, after I "exercised" with the Wii Fit, Mike and I were looking at his creations.

My mom, Grammy:

My dad, Papa:

My brother, Uncle Nate:

Not bad.

And then we came across this guy:

Who, upon investigation, is supposed to be Grandpa W*.

Who, incidentally, is not Asian.

Nor does he have a mustache.

We may just need to spend a little more time with the W* side of the family the next time we visit town.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Evening Walk

We had some time to spare on Tuesday after dinner, so we decided to go on another 3-mile walk.

Even though our car is currently working.

The weather just happens to be really nice today.

There also happens to be a McDonald's about a mile and a half away from our place...

...with 99 cent ice cream cones.

The kids all agreed that they much preferred ice cream cones (cookies in Josh's case) to ketchup and cornflakes.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gymnastics and Wrestling

My parents did such a wonderful job of letting us explore and develop our talents growing up. I did dance, gymnastics, t-ball, basketball, flute lessons, and journalism camps. I was in choir and band in elementary school, and band in middle school. My mom encouraged us to enter the "fine arts" programs in elementary school, and bake things for the state fair. My brothers and sister, too, had a lot of activities growing up. My parents always encouraged us to try new things, practice, and they went to a LOT of recitals, shows, track meets, concerts and baseball games. I love this so much about them!

I have always wanted the same for my kids. I especially want them each to have at least one athletic activity that they enjoy and one musical talent... and we will support them in anything else they would like to try. It's also important to me to not over-schedule them, too. Family is #1 to us.

The community center was great for a while. It has its limitations, though. One being there wasn't really anything offered for Adam, and Grace's ballet isn't offered in the summer.

At the same time, I've been praying a lot for something to help Adam. He is a really good boy.

However, he is a boy.

Call it what you will, but from everything I observe about him, and everything that I've researched, boys are simply more physical.

Whenever I see a group of boys his age together, they generally wrestle with each other. When he and his friends wrestle, it makes me thing of animals, like dogs, who wrestle and fight as play when they are little.

Adam has a physical need to wrestle.

Unfortunately, he was wrestling his little brother and sister.

As much as I got his need to wrestle (and I do think it's important), I really needed him to learn that there is a time and a place for it.

Driving down a road that I normally don't take a few weeks ago, I saw a sign for a place offering gymnastics and wrestling. I called and talked to them. I went on a tour. I fell in love with the people, coaches, and their mission (it's a non-profit company).

Better yet, they offer a low monthly fee for lower-income families. And I mean, if you've ever looked at how expensive gymnastics and wrestling is, you will know why that, along with everything else, completely sold me on the place.

I got Adam and Grace in wrestling and gymnastics classes at the same time (see, it all worked out so perfect). We've been going there for a few weeks, and it's amazing the difference I see in Adam already.

He's more disciplined. He keeps his hands to himself more. He has toughened up. He's found something athletic that he loves.

It was such an inspired answer for me.

Grace LOVES being in gymnastics, too. She practices everyday, and is getting pretty good at it.

I'm so happy with how it all worked out. It's been perfect. I'm so grateful for this chance that they have to grow, explore new talents, and make new friends.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Recipe: Cafe Rio Salad

The first time we ate at Cafe Rio, Mike's parents took us a few months after we had moved to Las Vegas, while they were visiting. It was pretty good, but I didn't see what all the hype was about.

Later that year Mike went on a business trip to Utah. He went with a couple of locals to Cafe Rio, where they told him what the problem was with his last visit:

He didn't order the Pork Barbacoa salad.

Mike fell in love.

I'm not sure whether his finding out about the deliciousness of the Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa salad is a good thing. Or a bad thing.

Either way, we've tried many a time to re-create it at home, using various recipes.

The original consists of a tortilla with melted cheese in a pie pan. It's filled with lime-cilantro rice, beans, and pork barbacoa. It's topped with romaine lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, fried tortilla strips, cilantro, and cojita cheese.

And then there's a magical dressing that goes on top.

Here is our absolute favorite version, that I insisted Mike make me for Mother's Day. We don't bother with the rice. Or the homemade pico de gallo, fried tortilla strips, and cojita cheese.

Because, well, we're lazy like that. However, if you're having a party or a family get-together, and everyone brings a part of it, it's easy-peasy.

All of these recipes are adapted from Erica's at Favorite Family Recipes, and of all the many recipes we've tried, they are the closest to the original and the most delicious (in our opinion). Check out her site for the how-to on the rice, guacamole, and everything else. She rocks. Enjoy!

Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa Salad

Pork Barbacoa

2 pounds pork loin
3 cans Coke (NOT diet)
1/4 c. brown sugar
dash garlic salt
1/4 c. water
1 can diced green chilies
3/4 (10oz) can red enchilada sauce
1 c. brown sugar

Put the pork in a heavy duty ziploc bag to marinade. Add about a can and a half of coke and about 1/4 c. of brown sugar. Marinade for a few hours or overnight.

Drain marinade and put pork, 1/2 can of coke, water, and garlic salt in crock pot on high for about 3-4 hours (or until it shreds easily, but don't let it get TOO dry) or on low for 8 hours. Remove pork from crock pot and drain any liquid left in the pot. Shred pork.

In a food processor or blender, blend 1/2 can Coke, chilies, enchilada sauce and remaining brown sugar (about a cup, you can add a little more or less to taste..). If it looks too thick, add more Coke little by little.

Put shredded pork and sauce in crockpot and cook on low for 2 hours.

Black Beans

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/3 c. tomato juice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro

In a nonstick skillet, cook garlic and cumin in olive oil over medium heat until you can smell it. Add beans, tomato juice, and salt. Continually stir until heated through. Just before serving stir in the cilantro.

Cilantro Ranch Dressing

1 packet TRADITIONAL Hidden Valley Ranch mix (not BUTTERMILK)
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. buttermilk
1 tomatillo, remove husk, quartered
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 jalepeno (seeds removed)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together in the blender.

Layer a tortilla (the un-cooked ones at Sam's Club/Costco are the best) with melted cheese, then the beans, meat, lettuce, toppings, and dressing. Just like Cafe Rio does in a pie pan or a bowl. Enjoy it until you're stuffed. Then declare me your bestest friend ever for sharing the recipe with you.

Work Dinner

The D.I. store that Mike works at won some kind of award. So they took all of the managers and their spouses out for dinner last night.

(Yes, I find it ironic that a church-sponsored dinner was on a Monday night. And that kids-except for babies-were not allowed to come).

We kept Josh with us, but Adam and Grace played at a friend's house. We went to Lucilles, a barbecue restaurant that Mike's been wanting to go to forever.

Josh had chicken strips, Mike had brisket, and I had a chicken Caesar salad.

In case you were wondering, Mike feels it is super-wrong to order chicken Caesar salad at a barbecue restaurant. I wasn't in a barbecue kinda mood, what can I say.

It was really good, and we had a fun time with everyone there!

I Can't Figure Them Out

On Saturday, it was 92 degrees here. After spending the morning cleaning, running errands, and going to the library, I took all 3 to our first "water park" run of the season.

You'd think with all of the whining they had been doing all day regarding the hot temperature, that they would welcome the cool water.

The entire 30 minutes we were there, however, they complained the entire time.

"It's so cold!"
"The water is scaring me!"
"There is nothing to do here!"
"I hate this place!"

Except for Josh.

Who ran exactly one time into the water fountain, got wet, and then screamed the remainder of the time.

I decided to cut my losses, and take them home.

Of course, all Adam and Grace were "so sad" when I had to leave and I was "so mean" for making them go.



Today, it was 68 degrees, rainy, and breezy. After the dentist appointment, we decided that since we were already on the other side of town, that we would visit one of our favorite parks over there.

After playing on the slides for a minute, they all ran for the water feature.

They turned it on, against my wishes, and then ran through over and over. In their clothes. And running shoes. Splashing each other, getting completely soaked, and screaming.

Except this time their screaming sounded like this:

"I love this!"
"This is so much fun!"

Even Josh was giggling.

I just can't figure them out.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ugh x 2

Adam's tooth, that he had a baby root canal on 4 years ago, became infected early last week.

A visit to the dentist today confirmed what she said on the phone:

He needs "space maintainers" (spacers).

They have to extract the tooth, and attach a wire to hold the space open in-between the teeth, so that his molar will have room to grow in someday (they usually fall out between the ages of 12 - 14).

It's so completely not right to complain about my crummy dental insurance, because I'm grateful to have it at all, but ugh. I hate my dental insurance. Times two.

I also hate, hate, hate how worried Adam is about this. That he is going to have to be in pain. That he feels like he didn't do a good enough job of brushing his teeth, when he totally did. From what the dentist said, the crowns that they place over them aren't meant to last forever, and she's happy he made it 4 years with it.



If bad things happen in three's,

1) Josh's stitches
2) The car breaking down... and then breaking down again... and then needing 2 new tires
3) Adam's spacers

... then we should be good, right?

Send some good luck my way. Please.

In the meantime, I'm going to go to my bedroom, hide, and eat a brownie.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

On Mother's Day

I am so bad at Mother's day gifts. I think about what to do for months beforehand, and then it sneaks up on me every year. This year, I completely forgot that Mother's day was this week; the stinkin' car has been occupying most of my thoughts.

I think Mother's Day is so hard (for me) to give a gift for, because what kind of gift do you give someone who gave you life, nurtured you, raised you to adulthood, and still loves/worries about you.

Hallmark cards just don't cut it.


Last week (before the car debacle), Mike took Adam and Grace to the library. We have a strict (yeah, right) 3 books per person rule. Adam already had 5, and Mike was trying to convince him to let go of a few.

Adam let go of one, but said of the other, "This book is for Mom. She needs to read it."

So, Mike let him keep it.


The book as it turns out, is called, Mars Needs Moms!

If you haven't read it, you should.

I sat down and read it to my 3 kiddos last week, while I was stressed and grumpy and tired and worried, about the silly car.

After a few minutes into the book, though, I was no longer stressed and grumpy and tired and worried.

In the book, a little boy named Milo can't understand what's so great about moms. They nag you, make you do chores, and serve veggies with dinner. One night, he gets into trouble and gets sent to bed for the night. He yells, "I sure don't see what's so special about mothers!"

Unfortunately, the Martians do. Martians don't have moms; they grow from the ground like potatoes (of course). They kidnap Milo's mom that night, and he chases them, grabbing onto the spaceship, as they soar into space.

When he wakes up, he sees why his mother was taken. Martians need moms! They need the cleaning, cooking, soccer-practice driving, dressing, and packing of lunches talents of Moms. Milo thinks it's a perfectly reasonable explanation. He gets out of the spaceship to let them know what a great idea they had to get a mom, trips, falls, and his space helmet breaks, leaving him without oxygen. He lays there, out of breath, dying, and doesn't hear his mom coming toward him.

And he barely sensed the gentle hands place
her own helmet over his head.

Milo opened his eyes, and for the first time, he saw neither broccoli bully nor slave-driving garden ogre. He didn't see a tyrant or a dictator or a weary driver to soccer games.

Suddenly he knew what was special about mothers.

She looked at him, smiling, and said, "I'll love you to the ends of the universe."

And then she breathed in the terrible air, closed her eyes, and leaned on Milo, growing very still.

The Martians watched, unmoving, confused.

"Help her!" he yelled angrily. Then he added: "SHE'S MY MOTHER!"

Finally, the mighty mom nabbers of Mars understood. Their wonderful telescopes had seen many things about mothers down on Earth, but like certain little boys, they'd missed the best part.


Growing up I saw the cleaning and the cooking. The dance practice driving and the forgotten project bringing.

Until I was a mom, though, I too, failed to see the best part of moms.

That a mom would sacrifice anything for her little punks: new clothes, vacations, date nights, and the last brownie. That the relationship between a mom and her child is sacred. That a mom would gladly take the pain that her child feels, if she only could. That a mom spends hours on her knees pleading to a loving Heavenly Father to watch and protect her children while they are at school; to help them to make good friends and good choices; to give guidance in raising them. That a mother's love is complete and unconditional. To the ends of the universe and back.

That's what moms are really about. It's the absolute best part.

Happy Mother's Day to my mom. Thank you for everything that you've done. Thank you for the sacrifices you have made. Thank you for listening to me as a whiny teenager. Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for encouraging me to succeed, in whatever it was at the time that I wanted to succeed at. Thank you for teaching me... everything. Thank you for being such a wonderful example to me, so that I could be a mom to my little punks. Thank you for loving me to the ends of the universe and back.

I love you.

Happy Mother's Day to my mother-in-law. Thank you for raising such a hard-working and loving son, who I am lucky enough to get to be married to. He is a wonderful husband and a fantastic father. Thank you for taking me into your family like your own daughter. For being so supportive. Thanks for loving me (and hopefully forgiving me) when I'm self-centered and whine about my problems on the phone, and forget to wish you a Happy Mother's Day.

I love you, too.

Happy Mother's Day to all women. Whether you have children now or not. Because as a mom, I know the positive influence that other women have had, and will continue to have, in my children's lives. It takes a lot of people to raise a child; I thank you for your nurture and love that you've given to my children. They are all the better for it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


After our car working perfectly for a few days, we got into it yesterday to bring Adam to school, and it wouldn't start.

And the tire was completely flat.


Give me a break already.

By the way, I completely let him play hooky yesterday. Because I had HAD it, and was so not in the mood for the 4-hours of bus rides to get him to/from school. We played Super Mario on the Wii together instead of math, reading, and spelling.

I'm pretty sure that Super Mario has some educational value.


We also went on a 3-mile bike ride/walk to get corn flakes and ketchup at the store.

Don't be jealous.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Flat Stanley Visits!

Our family rarely does the "strip" thing. We prefer parks, community activities, and stuff off the tourist path. In fact, most of the time I forget that the famous Las Vegas that is on tv and that some of my high school friends scream on Facebook about going to, is the place that I actually live.

When we have guests, though, we generally go out and do the tourist thing with them.

Including paper guests.

My cute nephew sent Flat Stanley to hang out with us last week. He had been to Hawaii prior to visiting us (lucky guy!).

He spent a day in Adam's 2nd grade class, and the kids loved having him there!

We took him on the Las Vegas strip, to watch the fountain show at the Bellagio, walk around the conservatory, and check out the lights.

By the way, the Bellagio conservatory changes with the seasons. I LOVED "Winter, and "Summer" was okay, but "Spring" is my favorite, so far. Thousands of gorgeous flowers (that smell insanely good). A working carousel. A ferris wheel, balloons, and a butterfly house with hundreds of live butterflies that you could walk through and look at. Adam was so in love amongst all those bugs... he could've stayed there forever.

We took him to the famous Las Vegas sign. It was our first time there, and I totally wish we had thought to take a family photo there when we first moved here, and then another one when we move.

If we move?

He went with us to the wedding, where he totally enjoyed some wedding cake.

We also took him to the Hoover Dam. I had heard that you can walk on the huge bypass bridge that was finished last year, but we hadn't done it. We walked across it with Stanley, and it was really cool. We want to go again soon, because Josh threw a huge fit when we were about 3/4 across it, and we had to turn around. There is a sign about half-way across that shows the line between Nevada and Arizona, and that the two states share the bridge.

We've had so much fun with our visitor! I'm so glad that our nephew let us borrow him for a little while! I loved that we got to do some things that we normally wouldn't have done, too.

Grace most especially loved Stanley and would ask to "play" with him frequently. She was very bummed when we mailed him back.

I may need to find her a playmate that is not made of paper.