It had been a year & 1/2 since we took a family vacation, so when I found out that Mark would be attending an ACFAS conference in Las Vegas - I suggested that we all go and make a trip out of it! I'll admit that Vegas wouldn't normally top my list of places to vacation, but besides the fact that Mark would already be taking time off to go - we had two other great reasons to go...my brother Chris' family lives there & our good friends the Rhodenizers were going to be making a trip out of it too (Shauna's sister & dad live in Vegas)!
We had a really nice drive down (the boys were great). On Sunday we attended church, and this picture of the cousins (and Mark & Chelsey) was taken afterward...
Noah was sooo excited to get to play with his cousin Audrey. She is such a sweetheart.
And we loved seeing baby Ezra too! He is so stinkin' cute! Here is a shot of Noah loving a chance to hold little Ezra.
It was fun to get to stay with Chris & Chelsey because we got to do lots of fun "everyday" stuff, instead of just meeting up to go do activities. Some examples:
An impromptu picnic in the backyard!...
Playing with trains (Lincoln's lips are pooched out saying choo-choooo)...
Driving ride-on toys in circles incessantly...
And doing some arts & crafts!...
I loved watching how seriously these two took things...
...and how not seriously Linc took it! I'm pretty sure that he got more marker on himself than on the paper - and then he tried to eat his drawing.
Even though we'd already celebrated Noah's birthday (see previous post), we were in Vegas on his actual birthday - and we couldn't let it go uncelebrated! So, keeping true to Noah's theme this year (fire fighters), we ate at Firehouse Subs! They don't have Firehouse Subs where we live, so it was fun to try somewhere new. Noah loved it and their subs were really yummy too!
Noah insisted (again) on posing like a fire fighter holding a hose. That kid cracks me up.
And afterwards (back at the house) Noah opened a few presents. Here he is explaining what each type of rescue vehicle is in this pack of matchbox cars.
The last thing I had to post from our fun at Chris & Chelsey's was this craft idea that Chelsey came up with...colored pudding for finger painting! Genius!
The kids loved painting with it and eating it. And since Lincoln eats anything we craft with anyway, it was nice to know that the medium was completely safe to ingest!
You can just see the wheels in this kid's head turning as he starts slathering his hands with pudding...
...And the next thing we know Noah is greased up like a body builder!
Thanks so much, Chris & Chelsey! We really enjoyed our time with your cute little family! And I really enjoyed having some time too just hang out and chat with you, Chels. We love you guys!
Now...the pictures in this post aren't exactly chronological from our week in Vegas. The second half of this post is from our adventures with our friends the Rhodenizers! They are really close friends of ours from our years during med school in Iowa. We hadn't seen each other since graduation nearly 3 years ago (Noah had just turned 1 and I was pregnant with Linc). So, we've talked a lot over the years about when we'd get to see each other...what our kiddos would be like together, etc. So, here's a snapshot that I took a few minutes after the boys met each other:
Shauna with baby Olivia. Aren't they both so cute?
One day we packed into Shauna's rental van and drove to her sister's house. All SIX of the kids fell asleep in the van (you can't see Olivia in the back left), so I had to snap a photo:
Shauna's sister Theresa was able to get 4 free tickets to Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian. In addition to taking their oldest child (Elise), Josh & Shauna invited me to join them! I was so excited - first to go to Phantom & secondly because the only casino that I'd really had any interested in seeing part of was the canal inside the Venetian. Here's a shot of Josh, Shauna & Elise next to the canal...
Shauna & me. (Thanks Josh & Shauna AND Theresa - I had a wonderful night!)
Shauna and I did venture out a few times with the kiddos. While crossing between casinos Noah begged me to take this photo posing like Lady Liberty in the background.
Me with my boys.
Elise, Thomas, Noah & Zac at the lion exhibit in the MGM Grand. The lions were cool, but were sleeping...and I probably wouldn't take kids back to see them either since I wasn't pleased with the things we had to walk past to get there (we just walked swiftly).
Our husbands were able to join up with us one evening after meetings, so here's a picture of both of our families! Funny story though...as we were heading to meet up with Mark that evening we were headed down the elevator and Shauna had to run back to the room. So, Josh and I said we'd meet her downstairs and we headed on our way to meet Mark downstairs. You should have seen some of the looks we got as Josh & I got in the elevator with six kids 6 and under! Ha! I felt like I should clarify, but decided to let people just stare instead.
One day we were able to take the kids to the shark reef aquarium inside Mandalay Bay. I wish Mark could have been there (he had flown to Phoenix for 24 hours to do an interview), but we still had a great time! It was fun to watch the kids explore and ask questions about things, and I like that I always learn something new at these kind of excursions too! Oh, and thanks too Chris & Chelsey for the coupon! Bonus.
Lincoln enjoying himself at the aquarium.
Lincoln, Elise, Noah & Thomas.
Our favorite Canadians. Aren't they a cute family? Josh & Shauna with (left to right) Elise, Thomas, Zachary and Olivia. We miss you guys already, but are so glad we were able to hang out with you in Vegas! Let's not wait so long between visits next time, ok?
Oh...and, Josh - I have to apologize for Mark's bantering during the gold medal Canada/U.S. hockey game, but at least things ended the way they did for you. Besides...you know Mark.