Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Nielsen Bed & Breakfast

Las Vegas, being the popular tourist destination it is, along with its handy distance between California and Utah, means we usually have a fair share of house guests stopping by. I love it. It is totally awesome to regularly see friends, cousins, friends of friends and cousins, and enjoying "touristy Vegas" every now and again. My favorite part is talking my siblings into taking their three day college weekends to come see me. It works just often enough to be great.

But the funny part about our guests is they always tend to come in waves. We will have no one for months and months and then suddenly we will be barraged. The frequency has increased a bit since Sam and Kyle moved away. I would like to think we were dividing the Vegas visitors pretty equally, but I am pretty sure I was very regularly the second choice to the Miller residence. It's high school all over again... but hey, she's gone now and look who has the most popular Earl bed and breakfast now!

Just kidding Sam.

Though my favorite thing is when I get a message on my phone or email from a cousin I don't regularly hear from, looking for a place to crash. They always feel the need to apologize for the lack of contact and somehow squeezing in their actual request in between paragraphs of apologies for asking anything of me in the first place. Generous, but incredibly unnecessary. We are family, people! That is what we do! I would expect the same hospitality for my family if any of you lived anywhere interesting.

Just kidding cousins.

Anyway, February was one of those house waves. Our first guest were these lovely people:

The Jason Earl's were taking a little drive break on their way to California for the week. I love the cousin visits. We always have a million things to talk about, even if we haven't seen each other for long periods of time.

Pros of their visit: I had a fantastic time chatting with KaeLynn and I am in love with Brooklyn and her suddenly young woman adorableness. They somehow fit eight people (mom and dad Morrison came too) in my house without inconveniencing us in the slightest. And Scarlet now has a new girl crush known as Eliza. She has decided Eliza is the greatest creature that has ever walked the planet and was devastated when she left the next day. She now tries to convince me daily that Eliza might live kind of far away but she still would definitely want to come over for a playdate if only we asked nicely.

Cons of their visit: They left very quickly.

The next evening, our longest house guest visitor to date arrived.

Alysha spent a good two weeks with us while she did some kind of pilot-y thing. I don't really understand when she starts using airplane words so I just smile and nod.

Pros of her visit: It was like having a sister or awesome college roommate again. We just chatted and chatted, usually staying up way too late, never running out of things to talk about. My kids adored her. It took them probably an entire week to learn her name but even when she was referred to as "mom's friend" she was a very popular visitor.

*** side story *** I have referred previously to my children's love of beans of all shapes and forms. Obviously, Alysha is not as well versed on my blog as she is on her pilot stuff. She sat down at the kitchen table with a bowl full of edamame, a dish my children lovingly refer to as "squeezer beans". Scarlet spotted the snack and was immediately at Alysha's side, politely asking for a bean. Alysha gave her a funny look and said, "Do you know what these are? I don't know if you will like them."

"Oh, liking them is not the problem here," I warned her. "She knows exactly what those are and she will eat your whole bowl there if you let her."

Alysha was mystified. The only way she could satiate her curiosity was to let my two children go to town on her snack, just to prove how right I was. In case you were wondering, I was really right. My children's eating habits continued to impress Alysha all visit long.
*** side story over ***

Other pros: Alysha made me feel like a domestic superstar, asking me about my cooking, my parental methods, my grocery shopping habits. Seriously, my cousin-the pilot-made my life seem really cool. Plus I am always a fan of another adult around to cook for. There is nothing like a good house guest to make you feel appreciated in your culinary skills.

She even talked Brandon into coming up for a way too short visit. Alysha and I have a lot in common and it turns out our husbands do as well. But Brandon ditched out on us shortly after arrival. That part is not a pro, that is a con.

Other Cons of her visit: I still have no idea what 75% of her pilot words mean and I only slightly grasp what she was doing in Vegas in the first place. Plus, I got so used to having her around, I had a tad bit of Alysha withdrawls at her departure. Boo.

The day after Alysha arrived, these two lovely people also made an appearance.

Do you know how few picture of just the two of you are located on your blog?

Gotta love irresistible hotel deals. My dad and mom got to spend a few nights at the Wynn Encore resort. It was seriously cool.

Pros of their visit: My children have finally realized how fantastic my parents really are. They have gotten past the "I'm going to act shy for a day or two and then remember that I love you right before you leave" phase and get straight to the loving. Plus I got to see inside a room at the Wynn. Like that was going to happen in any other situation. And all the usual benefits that come with parent visits, going out to dinner, enjoying their company, etc.

Cons of their visit: Scarlet & Rhode could not understand why Grandma and Papa were not with us constantly, as they kept ditching us for their sweet hotel hook up. They also were miffed when they were not allowed to stay in the hotel after visiting. Not that I blame them, I was a tad miffed myself.

Right at the tail end of Alysha's visit, Kylie and some roommates joined us for President's Day weekend. Another visit successfully achieved.

Pros of their visit: Kylie has a fantastic group of roommates and the two that joined her were just a ton of fun. My kids instantly loved all three of them (maybe a little overly loved) but had those three college girls hysterically giggling most of the day. Another benefit, college students are almost universally grateful for all home cooked food. There is no one that will make you feel more impressive in the kitchen than kids who have had to feed themselves top ramen and cereal for the past 5 months.

Cons of their visit: They spent most of their time hitting the town and hanging out with other BYU visitors and enjoying their vacation and not nearly enough time entertaining my children and me. I have almost forgiven them...

Once our onslaught of guests headed back to their home, our family hit the road to be house guests ourselves. Gotta share the love, right?

So, planning a trip to Vegas? Need a quick stopover on your way out of town? Are you someone I like? Then, come on down! The accommodations are the most affordable in town, the cereal is plentiful, and the company is downright fantastic, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Funny Valentine

Let's rewind and take a trip back, back to January 2005, the month Jon and I met. I was the membership committee co-chair in our singles ward. That meant I was in charge of making sure all new people were at the ward they were supposed to be, that their picture was taken and that the records guys had the new people names. We had 15-20 new people a week... it was kind of a time consuming calling. But, that is where I met Jon.

Jon was new, my membership committee person was very impressed, I was uninterested. But after chatting a few times and hanging out in the same group once or twice, I was slightly more interested. That and I realized he was actually taller than me.

So, skip forward to our FHE Valentines day activity. Jon shows up with his boy posse, each clutching handfuls of different elementary school supplies, colored paper, markers, scissors, glue, crayons, etc. They all grabbed a table and got to work. I stopped by to check out the construction scene a few times but was quickly shooed away. Finally, Jon handed me the most strange looking valentine I had ever seen.

I scanned it in my computer for the first time today and it has definitely lost some of its original luster six years later. In its glory days, its was a full television screen with a large circular sheet of paper that ran through the television set. Keep in mind at the time I was working for Channel 8 news, thus the running theme.
To prevent any illegibility (and to correct the terrible spelling) translation:

"The Beginning: Turn to Channel 8 News"
"Breaking News Flash: 'Today someone has stopped traffic at the Spaghetti Bowl (a common traffic site problem in Vegas)'"
"Looking closer, apparently it's a man with a sign"
"It says K.C. is... huh... there it is folks.. and the front..."
"Truly it must be a desperate man folks."

Pretty cute huh? I would think most girls would be generally impressed with this creation. And, don't get me wrong, I was impressed. But, what you don't see is he made three other creative valentines for other girls. Yes, as he points out, mine was the coolest, and supposedly "Will you be mine?" would have said "will you go out with me?" if one certain girl hadn't been leering to prevent any such announcements (those are his words) but still, quantity definitely devalues a bit.

But anyway, it definitely wasn't the end as Jon and I started dating shortly after. I have kept this one token of our dating time and love how much it reminds me of our first meetings together and to see how far we have come.

And that is the last valentine I have ever received from my husband. Seriously.

But, Jon and I aren't big holiday people. Even the big ones, gifts aren't really our thing. And if I were responsible for creating a return valentine to all of the crazy, creative stuff he could come up with... yeah it would not be impressive on my end.

But my creative valentine man has returned. For our Valentine's FHE, Jon insisted we all make a Valentine for another member of our family. Rhode had Scarlet, Scarlet had me, I had Jon, and Jon had Rhode. Rhode, Scarlet, and I were done in a very timely manner. Jon took more than his allotted time, but we were patient and enjoyed our exchange. Here is what he had created.

To explain a little, Rhode is a tad bit obsessed with ghosts and the difference between real/pretend. I thought this was too adorable.

Rhode was also impressed but occasionally he would look at the front of the card and his lips would start to tremble as he would say, "Mom, that ghost is scaring me!"

I would reply, "No Rhode! It's a happy ghost! Look at his smile!"

To which Rhode would instantly smile, remembering how much he liked it.

That happened about five different times.

Scarlet was happy with the entire activity until she received her Valentine from Rhode. He isn't so big with the crayons yet and her card consisted of three red lines. To say she was disappointed is an understatement.

So Jon grabbed the last piece of paper and got back to work.

She was much more impressed with dad's handiwork.

I might have let him off the hook for future homemade Valentine creations, but the new generation might be a little more demanding of his skills. Dad has been pretty popular since the card publications.

But, don't worry, I gave them Valentine candy so I am still the favorite.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who Doesn't Like a Win Every Now and Then?

Ok, so I know its a tad bit ridiculous and, honestly I don't even remember what the prize for winning is anymore, but I am in the running for a blog contest and I think you all should vote for me. Not because I have the best entry, but because you like me better than all of the strangers who also entered.


Vote number 37!

If I win, I will briefly post the picture of Jon in adult footed penguin pajamas (don't tell him this). Worth it people, really really worth it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

You said it when you were three, so it counts

Scarlet loves to talk about her future. She dreams and fantasizes of all of the amazing things that will be as soon as she is "4 then 5 then 6 then 7 then 8 then...." you get the point.

But the part that really makes me laugh is, the life she dreams about is the life she sees me living on a daily basis. Not that my life isn't great, quite the opposite actually, but some of the life moments she is looking forward to are definitely not nearly as glamorous as I must make them look.

First and foremost, she is ready to be a mom. Like now, if she had her way.


- She wants 5 babies... or 26 depending on the day

- The baby names change frequently, but they usually go a little like this, "I am going to name the girl baby Try-nah and the boy baby Kah-lay. Are those good names mom?"

"Sure Scarlet, you can name your babies whatever you want. (And so far none of them have been anything resembling an actual existing name) What are you going to name the other three?"

That is when, no matter what name she started out with, she then starts rhyming.

"Umm, I think Bah-lay, Dah-lay, and Mah-lay and Hah-lay..." until she runs out of consonants. Can you imagine trying to call all of those kids to the dinner table? And I thought five girls with the same first initial got confusing...

She now realizes that we do expect her to have a husband before all of this baby action and she immediately nomiated Rhode. Though I was truly flattered she liked her brother enough to nominate him, we steered her clear of the incest route. Since dad (her second choice) was already claimed, she was perplexed.

"Mom, who is left to marry?"

"Well, Scarlet, someday when you are bigger you will meet a boy who isn't in your family that you can marry."

"Like Bennett and Blaze? (The current best guy buds)"

"Yes, a friend like them when you are older."

"Hmmm, I pick Bennett. He will want to marry me."

Or now, I guess. Sorry Blaze, you did have a fighting chance and you are the same age... but you are shorter than her. Now that the groom has been chosen, the bride has been fervently planning the big day:

- So far, she would like to be married in the Salt Lake Temple like her mom and dad

or the Excalibur, both "castles", one just more regularly visible to the bride-to-be.

- She would like a bouquet of pink roses just like the picture of flowers on the tag of her new church dress. She asked me to hold onto the tag so I didn't forget which ones to get.

- At first, she insisted on wearing my wedding dress and was overjoyed when I gave her permission to wear the gown on her special day. But lately, after viewing my mad sewing skills (I recently made a very skilled sock monkey) she has deemed me ready for the most important job of all, making her a wedding dress. I accepted and she insisted we begin immediately. After a long chat about her height now and her height when she would be marrying age, we agreed to hold off on the wedding dress sewing until she was six.

And after entering the world of wedded bliss, she is even more excited for the events to follow:

"Mom, when I am big, can I cook dinner for you?"

Um, yes. Definitely yes.

"Mom, when I am big, can I do your 'mom' cleaning jobs?"

Scarlet you don't even have to wait to get married to enjoy that priviledge.

"Mom, will I be able to use the laundry machine when I am big like you?"

Mom is counting down the days...

"Mom, can I take care of you when I am bigger and you are little like me?"

Not so sure about my shrinking.. but I am in either way.

Who knew I made 'mom' seems so desirable?

My little mini-mom is already on the fast track to developing her mom traits. She loves to help out in the kitchen, she helps her brother do everything from pouring a glass of milk to getting in his pjs at night. She loves to inform her friends in her most matronly tone when they are making a bad choice and Rhode now has two women watching his every move. Poor kid.

But I can't help but hope (even if I have a long way to go) that her desires won't change too much as she gets older. Hopefully with these requests now in writing, she will be held to those well planned choices for a few decades or so. Can I make her sign this or something?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who Wore It Best?

One outfit, two good looking men.

Now it's time for your to decide. Who wore it best?

Our first contender...

Our second contender...

Our wardrobe contributor credit goes to Kristy, who brought this handsome attire all the way back from Ireland. Sadly, due to its ambiguous, in-between size, we weren't really sure who the gift was meant for. Thus, now you get to decide.

The winner of the "Who Wore it Best" award gets to choose where we all attend a celebratory dinner. One will likely choose Korean food, the other McDonalds. I will leave it up to you to decipher which choice belongs to which model.

But before you decide, here is one more view to consider.

Vote now. Their fates are in your hands.

p.s. Jon has only allowed me to post these pictures for a limited number of days so enjoy them for their short engagement...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

So awesome. So free.

It was just a great week. Not this last week, this last week was fine. I am just a little behind. But, the week I am referencing was a few weeks ago. And again, it was seriously great. One of those weeks when I felt "connected". People who are "connected" get hooked up with free stuff all the time. They know people in high places. They can work the system. I don't get to claim the title very often but after all of the "hooked up" fun I was able to enjoy, I can officially say I am friends with the right people.

One of those fantastic friends hooked us up with free tickets to Disney on Ice for the Thursday night performance. We had begged this friend for tickets for months. She occasionally has a few extra (being the one who is actually "connected") but our hopes were looking grim for the ice spectacular. Days before, we got the good word. Five tickets (between two families) were ours. We uninvited our husbands, convinced Rhode that it would be super fun to pretend he was about four months younger for an evening (he was mostly advised just to keep his cute mouth shut) and prepared ourselves for the accolades we were sure to receive from our insanely grateful children.

I didn't tell Scarlet about our evening until dinner time that day. She doesn't do well with things that will be happening in the future. The less anticipation time, the better for everyone. She seemed intrigued by the idea of seeing her favorite princesses but really could not understand why she would not be doing any of the ice skating. At one point, she considered not really wanting to attend if we would only be "sitting there." Yeah, she almost lost her ticket right there.

I forgave her for her ignorance and lack of mom-praising eventually. We got there in plenty of time to find our seats... our seriously awesome seats. There was the ice rink, a few rows of chairs set up eye level and then five rows up from those, yeah that was us.

The pre-show wait was the only downside of the evening. The amount of merchandise/treats circulating was insane. I did not see a single toy that cost less than $20 or food item under $10. And, of course, the kids were ravenous with 'I wants' Knowing the price of the tickets I didn't pay for, I couldn't help but do a few math calculations for the families sitting around me with multiple children, each gripping a treat or spinning, lighting device. My very cheap soul shudders at the thought...

I got one chance for a "by the ice" photo, thanks for this Rhode.

Then, the show began, a previously restless Rhode went from cranky to fascinated. I am not sure Scarlet let her eyes tear away from the stage once. And, to be honest, as all of those Disney characters I have known and loved for so long came skating out on stage, I got a little wide eyed myself. It was a tad bit magical.

And the fantastic week didn't end there. While casually checking my email one day, I happened to take a peek at my "Free Vegas Shows for Locals" list I get and, to my absolute happiness, my eyes caught the words Miss America.

Free Miss America tickets were just a phone call away. I almost fainted from all of the excitement.

I immediately grabbed my phone and started the calling process. I have scored free tickets to random things several times in the past. It usually takes about 10-20 minutes of straight calling to get through to the free ticket lady. This time, it took me an hour. An hour! But I just could not give up. Finally, after doing a whole lot of activities while redialing (making lunch, sending emails, calling insurance people) I finally got through (and hung up on the insurance person in the process). Not only did I get through, I scored four spots. I say spots instead of tickets because we were actually going as seat fillers. Which meant anything from getting stuck in some seat or sitting in one of the front row seats for much more important people who don't show up.

In this case, the person to know was me! I invited three friends who would truly appreciate the experience to its maximum potential and we planned our evening of awesomeness. We all agreed to dress up as fancy as we could (which is only so much considering our budgets/age/state of life) but I think we all looked pretty fantastic. Then, we were all going to meet at Planet Hollywood and enjoy the sweet life.

And that is when it got a little crazy. We got out the door later than usual sorting kids and dads and babysitters and arrived to a completely packed parking garage. After circling for 20 minutes there was seriously not one open spot. It was five until 5:00 at that point (the point when our tickets need to be picked up) so they sent me running while they kept trying. As is the case whenever trying to find your way through a Las Vegas casino, everything is insanely far away. But I hopped into line right in front of four girls whose dresses were about three sizes too small just in time. Seconds later, the usher told the too little fabric squeezed girls they were the end of the line. Phew!

I requested my four tickets and they asked where the rest of my group was. I realized the real answer (circling the parking lot in a fury or not here yet) was not the answer they were looking for. "They're in the bathroom" somehow came out of my mouth. Sheesh I have already admitting to lying twice in this one blog post. Hey, I guess admitting is the first step!

They supplied me with the four wrist bracelets and sent me into another line. A parking spot had been secured by then but my group was lost in the labyrinth that is Planet Hollywood. Even longer story made slightly shorter, with some fancy line stalling and hallway hiding, we were all able to meet up and get set with our lovely wrist bands. Unfortunately, because of our misunderstanding of the whole process, we were the last of a long line of seat fillers. We would not be filling in for front row B-celebs. Instead we got decent seats second row on the balcony.

Even after all that running look how happy we are!

It was a fantastic evening. There were high moments (an insanely good piano number and one of the most original ventriloquist talents I have ever seen) some low moments (a very sad pointe number and a host who felt the need to fill all commercial breaks with sports trivia) but we enjoyed every second.

I am still in shock that the winner was a 17 year old girl from small town Nebraska who was homeschooled her whole life. She was just amazing all evening and has officially made the list of people I want to have lunch with. She just must be fascinatingly intelligent.

After the show, we grabbed a quick bite to eat (thought we would have time before the show but that obviously did not happen) rehashing all of our favorite moments, and then called it a night.

So, so awesome.

I can truly say I fully appreciated my brief "connected" status. May we all keep our friends close and the ones who hook us up with free stuff closer.