Monday, July 22, 2013

Beat the Heat

This is my ninth summer living in Las Vegas.  Ninth!  I really truly must be a crazy person.  Maybe my brain has just actually turned to mush from the heat rendering me helpless to actually leave...

I was dreading the though of another summer of hot car seats and misery every time we stepped out the front door, so I broke down and spent some money to provide for some much needed summer escapes.

Our first season pass was to the new Discovery Children's Museum.  It was a very very good purchase.  The museum is three levels high and it built with children and moms in mind.  It is a fantastic getaway.

They have a room full of water activities that Asher adores.  They even come with these ponchos so fully dressed children can play without their mothers worrying about them getting absolutely soaked in their water exploration.

Ha!  Take that Discovery. Its gonna take more than a poncho to keep these two boys dry!  Even soaked from head to toe and shivering from the air condition they still enjoyed every minute of our outing.

Face pulling aside, Scarlet loves it there too. 

We have a pass that includes up to eight people so consider that a visiting incentive to anyone wanting to brave the heat with us!

Our second season pass is to our new water park, Wet N Wild.  It is crazy that Las Vegas went almost a decade without having a water park.  At first I was not very happy with the park, they are severely lacking in amenities for little kids.  Asher has about one slide choice and nowhere to just roam and splash freely to his hearts content.

But water is water.

And where there is water, Asher is rearin' to go.

We have gone a few times now and have a pretty good system down.  We spend a lot of time in the lazy river (Asher prefers to go without the tube, I think it makes him feel like he is just a really fast swimmer) and in the wave pool.  Scarlet has conquered every slide in the park, including the seven story drop slide that she is just barely tall enough for.  And, after almost wimping out, Rhode has finally discovered that he LOVES big water slides too.  which means lots of line waiting for dad...

Two goals for the summer 1) survive this pregnancy and 2) make this the LAST Vegas summer for the Nielsen family!  Wish us luck...  don't ask us where we are going yet.  If we knew, we would be there.

You Make Me Feel like Dancin'

We wrapped up our first year of studio dance in June.  It has been an interesting experience.  She took a tap and jazz combo class at the Dance Zone on Wednesdays after school.  The studio is about a 25 minute drive from her school, depending on lights so it was a rush out the door every Wednesday to get her there.  And once we were there, there wasn't a lot of reason to head home and turn around again so Rhode, Asher and I would hang at a nearby park until it was time to come grab her.

I didn't get to watch her as often as I would like, the studio is good sized but the waiting areas are filled with trophies and other breakable things that my sons could not resist.  But it was fun to see her doing well in class, practicing some of the moves at home and she even got to have the front and center position in their recital dance.

Scarlet's teacher really liked Scarlet.  She always had great things to say about her.  Scarlet was chosen as the first Student of the Month in October.  She got a pencil, a special pin, and got to lead the class in warm ups that month.

We walked in to the first class in May together because Scarlet was just going to watch for the day.  She was sick but it was close to recital so I didn't want her to miss anything.  Her teacher told us that she is glad Scarlet came, because Scarlet was Student of the Month again!  Her response was, "Some of the kids are a little sad that Scarlet gets it twice but I just love how sassy she is when she does the dance!"  I was happy for her, but I did a quick head count around the room, and then some math.  There were at least four kids in the class that did not get to be student of the month at all...  I would have been a little sad too!

They had recital pictures and they were pricier than I was hoping for, but I decided to get them anyway.  I am glad I got them because I did a lousy job of documenting her recital day, but I am very underwhelmed by them.  Anyone else really distracted by the wrinkly grey paint splattered background?

 Scarlet practiced her recital dance really hard.  I came into class and video taped it for her so she could practice at home and she really had it down.  She had two dress rehearsals at the studio and she did a great job at both, but she kept watching the kids around her instead of doing the dance.  I mentioned it to her, thinking she was probably just nervous.  She said she would try.

And then recital day was here.  All of the girls in her class walked out on stage, got into their positions and then began to dance.  They did great for about 30 seconds, though Scarlet spent most of the time watching the girls next to her while she danced, and then they got to the part where they all get in one line and one girl leads them around to the back of the stage.  Well that little girl forgot to move.  So they all stood there, and then Scarlet took over.  She began directing the older girl with frantic hand motions that she needed to get going.  Once the line was finally moving they were way off of the music and had only made it about 1/4 of the way around the stage.  The rest of the dance included another circle around the stage and since they hadn't made it around the first time, they were all out of position.  Most of the girls looked around, not really sure what to do next.  Scarlet wasted no time.  She started grabbing girls and leading them to their spot.  She then got in her own spot just in time for the last move of the dance and the bow.

It was hilariously disastrous.

Jon was only able to stay until this point so he left while the boys and I trudged on through the rest of the little kid routines.  And then, about four dances later, Scarlet's group headed back on stage.  They gave them a second try!  This time, the little girl on the end did remember to lead the circle around but the stage is about 4 times bigger than their studio so she didn't make it as far as she needed to, but it was far enough for the girls to figure out what was next.  Honestly, it was a really poorly choreographed routine but they did a great job.

When I asked Scarlet later about the neighbor watching, she informed me, "But mom, if I don't watch them, how will I know when they are doing the dance wrong?"

As seems to be the story of this year, I have no record of that first disastrous performance.  We weren't allowed to film and the DVD only includes their second performance.  I even called to see if I could get it and they said the footage was already gone...  hope my memory lasts me a long time!

At the end of the year, Scarlet auditioned for their dance team and made it!  We have just started her summer classes for the Mini Team.  She will dance 3 hours a week and take tap, jazz, hip hop and technique.  She also gets to be in her first competition this year along with a couple other small performances.  Yay Scarlet!

Preschool Wrap Up

I have had a collection of preschool things I had gathered to scan so I could sufficiently document Rhode's great school year.  I cannot find a SINGLE item.

Oh wait, take that back.  I forgot he stuck this photo to his door.  I lied.  I have ONE SINGLE item.

Great, I'm not a good kindergarten or preschool mom!  

Rhode had a great year in Creative Critters Preschool.  His teacher, Miss Heidi, did a great job making everything hands on and keeping those active kids busy.  Rhode begged to go to school every day.

I love that he says he wants to be an artist.  Sorry buddy, there are few artistic genes from either side of your parents :)

His teacher gave him a copy of the book Oh the Places You Will Go and wrote a very sweet message to him.  He can now take it to all of his teachers through the years.  It is such a cute idea and one I would have admired from a distance for years if she hadn't been so kind to start it for us.  People like Heidi make my life easier.

I didn't get to go to his graduation, and he almost didn't get to go either thanks to some interesting message relaying between Jon and me.  But, we got it all sorted out and he has graduated... kinda.  He makes the cut off for Kindergarten this year but just barely (his birthday is September 13th).  Academically, he is doing really well but I just feel like he would really thrive as the oldest in his grade.  So he graduated from Preschool year one!  

And now a moment to tell you how awesome you are Rhode.  He is so bright.  He loves to talk to everyone we run into and tell them a story.  Beware if you were looking to just say a quick hi to my children as you pass by, conversation has been started and Rhode will keep you listening as long as you will stick around.  

I was planning on starting reading with him this year, but he was able to pick up on a bunch of words just from our scripture reading.  He then asked for BOB books and raced through the first four sets in a month.  It was crazy for me.  Scarlet was a good reader, but at the beginning it was really slow going figuring out how to take the sounds of the letters and turn them into a word.  Rhode got it instantly.  He now reads me about 2 - 3 library books a day and I find him quietly reading in his room off and on during the day.  

He also loved to read non fiction books, which Scarlet doesn't enjoy at all.   We are reading a book about sharks together and he finds all of it fascinating.  Sorry buddy, I don't think artist is where your strengths are! 

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Scarlet really had the best Kindergarten experience.  I was so afraid to have a child in the Clark County School System, but I am very happy with her Charter School.  She was challenged, they did a lot of fun things with the kids, she made some great friends and had some great experiences.  

Sadly, she does not have a great kindergarten mom that does a great job capturing all of those great moments... so this will be way too much writing and not nearly enough pictures.

Scarlet auditioned for the school's first musical and got a main part!  She did a fantastic job memorizing her song and performed it with supreme gusto (I'm told, I wasn't there) and also remembered all of her lines.  Unfortunately, her nerves kicked in as rehearsals started and she had a few days of not doing her part.  After some very frustrating conversations with her, I realized her big problem is she didn't really like her character.  She didn't really get that it was a big deal to be a main part and that is what people wanted.  Her character was sad most of the play and didn't get to sing any of the fun, dancing songs that the ensemble got to sing.  

So I swallowed my pride and pulled her from the part.  She did a great job as a werewolf (the play was called We are Monsters) and I tried my hardest not to envy the understudy and wish Scarlet was up there.  I succeeded most of the time... 

I was one of the choreographers for the plays and it was fun to be really involved with the school and with Scarlet.  

Most of the kids at school now call me Miss Kacey or "Scarlet's mom that helped up with that dance thing."  Unfortunately when you are that busy helping, picture taking goes by the wayside... sorry Scarlet.

Her last project of the year was a science experiment.  I had all intentions of hopping on pinterest and letting Scarlet choose between all of the fabulous ideas floating around there.  But dad got to her first, talked Scarlet through the Hypothesis creating process, and before I knew it, she had come up with a project.

Her question: What is a hummingbirds favorite color?

She thought it was probably red, because her friend Bennett had told her that once, as had the show Max and Ruby.  But she decided to test it out.  She made the birds some nectar.

Gave them some color choices

And then put us all on shifts to watch the feeders 24/7 and record how many birds came and to which color.  We appreciated her willingness to do her own work... to a degree.  And after only a little hinting and one extremely boring 5 minute session staring at bird feeders, she decided measuring the liquid would probably be a better method.

And that is where things didn't go as planned.  We had ZERO hummingbirds!  We get hummingbirds all the time, especially when we have a feeder.  But we were off season or something because there were no birds.  Scarlet and Jon decided to enlist some help, so Grandpa Bert set up the same experiment in Gridley, CA.

Grandpa's feeders were so popular he was having to refill them every other day.  We spent 4th of July with them and the feeders were still up.  We watched hummingbirds zoom back and forth constantly the entire time we were there.

With the combined effort of Grandpa's measurements and Scarlet's measurements, she determined that hummingbirds did seem to favor red over the other colors.  She created this beautiful display board and gave her presentation to the class.

Her presentation was phenomenal, by far her best of the year.  She discussed everything she had done and even came up with details we hadn't even practiced.  Her teacher was so impressed she asked Scarlet to keep her project at school so she could give her presentation to the older classes.

I videoed the entire performance with a smile in my face and happy mom tears in my eyes, and then cried devastated mom tears when the video failed during upload and erased itself off my camera... still stings a little.

It was a pretty busy end of the school year and when they announced on a Monday there was going to be a talent show... I was a tad bit burnt out.  Scarlet really wanted to sing Call Me Maybe with her friends for the show.  I put it in the back of my mind and figured we could think about it in the week or two before auditions.  

Another great kindergarten mom moment, Scarlet didn't have two weeks until auditions, she had two days.  So she showed up on Thursday with absolutely nothing prepared.  Luckily, the school was putting on a few group numbers for the kids who wanted to participate but didn't get something together in time and, as luck would have it, Scarlet was put in the Call Me Maybe group.  Can I tell you how awesome it is to have someone do the talent show work for you?  

I showed up to the performance expecting.... well honestly not much.  But boy was I surprised.  My video is terrible (thankfully someone filmed it well and I have a good DVD copy) but Scarlet was AWESOME!  The number was so cute and Scarlet just sang and danced her little heart out.  It was so fun to watch.  

And before I knew it, it was graduation time.  She sang adorable songs, walked down the row to get her diploma and it was one of those awesome moments to be a mom.

There are the three girls from Homework group 1.  They spent a LOT of time together during the school day, Sofia, Leila, and Scarlet.

And the sweet Ms. Kritzler.  She really is the cutest thing alive.  Scarlet and I love her to death.

Scarlet has spent the summer racing through her 1st grade summer workbook telling me,
"Mom, I already learned this stuff in Kindergarten!" She reads about a chapter book a day, her favorites right now include Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, Junie B. Jones, the Weird School books, and what seems to be a neverending supply of fairy books (animal fairy, dragon fairy, rock fairies... turns out pretty much everything has a fairy).  And now it is the end of July which means 1st grade approaching much, much too quickly...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Oh, Asher

Asher is now talking our ears off.  He is still pretty hard to understand, but his vocabulary is pretty extensive.  He is absorbing like a sponge right now everything he sees around him.  Some good things... a lot of not so good things.  
His favorite show right now is Might Morphin Power Rangers.  Thanks for that one, Jon and Netflix.  He goes around the house hitting ninja poses and singing, "Go go... Wain-gers!"
But, Scarlet has made sure her her feminine influence on the boys in our family is never too far behind. After a morning of Scarlet-chosen girly shows, Asher requested this outfit instead of his usual ninja or Spiderman dress up.

"A pin-cess", he told me.

"Do you look like a princess, Asher?"


"How does a princess pose for a picture?" I asked.

She has trained him well....

He also has a love for sitting on my lap while I am working on the computer, which has been an extensive amount of time for the past few months.  And he has learned that I am usually working on dances, which he loves to watch.

So the other day, I pulled up an awesome break dancing number from one of my events and Rhode and Asher were enthralled.  They requested to watch it five times in a row before I finally called it good.  At the end of the routine, the dancer does an aerial off the front of the stage onto the audience floor below.  It is really fantastic and Asher and Rhode screamed with delight every time it happened.

Later that same day, I was lounging on the couch while Asher walked down the stairs.  He got about seven steps from the bottom before he turned to me and said, "Mom, I jump."  And before I could respond, he did just that... landed about two steps down from that and tumbled down the rest of the way.  Thank goodness for carpeted stairs...

You could see from his reaction that he was not expecting that result at all.  I have no definitive proof, but I just can't help but think he was attempting his own awesome stage leap.

He attempted the same stunt from about five stairs up the next day before finally consenting to the fact that it was just not going to happen how he imagined it would.

And finally, even his favorite literature is ruining him.  His most requested book these days is called, "I Ain't Gonna Paint No More," about a little boy who can't help but paint himself from head to toe even though his mama told him not to.

He was already the master of mass destruction whenever he could find a marker, but he has decided to avoid the walls and go straight for his own skin.

This was from the day he found a highlighter and, when realizing it would not sufficiently color his arm, proceeded to suck on it.

And soon he will be two...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Ebay box of awesomeness

Last summer, I found a deal online where you could buy a box of 25 sunglasses online for about $30.  They were a random collection of unsold sunglasses from stores like KMart and CVS Pharmacy.  You didn't know what you were going to get, but being a person who does not really care so much about style and is constantly losing her sunglasses, it was a great deal.

We loved having them.  Jon and I would wear a pair until a kid snapped them for us or they were unwittingly left behind somewhere and then pull out a new pair.  This was a big financial improvement from our early married days when Jon used to think it was okay to spend $50 for one pair of sunglasses, only to then break them at a job site a week later.

But, thanks to our children dipping into the glasses pot as well, we eventually ran out of our supply and I have been checking the same site ever since for a similar deal.  Months and months went by and, nothing.  Summer was fast approaching and we desperately needed some cheap eyewear, so I decided to branch out a little and see what Ebay had to offer.  And it paid off, big time.

I purchased a box of 100 sunglasses for $40.  That is .40 cents a pair people.  The box came and we spent a fun afternoon sorting the pairs into Womens, Mens and Kids styles and none of us will run out any time soon.  There are even a few pairs that fit Asher and almost all of them are Ringo-style circular frames that are worth the $40 all on their own when I can get him to wear them.

And where but in a box of 100 sunglasses would you find awesome shades like these ones?  Worth.  Every. Penny.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Survival Guide

Over our long tenure in Las Vegas, we have learned a few cardinal rules to surviving the summers.

Rule #1 - Always park in the shade whenever possible.  Even if this means a longer walk to your final destination, not getting burned by your seatbelt and steering wheel make it totally worth it.

Rule #2 - Do your best to ignore your electricity bill for a few months.  We can be scrimpy with our heat in the winter if it means turning on your AC without guilt or concern.  The escaping cool breeze when you walk in the door is worth a significant amount of dollars.

Rule #3 - If you are lucky enough to have a friend with a boat, treat that friend VERY VERY WELL!

We take our rules very seriously and when our friends did purchase an amazing boat, we instantly became the best boating buddies known to man.  We are available to come at a moment's notice, we come well stocked with food and water, but avoid anything that could be harmful to the boat interior.  We are fully complicit to all rules involving shoes on the boat, and we are generous with our gas reimbursement.  See, you should invite us on your boat too!

And we have thankfully enjoyed multiple boat outings.

We helped them take the boat out for the first ride of the season this year in early May.  The weather wasn't being totally cooperative and the lake was pretty choppy when we got out there but it was still an awesome time at the lake.

We fit in some wake boarding and some skiing (from Brian and Jon, two of the three women in the boat were pregnant and one had a two months old) and the kids enjoyed some boat cruising.

What's better than a baby that is willing to nap like this?

Our beautiful boat owner, just weeks away from her due date.  We strategized over how to construction a boat bassinet for their new little one...

 And even though the water was just a touch above freezing, my boys had no qualms about jumping in and taking a swim.

This was taken shortly before Brian threw Rhode back flip style into the water.  Brian is the best fill-in Uncle ever.

Thank you again Rosenlofs for the fantastic outings!  You have singlehandedly made living through another Vegas summer that much more bearable.

Girl's Weekend

It was Courtney's last year on the BYU Ballroom team and I wasn't able to make it to even one performance all year!  It was devastating... she only had one performance left before they took off to Blackpool to compete and then tour Europe and I knew I had to be there.  It was not a good time for me to be out of town but there was no doubt in my mind, I was going.  

It was only a few days before I left that I considered bringing Scarlet with me.  She is getting big so fast, I had forgotten for a moment how much fun she is becoming.  It is so great when they make that transition from "more work than fun" to "more fun than work" and Scarlet is really right there.  So, we both hopped in the car and took off to Utah.

We had a great weekend doing some wedding shopping for Courtney and attending a Bridal Shower in her honor.  I hadn't really though about Scarlet being at the shower... and the things she might hear.  I had to answer some interesting questions after the shower, the most difficult one being, "Why did Kylie get Courtney genuine possum fur nipple warmers from New Zealand?"  

Since I am not entirely sure what the true purpose for nipple warmers really is (other than the seemingly obvious reason) and why someone would want their warmers to be made of genuine possum fur, it was a rough one to explain... but totally worth it.  Thank you again for the laugh, Kylie.

Then, we got to go to Courtney's show and see the premiere performance of their Blackpool routine.

Courtney had given us some vague details but I was blown away when the dance began with a beautiful lift sequence involving all of the boys and Courtney!  The dance also ended with her in an amazing lift surrounded by the team.  She was the star of the number and she didn't even tell us beforehand!  I would have been shouting that kind of information from the rooftops....

Scarlet's second cousins, Carolina and Grace came along as well.  Fun fact, Carolina is two years older than Scarlet and Grace is about 7 months older.  They make Scarlet look extremely tall... :)

It made all of the ignored obligations and long car ride totally and completely worth it.  You will always be a star to us Courtney!  Until another sibling does something equally or more impressive that is...

Monday, July 8, 2013


Our gardening efforts have not gotten much more exciting over the seasons.  We can usually get some cherry and pear tomatoes, the basil grows pretty well, and everything else just kind of shrivels and dies as it gets hot.  

Last year, Scarlet really wanted to plant an artichoke plan during our spring garden shopping.  I had never actually seen an artichoke grow on a plant so I was game.  Our artichoke plant grew slowly but surely all season long but never looked like anything more than a big weed.  But, it didn't ever die so we just left it alone.

It survived the winter and then, all of a sudden, it was sprouting artichokes like mad!  

We were not really sure when to cut them so our first few were a little young.  We got better and had plenty to practice with.  I am pretty sure at last count we had eaten eight artichokes from our plant.

All three of my kids love artichokes.  I occasionally try to make them fancier, but they prefer the "steam and dip in butter" method.  Why fix what ain't broken?