As someone who avoids crowds, we went to Las Vegas. Hahaha. It feels a bit wrong, taking kiddos on vacation to Vegas. Like that one old man unintentionally pointed out as we were waiting for the parking garage elevator at Planet Hollywood. He was waiting with us, telling us how his two grandkids—ages five and seven—keep asking him to take them with him to Las Vegas on vacation. To which he said he tells them no; it’s not a place for kids. As we stood there with five kids. I don’t think he realized what he said nor do I think he meant anything toward us. I get it. Nothing says kid-friendly like a place focused on gambling, alcohol, sex, and drugs. But surprisingly, it was super kid-friendly. At least how we rolled.
Las Vegas kiddos!
The whole Las Vegas trip came about when we decided that only Brian and Laine would go to Arizona for Laine’s meet. After we bought plane tickets to Phoenix for all seven of us. Long story short, we had flight credits from cancelling Phoenix. And with Southwest, there are no cancellation or change fees—whatever you spend, you get back if you switch or cancel. Which was enough for us to hit up San Diego in February and Las Vegas in March.
Flights booked, hotel next. Brian and I are creatures of habit. Which is probably one of the reasons we decided on Vegas. We have both been there a few times and it felt familiar. Although, we’re the kiss of death. Sorry, George Carlin and Siegfried & Roy. Whomever we see, they die not long after. Or get attacked by a tiger. Haha. Tom Jones is still going strong though. But that was Karann and me, no Brian. We’re also terrible luck for restaurants we really like. And that hotel we stayed at in Maui, that we absolutely loved. It was demolished not long after we stayed. The funny thing about our Maui trip, is that we had been together 12 years I think it was? And everywhere we went in Maui, we kept getting congratulated. It took me a bit to realize they all though we had just been married and were on our honeymoon. Hahaha. Our streak continues…
The last time Brian and I went to Vegas together, we stayed at the Mirage. The Bellagio is our favorite but we decided it isn’t the best for kiddos. And so, we decided we’d stick with the Mirage and booked there. Guess which hotel isn’t going to exist in the next few months?! THE MIRAGE. Hard Rock bought the hotel and they’re going to demolish the volcano. Sorry we liked you, Mirage.
Booking hotels for a family of seven can be difficult. Sure, we could fib about the kids and all squeeze into a room meant for four. But then we’re stuck in a room meant for four with five kids. Yeah, no thanks. Suites are spendy, especially on the Strip. We went with two connecting rooms. And it was perfect. The kiddos had one room, and Brian and I—and Maive—had the other. We propped open the connecting doors and it felt spacious. The only annoying thing was the damn snacks and fridge. Where if you so much as tap the items, they charge you. To block Maive from accidental incidentals (those are fun words together), we positioned the luggage rack in front of each rooms’ fridge and we put towels over the snacks. Not even good snacks. Perhaps I’m out of the loop with the best snacks for being hungover.
Our flight from Seattle to Las Vegas was a Monday morning. At 11:40am to be exact. It felt about right. We had enough time in the morning to not feel rushed. It was wake up and eat breakfast as usual, and then off to Sea-Tac. One of the things about getting older is paying for convenience is totally worth every penny. We park at the airport. And I’ve found that traveling on random weekdays, they offer parking discounts. Another reason to homeschool, haha. We parked, checked all of our bags and car seats, and made it through security quickly.
There was a hangup with our stroller. The wiped it for chemicals and something came back positive. The guy agent was totally cool and said it happens often when strollers are used on grass. Fertilizer and all. The woman agent was much more serious and thoroughly patted down the stroller after wanting to see the kids I had with me (who were already past security with Brian). And then she went through my purse and backpack. Even opening my vitamin bottles. I didn’t care; we had time and I knew I was all good. But man, she was incredibly thorough! And even after her inspection, she still had to check with her boss about letting me go with the stroller. Either the chemicals came off during our Vegas trip or the Las Vegas TSA agents don’t care enough to check strollers because they literally wheeled the sucker through without any inspection. I was watching in case it was flagged again.
The flight to Vegas was smooth. Except I’ve rediscovered my fear of flying. Ugh. Getting there wasn’t so bad. I didn’t love it but I managed without much issue. Although I had a total feeling of relief once we pulled into the gate. This is totally morbid, but I’d rather go down with all seven of us than only a few of us. And of course a few days after we made it home, safe and sound, the Chinese plan went down. Literally nose down. Those poor people.
We like the back rows of the plane. Even before kiddos—when I wasn’t afraid of flying—I liked the back rows. My dad being in law enforcement, he always sat where he could see the entire space. I suppose I’m the same way. And I get anxiety about making people wait for me. Like when checking out at Target or wherever, if I take even one second longer then I feel I should, I get all worried about holding up the person behind me. Stupid but whatever. Being in the back rows, nobody has to wait for us. And we all end up at baggage claim, waiting together. No need to rush.
Bags, car seats, and kiddos in tow, we loaded on the shuttle bus to the rental car location. Every single person in the rental car building was in the Budget line. There must have been about 30 people in front of me. And they only had three people working. Eh, not ideal but I try to come from a place of they aren’t trying to make this a long, bad experience for customers. The three Budget workers were doing their best.
As I was waiting, the line behind me grew. And the guy directly behind me was calling the different car rental places asking if they had any vehicles. I already knew it was a big nope because as I was waiting in line, I searched online the different rental places looking for a vehicle. I was more than willing to lose the non-refundable deposit if another car rental place, without a line, had anything available. Thankfully as the line grew, more workers came out from the back. It was still a good 30-minute wait but I finally had keys in hand. I found Brian and the kids, and we loaded into the rental van.
Because our flight was over lunch and it took a while to leave the airport and get the rental van, it was close to dinner time. About 4:30pm I think it was. In keeping with our creature of habit status, we hit up Denny’s. The kids love Denny’s?! And it’s fairly inexpensive for all seven of us. Turns out they have a buy an adult meal, get a kids meal free. I feel like we should have known this and possibly explains why we felt it was inexpensive in San Diego. And since Blaise and Laine get adult meals, we scored three free kiddo meals. Denny’s wasn’t even busy but it was totally understaffed. And we had a waitress who was incredibly kind but seemed overwhelmed, and appeared to have lived the high life back in the day. All I could think of was the older version of Lola from Copacabana.
Refueled, we left Denny’s for the Mirage. We drove up the Strip and the kiddos took it all in. I can only imagine what it’s like seeing the Strip for the first time, as totally inexperienced kids. It was fun to see them look around and hear what caught their attention. Baby liked the big chicken in front of a chicken restaurant. Because of course she did. Baby! When the kiddos pack, I make a list of what all needs to be packed in their suitcase. Clothes, toothbrush, etc. And then they get to pack about five things of their choosing in their backpacks. Like toys, book, and whatnot. When we were on the plane and needed Baby’s Switch, Brian opened her backpack to find a single rooster figurine in there. Hahaha! It’s not even a toy. It’s a 10-inch rooster statue thing I bought at HomeGoods on a whim. The sucker broke in Vegas. Probably because it wasn’t meant to be played with as a toy. I didn’t even realize this until last week, but I have a thing for roosters. I bought another one. Yeah, yeah. Insert joke. I’m not at all a country or farmhouse decor person. Not at all.
All settled in after relaxing a bit, it was close to 8pm. Normally the time we’re winding down from the day, we headed out to the Strip. The Mirage volcano erupts at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm. We wanted to make it to the 8pm one. And we did. This was the first time the kids were seeing the Strip at night, all lit up. To see things through their eyes is pretty cool. I’m pretty sure they missed the passed out folks along the sidewalk; it was soooo busy. People everywhere. As someone who actively avoids crowds and gets totally overwhelmed with people everywhere, I left Vegas with an appreciation of crowds. For as crazy busy as it was, everyone worked well together. A mutual group respect for everyone. Hard to explain; more of a feeling. A nice feeling. But I’ll still avoid crowds like the plague.
After the volcano eruption, we hit up the shops inside of the Venetian. We walked around a bit, following the indoor gondola waterway. Brian and I did a gondola ride back in the day. Somewhere I have a picture of us in one. The guy sang to us; I think they all sing though. The kids all commented about the painted sky ceiling. All the tricks casinos use to keep you inside. Along the waterway, we found an ice cream shop. We grabbed some cones and the kiddos ate on a bench, watching the gondolas. It was close to 10pm and we decided to call it a night. Not before stopping at one of the many Walgreen’s along the Strip. We needed to grab some water and snacks for the hotel room. Again with the crowds. So many people inside Walgreen’s.
All the kiddos were fast asleep. Brian and I were knocked out not long after. The four older kiddos were in the other room, two per bed. Brian and Maive shared a bed in our room, leaving me with my own bed. Absolutely no complaints! My Apple Watch tells me I slept almost nine hours that night. Glorious.
Tuesday morning we hit Whole Foods for breakfast, and grabbed some fruit for the few days we were in town. As we were waiting for our luggage at the Las Vegas airport, a man started talking with me while I was with the three youngest gals. I’m not sure if I have an invisible note on my forehead that says, talk with me, but it happens all the time. Like that one time on a Saturday—on the super busy trail—a woman singled me out while I was running, and asked to sing to me. She was part of a choir group where they were challenged to sing to random people. She was a nice older woman, and I listened to her sing. We chatted and parted ways. The guy at the airport was offering me suggestions of things to check out with the kiddos. One of those things, the Downtown Container Park.
First, we grabbed donuts after Whole Foods. Because, why not? We found a random donut store along the way and stopped. It was next to a Starbucks, score for Brian. The Container Park was an awesome find! Thanks, random guy at the airport. The kiddos had a blast. There is a nice playground in the center and a large, fake grassy area with large LEGO-like building blocks. It was a blue sky, sunny day but not terribly warm. All the kiddos found things to do, including Laine who found a bubble tea shop. I think she likes the idea more than the taste. Every time she gets one, she never likes them. I made friends with two pigeons; I tossed small donut bits to them. Brian tried to get one to eat out of his hand. Close but no luck.
Downtown Container Park kiddos.
Two hours later, we left for the hotel. The kiddos needed a bit of down time before hitting the pool. It was the warmest day we’d be there, so checking out the pool was on tap. All the kiddos were suited up within minutes of walking into the hotel rooms. Brian and I suited up also, although I was only backup. Brian took one for the team and got into the pool with the kiddos. They said it was heated but apparently it was still cold. This didn’t stop the kiddos! They were all able to swim a bit before the pool closed at 5pm. Even though it said it was open until 9pm online. Oh well. It worked out just fine.
Dinner Tuesday was another kiss of death memory. I have always loved California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) and of course the ones that were open up here in our area when we moved here—that I went to often—have all closed. I was happy to see a CPK near Whole Foods when we were there earlier in the day. There’s also a CPK in the Mirage but it’s closed Tuesdays. Because of course it is, my luck. Haha. Nah, Tuesdays seem like a good down day for a place like Las Vegas. I think subconsciously, Brian and I appreciated the CPK by Whole Foods since it was calmer off the Strip. A totally different vibe. We ate later than usual, around 7pm, and we were able to get a table right away. The funniest part of dinner, was a Babyism. There are TVs near the bar seating in CPK. Baby noticed them and said, something like, “Look! A hockey game!” We look. It was a basketball game. Haha! We finished up with dinner and headed back to the Mirage to call it a night… for four of us.
Brian grabbed an afternoon Starbucks after the pool and found something that said discounted tickets for that evening’s Cirque Du Soleil Beatles show at the Mirage. Brian decided he’d take Blaise and Laine. It was the 9:30pm show and we knew the younger gals would be exhausted from the day. They left for the show around 9pm while the three younger gals went to sleep. I enjoyed some quiet time. I had big plans to stretch but ended up lying in bed watching TikTok the entire time. Eh, vacation. Brian and the big kiddos made it back around 11:15pm and we all went straight to sleep.
Hoover Dam was first up Wednesday morning. We had a snacky breakfast with our Whole Foods finds before loading up in the rental van. It’s about a 45-minute drive along desert highways. Man, there is nothing around there. Not a single natural green anything. I take that back, there were a few green weeds I spotted. Mostly rocks and rocks, and more rocks.
After the vehicle check, we parked and unloaded to check out the dam. This DID NOT go well. Maive didn’t want to be in the stroller. And we didn’t want her to walk. It was busy. And safer to keep her confined. Maive is a super easy kiddo; she rarely cries or has tantrums. Except at Hoover Dam. The kid cried the entire freaking time she was strapped in the stroller. Blaise is afraid of heights. He wanted nothing to do with walking along the dam. Baby was her wild self, unable to walk straight or stand still with the crowd of people on the narrow sidewalks. Laine and Saige were okay, but they tend to bicker non-stop. I wanted a picture of all five kiddos at the state line. This didn’t work out. And people were waiting for their turn for a picture so we didn’t have time to take a proper picture with all five kids, Maive was still screaming. Brian wanted to do the guided tour; nobody else did. It was a disaster. We were there maybe 10 minutes before Brian was walking back to the parking garage elevator pushing a still screaming Maive.
A disastrous Hoover Dam visit. Blaise and Laine in Nevada; Saige and Baby (and Maive not pictured) in Arizona. Blaise has now added Arizona on his list of states he’s been to, haha.
The ride back to the Mirage was quiet. Tension galore. The kiddos eventually started in with chit-chatting. Which eventually turned into them singing repetitive songs. I was on edge. We were so close to the Mirage when I lost it. I lose it in different variations often, five kids and all. But this time was different; I could feel it in my entire body. I was telling myself to hold it together, we were almost back to the hotel. But nope, I lost it. Without even meaning to, I raised my hands to my ears to block the noise and when that didn’t work, the yelling commenced. And when I yell, some version of fuck is in every sentence. Not my best moment, but these moments happen. When we parked at the hotel, I decided to sit in the car alone before heading up to the rooms. I needed those 15 minutes of quiet time to collect myself.
Down time was needed, for all of us. It had been an eventful morning. After we all calmed down, mostly me—and I apologized to the kiddos—it was time for lunch. To the Rainforest Cafe. Again with being creatures of habit, Brian and I had eaten at the Rainforest Cafe one time we were in Vegas. And so we were going to do this again. But it moved locations. We found it at Planet Hollywood but they couldn’t take a party of seven until 7pm. This wouldn’t work. We had tickets to the Tournament of Kings dinner show at 8:30pm. No need for a dinner at 7pm. Instead, we grabbed a lame lunch, McDonald’s for the girls and Subway for Blaise. Brian and I didn’t want either. We had another plan…
Driving back from the Container Park on Tuesday, we saw a Peppermill restaurant. Score! Another kiss of death. Brian and I used to eat at the Peppermill in Sacramento all the time. It was one of our favorites until it closed. Sorry, Sacramento Peppermill. We decided to have an early dinner Wednesday at the Peppermill. Timing was perfect. The kiddos ate lunch around noon. Dinner was going to be at 8:30pm. We went to the Peppermill around 3:30pm. We had to wait about 30 minutes for a table. While we were waiting, we walked around the building to kill time. Baby found a penny and dime, and was super excited. She was showing the siblings back at the front of the restaurant and a group of bikers who were also waiting overheard. The kind biker woman opened her wallet and gave each kiddo a quarter.
The table was ready and we all ate. I forgot how large the portions are. I mean, they used to have the widow maker burger, I should have remembered. All I wanted was the elegant brownie sundae. That’s what I remembered. The layout and decor inside was exactly like the former Sacramento location. It was like stepping back in time. A warm feeling. The waitress was great, attentive for how incredibly busy the restaurant was. Although, I always wonder why I get asked this often, like our waitress asked, “Are they all yours?” I mean, do people randomly pick up other kids and take them places? I get asked this often at Costco of all places. Because I like to take other peoples’ kiddos grocery shopping? I know those who ask mean no ill will, but I find it odd. She said she has three and, “I don’t know how you do it with five!” I told her once you hit three and are outnumbered, five isn’t much different. True statement.
We all ate and then ordered two elegant brownies. The food was really good and all, but the brownie is what I was there for. Even Brian ate some, which is unusual. He’s not a dessert guy. Unless it’s a pie. And even then, the pie can’t be too sweet. Blaise didn’t partake in the brownie. He missed out.
The elegant brownie!
After eating at the Peppermill, we hit up the Forum Shops at Cesars with the goal of finding one souvenir for each kiddo. And to find the replica of Michelangelo’s David. I’m not sure why, but this was one on my goals of the trip. Perhaps I really do have a thing for eh, roosters. After much walking around Caesars Palace, we found the sucker. Not very eventful. But the kids humored me for a picture.
They each selected something to buy at a kitschy Las Vegas-themed store in the Forum Shops. Baby and Maive ended up with stuffed animals—Maive a monkey and Baby an elephant—that each came with a super cheap, paper-thin Las Vegas blanket. Saige selected a travel neck pillow and matching eye mask, with the colorful Las Vegas Strip on the fabric. Blaise and Laine went with snow globes. Laine bought her own (we really bought it, never asking her for repayment) because she wanted a Las Vegas hoodie as her souvenir but this store didn’t have one she liked. And Blaise wanted a Las Vegas sticker for his new suitcase. He’s decided he wants stickers from all the places he visits to affix to his hardshell suitcase. Laine and I ended up finding a hoodie at the Mirage kitschy store. Black, of course.
The Tournament of Kings is at Excalibur. This was Brian’s idea. And a good one! He’s not usually the planner but he suggested this would be a great show for all five kiddos. And he was spot on. It was later than we had hoped for but the 6pm show was sold out of seven seats together when we bought tickets. We arrived around 8pm for the 8:30pm show. The line to get into the theater was incredibly long. It didn’t seem like that many people would fit but sure enough, once inside it felt spacious and didn’t feel like there were as many people who were in line. We had seven seats together in the back row, in the Dragon section. We lucked out and the remaining two seats in our row stayed empty.
Tournament of Kings kiddos!
The meals were served, all without silverware. Medieval times and all. Brian and I went crazy and ordered drinks. Brian has about three beers a year. And I hadn’t had any alcohol since before Blaise was born! Perhaps I should take up drinking since it sure calmed me down. I could feel a sense of relief once the alcohol hit. I tend to life life on edge, haha. And thankfully, I didn’t feel tipsy or anything. I was wondering how the vodka would hit me since it had been so long.
About to eat with their hands.
Maive was all about the show! All the kiddos were. They were laser-focused, taking it all in. I’m not sure how much the younger gals understood what all was going on but they were hooked. Maive kept getting extra attention as the actors who came out from the back waited for their cue to join the cast in the arena. They’d wait next to the pillar across from Maive, smiling and waving to her. Between the individualized attention, fireworks, and horses—HORSES!—Maive was an instant fan of the show.
Pictures were encouraged, so I took some.
The show ran 75-minutes and as we were exiting the arena, one of the actors was sitting on his horse down by the front row. We walked down and the kids all were able to pet the horse. Baby asked him if he really died, haha, to which he whispered to her that it’s all pretend and not to tell anyone. Poor Brian, he is super allergic to horses. Which we totally didn’t think about when we bought the tickets. Thankfully he’s used to living with allergies and managed. But that arena really set off his allergies.
Everyone was out cold Wednesday night after another eventful day.
Our flight Thursday was at 3:40pm. It gave us enough time to sleep in a bit and pack, and to take our time getting to the airport. We ended up checking out right at 10am, the check-out time. As we exited the elevators into the hotel lobby, another family exited another elevator, also checking out. Saige, of course she did, started chatting up the mom as we all walked toward the parking garage. The other mom and I ended up chatting also, and she was excited to finally be able to travel to the States again. They live in Vancouver, BC, and her kids were on spring break. They were staying a few days in Vegas visiting family nearby, and then they were off to California to visit grandparents. This family, the dad was the guy behind me in the Budget rental line, also looking for other rental cars. What are the odds of this happening?! Nice family. We parted ways at the parking garage. They were driving to California.
With time to kill before returning the rental car and starting the airport process, we hit up another donut shop. Ronald’s Donuts. We bought a dozen and decided last minute to go ahead and eat there, at the two tables they have inside. It wasn’t busy so we didn’t feel like we were taking over the shop. Even though we kind of did?! As we were sitting there, grubbing on donuts, the cute shop owner asked if she could take our picture to post on Instagram. Do these random things happen often to other people?! I swear we always have random things happen. Not that it’s unusual or anything. Just random. Like Laine had dry ice poured on her head at the Beatles show. One of three people in the entire theater. Again, not unusual, but these things happen more often than not to our family.
The rental return was smooth, as was getting to the airport. Even checking our baggage and making it through security was easy. We had about two hours to kill before our flight. That was delayed by a whole seven minutes. Brian took on gathering lunch for all of us while I sat with the kiddos building up my anxiety of the flight. Ugh. There are slot machines in the center of the airport. I considered playing a few rounds to say I did, being in Vegas and all. But I didn’t. We eventually boarded and scored the back rows again. Another family, with only (haha) four kiddos, boarded the flight also. They had a tiny baby, about three weeks she said.
I’ve never had an anxiety attack, that I know of. Until this flight. Jesus Christ, I was a mess. My entire body felt tense, manifesting in extreme leg shaking and crying. Freaking crying at take off. I was a giant ball of anxiety. I never relaxed, attempting to hide my extreme mess of emotions from the kiddos. I tried to switch seats with Brian so he could have Maive, like on our flight home from San Diego. But Maive wasn’t having it; she wanted me. Which I think ended up being helpful. I was so focused on entertaining her that I wasn’t solely focusing on all the ways the plane could crash. It also weirdly helps watching the kiddos, knowing they aren’t remotely thinking about the plane going down. They were all happily reading or playing on their Switches. I did find, on the flight home from San Diego, that listening to music helps. The Lumineers pulled through for me on the flight home. Maive eventually fell asleep before we landed. Poor gal was spent from a busy few days!
As we entered the plane in Las Vegas, Saige was telling everybody it was her half-birthday. We kind of celebrate half-birthdays. Nothing special and no traditions, but we always point it out the the kiddos. And sometimes we get a cake or whatever. My parents celebrated our half-birthdays when we were kids. Probably because my birthday is three weeks after Christmas, and they felt bad that I didn’t get anything for 11 months. We’d have half-birthday parties with only the grandparents, get a few presents, and go miniature golfing. We did this until we were teenagers I think? Maybe it ended around 10. I can’t remember clearly. But I remember celebrating.
One of the flight attendants told Saige Happy Half-Birthday and asked her name. After all the in-flight service was complete—with maybe 30 minutes to landing—over the speaker the flight attended asked for everyone’s attention as there was a special guest on board: SAIGE O’NEILL! Followed with a happy seven-and-a-half-birthday! They called her to the front of the plane and crowned her with the sweetest in-flight-made crown. They took snack packs for the crown, adjoined them together using drink mixing poker things, and attached toilet paper as ribbon. They wrote Happy Half-Birthday, Saige! on the toilet paper, with a LUV the Southwest Flight Attendants. They crowned her and asked her to walk the aisle, waiving to everyone. And everyone clapped. Saige ate this up! Talk about making a kid feel special! I was already a huge Southwest fan, now I absolutely love Southwest. Even with my extreme flight anxiety.
Landing was smooth and we were loaded in our car with all of our luggage not long after. Driving home, we stopped by Erin’s to grab Mel. He had a great time with his BFF. Back home, we made a quick dinner at 8:30pm before sending everyone to bed. Back to real life.
Real life included Saige getting sick the next day. We thought it was food poisoning since she ate some older celery from the fridge. And it was only Saige who was sick. Nope. It was the stomach flu. We all cycled through it in the coming days. Thankfully we all had it and recovered before we left for our next trip. A cabin weekend at Riverside State Park – Bowl & Pitcher. It’s always something!
Vegas wasn’t a place that ever crossed my mind to take the kids. Until we had those flight credits. I’m incredibly thankful we went. Even with my flight anxiety and losing it Wednesday morning. It was a great experience for the kiddos and overall a wonderful family vacation. Las Vegas, of all places! Now I’m questioning if I’m actually game for Hawaii next year. Flying and all.