READING BETWEEN THE PINES

If life's about the journey, does it matter how many bathroom breaks you take along the way?

Once upon a time, before I lost my moral compass in a land far, far, away, I swore on a bible, under oath, that I’d never take my kids to Vegas (O.K. it wasn’t really that dramatic but I like the visual, especially because in my version of the story I have newly shellacked nails, a flowing iridescent robe with ruching in all the right places, a super-sweet spray tan, and Legolas standing by as my cabana boy witness).

Son of Thranduil and King of the Woodland Realm of Northern Mirkwood or cabana boy? You be the judge. Image via freewebs.com

Anyway, I was certain, based on past experience, that Vegas simply wasn’t a place fit for English Royalty, my grandmother Tim Tebow fans, or children. But the winds of change kicked up a ginormous tumbleweed as airfare hit a price point better known as dirt cheap and my children embarked on Fall Break, which, without some type of vacation, would end up being unbearable uneventful. So I pulled a complete about-face.

I’m a Gemini. Don’t judge me.

Blimey! Image via guardian.co.uk

Everyone knows Las Vegas is the capital of glitzy-glam-glut the United States of America, and I’m all about sipping cocktails by the pool providing a well-rounded education for my offspring. Intent on showing them why they should go to college the positive side of the world’s largest, most collagen-enhanced melting pot (behind L.A.), we recently loaded up our sunscreen, sensible shoes sequins, and hand sanitizer, and hit the road.

Is this former Knots Landing star Joan Van Ark or her Madame Tussaud wax mold? Image via zimbio.com

International Culture

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually have to visit Europe to experience European bathing. Instead, you can be from like, Alabama, frolicking through the family friendly lazy river ten tequila shots down with your surgically enhanced assets bobbing in the fake surf screaming “Roll Tide Roll!” as my son, completely entranced, who’s also unfamiliar with the metric system, gets a crash course in Girls Gone Wild 101 anatomy and physiology.

Image via shopncaasports.com

Etiquette

As a parent, I’ve used technology as a babysitter more than I’ll ever admit diligently taught my children the value of proper etiquette. So when a fellow tourist (possibly European but thankfully not nude), boxes your children out with her fanny pack and blocks their view of the Bellagio fountains because she’s using her nifty new iPad as a camera? Get all up in her face, step away from the safety rail and let her memorialize her future Barcalounger programming options trip in peace.

“Hey lady in the Depends. iPad cameras suck!” Image via vegastripping.com

Ethics

Most parents don’t know this, but it’s not the casinos, international tour buses, or third row of a minivan taxi cab wave pools you need to steer clear of when you’re in Vegas with children. It’s actually the M&Ms store. That place will make you throw up in your mouth rob you blind as you quickly check your phone for the over/under on the Monday night game, sprint across the street to the Luxor to place a fairly sort of smallish bet, and return in time to discover that each of your kids has figured out how to personally monogram a container of candy that you can buy at Walmart for $1.97 each.

This is $80.00 worth of personalized M&Ms. O.K, actually $78.92: two of my kids ripped off the lids and started shotgunning them before I could pry them from their talon-like grasp. Image via Stacie “that was the most expensive bet ever” Chadwick.

Your penchant for five-finger discounts fight or flight instinct will immediately kick in as you weigh the odds of being caught stuffing three pounds of candy down your shirt. Since the store is wired with a security camera every two feet you’re a good, moral person, you instead spend the night’s blackjack money on candy that you’ll regift as Christmas presents to elderly relatives who haven’t yet had cataract surgery let your kids have, in limited amounts so that it will last the rest of their lives (which are now considerably shorter), when you get home.

So take it from me, a trip with the family to Las Vegas is something I’ll never do again much more than just a vacation. It’s an international experience of love, hope and harmony filled with opportunities to blow their 529 savings sky-high teach them about world culture, etiquette, ethics, and that those things being handed out on the sidewalk looking a lot like baseball trading cards? Not so much.

Images have been blurred to protect the innocent and the addicted. Image via mobypicture.com

P.S. “Thunder From Down Under” is not a show about variable weather patterns in the New South Wales/Victoria region of Australia.

Image via ethanjstone.com

P.S.S. We watched the second presidential debate with the kids while we were in Vegas, because it’s illegal to leave them alone in the hotel room to hit the craps table I believe in a well-rounded political education. In case you’re wondering, I can assure you that the term “binders full of women” has a completely different meaning in Las Vegas than in American politics. I think.

Image via abcnews.go.com

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Is That Your Daughter’s Bra Hanging From A Tree?

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71 thoughts on “Taking Your Kids to Vegas: A Lesson in International Culture, Etiquette, and Ethics

  1. Anonymous says:

    Two questions: Is that the real Joan Van Ark or the wax mold? For some reason, I think you are going to say real, in which case I think the mold looks a bit better than the real thing. Secondly, is that your ass?

    1. Even though you’re appearing as “someone” I’m going to assume this is my bloggie bestie, the one and only Cristy Carrington. If this is not Cristy, you are walking seriously hallowed ground, so congratulations.

      In answer to question #1: yes. (eeek)
      In response to question #2: yes. OK, just kidding. Yes in my dreams, which tend to be strange and often feature random body parts I wish were mine.

      Thanks for the comment. Now identify yourself! I just realized that if this was Cristy there would be some kind of elf porn comment in relation to Legolas.

      =)

  2. You had me at the title, Stacie! This was hysterical. A year ago, I was brainstorming with a friend about taking a road trip with our kiddos and I suggested Vegas. Where else can you experience Paris, Egypt, Venice, NYC all in one fell swoop? Sounds educational to me. 😉

    1. AND porn on wheels! Truly, you’re right though. We had a great, predominantly G-rated trip. Thanks for the comment, Beth. Hope all is well. I’m doing NaNoWriMo in an effort to jump-start my currently stalled novel. I’ve warned everyone in my family that they’re on their own for the month of November. =)

      1. Woot for NaNo! I’m doing my own version called ThreeMoFinishYourDraftMo. This one’s brand spanking new, and I’m hoping to have it done by the end of the year. We should get together over coffee (or a stiff drink) and commiserate. 😉

      2. YES! On December 1. You are leaps and bounds ahead of me, so perhaps I can ride your wake over a Maker’s and Ginger Ale, my treat!

  3. So this is what Vegas is like now, huh? M&M store — I’m in!

    I went to Vegas in ’89 when it was just beginning to transform from its super sleazy era into more of a family friendly place. My boyfriend’s aunt lived there — I’m like, I didn’t know people actually lived there 😀

    1. You HAVE to go back SCB. You were there in the days of gun-slinging cow town penny slots. It’s now like touring the world and all of its crazy shades of WTF? (complete with some serious smut) in about six blocks.

      Thanks for the comment and visit, keep churning out the spooky stuff….

  4. El Guapo says:

    Ah Vegas. A few days vacation with the kids, a lifetime of removing the effects from their psyches.
    Sounds like you had a good time though!

    1. Yes, as I mentioned to Carrie, I’m highlighting the lowlights because, well, they’re funnier than the cornucopia full of G-rated fun we managed to have. Thanks for the visit and comment El Guapo!

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    Oh, yes, I experienced much of that myself (but luckily not the topless woman in front of my son). But my son and I still had a great time, expensive M&Ms and all!

    1. I agree. I’m only highlighting the lowlights. We really DID have fun, but that’s their first, last, and only trip to sin city until they’re legal from a been there/done that standpoint.

      Thanks for the comment Carrie (and suggestions for all the great things to do…)!

  6. Lesia says:

    Stacie, thanks for a very funny post. You had me laughing with my morning coffee!

    1. Thanks for such a kind comment Lesia. Now for more laughs, let’s go play some golf…
      =)

  7. Kathryn Meyer says:

    Oh Stacie, let’s go to Vegas together, but leave our adorable children behind!! Loved your post!! Miss you!

    1. For some reason I find it entirely normal that we would see each other in Vegas before Colorado. I’m guessing we could get Kretiss in on the trip? In all truth, I loved going to Vegas with the kids, but not NEARLY as much as going without them.

      Miss you too, sister. Thanks for the sweet comment!

      1. Oh ladies of course I’m in on Vegas any time of any year! And thanks Stacie for confirming my oath to never never take my children to Vegas. You are one brave/crazy woman. Loved the post my friend. Viva!

  8. Sarah Wezet says:

    This was hilarious! Did the kids enjoy it or request to go back? The thing that surprised me when I went to Vegas, just a few short months ago, was how many people had children under the age of 2 in Vegas. Pushing them around strollers on the Vegas strip at 2am! I need a Vegas re-do because on day 2, I decided to wear a 30 spf when my skin had not seen the sun since the previous summer, and mixing cocktails and not re-applying was a bad combo. Worst sunburn of my life. It was also great that every drunk person I encountered said the same thing…… “ohhh, you got burnt”, “ouch, you’re burnt to a crisp”, “the desert sun is a lot stronger then where you’re from”. Yep, thanks, I’m fully aware of that as my burnt skin is melting through my clothes. haha! Maybe I should just go with my sister and Brent in January and I won’t have to worry about the sun. 🙂

    1. You should DEFINITELY go in January, no pools = more time at the craps table.

      Those same parents with their infants in strollers at 2 a.m.? Still there.

      Thanks so much for the comment and support, Sarah. I really appreciate it!

  9. hahaha…great post Stacie! I have never been to Vegas and really have no desire to go. To go with my kids? Even I’m not that crazy. You either get the Mother of the Year award or a one way ticket to the nearest insane asylum. 🙂

    1. Or both?

      Thanks for the comment, Wendy. I love seeing you here!

      1. And I love to be seen. Especially by you. Cause you’re cute. hahaha 🙂

  10. This may be my favorite of your posts! (I laughed at every single underlined phrase.) Due to my own character flaws which are extensive, we’ve never brought our children to Vegas. However, I’ve seen a LOT of families who do. And it seems to be one of those things. Everyone survives, as long as you bring a LOT of hand sanitizer.

    1. Awww, thanks for the love. Fully agree on the hand sanitizer comment…more important than sunscreen. =)

  11. I’m laughing so hard! That Patrick Swayze meme is hilarious…

    I think you have just figured out a way to get teachers a school district-payed ticket to Vegas. FIELD TRIPS!!! You’re a hero.

    1. I tell my kids what a hero I am EVERY DAY and it seems to fall on deaf ears so thank you, Jen, for your kind words.

      I would fund a teacher’s trip to Vegas every year if I could because teachers deserve limitless lap dances at Thunder Down Under for all that they do. BRILLIANT idea. =)

      1. My mom used to tell us how lucky we were to have her as a mom, and I’d roll my eyes and do the best job I could of being a total asshat. Then I grew up and had to take care of myself. Now I call her, “Mommy, I’m sick!”

        Your day will come!

      2. I live for that moment, Jen.

  12. That photo of Joan Van Ark is going to haunt me in my sleep. I love Vegas, I truly do. But I’m pretty sure I’d be a nervous wreck going there with kids. So many things to explain and/or divert their eyes from. You’re a brave soul.

    1. Or a shallow one. At 12, 10, and 8 they’re at a bit of a sweet spot and were oblivious to (pretty much) everything. At 16, 14, and 12, however, it’s a whole new world.

      Thanks for the visit MW, love what you’re doing.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Ok, so maybe I have led you astray with my “pitch” that the Joan Van Ark I see hobbling around the Hollywood Reservoir in her head to toe compression garments is somehow a model of graceful aging. Cultivating a certain incognito mystique, so as to deflect the hordes of paparazzi hounding her every stride (not really), she struck me as a fellow sister warrior, fighting the good fight against the ravages of age. Clearly, I was wrong. That is a truly frightening image.

      1. I’ve been meaning to send you that picture. In the immortal words of Scooby-Doo, “Zoinks!”

  13. *laughing hard*

    So where are the photos of you “European bathing” for the delight and delectation of your male middle aged Down Under audience, huh, Stacie?

    “European bathing” Bwahahahahahahaha

    Oh, you crack me up, woman.

    1. Thanks for your comment Yolly, you always make me smile. As for the down and dirty boob shot? Just google “Las Vegas Hot Woman” and you’ll get much more than I could ever offer on my blog.
      =)

      Thanks for the visit Yolly!

  14. bronxboy55 says:

    We went to Las Vegas three years ago with our son, who was fifteen at the time. Great food and a couple of excellent shows, and no real reason to ever go back. But now I’m really glad we went, because it also made it easier to picture where you were as I read this post. We stayed at the Luxor, and I loved those fountains at the Bellagio.

    Was that really $79 worth of M&Ms? Tell me you were exaggerating.

    1. It really was a fun trip, but I’m with you. Been there, done that. As for the M&Ms? I promise, it is not an exaggeration. Three cups of monogrammed M&Ms put me back $80.00. Stay far, far away from M&M World if you decide to go back. You’re better off playing roulette.

      Always love seeing you here, Charles.

  15. I married in Vegas (sans kids who were by then adults). I have been back for my tenth anniversary and stayed at the Four Seasons, oddly my youngest son lived there at the time with his creepy (now ex) wife. We had a blast. Both times, mostly we hung at the pool during the day, had great meals at some of the great restaurants at night and then hit the Blackjack tables (yes I gambled in my wedding dress as I snuck out of my reception).

    When the kids were actually young I drove from Seattle to Texas (it was time to come home). We drove through Reno (Love Reno). Spent a great deal of time at Circus Circus playing overpriced games and winning stupid stuffed animals that filled the back of the van. But Reno is great fun, even for kids. Mind you this was well over 20 years ago.

    1. 20 years later? Circus Circus was the biggest hit with our kids, complete with overpriced games and stupid stuffed animals. We really had a great time, but I feel pretty confident the next trip my kids take there will be on their own dime at the age of 21+.

      I love the visual of you playing blackjack in your wedding dress. Viva Las Vegas!

      Thanks for the comment, Valentine!

  16. Hey, I’m an avid fan of Legolas elfin porn. In fact, I’d become a elf if I could look as good as Orlando Bloom in pointy ears and blonde wig.

    BTW, I’m pretty sure that is your ass. Though I’ve never seen it, you are my blogging bestie and, therefore, my better half – and your half extends all the way down to my ass (which – without you – looks like two dimply oranges – each the size of a fully-inflated basketball).

    You took the kids to Vegas? How are you ever going to bring them to Florida now? What are we going to do – hang out at the Hard Rock Casino and play one-armed bandits day after day? I don’t think we even have all-you-can-eat buffets in Florida. This place isn’t like Colorado; people here are FAT. If you don’t limit their portions by requiring them to pay for each and every additional serving, they’ll stop using their legs entirely and rely on those damn scooters.

    Miss you, Bestie! Funny post. 🙂

    1. Awwww, miss you too. Funny comment, but I expect nothing less from the best blogging bestie ever.

      Do you think people read our comments to each other and wonder if we’re totally in middle school?

      1. Like, whatever. Like, noooooo way. LMAO. Like we are so way cooler than we were, like, in 8th grade. OMG. I can’t wait for senior year. We’re so gonna rock and be like the cutest, most popular girls in school. Snap!

      2. Back row of the bus fo sho. Holla!

  17. stellacastro says:

    When I learned you guys were in Vegas for fall break, I thought “…hmmm, why would she do that?” Like you, I vowed not to take my kids to Vegas – but now enlightened after your post, I just very well may. 🙂 Thanks for the comic break on a hectic workday!

    1. I’ll give you the lowdown the next time I see you. Making you smile makes my day Stella!

  18. 1) Elf Boy up there can be my King Cabana Boy ANY DAY HE WANTS.

    2) Thunder Down Under and porn trading cards. I love you so much for this. 😀

    1. I love you for loving me. Isn’t the world a happy, shiny place? Thanks for the visit Larissa.

  19. LOL. I’ve been to Vegas so many times and enjoyed the gluttony there, but have a hard time imagining going back with kids. And seriously $80 bucks for M&Ms? Geez the greed. I need to get back to the drawing board of money making ideas to suck the Euros out of those Continentals’ pockets.

    1. $80.00 was an exaggeration. The total was actually $79.98 (heavy sigh).

      Thanks for stopping by, Jed. Always nice to see you. BTW, why did you disable your like button? I know you did this awhile ago, just curious.

      1. Sadly it was a side effect of moving off of wordpress.com. Still looking for a safe plug-in for that button. None yet. 😦

  20. Laura says:

    Best thing about Vegas = it’s on the way to Bryce Canyon!! Course, if you’d headed in that direction you would’ve had to do w/out the dollar-per-M&Ms bonanza and Depends stalking, but oh well. Glad you had the time of your life!

    1. It was fun but now squarely resides in the “been there/done that category”. Nice to see you Laura!

  21. I was all excited at the picture of Orlando Bloom looking elfin and delightful and then that picture of Joan Van Ark completely took the wind out of my sails and the spit out of my mouth. Holy fricking mother of god, what happened to her??
    Anyway, your vacation sounds like it was educational and loaded with the kind of family memories that last a lifetime (or at least as long as those high quality m&ms).

    1. As you know, I recently came to your neck of the woods to visit a friend. She passes Joan VA every once in awhile power-walking through some canyon. Even though (in my dreams) I’d rather not age at all, I’ll take aging gracefully as a substitute. I hope.

      Love you FF!

  22. inphiluencer says:

    Ok, first of all, Thank You! IPads as cameras = worst invention EVER! Memories of last European trip and having to dodge a busload of ditsy Japanese Harajuku girls, walking around with their iPads in front of their faces, bumping into everything and everybody… Only upside is that it’s super easy to photobomb them ’cause they’re so unaware of their surroundings.

    Secondly, can I be your son at that waterpark? Please? Oh, to go back to that bygone era of youth on the cusp of adulthood… Discovering your own hormones and the wonders of the female anatomy (enhanced by a wet bikini)… No wonder I love swimming!

    Thirdly, I’d like to go back to Vegas for the north and south premium outlets, period. The rest of it is just weird… Especially the legions of short indian folk harassing passersby with those flicky cards that look like hockey cards, but actually show (gasp) Barenaked ladies! (Yeah, that’s right Chadwick, my European x-Ray vision can see right through that technologically blurred pic. Hah!

    1. Did I mention that I took the picture of the hooker trading cards with my iPad camera? =p

      I always love seeing you here Phillipe. I don’t think you want to trade places with my son just yet though. He was pretty oblivious to the silicon floating through the lazy river.

  23. purplemary54 says:

    If you leave Las Vegas with something approximating the money you arrived with, then you won. But that M&M’s store is insidious. So is the Coke store (it it’s still there; they closed the Coke museum a while back). I’d lay down the big bucks to see Love again, though.

    1. We took the kids to see Love the first night we arrived and were listening to the soundtrack as recently as last night over dinner. Hand’s down my favorite Cirque show (and I’m a big fan). There’s something about the composition of the numbers, the artistry, the juxtaposition of songs you’ve known forever yet with that production in a way that seems brand new…brilliant. As for the M&Ms? I hid them so that the kids could eat them slowly (like over the next decade) considering the cash outlay. No one has even asked about them. =/

      1. purplemary54 says:

        I know! As soon as I realized they were sort of retelling the history of the Beatles, I knew I was gonna cry. I loved what George Martin did with the music for the show. It really was artistry.

  24. billmcmorrow says:

    I wish I had the good sense to invest in the monogrammed candy business when I had the chance. Bad move, me. Great post, you.

    1. I almost FELL over when the cashier, all bright-eyed and foaming at the mouth from a massive sugar high, asked for my credit card (and five forms of back-up ID).

      Good thing I won my bet. =)

      I’m totally serious about you writing a book, especially now that you (unfortunately) have a little time on your hands. YA Agents are searching the globe for that unique, male protagonist voice, and it ain’t out there. I know I already said this but it’s worth repeating: I see a modern-day Holden Caulfield (you probably haven’t read Catcher in the Rye since high school…go check it out from the local library) who hates school, his parents, life and basically thinks everyone on the planet is a douche. You’ve got what it takes to write it. Just sayin.

      I’m adding you to my blogroll as of this minute, though, so since millions of dollars will now rain down onto your head like baby doves floating from heaven, you probably won’t need any kind of real job.

      1. billmcmorrow says:

        Dear Stacie,
        First off, thanks for the blogroll. Much appreciated. Also for the very kind words. I would love to do something like that, and now with all the free time to do it in, I’m going to start. Once again, thanks for the encouragement, it means a lot.
        Bill

  25. Glad your family enjoyed Vegas! 😉 When I was in Jordan I saw people taking pictures using their ipads – from camelback! *facepalm* Seriously – they should just get a camera, or use their phones!

    1. Yeah, those iPad pics really do suck.

  26. calahan says:

    Joan Van Ark is looking worse for wear than the remains of Noah’s Ark. Why would you do that?

    You’re brave for taking the family to the Happiest (if you’re drunk) Place On Earth. I imagine they spend a good amount of time at Circus Circus.

    Also, if Miss Snarky Pants is correct and that is a picture of your butt… Hello, Stacy!

    1. That is only a picture of my ass in my dreams, although just the fact that Miss Snarky Pants thought it was a possibility is oddly comforting.

      Circus Circus was a big hit with the kids, but so was some really lame, free, android-like show in the Shops at Ceasar’s Palace. What can I say? They’re easy. =p

    1. Thanks, sweetie. I hope you’re doing well!

  27. Christina D. says:

    That M&M store should require parental approval to make a purchase but TBH it’s pretty darn cool! We did the M&M store last year when I chaperoned my 15 yr old daughter’s club volleyball team to Vegas for a tournament … after we arrived at our hotel from the airport in a party bus with stripper pole and fully stocked bar as I yelled over the rap music to the girls DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING IN THIS BUS. (I actually thought I was really smart because I negotiated the price to be less than the three Ubers we would have otherwise needed.) Once at the hotel we had to walk 12 teenage girls in spandex thru the casino to get the convention area to play, only to find out no water was available to fill up their bottles except for purchase ($$$$$$$$). So the other chaperone and I walked a Vegas block to the nearest liquor store (eww) to buy all the water we could carry while walking in flip flips back to convention center …. after the water ran out we refilled the bottles with Vegas hotel tap water (eww) … Scarest part of the trip might have been taking the girls to the one pool at the hotel that was open, which nearly thru me into a panic attack making sure every piece of every suit stayed in place among the hordes of ppl in the pool and praying there was enough clorine in the water to kill a small animal. I wish I was making at least part of this story up!

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