Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spiderman Spiritual Experience

So Oliver and Silas have had their little hearts set on being Spiderman and Superman for Halloween. I found costumes for them and they were SO excited. But then the first time Oliver put on his Spiderman costume, we found a couple holes in it plus it was a little too small so I took it back. Then, at this late date, surprise, surprise, I couldn't find another Spiderman costume and Oliver was pretty stressed out about it - in his persistent but very sweet way, he kept asking when we were going to find "my Spiderman." I knew I needed a costume by Thursday for the preschool Halloween party so I had a couple days. But when I woke up yesterday, I remembered about the Joy School Halloween party that day and felt pretty bad that I didn't have a costume for him yet. We said our morning prayers and asked Heavenly Father to help us find Oliver a Spiderman costume.

I dropped the carpool off at school and took the twins to a couple stores nearby in hopes that somehow I'd find a costume that Oliver would feel OK about in the 1/2 hour we had before Joy School started. As soon as I got inside the door of the first store, I ran into my friend Michelle and shared my plight with her when she asked what I was up to. She said she had a Spiderman costume that would probably fit Oliver and we headed over to her house to pick it up - easy as pie. Oliver was SO excited about it! When I got in the car with the costume, I said, "Oliver, remember when you were so worried about finding a costume and we said that prayer this morning to get some help finding it? Well, I think our prayer worked!" In his earnest little way, Oliver immediately said, "We better tell Heavenly Father thank you!" And we did.

What a great little testimony builder for my little three-year-olds - and for me! God is in the details. He cares about everything - even about a little boy who desperately wants to be Spiderman for Halloween!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Camping for UEA Weekend

We haven't camped in ages and the kids have been begging to go for quite some time. The twins are finally old enough to make the idea of camping with them fairly pleasant. So it was time.

We had a couple days off school for UEA last week and teamed up with another family for a fun little campout. We found this great little campground nearby - and despite the rather cold and somewhat sleepless night you pretty much need to count on with camping, we really had fun. All the kids are old enough to wander and explore a bit on their own and they LOVED climbing all over the sandstone rocks and hills right by our campsite. We hiked the gorgeous slot canyon there (it's the "dragon hike" we've been on before), hiked up to some Anasazi ruins, enjoyed a hot dog and marshmallow roast and a delicious breakfast and courtesy of our friends - and everyone got thoroughly dirty while having a wonderful time.

The boys in the light of the campfire -
our camp was right at the base of these great climbing rocks.

All the kids on the "dragon" -
weird and wonderful gnarled tree at the entrance to a gorgeous slot canyon

Here are a few of my highlights:
  • seeing the kids totally entertained with nothing but rocks and sticks - watching them come up with all sorts of imaginative ideas as they explored the many little caves honeycombing the sandstone, checked out the Anasazi ruins, played in the trees and climbed up on top of a mountain of huge sandstone rocks
  • everyone's faces in the soft light of the campfire light
  • crisp cold morning air
  • the looks of delight on the twins' faces as they got into the tent for the first time
  • watching the kids have so much fun with their friends and while Jared and I enjoyed time with their parents
  • seeing the huge yellowy moon come up over the mountain
  • enjoying the vast blue sky against some spectacular red-rock scenery

Discussing strategy as they pretended to be Anasazi Indians -
this is an Anasazi grain silo built in around 600 AD.
OK, how beautiful is this place? I love that I live in the midst of this.


The gorgeous slot canyon where we went for a hike

We've got all our camping stuff organized now - so we'll have to go again soon. It's a lot of work to put things together and deal with all the dirt and discomfort involved, but I have to say the priceless memories are sure worth it!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Second Honeymoon in Playa del Carmen

What a trip we had! I spent way too much time researching and planning (Jared was in charge of the anniversary itself and I was in charge of this trip - and after he did such a great job with our anniversary I really wanted to do my part to make this trip great! And with all the great information available on the internet, it's hard to know when to say when) but everything turned out really wonderfully - all my research and hopes led to experiences better than I even imagined and we had lots of great serendipity and bonus discoveries along the way. We enjoyed beautiful scenery, ate really amazing and authentic but way cheap food, explored exciting new places, and had some great adventures. I'll let pictures do most of the talking here, but some favorite parts were:
  • BEING TOGETHER: enjoying just hanging out together and experiencing new things together with no worries about kids or work or schedules - it was just so fun to try so many new things and discover fun stuff together and just relax with each other. Jared is one fabulous traveling companion - always up for everything, always excited about everything, always interested and observant, always helpful and accommodating. Wow, I married me a great guy!
  • FOOD: ordering random stuff off menus we totally didn't understand in places stuffed with Mexicans and just us two "gringos" - turned out to be some of the best food ever - amazing tacos, perfectly spiced beef, wonderful salsas, amazing fresh fish prepared perfectly...mmmm...my mouth's watering remembering it all.
  • MUSIC: hearing music everywhere we went - great live music on the streets, mariachi bands playing in every restaurant we passed, fun, upbeat, happy music pouring out of every home and shop and car.
  • GOING CHEAP AND NATIVE: riding on a "collectivo" van out of Playa and heading for what we hoped was Akumel Bay where we'd heard there's great snorkeling (hard to tell if the driver really understood us at all...) - so fun to bump along the road in this van with a bunch of Mexicans headed to the different little towns on the highway, mariachi music blaring, wondering where we might actually end up. We did end up exactly where we wanted to be and it worked out perfectly.
  • SNORKELING: spending a whole afternoon snorkeling in Akumel where we found gorgeous reef fish, so many beautiful sea turtles and a sting ray. Wow - God must have had fun creating so many wild and wonderful sea creatures and sea plants! We chased down a few turtles and Jared tried grabbing onto one for a ride but that turtle gave Jared a backwards glance that told him on no uncertain terms to back off. It was seriously like swimming in an aquarium full of tropical fish - we were right in there with them, watching them dart around in and out of the coral, floating over the reefs and getting that "Superman" feeling of soaring above it all. We really had a remarkable afternoon and were out there snorkeling for 3 hours. It poured with rain for a little while and that seemed to make all the fish congregate in the hollows of the reefs and we could see them all the better. It was so beautiful and interesting and just plain fun!
  • OCEAN: Hearing the ocean, seeing the ocean, walking in that perfect white talcum powder sand, swimming in the ocean and feeling that rocking of the waves, seeing the many colors of the beautiful Caribbean.
Look at that white super-soft talcum-powder sand and beautiful water!
  • JUNGLE AND RUINS: spending a day exploring the ancient jungle of the Mayans - visiting a Mayan home complete with monkeys and pigs all about, seeing crocodiles, walking through a monkey reserve and seeing amazing butterflys and monkeys and beautiful lush moss and ferns and plants and feeling the coolness in the dark of the jungle floor on a hot hot day, taking a fun zip line ride through the jungle and over a lake, rappeling down into a mysterious and beauifully cool and clear underground pond (a cenote) after exeperiencing a Mayan cenote ceremony, exploring the still-jungle-covered ruins of Coba and climbing to the top of one of the tallest Mayan pyramids in the world.
Here we are getting ready to do a zip line through the jungle and over a lagoon -
those sticks in our hands were the "brakes" they gave us -
you hold the stick against the cable and it slows you right down.

We got to rappel down into a cenote
(beautiful, mysterious, crystal clear underground lake) - what a fun adventure!

This is the tallest pyramid at Coba (and one of the tallest in the world) and
we got to climb to the top. Coba's so beautiful and really sparks the imagination
with so many ruins still partially covered with jungle -
makes you feel like you're in an Indiana Jones movie or something like that.

View over the jungle from the top of the Coba pyramid -
mounds of covered ruins all around and a few other pyramid tops sticking up.
Coba was the government center for the Mayans and it covers about 35 square miles.

We visited a Mayan home and met a cute family and their pet monkey -
so interesting to see people living in much the same way as they did 1000 years ago.
Inside a Mayan home with our new monkey friend in the rafters - see the blackened ceiling? They were cooking tortillas over an open fire in this little one-roomed house.
  • GREAT HOTELS: We stayed at a great, cheap little place smack dab in the center of Playa del Carmen for the first three nights - Hotel Cielo. The guys who run it gave us wonderful recommendations of excellent and cheap places to eat and things to do. The bed wasn't exactly comfortable and the air conditioner was pretty darn loud - but the great people and location and ambiance made it totally worthwhile.
In our room at Hotel Cielo - loved the terra cotta tiles, beautiful wood work,
nice veranda, lovely handcarved one-of-a-kind furnishings.

View from the veranda at Hotel Cielo - fun to see all the vendors set up and tear down each day, great to hear the mariachi bands, fun to be right in the heart of it all.

View from the beautiful roof terrace of Hotel Cielo.
Sat up there on Sunday evening and listened to converence - such a perfect evening.

We stayed at the Magic Blue Hotel for our last night - decided to upgrade a bit for our last night and enjoyed a beautiful room with canopy bed and cool combination of thatched roof and very modern furnishings. The management sent up free tropical drinks and chocolate covered strawberries when they heard we were celebrating our anniversary - very nice!
Outside our room at the Magic Blue - beautiful pool, great balconies for every room -
and wow, just look at that handsome guy!

All in all, it was a wonderful wonderful trip. We had our overly hot and sweaty times, a little more rain than we'd hoped for, some sleep-deprivation, our share of confusion over directions and communication in Spanish - but everything worked out remarkably well and what great adventures we had! I'm more in love with my husband than ever and so grateful for this amazingly diverse and beautiful world we live in.
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