Wednesday, May 30, 2012

And so . . . It Begins . . .

I stood there fighting back the tears . . . and this is the first of many lasts.

There we stood in a hallway of the lower school. The 4th graders spanned the staircase. This was their night. There were many stages to the night - somewhat like a progressive dinner. They had an art exhibit with snacks and beverages, a choir concert, and Mystery Theatre where the children dressed up as their chosen biography character, got together in a group of 4, created a skit involving their characters and we as the audience had to guess who they were. So many moving parts to this evening . . .
Our oldest son is 10 and in the 4th grade. Lower school, at his school, goes from Pre-K through 4th Grade.

The entire day had been a blur - racing from one spot to another. Volunteering at school to help the kids rehearse their script. Draping the red curtains, working on bulletin boards, helping in the classroom. This had been going on for 10 days. I was working toward an end, task by task but not focusing on the why.
Choir Concert
Most of these kids have been working on these skills for 7 years. The Art teacher worked with them, teaching them how to build their 3-D art work.

The choir teacher took these small voices and taught them how to sing, train their voice and play the recorder.

The Humanities teachers from the earliest of years have been building reading, comprehension and writing skilled that enabled these kids to create power point presentations on the smart board as part of their skit. Back drops, narrator insertions, sounds, music all while they act their scene out in front of parents and peers.

Mystery Theatre
It was while we were standing in the hallway, listening to them sing I bust out my hand held video camera. I will spare you the video - I rewatched it only to see me shake . . . so much for a steady hand.  I knew there would be some dancing in the first song and . . . I had seen the rehearsal and knew . . . this would be very funny. So, with my video camera in hand, I am recording this moment. I zoom in as tight as I can. My screen is filled with his face and about 10 other boys. He isn't looking at me. He is doing as instructed, singing his heart out . . . having a good time . . . hanging with his friends.


And the start of tears.

This is the beginning of the end. Truly this is the first true mile marker, if you will, on his journey to becoming a confident, independent young man.

The realization that he isn't a little boy anymore hit me.

I see him everyday. I don't notice he is getting taller . . . I don't notice he is maturing . . . I don't notice he isn't a little boy anymore . . . he isn't my baby!

In that moment I was filled with so much pride . . . pride that he is a successful student, that he has tons of friends, that he is respectful, considerate, brilliant (if I do say so), and has such a beautiful heart. I am also filled with such sadness . . . that he no longer is that sweet little boys I would carry on my hip, that we have fewer days to just hang together than before . . . and that one day, way too soon, he will be off on his own!
Several years ago, Scoots said to me on Christmas Morning . . . "Mom, when I get married my wife and I are going to sleep in the bed with Dad and You" that is a tradition we have to help control when the kids get up so the entire family can be there to see what Santa brought.  Just as soon as he said it . . . I said "Promise?  I want that in writing."

And so my sweet baby boy . . . would could not imagine a Christmas morning where he didn't wake up in my bed with Dad, Me and his wife . . . wrote it on a notebook piece of paper and signed it. 

I know there are wonderful . . . awesome . . . fantastic things to come for my young man.  I am just the slightest bit sad the innocence of his youth is fading fast . . . and that at 10 years old he doesn't have much time left under my care.

I love who he is becoming and will make every effort to enjoy every day of the next 8 years . . . it will go all too fast . . .

and more tears . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sand in Places . . . Blue Lagoon . . . ish

Close your eyes . . . remember back to when you saw the movie The Blue Lagoon.  Yes, the one with Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins.  Specifically, I want you to think back to when they are both old enough to dive in the lagoon.  They swim so freely . . . the are smooth about their swimming . . . the shot in the movie is from below - you see long legs shadowed from the sun . . . they are the picture of perfection swimming in something other than a pool.

Now wake up . . . that so wasn't our snorkeling experience today!

We have used the same diving company for 5 years, Diving Dog our of Puerto Morelos.  The owner Cathy does this on the side.  Her real job is the Central American Editor in Chief of the USA Today newspaper.  You wouldn't guess that in a million years.  Cathy has hooked us up with some of the best guides.

We always request a private charter . . . we always request they provide snacks and drinks . . . and we always request they keep their eye on our son, pull him through the snorkel and to identify "stuff" for us as we go along.

We arrived just before 9:00am.  The water is the most smooth early in the day which gives us the best visibility, it is also not as hot and more sea creatures are around.  So . . . we arrived.  There was 4 of us . . . me, the husband, the son and the sister.

They walked down as I tried to find a spot to park and then just made my own. I am sure you are familiar with my parking issues . . .

As soon as I catch up with them they are trying on life jackets as they are required in order to snorkel.  This year Cathy has switched to the belt support.  It works best since the other ride up and chafe the neck and under arm.  I stick with the traditional one . . . the rest go with the belt.

We load into the small boat, probably a 16' boat.  Thankfully it has a canopy, being fair skinned a break from the sun is appreciated. 

We motor out about 15 minutes to the National Park reef.  Over the side goes our son, my husband, the sister and reluctantly me . . . the initial shock of the semi chilly water is eased once masks are on and we are face down.

Snorkeling these last five years here I would have thought we had done it all . . . well we hadn't.  Immediately the guide pulls up a conch shell.  You cannot paint or manufacture something this pretty.  The conch was still in residence.  The colors span from an orange to a bring pink with the curve of the shell.  We all touch the conch.  Unfortunately we cannot keep it . . . it must go back.

I look up from him replacing the conch only to be in a school of fish.  Truly . . . I am in them . . . they are all around me.  They aren't afraid and they don't run.  It is times like these that I am grateful for a good underwater camera.  This camera has been around the world and seen water all over.

We spot lobsters, grouper, barracudas, tiburons, needle nose, sting rays,  blue fish, yellow fish, black fish with sparkles, some thin and long and not so much of either.

In total we snorkeled for about 2 hours. 

Full disclosure . . . I am not a fan of snorkeling.  It is a true loss of control for me.  I don't enjoy it like I enjoy swimming in our pool.  I feel that I am an unwelcome visitor in someone else's place.  Any wrong move can get you some attention you weren't wanting.  Like from this barracuda below.

There are a few brief moments when my loss of control fades away . . . and I am amazed at all I cannot see from the shore and now is just inches away.

Our snorkeling trip had ended.  It was time to get back in the boat and get home as the massage therapist were due to arrive within the hour.  My son had a souvenir from the bottom of the ocean . . . a cracked lobster claw, that he was most proud of.  (By the way . . . don;t pack it in your luggage . . . everything smelled like sea creature ass.) My husband was already on the boat and as I was approaching the boat . . . I saw something. 

It was a mermaid striking a pose. 

I fumble with the camera . . . get back under water . . . . and snap away . . .

It was mermaid Julie . . . and she would kill me if I posted pictures of her!

She has mermaided all over over the world!  AND . . . should you EVER need to black mail Julie . . . I have the pictures!

The snorkel guides are busting a gut with her mermaid poses!

 It was an afternoon of massages . . . final night spaghetti dinner (tradition), birthday cake and a Mexican mafia singing Happy Birthday to the birthday boy!

Poobie - I hope you had the best birthday ever!  Love ya!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sand in Places . . . Nest of Snakes

There was only two free days before we had to leave.  Before we HAD to get back to school and work . . . before we had to give up paradise! So . . . logically we filled it.

Approximately 10 miles from our house is a Zoo . . . if you will!  Really it is a small collection of birds, spider monkeys, and reptiles . . . amphibians.

We had seen it about a million times . . .traveling to and from the airport, Cancun, and other sites.  We passed it and thought how could THIS be a zoo.  It doesn't look anything like the Dallas Zoo, and Lord knows that place isn't top notch.  It certainly doesn't look anything like the Ft. Worth Zoo.  The Crococun Zoo, there on the highway . . . passed by many everyday . . . is quite unassuming.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sand in Places . . .It's A Small World

It's A Small World . . .

That probably conjured up imagine of floating in a small boat with not so comfortable seats through a badly designed ride at Disney World, with the music at a nerve grating sound and hearing the commentary of some know it all in the boat right behind you.  BUT . . . we weren't at Disney World.

When planning for our trip to Mexico we were looking for stuff we haven't done before.  We have zip lined, swam with whale sharks, snorkeled every inch of the side of Mexico, ate in a cave, deep sea fished - multiple times, seen Chichen Itza, swam with Dolphins, a Walrus, Manatees and Sting rays.  Something new to us popped up.  It was a hands on experience with spider monkeys. 

Attempting to book this thing was tough.  There are only 16 spots and only one day it was being hosted while we would be in Mexico.  Thankfully we got the last 4 spot and a 12:30pm time frame.

We loaded the car with our oldest son, my father-in-law, my husband and myself . . . and off we went.  I go on these "experiences" not because I want to experience it . . . them . . . whatever it is.  It is because I am the photographer.  I document everything through the lens of my camera.

We leave the others at the house.  A little over an hour later we pull onto the property.  It is down near Akmal close to the border of Mexico and Belize.  We turn West which is the complete opposite way of the beach.  So no beautiful blue water, no sand under your feet and no breeze.  We are talking jungle.  I am hard pressed to see anything but a packed dirt road with many large holes in it and dense jungle. 

After stay right here . . . curve left there . . . spot the green fence . . . count 5 poles . . . look right . . . look left . . . hokey pokey . . . .we spot the drive up.  We have arrived!!!  We parked and reluctantly got out of the car.  I was dreading the monkeys.  The smell . . . the dirt . . . them touching you . . . them putting their ass on you . . . I dreaded it all.  As we were walking up to the house you can hear another group having their encounter.

My husband enters what I assumed was an office and closes the door.  He then exits another door immediately to his left and heads up the stairs.  I do the same.  About the time I entered, by the way . . . not an office . . . but their house . . . their two pit bulls stand up.  One starts to make his way towards me.  I quickly exit the side door and shut it behind me.  There my father-in-law stands with the two pit bulls.  He too gets out.  We don't go back that way . . .

We get to the next landing and see an enclosure.  Probably 6' X 6'.  There are 8 people sitting with their legs straight out.  There is a man in the enclosure standing up and a woman on the outside.  She asks us if we wouldn't mind going back down until the first group finishes.

We do . . . but not through the house!  We all head over to another spider monkey enclosure.  There is one male monkey going wild.  He is picking up the boards placed on the bottom of his wire cage bridge suspended up off the ground.  The boards are there for him to walk on.  And he is ripping this stuff up.  I immediately think "this is not a good idea."  He is none too happy!  There are other male monkeys - all seem to be happy.  They swing with their tale from one ball to another.  They are really skilled at using the tale.  It is like another arm.

The man that was in the upstairs enclosure previously, approached.  My husband goes to greet him with a hand shake.  They monkeys go crazy.  Start chanting.  I said to my father-in-law . . . "did you see that?  As soon as he arrives they went crazy.  That must mean he treats them badly.  So glad we can perpetuate this."  He agrees, they must not be kind to these animals.

We were asked to come back up the stairs to start our encounter.  The woman who runs it is called Heidi.  She asks me "so you are from Dallas", in a very strong Germany accent.. . . "what part do you live in."  I responded with "yes . . . North Dallas."  She doesn't say much more, I find it kinda odd.  But most of the people who do business like this like to know where their clients are coming from. 

Not 5 minutes later she says to my husband, "oh, you are with . . ." and she says my husband's law firm.  He said yes, thinking she had gotten it off one of his emails.  Most places like this are worried about attorney's especially when it come to liability.  She then says, "How is Blake."  We aren't sure we heard her correctly.  Did she really just ask about his law partner?  How could she know him much less call him by his first name?

OK  . . . so now there is this woman . . .here in the middle of the jungle . . . with a very strong Germany accent . . . who is probably 20+ years older than we are . . . who rescues spider monkeys from the hotels and facilities that don't take care of them properly.  How could she know so much?  She isn't asking anyone else about their city or husband's profession or people the know.  Why would this woman who works in the field of rescued spider monkeys know about Dallas and is she seriously asking about the legal partner from Dallas.

It seems approximately 12 years ago she lived in a nice neighborhood within the city of Dallas called Greenway Park.  It is filled with homes, large and small, that all have small yards but share a green way.  In fact, her kids had grown up in that neighborhood.

Not only did Heidi, the Spider Monkey Sanctuary owner, know my husband's law partner . . . she knew his first wife's name, the law partner Blake's . . . not my husband's first wife. She knew her as a little girl.  She had lived across the street from Reguet and her family for many years. She knew of their children, his in-laws, his brother-in-law.  She knew the whole family.   Her children had even gone to the same private school our oldest attends. She knew how the founder of Greenhill then created another school her children went to called Lakewood.

When Blake and his family decided to build a bigger home they bought Heidi's property and build their dream home on it.  This woman knew everything.  We were really amazed.  It is not often . . . you are in the middle of a jungle . . . in another country . . . at a spider monkey hands on experience . . . and find a friend of a friend.

All of the crazy small world stuff aside.  We had a great time during our experience.  We had access to 6 female spider monkeys.  The man, from the enclosure, and Heidi take such good care of these monkeys.  The monkeys truly love these two people who went from living pretty high on the hog in Dallas to the middle of no where helping some sweet little monkeys.  

We really had a good time, lots of laughs and lots of monkeying around!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sand in Places . . . Only in Mexico

I am often overhead saying . . . while in Mexico . . . "Only in Mexico."

My "only in Mexico" always refers to something we are doing, seeing or experiencing that would not happen anywhere in the United States.  Clearly, Mexico is either a less litigious society or they don't have as many attorneys around.  Some of the things we have done here in Mexico . . .  you would never find in the United States . . . without a protest, arrest and a full on brawl!

Last Tuesday morning, in Mexico, we hung out at the house.  Just hung out in the pool, playing in the ocean, reading on a chaise lounge feet from the ocean . . . waves crashing . . . nice wind . . . burning my fair skin.  It was a good morning!

We decided we would go into Playa del Carmen for some shopping and dinner.  We have to stop by the Super Rama to pick up some necessary supplies . . . the right coconut mix for the pinas!  Stop one is done on to 5th street.

5th street is classic tourist hot spot . . . cheap Mexican junk, and people attempting to lure you into their place to buy their cheap Mexican junk.  We buy! 

5th street has changed in recent years.  It seems Capitalism has taken hold.  You are now not hounded by the bum smelling of piss and liquor, who just wants you to give him money.  It is more like Bourbon Street in New Orleans where every 20 feet or so . . .someone or something is attempting to perform in order to earn your money. 

I like this much better.

The boys get bobble head animals.  They are $1 a piece so who cares if they become wounded in battle, get lost or are forgotten there.  My MIL's mother wants a shirt, my MIL wants a swim suit cover up.  My good friend Lisa wants me to bring her back some Mexican Vanilla and I would have been content . . . maybe . . . with not buying anything but I am a buyer!  I bought the boys a t-shirt and I purchased myself another Mexican skull.  It is not as gross as you might think.  These are painted.  I used them for decorations when I do a Mexican themed party, they are really more dia de los muertos than anything!  I am still hunting authentic sombreros - also for decorations for my Mexican parties. My husband buys nothing but pays for it all and my FIL buys a shirt that reads "who needs Google . . . My wife knows everything."  It could not be more accurate!

We have walked down probably 10 blocks and now we must walk back to the car.  As we are walking back I have an agenda . . .  As we walked the 10 blocks the first time we passed a side alley.  In that side alley were some young men.  They had a baby puma, jaguar, monkey and a not so baby Bengal tiger . . . OK say it with me . . . Only in Mexico.  We had stopped on our way down the 10 blocks to check out his set-up.. The guys wanted $30 for 1 picture of 1 child with 1 of the animals.

On our way back I intended to get a picture but I wasn't going to pay that crazy price of $30.  So, I pause . . . and here begins the game.  I am standing in the middle of the street, I look over at the ring leader AKA money collector.  I say in my dumb blond way . . . "It was 20 for a picture! Right?"  This lets them know I am a buyer at $20 and I was.  He came back with $30.  I say "no, no gracia."  Now he counters.  "3 for $30" he sees I have two kids - instantly he know I want each kid by themselves and then together.  I wave him off and again say "no, no gracia."  And start to walk away.  HINT . . . You have to be willing to walk away.   I want this picture but he cannot know it.  He counters again "3 for $20."  Deal done!  I ask my husband to pay the man and we are in the alley!

Again . . . only in Mexico . . . right?!  I probably got 5 shots.  Our youngest held the jaguar and the oldest held the puma.  Both were such beautiful cats!  The Bengal tiger just layed on the ground . . . asleep with people walking within inches of him.  Children were crouched down . . . . within inches of him . . . had he bother to wake up . . . he could have had a tasty lunch!  In typical fashion . . . he was taking a siesta!

I am marginally please with my pics.  Jake struggled with holding the jaguar, Scoots held the puma.  BOTH were whining . . . the cats (I cannot reproduce the sound in type . . . sorry).  Call me, I can do the audio perfectly!  Neither really wanted said children holding them but hey . . . I want my picture and . . . they wanted the money.

Missions Accomplished . . . .only in Mexico . . .

The animal pictures were the highlight of my trip in to Playa del Carmen. 

On our way to dinner we countered the high flying guys from xcaret.  They climb a pole very high up in the air and then wind their rops around the cnter of the pole.  One ready . . . AKA - they have collected donations from the crowd . . . twice, they fall off the top of hte pole backwards and fly upside down until their rope os completely let out. 

Name one spot in the US here crazy guys with no safety harness do this trip . . . Can anyone say ATTORNEY????

We went to dinner at Los Ranchero.  We were promised an ocean view and air conditioning . . . Only in Mexico . . . can the advertising be so misleading . . .

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sand in Places . . . Not Doing Much . . .

We said we would take it easy this trip.  We said we didn't want to have a full week of sight seeing . . . after all, we are hear just about every year and we have done most of what this place has to offer. 

We want to relax . . . decompress . . . just enjoy the boys . . . and family.

And so we did . . .

We woke to two boys . . . very excited to be in Mexico.  SO . . .  excited they woke at 4am . . . there is no picture of this.  They went room to room . . . waking everyone . . . climbing in their bed and snuggeling until you had to get up.  It was right around 6:30am when I got downstairs.  There everyone is hanging out . . . we were commenting on the excitment of two sweet boys and I explained how everyone (the grandparents) should handle said children getting up way too early . . .in the future. SEND THEM BACK TO BED AND TELL THEM THEY CANNOT GET UP UNTIL SOMEONE COMES AND GETS THEM.

The boys are in their swim trunks.  Breakfast will be set up pool side by 8:00am . . . come on 8:00 am!  The rest of us get dressed in swim gear and prepare for a day of doing nothing but hanging out by the pool/ocean . . .just as soon as we are done with bereakfast.

Time does not fly by . . . and we finally make it to 8:00am.  Christopher, the chef, delivered and set it up pool side.  The boys both had waffles, my FIL and myself had breakfast tacos, my mother and MIL had eggs with sides and my husband an omelet.  BEST BREAKFAST EVER . . . pool side . . . family near . . . hearing the ocean . . . feeling the breeze in your hair . . . and the sun on your back.

The boys are done quickly, the adults sit and talk about schedules, the boys, when is the next meal.  It is then I realize I am getting hot . . . my back is starting to feel tight.  I move around the table . . . unfortunately I am burned, but I have yet to fully notice.  Burned in less than 1 hour . . . gee I love fair skin!

We all hung out in the pool . . . around the pool.  Had pina coladas pool side and snorkled the reef just off the shoreline in front of our house. 

We swam . . . We snorkeled . . . We boogie boarded . . .  We built sand castles . . . We drank pina coladas . . . We drank pina coladas . . . We drank pina coladas . . . they were worth the repeat!

Mid-afternoon I made lunch for our boys and we ate at the table facing the ocean.  Back to the sand to repair a sand castle taken out by a wave.

The massage therapist arrived around 5:30pm.  First the girls go, then the boys with a 15 minute mini massage for Jake.  He loved every minute. 

We got dressed and went to the Palapa for dinner.  Jake got chicken finger and fries everyone else got arrachera steak.  We sipped on Sangria, danced with the boys, enjoyed our dinner in an outdoor dining room and it was just us.  There was a extremely competetive game of foosball.  Jake and I won!

It was around 9:45 and everyone went off to bed.

It was a day full of doing nothing, somehow we are tired from doing nothing and . . . .it just what we needed.