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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Swim With the Dolphins - Mexico 2016

When we got to Xel-Ha we immediately saw the dolphins and I started thinking what a fun experience it would be for the kids to have a chance to learn about and swim with the dolphins.  I wondered if I was the only one that thought it sounded fun, but when I asked, they were super excited about having the chance to get up close and personal with the dolphins.  They had a short orientation and then jumped right in and met their new friends. They learned so much about the social interactions as well as the skills and abilities of these amazing creatures.  Watching them "talk", it looked like they were enjoying the play as much as the kids.  Maybe not, but they definitely enjoyed the coolers full of fish that they earned as rewards.  The first thing Erika said when she got out was that she wanted to be a dolphin trainer.  That desire may not last long, but I'm so glad they were able to have such a hands on experience.  And who knows, maybe one day we'll have a kid to visit in Mexico if someone becomes a dolphin trainer.  

 They honestly look like they are smiling all of the time,
I think everyone was happy about the besos.

Within a very short time, the dolphins were able to follow simple commands from the kids.

One of the most fun things to watch (and I'm sure experience) was the dolphin push.  At the sound of the whistle, two dolphins swam over and found the feet of whoever was waiting and started to push. They push them up into standing position and go all the way across the pond.  It was really amazing to watch.  The kids said it was fun, but they were a little worried that the dolphins wouldn't know when to stop.  I don't think the kids heard the whistle from the trainers, but the dolphins definitely did.  Erika got to do it twice and said the second time was much more fun because she knew what to expect.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Xel-Ha - Mexico 2016

Because this was the first time the boys had been to Mexico, we decided that we definitely needed to go to Xel-Ha.  It has become one of our favorite places to visit and one of the few places that I'm willing to leave the beach to visit.  The bus picked us up fairly early in the morning and I was excited to see that we had one of the buses that is made to look like a typical transport bus.  We arrived just as the park was opening and spent a little while walking around and getting familiar before having breakfast.

Before I ever met him, in the first photos I ever saw of Tim, he was holding a parrot.  There were several locations throughout the park for him to recreate the memory.  Of course, the kids loved the birds as well. 

On the other side of this float was a big water slide that shot you out into the lagoon.  I was impressed at how easily Brycen and Erika made it across.  

Eventually we made our way to the bikes and hopped for a ride through the jungle.  I love to stop and look at every sign and exhibit. I don't usually remember any of the information, but I still like the learning.  After a few little pit stops, we happily made it to the end of the trail without any mishaps with the trees. 

Floating the river is my favorite part of the Xel-Ha experience.  It's always a little funny trying to navigate through the mangrove trees.  The tubes don't really steer and the water flows very slowly.  It took some serious effort to keep us all together long enough for a photo.   

When we arrived at the stop where you can go cliff jumping, I was quick to volunteer to stay with the tubes while everyone else went and jumped.  Last year I started off brave, then ended up standing at the top for almost a half hour trying to get the courage to actually jump.  I thought about trying it again this year and told myself that I could back and conquer the cliff, but to be honest, I was kind of terrified to get up there again.  After stressing about it I decided that it really wouldn't be the smartest thing to do because if I landed wrong, I could hurt my wrist.  It was nice to have a reason to stay safe and cheer for all of the jumpers.  

The best part about doing the zip line from  the sling is that I never even had to get my hair wet - and I still got have all of the fun.

Seriously, so many birds. 

I even found a little time to relax. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mexico - January 2016


For Christmas this year we surprised the big kids with a trip to Mexico.  Since the first time we went to Mexico together, Tim has talked about wanting the kids to experience how amazing the Riviera Maya can be. Two years ago he took Erika, but the boys hadn't ever been.  We were able to make the arrangements and find some deals to make it work this year.  Leading up to the trip we were a little nervous if everyone would be able to make it.  Both Taylor and Erika have new jobs and technically were not eligible for time off.  Thankfully, they each had managers that were understanding and willing to make it work to allow them to go.  Because we had to be at the airport by 5:00 a.m., we all met up at an airport hotel and tried to get a little sleep before starting our big adventure.  It was a long day of travel with layovers in both Dallas and Houston.  When we got to the airport, our baggage took about a half hour to come out, and then after waiting in line at customs for another half hour, we got the red light and they had to search all of our bags.  Luckily, it was smooth sailing once we arrived at our resort.  We got everyone settled into their rooms and were finally able to begin the relaxing part of the vacation.

Dallas airport - DFW
Tradition calls for a selfie on the airplane.

Houston Hobby Airport

Cancun Airport
We had plenty of time to take a picture.

When we go to Mexico, I usually like to spend all of my time on the beach and rarely leave for any excursions.  However, since this was the first time with the kids, we wanted to make sure they saw more than just the beach at our resort.  We had pre-planned to have two full days at the beach and two full days on excursions, with a last half day at the resort.  Because it is often rainy in January, we spent a lot of time watching various weather apps and trying to schedule our days to take advantage of the best weather.  We mostly succeeded and it felt like the right mix of beach and culture.

Monday was spent at the beach.  We all got up a little late and then spent most of the day near the water.  The water was really calm so we took advantage and scheduled to take out the kayaks.  I was so excited because this year the resort had stand up paddle boards for rent.  I have wanted to try one since we were last in Hawaii a few years ago.  Turns out that it is a little tricky and I may have landed in the water a few times.  But other than a lost pair of sunglasses, the falls were no big deal and it was pretty easy to get back on the board.  I am definitely hooked and disappointed that we didn't get a second chance to go on this trip.  By the end of the first day I think that everyone was impressed by Mexico and enjoying the trip.  

No better way to start than with a beach selfie.

For once, it isn't a picture of me sleeping. 
Brycen and Erika loved playing in the waves and water.

Despite the faces, everyone really did love their meal. 
After spending two days away from the resort (more on the excursions to come), we were ready to get back to the sun and sand.  The only problem was that there wasn't a lot of sun to be found. Thursday ended up being quite rainy and you had to be pretty devoted to be willing to spend any time on the beach because it was so windy. Tim and the kids ended up going into Playa del Carmen to shop and I passed the day alternating between the beach, the pool, and the room.  I was willing to stay out during the sprinkles, but a few times had to make a mad dash to the room when it really started to pour.  My reading was pretty distracted with all of the moving around so I spent most of my time just watching the waves and taking a few pictures.  By about 5:00 the rain had stopped but the weather does have an advantage - it had brought in big waves.  I coaxed Brycen out of the condo and we spent about and hour wave jumping and body surfing.

Friday morning the weather called for more rain, but as soon as we got up and saw the sunset, we knew it was going to be a perfect kind of day.  Tim and watched the sunrise together, then he headed out of yoga and I left for a run.  I was able to run down into Playa where I enjoyed the town without any of the crowds.  The street art along the path is some of my favorite and I made plenty of stops to take it all in - oh, and for some lunges and jump squats.  Once I got back, we all headed to the beach where the morning was basically perfect.  We even had drinks at the swim up bar - my mom's favorite.  It was a great way to end and even better vacation.  

The vacation started with a selfie, so how else would you expect it to end.