Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Back to Reality

We got reaquainted with reality in a hurry. It's been snowing so hard that my wimpy van can't climb our icy hill so I've been stranded at home for two days....not that I'd be going anywhere anyways. Returning home,  I was greeted with mountains of laundry and heaps of housework and both Hank and Max promptly came down with the stomach flu. Home sweet home, right? I won't feel too sorry for myself--I've permanently ingrained this moment deep in my heart to sustain me through these doldrums of life. I'm smiling just remembering this glorious moment:

#8: Alone Time

Hands down, the very best part of our fabulous vacation was spending seven days worth of uninterrupted alone time with my best friend. And after it was all over, we still like each other!

Babe, thank you for the heavenly vacation! I loved every minute because I got to be with you. I love you!

#7: Beautiful Scenery

After a few months of nothing but snow, wind, gray skies and yucky inversion, a visit to the sandy beaches, blue waters, and tropical jungles of Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico was the perfect cure for the winter blues. Living in both the northwest and Hawaii, two places I consider to be exceptionally beautiful, lush, and green, I'm not easily impressed with scenery. Honduras, Belize, and Mexico did not disappoint. Each country felt like a sanctuary of undisturbed vegetation--I can imagine Heavenly Father saving some of His most masterful tricks for his creation of those places.

Roatan, Honduras:

The morning that we docked in Roatan, I woke up to the sound of a dock-worker attacking a pathway with a weed-wacker. I thought, "really?1" Is that not a little like rolling the stone to the top of the hill only to have it roll back to the bottom each time? The vegetation seems to have just taken over everywhere you look.
Roatan humor: the signs on the restroom doors read, "Mon" and "Womon." Haha.
A pinch-me-because-it-feels-so-surreal-moment: watching the colorful sunset over the ocean in Roatan, deckside from my cruiseship.

Belize City, Belize:
For all its beauty, Belize City felt a little....third world....to me. Driving through the city, we saw dozens of tiny, independent little lunch stands. The tour guide explained that, as public assistance doesn't exist in Belize, many of the unemployed attempt to earn a living by selling lunch on the street. While fruit grows wild, the guide said that a box of cereal costs $20! As we left the city and drove through the countryside, we passed by house after house that was unfinished, half-burnt down, or thatched with leaves. In the future, I'll try to complain a little less about how lonely I am when Aaron is working late, how monotonous cleaning my very comfortable house can be, and how challenging it is to prepare a meal to the liking of the boys' picky tastes.
 Cozumel, Mexico:

Cozumel is a place, so plentiful with sandy beaches and charming streetside eateries, that I could happily come back to and spend some more time getting to explore.

Is that not a frame-worthy photo? Yep, I was there.

#6: Being Lazy!

I don't know which part I liked better: participating in all of the activities going on both on the ship and on the shore...or doing a whole lot of nothing. It's a toss up. As much fun as we had playing, we equally enjoyed sleeping and resting.

On one day, Aaron slept in until quite late, read his book in bed for awhile, only to fall back to sleep--he took two naps that day!

I finally convinced Aaron to give reading a try and he got hooked! He couldn't put his book down!

I spent quite a bit of time, just contemplating the great wonder of the ocean, from the comfort of my own little balcony.

#5: Activities and Entertainment

Whatever your mood, whatever your interest, there is always something going on and something to do on a cruise. From trivia and card games, book club meetings, and sports competitions to karaoke, game shows, and theater productions, there is always something fun to do.

In the evening, we attended sing and dance theater productions, special musical performances, comedians, and juggling acts.

The ship also offered "movies under the stars" with movies projected on the big screen, an "american idol" knock-off competition, and various game shows.

Before the final theater production of the week, the crew members distributed balloons throughout the audience. I don't know why I found this so comical, but you'd think these people had never seen a balloon before--it was like all out balloon war with everyone out of their seat bopping balloons all over the place.

That teeny little speck in the water is Aaron cruising full-speed on his jetski in Cozumel.

Another great photo by me;) That blob floating in the water is Aaron snorkeling at the beach in Cozumel.

We gave ourselves a self-guided tour around the island in our rental Jeep at Cozumel.

Major Highlight: We signed up for riding ATVs and cave-tubing in Belize. It was pouring down rain, but the temperature was still mid-70s and we were determined to make the best of it....so, we just got down and dirty. We rode our ATVs through a swamp with mud up to our knees, charging over boulders and tree roots. Aaron got himself stuck in the mud twice and had to be towed out. When we finished, he was covered in mud clear up to his eye brows. We didn't worry too much about the mud, because afterwards we went cave-tubing. We hiked through the Belizean jungle, sopping wet, until we got to the launching site where we floated on our inner tubes back down the river, through amazing cave formations. It a word, it was breathtaking.

#4: Sunshine

There are few things that I truly excel at. In all seriousness, I excel at sunbathing. I could spend hours and hours just soaking up the glorius sunshine. Maybe I'm vitamin-D deficient in the middle of this snowy winter, but I just can't get enough of the warm rays on my skin! A good book, a comfy beach chair, and a cold drink and I think I really have gone straight to heaven!

Sadly, we had a few days of torrential rain on our cruise too. Bummer!We tried to make the most of it and not let the rain slow us down--it made me appreciate those sunny days laying poolside that much more.

#3: FOOD, Food, food...and more food!

With twenty-four hour buffets, prepaid meals at the on-board dining rooms, bottomless soft drinks and mocktails, and all-you-can-eat desserts, it goes without saying that Aaron and I pigged out! We ate an obscene amount of food--yes, it was yummy, but mostly because it was just available and we could! In the morning, we'd get ready and eat breakfast at the buffet (heaping plates of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, fruit, pastries) with a few glasses of orange juice and hot chocolate. Later, we'd relax at the pool with the virgin pina coladas and strawberry daquiries coming as fast as we could drink them. Then it was pizza, burgers and fries, and milkshakes for lunch. All that sunbathing made us work up quite an appetite, so we'd usually stop at the cafe mid-afternoon for a round of desserts (chocolate mousse, creme broule, chocolate cake, cheesecake). After we cleaned ourselves up and changed into our evening clothes, we'd have a four-course dinner in the dining room, beginning with a cheese plate, appetizer, soup and salad, and entre--don't forget the dessert (maybe that was 6 courses?)! Believe it or not, we'd usually grab one more round of hot chocolate and cookies to munch on during the evening's entertainment. I can say with confidence that I got my moneys' worth on our cruise just on my consumption of food alone.

#2: Adventure

We lead a pretty predictable, routine life here in Utah where my idea of an adventure is rootbeer floats late on a Saturday night.....so, it was kind of exciting to spice things up a little with a few adventurous situations.

Adventure #1: Eating Local Food at a Dicey Hole-in-the-wall Restaurant

Ok, so perhaps I've used the term "adventurous" a little loosely, but I happened to think eating a chille relleno in the middle of Mexico is pretty risky. I drew the line as drinking the water and ordered a bottled Pepsi. As it turned out, the food was pretty tasty...and I haven't detected any gasterointestinal issues yet!

 Adventure #2: Renting a Jeep in Mexico

Aaron handled the wheeling and dealing of negotiating the rental car contract without much conflict, but when it came to returning the rental car after our day of cruising Cozumel in a self-guided Jeep tour, things took a downhill turn. As per the contract, we stopped to refill the Jeep to half-full before turning it back in. As the representative checked the Jeep back in, he noted that the tank was only 7/16 full and proceeded to charge as an $18 refueling fee. Aaron disagreed with his assessment of the gas tank being only 7/16 full, and refused to pay an additional $18 to pay for 1/16 of fuel when we had just filled the tank to 1/2, and proceeded to argue with the representative over the charge. Things got heated when several representatives began to congregate and speak rapid spanish, to which Aaron responded by yelling and telling them "es stupido!" All ended peacefully....after Aaron conceded and filled the tank with 1/16 of gas.

 Adventure #3: Check Point in Belize

I think by any definition, any situation involving a native dressed in military uniform and armed with a semi-automatic weapon is fairly classified as "adventurous." Granted, I took this photo from the comfort of my plush tour bus, but, you know. Belize City was not a place I'd like to get stranded with very aggressive street vendors, a seemingly unregulated tourism industry, and these armed checkpoints at intervals along the highway.


Don't get me wrong, I love my kids to bits and bits, but can I just say....it felt so incredible to take a week off from being a mom?? Seven days of no dirty diapers, no bickering fights between the boys, and no endless hours of housework. Seven days of taking quiet, peaceful showers, sleeping in, and doing whatever my heart desires. Sometimes, in all the work of taking care of a husband, four boys, and a household, I forget my own identity and what it feels like to just be....me. What a treat it was to wake up whenever I wanted to wake up, eat whatever I wanted to eat, do (or not do) whatever I wanted to do....ahhh the freedom!!

 Lest you worry that the boys suffered and were neglected in our absence, have no fear, the boys equally enjoyed their vacation from us. When we broke the news to the boys that we'd be leaving for an entire week, Max became a little nervous, asking when we would come back and who would take care of him. I told Max that he would get to stay at Nana and Papa's house and threw in that Nana would let him have gum. His frown turned upside down in a milisecond and he asked how soon until we were leaving. Its touching, really....my kids find my so easily replaceable that they forget all about me at the mere suggestion of a gumball.

Slice of Heaven

Last week, Aaron and I dropped the kids off at Nana and Papa's house, caught an airplane:

and spent 7 days aboard this, cruising around the western carribean and commemorating our ten year anniversary:

Our cruise vacation embodied everything that I imagine heaven to be: a warm place to relax and frolic in the sunshine, without a care in the world, eating until our heart's content, with my very bestest friend.

It would be hard to do such a vacation justice in only one post, so I will share my each of my favorite parts about our trip in the posts to follow.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Who's Counting?

So Friday was my birthday. There's no need to keep track of what year it was--old is old. Aging is such a surreal experience. I always envisioned growing up, getting married, having kids, and living my dreams, but I just never realized that I'd age in the process. I thought it was just something that happened to everyone else. But here I am! Smack dab in my early-thirties! Yikes! How did that happen?! At the very least, at least I had a great excuse to spend the day with good friends and family, play, and eat cake!

I woke up on my birthday with a fever of 102.8. How is that for an ominous sign of the year to come? I'm far too stubborn and strong-willed to let being sick slow me down (you know, some things don't change with age:), so I stopped at the doctor for a prescription (turns out that nagging cold that had been bothering me for the past week and a half was really strep!) and then was treated to breakfast with my girlfriends. Afterwards, we checked Hank out of school a bit early, dropped the babies off and Nana's house, and went tubing! Even though it was frigid we had a blast getting towed up the hill and sliding back down together. I finished my special day with pizza and chocolate cupcakes with my sweet family. Minus the sick part, it was a near-perfect day! Maybe this getting older business isn't so bad??

My Little Peanut

Joey went in for his 9 month doctor check-up this week. He weighed in at 20lbs 15oz (45%), measured 29 inches (89%) and his little noggin has grown to the 95%. Although he's got plenty of baby pudge, compared to his hefty older brothers, he just feels like a little peanut to me!

I am just in love with Joey these days. Joey is in my most favorite baby stage: he sits competently and plays with whatever he can get his hands on but doesn't quite crawl and get himself into trouble. As with life, all good things must end--Joey is beginning to get on all fours and I know he'll be crawling and chasing after his brothers soon. He'd probably be crawling already if he had the chance--with Ben pushing him over or pulling his hair anytime he fusses, Joey doesn't get a lot of opportunity to play on the floor. On the plus side, the brothers seem to be toughening Joey up--he didn't even flinch when he got his shots this week. Joey is a great little eater and samples anything and everything from our plates. He sleeps two naps during the day and sleeps through the whole night. He babbles lots of consonant sounds, but "da-da" is his favorite phrase. Joey is the "flail-iest" baby I know. His little arms start flying up and down anytime he gets excited. I'm a little surprised that Joey's hair has stayed so fair, but he sure is a cute little blondie boy. I love how fascinated Joey is with the world around him, how curious he is to explore his surroundings, and how much he is learning and growing each day. Joey is simply doll and I just love him to bits.

Chapter 1, Verse 1

Finding Hank doing this makes me kind of think I might be doing something right...