Sunday, May 10, 2015

To the Mothers

Mother's Day is a dreaded day in our house.  We've tried dealing with it different way to make it more enjoyable.  We used to celebrate it as a {Future} Mother's Day...but each year that passed, the celebration became more and more just a reminder of what feels like will never be. So, then we took a different approach: avoidance, apathy, distraction.  It works well to keep the pain away, but unfortunately, in the midst of my self-pity, I failed to acknowledge the wonderful women in my life that I should be celebrating today.

So here's to the Mothers.

To all the women who have mothered me, or have taught me what mothering looks like.  Like my good friend Christine, who finds so much joy in motherhood.  She is thoughtful, kind, and always cheerful in her duties.  And my Aunt Leesa, who has been there for me my whole life, and continues to be a confidante and trusted friend.  Her zest for life and joy in family is a role model to me.

To my sister.  As a mother, she has set an example of being vigilant, hardworking, and on top of it all.  She has shown me an example of what I hope to be as a mother someday.  And, always unselfish, she constantly shares her children with me, allowing me to mother them as much as I want.

To my other mother, brought into my life through marriage, but who claims me as her own.  Cindy is such an example of selflessness, unconditional love, and generosity.  Through thick and thin, I am always sure of her love for me.  Even at a distance, she is a mother to me through her service and prayers.

To my second mother, my Grandma.  She helped raise me and has taught me more lessons than I can count, from crocheting to chocolate-dipping, and from cleaning to card games.  Her love of reading inspired me to love to learn.  I'll always remember her infectious laughter and storytelling.  She is so strong and brave, to endure what she has and still smile through it all.

Finally, to my mom.  There aren't even words to describe our love for each other. We have the closest relationship any mother and daughter could have.  Unexplainable, we are connected through time and space.  She is my best friend, she is always there for me, day or night, without ever the slightest degree of judgement.  She is, and always has been, willing to give everything to bless her children's lives.  I love her so much for the example of hard work, determination, and perseverance.  Thanks for being the best mother I could ever hope for.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers in my life

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Puerto Vallarta Recap

Instead of writing more than necessary, I will simply allow the pictures to tell the story, and add some information to provide context:

Our first view of Mexico! After waking up at 3:45 am that morning and traveling for about 8 hours, this was quite an exciting sight indeed! 

But the journey wasn't over yet.  We still had the task of figuring out transportation in this foreign land.  Naively, we ended up on a long, expensive bus ride to our resort.  By the end of our trip, we felt like Mexican-public-transportation pros, having learned to navigate the crazy buses, and negotiate to keep taxi prices down.

I remember walking up to our hotel and seeing a couple of my very favorite flowers, signifying officially our entrance to a tropical paradise.  

Paradise only got more and more real as we walked through the hotel and ended up on the beach side, with the fancy resort-like pools that stretch all the way to sand of the adjacent ocean (see the very narrow strip of blue ocean on the horizon).

This view was the culmination of it all and marked the true beginning of Vacation.

After getting our fill of ocean-playing and hammock-laying that first afternoon, we decided to venture into Old Town to see the sights.  I especially loved seeing the interesting housing and shops along the streets of the city.  

Things were more colorful down there. 

Throughout the trip, we also spent some time on the malecon, or boardwalk, along the beach.  This beautiful stretch of tourist-y shops was punctuated by statues, which I very much enjoyed.  

And the iconic Puerto Vallarta Arches

But this was my very favorite statue. 

Also along these common, evening, ocean front walks, we saw a variety of interesting things, such as: 

 a pirate ship sailing, 

men swinging upside down from a super tall pole,

some shockingly intricate sand sculptures, 

restaurants on the beach,

people selling stuff,

and the super cool Playa de los Muertos Pier, which lit up in all different colors at night.

We very much enjoyed these explorations of the town, and nothing beat the food.  I don't mean the food at the tourist-y restaurants at the resorts, which I felt like were only slightly more authentic than the Mexican food I can find in Utah, but extremely over-priced because they're in a resort.  No, I mean the amazing little taco stands along the streets, and the local restaurants that were only large enough to fit about 12 people in them.  One of our favorites was this little quesadilla place, where you could watch your tortilla being baked from homemade dough and transformed into a melty, cheesy, cilantro-y masterpiece right before your very eyes.  All for only 20 pesos (less than $2).  

I was thrilled when my dream of eating on the beach was realized when we got a shrimp stick off a beach-bbq.  

 Like I said before, we became public-transportation pros! The bus experience was quite interesting.  The buses were crowded, loud, and hot, with no AC, and slightly terrifying in the way this old, creaky metal was swung violently through traffic on narrow roads.  Yet I was surprised to see old women, and little kids all move about them and sit comfortably on them, as though this was the most normal method of transportation there could be. And indeed, for them it is. 
 I tried to slyly capture some bus scenes:

 Notice how the door is open.  The buses barely stopped for anyone to get on or off.  Like literally, they were stopped for about a second, but usually we were jumping on or off the bus as it was moving slowly along its course. 

Other than our expeditions around town, there were a few special days of fun really highlighted the trip for us! 

One of those days was our Extreme Adventure day! This was our zip-lining tour, that included about 6 different zip-lines through the jungle, ropes course activities, ATV riding, waterslides, and all culminating in the world's second longest zip-line, the Superman. 

They really got you with the photos, as they don't allow cameras, and they have a designated photographer following you around taking super great pics that they then charge you a fortune for...

Our super awesome team on guides:

Getting strapped in and ready for our almost a mile of 60+ mph ride down The Superman, so named due to the body position you are in for the ride. 

Another fun day was our trip to the botanical gardens, with their old, wooded, swinging bridge of death; the Orchid Room; cool stone steps and benches; and otherwise super jungley awesomeness.  Although the little tiny mosquitos sucked and ate poor Tyler alive!

One of our other favorites was the Rhythms of the Night dinner and show.  It began with a sunset cruise out to a secluded, private beach, only accessible by boat.  The beach is lit solely by candles and torches (hence the lack of pictures).  There was a Cirque du Soleil-like show portraying the history of the Mexican culture.  Then you walk through romantic paths to a romantic candle-lit table, with an even more romantic view of the candle lit beach.  It was absolutely incredible, and, did I mention, romantic.

Took some pictures with this sweet parrot while we waited at the Marina.  The parrot actually belonged on that pirate ship you saw earlier. 

Of course, the absolute highlight and, in fact, the whole purpose of this trip, was the SCUBA Diving.  
We dove at Los Arcos  (The Arches) 

And at Las Marietas Islands

We saw all sorts of fish and underwater tunnels, sting rays and eels, etc.

These next few pictures capture the essence of vacation: hanging out on the beach, relaxing on lounge chairs while watching the wave, laying on the sand as the sun is setting, etc.  Basically every one of the moments that causes us to sigh, "This is the life." 

Along with relaxing at our resort and watching sunsets on the beach, Tyler surely enjoyed playing hide & seek with the local Green Iguana that lived at our pool. 

Of course, Tyler and I love nothing more than some childlike playing in the waves.  
And we were super excited to use our GoPro to try out our Clark Little skills. 

Some of my favorite shots around the resort: