Monday, April 13, 2009

To the makers of PAAS egg dye...

I am all about dying eggs... in fact, I will probably dye Easter eggs long after my kids have outgrown that tradition and will most likely beg the grandkids to come over to dye eggs. It is one of my favorite things to do. I love to get creative with different parts of the dying process...

Now here is where I have a problem... we were the proud owner the PAAS "Egg Head" kits! And they turned out absolutely adorable... but I miss the plain eggs! The creativity that goes into them, and the beautiful traditional photo you get with a basket full of bright colorful eggs!

One day... I will have complete control of the egg dying process... but I guess for now, I will just have to giggle at the love that was put into each egg, and treasure the family time that was created by this tradition!

Happy Easter!

Lights out!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Day 6 ~ Cozumel

Cozumel will be a late start. That feels good after being always on the go... however, I have found that I am not that good at just laying in bed KNOWING that there is a world of stuff going on right outside my window! It was fun to sit on the balcony and watch the port come alive. Today is T's day... a dolphin encounter at Chankanaab Park.

We got to the tour area a tad early, so we thought we would cruise quickly through the port shopping mall to see what is in store for us when we are done! Both kids spotted some ideas to spend their money on, and we knew that we would be hitting Senor Frogs on the way back! Drinks on the boat are expensive!

There were guys dressed up like statues around the mall... It was fun to watch tour groups walk by and the "statue" reaches out to touch one of them! I thought one lady was going to drop her baby he scared her so much!

After checking in with the little tour group, they put us in a taxi and we head onto the park. It was slug bug central... Man, the amount of old VW Bugs down in Cozumel... I am sure the newlywed couple sharing our taxi though we were completely insane! Who cares... we are on vacation!

Chankanaab Park is a little private park about seven miles from the port. There is the dolphin encounter, swimming pools, snorkeling rentals and areas, beach front, and GREAT Mexican food! It was really clean... and I would suggest you visit there if you are ever in Cozumel on your own!

When we got there, we did the usual, lockers, change, and a quick lesson of what you can/can't do with the dolphin, a life-jacket pick up, and we are on the way to the dolphin tanks! Our little trainer didn't have much personality, but Xunam, the dolphin, did. She was almost one and beautiful. The trainer showed us some basic hand signals and then we took turns asking Xunam for hugs and kisses with a quick pose for the dolphin encounter photographer! Certainly an experience we won't soon forget. We did bring a little water camera and got a few good ones... James bought the DVD/photograph package... now we really won't forget. When T is a tad bit older, we can do the actual swimming with the dolphins. He loved it! It doesn't show in his photos... the water was really cold, he couldn't reach, and the way he had to be held made his life jacket press up on him.

It was a really quick experience, but we had a great time. After we found our towels and warmed up a bit, we started smelling the Mexican food... the reminder of the Guatamalan Guacamole was still fresh on our brains! Luckily for us, a little authentic Mexican place was right next to the photo booth!

T was anxious to snorkel, he really enjoyed it in Costa Maya... however the water was quite a bit warmer. The sun was behind the clouds and the bit of drizzling rain didn't help warm us up much. On the way to the snorkeling rentals, we ran into one of E's friends' mom and brother. too funny! We knew they were going to be there... but what was the chance we would actually see them? We didn't get much time with her or with snorkeling as we had to head back to the boat. The water was freezing and the rented gear was a little off... Chuck got went far enough to see the underwater Christ statue similar to the one in Brazil. We didn't have any more photos in the water camera, so that will just have to be a memory.

Back at the port, we dropped off our swimsuits and towels, changed clothes and headed back into the shopping part of the port. Some of us thought it would be fun to take the little trikes! The kids picked up the stuff they spotted earlier, got some shirts, and found a beautiful mask made out of stones (will find where I wrote all that down and add later) and a beautiful vase made out of black clay! Should have taken a photo of our goods, as neither the mask or vase made it home in one place! I was able to glue the mask back together, but the vase ended up in the trash! We picked up our "yard" drinks at Senor Frogs, had some personalized bracelets made for each kid, and headed back to the boat!

From our balcony, we enjoyed the free entertainment as we watched some very drunk people heading back. Quite humorous... I thought they were drunk AT the port... watching them try to get back ONTO the boat was better! And what they didn't come back with... I swear there was a sombrero bigger than my child!
We had the best little cabin people... each day they would personally chat with T and ask him what his plans were going to be... then at the end of the day, they would ask him about his day... one day they heard me call him by his nickname of Monkey... And this is what was in our room on this day... aren't they the cutest! These guys really were fun to be around each day! Thanks Freddie and Rachael!

Decided to head back to "Le Bistro" for dinner where Albert the waiter and "Big Boss" (T) continued their friendship from the other night! Chuck and James hit the casino while Penny, me, and the kids watched the "Kids Kamp" talent show before heading back to the cabins... little did we know that our favorite little performer would belong to a lady we would meet poolside the next day! Such talent... and I think her mom, Kim, and me will become great friends!

The entire cruise, Penny and James had been talking all about this amazing chocolate buffet that they had on their other cruises. And entire buffet made up of chocolate including an entire cruise ship made of nothing but chocolate. We couldn't wait... especially T... he has announced himself as an official Chocoholic and has offered to taste anything chocolate. Finally 11PM comes around... We were a little disappointed... but James said it was not nearly as big as past times. Oh... there was plenty of chocolate... some cool carvings, but not extraordinary... the best part was the amount of gluttonous pigs that were on that boat...

Oh... sweet slumber... tomorrow will be at sea... I do NOT have the tan I was hoping for... I plan on hanging out by the pool, reading a book, and watching my kids enjoying this last day on the boat! I can NOT believe that this week went by so fast!

Lights Out!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Day 5 ~ Belize City, Belize

Today it is just James, Erin, Chuck, and me! Penny and T will stay on the boat. They swam, played games (T won SEVEN stuffed animals in the "grabber" in the arcade), had a room service picnic on the balcony, and just had a great time hanging out with each other. I know he felt special getting all the one-on-one attention from her.

While they did all that we put our life on the "line" quite literally. After taking a tender from our boat into the main port of Belize City, we took an hour bus drive out of the city and into the Belize jungle. Parts of Belize look really poor like Guatamala and parts look a little more affluent. And they can be right next to each other. James said when they came five years ago, most of what we saw wasn't even there! Looks like you can buy some property if you are interested...

The first part of the day we were going to spend in inner tubes, so the camera had to be left on the bus. As the tour guide said, "You will get 95% wet on the way down, and the other 5%... we will see!" They only let us bring US and their gear!

The gear meant inner tubes (FYI - when you stick to excursions sponsored by the boat, you get really CLEAN nice inner tubes, not the black "true"inner tubes that turn everything you own black! Glad we went NCL Excursions), headlamps, and rented watershoes **don't even go there in reminding me just how disgusting that thought is** to be carried by us on the 35 minute hike. they warned us that our feet would get wet, so to bring shoes that CAN get wet! I didn't realize that they would be wet BEFORE we started this hike... so we rented the water shoes. That really probably is a prosperous dig for these guys... what do water shoes cost at Walmart anyway? $6? You can rent them out for $3 a pair about three times a day... for about a month or so... I think that is more than I make teaching!
OK, so Day 2 of realizing that I really need to get back into shape... that walk was tough... especially since the inner sole was not IN my water shoes, so I felt every rock I stepped on... but it was SO worth it. Like the guide said, the water was "refreshing" (Belize for 'really freaking cold') at a whopping 65* !

Once in the water and able to breathe normal again, and the men able to talk in normal octaves, we connected tubes and took our liesure float through the caves of Belize. And it was "Un-Belizable!" Sorry, just HAD to throw that one in. We heard it from the guides all day! We got to hear waterfalls, see bat things, like guano, and just marvel in what is a part of this big blue ball we call the Earth! Looking back at all the headlamps in the cave was really cool, like little strings of Christmas lights! Note to self... bring a water camera next time! It is just undescribable how pretty that part of the day was!

At some point of this day, and I believe it was before the hike up to the cave... I was approached by one of the four kids that were in our group of eight! (Remember, the entire boat was swarming with college spring breakers) He saddled on up next to me and says, "Can I ask you a really random question?" To which I have no other way to respond than, "sure!"

"Did you ever teach at The **** School?" I stopped STILL in my tracks... really? HERE? In Belize?

Yep, thousands of miles away and I am face-to-face with Joseph F., a former student from my very first year at this school. How weird is THAT? I mean... I run into kids at the mall, at sports activities, they wait on my table at restaurants... but BELIZE! Just cool!

After everyone dried off, it was lunch time. We had a "catered meal" of rice/beans, chicken, and cole slaw. The surprising thing, we were in the middle of the jungle and these people served us on glass plates with real silverware. and even real coke in glass bottles. I didn't even know they did that anymore. But you needed that for the sauce. Man... that was some HOT sauce!

And now the moment of truth... another hike while all wrapped up in our zip lining gear to prove that I really AM 40 years old... Holy Crow that was a tough hike... straight up and all stairs! With about 30 extra pounds... okay, maybe 10... but we also JUST ate a huge lunch! Shouldn't we have done this BEFORE lunch? At the top of the hike they attach you to nothing more than a string and expect you to just LET GO! Are you crazy... we are 85 feet IN THE AIR! In the jungle! And... Yeah... let me attach my first-born child onto that string FIRST!What a rush... Been there... done that... don't have a t-shirt... but I have the souvenir photo! And ok, the "string" was supposed to be strong enough to hold a couple of tons... but I wouldn't have believed it until we were all done! That little white/orangish dot in the middle... THAT is Chuck!

An hour bus drive back with some local beers gives you some quiet time. The guide did fill us in with some more Belize facts and history. Nice time to just contemplate the adventure, the surroundings, the humanity, and just how lucky we are to live where we do! Especially if this is their idea of a Hurricane Shelter... If our house didn't fair that well during Ike, how will this thing ever... and how many people do they expect to FIT inside it?

Took the tender back to the ship to relieve Penny of her little charge... Found some snacks and hit the game room for a family game of Yahtzee! I won with T in close second followed by Chuck and E! I love it when we get to play games like that!
Dinner at La Trattoria, the specialty Italian restaurant on the boat. It wasn't bad Italian, but their polenta side dish was just about amazing! Reminded me of Grandmother's cheese grits only maybe a little more refined!
Oh... and I know you are dying to know! Did Alicia grab that sunset this time? Well, I was in the shower before heading to dinner, but Chuck pretty much got every stage of the sunset! I will take it... It was beautiful!

After a great day, and a filling dinner, and no interest in the White Hot Party, we decided it was probably just as well that we call it an early night. We had all had a full day!

Tomorrow... a day in the water with mammals in Cozumel!

Lights Out!