Friday, October 10, 2014


     We recently returned from a wonderful vacation to Cancun, Mexico. Even as I type those words, it still feels like a dream. It has taken many many years for us to be able to save up the money. Yes, I realize that my oldest children are nearly adults themselves, so it was a privilege and blessing for us to be able to do this as a family.  Well, most of a family. Truth is - for both financial and mental sanity reasons, we could only afford to take the oldest four with us.

         I feel very indebted and grateful to all those who helped us take care of the youngest three kids (Lane, Miles, and Emerson) while we were away. It gave new meaning to the phrase "it takes a village" when I was arranging for their care. First, my parents let them stay at their house, even amidst the business of General Conference and mission reunions. There they were watched over by my niece, Rachel for a few days. Then with my little sister, Emily for a few. Then they were transported from Utah to Idaho by my cousin, Peter. Then my brother Tom watched them at night and during the day they hung out with my friends, Ruth and Lela. The last night, as we didn't arrive home until nearly 4 am, my friend, Christina, kindly came over and put them to bed and slept here until morning.  I am so grateful to have a whole army of people willing to help us out, and am forever grateful to them!


    Just arriving at the Salt Lake Airport, even though it was 4:45 am, the kids were ecstatic about flying on an airplane for the first time. I captured this moment:

As people were giving me strange looks while taking this picture of my kids, it struck me that not everyone may be quite so happy after going through TSA security screening at 5 in the morning!

We landed in Cancun and were immediately bombarded by 'tourism agents' trying to get us to go with them for transportation, or to come listen to a 'timeshare presentation'.  After relentless efforts, we seceded and agreed to listen to a 90 minute presentation the next morning, in exchange for free tickets to an 'event' and free breakfast for each of us at one of the hotels that happened to be right next door to ours.  We arrived at our hotel and were immediately saddened to learn that the 'all inclusive' package we were told about was actually not quite so 'inclusive' after all. They explained to us that it would be 40 bucks per person per day to have any food or drink at the hotel! Um...well, that would be an additional $240 each day that we didn't have. So, we decided that we would just 'make do'.  It ended up being quite an adventure for us as we took city buses and walked for miles and miles (or was it kilometers and kilometers?) to find affordable food each day.  The first night, however, we were too tired and just stopped at the nearest street restaurant to our hotel.  It was super yummy.

The next morning, we got up and watched the sunrise on the beach - it was breathtaking.  A much needed reminder of the beauty and simplicity there is on this Earth if we just take time to breathe deeply and notice it.

(The obligatory envy-inducing 'feet on beach' photo.)
So, we all gathered and meandered over to the hotel next door to hear our presentation (AKA, to get our promised free breakfast).
     After the 90 Mexican minutes (that's 120 in American minutes) we finally convinced them that while we were grateful for the offer of allowing us to pay $55,000 for the privilege of having 30 different weeks that we could spend at their fancy hotel, in which we could then pay another $3,600 per week that that we came, we were however not interested in it at this time.  By the time the 4th 'manager' got to us, he finally gave up and said, "Well, I tried."
    It was a delicious breakfast. One of the new things we enjoyed was their version of a 'green smoothie' which consisted of cucumbers, kiwis, and cactus.  Then we were given tickets to the event of our choice, which we had picked out beforehand. The kids all wanted to go and 'swim with the dolphins'.  So now we had something planned for the next day. But for the remainder of that day.....we were 100% content to just do this:

and this:

 and this:

 and this:

And after realizing we had not brought any sunblock because of the TSA restrictions on ounces, we found a pharmacy and bought some of this:

because we were beginning to look like this:

By the end of the day we were in need of nourishment, and we found the cutest little quaint eatery off the street. It was called "Las Quekas" and it was three Mexican ladies standing in a 8x10 foot area with a large black outdoor flat top stove. They only sold Quesadillas and they were so fresh and delicious and homemade. And the best part of all - they were only 13 pesos each (that is exactly one dollar).  This tiny, elderly lady that must have been about 4 feet 5 inches with strong arms and a facial expression that you knew held wisdom and mystery beyond our comprehension, would grab the dough, flatten it out, and then throw it onto the black top, constantly pressing, flipping, and rotating several at a time. Another, younger girl would then grab the fillings by hand (no gloves of course) and throw the fresh cheese (queso fresco) on there along with a handful of whichever meat was ordered. I describe this process in detail because it became so familiar to me as we made the pilgrimage by foot every day thereafter to eat! We would order about 8-10 quesadillas for the 6 of us, then walk back the 2.7 kilometers to our hotel each night to enjoy our dinner together. I really wish there were something even close to the level of yumminess here in the States for only a buck!

Waiting for quesadillas. Yes, we were the only tourists eating there.
We got up the next morning and headed took a bus to get to the boat to get to the island (Isla Mujeres) to get to the dolphins.  By the end of this day, the kids had now experienced three modes of transportation that were completely foreign to them: planes, buses, and a ferry!

The experience that it was to get in the water with dolphins, and to literally pet them, and swim with them was nothing short of amazing. We each, in turn, we able to get pushed by two dolphins at a time, their noses into our heals as they pushed us in the water; hold onto their fins, belly to belly as they swam us to shore; kiss them, hold them in our arms, and so much more! It was an experience that will live on in our hearts and hopefully minds, forever!  I say this because unfortunately, they did not allow us to take pictures of the events, as they have their own photographers taking all of the photos. Now, I know that it is a staple for tourism industries such as this, however, the prices were nothing short of highway robbery in my opinion. They wanted $400 dollars for our family pictures! Yes - that is in US dollars. So not only did we not purchase any, but I sadly did not see anybody in our group purchase them either. ;(

These pics of the dolphins that I took before we got in the water with them are the only ones I have:

While waiting for the ferry ride back to Cancun, we had several hours to spare, and we took a taxi into town and did a little shopping (aka bargaining).

They quickly learned the essential rules of "never accept the first OR the second offer" and "always start to walk away".

How can you see a prop like these and NOT jump in for a photo op?

Sombrero Sadie!

Nacho Libre mask...finally!!
Hanging out (literally) in the hammocks while awaiting our buffet lunch.

The family that swings together...stays together? 

Yea - the whole "VIRGIN" drinks concept got a little out of control for the kiddos!

Beautiful sunset on the boat ride back to Cancun.

After that fun day on the Isla Mujeres, Maelynn and I took a bus into town and found a large grocery store called "Wal Mart"! Haha.  While a lot of the stuff looked the same - it was interesting to see that quite possibly Americans are the ONLY people who keep their eggs refrigerated. 

 We got up on Sunday morning, excited to find a church to go to and watch General Conference.  I have blogged about how much I LOVE General Conference before, and it never changes for me - it is always a time of feeling growth, inspiration, and love from great women and men, called of God to help guide us through this crazy thing called mortality! And boy, it seems to only be getting crazier by the day!
     We tried to use the "Meetinghouse Locator" on my LDS tools app, but ironically it was 'down for maintenance'. So we looked up the address of a church and found the nearest crossroads on a map, and hopped on a bus and pointed to the map and asked the driver if he was going near there. He said yes. At a certain point, he told us to get off. We obliged, and kept asking for directions. After walking for over 30 minutes, and recieveing several different answers as to where this strange church could be, we finally found it down a little dirty street. Imagine our surprise to find the gates were locked and there were no cars in the parking lot!

 Eventually we buzzed the buzzer at the gate and a man came out. He told us that it was a regular chapel and that Conference was only being shown in the Stake Centers.  We asked him where the nearest Stake Center was, and he said: "Oh - it is just down the road a little. Like 15 minutes walking, or maybe 5 minutes by car." So, off we set on the second leg of the journey.

Of all the graffiti in the world ( and there was a LOT of it there), how random is it that we saw a post that had GREG written on it, with the letters PT underneath. It was too cosmic NOT to grab a picture of!

After about 90 minutes of walking in the scorching heat - we arrived, all sweaty and exhausted, and entered into the Stake Center, basking in the immediate relief of the cooler temperature, and the welcoming sounds of the MoTab belting out the closing hymn!!! Ah well, at least we had found our sanctuary and would be able to listen to the second session. But with two whole hours to kill, we quickly began to realize that walking for hours in the heat will deplete your energy, so Greg and Landen became the instictual 'hunters and gatherers to take care of us. They walked and walked until they found some food...
Greg and Landen found us some food (two little rotisserie chickens and six rolls) that the six of us all snarfed down with our hands over the kitchen sink. (Did I mention we had no pride left at this point in our hunger?)

The large Chapel and Overflow set up with seats for watchiing General Conference in Spanish. I loved the random Mexican bell decorations hanging up in the cultural hall...

...and the little TV in a side classroom that was playing it in English! We felt lucky to have a private viewing!

As we were leaving the Stake Center after a wonderful session.

Our blistered feet were so grateful that we were able to find a bus only a couples of blocks from the church that would take us back home to the hotel. 

The buses were a fun new experience for all of the kids.

We slept well that Sabbath night and were up early the next morning for our planned tour with our LDS guide, Helaman, from  He showed up at our hotel, as we had arranged through email earlier, and he said, "I think I saw you guys at our church yesterday".  Go figure! Small world. Turns out that the guy who was going to take us (Helaman) couldn't do it, so his son-in-law, Carlos, filled in for him. It was one of the coolest things to listen to Carlos relate his amazing conversion story, his deep well of knowldege of history and anthropology and archeology, his endless fount of memorized scriptures from the Book of Mormon, and his strong testimony. It was more than worth every penny paid and it helped me gain an even stronger love of and desire to continue reading the Book of Mormon.

At Chichen Itza.

The families that sweat together....stay together?

This one is at Tulum. Absolutelu beautiful scenery all around. Although imagining the horrors of what it was like when it was in full use is beyond comprehension HORRIBLE!

Happy (Partial) Family Photo.

The tres amigas! I am so grateful to have such wonderful daughters. I feel blessed to be their mother every day.

The last view of Tulum from the HIGHEST point in all of Cancun: 45 feet above sea level! 
We got back after a long day of driving, walking, touring, and learning, and headed back to our favorite sweet ladies making street quesadillas. But on the way, Sadie decided to give in to her desire to burn all the pesos she had, and paid a lady to put some nice little braids in her hair. 

The morning we had to leave - it began to rain. It rained from the time we checked out of the hotel and for the remaining five hours we were waiting at the airport!  But before we left. we spent a few minutes on the beach, where Landen carved this beautiful sea turtle for me. Oh - that reminds me...we actually saw sea turtles out in the ocean near the hotel. It was so cool. There were areas that were cordoned off and marked, where they had come up and laid their eggs.

In the lobby of the hotel - my silly girls posing for one last picture!

Maelynn acting all natural in the lap of luxury.

Maelynn and Sadie
We left the hotel at noon, and between waiting at airports, and a layover and change of plane and maintenance problem in Dallas, we arrived in SLC at midnight, and by the time we were home and unpacked it was nearly 4 am.  The absolute best part of the end of my trip was getting to go upstairs to the boy's room and kissing each of their little slumbering cheecks.  I am truly, truly a blessed person. 

We really learned a lot, experienced a lot, and grew closer to each other on our trip! 
Muchsimas Gracias y Viva Mexico!