Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Nebraska Trip - June 2017

Tory, Aden and I visited my family in Nebraska during the early part of June. It's become somewhat of a tradition for us to visit this time each year while Andi is traveling during his busy photo shoot season. This year, we drove back on a Wednesday and stayed through the following Friday making it a full 10 day trip.

My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary while we were there, and my sister, brother and I hosted a small celebration for them. 40 years! Quite a milestone.

We also visited the Lincoln Children's Zoo one afternoon which is always a fun experience. I love the size of this zoo, and how focused on play it is. Of course, Tory and Aden's favorite part is the red train at the end.

One afternoon, my sister Ashley and I took our kiddos to Lincoln to meet my cousin Jen. We met at Pain Yourself Silly to celebrate Reese's 4th birthday, then got ice cream and played in the urban park. These low-key outings are my favorite! It's so fun to spend time together.

Ashley and I also took Brooke, Neeley, Tory and Aden miniature golfing one afternoon. I remember playing here in high school with friends, so it was a trip being back again! Fortunately, we had the entire course to ourselves so the kids were able to play the holes in the order they chose, and we weren't worried about distracting others.

Tory was took to golfing, actually, and was surprisingly lucky putting the ball. She even scored a hole in one!

Despite the distance, I'm thankful we're able to spend time with my family each summer. The older Tory and Aden grow, the more they appreciate the memories we make with our Nebraska family.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sayulita: Days 4-6

Day 4 might've been my favorite day of our Sayulita, Mexico vacation. We started the day bright and early with breakfast at our rented airbnb home, then headed into town by golf cart to meet a fishing guide we'd hired to take us out on the water that morning.

Fishing is an activity our whole family enjoys doing together. We typically fish in North American lakes and rivers; what an amazing opportunity to experience off-shore fishing in the ocean! Andi hired a local fishing captain named Regis to take our family fishing. I'd highly recommend him as he spoke fluent English which made it easy to communicate.

We started our fishing adventure by boating over to Punta Mita, a nearby resort town. The plan was to catch our bait, then return to waters somewhere between the two cities to fish. Our 20-minute boat ride to Punta Mita was a fast and bumpy one. Andi and I held on tight to Tory and Aden on our laps. Half-way there, Tory motioned her tummy was upset and I worried she'd be sea sick but thankfully she never was.

In Punta Mita, we trolled along near the marina. First mate, Pepe, threw out a large net and immediately pulled in thousands of sardines. In the net, he mistakenly caught a puffer fish to Tory's delight. She couldn't believe we saw a fish she remembered learning about in one of her favorite television shows, Wild Kratts.

After we'd collected enough sardines for bait, we motored out to a spot farther away from shore. The high-rolling waves rocked our boat from side to side, and this is the point where my tummy didn't feel so great. While Andi and Tory threw lines into the water, I sat with Aden on my lap and tried to keep my breakfast down. Ugh.

"The wifey doesn't fish?" Regis asked Andi.

Oh, no, the wife does, I wanted to say ... she's focusing on not throwing up!

Andi did the majority of fishing that morning, and caught a few trigger fish and red snappers. Each time Pepe caught a fish, he'd hand his rod to Tory and let her reel it in. Aden was more interested in scooping up sardines in the bait bucket. He wasn't afraid to hold onto Pepe's leg for stability when he needed it.

A few hours into our fishing adventure, Regis moved the boat to a different location (and calmer water!) and suddenly my stomach started feeling better. We traded another fishing boat some cold beers for squid cut into pieces, and continued to fish a bit longer. By now, it was about 1:00pm and the sun began to beat down on us. We decided to wrap up our fishing adventure and grab lunch in town before we had two hungry kids on our hands. 

For lunch, we stopped at Il Itacate for some of the best tacos in town. Andi ordered shrimp and arrachera tacos with fresh guacamole and salsas to share. The kids weren't as impressed, but Andi and I though the food was delicious.

After lunch, we headed back to our rented house and more specifically, back to the pool, where we spent the rest of the day. 

Chopina, the housekeeper, came by the house later that afternoon to prepare dinner for us. We asked her to grill the fresh red snapper we'd caught earlier that morning, but the grill ran out of propane. Chopina fried the whole fish instead, and when she presented it at the table for dinner I was sure the kids would be turned off to eating fish forever! Parenting is never short of surprises though, and Tory and Aden gobbled up two fish each. They loved it!

Most of our first visit to Sayulita was spent eating at various restaurants and exploring the city's beaches ... so this visit we felt more than comfortable hanging around our beautiful rented home to swim and relax the rest of our vacation.

Things I'll remember from this trip:

Our view from "Sayulita House" -

Whiskers The Cat, who will remain in the kids' hearts forever -

These two: so happy, easy-to-please (with ice cream) and always up for adventure -

The friendliness and charm of Sayulita -

The beaches -

and, the awesome time we spent together as a family -

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sayulita, Mexico: Day 3

Oh, man! I should've made more of an effort to write down the details of our vacation in Sayulita, Mexico last month. I've likely forgotten all the little gems of conversation by now, but recording what I do remember is important to me as time will only erase my memories further.


Day 3 in Sayulita began the way most mornings did during our trip. Andi, Aden and I woke up with sun around 6:00am as sleepy-head Tory snoozed until around 9:00am. I completed my workout first thing to beat the afternoon heat while Andi and Aden laid in bed and watched a Stinky and Dirty cartoon on the iPad. We'd never seen that show before Andi streamed it on Amazon Prime during our trip, and it quickly became a favorite of Aden's.

Whiskers the Cat eventually made his way into the house as we got rolling for the day. The house cat ate his breakfast in the kitchen and then wandered the house to find Aden wherever he was. I'm not really a cat person so my experience with them is limited, but I was so surprised how affectionate this cat was toward Aden. Whiskers let Aden lay his head on his belly and seemed perfectly content to snuggle.

Andi made breakfast for all of us (eggs and a vegetable hash), and we sat outside and enjoyed the warm air. The house we rented for the week had a peaceful view of Sayulita and the rolling hills surrounding it.  One of our favorite features of this house was the huge sliding doors that opened the living room to the patio and pool. It made the house feel like an extension of the outdoors with warm, gentle breezes blowing through constantly.

Later when the housekeeper arrived, we learned the chickens on the property laid a half-dozen eggs every day. She brought us some for our breakfast the next day. I thought this was so neat! I'd love to have fresh eggs outside my doorstep every morning if someone else did the work of caring for the chickens.

After breakfast, we hopped in our golf cart to drive to the beach. The central part of Sayulita was a 10-minute golf cart ride from our rented house, and we all enjoyed the ride down there. A baby horsse not more than a week or two old was in the pasture on the way, so we stopped to watch it for a few minutes. Further down the dirt road, there were a herd of bulls sparring with one another.

Andi and I decided to take the kids to "secret beach" -- a beach we'd discovered during our last visit to Sayulita. We remembered this beach being secluded and much calmer water than the main beach in town. It was also the place Tory tried a coconut for the first time two year prior, and we hoped there would be a stand to buy one again.

This time, "secret beach" wasn't so secret. We approached the sand to find many groups of locals camped out under sun awnings and umbrellas. Andi heard prior to our trip that many Mexicans have vacation during Holy Week (Easter was two days prior) so that made sense. No worries though -- we found a spot on the sand and set up our beach blanket.

The four of us played in the sand and the ocean until we were hot and hungry. Most beach-goers around us made an entire day of it by packing picnic lunches, coolers, music, and even bringing potty chairs for kids. We opted for more of a "play and go" style.

After the beach, we cruised into Sayulita's town center for popsicles. Andi promised the kids "ice cream everyday!" during vacation, so we had to make good on his promise. We all decided to try a different flavor than the day before -- Aden and Tory picked "nilla" (vanilla), Andi chose cookies and cream and I got strawberry sorbet. They melted faster than we could eat them in the warm Mexican sun.

When we returned to our Sayulita house, Chopina (the housekeeper) was making dinner in the kitchen. We hired her to cook for us several of the nights we visited for something different. Of course we could've cooked our own dinner (and we did several evenings), but it's fun to have a local cook something more authentic. On this night, Chopina made fried chicken, tons of fresh salsas and guacamole, beans and mixed veggies. In hindsight, we probably should have specified more "healthy" options but I have to admit, her fried chicken was really good.

And, who can beat that view! Dining out with kids (our kids, at least) is stressful and not enjoyable. This is a much better way for our family to eat on vacation.

We wrapped up dinner just as the sun began to set on the day. Tory, Aden, Andi and I scurried up to the rooftop patio to watch the sun go down. Tory made a wish as it dropped past the horizon, and it was a "pinch me I'm in paradise" moment of happiness.

More to come of our time in Sayulita ...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sayulita, Mexico: Day 2

Our family spent Easter at our Wisconsin lake cabin last year, and it was cold and dreary. This year, we woke up to warm sunshine in Sayulita, Mexico. Andi, Tory, Aden and I celebrated our holiday a few weeks ago since we planned to be here on Easter Day, so our Sunday started as it normally would on vacation.

I thought I might be a little sad my kids weren't experiencing the typical Easter morning traditions I grew up with as a child, but honestly I wasn't. Holidays don't have to fit in a box; they can be whatever you want them to be. What's important to me is my kids are loved, our family is together and they know the meaning of the holiday which we discussed for many weeks before our trip.

On Sunday Andi, Aden and I woke up around 6:00am, and enjoyed a slow start to our morning. We watched the sun rise from our vantage point high on the Sayulita hillside, and began to familarize ourselves with our surroundings. It was dark when we'd arrived at our rented house the night before, so the three of us had fun exploring its various rooms and the gated property. It's a three-bedroom, five-bathroom house with a kitchen, private pool area, and rooftop patio. There's also a housekeeper on staff as well as a gardener, a coop of chickens and a resident cat named Dibo. Actually, we didn't know about the cat until it jumped through an open window and waltzed its way into the pantry to its food bowls. Aden and Tory affectionately named it Whiskers, but the housekeeper later told us its name is Dibo.

Andi took Aden for a walk down the drive-way while I practiced yoga with a spectacular view. You can take the boy away from cabin life, but you can't take cabin life away from the boy; Aden spotted a quad on the property and had to hop on for himself.

Then, Andi made the three of us breakfast -- eggs with chorizo and asparagus -- and we sat outside on the deck and enjoyed the peacefulness of the morning. In the distance, we heard roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing and the faint sound of music from town proper. Tory woke up around 9:00am and enjoyed her fruit and toast poolside.


We swam in the pool for the rest of the morning. How wonderful to have this whole place to ourselves!

Andi grilled shrimp and artichokes for lunch, and then we were itching to check out town. We decided to take the golf cart in for a ride, not sure what would be open on a holiday. To our surprise, Sayulita was bustling with people. Every restaurant was open, every shop. The beaches were packed with locals and tourists alike. Andi and I were surprised by how much was the same since we our visit two years prior, and also noticed a few new businesses here and there. We stopped by our favorite popsicle stand, Wakika Heladeria - for a cool treat before heading back to our paradise spot on the hill.

Back at the house, the kids and I FaceTime'd my parents to wish them a happy Easter holiday, and talked with my dad and nieces for a bit. Isn't technology amazing allowing loved ones to communicate long distance?

The kids swam in the pool until around 7:00pm, and then Andi grilled chicken and veggies for our family's Easter dinner. Together, we watched the sun set from our private rooftop patio on our first full day in Sayulita.

Yep, life is pretty wonderful.