Archive for April, 2013

Published by Sara on 28 Apr 2013

Soccer Girl

Bethany has been asking me to let her play soccer for a long time.  We finally signed her up this season.

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She only got to attend two practices before her first game since we were in Mexico.  So she didn’t have a lot of experience for her first game.  She didn’t exactly know what to do.

Just kind of running around chasing the ball…

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At halftime during her first game, I knew she was not happy.  She ran over to me and wrapped her arms around my neck and started crying.  She was so uncomfortable.  She didn’t know what she was doing on the field and it was awkward for her.  So I went over to the other side of the field to give her some personal coaching.  I know that Bethany is really athletic, but she is also so timid that she was afraid to go back out and play.  Eventually she cheered up and went back out and played some more.  She ended up having a great time during the second half of the game and loved it.  She still needs a lot more practice, but she has had four games now and she gets better every time.  So proud of my little sporty soccer girl!  Here is her whole team.

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Published by Sara on 18 Apr 2013

Date Nights

I just have to say how much we LOVE our rotating date nights with Krista and Clint’s families.  It is so nice to be able to go out with Neil almost every Friday without the kids.  And I even love it when it’s our turn.  We have lots of fun and the kids are always really good.  It’s something we really look forward to every week, whether it is our turn or not.

Last time it was at our house, we got a fire going and did hot dogs for dinner.  Nash and Cannon especially loved the “boy scout fire” and are well on their way to being big bad boy scouts. 🙂

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Published by Sara on 16 Apr 2013

Easter 2013

Our Easter fun this year started out with the usual egg dying on the Friday before.

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The next morning, we went to our annual ward Easter breakfast and egg hunt.  The Primary was in charge (that’s us) and we decided to go with a waffle bar.  It went really well!

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The girls sporting the skirts I brought back for them from Mexico:

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Luke is finally old enough to hunt eggs on his own.  Except that once he spots a piece of candy, he wont’ do anything else until that candy gets into his mouth.  Nummy?  Num?  Nummy?

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The next day was Easter Sunday.  The Easter bunny hid the baskets in Luke’s room this year!

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We did the usual “riddles in eggs” thing, where there are clues that lead to other clues, etc.

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So they found their baskets and inspected the contents.  But then I handed them one more egg with another clue inside.  It said, “There is one more thing from mom and dad, see if you can find it.  You will be glad!”  Yeah, I’m really good at poetry.  They looked around and then found two cute little gerbils in their cages hidden in our closet.  The girls have been dying for a pet forever.  So we got a blonde one (Julia’s) and a brown one (Beth’s).

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They love them!  They still don’t have names though.  If anyone has any cute gerbil names, let us know!

After church, we went over to Grandma’s for an Easter lunch and egg hunt!  Here are the kids getting ready to go hunt for eggs.

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Thanks mom!!!!

And for our final Easter activity, we headed over to Boise for dinner and an Easter/Grandpa Brenner’s 95th birthday party.  We met at the park right next to Keith and Carmen’s.

Look at all these munchkins!  And this isn’t even all of them!

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Neil, laying down the rules before their final egg hunt.

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We had a wonderful Easter!!  Thank you to everyone who made the holiday so special for the kids.  🙂

Published by Sara on 04 Apr 2013

Mexico-Last Day

On the morning of our last day, I set my alarm for 6am because I wasn’t going to waste time sleeping when I wanted to enjoy the most of our last day in Mexico.  I got up and got dressed and went to watch the sun rise.

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Oh man, it was so beautiful.  I’m so glad I took the time to do that.  After I did that, I went back to our room to wake Neil up.  We met our friends at Spice’ for our final meal at our resort.  Kip was feeling much better now, so that was good news.  We all toasted to our wonderful friendship and to our unforgettable trip together.

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We didn’t have to leave for the airport until 10:30, so after breakfast we took advantage the few hours we had left and played on the beach one last time.  The sun was shining and the weather was perfect.

Sad to have to leave this place!

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Neil trying to get on Oscars shoulders.  Why?  I don’t know.  Goofy boys.

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They finally figured it out.

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Carter and Kip did a little body boarding.

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David Hasselhoff posing for the camera…

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Neil, soaking up as many rays as he can before heading back.

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So then we had to say goodbye to the beautiful Caribbean.  We went to our rooms to pack up and check out. This is how we felt about going home.

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It was a pretty uneventful flight home.

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Except that Kip would not stop talking to the people next to him.  We had to nickname him the Chatterbox!

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We went from Cancun to Minneapolis, and then home to Boise.  We got into BOI at midnight and finally made it home by around 12:30.  I got to peek in on my beautiful kids sleeping in their beds.  It was good to be home (not really…lol).

A HUGE thank you to everyone who helped look after our little ones while we were away.  I knew that I never had to worry about them even though we were so far apart.  They stayed the whole week with Grandma Bubka and Grandpa, and also had a sleepover at Grandad and Fonda’s.  Grandma Bubka then delivered the three of them to my house to hand them over to my mom to watch for the rest of the day until we got home. The girls and Luke were very well taken care of and loved the time they spent with everyone.  We love you so much!

And a big shout out to my besties.  We are so blessed to have such great people to call our friends.  We all have such great relationships with each other!  No drama, no fighting…ever!  Only precious moments, love and laughter.  LOVE YOU ALL TO PIECES!  We WILL do this again!

VIVA MEXICO!!!!

 

Published by Sara on 03 Apr 2013

Mexico-Day 7

Up next…Day 7!  This one has lots of pictures!

We woke up at 7am and met the gang at Spice’ at 8 for breakfast.  By 8:30, we headed out front to hail a taxi to take us down the road a few miles for the day’s adventure.  We were headed to a place called XPlor.  It is a park that was built on top of a system of underground rivers.  It had tons of ziplines, raft rides through the caves, and tracks where you could drive an amphibious vehicle through the jungle and through caves and such.

In the taxi on the way over:

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Kip, sporting a frozen drink!

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The first thing we did was go down the stairs into a giant cave to check in.  There were lots of cool things to look at from the start.

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We checked in and they gave us all helmets that we had to wear at all times.  So we got geared up and headed up the trail to the locker area to stow our things.  Then we went off to our first fun activity, the vehicles!

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I love this picture of Tendra.  I told her to give me a wink and she turns around with this sassy face…I tell you she was in a spicy mood this day!

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We found the car tracks and hopped in!

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The next series of pictures will be of us driving our cars.  This was so fun.  You were in complete control of the car, but had to stay on the trail.  We could go as slow or as fast as we wanted.  We went through water, caves, caves WITH water, over bridges, over lots of bumps, etc.  Some of them are hilarious!

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This is us waiting for the next ride.  There were two separate tracks.  This time it was the women’s turn to drive!

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Driving was a blast.  My favorite part is where they had a section of really bumpy road, and I hit the gas and drove over it at full speed.  We were bouncing off of our seats and just laughing our heads off.

Next up, we headed to the underground river rafts.  This is a priceless moment…where Tendra was “angry” at Carter because he walked too fast and left her behind.  We had to take a picture because Tendra never gets mad!  So of course we had to seize the moment and make fun of her “temper” from then on out.  And doesn’t Carter look like he’s just so sorry?  🙂

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On to the rafts!

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It was awesome.  Neil found it hard to believe that these are natural caves.  They almost look fake but they aren’t.  From this point on we were wet (from getting splashed by everyone with their paddles!).  The sun wasn’t out on this day and the wind was blowing, so when we weren’t in the caves we were actually pretty cold.

There were cameras set up all over this place.  Our helmets had some sort of microchip built into them, so when we walked by it would snap our picture.  We had fun with the cameras. 🙂

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I LOVE this one!  I have no idea what we are even doing.

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I love this one too!  You can clearly tell we were having a good time.

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This big heart was in the very center of the park.  It even had a beating sound coming from it.

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Next up were the ziplines!  This park had amazing ziplines.  We had to wait in line for quite a while because they are very popular.  The line started at the bottom of this big tower, and spiraled all the way up.  When we got to the top we got all geared up.

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Wheeeeee!!

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At the end of each run, we would always have to walk up spirals like this one or climb some sort of stairway to the next one.

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Here is what most of the launching platforms looked like.  The worker guys would always refer to the women as “lady”.  “Over here lady….watch your head lady…you ready lady?”

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Neil and I did one tandem run like Carter and Tendra are here, but we decided it was more comfortable to go solo.  And no, it’s not a real alligator.  Although they did have live alligators somewhere but I never saw them.  We did zip over a couple of live jaguars though!  They were sleeping. 🙂

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The last run was a water landing.

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I tried my best to keep dry, but it’s no use because this is what it looks like at the end!

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VERY fun!  But since it was a cooler day, we were all pretty cold after being dunked in the water.  We did 7 or 8 zips total, and there were still 9 to go.  Most of us decided that we were done ziplining, and we were also hungry.  So Carter and Tendra went on to do the other 9 ziplines and the rest of us hit the included buffet.

This buffet was amazing.  Maybe even better than the one at our hotel.  There was even hot chocolate, and it really helped to warm us up.

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Poor Kip was really suffering at this point.  🙁  He started feeling sick the night before and by now was getting a fever.  So Kip, Jess, Vicki and Oscar grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.  Neil and I stayed and waited for Carter and Tendra.  They said that the next set of ziplines was even better than the first!  But there were more water landings and so they were soaked and freezing cold.  So they ate some lunch and had some hot chocolate and then we headed home via taxi.

It was around 6-ish when we arrived back at the resort.  We went to our rooms and cleaned up.  While we were waiting to develop an appetite for dinner, the ladies and I went to the gift shop of our hotel.  I got the stinking cutest little bowl of fruit that is carved entirely out of stone.

We ended up having dinner at Spice’ as our last dinner since we had to leave the following day.  🙁  Boo hoo.  Neil and I went down to the beach after dinner (it was dark now) so that we could enjoy the beach for a little longer before going to bed.  I got a ziploc baggie full of sand to take home with me.  The moon was full and the light looked so cool bouncing off of the waves.

After that, we visited Carter and Tendra in their hotel room.  Carter took some of the fish they had caught to the chef at Spice’, and had it cooked up and brought to him via room service.  So we tasted his fish dishes (I think their were 3 or 4 dishes) and they were delish!  Then we went to Kip and Jess’ room so that I could give Kip a shot glass full of Silver X (a.k.a Grandpa’s magic water).  He was really not doing well.

Then we headed back to our room, but I wasn’t wanting to go to bed because I knew it was our last night!  So I relaxed in the hammock for a while under the full moon and did my best to remember the way it felt to be in Mexico.

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Published by Sara on 02 Apr 2013

Mexico-Day 6

Day 6 started off with Neil waking up early to head out with the guys for a fishing trip.  I woke up later and realized that he took all my money. 🙂  So I got dressed and ready for the day and headed off in search for an ATM.  I found many of them out on 5th.  I took a pic of myself being all brave and roaming the streets of Mexico by myself.

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Then I met up with Tendra and Vicki for breakfast.  Jess was having a tummy ache, so she said she would meet up with us later.  After we ate, we headed straight to the beach for some more R&R.

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Jessica finally got to feeling better and came down.

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After lounging around for a bit, Tendra went and got in the ocean.  She is like a fish.  Here she is out in the ocean, just chilling and floating on her back.  You can barely see her.

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It was so fun looking for seashells!  When the waves came in, the shells would usually come floating in.  But then you had to find and grab them before the wave receded and took the shell with it.

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So while I was bending down to reach for shells, I got hit in the face several times with waves. 😉  So I guess now I was ready to get in the water.  Tendra and I got some snorkel stuff and snorkeled for about an hour.  I collected quite a few shells from the ocean floor and even a rusty peso.

After we had our fun on the beach, Tendra and I (a.k.a Power Shopper #1 and #2), headed to 5th Avenue again to do some more shopping while the men were away and couldn’t complain about all the stuff we wanted.

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We got lots of good stuff!  And I picked myself up another Mt. Dew.  We were almost done with our shopping and were making our way back when (out of nowhere) it started raining like crazy.  We are talking torrential downpour.  So we booked it into a shop so we wouldn’t get soaked.  The street basically looked abandoned while it was raining.  All the people were hiding in the shops waiting for the rain to stop.  We hung around in the shop for a while and the rain looked like it was going to stick around for a while.  Tendra has some ponchos in her purse, so we stuck them on and headed out!

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Walking through the street in the rain was so fun.  The street looked like a river, and we were the only two people walking on it.  It was a memorable event for us.

When we got back to the hotel,  we met up with most of the others at Spice’ for lunch.  The men had returned from their fishing trip and were showing us the pictures:

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It really isn’t fishing season in Mexico right now.  That’s why all their fish are tiny.  This was the biggest and prettiest one that Kip caught.

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Neil’s “banana fish”…

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These three caught the same kind of fish at the same time.

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They had a good time.  I am glad they did because we were all a little worried that they wouldn’t catch a single fish since it really isn’t the time of year for fishing.

So after we ate lunch, we went to the hydrotherapy zone in the spa of our resort.  It is not co-ed, so Jess and I went to the ladies spa while the men went to theirs.  It was very pretty in there.  Three separate tubs with three different temps of water.  Plus a sauna and steam room and showers.  Also snacks and drinks.

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It was SOOO relaxing.  The farthest jacuzzi was scalding hot and fantastic.  I started sweating after a few minutes and so we got out.

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I met up with Neil at our hotel room, and he had done the same thing that Jess and I just did.  He was ready for a nap.  He cuddled up in the hammock and fell fast asleep.

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Two hours later…

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Yeah.  We are definitely getting a hammock for our backyard.

After Neil woke up from hibernation, we left for dinner.  We all couldn’t really decide where to eat for dinner, but we ended up at Pelicanos, which is another froo froo restaurant by the beach.  We had to get our frozen drinks of course.  Neil with his favorite, Chichen Itza, and me with my favorite, Sexy Mango.

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Me and Vick!

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I really liked the food at this place.  Neil and I both got really good steaks.

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Then we all went shopping on 5th Avenue (again!).  We were really doing more goofing off than shopping.  For example:

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It was pretty late by now and the shops were closing up for the night.  So we headed home to get some sleep.  We had an adventure planned for the following day!

Published by Sara on 02 Apr 2013

Mexico-Day 5

On Sunday, we slept in since we didn’t have any plans until 11:30.  We got up and moseyed over to the Albatros restaurant buffet at our hotel for breakfast.  After breakfast, Neil and I headed to the beach for some sunning and lounging.  Aahhh.  It was nice.  I got us some frozen drinks (again), called a Sexy Mango, which I think was my personal favorite.

After a while, we headed back to our room to clean up for church.  Alma’s company offers free rides to church on Sunday, and we all thought it would be a neat experience to go to church in another country.  In the meantime, Oscar was working with our hotel to see if we could please go back to The Royal.  Carter and Tendra ended up having puddles of water on their floor when they woke up, and it was quite a nuisance.  Long story short, they let us go back!  Yahoooo!!!  So we left it at that, and our ride came to pick us up.  It was Miguel’s dad, Miguel. 🙂

So we went to church, and it was very cool!  The church is the same everywhere you go.  So it was pretty much exactly like it is in America, only we couldn’t understand a word they were saying.  Except for Kip, he speaks Spanish.  And Oscar had a lady sitting next to him that was translating.

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After we got back to our hotel and Miguel was dropping us off, we got from him some pendants that had the Tree of Life carved on them.  This particular carving is on a huge stone off the coast of Mexico.  It is amazing!  It depicts Lehi’s vision.  You can see the Tree of Life, Lehi, Nephi, Sariah, Sam, Laman and Lemuel. You can see the river of water and the iron rod.  The similarities to Lehi’s dream are too obvious to be coincidence.  Here is an illustration of the original carving.  The stone was a few hundred miles away from where we were, otherwise I would have loved to see it in person.

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I was thankful to have a little one of my own.

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After Miguel dropped us off, we switched hotels!  We went back to the Royal and we were so happy!  We checked in, and then had lunch at Spice’, which was quickly becoming our favorite restaurant.  I took a few pictures of it to remember it by.

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Those turtles and the chicken and the snakes are made from bread.

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Aahhhh.  It was so nice to be back at the Royal.  After lunch, Neil went to go watch the guys play tennis on the roof.

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And I went to go lay on the beach.  The other ladies headed down the beach a ways for some beachside massages.

Heaven.

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When Neil was done watching tennis, we went to the pool area and got in the “hot” tub.  It was really more of of a warm tub.

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Then we went back to our room.  We had a hammock on our patio and it was super comfortable.  So we lounged in it for a while.

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Here is a view of the outside of the lobby area from our patio.

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We Skyped with relatives for a while after that.  Then we went back down to the lobby to meet our amigos for dinner.  Tonight we were going to dine at the Mediterranean restaurant.  Here is our waiter making an herb infused olive oil that we put on our gyro type bread.

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When the waiter asked us for our drink orders, most of us got either Chichen Itzas or Sexy Mangoes.  Carter wanted to order a Banana Sexy, but instead he asked the waiter if he had a sexy banana.  Lots of laughter after that comment!  I had the shrimp dish, which was small but fancy.  I think everyone else got steaks of some sort which I heard were very good.  We decided to forego dessert at this restaurant and go back to the Asian place for some more fried ice cream.

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And since it was Palm Sunday, here we are standing by a palm tree!

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It was a pretty laid back day.

Published by Sara on 02 Apr 2013

Mexico-Day 4

On day four (Saturday) we woke at about 6:30-we were supposed to check out of The Royal and go check back in at the Gran Porto.  They only gave us three days to stay at the Royal.  I think this is a clever trick that they like to pull, because most people will usually just pay to stay at the nicer place.  We weren’t going to be conned into paying extra money, so we packed up our things and took them down to check out.  We did beg them to let us stay there, but it was a no go.  So we were bummed, but heck, we got to stay there for free for three days so we shouldn’t complain.  Neil and I walked the grounds for a bit before meeting our buds for breakfast.

Also, I must make mention that my camera battery had died at this point and I was unable to find the charger.  So from here on out, they are either pictures I have gotten from the others, or they were taken with my phone.

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We got to eat one last breakfast at our favorite buffet (Spice’), and then grabbed our luggage and took it across the street to the Gran Porto.  And don’t get me wrong, the Gran Porto is also a very nice hotel.  We didn’t check in there quite yet.  We just left them with our luggage because we had an exciting excursion planned!  We were going to go to Cozumel to do some serious snorkeling!  We booked this trip ahead of time.  We were planning to snorkel by glass bottom boat, in three separate reefs at Cozumel.  One of the reefs has been noted as one of the most beautiful in the world!

We had to catch the ferry to take us to the island, and we walked the length of 5th Avenue to get there.  Here is the end of 5th, and the entrance to the ferry boats.

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The wind was very strong this day.  Snorkeling would have been impossible due to the waves in Playa, but the people said that in Cozumel the water would be nice and calm.  It looked gorgeous!

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So we got in line to board the ferry.  I saw this dude that looked like Keith’s twin!  I tried to get a pic of his front but didn’t want to look like a weirdo, but he even looks like Keith from the back!

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We got a seat on the ferry up on top, where we could feel the breeze.  Neil had to strap his hat to his chin so it wouldn’t blow off.

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I still cannot get over the color of this water!

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Getting a seat on the back by the edge turned out to be a bad idea.  The boat would hit the waves, and then the wind would blow the spray right in Tendra’s face!  She was pretty much soaked!  It was quite entertaining though, hearing her squeal every few minutes when the water would smack her in the face.  🙂 A nice man ended up switching seats with her so she could get some relief.

About 30 minutes later, our ride arrived in Cozumel.  Here is an example of the security we would see all over the place.

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We had to meet our snorkel guide at a restaurant called the “Money Bar”.  It was supposedly within walking distance so we took off walking down the beautiful street on the coast.

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It turned out (after asking many different people) that the Money Bar was definitely too far to get to by foot.  So we hopped in a taxi and drove a few miles to get there.  It was a beachside bar/restaurant with tables and loungers right by the water.  It was gorgeous.  Neil and I got some sun while the others ordered some food.

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We met some lovely people at the table behind us, and then discovered that they were from Meridian!  We became fast friends with them and talked with them for a long time.  Steve and Stacy, and Barb and Jamie.  Nicest people ever!

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After relaxing for a while, a man came up to us holding a sign that had my name on it.  We approached him and he told us that the authorities would not let them take the boat out to snorkel because of the wind.  He was very apologetic and refunded all of our money.  He also suggested other things that we could do instead.  Well crap!  Now what?  Well.  It turned out that our very nice new friends had all of their snorkel gear with them, and they insisted that we use it.  How crazy is that, that we were placed here with these people that saved the day for us?  And they planned on just sitting there on the beach for several more hours so we really were in no hurry.  They told us to snorkel for as long as we wanted.  We loved them!  Still love them!

So we got all geared up.  We didn’t get to snorkel in any reef areas, but we were thrilled that we got to snorkel at all.  We just jumped in the water right there where we were.

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Off we go!

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Holy moly, there were fish everywhere!!

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We took some crackers down with us, and they were swarming around!

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It was SO fun.  There is nothing like exploring the ocean.  My favorite thing to do was skim the bottom for seashells.  When I would find one I would dive down and get it.

After we got our fill of snorkeling, we dried off and said goodbye to our Meridian friends.  I have a feeling that we will see them again though. 🙂  We wanted to do some shopping in Cozumel, so we got back into a taxi and he took us into town.  The shopping in Cozumel was awesome.  The prices were better too.  While we were walking through town, we passed an old man with an ice cream cart.  He also had a parrot.  He could only say a few phrases; “I scream, you scream” and “no bite, no poop”..meaning that his bird didn’t bite or poop.  So we gave the old man a dollar and he let me take a few pictures with his bird.  Here he is taking a seed out of my mouth.

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Next to the bird man, Neil stopped to feed the pigeons.

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The streets here were very clean and pretty.

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So we shopped for a while and bought quite a few souvenirs.  Then we headed back to the ferry for our ride back to Playa.  Vicki and Oscar and Carter and Tendra caught the ferry first, but then it filled up and we had to wait for the next one.  We sat in the back again but this time the waves didn’t get us because the wind was blowing the other direction.

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When the boat pulled into Playa, it was still very windy.  The ferry had a very difficult time docking.  We were able to watch a crew member try to throw the rope over to secure the boat to the dock.  So he finally got the rope secure, only to watch is snap!  The rope snapping scared the guy so badly that he jumped backwards and stuck his foot into a bucket of water.  So then they had to get out the big daddy rope, it was the biggest rope I have ever seen.  Then they finally got the boat tied up and we had to walk over the little bridge that connected the boat to the dock and it was rocking like crazy.  It was very exciting.

When we were finally on solid ground, we walked back via 5th Avenue and did some window shopping along the way.  We got back to the Gran Porto and checked in there and got settled into our new room.  It was not as nice as our old room, but still had pretty much the same stuff in it on a smaller scale.  Smaller bed, smaller shower, smaller minibar.  We could deal with it.  It was just kind of a bummer because we were so spoiled at the Royal.  We would especially miss the restaurants!  But the Gran Porto did have two really nice restaurants, so we decided to try the Italian one for dinner.

While we were waiting to meet up with everybody, we stopped by the pool bar to get some more frozen drinks.  They didn’t have the same frozen drinks as the Royal, but they introduced us to some other delicious drinks!  One was called a Cabana, and the other was called Banana Sexy.  Both were delicious.  Our favorite drink of the trip so far though was called a Chichen-Itza and it was made over at the Royal.  Anyway, we ordered some drinks and then saw Vicki and Oscar and they came over and had drinks with us by the pool.  We were all totally starving at this point, so we were excited to go out and eat.  Tendra was especially hungry and it was so funny to watch her be so starving!  So we all got to the restaurant and ate.  I had zucchini bisque (not that good), a Caesar salad, and I honestly can’t remember my main dish.  Obviously it wasn’t something to write home about.  I remember it being yummy, but just can’t picture it.  Oh well.  Neil had the lasagna and loved it.

We had such a good time at this dinner.  It was a night I will always remember.  We talked and giggled, made fun of each other, and laughed until we had tears rolling down.  Sexy mangoes, belly buttons, funny shaped musical instruments.  We were just all in a really goofy mood and were dying of laughter.

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Then we were all very tired.  We had a long day in the sun.  My ears were so burned, and they were very sore this day.  So we headed back to our hotel and checked out the Mayan show they had going on.  It was live actors and I had no idea what they were trying to portray.  But it was pretty neat.

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Then we all went back to our rooms to hit the hay.

Published by Sara on 02 Apr 2013

Mexico-Day 3

On Friday morning, we woke up at 6am to get ready for our previously arranged tour of Mayan ruins with Alma’s LDS Tours.  We ordered room service for breakfast.  2 omelets, french toast, 2 bread baskets, and fresh squeezed OJ.  The only problem was that we didn’t order fast enough, so once it arrived we had to grab some and go.  We took the breads and I took my whole plate down to the lobby to meet up with our buddies.  At 7am, we met up with Miguel, our tour guide for the day.  He. was. AWESOME.  He was a younger guy of about 23 or 24, but he was smarter than all of us put together. 🙂 We hopped in our shuttle van and headed off!

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Miguel talked almost the whole time we were driving.  It was about 3 hours to our destination.  We drove on a lot of highways and saw a lot of Mexico.  There were huts all along the roads that looked like dumps, but people actually lived there!  Half built houses with grass roofs and such.  Very eye opening.  Miguel offered up all kinds of information about the economy of Mexico as we drove by, and also gave us info on the ruins that we were about to see.

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After a few hours in the van, we arrived at our first site.  Chichen-Itza!  One of the seven wonders of the world!  And it truly is a wonder!

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Neil has been shopping for a hat to keep the sun out of his face, and he finally picked up a sweet cowboy hat a few minutes after the above pics were taken.  He looked awesome in it. We took a potty break and then headed into the site.

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Miguel started right inside the gates with all sorts of fascinating information about the site.  Seriously, he was a wealth of information!

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And then we came upon the temple.

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One of the things about Chichen Itza that makes it so amazing is that inside the temple, there is another temple identical to the one seen here.  It is the exact same, only smaller and it does not touch the outer temple in any way.  How’d they do that?  I have no idea!  Another thing is that when you stand next to the temple and clap your hands, the sound that bounces back is the sound of a bird.  No kidding.  I tried to get the sound on video but you can’t hear it.  They engineered it that way.  The Mayan symbol for God is a bird-snake. How were they smart enough to figure all that out without computer drafting equipment and such?? That’s just a few reasons why this temple is so awesome.

Now, I must make mention of a few things (while standing on a soapbox).  🙂  What makes these lands even more exciting is that these ARE without a doubt, the lands of the Nephites and Lamanites from the Book of Mormon.  When you compare these lands to the lands of the BOM, the similarities are astonishing.  The time frames even meet up perfectly.  I wish I could remember all the things Miguel told us so that I could blow all of your minds.  🙂  These people clearly believed in three degrees of glory, and they believed in a “white bearded God,” which is odd since there were supposedly no white people in the area and none of the people had beards.  And also that this white bearded man came down from above and then went back up, promising to return again.  Strange?  Nope!  Makes perfect sense if you know what I know.

Moving on with some more cool pics.

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This is actually the front of the temple.  It is said that there should be teeth of obsidian and eyes of jade on this snake head that are long gone.  And if you would notice the box to the right of the snake.  Exactly the type of box that the golden plates were found in.  Made of stone with a rounded top.  These types of boxes are found all over the Yucatan.  They used them for holding sacred things.  Hmmmm!

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And here are the men, doing a very sloppy version of Warrior One in front of the Temple of the Warriors.  Another likeness to the BOM lies inside this temple.  There is a mural painted inside that shows a story of dark skinned people and light skinned people in constant conflict with each other.  This has always baffled Archaeologists, because they do not know of any light skinned people that ever lived in the area.  In the BOM, the Nephites were light skinned and the Lamanites were dark skinned.  The Nephites were eventually all wiped out due to constant war and wickedness.

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And the four pretty virgins (ha) in front of the Temple of the Virgins.

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This is the wall of dead warriors.  Very cool.  These are all of the warriors that won their yearly ball game and as a reward for winning, they got their head chopped off and their face carved onto the wall.  That’s basically the story in a nutshell.  🙂

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The great ball court.

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This is the Temple of the Bearded Man.  There is a carving of Him in the back.

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This concluded our visit of Chichen Itza.  We didn’t see ALL of the site because we were on a schedule.  We wanted to have a little time to shop, so we took about 20 minutes and visited the little shops set up along the walkway.  We haggled with the locals for some goods, and I got some obsidian turtles for the girls and a magnet of the Mayan calendar for myself.  Then we got in the van and headed off to have some lunch.

We went to a local buffet that was just down the road.  It was located inside an old hacienda of a Spanish conquistador.  The food was Mexican, which was great because we hadn’t had any real Mexican food yet.  It was very good.  The fried fish was my favorite (that doesn’t sound very Mexican, but it is!).  The pico de gallo was very spicy.  It made my lips hurt.

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We got back into the van at this point and headed to our next stop.  Cenote Ik Kil.  A cenote is a big hole in the ground filled with water.  There are underground rivers all over Mexico.  A cenote is where a part of an underground river collapses and leaves a big sinkhole.  They are very deep and are fresh water.  So we went off to go swimming in one!  Which was awesome because we were all very hot and sweaty.

We got there and took a peek over the edge into the beautiful hole.

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It is 90 or so feet underground, so we took a stairway down to the water level.

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There is a ledge about 20 feet high that you can jump off of.  Kip and I went first because we are clearly the bravest!  🙂  It doesn’t look that high from below, but when you are standing on that ledge it is pretty scary.  Scary fun!

The water was cool and refreshing.  Everyone did some sort of jumping.  Whether it was from the top or from the stairs, we were all brave and bold!

Here are Carter and Tendra jumping, Carter made Tendra go first and it was funny.  🙂

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From below looking up:

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After our swim, we headed to our last site, the city of Ek Balam.  Ek Balam is one of the newer sites discovered, and also one of the best preserved.  It isn’t even all the way uncovered yet.  There are still huge hills that have not been excavated that have temples underneath.  As we entered the site, we came across these Mayan dudes and had to get a picture.

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Standing by the outer wall.

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A baptismal font found in the sacred grounds.

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We got to climb on these ruins, so that was a cool bonus.  The Mayans tried to hide these sacred carvings found halfway up the temple by covering them with sand, that is why they are so well preserved.  A hurricane a few years back blew all of the sand and trees off and exposed all of this.  This next one is a story/history.  The stories always started with “and it came to pass”-a phrase that is found in the Book of Mormon over 1400 times.

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This guy is a guardian of the celestial area.  In order to enter the celestial realm, you would have to offer up a sacred hand symbol.

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Miguel told us all about these carvings and what they mean.  Again, the BOM likeness was amazing.  For example, here is a mural of light and dark people together.  This time, the light person is teaching the dark people.

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Then we finished climbing the temple and got to the top.  Here is the view from the top.

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A few of the ladies were woozy because we were up so high. 🙂

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At the bottom:

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By now the park was closing, so we had to get outta there.  We stopped by a few more buildings on our way out and saw the rooms where they would keep their sick people, the back side of the ball court, and a few other buildings.

Oscar pretending to be dead in the medicine room…

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We were all pretty pooped at this point.  We had a long drive ahead of us.  About halfway through our drive, Miguel took us through a traditional Mexican town, one where you could see the Spanish influence really well.  Cathedrals all over the place from where the Spanish made everyone convert to Catholicism.  We were going to stop for ice cream, but we ended up just heading back to our resort.

As we said goodbye to Miguel, he presented me with a gift since I was the one who booked the trip.  It is a Mayan glyph of the phrase “and it came to pass”  I was thrilled to receive it and I will cherish it forever!

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We stopped and had snacks at the snack bar before heading up to our room to get cleaned up.  We had reservations at the very fancy French restaurant at 9:30.  Before we headed there, we got some more frozen drinks at the bar.  Our dinner was very fancy.  I had some sort of tostada thingy as an appetizer, lobster bisque, some giant shrimp dish, and a big juicy prime rib.

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It was really good, although the service was slow and the waiter dumped a whole tray of drinks by our feet.  🙂  Then we headed to bed to get ready for another day in paradise.

Published by Sara on 01 Apr 2013

Mexico-Day 2

That night we got some much needed rest!  The bed was heavenly, and it was so nice to have all of those pillows!  We didn’t crank our A/C high enough though, so we woke up hot and sticky from the humid air.  We got ready and headed down to the lobby to see where we should eat breakfast.  The lobby waitress told us we should go downstairs, the food down there was different and spicy.  Well, ok!  So we went down there, but what the waitress really meant is that the restaurant NAME was Spice’ and that all the food was different (meaning it was a buffet).  We were happy with the restaurant either way!  An AMAZING buffet with the most delicious fresh squeezed orange juice.  You could get anything you wanted for breakfast.

Here’s my plate after I ate half of it!

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A note about the local people that worked at the restaurants and all over the resort.  They were SO NICE!  They were always smiling and joking with us.  The waiter this morning kept asking if we would like tequila with our breakfast.

After breakfast, we lubed up with sunscreen and headed to the beach for some relaxing and swimming!

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The first thing Carter and Tendra did was get some snorkel gear from the hotel guy and got in the water.

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See them way out there?

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The rest of us sunbathed and took lots of pictures.

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While I was lounging, a couple of dudes came up to me that had two Macaw parrots.  I was fascinated!  It was their job to take pics of the tourists with the birds and then have them pay a ridiculous price for the photos.  Luckily, Kip took a few pictures stealthily from behind so I ended up with one good photo of me with the birds.  I loved holding them!!  Neil got some pics with them too but they didn’t really turn out.

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Eventually, Neil and I got some snorkel gear and got in the ocean.  It was SO cool.  I wasn’t expecting to see so many fish!  They were everywhere!  I could have snorkeled all day.  Then we did some more lounging, and then decided we wanted to go para-sailing.  So we hopped on jet skis two at a time, and the jet ski guy drove us (rather fast) to a boat out in the water.

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Kip and Jess are not pictured above because they are currently flying in the air!  Now it is our turn!

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Off we go!

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There’s our resort!  And the beautiful town of Playa Del Carmen.

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It was really cool to see that beautiful blue water from above!

After flying through the air, we went back to our rooms to clean up and rest.  Neil fell asleep, and I wasn’t tired so I went around and explored the grounds.  I checked out the gift shop and 24 hour snack/game room, and also went to look at our parrot photos in the photo center.  When I got back, Neil was still passed out so I ordered room service.  I got a steak that came all beautiful with veggies stacked in a pyramid and fancy.  And chocolate cake and lemon cake.  🙂

When Neil woke up it was almost time for dinner.  We met our friends in the lobby and tried to decide which restaurant to try.  While we were thinking about it, we went down to the beach.  The sun was going down and looked beautiful!  So we got a few photos.

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We ended up going to Asiana,  the resort’s Asian restaurant.  I got the pork sautee and some sushi, and Neil got the chicken curry.  Both were very good.  But the best thing about this restaurant was the dessert!  We ordered ice cream and were pleasantly surprised when they brought it out and it was deep fried.  It was probably the best thing I ate the entire week.

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After dinner, we walked down to 5th Avenue.  5th Avenue is an amazing street with shops everywhere.  We had a lot of fun looking at all of the goods and picking up a few souvenirs.  I only brought my phone for pictures, so they aren’t very good, but you can see how pretty the street is.

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This is kind of crude, but there were dongs everywhere!  And yes I mean penises!  Carved ones, stone ones, clay ones on shot glasses, etc.  For example, see what Neil and Oscar have.  Like I said, crude.  🙂

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They also had t shirt shops all over that had funny sayings on them.  This one was everyone’s favorite…haha.

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Then we came across the Fish Spa!  I saw this while researching online and knew I wanted to try it.  You basically put your feet into a fish tank and the special fish exfoliate your feet by eating the dead skin.  First, the worker guy scrubs all the lotion and sunscreen off your feet.

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And here is a pretty priceless photo of how it feels when you first stick your feet in!

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The feeling is hard to explain, but mostly it felt like electricity!  The little fish felt like tiny vibrations all over my feet.  It was one of the strangest feelings I have ever felt.  We enjoyed it though!

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Then we did lots more shopping.

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Mountain Dew is hard to find in Mexico.  But we came across a store that had some!  So the three Dew fanatics paid a crazy price for three Dews and we enjoyed them thoroughly.

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After we shopped, we started to walk back to the resort.  We came across a mariachi band, and Oscar asked the guy if he could borrow his guitar/ukulele thing so he could sing the Nacho Libre song.  It was quite comical.

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Then we headed home for bed.  But first we stopped by the snack bar for some snacks (we were not hungry…but hey we’re on vacation).

While we were out, the turn-down service had come.  This is where they fold your bed down for you and set your robes and slippers out.  They also give you chocolates and light an aromatherapy candle.  Aahhh.

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We were very tired.  We got a lot of sun this day.  My ears were burned to a crisp, and my chest was a little red too.  I could not even lay my head on my ears because they were so burned.  Who thinks to put sunscreen on their ears?  Other than that, we fell asleep quickly and had a wonderful rest.

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