Christmas in Playa del Carmen 2018

Once again we were able to talk Santa into meeting us in Mexico.  We celebrated Christmas for about an hour and then enjoyed seven days together as a family in one of our favorite places. 

Rosewood Mayakoba was such a great place to return to.  It’s the kind of place where everyone knows your kids’ names and it feels like a big family.  Upon arrival, we rode a little boat through the lagoon to our room while looking for baby crocodiles.  From there, we tried to slowly inhale each breath of warm, humid air.

We chased butterflies and found flowers on our way to breakfast… after the kids had already jumped in the pool.  We took walks to the beach through the “jungle” where we saw coatis (a Mexican critter that’s kind of like a raccoon).  The beach had an endless amount of seashells for Johnny to find which was his main focus most days.  He dug so hard in the sand that his fingertips were raw.  Charlotte oversaw daddy’s sand castle construction site where she cracked the whip on all of us – we successfully built a pretty awesome Christmas tree in the sand.  Lunch time consisted of nachos, hot dogs, and quesadillas on the beach.  I think we applied sunscreen seven times a day and got pretty good at it, but the kids never liked it.  Our dinners were filled with delicious food and a relaxed ambiance… so relaxed that Johnny fell asleep at every dinner or maybe he was just wiped from the sun, pool, and sand.  We didn’t mind.  It’s a good sign of Mexico.  

We left Rosewood a couple times to explore.  Our first outing was a boat trip along the coast by Tulum where we were able to snorkel and see a sea turtle, stingray, and moray eel.  Charlotte and daddy explored farther to see a starfish and a few more strange ocean creatures.  Our kids (and us) were blown away with this amazing Wild Kratts episode brought to us by Mexico.  Afterward, we relaxed and enjoyed a lovely lunch and Johnny fell asleep once again on my lap as we sailed back to Playa.

Our second outing was to swim with dolphins.  We’ve done this before but it’s been a couple of years so Johnny had mostly forgotten.  We were awestruck with these amazing creatures.  Our faces tell the story much better than words (below).  I think Johnny and Charlotte do an excellent job of bringing out our curiosity or amazement or maybe just our inner child.  It’s a beautiful thing to experience life with these brave kids.

To sum up, we had a blast and still really like the idea of Mexico for Christmas.  There are more moments and warm fuzzies than words and pictures can ever explain, but are felt deep down.  We hope these are building blocks for our kids and us.  Each day together is a gift and that is all John and I will ever want for Christmas.

Things to remember:  Alebrijes, bike rides, dinner in the garden, Wolfy and Chiquita, Charlotte making sushi, Big Boom, the rain storm, Sebastian the iguana, dolphin foot-push, stock market crash, Coco on the beach, two magical kids.

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Below are the dolphin pictures (I had a hard time eliminating):

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Arkansas

Little Rock, Arkansas has our hearts in every way.  We were lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving with Uncle Roy and Aunt Patrice in this lovely, heart-felt place where the woods are deep and the people are abundantly warm.  It’s strange how time can slow down and the edge wears off… I wonder if the south holds this virtue or maybe it’s just Roy and Patrice.

John loved showing the kids where he grew up, went fishing, and looked for critters.  John, Roy, and Johnny disappeared often looking for anything that moved.  Charlotte and Patrice were able to work on knitting pot holders and preparing Thanksgiving dinner while talking about all the things that matter.  I was a grateful bystander witnessing depth and goodness in every way.  As I always say… please slow it down.  There’s a magic that exists in Little Rock and especially with Roy and Patrice.  I hope we can put a stone of it in our pocket until next time.

Things to remember:  The Little House, bird watching, breakfast next door, Ozark Outdoor Supply, salamanders, Pinnacle Mountain, Roy’s place, beehives, Leawood, Timothy, yoga room, hummus, corn hole, woods, critters, fall leaves, Big Damn Bridge, Thanksgiving, Charlotte losing a tooth eating brussels sprouts, family, gratitude.

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Paris 2018

The nights were long and the days were short and our souls were filled with the love and romance only Paris holds.

I met John for a quick four day weekend in Paris sans children.  We used our adult superpower plan of staying on Utah time which meant we stayed up until 3 am and slept until noon.  We saw the city of lights come alive at night and talked for hours over dim candlelight while enjoying delicious food and amazing wine.  Our love grew deeper for each other and for this city.  Thank you, Paris.

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Ginger and Nashville

After much anticipation, we welcome our new baby girl, Ginger.  It’s been years in the making… finally Priscilla has a sister and we all have a new puppy.  For those of you that know our history of labs from Memphis, you may remember we started with Elvis (RIP), have had Priscilla for about 7 years, and are now adding Ginger.  If you want to see the connection, Google “Elvis, Priscilla, Ginger” – it’s interesting.

Charlotte and I were happy to hop on a plane last October to pick up our sweet baby girl.  We landed in Nashville and had a fabulous girls’ night out.  The next morning we woke up early to drive to Memphis where we were able to meet Ginger and see where she and Priscilla are from.  The cotton fields were blooming and puppies were stealing our hearts.  We barely made it back to Nashville to get Ginger on our flight home to Utah.  The rest is history… (and puppies are hard).  We love you, Ginger.  img_3036img_3033img_3028img_3024img_3018img_3010img_3003img_3002

Kauai, Hawaii

My brother decided to have a destination wedding… we quickly said yes.

We did Kauai in four days and three nights.  Maybe it was our lack of sleep or maybe the island is truly mesmerizing.  Either way, we left in awe and wanting more.  We saw the sunrise every morning, did our first helicopter ride, rode a catamaran along the Napali coast, caught an octopus (and let it go), saw dolphins swimming free and in the wild, tried to catch crabs, lost a tooth, woke up before another sunrise, fell asleep before dinner was over, and loved every second.

Most importantly, we were able to witness and celebrate love and marriage in a majestic setting where Charlotte was a flower girl and Johnny was a ring bearer and where true love was felt by everyone.  We were honored to attend such a special event and can’t wait to see the life these two create together.  Congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Jackson.

And, Kauai, we will be back soon, I hope.

Things to remember:  Johnny sleeping through the helicopter tour of Kauai and Charlotte on the microphone; Charlotte getting the dance party started; water slide; catching a gecko and having it lose its tail; family time; the redeye home.

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Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam was a pure delight… seven beautiful days together as a family and enjoyed every minute.  There was so much to do, eat, and see.  It’s hard to summarize or even pick our highlights, but I will do my best.

It started with our wonderful hotel, the Pulitzer.  They arranged an adorable family suite where the kids had a special room and personalized pillowcases.  One of our favorite experiences was a canal ride on Pulitzer’s salon boat from 1909.  The most charming captain gave us a tour of the city while we enjoyed lunch and drinks on this iconic boat.  It was a great way for all of us to get a little history lesson and soak in the city.

Another highlight of the trip was definitely the bikes.  We rented two bikes for several days and pedaled around the city like locals.  The kids got to ride in a cart on the front of John’s bike and I was the official navigator staring at Google maps as we tried to not run into a car or a canal.  It was so fun to hear the kids singing songs and laughing behind me, but poor John had double the work load.  We hopped around town to several different parks, the zoo, restaurants, and even ventured out of town on the last day.  John was definitely ready to turn in those bikes after we made it all the way back to the bike shop, up hill and without a paddle.

A day I want to remember is when we biked to the “I amsterdam” sign.  It was a hot and sunny day.  We got a wild family selfie seen below.  We also tried to see the Van Gogh Museum but the wait time exceeded our kids’ attention span.  I took a picture of Charlotte and Johnny out front so they could tell their teachers they made it to the Van Gogh Museum 🙂  I also recorded them on the “I amsterdam” sign saying our traditional Europe line of “Charlotte and Johnny in [said city]”.  This one was extra funny as Johnny continued to call it “Hamsterdam”.  I still laugh every time; a moment I want frozen forever.

Now onto the tulips… we were lucky enough to catch the tulips a few days before the season ended.  We went to Keukenhof, the largest flower garden in the world, and it was spectacular with tulips as far as the eye could see.  When our kids maxed out on tulips, there was plenty to do with playgrounds, ponds, ice cream cones, etc.  We can now take ‘tulips in Holland’ off our bucket list.

One evening on our way to dinner we decided to walk by the Anne Frank House.  Charlotte had just turned 6 when we took this trip so we tried to keep this part of history age-appropriate.  We took her picture in front of the Anne Frank statue where flowers are laid everyday.  It was a heavy reminder for all of us to realize what bad people can do and to always stand up for what is right.  I think Charlotte got it and can hopefully reflect on Anne Frank’s example throughout her life.

On a much lighter note was our day spent at Efteling.  This place was like a Dutch version of DisneyLand (actually DisneyLand is an American version of Etfeling) minus the obvious brands and crowds.  It was enchanting with a creepy twist that felt like the setting of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.  There were thrilling rides and great food.  Charlotte and Johnny loved it!  I have a feeling we will be back someday when they are tall enough for the big rollercoasters.

To sum up, I already want to go back.  Amsterdam provided everything from a cultural standpoint to perfect weather and an abundance of family bonding throughout.  We will always have fond memories of this trip.   

Things to remember:  Charlotte sleeping until 11 am the first day, playing Star Wars in the garden, Captain Ohno, breakfast with over-easy eggs, Moana neckless, endless cappuccinos, dinner at L’Invite on the canal, the bike shop, church bells ringing, a new child monitor app, iPads at dinner, dinner at Aggassi, girl hit on a bike, van ride to Efteling while playing hang man, dinner at Venus & Adonis, Johnny falling asleep on my lap at every dinner, girl dressed in bread for the birds in Dam Square, finding a souvenir, our family together on an island in Amsterdam… be still my heart.

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Punta Mita – Spring Break 2018

We followed our heart and took a last minute trip to our favorite spot for spring break.  It was a quick trip but we sufficiently warmed up our bodies and souls!  From the long walks on the beach to a family surf session with lots of delicious food and pool time in between, our family was in Mexico heaven.  This place fills us up with a special kind of magic that makes us love deeper, believe in mermaids, and feel pretty damn lucky to be alive.  Cheers to Punta Mita and all of the memories our family has created in this special place.

Things to remember:  Johnny surfing for the first time, massages at the W, Charlotte running into a friend from school, the surfers below, Johnny saying “oh yeah”, the chef’s margaritas, the hammock, Yolanda and Evelyn, Johnny’s rollover.

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