Tuesday, July 19, 2011

beauty and the beach

This was our second summer to enjoy three nights and four days in Mexico. Last year we went with friends and had a lot of fun in Playa Del Carmen. This year we went alone and enjoyed our vacation in Cozumel - despite the rain, lack of resort entertainment and terrible food. Thank goodness that together, we can make things fun and entertain ourselves. It's such a beautiful place and there's no place I'd rather be enjoying this hot, amazing atmosphere with than Joey. We come from an action-packed life so a slow down definitely didn't hurt us.

The first night was the only sunset that we were able to enjoy and it was still a little cloudy. I was disappointed not to get sunset pictures but we made up for it in Florida. We enjoyed our last night walking along the beach and spending time in the lounge chairs listening to the peacefulness of the ocean and talking about our past, present and future. So many things to remember, so much fun we've had and the best part of that conversation was that we have so much to look forward to and there's a lot more fun where that came from.

On Saturday afternoon, it didn't seem the rain was going away and Joey's scuba diving trip was cancelled so we rented a jeep to tour the island and headed into downtown Cozumel. It was the one thing I promised my mom we would not do, leave the resort. But, we did and we made it back alive. We had a late lunch at Senor Frogs and were graciously given (for a tip) balloon hats.

This was our resort, which was a very nice resort but very uneventful and the food was awful. You live and learn. We learned that we won't be going back here and kind of decided that we were done with Cozumel. It'll be fun to find somewhere new to go next summer.

Another rainy day, another trip downtown. My side of the jeep had leaks and a flooded floor board. Ha! I held my feet up and used a swim towel to catch the drips. There was never a dull moment in this ride. We laughed a lot. Back in the market of shops we found a few that were open on Sunday - the goal was to find shirts. At Pirana Joe's, Joey bought me a wooden ring. I was a happy girl. We ate lunch at a mexican place, where there was barely enough overhead to keep us from getting wet when the rain started pouring down. And all I could think about was how far off we parked. We got a bit of exercise in as we "trotted" back to the jeep. We left the shopping and went back to the resort with enough time to rest, get dressed up and make our dinner reservations.

I just can't say it enough how much this boy means to me. I never knew that I could be so happy, enjoy life so much and that my heart could continue to grow with love every day. We've been together for 14 months and I can honestly say that I have never been happier or more in love. We learn from our mistakes and sometimes it's not until we have what we have never had that we realize what we were missing. He's filled my life with complete joy and I am so thankful for where we are and that I have him in my life. He's good for me and he's good for my kids.

I count my blessings every single day...

sunset on the beach

There's nothing prettier than a sunset on the beach.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

PC Beach 2011

Day 1: We left Crandall at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 5th - a day sooner than planned. At the last minute I had to go and get a rental van due to issues with my SUV. This was the best thing that could've happened for four kids, two grown-ups and a 14 hour drive. There was plenty of room for the kids and space for the luggage, snacks and beach toys. We loaded up with four of the five kids (Matt rode with the other group). I started out driving and drove for six hours; trust me, there was plenty of entertainment and when Joey went to sleep, I enjoyed the think time - thankful for how far we've come and all there is to look forward to. Our plan was to drive until midnight and then we would just stop, wherever we were and stay for the night. At midnight we ended up in a remote area with no hotels in sight for over an hour. And then the Best Western and Super 8 that we did find only had two queen beds and that wasn't enough bed space for the five of us. We drove on to Mobile, Alabama where we found a Comfort Suites that had two queen beds and a sofa bed - perfect. We grabbed our carefully-planned-out overnight bag for the five of us and crawled right into bed for the chance to stretch out and sleep.

Day2 (Wednesday): After a night of rest, we had to get up and get moving on Wednesday morning. We slept through breakfast and had an hour and twenty minutes for six showers until checkout. We made it with 18 minutes to spare. After a quick stop at McDonald's, we were faced with about five hours until reaching our final destination. We made a stop at Pensacola Beach to get our toes in the sand. The plan was for no one to get wet and/or sandy but five of us (including me) broke the rule. It was too hot not to just dip a foot or two in the water. We grabbed our towels, dusted off the sand and loaded back up. (In the meantime, I realized that I left my special ring at Comfort Suites, I was so sad and calling them every 30 minutes to see if they found it, no such luck. I was heartbroken. I thought about not telling Joey but I did.) We left Pensacola and continued heading east, via the scenic route along the coast (until it got too time consuming). We finally made our way into Panama City about 3:00, perfect timing for check-in. We found our condos, found a luggage cart and headed straight up to the 7th floor to settle in and unpack before heading to the beach. The condo was perfect: 2 master bedrooms, a room with two full beds and a bathroom and then a sofa queen bed in the living room. Kayla and Ashlyn were not too happy about not having their own room but they got over it. We shared our dressers, closets (which is where they always closed the sliding doors and changed) and bathroom with them. While unpacking, I FOUND MY RING - oh happy day!!

We spent some time at the beach, left the kids with Joey and Billy while Lisa, Ashlyn and I went to the grocery store to get spaghetti, garlic bread and salad stuff for dinner. We cooked dinner, everyone ate good and Joey and Billy cleaned the kitchen. After cleaning and stuff, the girls headed to the hot tub and the boys went crabbing. It was a perfect ending to a long couple of days in the car and made the ride worthwhile.

Day 3 (Thursday): After Billy cooked us a big breakfast, we spent the rest of the morning on the beach - the boys could not get enough snorkeling. They were face down in the water all morning long. Around lunch time, we decided to go to St. Andrew's park, which was right next door, to go to a place called "Shell Island". We headed into town to eat pizza but somehow ended up in the McDonald's drive-thru AGAIN. This is when Joey and I decided to ban it for the rest of the trip. We ate in the car made it to the park but not in enough time to catch a ferry and spend time at the island, so we decided to wait until the next day. We drove through the park, stopping at one trail, which led to an alligator. I was scared to death - the alligator could have just come out of the water and had us for lunch. Joey taunted it of course, thankfully it just went under water. We left the park and went back to the condo. The kids went to the beach and the pool, I watched and worked on pictures from the balcony and Joey napped. When he got up he joined me on the balcony, enjoying the view. A little bit later he asked me if I wanted to go take sunset pictures with him. Of course! I threw on some clothes, we talked Lisa into being the photographer and into the sunset we went. It kind of made up for the ones we didn't get (due to all the rain) in Cozumel. Everyone has certain things that they hope to get to do on vacation, for me it's getting some good pictures to capture the memories. I am so thankful that he takes a genuine interest in the things that he knows makes me happy.

A bit later, Joey and Billy went to buy groceries for dinner and we ended up with frozen pizzas :)We cooked the pizzas, fed the hungry kids and then sent them back on their way for another night of crabbing. (Joey took the girls to teach them how and he quickly realized that girls are not his "cup of tea" -they ask too many questions and don't have any common sense - stepping into the light and talking nonstop. haha!)

Day4 (Friday): Happy 13th birthday to Dawson! The plan was to get up early and go to Shell Island but the rain allowed for a little more sleep and unfortunately, a lot more seaweed. We went back to the state park, bought tickets to go to the island, waited in line for the shuttle bus, the shuttle bus took us to the ferry and the ferry unloaded us on the island. It was a long walk in the sand to where Billy and Lisa had already set up camp. It was cloudy so the heat wasn't unbearable but it was still hot. I wasn't willing to get in the water - it was covered in seaweed. I put my feet in to cool off but it wasn't in good enough condition for me to swim. The boys took off in their snorkel gear because there was supposed to be a bigger variety of fish here. Most of them were ready to go when Lisa and I were, a couple hours later. Joey, Clayson and Billy stayed and we left. Back at the condo we rinsed off in the pool, warmed up pizza and ate salad. The kids were in and out - between the beach, the pool and the bed. Joey, Billy and Clayson got back a few hours later. We made plans to go ride go carts and have a crab dinner for Dawson's birthday. The kids (except Ashlyn) rode on the big, three story, wooden track. After that they got in "bubbles" and played in the water. From there, Joey and I took all of our gang, except Trey, to the souvenir store across the street while the rest rode go carts one more time. From here, we went to a place called "Billy's" for dinner. On the five minute trip here, the kids were outta control - arguing, whining, picking, etc. so Joey told them to meet them behind the van for a talk. The "bumper talk" consisted of him telling them to straighten up, how we expected them to act and this all led to assigned seats for the remainder of our trip.

We sat down for dinner, ordered drinks and appetizers and then find out that they don't have crab. I am chosen to speak to the manager, which landed us free drinks and the opportunity to go somewhere else. Since it was so late, we ended up at an IHOP way across town (ten miles is a long way when you are hungry). They were frazzled when I told them that there were 13 in our group. We ended up with three tables - a girl's table, a boy's table and a grown-up's table. I had to turn teacher on them - as they were loud and proud. There were given three rules: don't talk across tables, $10 food limit, inside voices. It was calm for the most part, a stern warning here and there reminded them that they needed to straighten up. It took forever to get our food. A waitress enjoyed flirting with Dawson, which riled Lisa up. One of our waitresses was brand new - we broke her in. And, the manager was a part of our service. The night finally ended and we headed back to the condo for some rest. It was a long (but good) day.

Day 5 (Saturday): We were all moving a little slow - it had been action packed until today. We slept late, no one was in a hurry to get to the beach or in the water, we didn't really know whether we wanted to eat a big lunch or a big dinner (to make up for the crabless night last night). We decided to head into Destin and go to Fudpucker's. This was an hour ride - boys in one car, girls in the other. At Fudpucker's we got pictures with an alligator, strolled through the souvenir shop and finally got seated. This meal got expensive quick - Clayson and Matt ordered alligator tail, the girls and Trey ordered off the kid's menu, I ordered fried pickles and Joey ordered a platter. When it was all said and done, we didn't have much food left. It was a good late lunch. From the table, we went out and let the kids feed the alligators before heading back. It was hot!! The drive back was awful, we ended up on the scenic route - full of red lights, all the way back.

Three kids said their stomachs were hurting so Lisa and Billy went into town to get medicine and we rested. As soon as the sun started to set, we made them all mad and took them down to the beach for group sunset pictures. No one was in the mood, not even me. But, I wasn't willing to waste the opportunity and regret it forever. (this collage wouldn't load - grrrr) So, we suffered through 15 miuntes of pictures and came back to the room, where Billy and Lisa bought crab and fixens for dinner.

Billy agreed to cook and keep the kids while Joey, Lisa and I ran to the souvenir shop and to get some mustard. Upon finding out that the shops were open until midnight and knowing this would be a fun part of their trip, we decided to just bring the kids back to let them do their own shopping after dinner. They were happy about this.

We ate, cleaned up the stinky kitchen and then headed to some stores. They just don't get the concept that a souvenir should say Panama City - a turtle, a knife, junk were not an option. At 11:30 - an hour of "shopping", we realized how thankful we were that they closed at midnight - just 30 more minutes...

The kids went to bed, Joey and I went out on the balcony to enjoy the moonlight and the sound of the ocean. It was a peaceful ending to a somewhat crazy day.

Day 6 (Sunday): Homeward bound! I don't think there was anything that I regretted more about this trip than the ride there and the ride back. We left at 8:00 sharp, right on schedule. It was Krispy Kreme for breakfast, Arby's for lunch and McDonald's for dinner. We made it home in 14 hours and I came to the conclusion that the thirty minute trips around town were much more trecherous than the long hours in the car. The kids were SO good on the way there and on the way home - there wasn't even a need for another bumper talk ...

We had a fantastic week at the beach. I hope that this becomes a summer tradition. I love Joey, I love his kids, I love my kids and there's no better way to spend a summer vacation than with those you love most...Memories are a way of holding onto things you love and the things that you never want to lose.

We made memories to last a lifetime.