Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Renovation Hell & Mexico Heaven

Disclaimer: This is a long post. Really long. It has taken me a month to go through pictures and get it written. I apologize in advance. lol

Renos are tough. We've been pretty focused on them since the middle of January, in an attempt to get our house ready to put up for sale & take advantage of the spring market. It's so hard to get done all the stuff we usually do, in addition to what ended up being a full time renovation job on top of it all. Since January, our home has felt like a place of constant dust & mess, our kitchen has become a tool storage area, because I was so busy, I stopped preparing my usual healthy meals, our kids spent a lot of time in front of the tube. Mr. Q now knows the theme song from Jake and the Neverland Pirates by heart.

The TV was the babysitter for 6 weeks of their short little lives. Sad, I know. The chaos was really affecting my mental health. You know that feeling when you've been going too hard for too long and the light at the end of the tunnel seems much too far away? That's how I felt. Then, a little seed of happiness popped into our lives. My parents told us that they wanted to take us all to Mexico for a week in mid April. At that point, it was a month away. We were all so excited! I desperately wanted to finish the renos before we left so we could get it up for sale & I could just relax and not worry about my to-do list anymore. It's only me with this problem, Matt wouldn't be worried while we were gone. I started working overtime on the house, dragging my poor husband along for my crazy ride. We stayed up 'till midnight or later night after night, followed by a hot shower & finally collapsing in bed exhausted (with sopping wet hair). I had this countdown to our week of relaxing in the back of my brain, but I couldn't have a moment of peace before then, not unless the renos were finished. The week came for us to go on our vacation, I had worked myself non-stop but was unable to get it all pulled together in time. I felt like I had failed to accomplish my self-imposed (unrealistic) goals, and instead of being proud of all the things we had accomplished, I was disappointed in being unable to get more done. This is a real big personality flaw of mine. I recognize it, and it drives me bonkers. I worked on the house until noon on Friday and then started packing (for 5 people...) for our flight that we had to be up at 2am Saturday morning to catch. Crazy, I know. We went shopping for t-shirts and shorts in the early evening and were at the mall until it closed. We finally had the suitcases packed and waiting by the door at 1am. No point in sleeping at that point, right?
The flight there was pretty uneventful. The girls like to colour and Mr. Q slept most of the way. I was exhausted and slept on and off between trips to the teeny tiny bathroom that is not designed for a mom to bring her little children into. The super sonic toilet flush is pretty terrifying to a 3 year old. Our kids, I must admit, were angels on the plane. We received many compliments from other passengers on their good behavior. Makes a mama proud.
We stepped off the plane at PVR and the heat & humidity was almost shocking (in a really good way!). We went from a weather forcast with a snowfall warning, to beautiful, tropical sunshine. It was wonderful.
We stayed at the Friendly Vallarta resort. We went up to our room and stepped out on the balcony to see the most gorgeous view.
Stunning, no? We spent a week as a family, enjoying each other, the weather, the water, the break. It was perfect. My parents, my sister &  her family, my brother & his wife, and another brother all went together. There were 16 of us total. Another brother and his wife were not able to come as they are expecting twin baby girls soon and couldn't travel. Often, someone mentioned that they wished they were with us. Hopefully next time there will be 20 (or more??) of us.
When we arrived, we almost immediately got changed into our swimsuits, slathered on the SPF 3000 and sunhats and went swimming right away. The pool had a little kids area that was only about 18" deep or so and there was a ledge around most of the pool that the kids were comfortable walking on.
There were many trips to the little cabana that had the slushy drinks. The food/drink servers were outstanding. You never went too long without someone bringing you something yummy. All-Inclusive is definitely the way to go. It was SO nice not having to prepare meals or clean up. I kept reflecting on that several times each day. It makes for a true vacation. As we are teetotalers, the non-stop alcohol wasn't an enticement, but once we told the waiters we don't drink, they remembered who we were and said, "No-alcohol, right?" whenever we'd order a drink. That's great service.
Before church on Sunday, we went for a walk along the beach together. The girls wanted to stick their toes in. Miss C. got pretty wet. I was randomly asked to play piano at church. It was interesting to play these Spanish hymns, because even though the tunes were mostly the same, the notes were slightly off from what I'm used to because the translation of the hymns didn't necessarily allow for the same number of notes in each measure. I don't know if the musical terms are correct, but it was just a bit off.
We had a quiet afternoon. Mr. Q had fun building sand castles with his cousins. He always sticks out his tongue when he is concentrating on something.
Quick break from playing to have a cuddle with Grandma.
Tuesday, we went on a fun excursion with the whole gang. It was a day long Pirate ship voyage & was really different and fun. Grandma and Papa had been before and wanted to take the grandkids. This was taken during breakfast in the ships galley.
We sailed across the bay to this beautiful beach with gorgeous clear water where we took an hour or two to play on the beach. The water was so nice. Little Miss C loves the waves pushing her back to shore.
Awe. I love that guy.
On the beach, the pirates had a treasure hunt lined up for the kids. They had to follow clues on a map & eventually unearthed the buried treasure. That was one of the highlights of the trip for the kids. They are still talking about it regularly a month later.
Thanks, dude in the green shirt, for joining our family picture... lol

Miss A was wiped out from all the sun the day before. I think she had a dose of heat exhaustion. We mostly just kept her out of the sun and drinking a lot of water. The only thing she really wanted to participate in was the treasure hunt. Poor sweetie. Thank goodness she was fine the next day.
We spent Wednesday at the Puerto Vallarta Zoo. The entire place is almost like a huge petting & feeding zoo. You can get really close to the animals (my brother-in-law was licked by a giraffe...) but I'd have to say that I found the conditions deplorable. The alligators were in these tiny puddles of water, the hippos had a hot tub worth of dirty water to sit in, the pens had next to no vegetation, just concrete. I'm not an activist, but to me, it was sad. To my kids, however, it was the coolest thing ever. They loved feeding the animals & didn't notice the conditions at all. I wouldn't go back.
We spent the next day hanging out at the pool for the most part. The kids had so much fun playing with their cousins. We made sure they kept their hats and reapplied sunscreen several times. I didn't want to deal with kids complaining about sunburn pain.  I laid in the shade of a big umbrella, reading the Septimus Heap series listening to the kids laugh and splash and play for most of the day. It was so perfect.
Later that night, my parents were so kind to watch the kids while Matt & I went to the Rythms of the Night, along with my brother and sister-in-law. It was probably the highlight of the trip for me. It starts off with an hour long catamaran ride to Las Caletas, where you eat a really nice meal on the most stunning beach. After supper, we had a while to walk on the beach & enjoy the stunning scenery. Then, there was the open air show of music, dance and pyrotechnics. I'd describe it as Mayan history meets Cirque du Soleil, in the middle of a gorgeous beach and jungle. After the show, you follow the candle/torch lit paths back to the boat where you travel back to Puerto Vallarta. It was well worth the price & I'd do it again in a flash if given the chance. :)

While in the cab, traveling home from the zoo, my dad asked Miss A what her favorite animal was, expecting her to say hippo or giraffe or some other animal that she had just seen. Without hesitation she replied, "Dolphins!!" I had been toying with the idea of taking her to swim with the dolphins, but her reply pretty much cemented in my mind that I was actually going to take her. Friday, Miss A & I were able to have a most memorable mommy daughter date. The dolphins name was Angel. He is 8 years old. His skin is super smooth and not at all slimy. Angel was very well trained, and Miss A seemed to be comfortable with him, but she wouldn't let him kiss her.  Before bed tonight, Miss A was looking at a picture of her and Angel pinned up on her magnet board in her room and she said, "I miss Angel."  It was awesome to see Miss A so super excited and grinning. I'm so glad we went. :)

The next day was the day we traveled home. Our kids were again really great on the plane. When we arrived at the airport here, it was snowing... on April 20th. I wasn't impressed, but I could deal with it.

This trip was a wonderful break from all the renos we have been working on. I really, really needed to relax, and this vacation was like hitting a reset switch. I am truly grateful to my parents for their generosity and kindness. We have such fun lasting memories our family can share, and it's because of this trip. To be honest, Mexico was never a destination that I really wanted to go to. It seemed like such a typical place that everyone and their dog goes to. I thought I would prefer somewhere more exotic, like Hawaii or Tahiti, but I have to say it was the most awesome vacation ever! I guess I don't have anything to compare it to, but it doesn't matter. It was fun. It was relaxing. It was a week of heaven with people I love. Thanks mom and dad. We love you!

We had our house up for sale 8 days after we got home from Mexico.
We got an offer after 5 days and after we negotiated a bit it sold the next day. They did the property inspection and all conditions were removed on Mother's Day. What a huge weight lifted!
It's been a whirlwind of change.
We packed up one of our best friends, Leah, on Saturday for her new life across the country, and we are moving as well this coming Saturday. As my mother and father-in-law are serving a mission in the Ukraine, they had an empty house we are taking over for a while. We are truly grateful to them for providing us a home.

Life is busy, but good. I'm living a wonderful life. I try to see the good and count my blessings everyday... kick me if you hear me complain. :)