Sunday, October 15, 2017

Riviera Maya Family Vacay

It feels a little bit weird to be writing about our family vacation to Mexico in hindsight because we've literally been planning this for years. My parents are members of the Karisima resort group which gives them discounted access to resorts all over the world. Their favorite spot is the Riviera Maya area, which I can't complain about since it's less than a 2 hour flight from Houston. Honestly, we couldn't drive to 95% of Texas in the time it takes to fly to Mexico so it's a super easy trip to paradise. 

The resort we stayed at was Generations Riviera Maya which is nextdoor to El Dorado Casitas and Royale resorts. 

While the adults all had access to the three resorts, Generations was the only kid-friendly site so Forest was stuck there. Fortunately, they had a Kid's Club where we could drop him off, and he absolutely loved it which gave us a lot of freedom. Seriously, each morning we'd ask if he wanted to go to the beach or swimming or to Kid's Club and he chose Kid's Club every single time. On our final day, we asked what his favorite part of Mexico was and he said, you guessed it, Kid's Club. He's already too cool to hang out with his parents all day.

The only negative was that the resort was very loud and had more of a party atmosphere than a family-friendly vibe.  

The music was bumping from naptime til way past bedtime which made it stressful with our still napping, early-bedtime guy. Fortunately my parents had an apartment suite with a wall separating the party pool from the living room, and they graciously allowed Forest to sleep in there so that he could get his much needed rest. It worked because he took some serious 'wammer-jammer' naps (his term) and even slept in most mornings. Thanks for allowing that sleeping arrangement, Mom and Dad! It really saved the trip for us!

As it happened, the stars all aligned in our schedules to go to Mexico the week of my mom and I's birthdays so we had a big celebration, including a private bar-b-que dinner on the pier over looking the ocean. My birthday consisted of a sunrise run, a few hours on the beach with Forest before a couples massage with Jonathan and a private dinner with my family. 

It kind of set the bar high for all subsequent birthdays.... It was also Texas month at the resort (#texasforever) so we got to attend special events like a beach side bar-b-que and two wine pairing meals hosted by two Texan chefs. 

We also had an excursion to Tulum one morning, which was great, but SUPER hot and a little much for a 3 year old. 

We had such a fun trip and can't wait to go back. Our tenth anniversary is coming up next year so maybe we can convince some grandparents to watch our rugrat while we return to Mexico again! 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Florida Vibes

When Jonathan left for Angola this time around, Forest and I hit the road the same morning to head to Pensacola, FL for some time with my family.
10 hours solo driving with a 3 year old. Piece of cake (as long as he has the ipad and chocolate milk.)

 Turned out there was going to be some overlap with both my sister and my brother visiting my parents, so we figured we'd join the party too! And then when people heard we would all be there, extended family like my grandpa, two aunts and a cousin also headed to Florida so it ended up being quite the affair. 

With Jonathan's schedule, I've noticed that Forest transitions better if we travel right before or right after Jonathan leaves. Something about getting him out of a routine makes him less likely to have behavioral issues due to daddy leaving. I guess it just takes the focus off of it happening for both of us. 

Anyhoos, we had a great time in Florida and I loved getting to see Forest bond with his cousins. 

My sister's son Andrew is the closest cousin in age to Forest (4 weeks apart) and they definitely bonded.  We call them the twins. They played like best friends and fought like brothers. 

Within a few hours, Forest had shed all of his shy tendencies and jumped right in with my sister's gaggle of boys and he had such a blast. 

It was nice for me not to have to entertain him for once! Other than refereeing occasionally, I mostly just got to sit back and watch them play. It was the first time I thought: hmmmm....maybe having two kids is easier than having one in some ways. Especially two the same age!

Also, with Forest solidly knowing how to swim and with his newfound maturity (in which by some miracle he actually obeys me sometimes), this was the most relaxing trip to the beach I've had since birthing him. Usually he's basically on suicide watch as he takes every moment of my distraction to try to sprint into the ocean waves. We also saw a shark (one of 2 shark sightings during the week) from the beach which helped to curb his fearlessness of darting into the surf. 

It was a great trip and we can't wait to go back, but next time, I think we'll fly.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Hits Houston

First let me start off by saying that our house north of Houston was spared any flooding during Hurricane Harvey. We have others in our community who were not so lucky. Even for us ‘survivors’, it was  life changing event and I’ll not soon forget the anxiety, helplessness, loneliness, and anguish  I felt as the rain trapped us in our home while we restlessly watched our city and our region disappear under water. 

We were lucky. Because of the elevation of our house, I never worried much about a major flooding incident. While I was briefly worried we may be asked to evacuate, putting ourselves in a risky situation on the roads, the worst I actually faced was entertaining a stir crazy 3 year old for days on end.
Lots of coloring....

playing with kinetic sand...

playing in the rain...

making our own play doh...

setting up an art studio in the garage..

more rain playing...

fort building...

name writing...

stick figure drawing...

and of course, train track building.
We had plenty of netflix marathons, but even my TV obsessed tot was bored of it after the second day. Also, setting up a make-shift storm shelter in the bathroom for the frequent tornadic activity was zero fun.

But alls well that ends well and we are ok! What we are concerned for now are our fellow Texans who have suffered the loss of their homes and their possessions, and who have experience horrific trauma escaping the flood waters. The past week a been a frenzy of ‘what can I do?’. Trying to volunteer is like waiting to buy Garth Brooks tickets the second they  go on sale. All the slots are filled before you can reply: ME! ME! I’LL DO IT! 

It’s been a beautiful thing to witness the coming together of our community. You’ll be hard pressed to find more diverse town than Houston, and though the media would have us believe we are irrevocably different and divided, the last 2 weeks have shown that we are not. That the majority of us value every life, no matter the age, color, income, language, religion or political affiliation that labels it. 

I also feel like this tragedy has unearthed that thing. That God thing. That ‘made in His image’thing that keeps us up at night weeping for strangers and brainstorming ideas to ease their suffering. My prayer is for relief and recovery and for sustained compassion. That Harvey and Houston aren’t forgotten with the landfall of Irma, but that we persist in the months to come with the same urgency to help and comfort we have all experienced these last few weeks. 

I already feel the adrenaline dissipating. Today was the first day that felt normal. I went to Target and almost forgot to check the ‘donations needed’ list at our church. But I don’t want to feel normal. I want to wake up every morning asking  the Lord ‘How can I be your hands and feet today?’. 

So much of my ministering comes in the form of raising a little one these days. It’s easy to say ‘my plate is full already’ and also easy to take on so much that my role as a mother and a wife gets compromised. I am looking for that perfect balance. As Forest gets older and easier and it looks like he’ll remain an only child, I’m definitely feeling that I might finally have a little extra time and energy to spare, and I’m keeping my heart and spirit open for opportunities to serve. If you want to help support the relief efforts here in Texas, here are some great stewards for your donations: 

Some local churches and organizations in our area who are doing a great job in organizing funds, resources and manpower for those whose homes flooded:

If you'd rather donate goods than money, here are some Amazon wishlists both for the demo of flooded houses and for schools and families who lost everything and are needing their basic necessities replenished: