Xcaret, Mexican adventure park

MEXICO165we came for the parrots…….

We decided to go to this place, Xcaret, on our trip. It is kind of like our zoo, on acid.

Officially, the park refers to itself as a natural sanctuary, complete with Mayan ruins and underground rivers. There are also restaurants, shows, opportunities to swim with dolphins or sharks, river rides and plenty of swimming activities. So much to do! Check out the website, if you are ever near there it is worth it!

Cool thing-that we didn’t do- was to swim through this huge natural river from one end of the park to the other, about an hour long trip. Everyone has to wear life vests and you get flippers for your feet. If I were a little braver we would have done it, but of course I had to worry about the “natural” water and possible parasites…… but it looked awesome! At one point on our walk, we looked down and could see the people swimming far below…

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swimming in the river

One fun thing for all us tourists…. you can pay for access to cameras all over the park, they are marked with little footprints on the ground. You wave your wristband in front of a sensor, smile for the camera, and CLICK!

Although it’s really not all that simple sometimes. For instance, sometimes you can’t find the camera….or you don’t have time to smile, people don’t know what’s going on, it’s all happening too fast!!!  Which just adds to the fun when you look up your photos later and see how intelligent your family looks…..

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umm…..

Xcaret, Soy Mexico

getting used to this…..

Xcaret, Soy Mexico

Don’t ask,

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success!!

So here is what I would do next time…. Stay ALL DAY until the park closes. We wanted to see the shows, but most of them start at 5pm, we chose to leave with the bus at 5:30. We could have left at 9:30 at no extra charge, but I didn’t have a stroller and didn’t think Jenna would make it. Found the stroller rental on the way OUT.

We did enjoy a tame but beautiful boat ride…

Also, the cost of the park includes the river walk/swim…. it’s kind of a big part of the appeal. Next time I might be brave enough to do it. The place is just breathtaking, and we still got to see a lot. Such as, a quick show where men climb a pole to the music of a flute and drum, then spin upside down around and around the pole until they reach the bottom.

I loved the Mayan village, complete with graveyard, living huts, and plenty of character

The fact that even the 3 year old was enthralled was a big deal for me. It’s a no brainer that we will  be back on our next trip,  ready to experience everything Xcaret has to offer.

 

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Vacation wildlife encounters

Where I live, the local wildlife tend to keep their distance. Squirrels and chipmunks abound outside, you can hear them chattering and see them leaping about, but they don’t tend to come up to you and steal the food out of your hand.

In Mexico, we met a cousin of the raccoon, the coati. Also fondly known as the hog-nosed coon to it’s close friends.

Initially awed by the different wildlife all around us, we snapped pictures of these creatures as we encountered them….which was pretty much everywhere. There are signs posted to NOT feed them, out of respect for their natural habitat and diet.

Turns out, humans posted that sign….. and the coatis are not at all in agreement.

This was made clear to us pretty early on. I was taking a break from swimming with the 6 year old. We were sitting poolside as he munched on some oatmeal raisin cookies. Up comes a coati…. and it just keeps coming….. literally nose to nose with my son, and is obviously interested in the cookie he doesn’t seem to be eating fast enough.

We went from amused to kind of freaked out as I eyed his sharp teeth and retractible claws…. imagining him taking a soft chunk of my sons face along with the cookie he wanted to steal.

So I did the only thing I could think of. Grabbed the cookie and threw it away from us. As predicted, the coati followed calmly, picked it up and started munching away. Along the same time, as I’m nervously laughing, I hear a snide “You’re not supposed to feed the animals” from a passing group of girls. Duh.

Coati gets done, and comes nosing around again, this time dipping his pointy snout into my sons pineapple juice. My god, is nothing sacred!?

A fellow vacationer took pity on us, and chased off the scavenger…. and we learned to snack more cautiously.

Less inclined to give us rabies perhaps, were the peacocks. They were also all over the property.

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Here is one of them now!!  A peacock, or “Mr. Weird” according to the 3 year old.

Also out in great numbers, were the various lizards.

We liked to watch them crawl sideways up the walls, and eat the flowers all around.

of course, there were plenty of other animals to study and enjoy.

And then, there were these guys…

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They followed us everwhere, took the food from our hands and even off our plates! Slept in our beds and forced us to carry them around when they got tired of walking. They made all sorts of weird noises and somehow managed to follow us all the way home.

We’ve decided to keep them for now….

 

 

 

The horror of a red nose

Let me tell you what you are looking at.

This is the beginning of a cold. I hope it’s only a cold. It started yesterday, a little goopy nose stuff, I pretended it wasn’t real, but still coated her in Vicks before bed. Set up the vaporizer and prayed…..

Seriously. These kids KNOW we are going on a plane in 2 days!!!!  How could she wait until now to get sick!?

I bought a huge assortment of cold remedies today, she’s had everything from vitamin C to zinc. The chapped cheeks and lips are setting in. The sniffles are here, we are tip-toeing around, trying to keep the cough and fever from finding us.

I would like to blame someone for this….

and also someone for causing me to gain weight instead of either lose weight or stay the same weight since I’ve started my hard core workout routine. I love how loyal my friends are, every single one has told me I must be gaining muscle, and not that the girl scout cookies and birthday cake are just stubbornly holding on.

And lastly, I would like to blame someone, anyone really, for this stiff neck that started this morning… after a particularly challenging workout last night. I can’t turn my head fully, it causes shooting pain down my back. You should have seen my turning my entire body, stiff in my seat on the highway as I tried to check  my blind spot during my very unsafe drive to work today.

So this is how I imagine my first couple vacation days… One, possibly two goopy kids….. full of snot and sand, attempting to run on the beach with mom who is not only blocking the sun with her massive size, but also resembles Frankenstein as she stumbles, stiff-legged and moaning in pain………

Or… it could all be fine. It’s a toss up right now.

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A new destination awaits

We have toyed with the idea of vacationing somewhere besides Vegas….. then booked our trip to Vegas. This has happened several times as the husband and I both seem to be the “comfortable in our rut” kind of people. Nothing wrong with that!

But, for the sake of the children understanding there are more than 2 points on the map, we are embarking on a new journey.

After our last Vegas trip, in the ARCTIC cold….. we had one requirement, it had to be warm. A for sure kind of warm that won’t ever let you down.

New destination: Mexico.

A patient of my husbands actually brought him a travel guide full of destinations, and recommended a particular resort he’s been to over 20 times. Wow, it must be great.

It’s family friendly…… got tons of swimming things to do, including a big lazy river that goes for like, miles or something. Entertainment at all hours of the day and night, lots of activities inside and outside.

Now the good part. It’s all inclusive. ALL YOU CAN EAT. Even ROOM SERVICE. Yes, I’m yelling this. It’s an amazing and wonderful concept. Makes up for the stupid strawberries and grapes I ate today instead of the bucket of grease I wanted.

So the countdown begins…. and the frantic attempts to work out and get in fabulous shape are conflicting with the desire to find the best sweatsuit/bathing suit and just start training now for my food marathon.

 

Next stop, Disney….or is that Hell??

To the point.  Compliments of Sodahead.com

To the point.
Compliments of Sodahead.com

We went to Disney again. My 4th time.

I think I can say, with a high degree of certainty, I am NOT a Disney person.

(hands covering my head, in defensive position) Don’t hurt me!!!

I’ll elaborate a bit.

I’m not a Magic Kingdom person. Neither is my husband. I think the kids would have been just as happy at Kiddie Park, which costs like $20 for a day of rides and overpriced sponge bob popsicles.

I do like Epcot, and Downtown Disney after dark. Kids liked those places too.

Enough to go back????

Uh. No.

Probably because we don’t get into the characters. We really just don’t. We caught the parade a couple times while at the Magic Kingdom, and that really satisfied any need the kids had to see a bunch of characters singing and dancing.

It just doesn’t seem amazingly magical to me.

I don’t think I’m the only person who feels this way. I watched the faces of everyone around us, and pointed out to my husband that EVERYONE looks like they are in hell right now. I don’t recall a particularly thrilled looking mom or dad during our visit.

One mom, in particular, was having a bad day when we were there.

My husband had taken the 5 year old on a ride that the youngest was too small for. Jenna and I were on our own til the guys got back. So we were checking out one of the many outside vendors, and picked out a wonderfully overpriced bubble gun for Jenna to play with. As I’m standing there, waiting for the salesperson to finish with the guy ahead of us, I hear a voice….

“Now SEE, we would have been next in line, but since YOU GUYS made me go look at that over there, now we have to wait for THESE PEOPLE (gestures to me) to get done before us!!!” I look over, to see a lady my age-ish, lecturing her kids who are doing their best to pretend they are not with her. I am kind of amused. I look at her, and tell her “You are welcome to go ahead of us, it’s not a big deal.”

This was not supposed to happen. I was not supposed to speak to her. I realize this as she responds to me.

“This is not about YOU!  I am trying to teach my CHILDREN something here.”

I can’t help it. I start to smirk. Thank God I’m wearing sunglasses to hide behind.

Her voice changes as she talks to me, becoming high pitched and that fake sugary sweet that means whatever she is saying, she definitely DOES NOT MEAN. “But thank you for offering, and you have a MAGICAL DAY!”

I didn’t respond again. I turned around and paid for my bubbles, hoping those kids were having a better day than their mom.

This is what Disney does to parents.

Why do people take Kids to Vegas???

because Vegas is fun for kids too!!!

…and also maybe because you have no one to watch your children….ever……

We just got back from Vegas. Our third time with little ones. This time we took the 4 and 1 year olds. The older kids wanted nothing to do with this trip. I don’t understand how two teenagers would not JUMP at the chance to hang out for 5 days with two adults and two little ones… all. day. long.

Usually when I tell people I’m going to Vegas, they assume it’s just me and the hubby. When I tell them we are bringing the kids I am met with silence until that person realizes there is no punch line. “What??”… “WHY would you do that, WHAT can you DO with kids in Vegas???”

Well, once you get past the things you can’t do, like gambling, clubbing, seeing shows, or various naked opportunities….. there is plenty! Seriously, they don’t joke about gambling in Vegas. My husband and I don’t gamble to begin with, but the first time I took Sammy he was a year old. He wanted to see the lights in the casino so I walked up to a slot machine with him just to look at the lights and colors. It was morning, we were passing through the casino for breakfast. As I stood there, apparently off the specially marked trail, a security guard swooped down and yelled at me to step away from the game!! And then proceeded to tell me I could be fined thousands of dollars for letting my baby gamble. This is how I learned to stay off carpet in the casino area. Scary!!

Vegas itself is like a wonderland for the senses, the place is always ON, much like a toddler. We’ve been there during all seasons, and love it the most during Thanksgiving. The place is celebrating Christmas already and hotels all have their special themes, characters dressed up, music playing inside and outside, games, free shows. We went over Memorial day weekend this time, which unfortunately coincides with massive amounts of college kids looking to drink and party there as well. Other than one day that felt like our hotel was really a frat house, we still had a great time.

There are tons of things to do with your kids, and there are more and more families there every time we go.

What do we like the most??

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Bellagio. The fountains outside never get old. And they play frequently during the day and night. Even my 1 year old was mesmerized by the dancing water, especially at night with the lights making it look more magical. We stopped there every day.

Bellagio also has an amazing area off the main lobby to walk through, their botanical garden. They change the theme with seasons and we always enjoy seeing what the next look will be. Probably the baby does not care at all about this, but the adults and even the 4 year old enjoyed it. The hotel is HUGE. We can explore all the main halls, containing conference rooms and ballrooms, the outside public patio, and end up having ice cream or tea and pastry in this hallway that we end up looking for and finding each year. There is also a huge chocolate fountain, behind glass, that takes up part of the ceiling and a wall in the Jean Philippe Patisserie. This is located just past the botanical garden area. VERY expensive, but fun and delicious. They have all sorts of candy and ice cream.

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Besides Bellagio, there are plenty of other places to take the kids for free entertainment. Ours loved the aquarium located in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. There is also a show in this area about the fall of Atlantis, using animatronic figures to depict the King of Atlantis and his two bratty kids. Daughter who rules the water, and son who rules fire. Skip to the end, they can’t agree on who should rule the kingdom, so all perish in a fiery/watery death as a big bird, maybe a dragon??, attempts to drag the King away. There is no real violence, it’s just suggested, the figures really just lower back down into the ground. It’s really not scary by my kids standards, but there were a couple kids crying in front of us. Mine liked the lights, and flashes of fire and bursts of water as the son and daughter bickered about who should rule the kingdom.

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Other shows are outside, like the Volcano show at the Mirage. It’s basically fire bursting set to drum beats that build in tempo until a big finale. This is one we kept trying to take the kids to, but they were always asleep in the stroller by the time we got there. I have watched it close up, as well as from across the street. I actually liked across the street better because it’s easier to walk away when it’s over, less crowded. Also, the end of the show features a huge burst of fire from the main volcano, it is HOT. It’s even hot from across the street.

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There are a ton of people dressed up as cartoon characters. Not to mention Victorias Secret “Angels”, bikers wearing pleather with buttless pants, and even girls topless with just their chests painted with Vegas slogans. Thankfully, we got no questions from the 4 year old. The baby was oblivious until someone dressed up as a very tall Yoda decided to come up to her and say Hi. She screamed like I’ve never heard before, I actually wish I had it on tape. Poor kid, scared the hell out of her. Then, the guy felt bad so he keep the mask on, and proceeded to try talking to her and waving from a  few feet away. We had to leave the area to get her fingers pried off of my neck.

The shopping malls attached to the hotels in Vegas are nothing like the malls at home. The Venetian features a Gondola ride inside as well as outside the hotel. We rode twice, and were serenaded by our, uh, boat person? with two songs for each ride. They sing very well, and the acoustics inside the mall really add to the sound. In addition to every store you’d want to see, the mall itself is decorated like you are actually outside in Italy. the ceiling is made to look like blue sky with clouds, there are cobblestone “streets”, and cute storefronts made to look like old time buildings. The mall at Paris and Caesars are similar. There are areas inside all of these places with some form of entertainment or another. Portrait painting, people dressed in costume, tons of restaurants and gelato stands, as well as the unique offerings of each place make them all worth visiting. The kids were not bored, finding too many things to look at and do. There are fountains EVERYWHERE, so we probably threw away part of my retirement in pennies and nickels for the kids.

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Of course, there is swimming. I’m not a big swimmer, hate to wear a bathing suit. I did it for the kids, and they loved the water. The Venetian has several pools, no bells and whistles for the kiddies, but there is one pool that ranges from 1 foot to 14 inches deep only. We stayed there, and both kids were in their glory. Sammy pretended he was swimming by just floating on his belly and walking with his hands on the bottom of the pool. Jenna tried to drink the entire thing, tried to back float, and screamed like a banshee whenever I tried to remove her.

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Visiting other hotels is worth it, they each have a theme and usually some attraction that draws people to check it out at least once. EVERYTHING is done over the top. We also rode the “high roller”, the worlds tallest Ferris Wheel. For the 4 of us, it would have been about $100 to go at night, and it cost about $70 to go during the day. You have to either buy tickets ahead of time and reserve a time, which scared me with trying to plan what the kids would feel like…. or you can go and wing it, buying tickets before you board. It’s always busier at night because Vegas looks amazing all lit up. It takes 30 minutes to get up and back down.

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Everywhere you go, people are pointing cameras and snapping photos. I do the same thing, no matter how often I go.

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We made it through our trip, snapping photos like the savvy tourists we are….. the only thing I felt bad about was the lack of pictures featuring ALL of us together. I’ve got plenty of myself or my husband standing in front of this or that, holding one or 2 struggling children who refuse to look at the camera, at least not at the same time. Then, we had a MOMENT. Just accidentally playing with the iPhone and snapped a beauty, we were all facing the same way, and no one was crying!

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So….go. Take your kids. I may see you there!

 

 

Why do we travel with Kids????

I am going to Vegas in a month.

With a 4 year old.

And a 1 year old.

The flight will be just over 4 hours, and I know I will be on the verge of dying the whole way.

As much as I am looking forward to being there, I dread the task of GETTING there. And that is the problem, because kids are smart, and like wild animals….they can smell fear.

It is a terrifying thing to know you are stuck on a plane with a kid who is about to have the mother of tantrums……and short of suffocating them, there is NOTHING you can do to make them stop. It might be the scariest thing ever. So of course I try to pack for every possible shift in humor, every potential desire, every whim that child may have.

I’ve done this pretty successfully with one young child. But this will be the first trip with two . And I hate myself as much as all other passengers are going to hate me as I walk past them to my seat, holding a toddler, a blanket, a 4 year old by the hand, and a huge backpack with a variety of toys and treats, guaranteed to hold their interest for a good 30-45 seconds.

I’ll be praying to be seated near other people with kids. Best case scenario, someone will have a HORRIBLE child who acts up the whole way, if they are bad enough they might just keep the interest of my kids who can just watch them instead of “Frozen”, which I will definitely be packing. As much as I would feel bad for that parent, I will also be silently thanking them for taking the pressure off of me and mine.

Is that wrong? I don’t think so.

I can’t convey the stress…..

The fact that I have been so LUCKY travelling with a little one in the past…does not bode well for me. My now 4 year old has really been great so far. He went with us to Florida once, Boston once, and Vegas twice before he was 3, and was a champ each time on the plane. I was so proud at the end of each trip, pretending I was somehow responsible for his behavior. Other passengers may have been fooled…..but parents know. They know my turn is coming.

I feel like this trip might just be the one.

The one to put me back in my place, and remind me that I have NO control at all. All the pipe cleaners, stickers, goldfish crackers and juice boxes can’t save me when that baby decides she wants to get off my damn lap and go find something she can put in her mouth and try to choke on. Or maybe she’ll want to grab the face of the guy in front of me, innocently smiling at her as though she’s harmless, and doesn’t plan to gouge his eyes out. Oh, it could get bad.

It could be the 4 year old too. He did recently throw himself onto the floor at drug mart because I wouldn’t buy him a plastic gun there. I had to drag him out of the store, all the while keeping a totally unaffected, even nonchalant look on my face for the other patrons. I don’t think I can pull that off for 4 hours.

My husband hates travelling with me like this, because I am literally so tense beforehand-I can barely speak. I pack so much in the carry-on, because this is life or death! If I can’t produce a spinny thing that lights up like right NOW, all hell is going to break loose people, I just KNOW it!!

So this is my warning to you.

We’re coming. There might be pee, there might be vomit…I just don’t know. Don’t get too close,and for gods sake….don’t make eye contact.