Nick and I just had the incredible opportunity to visit Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We left early two Sundays ago and came home the following Friday night. It was a great trip, and I'm finding myself longing to go back.

Fly. Once we got through the Cancun airport, we boarded a bus to Playa. From there we pulled our luggage to our hotel and then decided to wander a bit and find some dinner. We ate at El Fogon, one of the more authentic Mexican restaurants in town. The waiters didn't speak English and the menu was only in Spanish, so it was a bit of an adventure. Oh, and did I mention that it was hot (the temperature next to the kitchen, not the food so much).

We decided to go wander the beach first. It was beautiful. I always find ocean life fascinating, likely because it is so foreign to me. I'd love to spend more time getting to know the ocean.

We then did our only real tour for the trip to Rio Secreto. It's an underground river that was only discovered four years ago and has been open to the public for two years. We rode a large van down a very bumpy road to the site where we donned wet suits, life jackets, and helmets with head lamps. Then we went down. We were in a river approximately 22 meters underground. We were fascinated by some of earth's beauty that few are ever able to see. Our guide was fantastic and the views well worth it.

That afternoon we took local transportation, a collectivo (much nicer than the transportation in the Dominican Republic) and went to the town of Akumal. This is one of the best places for seeing sea turtles near Playa. Unfortunately, the water was pretty rough for snorkeling. We did, however, go to Yal-Ku Lagoon and do some snorkeling there. We saw some beautiful fish and enjoyed being in the ocean.

Tuesday morning we took the collectivo to Tulum, a ruin on the coast. Nick and I were amazed as we walked through the arch into the ruin and saw various temples, house platforms, and churches. Iguanas were everywhere (even one to pay to wear on your shoulder for a picture).

From there we caught a taxi to the Grand Cenote, a swimming hole where part of the limestone has fallen into the water below. The water was beautifully clear. While we swam with little fish and a turtle, actually, birds and bats flew overhead. It was really quite fun.

The next morning we rented a car and set out for Coba, another ruin about an hour-and-a-half drive from Playa. This site hasn't been cleaned up very much, but there's so much to see. We were even able to climb one of the pyramids and see out over the jungle.

Our next stop was Valladolid, a Spanish settlement from the 1500s and a frequent bus stop for those heading back from Chichen Itza. We ate the most delicious meal from our trip while we were there. I never knew pork, pine apple, mushrooms, and cheese could be such an incredible combination. I'll be trying to replicate that one. Getting through Valladolid was a bit interesting. We got to explore some of the back streets while we found our way out of town. It was actually a good way to get to see what the city was actually like off the main road.

The remainder of the drive to Chichen Itza was uneventful. The road was in excellent condition and we made it through the military check point without an issue. Our hotel was a five-minute walk from Chichen Itza, so we were able to go to the light show that evening. The lights really weren't anything to brag about, but we were fortunate enough to get headphones that interpreted the speaker. The history that has been gathered was remarkable. Learning about an entire culture that has been since disappeared was fascinating, especially one that was advanced in so many ways and yet practiced human sacrifice. It set the stage for the next morning.

We toured Chichen Itza with an incredibly knowledgeable guide. From the moment we said yes to his being our guide, he poured out information about the main pyramid, ball courts, sacrifices, religion, etc. The site was fascinating, especially when you consider that only 1% of it has been uncovered. It was certainly well worth the trip.

We had lunch at Piste just outside of Chichen Itza and learned that there is a difference between burritos and burritas. Then we went to another cenote called Ik-Kil. Nick quite enjoyed jumping into the pool. I was happy just jumping from the lower ledge. It was absolutely beautiful there, and we still wonder just how deep the pool was. The swim was just what we needed after the trip through the ruins.

On our way back to Playa, we stopped once again at Akumal. The water was calmer, but the dive shops were closed. Next time we'll know to bring our own snorkeling gear. It was a beautiful evening. Back in Playa we finished buying our souvenirs and prepared to leave the next morning. It was a wonderful trip we plan on taking again some day. We learned what we liked and what we'll do next time.

During our 5+ hour layover in Denver, two of my good friends from Laramie came to take us to dinner. Sarah and Sarah are two of the best things that have ever happened to me. They are great people in every way. We giggled all through dinner, and Nick patiently endured. I have a quote on my wall behind me by Eleanor Roosevelt that says, "Many people walk in and out of your life, but TRUE friends leave footprints in your heart." I don't need to say more.

I'm very blessed to be married to someone who likes to travel and has learned to do so on a budget. We may not have fancy things, but we have incredible memories of time spent together. We're also blessed to have parents who love our girls and enjoyed the time they had to spend with them.

Preschool Graduate

Emma graduated from pre-school last weekend. Her teacher, Miss Jenn, made sure to schedule it when we would be back from our vacation. We were VERY grateful. Emma has attended ABC Express for the last two years. It has been incredible to watch her learn and grow in so many ways. Miss Jen is a wonderful teacher. We can only hope kindergarten will be half as good. We're so proud of you Emma-girl.


A Friend and Ladybugs

Emma has a little friend from preschool whom she loves to have play dates with. Last time she was here, the girls all decorated princess crowns. They were a hit.

We made ladybug cupcakes for preschool snack time. They aren't perfect, but they were yummy! Ashlyn sure thought so!

Yard Work

We've been putting a bit of work into our yard lately. Here's what we've been up to.

Nick's patio (thanks to Heath for helping)

My perennial bed
Nick and the girls gave me an apple tree for Mother's Day. I just hope it grows quickly so I can enjoy its fruit.


My girls have recently discovered that it's fun to play together. They play nearly all day together. I love watching them. They make me truly happy. Oh, and these pictures were taken within days of each other. Lovely, isn't it.

Ashlyn Turns 3!

I can hardly believe my baby is 3. We had a fun birthday party with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Ashy loved watching me make her birthday cake. It was a first for me. I've been a fan of buying cakes or making something really simple. But when Ashlyn wanted a Cinderella party, I decided to go for it. I was ridiculously proud that this one turned out. The fact that the birthday girl loved it made it well worth it.

Ashlyn's getting so big. I love this little one. She gives the best hugs and kisses, loves to read stories, and is a great little buddy. We have a good time together. She's learning all sorts of new things and is really looking forward to being a big girl and going to preschool in the fall. Ashy is my girly girl and loves to dress up. She often changes clothes multiple times a day and thoroughly enjoys the princess dresses, shoes, tiaras, and jewelry in her dress-up box. Ashlyn is such an important part of our family. We are very blessed to have her. We love you Ashlyn.

This little video is kind of fun. You may just get to see a bit of birthday party silliness at the Charles household.


Disneyland April 2010

We had the opportunity to go to Disneyland with our friends the Moore's last month. It ended up being the perfect trip. We had 3-day passes to Disneyland and California Adventure and certainly made the most of it. I had to teach, so we didn't hit the road until about 2:30 Wed, drove just past Vegas for the night, and then made it the rest of the way Thurs. morning. The kids traveled perfectly. Breaking the news was great (see the movie at the end of this post). We stayed in a 3-room hotel, so we were able to put the kids down at night and each couple was able to have an evening to play. And play we did. It was the perfect trip. We all loved it.

The group: Tyler and Ashley with their boys Ryker and Carter. Nick and Tonya with Emma and Ashlyn

Ashlyn's favorite ride was the good, old Dumbo ride. It can't be beat for small kids.

Ashley and I took Emma and Ryker on the Thunder Mountain Railroad. The kids weren't nearly this happy with it by the end, but it was fun nonetheless.

We couldn't get the kids close to any of the characters, but Ashley and I couldn't resist a picture with Mickey. And get this, I'm taller than he is!

Cinderella's castle was a hit with the kids.

We enjoyed the teacups, too. The kids were laughing. Tyler had to sit this one out.

Having friends to play with kept everyone happier. There was always someone to play with and a reasonably sane adult to deal with line boredom.

Budding romance? It was fun watching how well the kids all did together. They had so much fun.

By our third day, we still hadn't seen any princesses, so we braved some lines. We met Tink and her friend in Pixie Hollow, and waited for over an hour to meet Jasmine, Snow White, and Tiana. It was worth it to see how happy the girls were to be with each princess for the two minutes though.
Posted by Picasa