Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Family Tradition

Our third adventure of the summer took us to the little town of Pentwater.  As a teenager my family used to camp there during the summer.  I have fantastic memories of hanging out at the beach, walking through town to get ice cream, jumping off of the pier, swimming with friends at night, meeting all of the "townie" boys, and just having good old fashioned summer fun!

Ryan's family also used to camp in Pentwater when the kids were younger.  When Ryan and I first were married they began renting a cottage behind the campground.  They invited the entire family which meant their two boys, two girls, spouses, and all the grandchildren to come up and hang out.  I think they rented the cottage until Jackson was about two.  After that, Ryan's parents brought the grandkids up for a special day to play on the beach, go up Old Baldy, and eat blue moon ice cream each summer.
Jackson with Lola in the background running down Old Baldy

This year, we decided that one day of the summer just wasn't enough in Pentwater and the adults were feeling left out, so for a Christmas gift we went in on a week's vacation in Pentwater for Ryan's parents.  I found a cottage that was close to the beach and to town that we could all fit into.  That is not an easy feat!  The cottage I eventually found had five bedrooms and worked out perfectly!

You would think that cramming 13 people which included 5 grandkids ages 2 - 11 would be miserable, but it actually was a lot of fun!  I think the key to that is having a space you could go to to get away from it all.  The home had enough rooms and enough areas that everyone could manage a little escape if needed.

Brr!!  Lake Michigan was cold the first day!
During our time there we of course visited the beach, walked the town, had blue moon ice cream, played games, played mini-golf, played on Nabi's or iPads, had fires and roasted marshmallows, and even had some new adventures!
Enjoying ice cream!

Aunt Megan was kind enough to take Jackson and his cousin Jenna to AJ's Family Fun Center down the road to go go-carting and mini-golfing!  Jackson was excited that he won at go-carts and had two holes in one! 

Mom!  Look at all these worms!
We also went fishing off of the bridge over Pentwater Lake.  It was super windy, but Ryan and the kids climbed off of the bridge along the shore out of the wind.  This of course opened up opportunities for Tyce to play with the worms and look in the weeds.  I think he had the most fun doing that while Lola was content to practice casting with a fake fish on the end of her line! 

The fishing spot below the bridge
Going through the water to the beach
We also went to a new beach.  A friend had told us that it was warmer at this beach so since the water was numbing us each time we stepped in, we decided to give it a try.  I have to admit that we cursed her as we tried to find the beach, (go down Thiele off of Lakeshore Drive, there is a small sign to the left and parking is down the street on either side of the street) but in the end we were happy to be there!  The beach is called Bass Lake Outlet Beach.

It is where Bass Lake goes into Lake Michigan.  The water pools after a dam allowing it to warm up and the water in the big lake is actually warmer as a result.  The only downside about this beach is that you have to walk over a small dune after you find a parking space along the road (on nice days during the weekend get there before 1pm or you won't be able to park anywhere close) and after you walk over the sand area you have to carry your things through a bit of water.  Like I said, the water is warmer, but if you have a two year old with you, you are going to have to carry that little one through the water.  It isn't too deep, but deep enough.  My five year old could walk through it fine, but I think it was to his thighs.  The parking and the beach is free so that is a plus, but there aren't any bathrooms or concessions.  It worked well for us though and was a nice change of pace as well as a fun adventure!

The water was much warmer here!
Lola jumping waves with Grandma and Grandpa

Pentwater was a great family adventure!  We are so lucky to have been able to begin our summer with two fun adventures that we were able to share with our extended families!
Grandma and Grandpa with the grandkids

The entire family in our "Pentwater VZ Tradition 2013" shirts!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Heavy Metal Concerts for 3 Year olds?

The other night Ryan and I went to a Tesla/ Mötley Crüe concert.  The music was loud, the lights were bright, the crowd was crazy, and the atmosphere was pure adrenaline! 

We jumped around, sang, and had a great time!  My favorite part about any concert is meeting new people.  This most often happens while standing in line for the bathroom, but it can also happen in our seats, or in passing to get food or a drink.  I always come home feeling a bit more worldly having met these interesting people! (sometimes a little dirty too, but really, when you go to a concert featuring heavy metal, you are going to run into a few crazies!)

There is nothing like a concert to get you moving and make you feel like you are younger then what you are.  Which in turn makes me think how young is too young to go to a concert?
Full Moon!!
Little Tyke on a parent's shoulders with headphones on
Soo many people!!
At Mötley Crüe we saw many children.  They ranged in age from about 3 to in their tweens.  Some of them had head phones on and some were lifted on shoulders so they could see the stage.  I understand parents wanting to share their passions with their kids, but really?  The performers of these concerts do not edit their songs or their words.  There are half naked women on stage gyrating and in the audience in can be worse!  People are drunk and you can smell a particular scent floating through the air once in awhile.  At one point Vince Neil commented on the kids in the audience saying he was so beeping excited to see so many mother beepers bringing their beeping children to the beeping concert! 

The teacher and mother in me is in shock that parents would bring their 3 year olds to a venue like this!  My personal opinion is that it is irresponsible.  There is a time to be a parent and a time to play like you aren't a parent.  When you have your three year old with you, it is not the best time to play like you aren't a parent.  Even if you aren't one of the crazies drinking at the concert, why would you expose your child to it?  It is late, it is loud, and it is not for a three year old!  It just makes me sad!

What do you think?  Is it ok to bring young children to adult concerts?  Does it make a difference if it is Poison or Justin Bieber?

Monday, July 29, 2013

What is THAT in the toilet?

Warning:  This post touches on the "birds and the bees"
Our oldest is ten.
He is a boy.
He is curious.
He finds things.
Recently he found a tampon that hadn't gotten flushed floating in the toilet.
He was of course concerned about why there was blood in the toilet and what that thing really was that he had used as a cannon with his army men a few years back.
His Dad explained that it was a tampon.
He also explained about a uterus and how it had (and I am using his Dad's terms here) "a mineral rich lining to feed a developing baby.  When there was no baby, the body shed the lining.  In order for there not to be a huge mess women use pads -you've seen those in Mom's bathroom right? and tampons to catch the blood." 

According to Dad there was nodding, acceptance, and moving on.  I imagine Dad brushing his hands together with a satisfied grin that he got out of that one pretty easily.  I think Dad did really well with that, but that raised the question of when is it time to start talking about - you know - S. E. X.? 

I remember being in fourth grade and someone wrote on the board "sex".  Everyone snickered and so I knew they shouldn't be writing it on the board, but I had no idea what it meant!  My son is in fourth grade!  There could be kids in his class that have a vague idea of things I didn't learn about until I was married!  I actually heard some boys giggling in the corner of the library while looking at a magazine in school.  I heard the word, "boobs" mentioned.

Ugh!  You mean to tell me that soon my sweet innocent little baby boy will begin puberty?  You mean that instead of searching his pockets for live critters I will have to search them for other scarier things?  You mean that I will no longer be the most important woman in his life? (ok, maybe I am getting ahead of myself here, but that's where this all leads right?)

I don't know if I'm ready!!
How do I get ready?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dolphin Swim at Dolphinaris

Our crew - minus my sister Rachel and her 2 year old
As I just posted, our second adventure of the summer was to go to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico with my parents, sisters, and nieces!  (and brother in law too - can't forget him!)

The only big outside adventure that we all did was to go swim with dolphins!

First, if you have never pet or swam with a dolphin, I highly recommend it!  Now, I know that there is controversy about this, but it seems views and research can go either way as with most things.  According to some research, and what I have been told by a friend who used to work with dolphins doing therapy with individuals, swimming with dolphins creates an effect that brings joy and peace of mind, enforces the immune system, improves awareness, attention and self control, and develops feelings of confidence and compassion.  From our three hour experience with dolphins I can't attest to all of that, but I can say that it definitely gave me a feeling of great joy and a sense of balance (the best way I can put it) while I pet them and interacted with them!  It also appeared that the dolphins were having a good time too!

Jackson gives a kiss
We went to a place called Dolphinaris in Puerto Aventuras near Playa del Carmen.  There are a ton of companies and experiences to choose from so do your research!  I chose Dolphinaris because of its proximity to our resort (we traveled with young children and I didn't want to be on a bus for two hours in Mexico) and because of the reviews it got on Trip Advisor.  I would go back, although there were a few things I was disappointed about.

They provided transportation to and from the resort.  They were on time which in my experience in Mexico is a rarity!  We were all given bracelets to identify what we were allowed to do and then we had time to explore and watch the dolphins in the pools.  They had a big screen up showing the activities with the dolphins which was great for the kids to see so they could get a clear idea of what was going to happen.

Ryan dancing with the dolphin
When they were ready to begin, they split us up into groups on rows of benches.  Since we were all together as a family and there were 11 of us, we were able to be our own group which was really nice.  Each group was partnered with a different trainer and lead to a different section of the pools.

I love the expression on my mom's face!  This is the dolphin foot push!
The pools are fashioned in a way that makes it easy to interact with the dolphins.  They have an area of sand and water that is up to about your knees and then there is a platform in the water around the pool that is cement.  The platform drops off abruptly so the dolphin can swim in deep water next to the platform while you stand and pet it.

Tyce and I on a belly ride

Lola giving pets and hugs

Tyce couldn't get enough!

Kisses from Lola

Jackson being pushed on his foot by the dolphin through the water!

Ryan and Lola on a belly ride
We had a certain amount of time with three different trainers and different dolphins in different areas of the pools.  Our first station we kissed the dolphin, did a little dance with him, and then did the foot push.  The foot push is when the dolphin pushes one of your feet sending you speeding through the water!  This was a favorite of the family's!  The little kids couldn't do it so they went on our backs and we did a belly swim with the dolphin instead.  In our second station we all did a belly swim.  During this swim, you hold onto the dolphins fins and he propels you through the water while you are belly to belly with him!  The last station we did was the snorkel and interaction station.  During this time you put on a mask, get into the water and watch the dolphins underwater.  This was our least favorite station.  Not only was there a ton of down time where we just floated in the deep water watching dolphin poo float over our heads, but we only pet the dolphin about six times because there was another group paired with us during this time and the dolphin was always waiting for instructions from the trainer who was talking to the other group.

In all, it was a great experience and we all loved it!  If you ask the kids what their favorite part of the trip was they will tell you swimming with the dolphins!  It was a great way to spend our first full day in Mexico!

The good parts:
  • It is a very clean facility.
  • There are clean bathrooms, showers, and lockers to keep your things.
  • The facility is very nice.
  • There are a lot of trainers and dolphins.
  • You get a ton of time in the water with the dolphins!
  • The trainers tweaked some of the activities to meet the needs of our diverse group. (we had ages 4 to 60 in our group)
  • They took good pictures.
  • The have a big area for all of the groups to interact with the dolphins so we were spread out and not on top of each other.
  • Even with 11 in our group we each had a lot of time with the dolphins individually.
  • The dolphin kisses, foot push, belly swim, and other interactions were great fun!

The not so good parts:
  • You can not wear sunscreen.
  • The food is expensive. ($10 for a hot dog!)
  • You can not take your camera with you to take pictures and if people are watching from the viewing area you have to pay for them to be there and they can not go down by the dolphin pools.
  • You can purchase pictures, but they are really really expensive! (over $300 for a CD of pictures)
  • The snorkel portion of our swim was just dumb.  We floated in the water, pet the dolphin maybe six times when it was told to swim under us and watched dolphin poo float by our faces.
  • The description I received on the phone was different then the actual experience.  I was told we could pick three out of six experiences to do with the dolphins and would do three land activities.  There were no land activities and we were told what we were to do and not given choices.  I had read the reviews so I knew I didn't want to do the snorkel activity!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

40th Wedding Anniversary - Mexican Style

Bragging alert:
I pretty much have an awesome family.  I grew up in a fantastic home with fantastic parents and although my two sisters annoyed me to no end most days when I lived with them, I now have a greater appreciation for them and find them much more enjoyable!  If I get into how great my grandparents and extended family are I will never get to the point of this particular post! :)

This year, in June, my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary!  To be married and still happy after all of these years is more then amazing!  I have learned a lot from watching them interact over the years and am very grateful for them as individuals and as a couple.  But, I digress.  To celebrate their anniversary, they graciously decided to take their children and our families on a vacation to Mexico!!!!

Welcome drinks
We spent a week long vacation living it up in the sun by the pool and the ocean, being served food and drinks, and doing whatever we wanted when we wanted. (unless a child decided that they had to do something then minds were changed)

We stayed in Playa Del Carmen which is near Cancun.  My mom found a fantastic resort called the Gran Porto Real.  It had two sides to it.  We stayed in the "family friendly" side.  The other side was adult only and had swim up bars and more restaurants.  But our side had a play area for kids, mini-golf, activities for children, and a great pool!  It was a super clean resort and the service was by far the best I have had anywhere I have ever gone and that includes the Ritz Carlton! 

Welcome drinks for the kids too!
I want to tell you a bit about their service because it was so outstanding!  When you travel with a large group and have 6 children with you ages 2 - 10 it can be a little overwhelming for restaurants and basically anyone in your path!  Each restaurant did their best to accommodate our group and made it a point to give the kids extra attention.  When we called for room service it came within 15 minutes.  When we called housekeeping, they were at our door in ten minutes!  Every staff person was kind and friendly and greeted you with a smile.  Even while sitting out at the pool they had more then one person going around to be sure everyone always had what they wanted.  We didn't have to get up if we didn't want to!  They also remembered our names and the kids' names if they heard them and knew who was with who!  They really made it their job to be on top of every need there was! It made our stay that much more awesome!
The Mer-man! (notice the broken flippers?)
I was a bit worried about traveling with the kids in a different country, but when you go to an all inclusive like the Gran Porto, it really was a piece of cake.  I loved the location of this resort.  It took us two minutes to walk to Fifth Avenue which is a touristy street filled with restaurants and shops.  It was great to walk down and look at everything.  I suppose if we had gotten tired of the food at the resort we could have eaten out on 5th ave, but that didn't happen!

Our rooms walked right out to the beach.  Our beach was rocky, but we brought our water shoes, masks, and snorkels so we went out to look at the fish.  Ryan and our brother-in-law, Chad, loved it and were out for hours looking at fish (or just trying to get some free time away from all the kids...)  At night we were able to put the kids to bed and congregate on the beach in view of our rooms.  It was so nice!  So nice that there were weddings occurring almost every other day on the beach! (I'm sure they loved it when our kids were yelling in the background!)

The pool
There was a ton that we could have done outside the resort, but we chose only to do a bike tour and swim with dolphins.  I will let the pictures tell the story of our vacation and post about our dolphin swim next!

Hop on Pop!

It was so hot outside that our camera steamed up each time we stepped out of the room!

Craft time by the pool - we painted pottery

Dinner on the beach!
Night time entertainment
Mini golf
Pool side fun!
Relaxing in the pool
Fifth Avenue
Kids party!
Bike ride to Playa Car
Dancing the night away
Happy 40th!!
Night swimming!
Beach party
Ocean swim
Twin cousins
The view outside of our room
Going snorkeling
Our room
Fifth Avenue

Lunch out by the pool

*these aren't even half of the pictures!  We had such a fun time!!