Tuesday, April 8, 2014


This is going to be a long one. Watch out.  And there is going to be a lot of pictures.  But don't slip into deep duress, they are beautiful pictures.  Gorgeous pictures.  It isn't about the photographer (s - plural), it is about the people and the place.  Beautiful people, beautiful place.
We went to Cancun!!  Oh ya, we did!  After a generous gift from Eric's mom, the kids' willingness to chip in their Christmas and birthday money, we decided to join Chris and Val and the boys for a glorious vacation.  And because they booked during their spring break and our spring break was a week later, our kids first got a week in Cancun and now have this week off too.  Lucky (please say with a Napoleon Dynamite voice, in honor of the nephews….).
This whole deal was decided two weeks before we left.  Unpredictable!  Oh ya! (those should be read with a Vector from Despicable Me voice in honor of me…. I love that movie….. that reminds me that I need a fix soon.)
We left Sunday, March 23 after a morning and early afternoon of "is it time to leave yet?"  "When do we get to go?"  and "Why can't we leave already?"  Only to leave for the airport and have to wait a little more.  I'd rather wait at home, thank you very much.

We arrived in Toronto and spent the night.  Lucy wanted to sleep on the floor with the couch cushions. Since we didn't have extra bedding and we didn't feel like calling for some, she used our packed beach towels.  Slept like a baby, that one.  Well, slept like you'd want a baby to sleep.
And the next morning, we flew several hours and arrived at this:
A beautiful all-inclusive with the bluest, most gorgeous ombred water.  Oh my.  Every day that water took my breath away.  I had seen pictures before but always assumed that they were highly edited or the photographer used filters.  But no, it really truly is that gorgeous.  My brother-in-law commented about how it was kind of like John in trying to describe heaven in Revelations.  And heaven will be even more amazing than this water.
The theme of the week, determined by Val, was "suffering".  And that we did.  Believe me, we suffered.
See Mia and Maddy?  See how they are suffering?  They had to cover their faces so they wouldn't burn.  Life is hard.

See Cade with all of that sand on him?  You think that sand is comfortable?  No - it causes much chaffing.  That is some serious suffering.

It was so nice to have the ocean, the pool and the neighbouring hotel's pool.  The place we were at was smaller and more quiet (GR Caribe) but it's "sister" hotel was next door (GR Solaris) and it had a much bigger pool area.  It was kind of the party place which worked out well for us.  We got the quiet, more reserved area - great on most regards - especially for having quiet evenings, but could go to the more active party-place any time we wanted.
One of the highlights for the boys (okay, for everyone), were the free drinks.  Blake became a connoisseur (shocking....).  He would listen to everyone order their drinks and then order the same, although virgin, of course.  There were some drinks they couldn't get (virgin meant basically a glass of ice), but they tried all they could!  Cade's go to was the "Blue Hawaii" - a piña colada with some type of sour blue syrup.   Not sure what Carson was drinking here but I love the red up against the blue of the ocean.
You might just want to take a look at the sign on the side of the jacuzzis... No children allowed.  No regard.....
My favourites were virgin "mojitos" and "banana sexy".  We discovered the banana sexy through Lucy of all places!  A little unnerving, I know.  So, I think this is how it goes....  Chris saw someone with a drink called "sex on the beach" (lovely names they come up with) and figured that Val would like to try it, so he got one for her.  Lucy thought it looked good and decided that she wanted to try one as well.  So she asked what it was called.  After a small amount of hemming and haaing, my slow little brain came up with "fun on the beach".  She promptly went up to the bar and placed her order (she was fantastically independent in this way - she's so great!).  I wasn't too sure how that was going to go.  Well, when she came back, she had a drink that looked a little less pink but was extremely delish!  The bartender asked her is she wanted it with banana, she said yes and bam, she now had one of the most coveted beverages.  From then on she ordered a "banana fun on the beach".  Some of the bartenders didn't quite get it and she'd sometimes come away with something a little different.  But they understood me!  Later Chris found out it was called a "banana sexy", so I just ordered it for Lucy.  I didn't want my 8-year-old baby girl bodying up to the bar and ordering a banana sexy.  I plan for her not to know the truth for a while - or at least until she reads this in the next book!
I would just like to take a moment to express my frustration with this blog post and give a little information that will do little to dissuade you from the notion that I am lazy.  For some odd reason, the photos did not load in chronological order.  Me no like.  At first I started moving them about to put them in order but quickly gave that up.  With this number of pictures and the limited capability of moving them quickly (only one at a time and scrolling through....), I'm saying "Forget this ridiculousness!!".  So I'll be writing more at the first mention of an event or whatever and then may put a little quip here or there later on.  But sheesh, this is taking me forever to post without trying to get it just right.
We had the delightful joy of celebrating Mia's 13th birthday on Wednesday.  Yes, that is right, 13.  As in - teenager.  As in - I am the mother of TWO teenagers.  Two.  In their teens - both of them.  When will it ever stop???  
Enough.  What kind of bragging rights does this girl have now?  Going to Cancun for her 13th birthday.  We have got to be the best parents ever.  EVER.  Uncle Buck and Auntie Rach even sent gifts.  A dress and flip flops.... perfect.  And some maracas from the cousins.  In purple, of course.

Lucy was just playing around on the beach (also suffering majorly, I might add). I love these pictures.  Love them.  Eric pointed out that they kind of look like an old-fashioned type shoot.  

Most afternoons we took a much needed break from the sun.  Most of the time the kids all hung out in our room, ordered room service (ice cream) and played on the computer, read or stuff like that.

Maddy was trying to act all mad and tough that I took her picture - she smiled afterward.
In the mornings they had a great breakfast buffet with pretty much everything you could hope for.  Chef-made omelettes where my usual.  Yes, you can have a usual when you are there for 5 mornings.  Lunch would be pool side.  Either at the snack bar with different options every day, but always hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos and such things.  One day they had fantastic fish tacos.  I had four.  Yes, I did.  And I could have had more but I was trying to display a teeny bit of self control.  The neighbouring hotel had a made to order wood-fire pizza place that was fantastic.  Then dinner we had at different restaurants.
Every afternoon they had various activities, including daily bingo.  No, we are only in our forties (and younger!), but we played bingo anyway.

And Mia won the two row round!  On her birthday!  True story.  She got to pick a prize and chose a handy-dandy water bottle.  Instead of yelling BINGO, we had to yell Que Pamela! to win.  Pamela sounded like the voice in the airport that says "Mr. Quiren Hoskments, please pick up the white courtesy phone" - but with even more inflection.

The next round was for a black-out and Eric and two others got it at the same time.  Unfortunately, some little punk kid was standing right in front of Pamela, so he got there first and was the only one who got a prize.  Eric was more-than-mildly bitter.  He and the other winner went up to claim their prize until Pamela told them nuh-uh - no prize for you!  I have a picture of that but the lady who won as well was losing her bathing suit (well, actually it was right where she wanted it to be, but there wasn't much of it and there was a lot of her, if you know what I'm saying) so I thought better than to put the picture up.

This picture is stinking fabulous.  I wish my focus was perfect on Eric, but it is off a little.  Drat.  But seriously - Eric is swimming out with the wave and then Chris is under water, swimming along side the wave - and look how clearly you can see him!  That is some seriously clear water.

"Life guards" had a bit of a problem with our family - on several occasions.  That is one of them below in the white shirt and red shorts.  I guess they are just trying to protect people, but they were a little over-kill.  They wanted to kick us out of the ocean when we let the kids swim after dark (they were only out a few feet).  More on that later.

Everyday they would come around and offer some healthy lunch appetizer type stuff.  A cone of veggie sticks, or like this picture, a made to order salad.    It was quite lovely.

The theme of the week was "suffering".  We were definitely suffering, as you can tell.  It was rough - probably the toughest week ever.

Afternoon naps were often indulged in - like I said, suffering.  One other afternoon Val napped in one of the lounge chairs by the pool.  Eric suggested gathering as many cups as possible, put them all around her, and then take a picture.  Good idea, but we were too tired to do it.  It was really an exhausting week, you understand.

Okay, lifeguards.  First of a, an explanation about the weirdness of these pictures.  I forgot to change my camera settings from the picture above so these pictures were completely overexposed.  So with some editing I could get detail here although there was very little colour.  Makes for some interesting shots.
On to the lifeguards.  They like their whistles.  And they blew their whistles a lot while we were around.  Thursday was a super windy day.  The waves were pretty big and the water was pretty rough.  Since both Eric and Chris are great swimmers and were keeping a keen eye on the kids, things were going just fine and dandy.  At one point, the kids were caught up a bit - they couldn't get back in but weren't getting swept away.  So Eric and Chris ambled in and went to help them.  By the time they got all the kids pretty much back to shore, a lifeguard jumped in to help and four security guards came out.

Chris and Eric started getting an earful of reprimands in Spanish.  Eric spent a significant amount of time explaining to them that the kids were fine, he and Chris got to them and helped them, he has been trained in the ocean in California, on and on.... but they wanted none of it.  The kids were supposed to stay out of the water.  We had to give our room numbers so they could write a report.  I think we ended up giving our room number about 4 times for such events.
Later, it may have been the same day or the next, Eric went to tell the lifeguard, out of courtesy, that he and Chris were going out into the water to swim and bodysurf.  The lifeguard said no, it was too risky.  After a bit, Eric finally said - nicely - that he wasn't asking for permission, he was just letting him know as a courtesy, so he shouldn't bother blowing his whistle at them.  The lifeguard refrained but as I kept my eye on him, I could tell he was keeping his eye on the guys.
Good times.  Moving on....
Lucy was trying to get away from the ever-present camera.  She pretends to hate it, but she can't.  Besides, the camera loves her so much, she has to love it back!

The "other" pool had water balloons one day.  Not sure what they were for, but the boys decided that they were for them to play with.  Carson threw to Cade and Blake to do some runny leaps to catch them in the water.  Later they decided that they could possibly get a better balloon, so they went to exchange it.  Unfortunately is was just the opportunity the rec. lady wanted - they put the one back that they had and she wouldn't let them take another one.  That was after they received some reprimands about not jumping off the bridge into the pool.  These people were going to be very happy to see us all leave.

Back at the bar.  It didn't end - ever.  But most of the bartenders were great and indulged the boys (and the rest of us) with whatever was desired.  

Maddy was trying to avoid getting wet.  Ocean, Maddy.  Its an ocean.
On Friday, most everyone had had enough sun.  Val had more than her desired allotment.

Soon Val had company in her mummified beach experience.  Soon after I took this picture, she added a hat as well.  I'm sure her feet got burned, though....

Another afternoon break and another mojito for moi.
We decided that a few family pictures were in order.  While we talked about doing it already on Tuesday, we decided to wait until we all had a little more colour.  The hope was to have a little more brown colour, but the reality was a little more red than desired.  But we still look cute, yes?

I've decided that I want to have one of these bench things in my back yard (if I ever get a back yard.... I hate house hunting).  I think I'll make it into one big bed though instead.  I had plans years ago to do that back in California, but in my mind it wasn't a hanging one.  Now it is a hanging one.  I'm sure Eric will build it for me.  Right honey?
These next few pictures are all just before we left.  Chris, Val and the boys had to leave very early on Saturday morning but we had until 1:00.  Since everyone was done with the sun and the water (I wanted more, but no one would join me.  Probably for the best), we packed up, brought our luggage to the bag guy (that is official title, I'm sure), got some more drinks and went out in the shade to read and hang out.

Good-bye mint leaves for my mojitos....

I moved the cushion to the chair I was about to sit in and out popped a gecko.  He didn't seem to happy to be disturbed.  We had a little freaking out from some family members (apparently they didn't recall with fondness the many geckos in Costa Rica and Panama - or Maddy's friend who crawled out of the toilet when she was using it.....) but then we got over it and settled down.
I've named him Art after my sister's friend gecko in Puerto Vallarta.  She came up with the clever name and I had to copy her.  Art.  As in Art Gecko.

While those photos were from the last day - these next ones are from the first.  I told you they loaded all wonky.  Not happy. 

How I suffer.....

Also on Wednesday - right after bingo.  We decided to go to the market.  It was turning out to be a cloudy day and we thought a change of pace would be good.  So we headed out to the bus stop.

These shirts were everywhere.  We were dying with laughter thinking that we should all get shirts like these and wear them for a family picture.  Eric and I didn't realize the impact this had on the kids (bad parenting moment) until we were home this week and Lucy basically quoted this shirt.  Mia and I decided that perhaps we should explain the language a little - and discourage it, unless referring to a female dog, of course.  Later, we were invited for dinner at some friends and we started telling them about it when Cade bust out with the quote.  Everyone burst out in shocked laughter and we realized (oh yes, another bad parenting moment) that we still hadn't explained it to him.  He was super embarrassed and not at all happy with his parents.  Good thing we had some good-humoured, understanding, also-human friends!  In the wrong crowd that could have gotten ugly!
After the market we headed to Walmart.  Yes, Walmart.  Because everyone goes to Walmart in Cancun.  That is what you do - so much better than the beach.  Well, we needed pants for Chris, Blake and Carson in order to enjoy a dinner at one of the fancier restaurants.  We had tried the night before but were turned away as all of the males were exposing their knees.  So they all got themselves some handsome Walmart pants.
That evening, Cade was very very unhappy about having to wear pants and a collared shirt.  Downright mad, in fact.  The funny (not so in Cade's eyes) thing was that the families in line in front of us had just received pants that the fathers could wear from the restaurant (they have elastic-waisted spares, charming!).  And they said that boys didn't have to wear pants.  All of this would have been nice to know last night before we went to Walmart that day!  And could have saved an immense amount of drama for one Ackermann boy!

Again, that was on Mia's birthday.  I had earlier talked to Pamela (the bingo queen) about getting a cake for Mia.  The original plan was to have a cake, with her name on it, served to her poolside in the afternoon.  After that didn't happen, I asked if she could have it served to us at dinner.  After that didn't happen, we asked the waiter what he could do.  It ended up to be just like at a regular restaurant (I had wanted more - this was 13, after all, and 13, in Cancun, with our family, nonetheless).

Not a flattering picture below - looks like I am not wearing anything but a necklace, and grew an extra chin!  

This has got to be one of my favourite pictures.  Not just because it is of three of my favourite people, but because Val's hair is fantastic.  She styled it to look like that, you know.  Most people might think that it was the wind blowing it around, but she really spent hours and hours getting just right - the tornado coiffure.

Cade thought his chicken nuggets and fries shaped like a caterpillar was pretty cool.

A little time to myself - reading Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.  Very interesting book if you like historical fiction - which I love.  Not a gripping plot but so interesting because most of it is true.
Our finally dinner together.  Part of the package was a lobster dinner for the adults, so that meant another dressy-upy-ish dinner.  This time we let the boys wear shorts.... we were not going to be fooled again.  The only problem was, after we waited for a good 10 minutes, we found out that they did, indeed, have to wear pants!  The hostess offered them pants but she only had adult sizes.  Val had packed up already for her boys, so I kinda hoped that she would take the lady up on the offer.... it would have made for a lot of laughs seeing the boys in those huge pants.  Oh well - they went and changed.
Val flooffed me in preparation for our photos together while we waited.

This is the same evening - you can't see it, but the boys are indeed wearing pants.  I also changed.  Why, you ask?  Well, I made myself this dress (below) before the trip and wasn't going to wear it after all.  But then I thought that this was kinda dumb as I worked so hard to get it done on time.  I made it from some curtains from my mom's new apartment.  As far as curtains go, they were kind of yucky but I saw a beautiful new life for them.  Unfortunately my first attempts of making them into a longer flowy maxi dress did not pan out.  The stiff fabric did not want to be flowy, it wanted to be a somewhat fitted sheath.  So sheath it was.
The lighting on these pictures of Eric and I was pretty garish.  So I tried some editing options (the last one is the original).  

As a final goodbye on Friday night (the others Ackermanns were leave at the crack of dawn - before it cracked, in fact), Albisio showed up for a little wall climbing.  It was a very sad but sweet goodbye.
Man do we love them.  And miss them - SO much.  It was so amazing to spend such a great week with Chris, Val, Blake and Carson - we had an incredible time (that should really be all caps, bold, underlined, with multiple exclamation marks after it).  Not easy to say goodbye.  I can't get over how incredibly blessed we are as a family - first to be able to do this together, and even more so - much much more so, to want to do it together.  To long to do it together.... and for it to not only live up to the expectations, but even exceed them.

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