Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'm Thankful For...

No matter how much I complain about my kids, I am thankful that I have them in this life, and at this moment in time. My cousin, Joni, just posted a link to a woman's website--this woman's 2 year old daughter is dying of Pediatric Cancer, and likely won't survive the week. I couldn't even make it through one post without sobbing. I know I need to count my blessings more often.

Here is the family's blog:

If you would like to make a donation to help this family, you can go to this blog and there is a button on the sidebar:

A visit to a Mexican Dentist in Ajijic

A few weeks ago Jared and I went in for a dental cleaning at a great little 2-person office at Ajijic Dental. The dentist was superb, and gave us the best cleanings of our lives! It was a "hydro" or "sonic" or "something else" cleaning. For the life of me, I can't remember what they called it, and I can't find any phrase for it online. Basically, it was a cleaning without those nasty little metal tools scratching at your teeth, poking your gums. It was all done with a fancy little hydro tool that (much like a pressure hose) cleaned our teeth without scratching at our mouth for hours! It felt fantastically clean, was done very quickly, and didn't hurt at all! We also liked it when our dentist got out a little mini camera stick, and showed us our teeth one-by-one on the screen. She would tell us if the tooth looked fine, or showed us where there seemed to be decay. For once...I felt like a could trust a dentist, because I could SEE what she was talking about (too bad she had a LOT to see in my mouth...)! Teeth cleanings cost us $300 pesos each ($20 USD each)-trying getting THAT in the US.

We had Jared's chipped tooth fixed...she did a PERFECT job for just $45 USD. Perfectly seemless!

She also checked Ella's teeth for free. It was Ella's first time at the dentist, and she was quite nervous. The dentist just had her rinse with mouthwash, and then looked at her teeth with the camera. Ella's teeth looked decay whatsoever (I wish I could say that about mine)!! Way to go, Ella!

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Friday, January 30, 2009

On the topic of table dancing...

A friend showed me this very entertaining article:

Is mommy an exotic dancer? The importance of clear communications

File this under miscommunication.

On his blog, Baltimore weatherman Justin Berk posted this provocative class drawing from a child depicting her mother’s profession.

Berk also posted the mother’s letter of explanation to her daughter’s teacher.

The letter states:

I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer. I work at Home Depot and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week before the blizzard hit. I told her we sold out every single shovel we had, and then I found one more in the back room, and that several people were fighting over who would get it. Her picture doesn't show me dancing around a pole. It's supposed to depict me selling the last snow shovel we had at Home Depot. From now on I will remember to check her homework more thoroughly before she turns it in.
Sincerely, Mrs. ...(Mother)

Just goes to show the importance of clear communication.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Team Alaska Ice Sculptures

We have a lot of extremely talented friends in Skagway, Alaska. This year, some of our friends were asked to attend an invite-only Ice Carving competition in Breckenridge, Colorado last week. When the competition begins, each team starts carving a block of snow (weighing about 20 tons). They can only use hand tools (no power tools), so you can only imagine the work required.

65 hours later, Team Alaska's block looked like this:

Notice the bear searching for the guy in the trailer? Well...he probably won't find him...he's stepped on him!! At the bottom right is their carving/sculpture that was the original design.

They didn't win the competition, but they got Kid's & People's Choice...quite the compliment! Good job, guys!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My little brother is MARRIED!

My little brother got married 2 weeks ago at the Idaho Falls Temple. He married a beautiful, sweet girl named Devri (from Idaho Falls). I flew up with just Maiya, and left Jared to tend to Ella in Mexico. Maiya was somewhat of a terror on the flight up (it was a VERY late night), but was an angel on the way back (VERY early, and she slept almost all day on the 2 planes)! I enjoyed the view of Mexico from the plane (bottom right). I guess I always assumed most of Mexico was a desert wasteland...but its scenery varies dramatically.

Devri is very talented, and made Maiya an adorable dress for the wedding. Gee...the girl was getting married, and here she was...making a dress for a baby just a few days before the big day! We like her a lot, and are happy to have her addition to the family! It is always a relief when a family member chooses a spouse that we can relate to! According to the luncheon "toasts"...we have caught wind that she will fit into the family perfectly. She sounds like a strong, opinionated woman...just like a few other Saville girls that I can think of! I am so happy for Brian...and still find it hard to believe he is old enough to get married, let alone date a girl...

While in Utah and Idaho, we got some good family time in (although much too short)! We swam at my parents' and siblings' hotel, ate a bunch of yummy meals, and I stayed the night at my brother-in-law's grandmother's house. She is an angel, and quite the host! You wouldn't believe the breakfast she cooked up for us, and you also couldn't imagine her perfectly preserved home from the 60's. Wow...I should have taken and lime green shag carpets...and all the accessories! I would have eaten this house up in my high school years...I'm sure I would have dug some great clothes out of the closets...

Thanks to my family for being my transportation, and helping me attempt to be a single mom for the weekend. How do single parents do it? I don't even want to find out...

Oh, no you didn't...

There are funny quirks about this place...and sometimes I see things that make me laugh so hard...

For example, we purchased a bunch of metal handmade planes, trains, and automobiles for our store.
The shop owner gave us a brochure of the different items that they make, including their mini scenes for professionals (i.e. Doctors, Teachers, Musicians, etc). The first one may seem normal, but the other two caught my eye...

Hmm...know anyone in these professions that I should purchase these for?
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Christmas, New Years, and everything in between...

About Christmas...
It was quite an unusual Christmas...warm, sunny, and quiet.
Our tree was a whopping 9 inches high (including the angel).
It took about 5 hours of crafting the "Arrbol Navidad" at a church Enrichment class where a few Mexican sisters taught the Gringos in Spanish. None of us speak Spanish, but we managed! This Mexican Paper Mache craft is unlike anything I have ever seen before! I actually really enjoyed it! I realized that nowadays it is rare for me to do crafts that are unrelated to the business and don't fall under Jared's scrutiny...hahaa!

On Christmas Day, Ella didn't know it was a special day. That is, until we sat down with her and explained to her the Christmas Bible story, baby Jesus, and how the Wise Men brought Jesus gifts. We then pulled out her single gift and explained to her that it was a reminder of when the wise men visited Jesus. Of course, she was thrilled to get a present!

She got a cute little mini doll chair and table set that we bought at a little tienda for less than $2.50. Simple, and yet...well...isn't that what Christmas should be? I have to admit that as a retailer I am quite cycnical about what Christmas has been "made into." Of course I desperately want my customers to "buy buy buy!", but our celebration of Christmas is quite different in reality. I think it is easy to miss the whole point, nowadays!
The following week we went to Chapala with some friends that we randomly made in church on Sunday. Carla & Greg were visiting from Texas for their 10th wedding Anniversary (left the kids at home), and were without transportation or plans. We chimed and asked, "Do you want to go to the Chapala market with us, tomorrow?" They accepted, and on Monday it turned into an all day affair. We thoroughly enjoyed their company, and even got some family photos (a rarity)!

The chapel in Chapala had set up a huge nativity with corn husk characters (perhaps 2-3 feet tall each). I was really impressed, as I've always loved the corn husk doll craft. I especially enjoyed the Satan character standing in the corner. Hmm...that's a new twist on the nativity scene that I have never seen before!
Ella made buddies with Carla & Greg immediately. The next day we offered to take them to Tonala, an outskirt community in Guadalajara where many of the products sold in Mexico are made. There is an outdoor market, and there is always some great shopping to be done. I think they ended up buying 4 or 5 nativity sets while we were there!! And all for ridiculously inexpensive prices!

We had a business mission to custom order some metal embossed artwork for our store. We knew what we wanted, and were returning to ask some artists to make images of wildlife that they don't see down here...such as moose, bears, etc. As it turned out, Carla & Greg speak great Spanish (Greg is a Spanish teacher), and they translated for us as we made our custom orders. Looking back, I'm not quite sure how we would have done it without them! They were a HUGE blessing, and we hope to stay in touch and remain friends! Too bad they don't live down here!
On Jared's birthday we dropped the girls off at a friend's house and scurried over to the movie theater to enjoy our first movie in town (and our first break from the kids!). We were disappointed to learn that the theater was closed for the New Year's Eve! Argh! What luck!! So, we went to Walmart, instead. Yes, SOOOO exciting!

While there, we ran into some friends who invited us to their house that evening. They were having a small get-together. We accepted, and I baked a birthday cake to take to the party for Jared. The party was great, intimate, and included just a small number of other Mexican couples. Two of the husbands (including our host, Mark) are Canadian (married to Mexican women), so they helped to translate! We learned a bit about the Mexican New Year traditions.

We enjoyed yummy food, sat outside on Mark and Martha's veranda, and enjoyed the beautiful weather all night as the kids played in the yard and inside. Mark and Martha's property is right on the lake, and is SUPERB. Here's a photo of their backyard in the daylight:

We talked about American and Mexican New Year's traditions. One of the Mexican men was laughing about how he was once in the US, and was shocked when his hosts turned on the TV to watch the ball drop...he couldn't believe it. He thought that was so funny!

In Mexico, they count down according to their own watches, and when the clock strikes midnight, they eat a grape for every clock chime (you know...12 chimes means it is 12 o'clock). They say it is for good luck for each of the months of the coming year! Truly, 12 grapes is a LOT to eat in 12 seconds...and I don't think everyone quite did it...but I suppose it is the intention that counts!! Everyone also went around the room and gave each other a hug.

We left "early," around 1am. We were told that Mexicans often go to 2am or 3am. Maiya was a wreck, and needed to be put to bed...but Ella could have gone all night playing with her new best friend from preschool, Pablo. Pablo is the child of Martha and Mark, and is clearly Ella's new beau (to rival Nico in Alaska). They have been inseperable at school, lately (which has caused a bit of trouble). Oh...isn't it funny that Ella's two boyfriends have both been half-Mexican?!! :-)

Oh...and a few more photos to end my post...

Maiya is developing quite the personality. She thinks everything is SOOO funny. She makes this sly face when she is up to something goofy (like climbing or lounging on the stairs...her favorite). Her giggle and toothy smile is just priceless!
She also likes to bite Mommy, Daddy, and Ella...just because she thinks it is funny. It's so cute right now...but hopefully it won't become a habit! She just giggles and giggles...until you loudly scream "Ouch!"...and then she cries!
Jared has also decided that he wants to spend more time outside. So, for a week straight we would move an extra couch outside every day so he could relax out there. I don't think I ever took the time to enjoy it. It was jsut a bit too too warm and sunny for my taste :-) Oh, Mexican living is hard... survived another dreadfully long blog post (or perhaps you just skimmed past the photos, to the bottom?)!! Oh well...either way...

Happy New Year!
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chopping Ella's hair...SHORT!!

I decided to trim Ella's hair, and when I took the first cut, I realized I had done it WAAAAY shorter than expected!
However, it is adorable, and much easier to deal with. And most importantly, I'm SO glad she likes it, too!!!

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Let Preschool Resume!

After Ella's nearly 3 week break from school, we are ready for Preschool to resume! This has been a typical scene in our house, lately, and my ear drums are about to burst!

School begins tomorrow (hallelujah!), and I (Alisa) get a break from Ella for 5 days as I fly to UT with Maiya for my little brother's wedding. Brian is getting married in the Idaho Falls Temple, so I'll be carpooling up from UT in a vehicle packed with family...I'm so excited to see everyone! Wish me luck on the plane with Maiya...she doesn't like sitting still for very long, either!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Manzanillo, Melaque, Puerto Vallarta, and Sayulita...

Before Christmas, we took a road trip south to the Mexican state of Colima, and into the coastal town of Manzanillo. On the way, we saw rows and rows of palm trees, which we later learned are coconut plantations!
Our hotel in Manzanillo was right on the beach, and cost us a whopping $400 pesos ($30 USD). I think we were the only people there, as it was very quiet. The view from our room was sensational!

The room itself was VERY basic. And boy, was it hot! They didn't have air conditioning (we wouldn't expect it with the price we paid), but luckily they had a high-powered ceiling fan. The place itself looked pretty old and run if the owners hadn't given it a face lift...EVER. Jared and I can only dream of what we could do with a place like this if we fixed it up, painted the walls, gave it some character, and created a hopping beach retreat for tourists....

But Hotel Anita's large room definitely met our needs, and everything was dandy except for the gigantic, UGLY spider that we killed in the bathroom. I jumped out of bed hysterically in the middle of the night, telling Jared there were spiders all over the walls. He calmly assured me there weren't. I had to squint hard, but I finally realized he was right. That darn spider gave me nightmares!

The beach wasn't bad, either! We bought some inner tubes from the vendor across the street (who lived in the attached shack), which allowed Jared and I to play nearly hands-free in the ocean with the girls.

As the sun went down, we found ourselves bombarded by schools of little fish. They would swim by us all at once, running into our legs repeatedly (whoa...that's freaky!), and even jumping around our heads. We would be playing with the girls, and all of a sudden, 10 fish would come jumping out of the water! They would run into our heads, land in Maiya's little inner tube, and definitely kept us on our toes! During our entire trip, we never actually played on the beach during the day. Somehow, we'd only get out to swim when the sun was going down, which means that we all avoided sunburns!

The next morning, we took a peaceful walk along the beach.

We decided to continue driving up North, and but we first stopped at the Manzanillo market. We saw several things that we hadn't seen anywhere before, such as some amazing colorful pottery! We also saw many gringos, and for the first time had a price quoted to us in US dollars. I thought they meant in pesos, and I thought...WOW! What a steal! But alas, they are more used to seeing gringos in these parts. I felt like it somehow cheapened the experience.

We packed the girls back into the car (grateful for the air conditioning), and drove North to Barra de Navidad. It was one of our favorite little towns, as it was very walkable, well-paved, and had great personality!

The beach was quite busy, so we just had a look-see...

And the sandbar has been built up to be a great little hang out for visitors:

We kept driving just a tad North to Bahia de Navidad, and into a little village called San Patricio-Melaque. Our Lonely Planet guide book labeled it as the more budget-minded community, and it proved to be true. We ended up staying at a lovely family-run hotel called Hotel Bahia. The family who runs it has 6 children, and they manage the entire hotel by themselves, without outside help. The owner showed us a small, but nice room, and we decided that we couldn't fit Maiya's little pop-up tent. We obviously showed disinterest, because he suddenly dropped the price from $550 to $350 pesos. After asking for a "grande" room (gee...our Spanish is ridiculously simple), he understood our predicament (we played a fun game of charades), and he managed to find us a larger room. And at less than $27 USD!

This was such a nicely kept hotel that we will certainly return if we go back to Melaque. I'd love to take family to this little retreat right next to the beach!

Even Maiya has learned to love the surf and sand, and she actually insisted on getting in this hole that Ella and Jared dug!

I managed to stub my toe on a pufferfish when we were in Manzanillo (it was hidden in the sand on the beach, but I quickly uncovered it when I got stabbed by a spike!). I took a photo of this one lying out in the open in Melaque, and just then an American walked by and told me that they are very dangerous to get poked by! I'm counting my blessings...!

Having fun in the inner tubes...

A typical beach restaurant

And another testament to the coconut plantations surrounding the whole coastal area

In the morning, Jared got us moving again (he tends to do this). I think I deserved earlier warning, but it turned out that Jared intended to drive to nearly every beach in-between Melaque and Puerto Vallarta. This made for a VERY long drive, especially when some of the beaches were quite far out of the way! It was Sunday, so we didn't get to actually enjoy any of the beaches in our suits, but we scoped them out of the "next trip," he said. Our favorite beach, by far, was at Boca de Iguana. The town was practically non-existent, and the beach was nearly deserted, but it was AMAZING!! It was a large, VERY flat beach, perfect for playing with kids! Maybe next time...

We stopped in at Playa Tenacatita for some lunch at a beach-side restaurant. The beach was beyond the sleepy, small town...and it looked like we were headed into the middle of nowhere. We were surprised to find a tourist-type atmosphere on the beach!
And I was proud of myself for figuring out a way to keep Ella's hair out of her face while we ate (who knew you could do so much with 2 toothpicks?)!
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta that night, and checked in at Hotel Rio, just a block off the beach. We shopped around for prices in the area, and thought that $600 pesos was a steal of a deal (the most we've paid for a hotel in Mexico, thus far)! It also thankfully came with air conditioning (hallelujia!), and a sound-proof window (overlooking a VERY busy street). Hmm...if only we had those windows in our house in Ajijic...we could sleep through those fireworks!

We checked into the hotel, and went down the street to grab a bite. My favorite item on the menu was the Fresh Fruit plate "with honey bee." Too bad I didn't order could have been interesting. Oh well...maybe next time?
I was also tempted to try the Pollas with Witch Milk...

We walked along the Malecon after sunset. It was quite beautiful, and we enjoyed a show by the Papantla Dancers. It was dark when we saw them, so my photos didn't turn out. But I found this photo online. Basically, the men started out on the pole top, playing a beautiful song on handmade flutes. They then began hanging from the pole, rotating in a circle all the way, falling further and further down until they reached the ground. I've never seen anything like it!

A website explained the tradition as follows: The unique aspects of the performance are derived from an ancient Aztec legend. In the story, five men attempt to deliver a message to the God of fertility – Xipe Totec – after a long period of drought. To gain the attention of the deity and request the return of the rains, these men cut down the tallest, straightest tree in the forest and erected it in the middle of their village. After removing all the branches, the men dressed as birds, suspended themselves by their feet from the pole and flew in circles to attract the attention of their God. It is believed that this ritual performance dates back at least 1,500 years and was eventually disguised as a sport to conceal the custom from Spanish colonizers.

The next morning, we enjoyed walking along the malecon in the daylight, when all of the shops were open! It is amazing how every region of Mexico has completely different things for sale. Wherever you go, everyone has the same products within the same town, but they rarely have something from another region. Jared and I kept thinking..."Why do they all carry the same things? They could also be selling the cool stuff you see in Ajijic, and then they wouldn't have such tough competition!?" I'm sure it is determined simply by the local availability of products of available to wholesale and resell, however (although the products they're selling aren't locally made!).

That night we stayed in a beautiful room at the Mayan Resort in Puerto Vallarta. Here is an exception view from our room

We got there just as the sun went down, and after all of the restaurants were closed. We ended up ordering room service, which was pretty affordable, considering we could have paid $9 USD for a hot dog at one of the pool cafes, had they been open.
The resort has the 2nd longest pool in...well...I don't remember...
Ella drew us some great pictures in our room. I love her faces she makes, with long stick legs!

The next morning we got to ride the resort's little train around the property. Ella was in heaven!

THEN...(sigh...are you tired, yet? Because this trip wore me out...and it's still wearing me out...just blogging about it!)... we checked out and went to the Sea Life Park (formerly known as Splash). It was a FABULOUS water park just north of the airport in Puerto Vallarta!
We just missed the dolphin show, but we were able to watch the trainers practice a bit...
And here is Ella hamming it up in her new swimsuit we picked up at the market for $40 Pesos ($3USD). Does she look so cute? Too bad the tie-dye ran all over one of the hotel towels...and I ended up buying that, too!

The water park had AWESOME slides. Most of them were not suitable for Ella, but we were able to take her down on a few big ones! There were large innertubes to rent, a children's area, a lazy river, and some other fabulous slides! Jared and I switched off with the kids so we could each enjoy the great adult rides! The wildest slide there was hardly a slide at was a gigantic bowl! You'd rush through the tube, and get spit out into a giant bowl where you'd circle wildly until you lost your momentum, and dropped into the pool underneath. What a ride!
Oh, and the day still wasn't over. Oh, no!! In true Lybbert-style, we got back in the car, and drove some MORE!! We went about 30 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta to a tiny village called Sayulita. Once a quaint little fishing town, it is now a happening gringo-infested hippie/surfer town. It was an absolute hoot!

We checked into Hotel Diamante, a fabulous little find with lots of space, vibrant color, and an outdoor communal kitchen. We traveled with a cooler of food, and in the 5 days were were gone, we ate out only 5 times (not bad when you consider breakfast, lunch and dinner).After fixing up a snack, we ventured out onto the beach in the darkness. It was peaceful, and yet there were still people out and about. As we wandered into town, the restaraunts were still hopping, and even the gift stores were open. Of all the shops in Mexico, Sayulita had the most beautiful, well-fashioned gift shops! There is clearly a heavy American influence in Sayulita, and it certainly caters to tourists.

In the morning we found the typical stands set up by the native men in their traditional clothing, selling their incredible beadwork.
We enjoyed a yummy, healthy breakfast at a hippie joint (I had hummus, and even managed to buy the owner's remaining Tahini/Sesame Paste from his jar, so that I could make my own at home. I have been looking for Tahini Paste for over 9 months...I couldn't even find it in Alaska!)
The view from the cafe...
Sayulita had one of the busiest beaches that we saw on our trip, but the town made up for that downfall with its character. We will definitely take friends/family here in the future!

Here's the "world famous" Sayulita Fish Taco joint, which our Lonely Planet book says some claim has the best tacos in Mexico. We didn't find out for ourselves...

AND...after 5 nights and 6 days on the road, we were ready to get back to Ajijic! The drive home from Sayulita was a whopping 5 1/2 hours on windy, slow roads. So, I guess we won't be making any "quick" trips to Puerto Vallarta. If you want to come visit in to Guadalajara!

And if you aren't tired after reading all of that (I am!)...then you're nuts, too. We've decided that one of these years we'll learn how to REALLY vacation. That is...go to a hotel, and STAY in that hotel for more than one night. Maybe 2 or 3 or more!? We'll see...

That's what I get for marrying a professional driver...