Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Want to Be a Billionaire...

Ask my kids what my parenting purpose is and you will probably hear something about making their life painful and full of embarrassment. There will be no talk of cooking, cleaning, driving them all over creation, or giving them hugs. Well here's my little secret... sometimes my job IS to make their lives painful or as I like to refer to it; teaching life lessons.

Meet my son, Harry.

 Overall he is a good kid. He's a hardworker, full of energy, and is known to be caring. One thing that has always been a problem for Harry is his money management. Ever since he was a very young child he has spent every last dime of money he is given within about a half hour of receiving it.   I have to admit that when he was 3 and received a dollar or two, watching him run through Target seeing what he could buy with it was kind of endearing. By 6 years old, I wondered how long this phase would last. By eight years old, with no end in sight to the free wheeling spending, we decided to put boundaries in place. Images of him as an adult wandering through Target filling his cart up with video games and candy on payday began to weigh on my mind. We discussed the importance of saving money for something he really wanted, not just the "right now". Harry had a hard time grasping the saving concept. He is the type of kid that always has a running list of things he wants, so to him "really wanting" something is a daily occurrence.

Fast forward 4 years. Harry is now 12. Late last year he started to turn a corner; all be it slowly. He decided he was going to start saving his money for a big purchase. At first it was going to be the new Nintendo DS 3D, then a month later it was going to be a drum set. He has been pretty steady with the drum set idea. Well now he has decided to play percussion for orchestra next year in school, rather than piano. So the idea of buying a percussion kit came up because he will need it to practice. Not as glamourous as a full drum set, but more practical and a lot easier on the ears. Here are some pictures of Harry's purchase.

I am very proud of him and his first success of saving up for a big purchase. Although, as he was playing on the new drum pad, he did tell me he still has $100.00 left and he began to shout out ideas of how to spend that.  Baby steps, right?

Monday, April 25, 2011

An Egg-scellent Day...

Yesterday was the kind of day where you don't ask any questions for fear that it might disappear like a mirage...The sun was shining, the temps were in the low 60's (which has been very unusual this Minnesota Spring) and the kids were all getting along.

We had brunch with my parents and brother's family in the morning and the afternoon was spent picking up around the house. The kids went outside armed with a camera, a flip video recorder and the dog. They spent at least 2 hours outside, together and happy. No one came screaming inside that someone was being mean, no one begged to come inside because they were bored...It was quite amazing! When they all did come inside, they all had smiles on their faces and were excited to show us pictures they had taken on their journey.

Harry had to go to football and on the way home he told Erick it had been the best day of bonding with his siblings that he had ever had. It might not have exactly been in those words, but Erick knew that was what he was trying to express.

After football, Becca and Harry sat by the computer putting together the movie that they had made on their walk. Still no fighting or mean words-just teamwork.

Easter was truly a day of renewal and hope for us this year! I truly hope this sibling love will continue to grow and blossom...

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Believe in Miracles...

I have noticed an unsettling trend in the media. It seems that almost everyday a "miracle" occurs. The "miracles" can range from a homeless man with a great radio voice being discovered through youtube to a contestant on American Idol being saved and allowed to compete another week. Now I know in our society of 24 hour news cycles, there is a lot of pressure to make stories exciting and a bit over the top to keep viewer interest and yet...

Perhaps it is the Easter season that has caused me to notice this trend. There is a lot of talk of miracles in church at this time of year and somehow those miracles seem to carry more weight than "if the price of gas came down anytime soon," which I also heard would be a miracle according to a CNN contributor.

Big news of the week: The new cochlear implant upgrade is available for Bella. While some say it is only change in appearance (quite a bit smaller and thinner) there is also research that states it improves overall quality of speech recognition for recipients. We did go ahead and order it through Mayo Clinic, but I am always nervous about insurance until we actually receive it. By all my calculations, insurance should pay for it, but for anyone who has dealt with the wonderful world of insurance companies, you understand my hesitation and uncertainness. Anyway, if we do receive the new upgrade, we hope to be able to keep Bella's current processors as backups. And if we do, I have a plan. For years I have read about parents who have used diving bags, food saver machines and water tight balloons to allow their children the ability to hear while swimming. The key is to provide a waterproof environment for the cochlear implant. I have never risked this with Bella's implants. I mean if something goes wrong and the implant gets wet, that's a big "whoops". And expensive! But with all of the swimming Bella is doing and the research I have done over the last few weeks, I am willing to give it a try if we have a back-up to spare. Bella does a great job of lip reading and keeping up on her swim team and yet...Just imagine if she could hear all the instructions the teacher gives; all of the counts that help develop timing which is so important to the sport. Well I dare say it would be a mir...well, ok maybe not, but it would be super cool!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's All About the Climb...

I have always admired people who view each day as a clean slate and look for challenges to conquer on a daily basis. Pushing outside of your comfort zone is not always easy. At least not for adults. Yet, I look at children and they have this attitude daily. Pushing boundaries, trying new things, looking for fresh adventures, is second nature to kids. When did we lose that and how do we get it back?

Last Friday, Bella pushed outside of her comfort zone. She was at swimming with her class at school for PE and I asked if she wanted to try jumping off the diving platform. She had tried this last Spring, but was very fearful and didn't enjoy it. This year was a whole new story. She jumped off and swam over to the side ladder. I looked at her face to see if there was fear, but all that I saw was a big smile. She quickly got out and went again...and again and again. Then after awhile, I saw they were getting the rope swing down where you have to hang on and then drop off and swim to the other side of the pool. Was she up for that challenge? You bet! She got out and told me she was scared to let go of the rope at first, but then it was ok. After a few times, she looked like an old pro.

Becca is all too familiar with pushing boundaries (oh, the life of a teenager), but lately she has done it in a new direction. She joined girl's lacrosse for Minnetonka High School. It wasn't completely initiated by her. The coach got her name from some girls on the team that Becca has played lacrosse for the 7-8th grade league the last two years. When faced with the opportunity, Becca was unsure whether to join. After some thoughtfull comtemplation (and some well meaning pushing from her parents), she decided to give it a try. A week into it, she is not liking the piece of getting into shape (2 mile daily runs), but I think she likes the team aspect. Stay tuned for more...

Well, onto find some challenges to conquer...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Riu Palace Las Americanas-Cancun Review

Recently I made a trip to Cancun and stayed at the Riu Palace in Cancun. I spent a lot of time reading trip advisor before my trip to get advice so I decided to write my own review in the hopes that it may help someone.

We arrived around 3pm. We had to wait a few minutes to check in, but not more than 10. We went during Spring Break so we expected it to be a busy season. The staff was helpful and enthusiastic about the trip. I do wish they handed out a daily schedule of events (ie pool activities), but the schedule is listed by the "party pool" if you are interested.

We had a gorgeous room on the sixth floor with a wrap around beach view. It was tucked into the corner of the hallway so we had no noise at night (except for the lulling of the waves outside). The bed was a true king size (not two beds pushed together). Each day the room was cleaned and the fridge was restocked. The room does have brandy, tequila, rum, and vodka dispensers on the wall. The fridge is stocked with Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Beer. We did leave a tip each day for the service. The bathroom counter was very large and had enough room to put all of my products. We had read about thefts so we were very careful to leave expensive electronics in the safe. It is a pretty small safe and won't fit a full size laptop. My husband had asked the front desk if they had a safe he could keep his computer in and they said "no." I found this a little strange as most hotels have a safe at the main desk that guests can use.

Room Service
We did room service a few times and I will tell you that one time we had asked for a fruit plate delivered and left on the table even though we weren't going to be in the room. They had agreed, but when we arrived it was not there. When we called them back, they said they didn't deliver it because we weren't there. So, my advice is to make sure and order something when you are in the room. Also, we had read that you can order champagne to the room. We ran into a bit of trouble with this. We tried to do this as a special treat for our last night, but they said they couldn't do it on such short notice. So if you want champagne delivered to your room, make sure you do it a day or two in advance.

There are two main pools to use. One is the infinity pool and the other one has the pool bar. The pool with the bar is much louder and more lively. There are activities throughout the day at the pool including yoga, water aerobics, volleyball, and dancing. The entertainment staff was fun and friendly.  By noon the pools are very busy. Most people put towels down on chairs by about 10am. There are lots of pool servers who come around and get you drinks, so you can just sit back and relax.

We tried all of the different restaurants at the resort rather than eat at the buffet each night. You do need to make advance reservations for the restaurants so I would suggest emailing before your trip to get your first night taken care of. Below are the different types of restaurants:

Los Arcos-Brazilian Steakhouse
El Romero-Seafood and Steak
Tio Pepe-Mexican
Krystal-Fusion French Meditreranean

Each of these restaurants does have a dress code for adult males, which is long pants and a shirt with sleeves. There is no dress code for women, but most ladies wore sun dresses or nice pants.
The restaurants each greeted you with a signature drink which I found a nice touch. My favorites were Los Arcos and Krystal. The service at each was very good. I recommend bringing one's to tip them. Bringing about $150 in ones will be helpful in all of your tipping throughout your visit. The staff works hard to deliver excellent service and they deserve the recognition.

Other Activities
While it would be possible to stay at the hotel the whole week and lounge by the pool, we decided to do a bit of exploring. First, I will say it is very easy to use the local bus system. It comes right in front of the Riu Cancun hotel that is next door to the Riu Palace. It is much cheaper than taking taxi's everywhere. One activity we did was take the ferry over to Isla Mujeres. We took the bus over to Playa Tortuga and then took the 10:30am ferry over to the island. The island is small and can easily be explored in a day. We rented a golf cart and drove around on our own exploring, rather than sign up for a tour. I also went to Dolphin Discovery to swim with the dolphins. The experience was great! I did the Royal swim which was a little more, but offered 2 dolphins for the group instead of one and also had more time in the water.  We only had 5 people in our group so we had lots of play time with the dolphins. The ticket price even included the buffet with drinks and food.

We also spent part of day going to El Rey which is also a short bus trip away from the hotel (maybe 20 minutes). It is the site of old Mayan Ruins. Now the ruins were pretty small compared to Chicken Itza or Tulum, but if you don't want to spend 4 hours of travel time to see ruins, this might be a great alternative. The best thing about El Rey is that it has tons of iguanas. If you bring fruit with you, you can feed them and they run up to you like begging dogs. It was one of the best experiences of my life! There was no guided tour when we went, but there were plaques to read about the ruins. The price is super cheap and I found it to be amazing with the iguanas!

One night we ventured into town for Dinner and chose Puerto Madero. It is an Argentinian steakhouse. We had Karina at the concierge desk set up reservations for us. We had read that it is known for having very beautiful sunsets, so we requested a spot on the dock where we could watch the sun go down. It was so pretty. The food was very good, but it is expensive. I had the surf and turf and my husband had a fish special which he enjoyed. We also ordered the Caesar salad which was made fresh at the table and was fun to watch and great to eat.

If you do go to Cancun, have a great trip! There is so much to do and see. If you have any other specific questions about the Riu Palace, leave a note in the comments and I will get back to you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Down in Mexico...

Top 10 Lessons of Cancun 2011

10. Put away those fancy shoes unless you are POSITIVE you are just going to dinner or you may find yourself walking 3/4 of a mile barefoot down the grassy median of a Mexican highway.

9. You may never know if you got a good deal or not on that little souvenir you just bought, so just enjoy the art of bargaining.

8. That sun is hotter than it looks (and feels)! Make sure to put on lots of sunscreen.

7. Even though you are right next to the ocean, don't be surprised when you order lobster and it turns out to be from Maine.

6. If your hair does not react well to humidity, it is important to pack a fashionable hat!

5. Federal Mexican police in helicopters throughout the day and on the streets armed with automatic weapons really don't make you feel safer.

4. No need to show up for an activity scheduled at 10:00am on time. I assure you that it won't start until 10:20am.

3. Hearing yourself be called, "lady" on a continual basis (if you are female) makes you feel like you are starring in a Jerry Lewis movie.

2. Looking at the sea may make you hungry for blue-rasberry jello.

1. Every commercial on Mexican tv is shot to look like an info-merical.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just Another Day in Paradise...

I have to confess, I have developed a really bad habit. It all started a few years back when I watched the entire series of "Dawson's Creek" in about a 3 month time span. They had put it into re-reruns on tv a few years after it ended it's initial network run. It ran Monday-Friday, so I was able to quickly able to engross myself into the lives of Pacey, Dawson and Joey. Season ending cliffhangers were only 24 hours or on a really bad week, 3 days if one season ended on a Friday and I had to wait until Monday to find out what happened. The days of long, excruiciating waits to find out how your favorite characters would fix or further destroy their lives was over. It was terrific! That is ended...for good.

Recently, I fell into this trap again, with the show, "Weeds". As many of you know, Netflix allows you to stream shows on your computer with no wait time. In no time at all, I was heavily invested in the troubles of Nancy and her crew. Today I finished, Season 6. Now it will be a long wait for Season 7, maybe a year.

As some of you have read, I recently went on vacation in Cancun. I have discovered that the ending of a vacation is very similar to the ending of a TV season/series. At first there is denial- when I wake up I will have the same beachfront view that I had. Next Sunday, I will find out if Nancy really goes to jail...

Then you begin to wonder if it was all a dream. Did I really get to swim with dolphins?


 Did Joey really choose Pacey or will tomorrow's episode show she had fallen asleep?

Then comes the complete phrase of complete distraction. You are in a constant daydream. I remember the first time I saw the funny towel animal on my bed.
Or the awesome day I spent on Isla Mujeres, exploring the small island in a golf cart.

Throughout the day, I daydream that I am back in front of the infinity pool, laying in the sun with a good book.

Then I am rudely interrupted by the UPS man or some other mundane daily event that requires my attention. Oh, thinking about whether or not Nancy should have become involved with Esteban in the first place will have to wait until later...

Then it hits you. Reality. The trip is over. No new episodes are coming. It leaves you with a sense of emptiness and gloom. Yet you know the ride was worth it, you wouldn't take back a second. Losing Jen to cancer was just part of the journey. I am happy with every experience, good and bad.

Finally it ends with hope. There's no time like the present to plan that next great vacation. With a little time off, maybe Andy can sort out his issues and come back better next season. Who knows what the future will hold, but I am sure it will be worth the wait...