Tag Archives: Mexico

Beach Longings

10 Jan

Relaxing in a hammock on Isla Mujeres

We’re back from the beach! Travis and I just got back yesterday from Mexico. We went to the Cancun Palace in Cancun with  my entire family – parents, brothers, and sisters-in-law.

While the actual vacation was wonderful, both of our getting-to-the-airport experiences were stressful. When we were flying out, the check-in line was a couple hundred people long and there was a problem with my ticket – I had booked it in my married name but my passport is still in my maiden name. Two years ago, I had used a certified marriage certificate to verify the name change but this time, I was told that I should have booked my ticket in my maiden name, to match my passport. Finally, after standing in line for 30 minutes and up at the counter for another 30, we were checked in. Security was fairly quick and we got to our gate with plenty of time.

When we were flying back to the US, the hotel had gotten our airport transfer times mixed up. Travis and I were flying out at 7:45 am, so we were supposed to leave for the airport at 4:30. But the hotel had us down for leaving at 12:30 with some of our other family members. Finally, after a whole hour, the hotel called us a taxi (and paid for it) and we were off. Luckily, the check-in and security lines were very short so we had enough time leaving too. Praise the Lord!

The rest of our vacation was great though. Travis and I shared a room with my brother Chris and sis-in-law Meg. They’re great – I really enjoyed getting to spend time with them. Besides the givens of eating lots of delicious food and drinks, we also took a trip over to Isla Mujeres, where we visited a sister resort to the Cancun Palace (that’s where the picture above came from). We played beach and water volleyball, tennis, ping pong, chess, and pool. We drove little 2-person speedboats and went snorkeling. We laid on the beach and by the pool, reading and talking. We had our family Christmas celebration and went shopping at a flea market.

The whole crew (clockwise from left): Brian, Travis, Jeremy, Dad, Chris, Meg, Mom, Jen, and me

We also visited the Sun Palace that was just down the street from our hotel. There was a bartender there that made all sorts of different fruity shots for us and then sent many tequila shots down to the beach where the guys were playing volleyball. All of us kids ended up pretty drunk that night.

While I didn’t like that we had drunk so much, I will say that the Lord really used that night to bring us closer together and break down some walls. Meg has been very hurt by her parents who are divorced and she feels very responsible for the well-being of her sisters. She wants God in her life but is having a hard time trusting that He can help her in the situation with her mom and sisters. She also has a hard time believing that anyone can love her for who she is.

Jeremy, Jen and I, upon hearing this, started telling Meg about the gospel and how God loves her enough to send His Son to die for her. The 2 things that were the coolest for me were that 1) I am now positive that Jeremy and Jen are believers. They totally get the gospel, which is TOTALLY AWESOME!! and 2) I got to see the state of Meg’s heart. She is very shy and has a hard time opening up to our family so being able to see her heart is a privilege. I can now pray for her in a specific way, as well as follow up later about this conversation. I did talk to her again the next day, just to make sure she knew it wasn’t just something I said while drunk but it’s what I truly believe.

My brother Chris also opened up about how he felt about his job and purpose of life but our discussion was cut short when it was time to go to dinner. Both Chris and Meg are searching. They want God but it seems that they’re not quite to the place of having an intimate relationship with Him. But this definitely energizes my prayers for them!

Cruising around in our mini speedboat

The one main spiritual thought I had during and after this vacation is how much I long for heaven. Being in a paradise like that, with no cares or worries, with my family that I truly love and enjoy being with, I felt an inner temptation to anxiousness. I felt I couldn’t possibly enjoy the vacation enough and that all the days were going by way too fast. I had to remind myself that my heart is really longing for the thing it was created for: perfect communion with God.

In the book I read on vacation, Soul Craving by Joel Warne, he writes, “The new country we have entered [as Christians] never had it in mind to simply waft us a few comforting breezes or provide us a place to vacation from our regular world. It wants to become our regular world. It wants to become, in fact, a new world inside us, remaking all our inner geography.”

Being with my family awakens my heart’s desire for fellowship, for being deeply known and loved. The gorgeous tropical landscape and sunshine reminds me how much I want to delight at the dawn of each new day and feel utter contentment at each sunset. My heart aches for God.

There is a longing awaken by such an experience that cannot be entirely satisfied. And like C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

 

The view from our room

To see more pictures from our vacation, click here.

Back from Mexico

27 Mar

We got back from our vacation to Mexico on Sunday night around 10:45 (our plane got delayed an extra hour in Phoenix). Let me tell you, it has been THE HARDEST transition back from a vacation that I have EVER had, not only weather-wise, but energy-wise and mood-wise.

But more on that later (like tomorrow or the next day). First, the pictures and recap!! I’m going to give the highlights day by day but let it be known that every single day involved stuffing ourselves to the gills with every kind of food and drink you can possibly think of.

Day 1: Sunday, March 15th

Travis and I got to Puerto Vallarta around 12:30 PM. We had about 2 hours to kill before the rest of our family showed up so we went up to our room and watched TV while waiting for our suitcases.

Travis with my "welcome flower"

Travis with my "welcome flower"

Our hotel

Our hotel

The view from our hotel room (in the morning)

The view from our hotel room (in the morning)

After we unpacked, we went for a walk on the beach. I didn’t have any sunscreen on and even though we were only out there for 30 minutes, I  had a tanline by the time we went back in. Darn Norwegian skin!

Travis and I found a little coffee bar and chilled there until my family came. They were famished when they arrived so we went and ate at one of the restaurants (the first of many meals that involved primarily dessert for me!) Around 5:30, Jeremy (my oldest bro) and Jen (my SIL) arrived. We ate with them (again!) and by then, we were all pretty much beat so we went to bed.

Day 2: Monday, March 16th

Travis got up at what we like to call the asscrack of dawn–also known as 6:45 AM–(pardon the French) to go running on the beach. It didn’t even look like it was light outside yet so I opted to go later (at 7:15ish). We ended up running (literally) into each other on the beach so we went back up to the hotel room, got showered, and got in the Word before breakfast (sadly, the only day that would happen).

Breakfast was delicious. These were my favorite breakfast things: chocolate milk, pineapple, cheesy potato oles, sugary French toast with real maple syrup, and scrambled eggs. 

After breakfast, we adjourned to the beach, all of us sitting in a big long line of beach loungers.

Chillin' with the gang

Chillin' with the gang

Travis and me on the beach

Travis and me on the beach

There were many “tourist activities” on the beach you could do: buy jewelry and clothes, parasail, go jetskiing, go on a banana boat, etc. I was intrigued by the parasailing. Every once in a while, someone would joke, “So who’s going to be the first to go parasailing?” And I said, “ME!”

And that’s just what I did. I was excited but also a little nervous, standing there wearing a harness, waiting for the boat and the rope to straighten out. Before I knew it, I was being pulled forward, off the ground, and then I was 200 feet in the air. It was great being up so high, seeing so far. It may not be worth the exorbitant amount of money to do it again but it was definitely worth it for one time.

After I went, Jeremy, Brian, Lauren, Chris, Travis, and even my dad and uncle Roger went parasailing. Those guys got their money out of us!

For dinner we went to the beachfront restaurant called Mar Íntimo:

From the left, my uncle Roger, cousin Ben, cousin Josh, aunt Sharon, brother Jeremy, SIL Jen, SIL Meg, and brother Chris

From the left, my uncle Roger, cousin Ben, cousin Josh, aunt Sharyn, brother Jeremy, SIL Jen, SIL Meg, and brother Chris

From the left, me, my mom Sheri, cousin Tim, his gf Lauren, brother Brian, his gf Lindsay, my dad David, and my husband Travis

From the left, me, my mom Sheri, cousin Tim, his gf Lauren, brother Brian, his gf Lindsay, my dad David, and my husband Travis

After dinner, we watched a rendition of Mamma Mia! (dancers played each of the major roles and lipsynched to the soundtrack…they were good dancers, it was just a little cheesy.)

Day 3: Tuesday, March 17th

Travis and I got up and worked out, ate breakfast at 9:30 with the group, then we sat by the pool, ate some more, hung out on the beach. In the afternoon, we rode dune buggys. Jeremy had talked to a guy on the beach named Orlando who would let us ride dune buggys for 4 hours at $75 a couple. Orlando said we would get to cross streams and see great scenery, more of Mexico, and all the pictures looked pretty cool. In addition, my brothers are all kind of in to that sort of thing so the whole clan ended up going.

Let's do this!

Let's do this! (For some reason, I ended up with goggles that had one dark lens and one light one...it didn't look weird from the inside, just the outside!)

My parents in their buggy

My parents in their buggy

My cousins Josh and Ben

My cousins Josh and BenMy cousin Tim and his girlfriend Lauren

We met up with our guides at their business (as you can see from the pictures above) and from there, we drove right onto the busy, crowded, regular-car streets of Puerto Vallarta. No adults seemed surprised to see us but the little kids waved and smiled.
Jeremy and Jen when we were driving through the streets of Puerto Vallarta

Jeremy and Jen driving through the streets of Puerto Vallarta

Not 20 minutes into our drive, the buggy that Brian and Lindsay were driving (they were right in front of me and Trav) fell apart. The wheel axel just snapped in half as they went over a speedbump. You can kind of see it in this picture:

 
I don't think it's supposed to look like that...

I don't think it's supposed to look like that...

One of the guides who had been following in the back of the pack pulled forward and Brian and Lindsay jumped into his dune buggy so they could continue on. Unfortunately, that buggy was extremely loud and Lindsay had a headache after 5 minutes. Poor girl.

Chris and Meg

Brian and Lindsay right before the accident happened

Driving the dune buggys was fun for about the first hour and a half…it was neat getting to see Real Mexico, not just the tourist-y part. But the unfortunate part was that we were driving on the unbelievably dusty, sandy roads through the slums of the city. We kept thinking, “Just a little farther and we should be getting up into the lush mountains where we get to drive through streams, get muddy, and see lots of great sights.” The more time went by, however, the more we realized that we weren’t going to the jungle…this was it. We were driving down alleys, dirt roads, past shantys and farms, and through (what seemed like) people’s backyards.
 
As if that wasn’t bad enough, my goggles had obviously been broken and fixed with a lens from a different set of goggles because one of the lenses didn’t fill the whole eyehole–so there were gaps in my goggles where the sand could come in. I spent quite a bit of time with my left eye shut, my right eye a slit, hoping Travis didn’t crash and I didn’t get hit by any rocks kicked up by the buggy in front of us.
 
As for the streams, we decided that the water running down the roads (most likely with sewage, oil, and other nasty things mixed in) didn’t count. The real stream was at the halfway point–and it was more like a small river. Though it was only about 2 feet deep, we definitely got wet. I think the guys really got a kick out of that. The women now, we just humor them by being good sports and playing along.
 
On our way back, we stopped at a tequila restaurant where they gave tequila tours (the history of how tequila got started and is made). When we saw ourselves in the mirror, we couldn’t help but laugh at how dirty we were–there were outlines on everyone’s face where their goggles had been. The swimsuit I wore didn’t even get clean when I washed it in the washing machine. A permanent reminder.
 
We were resistant to take the tequila tour because we were doing one the next day with our resort but we did it anyway. I’m glad we did because it was very interesting. They gave everyone 4-5 little shots of tequila at the end (I didn’t take any because I’m not a huge tequila fan).
 
Finally, we jumped back in our dune buggys and got back to where we started. Now we had a new challenge: how to get back. The guys working at the business (our guides) didn’t want to arrange a ride for us until we agreed to buy some of the pictures they had taken of us (which we couldn’t because we didn’t have any money!! We had spent it pretty much all of it on the dune buggys. Plus, they wanted something like $80 for all of them!)
 
I suggested we walk out to the main street and hail some taxis. With 16 people, we were going to need several. My mom suggested to me that I go inside a gas station (since I can speak Spanish) and ask the clerk if there was a bus we could take back. I took the easy way out by asking the man “¿Hablas ingles?” He said “Un poquito” so then I talked in English. 🙂
 
I found out that there was a bus that would take us back to our hotel. The guy said we would have to walk 3 blocks to the bus stop but as I was explaining all this to my family, I saw one of the buses coming. I waved my arm and said “That’s the bus we need!” I wasn’t expecting the bus to stop, but it did so I ran up to the driver and asked if he went by Vallarta Palace. He did and when I asked how much a ride cost, he said 12 pesos (or $1 USD). So we all hopped on the bus and in 20 minutes, we were back home. I think my parents were a little worried…but I thought it was an adventure.
 
After we cleaned up, we ate dinner at the restaurant called Momo No Hana, a Japanese restaurant, where I stuffed myself with sushi (I am a total convert…I love it now!) Then we played some pool…me and Brian dominated the table (only because the players who were usually really good were usually crappy that night)!

Day 4: Wednesday, March 18th

By 9:00, we had set out on a day excursion into downtown Puerto Vallarta on a tour with our resort. When we arrived downtown, we watched four men twirl in a circle upside down while hanging from a 100-ft tall flag pole and playing what looked like wooden recorders but sounded like bagpipes. Little by little, they got closer to the ground and at the end, they grabbed their ropes and righted themselves. Ta-da!

Our guide told us history about Puerto Vallarta as we looked at sculptures along the sidewalk and made our way to the Catholic cathedral. It was very pretty inside but I’ve always been kind of creeped out the way Catholics have so many figurines of the crucified Jesus–lifesize ones! When we left there, I bought some of this amazingly delicious coconut dessert from a street vendor. I wish I would have bought more…mmmm…

We were then given 30 minutes to shop in the market. My mom bought me a “real” (who knows if it’s the truth?) turquoise necklace (which I love!) and Travis a t-shirt with fish and fishing rod on it that says Puerto Vallarta. She also bought my dad a couple of t-shirts. Then it was time to leave. 😦

We drove along the ocean coast in the coach bus, admiring the million dollar homes and the beautiful beaches (the water gets bluer toward the south end of Puerto Vallarta…it was pretty murky where we were). We stopped at the Parque de Las Rocas (I have pictures of them later).

On the way back, we stopped at a real tequila factory (they make the tequila there and you can definitely smell it!) I decided to drink the tequila there and the guy who was giving out the shots decided to pick on me by not just giving me a little taste,  but by filling up my shot glass completely. We tried tequila blanca (for mixed drinks), reposada (for shots), and anejo (for sipping). Then we tried Almond Tequila and Chocolate Tequila. That chocolate tequila was absolutely delicious (coming from a non-tequila drinker!) and if it hadn’t been $80 a bottle, I would’ve bought some to bring home.

Instead of going to a restaurant for dinner that night, Travis, Chris, Meg and I just hung out in their room and ordered room service. It was a lot of fun, just chilling. I felt like we got to actually talk to Chris and Meg. When you’re in such a big group, the conversations are usually just light banter and random discussions, nothing deeper. So it was good to spend some time with them. Plus, Travis got to watch baseball so he was happy. (He liked spending time with Chris and Meg too though!)

Day 5: Thursday, March 19th

After breakfast and a little pool time, all “the kids” (me, my bros, and all our significant others) went kayaking and bodyboarding out in the ocean. Tons of fun. My parents didn’t go kayaking, though I wish they had… I hope they had fun anyway.

We played a little more volleyball in between bouts of beach lounging and then at sunset, we went on a cruise aboard a catamaran. The ship was a lot bigger than I had expected and they served margaritas and some nasty snack food (including what looked like cut-up cold hotdogs). There were several members of our group that felt sick after that night.

I took some pretty pictures (which is a feat with my ancient camera!):

Rock Formations in the middle of the ocean that the natives call Las Rocas

Rock Formations in the middle of the ocean that the natives call Las Rocas

Another angle

Another angleFor some reason, I think these are really cool and really creepy all at the same time (creepy because of all the birds flying around them).

A cave in one of the Rocas

A cave in one of the Rocas

Me and my schweetie--I'm wearing my new turquoise necklace!

Me and my schweetie--I'm wearing my new turquoise necklace!

Brian and Lindsay

Brian and Lindsay

Chris and Meg

Chris and Meg

Jeremy and Jen

Jeremy and Jen

My parents

My parents

Sun over the water

Sun over the water

The beautiful shoreline

The beautiful shoreline

Roger and Sharyn

Roger and Sharyn

Tim and Lauren

Tim and LaurenMe and my MomOur tour guidesBeautiful Sunset

When we returned from our sunset cruise, we went to eat dinner (though I had snacked on the boat and wasn’t hungry). I am not proud to say that I ate a full meal anyway (I blame it on the margaritas). I felt so sick that night. Yuck. I hate doing that.

Day 6: Friday, March 20th
I woke up with the worst alcohol/food hangover I’ve had in years. I was weak, tired, nauseated, and dizzy. In an effort to not feel incredibly disgusting all day long (at the beach  no less!), I got up early (7 AM, but I couldn’t really sleep anyway) and did the elliptical at the gym for 30 minutes. Then I went and ran on the beach for another 25. I felt somewhat better by the time breakfast rolled around but I still only ate fruit and pb toast…anything else made me want to gag.
We were scheduled to go on another tour with our resort, this time on a small boat through the canal to see wildlife like crocodiles and birds. I was feeling decent enough after breakfast to go along. I had been skeptical about the tour…I don’t really care that much about watching wildlife. But it was very interesting. We saw crocodiles, iguanas (they’re like cats in Mexico), and cranes.
Our totally cool life jackets

Our totally cool life jackets

The crocodile--they blend in so well!! This one is only 1-2 years old.

A crocodile--they blend in so well!! This one is only 1-2 years old, just a baby.

A Crane with his skinny little legs

A Crane with skinny little legs

After the tour, we shopped at a local supermarket for more sunscreen and I bought Mexican candy for some of my co-workers.

We ate lunch and went bodyboarding some more, interspersed with laying on the beach and playing volleyball. We had signed up for Sunset Pictures, where a professional photographer takes your picture at sunset. With our whole group, you can imagine what an ordeal it was. And it was so windy on the beach!! I hate wind so I was not a happy camper.

After the pictures, though, we had dinner on the beach…literally. The resort had set up tables and food right on the beach. It was pretty cool.

Me and the hubs

Me and the hubs

Leis complete their looks

Leis complete their beachy looks

The Krsnaks at their beach table

The Krsnaks at their beach table

After dinner, some performers came out into the middle of the tables (where there was an open space) and did capoeira fighting. They did flips, karate, and even fought with swords and sticks. Then some fire dancers came out. They were awesome. I can’t even describe the moves they do.
After that, we went and watched a hotel performance of the musical Grease. It was like the previous one: lip-synching to the soundtrack. But the dancing was good.
Somehow, after all of that, Josh convinced me, Travis, Brian, Jeremy, Jen, Tim, and Lauren to go with him downtown to some nightclubs. We went to 2 clubs, one called the Zoo and another called Hilo. The first was a decent place…good drinks, good dance floor…minus some crazy, drunk girls and one really creepy guy with long hair. The second bar was loud and smoky and sucked. There was more drama to the night but it doesn’t matter…we ended up getting back to the hotel around 2:45 AM.
Day 6: Saturday, March 21st
If my memory serves me correctly, I was up fairly early on Saturday morning as well because of drinking too much and not feeling well (due to the night on that catamaran). No wonder why I have been so exhausted since getting back home! 
I spent the majority of the day at the pool or beach. We played volleyball in the pool and Travis almost lost his wedding ring. I say almost because he had somehow flung it off his finger without knowing. All of a sudden, he realized he wasn’t wearing it so in the middle of the game, he just started walking around, with his head down looking into the water. We were all like “Travis, what are you doing?” To that, he fessed up that he had lost his ring.
Mind you, the ring doesn’t have much actual value…just sentimental value. We borrowed some swimming goggles from a boy who was near by. Everyone playing volleyball stopped and walked around the pool, looking for Travis’ ring. We had pretty much given up hope because we had looked in all the places Travis had been in the pool and not found it.
All of a sudden, Lindsay yelled, “I think I found it!” She picked it up and was like “No, I didn’t. I found a ring, just not Travis’ ring.” I went over and took the ring from her. It was Travis’ ring. I laughed at Lindsay’s initial reaction. Yes, Travis’ wedding ring is THAT scratched and beat up. He won’t let me bring it to a jeweler to have it refinished. Eh, oh well. At least we found it!! And the crazy part was that it was in a section of the pool that Travis hadn’t been anywhere near. Strange…
A minute after we found the ring, Chris came back to the pool with a brand new pair of swimming goggles that he had paid $14 for, just so we could look for Travis’ ring…what a sweetie.
Saturday evening, I got a free back massage, manicure and pedicure (they come with our all-inclusive package). The back massage was half-relaxing, half-annoying (I had done my hair because we were going to dinner afterwards and the masseuse kept massaging my head and messing up my hair!!) but the manicure and pedicure were the best. The chairs they have you sit in face a wall of glass that faces west…and I was there at the perfect time to watch the sun set. Doesn’t get much better than that. Pedicures are one of my favorite things in the world.
We went to eat at Momo No Hana that night and I paced myself better than I had been doing…but still left uncomfortably full (I was definitely ready to go home and eat regular meals again at that point!)
Not wanting to go to bed quite yet, I grabbed a couple of Jenga sets from the bar and we played a few games outside under this mossy terrace laced with flowers and lanterns (absolutely gorgeous!) They were the most intense games of Jenga I have ever played. Both games that I played in, we went so long that we were literally out of moves. The first game ended when I was forced to pull out a piece that just did not want to come out. I tried to wiggle it but it wasn’t coming. So I tried the tablecloth trick–pulling it out really fast. The whole thing toppled over.
Day 7: Sunday, March 22nd
This was by far our most stressful day of vacation. Jeremy and Jen had to leave the hotel around 7:40 or some godawful hour. After much miscommunication with their ticket for a return ride to the airport, they got going around 8:45. Travis and I had to leave around 10:45 for the airport so we had just enough time to pack, get ready, enjoy the pool for a little longer (Travis went bodyboarding again), and leave.
Colorado was warm when we got back but yesterday, we got majorly dumped on. Here is a picture of my car, left sitting outside my office from when I arrived at work to when Travis and I retrieved it around 6:30 PM.
That's a lot of snow!

That's a lot of snow!

Pardon the bad picture, I took it with my phone.
So that was our trip to Mexico. My parents are already planning our next family vacation: Dominican Republic in 2011. Can’t wait!
This is quite possibly THE longest I have ever written so I’m signing out now.
 

Me Voy a Mexico!

14 Mar

Tomorrow, we leave for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I am SO incredibly pumped. But I know that the time will go by fast and before I know it, I’ll be back in Colorado with no vacation on the horizon keeping me sane.

But for now, I’m jumping for joy. Our plane leaves at 8:55 AM tomorrow morning and we get to Mexico at 12:11 PM. Whoop whoop! So pumped to lay out in the 85 degree sunshine next to a pool that looks like this:

Boo-tiful

Boo-tiful

Or on a beach that looks like this:

Aerial view of our resort

Aerial view of our resort

 With a drink that looks like this:

A frozen Mudslide...delicious

A frozen Mudslide...delicious

We are staying at the Vallarta Palace. It’s an all-inclusive 5-star resort. They make animals out of the towels and have amazing smelling lotions. The times we’ve gone before (twice), we’ve gotten free massages, manicures and pedicures (I’m in desperate need of a mani/pedi!) They have free day trips to different tourist spots around the area and all the food and drinks you can handle.

I am the most excited for going to a new part of Mexico. I’ve been to Cancun twice but I’ve never been to the western side. Travis wants to go to a bull fight on Wednesday night. I’m intrigued but have also been warned that it can get pretty gruesome. So we’ll see what I think when we get down there.

It’s going to be a big group of us: me and Travis, my parents, my 3 brothers, my 2 sisters-in-law, my brother’s girlfriend (and probably future sister-in-law), my aunt and uncle, and my 3 cousins. Total number of people: 15.

We’re going to have a good time.

I packed last night since we’re going to go help some friends today work on the house they just bought. All I need to do is load up my toiletries, pack my carry-on with books and my iPod, and I’ll be ready to set sail.

So if you haven’t guessed, I’ll be MIA on my blog for the next week or so. But when I get back, I’ll have tons of fun pictures to post!!

Woohoo!!

Back home.

30 Dec

Well, we made it back to Colorado. Our drive back was uneventful, thank God. We left Rochester around 9:15 AM and drove into our driveway in Wheat Ridge around 9:55 PM. Not bad.

I always feel weird saying we’re “back home” because in my mind, it’s an enigma. I feel like Minnesota is home. When people asked me about my plans for Christmas, I always said “We’re going back home to Minnesota.” But then, when we drive back to Colorado, we’re coming back to the place we live 50 weeks out of the year. We own a house here. We have jobs here. Our church is here. We have good friends here. It has definitely become more familiar and comfortable to live out here but I don’t know if it necessarily feels like home…or if it ever will feel that way.

Anyway, for our last few days in MN, Travis and I hung out with my family in Rochester, where I grew up. I hadn’t been back in about a year and a half, on account of Travis’ cat allergy (last year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas were celebrated at my parents’ cabin in Pine City, MN). But this year was supposed to be different. Travis had gotten acupuncture treatment for his cat allergy and the doctor had proclaimed at his last checkup that Travis was cured. Well, he wasn’t. His allergy is still there. It may be slightly weaker but nonetheless, we were forced to retreat to the Extended Stay America instead of the nice, cozy, queen bed downstairs.

Friday night, after Travis and I arrived in Rochester, my whole family (minus Jeremy and Jen, who couldn’t come up because of Jen’s new job) ate dinner and watched Wall-E. I think that is such a cute movie. Wall-E has cute, little puppy dog eyes. Waaaaaalllllleeeee!!!

Saturday, we had breakfast around 9:30, then opened presents (I got a new 4.5 quart saucepan!), and then went to see Seven Pounds at the theater. That was a good movie. It was all I could do to not break down sobbing at the end. So sad. Travis and I were talking about it later…the movie really illustrates humanity’s desire (and need) for a Savior. [Warning: spoiler.] Tim (Will Smith) gives his life, organs, and house to help 7 people as a way to repay the 7 deaths he caused (including that of his fiancee) in a car accident. At once, his ultimate decision seems both selfless and selfish. Selfless because he’s voluntarily giving up his possessions and even his life to help random people (who he has proven are “worthy” because they are “good people”). Selfish because the decisions are motivated by his own personal guilt. He gives his life to save 7 others’–but only after he first destroyed 7 in the first place.

It’s a wonderful, heart-wrenching story, really. But it made me think about how much more amazing the true gospel is. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong. There was absolutely no reason why He should even think twice about dying for us to have life. And yet, He did. Moreover, Jesus didn’t prove that we were essentially good people. In fact, we’re the very opposite of good. We’re depraved. We’re children of wrath. We can’t do and don’t do anything right or good on our own merits. Like it says in Isaiah 64, our good deeds are like filthy rags to God. But still, Jesus died for us. He died that we may have life. And while for Emily (Rosario Dawson) in Seven Pounds, the gift of life meant not being able to spend that life with her love, Tim, we in Christ not only have life but life with Christ. He is risen and alive. That was the purpose of His death and resurrection: so that we could be with Him in heaven forever.

Anyway, I would definitely recommend seeing that movie. After the movie, we dropped Travis off at the hotel so that he could rest in a cat-free environment and the rest of us went to the house and played Chickenfoot with dominoes–a very fun game might I add (especially with my family, who gets all riled up when someone thwarts their strategy). Then we picked Travis back up and drove to Mantorville to eat dinner at the historic Hubbell House. Very cool. I love seeing pictures and reading about people who lived hundreds of years ago. Ulysses S. Grant and Charles Mayo are 2 of the many famous people who have eaten there. But if you ever go there, though, don’t get a salad. They’re nothing to talk about.

Sunday morning, after a quick breakfast at Panera with the fam, Travis and I started the long journey back to Colorado. And so ended our Christmas Vacation. It went by so fast and it was felt very different not spending Christmas Eve with my family, doing our traditions of fondue, present opening, and the candlelight service at our church. But alas, getting older means letting go of things you used to do and people you used to see. Life moves on.

I would be sad that our vacation is over and that we’re back in Colorado without our families if it weren’t for our upcoming trip to Puerto Vallarta in March. My parents’ Christmas presents to all of us kids (and signficant others) was a weeklong stay at the all-inclusive Vallarta Palace. We just have to pay for our own airfare, which Travis and I did yesterday. We were able to find tickets for about $500 a person out of Denver, which is a lot better than flying out of Minneapolis–tickets out of there are more like $700 a piece! Yowsa! My parents, 3 brothers, and their wives/girlfriend are all going, as well as my uncle, aunt, and their 3 sons. A big, fun-loving group! I can hardly wait.

Our upcoming Mexico vacation and the overabundance (and overconsumption!) of Christmas cookies and sugary treats have led Travis and I to a sort of detox plan: we can’t eat sweets (chocolate, ice cream, donuts, candy, cake, bars, etc) or drink soda until we are sitting on the beach in Mexico, with a waiter asking us what kind of free alcoholic beverage we would like to sip while watching the dolphins swim through silver hoops. If you remember, I have been trying to limit my sweets intake for the past several months but to no avail. Finally, Travis has agreed to do it with me (and in fact, it was his idea!) so I think this time it will work. I can let myself down, but I can’t let Travis down. We’re also going to keep each other accountable for exercising at least 3 times a week (I’m shooting for 6 days a week but realize that may not always be possible). Travis also wants to learn about portion sizes so that he knows how much he is eating (I can tell you right now that he eats about 3 servings of cereal for breakfast and about 2.5 servings of pasta when we have it for dinner).

Here’s to a healthy 2009 and 2 Mexico-ready bodies by March 15th!!! Wish us luck!