Thursday, June 30, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Summer Week 4

Although I am certainly not glad that Brynne has been having back problems, her need to shut down her sporting activities has sure made this a peaceful week! This was Rick's week to work in Oklahoma, Dawson has been working, Dawson's friend (and our new live-in "son") Chad went back to Oklahoma to get more of his belongings, and Kyndal has been tired this week so has been snuggled up in her own home. It has just been Eli, Brynne, and me the majority of the time with no out-of-the-house activities. We have done school for a few hours each morning, had personal time most of the afternoon and evening, and have turned on the Kansas City Royals versus St. Louis Cardinals games every evening. The kids have played their video games while I have read and watched baseball. Like I said, it was a much-needed very quiet week! Perfection!

The kids actually enjoy doing their Learning Bridge 6-7 activity pages each day. I don't know why I didn't think of using this product earlier. They are covering a wide variety of concepts each week, some things they have done in the past and some they haven't.

This week we covered the following concepts:
  • long division
  • ratio word problems
  • adding and subtracting decimals
  • graphing coordinates
  • proverb sentence completions and meanings
  • subject/verb agreements
  • using glossaries
  • concrete and abstract nouns
  • foreign word definitions
  • reading comprehension
  • anagrams
  • context clues definitions
  • scientist definitions
  • creating cartoon strips demonstrating respect and disrespect
  • creative writing: superpowers
I think the kids are enjoying the variety of concepts they are covering. Any product that gets Eli excited about creative writing is a winner in my book!

This week we read the majority of The BFG by Roald Dahl. We saw a preview for the movie when we saw The Jungle Book a couple of weeks ago. I always like for us to read the book before we see a movie or play based on the book. Brynne said today that she wasn't really looking forward to the book, but she has really liked it! I always do creative voices when I read aloud. I started out speaking in a deep voice for the BFG, but Brynne told me that his voice didn't sound like that in the movie preview. Instead, they have ended up getting something that sounds a little like Yoda. It's been a fun book, and I am looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation of it.

Both kids continue to read out of their personal books, Brynne from the Warrior Cats series and Eli from the Gregor the Overlander series. I have had the pleasure of finishing a couple of different books this week.

I have also spent some time this week doing some planning for fall. I ordered some of our curriculum that will be coming in soon (Greek mythology and astronomy ... FUN!). I mapped out our schedule of educational days for the whole year so that I can be sure to get us our breaks throughout the school year we always look forward to and to complete our school year by the end of April.) We are studying Missouri history this year so I made a list (with tentative dates) of field trips for us to take throughout the state a couple of Fridays a month. We have some really fun things planned!!

And that was our week! Simple. Succinct. Summer perfection.

2016/2017 Hours Completed: 64 hours 15 minutes, with 34 hours 45 minutes outside the home.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge

It's officially summer (in the northern hemisphere anyway). Which summer month is best and why?

August. It's my birthday. We take a week trip to my parents' lakehouse with our Okie friends each August. We take the month off from school in anticipation of our fall start date. There is no softball, no camps, nothing. The grass is all dead so no need to mow. It's hot but who cares? I'm in the house being lazy reading my books and doing lesson plans.

Can you swim? How did you learn? June 27th is National Sunglasses Day. How many pair do you own?

I don't remember a time that I could not swim. I have no idea when or how I learned. It was probably the same way my kids learned. They were introduced to water from their first summer, dunked in it, allowed to explore in it, and eventually took some lessons that they didn't really need. All my kids are fish. I have two pair of sunglasses and my goal each summer is to try to still have one of them by the end of the summer. They either get lost or broken or both. I buy cheap ones so it doesn't really matter.

What characteristics do you judge most harshly in yourself? How about in others?

This is something I don't really want to share with others. There are several things God is consistently trying to work out in me and I get frustrated with myself when I fail at doing better at those things. But they are between me and God. I have to remind myself to not be so hard on myself and remember that God is not done with me yet. I will not find perfection this side of Heaven.

Robert Frost wrote the now well known poem entitled "The Road Not Taken." What's a road (literal or figurative) you've always wanted to travel, and where do you hope it takes you?

I wrote about this yesterday. I want to live in the country on a little hobby farm. I want to seclude myself away from the world and all it's yuck. I want to have freedom to do what I want, when I want, and maybe (probably) nothing at all.

Popsicles ... yay or nay? If you answered yay, what's your favorite flavor?

I can take them or leave them. I don't crave them but I don't pass them up, either. My favorite flavor? Lime! Yum! And I see that Snapple has a line of popsicles with Mango. That would be another favorite.

Brexit .. on a scale of 1-10 ... how knowledgeable are you on what's involved here? (1=very knowledgeable and 10=what's Brexit?) Is this news you'll follow or is it something you think won't impact your life any any way shape or form?

First of all I had no idea what this was until I Googled it. It's summer so CNN Student News isn't on so I have no idea what's going on in our world. If Carl doesn't keep me informed, nobody does. That's the only place I get my world news. I started to read an article about it but caught myself snoring so I stopped mid-article. I prefer to stick my head in the sand and pretend that the world is not doing what the world is doing. Rick had told me about the UK leaving the EU but all I heard was "blah blah". I am going to go out on a limb and say this will probably impact us greatly somehow, but I have no idea how. And, frankly, I don't want to know. That road I am wanting to take from the questions above? I'm ready to start running down it now.

Share a favorite song on your summer play list.

I do not listen to music unless someone else is listening to it. I prefer to read or listen to the humming of my own thoughts.

Insert your own random thought here.

Brynne and I have decided to run in the Kansas City Royals Charities 5K Run/Walk. This means I need to switch up my workout routine and get back outside running again. It's been hot so my workouts have come inside doing DailyBurn365 each morning. Since it will just be the two of us and I don't want to leave her behind with thousands of people I don't know, I don't need to train hard because we will walk much of it. But that doesn't mean I don't need to get back out there. Our incentive is a cool t-shirt, a run on the field, and tickets to a game in September. It will be something fun to do with my girl.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday Coffee Chat

What journey do you most want to take? It can be a geographical place, an emotional or spiritual quest, or even a creative pursuit.

I received a comment this morning from a long-time blog follower I didn't even know I had. She told me that she has followed me for years, that she is from our previous city of residence, that she would often see me at the school and various other places, and how much she has enjoyed the realism of my blog all these years.

I was touched! I also wish she would have introduced herself so that we could have possibly been friends.

But that got me thinking about the journey we took to get where we are now. In August, we will have lived here in our little home in Missouri for four years. I started looking back at blog posts from about the time of our move. We were getting ready to have a presidential election. And here we are again. Some of the reasons we downsized and moved to small town Missouri was because of the likely results of the election. We wanted to hunker down in a safe and simple place and raise our kids with a simple and healthy need versus want mentality. Our premonitions came true as to what our country would be like this year at the end of that administration. And now we embark on the possibility of another 8 years on the same downhill track. Boy am I thankful we are where we are. I feel safe.

I was looking at the before and after photos of just the outside of our house. I thought I would share.

I felt like we were moving into a summer camp cabin.

A little more cottage than cabin.

And we're not done yet. There is always something to be modified in a home that is two years shy of being 100 years old. And even in looking at this most recent photo I see that I really want that dangling branch cut down!

But, dang, I am pretty darn happy and content here.

The journey to contentment is not an easy journey, especially when you have lived many years in the middle of the "Keeping up with the Joneses Show". I hated that show. Sometimes you have to just yank the bandaid off and make that big change. It's certainly easier for some than others. But I think the journey has been a positive one overall.

So where do we go from here. Are we here for good?

Never say never and don't ever say absolutely. You just never know where life is going to take you. Four years ago I certainly didn't believe that we would be packing up everything we could fit in this little house and moving within three weeks.

My ultimate dream would be to move out into the country on a little plot of land into an old farmhouse (or even a newly built one that looks like an old farmhouse) with a small barn, a pond, a garden, chickens, an old horse, and a teacup piggie with lots of room to roam.

This is a journey we talk about with our kids because Collin and Kyndal share the same dream and would even like for us all to move onto the same piece of property. It's something we have begun to discuss a little more seriously and to tentatively make future plans to accomplish. I'm not sure the journey would be as dramatic a one for me as it would be for Rick. He is a big city boy who has not yet even gotten used to living part-time in a small town. But I think the seclusion from the craziness of the world, even a small town world, and the freedom to do as we please, would cater to his needs of controlling his environment. Plus we'd be all set if the world shut down or the zombie apocolypse arrived. I just want to be able to sit on my porch swing with a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) watching my grandson play with the dogs while the chickens peck the ground. It seems like a pretty nice way to live out the last half of my life.

I've got our compass set in that direction.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Summer Week 3

This was that crazy week.

Rick and I were on an overnight trip to Hermann, Missouri, to celebrate our 15th anniversary (again!), so Kyndal was left to help out with Eli and Brynne. That included taking Brynne to basketball camp at the University of Central Missouri.

Since she was logging school hours ... extreme P.E. ... Eli needed to have some schoolwork to do while she was gone to get in his hours, as well.

Each day he read out of his book Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins for one hour. Then he worked on a research project assigned to him by his speech therapist. Finally, he played the game Taken Charge by Galvanize Labs for one hour. He really enjoyed this game because it had him learning about the inner workings of the computer and putting one together. He completed Level 1 this week. When I asked him if he wanted to complete the game this summer (we have a free subscription until the end of August) he said that he did. He really enjoyed it! Video games can be educational!

I was home to take Brynne to her last day of camp. She did a really great job improving her skills. Unfortunately, she pulled her back, again, and was not able to participate in the scrimmage part of the camp.

On Thursday we had a regular school day. We completed Day 7 of Learning Bridge 6-7 and covered Least Common Denominator, subjects and verb agreements, root words, prefixes and suffixes, and solving puzzles. This was fun because it had us doing what the kids have to do in our read aloud Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics. We read out of that book and then the kids read out of their personal books.

We finished Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics on Friday and then spent the afternoon swimming. We hoped that some low impact swimming might be good for Brynne's back after a couple of days of bed rest. She has a softball game on Sunday evening, but we are still unsure whether she will be able to play.

2016/2017 Hours Completed: 53 hours 40 minutes, with 34 hours 45 minutes outside the home.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

An Anniversary Trip to Missouri's Wine Country

Hermann, Missouri, is a quaint little town on the Missouri River. Germans settled there hundreds of years ago and quickly determined that it was the perfect location to grow grapes and produce wines. Stone Hill wine is a popular wine that you can find at most stores, including Walmart, and maybe you have seen it. It is made in Hermann, Missouri. There are many, many wineries in and around that small town.

Staying in Hermann at a Bed and Breakfast, going on a winery tour, and doing some wine tastings was on my bucket list. Rick and I just celebrated our 15 year anniversary so we decided this would be a neat little one-night trip to take since it's just a few hours from our home.

We stayed at a B&B right next to Stone Hill Winery called Stone Hill Overlook. It was a nice little modern bed and breakfast that served our purposes perfectly. Plus it had a beautiful hilltop view of Hermann.

We took the advice of our host Jim and went straight to Adam Puchta Winery. Well, I am now a wine snob. The lady working there did such a great job of choosing wines she thought I might enjoy even though I didn't think I would. She paired those wines with bites of food that brought out their flavors. We bought 3 bottles and a hand-painted Kansas City Royals stemless wine glass.

Next we tasted at Hermannhoff Winery. The wines were not nearly as tasty but the winery property was beautiful!

Finally, we went on a cellar tour of Stone Hill Winery and then did a wine tasting there. The cellar tour was so interesting! I still can't get over the amazing scents during the tour. The guide said he wished they could market that scent in a candle. I agree! We did a wine tasting there, as well, but determined that nothing could beat Adam Puchta.

The town is pretty much shut down on a Monday night but we did find a restaurant that served us a good burger and chicken salad sandwich. A walk around town displayed the most adorable gardens and turn-of-the-century buildings.

Another reason why we chose to go to Hermann on this particular day was to scout out the Katy Trail bike riders as they came through Hermann on the Katy Trail Ride 2016. Rick and I have just taken up cycling. The Katy Trail runs through our town so we made tentative plans to train this next year and ride the Katy Trail Ride in 2017. We were able to track down the riders at their camping spot to see what types of bikes, equipment, gear, etc. We were very encouraged that we will be able to complete this ride next year. It runs from St. Charles, Missouri, through our town and concludes in Clinton, Missouri, a total of 241 miles in 5 days.

It was a nice little getaway for the two of us. This time next year we will be back there sleeping in a tent!!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

How Well Do You Know Him?

I saw this and thought it would be fun to do in honor of Father's Day. The first few questions were easy, but the further I went the more I am thinking I might not know him as well as I think I do. I don't know, what do you think, Rick?

He's sitting in front of the t.v., what is he watching? 

He is watching some kind of sporting event and is flipping back and forth between it and two movies that he has already seen, one probably being a cartoon movie.

You are out to eat, what kind of dressing does he get on his salad?

Definitely Ranch.

Name a food he hates.

Hmmmm .... I honestly can't think of one food item that he hates.

You go out to eat and have a drink, what would he order?

After he jokes about having Crown with a lime (inside joke), he will probably order a Stella Artois or a Corona.

Favorite kind of music?

He likes all kinds of music, especially 80's movie tunes. He knows every word to every song in Grease 2 if that tells you anything.

What is his nickname for you?

No nickname, but he does call me 'babe' pretty often.

If he could collect one thing, what would it be?

Rick is NOT a collector! If I had to choose something I guess it would be golf hats, but only until they have been sweat soaked a few too many times.

What would he eat every day if he could?

Probably sushi? Or Coneys? Again, he is not a picky eater.

What is his favorite cereal?


What would he never wear?

I can't say never because he has a few times, but no flip flops if at all possible. He wants his feet covered!

What is his favorite sports team?

Oklahoma State Cowboys. Go Pokes!

What is something you do that he wishes you wouldn't do?

Although having an independent wife has its advantages, I know that he wishes I was more dependent on him. Also, my inability to brainstorm drives him crazy, and he hates when I interrupt him before he has finished what he was going to say.

You bake him a cake for his birthday, what kind is it?

No cake, actually. Maybe just some fresh, ripe cantaloupe or some ice cream.

Favorite sport?


What could he spend all day doing?


Friday, June 17, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Summer Week 2

Summer school for us involves lots of flexibility to our schedule. We intend to do school work for 2-3 hours each morning Monday through Thursday. But this week we logged some hours away from home on Monday and then Brynne was sick on Thursday and Friday so we pretty much just took it easy on those days.

The kids completed Days 5 and 6 out of Summer Bridge 6-7. They covered the following concepts:

  • ratios and graphing
  • least common multiple
  • commas
  • root words, prefixes, suffixes
  • reading comprehension
  • complete subjects and predicates
We read all but 70 pages of Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics. It's a great book and lots of fun to read. Eli started The Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins (Gregor the Overlander Book 2) and Brynne started Eclipse (Book 4 from the Warriors: The Power of Three series)

We logged some special hours on Sunday and Monday when our family went to spend the night at Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. They got in some PE while swimming and riding water slides. But they got the majority of their hours solving puzzles in the MagiQuest game. They worked with Dawson and some of his friends so they worked on lots of team building activities. You can bet your life we counted this as school! Both of the kids were actually sore from all of the walking and stair climbing from puzzle to puzzle. They got a good workout.

Brynne had two very hot softball games this week! They won one and lost one. She continues to excel at second base and improve in her batting and running. Eli also had speech therapy this week.

One of the games was on daddy's birthday. It is the first softball game of Brynne's he got to see. Although the team lost, Brynne played great so we celebrated the two of them with some DQ afterward.

Next week will be an abnormal week of school as Brynne has basketball camp at a nearby university Monday through Wednesday morning. While she is at camp Eli will be doing a research assignment given to him by his speech therapist, will start the Taken Charge game "Siri and the Curious Code" by Galvanize Labs (you can get this game for FREE this summer from Homeschool Buyer's Co-op), will work on his Home School Astronomy lesson Extreme Phenomena (a review of this unit and one other will be posted at the end of the summer). He will also continue to read his book. We will complete Mr. Lemoncello on Thursday and Friday. Brynne has a double header on Wednesday night, and we are hoping to be able to get in a trip to the pool.

2016/2017 Hours Completed: 35 hours 10 minutes, with 18 hours 45 minutes outside the home.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge

If you could sit beside and/or jump in any lake in the whole wide world today, which lake would you choose and why?

I'm going to go with Lake Michigan because right now the sound of a cold, northern lake sounds heavenly. My parents have a lake house just one hour from here, but it's so hot and muggy here in Missouri that I would like to go somewhere cool and refreshing! Plus, every image I ever see of Lake Michigan just looks so beautiful!

What's your favorite 'fruity' drink?

Anything peach or mango. I really like a peach green tea.

I read a list of thirteen things to do right now to simplify your life. They were ... clean as you go, re-evaluate your relationships (cut toxic ties), unsubscribe (too many blogs and websites), de-clutter, write down your daily goals, reply to emails right away, forget multitasking, create a morning routine, re-evaluate your commitments (which hobbies and responsibilities are most important to you), say no, clean up your computer, and plan your day ahead. Which of the tasks listed do you currently find most helpful in keeping life simple? Which item on the list should you adopt in order to simplify your life this month?

Creating a morning routine, writing down my daily goals/planning my day ahead (to-do list) definitely keeps my day simple and streamlined. I saw somewhere recently where a woman found her grandmother's daily to-do lists from younger years and she has it posted near her kitchen sink for inspiration. I have started doing a daily list hoping that one day when my kids find all my journals, etc., they might also be inspired and get a glimpse of what I was all about. This month? I really need to clean up my computer. I always need to clean up my computer!

What did you do the summer after you graduated from high school?

The day after I graduated from high school I moved into my own apartment 30 miles away from home in the town where I would go to college and immediately started working full time at a law firm as a secretary. Back then I was an over-achiever. What was I thinking??

Are you a fan of podcasts? If so what's a favorite?

I like to listen to podcasts while I run or while I am driving. I have trouble finding any I like, though.  I'm just not very good with technology. Any suggestions? I'm pretty conservative and enjoy anything having to do with home life.

Do you think today's fathers have it harder, easier, or just different than fathers of the past?

I really don't know. I guess about the same, just different because of life circumstances. We have a traditional family life where dad works and mom stays home, so when I think of dads of the past I think of Ward Cleaver so I would say fatherhood is pretty much the same in my sphere of influence. Fathers of today may disagree with that. I don't know.

Tell us one way you're like your father? Or not at all like your father if that's easier?

My dad has always had a quick-witted sense of humor. I think I can be fairly entertaining, as well.

Insert your own random thought here.

Working out is one of those things that I need to do every day first thing in the morning. I am not overweight but I need the strength training, the cardio, and the stretching for flexibility. As a middle aged woman my metabolism has started to slow down and it takes a lot more work to keep my muscles intact. I have several methods I use for working out ... walking, running, riding my bicycle, 21 Day Fix videos, etc. But I seriously have found my favorite daily workout. I have mentioned it before but it is worth another mention: Daily Burn 365. It is a live streaming 30 minute workout each day at 8:00 a.m. Central. Each day is a different workout routine with a different trainer. One problem I have with working out is boredom! But every day it is something new. Yesterday it was strength, today it was kickboxing, who knows about tomorrow. I usually burn about 200 calories in 30 minutes and am sweating! The best part for me is that it is at an appointed time so I don't put it off just because I can. I have an appointment each morning at 8:00 a.m. so I am more likely to show up. The routines are archived so you can do them later in the day. But I know that if I don't work out first thing in the morning then I will talk myself out of it the rest of the day. There is a monthly fee for the service at $12.95 per month. But, to me it is totally worth it and better than a gym membership. There are also hundreds of other types of routines, something for everybody, including workouts with Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser, pilates, yoga, etc. You can pick and choose whatever you want for the same subscription price. If you are looking for a new way to workout, check it out!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Coffee Chat

I almost forgot it was Tuesday because we took a little family and friends vacay this weekend to Great Wolf Lodge and that threw me off!

Today's question: What would you do differently if you knew no one would judge you?

First of all, I really don't care if people judge me. Been there done that. And people judge everything anyone does, so my answer today is more about what I would do if I could ...

I would find some little farmhouse for sale with a tiny bit of acreage for a hobby farm and I would move to it. I might have some chickens, a horse to feed apples to and brush, and a teacup piggie. I'd live my life there in solitude enjoying a small garden, books, and a front porch swing. And there I would live out the rest of the days of my life. And I'd do this tomorrow if I had the money.

Photo Credit

If someday I disappear, you will know where to start looking for me.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Summer Week 1

We completed our first week of Summer School this past week.

We take a more relaxed approach to school in the months of June and July. From 10:00 a.m. until noonish we tackle some actual school work reviewing concepts, learning new ones, and doing some reading. Then in the afternoons we relax, go swimming, rest to prepare for evening softball, etc.

While at Hastings last weekend Brynne saw the Summer Bridge series of books and asked if we could buy one for her and Eli to use this summer. (She is a total homeschool kid.) I was happy to oblige so purchased the 6-7 grade bridge edition.

Each day the kids start out with a front and back worksheet from the Summer Bridge book. Just this week they covered these topics:
  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division review
  • Rewriting expressions using exponents and evaluating
  • Equivalent fractions
  • Greatest Common Factors
  • Stressed syllables and definition look-up in dictionary
  • Complete, fragmented, and run-on sentences
  • Editing for capitalization and punctuation errors
  • Similes, metaphors, hyperboles, personification
  • Prefixes and suffixes
  • Root word definitions
  • Creative writing
  • Scientific method
  • Societal needs and government program responses
  • Plate tectonics
  • Energy conservation (with reading comprehension)
Whoa! That's a lot of topics! I was really pleased with the variety of concepts they covered this week.

After they complete Summer Bridge we sit together to read aloud. Right now we are reading the second book in the Mr. Lemencello series by Chris Grabenstein. We read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library last summer and absolutely loved it! So when we saw the new release Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics the kids asked that it be our first book of the summer. We read half of it this week, Chapters 1-21, and it has not disappointed. These are great books for tweenagers, especially in the summer and I  highly recommend them!

We finish our school day with some personal reading time. Brynne is back into the Warrior Cats series and is currently finishing Outcast. Eli is about to finish Gregor the Overlander. They each have the next books in those series ready to go early this next week.

Brynne had softball practice this week and two softball games. They won both of their games. It is so fun to watch her improve every game. Both games she hit good singles that turned into home runs because of overthrown errors by the other team. She has also made some good fielding plays at second base and caught some pop flies. Softball is a family affair as I am "Dugout Mom", Collin is one of her coaches, and Kyndal is the team's scorekeeper. We have a lot of fun!

Eli is still attending speech therapy one afternoon a week for his stuttering and for tongue thrust issues. He is making excellent progress! Last weekend he played in his first-ever video game tournament. He played the game Super Smash Bros. on the WiiU with 12 other competitors. Most of the competitors were adult men, but there were three total boys under the age of 13. Eli was very nervous but ended up placing 5th of out the 12 overall and then 1st out of the under 13 category. He won a $5 Hastings gift card and a load of confidence. It was a lot of fun!

Otherwise this week was full of doctor appointments, errands, and relaxing. My mom, Kyndal and I went to a big subdivision garage sale yesterday. We got some goodies! Four of Dawson's friends from Oklahoma are here visiting, including his girlfriend Alyssa, so our house is full! In fact, I am typing this on the back porch because there are man children sleeping on every comfortable surface in our house. Rick and I are planning to get out in the heat today and ride our bikes on the Katy Trail.

Tomorrow our whole family and all of the friends are going to Kansas City to go Great Wolf Lodge for a night to celebrate Brynne's 11th birthday that is coming up in August. We found a great Groupon so are celebrating her birthday early this year.

We have started logging our school hours for the 2016-2017 school year. These summer school hours are what allow us to take our bigger breaks during the school year.

Completed: 15.25 hours with 4.75 hours outside of home

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Celebrating 15 Years in Puerta Vallarta

Rick and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage next week. When we got married we said that we would go on a Mediterranean cruise for our 15th, but instead we found a great Groupon for an all-inclusive resort in Puerta Vallarta and spent 3 relaxing and fun nights there!

We stayed at the Vamar Vallarta at the marina instead of in the usual touristy areas of PV. This particular resort is one where many of the locals come for their vacations and time off. We felt like we were at a Mexican family reunion where nobody noticed that we weren't really in their family. Everyone was so nice and we were blessed by all of the families who were vacationing together and enjoying each other! Smiles were all around!

When we arrived we were greeted with mimosas and escorted to our superior room on the 7th floor. Wow! It was really a studio apartment with full kitchen, dining area, couch, and bedroom with a balcony view of the main pool, the mountains, and the marina. It was beautiful!

On the first day we just walked around the resort, got something to eat, had some margaritas, and took a nice nap at the pool. We did walk over to the beach side of the resort where there were two more pools, but it was busier over there and we liked the quieter vibe of the main pool near our room.

On Day 2 we did the touristy things of walking on the Malecon and taking photos in front of the  various statues. We rode the city bus ($1 for the two of us) from the marina to the Malecon, walked around for a bit, and ate the BEST guacamole ever on the 3rd floor Vieja Vallarta with a breezy view and refreshing Coronas! We opted for taking a taxi back to the marina ($10 total) because we were unsure of which bus we should take to get us properly dropped back off at our resort, and we were carrying two gallon jugs of bottled water for our hike we had planned the next day.

That night we had dinner at the Italian restaurant at the resort and turned in early for some television and a good night's sleep. We had a BIG day planned for the next day.

We were up at 7 a.m. and out the door catching the first of two city buses to our destination ... the beginning of the trailhead from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas. Let's just say that riding the city bus was an adventure, especially when you were hoping the bus driver knew the intersection you needed to go to in order to catch another bus that you think is supposed to be orange. Thankfully he notified us of our stop and we saw some orange buses. We were instructed by the locals in line to get in the back of it and then we loaded up. It was crowded and hot and we had no idea what we were doing or where we were going. Rick loves this stuff. Ha ha!!

We travelled with the locals to the drop-offs at their places of employment and by the time we got to Boca de Tomatlan we were about the only ones on the bus. We were told to "get off here" so we did and headed down into town to find the trailhead. It was about 9:30 a.m. when we started our hike.

The first part had us walking right by people's houses, enjoying the beautiful view of the water, and dodging crabs and lizards.

Then we started the ascent up into the hills. It was not an easy hike, but we just moved right along over rickety bridges, up rock paths, and hoped we were going in the right direction.

After about an hour we arrived at our first stop .... Colomitos Beach. Oh. my. word. Paradise. We enjoyed the secluded beach for about a half an hour while we waited for our reservation time at Ocean Grille, a literal seaside restaurant. You can only get to this restaurant by water taxi or by hiking and you have to make reservations. I had actually made ours for the next week (today, as a matter of fact!), so we just lucked out when they had enough room to take us.

We enjoyed some marlin tostadas for an appetizer and the margarita of the day. Then I had a veggie burger and black beans and Rick jumped right in and ordered the grilled octopus. It was cute that the waiter warned Rick that "it really looks like an octopus".

After a relaxing lunch we continued on our journey along the seaside, up treacherous hills, through the jungle and back out again onto secluded beaches. It was breathtaking, in more ways than one!

We only had one hiccup ... We took a wrong turn right on the water and went up the trail .. and up ... and up .... and up ....... and up ........... and up .................. ! A couple of times I told Rick, "This doesn't seem right." We knew that we were supposed to be fairly close to Las Animas and since we were now way up the mountain and Las Animas is a beach, we knew were were on the wrong path. So we started the dangerous descent.

When we got back to where we had taken the wrong turn, we walked along a plank around the corner of the hill and BOOM there was a seaside resort and beach. IT WAS RIGHT THERE!! This one tops our off-the-beaten-path-wrong-way-hike-to-the-Bermuda-lighthouse by a mile! (Literally, probably by about a mile!!) Rick wasn't laughing, but I sure as heck was!!

This particular resort was a private one so they would not accommodate us even a drink, so we trudged on just for a very short while more. The beaches were so amazingly beautiful that we gladly walked on.

And then there was Maraika. Oh dear God, thank you for Maraika! I want to live at Maraika!

The beach was AMAZING! The fish tacos were AMAZING! The Coronas were AMAZING! The rest on the comfy chairs on the beach with the complimentary beach towels and the swim were AMAZING!

We want to take our family back here for a vacation someday soon. Seriously.

We enjoyed the hospitality of Maraika for about an hour and then knew that we had to leave and continue on. It was only a short remaining hike to Las Animas.

From here we hired a water taxi to take us back to Boca de Tomatlan to catch the orange bus to take us the hot 30 minute trip back to the bus that would take us back to our resort. But it didn't .... We were hot, tired, and so ready to be laying down somewhere. But the closest we could get to our resort was about a half-mile or so away, so we had to walk remainder of it.

All total that day my Fitbit said we walked over 7 miles with elevations of the equivalent of over 100 flights of stairs. I don't doubt that for a minute.

We were literally asleep by 8:00 p.m. and slept in on our last morning there. We grabbed breakfast, packed up our stuff, and headed to the airport for our trip back home.

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect vacation with my husband. What a fabulous way to celebrate 15 years with the one you love.

I can't say it enough. Get out there and enjoy your life with your loved ones! Experience things that you would not normally experience! Step out of your comfort zone and live your life! Get off the beaten path because that is were true adventure lies.