Growing on Up, 2nd Edition

January 20th, 2015 in About Me

Cameron (like Abby last Christmas) received a card for a gift and inside the card it told her she was getting her ears pierced in 2 days. Which was such a relief to her because it was taking FOooooOooorever for her to turn 7 1/2! She did not want to wait until then so got to do it at 7 years and 3 months.

This Cameron of mine ,she just processes things in a way that is so foreign to me. If she decides she wants to do something, as soon as she decides it, she jumps right in and does it without an ounce of nervousness. Oh but it doesn’t help to push her, or talk to her, or bribe her, or anything else. That little mind of her has to decide on her own; I will do the play, I will pierce my ears, I will talk in church, I will go make that new friend across the street, I will take a new dance class. And if she decides to do it, she does it superbly and with this confidence that I cannot wrap my head around. She had a group of adults and kids laughing their heads off during her two theatre performances. When she dances on stage man her stage face and extra pizzaz she puts into her dance moves. She either says heck no and don’t ask me again and refuses to do something. If you push her to do something she fights it, her body, her heart, her emotions. She shuts down and she will not let you in on if she changed her mind and starts to like it. Or she decides on her own and KILLS IT LIKE A PRO.

Taking her to get her ears pierced was so different than taking Abby a year ago. With Cameron I did not get asked once if it was going to hurt, or how fast it was going to be, or if it would bleed, or wondering if she shouldn’t do it, or stressing about it or whining about it. NOTHING. She decided she was going to do it, she marched up to those doors feeling like the woman of the town, and did it. I did catch one teeny tiny look of nervousness and I had to snap a little picture of. But that lasted only a moment when the lady got out the piercing guns.

This love of mine, her personality is complex, it has many layers. She is creative beyond belief, she has an imagination that is wonderful. She is drawn to things that are just so puzzling and interesting. She likes to study dream decoding, reading palms, ghosts (I have to monitor that one closely), spirits, reading people’s energies. One day she came up behind me and said, “Mom stand still I am scanning a ghost that is standing right next to you.” At night she scares the daylights out of me because she just stands above me and when I wake up (with a scream) she says, “Just wanted to say I love you.” That Cameron Anne knows how to read people so she can calm them. She loves touch, from fabrics to people. This little girl of mine will love you so fiercely if she decides she wants to love you. I have to watch her closely because she will let people that she loves treat her not the best and make excuses for them. But if she decides she isn’t that into you (she turns down playdates and does not “pretend” to like people that she isn’t interested in) she won’t give you the time of day and will be very blunt with you. Oh goodness me, she tells her teachers if she hated what they did that day. If we have a new friend over that she isn’t “feeling” she will tell the kid why and ask for me not to invite them over again after they leave. We have a lot of talks on being polite. But…wow how would it be to have so much confidence to say no and spend time on only things and people you love. So I don’t want to kill that in her.

She is one that is going to love having someone to love with her whole being. She has said for two years now that she will have 10 kids, they will all be girls, and some of them will be adopted. She has strong crushes on boys that last a good 1-2 years. She has only had 3 so far but she talks about them every day. The first one was in her Nursery & Sunbeam class and during the Primary program could not stop stroking his back and arm with this grin on her face. The second one was all through kindergarten and into this year. She has many reasons for loving him, and they really are all quite perfect. Her crush is starting to change to a boy in her Primary class who she loves because, “He is very smart in church things.” This baby doll of mine loves to love. If she decides on her own that she loves you. Whoever she gives her heart to is going to be one lucky lucky person.

Thankfully everyone in our family has been chosen to be  a part of her heart and we are all lucky for that.


I love this Cameron Anne of mine, I also love that Anne as the perfect middle name for her.

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Christmas Day 2014

January 20th, 2015 in About Me

There is not much I remember about Christmas morning. Tyler two years in a row has put together the most creative, time consuming, and thoughtful gifts. I need to take pictures of the two gifts he has given me so I can share them. This year I tried to spoil him and he never acts excited when he receives presents. So it is a bit of a let down, but he will be excited when popcorn is coming out of that retro popcorn maker in our new home!

It is always so funny to see what the kids end up loving the most. This year it was these knit scarves & hats their great grandmother gave them. And crayons! Two of them got a huge box of crayons and they were a huge hit.

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My in-laws gave me a really fun gift of pasta and oils. The girls and I every day talk about what we should make with the chocolate pasta. We have raised the bar so high on that chocolate pasta and what we can do with it that we haven’t cooked it up yet!



Watching the girls open the gifts that Santa & that we have spent a few months trying to decide on is fun. This year Tyler asked that no one got toys, more kits. Science kits, wiring your own iPod dock kit, designing your own headbands, etc. I think in total there were just 4 toys in the whole pile. It is always funny to see which ones they aren’t as enthusiastic about as others. I never guess right!



Ok but this is the most hilarious and awful part. I get the girls all the same amount of wrapped present and we go through a rotation of taking turns opening them. I put 4 little piles out so the girls knew which one they could grab when it was their turn to open up a present. Man Christmas morning I am tired! When I hear my voice on the video recording we do of Christmas morning I always sound half awake. So I did not even notice that Reagan was opening all of Shae’s presents. Until the end when it was Shae’s turn to open a present and there were none. And somehow Reagan still had a stack. I LOVE these pictures of Shae watching Reagan open HER presents.


See above, Reagan opening a Frozen doll meant for Shae.

See below, Shae looking at Abby wondering why Reagan would have received a baking game.



You know thankfully those two are still little that after they were all done opening I just switched their piles around when they weren’t looking and no one noticed.

Videos of Christmas for grandparents here.

Things I Loved This Holiday Season

January 1st, 2015 in About Me

Things I loved this holiday season, and that I didn’t love. This holiday season was a bit lonely, stressful, and we fought as a family during a couple of our favorite annual outings. And then we had a lot of great times.

Our ward puts on the most beautiful, organized, beautifully thought out parties. This one was a “Back to Bethlehem Night” that we were so excited to go to. We dressed the part, brought the food we were assigned, and it was gorgeous inside. Everyone but Abby was so awful that night that I ended up just giving up and leaving in a huff. And crying about it because goodness gracious, I JUST WANTED TO BE THERE! My life is great, there are a lot of happy smiles. But I don’t think it does anyone a favor to sugarcoat everything. People need to hear the stories behind a cute picture on social media. So we can all laugh or cry or sigh or be sad for each other or be happy for each other together. I don’t want to raise my girls to think they need to put on a facade of perfectness, they can be real. Real is better anyhow. So this night was a flop, poor Abby could have stayed the whole time and really enjoyed herself.

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Now the Alpine Nativity was a success! We arrived at such the perfect time we did not wait in a line, and did not get stuck in traffic, and were not walking around in a huge crowd. It wasn’t freezing either! Which made me not feel bad for this little family this year:

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This below is the night my family all bawled as loud as I’ve ever heard us cry all the way home after leaving early. The Lower Lights concert is what Tyler and I look forward to the most every year. We love their music and when we showed up there were tons of special guests. People I probably should know and be able to name, and then also Neon Trees & The Fictionist. We had a babysitter who canceled, but we decided we wanted to brave bringing Reagan. If she was awful one of us could listen from the hallway which is not the end of the world. She was the best one. Tyler has a video on his phone of her jamming with her whole heart. I mean the girl was dancing, and singing, and I’ve never seen her move like that. She kept head bopping me so much that my earring ripped out and was bleeding. Its still a bit swollen. But I was willing to bear that, IT WAS WORTH THE CONCERT. Shae was awful, I mean awful. Abby was on one, see her face in the background and then her thumbs down photo bomb? She was so mad she wasn’t sitting next to me. Goodness, goodness. Cameron was great but had to pee in the middle of everything. Then fighting between the girls started, sobbing from one girl, Shae screaming, Reagan kicking someone in front of us. Even though it was a family concert everyone around us wanted to kill us. Which I get with screaming or kicking seats. But even if the kids would breathe, or clap too enthusiastically, we had some grown up grumps around us. So Tyler and I left, we lost it in the parking lot, both of us were in tears. And then on the way home I just bawled and bawled like I never have. So the girls bawled and bawled because they have never heard me cry like that. And I was thinking in my head, “I HAVE REALLY DONE AN AWFUL JOB AS A MOTHER!!” Ok it was an awful night, and we were pretty disappointed.

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The next night we were crazy parents and decided to brave something again right after the Lower lights Concert disaster. Reagan was screaming all the way down, and Tyler started giving himself a weird pep talk while looking like he wanted to drive in oncoming traffic. So I secretly have him doing this recorded on my phone, it is hilarious. We arrived and since everyone was stressed from the 30 minutes of non stop screaming, everyone was grumpy. So I had a SO HELP ME, GET IT TOGETHER SO YOUR DAD STAYS WITH US talk. Just kidding, I didn’t say that dad part. But they got it together, we chased Reagan all around temple square, and had a grand time.

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Our family did a lot of baking, because all our girls really love to cook. Shae is very very into it, I’ll have to save that cute story for our Christmas day post. Reagan likes to get super close to the mixer, and I like to make a snowstorm on her face. Tyler and I have emotionally eaten our way through our first year of owning a kennel, so we enjoyed the holiday baking too. No one is sad when they are baking, I mean, how could you be?

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The girls had 4 holiday performances with their dance teams. I beamed, teared up, and love attending all their performances without any of the younger ones. They also had little “in class” Christmas performances. It is the only time during the year you can sit in their classes. Abby has no video of her dances, but pictures. Cameron has only video, so don’t think I forgot about her completely. Shae has both, because come on, its her first year of dance, and SHE IS BEYOND ADORABLE. If the grandmas want to watch their in class dance performances and their fancy dance team performances, they are all on my VIMEO account here. (Along with their end of year theatre performance, where Cameron does a performance as me belting out moulin rouge. Because in case you were wondering, I for real run around my house dancing and belting out songs. I really do.) Oh and their piano recital, that one too. Which for only being in piano for 2 months before the recital, they are kind of wizards. See here.


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Oh you guys, the Nutcracker was my favorite outing we did this year. Why haven’t I been going to these Ballet West performances for years? Cameron and Abby’s mouths were wide open watching the dancers’ moves. We brought along Grandma, and left the younger ones behind. But I really can’t wait to take all four of them, it was beyond beautiful. I really think it was one of the most beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever seen. Ballet West at Capital Theatre you all, go go.

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My parents had the girls over for a craft & cooking making day. My girls have so much fun with my parents. And I lie on the couch a lot. And then my mom wonders if I’m pregnant. Which I’m not, or never will be. I’m just tired and look there are other adults to entertain them!

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There were a lot of last minute things we did because I did not have a well planned out holiday season. Normally I’m the lady who plans everything months and months out. I tell you the amount of work I do for our business, how it is grown the past year, is unbelievable. I would like to be fired or let go, so far it has not happened. Something about hiring more help, giving people raises, and more expenses above me. The nerve ;) So Santa was a very very last minute trip but a great one. City Creek in the winter time is another beautiful place to go. I took the girls to lunch at their favorite spot, Blue Lemon. Reagan would not look or sit on Santa’s lap. Which I was ok with, she sat on Abby’s lap for the picture, and sat cuddled into my chest right after. Look how adorable Shae is, oh man that girl, is my angel. She saves me.

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Also, can I get a round of applause for the weather this year? It stayed warm until the day of Christmas. The snow fell, everything iced over, it hurts to go outside. But before Christmas, it was so comfortable to drive and walk around in.

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The tree of life in Draper is pretty. I mean, maybe bring a sled to do some sledding there and go out to eat. I don’t know if I’d drive more than 15 minutes to see it on it’s own. But Shae, this is the thing we went and did that she was beyond excited about. So I am glad we did it just for her reaction to it.


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We had a easy company party, took everyone to the Pie.

I have such a fun time picking out the girls’ dresses for Christmas and Easter. Can I admit to something? I already have Abby’s Christmas outfit for 2015 and half of their Easter dresses for 2015. I have a problem. I bought Abby’s dress just because of the back and worked everyone else’s dresses around hers. I also bought the same dress for Cameron off Zara two years in a row.

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We survived the holiday season with a lot of fun and also a lot of tears. We survived, had a lot of fun too. The girls would love to wish you a happy holiday season too:

See? They didn’t run away from me yet ;) Poor girls, it has been a stressful year!

Christmas Tree 2014

January 1st, 2015 in About Me

We cut down, dragged home, and put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. In doing so I wiped out (meaning all fell down, crashed to pieces, I superglued) a wall of frames. Then the tree did not have time to be decorated until two days before Christmas. You have to pay attention to Reagan’s face, her reaction to the tree being cut down is priceless. Then at noon on Christmas Day I yanked down that tree and threw it outside.


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Easiest Thanksgiving in History 2014

January 1st, 2015 in About Me

Well, well, well. Who knew you could just go out to dinner for Thanksgiving. Did you all know you could do that? I think I might only want to cook once every 3 years and go out to eat the other years from here on out.

This year we met Tyler at the Grand America, had a wonderful dinner (really, no one threw a fit, it was wonderful). At the Grand you can reserve a time to eat, as an adult you can pick from 4 prefix dinners, the kids have a buffet (everything from mac and cheese to chicken tenders to traditional Thanksgiving food), and everyone feasts from the dessert buffet.

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Ha ha, the dessert buffet:

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Cameron as you can see had a glorious time at the dessert buffet. The Grand America is such a beautiful place to walk around, inside and out.

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They even had their toy shop open, oh man you guys that it as a fun place to walk around in. And find a gift that is one of a kind. I decided right there and then to have the girls do their “name draw” and to buy for the sisters they drew.

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And then Tyler had to go into work to close the kennel. Shae screamed as loud as she could through the parking lot, to Highland, to say hi to my parents and shove in a bit more dessert.

This is a tradition I’d like to keep going. Taking shortcuts sometimes ends up for a calmer, happier holiday with little ones.

Puerto Vallarta, Last Days

December 13th, 2014 in Our Travels Worldwide

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On our last day we had another day trip scheduled. But we decided to skip it. Our day trips were such fun but very tiring. So we decided to ask around and find a beach with soft sand and a soft break for the girls to just play in for a few hours.

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It was such a relaxing and low key last day. We even went back to our favorite restaurant there instead of trying another new place.

The trip to Puerto Vallarta was hard, the girls were very emotional and Reagan was very out of control. The trip to Puerto Vallarta was productive. Tyler finished a lot of video editing for his latest project and I finished 6 whole books. The trip to Puerto Vallarta was fun, so much wonderful fun. We were so glad to come home but also so glad to collect some beautiful memories.

I think I will be back with one more Puerto Vallarta trip to talk about some of the funny random things.But for now I put together a short highlight video of our trip:


Puerto Vallarta Trip Nov 2014 from vanessa brown on Vimeo.

Puerto Vallarta Day 8, Las Caletas with Vallarta Adventures

December 13th, 2014 in Our Travels Worldwide

The Las Caletas Island is owned by Vallarta Adventures. It is an adventure company that is very organized, very touristy, and very scheduled. Which is ok to have a day or two like that on your trip! You have to go to the marina which is a bit of a pain but doable. The boat ride is on a small cruise ship type boat and has a wonderful breakfast for you. If you have a daughter like Reagan you will be pinning their body to yours so they don’t throw themselves overboard the whole time. Still beautiful views though, even while trying to keep your two year old alive.

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When you go things are very scheduled. Want to snorkel? Well you’d better be in the right spot on the island in the 40 minute window the have organized so you can get it done. Which is fine! My husband when I told him about it tried to talk us out of going for a full day. But I wouldn’t let him and we ended up having a lot of fun. If we had a whole vacation in this style it would have been tiresome. For the day though it was so nice to just go where people told us and get a lot of fun activities off our check list. It is a dream there, a man made dream, but whatever just enjoy it. Hammocks on the beach waiting for you, people holding animals, someone blowing a whistle to make macaws fly over your heads, and flamingos off to the side.



Ok fine, it is all fake! But it is FANTASTICALLY FAKE.

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Abby was so excited to snorkel with Tyler. The gear was right there, people to point out where was the best places, and a safe roped off area to do it in. While they were snorkeling there was a man carved out section of the beach that had very very soft waves for the kids, life jackets right there, a man handing out freshly shaved ice, and sand toys waiting for us.

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All my sweet daughter Cameron wanted to do is swim out far in the ocean. She pointed as far as she wanted to go and we did it. We swam out far in the ocean for a good hour. They had rafts with beach chairs on them to relax. We would climb on every one and jump back into the ocean. It was my favorite hour of the entire trip. Cameron and I had a ball.

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They have a kids section where you can go take your kids and they can do some activities for an hour. You have to stay there during that time, which isn’t a big deal. The kids can do rock climbing, face painting, zip lining, meet a monkey, ride a donkey, and I’m sure other things I don’t remember.


Listen there is even a meet the animals time. There are people standing there with monkeys, bird, snakes, etc. and you get to hold them! There are also photographers every where asking to take your picture so they can sell them to you at the end. But its ok, just let go and don’t let it bother you.

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The included in price lunch buffet, wow. The free drinks you get all day long, double wow. Just listen, this is not “authentic Mexico” it is all man made. But whatever, just let go and let it be a lazy, everything done for you day.

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Puerto Vallarta Day 7, Sea Turtle Release

December 13th, 2014 in Our Travels Worldwide

Oh you guys, this day was magical. Even better than dancing with a dolphin which I didn’t think could be top-able. Releasing sea turtles at sunset with the babies, top of my list people. Top of my list of magical moments.

Watch this:

Sea Turtle Release Puerto Vallarta from vanessa brown on Vimeo.

Some sweet friends of mine told me the video made them cry. MADE THEM CRY! You must watch it.

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I must have not been paying too much attention when I booked this tour because it was also a crocodile tour. Before going to learn about and release sea turtles we got to go to a crocodile sanctuary. AND SOME OF MY FAMILY HELD ONE!


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We have done….man 3 at least other crocodile tours. This one really was the coolest, I think it was because we weren’t on a boat just learning about them and watching  man throw a piece of chicken to one. We got to see crocodiles of all ages, be so close to them, hold them, walk around in their habitat. It was really nervous the whole time. Oh mannie, this one couple got right in a HUGE crocodile’s face. Even after the tour guide told them not to. The tour guide and turned her head and the couple crouched down and looked right into the crocodile’s eyes (through a wired fence) and the crocodile hissed. HISSED PEOPLE, I WAS TWO FEET AWAY FROM A HUGE HISSING CROCODILE. GAH!

I did not work with this company or get anything for free. But I have to say I have never been more impressed with a tour. The marine biologists that take you on the tour really care about the animals, teach you, and are so warm. They don’t take tips and just give you a big warm hug at the end. I will recommend them to everyone, they made our trips so magical. Check them out here: Puerto Vallarta Tours 

Puerto Vallarta Day 6, places to eat….

December 13th, 2014 in Our Travels Worldwide

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On this day I think we had a down day to recover from the long Yelapa day and prepare for two more trip days in a row. So I will tell you where to eat in Puerto Vallarta. There are just so many to chose from and I’ll give your our favorites:

#1 Pipi’s, now this isn’t a place you are going to go for “local” food. This is a fun, family friendly, clean, fairly priced place you are going to go for really good Mexican food. And perfect, dreamlike guacamole.

#2 Joe Jack’s Fish Shack, is where you are going to go for a beautifully perfectly cooked plate of fish, rice, and beans. The customer service is some of the best I’ve had anywhere, they are so warm and friendly. If you don’t want seafood the mac and cheese, burgers, everything on the menu is deliciously cooked comfort food. You’ll love it. Also their seafood stew you guys, get that as a starter and give everyone a spoon.

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#3 La Playita, is where you go for brunch. For local items like beans, tamales, plantains, fresh fruit, etc. And also American items like sausage, pancakes, etc. It is right on the beach, a gorgeous beach. Everything I had tasted fresh and wonderfully prepared.

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#4 Family run, hole in the wall, lots of locals sitting around TACO STANDS. That is where you need to eat, the locals are all there for a reason.


Other places to try: Coco’s Kitchen, Barcelona Tapas, and Red Cabbage Cafe.

Other random tip, go walk around the Hotel Catedral. It has such interesting artwork, sanctuaries, and walls. Yes even the walls.

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Puerto Vallarta Day 5, Day Trip to Yelapa

December 13th, 2014 in About Me, Our Travels Worldwide

This was the first vacation as a family that I did not organize and plan way in advance. I found time just one or two days before we left to do some investigating on what we should do on our trip. A lot of blogs, yelp reviews, etc. suggested a day trip to Yelapa.


Sold. That destination was at the top of my list.

Also you had to take a water taxi to get there. I read a few times online that during whale season that the drivers would stop so you could see the whales and dolphins. That did not happen BUT it still was a fun & relaxing ride.



The sweet girls were so excited to sit and wait for the water taxi. Every time they saw pelicans on boats they asked me to take a picture of the “birds driving the boats” so I have a lot of pictures that look like this.


I snapped this picture of Abby on the boat. This is how the whole ride felt, just peaceful! It is always nice to have a break from the heat with the cool ocean boat air.

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Other than the amazing pie I read about over and over on little blogs and in the middle of comments online we read that Yelapa was a “quaint” fishing village to go visit. I still can’t decide if it would be a place I recommend people to go to. The boat ride is wonderful but the taxi only goes out at a certain time and comes in at a certain time. So you are stuck there for at least 6 hours. When driving in and seeing the views it looked just as it was described online.


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A man on the water taxi offered to take us on a tour of the small city and on a very short (really, everyone can do it, promise) hike to the local waterfall. I loved that little tour, it was wonderful.

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The hike to the waterfall was gorgeous, I also have a little camera attached to Tyler’s head to film it a bit:



No matter how many times I am in a country and grab a piece of fresh tropical fruit to eat off of it, I will find it about the coolest thing in the world.




I will also never ever tire of walking through old chapels. Never.





Now up until this point I was so glad we made this trip. I still think I am but I have to warn you of some things so be wary of. I have visited a lot of countries where we are stopped non stop and asked to buy things. I get this, and most of the time it doesn’t get under my skin. When it does get under my skin is when they roll their eyes or show hostility when you don’t buy things. That makes me feel uncomfortable and almost like I’m not a human to them. The only thing I wish I would have gone back and bought were these beautiful signs.



The pie lady was sitting, very worn out looking near the waterfall. I was so excited to see her and she was very grumpy. Listen we all have our off days! But her pie! I could tell that if it was fresh it would have been amazing. Her pecan pie and chocolate coconut still was. But her banana cream pie, which everyone says is the best, tasted very old, along with her cheese pie.
What can I say though? We all have off days. But I did find the famous Yelapa pie lady.




The part of Yelapa I really did not like was the beach. The water is very dirty, there are constant jet skis, boats coming in and out that are leaking gas along the beach. It smelled so strong of gas and it was yucky. The sand was very rocky and hurt to play with and sit in.




When we showed up on the beach I saw the plan of the man running the show. He sat in the back and had a whole team of people. He had men with jewelry walking around telling us how they had young kids at home starving. They would walk back to him to give them the money they had collected, laugh with him, then turn around and put the sad face back on to sell more. The man in charge also had an old woman walking up and down between the chairs asking for “one peso” over and over to people. He had two younger boys standing in the back watching when people left their belongings and had them run and grab things out of bags and take people’s shoes. He even had “iguana men” who would run up to people as soon as they tried to sit down, threw an iguana in their hands, and after they were in their hands would demand five dollars. Later on during the day I saw the iguana man in frustration throw down the poor iguana as hard as he could on the ground. Obviously I did not know what was going on when Abby took this photo.

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Stops from cruise ships came in and other tourists were on the beach with hours to kill after seeing the local waterfall, town, and chapel. So they drank and drank and drank. There were beer bottles everywhere that I had to keep Reagan away from so she didn’t take sip after sip. Listen I get it, I get needing to make money off tourists. I get how it is normal for locals to look at Americans as money signs and a way to eat. But the trip to Yelapa did not leave me with the warmest feelings. But the boat ride there, tour around the town, and if the pie had been fresh. I still don’t know if I would go again. I just wanted to give an honest view of the town, you decide for yourself.