At last. Tulum.

virginI seem to have tuckered myself out with my spring cleaning shenanigans. There’s an enviable pile of stuff on our front lawn for the ARC truck to take away, and yet the mess inside the house doesn’t seem in the least bit concerned. The micro-chaos, the day-to-day stuff, keeps on churning no matter what I swipe from under my kids’ noses to give away. The syrupy plates in the sink, the sweatshirts on the floor, the sidewalk chalk in the grass, the shower of tiny black pellets that spring out of St. James’ cleats and socks every time he has soccer practice, the mail, the pages and pages of drawings, scribbles, draft rap songs, and old homework that sprout like mushrooms wherever I look.

Our simple days in Tulum seem like a whole other life: one room, two beds and a cot, two suit cases, 2 stuffed animals per kid. Simple.

montinetsideWe had travelled to Mexico seeking warmth and sun as well as the chance to dip our toes in a different culture. We got those things in spades, but we also got a big dose of really pure family time. Simple. We stayed at Suenos, a lovely 12-room eco hotel that I can only describe as Swiss Family Robinson meets Frieda Kahlo. There were no paths between the thatch roof buildings – only soft, velvety sand, palm trees, bamboo groves and artfully placed hammocks and grinning skulls. I feel like I’ve been searching for a place like this my whole life. Everything, from the sturdy wooden beds, to the Mexican painted toilets and sinks, to the colorful woven bedspreads, to the multi-colored blown glass lamps in the gardens, seems to be handcrafted out of beautiful organic materials.

Our room was small, so small that Doctor Dash and I had doubts about surviving the week at first, but in a lesson about how much we don’t need (tons of space, giant piles of towels, a closet full of clothes, a pantry stocked with snacks, computers, toys, TVs) it turned out to be perfect. Our room was comfortable and chic and aside from nights, there were only a handful of times we were all in it together, lolling and chatting on the beds, taking a break from the sun and wind. Truly lovely.

Our pared down surroundings and the absence of TV allowed us to simply BE. Like everyone, we’re always busy running from one thing to the next. Even when we’re home, there’s noise – TV, music, youTube, neighbor kids. It was good to detoxLoucocoside¬†from all of that stuff and just be. Be together. Dash remarked that it felt like camping since we were up with the sun in the mornings and falling into bed exhausted at night. A couple nights the kids went crab hunting on the beach with flashlights and we marveled at the star studded sky in the absence of urban light. Our stay felt low tech, low impact, low light (all solar energy), although we were hardly roughing it. It was abundant and indulgent in the things that mattered: warm ocean, big surf, soft sand, hot sun, gorgeous views, idle playtime and killer food.

And ay chihuaha cosita sabrosa we feasted like kings. Breakfast at Suenos was strong coffee, copious fruit platters, granola, yogurt and pastries in the gorgeous open air two-story palapa with a view of the sea. For lunch we’d either crawl back up there or stroll down the beach to one of the other open-air, shoes-optional, restaurants that dot the beach. The only time we put on sandals and flip-flops was when we got in the car to go to town or on a day trip. We ate tacos and tostadas and quesadillas with fresh fish, shrimp, beef and cheese. We never asked them to hold the pico de gallo, beans or guacamole, and the kids ate way out of their comfort zone – with gusto. Blame it on the big waves, the sea air, or, more likely, the lack of constant snacks, but they were hungry when mealtimes came and willing to eat green and red things they would never have eaten at home. At night we’d venture into town to walk around the crowded colorful streets and found three outstanding Italian restaurants, any one of which I would love to have here in Minneapolis. Again, meat sauce, tomato sauce, the kids gobbled it up. Could it be that butter noodles are a thing of the past for us? I can only hope.

daveandsantiroofOne of my favorite moments was coming up from the beach and finding my kids standing with a man weilding a machete. They were each clutching a coconut, waiting their turns and watching with wide eyes while Jorge hacked open coconuts for them to drink. They had scoured the beach for coconuts with their pals from San Fransisco and found a way to convey what they were after to the friendly owners.

As one day slid onto the next, our kids managed to do everything and nothing at the same time. They befriended the motley crew of Mexican dogs that guarded the place. They made a fort in the bamboo and buried each other in the sand. They snorkled, climbed Mayan ruins and tracked spider monkeys through the jungle in a nature preserve. They crashed their little bodies into the surf for hours at a time. Once a day, Saint James would get creamed by an especially harsh wave and emerge from the water sputtering and muttering that he’d had enough, only to be drawn back in within the hour. He stalked lizards and iquanas and played soccer on the beach, finding his legs in the slow slippery sand. Supergirl explored every nook and cranny of the property, collected coconuts and drew faces on them. Devil Baby remembered that she knows how to swim and ruled the pool. And Dash and I? We did everything and nothing too. But mostly nothing – if by nothing you mean watching and smiling and trying, trying so hard to remember every sound, every color, every moment of Tulum.

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