Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Mexican Invitational Swim Competition!

This weekend was the first competition of the year for the "Liga Masters" tournament. I put the items I thought I would need for the competition in my bag and our family traveled to the competition! I arrived and suited up for warm-ups. During warm-ups I realized that there were quite a few people there... then more came... and more... then the TV AZTECA television crews and spectators... and official looking people.

Upon asking why everyone looked so serious I was told that this was the first competition of the year - the Mexican Invitational! The entire meet was a scheduled five and a half (5 1/2) hours long! I was swimming with people from all over Mexico! Professionals, Semi-Pros, Young and Old alike - and then there was me... a 33 year old mother of four who started this whole thing just to get some exercise!

Sufficed to say, at that point I decided to just forego the entire competitive spirit and have fun... because there was NO WAY I was going to stand a chance against any pros! I was scheduled to swim the 50m freestyle, backstroke and freestyle relay. The pictures you see are my first heat (50m freestyle) and I am in lane three. I actually placed first in all my heats! Never before in my life has tenths of a second mattered to me... unless it was running a child into a restroom... but my times were (to the tenths of a second) - Freestyle (50m) 48.06 seconds & Backstroke (50km) 58.34 seconds but during my leg of the relay freestyle (50 m) I clocked 47.00 seconds! My category of swimmers (ages 30-35) was quite a competitive category and I placed 8th in my freestyle time - but I placed 3rd in my backstroke and actually got a medal! Bronze, of course!

I have to tell you that no one was as surprised as I was - my coach kept motioning me to come across the pool and my teammates were waving excitedly (the pro who doesn't need air, Monica swam her 50km races in just over 30 seconds! - Luckily she is older than I - so she wasn't in my category!) I walked across the pool, a bit dizzy from exerting myself during the race and they told me the great news... I had placed! It was exciting standing on the platform with the other swimmers and receiving the medal - it was about as close as this mom will get to the Olympics! Just goes to show "You never know what you can do - until you try!"

Here is a 'newspaper article' - the writing and artwork are both by our Ladybug!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

El Cerrito / El Pueblito

Our little group traveled to El Cerrito (also known as El Pueblito). The name signifies either 'Little Hill' or 'Little Town' and is an archaeological site where they are unearthing and restoring a pyramid within the city of Queretaro, in the Mexican state of Queretaro. This pyramid was built at approximately the same time as Teotihuacán - yet this little pyramid (similar in size to the Temple of the Moon) outlasted the pyramids of Teotihuacán in longevity. It is believed that this pyramid was "one of the most important ruins in the central region of Mexico." (

It was interesting to see a pyramid in the process of recovery and restoration. The edifice at the top of the pyramid was actually a home built by a Spanish family. The family for some unknown reason decided to build their home on top of a Mexican pyramid and religious worship site... I am sure that didn't engender the Spanish in the hearts of minds of the people of the area at that time.

As we listened to the tour guide and viewed the structure as it was being unearthed it was interesting to see and learn. There was also a small museum with artifacts unearthed during excavation - including a winged serpent and the wings and tail of an eagle. I enjoyed seeing in real form the glyphs we so often see on the Mayan calendars or in the children's movies - such as "El Dorado". Although it was an wonderful experience, it gave us more of a perspective on how magnificent the pyramids at Teotihuacán truly are!

Felicidades - The Pedicure Party!

My ninth birthday was "FABULOUS" in more ways than one... my friends and I went to a salon and we all got our toenails painted! We also got designs on our toes! While we were there we got to watch "High School Musical: The Concert" and "High School Musical 2"! All my friends and I sang and danced in the salon on the stairs... (Note from mom: They danced and sang so loud that they could be heard two stores away from the salon! So cute! My sweet husband knew right where we were when he came to help drive all the girls back to our house! He could hear all the fun.) When we got home we had pizza, cake and ice cream while we opened presents! My friends gave me books in Spanish, a door hanger that I get to decorate, a "High School Musical" tee, a lovely doll, and a beautiful stationary set! After presents we danced, sang and played games! We had a great night!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The One Mile Mark!

For the last five months I have been swimming three to five mornings a week. At the facility there is a swimming coach / trainer that works with each individual at the pool. Just before Christmas I was asked by the coach to participate on the Masters Swim Team! (Did I mention that on the team is a 63 year old grandmother who can lap me and a swimmer that regularly represents Mexico in international competitions - I swear that woman does not need air?)

So, I wondered at the proposal before me...I have to say that I thought they were joking... really, one day while trying the 'Butterfly' I do believe I more closely resembled an injured whale with one fin missing. Yet, the trainer has persisted and has continually asked me to swim on the team. (I think they just need one more warm body for the relay races!) But, that said, she has presented me with a schedule each day that I am expected to complete before I leave the pool to run to my Spanish classes! Today that list was just over 1600 meters - and I realized that I had met her 1 mile mark! She had told me the second week of January that I would be swimming about a mile before the first competition; I kindly nodded and just replied that I would do my best... (at least I think that is what I said).

Our first meet is in ten days! So, I hope I look a bit less like an injured whale - and more like a competitive swimmer. Although today when the trainer kindly told me I was making good improvement one of my fellow swimmers guffawed! So, I can either take offense at that - or remember that it is he, my fellow swimmer, that has to wear that forsaken looking speedo!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Balneario Xote

We drove out into the middle of nowhere... through canyons between mountains and past lots of cactus and sage brush. We had begun to question whether or not we had taken the right road when... we saw a water slide peeking up over the road! The kids let out a collective cheer but, what a great place we found! When we entered we found that there were areas for kids and slides for adults as well!

Yes, it was February... and yes, the kids were in a pool that was being fed by local hot springs here in Mexico! We easily spent four hours at the park and will have to return again for more fun! I was unable to ride some of the slide because of the diamond on my wedding ring. (The employee kindly offered to hold my ring for me. But I was not about to hand that over to a total stranger...) so, I opted not to ride. Next time... there are also more natural hot springs nearby that have natural mineral water (and you get to swim in a cave with an underground waterfall)! So, that is on our list of things to do as well!

Monarcha Mariposas (Monarch Butterflies)!

In this land known for tropical beaches, pyramids and eternal sunshine we found our little Ballard Bunch of Explorers wearing layers of clothing and preparing to climb a mountain covered with pine and fir trees. The scenery reminded more of my home in New England rather than Mexico.

Our family had come to the mining town of Angangueo, Mexico - it was a completely different Mexican experience. This town is known internationally as the migration and mating point annually for millions of Monarch Butterflies. Each year this sanctuary is filled with these delicate creatures. Every third or fourth generation travels thousands of miles from Canada and the United States migrating and mating here. During the migration a Monarch Butterfly can travel approximately 50 miles and day totaling up to 2,000 miles during the migration.

We had been told that the trip would be worth it and we were not quite sure what to expect as we began trip - once we reached Angangueo we stopped in the streets and picked up a young man, Emmanuel, who worked as a guide - his help was more than necessary as we wound our way through the streets of this little town! Finally we reached "El Rosario" (one of the five Monarcha Mariposa sanctuaries in Mexico). There we began our climb!

The temperature was chilly and the air was thin... it took some time for our bodies to adjust to the altitude! While we climbed we began seeing a few butterflies here and there and we talked about what a beautiful sight it was. We began counting the Monarchs that we saw and we were quickly up into the twentys. We wound our way around trees and found ourselves at a summit on the mountain - where there were a hundred or so butterflies fluttering around. It was a beautiful sight; we noticed that the path continued on - so up we went. We rounded a few more turns, enjoying the scenery and the butterflies.

We rounded the next corner and the sight was enough to take your breath away. Immediately our family sensed a type of reverance because we saw trees laden with butterflies, the skies were filled and we were receiveing real 'butterfly kisses' as the beautiful creatures would float through the air all around us! Marvelous, Beautiful, Wondrous, Awe-inspiring... these adjectives begin to share some of the feelings experienced as we stood among some of Heavenly Father's most delicate creations. The experience was truly magnificent. The people all around us were (for the most part) quiet, thoughtful, even reverant. As we were watching we came to realize that we were also listening - we could actually hear the millions of butterfly wings! Until that moment the thought of hearing butterfuly wings would have been incomprehensible... but, we have stood among millions of Monarchs and have heard the delicate sound of butterfly wings!

It was a singular moment in life in which I was grateful that I endured the climb in order to behold the beauty. As we drove home our children commented about how the experience made them want to thank our Father in Heaven for his creations! I was grateful, as a parent, that they were able to see the beauty for what it truly was and that we have the privelege of knowing from Whom that beauty comes!

We hope you can enjoy the pictures we have to share of our experience!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Our Mexican Villa!

Here are the pictures that have been requested (mostly by my mother) of our Mexican Villa! We do hope you can come down and visit! We have a guest room - ready and waiting.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

San Miguel de Allende

The Ballard Band of Explorers traveled this weekend to the town of San Miguel de Allende; this little town is a popular retirement community for foreigners - particularly Americans. In the town square we heard english being spoken all around us - I spoke to a man wearing a NY Yankees hat and learned that he was from Conneticut. We had a lovely time visiting with them and they suggested an outdoor resturant, "Ten-ten-pie". While we were having a absolutely wonderful lunch at the resturant an entire group of Mexican cowboys passed by us! We had a great lunch and a 'show' as well!

After lunch we toured the main cathedral in the town, La Parroquia (Church of St. Michael, the Archangel). Pictured are the cathedral spires as it towers over the 'Plaza Principal' and also pictured are the main area of the interior of the cathedral - the children have been amazed at the ornate architecture and the decoration inside these churches and they have learned much about other religions.

We had a wonderful time exploring the history and ambience of this lovely city! You are welcome to come and tour it yourselves... you have a room at a little Mexican Villa here!