Sunday, December 30, 2012

La Paz

    After the long drive through the seemingly endless deserts of Baja, lots of small towns, and several days camping on the beach, we really enjoyed our time in La Paz. It's a city of about 200,000, not too touristy but with an active expat community, beautifully situated, lots of art and culture, and with more of a mainland Mexico feel to it than other places we visited. We stayed at Campestre Maranatha, a nice RV park on the outskirts of the city. It had a great swimming pool with a kids' pool too, two playgrounds, teepees, and a friendly and helpful owner. It was a great place to spend some time catching up on laundry, email, shopping, etc. It was a city where I could definitely envision spending more time. We stayed there three or four nights on the way south and then a few more on the way back up north. These pictures cover both visit. 

We were boon docking at the beach when Thanksgiving rolled around, so we decided to wait until we had electricity to enjoy out Thanksgiving dinner. It makes the culinary magic just a wee bit easier. I made a pumpkin pie from a calabaza regional, as well as stuffing, chicken, a green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes.  Oh, and we actually found a can of cranberry sauce in a little grocery store in Mulege, which Peregrine was very excited about! It wasn't the yummiest meal I've eaten, but it was very special, and we were all thankful to squish around our little table and count our blessings.
La Paz has a really nice malecon, and we enjoyed walking it a couple of times. The kids always seem to gravitate to the sand! 
Water bottle art. Of course my kids were compelled to climb inside it, knocking out about forty water bottles in the process. What followed was probably humorous to watch, as we desperately tried putting them back, only to pop out more with each one we put in. A security officer came over and told the kids to get out and put the water bottles back, which was easier said than done. Lesson learned: please don't climb inside the art, children! Oh, and for pete's sake, carry your own water bottle and don't contribute to the trash problem!
La Paz seemed to have a big arts community and this was a cultural center of sorts. We walked around for a while, enjoying the art and the air conditioning. 
Saint Nicholas day came around so we celebrated by opening our stockings and eating freshly baked gingerbread muffins. I bought a few little things for the kids and Erik, and they tucked lots of little paper crafts and tiny gifts in each other's stockings as well. It always blesses me how they want to get in on the giving each year! 

Yummy! Where on earth did Erik find Trader Joe's chocolate in Mexico?
Daddy checking out the comic Peregrine drew and gave him.
The malecon, like the one in Puerto Vallarta, is lined with large and interesting sculptures. I really liked this one.
I was happy to see a small peregrinacíon as we sat eating ice cream one evening. 

Of course we had to stop at La Fuente, a little ice cream shop along the malecon. They make their own ice cream and it comes in so many flavors. We had some serious indecision going on with a couple people. (That would be Peregrine and myself.) So many choices! 

The tree and brightly colored benches out front seem entirely fitting for an ice cream shop! 

Sunset over the bay.

We enjoyed going out in the evening a few times. There were some night markets and the kids enjoyed a little browsing and shopping before we finally tracked down a taco place we wanted to try. Octopus tacos? Check. Manta Ray tacos? Check. Exciting times for our adventurous eaters!
Poppy took this picture of Erik and I one night while we were out for dinner. On a date, just the two of us, you know, with our four kids. 
Just another evening out! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Mulegé and Bahia Concepcíon

    I'm woefully behind on posting pictures of our time in Baja, and am going to try to make a point of getting caught up over the next while! 

One of the beautiful beaches at Bahía Concepcion. At low tide you can walk all the way out to the island on the sand bar. Unfortunately we weren't able to get down to this beach, as rubble from a recent storm had left the road impassable. 
We camped right on the beach at Playa Santispac for three or four nights two different times. The water was shallow and warm and the kids had so much fun swimming and playing in the sand. They could go out really far and the water remained shallow, calm, and clear. It was a very relaxing and fun time. We didn't have electrical hook-ups, so to conserve our batteries we all settled down early, which was good since the kids seemed to be up with the sun every day! There was a restaurant on the beach and on Saturday evenings many people came from town for dinner and dancing. We took the kids one night and it was a lot of fun. Peregrine worked hard making jewelry from seashells and yarn, then walked around charming the women and selling his wares. He earned 200 pesos!
After three or four nights at Playa Santispac, we headed back to Mulegé, about 15 minutes north. We camped in an RV park there for a few nights so we could do laundry, dump our tanks, etc. before going back to the beach. Mulegé was a nice little town, a desert oasis near the ocean. Here we were high on a hill overlooking the town, exploring the old mission grounds.
Overlooking the river that flows through town.
Looking west from Mulegé, the mountain ridges fade into soft silhouettes. The eastern side of the peninsula had a real beauty. I have a soft spot for mountains.
On our way back north we spent one final night at Playa Santispac. On one end of the beach was a large mangrove swamp. At low tide we could walk into it and I stalked this bird in the evening. The next morning this was all underwater.
Mangroves are so interesting, providing habitat for all kinds of wildlife. I first learned about them from my brother Jacob when we were in Thailand together many years ago. There is a great book for kids called The Sea, the Storm, and the Mangrove Tangle that helps explain how important they are to marine ecosystems, and how they are being destroyed in many places. 
Our campsite in the early morning golden sun. It was such a lovely place to stay.
Good morning!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours.... we wish you a Merry Christmas! 

  It’s been a busy couple of weeks. We’ve driven all the way back up the Baja Peninsula and are spending Christmas back in Oregon with our families and friends. The cool, wet weather has been a bit of a shock to our sun spoiled bodies, but we’re tucked snugly into our trailer, warm and dry, and only feeling slightly claustrophobic. (This tiny space, in this climate, with this many people is just not quite big enough. Not complaining, just saying!) We arrived back in town just a few days ago and were instantly caught up in the whirlwind of busy days, happy reunions, and Christmas preparations. 
    It’s late on Christmas Eve. All the children are sleeping soundly, Erik is washing dishes (God bless him!), and I’m snuggled under a down blanket with a hot flax bag on my feet. Lights twinkle on our little living Spruce tree and there is a modest pile of presents waiting more patiently than the children whose names they bear. At Christmas time I always spend a lot of time thinking about beauty and pain and sadness and love, all mingled together, inescapable on this earth. I think about hope, and peace, and joy, and what those really mean, and a Baby born so long ago. My heart seems to alternately burst with joy and feel deeply the brokenness of this world, the brokenness in my own heart. I come back to being thankful, humbled, blessed, knowing that I cannot change the world but I can let Light shine in the dark places of my own soul. Tonight I’m grateful for so many things, too many to list, but here are a few that I can’t keep to myself. 

  • Remember Ian, from my last post? They just got news today that he can go home for Christmas! I was so happy to hear this news. Though they are by no means out of the woods, they are being given this wonderful gift of being all together as a family, in their own home, for Christmas. What joy! 
  • I love watching the kids get into the spirt of giving. When Peregrine turned ten almost two months ago he was given two of the same Lego set, and we finally had a chance today to return one of them. He’s been planning for weeks what he wanted to get, but today he chose to spend over half the exchange money on a gift for his cousin. He was extra excited when the item he wanted to purchase was on a buy one get one free sale, so he got to give him two! He was bursting with excitement all day over this, and was sure God put that on sale just for him. He also wrapped up a couple of his own Lego sets as gifts for another cousin and friend. It’s brought me much joy to watch him experience the blessing of giving. 
  • On a similar note, both of the younger children’s godparents recently gave them a small gift. Peregrine’s and Poppy’s godparents decided that since we are living in such a small space and don’t need more stuff that they would donate money to a charity that helps combat hunger. When I told Peregrine and Poppy, both of them lit up and seemed absolutely pleased about it! I was so blessed to see their reaction. 
  • It's wonderful to be "home" with family. Both of my brothers are here or coming soon, so excited to see them and their families. We had a nice quiet Christmas Eve dinner at one of my sisters' houses, and are staying very close to another one. My Grandma is still here, so we have four generations celebrating together. We're looking forward to catching up with more family and friends as well.
    Our future plans seem to be unfolding as we go, so we move forward, enjoying this time and looking forward to seeing what God has for us in the new year. We send our greetings for a blessed Christmas! 


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Be Well, Ian

  I'm staring at this blank page after a few weeks' absence from my blog. We've either had no internet connection, a very poor one, or too much going on. I've got several posts swirling around in my head. I totally flaked on keeping up with thankful posts. (I did continue to write each day in my little thankful book though.) We've covered lots of ground, and some water, since I posted last. It's been good. Tonight though, the story that has welled up in my heart is not mine...

    Eight years ago Erik and I were at the wedding of my dear friend Christy. I was six months pregnant with Poppy, and Peregrine had just turned two. I still remember him dancing, all wild and crazy like he used to do. I was thankful that the MC announced that women and children would be served their food first. I was a hungry and tired mama, but I wouldn't have missed this celebration. We'd driven nearly six hundred miles to be there, to take part in the joy of these two lives becoming one. I'd never met Ian, the groom, but I knew that he was a gem if he'd captured Christy's heart. 

    I lived and traveled with Christy for the better part of a year. We spent the first part of that time in San Fransisco and the Redwoods, then the next nine months wandering around Thailand, India, and Nepal. Christy is known for her sweetness, mercy, and compassion, her ability to put herself in someone else's shoes and walk with them. When I was extremely ill in Nepal, it was Christy who stayed close, who nurtured and cared for me as I slowly regained strength. My mom has always been so grateful to her for all she did for me in that time. 

    Ian and Christy have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, Asha and Fiona. A few weeks ago, their life was "normal". Tonight, Christy is sitting in a hospital room with Ian, who is a couple days into his first round of chemotherapy for acute leukemia. They didn't see it coming, at all. Ian was strong and healthy. Now he is weak, nauseous, groggy. She wrote these words earlier:

   I'm sitting here next to my love. He is so nauseated, he doesn't want to be touched. And if you know Ian, touch is his language. Foot massage can't ease the discomfort like it did a couple days ago. So I sit here in silence by his side. Heartbroken and weary, but clinging to hope. 

    Christy is dividing her time and strength between their two daughters, who are also struggling to make sense of this, and her husband, who is in the hospital in a different city. This round of chemo will keep him there for at least a month. She is facing an uncertain future, one never imagined on that joyous night eight years ago when they joined their lives together. 

    My heart is heavy for Christy, and for Ian, for little Asha and baby Fiona. My husband has also had cancer, and I look back on that time and am in awe of the peace and grace that we were given to walk through those uncertain days. (He was diagnosed and had surgery just a week before I was due with Peregrine, then went through radiation for five weeks with a newborn. Thankfully he's been cancer free for ten years now. You can read our story here.) I pray the same for them, for strength to hold them up, for healing and grace, and peace that is deeper than understanding. 

    I'm reminded of a line from an Indigo Girls song: "So we must love, while these moments are still called today..." Today is all we have. This is one of the reasons Erik and I are doing what we are, why we sold our home, left a secure job, stepped out into the unknown. We meet lots of retired people on the road, but not many families. We've felt strongly that we don't want to wait, to put off for another year or decade what we can do now. There are no guarantees in fifteen or twenty years, when Erik would have retired and all the kids grown, that we would have the health, strength, or finances to travel. There is no promise that we will both still be alive, as little as I like to think about that. We want to share this life, to live it to the fullest, to experience it with our kids, to give them the world, so to speak. 

    Christy and Ian have reminded me once again that we must love now. I waste too many moments feeling irritated or frustrated, or worrying about things beyond my control. I miss out on time that I can never get back, that I can't make up in the future. I want to embrace life, to savor each moment I'm given with Erik, with each of our precious kids, with our family and friends. I want to live intentionally, fully present in each moment, with no regrets. 

   If you'd like to follow the journey of Ian and Christy, go check out their blog, Be Well, Ian. Please join me in praying for healing and strength for this precious family and that they will be surrounded by those who love them. And let them inspire you to love, while these moments are still called today, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.