Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ezra turned 2!

Can you believe this boy is 2 already?! I barely can. For his birthday he had a small party at his class.
He had fun at school and then on his birthday got to go to the party of another friend where he played a lot.
He slept really good that night.
Happy birthday, Ezra, we love you!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Next Chapter: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

As you may have noticed, the beginning of a new year is also usually when many schools begin their hiring process for the next school year. This means, usually around March or April, we know where we have been contracted to move next.

This time we have something we have never done before: Asia! It is a land where the local people went through horrific war where the educated, fair and even those who wore glasses were targeted and killed. To survive many people had to learn to eat insects and find non-traditional nutrition options. Even today you can find snake-on-a-stick, deep fried tarantula, crickets (like Mexico) and other insects for sale in the markets.

We will be going to the capital city of Cambodia: Phnom Penh. We are excited that Benjamin will get a chance as secondary principal and I will be teaching 5th grade again. Our children will attend the school there, like they do here. I am excited to be working with many Filipinos again, like in Abu Dhabi, and just being closer to the lovely friends I have in the Philippines again.

Of course, the hardest part of this move is leaving so much of our hearts behind. Mexico is a beautiful place. It's so nice to speak the language! The people we've met here have impacted us on a deep level. It's the kind of place to which I hope to one day return.

But there is also excitement in a new adventure. Asia is completely new to us and the pictures are beautiful. Khmer (pronounced kuh-m.eye) is another new alphabet to learn. Come along with us and see the pictures as it unfolds!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Palabra de Vida Rehabilitation Center, San Jose del Cabo

As we travel around the world, one of the things we always look for is a way to give back.  In San José del Cabo, the opportunity worked out without us even trying. In church one day, the pastor asked Ben as a gentleman walked by, "Have you met Bill?" This was the beginning of our relationship with Palabra de Vida.
Here, Bill is helping Talia get in position to whack the pinata.

Palabra de Vida is, as they say a "Rehabilitation Center [that] seeks to provide the necessary tools for the drug addict and alcoholic to be restored through God’s Word, to be equipped to live and lead a Christian life and to be successfully and safely integrated back into the community as a healthy and wholly transformed person." Ben and I both have worked here as translators, and Ben also teaches English. I don't say any of this feeling special or to get attention. Actually, we've gotten more than we've been able to give. Palabra de Vida and Bill and Jacki have played a very special and important part in our stop here in Mexico. They are very generous and kind people who we look up to and who felt called to start a non-exploitive rehabilitation center here. (I won't even go into how other centers here exploit the addicts. It makes me sick to my stomach.)

Beautiful Jacki
 Everywhere we go, I feel like God has brought key people into our lives to help us grow. I'm very thankful for the ways Bill and Jacki have been part of our Cabo family and let us be a part of the Center (Jacki would want that spelled the Canadian way: Centre). Our kids have been over there for piñatas and love playing with the Center's dogs. 
Talia whacking the pinata!

 I love being at the Center. It feels peaceful and purposeful. They provide classes to the addicts who choose to be there. The guys can leave at any time, though a normal cycle usually lasts 10 months.
They are provided with healthy meals, lessons in practical things like health, resume building, how to make a budget, English, Bible and many other things for no charge to the men. Many, many lives have been changed for the better here. I'm so glad we got to meet them. They are definitely a cause worth supporting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spring Break in San José del Cabo

I haven't posted in a while because it seemed everyone kept catching a sickness and when one round would finish a different sickness would start a new one. Adjusting to everyone being in school with germs passed around different from Abu Dhabi has really been an adjustment!

But now, we are well,thankfully, and we've been enjoying our spring break!

We have gone to the beach, the park and running several times already.

 Talia LOVES the water but the boys are scared of it. I think it may have to do with this particular beach having strong, loud waves. They must sound intimidating to a little boy. However, the boys love to play in the sand. Ezra's favorite game is to play peekaboo with his toes. 

Elias and I will cover his feet with sand and ask him where they are. He giggles and kicks off all of the dirt.
Talia and I have been able to go running together. She is really good! Talia is strong, energetic and has a lot of stamina. She makes me run faster than I would alone. Sometimes on our runs we go by the estuary and watch the ducks.

We are looking forward to visiting some nearby markets and towns also. It's so nice to have time to relax!

Happy Spring Break!


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Woodworking and Valentine's

Benjamin has always been interested in woodworking but time, storage and interest have never all collided until now, perhaps spurred on by necessity. Living in a small house with five people, one of which is a toddler who is very curious and good at breaking things, has forced us to be creative with our storage. The house is great, but didn't have much in the way of storage that was out of Ezra's reach. Benjamin looked around online and found some templates and how-to videos and whipped up a storage racks for the coffee cups he is emotionally attached to as he likes to collect them from every country or important milestone he reaches.
Here, some are being washed, but it is currently full.

Afterward, he liked working with it so well, and we have a lot of other ways it could help, so he made a hinged work table that can store tools when not in use.
Today he created little toolboxes for the children and let them paint them. They loved it!
Talia chose red.
Elias chose blue.

They also helped me make Valentines's Day surprises for Ben today. One was all of these hearts to hang in the room to surprise him when he got home from getting supplies.
Then we made him a favorite dessert: apple crisp. Elias was in charge of mixing the apples and spices, Talia made the topping and Ezra supervised... Everyone enjoyed it!

May your weekend be filled with love also.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Los Cabos Half Marathon

This morning was crazy. We were going to meet at 7, Ben had to be there at 6:30. He left and I tried to get everyone ready. I fixed Talia's hair and got Ezra ready while Elias had a meltdown. His meltdown continued while a co-worker called to ask for her things and as we had to run to the plaza. I ended up having to carry him while Talia carried Ezra. My co-worker grabbed her number and ran in the 5k. I was late so instead of running in my 5k I ran with my students in theirs. This was the first enjoyable part of the morning.
I was proud of Talia; she made it to the end without stopping!
I like running with her! I hope we get many more kilometers in together in the future.
(But with a less stressful morning, please!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Paying for the Rosca

Christmas is celebrated in Mexico with a variety of different slants: some of my students believed in Santa, some did not (try being the one they go to to settle that argument) and some waited until the Day of the Kings; or Dia de Los Reyes to get gifts. (Some received gifts BOTH times.) this celebration of the wise men arriving to see baby Jesus is traditionally accompanied with rosca, or king cake. Inside the cake are little figurines of the baby Jesus, and if you get one, you (here) are responsible for bringing tamales the 2nd of February.

Of course, I got one. The owner of the school took care of the tamales so instead I made cinnamon rolls. 75-80 of them. I filled the original rosca container- it seemed fitting, and was big enough to transport them covered.

Ben ALSO got a figurine and his job was to bring champurrada, or hot chocolate. Elias helped him with it this morning:

Out of the 75-80 I brought, only 7 made it back home. It was a fun experience!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A New Fruit and Cultural Times for Food

Yesterday Ben was gifted with a fruit I'm not familiar with. The lady said it was "maricuya" and like a pomegranate. She suggested it blended and said "con vino se hace una buena margarita," which is something I wouldn't know about. Here's a picture if you're interested. It reminds me of the smell of guayaba.

Speaking of food, the meal schedule is different, it seems, in each country. We generally eat within the hours of breakfast  6AM, lunch 12PM, and supper 6PM. In Abu Dhabi supper was much later, anywhere from 8PM to 10PM and Ramadan any of the permitted times before sunrise. 

In San José del Cabo it seems to be like this for most people: nothing or a very small snack (like a drinkable yogurt) for breakfast. Actually, our 11AM lunch time at school is called "desayuno," or breakfast, by many. Then the "plato fuerte," or heavy meal, is served around  2PM. Supper is a light affair around 8PM for the people I've spoken with. If you want tacos or other substantial food, you have to make sure they are still open for a 6PM supper time as some of them close after the 2-4 rush.

Regardless of time, the food here is delicious!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Texans in Cabo

My mom and my sister were able to visit us over Christmas break for three and a half days.

We took them to church with us, introduced them to a great taco place, visited the municipal market, taught a cinnamon roll class and went to the beach! I think we crammed a lot for so little time. My mom took this photo of us at the beach (and has the other photos.)

We hope they can come back soon!

Friday, December 25, 2015

2015 Review

There are so many things I love about Mexico, but Cabo really has a concentration of those things. 

This year has been FULL of changes from packing up or selling everything in Abu Dhabi to our transitional 4 months in Texas to a three week escapade to our final destination and having to jump onto our jobs with both feet running. In all of these changes our family's prayers, coworkers and church family have made the difference.

It feels like we're finally settled in and it feels like home now.

Some things we have done this December include:
Piñata whacking! And csndlelight service, singing, feasting, and great conversation with friends.
Who spoil our kids;
Can you tell they've all had chocolate by their grins? Ezra was a blur, a chocolate covered blur...

I'm so thankful for the relationships we've found here. On to another full year!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Water: Pressure, Temperature

A week or two ago we woke up to what sounded like rain. Since it had rained the day before, it wasn't startling... Until we heard someone shouting "Hola" from the street to get our attention. (Everyone has a gate separating their front door from the street and almost no one has a doorbell to get their attention, people just call you if they're at the door.) The lady who was kind enough to stop and get our attention informed us that our clean water tank on the roof was pouring clean water out of the top and running all down the back of our house and down the street.
Apparently the valve that regulates when the tank is full, like the bulb in the tank of a toilet, was broken. Then, the hot water heater went out. We don't know if the water shorted it out or if its age took its toll. Since then we've been using cold water and manually turning the water on to fill the tank and turning it off quickly when it started to overflow.
Today it was finally fixed! And, in addition, the trickle of water we had due to low pressure was also fixed! That first shower felt amazing.

Edited to add that another consequence of higher water pressure are the leaks we have discovered at the water hoses. It seems they are not built to handle any pressure higher than a trickle.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tropical Storms and Beaches

Many people move here for the beaches. Ironically, we haven't been able to visit a beach since we arrived September 4. After all of the sickness last week ending in Talia's mild version of what they think was dengue, I needed to run again. This weekend we've been visited by tropical storm Sandra (who was thankfully downgraded from a hurricane) so it has been raining the entire time. When the rain finally let up Talia and I went for a walk, and this time, we figured out how to get to the beach!

The waves were marbled green, wild and moody, but so cathartic. I can't wait to run here next time. Next to the beach are a herd of horses! We love to see them and say hi on our way by.
Our school hosts a 3K-5K-10K and I think also 20K. I'm training for the 10K. I want my children to grow up active as well, so they walk or run with me when they can.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Elias came home from school coughing last Monday. Tuesday evening Talia was sore and coughing. Wednesday all three had varying degrees of flu along with Ben. Thursday, I had it the worst.
All weekend we were pretty pathetic all lying down and just getting up to keep up with laundry and food. Then everyone mostly got better except for Talia who continued feeling achy, running a fever and very tired. Ben took her to a clinic on Sunday and the doctor said it was dengue but didn't confirm with blood work, so they will go to the clinic tomorrow to find out. 
After a year here, maybe we will be used to all of the things our immune systems are getting acquainted with right now, and it won't phase us... But flu is pretty common in winter no matter where you live. 
I'm so thankful most of us feel better again. Please help me pray for Ben and Talia.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Boca de la Sierra, Hiking in Beautiful Cabo

This weekend I got to explore a new part of Cabo with some friends. We crammed 11 people into an Expedition and drove to Boca de la Sierra. On the way you can see the mountain Picacho, the highest point here. My friends were upset that it looks like there have been miners changing the shape of the mountain. Mining is a hot controversial topic here because it introduces pollution and messes up this beautiful place.
We arrived and hiked down a dirt then rocky trail, crossed a slippery river, then found a sandy beach area to make a "fogata" campfire.

The beautiful, deep pools were clean and clear. It was a wonderful compromise between a pool and the ocean: clean but no wild animals and still in gorgeous nature.

We cooked beef for tacos, roasted marshmallows for s'mores, swam in the cool water, hiked the giant rocks and laid on a sheet in the sand talking to friends. Every once in a while someone would wander off to "cut flowers" but we knew that really meant they were watering them... 😄

On the way home we were blessed with some of the most vivid colors splashed across the sky in a magnificent sunset.

This day was filled with friends, blessings and nature. I'm so grateful to be alive!


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why Teachers Make Good Friends

I have been blessed with wonderful co-teachers at every school I have ever worked. I'm not  sure if that's an odd thing and I'm just hitting the jackpot every time, or, and I think this is more likely, many times good teachers have the same qualities that make good friends. (By no means am I downing any other profession, just speaking of the one I have experience in. ;) Some of these great qualities that translate into friendship are:

They are good multi-taskers: In the classroom this is imperative for maximizing learning time. In friendship, it means that while you are busy with school during the day, you still have time to plan for an evening or weekend with friends.

They are good at gauging internal conflict: Students come to school every day carrying their home lives with them. Sometimes that is a supportive emotional structure that encourages learning in the classroom. Many times it isn't and, even the best students have off days. In order to capture a child's interest in a subject, you have to first have their confidence that you have created a safe place. They need to feel emotionally safe before they can engage mentally. This constant gauging of emotions in the classroom hones a teachers' skill at perceiving when something is going on with a friend as well.

A good teacher is also a good listener. Listening for feedback and proof of understanding in the classroom is another thing that is put into practice in a friendship as well.

There are so many other things that apply- like compassion, being young at heart, being flexible, and knowing how to connect with many different types of people. There are so many things we learn from each other, it is good to be surrounded by people who encourage me by their example in all of these areas every day.

There's nothing like loving the people you get to work with!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Loreto to San Jose del Cabo, Texas to Cabo Trip, Part 7

From Loreto to San Jose del Cabo seemed to be the longest part of the trip, but only because we had come so far and it was the last stretch and we could almost see being at our destination finally happening! We left beautiful Loreto and drove through a few more mountains before reaching La Paz. 

There, (at a Burger King with a play place, yay!) Ben called the director of the school to see which way would be better: the road from La Paz going east seemed shorter than the road to the west. We learned that the road to the east went through mountains and was only a one lane road but the road to the west was a comfortable two lane... so that's the one we took this time. Going from Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo was the most suspenseful part: We were so close, but construction was slowing everything down. The beautiful views compensated for this. 

Arriving in San Jose, the one way roads threw us off a few times, but we eventually found the school. We were overwhelmed with how thoughtful everyone was and how prepared they were for our family's arrival.

I'm very thankful for this trip to be over and to have arrived here without mishaps: no blowouts, no children sick, no confiscations, and our destination was full of people who are wonderful to work with!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Guerrero Negro to Loreto, Baja California Sur: Texas to Cabo Trip part 6

This day seemed to go on for a long time. We left Guerrero Negro (literally "black warrior")  towards Loreto. 

The road was curvy, like most of them in Baja California, so it took longer than I expected it to from looking at the map.

There were more date palms...
Loreto had a beautiful plaza and lots of different shops. One of the things I liked the most was the rice pudding pops, or, paletas de arroz con leche.
One more day!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

San Felipe to Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur: Texas to Cabo Trip part 5

The map of Baja California is displayed in almost every restaurant around here, even the McDonalds (Playplace!!!! It was needed!) in Calexico had a huge map on its wall. (And a huge sword fish.) In the beautiful coastal town of San Felipe this was also true:
The waves were a decent size due to a fairly strong wind and it wasn't very hot here for that reason. 

Most of the terrain between San Felipe and Guerrero Negro looked like this:

Part of the highway between these two towns hasn't been developed yet; so one and a half hours of driving was on bone-rattling rocky road. We were so glad to see pavement again!

If you want "comida economica" here the option most of the time is "burritos de mancheca". This is like a beef jerky they cook with onion, tomatoes, or peppers sometimes to make it taste better and wrap in a tortilla.

In Guerrero Negro the temperature was really nice and the locals said it was like that year round.
Happy Travels!

San Diego to Calexico to San Felipe: Texas to Cabo Trip part 4

Ben has long held a special place in his heart for Arab refugees. When we heard that an acquaintance of his was teaching what is called the "Chaldean" refugee students in San Diego and requesting books for her classroom, It made sense to visit. In the "El Cajon" district we found Spanish and Arabic intermingled. It was one of Ben's dreams come true! And there were Arabic pastry shops:

The San Diego consulate refuses to give work visas without appointment and since every consulate is different and they don't always answer their phones, sometimes it's tricky to figure out where to go. The San Diego actually answered that we'd have two extra weeks of waiting for an appointment via a Tweet on Twitter. Since Calexico didn't need an appointment, that was where we went. 

At the Calexico consulate we found out that immigration had sent Ben with one number different on the work visa code: a number which made the difference of six months! My visa was correct saying that I could work for a year but Ben will have to return to the States within 6 months to correct his. For a fee. After paying a fee for them messing it up; once to the Calexico consulate and once again at the border! 

Speaking of which- we got to cross the border!!!
The consulate visit took a good four hours, so we were able to drive to San Felipe, Baja California.