Thankful Thursday – Beach Therapy

I am a beach girl, all about toes-in-sand over body-in-water (although I have heard stories of little me evading my parents’ grasp and running headlong into the waves, fully dressed and shrieking with delight). With proximity to the shore, I breathe differently: deeper, more fully, relaxed. Robinson Jeffers wrote, “The tides are in our veins,” and I agree: again and again the tides pull me back to the coast. I need regular doses of vitamin sea.

So today I am thankful for Pacific Grove, California, one of my favorite places on the planet. I first visited with Guy on college-escape weekends to his parents’ home in Santa Cruz. Back then I referred to Pacific Grove as Monterey, no firm line on the coastal cliffs marking town from city. For most of my kids’ lives we have vacationed there one week each summer. This week, while Guy and Teen build homes in Mexico, Tween and I got away for a few blissful days.

Our summer “‘Cation House” unavailable, this trip started with a Groupon for two-nights’ stay at The Olympia Lodge at the end of Lighthouse Avenue, a five-minutes’ walk from Point Pinos Lighthouse and the rocky shore. The lodge is a little like Grandma’s house–friendly, cozy, a few updates but mostly old in a comfortable way. We don’t require luxury and the price made it right. We’d stay there again.

Tween and I scrabbled on rocks and examined tide pools. He led the way, pointing out stable rocks to land each step, calling, “Mom, look, look!” We saw so many hermit crabs, anemones, even a chiton. We saw nesting Canada geese. Never have we seen so many seals and sea otters in the wild, bobbing in the waves. The sun hitting surf spray created flashes of rainbows. And everything was blooming!

While Tween “rested” (read: stared at phone) I went for an almost-two-hour walk from the golf course to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and back. I walked and prayed and people-watched. People walked alone or in pairs. Many walked dogs. Some ran or biked or laughed with loved ones as they maneuvered surrey bikes. Some sat, soaking in the view. A couple of middle-aged men enjoyed a glass of white wine; when I smiled, one remarked: “What better way to end the day?” Indeed!

Some appeared to be turned inwards (one or two even in tears), while many, like me, smiled because they couldn’t help themselves. It wasn’t until later that I realized: perhaps I noticed so many smiles in direct response to the slap-happy ridiculous grin on my face!

Tween and I enjoyed all of our regular activities–a few hours at the aquarium followed by a walk down Cannery Row, a scrumptious chocolate-caramel sample at Ghirardelli Chocolates, and drinks at Starbucks. We ‘socialized’ puppies (held, played, laughed, and loved puppies!) at the animal rescue. We looked for potential new reads at BookWorks.

We also bought art supplies and spent an hour drawing the view. We devoured guacamole and chips and burritos vegetales smothered in enchilada sauce from Michael’s Grill & Taqueria. And we went paddle boating on Lake El Estero next to the Dennis the Menace Park. Tween hadn’t been paddle boating since his legs were too short to reach the pedals. The half-hour ride around the lake, which afforded us an up-close view of two herons and a pair of turtles, was a perfectly relaxing way to end a perfectly relaxing couple of days.

Next spring break Tween will be on a school-sponsored trip, and the following year he expects to join his dad on the Mexico trip. This week was our final spring break hurrah for just the two of us. I’m grateful we did it right!

 

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Thankful Thursday – Spring Break 2016

Me: You know what day it is?
Tween: No, what?
Me: Thankful Thursday.
Tween: Oh, awesome!

Awesome indeed. Actually, everyday of this spring break staycation has been awesome. Tween and I have played and read, repeat repeat repeat. We are almost done with Shel Silverstein’s Everything On It, and about halfway through Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. We watched the first two Divergent movies on DVD, then saw the third installment, Allegiant, in the theater. We have exercised – me running, him biking or scootering. We have played with dogs. We have played with friends at the dog park, at the school, at the pool, out to movies and dinner. He has practiced his trumpet, taking time to simply love the music as well as practicing to bugle at his brother’s Eagle Court ceremony in just a few weeks. We have slept well, remarkable considering the Tween hasn’t slept consistently well in his entire lifetime.

Most importantly, we have said Thank You! This week Guy is leading 270+ students and adults from our church in building hope and homes in Mexico. On Sunday he preached from Psalm 103, the theme text for the week. Psalm 103:2 says, “Let all that I am praise the Lordmay I never forget the good things he does for me.” Guy encouraged the congregation to read Psalm 103 throughout the week and make a list of the good things God does.

So we have!Ps103 1Ps103 2

Each morning at breakfast, we’ve read a few verses from Psalm 103 and made a list of things we’re grateful for – the dogs, the people, the activities. It takes only a few minutes and centers us on what truly matters.Shel Silverstein

This is one of the Shel Silverstein poems we read yesterday, and it reminded us of something God could say. God has created so much beauty for us, it’s the least we can do to recognize it, acknowledge it, and say Thanks!

What are you thankful for this week?

Meatless Monday – Pancakes!

For Monday morning of Spring Break, Tween requested ice cream for breakfast.

Of course he did. What kid wouldn’t want an ice cream treat for breakfast?

We’re enjoying a staycation while the rest of the family travels the world. That might not sound fair, but it’s just the right speed for the two of us this year. Time will come for us to travel.

So I considered his request and countered with my own: pancakes with berry sauce, topped with a scoop of vanilla? He happily agreed.

Friends, this vegan whole wheat pancake recipe by Running on Real Food couldn’t be simpler and it’s so delish! I’ve made it several times now and everyone enjoys it. Yes, you have to follow the link because I can’t in good conscious post the recipe here. I didn’t change a thing. The recipe is perfect as is (well, I did add a little extra non-dairy milk to get the texture right, but seems to me that’s just part of making pancakes).pancakes in progress

I put a generous cup of frozen mixed berries in a glass bowl, added a dash of cinnamon, and microwaved them for 1 minute. I macerated them with my potato masher, then nuked them for another minute. You could do this in a pot on the stove, and you could add a dash of maple syrup. The bowl was easier and I don’t think berries need additional sweetener. Up to you.pancakes

Because I had an orange and noticed a recipe last night, I also made a Creamsicle Smoothie. I follow Simple Green Smoothies on Facebook; they call this an Orange Julius, but once I tasted it that name didn’t seem to fit. Either way it was tasty!

Creamsicle Smoothie
Serves 1

1 c spinach
1 large orange, peeled
1/2 banana, preferably frozen
1/2 c unsweetened non-dairy milk (you may need more to blend well)

Add to blender, mix well, and enjoy.creamsicle

Now, back to spring break: reading, writing, playing with Tween playing with dogs, watching movies, and general low-key, all-around fun!

Mexico: A Quick Glimpse

Amor Ministries has been organizing groups to build houses in Mexico for 30 years. Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church has been taking high school students and adults to build houses in Mexico during spring break for 25 years. Pastor Dave knows just how life-changing this experience can be – he has spent spring break building homes in Mexico since he was a high school freshman.

I have been on two Mexico house-building trips, each with a different organization, each prior to having kids. Since then, I’ve spent spring break with my kids and hosted extra kids (and dogs) so other people could go to Mexico.

This year I got to cross the border with the MVPC team for one night. One of my kiddos was on the trip while the other stayed with Grandma in San Diego.

I met the group at Amor headquarters in San Diego, where they had a party waiting.

M partyM reyM lobbyM snowconesM ladiesM JusticeM guysAnd then, the call… “Board the Bus!” The crowd scatters in anticipation. Mexico is SO close!M bus

Welcome to Amor's new camp!

Welcome to Amor’s new camp!

Hydration station

Hydration station

The buses got stuck at the border for longer than usual. The adults on the Advance Team wait…

M crew

M waitAnd Bus 1 arrives, eventually.M bus 1The search for luggage begins.M luggaeThe rest of the buses arrive as it grows dark. Tent set-up will be a tad tricky!M bus 23Once tents are up kids can check out camp, including the Encouragement Boards (eBoards) which will be so meaningful throughout the week.M boardsWhen morning comes, the camp is especially grateful for the creative design of the hand washing station where they can brush teeth and wash hands/face with potable water.M handwashOveralls on, faces washed, hair braided by friends, lunches packed and a delicious breakfast consumed, the camp gets ready for the day.

The Media Team T-shirt features almost 1,000 pictures from past Mexico trips

The Media Team T-shirt features almost 1,000 pictures from past Mexico trips

Leaders Ready To Go!

Leaders Ready To Go!

Morning prayer, & Day 1 instructions

Morning prayer & Day 1 instructions

And THIS is why we’re all here…

The Build Site

The Build Site

This year all of the 13 build sites are in the same community. By the end of this week, one-quarter of the community’s population will have new homes. By the end of this week, MVPC will have built approximately 270 homes for the previously homeless over the past 25 years. Praise be to God!

Teams arrived and got right to work, Student Leaders in charge working well alongside their Adult Team leaders.M work

Sometimes issues arise right away. The Adult Team had a fence to deal with.

Sometimes issues arise right away. The Adult Team had a fence to deal with.

Tie Dye!

Tie Dye!

Making friends right away

Making friends

My trip to Mexico was less than 24 hours, actually closer to 18. Dinner to late lunch. Just long enough to be an overwhelming first glimpse, with 270 new friends finding their way and setting up in a new camp. The organization and creativity was overwhelmingly apparent as well – student leaders had obviously put time and prayer into thinking through team colors, fun team pictures, colorful eBoards, and pre-trip team bonding events. The Media Team and Tool Crew all set up and ready when students arrived. The oh-so-helpful hand washing station. The tenting “neighborhoods,” new this year and layering in one more small group element within such a large group. The Student Leaders so clearly prepared to lead a house-building experience.

As I type, teams are more than half-way done with the week. Houses and relationships are being built. In keeping with this year’s theme, Rooted, participants are developing roots that can hold them steady long beyond this week.

Border crossing takes way too long

Goodbye, Mexico

“…I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…” Ephesians 3:17-18

In Jesus’ name, and to God be the glory. Amen.