Let’s Go Shopping

A number of you donated money for me to bring to Manos de Amor and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be the messenger who got to deliver your gift.  We had two very specific ideas.

First, we wanted to take each sibling group shopping to buy a gift for the parent or grandparent who cares for them outside of Casa Hogar.  This was an interesting personal test of my own merciful heart as I sort of thought that these parents didn’t really deserve a present all that much.  These children aren’t generally living at Manos de Amor because they have great, upstanding parents.  Some are prostitutes.  Some have in the past abandoned their children for weeks or months at a time with no food.  Some have abused their children.  Many (most?) are drug addicts or alcoholics.   But I know that to the children, these flawed adults are their first love – they are mama or papa or abuelita and Grant and I knew that they needed a way to express their love and to be able to give.   So over the course of 3 days, we took all of the children to Walmart or Mega to buy a gift for their caregiver.  They all took it very seriously, trying to decide what their parent would want.  Some of them were very conscious of price tags,  others just really wanted to buy some toys.  One boy tried convincing me his mom really loved Lego.  Another tried for an Xbox.  One asked if he could buy something for his mama- whom I know he hasn’t seen in years.  It was fun and just a bit heart breaking.  I have no idea if the parents will give a gift back.  Perhaps the gift they got from Walmart is all they will get this year.  But regardless, it is important that these children learn that giving is a part of life that brings great joy.

The second thing we wanted to do was put together some food hampers to send home with the children when they left for Christmas vacation.  I always worry when the children leave for the weekend.  I know that some of them may not eat for a few days.  They may be alone most of the time.  But these parents/grandparents want to have a relationship with their children.  They know they can’t care for them so they allow them to live at Manos de Amor during the school year, but on vacation they want to be a family.  Even if they don’t have the emotional or financial ability to do it all that well.  So we went shopping for 13 large baskets of food – rice, beans, pasta, tuna, dried fruit, nuts, cereal, and of course some fun Christmas stuff like cookies and candy canes.   How excited they were when they realized they got to take the big package home.


img_20161216_154845We drove Rubi to meet her Grandfather who sells chairs and rugs by the side of the road.  As we drove, Rubi asked if the money for the food baskets came from my friends in Canada and I said yes.  She hugged the basket and looked up and said “Gracias Dios.  Dios is grande”.  Thank you God….God is great.  I guess that pretty much says it all.  Thank you to my Canadian friends who follow our story and support these children with us.   I am so happy that Rubi recognizes that although it was Canadians who provided the funds, the thanks goes to God because He is good.

Let’s Get this Party Started

It’s been a Christmas kind of week!  We arrived here on Monday night and got right to work celebrating children and Christmas at Manos de Amor.

First let me say that our 6 bulging suitcases full of miscellaneous ridiculous and yet vital crap made it through all of the screenings and security and red/green lights. While sitting in Calgary on a layover, we heard that the Regina airport was shut down because of a ‘suspicious object’ that had been found in a bag.  I can’t lie – my mind raced through the rather long list of suspicious objects, powders and liquids in our bags and I wondered if we were the cause of the shutdown.  I mean, who travels with a BBQ, potato peeler, box of Borax, guacamole spices, bathroom scale, hummingbird feeder, sugar bowl, a giant tub of protein shake and 84 cold sore pills.  Oh, and a Christmas moose.

We waited patiently as our bags were almost the last to come around the turnstile and after assuring the security guy that I only had some clothes and a couple of things for our home, we were in a taxi headed HOME.

On Tuesday, we headed over to the orphanage to reunite with ‘our’ children.  I had been worrying for quite some time that we had been gone too long, that our relationships might have been damaged or their trust broken.  But I forgot that children are not like grown-ups.  They just love really easy and hug really hard and we were welcomed and kissed and dragged to the swings to get the party started.

On Wednesday, we helped accompany the children to a party hosted by Walmart.  After a fight about who would get to drive in the convertible, we were off for the first of many sugar fests held over this season.  The Walmart employees had each bought a gift for a child and the sorriest looking Santa I have ever see handed them out.  I realized that children are pretty much the same everywhere.  Brayan put up his hand to inquire if he could get a sandwich without onions cause he hates onions.  Zimbry held his hand to his head when he looked in his bag and didn’t see the truck he wanted.   Many tiny hands grabbed Grant or myself to run to the bathroom.  When they discovered the hand dryers which they had not seen before, they washed over and over, giggling like crazy.  It was just a fun day of mayhem, fueled by sugar and juice boxes.



The next day, a family from Canada came to the home with gifts for everyone (yay more sugar!) and face paints and balloons.  I love how the children at Manos de Amor are so open to entertaining strangers.  And I loved how every few minutes they would run back to Grant or me to show us something or give a hug – assuring themselves there was a familiar safe place nearby.  I love how Carlos and Brayan asked for their faces to be painted with mustaches “similar a Grant”.

During this festive season, many people are eager to share with those less fortunate.  There are many tourists who will come over the next 2 weeks to bring gifts and donations and we welcome them all.  Not because they will bring toys and candy and other gifts that every child wants.  But because they will step outside of their own comfortable lives to be part of the very difficult story of a lost child.  Even if just for a couple of hours, their own hearts will be broken and transformed just a tiny bit.  That is the only way we can really change the world – by allowing ourselves to be broken enough that we are willing to give it forward.   So thank you Walmart.  Thank you generous tourists.  Thank you.

It’s a Done Deal!

Well this was a VERY GOOD WEEK and I am reminded – embarrassingly so – that life happen as it is meant to happen, in the timing that is best for us, and usually without a lot of my brilliant help.  God has this – and I know that and I let myself worry anyway.  But this week a lot of stuff came together and I can’t deny that the timing was pretty much perfect on all of it.

We have been negotiating for almost a year to sell Grant’s business and today we received the papers from the lawyer with all the clauses and appendixes and addendums agreed to.  The closing date is January 15th –  it’s a done deal.



We’ve had our house for sale for 5 months – and we’ve been building it for an eternity before that – but this week we accepted an offer and today we received word that the appraisals and financing and conditions were complete.  The closing date is January 9th – it’s a done deal.


And best of all, today we had our interviews at the Mexican Consulate in Calgary.  We’ve been dreaming of this day and researching the process for many months – years really – and today we heard the words we were hoping after we submitted all the forms and photos and bank statements “You’re approved – come back in an hour and pick up your Visa.  You’re officially a Mexican resident”.   It’s a done deal.

I don’t want to frighten you with the real picture…. Meigan says I’m ‘stern’

So basically, within a 24-hour period it all came together – the business and the house and the visa.  What are the odds of that?  It was supernatural and miraculous and humbling and affirming.  We also found out today that just last month the rules in Mexico changed so we can now import our truck, which was deemed too large in the past.  Another problem solved on our behalf just in time.

Of course, this is all bittersweet and our happiness is touched by the finality of it all.  Grant has been operating Vision Enterprises for most of his adult life – it has been good to us and he has been fortunate to have been able to create his own work for all of these years.  Although we have not been in this house long, Grant built every part of it with his heart.  We raised our children right next door.  Except for 2 years, I have lived in this province my entire life.  And then there’s our church, our families, our friends, our people…..

That is how a full life must be.  No new crop can grow unless a seed falls to the ground and dies. I cannot embrace “hello” until I whisper “goodbye”.   Banderas Bay Enterprises can only flourish when Vision Enterprises is gone and I can’t create my home by the ocean until I drive away from my beautiful house in the valley.

So today was a good day and I celebrated by having a full fat latte WITH whipped cream. Crazy right?  Now to finish packing and hit the road in time for a Mexican Christmas with our daughters.  I am ready for the adventure to become more permanent.  It’s finally a done deal!


Making a Run for the Border

img_20160921_083405It’s been a LONG time coming but we’re finally on the road with the load of tools that will turn Vision Enterprises – the company my husband has operated for most of our married life – into Banderas Bay Enterprises – the company he will operate for the next part of our story.  It has truly been one of the most difficult – and annoying – things we have ever tried to pull off.  Trying to understand the rules of three countries we will need to drive through has been confusing at best, agonizing at worst.   But today we are loaded and headed for the first of the borders we will need to cross.

Because Grant sold his company in Canada, along with most of his equipment – we only have 1 trailer (okay to be fair it’s a really full trailer) of tools to take south.  It’s all of the things he feels he needs to be a Mexican building guy.  It seems like it shouldn’t be that big a deal.  But the regulations are many and seem impossible to navigate.  For instance:

  • We can’t import our business truck into Mexico because of the type and year
  • We can drive it in as tourists but we can’t leave it there if we fly out – so if we drive it in we must drive it out
  • If we drive the truck in as tourists (the only way we CAN drive it in) we can’t pull the trailer because it will have to be licensed at the border and only Mexicans can drive commercial vehicles in Mexico
  • We can’t buy a truck in Mexico and drive it to Canada to get our stuff because only Mexicans can drive a Mexican truck in Canada – even if we own it
  • So we can’t drive a Canadian business truck in Mexico and we can’t drive a Mexican business truck in Canada – and who knows what the Americans have to say about it all

img_20160921_111830So we are heading for the Mexican border in our Canadian truck pulling our Canadian trailer where we will meet up with our ‘guy’ Ramses who will help us jump through all the hoops.  There is a good chance Ramses’ friend will have to drive with us all the way to Bucerias to keep everyone happy.

img_20160822_161814It’s not just the vehicles that have made us crazy.  The tools.  You can’t just show up with a bunch of tools.  Over the past few weeks we have documented every nail, every screw, every extension cord (why does Banderas Bay Enterprises need so freakin many extension cords???).   Over 800 items have been logged in a spreadsheet with Make, Model, Serial Number, Value and all translated into Spanish.   We have an Ebay printout for every one of those items to justify the values.  We have scanned and photocopied and hole punched all those lists and put in binders.  One binder for American customs, 1 or 2 for Mexican customs.

And now it is out of our hands.  We have done our homework.  We have made our lists.  I have copies of our company incorporation papers, copies of our house lease, copies of the deed for the land we have purchased, receipts for everything I can think of, passports and drivers licenses and car and trailer registrations.

Now it is time to trust.  To believe that this is the journey we are called to be on and everything will happen just as it is supposed to.  I think of my favorite verse “Whether you turn to the right or to the left you will hear a voice behind you saying ‘This is the way, walk in it’”.   It might be easy, it might be hard, but it will be good – because that is how God is.

In the meantime, first stop is to fix the flat tire before we even leave Regina…. Sigh…..

Not Better….Just Different


Because we have not completely wrapped up the zillions of details of our move south, we are back in Canada for three weeks to finish taxes, finish construction, and finish packing.  There are a lot of ‘finishes’ before you can truly experience new beginnings.  Last year when I met with a Career Coach Warren, he told me my Kolbe Index indicated I love to brainstorm and start projects, but I get bored with the carry through.  I am strong in “Fast Start” and not so strong on “Follow Through”.  (Mind you he told me I should NEVER be an implementer, working with my hands and now I’ve laid tiles and sawed stuff with a power saw….).  The point is that I am pulling at the reins to get going, but I know that we need to finish well.  So we are back in the North doing Follow Through stuff that must be done.

It is impossible not to compare my two homes – and I don’t mean our physical houses (although there are some serious differences between my fancy new house with all the fancy new appliances and my simple Mexican home).  No, I am thinking about the differences between the world I have lived in for all of my life and this new place I am trying to be accepted in.  Maybe I am mostly thinking about the differences in me and in Grant and in the things that we now value.  Not better.  Just different.

So here is a preliminary comparison

The Obvious Stuff

  1. It is cold in Canada! There is great irony in that fact that my Canadian friends are rejoicing that this has been a mild winter (usually warmer than -15) and my Mexican friends are lamenting that it has been a very cold winter (in the mid to low +20’s).  The human experience is just very tied to weather and no matter where you live, every conversation begins with a tiny bit of complaining about the weather.
  2. The food is unbelievable in Mexico! We often ask ourselves IMG_20151231_195141what food we miss from Canada, and the list is pretty small.  A Tim Horton’s coffee.    Houston Pizza (the really thick meaty kind).  Spring rolls from Viet Thai Restaurant.  My zoodles since I couldn’t pack the spiralizer last time.  A pumpkin pie.  That’s about it.  When we are in Saskatchewan we constantly whine about the lack of proper tacos – or any Mexican food – in Regina.  Taco Time doesn’t cut it after eating Chilaquilies at Ponchos or Mole Enchiladas at Taco Itzel.   We are slowly raising our picante level and are making our own Green Sauce now which makes everything delicious.  Still can’t stand cilantro however which eliminates me from every being a true Mexican foodie.
  3. The noise level is hilarious in Mexico. I have told many stories about the joyful celebrations in our neighborhood in Bucerias.  First Christmas, then New Years, then the Patron Saint Festival, then some teen girls Quince, then some random dude’s birthday, then the 9 hour Karaoke party, then……  You get the picture.  At the end of our 6-week relocation trip we were just beginning to ignore it all and sleep at night.  Then we got to our house in Lumsden – a new ICF home (Styrofoam and cement) – super insulated and unnaturally silent.  No traffic in the valley after 9.  No music in the streets.  Total silence.  And then we couldn’t sleep there.  We laid awake the first night home, unable to sleep because of the eerie quiet.  It was beautifully peaceful, with the moon sparkling on the house rooftops – the complete opposite of the loud joyfulness that surrounds our Mexican home.  Not better….. just different.
  4. $$$$$$$. Much of Mexico is poor.  I know that there are many poor people in Regina as well.  There is addiction, child abandonment, child prostitution, poverty, illness…. It’s in every city in every country.  But in Canada we have social networks of government that at least make an effort to close the gaps.  We have medical care and education for everyone who will show up.  There are welfare programs and food banks and intervention programs to try and save the children who are lost in family dysfunction.  In Mexico, the money that should flow to those who are struggling is blocked by crazy systems and non-existent programs.  Children are not mandated to go to school – and in fact there are crazy bureaucratic barriers that make it difficult or even impossible.  Children must show a birth certificate before they can register for school.  Only a mother can get this birth certificate.  Many did not get one at birth and now cannot afford the $200 it will cost.  Or children who have been abandoned by a mother have no way to get this piece of paper.  And so they cannot go to school.  Those who need it most cannot access education.  Wages are unbelievable low.  Minimum wage has just been raised to $73 pesos (that’s about $6), not for an hour but for A DAY!  $6 a day to raise a family.  How can a family or a community prosper in this environment?     It has been inspiring to watch both the Mexican community and the many Gringo associations step up to care for the people who have needs and I am super excited to be part of organizations such as La Fuente Riviera Church and Manos de Amor who care for the poor, and especially the children in Bucerias and many surrounding towns and villages.
August, 2015

August, 2015

The Not So Obvious Stuff

  1. We move a LOT slower in Mexico. Those of you who know Grant and I in Canada will not recognize us in Mexico.  We are slow …. Bordering on lazy. IMG_20160112_183407 I suspect this is somewhat temporary.  We arrived in Bucerias in mid-December really tired (especially house-builder guy Grant) and we have taken some time to rest and vacation.  We sit on our balcony or in our garden and read and play Candy Crush and talk and maybe even nap.  While I expect that to change, I am pretty committed to guarding our time here.  We are definitely planning to be involved in the orphanage and the church, but we are not going to organize every minute – we are going to leave time to just play with the children and to open our home for fun stuff with our new friends.  Grant is ready to start building our dream home and I am continuing to do my job from a distance so that will be enough structure for us.  The rest of the time will be for beach picnics and boogie boarding and watching hummingbirds in the garden.  I welcome you keeping my accountable for this plan!
  2. My heart is very soft. I am now a crybaby.  I cry at everything.  I cry because the hibiscus bloomed.  I cry because Lupita is too cute today.  I cry because every child should have their own dad, not just an old white guy from Canada who throws them around.  I cry because I knew I shouldn’t have tried the ‘mas picante’ sauce.  I cry at the airport and bus station because the kids are here.  I really cry at the airport and the bus station because the kids are leaving.  I think mainly I cry because I now have time to feel stuff instead of just rushing to do stuff.
  3. Home is wherever you are today. When I am in Mexico I refer to Lumsden as home, when I am in Lumsden I refer to Mexico as home.  Today, I am trying to embrace the snowy day, the beautiful new home I am in, the friends I have missed, the family I will soon spend time with and I will make sure I get a Tim Horton’s coffee and a springroll and some pumpkin pie. I will try to figure out how to import butter into Mexico.  In a couple of weeks, I will pack 6 more giant suitcases with the stuff I haven’t been able to buy in Mexico, like my zoodle spiralizer, and I will head to my new home.  I will try to embrace the crazy noise and the humid days and I will build a new life.   And I will be home.  Not better….. just different.

Our simple Mexican kitchen


Our fancy Canadian Kitchen









Our Mexican yard

Our Canadian yard

Our Canadian yard


Crazy Critters

One thing Mexico has is lots of critters – some good, some not so good.  We have met only a very few of them, but I’d like to introduce you to some who have visited us.

The Cute Critters

As always, Grant attracts all kinds of cute creatures – they just love him.  So we’ve met a LOT of kitties and dogs.  Of course, what is cute during the day is a sleep hazard at night.  So it is a bit of a love/hate relationship with each animal we see.   It is never really clear if these animals have a home and just choose to avoid it or if these animals are strays.

IMG_20160102_124434IMG_20151227_192150  IMG_20160109_195909






Neighborhood Critters

These animals live in our neighborhood and roam the streets like an inner city gang.  They clearly believe this is their hood and who are we to argue?









The Creepy Critters

These are the things I am not so keen on – especially in my home or yard.  But they were here first and I am trying to come to a negotiated space agreement.

We have only had a couple of these cucarachas – and I have purchased all manner of traps and spray to keep it that way.  They run faster than the wind and are giant.  Giving them their own very popular Mexican song seems ridiculous to me.  Gross.


Spiders of every shape and size are around – but we have only seen a couple in our yard.  So far so good.


Tiny geckos can be seen running up walls and trees.   Geckos have the same place in the lizard family as kittens do in the wild cat family.  They are the cute version of scary critters.  This little guy was living in our guest shower for a while and although it always made me scream when I saw something scurry out of the corner of my eye, I was okay with sharing the bathroom with him.  The guy on the right was just hanging out (literally) at a nearby outdoor restaurant.  Better than the wasp infested lights we have up North!








Yesterday I was not so keen on sharing my space with this guy I saw sitting on the wall in our garden.  Every time I came outside, I heard something run behind the fence so I figured it was a cat.  Not so.  If you look up on the wall you will see this black lizard looking down on us.  He was pretty shy and really just wanted to get some sun.  So I gave him lots of warning (coughs, door slamming, yelling) before going outside.


My explanation to Grant was “I don’t like the black lizards.  But I’m okay with the green ones – they’re not as scary.  Who doesn’t like Iggy Iguana?”.  No sooner had I spoken these words then I went out my front door and what do I see climbing up on my window sill? Yup – a big green one.  And it turns out I don’t like them either.  This poor guy had an injured tail – probably a dog bite – so he wasn’t moving too fast and just wanted a place to recover.  He sat on the ledge for 24 hours and when he finally moved this afternoon it was just to go a few feet further into the garage, nestled amongst the lawn chairs.  Hoping he moves on tomorrow – I’m thinking of a Sunday picnic which means I’m going to need those chairs.

IMG_20160114_134108 IMG_20160114_162812







So those are the critters we’ve met so far.  There are also some amazing colorful birds and butterflies and a hummingbird who visited.   Haven’t met any snakes or scorpions but I know they’re out there waiting to introduce themselves at the right moment.

Dancing in the Streets

Our family Christmas vacation is officially over!  It is sad to say goodbye- but now we will find out what it is like to live in another country with no family or familiar friends around.  We will have to create a life.  Where do we even begin to establish a daily routine?


Brett and Luis head out for more Mexico backpacking

Yesterday we drove Brett and Luis to the bus station to send them on their way to Guadalajara.  We knew our first task was to fill up the cupboards with groceries – it is time to cook like a normal person again (never really my strength and now I have to figure it out with new ingredients and new flavors).  But it was already 1:00, so no point getting groceries until after lunch right?.  We headed into Centro and found a giant torta (sandwich but in a big bun) for $30 pesos (around $2.50). We then wandered through the market looking for a colorful picture to hang above my stove in my kitchen.  If I am going to cook, I need to be inspired and I definitely need a cheery picture.  As always, I got stuck in a never ending loop of indecision when faced with too many choices.  Yellow or green background?  Purple or blue flowers?  Writing or no writing?  Ceramic or wood?  I recently told Meigan that perfect decisions are not always necessary – sometimes a good decision is enough.  But today I could not take my own advice. No inspiration and no decision here.  So we headed home, planning to get our groceries.

In the afternoon I did some work at my computer while Grant painted a pot and had a nap.  I sat in the garden and read an inspiring book about water wells in Africa (One Thousand Wells by Jena Nardella – a great read!).  Still no groceries – but of course it’s now close to supper time and everyone knows you shouldn’t get groceries when you’re hungry.  We could tell it was going to be a fantastic sunset.  So we looked at one other and said “Supper at the beach tonight, groceries tomorrow!”.  Perhaps this is our new normal “Manana – we can do it manana”.








After dinner on the beach, we wandered through Centro and saw a band was about to start playing in the square.  It was a plain old Thursday night and the square was packed with Mexicans and Gringos alike.  Candy floss and peanuts and ice cream and tequila available for purchase.


Candy Floss Guy


Peanut Guy










Within seconds of the band beginning to play everyone was dancing – entire families, tiny children, teenage couples, grandmas and grandpas and ME.  And since Grant hates to dance, guess who I was dancing with?  First the beach vendor who sells peanuts (I had turned him down at least 3 times that day in various places around town – I didn’t have the heart to turn him down again) and then a Mexican grandpa in a ball cap.  There is video evidence of both of these dances but they will never see the light of day!  I am sure I looked like a silly old lady, but it was fun to be part of the activities of the community.

IMG_20160107_193306 Dancing in the square Dancing in the square 2











My good friend – and hero – Veronica


So that is a normal day here in Mexico.  A bit of work, a bit of lazy, a bit of fun, a bit of dancing, a beautiful sunset, lots of food – all done with laughter and noise amongst my new community of friends and neighbors.  And today ….. today I will get groceries…..

Our First Party

Yesterday we had our first house party!  Well it wasn’t much of a party by Mexican standards –  no boom box, no piñata, no fireworks – but we did have guests at our house.  They were little, but still they were guests.

August, 2015

Lupita’s Birthday, August, 2015


I’ve told you about the family from the small town of San Vicente that have stolen our hearts.  We first met the Santanas 2 years ago when 13-year-old Ivonne was about to give birth to Lupita.  A few months later her twin sister Ivette brought Kevin into the world.  The twins and their babies live with their mom, their sisters Irandi and Isabelle, and their brothers Jose, Laurentino and Nasabid.  10 of them in one room.  So we have become friends and adopted abuelos (grandparents).



Baby Lupita, Sept 2013


When I held Lupita when she was only a few weeks old I whispered in her ear that I would make sure she would be okay.  I really have no logical ability to keep that promise and yet I am standing by it and the least (or maybe the most) I can do is show up from time to time and hug and kiss and cuddle this sweet little girl.   And pray for her – that God will hold her close and give her a hope and a future.  We trust that our continued presence in the life of this family tells them that we care – that we support them as they walk their own journey.  Two years ago little 2-year-old Jose looked at us suspiciously.  He seldom smiled – and never wore pants!  Now when we drive up Jose flies out of the houses and into my arms.

So yesterday we did what I have dreamed of for a long time.  We picked up Laurentino, Isabelle, Jose, Lupita and Ivonne and brought them to our house to play Wii and have lunch.  After some crazy Mario Kart, we headed down to the beach where we all played on boogie boards for a couple of hours.  While I watched Lupita, Ivonne was able to have some fun in the water, like the teen she is.  It just made my heart happy to have a normal family day with my sweet little friends.




Jose is a crazy driver!


Mario Kart – no language barrier here








All little kids love a fountain!











Uncle Grant does some repairs for Jose….



…. and acts silly with Lupita









The Ice Cream Guy is coming!











In 2015 my word for the year was JOY.  For me that word was a reminder to squeeze everything I could out of life – to live fully in every moment, to stop thinking only about the destination but rather to find pleasure and meaning in every step of the journey.  But I know that when you live life to the max it can be messy and dirty and scary and uncertain.  So my word for 2016 is PEACE.  I know that this new life is not going to be easy – heck, thanks to the roosters I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 2 weeks! – but I know that in the midst of it all, I can experience peace.  I want to wake up every day and be able to say “It is well with my soul”.  No matter what.

So yesterday, in the midst of the chaos of hanging out with children who I can’t properly communicate with, keeping a constant eye on Jose who was getting slammed by the waves, I held sleeping Lupita in my arms and knew that this was peace.  To love a child.  It is indeed well with my soul.



A First Christmas

I am sitting in my yard listening to 2 or 3 different types of music wrestle with one another before wafting over my wall – neighbors are clapping and singing along and I really just have to laugh.  In Canada the police would have been called long ago – here it is a typical Sunday family evening in the neighborhood.

We have made it through our first Mexican Christmas with some old traditions and many new.  The final outcome was the same as it has always been …. family time playing games and laughing and eating until we can’t move.  But the individual components looked quite different.  Here’s the comparison:

Chinese Food pickup Chicken Dinner Pickup
Candlelight service at church Fireworks in the street (Thanks to Luis for this one)
Christmas carols Posada at our door
Early to bed so Santa can come Up until 3:30 because the neighbors were partying in the street – which in turn encouraged the chickens and dogs to party in the streets. These people have serious boom boxes and they do not hold back!  They literally set up tables in the street for their families to join.  And fireworks – there were a LOT of fireworks all night long.
Christmas breakfast with hashbrown casserole, sausages, fruit, pastry and quiche Christmas breakfast with hashbrown casserole, sausages, fruit, pastry and egg burritos
Opening one million gifts Opening a couple of gifts and using the money saved to buy gifts for a family less fortunate.
Hanging out assembling and playing with new stuff Going to the orphanage to play with sweet children and help distribute their gifts
Eating candy from our stockings all day Watching children smash pinatas and dive for candy
Board games – Upwords and Chicken Foot – while looking out at the cold frosty day Board games – Upwords and Chicken Foot – in the yard under a palm tree
Eating Turkey dinner until we’re stuffed in our cozy dining room Eating Turkey dinner until we’re stuffed in a garden under the stars
Leftovers for breakfast Leftovers for breakfast
Tobogganing on the hill outside our house Boogie Boarding at the beach
Eating the peanut brittle we got in our stocking Eating the peanut brittle we bought from a vendor on the beach
Boxing day shopping sales Taking gifts to a family that doesn’t have a lot
Eating Turkey leftovers Eating chicken tostados served by this same family – a real sacrifice for them

So Christmas was exactly the same….. and completely different.  We spent it together doing many of the things we normally do – but we did most of it outside with the loud noises of other families celebrating all around us.  We received gifts from one another – and gave others away.  We ate as much as possible – some traditional fare like Turkey and dressing but it was married with chilaquilies and tacos and tostados.

We did have a couple of new activities that I hope don’t become new traditions.  Meigan had a nasty rash on her legs for a few days – we had tried Benadryl and hydrocortisone cream to no avail.  So on Christmas Day we stopped at the Farmacia (drug store) to ask for something to try.  They referred us next door to the doctor’s office.  We were seen immediately and he gave Meg a prescription for some pills and a cream.  He also gave her an injection.  The consultation and the injection cost $70 pesos (about $5).  The other meds cost around $10.   It worked – her rash is significantly better today.  Can you imagine trying to see a doc on Christmas day in Canada or the US? For $5?  Within 5 minutes?

Unfortunately, as we pulled away from the doctor and headed across the street to the farmacia, Grant forgot to put on his seatbelt and the traffic police were hungry for a Christmas Day victim.  Didn’t help that it was directly in front of the Fasten your Seatbelt sign.  So we got a ticket and Grant had to give up his license until he went to the traffic ticket office on Boxing Day to pay his $116 peso fine – about $8.  Seems to me a seatbelt ticket was $240 at home last time Grant got one.    So even our transgressions fit within our new budget here.

Our family time is coming to a close here – Meigan heads home tomorrow.  Brett and Luis have a few more days.  It has been fun but I recognize we are on vacation – this is not real life yet.  But we have had real life issues – medical needs, police confrontations, language shortfalls, and we are doing just fine.  Now if I could just figure out what day garbage is picked up!  Every night I take it out and every morning I bring it back in.  Maybe Monday…..

Christmas Eve


Fireworks in the street










Posada coming down our street singing carols



Swanson Traditional Breakfast

Playing board games - I won Upwards but lost Chicken Foot!

Playing board games – I won Upwards but lost Chicken Foot!









Time at Manos de Amor – this was a pleasant surprise.  We knew most of the children had left for the holidays but they came back for Christmas day to open gifts and we were happy to be invited.




















Visiting friends and eating tostados in San Vicente











Ready for Liftoff

KitchenWe did it – we survived the last few weeks and we’re sitting at the airport waiting for our flight to be called.  It’s been a crazy ride. Our main task was to get the house we’re building done – it’s our financial plan for this new life.  It came down to the wire – we stopped working at 2:30 yesterday, appraiser came at 3:00.  House is officially done.  Except for all the little things that aren’t.  But enough that we can breathe and head out.  It wasn’t easy.  Last week saw flat tires, computer erased reports, scratched hardwood that had just been laid and had to be relaid (3 times), big challenges at work, large bank deposit that ended up in the wrong account, and little sleep.  We were so intent on getting it done that I actually used power tools…. twice…..

So we’re at the airport ready to go.  Meigan is at the airport in Vancouver and Brett is on a bus from Guadalajara.  By tonight the Swansons will be a family in our new home.  A great start to a new life.  As always Grant and I see it differently.  I say we’re moving today.  He says we’re “starting a transition”.  He won’t see this as a move until his tools are with him.  I guess we all have our attachments that define home.  As long as I’m on a beach by tomorrow he can call it anything he wants.  We will return to Canada sometime in January to finish up final house details, get taxes done, file year end business reports, etc.  So maybe transitioning isn’t so far off.

TimsThe very final steps of this move were obvious – have some comfort Canadian food.  So last night we met the Williams family for a quick supper of poutine.  This morning a final Tim’s coffee.  Now all is ready.  And I know the suspense is killing you….. yes the pig made it!  It seems kinda ridiculous but I just think we’ll need a friendly familiar face smiling at us while we sit in the garden.


A pig and some more hats

Merry Christmas friends!  If I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, we will be back in January and will do another round of goodbyes.  My word for 2015 was JOY and although it has been a year of many ups and downs – as life always is – focusing on finding joy in the journey has truly made me grateful for every single moment.  Can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for all of us.  For me, it starts with guacamole.