Archive for April, 2014

26th April
written by Michelle

Well, this post is a week late but…heeey, that’s how life is going right about now? If you’re not familiar Semana Santa (Holy Week) is the week leading up to Easter and it is thee craziest, busiest, most touristy time of year in Antigua. Actually, it’s really 40 days of crazy all through lent, but that week being the craziest.

For my Santa Barbara friends, imagine 40+ days of FIESTA. Yeah. You get the picture.

I’ve decided Semana Santa is like having an entire country on Spring Break…the SAME WEEK. Yep, all the schools, all the universities, everyone, has that week off! Banks and stores usually close from Thursday-Sunday and the entire country goes on vacation. It’s actually a pretty fun vibe, unless you’re stuck sitting in traffic for hours!

Gerber and I have tried to travel around Guatemala before during this week, and it always goes pretty well until about Wed night when we’re sitting on the highway not moving, trying to make it to the coast with the all of the other 13 million Guatemalans. Ok, I’m exaggerating. Maybe. Coming from SoCal I’d like to think I can handle traffic…but traffic during Semana Santa is like no other.

All this to say, this year we had the week off, but we decided to just stay-caion it right around town. And it was delightful. I did a grocery store run on Monday and stalked up for the week and then we used the motorcycle to get around the rest of the week. We did a day trip to the beach with G’s family, went to Antigua to see some the lovely alfombras, and spent lots of time hanging out in our front yard. Gerber and I did a few movie nights and were usually in bed before 10pm. Because let’s be honest vacation is a relative term when you have a cute, squirmy, hungry 5:30am alarm clock.

You know what made it feel the most “vacation-y“? (is that a word?) I pulled put my “old” (from 2006) DSLR camera. I don’t know why I have not taken it out in the past year?! I guess the handy little iphone is always right there in my pocket. Oh, how Steve Jobs has changed the world. Anyhow, somehow choosing to be intentional about bringing the “good” camera made me feel a bit more like a tourist in my own town. And I must say the quality of the photos really is so much better. I might even lug it around on our upcoming trip to Ohio.

So with that said, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Here was our Semana Santa 2014:







still her favorite way to sleep. #godblesstheergo



Guatemalans are serious about the shade. He said he bought it for “Elena”



my two loves.



She loved the water. Probably because it was warm. Just wait Elena, till the cold of the California ocean.



Our sweet niece, Emma.



If we weren’t at the beach, we were in this pool.




She may not be the best sleeper on the block, but she’s got this eating thing down.




She fascinated with all things water.



what? you don’t let your child chew on the hose?! #momfail #guatemalawater

So, basically Semana Santa consisted of lots of pictures of Elena :)

16th April
written by Michelle


I was going through and organizing and deleting old photos on my computer the other night (anyone else ever do that?) and I realized it was exactly a year ago this week that we were moving.

I’ve written about it before. We moved twice last year. Granted it was just 2 blocks away while we did a remodel on our house. But, nonetheless it was a move. And moving while 8 months pregnant, and then moving back with a 3 month-old were probably equally tough in different ways and are both on my list of things-not-to-do-again.

But we did it. And for the past 6 months we have been making this place, this house, our home.

.  .  .

I read somewhere that our generation, the millennials, on average will move 10 times before the age of 30!? If I think back and count the number of houses, apartments and places I’ve lived just since graduating college it’s somewhere around 6 or 7. I think moving, whether it’s across town or across an ocean, challenges our sense of home.

Thanks to Edward Sharpe’s song I am so tempted to buy an etsy canvas with the words “home is wherever I am with you” scribbled in beautiful handwriting. The idea is both comforting and confusing. I mean I get the whole idea of feeling totally “at home” with a person. And I’ll admit when I was single I held onto this idea; that once I was married and doing life with my husband, I would feel at home whenever I was with him. It wouldn’t matter where we lived or where we went, I would be at home.

And there may be some truth to this, but for me a sense of home is deeper than just being with the people you love.

A sense of home is deeply rooted in a place. 

In a house and a community with streets and stories and people and purpose.

For me, a sense of home takes time. 

If you just moved give yourself grace. I think it takes awhile to feel at home somewhere new.

It grows slowly over months, maybe years.

It develops out of conversations and comfort and shared experiences.

It ebbs and flows, like the seasons.

Some days home feels like being in love, giddy with new things to explore and other days home feels frustrating and little things makes you furious, like noting being able to find parking at the Bodegona…again.

By home, I mean both a house and a city. 

Home is running into people you know around town and having a favorite coffee shop.

There’s a certain familiarity in being home. Like knowing which cupboard has the water glasses and where the extra toilet paper is kept.

When you’re home you see it all, the good, the bad and what needs fixing.

At home there is room to plan and dream and change. Because you’re staying long enough to do those things.

You see the mold growing in the corner above the kitchen and that crack in the counter.

You can sit on the lovely balcony with ivy growing around the railing and dream of the plants and and white lights that could be hung.

There is a certain “knowing” that comes when you live in a place for a long time. A knowing like how the weather will be in November or when high tide will come or when the jacaranda trees will bloom. No one tells you these things, you just know. Because you’re home.

There are certain rhythms that make home feel like home. Work to do, errands to run, dishes to wash, laundry to fold. There is dinner to be made, friends to visit, toys to put away and a couch to cuddle.

Sometimes in the fun and adventure of travel and suitcase living, these are the simple things I miss. Mundane and often the source of my complaining, they do make up a large part of home.

I love traveling, and I love traveling with Gerber and Elena. But when we travel we are visitors, explorers, just passing through.

But home, home is where you plant roots and stay.

Where you don’t need a map or GPS to navigate the streets.

There are a few places I still like to consider home, Santa Barbara being one. And where I grew up being another. But the truth is when I am there, although it feels familiar and comfortable, I am still a visitor. I come in and out for a set period of time.

When I am here I say, “Yeah, I’m going home in May to see my parents.” But when I am there, I say “Oh, I’m flying back home on Sunday.” It’s confusing, even to me. Maybe it’s what happens when you feel at home in more than one place.

When you move to a foreign country, I think your sense of “home” changes even more. It’s a weird feeling that the place you now call home, will always view you as an outsider.

But for now, my home is here. In Guatemala.

.  .  .

Last time my mom came came to visit she brought these hooks down for us. (well let’s be honest, for me. Because my husband would probably never pick out metallic letter-hooks from Anthropologie. But he likes the function and I like the fashion so they work :)

When you walk in our front door it’s one of the first things you see.

The letters:


And it’s a little reminder that this is my home. Our home. And I don’t plan on moving anytime soon.


What makes you feel most at home? How many times have you moved since college?


P.S. Even if I am not on the etsy canvas bandwagon yet, I really do like this song. Perfect for a Wednesday.

11th April
written by Michelle

Dear Mija-

You’re 9 months old. You love giving slobbery open mouth kisses and big smiles showcasing your two front teeth. You like grabbing zippers and pulling necklaces and turning the lights on and off. You’ve got peek-a-boo mastered, your favorite foods are black beans and apples and you can babble dah, dah, dah all day long.

As you get older, you’re probably going to realize that I struggle with control. Meaning, I like to feel in control. And the truth is right now there a lot of things I can control about your little life. For the most part, I control what you wear and where we go. I can usually make sure that you at hormone free chicken and organic eggs and that the only beverage, besides breast milk that touches your lips, is water. But deep down, I know there is so, so little I actually control.

Maybe that’s the first myth of motherhood: Admitting that I, in fact, am not in control.

Elena, there are so many factors about your life that I can’t control.

I think by nature mamas want to keep their kiddos close, like a mother duck who tucks all her ducklings under her wings. I sometimes want to scoop you up and keep you next to me forever. Which I realize sounds silly and absurd. Because I know one day, I will have to let go. That’s probably one of hardest things moms have to do. It goes against every ounce of our being.

A lot of this may not make any sense to you, at least not yet anyway. It didn’t make sense to me until I became a mom, and it was then that I realized what your Nana, my mom, must have felt.

Let me explain.

You see I think as parents we have expectations for our kids. Expectations are a funny thing. They often they lay hidden under years of prayers and piles of unspoken hopes and dreams. And sometimes you don’t even know you have them until something happens that is different than you expected.


I know for Nana, it was a bit of surprise when I told her and your Grandpa, that I wanted to take a leave of absence from work and come to Guatemala for a year. We sat around the oval table on Christmas Day when I announced my decision. They were supportive, but it was probably a little different than they were expecting.

Then half a year later when I told them I was falling in love with your Daddy, they listened, asked questions and welcomed him into our home and family. But I know it was different than they were expecting.

And then your Daddy and I got married, and your Nana and Papa were so happy for us. But I was making my home in a country and culture and language so different from theirs.

I know it was different than they expected.

Then one evening over a sushi dinner a little more than a year ago, your daddy and I told them that I was pregnant with you. They were going to become grandparents! And they were so excited, but I could sense there was also a twinge of sadness. They were going to become grandparents, but their first grand-baby was going to live far away.

Your Nana, is really wise women and she was sharing this story one weekend at church. She preached a message about how sometimes as parents we have these expectations for our kids. She shared how she realized that she had certain expectations as a mom. She naturally assumed that one day she would be a grandma. She imagined herself coming over to take you to the park and stopping by for birthdays parties and dinners together. In her expectations she imagined us maybe being a drive away, but at least a drive in the same state. I am pretty sure she never imagined me, her daughter, living in another country, another language and culture, and raising her grandchild here.

It’s different than she expected.

And you know what?

I know how your Daddy and I are choosing to live is also very different for your Mama Hilla (ee-ya). We may live in the same country, but I know for them it feels like we’re far away. Traditionally in your daddy’s town the youngest son would living with his parents and when he gets married he would bring his wife to live with them, too. You see, I’m pretty sure your abuela imagined playing with her grandkids and preparing lunch over the open fire with her son’s wife. She has never directly told me that, but your daddy has explained it to me. She probably had an expectation, and how we’re doing life is different than she expected. Sure, we go over to visit and stay and eat lunch, but when the rest of the family lives within walking distance, the fact that we get in our car to drive away only magnifies the miles.

Your grandparents on both sides love you dearly, but I know sometimes it’s hard.

The way that were doing life, where we have chosen to live and how we are choosing to raise you may look different than they expected. But maybe what I appreciate most is that they could have tried to control and manipulate us, but instead they chose to let go and trust us.

There is a lot of love involved when you really trust someone. And I think they were both able to do this because they can trust in a God who is bigger than language and culture and location.

Elena, when I hold you at night and your sweaty head rests in my arms and your little legs curl up on my lap, my heart just stops. I know you’re going to grow up. And I realize as your mom, I probably have a whole host of expectations for you. I have hopes and dreams and ideas about what school you’ll go to and who your friends will be. I probably have expectations about where you’ll live or where you’ll go to college or what career you will pursue. And then sometimes I imagine one day you’ll want to get married and you’ll become a wife and mom and I’ll become a grandmother…and then I realize I ned to stop.

These are all my expectations. I need to let go.

Sometimes I imagine what my mom must have felt like. I try to imagine how will I respond if one day you grow up and meet someone, let’s just say, from Korea or Turkey, or some foreign place where I have never been and don’t know the language. How will I support you? How will I respond if one day you fall in love and become a wife and mom far away from me? What if you life turns out different than I expect?

I swallow hard. And my heart hurts just a little.

But I try to remember that I will choose trust, over control.

And ultimately I trust a God who loves you so much more than I do.

I think part of trusting involves letting go. And I’m pretty sure it’s the hardest thing I will have to do one day.

So, sweet girl. I am sure one day I will learn how to let you go. But for now, I pray that I get to hold you tight for awhile longer.

I love you, mija!

All my love,


P.S. I may need to re-read this letter to myself in about 18 years.   


6th April
written by Michelle


“I have often thought of the forest as a living cathedral…” -Richard Nelson

One of the things I miss most about living in the states, particularly Santa Barbara, is the freedom to hike and walk and run outside. There is something about the quiet of the trees, the beauty of a forrest, and the stunning views from the top that are just good for my soul. Just to be in nature, without the fear of being robbed or whistled at or a host of other things, is simply put, a gift. You don’t always realize these things when you leave a place where you can run from your front door to the the beach in less than a mile.

Don’t get me wrong Guatemala has a some of the most beautiful mountains and views in the world. Nature really is everywhere, but unfortunately it’s not always safe to be “out in nature.”

But on Saturday Gerber, Elena and I went to El Pilar, a nature reserve less than 5k from our house, and were thoroughly impressed. A 5oQ (about 7$) entrance fee was most definitely worth it for well-maintained paths, easy stream crossings across wooden bridges and just the security that comes from being on private land.


About 1.5K into the hike there are steps up to the mirador (look out point). It was a little hazy, but still hard to believe we were looking down at our valley.

They may have been some pretty, steep steps….or just carrying  a 20lb baby warrants a water break.

I love that she likes to drink water. A girl after my own heart.

We wondered probably for a good 30 min through the canyon. It was green and lush and almost felt more like the jungle, than the hills around where we live. Best part was it was almost all in the shade. If you live here you know that’s a good thing, because hiking under the Guatemalan sun at 5,000 feet elevation get very hot, very quickly. After about 2K you arrive at the top of the canyon, where you can either take the path back to the bottom or keep going up along a gravel road to the cabanas. 

Gerber was convinced the cabanas were just around the curve. So, we decided to keep going. And an hour or so later we rounded the final curve of the road. Elena had her lunch on the way up. (yes, you can breastfeed in the ergo-another reason it’s my favorite baby carrier EVER!) And we found a perfect little spot to have our lunch once we got to the top. There were bathrooms (with toilet paper! and soap) and picnic tables. Hiking has a way of making everything taste good, even squished, soggy sandwiches.

We started the walk back down and of course, in her favorite napping place…Elena fell asleep. I may complain about some of the challenges of having a child who only naps while being held, but I will say it makes her pretty easy to take out and about. So there’s trade offs, right?

We came home tired and sore and happy.

When we have groups here one or both of us often has work stuff to do on the weekends. Or we often do a lot of weekends where we trade off. Gerber watches E and I go to yoga or to a coffee shop to write. And then I watch her and he goes to lunch with friends. But it’s been awhile since we have done something together, as a family. And I think we could make this part of a new routine.

We’re still figuring this out…life as a family….but this weekend was a great start.

Do you have any weekend family routines or traditions?


P.S. Just one more picture…because I mean, look. She’s got her running clothes on. gah!