Spring Break 2017: Oregon Coast

Over the past six and a half years of marriage, Peter and I have tried to take advantage of Spring Break as much as we can. In 2012, we were young and broke but wanted to get out of town so we spent a few days in Washington, as cheaply as possible and had a blast.

In 2013, we went to Whistler and in 2014 we visited friends in Victoria. In 2015, Pearl was about two weeks old so we stayed home and slept very little and felt very thankful.

Last year, we fit a few things into our Spring Break.  A trip back to Whistler (that was cut down to one night because Pearl slept so terribly), a visit to some good friends in Kimberley (and Pearl’s first plane trip), and some general fun around our own town.

This year we decided to be slightly more ambitious. The baby we lost in the Fall was due right before Spring Break and so very early on I told Peter I didn’t care what we did, I just wanted to get out of town for Spring Break. We decided to take a road trip down to the Oregon Coast, as well as a couple of days in Portland. It was perfect and so great to have something to plan and look forward to as we came closer to that due date.

After our experience driving to and staying in Whistler last year, we weren’t entirely sure how Pearl would do on the road. But, figuring you don’t know until you try, we went ahead and took the plunge. (Spoiler alert: she did great!)

We left early Monday morning (on the first ferry off the Coast) and drove to Olympia, Washington. We basically bundled Pearl out of bed and into the car, feeding her breakfast on the ferry. She got a thrill out of being allowed to stay in her pyjamas all day. She fell asleep again once we were back on the road and basically slept until we arrived in Olympia around noon.

Neither Peter nor I had ever been to Olympia before so we had fun poking around downtown, popping into a few shops. It was pouring rain but it was nice to stretch our legs and see a new place. We stayed that night just outside of the city at a place we found on AirBnB. Our hosts were friendly, the room was a great size and Pearl slept decently well. Before her bedtime, we took a stroll along the boardwalk at the waterfront.

We left after breakfast the next morning and took our time driving down the coast. We opted to avoid the I-5 as much as we could and instead took some back highways where there weren’t many cars but lots of trees and we caught glimpses of small towns along the way. It rained heavily, which also made avoiding heavy traffic nice.

We stopped in Long Beach and got out to run around. It was pouring rain (sensing a pattern?) and windy and poor Pearl got covered in sand.

It was pretty cool to have this huge beach all to ourselves for a little while. We poked around the town a little, buying saltwater taffy and posing with the largest frying pan in the world.

To be honest, I thought it would be bigger.

We drove onwards (in the rain, always in the rain), crossing the Columbia River and entering Astoria.

This is a very long bridge that takes you from Washington to Oregon.

We had lunch in Astoria and then, because the rain had let up, found a playground where Pearl could run around for a bit. She fell asleep in the car when we got back on the road and headed to our next destination: Manzanita.

When we first began planning our trip, we found a super deal for a hotel in the tiny coastal town of Manzanita and then planned the rest of our time around that. We stayed a total of four nights in Manzanita, renting a suite in a hotel across the road from the beach. There’s not a lot in Manzanita itself but we were able to do small trips each day to towns nearby like Cannon Beach, Seaside, and Tillamook. The suite was simple but perfect for our needs. Pearl had her own room (so we all slept very well), we had a small kitchen, a balcony, and a fireplace. It made for a great home base.

Our beach in Manzanita.

On the balcony.

We spent a day in Seaside and took Pearl to the Aquarium there. While not a huge space, Pearl seemed to enjoy looking at the fish and she loved the touch tank. She did touch a starfish but mostly she liked splashing.

We spent time on the beach in Cannon Beach, where Pearl loved digging in the sand with sticks. She got a lot of use out of her rain pants on this trip.

Various beach shots:

On Thursday, the sun came out and so we decided to hike a trail we’d heard about there. Oregon is full of state parks but, unfortunately, due to weather conditions, a lot of them seemed to be closed recently or have parts of their trails closed. We were able to see a little bit of Cape Meares Park that day, including a short walk to a lighthouse. Turns out, Pearl loves lighthouses and insisted that her stuffed cat, Gerald, is a lighthouse keeper. She also enjoyed this “funny tree”.

The Octopus Tree

We had planned to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory and had really been hyping it to Pearl, telling her she could eat as much cheese as she wanted (which is a lot of cheese), and I was excited to try their macaroni and cheese (my favourite food). Well, it turned out to be a good thing that she had fallen asleep when we pulled up because they were closed! Probably the biggest disappointment of the trip! Hey, we’re a dairy-loving family!

The next day we headed to Ecola State Park where we planned to hike the Indian Beach Head Trail. Unfortunately, due to weather and erosion, part of the trail was closed. The park was beautiful though and had amazing views and we got to enjoy it all the same. (Again, in the rain.)

We ended our trip with two nights in Portland. Peter and I honeymooned there in 2010 but hadn’t been back since. While it was quite a different trip with a two-year-old in tow, we enjoyed seeing the city again.

We ate delicious food, taking full advantage of the food trucks, and I made two excellent visits to Powells Books.

We booked a private room in a hostel, something we’ve done a couple of times before. If you’re okay with sharing a bathroom, it’s a great way to get a cheaper place to stay. This hostel was a converted heritage house and our room ended up being quite large.

We knew from experience that downtown Portland was small enough to walk everywhere and it was nice to park the car for a couple of days and stroll through town (often at the pace of a two-year-old). We got lucky and didn’t have any rain while in Portland. And I finally got my mac and cheese, at Deschutes Brewery, and it was amazing.

All in all, probably our best Spring Break ever.

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“The Lord was with Joseph”

We’ve lurched our way into 2017 in our household with bad colds for Pearl and I. Peter and I made it to 10:30 on New Year’s Eve and I spent most of January 1st in bed. Pearl picked up the illness from me and has had a rough couple of nights recently. Despite that, I’m hopeful for 2017. I’ve set some goals (I don’t know why that sounds better to me than resolutions but it does) and while the year may not look the way I hoped it would last summer, I am still looking forward to what it does bring.

Our house, morning of Christmas Eve.

Our house, morning of Christmas Eve.

As we enter into a new year, the story of Joseph has been on my mind. I know, not exactly seasonally appropriate but here’s what’s been on my mind.

Growing up, I heard this story a lot. Joseph and his dreams, Joseph and his colourful coat. Joseph and his brothers, more dreams, his success in Egypt. It’s told as a success story. It all worked out because in the end Joseph saves his family from famine. His brothers betray him, sell him into slavery, and lie to their father but it has a happy ending.

That’s not a false telling of the story but what’s struck me recently is that this couldn’t have been God’s ideal plan for Joseph and his family. Joseph is the son of Jacob, the great-grandson of Abraham. For four generations God has been promising to expand this particular family. God has promised that a great king will come from Abraham’s line, that Abraham descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the sky. It was never in God’s plan to let this family die of starvation three generations later. God could have kept them alive and safe in their own land. But He didn’t because Joseph’s brothers sinned hugely. Jealous of their younger brother, they could barely restrain themselves from killing him. Instead, they sold him into slavery in a foreign land where he suffered for years. He served in other men’s households. He was accused of crimes he didn’t commit. He spent years in prison. Genesis tells us that Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh. His entire youth was spent in slavery and imprisonment.

We know less about what Joseph’s brothers were up to in that time but what we do know points to them suffering too. Aside from a devastating famine, we know that Judah at least has turned from his brothers and raised sons who are “wicked in the sight of the Lord” and things degrade (Genesis 38, that’s a whole other story). We know also that the brothers are wracked with guilt for what they did to Joseph. When they stand in Joseph’s presence in Egypt and don’t recognize him, one of their first reactions to Joseph testing their honesty is to recall how Joseph begged for his life and they didn’t listen. No matter how many years have passed, his cries still echo in their ears.

My point is that none of this would have been what God wanted for this chosen family. God uses it, yes; Joseph remains obedient to God and faithful in his worship no matter the circumstances and God raises him up to a position where he’s able to help his family. But I don’t think God’s perfect plan involved those years of suffering for the brothers. It didn’t involve what followed for the Israelites – enslavement, escape, wandering through the desert.

Park time on Christmas Eve.

Park time on Christmas Eve.

I take comfort in this because I don’t think the way 2016 unfolded was God’s perfect plan for my life. We live in a sinful, fallen world, just as Joseph did and that means death and decay and broken hearts. It’s so hard to understand why an all-powerful God doesn’t step in and fix these things but as Christian we also believe that He is doing so. That when He sent His Son to die for us on the cross, that was the beginning of fixing all things. Making all things new. We’re not there yet and so we suffer. We suffer because we know that things are not as they should be. Just as Joseph suffered, knowing that his life should have been different, even as he gained power in Pharaoh’s court.

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Snowy Christmas Day in Vancouver.

Joseph trusted that God could redeem what had happened to him. That enslavement and betrayal was not the end of the story. We don’t know what Joseph’s relationship was like with his brothers after they were all reunited in Egypt. I can’t imagine that it was ever as good as it could have been. There are wounds that are not healed this side of Heaven. But the healing process can begin on this side. God works in our lives now, despite the sin, despite the roadblocks we try to put in His way. He works now. He is working now.

A ferry ride home.

A ferry ride home.

I am excited to see how God unfolds His plan for our family in 2017.

(The story of Joseph is find in Genesis 37-47.)

Thanks In All Things

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This past weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada. I have so many things to be thankful for – I wake up each morning in a warm house, in a beautiful little town, with my husband and daughter. I know how fortunate I am.

At the same time, it’s hard to give thanks right now. It’s hard for me to feel thankful in all things. Which, as a Christian, I’m called to do. I don’t know how I’m supposed to be thankful for the loss of a baby – or if that’s even what I’m supposed to strive for.

In the days before Pearl’s birth I remember reading the story of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3 and being comforted by the fact that we worship a God who enters the furnace with us. We were saved from that furnace and given a healthy baby. The men in Daniel were also saved; although they were thrown to the fire, they were unharmed.

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire…They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Daniel 3: 26b, 27b

But what do you do when you are not saved from the fire?

I don’t think I’m expected to give thanks for the fire itself. I do believe that my God weeps with me. The Bible never ever chastises the mournful. Jesus himself wept at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11). In Exodus 23, the Promised Land is described as a place where none are barren and there is no miscarriage. Clearly we don’t live there yet. I find it comforting that God’s perfect plan doesn’t involve the loss of my baby. And I find it confusing that an omnipotent God allowed that loss.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3:17-18

In Daniel, the men declare that they believe God will rescue them. But even if He doesn’t, they will not turn from Him. They are thrown into the fire and a fourth figure is seen in the furnace with them. That is the strange and confusing and beautiful part of our faith. We are not always saved from the fire but we are never alone in it.

I will not be burned up by this fire. I will not bow down to the gods of grief and loss. I am here right now but this is not my forever. Slowly, slowly, I will give thanks. God help me.

This weekend we skipped town for a couple of days with some very wonderful friends in Victoria. Pearl’s first trip to the place where Peter and I met and fell in love and spent the first year of our marriage.

Downtown Victoria Harbour

Downtown Victoria Harbour

We were fortunate enough to be able to fly by seaplane from Sechelt, which makes the trip so much faster. Pearl’s first time on a seaplane went very well, though she refused to wear the ear protection they provided for her.

Telling me to catch up on a walk with friends.

Telling me to catch up on a walk with friends.

There was a lot we didn’t get to do in our quick trip but we did get to catch up with some of my favourite people, meet a new-ish baby, visit my old workplace/Canada’s largest bookstore, and walk a little through a lovely city.

Tried to take a picture of these two at the bookstore and Pearl is picking her nose.

Tried to take a picture of these two at the bookstore and Pearl is picking her nose.

Also, Pearl discovered she can put her hands in her pockets so please enjoy one of my favourite pictures ever:

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There is a lot to be thankful for.

Pearl’s First Camping Trip

IMG_3863Peter and I have camped several times together in the years that we’ve known each other. We’ve camped with friends or just the two of us but we’ve never camped with a toddler. Until now!

When it comes to parenting, I’m learning that often you simply have to take the plunge. We’ve always known that we want to camp with Pearl and it’s been a given that camping will be a common summer activity for our family. But that thought of actually doing so with a seventeen-month-old was kind of intimidating. I asked friends how they did it, Peter and I talked it over and, finally, we just picked a week and we went for it.

Very early in the morning.

Very early in the morning.

We decided to start easy with one night away in a location not too far away. We went to Keats Island, somewhere we’ve camped several times before, and is only a short boat ride away. (We took the public ferry from Langdale but we’ve also kayaked from Gibsons in the past.)

View from our site.

View from our site.

The good news is that we had a terrific time. I can’t wait to try it again. Hopefully, later this summer. Hopefully, with a few lessons learned.

We left Thursday afternoon on a direct ferry from Langdale to Keats Landing. The provincial campground at Plumper’s Cove is a 2km hike from the Landing where the ferry drops you off. (Hence the advantage of taking your own boat over.) We packed as light as we could for our one night. I carried Pearl in her big Deuter hiking pack, along with our dry food, our water, and Peter’s clothes. Peter carried everything else (tent, blankets, mine and Pearl’s clothes, and our little cooler). He’s a champ.

Just getting started on the hike in.

Just getting started on the hike in.

Pearl actually walked a good portion of this hike on her own, for which I was thankful. Normally, the hike takes around 30-40 minutes but it obviously took us a little longer that afternoon.

Also note Peter's giant bag.

Also note Peter’s giant bag.

Plumper’s Cove works on a first-come-first-served basis so arriving on the Thursday before a long weekend meant it was busy but there were still sites available and we were able to find one with decent privacy.

Our tent was one of our first big purchases as a married couple and it’s been awesome ever since. It is technically a 3-person tent though I doubt I’d want to sleep in it with 2 other adults. For the three of us, it worked well.

Having had some co-sleeping success on recent trips, we opted to make one big bed in the tent with one sleeping bag and a blanket. Fortunately, the weather was fantastic all week so staying warm wasn’t an issue.

As soon as we set up camp, we headed for the beach. The water was perfect and Peter and I enjoyed a swim while Pearl stayed on dry land, wearing her life jacket.

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In fact, she insisted on wearing her life jacket for most of our camping time, regardless of distance from water. Safety first is Pearl’s motto!

We kept our meals simple in the interests of packing light. Dinner was hot dogs cooked over an open fire. Pearl became an unusually picky eater and subsisted primarily on crackers and cucumbers and bites of granola bar.

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Night-time sleep was, of course, our biggest concern going into our adventure and the thing I’d asked most people about. Here’s what we did and here’s what I would do differently.

We kept Pearl up until about 8 o’clock, around an hour after her bedtime. We tried to follow her usual routine as close as possible and read stories and cuddle in the tent. At home, we then put her in her crib with her bear and let her fall asleep on her own. That definitely did not happen while camping. Especially when she figured out how to get out of the tent on her own. I rocked her and sang and Peter and I took turns laying down with her but it took a long time and there were a lot of tears. In the end, at around 10:30pm, both Peter and I got ready for bed and lay down together with Pearl. It helped that it was dark by now and she fell asleep shortly after this. She did wake once in the night and seemed scared in the foreign space until I held her close. In the morning, she had squirmed her way to sleep in the top corner of the tent, on her own, bum in the air. We were all up and eating breakfast at about 5:30am.

Very early in the morning.

Very early in the morning.

So here’s what I would do differently: First of all, the tent was too exciting. I think if we had set it up in our backyard a few days earlier and let her nap there or even camped out for a night, Pearl would have had an easier time associating it with sleeping. Sticking her in it and expecting her to fall asleep the first time was, perhaps, overly optimistic.

Second of all, I think next time we camp we’ll simply all go to bed at the same time. If that means Pearl stays up late (and until it’s dark), so be it. I think we’ll all get a better sleep that way.

But even on a lesser amount of sleep, we had a fun day. We made morning s’mores on the campfire, went for a hike (which Pearl slept through), and swam some more. In the afternoon we hiked back to the ferry landing. Pearl slept the whole way this time so I packed all twenty-three pounds of her.

Pearl liked putting Big Bear in her pack. He would have been much lighter to carry.

Pearl liked putting Big Bear in her pack. He would have been much lighter to carry.

I’m sure this is only the beginning of our family camping adventures! If anyone has further tips on camping with a toddler, I’ll gladly hear them!

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Our Summer So Far

Our summer got off to a hectic start and things are just beginning to settle down again.

At the tail end of June, we headed to the Okanagan for a wedding. We left directly after Peter got off work on the Friday and drove straight, taking the Coquihalla Highway. (Well, one stop of burgers at Five Guys in Chilliwack, in the pouring rain. I’ll be honest, I don’t miss living there but I do like Five Guys.) We arrived in Okanagan Falls way past Pearl’s bedtime to discover that the hotel we were staying at was above a bar. Pro-parenting tip: Don’t stay in a hotel above a bar with your baby. Rough night.

Fortunately, the next morning we found an awesome diner across the street and made our way to the lake-beach a few blocks away.

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The beach (and the playground) was more mud than sand but there was also a splash pad where Pearl had a blast running through water and kicking the spray. Then we all went back to the hotel and had naps before the wedding.

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This is the only picture I took of this beautiful, garden wedding but others caught some pictures of the three of us so I hope to share a couple soon (Along with the conclusion of my 30 Day Dress Challenge. I know, I know.) The weather was perfect and the ceremony and reception were held in a lovely garden with games planned in between. The bride and groom had a lot of thoughtful touches – including goodie bags for the kids!

After breakfast the next morning, we headed home. We opted the more scenic, southern route, which took us through several small towns along the way.

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Our original plan was to take our time on the way back and stop in a few spots. But when Pearl fell asleep leaving Penticton we decided to just keep driving. Of course, you can’t leave the Okanagan in the summertime without fresh fruit so we did make a lightning quick stop at a fruit stand in Keremeos for blueberries and cherries.

Pearl woke up as we drove through Manning Park so we stopped for a late picnic lunch and to look at ground squirrels.

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An important feature of every childhood road trip through British Columbia.

An important feature of every childhood road trip through British Columbia.

We made it to the ferry terminal with enough time for an ice cream break before getting on the boat (Pearl’s second time. She’s a fan.) and then home and to bed where we all slept through the night.

We had a few days of work and home time and Canada Day.

Last week, Peter was away for a few days so I took Pearl into Vancouver. She had her latest check-up at Children’s Hospital and we stayed with family for two nights and got to catch up with friends.

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Like these two who I’ve been friends with since I was seven years old! Pearl was definitely past her bed time here but she did really well the whole week and got to hang out with all of her cousins.

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I lived in Vancouver for fifteen years but four years in a small town on the Sunshine Coast mean that I’m not quite used to the hustle and bustle of the big city anymore. I’d also forgotten that smiling at and greeting people on the street or on public transit is not normal. I used our stroller a lot but for busier locations, the Ergo was great for our introverted little girl.

Our hospital visit went well. I’ve accepted that returning to Children’s Hospital will always be filled with emotions for me and so I was more prepared for it this time. Pearl’s test results on her kidneys, while not perfect, were good and a slight improvement on last autumn’s. Her kidney function is good and one is almost completely normal now. Most importantly, Pearl continues to be symptom-free from her hydronephrosis. I met with the renal specialist who said there’s no reason to do surgery now or, most likely, ever and we’ll simply continue to monitor her kidneys.

Pearl and I headed home on Thursday, arriving home shortly after Peter. And so, this week, our summer begins in earnest. I think it’s going to look like this:

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And some of this:

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And a whole lot of other fun!