La Paz, La Pause

Perhaps there is something in its name, The Peace. Or perhaps there is something about a place that that has whale murals and puppy graffiti around every corner. Or perhaps it is that its streets are lined with trees and shade and old world cobblestones. Whatever it is, La Paz is calmer, the traffic less hurried, the people less harried. It has seeped into our psyche, too, and for the first time in months, we feel like we can take deep breaths.

But it didn’t happen immediately. We arrived in La Paz exhausted and relieved, but left after only a few days for Isla Espiritu Santo so that we could at least get a small taste of the islands of the Sea of Cortez, especially before Sara left to return to Denmark. We arrived back to La Paz only to do three hurried loads of laundry, pack ourselves up, and board a bus north for Loreto, leaving Tom behind to work on the boat.

My parents awaited us at the beautiful resort of Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto. The desert colored hotel blended into the towering brown and rust hills, dotted with Baja sand, trees, and cacti. I felt a strong “hurry up and relax” reaction as I looked down on the turtle-shaped pool and swaying palm trees. It was someone’s verion of Paradise, but as long as such strong anxiety and helplessness kept my brain hostage, I wouldn’t find my paradise. While you can’t argue with happy hour cocktails over a stunning view of red cliffs rising out of a tourquoise bay, there was no amount of forced relaxation that could keep me from wondering whether Dylan’s increasingly difficult behavior was a manifestation of some diagnosable problem or simply the reaction to his world being flipped upside down. Either way, I questioned everything about what we were doing and my ability to handle it.

A tear-filled late night discussion with Tom resulted in our agreeing to have a family meeting to establish a more regular schedule and expectations (long overdue, but it was so difficult with our intense travel schedule). We also agreed not to make any decisions about the future until we had had a chance to see if a modicum of stability would have an effect. And so we returned to La Paz for our Pause. As the bus concluded its five hour journey, meandering through the streets of La Paz and pulling into its parking spot along the malecon while the sun began to dip below the horizon, I felt hopeful that we could find something here that we had lost. Perhaps a little bit of peace not only in our daily lives, but in our minds. We sat down to set our schedule together, the kids deciding which day should be baking day and which days should be game night and movie night. And so we began our week and our new year cautiously hopeful.

By Thursday, Dylan was declaring that he wanted to do science every day including Saturdays, and by Friday he was explaining to Andy excitedly that they had to work together to sweep and vacuum the floor. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t still meltdowns and episodes of uncontrollable intensity (there are). It doesn’t mean that our kids are running through fields of flowers and bringing us bouquets of flowers with peppering us with kisses and hugs (they aren’t). And it doesn’t mean that there isn’t some work to be done on our own parenting, teaching, and acceptance skills (there is, and we are still working our way through some new books and resources). But it does mean that might be able to find a way to live together. It means we have a little hope.

It means we can enjoy exploring this city for a little while and discover all the little things that make us happy: shrimp tacos, craft beer, swingsets, pools with lane lines, wood fired pizzas, restaurants with playgrounds, bunnies to pet, and turtles to feed. So here are a few descriptive pictures of the La Paz that we are getting to know:

The 50 meter pool I found out in the corner of the city was surrounded by dirt roads and rickety bus stops and took a 15-minute walk and a 15 minute bus ride to get there. It was old, but clean, cool, long, and empty. I was so excited to be in my first proper pool since San Diego that I did far more than my aching muscles appreciated.

The kids are currently on their second trip to the Serpentario to look at turtles, snakes, and alligators and to feed a bunch of rescue bunnies and guinea pigs.

We’ve made multiple stops at an open air taco restaurant with wood tables and a grass hut roof that has shrimp tacos to die for. And nestled in the back corner of the restaurant is a treehouse and swingset that is the most welcome sight of all. Another restaurant has become a favorite: Harker Board Co, which has amazing wood fired pizzas and craft beer on tap. We hear perhaps more English there than we would like, but the atmosphere makes us happy, and the waiters are thrilled when we speak Spanish.

The malecon is a never-ending delight. There is great pleasure in being able to walk along the path, watching roller bladers, runners, walkers, cyclists, and tour boat operaters encouraging more recruits. Parents sit on benches while their children lick ice cream cones or crash tricycles into trees. Toddlers navigate the playground with overwhelmed and eager eyes as older kids climb and run circles around them. Bronze statues rise out of the concrete every few hundred yards, giving homage to a life that is connected to this Sea.

And so we pause and enjoy life here. The time will come when we will move on. But that is not today. And though there is a lot of planning to be done, this Pause in La Paz gives us time to remember how to live in the present. And this city of peace is the perfect place to do it.

An addendum about Christmas:
Despite the change of the plans and Dylan’s increasingly erratic behavior, the almost two weeks we spent up near Loreto really were quite wonderful. The bus ride up to Loreto was uneventful, and the kids were over the moon to see their grandparents. Dylan spent the day getting his energy out by swimming and swimming and swimming, while Andy kept his water antics to the safe depth of the stairs.

We found a small Christmas tree at a Segundo in Loreto, decorating it with the small handful of ornaments that I brought.

The kids were also delighted with the opportunity to make gingerbread houses, though their favorite was the human sized gingerbread house in the resort’s courtyard.

We had a wonderful Christmas dinner in Loreto with family and friends and had time to explore this small city, which is almost exactly the same size as Anacortes, about 17,000 people.

We said goodbye to Sara, who had been with us for 3.5 months. It was a tearful goodbye, and the boys have already been asking when she is coming back! We hope she’ll be able to come out and visit us in the Pacific Northwest someday, so she can see a little of our neck of the woods.

Though the 12 days we spent near Loreto was angst-ridden on my part, it was really wonderful to spend time with family, to be away from the boat for a little while, and to begin the resetting process. We are hopeful and excited to start 2019, and wish all of you a very happy new year, too!

15 thoughts on “La Paz, La Pause”

  1. I think spending 24/7 within a family puts huge stress on the family unit. Everybody is under scrutiny all of the time. Parents are under pressure because of additional safety precautions and their own feelings of inadequacy in unfamiliar situations. The kids, to a degree, are sensing your uncertainties and at times feeling stifled by a limited space. It is possible that Dylan is going through a stage, that he would be going through anyway. Maybe it is attention seeking because he is unsure and frustrated. Travelling is a growing experience for everybody. It is not necessarily easy. We discovered that the breaks in the journey, where we wound down, made friends, did sight seeing , ate interesting food and had a few drinks , were our reward for the less pleasurable travelling times. A bit like the difference between working days and weekends I suppose! At least you are missing the grey gloom and chill of Washington winter. All the very best for 2019, and of course hugs!

    1. Liz, I think of you often and your trip with little ones around Africa. Now that we’re out here with similar aged kids, I often wonder what that must have been like for you moving around in a small caravan a couple really little ones in tow. These periods of rest will indeed be important, and I think we have learned to be a little more aware of (and responsive to) our mental and emotional states so that we don’t overwhelm ourselves so much again. Yes, that 24/7 together on a boat does put a lot of stress on the family, even if the goal (ironically) was to spend more time together.

      1. I think that the difference for us was that we were not quite so self contained. Several times a day we were stopping, getting out of the landrover – refuelling, toilet breaks, taking photographs, setting up camp. For you, whilst in passage, there is not quite the same flexibility to stop for a while and take a break. On the other hand there is more activity involved in sailing and more learning opportunities. Teaching them how to navigate the ‘hard’ way will give them more mathematics than they will need for most things! Do they write or record their own logs?

        1. Liz, they have their own “captain’s logs” that they write or draw in periodically, and we have had some lessons on clouds, wind, weather, and recording weather patterns, but I haven’t had them keep track of it for more than a few days at a time. Dylan was quite interested in learning about celestial navigation, so when I came back from my first class a few days ago, I gave him the simple version. And both kids are getting pretty good at maps!

  2. Hello Family

    Your journey has so much to bear, laughs ; memories; challenges , but most importantly family bonding.
    Though your kids , rightfully so, are showing signs of child like concerns for now. This hopefully will slowly diminish. Especially, you are doing all the right things to keep them involved in your on going plans. I strongly believe they will cherish their unique journey. How about a camera for them where they can share their own pictures with Grand parents & friends…. Just a thought.

    Glad you all enjoyed LaPaz


    1. Ben, a camera is a great idea! I actually gave Dylan one of my old cameras at the beginning of the trip when he was excited about taking pictures, but he forgot about it after a while. Maybe I’ll have to bring it out again. Thanks for the idea!

  3. Hey! I recognize those ornaments. I slept next to them/braced myself into my bunk with them for a week and a half.

    All the best!


    1. That’s funny, Russ! When it came time to find the Christmas ornaments, I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I had put them. It was Sara, who, like you, was braced up against them for days on end, knew exactly where they were. I was a little slow on my motherly duties of getting any decorating done on the boat, but at least I had them ready to go for the condo.

  4. I thought about you guys when i read a story about a family with two small boys living in the South Atlantic on a boat, in the November 2018 edition of National Geographic. The picture especially reminded me of your boys. I will post it to your Facebook. I have enjoyed fillowing your journey. You guys are amazing.

    1. Thanks, Marianne. Had to look up that family, but wow! They did some amazing traveling. Sally Poncet is my new hero.

  5. Sandy this post was wonderful. Thank you for your sincerity and your willingness to expose the ups and downs of this adventure you’re having. As I read it, I couldn’t help but wonder if so much of what your boys are feeling they would be feeling back in Anacirtes too. I remember a time when my daughter was 5 or 6 and we moved from one house to another and she was being a bit difficult and challenging. The best advice I got was from a “parenting expert” (she really was a parenting expert with her own practice helping parents navigate unchartetered warers) who told me that Marissa was feeling unsettled and insecure about the move and was expressing it the only way she knew how. What we had to do was allow her to feel in control on some aspect in her life. The way to do that was to give her choices. Allow her to make decisions on things that were important to her. So we would ask her which one of her coats she’d want to wear,, or what she wanted for breakfast from our selection, etc. Her behavior changed almost instantly. I was amazed at how quickly that shift in our parenting helped. It seems like that’s exactly what you did in your ‘family meeting’. Kudos to you for meeting your kids where they are at the moment. And congrats for your ability to find peace in La Paz!

    1. Thanks, Hilda! Yes, I’ve wondered, too, if this is something Dylan would be going through in Anacortes, too. He is at a pivotal time, becoming more “kid” than “little kid”, and he is teething, which can’t be fun. We do try to give the kids choices when we can, and, looking back on it, the past few months that has probably been less the case because there were so many things we couldn’t give them choices about (except the normal stuff: what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, etc). I am sure you’re right that having more control over their environment is going to help, and it already has to some extent. Hope all is well with you!

  6. Sandy….you got that swim in! Back here at home we are awaiting the opening of the new YMCA and the new pool. Wishing you more paz and more chances to take a well deserved pause. Hugs!

    1. Yes, Rita, the swim was awesome! I look forward to seeing the new YMCA this summer when we’re back for a few months. So exciting for everyone, and great for the community.

  7. What a great update!!! The photos and the honesty about your experiences helps me to more realistically and fully appreciate your journey.

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