Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"I am a Cowboy!"

Back to the Pacific Side, Rancho Merced, Uvita                                                                                 November 13, 2015
One of the activities all the kids wanted to be involved in was horseback riding.  Max was the only one who was not ecstatic at the prospect of spending time on top of a horse.  Eli surprised us by not only wanting to ride, but wanting to have a horse of his own.  

Maggie took some time while they were getting the horses ready
to bond with her animal.  This is Maggie in her element.
Aaron had to ride with Jonah in front of him.
Imagine being in a sauna and then having to hold
a wet heat pad in your lap and you will have a good
idea as to what it would feel like to ride that close to Jonah.
On the upside he spent the whole time talking, making jokes,
and telling imaginative stories.  He is a funny kid, very entertaining.  
Eli was confident and happy.  It has been so neat to watch the
confidence and capacity of this boy expand.  He is trying things
we would never have imagined he would be willing to do.

Tessa, "We went horseback riding through forest's rivers, meadows and finally the beach.  I galloped really fast on the beach.  I was feeling AWESOME!"

Maggie “Today I woke up and was so excited because we were going horseback riding.  I got a pretty white horse, like my pen.  Then we started on the trail.  Once we got to the beach the guy asked if we wanted to gallop.  Yes!  We started and it felt like I was having my stomach go to my feet then my head!  I LOVED it!”

Max was the only one who was willing, but not excited.  We got to the beach and mostly out of peer pressure, or just mutual consent, he let his horse pick up the speed.

Max, "We rode and I discovered that my horse was pretty fast.  It did use it on the beach.  We raced and galloped and trotted.  Then it bucked me off!"

We all became a little separated at our different speeds on the beach.  The horse I was riding wanted to be at the very front and I took advantage of the expanse of open beach and let him run.  When I stopped to turn around to check I could see Max was no longer on top of his horse.  I raced back to find half his face and body covered in sand and tears.  I desperately wanted to snap a photo but he was not in the mood and I opted for an appreciated hug instead.  That is one of those moments I'll have to treasure in my heart the mental picture of his sandy crash and the readers will have to use their imagination.  Imagine it funny, because it was hilarious!  We dusted him off, gratefully there was no injury, and he bravely mounted another steed.  

One of my favorite part of the whole day was seeing
 Eli's memory recorded in his journal that night.  He
 has grown SO much!
After our adventure at the ranch we stopped at a hotel/animal
sanctuary to see the animals and catch a little bit of internet signal.
The view was fantastic! 
We met animals in recuperation including this
amazing anteater.  This one is a juvenile.  It looks
awkward and clumsy, but it can climb trees
 with incredible agility.
On our way home we followed a herd of cattle down the steep
mountain road.  My agricultural roots make this always a welcome
 sight.  However, we determined that this is part of what makes
Costa Rican beef as tough as chewing leather.  Lots of Brahma
cows raised on jungle vegetation and ants and set to graze and
traverse incredibly steep mountainsides.

Jonah quote to remember, "Mom, I can teach you to pee standing up if you will give me the code to the ipad."

Monday, December 28, 2015

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas to all!  Our Christmas abroad proved to be exactly what we expected, completely different from any other we have ever experienced.  We found it difficult to get into the Christmas season for many reasons.  First it just doesn't feel like Christmas in the oppressive humid heat of the tropics.  Second, we happen to live on a very long road where everyone on the street is a Jehovah's Witness.  They are very nice and we wave and say "hola" as we drive to our house which is located at 800 meters Camino San Rafael, which means 800 meters up the road called San Rafael, not that there is a sign telling you that that is the road's name, but that is just Costa Rica.  What it came down to, however, is that there was not a Christmas light, tree, wreath, or "Feliz Navidad" in the neighborhood, because no one here was celebrating Christmas.  Even in town there were no Christmas decorations, music, or Santa.  This wore on the kids.  Maggie summed up the consensual feelings of the group when she wrote in her journal on December 16,
"I miss home so much and all the things there.  Christmas just won't be the same."
Maggie's sand nativity.
We had originally wanted to find somewhere we could volunteer or do service, but when we got down here we figured out that nobody wanted the help of a family with five young children.  The language barrier was so huge at church that we haven't been able to find service oppourtunities there either.  So we tried to help battle the feelings of homesickness and missing all things Christmas by starting some new traditions.  We encouraged all the kids to create their own Nativity out of whatever they could scrounge up.  Maggie and Tessa both completed theirs.  Max had grand plans to create one using only bugs, but in the end decided he couldn't collect enough participants, and he refused to simplify.  

We also sang Christmas songs in the car, to the delight and dismay of different individuals.  At home we could stream in some music to listen to, but we could not find a radio station in English or Spanish that played any Christmas music at all.  Secretly I was really enjoying not being oppressed with the busyness and commercialism that drowns out the Christmas season.  Music, however, was the part of Christmas that I was missing.  

On Christmas Eve we headed off to the beach!  On our way to Playa Negra we passed dozens and dozens of people walking down the roadsides.  They were each carrying a brown paper bag, their Christmas shopping!  Once we saw this it made perfect sense, most Costa Ricans don't waste much time thinking about the future.  They tend to live day by day and this obviously included Christmas preparations.  Everything in the moment.  We also learned that those who do have a nativity do not put Jesus in the manger until Christmas day.  After all, he didn't actually lay in the manger until Christmas.  
On our way to the beach we picked up liter of ice cream
for six dollars.  This was obviously a very memorable thing
for the kids, they all wrote about it.
Tessa, "Today we went to the black sand beach and the waves were BIG!!!  There were lots of surfers and I even went in the big waves!  Today was Christmas Eve so we ate ice cream on the beach.  Sooooooooooooooooooooooo fun!!"

Max, "Mom got ice cream and in five minutes, like piranhas, we devoured the whole carton!" 

Maggie, "Today we went to playa negra and the waves were so big there were a whole bunch of surfers.  I put some goggles on and kind of belly flopped over the waves.  Mom got a barrel of ice cream and spoons and we all crowded around it.  it was so good!  There were some people looking at us strangely bit I didn't care."
Max catching some of the small waves.

That evening we returned  to tradition, with
the depiction of the Christmas story from Luke 2.
The angel and the shepherds acting "sore afraid"

Most egg nog here is laced with a healthy dose
of rum, but we found a small carton alcohol free.
After the kids went to bed Aaron and I locked ourselves
downstairs and started wrapping presents in whatever
was available.  This included pillow cases and jackets,
but mostly recycled grocery sacks.  It made our little
Christmas palm look like it sheltered one of  piles of garbage
we so frequently see along the roadsides here, but I thought
it looked beautiful and fitting.  
We always make a big deal of Christmas morning breakfast and
luckily this year's was a big hit.  The bacon was especially tricky
to find here.  Getting our hands on some was a Christmas miracle!
Maggie "Breakfast prep took like one hour but it was so worth it!  We had egg, latkes, caramel cinnamon rolls, fresh squeezed orange juice, a chocolate blueberry drink, and BACON.  I was ecstatic."

Gifts were simple and mostly disposable because we have to carry everything with us wherever we go.  Everyone was overjoyed with their edible gifts.  Jonah complained to me later in the day, however, that he didn't like getting a toothbrush for Christmas.  :)

Max, "I had prepared Mom a surprise.  Mom got a note about where it was.  I was excited and happy she found the question mark shaped bushes. (the clue) And found the vase I had worked for a week on made out of coconut.  I was so glad she loved it.  She filled it with flowers and it looked wonderful!"

After the festivities of Christmas morning we were ready to head to the beach.
 Just as we almost had ourselves together a Christmas downpour kept us at home.
 Gratefully we were able to talk with some friends and family on the
 phone and through FaceTime.  Another Christmas miracle!
And we still made it to the beach for about an hour in the late afternoon.
This boy LOVES the waves!
Maggie, (after present opening) "We took everything upstairs and I set up a fort.  I felt so happy.  I helped Eli and Jonah, played a game of marbles with Max, and had some chocolate.  We started getting ready to go then it started raining.  It felt like the ocean came to us!  So we played some skipbo which was really fun.  Then we went to the beach, nothing to interesting.  Then dinner...we had chicken so tender it fell off the bone, amazing mashed potatoes,rolls cooked to perfection, and ginger ale.  I loved this Christmas." 

Everyone pitched in creating our Christmas feast.  Maggie cooked the chicken, Jonah mashed and 
re-mashed the potatoes.  I think that this helped with the excitement.  At the end of the day, despite being all by ourselves in a tropical, less than first world country, we had a fabulous Christmas!  We felt a fullness of love for each other and for our Savior who's birth we were celebrating.  And isn't that what Christmas is all about? 

P.S.  A couple of my favorite kid quotes of the season (we may be the only ones who enjoy these, but I want to remember)
Jonah, during Christmas trivia on the 45 minute drive to church when he was asked what kind of animals the shepherds watched, "Uuuuummmm, ...CHICKENS!"

Eli, while talking on the phone Christmas day, "We'll one thing that's different about Costa Rica is my skin is more black."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Costa Rica is full of what they call "canopy tours," or zip-lines.  I found one in our area that said they would take kids as young as four.  I was kicking myself because Jonah, although he was still about a month away from turning four, could totally pass for a four year old, but I had already told the canopy company the kids ages.  Terrible of me to even consider fudging the numbers, I simply wrote them back and assured them that he acts and looks like a four year old.  A reminder that honesty is truly the best policy, they replied "I keep an open mind, let's try it." and we were in!  Where we go one we go all!   

All suited up and ready for the fun!
These two were completely stoked!  Not fearful at all.  

This kid is Mr. Super Fun!  He is always living life with the
greatest enthusiasm!  Laughter comes so easily for him, it
is wonderfully contagious.  

Jonah and Eli got to go down with a friend.
The rest of us zoomed solo.  

They also had a couple of rope bridges.  Aaron and I both
agreed that although we were higher and faster riding the cables,
this was the scariest!
We also got to repel off a couple of towers.  The oldest three even dropped upside
down.  Then they sat on this log waiting for the rest of the group.
Which made a perfect target for Aaron who was
coming down with the water bottles.
At the end we were rewarded with fresh pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, and
watermelon, and a jump into space on the tarzan swing.  
We rode to and from in the back of this truck, with a lovely family from Calgary.
 It took us up a really steep mountain, and I feared that we may tumble out the back.
This is true Costa Rican style, let little kids ride zip lines, stick a bunch of tourist
in the back of a truck with no seat belts or safety instructions, and let the good
times roll.  Pura Vida!  We loved it!
Maggie “Today we woke up early but I felt ecstatic because today we were going on the zip line! …After the zip-line I felt like I had run a 50km with an elephant tied to my waist, but it was super fun!”

Tessa: "Today we went and met guys who's names were Orlando, William, and Jacob.  They were very nice.  We went on 9 zip-lines and 11 platforms and 2 repelling ropes.  I repelled upside down on the ropes.  We also went on two rope bridges that are really skinny and wobbly.  At the end we found a hut and got food and we did the tarzan swing.  I loved it!!!"