mom2nomads

ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

Archive for the tag “Costa Rica”

Finding Peace Inside of Chaos (I can’t do it without help)

So I have this obsession, um, tradition. When we visit places I fall in love with I gather pieces of it to bring home, mostly shells and rocks but sometimes other small things; I’ve spent countless hours combing beaches, head bent, until something catches my eye. I keep these collections separate from one another so when I see a bowl of shells and stones in our house I know where they came from and I can pick them up, feel their curves in my hand, be transported back to a beach or a patch of land that I love. When we move I wrap these collections in paper, place them gently in a container, and label it so I’m sure to not mistake one for another, it’s one of the few things I’m organized about. And I collect Buddhas, doesn’t matter if it’s a Chinese Buddha or a Thai Buddha, having them around makes me happy.

I never saw how these two collections were linked until our most recent move. I was wandering around our new house, surrounded by half empty boxes and chaos, feeling a bit overwhelmed, desperately missing our lab who had just passed away that morning. My eyes settled on one of my Buddhas and I smiled to myself, the same way I’d smiled earlier when I’d picked up a shell to admire. I realized both of my collections help me to remember joyful times and to feel peace, things that can be elusive when you’re in the middle of a storm. My stones and shells remind me of places I love, people I love, times when I was so happy that I decided to pick up that moment and carry it with me wherever I went; my Buddhas remind me to slow down enough to take in the things that bring me joy.

I have a favorite beach, Pollan Bay in Donegal, Ireland, which I blogged about here. From the moment I first went there I felt like I belonged on that spot of land, I don’t know why and I’ve stopped trying to figure it out, I just feel blessed to have a place where I feel centered, where life is always in the moment.

Pollan Bay

Pollan Bay

I can’t even begin to guess how many shells and rocks I have from that beach but it’s hundreds upon hundreds and even if I didn’t label the shells I would know where they came from, I’ve never seen shells like them anywhere in Ireland, not even on the bay directly across from Pollan. They look like tiny conch shells only, for the most part, they’re smooth instead of pointy. This is the bowl of them, along with rocks from Pollan, I have on our dining room table

I have others throughout the house

That bit of green on top of the shells in the last photo is a piece of soap from Vista del Valle Plantation Inn, which I’ve blogged about here and here. I put a piece of it in a plastic bag the last time Eric and I went there because they always had the same handmade soap in the rooms, the smell of it takes me there.

I have a bowl of stones that I gathered on a beach just outside of Belmullet, Ireland, where my great-grandparents were from

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a jar of shells from the graves of my great-great grandparents, also from just outside Belmullet

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a jar from Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

a jar with shells from Playas Tamarindo and Langosta, Costa Rica

Then there’s this table, which holds a a bowl of acorns we gathered in Dublin, and hodge podge of shells from Guinea, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Maryland,

including this little bowl, which has shells from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica and sea glass from Maine. I mixed them because the sea glass was given to me by one of my best friends and the shells are from the trip we took with her and her family, who we love and miss very much.

There is also a tiny jar of sand from Pollan Bay

Then there are the Buddhas, some of which were gifts and some I bought in various places we’ve lived.

And two little Ganesha

Life can be so chaotic and busy, and the past few months for us have been those things on steroids, as well as filled with grief and loss. But when I look at my collections I am reminded to slow down and notice the details, to admire the things that often get overlooked, to spend time just being. And I remember that while life is hectic now in the future, knock wood, I’ll have time to gather shells and peruse for Buddhas. Until then I can just appreciate the ones I have and cherish the memories they represent.

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SEAS, a Tiny but Mighty School

Every nomadic family knows that one of the hardest things about moving every few years is finding the right school for the kids. So many questions go with this search, so much stress and worry. Will they be academically challenged? Will they fit in? Will the staff nurture them emotionally? Will they be safe? Will they be expected to stuff themselves into a box or will they be allowed to find their own path? It weighs on a momma.

We have three children, each with their own special gifts and qualities, all operate above grade level in many subjects, one operates well above grade level in all subjects, and they have vibrant personalities that need to be allowed to fly free. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not trouble makers, each of them has always been the kids that teachers want in their classroom–they’re leaders, thoughtful and respectful to their peers and their teachers. But they all have large personalities and one of my priorities is to find a school where they will not be expected to minimize themselves in order to fit in.

Our first school here was very mixed for us. Our daughter was badly bullied (which I blogged about here) by a girl in our neighborhood who also went to the same school as our kids. Long story short, months of trying to get the behavior dealt with on the bus and in school was fruitless and we knew our only option was to find a different school. I was having coffee with a friend, talking to her about the bullying, and she suggested that I check out the tiny school her kids went to, so one morning our daughter and I paid SEAS a visit, after five minutes I said to myself “this is it, this is the school for her.” Our daughter, who had been so emotionally bruised and battered, had transformed from an incredibly extroverted, vibrant, joyful child into a shy child, mistrustful of strangers. I was pleasantly surprised when she said she wanted to spend the day at the school, when I picked her up that afternoon she bounded up to me and said “Momma! I made 20 friends today!”  This was the girl who, only the week before, I’d seen wandering the perimeter of the playground of her (now) old school, head down, earphones in–that was a sight that tore at my heart because it just was not who she was. Two days after starting at SEAS, her new school, she was back to hula hooping around the house and chattering non-stop. Academically she’d struggled, for the first time ever, at the first school, her grades were plummeting. She was so lost in the emotional turmoil of the bullying that she couldn’t soar academically. At SEAS she took off like a shot, making such rapid improvement that it was almost shocking to her teachers. We’d gotten our daughter back, SEAS gave us our daughter back. As a mother I have found very few things more painful than watching one of my children suffer, SEAS put an end to that suffering and showed Aisleen that she could trust again, that she was safe again, that she didn’t have to shrink into the background anymore, she could soar and be her colorful, imaginative, dynamic self. I really will never be able to put into words how grateful I am for such an profound gift, the gift of helping to bring our child back to herself.

Our youngest did well academically (though he was operating at a higher level than the other kids in his class and I was frustrated by what I saw as him having to sit in a box that he’d outgrown), fit into his classroom, had lots of friends, but I began to suspect that the kids were allowed to be very rough on the playground when the first words we heard him speak in Spanish were “ayuda me,” help me! And my gentle boy, who at his school in Virginia we’d been told was the most well-mannered and respectful child they’d ever had, became very rough and tumble, beyond what I would consider to just be part of growing up, and kind of rude which, if you’ve ever met Riley, you know is the opposite of who he is. Yep, time to switch him.

Then there was our oldest, who is now 13. When we moved here he was given a series of standardized tests and he scored pretty much off the charts so the school recommended he skip fifth grade and go right into sixth. We thought long and hard, sought advice, weighed pros and cons, and decided to go ahead and do it. He’s always been mature for his age, never has had problems making friends, and school was a breeze for him from day one so, sure, let’s challenge him more. Worst. Mistake. Ever. During our first parent teacher meetings his math teacher told us he was really struggling, which we knew because doing homework with him was a hair-pulling nightmare. We told her that we felt it was probably because he’d missed out on some pretty fundamental stuff since he skipped a grade, her response was “he skipped a grade?” I looked at my husband with my “are you freaking kidding me???” face. The school had never told his teachers that he’d skipped fifth grade, his math teacher had no idea he’d never been taught division. Sixth grade was a struggle but he ended up getting good grades and really rising to the occasion. He’d also made a lot of friends and was enjoying playing oboe in the school band so, cool, we decided he should stay where he was. Second. Worst. Mistake. Ever.

Seventh grade was an absolute bust that ended up in a crisis meeting with his teachers and the director of the middle school, the theme of which is “how can we stop Liam from tanking?” The most frustrating thing to us as parents was that he’d been tanking for a good couple of weeks and until I got a call from his science teacher expressing her concern at his rapid downhill movement I had no idea. His grades were still good but over the course of about three weeks he’d gone into a freefall–utterly overwhelmed academically and clueless how to fix it and, for the first time ever, he didn’t come to one of us about it because, he later told us, he felt like a failure. We decided he needed a smaller school, one that could tailor a learning plan to help him excel in the areas he was strongest in and teach him some of the fundamentals he missed out on when he skipped fifth grade, and one that would help him rediscover his love of learning; he needed SEAS. The school wouldn’t refund his tuition in order to allow us to switch him immediately so we hired a tutor who would work with him on organizational skills and help make sure things were getting done. Luckily, the tutor was his wonderful science teacher who he really liked and who was someone I trusted completely to help him. He ended up pulling his fat out of the fire and, in fact, finishing quite strong in the subjects he’d been struggling with the most. Now, at SEAS, his academic needs are nurtured, and the boy who could barely write a research paper last year is, in social science, history, and English, working at a college level. And far above grade level in math, a subject he came close to failing last year. It’s kind of incredible. And I kind of want to drive over to his old school and shout at the top of my lungs “IN YOUR FACE!”

So, all three kids together in the same tiny school. This school really is more like an extended family, it’s a place where I know my children are safe and loved, challenged and driven, and a place where they are held to the highest of standards academically and behaviorally. No excuses accepted, ever. Consequently, each of our children has learned to take so much responsibility for their own education, I’m kind of blown away. At SEAS our older children have been taught all the fundamentals they need to move on–Aisleen to middle school and Liam to high school. How to research and write a paper, and properly document the research? Not a problem. Math at grade level? Pfffft, too easy, they’re way beyond it. Science? Aisleen was asked by her teacher last year to teach the kids Newton’s laws of physics because, after having been taught the first one, she’d come home and learned and researched them all. Complete with an experiment made up of her little brother and a swinging hammock, luckily nobody was hurt. Also, don’t ask them about chemistry unless you’re prepared to sit for a good, long while. And did you know that Pachelbel’s Canon and Green Day’s song “Basket Case” do this … yea, neither did I until my kids told me (they learned it in Music Appreciation).

Our youngest came back from being kind of angry and rough (like he had to live on the defensive) to his incredibly sweet, loving, thoughtful self in no time once he started at SEAS. This is the child who always greets me with a resounding “Mommy!” and a huge hug, who will always apologize to our dogs if he bumps into them while tearing around the house (complete with that winning hug), who can charm the socks off even the hardest of hearts, and who is just plain old fun to be around. Some of that had been lost at his old school, SEAS let him be himself again, he no longer had to play a child’s version of “survival of the fittest.” Just like the other two, he excels academically, that box he was forced into in his old school fell away immediately. He is in second grade but reads at least at a fourth grade level, can do complicated addition and subtraction in his head (he often comes up to me and says “mommy, write down a hard math problem for me, please!” I haven’t been able to stump him yet), and recently finished a research paper on Leif Erikson. He has also started speaking Spanish at home, this crazy mix of one sentence in English, the next in Spanish, back to English, then Spanish. I love it! His teachers at SEAS recognized immediately what he needed academically, over the past two years I haven’t spent a day worrying about having his needs met. And each one of them, pretty soon after they started teaching him, came up to me with this melty look on their faces saying “oh my gosh, Riley is so sweet …” I know, my face looks like that when I talk about him too. Or when I’m around him. Or when I’m thinking of him. Yes, the child has me tightly wound round his finger.

So, I have been at an absolute loss for how to say thank you to SEAS for being exactly what my children need, for reinvigorating in each of them their natural love for learning, for giving me so much peace of mind. The short answer is that I can’t. I can never say thank you enough, I can never properly put into words my deep gratitude, or express how utterly blessed we have been to be part of this amazing, special school for 2 1/2 years. I will never be able to say how much we are going to miss them, or how devoted we are to this tiny school. This was the only way I could think of to come close to expressing my thanks and to putting into words how much SEAS has meant to our family. We love you, SEAS!

ps. If you check out the website for the school, on the homepage, that’s our oldest with the youngest son of the school’s director/owners on his back (one of the things we love about SEAS is the vast age range of the students because it gives the older ones a chance to mentor and the younger ones a chance to connect with older kids), our youngest with his face buried in a book, and our beautiful daughter in the blue shirt, looking at the camera.

pps. If anyone would like to know which school was the one our kids went to initially, please feel free to contact me. I didn’t name them because I didn’t want this to be about them, I wanted it to be about SEAS.

Saying See You Later, this is the part that really sucks

I should be sorting and organizing but I need to write this, my heart is aching for my children and I have to acknowledge that in words.

Last night we were having dinner, eating, chatting, each child trying to get their voices heard. Our daughter, who is ten, had had a very long day, she’d gone straight from school to the vet clinic where she volunteers and she’d assisted in several surgeries, she was tired but also her normal silly and sassy self. About halfway through dinner, seemingly out of the blue, she looked at me and very quietly said “mom, I don’t want to leave Costa Rica.” I saw tears in her eyes, she looked down and wiped her eyes with her shirt, kept her head bowed for a moment, took a deep breath and let the pain pass. I told her I understood, I didn’t really want to leave either, that I was sorry. I felt completely helpless when faced with her grief. I knew she was thinking of our vet, who has become a good friend to all of us, I knew she didn’t want to leave Anna and her clinic.

On the way to school this morning our youngest, who is seven, said “mom, I don’t want to leave Costa Rica.” I asked him why and he said “because my two best friends are here! I want to stay with them.” Of course he does. The kids and I talked about how it’s so hard to say goodbye. We talked about how, when you live a nomadic life, you learn what is really and truly important to you in a different way than when you don’t move all the time. Bad roads? Too much traffic? Electricity that goes off? Internet that magically disappears? Frustrating laws? Honestly, we learn none of that is truly important. It can all be frustrating in day to day life, and there are days when those problems feel huge, but when we are so close to leaving and saying goodbye to people that we love, we see what is truly important to us–family, friends, love.

So this is the part that sucks. When faced with this pain my children feel I am often clueless how best to comfort them. Hold them. Listen to them. Talk with them. I can do all that, but I can’t make it go away. This is going to be a pretty difficult grieving process and we’re all just going to have to move through it.

I try not to think about my own grief, I try not to think about leaving people that I love. It’s so important to make friends, especially when you’re nomadic and don’t have your family near by, your friends become your family. My friends here have become such an integral part of my life, woven so deeply into my happiness. They’re always there for us in a pinch, always there to listen to me, to laugh with me, to help guide me, and they’re just really, really good people. My closest friend here is someone I see almost every day, I’ve grown to rely on her smile as a way to start my morning, thinking of letting go of such a simple thing is tough. I was at her house the other night, we were chatting with another friend of ours (who is also moving this summer) when she started getting tears in her eyes. It’s inevitable that when she tears up I tear up, and I hate crying in public, so I pointed at her and said “don’t start with me, woman!” and our other friend said “there’s no crying in baseball!” which made us all laugh. Tears were still there though and she said “it’s just that you’re my peeps and I know as long as you’re both here everything is okay.” Two of us are moving this summer, one of us is staying. It pretty much sucks. These women are the mothers of my youngest child’s two best friends, all of our children have a tough road ahead of them.

I am not whining, I’m not complaining, I’m not even having a pity party (yet). But the weeks leading up to each time we move are always some of our toughest and the ones that make me ask questions; are we doing the right things for our kids, would they be happier if we just stayed in one place, are we expecting too much from them emotionally? We’re almost to the tenth anniversary of joining the Foreign Service and I still don’t have the answers to those questions. They’re fantastic kids, they’re healthy, happy, kind, smart, and so much fun to be around. So I guess they’re okay. But how do I best help them say goodbye to people they couldn’t love more if they were blood? I simply do not know.

I’ve spent months trying not to think about saying goodbye but it’s close enough now that it’s not dwelling as much as preparing. I guess what we’ll all have to do is focus on the positive side of all of this, if we hadn’t made such amazing friends we wouldn’t be going through this, the pain is a testament to the power of our friendships. We’re letting ourselves live and love. My closest friend here and I decided this is our theme song, I think it sums this crazy, nomadic life up nicely …

Boomerang Lessons, How My Kids Inspire Me

“Boomerang lesson” is the term I’ve decided to start using for things I tell my kids that I need to pay attention to myself; in other words, listen to yourself speak, Heather, you might learn something. This past Sunday we ran a 5k race with our two oldest children, our 13-year old boy and 10-year old girl. It was a charity run for the Children’s Museum here in San Jose, my husband ran with our son and I ran with our daughter. Our kids are athletic and, despite the fact that if we let them they would immerse themselves for hours in electronics, they really enjoy being active. Since the time they were pretty young our kids could hike for miles and miles, the hubby and I are not parents who would push a 5-year old in a stroller–move forward and push on are lessons our kids learned early in life.

Our daughter was a bit anxious, she told me that she was worried she would slow me down, which I found a bit funny because I am not a fast runner, I consider myself to be a speedy turtle. My response to her was that I didn’t care one bit how fast we went, I only cared that we ran together and crossed the finish line together. I reassured her that she would set the pace and tried to drive home the lesson that there is no shame in walking or in running slowly, the only thing that matters is that you’re out there, having fun and challenging yourself and, in this case, being together.

The morning of the race came, she had butterflies (loads of them, she told me later) but was excited. I reminded her of all the things we’d been talking about, reassured her that she could do it, she nodded and smiled and we were off! We ran, we walked, we talked. The boys were far ahead of us (I’ve written before about how my hubby is a much faster runner than I am) but we all expected that. About two thirds of the way through the run her brain started getting the best of her, she began to believe she couldn’t do it, that it was too hard for her. Luckily for both of us two things are true: I believe in her completely and I have a Pinterest board that is brimming with inspirational running quotes! I told her that her brain could either be her best friend or her worst enemy, which side it landed on was entirely up to her. I told her “runners run a race in three parts–the first is with their body, the second is with their brain, the third is with their spirit and your spirit is so strong!”  She nodded, she liked that but she was still doubtful. I reminded her that she’s run 5k before, I reminded her that I believe in her. She still was not convinced. So I used a trick that I use for myself and told her we would just run to the next stoplight, then we could walk to the one after that, then run to the next, then walk. Running is a good metaphor for life in so many ways, in this case, just like in life, if things seems too large it can be overwhelming, but doing a little at a time can get you through to the finish line. We did this until we rounded a corner and she said “This looks familiar!” I told her to look straight, to the end of the street because the museum, and the finish line, were there, about 4 blocks away. She got a huge smile on her face and said “I can do this! I CAN DO THIS!” And she started to run, with me shouting after her “You’ve got this, girl! GO!” She ran and ran, walked for a few seconds, then hit the last 100 meters, a daunting hill–and she started to run, weaving through people, completely pushed forward by that unstoppable spirit of hers, totally focused on the finish line! She reached the top of the hill with me behind her, I caught up to her and we ran the last few meters, crossing the finish line together, just as we had wanted to do, it was a pretty incredible moment for both of us and, as her mother, I couldn’t have been more proud of her.

We stopped running, both winded from the hill and the last sprint to the finish line, and saw my husband and son walk out of the crowd towards us with huge smiles on their faces. Hubby told me he and our son, Liam, stayed together the whole way, then they hit the hill and he told Liam he was going to sprint it and then wait for him at the finish line. About halfway up hubby looked behind him and there was Liam, determined to keep up. They hit the finish line just a few paces apart, Liam felt pretty satisfied, then he moved to the sidelines and promptly booted– thank goodness that didn’t happen at the finish line!

So here’s my boomerang lesson … tomorrow I’m running my first 10k and, honestly, I’m pretty terrified. I can do it, I’ve done the distance, I’ve been training for this specific race for weeks and weeks but I am truly frightened. I’m not sure about what because I know I can finish it and I know even if I finish last, hey, at least I ran it! But I guess I’m intimidated by doing something new, and something that seems pretty daunting to me. So I have to remember all the things I told my baby girl while we ran, and I have to remember her spirit that refused to give up, and the determination our son had to keep running with his dad. So tomorrow my children, all three of them, will be my inspiration. The strength with which they approach life, all the change they go through, all the difficult transitions and goodbyes that go along with the life of a nomadic child, and the grace with which they handle these things, will be my inspiration to run, to keep moving forward, to not give up, and to believe in my own strength and spirit.

There was an amazing runner on Sunday, a man who would run to the front of our pack and then to the back, the whole time pumping his arms and shouting “Si, se puede!” Yes, we can! So, forward, and si, se puede!

Me and my baby running uphill, I reassured her that pretty much everyone had the look on their face that she does here, it was a tough way to end a race.

High five! The hubby crosses the finish line!

Liam crosses the finish line (pre-spew)!

Time to show off the medals!

The Tortoise and the Hare, Kind of.

Me and the hubby crossing the finish line of our first race

Me and the hubby crossing the finish line of our first race

This past Sunday my husband, Eric, and I ran our first race, a charity 7k to help Costa Rican police officers buy school supplies for their children. Neither one of us ever saw ourselves as runners but, for a variety of reasons, we’ve both been running for a while now. I’m in pretty decent shape, I do distance running three times a week, usually putting in about 14 miles a week, and I do hill running and strength training twice weekly. Eric does hill running at least five times a week, sometimes six, and when we run together he can leave me in the dust–but he never does. The first time we went running together we ran about 2 1/2 miles, I’d just started seriously running after too much time away from it so I was a bit spent, he’d been hill running for a while and had more stamina. We got back to our house, Eric turned to me, smiled, and said “I’m going to do some hill running, just to get my cardio up.” I shot him a look of absolute disgust as I bent over to gasp for air before squeaking out “I hate you,” he smiled more broadly and took off running up the hill, I dragged myself through our front door. We have a good natured competitive thread in our marriage …

Obviously, for a lot of reasons, men and women run differently, just by virtue of the fact that he’s nearly 6’5 he’s going to run faster than I am, monster legs and lungs count for a lot and the man has mad cardio strength. Eric is the kind of runner who does not need to take walking breaks, I haven’t gotten there yet. On my runs I’ll run for a mile, walk for two minutes, run to the second mile, and repeat that pattern until I’m done my run. So I told him going in to the race that he didn’t have to stay with me, we could each run at our own pace and I’d see him at the finish line, he said no, he wanted us to run together, that was part of the point!

The day of the race came, he calmed down my jitters, as he always does. I said to him “why the hell did I sign up for this?” he laughed and said “sweetie, you got this, you do this distance all the time!” We stood together, watching the clock, bouncing a bit to keep our muscles warm. We both had our music in our ears at that point, getting into the zone before the run. With a few seconds left on the countdown clock I touched his hand, we looked at each other and smiled, then we were off! After running for a bit I stopped to walk and motioned to Eric that he should keep going, he shook his head and stayed with me. For reasons I couldn’t figure out I was feeling a bit more worn than usual (I found out later it was because I was running at a faster pace than I normally do), I questioned the wisdom of running the 7K, asked myself why I hadn’t started with a shorter race my first time out, my brain was starting to beat my body down and I felt like I was dragging. I did a good stretch of walking, wondering if I should just walk the rest, reminding Eric with gestures that he should not wait for me and, each time I gestured to him to do that, he shook his head no. He never stopped running, he just slowed his pace to stay with me.

At about the halfway point we crossed a set of railroad tracks, a man who was racing in a wheelchair tipped going over the tracks, Eric and I, as well as the runner the man was with, stopped to help him. The men got him righted, I handed him his water bottle, he smiled at me, then we all continued on. I don’t know if it was his perseverance or just the fact that I hit my stride but I stopped feeling so sluggish and just ran, time and a couple of miles sped by, I walked a bit but just enough to get what I needed before running again. As we were rounding a corner Eric said something to me that I couldn’t hear, the look on his face let me know it was important so I took out an earbud and asked him to repeat, he smiled at said “it’s the last two hundred meters!” Sure enough, I looked ahead and saw the finish line. I nodded to him, put my earbud back in and we both started sprinting, he could have gone much faster but he stayed with me. About a hundred meters out I felt a bit winded but my brain, that had been so evil to me the first part of the race, had seen the light and said “you are not walking across that fucking finish line, run!” And I did, Eric and I crossed the finish line together.

A friend of ours who’d also run, and had already finished, snapped the above photo and when he posted it to my FB page it struck me as a metaphor for our marriage– Eric and I were together, running together, reaching a common goal together, just as we always do. I will freely admit that it takes a fair amount of patience to be married to me, I don’t know if I could do it. I’m not being overly hard on myself, just honest. I can be driven to a fault (common sense sometimes goes out the window) and very stubborn. And is there a term for “strong willed” that is stronger than strong willed? If there is, that’s me. I come by it honestly, it’s in my blood. Shortly after my great-grandparents, who were both from Ireland but met in the US, were married my great-grandfather handed his new bride a pair of his pants and asked if she would iron them. Soon after, she handed him back the ironed pants, only instead of ironing them so they were creased down the front she’d ironed them so they were flat as a pancake with the creases on the sides, clearly sending him the message “I’m your wife, not your mother, iron your own pants,” which he did from that day forward. So, yea, we Cawley women can be a bit strong willed and we’ve got tempers to match. Oddly, Eric loves those things about me. On the day of our wedding my Da (my maternal grandfather) pulled him aside and said “you’ve married a woman with Irish blood, the two most important words you need to know are ‘yes, dear.'” My Da says those words to my grandmother tongue in cheek for the most part, it either makes her laugh or roll her eyes, depending on the circumstances, and Eric and I are the same.

I can take a lot of patience, I have a selfish streak, I sometimes miss the forest for the trees and Eric has spent countless hours talking me down off ledges created by my tendency to fly off the handle. We’ve not always walked in lockstep but we’ve always managed to find our balance when we’ve misplaced it, hitting our stride and moving forward. We just had the eighteenth anniversary of our first date, in August we will have our sixteenth wedding anniversary and I can honestly say, with my whole heart, that I know we will spend the rest of our lives together. The fact that Eric stayed with me throughout the race, even though he could have gone much faster, is so quintessentially Eric and so quintessentially us–no matter what, we are together. He’s always been one hundred percent dedicated to staying by my side, and I am so much stronger for that. Whether it’s in running or any other thing we do, we’re together. I hope he does run a race where he really lets himself fly, even if that means I’ll sit it out and cheer him on at the finish line. But, for yesterday and for every day before that and every day after, I want to thank my amazing husband for always being my biggest cheerleader, for always believing in me, for always believing in us, and for never leaving my side.

The official crossing the finish line photo

The official crossing the finish line photo

 

Post race selfie, tired but happy!

Post race selfie, tired but happy!

A Letter to Our Nomadic Children: 10 Things I Hope We’re Teaching You

Our time in Costa Rica is coming to a close and we’re headed for Honduras this Summer, which means, according to the map below, we’re moving from the country that does happiness the best to the country that rocks homicides. Awesome!

what each country leads the world in

We’ve all got a lot of feelings bouncing around right now–excitement, nervousness, curiosity, anxiety, grief. I’ve enjoyed Costa Rica more than I thought I would, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the lifestyle we’ve chosen and about raising kids in that lifestyle. Lately I’ve been thinking of some things I’m hoping our kids are soaking in, both about being nomads and just about life in general. The challenges that we face as nomads are some of our most important teaching tools, that’s something I’m trying to remind myself of more often. I think the move has gotten me thinking of some of the lessons that are most important to me. So I’ve decided to sit down and write a letter to our three amazing nomads …

Dear Liam, Aisleen, and Riley

1. Try your best to go into your new host country with an open mind, let it be what it is, find out what that is as time goes on. I don’t have to tell you that moving is tough, and it’s even tougher when you’re leaving a country you love because you’ve had so much fun and so many cool experiences and you love your house and your friends and your teachers and leaving all that? Ick. Leaving Ireland was painful for all of us and we learned it’s hard to be open to a new country when it feels like half of you is still in the country you’ve come to love and call home. Remember that first trip we took to downtown San Jose? We caught the bus by our house and rode it to the end of the line, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of our host country. I was kind of excited to find out there was a pedestrian street downtown, I had in my mind Grafton Street and Henry Street in Dublin–tree lined, peppered with beautiful statues, shops, flowers, buskers, hustle and bustle. I thought of Temple Bar, on the edge of the river Liffy, with it’s ancient cobblestone pedestrian streets, or of the many little offshoots of the three, like this charming narrow mews …

Dublin

But, of course, that’s not what we found. Because it was San Jose and not Dublin. I had this ideal in my head of what a pedestrian street looked like and, because the one in San Jose didn’t live up to that ideal, I was pretty let down. I don’t know if you guys know but when we got home I cried. Now, I wasn’t really crying just because the street in SJ wasn’t my cup of tea, I was crying because my expectations had been dashed and, really, I just missed Dublin. I’ve learned, though, over the past two years, that expectations can sometimes be pretty harmful and it’s better to just accept a country for what it is. Which leads me to the next thing I hope you guys are learning …

2. Do not compare your host country to other countries, especially the ones you love the most. Boy was I bad about this when we moved here, and I’m sorry because I know that wore off on the three of you, I find myself still doing it occasionally (though, hopefully, mostly in my head). It accomplishes nothing and only leads to feeling resentful towards the country that will never live up to the favorite–which really isn’t fair to the country or to your happiness. So, kids, be fair to yourselves and to your present home, only in doing that will you find joy.

3. Be open to the unique gifts each country can give you. Every country, even the toughest to live in, has gifts to give and if you’re not open to receiving them you’ll never know what they are. All those hours we’ve spent body boarding in Jaco, the monkeys that have shaken trees around us, special people we’ve met, hikes we’ve taken in the rainforest at night with fireflies lighting up the night and sloths sleeping over our heads (and who knew hummingbird butts were so darn cute!) and so much more! Liam, you’re on a first name basis with an enormous crocodile! Aisleen, you spend hours every week helping to take care of animals who need you desperately. Riley, you have become a master tarantula spotter. Me? I got attacked by spider monkeys. They didn’t kill me, I’d call that a gift, and I got a great story out of it! These are all gifts, and incredible ones at that, so remember to be open to receiving!

4. Try to find something beautiful in your host country every single day. Keep your senses open, be conscious of the world around you. Take a moment to sit in the grass and watch the butterflies, stop on the hill in front of our house and close your eyes to feel the warm breeze on your face, hug a friend or a teacher, watch hummingbirds play–just allow yourself to do something to remember what a beautiful and interesting country you live in.

5. Find the humor in the eccentricities. It’s so easy to get frustrated when things don’t work properly (like the eight billionth time the internet goes out or when we lose power), or when you’re dealing with an infrastructure that could use some help, or the fact that there are too many cars for the roads; it’s perfectly understandable and okay to be frustrated by those kinds of things, they’re frustrating! But try, also, to see the humor in them. A tree branch stuck in a pothole that is big enough to swallow an elephant (the Costa Rican sign for “Warning! Major pothole!”)? That can either lead you to roll your eyes and cluck your tongue or it can make you laugh and recognize the world is a funny, wacky place and, sometimes, you just have to laugh, either because it’s actually funny or because, if you don’t, you’ll beat your head against the wall–doesn’t matter the reason, just do it. I promise it will always make you feel better!

6. As your dad and I tell you, you represent America, this is an honor so remember to be a positive example of our country to our host country. All three of you have been amazing at this, I am beyond proud of you for being aware that people will judge our country, and the people in it, based on your behavior. It’s not entirely fair but it is the reality of the situation. Keep up the good work!

7. Find a way to give back to your host country by volunteering or helping out in some way. It’s always good to bring more kindness and compassion to the world by giving the gifts each of you has to offer and I know you’ve all enjoyed doing this! I am so proud of your compassion and kindness and your willingness to share those things!

8. Living in a foreign country isn’t always easy, and it’s rarely simple, but people who don’t live the kind of life we live don’t always realize that. So when people look at you cross-eyed if you are venting a frustration, or talking about how you didn’t get enough sleep because the bar next door was so loud and the roosters kicked in right when it quieted down, or your morning was tough because we got caught in a monster traffic jam that turned the roads into a parking lot, try to remember that not everyone understands the unique challenges that go along with living overseas. You live in “paradise,” after all, so what the heck do you have to complain about? Everyone has bad days, and it’s okay to vent about them (necessary, even, because it’s a way to get it all out of your system so you can move on), whether you live in Costa Rica or Ireland or the US bad days will happen. Every post has its challenges and you know that creating a life in “paradise” is a lot different than taking a holiday there. So don’t take it personally if people don’t understand, or if they belittle your experiences because they don’t think you should be complaining when you live in “paradise,” just remember they have different life experiences. I encourage you to seek out people who understand your lifestyle and vent to them–they’ll get it and that’s all you’re asking. And don’t ever be hard on yourself for being frustrated or upset, it’s just part of being human.

9. Remember that you are you no matter where you have landed in the world. Hold on to your core, your beliefs, your center. I’m not saying don’t be open to change, it’s important to grow and change, but each of you has such a special core and remembering that is crucial. Your core, along with our family, gives you your stability and when everything around you spends so much time in a state of flux hanging on to who you are will make you solid. When we first moved here we faced a huge challenge with Aisleen being bullied–new country, new language, new culture, norms we weren’t used to, some negative things we weren’t prepared for. One of the ways our Aisleen, and our family as a whole, got through it was by being true to who we are and not adjusting our core beliefs to fit the situation. So stay true to yourselves, always.

10. Remember that our roots are portable. We live kind of a weird life, things happen in our lives that, when you stop and think about them, make you recognize our frame of reference is not the same as it would be if we were settled in a neighborhood in DC or Minneapolis. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. With our nomadic life comes a lot of goodbyes. And where is “home,” anyway? It’s so hard to be away from family that we love–both blood family and family that we’ve picked up along the way. I know that sometimes it feels like there are parts of you scattered all over the globe and that’s tough but we always, always have each other and we have proven time and again that our roots are like steel! In five months we will gently uncover those roots once more and move them to a new country. It will not be easy, we will have challenges, we will very much miss the people we’ve come to love here, but we will make it work, we always do. And Honduras will hold many more gifts for us as long as we’re open and willing to receive them, I promise this. Above all else, remember that your dad and I love all of you with our whole hearts and as long as we are together we will always be home.

All My Love,

Mom

Find a Place You Love and Go There. A Lot.

One of my least favorite parts of moving frequently is leaving spots I absolutely adore– a particular beach, a special B & B, a park I enjoy. These are places where I can breathe deeply and center myself, where my shoulders climb down from the bottoms of my ears, I leave them feeling refreshed and ready to tackle life again. I have several of these places in Ireland, one of them is my very favorite spot on earth, the others always left me feeling pretty damn awesome too. It was tough to temporarily let go of those special spots when we moved but I sooth myself knowing that I will always return.

About a year after we moved here my husband and I were lucky enough to find our spot in Costa Rica, it immediately became our place and we can’t get enough of it. Vista del Valle Plantation Inn (which I’ve blogged about before here) is a gorgeous hotel tucked away from the noise and movement of San Jose, it’s very near to the airport but you may as well be in the middle of nowhere because it is absolute tranquility. Instead of rooms there are houses, which is something we prefer when we go on romantic getaways, some are small enough for one or two people and some are large enough for groups. We just returned from our fifth stay at Vista del Valle and, while relaxing on the porch of our casita, staring out over the valley, listening to all the sounds of the forest, a thought occurred to me–it’s time for me to give some unsolicited advice to people who are new to the Foreign Service. Here’s my unsolicited advice: wherever you move, find at least one place that feels like yours, one place where you can breathe deeply and just be. And go there as much as possible. Don’t feel guilty about spending the money, or leaving the kids, or informing houseguests that the price of admission is a weekend of babysitting, or taking a day off work –just go. There you can feel like you belong to a place, which isn’t always easy when you move around a lot, and feeling like you belong, like you have a place that speaks to you and you can put down the shield so many of us carry around because of the challenges of living overseas, is more important to sanity than I think is often realized.

The minute we pull into the winding driveway of Vista del Valle my husband and I both inhale and exhale deeply and audibly, our muscles begin to relax, and we are completely in that moment, savoring the joy we feel each time we return. We know its paths and trails well enough that we can stroll them in the dark, guided by the moon and the soft Japanese lanterns that line the trails, moving by feel, soaking in the night sounds. Our time there consists of whatever we want–reading, napping, enjoying the quiet. My hubby loves asking me “what are we going to do today?” and hearing me answer “whatever we want!” While we always feel like we belong with our family, that home is wherever we are and that our roots may be mobile but they are strong, it’s important to us to also have a place, a spot of earth where we feel physically like we belong. Each time I find one of those place in our travels I feel very blessed because I know they help me remember who I am, which sometimes gets lost when your sense of place is constantly changing. So find your spot, you’ll know it when you meet it, and return as often as you are able.

Next Summer we move to Honduras, and while I will miss Vista del Valle badly, I look forward to finding another special place. Until then, we will return to Vista as many times as we can–feel free to visit us here in Costa Rica knowing what the price of admission is! Of course, the photos …

Inside the Mona Lisa

Inside the Mona Lisa

Path from the Mona Lisa

Path from the Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa, the other casita we've stayed in.

The Mona Lisa, one of two casitas we’ve stayed in.

Vista Del Valle May 2013 023

The resident cat, who is an absolute love

The resident cat, who is an absolute love

Christmas concert, Irazu, Vista del Valle 103 Christmas concert, Irazu, Vista del Valle 106

The porch of the Ilan Ilan, we've spent many hours sitting in those chairs.

The porch of the Ilan Ilan, we’ve spent many hours sitting in those chairs.

The outdoor shower in the Ilan Ilan, showering with a view of the valley is divine!

The outdoor shower in the Ilan Ilan, showering with a view of the valley is divine!

The Ilan Ilan

The Ilan Ilan

Christmas concert, Irazu, Vista del Valle 139

The path leading to the Ilan Ilan, one of the two casitas we've stayed in.

The path leading to the Ilan Ilan.

My hubby trying to coax the resident dog, also a love, to look my way.

My hubby trying to coax the resident dog, also a love, to look my way.

The view of the valley from the restaurant which, by the way, has fantastic food.

The view of the valley from the restaurant which, by the way, has fantastic food.

 

Speaking Out About PETA–and Why No Animal is Beyond Help

Our home is full of animals who have been cast offs at one time or another. Each one of them has ended up with us because they were abandoned, neglected, sometimes abused, and each one has had, through no fault of their own, at least one human turn their backs on them. A pathetic reflection on some people but their loss is our gain, and, though I wish very much our four-legged babes hadn’t had to trot through hell to get to us, our animals help make our house a home, they ground us, they are an integral part of our family and our traveling roots.

Before we had kids I worked with the animals who were cast offs, first at the Humane Society in Missoula, Montana as an animal caretaker and adoption counselor, then at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (PETA) where I was a field worker investigating abuse cases, promoting our spay neuter program, teaching people how to properly care for their animals, and, among other things, euthanizing animals. In both those places I saw the best and worst of humanity. I worked with people who were passionate about animal welfare and passionate about furthering the humane treatment of animals. I encountered people who were abusive, who thought nothing of beating or abandoning an animal. When I felt overwhelmed by the brutality I had to remind myself of my goal–it wasn’t to hate people but to help animals. In my interview with the director of the Humane Society one thing she said to me really stood out: part of our job is to help these animals regain their self-respect because they’ve often been treated so badly that they are beaten down, but they can be brought back to a place where they trust and love again. It’s such a gift to be able to help an animal rediscover that there is kindness and love, and that they deserve those things.

Which is why when I read a recent article about PETA in the New York Times I went on such a rant that even my husband, used to my fire-filled venting sessions, was a bit taken back. Especially because it went on for a looooong time, poor guy. I lasted about eight months at PETA before I could no longer fall in line, which was fine because I was pretty much burned out with trying to do that. I was treading on thin ice for my last month or so, no longer buying into what I thought of as the triage mentality with which my department was supposed to operate– we were just stopping the bleeding temporarily rather than preventing it and I was desperate to turn that around. I asked if we could open a small shelter in the area where I did most of my work, that way I could spend less time in my van, we could do spaying and neutering right there, I could more easily integrate into the neighborhood and get to know people, and we could actually adopt out animals instead of euthanizing them. I was also really wanting to start a comprehensive foster program so animals could be in homes rather than in a shelter and so animals who needed more socializing or physical care could be given another chance instead of euthanized. I was met with absolute resistance, it was never going to happen.

I should have guessed it was going to go down that way since I had to fight hard for each animal I adopted out or brought to a local shelter. Every time I said “This animal is perfectly adoptable, I want to find a home for him/her” I was met with a stare from the President, Ingrid Newkirk, that conveyed complete disdain and clearly was meant to communicate that I was completely naive and foolish. I suspect the final cut to my short-lived time at PETA happened in a meeting where we were discussing paying for the spaying and neutering of pitbulls. Ingrid wanted to stop paying to neuter pittbulls, continuing only to spay, in order to save money. Again, I felt this was such a triage mentality, especially for an organization with a lot of resources. I reminded her that overpopulation, while a big part of the battle, was not the entire battle. I reminded her that an intact male is vulnerable to being used in fighting, which creates such a cycle of brutality and violence for children that the fight we ultimately were fighting–changing the way people thought about animals–was very much harmed by not tackling the whole problem. When she gave me that look of hers I continued to talk, to the point where a friend of mine who was also at the meeting was looking at me with a wild eyed “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” look. Shortly after that I was fired, told, essentially, that I wasn’t good at my job and should look into another line of work. This, of course, was hot on the heels of an excellent review and a raise just a few months prior to my being told I was a disaster in the field. I was pretty upset because, even though I was burned out and happy to leave, I was pissed off that I’d gotten fired for voicing my opinion and that lies had been invented to cover up that fact. I remember talking to my dad, someone who has volunteered for and worked with and for, many non-profits. He told me a downside of an organization like PETA, one that is driven not just by a mission but by one strong leader, is that they often become a cult of personality and if you don’t fall in line you are tossed out of the cult because there will always be people clamoring to work for them, who will fall in line–no point in dealing with troublemakers no matter how good they are at their jobs.

On to my present day rant, started by this article, “PETA Finds Itself on Receiving End of Others’ Anger,” in the New York Times. It’s primarily about the number of euthanasias that PETA does, which I only want to address by saying it’s WAY, WAY too many and not nearly enough is done as an alternative to them. I believe, ultimately, that stems from this idea:

For their part, officials at PETA, which has its headquarters and only shelter here in Norfolk, say the animals it rescues are in such bad shape from mistreatment and neglect that they are often better off dead than living in misery on the streets or with abusive owners.

“It’s nice for people who’ve never worked in a shelter to have this idealistic view that every animal can be saved,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s vice president for cruelty investigations. “They don’t see what awful physical and emotional pain these poor dogs and cats suffer.”

And my response to that is to call absolute bullshit. Yes, many of the animals I took in were in rough shape emotionally and physically and, yes, it is a drain on resources to take an animal like that and rehabilitate them to the point where they can be adoptable but it is entirely possible, especially with a good network of foster homes (see above, my request to start working on a foster network that was roundly refused). And a fair number of the animals, I’d say the majority, I took in were absolutely adoptable–immediately, without hesitation.

I used to work in a shelter, and I’m a realist, I completely understand that, while working towards a no-kill nation is absolutely the right and possible thing to do, we aren’t there yet in most parts of the country and, until we get there, animals will continue to be euthanised because of a lack of resources and a lack of homes. As completely crappy as that is I get it. But PETA asserting that the adoptability of the animals they take in is the reason they don’t adopt out most of their animals is false. Period. I know, I used to feed people the same BS line when I worked there. Part of me believed it because I had, in a short time, become quite jaded but, eventually, I realized that I was wrong, that PETA was wrong, that they were doing it wrong–that’s when I burned out on the mission and I became so conflicted about continuing work that I believed in, in many ways, but I also wanted to put an end to the things that I could no longer comply with. I’m not writing any of this to jump on the “PETA is evil” wagon because, for the most part, I don’t believe that. I believe in their aims and their mission, not all parts and not always the way they go about it, but the work they’ve done with exposing cruelty on factory farms, in the fur industry, in science labs that use animals, in circuses, to name a few, has been groundbreaking and absolutely vital. But their work with companion animals–no. My belief in the larger good of PETA is the reason it has taken me 13 years to speak out about this but I cannot, in good conscience, keep quiet when the assertion is made that so many animals are too broken to be saved.

Others are working hard to get the message out that animals who end up in shelters are not damaged, or beyond saving, or broken …

… and PETA, in an article in the New York Times, states that the animals it takes in are usually too damaged, beyond saving, too broken. What. The. Ever. Loving. Fuck? THAT is putting the organization over the well being of animals, THAT is upholding stereotypes about shelter animals, THAT is utter bullshit.

Meet our dog Firu …

Firu

Firu

When he lived on the streets, he was mowed down by a car that was going so fast it broke his femur in half and dislocated his hip. Was he not worth saving? Thank heaven the person who found him shattered on the side of the road thought that he was worth saving, and thank heaven the shelter here, which operates (in stark contrast to PETA) on a shoestring budget, where she brought him thought so too. The one thing they weren’t sure of was if he would make it because he was in such bad shape, but they believed in doing everything in their capability to help him. Firu underwent an operation that not only saved his life but his leg and now we call him our 3 1/2 legged baby because he often treats his injured leg a bit gingerly but, really, he just knows that he gets sympathy from his limp.Yes, he was damaged emotionally and physically but he was far beyond hopeless and you don’t just throw animals away, even if you tell yourself that you’re doing it in the name of mercy.

Meet Squiggles …

Squiggles

Squiggles was discovered in a garbage bin with his brother and sister, someone had tied them all up into a plastic bag and dumped them when they were about a week old. They were filthy, our vet said they’d likely been in the bag for at least a day or two judging by the amount of waste in the bag. They were full of parasites, external and internal, and the other boy was very near death. Our vet kept the very sick kitten, who died later that day, and we fostered the other two kittens, named Squiggles and Cookie by our daughter. Cookie also later died, her parasites weren’t treated in time, but with a lot of intensive work Squiggles pulled through and is now a member of our family. His full name is Sir Lord Wesley Squiggleton the Third, we believe he deserves to be treated like royalty. Was he not worth saving? Were his siblings not worth fighting for?

I understand having to make choices, I understand knowing that you can spend a ton of money to save one dog or you can care for ten for a month, and those choices blow. But those choices are not why PETA makes the decisions that drive their animal companion program. I believe what drives their decisions is the belief that too many humans are inherently bad and undeserving of animals, that overpopulation is too overwhelming, and that you must euthanize and euthanize in order to combat it. But there are a whole lot of good people who want to make animals part of their family, and euthanasia should only be the very last option, it shouldn’t be a matter of course, it shouldn’t be the first, often only, choice.

Working with animals who have been neglected, abused, abandoned isn’t about bailing water out of a sinking ship, it’s about patching up the holes, rebuilding, preventing what caused the crisis in the first place. And what really bites at me is the folks at PETA must know this, either that or they are so completely jaded that they’ve given up on humanity entirely and, in turn, have given up on the animals we have a duty to care for. And that is a sad state of affairs for an animal rights organization.

PS. As an aside, I’m not interested in bashing PETA, or in communicating with people who do. There’s a difference between flat out bashing and pointing out problems, I hope I’ve made it clear that I believe there are big problems within PETA but they also do a whole lot of good so, really, it should just be about shining a light on the problems and hoping the people who have the power start to make changes.

Everything is Bigger in Costa Rica!

Yesterday we made our fourth trip to Parque Nacional Braulio Carillo, where everything seems to grow bigger, including the spiders, eeeek!

There is a picnic shelter that our daughter refuses to enter, she'd rather stand in the rain, because the underside of the roof is covered in these spiders.

There is a picnic shelter that our daughter refuses to enter, she’d rather stand in the rain, because the underside of the roof is covered in these spiders.

As gorgeous as the beaches are here, I’m a mountain girl and I’d rather put on a pair of hiking boots than a bathing suit (and not just because my 41st birthday is sneaking up behind me). This particular national park is the perfect spot for a nice hike, an easy hour’s drive from our home as long as the dear hubby doesn’t try one of his infamous “shortcuts,” which he did not this time. There are two trails, both easy enough for our six year old to run along and lead the expedition– at least until he remembered there are big cats in the park, which might have happened when his panicked mother lost sight of him and started screeching “BIG CATS, RILEY, BIG CATS!” at which point he turned tailed, deciding he didn’t want to be line leader anymore and the middle suited him just fine.

I didn’t hold out much hope for our trip because this is what our drive looked like once we gained a bit of elevation:

Braulio Carillo March 2013 002

It’s been a running joke between my husband and myself from before we were married that every outing we take always ends up in rain so “just another Turner family outing” has become our mantra. “Oh! Look! It’s that fun horizontal rain we love so much, honey!” “Yup, just another Turner family outing!” The nice thing about hiking in the rainforest, though, is that all the trees and leaves are massive so, unless it is truly pissing down, it’s still doable to hike in the rain and not be misearable. Plus, the rewards are worth it. Gorgeous scenery:

Braulio Carillo March 2013 024

 

They don't call it the Rio Sucio (dirty river) for nothing! Volcanic minerals are responsible for the color of the water.

They don’t call it the Rio Sucio (dirty river) for nothing! Volcanic minerals are responsible for the color of the water.

Trees and mist, a lovely combo!

Trees and mist, a lovely combo!

Flowers and plant life that resemble aliens:

Not a clue what this is but it's pretty cool looking

Not a clue what this is but it’s pretty cool looking

Braulio Carillo March 2013 010

Braulio Carillo March 2013 013

There is a bug in this one, which I didn’t notice until I looked at the photo more closely–well done with the camo and thanks for not attacking my nose!

Braulio Carillo March 2013 017

Braulio Carillo March 2013 022

Braulio Carillo March 2013 031

When we’re very lucky we see some wildlife:

Well camo'd frog

Well camo’d frog

Fast moving, slightly pissed off, monkeys are hard to capture on film ...

Fast moving, slightly pissed off, monkeys are hard to capture on film …

 

Despite the cover of the massive foliage, after an hour or so of hiking, we were quite soaked and chilled so we headed over to one of our favorite restaurants, La Fonda, right outside the boundaries of the park. It is a lovely Argentinian grill where everything is cooked on an open wood fire–and the fresh off the grill food is perfect for warming cold hands:

Freshly grilled cheese and veggies, perfect for hand warming!

Freshly grilled cheese and veggies, perfect for hand warming!

 

All in all Braulio Carillo is a gorgeous way to spend a day. The pandas approve …

Braulio Carillo March 2013 039

 

And Ry gives it two crazy peace signs up, it’s a win!

Braulio Carillo March 2013 051

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Reasons Why My Awesome MIL Should Visit Us

Top Ten Reasons Why My Awesome MIL Should Visit Us (in no particular order):

1.     Beautiful Weather: They don’t call the weather around San Jose “Eternal Spring” for nothing! The average temperature in the valley is between 78-82 degrees and even during the rainy season it’s sunny most of the time. The times it is raining make it perfect for napping!

2.     Fresh Mountain Breezes: Our house is high in the hills which means that there is always a lovely breeze to enjoy. I find it meditative to just sit and watch the windmills on the mountains by our house, it’s soothing for some reason. Which leads me to number three …

3.     Three Lovely Outdoor Sitting Areas: The gazebo by the pool has a table and chairs, lovely smelling lavender, and plenty of flowers to dead head. The back patio has two comfy lounge chairs that are perfect for an afternoon nap, and the terrace has two big adirondack chairs and a Buddha fountain, can’t get more relaxing than that! Terrace

4.     Lots of Cats to Pet, Love, and Brush: Most of them are sane. Crazy Soshi is a different story …

Crazy Soshi

 

5.     You Can Perfect Your Spanish: Who doesn’t want to squeeze in a foreign language? It’s enriching!

6.     Liam:

Awwww, so sweet!

7.     Aisleen:

Riley:

Smiling Riley!

Smiling Riley!

9.     A DIL Who is Crazy About You: me

10.     Last But Not Least, This Guy:

The awesome hubby and dogs

The awesome hubby and dogs

So, there ya have it! My case for why my wonderful mother-in-law should come visit us and stay for as long as she wants. Just rest, relax, read, enjoy the grandkids, and soak in the tropics! Come to Costa Rica …

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