Thursday, December 31, 2009

Coco the Skiddish Dog

Neither Sally or I had a decent sleep last night. I listened to the wind howl all night - its been howling for a few days now - more typical weather for december. The wind has blown open a panel on the roof next door, so a strong gust results in plastic and metal clanging together. It sounds as if we caught a mouse in our live trap - I hear some clanging in the kitchen. There was minor mouse scratching in our bedroom. A cat visiting lately is meowing while we listen for the sounds of Coco, a new dog in our care that escaped yesterday afternoon. Coco is hanging around the house and at least knows the hand that feeds it. Sally is attempting to lure the skiddish canine into the house. We are just holding her for a few days.
Signed M

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas In Monteverde

A long time resident of Monteverde once told me that Christmas here is special and there are plenty of holiday activities. For many reasons it has been a very different Christmas season this year – the lack of snow, television commercials and especially gathering with the larger family. We have enjoyed a variety of music, gift giving, santa, plenty of creatures stirring, the manger scene and a beautiful tiny Christmas tree.

Stage events included saturday’s Christmas program at the meeting house, tuesday night’s family violin concert at the Monteverde Institute and last night’s performance by Seattle rock band Massy Ferguson at Bromilias. The boys appreciate the live performances and learning about the instruments and musicians.

Food events included cookie sharing feast after Saturdays program, a pig roast and BBQ Wednesday night, a pot luck at our house Christmas eve, and a community pot luck at the meeting house on Christmas day. Gatherings are attended by all ages, Ticos and gringos, long time residents and new comers, and families and individuals.

At the BBQ, Michael and I roasted hotdogs, steak and marshmallows while sipping on hot chocolate shared by Mary N. Our potluck Christmas eve expanded from a few people to about twenty five people. People brought a variety of dishes, the children played on the tree swings and hide and go seek in the dark while the adults shared conversation by candlelight on our patio. The highlight of the evening occurred when about forty carolers marched up the pasture to our house and sang a few songs. The crowd certainly brought glad tidings and cheer to all. We invited the group inside for food and hellos and smiles filled up the place. The group then continued on their eight hour journey from farm through forest to field. The boys concluded the evening by decorating a tree (branch) that Elizabeth, Johnny and Andy gave us and setting out cookies and a carrot for santa and his crew.

Christmas morning arrived and the boys were as excited as ever to find gifts under the tree. Unwrapping pads of construction paper, colored pencils, glue stick, legos and stuffed animals made their day. We ventured on to the Christmas feast and all ages grab bag gift exchange. The criteria for the gift – must be hand made. Talents abound in Monteverde and crafting with hands is a skill that many have. Gifts passed out by a Ms Santa and her helper, Wolf, included paintings, wood carvings, ceramics, stained glass, knitted vests, pillows, music, stilts, book shelves, treasure boxes, and a wooden wheelbarrow. Our boys passed on tie died shirts and in exchange received knight masks made from cereal boxes and paper.

The weather has been absolutely cooperative – 70s and clear and we are all now enjoying a little quiet time. Signed M.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Good Bye Sweet Ellie!

Have you ever lost a dog that has been left in your care? If so, you know the sinking feeling in your gut and the overwhelming guilt that leads to question "what did I do wrong?"

Some of you may know Ellie, we've blogged about her in the past - she is the loyal companion of the 4-legged variety and is part of our neighbor's family, John, Adrienne and O'deilla. John is the acting Director at the Friends School. Ellie is an elderly retriever (I think, 10 or 12) so she has clearly had a good, full life. She has boundless energy and is always full of life, whether she is snatching a snack from the boy's hands, following us to school or lying out in the morning sun warming herself. Michael and John would always feel her black coat and say how warm to the touch it was.

John and Adrienne left for the States on Monday morning about 5:30 a.m. to spend the holidays with their family. The night before, we received instructions from Adrienne; and know (from our past experience, that Ellie might not eat a lot the first couple of days). We were pleased to care for Ellie as she is no problem.

Monday morning about 9 a.m., I wandered through our yard to their house and found Ellie on her 'run', lying under their porch, listless and non-responsive. Usually, she would have been all over me, showering me with wet kisses...there were none to receive on this day. I thought to myself that perhaps she was tired and sad from the recent departure of her family.

Mike and I had a busy Monday and employed Gaudy to watch the kids as we went to the 12:30 Prayer & Share, then walked into Santa Elena for some last minute Christmas shopping and then walked toward San Luis for a dinner engagement with our friends Theo and Jude. Around noon after Gaudy arrived, the boys and her brought Ellie over to our house (along with her food), thinking she would want to be around people, especially if she was feeling sad. Just getting her to walk across their yard into ours was a chore. She was unsure on her feet and oh so slow. When she arrived at our house, she collapsed on the concrete floor and laid down. She had no affect on her face and her body language was slumped over and just so sad. Mike was shocked to see Ellie so unresponsive and quiet.

We set out for Jude and Theo's around 4:30 and left the boys and Gaudy in the pasture while Ellie slept in the house. Shortly after arriving at Jude's, we received a call from Gaudy that Ellie was very 'still' and very slow. She did manage to get herself into the kitchen and lap up some water and a bit of food. While at Jude's, we called Veronica who cares for a lot of stray dogs and has a good relationship with the Vet to let her know what was going on and get any advice about Ellie. Veronica commented that the Vet could not do anything for the dog and that we should keep her comfortable and keep her hydrated. Perhaps Ellie had been bit by a spider or snake while outside on the porch in the early morning hours? All things go through your mind. Could it be a stroke? The glossy eyes and absolutely no 'affect' reminded me of my own experience with my yellow lab at the age of 9 when he had experienced a stroke - The Jake that I knew was clearly "gone", similar situation with Ellie.

About 7 p.m., we received another call from Gaudy who told us that she was sure Ellie had passed away; another call to Veronica and into Theo's truck we jumped for the ride home. Ellie was lying in the kitchen next to her food/water bowl and after just a quick assessment, Gaudy was right; Ellie had gone to Dog Heaven. Both boys were in bed when we arrived home. Mike and I could not believe that we had a dead dog in our kitchen - what had we not done??? Another call to Veronica - after some discussion, we decided to leave Ellie in the kitchen instead of risking an animal attack if we were to leave her outside until we were able to bury her to the next day. We draped a sheet over her and prepared for breaking the news to our neighbors. Our hearts were heavy - but knew we had to pass along the sad news. We grabbed the contact info they had left for us, and placed the call. Much to our amazement, we got John on his cell phone (they were in Houston awaiting their final flight to the D.C. area), expecting to arrive at 1 o'clock in the morning...a long travel day indeed! We found out from John that Ellie was not herself the night before and was up pacing in the night; Adrienne had to let her outside a couple of times during the night. She also threw up in the early morning before they left in the taxi and headed down the mountain to the airport - so clearly she had started a decline that prior evening. For some strange reason, this gave us some comfort knowing that Ellie was 'struggling' prior to us taking responsibility for her well-being. John asked us to inquire about the process of cremation to see if that was an option for the family; if not; we would bury her in their yard in a spot; which they would designate. We decided to touch base the next day (Tuesday) after having a chance to talk with the Vet about cremation.

We found out that the only Crematorium was in San Jose (4 hours away) and that it was for people, so we may need a special permit for a dog. It could take some time - and time is not a luxury we had. We spoke to John Tuesday morning and relayed the information - the family decided to bury Ellie in the front yard, close to the road. With that said, we knew the priority task for the day.

The boys had lots of questions about Ellie but were very gentle in their communication and commented that Ellie was now with Jake. We had planned to have Stuart over to tie-dye a shirt we had bought him for a Christmas present, so while I tie-dyed the shirts on the stove, Mike, Michael, John and Stuart grabbed their shovels and started their dig! Veronica supplied lunch for us all, home-made soup and tortillas - she brought all the 'fixins' over to our house (including her pot and tortilla press and went to work in our kitchen). A welcomed surprise for some hungry workers! It took all afternoon, as they had to dig down through a lot of clay. Mike said the boys really worked hard and yelled down the hill to any passer-by on the street to let them know they were digging a grave for Ellie. Hmm - in retrospect, what must have people thought as they heard this proclamation? Oh My - should we expect a visit from the Policia? :) Four hours later, Ellie was laid to rest, Mike replaced the grass and we have been watering it religiously these past few days and will place three rocks in the middle of the grave (one for Adrienne, one for John and one for O'deilla).

Our hearts go out to them, as losing a pet is oh so difficult; especially one so gentle as Ellie. We were happy to help the family and know that we took great care in preparing her final resting place. We will miss you our sweet friend, but know that you are frolicking with others up in Dog Heaven. Rest Well!

Signed: S

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Here we Come a Wassailing

What exactly is Wassailing?  
I not only know but sing the familiar lyrics in the Christmas Carol, "Here we come a wassailing among the leaves so green" but my knowledge of wassailing stops there.  So I googled it and this is what I found......
Wassailing is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols. Wassail is a traditional drink served during the winter holidays, including Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Twelfth Night. It is especially popular in northern European countries, where it originates. Wassail is a hot, spiced drink, often alcoholic, that most commonly resembles cider in the modern day. Originally, wassail is believed to have been closer to beer. The word wassail comes from traditional toasts wishing good health, including ves heill in Old Norse and wes hal in Old English.  So there you have it.  I am waiting for Michael to wake up from his nap so that we may join Mike and John at the School for the Christmas Play and Wassail.  I frosted the 4 dozen cookies we baked yesterday early this morning while the boys were at school taking care of the hamsters and helping with the set-up of today's event.  Needing a little help to get me in the spirit of Christmas, I quickly remembered that I had a few Christmas Carols loaded on my iPod, so thanks to Harry Connick Jr. and Glenn Miller, I sang at the top of my lungs, while draping the cookies in a sheen of red and green.  I saved some icing and some of the more 'overdone' cookies for the boys to frost when they arrived home....they enjoyed frosting, almost as much as eating.  Michael is probably coming off his sugar high...thus the mid-day nap!

I recall last year's cookie making event at home in Clarendon Hills and can attest that cooking and baking with the boys is getting easier!  I stumbled upon this photo which must have been taken a week or so before Christmas 2008, given the decorations adourning the little green house.  How things change in a year.  Instead of building igloos and snow forts, they are running around in shorts, honing their bicycle riding skills amidst 70 degree weather out on our front yard. Happy to report per my previous post "Have Bike, Will Pedal (Almost)", that I could now revise the title of that post to:  "Have Bike, new inner tubes, one new tire and riding Solo".  We took an epic walk into Cerro Plano with the kids and bike in toe the other day.  After 4,000 colones (about $7.00), the little red bike is fully-functional.  The boys quickly took to riding it and much to our amazement, both are riding 1/2 the length of our expansive front yard by themselves.  They are so proud of their accomplishment!

A baby squirrel deserves a mention here as Michael and I got 'up close and personal' with one a couple of days ago.  We missed the Christmas activity and party at one of the School Administrators house last Wed. (last day of school) as Michael had a fever.  Mike and John enjoyed it -- I stayed home with little Michael.  We nestled into my bed with my laptop and the Hermie DVD when we discovered a baby squirrel peeking up over the nighstand just a foot away.  I quickly scooped up Michael and the computer and went into the other part of the house, closing the door to the bedroom hastily.  Thinking to myself...'okay, baby squirrels are wild animals, so I need to respect this little one even if it is just an infant'.  I don't need to deal with a sick child and a squirrel bite!  We waited for Mike and John to return several hours later and began to relate our story. Michael could hardly contain himself -   John could not wait to open the door to the bedroom to see for himself...Mike pulled on his boots, grabbed a big pail and a broom stick to hopefully guide the creature into the pail.  Noting not a single sighting...Mike surmised it must have escaped through one of our many ripped screens, but I would not rest until we found the little critter and returned it to the out of doors.  We heard something that sounded like crinkling paper and there it was wedged behind our dresser.  Both boys were right in there, vying for a glimpse despite my attempts to keep all safe.   Into the pail, out the door and through the front yard it ran!  A huge sigh of relief from yours truly!  Looking back (and on the bright side), it could have been a coral snake :)

Another moment this past week which made me pause and gain perspective happened when Mike and I returned home from the Thursday Peace Pilgrim meeting.  We left the two boys with Gaudy, who had brought her 5 year old to play.  She had her hands full with the three boys and Stuart (Veronica's boy as well).  Mike and I arrived back home around noon to find the boys out in back under a tee pee that they had all constructed.  We stood silent at the back door and just watched as Michael and Gaudy shared a snack and the other boys were inside the tee pee enjoying some relief from the hot sun.  Again the rubbermaid tub was put to good use as a table and they enjoyed a mid-day snack of guavas, life savors and Cheetos that they had purchased at the little store at the end of our road.  Gaudy is so creative and artsy and up for anything - as you can see by the pic above.  I wish I had her energy (okay, she is half my age...but still), we are lucky to have such an energetic care giver.

Yesterday we made pizza dough and baked some egg plant that we took over to Veronica's house as we shared pizzas for dinner - the boys enjoyed Stuart's early Christmas present (a jungle gym under the overhang of the house). So, when it really rains and it is too muddy for climbing trees out in the pasture, the jungle gym is dry and ready for little feet and hands. What a great idea - one of our nearby neighbors has carpentry skills; so Veronica hired him and voila. We had great conversation with Veronica as the boys played; we shared our enjoyment of the movie Gandhi that we had watched the previous night which ignited a spirited talk on peace and humility.  

Just back from the Wassail and Christmas Play - it was a lot of fun and the music was inspiring.  The "Kitchen Sink" orchestra played several tunes and filled the meeting room with the Christmas spirit.  The orchestra is made up of students, teachers and members of the community - very impressive!  When Michael and I found our way into the meeting room to an empty seat, I found Mike sitting against the wall with John zonked on his lap.   So many cookies and the wassail drink was so yummy (just for the record, the wassail was non-alcoholic just in case you went back to reconcile with the definition above :)  Fellowship and visiting in abundance.

Tomorrow, the 'Prayer and Share' at noon and then off to Theo and Jude's for dinner without the boys...what a treat!  We also will begin to care for the Director's dog, Ellie, as he and his family head back to the states to share the holidays with their family.  Ellie is a good dog and the boys will enjoy the responsibilty of feeding, walking and picking up the dog poop (well, maybe?)

I will be running a 'basketball' mini-course when school starts back up in January.  Although I attended basketball camp for two summers as a teen and played on my high-school team - it has been a long time since I've had to play by the 'rules'.  Although I must say, Auntie Beth and I (and Choppy occasionally) can have a pretty competitive pick up a game, we tend to give ourselves a lot of leeway as we're three ole gals!  I will rely on the new 20-year old volunteer who arrives in a couple of weeks to help me recollect the difference between 'man vs. man' defense and 'zone' defense and coordinate the 8-week course.  Wish me luck!

Final Thought:
I am really enjoying having Mike home (really home, not thinking about tomorrow's lesson plan or cutting and pasting a math worksheet).  He is allowing me some 'alone' time which I am learning to really treasure.  I even napped yesterday believe it or not on the couch with two drooling 4-year olds on each side bookending me on the couch.  How Sweet it Is.

Signed: S   


Friday, December 18, 2009

Morning Stars

Lying in bed, I listened to the sounds of the night. Based on previous sightings, I figured there was a giant moth banging itself on our kitchen window and a mouse in the ceiling chewing something and whacking its tail. There was a crack of wood and an earth shaking thump as a tree limb must have fallen and of course the crickets chirping and dogs barking. I finally arose at 4:00, put on sweat pants, a fleece jacket, slipped on my trusty rubber boots and quietly snuck out the front door. The first thing I noticed was the darkness. Without moonlight, it can be very dark in Monteverde. The second thing I noticed was the abundance of stars. Magnificent, numerous, the most I have seen from this humid often cloud swept mountain.

Straight overhead is a planet, maybe Jupiter, and to the north, the Big Dipper. I could not locate the north star (Polaris), it must be close to the horizon behind the trees. I focused upward and could see a few faint clusters of stars and wondered about the other billions that I could not see. Flash, possibly a meteor lighting the sky somewhere over the horizon. In a span of thirty minutes, there were at least ten such flashes. I saw two meteors burn up, (shooting stars) and found four human made satellites smoothly passing overhead. Two were running parallel to each other as if in a race. Satellites look just like stars, except they are moving. I have only seen them from rural places. A plane has a blinking light.

A rooster at Meg’s started its morning routine and a couple of other small animals were moving about. I found the pasture gate and ventured past the ant mounds to the center of the field. Looking to the south admiring the majestic silhouettes of the 100 ft pines at the Troesel’s, toward the west an old tropical hardwood, to the north, the row of Mexican cypress and to the east a mix fruit, native deciduous and conifer trees. For hundreds of feet around me, I could not see a house nor lights, except for the thousands of natural lights above. The eastern sky lights up and stars gradually fade away.

It is now 5:30, the wrens are singing and a mot mot is whooting joining a brown jay in the background. Signed M.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Weather Just Like Chicago

Weather – well. I find it intriguing. Last week, the sunshine and pleasant breezes evaporated moisture from the daily mists and humidity levels dropped to about 70%.  The air actually felt dry, stars were abundant in the night sky and we had success maintaining a bonfire Saturday night. By Sunday morning things had changed. The winds started howling over the mountains and through the trees and heavy mist blew horizontally saturating everything. It must be a winter storm here, similar in some ways to a cold front in Chicago accompanied by 40mph gusts and blowing snow. Different however because the temperature here dipped only to 58 F and the winds and mist blew heavily for two days. It has gradually lightened since Monday, but it is still windy and wet, but more sunshine and rainbows now. It reminds me much of lake effect snow in Chicago with the intermittent precipitation glistening in the sunlight and broken clouds quickly blowing overhead. Our rubber boots are seeing some good use.

Sunday night, the boys and I were walking home from school after feeding the hamsters. It was dark, especially on the trail leading from the school. Michael fearlessly led the way carefully watching the path in front of him as water dripped from the thick foliage overhead. We reached the road as it turned into the oncoming winds. Pelted by the heavy mist, hoods blowing off of our heads, I felt alive, euphoric, stimulated, invigorated. The boys raised their arms, “Hello wind, hello rain!” Occasionally a car would approach us and Michael’s role was to turn on the flashlight and shine it toward the car so the driver would avoid us. John played his role by waving to each passing vehicle. Our night vision improved as we walked, as long as we were not blinded by the oncoming headlights. They recognized mud puddles to jump over and pointed to the tree silhouettes waving against the sky. They found the gate to the pasture and stopped to look at a couple of stars peaking through the clouds in the western sky as the mist continued to pelt us from the east. Our night vision was now keen enough to see a marked difference between the shades of light on the ground. The green grass appeared a lighter gray, the piles of horse manure a darker gray and the leafcutter ant mounds were black. Curious to see if the ants were active, we saw that their trails were empty but they were busy carrying soil up from their holes and building their mounds higher. The last steps to our front porch  brought happy shouts of, “Mom, mom we’re all wet. Mom, our night vision is really really good. We can see everything in the dark.”

Signed M



Sunday, December 13, 2009

Have Bike...Will Pedal (Well Almost)

A well-used, red bike is now perched up against our front porch, with a very worn child's helmet dangling from one of the handlebars.   Our latest purchase, snatched up by yours truly at our neighbor's garage sale last week.  Both tires are flat as pancakes, but one could not resist the price tag (3000 colones), so 'trash to treasure' we hope!  Perhaps all it needs is some TLC and a brief borrow of a bike pump, which our friend Veronica can supply.  Otherwise, we will head into the cycling shop in Cerro Plano mid week for a quick repair.  The flats don't seem to damper the boy's fun as they quite enjoy riding around the house on the yard, being pushed by either me, dad or Gaudy.  Having only the one bike here, ensures the reinforcement of sharing and taking turns.  Last summer, as we prepared for our move, the boys were almost ready to do away with their training wheels, so hopefully they will find their balance quickly as this new bike is of the 'two-wheeler' version.  We have limited options for learning to ride here in Monteverde as the roads are all dirt and rock, so our choices include, either the flat yard that surrounds our house or chancing it on the patio which is a concrete circle outlining our house. The latter option is probably not a good choice, given the many expansive windows that butt-up to the patio - add two active pre-schoolers, the re-introduction of a bike, and well, need I say more?  :) Other finds at the sale:  Spiderman and Batman masks, ping pong paddles and balls and Peruvian wool sweater for me!

Our 'neighbors' mentioned above who hosted the sale, own Bromelias which has undergone quite a face-lift in the last two months.  It re-opened its doors two weeks ago, offering a wide range of services, Wifi, cafe, bar, music shop, outdoor gardens, amphitheatre.   I have already frequented the cafe and can recommend it as my friend, Veronica, treated me to a yummy mushroom sandwich on Friday!  Last night's concert; a 2000 colones cover charge, was enjoyed by the Schaefer family 'free of charge', given our proximity!

Christmas season is upon us and there is a full list of school events planned for the community to enjoy.  The boys are awaiting Santa's visit and are asking how he will get into the house due to the fact that we don't have a fireplace, as we did in Chicago.  They are convinced he will make a huge hole in the roof and gain access that way.  When I ask, "what do you want Santa to bring you", the responses are all over the board.  Everything from muffin tins, to little boy scissors (did I mention we already have 4 pair in the house), little boy oven & microwave (whatever that means), a doll, jelly beans.  What imaginations!  Perhaps instead of the traditional carrot left out for the reindeer, we will mix it up this year, with a little mango and papaya!  I imagine Rudolph even tires of carrots!  I cannot help but think that the 'muffin tin' thought is due in large part to the boys baking carrot/raisin muffins this past weekend, with good intentions of sharing with Martha Moss (an elderly woman who lives just across the main street).  Sorry Martha, all have been consumed, so I will be prepping another batch tomorrow - promise to walk them over to you before little hands once again raid the refrig.

I have been extremely busy with my volunteer commitments at school and have several meetings a week.  Yesterday, Jude and I presented the proposed process for an upcoming School initiative to the 'Meeting for Business' which was held immediately after the 'Meeting for Worship at 10:30'.  An exhausting Sunday as I arrived home about 4:30 p.m. after leaving home earlier in the a.m., about 10!   Not being a Quaker, it was enlightening to observe a 'Meeting for Business' and the mechanics of how that meeting operates.  A far cry from Corporate America and the meetings I am so accustomed to facilitating.  A lesson in patience and 'enjoying the journey'...indeed.  During the announcement part of the meeting for worship, I took note of a 'Prayer and Share' that I attended today at Rio Shanti, the local yoga joint.  I enjoyed my time with a couple (Mike and Maria) from St. Louis, who facilitate the group discussion and sharing.  I listened to the Word which Mike recited from various bible passages and other readings he and Maria had compiled.  The topic was Peace & Christmas but we managed to cover lots of topics as we sat legs crossed on the Yoga mats on the studio floor, just inside the balcony surrounded by lush foliage.  I am eager to take Mike with me next Monday and for the opportunity to get to know this couple better.  

Mike and I will also attend the Thursday meeting at Rio Shanti to discuss the book, Peace Pilgrim.  Veronica, our good friend, hipped us to the meeting and since school breaks for the holidays this Wednesday, we are free to attend for the next month while Gaudy sits for the boys.  We attended our first meeting Thanksgiving Day and found it to be really great.  We met on the balcony at Rio Shanti, with the nearby river setting the tone for the discussion.  A peaceful place and so fitting given the topic.  There were about 6 of us; we each took turns reading from Peace Pilgrim's book which chronicles her 25,000 + mile pilgrimage across the United States spreading her message for peace.  Her pilgrimage covered the entire peace picture; peace among nations, groups, individuals and the quest for inner peace.  For those of you wondering, if I was really able to sit (on a yoga mat no less), read a passage from a book (not related to my work) and actually enjoy it....HAH - I not only did and enjoyed it, but walked out with a smile on my face as well!

Saturday was a beatufil day, our new friend, Edda, her 4-year old son, Javier and baby, Luna came over to play, the three boys had fun gathering fire wood for the raging fire we enjoyed that night, throwing bean-bags and flying paper air-planes that Mike made with the kids while Edda and I enjoyed getting to know each other better.  Oh the joys of simple play.  

What a difference the dry season makes!  Starting the fire the other night was a breeze compared to a couple of months ago.  We finally polished off the bag of marshmallows we've been hiding in the back of the freezer!  I am convinced that every boy is a Pyromaniac; my sons included.  Michael and John were so intrigued with the fire, the burning embers and really into fanning the flames to give the fire oxygen to keep it going.  Mike enjoyed teaching the kids about fire (and of course the safety responsibility).   

An interesting observation this week:  I have caught Michael red-handed several times; (hand in the cookie jar sort of thing)
1. Walking in the front door after having hung the laundry out to dry, I catch Michael with a bag of chocolate chips in one hand, a handful of them in the other, and chocolate smeared all over his mouth. 
2. Hiding out in back of the house, huge jar of chunky peanut butter and a plastic spoon in hand - Michael truly is my little Buddha Belly.

I just finished reading "Redirecting Children's Behaviour' which Veronica lent me.  I so enjoyed it and will order a copy of it tonight for myself.  I suppose it is more about redirecting my own behavior as a parent, rather than that of your child's, however; I have implemented some of the strategies with the boys which appear to be working.  

I miss family and friends; especially during this season and fondly remember last year's Christmas with Mike's family - know that we will be thinking of you!

One last random thought, I have been walking/running up to Santa Elena any chance I can get and often on these clear, sunny mornings, turn the corner as I pass the Clinic and have a spectacular view of the Bay of Nicoya off to my right.  I wonder to myself where might I be running next year and what might my view be?
Will end this post as I have coughed and hacked myself through this past hour after having just finished reading books to the kids from the MFS library. 

Signed: S

Saturday, December 12, 2009

School Notes

We are back, connected to the world again. It has been another busy week for me, waking up at 3 or 4AM each day to write student reports. The semester is almost over and we start our break after holiday class performances on Wednesday. I am gaining a metric ton of experience teaching math and the many ways of playing with numbers that I either forgot about or did not learn thirty-five years ago. Much of my focus has been on preparing daily math lessons for mixed levels of abilities in a 5/6 class and a 7/8 class. I also teach science daily to each of these two classes and host a 90 minute ‘minicourse’ on Thursday afternoons.  The minicourse is an elective taken by each student and courses range from practical skills to sports to arts. In my classroom, we just finished our ‘science experiments’ minicourse with a curious and inventive group of 1st through 4th graders.


I decided to delay our unit on arthropods until the spring when we should see more critters roaming about. Since October, insect sightings have been low, probably normal during the rainy and cool season. Already, this week in the bright sunlight, I have noticed an increase in flying insects, so maybe chances will be better for locating juicy crickets to feed our classroom spider.  Signed M

Friday, December 11, 2009

We are having computer issues at the moment and will blog soon. Things are well.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ultimate Frisbee

Highlights of the past 24 hours:
1) Making cookies with the boys and taking the sweet blue circles to the Christmas fair
2) Going to the fair and enjoying music and time with everyone from the community 
3) Playing ultimate frisbee with little Michael, students and adults - ages ranging from 4 to 60's.
4) Having a babysitter last night and mom and dad going to a party sin children
5) Walking 30 minutes to the party in the dark on dirt roads through windy mist, orange sunset, and up steep trails
6) Sipping sangria, nibbling on chocolate, and relaxing with teachers and parents
7) Getting the call from our babysitter that Michael is crying for mom to put him to sleep
8) The boys reminding us to watch out for the horse poop and ant hills in the pasture
9)  Getting surprised by a scampering scorpion while trying to catch the escaped classroom hamster. 
10) Planning to write student reports and hopefully enjoy a hike on a sunny, breezy, sometimes misty day

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Preparation

It is hard to believe that Christmas is three weeks away, seriously. John and I were out harvesting another load of guyavas last weekend to make a pot of jam, we have yet to get bundled up in anything more than a light jacket and I have not seen nor heard one Christmas advertisement or song.

This is starting to change today as we prepare for school's annual Christmas fair tomorrow. I write this as our sugar cookie dough chills in the 'refri' and I think about not being in the family grab bag this year. Sad. It will be different this year, but at least I am relieved about not running to stores, and am looking forward to making gifts and having a more 'hands-on' Christmas. Speaking of hands-on, this afternoon I joined a group of parents to make tamales in the school kitchen. Tamale making is labor intensive and they are usually made for special occasions, especially around Christmas and New Years. My crew helped soften the banana leaves by scanning them over a high flame while another crew cleaned the leaves and another prepared the masa in a bathtub sized pot. Several parents brought in the prepared green beans, potatoes, peppers, carrots and cilantro for stuffing the tamales. Syria, the chief chef, gave us gringos a lesson on proper building and wrapping a tamale while other parents were now busy tying them into twin packs. The garlic hit the frying pan at 1PM and about 200 tamales were boiling at 5PM.

The boys were busy jamming on the school drum set and running in the field with some new girlfriends six years their senior. Thank you girls! Before heading home, we stopped into my classroom to feed the two new pet hamsters, mix the tub of earthworms, provide water to the spider and wood lice.

It is almost time to turn on the oven, find a suitable glass jar for rolling out the dough and a cup for cutting circles cookies. Another good thing about living here - reduced options lead to less mind clutter. Example, we don't have to think about oven temperature because there are only two choices - room temperature or hot. We don't have to dig out our candy cane and tree and snowman cutters, just use a glass or get a knife and make our own shapes. No parchment paper, no cookie rack, no sprinkles and one color for frosting - it all works fine and the cookies will be delicious. Signed M.