Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Destination: Guatemala!

A quick note to let you all know that we are headed to San Jose tomorrow on the afternoon bus as we take our first leg of our journey to Guatemala. We fly on Friday morning and 90 minutes later, we'll be in Michael and John's birth country. It has been 5 1/2 years since our last trip and we are filled with anticipation. I have not slept in 4 nights due to an overload of emotions!

Stay tuned for pics and stories of what I hope to be an amazing visit!

Until then,
Signed: S

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas - Working for that Tree!

So when in need of a Christmas Tree - the boys come to our rescue! Earlier in the week, Michael and John set out into the pasture to find just the perfect tree - they had to work for it of course! Dad provided the tools, shovel, bucket and machete and the boys, the manual labor!

Great teamwork Guys!

Hey Careful Michael where you're swinging that thing!

Michael working hard to secure the tree into the dirt/clay!

Decorating the tree and Voila!

Here are a few pics of us working hard with the boys this week to complete their gifts for the gift exchange later today at the Meeting House!

Michael decorated a piece of cloth that we purchased at the Women's Coop at the bottom of our hill and put his handprints around it to frame up the saying "Peace is People, Hand in Hand". We then collected leaves from around the house and added a special touch with our local foliage! I sure hope the recipient likes it!

John had fun putting the finishing touches on the bulletin board for a 9 year old boy - I was able to buy some remnant yellow fabric at the Coop and purchased the PERFECT shirt at the American Clothing store for 1000 colones (about $2.00) and was able to affix onto the cork board. I think Sequoyah will love his new bulletin board. What do you think?

Making the gifts were great fun and the boys were very curious and interested in participating. After all, the best gifts of all come from the heart and are made with love!

Enjoy this day, Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Signed: S

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy 50th - You Christmas Baby You!

Here's a huge shout out to our favorite Auntie Beth...

HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY! Enjoy your day and remember you are the best sister a girl could have! Enjoy the photo - it's a classic!

Peace, Merry Christmas
Signed: S

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hey Santa – Can You Spare a Few Type A Elves?

La Feria Navidena fue un evento muy exito! The Christmas Fair was a very successful event!

Not sure why I thought working on the Christmas Fair committee would be any less than work than the annual Walkathon fundraiser – so, just for the record, both parent-led, school fundraisers are equally exhausting and a ton of work! Good news is that we made over $1800 and the hundreds of tamales that were made by parents/students and community members the day before were all consumed.

I was part of the Publicity sub-committee who concentrated their efforts on making banners to hang around town, creating flyers to post up around the zone and handing out ¼ page hand-outs to tourists in hopes of bringing more people to the event. I spent 4 hours in the zone two weeks ago, starting at the Monteverde Reserve and hitting all restaurants and hotels in Monteverde, Cerro Plano and Santa Elena – I had my tape, scissors and variety of brochures for the event (both in English and Spanish) in my trusty satchel ready to whip out at a moments notice. I was well poised to put my most 'charming' foot forward as I approached more than 30 establishments to publicize the event. I was elated to see the support and willingness to help the school from the local businesses in town.

There had been much debate this year as to whether this fundraiser should be moved away from the school and to a more central location (maybe the public school gymnasium in Santa Elena) that hosts a lot of community events. After much discussions and a lot of red tape to reserve the gym, we opted to stay with tradition and hold the event at the school, with a few changes thrown in for good measure. An aggressive publicity campaign, an inflatable jumpy for the kids, free shuttle service to and from Santa Elena (in hopes of enticing tourists to make the 3 mile trek up the road) and a tent in front of the school to house more artisans.

Saturday morning at about 8 a.m., the boys and I were busy hammering signs along the road in Santa Elena directing people “THIS WAY TO THE FAIR”. Strapping the balloons to the signs was our biggest challenge as the December winds are in full-force. I then spent 4 hours in Santa Elena ‘stalking’ tourists and handing out brochures to passer-bys. I filled the shuttle van several times and met some great folks along the way. The ambiance at the school was warm and welcoming – Mr. Sun shone brightly and the wind calmed both its breeze and our nerves as we kept a watchful eye on the flapping tent. The music was eclectic with a mix of guitars, drummers, piano players and singers! The food was amazing and the traditional Christmas feast of tamales was a hit!

I enjoyed roaming around the various booths at the fair checking out the local artist’s crafts and even purchased a few goodies for myself! Edgar, my Spanish tutor, is also a local artisan and makes amazing jewelry from seeds he finds on the coast. He then cleans the seeds and polishes them creating some amazing, natural designs. I bought a couple of key chains and a necklace for myself (after all, I have to show my support for the school...right?) The local craftsman are hitting up against hard times, as a lot of the souvenirs found here are unfortunatey stamped with "made in China". 20% of all the sales went toward the school.

It was an amazing day and the wind and rain held off until the end of the event. This event is one of the four parent run fundraisers that help to raise money to keep the arts and physical education programs at the school. So, yet another opportunity to work with some great parents.

Michael and I enjoyed a 90-minute Christmas card making workshop at the little school down the street earlier this week. Edda, a delightful gal in the community is an expert scrapbooker and pulled out all the stops to make this craft extra fun. Michael and I had a blast, and I’ve never seen such beautiful paper, glitter and stamps to make the most festive greeting cards. Perhaps I am a “closet crafter” after all. There is another class this afternoon and Michael is super excited to work with the ‘magic’ glitter as he calls it!

Auntie Beth – I made you a special Christmas/Happy 50th Birthday Card which I will hand-off to someone heading to the States for the holiday and ask them to mail it for me! It was great fun to make.

We have a full schedule of events upon us, with the Christmas Program at school this Friday, Wassail and Cookie exchange this weekend at the school, Christmas party for the swim team, two birthday parties to attend, a trip to Rio Acapulco to enjoy some R & R with friends and yes, Christmas. Oh, we also need to collect some branches outside to construct our Christmas tree and the boys and I need to make two homemade gifts for the Christmas Exchange at the School Christmas Day. So, John chose a ten-year-old boy who loves biking and skateboarding. So here’s my idea – a bulletin board of some sort with a fabric border in skateboarding or biking pattern. My problem: can I find corkboard and fabric in the zone – I’m guessing not! Perhaps I’ll visit the American clothing store in town to see if I can pick up a shirt with some sports pattern and make that work. If you have other ideas for a ten-year-old boy – something we can whip up (in say 10 days), please comment on the blog – any ideas are welcome. Michael picked a 30 something gal, she is a hairdresser and as her mama says “is a real girly-girl”. Again, comments are welcome!

So Santa - this is where I could really use some extra little hands - I hear those elves of yours really are quite the task-masters - so if you can spare a few for a week or so - I'm sure they'd like to thaw out here in CR!

In my spare time, I am still enjoying my Spanish lessons three times a week and am also trying to plan for our trip to Guatemala on the 30th. So, tis the season~"Enter Edda Again". She gave me a great idea to make a scrapbook for the foster family in Guatemala with recent photos of the boys. I actually found photo quality paper, so I am in business. Edda has a full suitcase of scrap booking 'paraphanalia' to choose from.... so move over MARTHA!

I am enjoying my Friday’s this month as I am participating in a PILOT program sponsored by my awesome Life Coach, Jeannie, who is in the final process of hammering out the kinks in a new offering she will start to market in 2012. I feel honored to have been given this opportunity and to work with 8 other talented women via conference call each week. The timing is perfect as we are starting to share our decision with community members to head north at the conclusion of this school year. Our first two conference calls have centered around Intentions and Boundaries - I'm sure tomorrow's call will be just as thought-provoking and as rich as the previous two.

As I close for tonight, Mike is busy in the kitchen making candied almonds for the boy's teachers tomorrow (last day of school before Christmas break) and for a teacher gift exchange tomorrow afternoon! A full social calendar we have! But, as we bustle around our little community of Monteverde preparing for Christmas and you run here and there attending parties, visiting with family and friends, and doing the same - please let us Remember the Reason for the Season! I you?
Signed: S

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Animal Sightings

Of course you’ve read that Tookie, the toucanet, is no longer in our house, but that doesn’t mean that we are short on animal sightings. Attached are a few pictures of some animals that we have encountered in the past weeks.

The boys captured a low hanging bat they had found on a neighbors entrance gate. We were especially careful with this sad little mammal because it had barely enough strength to hang.. It obviously was not healthy and we did not handle it with bare hands. We put water and various types of food in its container, but it did not move. We think it became a raccoon treat as we found the empty container the next morning.

There is a family of beautiful raccoons (mapache) that was visiting. The mother and her two cubs would come to the porch after sunset to dig into a bucket of seashells and to dream about riding a bicycle someday. We have not seen them since Troy, the local Husky, was barking them up a tree during a 1AM encounter.

Troy hangs out here everyday, attempting to become better acquainted with a mother cat and her two kittens. The mother defends her territory quite well. If the dog gets close to the kittens, the cat charges and hisses and chases it away. Knowing Troy, I think he would love to use his powerful jaws to play with the kittens.

Having cats up in our ceiling area will keep mouse populations down, but I don’t think it will affect the spider community as much. We’ve had some real beauties lately. If a spider is on the floor or walls we capture it in a ‘critter cup’ and toss it outside. If it is on an upper wall or ceiling, I usually let it be. Knowing that spiders do have venom, and not knowing the severity of their bites, we don’t take our chances and do not handle spiders with our bare hands.

Like the raccoon, the sloth is another animal that looks as if you could pet it. There is someone here that takes care of orphaned baby sloths and we have petted them before. But they grow, and those strong claws become stronger and could easily cause some damage to human flesh.

On the walk home from school one evening, I heard the cry of a baby sloth that had fallen to the trail below. The mother was up in the trees looking for the most direct way down. I stood still about twenty meters away while the mother slowly climbed down to reclaim her baby. I slowly approached to about a meter away to take these pictures. They both looked relieved and so was I after watching this whole ordeal for 30 minutes. Local dogs have killed sloths, and with the number of dogs that roam the area, this mother and baby are lucky. Warning: sloths are known as the slowest moving mammal, but in defense, it can swipe its bear like claws at an attacker. Also, consider how strong it must be to spends its life hanging upside down from tree limbs, and then think about how dogs have been severely wounded when a sloth gets a chance to wrap its limbs around the dog.

Signed: M

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Do we stay or do we Go?

Working on uploading some videos to this post - so check back later today!

Last Friday night; after the kids went down, we were left with a decision, merely 'to go, or not to go'.... to the swim tournament that is. Not a huge decision, or so we thought! Turns out the decision to make the three-hour trek to Zarcero for the swim tournament was, I imagine, like hitting the JACKPOT. Yes, the odds were slightly stacked against us, me being sick and on antibiotics, having to get up at 4 a.m. and drive 3 hours, the boys just getting over their virus and well, them choosing to spend their last swim practice (shall we say, less than focused) on their coach's instructions.

We chose “GO” and GO we did. We pulled out of Monteverde Saturday morning at about 5:20 a.m. headed down the mountain.

The drive took us through the town of Naranjo, which was settled in 1830, and originally known as “Los Naranjos” (the Orange Groves) due to the abundance of orange trees in the surrounding area. Although the name has been shortened and the amount of orange trees lessened, this city of 35,000 has remained an important agricultural hub for Costa Rica. Set at the base of the Espírito Santo Hills in Costa Rica’s gorgeous Central Valley, the area surrounding the town is stippled with farms growing all kinds of crops– plantains, corn, tapioca, coffee, rice, beans, sugar cane, tobacco, and beef, to name a few. The coffee plantations are perhaps the best represented, and plantation tours are becoming increasingly popular among tourists. This fertile area is drained by the Grande Colorado, Molino, Barranca, and El Espino rivers, and, at an elevation of 3,398 feet (1,036 meters), the temperature is a consistently cool 68° F (20° C).

From there, we ascended onto a ridge as we made our way to Zarcero.
Zarcero lies at an elevation of 1,736 meters above sea level in the Cordillera Central (Central Mountain Range) of Costa Rica, 50 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital city of Alajuela and 27 kilometers southeast of Ciudad Quesada.
Zarcero, known for its brisk mountain climate, lies in a dairy and agricultural area also noted for the local enterprises that practice organic farming. Distinctive jams, cheese and other dairy products are among the items produced.

Set in the northern hills of San Ramon, this charming town makes a great stop for those travelling to La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano. Surrounded by coffee plantations and lush rolling hills, it is an ideal retreat for those who wish to spend a few days in a lovely place away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.

The town has a beautiful cottage style church. Admirers of religious architecture will be delighted by the interior of the church, which is covered with detailed religious paintings and elaborate pastel stencil work. Standing right in front of the San Rafael church is the famed topiary garden of ‘Parque Francisco Alvarado’. Sixteen green arches stand before the church, inviting you to the evergreen paradise around it. Offering a series of vibrant shrubbery, sculptured and clipped into whimsical shapes, the garden is a must-see. Well-manicured shrubs in the park are fashioned as animals, dancers and oxcarts. You will even find a dinosaurs, helicopter, airplane and even Christ carrying a cross.

This highland town is lined with cedar trees and is also home to the Los Ángeles Cloud Forest Reserve. This private park offers amazing trails and wildlife viewing opportunities. The views were spectacular as you looked out both sides of the car. The clouds hung, suspended in the valley and the fields of crops were neatly parceled out below. We arrived in Zarcero three hours later and found the swim arena without too much trouble. The arena was surrounded by pasture, which was hard to see due to the dense fog in the morning. As we walked into the arena, the boys were quick to note the various food tents outside and quickly put in their request for something ‘yummy’. We quickly found the Monteverde team and made our way over to join the group. I gave a quick wave to Beba, their coach, to let her know that the Schaefers were ‘in the house’.

The boys received their swim team shirts and we all chuckled over the spelling of Michael’s name on his sleeve. I just told him “that’s how Michael is spelled in Spanish’ and he bought it. MAICOL – exactly how it sounds, right? Mom even sported her shirt too to show her support for the team.

Again, we should know by now that nothing ever starts ON-TIME, so the 9:00 a.m. first race should have been billed out as a 10 or 10:15 a.m. start…but really, who is keeping track of time anyway.

After a four-hour wait, two hamburgers, Gatorade, banana bread, apples, beans and rice and chips, the boy’s first race was about to begin. They were super excited and followed Josue (assistant coach) into the staging area. Que frio! The staging area was a tent outside; mind you the tent had no side flaps, so you can imagine how cold the little 6 to 8 year olds must have been as they patiently waited for their seat assignments. I opted to stay inside, out of the cold wind, as my sinus infection did not need any help in getting worse. BRRRR! Michael and John quickly reminded me to put on their new swim caps and boy did they look ‘the part’. Mike and I were thrilled to see them step up and be independent as they were separated into different heats in their first race. The first race was with their flutter boards, 25 meters (about 10 meters longer than the hotel pool they practice in each week).

Here’s John getting a last minute pep talk from Josue before he takes the plunge.

Mike was positioned with the camera on one side as I flanked the other side with the rest of the team. And he was off – I had to chuckle as he kept sizing up his competition, looking to his side, rather than focusing on the straight away and the water ahead of him. It was exhilarating to hear all the other Team Monteverde parents encouraging him “VAMOS John”, “FUERTE, FUERTE”! He touched the wall and I jumped and hollered like any other proud parent. He had done it and I could not wait to scoop him up out of the water and into my arms.

Something happened to me at that very moment – it was like “oh my gosh, my little Gusty is growing up”, I felt that pride that all parents must feel when they see their child accomplish something. Perhaps this is a step in the process of ‘growing up and gaining independence’ that I had waited so long for. Believing in my children and letting them spread their wings, experience new challenges, triumphs and defeats!

Michael was next up and leaps into the water and kicks his way to the finish line.

Again, I am a crazy woman, screaming and yelling at the top of my lungs. I thought to myself “Oh, I’ve become one of those crazed sports mothers who make a spectacle of themselves as they cheer their children on’...did that stop me? Not a chance!

We waited for two more hours until the boy’s next race – Free Style, no floatation device, just sheer determination and will to make it the length of the pool. By this time, I found myself yawning and tired, so I could only imagine how Michael and John felt. As the entry forms for the race were being handed out, we discovered that John had been entered into the race as Jostin (Justin). After talking with him – he agreed that he would play the role of Jostin while being staged in the tent. However, he looked up at me and said “mom, can you call me John when I’m in the pool though?”. I laughed silently to myself as I gave him a reassuring pat on the back. By this time, some of the participants were leaving, so they started to consolidate some of the age groups. Besides Fabricio (a 13 year old boy) on our team, John and Michael were the only other kids from Team MONTEVERDE that swam the Freestyle. They again followed Josue up to the top of the pool – John quickly stepped up on the dive platform while Michael was a little apprehensive “What, I’m suppose to dive off this thing?”…with a thumbs up from me, he (in sure Michael fashion) cleared the pool with a huge belly flop and they were off. The other two boys in this race were at least 8 years old but that did not stop their determination to make it to the other side of the pool.

We’ve been talking a lot about perseverance with the boys and they certainly demonstrated the meaning of it on Saturday as they kept pushing the water past them as they did a mix of the front crawl and the doggy paddle. Both Mike and I, along with the other parents and kids, cheered them on – we all high-fived and butted fists during our congratulatory celebration.

We quickly dried the kids off, changed and met the rest of the team out front for a group picture and the medal ceremony. John was in all his glory, all smiles and oh so proud. Michael, who does not like to be in the limelight, graciously accepted his medal and stood quietly in the group, as a quick photo opp emerged.

The fog was rolling in as it was approaching 5:00 p.m. We grabbed a couple of snacks for the trip home and wandered back up the hill to our parking space.

We piled in, the kids exhausted, only to realize that I had left the lights on the entire day. We were going nowhere fast. Thanks to a very friendly family, the man just happened to be a mechanic; we were off toward Monteverde 30 minutes later. The ride home was quiet as the kids zonked out, barley making it out of the town of Zarcero. Mike and I reflected on the day as we headed toward home – we both agreed that the day was a success and that the boys gained so much in just a mere 16 hours! The participant medallion being the tangible ‘thing’, but it is those intangibles that we will remember and revel in for a long time to come.

Signed: S

Thursday, November 24, 2011

To Answer your Question Uncle John....

We are ABSOLUTELY not having Toucanet for Thanksgiving Dinner!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We are hunkering down in the house today with blustery, rainy, cold weather outside. We had plans to go to the beach with some friends today, but with the weather as such, we are staying close to home. The kids are still recovering from a bad virus, after spending 4 days at home this past week. I guess you sort of know what my next statement is...YES, I now have the crud and have been in bed for two days. So this is WHEN Michael and John decide to be good sharers! Got it and thank you very much!!! I will venture to the clinic tomorrow if I see no improvement by tomorrow morning.

What we've missed this week:
Swimming Lessons (lots of the extra practices...the tournament is Saturday so I am hopeful we can make tomorrow's final practice and then muster enough energy to get out of bed at 4 a.m. on Saturday, drive the 4 hours there and back and still have energy to compete!

Five days of School - there were 10 kids out for two days straight just in the Kinder class! Teachers were begging parents to keep their kids home if the dreaded virus was lurking.

Christmas Fair Committee Meetings - Hey, I'm working with a competent team, they won't miss me.

Donor Database Training - yep, I volunteered for yet another effort to help automate the school's donor database - transfer data from index cards into an actual application to track donor trends!

Spanish Lessons - UGH -hoping I can make tomorrow's session, pobre Edgar!

Not a one bathroom, floor, door knob or faucet cleaning with clorox and lysol - good bye germs!

We celebrate John's 6th birthday today and as I type, Mike is in the kitchen making his b-day cake of choice "guava cake", what else would you expect?

Signing off for now, but did not want the day to go by without saying how thankful we are to have you all in our lives. We are thankful for so much-health, opportunities to experience life in Costa Rica, our two wonderful six year olds, loving and supportive family and friends..what are you thankful for?

Blessings and Peace,
Signed: S

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Lesson in Love and Letting Go!

So by now, I imagine Tookie has completed his 48 hours in "quarantine" at Zoo Ave. and that he is slowly adapting to his new environment. No little hands to contend with, the absence of cats, dogs, folks accidently stepping on his tail - oh, he must be in bird heaven! "Yep, I've lived through about 4 or 5 cat attacks and 1 from Troy, the local Huskie and still living to tell about it. Check out my injury, pretty nasty huh?".

We had a great trip to San Jose this past Saturday - leaving at 6:30 a.m. and arriving in San Jose at about 10:30. I was behind the wheel of the trusty Galloper and relied on Carla (a friend of ours here in Monteverde) to navigate and help us decipher the map. She accompanied us down the mountain as she also had things to do in the big city. She was a great help as she had lived here previously and knew more about the towns and roads. Although we missed our turnoff to the 'new' highway, we detoured through some old towns in the lowlands and enjoyed the meandering roads and the quaint little plazas in the center of the towns. Tookie enjoyed the four hour ride in his little plastic travel bin, equipped with papaya, a stick for perching and plenty of newspaper!

Arriving at the Clinica Biblica, I ran into my doctor's appointment and then we headed to the Koenig store to buy them out of garbanzo, tapioca, sweet potato and rice flour. I think we spent close to $80 in different types of flour, flaxseed and nuts, so Mike should be well stocked to create his yummy non-gluten breads. Just about to load up the car with our purchases!

From there, we headed out of the city proper to deliver Tookie to Zoo Ave, or so I thought! After circling around the city (I felt like I was going around and around as you had to be ever so mindful as to the one way streets), we ended up smack dab in the middle of the Central Market (not a place a Gringa driver wants to be stuck mid-day on a Saturday). I grew impatient and picked my words carefully as I negoitated around the many pedestrians, street vendors, vegetable and fruit toting sellers, obnoxious taxi drivers, et. al. What a sight - Mike turned to me and said that this amount of over-stimulation reminded him of his trip to India two decades ago - complete chaos but after 45 minutes, we got through the center of the city and headed onward.

We were all happy to find Zoo Ave. and disembark with Tookie perched upon John's finger. Zoo Ave. was a pleasant surprise, with a very natural feel to it, lots of thought provoking messages posted throughout and large cages for all types of wildlife. We met Carmen, the Veternarian at the entrance, the boys said their last goodbyes as I completed an intake form. The boys were very brave and gently kissed Tookster and handed him over.

Carmen said that Tookie would spend the first 2 days in 'the clinic' where he would be checked for parasites and given the same diet that he was accustomed to, before introducing him to his new, permanent home. With goodbye's said, we followed the trail around the zoo and checked out all sorts of wildlife; birds, pumas, ocelots, monkeys, crocs - it was great time.

The boys were very inquisitive and wanted to know everything about Tookie's new life, as we continued to look for the cage that read "Tocancillos Verdes. "Ah, here it is, I found it", I hollered and indeed there they were - lots of little Tookies hopping around. A perfect place to welcome the 'new kid on the block", I thought to myself.

The sign, translated, reads "hundreds of people have rescued animals, sick, without homes and have donated them to Zoo Ave. for rehabilitation and liberation - Thank you for your support!". Well put indeed.

Michael and John are very eager to return to Zoo Ave. to check on Tookie's progress - who knows, one day he may even be returned to the wild.

A quick hotdog and a cup of coffee for me and we loaded up again for our return up the mountain. About 2 hours into the drive, the sun had set and the roads became pitch black - forget any street lights, or reflectors - for me, it was sheer hazardness - perhaps it comes with age, but my driving glasses weren't cuttin it - so I pulled over and had Mike take over, Really, "would the Transit Police be out this late?" Hope not, as Mike does not have his CR driver's license. Home safely after a full day. Lots of 'I miss Tookie' and "Mom, what do you think Tookie is doing right now?" questions and statements, but all in all, the boys were troopers and learned a lot about loving and letting go! As I read to John that night and said prayers, Tookie was the first on his list - he began to sniff and tear up and I encouraged him to cry and close his eyes and remember all the fun times with his little feathered friend.

So, here it is Tuesday, and I am enjoying again having the doors open in my house and not having to watch where I step - I'll work on de-Tookifying the house this week and ridding the floor and walls of splattered bird droppings.

Our days are extra full these days with lots of activities up through the end of the month. We'll be heading to a swim tournament in Zarcero on 11/26 with about 15 to 20 other kids from the zone. This is a great opportunity that the boy's swim instructor has brought to all the families here and we decided to jump on it. Zarcero is about a three to four hour drive from here so we'll leave at about 4 a.m. that morning in order to arrive around 8 a.m. for the start of the competition. It is all about enjoying and participating in the event, as all the swimmers will come home with a medal and a feeling of accomplishment. I went to a meeting last week in Santa Elena to hear all the particulars about the tournament - I was the only Gringa and most of the other parents I did not know as their children most likely took lessons on another day. It was a great Spanish lesson in and of itself! The discussion focused on ordering swim shirts and swimming trunks, colors, names, sizes! I came home with lots of info to share and the boys were super excited to hear about their swim 'uniforms' and that their sleeve would proudly display their name. I ordered swim caps for both as John looks like a shaggy dog in the pool - it is a wonder he can even see beyond that mop of hair. They'll look like real professionals by the start of the tournament. Swim practice is every M-W-F up until 11/26 so they arrive home fully exhausted at about 4:30 :)

I'll close with a pic of the birthday boy (Michael) proudly displaying one of his gifts - more Bendaroos! Thanks Choppy and Poppy! Six years old - It is hard to think that when we arrived in Monteverde, they were only 3 - big boys indeed! We'll celebrate again in another two weeks with John Gustavo! Michael is truly enjoying these 20 days of being 'the big brother'!

Much more to tell, but that will be for another day!

Signed: S