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