Sunday, June 10, 2012

Growth...and I'm just not talking about Trees!

With four days to go, Mike is super focused on getting the remaining trees planted on our land in the San Luis Valley. (Personally, I think he is avoiding having to help me pack and purge...but mom's the word okay?) Thanks to friends and student groups from the University of Georgia campus in San Luis, we have almost 300 trees planted on our little slice of paradise! Mike made contact with the University and arranged to have a group of students for a morning come and plant trees, and plant...they did! I think they got about 160 trees in the ground in one day. We are grateful for these student volunteers and the support of the UGA. The next weekend, we had more help from close friends who donated their muscles to a good cause...yes, more tree planting. I consider myself an expert now and have the bug bites and sunburn to prove it. We had a lot of fun and good laughs along the way and the three hours of planting came and went in what seemed like a blink of an eye. How many of the 300 will actually take root and grow is anybody's guess, however we hope that when we return we'll see some growth and can take the next step to perhaps building a little vacation home of our own. Dare to dream.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sweet Sounds!

One of the sweetest things resulting from this move...listen and enjoy, I sure did! With so many things racing through my mind right now as we are under a week to go here in Monteverde, I find myself thinking of all the posts to the blog that I should have made time for, going through old pics and videos...this is one of them. It needs no introduction or conclusion! Peace, Signed: S

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Proud Mama!

I can't imagine a prouder moment over and beyond what I experienced today as a mother, this is definitely a day to remember, John and Michael's graduation from Prepa! Although some of my family back home think they've been in the Kinder program forever (and you know who you are :) - today they completed the three year journey through Pre-kinder, Kinder and Prepa and the Friends school survived to tell about it!!! It was indeed bitter-sweet! As I sat through the 40-minute ceremony, I experienced moments of uncertainty and doubt as to whether we were making the right decision for our family...leaving this very special community in less than two weeks. The uniqueness of the ceremony was so fitting, given the uniqueness and magic of the school. As I helped prepare the multi-purpose room yesterday for the event, along with other school community members, I took special notice of how the school rallied to support us. High-school teachers and kids hurried in to clear out and carry out heavy furniture, sets of drums, keyboards and cabinets full with art supplies (hence the term, "multi-purpose" room)! Next, in bounced a handful of fourteen year old girls who volunteered to gather hydrangas from the garden to brighten up the tables, while I helped to attach the life size self portraits of each of the twenty or so students in the Kinder program onto the windows that flanked the back of the room. Whille I worked along side another parent and the Kinder teachers, a mom of one of the graduates put the finishing touches on the diplomas that each of the 8 graduating Prepa students would receive In keeping with tradition, the diplomas were transformed into a vibrant wall hanging..a real keepsake to treasure for years to come. In one of my many trips to San Jose over the last few months, I found the perfect fabric as the border and some cute 'bobbles' to finish off each work of art. Each graduate made their own, individual drawing which, along with the diploma itself and teacher/director's signatures, were ironed onto the fabric by a local printer and then finally sewed by the women at "Casem", the woman's coop at the bottom of our driveway. One parent collected bamboo sticks to thread through the top and bottom and there you have it, a very creative and brightly colored certificate.
Each graduate also received a T-shirt with artwork from their classmates, so special and, of course, made with a lot of love! A few songs, a poem and lots of hugs for all! Michael, forever putting a new spin on things! You go kid!
Another sweet moment shared when Juanita's class of 1st and 2nd graders took each Prepa student by the hand and escorted them to the 1st/2nd grade classroom...sort of a 'right of passage' from Prepa (and the guiding hands of Melody, Ellieth and Luz) to first grade and the gentleness of Juanita! As we entered Juanita's classroom, all the kids were perched around a table Juanita had adorned with several items (sort of a memory game), and invited the kids to guess which item had been removed from the table...a nice interactive game to make the kids feel comfortable. At the conclusion of their time with Juanita, each Prepa student received a card given by those kids that had graduated Prepa the previous year! Another way to involve all the students and provide a sense of warmth, comfort and familiararity! As I looked around at the students in the classroom, the trees outside the windows, the blue sky and birds chirping, I was a little sad knowing that the boys would not be continuing at MFS and would be saying goodbye to friends, teachers and classmates, who over the last three years have formed into very true and pure relationships. I remember thinking to myself "Okay, Sally, focus, focus, focus, onward and northward as planned"!
The morning concluded with a snack provided by the parents, cake, empanadas, popcorn, fruit! I brought vegetables, and can tell you that those veggies were not the hit of the party, so I hauled them back home and they made a great stir-fry for dinner! Here's trouble!
Sweet video of the boys receiving their diplomas from John, the Director! YOU DID IT GUYS! So as I look to the future, I again focus on the kids and their school experience and am comforted to know that they received a fabulous start here in the Kinder program at MFS! A sincere THANK YOU goes out to Melody, Elieth and Luz Marina, who are not only awesome teachers, but valued friends! Kudos to you three! We also thank Tricia, their music teacher, who volunteers so much of her time and love of music with these beautiful children. Peace, Signed: S

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Catch of the Day!

A quick post to showcase the fish that Raul and Mike brought home last night! Well, can't say that they actually 'caught' it, but Raul had a taste for fresh fish, so off they went 90 minutes away toward the coast to buy fresh fish. The fish was yummy, so we certainly got our fill of protein last night!
Peace, Signed: S

How Many More Days Mom....

Thankfully the boy's enthusiasm for the move is keeping my anxiety at bay! Every day over breakfast, we talk about how many more days until we leave. I wish it was as simple as that and am glad, that the boys see it as such a simple thing in their mind...14th of June we wake up in Costa Rica and lay our heads down in North Carolina...cut and dry...right? For them, maybe, but for me - it is part of my daily routine now to review my To Do List to 'ready' ourselves for the transition. We just signed the contract for a rental house, so we have a place to call home for atleast a year or so before we can again qualify for a loan! What keeps me awake and what fills my conversations with Mike is how different Michael and John's school experience will be in the States. Going from a class of 23 with 3 teachers to a class of what I hear might be upwards to almost 30 with just one teacher! Today, they receive kisses and hugs from their teachers as they bounce out of class and into my arms at noon to tell me all about their day. What will their day look like in Downers Grove, Illinois? What about the bombardment of advertising, TV, games, and hand-held devices that await! Things that go BUZZ and BLING and all that - do we invite these into our house or will be thought of as 'wierd' by our neighbors and boy's classmates, if we do not have a TV or a hand-held game to offer up for play? Will John and Michael be seen as outcasts at school if they can't carry on a conversation about the latest Mario game...or whatever it is. For goodness sake, they are only six years old - do we have to deal with all this electronic stuff right now? So, Mike and I have already started discussing our strategy and how these things will or will not support our family values! Don't get me wrong - a ton of kids here in Monteverde have cell phones, access to their own Facebook page and X-Box at their homes, so perhaps rural Costa Rica is not that far out of touch??? Another thing that has my stomach turning is the freedom they have now to run outside at any time, climb a tree, play in the rain, pick fruit, pat horses, catch leaf-cutter ants, etc. "Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore", how do we keep their sense of freedom and innocence while, at the same time, keeping them safe and aware of their 'new' environment. One of our main goals is to keep their curiosity alive without numbing their sense of adventure. I for one, will be bringing my coffee sock home with me and will be brewing my morning coffee using this - and YES, it does taste so much better made this way than the 'Mr Coffee" way. So, as I look forward to being closer to family and having different opportunties available, I am realistic that we will have to prioritize that which is dear to us. We continue to prepare the house, giving away clothes, puzzles, rain boots to kids/families in the zone that can put them to good use...and yes, the rainy season has started and I am pulling out the few crafts we have left to entertain the boys. Two days ago during a rain-out in the afternoon, we brought out all our cards in the house, Sight Word Cards, Spell-om-inoes, Counting Cards, Playing Cards and had a great time building the house of all card houses (a twist on the three little pigs), with Michael being the Wolf, trying his best to blow down the house. It kept us busy for a good two hours!
Today, my Spanish tutor came to collect our dining room table to repair the top. Most of the, well, imperfections, were complements of John and Michael - a pen mark here, a heavy pencil scratching before Edgar took it off to his workshop, the boys and Mike got busy this morning before school sanding it down to start the process. Our moto is "whoever makes the mess...cleans it up." Hopefully a lesson well learned.
Another lesson well learned...if you want to play outside in your socks, you'll find the bucket, soap and scrub brush in the corner of the kitchen! I, for one, have resigned to trying to get the mud/dirt out of their socks - so another good lesson in taking responsibility for their own actions! This will pay off in the future....right?
I am looking forward to the boys Graduation on May 29th from Prepa - it will be quite an event, so I'll make sure my camera is fully charged and the boys are showered and relatively clean :) The boys gifted their stuffed animals "Pooh and Tigger" to a little girl in San Luis. She comes, with her mother, Alba, to our door a couple times a week around 6:30 a.m. selling home-made breads, fresh whole chickens, and other edible goodies. The boys were delighted to leave Pooh and Tigger with Alexandra and know that they will be loved and well taken care of. We thank Danny and Michelle for years to joy these stuffed friends have given our boys and hope Alexandra will enjoy for many more years to come.
Mike is busy finalizing reports for the end of the school year and readying our land in San Luis for tree planting. We hope to get the trees in the ground next week with the help from a visiting student group from the University of Georgia in San Luis! this is what fills my mind today! Thank you to Beth for helping us secure our rental house - we appreciate your Hustle on this! A nice bottle of Red will be waiting for you when we arrive. Peace, Signed: S

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I this - I that....

Can't believe I've been back from Chicago now for over a week - talk about a whirlwind trip. 17 hour trip there, and 17 hour trip back - oh my aching back! My biggest accomplishment had to have been the mastering of the Iphone and the Ipad! Has all this happened since I've been away! I thought to myself as my sister handed her I-pad to me..."here, try this it is really cool", thinking to myself "ya, right, another wireless gadget, just what the world needs", but boy was it awesome. I think the best part of it was having it on my lap while I sat on the passenger seat of the car last Saturday morning as we weaved in and out of streets looking for garage sales. A touch and slide of the finger and I was managing just fine locating directions for the finest sales in the neighborhood. Here's my four day run down. Thursday 6:30 a.m. - hugs and kisses to my three boys as I waved goodbye to them as I boarded the bus for the 4 hour ride down the mountain to the airport. 12:30 - San Jose to Ft. Lauderdale 8:20 p.m. - Ft. Lauderdale to Chicago 11:15 p.m. - Beth's House 11:20 p.m. - Glass of Wine Friday Looked at rental house in LaGrange Coffee at Starbucks (with Iphone and Ipad neatly displayed on our table) Returned to Starbucks to claim my purse I had left (not use to carrying a purse I guess) Garage Sales - SCORE - bedroom set, a couple of chairs, lamps Whole Foods Good Will Store to buy Sally some non-Monteverde clothes Barnes and Noble Home - Wine, Dinner and Movie Saturday Looked at rental houses in Downers Grove with Realtor More garage sales Lunch with a good friend in Naperville on our way to look at some beds for the boys Purchased the two twin captain beds for the boys YA HOOOOO! Standard Market for some wine sampling and to buy fixins for dinner Home - Wine, Dinner, Movie Sunday Went for walk with Beth Figured out how to get the bedroom set into her garage Target to buy some 'trinkets' for the kids (mom can't come back from a trip empty-handed) Drive to Orland Park for early dinner with Mom Schaefer, Margie and Jeanine Back to Western Springs to load up the bedroom set Wine, Dinner Monday Re-invent Sally (from Monteverde mom/volunteer to Corporate 'wanna-be') Interview suit, make-up complements of my sister Buy train pass and ride into city Buy umbrella - managed to leave the house without one 3 hour interview and yummy lunch (beats beans and rice) Home, Wine, dinner and packing Tuesday Up at 3:00 a.m. Taxi - 3:30 a.m. San Jose Airport 11:00 a.m. Wait for bus - 2:30 p.m. Bus Ride up the mountain - comatose 7:00 p.m. Home to little brown house - 8:00 p.m. All in all, a very productive trip. Working on securing a rental house as we speak, talking with elementary school, working my way through mounds of school enrollment requirements, reviewing YMCA, park district internet sites for day camp and soccer camp opportunities. So far, Michael wants to do soccer or skateboarding camp and John gives his thumbs-up to fishing camp! Sending thank you letters out for interview, working on Visa paperwork to bring a friend over to live with us for a year to learn english and to help with the boys, purging and cleaning house for new tenants and keeping the family running! ONE MONTH COUNTDOWN and feeling READY! June 14th here we come! The sole photo from my trip - me and Zach, my nephew!
Peace, Signed: S

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Monteverde in Under 8 Minutes

Thanks to my talented neighbor, Adrienne, for making this wonderful video of this year's Monteverde Friends School Walkathon. This year, I opted to work a station with the family (Famous Station #7) handing out watermelon and words of encouragement to participants. Other years I have run the 13K route, but my body told me I better listen to it this year, so that I did and enjoyed spending the day with my boys. Enjoy the video and hope, through this, you can understand why we love this community so much. Smile for the camera Mike!
They sure look like they need a cool slice of watermelon! Good friends of ours from the school, take a break to refuel.
There were quite a few folks that saddled up and went by horse - Massimo (first grader) rides with his dad, Paco! Giddy-Up Now!
John stamping a walker's number to make sure she gets credit for walking all 13 kilometers. Good work John!
Michael's no fool - he makes sure he has entertainment for the lulls in the walkers - a perfect spot to set up hotwheets!
Peace, signed: S

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where shall I begin? Thyroid Imbalance - Back to normal (whatever normal is)...never want to repeat that month. Edema, joint pain, depression, weight loss, it was not a pretty picture, but I can say, I am back to exercising (in moderation) and thankful that I have my health back. Lice - Well the little "buggers" came back again, so off came the hair on both of the boys! It wasn't a battle at all, so I plugged in the clippers and hacked away! Nice to see their eyes again and oh, the savings on shampoo! June Flights - Purchased! We land in Charlotte, NC on June 11th and will spend several days in Hickory with my folks. The boys will stay the week with Poppy and Choppy as Mike and I take advantage of their generous offer to watch the kids as we head to Chicago to 'set up house'. Yes, for all of you that don't know our news - we are moving back to the Chicago area. May Flight - Purchased! I will be flying back to Chicago for a whirlwind four day trip to look at rental homes, interview in the city and check out schools and summer programs for the boys. I'll have to buy an 'interview outfit', as I'm sure my camo shorts, tank top and three year old croc sandals won't fit the bill. Fence Building and Hole Digging - Trying desperately to complete the fence around our land in San Luis so we can plant our trees that Mike bought several weeks ago at a local nursery. Raul and Mike are working together but the hole digging is all manual, using heavy, old equipment - it is not for the weak! So, we packed up the kids last weekend and spent a 'work' day at the farm - I helped to dig holes up the driveway (of course, the rockiest part of the land) and am now suffering from my mistake of not wearing gloves :( The kids worked with the machete and saw as Mike and I concentrated on the holes. A couple more to go and then we'll be able to get the fruit trees in the ground. They say, May is the time to plant as the rains are sure to start. Our plan is to have our land mature while we are back in the states, and one day, build a small cabin to spend vacations and perhaps even return for another international experience in the future.
Birthday Parties and Soccer - The kids are enjoying soccer and have enjoyed the soccer outfits I have picked up at the American Clothing store in Santa Elena - The celebrated a friends 7th birthday with a soccer game ag Casem, a scavenger hunt and pinata! Happy Boys!
I am focused on the transition home and am eager to start back to work. It is time to clean house and start a 'give away' pile. Hopeful that anything we will not be taking state-side will find good homes. The school has hired a new Director and is in the process of interviewing for some new positions. Certainly a time of transition for all! For those of you who have contributed to the financial aid program at the school - we are close to making our goal and we thank you so much for your generosity. In an effort, to get this post on the blog, I will close here, know that we are looking forward to seeing you all and reconnecting with you. Peace, Signed: S

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thoughts On The Simple Life

Hello Again. Yes we are here and well. We have been busily enjoying the dry season, and life in Monteverde continues to delightfully surprise us. We are in a similar stage as we were three years ago, preparing for a big move and not saying any permanent good byes. Inevitably, even in such a non-materialistic mini-culture, it seems that there is still much to purge from our not-so massive pile of belongings.

I have not written much on the blog lately, maybe because I am just experiencing the day to day life in a rural town. I would like to share some events, not to brag about what a special place this is (OK, am I bragging?) but to remind myself and others that there certainly are different ways of living and thinking. The average way here is more simple than the average way of life in North America and much closer to the natural world that we all depend on to sustain us. People do not need a cloud forest outside their backdoor to understand humanity's absolute dependency on nature, whether nature is a rock, a tree, 3 liters of oxygen rich air, the climate, an aquifer, etc.

Climb a tree, grow tomatoes, lie on your back and look at the clouds or birds. Relax. Enjoy what we have and save it for our grandchildren's grandchildren.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Even Thyroid Imbalances Happen in Paradise!

Hey all you Followers! It has been a couple of weeks since my last post - lots to fill you in on, but right now I have been recovering from a thyroid imbalance that has me feeling pretty crappy! So, what is a girl to do?, rest and more rest! Don't forget about nobreadcrumbs, I'll be back soon - hopefully next week -

Now that the lice is gone, the wedding over, I'll turn my attention to planning our transition back to the States in June - YES, we are heading back home after three great years!

Stay tuned and check back next week -

Signed: S

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Unwanted House Guest!

Not a pleasant post, but one I thought I would share quickly with you - so when your child comes home with LICE and you think you've got it rough....oh my dear friends....think again!

Got the call from the Kinder teacher on Monday afternoon - "found two nits in Michael's head". I said "Ah, great, okay, I'll be right there". After having spent four hours that morning with the mechanic, cleaning the house for visitors on the 10th and planning and officiating a wedding on Sunday, the 12th - this almost pushed me over the edge!

On my way to pick him up, I made a quick stop at Vitosi (the local pharmacy) and purchased three LICE shampoos, arrived at school to gather the boys and exclaimed....."come on boys, we've got a party in the shower and we're all invited". The kids were great about it - I figured I better treat both boys and myself as Michael occasionally heads to our bed some nights when John is sleep talking/laughing. So, you know what that means right....

2 twin mattress pads
2 Aunt Sandy quilts
2 fitted sheets
2 pillow cases
2 flat sheets
2 comforters

1 queen size mattress pad
1 queen fitted and flat
2 pillow cases
1 down comforter

handfuls of towels
basket full of dirty clothes
sofa covers

So you are probably thinking - no big deal, fire up the washer and drier and fry those suckers! Well, this is where the problem comes in - no hot water...ever, in the kitchen sink, bathroom sinks or washing machine. What's a girl to do? I pulled out all the big pots, and the rice cooker and fired up our Easy Bake Oven and started the tedious process of boiling the water. Then, from there, I pulled out an old green Rubbermaid Tub (you know the ones - they double as suitcases, pools for the kids, great hide and seek spots, fort supporters, check previous posts) - so after about 10 pots, I started dunking the laundry in the tub and then to keep it submersed, threw some big rocks from outside on top. After 30 minutes, I gave it a stir (a real witches brew it was) and started pulling the clothes out with a big soup spoon and launching the clothes from the tub into the washing machine. I quickly learned that the big rocks I had put on top had to stay in the mix for the rest of the loads as the water was so scalding hot, I could not retrieve them! From there, the normal washing process ensued! Another thing going against me here is that Monteverde thinks it is December and not February - so it has been cold, rainy and extremely windy - so here I sit at the local bookstore waiting for my clothes to dry in a clothes dryer while I scribe this post.

Mike and I spend close to 40 minutes per boy, in the morning and the evening doing a lice check - oh, do we have it down to a science - I hold the light while he uses a pen to separate the hair and look for the critters! It's a nasty job, but someone has to do it! The boys don't want anything to do with cutting/shaving their heads, so they are quite good little cooperators during this time - while we rummage through their hair - they have a stack of paper and crayons on the desk to keep themselves busy. Actually, some of their most creative artwork is during this time.

So - this is how I have spent my time this week - I think I have boiled over 50 pots of water and probably drastically lowered the level of gas in our tank out back. Gee, I hope I have enough gas to cook dinner tonight!

I continue with this process just to be on the safe side - the house has never been cleaner.

As I type, I feel my head beginning to itch...gotta go!

Signed: S

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Just the Run of the Mill Saturday Hike!

Last Saturday, we headed out to the Santa Elena Reserve with the boys in hopes of enjoying the sun-drenched day! However, we had a change of heart and instead of taking the turn to the reserve, we decided to head to the Mirador, which is where the MFS annual Walkathon finale is held every year. It was a beautiful, clear day, and I was almost positive that we could get a glimpse of Volcan Arenal. A glimpse....HECK, we got an eye-full!

We pulled up and took refuge on lower land to shield ourselves from the cool wind!

Fabio greeted us and suggested hot cocoa for the kids and I quickly requested a hot cup of java. After our quick snack, we took the road less traveled, suggested by Fabio "you can go down this road about 800 meters in car, and then, you'll have to walk"...sounds good, "you guys game?", I asked. Greeted by three smiles, I knew we were in for a treat.

Our trusty Gallopher had a tough go - "can this really be classified as a ROAD"? I thought to myself. We parked the car and headed out on foot to what was some beautiful vistas! Horses, meadows, clouds, volcano, rolling hills - it was spectacular and the brisk air and wind filled your spirit as well as your lungs!

We had a great time - but now in retrospect, I have a better idea of where that rattling underneath the car originated from :(

Good thing we have an appointment with the mechanic on Monday!

Signed: S