Thursday, June 11, 2015

Costa Rica Day #3-6

The last part of our trip was a lot of the same so I can bunch it all together in one long  post!

Rob and I woke early (6:30!) on Sunday to join a small group of people doing Yoga outside.  It was a good class and definitely had us sweating by the end.  It was like natures “hot yoga”.  Once we all had breakfast it was off to our next adventure.  We were taking those crazy roads back to Liberia and then even more west to our next resort on the Papagayo Peninsula.  I thought the drive back went a lot faster than the drive there but it probably wasn’t any different.

Our second resort was the Four Seasons resort.  Our room…or really, apartment, was amazing.  Right off the ocean with beautiful views and gorgeous sunsets each night.  We were a perfect distance from the pool.  Not too close to be bothered by any noise, but not so far as to need a golf cart to get there.  We arrived just in time to catch a  late lunch and soak up the end of a sunny day.  Since we were on a peninsula, we had ocean views all over.  One side was more of a bay with a little bit calmer waters and the other side had a little bit bigger waves.

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On Monday the boys went and checked out the golf course on the resort.  I’m guessing it was probably the prettiest course either of them have ever played.  And much to the delight of Riley (whom we sent lots of pictures to) they saw plenty of monkeys! I bet they would have played this course every day if they could have.

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For some reason my sleep/wake clock was all messed up on this trip (even though they are CST).  So, each morning I’d wake up too early but I’d go for a hike up to the private homes to try to find the monkeys.  I say hike because the hills were ridiculous.  And on every hike I would get the bejeezus scared out of me by a giant iguana I didn’t see until he scampered away right next to me.

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We spent the majority of our days and afternoons hanging out pool-side.  We did take a road trip to Coco Beach one morning.  This is where we got all our souvenirs in their markets.  We stayed long enough to have some snacks and drinks and headed back.  It was a good place to get our shopping done but otherwise wasn’t much.

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On Monday and Tuesday the activities people told us the waves and current were too strong for any ocean activities but on Wednesday we suited up for Stand-Up Paddleboarding.  It’s something I’ve been anxious to try for a couple years so I was happy to finally have a shot.  I have a bit of a fear regarding the ocean.  I guess I’ve watched too many nature shows with Austin!  I just don’t like not knowing what’s lurking in the sand or water around me.  But I was able to get past the fear and head out there.  Once I got over the waves coming in I was happy to be able to stand pretty quick.  Then it was a quick adjustment to figure out how to steer it and I was on my way.  Kerry and Rob also went out there with me.  Kerry also started maneuvering around right away but Rob had a bit of an issue.  He said he did not stay standing for more than a minute total.  I think he spent a lot of his time paddling on his knees.  We think now that maybe he was just too heavy for their boards.  Anyway, as we were paddling along I took a few glances into the water (it’s harder to balance if you look down) and I saw something spotted swimming below me and realized it was a sting ray.  Yikes.  I tried to tell Kerry to come over and check it out and he yelled back that he had just seen a barracuda.  That pretty much solidified my thoughts that there was no way in hell I was going to fall off the board!  I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to try again some day.

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After paddle boarding it was time to try snorkeling.  I don’t have a good history with this.  I have been 3 times and all 3 times I have spent the rest of the night and the majority of the next day puking.  I never knew if it was due to the waves/seasickness or too much salt water, or just too much sun.  But, I think I have it figured out now.  Shelly and Kerry have very nice snorkeling gear they brought with and Shelly had been skipping paddle boarding and snorkeling because she was getting nauseous just sitting in the waves on Tuesday.  So, I used her gear and went out snorkeling for about 20-30 minutes.  Well, I decided to go back in because I didn’t think the motion was too much and I thought Shelly should go out and try it.  So, I brought the stuff back to her, told her to go out there and then I headed to the pool.  I got to the pool, laid down, and everything just started to spin.  Yuck.  I didn’t puke this time, but I’m fairly certain it’s seasickness that will keep me from a snorkeling career.   But Rob and Kerry said they saw lots of cool stuff so I’m a bit jealous.  I had Rob tell Shelly that I took back my suggestion and that she definitely should not go out there!

Most of all, we just really enjoyed hanging out and relaxing.

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Sadly, on Thursday we had to go back home.  I don’t think any of us were ready.  You know how sometimes you’re just ready to head home from a vacation?  Well, we were not.  It was just a perfect trip.  (Well, aside from Kerry’s hectic beginning).  The places we stayed were wonderful, the activities were great, the rest was great, the company was awesome….I got to practice some Spanish.  I’m looking forward to returning many times.  I know the kids are itching to go but it’ll be awhile before we take them.  I think you have to be 10 to zipline so we have at least 4 more years before Riley gets there!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Kindergarten Graduation

I’ll get back to the rest of Costa Rica in a bit, but right now I need to update everyone about Friday’s events!  Riley had her kindergarten graduation!  She officially has 4 days left, but the ceremony was Friday.

Here’s our graduate walking in:

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I think she is laughing at me because I could not find her (right in front of me).  I was not anticipating that she’d actually leave her jean  jacket on all day so I was looking for the turquoise dress, not the dark of the jacket.  Anyway, found her!

The place was packed for this event.  It was like a celebrity was in the gym with the amount of paparazzi hanging out.

They all sang their cute songs and then we snapped some pictures.

Here’s Riley with her class:

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I think this is minus a few kids.

And Riley with her grandparents:

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Austin and Ellie also came from their classes to watch the big event (but then afterwards they promptly disappeared to wander the halls talking to past teachers)

And there’s me and my baby girl:

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Rob was pretty sad to miss this but he had planned his annual trip to watch the Braves with his dad and brothers months before we ever knew the date of kindergarten graduation.  I sent him plenty of pictures and Riley and Rob are going to have a special celebration together when he gets back.

Here’s Riley with her second mom:

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She absolutely LOVES Mrs. Addler and is going to be really sad to not see her every day.

And a couple shots with some of her buddies from the year:

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And one final piece of information she shared with me directly after the program….she lost her first tooth!  I was shocked only because it only became lose the night before.  She was so excited to have a loose tooth on Thursday night she must have wiggled it non-stop.  She said at lunchtime her friends and teacher told her to twist it and she did and then she just pulled it right out!  I thought Ellie was fast with her 3 days, but Riley has set a new record!  (Austin would go months with a loose tooth).

It’s been a fun weekend.  More later on how we ended it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Costa Rica–Day 2

 

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Since we were up at 3:00am the day before and travelled until about 4pm, we were pretty tired and all went to bed early in hopes of Kerry making it safe to our hotel.  I think I woke up at about midnight and thought…”what if he still isn’t here, had car trouble (or worse) but couldn’t get ahold of any of us because we were dead asleep”…I checked my phone and Rob’s phone, saw no missed texts/calls so I just went back to bed assuming the best.  We were happy to see him in the morning ready to go!

Our hotel in La Fortuna  (Arenal Springs Resort and Spa) was great!  La Fortuna is situated close to the Arenal volcano so the area is well known for their natural hot springs.  It’s a popular tourist stop to visit the natural springs, but I opted to find us a hotel that had it’s own springs.  I’m sure it isn’t quite as “natural” as the real thing, but they claim they leave all the natural minerals and what not in the water.  A lot of the hotels in the area are made up of many small cabins rather than one large building.  Our cabin was recently upgraded.  The main bedroom had the above spa or “personal hot springs” as the bell boy said.  I’m not sure anyone would really take the time to fill that thing up.  It was huge.  The same bedroom also had an outdoor shower, and indoor shower, another Jacuzzi in the bathroom and a large sitting area.  The adjoining room was also a nice sized room with it’s own full bath.  Hammocks for each of us and beautiful views! 

We were all up pretty early so breakfast, and coffee, was first on our list!

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Kerry cracked open this unknown (at the time) fruit to find a slimy glob of seeds.  We did ask what it was before he tried it, but even knowing what it was, I’m not sure I would have been able to eat it.  He said it was delicious (it was Passion fruit).

We had reservations for our zip-lining tour on this 2nd day.  It was about 25 minutes from our hotel and the majority of the drive is a pot-hole ridden dirt road.  Horrible conditions, but I think  Rob truly enjoyed the drive.  We had a large SUV with full coverage insurance so he took the road at a good speed and passed several cars going way too slow!

We zip-lined with Sky Adventures in Arenal.  Here are the stats on the zip lines:

  • Sky Tram: 4100 ft. (1250 m.)
  • Zip Lines: 8
  • The longest cable is 2493 ft. (760 m.)
  • The highest cable is 656 ft. (200 m.)
  • Duration: 2.5 Hour Tour
  • Located in the Rain Forest
  • Average Temperature: 82 °F. (28 °C.)
  • Wind Speeds: Up to 10 mi/h (16 km/h)
  • Altitude: 2460 ft. (750 m.)

A brief safety lesson and we were on our way!

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First we take a tram up to the top.  I tried to use my mad Spanish skillz with the guide, but was only half successful.  I realized that for the most part I am understood, but then they rattle something off back to me in Spanish and I get lost in the first few words.  It’s still fun to try.

Here’s a picture of all of us after the first real cable (there is a small practice one before a crazy plunge over the ravine).  The guy taking our picture couldn’t stop shaking.  Interestingly enough, Rob actually had a work connection with him.  Rob always find someone he knows…and although he didn’t “know” this guy, it still counts in my book. 

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Last time I was at this place they told me they were making a bar towards the end of the zip line tour.  I thought they were joking since the guides tend to make a lot of jokes.  But, they weren’t because this time they  had the bar.  As of now they were just offering us some fruit juices, but it was cool anyway, a good place for a photo op I guess.

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Careful not to take a big step back!

It would be fun to take some pictures while ziplinging but I would be way to scared of dropping my camera.  But, the views are absolutely amazing.  And, we got a rare glimpse of the top of the volcano while we were there.

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We all thoroughly enjoyed the zip-lines!  We headed back to the town of La Fortuna afterwards to walk around a bit and grab a bite to eat.  Shelly took another great picture of the volcano over the town.

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After all the excitement it was great to go back to the hotel and relax in the hot springs.  We had some sushi poolside and I made friends with the waitress who didn’t speak much English….more Spanish practice.  Everyone we met in Costa Rica was very nice and helpful.  Pura Vida!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Costa Rica–Day 1

Back in February, when we were enjoying our vacation to Florida (rough life, I know!), Rob’s sister, Shelly, proposed another trip to us.  Costa Rica!  I believe the conversation went like this: “Do you guys want to go to Costa Rica?” and before knowing any details I immediately answered “Yes!”.  And once we had the details, it just got better.  One of Shelly’s friends from medical school has a time-share type arrangement with the Four Seasons in Costa Rica.  His family lives there for 2 months every year so that their children can attend summer school in a nearby city  and work on their fluency in Spanish.  Well, this year they were unable to make it for the first week of their allotted time so he offered it (free!) to Shelly and Kerry!  It is a three bedroom, giant, beautiful condo and the Affield’s offered for us to join them.  To sweeten the deal and make the decision easy, Rob had enough frequent flyer miles to get us free flights.  Combine this with the enormous help from both sets of grandparents and we were on our way!   We left May 1st and stayed until May 7th.

Originally, we weren’t sure if the condo was going to be available until Sunday, and we were arriving Friday, so we made plans to travel inland before ending our trip at the Four Seasons.  This is the same thing I did last time I went to Costa Rica.  And, I would do it again.  We flew into the Liberia airport and then traveled east to the middle of Costa Rica.  The middle region is a lot more lush and tropical.  Like a rainforest.  Unfortunately, the drive is horrible.

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The road conditions are actually pretty good.  For the most part, they are well paved.  But, they are tiny.  Two lanes the whole way (no shoulders), and what this map fails to show is the constant hair pin curves as you wind your way through the rainforest.  And it seems that after every hairpin curve is a one-way bridge.  Sometimes, there are just random road blocks cemented into the ground with a warning a mere 10 feet before the block.  And to add to the chaos, there are random animals:

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Right before the driving got really bad, which coincides with the lake, we stopped for lunch….and margaritas!

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It’s the same place I stopped a few years ago when I made the drive.  Creature of habit I guess!  But the food was delicious, and so was the margarita.

We only stopped one other time for a picture of the lake.  I have to say though, pictures never do the view justice.

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Everything is so lush and green in this area.  Quite a contrast from the coastal towns.

I think it ended up taking Rob about 3.5-4 hours to make the drive.  He did an excellent job navigating it all, it would have taken us much longer with me behind the wheel!

And here’s why Kerry is not in any of the pictures.  While the Affield’s were packing their bags on Thursday night, Shelly happened to glance at the passports before she packed them up and realized that Kerry’s was expired!  It was 10pm and their flight left at 6am the next morning.  I can only imagine how that all unfolded but, in the end, Kerry flew to Atlanta with Shelly as planned.  Once in Atlanta they parted ways.  Shelly came with us to Costa Rica and Kerry headed downtown to the Atlanta passport office.  He had made an appointment online the night before for 10am.  He said the place was busy but within 4 hours he had a new passport.  He then changed his flight (for the second time) to fly into the San Jose airport and arrived there at 7:40pm.  He then hired a private taxi to make that horrible drive, in the pitch dark, to La Fortuna, where we were.  He said his taxi driver made the drive in less than 2 and half hours.  That would be insane.  But, he made it to us at 10:30 that night.  Amazing. 

Day 2 coming up….

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Track & Field Day 2015

This year we had both Ellie and Austin’s track and field days on the same day.  We started at 9:45 with Ellie’s second grade class.  After sitting down in our seats for only 5 minutes we knew we were not dressed appropriately.  Even though we all had long pants and jackets, we called my dad to bring us more blankets (Grandma and Grandpa Smith split up the cheering duties so Grandma was with us while Grandpa tiled the kitchen backsplash).  Even with the extra blankets it was a drizzly, freezing mess.

But Ellie and the rest of the students were all too excited to notice so we had to suck it up too!

First up for Ellie was the shoe kick:

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that’s her shoe flying through the air at the top of the picture.  She actually practiced a bit in the yard the night before.  I think she came in 2nd for this.

Next up was the hurdles, which she placed 3rd in and I did not get a good shot of this action.

After the running events were the more funny events.  The options were sack race, tire roll, hippity hop, and hula hoop.  Ellie chose the sack race.

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She came in second for this race too.  She was pretty excited with her three bracelets (you get colored bracelets instead of ribbons at Eagle Creek).  But the best was yet to come as all the classes battled it out in the tug of war.

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Ellie has a pretty tiny class so I was worried they were going to go down pretty fast but I guess what they lack in size they make up in might.  Her class actually went undefeated and took home the championship trophy after four rounds.

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It is so fun to watch these kids give it everything they’ve got in these tug of wars, and even more fun is to watch some of the teachers as they coach and cheer them on from the side.

After congratulating Ellie and her friends we headed home to warm up, eat lunch, and put on more layers!  We went back at 1:45 for the start of Austin’s.  At first I thought we were going to be fine temperature-wise since we all added several layers to our wardrobes, but after a few light rain showers we were no better off.  But, once again, the kids couldn’t have cared less so on with the show!

Austin’s first event was the Fling sock.  I believe he came in 4th.

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After the fling sock it was back to the running events were he placed 2nd in the hurdles.  I think it’s his favorite.  And once again, I don’t have a picture of the hurdles….I must cheer a lot during that event!

After hurdles he did the hippity hop.

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He bounced himself right off after his first few hops but rallied for 3rd.  I love this picture and the smile on his face because what I’m most proud of for Austin is that this year I think he finally was able to let go of his fear of losing (a little bit) this year.  I could tell he was able to just enjoy the day and not worry about whether or not he had earned any bracelets yet.

I think right as the 4th graders started their tug of war, the rain started in a bit more.  The adults were all quietly hoping for a cancellation but the students were cheering louder than ever.

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After two quick wins things were looking good for Mr. Wieners 4th graders.

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And just like Ellie’s team, they ended up undefeated and champions of the world!

What felt like dreary and cold day ended up being a great day for the kids! And after a steamy 30 minute shower I was able to stop shivering.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Activities

Once again I’m behind.  Rather than catch-up (we had a fantastic trip to Florida mid-February) I’m just going to continue on with what’s happening right now.  Right now I’m beginning to feel like we have a lot of activities going on.  I know that we’re probably no where near what other families contend with, but it’s busier than usual.

Austin is still working on Karate.  He’s an advanced red belt right now and he’s really hoping to get his final stripe soon so he can graduate to a brown belt.  Only three belts left!  The other day he was the highest level belt in class so he was in charge of leading the stretches before class.  I think he thought that was pretty cool.

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Ellie and Riley started their very first session of basketball.  We kind of joined at the end of the season so even if they like it, we’ll be done for almost a year.  And I do think they like it.  They especially like that Rob is their coach.  Rob likes it too.  I had heard from some other parents of girls that the Y program was great, but that the kids are getting to an age where the boys don’t want to pass to the girls, and there are rarely any girls on the teams so your daughter might end up never getting the ball.  Well, I did my best to recruit some friends for the girls and we ended up putting together a team that is 50% girls all from our street.

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We since bought a basketball hoop for our driveway.  Both girls, and even Austin a bit, have been out shooting for a little bit each day.  The girls want it on the lowest setting and Austin wants it a little higher so it’s nice that it’s fairly easy to adjust.  Actually, before our recent snow storm we’ve all been out there shooting pretty regularly.  If only the regulation height was 7 feet, I think I could have gone pro!

Riley has been going regularly to gymnastics.  Last summer all 3 kids took a trampoline/tumbling class.  They enjoyed it enough that they all signed up for the first part of the school year.  Then I think midway through the 3rd session Austin got his concussion so they gave me some money back in a giftcard.  For the 4th session Ellie and Austin decided to quit, but I had a lot of money to use on the giftcard so I convinced Riley to try regular gymnastics on her own.  That was kind of a big deal for her because she always has her sister with her in the activities she tries.  She enjoyed that session, did another, didn’t like that one, but I had already signed her up for another because she’s good at it.  She is freakishly strong.  To keep her engaged in her sessions, we set up a goal that she reach the top of the climbing rope.  When she reached the top we’d all go to Dairy Queen to celebrate. The rope is ~20 feet tall and at the beginning of this session she could climb up about 8 feet.  But, last Monday she got it!  It’s a horrible picture because I wasn’t ready, but here it is:3

I was afraid that she’d want to quit now that she achieved her goal but she hasn’t said anything yet.  We’ll just come up with a new goal.

Add piano lessons and homework to the mix and we’re staying busy.  We try to get all activities done by 6pm so when Rob gets home we can all just sit down and eat and relax.  With summer upon us (yes…it is coming), we’re looking at adding a few camps into the mix.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Winter Carnival

Last weekend, pre-appendicitis, we spent the morning at the St. Paul Winter Carnival.  I used to go to this a lot with my aunt and Grandma and I always enjoyed it and I thought our kids might too.  So, after swimming lessons we piled in the car and make the trek to St. Paul to check things out.  It’s not really a trek, but anything longer than 10 minutes in the car seems like forever to Riley. 

It was a beautiful day out but each kid in our car was grumbling about my idea of fun.  Fortunately, right before we turned into our parking ramp Riley spotted some ponies and her day was looking up!

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Ellie also joined in on the horse action.  After all, the girls have been checking out horse books from the library because they decided that instead of opening up a cupcake shop when they’re adults, they are instead going to run a horse farm and give rides to kids.  So, in the name of research, Ellie decided to also get a ride.

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Once we were done horsin’ around we headed over to the sculptures.  They were just finishing up a couple of them, and the sun was not helping any of them.  Inside the sculpture garden we found the Ice Slide that was advertised….quite a bit smaller than I envisioned, but the kids tried it out many times, none the less.

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Down the slide into a pile of mud.  Nice.

And Austin found a nice place to practice his Gallum impersonation. 

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We found an ice stage where I intended to get a nice picture of my kids, but instead received this:

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But, there was King Borealis’ throne inside the sculpture garden and we did manage one normal picture, under Austin’s protests.

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As for the actual sculptures, this was my favorite:

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And about 10 minutes after we took this picture, it collapsed.  The sun ruined a couple pieces while we were there.  That’s the judge in the background so it was scored just in the knick of time!  I’ve been trying to find out the results with no success.

We had a fun afternoon after all and the kids declared I may know a thing or two about planning fun activities.  I’m sure they’ll promptly forget that the next time I suggest something.