Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Costa Rica

We took along some disposable, water-proof cameras on vacation. I thought Chloe would like to use them. Turns out she didn't but Oliver did. I got the pictures back last night. We have lots of self-portraits of Oliver and other unknown images he snapped. I won't share those.

There were a few good shots. On Tuesday, Matt and I took Chloe to the beach and she body boarded. I have all but convinced myself that Chloe will become a surfer. Perhaps when we return to Costa Rica we will sign her up for surf lessons.

Matt launching Chloe on her body board.

You saw it here first people, Chloe, catches her first wave. She would ride the waves all the way in to the beach. She was having a blast.

Chloe asked if there are professional bodyboarders? Yes, there are. You can go here to see a video. Perhaps I was wrong on surfer. Bodyboarder?

PaPaw heading out snorkeling with Chloe & Matt getting ready to get in the water.

Matt & Chloe snorkeling. The water is rough and there are rock cropping with stinging nettles and fish so having something to steady yourself was helpful (though I did bump into the rocks on one occassion with my flippers).

Look closely and you can see some fish. The water wasn't very clear and to get a good look at fish you had to dive down to see them well.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Costa Rica Vacation

We spent our winter retreat/break in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica in the Guanacaste province. We thought Hawaii was beautiful last year but we are still emotionally scarred from flying such a long distance with Oliver. When we set out to make plans for our winter vacation way back when we had a short list of must haves:
  • reasonable flight time
  • guaranteed warmth (our trip to Mexico several years ago proved to be a chilly one)
  • rental houses
After researching and researching we settled on Costa Rica. It met all our criteria. To make the flight time more manageable and more Oliver-tolerable we flew on Friday, February 17 in the afternoon to Dallas and spent the night with my parents, who were traveling with us. The six of us flew out on Saturday morning (my Dad's birthday) to Liberia, Costa Rica. All in all it was two, four hour flights.

Its the dry season in Costa Rica, and February is the warmest month of the year. YES!!! Temperatures were in the high 90s all week. Glorious.

We rented a three bedroom, 2.5 bath home that had a pool and overlooked Playa Hermosa and the Pacific Ocean. The house was spacious and fantastic. Perfect for four adults and two kids. We ate nearly every meal at the house and the kids got to eat what they wanted, when they wanted and all their paraphernalia could be scattered about without us tripping over it or feeling cramped like in a hotel room. We could put Oliver to bed in the children's bedroom and mill about the house at our leisure. There was no hanging out on the balcony waiting for a child to go to sleep and then trying to remain quiet the rest of the evening like in a hotel room.
View from the patio of the rental house.

Sunset view from the pool of the rental house.

BeBe enjoying the pool.

Chloe & BeBe playing in the pool.

Chloe diving into the pool.

"The Fish" still in the pool. It was great having our own pool, we got A LOT of use out of it and we didn't have to worry about disturbing anyone.

The kids in the pool.

Oliver loves the pool too. He loves his water wings---they gave him such confidence.

Now, you couldn't go to a resort and chill out at the pool in your swim diaper without worrying that someone would steal your cars & your iPad.

The only negative of the pool, the tiles were super-slippery once the kids started splashing about. We had to keep shoes on Oliver to keep him from slipping and sliding.

More pool time with toys.

It was so great having my parent's travel with us. Chloe loved looking at all the stars in the sky at night with PaPaw and being silly with BeBe. Oliver loves BeBe and PaPaw's attention and we loved having two extra sets of hands to wrangle one feisty toddler.

Matt and I loved Playa Hermosa. The beach doesn't have the best sand, its course, gray-sand,  or the clearest of water. The Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is known as a surfers paradise. Its not known as a snorkeling destination, though we did go on a sunset cruise and snorkel. The thing we loved most about Playa Hermosa is that it lacks giant resorts. There are hotels and the Four Seasons is right up the road, but it is very private. You can walk the beach without dodging 100s of beach recliners. The beach is public and open and there are relatively few people on the beach. If you want to relax and get away from it all, this place is a pretty good choice. Its real and it lacks the over-the-top, pretentious and cheesy-factor of most beach destinations.
Looking south along the beach at Playa Hermosa. Where the kayaks and canoes are is one of the largest beach-front hotels in Playa Hermosa. Can you see it?

Looking north along the beach at Playa Hermosa. No chairs, no massive resorts. I took the photo when I was trying to wrangle PaPaw to happy hour at the above beach-front resort. He was headed in the wrong direction up the beach and was too far ahead of me to catch up. He's in the red shirt in the center of the beach in the photo.

Monkey face rock just off the coast of Playa Hermosa. We saw it up close on our sunset sail.

Probably the cheesiest thing we saw all week...a pirate ship that takes cruises from Playa Coco, just 5 km south from Playa Hermosa.

The rock outcroppings off the coast of Playa Hermosa. We could see these from the beach and from our house.
Matt and Oliver taking a dip in the Pacific Ocean.

Matt, Oliver, PaPaw & Chloe playing in the water.

Most of the time we relaxed, went to the beach and swam in the pool. We made a lot of trips to the grocery store and one to the local fish market where we purchased an obscene amount of sea bass and red snapper (freshly caught that day). I think we are topped up on our Omega-3 fatty acids and probably our mercury level is elevated - wink wink . We did go to Rincon de la Vieja National Park & Hacienda Guachipelin, a hotel and adventure resort just at the base of the national park. Chloe and Matt did a zip line tour while BeBe, PaPaw, Oliver and I walked around. Guachipelin is a working ranch and we got to see the ranch hands driving the cattle and lots of horses.
The sign at the entrance to Rincon.
BeBe, PaPaw, Chloe, Oliver and Matt at the entrance to the national park.


View of one of the volcanoes at Rincon.

View of the other volcano at Rincon. Oh, they're active volcanoes too.
Chloe getting ready to swing across at Guachipelin.
If I saw this while it was going on, I would have probably "freaked out" as Oliver would say.

Swinging across a canyon at Guachipelin/Rincon.

Matt zip-lining at Guachipelin.

Instruction from their guide.
And some video of the duo (despite the look on her face, Chloe really was having fun).



Chloe loved the zip-lining. Besides requesting to swim, body board at the beach, Chloe's next request was zip-lining. Later in the week, we obliged, and went to the closest zip-line, which was a canopy zip-line. It didn't have all the climbs and canyons of the Rincon zip-line.

Chloe, the zip-line pro. Matt and Chloe went with a group of about 10 people and one of the ladies said that she didn't want to do it until she saw Chloe get up there and make it look easy. She thought "if that little girl can do it then I can do it!".

Matt at The Congo Trail Canopy Tour. There were lots of capuchin & howler monkeys on the tour.
We also went on a snorkel and sunset cruise during the week. BeBe stayed home with Oliver and Matt, Chloe, PaPaw and I went. The snorkeling was not so great but the sunset was magnificent.

Hanging out on the back of the boat.

Matt & Chloe on the back of the sail boat.

We also had a few visitors at the house during the week. We had our own friendly gecko/lizard that lived behind the air conditioner in the living room and would come out at night to rid the room of bugs, we had a couple of scorpions, which were unwanted guests, a giant wolf spider looked on one night as Matt & Chloe went for an evening swim and our friends the howler monkeys would stop by to say hello at dawn and sometimes dusk.
Our pal, Terry, the wolf spider.

And forgive the quality of the video. I tried to capture the howler monkeys that would visit us at the house but had difficulty finding and keeping up with them as they swung through the trees through the camera lens. Perhaps I should have let Chloe film them as she requests during the video.  You can hear why they get their name and why they are the loudest land mammal on the planet.


On our last night, Matt and I got to go on a date while BeBe and PaPaw stayed behind with the kids. We wanted to go and eat at a hotel that has fabulous views over the Pacific but they were closed for a wedding. The owners directed us to another hotel/restaurant. The food was good but the experience was odd. Once the entertainment took the stage we quickly realized that we were dining at the hangout of the French-speaking expats. There was no English or Spanish spoken, only French. To make it more weird, we were the youngest couple (excluding members of the band, i.e. the trombone player) by about 15-20 years. And, just in case you were wondering, French-speaking expats are just as rude as if they were in their French-speaking homeland. I was corrected by a man who was gabbing to someone in French and blocking the entrance to the women's restroom. I said, "Excuse me" to which he snapped, "NON! It's PARDON!". I mean really? You're at one of the most laid-back places on earth and you have to bring your hoity-toity to it. Give me a break. Other than that one encounter, the people of Costa Rica were super-friendly. No complaints there.
Two thumbs up for this vacation. We can't wait to go back!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oliver's Valentine's

This is what Oliver is taking to pre-school today. He saw this picture and its been an endless loop of  "Those are my cars!". Keep you fingers crossed....

Making Valentine's

Chloe is hard at work making Valentine's for her classmates. I totally ripped off this mustache/lips lollipops from Pinterest. It was super easy and that's what we wanted after our duct tape US flag project (don't ask---and, yes, this blog is noticeably void of any photos of that project).













I am craft mom for Chloe's class party tomorrow. Should be fun. I am making a tissue paper heart with the kids.

I have Oliver's Valentine's ready for his pre-school pals. I will post those photos tomorrow. His Valentine's involve Hot Wheels cars (another Pinterest find) and I am still recovering from the giant tantrum he had this evening when he discovered that I was giving away cars to his friends. Let's just say I don't think he is going to part freely with his Valentine's!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Can You Name the State?


It's New Jersey, of course. After having taught Texas History for so many years it was weird to find a map of NJ in my daughter's school folder. Of course, I had to quiz her on the counties. It must really stink having a former History teacher for a mother. I may have to go volunteer my services in her classroom. She couldn't point to the county in which we live. HINT: it's a purple county. She was quite pleased she could point to the largest county. How hard is that?! Going to talk to her teacher....;)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Chloe's Hat




Perhaps he was trying to match the bowler on his shirt?


Thursday, February 02, 2012

Nebulizer


After a week on the nebulizer, Oliver is a pro.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Water for Africa

You should be able to click on the picture to enlarge it, but it reads: Help kids in Africa who don't have clean water. Please give money. Stop and give money.

Chloe's Brownie troop has been learning about the importance of water and has been thinking of fundraising ideas to raise money to fund the building of a new well for The Water Project, a U.S. based non-profit that brings safe drinking water to Africa and India.

This particular project has struck a real chord in Chloe and she keeps asking me questions about Africa and what life is like and why so many wouldn't have access to safe drinking water. I think much of what she has learned about Africa has struck a heartstring as she frequently brings up that Oliver is from Africa.

Almost daily Chloe asks questions and talks about ways to raise money to build a new well. She has had lots of ideas. Some good and some not so good.

I guess an idea struck Chloe this past Saturday when she was helping Matt clean the convertible. I was working inside the house and Matt, unaware of the troops fundraising efforts, came inside, alarmed,  and asked why Chloe was standing on the street holding a sign asking for money.

Seems Chloe took it upon herself to make a sign and ask random cars driving by for money. We appreciated her enthusiasm and effort but had to put a stop to it. We let her leave the sign up on the tree in the front yard.

After explaining that she meant well but that it wasn't the best or safest plan to ask random strangers driving by for money I set about to get some more information from Chloe's Brownie troop leaders. I was thankful that the leaders decided that to raise money for the well they would offer a challenge to the families of the girls in the Brownie troop. We also eventually hope to take the challenge to Chloe's elementary school. So, for two weeks we are trying not to spend any money on beverages by drinking only tap water. We will then donate the money we save to The Water Project.

Thankfully, Chloe's on board with this fundraising plan and I won't find her with a cup and posterboard on the corner of the street again!
 
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