Feathered Aspen



When we drove into Samara, it was hot.  All of us were sweating, and Luna was crying.  After a couple of weeks without a carseat, she officially hates riding in the car.

Villa Espavel is about a 10 minute walk from “downtown” Samara, which is really just a mainstreet that has a few restaurants and shops.  To walk to the beach from our AirBnB, we can take two routes:  one passes through a campground with bar beneath a large open-air palapa, and the other circumnavigates a pasture with skinny cattle.

Horses roam the beaches and road at will.  One day as Lu and I were walking to the beach, one brown and one white horse began following us, sedately clip-clopping in single file.  The man at the carwash laughed when he saw Lu’s glee, and informed us of their names:  Buen Amigo y Buena Amiga, los dos amigos.

It’s an easy little town with lots of broad American accents, plenty of expats, and a quirky, rural feel.  There are surfers with big hair who have been here a long time and out of shape tourists who are just passing through.  There are no resorts built up along the sand, and the homes that flank the beachfront are not ostentatious.  They are small and well-kept with big windows and open-air kitchens.

In Santa Teresa, the waves were big, the surf was strong, and the people were stunning: bronze and well-muscled, with long beachy hair.  Here, the crowd is a bit more humble.  There are retirees, a few extra pounds, sensible footwear, and Ticos with babies in diapers playing in the surf.  More sunscreen and less bronze.  There are more mamas here, and the surfers stay closer to shore.  Everyone gets around by bike, and the grocery stores and supers are a little less expensive.

It’s nice.  The Villa is in the jungle and has a large shared pool that’s perfect for the girls.  A yoga shala situated above the laundry room is lined with palm fronds and banana leaves.  Butterflies fly through, and I can hear howler monkeys, frogs, and crickets as I lay in my final shavasana.

Lily and Lu headed straight for the pool that first night.  Joshua went off to return the rental car and pick up so groceries, so I kept an eye on the older two and nursed Luna until she had forgiven me for putting her in a carseat for three hours.

The next morning, we had breakfast, I did yoga with the older two, and then we walked to the beach along the pasture.  We quickly discovered that the surf here was much more gentle, and the girls were happy to play in warm, calm waves.  Luna sat on the sand where the waves could tickle her toes and she dug her little hands into the sand and shrieked as she splashed the water.  Over the course of the week, her solo sitting posture grew stronger and stonger.

Back at the Villa, the girls napped while I went out for a run along the beach, and afterwards, we headed back out to the beach again to watch the sunset.

At some point during the day, a fisherman came to the Villa with a bunch of fresh shrimp in his trunk.  For $20, we purchased two kilos of fat, lovely shrimp, and that night and the next, Joshua made the most delicious shrimp dinners.  So. Good.

And that’s how the days passed.  Joshua woke up early to run.  We woke up and began breakfast.  We ate outside for every meal.  Joshua was nice enough to take charge while I did yoga every morning, and the older girls either did some yoga with me (or on top of me) or swam in the pool.  We headed to the beach with a boogie board from the Villa, and then we played in the waves or explored the tidepools or looked for shells for a couple of hours.  We walked back, stopping at el Super Iguana or the panaderia for groceries or snacks or maybe a cafecito.  The girls swam when we got back, we ate lunch and then they took naps (or they didn’t… After spending one too many hours over the course of this trip cajoling children to sleep, Joshua suggested we throw in the towel to save our sanity.  So we forewent nap the past couple of days.  I’ll let you know how it goes J ).  I ran during nap, and then we headed back to the beach to watch the sunset, usually with the bribe of ice cream at some point during the day.

Yesterday was a little different.  We walked through the jungle to Playa Izquierda, where we had the beach to ourselves.  The surf was a bit stronger and the water was rockier, but it was a great spot to search for shells.  On the way, we spotted two coati galloping through the jungle and over the path, which only made me a little concerned over what they were running from (Lily says, “Mommy, I think they’re chasing something!”  I thought and did not share that they were the ones being chased.)

The Villa has three other units, and we’ve met a German family of four with two older kids and an American family from Austin with two kids ages 14 and 7.  The younger kiddo has provided some much desired other kid interaction for Lily, and they’ve swum together the past two nights for nearly two hours, only coming out once we insists and their lips are nearly blue from the chill.  The parents are really lovely, and we’ve sat by the pool chatting and exchanging stories from our days and our lives back home.  It’s been really nice.

I’m happy to report that Lily is quite the swimmer!  She announced to me this evening that she can now “keep her head above water” while she’s swimming, and she no longer needs me to watch her while she’s in the pool (ha!  Not quite ready for that.)  Between swimming at least three times a day and playing in the ocean, she’s been in the water for most of the week, but when she was on the hike yesterday, she was unstoppable!  She wanted to know what was up every side trail, and she begged us to let her see.  We acquiesced, even though the mosquitos were bad.  It’s hard to deny a kid that wants to hike up hill to see the views!  She’s expressed that she’s quite sad to be leaving Costa Rica, and she’s very concerned that she won’t have as many opportunities to swim, though she does miss Oscar and Thibodeaux.

And speaking of long walks, Lily and Lu have gotten into the spirit and found the joy in taking long sunset walks in the surf.  Spontaneously, they’ll leave their little sandcastles (or pits…  I feel like they dig more pits than building sandcastles.) or retire from the waves and then just start casually walking down the beach, side by side.  It’s been one of my favorite things to see.  They’re so sweet, pointing out shells to one another and stopping to admire the waves or the sky.  They can go on for ages that way.

Though Lu has now been in the jungle for a month, her fear of insects remains acute.  If she’s shrieking, it’s likely because she saw a fruit fly.  Speaking of shrieking and flies, last night Joshua spotted an enormous and lovely katydid that looks like a large, green leaf.  We were admiring it and taking some photos, when it flew off, startling me.  “Where did it go?!” I said, a little freaked.  “It’s on you,” Joshua replied.

I screamed.  Like, loud.  And the girls, seeing my fright began screaming too.  Joshua gently removed the katydid from my shirt, and I began laughing.  I mean.  I couldn’t even help it; it was so big!

It’s rained more while we’ve been here, but though when it pours it’s intense, it’s never really caused us to alter course or change our plans.  It’s a warm rain and during the day, it never rains for long (though it can rain all night).  We’re in the pool and in the ocean so much that being wet doesn’t feel like a bother, and on days like to today when we were wicked hot, it was a nice relief to have a passing shower.

The mosquitos are a little worse here, but with the high-powered ceiling and porch fans running, they don’t have the occasion to land often.  Our AirBnB has screens, so sleeping has been quite comfortable.  Only on our walks to and from the beach have we acquired our many bites, but even then it’s not nearly as bad as Mexico or Minnesota.

It’s been absolutely wonderful, and I can’t tell you how lucky we feel to have been able to take this trip and experience these many adventures.  It hasn’t always been relaxing (um.  Three kids.), but it has been a great gift to spend this time together as a family, seeing and doing new things in a new place, and I know I’ll always cherish the memories that we’ve made here.

So thank you.  Thank you to Joshua for all of your hard work, and congratulations on making it to your first sabbatical.  It was a good one, and we feel so lucky to have been able to enjoy it with you.  Thank you to Nana and Grumpy for coming along for a week and enjoying some of this beautiful place with us.  A huge, huge thank you to my mom for helping us get our space ready for AirBnB by helping out with the girls and cleaning, as well as taking care of Oscar and Thibodeaux.  And another huge thank you to Weston for helping manage and host our AirBnB guests and for cleaning between their stays.  We feel so grateful for all of your help and support, and with the proceeds from AirBnB (over this past month and for the next couple of months this summer), we’ve been able to pay for our plane tickets to Costa Rica and all of our AirBnBs while we’ve been here.  How amazing is that?!

Now send us good vibes and good luck for our travels home…  Tomorrow we make the 4 hour drive back to San Jose and then on Wednesday, we board the plane at 12 pm and arrive in Denver about 12 hours later!  I’m both sad to say goodbye to this wonderful place and amazing month and happy to be heading home.  Joshua says he’s looking forward to being dry for a bit, Lu misses Margot and Wally the most, and I’m feeling rather enthusiastic about going back to a place that doesn’t have quite so many invertebrates of the stinging, venomous, flying or slithering varieties!


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Mommy, how do you tell what kind of energy a rock has?

Hold it in two hands, pressed between your palms.  Roll it a little; give it some love.  Bring it up to your nose and smell.  Bring your hands to heart center and try to hear what the rock is telling you.  What’s the rock telling you, Lily?

It’s telling me happiness.


One more thing, Daddy.

When I close my eyes, I can feel the energy from the waves.  They’re pushing me and pulling me and I can feel the vibrations. -Lily


I’m going to sit on that beautiful body! -Lu


Excuse me?  Did you lose a tooth?  Did the tooth fairy come?  Did the tooth fairy leave you something under your pillow?  What did you spend it on?  You don’t remember?!! -Lu to the boy Henry staying at the same Villa


I have a great idea!  Let’s move to Costa Rica! -Lily


Lock my treasures up. -Lu


Wrap me up like a pepper. -Lu


Get out of town! -Lu



Montverde is aptly named.  As we climbed higher into the mountains, we were afforded sweeping views of the greenest mountains and valleys…  The paved road turned to dirt, and we passed farmers on horseback, herding cattle and men with machetes and knee-high rainboots.

Joshua and I are mountain people, and so the thinner air and the steep inclines put us at ease in a way that we haven’t been since we arrived.

We rolled into town mid-morning and went in search of a meal.  We found Orchid Cafe in our guide book, and it did not disappoint.  We’ve found that three entrees is about right for the two adults and the two older girls, and so we ordered Belgian waffles, pancakes, and a savory stuffed crepe.  Oh my.  Between chantilly cream and hollandaise, we were in heaven.  And the coffee was great, por supuesto.

After we filled our bellies, we found the Orchid Garden.  Entry was a bit pricey, but the garden was gorgeous, and I geeked out on the tour which was led by an extremely knowledgeable teenager (actually I have no idea how old he was, but he looked like a baby).  At one point, he told us that he had been trying to identify an orchid growing in their garden for three or four days, looking up rare and new species when he finally realized that it was a spider orchid that an insect had modified by eating the outer sepals.  An older couple from Australia were also on the tour, and let’s just say my basic knowledge of houseplants and my collection of 20 or so was embarrassingly amateur.  The couple had an orchid collection of “50 or more” and a staghorn they lovingly referred to as Bodhi that had grown from the size of a golf ball 25 years ago to the size of a car wheel.  They tossed about the latin genus and species for each plant we encountered, and though I was completely outclassed, I loved it.  How fun to learn about epiphytes and all these plants I’ve been so admiring since our arrival!  Two years ago, I’m not sure I knew what an “air plant” was, and then they started getting trendy and now I have three.  Haha!  Within a week of being in Costa Rica, I was disabused of their novelty.  Nearly every tree here has at least three epiphytes growing on them…  When we were in the cloud forest, one plaque informed us that one particularly tall tree had over 1,000 other plants growing on it, including 43 different species of orchid!

After the garden, we headed for our hostel.  On the way, we bumped into a French couple we had seen on our journey to Santa Teresa.  Loche, Ludo, and their three year old boy, Tituan, were traveling for a month as well, and it was fun to chat with them and compare notes.

We eventually made it to the hostel where the girls took a nap and Joshua went for a run.  I had a little freak out moment when all of them woke up and I was in a tiny room with paper thin walls and a bunch of 20 something travelers bunked nearby…  Let’s just say I was issuing some serious threats and bribes in a whisper voice, trying to get my cranky post-nap children to be quiet.  Naturally, this was a completely ineffective method of parenting, and by the time Joshua got back, I was ready to bite his head off.

Thankfully, Joshua was able to talk me down, and we walked up to a cute little panaderia for an afternoon pick me up of coffee and empanadas.  While AirBnB options have given us the privacy and comfort that has made all the difference in traveling with kids, the couple of three day stints that we’ve done in more cramped accommodations have been ok.  No one asked us to leave, there were minimal dirty looks, and if anything, people were very complimentary about the girls and their behavior.  It was a bit stressful though, so by the end of our time in San Jose and then in Montverde, I was quite relieved to go to a place where the girls can feel their big emotions and I can try to ride those waves without fighting them.

We walked around Montverde that evening, enjoying the cool air and the clouds drifting through.  We stopped at the super for a simple veggie pasta dinner, and then we went back to the communal kitchen to cook and eat.  It all went down without a hitch.  If anything, I was able to step outside this mentality of constantly being judged by other mothers and try to imagine what this strange family of five must look like to a group of people who are all just praying their birth control is really effective ;)-  At worst, I imagine that horrible New Yorker story I once read about how children should be banned from airlines because they’re so annoying or some movie I watched where a couple are eating at a restaurant and agree that children should never be brought out to eat before they can drive themselves (ha! but maybe they have a point?).  At best, I imagine the rare families Joshua and I saw traveling abroad and how I hoped we’d be the same kind of parents and now, I guess, we are.

The next morning, we ate the provided breakfast in the restaurant adjacent to the hostel.  Banana bread, pancakes, and fruit powered us through our hike in Montverde Parque Nacional (haha!  Just kidding!  Have you met my children, aka the Bottomless Pits of Hunger?).  Well, that and a box of the healthiest cereal bars we could find which had approximately 50 g of sugar in each bar and five apples…  And a bag of chocolates for bribing ;);)

The hike was incredible.  We walked 4.5 miles through the cloud forest, admiring all the green, the wet, and the lovely sounds of frogs and birds.  We kept our eyes open for a quetzal (the serpent bird with a long tail that undulates as it flies).  Other people we passed were lucky, but perhaps they avoided our pack of squealing children?  Lily and Lu hiked and hiked and hiked.  (The chocolate bribes were VERY effective.)  Honestly, can I just take a moment to brag a bit?  The children did not complain once.  They hiked for nearly four hours (yup! About a mile an hour, so how about a pat on the back for me too?!  Soooo slow…), and they were little magic forest fairies the whole time.  Trip highlight.  They held hands, they laughed, they told little stories, they were sweet and curious and sometimes I think I’ll go crazy from the whining and bickering, but sometimes they’re are the glorious children of my dreams, and this hike was one of those times.

When we finished, we stopped at the Montverde creamery.  In the 1950s, a group of 12 Quaker families from Alabama moved to Montverde.  As pacifists, they had been imprisoned for refusing the draft in WWII, so after the war was over, they moved to Costa Rica.  Why?  Because around the same time, Costa Rica dissolved its army and directed all of the funds towards public education.  Because this place is paradise like that.

Anyway, the Quakers bought land high up in the cloud forest and began raising dairy cattle for their creamery.  Et voila!  We ate ice cream after our hike.  For Joshua and I, coffee (always), and for the girls, neopolitan and lime.  I also had a coffee, because we were in coffee land and the hostel coffee had been disappointing to say the least.  My latte here was definitely redeeming 🙂

After a much needed nap, we sojourned to the Serpentarium, where we scoped out Costa Rica’s many endemic species of snake.  At one point I leaned over to Joshua and said, “I don’t know if this will give me nightmares, but I can tell you that it will give me waking terrors.”  And it did.  I’ve only just now a week later stopped expecting the crazily venomous Fer de Lance to lunge out from the ditches and sink its jaws into the tender ankles of myself, my sweet children, or my husband who insists on running in the jungle, rather than the beach (post partum paranoia or legit fear?  Not sure…).

Lily, on the other hand, LOVED her visit.  Between her flashlight and trying to find each master of camoflauge in their lush terrariums, she had a blast.  So much so that after we had dinner at Taco Taco (we had Tacos), we went back to see them a little bit more awake later in the evening.

The next morning began in much the same way.  We ate breakfast at the hostel and young German tourists gave us weird looks.  But I felt fairly cosmopolitan and worldly because my children were dictating postcards and drinking cafe con leche (heavy on the leche).  Around 930, we mosied over to El Trapiche, a sugar and coffee finca on the outskirts of town.

Though the tour was (surprise!) quite touristy, it was also really, really great.  And honestly, tours like El Trapiche are great because they generate extra revenue for family run fincas, and they help preserve a traditional way of farming sugar cane and coffee beans (as well as basic processing) that’s nearly zero waste and quite sustainable.  Our guide was super great too; for fun, he’s done barrista competitions, so he was super knowledgeable about coffee from bean to cup.  We asked a bazillion questions about the plant, the picking, the drying, the sorting, and the roasting, and he had answers to every single one of them.  Watching the sugar being milled in the Trapiche was fun too:  they showed us the old way with oxen and then they showed us with hydropower.  The left over fibers from the cane were then used to fuel the fire that reduced the cane juice into sugar.  So clever!

Another highlight was the quick cocoa addition.  The farm doesn’t grow much cocoa at the moment, so they’re still in the trial phase, but they walked us through cocoa production from fruit to fermentation to roasting and then adding things like chili, milk, or sugar.  We got to taste test everything (coffee, sugar, and cocoa) and I absolutely fell in love with the roasted cocoa nibs (eyes roll towards heaven.so.good).  We have this great picture of Lily grinning from ear to ear with chocolate smeared across her face 🙂

At the end of the tour, our guide made us each espresso drinks to order, and that was amaaaazing.  Cuz now I know what peabody and all that stuff means, so I’m a real snob (oh and did I mention Joshua bought me a Chemex for my bday??).

On the way home, we stopped at Sabor Tico, a fairly traditional soda (cafe), for lunch.  It was crazy delicious with arroz con carnitas, fried plantain, yuca, and chicharrones, but the girls were on meltdown after a morning spent largely geeking out and only minimally taste testing.

So we headed back for naps.  And then.

Jungle Night Tour!!!

Oh guys.  Does this sound like a good idea to you?  Because if I had really stopped to think about it, really paused to think, hm.  What will it be like to walk through the jungle in the dark in chacos while it’s raining iguanas and scorpions with three children ages five and under?  I think I might not have dropped the 75ish bucks we dropped to have what was primarily a hellish experience.

But!  Hindsight is 20/20 yall.  Live n learn.  You know?  At around 6 pm (that’s when it gets dark here), we started down the trail of a private preserve.  Our guide, Miguel, appeared to be a very young and very brave insect, reptile, and all things that are creepy, crawly enthusiast.  It rained a lot.  Luna caterwauled for approximately half of the tour, frightening away any mammals that almost certainly would have scared the shit out of me and my jumpy, freaked out older two children.

As it was, only the smaller animals remained.  But have no fear!  They are venomous and can kill just as easily!  At one point, Miguel asked us to turn off our flashlights and stand verrrrry still.  Then he explained that the tarantula he was about to draw out from its lair sensed vibrations and stayed underground.  Then he stuck a twig in a hole and a hairy tarantula the size of Luna popped out.  And then he said in a slightly panicked voice, “ok!  We walk now!  Fast, fast!”

At another point, he told us to turn off our flashlights (a directive I was beginning to dread) and stand quietly on the trail.  As I imagined neon green pitvipers chomping on my exposed achilles, he marched off into the jungle, turned on a blacklight, and then came back with a scorpion, it’s stinger pinched between his forefinger and thumb.  It wriggled and writhed and he asked anyone if they wanted to hold it.  There were no takers.

There were a couple of wolf spiders (deadly), a couple of katydids (disguised like enormous green leaves), a possum, and lots of toads, and then, blessedly, the tour came to an end.  We were drenched and I, for one, was thankful we had not spotted any snakes or jaguars.  Lu had spent the majority of the tour in the Tula on Joshua’s back, speaking in a voice that resonated acutely in her nasal passages.  I was half stressed about trying to get her to be quiet so that the other people on the tour wouldn’t be pissed and half understanding that this was just waaaay too much to ask of an almost three year old.  I mean.  Raining.  Dark jungle.  Lots of talk about animals that can kill you.  Oh god.  Best parents ever.  Lily was okayish but also very concerned about all the morbid talk that was happening.  LOTS of questions about what would happen if you were bitten or stung and hospitals, etc.

Anyway, we survived and then slept our last night in the hostel.  We ate breakfast again the next day and the guy that ran the hostel told Joshua how impressed he was by our girls.  “They’re so tough!” he said.  I assumed he had missed the approximately 40 band aids that had been dispensed for mostly fictional injuries in the past three days.

For our last morning in Montverde, we drove up into the hills to the Santa Elena Preserve.  We hiked for nearly 3 miles, and we didn’t see another soul.  It was lovely and green and the girls did wonderfully again, although at the end they did begin to whine that their legs were tired.  Joshua and I agreed that Montverde had been a great place to explore, but that three nights at the hostel and fourish days was plenty.  We needed a little RnR after all of our running around and the girls being unable to really play by themselves for any period of time.

On the way out of town, we stopped back at Orchid Cafe for lunch.  Between a savory mushroom crepe, a pesto, mozzarella, and tomato panini, and something else Joshua ordered that I can’t remember now, we ate very well.  I also had a latte in farewell.  Yum!

Ok!  Ciao for now!  Must nurse before baby completely wakes up!  Next up:  Samara!


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Manuel Antonio Pt 2

I have two sleeping children in bed next to me.  It’s 9 pm, and I’ve resolved to write until I’m caught up, so strap in.  It’s gonna be a late one.

I left you in Manuel Antonio.  Lily and the Big Kids had gone ziplining, and after a chill morning with the two little girls, I had taken the lunch and nap hours to write.  As I was camped out on the couch with the computer in my lap, Lily was down in the pool, swimming with Nana and Grumpy.  The girl was determined to learn how to swim, and now, after hours of playing in the water and pushing off and splashing with water wings, she swam for the first time.  She swam the whole length of the pool without coming up for air, and when she got to the other end, she came up gasping and beaming with pride.  We all took a moment to admire this new milestone, and then she slept (after ziplining and swimming, she slept hard!).

Afterwards, we walked to the Falafel Bar and ordered all four entrees on offer, as well as a smoothie for everyone (with a little extra love in the adults’ cups).  We played musical plates, each of us sampling the schwarma, schnitzel, falafel and kebab.

The next day, we got up early to get ready to go to Manual Antonio Parque Nacional.  For around $0.75 each, we caught the bus to the entrance.  Dodging would be guides and aggressive vendors of Pipa Fria (cold coconut water), we paid for our tickets and entered the park.  A dirt road led us into the jungle, and as we walked, we passed tour groups looking up into the trees or stooping low to examine rustles in the undergrowth.  Guides with telescopes skillfully scanned the canopy for butterflies, monkeys, snakes, spiders, and birds.

Near a stream, we passed three miniature and very docile deer, and on the boardwalk, we saw more red and purple mangrove crabs.  Soon, the sound of the surf began filtering through the trees, and we turned down the trail toward the water.  As we descended, I notice another trail running parallel to us:  a veritable army of leaf cutter ants marching in a river of green, each of them transporting a leaf cutting more than four times their size.

As the trees opened to reveal a cove and a lovely beach, we spotted a coati.  We walked past a pack of rowdy teenage boys, and I cringed, hearing their broad American accents.

We walked until we found a quieter spot in the shade.  We set down or things and ran to jump in the cool waves.  Lily was eager to try her new skills in swimming, but the waves were too big and the surf too strong.  Instead, we took turns holding her and letting the swells sweep us up and out.

In the meantime, we waged a battle with a pack of fearless raccoons…  Those of you who know my fear of this wretched species will understand the part fear/part revulsion I felt when one of them boldly ran up to Luna as she lay on a towel napping.  It was about 6 inches away before I spotted it and puffed up like a mama bear, hollering and waving a stick to get it to go away.  Another time, two of them tried to steal our lunch; however, we were luckier than another couple who lost theirs and a poor man who fell asleep to the sound of the waves and awoke to a raccoon practically on top of him.  He began screaming in fright, and the raccoon just stood there as though awaiting payment.

Lu and I stole off to the tidepools, where we sat in calm waters and watched as a small, transparent fish came to investigate our toes.  Lu snuggled into me, and I breathed in the smell of her sandy hair.  A heart of gold, this one.

Taking advantage of grandparents, Joshua and I took a walk on Sendero Punta Catedral, a large hill at the end of the cove.  We were rewarded for our ascent with a precipitous view of the Pacific.

By the time we packed up and walked out, we were coming up against the 4 p.m. closing time, and all of us were sun weary and tired.  Joshua valiantly carried both Lu and a full backpack the two miles back to the bus, and that night we attempted nothing more than soaking in the pool and dinner at home.

After our adventures, we planned a relaxing day on the homefront.  Joshua and I went for a run down to Playa Biensanz, where a man speaking to the howler monkeys in the canopy above showed us a jungle trail.  We ran along it for a few hundred yards, enjoying the capuchins jumping from branch to branch and the glimpses of the beach below.  Ultimately, we turned around in favor of swimming out into the cove.  At high tide, the little beach was even more charming, and so early in the morning, we had the place nearly to ourselves.

We ran back and between playing in the pool with our new little fish (Lily, of course!) multiple times that day, we also fit in a nap and a trip to Cafe Milagro for lunch.  Sadly, I ordered a salad that was far more appealing in description than in reality, but everyone else seemed to have lovely and delicious plates with Cuban sandwiches and fish tacos.  Oh well, at least my latte was sublime 😉

The next day, we did something we’ve never done in all of our international travels – we rented a car!  Joshua and Lily took the bus into Quepos to get our 4WD SUV (a little suzuki), and when they returned, we packed in (poor Nana and Grumpy in the trunk!), and drove 30 minutes to a private preserve north of Quepos called Rainmaker.

You guys.  Trip highlight.  This place was amazing.

Driving past jungles that had been stripped to farm palms for palm oil, we found ourselves off the beaten path.  Manuel Antonio and Quepos have a well-oiled tourist operation running, but here we drove past small Tico outposts with colorful tinroofed homes and little mini supers with mangoes and potatoes spilling out of milkcrates.  Finally, at the end of the dirt road we drove past a hand drawn entrance sign.

The parking lot was empty.  We spilled out of the small vehicle and took a moment to appreciate the quiet.  From here, we could see the jungle sprawl down into the valley and off into the distance where the ocean began.  Flowering bushes drew a flutter of white, yellow, and orange butterflies, as well as a couple of hummingbirds.  We walked up to an open-air building set up like a restaurant.  A man behind the counter asked us if we would like a home-made meal after our walk, and we eagerly agreed.

The trail through the preserve was less than 2.5 miles, but it took us nearly three hours.  Along the way, we spotted five poison dart frogs, one outrageously lovely great owl moth the color of lilac and the size of an 8×11 sheet of paper, a trogon (bright blue and yellow jungle bird), and countless millipeeds, insects, moths, and butterflies.  Thankfully, we saw no snakes.  The trail took us deep into the jungle and high up into the canopy on swinging bridges and platforms (a little scary!).  The last kilometer took us past waterfall after waterfall, and as it began to rain, we took a dip into one of the cool pools.

In Nepal, one of the words for waterfall literally translated means “laughing water,” and now whenever I see a waterfall, I think of that.  There’s something so magical about the spray and the mist from a waterfall, and when you add in a thousand layers of green, your babies, and wonderland bridges…  I couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face if I had wanted to.  Not even when two out of three of my children were losing it a little from hunger and tired legs.

We made it back to the restaurant where plates of arroz con pollo, beans, and pico were waiting for us, as well as a cold pitcher of lemonade.  We devoured everything, and the girls laid in the hammock, barely keeping it together before nap.

With this being our second to last day in Manuel Antonio with the grandparents, Joshua and I snuck out for a date.  We walked down the road, hoping for a romantic dinner with a view, but when we sat down in what appeared to be a humble cafe from the outside, we discovered $30+ entrees…  So despite our embarrassment, we left and walked back to the Villa to grab the car and drive down to Quepos instead.  Although we had hoped to find a humble Soda with reasonable prices, we struck out a bit here too.  In the end, we found a place advertising Mariscos and two for one drinks.  The food was so so, and the mojitos were quite syrupy, but it was nice to have an uninterrupted conversation, and Luna made for a fairly complacent third wheel 😉

The next day, I took the morning run.  Joshua typically wakes up early in the morning, but with the narrow roads, speedy drivers, and irritable dogs, running solo in the afternoons had become quite unappealing to me.  At least in the morning I could avoid some of the traffic.  I ran down to the beach and scoped out a quieter stretch of sand.  When I returned, I swam with Lily for a bit, and then we piled into the car to return to the spot I had found earlier.

Between capuchin monkeys in the branches above, playing in the waves, and going for an easy walk, we ended up having a lovely time, and we were able to make it back to the car and up to the villa before meltdowns or hunger pains got the better of us (speaking mostly of the children here).

After nap, we journeyed down to Quepos one last time.  The Friday afternoon farmers’ market was in full swing, and we bought food for dinner, including some fresh-caught Dorado (Mahi Mahi) for tacos and a variety of novel and exotic fruits (nance, mamon, guanabana, and two others I have no idea what they’re called).  On our way out of town, we stopped at the Heladoria for ice cream.  The girls opted for Lime and Neopolitan while I sampled the rum raisin.  We walked across the street to watch a soccer practice, savoring our cool, sweet treats.

The next morning, we hit the road early, having packed up the night before and said our goodbyes to Nana and Grumpy who were flying out later in the morning.  As we drove away past the luxury hotels and the palm fields, I felt a sense of anticipation.  Driving internationally is a whole new experience, and being able to stop at our leisure for a photo or snacks or to breastfeed was pretty great.  Sadly, after a couple of weeks without a carseat, Luna was none too pleased to be reintroduced, but eventually she was sleeping and we were driving North to Monteverde.

And thus, I am not caught up.  But it’s 1030 and Luna wants to nurse, so I’ll leave it at that for now! xoxo

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Sisters at Sunset

I’m standing in shallow surf holding Luna when Lily begins walking parallel to the breaks.  Her eyes are down, combing the sand for treasures.  When she’s 100 yards away, Lu runs after her.  I watch Lily pause and turn, waiting for her, and then they walk side by side, stopping occasionally to pick up a special piece of coral or a shell in the shape of a butterfly.

I follow them at a distance.  Luna curls her body into mine, alternately blowing raspberries into my shoulder and chewing on my collarbone with her sore gums.  I’m almost breathless, hoping they won’t notice me, hoping they’ll continue on their way oblivious to the magic that trails behind them.

For nearly an hour, they walk.  Picking up treasures, pointing out others, and gathering the chosen.  They stoop to wash them in the surf.  They touch each other casually and walk with the same gait, though Lily’s legs are longer.  Lily glances in my direction a couple of times, but it’s as if we have an unspoken agreement:  I’ll follow and make sure they’re safe, and they’ll continue on as though it’s just the two of them.

The sun sinks lower in the sky, and regretfully, I tell them we need to turn around to go back to Daddy.  They resist a bit, but then resume their slow, searching stroll back along the waves.  Their blond heads and tanned limbs the same shade.  Sisters.  Luna leans back to smile up into my face, and I imagine her walking with them too, a world unto themselves, trailing magic behind them.


Manuel Antonio

After the epic and harrowing experience of traveling from San Jose to Santa Teresa with three children five and under (six hours by bus, ferry, bus, bus), I asked Joshua how much it would $$$ to never EVER have to do that again.

So on the day that we planned to travel to our next AirBnB just outside of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, we lugged our two large backpacking packs and one rolly suitcase to the dirt road and waited for a taxi.  A lovely, air conditioned 15 passenger van picked us up as well as three other tourists and drove us the 45 minutes to sleepy, smoky (as in, la fuma 😉 Montezuma.  As we drove in, I saw a small boat bobbing in the cove, and one of the other tourists said, “there it is!”  I turned around.  “That?!  We’re all going in that?!”

Yup.  We were dropped off on the beach, our bags were wrapped in plastic and stowed on the boat, and then we waded through the waves to board the boat (“babies first!” the guides, laughed.  I laughed too and inside I cried a little…  Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.)

The speed boat quickly reached maximum velocity and as we bounced over the waves, I found myself half enjoying the wind and sea salt…  I reflected on how thrilling experiences are thrilling when you don’t have children and terrifying when you do.  This is perhaps another conversation for another time, but I’ve had some realizations about the postpartum experience with this last pregnancy.  Suffice it to say, I’m much more anxious than usual during the postpartum period (not sure how long I’d say that lasts, but I’m still in it 4.5 months in).  This anxiety likes to dwell on morbid thoughts, and one of them on the boat was playing out what I’d do if we all went overboard…  The outlook was grim and I was worried that the whole enterprise was completely irresponsible.

BUT!  We made it.  After an hour, we made it to the beach just outside of Jaco.  I could have kissed the ground, but I didn’t.  We boarded another taxi van and drove about an hour to Quepos.  From there, we began the short climb to our Villa just a couple of kilometers from Manuel Antonio.

Villa Tekla is lovely.  The grounds are well-kept and positively spilling over with green and flowering plants.  From a locked gate, we walked up to a small patio where our host met us.  From there, we were led around the villa, the host speaking rapid-fire spanish.  I understood perhaps more than half of what she said…  Which is about what I understand in general, unless the person speaking speaks verrrrrry slowly or switches to Spanglish 😉 (Side note.  English is not spoken nearly as much as I was led to believe in Costa Rica…  Our host in Santa Teresa, whom we saw every day, spoke not a word.  None.)  I’d like to flatter myself and say that the Spanish I do speak seems very competent; therefore, I am the recipient of much Spanish uttered at top speed.  You win some; you lose some 😉

Anyway, the villa is surrounded by large, arched windows with bars over them.  From the metal roof drops many ceiling fans, and down the stairs, you’ll find a Hollywood pool:  long, narrow, and positively lovely.  Mosquito nets drape over the beds, and the whole building is surrounded on every side by the lushest of gardens.  I feel like I’m floating in the canopy, and from the tower room, I can see a mountain lying at the exact angle of repose.  Is it a volcano?

We pool first (naturally) and then put the girls down for a nap.  Joshua catches a taxi to the little airport outside of Quepos to pick up Nana and Grumpy.

That night, we eat fish tacos and then we jump in the pool one last time.  Lily is getting better and better and she’s nearly swimming.  Lu is slightly terrified in the water.  Luna loves splashing and nursing at regular intervals.

The next morning, Joshua and I go for a run down to Playa Espadilla and then up, up, up back to the Villa on top of the hill…  Encima la montana.

After breakfast, we caught the bus down to Quepos.  It was hot, hot, hot.  (3x)  We walked to the farmer’s market, sweating profusely and occasionally stopping to honor the occasional (occasional) sea breeze.  The girls played on a little wooden playground for a bit before we walked up to see the marina and then down to get coffees at Cafe Milagro (all of ours iced, except for Joshua who has always drank coffee as an expression of machismo:  no really.  He started bc Cormac McCarthy described vaqueros drinking their coffee black with crushed eggshells at the bottom.  He doesn’t take cream or sugar.  And even when it’s 150 degrees with a dewpoint of 7 zillion, he’ll take his espresso piping hot ;)).

From there, we walked around, searching for a book shop that no longer existed.  I bought fried plantain chips, and then we returned to the market to buy produce and these lovely hand carved and painted mobiles (for us a blue morpho butterfly and for Nana a sweet little hummingbird).  I sampled a couple of foreign fruits:  momon (like lychee?) and nante (yellow pear-tasting cherries?).

The girls played a bit more at the playground, and then, dripping, we made our way back to the bus route in the blazing sun.  We caught it, and with our shirts sticking to our backs, we rode to the top (along with a lovely blue polka dotted butterfly).

Jump in the pool.  Cool off.  Lunch. Nap.

After nap, we decided to go for a walk in the rain.  Joshua had found a route on google maps that would take us to the beach.  As we left the villa, I felt that premonition I feel when I’m both totally present and cognizant that this experience will be a good one, one to remember.

Ha.  Not in the way I thought.  Without sidewalks or shoulders, walks along the road here are harrowing.  And the route found on google maps existed only there:  on google maps.  Not in person.  Again my postpartum anxiety dwelled on images of all of us being run over by cars careening down the switchbacks.  We saw a couple of sloths and howler monkeys, as well as our lives and lives of our children flashing before our eyes.

Yesterday, we took a taxi down to Playa Biensanz.  The walk through the jungle was dripping and smelled like dirt and trash and rain.  (Mostly good…  And then a whiff of shit.)

The beach itself was thoroughly staked out with people trying to score tourist dollars, which sorta dampened the experience for me.  Two chairs and an umbrella cost 10$, and a man asked us if we’d like cocktails at 9 am, which is early even for me.  (Bano 500 colones, Ducha 500 colones).

The beach was lovely, but I also sensed that by beginning our vacay in Santa Teresa, we had set the bar impossibly high for all other beaches.  All the shells were long gone, the sand was hard-packed and gray, and even the water didn’t seem as wild and blue.

But I’m complaining, and really, it was still very beautiful.  The cove provided shelter from the surf, and we were able to swim out and bob in the waves, which Lily in particular loved.

Just after low tide at 1030, it began to rain, botching our plans to stay until noon.  I suggested that I walk out ahead (up, up, up) to hail a taxi.

After hailing the taxi, I continued on in the warm rain with Luna strapped to me.  I walked past elaborate luxury hotels and villas, all with gorgeous grounds and precipitous ocean views.  One complex even had a cable car instead of stairs up to the front doors of their casitas because it was so steep.

I walked the two miles home through the rain, spotting lizards and yellow butterflies along the way.  Back at the house, we ate lunch but stopped half way through to run out to the patio and admire the troupe of titi monkeys that were moving through the canopy.  One was a mama with her little bebe on her back (oh, heart eyes)!

Lu had a rough day yesterday.  Everything (everything!) scared her:  crabs, bugs, waves, bugs, lizards, the pool, the rain, bugs, lizards, dust bunnies…  She spent a lot of time crying and screaming and then crying.  Cuddles helped.

After nap, Joshua and I went on a little walk with just Lu through the neighborhood.  It was special not only because it’s so rare to just spend time with one child and both parents, but also because the meandering dirt road through the hills of the jungle took us past neighborhoods with precarious homes stacked on the hill, mangos dropped in the road, chickens, horses, and bananas…

I ran a bit and then returned to the villa to take Lily on a little walk too.  So wonderful to hold her hand and listen to her sweet voice and the sounds of the jungle.

Dinner. Pool. Bedtime.

Today, we woke up early (Lu wakes up when Joshua leaves…  So 515.).  We packed up and hit the road all at once:  Nana, Grumpy, Joshua, and Lily were picked up at the gate by a taxi, and Lu, Luna, and I walked to the main road to catch the bus to Cafe Milagro for a little cafecito and some breakfast.

While the big kids zip lined through the canopy, Lu and I spotted two scarlet macaws and accidentally caught a private chartered bus that carried us the 1 kilometer to Cafe Milagro (so embarrassing… I hailed it not realizing it was not the public bus, but the sweet driver stopped and picked us up, gratis.).

At Cafe Milagro, Lu slurped down yet another smoothie (all day, e’ry day) and I had (two, I admit it!) cafe lattes.  A little kitten played on the patio, and other tourists admired my calm and ease with two very young and calm children (other families were battling quite a bit of caterwauling and had better ratios…  Haha.  I soaked it up, but I know that some days you’re the parent with the screaming child, and some days you’re not.  Give thanks and don’t judge 😉 )

From there, we failed to flag down not one but two buses and finally caught a taxi to Playa Espadilla.  We watched parasailors, played in a little river, ate the rest of a bagel, and then wrapped it up by buying a little bracelet for Lu and catching the bus back to our villa.

As we walked up to the gate, the taxi bearing the big kids arrived at the same time, and we shared our mornings (Lily was so brave!  Not afraid of heights!)

And now I cashed in on my solo morning sans zipline to write for three hours!  We’ve got some fun plans in the works for the rest of our time in Manuel Antonio, but for now, I’m all caught up.  Pura vida!