Feathered Aspen


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Lu, Age 3

Miss Lupine, age 3

For your third birthday, we took you, your sisters, and Ellison to Lakeside Amusement Park.  It was Lily’s idea, and it was a good one!  We bought a long strip of tickets, and you rode almost every ride, beaming the entire time.  We were quite impressed with your fearlessness, but when we got to the Ferris Wheel you finally found your limit.  And I can’t blame you!  My heart was doing little flips from the height and the speed.  Your older sister was in heaven.

That night, we headed back to the Ps and ate charcuterie, which I have decided is perhaps the most perfect meal for a three year old (and possibly one of the most expensive!).  You gobbled up olives and cheese and crackers and fruit with a good deal of enthusiasm.  Before bed, you opened up your gift from us which you had begun requesting months ago:  a ring just like Lily’s.  Sadly, it was far too big (a size one!), but I’m hanging on to it until your little fingers get bigger.

The next day was Saturday, and we threw everything together for a pizza party over at Bob and Sandy’s.  Though it was a smaller crowd, we had a wonderful evening, and for dessert, you chose blueberry pie.  The candle was improvised, but you and Lily both got to blow it out.

Dear Lu,

You are a light.  We are so lucky to have you in this family.  You’re funny, sweet, and generous.  You play well with others, and you are thoughtful.  You adore your sisters, and you’re sweet to your mama and daddy too.  These days, you’re always asking to “go do something” or “go see someone.”  You love socializing and playing, you love being on the go.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve jotted down just a few of the funny things you’ve said.

  1. In Minnesota, I ordered an iced coffee at Caribou. Lily was upset when I didn’t order anything for anyone else, but Lu said to Lily, “well! She adult!” Her indignance on my part was hilarious.
  2. We were driving somewhere (I’ve forgotten where) and Lu asked (very seriously) from the backseat, “mama, will it be a mad house today?”
  3. On a walk, I had accumulated the leash, the helmet, a bag, and the strider bike. Lu reached to grab the leash from me, and I sort of just thoughtlessly shook my head no.  She frowned and said, “you’re carrying too many things!  Let me help!”
  4. This past weekend, I was making breakfast, and Lu saw me working in the kitchen. She dragged in a chair and said, “I’m ready to help you, mama.  I’m a really good helper.”
  5. The other night, Lu cried out from a nightmare, and Joshua and I went to help her settle back onto her pillow. As she flopped onto the bed, she said (half asleep) “I’m so fast!”

Other common sayings from Lu:

  1. “Well! She likes it!”  (Whenever I admonish her to be more gentle or stop doing something to Luna.)
  2. “Where’s Lily?” (Whenever she is out of sight.  This little girl loves her big sister.)
  3. “When are we going to see Bierstadt and Ellison?” (She loves her little friends.)
  4. “What are we going to do today?” (During any lull, even if it’s just before bedtime.)
  5. “I’m not sad.” (When she sees her big sister having some big emotions.)
  6. “Snuggle me! No!  Squeeze me harder!”  (At night.)

Lu, those are the tiniest snapshot.  I have this feeling probably every day when I see you do something silly or thoughtful or say something hilarious that I want to write it down and capture the moment.  I want to be able to come back and look at you, indignant, trying to make your sisters laugh, looking to help without having been asked, just being this sweet, wonderful, confident little three year old.

Not a day goes by when I don’t look into your little face or hold your little body and just want to breathe you in.  You are so good.  I’m in awe of you, and not only do I love you, but I like you.  So much.

I want to start doing little interviews to write down here, but for now, I’ll just write a list of things you love:

  1. Biking on your strider bike. You’ve gotten so good at it in such a short time!  In April, you were just so hesitant starting out, and now you’re speedy!  Joshua takes you to the park, and you climb to the top of the hills and then bomb them going down.  For some reason, I can totally see you as a mountain biking babe J
  2. Playing with your big sister. When the two of you are playing well, it’s gold.  Often, it’s babies, but sometimes it’s doctor or just drawing or swinging on the swings and trying to make her laugh.
  3. Seeing your grandparents. All of them.  No matter which one I tell you were about to see, you get so excited.
  4. You love going to the Children’s Museum and the Zoo.
  5. Playgrounds!
  6. Apples, crackers, cheese, olives, pickles, bananas, lara bars, bread, and most of all, OATMEAL (your most loved and oft requested meal).
  7. You’ve decided your “song” is anything by Jack Johnson. “Play my song, mama!”
  8. You still love to hold my hand (I hope you always do!).

I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but this is my snapshot of you at age three.

I love you, my little Lu!


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Two Months in a Nutshell

It’s been ages since I’ve seized a moment to sit down and write.  In fact, I believe it was our last day in Samara.

Well, as I’m sure you surmised, we arrived safely back in Denver.  We drove back to San Jose and settled into one of the only hotels that wasn’t booked for the night because our timing coincided with a major soccer game at the stadium in San Jose.  We spent a pleasant evening eating out for the last time, shopping for some last minute souvenirs and gifts, and Joshua watched the soccer game on TV while I took the girls for a chilly swim in the pool.

The flight back was less eventful than our flight out, and we stayed in our house for four nights before packing up and cleaning up again.  And our house has been on AirBnB ever since!  For our first adventure, we headed down with our pop up to Salida to visit my mom and retrieve Oscar.  She and Dan really live in such a beautiful part of Colorado, and it’s nice to have a little home away from home to appreciate the mountains and canyons.

We headed back to Denver to celebrate Lu’s birthday and stayed at the Ps for a few nights and then migrated to Bob and Sandy’s for another week or so.  Though we had planned to do more camping, we got slammed with a nasty cold and hunkered down to recover.

On July 12, we celebrated Stacy’s birthday and then headed back to Salida for a night.  From there, we wandered up to Leadville where we camped on Turquoise Lake for a few nights before our final leg of the journey up to State Forest State Park for Joshua’s fourth Never Summer 100 k.

With another finish and a PR in the bag, we headed back down the Poudre River Valley and into Denver where we once again set up shop in Bob and Sandy’s home.

Wait!  Hold on!  AirBnB?  Bob and Sandy?  What’s this?  Yes, folks.  We decided to put our sweet little home up on AirBnB for the rest of the summer, and we were able to do that because Stacy’s parents generously offered to let us “house sit” (squat?) in their home while they’re out of town.  It’s been both a Boone and a challenge living in limbo, but we’re happy to say that we’ll be moving back to our little home at the end of September, and life will become a little bit more normal.

After we got back from Never Summer, my dad and Mandy, as well as my uncle and his fiancé from England came into town for a long weekend, and we got to show them around our neck of the woods.  Joshua started work, and just two short weeks later, the three girls and I took the train to the airport and a flight to Minnesota!  Yup!  Flying solo with three kids.  I feel it deserves a bit of awe, and yet it wasn’t that bad.  There was one woman who really detested children on our first flight, but really, the kids were wonderful.

I had geared myself up for some solo endurance parenting while in Minnesota, and though I was a bit weary by the sixth day, the week went really well.  Between the doting attentions of Boobah and Zeydah, Uncle Eamon and Auntie Hannah, my dear friends, and Papa and Granny, they got plenty of extra attention, and I was even able to sneak out of some super speedy runs!  I was inspired by my brother who is trying to walk onto the DePaul XC team, and I even did a 6.5 miler at 7:47 pace!

It was so lovely to spend time with family.  I had a bit of a bucket list, and I think I did it all:  paddle in a canoe, swim in a lake with my babies, make a wish in the fountain at the conservatory, walk through the woods, drink a glass of wine with my sister, get my brother to hold a baby (actually that might not have happened), visit the Devanes, see Ashlee, meet up with my social media kindred spirit Emma, and just spend time with my dad and Mandy.  It really was a good trip.  We ended on a positive note too.  The last night we headed up to Turtle Lake and took the canoe out.  Hannah and I paddled for a bit with Lu between us, and we even saw a Loon.  The sun set and gave us a good show.  I did a headstand for posterity.

We flew back and Joshua picked us up at Union Station.  When we got home, there was quite the surprise waiting for us!  A Vanagon!  Oh my!  I’m 99 percent thrilled and about 70 percent terrified by the leap.  I’m sure you’ll hear more as we assess the work that needs to be done and figure out how to drive the damn thing 😉

And then!  The very next morning Lily began her first day of kindergarten!  I mean.  We don’t do things half way, do we?!  Hit the ground running, as they say!

So that’s the past two months in a nutshell, and I’m hoping I’ll be back with a much belated post for Lu’s birthday and then a little update on each of the girls.  Cheers!


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Samara

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!

xoxo


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Overheard

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

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Lock my treasures up. -Lu

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Wrap me up like a pepper. -Lu

***

Get out of town! -Lu


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Montverde

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.