Class Lotto Winners!

We got into all the classes we wanted…first choice for all of them.  I believe I have finally learned how to play the Reston Game.  You MUST have your form in before the due date, and then, on the opening day lotto, you may be pleasantly surprised.

So, suddenly our week is looking very interesting and full:

Monday:  Piano lesson, tumbling, Lucia time, art class

Tuesday:  Swim lessons, Odyssey of the Mind

Wednesday:  Spanish Class, Girl Scouts

Thursday:  Swim lessons

Friday:  Big sigh of relief at a quiet day

Saturday:  Tae Kwon Do

In addition, we’ve joined a gym where the whole family can go, so we’ll have trips to the gym every day and on the weekends.  Not to mention, lots of time to read and learn together at home, trips into the city or for special classes, and time to play with the people we love:  Owen, Lucia, Aidan, Alex, Maya, etc.

Very full days, and the weeks will fly by.

My Brain is Full…

Do you remember this cartoon?  I thought of it this week in reference to sweet Buster.  Chris’ parents were in town, and one of the fun things we planned was going into the city to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.  In an effort for our crew to have some information and understanding before we went, I printed off a teacher’s planning guide from the website.  (Chris’ parents have been to China, his mom several times, so they have a much broader base of understanding than any of the rest of us had.)

The teacher’s guide is wonderful.  Good pictures, tons of great information, and really helped us understand what we were going to see, yet how infinitesimal the number of warriors we were going to see was compared to the vast number at the actual site in China.  (The exhibit had about 15 full terra cotta warriors, plus some chariots and bronze statues.  The original site has over 7,000 warriors.)

As the children and I sat on the couch and read through the guide, Monkey was intrigued and interested, Yessa was half-interested, half just wanted to be part of the group, and the Buster, well, he stayed with it for 10 or 15 mintues, and then he was done.  He said he was done, he didn’t want to even hear any more, and finally I took him upstairs to hang out with Dad while the rest of us kept reading.  Hmmm, I thought.  I wonder how this will play out at the museum tomorrow.

The exhibit was great.  I could have spent a lot more time there reading, watching, thinking, and learning.  We were there about an hour, working our way through.  Zachary and Noa were done after about 45 minutes.  Zachary got so overwhelmed that he finally put his head under my sweater and followed me around through the last hall, acting like he was my tail.  He had had it with Terra Cotta Warriors.  He told me he had had it.

“Mom, if you make me see one more warrior my head will explode.”

It wasn’t that he was tired, and he wasn’t famished.  We went to Potbellies for lunch after the museum, and the kids all did great.  No one melted down.

It really was just that he was done with the Warriors.  He found them interesting to start with, and when his brain was full up on them, he knew it.

Of course, very often things lead back to homeschooling for me.  This was a prime example for me of how grateful I am for the flexibility we are given by homeschooling.  Just like with reading, or playing the piano, or learning about the Civil War, I wanted/want our time going to museums and learning new things to be joyful and interesting for all of us.  If pushed past a point of readiness and interest, the topic can become a point of dread or dislike.

When we go to China to visit our good buddies in a year and a half, I want the Terra Cotta experience to be a positive memory.  By allowing Zachary the right to end his interest when he needed to, odds are good that he’ll remember the day in a positive way.

I hope…

Christmas Preparation

I sent out this email this morning:

Noa’s Christmas Kitchen complete at 12:10 a.m.!

Cost of Christmas Kitchen:  $110

Cost of screwdriver:  $12

Cost of driving to cardboard recycling with all the boxes:  $3

Sense of Accomplishment and Anticipation at seeing her face:  Priceless

Merry Christmas, Loved Ones.

Received the following email from Best Friend Kathryn:

Look on Anna and Andrew’s face when they opened board games— mildly curious.
Look on Anna and Andrew’s face when they opened the 3house extravaganza with tunnels and balls— wow mom–look at this dad!
Look on Anna and Andrew’s face when they opened chapstick—priceless!

Sent her this response:

When Christmas morning is allowed to just unfold at a slow, leisurely, “I can play with this until I’m ready to move on” pace, it is lovely.

Truly, this morning, it was me encouraging the children to wake up.

Zoe woke coughing at 6, wanted to snuggle back to sleep.  I refrained from reminding her it was Christmas morning.

Noa woke at 6:10, wanted to snuggle back to sleep.  I refrained from reminding her it was Christmas morning.

Zachary padded in at 6:30, he asked if he could get up.  I asked him if he wanted to open presents.  😉

Everyone woke up in good moods, ready to go.

No new snow here yet.  Possible bad weather today, but it’s just overcast right now.

Enjoy the weather, whatever it is.  I’m cleaning in preparation for John and Mary’s arrival sometime tomorrow.  I do love a clean house.

And, FINALLY, hanging up pictures.  Makes me feel like we could actually live in this house.

Love you!

So many good reminders of the Joy of Christmas.  The simple things, the time, the memories, that is what adds up to time well spent.

Merry Christmas.

The Little White Table

A friend called a month ago to offer us a child-sized table and a couple chairs.  Her daughter had outgrown it, and they were ready to pass it along to another homeschooling family who would find it useful for a few years.

I hesitated for a moment before accepting it.  Where would it go?  Would we really use it?  Did we need a kid-sized table?

I am so glad Zoe was listening to the voice mail message with me and said, “Oh, boy, that will be great!”

So we went and picked up the table, and it’s been wonderful.

Our dining room is overfull already, thanks to the big farmhouse table we brought with us from the big yellow house.  It worked great there–a big farmhouse–not so well in our townhouse, but we aren’t ready to part with it yet, so it stays, burdening the whole room.  This new little table fits daintily under one end of the big table.  It’s like the big table had a baby.

The children love having a table at their height.  They eat at it, when it isn’t covered by some lego invention or a drawing in progress.  The chairs have been used for all kinds of stories and plays.  And as an added bonus, they can push it up to the pass through window in the kitchen and have a comfortable place to sit when we are all working on baking something together, or just to be part of what’s going on in the kitchen.  (The kitchen not being outsized either.)

It really has been a blessing.  Thanks, Leslie.

Tell about when your hand turned black…

These children love hearing stories about when I was little.  The good thing about that is me trolling through my memory to come up with all the anecdotes that would otherwise be forgotten to time.  The other good thing, that at first I saw as a bad thing, was that it is sometimes tough for me to think of stories about my dad from my younger childhood that don’t show him to be just difficult and cranky.  Both of those descriptors might be true, but they aren’t the image I want the children to carry of him, especially Yessa who never got to meet him.  So, I’ve been thinking and pondering and reminiscing, and it has made me realize how incredibly blessed I am to have three other humans on this planet who have an interest in hearing my stories.  I love to hear what they have to say, but to have it be reciprocal?!  Wow!  What a blessing.

And how fantastic it is in when one of them references a story I’ve told them.

“That’s kind of like the time your hand turned black, isn’t it, Mom.”  And then we both laugh and smile at each other knowingly.

Family lore, born before my eyes.

Yes, I did something that made my hand turn black, briefly, and the children love to hear about it again and again.

Give me an “s”

For 3 years now, we’ve had the joy of listening to the Buster talk without the initial “s” sound in most words.  My personal favorite:  “snuggle” becomes “nuggle,” as in, “Mom, let’s go nuggle,” when it is time for him to go to bed.  “Snow” was “no,” and “snake” was “nake”… you get the idea.  I really didn’t know or care of it would ever change.  We could tell what he was saying 98% of the time.  It did lead to some funny moments though, when we didn’t quite understand.

“Mom, I need a ring.”

“A ring?”

“No, a riinngg!”

Eventually Zoe would pop in to give me insight on what the appropriate word was.

Hence, we didn’t even really know if the Buster knew he was saying the words differently than most of the rest of the family.

Then, today, it happened.  Actually, this afternoon, and Buds and I were both there for the exact moment.

Zachary wanted an apple.  Buds was going to get the apples ready for Buster and Yessa.  I was crawling around in the dining room, picking up legoes.

“Dad, cut off the skin.”

I stood up, and stared at the Buster.

“What did you say?” I asked.

He looked at me curiously, then put his finger on the apple as if I was a little simple.

“Cut off the skin, the skin.”  He jabbed the apple for emphasis.

This morning, heck an hour prior, it would have been “kin, cut off the kin.”

And now, it’s “skin.”  And “snow,” and “sneaky snake,” and all the other phrases we had him say on the phone calls to the grandparents so they could celebrate this little milestone with us.  And celebrate the Buster, the ever-changing, ever-growing Buster.

Still, it makes me a little melancholy.  That same feeling I had when Monkey stopped calling the basement the “base-up.”  Or when “smoothie”stopped being “soothe me.”

Or when Yessa learned to say “nummers” instead of smacking her lips together to tell me she needed me.

Little milestones, tiny, little things, that all add up to one day closer to these children being not children anymore.

But always my babies.  Always…

Our Beach Home

For my benefit in years to come, and for friends like Gina who value a visual image of where we’ve been and where we stayed, I’m posting pictures of our second Costa Rica home.

Based at the Flamingo BeachResort and Spa, our room had a capacity of 6 people, which is what we had.

You walked into our room, bathroom on the left.  Then came the kitchenette with a microwave, toaster, little fridge, sink, and bar with stools.  Then, came the couch with queen-size bed, across from the big tv that sat on a bureau that housed the mini-bar.  Then two queen-size beds under the window.  Freezing cold air conditioning and we were all set.

Here it is in color:

These are some of the outside spaces at the resort.  This is the children’s swimming area, which our crew loved.  Imagine a couple of those lounge chairs pulled up right next to the side of the kiddie pool, with a couple women and a man in them, all drinking daquiris and grinning, oh, and the man has a kindle in his hand–and you’ll know what we looked like as the wee ones splashed away.

This is the children’s play area out in the sun by the kiddie pool.  Our crew preferred the pool, although they did play out here with Buds while Mom and I got our spa treatment.  Buds said they

played out there for about 40 minutes until he was afraid, “I’d burn them to a crisp.”  Even with sunscreen on, the sun still pinked up cheeks and shoulders during our stay at the beach.

I love this shot of Noa and Grandma in the play house.

This is the lobby of the hotel.  It didn’t really hit me at first, but one of the huge differences the climate makes is that the lobby of this luxury hotel is completely open on the sides.  If you look at the light shining on the far right side of the picture, that is where you walk up directly from the parking lot.  No doors, just open space.  Note the staircase on the left.  That leads up to the Spa, among other things.  Have  I mentioned I liked the spa?

This is the view opposite the doors leading up from the parking lot in the picture above.  You looked down from the lobby into the pool area.  The covered area on the right is the children’s pool.  The covered area on the left is the swim up bar, and straight through the back, past the man in the banana hammock, that’s the Pacific Ocean.  THAT close.  It was lovely.

And just a few last much-loved shots of this portion of our trip:

The Beach

The final three days of our Costa Rican Adventure were spent at a resort on the Pacific side of the country:  The Playa Flamingo Resort.  Buds had the idea of splitting our trip between the city and a beach, and he’s the one who tracked down The Flamingo.  It looked beautiful, but you never can tell until you actually get somewhere.

And, getting there was a haul.  It is only 120 miles from San Jose.  One hundred twenty miles–max of 2 hours in the U.S., right?  The resort website said 4 to 5 hours from the San Jose airport, which was close to our casita, and it was right.  Four and a half hours to drive 120 miles, but once we made it out of the rough and tumble of San Jose and Hwy 1, it was a beautiful drive.  The children did great, we were driving in the day time, it was gorgeous.  On the trip back at the end of the week, we even saw two wild monkeys just hanging out in a tree next to the road.  Truly beautiful country.

So, we left San Jose around 10:45 a.m., and headed for the beach.  We were so glad.

The beach ended up being everyone’s favorite part of the trip.  We’d get up in the morning, have breakfast, generally in our room with its little kitchen, then head down to the pool.  The children’s pool was completely covered, so shaded except in the late afternoon.  We’d splash and play and read and lounge for a couple hours.  One day we even got drinks from the swim-up bar, which was a hoot and a half.  Good grief they were strong, and we slurped them right up.  Another day, Buds took on sole kid duty and Mom and I disappeared to the spa for Serenity facials and head, neck, hand, and foot massages.  That was absolute heaven.  I have never loved my skin more than I did that day.  Mom was glowing.  Very luxurious feeling.

A little rest time in the room after we had lunch, then down to the ocean around 3:30.  Playing, splashing, and sand castle building until the sun set, then a relaxed evening and dinner.  The children were all generally asleep by 8 or 9.  Actually, all of us were generally asleep by then.  Truly paradise.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Oh, yes, and the waves.  Yessa was too overwhelmed to go very far into the water.  I spent some time playing in the surf.  Mom got knocked on her keister by waves a couple times.  The Buster spent the last afternoon playing in the waves a bunch, but overall was a sand-castle-building beach bum.  But Buds and Monkey?!  They were like fish.  Addled fish, but fish nonetheless.  Zoe would bob around out there on her own, then Buds would convince her to ride on his shoulders in the big waves for awhile.  When she had gotten tossed once too often, she come back in closer to shore for a breather.  Buds was a merman.  We almost missed our last, fantastic dinner out just the two of us because he was still shaky and a little nauseous from the beat down the waves gave him that day.

The character of the waves changes from day to day, and the last day of playing, there were big and brutal, and great fun, if you like that sort of thing.

Grandma is a Saint

My mom is amazing.  Truly amazing.  My dad died three years ago, and my mom has created a new life for herself after nearly 40 years with Dad, who had an extremely strong personality.  She has traveled, done mission work, increased her volunteering at her church, and comes to spend lots of time with us, which we love.

This was our year to have Christmas with my side of the family, but my brothers’ children are all grown with families of their own in many cases, so we asked Mom if she’d like to go to Costa Rica with us as our Christmas time together.  Of course, she was game.

Having her with us made it so much more fun and less stressful for everyone.  Buds and I were able to have a couple nice dinners together at the beach, just the two of us, for example.  And Mom and I got to have our facials, which we both loved.

Mom has also survived breast cancer.  She had a double mastectomy several years ago, and did a reconstruction TRAM Flap procedure at the same time, which takes a lot of strength, physcially and mentally.  She came through like the champ she is, and decided to have a prosthetic piece made for when she wears a swim suit.  It looked something like this:  Prosthetic.

When we were at the beach, Noa came across the silicone piece.  It feels very soft, and looks just like a nummer, which, of course, Yessa loves.  I saw her playing with it, and asked her to be very careful.  (Sometimes my faith in my own offspring is a little misguided.  A person’s definition of “careful” is very subjective.)  She promised she would be.

When I came across the “nummer” again, an hour later…well, let’s just say that Mom is out having a new prosthesis made right now.  Noa had obviously decided to see if this nummer works like the other nummers she is familiar with, and there were several sucked on hunks all over the silicone num.  I tried to push them back into place, but as you can imagine, it was for naught.  And I couldn’t even be upset with Yessa.  It falls within her definition of “careful” to have a suck on a num.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

Luckily, Mom laughed, too, when she saw her now-misshapen, extra piece.  I think we’ll hang on to it, and bring it out to show Noa when she’s older.

And if nothing else, it was a good reminder that kids have a totally different view of the world than adults.

A Walt Disney Afternoon…

To go with the National Geographic morning.

After the amazing waterfall, we piled back into the rental SUV, and headed to La Fortuna.  Buds tracked down a pizza place on the main street for us.  It has been interesting to see holiday decorations all over in this tropical paradise, but the adults were a little disconcerted, and the children tickled to find a blow-up Frosty the Snowman at a store next to the pizza place.  What concept do people have of snow here, let alone Frosty?!

From here we drove to Baldi Hot Springs–which John and Mary had recommended.  You walk into what looks like the lobby of a fancy hotel, except it is outdoors.  You plunk down a boatload of money, and the gal tells you there are a boatload of hot springs for you to plunk your butt in, in return for the money.  Mom and I were both feeling a little apprehensive.  How far down or up were we going to have to walk to enjoy these hot springs?  As much as we were glad and grateful we had done the waterfall, we weren’t sure we wanted two such adventures in one day.

But, being the hearty adventurers we are, we dived right in.  We walked up the path, rented a locker for stowing our stuff, and then headed up the hill to see what awaited.  Well, it was as different from our morning as could be, but filled with a joy of a totally different type.  We didn’t take any pictures here, but this website has a plethora that showcase the beauty of Baldi.  If you click on the photo in the middle of the second row, the one with the Flintstones looking giant rock in the center, that is where we spent most of our afternoon.  The thing I love about this picture is that the whole time we were there, it was overcast, so it was not until I saw this picture that I realized the volcano was JUST RIGHT THERE!  Stupid volcanoes, always hiding.

Anyway, this was a place of physical luxury.  We could have stayed here for days and days.  There were really, really hot pools, or warm pools, or even cool ones, but they were all just beautiful.

By the time we finished here, the children were just about melting.  When the Buster gets hungry, you have approx 2.7 minutes to get food, of his choosing, into his mouth, or he is done.  I pulled into the first pizza/Italian place I saw, and we hustled inside for a meal in a restaraunt we had all to ourselves.

Then, as the children fell asleep in the back, we bagan the 2 1/2 hour drive back over the mountain and through the Cloud Forest back to San Jose.  I didn’t mind driving in Costa Rica at all.  It is actually my sort of driving.  People are polite, but assertive.  You pass when you get a chance, and you zoom-zoom whenever you have the chance.  We frequently saw police cars, but never had any trouble.

But, this drive through the Cloud Forest.  Good grief, what an appropriate name.  It isn’t just that I was driving on twisty, mountain roads.  It wasn’t just that they were only two lane roads.  It wasn’t even that it was dark, and foggy…well, cloudy, I guess.  It’s that the people walk right in the freakin’ road, even in the dark of night.  Or bike in the road, or just stand on the side of the road visiting.  Heck, we even had cows walking themselves home on the side of the road on the drive in the morning.  Add to that, being within 2 miles from home, and having to make a left turn across the busiest road in the whole country, where there are no lights to indicate turn offs.  I got to do my Dukes of Hazard impression that night.

Still and all, thanks to the GPS and my fantastic naviguesser husband, I’m so glad we rented a car.  Public buses aren’t always willing to stop immediately when the youngest informs you she needs to poop.