Friday, September 11, 2009

First 10 days in Costa Rica

Pictures will be coming by tomorrow. They wouldn´t let me download directly here at the internet cafe.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, we left at 9:20 and after three flights, arrived in Alajuela, Costa Rica at 8:30. Of course, lots of fights, whiny kids, etc. to entertain me during the day. C. thought he was in heaven sitting in the airplane eating. He said, "We should do this everyday - fly, have a little light that shines on us, have a little tray that folds down, and have someone bring us dinner." The absolute worst part of the day was maneuvering the 3 large pieces of luggage and 5 small ones from the baggage claim onto a cart, over to moving belts to check them, onto the moving belts, off the moving belts, back onto the cart, walk 200 feet, be told the cart can go no further, take them off the cart, haul them outide, wait for ride, --no one in sight but buggy taxi drivers--, find out there´s another exit, haul everything there, then finally....see a waving arm and smiling face. Oscar Rodriguez, who was taught by my friend Liz Granados while on her mission, and a member of the bishopric were there to meet us and take us to Oscar´s home.

Oscar and his wife Flor live at the bottom of hill with some stairs, some ramp, some dirt. Thanks goodness I had help with those suitcases at that point. I don´t think I would have made it down there! Flor had a meal prepared and waiting for us and had given us their bed to sleep in so we would be comfortable. Not ever having met us-yet ready to share all they had with us.

I slept maybe one hour the first night-the girls coughing and sneezing from their colds, nerves from trip, and the heat and humidity. In the morning I kept hearing someone yelling. I though,t "What an obnoxious neighbor! Why don´t they shut up?" We found out that it´s their pet parrot that talks all day long and tries to answer the phone when it rings. If no one answers the phone, he starts calling all the names of the family to get their attention. The kids had a blast making the phone ring, then listening to the bird.

The next day, Oscar had a taxi pick us up and take us the half hour to the bus station in San Jose. There we met Jeanette, our contact in San Isidro. Liz knew Jeanette from her mission and had put me in contact with her. Jeanette had gone to a school to inquire about a teaching position for me. We boarded the bus, then took a 3 1/2 bus ride to San Isidro. It´s extremely high, but you don´t really feel it because there´s so much foliage alongside the roads. You go up, up, around, around, up, around then down, around down , around. Of course, I had to have at least one child get car sick. Luckily she never did vomit. It´s an incredibly beautiful drive. I´ve never been to Hawaii, but after seeing some of Costa Rica I´m not sure I care about going. The mountainsides are a paradise.

Jeanette had two rooms ready for us. She rents in a nice, cozy home right by the Pan-American highway and the McDonalds. The next day we went to look for apartments for rent, but ended up discouraged and completely exhausted. I´d now had two nights of almost no sleep.

On Thursday, I bought uniforms for the kids and on Friday, they went to their first day of school. After 1 1/2 hours there, S. was screaming for me. I finally calmed her down, promised ice cream if she´d go to class (no critique of my parenting skills, please).

On Friday, we decided to live with Jeanette. We worked out prices and I also am paying her to cook the main meal of the day. That way, we can try out Costa Rican food, and it will help keep me sane after teaching all day. She is a wonderful, fun lady that has welcomed us with open arms. She loves kids, and has sworn to me that they won´t drive her crazy. We´ll see...

On Sat. we decided to go to the beach. I went early and bought bus tickets, then we caught the 9:00 bus to Dominical. Hour and half drive, very pretty. The beach has a row of trees which S. and I stayed under most of the day. That´s why the others were all burned and we were nice and white! Ch. was burned pretty bad. I had told them all to come get more sunscreen, but they all wanted to ignore me. We had to wait a while for the bus. The 1:30 bus had come 15 min. early, so we went out at 2:10 for the 2:30 bus. We were muddy (the sand is strange - black and muddy), sticky, out of food and water and HOT; HOT; HOT, and I had an extremely grumpy 6 year-old. There was no shade by the bus stop, and I wasn´t sure I was going to survive the last few minutes of waiting. We did survive, with no child abuse involved, and made it back.

Sunday - We went to church; I´ll be able to help out by playing the piano for the time we´re here. The people were very sweet, especially Yamilet Torres, the branch president´s wife. She lent us a table and bed while we´re here. That night we were invited to a Family Home Evening activity with lesson and food. Then the kids got to run around and play. By that evening, I was completely run-down and so were the kids. They finally got to be with kids and play and laugh, and I finally felt like I was going to survive this adventure. Ch. hung around a bit with Yamilet´s 15 year-old son. At his age, it´s a lot harder to make friends so I´m hoping that they can be friends while we´re here.

Mon. - S. went to school just fine, but then thew a fit over a misunderstanding of when she´d receive an ice cream. She was screaming, kicking, hitting, then threw up she was crying so hard. I don´t think anyone is ever going to convince that child to do something she doesn´t want to do. I started teaching, kind of. They kept the interim teacher here for the week to help acclimate me to the school and the classes. She was great to work with so it will be a little sad to be by myself next week.

Tues. - S. went to school fine, but because she´s younger than the other kids they were pushing me to take her out. I felt bad, and the emotion of the week caught up with me.

Wed. - S. would NOT go into class. That was it. I talked to Jeanette and am paying her to watch S. during the day. I have Fridays off, so she´ll have her 4 days a week. I also asked the school for more money, since I now only have 3 kids in the school. I asked for enough to pay Jeanette for watching her. I´m hoping they´ll come through.


Alarm rings at 5:50 (yes, that is the middle of the night for me)
Try to leave for school by 6:55. I haven´t left before 7 yet.
Rush, rush to school. We have to cross the busy road every time which I hate. Sometimes it can take a while to cross.
School starts at 7:15
School´s out at 2:15
We walk home, usually buying some fresh bread or treats on the way home
Eat around 3:30 (Thank you Jeanette, Can I bring you back with me to cook???)
The kids and I do the dishes together
Collapse at 4:30
Go run errands around 5, if needed
6:00 - it´s completely dark, we make a snack
6:30 - I have them do a little homework that I brought with me.
7:00 -quick baths, not a lot of hot water (it´s too humid to sleep without a bath)
7:20 - read history, scriptures, then they can watch Scooby Doo on the laptop.
8:00 - kids in bed

I give you our schedule because the rhythm of our lives here is so different from the states. We don´t have a car, and neither does Jeanette, so everything takes longer. Getting groceries happens in lots of short trips, dictated by how much I can carry. The traffic on the main road is really busy at 5:30-6:30. So we try to be back inside for the evening by then, and it´s dark anyway.

Overall, after 10 days, things are going well. I´ve barely started to sleep better (it´s noisy outside and I have a kid in the bed with me) S. is now calm that she doesn´t have to go to school, M. is happy at school, C. is pretty happy at school. Ch. is the one that´s having a harder time adjusting. Junior high age is hard anyway, so it´s been a double whammy. They went on a field day, and all the boys played soccer really well. So he felt a little bad. But yesterday he took his drumsticks to school and wowed them with his drumstick-twirling-through-the- fingers talent. He liked that. I´m so hoping he´ll make friends and enjoy his time here. Even though the kids are all still speaking English with each other, they´ve all shown improvement even with just one week here.

If you´re still here reading, thanks for keeping tabs on us!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Echo Debut

After the kids' choir concert, their teacher Catherine allowed her son and Ch. (the two members of Echo) debut their band. They had really only practiced one afternoon and the friend is only 10, so we thought they did awesome! They had some technical difficulties at first because a child had kicked the amp and it wouldn't work. The song does finally start at about 1:15 on the video. It truly was exciting!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Our exciting summer event!

Our exciting news comes from Sandy! Ch. has been given the child lead in "Seussical, The Musical" at the Sandy City Amphitheater. He had the part in Seussical, Jr. which is a smaller version of the musical and was a children's production. The Sandy production is mostly adults, and he had to go through a pretty long audition. It's going to occupy our entire summer, but we're all so excited for him! Well, Scot had a hard time with it at first. I started doing a musical (Once On This Island) here in Lehi and was having so much fun dancing. Scot didn't want me to have to quit the show because I was so excited to be a part of it. But.... when you have kids, and they have dreams.... yours come second to theirs. On the positive side Seussical is letting me be in their ensemble since I'm going to be taking him up there all summer. If anyone would like to come, the website is

The performances will be August 14-22. I haven't danced in 20 years, so it should be entertaining just watching me :-)

Also, we went to Snowbird this past week and had a great time. We spent Sunday afternoon at Temple Square and saw so many great things. Everybody needs to take a trip down there and see the International Art Competition at the conference center. It was great! One afternoon we went on a hike, with M. screaming and crying large tears the entire time. That was fun. Afterwards we went to D.I. That really was fun! I love DI. I truly could spend hours there every week. It's a huge yard sale all in one building. What's not to love? To top off that afternoon , we went to Wheeler Farm and milked the cows. It was so nice to go with Scot. He's always working and never gets to go see things with us.
For dinner, we were going to go Indian, but then I saw Sweet Tomatoes and knew the kids would like it. We haven't been in a few years, so Ch. was the only one who remembered it. The kids thought they were in heaven! C. was almost hyperventilating about how delicious the salad was. After dessert, he wanted to go back for more salad!

Our other news is the loss of 2 teeth!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Las Vegas and Los Angeles

At the end of March, we went to Las Vegas with Angie and Dan and their brood of 5. We got some cheap condo bonus weeks and took off for our first big vacation with them. We felt quite privileged to be the recipient of Dan's vacation time, as they spend a lot of it with Angie's family in California. In Vegas, we went hiking to Red Rock Canyon, swam ( I should say the kids swam - It has to be 90 degrees before I'll swim :-) The kids had so much fun. We ate all our dinners together, switched off nights to cook, and even got in a date night for each of us.

We took the four boys to a sports car dealership. We told them that if they "touched" the car at any moment, we were turning and walking out. They salivated a lot , but no touching

Hiking in Red Rock Canyon

About a week before we left for Vegas, Scot was complaining about how many projects he had, and how he needed us to go away for a while. I used to go to my mom's so he could work on the house, but now that's not an option. So I got the crazy idea: Well, we're not too far from California.. Who do I know in California? At first I couldn't think of anyone, but then I remembered a missionary who served in MS when I was 8. I'm sure after 28 years he wants us to crash at his house. Then I remembered Scot had an aunt there - not an aunt he knew very all. But, I am who I am, and I called. "This is JulieAnn, Scot Willey's wife. Do you remember me?" Definitely a close enough relationship to invite yourself over for a week with 4 kids :-) The lady is as crazy as I am --- she accepted my invite to her house.

I was pretty nervous - the thought of driving to and in LA was pretty scary to me. I've been known to have some serious panic attacks while driving. I had a couple of freak-out moments, but over all I did really well. Ch. was my guide - sitting in the front seat navigating for us. He did amazing. One lady at a museum, upon seeing him with the maps, commented that with mapquest now, no one can read maps. End of guilt that we did no homeschooling that day. School fulfilled.

Before I left, I googled "free things to do in LA". I was amazed by all there is to do there on an extremely limited budget. I could have stayed another week (I'm sure the aunt was rooting for that!) and still have had lots to do. We went to La Brea tar pits (with Aunt Shirley - she'd never been), Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (free and amazing!), tide pools, beaches, California Science Center (free and incredible), Farmer's Market, to Carlsbad to see the missionary, stuck one day at home with car problems, Getty Villa (so beautiful and yes, free). We passed through Ethiopan town, Cambodian town, Korean town, and never had time to stop. I'm a sucker for anything ethnic. We took Aunt Shirley out to eat Thai food (she'd never had any). We loved staying with Aunt Shirley. Just so you know, any of you are welcome to make the same phone call to me whenever you'd like. Though Lehi sure isn't a hot destination spot.

Scot got a lot done on the house. He worked on planting the fruit trees, putting in the water purifier he bought 2 years ago, and framing the basement.

La Brea tar pits with Aunt Shirley
Notice some attitude we were dealing with.

Getty Villa (replica of the Villa de Papiri buried by Mt. Vesuvius) Since we did the ancient civilizations this year in history, the Greek and Roman artifacts were somewhat interesting to the kids.

afternoon with Stacey Goodson, served his mission in Miss., many moons ago

Tide Pools, San Pedro

And Our Home Will Never Be the Same...

When Ch. said he wanted drums, Scot assured me that this is a quick phase that all males go through. Wow, he was wrong! Ch. has been saving Christmas, bday, babysitting money for these. He wanted to buy anything he could find, sight unseen. We finally convinced him he could get a better deal on In case you're wondering --- Yes, we bought him ear plugs, and yes it's very loud. What I didn't get were ear plugs for the rest of us. Honestly, the worst thing is not the noise of the drums, but that he can't hear me when I yell for him. I have to walk upstairs to get him -- annoying. If you go to his blog, he taped himself playing with a CD. But he couldn't hear the CD very well so he's a little off sometimes. He hasn't had any instruction yet, so truly I'm really amazed with how well he's doing.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


For the four of you read my incredible blog, sorry it's taken me so long to get anything posted! A few weeks, I gladly accepted the opportunity to watch Angie's 2 and 5-year-old for 2 days. You would think after having four children that you're up to the challenge. In the first 10 minutes we were home (none of them had even made it through the door), they found the newly-formed mud created by the melting snow. Of course, each child had only brought one pair of shoes. Luckily, I had other shoes we found for them. S. was so excited to have a friend that she kept climbing on the couches and jumping off the back of them (one of them now has a hole - people just don't design couches for their true purpose - indoor trampoline). Then she proceeded to throw handfuls of dirt from the pitiful house plant that had been sitting there for months without her ever touching the dirt. THEN, M. decides to "borrow" my cell phone and break into two non-functioning pieces. That was all in the first 2 hours. Fortunately, everything improved from this point on, and we thoroughly enjoyed having them here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mexican Ham Bean Soup & Oatmeal Molasses Bread

Do you know why I'm not a very good blogger? I hate to type, I don't have a good camera, and I'm not humorous. So I do wonder sometimes why I continue doing this. I've decided it's for me. It's my journal, my recipe box, my reminder of how much I love my kids, my reminder that I accomplished something, made a new recipe, did something that was hard for me (like writing a blog post). So, I press on...Here's one of our favorite winter soups. I make this 4 or 5 times every winter. It's really quite a forgiving soup, so amounts don't need to be exact. You must put the toppings on; they make the soup. Also, the bread is so good with this. You really should eat them at the same time!

Mexican Ham Bean Soup (adapted from CL)

2 cans pinto beans (or 4-5 cups cooked from dried beans)
8 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 ½ c. chopped carrots (around ½ inch slices)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups cubed smoked ham steak (I always use leftover ham, great with the bone)
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 T ground cumin
1 T. dried oregano
3 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 t. chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce (Use more or less to suit your taste, but don’t leave it out!!)
shredded Manchego cheese or Monterey Jack cheese
minced fresh cilantro
sour cream
Cook onions, celery, and carrots in a Dutch oven size pot over medium heat for about five minutes. Add garlic for a minute .Combine the rest of the soup ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 1-1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.
Discard bay leaves. Ladle soup into 8 bowls. Top with cheese; sprinkle with cilantro.

Oatmeal Molasses Bread (adapted from CL)

2 loaves (12 servings per loaf) (serving size: 1 slice)
2 cups fat-free buttermilk
1/2 cup regular oats
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
around 4 cups whole wheat flour (I've also subbed a little for wheat germ and liked it)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raisins (if you don't like raisins you'll be missing the best part of this bread)
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal

Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. (Ileft this part in , but you all know I just throw it all in with the liquids :-)
Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist; stir in raisins. Stir until dough pulls together in a shaggy mass. Let rest 2 minutes.
(The recipe says to knead this. Impossible. If you put enough flour in to knead this bread, it's too dry.) Mix a couple of times more and drop half of dough into a 6-inch round loaf on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Repeat procedure with remaining dough. Make 3 diagonal cuts 1/4-inch deep across top of each loaf using a sharp knife.
Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375° (do not remove loaves from oven); bake an additional 15 minutes or until bottom of each loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Don't overcook!!!