Sunday, February 17, 2013


I'm not going to lie to you.  Re-entry from our vacation was...well, a bit of a shock.  However, now that I am settled and things are back to normal (if there is such a thing around here),  I am plowing along, day by day, busy with our usual activities and with some unusual ones as well.  It follows, then, that this will be a rambling post about this and that since so many things are happening in our family these days.

The kids are doing all kinds of things to keep themselves busy.  Joey just got his letterman's jacket and we are so proud of him!  This totally biased mom thinks he looks great, especially when pictured with his beaming dad sporting his own now-ancient jacket. Two generations of football, more to come I hope.  I particularly like Joey's choice for the back of his jacket:  "Saint Michael the Archangel, Defend us in Battle".  He is rarely home as he goes to school at 6:15 for off-season football conditioning and stays until 5:30 for track practice.  He is a sprinter as you may recall and is trying hurdles for the first time--I hear he's good and can't wait for his first meet.

In stark contrast, Lindsey, too, has realized her life's dream, as she finally has the hammock she has been wanting for some time.  Jay and I brought it back from Costa Rica for her in her very favorite color.  She is spending lots of time there reading and listening to music despite the still-wintery weather.  She cantors often for school masses and I love to hear her sweet voice.  She constantly amuses me with her lovable quirkiness.

Sam just returned from his first "Snow Camping" adventure with his Boy Scout troop.  Here he is with all his gear, ready for his two mile hike in fresh powder at midnight.  Not surprisingly, when asked how it was, his reply was, "Cold."  Even so, he had a great time at the Klondike Derby shooting snow cannons (what the heck is a snow cannon anyway?!) and competing with other troops in all sorts of snowy events.  He, unlike Joey, decided to continue on from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts and is really enjoying all the activities his very busy troop provides for him to do. He is also playing basketball for the first time for Sacred Heart and loves it.  Not being a basketball family, we are not sure where this came from, but we are happy for him!

Julia continues with her gymnastics and is a pleasure to watch.  She will be competing new routines in some upcoming meets and I am looking forward to seeing how she has grown in her sport since the fall.  Bella has begun taking gym classes too and is catching on quickly.  I hope it isn't the end of her cheer career as she is such a great little cheerleader.  However, gymnastics stole Julia from cheer and it may snatch Bella away as well.  Bella will be turning six on Friday.

Toothless, Tiger Scout Tony is VERY BUSY playing Minecraft.  This is a building game and I am absolutely stunned at the complicated and creative worlds he has created.  Of course, I am thinking he is a budding architect and am happy to have at least one career decided upon for my children.  Six more to go...

Natalie is my constant companion and a continual joy.  I am treasuring this last year and a half of having her at home.  I will be lost when she goes to school.  (But maybe I'll get over it somehow.)

As for me, I fell off a ladder last week and banged my head pretty hard on the corner of a table on my way down.  Luckily, I had a brain scan scheduled a few days later anyway, and the bump was on the opposite side of my Omaya, so we were able to see pretty quickly that all was well.  Nonetheless, it hurt quite a bit and slowed me down considerably for a few days.  I will be avoiding ladders from now on.

About that brain scan:  Remarkably, I remain stable.  Still have two metastatic spots, still not growing, shrinking or changing.  Though I would prefer "clear" I am pretty happy with "stable".  Chalk up another two months for me, hurray!  God is good.

Finally, Jay and I are excited to be doing something totally out of the ordinary for us.  We are going to the Costume Designer Guild Awards in Beverly Hills on Tuesday.  My friend from high school, now a successful business owner, runs this show (among many other things) every year and she sent us tickets out of the blue for fun.  I have a gown to wear (great sale at Macy's!) and Jay has his tux all ready to go.  We are like little kids playing dress up...and maybe we'll even see some movie stars!  Fun, fun fun.

This is starting to feel like the Christmas letter I never I'll close with that.  Rest assured that, though much time passes between posts at times, that I am well.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Greetings from Costa Rica!

Costa Rica was not on my list of places to visit. Yet, here we are and I have no idea why it wasn't! This place is beyond amazing. It is lush like Kauai (my favorite place on earth) with a rainbow of bright flowers and birds of every color and size. We are staying in a beautiful hotel with a very close view of the volcano Arenal and geothermal hot springs feeding into little pools all down the hill by our room. Every few hours when it is just starting to feel a little warm, it dumps rain for about five minutes and then the blue sky shines through again. This is truly paradise.

I am finding this country, a republic, to be very well run and efficient. I see the poverty of the tin roofed-cardboard sided clusters of shelters but I also see a refined and welcoming people, busy in their various industries and kind to Americans (not always the case as we are collectively known as obnoxious and entitled travelers in many places I have been). 

We are here, along with roughly 90 others, as guests of one of the founders of Vivisimo, the company for which Jay has worked for five years. Vivisimo was recently sold to IBM and a lot of money was made in the deal. Our benefactor set aside a percent of his earnings and offered this complete 6-day vacation to all of the employees that made the company the gem that attracted IBM. See, chivalry is not dead everywhere!

Today we went on a river tour where we saw howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys, turtles, both the two and the three-toed sloth, and lots of caiman (a variety of gator/crocodile that I had never heard of before today).  We had a delicious "typical lunch" of black beans, rice and chicken with fresh pineapple ripened to the peak of sweetness in a nearby field.  I learned that Costa Rica exports sugar, teakwood, oranges and pineapples, from this side of the country.  Who knows what else we will find when we move to the other side in a few days.

Tomorrow we plan to go to mass in a little church on the town square in La Fortuna and then go zip lining, hurrying back, naturally, to watch the 49ers win the Super Bowl.  I am so happy I am here with my wonderful husband, and I am confident that my kids are being well-cared for by people who love them at home.  There are a few pretty cute kids on this trip and I am flipping between relief that mine are not here and sadness that they aren't. I'm pretty sure the relief is going to win out, though.  At least for awhile, anyway!

Our river boat ride took us very close to the border of Nicaragua and we saw boats of people who commute down the river to work in Costa Rica and return to their homes in Nicaragua.  Our guide told us the unemployment rate in Nicaragua is 50%, far higher than that in Costa Rica.

Here are some pictures Jay took today--ain't technology great?

My initial amazement at our accommodations:

The "Jesus Christ Lizard" named so for its ability to walk on water:

Howler Monkeys swinging through the trees alongside the river:

Bird drying its wings in the sun after a fishing trip:

Rather large iguana:

Caiman regulating his body temperature...unsure why mouth is required to be open during the process:

The view from the sitting area in our room:

We are most certainly lucky ducks.