Sunday, December 11, 2005

Now that Aidan is 6 he is all about BALLS. He has turned into quite the boy and can not resist chasing a ball or kicking or throwing it. Or scooting or biking or swimming or whatever. It actually gets really annoying - he kicks balls all over our house. We have had quite a few ballooons around from the birthday parties - if he sees one the speed picks up and he dribbles and kicks. I remember maybe 3 years ago when he did his first soccer with Coach Jamie - I had to run around with him holding his hand (and carrying Quincy). And after season was over he informed me he didn't like soccer. "Why?" "Because I don't like running". Now he would play soccer every day if he could. He will be trying out basketball after the holidays. The other kindergarten class formed a team and he and another girl from his class will be joining in. I sort of suspect he and Emma to be 2 of the tallest - they are amongst the oldest and tallest in their class anyway - and the other class seems positively tiny to me - and a whole bunch of the kids also wear glasses. You would think the classes would look more similar but to me they don't. Aidan is very concerned however that he do well (as in all things) and especially that he WIN. When playing soccer this season - the first year he was really playing true games - he would suss out the other team when we walked up and if he thought they looked too good or bigger than him he wouldn't be sure he wanted to play! He has good skills and native ability. Quincy went from complete uninterest at the beginning of the fall (to kicking the ball etc) to being quite interested (altho he hated going to Aidan's practices or games and wanted no part of watching) and he can get in a good kick now. I have him signed up (with his permission/interest) in classes with Coach Jamie with his friend Cy. Should be a good match for him I think. It will be interesting to see if Aidan can restrain himself on the sideline. I suspect he will find another kid to kick with or dribble up and down the field off-side. Quincy is also signed up for Acrosports in the 4 & 5 yr old class with his cousin Ellie in January. And speech will still happen twice a week altho it is being moved so Aidan no longer has to go - it will be at 1.00. So Quincy will be a busy little kid but the kids will have 3 more afternoons a week than they do now that are unstructured after we pick up Aidan. I am moving swimming back to only once a week on Saturday. Phew. It will also free me up to do a bit more with dinners - currently we get home at 5.30 or 6.00 4 days a week! Since my goal is usually 6 to 6.15 for dinner - well - it hasn't worked that well... The good about having Aidan attend speech with us is that it happened to be the days before his homework and book journal were due - so we had a chance to sit down and do that. It is much harder to carve out a time from play to do work at home.

Now that I have a 4 yr old and a 6 yr old I have noticed that they are suddenly quite able (and interested) in playing board games by themselves. Quincy played a version of shoots and ladders last Friday with 2 little girls on a playdate - parent free. He played Candyland with Cy at our house. They love playing with the new Cranium game Caribou from Cousin Audrey. Some games they ask for our involvement but often now they are happy to do it themselves too. Pretty cool. Pete and I enjoy card and board games and puzzles so it isn't a surprise that our kids enjoy them too but it is nice.
I don't think I remarked on the long awaited and (to me) momentous time when Aidan STARTED TO READ. It was about a month ago now, not too long after his birthday, when he came to me and said "I know how to read". How cool is that? He has been able to make the correct sounds for the various letters for a good year (and much more for most) with the exception of the short vowel sounds. He was quite unable to string together those sounds he could make into something that was comprehensible to himself. D-O-G nope - no idea what that word is. I could occasionally get him to read a word to me but it was always pretty grudging - he just wanted to be left alone, and since he is getting essentially to repeat kindergarted that seemed like a good idea - let's leave him something to learn at school! At the public schools now there is a huge push to get the kids reading in kindergarten - no small feat considering that some of them haven't been to preschools and have trouble "sitting on their bottoms" let alone knowing their colors and letters. As a consequence there is also much work on site words such as "I" "see" "my" "and" "the" are some Aidan picked up immediately. And it seemed to work in his case as he then became very interested when he saw those words - or any others he had picked up - and he would point them out to me. Something clearly clicked for him and he decided he could read - and indeed he can sound out and comprehend just about any word that has regular phonics. The other great thing they did early on this year was use this system where each letter is represented by an animal - "Allie Aligator" "Bubba Bear". When he still sometimes stumbles over a short vowel I ask him which animal - and that sorts it out immediately. He is far from a fluent reader and is of course slow, but he reads and he is proud of the fact and interested in doing it. Hurray! Their school / class has DEAR time first thing every morning "Drop Everything And Read". There is a basket of books sitting at each cluster of tables. Aidan informed me the first few days of school that he disliked DEAR time - he is just about the only kid I have ever seen who never sat down and opened a book and pretended to read - with the more recent exception of hunkering down with his brother to "read" to their stuffed animals. He has always enjoyed being read to - the more the better. But he now tells me he really LIKES DEAR time, and that he sounds out part of the words to himself - usually on each page. He still would prefer me to do the reading at times - he said "but then I don't understand what I read" once - and it can be true - when so much effort is going into sounding out new words you have trouble remembering the ones you've figured out.

I have been enjoying watching both my kids (and others) aquire new skills. They all have different tactics to get to the same places. Of course I mostly compare my 2 kids. I was fascinated to watch Aidan figuring out puzzles when he was young. Back in the old wood puzzle days I realized that he was looking at the outline of the shape and not the picture itself - it was a very spatial approach. He also used to make things more challenging (or easier??) for himself by rotating puzzles or doing them flipped over (some rubber ones we have). He had a bit of a set back when it came to true jigsaws as the clues are mostly all pictorial there - he had to relearn how to do puzzles. We had a puzzle marathon right after Thanksgiving. Including me finishing off a 1000 piece awful one that we've picked at for several years and then doing another more "regular" 1000 piecer that I did in a couple of days. The kids did a couple of 300 pc, a 200 pc, several 100 pc and others. Quincy can do 60 piece jigsaws without me even looking and if I sort out pieces for him he can do 100 piece ones independantly. Which for some reason really impresses me. He is very non-challant about it and plays with the pieces along the way. He also is very happy to just keep trying a piece in all sorts of places without getting frustrated - Aidan gets frustrated and/or gives up easier. He also is pretty mellow about he brother coming in and snatching pieces away from him and putting them in (altho Mom and Dad aren't so mellow about it!).

I was interested one day last summer at the preschool when Quincy was playing a game with 2 boys about to head to kindergarten. You had to find a matching tile that had 2 features on the dice then you had to line up the tile so the picture on it held hands the the next tile. Quincy is not all that great at spotting the missing thing in a field (he brother is great at that and loves doing search type puzzles/games) but he was much better than the older kids at rotating the tiles to get them correctly lined up. He is not great at bingo games - he just doesn't see the thing on his board - but give him a jigsaw piece in hand and he is very good at figuring out where it belongs on the puzzle. Interesting.
So the family was playing in the Y pool this evening. Both kids started lessons mid-summer. Aidan has progressed really quickly and can now swim altho his progress since figuring that out has stalled a bit - he now needs a heck of a lot of practice in technique. But he loves it. Quincy is still taking the same beginner class he started with. He is finally seeming to move forward a bit and is SOOO much more comfortable in the water (even just the first 4 sessions got him light years ahead of where he started). But he still isn't really putting his head in (altho he will get his eyes under which is good progress). So I say to him "When are you going to get your head in - you need to do that to really learn to swim". His response "When I'm 16 will I be old enough to drive?" "Yes" "I'll be swimming by then I'm sure". How do I respond to that?!

Aidan is nutty about getting ready for Christmas. Almost everyday when I pick up from school "can we decorate?". Friday I was fed up with this line of questioning - after all we have had 2 Playmobile calendars, 2 Trader Joe chocolate calendars, and one paper calendar up from 2 days after Thanksgiving (we are counting down to planeride to Florida this year). We also that weekend dragged up 3 or 4 boxes of Xmas stuff from the basement. We decorated a huge branch that we had drug home from across from his school at Halloween (for our Halloween twinkle lights) - it now has colored twinkle lights and our best ornaments and looks great. The hallway has a kids craft project spaced almost continuously down the whole thing. There are other lights and ornaments up and about including hanging from their loft bed! So I tell him "we HAVE decorated! We have 3 rooms with lights, a tree with ornaments, a wreath - what more exactly do you want?!" "Well actually Mom we have 4 rooms with lights, our bedroom, the family room, the computer room and the hallway". Hmph. He really wants lights OUTSIDE our building but the guys downstairs usually do that - they just haven't so far this year unfortunately. His school was also having its Annual Book Fair this week. We already bought way more than I intended on Tuesday and their class was visiting on Friday and I forgot to give him any $ to spend. So he conned me into heading back after school - my stated goal - to buy ONE book on Ms. M.'s wishlist for the classroom. He was a total whiner and wanted more more more esp a nice expensive hardback or 2. "If we can't get this one we HAVE to get this one. I love it!" "Have you ever seen it before?" "No". I did end up with one $4 book. Did NOT eliminate the grumpiness. He did offer on Tues (and I said yes) and Fri (no) to use his allowance (he is already in debt to me) to buy some books. We hadn't even read all we had gotten! So then I decided a little lecture on what Xmas was all about was in order. Ms. M. has said to me several times how Conceptual Aidan is (esp in comparison to the other kids who apparently miss the point every time even after being told the point the day before - Aidan is the only one who GOT "Stone Soup" which they did right before Thanksgiving - all about sharing). I asked him was Xmas was about. "Sharing". OK not a totally bad answer. But then he references a toy he bought (unprompted) for his brother for his birthday out of his own allowance (pretty darned sweet I thought - getting the present I mean). He told me that he "shares" that toy with his brother. Oh no I said - you GAVE that toy to Quincy. It belongs to Quincy - not you. So Xmas is more about GIVING. So what projects do you want to work on that we can GIVE people. So that eve was of course spent in making projects... Altho we made a couple of oriental peace cranes a week or 2 back and haven't finished them (a few beads and string) and he wants to make more. They take a little bit of time and concentration. And there are just so many new Quincy birthday toys still to enjoy. There is never enough time to go around!

Quincy's party was fun. I went all out on the train theme this year. Kids got personalized train ticket invites (my kids loved theirs dearly). Party favors were train hat, scarf, whistle and some Thomas train stickers. We brought a suitcase full of track and trains for the kids to play with (we had it at school). We took rocket balloons to set loose (as we did at Aidan's science themed party - Quincy had requested them and they were a huge hit. We had a train pinata to end with - it said either "ouch" or "awesome hit" whenever it was hit - funny. The main "activity" was cake decorating. I used 3 boxes of TJ's vanilla cake mix (add butter and eggs) and made 15 mini-loaf pans of cakes. I also made one regular and one mini-cupcake. I took the 2 cupcakes and used them for Quincy's cake to be cab and smoke stack for an engine. Everyone else just had a "car" for the train. I provided Fruit Loops (Q insisted at the store - wheels!), chocolate chips, marshmallows, m&ms, gummy things, etc in little cups for the kids to use to decorate. I made up a couple batches of cream cheese frosting and added color as requested for them to mix and frost. It was very popular activity! The kids got to eat a slice then take home the leftovers to share with their parents. This is the first year Quincy actually got to have friends of his own at his party. He is only 4...

Had his school "conference" not too long ago. He got great review all around. He is now a quite desirable playmate as he is sweet and kind and doesn't make other kids cry or take their toys or do any of that kind of thing. He actually is still really quite happy to spend quite a bit of time doing his own thing though. One little boy Cy became really interested in Quincy and wanted to play with him always. One day we get to school and Cy was playing Twister but as soon as he saw Quincy "come on Tikloh - lets go - QUINCY is here!". Warmed my heart to see Q in such demand. Q on the other hand had no interest in playing with Cy right then. So after Cy leaves I bend down "why don't you want to play with Cy?" "he wants to play with me TOO much". True, but still. Aidan really meets alot of his need for playmates I think. I almost always ask him who he played with when I pick him up. Usually "no one" is the answer - which I know to be untrue as I ask this question after being at school with him while I "teach" and see him playing with people. Lately he has been telling me he didn't really play with people but he did TALK to alot of people. So it may be in his perception of what "play" is. We play a lot of board games and such at home. Perhaps that is what he is thinking of? Anyway - he is well adjusted and happy at school and when I pick him up. He cares not a whit about what other people are up to and has not fallen into the "must wear superhero costume" every day that almost all the other little boys his age are doing. He does a fair number of the offered projects, usually plays with the playdough or whatever manipulatives are out. He spends alot of time digging in the sand, some swinging etc. Basically he does some of everything and nothing to excess. And bows not at all to peer pressure. Wish I had his self possession!

What's up with me? Other than carting kids to afterschool activites 4x a week (speech 2x a week has lately made HUGE strides - Q is now comprehensible to most everyone - yeah!) and volunteering at Aidan's school and teaching at Quincy's? I am on a 2 week course of Predinsone to try to shrink up my nasal polyps. I think it is working as I seem very clear up there, but I think I took the Dr comments on side effects a bit too much to heart. Upset tum, sleeplessness, depressed immune system (works well with not getting enough sleep), and snappishness. So here I am at 3.39 in the a.m. typing up a blog. And a little kid who probably shouldn't have been at school on Thurs coughed and sneezed in my face from less than a foot away while I was trying to comfort her after a fall - so this eve the sore throat began. Ugh. Oh yeah - I am supposed to feel let down and blah when I am OFF the pills. Still, if this can head off need for more sinus surgury - it is SOOO worth it. I go back Wed for another scoping and also an hr long hearing test earlier that day (what do they do for an HOUR?). Interestingly enough I haven't had water in my ears in the morning since taking the drugs - or hardly any. Also trying to get ready to leave town. I decided this year I would MAKE some of my gifts. Any shopping has long since been done. Basically most of the gifts have also long since been done... except that I didn't q.u.i.t.e. finish them of course so now need to do that. I need a plan of attack for future kids birthdays too. I want to give them some stuff but they already get so much from their friends if they have a party- and Xmas is just afterwards. And my mom showers them in gifts not to mention the other relatives. So I am thinking maybe all bday presents from me should occur at some halfway birthday in the spring/summer next year. We shall see. The house is bursting at the seams. I also just treated myself (after 2 or 3 years of restraint mind you) to a new laser printer (the old one finally finally died - I bought it off my brother perhaps in '95? and any graphics work got it completely boluxed up), a new scanner - which I glance at longingly everytime I walk past it in the hall in its box, and a 4x6 digitizer pad with pen so I can do better photo editing stuff. I love the pad. I have brought my computers back to its knees (it had been doing so well since we converted from ME to XP). I have now decided I need more virtual memory (hence delay in setting up scanner). When installing the laser I ran out of avail GIGs on the computer (it has 40) apparently I have close to 20 gigs in photo storage! I have an external 100 gig drive that still has lots of space on it so I need to just offload some of the photos. But I had to borrow the cable from the drive for the printer to work properly... and had to install a new USB card thing in computer that runs 2.0 and has 5 slots so I can plug everything in. So it has been a computer week. We are also getting out the yrly holiday newsletter and calendar. Pete has taken on ever more of the duties for both thankfully but I still do all the desktop publishing (the stuff that brings my computer to its knees!). So it all takes time. And the new laser takes several minutes per newsletter to print interestingly. We just walk away... Now I need to babysit the calendar printing. I have hopes next year I might use the new Adobe Photoshop software that came with my digitizer pad to do the calendar photo pages instead of Publisher - it will be easier/do a better job - once I know how to work it. Then sometime this week I'll need a Kinkos visit (ugh - they always do something wrong and take too many days doing it).

Pete's company has changed over. So far it has meant absolutely nothing to us altho our various dentist/vision coverage gets worse in the new year. But he is wrapping up a very long term project so it will be interesting to see what happens in the New Year.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Assessments begin. I had Aidan’s first official Kindergarten teacher conference at 8.30 a.m. on Halloween. Aidan (as expected) got a glowing review. I was surprised to be handed a copy of an assessment I didn’t know he had had – the Brigance screening for kinder readiness I believe it was. I am happy to report that Aidan is clearly ready as he scored 98 out of 100. He lost 2 points for not knowing his address (although he actually does know our street and city and state). He can stand on one leg and hop up and down and count to ten and identify all his colors… and so forth. His teacher was complementing us for our wisdom in holding him as it will stand him in good stead throughout his school career. He plays well with boys or girls (not that typical alas already by this age). He is not a tattle-tale, he can self entertain, follows directions well, is clearly comfortable and willing to push boundaries just a little. All good. Last year’s Transitional Kinder was really great. I have Q’s application for next years program.

Quincy is all of a sudden blossoming into a highly desirable playmate – or at least some of the kids are eager to see him etc. One little boy Cy (who is half yr older) is quite smitten with Q and always asks him to play with him. Quincy, while he quite likes Cy, doesn’t like anyone enough to consent to doing anything that isn’t exactly what he is in the mood for. So sometimes Cy (or Oliver or Lillian) get “no” to their “do you want to play with me?” questions. It is quite nice to have Quincy actually care about the other kids and actually want to have playdates set up. He will have actual FRIENDS at his birthday party this year! It only took to his 4th birthday… I have also shot up in the ranks among desired parent teachers. I have a couple little girls who keep tabs on me. At circle time it used to just be Quincy in my lap – although Lillian often joined us or occasionally someone like Lena – but now it is regularly 4 or 5 children. There isn’t much room for Quincy any more but he does get center spot and has yet to complain. And kids now clamor to be in our snack group.

Aidan has also transitioned into a full-fledged active boy. He bikes, he scoots, he kicks balls, he swims. He can’t get enough of any of them! At home he ball tosses or hops or hula hoops – none of which are probably appreciated by the downstairs neighbors! He even does light rough housing in lines at school – push push shove shove. Something that would have been impossible to think a year ago.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Aidan started school at Clarendon 2 weeks ago. We were very fortunate to get our first choice in S.F.'s school lottery. Literally we won the lottery. Supposedly Clarendon was on over 1/4 of the applications they received for Kindergarteners this year. Aidan is in the Japanese Bilingual program - which means he will learn origami, perhaps some Tiko Dojo drumming (in 3rd grade) and so far how to say good morning "ohayo" (say ohio) and good bye "sayonara" and teacher "sensi" and he claims to have learned how to say "wow" in japanese - but forgets. So if there are 180 days in the school year and he learns 3 words in 9 days - well I don't think he will be quite fluent by the time he finishes up in 5th grade... but I am planning on his being able to help mommy navigate around Japan on a graduation trip. Mrs. Morimoto his teacher seems absolutely great (altho I have to say most Kinder teachers are pretty wonderful). Aidan freaked out about the Cafeteria after lunch on day 2 so for the rest of the week he got to eat AT HER DESK with her instead. I wasn't convinced he would ever be pursuaded to give up her company for the loud bewildering lunch room again but somehow she did it and he has had a week without trauma in there now. I think his least favorite thing about school (other than the lunch room and not knowing anyone) is DEAR time. Which as far as I can tell is quiet time the kids are supposed to sit and look at books. Many of these books mind you Aidan has actually read before. But Aidan has never had any interest in looking at a book by himself. Many other children (including his brother) happily grab a book and spend time looking at the pics or telling themselves the stories. Not Aidan! He "can not read" so why on earth would he pretend? I have started reading more factual books to him (all about birds or sharks or tide pools or trains most recently) and he is quite interested and has great retention for facts. We love the Magic School Bus books. He also can actually sound out words if he cares too. He just doesn't particulary want to. We have also recently been enjoying the Junie B Jones chapter books and finished up Charlotte's Web a few months back. He isnt' much interested in playing by himself or otherwise entertaining himself so not wanting to sit down with a book goes along with that I suppose.

Quincy and Aidan (mostly) play amazingly well together. The also play well on playdates when another child comes into the mix. Sometimes Quincy has been left out - but he is fine about playing by himself fortunatley. I am always interested to see when Aidan has playdates that he mostly follows the other child's lead. I am not sure if he is just content enough with leading play with his brother that it allows him to be happy to have someone else directing or if he if just truly a follower. Time will tell I suppose. I ask Quincy most days if he "played with anyone at school today". He mostly says no. I know this not to really be true as once a week I am there and see him. He does however pretty much do whatever activity interests him at the moment - and if there is someone else doing it as well then he is happy to engage with them. I have seen the other kids ask him to play - and if he is interested he agrees and if not he says no. He truly seems content within himself in a way that I am a bit envious of. Lucky kid. Last week he and I were home alone all week. He sorely missed having his brother to play with! "when is Aidan coming home?!" was a frequent refrain. I just wasn't that fun I don't think. Oh well. He is quite cuddly with me and always tells me (in a funny voice) "I love my little mama".

We bought Aidan some shoes last weekend that actually FIT. Lace ups. And he now is quite quick at tieing his laces. We need to buy him a bike that fits. The 12" he learned on is so so small (it fits Q nicely however) and the 20" Pete got used is just too big. So this weekend we may invest $65 at Toys R Us in a 16" bike. We know Q will get to use it too. Q needs to actually learn to propell himself forward. He just doesn't have the drive that Aidan had to bike or scoot or want to play soccer. He does really really well at kiddie yoga however.

We went to Ringling Bros Circus last weekend. There were quite a few protesters outside protesting their use of animals. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about the use of animals altho I certainly didn't like them standing there trying to say things to my kids. Pete says that we need Ambassadors that will help people care about saving animals (a rationale for zoos). I know that I would have no interest in the human life on the road with the circus (or any other travelling act for that matter) and I am sure it is hard for both animals and humans - and I am sure that they do their best to keep the animals fairly happy and healthy - it is clearly in their best interest to do so. Pete and I both walked away with the sense that the circus hasn't changed much since our dim childhood memories of attending performances. I have seen perhaps 3 or 4 different Cirque De Soliel shows and they are all so incredibly unique and wonderful. The kids seemed to like the Clowns best interestingly enough. Quincy cited the opening husband and wife act of being shot out of a huge canon as his favorite. Aidan cites a clown skit. We all had a good time.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

belated camping post :

I was all eager to blog about our camping trip after our return but seemed somehow to lack much time this week and of course now it seems so long ago… Pete had booked us campsite #1 at Ellery Creek Campground on the shores of Lake Shasta for Friday & Saturday nights at campsite number 1. He got the 3rd last site shown available on the website (out of 19). His suggestion was to head out Thursday eve after dinner, spend the nite at a Motel 6 in Redding (3 ½ hours up the road) and drive the last ½ hr or so in the morning. I was hesitant at first as Friday was to be Aidan’s last day of school and I wasn’t sure if there was any big good-bye thing going on. Turns out that it wasn’t going to be much special during the day (other than cupcakes which Aidan was OK about foregoing for camping) but we did miss a pot-luck gathering of most of the families Friday eve that I would have liked to have attended. We had been at the Oakland Zoo the previous weekend with reputed highs of about 92 that really wilted me. I had checked the weather predictions at that time – Redding was showing as over 100 but cooling through the week to low 90’s. OK I guess. But when we checked the weather right before heading out – over 100 for foreseeable future. Uh Oh!

Pete’s plan worked quite well. Got to our motel maybe 11ish – made good time. Woke pretty much at regular time. Finally found a reasonable diner for breakfast (although most diner breakfast food isn’t really on the South Beach diet if you exclude the eggs that I dislike). We followed that up by a trip down the road to the dam. On our hour tour we learned that it is the 2nd largest dam in the US by volume (following Cooley in WA) and the hydro-power plant is powered by water down 5 large pipes into 5 turbines – the pipes could comfortably accommodate a school bus inside each one. Also that Osprey like nesting on the top of powergrid tower shafts. This brought us up to lunch time and it was pretty darned warm. We stopped for a brief supermarket run where we added a block of ice to our cooler and picked up some mini-muffins for the next morning.

Our campsite was maybe 15 miles off highway 5 – at good half hour or more of twisty road alongside the reservoir near the end of one of the lake’s branches. I had forgotten the thing about reservoirs – they go up and down and are flooded land and thus don’t have nice beach sides. Instead quite a bit of the sides are steep hills and below high water point it is brown dirt and rocks. The campground was just above high water and site #1 was quite nice. It was fairly well overhung with trees all around – shade being critical in 100+ degree heat. We had a very nice flat tent area, large picnic table, and a big brown bear box. The guy who collected the fees who came by later said one campsite a few days earlier had been well raided by bears as they had left their food out. He also mentioned seeing a mom & 2 babies. Our second nite I think bears visited one of the campsites as there was quite a commotion with car horns and woman screaming etc. Pete of course slept right through it as did my boys. Pete said he heard something wander by the 1st nite although you never can quite believe Pete… We also had a view through to the lake and no one ended up occupying site #2 during our stay so it was quite private and fairly quiet. We liked our new REI 6 man tent (although we couldn’t figure out exactly where # 5 & 6 would fit!). I loved my $19.99 Target purchase of queen inflatable mattress. Pete liked his new cot (although Aidan got it for the 2nd nite).

Well the above was written a week or so ago – and now my head is filled with trying to get last things done for the nursery school before leaving bright an early Saturday at 6 a.m. (yikes!) for Seattle on to Vancouver Island etc. But back to camping – it was a great intro to camping for us as a family. The only down side was the highs around 105 degrees! Fortunately the Lake – despite an average depth of over 200’ (no anchors) stays between 75 and 85 all year – and of course this time of year was at the top end of the range. So one day we spent probably close to 3 hours in the lake – at least Aidan did. It was easy to stay for an hour at a pop. The kids are remarkably comfortable now in the water after only a few swim lessons at the YMCA. Aidan actually now loves to swim under water and said last Sunday when we went “the funnest part is picking up rings at the bottom of the pool”. He must have spent close to half his time under water. He can’t swim on top of it yet – but that will come! Anyway – Quincy had on his “Mr Incredible” suit – red and black with puffy stuff all around the chest to keep him up. He is quite happy to swim on his own – and insists on it. He barely clears the water with his mouth however so it is a bit disconcerting to let him alone. Aidan mostly just used the “noodles”. I only bought 3 so at times Pete had to do without – I need to head back to the store for more as Pete likes to use 3 all to himself!

We only bothered to fire up the stove one nite for sausage warming along with some mushrooms Quincy had insisted belonged in our cart the day before. Otherwise it was cold cuts and sandwiches and veggies. All fine. We went thru 2 blocks of ice in the cooler.

The last day we decided to rent a ski boat on our way out of town. The first marina we stopped at was out but called around for us – the next place we got the LAST ski boat! I like that the boats now adays have tower things for holding all the skis and gear. And there are some nifty skis/ boards / floats that the boats pulled – we had watched quite a few zoom by our campsite over a couple of days. Quite a few were also blaring out 70’s music for some reason… The tower fortunately gave our poor lily white bodies some shade. 105 heat in a fast boat is just fine – even when all wet! We stopped off at a few places and jumped in. Since there is no anchor we would occasionally have to haul the boat back away from the shore – Aidan was quite vocally nervous about all of us being outside the boat at one time – I was less vocal about it but still wondered. But Pete as to be expected had no qualms or concerns – nor did Quincy. The 2nd time Pete swam in under a submerged tree and tied us up to that (the guy at the rental place did mention tying to trees when I asked about anchors – and the other campers with boats at our site had just tied up to rocks). Aidan was disappointed we never used the oar supplied. We did post the orange flag when we all abandoned ship although we couldn’t quite figure out what hole it was supposed to go in until after we were done with swimming. I got my jollies in putting down the pedal – or pushing the stick forward as the case was. I don’t think I quite maxed out the speed but my eyes were tearing up too much to go any faster. We definitely plan to do that again. When we returned the boat we hopped on one of the rental houseboats for a look-see. Looked like fun especially if we could rent a ski boat in addition. Perhaps another family trip in a few years with some other family?

We departed right around dinner time, stopped off for a nice meal in Redding then put the kids in their PJs and booked for home. Got in before 11 if I remember correctly. I was a bit surprised that I didn’t see more wildlife (birds) – I had our binoculars and bird book ready. I did see quite a few Turkey Vultures, and a couple of flocks of geese, a chip monk or 2, and an Osprey soaring nearby. And of course the possible bear (Pete thought he heard it tromp through our site on the first night). We saw a few deer on shore while we were on the boat. Lots of poison oak around our campground too – and some very yummy sun warmed blackberries – lots in fact. Fortunately we avoided the poison oak and enjoyed the berries.

to see our photos from the trip go to my album
No training wheels!

It is true (so I am told) - Aidan and Pete have been practicing in the local elementary school playyard. Pete rigged up the push bar from the trike to Aidan's bike and took off the training wheels - I was most entertained to see Pete running along side - well behind really - Aidan's bike. But this evening even the bar came off. No spills even. Elation all around. Tomorrow Aidan promises to show his new trick to me.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Here is an amusing site for babynames. Click on it then start typing a few letters of the name of your choice and then move your cursor around to check out popularity by decade if desired. Lessons learned? Aidan has been discovered and Beverly forgotten.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

We have planned our next trip! Vancouver Island and surrounds.

This one has been simmering a bit for a few years although I think we thought it might somehow work out to connect with family that live relatively close, but a few hours can be a surprisingly long way so no luck there. It was also jogged along by a couple of other things - our next door neighbors forsaking SF and moving to one of the Gulf Islands, and a school mate's email regarding their summer on another island - and subsequent correspondance as to one of their favorite locations - Tofino

Our itinerary begins on Sat. Aug. 13 with a 6 a.m. flight out of Oakland (my husband at work here!) to Seattle. Then an overnite near Port Angeles and a ferry across to our neighboring country of Canada - more specifically Victoria the next day. Pete and I tried once before to catch the Victoria ferry - back in '90 perhaps - we had a reservation, were in line a while before it was due to depart, and then a few cars before us they said all done - no more cars. We didn't think we had time in our schedule to try again so we departed overland for Vancouver. My old Honda Accord broke its timing belt just over the border. So 15 years later we try again~!

In Victoria we plan on staying at Oak Bay Beach Resort for 3 nites. I haven't much researched what there is to do but I know there are Gardens to visit and that Rob & Sarah both highly recommend Victoria. After this we will head up the eastern coast of the island a bit and see some totem poles perhaps and catch a ferry over to one or two islands - perhaps visiting our soon to be ex-neighbors or school friends. Then back to Vancouver Island for 3 more nites at PacificSands in a Lighthouse Suite - near Tofino.

We plan a final 2 nights in Vancouver itself in the Downtown Hampton Suites which got rave reviews on - our favorite research tool for our travels, specifically lodging. We will return to SF on Wed. the 24th in time for Aidan to begin his new school the following Monday.

I highly recommend this blog - it is of Alex's families adventures off to Europe and specifically Paris for the upcoming year. Alex is a school friend of Aidan's. The entries are amusing and often thought provoking.

a recent entry I liked :

Our wants are few, our demands are simple

What we want from our European adventure:

  1. Recapture the still spaces in our lives lost to the twin demons of activity and anxiety

  2. Rebuild the common spaces between our lives which have been made barren by overgrazing and underwatering. Much of the goodwill in our relationship has been overgrazed through the profound inequalities between a work-bound husband and a house-bound wife. The sources of goodwill in our relationship have been underwatered through too few shared joyful experiences.

  3. Restore us from our diminished state, beaten down by countless small indignities, numberless small ethical accommodations, myriad small rages.

In short, we want to remember how to dream, both for our own lives and for our lives together.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Here it is bedtime (or past) Monday eve. Saturday we (I) had our first nite away from the kids. It was one of Pete's high school buddies and pretty much the whole gang came out for it. Jay who we used to see alot when we lived in San Diego came up - unfortunately sans very pregnant wife and kids - and he stayed over with us. Dan & girlfriend Karen from Chicago made it out sans Dan's son Emmet - they stayed with us Friday eve. Dave & Wendy made it out from DC. We had them all plus Rick (local) and fiance Jean over for dinner Friday. When I extended the offer to host I was offering up pizza and salad but Pete had other plans. Tri-tip, couscous, asparagus, salad and desert it turned out to be. Fortunately a fairly easy menu altho required trips to a couple different grocery stores. 9 people is also pushing it for seating in our dining area. We had to have 2 adjacent (but separate) tables plus a kiddie table for #10 & 11 otherwise known as my children. The kids were as sweet as you could want fortunately even tho bedtime got pushed until about 10 (instead of the usual 8ish). I was feeling a bit under the weather for the days leading up to it and really tired. Pete cleaned up the place and set the table the night before which was a huge help. I really just wanted to go shopping Friday a.m. when kids were at school and get something to wear to the wedding. I did manage a whirlwind shopping trip and still had time to work on house and prep food. I jetisoned the idea of yoga however. When I woke up on Saturday I had really tingly fingers and my wrists were hurting a bit and Friday nite and Sat I noticed my knees really hurting when I sat down or stood up. Weird. Then I noticed a light rash on my legs - ah ha. Perhaps I had Fifth Disease! Otherwise known as "slapcheek". Usually a kiddie thing when they have really pink cheeks and a rash elsewhere. Quincy had it the Wed following our return from Costa Rica which I think means he got it first day back at school. By the time the rash shows up you are no longer contagious. Quite a few of his classmates had had it and another mom had shown me her rash. A quick internet search confirmed symptoms for adults - joint pain with or without rash. Phew - at least the pain wasnt the sudden onset of rheumatoid arthritis! I noticed as the day went on (and the pain) that I had quite a bit of swelling in my hands, ankles, feet etc. I still had swelling this morning in my hands and it was really hard to close my fingers all the way but now I can see my bones again and can join my hands together and fold my arms. Ahh how nice! Only a bit of pain. I have to say I have much more sympathy for Mom & Dave's swelling and Phyllis' arthritis now!

On Saturday a bit after noon we dropped the kids off with "cousin phil". The kids were quite excited by the prospect as he had promised tent city and camping out in the back yard to go with the usual zip line and swinging. He was bravely taking on all 4 kids pretty much singlehanded as Julia had another committment that had her tied up most of the day and eve. I understand he did resort to about an hour of TV in the evening and Aidan tells me he thought Phil was asleep for part of it - but that is fine - Phil is more active and engaged with kids than just about anyone I know. The rest of us get tired watching him. As we left the next day Aidan asked when he could have another sleep over at Phils. Quincy was quick to say he didn't want another sleepover! But he did have a very good time. We headed up to Napa with Jay & Karen in our car - Dan had gone before the rest of us woke (we had hit the hay well after midnite) to play golf with other wedding folk. We checked in at the Silverado Country Club and Pete and I managed a brief swim before dressing for the 6 p.m. wedding at Auberge De Soleil. Pete and I had had appetizers at their outdoor bar once a few years back - fabulous food and fabulous view out over Napa. A bus shuttled a bunch of us there (20 min away). The wedding was on the patio just below and to the side of the bar so we had the same great setting. Unfortunatley we could hear the murmur of the bar patrons when we quieted down for the actual service but it didnt' detract too much. Dinner followed inside. James (groom) lives a few miles south of here but I hadnt seen him since his fiance/wife had a baby - and Sophia is now a year old roughly - she and a cousin were in the wedding party. I also hadnt seen his best man Bill (or wife Jen) in the same amount of time - during which they moved back to the bay area and got pregnant with twins and delivered those twins a month ago. It was Jen's first night away from the kids too! She currently has a night nurse and a day nanny so the kids were in good hands.

We got back to the hotel a bit after midnight and crashed. All of us except the groom and bride met up for brunch at the county club. It was quite good and was nice to see people again altho we all have hopes to reunite next spring for Rick's wedding. Pete and I didn't much appreciate the Silverado - too country clubby and too boring really but the food was decent. Rooms were also small but still expensive even after the slight wedding party discount. Sunday people went off in various directions and Pete & I came back alone to rescue our kids who promptly passed out on the drive home - really unusual for Aidan but a late night followed by an action packed day with thec ousins - he deserved to pass out! I got to see Dave, Wendy, Jay and Rick a last time when they came over for a quick dinner of pizza and salad before heading off with Pete to help Return of the Sith with its recordbreaking 1st weekend totals. I gratefully put the kids to bed and watched a bit of TV. I tried to knit but gave it up after a few stitches - too painful. Pete wasnt too impressed with the movie but I may rent the video when the time comes altho I realized that I never saw the movie that proceeded this one either!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The next few entries to the blog from today are Pete's trip report with associated pics from my albums. I am listed as the author purely because I was the one who cut and pasted them into the blog for Pete. Hope you enjoy - I know between his report and my photos you will have a very thorough knowledge of our trip to Costa Rica! - bev/kay

We first considered a trip to Costa Rica for late 1997. Unfortunately Christmas week is the most popular time of the year to visit so besides the $750 price tag all flights were sold out by Labor Day. I recall that we also struggled a bit with the itinerary - being unsure whether to rent a car (with many stories of the perils of 2nd world roads) and whether to pamper ourselves at resorts or go native. Fast forward to this spring and I happened to check prices to Costa Rica ($320) when looking at prices to Greece ($1,000). Sold! (Multiplying by 4 has a way of simplifying some decisions.) This time the itinerary came together rather easily thanks to some advice from friends and family and more reading. With an appealing itinerary to dangle, I was able to woo my Dad as a welcome companion and a 3rd set of hands for the boys. We were also able to pass our plans in front of my cousins (Phil, Julia, 3 year old Ellie, and 1 year old Maggie) who had independently started musing about heading to the Rich Coast. We ended up with very similar itineraries and overlapped on dates for half the trip.

The trip was planned for the last week of April and the start of May. In the rainfall charts in the travel books show the average rainfall jumps in some areas from 100 mm in April (the last month of the dry season) to 600 mm in May (the start of the wet season a.k.a. the “green season” in the tourism trade). Yikes! I had visions of a Rain God with his hand poised on the spigot looking anxiously at his timepiece just waiting to let loose a torrent to purge the country of any straggling tourists. Living in perpetually foggy SF, I didn’t want to see any clouds on our trip. I liked the idea of being on vacation for my birthday so we departed on Thursday night 4/21. (The Reiffs followed on Friday night and Pop came early on Saturday.) Checking the weather report before departing it showed afternoon thunderstorms every day for the 5 day forecast. Oh well, growing up in CA the boys haven’t had the pleasure of regular summer thunderstorms.

The flight down went through LA. The boys pronounced it “ballet”. As usual Aidan dutifully and happily pulled his bag through all the airports and throughout the trip. I had announced that the boys needed to share 1 bag, which was not one of my most popular decisions, so Quincy was traveling light. The overnight segment from LA to San Jose (I kept having the nagging feeling we were going to be flying in circles) was just under 5 hours. The boys and I piled into 3 seats on one side of the aisle so we could raise the armrests and sleep in various contorted positions. Bev sat comfortably on the other side of the aisle but didn’t get much sleep as per usual. Arriving in SJO we climbed out of the plane into the warm humid morning air and down the stairs onto the tarmac - a good way to set the tone that you are not in the USA anymore. We hustled onto a bus for the ride to the terminal.

Going through immigration there were numerous signs admonishing that sex with children was illegal and would land you directly in jail. I wish they’d tell you these things before you fly all the way there!!! Fortunately as experienced travelers we didn’t let the change in plans throw us and proceeded onward. My assumed next stop was at the coffee stand to have our first big swig of the local brew but we had our bags and were out on the curb without my having noticed any tempting welcoming aromas. One of the few times I’ve been out of an airport too fast with bags in hand! Not possessing any local currency I decided that the ATM machine was probably a more logical first stop anyway.

After tracking down just such a wondrous money dispenser, my heart sank when the first screen did not prompt me for my language of choice. There is nothing like a financial transaction in a foreign language to clear your head better than even a cup of joe! When I reached the screen asking how many colones I wanted to withdraw I noticed for the first time the 000 key to conveniently skyrocket the amounts into the thousands. Hmm, maybe checking the exchange rate would be a prudent addition to the departure checklist. I decided to go big and typed in 500,000 colones. At that point my card was ejected and the door to the booth popped open. As I left empty handed I crashed into more tourists waiting in line. It was the same couple that I had been waiting on, who had left scratching their head. I quickly steered the pleasant strangers-in-a-strange-land chit-chat to my most pressing issue. After procuring the vital information I had previously lacked, I re-entered the booth and happily emerged with a respectable haul of 100,000 colones (just over $200 which was within my daily ATM limit).

Having originally thought we’d need time to grab breakfast, stretch our legs, dispose of internal toxic waste, etc. I had told the owner of the 4x4 rental agency I had found via a tip on Craigslist ( that we wouldn’t need a pickup until 9 AM. However since the plane was early and I didn’t see any dining options, we were well ahead of schedule. Therefore I was glad to see the brightly painted 4x4 Rental Car truck sitting by the curb. (4x4’s are considered a must to visit Monteverde.) I trotted on over but the truck was already full. Raj noted that he had planned to meet us at 9 AM per my request but I assured him we were good to go. He said he’d be back in 15 minutes. Stories vary at this point with Raj saying he came back in an unmarked van and couldn’t find us after circling for 30 minutes. Our story was we sat down on the curb right were Raj had left us and didn’t see anyone until 9:05 (95 minutes later). Coming so soon after the scare at the ATM, I was starting to wonder this impulsive trip was going to go as smoothly as I imagined when looking at travel guide images of the white sand beaches of Manual Antonio.

When we arrived at the rental agency, our bags were transferred to the waiting Jeep Grand Cherokee. (Bev had researched which vehicle was widest so that we could all fit comfortably with the car seats and 3rd person in back.) It was a 1995 model which we were reassured would fit in better with what the locals drive. After reviewing a car sketch with X’s depicting scratches and dings that looked to me like a depiction of the inevitable collision of the Milky Way with the Andromeda galaxy (I truly appreciate my wife and her profession at times like this) we listened to Raj’s helpful travel tips. As expected we were admonished in emphatic terms not to leave anything of value in the car. This is all well and good until you consider the car seats. There is no way I’m going to spend the vacation affixing them to a mother’s safety standards just to take them out each night. (Besides wouldn’t we all enjoy the bumpy rides even more if you never knew where you’d land?) I decided to assume there would be a taboo of stealing items relating to El Ninos. Raj went on to warn us to park the car where we can see it when checking in to hotels or eating at restaurants. He droned on that if the car ever has a flat tire don’t let anyone stop to help as they’ll likely have one person taking things out the back while you’re working on the tire. Next he showed me how to turn off the alarm (although never how to set the alarm), how to apply an extra lock to the steering wheel, and how to take the faceplate off the radio so that I could take it inside. Having finished all the possible scenarios involving banditos, we moved on to the federals. Fines paid on the spot are the custom although not the official policy. Then we talked about the condition of the roads and the crazy driving habits of the locals. Through all of this, I kept thinking that the country really needed to reconsider their sex-with-minors stance if they wanted mass tourism. (Okay, I’ve overdone that joke and now I’m scaring people.) Lastly Raj gave me his cell phone number although lacking a cell phone myself (our US phones wouldn’t work) I didn’t see that it would do me too much good in most scenarios. (To be honest the travel advice was very familiar from pre-travel reading for Costa Rica, Spain, Mexico, and many other places we’ve traveled thankfully without incident. Although all of the above is true, the car rental was actually a pleasant and more personal experience then dealing with a big agency.)

At last we piled into the car. Since we hadn’t procured any vittles at l’aeropuerto, our parting question was where to get some good eats. We were helpfully(?) directed to a nearby Denny’s. (We have a rather appalling and totally unintentional habit of starting our international trips with a quintessential American restaurant. I guess American businesses heavily target the airports. Fortunately once out of sight of the airport we don’t ever encounter the problem again.) As it turned out we missed the off-ramp for Denny’s (an accident?) and were on our way.

Arenal Volcano (and the Fortunate City)

Tip #2 when traveling (for careful readers knowing the exchange rate was tip #1) is to determine the route to your destination sometime before you think you should be “getting close”. While we had asked for directions to La Fortuna, which is the area we were heading to, our hotel was 20 kilometers away and not on the approach road we had taken. With few roads available for corrective action, all of which were unmarked, we continued to relatively well marked La Fortuna (a signpost with the easily recognized symbol of a smoking volcano) even after the roundabout nature of our route was discovered. Keep in mind that the roads were twisty and slow (you needed to give the chickens time to scoot out of the way) so a 20 km overshoot was considered a more significant detour then 24 miles (12 each way) might seem. We got to pass by many scenic villages and school children in their uniforms (blue shirts for the upper grades, white for the lower).

At the outskirts of La Fortuna, we started seeing fabulous views of the volcano rising majestically in a perfectly conical shape just like your mind’s eye imagines a volcano. We dithered over where to pullover and bag our first attraction on film. The place I picked was pronounced inadequate due to interfering power lines. Being new to the area we didn’t fully appreciate our good fortune to catch Arenal unobstructed by clouds. In town we stopped at the Super Mercado to get some supplies and a finger pointing confirmation as to the way to head out of town. Aidan was sent in after Dad by Bev to point out the ice cream counter – hint hint. We settled on double scoops all around as our morning meal. Hey, were on vacation! I thought I selected vanilla for Aidan but it turned out to be rum raisin. Fortunately Aidan was happy to roll with the unexpected substitution (and I think he slept extra soundly that night as a result). In the warm air, the ice cream melted fast and Bev had to rotate the cones between her and the boys to avert a mess. I was dropped from the rotation after too many cones had gone “missing”. (Maybe I’m going into too much detail here.) The ice cream was a great pick-me-up for all and we headed to our hotel with renewed vigor.

Our first hotel, the Tilarjai (, had previously been a tennis club was a resort popular with the locals. (I really didn’t want an American resort plunked down in a central American country ala Cancun and we were pleased with all of our lodgings in that they had a satisfying mix of comfort, authenticity, location, and intimacy – albeit they all obviously catered to and were quite accustomed to gringos.) The resort had beautiful, well-cultivated and manicured grounds and was situated along the lovely Rio San Carlos. In particular we enjoyed all of the scarlet palms on the property. Our room was one of the ones further from the main facilities, which meant we were undisturbed by passerby’s and had a pleasant walk to go for meals or to the pool. Nearby was the impressively stocked and appealingly overgrown enclosed butterfly garden.

The rooms in the hotels were simple but pleasant with 2 double beds and a pullout couch. We had 2 Adirondack chairs on our porch that were perfect for sitting and surveying the view of the lawn leading down to the river. We were soon enticed away from our chairs by the sight of a large iguana in the grass. As we quietly approached our prey we had the classic moment of realizing a dozen other logs and mounds were now retreating to the river. While good at staying so still that you could almost stumble on them, once they decided to flee they were ridiculously loud as they sped away in a flying scamper and crashed into the weeds.

Iguanas by the river bank Posted by Hello
We enjoyed the setting and convenience of the hotel’s indoor/outdoor restaurant and we ended up eating virtually all of our meals there. The breakfast buffets in particular were very good. As we ate we watched an attractive menagerie of brightly colored birds visiting the feeders. The feeders consisted of large branches stuck in the ground and one each limb there was a large papaya segment. There were also always a few large iguanas feasting on the papaya leftovers. Some of the big fellows came within 2-3 feet of our chairs. Other than the wildlife on display the other highlight was probably the juices. We had guava (red) and sour guava (green) as well as berry and orange juices. (I should mention that we drank the hotel water throughout the trip and didn’t have any bacterial trouble, which was a relief because my cousins had reported some bouts of “tourista” a decade earlier. I don’t know if changes were made to the water or bacterial levels varied by locale or we were just a bit luckier.)

In addition to near the river and the restaurant, we found iguanas near the pool and just about wherever we went. We even discovered large (easily 5’ long) iguanas sunning on the tree tops. They were everywhere! One of our favorites moments was when we passed by an iguana on the tiles near the rooms. In cartoon fashion, the iguana’s legs started going 100 kph but going nowhere as he couldn’t get traction on the slippery tiles. Another favorite moment was when I came upon of veritable herd of at least a couple dozen young iguanas that fled like a moving sea of green to a single nearby tree. Although we saw iguanas every time we left the room we didn’t tire of them for the whole of our stay. I heard whispers of a sloth on the grounds but somewhat surprisingly didn’t invest much energy to locating it.

As the days were quite warm another very popular attraction was the pools. There was a 9in deep baby pool, an 18in toddler pool, and a large 4ft adult pool accessed by a gentle series of steps leading into the water. It was custom made for our families and all pools were well used by all. Many times we had them to ourselves. Ellie borrowed Quincy’s wings and did an amazing job of swimming around the pool unassisted as did Aidan. Quincy still wanted an arm to hold onto. Surprisingly we even made repeated use of the hot tub (which wasn’t too hot) as the boys like the jets and the fun of running from pool to pool.

Phil with Maggie enjoy the shallowest of 3 pools Posted by Hello
On the morning of our first full day (Sat) we took a float trip down the nearby Rio Penas Blancas (translates to White Cliffs River). I had been thinking we would take the longer trip to the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge but it involved a 90-minute bus ride each way and a sightseeing boat. The 5-minute ride for a raft trip won out. We thought the boys might like being low in the water in the raft. Our guide was Umberto – a local who had lived for a while on the Caribbean and had been a 4H exchange student for a year in South Dakota. He was a very knowledgeable and engaging guide who came highly recommended by a couple other hotel guests. In fact when I saw them checking out and saying their goodbyes to Umberto I got the sense that tears were imminent.

As we scrambled into the raft, Quincy and Aidan had to don life vests. This seemed a reasonable precaution, as the current was very swift although the water was placid. However the vest seemed to unnerve Quincy a bit and so he wanted to sit on Mama’s lap rather then upfront next to Aidan. About 30 minutes into the trip we passed through a very small rapid after which the boys were free to take off their vests. Doing so alleviated all of Quincy’s fears and so even though the river was the same as before he now happily scrambled around the raft. Later in the trip the kids put the vests back on so they could take a swim in the river.

We saw quite a bit of wildlife including 2 sloths that looked furry nests in the trees and an owl that looked somewhat like the sloth until we saw her face. Early in the trip Umberto paddled us to shore and disappeared into the forest to return a few moments later with a tiny frog. Fortunately just as I was about to partake in a generous lick, Umberto warned that it was a blue jean poison dart frog and that it did secret a lethal poison. I had to settle for a less enthusiastic greeting, but we all took a very up close look.

Quincy touches a poisonous Blue Jean Dart Frog! Posted by Hello
The boys were happy to assist in dousing the frog to keep him sufficiently wet and before long Umberto returned him back to his perch and we all briskly rinsed our hands of the poison. While the frog was Bev’s favorite, Aidan’s favorite animal sighting was the small Long Nosed bats that were hanging on a tree close to the water. Our canoe glided right next to the log where they were roosting. Quincy’s favorite was the howler monkeys. Umberto did a dead-on imitation of the howlers and they would usually enthusiastically answer his call. In two areas we paddled up inlets looking for crocodiles but didn’t find any even though the boys did a reasonable approximation of quiet. The crocs were out for lunch.

A special treat awaited us when we docked at the riverside farm of Don Pedro and his younger brother – 2 spry elderly farmers (93 and 91 respectively). They treated us to coffee, cheese, tapioca bread, and fried plantains. For dessert we sucked on beans from a tamarind pod. Umberto ate off the fruit and Aidan and Quincy wore the left over shells as earrings. Replenished we wandered around the farm and visited the cows, pigs, and chickens. Bev was excited to see a cocoa pod on a cocoa tree – sadly it was still purple (not the yellow of ripeness).

After we returned back to the hotel we wondered when we would see the Reiffs and Pop. The original plan was for Pop to take a bus to the hotel. However what would entail would be to take a taxi into the central bus station in San Jose, a bus to Ciudad Quesada, a connecting bus to La Fortuna, and a taxi from there to the hotel. Given that we hadn’t seen a helpful tourist information booth at the airport, my own difficulties with the ATM machine and the stories of bags getting “lost” on the bus, we figured Pop was in for an adventure. We were relieved when the hotel receptionist mentioned that a taxi with Mr. Webster had called from the airport for directions. I’m know it was money well spent. Pop found us at the pool not long thereafter. The Reiffs weren’t far behind and somewhat amusingly they had taken the same roundabout road as us. Pop reported that his more direct route was pretty twisty as well – although it sounds like it took almost half the time.

The next afternoon (Sunday), we took the afternoon / evening tour of the volcano and nearby hot springs. Umberto was again our faithful guide. The first thing he pointed out on the drive was that we were looking at 3 volcanoes. The furthest north was Arenal, which is still active today (currently rated as one of the 10 most active in the world). The furthest south was Monteverde, which is the Cloud Forest where we were heading the next day. In the middle was a volcano that had been the twin of Arenal before a violent eruption in the distant past had completely blown off the top. It was referred to by the locals as “Sleeping Boy” based on the contour of the remaining mountain. Due to one strategically located mound it was deemed to be a boy.

As we approached from the east the slopes of Arenal were verdant. As we passed through the town of La Fortuna we learned that the locals had the amazing precognition to rename the city the fortunate one 2 years before the 1968 eruption poured lava and toxic gasses down the northern and western slopes. While it was still light we pulled into an attractive viewing area to gaze upon the volcano. Even the restrooms had open viewing to the mountain. The volcano was majestic and mostly clear. It produced its own gaseous cloud right at the apex.

Arenal Volcano - see the gas cloud at the summit? Posted by Hello
The next stop was the hot springs. We did not visit the famous Tabacon Hot Springs but rather some nearby springs that were perhaps less spectacular but also less crowded. The tradeoff suited everyone although I would also like to see Tabacon Hot Springs on a return trip. There were 4 pools ranging in temperature from 95 to 101 degrees. The first pools felt quite comfortable and I felt I could stay in as long as I wanted. The hottest pool had a small waterfall that you could stand under for a full body drenching. After that even the cooler pools felt too warm and I needed a quick rinsing in the readily available cold shower. At this point we happily indulged in some frozen drinks.

As we exited the pools we heard the bad news that the volcano had clouded over. The prospects for night viewing were not good but we’d try anyway. We stopped along the dirt road leading to the Arenal Observatory. Our patience was rewarded 3 times when the clouds eased and we saw showers of lava tumbling down the western slope – and heard the popcorn popping sound and one great bumpf sound. When the clouds closed in tighter, we headed back to the hotel.

In all we were delighted with our stay in the Arenal area and would happily return to the Tilajari Resort Hotel. We definitely hope to return to this unique area when the boys are older and make the hike to the nearby waterfalls, visit more of the hot springs, try again for a good nighttime showing from Arenal, explore the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, and traverse the canopy on a zip line tour.

Here is the full set of Bev’s photos for Tilajari & Arenal:

Monteverde Cloud Forest

On the day that we were going to checkout (Monday) Bev noticed that one of our tires was completely flat. It didn’t seem like a good omen heading into the *bumpiest road in the world* but it was easily remedied. The hotel had a pump and a service station ½ km away removed the offending nail. We dragged the boys from the pool and headed on our way around at noon. As we passed by the turnoff to Arenal Observatory we again detoured to see the spot we had been the previous night. It was nice to see in daytime how close to the volcano we had been. We found a field of Brahmin cattle interspersed with an equal number of cattle egrets and took in the sight for a while.

The drive around Lago Arenal was beautiful. About halfway around the lake we stopped for lunch – where we could both see the lake and our parked car while dining being a big part of Bevs selection criteria. We found a restaurant off the road with a nice panoramic view of the lake. Since it was about 2 PM, we had the restaurant to ourselves other than the owners pair of lazy dogs. The food took a while to arrive and while tasty we discovered that basically everything was a la carte. My taco with carne was simply a tortilla with a couple pieces of meat – no fixings and no sides. Fortunately this left us a little room so that we had no trouble stopping at the German bakery a little further down the road for a variety of baked indulgences.

After waiting for a road crew and traversing several gravel sections we arrived at Tilaran and the start of the infamous road to Monteverde. In our direction the turn off was not well marked and so a hundred meters passed our suspected turnoff we stopped to ask some people waiting at a bus stop for confirmation. A young man approached the car and not only confirmed the turn but gave us a complete map of the road debut. For his trouble he asked if we cared to make a donation for rebuilding the local school. We learned later that the Reiffs had exactly the same experience at the intersection and there was some speculation as to whether the road sign had been purposefully misplaced.

The road to Monteverde was very scenic and everything it was advertised to be in terms of a wild ride. The road surface changed every few kilometers ranging from dirt (by far the best) to loose gravel to hardtop with boulders locked in place (the worst). The only constant were the potholes – and the dust. Amazingly Quincy was conked out and remained asleep for the entire 2-hour crossing. Aidan woke up about ½-way through. Pop assured that he had missed worst of it while I quickly reassured him that he was awake for the worst of it! (Aidan and I had talked several times before the trip about the road and he wouldn’t have wanted to “miss” it.) In the next 3 days we had enough bumpy roads that everyone had had his fill.

We got to the hotel, El Sapo Dorado (the Golden Toad) ( at 6 PM and checked into our nice new cottage nestled on a ridge amongst the trees.

our cabin at El Sapo Dorado Posted by Hello
The Reiff welcome wagon arrived soon thereafter and we headed down to the hotel restaurant, which was reported in the travel guides to be the best in the area. In stark contrast to the previous hotel the wait staff did not seem very friendly and were easily ruffled by managing a larger group. The food was not that memorable. The next morning we had breakfast at a place next door to the hotel. It had interesting tables and chairs but the service was very slow. Fortunately after that all the meals were quite good. For the next 2 nights we ate very well at Johnny’s Pizza (a pizza restaurant with candlelight and white tablecloths!) and Moon Shiva (written up as Middle Eastern but it had as many Mexican dishes and all were quite tasty - perhaps the best food of the trip). On the way in to Moon Shiva Aidan spotted a well named Giant Toad that was at least as big as a grapefruit. We found a good place for lunch (Stella’s Bakery) and then returned there for the next 2 breakfasts. We liked the good food and fast service while the kids enjoyed heading out the sliding glass door to play outside. There are not believed to be any more Golden Toads in existence, but we did see a Glass Frog (so called as it is fairly see through) hanging out on the black railing outside our cabin after dinner the first night. It seemed to think itself well camouflaged and didn’t move despite Bev taking a bunch of bright flash shots of it.

After breakfast on our first morning (Tuesday) we went to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve for a hike. There were no guides on staff that were available but at the entrance they called a private guide for us who arrived on his ATV in 10 minutes. The man at the entrance told us we’d like Oscar and he was right. He struck me a little tentative at first but he ended up doing a great job. The couple we had met at breakfast recommended a guide because they said they hadn’t seen anything in the park and I’m sure the same would have been true for us. Besides knowing where to look (since they go to the preserve most days and know where the nests are and they compare notes with the other guides that they meet), the guides also bring large telescopes on tripods. This alleviates the maddening exercise of trying to find what a guide is pointing to. Instead he finds it in his telescope and then everyone can take a look (if the target stays put long enough). Not only do the guides find wildlife but they tell all about and flora as well. The highlight for the kids was when Oscar showed them the Impatiens buds that were tightly coiled like a spring just waiting to be explode inside out by their touch. Near the entrance to start the tour Oscar shined his flashlight into a hole where we saw a tarantula resting.

Julia helps Ellie see the tarantula in its den Posted by Hello
Later on we saw some howler monkeys that employed the same technique as a nervous frog to ward us off but fortunately for us without success. However the true star of the cloud forest is the Quetzal. We saw some good glimpses of them in the preserve but an even better display the next day. There are reputedly only 300 or so of them left. Outside the preserve was a hummingbird garden that was a buzz with hummingbirds.

The following morning (Wed) Bev and Aidan woke early and sat on our deck and identified an amazing number of birds in our bird guidebook. The prize was the blue-crowned motmot. After breakfast the first team (Phil and Pete) went to the canopy tour while the rest of the family went to the Children’s Eternal Forest. (We had to go in shifts because the canopy tour was restricted to 8 year olds and up.) The canopy tour was a series of zip wires traversing back and forth across ever increasing canyons. The longest span was 750 meters (1/2 mile), the highest about 140 Meters off the ground, and the estimated top speed on the steepest wire was 40 mph. Some of the wires threaded through the forest which was exciting as you wondered whether you’d make it through and where the wire went to on the other side.

Afterward we met up for lunch and then Phil and I watched the kids while Bev, Julia, and Pop took to the course. I was a little nervous about whether Pop knew what he was signing up for because he referred to it as the “SkyTram’’’ when we made our bookings the day before. He may have been a little surprised to arrive at the site and see people zipping through the air but he enjoyed himself and reportedly came across the wire fast and low like a missile.

Dave sliding in for a landing Posted by Hello
Aidan, Quincy, and I found a good vantage point to watch them come across the last few wires and cheer them on. When they were finished we hiked a short ways along the Sky Walk, which is where Pop and I enjoyed a majestic display by a Quetzal returning to his nest.

On Thursday morning we departed Monteverde. Unfortunately this was goodbye temporarily to the Reiffs. Just outside Santa Elena we stopped at the Frog House and got a guided tour of their many display cases. We were happy to see another Giant Toad like we had seen before and several more poison dart frogs like we had seen on the raft trip. We learned that the female Giant Toad is much larger then the male and will carry her mate for up to a couple months on her back. I had to ponder the tradeoffs of my wife carrying me around versus her being twice my size. We also learned that there are 4 differences between toads and frogs. Frogs have smooth skin and long legs for escape. Toads have bumpy skin and secret poison as their defense. Toads’ eggs are laid in a line while frogs are laid in a clump. Those frogs that are poisonous get their poison from their diet – we were told the Blue Jean frog we had seen in the wild ate ants and termites – while the frogs in captivity weren’t very poisonous as they didn’t have the same kind of diet.

We were happy to have gone to Monteverde but its inaccessibility and the availability of many other forests (albeit not cloud forests) and canopy tours makes us think we would probably not go back on the return trip, as there are other new places to see. We were expecting a quaint Quaker village and Santa Elena is a typical 3rd world crossroads for adventure travelers – it didn’t look much like the villages we had passed on our way to La Fortuna. However we had a nice hotel, found good restaurants, and enjoyed some great activities.

Here is the full set of photos for Monteverde:

Manual Antonio

The road out of Monteverde (to the south) was immediately much drier, a little shorter and a little less bumpy then the road we came in (from the west). By the time we reach hardtop the jeep had developed a shudder making us wonder if the wheels were knocked out of alignment. However the next day the shudder was gone so perhaps it just took the passengers 24 hours to stop shaking! As we approach Quepos and Manual Antonio we had to cross a series of ever more rickety one-lane bridges. We found our hotel, El Mango Moon B&B (, without trouble. The hotel had a wonderful panoramic view down the side of the mountain to the ocean. The hotel was a delight with what struck me as all of the extra gay touches like flowers nestled in the towels. Our first stop was the pool, which has a disappearing edge where you can gaze out at the view.

view from El Mango Moon B&B Posted by Hello
The hotel manager Carlos gave us restaurant recommendations (Mar Luna, Bambu Jam, and Serendipidous?? – Tapas place) and we enjoyed good meals in attractive settings each night.

Each morning a tasty breakfast was served on the hotel deck. It included perfectly ripe seasoned slices of avocado, smoked trout on cheese tidbits, and always rice & beans – finally tried and loved by Aidan. It was a small hotel (about 6 rooms) and we enjoyed getting to know the other guests as well as the manager. (The hotel owners were temporarily in the US.) After breakfast on our first full day (Friday), we went to Manual Antonio National Park. The beaches in the park were spectacular.

Manual Antonio Reserve Posted by Hello
On the first beach (#2) we stopped on, Bev and the boys went about gathering up some of the numerous hermit crabs. They then built a sand castle home for the crabs and let them loose. The second beach we stopped at was the one that was considered safe for swimming. All except Bev headed in but the surf and undertow were very strong and Pop and I had to hold on to the boys. Still the water felt good, as it was a warm day – in the 90s as per typical near the beach. We did a little more exploring and came across a Coatimundi walking on the path, a troop of white-faced Capuchin monkeys in the trees, and crabs on the rocks.

At breakfast the 2nd day (Saturday), one of the guests told us how much he had been enjoying the private beach down the hill from the hotel (really not private but out of the way enough so only guests at our hotel typically visit). Although the walk down and back was steep we were all up for it. On the way down we ran into another troop of white-faced monkeys. The beach was nice and quiet (although we did share it with some others – locals enjoying their Saturday?) and we watched the tide quickly recede. There were an abundance of hermit crabs and Aidan quickly went to work.
Quincy and I built another sandcastle home (more like a steep walled jail this time) and Aidan dumped in his haul. We all watched as the crabs tried to run off. We counted 208 clearing the outer wall plus some stragglers that seemed content to bury into the sand rather then flee.

That evening we went to Anaconda Restaurant at Hotel Costa Verde for dinner because we had heard of its view of the park and that monkeys were frequently on the grounds. Sure enough when we arrived there was a troop of squirrel monkeys having a raucous time on a tin roof adjacent to the restaurant. It was the most acrobatic slap down WWF style antics that I’ve ever seen. The highlight was when one monkey reached through his legs and pulled his friend through. I’m not making this up! You couldn’t have scripted a better show.

see the hermit crabs in the bucket? Posted by Hello

moving so fast they are a blur! Posted by Hello
While eating dinner we had our first rainstorm and it was a heavy downpour. The rainy season had started just 5 hours shy of midnight on April 30th! I don’t think we went another 24-hour stretch after that without rain but it came at night or at mealtimes and since it didn’t affect our activities it was actually pleasant to witness some tropical showers. When it wasn’t raining it was mostly sunny.

Manual Antonio was a terrific place to relax and enjoy the beach. I definitely envision going back and would likely return to the El Mango Moon.

Here is the full set of photos for Manual Antonio:


On Sunday we headed north back toward San Jose and stopped at Hotel Villa Lapas ( which has been recommend by my aunt. Lapas is the Spanish word for the Macaw, which are native to the area. The rooms were smaller and more plain then the other hotels but adequate. The Reiffs had a funny story about getting locked inside their hotel room and needing to take the door off the hinges to get out. Since we were a little short on bedding for the Webster contingent I brought a pool deck chair into the room each night and returned it before breakfast in the morning. We heard multiple loud bangs in the night which turned out to be mangoes falling on the roof.

After dropping our bags into our room we headed off to find the Reiffs who were finishing up their 3-night stay and were heading off to El Mango Moon the next day. As I swung by the pool I startled a “Jesus Christ” lizard and he obligingly demonstrated how he got his name by running across the pool. I had a hard time convincing anyone that I was lucky enough to see this feat. We kept our eyes open the rest of the stay hoping another lizard might wander close by the pool and be coaxed into a repeat performance but to no avail. After connecting with the Reiffs we had a good time catching up and playing in the hotel pool. The highlight for the kids was watching Phil and then me jump off the rock waterfall into the pool. We had a good dinner at the attractive hotel indoor / outdoor restaurant. Phil then took the kids off on a successful exploration for toads. I had to call the kids to see if they wanted to come back to sample from the ice cream bar! They did and they didn’t mind that one of the ice creams was bubblegum flavor.

With only one full day (Monday) left we had a lot to do. In the morning we went to Carara Biological Reserve. Phil had gone the day before while Julia watched the kids so this morning Julia joined us. We hired a private guide Freddy and trekked through the forest off the main path. The guide led us to 3 large owls, which was the highlight for me and soon after to a pair of monkeys. We ended up at a lagoon with plenty more wildlife including birds and crocodiles. On the way out we tipped the boyscout who was assigned by the park to watch the cars. (Can you get a merit badge for this?)

When we got back from the park, the shuttle was ready to take us on our crocodile safari and we waved a final Costa Rican goodbye to the Reiffs. The boat trip was a 2-hour cruise on the Tarcoles River. I thought the river was really beautiful and the scenery was just what I imagined Costa Rica would be. We were given a bird guide to keep track of all of the birds we saw – at least 25 by Bevs accounting. We pushed into a small inlet and witnessed hundreds of crabs scurrying on the shore. However the undisputed highlight of the excursion is when the captain grabbed a chicken from the ice chest and hopped out of the boat (leaving the guide in the boat) to entice a crocodile to come over for a close-up. The crocodiles are not trained or docile and their movements were jerky and unpredictable. As the driver slapped the chicken on the water the crocodile follow him onto the shore right next to the boat. The camera lens could barely capture the full 18-foot crocodile just a couple feet away!

dinner time! Posted by Hello
Back at the hotel, the rest of the contingent went to the artisan village next to the hotel for lunch while I was content to eat our cheese and cracker snacks and watch two Toucans fly around the grounds. When I joined backed up with Bev, Pop, and the boys, we strolled around the artisan village and saw more Toucans being heckled by other smaller birds (Toucans are egg eaters!). We stopped in an idyllic open air chapel with a water wall behind the alter and visited the shops. After another dip in the pool, we headed back to the Rio Tarcoles bridge, which was reported as a good spot for seeing the macaws around dusk. There was a police guard shack beside the bridge and when I parked there the policeman came out to greet us. Although we had a real language barrier it was clear that he wanted to interest me in buying a souvenir T-Shirt. I wasn’t sure if I had the option to refuse and still leave the car to walk out onto the bridge. I offered him a more modest amount then he wanted for the T-Shirt but he was satisfied enough to give me a police badge which the boys readily accepted. Aidan didn’t like the traffic noise on the bridge so he and Bev, and stayed off the bridge. Pop, Quincy and I headed out for a quick look and counted 16 large crocodiles in the river. We all got to see a flock of 5 Macaws squawking and flying by. We left and headed to a seaside restaurant where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

family at beach at sunset Posted by Hello
Carara was a great place to stop on the way to and from Manual Antonio. We’d happily go back to the Hotel Villa Lapas resort.

Here is the full set of photos for Carara:


On Tuesday morning we drove back to San Jose. We were lucky not to get caught behind any trucks on the twisty road over the mountains and made good time. The flight from San Jose went smoothly and we saw views of the Cayman Islands, Cuba, and the Florida Keys as we headed to Miami. Unfortunately, however, a thunderstorm went through Miami and we were informed that lightening had struck 2 of the 4 runways. As a result we had to circle for a while. When we landed, we retrieved our bags and took them quickly through customs. However with only 25 minutes left before our connecting flight, the airlines wouldn’t take our bags back! So even though we had ample time to walk to the gate we were forced to be rebooked on a flight the following morning. Stopping at another desk I found a later flight home through Dallas but we had by that time missed the cutoff for it by 10 minutes again. Argh! When we went out to dinner that night Aidan fell off his chair and then Quincy spilled his drink. The pool was closed for repairs. The next morning I forgot my electric razor and it hasn’t turn up in lost & found. It was clear that the run of good luck and exceptionally smooth travel had finally run out so perhaps it was good that the trip was ending, but we all loved Costa Rica and would have happily stayed for a few more days. It will be fun to take the boys back when they are older!

Monday, May 09, 2005

DW enjoying the sun and the view at our B&B in Manual Antonio Posted by Hello
the entry below is copied from an email I received today from Dave regarding our recent Costa Rica trip. Enjoy. - bev/kay

Dear All --
Pete, Bev, guys and I all had a great trip to Costa Rica. Since it's Been chilly here since return, I'm now missing the hot, humid weather of CR, if you can (I know Bev can't) believe that. But one bonus -- the Dogwoods and azaleas are still in full bloom.

It was a great trip, with every day special. I'll never forget our first stop near La Fortuna and the endless stream of colorful birds of all kinds that came to peck at the fruit laid out for them some 15 feet From our open-sided dining table at breakfast time. No wonder they came, when you tasted the meaty, sweet and juicy pineapple, not to mention guava, papaya, cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelons laid out on our own bountiful buffet. And on the walkways, seeing all kinds of exotic, beautiful, flowering shrubs and bushes, and all sizes of brown and green iguanas on the grassy lawns, head up, watching you motionless as you walked by. Our time here was soon enhanced by the arrival of Phil and Julia, beautiful daughters in tow, also helping to more equally balance the group gender mix.. We all enjoyed the large, sunny swimming pool and the overall ambience of Tilajura Resort. The trip to and seeing the clear views incl smoke plume of the nearby Arenal Volcano was special. The last active volcano with plume that I had seen was on drive down the Kenea Peninsula to Homer, AL with C and P (1985?). The after-dark soak in one of the nearby attractive hot springs pools and later glimpses, through the now hanging cloud cover, of the red fires of molten lava was a special sight. We were close enough to faintly but unmistakably hear the noise and rumble. That was awesome.

After climbing over, shall I say, rough roads to reach the top of Monteverde, our 2nd stop was El Sapo Dorado lodge, where we were positioned to enjoy next morning a guided walk through a mile or so of the rain forest. Aidan, Quincy and Ellie had a ball the whole time poking sticks into the countless holes in the dirt ground and side wall all along the way. Oscar shined his flashlight into one hole so that we could see the big, hairy, black tarantula inside. He was facing us, so we couldn't see his rear end, but this way we didn't have to reach in and pull him out in order to see him. Oscar, who gave us a very good tour, explained the plants and also alerted us to monkeys, birds and a Quetzel nearby but not easy to see because of vines and trees.(More later). The next day, Pete and Phil were both obviously jazzed after their 11-cable ride above the jungle canopy on the Sky Wire. So after our picnic lunch at the site, it was Julia's, Bev's and my ( propelled by Pete's and Phil's enthusiasm) turn. Bev and Julia did as supposed to (look out over canopy), but my only and lasting impression (I was never able to summon the courage to look down or away, to "enjoy the view", but rather stayed focused (frozen) the whole way on the distant hole in the canopy which was the landing site on the far side) was of how Navy carrier pilots feel when they pray the tailhook grabs them as they land on an aircraft carrier. After the first leg, I always seemed to come in extra fast. Afterwards we took a walk on a suspension bridge through the canopy. Slower paced and without the adrenalin rush, but better to see. We were rewarded by a wonderfully close view of a pair or nesting Quetzels! After watching the hole (man made?) in the tree for a few minutes and seeing only the hole, out came a Quetzel, in unobstructed view no more than 50 feet away!! She then flew to a nearby branch. Very soon afterwards, out came her mate! He flew to same tree, and female then left, probably to get more food -- chicks inside? We admired this beautiful bird, who seemed totally unafraid or perturbed by our watching him, for several minutes until he returned to the nest inside the tree. His two long irredescent blue tail feathers continued to stick out through the opening for a long time. Thanks for alerting me to this beautiful bird, Jules. I just wish that you and Heybert could have been there for that sight and experience. We had a good visit to the frog museum. From the porch of our cabin lodge at El Sapo, sharp-eyed Bev and Aidan identified many more new birds. We also enjoyed some really good meals all together and the company of Phil and family while there until our paths separated.

Our next stay was El Mango Moon B & B, just outside Manual Antonio National Park. Here we enjoyed the beach for two days -- one day inside the park, and next down the trail leading right from our lodge. Both were good. On first day, I saw a Coati Mundi walking fearlessly by and took a fond liking to him. He/she was walking purposefully, totally minding his own business with his nose to the ground, oblivious to people until he came to a tree which he may have known about, climbed up, and found a convenient limb where he would probably stay for a few hours or so. They apparently can be easily made into pets, about like a cat. On the next day, Bev and Aidan collected over 200 hermit crabs on the white sand beach which they brought back to the sand enclosure that Pete and Quincy had made. What a sight to see all those crabs in Aidan's bucket, and then scrambling to get out of the enclosure. Fun beach activities in a great location for that. B & B was great, with beauty inside and out, views, ambiance, breakfasts (great avocado each time) and host (may have been gay). Phil and Julia will enjoy staying there after us.

Our last stop was Hotel Villa Lapas, where we met up with Phil and Family again for one day before they headed for El Mango Moon.. J & H stayed here on their visit, I believe. Nice low-key family-type resort feel. Highlight was the Crocodile Safari. On the boat we saw many, many more new birds, all identified and checked off on the card by Bev with assistance from sharp-eyed Aidan. I think that they have spotted and identified probably 50 or 60 birds on this trip. Also watched fearless boat driver stop and beach boat and then lure two large crocs (different occasions) out of water and grab large piece of chicken which he held up high by one end so we could have full view of the action. As crocs are lightning fast, you have to be very careful and very fearless to do this however many times he does it in a week. He did have a scar on back of one of his legs, which he pointed to. Also saw a gratis monkey show put on by 20 - 25 energetic white-faced monkeys on the adjoining lower roof of our supper restaurant. They engaged in mock combat with each other, pretended to bite, wrestled, jumped over each other, cavorted, sprang, dashed around, leapt into tree branches, landed hard back on the roof, jumped up running, and on and on for 10 or 15 minutes. One monkey even bent over and tried to pull another on his back through his spread legs! They couldn't have been trained to do such a show, and it has to be called another trip highlight. They were definitely not paying any attention to the people watching them.

I have heard good things about CR for many years, and have wanted to go there. It was great to have had this opportunity. Everyone should put CR on their list to go to, or to return.

Love, Pop