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

Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog - see his blue *jeans*? Posted by Hello

this 15 or so footer just finished his chicken Posted by Hello

White Faced Capuchin Monkey mom & babe Posted by Hello
Here we are now in May. Costa Rica was a highly successful trip by any measure - we saw many animals & birds, we had good weather, no one got sick, we had good food & lodgings, the car survived the *bumpiest road we*ll ever be on*, we didn*t get sunburned. What can I say? Pete is working on a trip report - something like 4 pages to get 3 days into a 12 day trip. I always have alot I want to say after our trips but then get intimidated and so nothing gets said at all. Of course I also do pictorial trip reports on ofoto or kodak gallery or whatever it calls itself these days. That is a bit of an undertaking especially as I get better cameras and the download times to computer and internet get ever longer. I also took *video* with my camera for a change - got our boat driver feeding the croc and a troop of monkeys romping around. That was interesting to try to figure out how to get it to actually stay on my computer and then to convert it so I could email it off. All this eats time of course.

I have to say the kids for the most part are good travellers. They hang in there pretty well on long flights with nothing much to do. It can be hard to keep them fed at times esp when you have a longish drive to do - or a long return flight wiht no food service. They still don*t over eat like us adults and have to have their 5 feedings a day to stay nice. I took along a big box of honey cheerios and bags of cashews (mostly enjoyed by the adults) and graham sticks and a bag of granola - surprisingly popular snack when i pulled it out about a week into the trip. Aidan refused to try the rice dishes until over half way thru when he finally tried some rice and beans offered at our Mango Moon B&B - then he fell in love with them (of course). Quincy was a bit surprisingly picky and would just tell me *I don*t like that* - even for food he normally eats. But they managed to get enough food. Fruit was always served with breakfast which Aidan likes.

The kids did however drive me nuts at time with their behavior towards each other. Sometimes they just wouldn*t leave the other alone and there was much teasing and behavior we don*t normally see. We got back mid-week so I assumed that the kids would be thrilled to have a break from each other and be back at school - but magically just being home seemed to resolve the nasties and they were back to mostly playing happily together. Maybe having a few more toys is part of it. I let them pack their own toys (after the tears of being denighed each having their own suitcase as *usual*). I suggested they take 4 trains each - instead Quincy took I think 3 and Aidan 2 - and Quincy wanted them all. He really is the train lover, but of course that left Aidan with nothing. They really enjoyed having family on the trip with them. Pop is always fun to have around, but having cousin Ellie to romp with (Aidan) or Maggie to pet (Quincy) or Phil to pick up frogs, well, pretty great.

Aidan and I got into bird watching. After a few days I picked up a laminated field guide for Costa Rican critters - mammals, amphibians and reptiles on one side and birds on the other. Aidan was stellar at spotting anything that moved. Our first hotel had papayas out every day on sticks adjacent to the restaurant - and a huge variety of the most colorful birds imaginable came to call. The largest iguanas we have ever seen (in Komodo Dragon range I would say) were also frequent guests. I was someone very surprised to find out that they are great climbers - and like to sun them selves draped over the top branches of a tree. I just couldnt figure out how those huge bodies could get up those little branches let alone be comfortable hanging out up there. On other nature guided tours at other spots lizards & iguanas were always pointed out, but somehow after seeing the big grandaddies the little kiddy ones just paled. On our guide I started checking off everything we had definitely seen. We had no hope of course of spotting things like Jaguars and didnt want to spot the snakes, but we did manage to check off a heck of alot of things. Aidan was somewhat hopeless at actually identifying the birds he saw - he really wanted them to be something new we hadn*t seen (and checked off) and of course he couldn*t read how big the bird got - so he would point to a picture of a huge bird and tell me he had just seen it - and it would have been sparrow sized in reality. None the less I was surprised by both our interest and patience in sitting and watching for birds. He joined me several days around 6 or 6.30 on our front porch or balcony to sit and observe. Yesterday I invested in a laminated San Francisco birds guide and a larger book so we can hopefully continue with our spotting back here in the US. So far he has pointed out a few pigeons and a sparrow. Not quite the same as a Toucan or a Blue-crowned Motmot or a Kingfisher! Maybe I*ll try to round up some way of hanging a hummingbird feeding in view of our windows. I do often spot them in our backyard and it would be nice to give them a place to linger where we could watch them up close.

Quincy is going thru a bit of an annoying phase where he likes to talk most of the time in some high pitched funny voice. It is on the scale to being a whine (which it isn*t) and it gets old fast. I have realized that he truly has some muscular control issues especially in regards to ways to move his tongue. I finally identified that he makes the *ar* sound in lieu of *er, ir, or* sounds - where the tongue is kept much flatter. If he could make those sounds it would greatly help in understanding him. He says he can*t put his tongue up either - he can*t reach it up towards his nose for example. It will be interesting to see what the therapists can do. They started off just working to make the *f* sound - and he now can. Then onto the *k* sound. Not much progress and I think they are now realizing that he needs some jaw stregnthening etc. We do an exercize where he bites down on a popsicle stick and growls like a dog. He is actually quite a bit better at that now and can really grip it. I hope to talk to them about it tomorrow when he is going to have a *private* session. We also have a pediatric visit in the a.m. Aidan complains pretty much daily if not more frequently about stomach pains and now Quincy sometimes jumps on the bandwagon too. Aidan*s teacher Laura says that he is of the age where kids are discovering their bodies and are much more aware of different sensations. I can really see that being the *cause* as Aidan has always been a pretty unaware kid - *who me hungry? oh yeah - i am starving!* Quincy has always been much more in tune with when he is hungry and thirsty and very good about letting you know. Aidan just becomes a puddle - that is how he communicates his needs!