I will do something hard this year….

Look at the bottom line of this picture. In very small print there is a very important sentence.

Little did Benson know when he chose this quote and challenge to “do something hard” at the beginning of school last year, that he would be packing up and moving to Costa Rica.

Benson’s great teachers, Katie Wilson and Robin Bond, had the kids in his class choose a quote and a challenge for themselves for the year. I remember this quote well because I was one of the volunteers who helped put these cards together. I remember thinking “ok, Benson, what hard thing are you going to do this year? Run another 10k? Be nice you your sisters?” I took a picture of this little card but didn’t think much about it until much later when I saw it hanging in the hallway at school after we had told the kids that we were moving.

Benson definitely took it the hardest when we told them we were moving and he still struggles at times but he has been a rock! This move has been hard for all of us. But he has stepped up and he is really helping to get me through it. He has been a helper in the kitchen, he has been the first one up when I ask for help and he is really looking forward to starting school here and making some friends.

Poor guy had no idea when he chose “I will do something hard” what all that might mean. My hope is that this experience will open all of their eyes to different cultures and having to work hard to make things happen. We are making connections all the time that make me realize that this can only be good for all of us.

This week has been especially tough. I needed to make Doctor appointments for the kids before school starts on the 20th. I am so glad to have a few connections and I trust their recommendations but it is hard to find Doctors that speak English AND have office staff that you can communicate with to make the appointments. Also, insurance is different here and you have to pay everything up front and then hopefully get reimbursed later.

We found a pediatrician to help us this week and Benson has his first orthodontist appointment next week. I took Blake to get some swimmers ear stuff checked out and SURPRISE… the flu season is different here so hey all had to get a flu shot, which was in an entire different building. And did I mention that Nathan was in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile this week?

I am learning that I can figure things out, and I am very thankful for my new friends here in Costa Rica that are giving me referrals. I am also very thankful for google translate!! It has been a lifesaver. We are having Spanish lessons twice a week but it is coming very s-l-o-w-l-y!

This is our Spanish teacher, Anna. She is great! Luckily, she was at the house this week when we had to have some work done. The crew spoke no English so she translated for me. People here have really been very nice and helpful. I have also started yoga and Zumba class in the neighborhood so I have been feeling more like myself. This is my Zumba trainer…. he is very intense. (I still miss you though, Rhynia!) I do not mean to complain. The more I write I am actually more and more grateful for the people that have been placed in our path along this journey and for the flashes of maturity and grace I am seeing in my children. I am needing more and more of the grace lately as I am navigating this new life. I am also “doing something hard” this year but I am very fortunate to have such a wonderful support team. I know some that don’t have that. I pray to be more appreciative of the blessings that God has given me.

Saying Goodbye, For Now

This was the day I had been dreading since they told me that they were coming.  We had to take them to the airport Saturday morning.  Of course it could not be an uneventful morning!!  Eric realized that he didn’t have his passport about 30 minutes before we needed to leave.  Luckily, he could trace it back to when he was driving Nathans 4-runner down the hill with no breaks…..keep in mind that Nathan had been trying to get a hold of the mechanic who had our truck for 3 days with no response. Luckily, when Nathan called him he picked up.  Nathan explained our situation and he remembered seeing a passport and was able to meet them there and give him the passport!

We made it to the airport in time and had to say goodbye.  This was hard. REALLY hard for me. A handful of people reading this blog will remember when Eric and I didn’t like each other very much. Time and loss has helped us to learn to like and appreciate each other.  We always LOVED each other but now we LIKE each other.  I really enjoy being around him now and it was SO HARD to say goodbye.  He has a precious wife and family too now and that makes it harder.

We had a great week together and I was so thankful that they chose to spend their vacation here. I think they really got a picture of what it is like for us here and I know that he feels much better about me being here after his visit.  It is still hard to say goodbye or “see you later.”   We will see each other again at Christmas and I am really looking forward to that.  I love you Bubba and I will see you in 4 1/2 months!!

And here are just some final random pictures from the week.

We have a very sad puppy also.  He is missing all of the extra loving from Katelyn:(

Reunited…….Part 4

Day 6 and 7 (Thursday and Friday)

Day 6…..This was the day that we all were looking forward to most, I think.  The girls were going surfing and the boys were going deep-sea fishing.  I can speak for the girls in saying that it certainly did not disappoint! The boys on the other hand had a little different experience……

The boys day started at about 6 am.  Nathan was totally expecting and prepared to be sea sick.  (He gets car sick just playing video games with Benson) He had prescription patches, over the counter meds, and special wristbands.  He got up early that morning and put his patch on and was hoping for the best. They left for the marina at about 6:30am.  I think Nathan only made it a few minutes before he stared throwing up.  He said he threw up for 4 hours straight!!! Benson was pretty sick too but never threw up.  He said exactly 4 hours in he felt fine and he had a great time.  (he wishes he had put the patch on the night before) Eric was nice enough to keep putting sunscreen on his face and ears after he had passed out.  Eric and Camdyn felt fine but Cam did take a big nap.

They only caught one fish the whole day but it was delicious!! Eric took a great video of the experience but I can’t post videos on here so I will just share some pictures. (hopefully Eric will post the video on social media)

Us girls had a great time surfing.  The Manuel Antonio Surf School (MASS) picked us up at about 7:30 that morning from our rent house and took us to Dominical to for our surfing lesson.  These guys are awesome! We requested the same guys we had when our family went in June and we were fortunate to get them again.

Katelyn was not excited to go surfing but she quickly changed her mind.  Everyone was able to get up on the surfboards very quickly and SURF! Even little 4 year old, Katelyn! We have a few pictures but we will have more professional pictures soon.

In the end a great time was had by all and the Johns/Bland family vacation started looking up!! Here are a few pictures from the rest of our time at Manuel Antonio.

We found a great little restaurant and we ate there 2 nights in a row.  The first night it was too dark so we missed the sunset but we did get in on a great conga line. (Hard to see in the pictures)





Day 7 (Friday) We visited the National park and beach on our last day. We got to see monkeys, crabs, a deer, a couple of sloths and a rat!! EEK!

And here are some final pictures from our stay in Manuel Antonio.


Reunited and It Feels So Good Part 3:

Days 4 and 5:

On Tuesday, (day 4) we decided to just stay home and enjoy the pool, soccer fields and do some bike riding.  It was pretty uneventful, which was nice after the last couple of days that we had.  We started at the pool and played there for a while.

The kids eventually moved on to bike riding and vegging out.

That afternoon we all took a little field trip to Nathan’s office.  He was having to work the first part of the week and he didn’t have a vehicle so we thought we would pick him up…so yes, at one time there were 11 people in my vehicle.  It was great to see where he works and meet some of his coworkers.  This trip also gave Eric and Rebecca an idea of what traffic is like here….horrible!!IMG_1021That evening the kids finally got to perform their skit that they had been working on.  They were really cute and the boys were really good sports.  Even Benson got into it.

On Wednesday, (day 5) we headed to Manual Antonio National Park.  It is normally about a 2 1/2 drive but when you add in the crocodile bridge and a stop at POPS (our favorite ice cream place here) it takes about 3 1/2.

Just like about every new experience we have had here we really had no idea what to expect when we got to the house we had rented for our time there.  We had to prepare ourselves for anything!  When we pulled in I think we were all a little worried but it ended up being a great place for our family.  I wish I had taken pictures of the place but I didn’t.  You will just have to imagine it.  Nathans little rental car barely made it up and down the hills that it took to get to the house.  Between the howler monkeys and the nocturnal roosters none of us slept the first night. I kept telling Rebecca that they were going to need a vacation from their vacation!

Reunited and It Feels So Good Part 2:

Day 3 with my brother and his family.

So if you read my last post you already know that the trip got a little bit of a rough start when the airline lost my brother’s families luggage.  Well, Sunday eventing they were still saying they had no idea where it was. Finally, after staying on (harrassing) the Costa Rica airport they called Eric at about 11pm Sunday night.  They had located the luggage and they would be at my house with the luggage within the hour…..well, it was 2 hours but we were so happy to see all the bags.  This picture was taken at 1am.  Eric and I were the only ones awake.  IMG_0287That next morning (Monday) we got up to go visit the Irazu volcano.  Nathan had to work so Eric and I drove the cars.  We had a boy car and a girl car.  We left a little before 8 that morning trying to beat the rain.  Here are some pictures of the trip up there.

When we got to the top unfortunately we were not able to see anything because the fog was so thick and it was SLEETING!!! Yes, sleeting.  We, of course, made the best of it though and had fun and then headed back down the mountain.

We hadn’t been gone from the top of the mountain 15 minutes when Rebecca and I realized that we hadn’t seen my brother behind us for a while. Neither one of us had a great signal but we tried calling him and surprisingly he answered but what he said scared us to death…..”I HAVE NO BREAKS!!” Keep in mind that we are pretty much going straight down hill and he has our 2 boys with him. Somehow he figured out a way to pull over and we went back and found them.  Luckily, he was able to stop at an area that had enough of a shoulder for both of us.  We talked about out options for a few minutes and Eric was convinced if that if he had the tools and some break pads he could fix the car……I had no doubt that he could fix it but we were literally in the middle of nowhere!  I called Nathan and between the 2 of us we were able to communicate with our insurance agent and eventually get a tow truck.

THIS WAS NOT EASY!!!  The language barrier, and the fact that my phone wasnt working very well was very frustrating. It was also very hard to make them understand our location for the tow truck.  I am so thankful that my brother was there and that he was the one driving that vehicle. We were all able to keep our cool and the kids were troopers.  It was a pretty scary experience and I am proud of how we were able to handle it.  Another very frustrating part of this story is that Nathan had just had that truck checked out from front to back and they didn’t notice anything wrong with it…..they did after we had it towed to them and they reevaluated it.

We found a really good restaurant to eat at while we waited for the tow truck….and did I mention that it was raining???? They had a playground for the kids which was very helpful.

We were able to watch the tow truck take our truck right by the restaurant and the kids got a kick out of that.  We also had to put 10 of us in my 7 passenger explorer for the almost 2 hour ride back.  This is definitely not how we had planned for the day to go, well, actually the whole vacation so far had kind of not gone as planned, but we were all surviving and making the best of it.

That evening we did see the most beautiful sunset and rainbow both going on at the same time.  If you looked one way from our house you could see the rainbow and the other was the sunset.  It was a great way to end the day.

Reunited and It Feels So Good Part 1:

So, the moment we have been patiently (not really) waiting for has finally arrived!! My brother and his family arrived from Nashville.  I had been working on an itinerary for weeks.  I had the meals and activities all planned out.  If Nathan had done it there would have been a spreadsheet but mine was handwritten:)img_0206.jpg It took both of our cars to pick them up because there are so many of them!! Here is how the pick up went…….

We got to the airport with all of our signs, made by Andi Sloane, and waited…and waited.  I finally got a text from Eric saying that they had arrived but their luggage hadn’t.  I immediately assumed he was messing with me because that’s what he does but unfortunately he wasnt.  So, we waited some more and we did lose come of our momentum.  They finally came out and it was just as expected….magical!!  The kids were so excited and I was a little emotional.  I did feel so bad for them though because the airline didn’t seem to have a clue where their luggage was or when it would get here.  IMG_0252IMG_0253IMG_0260IMG_0836IMG_0270IMG_0259IMG_0923Rebecca was thoughtful enough to bake and bring Benson (all the way from Nashville) 2 fudge pies, his favorite. Luckily, she had put one of them in her carry on. It was a little smashed but delicious!IMG_0982

IMG_0276We piled in our cars and headed to our house for supper.  We were all pretty giddy!  It had only been 2 months since we had seen them but it felt like forever.  The kids got busy planning skits and concerts.  The adults just enjoyed each others company.  Our dog, Blue, was in heaven having all of these extra kids to love on.  While I had been working on an itinerary for the week my kids had been working on sleeping arrangements.  I didn’t get any pictures of the boys but they were happy to have their own room.

The next morning we were happy and proud to take our family to our church here.  They were welcomed with open arms and a kiss on the cheek.  (We had to warn them ahead of time about the kiss on the cheek;) I know that my family was pleased to see how nice and welcoming everyone at church is to us.  The kids all enjoyed their Bible classes, Tico time (coffee, snacks and fellowship between Bible class and church) and the worship time.  IMG_0977IMG_0943IMG_0938IMG_0898IMG_0917IMG_0970IMG_0966IMG_0958The kids Bible class teachers are so great.  They make sure that there is always someone there to translate for our kids.

After church we went to a typical Costa Rican restaurant that we really like so they could taste some of our local favorites, like Chi Frijo, ceviche, and casadas.  We also got to introduce them to the wonderful fresh fruit drinks and special teas.  (I have peach tea from a bottle.  Mom, it is not a beer;)IMG_0881

After lunch we changed clothes and went to a really cool park to play and hike.  Unfortunately, it is rainy season, and if you let it, the rain can ruin your planned activities.  We didn’t let it though. We hiked in the pouring rain and the kids had a blast!


Luckily, Rebecca had thought to pack the kids church clothes in a carry on but they needed other things to get them through the week since they had no idea when their bags would arrive so I took her to the local Wal-Mart.  She realized very quickly that it wasnt exactly the same as the Wal-Mart at home. Items were about 2x as much and hard to find. *we are very grateful for walmart though!IMG_0283

While we were at Wal-mart, the kids decided that they wanted to earn some money to spend during the week so they made a smoothie stand in the driveway.  I think they made about 10mil colones, which is about $20 USD!  This is what we came home to.

This was just days 1 & 2.  A lot more to come!!

Family Visiting!!!!!!!!!!!

So a few weeks ago my brother and his family made the decision to make Costa Rica the destination of their family vacation. To say that I was excited about that was a major understatement.

We couldn’t wait to tell the kids and Eric and Rebecca wanted our kids to be the ones to share the news with their cousins. We had to come up with a plan and set up a FaceTime date with the cousins. Unfortunately, the internet is very unpredictable and we didn’t have a great connection but it worked out great and everyone was happy. There were even a few happy tears shed.

I wish I could share the video of this event but I can’t post videos….but you can tell by Benson putting his headphones on that there was some major excitement amongst these 7 kiddos!!

*they will be here tomorrow so there will be no sleeping by me tonight!! I am so ready!