Checking In

It’s been a while since I’ve last updated so I thought it was time. Nothing earth shattering going on. But I just want to document this point of our life.

We have been in Costa Rica for 16 months. I know that sounds like a mom who insist on only giving her children’s ages in months, but just like in child raising, when you’re doing something completely different every day counts!

We have been back in the swing of things for about six weeks now with school starting. Nathan’s job is going well and the kids are in full swing of their afterschool activities. One of the things that I love here is that all of their extracurriculars are immediately after school so we are not running around at night to get to practices.

Benson is involved in cross country, art and tech, and trumpet, of course. Sloane is doing engineering, swimming, (although, she is out for a month with a broken arm, I’ll get to that later) Chess club, and cooking. Blake Leigh is doing STEAM, swimming, and basketball. I am still substituting at the kids school. I even taught Spanish class for a whole day.

I was at school last week teaching PE class when Sloane’s friends came and got me saying she had fallen off the slide. I was thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal because my kids are kind of clumsy but of course, I was wrong. Luckily, I was able to leave quickly and take her to the hospital. The doctor confirmed that her wrist was broken. She was very calm about the whole thing until then because she assumed it would be like last time where the doctor had to set the bone and put on a cast. Luckily this doctor recommended a splint instead of a cast. He said the cast will be useless in a few days after the swelling went down. She still has to wear the splint and sling 24/7 for 4 weeks but it’s still so much better than the cast.

Another cool thing that has happened since school started is that Sloane got to join band this year and she is doing percussion. She was really hoping that she would be able to do that. Just one more way that she and Benson can drive each other crazy in the house. That was one unfortunate thing with the arm breaking because now she has to do with one arm. Her band director has been very supportive and is working with her on this.

In September we were able to go whale watching. That was an amazing experience. It was only about an hour from our house and we hope to this again. It is a seasonal activity.

I have joined a hiking group that goes out most Monday mornings. It is a group of people from all over the world and has been a cool experience. These are some windmills that you can see from our house. We were able to celebrate Costa Rica Independence Day. We also had to make a very tough decision about church. One of the pulls to us moving here was the relationship that our church back home has with the church here. It has been a great experience for us to get to know these precious people. Although, over the year we came to realize how hard it was to actually worship there. The language barrier was really difficult. I think when we went into it we thought we would learn Spanish much more quickly and that would make it easier for us but unfortunately we have not. We made lifelong friends there and plan on continuing that relationship but have decided to go to an English-speaking church closer to us. I have found myself in tears a couple of times because I had missed that connection.

The real kicker for me was the kids. They are the age now where we would really like for them to WANT to be baptized. I tried to force Benson to go to a youth event and he wanted to hide in a corner the whole time. Again, it has nothing to do with the congregation it’s totally us and our inability to communicate.

The new school year has brought new friends and strengthened old friendships. I have a new friend from California with two little girls that Blake Leigh and Sloane connected with instantly. And they even live in our neighborhood. Benson is still super sad about his friend from last year, Nolan, leaving but we’ve been very proud of him for making some new friendships this year with some new kids.

On another positive note we now have someone here helping clean the house two days a week. She speaks zero English so it’s bound to help us with our Spanish. Her name is Norma and she’s very sweet. She knows much more about taking care of a house like this than I do.

Overall, I would say things are going very well. I’m also happy to say that next month my parents are coming for Thanksgiving and then shortly after will be home again for Christmas. I just to end with a few pictures.

Thoughts…….

We recently were able to go back to The States for a month. It was a wonderful time and it was honestly kind of hard to come back here to Costa Rica. Mostly because we really enjoyed time with family. We got to spend a whole week on vacation with my parents and we stayed with Nathan’s parents the rest of the time. His grandfather passed away while we were there but we were so thankful to get to spend time with him before he passed.

One of the questions we get asked very often especially over the last month was “when are you coming back?” And “how much longer do you have in Costa Rica?” And the answer is we really don’t know. This used to frustrate me because I kind of always want to know what’s next but isn’t that kind of ridiculous?

From the time we are a little we always kind of know what’s next. After kindergarten, first grade. After high school is college and then we have to get real jobs. When we get married everyone wonders when we’ll have kids and so on…… We are in a unique position right now where we are really not sure what our next step is. But aren’t we all?? We are not promised tomorrow, or that promotion, or our good health. That’s why I feel like a relationship with God is so important. I do pray that we are learning things that we need to know now for our next experience and I do kind of have an idea of what I want that next experience to be but never in 1 million years would I have expected that I would be moving to Costa Rica if you had asked me a few years ago so I have to have an open mind of what is next.

I have decided to enjoy this time of living in the moment and not having to worry about what is next because when that time comes it will be stressful trying to decide where we will live and where the kids will go to school and what I will do for work. For now I’m going to enjoy taking my kids to a school that they love and having lunch and coffee with friends that I adore.

I’m extremely thankful that I have made close friends here and with the start of a new school year I’m looking forward to making new friends. This year we were asked to help with a buddy family system here at school. I have already made a new friend and looking forward to helping her transition to this country. I know how much my buddy family friend, Mariana, helped us gets settled and I now consider her a close friend.

So no, we don’t know how long will be here or what the next step is but I pray for patience for myself through this process and hope that I can enjoy the time that we have here now.

A Visit From Grandpa and Nana

On June 12, Grandpa and Nana came to visit us. There was a little change of plans with Sloane getting hurt. We were supposed to leave for The States on June 14 but since we couldn’t, they came to see us. We were able to do a lot of fun things and show them around our new country. This was Mr. Dave’s first time here and Mrs. Nancy’s second time.

The first day they were here they got to see the kids at their last day of school and we went to a very cool restaurant with a beautiful view called Mirador Tiquicia.

The next day we visited the Starbucks coffee plantation and did a tour. We also went to our favorite place to take visitors, La Paz, waterfall gardens. that Saturday, Benson, Nathan, Mr. Dave and I did a hike called tres Cruces. It was a fairly difficult hike with no signs. You have to figure it out on your own. There are three crosses along the way that are completely unrelated to one another. Makes for a very fun hike. I have never made it to the third cross so that was the goal for the day! We did it! This is the view from the first cross. This is the view from the second cross. I cant believe I have no pictures of the second cross. It has actually fallen over and it easy to miss.

This is the third cross. You can see it at the top of a mountain near where Nathan works. Benson was worn out! This next picture was from when we got home. He said he couldn’t even walk. Sunday we celebrated Father’s Day at church and relaxed. Monday we got to go to the doctor with Sloane where he told her that she could start putting weight on her broken leg. We also got great news from the x-rays that it was healing on time. But the best news of all was that she could start taking her boot off to swim!!

After the doctors appointment we took off for the Irazu volcano and a “haunted” hospital that was once there to serve tuberculosis patients. We have passed it several times and wanted to visit and we finally did.Like A lot of times here… The weather decides on what you get to see or not. We did not get to see the volcano but the drive there was beautiful. They were able to witness the beautiful sunsets, crazy birds that wake you up at 4:45, lizards, geckos, and delicious Costa Rican food.The day before they left we got to spend the whole day at the pool. We even ordered pizza and stayed there through lunch. They loved having Grandpa tell them stories at night. This was something that he started doing when they were very young. He even, kind of, got used to having Blue around. They were able to hear Benson play his new trumpet, A LOT! When it came time to say goodbye, it wasn’t so bad because we knew we would see them soon when we visit in July. We love you Grandpa and Nana. Thanks for coming to see us. See you in a few weeks!

Recipes

I have had a few people ask me for some Costa Rica recipes so here we go.  I am one of these people who take about 3 different recipes and make them my own.
The first thing I learned how to make in Costa Rica was Gallo Pinto.  (You can’t translate this literally because it means spotted rooster.) Gallo Pinto is something that most Ticos (Costa Ricans) have every morning for breakfast.  It is great with scrambled eggs and fruit.  It took me several tries and failed attempts to get it right.  And I’ll warn you that it is kind of a labor of love kind of recipe.

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Gallo Pinto

Here’s what you will need:

Olive oil

1 chopped onion

1 chopped red pepper

7 or so cloves of freshly minced garlic

cooked and drained beans (more information about this later)

Rice cooked in bean juice

about 1/4 cup Lizano sauceimg_6661

1 bunch chopped Cilantro

*Disclaimer

So, If you are wanting to eat Gallo Pinto for breakfast on Friday, you will need to start this process on Wednesday.  Sorry about that, but like I said, it is a labor of love kind of recipe.

Directions:

Soak about a pound of dry beans over night in the fridge in water.  You can use red beans or black beans.

The next day rinse the beans really well and cover with water.  I place 2 garlic cloves in the water for extra flavor.  Cook the beans as directed but leave them a little firm. Drain the juice and put in a container to cook the rice in tomorrow.  Put the cooked beans and the juice in the fridge.

Later that day or the next day cook the rice as directed in the juice from the beans.  I use about a 1 to 1 1/2 ratio so a little less water than usually recommended, so If I have 3 cups of liquid I use 1 1/2 cups of rice.  You also want the rice to be kind of firm so don’t overcook. I cheat and use a rice cooker in the microwave. After it cools place in the fridge.  *Tip: If you are making a rice dish (gallo pinto, fried rice), it is much easier to work with cold rice.  So I refrigerate overnight.

And finally, the best part….putting it all together. First put your oil in the bottom of the large pot.  Im not good at measuring but enough to fill the bottom.  Let it get pretty hot and then add the chopped onion and red pepper.

When the onion starts to get clear add the minced garlic.  Let that cook until it is fragrant.

Add the lizano sauce and stir……I am afraid to tell you that I think that this might just be a Costa Rica thing..:( I have heard that you can sub in Worcestershire sauce but I haven’t tried it.  I also know that you can find it on amazon;) It is basically Costa Rica ketchup.  We put it on everything.

Add the cooked beans and stir.

Add the rice and stir until everything comes together.

At this point feel free to add salt to your taste.

The final step is adding the chopped cilantro and stir.

At this point you will be able to tell if you cooked the beans and the rice correctly.  I have mede it before and it was overcooked so it looked like a big bowl of oatmeal….and I have also undercooked it and it was too hard to eat.

Now I will tell you the best way to serve it…..

This recipe should give your family at least 2 mornings of Gallo Pinto, so I just leave it in the original pan and in the mornings heat up a large skillet with oil and let it get really hot, then add enough gallo pinto for your family and saute. It makes it taste fresh each time you reheat.

I hope you enjoy and message me if you have any troubleshooting questions!

Ground Beef Picadillob990fab4-7de7-4869-bb21-a471c7791392

Picadillo comes from a the spanish verb picar, which means “to chop.”

This recipe is very versatile.  It can be used just as a main course, a filling for tacos or empanadas, and you can also make it vegetarian by replacing the beef with more veggies. The first time the kids and I had this we were at church and I immediately had to ask the woman who made it for her recipe.  This is what she gave me…..

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So, I took that and with the help of a friend made up my own recipe.

What you will need:

2 tablespoons oil

1 pound ground beef

1 chopped onion

1  chopped red pepper

3 cloves of freshly minced garlic

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

1 tablespoon of achiote (pictured below)

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4 chayotes minced (I honestly don’y know if you can even get these in The States but potatoes work really well too) Here is what they look like.  I think they are in the squash family

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1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lizano sauce (pictured in previous recipe)or Worcestershire sauce

1 cup beef broth (I have also used chicken broth in a pinch and it was fine)

1 bunch of chopped cilantro (you done have to use this.  I know some crazy people are not fans, but in my opinion it is what makes it so yummy!)

corn or flour tortilias, rice if desired

Directions:

Saute onion in hot oil

add the beef, red pepper, garlic, and oregano and continue to cook until the beef is browned

add the chayote and broth and bring to a boil for 5 minutes

season with the anchiote, cumin, salt and lizano sauce.

cover and bring to a boil again.

cook over medium heat for about 2 min or until the chayote or potato is tender.

add the cilantro and combine

serve on tortilias, alone or on rice

ENJOY!!!

Stepping out of my bubble

It has taken me too long to write this post but I had a lot of thoughts running through my head and wanted to try to organize them as much as I possibly could. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am not a writer but I do like to document big moments in our lives.

A week ago Saturday we celebrated one year living in Costa Rica. We celebrated by each painting a rock that symbolizes how we feel about our first year. This idea was taken from Joshua where the Israelites set up stones to one day explain to their children and their grandchildren why they were set up. We placed them in our random rock corner of our house. We looked through pictures and talked about the highs and lows of the year.

I would say a year and about three months ago I started taking tiny steps outside the bubble that I’ve been in most of my life. When I say bubble, I don’t mean that necessary in a negative way it’s just all that I knew. My mom even said when I went to college that she felt like Searcy was kind of an extension of the bubble that I was already living in. I would not change anything about the way I was raised. I was taught how to be a good person. How to be kind to others and put God first in my life.

I use that term “bubble” because I have not gotten out of my comfort zone very much. I’ve made a few moves in my life… Paragould, Arkansas to Searcy, Arkansas. Then on to Little Rock after college and then to Memphis, Which is where I would consider my home. That’s where my children have lived most of their lives and where I started to kind of figure out my purpose.

When I look at my life…I observe that I have worked with children. I’ve worked in restaurants. I’ve done hair and now I am working with children again. I’ve only lived in the southern part of United States and visiting Costa Rica in 2016 was first time I’ve ever even left the country. Costa Rica is still the only other country I’ve been to. I have never liked change, except for when it comes to my hair 🙂 and I have pushed against it as much as possible. I think that is one thing about me that drives Nathan crazy. But when the decision came to move to Costa Rica I surprisingly jumped in without hesitation.

I think I’ve said this before but I was just needing some change from the cycle of being too busy, feeling frustrated and juggling everything but not feeling like I’m really doing anything with purpose. I think we all fall into that trap of being “busy” and feeling like our children have to be involved in everything but feeling like we are on a hamster wheel. I don’t think it’s worth it. I will have several disagree with me on that one but our lives have calmed down for the better and I’m very thankful.

Since moving to Costa Rica I’ve had a lot of time, sometimes too much, to reflect on what is important for us to be doing as a family. Service, is I think number one. And we could always do more of that and number two, I think, is just spending time together. I don’t think we would ever regret that we spent too much time together as a family. And by time, I mean simple stuff like playing games and going for walks. Exploring this beautiful country that we get to live in.

As my kids get older they want to spend more time on devices and while that is easy, I think we need to be much more purposeful to interact with one another. Right now school is wrapping up and our children are having a hard time saying goodbye to their friends. Some just for the summer and others they do not know when they will ever see them again. They are moving to other parts of the world. Costa Rica is a very transitional place and people come and go every couple of years. I think this is a good lesson for our children to learn now while they’re young. Learning to have to stay in touch with friends is a good lesson.

I would say that all of our minds have been opened over the last year. I think most of us went into this very anxious and afraid that we would not find close friends and not find a real purpose and I think we would all say that we are adjusting well. Benson has learned that he really enjoys playing the trumpet and is very dedicated to practicing. He’s formed a very close bond with his band teacher and looks up to him. Andi Sloane has found that she has got some very sweet friends that are loyal and helpful and her time of need. Blake has found that she loves playing soccer and has discovered a love for writing stories and reading. Nathan is really loving his coworkers and seems to really be thriving at work. And I feel like I’ve grown up so much over the last year. I’ve had to do a lot of my own which, to be honest, at the time I resented, but now I feel like it has really helped me. I really love teaching at the school and look forward to doing it again next year.

I’ve had several people ask me about how our Spanish is coming and I am sad to say that it’s slow…..I think the only way we are going to really learn Spanish and feel comfortable speaking is to be more immersed in it.  We are understanding more and more and that is encouraging. The kids and I are planning on doing a camp in a few weeks here in Costa Rica where will be fully immersed for the week.

We have made some really wonderful friends here too. From our church family to my “buddy family” friend from school that helped us get settled and help me out of my funk last summer to my Costa Rican friend, Diana, who by the way is still my friend even though I said her name wrong for the first six months of our friendship🤣 We meet with every other week for lunch, unless stuff comes up 🙂 to my sweet friend Ana, who also has precious children that my children have gotten close to. We’ve also made very good friends with our children’s friends parents. My friend, Sylvia, who has helped me in more ways than I can express and of course the teachers at the kids school. We have been very blessed.

In the next couple of months we will have family visiting from the states and we will also get to go home for some time and we will look forward to that so much. Even though we are really enjoying our time here we miss our family and friends terribly back home. We have really grown to appreciate those special people from home.

To end this post I want to keep it on the light side by listing some things that I’ve gotten used to here in Costa Rica, things that I’m starting to get used to in Costa Rica and lastly things I don’t think I will never get used to here in Costa Rica.

Things I’ve gotten used to:

Nothing being easy or clear-cut, groceries being very expensive, wonderful food, traffic, rain, communicating through WhatsApp, someone always being willing to help

Things I’m starting to get used to:

The humidity, the heat in my house, the bugs, cleaning the floors every day, communicating through Google translate, nothing being on time, having to pay to park almost everywhere, turnabouts at intersections instead of stoplights

Things I don’t think I’ll ever get used to: the way people drive, no parking, parking on the street, being afraid they’ll take my license plates for not parking correctly.

Do you see a theme here? I would say the most stressful thing that we deal with is driving and parking!

I’m sure there are a lot more things that fall into these categories. Thank you to those who have prayed for us and please continue the prayers. We look forward to seeing many of you over the summer.

One Whole Year

Today we celebrated our 1 year living in Costa Rica anniversary. I will have a post later with lots of rambling thoughts but for tonight I just have this to share. From the Bible…Joshua 4 Tonight we each painted a stone that we someday will talk with our children and their children about.

BTA (before the accident vacation post)

We now refer to time as before the accident and after the accident… BTA we were having a wonderful vacation at a new spot in Costa Rica. It is called “The Whale’s Tail.” You can see from the picture below that when the tide is low you can see the shape of the whales tail.We were staying at an amazing house with a view of the whales tale. It had a beautiful pool and we were with great company. The first couple days were uneventful and fun. We enjoyed going to the beach and getting to watch the tide go down and walk to the edge of the whales tail. It was really beautiful watching the two sides of the ocean meet.We really enjoyed spending time with our sweet friends the Menendez’s. It’s been great seeing my kids get to be the “big kids” and help out with their little ones. We’re hoping that the trauma of the next morning does not keep them from wanting to go on vacation with us again😬

The next morning we got up and went on a horseback ride as a family to a waterfall. We were able to see some wild Razorbacks there were probably about 30 of them. I wish I had taken pictures for my family, who are huge Razorback fans. Although, these Razorbacks looked nothing like the mascot. Right after this picture we were all super hot and already in our bathing suits so the kids couldn’t wait to jump in the pool. I think it was Sloane’s second jump into the pool where she stepped back one step too far and fell off into the ravine. You already know that story.

I just wanted to make sure and document how much fun we were having before all that happened. We will definitely go back, maybe not to the same house because we are all pretty traumatized but we will definitely go back to the whales tail. 🐳