Tripping Over Turtles 🐢

We have had so many “once in a lifetime”experiences here in Costa Rica. Our latest one was Halloween weekend. The experience is called arribada. It is the annual arrival of hundreds of thousands of sea turtles to lay their eggs on the beaches in Costa Rica. And yes, I said hundreds of thousands.

A friend of mine, Forum, had a wonderful trip last year with her family and had told me that we had to do it so I kept that in the back of my mind but had kind of forgotten about it until another friend, Jana, mentioned that they were wanting to go. I told her that I may have some contacts for her, from Forum, and I would get back to her. (We didn’t end up using those contacts because of the covid changes. You typically go at night because the turtles lay the eggs at night, and because of the curfews in place we had to make the tour for 5 o’clock in the morning.) Yet another friend sent us another guides contact info and we we were so thankful! (Thank you Sara!)

Our friends, Jana and family, invited us to come along and after some ill-timed planning in the beginning we got the trip planned. I say ill-timed because we had the house booked based on a weekend that was good for us but when I message the tour guide he said that was a terrible weekend because he thought the mom turtles would be done laying the eggs but the babies would not start hatching yet so we wouldn’t get to see anything. So he strongly advised us to pick another weekend. We had to cancel that house and choose a completely different one. (Jana was doing this. She was so patient!) We thought it was a little ridiculous but followed his advice anyway and we were very glad that we did. We chose the very next weekend but it paid off. 

The house that we stayed at was within about 20 minutes of the area where the turtles hatch. The tour was at 5 AM but he wanted us there at 4:45. It was literally in his backyard. There were about four or five other groups there but we were able to get the tour guides full attention. I would recommend him to anyone who asks. His name was Gilberth. He spoke pretty good English and was very easy to communicate with through the whole process for scheduling and during the tour. He was very knowledgeable and he said his family has been doing this for six generations. You would have thought because of his energy that this was his very first tour! 

When we started the tour it was still dark and I wasn’t thinking that we would get to see very much. Pretty quickly we were able to see teeny tiny little turtles in the sand. They were the same color as the sand and you had to be very careful not to step on them. The picture above is terrible but I wanted to show how difficult it was to see the tiny turtles in the sand. Gilberth had us walk very fast because he knew something very exciting was up ahead.  I had been told that you either see the laying of the eggs or the baby turtles but you don’t ever see both happening at the same time and we were about to get to witness both happening at the same time. It was really amazing!There were turtles everywhere! Blake and her best friend, Miles This turtle stayed here for so long. It is all they can do to make it out of the water and up to the sand. They still have to dig a huge hole and lay over 100 eggs. When they go back down into the water they are so much lighter and relieved. This little guy was missing an arm. We did watch him make it to the water though. That was the best part. Watching these tiny little babies just instinctively know to go straight to the ocean. The kids were cheering for them! The guide was telling us that the turtles do this every month but September through December is just the busiest time here and that Costa Rica is the most popular place in the world for this to happen.😯The picture below is hard to see but it is of a mom laying her eggs. He said that the median amount of eggs is 110 per turtle. We have a video but unfortunately I can’t put videos on here😏

We did not forget about Halloween! We did a little door-to-door trick-or-treating in the house, the little kids did a “not so scary” haunted house, and my friend Jana even got a piñata!

I would highly recommend this experience and I would say that you would need to do it at this time of year. This is a great area. Nosara is very close. There are Airbnb’s. There is a very cool hostel close by called Selina. I know sometimes hostel sounds scary but I had stayed there before and it was a super cool experience. 

Costa Rica Coincidences

**** edited. Before you read this…I AM NOT PREGNANT!! I have already had people contact me and I don’t want any confusion.

I think it is a known thing that when you are pregnant that you see more pregnant women right? I know that was true for me. So, since we found out the we were going to be moving to Costa Rica and in the 2 years and 4 months since we’ve been down here I can’t tell you how many times we have “coincidentally” heard Costa Rica mentioned in movies, books, and tv shows.

Some of you may have noticed this either because you have a connection with Costa Rica or because of us. Or maybe you see it with the place where you live…..I probably would’ve never noticed it but it happens a lot! Even the kids pick up on it. Here are just a few of the ones we’ve noticed.

My absolute favorite mention of Costa Rica is from my favorite TV series, “The Office.” Toby, notoriously decides to go to Costa Rica after he realizes he has no future with Pam, and Michael hates him. But he doesn’t get to enjoy the beauty and Pura Vida lifestyle because he breaks his neck zip lining. (this is one activity that we have enjoyed in The States but have not done here for some reason😏)

Of course there is Jurassic Park and anytime we are driving through some beautiful lush mountainous areas we always comment on how it feels like we’re driving through Jurassic Park.

I can’t remember the names but I have read a lot of books this year and I will just be reading along and the author will just mention Costa Rica. It’s must be a great place to escape to. It just seems so random that it is mentioned so much!

There are several “House Hunter International” episodes here in Costa Rica. Don’t get me started on those…..

Another one is murder mystery shows like dateline and 48 hours….

And of course we can’t forget the “The Tiger King’s” murder mystery…..Carole Baskin’s husband was supposed to be going off to Costa Rica. Maybe I should put up some posters with his picture on them. 🤔

I know there are more and I will add them as they come to me…..

September 2020 Quarantine Check-in

I had someone ask me recently why I hadn’t posted anything lately and when I stopped to think about the answer, all I could think about was the saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I always try to be honest in these posts but also not try to sound too negative or make my mom want to come get me. 😩🤣 But seriously, it has been really tough to be going through the pandemic so far from home. It was disappointing at the beginning when we found out we would not be able to go home to visit this summer, but now as we see Christmas approaching, with no real clear answers about the borders opening it’s starting to get downright depressing. 

You have to realize before moving here I don’t think I had gone more than two or three months without seeing my family. I know that sounds a little crazy to some people but that was my reality. And before this pandemic we really had been on a roll of us either going home or someone coming here every 4 to 5 months. If we get to go home at Christmas it will be a year since I’ve seen my side of the family. It’s hard to believe. I know a lot of families do that all the time but WE have never done that. Thank goodness for FaceTime!

I’ve had a few friends and family asked me about some of my social media post mentioning friends that have gone home (to The States) or friends that have moved and they have been able to leave the country because they either work for the US embassy here, or they are moving back to The States permanently.  We are not able to leave because when we tried to come back we would lose our residency here. We would only be able to leave if they open the borders to Tennessee. 

They have started opening the borders to some specific countries and a few US states that seem to be doing well with the virus. (not Tennessee or Arkansas yet.) The stipulations they are putting on these visitors are so strict that I don’t see any of our relatives making the trip any time soon. The stipulations include: Covid testing right before you leave, you have to purchase very expensive travel insurance, and in some instances you are subject to a 14 day quarantine. 

We are still holding out hope that we will be able to go home to visit for Christmas and we are hearing that maybe in October the borders will open more freely. 🤞🏻  For now, the kids are in full-time virtual school mode. And that is not because we were given a choice. The government has made this choice for us. This will be the way it is the least for the whole first semester. We are very happy with how seriously education is taken. They are expected to be in their uniform every day and in a quiet space. Sometimes this can be very difficult considering there are three of them sharing spotty internet (4 counting Nathan) and our house is wide open. There is a lot of shushing and arguing but they will survive. 

Nathan is still working from home 100%. I am basically just here doing housework, keeping them fed, and making sure everyone is quiet and respectful of each other’s workspace. My new hobby is doing puzzles because I don’t get shushed for that😉

We still have driving restrictions and a curfew but they have loosened up on both of these a little. More restaurants and stores are open. Luckily, most restaurants have outdoor seating and masks are required everywhere so it’s pretty safe. It’s not like Covid is getting any better here and that’s why they have loosened up. I think they’re just realizing that all of the super strict restrictions are not helping that much and people have to get back to work. 

The best news that I have is that we have a new family has moved in down the street from us and we have kind of decided to let ourselves be in a bubble together and it has been wonderful. We have been able to cook for each other and share some advice on some of the things that helped us get acclimated to Costa Rica. After truly not spending time with people for five months it has been such a blessing. And it is rare to find families that you just kind of “click with” so naturally.

Quick update on the kids:

Benson is 13 and in 7th grade. He is still playing the trumpet and has a squeaky voice😊 I love his “doesn’t take himself seriously temperament”

Andi Sloane is 11 and in 6th grade. She got glasses this summer 🤓 She is an excellent cook! And she is finding out that middle school is tough! (👇🏼this picture was from the end of her first day of school. She was worn out!) 

Blake Leigh is 9 and in 4th grade. She also got glasses this summer🤓  She is excited that she gets to use a computer for school. She loves to write stories and still loves to play with toys and build forts. I will leave with some pictures.

Blake needed eye protection while making lemonade Sloane made me an amazing cake for Mother’s Day This was From a little vacation we took right before school started in Santa Teresa. We all enjoyed paddle boarding. This was From Costa Rica Mother’s Day 👆🏻this is our new friend, Bebhinn. She and Sloane are in the same grade and she lives down the street. We are so thankful to have made instant friends! They are already baking together. 

Please continue to keep us in your prayers and our families back home to stay safe and healthy!

First World Problems (This post is just for laughs🤣)

So, I have been doing my own hair since I was 12 years old. Cut and color, all of it. Since the show “Friends” came out and I spotted Rachel Green’s shaggy hair. I am not saying that I have always done a good job. I have had some MAJOR fails. From pixies to long bobs, from almost black to zebra stripes in my hair, I have done it all but I can’t blame anyone but myself.

When we moved to Costa Rica I brought a bunch of supplies with me. Not because I thought I would work here but because I knew that I would have to keep up with my own hair. I am not just talking about just color (highlighting powder, color, and developer), but I am talking about shampoo, conditioner, and all the products that you can imagine that I would use.

I had no idea what I would have access to here. I’m sure that I have not been looking in the right places but I’m not finding the products that I normally use and remember NO AMAZON! AND I am used to getting these products at a stylist rate so I refuse to pay full price.

The first couple of trips back home I would restock some of my most beloved products and then it just got to be where we didn’t have room for it. So here we are. I am a girl addicted to coloring her hair. I have no clue what color my hair really is and this is all I have left!! Looks like I will be going back to what I think God gave me and I will live with it until we are back in the states again. Luckily, I really am not that high maintenance and I will be just fine 😊

Quarantine Check-in

I have had several people asking me what it is like here during this pandemic. Some have wondered how different things are here from The States and other countries. I can’t speak for other countries but I can paint a picture of what it looks like in Costa Rica in the 4th month of the Covid-19 pandemic. I have already talked about this some but I thought I would do a little check in. 

Things started out very good here in Costa Rica. Our bread and butter is tourism and this all stared in the busy season and that is not ideal but even so the government took it very seriously and put very strict social distancing, driving restrictions, and closed businesses and schools very quickly. Recently though, we have experienced our numbers going up more rapidly. When you look at the numbers as a whole country it doesn’t seem like much but you have to remember that we are a very small county.

We have 7,231 reported cases of Covid-19. (For prospective, the population of Costa Rica is about 5 million.) We have been under very specific and very enforced driving restrictions since March. Right now, we (Nathan and I) are only allowed to drive on Thursday and Sunday and in most areas the curfew is 5:00pm and the latest is 7:00pm. In the areas where the curfew is 5pm (where the cases are the highest) you can only drive to essential businesses (hospitals, pharmacies, and grocery stores.) 

You may ask how they decide what days you get to drive. It is all based on the last number of your license plate. If you get caught driving on a plate restriction day then you get fined about $200. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten about halfway to where I’m going and panicked about whether or not I was supposed to be driving that day. I finally picked up on the pattern of what days I could drive and then they changed it recently. 

Nathan is still required to work 100% from home. (But so happy to have a job🙏🏽🙌🏽) Pictured above is his homemade standing desk. Made from a boogie board.

Buses and public transportation are only operating at 20%. Playgrounds and public areas are closed. All restaurants are closed on weekends. These are just a few things that come to mind but I know there are more. On a positive note, I have to mention that our grocery stores shelves are stocked and we have plenty of toilet paper and paper towels. We have not gone with out and I’m very thankful.  I don’t mention these things to complain I just want to paint a picture of what it’s like because I do think that Costa Rica has made some very important tough decisions to slow the spread of the virus. 

Masks are required and I am happy to wear it. My kids need to be back in school and whatever I need to do to make that happen I’m happy to do it. If I need to wear a hazmat suit to go to the grocery store I’ll do that🤪

I don’t say that because I am so ready to get them out of the house but because they need to get to be with their friends and teachers. I’m not in a hurry. Whatever time it takes to get the vaccine and make things safe is great. I just see what a toll this is taking on them emotionally. 

I can hardly even stand to get on social media lately because of all the negativity and arguing about masks. I am just trying to stay positive. I tell Nathan all the time that I’m just so proud that we have been stuck together for all these months and our kids haven’t hurt each other!! That’s a big deal! They are each other’s only in-person friends right now and for the foreseeable future.

We are sad that we are not going to be able to go to The States this summer and I just can’t believe that I will go so long without seeing my family BUT I want everyone to be safe and healthy. It’s like I tell my kids often….this is temporary. In the meantime we are enjoying our neighborhood, trying to enjoy some local beauty, exercising and cooking a lot. Blake is starting a little virtual summer program tomorrow. And then very soon it will be time for school for everyone. It will be virtual again I’m sure and that will be fine. We are very fortunate to have that option. 

2 Year Celebration

Two posts two days in a row! That’s what happens when you have too much time on your hands! I just wanted to talk about our celebration while it was still fresh on my mind. The kids had school and Nathan had work for most of the day but last night we had Costa Rican food, gallo pinto and beef and potato picadillo. And Sloane made an amazing surfboard cake. Her inspiration was Nathan’s Costa Rica tattoo. She was able to put together our Memphis roots with our love of surfing and Costa Rica. It was beautiful and it tasted delicious.

After we ate we decided to carry on our tradition of painting rocks. We did this last year as well. We wanted to do something that was meaningful but also something kind of relaxing and fun. When we were trying to decide what to do last year Nathan remembered the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and read this to the kids.  He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God. ”

Joshua 4:21-24 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Joshua%204:21-24&version=NIV

We keep these stones from last year where we can see them. Pictured below.

And here are the ones from this year. Some of us get a little bit more into it than others.. The top three pictures are mine. It’s just one stone that has three sides. The first one that you can see is half sunset/half beach. The second side is an eye with a few tears because it’s been a hard year and it also has a boa constrictor on it because there was a massive one spotted it in our neighborhood and our house had to be modified a bit because there is a huge opening in our laundry room so I had to complain to the homeowner to get that closed off because it terrified me. There is also a bug because our house is filled with bugs, more on that later… And the third side has lots of friends because we have made friends that feel like family❤️

The next two blue ones are Benson and Blakes. Benson’s is just blue because he likes blue and didn’t want to put a lot of time and effort into it. Blake said that underneath there somewhere it says 3A for the class that she is in this year and there is a C for coronavirus but you just can’t see it :-)

Nathan did the Yin and Yang sign because you have to look at the good and the bad in everything. You can’t just focus on one or the other. Sloane made 2 rocks. One is more focused on coronavirus with a mask and a heart and the other is about her love for our dog Blue.

Some little critters tried to rain on our parade during the rock painting and Sloane tried her best to knock them out. I wish it would let me show the video. She was hysterical she had two of these bug zapper’s going. Look at the ceiling and the floor. They were everywhere.I’m not kidding when I say we had an invasion. My Costa Rican friends can correct me if I’m wrong on this but someone told us they are Costa Rican termites. They invade for just a short time but they are no joke. They come in and leave their wings all over the house and I’m not sure if they actually do any damage like they do in the states. Our homeowner was not concerned so I guess they’re just a nuisance. I’m going to leave a few pictures here to show just how much of a nuisance they are.These pictures were just from last night. And I didn’t even take pictures of all of our sinks and showers that were covered in them. 

All in all we had a good day and we are happy to be wrapping school up next week. I will leave with these beautiful flowers that Nathan got for me yesterday.

Milestones

Today marks 2 years of us living in Costa Rica. In some ways this pandemic has made it seem so much longer than that. There are so many things that we love about living here and not getting to enjoy them is making it really hard. For example, spending time with new friends that have become like family, the sights, our school, and the beaches, well, at least I like the beaches.

Our school campus has been closed since March 12, but we have been very fortunate to have full-time online school since then. The kids still have two weeks and they are ready for a break. Although, I’m not really sure how we will fill our time. We have tickets to go to the states at the end of June but they keep extending the border closures so we’re not sure. The neighborhood pool is still closed and we still have driving restrictions. We are trying to make the most of our time at home by playing games, cooking, watching too much tv 😱, playing video games virtually with cousins, and FaceTiming with grandparents.

If we don’t get to come home this summer we will just exchange our tickets and wait until Christmas. Hopefully we can fly my parents here when the borders open again. We are hopeful that that will happen sometime late summer. We will be looking forward to that. Until then, hopefully when the beaches open back up I can drag my family for a beach trip somewhere with a pool and some new scenery to look at with no computers and no grumbling.

Isn’t it all so unpredictable right now everywhere though? What will school look like in the fall? We are not guaranteed normalcy. We are not guaranteed jobs. I think I just assumed that someone would snap their fingers and everything was just going to go back to normal. That is so naive.

I am so thankful that Costa Rica is taking this so seriously. I feel very safe here. If it wasn’t for feeling so far away from family and friends I would really be in good shape. I’ve said this before but it’s really just this feeling of isolation and the knowing that if I needed to get home I couldn’t.

On a completely different note, I used to be really into running, it was the cheapest form of exercise that I could do when the kids were really little and just about the only thing I could find time for since they were so close in age. I’ve been very unmotivated since we moved here. One of my very best friends, Courtney Reasons, has been very inspirational. She is very vocal about her struggles with weight and feeling unmotivated to exercise. She’ll set running goals and put them out there for everyone to see and she’s very transparent and I appreciate that about her. Today’s her birthday, shout out to Courtney! And she mentioned to a few of us that she was wanting to run 6.1 miles for her birthday and wanted to see if some of us wanted to commit to running some mileage for her birthday and so I said I would commit but didn’t know how many I would commit to (because I am very out of shape and uncommitted) and kind of at the last minute I said I would do 6.1 but it will probably take me all day to do it. I knew that Sloane and I would do part of it this morning and then I would try to do the rest throughout the day.

This morning I decided to do it all this morning because it is SO STINKING 🥵 and I would even do an extra 10th of a mile to commemorate two years in CR on June 1 so 6-1 for Court and 6.2 for 2 years in June.  It was hard and SUPER SLOW but I did it and it felt so good to set a goal and actually accomplish it. So here’s to Courtney!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY 🎈🎉🎁 and here’s to 2 years living in Costa Rica!!And here’s to Andi Sloane running 2.38 miles

Isloated

I have gone back and forth about doing a post during this crisis we are all facing. I know sometimes I come across whiney and I certainly don’t want to do that, so I have started several post and then decided to wait until I was in a better frame of mind and honestly I just keep on coming back to the same place.  THIS IS REALLY HARD!! It is hard for everyone!!

I certainly don’t want to act like I am in any worse shape than anyone else so please don’t think that as you read this. I recently read a very good little poem type thingy on facebook about how we are not all in the same boat but we are in the same storm…… I won’t quote it because I don’t know who the author is but I think that it it so true.  I also think that we can see the beauty in this crisis one day and then the next day feel like we are drowning in sorrow.  (Or like at my house with 2 kids in the beginning stages of puberty it can feel like we are living minute by minute.)

To start with the positives, we feel very fortunate that our school was able to get ahead of all this and sent the kids home with ipads and computers so that they can have full online distance learning during this time.  My kids are pretty much “in school” from 8-3.  Luckily, Benson and Sloane are able to do it independently. I do have to help Blake from time to time but she has stepped up as well and I am proud of her.  They all have amazing teachers that are, I think, having to work as hard or harder than they were before.

Nathan is also able to work from home and that is a huge blessing. I know he is having to be very patient as Benson and Sloane are still having to practice band and that is super loud, and just the normal 3 kids and a dog being in the house is loud as well.  We’ve only had a few issues with the internet being stretched between 4 people actively working online all day.

We also have a beautiful place to walk around and play during this time.  Of course, the pool and playgrounds are closed, but we have sidewalks to ride our bikes on and the skatepark to play around on.  Sloane and I are still doing our morning walk/jog and she has gotten to where she can run a whole mile without stopping to walk!! This is huge progress considering she broke her leg this time last year.  We usually do 2-3 miles and then something else in the afternoon/evening to get some more exercise with the whole family.  Mainly flag football, tennis, or just walking around the neighborhood waving at the neighbors from an acceptable distance. We also really enjoyed picking mangos in the neighborhood and making different kinds of jellies and salsa!this is a cashew tree in the neighborhood. A friend told me that you do not eat these raw!

We have played A LOT of games together including monopoly, which I have always hated until now because we are actually able to play long enough to get to the fun part!!! We have also played a lot of 5 crowns.  If you have never heard of this game…..order it on amazon now!!  It is so fun and it has really helped Blake Leigh with math. Our friends,Terry and Lydia Wright, introduced it to us when we were in New York last winter.  And one of our favorite things to do are “Chopped Challenges” where I give the girls a set of random ingredients and they have to make something edible. We have watched a lot of “Nailed it” episodes so this weekend we are going to do a “Nailed it” challenge. We have also enjoyed building forts to sleep in and makeovers.

I wouldn’t be my transparent self if I didn’t mention the difficult parts of this isolation in this post.  Some people may already know this but we can’t leave Costa Rica right now.  We haven’t been able to since this all began.  Yes, the embassy is putting together flights for people to leave the country, BUT if we left we would lose our residency status and not be able to come back.  This kind of makes me feel claustrophobic and anxious.  If something happened to our family we could not go home.  It’s one thing to be here and know that I am 2 plane rides from home if something happened.  This is different.  I just have to put it out of my head and not think about.  I just continue to pray for our family and friends in The States to stay safe and healthy.

For my birthday earlier this month, Nathan had planned for my parents to surprise me.  He had it pictured where when he came home from work the day before he would just walk in with them.  He was so excited and so proud of himself for keeping the secret.  I think he said he had bought the tickets right after Christmas.  When the coronavirus stuff started, I think he, and my parents were hopeful that it would still work out.  He knew long before my birthday that it wasn’t going to work out but he still kept the secret and told me on facetime that morning with my parents.  I was so sad but so impressed that he had put that all together.  We were supposed to go to the beach with them for our Easter break and obviously that didn’t happen.

As I mentioned before 2 out of 3 of my kids are a little all over the place hormonally and this Is a time that they really need space AWAY from each other and more time with their friends. This has been challenging to say the least.  Hopefully this will be something we all look back on and laugh someday.  And we will just all be so happy that no one has severely injured anyone else during this time.😩🤦🏼‍♀️

It also doesn’t help that during the heat of the day it can be 88 degrees in the house.  We all have a hard time concentrating and not being grouchy during this time so sometimes I just send everyone to their rooms to enjoy some air conditioning.  I am actually heading to the store today to look for a little pool for the yard. The bugs 🐜 (even scorpions) are terrible too! Sloane has had to start sleeping with mosquito repellent bands on because she wakes up covered in mosquito bites.

I have one more story that I want to document because I do not want to forget it.  So here, and probably everywhere else, they are limiting our travel and the stores are limiting the crowds so only one person per family can go in.  One day when we were able to travel because our license plate ended in the right number, Nathan took Sloane to the grocery store. (He didn’t know at the time that they were limiting it to one person per household.) They got to the door and the gentleman told him (in Spanish) that they couldn’t both go in.  He was probably a little puzzled considering she is obviously a minor but the guy was insistent.  We needed weekly groceries and Sloane had gone because she needed some specific things for my birthday cake.  Now I stop here because if it had been she and I, I probably would have been disappointed and frustrated and taken her home and gone back by myself.  I am glad that it was Nathan with her and not me because he made a different but great decision….he gave her the debit card and sent her on her way with a list!! She is 11!! She was able to pick out our weekly groceries, produce and all, and the extra stuff that she needed.  Keep in mind that it is a small, local grocery store and Nathan stayed at the door and watched for her.  When it came time to check out she had 3 separate orders.  One with the family debit card, one with her card and she even got some stuff for Blake Leigh with her debit card.  Luckily, they saw that she needed help and let Nathan come in to help her check out.

She said that she was shaking and nervous but so proud of herself.  When they came home and told me she was just beaming.  I couldnt believe it!!! If I had only one word to describe Andi Sloane it would be capable.  I am so proud of her confidence.  If I have learned one thing from this whole experience its that we can really do amazing things when we are outside our comfort zones.

We are still hopeful that we will be able to come home sometime this summer.  We are really needing to see family and friends but obviously need to keep everyone safe. I’m just going to leave you with a few pictures to make you laugh.

What Does 21 Years of Grief Look Like For Me?

I wish I had more pictures. I wish we had had a closer relationship. I wish that my attitude had been different. I wish I had known it was the last time….

These are some of the thoughts that I have had many times over the last 21 years. 21 years ago, I lost my oldest brother in a car accident. I still remember the evening that we got the phone call. I was going through a time in my life where I was having lots of headaches and was very sick. I had been going to all kinds of doctors trying to get answers. I was in my bedroom upstairs in Arkansas when I heard the phone ringing. At that time, we had just gotten caller ID so I could see who was calling. I actually remember rolling my eyes thinking why is he calling right now? I’m trying to get some rest…

It wasn’t long until I could hear the footsteps coming up the stairs. I knew. I just had a feeling. As soon as I saw my daddy’s face I just lost it. At that point I think I had only seen him cry one other time and it also had to deal with Andy, when he had moved out years earlier. Or maybe it was when he got a little devil tattoo on his arm.😩 I do want to point out that Andy had a little bit of a mischievous streak to him but he had the biggest heart.

The next thing I remember I made it down the stairs and could not stop screaming and crying in the floor. My uncle arrived very soon after we got the news and I remember him rocking me in the recliner. I was 16 years old, almost 17, and he rocked me like a baby for the rest of the night. I also remember having to go tell my grandmother with my mom. Her oldest grandchild was gone.

One thing that I remember very clearly in the beginning of my grief was that I was not in shock. I felt everything.. I knew it was real and I knew that my life will change forever. I’ve had other experiences where it didn’t feel real, or I had to have time to process but not with this.

 I don’t remember much about that first few days except for how loyal my sweet friends were and how terribly sick I felt for my parents having to go through this. When people say that there’s nothing like losing a child I believe it. I had to witness it first hand.

My birthday was the following month after he died and I still remember feeling that emptiness of not getting a phone call from him. We may not of seen each other very much but he was always good about calling and checking in on us and making sure that we knew that he loved us.

When someone passes away there’s always well-meaning people that will say things trying to make it better. I don’t remember a lot of what people said to us but I do remember that from that experience I’m very careful with how I speak to those who lose loved ones. I don’t believe that God is a puppet master pulling strings and just taking people when he’s ready for them. I believe that accidents happen sometimes and people die. How we deal with those losses is how we build character and face trials in the future.

I still think of Andy at some point every day. My sweet thoughtful husband agreed when we had our first daughter that we would name her after my brother. Nathan didn’t even get to know Andy but knew this would be important for me and my family. Her name is Andi Sloane. And the crazy thing is that she looks like him. My other two children look very similar to each other but Andi Sloane stands out. She has the same round face and sweet spirit. She’s very proud and finds ways to honor him. For his birthday and death day every year my family has one of his favorite foods so we can talk about the good times and keep him in our conversation. This last year on his birthday she made a sweet video and shared it with my parents.

My brother had a four-year-old daughter. Her name is Jordyn and she is very special. We were amazed at the effort that her mom made for those years to make sure we felt included.

It has been 21 years but in some ways it feels like yesterday. I can still get super choked up and cry thinking back to that time. I’m so glad that my kids feel like they know him because I do talk about him a lot.

I say all this because I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about grief and people’s individual struggles. I think that we assume that people are better after a few months or a few years after a loss. But I’m telling you now that there are still times where it is so fresh and new and sickening almost. Something small can happen to bring up a memory and can ruin someone’s day. Please have grace and patience with these people in your lives. And please always keep those loved ones in the conversation. 

And also, like I tell my kids all the time, please treat those that you love like it may be the last time you see them. Having regrets is no fun. This terrible accident changed the way my brother, Eric, and I deal with each other. We didn’t always get along but now we know that some things are just not worth getting upset about long-term and we had to appreciate every day we have with each other. We share a closeness now that I don’t think we would’ve had had we not lost Andy. We may not live close to each other or see each other very often but we remain very close. I can’t tell you how special I feel when he tells me that he’s proud of me. Sometimes I laugh thinking that the Jennifer that Andy knew at age 16 would have never moved to Costa Rica and done some of the things that I’ve done. I hope that he would be proud of me as well.

Managing Expectations

Warning…. this is a real life post. Just transparency. Again, not trying to be negative or complaining but just telling how it really is.

When Nathan and I started dating (18 years ago) I quickly learned that he had two very memorable quotes that he tried to live by. One was “manage your expectations” and the other was “growing up is awkward.” I’m not sure if either one of these are original with him but I know that we have used them a lot since then.

Both of these quotes have been very useful. I know as we were young married people getting to know each other and how to live with each other we could use the “growing up is awkward” a lot and dealing with our children and other family members at times we use the “manage your expectations” quote.

When we were telling our family members that we were moving, and several times since then, I have heard my mom use the “managing my expectations” one. They all handled it very well but In some of our more honest conversations she has told me that she has to do that often.

This move has not been easy. Yes, social media makes everything look perfect and great but moving far away from family and dear friends is very difficult on everyone. And sometimes it just sneaks up on you.

Almost 2 years ago when we were trying to make this decision I remember feeling surprisingly calm about the decision. I think we were in a place where we were feeling overwhelmed and needing a change. Honestly, I had been looking at houses (for change) and also trying to figure out how I was going to change my work schedule to accommodate Benson’s new hours in middle school. In my profession nights and weekends are pretty busy and I was seeing how I was probably about to have to give that up. So when Nathan approached me with the idea I kind of surprised myself with how open I was to it.

Looking back, I do feel like it was the change we needed and I have no regrets. I do face challenges. I would face challenges if I was in The States as well and I realize that. My biggest challenge upon returning back to Costa Rica after being in the states for a month has been feeling a little bit like I have regressed.

If you would’ve told me two years ago that I would still not be fluent in Spanish and still have days where I wonder what in the world I’ve done I probably would have said no way to moving! I’m glad I didn’t know that in the beginning.

One of our challenges is that we are not exposed to much Spanish and have not learned as much as we expected at this point. That really bothered me this summer but I have decided to “manage my expectations” and move on. No, I’m not taking any Spanish classes right now but I am very involved at school subbing a lot and keeping busy in that way. 

Another one of the challenges that I’m having to manage is missing home which is funny because one of the things I told my mom when we were in the process of moving was that I was looking forward to going somewhere where no one knows my name. I love the show Cheers and that song is always in my head. But with the work that I was doing and being very involved in church I was kind of looking forward to removing myself from being ON all the time.

I also really miss our church family and the kids would be starting youth group. They have programs at the church we are at now but the kids aren’t just real comfortable there yet. When we were at home I really enjoyed seeing my kids enjoy Bible classes. 

I am an extreme introvert. Many people don’t realize that because I am able to function pretty well socially but I’m always exhausted when it’s over. Sometimes I mumble and talk too much and sometimes I just sit and observe others feeling very overwhelmed. Moving to a new place, especially a different country, causes you to come out of that comfort zone and it has been a long time and I’m exhausted!

I have listed a lot of our daily challenges on here before and I won’t do that again. I think the exhausting part is that I have not been able to go on auto pilot. Doctors appointments, driving, and even simple things like getting groceries is still difficult. It makes me frustrated at myself that I have not acclimated better and that is what is exhausting. 

I can’t change my personality but I’m trying to learn to be comfortable in this new existence. I’m having to be ON in a different way. I think I thought I would be much more further along in the acclamation experience at this point. This should be my new normal but it’s just not yet. Being home for Christmas I think really made me realize that.

I am OK, I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I am in a bad place. I just I am trying to be honest with myself and others about the difficulties of doing something so drastic. One wonderful thing about this time in our lives is that our kids are very happy. They have blown us away with how they have adjusted. Benson is headed to Orlando next month without us for a performing arts festival, Sloane has made some really sweet friends and is playing the drums and Blake Leigh is just growing and changing before our eyes. They are real troopers. They aren’t just making it through they are really thriving!

Nathan’s job is challenging and a really good fit for him.  I am really proud of him for taking this role head on and challenging himself. He has also had to “manage his expectations” and has been a great example to us.

My next plan in getting my spirits up is to try to plan a little beach trip or some thing with a girlfriend. Unfortunately, my weird family doesn’t like the beach so I may have to go by myself! I need to “manage the expectations” of where I would be at this point and always be looking for the positive. We live in a beautiful place and have some really sweet friends.Thank you to those who pray for us and keep the prayers coming!

Side note…… my mom retires in seven days and I couldn’t be happier for her! Bring on the flexibility and rest!