Reality Check (aka my birthday)

So this terrible picture was taken on my birthday last week. To be honest, it was a very hard day. In this picture I’m sitting in McDonald’s… Yes, there is McDonald’s here in Costa Rica and it taste EXACTLY like the McDonald’s in the States. Do I normally eat McDonald’s? NO!! Yes, I do love it but I know it’s terrible for me. This is just an example of why my birthday this year was a little bit strange.

For those who know me pretty well, you know that I really LOVE my birthday. Who doesn’t? But I really get into it. I usually celebrate the whole month of April. I drag it out by my family celebrating with my parents in Arkansas, and Nathan’s parents in Memphis. And Easter is usually in there also so it’s kind of a big deal. Haha!

This year started out pretty normal. My sweet kids and husband had presents and a wonderful breakfast ready for me when I woke up. Not long after that my mom FaceTimed me. I have not been too homesick during this process but seeing my moms face triggered the tears that morning. I didn’t let her see me cry but I cried like a baby for a little bit afterwards. My poor family had to try to console me. I was OK just needed to cry.

The next part of the day was pretty normal as well, except for my Spanish class was two hours instead of one that day and towards the end I guess my face looked pretty confused and then I just broke down, right there in class, my poor Spanish teacher….. but luckily my friend, Julie, was feeling kind of the same way so we got to end class 🙂 In that moment I hated Spanish and I hated what I was learning (actually not learning because I didn’t understand anything…..preterit, preterit perfect, preterit imperfect, simple, complex😩) it’s a little overwhelming.

After Spanish I had some errands to run and didn’t want to go home and sit and think about missing friends and family so I went to, of all places… McDonald’s. I sat there and checked my Facebook page and responded to most of my birthday wishes.. It meant a lot to see all of that. It perked me up. I did cry off and on the rest of the day but I think I just needed it… Sometimes it actually feels good to get that out. That evening my sweet sloane made me this special cake. My mom makes the same cake for me every year and Sloane got the recipe from her and made it all by her self. It was delicious. A good reminder from home and also that I am very thankful to have my sweet little family here in Costa Rica

Saturday night I got to celebrate with Nathan at our favorite restaurant. My very sweet new friend Sylvia offered to keep all three of our kids and took them bowling and for ice cream. I feel very blessed and loved. If you’ll notice in the picture they thought my name was Yulianna. It will be a good joke for a while. I have a feeling that I will be a little more prepared for the feels that will come with this day next year…..on to 38!!

Perception VS. Reality

So before moving here I had kind of a perception of what it would be like and I know others did as well. So I just kind of wanted to do a funny post making fun of some of those perceptions and certainly not to complain but to show the reality of our life here.

* The perception pictures are actually of us doing cool things here:

PERCEPTION .

REALITY

Lots of sunburns!! Even with the best sunscreen. Being this close to the equator you have to be very careful. Luckily we have figured out how to combat this.

PERCEPTION (fun in the water)

REALITY

Being a little bit silly here but this is about 30 minutes from our house.

PERCEPTION (road conditions)

REALITY

This picture was taken when our brakes went out on the way DOWN from a volcano. Luckily my brother was with me, and with Nathan’s help back in San Jose, we were able to get a tow truck which was one of those “not speaking the language’ problems that we’ve had to deal with. Obviously we survived and so did our car. this is just a common back road there goes our car on the tow truck. We had to fit 10 of us in my Ford Explorer to go the hour back homeYou Just never know what you’ll see here.this is the driving course for the drivers license here The other day we had to do a simple tire change out because of a nail but forgot the driveway was on an incline and it rolled down the driveway. Nathan was a trooper and got it fixed. real road sign here this was my navigation trying to get down a busy street. If you can’t read it it says 16 minutes to go 890 m🤦🏼‍♀️

PERCEPTION

REALITY

Nathan was literally throwing up off the boat for several hours. Finally, his patch started working and he was able to have a great time!

PERCEPTION (weather)

REALITY

Rain, rain, and more rain… And not just a little mist or an all day sprinkle. I’m talking about downpours!!

I can’t even say how many times that the rain has ruined our plans but honestly we’ve ended up having fun almost every time…….. maybe not the times that I’m getting groceries.

PERCEPTION (animals should be outside or at lease not in the middle of the road or running into the house and dying😫)

REALITY

these are normal sights in our house. We coexist with geckos 🦎 and all kinds of 🐜 🐛 🕷. I wake up to a dustpan full of dead bugs every morning. We are becoming less and less disturbed by the geckos and I am becoming thankful that they eat the bugs.

We also have a problem with birds running into our windows and dying or worse getting in the house 😲 We have to have to have nests removed oftendeathly poisonous snake in the water right where we were swimming. Normal street sign

PERCEPTION (inactive volcanoes)

REALITY

this picture shows the ash in the air from our house this picture is from the volcano pictured first above just a couple months later.

PERCEPTION (that we would get mail)

REALITY

we are still waiting on Christmas cards and birthday cards that were sent in January……AND we don’t even have a mailbox

PERCEPTION (absolutely no worries, we’re in paradise right?)

REALITY

Mildew everywhere Everything is in Spanish. Dental hygienist attempting to talk to Sloane. I do realize that we signed up for this so not complaining just making note trying to find a movie to watch….in SpanishLiterally falling asleep in Spanish classwaiting in lines for things and we don’t even know what we’re doing! the daily battle with dust and volcanic ash. I have to clean the counters 3-4 times a day. Our windows and doors don’t seal so everything comes in.

PERCEPTION (happily leaving family and friends for a great adventure)

REALITY (missing family and friends terribly and having some very hard days)

Lots of FaceTiming but it’s not the same

these pictures were taken on Blake Leigh’s birthday. Her sweet friends called to say happy birthday This picture was taken on Sloanes birthday. Her precious friends got to school early to FaceTime with her before school AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST…..we are making friends that will last a lifetime. And growing closer and closer as a family.

*not pictured because I’m terrible about taking pictures is Diana Rodriguez and I’m sure a lot of other special people.

New country new career….

When we first started talking about moving here I wondered what I would do with my spare time… I have worked full or part time most of my life so having idle time is not good for me. I thought about maybe finishing nursing school (I majored in nursing for the first couple of years at Harding and switched to child development about halfway through) or finding somewhere to volunteer. I never would’ve thought I would be teaching in the kids school.

There was a need for substitute teachers so I attended a workshop type event a the school. I think Nathan was actually pretty surprised that I took the initiative to do this. Turns out I was not qualified to earn an income here because of my restricted residency. We asked a lot of questions and found out that we could hire an attorney to form a company to where I can earn my own income. I started out just volunteering. In fact, I guess I still am just volunteering because we have not figured out yet how to use the invoice system here…… The attitude here is very relaxed… Some of you have heard of the “pura Vida” lifestyle here. No worries, it will happen when it happens. So I’m not concerned.

I’m glad to have a purpose. I’m not surprised that I had a desire to do this because I have always enjoyed working with children but I am surprised how excited I get with every new opportunity. Last month I worked in 4th grade. This month I worked eight days in second grade. Next month I’ll be substituting for the PE teacher for a week. And at the end of April I will be substituting in music. This just makes me laugh because I have no musical talent…..poor kids!!

Each opportunity has been a challenge I’ll admit. But I’m learning that through these “challenges” I am gaining more self-confidence and experience for the next assignment. The best part about being a substitute at the school is getting to see my kids interacting with their new friends. Luckily, my kids are all still at the ages where they like me being there. Although Benson will not acknowledge me most of the time, I know he’s glad I’m there. Sloane and Blake Leigh still like to eat lunch with me and give me big hugs.

I’m also enjoying getting to know the teachers. Many of them have lived all over the world and have very cool experiences to share. I think the other teachers were a little leery of me at first since I’m a parent but I’m starting to form some very good friendships. And the students are truly amazing. Many of them have lived in several different countries and know several different languages. It’s actually very intimidating. I met a little boy last week who is fluent in four languages. I told him that I am barely fluent in my first language, English, and I’m working on Spanish. Maybe I can get him to help me learn 🙂

I can definitely say that this is not what I expected to be doing with my time here but feel very blessed to have this opportunity. We are never too old to start a new career. I could see myself trying to pursue this more. Getting to be in one class for eight days really helped me get to know the kids and their learning styles. I also got to learn to be flexible with the lesson plans and make them my own. Watching the children grasp the concepts is worth all of the headache…most of the time. I have really got attached to the kids. Sometimes they even make me a sweet card or a goodbye note. One girl even told her parents that her substitute teacher talked like a cowboy so he had to come meet me.🤣

Tour Guides

We recently realized that we have become pretty good tour guides… Costa Rica is a wonderful vacation spot. Some friends from Memphis came last month and we really enjoyed showing them around. We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to because this is Costa Rican summer and some things were sold out but we really enjoying hosting and showing new people around our beloved country.

Of course Kadra has been here several times but her brother, Riley, visited for the first time in January. Kadra comes with our church group every summer and we were happy to get to spend a week with her in July. She brought her brother Riley along this January and we got to play hosts.

Sloane loves bringing her sign to the airport. She adds names every time someone new comes! They came in late on a Friday night. We were able to do a lot of cool things while they were in town. Saturday morning we got up early and went on the Starbucks coffee tour. That evening we had our church group over. They ended up having to rent a bus to bring everyone. I think there were about 75 people here including us. Kadra is close to everyone but she was excited to introduce her brother, Riley. Kadra and Riley were both huge helps in getting everything ready for the evening. And I definitely couldn’t have done it without them. The next day we went to a place called La Paz. In español La Paz translates to “the peace.” It is a waterfall garden and animal sanctuary. Unfortunately I didn’t take very many pictures but we had a great time seeing the beauty of this country.

They did some other activities with members of the church and I hope they enjoyed their visit. I look forward to doing this again😘

Christmas (a little late)

I realize that this kind of post is super boring. I can already feel my memory failing on me so I like to write things down.

The middle part of our time in The States included spending Christmas with our families in Arkansas.  My family is in Paragould and Nathan’s extended family meets every other year in or around Searcy.

We started out in Pargould and got to enjoy time with most our cousins, grandparents and Aunts and Uncles. The kids all got matching Christmas pajamas.  And were really good sports about taking pictures.  We played lots of football and ate wonderful food. After my brother and his crew left it was much too quiet;) but we did continue to have fun by going to the playground, playing cards, going to see a movie on Christmas eve and visiting on of our favorite places to eat in Paragould….kimono.  They even let Benson help with the food.

Santa came to see us in Paragould this year and the kids were very thankful that he knew where we were.  It was special to get to have Christmas with Grammy and Peepaw.  We still got to do our normal traditions like feeding the reindeer, doing our countdown calendar, leaving cookies and milk for Santa, and all three kids slept together on Christmas Eve. This years traditional big Christmas breakfast even included grinch pancakes made by Sloane. Benson was excited to get a keyboard for Christmas but it had to be left at home because it was too big.  He had to open a picture of it instead.  The other gifts had to be pretty compact to fit in the suitcases.  Packing was a little bit tricky but we made it work.

Christmas day we left to go back to Memphis for a few days.  We opened gifts with Grandpa, Nana, Gramps, and BJ and then we got to celebrate our 15th Wedding anniversary with a surprise overnight stay downtown.  We got to go to our favorite restaurant “Flight” and relax.  The next day we headed to Camp Tahkodah to meet up with the Cochran crew.  There was a change of plans this year.  We usually go to wyldewood but this year we went to Tahkodah and we think that we even liked it better.  We were able to spend a lot of time eating, hiking, playing kickball, eating, playing games and cards, and did I mention EATING??? There is always wonderful food with this crew. There were a few missing this year because of illness and they were definitely missed.  It is always great to see everyone. Our kids were so happy to see their “Bland” cousins.  It had been almost 7 months and they had grown!!

It was a wonderful Christmas. Nathan and I both talked about how we really appreciated our time with our family this year. Being away has helped us to really treasure our time with friends and family.

The last part of our time in the States we just really tried to wrap up the visit.  We tried to see lots of family and friends and have playdates and sleepovers.  We visited Graceland. Blake is a huge fan:) We went back to Paragould and spent more time with my parents and attended a funeral for a special family friend. I also lost my last living grandparent while we were there but I am so thankful that I got to spend some time with her in the end.

The last day we got to spend time with my brother and his sweet family. We feel like there is never enough time with them. The kids are all best of friends and pick up where they left off. We will be back in June and I know that will be here before we know it!

Quick update

So I haven’t written in a while and I had promised I would finish posting about our time in the States. And I will…eventually.

We are busy here playing catch up and getting back in the swing of things. I am subbing at the kids school and that has been great. It is nice to have a purpose and it’s a great way to get to know the kids and the teachers better.

The kids have done well getting readjusted back into school and a regular schedule. After school activities have begun. Sloane is playing volleyball and cooking, Benson is playing soccer and Blake is doing karate. The kids are strengthening friendships and we are working on having more play dates.

Benson has been having a hard time lately. He has made some sweet friends but I think that in his mind he should have friends that are as close as the friends he had in Memphis. I keep reminding him that those friendships took years to develop and he needs to be patient. I spend a lot of time praying for the right people to come into his life and also for guidance myself. This was a hard age to be moved to another country. And the school here is great but it is very transient so the kids are used to other kids coming and going so it really takes effort to make strong connections.

For now Sloane and Blake are doing well. Luckily they don’t all have trouble at the same time. More updates to come.

Traveling back to the US

The kids and I left for Nashville on Friday, December 14. I was a little anxious about traveling internationally with them by myself. But they were amazing. We had several bags that I had to pack strategically with bags inside of bags because I knew that we would have much more luggage coming back because of Christmas and shopping…. if you’re not familiar, when you enter the US from an international flight, you have to re-check your bags at your layover and go back through security. We almost didn’t make our second flight because of this process. We had lots of hiccups along the way but we made it! We reminded ourselves of the family in “Home Alone” running through the airport.We spent a few days in Nashville with our Johns family. The cousins were all so happy to be together and it was pretty noisy. They played lots of games and made a lot of music:) We even got to celebrate my brother’s 40th birthday. I have to admit I was very happy to get to “run into Target” with Rebecca. From Nashville my mother-in-law picked us up in our vehicle and took us to Memphis. There we got to go to the kids old school and see several of our friends. Sloane and her friend AinsleyBlake and Mrs. Pam taking selfies Benson and his friend ConnorSloane and her friends at Lunch We were so happy to see our neighbor, Mrs. LindaGirls dinner It was great to see Mr. Jim and Mrs. Cathy Chambers We got to help grandpa with the yard work We enjoyed a late movie and Starbucks Sweet Maggie Lynn and BrantleyWe did enjoy some Memphis barbecue Despite Benson’s face we were glad to pick daddy up from the airport for the middle part of our time there. Next stop Christmas in Arkansas

Decompression

A friend asked me a few days ago what it was like to be back in the States. I told her the best way to describe it is that when I got off the plane I felt myself kind of decompress. Not to say that we are not enjoying our time in Costa Rica but being in the states is definitely “easier.”

Again, I do not want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m just documenting, mainly for myself, what this journey is like. I do feel like I’m in a little bit of a pressure cooker here in Costa Rica. I am always aware of my surroundings and don’t feel like I’m ever on auto pilot. We SIGNED UP FOR THIS and I knew that’s how it would be and I’m honestly getting used to it. But the feeling that I got when we landed in the US was definitely like a sigh of relief. I could drive places without even thinking about where I was going and could understand what people around me were saying. I could read the signs and not have to constantly be translating in my head.

I think it is good for us to be challenged and to overcome those challenges. I know I’m growing as a person through this experience. It was great to have that break from reality for a little while. I think I counted 13 times that we went from place to place. Often back to the same places but we had to move our belongings several times. We got to see a lot of family and friends and had a wonderful time.

It was great to be back at our home church but I also missed the precious faces of the people at our church here. We enjoyed a break from school but we were also delighted to see our friends on Monday here. It is good to be in a routine and sleep in your own bed 🙂 we missed our dog terribly and I think he missed us too but I know he had a wonderful time with Katherine, Diego and brownie. In fact, I think he misses being with them more than he missed us….

We feel very sure that this is where we are supposed to be and are going to enjoy the time we have here. The challenges will make us stronger and the distance will only make us closer together. Nathan and I both agreed that this visit with our families was the best ever because we appreciated it so much more. I hope this experience helps me to not take people for granted.

While we were in the States I lost my last living grandparent and attended a funeral for a very close family friend. We had to leave before my grandmother’s burial but I was glad I was able to spend some time with her in the hospital before she passed. I was lucky to have had a grandmother still living. Nathan still has three living grandparents and we were able to spend time with all three of them.

I was honestly a little bit nervous that I would not want to come back after being gone for a month. I think we needed a whole month there to make us realize that, for now, this is our home. I didn’t know until now that I could have two “homes.” We are still working to make our house in Costa Rica a home. In the US we had people over all the time and kept an open door policy. Here, we are not as close to our immediate community and about an hour from our church family. That is one thing that we do miss. We would love to be closer so we could have them over more often. We laugh, because our house in Memphis was not very big but that didn’t stop us from having company all the time. Here we have plenty of room but feel very disconnected out in the middle of nowhere….. that is something I need to work on. I feel very intimidated having people over from our community. When we have been invited to peoples homes it is much more lavish than we are used to and I have been afraid to host very much because of my redneck style. I just have to get over that!

As a family, we have decided to only speak Spanish on Tuesdays and Thursdays at home. It is been very quiet this week 🙂 we know that it would be a shame if we went through this experience and did not learn Spanish. We need to immerse ourselves in it more if we are really going to learn. I have decided to treat this like a part-time job and give my homework much more attention.

I will post next time about our time in the US with pictures.

Going home…..

I just wanted to document some thoughts on how I am feeling today about going “home”. I have had people ask me how I’m feeling about going back for so long? Am I afraid I will not want to come back to Costa Rica? Will it be hard living out of suitcases for a month? Will it be hard to try to see everyone I want to see?

As for how long will be gone… It will be about a month. We will be traveling between Nashville, Paragould, Searcy and Memphis. I’m not really afraid about not wanting to come back to Costa Rica because where my husband and children are is where my home is. And at this point in our lives we need to be in Costa Rica. I think after living out of suitcases for a month we will be glad to be back in our own home.

I am a little bit anxious about trying to see everyone that we want to see and do everything we want to do in that time. People are busy and traveling as well so making definite plans can be difficult. I’m hoping to just be able to spend some time relaxing and appreciating all of the things that I took for granted before.

I imagine some long walks through target and visits to Chick-fil-A and our favorite restaurant OEC in Bartlett. I imagine all of the laughter that will be heard with all the cousins getting to see each other again. I imagine playing a lot of cards at the Cochran Christmas in Searcy.

I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye to friends and family again but at least I know that we are doing better than expected here and the kids are really thriving in school in Costa Rica. I have made some wonderful friends here and I will miss them and be ready to be reunited again. The kids and I are about to get on a plane so goodby for now!

Twin day

I’m feeling overwhelmingly thankful this morning. When my children announced that they would be having “twin day” at school about a month ago it made me very anxious. Our kids are obviously new at school and there are a lot of other children with very established friendships. I was afraid my children would have no one to twin with. Very quickly after the announcement I knew I didn’t have to worry about the girls because their best little friends we’re already making plans with them on what they were going to wear. Benson was a different story. He never would tell me if he had made plans with anybody. He has several good friends at the school but had not really talked about a best friend.

I try to let my children handle these kinds of things by themselves but yesterday I started getting a little nervous for Benson because I could tell he was feeling left out. I asked him what his plans were and he told me that he’d talked to a friend of his about matching but he was out of town and wasn’t sure if he was going to make it in time or if he even remembered their conversation. I just had to let it go and let him deal with it. I also had to remember that boys are very different from girls and don’t need to discuss at length every little detail of what they’re going to wear. Yesterday he came out of school with a big smile on his face saying that Nolan was back in town and they had talked about what they were going to wear. Now, it was basically just a color scheme but he knew he would have someone to match with today.

I do realize that this sounds very trivial but when you move your kids to a different country, away from friends and family, there’s already so many things that they have to deal with and feeling left out is not something I wanted them to have to feel this week. We have been blessed with some really good kids that have made my kids feel very welcome and today was no exception. I don’t know why I was even worried about it to begin with. Benson and Nolan. Sloane’s friend, Regina, borrowed Blake’s shirt. It worked out perfectly! Blake’s friend, Mariana, actually bough Blake an outfit to match her!

Sloane’s teacher sent me this picture.