Thursday, March 31, 2011


Readjusting to Costa Rican Culture

It's been 17 years since I've been here. I'm amazed how quickly I'm readjusting to the culture. I am remembering what I loved about it, and what I didn't. That is the beauty of any place, though, as both make it what it is. There is much to love...
*just how much family is integrated into every daily task, activity, and aspect of life. Family is not just a part of their lives, it is their lives (more on this to come).
*how hot and humid it is here. We are constantly sweating, but not doing anything. No wonder they siesta often!
*How FUN it is to speak Spanish! I absolutely love hearing and understanding another language around me.
*how lush and beautiful the landscape is everywhere we turn. Even in the dirtiest parts of town, there is vegetation that makes it look beautiful.
*that the women work with such great pride and care for their households. If they work full time, the other women in their family take care of their house for them, and in return, they help support them financially. Their houses are cleaned every day and are spotless, no matter how big or small their space -- immaculate! And really, they have to be, or else the bugs take over!
*how DANGEROUS the drivers are in Latin America! Seriously, if we don't get hit crossing a street it will be a miracle - they are RECKLESS and drive FAST, and my younger boys don't quite get how careful they have to be.
*How LOVELY and WARM the women are in this country! They have such welcoming arms and quickly endear themselves by hugging, kissing, serving, and saying such kind things. Friendliness is more the rule than the exception. Even my shy ones are totally taken with some of these kind women.
*how comfortable women are with their body image. They are truly OK with how they are, and laugh when they describe themselves as a little "gorda" (which means fat). It's just an adjective to them.
*that it really bothers me that the men who sit on the benches or on their front porches feel totally free to say whatever they want when a woman walks by, including my daughter! (ahem!) Luckily, she can't understand them.
*about the food. The beans and rice, the coffee, the fresh fruit juices, the tropical fruit, and the way they show how much they care about you through the meals they provide.
*that garbage is everywhere. I'm always shocked to see people just throw their trash on the ground. Their rivers in town are littered with garbage.
*how the women love little trinkets for their houses.
*that their mode of advertising involves a car with a giant speaker on it driving around town announcing things.
*people take time to sit, converse, and enjoy the journey of life. Life is slower, and people are very connected.
*that they have less space in their houses, yet more room in their hearts. They constantly have people over, eat together, and share small spaces. They truly don't mind being in close quarters -- people sleep on the floor without a thought, and they invite people over for cafe and galletas (cookies or wafers) on a regular basis. Hospitality is a part of their daily life.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Costa Rica: The first days

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I haven't had access to the internet, but I'm finally able to blog today! I wro†e †his entry 3 days in. Hope i† gives you a little †åste of our first days here ;) Blogging is not easy from the IPAD, but here's my go at it! ;)
The flight here went well. We went through Phoenix and were able to arrive on the same day. The kids did great - and Stetson had plenty of snacks, so he was happy. :)
The excitement started when no one was there to pick us up at the airport. We got our luggage, which always feels like a circus in itself getting through immigration. Several people were staring at me and laughing as I walked through looking like a coat tree, with luggage hanging from every limb. We walked outside and in the same breath that I took in the humid, hot air, I had taxi drivers swarming our little band. One guy in particular was incredibly persistent and wouldn't leave me alone. He kept wanting to "help" me move from one place to another and I was insistent that he not touch our luggage. "No worry lady, no worry," he kept saying. I knew there would be times that I didn't feel safe with the kids, I just didn't know I'd feel that way the second I walked out of the airport. My phone battery was dead, and I tried to use the extra phone we brought for Kenna to carry, but it wouldn't work. We sat there for 45 min. wondering if anyone would pick us up, but at last a gentleman arrived carrying a crumpled sign that said "Gilbert." He was very apologetic and explained rapidly (in Spanish), that the driver's car broke down and would not be able to pick us up. Just then a different taxi driver arrived on the scene, and the gentleman told me he hired him to take us to Turrialba (a 2 hour drive). Thankfully, this taxi driver seemed legitimate and I felt good about him taking us. We exchanged some money at the airport and left for Turrialba.
The kids were exhausted and quickly fell asleep. I, however, was on the edge of my seat. I had forgotten how Latinos drive! We swerved in and out of traffic, crossed solid yellow lines to pass other cars, and careened down the mountain into Turrialba valley. I prayed several times and kept saying, "God, you are with us, so I don't need to be afraid." I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we arrived, but it was only the beginning of needing to hold onto that prayer for the night. He pulled off the main road once we got into town and stopped next to this "house" that was set right in the middle of a row of small tiendas. I hesitantly got out of the car and as I helped the kids out, I realized that we were still on the main highway, and I yanked the kids out of the street as a large truck whizzed past (the cars slow for no one here). The señora of the home was very kind. She showed us to our room, which was basically a garage that she had converted into a room. There were 4 cots lined up next to a garage door. We changed into our pajamas and gathered on the beds. The trucks continued to whiz by every couple of minutes and a party with loud Latin music, beer drinking, and loud yells broke out right outside the garage. Several times something or someone hit the garage and scared the kids. In harmony, each child started crying. What broke my heart the most, was that they were each trying to be brave and not cry, but the tears streamed down their faces. As we tried to process it all, they expressed that they just felt very unsafe and uncomfortable, and most of all, missed their daddy, who is security and safety to them. This was a hard moment for me, because I felt the same way! We did the only thing we could do --we sat in a circle and prayed. I looked each one in the eye and told them that we were safe and that God was with us. Kenna called me over to her bed and whispered, "Mom, what if you die and we are left here?" I again assured her that though definitely uncomfortable, it was safe. The kids finally fell asleep around 1am, I never did. The party lasted until about 3am and the trucks continued all night. I sent some pretty desperate texts to Erik, who called and woke the U.S. program coordinator up on Sunday morning. They found us a new home and it is the biggest relief to me. I was ready to move out to La Suiza to Elsa's house (the host family I stayed) and bag the whole language school. In the morning I was able to think more clearly, and we pressed on. I'm glad we did, because the place where we are now is perfect. It is a 5 min. walk to the school, it is away from the night scene of town, and the señora is the quintessential hostess and Latina. She is constantly grabbing Stetson in a bear hug and says, "Ahhh que lindo. Es como un muñeco." She also has a cat, and the boys spend much of their time there trying to find "Tito."
Yesterday we took a taxi to Elsa's house out to La Suiza. She now lives with her family just up the hill from Doña Eva's house where I lived. It was a happy reunion -- 17 years!!!! We both got teary as we hugged each other. Her daughters, Milagro and Paulina, are precious, and they quickly latched onto Kenna and were off playing with her within minutes. Elsa has a nephew who is Dawson's age, so he quickly got a soccer game going and showed the boys the pet turtle (that's all Dawson needed to feel good about being there). Elsa has proven to be quite the business woman over the years. She used part of her land to grow Christmas trees, the Costa Rican kind I guess, sold them, then used that money to build a house on the land that she now rents for extra income. With the lease money, they bought a used car and some land in the mountains where Miguel (her husband), is slowly building a small cabin. When Erik arrives, we will go there and stay overnight. Elsa continues to work hard, teaching 7am-5pm every day in the school. After being with them, Kenna said, "I can see why you liked living with them, Mom."
For lunch, they butchered one of their chickens, and we had quite a feast. What a kind act, as they don't have meat like that very much, only on special occasions. Afterwards, we went to the river (where I spent hours and hours that year running for my sanity), and the kids played all afternoon. Of course, throughout the day, I was visited by all of the family members. I loved seeing each one of them!!! Doña Eva, the Grandma, still has a bad leg, and now cannot see, so her daughter, Patricia, takes care of her full time, never leaving her alone. We, of course, had cafe and their typical late afternoon galletas, then squeezed into their car, and Miguel took us back to Turrialba. We tried to find dinner, but I couldn't find a place, and it started getting dark, so we grabbed mangos and bread from a tienda and had that for dinner back at the house. The kids would just assume live on mangoes here -- they are INCREDIBLE! We all fell asleep early and had the best night's sleep we've ever had!
Today language school began at 8am. The teachers already said the boys are quick, quick, quick, especially Dawson, which I'm assuming is from the Rosetta Stone they've been doing. Kenna now says she wishes she had done more before coming. She, of all of them, is trying the hardest to communicate with the people in Spanish. Hudson just yells Spanish words at random, which is what I expected. Dawson says the right Spanish, but says is quietly, again, what I expected. And Stetson, well, he talks to the cat in Spanish, but that's about it...oh, and he says "por favor" and "gracias" because if he doesn't, he doesn't get to eat the food, and we all know he's motivated by food, so I'm using it to my advantage!
So, all that to say, we are finally getting our sea legs down here. It's proving to be the adventure we came in search of..... and we're all happy about settling in.
Sent from my iPad

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Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Saturday, March 19, 2011


“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
– Goethe

“Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.”
– Chinese proverb

"Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

"Winners are not developed on feather beds." - Zig Ziglar

"You are crazy!" and "I'd never do THAT," have been comments that I've received over the last few weeks as I've shared with people about an upcoming trip I'm taking with my family. I've also heard, "That is amazing!" and "I'd love to do something similar!" A little background: I am going with my children to a language school in very rural Costa Rica where we will stay with a host-family without my husband (for a week). He will then fly down and join us, and we'll spend some time traveling through the rain forests -- ziplining through canopies, and dodging coral snakes as we hike to waterfalls and in proximity of an active volcano. It definitely falls under the heading of "Adventure Vacation." The main reason we're going is to see the host-family that I stayed with for a year 17 years ago (I taught in the schools). I can hardly wait to see these people from a tiny mountain town who were my adopted family that year and who continue to be near and dear to my heart. The comments that I've received have me thinking about the concept of RISK.
When I was in high school, I gave a speech that talked about how risk is necessary ingredient in the recipe of life. The speech concluded that without it, there isn't much growth or adventure. Why is that? Is that true? Does what I said at 18 prove itself as I look back on my past 20+ years? In my own experience, yes it has. The greatest times of growth for me have been born out of stepping beyond my comfort zone. Risk comes in many forms: trying something new, reaching out to someone we don't know, making a decision where the outcome is uncertain -- in essence, "going for it," in one way or another. To put it another way, it involves opening ourselves up to new elements of life.
When I think about this concept, a main question becomes when is risk worth it, and when is it NOT? My husband came face to face to this dilemma when we had our first daughter. He is a mountaineer and had always wanted to climb Mt.McKinley in Alaska (a bigger climb than the NW peaks we have around here). He was invited to go on the climb, but ultimately, after some hard soul-searching, turned it down. The risk was too great now that he was a daddy to a little girl. No one can answer those questions for another, but sometimes the "risk" at hand is just too selfish. There is too much "self" in the equation, and not enough "putting others above yourself" (Phillipians 2:3-4). In these cases, honest evaluation of the goal deems itself not worth it considering the relationships that could or would suffer.
I think of Biblical figures who took great risks. Abraham - who risked the life of his long-awaited son; Moses-who gave up his royal title to lead the Israelites out of Egypt; David - who walked into battle with a giant; Esther - who risked her life to save the Jews; Ruth - who went to a foreign land to stay loyal to her mother-in-law; the Disciples- who left their jobs and families to follow this man Jesus.....the list could go on and on. In the Christian world, we call these people "faithful." They were willing to go beyond themselves for a greater good. Ahhhhh - - I think we've stumbled upon the answer to our question. Risk is definitely worth it when there is a greater good to be attained -- not a selfish good to be attained -- but a GREATER GOOD. This good may personally benefit our heart, soul, experience, and mind as a by-product, but ultimately it benefits God and others.
So.... back to my trip. Am I nervous? Yes. Is it a little scary bringing my four children to a foreign country by myself? Yes. Have I woken up in the middle of the night thinking about it? You betcha. It is a risk, but one I'm excited to take. My kids will have their view of the world expanded, their minds and hearts will be engaged, and God will become bigger to them. How do I know this? Because it happened to me 17 years ago when I walked into a tiny, open air house in Costa Rica, eyes wide and prayers whispered. I guess that's how we can go into any situation of risk, eyes wide - with expectancy of what God will do, and prayers whispered - knowing He will be in each moment, giving us exactly what we need.

Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to HIM be the glory in the church (us!) and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Flavored Cream Cheese - Making Your Own

We are big whole wheat bagel fans around here, and the flavored cream cheese is a favorite, especially the strawberry kind. One of the issues I find, though, is that the stores don't sell non-fat strawberry cream cheese, and it is more expensive to buy the flavored kinds. I can make it for less, and I can custom the fat content according to what I want it to be!
Place non-fat cream cheese (1-2 blocks), 2-3 strawberries, and powdered sugar in a food processor. I would begin with only 1-2 tbsp. of powdered sugar, and add to taste. Some like it sweeter, some like it more on the tart side. Puree until smooth.
Place in a jar and use it for weeks!

Russet Potato Fries - Everyone's Favorite

I make Russet Potato Fries often, as they are one of my kids' favorites, and they go with many dishes. They are easy to make and so much healthier than the fried version! Make them for your family and watch them disappear....
Scrub potatoes clean with a brush.
Cut up 4 large potatoes (or more if you want), slicing into "fries"
Toss with 2-4 tbsp. olive oil
Sprinkle with kosher or sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Bake at 425 degrees until crisp on the ends and soft in the middle.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Barnwood & Glitter: Make Your Own Custom Dry Erase Board

I looked too long for a dry erase board that was big enough to fit a particular space when it finally dawned on me to make my own! I already had a large barnwood frame in the garage that I'd been wanting to use for something, and it was perfect for the space! I started by ordering dry erase sheets. $8.00 a roll was just right. I then bought a foam board at Hobby Lobby that was big enough to fit the frame.
I trimmed the foam board to fit the frame.
Then I rolled the white board sheet out onto the cut foam board. The material was surprisingly easy to work with -- if I made a mistake I just pulled it back up and started over. I smoothed as I went, unraveling slowly.
Next, the foam board (with the white board sheets now attached) was glued to my frame.
The fun part.... decorating it!!!
I have always loved barnwood and glitter -- two opposites that go hand in hand. I suppose it is because they are both me. I am as comfortable in cowboy boots as I am in heels. I feel most at home in the rugged mountains, but love to wear long, glitzy chandelier earrings with hot pink. Barnwood and glitter -- it just works for me! So I added sparkly, glitter letters that I bought in a pack at Michaels and hot glued them onto the frame.Attach picture hanging hardware to the back, and you have a very fun, personalized whiteboard!

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Seeds Family Worship Music

Last year I organized a kids' choir at our church. I really wanted to find something fun, hip, and meaningful. After searching and searching, my efforts finally paid off when I discovered Seeds Family Worship. This music was PERFECT for the choir, but it has also blessed our family in countless ways. For one, the songs make scripture memory a snap! Second, the music is GREAT. I have become a huge fan! We pick a scripture or two a week and play that song every morning. Love starting the day this way--it puts us all in the right frame of mind!
I believe that kids have within them an innate desire to worship God, but they often don't have an avenue or the words to express what is there. Music is a natural outlet and I see such JOY as kids sing to God. Tears filled my eyes as I heard those sweet choir voices sing, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation..."
The Seeds website gives family devotional ideas and has free downloadable cards of the verses on the CDs. They also give you two CDs for the price of one (the planting seeds concept) - -keep one for yourself, and give one!

Asian Honey Glazed Salmon

A delicious, family-friendly, salmon recipe -- get those Omega 3s!

Asian Honey Glazed Salmon

1/4 c. packed cilantro leaves
2 scallions
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. grated ginger
Kosher salt and pepper
4 salmon fillets, about 6 oz. each
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. sesame seeds

Preheat the grill over medium high. Oil the grates. Finely chop the cilantro and scallion and mix in the oil and ginger. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut two 3-inch slits in the fillets, going about 1/2 way through the salmon. Evenly stuff the slits with the herb mixture. Season the fish with salt and pepper.

Stir together the lime juice, soy, brown sugar, and honey until smooth. Place the salmon on the grill until well marked, 3 min. Turn the salmon and continue to cook, brushing the tops with the sauce, another 3 min. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. Serve with edamame and lime wedges.

Broiler Directions:
Position an oven rack so that a baking sheet set on the rack is about 4 inches below the heat source. Preheat the broiler. Place the filets on a foil lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil, basting 3-4 times with the sauce, about 7 min.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Champagne Chicken with Rosemary Tuscan Beans

This isn't your ordinary chik chik! Very flavorful and a great recipe to freeze for those that are doing the make-ahead thing!

Champagne Chicken
1 cup champagne
12 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
3 Tbsp. lime juice, fresh
4 cloves garlic
2 large sprigs rosemary, minced
2 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine champagne, thyme, lime juice, and rosemary in a bowl or ziplock bag. Add chicken breasts and refrigerate (season with salt and pepper before adding).
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove breasts from the marinade and place in a small roasting pan. Reserve marinade.
Roast chicken 20-30 min. basting occasionally with the marinade. Place chicken a platter and cover to keep warm. Pour pan juices and remaining marinade in a saucepan. Cook over med. heat until boiling and reduced. Spoon over chicken and garnish with rosemary.
With this recipe, I sometimes grill the breasts instead of roasting. Both are good!

Rosemary Tuscan Beans
2 cans white northern beans, rinsed.
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 sprigs rosemary, chopped
olive oil
sea salt

Saute minced garlic in a tbsp. of olive oil. Add the chopped rosemary until fragrant. Add the beans and cook over medium heat until flavors are combined. Add a bit of kosher or sea salt.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

More Gifts from the Heart: Fun Ideas

I love creativity, and when it comes to gifts, I have been SO blessed to be on the receiving end of these great ideas! A little creativity and thoughtfulness goes a LONG way!

1. Roses:
A. This year, 3 of my dearest friends who live far away, gave my sister money to buy a bouquet or roses. There was a letter that came with the bouquet explaining that each friend had picked a special rose bush that is to be sent in the spring. My dear friends each described why she had picked that particular color/bush for me. I will think of them whenever I pass my garden and cut a rose -- what a lasting and thoughtful gift! They put a beautiful quote at the top of the letter:
"People need what plants need.....Someone to tend the soil around them, give them some extra attention, pull the weeds that threaten to choke them, pour on the sunshine and the life-giving water, sprinkle in nourishing words - like plant food and fertilizer - and wait. The "repair shop" mentality won't do because we are made for life in a garden."
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

B. One year, my sister had 12 of my friends each deliver a rose to my house on my birthday with a special card. By the end of the day, I had a dozen roses, and felt very loved!

2. The Quilt.
Anyone who has ever attempted a quilt can appreciate the love and TIME that went into creating this! My friend had several people take one fruit of the Spirit each from Galatians 5:22 and write about the various words. She then put them all together in a quilt. There is even a flap and a ribbon to cover them up. Isn't my friend just amazing? !
3. The Album
This particular friend has made me 2 albums and I treasure them both. She weaves pictures in with writing. She even put my 2011 motto on the front! In this album, she put an acrostic, some Bible verses, quotes, and letters to me. So much time went into this -- an act of loyal friendship and love!
4. The Recipe Cards
I love recipes, especially from people I care about. Whenever I'm making a recipe from someone I know, I pray for that person while I'm making their recipe. When we moved from Utah back to the Northwest, some of my friends gave this as my going away gift. They had various people write one of their favorite recipes on a recipe card. Then, on the back, the people wrote a little note, their birthdays, things I could pray for, etc. They were all compiled in a box. I love looking at these cards.... and the recipes are fabulous!

A Life Marked by Love

Staying consistently inspired in my parenting is a daily journey for me. This quote from Andrew Murray has been one that I've read over and over in my child-raising years. There is no higher goal than to lead a life of love, of my Maker, and of the ones to whom I've been entrusted. I pray that these words will encourage you today!

"Let parents be what they want their children to be... Let parents lead a life marked by love to God and man; this is the atmosphere in which loving children can be trained. Let all dealings with children be in love. Cross words, sharp reproof, impatient answers, all are infectious. Love demands and fears not self sacrifice; time and thoughtful attention and patient perseverance are needed to train our children in the way of truth. When children hear us speak of others, of friends or enemies, let the impression be the love of Christ. In all communication of parents with each other, let mutual esteem and respect, tender consideration and willing forgetfulness prove to the children that love is possible among us. Above all, let us remember that it is the love of God that is the secret of a loving home. It is where parents love the Lord their God with all their heart and strength that human love will be strengthened and sanctified."