Wrapping Things Up

I doubt that anyone still reads this blog but I am about to close it up so I wanted to do one more post as an update to how things are going in the year since we moved to Tampa and jot down a few things that I have learned from our experience doing some thing so far out of my comfort zone.

We have been in Tampa for almost a year now. I would say that it took a good nine months for the kids to really feel like they were planting some roots here. Not to say that people haven’t been super friendly, because they have, but I would almost say that our kids have have had some walls up and been a little bit slow to let people in. I can definitely say that moving to Costa Rica was easier on them than moving back. I can’t even put my finger on why that is. I think that part of it is that the international school we were in there set you up with Buddy families and small groups to make sure that you are getting settled in and here I think we were just expected to pick up and run because this is supposed to be our home, right? It also didn’t help that we were cooped up in our house for a year and a half before we moved back to the states because of Covid restrictions. Benson told us that he will never switch schools again because it was the worst experience of his life. I reminded him that he will have to change schools again for high school and he says he doesn’t see that as the same because he will be moving schools along with other friends.

He will be starting high school in August and is looking forward to the marching band and we are excited about Friday night football. He has made some good friends and we are very excited about that. He still keeps in close contact with his friends from Costa Rica that are now spread all over the world. What a cool experience that is!

Sloane seems to be doing pretty well. She has a few close friends and is babysitting a lot and making her own money. They are all three playing flag football. She still mentions wanting to go “home” a lot and that is hard. I asked her the other day if that meant she wished that she could pick up where she left off in Memphis or she wished she had never left. She’s honestly not sure. It’s a hard time in life and moving around from place to place is definitely not easy or glamorous.

Blake Leigh had a rough start to the year but she’s doing great now. She has made some really great friends who are sporty and don’t take things too seriously just like her! She will start middle school in August and she will be there with Sloane. She is wanting to join band and wants to play the trumpet like her brother. She also wants to keep working on her basketball skills so she can be just like Ja Morant.

They have all done well academically through this transition which is a relief because we weren’t sure how that was going to go. In Costa Rica the grading scale was one through four instead of A’s and B’s. Nathan is still working from home most of the time and I am still enjoying my lunch room aid position at the elementary school where Blake Leigh is. We are all looking forward to a break this summer. We plan to go on a RV trip to Yellowstone.

In my new job as a lunchroom aid I get to talk to about 1,000 kids every day. Well, I guess I don’t talk to all of them but I do try to at least give them all a smile. I get to meet kids from all over the world and I am always excited to hear when a new student comes from another country. A lot of them don’t even speak English.

I have a new friend that just moved here from Russia. She doesn’t speak English but she has 2 of the sweetest girls sitting with her at lunch, and I know they were hand picked by the teacher to help her out. I am also so excited to see how quickly she will be able to have conversations with me in English. They learn so fast!

I say all of that because I don’t know that I would have given much thoughts about even trying to communicate with someone that doesn’t speak the same language as me before our experience. And now I am so much more empathetic in these situations. I have learned that we definitely don’t have to speak the same language to solve problems and get to know each other.

I have also noticed my children being much more willing to jump in without being asked when there is a need. They have been in those situations themselves and someone has helped them figure things out. Our experience hasn’t helped me not be shy and awkward because that’s just my personality but at least I am a little bit more comfortable being assertive when I see that there is a need for me to step up.

So I don’t know if I am a good advertisement for moving abroad just yet, (the jury is still out). But I know there are good and bad things about our experience and I just want to try and focus on the good. We will ask our kids in about 5-10 years and see what they say…..


Starting Over

It’s been a while since I wrote anything and I have had so many thoughts but I haven’t really been sure how to put them into words. While we are so grateful to be back in The States, this move has not been easy. I would say for Nathan and I it has been pretty seamless. Everything is so convenient. We already have our Florida drivers licenses, we have found doctors and dentists. We’ve already had to have several repairmen out to the house, and had no problem with communication 😂

The physical part of moving has been easy. Even making friends for Nathan and I has been pretty easy. People have been so welcoming. We love our neighborhood and the way it is set up we have an alleyway in the back and we have already made great friends with the neighbors. We have even placed membership at a church close by with a great youth group.

The part that we are dealing with right now that is so hard is starting over with school for the kids. I do realize that we are only in week 2 but it has been so hard to leave them in the mornings. Blake Leigh really has done great. I drove her the first few days because we live so close to the school but after spending hours in the car and her being late for school after leaving way early, I gave in and she now rides the bus. That is a first for us but it is going great. Our neighborhood is the only stop so it was a no brainer!

Benson and Sloane are really struggling. The first day they were nervous of course, but we thought they would be fine once they got home. Nope. Sloane said she cried twice and consensus was that everyone already has their friend groups….how lonely. For Sloane, it has gotten better every day and she had made a friend. Benson hasn’t yet and this morning he was in tears and didn’t want to go to school. He worked himself into a stomachache. It was hard to make him go.

Watching your kids go through these things makes you question all of your decisions as a parent. When I was younger I used to think that people who moved around had a glamorous life and that it was cool to have those life experiences. I had no idea that with those life experience comes a lot of heartache and challenges. When we were making decisions on whether or not to move to Costa Rica I sought counsel from people who had done something similar and they said that it was very difficult but that they would do it all over again. That is what made their children more resilient and adaptable. I thought that the moving to Costa Rica part was going to be the difficult part and the moving back was going to be easy but I guess this is also just as difficult. All part of the process.

I’m sure the kids will be fine and in a week. I will have a completely different attitude (or at least that is my hope and prayer) but for now these are my thoughts.

I will leave with a few updated pictures of our Florida life. *My family still hates the beach so we’ve lived here for two months and still not been. The Mother’s Day picture was just a drive by after eating at a restaurant close to the water.

Costa Rica COVID Update

Well, it’s not pretty. As I sit here hearing more uplifting news from The United States about hope on the COVID front we are just hearing more and more negative news here in Costa Rica. As the president is passing on hopeful news about not wearing masks soon and getting to gather with your love ones we are hearing about more driving restrictions and schools being closed again.

Let’s face it, the driving restrictions only let up a little during the best times and we had very few weeks where the kids were able to go all week without having some kind of disruption. But, those weeks that they were able to go, even though it was just part time, were so wonderful. Having some kind of normalcy, even for a short time, was great.

I’m really sorry for those of you who like to read really positive post but this just really stinks. We would have really liked to have been able to spend time with people before we leave Costa Rica. The kids would have liked to have seen their friends at school, and we would have liked to have some real goodbyes with hugs from our friends.

We will have been here three years when we leave in June and 15 months of that will have been in lockdown. Our first year and a half I feel like we were thriving. We were making friends, building relationships and exploring a new country. I even had a job at the school that i LOVED!! This last 15 months have been pretty brutal. The kids have had way too much screen time. Not much interaction with other human beings, besides each other. And without that community we can really tell a difference with our children. It is time to get our family back in a community. Now, with that being said each kid has had some friends to help them get through and for that we are so thankful.

Just to get a picture here are some statistics that I stole from the Internet. Covid is worse than ever here in Costa Rica right now and the vaccine is getting a very slow start. People assume because Nathan works for Pfizer that we have had the chance to get vaccinated. We are hoping to get the chance very soon. I think I read today that Costa Rica is between phases 1-2 of 5 with the vaccine. I think they are still working on the elderly. So many people are having to fly to the states to get the vaccine. It really causes a divide between the haves and the have nots.

Source github.com

I know this is in Spanish but it gives an example of our driving restrictions. It basically just says that we can drive every other day.

I do realize that this could be so much worse and we are so close to moving back to The States. I just don’t want us to forget that there are still people that are very much dealing with this virus (way worse than we are) and I don’t want us to forget or take for granted the opportunities we do have.

Saying “See Ya Later”

Well, this week was hard. Blake Leigh had to say goodbye to her best friend. Blake Leigh and Miles have been best friends pretty much since the first day of school here in Costa Rica. They were both homesick and a little out of sorts and they just immediately clicked. I might add that they are both a little quirky as well.

Fortunately, they have been able to be in the same class every year even through the virtual schooling over this last year. They have even been able to do some schooling together at our home seeing as we are in the same social bubble. That even includes swimming on our lunch break.

These two have a very special friendship. They are truly able to be themselves. They both still like to play with toys and use their imaginations.

We knew the day was coming that we would all be moving but we found out recently that Miles will be moving a little sooner than us. Blake Leigh was very sad but she knew that she would still get to see him on screen at school every day so that made her happy.

This week we let them spend a lot of time together in preparation for him leaving today. We had a big camp out at our house and let them do school together one last time.

They also gave each other special gifts to take to their new homes.

These are photo books from their three years together that Miles’s mom and sister made. They both signed them like yearbooks. So cute!
This was from Blake Leigh to Miles
This was from Miles to Blake Leigh

We all feel so blessed by this friendship and we are so thankful that we enjoy being with this entire family because we will need to nurture this friendship from a far. We plan on continuing to make plans to vacation with them either halfway or at their new home❤️

Mango 🥭 Sap Rash aka Costa Rican Poison Ivy

So we learned something new this week…. there is a sap that comes off of mango trees that can cause a rash that presents just like poison ivy to those who are sensitive to it. (Which my family is, except for me)

On Sunday we and another family went mango picking in our neighborhood just like we did this time last year and the following day my family started dropping like flies with his terrible rash. First was Sloane, then Blake, then Nathan. Because both girls have food allergies, I first assumed that they had eaten something that they shouldn’t have. I started with hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines and that didn’t work and then a friend mentioned this mango sap rash. She had done some research because her husband had gotten a burn on his face from picking that day as well. I have to mention though that he was literally squeezing the juice into his mouth😂

Sure enough this is a real thing and I immediately started the girls on steroids and they are so much better. That’s when Nathan’s eye started swelling and he is now on steroids as well thanks to one of my nurse practitioner friends helping me out😉

These mangoes ended up being the most expensive and frustrating mangoes we’ve ever had. Hopefully they will be delicious.

Living As An Expat

While we were in The States for Christmas I mentioned being an “expat” to my mom and she looked at me funny. I realized that she didn’t know what I meant. And 3 years ago I had no idea what that word meant either. In fact, when I realized that it stood for ex-patriot I thought it was a bad thing. The actual definition of expat, from the google dictionary, is “someone living outside their native country.”

*I will state now that I will in no way try to relate to anyone who has done long term mission work in foreign countries. I think it is very important that people realize that this is very different. And we are not trying to in any way say that what we have done here is in any way similar to making that kind of sacrifice. 

Growing up the only people I knew that ever moved out of the country were missionaries and I honestly never even pictured myself moving out of state! In fact, when we moved to Memphis from Little Rock my mom told people we were moving to another country. I remember telling her, “mom, there are people at your church whose children have actually moved to other countries to be missionaries. I can’t believe you are telling people that!” 

So you can imagine when we told our parents we were moving to Costa Rica it was quite the shock. Nathan had already been traveling back-and-forth for about five months so it made sense but it just seemed so crazy! I mean we had both lived within three hours of both of our parents for all of our marriage. I have mentioned it on here before but I will say it again… We were just in a place in our lives that was so comfortable that when the opportunity arose we just felt like we would regret it if we did not accept the opportunity and almost 3 years (and a global pandemic) later I can say we are grateful that we did. I will also say that the pandemic has made the last year seem more like two.

Recently I’ve been thinking about some things that are challenging as an expat that I didn’t necessarily have to think about before. One thing that has really been on my mind lately is how you feel like you are mentally divided into two places, but can obviously only be in one. You are kind of always looking forward to the next time you get to go home. Not to say that we don’t really enjoy our time in Costa Rica but it’s usually especially hard right after we get back. For example, we had a really good visit at Christmas seeing all the kids cousins on both sides. We love how they are able to pick up where they left off no matter how long it’s been, so now we are already looking forward to the next time they all get to be together. 

Also, this is obvious, but missing birthdays and holidays and even simple things like nieces and nephews ball games and special events and just feeling like you’re missing them growing up is hard. 

I always hate to complain about the language thing but since I’m always trying to be honest on here…….. our Spanish isn’t great. We’ve been here almost 3 years and we are nowhere close to being fluent. It is our fault and I will blame no one except for us. We live in an area where a lot of English is spoken, we go to a school where English is spoken and most of our friends speak English. Even our Costa Rican friends speak English to us. Looking back, we could have chosen a much more authentic environment and immersed ourselves in the Spanish language but we chose a more comfortable environment and here we are. The pandemic has not helped because we basically have just been with each other. Our Spanish has stalled but we do still practice. All that being said, when we do go places where we need to know Spanish it is frustrating but a good challenge for us to use what we DO know and the kids can usually translate for us :-)

I would say that is probably pretty typical at least with the ex-pats that we are around. Most of them move every couple of years and mostly hang out with other ex-pats and don’t get too immersed in the culture and language because they know that they will be moving again soon.

We have enjoyed getting to know a mixture of local people and ex-pats from all over the world. We know that after this experience we will have connections all over the world and that is really cool.

I would say that is my favorite thing about this experience. Knowing that after this is said and done that we will have friends that have become like family, and places to visit everywhere.

List of other random stuff that I will probably add to:

Paying in Colones

Paying $1,000,000 for gas, clothes, groceries (pretty much anything imported) you just have to decide what you’re willing to pay a lot for and learn to love other local things (like beans and rice here)

Paying for parking EVERYWHERE

No mail or Amazon

no parking spots

The highway reversing every other Sunday to allow the people coming home from the beach to get home faster which means everybody else has to find alternate routes

Really kind people willing to help me out

Forgetting about time changes when making a call

People openly urinating on the side of the road 😳

Gas attendants pump my gas

Tolls everywhere

Trying to take in all the beauty around me and focus on the positive! Hiking with friends. This is one of our favorite things to do here. The beautiful splash pad in our neighborhood at night. Blake and her best friend, Miles. The first part of the school day is over at noon for them so a couple of days a week I pick them up and bring them to the pool for their lunch. Then they finish the second half of the school day at my house. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Prepping To Go Home

My usual routine for the week before we head home for the month for Christmas is making a lot of lists and pre-packing. You may wonder what in the world is pre-packing? There is a lot that goes into packing before I can actually pack the bags……This consist of making a lot of piles. I start with what I think I should bring and then over the week I condense it to what I SHOULD bring. It usually depends on what airline we fly. Sometimes we have to pay per bag so that is really tough. With Southwest we get two checked bags per person so that is always the best but then the kids get no TV screens on the flight 😩 (poor spoiled kids.) This time we are flying United so we have to pay per bag. And we only even get one carry-on. That makes it very difficult for me. It’s not so hard going because we usually don’t have that much because we usually borrow winter clothes from my sister-in-law because it’s very impractical for us to buy things because we don’t need them here. We always have so much more luggage coming back because of Christmas gifts and general shopping. I try to be really efficient and pack empty bags inside other bags.

We are leaving next Saturday the 19th. We plan on being in The States for four weeks. We usually jump all over the place and have sleepovers and play dates. This time it will definitely look different. We are coming from a situation where we have been very isolated since March (driving restrictions, curfew, only Virtual school) and now going through airports and big crowds so we are planning on just laying low and spending time with family. We will not be going to church or large gatherings. 

We plan on taking it day by day. We do know that we are going to wear masks, even with our family, and not take any risks. It is totally worth it to us to be able to see our family. A year is too long!!

Today I spent the day, not making piles, yet, but making extra masks so we will have some new, fun ones to look forward to. Even the baby dolls and our snowman have one. 

It will be difficult because we will have to change the way we normally do family Christmas but it is temporary. No big cousin sleepover in the floor but at least they will get to see each other and we we going to focus on the positive! We are hoping for good weather with both families so we can be outside!This was from a zoom call from my daddy’s 70th birthday Sunday. We are so ready to see each other, masks 😷 and all!

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!