Spring Break 2015- Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio National Park

We took a whole day to travel out towards Quepos, again, to visit Manuel Antonio National Park.  We hiked, tried to find sloths and monkeys and swam on a cool beach.  Another fun day in Costa Rica!  We all bought hats to cover our faces, after the long day on the beach the day before.  Most of us were sun shy and didn’t want to burn worse.  We hiked around, saw a LOT of monkeys and raccoons.    It wasn’t until the very end of our trip, near the exit, that we finally saw a sloth!

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Spring Break 2015- Costa Rica: Beach Fun

The next day we headed out to explore different beaches.  We started at Playa Ventanas.  Then after walking around and playing for a while we decided we would just stay there for the day!  It was perfect.  The sand was nice, the water was shallow for a good while and the water EVERYWHERE we went was just SO, SO warm.  Bath water people, so perfect!  The reason this beach was recommended to us was for the caves.  They are pretty neat, hard to get a good picture, but cool to walk around a little bit.

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We played in the waves until we were tired and hungry, and then some folks went out again.  It was the perfect beach day!

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On the way out we got to see the water level in the caves… you couldn’t even have walked through them if you tried… crazy stuff!

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On our way home we stopped by a waterfall that our drivers had scoped out for us.  It wasn’t a far walk off the road and so we decided to check it out.  Aren’t we a classy bunch!

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Spring Break 2015- Costa Rica: ADR

On Monday a group of us headed out towards Quepos, to participate in an Adventure Park.  We were able to bring the 2 big girls, and both Grandmas (who are scared of heights, and therefore would not be zip lining, rappelling or swinging from ropes) stayed with Hattie for the day.  We arrived at the main check in area, and then had to drive 30 minutes by van to the next location and then took a 4 wheeling giant jeep up the mountain another 30 minutes or so until we reached the area for the adventures!  Every time we switched vehicles we had a small break to sit and take pictures or use the bathroom.  We hiked up to the area where we were fitted with harnesses.  The hike to the starting point was pretty far, but we were all excited to start the fun stuff.  The views of everything on the mountain were fabulous, so rain foresty and jungle feeling.  It was so beautiful!

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WE were outfitted with harnesses and then couldn’t take our cameras any further, so these pictures are ones the guides took for us.  We had a great time.  There were 11 different things to do.  We started with a long hike, using carabiners up the mountain until we reached the first activity, the Tarzan rope swing.  We each got to swing 3 times.

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The next thing that we did was a rappel down a small hill.  The girls went down the hill with a guide, you can see in Sophie’s picture.  So all they had to do was hold on.  The rest of us had to try and be more nimble than a mountain goat and slowly make our way down!

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Next we zip lined over to a cave/waterfall cove, turned around and dropped ourselves into the pool under the waterfall.  The latch was a little hard to undo, so each time we dropped it was a slight bit of a surprise.  The most unfortunate part was Violet had been all prepared to fall, plugged her nose and pulled the lever, but didn’t drop.  By the time she got it to drop she wasn’t ready and was VERY upset when she showed up on the surface.  It was a decent 15- 20 foot drop for her.  But we were proud she kept going afterwards (she just said it was her least favorite part over and over and over again).

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Next was a true zip-line, the girls got to do it all by themselves, and the guide at the end would catch them.  They both said the zip-lines were their favorite things.

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We next did a controlled zip-line, or something similar, you had to hold a rope and let it out as you went down the line (it was so steep that if you didn’t control it you would just go careening into the man at the bottom).  At the bottom was a water fall they let us climb, swim and jump around for a time.  The water was freezing cold, but it was so beautiful and the boys couldn’t help but climb through the water and jump into the icy depths!

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Then we did what they call a free fall- just letting the rope out behind us down 30 feet from a tower.  The girls basically just dropped down and someone caught them.  After this we hiked back to the trucks, had a snack and drove back to home to meet the Grandmas and Hattie Grace!

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It was a good day!

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Spring Break 2015: Costa Rica Part 1

Hey guys!  I’m back, though I am guessing many of you aren’t there any more… but I know at least 2 readers are still following along… so here is the next bunch of our adventure/lives!  For Spring Break this year we decided to head to the states for Sophie’s baptism.  We knew nobody would have been able to make it to Angola, and we wanted to celebrate Sophie making this important decision in a fun way, so we decided to take a good 3 weeks to travel.  We started our trip with a week in Costa Rica with the grandparents and Matt.

We left Luanda on Thursday night, landed in Houston Friday morning and then took the 3.5 hour flight to San Jose.  It was  A LOT of flying, but we were glad we decided to not stay the night in Houston, and just power through- we were able to eat and relax in Costa Rica for a little while before we had to drive out to where we were staying.  The girls did really good on the flight, it wasn’t easy for us all to sleep, but we adjusted pretty quickly to the new time zone.  We also hit up Jeff’s favorite burger place (AKA the most American tasting burgers outside of the US), Hard Rock Cafe.

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The next morning we waited for everyone else to arrive, my parents showed up an hour early and surprised us at the hotel.  It was so nice to see everyone again.  We picked up Gerry, Kelly and Matt at the airport with our drivers for the week, and we headed out to our home for the week, Casi el Cielo… it was a great house, big enough for everyone, a great chef and fabulous housekeeper, nice pool and close to a lot of things, and the view (we were at the top of a mountain), the view was amazing!  Pictures to come… but we actually arrived later in the evening, so we watched the moon come up over the mountains as we ate dinner out on the patio and got excited for the fun we were going to have!  After the girls had a nice swim in the pool they dyed Easter Eggs with Grammy and got to see how brown eggs take dye!

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The next morning the girls had an Easter Egg hunt and then we had a delicious breakfast of rice and beans.

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After breakfast we headed out for a hike around the mountain.  No one could leave until we admired/recoiled at the giant spiders and webs out by the driveway.  Then we headed out on the hike!  It was a pretty steep bunch of climbs, but so fun and pretty.

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We hit up the pool for a little bit that afternoon and enjoyed the view from the patio.  Such a great location (though our drivers may not have agreed, it was a long bumpy and STEEP climb up to the house.

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While Hattie napped and OGO baby sat, we headed to Playa Hermosa.  We had been warned that the area of Costa Rica we were in had strong currents and it wasn’t safe to go too far out.  But the sand was soft, the water warm and the waves fun to play in.  My mom and I sat on the beach chatting while we watched Kelly and the girls play.  After a while I realized I hadn’t seen the boys for a while.  I found Matt in the water and Jeff slowly coming toward me, when I realized there had a been a big commotion down the beach in front of the lifeguard stand.  Turns out Gerry had gone too far out and couldn’t swim back in.  Jeff had tried to help him, but couldn’t do more than hold him up in the water.  Eventually the lifeguards had seen him and 5, FIVE, of them brought Gerry in on a surfboard.  Crazy nuts!

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After all that excitement we headed back to the house for showers, dinner and relaxing!  Every night we had appetizers on the veranda with drinks (lots of Diet Coke and juice for the girls) while we chatted with the owner.  Then we moved to the table for dinner, which was delicious.  We ate fajitas, curry, burritos, this delicious pork loin with coconut sauce, salads every night and dessert that you could barely eat you were so full, but we managed to scarf it down regardless.  So nice not worrying about cooking after a day of fun.  We could tell immediately that we were in for a fabulous week!

Swim Gala 2015

Last Wednesday Hattie and I suffered through some serious heat to watch Sophie in her annual swim gala, which is the swim meet near end of year for the kids to show off what they have been learning.  This year Jeff got to come and watch one of Sophie’s races with us, but there were over 55 races total, so he couldn’t stay for the backstroke events.  We are just glad he got to come at all!  Sophie did great this year, her strokes are getting better, and she has shown a lot of improvement from last year (where she kept running into the ropes), she did really well on all her events, we are so proud of her!  (Last picture is of Sophie and her friend Mafalda)

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Student Led Conferences 2015

A couple weeks ago we had SLC for both girls, and they were thrilled that Dad could come along as well.  As usual, we ran out of time to do everything the girls wanted to show us, but we got to see a whole lot.

We started in Sophie’s classroom.  She showed us her portfolio, some mental math, a few math games, read us a book, and read to us from her writer’s journal.  We didn’t have time to see the other classrooms, but at least we got to do everything in her main class.  I also took the chance to catch a picture of Sophie with Ms. Cassandra!

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After Sophie’s classroom we headed to the PYP for Violet’s turn.  She had created a schedule with about 30 times on it, so we tried to do as many as we could.  She was disappointed that we couldn’t do everything on her list, but we tried to hit her favorites.  She read us a book, we played the Spotty Dog game, we played with Legos, animals, shapes, blocks, magnifying glasses, toured the Atellier and saw the sandbox, water tables and drew self portraits.  It was a loaded hour to be sure!  And another teacher picture, this time, Violet with her teacher Ms. Memory.

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It is always so fun to see the girls proudly show us around their school and tell us all about what they have been learning.

Ballet Love

Violet has been taking Ballet this semester with my friend Amanda, who is a professional dancer, and is nice enough to teach while living here.  2 days a week Violet gets dressed in her fancy ballet gear and has the class of her dreams with all her little PP4 friends.  She is so serious, and so happy during these lessons, and does such a great job!  I am so proud of her, she really paid good attention and tried so hard to get it just right.  It was fabulous.  Here is a giant photo dump of her classes this semester.  The class is on break while Amanda performs in some insanely amazing opera in the states.  We will be happy when it starts up again!

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Violet and her classmates love sitting with their hand on their heads for their sticker, and Hattie runs to be a part of it all.  When Amanda says sit down and put your hand on your head, Hattie runs over to her with her hand on her head and follows her around until she gets her own sticker!

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Violet had so much fun with her friends and we are so happy we were able to let her take a dance class here, as they are few and far between.

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February Happenings

February was pretty easy going, outside of our trip.  We had a lot of playdates with friends, and a lot of BBQ’s at the park (just standard for our group!).  Hattie is so cute right now, she has certain friends that she just LOVES, unfortunately both of her favorites are moving very soon, and I don’t want to think about it.  Hattie loves seeing baby Louie, she thinks he is really funny, aside from stealing his pinkie (as seen in the January post) she just loves having him around.  She gets all his toys for him, gives him his pinkie, and makes sure he is ok.  It is pretty fabulous, she will stand at the window looking for Catherine to push Lou’s stroller up the walkway, and excitedly run to the door to greet him!

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Hattie’s other BFF is Joey… oh my goodness, those little girls play so well together and Hattie worships big girl Joey!  One night at the park they got 2 of the soccer balls and sat on them… then they would wave their arms around saying “whoa, whoa” giggling merrily the whole time, and then look at each other and fall off the balls!  Giggle, fall, giggle, repeat- it cracked me up!  They also both love their baby dolls strollers.  It is so cute, we are going to miss Joey a LOT next year.

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Actually Hattie loves her babies a lot of the time, she plays with them quite regularly, it is pretty cute.  She also has learned how to undress herself, we are working on how to put clothes back on!

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The girls did a Valentine’s themed sewing project (pieced hearts, first quilt project!) and learned to thread the machine.  I continued working on my newest quilt also.  I also had quite a few pants to hem, repair or shorten… so much fun, but I am getting pretty good at a blind hem on my machine.

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Dullstroom SA 2015

We had a long weekend in February and decided we wanted to leave town (or country as the case may be).  Our friends the Carrolls were headed to a small town outside of JoBurg called Dullstroom and after chatting with some of our South African friends we decided we would head there as well.  It was about a 2.5 hour drive from Joburg.  So when we arrived in JoBurg we headed to dinner with some other MB friends who were going to Kenya in a couple days.  The plane to SA was filled with friends.  There were 4 families from our compound (all of whom had children our kids ages) on the plane, we felt like it was a party!

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The next morning we picked up our rental car and I had the luck of driving us around SA on the wrong side of the road… slightly scary, freeways were good, but man, those local streets got me sometimes, it takes a lot of thought to turn right into the far lane of the street.  But we survived and the car was totally in fine shape when it was returned, I consider that a success!  We headed down to Dullstroom and were happy to find a cute little street with a lot of restaurant choices and our rental house was so cute and spacious (downside, no rentals in the area had internet, we used all the restaurant connections we could find!).  The views were gorgeous and it was such a nice change from our norm.

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We did realize we were in Africa, still, when the next morning there was no water in the house… and the first night we heard a bat flying around the main room (it disappeared in the morning, so there was that).  We headed to the dam to hike around the next day.  It was supposed to be an easy trail hike around the dam… about 1/4 of the way around we lost the trail, and hiked through what the girls called “savannah and grasslands.”  Then we ran into another trail which took us to a bridge, which was partially in tact.  Then we ran into the last part of the trail as we got closer to the mooing cows (AKA cheetah cows) and realized there was a lot of water on the trail.  So we told the girls to step on the boards, until all of a sudden the boards sunk right into the muck.  Our shoes were wet, dirty and we were laughing so hard about the “trail” we had thought would be an easy trek.  After that we took the second trail straight to the top of the mountain, the views were gorgeous, and the girls did a really great job hiking with little to no complaint.

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We ate breakfast at Harrie’s pancake house 2 times!  The first time, just us, the second time with the Carrolls, and it was tasty both times.

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We also spent Valentine’s in Dullstroom, which meant it was hard to find a place to eat dinner, we eventually sat at a bar, got the girls food first, and then took ours home to eat in peace!  But I did remember to pack all the Valentine’s clothes for the girls… sometimes I plan ahead!

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It was a great little get away, we ended with some shopping in JoBurg before coming back to reality.  The girls went to school Wednesday (after the break) and Thursday.  Thursday morning I got a call to come pick up Violet, they were closing down the PYP because the power had gone out and there was no water.  Then they cancelled all of school Friday due to the generator problems… the excitement of Angola!

January Fun Times

Oh, My!  I am, again, so behind in the blog… and we leave for a long vacation to the states in a couple weeks, the goal, to be caught up before we leave and I have 12 million posts to post regarding that bunch of fun.  So here we go with a photo dump of January fun things! It involves a lot of pool time, friends and some sewing… here we go…

Violet lost her first tooth ever this month!  She was beyond thrilled, and I was a little sad at how grown up she is getting (I swear she was just a baby).

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The girls started weekly sewing lessons.  They were so excited!  We started learning all the parts of the machines, and how to sew with no needle, then a needle without thread, and FINALLY with all the pieces working on paper and fabric.  They were thrilled by their first lesson, and were even more happy when we finally got to sew pillowcases!  They did a great job.

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Even I got some sewing in this month.  I finished quilting and binding my African Fabric quilt, and then started on a new project.  I am so glad Hattie entertains herself better now, it means I get a little time to complete some of my own projects, and that makes me happy!

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One afternoon my friend Catherine called and said, “Go outside and look at the sun, hurry.”  So, of course we ran outside to see this super cool sight, which, apparently is called a Sun Halo, made by water crystals around the sun.  It was gorgeous and we had a lot of fun trying to take different pictures of it for a long while!  My maid must think I am insane.

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We attended a super fun birthday party with an R2D2 cake that was insane!  While we are putting pictures of that up, here are some other pool pictures.  The kids waiting for Cobus to throw them in the deep end, the girls hanging out, having fun, and Hattie loving anyone who will let her float in the deep end.  The pool is such a great social gathering for our group of friends (just a couple weeks ago we were there for over 7 hours… we might be crazy).

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I tried some new recipes, this one was especially delicious!

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We had fun at home, and Hattie decided her bike helmet was a necessity around MB.  Hattie also loved playing with baby Lou and stealing his pinkie… her favorite game for a couple months!

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What a busy month we had!