Sunday, January 31, 2016

Letters to Aden: 2 1/4 Years

Hello Aden Boy,

A love letter to you is long overdue!

You're two years old now (+ three months, ahem) and changing rapidly with each passing day. You're the perfect mix of sweet and smart; outgoing and curious. Oh my, are you all boy!

Unofficially, you weight about 28 pounds and are 34 inches tall. You're wearing 2T clothing, and something about those adorable little boy shirts and jeans make you seem so old! It's surprises me that you have a preference in what you wear. "No pants!" you say when I get you dressed in the mornings, or "No! Blue one!" in preference to wearing your blue coat over the camo-colored one. You've had three haircuts and now most of your baby curls are long gone. You've have very coarse hair texture like Nana and your Uncle Adam, and I'd suspect your hair would turn wavy in humid air.  

You're constantly testing limits, like running in my opposite direction when we're out in public. "I walk!" you shout, but I can't trust you an inch. I see that "you can't catch me" twinkle in your eyes! I've resorted to wearing you in the Beco carrier during grocery trips because you climb out of the shopping cart at first chance. You have a true sense of adventure, and nothing seems to give you pause ...

Well, except for the snow. You're not a big fan of playing outside in the cold this winter. It's difficult for your little body to maneuver the heavy white powder under all those layers of clothing (I sometimes forget you've been walking for less than a year!), and your hands aren't coordinated enough to function inside mittens. You cry until your hands are bare so you're able to play with toys in the snow, and then cry when your hands get too cold. Really, you cry the entire time we're playing outdoors. Next year will be better, I think, when you're a little bigger.

The beach, on the other hand, is your happy place. Our family traveled to Costa Rica in early January, and you had a blast playing in the sun and the sand. You loved running along the beach, digging and scooping in the sand and letting the shallow waves wash over you. If I could live at the beach, I would, and I suspect you'd be right there with me.

Your vocabulary has exploded in the last few months, and you're now speaking in multiple-word sentences. Some of the more common phrases you say are: "Where'd Daddy go?" as you stand by the back door waiting for him to return home from work; "Lookit! What's that?" to just about everything you see in the world around you, "I don't like that!" as you become more independent in voicing your own opinion and "Hold my paci" about a hundred times a day. I always want to remember the way you say "How 'bout...books?" Or cereal. Or whatever else you're suggesting. I love how conversational you're becoming!

I'm probably biased, but I think you're super smart for your age. You love to sing ABC's and Jingle Bells (well after the Christmas holiday has passed). You can count to 12 and backwards from 5-1, and recognize some basic shapes (circle and triangle). Colors are still a challenge for you, no matter how many times we practice them. Eventually you'll learn them, I know, but in the meantime I find it so interesting how some things come naturally and others (like colors) refuse to click in your toddler brain. It took me by complete surprise the other day when we were reading the book Skippy John Jones: Up and Down together and you recited the entire context from memory. You also like Moo Baa La La La and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Sleep is hit or miss, which I suppose is fairly normal for a toddler. You are more than capable of sleeping through the night, and do just that sometimes. There are other nights where you cry out around 3:00am for no specific reason. Sometimes, I think you've lost your pacifier and can't locate it in the dark. Other times, you ask for milk and slam an entire sippy cup in the night. On the nights you do sleep soundly, you're usually to bed around 8:00pm and up at 5:30am. After asking me a dozen times, "Where's Tory?!" first thing in the morning, you're content to lay in our bed and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse until the sun comes up.

Naps are still your bread and butter, and you practically beg for one by 12:30pm everyday. You'd sleep all afternoon (4+ hours) if I let you. Of course I don't let you or you'd never sleep at night, so most days you sleep from 1:00pm - 3:30pm.

One milestone we weren't very excited for was the "climbing out of the crib" discovery. One weekend evening at the cabin, Dad and I were sitting in the outdoor sauna when we heard a loud THUD. We rushed inside to find you sitting on the floor of your room. We put you back to bed, and you popped right over the rail like it was no big deal. A few days later, you did the same thing in your crib at home. You started sleeping in a Sleep Sack again (like a baby sleeping bag), and that seemed to solve the problem ... for now. I'm not ready for you to be in a big-kid bed yet, that's for sure!

You're fairly coordinated with a spoon at meal time, and can walk up and down stairs by yourself by hanging on to the railing. You gained another stamp in your passport when we traveled out of the country to Costa Rica. You also rode on a snowmobile with Daddy for the first time this winter and loved it. You never made a peep!

You have such a great spirit, Aden, and are always singing and dancing around the house. Toward the end of an especially stressful drive into the Costa Rican rain forest, you belted the ABC's out of nowhere which made the entire car burst in laughter. You adore Mickey Mouse and love playing with these little Mickey Mouse + Friends figurines we have. You still love balls and are pretty decent at kicking and dribbling. Future sports star in the making? You also enjoy coloring with markers and painting with Dot Art. I think you're going to be left-handed; it seems to be your dominant hand when you hold a writing utensil.

I enrolled you in a children's music class last fall, and I loved watching you blossom in that environment. You enjoyed being the center of attention as you sang and danced with the other kids, and I enjoyed doing something one-on-one with you. Music class has since ended, but you continue to sing the songs you learned ... "Hello, everybody. So glad to see you!"

Currently, we're taking a toddler Mommy + Me gymnastics class and I'll be honest, it's tough for you to sit quietly, listen to instruction and then follow directions through the activity circuit. You'd rather run off and play in the open gym by yourself. I think it's a reflection of your age more than anything, and I'd probably wait on enrolling you again except that Tory is in her own class at the same time so it makes sense for you to do something while we wait. I try to remind myself that it's good exercise for you ... even if your attention span is short.

Breakfast is your favorite meal of the day and you can eat a serious amount of food first thing in the morning (for example, at one sitting: two sausage links, a waffle, a bowl of oatmeal and fruit). You like oranges, mangoes, peaches, pears, pineapple, and despise bananas and blueberries. You like buttered noodles, hot dogs and vegetables (asparagus, green beans, peas, edamame, stir fry peppers and mushrooms) and soy sauce, of all things! Meat is mostly a miss; you don't like the texture of anything ground or shredded.

Tory remains your very best friend. You can't stand being apart from her, and cry every Thursday morning when we drop her off at school. "Where Tory go?" you ask in a panic as we walk away from her classroom. When the two of you are reunited again, you embrace each other in the warmest hug. It also melts my heart the way you two lay in bed and hold each other's hands while watching cartoons. She is good at sharing with you, and you're happiest alongside her playing dolls, Barbies, dress-up, etc.

Grandma Janie is another favorite, and one of the only people you're comfortable being with when I'm not around. (You're still very attached to mama, little boy!)

Your little kid best friend is Elia, a boy we met at the park earlier this spring. He's one of the only people you talk about consistently, "Elia, where are you?" You'll shout as you wander down our hallway. We get together with Elia and his mom, Mirjam, often to play. The two of you are so cute together!


This year is going to be a wild ride with you, Aden Boy! Can't wait to see what it has in store for us.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Day In The Life: Winter 2016

It's been a while since I documented a weekend Day In The Life, and this day - Sunday, January 24 - was a pretty typical one for us at our lake cabin in northwestern Wisconsin.

Andi is 35
Heather is 34
Tory is 4
Aden is 2
Chloe (the dog) is 11


I wake up feeling warm and cozy; a full night's sleep - yes! I always sleep so soundly at the lake cabin. I don't know if it's the quiet surroundings or our comfortable bed that does the trick, but ... ahhhh, I needed the rest. I click the button on my Fitbit to see the time: 5:00am. "I should get up and work out before the kids wake up," I say to myself. On second thought, I quickly drift back to dreamland.

Click the time: 6:00am. Still dark outside. I should get up ... but, I roll over and go back to sleep.

Okay, now I really need to get up! Andi is asleep beside me and the kids are still asleep too. I roll out of bed and pull on the workout clothes I laid out the night before. I fire up PiYO on my computer, a hybrid Pilates / Yoga program I started two weeks ago, and get about six minutes in to the video before I hear Aden crying from his bedroom. I hit pause, go retrieve him and bring him to Andi who's just waking up himself. A minute later, Tory joins the party in our bedroom.

Tory and Aden snuggle into our bed to wake up with a show, and Andi gets them each a breakfast snack. Then, Andi heads outside to get the ice house ready for fishing this morning. The kids and I will meet him on nearby Staples Lake after I've finished my workout and we all get dressed.

I throw on a long-sleeve shirt and jeans, then I get the kids dressed for the day. It doesn't really matter what we look like; ice fishing isn't a beauty sport!

Aden's really fussy this morning, and I notice his cheeks are especially rosy. I hope he's not getting sick. As I'm trying to pull together some toys and activities for the kids to do in the ice house, Aden has a major meltdown. Tory determines he's asking for a pacifier, and tries to help him reach one in the silverware drawer.

"No! Blue one!" Aden demands, tears and boogers running down his face.

"Here's a blue one, Bud" Tory says as she hands him a pacifier.

"NO! BLUE ONE!" Aden screams back.

I intervene and lift Aden up to pick out his own pacifier. He stops crying, cracks a smile and says "Blue one."

"Um, Aden, that's green" Tory says, rolling her eyes toward her brother. 

It's like herding cats getting the kids downstairs to the car. I gather up all of our winter gear -- that's three pairs of snow boots, three pairs of regular shoes to wear inside the ice house, three neck warmers, three stocking hats, three winter coats, three pairs of snow pants and three sets of mittens. Phew! I check the pile of stuff twice to make sure I didn't forget anything. We're in the car by 9:15am.

Staples Lake is just a few miles away. We could, of course, fish on our own lake but the ice fishing on Staples is suppose to be dynamite. Well, according to the "bucket crew" (a group of die-hard fishermen we see there every weekend perched on top of overturned 5-gallon buckets).

Half-way down the road, Aden cries for his favorite blanket and I realize we forgot it back at the cabin. So, I turn the car around and we go get it. Life without Aden's favorite blue blanket is not a life I want to be apart of! Back on the road just before 9:30am.

As we're driving to Staples Lake, I realize I'm starving; as in, I'm so hungry I feel sick to my stomach. I need to eat like, whoa. I pull up to the boat landing and spot our big black ice house straight ahead. I unbuckle the kids' seatbelts for safety and drive ahead onto the ice. No matter how many times I do this, I still feel nervous as I listen to the ice crack and groan beneath the weight of my vehicle. I pull up near the ice house and carry the kids to the shack. Inside, Andi's got everything set up for fishing and breakfast underway.

For breakfast, he's made us eggs-in-a-hole (runny yolk eggs inside slices of toast) with sauteed mushrooms and asparagus. Oh, and coffee: a big ol' travel mug filled with piping hot coffee. I scarf down my food so fast I barely taste it. Aden and Tory each pick at the food on their plates. They're obviously a) not hungry, or b) not as impressed as I am with Andi's fancy ice house breakfast.

I clean up the breakfast mess while Andi starts fishing with the kids. Aden holds a "dummy" ice fishing rod - one without a hook or a reel - and seems perfectly happy in doing so. "Reel! Reel!" he shouts without the danger of sticking someone in the eye with a flying hook. "Oh, fishie, where are you?" Give it another year and I think Andi'll have a serious fishing buddy on his hands.

Though, I suppose he's already got one child who delights in fishing with her dad.

Andi keeps fishing with Aden while Tory and I play Candy Land together. I'm truly amazed how well she understands the concept of playing a game now. Just six months ago, she'd cry if it wasn't her turn or if she didn't win; now, we completed the entire game and most importantly, had a great time playing together. 

I suggest we go outside and play in the snow for a bit, so we pull on all our winter gear. It proves to be a bad decision as Aden has another meltdown. He cries because he doesn't want to wear gloves on his hands, then cries when his hands get cold without them. Frankly, he cries the entire time we're outside. Kid, you're driving me crazy! I take a few deep breaths and remind myself he doesn't feel very well. That's becoming obvious with every passing hour.

Tory's having fun making snow castles with a plastic Solo cup, and Andi seems to be enjoying himself fishing at a hole nearby.

Not many bites from the fish, though. We decided to pack it up and head back to the cabin. I drive the kids in my vehicle, and Andi cleans up the ice house and pulls it back to the cabin with his truck.  

Aden whines on the floor while I unload the car. "Blankie! Blankie!" he cries, and Tory's saying back, "You're sitting on it, Aden." Little buddy is having a rough day.

All the work I did loading up snow gear and activities for the ice house is being replayed in reverse as I unload all the bags, plus the food and dirty dishes from breakfast. I set Aden up with a TV show in my bed so he'll stop crying. Tory's contently playing with toys in the living room.   

I start lunch for the kids and I; Andi's still not back from fishing. Sunday lunch is usually a clean-out-the-fridge meal as we bring most groceries back to the Twin Cities with us at the end of a weekend. I scrounge together corn tortillas, black beans, leftover chicken and shredded cheese to make a quesadilla for Tory and I. Aden doesn't eat dairy, so I make him spaghetti with a side of oranges.

Except, I find him fast asleep in the master bedroom. Poor buddy. (An out-of-focus photo, but I didn't dare wake him with the click of more than one shot.)

Tory and I are eating lunch at the table when I notice Chloe throwing up on the carpet in the living room. Life with kids and pets is so glamorous, isn't it?

After we finish eating, I start to pack up for home. This includes packing up the suitcase with our dirty clothes from the weekend, emptying the refrigerator of perishable items, washing and drying dirty dishes and folding clean towels. Andi's back at the cabin now, tinkering with things in the garage. When he finally emerges, I make him a quesadilla for lunch and do a final wipe-down of the kitchen.

I set the suitcase and grocery bag by the stairs, and Andi loads them into my car. We tag-team pulling the blinds, making sure everything that's suppose to be unplugged is unplugged, gathering coats and boots that go home with us ... and triple-checking Tory and Aden's favorite blankets, stuffed animals and pillows are loaded in the car. We never, ever want to forget those! It sounds like a lot to remember, but Andi and I are so used to doing it every weekend I think we could close down the cabin in our sleep.

I buckle the kids into their car seats and say good-bye to Andi. He met the kids and I at the cabin on Saturday afternoon because he had a work event in the Twin Cities on Friday night. We don't typically drive separately, but recently it seems that way due to his various work events. Andi turns off the water pumps and hot water heater at the cabin, and is on the road shortly after us.

The drive is ... not a very pleasant one. Aden fusses for the next two hours in the car. I do my best to re-start his iPad a dozen times and hand back snacks to keep him occupied, but nothing works for long. Usually he'll sleep in the car on Sunday afternoons, but the 30-minute power nap he clocked over lunchtime has thrown his schedule off.

Fortunately, Tory handles the drive nicely. She watches Inside Out on her iPad and only pipes up when she asks for a snack or two.     

I suddenly remember the entire upstairs level of our house in the Twin Cities is in shambles. We had new carpet laid in our bedrooms on Friday morning so all the beds need to be re-assembled and furniture moved back to its place. Ugh. My least favorite part of having a cabin is unpacking at home after a weekend. Today this feeling is compounded (x a million) as everything needs to be put away.

It's go-time; let's do this! Andi and I hit turbo-power: he assembles the beds and I assist in holding things when he asks me. I also dust the furniture, vacuum and make the beds with clean sheets and blankets.

New carpet! One of those things that isn't that expensive in the scheme of things, and makes me wonder why we didn't replace it a long time ago.  

Now that's done, it's on to unpacking the cabin bags still sitting by the back door. I'm starting to feel like all I've done today is pack and unpack bags! Check the time, and my step count: 8,840. I'll have no problem reaching 10,000 steps today. (I'm seriously obsessed with my Fitbit, can you tell?)

Andi asks me what's the plan for dinner, and my simple response is "I don't know, and I'm not cooking." Sunday night meals are tough to plan because we're usually pulling in from the cabin right at dinnertime. He offers to run to the closest grocery store deli to pick up food. I pour myself a glass of wine; I deserve it.

That makes two bathroom selfies today...

Andi's back with dinner. He picks up crispy chicken fingers, corn, mashed potatoes and fruit for Tory and Aden, rotisserie chicken and a salad for me, and meatloaf and mashed potatoes for himself. Tory proclaims it the best chicken she's ever tasted. So delicious, in fact, she couldn't even finish her favorite mashed potatoes. Two gold stars for you, HyVee deli!

Aden eats corn, and refuses all the rest. 

The kids tear around the house playing dress-up while I clean up the kitchen after dinner. Tory's dancing and twirling in the living room in her "beautiful princess dress, high heels and crown" and Aden's behind her dragging his blanket around like Linus from Peanuts. Andi's off taking a shower, I think. After dishes, I get the kids dressed in their pajamas and start to turn the lights down low for bedtime.

Books and bedtime for Aden. I rock him in the rocking chair for a few minutes and put him to sleep. He doesn't protest much; little dude just wasn't himself today. Andi sets up the humidifier in his room to help Aden's congestion. Judging by his barky cough, I'm guessing it's going to be a long night ahead.

Tory and I curl up in our room to read a few books before her bedtime. It's a bit earlier than her normal bedtime around 8:00pm, but she seems tired enough to call it a night.

Andi and I snuggle up and watch a few episodes of Bloodline on Netflix - a new mini-series we started watching this weekend that's pretty good!

I can't remember what time Andi and I fall asleep, but Aden wakes up coughing and crying around 10:00pm. I get him from his room and take him to the living room to sit in the rocking chair for a while. He's having a hard time breathing while laying down. We both fall asleep there until 11:30pm when I carry him back to his crib. He cries, and his voice sounds so hoarse. It pulls at my heartstrings, so I bring him to bed with me in the master bedroom. Andi doesn't love having the kids sleep with us, but I can't leave Aden to cry tonight.

Our night of sleep is a rough one -- Aden lays propped up on my chest when he's not tossing and turning between Andi and I. Not an ideal night of sleep, but I will say at this point in my parenting career I've learned to live with less.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Costa Rica: Days 7 & 8

It's quite evident my time with two extra pairs of hands has ended -- I haven't had a minute to myself since we returned home from our Costa Rican vacation to recap the last two days of our trip. So, here I am staying up way past my bedtime to finally check this to-do off my list.

Monday was our final full day at the beach. Our day played out much the same as the one before it -- beach or pool; what to do first? I could get used to that being the most difficult decision I make everyday!

The house we rented on the Villa Estival property was about 100 yards away from Playa Pietra. It wasn't a private beach, but the main access road was off the beaten path so you'd need to be a local or have specific directions to find it. We loved the seclusion, and didn't mind sharing the beach with local Costa Ricans who kept to themselves for the most part. It seemed most people came to the beach around Noon, which was even better because we were there by 8:00am and looking to take refuge from the sun by lunchtime.

That morning, Andi made everyone breakfast in our kitchen -- eggs, toast and fruit -- and the five of us dined together on our patio with breathtaking views of the ocean in the distance. The pineapple in particular was so deliciously juicy there; I could've eaten a whole bowl of it every morning.

Andi and I decided to take the kids to the beach after breakfast, and Janie opted to stay back at the house and relax. It was so convenient to throw on our swimming suits, toss a beach bag over our shoulders and GO! Living on the beach is definitely a future dream of mine. We're all so happy there. Sand, sunshine and big smiles = so much fun!

Though I have to say, Tory isn't a big fan of the ocean. She enjoyed building sandcastles and searching for beach treasures, but she wouldn't go near the water. Andi wanted Tory to swim with him in the ocean so badly. He tried coaxing her into the water by drawing a line in the sand and encouraging her to meet him half-way, but she wanted nothing to do with his plan. These two are so are alike it's crazy sometimes! It was a stare-down, and neither one would give the other an inch. Tory's feet were firmly planted in the sand.

I can't say I blame her. I'm more of a sandcastle-girl myself.

Aden, on the other hand, loved the ocean. He ran straight toward the waves the minute his feet touched the sand. "Here comes 'nuther one!" he shouted as waves barreled toward him. "Big one!" he'd giggle when they'd knock him over. Aden had a blast, but it sure gave this mama a heart attack. My little thrill-seeker will be boogie boarding by Age Three, I just know it.

Around lunchtime, the four of us headed back to the house for lunch and rest time. Janie offered to stay back with Aden while Andi, Tory and I drove to nearby Playa Portrero for an afternoon date. I felt bad leaving Janie behind again but she insisted, and I have to admit it was fun spending some one-on-one time with Tory.

We went to a little beachside restaurant and watched the birds fish off the coast while Tory ate a plate of French fries as big as her head and Andi and I split an order of blackened tuna. It was seriously HOT outside. One-hundred and two degrees, to be exact. My feet were sweating in my flip-flops! Andi and Tory wanted to grab ice cream after lunch (it was his vacation promise, after all), but we wanted to get back to the house and into the pool as quickly as possible. The three of us stopped by a little convenience store across the street for ice cream, bottled water and some pantry staples before making our way back to Janie and Aden.

The pool at Villa Estival was really nice. There was a bigger pool typically filled with older kids, and a smaller kids pool perfect for Aden and Tory. With their puddle jumper life jackets on, the kids were able to play semi-independently while Janie, Andi and I sat on the pool step nearby. We'd eat snacks and drink cocktails ... and life seemed pretty darn great.

Andi said he wanted to take all of us out for a nice dinner on our last night in Costa Rica. He picked a beautiful restaurant inside a fancy hotel on the beach, not far from our house at Villa Estival. We arrived right at sunset and stood together on the beach watching the sun dip below the horizon. It was beautiful.

The hotel property was beautiful, too - so chill and trendy. Tory and Aden had fun swinging on the rope swing while Janie, Andi and I took turns playing with them and sharing a pitcher of sangria. We practically had the place to ourselves, but I suspect that might've been because we were dining at 6:00pm (as you do when you're traveling with little kids). Our server was adorably sweet when he repeated our order back to us in English, and then Spanish, so we could try to learn the language. We shared tuna tartare, beef sirloin and the fresh fish of the day. Best of all, we were home with the kids tucked snugly into their beds by 9:00pm.

Tuesday (Day 8) was our last morning of vacation. Andi and I took the kids to the beach again after breakfast, and then hit the pool for one last dip before we left our spot in paradise around 11:00am.

Our drive to the airport was a short 45 minutes long. Unfortunately, both Tory and Aden fell asleep in the car on the way there so I knew there was nearly a 0% chance they'd sleep on the plane. Tory was a good little traveler as always, but Aden was another story on the trip home. We carried both their car seats onto the plane to make them more comfortable but he screamed "I'm stuck!" most of the second half. Tres amusing. It made the end of vacation even more difficult to swallow.

We had a wonderful time in Costa Rica! There hasn't been a day since our trip I haven't wished we were back on its warm beaches enjoying one another's company. Until next time ...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Costa Rica: Day 6

Sunday was our first full day of the sunny, beach portion of our Costa Rican vacation. Right away, we had a tough decision to make: Beach or pool? Decisions, decisions ...

First things first -- Andi made Janie, the kids and I eggs, toast and fried potatoes for breakfast (we definitely missed the luxury of having breakfast prepared for us every morning!), then we pulled on our swimming suits and hit the beach. Costa Rica has been surprisingly uncrowded wherever we've been, and Piertra Beach is no exception. With low tide, we had the wide open beach practically to ourselves. The kids were giddy with excitement over the whole scene: sandcastles, water and sunshine.

Interestingly, we've hardly seen any international tourists in this area. All of the other houses at Villas Estival (there are 11 separate villas on the property) are occupied with vacationing Costa Rican families. It's perfectly fine, other than a stark reminder that our family needs to learn to Spanish if we're planning to travel extensively in this part of the world.     

The beach outside our villa, Playa Piertra, has beautiful black sand. The access road isn't clearly marked, so it's virtually private and in pristine condition. There are hardly any rocks or sticks in the sand, and the view is spectacular. We're fortunate to have such a great place to spend our days.

As a parent, I never grow tired of viewing Tory's signature or cute little drawings. She spent quite some time writing all of our names in the sand.

Down at one end of the beach, we spotted 11 howler monkeys eating leaves in a tree. They seemed too preoccupied with their meal time to care about us, and were hanging low enough for the kids to see them. I imagined seeing monkeys in the trees during our visit here, and I'm so happy we were able to view them in their natural habitat.

Andi, Janie, Tory, Aden and I headed back to the house around lunchtime. We made Aden peanut butter toast, buttered noodles and fresh fruit to eat; a quick meal was much needed before meltdown-mode set in. When Aden went down for an afternoon nap, Janie curled up on one of the big outdoors beds with a book and Andi and I took Tory into town for a little day date.

The three of us drove about 15 minutes away to Playa Flamingo. This area was much more toursty with hotels, shops and restaurants. The beach was packed with peddlers selling their trinkety treasures and both locals and travelers sunning themselves on the beach. It had a good beach vibe, street dogs ran wild and the roads were dirty and bumpy. This was like the Costa Rica I'd envisioned.

Andi picked Cafe del Manglar for lunch, and the three of us found a table under the shaded awning. We sipped our choice beverages (an orange juice smoothie for Tory and local Imperial beers for Andi and I) and listened to a Costa Rican musician serenade us on his guitar. For lunch, Andi and I dined on fresh ceviche with house-made fried plantain chips and a caprese salad while Tory enjoyed a hamburguesa and fries. The food was very good here, and the beach-view ambiance was excellent.

After lunch, we scoured the town to find a popular gelato shop the owner of our house at Villa Estival raved about in her communications with Andi. We finally found it in a deserted strip mall off the beaten path. The shop was called 0039 Heladeria Italiana and didn't look like much from the outside, but both the strawberry and Oreo cookie gelato were delicious. The three of us sat outside in the blistering sun and enjoyed our cool treat before heading back to the house to meet up with Aden and Grandma Janie. 

Aden woke up from his afternoon nap a few minutes after we arrived back home, so the five of us decided to head to the pool. The cool water felt amazing under the blazing hot sun! We brought the kids' Puddle Jumper life jackets along to use at the pool and the beach, and they proved to be well worth it. Prior to our trip, I was so worried about Aden having open access to water. He's taken swimming lessons for two years, but I was nervous one of us would take our eyes off him for one second, and .... anyway, life vests for both Tory and Aden gave everyone a boost of confidence around the water.

The five of us walked down to our very own Playa Piertra to catch another amazing sunset. This evening, I smartened up and kept Tory and Aden in their swimming suits after the pool. There's no casually strolling along the beach for them; Aden runs full-steam toward the ocean the minute he spots it. Tory's actually afraid of the ocean and refuses to go near the waves, but the black sand on Playa Piertra means every inch of us is dirty after a visit there.

As we walked along the beach admiring the setting sun, Tory and Aden made friends with a group of local children there. The locals ooh'd and ahh'd over Aden's blond hair, and started to whistle when one of the little girls came up to shake Aden's hand. The kids may not have been able to communicate by the same verbal language, but the smiles and laughter they exchanged was enough to get their message across.

Andi picked up take-out from Sol y Mar and brought it back to our place for dinner that night. Someday we'll have the chance to enjoy nice family dinners in restaurants, but for now it's much easier to get food to-go and eat in the comfort of our own house. Andi ordered fresh salad, grilled fish and chicken and roasted vegetables for all of us. We had to eat fast before Aden ate it all for himself!

Today was a wonderfully relaxing day at the beach. I thoroughly enjoyed our time near Lake Arenal in Costa Rica's rain forest, but I'm absolutely loving the sun and the sand in Potrero.