Three countries, 7200 pounds, lots of suitcases and yet another new continent. Time for a quick review of the last twelve months!
They say the third time's the charm, and we proved it in January with our first ever (successful) family ski vacation. The key? Having Erin's parents along to keep Kyler entertained while the rest of us went skiing. The Austrian alps in January? Gorgeous! Hot chocolate on top of a snowy world, before yet another slide back down the hill? It just doesn't get much "besser" than that! Jad celebrated his seventh birthday (and Kevin his... more than seventh) in our little mountain hideaway while we were there. Back home in Prague, we got snow. Lots of snow. Igloo building snow, in fact. If it's going to be cold, it might as well snow, right?
We liked Austria so much that we went back in February. This time via train, and this time, unfortunately, without babysitters. Austria's museums, aquariums, Sri Lankan restaurants and... pharmacies make it a great place to come back to! We've found that a truly "bonding" family vacation is one that starts with one sick kid, and finishes up with three. With a hotel room and pharmacies tying them all together!
We celebrated Easter on a hilltop back in Prague, and then rounded out the month of April by joining in a truly Czech tradition. A hockey game! We enjoyed watching the action on the ice. But even more, we relished finding one of the very few public places where Kyler could be as loud as he wanted... and not be heard!April was a month of Very Important Visitors. When you work at a US Embassy overseas, the first one was truly a presidential-sized job... yet another visit of POTUS (President of the United States of America) to Prague! No sooner had we bid Air Force One a fond farwell than the real important visitors arrived - Kevin's parents. A little icelandic volcano with a cute name (say "Eyjafjallajökull" three times fast) became our good friend during this visit. The volcanic ash paralyzed flights all through Europe. But this isn't a bad thing when you have grandparents on the ground where you want them to be by the time the flights are frozen!
We then put the volcanic ash behind us and headed west - to the south of France, to be precise. Kevin's cousin not only found, but married a lovely French lady, and we got join in the celebrations (by way of a fourteen hour drive)! Danna discovered dancing, and grooved the night away under the disco ball while her brothers snoozed in the playroom and her parents enjoyed the pleasures of French cuisine. France was lovely - but spending time with Kevin's uncle, aunt, cousins and new French extended family was even better. We even got to talk politics... in French (over croissants, of course!)
We had just enough time in May to celebrate Danna's sixth birthday before starting to pull up roots in Prague. 7200 pounds was the magic number. The limit within which we're required to compress our lives every three years as we travel around the world. It's nice in a way. Call it a periodic forced "Spring Cleaning." It was our chance to look at what you have, and decide what's really important to keep around (and what's not). We sold, we donated, we tossed... and then we shipped, hoping to see this stuff when we arrived in Costa Rica months later!
June brought goodbyes to Prague, and hellos to Portland Oregon! June's a great time to be in the Pacific Northwest, and we fell in love with the place all over again. With family in the area, the month was marked with curry nights, trout fishing, real life cowboys, cheese pizza and plenty of "cousin time" with Kevin's brother and his family. Kyler got to meet his great grandparents for the first time.
In July, we headed back east... but only as far as Oklahoma. Yet more cousin time, a small-town fourth of July parade, and Kyler's third birthday - in his birthplace, no less! We also did our part to help the American economy, in preparation for moving back to the 110 volt side of the world. To round off our time in America, we took advantage of willing babysitters and flew to Boston for the reunion of Erin's high school from Amman, Jordan.
August brought our spashdown in San Jose, Costa Rica... where it rained. And rained. And rained some more. For at least 40 days and 40 nights. No arks - but plenty of potholes, floods, landslides and the random cow or two roaming down the street. Lots of changes - new school, work, language, food and culture. Oh, and did I mention the rain yet?
Looking for some excitement in September, we headed to an active volcano, and explored the type of things that bring tourists to Costa Rica - lush rain forest, exotic animals and bridges hung in the treetops.
October. Let's just skip October for now. Leave it to say we invested heavily in Costa Rican
health care and learned fancy Latin words like "pneumonia" and "bronchitis" (maybe they're Greek words?). In between the visits to the doctors offices though, we did squeeze in some more Costa Rican flora and fauna.
We finally found the famed Costa Rican beaches in November, when we escaped to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast - only three hours drive away, despite landslides having taken out the country's only highway the month before. Surfing, sand castles and Gallo Pinto at the "beach shack," along with the best gelato in Costa Rica (so far) made for a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend!
So far, December has featured sheep, stars and a chorus of singing angels at our church's Christmas Production. Jad passed his first ever Tae Kwondo exam, and we imported some some wise parents from the north - bearing gifts. Like ham! And M&M's! We can't figure out who's having more fun - the kids or their "Tayta and Jiddo!" (Erin's parents).
Which brings us right up to date. To all of our friends and family around the world, a very Merry Christmas! May this be a season of joy and peace, wherever you may be!