Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My ADHD Boys Have My Attention... and Still Need Medication

Earlier this week, a friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook. I really like this friend and I didn’t want to start a fight, so I just responded to the post with, “Believe me, sometimes they really need the medication, too.”

There’s a huge movement on the Internet right now to talk about how ADHD is over-diagnosed and how ADHD medication is over-prescribed. Many commenters go to the extreme of telling you that ADHD isn’t even a real disorder; it’s just a matter of kids being kids and adults being unable to deal with their natural energy.

I can’t speak for every situation obviously (you know, kind of like the way those other people maybe shouldn’t try to speak for every situation), but as a mom of two boys diagnosed with ADHD I can tell you from my perspective that yes, ADHD is absolutely a real disorder. And yes, sometimes medication is absolutely called for.

Boys are energetic naturally. They need to have the chance to run and play and get their energy out through physical movement, and too often they’re stuck sitting in a desk for long stretches of time. It’s perfectly normal for kids to get restless when they feel cooped up. But let’s talk about the difference between that kind of restlessness, and a true ADHD inability to hold still.

Boy #2 is seven and full of energy. Full of energy to the point that when he tries to sit still, some part of his body will start to involuntarily jerk and twitch, even when I can watch him and see that he’s trying so hard to hold still as he was asked. Maybe his feet start to tap in place as he sits at his desk. Maybe his head begins to bob to an internal rhythm. Maybe his fingers need to fiddle with his pencil and crumple his papers.

The longer he has to hold still, the worse the fidgets get, to the point that he quite literally falls out of his chair at school. This happens almost every day, and often multiple times per day. When he’s trying to play a video game, his hands and eyes are fully involved with the game, yet his lower body acts as if it’s completely independent of the rest of him as his feet dance and kick wildly and without his conscious direction.

He can’t even stop moving as he sleeps. He kicks and tosses and turns and rolls. A full-size bed doesn’t provide enough space for this seven-year-old child, and every night we could hear the solid thump and Boy #2 rolled himself right off the bed and onto the floor during his sleeping gyrations. Eventually, we moved his mattress onto the floor so he wouldn’t have so far to fall. Now he can be found in every corner of the room at some point during the night, but at least he’s not banged up from hitting the floor.

Boy #1 is nine and he’s a little less extreme as far as the physical activity goes. He gets twitchy and fidgety like his brother, but has it a little more under control. Where his ADHD really shines is in the racing of his mind and his mouth. That boy can and will talk your ear off about any of the hundred and one things that catch his attention in a fifteen-minute conversation. And it doesn’t stop. Not ever. Earlier this year I was his captive audience on a six-hour drive full of non-stop darting from Topic 1 to Topic 2 to Topic 3 and back to Topic 1, but only for a moment because that reminds me of Topic 4, and hey have you ever thought about Topic 5, 6, 7, and 8? After four hours or so I was ready to tearfully beg him to play a video game or watch a tv show for a few minutes so I could have a tiny break.  But it’s compulsive for him. He talks when he doesn’t even mean to talk. He talks right up until the moment he finally falls asleep.

Now picture these two boys – one who can’t stop moving and one who can’t stop talking or focus on a single thought for more than a few moments – in elementary school. They love their teachers. They don’t want to be in trouble for breaking the rules. And they literally cannot follow the rules because their bodies and brains won’t cooperate.

Next, picture homework time. They’ve had time to decompress after school and run around and be kids, but now it’s time to settle down and focus on a worksheet. Boy #1 is talking a mile a minute about several unrelated topics while restlessly moving from couch, to chair, to desk, and back again. Boy #2 is rolling around on the floor, kicking his feet in the air, and twitching his shoulders while he tries to look at his worksheets. And what might be ten to twenty minutes of homework for other kids in the class takes an hour or two because Boy #1 can’t stop talking long enough to focus on the work at hand and Boy #2 can’t stop moving long enough to even look at it.

They need discipline! That’s what we hear. If you were just better parents, this wouldn’t be a problem. Remember that meme from the beginning of the post? Apparently, my kids just need my attention.

Well, what if I told you that my child HAS my attention. In fact, I found a new job where I could work at home so that I could provide more attention. At homework time the boys have at least one and often both parents sitting with them and helping them through. Outside of homework we take them to museums and on trips to see the world around us, we look at books and watch shows with them, we encourage their interests.

At school they have dedicated teachers who are giving them attention and doing everything they can to help these boys focus and learn. We go to meetings with those teachers and discuss what else we can do at home and at school. There are weeks that I am in contact with the teachers multiple times per day. Believe me, we are paying attention.

And with all of that attention, they still need help. Because Boy #1 should be able to stop talking when he wants to. And Boy #2 should be able to hold still if he wants to. So both boys see doctors who have prescribed medication to help them focus.

It helps. It doesn’t turn them into perfectly-behaved little Stepford children. Boy #1 still has a LOT to talk about and has to be encouraged to slow down and focus. Boy #2 still wiggles around, but hopefully he stays in his chair instead of falling to the floor.

And maybe mom and dad feel a little more sane and in control, too, because the wild behavior is no longer pushing them over the edge. Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute, states, “Evidence of the past decade is that what improves parent-child interactions helps a child with ADHD do better.”
Just that little bit of help for your child from the medication can vastly improve your parent-child interactions, because you’re no longer spending all your energy just trying to catch their attention for a moment. Instead, you can spend time actually engaging with your child, not just trying to moderate their behavior.

So yes, my boys have my attention, but they also need their medication. I’m grateful to have the option.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

Sometimes I forget that my brain is messed up and I can't actually handle everyday life. I can go for a week or so at time sometimes feeling pretty normal, and then something minor happens that throws me into a complete anxiety-disorder tizzy and makes me feel like a crazy woman again.

For example, today; when a friend from church (LOVELY woman, and I like her a lot, really) managed to trigger a full-blown panic attack by combining three of my anxiety triggers in 5 short minutes.
  1. Drop-by Visit: My house is generally in a disgraceful state. Not dirty, necessarily (thanks to the wonderful and affordable Miss Nicole), but always cluttered with kid debris. I hate to have people see it that way, so before someone comes over I rush around like a madwoman to pick up. When someone pops by without notice, I have to just let them in... And I know they probably don't care. That my friends who drop by are not actually going to judge me for having laundry spread all over the living room. But it's seriously a huge issue for me and stresses me way, WAY out.
  2. Phone Calls: The reason this lovely woman was forced to do a drop-by is because I don't answer the phone when she calls. And I don't call her back when she leaves a message. As she has done probably a dozen times over the last few months as she was trying to catch up with me during our busy traveling summer. It's nothing personal. I don't answer the phone for anyone else, either. I'll pick up for the school, work (most of the time) and Aaron. Otherwise, can't make myself do it. Another completely unreasonable fear, but I just cannot bring myself to answer the phone most of the time. And forget returning a call. I hate to even listen to the messages... I don't know what I think is going to happen, but fight or flight response kicks in every time the stupid thing rings.

    So as she was leaving, my surprise visitor added, "I'll give you a call!" I kind of laughed it off and tried to humorously explain that I probably wouldn't answer. I think she thought I was kidding, because she said again, "I'll call you later this week - pick up when you see it's me!" For almost anyone else, I could just tell her to Facebook or email me instead, my usual coping strategy... but since she doesn't have Internet, that doesn't work.

    So there I am, already stressed out from a drop-by visit and threatened phone calls, when she adds the disastrous third issue and asked me to...

  3. Leave the House and See People: There's a reason I work from home, and it's not just because I prefer to never wear shoes. I have plenty of days where the idea of having to see people and make conversation is just too much to handle. Again, it's nothing against you - you're wonderful people. I just don't want to talk to you. Or see you. Or be anywhere in your vicinity.

    Going to church on Sundays is a major undertaking, because there are so many people there that I might need to talk to. But at least that's a pretty structured environment and I can usually manage to chat with someone for a couple of minutes and then a lesson or song starts and naturally puts an end to it. Or maybe I'll go and NO ONE will want to talk to me. And somehow, in a way that makes no logical sense at all, that would be even worse. But at least Aaron is generally there with me, so I have a good buffer.

    Going to the store where I might bump into someone is tougher, because then I might have to have an awkward conversation in the store aisle. (Again, nothing against you guys that I always bump into at Target; you are awesome... this is totally all me!)

    And hardest of all is a party of some kind. The whole POINT of the party is to see people and chat and mingle. No structure. No buffers (because Aaron is ALWAYS working and can't go with us). And I KNOW that if I manage to go, I'll probably have fun and enjoy myself, but I can NOT force myself out the door to attend. Even when I have every intention and have been psyching myself up for it, can't do it. So the church BBQ this Saturday... probably not going to happen for me.

So yep, she dropped by, told me she would call me later, and asked me to attend a party. How dare she be such a kind and caring human being!?!

Definitely makes me feel like a nut that a couple of nice gestures drove me to a full-on, medication required panic attack. *sigh*

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Costa Rica Recap: Day 13

It rained all night. Hard pounding rain. This morning the volcano is still completely shrouded in clouds. We never get to see it, darn it. The whole reason we made a one-night stopover in Arenal is because I wanted to see the volcano!

We do get a few good looks at Lake Arenal, which is beautiful. The view from our cabin would be gorgeous if we could see much of anything through the mist. There is a great little deck off the cabin that looks out at the lake and the volcano. It's still a really nice place to sit and the kids love playing on the deck and the little lawn surrounding the cabin.

The night was so humid and cool that all our clothes are still wet. We eventually dress in wet clothes because at least they're clean. When we drove up to the breakfast room, a dog blocked our path. Not at all unusual...there are dogs everywhere in Costa Rica; both strays and pets. You can rarely eat a meal at a soda (since most are open air) without a dog hanging around. This dog blocked our path into the parking area. He sat in the road with his back to us and wouldn't budge. I finally got out of the car and walked up to the dog and clapped to scare him out of the path. He startled and moved. As he moved to the side of the road, a gardener from the hotel came around the corner and mentioned "that dog, he don't hear very good" explaining why the dog hadn't moved when we approached. Ticos love dogs and would not chase him off or get rid of him for a little thing like deafness. They love cats even more - no wonder Aaron identified so readily! And cats are never left to be stray; they are very well-protected pets.

Ticos love kids even more. One if the things I love most about Costa Rica is how excited everyone is to see children. In the U.S.  walking into a restaurant with 4 kids means you see the hostess barely concealing her irritation and trying to figure out where to put us to bother people the least. And always the comments about how 4 kids is so many (implied, too many). In Costa Rica, entering anywhere with the kids results in cries of "ninos!!" "Oh so beautiful bebes!" "So lucky with your big family!" "Hola, papi y mami."

They're genuinely thrilled too see the kids and love them. They hug and kiss the children when we arrive or leave. Waitresses will pause to drop a kiss on top of one of the kids' heads as they pass by. It is awesome. Everyone here is so friendly already, and even more so to the kids.

Breakfast from the hotel restaurant is lovely. Toast and fresh preserves, fresh fruit that they plate and bring it to you - and by fresh,I mean it was probably picked this morning from the gardens behind the kitchen - and tipico Tico. The cheese was better than usual today.

 Aaron and Rylen took a short drive while the other kids ran wild at the cabin It was nice to have a small yard and nice patio for the kids to play. On Aaron's drive they saw a tree that had fallen overnight and the huge trunk was blocking the road. Road crews are diligent in Costa Rica. We have always seen them out first thing in the morning taking care of problems that came up overnight, like digging out ditches that have gotten blocked with debris, clearing small falls of rocks, mud, and plants, or out with machetes, weed whackers, and chainsaws clearing larger obstacles. Someone had taken care of the downed tree by cutting out a large section of the trunk... one lane wide for the two lane road, of course.

When they tried to come back to the cabin the road at the bottom of the hill was blocked by the gardener and his deaf dog. Aaron caught the dog's attention once and got him to move partially out of the way. The gardener then made the dog move the rest of the way. Before Aaron could drive forward - as soon as the gardener turned his back - the dog laid down in the road again. Apparently Rylen was done accommodating the dog at this point, since he cheerfully told Aaron "I guess we have run him over!" (They did not.)

We got everything packed up and got on the road again. This was just a one night stop on our way to the other side of the country. I had really hoped to get a good view of the volcano, but it had been so rainy and clouded the entire time that we never saw more than the lower slopes. Stopped for lunch at Soda Viquez. They remembered us from last night and greeted the children with cheek kisses and big smiles. 

Arrived at our hotel in late afternoon. It took some doing to find it; it is very secluded and tucked away behind hedges and gates. When we got there the gates were closed and I rang the bell. Annette and Sebastian came running out to open the gates and welcome us. Sebastian opened the gates and lifted some vines that were in danger of catching on the luggage rack on our rental. Sebastian even helped carry luggage to the cabin. To make our stay easier, Sebastien trimmed back the vines first thing the next morning.

They gave us a short tour... there's is a comfy lounge area...The only place to get Wi-Fi. Off the lounge area is the dining room attached to a very nice modern outdoor (mostly) kitchen. Annette and Sebastian have a nice two story section with a big deck as their private living quarters. There are gorgeous gardens all around with huge plants and beautiful flowers and statuary. Even a koi pond. All on the banks of Rio Blanco, a very picturesque river. Our cabin is along a gravel path through the gardens, located right next to the river. Unfortunately the swimming area we were hoping to play in had been destroyed by a recent storm.

Our cabin is rustic but lovely and well constructed. There is a decent size main room which has a huge king bed, a single bed, and a set of bunk beds. There's a small bathroom with a toilet (no flushing tissue, of course), a heating element shower that makes you worry just a little about electrocution but it's quite a nice shower overall, and a little sink and mirror with resident gecko. It is all decorated nicely and appropriately for the style of the cabin. The beds are quite comfy - probably the best we've had on this trip. There's a really nice deck with bench and chairs where you can sit outside and enjoy your surroundings.

There's no a.c., so in the afternoon it's really warm and humid. It would be nice to have a.c. at that time. But the many screened windows and the ceiling fan are quite effective during the night and it's cool and comfortable shortly after dark. And honestly, if there had been a.c. available, we would have had it turned on and the windows closed and we would have missed really experiencing the rainforest around us. With the cabin open to the outside as it is, you can hear the river roaring outside and the sound of birds, frogs and insects all around you.

When the rain comes it pounds madly on the tin roof and it's so cozy to lay in the comfy bed in the dark and listen to the rain and river and jungle noises. So in the end, the only thing I'd really change is the Wi-Fi access, which is available only in the lounge area.

While Aaron and I were finishing up check in with Annette and enjoying some ice water in the lounge, Sebastien took the kids to the gardens to pay ball with the dog - nice guy! After settling in, we went out to find some dinner. Because it's dark so early, it feels like it's super late when we leave, even though it's barely 7 pm. Sebastian lets us out the gates, lifting the trailing vines again. He cheerfully waved us on our way, letting us know that we should just honk when we return so he could come open the gates again. (Although we occasionally felt bad about calling them away from whatever they were doing and tried to minimize our ins and outs, they never gave the impression that it was a trouble or inconvenience.)

We tried to go into Guapiles to find dinner, but misunderstood the directions from Annette and got a little lost. We wandered around Guapiles for a while before finding our way back out to the highway and toward our hotel. We ended up at a restaurant only meters from the turnoff to the hotel. It was very tasty, though. We got back around 9 pm and honked as instructed (even though it felt rude) and Sebastian came out to admit us. He and Annette were relieved to see us, since they'd worried about us out on our own at night, but felt better when reminded that 1- we'd been in the country for a couple of weeks already and were used to getting around on our own, and 2- Aaron was a former resident and even familiar with Guapiles itself.

Back to the cabin and into bed before the rain started. The path was very dark, so Sebastian walked us back to the cabin with his flashlight.

Costa Rica Recap: Day 12

Transfer day, moving from Monte Verde to Arenal. We headed out a little after 8:00, planning to have breakfast before getting on the road. The soda where we'd planned to eat was closed and the kids couldn't agree on any soda in town so we decided to get on the road and catch breakfast in the next town, 10 or 15 km away. We were caught by surprise when a few km out of town all traffic cane to a halt. We could see road construction equipment at work a ways ahead but couldn't tell what was happening. A lady from the next car came back and let us know that the construction was to continue until 9:40... We passed the word asking when another car pulled up behind us.

We waited out the hour until the road reopened. When we were able to continue through, we realized that the heavy rains of the last few days had caused the hillsides to slough away, causing 5 or 6 mudslides that each covered part the small mountain road. The construction crews had scraped one lane clear through each of the slides... And then if course they opened the road to two way traffic and let the drivers jostle past each other in the narrow spaces.

road falling off the side of the mountain

a nice wide spot with room for cars to pass each other!

We made it down through the landslides and tried to stop for breakfast in the next town as planned, but nothing was open. By the time we found a soda it was closer to lunch than breakfast. But we had a tasty lunch while watching the World Cup soccer match between Costa Rica and Italy. It was so fun. The restaurant was packed with people watching the game. Everything basically just stopped while the game was on. The soda was right off a main highway, but there was no traffic. In the bar were delivery drivers who had paused their routes, moms and kids, a police officer, all kinds of people who had dropped everything to stop and watch the game. There's no event in the US to compare. The sense of comradery is incredible and so fun. The whole restaurant cheered or groaned together when watching the action. And when Costa Rica finally scored a goal, the soda exploded in celebration. People jumped to their feet and screamed in joy. Men hugged each other and danced in the aisles. It was all so exciting! We were jumping and cheering with everyone else. It was disappointing to have to leave without seeing the end of the game, but we needed to be on our way.

We tuned in to the game in the radio as we drove. It was hard to follow the action with the over-excited announcers speaking so fast. (I can understand quite a lot of Spanish, but it's a lot harder at high speed!) But we followed enough to know when time ran down and Costa Rica was the winner! They had beat Italy which was a huge upset! Cars around us were honking their horns. A little old lady ran out of her house waving a huge Costa Rica flag at the passing drivers in celebration. We could see people in sodas jumping up and down and dancing. A school had obviously been watching together because everyone was racing wildly around the schoolyard waving flags and waving overhead Costa Rica hats and t-shirts that they had whipped off. We honked and waved and cheered with everyone else.

It's a countrywide celebration that still continues. Hours later we're passing through very rural areas and also in small cities and everyone is celebrating. People are waving flags from cars and homes and cheering with anyone who drives past. It's a lot of fun!

We took a route through the back-country instead of taking the highway because Aaron wanted to see some of the towns along that route. He had a great time driving this road and commented that it was "freaking awesome for fun off-road driving." It was very bumpy and steep with lots of tiny bridges and tight curves. 4-wheel drive needed to make it through. Honestly, if you're going to do any exploring the country on your own, you need 4wd... And if you're not going to go out and do some exploring, don't bother getting a car, just take taxis and turismo buses.

Random t-rex statue alongside the road for some reason...

Along this route were lots of places where rains have sloughed off in small landslides, taking trees and bushes with it. Bridges are tiny and narrow, barely enough for one car. One in particular was nothing but rickety wooden planks that looked like it would collapse from a harsh look. Seriously, it didn't look like it was even nailed together - it looked like someone had just laid a few planks down and called it a day. I was nervous but Aaron drove right over with no qualms and it was just fine.

As we drove along one road next to the river we could see that the river was obviously swollen and running high. We eventually came to a bridge where an old man on a horse was standing guard. He told us that the bridge ahead was washed out and we would have to go back and take another route. We were fine with that; I mean, what else can you do when the bridge is unsafe? Just because it LOOKED intact from where we were didn't mean I was going to disbelieve the man warning us.

The man in a pickup truck ahead of us apparently did not take the news as well. He suddenly slammed his truck into reverse and stomped on the gas. He whipped back and around so fast that his rear wheels were literally inches from falling off the riverbank before he stomped on the brakes. His wheels sank into the mud and spun wildly, throwing clumps of mud into the river as the bank crumbled away beneath him. He finally got traction and lurched forward away from the river, then raced away. Aaron and I and the old man just watched the whole thing, mouths hanging open in astonishment at this little performance. Once he was gone, the old guy just kind of shook his head and then waved at us as we turned around much more sedately.

Following the alternate route given by the old guy, we easily find our way out to the highway and end the off-road adventuring for now. We're driving over several rivers - in Costa Rica it seems you cross a river every 5 minutes or so - and many of those are also swollen. Then we start seeing flooding in the fields next to the roads. Finally the water is up to and across the road and we have to drive through the river flowing over the road for a time. Quite a few houses flooded out.

water creeping higher on the road

and over the road

until we were basically just driving in the river
Stop signs are more of a suggestion than a reality for many Ticos.

Arrive Arenal. Beautiful area. Tons of flowers. So overcast that we actually can't see the huge Arenal volcano, even though we're right below it. Our hotel turned out to be about 20 km outside of town... long ways. Halfway is paved, the rest is Costa Rica standard rubble rumble. The room we reserved turned out to be it's own little cabin with a big bedroom - 2 queens 1 twin, kitchen, huge bathroom modern plumbing and giant shower. Very nice.

We drove out looking for dinner and couldn't find anything close, eventually drive all the way back to Fortuna. Since we are there, we go find a place call Soda Viquez which recommended by several of Aaron's Costa Rica connections. Definitely worth the effort of finding it - food and service were incredible.

Costa Rica lemonade (and Costa Rican lemons) are green like limes but taste like lemon
On the way back, missed a turn and drive through the jungle in the dark for a quite while before finding our way back to the room. Kind of a fun adventure on the crazy jungle roads in the dark. Luckily, we knew where we had missed the turn and actually knew where we were and basically how to get back, or it would have been more frightening than fun!

Kids early to bed, Aaron and I spent a while washing clothes for the next couple of days and hanging then you to dry overnight... we're out of clean clothes and weren't able to find a launderia today.

Finally to bed... Finally a comfy bed!!

Costa Rica Recap: Day 8

We started the day with a dip in the pool. We also spent some time chasing tiny crabs from our rooms. We stopped for batidos for breakfast and headed for Bagaces and the Llano de Cortez waterfall. 

Shortly after leaving Samara we were flagged down by a cop. Though Aaron has been very conscientious about obeying the speed limit, signs here are smaller and easier to miss. He was going about 20 Kmph over the limit. He was polite to the officer and explained that he had just missed the sign. It still looked likely that we would get a ticket until the officer complimented Aaron on his excellent Spanish and asked where he had learned it. When Aaron told him he had lived in Costa Rica a long time ago and learned Spanish then, the officer warmed up. He ended up letting us go with a warning. 

We drove a bit further and stopped for ice cream at Pops and then got back on the road. We hit a construction zone where the speed limit lowers to 30 kmh for a LONG stretch. Our car can barely even be forced to go 30, it's so slow... And at that speed everyone is blowing by us like we're standing still. Even upping it to 45 so we're under the 20 kmh where tickets become an issue, we're by far the slowest car on the road. Maddening, but not worth risking a traffic stop. 

As we pass the small city of Bagaces, we know we're getting closer to the waterfall. Our directions say to watch for a small sign 3 miles north of Bagaces. 3 *km* north we see the sign. It tells us that the waterfall is 8 km from the main road. We drive back about 1km and find the turnoff for the waterfall. A man wearing a shirt with the Bagaces city logo is standing next to the turnoff collecting donations to benefit Bagaces schools. Since the waterfall is on land owned by the city and its a good cause, we give a small donation. We even get a receipt, which makes it all feel more official. 

We continue down the road which is rocky and rutted but far from the worst road we've driven on during this trip. Before long we arrive at an open area for parking. A couple of guys have set up a stand selling coconut water. This is where they chop the top of a coconut and stick a straw in the center so you can drink the coconut water. They keep the coconut on ice and sell the cool pipa fria all over the place. We haven't tried it yet. 

When we elect not to purchase coconut water, the men inform us that we need to pay a fee to protect the car. Ugh. This again. This time we've already driven ask this way to reach Bagaces and paid the donation at the front, so we grudgingly pay the protection fee before slathering on the sunscreen and starting down the trail. This trail was no problem for the children, only a slight challenge to Aaron, and a trial for me. It's a dirt trail with lots of big rocks and large protruding tree roots. Between my bulk, my clumsiness, and my bad knees, it was a bit difficult to make the climb down, but I made it without incident. Brekken was a big helper. He helped me over the worst obstacles and was very carefully concerned with looking out for me. He's a sweetheart. 

Deceptively mild at the top of the path...

 The reward was the gorgeous view of the Llanos de Cortes waterfall. It was beautiful. Multiple strands cascading down a rock face covered in creeping greenery and falling into a clear shallow pool at the base. A sandy beach led into the pool. We had hoped to actually swim at the waterfall, but the water was cold! So we did some wading. Preston and Brekken managed to fall completely in multiple times, but didn't seem too bothered. 

The kids saw a basilisk lizard. The went to a quiet part of the pool behind some bushes. Brekken found as lizard and Preston went to investigate. It scared another lizard who ran away... across the top of the water! As Preston put it, "I never thought I would see that for real not on Wild Kratts." They spent a good 30 minutes scaring the lizards and making them run across the water. Quote from Preston "it made me happy." 

We could also see little fish swimming in the pool and lots of butterflies. One in particular seemed to really like the pattern on Rylen shorts and kept coming back to flutter around him. I really enjoyed sitting on a rock near the pool where a breeze blew the mist from the falls onto my overheated face. It was a lovely time and hard to drag the kids away... but we still had more plans for the day. 

Now the hard part, getting back up the path. Steps that felt uncomfortably high on the way down were even more intimidating to climb up. I was very grateful for various trees and rocks along the path to help pull myself up over the obstacles. Breathing hard and sweating like a draft horse, Aaron and Brekken had to help me up in several spots. Once I had to actually crawl up a rock ledge to continue up the path. 

I felt a LITTLE better about my extremely hot and sweaty state when we got in the car and realized that it was actually 106 degrees outside for our little hike. The climb down and up was rough, but worth it. 

Next to Liberia... a big city nicknamed the White City. They have McDonald's, Burger King, and all the rest... It didn't strike me as hugely different from a similarly sized American city. We looked for a place to eat there, but also like an American city it was very hard to find parking. We gave up on Liberia and headed for the beach towns nearby. We eventually found a lovely restaurant right on the beach and watched the sun set over the water while we ate. There was music playing and surf crashing and candles on the table and delicious food. It was very nice. The bathrooms we visited on the way out of the restaurant were the nicest we've seen since entering the country. 

Now for the drive back to Samara, once again in the dark, with crazy drivers and invisible pedestrians. When I get back to Colorado, the drivers are all going to seem so reasonable and sane. 

Ah, the sweet exhilaration of seeing someone get a well-deserved traffic stop! We were driving through a school zone - in Costa Rica the speed restriction applies at all times, not just in school hours. So there we are in a slow school zone, marked as no passing. We are behind an old motorcycle and going the speed limit of 40 kmh when the guy behind us gets impatient and pulls out to pass. As he is passing us, Aaron exclaimed in disgust because the guy behind the guy pulled out to pass, too. But suddenly the second car flipped on the lights. Transit police. :)

Costa Rica Recap: Day 11

To make up for the time lost to rainstorms yesterday, we got up early to get out and explore before the rainstorms hit in the afternoon. We drove to Monte Verde and Santa Elena reserves to see if there were good hikes for our family. As it turned out, the rangers shared that the paths were very muddy and rugged and not especially suitable for kids. There were some small paths that we could have done, but the entrance fees were as steep as the paths. It just wasn't worth it for the half mile of paths that would have been accessible to us.

Instead, we did some 4 wheeling through the forest on the almost invisible roads. As usual, Aaron would find the smallest, most obscure excuse for a trail and head off into the middle of nowhere. These roads were crazy! Nothing more than rocks and mud, steep ups and downs, incredibly bumpy, 4-wheel drive definitely required. It's not my favorite way to spend the day, but there's no denying that we got some truly incredible views from that outing. And Aaron and the kids loved it.

After our off-roading adventure, we visited the hummingbird gardens at Selvatura. Unlike most of the Selvatura attractions, this one is not only more reasonably priced at $5/person, but also a nice calm activity. The gardens are cool and shaded (Ticos were bundled up in jackets and scarves) and had lovely plants and trees and trickling water features along with many hummingbird feeders. There were so many hummingbirds! I have never seen so many in my life. So beautiful. Tiny ones the size of your thumb to large birds bigger than your fist. All of them darting back and forth from feeder to flowers and all around the garden. There were so many that there was a constant low-level hum from the wings. Several times birds zipped by so close that I could feel the wind from their passing against my cheeks. Tons of fat fluffy bumblebees eating from the feeders also. They were so busy eating that you didn't feel at all worried that they would take an interest in you.


We spent probably an hour entranced by the huge variety of beautiful little birds. Most of the time we were the only ones in the garden. Well worth the entry fee.

After the hummingbirds we went to some butterfly gardens. There are at least 3-4 options for butterfly gardens in Santa Elena and Monte Verde, but the one we visited was really excellent. It had a couple of kilometers of paths through 4 butterfly habitats. A free guide took us through the full park... about 1.5 hours. The butterflies were beautiful as well and fluttering everywhere around us. It was hard to get pictures of them, but everywhere you looked you saw more.

The kids also really loved the nature center, where our tour guide Michael showed them lots of interesting beetles, insects, and spiders.

After lunch at an Argentine cafe, the plan had been to take a short rest at the hotel and then visit a rainarium (frog and amphibian exhibit). Once back at the hotel the kids immediately headed off to hike the trails around the cabin. Brekken decided to take a shortcut back which left Rylen with cuts all up and down the backs off his little legs. (Poor kid also fell off his chair at lunch and banged his head.) By the time he was all bandaged up, the rain had arrived. We waited it out and when it was still raining at 7 pm we opted to give up on the rest of the plans. Aaron and Haley made a grocery stores run to grab something for dinner and we made an early night of it.

Lying in bed after the rain stopped you could hear that it was still a very windy night. You can hear the approach of every gust of wind because there are so many leaves to rustle with the movement of the air. And when the rain comes it's incredibly loud... It hits all those leaves, each drop with a burst of sound, multiplied by thousands as drops continue to fall. If you're in a traditional Tico house with a tin roof, the sound of the rain drumming above you is like sitting next to the drummer in a high school band who is convinced that continuous drum rolls are the way to go. It's so loud that you are almost shouting just to be heard by the person sitting next to you. It's perfect for napping or sleeping though.