Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Coming to America

Happy New Year! After a relatively computer-free two weeks, I’m ready to share the scoop on our first trip back to the United States after moving to Central America.

The flight up was, unfortunately, eventful. As we sat on the runway in San Jose and heard “Is there a doctor on the plane?” we knew the day would be long. The flight crew had to call the paramedics for a passenger in back which caused us to miss our connection in Atlanta. After being in the air from Atlanta for about 30 minutes, we turned around due to “minor electrical problems.” I’m relatively sure things weren’t as minor as they led us to believe, seeing that we circled Atlanta and then saw a plethora of fire engines and ambulances on the runway awaiting our descent.

Anyway, we finally caught yet another flight to Chicago and made it to our hotel (and my parents!) around 10:30. Almost immediately Dan and I headed to the Walgreens nearby to buy knit caps for the girls and plenty of snack food we’ve been missing.

The American Girl Place was a jam-packed three floors and incredible. The kids gleefully shopped for Christmas presents, and Lauren even got the new Julie doll from the 1970s. (It’s weird to be old enough to be a historical character!) The AGP café was beautifully decorated—a young girl’s dream restaurant. My dad was so happy to be surrounded by all his girls (and two dolls, too), and Erin and Lauren were in awe of the entire experience.

We did some more shopping, eating (and eating!), and relished walking around a festive Chicago, lit up with Christmas decorations at every turn. And snow! We woke up around six one morning (hard to break that Tico-time habit) and just lay in bed, watching big flakes fall outside our window amidst neighboring skyscrapers.

La Crosse
Speaking of snow…Wisconsin had the fourth highest December snowfall on record—we were thrilled! The girls loved sledding down the hill in my parents’ backyard, especially Lauren, who was out there nearly every day. It was about time my kids discovered what sledding really is about. Lauren set several distance records on the golf course hill and she really flew! She suffered a bad scrape/bruise with swelling on her face from crash in the snow, but she kept going. I went a few times and got some great laughs watching my dad, brother, and husband out there too. They even crossed the golf course at one point and went down the hill on the other side.

One afternoon we went to the Sweet Shop with my parents—an old-fashioned malt shop where everything is homemade. I remember going there as girl with my dad and getting giant caramel suckers and then going to the train station to watch the trains roll in and out. Anyway, the place has been open since 1921 and not much has changed. They sell chocolate-covered cinnamon sticks that are the best. Thankfully they had some in the case the day we went because they sell out very quickly around Christmas, and I had been craving this treat. The man we talked to (who has worked there for 30 years) said they had dipped 14,000 sticks since the beginning of November. You wouldn't believe it in this little bitty shop. So good!

Did I really just write a whole paragraph about the Sweet Shop? I shouldn’t be surprised—my cousin asked Dan and me what we miss most about the US and without hesitation we replied in unison: food.

In Dan’s hometown we spent some nice time with his family (unfortunately missing one of his brothers, but everyone else was there). There was a full house for the delicious Sunday dinner Dan’s mom made—lots of kids, too!

One afternoon we did a little shopping and rode around with Dan’s dad trying desperately to find a pink Favre jersey for me. (My brother-in-law and his girlfriend finally did get one that fits Erin—she loves it and wore it Christmas Day). I’m going to have to order the jersey, but I did get a pink Packers hat and T-shirt for Christmas. Yippee!

Of course we stopped at Taco John’s numerous times on our vacation in both Marshfield and Onalaska (is anyone shocked by this news?) and even brought some home for lunch for Dan’s mom one afternoon.

There was a fantastic snowfall the day after we arrived in Marshfield—a whopping amount, well over a foot. It was so beautiful (though it did knock out the TV reception and we missed watching the Packers game). I volunteered to go outside and dig out the animals in the manger scene on the lawn. It felt great to breathe the winter air and feel a little sting of snow on my legs and face. As much as I’m enjoying the current climate here, I know I’m a northern girl at heart. You can take the girl out of Wisconsin…

We were back in La Crosse for Christmas. It was a wonderful, memorable holiday—I saw a lot of family members and got to spend quite a bit of time with my brother and sister-in-law, which really made it even more special. The girls had a super sleepover with their aunt and uncle—pizza at Chuck E Cheese, shopping for a few cherished presents, and staying up too late watching movies.

There is so much else I could blog about our time in La Crosse, but these are probably things more special to me than interesting to anyone else: euchre craziness with Mom and Dad, working on a seemingly impossible puzzle with Dad and my cousin, watching football (and more football!), cooking with my mom, enjoying Friday Night Fish (great Wisconsin tradition), spending Christmas Eve church service with my whole family… it was a wonderful vacation.

Home again
Unfortunately, our flight home was eventful (sounds like the beginning of this blog). We spent eight hours in the Atlanta airport following yet another missed connection. The good news is that we all got first class seats for the four-hour trip back to Costa Rica—first class makes everything so much better, especially on New Year’s Eve. And Lauren got to sit in the cockpit and wear the pilot’s cap!

Finally, we saw lots of fuegos artificiales (fireworks) from the airplane as we descended into CR around 10pm. Dan and I stood in our open doorway on New Year’s Eve (perfect weather!) and saw fireworks in every direction, including directly in front of our house (literally a few feet from our front door). It was a big celebration that lasted for a couple of hours, and as we lay on our bed, exhausted, we enjoyed the soft breeze and listened to the music, parties, and kabooms—and it felt good to be home.


RMosteller said...

Good to have you back online! I thought of you guys often over the holidays and knew you must be soaking it all up more than usual. Glad to hear that Lauren has Julie. It is strange to be imortalized as a doll. Audrey says that we're hysterical characters now! Julie's on her bday list... Now that you're back home, you can start planning that zip line canopy tour, right?? :-)

Manic Mom said...

Sounds like an awesome trip! Sorry the flights were 'eventful,' but glad you made it back home safe and sound! Happy New Year!