Thursday, December 15, 2011

Annual Santa Party

Every year, our company throws a holiday party for the kids where they all get to say HI to Santa. It's one of the few family traditions we have. This year, Ethan was finally too old to want to come along so he sat it out (and end of an era!); things change a lot when you're 13. :)

The three other boys, on the other hand, had a great time, meeting and greeting Santa and his elves. Well, mostly anyway. Jasper cried hysterically until Santa handed him a present; then, he figured out it was worth the horror of sitting there. Ah, the joys of the holidays!

Jasper - from tears to thanks!

Xavier - loved every minute! He was the only kid to give Santa a big hug.

Graeme - he was hamming it up the entire time. We had to ask him to tone it down; this kid needs to be in movies!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Summer Strawberries

I'm backtracking in my storytelling a little because I found this photo of Graeme that I just LOVE to death.

Back in June, we took the boys to Swanton Farm in Pescadero (on the coast) to pick strawberries. They had a blast, even Jasper, who had to be strapped down to his stroller because he is too crazy to let loose on a strawberry patch (poor kid!). They did a great job berry-picking! Check out the picture of me with the boys and notice Jasper helping himself to an early (unpaid) strawberry.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jasper Turns Two

Well, our baby isn't much of a baby anymore, even if I still call him that. I'm likely to call him my baby even when he's already had babies of his own!

Where does all the time go?! Jasper turns two today. As Rodney says, he's two going on four, trying to keep up with all his older brothers. He's changing and growing every day, which is so wonderful to watch, but I have to admit that there is a part of me that dreads all this growing up business.

Here are some photos of the birthday boy at his party this past Sunday. We did another joint party with his cousin Jack, who was born a day before him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Costa Rica 2011: Days Six, Seven, and Eight

Day Six: Kayak and Snorkeling to Chora Island in Samara
Samara was a really small town, not a lot of tourists, and not much to do, but the beach was two blocks away and so beautiful. Ethan and I woke up early to grab our breakfast then we headed on out to the beach and spent the entire morning there. Ethan was body surfing and I was partly guarding our bags and partly plucking rocks and shells from the shore.

After lunch, we lazed around waiting for what we thought would be another ride to our next adventure. Turns out, we were being picked up to walk back to the same beach to grab our kayaks. Ethan and I shared one and our guide had his own. See the photo on the left below? The island on the left is Isla Chora (Chora Island) and that's where were heading. Kayaking is fun, but it definitely takes a little practice, We were out of practice so it took us about forty-five minutes to get there. I bet our guide could have easily made it out there in half the time.

We walked around the island a little when we got there and relaxed a little before heading out to snorkel. There was a big group of teens there from all over who were apparently in Costa Rica teaching English. When we started to head out to snorkel, Ethan started to get too much water in his mask so he decided to head back while I ventured on with our guide. The water was really choppy and the tides were wild so there wasn't much fish to see, but the ones we did see were very impressive. Plus, it really was just fun to snorkel. There is a calm when you are in the ocean like that and you can't hold conversations and all you concentrate on is swimming and looking, swimming and looking.

When we finally returned to the island, Ethan had already worked his way to hanging out with the young English teachers and was helping the boys in that group with their hermit crab battles in the sand. The island was teeming with hermit crabs. There were also a lot of iguanas in the trees, some of whom were pretty brave and would head down to eat the scraps of fruit people would leave behind.

Day Seven: Trip to San Jose
After waking early to breakfast, we waited around for checkout and another long drive into the main city, San Jose. I think the best part of the trip was the fact that we got another driver who only spoke in Spanish. I felt a little bad for Ethan not understanding, but he really didn't mind since he spent most of these drives asleep on my lap anyway.

San Jose was the worst part of our trip. It was full of people, loud, dirty, and just well, yucky. It was odd/sad that you could tell you were in the city from all the recognizable American stores/fast food joints all over.

Our hotel was old, but was nice enough and it was the biggest of all the rooms we stayed in. It reminded me of really old houses in Manila. Ethan didn't want to stay in and eat dinner at the hotel restaurant so we decided to venture out towards the city. I should've been suspicious of our neighbourhood when we spied a "sexy bar" (a men's club) behind our building. We made a couple of wrong turns, but ended up right in the middle of everything. Interesting, to say the least. We did find a nice restaurant to eat at, where we splurged on our last vacation meal.

When we walked back to our hotel, we got a little turned around and missed our turn. On one street we walked on, there was an Amazonian woman headed our way dressed to the nines in heels and tight clothes. I was wondering to myself if she was not a man in drag, she was so tall. Then, as she passed us up, another woman in uber sexy clothing (if you consider wearing only nylons and underwear on your bottom half to be "clothing") was walking ahead of us. It was only at that point that I finally realized we had strayed into the city's red light district. Ahhh, what a way to end our trip, with me exposing my 13-year old to San Jose's "ladies of the night." At any rate, we had a good laugh then hightailed it on out of there.

If I ever come back here, I plan to skip a stay in San Jose if possible. If not possible, I may not leave my hotel room. Hahahaha!

Here's the best view of San Jose I can offer...

Day Eight: Flying Back Home
We had such a blast and cannot wait to come back. Maybe I can even convince Rodney to buy a house here - did I already mention this? I'm a little stuck on this thought if you couldn't already tell.

Costa Rica 2011: Days Five and Six

Day Five: Selvatura Canopy Ziplines
Monteverde is the place where I really end up falling in love with Costa Rica. It is so beautiful! I never knew it, but it was founded by Quakers from the US in the 1950s who were pacifists avoiding the draft into the Korean war. Apparently, a lot of Americans retire here. Daydream...

The view off our room's balcony is quite amazing (see photo below). I'm amazed we even wanted to leave the room at all, but we did. A photo of our favourite restaurant during the whole trip is shown below, of Restaurante Maravilla.

Today is the day we headed to the Cloud Forest for some ziplining. True to form, Ethan napped on my lap in the van on the way there. Good for him as he was well-rested for the 12 ziplines that we did, some short, some long, all of them very awesome. We were harnessed and gloved and would zip along these lines above the rainforest canopy. It was pretty misty and if you notice any "freckles" on our faces in the photos below, that's from the rainforest dirt raining down on us. The last zipline we did was a tandem one, where we zipped down the line together so we were speeding pretty fast and it felt the scariest to me.

At the end of all the ziplines was a 26-foot "Tarzan Swing" where you are essentially hoisted off a platform to swing above the canopy. I nearly fell off the platform before it was time to jump, but I really enjoyed the frightening yet exhilirating plunge. I screamed my ass off. Hahahaha!

Day Six: A Little Monteverde Before Heading to Samara
We got up early for breakfast and headed out into town for a bit of exercise and distraction before we were being picked up for the long ride to Samara. Of course, we ate lunch at Restaurante Maravilla and hung out at a couple of souvenir shops before heading back home. I really wish we had more time here.

The drive to Samara was crazy long. I probably don't have to mention here that Ethan slept on my lap the entire time - do I? (wink!) I was impressed with our driver, who made the 4+ hour trek with us then had to head back to where we came from. WOW! One of the best things about him was that he spoke to me purely in Spanish so, once again, I got a lot of practice. It's amazing how fast things come back to you, but really my Spanish leaves a lot to be desired. Nothing that more time in Costa Rica wouldn't cure...wink!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Costa Rica 2011: Days Three and Four

Day Three: Whitewater Rafting - Rio Toro Class III/IV
Boy, am I glad I let the folks at Desafio talk me into doing the class III/IV instead of the II/III Rio Balsa. We ran into people who did that and they said there was one rapid at the beginning and smooth sailing after that. Our river wasn't overly rough, but it was a perfect combination of mellow and crazy. Ethan and I had a blast and that kid chuckled so hard every time I got soaked. In fact, we both laughed quite a bit during the ride, perenially open-mouthed. I kept wondering how much bacteria we were ingesting, but we survived. :)

In the middle of the ride, we got to stop and swim in the water and we ate the yummiest pineapples I've eaten since forever. Since they are grown there, the pinas can be allowed to ripen properly. Yum!

On the trip home, Ethan was so exhausted he fell asleep on my lap. This whole sleeping on my lap was getting to be a new "bad habit" for the growing boy. Hahaha!

Day Four: Travel from La Fortuna to Monteverde via Boat, Horse, then Van
To go from La Fortuna to Monteverde, we opted for a quick boatride on the lake, followed by a two and a half hour horseback ride, then on to a two-hour van ride. The boat ride was quick and beautiful. The horseback part was long, but we had a great time. The guides spoke more Spanish than English so I got to practice a lot with both guides. On the way, we even got to see a small viper. After we had all gawked at the snake for a bit, our main guide was kind enough to share that that particular snake was so poisonous that one bite would kill the horse I was on, never mind me. Yikes! Ethan did struggle with his horse for a bit until one of the guides gave him a little stick to egg that little sucker on. His name was Payaso and Ethan really hated that clown. Once we got off the horses, we took a van to Monteverde. Since the roads in Monteverde are mostly unpaved and there were SO MANY potholes everywhere, the ride was quite long. But it was fun because we had a great driver who let me practice a lot of my broken Spanish with him. There were so many people on the trip that Ethan and I had to split up seats; I sat in front and he sat in the back. He didn't get to nap on the ride at all. I think that traumatized him. :)

We loved Monteverde. The temperature was cooler than La Fortuna and the town was a little bit bigger. We enjoyed trekking 15 minutes from our hotel down into town. There, we discovered what we lovingly referred to as "our" restaurant. Restaurante Maravilla, where we enjoyed the yummiest meals of our entire trip. It was so good, we went back twice. After we leave Monteverde, I've started to daydream about owning a home here (I will be bugging Rodney about this endlessly, I know this now - sorry babe).

This adventure to be continued...

Costa Rica 2011: Days One and Two

This past July, Ethan and I headed to Costa Rica for his 13th birthday. We had hoped that both Rodney and I could both go, but it was too logistically crazy to figure out what to do with the little ones so Rodney had to skip. We missed him a lot!

It was our first trip to Costa Rica and we LOVED LOVED LOVED it! I came home daydreaming of buying a home there (Rodney laughs at me and all my glorious dreams) so you know we'll be back.

Day One: Flight to Costa Rica; Drive to La Fortuna
We flew out of SFO a little after midnight and arrived CR a little before noon on Monday, July 18th. Once we got there, we were fetched and delivered from the San Jose airport to La Fortuna, about four hours away. Ethan slept on my lap practically the entire time. On the way, we stopped at a restaurant to eat and Ethan indulged in some 7Up so I couldn't resist snapping a photo that made me reminisce about the fun Grussing Family Cancun vacation of 2006. Man, how quickly they grow!

We stayed at a modest hotel in the middle of town, which was really convenient and fun for us. The Arenal volcano was right close by. Next to it was a mountain they called La India Dormiendo (The Sleeping Indian).

We booked all our rooms and adventures in advance and I am so glad that I did it that way because it left little to plan once we got there. We used a local firm, Desafio Adventure Company (, and they rocked.

Day Two: Canyoneering, Liquid Lava Tour, and Baldi Hot Springs
We spent our morning and early afternoon canyoneering; it was hectic (well, the hiking was hectic on poor lil' ol' unfit me anyway) and so much fun! Rappelling is my new favourite sport. We wish we could have done more rappels! We went out with a group of 11 and had about 5-6 guides. These rappels were down waterfalls so we definitely got WET! The last shot below is of Ethan passed out in our room between this and our volcano hike. Did I mention that he slept on my lap on the drives to and from?

Later that evening, we headed towards Arenal volcano for a hike. We saw a lot of beautiful flowers and vegetation, a few birds, and a crapload of ants (yuck!).

After the hike, I was introduced to a drink called "Liquid Lava" with the local rum, Cacique. I fell in love. Hahaha! We were taken to Baldi Hot Springs down the road where Ethan and I lounged in pools of hot water and falls, all heated from the volcano. When we come back, we'll have to spend at least a day or two at this resort. It was exquisite.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Family Pictures

Recently realized that we have not taken a single family photo since who knows when. I mean the kind where all of us are in it. Not a one, not since Xavier was a baby. Well we finally had the best reason to take one. We got our new home and wanted to get a photo of us in front of the SOLD sign to show off.

So, here's our first family photo since Jasper's made the cut into the Grussing-Pike Tribe. A very typical photo and very imperfectly perfect in so many ways.

First there's me with my car keys dangling out of my pants pocket like a truck driver and my pedometer sitting so gloriously on my pocket (nerdlinger!). Then there's Jasper, both hands in his mouth and then Ethan smiling cutely with his short hair a little disheveled. Rodney looking really cute, but then Xavier is not facing the camera or smiling...and finally Graeme, in mid-sentence, with his hand on his crotchal regions. Ay! Ay! Ay!

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Entire Year?!

I let an entire go by without a post. I'll do better this year. :)