Posts filed under ‘Costa Rican Adventure’

Where has Liisa Vexler gone now?

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My most recent posts can be found here.

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January 16, 2012 at 3:00 am 1 comment

Ups and Downs: Rotavirus

After a wonderful week with my parents, brother, sis-in-law and niece, we have had a bit of a setback. My Googliagnosis (def’n: diagnosis made via extensive research at the university of Google) is rotavirus.

Both boys have been hit. They are just fine during the day and a big laundry-inducing mess at night. This is day 4 for Lil C and Day 1 for Lil D.

I feel lucky that the boys are old enough to understand what is going on and for their bodies to withstand the virus’ onslaught. I could see this would be devastating for an infant (and their parents). I was up till 4 am alternating between cleaning, comforting (though they seem to be less distressed than I am), and worrying.

Right now the boys are revelling in unmonitored and untimed cartoon watching.

I wish the rotavirus vaccine were recommended when these guys were babies. If you’re wondering why they didn’t get it before our trip, they are too old for it now.

The rotavirus vaccine is a liquid administered orally to infants. It became part of the Ontario vaccine schedule in May 2011.

Rotavirus kills 500,000 infants and young children per year worldwide, most in the developing world.

Since Saturday I have done at least ten loads of laundry with bleach. I have washed my hands hundreds of times and administered middle of the night showers a few times. The boys have been sipping filtered water all day long.

I cannot imagine trying to manage this without a good source of clean, safe, potable water.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began a rotavirus immunization program in Nicaragua (among other countries) in 2006. We are currently living only a few hours from Nicaragua. This program has had a tremendous impact.

Here are two slide shows that show that impact:

Protecting Children from Rotavirus, One Vaccine at a Time

Tracing One Rotavirus Vaccine’s Winding Path through Nicaragua

I optimistically look forward to a better night tonight and finally a first day of school for Lil C tomorrow. This was Lil D’s first day yesterday… though there was no second day today.

First day in a uniform (need to get navy shorts)- mom likes it!

Lil C’s sick day yesterday; he cried big tears when we told him he still isn’t well enough to go to school today.

And something I find amusing:

The folder that Lil D’s school gave him

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January 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm 4 comments

Fitness Friday: Hot Stuff

I’ve had the Wineglass Marathon website open in a tab in my browser for about 36 hours now. I can’t seem to get out my credit card and make the payment though.

If you’ve experienced childbirth, you rarely remember the pain, but you remember that in that moment you felt pain (if that makes sense). That’s kinda how I feel about  the marathon; I remember that I felt pain but I don’t remember what it felt like. And I think that ignorance in this case is not bliss, but a road block. It can’t have been that bad, could it have?

I almost registered for the NYC marathon lottery last night but then I looked at the prices and started adding up all the extras and the time around the marathon, and the waiting in line-ups and I decided that for my first time getting back on the proverbial marathon horse I want to pick one that is relatively stress-free.

So, Wineglass, Niagara, Toronto Waterfront, Montreal (too hilly maybe – the course is not set yet)? I need some input here from you marathon runners.

Onto the subject on the title of this post – the heat. It’s hot here. Running in the sun is hard. Even in our little gym, the treadmill is in the sunniest part of the room in the corner furthest from the little air conditioning units.

I’m still managing to get my runs in though… usually I’ll do part outside while I turn the A/C in the gym on full blast, and then part on the treadmill. The beach here is great for running if it’s not too late in the day. At low tide there is plenty of   flat space and the hard packed sand is fairly easy to run on. The length of the beach there and back is just under 5 km. On the way out there is wind against you and then you’ve got a lovely tail wind to push you home. I think I might do this 3 or 4 times tomorrow for my long run (my bro is planning on doing half with me).

I brought my Fuel Belt for water – since I need it here – except I forgot the bottles. And those tiny little 8 oz bottles are not exactly easy to find here. May have to add that to my online order (or it’ll have to wait till someone I know is coming to visit). For the time being I fill a bottle at the gym and just plan my route around stores at which to chug bottles of water.

In Ottawa I would never be caught wearing this little on run:

Here it feels like too much clothing (sports bra, short top, skirt).

I have seen both men and women running in bikinis. I gagged a bit when I ran by the 55 yr old man running in a Speedo, a tight singlet over his pot-belly, mid-calf socks and sneakers.

This Week’s Running Rundown 

Sunday: 11 km easy 2.5 km on the road; 8.5 km on the treadmill

Tuesday: 5 km easy 2.5 km on the road; 2.5 km on the treadmill

Wednesday: 4.5 km easy on the beach

Thursday: 10 km: 2.5 km warm-up on the road; 6 km tempo at 5:20 min/km on the treadmill; 1.5 km cool-down


Mon – Fri: plank to plunk down planks plus a set of 10 push-ups

Tues, Thurs: Speed strength training (one set per body part)

Have a great weekend! And don’t forget – I need advice on marathon selection.

January 6, 2012 at 7:57 pm 5 comments

Spanish Lessons: Day 1

I am sitting in the Spanish school‘s open air cafeteria enjoying a big bowl of bananas, pineapple and coffee as my boys have their first Spanish lesson upstairs.

An aside: There are no indoor restaurants here, and even businesses rarely have walls. There are roofs for when it rains, but no doors.

They boys are in the open air classroom to the left in this photo – actually I just looked up and noticed the classrooms do have sliding glass doors to close them off for quiet or rain:

Their teacher’s name is Silvia. It so happens that she has a two-year old son who is at the same school that the boys will be starting at next week – it also has a daycare component.

Lil D was reluctant to come here this morning. He whined quite a bit but realized he had no choice and went with the program. As we were waiting for the teachers to come greet the students (most from Switzerland; some from Canada and the US) Lil D told us he had a dream about his regular school last night and he is starting to miss it.

I have to remember that this a child who likes routine and clearly defined expectations. This transition may be more difficult on him than on his little brother.

After the introductions, Silvia took the boys up to her classroom and Derek and I listened to the school orientation (which included a presentation from the surf instructor who offers lessons in Spanish for extra practice, of course).

Silvia asked me to go upstairs after the orientation and I did. The boys had each drawn a picture of themselves. They looked happy.

The boys start their real school next week. I will begin taking classes here when they get to full day school. I’m pretty excited about that. I’ve always imagined a few weeks in a Spanish-speaking country at a language school and here I am!

I have figured out that four weeks of four hours per day of classes is the time equivalent of two semesters of university Spanish, not to mention the opportunities for immersion.

I figure I can commit to four weeks, doing my work in the afternoons. After that, I will re-evaluate. Perhaps the surf lessons in Spanish will be enough – ha!

Derek is going the Rosetta Stone route for language learning. He knows himself well and is not a group learner. If he gets started now with the basics, he will have ample opportunity to practice while we’re here no matter what method of learning he chooses.

Okay – the boys will be done soon so I’ve got get my work in while I can. After morning lessons, we’ll spend the rest of the day at the beach with my little niece, her parents and my parents who all arrived (very tired) late in the day yesterday.

Coming soon are posts about running in the heat (oy!), a metal utensil phobia in one son, and grocery price comparisons between Ottawa and tourist town Costa Rica.

It’s not too late to join the Plank to Plunk Down challenge. Today is Day 1!

Ooooh – just as I was about to hit publish the boys walked by me with their teacher as they went for a walk. Cute!

January 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Tico Hospitality

We are living in a tourist area. Every day is a holiday here and thus I just realized that today is New Year’s Eve.


Last year at this time I set out at theme and some goals for 2011 and I think as a family we lived the theme and I personally achieved my goals (except the daily blogging but who really cares).

I am working on the 2012 theme and goals and will post here soon.

In the meantime, I’ve got so much to tell about our first days here in Costa Rica.

I now remember what I love so much about the country aside from the weather – it’s the people. They Costa Ricans or Ticos as they are known, are so warm, welcoming and genuinely happy to have us here.

Before I give you some examples of this hospitality, please note that we are taking these first couple of weeks as vacation. You will read that we have been to many restaurants… this is vacation life and not what we will do when we get down to real life.

So, some examples of Tico hospitality:

  • Santos, our van driver from the airport, stopped twice en route so we could buy drinks and some clothes. He did not ask for more money for his time. He also suggested his daughters might like to babysit our boys and suggested we visit his home where he sells vegetables every Friday morning.
  • We arrived at our condo and were greeted by our property manager Veronica who swept Lil C up into her arms and did not put him down until we were well-settled into our new digs. She made a point of also giving Lil D a few tickles and asked him lots of questions. Lil C keeps asking about her now…
  • Though not native Costa Ricans, the managers of our property’s beach club introduced themselves, showed us around, and made sure to introduce us to all of her staff. Maggie, the main contact, constantly checks on us (without being intrusive) to see that we are comfortable.
  • The bartender at our local restaurant wants to tell us about other smaller, quieter beaches we need to visit. He went and found out from the kitchen where and when the local farmer’s market is for me after I simply asked in passing.
  • The waiter at the neighboring hotel, Capitan Suizo, remembered us from our last visit.
  • The lady at the Italian deli that we love (more on this place to come) remembered us from our last visit and commented on how big the boys have gotten. She was so particular with the nut allergy thing bringing me the package of the gelato cones to read myself, and going through each menu item with me (no nuts in anything except a few gelato flavours)**.
  • The manager at the language school immediately knew who we were (okay, they don’t get a lot of little kids so that was probably a giveaway) and introduced herself to the boys giving each of them little cuddles – I think Lil D finds the demonstrative warmth of strangers a little disconcerting but Lil C is a willing recipient.

The list goes on…

I have found that in other places we have been welcomed with a sort of superficiality, but here I feel the welcome is heartfelt and the people are happy and therefore warm and giving.

I read this quote about the Costa Rican people and it rings true to me:

“True wealth is not about money. True wealth is about relationships. The Costa Rican people know about this and they share their smiles and happiness with travelers.”

And there you have it: warmth in relationships and weather – we’re happy with this on the eve of 2012.

**I am so pleased with the nut situation here. I will write a separate post on this.

Feliz año nuevo!

P.S. Thank you for all your wonderful comments – I love reading them!

December 31, 2011 at 9:37 am 3 comments

Fitness Friday: Strengthen Your Core for a Cause

Shortly after I started blogging, I posted about my friend Julie’s daughter Kate. Since then, and after four years of unanswered questions, Kate has been diagnosed with a very rare form of mitochondrial disease.

One of Julie’s friends is organizing a really fun event which will not only kickstart your core work for 2012, but will get your giving self off to a good start to the new year too.

Here’s Brenda’s description and information on how to participate:

If you wish to participate in this event, you are agreeing to complete a side plank and a front plank everyday for a minimum of 30 secs each. You will agree to donate .25 per plank completed. If you miss a day you will agree to donate .50 per plank not completed. All proceeds will go to Mitocanada.As you may or may not know, a friend whom I met throught the Ottawa Triathlon Club (Julie Drury) has a daughter Kate, who has an extremely rare form of mitochondrial disease that has caused many medical conditions, including:
– Global developmental delay
– Profound deafness
– Cyclical vomiting + and hemodynamic instability with episodes of unexplained illness and pain
– Sideroblastic anemia
– Nephrocalcinosis and hypercalciurea
– Chronic constipation
– Immunodeficiency (Hypogammaglobulinemia)
– Post-anesthesia complications
– Spinal syringomyelia (syrinx)
– Pili Torti
What is amazing is that Kate has gone 4 years without a diagnosis. Her diagnosis of mitochondrial disease is recent – though it was always suspected. She is 1 of 9 in the world with this new form of mitochondrial disease. The type she has has yet to be defined and described in the medical literature.

Mitochondrial disease affects 1 in 6000 people. It is not a rare disease, but it is very difficult to recognize and diagnose – and has no known treatment or cure. MitoCanada raises money to provide support to families living with mito, raise funds for research and to raise awareness and knowledge about the disease among physicians and the public.

More information about the organization can be found here:

If you wish to sign up, click on this llink:

Put your name down and each week put the total under the specific week. The document will add each week to the next and give you a total to donate. Julie Drury will be asking Mitocanada to put a link up for us to donate to.

Thank you in advance for agreeing to participate. I know that Julie, her family and Mitocanada will value any contribution we give and our core will thank us for making it stronger.

So, are you in? If you complete all the required planks, you are committing to donate $22.50 (3 planks/day x 30 days beginning Jan 2nd). If you complete no planks, you will be on the hook for $45.

I am upping the ante and suggesting that you go for a minute for each plank (even if you have to break it into a two parts).

This Week’s Running Rundown

Travel and a lack of running clothes cramped my running style this week, but I still managed to get in a little more than half my usual kilometers.

Everything is posted in km. For those of you who only do miles, 1 km = .625 mile OR 1 mile = 1.6 km

Saturday – 10 km Christmas Eve run with Elation Run Club

Wednesday –8 km mid-pace run on the treadmill in a very hot workout room in our condo community’s gym. I think I would rather sweat like that outdoors. Uugh!

Friday – 10 km easy run on the beach. I have discovered that the length of the beach and back is 5 km. I cannot verify this, because my Garmin was stolen – boo.

Cross Training

Wednesday: Quick strength training circuit in the gym. One set only… I’m gonna do better than this in the coming weeks.

Have a great week in fitness. I hope you’ll join me in 2012 as I participate in Plank to Plunk Down for MitoCanada.

Oh, and to keep up with my running log, I am posting and logging my runs on (since I no longer have my Garmin to keep my stats). You can ‘friend’ me and we can share our workouts. My name is simply Liisa.

December 30, 2011 at 12:55 pm 7 comments


Yesterday morning, with our belongings still in the Continental Airlines vortex, I set out in my new dress (purchased on my way into town from the airport) and my sneakers to get us some groceries, toiletries and a few more clothing items at the supermercado. Here’s the lovely look I had going with my sneaks:

With a slightly nervous hand, I hopped into our car – a Daihatsu Sirion – and booted my way through the busy downtown to the supermarket in a plaza on the other side of town. This drive took about five minutes in my maneuverable little car. We have taken over the lease from our  local property manager.

This is what the roads look like in the busiest little area – so one MUST be paying attention:

Photo credit: Lil D

It’s also important to note that the police do not need probable cause to stop a vehicle here so they often have checkpoints to check your “papers” i.e. passport, driver’s license and to make sure children are in booster seats. I gathered those items in my bag before I headed out.

I arrived at the grocery store exhilarated to be driving myself around town. I parked and headed into the AutoMercado. The selection was similar to what we have at home. Prices are similar if not slightly less expensive on produce, but significantly more expensive on American packaged goods (makes sense).

I selected fruits and veggies, five types of sunscreen and three types of bug spray along with many other items to fill my eventually overflowing cart. As I proceeded through the store, reading labels for allergy information (listed in bold like in Canada- phew!) and ingredients, I could feel my heart rate steadily increasing. I really had no reason to be stressed at that point, but I was (maybe partly because I couldn’t find sunflower seeds).

After the efficient and friendly cashier scanned and his colleague bagged my very large order (Loblaws could learn a little something here), neither of my credit cards worked.

I went to Scotiabank next door. My daily cash limit is small. I have just never needed to change it and it’s been the same since I was sixteen. I got as much cash as I could but realized it wouldn’t be enough. I drove back to the beach, grabbed some cash, and Skyped Visa.

“Yes, you did inform us that you would be traveling to Costa Rica, but we would just like to verify the last couple of purchases with you”.

That sorted, I headed back to the grocery store where the manager had kept my order aside. The Visa card worked. I left the store feeling relieved and broke 12 of 15 eggs in the parking lot (I boiled them right away at home).

Lost Luggage Update

  • All five pieces of luggage recovered and delivered late last evening
  • Missing from one duffel bag: two pairs of kids’ Umbro soccer cleats, Garmin GPS watch, iPod, and men’s flip-flops

Kid Update

When we left Ottawa, Lil C had a cold. Last night around 4 am he woke up with a mid-grade fever. Medicated, he fell back to sleep in my bed. I was up for a few hours imagining various scenarios if he woke up feverish.

My worrying worked. He woke up cool and refreshed, barely chewing his toast as he urgently ushered us out toward the pool.

Exploring low tide

One of the resident howler monkeys at the neighbouring Hotel Capitan Suizo:

Linda the howler monkey playing in the hammock while Lil C looks on

I imagine I will have a lot to write about over the next few weeks, but while I’m going to incorporate many things about life here, I still want to stay true to the theme of my blog – keeping my family fit, healthy and happy.

Friday this week, I will have the usual Fitness Friday post.

Thanks for all of your Facebook and blog comments. I love that I can stay in touch this way!

December 29, 2011 at 2:54 am 5 comments

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