Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Quiltmaker's Gift

For any of you who have had the chance to read the children's book, "The Quiltmaker's Gift", you will understand why this posting is thus titled. If you haven't had the chance to read it, get your hands on it as soon as possible. It is a wonderful story about a wealthy King's journey to find true happiness. This Christmas, my family experienced that much sought after 'true spirit of Christmas.' It has been the best Christmas of my adult life, and one that will be remembered for years to come. With the generous donations from friends and family in Utah, we had the unique opportunity to buy, prepare, and disperse packages to many needful families in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Your wholehearted donations, however little or large, made a difference in the lives of others. You brought laughter, surprise, and delight to children. You gave father's relief and mother's hope. You gave a night to remember to our entire branch and investigators, a Christmas meal that will not be forgotten. Pictures weren't always appropriate, but we did our best to snap a few. We hope that you will be able to experience the joy that you brought to the lives of others. Merry Christmas!

Some families were in need of toys and clothes, as they were able, at the time, to provide sufficient food for their needs. Other families, were needful of food packages, as economic hardship has also found it's way to Costa Rica, and work can be difficult to find.

This is an example of a 4 year old girl's gift pack complete with doll, sparkle glue, markers, candy, coloring book, and crown. Every gift pack was a little different, depending on the age and need of the child. Other girls packs also included Barbies, dress-up purses, stickers, and tea sets. The boys gift packs included things like play dough, markers, coloring books, an airplane or helicopter, stuffed animals, soccer balls, remote control cars, and Legos. We also put together clothing packages for families that were especially needful of clothing. We bought clothes specifically for the age and gender of each child. We worked really hard to get the best bang for your buck, and with the Lord guiding us, we made the money go quite a long way.

All together, your donations purchased clothing and/or toys for 50 children, funded several LARGE food bundles for multiple families, purchased a hearing aid for an elderly woman, and provided an unforgettable Fiesta de Navidad for 140 people. Your donations also purchased some gifts for the teenagers including, purses, soccer balls, and watches. Many of the women also received care packages that included dish cloths, body spray, and bracelets. We were also able to purchase some kitchen supplies. Over all, your donations touched the lives of about 200 people this Christmas!

All it took to bring pure delight to this little boy, was this tube of play dough. His excitement alone was enough for me to feel Christmas all year long!

This is a home 'community' for a family made up of about 25 people. A mother with her five children and their spouses, who between them each have about 4 children, live 'together' here. They were the recipients of toys, clothes, and large bags of rice. When I say 'large', we're talking food storage portions. We laughed because one large bag of rice, is about enough to feed the whole lot for a single day. As an indicator of the kind of people they are, on Christmas day when we arrived, it was difficult to find anyone at all. The women were all out back, working together on laundry, their children by their sides. All the men and boys over age 10 were out working for the day. It didn't matter that it was Christmas, because without resources to take you more than one day at a time, it's a another day to work.

After 6 hours of delivering presents, we decided to take a break for food. This was our Christmas dinner and then off we went for another 5 hours. We left our house on Christmas morning at 10am, and returned at 9pm. It was a long day for the kids, but Brody said, 'the best Christmas present is really just to be together.' True that Brody, true that.

THE PAN - A Very Important Part of Your Donations
Tom and I were shopping at the Maxi Bodega, purchasing food, gifts, and trying to put a dent into our huge list! I passed the kitchen isle, and picked up some dishcloths. They came in large packs of 10, and so I thought they would make a good gift for some needful sisters. I passed by the rack of pots and pans hanging on the wall, and thought, 'I should get a pan.' And so I asked Tom if he thought it would be a good idea. He said, 'how would we even know who to give it to?'I thought he made a good point, and so we moved on to another isle. Again we passed the pots and pans on the way to get a pillow. Once again, I though distinctly, 'I should get a pan.' However, Tom and I had already discussed why it might not be a good idea, and I felt very responsible for spending the donations as accurately as possible. After approximately 2 hours roaming the store, we headed at last, with two jammed packed carts, to the check out stand. We passed, one last time, the pans. This time, I felt as if someone was yelling at me, 'Goodness Gracious! There is a sister who needs that pan, so put it in your cart!' I immediately picked up that pan and put it in my cart.
On Christmas Day, when it was time to deliver the packages, I still did not know who the pan was for. I just told Heavenly Father, 'I know this pan is for someone, so please let me give it to the right sister!' The kids and I were wrapping and packing when Tom came in and said he was taking a run to deliver some stuff to a sister nearby. He said, 'who did you decide the pan was for?' I answered, 'I still don't know, but it's in that lady's box.' I pointed to a box that was scheduled for a later delivery. However, Tom decided that he would take it to the sister he was visiting right then. I told him, 'you better have this right, because Heavenly Father has someone in mind for that pan.' He was pretty certain it was the right decision. Of course, when he delivered the pan, the sister exclaimed (this is the translated version) , 'I have been needing a pan for so long. I could not afford it, and I don't have one. I have really wanted one. Thank you, thank you!' I was relieved and humbled once again. How could he think of a pan? He has so much to think of, so many prayers to answer, and yet, he made sure this sister got her pan. It was all of you, your donations and your prayers, her prayers, the spirit speaking to me and my husband, and this sister got her pan! What a lot to put together, for such a seemingly simple petition. Heavenly Father loves us!

This is Tom delivering a toy/clothing package to a needful family. Their names were given to us by members, but they were completely taken aback by Tom's arrival. The gifts were very unexpected and appreciated. Believe it or not, a family of 6 lives in this home, made up of 4 boys ages 6 - 17, and their parents.

This is an example of one of the 'food only' packages. This family had many other needs, but food was the priority. A single mother, undergoing treatment for breast cancer, is raising 4 children, all under the age of 11. She lives off of the kindness of others. Once again, she is not a member of our branch, but a friend of a member. We are grateful to all the members of our branch, who gave us recommendations of families truly in need. I feel humbled, and am going to make an effort NOT to use the words, "I NEED......" I never go long enough without something for it to become a need, and not a luxury.

At the end of the night, Brody was still feeling the spirit of giving. We had bought some extra chips, cookies, and soda to pass out to kids just hanging around. Brody handed out the treats, and then acted like a robot to make the kids laugh. A few more neighborhood girls (around 6 or 7) saw the commotion and came down to get some treats as well. When we drove away Brody stuck his head out the window and as he waved he said, 'Adios Princesas!' (Bye princesses) It was a good way to end the night.

The look on her face says it all!

As the wealthy King in the 'Quiltmaker's Gift', completes his long journey of giving all that he owns away, he is found looking poor and in need himself. He responds to the quiltmaker, "I am not poor. I may look poor, but in truth my heart is full to bursting, filled with memories of all the happiness I've given and received. I'm the richest man I know." I hope we can all keep this Costa Rican Christmas experience and the joy it brought, in our hearts and minds throughout the year. For the King, his gifts were only the beginning of his journey, and from then on he could always be found, "searching out the poor and downhearted, never happier than when he was giving something away." Let us continue to look for opportunities this year to give of ourselves....our time, our talents, and our resources. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am personally humbled and blessed by your generosity. May you all have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Elle's First Steps - September 26th, 2009

Don't mind my super loud-high pitched voice...."venga, bueno!"...I sound even worse in Spanish!!!

Selling Tacos - October 2009

Just off the beach, selling Tacos out of the back of the truck.

The Young Men's decided the way they would raise money for camp would be to sell tacos...lots of work grocery shopping, chopping and bbqing, and in the end...well, let's just say if it was the "Apprentice," they might not have won the challenge, but they probably wouldn't have been fired either. The tacos were AMAZING! I bought two :) Brody hung out with Tom the whole time, and overall, I think it was a successful experience.

Ryan Baughman's Visit to Costa Rica - October 2009

Surfing, does the body good!

A rare pic. of the two of us together....I'm not actually yelling at Tom, but I think he is ignoring me :)
Tom's Cousin, Ryan Baughman...yes ladies, he is single. Eat your heart out!

He wasn't even trying for this perfect 'rose in mouth' pose, it just comes naturally. Tom kept on calling Ryan and his friends, "the male model entourage," it's obvious why :)

Waves like this keep me under a little longer than I like, I get completely claustrophobic with all that water on top of me...yikes!

After only a few tries, Ryan is practically a professional at paddle boarding.

Part 1

Part 2
Jason had a great camera, thanks for the pics!

Tom scoping out the waves, he's relaxed and happy when he's in the water.

Had to add this says to me, "Cool Water Cologne", yes ladies, he is single too.

Perfect Sunset, on a perfect day.

The Male Model Entourage!

Having friends and family visit is what makes living in Costa Rica so enjoyable. Life has managed to find us here, and we get really busy, going days and lately even weeks, without going to the beach :( However, when we have visitors, everything goes on hold and we enjoy this place as if we were on vacation too! Ryan was accompanied by his single friends, Brad and Jason, who didn't seem bothered to have an old married couple joining them everywhere. We went surfing a bunch, went out to eat, and had them over for our famous fish tacos. We had a lot of sunshine and just a little bit of rain. A little rain is good, as it makes for good pics! It was so super fun, and visitors like that are welcome any time! Ryan also brought us a new camera, since ours got murdered in Nicaragua. Thanks Ryan!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tom's Big # 30!

30 and looking GOOOOOD!

Kacee and I on the way to Marbella

Alvaro's beach front property complete with shower
(Kacee and ALvaro)

Playa Marbellas

Grillin with the homies

Hermana Pina is one bad A

I told Elle to "blend" :)

Tom's birthday is September 28th. This year, that happened to be the day that our passports needed to be renewed, and so we would be exiting the country to Nicaragua. We decided to celebrate the big numero 30 on the 26th. We started the day by heading out for a surf session at Play Marbella, with our friends Kacee and Alvaro. We took the back roads, and got the chance to put our KIA to the test. She didn't pull through for us like we had hoped. The river was pretty deep, and at one point the water rushed as deep as the engine. The good news; we didn't get stuck in the water, but we did get stuck coming out onto the muddy hill on the other side. Just as Alvaro was setting up the tow, so that his actual 4X4 could toe us out, a kind passerby helped us push the car out of the rut just enough that we were finally able to make it up the hill. It was such a picturesque moment...Little burgendy "intercooler" KIA, stuck somewhere she had no business being, saved by old, toothless, shirtless, happy, tico gentleman, who probably sees a scene like that all too often. Once we crossed the river, we passed by several people on bikes and scooters going the direction we had just come. I guess they just pick up their transportation and trudge across chest deep water, probably still more effective than our KIA.
The beach at Marbella was stunning! Black sand and clear skies. We said a prayer before getting in, thanks to Alvaro who is part of the Christian Surfriders Group, and started into the waves. Tom and Alvaro were out in no time, however Kacee and I had no such luck. The waves were the largest and most powerful ones I have been in to date, and after 20 minutes of attempting to get beyond the break, we gave up and laid out. Tom didn't have a very successful session himself, I guess there was a very unusual riptide, which made feel better about my own failed attempt. Alvaro happens to be a professional surfer, and so even the riptide didn't prevent him from cutting through the waves all day long. I really enjoyed spending some girl time with a gringa, and we chatted in English as we soaked up the sun. We topped off the afternoon with a outdoor shower on Alvaro's beach front property. Sooooooo tropical!
Next we headed to the grocery store for Tom's official b-day gift...$$$$ worth of food for the dinner party we planned. We were expecting about 30 mouthes to feed, and we picked up all the goods needed to get the job done. We grilled sausage, pork chops, fillets, and some other kind of beef, in addition to a rotisseri chicken, rice and beans, a 10 avocado quac dip, chips, a 12 tomato bowl of pico de gallo, pineapple, tortillas, all the taco toppings like cabbage, cilantro, lime, and onion, as well as, ranch and cilantro ranch, and a large veggie platter. The food was DEMOLISHED like I have never seen before :) It was awesome. We are grateful for our friends here in Costa, HAPPY B-DAY TOM :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009


The following pics are in no particular order, what a great 1o days!

Brody and Brooklyn have become really good friends, truly :)

Taking pics all the time down here, so they are getting great at posing!

Pool at our condo

Condo roof top overlooking Playa Tamarindo

Bob and Debbie took a day trip to Arenal Hot Springs...JEALOUS!

Enjoying the music of Costa :)

Weekly trip to the Mandarina juice bar.

It's a bird, it's a wait, it's Bob actually caught on camera smiling!
I think it was the goodness of a tropical Mandarina smoothie that induced this spontaneous smile:)

Happy Grandparents

Debbie took the kids on a treasure hunt!

Just after Tom got set apart, excited member in the middle :)


Brooklyn was sad because the water was too cold :(

Debbie jumped off the dock into freezing Lake Tahoe last such luck today.

50 different shades of green

Happily wrapped up in a towel

Go Bob!

"This is ffffffrrrrreeeeezzzzzzing!"

Soooooo CUTE!

Hiking to the adventure in itself!

Debbie enjoying the luxury of our KIA :)

Playa Avellanas, good surf session and great sunset!

This is how they do swings

On our way out on the town!

Playa Tamarindo - right in front of our condo

Soaking up the shade!

The anticipation was more than Brody and Brooklyn could bare, they awaited the arrival of Grandma and Grandpa Burton as though it was Christmas and Santa was on his way! Funny thing is, the next morning when the kids woke up they thought Santa had come. There were so many gifts for the kids from Bob and Debbie and Carol and Dave, we couldn't resist pulling out the palm tree and surrounding it with all the lovely surprises. :) Special thanks to Shauna for picking me up the cutest gym shorts ever, and Chandra for sending down the book and skirt, mom for making multiple stops to get my long list, and Bob and Debbie for carting it all down here!
We wanted to show Bob and Deb a good time, so we took them to a waterfall, to yummy resteraunts, to the gym, to church on Sunday where Tom got called, sustained, and set apart as the new Branch the beach, shopping....
It was a total surprise when they extended him the call, but a tender mercy that Bob and Debbie were in town. Bob is currently serving at the end of his 5th year as Bishop of his ward in Bountiful, and so he was a really great support for Tom while the shock settled in.
The fun didn't stop there. The same day Tom received the call, we arrived home from church looking forward to a Sunday nap. When I entered I was greeted by a mini flood in the condo. Immediately I was fearful that I was reliving the St. George incident, (when Brody washed his hands in the master bath tap and left it running, consequently th e entire bathroom and room below were flooded.) To my great relief a pipe under the master bathtub had broken and the entire tub and separated from the base and was floating on a great deal of water. It sounds bad, I know, but it is so much better than footing a $$$ bill for a little hand wash. It looked like an earthquake had occurred in their... Bob was visiting, but even his bathroom breaks weren't capable of this kind of destruction. A few hours later the mess was cleaned up,a and two days later we could use the tub again. It was no big deal, but it did put a little damper on the day. ( I couldn't resist :))
Bob made his daily run to Langosta Beach for an illegal dip in the Barcelo Pool. (I'm going to have to ask my Branch President about swimming in hotel pools when not a guest...Tom?)
Debbie made us yummy banana bread, and took the kids on a treasure hunt. Now they are making regular requests for a treasure hunt, which is just code for "shopping."
I asked Brody and Brooklyn what their favorite part of having Grandma and Grandpa here was and they said, "The Monkey Park, swimming, and Mandarina (for smoothies)." I am trying to keep up with their smoothie appetite by making them at home, but there is something special about the blue chairs, tropical presentation, and the vita-mix, that make Mandarina the preference by a long shot. I would like a Vita-mix for my birthday. Perhaps with the new blender, a few pineapple stems, clear cups, and a straw, I can save some serious $$$.
Brody and Brooklyn had a lovely time swimming, reading, and having treats with their grandparents. Good food, good friends, good times! Their company and generosity made the week one we will remember forever! We were sad when they left, but we are looking forward to another visit after Christmas. Next up on the 'Pura Vida Life'....Ryan Baughman, come on down!