In 2014, we experienced a few losses. First, our foster child returned to her birth family early in 2014. Kyra's grandmother died this fall. And just two weeks ago today, our cat Mars died.

Mars had a troubled life. We first heard about him from Kyra's uncle, who found him under his porch. He is allergic to cats, so he couldn't take care of him. It appeared that he was abandoned and attempted to find shelter near something familiar to him - a house.

We took Mars to our new condo, where we hadn't moved in yet. He had a few diseases that needed to be cleared up, so we had a few vet visits and expensive meds to give him. All of it cleared up except one problem: his skin kept scabbing and scraping off.

We eventually figured out that he had a skin disease that made his skin extremely sensitive. We thought he had some skin infection, but it turned out he was simply scraping his skin off with this rear claws. We rear de-clawed him and that solved the issue. For a time.

A few years later, we decided to adopt a kitten, Oberon. The two cats did not really get along. We had to keep them separated for a while, and when we finally let them live together, they kept fighting.

One day, we all were sitting on the couch, and I said, "Everyone is here except Mars. Come here Mars!" When he jumped up on the couch, we all saw a huge gash on his side, about the size of a folded-in-half dollar bill. It was horrifying. We rushed him to the vet, had stitches, months of healing, and we gave Oberon to Kyra's sister and her family. (Here is the full story.)

So we decided we had to be a 1 pet household while Mars was with us. He healed up, after a long time and many issues, but was functioning just fine. We moved in to our new house, and aside from the normal cat issues in a new place (i.e., peeing all over the place), he adjusted just fine.

A year went by with few issues. Then we started to have problems. He somehow got a new gash, followed by another, and another and another. This year it feels like he's been isolated in our basement bathroom so he can heal for about a third of the year. And that's while wearing a protective hood, which he had to wear every time or he would make it worse by licking/biting the wound.

I was going crazy trying to figure out what was happening to him. I looked everywhere, multiple times, trying to find anything sharp he might be catching on. The recliner was rather new, and I caught him sitting under it twice, so I thought maybe that was it. I put a spiky mat down underneath to keep him from laying there, and he stopped, but the scratches didn't. So that wasn't it.

Eventually I found a pin that had come loose on a curtain. The curtain was too long, and we don't have a sewing machine, so I pinned it up. I thought that was it. But he again got another nasty scratch. Eventually we determined he was just doing it to himself.

The last event occurred a few weeks ago. He was healing from a wound, and it was a big one, but was healing well, with no visits to the vet. (I was proud of my nursing skills.) It was about the size of a dime. I took his protective hood off and went to eat dinner. After dinner we went to visit our neighbors, and I forgot to put the hood back on. I came back and immediately realized I had forgotten. I rushed downstairs fearing the worst.

I found Mars, not with the healing wound ripped open again, but a brand new wound on the other side of his body. It was the second biggest wound he had since the first horrifying wound. He was shaking from the pain. It was then we decided we couldn't do this any longer. He was doing it to himself, and it was only going to get worse.

The next day, I called the vet and scheduled the euthanasia appointment. It was a very sad day. Coupled with some family drama and a dentist appointment later that day, it was one of the worst days of 2014 for me and probably Kyra, too.

Mars was a good cat. A little dumb, but a good cat. He liked to snuggle and sleep in the sunlight. He was playful and friendly. He had too much hair, too much skin (it hung under his belly as if he had lost a bunch of weight), and too much dander. But he was our cat, and part of our family.

Mars, we miss you. Thank you for the time you spent with us.

I would like to thank Dr. Kay (rhymes with "sky") at the Companion Animal Hospital for her patience and kindness through all our troubles with Mars.

Exciting News

Back in August, after our trip to Costa Rica, this happened:

Kyra's pregnant!

And we just found out: It's a girl!

She is due in late April, so we've been getting ready and picking out names.

Looking forward to a happy new year already!

Now We Are Are Six

Amazing to think that Luca turned six yesterday, and to contemplate the unique and interesting person he has become. I know so many parents who constantly say they want their kids to "stay little" forever, but I really can't understand. Sure, babies and toddlers are cute and all, but I love when Luca comes home and tells me in detail about his days at school. I love that he is already super excited about becoming a reader, so much so that he went through one of his storybooks highlighting every "the" he found. I love being able to play card games with him, just like we used to do on quiet evenings with my family growing up. These past six years have brought so many joys and surprises, and can't wait to see who he grows into in the next six.

So, in honor of Luca's sixth birthday, here is an A.A. Milne poem I have been waiting to use literally for years.

Now We Are Six

When I was one, I had just begun.

When I was two, I was nearly new.

When I was three, I was hardly me.

When I was four, I was not much more.

When I was five, I was just alive.

But now I am six, and I'm clever as clever,

I hope I stay six now,

Forever and Ever.
Loving you now, for another six years, and a lifetime beyond,


Costa Rica: Final Days

On our last day in Arenal, we prepared to go home. Breakfast, packing, and then a short walk around the grounds once more. We saw a few more animals, including some monkeys. I took lots of pictures of the unusual flowers.

We had a to leave for the airport before lunch. We learned our lesson the first time and decided to have a light lunch before flying. That helped quite a bit. We also brought some mints to chew on to help with air-sickness. This time, I actually felt like taking more pictures on the flight.

The flight this time was a bit more challenging. We had to stop once in between, staying in the hot airplane while the next set of passengers boarded, and then taking off again. We did much better, but it wasn't perfect.

Once we arrived in San Jose, we went back to the first hotel, Grano de Oro. We had another fantastic meal that evening.

The next day, we went to the airport very early and flew home. It was a great trip, and a happy (although late) honeymoon!

Costa Rica: Day 5

Aug13, 2014 - Miercoles

Today we slept in again. Following breakfast, we met up with our guide, Eduardo, to travel to Cerro Chato.

At first, the trek from the hotel to the Cerro Chato trail was rather easy. Once we arrived at the start of the trail, it become more difficult.

On the way, we encountered a crab (una congrejo). Interestingly, there's a trail nearby named for them that we went on the other day, without seeing any. There were some small waterfalls, though.

The climb up Cerro Chato was steep and at times treacherous. Muddy, rocky, and wet. But not as bad as if it had rained earlier. We paused for breath and water occasionally, with a few pictures here and there.

About an hour and a half later, we got to the top. It was a foggy view of the lake inside the old volcano crater. We paused, then descended inside of the crater. The inner descent was much more treacherous, at times seeming impassable. No time or space for pics on the way down.

On the way down, Kyra slipped into the mud and got her side and inner leg all muddy. Way to go!

At the bottom, we looked about, took in the scene, and headed back up.

Hiking like this is a mix of hiking and rock climbing. Going up it may be so steep you have to use your hands, and look carefully where you place your feet. It takes more strength going up. Going down, you have to look ahead and plan out your descent. Up is pretty much just the challenge in front of you.

Up the crater and down the volcano were rather straight-forward. We met some people going up who were already tired. They left too late, really. It was getting much hotter.

We completed the 5-6 hour trip in only 3.5 hours! Perhaps we didn't linger as long as others, but it did seem we were rather quick.

We attempted to nap after lunch, but were a bit too sore and missing home for that. Kyra had a massage (I insisted).

The massage was located at a separate building. It was a small building with 3 rooms or so. There was a waiting room and two massage rooms. When we arrived, the door was open, and the massage therapist was waiting outside for us. I sat down on a couch to write this journal entry up to the prior paragraph.

Let's just say I got interrupted.

The door was still open when Kyra and the massage therapist went in the other room. I sat, writing, when suddenly I saw some rapid movement out of the corner of my eye. I saw a Costa Rican squirrel, which was brown and red, run through the doorway underneath a screen blocking off the waiting area from a nail salon area.

I pulled the screen back and set it on the floor, angling it to move the animal back outside. Once I found it and scared it out, instead of going out, it jumped over the barrier and under the couch. Great.

I tried everything to get that bugger out. I found some towels and tried to shoo it out. Then I found a bag and tried to scare it out. At one point, it ran straight at me instead of the door, and we had a little dance in the waiting area, with me shaking a towel at it to make it go away.

Eventually, Kyra and the massage therapist were done, and the therapist came out. I had too look up "squirrel" (una ardilla) so I could explain what was going on. At this point, the squirrel was behind a coffee counter, and wouldn't move. The therapist grabbed a trash can and tried shooing it out. It ran under the couch again, and then she somehow got it to leave through the front door.

The whole time neither Kyra nor the therapist heard any of the scuffling. I even moved the couch at one point! And the squirrel frantically tried to escape by going through the window. They didn't hear any of it.

After the excitement at the massage house, we had dinner and a short hike around the hotel grounds.

Tomorrow we return to San Jose.