travel

My definitive packing guide for a spring trip to Costa Rica

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Pants and sturdy shoes necessary for horseback riding!

A few weeks ago I was here sweating over what I should pack for Costa Rica. Now that the trip is behind me, I can share my experience of what to bring on the trip in a more helpful way. Anyone clicking on this post was probably questioning the veracity of the headline because it left more questions than answers about what to bring on a trip.

I must first do a little bragging that I mostly hit the nail on the head with what I ended up bringing. I made a few notes to myself about what would have been nice to round it out. Here is my definitive list for a week that included San Jose, light to moderate hiking in the rain forest (sans rain) and a couple days of activities that included horseback riding and zip lining.

Here was our seven day itinerary: Continue reading “My definitive packing guide for a spring trip to Costa Rica”

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Musings

The Royals, Not Like Us

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In case you are living without access to information, a new Royal made their way into the world yesterday. And if you’re reading this, you certainly have access to information and a lot better sources than this blog for news about the Royal family. I am not overly gaga about them but it’s hard to miss when they are in the news every day with Kate giving birth and Harry’s upcoming nuptials. And here’s my conclusion: The Royals, they are NOT like us.

How do I know this? Did you see pictures or videos of Kate seven hours after she gave birth to the yet-to-be-named Prince? She looked stunning. Stunning! I cannot look this good on my best day but she was dressed smartly: lovely dress, heels, full make-up and barley a bump where the baby had been and this is her third baby.  She bestowed upon us an ear-to-ear smile as she looked fondly at her newborn boy and then left the hospital shortly thereafter to head home.

Continue reading “The Royals, Not Like Us”

parenting

Letting our kids grow up

Children at school classroom

Hello, readers! Today I’m tackling a hairy parenting topic known as letting our kids grow up and find their way. I feel this is necessary after I witnessed a meet and greet with a new teacher this week that can only be described as a well intentioned assembly that went off the rails. Yes, it’s late in the school year. Yes, our school had to replace one of their teachers (who I previously wrote about here). Yes, we can do this.

If you don’t want to click the link for the backstory, here’s a brief synopsis of the issue. New teacher acts inappropriately many times. New teacher enjoys a great deal of “bathroom/locker room humor” with 10-14 year olds. Kids, of course, love said teacher because he acts like a peer and not an authoritative, adult teacher. Teacher not a good fit and leaves with seven weeks to go in the school year. I don’t know all the whats and whys behind the leaving but I trust the school did what was appropriate. Yesterday we got to meet his replacement, a highly qualified individual with a doctorate, and from what I could tell from his message to parents, many years experience with a variety of grade levels and sound teaching practices.

Continue reading “Letting our kids grow up”

Life

The Philosophy of Kanye West

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Yesterday as I was perusing my Twitter feed and something weird kept popping up. Retweets of random messages from Kanye West. I am not a follower and I don’t subscribe to the whole Kardashian way of living so I was a little surprised by this.  How did these tweets make their way into my timeline? Why is everyone retweeting Kanye? Why did The Skimm’s top link today reference this tweet storm? Turns out Kanye is writing a book about philosphy. And guys, he’s doing it in real time on Twitter. I am questioning what kind of parallel universe I’m living in.

I like to go right to the source of things so I made my way over to his Twitter feed and clicked follow. Am I falling into a trap here? Thanks to my stint working in a newsroom, I think I have a healthy dose of cynicism skepticism and so immediately tried to discern a motive for his sudden interest in writing these brief tweets. Is Kanye’s philosophizing all about drawing eyeballs to himself? So he can sell more whatever? Albums. Clothing. Lifestyle. Page views. Some of the things he was saying seem to go against the entire grain of what the Kardashians seem to be about.

Continue reading “The Philosophy of Kanye West”

Life

An Ode to TGI Friday’s

TGIFI haven’t been to a TGI Friday’s in years. I recently read something that Millenials are killing off these casual chain restaurants (like Ruby Tuesdays, Applebee’s and TGI Friday) with preferences for healthier food and it kind of makes me a little sad. I’m not sad people are eating healthier – we are all trying to do that. What I’m sad about is what TGI Friday’s meant to me in my young adulthood as the place to gather for happy hour (with free food which was definitely not healthy) and to catch up with friends while also scoping for potential love interests.

These memories are also a mixed bag but the one thing that sticks out for me is none of us had cell phones so our time together was all about face-to-face conversation and I think there is a lot to be said for that. Usually we started out in the bar area, grabbing a couple of drinks and playing trivia while we waited for others to arrive. We sat or stood around the bar area and caught up on our days. We would also note if there were any cute or interesting strangers in the vicinity and one of us might get up the courage to engage them in conversation (usually not me).

Continue reading “An Ode to TGI Friday’s”

travel

The people at the airport

When I’m flying solo, the experience is significantly more enjoyable for me (click here for exhibit A), particularly for an early morning flight as is the case today. I arrived at the airport earlier than I needed to be because I overestimated how quickly I’d be ready and we live about 5 minutes from the airport. Plus, I can never sleep the night before a flight as I have a deep seated phobia about missing my flight (this has happened twice).

The airport is prime people watching territory. There are business flyers, families, solos and there looks to be one group of ladies trip flyers (this group grew significantly and looks like a large group of college kids going on spring break!) Of course I’m curious where everyone is going and what they are doing at their end destination. My flight is going through Baltimore and Phoenix with a final stop of Santa Ana. Some of these people will likely be changing planes at any of these destinations.

Continue reading “The people at the airport”

travel

The Time Zone Challenge

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I am in the midst of writing a post about the last leg of our Costa Rica journey, which was my favorite part of the trip! The weekend was all about catching up on laundry and cleaning and here we are at Monday again. Back to work. And I am exhausted! I’m not sure if it’s due to the time change but it’s leaving all of us sleepless (except my husband, Jim, who can sleep anytime). I had trouble sleeping on vacation too and I think it’s catching up with me.

This is probably not the best time to be traveling to the west coast for a work conference in which I’ll need to adjust to another time change before I’m back on the east coast late Friday night. Hopefully I’ll have time to finish my post about northern Costa Rica during the week. I’ve also asked Liam (the eleven year old) to write an essay about the trip and if he’s up for it, I’ll post it here. It will be interesting to see what he deems important from the trip.

Today will be a bit of a rush catching up on work from the past week and a half. And then packing to leave for the trip west tomorrow morning. This will be my first visit to California, so even though I’m a bit travel-worn, I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll also have a large bed to myself for a few days which will likely help my sleep issues.

MC

Uncategorized

Procrastinating

I am sitting in the library and thumbing through magazines. My mind wandered back to the prompt of the day, inchoate, a word I had to look up because I’m unfamilar with it. I don’t believe I’ve even seen it written or heard it spoken. I’m still unsure of it’s use so I decided to check in with other blogs to see what they did. It is not an unpleasant way to spend one’s time.

The house is an utter disaster, the contents of our luggage is spread from kitchen, to living room, to bedroom. There are piles of unfolded laundry and dishes in the sink. You can see why I’m at the library!

A message just came through. Jim is wondering where I am. Time to go and clean.

MC

travel

The final haul, a travel story with plot twists

The alarm started buzzing at 2:30 a.m., just I was diving into the big sleep. The traveling home phase of vacation was about to begin. This was not the energized, adrenaline fueled leg of our trip that began in the wee morning hours of March 29th. The days of sightseeing, jungle walks, horseback riding, hiking and ziplining caught up with my body and I was achy, tired, sore. It was time to go home and the thought of my own bed at the days end was all that prompted me along.

We arrived at the airport at 3:45 a.m., collected our luggage and made our way to check-in and patiently waited for the airline to open. Thirty minutes later the line began to move as travelers were being checked in. This part was fairly painless and we were soon off to the gate to wait for boarding. Nerves were frayed. A lack of sleep was catching up. My family nearly imploded as we sat in stony silence after a meltdown that left me with tears streaming down my face. Why did I think we’d make it home without a big to do? Why did I put makeup on at 3:00 in the morning? I could feel my eyeliner and mascara pooling under my eyes.

By the time we boarded, over an hour later, we had declared a shaky truce and were looking forward to a bit of sleep while the plane made it’s way to Miami. But this is where an uneventful travel day took a turn. A turn for the worse.

As we were making our way to customs at the Miami Airport, Jim paused to wonder where the passports were. We needed them as we boarded the flight in Costa Rica, everyone holding their own, and I vaguely remembered putting them in the top part of one of the backpacks. I only came up with two, mine and Jim’s. Where was Liam’s? We tore through all our carry on’s but came up empty. No one remembered if Liam gave his to us after we boarded. Liam and I hiked back to the gate but they wouldn’t let us on the plane and an attendant called into the plane to see if anyone could locate the passport. It was just after noon and the next flight was going at 1:10 (this was the only time noted on the boarding pass).

Panic began to set in. We were about to come loose again, the clean slate declared after the early morning meltdown was in danger of busting wide open. I texted Jim they were unable to locate the passport and we’d have to formulate a plan B. A security attendant gave us instructions to go to an information desk and just as he was about to take us through, Jim received a call that the passport was located. But he had to return to the gate through many corridors to retrieve it, Liam on his heels. I waited in the customs line as I watched the minutes tick away.

With 30 minutes until the next flight, Jim and Liam finally came into view but I was nowhere near the front of the line where we had to enter our information into a bank of computers to pass through customs. I was frantically texting the friends we traveled with not to let the plane leave without us. When the three of us were together again, I asked another attendant to help us but she said she’d have to find someone in an orange vest. Several minutes passed before she pulled us from the line and sent us to a customs agent line that was five deep, all foreigners who needed fingrprints and photos. The time ticked away and the line moved s-l-o-w-l-y. It was 20 minutes until takeoff.

By the time we made it through customs, there were about 15 minutes until we were to depart. I texted our friends we were almost there, relieved we would make the connecting flight. We sprinted to baggage claim, collected our bags and dropped them in the area to be loaded onto the next flight. We rounded the corner to another long line – security again! We have TSA clearance but I couldn’t find a line that would express us through to the gates. I flagged another security attendant where I exlpained our flight was leaving in 12 minutes. She let us jump ahead to the document checker but from there we were giving no further assistance. I looked on as they brought through a group of disabled passengers to express through our line. Tears were just below the surface. I pleaed with another attendant to help us but he remained stony faced and said we’d have to wait. The tears bubbled up as a traveler ahead of us said we could go ahead.

A few minutes later, our bags were on the conveyer to be x-rayed, and we watched as they monitored the bags going through thinking we’d be making the final dash to the gate soon. They stopped at one of our bags for several seconds as they eyed a cluster of balls they found suspicious and pulled the bag aside. The magnetic balls we’d purchased for Liam at a gift shop the day before. My heart sank. We were so close but the clock had now arrived at 1:10. Not knowing what else to do, I sent Jim and Liam ahead while I remained with the bag. A fleeting thought came to just abandon the bag but I figured that would only lead to more trouble and it contained all of our souvenirs and the Costa Rican coffee we’d brought home with us. The bag was examined and I started running to the gate. Our gate was number 5 and I was at 25. The gate was a half mile away but I couldn’t keep up the pace and started walking as briskly as my tired body could go. I had already contemplated having to find a new flight home. This would be an added complication because our group of six had a car service meeting us at JFK to take us on the final 150 miles home. I passed gate after gate, looking for a security cart to whisk me to the end but the few that I saw along the cooridor were abandoned, no personnel in sight. As I closed in on gate 5, I pictured the gate area empty, doors closed, plane pushing away from the gate. I blinked to see Jim and Liam in line to board. The plane was not anywhere near it’s final boarding pass. Relief washed over me as I let my overheated body finally relax. We made it with time to spare. Our flight was at 1:40.

MC

Daily prompt: haul

travel

A Walk in the Jungle

Today is already day six of our Costa Rican adventure with two very full days left. Yesterday was a very long day of travel from the eastern Caribbean coast of Tortuguero Nation Park, where we explored the jungle, to the northern area where we are staying at the base of the Arenal Volcano. You know how you get a butterfly feeling when doing/seeing something awesome and new? I’ve had that fluttery feeling so many times on this trip. And we have yet to do zip lining which I imagine will be a new level of flutteriness (and fear).

I have to say, I’m not adjusting to the two hour time difference well. I’m wide awake at 4:15 every morning but not too tired until late evening which is good. It gives me time to lay in bed to reflect on our time here and how blessed I feel for the life I have. We have passed through many poor looking towns on this trip and have seen some of the hard physical labor that goes into harvesting bananas from the soft, air conditioned seats of our tour bus. It gives me pause. Today we have a tour of a coffee and sugar plantation which will likely be eye opening too.

Our visit to Tortuguero was quite interesting and a little different than what I had in my mind as a rain forest. We have been so lucky with the weather and while it was fairly hot directly in the sun, the jungle allows many opportunities to find shade. It is humid, though, and when I went to unpack at our next stop last night I found much of my clothing to be damp from the humidity. I realize I also didn’t pack enough clothes as I was taking a couple of showers a day while in Tortuguero. Fortunately they have a laundry service at the Arenal hotel and I could get a few things washed.

I was kind of hoping for rain in the rainforest. I have always loved listening to nature sounds, especially rain. Our accommodations would have been perfect for an evening rain shower – with a long rooftop porch and comfortable rocking chairs, surround by palms, flowering trees and grasses. White headed (capuchin) monkeys have been as prevelent as our northeaster US squirrels, but much cuter in my opinion. We took a canal tour and a jungle walk and while we saw a variety of wildlife, the sloth, disappointingly, remained difficult to spot. There were lots of weird spiders and beetles and yours truly dained to try a termite as if I were on Survivor. My report is they are minty.

The jungle walk we went on was paved and highly civilized which was not what I was expecting. We saw more wildlife walking around the grounds of Evergreen Lodge where we were staying, so that was a little disappointing. On our way back to the boat, near the pool of the resort where we took the walk, we saw the biggest Iguana I have ever seen and the boys were estatic!

This has been a fantastic adventure for the eleven year olds. They still have that unending sense of wonder, playfulness and energy that starts to dissipate as they head to their teenage years. It has been wonderful to watch this experience through their guileless filter. Of course there have been moments where we’ve wanted to throttle ours for his sarcasm and moments of insouciance. I try to remind myself it’s the hormones.

In addition to the sugar and coffee tour, today we’re also going on a long horseback ride through this part of the country. Hopefully I’ll be able to walk tomorrow!

Until next time…

MC