Vacation. It’s the inoculation for fear. What is it about vacations that makes people feel adventurous and invincible?  Things my family would never consider at home have an allure when we’re away.  Without even a consult, the hubbs is automatically signing waivers and handing over cash for us to try something crazy and we all cheer him on! What’s wrong with us?

I didn’t take a lot of time to join in the research on our recent vacay to Costa Rica. Actually, I took zero time to help plan as it was May and we’ve previously discussed the nightmare that month is for moms (see the previous post for details).  So, for once, I just decided to be surprised.


Okay, so why do people do this?  It’s like saying “Hey, wanna risk your life and jump in this washing machine of death and hope you make your way out after the spin cycle?” First of all, the tumultuous river water was FREEZING!  Then, in looking around, I noticed everyone was a LOT younger than the hubbs and I. This is not a confidence builder. Luckily, I spotted the nice Indian family from Chicago we met on the van ride over.  The mom looked insanely nervous, as did their two kids, who were on the verge of tears.  It’s obvious this was totally the dad’s idea and he, like us, believes you can’t die on vacation.  This scene immediately made me feel fearless for some crazy reason.  All of a sudden I’m thinking: “Let’s do this thing!” Gustavo, our raft guide, was incredibly friendly and made the trip feel fun and practically safe.  When we weren’t paddling for our lives I noticed the river could be serene and beautiful. It was a breathtaking surreal mix of lush greens with the cleanest air I’ve ever breathed.  Exotic birds were everywhere and there was a soundtrack of nature I’d never heard.  As the boys jumped out of the raft to float down the river at the adventure’s end, I felt like we had peeked into an exotic private world.  Thumbs up for surprise one. Bonus: We were still alive!



We moved on to Monteverde, which is a lush jungle-like cloud forest reserve of wild untouched land that’s home to stuff you mostly just see in books.  Okay, so that part sounds cool, right?  Now, how ’bout grabbing a flashlight and trekking through it IN SEARCH OF CREATURES AT NIGHT!? Yeah, so this is totally where Blair Witch Project and Pretador collide with our vacation.  While nothing about this makes sense I was absolutely all about it.  Yes, pit vipers can kill you.  Oh and look…there’s one right there.  (Not scared.)  I was just wondering why our path was called the Tarantula trail when our very sweet guide, Christian, pointed a HUGE one out to us.  (Interesting, but still not scared.) All sorts of scary sounds oozing from the darkness begin to engulf us as we walked through the area for the TWO HOUR TOUR OF DARKNESS AND DEATH. There was an olingo climbing above us in the trees and insects that look like leaves.  Everything had such a surreal factor that I’m convinced that’s why I wasn’t scared.  It was all so UNreal that my mind couldn’t process that it WAS real.  This was a truly once in a lifetime adventure with two thumbs up.  Bonus: No deadly bites! Double bonus: The tween was scared and mom wasn’t. Mark that one down.



SURPRISE THREE: Animal encounter and volunteering at PROYECTO ASIS

An interesting and beautiful drive away from the cloud forest where we were staying brought us to Proyecto Asis – a wildlife rescue center where the hubbs had planned a tour and volunteer session for the fam.  This was a great opportunity for us to get a hands on education about the unique wildlife of Costa Rica.  Our guide Carlos, and really everyone we met, had a deep love and appreciation for the land and it’s wildlife. We met monkeys, pigs, birds, snakes, caymans, an ocelot and everything in between.  After being introduced to each of the wild residents there we enjoyed fresh coffee and fruit before preparing and serving lunch to all the animals.  It was a blast!  Well, everything except the tween sitting on a ledge with legs dangling and a CAYMAN sunning THREE FEET from him. He was surprised by my near heart attack for some reason.  Besides that scare this was a human opposable thumb UP! Bonus: The tween’s glasses were stolen by a monkey who proceeded to WEAR THEM very proudly.  It was perfection.




Zip lining is a hallmark of Costa Rica, so if you’re gonna do it ya might as well go BIG or go home.  We did a THREE HOUR, THIRTEEN zip line tour of the longest and highest zip lines in all of Costa Rica.  IT. WAS. AMAZING.  The longest one was over a kilometer in length and the heights were WELL ABOVE the forest canopy.  It was like sailing over a sea of giant broccoli.  On the last one the boys went “Superman” style and were completely suspended in a horizontal position.  It was such an adrenaline rush I’d nearly forgotten that the tween went missing around the second zip line as he went ahead with the guides  INSTEAD OF HIS FAMILY.  Are you noticing a pattern here?  Yes.  He will end up killing his mama one day soon.

The next day we spent several hours on a hiking tour of eight “hanging bridges” which meant we were dangling hundreds of feet above jungle floors in search of wildlife. This was another breathtaking adventure with vistas we will never forget.  Big thumbs up on both of these. Bonus: I even looked down a couple of times!

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Crazy follows us…I’ve told you this.  And crazy doesn’t TAKE a vacation just because we’re ON vacation.

One episode was the tween running ahead on a waterfall hike and me finally catching up and looking on from afar as some dude plucked him from rushing waters as the kid was pinned on rocks trapped in a strong current.  I’m thinking: “Did somebody just save my kid’s life? Who was that?” In all the mayhem we couldn’t find the guy afterwards.  Yeah.  That happened.

Then there was the bizarre yoga session in a gorgeous outdoor yoga studio.  I was so excited until…our instructor knew zero English and was so stuffy from allergies she was completely intelligible.  I don’t think SHE could understand what she was saying. She announced she was doing a meditative chanting class.  I woke up at 6 am to do chanting!??? And how do you chant what you can’t understand!?   It was beyond ridiculous. The one other guest and I could not make eye contact because we were already giggling to ourselves. This made my second yoga attempt at another location even more anticipated.  I was excited, settled and set up – taking deep breaths – feeling relaxed.  Then a dude walks in with video equipment.  “Señora we tape today for resort video.  I try and not get your face.” Seriously? My peace just cracked like an egg.


It’s hard to forget the unnamed sickness the hubbs contracted which kept him nearly bedridden for FOUR DAYS.  He mostly just moaned while sweaty and delirious for hours on end. He’d try and join us for activities during the day as much as he could, then at night he was just a mess. He looked near death but refused a doctor visit.   We had to just vacay without him, but we did do night time vigils to make sure he was breathing. We’re not savages!

Then there was our bumpy two – turned four – hour drive with the gas gauge teetering on reaaaaaaally low.  Car sputtering.  Windows down to conserve fuel.  Nervous silence. Nothing and no one in sight. Family praying for a miracle.  Finally, I see a man standing out on the road and we pull over!! “Hola Señor – necessitamos gasolina.” He points down the road to his friend’s house only two hundred meters away explaining how lucky we were since this is the ONLY gasoline between where we were and where we were going.  What are the odds the man would be standing there as we passed to tell us where the ONLY gas would be?  Our tank audibly exhaled as we removed the cap and our lovely new friends laughed with us on the side of a very dusty, rocky road.

Praise God for not ever taking vacations from watching over our crazy selves!  Miracles still happen.  And you notice them more when they come in response to the crazy.

Another miracle is that we made it home alive.  Our daring adventures are just memories now and we’re safely on the couch recuperating and recounting the fun.  Let’s here it for summertime fun!  And living to tell about it.



SUMMER: Taking our show on the road

This was by far the SHORTEST school year with the LONGEST ending.  The month of May is always a grueling marathon for moms. We all know this going in – we try to head it all off at the pass – but by May 15 we are ALL losing our sanity.  My to-do list was longer than my arm and it was a smeared, crumpled mess that I could barely pry from my clenched fist by mid-month.  Why do schools wait until the last several weeks of the year to have every special event imaginable?  There are talent shows, school plays, field days, art shows, teacher appreciation week and the list goes on and on. It’s enough to set the most organized, well-prepared momma crying in aisle twelve of the grocery store because she can’t even remember why she’s there and she can’t read all the smeared lines on her to do list!!!  CAN I GET A WITNESS PEOPLE!?

My fave is when we’re informed that NOW OUR PRESENCE IS REQUIRED so we can hear our kid recite a two-minute poem!!??? WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS???  This requires showering and non-yoga pant outfits!!! Don’t they realize that collectively moms are all acknowledging we have reached DEF CON FIVE – I repeat DEF CON FIVE?  The minions are nearly out for summer and ALL HANDS NEED TO BE ON DECK IN PREPARATION.  It’s a lot of stress. That’s all I’m saying. Thank God it’s over. Adios May! Don’t let the door hitcha in the butt.

Sigh.  Deep breaths.  So, somehow we all survived the trauma that is the month of May.  Praise the Lord. For the Key family the end of May signals high tailing it outta town to celebrate that fact that we have all survived.  This doesn’t necessarily mean there are kudos all around for glowing report cards.  It doesn’t reflect frolicking hand in hand with teachers as we recount each joyous day they had with said minions throughout the school year. It means we SURVIVED.  In my book, survival calls for celebration.

So the hubbs comes up with this idea to try a new place for vacay.  My answer is “What’s wrong with the old place!?”  But whatever.  I’m game for anything since alarm clocks are now at the off position and book bags are being burned in the back yard and homework is nearly just a bad memory.  (Homework is almost like childbirth – just days after it’s over you almost forget it was as bad as it was.  Well, almost.  But you know what I mean.)

I really couldn’t believe we were set to leave town.  I was thinking to myself “There’s actually a jet out there being gassed up because it’s gonna fly us outta here! We have have made it to the finish line!!”  I’m so excited that I almost don’t mind reminding the tween FOR THE THIRD TIME that he really should put clothes on his naked body since we are ready to leave.  As I turn around to hand him his travel toothbrush I WALK INTO HIM MID CARTWHEEL – while he’s still in the nude – with a force so strong that he knocks me IN MY JAW AND INTO THE WALL!  I literally didn’t know what hit me at first but then my brain called up the last image of said tween’s bony butt and his heel coming at my jaw at 50 mph.  I saw stars!  Then I saw blood!  Then I felt a pain so enormous I couldn’t even process what was happening.  I was so angry and so hurt that I did what many moms might do in such a situation.  I sat on my toilet, locked the door behind me and cried.  I cried hard.  I could hear him crying hard on the other side of the door too – he was scared and sorry.  But I couldn’t even answer him to say whether I was okay because I mostly wasn’t.  While there was the shock of getting socked in the jaw, I realized my tears were seemingly endless because this school year was another tough one for him, and when your kid has a tough school year you do too.  So I sat there and figured I should just keep crying until I was all done, because if you don’t get rid of all the tears you need to shed they linger.  Then they creep back up on you at inopportune times when you’re NOT sitting on your toilet – alone- behind a locked door and you end up looking like a wacko.

My lip was bloody and swollen, my jaw hurt to the touch and I was certain it was pushed out of it’s place.  No matter.  Jets don’t wait.  So off we were.  Family fun time was officially kicking off and I was in a catatonic state with facial injuries.  I mostly didn’t speak during the plane rides or layovers.  It hurt just to think. My head was on fire.

Then fast forward to our vacation’s first morning.  A quiet walk with the hubbs through a beautiful maze of green with the backdrop of Costa Rican mountains and tropical foliage and he says “Look there’s the spa. Go in and pick some stuff out to have done because you need it.”  Who am I to argue?  I’m thinking, “Wives, just submit to your husbands already.”  So the next thing I know I’m walking into a room with rose petals on the floor and delicate aromas wafting through the air.  All those spa sounds that are cued up in most places are actually just naturally happening as I’m in this gorgeous outdoor cabana with flowy sheer curtains and like a thousand little birds and wildlife that are making a symphony of happy outside.

The serenity of the moment was a huge band aid on the previous day’s bruises.

Deep breaths.  Beautiful.  Happy.  Special.  My heart begins to go back to it’s normal rhythm once again.  In my mind I kept saying “Praise the Lord!” over and over and over.  He’s so good isn’t He?  Did I mention the rose petals ON THE FLOOR!?  How frivolous and spectacular is THAT!? He specializes in spectacular. “Praise the Lord…praise the Lord”, I just keep saying it in my head to the rhythm of those amazing birds and frogs and whatever else was joining in.  I thought at one point I heard turkey sounds.  Costa Rican turkeys were lurking and joining in the fun!? And that’s when I opened one eye to see if I could find the turkey and instead – standing almost taller than the bright blue sky – I see the HUGE VOLCANO that was towering above us.  Yeah…I almost forgot that was there.  I thought to myself “What a great metaphor for my life,”  or any of our lives for that matter.  There’s a huge volcano that could blow at any minute towering right above us – ALL THE TIME.  Even in the midst of strewn rose petals and happy.

Why run from lava that's not flowing when you could be smelling the rose petals?

Why run from lava that’s not flowing when you could be smelling the rose petals?

So what should we do about that??

I decided to tune back in to the symphony of lovely those Costa Rican animals were making for me.  What?  Am I gonna take on a volcano now too?  No. It’s not going anywhere.  Whether we can SEE the volcano or not – it’s ALWAYS there.  WHY RUN FROM LAVA THAT’S NOT FLOWING YET WHEN YOU CAN STOP AND SMELL THE ROSE PETALS?

Deep…breaths…of…thanks. This moment is my gift and I’m taking it.

Then off in the not-so-far distance I could actually hear the tween yelling “Dad! There’s an iguana over here!”





Pops diving into the East River from Greenpoint, our Brooklyn neighborhood. Circa 1960 something.

Looking out my bedroom window as a kid I had a great view of Manhattan.  From our small Brooklyn apartment or more specifically my bedroom – which was the size of a glorified broom closet – I could see the majestic Manhattan skyline.  It didn’t matter that I had to look past an old factory and several other small buildings because when the Twin Towers stand gloriously before you, anchoring the mammoth of concrete and glass that is NYC, all you can see is POSSIBILITY. You are breathing in opportunity and breathing out doubt. It’s like getting a private invitation to take on the world.

Sometimes I wonder if this glimmering reminder sitting outside my window is responsible for instilling confidence in me early on.  Well, it was either that or my MA or a little of both.  MA was always reminding me that I could do anything.  Actually, it was more of a mandate than a reminder but that’s how my MA operates.

Confidence is a good thing. These days it’s a necessary thing. More than any other time in my life, even my days as a professional trying to move up the next rung on the workplace ladder, it’s NOW that I’m reaching deepest for that confidence. Why?  Well, because my life has so many layers of crazy that some days I’m really not sure I’m able to do this thing.  I’m smothered in CRAZY. There’s family crazy, kid crazy, school crazy, friend crazy – crazy is indiscriminate to every single facet of my world. And THIS is why I refer to my life as CRAZY TOWN. Thanks for stopping by, I bid you a hearty welcome!

On the surface, my CRAZY TOWN may seem pretty status quo.  I’m a middle-aged momma, married to a middle-aged dad and we have two boys.  There’s a house and a dog in the mix, along with the typical packed schedules and what not.  But much like nouvelle cuisine, a base of “familiar” is kicked up a notch with an eclectic mix of the unexpected.  For instance, there’s an extended cast of family characters and circumstances woven through my CRAZY TOWN that turns everything upside down. It’s sort of like sprinkling chocolate shavings on a platter of duck confit.  At first you’re thinking Duck Confit AND chocolate? This is just weird!” – but by your last bite you’re agreeing that it all kinda goes together.  That’s my life and family. It goes together like…duck confit and shaved chocolate.

Another layer of said shaved chocolate definitely comes from my famliy’s culture.  I’m Puerto Rican. A very pale, red-headed Puerto Rican – two concepts that seemingly negate each other. My parents were both born on this tiny Caribbean island that has more flavor and character than an entire continent fifty times its size.  We’re BIG personality people.  We’re LOUD and PROUD.  And there are LOTS of us.  I have more than twenty five first cousins.  Everything we do is an instant party – including funerals.  I’m so serious. Food and festivities are our go to and it never, EVER gets old.  We can keep a fiesta going for DAYS people. Random dancing is literally like breathing air.  It just happens.  On your way to the bathroom?  RANDOM DANCING WITH WHOEVER IS IN THE HALLWAY.  It happens. It’s awesome and wonderful and although I look more Irish than Puerto Rican to some, I have immense pride in my heritage and all things Puerto Rican.  These are MY PEOPLE – these are mi gente.

Speaking of my people – the base of this stockpot of CRAZY are my parents Ed and Edna.  They are kind of like a Latino version of Ben Stiller’s parents from Meet the Fockers.  For 57 years these two have navigated their tenuous relationship in a way that’s comedic, tragic and everything in between.  They have perpetually teetered on ending their “love capade” for longer than I’ve drawn breath, but somehow they have this unbreakable commitment that borders on serving a jail sentence. Every interlude with them includes talking over each other, arguing, laughing, repeating everything twice and shouting. They are quite the spicy combo.

On the homestead there is the awesome hubbs who keeps me sane and laughing and together we parent our teen and tween who are basically Felix Unger and Oscar Madison.  No – there is absolutely no stretch of the imagination in that description of our children.  They are as different from each other as humanly possible so as to S T R E T C H our parenting skills like yoga positions that are LITERALLY KILLING US SOFTLY EVERY DAY.

Throw the tween’s exhausting ADHD in the mix along with his brother’s basic teen junk ON TOP OF all the rest of the CRAZY and there you have it.  It’s a whole community working together as well as against itself to comprise what I affectionately refer to as my life in CRAZY TOWN.

My life is hard and easy, excruciating and fun – it’s YING and YANG in every possible way as to make sure I am continually on my knees and praying!  Since I realize that no matter what the “flavor of the day” is – it’s good for us to share our experiences, spur each other on when we feel like we just wanna nap FOREVER in a fetal position or snap each other out of the ruts we fall into because LIFE IS CRAZY AND IT IS HARD.  We need each other to remind us that LIFE IS ALSO GOOD and IT’S BETTER TOGETHER.

So I invite you to join in all this incredulous fun.  I’ll be sharing RECIPES and PARTY IDEAS along the way because there’s a lot of that going on in between pulling my hair out as a mom and wife and all the other hats I wear each day.  Remember I’m Puerto Rican so we can turn anything into a party.