Monday, August 13, 2018

A new love affair...

Following my disappointing visit to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, my husband insisted I join him on a work trip to Buenos Aires. His constant business travels have allowed him to accumulate some airline miles and I was miraculously able to make arrangements for someone to stay with the kids so I said "why not!" and finally visited one of the destinations at the top of my bucket list. 
I had always wanted to travel to Buenos Aires for many reasons; first off my father was born there and he has spent a great amount of years convincing me of how wonderful it is and many people had told me about the strange appeal that city has; I was definitely curious to experience that Argentine charm for myself and it did not disappoint. 
I will refer to my trip to Buenos Aires as the start of a new love affair; I was in awe of how beautiful and modern the city was and also of how welcoming everybody was, the whole experience definitely exceeded my expectations and I was nicely surprised. 
Buenos Aires is like a Latin version of Europe; most buildings are reminiscent of classic Madrid constructions and I even saw some of Paris in the streets of this amazing city.  Everything is clean, organized and grandiose and on the second day I was ready to move there...I seriously loved it so much!
I was able to experience the Buenos Aires life style first hand since I happen to have so many friends that live there who were kind enough to show me around while doing it the "local way"; I visited amazing restaurants, modern shopping centers, rode the metro, hailed some cabs and walked an infinite amount of steps around the beautiful streets of Buenos Aires (my watch says I walked about 30K steps per day!)... I am officially in love with this city and my only regret is that I didn't travel there sooner... I can't wait to take the kids there soon and maybe stay a little longer. 
In addition to the beauty of the city and the kindness of its people, our trip was particularly cheap since currently the Argentine Peso is down in the dumps so our dollars went a long way; I could eat a succulent filet mignon for less than $10 or have a scrumptious piece of cake for less than $2, so needless to say I was happy to visit during this time. 
Also it happens to be winter time in Argentina (hello South Pole!) and the weather was perfection; it never went over 60 degrees or below 50 so I was happy to be able to wear my favorite jacket every day (LOL!)..they say that the weather has a lot to do with how one perceives a place, so this probably boosted my experience even more. 
My favorite place in the city was Puerto Madero also known as Buenos Aires' business center; most big companies are found in this area and the building are incredibly modern; the whole place is beautiful and it is nothing short of great even when compared to cities such as New York, Berlin, Los Angeles or any other major city in the world. The metro system (Subte) is very efficient and well maintained and also CHEAP! There are beautiful shopping malls, magnificent churches, sublime buildings, delicious restaurants and everything else I could want in a city. 
Here are some pictures of my brief visit to Buenos Aires, a place I hope to go back to and one that jumped to the top of my list in just one visit.  I love you, Buenos Aires and I know this is only the beginning of a beautiful love affair!

Monday, August 6, 2018

The end of a love affair...

I recently returned from a 4 day trip to one of my favorite cities in the world, San Francisco!
The first time I visited this famous West Coast city I was young and in love (I'm still in love but the young part is questionable...ha!) when we honeymooned there about 13 years ago! I fell in love with San Francisco instantly; the weather was perfect, the food was amazing, everyone was nice and kind and the city is as picturesque as they get.  Even after having traveled to over 30 countries and hundreds of cities, my traveling heart always belonged to San Francisco...there was just something about it that always captivated me...I was lucky enough to be able to return to this great city a few other times and even took the girls there in 2014 (they loved it too, of course!)

But this time was different... I didn't find San Francisco as fascinating as I did on previous visits.. I'd go as far as saying that I was disappointed.. it was the end of a love affair, one that I thought would last forever but sadly it didn't. 
I found the city to be filthy and decadent, riddled with thousands of homeless people, junkies and prostitutes; on the first day I had already lost count of how many people I saw shooting up or inhaling cocaine in broad daylight and when I attempted to take brisk walks around the city at nighttime (not even late night) it was all about street workers fighting over their "customers". The most concerning part was the apathy of everyone's like nobody cares! Apparently the California government is more concerned about banning straws, recycling and charging for shopping bags than it is with cleaning up the streets and helping those in need.
Transit workers and even cops were rude to tourists and everyone seems more concerned with being "green" than being kind...It took me a while to figure out where to put my trash because there's a million recycling options at every corner but regular trash cans seemed to be non existent.  Public restrooms were basically unusable from how disgusting and dirty they all are and that's if I was lucky to find a restroom where I didn't have to pee next to a man because most restrooms were unisex because, you know, gender equality and who knows what else!
I also noticed so much hostility from the unspoken social war.. I seriously felt like I was in another country... and not a nice one!  
Everything was super expensive (and yes, I know California is more expensive by default but this was different!) and Californians didn't seem as receptive and embracing as I remembered them.

Of course I won't deny that the city is still as beautiful as ever and its colors and flavors have no comparison but somehow San Francisco dropped down on my list of favorites and I don't foresee that changing because that special charm I always found in it just wasn't there. I didn't feel safe walking around the streets of San Francisco, I didn't feel welcomed by its locals and I didn't feel like the city can embrace a conservative point of view like just wasn't the same for me!

We did get to visit Napa Valley for the first time and it was very beautiful.  Even with me not being a wine drinker I did enjoy the visit to one of the most famous wineries in the area and had an amazing time exploring and taking pictures...but Napa isn't San Francisco so....

I don't know when I will return to San Francisco or even if I ever will but I will forever cherish the nice memories I have of it and I feel blessed to have enjoyed it for as long as I did!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Technology and Sleep Quality

To follow up on the theme of my previous post, I have decided to write a little about the impact of technology on our sleep.
I am sure I don't stand alone when I say that many nights (if not every night) I spend a while playing with my phone until my eyes can no longer stay open; whether I'm reading something really important or just browsing around and catching up on the latest trending news, I waste way too much time (and sleep) on this pointless act.
I have seen many posts from friends regarding devices that aid in limiting internet time and setting parental controls (ie. Circle with Disney), which tells me that a lot of families struggle with technology restrictions and other issues related to the overuse of it as well.
I can't count the amount of nights the girls get in trouble for hiding under their sheets to play with their phones past bedtime or the many times I've had to confiscate every device so they can get some sleep...and no, they're not rebellious kids that don't listen to their mom, they are simply technology junkies just like many adults.  I know that using technology past bedtime is not the end of the world but I worry about how their sleep quality is negatively impacted by this behavior pattern.

A few nights ago I decided to turn off my phone at least  four hours before going to sleep; I basically forced myself to skip my nightly social media binge and just take time to relax and clear my mind. I leisurely browsed some unfinished books and even wrote some notes and to do lists for the next day. I also spent some time praying and reading my favorite devotional, so I basically did away with technology for a night...  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I hadn't slept that well in a long time; somehow avoiding my nightly phone use routine gave me the chance to experience the glorious sleep my body had been needing for a while... such a simple thing made such a great impact on my sleep.. I couldn't believe it..
But even with the positive experience, the conditioning that I have to use my phone before bed is really hard to beat so I was back at it the next night and I could feel it too... I really need to get better at this...
So because I love to read and find some creepy joy in researching things that come to my mind, I am going to share with you some incredibly information given to me by a representative from the "Sleep Institute" as well as "Tuck Sleep" that have helped me tremendously in understanding the importance of a good night's sleep and the negative impact of technology in our sleep quality.  I particularly enjoyed a publication titled "How Technology Impacts Your Sleep and What To Do About It" and another one titled "A Parent's Guide to Healthy Sleep"; in these two articles I have found a wealth of information that I know will help me get better at improving my sleep and our family's sleep patterns and overall rest quality, and I hope it helps you too.
I am tired of dealing with cranky kids on school mornings, I am done with sleeping 8+ hours and feelings like I haven't slept in ages; I know it's my fault so I want to do better...
How is your sleep quality? Do you think technology has an impact on our sleep patterns? Do your kids get enough sleep?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Internet Safety for Children

Even though I was never one of those parents who swore against propping their kids in front of a tv, I'm not a fan of excessive screen time either and while I try to be hopeful about my ability to limit screen time for my children, I am also realistic and know that screen time is going to happen no matter what and at some point my kids' eyes will be glued to a cell phone screen or an iPad (trust happens to the best of us.. ha!) Of course I'd rather have my kids invest their time in something more productive but I myself spend a lot of time playing with my phone so who am I to forbid them from doing so?! Internet and screens are part of our times whether we like it or not. 

Like many parents I know, I have allowed my kids to have iPads and cell phones, all under strict supervision (of course), where I basically monitor their apps, downloads, conversations, video watching behavior and so on.  The girls have phones (with a line) and they have children accounts under my Apple ID so that every time they want to download a new app, it has to go through me first for approval.  I have also allowed them to have Instagram accounts with the condition that they are set to "private" and only I can approve or add followers. Even though so far our system has worked great, I always fear the unsurmountable amount of information that is at their fingertips because I am aware that as much as I try, I probably will never be able to filter every little thing on the internet. 

I am aware that not everyone is on board with giving their children a cell phone or even access to a computer or iPad, and that is totally ok, but since I do, I always have to be on top of internet security in order to protect my children to the best of my abilities.  On many occasions I have found the girls watching videos or reading things that I don't find appropriate for their age and many other times I have seen videos that are seemingly innocent when in reality they aren't... it's scary....very scary...(picture Barbies cursing, robotic cartoons using vulgar language, naked dolls, etc!)

So in my quest to find ways to protect my children from the undeniable dangers of the internet, I came across a great guide found on the VPN Mentor Blog. This is an incredibly comprehensive guide titled "The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet"; it covers important topics such as mobile phones and apps, social media and cyberbullying among many others and I cannot recommend it enough.  I encourage every parent to read through this guide and document themselves on the importance of internet safety for children. 

Whether you decide to give your child a phone or whether or not you allow him/her access to the internet, I believe everyone should be aware of the dangers of the internet and be informed about what we can do as parents to protect our precious children. 

(Bonus pictures of my kids and their screens)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


When asked if she likes to almost share a birthday with her sister, Olivia always says she feels torn about it; she insists that once her birthday rolls around, everyone is tired of birthday wishes and cakes. What Olivia doesn't know is that even if her sister's birthday comes the day before hers, she shines in such a way that not even an "almost shared" birthday can dim her brightness. I always joke and say she got the best birthday gift the day before she turned 2 years old, one that we will never be able to top because a sister is a friend forever and hers just happened to come a day before her birthday.. I'm not sure she buys the whole thing but I am certain she will always cherish the memories. 
Olivia is such a special little lady; she is caring, funny, outgoing and incredibly loving. She loves to sing, dance, act and draw... mmm..did anyone say artist? I see so much of me in her and I am always humbled by her grace and love for others. 
Olivia also loves to travel and her passion for learning about new cultures and places is one of the most fun parts about her personality because she is the best companion for new adventures. 
This year has been particularly trying for Olivia because she's growing up and realizing that there are many challenges to maturing both physically and emotionally; but even when the conversations are uncomfortable and the disappointments are plentiful, she manages to be resilient and come out stronger out of every situation.  
Olivia will soon be starting the 6th grade and even though she admittedly feels anxious about middle school, I am sure she will continue to do great in school and in anything she does. 
I feel overwhelmingly happy to have a daughter like Olivia and I pray to God she never changes. 
Dear Olivia: I hope you always stay true to yourself and always remember how loved you are by all of us and anyone who is blessed to know you!
Happy Birthday!

Monday, July 16, 2018


Our very festive month of July is going really well! Iggy had his birthday on the 5th and now it's the girls' turn to shine and get older!
Today is Gaby's 9th birthday...the last of the single's still hard to believe she is so "old" already but I'm really loving the ride..
I've said it before... Gaby is the most challenging one out of our three children because she is the sweet and sour one of the bunch and the most unpredictable and willful; sometimes I really think God sent her to me so I could get better at being patient and understanding because she definitely tests me every chance she gets...
The good news is that her sweetness is overtaking and Gaby is also the most in touch with everyone else's problems; she has a degree of compassion that it's hard to match and that makes me very proud. Gaby is very observant and is specially particular about details such as small Lego pieces, color schemes, timelines, etc.. it's kind of funny to see such a young child so concerned about the little things and even funnier when that same person can also be so spacey at times..
Gaby loves reading, swimming in the pool, eating sweets, traveling and spending time with her friends; she is overall a joy to be around and I feel so lucky to be her mother. 
Gaby will soon be starting the 4th grade and is so excited about what the new school year has in store for her; she loves Math and Science and is a very good and dedicated student. 
Dear Gaby: I hope your birthday is amazing and I hope you know how loved you are by all of us and everyone who is lucky to know you. 
Happy 9th birthday!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Movie Review: "Hotel Transylvania 3"

Every time there is a new installment of a successful movie franchise I get eager to watch it; I often wonder how they can top a good movie with an even better one and Hotel Transylvania did not disappoint.
This one is one of my favorite franchises because it gives such a great spin to the monster theme and makes all famous monsters very likable, I also love it because the story lines are so creative and despite it being a "monster" movie, it is quite colorful and cute.
This particular installment focuses on Count Dracula realizing that he's been single for way too long and him wanting to find a date. As he tries to hide his desire to date from his daughter Mavis, she decides to take him on a surprise cruise vacation with all of his friends, the usual suspects...
At first he thinks the whole cruise thing is dumb but when he unexpectedly "zings" with the beautiful captain, the whole experience becomes fun and enchanting.
A lot of funny things happen during this vacation and all the characters shine in their own way.  Count Dracula realizes that can love again and the whole gang teaches the villain about why good always prevails and how we're all similar despite our differences.  The movie ends with an epic DJ song battle and it has such a happy and wonderful ending.  I particularly enjoyed all the characters, the setting of the movie, the main plot and how it develops.  It is perfectly paced and simple enough for young kids to understand; it is also packed with light humor and colorful scenes; definitely a feel good family movie.
This one gets 4 out of 4 stars from me.  Totally recommended.