Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Stay at Home Mom": one year later

Yesterday marked ONE YEAR since becoming a "Stay at Home Mom"; one year since I left my career path to dedicate myself to our children and our home, one year since I stopped bringing home a full income and ceased being that "career oriented" woman I always thought myself to be. It seems like just yesterday I was stressing out over whatever my boss said or whatever was pending by the end of the week. Just yesterday I was stuck in front of a computer finishing up reports while unknowingly (and unwillingly) spending too much precious time away from my children; whether or not I was physically present, I never really felt I could give my kids 100% attention because there was always "something", usually work related, that took precedence over whatever they wanted to tell me or do with me....
Now, I'm not by any means saying that working moms don't give their children attention, what I AM saying is that I WASN'T doing it... it's a balance I could never achieve and something that I always longed for.
So.. how did this year unfold?  How do I feel about leaving my career a year later? was this year as productive as I expected it to be? Was becoming a "stay at home mom" the right decision for our family?
Well.. so many questions and so many thoughts... While I don't regret the decision of quitting my job to stay home with the kids, I will say that it has been HARD... sometimes I feel like I'm still mourning a loss.. the loss of my autonomy and my sense of independence.. There are days when I feel lost and even though I keep myself busy (I even have a **part-time** job as a certified Google trainer- from home), there are tons of days when I feel like a "stay at home person" and an "unproductive" member of society.  My husband has been extremely supportive the whole time and he is my biggest cheerleader, always motivating me and telling me how much he appreciates everything I do. He has also been a great sport about any financial adjustment we've had to make and has been fully dedicated to being the main bread winner and supporter of our household.
The kids have LOVED every second I have been able to spend with them during this first year and I have learned so much from them.  I have been able to spend more time in school activities, take better care of our home and even our cats.  It has definitely been a VERY productive year in the home front.
Will I assume this role forever?... well.. I honestly couldn't answer that now... All I can say is that I have gained a great deal of admiration for all the moms that have made the sacrifice of putting their careers aside for the benefit of their families.. It is a HARD job, extremely demanding and not always rewarding, but it is definitely life changing and it has given me so much perspective in life....
Am I happy?  ABSOLUTELY! I believe God put me in this path for a reason and I am incredibly thankful for this amazing experience that I get to live... I love this life and wouldn't change it for anything... I have learned so much this year and I have enjoyed my family to the fullest...
As far as my plans go... I will continue to work from home at my current **part-time** job and will continue to strive to be a better wife and mom... I will continue to enjoy this life and face every challenge that is thrown at me, and I will always do so with a smile on my face! :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Movie review: "The Book of Life"

This is one of those movies which for some reason attracts certain audiences and others not so much; the theme seems to have a certain "target" and many have criticized its director saying it's "too folkloric".
Well, let me tell you dear readers, this is one of the BEST children's movie I have seen in a LONG time and it appeals to every possible audience, in my humble opinion! ;)
Even though the concept of the movie is based on the Mexican tradition of celebrating the "Day of the Dead" , this story is so well written that it is guaranteed to captivate every person of any age.
The movie contains several elements that are part of the Mexican (Hispanic?) culture, which some people might understand better than others, but the characters are so engaging and the movie is incredibly colorful and creative.
It is also loaded with beautiful messages about the afterlife and the idea that even if a person is (physically) gone, he/she is never forgotten as long as we keep their memories in our hearts.
The movie also features modern tunes that have been "tropicalized" (I am aware that is not a real word!), which makes it even better.  You will seriously love the soundtrack!
The plot develops around 3 friends (Joaquin, Manolo and Maria), who grow up together and go through many adventures as kids. As expected, both boys are in love with Maria and fight to win her heart, but Maria's heart is set on one of them and their love is pure and triumphant despite every tribulation (of course that is an extremely summarized version of the story, but I really don't want to spoil it for anyone).
All characters, scenes, songs and themes are age appropriate and the folkloric aspects of the movie are written with such gentleness that it tugs at the heart strings (in a good way!) of every person who watches.
I strongly recommend this movie to EVERYONE and I sure will be buying the DVD/Blu-ray as soon as it comes out.
4 out of 4 stars in my book! :)

**On a site note, this movie was extremely healing for me; it gave me this beautiful picture of the afterlife, where I believe my loved ones that have passed are currently enjoying their time**

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oh...hello there... neglected blog!

I feel like I haven't blogged in FOREVER... and maybe it is because I actually haven't blogged in forever! Ha!
I had such a good thing going last month; I was inspired and writing fairly often and all of a sudden I got swamped with motherly responsibilities among other things and I got away and now my mind is flooded with things I've been wanting to write for a while but my ideas are a mess!
So, because I know there are *some* people who read this blog I felt like popping in to say "hello"!
This month has been crazy; the kids are so busy with school work and I in turn am busy with school work too!  I am involved in a lot of things at church and at the kids' schools and I can't seem to have any down time.
Last weekend I participated in a wonderful retreat (Walk to Emmaus) and I really enjoyed my time away from the world; it was a weekend with no cell phones, no family and no watch even...definitely an enriching experience that provided me with an amazing opportunity to reflect and think about the blessings in my life... definitely recommended to anyone who was ever considered being part of this retreat...
We are getting ready for Halloween, which is without a doubt one of the kid's favorite holidays; they have got their costumes ready and we are planning a fun family party to celebrate.  Even the cats got some adorable costumes, which I have to post pictures of.. I promise you they are adorable and hilarious all at the same time!
I am also working on some things I want to post about, including my thoughts on a debate I recently had with another mom regarding "Homework" and my ongoing ideas regarding the "Culture of Overparenting".. some good stuff is coming up... so stay tuned!

Happy Blogging! ;)
  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Movie review: "The Boxtrolls"

This movie was advertised A LOT.. every time I saw a kid's movie, I would see a little intro of "The Boxtrolls" and every time I saw a different preview, my curiosity spiked even more...
I went in with mixed expectations; knowing that the movie was created by the same people who made "Coraline" and "Paranorman" I had a feeling it would be a little "weird" but the characters also looked so cute that I honestly didn't know what to expect.
I will start by saying that just as expected, the story line was NEVER clear to me; there were boxtrolls hiding in the sewers, running around with a kid and trying to escape the boxtrolls "exterminators", but the why and how of the story was never fully developed.
I don't think the story provides enough background in regards to how the boxtrolls came about or what the issue was with them... yes they do give a little info as to why people think they are evil, but I never really got the part of where they came from, what they do, what their purpose is, etc....
Also, there was never really a climax to this story.  The evil character's sole purpose was to earn a "white hat" so he can join the "cheese tasters" in a secret room.  Among the many things that weren't so endearing about the movie was the fact that the residents of the town had a strange fixation on cheese and the movie revolves around the value of exotic cheeses, which I don't think is a topic kids can really relate to.
Overall the characters were rather strange and despite the perfect animation and colorful scenes, the movie just never took off and even though the kids seemed to be enjoying it, it just fell flat.  There wasn't really anything too interesting about this film and it was borderline "creepy" and truly boring for my taste.
There was a subtle "feel good" message about family at the end of the movie but even that wasn't too clear and I'm sure the kids didn't really "get it"...
I would NOT recommend this movie to anyone with young children and there is a clear reason as to why it's rated PG and not G.  I give this one 1 out of 4 stars.. not worth it in my opinion....

Friday, September 19, 2014

Remembering my Grandma on her birthday....

I never imagined my life without you, in all of my existence I never fathomed the idea of you not being there to guide me, to laugh with me, to bless me or to simply have a Scrabble afternoon where we would discuss valid acronyms or two letter words that would skew our game just that much... you were fun, Grandma... you were so awesome to be around and something as simple as holding your hand could comfort me to no end on any given day. 
I always looked forward to that time of the day when I could come visit you and sit next to you in your room; whether we were having a trivial conversation about how much I hated my job or a serious discussion about how to raise my daughters, every word that you uttered was full of wisdom and love and that is something I will never forget. 
Your hands were soft, so was your hair; I never told you how much I loved hugging you and holding your cold hands....why were your hands cold all the time? I always found that so strange but also so cool about you... you would squeeze my hand tightly every time I went to kiss you good-bye, like you never wanted me to leave... and oh Grandma.. how I wish I could feel that squeeze one more time! I will never forget that last hand squeeze on the day you died; you were so aware of what was happening and I am sure you were terrified but you still managed to tell me how much you loved me and how much you would miss me... oh Grandma.. how painful it is not to have you around, especially on this day...
You would have been 86 today; we would be celebrating and singing a loud "Happy Birthday" song, you would be holding my hand, I would be enjoying you and loving you like I did every single day of my life and we would be eating cake... you loved cake and I loved your sweet tooth... I loved everything about you my dear Grandma!
Today my world feels a little sadder and life is a whole lot emptier but somehow I know that you are celebrating BIG today and all the angels are throwing you the party you deserve.  I know you wouldn't like to know that it took so much of me to write this post and that I can barely see what I'm typing because of the tears that fog my eyes, gosh my eyes are literally burning...it hurts so much Grandma!
We will release tons of balloons to the sky today, in your name and in the name of every wonderful moment that we were blessed to spend with you.  Please smile for us, Grandma and know that you are ever present in our lives and in every single thing we do. 
I love you and miss you forever!

The following are two pictures of my Grandma celebrating her 80th birthday; full of life and love.  I am sure the mariachis are playing for her today and her soul is joyful and grateful just like it was in this picture!  This day is for you, Grandma! Happy Birthday!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Raising Appreciative Kids

As a mother, I believe it is my responsibility to give my children everything they need; I give them food, clothes, school supplies and MUCH more... I perceive them as happy and content children whose needs and wants are always met and I, in turn, feel satisfied for doing a "good" job... but am I REALLY doing a good job?  I know my children are content...but are they APPRECIATIVE? Do they really understand what things are worth?  Do they grasp how LUCKY they really are to have what they have?....furthermore.. am I giving them TOO much?
We live in such a wasteful society, where we take everything for granted and nothing holds true value... iPhone 6 coming out?  Yes!  $749?  Who cares!  I still have a perfectly good 5s but I GOTTA have the new cooler looking model... When did it that train of thought become our norm?
I was at the Chick-fil-A drive-thru the other day and my order had two drinks, the guy put the two cups in a carton cup holder and before I even touched it I gently told him I didn't need it since my car has a cup holder; he quickly said "ok" and proceded to trash a perfectly good cup holder without hesitation.  A similar thing happened to me at a Greek food place when I asked for a water cup and when the girl grabbed two by mistake, she simply tossed the other one in the trash.  Now, some people might argue that "procedure policies" require this sort of behavior, but I find it very sad to think that it's OK to just waste things for no reason.... I could come up with a ton of similar stories that convey the exact same message...but for practical purposes I won't do that....
So the problem lies with the fact that this unappreciative society is where our children are growing up; to them it's normal to throw perfectly good things in the trash, it's acceptable to want newer things just "because" and they have a constant expectation of having more; it's like they are genetically programmed to never be fully satisfied and to feel like there's always something missing.  Our children are growing up believing that they are entitled to millions of toys, never-ending entertainment and endless "things" that really never teach them anything and never fill the emotional voids that are part of life; we aren't teaching our kids to be appreciative because we live a constant state of "excess", we aren't promoting positive emotions and we certainly aren't nurturing caring feelings.
So how can we raise appreciative kids?  What are some of the basic concepts that can help our children become rich in feelings and emotions rather than rich in needless possessions? Can we do this collectively as a society?  Can we change the negative spiral effect that we are part of?
I have compiled a list of things that can contribute in changing these negative patterns of self-absorption and materialism into positive appreciation and a desire to focus on intangible things.
Here are some of my observations:

  • Encourage basic manners: teaching your kids to say "please" and "thank you" goes a long way.  When you teach basic manners, you are building a foundation of appreciation and you are enabling your child to value other people's emotions by showing respect at all times. 
  • Teach them the concept of money: kids NEED to know how much things cost and consequently they should understand the process involved in making money. We can't raise kids who are oblivious about the fact that money does not come out of a black hole and that parents need to work hard in order to obtain the money that goes towards purchasing everything they have.  Allowances and money management lessons are great approaches. 
  • Expose them to the needs of the world: making a child aware of the needs in the rest of the world allows him to understand his place in society and it helps in making him more considerate of others and be more appreciative of what he has. We were at church the other day and the priest brought up and astounding fact: "In places like Haiti, $100 can feed a family of 4 for a WHOLE YEAR". Can you think about the last time you spent $100 on a special birthday dinner?  I can!  I'm sure more than one person will answer yes to this question.
  • Give them responsibility: a child is more likely to understand the value of hard work when he has to perform some sort of duty, whether it's a small chore at home or some other type of "work; it is highly advisable to get children engaged in some sort of contributing routine.  When you give a task to a child, you change the focus from what they can GET to what they can GIVE and that makes for a very positive change. 
  • Do not engage in consumerism: Consumerism is one of the worst ailments of our society; it encourages the acquisition of goods and services in greater amounts that are needed. When parents live a life of over-consumption, a child is more likely to model such behavior and interpret it as acceptable; this then become a cycle that is hard to break so it's best to never start it.  Stick to NEEDS vs. WANTS!
  • Do not give into the "gimmes": when we give children more than they need, we are creating an expectation of "get-get-get" and we are weakening their character by placing excessive value on things rather than on developing strong relationships with the people around them. So as hard as it may be, parents need to stop encouraging the notion of effortless rewards and vane possessions. 
  • Encourage children to become "givers": you may be surprised how much children enjoy giving and parents should always encourage children to find pleasure in sharing and helping others.  A toy drive around the holidays or a canned food donation will go a long way in teaching this lesson.  When we promote a "giving" attitude, we are more likely to raise children that appreciate what they get, no matter how little it may be.  
These are only a few of the things that will help parents in raising more appreciative kids.  We must always remember that the change starts with us parents and that we are raising tomorrow's leaders.  Let's keep making the world a better place by teaching our kids the value of people, emotions and feelings and by helping them understand their place in society.  We need to appreciate our world in order for the world to appreciate us!

Happy blogging!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Doc McStuffins: School of Medicine": DVD release & giveaway

**Update: This Giveaway has been closed! A winner has been randomly selected and her prize has been shipped! Thank you for participating and please check back for upcoming giveaways!**

It's time for a check up!
Last week we visited Disney's Hollywood Studios and spent some time with the Doc; we saw the Disney Jr show, which is still one of Gaby's favorites even though she's not a "baby" anymore.
The Doc McStuffins show features some of the most adorable characters and stories; I really enjoy the little songs and all of the episodes where she treats the toys and nurses them back to health.

The latest Doc McStuffins DVD is being released on Sept 9th; it features the "School of Medicine" episode along with 5 other bonus episodes where the adorable Doc does her thing, cures the toys and saves the day.  My kids particularly enjoyed this DVD and it is a great addition to their collection.

In honor of this release, I am hosting a special giveaway, where one lucky reader will receive a copy of the new Doc McStuffins DVD with the special "School of Medicine" episode.  Even though the DVD is geared to younger children, anyone can enter for a chance to win!

All you need to do is either comment below or on the FB post and I will contact the lucky winner within the next few days.  The DVD will be mailed to the winner within a week!  Good luck and happy blogging! :)