Saturday, June 25, 2016

Oliver: 9 months

Our little baby boy is turning 9 months today, which means we are officially entering the last quarter of his first year! wow!
Oliver is SUCH a fun baby and I absolutely love the age he's in right now; he's interactive, talkative, adventurous and very loving!
This month he mastered crawling (the right way!), feeding himself, pulling up to standing and he's VERY close to cruising around furniture; he can also drink from a sippy cup and is slowly getting the concept of drinking with a straw... go baby Oliver!
He is big and chubby and currently wears size 12-18 months; his legs are rolly and his cheeks are round and chunky.. have I mentioned how much I LOVE chubby babies!??! ;) Even though I don't know his exact height and weight, I know he's over 22lbs now; his next doctor's appointment isn't until mid-July. 
As far as sleeping goes.. well.. I wish I had better news :(.. Oliver STILL doesn't sleep through the night and wakes up every 2-3 hours. His nap schedule is also very crappy and we've officially named him the "cat napper" since he NEVER naps for longer than 20 minutes; I still wonder where he gets his energy from since it sure isn't from sleeping! :/
Oliver loves music and as soon as he hears any song, he starts shaking and puts his arms up. He also loves tickles and finds waving good-bye to be one of the funniest things people can do; it's so cute to see him laugh when people wave at him.  He loves playing with balls, stuffed animals, cell phones and remote controls. 
He eats SO MUCH and still breastfeeds like a champ...I swear he's addicted to my boobs and I'm already starting to wonder how I'm going to wean him off when the time comes even though there are no plans to wean YET!
Here are some pictures from his 9 months!

Oliver's first time in the pool! (06/16/16).. It was so much fun and I still can't believe I held off that long to put him in the water, especially living in South Florida.. he had a blast and couldn't stop splashing around! 

..and here he is during one of his rare naps.. he looks so peaceful and I wish he did this more often!

Happy 9 months Mr. Oliver! We love you and we are enjoying you so much! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

End of school year reflections...

As we wrap up another school year, I can say that I've never been happier to be DONE with school work for at least 10 weeks.  This school year was TOUGH in so many levels and I'm just glad we get to enjoy our summer without worrying about anything but having fun...
My girls grew so much this year and matured even more; they faced many challenges including becoming big sisters and sharing the spotlight with a new baby that has been more than demanding. I was incredibly tired for more than half the school year, the amount of work and tests was overwhelming at times, there were bullying issues at school, their dad's traveling schedule was insane and many more things made up for a hectic school year.  Through it all, both of them maintained the best attitude and excelled academically and in everything else they took on. 
This year was also very tough for me; I was an emotional roller coaster when Oliver was born and for a good amount of time I felt like I was neglecting my daughters by not dedicating my whole life to them like they're used to. I had many issues adjusting to them "growing up", coming out of their shell and "needing" me less, I guess...
I learned that my kids are fighters and the most optimistic little girls there are. I also learned that they are incredibly smart and have many academic strengths that I wasn't really familiar with. Olivia is a writer at heart and has the most beautiful handwriting I've seen and Gaby is a genius at math, sometimes even helping her sister with her homework; their skills really blew my mind this year!
I also noticed some wonderful traits in them such as creativity, ingenuity, generosity, compassion and a faith stronger than I could ever dream of.  I am so proud of them for finishing another school year on top of the world!
Congrats girls! I can't believe I have a 2nd and 4th grader! Enjoy your summer!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oliver: 8 months

Our baby boy is 8 months today! Oh my, how time flies! And I realize how much of a cliche this phrase is, but really... time is just passing by SO quickly!
Oliver is a VERY challenging baby, and I say this in the most loving way possible...this boy keeps me on my toes and is incredibly active, especially now that he is mobile...nothing can stop him!
He is "crawling" and even though his technique isn't perfect yet, he sure can get around by rotating on his own axis and scooting back and's quite funny to see him reach his desired destination when we place him on the rug or the floor. 
He laughs, coos, smiles and talks up a storm; by now he says 2 or 3 clear words (mama, dadda and mas), I could swear I've also heard the word "teta" (boob) a few times but as the other words I am sure they're all involuntary babble that results in known sounds..but a mom can only hope her baby is getting closer and closer to actual talking.. right?..either way it's funny and cute all the same...
Oliver LOVES food.. and I mean ALL KINDS of food.. he definitely makes it known when he wants a piece of whatever you're having and he will not rest until you put it in his mouth; he loves chicken, yogurt, avocado, rice rusks and basically anything he can nibble on...he is my best eater by far! This month he got his first two teeth (bottom ones), which are so stinking cute! 
And now, the thing I write every month that I pray I never have to write again.. he STILL does NOT sleep through the night and what's worse, he STILL nurses every TWO HOURS even at night! A lot of people don't believe me when I say that my 8 month old cannot sleep for longer than 2-3 hours at a time.. I seriously don't know how we've survived this long on so little sleep.. it's so exhausting and I really hope we're nearing the end of this ordeal...
The lack of sleep has been the biggest challenge so far with Oliver; I really thought by now we'd be turning a corner in this department but I'm losing hope.  Sleep deprivation is EVIL; I swear the most awful thoughts come to my mind when I'm on the 3rd night feeding at 3am or 4am, I wonder WHY God thought I could handle another baby, I wonder if my life will ever be "normal" again, I wonder if I'll ever have the energy to do something other than sleep when I have a little bit of free time, I wonder if I would be happier if Oliver didn't exist, I wonder if I'll ever be a good mother to my other two kids... I wonder a lot of things... and then I sleep on it.. or at least I try!
But even with his crappy sleep habits, constant need for attention, clinginess, unending hunger and loudness, I wouldn't change my baby for the world.  He is such a happy little boy that has brought so much joy to our lives; the way he plays with his sisters, the way he looks at me when I hold him, the way he smiles when he sees daddy.. it all just melts my heart... he's SO PERFECT!

I will also add that we are still fully breastfeeding and he loves it as much as ever! He nurses like a champ and just loves his mommy's milk.  I'm hoping to make it to at least a year of nursing exclusively and then play it by ear.  Breastfeeding has been one of the best experiences of my life and it has inspired me so much as a mother; I hope to blog about my breastfeeding journey in the coming months since I still can't believe I went from an anti-breastfeeding person to a full on boob advocate.. it's crazy to even think about it!

So.. Oliver.. I hope you start sleeping soon and I thank God every day for you!  Happy 8 months, little buddy! We LOVE YOU!!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Movie review: "The Angry Birds"

This weekend we watched "The Angry Birds", one of those movies that is much anticipated but people are not sure if that's a good or bad thing.
We have a Finnish cousin (that's where Angry Birds are from) who told us about how important it was for Rovio (the company that makes Angry Birds) that this movie is successful since they are pretty much bankrupt so a lot went into it as a way to "save" the company and bring it afloat.
Right after I saw the movie, I read a review online that said that it "sucked" so I feel compelled to defend the movie somehow because it definitely DID NOT "suck".
I believe that the movie should be reviewed within the appropriate context and that is admitting that a lot of the puns, characters and jokes are exclusive to those who have at some point played the game of Angry Birds; so within the context of the game player, the movie is pretty good, funny and quite entertaining.
Not only is the story compelling but I also think it provides a great background about the animosity between the famous green pigs and the Angry Birds.  The viewer gets to understand why the Angry Birds are "angry" and who the pigs are, why they're after the birds and how it all unfolds between them.
I think the characters are very engaging and the writers do a great job bringing each of them to life according to their role in the famous game. The humor is light enough for kids and deep enough for adults; the animation is great, the plot is entertaining and the story has a happy ending, which is always great when you're dealing with a family movie.
With all the said, I do think the pace of the movie was a bit slow in the beginning but once the story took off, things turned out ok as it unraveled and despite a slow start the length of it was just right.
I will give this movie 2.5 out of 4 stars only because it could have been a little more "detached" from the actual game so that the non-players could feel more engaged and the general audience could be maximized, but we really enjoyed it.
Go watch it and help Rovio stay afloat! ;)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rants from this "Happy Mom"...

Recently I have gotten into the habit of checking my Facebook "memories" every morning and reminiscing about past years when my kids were younger and things were less complicated. There are days when a single picture brings back so many memories and I think of that saying about the hard times being what take you from "one happy snapshot to the next".. it is SO true!

Lately I've been thinking about my kids growing up and how much harder it is on me than it is on them; I find myself doubting my answers or struggling to find the right words to say when they come to me with a problem. I beat myself up over not being a good enough mom for them or feeling like I can't provide them with all the support they need at any given moment.  While I am sure all moms have their "moments", sometimes I feel so alone in this ordeal, I feel overwhelmed with "life" as it happens and I am often afraid of the future...

Olivia had a rough school year; third grade proved to be a challenge for her and not academically speaking.  While she performed very well in all her subjects (consistent straight A's in all terms), I feel like her emotional maturity just wasn't there; she never bonded with her teacher (who is a rather "dry" woman), had some issues with kids bullying her, was overwhelmed with silly homework (don't even get me started on this point) and had an incredibly hard time fitting in with some people. A generally well behaved child, she was called into the office a few times to be "counseled" by a rather useless guidance counselor who I think did more harm than good. 
She came home crying a few weeks ago saying the school was giving out some random art awards and she was sad because she didn't get one; she proceeded to tell me she was tired of the "same kids" always getting the awards. At 8 years old she pointed out the fact that these "same kids" happen to be related to school staff, or the sons/daughters of those who have more money, or those whose parents are "always hanging out at school"...yeah.. she's smart observant like that! What is a mom to say? Do I break it to her that sometimes life just isn't FAIR? Do I encourage her to try harder so she can get an award next time? Do I tell her those awards don't really matter? Or do they?  These are the moments when I really dread her getting older and suffering like that.. it's hard to explain...

Then there's Gaby and her lack of understanding of her sister's need to be independent. Olivia keeps wanting to separate herself from the "I'm Gaby's sister" idea and Gaby is having a hard time with that. She still wants to dress like her sister, hang out with her sister's friends and maybe even attend the same parties/events her sister is invited to. She has such a strong personality but still can't get away from the fact that most of her growing up has been done under her older sister's shadow.  This is the first year where they have both specifically requested their birthdays be celebrated independently even though they are one day apart and the only one willing to bend that request is little Gaby, who isn't so little anymore either...
Remember that time I said Olivia came home crying because she didn't get an art award (yeah.. I just wrote about that on this same post!)...well, the second half of that anecdote is when Gaby very pragmatically added "yeah, but sometimes they have to pick random kids that never get anything so the favoritism isn't so obvious"... she also said "I know that because I was that random kid once!".. WHAT?!?!? How could she even come up with comments like that? Really Gaby? wow! Do I deny her observation and trivialize her feelings?... what's a mother to do? Is it really THAT obvious?

...and because this post turned into some random ranting that almost doesn't make sense, I have titled it "Rants from this Happy Mom". I literally had to write it up and THEN title it because there's just so much going through my mind. I want this school year to end, I want to enjoy the summer with my kids, I want to forget about the fact that the passing of time and the growing up is inevitable and I also want to keep learning from them and keep hoping that one day, maybe.. jus maybe.. I will have half the answers they need to have a happy life where the lessons learned are not so harsh and the getting up hurts less than the falls... 

Here's a picture that recently came up on my "memories"... how fitting!?!? 

Happy Blogging!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Oliver: 7 months

Here we are.. month 7!.. now more than half way through Oliver's first year.. WOW!
This month has been very eventful as far as milestones go.. Oliver has become increasingly interested in toys and is very interactive; he plays with his sisters ALL THE TIME and I can finally see some real exchanges between's the most adorable thing and I love to see how protective they are of him and also very helpful!
Oliver "talks" (more like babbles) A LOT.. he says dadda, mama, bah bah and many other cute baby words that I can't get enough of, it's so entertaining to talk to him and hear him respond and smile. 
He can roll, scoot, sit up, grab things, feed himself pieces of food and is basically eating EVERYTHING (except for nuts, honey and citrus); I am really happy with our decision to skip baby food and go straight to table food, I feel like feeding him is so easy and he has really caught on the concept of chewing, biting and swallowing all kinds of foods... so far his favorites include avocado, pasta, bread, chicken, mushrooms and cheese.

Oliver has also mastered the "all fours" position and can rock back and forth.  Sometimes (by fluke), he will put one hand in front of the other but I don't think he understands what crawling means just yet.  I will be honest and say that I'd rather him hold off a bit with the crawling because I'm already exhausted as it is without having to chase him around....

He is currently 21 lbs and 28 inches long, wearing size 9 or 12 months (depending on the brand) and STILL successfully breastfeeding exclusively; he still nurses every 2-3 hours and our bond is stronger than ever! ;)

Now on to the "ugly" part... Oliver STILL doesn't sleep through the night...he is such a nightmare when it comes to sleeping.  We still struggle to put him down for the first stretch of the night and after that he is up every two hours (sometimes even less!) and wants to eat every time.  He is also VERY demanding and wants to be held ALL THE TIME!! We are beyond exhausted and sometimes I wonder how God thought I'd be able to handle another baby because he tests my patience more often than not and I get so desperate when I can't figure out how to get him to calm down.
Yes he is smiley and sweet but he can also be the whiniest and crankiest baby sometimes and those are the times when I wonder if my life would be better without him in it... I realize that sounds horrible, but that's what sleep deprivation does to a mom and I gotta be honest with myself because it is NOT always rainbows and butterflies with these squishy babies...
We recently purchased a king size bed because as horrible as it sounds (for some!), we still share a bed with Oliver and I can't see an end to this habit since he won't sleep anywhere else! :/  I will admit to the fact that I love the baby cuddles, especially now that there's room for everyone in our huge bed! ;)

With all that said, I still love my baby and I feel so blessed to have him in our lives. He brings so much joy to our family and I can't wait to see him turn into a wonderful boy and amazing man. 

Happy 7 months, Oliver! We love you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tales from Europe- Part 2

I've slacked majorly with writing about our recent trip to Europe, but I will go ahead and post Part 2 of it because I want to remember every little thing in a few years and this is a great way to do that!

The third city we visited was Vienna, Austria, which is probably the most regal of all the places we saw so it was a good contrast because it is also such a modern yet classic place; we really enjoyed our stay in Vienna. 
Vienna was SO clean...probably one of the cleanest places I've ever seen which made it such a "walkable" place and very easy to navigate.  By the time we got to Vienna, the weather was already warming up and the days were the most perfect. This city was also the most expensive one of all and probably the second (after Budapest) with less people willing to speak English so Iggy got to practice some of his German skills, which was very fun to watch to say the least! :)
I also noticed that Vienna was the most diverse city, as far as nationalities and cultures observed. 
Here's Iggy in front of our hotel...

Again..tour buses were a hit; the ones in Vienna were specially clean and organized.. we really loved them...

Here we are at the famous Belvedere Palace, such a beautiful place filled with so much history...

I love this picture of the kids at the famous Belvedere Gardens, a very kid friendly spot.. they had so much fun running around this historic place. 

Here's Gaby and I at Schwarzenbergplatz, a very beautiful spot in Vienna with one of the biggest fountains in the city... the day was simply amazing...

Oliver really enjoyed the tour buses, he was so chill the whole time and even  used the headsets at some point...

And I just love this picture of the famous Prater in Vienna, a hot spot for both tourists and locals.  If you ever visit this wonderful city, don't miss this peculiar attraction which features hundreds of attractions, stores and restaurants.  We really enjoyed our time there... 

After Vienna, we headed to our final city, the wonderful Budapest. I will admit to the fact that my expectations for Budapest were the lowest and I only added this destination to our itinerary because it made our trip cheaper (go figure!). By the time we had to go to Budapest, the kids were already tired of trains, hotels and planes and were asking to go home but the prospect of a new city excited all of us and we HAD to visit anyways because that's where our trip was supposed to end. 
And let me just say WOW! I simply LOVED this place and (after Prague) it was my favorite of all. I had heard Budapest is a "magical" place and no words can describe how beautiful it is and how glad I am to have had the opportunity to visit it. 

Budapest had the BEST food of all places and we were lucky to try some typical dishes such as Langos, Goulash, potato pancakes and many more. I really love how my girls (especially Olivia) are so adventurous when it comes to new foods; some of these new flavors were simply fascinating. 

Budapest also had the best weather of all four cities; we were able to take off our sweaters and walk around without being cold. The architecture was impressive and we specially enjoyed our visit to the Hungarian Parliament building, which is the 2nd largest in Europe (after the English Parliament in London). Here's a family picture at the Parliament. 

Family enjoying a nice walk in Budapest... Iggy was a champ at baby wearing.. go daddy!

Here are the girls in front of the famous Bridge of Chains, one of the many bridges that connect Buda to Pest...

We went on the funicular to the Buda Castle and enjoyed some of the most amazing views of the city. 

Here we are on our Danube River cruise, which allowed us to tour the whole city via boat and was the perfect addition to our trip...
Not many people spoke English in Budapest so communicating was a bit more challenging. The city was fairly cheap because Hungary has its own currency (the Forint) and the exchange rate was very beneficial to us... 

And as a bonus, here's a couple of pictures of Oliver on the plane during our last flight (almost 13 hours long!). By the time we were on this flight, he was SO done! He was tired and cranky but even then he was able to keep it together for the most part... such a good boy!

Some of the things I learned about traveling with a baby (or traveling in general):
- Pack light... as light as you possibly can. All our train transfers and adventures were slightly easier because we didn't bring unnecessary things and I still believe we could have done better. 
- Baby wearing is the bomb! Because we brought our Tula carrier, it was so much easier to haul Oliver and the kids around; he would sleep and eat in the carrier and we walked a lot faster when we didn't have to push the stroller
- Bring a SMALL stroller if needed. Before I went on the trip, a friend of mine suggested a cheap tiny Walmart stroller, which was probably the biggest hit. In my mind, I would be able to dispose of it had it become an inconvenience (it was $20). We didn't have to get rid of it so that's a good thing!
- Pack lots of snacks!  Trains snacks can be expensive so packing some kid friendly snacks is a must if you want to avoid overspending.
- Drink LOTS of water. Walking around can be so exhausting and getting dehydrated is always a possibility so carrying water bottles around is imperative when touring big cities. 
- Have pocket change and cash in hand. There's a lot of "cash only" places/stores in these cities so carrying some cash allows for easy shopping and less frustration in case you really want to buy something at some of these spots...and have change for the restrooms too, because most of them have a fee!
- Plan your days but allow for flexibility.  The truth is, kids get tired and there will be days when they're not up to a jam packed itinerary so it's always a good idea to have some flexibility and understand that a slower pace might be better some days but have some plan anyways.
- Check the weather daily! Weather can be very volatile so knowing what kind of day is ahead is crucial when planning your daily attire.  There were days when we didn't check and we were stuck carrying heavy coats that weren't necessary or needing an extra layer that we didn't put on. 
- Buy souvenirs throughout!!! Lots of friends and family really appreciate small souvenirs so buying little things every day will make it easier so you don't have to rush at the last minute. There are lots and lots of souvenir stores in Europe and they feature the cutest little things so shop away!
- Take LOTS of pictures! I'm sure everyone agrees with this one but I feel compelled to remind you. Besides your mental images, pictures are the only tangible memories to bring back from a trip.  It is such a pleasure to look back at pictures and reminisce of wonderful times. 

I feel so blessed to have had (yet again!) the opportunity to travel with my family. And since some people were asking, I will say that I don't regret taking Oliver and even I got so many comments on how "crazy" I was to take him on such long trip, I am so happy we did because even though he won't remember this trip one bit, the rest of us will and that is something that nobody can take away!
Looking forward to our next trip and I hope you enjoyed reading our tales from Europe! ;)