Sunday, November 19, 2017

12 years!

I met Ignacio in 2004 when I was going through a personal crisis in which I was looking to find myself. He came unexpectedly and unannounced but definitely determined to stay...
At 22, I wasn't looking for a husband and I certainly wasn't planning on settling down at that moment; but God had other plans and He challenged me by choosing the perfect man and bringing him into my life when the time was *just* right. 
Our courtship lasted a few short months and even though some people thought we were crazy for jumping into marriage in less than a year, we both just *knew* that it felt right!
Life with Ignacio is SO easy and our marriage has been blissful and happy for the past 12 years; we aren't perfect (who is?) but we love each other unconditionally and our main goal is to make each other happy by living our faith and being genuine no matter what.  Iggy is my best friend, he is my confidant, my rock, my "person", the one I want to see every night when I go to bed and every morning when I wake up for the rest of my life and I can only hope I live long enough to show him how much I love him.
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank God for this life we live, for our marriage and for our love but anniversaries are always special and our 12th wasn't the exception. 
We celebrated 12 years yesterday (November 18th) by spending time enjoying each other's company and reminiscing of our wedding day.  We went out to dinner at night and talked well into the late hours...it was the perfect day. 
Happy 12th Anniversary, Iggy! You truly are the love of my life!
Cheers to many more! 


Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie review: "Wonder"

My daughters have been wanting to watch this movie since they saw the initial preview.  Olivia even took the time to read the book prior to the movie to get an anticipated idea of the characters and the story so it was only natural that we saw it on opening day.
The movie revolves around the story of Auggie, a boy that was born with a genetic issue that caused a facial deformity, and his struggle to fit in once his mother decides to stop home schooling him and sends him to a regular school.  It is packed with emotions and it paints a clear picture of just how mean kids can be and how unprepared the world is to accept disability as diversity.  The story is captivating and Jacob Tremblay does a great job portraying a sensitive and emotionally mature boy that has a thicker skin than many adults can aspire to.
The way the movie is structured gives way to the viewer to learn about the perspective of each of the main characters and how they all play a role in Auggie's success and ultimate acceptance from his newly found friends.
I really enjoyed the way the story develops,  the depth of each character and the message they try to illustrate. I love Auggie's sensitivity and his characterizations of all the emotions that a disabled person feels when struggling to feel accepted.
From the perspective of a mother, I also appreciate the portrayal of Auggie's parents and the description of their own struggles to make it "easier" on their son. Julia Roberts does a great job illustrating the suffering of a mother when their child is rejected or hurt; she made me shed a lot of tears.
But despite the powerful story, one of the main flaws I found in the movie was the lack of chemistry between Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts; while I believe they are both great actors (each in their own element), I did not feel their love and they did not convince me with their acting in this particular movie.  I think their chemistry was disgruntled and their relationship lacked that powerful love that I needed to see from Auggie's parents. It was very hard to picture Owen Wilson in a role that is less funny than his usual roles and I do not think he was the right person to play Auggie's father.
Also, I think the side story of Auggie's sister was a bit far fetched and I couldn't see a clear connection between her issues in relation to Auggie's disability. Now that I think about it, the chemistry between all family members was lacking, in my opinion... except for the dog, she was a great actress! ha!
All in all Wonder is a great movie, it sends of message of resilience, personal acceptance, character strength and love and it illustrates the triumph of inner beauty over shallowness, ultimately leading the viewer to connect with the main character and love him for who he is.
I give this one 3.5 out of 4 stars. Worth a visit to the theater. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Solo Trip Part 2: Spain

After I said good bye to my friends in Ireland, I headed to Spain for a couple of days. 
Spain was the "original" destination when I planned this trip with my mom but since things did not go as planned, my stay in this wonderful country was cut a little short...it was, nonetheless, still wonderful. 
Madrid is one of my all time favorite cities; it is such a regal and grandiose place with incredible buildings, iconic monuments and lots of cute little restaurants and cafes.  Madrid is such a dreamy place, I swear I would move there if given the chance; I love walking the streets of Madrid, I love the people from Madrid, the energy of the city, the food, the vibe, everything!
I had the chance to really relax while I was in Madrid; I walked around taking in the beauty of every street, sat at little cafes and sipped hot chocolate and enjoyed the beautiful and refreshing weather.  Of course the whole time  I was wishing my mom was there enjoying the city with me but I mad the best of it and enjoyed the solitude. 
Here are some pictures of Madrid. 


While in Spain, I decided to take a day trip to Toledo & Segovia, two cities I always wanted to visit and this was the perfect chance. 
Toledo is the original capital of Spain and one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited; it is built on a hill and it is rich in history and architecture; once called the "city of three cultures", Toledo was built by Muslims and every corner and every building tell a beautiful story of 3 cultures that once co-existed and are part of the great history of Spain. 
Toledo features the "Cathedral of Toledo", one of the most important cathedrals in the world and a very impressive building. The streets of Toledo are simply fascinating, I was in awe the whole time I was there and pictures don't do it justice.  I had a wonderful tour guide (Steffi) who provided the best anecdotes and snippets about the history of this amazing place, an experience I will never forget. 


Segovia was equally amazing and I am glad I had the chance to visit. It features one of the most impressive aqueducts ever built, one that worked up until the last century and which provides a gateway to this beautiful city. 
This region of Spain is famous for the strategic role it played during the monarchy of Isabella and Ferdinand and the solidification of their reign, because I happen to be fan of them and their history I really enjoyed my time in Segovia, particularly my visit to the "Alcazar of Segovia"; seeing the chairs where they sat and the room where she prayed was a dream come true. 
I also enjoyed the beautiful views from the balcony of the Alcazar and all the other picturesque buildings of Segovia. The Segovia Cathedral is also very impressive and it is located in one of the most beautiful and historic plazas in Spain (lots of executions happened there!)


This solo trip was an incredible experience and I am very thankful to my husband for making it possible; he did an amazing job holding down our fort and catering to the kids' every need in a timely and kind fashion.  I was sorry that my mom couldn't make it but I am hopeful that we will get to travel to Europe together in the near future. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Solo Trip Part 1: Ireland

Going alone to Europe was not what I planned for; this actually came up as a failed attempt to bring my mom along as a birthday gift..to make a long story short, her arthritis pain got really bad and she thought it was best if she didn't come, when I tried to postpone our trip I was informed that it would more expensive than what I had paid for the whole trip to begin with so I decided to go solo. 
The idea of traveling alone sounded refreshing, to be honest; even though it wasn't the original plan and I had never been away from the kids for that long, there was something about not having to worry about anyone but myself that sounded very appealing...and it was great!
The first place I visited was Dublin, Ireland. Although Ireland was never on my travel "bucket list", once my mom decided she couldn't travel (our original plan was to travel to Spain), I called one of my best friends and asked her if I could come visit her instead, to which she replied "of course!" and so I went...
Dublin is quite the city, with a contrast of modern buildings and classic architecture it is such an attractive and enchanting place.  I was lucky the weather was beautiful during my visit and despite Ireland's infamous damp and cloudy weather, the sun was shinning and it didn't rain at all while I was there. 
I toured the city like there was no tomorrow, hitting every iconic spot and delighting myself with countless hours browsing souvenir stores and walking around without a care in the world... it was great!
Among the things I noticed about Ireland is that it is a little pricey, public transportation is not stellar, beer is cheaper than water, Irish people are very superstitious and there are A LOT of sheep everywhere; also I learned that native Irish sheep have black faces instead of white and I thought that was a very cool fact. 


While in Ireland I took a tour to the Cliffs of Moher, which is Ireland's most visited natural attraction and I was in awe at the beauty of this natural wonder. It was relaxing to stand at the top of the cliffs and just take in all the energy and breeze coming from the ocean; quite the amazing experience.  Pictures don't do it justice, it is simply a beautiful place.

I enjoyed the picturesque fall landscapes around the city and learned a lot about Irish culture and everything the country has to offer. The Irish people I came across were always kind and welcoming and they really made me feel happy about visiting. The food was great and I enjoyed quite a few desserts that left my mouth watering. (Thank you, Mari)


But of course the most special part of my visit to Ireland was visiting with my friend Marianna.  We have known each other for over 30 years and I treasure any time I am able to spend with her. Marianna and her husband Placido were amazing guests; we spent lots of time catching up, telling stories and laughing, it was such a great time and I am forever grateful for their hospitality. You guys made my visit to Ireland much more memorable! Thank you! I love you guys! 


After Ireland, I headed to Spain and I will write about that on my next blog entry! 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

App Alert: "RoosterMoney"

**Disclaimer**: This is a personal review.  I am not being paid by anyone to write this post. The review is done out of my desire to share my insight about this app with other parents who might find it useful. 

My girls are getting to an age where they NEED to understand the concept of money and learn to be smart about it. I constantly look for practical ways to teach them things and in my quest, I found a wonderful app called "Rooster Money"... actually Iggy found it, but that's beside the point! ;)
While I understand that no parent wants his/her kids to "worry" about money, I wholeheartedly believe that we should raise money-conscious children from an early age since this will be something they'll deal with their whole life, so the earlier they understand basic money concepts, the better...
I want my kids to learn that money doesn't grow on trees but rather that it is a product of hard work and a constant effort; I also want them to understand that money has a value and that they must be smart about it...about how they spend it, how they save it and how they administer it.  At the same time, I don't always feel comfortable with them carrying money around or even touching dirty bills and that's why "Rooster Money" is such a perfect fit for us.
The app has a dashboard where parents can assign an allowance based on their preferences (amount, frequency, etc). Parents can also "boost" their children's account if they choose to give them rewards for an extra chore well done, good grades, birthday gifts or whatever they wish to gift their kids for. In addition to money "boosts", parents can also deduct money from their children's account whenever they decide to spend money on something  or whenever a parents believe money should be taken away.
"Rooster Money" also offers a children's dashboard where kids can set goals, whether it'd be a savings amount or money towards something they'd like to purchase in the future. Children have the option of putting money in their "wallet" or their "safe" and this allows for them to learn the concept of money to be saved vs. pocket money.
My favorite part about this app is that it's all "virtual" money and the kids never really handle "real" money; whenever they want to buy something with their money, it just comes out of my bank account and it's then deducted from their Rooster account. There are monthly statements that allow both parents and kids to see what money has come in our out of any given account.  My girls have taken it a step further and whenever they get cash gifts from friends or family, they immediately hand it to me and ask me to add it to their Rooster account so I get to have cash in my wallet (which is rare!) and they get to add their money to their accounts to save or spend however and whenever they wish without having to worry about losing the actual bills. 
This app has allowed the girls to understand basic money concepts and has also taught them better money management skills by giving them access to somewhat of a "mock" bank account that is theirs to handle without much hassle. I like that it's a way for them to visualize how cash flow is handled and why it's important to be smart about money in general.
Slowly but surely they have become more aware about money and have developed a conscience about spending and saving as healthy habits.
The app is FREE and it is very user friendly.  I strongly recommend it for any parent who is looking to teach their children basic money concepts. Check it out when you can!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My blog is 9 years old!

9 years ago I set out to write a personal blog; I wanted a place where I could tell tales, post pictures and eventually print it out in the form of a book to give out to my kids when they grow up (I still plan on doing this!)
My little blog has seen me through 2 pregnancies (I started it after Olivia was already here), countless vents about personal frustrations, fun trips, movie reviews and a few other posts in many categories.
Through the years, my readership has grown from the tens to the thousands and even though I don't market my blog and haven't turned it into a cash cow (this is easier than people think), I have been contacted on several occasions regarding marketing and product sponsorship opportunities; for many reasons I have decided to keep it simple instead of "going big" because I've always been afraid of this blog losing the "essence" and the "rawness' that I enjoy so much about it.
At times this blog gets unexpectedly controversial and some other times it's just about a "Happy Mom" navigating through life with 3 kids; there's so much more to keeping a blog than it's visible to the eye and I feel blessed and proud to be able to keep it going for this long.  I also feel happy that I get to share my life with so many people I care about and who care about me too.
So today I celebrate another year of blogging and I hope for many more.  Even when I don't post as often, I'm always thinking of the next thing to write about.
If you're a regular visitor, THANK YOU! If you're an occasional lurker, THANK YOU too. Please know that everything I've ever written on here (and anything I'll ever write) comes from my heart.
Happy Birthday, Blog!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Penny Spelling Game"

I'm a stickler for spelling and as such I always try to find fun ways to teach my kids how to spell correctly. I think spelling and grammar should be a priority at any age, but the issues gets very serious after 3rd or 4th grade (at least for me!).
I've said it before and I'll say it again.. in our family, Gaby is the "challenging" one so we always have to find ways to "spice it up" for her.
I recently came across a cute spelling game called "Penny Spelling Game" on a great website called education.com which offers a lot of educational resources for all grades up to high school.... it is truly fascinating and such a great way for parents to help their kids learn through games and fun activities.
So the "Penny Spelling Game" is very simple and even though this one in particular might appeal to children younger than mine, I assure you there are tons of resources that could fit everyone's needs. For now, let's just play with some pennies...

What You Need:
50 or more pennies
What You Do:
Have your child arrange the pennies in the shape of letters and spell out words. Practice vocabulary words, spelling words, or (best of all) words related to Presidents like "Abe", "red", “blue", or “USA” with your child.
Turn the spelling game into a quick history lesson by pausing a moment to look at one of the pennies with your child. Show her the president on the face side and the memorial on the other side of the penny. Ask your child what year the penny was made. What else does it say?
You can also expand this activity into an English lesson by discussing phrases and idioms in the English language that use the word “penny". Example phrases include “a pretty penny,” “a penny saved is a penny earned,” “without two pennies to rub together,” “a penny for your thoughts,” “a penny to my name,” and “penny wise and pound foolish.” Has your child heard these phrases before? What do they mean?