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Thursday, September 26, 2019

He's 4!


Every time one of my kids' birthdays rolls around, I can't help but get all mushy and sentimental; I like reminiscing about the time they were tiny babies and I also think of my life when they simply were not around!  I never imagined a life with a son, I never thought my third baby (which I never imagined either) would be a sweet and cuddly little boy that would literally turn my world upside down...but God loves me (and trusts me!) so much that he gifted me with OLIVER and for that I will forever be grateful.
Oliver brings so much joy to our lives and our family; he is smart, witty, helpful, caring and incredibly loving.  He tells me he loves me every day and always makes sure that I have a reason to smile.. I don't know what I did to get so lucky!
His birthday was yesterday and I can say this is the first year he actually knew why the day was special for him... he requested cupcakes for school and Chili's for dinner.. and that's exactly what he got! We will also have party with his friends this coming Saturday and he hasn't stopped talking about it since we started planning it.  Oliver is obsessed with PJ Masks, Disney, coloring books (he has become quite the artist!) and funnily enough he loves going shopping with his "own money".  He always offers to pay for me, which I find incredibly hilarious.. not sure where he thinks he can get all this money from! LOL!
Oliver loves spending time with his sisters, sleeping in our bed and playing outside; he also loves cats, Netflix, going to Disney and traveling...he's such a fun little boy!
My dear baby boy, I know one day you will read this and knowing how sweet you've always been will put a smile on your face! Thank you, God, for this wonderful little boy I get to call my son! I am immensely blessed to have him in my life!
Happy 4th Birthday, Oliver!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The day I stop caring...

It has been a while since I last posted on my blog and I feel sad about it.. there's so much I have to write and so many stories to catch up on, it just seems as though life sometimes happens quicker than we realize and sitting down for a blog entry seems like quite a luxury!
Life has been busy.. the kids started school last month, Iggy's travel schedule has been insane and by the look of my daily agenda, I definitely seem to have too much on my plate.. oh well!
But despite the crazy fact that the days have slipped out of my hands like water, I've had a lot of time to think about myself and the personal relationships that I've invested in throughout the years, especially in recent times and in some particular cases pertaining to family members...
I've always been believer in family and have placed a lot of emphasis in having tight relationships with all my family members...extended family included..
Those who know me are well aware of the fact that I am very passionate and give my all in everything I do.  I pride myself in being rather resourceful and helpful to people around me; I am also extremely loyal and a very reliable friend... My grandma used to say the secret to a happy life was to "never expect anything from anyone" and as much as I agree with her golden rule, sometimes I disappoint myself by doing the exact opposite.. thinking that people will be as invested as me!
I've had many disappointments in life regarding people who I consider my friends or family members that I consider caring and I wonder when will be the day when I stop caring...
I've lived through times when I'm excluded from parent activities, not invited to parties of people I consider close, ignored at public events, disregarded in different ways but I recently had one particular incident with a family member that made me seriously question my persistence to even have a relationship with that person...
I often think people can change, I give the benefit of the doubt, I open my heart and forgive but I'd really like to stop caring for people who don't care for me... I'd love to be more detached and less emotional, more realistic and less naive.. I yearn for the day that I stop caring, the day when people who don't love me can't hurt me anymore...

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

12!

I always end up exhausted (both physically and mentally) once I'm done celebrating the girls' birthdays back to back... it was fun at first.. and even practical...but now it's a bit of a hassle to find ways to make each of them feel unique when their birthdays are literally one after the other..
Today Olivia is turning 12 and for the first time I actually felt some resentment on her part about "almost" having to share the birthday spotlight with her younger sister; it has definitely been a trying year for us because we are all navigating unknown territories that deal with pre-teen mood swings, dominant personalities and a lot of self-discovery. 
Olivia is and always has been a sweet and sensitive girl; she's wise beyond her years and very much in tune with her emotions.  She is a caring daughter and sister and has a clear understanding of respect and dignity.  She's a great student and has a heart of gold, I'm proud of her for so many reasons...but her shiny and grounded personality doesn't make her invulnerable to any of the difficulties of the tween years and we're all definitely learning as we go...I can only hope she continues to be humble and learn from her mistakes.
I feel blessed for having a daughter like Olivia; she supports me in more ways than I can tell and challenges me every day to be the best mother I can be.  She put me in the path of motherhood and has unknowingly set a good precedent for her siblings who look up to her in everything they do. 
Happy 12th birthday Olivia! We love you so much and we'll always be here to support you and cheer you on!
Thank you God, for this wonderful daughter!


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

10!

Well.. I officially have 2 kids in the "double digits"!  ain't that exciting? ha!
I'm in awe of Gaby's personality at the ripe age of 10! She is so strong willed and determined even in her most fragile moments and never ceases to impress me in the most wonderful of ways. 
When Gaby was born, I always doubted my ability to fully love two children; I always questioned myself when she was a baby, always feared she wouldn't shine as bright as her sister did because she came in after...I had so many questions.. all the time..
Being the middle child, I often feel Gaby gets the short end of the stick; she always sacrifices for her older or younger sibling and is rarely ever the protagonist of anything because it's always either Olivia or Oliver stealing the spotlight. But with time she has demonstrated that she needs no spotlight because she shines on her own.  She is the most loving of girls, so authentic and full of life, so witty, analytical, observant, resilient, dedicated, caring and incredibly sensible...she makes me so proud every day and I feel so lucky to be her mother!
I want to wish my sweet Gaby the happiest of birthdays! May you always choose authenticity over anything else and may you always carry that bright light everywhere you go!
We love you so much and can't wait to see you grow into an even more beautiful little lady! 
God Bless You, Gaby!
Happy 10th birthday!!!


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Welp!... that was a terrible decision!

Even though I never thought we would be invulnerable to the cell phone addiction, I did think I'd be able to have some control over what my daughter did with the phone, over what kind of content she'd access or even the kind of apps she'd be on.
I made the choice of giving Olivia a phone when she was 10 years old; I happened to be switching to a newer device and she begged me to keep my old one so I agreed.  I had swore I'd never give my kids a phone that young but after many stipulated contingencies and warnings, things didn't seem too bad... after all we do live in a world where technology rules everything and many kids her age already had phones so why not! I did not see any immediate harm to her being exposed to having her own phone especially since I'm a big proponent of technology.
The first few months were all fun and games..literally! All she did was play kid games, take cute photos of her and her siblings and text me random "I love you" messages; she'd occasionally call some of her friends or maybe text some family members but it never went beyond that..things went pretty well for a few months so I was satisfied with my decision..
A few months went by and she asked if she could get an Instagram account; at first I didn't agree considering it's an app targeted to 13 and older but considering I'd be closely monitoring her content and since she had been handling her phone pretty well, I agreed to that too with the condition that she opened a private account that would also be on my phone and I was the sole administrator (meaning only I could approve followers). She added our closest family members and even some of my friends and rarely ever posted any pictures.  I specified from the start that no duck-lip selfies were allowed and that all photos and captions were to be approved by me before she even posted them...she complied without much resistance.
About a year into it, I noticed she was staying up way too late playing with her phone and the texting had gotten more and more frequent; she also didn't follow some of the rules I set out for IG use such as the approval of followers.  At that point more of her friends had phones and there were group chats, SnapChat communities, musical apps and a few other things I didn't agree with...I realized then that I might have been a bit too naive in trusting that my 11 year old child would make smart choices regarding a phone.  In an attempt to regain control over her cell phone use and content, I resorted to parental controls; not only did I set strict limits on screen time but I also uninstalled a lot of apps that shouldn't have been on her phone to begin with.  I set up minor iCloud accounts and now all downloads would have to go through me first; I also set her text messages to be delivered to my phone too so I could be in the loop and follow her conversations (this didn't last very long!).

As time went on, I kept noticing that the phone became the center of everything, also the reason for pretty much every problem...her mood swings, her late wake ups, her not so good grades, her failure to finish daily homework, her issues with friends... all of a sudden Olivia became all too concerned about likes and followers and whatever comments people made on her posts.. social media became the death of me (and her!) and she's definitely too young for that...too young to seek validation through a phone, too young to be withdrawn and distracted from our daily life, too young for disrespect, too young for rudeness...
I slowly became a phone police and my whole life revolved around the constant monitoring of Olivia's phone; who texted her, what kind of pictures she took, what kind of comments she was making/getting, etc... it was all too intense!
Aside from everything I've mentioned, I started noticing the content she was being exposed to was way beyond her years; in her Instagram account she followed a slew of celebrities and so called "influencers" who brought nothing positive to the table.  The vulgar content somehow became inevitable and the negative impact of most of what was coming from her phone use inescapable. We reached a point where no parental control was ever enough because most apps are designed to encourage kids to hide stuff or do things that aren't age appropriate and most celebrities, YouTubers, influencers seem to be dedicated to stealing the innocence of their younger audience and I am NOT ok with that...
Two years later I realize I made a terrible decision by giving Olivia a phone at 10 and I wish I could turn back time and think it through a little more.  Kids DO NOT NEED phones, they don't need to be exposed to so much garbage day in and day out, they don't need the distraction and they definitely don't need a tool that encourages dishonesty and a silly need for validation.
Some people would argue that it's a trust issue or maybe a maturity issue and while I do think that plays a role, I think it has more to do with letting the kids be kids for a while longer.
At this point I have uninstalled all most apps from Olivia's phone and I have set stricter screen time limits; she isn't allowed on Instagram, SnapChat, Tik Tok or any other app that would encourage dishonesty or living beyond her years. 
With all that said, I want to point out that while Olivia didn't do anything terribly wrong or shameful with her phone, I realize she isn't mature enough to handle whatever having a phone entails.  I am glad that even though I made a poor decision, I stuck to my guns and continued to monitor her phone use and possibly avoided potentially compromising situations and will continue to do so.
So.. if you're thinking of giving your child a phone, please take into accounts all necessary considerations and never let your guard down!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A tough school year leaves a bunch of insightful lessons...


School got out a little over a week ago and I'm just getting a few minutes to write a wrap-up entry about one of the toughest years we've had since the kids became school aged children.
With every painful experience usually comes a great lesson and this year was not the exception; the kids and I all went through unpleasant experiences at different times during the school year but thankfully we all came out stronger on the other side and also (hopefully!) wiser too!
Because I don't want this entry to be too convoluted, I will go ahead and organize it child by child...here's my attempt at summarizing the 2018-2019 school year. 

OLIVER
At almost 3 years old Oliver was coming from a very small pre-school and into a bigger school where his sisters already attended. We hesitated a lot about the change because he was still so little at the start of the school year but we did it out of convenience because going around town picking up kids from different schools can be very challenging, especially when the schools follow different calendars and days off rarely coincide. He had a rough couple of weeks but I'd say I had a harder time than he did. 
At first I thought his teacher was super dry and for some reason I got a stand offish vibe from her, I wasn't too sure she could be the loving teacher Oliver needed at the time and don't even get me started on the moms from that class (**insert major eye roll**)...we had a welcome breakfast and I was honestly bracing myself for the worst year as far as friendships went because no one was instantly nice to me.. oh well.. only time would tell...
As the months went by, Oliver's teacher turned out to be the nicest person and such an amazing educator, someone we grew to love and is such a blessing in our lives. We got the great news that she will be his teacher again next year and I can only thank God for such wonderful turn of events...
As for the moms... let's just say I can picture myself forging life long friendships with these sweet ladies and I'm glad I was SO wrong about them and the dynamic that would evolve among us...
By the end of the year Oliver LOVED his new school and made wonderful friends.  I had a great year with the my new mom friends and became very close with his teacher, who will grace us again with her love for our children for another whole year! (yay!)
Moral of the story:  Never judge a book by its cover...and my preschooler turned out to be way more resilient than I ever expected him to be! You made us very proud, Oliver! 

GABY 
Poor Gaby was probably the one who struggled the most during the school year, from ongoing bullying from several classmates to struggling in math, let's just say I wish she could have a 4th grade do-over. 
By the 3rd month of school, I was seriously concerned about Gaby's emotional well being and on several occasions I even considered getting her into therapy of some sort.  Because of the bullies and the rejection she experienced, Gaby became very withdrawn and the only activities she enjoyed were building Legos or reading while locked up in her room; she had several panic attacks between November and February and despite my repeated attempts at mitigating some very bad situations and mediating with the school, at some point I feared that my sweet Gaby would never be the same. 
I had run ins with several moms from the fourth grade when I stood up for Gaby after realizing some of the bullies' behavior came straight from their parents (sad but true!). The school did very little to make things easier and in the end it was time what healed all wounds...and continues to heal them...
Gaby's teachers were incredibly graceful and helpful and despite their limited ability to make a dent in some situations, I am grateful for their efforts, their compassion and their love for my sweet daughter. 
Throughout the school year and despite all the negativity, I decided to focus on the positive and to encourage Gaby to nurture her good qualities and focus on building herself up through personal achievements and goals.  She became a stellar reader and read over 70 books, repeatedly setting and crushing her own reading goals. She slowly came out of her shell and conquered her fears and I was so proud to see her fall and get back up more than once.  She ended the year with few but very solid friendships, excelled in school and became her own person.. Go Gaby!
Moral of the story: When people show their true colors.. believe them! Don't let anyone ever make you doubt yourself and trust that God always has your back!

OLIVIA
Two words: Periods and Boys! Judging by this school year I can probably anticipate that the teenage years will be the death of me. I have posted about this before, how I think dealing with a tween (soon to be teenager) will make me lose some hair and lots of sleep. 
The sixth grade was likely a small prelude of what's to come in Olivia's (and mine) life and let's just say, to my dismay, it wasn't all peachy. 
Although for the most part Olivia is sweet and obedient, sometimes hormones get the best of her and her getting her period early in the school year didn't help the case; there was more eye rolling than I would have expected and slamming the door became a frequent reaction at home.  She did pretty well with grades during the year but somehow managed to get her first B ever in the last quarter, which I blame on too much time on her phone and little time on studying; the fact that some her teachers were less than nice didn't help much either!
And just when I thought I was getting the hang of the "tween thing", a boy gets involved and things just went downhill from there. This said boy managed to nearly destroy Olivia's best friendship since kindergarten, messed with her self confidence and  on occasion turned her into a rude and mean girl; one I didn't know at times and one I hope I never have to know... I believe it's entirely too early for this but what do I know... this is uncharted territory for me!
I certainly hope Olivia can learn from her mistakes and learn the importance of friendship, kindness and "girl code".  There will be a lot of thinking and healing done over the summer!
Moral of the story: Growing up is probably harder on moms than it is on kids...and hormones SUCK! I also learned that ongoing communication is key in a mother-daughter relationship and that I can never ask too many questions to my daughter about her life and her friends...


Despite all the challenges I know we all learned a lot this year. Sometimes growth can be painful but from that pain also come good things and insightful lessons and we all got that too. 
I would be lying if I said I didn't cry a lot this year; some days were hard and some were harder and that made for a tough school year but all in all, I am thankful for the kids' school and all the support I received both from friends and strangers. When things got tough, there was always someone I could count on, whether it was a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with or a place to find encouraging words... 
I am thankful for new and old friends, for the lessons learned, for the tears cried and the shared laughter.  This was a year to remember!


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Movie review: "Aladdin"

Even though many people whine about Disney re-making movies in live action format, I have to admit I am a sucker for those.. and pretty much anything Disney...
Aside from my obvious love for all things Disney, I find a lot of magic in the fact that movies from my childhood are still relevant today and the idea of sharing them with my own children makes it even better!
The remake of Aladdin has been long awaited by many and I was certainly one of those "many" so watching it on its first night was a no brainer!

I will start by saying that my expectations were very high...and even though the casting had been criticized by many during the movie's promotional months, I was determined to make my own judgement... and I'm glad I did!
This remake is VERY faithful to the cartoon version and the way the characters are brought to life by these actors was simply amazing.  Aladdin was just like I imagined he should be and princess Jasmine was beyond beautiful; Will Smith did an incredibly job as Genie as did the rest of the cast, including Jafar who was often criticized by movie critics for not being "scary enough".
The music and special effects were on point too and I was blown away by how perfectly executed the movie was... from the setting, to the music, to the incredible costume design and overall colorfulness of the film.. it was impeccable.
The movie included all original songs and also featured some new songs that are super catchy; the set up of the story was a bit different but not enough to deviate from the original.  I also like that they gave it a modern twist and even the parts that are most "fantasy like" (the actual appearance of Genie, the magic carpet, Jafar's hypnotizing staff, etc) were very realistic in nature. I also thought the pace of the movie was perfect and there was enough action and climax to keep everyone's attention.
I was particularly drawn by the artistic value of the movie and the way in which colors and music were incorporated and tied together, along with other elements such as dance, drama and animation.
I give this film 4 out of 4 stars and wholeheartedly recommend it.  It is a family film that is worth a visit to the movie theater.  We'll definitely be watching it again!