Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School Week: Healthy Lunch ideas

GIVEAWAY:  I will giveaway ONE 3-month membership to MOMables to a lucky reader!  Please comment on this post to participate in this amazing raffle.  I guarantee you will love this service so much!

Today's post will be dedicated to "Healthy Lunch" ideas; I will discuss some resources that are available for moms when it comes to preparing and packing children's lunch and snacks.
In my previous post I mentioned how important it is for children to have balanced and healthy diets in order for their minds and bodies to work best!
As a very busy mom of two, I often struggle to come up with creative and healthy recipes for my daughters' lunches; it is not easy task to have to come up with 5 different things every week so that they don't get tired of eating the same thing every day.  When I do come up with awesome food ideas, I often struggle to find the time to execute those ideas! I'm sure many moms feel the same... I know so many friends who spend a great deal of times coming up with weekly meals plans, shopping lists, menu selection, etc.... I can't say I'm THAT organized when it comes to meal planning so I definitely could benefit from getting a little help in that department.
I was recently contacted by a fellow Latina blogger who is the creator of MOMables, a website designed to help parents with the challenge of making fresh and healthy school lunches that their kids will love.  When I first visited the website, I really liked what I saw... I mean...what could be wrong with a site that offers not only healthy lunch ideas, but also weekly menus and pre-made shopping lists? It is truly wonderful.
MOMables offers healthy recipes and easy to make school lunches that you can easily pack for your child every day.  Their subscription model allows you to receive weekly meal plans delivered directly to your inbox; they also offer allergy friendly recipes as well as grain free.
But if you're not sure about signing up for the service, you can also enjoy tons of free benefits including sample meals plans, free recipes and weekly lunch tips.  Go check it out..I promise you will not be disappointed...

In addition to MOMables, I have also want to share some packing ideas so I will talk about EasyLunchboxes, a product that I have been fortunate to try first hand. EasyLunchboxes is an environmentally friendly product that helps make packing so much easier; they are perfectly sized boxes with 3 compartments designed so that foods "don't touch". These boxes are dishwasher friendly, organized and convenient for school lunches.  I have loved packing the kids' lunches in these neat boxes, so please visit their website and see the wonderful products they offer.

As a bonus, here's one of the amazing recipes that MOMables provided this week (packed in an EasyLunchboxes container! Please try it out! My kids absolutely loved this one! :)

Tuna Avocado Salad Cucumber Cups (yum!)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School Week: First Day Jitters

It's "Back to School" season which means a very busy time for all moms. This week I will be dedicating my blog to school and everything related to this wonderful but sometimes scary time. 
I will be running a series of blog posts that will touch on many important school related subjects, such as new teachers, new classes and even uniforms and backpacks.  I will be having a couple of giveaways and product reviews which might be interesting to many moms out there. 

Today's topic is "First Day Jitters"....whether your child has started school or will be starting in the next few weeks, I am sure your mind is consumed with back to school stuff so reading about it always helps and this is what the series is for.  This also applies for all homeschool moms and any parent who is involved in their kid's formation.  
We get anxious, excited and frenetic around this time; letting our children go can be so difficult sometimes.  This year I was in charge of taking "back to school" pictures for the yearbook and I was surprised when I saw many "veteran" middle school moms crying as much as kindergarten moms and then I realized that it never gets easier...moms are just a wreck when it comes to their kids...and it should be that way...
But that anxiety we feel is not even half as important as what our kids feel; no matter how old they are, our kids will always feel the "first day jitters" (and yes! I realize some kids are just "braver" than others, but they too get anxious even if it's not visible to us)

As parents, there are many things we can do to help with these jitters, which often last a week or so.  As kids adjust to their new classrooms, new teachers and even new classmates, parents tend to forget that transitions are never easy and kids need to have their feelings validated at all times, especially the little ones need some extra reassurance that everything will be fine and this is life experience that they must go through.  

Here are some tips for the first week of school (and even beyond), which will help both parents and children during this period of transition:
  1. Make sure your child has a good night's sleep.  Quality sleep is essential for children's growth and development and it is important that we pass on the skill of good sleep to children as early as possible to allow them to get the best benefit from an early age.  Kids are in school for up to 8 hours and it is crucial that they are well rested so they can be productive and in good spirits throughout the day. 
  2. Prepare nutritious and healthy lunches and snacks.  Children need healthy foods because their bodies require the nutrients to grow. A child who is given healthy foods will receive a lifetime bonus of a stronger mind and body. A child who is deprived of healthy foods or given too many unhealthy foods can face decades of physical and mental health problems. A well-fed child is most likely to be in a better learning disposition during school hours. 
  3. Get to know your child's teachers well. Talk with your child's teacher about the expectations he or she has for you and your child.  Talk about the goals you both have for your child.  Ask your child's teacher what you can do at home to support your child's academic achievements. 
  4. Be an informed parent. Maintain communication with the school throughout the year.  At the beginning of the year, review the school calendar, policies and procedures. Read all communications sent by the teacher and staff and ASK questions if you need more information. 
  5. Talk to your child! Talking to your child about his/her feelings and experiences of the first week of school is a pivotal factor in creating an open communication and fostering trust that will transcend during the whole school years.  Now is the time to strengthen that relationship with your child. 
  6. Validate your child's feelings. Understanding your child is just as important as loving her and validating your child's feelings makes her feel understood; it means you keeping your ego and desire to lecture in check. Validating your child's feelings also means that you don’t judge him or her. Instead, you simply acknowledge his or her feelings. This takes focus and discipline as parents.
  7. Get involved. Most schools offer parents the opportunity to get involved through volunteering or special events.  As parents, we should always strive to be part of our children's school life and get involved as much as possible.  Children feel important when their parents can attend special school events and other affairs, so plan ahead. 
Additionally, it is very important for children to feel comfortable with their school and surroundings.  Make sure you tour the school with your children and encourage them to develop strong relationships with teachers and other school staff members.  

Now as a bonus, here are some pictures of my girls on their first day of school.  Olivia is starting 2nd grade and my little Gaby is already in Kindergarten.  They had a great first day and we are looking forward to an amazing school year!  Good luck girls!  And good luck to all teachers and students and this back to school season! 

Tomorrow we will talk about lunch ideas and useful websites for meal planning. 

Happy blogging! ;)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer Break: Week 10

This is IT! Summer break is officially OVER!!  I still can't believe 10 weeks went by SO fast!!! Even though our summer was jammed packed with fun activities and incredible adventures and the girls are SO ready for school, it's always bitter sweet to know that for the next 9 months it won't all be fun and games! :)
This week was great.. very low profile as we prepared for the "routine" that comes along with the beginning of the school year...
The girls spent a lot of time at home and really enjoyed it.
Class lists were posted so they both know what to expect tomorrow, but I'm sure there are still jitters and anxiety....

We got a new kitten...her name is Stella.. She was part of a rescue project sponsored by "Broward Cat Rescue", which is an incredible IG page that helps find homes to shelter cats.  We are so happy to have Stella here.. she is the sweetest kitty ever and makes our cat family so much better!  Here's her picture! :)

We spent some time at the beach since we couldn't let summer end without soaking in some sun by the ocean; the days were picture perfect so we couldn't let that one by! 

Here's a picture of Stella and our cat Abuelita, who surprisingly seems to have accepted her.  They were even grooming each other today, which was absolutely adorable! :) 

I took the girls to "Build-a-Bear", since they got a couple of gifts cards on their birthday and they really enjoyed making a MLP stuffed pet.  It was fun and all but I still think those things are completely overpriced...

And to finish off our summer we had a great weekend together. On Saturday we had a family backyard BBQ; it was fun to grill out in spite of the heat.  Yum! yum!

Finally today we attended Brock's 7th birthday party, which was a football themed bash that had all kinds of fun attractions; there were bumper carts, rock climbing, a DJ, balloon maker, face painter and much more... his parents even hired the UM mascot and cheerleaders to keep the crowd going.  It sure was fun to spend the afternoon at this fun party and the girls really enjoyed a nice time with their schools friends....
Here are some pictures of the party...

And with that, we say good bye to our 2014 summer break.  So many places were seen, memories made and time well spent.  I look forward to another wonderful school year and will forever cherish the great times that this summer brought...

To celebrate the first week of school, I will focus on special "Back to School" subjects and tips that can help moms have a smoother school season and easier transition into the routine.  Please be on the lookout for promotions and giveaways that will be great for this wonderful back to school season!

Happy Blogging! :)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Summer Break: Week 9

We are officially at the end of our summer break... one more week and it will all be OVER!
As much as I have loved every second of this summer break, I will admit that I am totally ready for the kids to go back to school and for our routine to start back up again. 
This week we will spend some time on "sleep training" since the sleep schedules have been completely off during this whole time.  I am not excited about super early wake ups, but I am definitely excited about the kids being in school so I can have some time for errands and for myself!

As we say good bye to summer, we are also finishing up the last of our summer "to do" list. 
This week, both girls got hair cuts...here are their before and after pictures! :)

This little guy turned 9 years old.  I have had this cat since he was 3 weeks old; in fact he was so little when we first got him that we had to bottle feed him for a few weeks.  He's the crankiest little cat you will ever meet, but I love him all the same and he still purrs on my lap! Happy 9th birthday Panky! :)

This week I took a couple of mommy nights off and went to A Painting Fiesta with my cousin Carolina.  I painted a cute flower picture, which the girls seem to think is the most awesome masterpiece they've ever seen, so my world is made! It was definitely a fun night...

We went to the movies with some friends and watched the Ninja Turtles movie since Gaby is completely obsessed with them.  See review here

Ready to go back to school??  I think so!

We also enjoyed some pool time at Aiden and Addison's birthday party.  The weather has been INSANELY hot, so it was nice for the girls to splash in the pool and refresh themselves!

Birthday kids! 

Today we celebrated my godson's (Gabriel) first birthday. We spent a nice afternoon at the park soaking in his cuteness and enjoying time with good friends.  
Happy Birthday, Gabriel! I love being your godmother! :

And with that, we end our 9th week of summer break and get ready for our FINAL one to kick off tomorrow!  I'm sure this coming week will be "all business" and I'm ready for the challenge!

Happy Blogging! :)

Movie Review: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"

Being a mom of girls, I wasn't expecting my kids to be so eager to see this movie as they were....
It turns out Gaby is a HUGE fan of the TMNT and she was the first to tell me that it was time to watch it as soon as August 8th rolled around (good thing I didn't tell her we missed the special screening I was invited to!)

I will be honest and say that I went in with very low expectations and almost annoyed at the idea of having to sit through this movie; after all I never was a huge fan of the Ninja Turtles and I thought the movie didn't look too interesting.  On top of that, I don't really like Megan Fox's acting and the "human" looking turtles were almost too creepy for my eyes!

Ok.. on the review... the movie is very well executed; the story of the lab-turtles turned teenage-mutant-superheroes is surprisingly captivating.  Even though I'm sure some will put this movie in the "cheesy" category, I really liked the fact that the story delves into the past and describes (very well for that matter) how the turtles came to be.  It was fun to see all the characters coming together as well as the details of each turtle's personality throughout the movie.  The images are so perfect and the turtles are certainly enchanting.
Even though the story has been told before (a villain is trying to take over a city, threaten the well being of its citizens and get rich in the process), I really like the way the classic characters were brought to life and integrated into an action movie, which was surprisingly entertaining.
The action sequences are awesome and the story line makes sense and is easy to follow throughout the whole movie.  The movie also features great humor and is light enough for young children to enjoy even though they might not be able to follow some of the more complex dialogues.
I enjoyed the "humanization" of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and also the great message the movie carried..."You can only believe in each other if you believe in yourself".
I'm sure we'll be seeing this movie again (I already made plans with some friends!) and I am happy with my kids for pushing me to go even though I wasn't 100% into it at first.
I will give this one 4 out of 4 stars... it is funny, entertaining, interesting, wholesome and definitely suiting for kids of any age! ;)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Birthday Party

Because we were in Panama during the girls' actual birthdays, their birthday party was delayed by a couple of weeks and it finally took place this weekend.  
It is no secret that I love parties and planning them is especially fun for me.  Ever since the kids were born I said I would only do big parties until Gaby's 5th birthday so this was IT...the last party for a while (or so I say!); of course my husband doesn't believe that I will actually stick to my promise, but we'll see in time; for now I'll just talk about THIS party which happened to be very fun. 

I spent months trying to come up with a unique theme; one that would be cute and colorful and VERY far from princesses or Disney characters.  I started with a color combination (pink and green) and then went on to add the tennis theme, which eventually became the center of the party.  
A lot of the ideas came from Etsy, which is admittedly my favorite online shop and many other ideas came from my own creations.  I also had a few wonderful friends help me along with the decorations and special touches. 
This is a picture of the place where the party took place.  It is called Kubo Play+Party  and it is a wonderful private party center that is chic and modern; their service is exceptional and their food is incredibly tasty.  I really enjoyed holding the party at this venue and would definitely use it again!

Here are some pictures of the "main" table, which features my pink and green tennis theme. 

The centerpieces are pinwheels made with scrap paper, which I ordered from an Etsy shop; I asked the owner to create some tennis themed scrap paper and she came up with wonderful digital designs which I later used for other decorations and party items. 

The delicate pinwheels were created by a fellow blogger (Kristin), who was gracious enough to work with me on further developing the concept I had in mind.  You can find Kristin's blog here and check out her post on how the pinwheels were made.  I am very happy to have found Kristin in one of my Google searches; she was nothing but pleasing and extremely helpful and her work was high quality and perfectly executed; so perfect for our party!

The plates were also custom made using the same digital designs created on Etsy.  I ordered the plates from Shindigz party supplies, which is an amazing site that offers personalized party items among other things.  The plates added a special touch to the party and I am glad I included them in my concept. 

The party also featured several balloon decorations including an arch containing all the party colors, balloon columns and giant balloons hanging from the ceiling. I added several tennis racquets that were suspended in the air hung from the ceiling as well.
Here's a picture of the girls by the main party table. 

I purchased two glass cylinders and filled them up with green and pink tennis balls.  On each cylinder I added simpler pinwheels graciously made by my friend Stacey; these pinwheels were also created using the same custom made scrap paper I purchased on Etsy.  Please check out Stacey's shop here. Stacey also created the birthday banner which hung below the balloon arch. 

This is a picture of the beautiful cakes made by my friend Jenny.  The cakes were delicately made out of fondant and carefully decorated with the theme and color of the party.  They had caramel and Nutella filling, which made for some yummy cakes that everyone enjoyed very much. 

I add the option of a personalized "dessert station", which featured
small desserts carefully made to match the party theme.  Here are some picture of some of the desserts and table decorations that were featured on the party table.  I also handmade chocolate pops and chocolate tennis racquets (pictured with the cakes)

The girls shirts were purchased off Etsy as well; they were designed and sewed by Sewcially Chic , which is another awesome shop that makes the most beautiful designs. The shop owner was specially friendly and her work was impeccable.  To pair the beautiful shirts, I bought green and pink tutu skirts from IngridElizabethTutu (another Etsy shop); these tutus were bright and soft and they were the perfect complement for the outfit. 

The girls also wore homemade hair bows that matched their outfits; I purchased the ribbon on Amazon and had the RainbowDayHappy shop make me a polymer clay pink tennis ball to add as a bow center.

The dessert table also had tennis shaped gum balls (purchased from Amazon)

Here are the chocolate pops and cake pops that I made and decorated. 

And some of the pink and green cupcakes that also followed the party's theme.  The cupcakes are topped with a small pink tennis ball gum, purchased from Sugarpova, which is a candy line created by famous tennis player Maria Sharapova.

And of course, here's a family picture taken during the singing of Happy Birthday.  The girls were incredibly happy to have over 120 friends and family members present to make their celebration extra special.  We are so lucky and blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people who took time out of their busy weekends to spend time with us.  We are also thankful for all the wonderful and thoughtful gifts the girls received.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  We had a blast!