Sunday, September 25, 2016

Happy Birthday, Oliver!!!

Our little Oliver is ONE today! To say this year flew by would be a serious understatement and I cannot begin to explain the amazing experience his first year has been for our family. 
When I found out I was pregnant with Oliver, all I did was cry.. I literally cried for half the pregnancy.. I felt lost, overwhelmed, shocked and a whole bunch of other things that weren't all that great. After a while (long while!) I started to feel the good stuff, the gooey, sappy feelings that come with the prospect of having a squishy baby. I was convinced that if God was sending us this gift, it HAD to be for a good reason, it HAD to be for the good of our family and it HAD to be because there was a HUGE purpose for this little person that would join our family. And boy was I right..oh so right! He quickly became the light of our lives...
In a short year, Oliver has rocked our world in ways we never expected; he has completed our family and is the piece to our puzzle we didn't even know was missing. He's the perfect addition to our family and despite all the challenges this year has brought (sleepless nights, endless exhaustion, change in family dynamics, etc!), I wouldn't change our life for anything in this world! I cannot express how thankful I am to God for sending us this beautiful and perfect little boy!
Oliver is quite the little baby (toddler?); he LOVES music, dancing and anything noisy. He is incredibly active and even though he doesn't walk yet, he can get around with his super fast crawling and smart cruising. He's into balls, figurines with big heads that he can bite off, wooden puzzles, remote controls, cell phones and pill bottles. He has a huge appetite and is addicted to yogurt, chicken and pasta..all kinds! We're also STILL breastfeeding and he's the epitome of a boob-a-holic! ;)
Oliver really enjoys attention and likes people to play with him, especially if those people are his beloved sisters, their bond is incredible and it's one of the most heart warming things of my days. He's such a loving little boy and I love his kisses and smooches; I really hope he's this cuddly when he's a teenager...

Here's a picture of the birthday boy with his cute little hat... 


For his birthday celebration, we had a small BBQ at home with our family and a few close friends. He was completely mesmerized by the birthday song and really loved being the center of attention. Here's a family picture!


Here's a collage of his monthly pictures that shows how much he grew and changed through the months...


...and here's a little stats poster I made for him.. basically a snapshot of his first year!


Happy 1st birthday Oliver! We hope you enjoyed your day. We LOVE you so so so so much!


Monday, September 19, 2016

App Alert: "Our Pact"

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A couple of weeks ago, there was an article making its rounds on Facebook about the dangers of increased exposure to "screen time" in children.  The said article was titled "It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies" (if you haven't done so, you can read it here.  I will admit to rolling my eyes a lot a little while reading the article because, honestly, in this day and age, you can't possible keep the children away from electronic devices, especially considering that most schools seem to be going the "iPads instead of books" route and kids are inevitably exposed to a screen at some point during their day. I personally thought the article exaggerated the issue a bit and found the said "research" and "evidence" to be a bit bogus...
There was also another article, which refuted the "digital heroin" one; this one was titled "Why calling screen time 'digital heroin' is digital garbage" (you can read that one here). While I seemed to agree with the rebuttal article a little more, I do think that everything in excess can be harmful and I strongly believe that kids shouldn't be glued to a screen 24/7 because such behavior simply limits their ability to socialize as well as shortening their time to be outside doing something more productive.
In my humble opinion, moderation is key so I encourage my kids to be as diverse as possible with their daily activities and I also promote the learning and use of technology to simplify life in general.
But how can we control the exposure to the "evil" screen? How can we make sure that moderation is in place when the kids are using their iPads or whatever electronic they favor?
During a casual conversation on the subject, a friend of mine suggested I check out an app called "OurPact", a parental control app that is designed to assist parents in limiting/controlling the time their kids spend glued to the screen.  This app allows the parents to pair their phones with their child's device and set up schedules. What's wonderful about the app is that once the device(s) is paired, the parent is able to block the iPad from his/her phone either according to a previously set schedule or whenever they wish. Once the iPad is blocked, all apps disappear and the kid can no longer use any of them; so even if they get a hold of the device, it's basically useless while it's blocked.
Once the device is unblocked and use is granted again, all apps reappear  and the iPad is back to normal.  The app is free and very user friendly and it has allowed us to have set times for electronics without any discussions.  The only down side is that the apps/icons on the iPad get disorganized every time access is blocked/granted, but there is an option for an in-app purchase which is a feature that keeps the apps arranged as you have them; so if you're OCD about how the apps/icons are arranged on the iPad, you may want to invest on this little feature.
I love the ease of use of OurPact and I also love that it teaches boundaries and self-control to my children when it comes to the use of electronics and exposure to the screen.  It also minimizes any arguments or meltdowns because the schedule is simply non-negotiable.
I strongly recommend this app to any parent looking to moderate/control electronic use and screen exposure.  Thanks to my friend Mary for recommending this gem!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Back to School Week

This past Monday the girls finally went back to school.  After a great summer, they were very eager to see their friends and kick off a new school year so they woke up bright and early and got ready for 2nd and 4th grade!
I have a ton of expectations for this year and I'm sure they do as well.  Gaby landed in Mrs. J's classroom and is incredibly excited about this year being her Communion year; most of her friends ended up in the same class and she is ready for the challenge.  I am sure 2nd grade will be an amazing year for Gaby and I hope she reaches her full potential in all subjects but especially Math, which she claims it's her favorite. 
Olivia ended up in Mrs. M's class, which is her dream come true. Mrs. M (formerly known was Ms. F) was Olivia's (and Gaby's) first grade teacher and they really seem to like her and her teaching approach. As a parent, I particularly like her discipline style and her forward thinking. This year, she has implemented Class Dojo, which is an app that seeks to balance positive and negative behavior by using a point system; definitely more modern than the infamous color chart which many teachers still use!
The first week went on without a hitch, the girls were on time every day, didn't get much homework, woke up excited every day and seemed to fit right into their normal routine. Gaby enjoyed meeting the new kids and Olivia particularly enjoyed writing an application essay for "Safety Patrol", a job she hopes to get; she said her goal this year is to get more involved in school activities so this seems like a good start!

Here are a couple of pictures from the first day of school. I love our tradition of taking first day/last day pictures and I especially love the fact that the girls as into it as I am; I am sure these pictures will make great mementos in a few years. 


Congrats to all the children on their "Back to School" week and many blessings to all teachers who perform such a pivotal job in our children's lives. I hope this year is the most successful yet!
Happy Schooling! ;)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Oliver: 11 months

Wow! "11 months already"; that was the first thought that crossed my mind this morning... to think that a year ago this boy wasn't here is mind blowing. How was our life before him? Did we have this much fun? Were we this tired? Was our life this adventurous? I honestly cannot remember but what I do know is that having Oliver in our lives is SO MUCH FUN!
He is quite a mama's boy and loves me to no end, probably more than any of my kids ever has, or at least he shows it more...
Oliver is one of the most active little boys I know; my friends who have boys tell me that's just the way all boys are but I find that very hard to believe, he is constantly on the move and now he's at an age where I blink and he gets himself in trouble by either grabbing something he shouldn't, climbing the stairs, opening a kitchen cabinet or just being naughty all around...boy is he exhausting!
He loves music and has the funniest booty shake I ever did see; he loves it when I sing to him especially if they're made up songs with silly words and if the singing is accompanied by silly faces and dancing, all the better.. for some reason he loves it when I make a fool of myself for the sole purpose of making him laugh...(I enjoy it too!)
He plays with his sisters A LOT and demands that all eyes are on him at all times; he would scream of frustration when being ignored and will quickly come up with some funky trick just to make people look at him.. 
He's a great eater and seriously eats more than Gaby; his favorites are yogurt, apple sauce, pasta and chicken but he will literally eat anything people put in his mouth...He also LOVES the boob (still!) and as much as I thought of weaning at 12 months, I honestly don't see that happening but we're still playing it by ear. 
He is a MUCH better sleeper now too; he goes down without a fuss around 8:30pm and sleeps until about 6am, that's a whole 10 hours (almost!) so we've come A LONG WAY since our 2-hour, 10 wake ups nights. I am SO proud of him and incredibly happy for us because our life has become semi functional again now that he sleeps "through the night". Of course there's always the occasional "off" night where he gets up every 3 hours but that rarely ever happens now... Thank you, buddy! We really needed our sleep!!
Oliver is now 24 lbs and 31 in; big and chubby just how I like it!
Here's a couple of pictures of our *almost* 1 year old (insert tear). 


I love this one with his hat that no longer fits, but I'm determined to get all 12 monthly pics with him wearing it!


The face he makes when I tell him I'm going to take his monthly picture! ;)


Happy 11 months, Oliver! I can't believe you'll be a toddler soon! We love you!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Summer...that's a wrap!

Today our summer officially comes to an end and, as usual, I have mixed emotions because summer is always our time to bond as a family through fun activities, trips and much needed time off. 
This year our summer was very hectic, so much so that I didn't get to blog about our weeks as they happened (as I usually do) and I barely had time to even document anything at all. 
But because I plan to print out this blog some day, I have decided to do a quick recap about summer 2016, which was very eventful and amazing to say the least...so here it goes...
June was busy! School ended and we were on a plane to Panama the next day; we spent a month there and we met with my dear aunt Laurita who came from Venezuela to spend time with us; the girls really got a chance to practice their Spanish and Oliver basically learned how to crawl, stand and play alone all in that month...


We spent A LOT of time at the pool, which is always nice when it's that hot...


Lots of family time in Panama...


During that month, Gaby and I took a few days to travel to Lima, Peru to visit our friends, the Wadsworth family and Gaby's best friend Lucienne. We had such an amazing time in Lima and are forever grateful to our dear friends for being such great hosts.  Gaby had a wonderful time with Lucienne and I am so happy I made her dream come true by taking her to visit her dear friend. 


Gaby lost her front teeth and she got lots of money from the Tooth Fairy, which she quickly spent buying herself stuff in Panama...


We celebrated Oliver's first "4th of July" (our 3rd consecutive 4th that we celebrate outside of the US, ironically enough!). Oliver was sick that day but he still smiled for a couple of pictures...


On July 5th, we welcomed our new nephew Sebastian, born to my brother in law and his wife in Zanesville, Ohio. 


On the same day, Iggy turned 40 and we had a nice get together with some friends in Panama...


After we came back to the US, we spent some time at the beach and lots of time in the pool...


The girls celebrated their 7th and 9th birthdays with friends and had way too much cake that week!


The week after the girls' birthdays, Gaby's friend Lucienne came to visit from Peru (how lucky are these girls to see each other so often!?!). They spent a couple of days playing and enjoying themselves...


On July 28th, we found out we're having a niece! My sister and her husband are expecting a baby girl in early February and we are so excited to welcome her into our family.  The gender reveal was both emotional and exciting....


The girls attended tennis camp and Oliver joined in the fun!


In early August, Iggy, Oliver and I traveled to Colombia to attend the wedding of a very good friend of mine.  We spent a few days in Barranquilla and Cartagena and had a great time, met up with friends and strolled around in Colombia. The girls stayed with my sister, who graciously cared for them while we were away...


After we came back from Colombia, we all traveled to Ohio to meet our nephew and visit our family there. The girls had a great time with their cousin Isabella and we enjoyed seeing all the family together...


I got to hold our new nephew Sebastian and enjoyed the newborn cuddles for a few days...


 My mother in law got to see her 5 grandkids together for the first time...history in the making...


...and with that, we end our summer on a high note and we're incredibly happy to have spent so much quality time together doing what we love the most. We thank God for all the blessings, adventures and memories He has gifted us during this time and we're looking forward to a wonderful school year that kicks off tomorrow!
Every summer day was a blessing and was not taken for granted... so, summer...that's a WRAP.. you were SO GOOD to us! :)