Monday, January 8, 2018

Bye 2017...welcome 2018!

I always takes me a week or so to formally welcome a new year.. I'm not sure why it takes so long for it to "sink in" but the beginning of the year always drags on for me. 
I will admit that I try to stay off social media during the last week of the year because I get tired of people posting about how "terrible" their year has been and how the new year will be "THE BEST" year.. I mean, does everyone have progressively bad years as time passes or are my friends really that negative? Of course it's not everyone but a vast majority of the people I'm "connected" with often post things along the lines of "I can't wait for this awful year to end" or things like "Good riddance 2017!". Maybe I'm just lucky or maybe I'm just really, really positive but I tend not to look at a year as a collective thing that defines me but rather as scattered moments (good and bad) that are part of this thing called life...or maybe I haven't really had a totally "awful" year of life yet.. who knows!
I guess the point is that while no year is ever perfect, I try to focus on the good instead of the bad. Yes we had some sadness, some loss, lots of frustration and so on but the good was always more than the bad and for that I am thankful...
With that said, 2017 was a kind year for our family, filled with wonderful moments and even more wonderful people. Here are some highlights. 

January- I got to see my dear friend Marianna...it's always fun being around her!


February- the birth of my niece Mariana was definitely the best thing of the month and the year...and this is my favorite picture of her as a newborn..


March- Olivia's hair donation and seeing my favorite Canadians. I loved March!


April- an unforgettable family trip to Europe where we got to spend time with loved ones and visited 4 countries and several cities.


..and of course Gaby's first communion..


May- wonderful times in Orlando and Mother's day with the family


June-  Mariana's baptism and a Trip to Dominican Republic where we got to see my dear aunt Laurita


July- fun summer memories.. too many to count...and lots of birthdays! ;)


August- more summer fun with fun friends


September- a little more Disney, an unexpected "hurrication" and Oliver's 2nd birthday..


October-  more Disney and lots of Halloween fun...


November- a solo trip to Europe that included a visit to one of my best friends and some of the most amazing experiences to date...


..and Olivia finally being a candidate for Honor Roll..she achieved Principal Honors on her first try! ;)


December- the kids' first time in the snow and a great family road trip


2017 was a wonderful year... it was also the year I failed miserably at many of my goals, including weight loss, decreasing screen time, waking up earlier and many others I didn't accomplish but hope to try again this year.  

We welcomed 2018 in Ohio with our family, experiencing the coldest weather we've ever felt; it was quite an experience.  We spent a few days in Washington DC and drove all the way to Ohio and back, which made for some great bonding time.. ha ha!
I am thankful to God for another year of life and experiences, accomplishments and lessons and I am looking forward to what 2018 has in store for us.  This year we are hoping to move into a bigger house, become better money savers, travel some more, be more organized, deepen our faith and give more of our time and talents to our wonderful community!
Bring it on 2018! We are ready! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Life without you...

The day after I turned 17 I lost my sister Erika...she was 20 years old and her death is the most painful experience I have ever been through.
Erika wasn't just "any" sister, she was truly special...literally! Her special needs made her very vulnerable and in turn we protected her and treasured her like a gem..and that she was!
She was the most innocent and gentle soul I have ever met and her whole existence was a blessing to everyone who met her...she had a radiance that could change the world..
The day she died our lives were forever changed; our family was shattered because we lost the most valuable piece and today, 19 years later, I can still feel that unspeakable pain that only someone who has lost a loved one can truly understand.
Despite her limitations, Erika taught everyone a lesson...that you don't need to be "normal" to love and be loved and sometimes the most "abnormal" of people are the ones who touch us the most.
When I think of my sister I try not to be sad because she doesn't represent sadness; her life was full of joy, her laughter was contagious and her presence was so powerful...that's how I like to remember her and that's how I want people to know her....
So today I say "Erika: life without you is not the same and your memory lives in everything I do, in everything our family does. You are my biggest treasure, my angel in heaven, the one that inspires my compassion every day, the one that taught me to love and accept diversity, the one I think of every day and every night. I will never forget your smile and whenever I am sad I think of you and picture you looking at me with that innocence that made you so unique. Life without you is hard and many days it feels empty but it comforts me to know that you are in heaven because that's where angels belong...you bring a smile to my face every day!"
December 23 will always be a sad day for our family because it's the day when God called you home and the day we learned what pain really was...but because we knew you, we are who we are and the time we had you was the best of our lives...
We love you forever!

Movie Review: "Jumanji"

When I first saw the "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" movie trailer, I was intrigued... even though it looked a bit "cheesy" I couldn't help but wonder what kind of sequel the original Jumanji could have and considering the 1995 version is one of my all time favorites, I decided to give it a chance.
My expectations for the new version of Jumanji were not high, I think it was more of a sentimental thing than anything else although the cast did look very promising.
I finally got to see it today and I have to say that I haven't enjoyed a movie that much in a while.. it was great!  Not only was it incredibly funny and entertaining but it was also so well produced in every aspect.
The story was enticing, the pace was perfect, the lines were funny, the scenery was beautiful and the actors and their roles were simply amazing... I could not have asked for a better movie.
The plot revolves around 4 high schoolers that somehow end up in detention together and out of boredom wound up trapped in a video version of the old game Jumanji. Once inside the game they realize they are in the bodies of the characters they chose and they have a big mission of undoing a curse that has afflicted the jungle. In completing their mission, they unveil the strengths and weaknesses each character has and through some serious (and fun!) team work they ultimately accomplish their mission and are able to get out of the game.
I really enjoyed the funny one liners and puns throughout the movie; it is packed with jokes for both kids and adults and it brings out the best in each of the characters. There isn't a dull moment in the movie; the story is really easy to follow and the movie has the perfect pace and the perfect length.
I strongly recommend this one; it gets 4 out of 4 stars in my book!

36...

I remember getting very excited about my birthday when I was little girl; the prospect of getting tons of presents and eating tons of cake always made me happy, especially since my birthday is around Christmas time and everyone just seems happier than usual. 
With the passing of time, my birthday just became "another day" and presents and cake stopped being at the top of my list; it's not that I didn't care but for some reason birthdays just weren't that exciting anymore.
Then more time passed and I realized that birthdays ARE a big deal because they're the ONLY day of the year where you're just a little more special than the rest, it's the day where your loved ones take an extra minute to think of you, a time for everyone to remind you just how much you mean to them and a day to cherish and appreciate all that extra love that everyone throws your way. 
Birthdays are also the best time to count blessings and to reminisce, a time to set new goals and renew hope for a new personal year... I really LOVE my birthday nos, more than I did when I was a little girl but also in a completely differently way....my birthday is always special...
Yesterday was no different! As I turned a year older (yay 36!), I celebrated with my loved ones and soaked in all the love they gave me, enjoyed their company and thanked God for another blessed year in this wonderful life!
Thanks to everyone in my life that makes it special, thanks for all the birthday wishes via calls, text messages, FB posts, IG comments.. I loved it all and I love you all!
Here's to many more birthdays in great company, birthdays where presents and cake still matter but not nearly as much as a warm hug or a sweet message!




Thursday, December 7, 2017

She knows the truth...

Earlier this year Olivia asked me if the Tooth Fairy was real and suggested that I was the one putting money inside the pocket of her little tooth ornament. Despite being faced with the possibility of saving some money on a night I barely had any cash on me, I quickly replied with "why would I give you money for an old tooth?" and she seemed to be content with an answer that CLEARLY made sense... of course the Tooth Fairy is real!!! So she hung her tooth ornament like many previous times and got her well deserved cash reward the next morning....

As Christmas season rolled around, it was only a matter of time for the kids to start talking Santa, gifts, elves and Christmas magic...and so it happened.. all the 5th graders started questioning the existence of Santa, searching the internet for answers that made sense and relying on each other to either keep their belief alive or uncover the "truth" once and for all.
Olivia came home one day and said "all the kids at school are telling me Santa isn't real"... I cried a little.. then she proceeded to tell me that she was starting to doubt it herself and brought up the fact that Santa couldn't possibly deliver gifts for all the kids in the world... she went even further and asked me why the elves are sold in stores if they are magical creatures that Santa sends from the North Pole.  I didn't want to burst her bubble yet or even assume she knew more than she really did so I replied with a witty "what to YOU think?"... and she simply said "I don't know anymore...but I'm pretty sure he's real and kids are just being mean as usual"...ha! Mom win!! She still believes!! Or so I thought...
A few days went by and she brought up the subject again.. (of course she would!).. only this time it didn't catch me so off guard; during previous days I had been talking to friends with older kids and also to some of my internet friends from Olivia's pregnancy forum (yes, we still keep very much in touch after all these years!). All these wonderful mothers had either gone through this already or were in the middle of it like I was... This time Olivia said to me "Mom.. I'm almost convinced Santa isn't real"... I froze for a moment... then she went on to say "the only thing that makes me doubt is that I KNOW you would NEVER lie to me about that stuff"... this time I froze for longer moment... that's when I knew I HAD to tell her. It suddenly dawned on me that my "little lady" has reached the age where if I didn't tell her the truth she'd feel betrayed and I wasn't about to jeopardize her blind trust in me for the guy in the red suit. Sorry, Santa!
So I went on to tell Olivia about the "magic" of Christmas and how parents have the beautiful responsibility of helping to keep that spirit alive and even though there might not be a guy in a red suit that slides down the chimney (wherever there are chimneys..LOL) and flies in a sleigh pulled by reindeers, there IS just something magical and beautiful about the Christmas spirit that is simply undeniable.  She smiled with that sweet face she's always had and hugged me tight; a couple of tears rolled down her cheeks (and mine!) and she said to me "Thank you mom! For giving me so much magic during all these years.. I really enjoyed believing in Santa!"..and she closed the conversation with an unexpectedly amusing remark...."can I move the elves now?  ours are really boring!"... ha ha.. that's Olivia!.. and I love her so much for that...sure, Olivia.. knock yourself out.. those elves were driving me nuts anyways.. ha!
Of course I made sure to also tell her about the HUGE responsibility she now has as a big sister to two little kids that still believe in Santa and the elves and everything else.  She acknowledged her new "job" and went about with her day, excited about the prospect of being an "accomplice" to this magic thing....

I have to say that even though I really dreaded the moment my kids found out the truth about Santa, the conversation went way better than expected.  She knows the truth and I'm surprisingly ok with it and I am even happy that she handled it with her usual grace and maturity, also I figure she's 10 so we had a pretty long run...
We have agreed, however, that we will continue to take Santa pictures for as long as we all shall live...because Santa IS real!
Merry Christmas, everyone!


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thankful




I didn't want November to end without writing my "Thankful" post because this is the month of Thanksgiving and we should always use it to express gratitude for our every day people and things. I am a very blessed person; my life is filled with wonderful people and things and with a million reasons to smile even on the hardest days. If I sat down and started to count my blessings, I'd probably never finish because there are seriously so many. 
So in the interest of time, I will dedicate my post to my best 4 blessings; they are in no particular order....
1. Olivia:  I am thankful for my smart daughter; a loving girl that knows how to make me proud with everything she does. She has such a good head on her shoulders and I feel so blessed to be her mother. I am thankful for her thoughtfulness, the way she helps me even with the most tedious chores, her dedication, her love, her faith, her sense of respect and honesty. Thank you, God for Olivia. 


2. Gaby: I am thankful for this stubborn little girl that teaches me a new lesson every day. She has such strong morals at such a young age and I am in awe of her generosity and sensibility.  I am thankful for her wittiness, her intellect, her sassiness, her imagination and her strong sense of self. Thank you, God for Gaby.  


3. Oliver: I am thankful for this little boy, who turned our lives around both literally and figuratively.  2 years ago I couldn't picture my life with him and now I can't even imagine my life without him. I am thankful for his playfulness, his energy, his love and endless cuddles. There is never a dull moment with Oliver and he keeps everyone young.  Thank you, God for Oliver. 


4. Iggy: I literally won the husband lottery with this guy; he makes me incredibly happy and I feel so loved by him every single day. He is our leader, our force, the heart of our family and my whole life won't be enough to thank him for everything he does.  I am thankful for his love, his dedication, his work ethic, his faith and for every loving word he utters to lift up my spirits whenever I need him the most. Thank you, God for Iggy. 


I am so thankful for my family, for our health, our faith, our unity, our loyalty to one another and all of the time spent together. 


I am also thankful for my friends, for everyone that is part of our lives whether it's daily or sporadically. I am thankful for every moment spent with the ones we love, for every memory made, every experience lived and every prayer shared!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Movie review: "Coco"

"Coco" is one of those long awaited Disney/Pixar films that gets released right on time for big audiences and with lots of hype.
Sometimes that hype works in the movie's favor, sometimes not so much.. I'm not sure which way it went for "Coco".
While it is a great movie, with a great story line and wonderful characters, it failed to capture my attention from the get-go.  The movie's pace for the first half was incredibly slow and it took way too long for the story to be laid out...it was painfully boring for at least the first 45 minutes. Once the movie took off, all was right in the world but I have to be objective and critique it as a whole and not as a half movie.
The story revolves around the Rivera family, particularly one of its members... Miguel, a kid who has a love for music in a family that has banned it from its existence due to past hurts.
Miguel wants to follow his dream of being a musician and ends up in the world of the "dead" after a failed attempt to steal a guitar on "Dia de los Muertos".  During his time with the dead, he finds out secrets about his family and meets past ancestors who happen to be key in his love for music and who teach him that family always comes first. The movie is big on the message of keeping the memory of the dead alive and how our ancestors play a big role in our present life.
"Coco" is a very colorful movie, the characters are wholesome and fun but I found the storyline to be a bit complex and a little tangled.  Also, I feel like the title is not exactly descriptive of the story and the first half of the movie is somewhat misleading, almost as if the writers weren't sure in which direction to take to movie.
I really enjoyed "Coco" and I know it's a movie that will make a lot of money and will become a classic, but I really wanted it to be perfect and it wasn't. This one gets 3 out of 4 stars from me. Nonetheless I encourage you to go see it and take your kids; it will make for a nice family outing!