Sunday, November 25, 2018

Movie review: "Ralph Breaks the Internet"

I'm a Disney fan...yes I am! I love all things Disney (or should I say almost all) and was among the many who were eager to see the sequel to the beloved "Wreck It Ralph" movie.
But as much as I love Disney, I also love being objective in my reviews and I must say that the latest "Ralph Breaks the Internet" didn't quite do it for me...
While the characters are noteworthy and the ingenuity of the movie is quite commendable, the story line and quality plot just weren't there, in my opinion.
I appreciated how the immensity of the internet and the undeniable social media influence were described but I thought the movie was very low energy, a little bit slow and definitely too convoluted as far as the story goes...
While the viewers are led to believe that there is a clear goal, the essence of the story is lost in the process and the message that the writers attempt to convey just isn't convincing.
The movie revolves around Ralph's and Vanellope's friendship and his unwavering desire to make her happy and nurture their relationship. They travel to the unknown (to them) internet world in an effort to purchase a broken piece for Vanellope's game, which has jeopardized the fate of "Sugar Rush" and all its inhabitants. But their trip to the internet proves to be more challenging than they expected when they realize that they have to pay for this piece and have to figure out a way to make money.  In the process, Ralph becomes an internet sensation that makes viral videos, she ends up wanting to move to a more exciting racing game that lives online and Ralph turns into a weird insecurity virus which threatens the well being of everyone involved.
In between all that "mess", there is a funny cameo by many of the most popular Disney princesses, which is probably the funniest part of the whole movie but seemed out of place with the rest of the story and an almost too obvious effort to push an agenda that not everyone might agree with.
I won't lie, I was a little sad that this movie wasn't amazing but I did enjoy the funny puns, colorfulness, classic characters and the creativity of the topic... it just wasn't that great! It might be a little too complicated for kids under 6 or 7... just my opinion...
This one gets 2.5 out of 4 stars from me... I really wanted to love it...but I didn't! :/

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Lucky 13!

"You never see the hard days in a photo album, but those are the ones that get you from one happy snap shot to the next."
The quote above is one I heard in a movie and even though such movie came out before I even met Iggy, it really stuck since the moment I first heard it because I feel that it really applies to relationships and life in general. 
Iggy and I have been together for almost 14 and even though most of the time has been blissful, there have been many hard days, some of which I wish I could erase from my memory but I know that somehow have been the ones that have made us stronger and more resilient. 
Pictures don't show the difficult when Iggy lost his job and we ended up losing our house, or that time in 2009 when we ended up in marriage counseling because we were too stubborn to give in or accept our mistakes, the countless times I have felt misunderstood or the times where I have been hormonal and he has felt misunderstood.  There are no pictures of the times when we have lost loved ones and succumbed to pain and sadness, or pictures of our messy house when neither of us has had the energy to clean it up. There are no blog entries or Facebook posts about disappointments, anger, hurtful words that are said, sadness, doubt, frustration or jealousy but those hard times and feelings are definitely the ones that have gotten us from one happy snap shot to the next and for that I am SO grateful and blessed because that's what marriage is really about for me. 
It's about knowing that even when times get hard and days are dark, we will stand by each other and make it through; it's about being sure that we will always come out stronger on the other end, it's about growing together, laughing together and crying together... with God always in the middle. 
Today I feel so lucky to be able to celebrate 13 years of marriage with the man of my dreams, the one that has loved me through thick and thin (literally... LOL!), the man that got on this ship to stay and the one who will hold my heart until the very end...
Thank you, Iggy, for jumping with me from one happy snap shot to the next...I can't wait to keep exploring the world with you and enjoying the beautiful life we have created! 
Today I loved you more than I did yesterday and definitely less than I will tomorrow. You are my dream come true and from the day you came into my life, I have felt like the luckiest girl alive!
Happy Anniversary, my love! Lucky 13!
Hold on to your hat... we're just getting started! 
Here some some "happy snap shots" of us! 

2005- 2 weeks after we met
November 2005- Our Honeymoon in San Francisco, CA

July 8th, 2005- Our court wedding
November 18th, 2005- Our church wedding

A random kiss
During one of our trips to Paris

London 2015
October 2018

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Movie review: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

When my mom was 7 months pregnant with me, she attended a "Queen" concert in Venezuela and growing up she always recounted the chaotic yet exhilarating experience of her friends guarding her belly and her being scared because I wouldn't stop moving and bouncing during the whole concert.  She always joked that I was a fan of "Queen" even before I was born because ever since I was a little girl I enjoyed blasting the tunes of Freddie Mercury and company and knew pretty much the lyrics to every one of their songs so naturally when this movie was announced I could not contain my excitement. 
I once saw a meme that said "Never trust a person who doesn't sing along to Bohemian Rhapsody when it comes on the radio" so by those standards everyone in attendance at last night's showing of the movie is most definitely trustworthy.... ha! what a great experience was to watch "Bohemian Rhapsody" at the theater.
The movie revolves around the life of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the famous band "Queen"; it starts out when he offers to replace the recently retired singer of the band "Smile", which he followed on their college gigs, and it ends with Freddie's famous Live Aid performance in 1985.
The movie tells the story of how "Queen" became famous and how their best known songs came to be; it also tells a bit about Freddie's family life and his romantic relationships as well as the overall dynamics between the band members.  The story is told very gracefully and the actors do an amazing job at embodying all of "Queen's" members, family and friends but the actor that plays Mercury definitely puts out the most salient performance of all. 
Aside from the plot line, which is pretty great, the music is just incredible and the movie delivers goosebump kind of moments throughout when songs like "We Will Rock You", "We Are the Champions" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" come on.
The movie is rated PG-13 and a lot of my friends have asked me if it would be appropriated for kids under 13.  While I do not think the movie featured any outrageously inappropriate scenes, there is some foul language, gay scenes, unspoken drug use and sexual innuendo throughout so every parent should make his/her own decision about what their children should or shouldn't watch. I personally wouldn't have a problem taking Olivia to see it and probably will take her but I acknowledge the fact that not every parent might be ok with letting their tween aged kid watch "Bohemian Rhapsody".
I thoroughly enjoyed "Bohemian Rhapsody" and will probably watch it again more than once.  I will give this one 4 out of 4 stars, it was beautifully executed, it was compelling, casting was on point and of course the soundtrack was amazing!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The pain of rejection

According to several studies, "researchers found that the same areas of our brain light up in an MRI machine when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. That's why rejection can feel like a punch in the gut, or a knife to the heart; you're literally using the same part of the brain as when you hurt yourself physically"- I find that little bit of information mind boggling but believable nonetheless and also a very good explanation as to why as humans we have such a hard time dealing with rejection and such need to belong or feel like we fit in with someone or somewhere.
I've never been a "popular" girl but I've also never craved "popularity" and my personality sometimes is everything BUT likable, I get it, we can't possibly be liked by everyone. As I get older, I care less and less about what people think of me and more about how to be the happiest and most real version of myself without hurting anyone.  I will admit that finding that balance between genuineness and political correctness is very challenging and most times I fall short on either end...but I try!
With that said, an adult mind is VERY different than that of a child and I've learned (the hard way!) that even when I want to save my kids from painful experiences, sometimes they just have to go through them to learn the lesson and become thicker skinned.  Is it easy? Absolutely not...but most times we all learn so much about people and our surroundings in the process and I believe that makes all the pain so much worth it.
Some of you might remember THIS post, where I spoke about "popularity" and how people always seem to be involved in some unspoken and unhealthy contest that ends up hurting relationships more than it helps them. Well... sadly I seem to have too much to add to that topic and this time my anecdotes deal with rejection and plain cruelty that I often observe among children as young as Gaby.
A couple of weeks ago, I volunteered for a school event where the kids participated in a DJ Dance Party; as Gaby's class enjoyed the music, I noticed she was wandering alone and not really hanging out with any of her classmates; I know Gaby enjoys some solitude at times, but I consider her to be pretty sociable so this did not seem like herself. A while later I noticed that a couple of girls were waving at her and calling her to come towards them. As Gaby walked excitedly towards her "friends", I saw how these two girls handed her their trash and signaled for her to go throw it in the garbage can. I continued to observe the episode, which was followed by Gaby running back to where some popcorn and popsicles were sitting for the kids and then running back to the two girls to deliver some snacks to them.  Right after Gaby handed these two girls their snacks, they both sped off and left Gaby standing alone in the middle of the field.  She looked around to see if anyone was watching and just continued to wander alone until the party was over, often attempting to join other little groups and failing every time because apparently everyone was too busy doing their own thing. I thought the episode was a bit awkward but I carried on and didn't even mention it to Gaby.  Contrary to popular belief, I don't like to blow things out of proportion and I could have perceived the whole thing erroneously.... it happens..and kids will be kids...
Fast forward a few days and Gaby randomly makes a comment: "Mom, why am I so ugly?". Imaginary alarms started sounding off in my head and I froze for a minute.  My quick reply was "WHAT?" and she looked at me and said "I know I don't have many friends because I am really ugly and kids at my school don't like ugly people!" I thought of a millions things to say to her in that instance but for some reason I couldn't find the right words, because I knew that "you're one of the most beautiful girls I know" coming from mom wasn't going to cut it. I dug a little deeper only to find out that Gaby was being systematically rejected by many people in her class and targeted by what I can best describe as a "bully". I had been noticing for days that Gaby seemed withdrawn and quiet but I didn't think much of it because she is normally very taciturn; this was definitely different though, this was hurting her and for the first time in a while I didn't know what to do or how to make that pain go away.
Unfortunately things continued to escalate and this same person that was promoting the "Gaby rejection" randomly attacked her by yanking a book out of her hands, throwing it on the ground and subsequently kicking it far away from her. Neither Gaby nor I knew how to handle this situation because 1. We're not used to random acts of violence, 2. We're not violent people, 3. We like to assume the best of people and 4. We'd never dealt with this before. I decided to write an email to the teacher, who will hopefully keep an eye on the situation; I've also been praying a lot about it and I know God will always keep my child safe.
Aside from the school happenings, I've also noticed that several moms from Gaby's class (some of which I consider close) often organize playdates and outings and Gaby is never included or invited and while I don't take it personal, I know Gaby does and it hurts her a lot.  As much as I try to explain to her that not everyone is nice all the time, she still struggles with this and I struggle too when I can't find the right words to make her feel better.  I know rejection is painful and I know that rejection is also normal in many situations; I know kids need to learn to deal with rejection because it's part of life but knowing this, doesn't make this situation any better and that makes me sad!
I'm also a realist and I know that my child might very well be the "problem"; maybe she's not that friendly? maybe kids are drawn to more outgoing kids? maybe she's not likable? who knows.. I still can't justify kids being mean to other kids and I believe us parents have a huge say on that.
If you have children, please teach them to be kind; teach them that their actions have consequences and tell them that one look, one word, one day can make or break a person's self esteem. Talk to your kids about lending a helping hand, about ways to boost other people instead of putting them down, about how to be themselves without hurting others in the process and especially about the often unshakeable pain of rejection...

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Happy 10th birthday, blog!

October 26th marked 10 years since I started this blog, 10 years since the moment I decided to plaster my thoughts all over the internet for anyone to read.  Back then I had just become an American citizen and one of my first posts was about me voting for the first time in my life.  Ironically enough, my first time vote happened during a presidential election in a country that wasn't where I was born...funny how life works!
Anyways.. I remember doubting myself about starting this blog, wondering what was so interesting about my life that would prompt anyone to read whatever I was writing; because while the purpose of this blog was (and still is!) to document my kids' childhood and our family life, the truth is that once you put something online, it's out there for anyone to see...
With time I realized that my life isn't all that interesting but rather just similar to the lives of my readers...and that's precisely what makes it interesting... finding people who can relate to my posts and my personal anecdotes has given a whole new meaning to this blog and every comment and private message I receive is greatly appreciated.  In 10 years, this blog has seen a major name change and tons of different directions in regards to my writing and posts...
With the years, the frequency of my posts has decreased but the emotion I put into every piece I write has done just the opposite.  Once someone told me that bloggers are "egotistical", this same person went on to say that whoever keeps a blog has nothing better to do than to presume about his/her life and while I admittedly took minor offense to that comment at the time it was made, I have now come to the conclusion that negativity comes in many shapes and if being a blogger makes me self-centered, so be it! I certainly hope, however, that anyone who reads my blog knows that being presumptuous is the last thing on my mind whenever I post something.  My intention has been and always will be to pour my heart out in hopes of making this journey called life more enjoyable and empathetic.  So today I celebrate this blog, all of its followers and the blessing of persistency that has allowed me to keep it up for 10 whole years!
Thank you to everyone who has ever stopped by this corner and anyone who has left comments or sent messages throughout these 10 years!
Happy Birthday, blog! 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Protecting our children in the online world

A few months ago I wrote this post regarding Internet Safety for children, where I exposed some of my concerns regarding the dangers of the internet and shared some useful guides on how to protect our kids from online predators.
My girls (9 and 11) have cell phones, I know a lot of parents don't agree with giving their young kids a phone but it's what works for us and I'm confident in my decision to do that.  With that said, I know the internet is a dangerous place; it's both a blessing and a curse and that is precisely why us parents need to stay on top of things when it comes to search engines, phone apps, social media, etc. Just like the internet makes it easy for our children to find useful information,  it is also so easy for a child to get caught up on the bad stuff found online; whether it's because they unwillingly come across inappropriate material or because they consciously seek it out, “the online world is like another high street for kids, and you need to be in it and parenting in it.”
Cyberbullying is one of the most prevalent issues when it comes to children and the internet because it is so easy for someone to be a "keyboard warrior" and take advantage of the person on the other end. Every day more and more children are suffering from depression and even committing suicide because of issues with cyberbullying and other internet related issues.  Online predators are also a real thing and they prey on children of all ages; that's why I urge every parent I know to read the following resources which I have found incredibly helpful when it comes to helping my children navigate the online world.
Whether your child has a phone (or any other device) or not, be aware that every child that ever comes in contact with the internet is at risk and there will never be enough vigilance to fully protect them from all the risks associated with it.
I will link two of the most helpful guides I have read lately, I hope these can help you as much as they have helped me:

A Guide to Protecting Children’s Privacy Online
A Comprehensive Cyberbullying Guide for Parents

Friday, October 5, 2018

Cruising with Disney- Part 2

This post is a continuation of my comprehensive review of our latest Disney Cruise.  Part 1 can be found here if you care to read. 
I will continue reviewing each of the main categories and at the end of the post, I'll write about whatever wasn't "perfect", because even Disney makes mistakes... 
* The Staterooms: We stayed in an ocean view family suite, big enough for the 5 of us and pretty spacious by cruise ship standards. The room had a queen size bed, a bunk and a wall bed and it fit all of us pretty comfortably.  There was a large porthole window (pictured below) and a double sink bathroom divided into a shower-sink and a toilet-sink combos; this was genius because it allowed for more comfort as well. Our stateroom was located on deck 7. It was perfect. 

* Castaway Cay: Our cruise had two stops, one at Nassau, Bahamas (which I won't even address) and another one at Disney's private island "Castaway Cay".  This private island is located in the Bahamas and is basically paradise; it is such a beautiful place with crystalline blue waters and tons to do.  We had such a great time at this place and the girls even went snorkeling. The beach experience is much more enjoyable when it's done Disney style; there are tons of beach chairs and umbrellas, bars, restaurants, characters, sailboats, water slides... you name, it's there.  I would probably make this the only stop for a 3 day cruise and make it longer as well.  Such a great time!

* The Overall Experience: If you're a Disney lover, this is definitely the cruise for you.  It is slightly more expensive than other cruises (we paid $3000 for a family of 5) but it is so worth it. The customer service is beyond compare and (almost) everything is done right. The overall experience is incredible and we will be sure to cruise with them again! I am so thankful for a great time and feel so blessed to be able to take my kids on these fun vacations. 

What wasn't "perfect" about the Disney cruise?
Even though the list of "issues" is short, it is worth noting in order to be objective:
  • Halloween Activities were poorly planned: There was a trick or treat event through the ship and it was very poorly organized.  There were tons of kids asking for candy and only a few stations with very few staff passing it out. The activity was scheduled to last 30 minutes and it was so chaotic that people were starting to become hostile. I would suggest either scrapping the activity all together or having at least 5 times as much candy. 
  • The constant "up selling" was a buzz killer:  I get it, Disney is in the business of making money but the up selling throughout the cruise is a bit extreme. I feel like people pay enough money to go on these cruises so I don't see the need to constantly pressure people to spend even more. 
  • Some Youth Counselors are not cut out for that job: I had a couple of run ins with youth counselors who didn't seem to like kids.  They had issues with the fact that Oliver needed to be escorted to the bathroom and many seemed annoyed at the amount of children at the clubs.  I believe that type of job should go to people who genuinely love kids and crowds. 
  • Family Karaoke Night was a bomb: Some of the members in our party attempted to sing at karaoke night only to be told there was not enough time.  The event is scheduled to last 30 minutes but it is not properly organized; they let everyone sign up to sing without regards for time and when the 30 minutes run out... too bad!  I think there should be someone "policing" the sign ups a bit better so that everyone gets a chance or at least is told that they likely won't have time to sing their song.  I sat through excruciatingly painful singing voices (some sang more than one song) only to be disappointed when members of my party didn't get to have a turn. Terrible planning. 
  • Pool deck floors: the pool deck floors are horrible quality; they got scorchingly hot and were extremely slippery, both which are safety hazards.  I know there are paving materials that are much better for this type of setting; ones that don't get hot and are anti slippery.  I think Disney ships should feature better pool decks to avoid people slipping and falling or getting their feet burned. 
  • Safety protocol for some events is not up to code:  speaking of safety.. one of the members of our party was a firefighter and she couldn't help but notice the fact that during some events like the firework show, there were several code violations such as emergency exits being blocked and not enough entry/exit points for such large crowds.  Considering the Disney Dream has a capacity for 4000 people, these things should be looked at seriously to avoid any tragedies. 
With all that said, we still enjoyed cruising with Disney and will most definitely do it again.  Reserving your cruise 12-18 months ahead of time will represent significant savings and will also make planning much easier. I cannot wait to do it again!