Saturday, November 26, 2016

Movie Review: "Moana"

Yesterday we had the chance to watch Disney's latest "gem", a movie about finding your own purpose and following that inner voice that inspires you to follow your dreams.
Moana presents an atypical heroine, with no prince and no crew to help her along; a girl after her own heart, trying to achieve her goals with her own abilities and leading the way to what she has made her life "mission".
She is the girl that everyone loves, the one that makes every woman proud and one who should exemplify every girl out there by telling us never to doubt ourselves in spite of the difficulties found along the way.
Moana's mission revolves around helping her village and restoring what once was a peaceful balance between voyagers and nature. To achieve her goal, she recruits the help of Maui, a demigod who is the reason why the balance was "disturbed" thousands of years ago.
The writers do a great job describing the evolution of this unlikely "friendship" between the two main characters as well as telling the viewer the story of Moana and her ancestors.
In addition to Moana and Maui as the main characters, I was especially captivated by Moana's grandma, who is undoubtedly her number one fan and main inspiration; I saw a lot of my own grandma in her and that's probably why I teared up every time she showed up during the movie... Disney always has a way to make me cry during movies! :)
The setting of the story is a beautiful island and the ocean that surrounds it; it's so pretty I almost want to move there! ;).
With this movie, Disney also goes back to its musical-ish roots with several catchy songs included throughout the movie, which make the pace of it "just right". Despite the music, captivating story and amazing character development, I think the movie did drag a little bit around the middle, but I'm sure the kids didn't notice and I'm probably just being too critical at this point.
I loved the animation, the music, the colors, the characters and the cute story so this one is a winner in my book and gets 4 out of 4 stars...

...and the short before it! Oh my God! Please get to the theater on time because the feature short film "Inner Workings" was probably the highlight of this movie...seriously! How adorable!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

11 years!

A couple of days ago on November 18th, Iggy and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary and even though I basically write the same thing every year, even after all this time sometimes I can't believe how blessed and lucky I am to have found this amazing man that I get to call my husband. 
Iggy is kind, loving, hard working and incredibly supportive...he truly is one of a kind and I don't brag about him enough but our anniversary is a good time to do so, even though he's so humble he probably wouldn't approve of any of my bragging! :)
Some say that marriage isn't always "rainbows and butterflies" and while I admit that it takes a lot of dedication to make it work, I swear I have it so easy with such a mellow partner. I can truly say that our relationship is amazingly fulfilling and such a blessing in my life. 
I want to thank God for choosing this wonderful man to be my partner in this life journey and I can only pray that He blesses us with many more years of love and happiness. 
Iggy, I love you more than you will EVER know and a lifetime wouldn't be enough to thank you for all your love and everything you do for us. You bring out the best in me and I will love you forever...

Happy anniversary, my love! ;)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fall photo dump

I feel like I haven't blogged in FOREVER... and it's probably true! I can't say that this blogging absence is because of lack of fun and excitement, it's actually because I have been so overwhelmed lately with all of Iggy's trips, the girls' never ending school work, weekend getaways and much more...
A lot has happened since my last blog post including: Oliver started to walk and now he's a full time walker, our annual visit to the pumpkin patch, professional family pictures, a couple of trips to Orlando, Halloween (Oliver won a costume contest!), getting a new president (that's a sore subject for many) and a few other fun things...
So.. for practical purposes, here's a quick photo dump of some of my favorite pictures of the last month or so...
I hope to have more time to blog within the next week or so considering it's my favorite time of the year so I get inspired!

Enjoy the pics! :)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

My blog is 8 years old!

On October 26th my blog turned 8 years old! As silly as it is to celebrate a blog's birthday, I think every year is a huge milestone considering that keeping this blog is about the ONLY thing I do by myself.. and it takes SO MUCH time..even if it's just a few posts per month...
I remember starting this blog 8 years ago, Olivia was a little over 1 year old and I was looking for a way to document all the funny things she did and all the big things that happened in her little life.  I started keeping a hand written journal but soon got tired of writing and, let's be real, paper is very vulnerable so a virtual blog was a much better idea.  Initially the blog was called "A World of My Own" and I really loved that name because this blog has always been my "happy place", where I come to put my feelings into words and a keepsake I plan on gifting my children at some point.
With the years, the blog evolved into a repository of all things "mom" and I realized that "Stories of a Happy Mom" was a much better name because my world wasn't really "my own" anymore and I happily share it with my family day in and day out.. so in 2012 I changed my blog's name to its current one.. the fact that the domain I wanted wasn't available may have also played a part in the name change.. LOL!
Aside from documenting my children's lives, this blog also helps me remember and relive our happy stories; to this day one of my favorite things is to read through old posts and reminisce and now that experience is even better because the girls enjoy doing it with me and they smile when they read about the little things they did and all the adventures they have been part of throughout their lives...
So... I don't plan to stop blogging any time soon and as much as people think blogging is a form of "oversharing" and/or "overexposure", I find it to be one of the most enriching channels of communication with friends and loved ones and I will keep doing it as long as I possibly can until one day I can turn this into a book that hopefully my children will cherish forever.
If you have been a frequent follower or a sporadic visitor, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and hope you continue to visit whenever you have time!

Happy Birthday, blog! ;)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

As "Election Day" gets near....

It seems like yesterday when I wrote this post about my position regarding politics on Facebook. At the time I wrote it I felt like things got really "hot" and many of my cyber friends verged on offensive and "out of line"...
Four years later, even though my opinion on this subject hasn't changed much, I feel like social media is simply out of control when it comes to politics...way more than it was back in 2012.
We all know this election is "special", it is by far the most controversial and divisive one I have witnessed in my lifetime and we also know that most people have pretty strong opinions about one candidate or the other...that's life, that's politics and that's never going to change!
With that in mind, there are still some things I'd like to point out based on my observations during the months leading up to the upcoming election, and this applies to EVERYONE, no matter who they're voting for, no matter where they stand....
1. Not everyone will agree with you
You might have an awesome friendship with someone, you might find a lot of affinity with certain people but that doesn't mean that person will always agree with you; this is particularly true in the case of politics so keep that in mind when you're engaging in a political argument with a friend or family member.
2. There is dirt and sh*t on both candidates and people WILL talk about it!
"The lesser of two evils" is a phrase that has taken a life of its own in this election. It's almost entertaining to see what the next scandalous finding will be, what the next leak will tear down one of the candidates and especially what people will write about the "crappy" candidates we are face with. Almost as entertaining is the fact that the polarization is such that as much as some people think one candidate is "far worse" than the other, there will always be someone that thinks the exact opposite and that, my friends, won't change much either, so don't waste your time trying to convince anyone that one is worse than the other, or viceversa...guess what? Nobody's perfect...especially politicians!
3. Being rude and offensive won't get you very far
As much as I bite my tongue and try not to comment on any political post, some people are so rude and offensive that I can't ignore them.  If/when you're going to engage in a political fight with someone online, think before the fight really worth it? will you get your point across? will your comment add any true value to the argument? are you willing to lose a friend over politics? When someone starts name calling, they already lost the argument and it's not worth stooping down to their level!
4. You won't convince anyone to change their mind by posting a link on the internet
This one is somewhat related to my first point. I find it funny when people engage in political arguments and base their opinions on obscure links intended to help them prove their point. It turns out that there is "research" and "evidence" that can help you prove ANY point and most of these article links are biased (to support whichever side!) and not very objective. If you want to convince someone to change their mind, debate with you OWN ideas! Trust me, you'll have a better shot at it!
5. Nobody will hate you for supporting a candidate, but they will sure resent you no matter what!
I have read so many posts that say "if you support such and such, do me a favor and unfriend me now!".. really? wow! Friendships cannot possibly be so weak as to not be able to withstand an election. If your friends love you or hate you based on who you're voting for, there needs to be some serious thinking done by you and them! Vote for whoever you want, who cares if people "hate" you for it?
6. Whoever wins will be EVERYONE's president. Whether we like it or not, there will be a winner come November 8th and that winner will be OUR president. So many people post things like "I can't believe I have to vote for one of these two clowns" or "These two can't be our only options"..but guess what? We do have to vote for one of them and they ARE our only options (I don't mean to dismiss other candidates on the ballot, but let's be real!..they have no chance!). So let's stop the divisiveness and accept the fact that politics are cyclical and ever-changing and our American values are stronger than anything...or at least, I like to think so!

With that said, I can't wait for November 8th and I can't wait for my news feeds to go back to babies, food and fashion...
Happy Election, everyone!

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"

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!