Thursday, April 25, 2013

Raising "tolerant" children in today's "intolerant" world....

tol·er·ance
noun
1.
a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, racereligion,nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
2.
a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.
3.
interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal,undogmatic viewpoint.

The other day I was at the store with Olivia and we walked past a homosexual man who offered me to smell a sample of a men's cologne... I politely said "no! thank you, sir!" and Olivia blatantly busted out (really loud too!) "sir? or lady?".. I looked at her, naturally ashamed...
I turned around to see if the guy had heard her and he was looking straight at me, just chuckling...I wasn't sure if he was laughing at me or laughing with me, but that very moment was an eye opener.. in that split second I asked myself so many questions about what kind of stuff I'm teaching (or not teaching) my children. What kind of job am I doing when it comes to teaching diversity and acceptance?  How can I raise "tolerant" children in this "intolerant" world?..and better yet, how can I teach "tolerance" without trumping over my own beliefs?  How can a mother raise loving and caring children when there is so much hate and disrespect in today's world...

Let's see... I'm a Catholic and I consider myself a fairly conservative girl.. My life hasn't been too wild; I've never tried any drugs or cigarettes and I barely even drink (if ever!)...I'm openly a Republican, active church goer and generally very opinionated....
With that said, I've had people attack me straight up because of my beliefs and my choices.. I've had people assume that I oppose gay marriage, or gay adoption, or that I condemn certain behaviors or life style choices... I have heard awful things from people that claim to be "tolerant"....
I worry about my kids understanding diversity... I think about the day I have to tell them not to stare at someone with a disability and teach them to love everyone the same... I fear the time when I don't have the answer to their questions...and I dread the sole thought of them making fun of anyone based on their choices or their looks...
As a mother I strive to make my kids well rounded and understanding.. I want them to be accepting without throwing away their own ideas.. I want them to be leaders and not followers... I need them to welcome and consider new ideas and new beliefs and to make space for other people's opinions without abandoning their ground values....
...and it all starts with me!  Teaching tolerance is about leading by example and showing our children that we live in a changing world and we need to embrace the change and be part of the positive within all the intolerance that we deal with day in and day out....
I know my kids are sweet and I know they want to learn about diversity.  The other day Olivia approached me and said there is a 5th grader in her school who is "very little"..and she also said "his face looks weird".. I asked her to elaborate and it turns out she was describing someone with dwarfism... I briefly explained what that meant and she intently asked "can you tell me more?".. As I went on with my explantation (as complex as the mind of a 5 year old goes)...she looked at me and said "Oh.. I get it!"....and she said "he's really nice, mommy!... I'd like to be his friend!"...my heart melted and that's when I knew that she has it in her to be understanding and knowledgeable... She is interested in learning more about the world.. and that's exactly what I want!... thank you, God for that!
Not only are people with alternative life styles judged and attacked, but also people with more traditional lives (life myself)... We need to LIVE and LET LIVE! and that's how we will get to that point we all want to reach!
How are you teaching "TOLERANCE" to your child?  How are you executing this "tolerance" in your day to day life?  What does tolerance mean to you??

PS: I re-read this post and I realize it's just a bunch of rambling..but I hope you all get the point! Please tolerate my crazy thoughts! ;)

Happy Blogging! ;)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our trip to the Northeast!

We had originally planned to visit some good friends in DC and hang out for a few days, but something came up and they wouldn't be in town, so we changed our plans a bit and decided to take advantage of our quick trip to the Northeast. 
We made it a *quickie* 3-cities-in-3-days trip and it was such a great idea!
First we went to Washington, DC (one of my favorite cities in the world!) with the sole purpose of seeing the famous Cherry Blossoms.  For those of you who live in that area, this might not be a big deal, but for us Floridians, it is a HUGE thing.. Seeing all those beautiful trees in every corner was just an "out of the world" experience for me.. I was so happy to be surrounded by so much natural beauty; we even took a ferry tour around the Potomac just to see these trees.. What a great experience!


We also walked around to see some landmarks such as the White House, the US Capitol and the National Mall.  The girls really enjoyed the day even though it was overcast.  We had a great first day!


On day 2, we drove to Philadelphia and visited Iggy's cousin, who has lived in Philly for over 6 years.  He was a great tour guide and took us around the city. 
We visited the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and other "hot spots" in Philadelphia.  I had never been there, so it was great to get to know the city, even if it was a quick trip...


Here's a picture of me after climbing all the "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 
The weather was really beautiful...


And of course we had some famous "Philly Cheesesteaks" at Geno's Steaks, one of Philly's most famous landmarks.  I didn't think the food was "all that", but it was certainly fun to eat where the "locals" eat (although locals would argue Pat's is best)...


On day 3, we drove even further north and visited the "Big Apple".  I must say I was a little nervous to take the girls to NYC since it is well known that it is a very hectic place and not the most kid-friendly..but oh well.. we still took them and OMG.. no regrets!
They LOVED the city (just like her mama does!) and did so well.  I think they were impressed to see so many people and so many things around them...(they were specially impressed with the amount of flowers there were)... too bad we were only there for a few hours, but I think it was a great first time in NYC for them... they even rode on the subway and all!


We got to visit the 9/11 Memorial, which was beautiful and such a great place for reflection. 
We spent some time there and took some awesome photos...
What a great visit!


Needless to say, I LOVE traveling and even more when we get to do it as family. 
I love that the girls get to experience so many great places and that we get to teach them so much through traveling and having fun!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I'm here, I'm here, I'm here!!!!

I'm here....exhausted and emotionally drained, but still here...
I've been so busy lately... the good busy..but busy nonetheless...
Lots of traveling, lots of working and lots of alone time (thanks to Iggy's business travels)...I honestly haven't had much time for blogging, but I'm eager to talk about our most recent trip and all our fun family adventures so I'm going to try to make time for it this week..
I also have tons of updates on the girls and other good stuff...
My goal for the week is to update my blog with fun posts, so I will be back shortly...
For now, I will just sleep this exhausting off!
Happy Blogging!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saying good bye....

 Saying good bye to loved ones is never easy...but saying good bye THREE TIMES in ONE WEEK is brutal.. oh gosh! Why is it so hard to see people go away?  Of course now a days there's all sort of technology available to keep in contact and stuff, but I just wish I could be with the people I love at all times and now that I could see them any time!
Anyways.. this week I said good bye to three wonderful friends who are going to far away places and it was sad... really sad!

On Tuesday I said good bye to my wonderful friend Maurice, who was my buddy from grad school and the one that pushed me to go on and finish my degree.  We supported each other throughout two very long years and had so many fun conversations along the way. 
He is relocating to Kansas and will be working there for at least two years! I wish you luck, buddy.. I know you'll do great but I will miss you for sure! ;)


On Thursday I said good bye to my friend Marianna, the one friend that I've had for over 25 years. 
She lives in Europe so she's always far away, but she visits quite often and it's always so hard to say good bye.. She is moving to Ireland for her husband's job and I hope to visit her next year. 
Mari, I love you so much and I wish you all the luck in your new adventure.  I hope we can see each other again very soon! Good luck!
...and please take lots of pictures!


On Thursday I also said good bye to my friend Claudia, who is moving to Bogota, Colombia for her husband's job! Claudia and I met at the kids' gymnastics after her daughter and mine started taking the same class.  She is the sweetest person I know; very self motivated and a great mother. 
I will miss Claudia and our long conversations on Friday afternoons, but I am sure she will do great in this new country. 
I need to plan a trip to Colombia soon! ;)


I am so thankful to have such wonderful friends and I feel so blessed to be part of their lives and have them be part of mine. I will miss my friends so much and I look forward to the day when we can all meet again!
Good luck, my friends! 
I love you all!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Disney Cruise (Part 3)

This week has been a little hectic for us, since the girls had an extra week of Spring Break and we were getting back to work and all, but I'm finally back to finish my Disney Cruise review. 
This third and final part will focus on special details and final features about the cruise, including logistics and other things that might be important for anyone considering doing this at some point...

 Shopping: Everyone knows Disney has tons of merchandise to offer and the ship wasn't the exception.  Although there aren't many stores inside the ship, there are a couple of good ones that offer the typical Disney stuff along with other Disney Cruise Line exclusive merchandise that is cute as ever.  Prices and selection are decent and of course we didn't escape it. The girls got a couple of plush animals and Iggy even got some shorts.  Shopping wasn't the main focus, but it's still worth mentioning since we did spend a couple of hours browsing through the goodies and the stores were quite nice..


The tipping process: Tips are not included in the total price of the cruise and it is a very important topic considering the service was so amazing.  I was worried about this since I hadn't cruised before and I didn't want to find myself calculating how much to tip when it came down to it.  I was surprised to see that the Disney cruise had a great system in which to charge and collect tips from the patrons.  It turns out, tips are conveniently calculated for you (although you're free to modify this amount, of course) and billed directly to your credit card on file.  But how do you give these tips to the servers and such?  Well, the tips are given to the staff on the last night of the cruise on little envelopes provided to you by Disney.  You get special "receipts" with the amount of the tip and name of the staff member written on it and they can then cash it once the cruise is over.  I thought this was great since you can make sure the right tip amount is given and you don't have to be searching for cash at the last minute.  I also liked the fact that all tips are calculated based on the length of the cruise and amount of guests per cabin.

Farewell party: the last character spotting event takes place on the last night of the cruise and it is called "Until We Meet Again".  It is quite the display of Disney characters and a great way to end the cruise; during this "party" all characters dance in the main lobby and then there's opportunity for more picture taking with each of them.  They then sing and dance to the "Mickey" song and wave good bye to everyone on the ship. I must say I almost cried when the dance was over and I was very happy for that one last chance to see all the characters together.  The outfits are so beautiful and the characters are so cute!


Debarkation process: I will admit that I was very anxious about the debarking the ship.  I wondered if my amazing experience would be ruined the last minute by the time everyone tried heading out.. Boy was I wrong! Of course, Disney also has this process figured out! On the last night of the cruise, all guests get specially color coded luggage tags (ex. Blue Mickey, Orange Goofy, etc) that are to be used for all suitcases. All suitcases need to be put outside each stateroom by 10pm on that last night and they are taken by the staff (there's always the option of express check out, where you keep your luggage and just walk off the ship with it). In the morning, after breakfast (yes, you do get one last breakfast), every group is called off depending on your color coded tag and that's how you retrieve your suitcases and end your cruise.  
The check-out process was just as smooth as the check-in and I was happy to see our cruise ended on a good, hassle-free note... Way to go, Disney!


..and last but not least, I will talk about a couple of important things in the Disney Cruise
* Personal Navigator: this is a very handy guide that includes all scheduled events, character spotting, restaurant times, etc.  It is provided for guests on a daily basis and it is intended so that everyone is aware of everything that goes on in the ship.  I really enjoyed having this navigator delivered to my room every night..such a handy thing to have!
* Key to the World Card: this card is probably your most important possession during the cruise.  It serves as your room key, your in-cruise credit card, onboard account and such.  The "Key to the World" card stores all your personal information, including who is authorized to purchase things from your account on file, who can claim your children, the professional pictures taken on the ship, etc.  I though this was a great way to keep everything organized as well as simplifying our stay in the ship.
* Wave phones: every room is equipped with two "wave phones" that are special cell phones that work on the ship.  These were great considering our cell phones didn't work at sea (of course!); they are a great way to communicate with other members of your party.  We used the wave phones every time Iggy went split up for whatever reason and it was awesome to be able to keep in touch at all times!
* "Shutters": this is the onboard photo service, which I thought was quite interesting.  Just like in all cruises, guests have the options of professional portraits (in this case character pictures and such).  All images are associated to your account and they're displayed on a special area in the ship and they are for sale.  I do think the photos were pricey and I didn't buy any, but it's a great option to have (although I still prefer my own photos).
* Future Cruise Sales: ..and of course Disney is in the business of selling...and selling they do! When you're onboard, you have the option of booking your next cruise, with several incentives including a special discount, reduced down payment and onboard credit for your next stay.  They have a great sales staff that is available throughout the cruise to help you plan your next vacation!

If you haven't figured it out by now, I think the Disney Cruise was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and it goes down as the best vacation we've ever had.  We have already booked our next cruise and the date can't come soon enough.  It has been great to review this trip and talk about all the ins and outs.  I certainly hope all my friends have the opportunity to experience a Disney cruise in the future and that my kids and I remember all the wonderful memories we made. 
Here are some of my favorite pictures from our cruise!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Disney Cruise (Part 2)

This is part 2 of my Disney Cruise review and it will focus on entertainment, events and staff, which are a HUGE part of this wonderful experience.  I think the Disney magic did something very special to our cruise experience and I'm really glad we picked this one to be our first cruise. 
The Disney Cruise is a great vacation for all families and people of all ages, but when you have little kids the whole thing is that much more special.. and it was for us! 
Here are a few other aspects to review:

  Character Spotting: It's character's galore at the Disney cruise.. and I really mean it.. they are EVERYWHERE... Not only are they super easy to access (although some of them do have crazy lines), but they also have the cutest costumes that are exclusive to the cruise.  Character spotting is incredibly organized; they show up at specific spots and designated times, which makes it very easy to plan your day and you picture snapping sessions.  We were able to see all of the main characters in different attires and the girls were thrilled to take advantage of this opportunity. By the time the last night rolled around, they were "charactered out", which proves my theory of "characters galore".  If you don't like characters (although this would be hard to imagine), you can always avoid them and skip this activity.



Events and Entertainment: I know cruises are supposed to be relaxing, but honestly there were so many things to do on this Disney Cruise that relaxing was not on my priority list (although I did get to sleep in and such). The cruise agenda is jammed packed with fun activities, shows, parties and all sorts of entertainment.  On the first day, there is the "Adventure's Away" party, which is a wonderful way to start your vacation.  There are also several plays, movie showings, musicals, etc...


But the most important of all events is probably the "Pirates IN the Caribbean" party, which is pirate themed party that takes over the whole ship.  It is so much fun to see everyone wearing their pirate outfits and enjoying great music and a crazy dessert buffet.  All the characters are dressed up in their pirate outfits too and the whole thing ends with Mickey zip lining down to the party and a great display of fireworks at sea.  Definitely one of the highlights of the cruise; it was one of the best nights and portions of our cruise.  
The girls with Nadia- from Ukraine
  Service & Staff: I can say with confidence that the Disney company is simply GENIUS when it comes to service and staff and of course this cruise was not the exception.  To say that I was "wowed" by the friendliness and effectiveness of our cruise staff would be a serious understatement; the way they do things is simply marvelous...
According to our cruise director, there were over 1,000 crew members on the ship, all of them extremely attentive and cordial. Everyone from the entertainers, to the hosts, bar tenders, restaurant attendants, etc...they were just awesome.
The room service was spectacular; our stateroom was serviced at least twice a day and that included cozy blankets, funny towel animals and the whole nine yards...
Then there are the servers and dinner staff.. Wow... All servers and assistants rotate with the guests among the different restaurants so we got to be served by the same people every night.  I would be lying if I said we didn't get attached to Nadia and Fabio (our servers); they were so amazing.. by the time our cruise ended, they knew exactly our tastes and likes.. it was awesome.. I almost cried when it was time to say good bye to these wonderful people... Disney, you get an A+ for service and staff! :)

Amenities: As you can expect, the ship was not short on amenities...it basically had everything you may need or not need in your life.
There were tons of bars, lounges, stores, restaurants, theaters, a beautiful gym, etc.  But the best amenity of all was probably the "Oceaneer Club", a fun place for the kids to play and spend all they if they wanted to.  This club features daily events and activities geared to children 3-12 years old (there are also clubs for older kids and a nursery for younger ones). The club has a secure check-in system, which gives parents peace of mind; each kids is given a special "Mickey Band", which they keep on throughout the cruise; this band is scanned every time they kids go to the club and the parents assign a password to their account, in which they can designate the people who will be allowed to retrieve the children (it is also water proof, so they can go in the pool with it too!)The girls absolutely LOVED their time at the club and even got attached to some of the youth counselors that worked there... What a great feature!

Olivia at Pluto's PJ party (one of the Oceaneer Club activities)
This is a picture of the amazing gym, located on Deck 9 (right by the SPA).  Look at the treadmills looking to the water!  Even I wanted to exercise! What a great place!


I hope you have enjoyed reading Part 2 of my Disney Cruise review.  There are still some things left to review, which I will complete on Part 3 of this series.  
If you're not convinced you'd like to take this cruise some day, you need to read the last part of the review... and if you are convinced...you need to read it too! ;)

Happy Blogging!