Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Universal Studios" in review

I will start this post by writing a disclaimer: I am an ETERNAL Disney fan, so no company/theme park will ever compare to anything Disney BUT I will try to be as objective as possible....
Since our Disney annual passes expired and haven't been renewed, we went ahead and visited both Universal parks this weekend (not our first time!); we had so much fun and learned a lot about these theme parks.
On day 1 we went to Universal Studios, which is the smallest of the two parks.  I hadn't been to Universal Studios in almost 15 years so a lot of the rides were "new" to me. 
I'll start by saying that there aren't many rides in this park; most of them are simulators and not actual roller coasters; some are good and some just ok.  I thought the lines were too long and not worth the experience in general.  Also, I hate the fact that Universal charges for the "Fast Pass", which makes it very difficult (and expensive!) to fully enjoy the experience...


Most exciting rides have a height requirement, which can be very limiting to some families. Also, the measuring poles seem to be off and inconsistent throughout the park. Olivia is 48.5" and she did not "make the cut" for some of the 48" rides, but did make it in others with the same restriction...odd? I think so!. 
One of the best rides was "Minion Mayhmem" from the movie Despicable Me; it was colorful and fun! I strongly recommend this one!


The park features a parade, which is nowhere near as good as the Disney parades, but I think that's partly because they don't have many characters to display in such parade.  The music was still fun and the characters were cute, but Disney beats this one by miles!


There's "The Simpsons Ride", which replaced the old "Back to the Future" ride; it's the same concept: a big simulator that shakes and moves around a movie screen.. fun, but not all that!


In addition to the rides picture above, there's also "Revenge of the Mummy", and the "Hollywood Rip Ride Rock it" roller coaster, which is about the most thrilling ride the park features.  There's also the E.T ride, which is old as hell, but still cute!

On day 2, we went to "Islands of Adventures", a park famous for its huge roller coasters and fabulous thrill rides!  This park is MUCH better than Universal Studios, but not a good option for smaller children or anyone who isn't an adrenaline junkie!
Most rides are humongous roller coasters, which have height restrictions (54" for the bigger ones). 


The "Harry Potter" ride is one of the bests in the park (48" height restriction).  For any fan of these movies, it is a very realistic and exciting simulator that takes you around the castle.. quite exciting! And of course there's the realistic Hogwarts, which makes you feel like you're actually IN the movie... plain beautiful!


The "Incredible Hulk" ride is probably the biggest roller coaster in the whole park (54" height restriction".  It is thrilling, exciting and "dangerous".  I'd say it's probably the best of all the roller coasters. 


There are a few characters here and there, but nothing too exciting.  Again, Disney beats this park by miles in the character spotting category.  It was still fun to see Popeye and Olive Oyl and some of the super heroes walking around...


One thing this park has is a vast amount of beautiful picture spots.  The park is colorful and really beautiful...


And then there's "Seuss Landing", an amazing area for kids.  This area features kiddie rides (most of them without height restrictions) and beautiful stores, cafes and picture spots.  It is decorated with famous characters and symbols from Dr. Seuss' stories; it is amazing!


All in all, I'd say "Universal Studios" is a place that should be visited at some point, even though the company is lacking in the customer service department, cleanliness of the park and a few other categories that need some improvement. 
I also believe that these parks are geared towards older (taller?) children and should be visited during the "off" season because lines are insane!
The food options are better than those at Disney and many rides are more thrilling!
Great weekend! ;)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thumb Sucker NO MORE!!!!!

Ok, so I'll admit that after many failed attempts to get Olivia to stop sucking her thumb, I was a little hesitant to announce the end of the Thumb Sucking era...
You can say I had "lost faith" and I no longer believed it was possible for her to drop that nasty habit... but I think it's time to proudly report that is has been TWO MONTHS since Olivia has COMPLETELY stopped sucking her thumb. In this time, she has not even attempted to bring her thumb to her mouth... not even close! (yes, it took me that long to accept it was finally happening!)
Some of you might remember this post, where I expressed my disappointment about the "reminder appliance" failing to do its job. In that post, I also mentioned "Thumbusters", a glove-like thumb cover that is designed to help thumb suckers break the habit...well, this little glove thing worked WONDERS for us...at this point I'm willing to write whatever testimonial I have to for this product... there are no words to describe how thankful I am for this little glove! wow!
Olivia stopped sucking her thumb almost immediately.. it was virtually a miracle!  She thought the glove was some sort of fashion statement at first (we bought a pink and a blue one) and loved wearing it everywhere... after a couple of days she forgot all about the thumb and within two weeks she didn't even wear the glove anymore.. the habit was broken! I'm still in disbelief and completely satisfied with the results...
Many people may ask why I was so fixated on Olivia's thumb sucking habit and my answer is that it was causing so many issues for her.... from medical, to emotional, to social issues... and I'm just really glad she finally stopped...
I would be lying if I said I'm not a little PROUD of this accomplishment.. I think this is a triumph for us (especially for Olivia) and I feel like my daughter is a much better child because of this..
Ever since Olivia stopped sucking her thumb, I feel like she is more mature, more confident and definitely less irritable... She has gotten better at expressing her concerns and verbalizing her feelings and has also found alternate ways to self soothe (reading, coloring, singing, etc)... and of course her teeth seem to have straightened instantly.. it's just wonderful!
Congrats, Olivia! You're a Thumb Sucker NO MORE!!! 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Say it now...say it loud...say it clear!...AND Paul McCartney concert...

When someone dies, there's always something that is left untold or pending...
One can feel that the words "I love you" weren't uttered enough times, or that not enough things or gestures were done to make those around us feel special...
It is not uncommon to have regrets or feelings of guilt when something is left undone...that's why I'm a firm believer that the biggest regret comes from NOT doing something as opposed to doing it and risking it all...
And these regrets that I'm talking about are not only about people that die, but also those alive and well...
So this past weekend I went ahead and did something really special for a very special man in my life... my dad!
We went to the Paul McCartney concert in Orlando... what a fun thing that was!  My dad has been a huge fan of The Beatles his whole life and I have learned to love their music just as much, so seeing Paul McCartney live is one of the best experiences we can share... I love seeing my dad enjoy something so much... and I love making him feel special.. all while I can...

That's why this post is titled "Say it now...say it loud...say it clear!"...because I love the feeling of doing things without holding back...saying "I love you" as many times as possible, not only with words but also with actions..and this was a good time for that!
Here are some pictures of the concert...

I encourage all my friends and followers to do something special for someone this week...
Inspire yourselves to "Say it now.. say it loud.. say it clear!"
We never know how long we have left on this earth or how long we'll have the privilege of enjoying our friends and families...
To you I say, I love you and I appreciate your presence in my life!
I will not let it be "too late" to unleash the good in me.. and share it with others... always!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lately....

I've noticed my posts have been rather "deep" lately, so I thought I'd post some pictures for a change!
We've been having lots of fun lately.. with summer time fast approaching (of course it feels like it's always summer down here!), we've been busy with birthday parties, trips to the pool, weddings and school celebrations...
It's really all fun and games for us.. and for that I'm always thankful! 
Here are the girls at the YMCA pool..they really do love that place..


Here they are at my mom's cousin's wedding, in which they were both part of the wedding party...
They looked so adorable in their flower girls dresses and I, of course, was a proud mamma because they did such a great job!


Olivia is growing too much, too fast... she is wearing size 7/8 and getting smarter by the minute...
I can't believe she'll be in 1st grade in just a few months! ;)


Here we are at a special Asian themed Mother' Day celebration in Olivia's classroom.. We had such a good time and she gave me so many cute handmade gifts! 


Here are the girls with their friend Melissa during one of our many play dates.. it's always fun to hang out with friends...


Here's some of my family during our Mother's Day BBQ... 


..this is baby Renata, who was born on May 1st to my cousin Franklin and his wife Caroline.. 
How cute is she?!?!?

...and here is Gaby writing and coloring.. She knows all her letters and can spell her name.. it's pretty awesome to watch her grow up and learn new stuff every day!


...and here are the girls at Ale's 4th birthday party... 
These kids sure know how to have fun! ;)

So.. that's what we've been up to lately...
The girls only have about 4 weeks left of school and we've got tons of fun summer stuff planned for them..
I can't wait to enjoy their awesome summer camps and experience their first ever summer break!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Surviving the cell phone addiction

The other day I left my phone at home and I felt "naked", like a part of me was missing... I started having Facebook-Instagram-Candy Crush- Words with Friends-Text Message-Song Pop withdrawals..and it was.. CRAZY!..
Then my friend Jen posted a picture of a mom at the park, looking intently at her cell phone while pushing her little one on a swing...this picture was accompanied by a message regarding the so called "cell phone addiction" that many of us suffer from and it pointed out how cell phones (and technology in general) have taken over our lives and continue to minimize our social interactions....
The combination of these two experiences/messages got me thinking.. how addicted am I to my cell phone?.. I know I am addicted but I've never really thought about how bad it is until I got a neck pain and realized that my most common position is head down, cell phone in hand and eyes on whatever is on the phone screen... it's nuts, it's sad and it's embarrassing!
Many times I've found myself texting while driving (a big no-no, verging on a crime), I've ignored my kids when they talk to me and I've wasted a perfectly good date with my husband just to play a game on my phone, or to scroll down my Facebook newsfeed (sadly, he is the same)... but why? am I the only one that suffers from this addiction?  how do I fight it? and why do I allow it?
I need to empower myself and overcome this issue, I need to get rid of this addiction which slowly and sometimes unknowingly damages people's ability to interact with one another... I'm a firm believer that the "cell phone" addiction is plaguing the world and hurting our lives to the point of no return.. Many times I've sat at restaurants, airports, movie theaters and even churches and have seen multitudes of people looking at their phones, typing intently and interacting with their phone screen, talking to the ones that are absent rather than looking at and enjoying the ones that are present... we need to wake up, world! We can't let a gadget ruin our real lives... we need to get rid of this disease! (and no, I don't mean throw away your phone.. just don't place so much value on IT!)....
So I've challenged myself to drop the phone and live in the moment.... to spend time with my loved ones and to stop placing so much value on a gadget that really isn't a NEED more than it is a PERK!
From here on, I will not use my cell phone in the car, I will not go crazy every time I hear a game alert and I will definitely not ignore anyone who calls my name wanting to interact with me at that special moment...
Somehow I find this post really sad, especially because I know how real it is and how common this "addiction" has become, not only for me but for so many people I know...
So.. who's with me?  Who's willing to survive the cell phone addiction?  Who's willing to start living in the moment and stop being absent? 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

When "loneliness" is the only option...

It is human nature to crave company and enjoy being around others (although there are some people that like to be alone!). We all live in a world where the central mission is to enrich each other's lives and learn from our daily interactions.
I don't think it's natural to want to be completely ALONE and it can get quite sad.  People who go through break ups and divorces experience their share of pain and suffering; just like people who lose a loved one, or move to a new place...but they still have other options.. their lives still go on...
Then I wonder, what happens when "loneliness" is the ONLY option?  What happens when we reach a point in our lives when there are no new friends, when we no longer have a life partner or even the option of seeking one?
In my work (I'm an case manager for the elderly), I come across a lot of very lonely people; many of them have families who don't love them, or have become widowed after several (50+) years of marriage and many never even had children or partners so all they have is themselves...
Yesterday was one of those days when I met a special someone who was extremely lonely and she really touched my heart... Her name is Mrs. G and she is the sweetest old lady, full of life even at 87 years old.  She greeted me with a warm smile and gave me a tight hug.  As I went on with the interview she told me she had lost her husband less than two years ago, after almost 60 years of marriage...he was very sick with Alzheimer's disease and didn't even know who she was anymore, but she still took care of him until his last days and loved him until the very end...She had tears in her eyes and told me about how much she misses him and how she wishes he was still here...she told me about how hard it was to live her lonely life and how she has a daughter who is so busy with her own life that she barely ever sees her.. she told me so many things and I just listened.. and stared.. and listened... and stared some more... it was such a sad, emotional and heart felt moment.. one of those times when I think about how vulnerable life can be and how much we need company and the love of those around us... while they're still around us and while we can still enjoy their company...
Meeting Mrs. G reminded me once again that relationships are fragile, and volatile and beautiful and crazy and necessary.. and a lot of other things that come to mind.. Relationships need work and love.. and they are important.. VERY IMPORTANT...because people are not forever...because we won't always have the luxury to say "I love you" to those we love..and we won't always have them next to us to keep us company and get us through tough times... because one day loneliness will be the only option and we won't be able to do anything about it... So cherish the love and company of those who bring a smile to your face...
To my husband.. I LOVE YOU more than words can say.. to my family: you're my livelihood and the reason I am who I am.. to my friends: you're all so important to me in ways you could never imagine and I thank God for you all every day!...
I hope I am never lonely and sad like Mrs. G.. and I hope that if I ever am, I will have enough memories of all of you to get me through the years.. until the end of my days....