Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Break: Week 3

Summer is in full force and of course us mothers sometimes struggle to find "things to do" with our little ones.  This is our 3rd week summary...
The other day I read an article on the Huffington Post (aka one of the most liberal and BS sites I know) about having "no plans" for summer and how we should let kids just be kids. While I agree with some of what the article says about not having kids do homework and worksheets in the summer (although my kids love those!), I also think the mom who wrote it was reflecting on her lack of creativity and just being mean and cranky about camps and such....what is wrong with those? what's wrong with having plans? I am one of those moms who agrees with structure (which she was attacking); I think enriching activities are great for kids and some children (like mine) really enjoy being part of that kind of stuff and living the experience of a summer camp where they can make friends and learn new things as opposed to being home with me or going to the pool/beach every day.... we live in South Florida so sunny days are not exclusive to summer!
Us mothers often find ourselves running out of ideas for games, activities and such and that leads to suppressing the creativity in our children; oftentimes we take the easy way out and the kids end up propped in front of a TV, iPad, cell phone, etc... face it.. we all do it!
So this week I challenged myself to get more involved with my children while encouraging their creativity and with the help of a list provided by my friend Martyna (owner of South Florida Montessori Academy) I embarked on my challenge. 
Here's the list if anyone cares to use it (you can click on the picture to make it bigger)


Here are some of the things we did this week:

1. Play dates with friends, which included backyard picnics with *healthy* snacks.....

2. Playing dress up

3. Celebrated our cat's 8th birthday and even fed her sardines! 

4. Lunch dates with family members we rarely see...

...this included a rare meet-up with our niece Isabella, who was en route to her new home in Ohio.  We met with her and her mother during their Miami layover.  It was great to see the girls playing with their cousin and bonding over ice cream.  We have only been able to see her twice since she was born, once when she was 6 months old and now.  She celebrated her 2nd birthday yesterday so we *almost* spent her special day with her...


5. Puzzle making

6. Selfie taking...

7. Cupcake munching...

8. Tea parties...

9. Scooter riding...

Additionally, we took walks, played hair salon, got homemade manicures, had dance parties, played tennis and much more.  It was such a great thing to get the kids out and apart from their electronics.  They also attended their part time art camp and made some more masterpieces! It was a great week and we really enjoyed our time together. 
I encourage all moms to try some of the activities on the list.  I am sure most of you already do TONS of things with your kids, but it's always a great idea to challenge ourselves to do even more!
We sure enjoyed our week 3 and are looking forward to more fun ahead!
Happy Summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reflection: "The Ephemerality of Life"

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" by John Lennon- definitely one of my favorite quotes ever.. and so true!  We are always SO busy making plans and just distracted with everything happening around us that we forget to LIVE and enjoy those moments that define us and help us create wonderful memories...
Life is so ephemeral, it literally comes and goes in the blink of an eye and it's a sad sad SAD thing. 
Today marks 3 months since my grandma died; of course to me it feels like it has been MUCH longer because the hole in my heart is so big that I struggle to get through my days sometimes.  I try to focus on the happy memories and everything that my Grandma taught me, but some days I just focus on what I didn't get to do with her and how I didn't enjoy her as much as I should have (although I saw her pretty much every day and spoke with her even more often than that!), there is just something about her sudden passing that still hurts so much and it's hard... very hard to process. 
I found these pictures recently, they capture precious family moments with my grandma and other family members; these moments were so happy that even though the pictures are very illustrative and almost transport me back to the very same second in which they were snapped, they still don't do them justice....that's how defining those moments were...and that's the fervor with which I'd like to remember them.  All the reminiscing got me sad as I started thinking that nothing is ever permanent and we just don't know what's coming... ever!


Yesterday I got news that one of my friend's brother in law was killed in a car crash; he was only 30 years old and shared a 9-month old baby with his wife of 2 years; they were a beautiful family that probably had tons of dreams and plans yet their happiness was cut short by this tragedy.  I didn't personally know him, heck I don't even know his name, but for some reason I was very shocked and felt incredibly disturbed by the news.. I can only pray for his soul and for all his loved ones, and hope that they get through this pain by thinking of all those happy moments they lived together...
  One day we are here, the next one it's not for sure and somehow we have to be OK with that; as humans we need to acknowledge that life is the most precious yet the most ephemeral experience we go through so we must love intensely without reservations and spend less time planning and justifying our actions to those who don't matter!

So I sit here, going through my pictures, trying to stop making plans and start living in the moment, soaking in every breath that God gives me and making peace with the ephemerality of life and change, which is the only constant and wave we need to always ride!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Break: Week 2

Another week down, 8 more to go.. 
Our 2nd week of summer break was fun and even though the kids didn't attend any camp last week, they sure had tons of other activities and fun events. 
Gaby got to hang out with her good friend Sofia during one of our many play dates.. these two are so cute together.. I love seeing their genuine bond...


She had a blast playing dress up and pretended to be a cowgirl half the time... it is pretty funny to see...


On Friday we made a quick trip to Naples to celebrate a friend's birthday and we turned the occasion into a family getaway.. I snapped this picture of Olivia and her daddy, which is now one of my favorites.. I love these two so much!

On the weekend, the girls attended a couple of birthday parties.  At Isabella's 7th birthday party, the girls got to play "spa day" and enjoyed getting fancy hair dos, manicures and yogurt facials.  Of course they thought their braids were the coolest thing on earth and even today (3 days later), Gaby is STILL wearing her braids.. God help me!


Here are a couple of pics from the party... cute girls all over!


We also attended Sammy's 2nd birthday and the girls enjoyed some pool time along with some other outdoor activities.  Here's Gaby with her friend Danny and some from Sammy's big day!


I have a few other topics to discuss, which I'll be doing soon.  For some reason I read a few internet articles that irritated me this week, so my opinionated self has some ideas to put down.  Stay tuned!
Happy Summer! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Break: Week 1

The first week of summer came and went and these girls are sure enjoying their time off.
They have slept-in on a couple of occasions and seem to be taking advantage of their down time.
We registered them in an Art Camp in a nearby art studio; it is only part time but that seems to be enough for them.  They have learned to create art with paint, paper, ceramic and a few other craft materials.  Olivia especially enjoyed showing off some of her creations at the end of the week and the experience was good for Gaby as far as discipline goes.  
Here are some pictures. 




Mommy and daddy also had some fun this week as we attended a 70's disco themed party for some friends.  We had a blast dressing up and recreating some of the styles of that era.. it sure was fun!


This is a picture in honor of Father's Day; we couldn't ask for a better man to lead our family and the kids are really blessed to have Iggy as their daddy! :) Happy Father's Day, my love!


And of course, the World Cup also started this week so everything has been extra exciting. We are rooting for Argentina since it's my dad's birth place and of course the US, which is the country we are blessed to call our own!  Yay soccer!  Here we are wearing an Argentina team jacket; I love that Olivia is really into it! :)


Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Personal Creations"

I rarely endorse or review businesses and I clearly don't get PAID for writing anything on my blog, but I had such a great experience with "Personal Creations.com" that I have decided to give them credit where it's due....

It all started with a FB sponsored link with the cutest personalized Father's Day gifts; I saw this cute little coffee mug that I thought would be perfect for Iggy.  I went straight to their website (www.personalcreations.com) and started designing the mug; the website experience was great, very easy to navigate and a preview of the item was available to view.  I really enjoyed creating the item and couldn't wait to receive it.

I got email notifications with the progress and tracked my order until it was delivered; the problem was I never received the order even though the email claimed that it had been delivered.  I immediately called their customer service number and spoke to a nice lady named "Jo"; she was incredibly friendly and understanding of my frustration.  I explained to her that the item was missing and that I was extremely upset that my husband might potentially be missing out on getting a special gift this coming Sunday.  It took about 2 minutes and zero arguing for this nice lady to reorder the item for me and send it via express shipping (which means the item would arrive BEFORE Father's Day!).  I have now received the item, which is perfect by the way, and the day has been saved!

Ironically enough, the first mug that was shipped did turn up at my neighbor's house and now I have TWO personalized mugs instead of 1... oops!

I am very happy with the quality of the mug; it is exactly as it was described on the website (or even better!) and it was nicely packaged. I will say that even though the prices and delivery costs are NOT the cheapest ones you will find, I feel like the purchase was totally worth it and I am sure I will be buying from them in the near future.

Thank you "Personal Creations" for this amazing shopping experience. I wish there were more businesses like you.  You just gained a loyal customer!

Happy Shopping! :)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Movie review: "How To Train Your Dragon 2"

Note: "How to Train you Dragon 2" will be out in theaters on Friday June 13th.  This early review is possible due to a recent screening invitation for Miami bloggers.

It was just 4 short years ago that we were able to enjoy the amazing story depicted in "How to Train your Dragon"; back then my kids were too young for movies so we ended up watching it on DVD; I was captivated by this great story and all of the lessons it presented. So when the sequel was announced I was clearly excited and when we were invited to a special screening, that excitement was multiplied.

The sequel starts with a colorful description of how the dragons and the citizens of the island of Berk have happily coexisted for the past 5 years; it presents a more mature image of the main characters, including Hiccup, his father Stoick and some of his close friends.
The story unfolds as the main villain (Drago) is presented and Hiccup embarks on a journey where he needs to protect the dragons to ensure the continued peace in the island.
In the process, Hiccup finds his long lost mother who, to his surprise, is also a dragon lover and has dedicated her life to the care and protection of these mystical creatures.  Hiccup soon joins forces with his mother for an epic battle between Drago and all the dragon lovers.
During this battle, all of the dragons of Berk begin to behave erratically as they are controlled by the Alpha dragon, a mean creature that has been subdued by the evil Drago and Hiccups and his people are confronted with terrible obstacles and a weakened front. In the end, Hiccup's dragon and best friend Toothless emerges as the hero that teaches everyone a lesson and helps the citizens restore peace on the island.

Even though the story is carried out very well, I think some parts were too dark for the kids and the battles were too dense and complicated for what the movie tries to tell.  Some of the scenes were not necessarily appealing to the girls and the sequences were a little long for my taste. There were also some very sad parts and strong content, which took away from the "happy, feel-good" kind of ending.
I will give this one 3 out of 4 stars... not entirely perfect but definitely entertaining! 

School year "wrap-up"

The end of the school year is always bitter sweet.  On on hand, it's great to see the kids grow up and move on to the next grade level and the expectation of summer fills us with joy, but on the other hand, it's always hard to say good bye to teachers and friends, especially if it has been a great year such as this one. 
Of course the end of the school year was not short on fun and excitement, which my girls are experts at if I say so myself.  
During the last week, we were able to have "pretend birthday" celebrations for both girls (their actual birthdays aren't until July) and they had such a blast celebrating with their classmates.  Both of them proudly wore the "It's my Birthday" paper crown and happily shared cupcakes and donuts with the rest of the class.. it was quite the eventful week for them. 
Also, my in laws were in town so it was nice for them to enjoy some time with the girls. 
Here are some pictures of the birthday celebrations. 


And then came the last day of school and to follow the tradition we started last year, I took pictures and compared them with the ones taken at the start of the school year.  In the pictures, the growth of the girls is very noticeable; I think their faces changed significantly and I can tell that Gaby got really tall in relation to her height when the school year started.  Olivia's face is fuller and she looks much more mature and serious.  It makes me sad and happy at the same time; these girls are really blossoming into such sweet young ladies; Olivia is officially a 2nd grader and Gaby embarks on her journey through elementary school as she starts kindergarten.. wow!


Here are a few highlights from what the girls learned in school this year:

Gaby: 
All letters and their sounds
She can count up to 100
She can write her name and last name
Arts and crafts (she got really good at coloring)
All prayers, including the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be and a few others
Basic geometry
Basic addition facts
She can read Level 1 books and will soon be moving to the Emergent Reader level
She can make her own bed
She can get dressed on her own
Buckle and unbuckle her carseat
She really enjoys history, vocabulary words, riddles and religion



Olivia:
Reading at 4th grade level (she really enjoys mystery and fiction books)
She was a lector for one the school masses during the year
Math facts
3 digit addition and subtraction
Basic multiplication facts
Science
Practicing math at 2nd grade level already
Creative writing (her writing is pretty awesome), she even won the "Wonderful Writer" award for her awesome stories
Olivia got straight A's in all of her terms and was consistently a very dedicated student.
She really enjoys art, reading, writing and religion.


So with that, we come to the end of yet another wonderful school year. My kids have made me very proud in this journey and I'm sure they will continue to share their wonderful accomplishments with the passing of time.  They are sweet, considerate and passionate individuals, who truly understand the blessing that is this life and everything that comes with it. Thank you, girls for another awesome school year.  Happy summer!! :)


Monday, June 2, 2014

Movie review: "Maleficent"

Disney's latest movie "Maleficent" was at the top of this weekend's box office; it also set a new record  for Angelina Jolie as it became her biggest opening (over $70 million) since Kung Fu Panda's voice over.
I will admit I went in without much expectations; the trailers did catch my attention but I wouldn't say this movie was a "must see" for me.  I am not a big fan of Angelina Jolie (I think she's just an ok actress) and out of all Disney classics, "Sleeping Beauty" is probably the least appealing to me; also I am not entirely familiar with the story behind Maleficent so I didn't know (and still don't know) the ins and outs of this particular character.
With that said, I do know that Sleeping Beauty's name is Aurora and that she falls asleep after a curse, is then kissed by prince Philip and wakes up from her deep sleep... enough information, right?  ;)
Now comes my take on "Maleficent".... wow!
Angelina Jolie does a great job at portraying the hero turned villain, turned hero again, who has very valid reasons for her evilness.  The relationship between her character and Aurora is so sweet and they are able to transfer their genuine connection to the audience.  Elle Fanning looks very sweet and innocent as 16 year old Aurora and she has the most beautiful smile and facial expressions. The scenery of the movie is also beautiful and the action sequences were made to perfection; I also really enjoyed the movie's narration and the fact that it provided enough story background for those who are not entirely familiar with this particular fairy tale and it was interesting enough to keep everyone engaged in the story line. I liked that the movie wasn't all "dark" and there was a good balance between the ugly looking jungle and the flowery paradise that all princesses live in.
Even though the script fell flat at times (very few moments!), I believe the movie has an incredible and very powerful message. It describes the concept of good and evil in every human and it supports the theory that human greed only brings suffering and misery.  The story also delves into the idea that no matter what, good always prevails and true love is the most pure feeling that anyone can experience, and it is a healing emotion that can change even the most evil being. The story plays with important notions such as love, revenge, confusion, compassion, sensibility, greed, power, loyalty and forgiveness among a few others.
I particularly enjoyed that even though the script deviates a little bit from the original "Sleeping Beauty" story (I won't say exactly how since I don't want to spoil it for anyone), the result is great and very powerful, turning this movie into a "feel good" kind of film that is appealing to every audience.
I will add that the PG rating remains appropriate; Olivia went with us (her first ever PG rated movie!) and she really enjoyed it, even though she seemed confused at times, sporadic and very brief clarifications were enough for her to "get it" and I'm glad I took her (Gaby didn't go this time).
I will give this one 4 out of 4 stars.  I strongly recommend it; if it isn't for the fairy tale aspect of it, at least watch it for the powerful message and great acting.
Way to go, Disney! :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gaby's Dance Recital: Why "dancing" may not be for us!

Today we attended Gaby's first ever dance recital; she has been dancing ballet for a few months now so a recital was the next step...
The idea of a dance recital sounded like a great one; I mean what can be wrong about seeing my cute 4 year old in a cute outfit dancing with her little friends? Right? 
Cute outfit aside, I must say the idea of putting make-up on my 4 year old didn't sit completely right with me but for art's sake I decided to go with it...a little eye shadow, light lip gloss and mascara *could* be cute for a few hours...and it "kinda" was...(see pictures below)
We arrived early and ready for the big day, Gaby looked gorgeous and I proudly shared her pictures with friends and family. When her turn to dance came around (among the first few numbers) I was so proud to see her on stage; she surprised me by actually doing all the dance moves and looking sharp the whole time. She did unbelievably great and definitely showed some dancing potential...(yay Gaby!)....
But somehow, this dance recital was not what I had expected...in between the little kids dancing to cute princess songs were all these other "big" kids dancing vulgar numbers while half dressed (or should I say half naked?!). It suddenly dawned on me that maybe I'm just not ready for a world in which it's normal to see a pre-pubescent child with her butt cheeks sticking out and thrusting her pelvis while dancing aggresively to an "angry" tune...
I started to think...since when is it ok to sexualize children in such a way? Why should my family feel compelled to clap after a dance number that was clearly offensive to us? Why can't I expect my 4 year old to just learn ballet and dance like a child, without make-up and crazy outfits? 
And while I realize that there are different music and dance styles and art can be expressed in many different ways, I also feel very strongly about "age-appropriate" behavior for children...some of the kids today were clearly too young for the kind of performance they were in...
And yes, I could probably avoid the recital altogether (and I probably wil in the future), but I remain disappointed at our experience...
Additionally, I think the recital costs were insane ($50 to participate, $80 for the dance costume, $25 per person to get in, $10 for a recital program, $20 for a flower bouquet...you get the idea!). But who knows maybe I'm just part of the wrong dance studio (am I?) or maybe I just wasn't born to be a "dance mom"...
So here I am pondering about what the next step should be...should I just pull
Gaby out of dancing? Should I wait and see if next time is better? Should
I just opt out of future recitals? Am I just too conservative? Old fashioned maybe? 

So, I leave you with some pictures of Gaby's first (and probably last) recital...

Happy dancing! ;)