Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Last Day of School

It's always bittersweet when a school year ends...I find myself reminiscing about my kids' early school days and even the baby years..lots of emotions running through my heart..usually nostalgia and a huge sense of accomplishment...
This year, though..it has been SO different because I am SO GLAD it's over. 
While 4th grade was an amazing year for Olivia, where she flourished in all areas and excelled academically thanks to her incredible teacher who we LOVE (she even got invited to an advanced math program for next year, where she will skip 5th grade math and go straight to 6th grade lessons...yay Olivia!), it was an incredibly "off" year for Gaby who struggled so much with the horrendous teacher she got.  My poor child was the victim of one of the WORST teachers we've ever come across and I will never forget this year...sadly because of how bad it was and how much Gaby regressed both academically and socially.
It's hard to explain exactly "why" this teacher was so detrimental to Gaby because there are SO MANY reasons; this person was cold, detached, a poor educator, a person who lacked compassion and empathy and someone who simply (and very obviously) doesn't like children. She very clearly favored certain students (and their mothers) and her work ethic was incredibly poor.  Gaby started the year off with certain strengths in many subjects and she basically "lost" those strengths this year due to lack of encouragement and poor guidance. I was amazed at how poorly the school handled all the complaints that were made against this teacher and I certainly hope the administration will increase their expectations regarding teachers and the way things are done in the classroom. 
If it wasn't because I love so many things about the girls' school, I would have pulled Gaby out halfway through the year, but something told me we should stick it out and hope for a much better 3rd grade...I must say though, this is probably the last chance I'm giving the school.  


So, as this school year ends I am choosing to leave the bad and take the good. I am happy that my girls continue to grow in faith and I am proud of the wonderful young women they are becoming. This year I learned that I am my children's best advocate and that I must always speak up no matter what. I learned that my kids are stronger than I give them credit for and their intelligence never ceases to amaze me.  Gaby was able to work through her struggles and was very vocal about overcoming her fears with our support. Olivia learned the importance of true friendships and the value of working hard for what she wishes to achieve. 
They are ready to take on 3rd and 5th grade, but first....YAY FOR SUMMER!!!!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Eurotrip 2017- Part 4 (Belgium & Paris)

This is my 4th and final post about our Europe trip; my goal was to finish my stories within a month of coming back so I am barely making it but at least it's done...
After the Netherlands we headed to Belgium; there were a few spots that interested my about this country so we made sure to fit them in our itinerary.  The drive wasn't bad and the kids behaved incredibly well so that made it even easier. 
We stated in a city called Leuven, which is one of Belgium's college towns located about 30 minutes outside of Brussels. In Leuven we rented a flat, which was amazing because it was very spacious and situated in a place with lots of businesses and "action" around.. it was lovely. 
On our first day in Belgium, we visited Bruges, one of those places I had always wanted to visit. This city is straight out of a fairy tale, with beautiful little houses around the canals and intricate buildings that are simply fascinating. Bruges is seriously enchanting, there isn't one ugly thing about this place and I was mesmerized by it.  We walked around the narrow streets of Bruges, visited the central square where the big buildings are and even explored some of the chocolate boutiques, one of Belgium's highlights. 
In Belgium we also visited Ghent and Brussels, also amazingly beautiful and very picturesque. 


This is a chocolate boutique where they make artisan chocolate.  The owner happened to be there and he spoke to us about how good Venezuelan cacao is and he even told us about all his travels in the search of the world's best cacao beans... it was quite the experience. 


These are pictures from Leuven, the college town where we stayed in Belgium..


These are some pictures of Brussels' Atomium, a very iconic monument located in a very touristic spot in the city.  We were able to go up and contemplated the most amazing views of the city. 
Brussels is quite the place and even though it wasn't at the top of my list, I was really happy to visit such a place.  Belgians are really friendly and their culture really surprised me.  The kids were shocked to learn that "French" fries aren't really French but rather Belgian and they also loved all the waffle and chocolate stores; we really loved this place. 


And this is me enjoying a Belgian waffle. Waffles are truly a form of art in Belgium and whether it was because I convinced myself or because it's a fact, these waffles were the best I've ever had! Yum!


Look at all those yummy waffles!!!


After spending some blissful days in Belgium, we headed to my favorite city of all: Paris!  There's just *something* about Paris.. not matter how many times I visit the city of lights, I always fall in love all over again.. Paris is just a dream city, everything about it is captivating...it's romantic, it's elegant and hippie at the same time, it's hectic and relaxed.. all at once.. I just LOVE Paris so I am making sure my kids inherit that love for such a place...
The first spot we visited in Paris (as is my tradition) was the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, a little hidden chapel with very little hype but with the most amazing vibe in the whole city; I just love sitting in that little place and saying a special prayer.. so amazing!


We took the girls to the Louvre Museum to see the one and only Mona Lisa; I spent countless hours explaining to them that the actual picture is much smaller than they could imagine but they were still shocked by its size (like everyone who sees this famous painting for the 1st time)..it was such a good experience for them, though.. we could tell they were really excited...


Oliver tried climbing every sculpture he saw and it was quite amusing and stressful at the same time.. let's just say our museum walking tour did not last very long! ha!


We continued on the typical Paris tourist route and took the kids to Notre Dame Cathedral.. great place for photos and the weather was absolutely beautiful during our Paris visit...


My second favorite spot in Paris.. Sacre Coeur... I just love hanging around this place..


...and of course a Paris trip HAS to include a visit to Trocadero and hanging out by the Eiffel Tower; we watched street performers, had ice cream by the tower and took a bunch of pictures.  The kids got the enjoy the many playgrounds surrounding Champs de Mars and had an amazing time in this wonderful city.  


We had such a great time in Europe and we were so blessed by how good the kids behaved during the whole trip.  Oliver was a real trooper and we really think that driving instead of taking trains or planes made a HUGE difference.  Renting a car wasn't nearly as complicated as I thought and parking in the different cities was rather easy and inexpensive.  Gas is a little pricier than in the States but I still think it evens out when I think about how much other ways of transportation cost. 
I wish we would have been better as far as coordinating meal times and attraction routes but we made the best of our trip with the time and budget we had. 
The Spring is definitely the best season to visit Europe so next time we visit, we will most likely do another Spring time trip. 
We thank God for allowing us to create such beautiful memories and we pray that we can continue to expose our children to the many different and wonderful cultures around the world!
Until next time, Europe! Thanks for 2 amazing weeks!


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dear stalker...

I have recently discovered I have a "stalker", a person who obviously doesn't like me (and trust me, I'm totally fine with that.. I'm sure there are many others who don't like me) that visits my blog every so often in an attempt to make me miserable by criticizing what I write.. 
This person has recently written messages to my husband asking for me to please stop posting "happy" things...because, well, that's how some people are...
I'm sure that person will read this open letter at some point, so here it goes... 
**Edited to add: this is fortunately/unfortunately someone I know so there isn't any immediate danger to my family or I.**

Dear Stalker:
I am making a little parenthesis in my regular "happy" posting to let you know that you will not tarnish my happiness or the purpose of my blog!
I want to let you know that MY LIFE IS NOT AN ACT and I'm not in this world to please you or anyone that wishes to bring me down.  
The true story is that I am indeed a happy person with many good things and also many bad things; my family is not perfect but we strive every day to be the best version of ourselves we can be and I am not about to change the way I am or the way I live my life because you have decided to tell me what to feel or when to feel it, how to act and how to react; you simply don't get to do that and I am officially letting you know that you mean NOTHING to me or to my husband and you NEVER WILL!
I don't blog to make you or anyone happy and I couldn't care less about who gets annoyed by what I post or how often I post it.. don't like it? don't read it.. as simple as that...
Contrary to your belief, I don't make calculated moves and I am certainly not looking for anyone's approval and most definitely not yours!
I know you will read this and will take it personal.. please DO! This is all about YOU! It's all about the times I have stayed quiet while you secretly attack me and ridicule my life... it's about telling YOU that I will continue to write happy things because that's who I am and NOTHING will ever change that!
I am sorry your life is so miserable....mine isn't! ;)
Happy Blogging!


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Eurotrip 2017- Part 3 (Netherlands)

It has taken me way longer than expected to finish my blog posts about Europe.. it's almost irrelevant to write about it now since it has been almost a month since we came back, but I am determined to finish it so the anecdotes can at least go down in blogging history...
Anyways..here's goes nothing...
After we left Germany, we headed to Amsterdam, which has always been one of my dream cities to visit.  The drive was about 4 1/2 hours and not too bad since the kids slept and behaved most of the way there. 
We arrived in the afternoon and headed straight to the "I am Amsterdam" sign, one of the most famous icons in the city.  We stopped at the one that is less crowded for some "VIP" pictures (ha!) and then headed to the one by the Rijksmuseum, which is obviously the one most people visit.
The day we arrived it was really cold, probably the coldest day in our trip, which makes sense since Amsterdam was the most north we went; the girls were happy to wear their heavy jackets for a change since we'd been hauling them around...
We walked around the city for a bit that afternoon and I was immediately captivated by the beauty and magic of this wonderful place.  The canals, the tulips, the bicycles...everything I had imagined and then some...and the weather was simply perfect so that made for an even better experience.
Here are some pictures of Amsterdam...


Here's a cool rubber ducky store we found in the middle of the city...they had dozens of different designs..it was so cool!


I will admit that by the time we left Amsterdam, I was a little sick of the bicycles and how rude the bikers can be; they basically think they own the road and will run anyone over just to get their way.  Amsterdam is a HORRIBLE driving city and that's probably one of the most difficult challenges we found; the streets are insanely confusing and really narrow so it's very hard to navigate by car..I seriously think cars are discouraged in that place.  I was really stressed out while Iggy was driving.  On top of it, parking rates are insane (for the same reason!), so if we ever go back, we will NOT be driving in the city... lesson learned. 

After Amsterdam, we headed to Lisse to visit Keukenhof, the most famous tulip garden in the world.  Keukenhof is only open 2 months out of the year so we planned our trip around it because it has always been my dream to see the tulips in bloom in Holland...
OMG.. I had NEVER seen so many beautiful flowers in the same place; the tulip bulbs were in full bloom and the gardens took my breath away. I probably looked like an idiot taking so many pictures of flowers and zooming in to get the details of the petals and their dew but it was so worth it.  
We walked around Keukenhof for a good three hours and the whole time I was in awe about the beauty of these flowers and the wonderful display of perfectly God created nature.... a dream come true...


After our short visit to Lisse, we headed to The Hague to walk around and also to visit Madurodam. I figured since mom had gotten her chance to do her thing, why not let the kids to theirs.  Madurodam is a miniature city and a park for children that features several scaled famous buildings of Holland and a few attractions for kids.  
We loved it, but Oliver was just mesmerized by it.. he even tried walking over some of the displays and looked like a giant walking around tiny buildings.. it was so cute!


After our brief visit to The Hague, which was incredibly beautiful by the way, we began our drive to Belgium, which was our next stop. 
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the Netherlands and I was SO happy to finally visit some of the places that I had longed for. Dutch people were incredibly friendly and the country is a tourist paradise; everything works right, there are lots of places to visit, the food is good, souvenir shops are well supplied and everywhere you look there is something beautiful.  What a wonderful place to be... we will definitely go back some time! :)

I hope to finish my next (and last) post about Europe within this week! It was a trip for the ages!