Monday, December 31, 2018

End of year randomness

As another year comes to a close, I can only think of good things to say about all our experiences in 2018.  It was a year of growth, faith, love and traveling and I loved every minute of it. 
This year I turned 37, I traveled to Madrid with my family, took a couple of trips with just Iggy, spent a lot of time with my kids, started diets and broke them, learned to cook new dishes, made new friends, lost old friends, got two new baby cousins (yay Stefania & Nolan!), got visits from my international family and I'm currently on our last trip of the year.

Here's a photo recount of our year...

After ringing in the new year with some family in Ohio, we visited DC with some of our great friends!

Our niece Mariana turned one year old and we took a trip to Disney to celebrate Erika's 11th birthday!

Easter celebration at Oliver's school and enjoying the nice Florida weather

An amazing two week trip to Spain, where we met up with some of our family.  What a great time!

...also, another great trip to Disney...

..and who could forget the girls' hair donation, which still warms my heart... :)

Olivia was inducted into the Elementary Honor Society

..a visit from my uncle Alfredo...

..a fun Girl Scout Disney trip and Olivia's spring show in Universal Studios..

Fun summer activities...the kids were happy to be out of school! ;)

The most eventful moths of all.  We celebrated Iggy's 42nd birthday, welcomed our baby cousin Stefania (born in Switzerland), I took a weekend cruise with some friends, celebrated the girls' birthdays (9 &11) and then we took a trip to San Francisco with an amazing stop at Napa Valley.. 

Spent some time playing local tourists and then Iggy and I took a trip to Buenos Aires (one of my bucket list destinations) <3 p="">

Another great trip to Disney and we finally got to see the new "Toy Story" land, an amazing couple's trip to Chicago for some tennis, our boy turned 3 and we took the family on a Disney cruise to celebrate.. 

Fall fun with the family, Oliver and I took a trip to Upstate NY to see the Deso family, Olivia's first cheer showcase, Halloween fun with friends and the highlight of the month was the birth of our baby cousin Nolan...

We enjoyed a visit from my cousin and his family, who came all the way from Switzerland.  While they were here, we baptized Stefania and it was a great time to get the family together.  What a great month!

I turned 37 and we embarked on our last trip of the year, an ambitious road trip to New York, which has been nothing but fun. We have visited Charleston, Washington DC and NYC so far.. What an amazing time!

I love sitting down and reminiscing of all the good and not so good things that happened during the year that's ending, and every time, I realize that even though life isn't always perfect, it sure is fun, entertaining and we are so blessed to have each other to share the ride with. 

I thank God for every experience that he made possible.. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Operation "Give Retail a Chance"

I timed it... I spent a whole hour in line while attempting to return some "cute-but-way-too-big shoes" I bought for Oliver.
I decided I'd be patient when I walked into the store and noticed the check out line wrapped around the back wall and beyond.  I pulled out my phone and sucked up all my Candy Crush lives, cleared my inbox, scrolled through my FB and IG feeds and once I was done with that, I was still only half way to the next available cashier.  Out of 12 available registers, only 4 were open and, judging by their slow motions and lack of interest in providing any kind of customer service, the people who were working them were probably either drunk or had not slept in days
I get it, working in retail around the holidays must SUCK!- the lines, the rude customers, the mess that people leave behind when looking for the right size or their desired item, the frustration combined with everyone being in a rush for no reason.. it's mostly negative...but my perception is that the very same retail workers that complain about all these, are often the ones making it worse for everyone involved with their attitude and lack of empathy.
And while this isn't the case for every retail worker or even every retail store, the experience of shopping at the mall or a stand alone store is awful and not something I look forward to.
This year, however, I've read so much about how Amazon is killing the retail business and about how many people are out of jobs because people are shopping online instead, so I decided to give retail a chance by shopping at the mall or single stores instead of going straight to one click purchases. I tried every schedule combination possible and even started shopping well before December even rolled around and the results were always the same: a crappy experience often made worse by unhelpful staff at the stores, poor logistics, sad customer service, lack of options and non competitive prices.
I tried shopping at Macy's once and waited in line for about 40 minutes because most registers were "closed" since employees were either "on break" or "helping with inventory", as in helping customers was not a priority. Never did I perceive any willingness to make my shopping experience better, not from management and definitely not from regular store clerks.
On the flip side, I bought tons of items off Amazon and other websites with extremely prompt delivery, no hassle package, competitive prices and a smooth return/refund process whenever it was needed. There was just no comparison and my operation "Give Retail a Chance" turned into a complete failure; it was such a turn off to walk into a store only to have to deal with unruly crowds, unhelpful employees and lack of empathy, which turned into frustration and often anger.
I must point out though, that I am in no way a frantic shopper who goes crazy overspending or over buying; I'm probably just the average mom who worries about getting simple gifts for her kids, teachers and maybe a few close relatives or friends; I wasn't looking for a "hot" toy or the latest computer model, phone or watch.... I was simply trying to shop for mundane items...and the operation was still a failure.. giving retail a chance was not a good idea!
I will, however, give credit to some of the stores that did make it a pleasurable experience.  Stores such as Target where employees seemed genuinely concerned about the shopping experience and where amazing sales were available on a daily basis; Walgreens, where managers were willing to step it up and open extra registers when needed; HomeGoods, where employees were always helpful and friendly and did their best to keep the store organized among the chaos.
My worst experiences happened at Old Navy, Ross, TJMaxx, Macy's and a few other shops at the mall.  Those stores are the reason retail is becoming a thing of the past and I feel sorry for all the families who depend on these businesses to put food on their tables.  But the truth is that Amazon did not kill retail, poor customer service did.. and continues to do so...
Next year I will go straight to Amazon and I'm not looking back!

What was your shopping experience like? Did you shop mostly online or did you brave the stores?

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Navigating the "tween" years

About six months ago, I wrote THIS post about the "joys" of puberty and how I have dealt with all these changes in my motherly capacity as best as I possibly can. 
Even though I was mostly referring to Olivia on the above mentioned post, I realize that both my girls are going through the "tween" years (it's called this because it's an age where kids are in "between" childhood and adolescence, they are technically no longer children but are not quite teenagers either). Also, my last post was more about physical changes rather than emotional ones so this time I am shifting my focus to try to share my experiences with the ups and downs of feelings and the minds of my 9 and 11 year olds. 
The first time Olivia told me she was crying for "no reason", I knew I wouldn't be exempt from the side effects of "hormonal changes" coming from my tween, times when she needs me to be around but I'm not exactly the person who's going to solve her "issues". There are days when she's randomly cranky, or rebellious or simply sad and unmotivated.  There are other days when she wants to tackle all the conversations without any warning; one day she asked me if I could take her to the salon to wax her upper lip because she didn't like having a "mustache" and another time I noticed she had been shaving her legs because they were simply "too hairy";  I don't remember how I dealt with these things as a tween and I honestly don't even remember the role that my mother played in this awkward realizations that probably felt like the bane of my existence back then, but I do know that sometimes I feel useless when it comes to this stage in the life of my girls and when I'm the person who has to go into details about why things like these happen. 
I know the stage of boy crushes and girl gossip is closer than I'd like to admit; I am also aware that whether I like it or not, tweens are slowly exposed and more vulnerable to dangerous behaviors because of the false sense of power and independence.  I know that I'm not nearly as ready as I'd like to be so I'm focusing on defining the word "reputation" and  teaching my girls about why we have so much control over it as early as right now!
Olivia has developed her own sense of style; she likes wearing light make up and dressing like a hippie, she likes art and singing, and joking and friends but she also likes to be alone sometimes and definitely enjoys some privacy. Sometimes I feel like she pushes me out of her space and I don't know how to deal with that but I'm slowly learning to navigate these "tween" years. I'm happy to say, however, that she's an "easy" child and I hope it stays that way...

Then comes Gaby who is my toughest child and also the most sensitive and emotional one of the three. After the bullying concerns I wrote about a few weeks ago, Gaby started having serious emotional issues that included random crying and sweating, repetitive puking and bouts of unexplained anxiety and also a sudden fear of being alone, a consistent lack of desire to leave the house and just overall neediness. I know this isn't one person's doing but a combination of things that have slowly overwhelmed her. Many people approached me with good intentions(which I appreciate tremendously, by the way!) and although I got some great suggestions, dealing with these issues has been a real challenge for me.  I have felt helpless, hopeless and overall sad about what Gaby has gone through but I have tried my best at staying informed and on top of it. 
Gaby is incredibly shy and mostly quiet and she has a very hard time standing up for herself in difficult situations, which leads me to think that she's somewhat insecure; but at times she's also bossy and demanding and a mix of sweet and sour so it's difficult for me to "label" her. 
I know that Gaby is a perfectly normal child, who's probably learning how to deal with her emotions; she so sweet and smart and overwhelmingly loving, but these recent events have made me doubt myself so much. I often wonder if I'm a good role model, a good guide for her, a good advocate, a good listener...and this is all part of navigating the "tween" years and the emotional rollercoaster that they are and at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I really hope these years fly by because I don't like them! LOL!

My daughters aren't perfect but they also aren't the kind of girls who roll their eyes at me or who think that everything I say is dumb...and yes, I do realize they aren't teenagers yet but I believe they're on the right path. I'm a strong believer in the idea that "it takes a village", so I welcome any suggestion, advice, words of encouragement and even criticism to make this easier!