Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Fun Day Out

I am anxiously awaiting Christmas, as most people are.  As bittersweet as it is for me to acknowledge that the most wonderful time of the year i about to be over, I still cannot wait for the day to come.  To change focus just a bit and shift my attention to something other than Christmas, we decided to take the kids to a new park we'd never been to. It was a blast.  It got us out of the house but away from the hustle and bustle of last minute shoppers.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

His 9th Grade Graduation

It has been a long time coming but it finally came.  My son graduated the 9th grade and I could not be more proud.  Here in Costa Rica, passing the 9th grade is a big deal and to celebrate this momentous achievement, the kids get to partake in a ceremony honoring them and their accomplishments. For my son, it meant more than just receiving a certificate.  It meant two failed years of school, hard lessons learned and working the hardest he had ever worked in his high school career. 

School isn't easy for everyone and my son struggled for years.  He failed the 6th and the 7th grade.  It took him having to repeat the 7th grade for him to finally buckle down, take school seriously and become a studious child.  Putting school first meant turing off the cell phone and the video games when it came time to study for exams.  It meant making time to complete extra credit homework.  It meant paying attention in class.  And when it came time to do these things, he did them without any nagging or prompting from me.  To say I am proud is an understatement.  I have been waiting for his moment of maturity for years.

So he matured and became the student I knew he could be.  Even he is proud of all he was able to achieve this year.  Knowing it was going to be a hard year and knowing how important it was to pass, he took the bull by the horns and accomplished his goals.

He may not be a straight A student.  That is not what is important.  What is important is that he worked hard and did his best and his best was him graduating onto the 10th grade.  Way to go!!!

The End Of An Era

I was literally in tears as my baby boy graduated from his playgroup's early stimulation class at the library.  The kids were all dressed in their Sunday best and there was music and a story time to entertain the families as well as keep the kids' attentions.   A couple of the kids even got in on the act themselves with their own performances.  It was the most memorable day.

The graduation ceremony was held on Monday, December 4th at 11:30 am.

Now, even though it was a joyous occasion, it made me very sad to know that I will no longer be apart of the program.  My last child, my 4 year old, is off to preschool next year and that means the end of the an era.  He was my third child to participate in this program.  My two middle kids were also in the library's early stimulation program when they were little.  I had literally been involved in the program for about 8 years.  My little man started when he was just 6 months old and at 4 years old, he was leaving the program forever.

I love the playgroup at the library.  It has proven to be so beneficial for my kids.  It taught them how to socialize and how to participate in a group setting, among other things.  They learned so much being apart of that program, things that would eventually prove to be useful in preparation for starting school. 

Although my little one and I went just once a week to the library, it was one day we both looked forward to.  At the library, it wasn't just the program that captured our hearts, it was the staff as well.  And it didn't hurt that we had the opportunity to rent books that we would get to read at home.  I will miss the program a lot, but I still plan to take the kids to the library as often as I can.  And there are other activities we can participate in as well.  It won't be the same but at least it will keep us close to a place we have come to love for so many years.

Judo Celebration

On the 9th of December, just before each family takes a break to celebrate the holiday season, the kids got a chance to celebrate with their friends at the dojo.  With pizza, cupcakes, ice-cream and candy, it was truly a wonderful Judo afternoon.

The kids played games and enjoyed a few hours of chill time with lots of delicious goodies.  It wasn't a fancy party, but it was a day they will never forget.

Finally Finding The Countdown

We found it!  And even though I was resourceful and made my own, I was very happy to find the traditional chocolate countdown we loved so much last year.

It's been wonderful having two countdowns to Christmas this year.  It means that each kid gets to choose not only a day, but also their treat.  I am so glad this has become a tradition we can carry on for years to come.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Let The Festivities Begin

It's the start of celebrations all month long as we kicked off the 1st day in December with a secret Santa gift exchange and white elephant game.  My friend's  and our kids had a blast and I have to say it was a great way to start the month off.  I look forward to more celebrations and festivities to come.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Truly Happy Thanksgiving

We recently celebrated Thanksgiving 2017 and it was truly a wonderful celebration. This year, it was just me and my family, just the six of us enjoying quality family time and it was amazing.  There was good food and good fun, amongst good company and it could not have been a more perfect day.

Black Friday In Costa Rica

Black Friday and Black Friday deals have gotten better over the years in Costa Rica and that's good news for consumers, like myself, who look for deep discounts on gifts for the holiday season.  A few years ago, Black Friday didn't even exist and now not only is Black Friday a big deal in this country it has expanded to more than just Friday.   A lot of stores have Black weekend, where their deals last the entire Black Friday weekend.  Some stores take it even further and have discounts the entire month of November.

In my opinion, that is good news for customers who want to shop but are on a limited budget.  It means we can buy much more for around the same price due to the savings.  Some merchandise can be discounted as far as 70%.  That is a significant savings when you're shopping for a large family. 

I decided to try my luck at the Black Friday sales again this year and it did not disappoint.  Not everything I was looking to purchase was included in the sales, but I was able to save 20% to 40% on a couple of items I was planning on buying anyway for Christmas.  That means I was able to get the gifts I wanted at a discounted price.  Who doesn't love a good deal?  The princess of bargain hunting does (yes, that's me).

Now, the negative Nancies will say that they jack up the price beforehand so they can pretend to lower them to fool the customers into thinking they are really getting a good deal.  Maybe so, maybe that really is the case.  But when I see a fur vest my daughter has been lusting over a few weeks beforehand for $50 regular price and I purchase that exact same vest a few weeks later on Black Friday for $30, I will take it.  A deal is a deal and paying $30 is way better than paying $50.  That's $20 in my pocket I can use for something else, which I did.  With that extra $20 savings, I was able to buy a Casio watch for my husband that was $30 regular price down to $20 in the Black Friday sale.  SCORE!!!

However you look at Black Friday, whether you love it and all the money you can save or you think it's a ploy, it is still a good way for businesses to get customers through the door.  In these times, you have to do whatever you need to do to make that money and make that sale.  And it that means slashing prices up to 70%, so be it.  Customers will be happy and people like me can get the most bang for their buck on a budget.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Decorating The Tree For The Holidays

I know it's not yet Thanksgiving but the tree is already up, as well as most of our Christmas decorations and it just feels right.  The house looks and feel so festive and the kids are all excited as it's starting to feel a lot like Christmas.  I do still have my Thanksgiving decor out on display but because time is flying by so fast, December will be here before we know and it will be soon be Christmas.  I just want to enjoy our holiday decorations for as long as I am able so we put our tree up yesterday to the sounds of Christmas music playing from the tablet.  It was a merry good time.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

In The Christmas Spirit

Thanks to library playgroup, we've been elbow deep in making Christmas crafts for the holiday season.  So far, we've made a Christmas tree out of a toilet paper roll, 6 pieces of an egg carton, paint, sequins and glitter.  A Christmas star out of popsicle sticks, paint and glitter. And Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer out of popsicle sticks and foam pieces. 

My house will be overflowing this year with festive handmade crafts, worth more than any decor I could buy at a store.

The holiday season is upon us and to celebrate, every week at playgroup is a new craft for the kids to make for Christmas.  All the crafts, music and story time and activities are Christmas themed to get the kids ready and excited for the holiday. 

The library program ends in November, just in time for kids to go on summer break.  For our group however, this is the very last year the kids will participate in the early stimulation program, which is a bittersweet moment for me.  My son started the program at 6 months of age and we have rarely missed a day.  The program has been so beneficial for us in so many ways and I am sad that this will be the last year we can participate.  All the kids will graduate with a formal ceremony the first week in December and so I am soaking up all the program has to offer in these last few weeks before it all comes to an end. 

First Batch Done

I finally wrapped up all the gifts I'll be giving to extended family and a few friends this Christmas as  I was just itching to get it all done.

No, I don't go crazy buying for everyone and I don't spend a ton of money either.  I keep it simple and buy for a few 'special' people each year, if the budget allows.  Basically, if you live within walking distance to me and I like you a lot, you most likely will get a small gift from me for Christmas.

I love to shop and buy for others as giving is just in my nature.  And I give gifts that I myself would love to get.  I don't expect anything in return, of course, as that would defeat the purpose of the gift giving spirit but I do hope the people I gift to over the holidays appreciate my efforts as it is the thought that truly counts.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Making The Most Of Halloween

As I've said before, Halloween is not as celebrated in Costa Rica as it is in the States, but every year it becomes more and more recognized.  And more places not only decorate for the occasion but host events to mark the day as well.

We were fortunate again to participate in the Fantasy Day Halloween event at Lincoln Plaza mall this year. Similar to the event last year, they had a costume contest, free activities for the kids like a moon-bounce, face painting and free cotton candy.  However, this year's event was even better.  We were able to walk freely around the mall and trick or treat at a bunch of participating stores and it was so much fun. The kids got a ton of candy and a taste of what it would be like to ToT back home.  It was also a bit nostalgic for me because it truly did remind me of when my oldest was younger and we would take him to the Prudential Center Pru Boo Halloween event in Boston. 

Best part was the kids had a blast and we were able to do something special for Halloween again this year.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

So Much Shopping

To say I love to shop is a bit of an understatement.  I mean, I literally could shop all day.  Well, maybe not an entire day but pretty much shopping for me can take hours.  It's like a marathon where I think I must hit as many stores in a certain amount of time.  It's just so much fun.  Plus it gets even better when I shop clearance sales.  Bargain hunting gives me such a high, when I know I am saving money while I shop.

So far, as it stands, this being October 22, I have completed my Christmas shopping for my 4 year old.  I also pretty much bought all the stocking stuffers for my older kids, minus about 3 items for my 17 year old.  I think that is pretty damn good seeing as I still have just over 2 months until Christmas.  Shop 'till you drop?  Yes, I could do that. 

I went to about 4 different toy stores, 3 department stores, and a few Dollar Tree type stores for all my loot and I got a great deal on pretty much all the gifts I got.  I feel so good right now, like I've accomplished some great feat.  I feel ready for the holiday season.  I still have more shopping ahead of me but I know I can get it all done before time runs out.  Christmas will not sneak up on me this year and I won't be stressed out searching for last minute gifts.  I will be prepared, ready to conquer my list.

I have to say, it does help not having an enormous list to get through.  My kids will not be getting an extravagant amount of gifts nor will I be spending an enormous amount of money on said gifts.  A few gifts under the tree to unwrap, about 6 or so.  And then about 10 stocking stuffer gifts per child.  I set a budget of about $200 this year for each of my 4 children, which gives me an overall budget of $800 total for all their gifts this Christmas.  I think that's a reasonable amount to spend on the kids.  It is about double what I've spent the last couple of years but we all know the saying, as the kids get older their gifts tend to get more expensive so I am bracing myself for that. 

I have their lists and have been shopping around to get the best deals so I can stay on budget.  Now, saying that, the budget is all relative.  I would love very much to come in under budget if at all possible but I could more than likely go over.  I won't beat myself up if that happens.  As long as I know I got the best deals for the gifts I bought, that will make me happy.  Plus, seeing my kids reaction to the presents on Christmas is what it's all about and makes it all worth while. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

No Time For Breakfast

You know when you're so busy, you don't even have time to sit for even 5 minutes to have a quick breakfast?  That was me on Thursday.  The entire week had me feeling like I could not catch my breath but Thursday took the cake. 

I usually don't EAT breakfast in the mornings.  Just a steaming cup of hot chocolate (3 packages mixed with water to be exact), will do me good for breakfast most days.  However, Thursday, all I managed to eat for breakfast was half of a banana that I shared with my 4 year old.  I didn't even find the time to sit down to eat it.  I literally wolfed it down while rushing to my car in the supermarket parking lot.  Yeah, classy!

The week was a busy one, but a really interesting one too.  Tuesday and Wednesday, I was a judge at the Regional English Festival.  The event started at 7:30, which meant I had to be up and dressed by 6:45 am.  Can you tell I'm not much of a morning person.  I can get up, but to have to get READY that early?  Me no like!

Thursday I was a presenter at the kids school for the Cultural Day celebration.  I did a presentation in front of the entire school assembly style on my homeland of Jamaica.  Since Culture Day is celebrating different cultures, I had to inform a group of students about Jamaican culture and history.  Having very little knowledge on that subject matter myself, I had to do a bit of research which meant I had homework I had to do.  That kept me busy most of Wednesday night, until I finally called it quits at around 12am.  And of course, I was up at 6am on Thursday, where I had to drop the kids at school, rush my 4 year to playgroup and then rush back to the kids school for my presentation.

If I felt out of breath, it's because I was going about 3 miles a minute trying to get it all done in a short amount of time.  I could have done most of the project a day or so earlier but seeing as my brain refused to shut down at the beginning of the week, I ended up with a massive headache Tuesday night, rendering me useless.

On top of having to do all my other duties as a mom and housewife, I was also running around shopping for Christmas.  But it's Friday now and as quickly as the week came, it's over.  And so is my super hectic week.  I have to admit though, that it was all worth it.  I had a very good week and gained a lot by having given my time to a few good events.  As for tomorrow, I will sleep in and take a lazy day. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Getting Organized For Christmas

Now that I don't have any more birthdays to celebrate, I can now start planning for the upcoming and fast approaching holiday season.  Yes, it is that time of year again when we have to start thinking about Christmas: gifts, traditions and budget.

I like to get a head start of the season for many reasons.  Reason number one, I have 4 children I have to buy presents for.  Reason number 2, we are a large family with one income so we don't have a big budget or a lot of extra cash for the holidays; that means lots of planning and preparedness is key to make our dollar stretch.  And reason number 3, I like to enjoy the season and not be stressed so planning ahead and having a game plan for how I want the season to go helps with that.

This year, we're keeping our traditions the same, just changing up the budget a little bit.  I like to keep Christmas simple and I try not to go overboard but as the kids get older, I realize budgets tend to grow as the gifts they want tend to be a little more on the expensive side.  So this year in anticipation of that, I have increased the budget to $200 per child.  Making a budget and getting an early start on the season not only keeps me accountable and helps me keep track of how much I'm spending, but it also prevents me from over spending.  It is very important for me to stick to an overall budget while making sure that I keep the gifts at an even number for each child.

So I went through my gift stash to take stock of what I have on hand and what I need to buy.  I made a list of gift ideas for the kids and I have the kids' gift wish list as well, to give me a better idea of the gifts they are asking for and really wanting for Christmas.  Having this list will keep me on track and help me keep track of what I am buying and what I have already bought so I don't overbuy, which goes back to not overspending.

I find this time of year so much fun,  What with Halloween and Thanksgiving around the corner, there is so much to look forward to before we hit the yuletide season smack in the face.  And if I plan to enjoy every minute of the holidays, It's always a good idea to have a plan.  Now, plans don't always go as planned, but just a relative idea of what I want to get done and how I want to get things done is enough to keep me sane this season.

Along with a budget in mind and my list, I have also started shopping and stashing away a few gift items.  It is never too early to start shopping for Christmas and just the rush of knowing that I have gotten a head start is enough to make me want to stay organized and keep on top of my plans for the holidays.  With September now behind us and October almost coming to a close, I look forward to all the shopping sprees and holiday activities in my future.

Friday, September 29, 2017

My 37th Birthday

Yes, I am officially in my LATE 30's.  EEEEEKKKKK!!!!!  I'm not freaking out, I'm not.  It's just so unbelievable that I have been on this earth for 37 years now which is amazing!  I use to think people in their 30's were pretty old.  Like, pushing 40 was a HUGE deal right?  But I so don't feel like an older person.  I am still me, still Carina.  Yes, I am older and should be a little more wiser (I'm working on that), but I am still my same goofy self.

Looking back, over these last 37 years, I wonder what I have accomplished so far.  I mean, now I feel like 37 is still so young and I still have so many more years ahead of me (hopefully).  I still have so much I want to do, like eventually one day finally publishing that book.  But I have done a lot with my life, albeit small accomplishments but accomplishments all the same.

I have 4 wonderful, beautiful children and being a mother is definitely my biggest and greatest accomplishment thus far.  I graduated college so there's that.  I ran a few races, something that I never thought I would ever do. I have volunteered my time to a variety of causes over the years and have tried to give back in some way when I can.  I've been on TV once or twice (nothing major), and even won third place in a beauty competition (sometimes it's the little things).  But I have to say, I have lived a good life.  Filled with many ups and downs but a good life indeed.

37 never felt so good!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Birthday Mode

My big boy, finally got to celebrate his 9th birthday and it was truly a blast.  He did not want a party this time around, which was fine by me.  He wanted to celebrate with just a few of his friends at Skyjump Trampoline Park in Santa Ana.  On his actual birthday, which was on a Saturday this year (September 16), we headed to the jump park with 3 of his good friends from school along with his older bro and two of his friends and of course his other siblings. 

It was such a fun day.  After an hour and a half of jumping, all the kids worked up an appetite so we headed to Belen to one of our favorite eateries, Rancho Olaris.  We stuffed our faces with so much good food before we were ready to head home for cake and popsicles.

At home, he played for a bit with his friends after we sang him happy birthday and enjoyed slices of delicious tres leches cake.

The celebration was not over yet because we had a birthday picnic at the park on Sunday so we could celebrate with a few extra friends.  We had sandwiches, chips, cookies, wafers, juice, and loaf cake.  The kids had a great time at the park... a good day enjoying some good company and good food.  After the park, we came back home where we had an impromptu movie night with popcorn, winding down the evening with a few sweet treats.  And of course both days, I had treat favor bags for the kids to take home because even though we didn't have an actual party, I wanted to say thank you to each child for coming out and celebrating J's birthday with us. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Celebrating Kids Day

Costa Rican's sure know how to celebrate their kids.  It was quite the celebration this year for kids day (like it is most every year) and my kids had a blast celebrating a day especially for them.  I have to say, I am now a kids day convert and look forward to many more celebrations to come.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Happy Birthday Baby Boy

August 29th, 2017 a miracle boy turned 4 years old.  Happy Birthday.  Birthdays are so bitter sweet but this one was especially sweet because of everything we went through with this little boy.  He truly is our little miracle and I am so happy to be able to celebrate one more year with him.

A SUPER Hero Birthday Party

Sunday, August 27th was the day we celebrated our fourth child's birthday with an amazing super hero themed party.  It was the perfect day too; sunny, bright, warm and beautiful.  We have about 48 people come and help celebrate the day with us, which was so sweet.  All 23-24 kids had a blast.  We played a few games like pass the kryptonite and musical chairs, and the kids even had to hunt down a few villains.

Food was on point, with 4 types of pasta: rotini in beef sauce, bowtie in a pesto sauce, chicken penne alfredo and tuna pasta salad with macaroni pasta. We also had a nacho bar and of course some fruit and chips for the guests to nibble on.

We had tons of candy from the pinata, cupcakes for all and sweet treat favors for everyone to enjoy. The kids were able to win prizes that they could take home as well, like blowouts, coloring books and stickers.  The day was just magical and my birthday boy had fun, which was the most important.  We did it all for him and he could not have been happier.