This Side of Heaven

Since January 6, 2017, I have not been living my life in gratitude. In fact, since that day, I have not wanted to or had a desire to pray and give thanks to the Lord. I have done it, even feeling a little hypocrite when doing so and going as far as not even believing what I was saying, Some might right away recognize the date. It was the day Kinsley took her last breath on this earth. It was the day my heart went numb. It was the day I started viewing this life on earth as "This side of hell."

I have struggled with this numb heart trying to revive it. I have gone to counseling, therapy, worship CDs in vain. I had a heart of rock. I even wondered if I had lost faith in God. All His truths were still my truths (which by the way is the only truth, but not everyone lives by them) and I knew He was faithful and would rekindle my heart and incline it to His.

In an effort to expose my heart to rekindling experiences, I enrolled in my Panamanian church Crossroads Bible Church's women's conference "Unconditional Love." On the first night, I was happily surprised the guest speaker, Julie Trandhal, began the conference by explaining that, while the Cross did prove God's unconditional love for us and the worth God places on us (by the price He paid for it), the main purpose of the Cross is the glory of His name. Therefore, we must never lose sight of our main purpose in life is the glory of His name. She went on to give her testimony and stir us to answer God's calling for our lives. Julie had no idea of the tears of desperation that flowed down my eyes that night, desperation to reconnect with God.

The next day, the morning speaker was a local girl. During lunch break, Julie and I crossed paths in the restroom waiting in line. At the time, I had no idea why Julie spoke to me. She had no way of knowing I spoke English or, more surprisingly, no way of knowing I wanted to talk to her. The way she looked at me made me feel she did. I opened up to her and told her my story. I told her how my cancer story had stirred me to glorify God with all my might. Kinsley's story was different for me. It made me question "why" and feel separated from Him. I told her of my numb heart with no fire inside burning.

Julie told me she had no answers (which I loved hearing). She just asked me if she could pray for me. She grabbed my hands and started praying. She asked that God would turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh with a burning desire for His Kingdom, that He was capable of healing my heart, that He would not give me answers in this "Side of Heaven" but He could use me for His glory. She told me my walk of faith was harder because I was walking it in obedience despite of my disbelief, but God would restore in my heart His presence so I could once again feel His love. I cried the whole time.

She did share with me John 10:10 and reminded me who had come to kill and fill us with disease.
John 10:10
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

As I pondered on the verse and found solace in it, Satan the accuser whispered on my ear: "I came to kill, but you asked "in Jesus' name."  He could have saved her if He had wanted to but chose to say 'No'." And then my mind went to the time Emmalee asked me about Kinsley; after all, she was with me when I prayed for Kinsley every night.

"Why are you cying, mom?" asked Emmalee.
"Because Kinsley died," I replied.
"What does that mean?" she asked.
"It means she went to be with Jesus."
Her eyes widened with bewilderment.
"She can see Jesus?"
This has been puzzling for her, as she often asks why Jesus can see and hear her, but she can't.
"Yes, baby. She is living with Jesus."
"But where?"
"Well, Jesus said He is preparing a house for each of us."
"Then why are you sad?"
The next day, she told everyone who crossed her path that Jesus had a house for her.
"Jesus is making me a house!" she would exclaim.
I thought you had to teach ending entonation, but she instinctively knows how to ask a question and make an exclamation. Just picture her excitement for a minute and imagine her voice: "I will live with Jesus in my house!"

Oh, if we really were like children. No, Satan, you won't be victorious. He came to give Kinsley life and she IS living it abundantly, more than we can imagine.

In the last sermon of the conference, Julie spoke of this life as a "side of heaven" because it is our only chance to do something for His glory. This is our ONLY chance to be His hands and feet. That is glorious! To live for Him and His glory is the greatest glory we can have in this life. And then Julie shared how her calling to glorify Him was to open her eyes and ears to women around her that need to be listened and encouraged. She even shared how God gave her that opportunity that very same day while in line to the restroom (remember how I told you I had felt weird that she spoke to me? Well, it was weird because I felt our meeting had been intentional) by meeting a new friend and said my name. When your eyes are in the Lord and in this being your one chance to live it for Him, it is definitely a side of Heaven.

I am walking this rocky road still not knowing how. It is a bumpy road with ups and downs that make me want to get off. There is grief in my heart and so many questions. Julie encouraged us to change our "whys" which won't be answered in this side of Heaven into "who" Who we can know certainly in Who we wait on.

I leave you with this song. I could barely hold my tears and my breath.


How to get in shape without falling into self-loathing

What is the problem with losing weight? 
Stick with me to see if you relate to my story and if we have similar struggles. 

I always wanted to be athletic.
I have an ardent envy to anyone who can run. 
I suffered from asthma in my teens and from severe allergies that made breathing really hard when I was sitting down, so running felt out of the question. 
Fortunately, I was blessed with a high metabolism that kept me slender. 

Skip forward to 6 years of hypothyroidism, 2 back-to-back pregnancies, a year battling breast cancer and my body is not what it used to be or what I wish it to be. I thought my cancer's silver lining would be losing weight. I lost weight during chemotherapy that I gained back during radiotherapy and was left at the same weight before my cancer journey, despite losing body parts on the way (talk about frustration!) I even joked with God that if He had allowed me to have cancer, at least He could make me skinny again. Well, as the saying goes: "No pain, no gain" (although there was a lot of pain).

Eating right and working out are good for our health. If this was motivator enough, we would all be doing it. It isn't. We live our lives like our life style is not going to catch up on us. It is even hard for me to do it knowing it greatly diminishes my chances of my cancer coming back. Yes, that is still not motivator enough to stick with it. 

So, what is the problem?
Is it too hard to workout? 
Is it too hard to diet?

In my case, it is none of the above. Yes, I struggle with working out and dieting. I love cinnabons, pizza, a good semita (Honduran sweet bread that I long for in Panama), and chocolate. Oh chocolate. I have eaten a giant bar in one sitting. I once got a giant Hershey kiss as a gift (best gift ever!) and ate it in one sitting despite my teeth hurting from having to carve it (too big to bite). Working out! Who has time for that? Especially if you are mom and a wife, finding "free" time to workout is daunting and seems impossible. Who has the energy? After running around little ones all day and cooking and cleaning and caring for more little ones and laundry and cleaning and more little ones, at the end of the day no one wants to workout. 

You might be asking: "Where is the point on this then?"
Well, as many of you can testify, working out is hard but the more you do it, the easier it gets and you even start feeling more energized by it than seeing it as a struggle. Same goes with dieting (I say dieting but I mean cutting sugars and complex carbs which is really not dieting but eating right, but for the post's sake we'll say dieting). The first weeks are hard, but as soon as your system is cleansed from the sugar withdrawal, eating right is easier and again you feel better. 

So, if dieting and working out makes us feel better, why are we not all doing it? Why so many of us start dieting and working out and give up and fall back to our old ways? Why can we only keep it for a certain amount of time and not for the long run? 

My personal answer to that question is: the results. The results are just not showing up fast enough. We want to see in the mirror what we imagine we should look like in the mirror. Unfortunately, this image has been given to us by the bombardment of media that has objectified women for decades now and has given us beauty standards we impose on ourselves. If your goal to working out and dieting is looking a certain way, when that is not achieved after a period of time, we get discouraged. 

I never feel so bad about my body as when I decide to start eating better and working out. It's like when I can spend a day of teaching without realizing I haven't eaten all day and had no problem; but the moment I decide I want to fast that day to spend it in prayer, I have never been more hungry in my life or worse, everyone decided to bring and offer me my favorite foods. My eating habits are their old self and I am fine with what I see in the mirror. I start eating only fruits and veggies, and I can't be more appalled by the image in the mirror. I start working out and suddenly my thighs are as thick a redwood tree trunks. No where else is my belly so visibly flaccid as when I am working out. 

I personally quit because working out and eating right for the purpose of achieving a certain body brings me down to a pit of self loathing. I prefer to quit and not actively prevent cancer if it means I won't be hating myself. But what if there was another way?

For me it's all about the results, right? So why not aim for different results?
I always envied flexible people. I dream of being able to achieve a split. 
I studied dance in 2008 when I lived in Mexico City and I was in the best shape I have ever been. I hated stretching. It was too darn painful. I hated it, hated it, hated it. My sister would come home and repeat all the stretching. By the end of the year, my splits where just what they were at the beginning of the year and my sister was a master.

Well, maybe I had a silver lining after all. 
Stretching no longer hurts. Maybe it has something to do with my neuropathy. I am not sure, but it isn't as painful as it once was. When I realized this, I started training again. I started with the training I remembered from my dancing days and then I started doing Youtube yoga videos. 
I sometimes revert to my inflexible self-loathing days (I was the WORST in the class), but have started seeing results which keep me going. 

  • For me is all about results I can see now. I am impatient. I am a control freak. I want to see results!
And the results are coming in. 
And as I see more and more results, that keeps me going. 
I do the beginner tutorial and try out the intermediate, even though I can't effectively do either. 
I lift my leg higher; I get my split lower. 
I am conscious of my body's separate joints and muscles. 
The pain is delicious! I crave for it. I crave the feeling of warm, achy muscles. 
I would be able to get lower and bendier if I lost weight. 
Now, I don't eat right to see a result in the mirror, but on the yoga mat. 
I am loving it because I am staying motivated with no self-loathing. 
I am not counting calories for a mark on the scale. If I ate something "unhealthy", I don't feel like kicking myself in the butt.

I have a goal: right-side split and perfect bridge before the end of the year. There are other goals there, but those two are the "big ones." 
What is making you "fall of the wagon"?
Are you falling into a vicious self-loathing cycle every time you want to get in shape?
Are your goals what you see in the mirror?
What if you try a new goal, a better goal?
One that doesn't make you hate yourself or your beautiful God-given body.
One that makes you stronger and happier, not accountable and tied down.
One that you can share and be happy about. 

Here are some pics of where I am today. I will try to post in the future the results!

They can't see me on the floor because I am their favorite trampoline.

Emmalee is happy to help me stretch. She surely has helped me stretch deeper.

That is lower that you might think.


The Christian and antidepressants.

I am sorry I have been absent from my blog.
There is so much I have wanted to write about, but I haven't been able to.
I haven't been able not because of lack of time or desire or topics.
I didn't have a good state of mind.

I've been struggling more than I ever have in my entire life.
I hadn't been able to pinpoint what exactly was going on.
I struggled to acknowledge how bad my mental state was and how bad I needed help.

I told my mom and my husband my depression was getting out of hand.
How did I know it was getting out of hand?
For one, I started imagining my husband's and my daughters' lives without me and thinking they'd be better off. Then, I started imagining how they would take it if they found me dead on the shower and if they'd be able to recover from that.

Those thoughts are not normal. I needed help.
I went to my endocrinologist checkup and told him of my depression. I told him I thought my depression was connected to my physical ailments: the lymphedema in my arm and the neuropathy in my legs, which has now been declared a permanent damage from chemo for the rest of my life, have been keeping me from sleeping well and being able to rest from being in so much pain at night. The lack of sleep makes it harder to be sweet and understanding while homeschooling two very young and willful girls. My hypothyroidism and my 20-years-early menopause were also causing a hormonal and mood imbalance. The anxiety from getting our immigration papers in order and the lack of job when savings were almost out were also piling up.

He prescribed Cymbalta. It is an antidepressant but it also has some other component that helps with chronic pain, so it would also target my neuropathy and help with the pain from the lymphedema. Perfect! Two birds with one shot. Well, the Cymbalta was not well received by my body. It gave me nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, faintness, foggy brain, migraine, difficulty concentrating, constipation, bloody stools. In other words, it was like if what back on chemo. That is how bad it was.

I went to my oncologist check up and told him how I was feeling and how badly the Cymbalta had been. He said he would not treat my depression. He said I needed to see a psychiatrist. I told him I was adverse to psychiatry and had only taken the antidepressants at the urging from my mom and my husband.

This is not my first tango with depression. That shouldn't be a shocker to anyone considering what I had to endure this past year. My cavorts with depression began during my parents' divorce. It was around that time that I began to know the Lord and He became my refuge and consoler. I had not been able to find any solace in the Lord this time around.

I told my mom and the oncologist I'd give the psychiatrist a chance, even if I didn't believe in them. I had given my mom a chance to meet with her spiritual mentor and sat down with her for some counseling. I didn't find much help from that meeting. It was not the first time I had sought some spiritual counseling and found no help.

Before I go on with my story, I want to pause to get some things off my chest.
Depression is a disease. It is not for lack of maturity. It is not for lack of motivation or perspective. It is not because one is lazy or decides to shut down. It is not for lack of love to others. The stigma on speaking out of these subjects makes one more alienated. The afternoon I was having strong suicidal thoughts and was all home alone I thought of reaching out to someone. What will they think of me? What will they say of me if they know I am thinking this way? Will they understand this is not the normal me? I have to say, and most likely this was not true but I felt that way, I couldn't think of anyone I could reach out to that would have understood. I finally told my husband to come home because I was very depressed. He got angry at me and said I was the one who "chose" to be alone and locked up in the house. (He has since learned to have a better reaction to when I am feeling this way.)

I went to the psychiatrist very skeptical. I told her my story. I told her where I thought my depression got out of hand. It was on January 6, 2017. The day Kinsley took her last breath. I shut down that day. That is the way I describe it. Like I had an "on" switch and I turned it off. Not happy or sad. Not angry. Just nothing. I use to read stories in Mommy Daily, a Facebook mom group, of kids losing parents or parents losing kids and I would cry for them. When little Obed died, a sick boy in the group everyone tried to help, I didn't cry. I didn't feel anything. I had shut my heart from investing any feelings in him or anyone else for that matter. I don't watch movies and get excited or cry. Nothing makes me cry. I was left in limbo.

This limbo was especially marked in my spiritual walk. I wasn't rejecting God, but I also didn't feel His presence anymore. I still knew I had to seek Him. I tried praying even though I didn't know what to pray for or how to pray. I had prayed so fervently for Kinsley that I no longer knew if it had been right to pray for her healing. If it had, the prayer would have been answered. I prayed for something that was not God's will. That truth shattered my view of what was the right thing to pray for.

"Do you think of Kinsley?" the doctor asked.
"Every day. Every moment. She is always on my mind." I said.
I see my girls and think how her mom is one girl short. how her sister is missing her playmate.

I then started telling the doctor my cancer journey. I thought it was funny how that part of the story was more upbeat and uplifting than how I've felt after my last surgery which ended my treatment. I told her how my husband and I had never prayed for my healing. We prayed that we could accept God's will in our lives and trust that He would look out for the girls and my husband if I were gone.

"So your source of hope was shattered," the doctor said.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, you felt positive and strong with your disease because you trusted your God would look after your girls. But he didn't look after a little four year old who is just like your girls, so you no longer have any hope in Him."

I had never put those two together. NEVER. Was she right? Had I lost all hope in Him?

And, after all the platitudes I'd heard of Kinsley and how she was in a better place, and bla, bla, bla this doctor finally said something that made me feel the slightest better: "She did what she came to do."

I sat there letting it sink in. I thought of Giana, who I had also prayed so fervently to recover from her injuries and lost her battle to a simple surgery after enduring so much. "She did exactly what she was meant to do here."

"And that is why our journey here ends. We have something to do. And when we do, it is time to move on. Some do that in a longer journey, and some in a shorter. And as much as we wish they were still here, we need to let them move on," finished the doctor.

She said that she was surprised Cymbalta had not worked as it would have been what she would have prescribed too. She gave me another antidepressant and another medicine to help my manage my pain and help me sleep.

I've been feeling considerably better.
I've been thinking of God more and taking steps to search Him more too.
I was very surprised of how much I cried during that session and how good I felt afterward.
I was able to cry with the Lord, like I had always done because He was the one I could reach out to anytime anywhere with anything. I felt so good crying with Him.
I ask Him to be my hope, even when I don't understand why some things happen. Why did they have to die? Why did Kara have to die? Why do I have to walk such a hard road. Why am I filled with envy for expecting mothers and strong mothers? I should be happy for them. I want to. I am starting to.

I read this article about how we were asking the wrong thing in prayer for our kids. We always ask that they have health, and happiness, that they grow up to have a good spouse, a good career, education, job, house, etc. Well, these are not the scenarios where we see the Lord. We see Him in hardship, heartbrokeness, weakness, struggle, pain, suffering. It is there when we can see Him and grab hold of Him. We must ask that our children will seek Him in these time that WILL come.

This is true. I remember sharing the gospel with a stranger while we were on a waiting room. He said you can't know He is real. And I said: "Yes you can! Because He was with me." He was with me those nights when I cried myself to sleep when my dad left my house. He was there in the nights that I prayed on my knees with my nose to the ground and I felt His embrace. I grabbed ahold of the promises in His Word like: if your mother or father leave you, I will never leave you. I lived confidently in the words that I could call Him ABBA (father) because I had been adopted as a child of God. These were the things that sustained me and held me through anything that could come my way.

So, I am studying the Word seeking how to pray and what to pray for. I'll be writing a post on that soon. I am taking antidepressants to help balance my brain and give me a little help after so much loss and pain, specially when I also think of Sammy.

I liked the way my doctor put it: "You don't think ill of someone who has a kidney problem and takes kidney medicine. If someone has high blood pressure, he takes medicine for that. Your brain was not unaffected by everything you went through: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, miscarriage, loss. It is brain medicine."

How can a pill make you feel better? I don't know. It does. I feel better. I've been having better interactions with everyone around me. I've been having quiet time and alone time to meditate instead of fantasize and specially fantasize of unnatural thoughts.

We all need help. We all need a break. We are not alone. And He understands.
Today I give thanks antidepressants exist and thank God for making them accessible to me.

Matelin, Kinsley's mom, always says "Hold your kids tight." This picture makes me think it was taken from a different family, but it is My family. That was me. That is me.


Carboard DIY Frenzie

We are loving the security Panama offers.
We can take the girls to any public park without fear of getting mugged or killed. I don't wish to give more negative advertisement to my beautiful country, but you simply can't do that in Honduras.
Going to the park after 7 p.m. in Honduras? Unheard of.
Panama City also offers an unparalleled variety of parks with a wide variety of activities and sceneries, but you have to be willing to withstand the heat. This is the reason parks are filled after 5 p.m. and usually even later.
While we were enjoying this new selection and freedom, rainy season put a damp on our park exploration for various weeks.
Apartment living with very confined quarters and two youngsters made this momma get into action.

Here are a few cardboard projects I've embarked since we came here to give the girls more play options. I love that I've been able to use them in our homeschool activities learning names of rooms and their functions, sorting vegetables and fruits, learning vocabulary words of different foods and breads, pretend play, and just plain old fun.

DIY Kitchen
 Isn't it lovely? Oven, sink, and fridge! My sister told me to paint it all, and while I grant that it would look much better if I did, the point was to be economical, both in money and time. 

 I think it looks nice just with the painted accents and bare cardboard. I saved the sticker from some wall decals someone gifted to the girls.

 Emmalee painted the blue burners and the pink knobs, and Kaylee painted the purple burners (well, one and then off to keep playing. Mommy painted the small one.)

 We use a flower as a faucet and pretend the leaves are the handles. I really need to find another bowl for the sink as I would like my Rubbermaid bowl back.

 Front view of the fridge. I made it small so that it would fit in the girls' small bedroom, but I wish I had made it taller. 

 You can see all the cardboard is recycled inside-out boxes. Would you believe me all the kitchen is one TV box? The back of everything is hollow.

 All the tableware, food, drinks, pots and pans came in one single game set for only 15$.

The set even brought the little boxes and play cans.

Just look at the assortment of baked goods.

I always, always wanted to have a play kitchen when I was growing up. I would have been ecstatic to have had this one my girls have. They have a neighbor who they've befriended who is Emmalee's age. She has all sorts of purchased dollhouses and toys, but she went home to ask her mom to make her a kitchen "just like Emmalee's". 

 Dollhouse #1
 Kaylee especially loved this. I just realized the kitchen floor has some water damage. At first all the furniture was glued, but Kaylee changed that pretty quickly and mom finally gave up on re-gluing them.

 I had no idea I could find so many options of wallpaper, floors, and decorations online. While browsing, I discovered the intricate world of miniatures and some things people do I would only dream of doing. I could browse for hours watching dollhouse miniatures. 

 I had planed on having a dining table in this room, but the space was too small and I ended putting it on the attic. Shhh! Don't tell my girls that is not where that goes!

 Kaylee loves putting this bed in the living room and the sofa in this room. Mommy finally gave in and just rearranged it for the pictures.

 How lovely are my faucets made from juice box straws?! The inside of the tub is an inside-out juice box. Kaylee constantly ripped the faucets out until mommy threaten her she wouldn't let her play with the house again if she ripped it one more time. It worked. 

Sorry for the blurry pictures. I had to be quick because Kaylee was standing next to me eager to play. 

Dollhouse #2
This second house I did for myself. I had so much fun looking into the world of dollhouse crafting, I just had to give it another try. I have to say, I have not kicked the bug and will probably be making more of these. This one was based on a floor plan and design I saw on Pinterest. I had so much fun with all the little details. Kaylee absolutely loves it. She wouldn't even let me work on a new room because as soon as she saw me working on the house she was on top of me playing with whatever new thing I had done. She has ripped ever furniture piece apart, but, unlike with her dollhouse, she brings everything to me and asks me to put it back together. She went especially nuts for the crib (you can read why in the previous post). It's funny that she would rather play with her ponies on this house than her dolls. She has two dolls that fit perfectly, but she loves to lay her small ponies on the girls' bunk bed and the tall ponies on the grownups bed, and she reserves the crib for her baby teddy or baby rabbit only. Her favorite thing is to walk the dolls or ponies through the doorways; I don't know why. Emmalee plays with it too, but only when Kaylee lets her. It's pretty much Kaylee's thing. 

 Floor plan view.
 The green grass made with foamy and the felt for fabric is the only thing that is not cardboard. Even the paved walk is cardboard. 

 That patio chair is my favorite furniture piece.

 The whole house is made from a single box from our printer.

 Can you spot the pasta cooking?

 The kitchen was my least favorite room and, after a lot of work, ended up being my favorite. The ketchup and mustard is just rolled construction paper. 

The view from the window in the yard is the only good view of the stove and fridge.

 This room is the exact replica of my childhood room, even if it was the same room of the original Pinterest design. My sister and I had bunk beds in our room with Sakura Card Captors posters.  It's a shame you can't see well the Kero frame on the desk.

 I love the sneak peeks through the doors and windows. That desk chair has been the piece re-glued the most. Kaylee just tries and tries to sit her dolls at that laptop.

 I love that mirror inspired by one from my childhood house that now sits in my in-laws' home. I even weaved that wicker basket from cardboard!
I am glad the crib is double-sided so Kaylee can play to her heart's content without it breaking once.

 Love the wall decor everywhere.
Yes, it opens!

Thank you for watching.
Remember to recycle, re-use, and find ways to be creative and have fun in rainy weather. 


Lilo & Stitch 3rd Birthday for Kaylee

I am once again late with this post, but it has been some crazy months. 
At first I wanted to do an "Under the Sea" theme, with some Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo details, but the girls were really not in love with either movies. I was leaning toward that theme because Kaylee's birthday is in summer and I wanted something with water games. 
The girls were really into Lilo & Stitch and Moana, so we went and made a Hawaiian theme birthday with details of both, though I pretty much ditched Moana halfway through. 

That smile is all the reward I need for celebrating them. I really tried my best on both of the girls' latest birthdays because I felt I needed to make amends to them for the amount of time we lost this last year with all my surgeries and treatment and time spent in bed. This bright sweet three year old was not yet potty trained or weaned from the bottle at the time of these pictures. It breaks my heart to know they suffered for my condition, but the Lord is so graceful in giving me two wonderful, beautiful, and amazing young daughters.

I had never used the props in any of my parties for such a photo shoot. This was all Nory Collins doing and I am so happy she was there to share this time with us.

The day was so hot that I couldn't put all the treats in the table at once. I had to take them out a little by little. At the end, it didn't matter that I couldn't have my full desert table photo because everything looked and tasted wonderful.

Just like the Tangled backdrop, the girls painted this one. You can tell by how wrinkly the paper is, but I think it just added to it.  Tio Tito  helped me make the white line dividing sea and sky at the last minute with whiteout.

This banner had been recycled 4 times. It use to say Welcome Baby for my friend Melissa's baby shower. She gave it to me to re-use on my cousin's vintage Winnie the Pooh baby shower that I have yet to post. I later re-used it for my nanny's baby shower at my house. I was about to throw it away when I realized I had all the letters to spell AYLEE and only needed to make a K. When I counted the left over flags I realized I had enough to write ALOHA. I love recycling and decorations that where easy to do.
 This blue banner was used 3 times as well. It was left blue for my cousin's shower, I added some blue glitter snowflakes for Emmalee's Charlie Brown Christmas birthday, and I added flowers where the snowflakes were for this one.

I was so lazy with the centerpieces this year. I just didn't want to do those hibiscus. They took forever. Can you believe Emmalee cut the hibiscus circles? She cuts so well for a four year old. 

 That Scrum turned out pure perfection. When I finished doing those Moana boats, the girls asked to watch the movie with them, and they looked so adorable playing with them while watching Moana sail.

 One of the things I love to do now that the girls are older is have them chip in. The light streamer was made with Emmalee's help. She even helped to cut the tissue paper and collect the toilet rolls.

 Mommy's laziness showing up again. The pineapple piñata was small and whimsical. It wasn't very well made because it fell of the rope with the first hit.

I know! I know! I messed up the quote. When I realized, I just didn't want to do it again. The girls love it because they painted it, and I was not in the mood to paste the letters again for a second try. That took forever.

This cake was glorious! The taste was amazing. I found an online recipe for a triple lemon cake: lemon cake, lemon curd filling, and lemon cream cheese frosting. Perfect for summer. When the girls saw the cake they gasped in admiration, but then they both asked the same thing: "Where is Lilo?" Guess they are getting more demanding. All the greenery is white chocolate and stitch is made from a rice krispy treat.

How fun are these mini coconut brownie drinks?

I even made them a mini tiki bar.

 Chocobananos is a latino specialty we all love to have in summer time. These were a complete hit.

 These cupcakes were to die for. The cake was filled with strawberry pieces and the buttercream is made with natural strawberry puree giving them that color with no food coloring.

Can I take a break and tell you that those umbrellas were the leftover umbrellas from my own bachelorette party in 2010! Recycle, people, recycle! These where banana pudding cups. They were the only thing in the party I didn't make. I am not into banana deserts, but my mother-in-law makes these incredibly good. Oh soooo good!

 These were chocolate cake simply because my husband and my brothers-in-law were not keen in me making a pineapple flavored cake and chocolate was the easiest option. I do love the way they look though.
It makes me so sad you can't tell in the picture and no one could tell in real life that the gummies in the jello cups are Nemo, Dory, and Frank from Finding Dory. 

 This was my smallest (in guest size) party ever. Six kids in total, so I was able to splurge on those six a little. Like my Disney family Stitch Valentine chocolate boxes?  

 I also had this mini chocolate favor boxes with fun sized chocolates and an under the sea pin

That table spells S-U-M-M-E-R

 Delicious Hawaiian chicken with coleslaw sandwiches

 Barbecue pulled pork sliders

 Kaylee was absolutely in love with her Lilo doll.

What is better than fruit punch for a hot day? 

Nothing better than a fun photo booth!

Here are some pics of the fun we had:
The girls torturing Andresito.

 Tia Sara is the funniest aunt ever.

Fun time at the kids pool. Tio Tito inflated it with his mouth and almost passed out from hyperventilation. How cute is Tia Jenny?


 All the friends a family needs in one picture. Where is Tia Marilyn in this pic? (Just missing Alejandra, Adina, and Denise)

My gorgeous Nory (up) and my gorgeous Heike (down) donning my hand made floral headbands and rocking them.

 Bearded friends of my heart!

 Best friend in the world and her beautiful family that will soon be growing!

 Found Tia Marilyn!

Dad and Tio George loved the water balloon fight. You can see Tia Sara (green dot in the distance) running from them.

Yep, Abuelo Edgardo had to hold the piñata up after it fell off the rope. XD

So much elegance in her summer get up.

 This was Abuela Linda's first time going to Kaylee's birthday party.

I love the kids in this picture like you have no idea.

Dear Kaylee, 
Oh my goodness, little one, you are the best thing that happened to this family. I just love EVERYTHING about you. You have been living in Panama City for almost two months and have been so easy to be with. You adapted right away and are sleeping so well in your own bed and on your room with your sister. You are so independent and love to play pretend. I made a cardboard dollhouse for you, and you can't wait to play with it in the morning, though you constantly rip things apart and bring them to mommy to paste them back. I am still in love with your feet. They are chunky and a little weirdly shaped, but that is why I love them so much. Three years in and I still kiss your feet after your bath and you still love it. I love the sound they make when you run around the house. Emmalee doesn't make that sound because you drag your feet. I swear every time I hear that sound I smile. I had a blast last night hearing you "read" a book. Emmalee got impatient as we couldn't understand half of what you said, but I loved it. I love how your vocabulary has expanded and you have moved to more complex sentences. Tia Lilly is always amazed by how much English you speak and understand. Your dad loves that you love to watch Blaze and the Monster Machines. Toy Story or how you call it "Moody" is still your favorite movie, any of them or any of the shorts; they're all the same to you. You have matured so much in controlling your feelings. I barely ever have to give you discipline. You used to have anger issues but not anymore. You are quick to listen and obey. You left your bottle almost immediately and you were potty trained just as quickly. It took this long because mommy didn't feel up to the challenge, not because you couldn't. You are so amazing at everything you do. Every time you paint a picture you hand it to me and say "here, for your birthday mommy," with a big grin in your face. Your favorite color is still pink. You want everything pink: yogurt, ice cream, juice box, dolls, blankets, shoes, everything. If it is pink, it's for you. You are such a good eater. I do have to fight you some days, and you are a little spoiled from your nanny and sometimes refuse to eat unless fed. It's OK. I don't mind. Your favorite game is to pretend to be Gimena, your nanny, because you like to pretend you have a baby. You come over and say "Hi, I'm Gimena. This is my baby." Playing mommy is still your favorite game. You are always so careful of your toys, especially your dolls. You can play in the biggest park ever, and you will not lose the toy in your hand. I worry you will fall climbing with a toy in your hand, but never once have you fallen. You are very coordinated and dexterous. I love how you pray alone and you ask for everyone on the pictures above and more. You make sure you take your time to thank for your family and friends. You are so loving. You are soft-spoken still with your low register voice, but you have a lovely singing voice that I feel will be more unique because of that register of yours. You love to make up songs, which I think it's advance for your age. Your sister must be an influence in that because she has become a master song-maker. You and your sister have grown in your relationship with one another. Emmalee is still a bit of a bully, but you are a bit of whiner. You love to play one of you is a puppy and the other is the master. Emmalee usually guides the playtime, but you have a pleasing disposition. You do make your preferences known, and won't let your sister step on you. 
Baby girl, may the Lord give me many years to see you grow and give you many more years for mommy to celebrate together. 
I love you my little monkey.
Here's to finally being out of the terrible twos!
love, Mommy.