Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thank-You Notes

It's been almost 3 weeks since my Baby Shower and I am so happy to report that I have sent out ALL of my thank-you notes! It was my goal to get them mailed exactly one week after the shower and most of them were... there were a few other gifts that came later so that second round of notes is going out today. One thing I have found interesting though has been people's response to receiving my card. My friends and family have been pleasantly surprised to receive my note in the mail and have even called or emailed to say 'Thank you for the thank you note"! One person even said "you actually thanked us for the gift specifically, it was so personal". This got me to thinking... have people really stopped sending thank-you notes all together?

I remember in elementary school, teachers having us write thank-you notes after a class holiday party or something like that. My mom never really made me write out a note but she did teach me the importance of saying THANK YOU whenever I received a gift. As I got older, it was just something that came natural to send a little note. After birthdays or special events I loved putting pen to paper and thanking someone for making me feel so loved. I don't send thank-you notes out after Christmas but I do send a Christmas card out every year. It's just something about connecting with people and sending them actual mail (not email) that is really fun for me.

Sure, it takes time! I had about 60 notes to write out by hand, then address each envelope after Baby Picon's shower. But it was fun to sit down and re-live each moment and remember each gift we received for our baby. I used a list my friend made for me and the stack of cards we received to reference while writing out the notes. When someone gives you a gift, they are using up their resources and time for you! It is so important to express gratitude for such a gesture.

When thinking about this today, I remembered that my friend wrote a blog post several months ago about this very same thing. You can read it here. She offers some tips on cool stationary you can buy to make the perfect thank-you note. In the meantime, here are a couple of "April Rules" of thumb to remember:

*Always hand-write your note. Printing labels for the envelopes is OK especially if you are sending a lot but make sure the inside of the card is handwritten with your message.

*Select the appropriate salutation. "Dear Aunt Helen"

*Start out by thanking the person for the gift they sent. Ie: "Thank you very much for the book"

*Continue by mentioning your favorite part of the gift or how you plan to use it. "I am such a huge fan of the author and can't wait to read it!"

*Finish off by offering an opportunity to reconnect . "We should get together for dinner soon".

*Then choose the appropriate closing. "Love your niece, April"

Remember ---- Simple, short and sweet is better than no Thank You at all ! The sooner you send out the note, the better since it is still fresh in your mind and you will express yourself more sincerely. Ohh one more thing, what occasions require a thank-you note? It's really up to you! I like to send them out after special occasions (my wedding, baby shower) but I also send them out every year after my birthday for any gifts I received. Really, it's up to you! Some say that 3 notes a year is probably best... anything more than that can seem "creepy" but YOU know your loved ones, so you be the judge! =)


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Time is of the Essence

I've recently been thinking a lot about time... how important it is to me and why do I value it so much? Time matters in so many different situations. Timing can be everything when starting something new, or ending something old. We do so much to save our time and I'll admit, I am even willing to sacrifice financial resources if it will give me some more time. I'll pay for laundry drop-off service (to not spend time at the laundromat) or I'll pay shipping and handling (to not spend time shopping at a store).

I am learning and seeing now that the timing of somethings matters more than the thing itself. Especially when it comes to people... to our relationships... to our friendships and families. But why did I get to thinking about this so intently? I read an old saying that is pretty famous -- 'Time heals all wounds". After much soul-searching I concluded that I do not agree with this statement. Allowing time to pass after being hurt does not heal ... it suppresses. I know this from years and years of pretending I was moving on and OK about my Dad. I had never had a conversation with him or told him how I feel... I hadn't started therapy yet so I wasn't working out those feelings. I thought that TIME would heal me.

Rose Kennedy said something that really resonated with me: "It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone."

If there is someone you need to "get right" with, I encourage you to make it happen! Have that conversation, share those feelings and build that bridge. Don't waste TIME and don't let unnecessary time continue to wash over and suppress the hurt. The funny thing about time is, you can never, ever get it back... Communication is the key and that is the only way to learn and move forward. Letting time go by without communicating is the worst thing that can happen to any relationship that's in trouble and the worst thing you can do to yourself. Suppressing, burying, ignoring your wounds will only make it harder when it's time for the true healing to begin.

Time is of the Essence...


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Baby Mine - A letter to my son

Dear Son,

In about 5 weeks, you're scheduled to arrive... but if you're anything like me you will just arrive when you are good and ready! Your Dad and I have been working on your room; the place where you will rest your head and hopefully feel the safest in the world and I can't stop going in just to sit and imagine... imagine your smile, your cries, imagine the sweet look on your face when you are sleeping. I feel you moving inside of me and am so anxious to finally see you and hold you in my arms.

You were our little surprise... we didn't plan for you to be coming but believe me when I say that you are the BEST thing I have never planned and BETTER than anything I have planned too. God knew we were meant to be together and so he sent you on your way! It is my deepest and greatest desire to know you, and love you, and take care of you for as long as I am on this earth. How can I have not yet seen your face but already love you so much? I do. Your father loves you too...

He and I met a few years ago and I instantly saw something special in him. His eyes are the warmest and kindest I have ever looked into. He is good and his intentions are pure... he is everything a real man should be and I want you to always remember that. He might at times disappoint you, but he will always take care of you and lead you in the direction of his heart. This is what he does for me every day. I know this is a trait you will inherit. I hope you have his sense of humor and good nature... if you learn anything from him, learn that it is always best to see the good in others and believe the good before assuming the bad. Learn that life doesn't always have to be serious and some things take time. Laugh as much as you can and be adventurous! Don't let fear hold you back... it's a wasted emotion. On that note, so is worry.... don't worry but believe that things will work out for the best. These are all things your father teaches me and when he teaches them to you -- listen.

If there is anything I can teach you it's to never let go of your FAITH. A relationship with my creator is the only thing that has brought me through in life and I know that it will bring you through as well. Pray and don't be afraid to keep praying. Be creative and expressive when you relate to God... he listens and he will express himself back. Worship is a special "phone line" that connects us to him so I hope you are a worshiper. Read the Psalms and learn about King David because it is the heart of worship that brought him close to God even with all of his flaws. It is the heart of worship that does the same for me. Don't be afraid to express yourself and say what you feel... those who love you won't hold it against you. Those who are meant to be with you will never leave you. Life is short and more than anything you accomplish, your relationships will be what it all comes down to. Do away with bitterness or feelings of resentment... love with all your heart and start by loving YOURSELF. There is only one YOU and anyone meant to be with you will love you for exactly who you are.

Friends will come and go but FAMILY is forever. Be good to your family and appreciate them because they love you. We all love you and can't wait for you to be here. I want to count your little fingers and toes, I want to smell your hair and kiss you a million times... I want to spend a lifetime loving you but God only knows how much time we will have together. Regardless, know that you are the biggest blessing I have ever received and I will forever be grateful.

You are my sunshine...

With all the love in my heart,

Your Mommy

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Food !!

When I was a little kid, I was a very picky eater. My mom had to take me to my pediatrician because I basically refused to eat anything except for crackers and cheese. Over the years I slowly began to open up to a whole new world of food and today can say that I would try just about anything... I LOVE FOOD! I enjoy eating but what I mostly love is how food brings people together. If you know anything about Puerto Rican culture, know this -- we cook and we eat! The two are very important which is why I started learning to cook at a very early age. I still enjoy trying out new recipes and cooking for my family... there is just a pride in this that I feel and can't quite describe. I love food!

About two years ago though, I saw the movie "Food Inc." and my relationship with food has changed. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Anyway, I learned how our food gets from the farm / manufacturer to our supermarkets and I was incredibly shocked! The "choices" that I thought I had when going to the supermarket are not really choices at all - just the same thing labeled differently. I saw how animals are treated and though I am not a vegetarian nor do I ever see myself becoming one, it still made me sad. There are studies that prove that the quality of life of an animal affects it's nutritional value for us once it is killed. To see the way chickens are raised in filthy conditions and injected with all kinds of hormones, steroids, etc. was very difficult... and I can't describe the feeling any better than simply saying -- I lost my appetite!

Since then, I have made small steps to eat better and support farmers who are still doing things the natural way. One really great thing I have discovered are FARMER'S MARKETS! I live in the Bronx and though most of the markets I go to are in Westchester, the city has some incredible farmer's markets too. Hunts Point Market right in the heart of the Bronx is great! There is also a pretty famous one in Manhattan (Union Square) and I recently was walking down Madison Ave. near 38th street and found a Farmer's Market Truck!! It's just like an ice-cream truck except with vegetables, pure maple syrup, and all kinds of goodies. It doesn't get much better than that!! By supporting Farmer's we can stand up to the big manufacturers and "food producers" ... we can hopefully over time show them that there has to be a change.

I try to buy all organic animal products although this can get pretty expensive. I'd love to go full on organic but our budget simply won't allow it. Even if a product is not organic, my rule of thumb is basically to go with the most pure, simple ingredients I can. Which means no more shopping based on price or what is on sale! I spend time in the supermarket reading the labels and deciding what I can live with and what is not going to be negotiable for me.

Here are a few things that are non negotiable:

BUTTER - I need the stuff that just says "Sweet Cream and Salt" nothing more! Parkay margarine for example contains things like partially hydrogenated soybean oil and sodium benzoate to preserve freshness. NO thank you!! If I wanted to spread that crap on my bread I would melt a Tupperware container. Only real butter for this lady please! And yes, it is high in saturated fat so it should be consumed in moderation.

SUGAR - I'm sorry I just can't jump on the Splenda/Equal/Sweet and Low bandwagon! Sugar substitutes contain a fun ingredient called Aspartame that has already been linked to several types of cancer. After learning that, the "no calories" just doesn't seem worth it to me. Again, it just needs to be consumed in moderation. I also love the RAW sugar... it's sort of a light brown color because it is unrefined and contains minerals that are usually stripped from regular refined white sugar.

MILK - As a milk lover, I have to say that organic milk is the best thing to have happened to me! It tastes soooo much better and I always look for the ones that are certified organic from free-range cows. I think a happier cow, makes better milk. Stop and Shop has a great brand called "Nature's Promise" that I love.

- this is where things can get expensive! When my budget allows, I must buy free-range, no hormones, no steroids added chicken. Out of all the types of meat, that is the one that affected me the most when watching Food Inc. Then, it's cow. BJ's has some really great deals on organic meat and it's always a great idea to buy in bulk. Then I simply separate everything into Ziploc freezer bags and freeze!

- Same concept because of the chickens =) And I just feel like they are yummier.

- I will be the first to tell you that I don't enjoy drinking water. I need some flavor in my beverage! But please believe me when I say this -- Soda is the devil!! LOL.. I love the taste of Pepsi but refuse to put the stuff in me. It contains my biggest enemy - High Fructose Corn Syrup! So do most juices.. This is probably the place where I read labels the most. I try to go for all natural, 100% juice and the simplest ingredients possible. Apple & Eve has some great juice and when you mix juice with sparkling water it is just as good!

SYRUP - I hate the high fructose stuff with maple flavors (aka Aunt Jemima) so I really try to go for plain old, pure maple syrup. It tastes so much better on your pancakes or french toast! It's just really expensive for some reason. I buy it when I can.

If you haven't seen it yet - go out and rent "Food Inc." and then I'd love to hear what your non-negotiable food list is.

Now, I'm hungry! Off to make some yummy french toast for myself and Baby Picon :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Showers of Love! -- my Baby shower was today :)

I thought that I would take to my blog while the emotion is still fresh and while I am still on this incredible "high" from all the love and support that I was surrounded with today. My amazing mom, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and friend planned a beautiful "lunchtime" Baby Shower and I was blown away! More than 60 people came to show their love and celebrate the much anticipated arrival of my little man. I know that many say I am a "mother to be" but with this little guy living and growing inside of me, I can say that I AM a mother... and as a mother, there is nothing more important than when people show their love for my child. How anyone wants to treat me is honestly on the back burner compared to how you treat my son. Today, I saw that my baby is truly LOVED by many and I feel so blessed to know that.

The space was a beautiful, well lit room on the top floor of an apartment building with views of the city below. We could see the Empire State Building from the window! Pretty cool :) They decorated in an adorable monkey theme which is funny cause we call Baby Picon our little "spider-monkey". We played "Hot-banana" (as opposed to hot-potato) to complement the theme. There were baby pictures of me and my husband on all the tables and guest favors were adorable lollipops and lip-balms. My mother-in-law even hand made some adorable monkey ears for me and my husband to wear which were so funny and cute!

Our family was there, our wonderful church family, and some dear friends. The simple act of these people taking the time from their day to come and show their support means more than words can express. Baby Picon got lots of presents that I know will be put to good use!

My favorite part was reading the sincere, touching words that people wrote on cards for us. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely LOVE cards and I can spend hours in a Papyrus or Hallmark store. There's just something about receiving a card that I enjoy even more than receiving a gift. The words that were shared today are really stuck on my heart and I am so grateful for those who took the time to write out a card for us. One of my friends from church put together a gift basket for us with a poem and pictures of us and a sonogram picture of Baby Picon! How awesome is that? It really means so much when people take time to prepare something... I have never felt so special because I know it's this little person inside of me who is the special one.

Overall, everything was put together in so much detail and I am ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS! So I really, truly appreciate every ribbon that was tied, every gift wrapped, every sentiment expressed and I will forever remember this day.

To my mommy and mother-in-law --> I hope that I can be HALF the mother that you both are! Your sacrificial love and commitment to always be there and go "above and beyond" for us is the greatest blessing in our lives and I know that this has been a trying year for you both but you still made this celebration happen! Baby Picon is so lucky to have you as grandma's. And we are beyond blessed to have you. Love you both so much!

To my sister Jasmine --> The perfectionist! I could see your touches in many of the details today and that's what I love most about you - you show your love in all the details. I know that you put so much heart and love into planning this event and for that I am so grateful. Baby Picon has the best Titi ever! WE love you!

To my wonderful friend Caroline --> Okay, I have to say that I never imagined we'd come to be so close and honestly, when Jay and I were discussing who would be the God-parents, you and Esteban were a "no brainer". Sometimes we think that we know who will be there for us during the milestones of our lives and when they actually come around, we get some awesome surprises! You have been such a good friend and support system throughout this pregnancy and I am confident that our baby will feel your love and support throughout his life as well. I know how much effort went into planning the shower... it was all so wonderful! Thank you so much! I love you :)

For everyone who was there today, I love you all so much! Thank you!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Maternity Photo-Shoot (my favorites)

I love the orange against the blue sofa...

I was really apprehensive about showing my belly... just because I have seen nearly naked maternity pics in the past. It's a celebration of the female body, nature and all that I get it! I'm just super conservative.. anywell, this was a good compromise and I really love this shot!

Wedding rings and belly.. love this one!

Our silliness as a couple... it's just a fun photo :)

My husband is a Spiderman fanatic. We took lots of shots with Spiderman tees on and I think it was such a great way to put his personality into the shoot. Husbands are so often "placed on the back burner" for the whole pregnancy process and I was happy we got to do this.

Just admit it, I look "fabulous" in this picture! hehe

Love is in the air :)

Can't wait to do this again with Baby Picon's little feet!

OK these are my favorites people! There are lots more but I won't push it... ha! Definitely check out the AWESOME photographer who made these pictures possible. Lacy Bove! Her website is:


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Rant; The Charlie Sheen Media Frenzy

For those who normally read my blogs, you know that I like to write about my faith and sometimes give little tidbits about my life and how things are going. I have a huge family and I know lots of you who live far keep up with me in this way. I do read the news and am a very politically interested person.. but I think my "realness" and transparent way of expressing myself is enough for most people to handle without the complication of political views. I try to stay away from that though I can't promise I won't feel moved and write about politics some day. Mostly, I enjoy pondering and exploring my faith as it relates to myself and my relationships. Not really my plan to write about this, it's just kind of what always comes out and since this is a sort of therapy for me, I write what is on my heart regardless. Yikes!

Well, this morning I can't help but feel incredibly moved by a story that has been on the news for several days now -- Charlie Sheen. I know it seems strange; I am actually blogging about Charlie Sheen! But after seeing parts of his 20/20 interview, I can't say that this man has not been on my mind and heart. I think that we tend to put celebrities on this other level sometimes, forgetting that they are human and when watching this interview, all I could see was this VERY human, troubled man who needs help and isn't getting it.

His particular story resonates with me because I have a loved one with bipolar disorder who has been known to self medicate and this is CLEARLY what Charlie Sheen is struggling with. Having lived with this and seen it for years, it isn't difficult to recognize. The difference is that this man has to deal with his issues in public as he is a public figure. To think that one day his kids will have access to the internet and see this interview makes me sick to my stomach.

With bipolar disorder, a person is usually on one of two extremes - manic and depressive. It's finding that balance of emotions that is difficult and nearly all bipolar patients have spent their lives self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. This is why the problem is so often undiagnosed until later on in adulthood. A person with bipolar disorder will not get better until they make that decision for themselves because with this particular illness, so much is in the patient's control. Following a routine, taking medications at the right time, choosing to not abuse drugs, all of these things need to be put in place and it is usually a difficult and long journey. I pray that Charlie Sheen eventually makes these decisions and gets better for the sake of his life and his family. I pray the same for my loved one... it has not been easy.

So when is the media coverage enough? When do we stop taking advantage of a person who is clearly not well for high ratings and a good story? In my opinion, choosing to interview Charlie Sheen while in this state is just feeding the problem and therefore it is irresponsible journalism. We as the audience can clearly see that he is not sober and not well, and I am certain that this was evident to the team of the people in the room with him who were responsible for this interview. It is a shame that making money and gaining public recognition matter more than REAL journalism. There is so much going on in the world (politically and otherwise) to report on and I'd really like to see more interviews that actually tell a story and stand for something important instead of humiliating a sick person. This is not entertainment, nor is it news! The constant media attention is only feeding his problem - enough with the Charlie Sheen media coverage already!

Praying for the Estevez family and especially those kids,