Tuesday, November 4, 2014

HOLA, ADIOS AND GRACIAS, CANCUN!

Our family of three (or two-and-a-half as we always say) intended to do a two-week trip to London and Europe, but lo and behold, we ended up once again in the Caribbean!

First stop was Cancun, Mexico. Actually, scratch that. First stop was Disney World. We flew from Orlando, and coincidentally, a dear friend of mine gave us free tickets to the park, so it made perfect sense for us to do a pit stop in Magic Kingdom before we arriba-ed to Mexico.

In Mexico, we stayed in Club Med Yucatan, an all inclusive and kid friendly resort. We chose this resort because it always came up as one of the top 10 kid friendly vacation spots when we did our online research. Now that we have Vonn Kaleb in tow, the first thing we look for in a vacation spot is, you know, if there's something for him to do there. Although unlike other Club Med resorts where they have daycare facilities for babies his age, the one in Yucatan doesn't have one. They have Kids Clubs ranging from 2 years up, and Teens Club, both of which Vonn Kaleb obviously did not qualify for. However, they do have a baby welcome center which provided in-room crib, stroller, bottle warmer and baby tub, and the main restaurant served baby foods and provided baby food makers, microwave, and bottle sterilizer should guests need them. We're at the toddler stage where feeding could get pretty challenging and so having baby food in the buffet restaurant was a lifesaver.

Anyway, here are the highlights of our trip:

1. Crocodile sighting at the beach. Big guy was lost and headed towards the shore. Good thing he changed his mind before he reached the guests.

2. Road trip to Chichen Itza. We drove and we got lost but we found our way back. Thank God! A 20-month-old who had been sitting in the car for about four hours, iPhone map that didn't have info for Mexico, Mexicans who hardly speak English, us who hardly speak Spanish, thunderstorm, zero visibility driving inter-barrios...whew! The car rental gave us fair warnings regarding driving in Mexico, so when we finally got back safe at our hotel at around 8:00 pm, we were mightily relieved. The experience was well worth it though, and more importantly, we had fun. Vince was thankful I motivated and encouraged him to drive. I was thankful that Vince stepped outside his comfort zone within reasonable limits and agreed to drive to Chichen Itza. The Mayan structures were marvelously amazing. No wonder Chichen Itza is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. This deserves a separate blog post and I will share pictures... lots of them! ;) Bucket list item crossed off!

3. Pretending that Vincent and I habla Español. We conjured the craziest, silliest, most ridiculous pretend Spanish phrases and sentences, it cracked me up darn good. LOL! ROFL! This is my most favorite memory of our Cancun trip :)

4. Thunderstorm almost every day we were there. We had one bright sunshine-y day and that was the day before we left. Boo! We hardly had the chance to swim, so I pretty much just ate, ate and ate  I may have to diet and bootcamp myself to skinny now that our two-week Carribean all inclusive vacations are over. 

5. Authentic Mariachi over dinner. I wish I understood the lyrics but the mere fact that I was in Mexico listening to a Mariachi band was enough happy thought to cherish. Needless to say, another bucket list item checked off.

6. During dinners, Club Med guest relation officers join guests to eat and mingle with them. So when a Mexican guest officer sat with me at dinner one time, I gave him some witty remarks he surely won't forget. Haha! He told me he wants to travel to New Zealand, Bora Bora, and Philippines. I told him that if and when he visits the Philippines, don't say nothing about Manny Pacquiao. Hehe! That, and that how we were once hit by Thalia of Marimar and Maria del Barrio fever. He was entertained by me rather than the other way around. On a more serious note, I recommended Boracay and Puerto Princessa to him ;) #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines

7. Feliz cumpleaños, Vince! My husband celebrated his nth birthday on our last night in Mexico. I feel really bad and guilty for not having planned anything on his special day :( We didn't even have dinner together then. We had to take turns eating because our senyorito Vonn Kaleb had countless early terrible 2 moments during our holiday. I know that Vince felt that our holiday itself (and shopping spree later when we got back) was suffice but still, I should've done something other than that. Sigh! Oh well,  I'll make it up next time... pinky promise!

By the way, the reason why our London and Europe trip did not push through was no other than our precious little boy. My in-laws went there in September and they gave us the advice that we may want to hold off our plans because apparently London, Paris and Rome are not very kid friendly. The flight to London alone may be too exhausting for Vonn Kaleb and we didn't want to risk him getting sick while we're there. So our Caribbean trips were literally last minute but I'm really glad we pulled it off and we had a memorable family time. We're all getting better at this traveling-with-a-child thing especially Vonn Kaleb whom at his very young age is proving himself to be a trooper like his parents ;) Of course, we're so thankful for God's traveling mercies and protection all the time. We sometimes do get adventurous when we travel but God has always kept us safe and sane, and has allowed us to enjoy and spend quality family time during our vacations.

So that's about it for now. I'll make separate blog posts to share pictures from our vacation and I'll explain more in detail our two-week holiday in future posts :) Until then, vamos Taquitos and hasta la vista, baby ;)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

THE LIGHTNING THIEF: PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS

Percy Jackson is a 12-year-old boy who seems to be always in trouble at school. He has dyslexia and ADHD, and he has been in six different schools within six years. Once while on a class field trip, he had a very strange experience. His pre-Algebra teacher, Mrs. Dodds, turned into a winged lady and attacked him inside a museum, but thanks to his Latin teacher, Mr. Brunner, who came to his help. Percy ended up accidentally vaporizing Mrs. Dodds with a sword-transforming pen courtesy of Mr. Brunner. It became more strange when after what happened, no one from his class apparently knows or remembers Mrs. Dodds - not even his bestfriend, Grover, nor Mr. Brunner himself. Percy was almost convinced that he had just imagined Mrs. Dodds and what had happened at the museum that day, but when he overhears Mr. Brunner and Grover talking about The Kindly Ones and something that was stolen and needs to be returned by summer solstice, that's when he knew that all that had happened was indeed real. What Percy didn't expect to know following that encounter is that he is a demigod - a half-blood - a hero, and Mrs. Dodds is just the first of the many monsters he is destined to face and that the fate of an impending World War III depends on him and his quest to retrieve Zeus' lightning bolt.

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I decided to take a short break from the crime/thriller genre, and add variety to my reading scope. I chose to go the fantasy route and embark on a journey with Rick Riordan's famous hero, Percy Jackson.

The Lightning Thief is the first in the five-book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Readers who are into mythology will definitely enjoy this book. I thought my scant knowledge of Greek gods and godesses and their entangled mythical affairs would make it hard for me to follow the story, however, that was not the case. Mr. Riordan made it a point to always give descriptions and background details whenever a mythological character is presented in the story, which I found very helpful in appreciating and understanding the characters. I know that some people find mythology boring but this book has enough story in it to be far from boring. Being adolescents and young adults as main target readers of this book, the author's writing style makes this book an easy read and overall wholesome. I like the humor interjected every now and then in the story especially the chapter titles. I also like how the author depicted Greek mythology in a modern setting making it more relatable for young readers. I have to say though that I was a little disappointed when one of the key points in this book turned out to be quite predictable (at least for me). At one point in the story, Percy Jackson was told of his future by the Oracle. I believe the intention was for the oracle to be elusive and to add suspense particularly to its ending, however, I think it didn't have enough mystery component in it. It didn't take me far in the book to figure out and decipher the oracle, so the ending was kind of a little ruined for me that way. Nevertheless, I still believe it is a good book and I'd surely recommend it.

Below are a few excerpts:

"They're --- myths, to explain lightning and the seasons and stuff. They're what people believed before there was science."

"Science!" Mr. D scoffed. "And tell me, Perseus Jackson"—I flinched when he said my real name, which I never told anybody—"what will people think of your 'science' two thousand years from now?" Mr. D continued. "Hmm? They will call it primitive mumbo jumbo. That's what. Oh, I love mortals—they have absolutely no sense of perspective. They think they've come so-o-o far. And have they, Chiron? Look at this boy and tell me."

"Exactly," Chiron agreed. "If you were a god, how would you like being called a myth, an old story to explain lightning? What if I told you, Perseus Jackson, that someday people would call you a myth, just created to explain how little boys can get over losing their mothers?"

"I gained much from that wish ... and I gave up much. But I'm still here, so I can only assume I'm still needed."

"We were three adolescents hanging out at a car wash without a car; any cop worth his doughnuts would figure we were up to no good."

"The dead aren't scary. They're just sad."

"I was also barefoot, because I'd given my shoes to Grover. Better the Coast Guard wonder why one of us was barefoot than wonder why one of us had hooves."

"It's funny how humans can wrap their mind around things and fit them into their version of reality." 

"He was reading a huge book with a picture of a wizard on the front. I wasn't much into fantasy, but the book must've been good, because the guard took a while to look up."

"A steely look of anger flared in my mother's eyes, and I thought, just maybe, I was leaving her in good hands after all. Her own."

"The real world is where the monsters are. That's where you learn whether you're any good or not."

"All the heroics—being pawns of the gods. They should've been overthrown thousands of years ago, but they've hung on, thanks to us half-bloods."

"I won't go looking for trouble. I usually don't have to."

"The sea does not like to be restrained."

When I was reading The Lightning Thief, certain parts reminded me of the Harry Potter series. Even Rick Riordan made a reference to a huge book with a picture of a wizard on the front -- ehem! I know it's not fair to compare Percy Jackson with The Boy Who Lived but JK Rowling set quite a standard in terms of fantasy fiction. Ms. Rowlings' Harry Potter series pushed my imagination to a different level, and tickled and played with my senses throughout. Unfortunately, Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief failed to induce in me that kind of reading euphoria. I did enjoy The Lightning Thief, please don't get me wrong, but I honestly don't think I'll read it once again, as opposed to the Harry Potter series which I read more than twice - some of the books I read three times! Also, I remember being hardly able to wait for the next book after finishing one in the Harry Potter series. However, with Percy Jackson and the Olympians, eeehhh, not so much. Although I definitely would still love to read the rest of the books. I give Rick Riordan the credit for adding a modern twist to Greek mythology to create a story, entertaining and apt for young readers, however, overall The Lightning Thief is still lackluster when compared to Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. With that said and JK Rowling fangirl aside, I give The Lightning Thief 3.75 stars. 

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