Holiday Wish List, Just for Teachers! (And a Giveaway!)

Hi, remember me? Whoever said teachers have it easy doesn’t have a clue! Yes, my day ends at 4pm (supposedly…though I usually leave closer to 5pm, sometimes later), but by the time I get home I’m exhausted from talking to, teaching and wrangling five and six-year-olds all day. Then there’s laundry, dinner, cleaning, spending a bit of time with my own kids…well, you get it. Thankfully, winter break has arrived!

As a teacher, I know I’m going to get showered with little gifts from my students for the holidays. After all, on a regular old Wednesday I got a gift bag with a piece of artwork inside that had pieces of ribbon and a couple of stickers stuck to it, several drawings from other students, a little stuffed toy of a pink monster-looking thing, and a pen with a “diamond” on top. And I do love these gifts because it means they are thinking of me when I am not with them. But it’s inevitable that some of the holiday gifts they’ll want to shower me with will be impractical. So I’m writing this post so that you, mom and dad, have an idea of what a teacher really wants for Christmas. Because most of us already have at least five “World’s Best Teacher” coffee mugs in our kitchens.

So here is my list of Teacher gift ideas that will really make me them smile, based on some intense research. (i.e. I asked my coworkers what their preferred gifts would be):

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Posted in Fun Stuff, Holidays, Teaching is my superpower | 1 Comment

I Survived…Hello, Summer!

Marco Island, June 2019

My first year of teaching is in the books, people! I’d say overall it was a very successful year. But clearly I still need to work on time management when it comes to activities outside of school. Like Blogging.

We are now in week three of my first summer off as a teacher, ever. So what are we doing with our time? I’m taking two classes for two different endorsements that I need. I was really good about working out during the first week of break. I went to the gym once and went for runs three times. But last week I didn’t exercise at all due to one of my endorsement classes. And this week I was running errands and catching up on household things after a quick trip to Orlando last weekend. Let’s see how the remaining seven weeks of break go.

We’re spending quality time with family, with the boys having plenty of time to hang out with their cousins. And hubby and I are taking a trip in late July, just the two of us. This has become a tradition in the last couple of years. You may recall we went to Houston two summers ago to see Queen, and Chicago last summer to see Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field. This time, we’re going to New Orleans. And yes, it’s for another concert.

We’ve got plans to go to the movies too. We’ll be seeing Toy Story 4 and the live action remake of The Lion King in theaters during the next few weeks. And we were fortunate enough to attend a press screening of Spiderman: Far From Home this week. It’s a great year for summer movie releases! We’ll be doing some reading too. Both boys have summer reading assignments to complete, and I’ve got a couple of books I bought a while back that I want to finish before school starts again in August.

These last three weeks have flown by. I’m hoping the next seven take their time. I really want to enjoy this summer break and do as many fun things with the boys as we can. Happy Summer!

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Hi. (and Happy New Year!) Remember me? I know, I’ve been seriously missing in action. This teaching gig is no joke! You know how they say, “be careful what you wish for?” Well, I wished to teach one of the lower elementary grades. I was hired in early August as a Kindergarten teacher at one of the local charter schools, but as much as I love it, and it is exactly what I wished for, it is quite challenging! I had to get used to being on my feet all day, and redirecting 5 and 6 year olds. Quite frequently. Sometimes I describe it as herding cats. But they are so fun, and it’s so satisfying to see them grasping different concepts, including learning to read. I’m also one of the sponsors of the Broadcasting Club, which is awesome. The fifth graders that participate in the club take turns recording the daily morning announcements, and we have really cool professional equipment with so many different features…we’re still learning how to use it all!

Since we’re on holiday break now, I can report that I’ve survived the first half of the year. It’s taken me time to get into the swing of things, but I love it!

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Posted in Disney, Life Happens, Teaching is my superpower | 2 Comments

MomBOSS Influencer Dinner

This event is part of a sponsored collaboration with Prudential and Dime Media. However, all opinions expressed are my own. 

This past Saturday, I was invited to attend the MomBOSS Influencer Dinner at the Hilton Miami Downtown (aka the Omni…long-time Miamians, remember that place?!). I was very excited to attend. It seemed like a great place to get some inspiration, especially now that since I’m on the brink of starting a new career, I’m at a proverbial crossroad and needed a little motivation.

Here’s a little bit of information about the event:

About The Motivated Moms Tour – The Motivated Moms Tour – MomBOSS Edition is a networking experience in partnership with The BOSS Network designed to equip women (moms) to be “Great Women and Extraordinary Moms” by offering life-changing content to help activate their dreams. The entrepreneur mom, working mom, stay-at-home mom, auntie mom, community mom, or aspiring mom representing different socio-economic backgrounds, education, and cultures gather together to participate in empowering discussions around finance and wealth building, entrepreneurship, goal planning, and parent engagement.

The MomBOSS Influencer Dinner, sponsored by Prudential, was hosted by LaToyia Dennis & Cameka Smith, two amazing ladies who have combined forces to educate and motivate women to be their best selves. This dinner was a precursor to the upcoming Motivated Mom Retreat, being held from September 14th through the 16th in Rockwall, TX.

Following the actual meal, guests were treated to three exceptional panels featuring women in various roles, from working moms (including Prudential representatives), stay-at-home moms, and business owners and entrepreneurs charting their own course. The panels included topics such as women and money, how self-care affects your family’s financial future, and how to be  a BOSS!

Prudential offers several resources, online and in person through meetings with financial advisors, that give women the opportunity to become financially educated. As a mom, I know that not only is it important to plan for the future, but also for the unexpected.

Here are just a few key takeaways from the evening:

  • We as women have to understand financial literacy.
  • You can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first.
  • It is crucial to contribute to life insurance, long term care, and disability income policies.
  • Do what you were called to do.

This one stuck with me the most given the path my life is taking right now. I’ll finally be teaching in an elementary school this fall, something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. With that comes some changes to our financial picture, most good but a couple that will need close monitoring so that we are prepared for whatever life throws our way. Becoming financially educated and making the right coverage choices for our family is just one way that I’m a MomBOSS!


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Lucky Kitty

For about a week, we were the owners of a sweet kitty named Lucky. We found her one Saturday in May, hiding inside my car’s engine from a typical South Florida summer thunderstorm. How did we know she was there, you ask? We were headed out to run errands and I had to put water in my car’s reservoir because it had a small leak. Had we not needed to open the hood and put the water we wouldn’t have heard her and well…that would not have been a pleasant experience.

She was so little, and so scared. We tried coaxing her out with a can of tuna, all we had in the house that might be suitable for her. We kept running outside and listening by the car, and she knew we were checking on her because whenever we were close her meows became louder.  It took about an hour for her to found her way out of the car and under the bushes along my driveway. It was still raining, though significantly less. We went outside with umbrellas and got her to eat some of the tuna. Matty got close enough that he pet her and we decided to bring her inside as the forecast called for nasty weather throughout the weekend. We we decided that we couldn’t leave her out there, so tiny and new, and that we would provide her with shelter and protection from not only the weather but bigger animals.

 When Eric got home from work, we gave her a bath with some dish soap, dried her very well, and made her comfortable in a big box with a couple of towels and a bowl of water. I ran out and got her some wet kitten food as well as a little bowl set and a small pet carrier in case we had to take her to the vet. Over the next few days, she made herself at home, exploring the house and even befriending Sandy. But on Friday, June 1st, shortly after Eric got home and got out of the shower, she rapidly deteriorated. Within 20 minutes she went from active and happy to immobile and in some kind of distress. It happened so quickly that we rushed her to the animal clinic. During the 15-minute car ride her breathing became labored and she was meowing in pain. As soon as we arrived, they took her right in, but she did not look well at all. She was not very responsive and seemed to be unconscious. A few minutes later they ave us the sad news that she had panleukopenia and that there was nothing they could do. Panleukopenia is common in stray kittens, and they suspected that she was born with it, and perhaps she was alone by our house because her mother abandoned her. We were all heartbroken, especially the boys.

Even though she lived a very short life, and spent just a week with us, she was definitely lucky because we found her and were able to give her so much love in the few days she had left. We completely fell in love with her, and we will never forget her.

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Avengers: Infinity War, in theaters NOW!!

It’s finally here! Avengers: Infinity War is officially in theatres today!!

Thanos has asked demanded silence from those that have already seen the movie, which Brandon and I had the absolute good fortune of watching on Tuesday evening,  but here is what I CAN tell you:

Be prepared for anything – It’s a Marvel movie, after all. I can’t say any more because I’ll inadvertently give something away, and I don’t want any trouble with Thanos. So I’ll share this great featurette with you instead.

Bring tissues – There have been rumors of the demise of one or more Avengers. I will neither confirm or deny if this is true. I will say that you will laugh and there are moments that will make you cry, even if you are not as sensitive (i.e. sobbing mess of a person) as I am.

Do not miss a moment – No potty breaks. I repeat, no potty breaks!! Go before you walk into the theatre. Pace yourself with your beverage. And as with all Marvel movies, there is a post credits scene you don’t want to miss.

Want to know a little more? Here’s the official information from the studio:

“Avengers: Infinity War” picks up as the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, but a dangerous menace has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, Thanos will stop at nothing to collect all six Infinity Stones in his quest to wield unimaginable power and his twisted will on all of humanity.

Assembling a team that includes members from every Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, the Avengers and their Super Hero allies must sacrifice like never before in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe. An unprecedented cinematic journey 10 years in the making with the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in play, “Avengers: Infinity War” brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time.

Avengers: Infinity War is rated PG-13, and has a running time of two hours and 29 minutes.

Avengers, Assemble!! And when you do go see it, remember, #ThanosDemandsYourSilence!


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Finding a Way to Get Financially Fit with Prudential

This is part of a sponsored collaboration with Prudential and Dime Media. However, all opinions expressed are my own. 

Hispanicize is one of my favorite events of the year. Not only does it give me the chance to catch up with friends that come from all over the world to attend, but it always provides me with opportunities for personal and professional growth. This year was no exception. Having just gone on a big vacation with the family, I hadn’t quite figured out how to manage my work schedule this year and attend. Then, something happened to make it all come together: I was chosen as a Prudential Brand Ambassador! With Prudential being the title sponsor of the event, I knew this was a chance I couldn’t pass up, and made arrangements to attend two half days (Something is better than nothing!)

While my time at Hispanicize was shorter than I hoped (mostly because the unpredictability of traffic into downtown put a serious damper on any plans I made), I was able to enjoy both the Positive Impact Awards and the Tecla Awards. The Positive Impact Awards recognize Hispanic Americans who do outstanding work in their communities. The awards were created to honor Louis Pagan, co-founder of Hispanicize, who died unexpectedly in 2013. This year, Hispanicize honored California Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, journalist and Senior Digital Director for the Futuro Media Group Julio Ricardo Varela, and Kirk Michaelis, owner of El Bolillo Bakery in Houston, who won the 2018 Person of the Year. Want to know more about these outstanding people? Read about them here. The Positive Impact Awards also included a performance by five-time Latin Grammy Award Winner Fonseca. Hispanicize always brings it’s A-Game when it comes to musical performances!

The Tecla Awards recognize our community’s top influencer talent by honoring content creators in various niches and media formats. The awards are always fun, but this year was the best to date: it was hosted by Jenny Lorenzo, aka “Abuela”! And, The Chonga Girls were in the house too…I was totally fan-girling! I’m happy to report that several friends were nominated for awards, and quite a few of them won, including Melanie Mendez-Gonzales who won this year’s Best Social Good Creator – “The Jewel Award”, named after the amazing and greatly-missed Jewel Figueras. Both the Positive Impact Awards and Tecla Awards were truly enjoyable evenings!

But it wasn’t all awards shows and red carpets. Prudential had quite the presence throughout all of Hispanicize and at the Exhibit Hall, including Prudential representatives that took the time to speak with visitors about the best ways to get financially fit and plan for the future. I took advantage of this opportunity and spoke with representatives Roberto and Tony. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, we have some big financial goals this year. The first thing we are tackling are our credit cards. Roberto confirmed what I suspected: when faced with several financial hurdles at the same time, such as credit card debt, planning for retirement, establishing an emergency fund, and getting life insurance, get those credit cards out of the way first! That will open up some funds to be able to focus on the other items. We have been chipping away at our cards, similar to the Snowball method mentioned in this article.

As new homeowners again (I know that sounds redundant, but that’s what we are), we are cautious to not make the same mistakes we made last time that ultimately led to foreclosure. This article is a great resource for those looking to buy their first home. With time we have learned to stay on budget, minimize our spending when possible, and save for the future.  There have been a few bumps in the road, but we are on our way to meeting our financial goals, and it feels really good to be able to say that.

Posted in Here's What I Think, Life Happens, Social Media | 1 Comment

Avengers: Infinity War – Interview with Winston Duke

Disclosure: Disney Pictures provided me with the opportunity to attend the round table press day with Winston Duke. 

Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Winston Duke, who plays M’Baku in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. Very nice and incredibly humble, Winston shared a little bit about himself and about the filming process for both Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. Read on to find out more!

When asked about the filming process on Avengers: Infinity War, compared to Black Panther, Winston responded that while working on Black Panther they created a family, it became a labor of love, and they were building their own world. Going into Avengers, it’s already built with all the years of films and the character franchises, but what was refreshing was that they welcomed you into it, and saying, “Not only are you welcomed here, there’s a space for you.”

And that’s the perfect segue for this featurette from the Avengers set:

Now back to our interview:

Specifically regarding his character, Winston said that the process in preparing for Avengers was easier because he was already invested in a lot of M’Baku’s personality, he was just in a new circumstance. It was difficult as well because he doesn’t know the whole story, but he trusts that he’s a part of a really great franchise that’s been tried and tested.

When asked if there are any M’Baku’s characteristics he’d like to have, he stated that he’d like to step into more of a place of leadership in his life. M’Baku is unapologetically himself, and his brazenness makes him fun to play. He wouldn’t necessarily bark at people, as his character did, but he would like to live more freely in his power.

Winston, who is from Tobago, shared how his uncle and his wife hadn’t been to the movies at all, and the entire village went to the theatre when Black Panther came out. His uncle jumped up in the theatre shouting, “That’s my nephew!”, and the audience cheered whenever he was onscreen. It is so evident that he is humbled by not only his family’s but his community’s pride in his work. His work is affecting change, and he is so proud of how it reaches diverse audiences.

I, of course, tried to see if we could get any information on what happens after Infinity War by asking if we might get to see more of M’Baku and the other characters introduced during the later part of the current phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He said he didn’t know, and made a joke about just waiting for a call as he did for Avengers.

As Winston said early on in our interview, with eighteen films spanning ten years of storytelling, we are all invested in how all these characters and situations have been weaved together to tell the story of something even larger. It’s very exciting, and I can’t wait to see how this part of the story ends when Avenger: Infinity War hits theatres this Friday, April 27th!


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The Dufaus take New York City

Well, we finally did it: we took the boys to New York City! It’s been a long time coming, Brandon’s been waiting for this trip since at least 2007! We were able to go on vacation for five days during Spring Break due to some savvy planning. Since we purchased our home last summer, I’ve made it a point to not only put a little bit of money into our savings account every month, but also to not use our credit cards unless absolutely necessary. While we’ve had a few unplanned expenses in the last few months (mostly car related),  I was so happy when we were able to fund this trip with minimal use of our credit cards: the only thing we charged were the city tour bus tickets we purchased when we were there.

There were so many expectations with this trip, since it was the boys’ first. Brandon said his Bucket List included visiting Central Park Zoo, the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial, seeing the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, and hailing and riding in a yellow cab. Matthew’s Bucket List included visiting the New York City Library, The Museum of Natural History and Central Park. The one thing they both wanted was to see snow. I was thrilled that during our trip we were able to tick off almost all the items on their lists. The only thing we didn’t do was hail and ride in a yellow cab because we opted to travel by subway instead.

(Lots of pictures below the fold)

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Posted in Life Happens, Life with Boys, Travel | 1 Comment

Disney-Pixar’s INCREDIBLES 2 in theatres everywhere June 15th!

We are so Incredibly excited about this one!!! (See what I did there?)

Incredibles 2, the highly-anticipated sequel to 2004’s The Incredibles, hits theatres this summer!

In “Incredibles 2,” Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is called on to lead a campaign to bring Supers back, while Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) navigates the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell), Dash (voice of Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack—whose superpowers are about to be discovered. Their mission is derailed, however, when a new villain emerges with a brilliant and dangerous plot that threatens
everything. But the Parrs don’t shy away from a challenge, especially with Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) by their side. That’s what makes this family so Incredible.

Check out the official trailer:

I’m curious to see how Bob handles being a stay-at-home dad to a teen, a tween, and a baby! And speaking of babies, who knows what powers baby Jack-Jack will have!

While we wait for June, here are the best ways to stay up to date on all things #Incredibles2:

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