Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Finally...Birth Prints for the Boys

Hello...is this thing broken? So it has been FOREVER since I posted on this blog. Yes, we are still alive and we are actually now living in Bethesda, Maryland...just a hop skip and a jump away (15 minutes) from Washington, DC - our nation's capital.

If you haven't been watching the news or the constant stream of photos on Facebook, Instragram, etc. we just survived Blizzard 2016. To say there was a lot of snow is an understatement. Maybe if I get inspired I will post photos later today on this site. 

Keeping up with this site and three little boys has been IMPOSSIBLE, but I do miss posting.

Today I finally completed a project I had on my to-do list for years. So there you have it....Luka is 8, Sam is 5 and Mikah is 1.5 but here are their birth/adoption prints. I think being stuck inside the house made me go through some piles and complete some long overdue projects.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Starts Today..Really Oct. 1 but TODAY for Me

Most of you know that cancer and breast cancer specifically is something that has been very present in my life at a very early age. When I was little I remember seeing my grandmother as she had her first mastectomy and the struggles she had. As I grew older she went on to have breast cancer several times and then my other grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a teenager. A few years ago right before I headed off to DC to walk in honor of my two grandmothers I received a call from my aunt that she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. My sister and I finished the walk and a week later our father told us he was diagnosed with breast cancer as well. Yes, that is not a typo I meant to say MY FATHER. Most people are shocked to learn that men can suffer from breast cancer as well.

Thanks to research and donations from people like you we are now able to test and find ways to prevent breast cancer. I was tested for the BRCCA gene mutation and I did not have it. This only means that my chances are lower of getting breast cancer, but unfortunately in today's world most breast cancer arises from environmental factors or unexplained reasons as it did in my family. My aunt and father were also tested and they also do not have a genetic link to the disease...so why did they get? I don't know, but what I do know now is that there are ways I can lower my chances by eating cleaner and using products with safe ingredients on my skin.

So where am I with my pledge to walk every year. I walked in 2012 again. You can read about it here. Well 2013 I unexpectedly was pregnant...blessings are sometimes a BIG surprise then in 2014 I had this beautiful breastfeeding baby and logistically it was not feasible to take him oversees and have him walk 40 or 60 miles with me for this great cause. Then we found out we were moving to DC...there is my chance. NO excuses...the walk is in DC. Easy peasy I will walk and raise more money than ever before. Fast forward to today where I have a slightly torn Achilles tendon and need surgery...wha wha wha. 

No fun right...well luckily I work for an amazing company - Beautycounter. They not only make products that will get you on track to remove unwanted toxins from your daily personal care routine, but they are going to match my fundraising efforts until October 11th up to $25,000. That's right...for every dollar that pops up on this page until October 11th they will match it.  Here is the link to my page:


I am fundraising for the The Breast Cancer Fund - an organization that works to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease. I want to stop breast cancer in its tracks before it starts.

Here are the four ways I am raising money and you can also get started with some incredible and safe products:

1. You are welcomed to make a donation on this site.
2. For every order placed on www.beautycounter.com/melissavanherksen from Sept. 21 - October 31, 2015 I will make a donation on your behalf for 10% of your order total. If your order is over $200 I will donate 20% on your behalf. I will post each donation under your name once the order is placed on my donation site.
3. Beautycounter's corporate offices will match all donations made by October 11th up to $25,000.
4. You can host a Beautycounter social for me...either live in person or via Facebook and I will also donate 10% or 20% (as explained in #1) of the sales to the Breast Cancer Fund.
I wanted to combine donations with the purchase of products that are made with 100% safe ingredients, as many of the products we use today have toxic chemicals and ingredients that can be directly linked to cancer.
If you have any questions on Beautycounter, The Breast Cancer Fund or this campaign please contact me.
Let's do this...Help me kick breast cancer's butt! 
I will leave you with photos of the people that inspire me to do what I do and fund raise the heck out this cause...(Picture of my Aunt Ine coming soon...I can't find one on this computer)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Escape to Zapallar

About a month ago we finally had the opportunity to escape to Zapallar, one of the beach towns about 2 hours from Santiago. We have heard this place was great, but I didn't realize how much I would like it. We only spent the day there and plan to go back one more time for a weekend before we move in May. I really hope we can make this happen.

Zapallar is a small, really small, town with beautiful houses, rocky beach cliffs and a stretch of beach that made me feel like we were back in Mallorca, Spain (one of our favorite places on earth). You can't access the beach with a car so you have to walk there and it makes if feel all the more special. As you are waking there the walk teases you with beautiful views and you feel as you are being guided to a secret place. Really spectacular!

It has all the charm of a small town, but don't let that charm fool you. It is expensive and very exclusive. "La creme de la creme" of Santiago, Chile own houses in Zapallar for their weekend escapes.

When we arrived we had lunch at one of two restaurants in town, El Chiringuito. We didn't have a reservation and we were 9...BIG MISTAKE. Next time we need to make a reservation, but I think they saw our hungry kids and baby and managed to squeeze us into an table inside (no view) but hey it was a table. I am glad they did because the fish was amazing. Really the best fish I have had in Chile thus far. The menu was simple but everything was fresh and delicious.

Here are the boys outside the restaurant posing for a silly photo.  

Some of the views as we were walking to the beach from the restaurant. Note: If you eat at the restaurant you can leave your car there for the day while you spend time on the beach. Also important to note that it is foggy until 2-3 pm so having lunch first is a good plan.

 Now, tell me this doesn't look like Mallorca? How how I miss you Camp de Mar!  

Here are the boys walking to the secret beach...well not really a secret, but that is what it feels like!

 View of the beach. Here I was also having flashbacks not only of Mallorca, but of my trip to Cinque Terra in Italy. Okay, I miss Europe a little bit...can you tell? We missed our European summer adventure due to Mikah's birth and I hope to get our fix in this August. 

Guess who loves the beach? The sun is brutal after 3 pm. Thank goodness there is a man renting beach umbrellas with UV protection. Only 3,000 CLP (about 5 USD)...great deal!

The boys spent the entire day running around the beach, playing in the sand and having rock climbing adventures. The water is really cold, no really it's cold not just for this Miami girl. My friends from Europe also thought it was cold. It is also kind of rough so better for the kids to play on the shore, but they enjoyed it so much they were asking me when we are going back.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spin Art Confession

Over the holidays we went to Miami and every time we return from vacation overseas, the day before we leave I look at all of our things and swear it is NOT going to fit in our suitcases. Somehow after lighting a candle and praying to the suitcase god for a miracle it makes it back home with us and everything fits.

This holiday season was no different. Now with THREE boys we had more Christmas presents than we necessary and of course I complained (I sound pretty ungrateful...but remember I am the one tasked with the packing).

We received presents from EVERYONE...from people I didn't expect...from people I had never met. One of these families were my dad's best friends from Cuba. I hadn't met them because they had moved from Cuba in the last year and I was here in Chile. I was so embarrassed when they took out presents for the entire family...yes JJ and I as well. I didn't have anything for them. Que pena...how embarrassing!

Well, let me tell you their present was a HIT and it has been a life saver here in Chile. Both Sam and Luka love it, their friends that come over love it and I love that I can use their masterpieces for other things such as birthday cards, valentine cards, art on the wall, etc.

This Spin Art set also takes me back! Okay, this is for all the Miami folks. I remember going to Santa's Enchanted Forest and the Dade County Youth Fair and begging my parents to let me just do one Spiral/Spin Art Painting at the booth. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world...well that and an Elephant Ear (you guys that know what I am talking about just got a little hungry).

Well, thank you Manolo & Linda for the unexpected but amazing gift. It keeps my boys busy and happy. It also reminds me of some of the joys of being a kid...that many times in the daily grind of taking care of my three little beautiful monsters I tend to forget.

This is the set. I am telling you...great investment for the kiddos:
Just in case you were wondering the masterpieces at the top of the post belong to Sam and Luka!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Let's Ted

Let's Ted...that was the name of one of Luka's Summer School courses. Luka had never seen or heard a Ted Talk before but I thought that class would be right up his alley. Well, he loved it! 

Here is the TedTalks type video his class created over the course of two weeks. If you have 7 minutes to spare I think you will get a kick out of it. Kid's have great insight! I also realized that Luka's has pretty good self-esteem...ha ha.

Okay...technical difficulty. The video is too large and I can't figure out how to make smaller. I can't upload but here is the link. I hope it works:


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Why This Family Likes to Get Their "Cruise" On

Yes, a cruise. Who would have thought that this family full of stamps in their passports would love cruising so much? I only say that because many of our friends sometimes give us a strange look when we say we are going on a cruise. The look says something like "a cruise...that is not a real vacation...silly Americans." Technically we aren't all Americans in this household, but you get the idea.

Well silly we are and let me tell you that a cruise is the perfect holiday and a great (can't stress it enough) deal for the entire family. How many other week vacations do you know that will cost $1,500 for a family of five, where EVERYTHING essential is included. I say five because, wait for it, Mikah plays regular price on a cruise. Yes, that is not a typo. But honestly even regular price is such a great deal that you can't beat the value. Note: A baby has to be 6-months to sail on a Carnival cruise, most cruise lines have the same restriction.

Another reason we love to cruise with the extended family is that is gives the freedom for everyone in the group to do their own thing, but then we still meet for meals, shows, excursions, etc. Also, if you have parents that are not 100% mobile like mine...it makes everything easier.

Also, attention parents of small children! Did you know that on a cruise there is a camp for the kiddos  and basically you get to leave them there. They have a great time and you get some time for yourself. Granted this time we have a tiny baby to contend with but having one to babysit makes it much easier to take turns getting massages at the spa...just one example. And don't feel guilty about leaving the kids at the camp because they ABSOLUTELY love it.

What to take a sneak peek into our cruise adventure...

Arriving on board with JJ's parents. My parents got VIP boarding and beat us to the photo.
This was our ocean view room. It was amazing. Note: Remember the price I told you. Yes, it was for this room. Having a room with such a view made the cruise 100% better. Our cabin was huge, but it felt even bigger with these panoramic windows. Only a couple of these babies on the ship since they are in the front. Well worth it!
The entire family went to Key West together.

Here we are in the spot where it all started and we got married 9 years ago. The only difference is that we have three boys joining us (Mikah is on the other side of that stroller). 
Looks just like it did the day we got married.
We stopped by our reception site - The Southernmost House. Luka was captivated and tried to imagine what the party was like.

Having lunch...who knew Mikah loves lemons?!?!?! 
Sam and Abuelo "riding" on Duval Street.

"Los Reyes Magos" made it to the ship for Three Kings Day. 
Sam loves the pool. He is doing his "Swimming Happy Dance."

Grand Cayman. We visited the sea turtle farm and the boys were able to play in the turtle pool. So cool!
Here goes...the tacky part of a cruise. I am guilty of loving every minute of it. My mom and I might have played one too many games of bingo and here is my trophy for winning the Famous Faces Trivia Contest. 
Here I am singing "Ice Ice Baby" with my baby in my arms. Yes, I know all the words! It was part of the Music Trivia Contest. Don't judge me please...it was fun! 
Luka never missed an opportunity for a group dance and there are many on a cruise. 
My parents weren't able to join us for our Date with the Dolphins in Cozumel, but they seemed to cause trouble all on their own. 
Guess who swam with the dolphins in Cozumel before we did...we are in good company, no? hilarious... 
The boys were so excited. 
Pucker up Merlin...that was the name of our dolphin. 

Luka was so brave to ride on the dolphin's belly.
Here JJ is being propelled by Merlin on his foot. 

NOTE: To get a better deal swimming with the dolphins book the excursion directly from the company before you board the ship. The ship prices are sky high.

Did someone say chocolate? This was Sam after sampling a couple of the desserts at the Chocolate Buffet one day.

And no cruise could be complete without a formal night...well as formal as we could get with this bunch.
On our last day at sea we had breakfast with the Cat in the Hat, Sam I am, and Thing 1 at the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Summer School in Santiago

The International School in Santiago tries to follow the American school calendar as much as possible, while at the same time taking advantage of the seasons. This results in a very long 2-month break from December - February! I never realized how long 2 months actually was.

To make it even more interesting this year we cut our Miami visit a little short due to JJ's work schedule and we actually wanted to enjoy our last summer season in Santiago. We had never really been in the city during this time of year...and BOY it is it hot!

But it does give us the chance to actually use our pool that before this summer had been used maybe three times. Ever since we returned from Miami I think the boys have gone in the pool almost everyday. But the pool was not enough to keep them busy and keep my sanity.

Entertaining two little boys and a baby with no friends in town and a messy house is daunting...so summer camp it was.

Well, the school refers to it as Summer School, but it is more of a camp. 

The boys had an amazing time. They both had different experiences. Sam was all about playing with water and running around with his new friends...especially a new lady friend...it was very cute.

Luka explored his creative side with Theater Class, Ted Talks and Zumba. I have to say I was impressed with the summer camp...the only part that disappointed me was that it only lasted two weeks and was only from 9 am - 1 pm. But hey, better than staying home all day.

Here is a photo tour of summer school...

This was Sam everyday.
Luka made new friends as the camp had kids from area schools. We will invite them this week for a summertime play date. Funny...he seems to gravitate to Spanish kids. And he gets home with their accent. He is a language sponge. 
Play It Up Theater was great. On the last day they performed skits written by the students. 
Sam learned (tried to) jump rope. 
Sam also made new friends. She was very cute, but when we invited her to come over for a play date after Sam asked me everyday for a week straight. What does he do when she arrives??? Yes, acted like a total boy and called her a poopie head and told her they couldn't play. Luckily Luka and his friend were delighted to play with her. I think he really liked her and this was his way of "showing" his affection. 
I think Luka danced for 14 days straight. Here he is dancing to Celebration during an impromptu group number with the entire camp. 
I think Ted Talks was his favorite class. The group worked on a collaborative video answering and pondering life's important questions. It was great. The teacher promised she would share...still waiting, but here you see Luka introducing the video to the parents. 
Some brainstorming art to prepare... 
Luka ended everyday with Zumba. He was a natural. 
I hope we can find a great camp like this on our next post.

Now back to enjoying summer in Santiago. Next week is our last week of holiday and I hope to take the boys to some new places in Santiago.

Stay tuned...