Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Bunny Catcher

You might be fooled and think this is an attachment for my hand held mixer but it's not. Nope, it's a "bunny catcher" as clearly stated by Frankie this morning. I didn't even know I had such an artifact tucked away in one of the kitchen drawers but judging by the clever use of it, I am considering E-Bay at this point!

The whole thing's got HUGE proportions for me because it made my day, my week and probably my last three months! Frankie is actually starting to pretend, to make believe and he is using his imagination - this time, spontaneously and without a prompt. He dogged out the "catcher" from the drawer and held it up for me to see it, then he looked straight into my eyes and exclaimed, "look, it's a bunny catcher!" and then went on telling me a story of how the bunny jumps and gets away from him but he runs after the bunny and catches it with his handy-dandy "bunny catcher."

If I would have not had the year I've had, I would probably think this is not a big deal but considering that I have been working so hard to get my kid to do things that are supposed to come naturally to him (eye contact, pointing, taking turns, sharing and so on), milestones like the "bunny catcher" are worth blogging about!!! During those really dark days of the initial Autism diagnosis, when we lived one day at a time, completing one task at a time and hoping for a miracle, I never thought I would see the day when a mixer attachment would become a "catcher"; furthermore, I never imagined how this would make me so immensely happy. It feels that the dark times are far behind us, yet it's only been seven months. The Frankie we enjoy now is not the quiet little boy who used to stare at the floor and into space but he has become this "chatter box" who does not stop talking, building complete sentences and expressing his likes and dislikes. We have gotten our son back and there is no limit to the amazing possibilities the future holds for our special child...He is now part of this crazy family, fighting like the rest of us to get a word in at the dinner table.

Just now, while I am typing this entry, Frankie is sitting next to me and he points at the picture exclaiming again: "Look! the bunny catcher!" and I look and smile because this catcher is the most valuable thing we have in this house...who else can say they own one?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cowboy Mice and Fantasy World

I know they look like Frankie and Victor but in reality they are cowboy mice singing the song from Cri-Cri, "El Raton Vaquero." Along with launching my campaign for teaching Victor Spanish with the help of the "Hooked on Spanish" software, I am reading nighttime stories in Spanish to him AND playing my Cri-Cri CD'S in the car and during playtime. So far, I think Victor is becoming more comfortable with the language and is putting sentences together but what he really, really enjoys are the songs from Cri-Cri. I never thought that he would get into them because of the somewhat elaborated lyrics and his limited understanding of the language but I guess the magical world of my childhood still does have an appeal to young children today. Even Frankie joins in, humming the tunes of the songs and shouting one or two words in Spanish. Rebecca watches from a distance but I know she is mumbling along the songs she knows - eleven is a horrible age! The plus side of this process has been how much I have enjoyed re-discovering these songs (I remember ALL the lyrics) and getting that happy-go-lucky feeling in my heart when singing them out loud with my children - it's priceless. Some of our favorites are "El burrito esta llorando," "La marcha de las letras," "El raton vaquero," and lately, they also like "Cocuyito Playero." It's great to be able to share something with my small children that I hold so dear as are the memories from my childhood games. So many games played to the songs of Cri-Cri blasting from my Mom's record player (LP'S!!!) and my brothers and I running all over the house singing "El raton vaquero" and other classics...I can't ask for more out of life than experiencing these moments with my children and building awesome memories that I know they will hold as dear as I hold mine. Thank you, Mr. Gabilondo Soler for creating that special world of fairies, talking animals and great stories where the children of yesterday, today and tomorrow can let their imaginations run wild and enjoy the magical time that childhood is. I know I am back in that world every time I sing these songs in my heart.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beans taste like salad!

"Beans taste like salad, you should try them, everyone go ahead and try them!"  These were the very excited words from Victor when trying out organic grown beans brought in by a classmate from his family garden in Shoreline.  It was a great experience for Victor and for Frankie, who joined the class as a guest, to touch, smell and taste produce grown without pesticide and with the love and nurturing of a family's hard work.  Frankie's favorite was the "huckleberries" he called "baby grapes" -  they tasted kind of tangy but kind of sweet.  There were apples, beans of all colors, radishes, tomatoes, turnips and different types of berries.  It was amazing to realize that growing your own greens is actually possible for city dwellers and you don't have to own a farm to do so.  I was sharing with one of the moms that not only I don't have a green thumb but that my thumb is so deadly, it should be called a BLACK THUMB!  Everything that has roots or leaves and that gets touched by me dies so I have resorted to plastic plants - sorry kids, they are not that tasty!  - and that's the extend of my gardening experience.  Thea, the mom I was talking to, said that it was easier to grow outside stuff than inside stuff because someone else takes care of the watering for you....I wonder who that someone else may be but I think she meant GOD since it's always raining in Seattle.  Who knows? Maybe, with the help of God this crazy family from Miami might become so evolved that one day  we can grow our own fruits and vegetables...that would be something worth writing about!  In the mean time, I will get my stuff from the grocery store and make sure they are organic-enough!

Victor and Frankie examine vegetables and fruits grown in an organic garden.

Victor is heading for the apples and Frankie discusses the taste of "huckleberries" with one of Victor's classmates.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Recycling & Adapting

You don't know "GREEN" until you move to Seattle.  This is the typical collection day line up for Seattlelites: BIG BLUE CAN (recycling), BIG GREEN CAN (compost - ???) and small black can (regular garbage), ah, I forgot to tell you that collection day only happens ONCE A WEEK. For us new comers from the Magic City, this set-up was pretty strange -  we didn't even know what compost was (how do you even begin to do that!)  because the garbage disposal was our best friend - and we never, ever had enough stuff to recycle inside that BIG can.  Every Tuesday (collection day), the black can was overflowing and waiting to be emptied to be filled again and again.....I endured this drama for about six months until I decided we needed to get a BIG BLACK CAN, despite the probable dismay of our neighbors and the horrible certainty that we ALONE, were the cause of global warming.  The guilt did not last too long because I could handle the shame easily but not the garbage smell inside our garage - NO WAY!  So, as we were the only house on the block with a BIG BLACK CAN, a half-way empty blue can and of course, NO GREEN CAN, everyone knew we were the people who came from Miami, pretty much a synonym with "waste" at this point!

After almost a year now of living in Seattle, we are faced with a new challenge:  the big black can (which costs $10.00 more per month) is now half-way empty.   Well, little by little we have learned to REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE (this is the motto of CleanScapes, our collection company) and although I don't go grocery shopping with a reusable canvas bag, YET, we have done away with our Styrofoam plates and cups (!!!!!!!!) and are actually washing our dishes - unbelievable, I know, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be and our daily lives are now consistent with what our kids are being taught in school.  We still get plastic bags at the store but it's only so we can put our garbage inside and throw it in the big can....now, I hear that's not necessary when you "compost" your garbage...it turns out the secret is to use biodegradable bags, provided by the collection company, and use them to collect your food scraps and throw them inside the green can (the one we DON'T have) and let it just become a big old mess - smelly and horrible looking but very, very good for the environment - go figure!  Well, who knows, I might just give it a shot and get a smaller black can (AGAIN) and get a green one to produce our own disgusting worm-feeding pile of garbage and contribute to the efforts of cleaning up the planet - or not.  One thing is for sure, I am getting rid of the BIG BLACK CAN because I am not paying $10.00 extra to have it half-way empty!  I am definitely into saving some GREEN $!


"MOONA"  That's the new word in Frankie's vocabulary and for those of you not familiar with "Spanglish" (mix of English and Spanish) it would mean either moon or luna, depending what language you are speaking.  Of course, it's not a real word in either language - at least not one that Cervantes or Shakespeare would accept anyway - but it's real to Frankie and now to me too.  Frankie used this "combination-word" when playing with a shape sorter and he found a purpple half moon; right away he yelled,  MOONA!  These days, I take what I can get when it comes to Frankie using words, ANY kind of words, especially if it makes perfect sense and if it's accompanied by "...it's missing a piece and it's in the island."  Of course, this is word approximation but close enough that I understood what he meant.  Over the weekend, he watched the Moonlight Rescue episode of Diego and it dealt with the moon being hit by a falling star.  The moon broke into a few pieces and some got scattered in the nearby islands. Diego sets off to find the pieces so the moon can shine again and he can help the baby turtles find their way into the sea.  Blah, blah, blah, I know it's boring but it's made for kids so deal with it!  Bottom line, Diego refers to the moon as LUNA and of course this stuck with Frankie, unfortunately, somehow it mixed with MOON, which was a word he was already saying before he watched the Diego episode.  I tried to explain to him that "moona" was not the right word for moon but he wouldn't budge!  Like any Hispanic mom, I don't want my kids to forget their heritage and I am trying really hard for the two little ones to learn Spanish and for Rebecca not to forget it - it's not easy when the grandparents are not around to bail you out AND when you are not living in Miami anymore, where EVERYONE and their mother (and sister and brother and cousin, and neighbor...) will speak to you in Spanish!  Sooooo, in order to compensate for the lack of "Spanish speakers" around my kids, I guess I have been TIVOing too many Diego's and Dora's at this point.  I am afraid I have created my own household edition of "Spanglish" syndrome for my kids but who cares? Frankie will grow up and I can explain things better for him to understand the difference between the two languages.  For the time being, MOONA will be part of his games and I will enjoy every minute of it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Center of the Universe

I have discovered the center of the universe: I am THE CENTER and the world revolves around ME. This statement sounds "politically incorrect" coming from a mother; shouldn't my kids be the center of my universe? perhaps, my husband? As a good christian, I am told I need to be the last and the servant of all in order to be the first and that's exactly what I have been doing for most of my adult life but mainly during the past 11 months.... Unfortunately, I don't feel like I will ever come first and most of all, sometimes I feel I don't even exist. Somehow I get lost in the midst of the errands, chores and responsibilities and being the servant doesn't seem like such a good idea anymore. I was recently reminded by Paulo Coelho, Brazilian writer, that in order to help others, you have to help yourself and find balance. In one of his books, "The Witch of Portobello", Coelho tells us that in finding ourselves we need to locate our "center" and incidentally it is not our heart or the brain but the belly button. The belly button???? Who thinks of this humble body part, unless you are taking a shower and are making sure is getting cleaned properly? After I read that book, the mental picture of the belly button as my "center" stayed in my head...I couldn't make the connection at the time but then again, Coelho says you don't reach ANY level of self -realization without silence and I tell you, silence IS golden (for real) in my house, and like gold, also very rare!

In my constant search for balance and self-worth, I strive to have at least one moment of praying time during the day (or night) and establish that connection with a higher being but most of the time I am forced to find God in the ones I share my life with and this is more real than any rosaries I pray. I have, with the help of Mr. Coelho, discovered that the center of the universe is revealed to me by connecting me with my loved ones at light speed! In one split second, I can share their triumphs, their failures, their wishes, their hopes, their very souls. My kids came from my "center" and I came from someone else's and so life gets passed on through that hole in our middle....We are all connected with the Universe and the creator of it, through the miracle of life and the love that makes it possible. After this revealing moment in my life I can now stop feeling like the servant and more like the rock that keeps everyone grounded. Although at this time in my life, my own personal goals are "on hold", I feel like I am still growing and evolving and that I have found my center, with the help of those who I provide balance for: my family.

I AM the center of the Universe with God, Raci, and our kids; with all the good and the bad, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the spiritual and the mundane, we are one but also individuals...the center of our own universe.

Thank you, Paulo, for introducing me to a very important part of my body: my belly button!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


My 2 year-old, Frankie, asked me for dumplings last night for dinner. It was the craziest thing considering he has a speech delay and we are battling an early diagnosis for Autism. The little guy wanted dumplings and he made it clear that was his choice. One thing is that he is told we are having dumplings at our favorite hang out, Fu Man Dumpling House, but another one is that he is asking for a favorite meal, spontaneously and with delight! You had to see his little face lit up with the anticipation of having his dumplings! He has never done something like this before and I was crushed to tell him I had no dumplings to give him. After much convincing I was able to talk him into eating a good plate of arroz con pollo (chicken & rice) that had been requested earlier for supper by Rebecca and Victor. After all, they are all respectable latino kids, born in Miami to Cuban/Nicaraguan parents....what's with the dumpling craving????? Like if I didn't have enough with Victor wanting to eat tofu all the time, now Frankie wants dumplings? Later on that night, I realized it was not a one time thing and that the dumplings are here to stay. Somewhere between sleep and awake, lying down on his bed and ready to pass out, Frankie asked for dumplings again!

P.S. I am going to have to order frozen dumplings from Fu Man and keep them handy for these kinds of "emergencies"... or perhaps....could I learn how to make dumplings from scratch??????

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Farewell to the Summer

It has been warm, sunny and the past three nights had the most gorgeous full moon I have ever seen. I made sure to eat my moon cake to celebrate the solstice! Seattle is a beautiful place but in summer it's just glorious. I can't begin to describe how wonderful it is to enjoy a day outside with the sun shinning, the cool breeze and the beautiful sights. Even the nights are gorgeous and a full moon night has no comparision.

That's it for a quick morning post. Back to the kids and running around.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Sister from Miami and her great ideas

My little sister, Gaby, the reason why I started using this blog as a journal would be hurt if I don't share her picture.  Here she is.  Isn't she cute?  Now, she is part of my story and she should since I had even forgotten I started this blog as a way to stay in touch with the family in Miami but then I discovered FACEBOOK.  Yes, it's easier to share pictures and "super pokes" than to sit down and write about the way you feel about things, your opinions and the details of the small stuff that makes up your day, weeks and months.  I really miss my family and yes, mostly my little sister, because she has all her life in front of her and I am so excited at what the future holds for her.  

By the way, she did introduce me to FACEBOOK too and to pretty much all the cool things in life :-) (ie, Guilmore Girls, Gray's Anatomy and so on)...I just can't get into Harry Potter yet, sister, sorry!