Friday, October 30, 2009

The Field Trip That Wasn't

So I mentioned before I don't like field trips....but I cried this morning because I couldn't make it to one.
First time I don't go with one of my kids to a field trip since we moved here and I felt so bad I couldn't believe I was the same person. Let's see, getting out of riding a bus with 40 kids AND getting muddy at a pumpkin field? I would have yelled: Priceless! Not anymore. Something has changed in my life and I guess I've had a "paradigm" shift or something major like that happen to me...A quantum moment? perhaps, but the truth is I would have done anything to be with my kid today. Sure I've got good reasons that made it impossible for me to be there and that's the main point of this entry, still, I realize now that my life will never be the same after this "sabbatical" with my kids is over. Life will not be the same and I will not be the same
This blog always allows me to put things in perspective and not take anything for granted. The pain and deep sadness I felt this morning when I waved bye to my kid from the classroom door was only as intense as the jealousy -the "good" kind - I felt for the other parents who were going. Although my kid didn't make any demands and he understood the reasons why I wasn't going with him, I walked away with tears in my eyes and realized that I'll never again mistake a privilege for a God-given-right. "Treasure every moment" I've heard before but never I had truly experienced it like this morning. Granted, the reasons for missing the field trip were sound - I had to stay home due to the different school schedules for the boys this year- yet, I had the horrible realization this was the first of many school-related events I will have to miss. I've had to juggle two school schedules for Frankie and his ABA hours at home, including a change from morning class to afternoon class so he can have enough time in the day to get it all done - yes, I'm stretching myself thin and it has proven to be so far THE most stressful school year of my life! Everyone is feeling the pressure, even if I am constantly saying:"It's all temporary," "It's just this year," still, we all have made sacrifices, including Frankie. As a matter of fact, this is not "the" first field trip that I have missed this year - I missed one for Frankie last week because I didn't even realize that it was scheduled! with the many activities for both his schools, I have to sharpen my organization skills, which are already pretty shaky!, and this one trip fell through the cracks! At least it was a "walk" to visit the nearby supermarket so I got over it a little faster than Victor's pumpkin farm - I felt horrible but no tears were shed! Wait, let me not forget that I couldn't even volunteer to be a chaperon for Rebecca's first Middle School "dance" - more like jumping and running with dim lights and loud music after school - nevertheless, a very important experience for her - one that I missed. I don't think Rebecca wanted me there or minded much that I couldn't make it but I still feel like I should have done it, even if it was just to get on her bad side!
Funny, if you ask me, that I feel this way when I remember all those years, back when I was a career woman and seldom made it to a field trip. If I only knew then that one day I would drive away in tears after watching my kid get on a yellow bus to go pick pumpkins!!! I know that when I pick him up this afternoon he will be happy with his pumpkin and all sorts of stories about his field trip. Perhaps by then, he would have forgotten that mom didn't make it to the trip with him. I know I will still least for a little while longer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lost in The Farm!

So I have been a little lost lately. Well, more like a LOT lost but it's all due to a good reason: Farming! I have been growing tons of grapes, artichokes and now flowers but the best of it all is that I am rocking the cattle, horses, chickens and even the elephant business! I do have a few blog entries that I will eventually finish and post with a fake date since they actually took place during the summer months - hey, I was too busy with the farm, you know? Sure, virtual farming might not be as good as writing, at least for feeding the intellect, but it sure has been tons of fun! When things got a little hard with Frankie after our trip to Miami in the summer and there was no way I could produce any deep, insightful (or funny) entries for this blog the Farmville at Facebook helped me cope. Once the school year started, bringing about more changes and adjustments for all of us, my blog got smaller and my Farm got bigger!

So I am not saying I am giving up farming all together but I am back to my blog; perhaps I can work on my inspiration while picking some apples :-)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Noise, ear muffs and a good friend....

So we do crazy stuff with our kids. We've always taken them along to everything we do, at any time in any place and we've decided to do the same with Frankie too - no matter what. Personally, in my saga to prove a point, I've always faced the chance of the experience falling apart rather than avoiding it because of Frankie being in the spectrum. Granted, sometimes we have failed but we would rather say that we've tried and failed than to have missed the chance for our kids to experience life. Now, there is a fine line between taking a plunge "cold turkey" style and simply not being "prepared" for it. I learned the difference last Saturday, thanks to my new friend "Teacher Erin."

We were invited to celebrate the 4th of July with our new friend and her family in a very different way than we had had done it in the past. We were going to a demolition derby with fireworks at the end. OK, that was a new thing and we always, always, always go for the new stuff, for sure. I figured the boys like cars, races and all things boyish so we can't go wrong with that - now, Rebecca might attend under protest but thank God Erin has a daughter who is Rebecca's age so those two could cancel each other out together! The plan was finalized and we were on our way to tons of fun, noise and fireworks. Did I mention noise? Yes, it did raise a flag in the back on my head that it might be a little noisy for the kids but I dismissed it right away. I deemed my "flag" to be a form of panic for the infamous "sensory" word that's always dangling on top of my head when I think of Autism. I don't believe Frankie has any sensory issues at this time but there is always the fear that one day I would find out he does. Well, after witnessing the kind of noise in this place, I think ANY three year old would develop sensory issues there!

There I was, at the stadium, hugging my three year old who in turn was covering his ears with both hands just as "The Beast" - a supersonic aerodynamic race car- almost broke the sound barrier as an opening to the show. All the stories, all the You Tube videos we watched, all the talks before the event went to waste once the noise started. The noise. Why didn't I think of fixing that BEFORE we got there. I know why. Because using anything (and I mean anything) as a crutch to help my kid is like failing to me. I know it's dumb because I don't have any issues with life vests in the pool or training wheels in a bicycle but I see those as a means to an end. Providing Frankie with "accessories" to cope is something that I dismiss immediately, almost always not as a conscious decision. I know I can be very stupid when it comes to missing the "fine line" between being tough and just plain ignorant...Luckily, there is always an angel in my path and Ms Erin came to my rescue!

During those long five minutes I spent holding Frankie and trying to figure out if I should call it a day and get back to the van, I noticed Erin asking her sister to go to the store at the stadium to get us some ear plugs for Frankie. Ear plugs...what a concept! Then she explained there were not only ear plugs, she was getting him BIG ear muffs and that he should be OK with them on...boy, she was not kidding. Ten minutes and $13 later I felt like volunteering for one of those Master Card commercials. The words out of my mouth when I saw the "magical" big, black ear muffs was: Priceless! Yes, priceless is the opportunity to have my kids enjoy something new without fear. Priceless is to turn a scary situation into an awesome experience. Priceless is a friend who helps you without judging you. Priceless is a lesson learned and never to be forgotten. I have learned that I don't have to be tough on my kids all the time for all things....sometimes, it's OK to let them use training wheels...indefinitely.

By the way, Victor didn't want any "ear muffs" and Rebecca actually had a good time with Robyn. I guess things do have a way to work out!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Field Trips

I don't like school field trips. In fact, I think I'm allergic to them. I usually have nightmares the night before a school field trip and I stress about it constantly during the days prior. What about if my kids get lost? How about if they get hurt? If the bus crashes, it will be my fault for letting them go! I know, it's insane and dark but that's just the way my brain works! I have tried to work on this fear for a long time but I couldn't even bring myself to chaperon the field trips - I would do the next best thing: send Daddy along to watch! I don't think I've ever accepted out loud that I have a "field trip" phobia but now that I've confessed, I feel a lot better :-)

Things have changed for me (apparently!) since we moved to Seattle. Hey, I'm the one without a job (yeah, right!), so it's assumed that I'm the one going on the field trips with the kids....besides, I'm a "stay at home mom" so I have nothing better to do and apparently no other choice either! Well, my take on the field trip experience has changed a bit (still have nightmares) because the nature, and I say NATURE again, of the trips here are related to nature (parks, beaches, lakes) and are in nature, well, a learning experience for children and adults alike. In the past year and 1/2 I've been to a water processing plant, observed birds in the wild, pulled blackberry plants out of a field, visited a pumpkin farm, played at the park (s), visited an "urban pond" and checked out the low tide at the nearby beach. For a city girl, this is quiet a record for "nature" encounters. Let's not forget also the very evolved experience of watching the Nutcracker Ballet with a preschool class (at a real theater) - impressive!

On that note, let me clarify that Victor IS, by far, the king of field trips - not only does he go once but twice sometimes (he is in the same classroom with two different groups - loooong story) - and he leads the way for the rest of us in enthusiasm and excitement over the adventures each trip represents for him. Of course, Frankie tags along to most of Victor's field trip and he's become the "class mascot" at this point. He went from being Victor's little brother to being recognized as Frankie by both classes. They welcome him to join the group and actually expect his company. It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that the tables turned and it was Victor who joined Frankie on a field trip with his preschool class. Frankie was delighted to bring his brother along and show him his teachers and his friends. Victor became "Frankie's Big Brother" to Frankie's classmates and he did act like such, following Frankie around and making sure he stayed out of trouble. We played in the playground and had lunch together and at the end of the field trip these two were now on equal terms - Frankie had allowed Victor to join HIS adventure and it was a fun experience for all.....including me.

Victor and Frankie exploring the low tide at Richmond Beach

Victor and Frankie playing at the park during Frankie's recent field trip.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Super married, noodles and the moon

Victor told me today that "super married" people usually eat spaghetti together and end up kissing each other. But only if they are "super married." Of course, while I am trying to make sense of this statement with him, I am picturing the Lady and the Tramp in my head.....

But then again, I am a girl. Victor had something else in mind.....

He was talking about a Pucca episode he had watched earlier. I don't even like this head hurts when I try to make sense of it and it's beyond me why my kids enjoy it at all. Well, the story goes something like "the lady and the tramp" (figures!) but they eat noodles, not spaghetti. Then there is the thing about the "super married" as opposed as to just "normal married" and it has to do with the full moon. Victor made sure to tell me not to worry, I was not super married to dad, we were just "normal married" but this is BETTER! See, we have not been affected by the full moon at all and that's a positive.....this is the funny stuff I would have probably missed if I would be in a office from 9-5; I find it hard to believe that I would have given Victor the time of day with some crazy story about the moon, noodles and married people. There you have it, the conversations at lunch time with the kids are just priceless to me. I might have missed their first steps, their first smile and many "firsts" but life has given me another chance at it and I am now appreciating what it brings along.

I will be sure to let Raci know not to worry about the moon affecting our marriage and making it a "super" one - we are just normal married and that's just fine....

The good news is that we don't need to eat noodles for kissing!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Capri Sun and the joy of caring

God is in the small things. Indeed He is - even in a bag of Capri Sun.

More than milk and eggs and cheese, Capri Sun juice is a "staple" at our house. We can run out of bread but not of Capri Sun bags, no way! Capri Sun bags go into lunch boxes, come along in picnics, go to the beach and to the drive-in movies, and pretty much are the snack of choice in our afternoons along with some cheeze-it too! Those handy-dandy juice bags have helped us make the transition out of the "sippy cup" stage and have given our kids the freedom and independence to help themselves to a drink (out of the fridge), without the help of mom or dad. Furthermore, they have empowered them to make choices without prompts or coaching, enabling us to see the fruit of our labors. Thanks to a bag of Capri Sun, delivered by our youngest, to his big brother, we had the chance to confirm that our kids care for one another. Frankie didn't ask Victor if he was thirsty, instead he figured if he was thirsty, chances were his brother was thirsty too. He marched to the fridge, got a bag of juice and went back to watch TV. Before he got back to the family room, he stopped, as if he was remembering something and then turned back and grabbed another bag and then offered it to his brother. All those times we taught him to offer, to share, to ask his playmates (therapists) if they wanted to share his snack or would like to have a drink, I thought we were teaching him to be polite, to fit in this society but I never pretended that he would learn something else along the way: true caring. We have always thought that Frankie is lucky to have older siblings that would be there for him, once we are gone, to care for him and to watch out for anything the future might bring for Frankie. Now, I'm sure that Frankie's older siblings are lucky too because Frankie will also be there to take care of them as well.

Caring is a two way street in our family and I trust that Capri Sun bags will be exchanged among us for many more years to come!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fish Tea

The best tea ever is fish tea! You can't buy it at Starbucks but it's easy to make; just throw in a few plastic fish inside an oversized plastic tea pot and fill with water from your bath tub - there you have it, FISH TEA! My kids stumbled over this great beverage by pure chance this evening while taking a bath in my roman tub - a weekend-only treat, the mess is huge! To make the experience more special, we have gone from bubbles to water guns and lately the bath tub has become a lake full of fish that are waiting to be catched by my two fishermen. I never saw the whole "tea-thing" coming when I threw this plastic tea pot in the water; I figured they would use it to pour water over each other's head...they had some other plans for it. I almost fell off the border of the tub when Frankie offered Victor some "tea" and Victor cheerfully answered "sure, sure, pour me some fish tea, please!" Frankie was laughing so loud, it was hilarious to watch them doing their very dignified tea routine...with fish inside the pot. The situation was so funny in so many levels that I had to blog about it! I have to admit it's been weird to have the boys play with "girlish" toys in order to help Frankie figure out social behaviors, like caring for dolls, using cooking utensils with play food/plates, etc...The plastic tea pot came with a set of cups and saucers and other pretend stuff and I just kept it lying around...hellooooooo!!!! It's got pink handles! After the boys came up with the "fish tea" I sure don't have any worries; boys will be boys, no matter what they play with....only a boy will enjoy drinking "fish tea," while naked and serve it with a good laugh on the side!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"I don't like people looking at me!"

"Don't look at me! Why are you looking at me?! "

For a moment there, I thought Frankie was talking to me but then I followed his angry gaze and noticed a lady near by who was as surprised as I was to hear the kid's words. We were at Target, shopping around and waiting fore Rebecca near the fitting room. I was so embarrassed for Frankie's words that I just attempted to apologize to the lady (profusely!) and hardly had time to digest the meaning of such statement. My son was using his words - very clearly by the way - to express how he felt about someone looking at him...nothing wrong with that, but at the same time, he was breaking one of the most basic society rules: "don't blur out what you really, really, think." Granted, I know that Frankie's Autism doesn't make him very social, but I was expecting shyness, not blunt honesty!

After the lady walked away, I looked at Frankie and talked to him about what had just happened and here is where the real funny part happened. While I was talking to him I was using all of my "training" and newly acquired skills to help him substitute an inappropriate behavior with a socially accepted one (thanks UW team!). Well, that didn't work. I told Frankie that when people looked at him, he should look back and say "hello" - no can't do, he said he didn't like people to look at him. Then I said, he could just look away if he didn't feel comfortable but that didn't fly either - he said "No" again and with a very annoyed expression, he repeated really slowly: " I... don'! and that was the end of it for me and I dropped the subject.

Later on that afternoon we met up with Raci and Victor for lunch at the mall and I started to share with Raci what had happened earlier; I had not finished my first sentence when Frankie interrupted me and said "I don't like people looking at me!" I couldn't stop laughing and that was probably the wrong thing to do but I couldn't help but to recall how many times I didn't really like people looking at me either! What exactly was wrong with that, anyway? Yes, yes, it's wrong because it's rude. BINGO! that was the ticket, I told Frankie that saying things like that hurts people's feelings and they get sad. He listened. I didn't get the same answer I was getting before and it felt like he was truly taking the time to process that piece of information I had just given him. I trust that in the future he learns to comply with this basic social rule but I'm sure he will do it, not because he agrees with it but because he doesn't want to hurt people's feelings. That's just how he rolls......

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Star Wars Fighters

Here is a riddle for you:

What do you get if you cross a star wars fighter space ship with a character from the movie Cars? This is what you get:

Now, just to refresh your memory, THIS is what a "real" star wars fighter looked like:

Now, do you get the resemblance?

Well, not to worry, I didn't see it either! But if you are Frankie, they are pretty much the same thing! As long as Victor shares his opinion and plays along with him, Frankie does not care if anybody else agrees with his "creation." Of course, Victor is the biggest fan of Frankie's creation, since he is, without a doubt, his little brother's mentor. In our family, we have gotten accustomed to Victor's contraptions and original costumes - we are not surprised with anything he comes up with but with Frankie, well, that's a different story. See, being in the Autism Spectrum prevents Frankie from naturally playing pretend games or "pretending" that toys are things that they are not. This is why, creating a car that has supersonic abilities to fly and shoot in space was off the charts for him! Clearly we have taken the Star Wars frenzy a little too far in our household ever since the Christmas arrival of "the helmet," the light sabers and later on "the gun" for Victor's birthday...if you add the movie watching marathon, I believe we have ruined the boys forever....Well, I do believe that as long as the famous Lucas' films allow our kids (ALL of our kids) to dream, to create and to enjoy their fantasy world, May the Force be with them!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Rain

There is something magical about a rainy day. It's especially magic when it's quiet enough that you can hear the drops falling on the roof. It's soothing. The gloomy, rainy days of Seattle are like a dream come true for me. I must be very different from most people, but my spirit is lifted when I wake up to a rainy, cloudy day. The smells of a rainy day are so intense for me they awaken my senses and most often bring a smile to my face. Nobody else in my family shared this love for the rain with me, or so I thought, until the other day when Frankie gave me this picture he painted at preschool. I asked him what it was and he told me it was "the rain." This started a long conversation with him about the rain - a perfect opportunity to pick his brains! His eyes had a special light when he talked about it and his face was lit with enjoyment when he told me how much he liked the noise the rain made against the window of the car. He told me the rain was cold and that he liked to open his mouth to drink it (???) but most important of it all, he told me the rain made him happy. I do know it's true now because I watch him looking out the window when it's raining, when we are driving; I can check him out in the rear view mirror and he has a smile in his face...I often ask him if he is happy because of the rain and he answers with a big "YES!" It makes me wonder sometimes if being in Seattle is not only an opportunity to get help for our son and to provide a better life for all of us but also, in some special way, if this little piece of heaven was always meant to be home for us...I know that so far, Frankie and I are enjoying the rain, the smells it awakens from the earth, the soothing sounds it makes when it falls and the promise of a better tomorrow it often brings along.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Big Brother, Little Brother

During a recent visit to the library, the boys came across this book and went bananas over it - especially Frankie.  He started pointing at the book cover and identifying the boys in the book with Victor and himself.  As a matter of fact, I must agree the boys pictured in the cover share some physical similarities with my two boys but what's really the substance here is the story it tells.   This is not a blog entry about a book review, really, but the main idea behind this story is how these two brothers relate to each other and how they "understand" what the other one wants.  It wasn't too long ago, when Frankie was still non-verbal, that Victor was the main interpreter for his brother...I am starting to see the favor being returned by Frankie when Victor has an occasional meltdown.  These two complete each other in a way I never realized before when I was growing up myself.  I had siblings, sure, they were fun to play with and now that we are adults, I know I can count of them unconditionally, but the relationship that Frankie and Victor are building is nowhere near anything I have seen in other family siblings.  Frankie completes Victor in the way that he provides him with the audience he needs, the adoration, the attention, and makes him feel responsible and in charge, in two words, a Big Boy. Ever since Frankie started school, Victor comes along to drop him off in the morning, making sure other kids are nice to Frankie and helping him get through the "morning" social ritual of saying hello and commenting on the new backpack, the new haircut or the interesting stuff brought over for sharing.  I can see how Frankie follows Victor's leads and cues in the hard game of being "cool" and relating to his classmates - he is so blessed to have a big brother to look up to and Victor is so lucky to count on his little brother for unconditional admiration. They are beginning to understand who is the Big Brother and who is the Little Brother and they are both relating to their role pretty seriously...I can only hope they stay close to each other as they grow up and more than brothers, that they become life-long friends.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Book Club

Trying to find common ground with my "tween" daughter, I finally gave in and started reading the Twilight series.  After all, they are not that bad and as a matter of fact the books have turned out to be quiet entertaining but the best part of it all has been the bond it has helped me build with Rebecca.  Ever since she discovered Twilight, she has turned into a "bookworm" and I am quoting her teacher by the way!  She devours book, after book, and there is no budget that can keep up with her addiction and no library that can provide her with the books she wants, when she wants them!  By pleasing her, I have reclaimed that long lost love for reading I used to have in my own teen years and it has also reminded me of how I used to raid my mom's book collection too. I guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree after all and although Rebecca does not look ANYTHING like me in the outside, I can see a lot of myself in her ways.  Reading together in her room has become a new thing to look forward to - a new opportunity for her to act like a child again and cuddle with mom.  I can see how it is becoming harder and harder for her to show affection to me - hey, it's not cool to get mushy - I get it, but when we are both together, reading our books, although we are in our world, we are also sharing time and space and feeling like the generation gap is no longer there.  We have conversation sessions about the characters and exchange opinions about the plot; it's beyond stimulating for me - it's an opportunity to look inside the forming character of my little girl, soon to be a young woman.  In more than one occasion, our reading sessions end being "sleep overs" and although dad is not a happy camper, it feels good to spend this kind of quality time with Rebecca...she doesn't know she needs it but she does.  

One thing I do know for sure, if I can be cool enough to read Twilight (and all the other stuff she wants me to read!), I can probably convince her to trust me with all the other "dreadful" stuff  I will have to endure as I help her make her way through "teen town."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Eggs, bacon and lots of love

One of the great things about our "new" life since we moved to Washington has been having meals together, at home. I'm sure that most people who live in a big city, with big city jobs and demands and long commutes, must have the same problem we used to have back in Miami. We pretty much had meals together only in the weekends and always at restaurants. Sometimes we used to have breakfasts at grandma's house but most always will go to a little Cuban cafeteria by our house that was good, fast and affordable. Since our move, I've become more "domestic" so part of the experience has been cooking; like everything in life one must do as a chore, it really was not something I looked forward to doing. Regardless, now that I'm in charge of feeding this troop, I'm actually taking pride in pretty much every meal I put together. My parents teased me the last time they visited that every breakfast at my house feels like a Sunday Brunch at a restaurant; although they were exaggerating a bit, they were right indeed! I do try to make daily breakfast special at our home but on Saturday and Sunday, I really go all out. I must confess that when we first moved, we did try to continue having breakfast out on weekends but the wait was always annoying and the kids would be unruly but the time we sat down - it was not very enjoyable, to say the least. I ended up realizing that pretty much everything we ate out at breakfast time, with the exception of dim sum, we could make at home ten times better. We decided to try breakfast at home and little by little, we gave up the restaurant outings. Originally, it was my husband's job to cook but I'm not sure exactly when I took over! Breakfast cooking doesn't feel to me like "cooking" - there is something about it that gives me an opportunity to show my family how much I love them. Making breakfast it's not just about cooking the usual pancakes, eggs and bacon but also making more sophisticated stuff like quiches, rice/eggs/cheese cups, ham/cheese empanadas, oatmeal & honey loaf breads and even throwing in some fresh fruit with whip cream! It is indeed something I look forward to doing, although I still give my husband a hard time for quitting his job as our original breakfast cook.

I always knew that weekend breakfast was a labor of love for me but I had no idea that the kids realized this too. Of course they always say thanks for the yummy food when they are done but what Frankie did last Sunday was off the charts. While he was enjoying his scrambled eggs and inhaling his bacon, he stopped to breathe and said: "I love you mom and I'm happy!"- then he got up from his chair and gave me a hug. Not only did he tell ME that he loved me but also went around the table telling everyone else how much he loved them too! We all pretty much melted with such display of emotion from our little guy so, in turn, we started to say "I love you" to each other too. I don't think that a moment like this would have taken place at a noisy, busy IHOP!

Life can be a little tough for families dealing with autism but there is not enough said about the joys to be experienced too. I think that because you work so hard to cope, you also become more aware and more in tune, not only with your special kid but with your entire family too. Sometimes I feel like I was asleep before and that I didn't wake up to life until Frankie came into our family; I regret all the years I missed from my kids' lives because I was just going through the motions without really experiencing each moment. I must say that there are some sorrows in my life today but also much more happiness. Most days, I'm not sure of what lies ahead for our family or of what we are going to be doing next month or next year; what I'm certain of, is that on Sunday morning I will cook breakfast for my family, not only so we can eat together but so we can enjoy each other's love.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I'm not sure where I have been.  Probably I got lost in the fog (January 20th entry) and after being angry for the first time in months (March entry) I just crossed over to the DARK SIDE...not sure what it was but I am back to writing on this blog to get my "therapy" going again or maybe just for kicks!  Perhaps it was that I had so many things on hold and nothing definite coming out of it -  I'm certainly not the kind of person who enjoys playing "waiting games."  Some of the things I had "on-hold" have finally gotten some closure;  Frankie started preschool last month; we finally found a new house to move to; all the birthdays have come and gone and so have the family from Miami. Today, I don't face uncertainty anymore but I see "projects," ready to be tackled; There is the move to be completed; Rebecca is going to her big 6th grade camp trip; we are in the way to finishing Victor's ADHD diagnosis and treatment; and we have finalized plans for a quick trip to Miami.  Of course, getting my sister settled with us after her big move in the summer will be a whole different project on itself!  All and all, it's all good - really positive stuff - just my ticket!

I really do feel like that song about seeing clear when the rain is gone, even if there is always rain in Seattle!  Although the weather is still cold - and we still have the occasional snow shower - spring is starting to peak; summer is more than a promise, it's  a certainty and the light at the end of the tunnel is bright and invigorating.  I'm starting to feel like I am waking up from a long winter's nap and ready to be alert, alive and back to blogging....This is our life and it matters to record the good the bad and the ugly, if not for posterity, at the very least to get a good laugh TODAY! 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Angry Mom

Sometimes I feel like I've developed infinite patience during this past year spent at home with my kids. It's has mostly been a conscious choice of mine to remain calm and collected - since I am not like this by nature but rather impatient and volatile - while dealing with all the stuff life has thrown my way lately. From moving to staying at home; to dealing with a child with Autism and learning ALL there is to know about it, and just guessing the rest; throw in a preteen in bloom and a hyperactive middle child and you've got major havoc! Being angry was just not in the list of emotions I've allowed myself to feel. It's OK to be pensive, hopeful, patient (very, very patient), understanding and sometimes a little sad but angry, NO, angry was definitely not in the list. The way I've handled stuff lately it has been like a game of dodged it comes, dock and save the skin! It has worked so far but lately I'm starting to lose it. The pressure of the everyday routine, adding the school testing for Frankie, the unknown and the "waiting" has taken a tow in my otherwise "pleasant" disposition and I'm starting to crack. This was clear to me the other night, when I was struggling to rush to put dinner at the table before my husband got home and I'd just had the day from hell; doctor's appointments, kindergarten registration, therapy for Frankie, Karate classes for Victor, rehearsal pick up for Rebecca and a lot of background noise, courtesy of major meltdowns staged by Frankie. The "hows" and "whens" were irrelevant at this point and the details got blurry as the day went by but what did remain clear was the discussion Frankie and I had regarding my mood. In the middle of his loud whining, Frankie told me he was sad and I answered back I was sad too and to please leave me alone. I must have sounded exasperated and fed up (and probably I rolled my eyes too!) because he answered back, angrily and said: "No, you are not sad, you are angry!" I felt as if everything was still at that moment and I had to agree with him, confirming I was ANGRY, indeed. I then sat down on the floor with him and explained why mommy was angry but mostly I wanted to know how he knew this...he said it was my "face."

If you don't know much about Autism, this statement doesn't mean anything to you but it means the world to ME! I had just realized that my kid could read my face. Happy is easy to figure out, and when you have tears, sad is a piece of cake too, but angry can be tricky, especially if you are not yelling and shouting and your voice is controlled, as it was the case this particular time. Needless to say, after this conversation with Fankie I wasn't angry anymore but grateful. I was very grateful that my kid was making progress but mostly I was grateful because once in while I was allowed to let some steam out. I was grateful because I felt like I didn't have to be superhuman anymore and most of all because my weakness had helped my autistic child figure out a new emotion; one more piece in the social puzzle he's working really hard to complete.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Northwest Fog

I have never seen such dense fog before as the one here in Seattle. The fog here comes and it stays, making all things gray and confusing for a long time. That's pretty much how I'm feeling these days, foggy and confused; colorless and dense. In the midst of dealing with Rebecca's and Victor's birthday parties and the visit of my parents for my big 40th birthday (all happening within the next 3 weeks), we have to figure out moving by the end of April.  Of course, we are the pickiest people when it comes to getting a house, even if it's a lease, so God knows if we will be sleeping under a bridge if we don't find the perfect house within two months!  Also, Victor needs to be registered for Kindergarten by the first week of February and it's all pending on what area of Shoreline we move to, this is if we actually stay in the Shoreline area (!!!!).  OK, these issues would not even be worth mentioning and I could probably handle them with my eyes closed, if it wouldn't be for the big BLACK cloud hanging over my head, almost as thick as the fog outside.  The truth is that I'm overwhelmed by the process we have started as of the first week of January, Frankie's evaluations to enter the school system before his third birthday in March.  The big "Developmental Preschool" cloud has settled in and it's not going away.

I'm convinced that Frankie is making great progress but can't help to wonder if this is good enough to prepare him for school, other kids and more hours of hard work; seriously, I don't really want to know the answer.  Is it denial?  Is it a defense mechanism? probably yes, but regardless of my denial or acceptance, the issue remains the same.  I don't have answers, I only have questions.  When I'm driving in this thick fog, I can only see the car right in front of me....Just like that, when it comes to Frankie and the fear of "special ed" and all that it implies, I can only see as far as today; tomorrow is still blurry.  Even when I try to see farther than that, my mind starts getting clogged and confused.  When I see a child with any kind of handicap, physical or mental, even developmental, I find myself looking away.  I look away so I don't feel sorry for them and for their parents;  perhaps, I look away so I don't feel sorry for Frankie and for myself.  Realistically, I haven't had time to feel sorry at all but this was the decision I made the first time I was told we were dealing with Autism.  I figured that I had to skip the "feeling sorry" stage so I could get to work right away.  Now that we are getting prepared to face one of society's solid institutions, the education system, it has made me realize how scared I really am. I'm scared of not being able to protect Frankie, and myself, from the rest of the world - from those people who are supposed to help us but might end up not doing so because of ignorance. More than ever I look up to the heavens and ask God to give me the strength to face reality -  I ask him for the fog to dissipate so I can see clearly what needs to be done for our little guy. Frankie is counting on us for help, even if he doesn't know this yet but WE, as his parents, are counting on an education system that hasn't quiet figured out yet how to deal with the special kids in the Autism spectrum. "Special Ed" might not be the right fit for Frankie in the long run but only time will tell; fortunately, time is all we do have at this point.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hats, Helmets and How to Eat a Planet

It could be the snow. Perhaps it's the cold. Maybe I'm just not taking enough vitamin D. One thing I know for sure: I'm a bit slow these days and I am falling behind in my blog. It's not that I'm short on stories - my kids always provide me with plenty of them! - It's just that I don't feel like writing. Well, since I am a committed woman and I promised my sister I'll do this for my own sanity, I'm going to snap out of the winter blues with Flamenco music and tell all about the new trends for the New Year 2009.

Tween Rebecca and her new look!
Rebecca has this velvet black hat, probably since she was eight or nine, which fit her big when we bought it (for a last minute school performance) and still does! This Christmas, I got her a black velvet sweater as one of her gifts and she figured it would go perfect with her hat. What started as a "Friday-night-dinner-outfit" has now become a uniform! The last thing I see on her head at night is the hat and the first thing I see in the morning is the hat. I know it's hard fitting in and I know that a security blanket is not always a "blanket" but Rebecca has never been insecure about anything before so the behavior is a bit surprising. Regardless, there is no harm in a hat and a sweater (I got her another one so I can at least wash the first one!) if it helps a young girl to find peer-acceptance and to find her uniqueness...I just step back and watch, telling myself this too will pass; at least, I hope it does!

Jedi or Clone Trooper? A little bit of both!
Along with most Seattlelites, Santa also got "snowed-in" this year and some of the gifts he was carrying on his sleight got stock at the UPS Redmond Station...Sad news for the Anglo kids but my kids are Latin so they lucked out; The Three Wise Men or Three Kings (Los Tres Reyes Magos) came bearing gifts on the eve of January 6th and made my kids very, very happy! The happiest of them all was Victor, whose top-of-the list item this year was a Star Wars helmet with voice changing abilities that did not make it on time for Christmas. It didn't matter that Santa got everything else on time down the chimney for him, the helmet was missing and he was disappointed. Ever since he got the helmet from Los Reyes, it doesn't come off from his head. Needless to say the helmet is HUGE on him and he looks like a big-headed midget. The funniest part is that he wears the helmet and fights with a Jedi sword....that's weird for ANYONE who has sat through a Star Wars movie. Well, he has no other choice since neither Santa or Los Reyes compromised in bringing him a gun - no way. The kid has to get creative and become the first Clone Soldier to fight with a Jedi Light Saber - there are no rules in pretend games, right?

An Inventive Way to Eat a Planet (Apple)
I usually core and cut my kids' apples into pieces and put them in a plate for them but the other day I bought the cutest little apples and didn't see the need to cut them. The apples were red-delicious and were the perfect size for lunch boxes and mess-free quick snacking. Yeah, think again - nothing is mess-free for Frankie! When I gave him the apple he disappeared for a while and that's usually not a good sign; sure enough, he had figured out a way to stick the apple in the "heart" of a wooden chair and he was biting pieces this way. He told me he was eating a "planet." Sometimes I can't believe I am so lucky and that I get to witness the craziest stuff my kids can come up with! Frankie did not only come up with a very handy-dandy device to hold his apple for comfort eating but he also found a way to make it into a planet - priceless.