A Tubby Tabby, Three Konekos, and a Life with Hello Kitty and Autism

Archive for September, 2008

Look, No Hands!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

What do you do when you want to carry your Kitty baby but like any other multitasking mom, you have other things to do with your hands?

Look at the pictures below and you’ll see how a handy mini-baby/plush carrier can free your hands to do other things.  

(This is what it the plush carrier looks like, sans Kitty.)

Okay, okay, I look a little foolish (if you see me in public, be sure to say hello!) but I like my Kitty so I don’t really mind if anyone stares at me funny. Hhmmmpphh!

(How I Found) The Ultimate Love Connection

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

This is for A, love of my life, who has given me 17 great years of The Ultimate Love Connection. Thank you for loving me even when I am mental, for bearing with me even when I am exasperating, and for sharing with me the best 27 years of my life. We made this happen, you and I.

Happy Anniversary, love.


Sometimes, I wish that I had fallen in love with A much earlier. I think of our five years of friendship before we became a couple, and I regret that we were too blind to see each other as anything else other than friends. A likes to tell me, however, that it is the sum of our experiences that makes us who we are, and  we were led to each other only at the particular moment when we were ready.  Perhaps, changing the past will change the future, and if that is so, I can live with the follies of my youth.

Surviving Mr. Wrong*

Over a gallon of ice cream, my friend and I once pondered about ever meeting the perfect man. We were both embroiled in serious relationships then, two young women in our early twenties, prime examples of independent, strong-willed, tenacious creatures of the nineties. We wanted to be sure that we had what a swank yuppies’ magazine dubbed as “the ultimate love connection.”

It was late December, and we were on night duty at the intensive care ward of a government hospital. We were still too low in the totem pole of hospital hierarchy to warrant our own lounge, and so we made do in a cramped little corner of the nurses’ station, wearily scooping spoonful after spoonful of ice cream.

“What do you think, P?” she suddenly blurted in between mouthfuls of cookies and cream.

“You and he-who-must-not-be-named?” I swallowed the last bit of Oreo cookie stuck between my front teeth. “What of him?”

“You think we’ll last? I mean, we’ve gone through the answers at the back of this magazine and it says we’re doing just well. Not perfect, but it says we’re okay.” She looked at me doubtfully.
“Not perfect, huh? Then again, who has one? A perfect love connection, I mean?”

“Well, looks like you got it all right …” she replied unhappily.

“Uhm … I’m fessing up … I looked at the answers right after I bought that magazine.”

“You did not! Did you? Hey, be serious, okay?”

“Okay, I think you and he-who-must-not be-named are perfect for each other. How long have you been together, five years? Don’t sweat it, girl. You’ll stay together for a long time. You’ve finally met Mr. Right.” And with that, I scraped the last spoon clean.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. Sometime in the “long time” that I predicted, they broke up.

I think of this episode in my life and wonder how I ever thought of myself as an expert in “love connections.” Throughout my adult life, I have spent a considerable amount of time listening to stories of broken hearts, as I have also spent an equal amount of time dishing out well-worn advice for the lovelorn. All these, coming from a woman tutored in the art of romantic love by a guru whose claim to fame is having had the most number of boyfriends by age 25 (I lost count after 49).

My friend and I spent hours on the phone after this most unfortunate breakup. We were each other’s therapists as she poured her heartbreak to me. One day, after months of the most grueling and intensive phone therapy, she asked me how I could be so resilient in the face of adversity.

“Simple, friend. Meet the only woman dumped by the same man twice and lived to tell the tale.”

She gasped. (more…)

For Sanrio Fans Club Members

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Just a last minute reminder for Sanrio Fans Club Members:


See you tomorrow!

Smile, Baby, Smile

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Last week, I wrote about adolescent angst and how it’s making itself felt in my household of two teenagers (technically, both my boys are teenagers by chronological ages, but the young one is still a little child in many, many ways). Of late, it has been one issue after another: late bedtimes, chronic daytime sleepiness, inattention and apparent deafness (or just selective hearing), repeated (^nth power) requests to use Yahoo Messenger, and worse, going through a PhP300 prepaid cellphone load in just a matter of days!

We’ve slowly adjusted our household rules to address these issues. For example, his late nights do not worry or bother me as much as it did in the beginning. Studies have shown that the period of adolescence brings about a change in circadian rhythms. While the the sleep-related hormone melatonin remains at a constant level from childhood to adolescence, alterations in the timing of its secretion by the pineal gland affect their sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin secretion occurs later at night, making early sleep difficult, and turns off later in the morning, making early wake-up time just as difficult.  

Alex, who used to have a 10 pm bedtime at age 12, now can’t sleep earlier than midnight, and this we understand and accept fully. On a regular school day, he averages only five and a half hours of sleep (12 MN to 5:30 am) as school starts at 7 :45 in the morning. Thus, on weekends, if his schedule allows for it, we let him stay in bed longer to make up for lost sleep.

The other issues are a bit trickier. When he “seems deaf,” do I just repeat myself? YM requests must  answer a need, and not necessarily a want (like, is it for homework, or for socialization), but I find myself questioning and second-guessing myself if I limit his social interactions with this rule. Ahh, no easy answers, it seems.

And lastly, the sudden burgeoning of his cellphone load expense. Last year, PhP300 lasted him two months, but now, we see his load dwindling in a matter of weeks, days even. To instill in him some fiscal responsibility, we decided to make him buy for himself every other load card he needs. So,  on an alternate loading schedule, we share in the burden of his expense.

I find myself thinking about him more and more these days. I worry about him now more than I do his differently abled brother. Autism is difficult, true, but at least we have a clearer sense of how much Alphonse needs us and how long we will be in his life.  With Alex, there are so many possibilities- a million potential outcomes, it seems- that I worry about the choices he makes and how it will affect his future. The changes that seem to come almost every day leave me unsettled, wistful, and nostalgic. Sigh.

Every now and then, though, I still see glimpses of the little boy who followed me around shouting “I love you, Mama’ in sing-song fashion. Of the chubby six-year-old boy who refused to leave my side. Of the twelve-year-old who broke out in song every chance he could get, singing the Les Miserables libretto by heart. 

On a day like this, when he and his father exchanged ridiculously funny messages on SMS.

And on a day like this, I just have to remind myself to stop worrying and to “Smile, baby, just smile.”

Tag! I’m It!

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

I still haven’t finished giving away the Kick A** Award and today, I have just the person in mind. Before we proceed to that, however, I’d like to answer a Google image tag from Little Miss Firefly. I had such a great time looking for pictures! If you must know, I’m also addicted to Google, and if such a thing as a PhD in Google-ology exists (I think I beat Jenny McCarthy to this), I bet I’d have gotten it by now.

The rules are:
a) answer the question below, do a Google Image search with your answer, take a picture from the 1st page of results, do it with minimal words of explanation; and
b) tag 5 people to do the same once you’ve finished answering every question.

Okay, let’s take a deep breath… *hu hu hu… hi hi hi…* and agree to this: how about we do the first one and skip number 2? Everyone happy with that? :-) (I bet people just heaved a sigh of relief with this one.)

1. The age you’ll be on your next birthday:

Do you see it? I hope you don’t, heehee. Ah, well, I don’t look a day over 39, anyway. :-)

2. Place you want to travel to:

Easy enough to answer, this one is. (Do I sound like Yoda?) A and I haven’t traveled a lot as a couple (well, he does, but for work) and almost everyone who knows the circumstances of our lives knows why. But one of these days, before we get too old and wobbly to move on our own, we would like to spend a little time here, in the City Of Lights. And if it doesn’t happen, I think I can photoshop myself very well in one of these pictures, heehee.

3. Your favourite place:

My favorite place in the whole wide world is the bedroom. This is where the family congregates most days: A and Alex watching movies on DVD, me playing with my Hello Kitty doll, and Alphonse blowing bubbles by the side. And of course, this lovely picture-perfect room isn’t my bedroom, but this one is:

(from Alphonse’s PECs cards)

Notice how there’s a blanket on the headboard? It’s to prevent Alphonse from banging his front teeth on it. He’s already chipped one. :-(

4. Your favourite food:

Yummy! I could eat a quart in one sitting! This is also my favorite flavor. A little trivia: did you know that this uses red cabbage juice for coloring, and not some nasty allergy-inducing Red #40? Hooray for Ben & Jerry!

5. Your favourite pet:

Alex used to have a guinea pig named Genie who looks almost like this little fellow, except she was slightly darker. He was five when he begged to get her but like most little children, he failed to realize the responsibilities that came with having a pet. So Genie became mine. I gave her baths, brushed her hair, fed her carrots, celery, and nuts and cleaned her cage. I even taught her some tricks using ABA.

Sadly, she’s passed on to the place where all good guinea pigs go to after life. Her cage now stands empty. I still miss her little shrieks. *Woot! Woot!*

6. Favorite color combination:

Pink and brown- these colors are gorgeous together!

7. Favorite piece of clothing:

I’m a jeans girl at heart and am thankful that there are very good local brands that cater to full-figured women. When A and I were planning our church wedding, I was seriouly considering getting married in one, but my mom vetoed my suggestion. Yeah, maybe she was right on that one… maybe.

8. Your all time favorite song:

My all-time favorite song comes from the movie “Bituing Walang Ningning.” It’s “Sana’y Maghintay Ang Walang Hanggan,” with lyrics and music by Willy Cruz and Baby Gil. I get 99 on Magic Sing with this too! (Magic Sings says “What a excellent singer!”)

9. Favorite TV show:

We’re doing “Monk” marathons at home so this has got to be a current favorite. On shows for more mature audiences, A and I love “Deadwood.”

10. First name of your significant other:

No, not Maria. :-)

11. Which town do you live in:

We live in a little barrio in one of the most populous and biggest cities in the Philippines, where sidewalks are brick red (or will soon be), and where urban lifestyles meet with rural surroundings. I’m a Kyusi (Q.C. for Quezon City) girl, born and bred.

12. Your screen name/nickname:


Kittymama is Kitty’s mama. :-)

13. Your first job:

I wasn’t as cute as that little girl, though.

14. Your dream job:

I’m living it!

15. One bad habit that you have:

I’m a verrry late sleeper and my hours don’t always coincide with A’s. He sleeps early and wakes up at the crack of dawn whereas I can’t sleep until the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully, Alphonse doesn’t wake up early too often and I can make up for lost sleep then. I ought to change, I know.

16. Worst fear:

Loss of my loved ones. And I’m not even going to think about it right now. Just thinking about it makes me weep.

17: Things you’d like to do before you die:

And maybe sing back-up to Sharon Cuneta. :-)

18. The 1st thing you’ll buy if you get $1,000,000:

This is my dream home, a Tokyo Mansions home smack in the heart of one of Metro Manila’s most affluent cities.

19. Your husband/wife:

Kitty’s boyfriend is Dear Daniel. If I’m Kittymama, does that make A Danielpapa?

20. What present would you like for your next birthday? (Note: make it anniversary, heehee.)

This, I would love to have. I’m partial to the first edition Hello Kitty Build-A-Bear because Hello Kitty is traditionally a white cat, but the sunkissed Kitty is just as beautiful. I would love to have any of these two, with lots of clothes and shoes. Ah, eBay, here I come!


Thank you, Odette, for this enjoyable tag! As a thank you gift, I pass on this second Kick A** award to one of the most creative people I know. Odette (or Little Miss Firefly) makes beautiful things by hand, and if you go visit her blog right now, you’ll find that she’s been very busy these past few weeks with her household projects. She’s also one heck of a photographer with an amazing eye for detail. I wish I was even just half as creative as she is.

So here’s to you, Little Miss Firefly, and may you continue to light the world with your beautiful creations. :-)

NSE Kicks A**

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

I normally stay away from blogging till Wednesday morning, and only after I’ve submitted my articles for the week. This I do as a matter of discipline since blogging eats up a lot of my time (verrry, verrry addictive!). But just this once, while sending out an article to my editor this afternoon, I finally gave in to the temptation to bloghop and surf the web. Lo and behold, I found this:

See the arrow I put over there? See the name?


No Special Effects is a finalist in the Food and Beverage Category of the 2008 Philippine Blog Awards! Man, I am definitely impressed. And soooo proud!

To Manggy, my young friend, whose amazing talents have given us this wonderful, quirky, enjoyable, and highly compelling blog, I send you all the positive energy of the universe and wish you success. If it were up to me (and no insult to the fine blogs who are nominated with you), I’d hand you over the  award, hands down.

And with this in mind, I hereby bestow this award that has been waiting for quite a time to move on to its next recipient: The Kick Ass Award given to me by the very generous Teacher Julie.   

This is for you, Manggy, because you definitely kick a** (sorry, I try not to use the word very often because my son reads this blog, heehee).

Hats off to you! Hip, hip, hooray!

Growing Pains

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

It must be the season for adolescent angst as I deal with two hormonal young men in my household. While Alphonse grapples with his feelings of jealousy and insecurity, Alex seems to find his way into mischief now more than ever. All weekend long, he and I were constantly bickering, and I suddenly missed the days when my son thought of me as divine and infallible. Nowadays, it seems the first words out of his mouth always begin with a “But.”

By Sunday, I was worn out from all the explaining and discussing, and yes, arguing. I ignored him as long as I could; I didn’t want him to see me lose control. Worse, I didn’t want him to see me cry. I crawled into bed in the middle of the afternoon and slept.

When I woke up, I saw a piece of paper neatly folded by my side table. On it was a poem Alex had written for me. This time, I gave in to my tears.

How the heart weeps and cries,
For such a useless thing
How meaningless can a man die,
When he starts to weep and sigh

On accounting of my deeds
I’ve oft but shown my pride
I say with lack of dignity
“I’ve been all I’ve needed to be!”

“I deserve a right to do
Whatever I may wish
To rampage through lands unknown
To scour the globe with steel and bow!”

“I’ve done what I’ve needed to do!
The time now is to relax and be through!
With useless chores and laborious days
I deserve my break!”

But on reflecting of my crimes
I’ve seen with sorrow and dread
Unknowingly and grudgingly
I caused my own death

My death from times I might’ve enjoyed
If patience I had had
And times I may’ve laughed and smiled
When all I’d done was sigh

And in seeing my attitude
Of how I sit upon a high horse
I scurry down with fearful dread
And change my heart’s ways

“Have pity!” I cry
bending down on knees that creak and groan
“Have mercy, please, I beg of thee
I’ll change now and forevermore.”

This I said with a changing heart
That smiles as it did before
Before, when I was proud and grim
Before, when I was seated on my high horse

I didn’t think adolescence would be this tough and right now, we’re barely at the starting line. The days when my son tests my patience and parental control while he searches for his sense of self, his identity, and his autonomy seem at hand; I dread more days like these. And yet, as long as he continues to dialogue with me- with us- and as long as he expresses his feelings of confusion, anger, remorse in ways like these, I am pretty confident we will weather this teenage storm. I pray. I hope.   

Cognitive Milestones

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

This article was originally posted in HerWord.com on September 8, 2008.

A few years ago, a friend of mine rang me in the middle of the day and started screaming at the top of her voice, “He lied today. Oh, my, he has learned to lie!”

He is her nine-year old son with autism.

Apparently, he was playing hide-and-seek with his little brother that afternoon, when little brother asked “Are you in the bathroom?” Normally, he would answer a direct question with a yes or no, oblivious to the fact that his little brother was using his honest replies to tag him and get an edge in the game. That day, for some strange reason, he shouted “No!” though he was, indeed, inside the bathroom. Little brother, expecting victory on his side, ran to kitchen and asked “Are you in the kitchen?” at which time he was surprised to find his brother appear from behind him.

“No fair!” little brother cried out and tried to tell on him. Big brother just smiled delightedly.

And so, when my friend called me up that afternoon, I got caught up in all the shrieking and rejoicing, too. After all, it isn’t everyday that our children with autism get to reach a cognitive milestone.

Just last week, Alphonse reached his own cognitive milestone. For the first time in a long while, I caught a distinctive glimmer of the soul hidden behind his autism. Last week, Alphonse learned the rudiments of jealousy.

It started quite unexpectedly. My sister dropped off her infant son and his nanny here at home, asking if I minded looking after him while she worked. She had some things to finish at the hospital that day, after which she would pick up her son to go to a friend’s house. Since my house was nearer their secondary destination, she asked if he could stay a few hours here with me. “Of course,” I readily agreed, excited at the prospect of having a baby in the house. Since my next-door neighbors (my cousin and her two gorgeous children) left early this year, I had missed having little visitors come to the house to eat and play. Baby J was a little too young for rambunctious play, but he’s been very giggly these last few weeks, and he does give out the wettest, slurpiest kisses of all my nephews and nieces.

Baby J was playing quietly on my bed with the boys’ old toys when Alphonse came up after his morning class. I took Alphonse by the hand and re-introduced his baby cousin.

“Alphonse, this is Baby J. He is here for a visit. Do you want to say hello?” I said enthusiastically.

“Ha!” Alphonse grunted and waved reluctantly.

Then he inched away from the baby, preferring to watch from a few feet away. He looked disinterested, or so I thought, though I did catch him stealing a few glances from the side of his eyes. I asked him if he wanted something. He smiled shyly and turned away. Again, he stole a few glances at the baby and suddenly scowled a little. I was a little concerned at his reactions, so I thought to distract him from his preoccupation with the baby. I asked him to join me for lunch. I was rather surprised when he said no.

“No? Aren’t you hungry, Alphonse? Let’s go eat lunch,” I gently coaxed him.

He would not budge.

I decided to leave him in the room. Alphonse is a predictable fellow, and there are some things that we’ve all learned will work with him. And this is one such formula: when I leave a room, he follows. That particular moment, he stayed behind, lingering and looking at the baby intently.

Then, and this is according to Alphonse’s nanny, he made his way to the bed, sidled up close to the baby, and gently took his baby toys from the bed, away from Baby J. Smiling, he put them as far away as possible, almost near the floor. Only when he was assured that the baby would not be able to reach his toys did his face betray the first signs of a smile.

When his nanny rushed down to tell me about it, I could not believe it at first. Alphonse has never felt territorial with his toys or any of his possessions (okay, except for food); most of the time, he would not care less who touches or plays with them. But that day, he didn’t want to share at all.

In the afternoon, just before his class, he went back to the bedroom again, and upon seeing the baby beside me on the bed, slowly crept up and gingerly inserted himself between the baby and myself. He flashed a smile of triumph, as if to say “I’ve claimed my bed and my mother,” while baby J mewled softly beside him. He also kept asking for kisses and would not leave my side, despite his nanny’s reminders that it was time to study anew. I had to escort him back to his study room.

When my sister fetched Baby J, Alphonse was visibly relieved. In the following days, he seemed a little anxious, although we simply ascribed it to the minor changes in his routine. Unexpected visitors always seem to ruin his rhythm.

A few days later, however, he was back to his jovial, relaxed self. It was a good day, just one of those days when all his answers were smiling yesses, as he seems to want to please everyone.

“Are you a good boy?” Alphonse nods to say yes.

“Do you like ice cream?” Yes.

“Do you want a kiss?” Yes.

“Are you happy?” Yes.

And even “Do you have body odor?” Yes. (For the record, he does not have body odor.)

So it was turning out to be one of those funny days when he says yes to all you ask, but my sister just happened to ask this question: “Do you like Baby J”

Alphonse smiled and shook his head.

“You don’t? Oh, my poor baby!” my sister cried.

Alphonse kept smiling and shaking his head. No. No. No.

My thirteen year-old son, my Alphonse, is jealous of a little baby. Oh, what a glorious day!

Playing Dress Up

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

I’ve been enjoying dressing my Kitty doll so much that often, it actually feels like I have a “daughter.” I shop for clothes on a regular basis, and my loved ones, feeling the happiness I derive from this experience, have also contributed to Kitty’s growing clothes closet. Aside from her original yukata and polka-dotted bikini, she now owns a pink ballerina dress, a white satin Sunday dress (you know, for more formal occasions), a pair of blue denim pants, a pink denim skirt, and a couple of shirts. 

One of my new friend Marge’s legacy to Kitty lovers like me was this chance to own a closet drawer for my Kitty. Thank you so much, Marge! Kitty and her mama love organizing her tiny drawers! (*Hugs*)

And how nice that Kitty gets presents too from her aunts? My sister gave me these clothes to add to Kitty’s drawers- pretty pink jumpsuits and dresses!

The latter reminded me so much of Kitty in Wonderland that I decided to play around with photoshop and do this:

Kitty in Rabbit’s home

But my sister’s kindness didn’t just end there. My sisters and I all went to Maryknoll College (now Miriam College). I did my stint in grade school while they stayed in MC till high school. She thought Kitty might want to go to school there too. Well, I’m not sure they accept cats, though, even the brilliant ones. :-)  (For high school, Kitty’s definitely going to Pisay, heehee. I’m having her uniform sewn out of my old ones.)


Aww, my Kitty’s all grown up! She’s now a schoolgirl!

Lastly, I wanted to show off her custom socks. These are sewn out of some of Alex’s preemie socks; I’ve made a few others in different colors from the boys’ leftover baby socks. How cute that their little “sister”  gets to wear their hand-me-downs? 

Now if I can only find some shoes…

Lost In Translation

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

(I’m getting really good with Photoshop, thanks to sites like this where I learn all sorts of cool things.)

A good friend of mine I’ve reconnected with just recently over Facebook sent me a message about the name Okasaneko. I am glad that he shared his thoughts with me; he is, after all, quite fluent in the Japanese language as he took his doctorate studies at the Nagasaki University Medical School in Japan.

Here is what he told me:

“Okasan would translate to Mr. Oka.

“Okaasan (with a long second syllable) would be Mommy, or you could drop the honorific O and just   have Kaasan. Or much easier would be the third person form, HAHA. But HAHANEKO doesn’t really have the same ring to it does it? :)

“Just my 2 cents.”

And here is my reply:

“My tita (aunt) said the exact same thing, but I was going for more of the sound than the spelling. Oka, she says, means “hill,” but in the beginning, when I was starting my blog, everyone (meaning, people I know) read it as o-ka-a-san, with emphasis on the a-a, (read separately as ah-ah with the short a sound) as in a-a-sa-han of Filipino (I will hope). It (Okasan) was just easier on the ears but okaasan is indeed the correct form.

“Oh, at least you know the intent, and you can breathe easy that I do pronounce it with the long second syllable, heehee.

“Just my luck to run into a guy who took graduate studies in Nagasaki! (Actually, he took his doctorate degree there, in molecular virology! What a brain!)

“Thanks a lot! I miss bumping heads with brainy people. :-)


So, now, we know. Everyone, let’s try to read it the correct way so Kittymama does not turn into Mr. Hill- O-ka-sa-ne-ko (prolong the ka, please!).

Once again: O-ka-sa-ne-ko.

Thank you! Have a great Day!