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

Archive for the 'Parenting' Category

More Mother’s Day Adventures

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Mother’s Day started out with a whimper and a groan but ended with a bang. I woke up bright and early to find my beloved santol tree massacred by the man we hired to prune it. A gave specific instructions to cut only the branch that was putting a little too much weight on the concrete fence, but the man, who really did mean well, got a little too carried away with the cutting frenzy and mangled almost half the tree. I was very upset.

Santol Tree- Before and After

Mother\'s Day Rose

To mollify me, A handed me the flowers he had ordered for Mother’s Day, a dozen of the most beautiful pink Ecuadorian roses I’ve ever seen. I was really very happy to receive those beautiful flowers but that morning’s pruning carnage had gotten my underpants in a knot.  I am deeply regretful now that at that moment,  I failed to show my appreciation for this most loving gesture. Dwelling on the bitter events of that morning had soured my disposition, in the process, hurting the one I love most. I saw A’s eyes darkened a bit with sadness when he gave me the flowers. I knew he felt as if I had taken his gift for granted. Later, I apologized to him and asked for forgiveness for my insensitivity.

My Roses

Because I was still so caught up in the morning’s events, I forgot to take pictures of the beautiful bouquet. Then too, a little while later, Alphonse came over and plucked a flower to munch on so I hurriedly transferred the flowers from their pink and cream raffia wrappings to a vase. Only after I had dismantled the wrappings did I realize that I had forgotten to take pictures. :-(

The flowers were last in A’s list of gifts. (His generosity is such that he never gives just one.) Midweek, he gave me a limited edition Switcheasy pink iPhone Capsule, a black Capsule and a black Switcheasy VisionClip. He hadn’t intentionally planned to give them that early; I caught him sneaking in the gifts and he had no choice but to ‘fess up.  A also bought me Hello Kitty gifts- an authentic Sanrio pink and green water bottle (he says it’s from Alphonse) and a SIGG red and white reusable water bottle. Oh, what joy! (I was actually expecting a Hello Kitty Fender Dreadnought acoustic guitar -*hint! hint!*- but I love anything A has to give me.)

Sunday afternoon, we watched Dulaang Sibol’s presentation entitled “INA” (Mother). The boys were totally in their element. Onstage, they shined so brightly that parents and guests alike had perpetual smiles pasted in their faces. Most memorable during the performance was their offering of red roses to their mothers while they sang a medley of The Carpenters’ love songs.

The Dulaang SibolMr. P with the DS sophomores

But “INA” wasn’t simply about us, their mothers. The boys also performed about love for mother nature, for mother country, and Mother Mary. They sang, danced, and recited complicated oratorical pieces. At the end of the show, they were visibly tired but very proud of what their efforts had achieved in just two weeks. Mr. P called on to each boy, from sophomores to juniors and seniors, and gave a short anecdote about each one. Every one of them were beaming in pride and happiness, as we, the audience were.

Mr. P

The show ended quite early, with enough time to squeeze in dinner or a nightcap of hot chocolate. Still, we were all anxious to go home. After all, what was Mother’s Day if one of the reasons for my being a mother – Alphonse- wasn’t with us? True enough, we arrived home just in time as we were greeted with the whoops of joy of a boy who seemed to miss us terribly in our three-hour absence.

Mother’s Day ended with a prayer that night. Cuddled in each other’s arms, we had celebrated another milestone in our lives as a family. As I turned in that night, I prayed the santol tree will live another day, surrounded by the family who loves each other so.  

When Real Life Gets In The Way

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Running on emptyIt’s been ten days since my last visit, and for an empty page, it seems an eternity. They say that life can get in the way of blogging, and for many of us multitasking parents, this is more often the rule than the exception. These days, I feel like I’m running on empty. I feel overwhelmed. I am tired.

Since the start of the month, I’ve been struggling with a nasty cough and fever that’s made the rounds of the whole household. It couldn’t have happened at a worst time.  We’re in the middle of Nanny Transitions, amd things are iffy enough as it is. And just when we were making good progress, we hit another brick wall and everything came tumbling down again.

Mind you, we certainly can’t be accused of lack of planning. As parents of a child with autism, we have long learned that preparation was our best weapon in our arsenal of parenting tricks. As early as January, when  the old nannies made their intention to leave (one of them is leaving for good, the other is coming back after a brief vacation), we had set a timetable to start transitioning new nannies. We started looking as early as then, and by March, we had two new hires vetted by an employment agency. We got them a month and a half early to allow Alphonse the time to get to know them better, and vice-versa. Also, we thought that to make the transition more seamless, it was wiser to have the nannies’ stays overlap so when the first set leaves, Alphonse won’t feel their absence too much.

We got a pair of nannies with movie-star sounding names, Ruffa and Gretchen. (I kid you not!) Alphonse fell head over heels in love with Gretchen the day she set foot into our home, but completely ignored Ruffa. As is our practice with people new in our household, we kept them included in our home activities but initially limited their active participation. It was Alphonse who noticed their addition to our family. He saw both of them sitting in on his afternoon class, observing. Suddenly, he went up to Gretchen, smiled broadly, and gave her a big hug. Success!

Gretchen was with us two weeks when one morning, she passed out for no apparent reason. Alphonse and I were still sleeping when we were awakened by loud knocks on the bedroom door. Alarmed, I stood up to find Gretchen unconscious on the living room floor, the other nannies fanning her furiously and wailing in fright. I proceeded to check her vital signs, while I assessed the circumstances surrounding this episode. Despite our attempts to awaken her, she would not respond to any stimuli. We brought her to the Emergency Room at once.

The doctors were puzzled over the ambivalent signs they elicited from her unconscious state. They drew blood, put her on a cardiac machine, did a complete physical and neurological work-up- and found nothing. Two and a half hours later, she suddenly sneezed, opened her eyes, and looked at us smiling. Upon the recommendation of the neurologist, we had her admitted for observation and more tests. These, too, all turned out to be normal.  

During her confinement, I found out that she had had two previous episodes of unexplained loss of consciousness before, both of them already diagnosed to be of psychiatric origin. I was furious at the employment agency for their failure to inform us of her condition; they already knew she had a problem and yet continued to recommend her to people. The employment and medical records history submitted to us did not indicate any health problems, and naively, we took them at their word. I had to let her go after that. Her two weeks stay turned out to be an expensive lesson for us.

I stayed with her in the hospital during her confinement, and soon after, I started feeling ill myself. Then Alphonse got sick, then A, and then a week later, the other nannies succumbed as well.
Taking care of four sick people (five, including myself) was no joke, and many mornings, I had to literally crawl out of bed to get anything done. Thankfully, my fever disappeared after a prolonged round of antibiotics, but the cough simply won’t go. I still hack and hawk and wheeze and snork all day.

The old nannies left on schedule and we’ve been hard pressed to find new ones. Alphonse is depressed and is not eating. Since his nanny left, it’s been very hard to put a smile on his face. I reassure him as much as I can that I will always be here for him, but he looks for Nanny Michelle everywhere- in the bathrooms, in the laundry room, in the basement, even in trash cans. And not finding her, he sits and stares forlornly. Other times, he weeps inconsolably and clings to me as if lost. How can a mother ease her son’s heartbreak? 

And so, there is little time for myself these days. My world revolves around a son who seems lost in the world again. I am constantly by his side, waiting, anticipating, expecting. I have to keep running even when I’m almost empty myself. I’m afraid that if I stop even just to take a breath, I’ll get stalled.  

Affirmation: Making A Difference

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

You make a difference

Too often, we measure our children’s progress by the leaps and bounds he or she makes. We  like to measure things in big chunks of miles and kilometers, in grades surpassed in one leap, in medals accrued on Recognition Day. And yet, when we see our child’s milestones creep at a snail’s pace or when progress seems disappointingly slow, we often ask ourselves, “What are we doing wrong?”

True, it is not altogether wrong to look back at our mistakes in order to improve ourselves and our children. But to solely concentrate on what needs to be fixed belittles our abilities as parents and puts to short shrift our children’s efforts. Not only do we overlook the importance of the distance, no matter how short, that our child has covered in his journey of life, we also shortchange ourselves by believing that what we put into those “inches” did not count.

Our children’s achievements, no matter how seemingly insignificant in the scheme of life, are proudly their own, but these would not have been possible if their parents are not the wind beneath their wings. So let us allow ourselves a celebration, a pat on the back, even a hug, for each step our children make. After all, when they all started out their journeys in life, they all walked hand in hand with us.

We made a difference then, you and I. We still do.   

Affirmation of Parenting

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

You are a good parent

These days, the pressure to “perform” as a parent of any child can be overwhelming. Imagine this same pressure heaped upon parents of autistic individuals and magnified much more. Parenting has never been as hard and as complicated as we know today.

Throughout the unsettled questions and controversies raging in the autism community, it’s hard not to be swept away by the arguments on either side. Some say “do this,” others say “don’t.” It’s enough for any sane parent to start questioning his/her abilities to mother or father their own child.

I don’t understand the divide in this same community we all exist in. To insist on one prescribed way for a condition that has never been known to come from one single cause is irrational. No one thing has ever been found to cause autism, as there has never been one single prescibed regimen to “cure” it. So go ahead, do the diet if you want. Give supplements or not. Pick TEACCH or ABA. Try RDI or Floortime. Whatever it is you choose, do it for the right reason- the desire to help your child gain his foothold in the world, and not because you want him to fit in in a ”normal” and “autism-free” world. 

I take inspiration from very special mothers of very special individuals. Go read them at Susan Senator and Mother of Shrek. You’ll find humor and warmth, love and acceptance, openness and tolerance, in the pages of their weblogs. When I need to remind myself of the kind of parent I want to be, I simply hop on to these pages and envision myself as the embodiment of all their good virtues.

I am a good parent. You are a good parent. Don’t let others tell you otherwise.  

Affirmation of Expertise

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

You are an expert

It’s easy enough to be carried away by the differing opinions of experts. Coming from a vantage point of the medical profession, I learned early enough to accord respect and deference to learned individuals of magnified importance, education, and status. And this becomes many a parent’s dilemma: is their voice worthy enough to be heard? What is the value of their opinion and knowledge when stacked against those of expert medical and education experts?

I’ve realized however, that when it comes to my child, I am the expert, not the doctors, not his teachers, and certainly not those who pass judgment based on an hour or two of observation. I use their knowledge as a compass for navigating unknown terrain, but in the end, I, not them, walk the path with my child.

You and I are experts too.


Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

You Are Strong

For the rest of Autism Awareness Month, I will post daily a note of affirmation to remind parents everywhere, be they parents of differently-abled individuals or not, of the blessings they hold in their hands. The chance to shape another person’s destiny is a gift not to be taken lightly.

I found these notes of encouragement at Love Notes For Special Parents by Terri Mauro. These are beautiful reminders of how we as parents can choose to make a difference in our children’s lives, if we only believe.

When It Rains, It Pours

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

a WALL of Awards (wow!)

I love awards as much as the next person, and I certainly welcome any and all awards/ badges that may come my way. This humongous award comes from Teacher Julie and I am astounded at the sheer size of it all. (Thank you! Thank you!)

To top it all, I haven’t gotten around to posting this giant award when she decided to send more love my way via this:

More awards

Oh, my, I feel truly blessed! (Not to mention spoiled!) I do have an issue with the Sexy Blogger Award, not that I mind being called “sexy” (as they say, being sexy is all a state of the mind). May I change it to Hefty Blogger Award, just this once, for me? The latter definitely rings truer. :-) Whenever I hear the word “sexy,” I am reminded of six-year-old Alex’s retort when I asked him why he didn’t used the word to describe me in his essay. “But Mama, that would be a lie!” Yeah, kid, way to suck up to Mom. (Haha!) 

Okay back to the award.

As much as I love receiving these wonderful awards and badges, I can think of no better use for them than to share them and spread the love around. I love all the sites I’ve listed in my blogroll, but I do have some “staples”- places where I can be found hanging out, lurking, loitering, or simply visiting any time of the day. I am drawn to them because they speak of a theme which, despite the thousands of miles among us, unite us: Autism. 

Today being the first day in Worldwide Autism Awareness Month, I am dedicating this to: Susan Senator, Beth of Fragile What?, Bud’s Mom at Mom-NOS, Kim of Mommyhood, Casdok of Mother of ShrekBabs of Awalkabout’s Weblog, Maddy of Whitterer on Autism, Leirs of Mushings, and Cris of Eclectic Journals. These moms are my lifelines in the often confusing world of parenting a child with autism.

So to you, my dear friends, I dedicate these gifts of the heart. In a world often struggling with strife and intolerance, you live with more complex challenges than “normal” families do but you do it with so much aplomb, dignity, and love. I have learned so much from all of you about understanding, acceptance, and tolerance. Your eloquence, empathy, and support make me hopeful that a better world can be created for all our children.

You are my heroes.

Mommy’s DAYS Out Part III

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

InvitationSunday, we brought Alex back to school early morning for Mass and more practice with his friends. I squeezed in a few errands after that and by early afternoon, I was dead tired. Three days of nonstop activities were too much for me. I was beginning to feel my age (Alex’s favorite line), it seemed, so I allowed myself a power nap before I got ready to go to Alex’s performance .

There’s a side story to this, one worth telling. I was so sleepy Sunday afternoon that even as I was debating with myself on whether to set the alarm on my clock or not, I had dozed off. I figured that I would wake up long before the time I needed to get myself ready. And so I slept soundly for the first time in days, drool collecting at the corners of my mouth, until I awakened suddenly…to the sound of my mother-in-law’s voice. Yes, my mother-in-law, now gone almost three years, and her distinct voice saying loudly and clearly “wake up…gonna be late.” I was startled into wakefulness. I jumped out of bed, put on make-up in a hurry, and made it with enough time to spare. (I did pass by the church ossuary to say thanks to Mom.)

Alex as Marat in “The Bashkir And His Prize”

(Alex, at right, as Marat, and friend R, as the General) 

And what can I tell you about “Unang Lipad?” Alex was part of  the play The Bashkir And His Prize, one of three plays they put up that night. This was a story of a Bashkir general who wanted too much but lost all in the end, an  adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s short story “How Much Land Do You Need?” Alex played  Marat, one of the three Bashkir folk the General  met along the way. 

I was in awe at my son’s ease on stage and the way he said his lines with conviction. He exuded confidence so visibly that I was dumbstruck at his ability to relate to the audience. I’ve never seen him that way before. The Alex I know has always been a little reticent and often ill-at-ease with large crowds. Yet that night, I saw my son as I had never seen him before- a self-assured young man whose talents clearly shone through. He acted with flair, sang with a passion, and even danced (and believe me,  he never dances).

I was also amazed at the other aspirants and I felt as proud of them as I did my son. It was difficult to believe that these polished actors were 14 or 15-year-old boys, mere high school freshmen. Their confidence and poise on stage were unbelievable!

Singing Their Hearts Out

(The Aspirants)

Towards the end, just before a series of song and dance routines where every aspirant  was allowed to show off his talents, they spoofed the seniors of the Theater  Club, and the crowd went wild with their almost-perfect impersonations.

(see Alex below, in yellow Kobe Bryant jersey)Spoof Play

Spoofing Mr. P

(even Mr. P had his own impersonator!)

The theater was full that night and as the guests departed, the boys lined up to thank those who made it to their first performance.

Goodbye and Thanks to the Audience

Afterwards, A and I snuck back inside the theater to watch the boys in a huddle with their beloved mentor, Mr. P. Surrounded by a circle of boys, Mr. P prayed with them, lavished the boys with praise and encouragement, and dispensed timely advice.  The boys’ faces shone with respect and pride: they had made their teacher proud.

Post-play Huddle

The Dream Team with Juniors

We made it home near midnight, tired, hungry, but happy. To see Alex welcomed in a circle of friends filled our hearts with joy. Here, at last, he has made a place for himself under the sun. It was a beginning.

Mommy’s DAYS Out Part II

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Welcome Banner

Saturday was Alex’s Family Day. Originally, we had planned for Alex and myself to be there at nine and stay till four in the afternoon, and Alphonse and A to follow only at lunch time to cut on waiting time. With Alex’s theater club working overtime, however, we had to scuttle our plans and squeeze a few hours with them before Alex went back to acting practice.

Go,Go V!Alex and I were part of the Blue Team, which, before we left, was tied with the Yellow Team at 1-1. The Yellow Team trashed us horribly in father-and-son basketball- 33 to our 16 points- but then again, they had a deeper bench and could make substitutions readily when someone was tired. I think we had a better team (our boys were really good players), but because some of our dads had knee injuries, our playing dads were forced to stretch themselves to their limits. The Yellow Team was so confident of a win that they even substituted a mom for one of the dads (rubbing salt to our injured egos);  V sure showed us how to play basketball in style. (Go, Go, V!)

The Blue Team won in the milk-drinking contest. I wish I could show you how cute our boys looked chugging down milk from baby bottles (!) but we all promised them that they will never ever find humiliating photographs of themselves on the Internet. :-)

My Gorgeous Friends C, C,and S

Before Alex and I left, we shared lunch with the class (26 boys and their families came) and took a souvenir photo of all of us. The food was delicious and plentiful; it seemed everyone brought something for everyone else. We had lunch, picnic style, under the shade, picking off from each other’s plates, feasting on E’s pork adobo, and C’s chicken galantina and green Indian mangoes with bagoong (shrimp paste), and many other delightful dishes from our generous co-parents.

B FamilyAlex and I missed the last games of the day, held after lunch, as we had to rush back to school for more practice. Gorgeous S sent me a message a little after four to give me the good news! The Blue Team won! Yahoo!

Recreated iPhone messageMore on Mommy’s DAYS Out Day Three next…

“Nano Nano”

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Mork And MindyNo, this is not an homage to the seventies’ hit show Mork and Mindy, though I am reminded of it each time I hear the word Nano. Mork (Robin Williams) and Mindy (Pam Dawber) brought into our consciousness a sense of quickfire humor, as well as the cultural hallmark of the era, the “Nanu-Nanu” (Orkan for “hello”) and its accompanying hand signal. And while I would love to reminisce more on my era of growing up, this post isn’t really about Mork or Mindy, but about Apple’s iPod Nano.

I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire the new 3rd generation iPod nano in pink, a gift from my gadget-geek husband who knew that his gadget-geek wife appreciated, well, duh, gadgets. I’m not much of a flowers-and-chocolate kind of person, though he does buy me flowers weekly (mums and chrysanthemums), and he indulges my sweet tooth very often, perhaps much too often. :-) But for special occasions, we both agree that while flowers may be beautiful and romantic, they wilt and die all too soon, and decadently rich chocolates in a fancy box get eaten just as fast as they are unwrapped, the sweetness gone before they are even savored. As such, nothing beats a gift of a gadget (or a household appliance.) Rather unromantic, some would say, but not for a gal who get chills down the spine just from the letters P-S-P.

For Valentine’s Day this year, A got me three gifts:
a.) a Hello Kitty Nintendo DS Case to add to my collection of Kitty stuff.

Kitty Ds Cases

b.) a Belkin USB laptop cooling stand which I soooo love because my laptop does not overheat anymore even after four hours of The Sims2  It makes me wonder, how did I ever live without it? (You can see a great review of the item here.)Belkin USB Laptop Cooler

c.) and an eight GB 3rd generation pink iPod Nano.

Pink Nano 3rd gen

This is my 3rd ipod in as many years. The first was a pink iPod mini, followed a year later by a 1st generation iPod Nano in black. (See it below, dressed in a Kitty case.) The mini and Nano1 still work perfectly (the batteries haven’t died out yet, thank God!) but the new iPod is a most welcome gift, as Alphonse will be the direct beneficiary of an older unit. Just to show you how attached he is to pink (okay, okay, blame the mother…), here is a snippet of the conversation we had today.A Mini and Two Nanos

Me: Look, Alphonse, two iPods! (Mom points to mini and Nano1)

Alphonse nods. “Yes”

Me: Do you want to have one?

Alphonse nods again. “Yes”

Me: You can choose which one you like. Black or pink? (Holds one on each hand.)

Alphonse flashes a big grin, and shyly points to… pink.

Me: You can have the black one. (Mom instantly regrets giving the child a choice. Talk about confusing the poor child!)

Alphonse shakes his head emphatically (“NO!”), then makes a grab for the pink mini.

Me: Well… okay then, pink it is. 

He then puts the earphones in his ear and motions for me to play his favorite songs from the Joseph King of Dreams soundtrack. He is in bliss.

Ah, a son who loves pink. What did I do right?