heartattack.

I’ve been debating writing this post for quiet some time now (aren’t I always?) and I feel like the only way to move forward is to share them than to push past them. Bear with me.

On September 16th, my mother had a minor heart attack. On September 21st, they performed a coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG).

My mom had been feeling off days before we called the ambulance to come check on her. She was tired, lethargic, and on that day had trouble breathing. We finally called the ambulance when she felt like an elephant was sitting on her chest. I thank God for the doctor and nurse that came to our house to check on her. They listened to their guts and transported her as opposed to doing the easy thing.

You see when they came, although my moms BP was through the roof, her EKG came back normal. When they tested my moms sugar levels due to her diabetes, they were also through the roof. The doctor couldn’t, in good conscience, give her something for each and leave. So they took her to the emergency room. The doctors performed more physical tests which came back normal. But what gave it away was her blood test.

My mom wasn’t having a heart attack in that moment. However, the blood tests showed that she had had it several days prior to her arrival. None of us could believe it. The night before she was babysitting the girls while Carlos and I went out for a birthday celebration and now she was being admitted to the hospital and nothing was certain.

After a series of tests, the doctors discovered a blockage in one of her arteries and suggested surgery. At this point I was in Montevideo 14 hours a day while Carlos was at home with the girls. I was scheduling trips for my aunt and sister to come down and help me so I could take care of the girls. I was trying to round up volunteers to donate blood for my moms surgery.* It was exhausting.

Eventually we rented an AirBnb so that we didn’t have to travel the hour to and from every day. It was a great convenience for us seeing as it was 3 blocks from the hospital with parking. I’ll definitely be staying there again in the future.

This month has easily been the longest month of my life. Longer than either of my pregnancies, longer than my first year of marriage, longer than my three years away at university. But now we’re finally back home. My mom is recovering as well as can be expected. Her wound still hasn’t completely closed but it is looking better each passing day.

This experience was a wake up call for all of us. We need to take better care of our health, of our bodies and of our minds. I’ve witnessed the physical traumas my mom has gone through since her cancer diagnosis when I was nine years old. Whether or not I like it, her suffering molded and affected me. My goal now is to do better for them so that they don’t have to witness the same thing…not if I can avoid it anyway.

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motherhood: defeated.

Today, I feel defeated. Today, I hid in a bathroom and cried. Today, I gave up.

PJ had her monthly check-in with her psychiatrist. We turned in her teachers report to her. Although we didn’t read the report, we know what it said based on the meeting we had with her and school psychologist late last month.

PJ has an exceptionally short attention span. PJ does not sit still. PJ likes to scream. PJ does not answer to her name. PJ doesn’t get tired. PJ is overly affectionate. 

These things we know. These are things we’ve known her whole life. When we started trying to get help for her last year these things were still issues. These were issues we had with her at daycare. And we were working with a speech therapist at the time. But we haven’t seen her since December 2016.

We’ve been having trouble finding therapists who are willing to work with PJ because of the language barrier. Last year she barely said more than 10 words in Spanish, however since she started at her new school her Spanish has flourished. But we still want a therapist that UNDERSTANDS English in case they need it to reach her when she’s stubborn or hyper. (Not charging us USD$300.00 a month and asking us to pay their vacation days whether or not those are days they would normally see PJ would be great too).

After the psychiatrist read the report, she put it down and very frankly said, “Well, after reading this my professional opinion is you should medicate her. Start her off on a very small dose and see where we go from there. Have you thought about that?” And while my response may have taken .04 seconds to come out of my mouth, in my head a whole week passed. Yes, my husband and I had talked about what would we do should anyone suggest medicating her. We always said no but at that very moment PJ was throwing the mother of all tantrums because she wanted to play with some party favor lost at the bottom of the diaper bag, and I hesitated because in that moment I would’ve done ANYTHING to get her to calm down for thirty seconds.

“No, we don’t feel comfortable giving her medication. She’s only three.”

And her very short response was, “You’re here for a reason and this is my professional opinion. It’s up to you whether you take it or leave it.” At that point PJ was sprawled out on the floor kicking and screaming. I could feel my blood start to overheat and I wanted out of there as soon as possible.

While leaving the doctors office I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Are we really at that point? Is she really THAT hyper and uncontrollable? Am I really that weak that I thought, for a moment, that we definitely should medicate her? Could NOT giving her the medication hurt her? WHAT DO I DO?

I couldn’t help but look down at my tiny person and want to cry. I love her so much and want to make the best decision for her but don’t know where to begin. I plan on getting a second opinion soon. I reached out to the occupational therapist who evaluated her back in February to see if she could give me some direction in finding new therapists. I’m meeting with her pediatrician next week to see what she says as well.

We have another check up in six weeks to let her know what we’ve decided on…we’ll see what happens from here to then. I just hope I can make an educated decision for my daughter.

If any of you have had any experience in dealing with Risperidone please feel free to share it with me. 

those who can’t teach.

I would like to preface this post by saying, I was a total a**hole in high school. It was 2006, the height of all things emo. I had short hair, dyed my hair black and listened to ridiculous emo music. Keep that in mind when reading the rest of this post. 

As the school year in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end, I can’t help but think back of my time in school. I look at my girls and hope that they have better luck than I did when it came to dealing with low self esteem, mean teachers, and bullies.

I was bullied pretty badly in elementary and middle school, so much so that I made it a point to apply to a magnet school where I would know NO ONE and be able to start fresh. Little did I know that I would never really fit in there. People tried to get to know me but I lived an hour away from most of my classmates and couldn’t form any solid relationships outside of regular school hours. Mix that with teenage hormones and repressed anger,  you’ve got yourself a staring down the barrel of depression and anxiety.

Sophomore year was when my parents decided it was time I start seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist. I tried Zoloft, Prozac, and Adderall. It was also the year I started hanging out with friends who drank, smoked, and dabbled with illicit drugs.

Junior year I was desperate. I was fat, lonely, and at the time, thought I was going to die a virgin because I didn’t have a boyfriend. I was so starved for attention from boys that I was trying to get it any way I could. And so I started talking to Toby*. Toby and I were friends who had known each other since freshman year. He was one of the popular kids at school. Always involved in extra curricular activities and on the school broadcasting channel.

We used to take the bus and train home from school together. One afternoon, during our commute home, we somehow kissed. I don’t remember the details other than he and I started writing notes to each other afterwards. At a certain point I realized that I didn’t actually have feelings for him  and couldn’t lead him on. Being the teenage idiot that I was, decided that the best way to express that to him was to write it in a note and deposit the note in his locker.

In my note I wrote about my smoking and depression and probably a bunch of other stuff that was way too personal to put on paper but didn’t have the foresight to know better. I walked into my AP Composition class and see the note I wrote to him stapled onto the class bulletin board. Needless to say, I was stunned. And while my teacher, Ms. Ruiz, didn’t say anything directly to me, she made sarcastic offhand remarks alluding to the letter. And that’s when the floodgates opened to my being bullied again in my new school.

My classmates took her lead and started laughing about it openly. I was mortified. I felt betrayed. I felt worthless. I found myself dreading school and longing for the days when all kids teased me about was my weight or purple hair. It got so bad that I had to switch schools midway through the year.

Now I see that event as blessing in my life. I was able to reconnect with my best friend. I was able to pull my grades high enough to go to college and get a scholarship. I was able to have a true high school experience filled with clubs, dances, band, and football games.

But that experience led me to be wary of teachers. I never allowed myself to open up in class again. It makes me wary of those who teach my daughters. I’ll forever be cautious of those in positions of power because this one woman, who is still an educator, decided to belittle me instead of pulling me aside and asking if I was okay. Instead of offering help, sending me to the counselors office, or even calling my parents, because what 16 year old should be smoking or drinking, she used my weaknesses against me to make me feel minute.

If you’re a teacher reading this, especially a high school teacher, know that your indifference to your students emotional wellbeing causes as much harm as the hurtful things their peers say or do to them. It is your job as an educator to uplift and encourage your students. If you can’t do that then at the very least don’t be another stumbling block in the already bumpy road that is adolescence.

*Name changed to protect myself from drama. 

Monstruos del Mar

Finding things to do with kids during the morning in Uruguay can be challenging. Most child friendly indoor spaces don’t open until 3:00pm or later, but last month Montevideo became the latest city to host an exhibit titled Monstruos del Mar (Monsters of the Sea).

Held in Parque Roosevelt on the outskirts of the city, the exhibit is comprised of about 20 animatronic prehistoric sea creatures.

My sister and her boyfriend are visiting for a few weeks from the Netherlands and we’ve been looking for fun things to do as a family. Luckily I found out about this exhibit before it was too late, because like all things Uruguay, the publicity was lacking. We were already planning to be in Montevideo due to one of PJ’s therapy sessions, so we took advantage and made a day of it.

After showing my brother-in-law (ish) the Plaza de Independencia, Calle Sarandi, and Plaza Matriz, we had lunch at a quaint restaurant we had been meaning to try out called Sin PretensionesThe food was absolutely DELICIOUS and stuffed us all right up. Even PJ ate all her pizza without being forced. I wish we had taken pictures of our food but we were just too hungry.

Once we were done we headed out to Parque Roosevelt to see the exhibit. I’m glad I did my homework beforehand because if not we definitely would have missed it. Off to the side is a little ticket booth where you can purchase entry or the ticket taker stamps your prepaid tickets. Out of the main tent you see the head of a large dinosaur thing sticking out. IMG_7871 I will say the noise machines they had was very loud, especially the exhibits with any sharks, making it kind of rough for PJ with her sensory issues.

At the end of the exhibition there was a colouring area, trampoline, and tiny triceratops for the kids to play and explore. They do have a sandpit where the kids can dig for “fossils” but I really didn’t want PJ to get sandy so we distracted her when we passed through that area. Overall PJ had a blast. She jumped to her hearts content, she manipulated her “Tio Rich” to push her all around on that triceratops, and coloured with her dad until it was time to go.

I will say it was a total splurge for us. It was $400 (USD 14.00) per adult and $240 (USD 8.40) per child over the age of two. It was worth just getting out of the house and being able to see something different though. You can buy tickets in advanced through RedPagos or at your local Tienda Inglesa. The last day to see the exhibit is April 5th.

PJs first trip to DisneyWorld!

One of the most amazing things we did in 2016 was take PJ to DisneyWorld for the first time! It was her third birthday gift from my parents and it was such a blessing to be able to take PJ to the happiest place on earth.

We decided the best time to go during our trip would be the week after Thanksgiving so we could enjoy the Christmas decorations since Carlos and I had never been during the holidays. I probably wouldn’t suggest going that Monday after Thanksgiving seeing as it was packed but our next two days weren’t so bad.

I was actually really disappointed at how PJ was when we first got through the gates. She was so unimpressed. She hated waiting in the long lines and hated getting in and out of the stroller. Most of the first day I legit thought my kid hated me. But after getting the autism diagnosis it makes sense, she was just on a sensory overload and didn’t know how to process everything.

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After PJs umpteenth tantrum, I remembered that Disney offers disability passes so that you don’t have to physically wait in line but come back later after the current wait time. This was seriously the BEST thing we could’ve done with PJ. Even though we spent much of the wait times walking her around in circles or browsing through the gift shops, PJ wasn’t confined to a slow moving line which limited her fussiness. My 28 week pregnant self also didn’t mind limiting the time on my feet either.

Once we managed to get our hands on that disability pass PJ truly enjoyed the rides. Her favorite being Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. We rode that ride every day, two and three times because she was in awe every time. I knew my baby was a Little Mermaid fan but didn’t realize the extent of it until our time at Magic Kingdom.

PJ had already met a few of the characters but she would scream and run away in fear every time they tried to approach her (Seriously, sorry Mickey if I would’ve known I wouldn’t have made her come in…however it is kinda weird that you talk now). But I decided that I would try just ONE more character before forever swearing off making PJ meet them. When she walked into Ariel’s Grotto this kid lit up like a firework on the Fourth of July. Walked right up to her and hugged her and kept on saying “Wow…” and tried touching her hair and, awkward to say, clam shells. Ariel was a sport considering how touchy PJ was but it really made her whole experience.

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PJ hugging Ariel for the third time during her Meet and Greet.

The biggest disappointment was that Haunted Mansion was closed during our visit! PJ had just gone through a Halloween/ghost obsession and I knew she would absolutely love that ride but it was closed the three days of our visit.

I won’t bore you guys with a huge list of things to do and not to do considering there are hundreds of them all over the internet. However I will say for parents with kids with ASD: GET THE DISABILITY PASS. Even if you don’t end up using it because the lines are short or you’ve done well with FastPass+ it’ll be nice to have it handy. Also, get the MemoryMaker photo option. I know it’s pricey but we got some AWESOME shots of PJ and we were able to focus on being present in her experience rather than fidgeting with our camera. And it’s true what people say, the photographers take way more pictures with their cameras knowing that you’ve already paid for the service than when they use your camera.

*If you ever find yourself needing a place to stay in Orlando with your family, I HIGHLY recommend considering AirBnb with Barbara. For whatever reason I wasn’t able to leave her a review on AirBnb’s website but my goodness this was the best thing we could’ve ever decided to do. The place was huge and modern, we totally took advantage of the pool and onsite playground, and PJ loved taking a bath in the jacuzzi every night after our days at Disney. The hostess has put so much thought and effort into the property, honestly couldn’t ask for anything better. Assuming she’ll still be renting her property in a few years time, we will definitely be staying there again.

 

Our new adventure with Autism.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before but PJ has a speech delay. She’s always been hesitant to speak or communicate in ways other than grunting/screeching and pointing.

I started noticing the delay when she was about 18 months old and still hadn’t said,”Mama” on more than one occasion. Whenever I tried to share my concerns everyone brushed them off and said things like, “Kids develop at different speeds/So and so didn’t start talking until they were 5/You’re just being paranoid she’s fine.” But deep in the pit of my stomach I knew that things weren’t fine.

When PJ started school last year I always asked the teachers how she was doing and I was constantly being told that she didn’t really interact with the other kids or that she would immerse herself in her own activities and not participate. They thought she might have an ear problem so we started taking her to appointments. We had a few meetings with the school’s psychologist but she never suggested anything more than what we were already doing.

After months of appointments of hearing tests and figuring out that her hearing was in fact fine we were directed to see a pediatric neurologist. She prescribed an EEG which took us MONTHS to finally get because PJ kept getting sick whenever we had it scheduled–after 5 months we finally got it done and everything was normal. The neurologist also suggested we start seeing a speech therapist to see what we can do. And so, PJ started seeing a speech therapist twice a week for 50 minute sessions.

After only two months of therapy PJ was able to say more than one syllable words. She started asking us for things as opposed to grabbing us by the hand and taking us to whatever she wanted. She was able to put tiny phrases together like “Momma come!” or my favorite at the time “Shake, rattle, roll!”

Don’t get me wrong, PJ knew things. She knew her alphabet. She knew her numbers. She knew the difference between her vowels and her consonants. PJ knew her animals and what noises they made. Everyone, including the doctors and teachers, said PJ was brilliant and knew more than most two and a half year olds but she just didn’t know what to DO with that information.

When we took PJ to Miami, coincidentally right after she turned three, she had an intense mental growth spurt. She was able to answer “yes” or “no” to our questions and she was able to more or less communicate with her cousins. She would talk to us about things she saw or specifically ask us for things like “Mom, we go to cousin house?” I must’ve cried so much on our trip just seeing this new light in her eyes, the excitement of being able to communicate. But she still had her little quirks of isolating herself, not answering to her name whenever she was too immersed in something, or even organizing toys by size or color.

Fast forward to last week when we had a meeting with a new pediatric neurologist. This time we were (unknowingly) meeting with the head of the department at our hospital. She spent almost two hours with us interviewing us and observing PJ play in the corner of the office. For the first time someone asked us, “Have you ever thought that your daughter could be on the spectrum?” I wanted to break down crying because finally someone wasn’t ignoring it. I had spent months trying to get someone to acknowledge that it was a possibility but every therapist and doctor said we hadn’t crossed that bridge yet.

To sum up the meeting she recommended we start taking PJ to meet with an occupational therapist as well as her speech therapy. She was calm and patient, she explained that PJ obviously isn’t on the more extreme side of the spectrum (whatever that means) but that she just had things she needed help with. She assured us that PJ would lead a normal life; which kinda made me roll my eyes because obviously this isn’t a death sentence but I guess not every parent sees it that way.

However I will say that this couldn’t have come at a more stressful time. Trying to set up an appointment with a therapist in the middle of Uruguayan summer is next to impossible since everyone is on vacation. We still don’t know PJs school schedule for the upcoming year so we can’t really schedule a set therapy schedule until the end of February. And then of course we have the new baby coming. We’re going to do everything in our power to get PJ the help she needs but it’s not going to be, for lack of a better word, easy.

Right now I just ask for positive thoughts and prayers as we navigate through this new parenting journey. That God place us where he wants us, with therapists that will help her, with teachers that will be understanding, and as always continue to bless us with people that love and care for our family.

Holiday blues…

Since I was seven years old, the holidays have never been easy on me or my family. Those who know me intimately know that since 1997 I have spent most holidays with friends or just sitting around watching movies with my family.

Don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of spending Christmases and New Years’ with my middle school “squad” or spending it on the couch watching TV with my mom and sister–my dad worked all the holidays–but once we had PJ I realized that we would have to bring the magic back to Christmas.

This year was especially hard because we spent Thanksgiving with Carlos’ family in the States. Apart from the expected family drama, it was pleasant trip. PJ got to spend a lot of time with her cousins. They have the sweetest relationship which made it really hard for us to want to leave. Every day since we’ve been back she has asked for her cousins and every day we have to break it to her that they live very far away and we can’t just get in the car and go to their house.

Since we’ve been in Uruguay, Christmas doesn’t really feel like Christmas. We don’t have extended family to celebrate with and since it’s just us we don’t see a point to dressing up or setting up an elaborate table.

This year we ate Christmas dinner in our pajamas and Skyped in my sister while PJ opened her Christmas gifts. Then we Skyped with Carlos’ side of the family so the kids could show off their gifts to each other, which made me cry because duh my kid kept looking at me asking to go to their house. It was rough to see her want nothing more than to be playing with them. But it gives me hope that she’ll get along with her little sister come February–surprise! We’re having another baby! But that’s a post for a different day.

All I can say is that I hope one day Christmas will go back to feeling magical and bright, that we can make new traditions even though we’re not with all of our family and friends…