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.

 

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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…

Ambition…or lack thereof.

Something I haven’t mentioned recently is that I started a new job in June. I’m not quite sure if I mentioned it in previous posts’ but I had been applying for work since February. I had a few interviews but nothing ever panned out.

Then in May I had an interview for a company I had heard about but didn’t really know much. (Not really sure if I’m allowed to mention it so I’m going to play it safe and just not). I went into the interview kind of ambivalent. I had already gone to a few, the companies hadn’t even bothered to send me a rejection letter, and I figured the same thing would’ve happened here. But to my surprise they called me back by the end of the week and offered me the job.

I’m glad I took the job. I’m working for a popular big box store in the States–my gosh do I miss big box stores–as a Help Desk Agent for their employees, dealing with things like security cameras, office computers and printers. I like the people I work with. I love getting out of the house and talking with people my own age. I think the decision to get out and work was great for my mental health. But the longer I’m there, the harder it is for me to find an incentive to stay there long term.

Like most companies, getting a promotion here is dependent on whether or not a position NEEDS to be filled. I won’t go as far as to say that promotions, when they happen, aren’t reward based. But they only happen based on when a position opens up. Again, that’s understandable and it happens in most companies, especially the higher up someone gets in a company the harder it is to move from position to position. Unless you’re in IT, but I don’t feel like I’ll be qualified for an IT position any time soon.

In most of my past work experiences I’ve always been ambitious. I’ve always done my job well to get promoted quickly or have been able to find better jobs at other companies based on my customer service. I wanted to be someone “important.” I wanted to be able to do something at more than just an entry level position. But in my current position, both within the company and also in Uruguay, I’m feeling like my only options will always be at a call center.

Which leads me to wonder if we should move back to the States in order to find better paying work. But then I think about health insurance and how difficult it would be to come by unless I have a full time job and I start having a panic attack. I know that us moving, anywhere at this point, is unrealistic.

Before I had kids I would always be the first one into work and the last one out. I worked extra shifts and wouldn’t mind if I didn’t get paid for them. I always figured that my dedication would be noticed and appreciated, eventually being merited. But now every afternoon I make sure to clock out at exactly the precise moment my shift ends to get home and be with my child. I don’t offer to take my coworkers shifts when they need a day off  because it means more days away from PJ. I show up, I clock in, do my job, and leave.

I’m at this point in my life where I feel like I have no ambition and no direction in my life apart from loving and caring for my family. I don’t know what I want to do for ME. I look at my husband and his passion for his art. He’s so driven to succeed. He works tirelessly to promote himself, to put on shows, to get recognized by publications, anything that will get him a step ahead.

I miss that burning desire to succeed, you know, the one that feels like a roaring fire in the pit of your stomach being fed with each and every “Good job!” and “Great work! Keep it up!”

I’m hoping that in the coming months I’ll be able to find what fuels me again. Who knows, maybe I’ll find it in this job. Or maybe I’ll find it in something totally different like writing, baking, or outreach! I just know that in order to ignite that fire again I have to start looking for a match.

 

**I’ll make a post soon about how we’ve transitioned from two stay-at-home parents to one!

Do unto others…

As I was driving on the highway to take PJ to playgroup this afternoon I saw a few people hitch hiking. Nothing out of the ordinary. Hitch hiking is pretty normal for Uruguay.

I don’t normally stop. Especially if I have PJ in the car. But it got me thinking about this time when we were still living in Miami and I gave this older man a ride home.

It was a Saturday morning and I had just finished dropping Carlos off at work. Instead of taking my normal route home, I went the long way. It was a bright, sunny, but cold winter morning. I had my sunroof open, blasting music and just enjoying the time alone. As I was driving down Coral Way I saw an elderly man sitting at a bus stop with a shopping cart FILLED with bags. I felt a pang in my stomach and a tiny voice inside my head telling me to go back and talk with him.

After debating with myself for what felt like forever, I turned around, pulled into the gas station next to the bus stop and got out of the car. I approached the man and asked him where he was heading. We talked for a bit and I offered him a ride home. As I helped put his groceries in the back of my car, a man in a brand new BMW approached me and told me that he wished more millennials would be so kind and said, “God bless you.”

Instead of feeling shy or honored by his praise, I was angry. I wasn’t giving this guy a ride because I wanted to be patted on the back, I did it because, well I felt God was calling me to. And if it was really such a great thing then why didn’t HE do it himself? He was at the gas station before I was. He could have easily offered the man a ride home. I ended up just smiling modestly and saying, “Oh it’s nothing, thanks.” Got in my car and left.

The drive home was uneventful. It turned out the man knew my dad when they worked at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach back in the 90s. He was just a lonely man living in a section eight apartment by himself. I was genuinely happy I was able to help him, I was able to do something kind and put a smile on his face. From them on I looked out for him every Saturday at that bus stop but I never saw him again.

Being reminded of this made me wonder if I would ever do something like that again. I think about it often enough but I haven’t. Since I’ve become a mom I’ve put other people on the back burner. I’ve been too worried about my daughter and family to focus on people on the outside.

Sure, whenever I’m on the bus I’ll offer my seat to an elderly woman or if someone has one item at the grocery store behind me and I’m buying a whole cart I’ll let them in front. But I haven’t really gone out of my way to be KIND to someone. I haven’t gone out of my way to sacrifice for someone.

Of all the things going on in my/our life/lives right now, I want to make it a point to forget about us and worry about others. I want to be a blessing in other peoples lives even if it means putting myself on the back burner, even for a little while. Stop waiting for other people to bless you and stop waiting for people to put you first. But don’t do it for other people, do it for yourself. Don’t be that guy in the BMW, fully aware that people NEED help, kindness, and love. Don’t wait for someone to do it in your place. If God, the stars, the universe, etc. places someone in need in your path, help them.

Motto for the week: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. (Again, not because you’ll get something in return but just because).

Why hello there…

I haven’t updated the blog in months. I wish I could give you some exciting excuse but honestly I just haven’t felt motivated to do so.

Since my last personal update so much has happened that there may or may not be some overlap:

Paloma started going to CAIF every day back in February. She loves going and has quickly become everyones favorite. While her teachers gave me complaints of the language barrier at first, they quickly fell in love with her and let us know she was everyones favorite! They did however share some concerns with her hearing and we are currently going through testing. Initial tests showed there was a bit of a deficit in the left ear but nothing will be definite until the end of the month. She also has an appointment to see a speech therapist at the end of June since she still hasn’t formed sentences at two and a half.

Carlos had an art show earlier this month that went really well. It was a group show with two of his Cuban friends. He had been really stressed for that show so I’m glad things turned out well. He’s currently working on pieces for two shows later this year. We’ll see how things go.

As for me…well…what can I say? After my initial neurologist check ups and starting on Pregablin things were good. For about three weeks I was symptom free but then my eye flutters came back and I started having searing pain in my left shoulder that reached and tingled my finger tips. My doctor didn’t like that so he sent me for another MS test that I don’t have an appointment until July.

Then there was the diabetes test I had that said I’m prediabetic and obviously need to lose weight in order to prevent it from becoming full blown diabetes. But the test also said that the reason I haven’t been able to lose weight and have a predisposition for being overweight is because of some numbers on the blood test. I started on Metformin and have actually lost weight since starting.

If you thought that was the end of my health problems then, yeah, clearly you don’t know me or my luck that well. I had an appointment with my nephrologist and they checked my kidney function. In regards to the blood check and urine output they said everything is all good. But the sonogram said that I’m starting to develop a fatty build up around my (only) kidney. And of course the solution to that problem? Lose weight.

So right now two out of three of my health problems can/should be resolved by losing weight. But it’s not really all that simple. This is more than just a calorie deficit. This is a battle of mind over matter. It’s easy when you write everything down and say, “Oh this doesn’t seem so bad. Sure, okay, I can limit what I shove in my mouth.” But then there comes that bad day or stressful afternoon of motherhood and all I want to do is stuff my face with homemade Twix I made for Carlos’ and my anniversary dinner (delicious by the way!).

I don’t really know what the point is of sharing all this but I just feel if putting it out into the universe will help me understand or strengthen me in overcoming this dark period then I have to. Every day is a struggle to make it through to bed time without breaking down completely. But that’s what adulthood is, isn’t it? All of us just faking it until we make it?

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Best Uruguayan thing since parrilla…PAGANZA!

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before but paying bills in Uruguay is a headache. Normally you would have to go to a place where you can pay your bills called Abitab or RedPagos. They provide a myriad of services like bill pay, they make appointments to get your ID, you can pay your taxes, exchange money, you can buy scratch offs, and they also have a point system where you cash in and get discounts on things like toys, alcohol, and home goods.

Normally I don’t mind going to our local Abitab. But there’s always that time around the first of the month that you don’t want to be caught near one. That’s when Uruguay’s version of social security checks come out and everyone lines up at the Abitab to collect. I’ve waited in line for two hours before because I needed our internet turned back on. It was not fun.

Which brings me to this amazing new app I heard about through the expat Facebook group. Available for iPhone, Android and Windows, Paganza is an app that links to your (Uruguayan) bank account and allows you to pay your bills through the comfort of your home.

I know what you’re thinking…”What’s the big deal? I’ve been able to do that where I live for years.” I’ll tell you what the big deal is. I couldn’t do that in Uruguay before this miraculous app came into my life. It reminds me of when bills need to be paid BEFORE the paper bill comes to my house–if it ever comes.

It does take a few days for the payment to post onto your account, so you have to be mindful of when your bills are due to avoid your service being shut off. For example, we had one of our cell phone bills due LAST Friday but we didn’t realize that until Sunday. Because this week was Carnaval, the payment didn’t post until Thursday.

Anyway, I definitely recommend this app. If you’re in Uruguay and have a Uruguayan bank account I would check it out! Let me know how it goes, if you do.