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.

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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!

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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What I wish I knew…

I always find that around this time of year my social media timelines are full of an array of engagement and pregnancy announcements.

As Christmas and New Years came and went I patiently waited for my Facebook friends to start boasting about their new life adventures and it made me start thinking about where I was when I got engaged/married/pregnant. What I wish I would’ve known before hand and what I wish people knew that isn’t shown in Instagram posts and vague Facebook statuses.

  • Marriage isn’t work. It’s a choice. If you go into your marriage thinking something along these lines, “Uhhhh…I don’t really want to do this. Not sure if I want to be here. Well, if it doesn’t work I can always quit later on.” Then you probably shouldn’t be getting married to that person. Your marriage is a choice, not a chore. You chose this person. You need to choose them more than just one day in your lifetime, but every day.
  • Marriage isn’t 50/50. It’s 100%. It’s easy to say marriage is 50/50. But it really isn’t. It wasn’t until I wasn’t able to give 100% of myself in my marriage that I realized that my husband gives me 100% of himself. Without complaint and without anger, but rather with total compassion and understanding does he pick up when I fall. And the days when he can’t give 100% of himself to our marriage, I pick up where he can’t. If each of you is only giving 50%, it will seem like work when you have to pick up for your partner. Or you’ll constantly be thinking, “Well, I wash dishes and pick up the dry cleaning. What do YOU do?” That’s not a healthy mindset for your marriage. And for the days when neither of you can give much to the stresses of daily life, say “Screw it!”, order takeout, and watch Netflix all night.
  • No one is obligated to love your kid except YOU. I’ve had trouble truly accepting this. I’ve had issues with my in-laws and how I don’t feel they treat my kid the same way they treat the other babies in the family her age. Sure, it could be because of the distance, but that doesn’t take away from how much it angers me  when I see that they regard her with apathy as opposed to the love and kindness she deserves. But it makes me all the more aware and grateful for my parents that think the sun shines out of my kids butt.
  • Stop comparing your partner to other people. Seriously. Don’t do it. Just because someone posts the amazing things they do/their spouse does all over social media doesn’t mean that they’re happy or that their husband is any better/worse than yours. Your husband may not buy you flowers or expensive jewelry, but does he help you wash dishes, do laundry, help with groceries and dinner? Yeah, I’d pick that over dead flowers any day. And even if he doesn’t, I’m sure that comparing him to others isn’t going to make YOU or your marriage any happier.

It’s not a long list but I know that these are things I wish I knew before I entered my marriage/parenthood.

Feel free to share any advice you may have for those about to get married or become parents!

Devoted.

Oh well hello there! I can’t believe I haven’t written since last year! [insert sting drumroll here] It is very hard for me to accept that we’re already in 2016. It’s crazy how time flies as an adult but when you’re a kid a year feels like an eternity.

This month is Carlos’ and my nine year anniversary of being together. Three of those we were long distance, five married and the past two as parents.

I’ve been in love with Carlos since I was 16. And when I fell in love I never thought I could love anyone more than I loved him in that time. But I was wrong. Here we are nine years later and I love him more than I did then. Every day I’ve fallen more in love with my husband than the last and know that will continue well into the future.

Today we went on a walk with PJ up our drive way and I had my fiftieth moment of realizing how blessed I am to have married such a loving and caring man. I know that I’m bragging about this man but just hear me out for a bit.

When we were younger, Carlos was a total jerk. He set limits on our relationship, he wouldn’t call when he said he would, blew me off with no explanation, and would never express himself in a way which satisfied me. My friends strongly disliked him and how he treated me. My parents hated him. It was awful. But I was young, in love, and convinced that I knew him better than anyone else.

When I moved away to college we decided to stay together and he started changing. He made it a point to be kind and thoughtful whenever we saw each other, and the days I couldn’t be in Miami we would talk constantly. Every day he reminded me that being together was a choice and as long as we chose to put an effort into our relationship we could make it work. But that didn’t stop us from “breaking up” a few times.

When we got married, I don’t think anyone in our families thought we would last six months, let alone 5 years (this May!). We had had a rocky relationship but we loved each other. We wanted to be together forever. And we agreed going into our marriage that divorce would never be an option. If we were doing this, there was no going back.

The first year of our marriage was one of the hardest years of my life. We were newlyweds living with my parents, I hadn’t found a job yet, he lost his job due to cutbacks, student loans were looming and I had ended the relationship with my best friend so I had no one to confide my fears in. I was so used to my independence that jumping into our marriage and under my parents thumb at the same time probably wasn’t the best decision. I spent most of that year in tears, praying for guidance, and maybe not so secretly breaking our agreement by looking up divorce lawyers.

But we worked through it. We found a balance to everything. And honestly the next few years of our marriage were great. We made a conscious effort to connect and love each other. So…we decided to have a baby.

It only took us four months to get pregnant. I think both of us expected it to take longer but we were thrilled. And nervous. And terrified. Here we were not only moving 4,000 miles away from all we had ever known,  but now we would soon be responsible for a new life? We started bickering and becoming distant. I admit that while I was pregnant I HATED Carlos for the first four to five months. If I saw him just sitting down and watching TV I would throw things at him for no reason. Or let’s say he would wash the dishes before bed I would purposefully dirty tons of dishes and make him get up and wash them. Typing this makes me wonder why I want to get pregnant again, but I digress.

Once Paloma was born everything changed. As my husband fell in love with our daughter,  I fell more in love with him than ever before. I’ll never forget how serious he took his responsibility to clean PJs umbilical stump. He set an alarm every few hours to clean it and would then change her diaper and cuddle her until she fell back asleep. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, my heart swelling from the joy of seeing those two together.

Nothing has changed in the past two years. He still dotes on her (and me) and spoils her (and me) rotten. He has never been afraid to change a diaper or ignored a sink full of dirty bottles. He is a vital part in our potty training journey. He takes his time teaching her things and takes notice of little things like when her laugh changes or always knowing where her Peppa Pig stuffed doll is. And because of his love and devotion to our daughter, I find myself more devoted and in love with him.

Somedays I can’t help but think back to where we started and know how blessed I am to be where we are. To know that our relationship is standing on solid ground and that this man chooses to love me even when I don’t deserve it. I know that our relationship works because every day we remind each other that our love and commitment is a choice we make daily. Some people find that making a declaration of commitment is enough on your wedding day but we keep it at the forefront of our marriage. It’s easy to forget your vows when you’re living the same day over and over again, falling into our societies repetitive nature of work, home, work, home, work, home day after day.

I renew my vows to him each day by doing little things that I know will make him smile. I let him pick what movies we watch or what we have for dinner. I leave little notes in his studio for him to find just saying “I love you.” I make him tea when he’s sick. I constantly remind him to reach out to his family, no matter my personal feelings. And he renews his by being an amazing father, partner, and son-in-law.

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February 2011. Gainesville Museum of Natural History. 

The past nine years have been a roller coaster and I can’t wait for the next hundred.

Food: Friend or Foe?

I love the holidays. I love spending time with family, decorating the house, and most importantly all the special Christmas treats.

But this time of year brings out the worst of my food anxieties. Half of my brain wants to devour every sweet and delicious treat I lay my eyes on, while the other half is shaming myself for craving and/or devouring said food that is clearly bad for me. And I know I’m not alone in that struggle.

I’ve had a pretty unhealthy relationship with food most of my life. My mom never told us we couldn’t have junk food. On the contrary, if we ate the whole family-size bag of chips, half-gallon carton of ice cream, and drank that three liter bottle of Ritz soda in one sitting she wouldn’t chastise us, she would just tell us we would get more tomorrow. Sundays were spent eating five $0.39 cheeseburgers (each), bag of puffy cheese doodles (each), and whatever soda we wanted. These were good days for us. On bad days? You can’t even imagine how much we ate.

And it just went on like that most of my life. I ate when I was happy, sad, anxious, angry, got good grades, got bad grades, got into a fight with my best friend, got asked out by my crush, etc. If I didn’t have food on my person then my mind was on food. At home it wasn’t a big deal because I knew that my family was just as consumed by our consumption. Because of this I was always bigger than my peers.

Look, I don’t want to turn this into a ‘I was bullied and cried and hated my life’ post because I’m over whining about stuff I can’t change, but it is relevant to how I currently interact with food.

I was bullied because of my weight for most of my life. If it wasn’t by classmates then it was by teachers. The teachers hurt the worst because I was taught to look at my teachers as people to be respected and admired but unfortunately I was placed in the care of very nasty and hurtful people. And unlike the youth of today, when I was growing up society couldn’t have cared less about a child being bullied by anyone because it was seen as a character building life experience. Looking back today I feel like it’s a half truth but I digress.

Eventually I found my core group of friends and my weight was irrelevant. I had people that wanted to hang out with me because of our shared interests and enjoyment of each others company. I won’t say that I stopped caring about the pounds creeping on during ages 12-18 but it didn’t matter as much when I had friends that never focused on my need for two orders of Taco Bell taquitos instead of their one.

When I started college I became more aware of my dependency on excess food. I also think that’s when my friend(s) started noticing how I ate on a normal basis and they shared their concern. So I started going to the gym, attempted to eat right–let’s be honest I had an unlimited meal plan and it was my first year in college, unlimited pizza for the win!–and focused on school. I may not have gained all of the freshman fifteen but I sure didn’t lose any weight.

I wish I could say I adopted the whole working out and eating healthy thing as a new lifestyle by the time I graduated but it was a no-go. When I moved back to Miami, I got married and started looking for a ‘big girl’ job. The anxiety of the real world and my first year of marriage led me to making secret Wendy’s runs two times a day on top of whatever I had eaten at home/work. By March 2012 I was weighing almost 260 pounds (117kgs to all my non-USA readers) and literally hated myself.

I felt like I had lost control of my life. Every time I binged I would hate myself  even more but find myself unable to stop, as if there were a physical block somewhere along my nervous system preventing the sensors from my stomach to tell my brain, “Hey! Quit it! You’re poisoning yourself!” I would sit there eating until I would want to purge, my conscience yelling all the criticisms and obscenities people had told me throughout my life.

Shamu! Fat f*$%! Disgusting sloth! Sausage fingers! Jelly belly! Hamburglar! 

It’s been a few years since I’ve allowed myself to get into that deep of a depression, but there are days when I feel those negative thoughts creeping their way back from my subconscious. And recently my relationship with food has been at the forefront of everything.

Since getting released from the hospital in October I have had to focus more on food than normal. The doctors put me on a restrictive diet–for good reason–and have really been emphasizing on my need for weight loss. I was doing really well up until my mother-in-law got here for her visit. I’m sure those of you reading that have mother-in-laws can only imagine the stress and anxiety that ensues when they come for a visit.

I was totally on edge those full two weeks. So much so that I ate a whole kilo (2.2 lbs) of Nutella, a jar and a half of cookie butter, two bags of Reeses, bag of flaming hot Cheetos, and whatever sort of dessert I made for the night. Needless to say I’m almost positive I gained twenty pounds during her visit. I’m embarrassed admitting that but I figure honesty is the best policy for this sort of thing, right?

I will say that the past few months I’ve had a great support system, great friends that has been encouraging me to learn more about what I put in and on my body, cheering me on through every workout and meal planning session. I’m grateful for those in my life that have been, and always will be, there to support me when I’m at my lowest point.

I’m realizing that my relationship with food and its connection to my emotions is something I can’t work on by myself especially since I’ve been trying to do that for the past 26 years and nothing has changed.I’m afraid that my issues with food will somehow find their way projecting themselves onto Paloma. I want her to love food AND love herself. I want her to see food as something life sustaining but also something that can be enjoyed rather than depending on it to process her emotions. I’ve been debating going to therapy for awhile now to work on the deeper issues and find healthy coping mechanisms when I get anxious. I need to work on me so I can be stronger for her.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post then you get a gold star, a high five, and if you’re over the age of 18 a shot of tequila for dealing with all my long winded emotional baggage.