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. 

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.

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.

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).

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.

Day trip to Atlantida: Blueberry picking and El Aguila

I have a love-hate relationship with having family or friends coming to visit. I love having familiar faces around, someone other than Carlos and my parents to talk to, and getting a bunch of goodies from the States. I hate having to come up with ways to keep them entertained.

I went through something similar when my aunt came to visit in September. Even though it was the beginning of Spring when she came, the weather was less than welcoming and we found ourselves spending a lot of time at home rather than enjoying all Uruguay has to offer.

This month my mother-in-law and her boyfriend came to spend a few weeks with us and it’s been rather challenging coming up with things to do. I’m still on the prednisone which, somedays, renders me useless. And other days, Paloma just doesn’t want to be bothered with long car rides. But Saturday I was adamant that we were going to get out of the house and do something.

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Road to Atlantida. I just love the view.

Did you know that Uruguay is one of the worlds largest blueberry producers? Well, now you know. Anyway, I’m part of an expat page on Facebook that advertises things to do around the country. The past few years we’ve seen advertisements for blueberry picking in both Atlantida and Piriapolis. Carlos and I have always wanted to go but never found a chance considering our first year here I was 9 months pregnant and last year Paloma was still too small to enjoy it.

 

So we headed out at around 9:30am and got to Atlantida at around 10:20am. It wasn’t a bad car ride but I did get lost a few times. By the time we found the place PJ was ready to get out of the car and run around. The farm is really lovely. Not only do they grow blueberries, but they also grow and sell their own organic produce separate from the picking.

I’m so glad I brought PJs rain boots because it would have been brutal to clean her up afterwards. She had a field day! She threw herself in the dirt, played with the fallen berries, picked berries off branches, tried to get through each tree into another aisle, and overall just had a blast running up and down the aisle from me to her dad.

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We were only there for about half an hour but ended up picking about 3 kilos of blueberries! And let me just tell you they are DELICIOUS! We froze about 2/3 of our pickings to be able to have some year round. But what we didn’t is almost gone.

After we got PJ cleaned up we headed to El Aguila on the beach. It’s a local landmark that was built in the mid 1940s. I don’t think it ever served an actual purpose but it’s a pretty cool building to see if you’re in the area. It’s built off a cliff so you get pretty awesome ‘sea’ views. I wish the cliff were roped off for child safety reasons but it is what it is. I was not thrilled to be chasing my two year old away from the edge, that’s for sure.

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El Aguila

We then headed to my FAVORITE bakery in all of Uruguay–La Baipa. When we lived in Atlantida before PJ was born, I used to come there at least twice a week. Their lemon merengue pie is worth every penny and empty calorie. Most people I know head to La Baipa on their way east to Punta del Este or even to Rocha. It’s a definite must go to place in Uruguay. Their selection is different than most bakeries where your options are the same four bizcochos. They have tiny bite size tiramisus, apple tarts, and lovely cream puffs. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Our stay in Atlantida was less than four hours but we had a lovely day. For those of you in Uruguay that would like more information on blueberry picking please don’t hesitate to ask!

Hospital Blues: My Week of Unwanted Mommy ‘Vacation’

The past week has been a total whirlwind. I don’t know where to start.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned a few posts ago that Paloma caught a bit of pink eye and I thought it had rubbed off on me. After about a week of eye pain, I went to the eye doctor in my town to get it checked out. After a quick but thorough exam, the opthamologist sat me down and told me I had what she thought was optic niuritis and should head to the ER right away.

I honestly thought she was exaggerating but decided to just heed her advice and get rechecked just incase. Carlos and I left the baby with my parents, we made dinner plans and thought we would be home by bed time. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Within two hours I was checked in and on a corticosteroid drip to ease the tension on my optic nerve and a team of doctors checking me on all fronts. The first doctor told me I should expect to stay at least three days. The next doctor told me five. And the next one told me seven. I was a wreck.

I remember looking at them and saying, “No, I’m sorry you’re wrong. I have a two year old at home I need to get back to. You’re going to have to find a way to fix me in the next few hours.” I realize now how dumb it is for me to have thought that but in that moment my only thought was PJ.

The doctors started spouting medical mumbo jumbo at me; optic niuritis is a condition that happens when the optic nerve becomes inflamed. It can cause temporary partial blindness and intense pain. And at its worst it is commonly seen as a precursor to multiple sclerosis.

Hearing that I was stunned. How did we go to an inflamed optic nerve to MS? I’m 25. I’m generally healthy. I exercise, I try to eat right, and I’ve lost a lot of weight. I swore the doctor was joking but considering his next plan of action was a lumbar puncture I was pretty sure this was pretty serious to them.

After several painful attempts at collecting the spinal fluid, the doctors had everything they would need to run their tests. Our main job would be to sit and wait. Sit…and wait.

I spent most of my days telling Carlos to stay home so that PJ wouldn’t really notice my missing. The ladies I shared a room with would pity me, whisper things like, “I can’t believe they would just leave her alone like this. Poor girl.” But of course my main priority was making sure PJ was okay. I would try to FaceTime as much as I could just to see her laugh and play but it would kill me.

Can I point out that you never actually realize how fast your kid grows until you’re forced to NOT be there? I came home and this kid was running and jumping and saying things like “NO!” and putting her toys away before bed on her own. Crazy how much kids grow in just a week…

I’ll spare you the boring details but just know that the tests all said I had a massive inflammation of the optic nerve which caused my temporary loss of vision (duh) and that I tested NEGATIVE for MS. I can’t tell you the immense weight that was lifted off my shoulders when I heard that. The doctors feel positive with how I responded to the medication and are planning on keeping me on the steroids for a bit along with biannual check ups with the neurologist.

I’m feeling pretty rough on the meds and the after affects of the lumbar puncture but obviously happy to have my vision back and a relatively clean bill of health.

But moments like this always bring on the awareness of ones mortality, don’t they? I started freaking out picturing what my marriage would look like in the future, my daughter having a ‘disabled’ mother, a diminished quality of life for all of us. Then you feel guilty for thinking things like that, knowing that you are one of those people that always thought it happened to other people but never to you.

I’m feeling blessed/lucky right now that everything turned out the way it did though. It really made me think and reevaluate how I’m living my life, how I want the rest of my life to turn out. I need to start focusing on the future. Set goals and try to make them happen.

Change is coming. I don’t know who, what, where, or when. But I know that I need to shape up.