Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why I Call Him "The Boy"

One of my silly pet peeves is when people refer to their children as "the baby." Once I was talking to a friend who said "blah blah blah...and I had the baby with me." So I said, "What baby?" And she said the name of her son. 

Her son happened to be ten at the time. I get it, he's her only child but still, there comes a time when The Baby grows up. 

I knew I didn't want to be the parent who referred to their baby as The Baby for life. So from the moment he was born, we started calling him The Boy. 

(Also, because The Husbands father calls him "Boy" all the time. And I think it's endearing that my 70 something father in law calls his son Boy. He'll call up and and "How's my boy doing?") 

When The Husband calls or walks in from work, he'll ask: How's The Boy or What's The Boy up to?

Surprisingly people ask why I refer to my son as "The Boy." The other day it came up and the person said it sounded mean. That bothered me a little.  

His name is Norrin. I refer to him as Norrin when I write for Parents, Babble or any other venue. So no, I don't refer to Norrin as The Boy to protect his privacy.

When I first started blogging here, I did refer to him as Norrin. And then I wrote a blog post referring to him as The Boy. Because that's how we almost always refer to him. And it just stuck. 

I refer to my husband, as The Husband just because I blog about him so sporadically it's just easier. But his name is Joseph. And on one of our first date, I tried to call him Joey - which he did not like. And he doesn't like Joe. It's just Joseph. Or Cheo if you're family. But I don't call him that either.

I wish there was some better reasoning behind it. But there isn't.

And when people ask me about The Baby? I immediately ask what baby.   

Friday, May 24, 2013

5 Years of Autism

On May 19, 2008, The Boy was diagnosed with Autism. that was five years ago. FIVE YEARS. 

I wrote about the day The Boy was diagnosed (part 1) and where we are now (part 2) on

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Maybe...He Has Autism

Autism Speaks has just launched a new campaign targeting the Latino community to raise awareness. And I am grateful. When The Boy was first diagnosed, I had no idea what autism was. I didn't think it could happen to us.

Earlier this week we "celebrated" our 5 year autism anniversary.

Five years ago there were so many maybes.

Maybe he's just being a boy.
Maybe I'm not doing enough.
Maybe he'll talk tomorrow. 
Maybe he's not ready. 
Maybe I'm worrying for nothing. 

There were too many maybes and too many people whispering them in my ear.

I started blogging because I could not see a family that looked like mine in any book I read. Autism, any kind of disability, isn't something Latinos openly talk about. We have been conditioned to be ashamed of it. To keep it to ourselves. We are scared of the label.

When The Boy was first diagnosed my mother couldn't believe it. "El no es asi," she said. (He is not like that.) And then she said that I shouldn't tell anyone. But it's important for parents to talk about. We need to feel like we are not alone.

We cannot expect communities to be accepting if we are not open. If you have any maybe in your head - go to your doctor, ask for a referral to a specialist. 

I don't always agree with Autism Speaks, I'm not looking for a cure for The Boy. I want him to be understood. I want our community to recognize the signs of autism. To accept it. And to get the services they need.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sesame Place Photos, News & Upcoming Events!

I am a Sesame Place Blog Ambassador. I was not compensated for this post but was provided with a 2013 Season Pass for myself and complimentary admission for my family. 

We went to the opening Day at Sesame Place a few weeks ago (I was just trying to finish up my thesis and didn't get a chance to post before today.) We had a blast!

I didn't realize (or think to ask) about the water rides, but they were open. I know! We didn't pack bathing suits or towels and The Boy really really wanted to go have "splashing water fun" so we bought a suit and towel there. I especially love the towel, it's something we could use for the rest of the season. And since it was barely 70 degrees, The Boy had the run of The Count's Splash Castle. (Note to self: next year go prepared.) 

Oh yeah...he's running in there! He was in heaven.
The Flyin Fish with Dad

Now for the NEWS!  

Starting May 22, Sesame Place will be OPEN EVERY DAY. Guest can visit as often as they like and play all season by purchasing a Season Pass for as low as six monthly payments of $16.17. Offer ends June 30!  Sesame Place Book Online
MEMORIAL DAY FIREWORKSDon’t miss our ALL NEW fireworks show, set to Sesame Street music!  Rock out with Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Cookie Monster and Count von Count, as their music fills the air and the sky is covered with colorful bursts of brilliance.  Be sure to watch us paint the sky red (and green and blue) from inside the park.  This impressive display will certainly give you something to celebrate! Fireworks will begin at 9:00pmSunday only.

LAURIE BERKNER IS COMING JUNE 1-2Best-selling, award-winning children’s recording artist Laurie Berkner has been a professional musician for 20 years.  Get ready to sing and dance with Laurie Berkner when she takes The You & Me Tour to Sesame Place June 1-2!  Paid Park admission is required.  Pricing:  ages 2 and up $10.00 + tax.  Infants under 2 are free, but require a reservation.
For a list of all upcoming events:  Sesame Place Events

GETAWAY PACKAGESOur Spring Celebration Getaway Package includes admission after 3pm plus the next day FREE! Don’t miss out on this great deal - offer ends June 3. 

We cannot wait for our next trip back up to Sesame Place - we are hoping to do a little weekend getaway soon!  We still haven't seen Sesame Place at night and I'm really looking forward to seeing the park all lit up.

I am a Sesame Place Blog Ambassador. I was not compensated for this post but was provided with a 2013 Season Pass for myself and complimentary admission for my family. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Are We Ready to Adopt a Child?

When I was eleven years old my parents decided to open our home to a foster child. I will never forget the first and only newborn baby that entered our lives. We called him “CJ” and he was five days old. He was tiny and plump, with thick ink black hair.

CJ changed the whole dynamic of our home; I saw a side of my mother I had never seen before. I remember coming home from school hearing my mother singing, laughing, fussing over this little baby that needed her in a way my brother and I no longer did. Even my father and brother who rarely showed affection, enjoyed CJ’s company.

Four days later, CJ’s paternal grandmother decided she would be his guardian and CJ was gone.
It was the first time I saw my mother cry. In only four days CJ made us all fall in love. And more than two decades later, I still think of him.

A few months after CJ left, a social worker rang our bell one rainy Tuesday night with a wobbly toddler wearing a yellow and white sweatsuit. Her name was Jennifer. We were cautious at first, not wanting to get too attached. But it didn’t take long for Jennifer to feel like she was part of our family. And we fell in love with her as easily as we did with CJ. Years later when Jennifer was finally eligible for adoption, we didn’t even have to think about it. 
In these last few months, I’ve been considering adopting a child of my own. 
Read the rest click on the link -->  Things to Consider When Thinking of Adoption

Honoring #MikaelaLynch

The Boy is a wanderer. 

I will never forget the night when at 2 am, I heard the locks to our apartment door open. How quickly I stumbled out of my running down the hall trying to stop my 3 year old son from walking out.

Or the day while out at a large park for a BBQ, I looked away for one second and when I looked back - The Boy was gone. I yelled out his name - two, three times before he reappeared. Not to the sound of my panicked voice calling out to him, but because he had emerged from one of the play tunnels. 

When we go out to crowded places like museums, amusement parks or the beach, The Husband and I always have one hand on The Boy, scared to let go. It would only take a matter of seconds for him to slip away. And I can't tell you how many times, I've had to jump up and sprint to get The Boy after he's broken away from me. How many times, I've yelled out for him to "STOP" and he just keeps going. It's scary. 

The Boy loves the water. He has no fear of it - or of much else for that matter. He has no awareness of danger. He is so impulsive and moves so quickly that trips to the beach are more stressful than relaxing. And I know that I cannot take my eyes off of him. But there is always a fear. That the second I look away, anything could happen...

Last week, 9 year-old Mikaela Lynch wandered away from her family. Days later her little body was found in the water. Days after Mikaela's tragic death, 8 year-old Owen Black also wandered away from his family. He was also found in the water.

My heart aches for these families, losing a child is an unspeakable loss. 

But my heart also aches because during this time of grief, their parenting is called into question. The parents are being judged. 

Too often parents of special needs children are judged. We are judged when our child is having a public meltdown. Why can't we control our kids better? And when children with autism go missing and tragedy occurs, instead of showing support, some individuals are quick to point a finger and lay blame. Why weren't they being watched?

When I think of these families, these children. I cannot help but think it could so easily be The Boy. The Boy is a wanderer too. And the thought alone is too painful.   

This week, in honor of Mikaela special needs bloggers are linking up with Sunday Stillwell to show our support for her loved ones and our gratitude to first responders. 

If you are not familiar with autism and/or wandering - here are some facts* you should know:

Children with ASD are eight times more likely to [wander] between the ages of 7 and 10 than their typically-developing [children]. Dangers associated with wandering include drowning, getting struck by a vehicle, falling from a high place, dehydration, hyperthermia, abduction, victimization and assault.
According to data released in April 2011 by the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) through the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI):
  • Roughly half, or 49%, of children with a autism attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings
  • More than one third of children with autism who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number
  • Two in three parents of elopers reported their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury
  • 32% of parents reported a “close call” with a possible drowning
In 2012, the National Autism Association found that from 2009 to 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism subsequent to wandering, and that 23% of total wandering-related deaths occurred while the child was in the care of someone other than a parent. 

What precautions can we take? a site dedicated to prevent wandering within the Autism Community has created materials that focuses on wandering-prevention, and first-responder notification:

The National Autism Association has also created two new safety toolkits:

Other resources: 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Arthur Avenue Playground (Sundays in My City)

The church bells were ringing, The Boy was covering his ears.

The Money Shot.
Love when I capture a photo that
really shows his joy.
Unknown Mami
Share your city/town/suburb/you name it with The Unknown Mami! I did :) 

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Day I Ran Away From Home

I have been under a lot of stress lately. Feeling like I am being pulled in a million directions. Struggling to catch up and feeling like I'm always falling short.

Last week I submitted my thesis - five years worth of my best writing and it was like this weight was lifted off of my shoulders.

But there was still mounds of laundry to get done. Stacks of unopened mail. Paperwork to fill out. And everywhere I looked there was something that needed to get done. So much stuff that I let pile up for so long.

Then the pressure of writing and deadlines. Writing for Babble & Parents are second and third jobs for me. So between working outside the home, writing at night, writing my thesis, taking care of The Boy it was only a matter of time before I snapped.

Well I snapped last Saturday. Big time. (The Husband and I may have gotten into a little tiff.) And I just needed to get out. Because sometimes you just need to get away from your husband and your kid and your home. Sometimes you just need to say: F--k doing laundry and dishes and groceries and responsibility. 

As I was getting dressed The Boy asked, "Where are you going Mommy?" (I know!! Such an appropriate WH-question!!) 

"Out." I said.

"You're going to the supermarket." The Boy said. It sounded more like demand. 

"No. I am not going to the supermarket. I am just going out."

I kissed him goodbye and walked out the door.

I took the train downtown and had an amazing day with my best girlfriends. We had sangria and burgers and wine and nutella panini's. (What can I say, we have pretty sophisticated taste.) I took a picture with Captain Cragen (swoon). And I treated myself to a mani/pedi.

I needed that day. All moms deserve a day to run away from home. 

When I returned hours later, The Husband told me that when I walked out the door The Boy said, "Mommy's going to Texas."

Apparently, the only places The Boy thinks I go is to the supermarket and Texas.  I don't always have to run to the supermarket for solace and I don't have to go as far as Texas (nor do I want to) but sometimes a happy compromise and a day away from it all is good for the mom soul.               

Thursday, May 16, 2013

#LatinasThinkBig - I'll Be Live Tweeting Tonight!


I have been looking forward to the Latinas Think Big Event for months. Months! And I'm honored to have been asked to be one of the Twitter ambassadors. The event is sold out and I'm so happy I got my ticket early. But even if you don't have a ticket you can participate via twitter and the event will be streamed live through Google. Everything you need to know about this awesome event is below -      

WHEN: Thursday, May 16th, 2013
TIME: From 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM EDT

LATINAS THINK BIG™ Live Stream page:

Alexandra Morbitzer - @AlliChasesBliss
Catarina Rivera - @CatarinaRivera  
Chantilly PatiƱo - @BiculturalMom
Francesca Escota Zavala - @WAOFrancesca
Jenn Sanchez - @JennSanchezMPA
Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - @LaliQuin <---- ME!!!!!
Lisa Velazquez - @LisaTalksLove
Patti Cordova - @PattieCordova
Raquel Negron - @RachlWhite
Tanisha Love Ramirez - @TanishaLove
Vicglamar Torres - @vicglamar
Vicky Barrios - @DocSabia

Subscribe to the Twitter Ambassador list here - 

About the LATINAS THINK BIG™ event tour:

LATINAS THINK BIG™ Live Stream page:

About ELLA Institute and related resources:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

So Now What?

I am home from my very last night of class. Last week I turned in my thesis.

I. Am. Done. Finally. After five years of graduate school. It's over.

All that's left is my graduation.

People keep asking me how it feels, if I'm excited. And I smile or shrug my shoulders. But I honestly? It feels anti-climatic.

"I don't think it really means anything," I told my therapist. (Yes - I've been seeing a therapist, that's for another PYHO post)

"Are you depressed?" she asked.

I could only nod because admitting to my depression is something I not ready to say out loud. 

I don't know what it means. I'm trying to be excited about it but the finality of it scares me.

The Now What has been looming for the last few months. And now it's here. 

I have spent the last five years in graduate school. Fifteen years struggling to obtain my B.A. It's been twenty years of studying, writing, registering and reading. Nearly twenty years trying to juggle work and school and in these last eight raising family. I've moved and gotten married, had a baby, had that baby diagnosed with autism, got pregnant again and suffered an overwhelming loss. I have started this blog and become a writer.

And still. I don't know what it means. I wonder what was the point? And has it been worth it. I've said all along that this degree was for me but I think deep down I wanted it to be more. And right now, it feels like it means nothing.

I will never have to register for another class or fight with the bursar or wait for a grade. I will never have to write another paper or leave work early to make it to class on time. I will never need to sacrifice a weekend to read I don't want to read. And I will never have to write a short story or essay ever again. I should be feeling a sense of freedom.

Instead I feel this overwhelming sense of emptiness. Because now what? Now what do I do with this time? What do I do with this degree, this piece of paper that has no value in my world? Being a student has been a part of my identity that without it - I feel lost.
I started this blog as a class assignment. I was going through a difficult time, mourning a loss and  frustrated with the Turning 5 process. I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't over think things - I just wrote. 

I've loved and appreciated every opportunity that has come with this blog but these last few months, I have been struggling with it. Struggling to keep up. My confidence in my writing has been shaken and I'm constantly questioning every post I publish. Is it good enough? Will people 'like' it, share it or leave a comment? Stressing over my Google page rank, SEO, analytics and Alexa score and social media reach. 

I'm questioning whether I can or should continue. I'm wondering what's the point, if my writing means anything? And is it worth the pressure?

So now what? I don't know. 

I'm giving myself till September to figure it out. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

How He Feels and Why He Loves Me

Yes, kids with autism can feel. 

The Boy has been fascinated with feelings lately. He's always asking how I'm feeling. He recognizes when I'm happy, sad or angry. And when I'm sad or angry, he always tries to make me feel better. 

But feelings are still complex for Norrin to understand and he's been working on them in school. He put together this book at his wonderful school and it was so cute and sweet, I wanted to share.

Here's what makes me happy: I go on the bus to go home

Here's what makes me mad: When I knock over the blocksHere's what makes me sad: I cut dad's hair

Here's what makes me laugh (it really makes me glad): Splashing water
I feel confused when I am sad

And this is my beautiful Mother's Day gift - I love it!
I love mommy because:
She dances with me
She gives me presents
She loves me
She's funny
I like to hug and kiss her
She takes me to the park

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

#DisneyPlanes Coloring & Connect the Dots Pages

I don't know about your kids but The Boy is really excited about Disney Planes!  August 9th cannot come fast enough. But for now, we'll have to settle for some cool coloring pages. Click below to print out yours.

Download Coloring & Connect the Dots

The Boy had a blast coloring his!

Catch a sneak peek of Disney Planes

This is not a compensated post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Great #MothersDay Gift - Dee Ocleppo 3-in-1 Handbags

Last week I got attended the Moms4Moms Autism Speaks Mother's Day Luncheon. While I don't necessarily agree with all of Autism Speaks philosophies - specifically on finding a cure for autism - I do appreciate the opportunities they provide for families. Like partnering with The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Complex to host a Access Family Program.  Autism Speaks was one the first organization I turned to for guidance when The Boy was first diagnosed.

During the Moms4Moms luncheon, Autism Speaks honored one of their National Board Members: Dee Ocleppo, designer and mom to an autistic son. Dee graciously donated her signature 3-in-1 Handbags to be sold on the Autism Speaks online store.
Through the sale of the handbags, with an estimated value of close to $300,000, 100 percent of the proceeds fund the mission of Autism Speaks. The organization also announced its Mother’s Day special: each of the bags will be on sale from now until May 12 for $88 – representing the one in 88 children affected by autism. The special also includes free shipping until Mother’s Day.       
Free Shipping Code: MOMS4MOMS

All the moms received the Plaza Clutch Taupe/Quilted Taupe as a Mother's Day gift. It's versatile and chic and just my style. A great bag that can go with so many outfits. 
What do you think of my bag? I LOVE IT!  
 Disclaimer: I received a complimentary bag by attending the Autism Speaks lunch. All opinions are my own.

Monday, May 6, 2013

10 Things I'm Going To Do Now That I'm Done with Graduate School

Today I handed in my thesis. And that means I am unofficially done. I graduate on May 30th. (YAY!!!!)

Me (posing as proof of) handing in my thesis: smiling, sleep deprived, hair a hot mess.

Dust. I hope no one comes over and looks up my ceiling fans because it's pretty bad. 

Work on my apt to-do list. There are so many unfinished projects around the apartment. So many things I want to do. Closets that need to be cleaned out and cabinets that need organizing. It's going to keep me busy. 

Set up my home office. I'm tired of writing sitting on the sofa. I don't have much space but I need a little desk and a chair. The Unknown Mami gave me a great idea

Get back to writing fiction. I'm good at it. I want to get better. 

Continue editing/polishing 2 short stories and start submitting for publication. I wrote three short stories I'm proud of. I want them published somewhere. I need to get my hustle on. 

Sleep. I need it. 

Enjoy my family & friends. I've missed them, especially these last few months. 

Get a manicure and pedicure. It's needed in the worst way.

Go back to the gym. It's also needed in the worst way.

Start my non-profit and work on building My Dream School. The Bronx needs it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The To-Do List (Advance Movie Screening - Download FREE Tickets)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. My opinions have not been influenced in any way.

The To-Do List has  nothing to do with autism but I like actress Connie Britton and I like sharing FREE things to do in the city. And this movie looks really cute.  Watch the trailer - HERE

Advance screening of THE TO-DO LIST on Monday, May 6 at 7pm at Regal E-Walk in Times Square. (Seating at the screening would be first come first served.)  
Featuring an all-star comedy cast including Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Glover, Scott Porter, Andy Samberg, Connie Britton and Clark Gregg, “The To Do List” is a comedy about close friends and a special summer project, loosely inspired by the real-life adventures of first-time writer/director Maggie Carey. Set in 1993, valedictorian Brandy Klark wants to shed her uptight image before college, so she assembles a to do list of all the “activities” she missed out on in high school. Quickly realizing that she's way out of her depth, Brandy solicits her best friends, older sister and burnt-out boss for their help and advice. If the group is going to complete the list by September they'll need plenty of imagination and very open minds.
To download your free tickets click the link below (and enter the promo code)

Promo code: FAAF9YW7

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. My opinions have not been influenced in any way.