Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Best Moments of 2013 on Instagram | #photostatigram #memostatigram

It's the last day of 2013! I have loved seeing everyone's #Memostatigrams but for some reason, I can't share mine. I think it's because I have an iPhone 4. Who knows? I'm not tech savvy. But I am able to share a photo of my best Instagram photos in other ways...

60: The day I handed in my thesis. Read about it here - So Now What and 10 Things I'm Going To Do Now That I'm Done with Graduate School

58: The morning I graduated. Read about it here - Graduation

52: The day we ran for Autism Speaks; my very first 5K. Read about here - 4 Miles of Hope

47: My beautiful custom made Autism Awareness Toms by Pear Mama

47: The Boy…simply being The Boy. Happy.

2013 has been good to me. But I know... 

And of course, after I hit publish on this I figured out how to upload my video to You Tube.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Winter Walk on Orchard Beach | Sundays in My City {photos}

Earlier this month, we took a long winter walk along Orchard Beach (in The Bronx) and I wrote about the poignant moments between fathers and sons I witnessed that weekendToday I wanted to share some of the photos I took during our walk. 

From a distance, we saw a boat washed ashore from the storm. It was pretty crazy seeing a boat on the beach.   

What would a walk on the Beach be without looking for seashells? 

And of course, we have to hit the playground. On a cold winter day, it's a nice treat to have the playground to ourself.

Unknown Mami

Saturday, December 28, 2013

No More #FatTalk and Other Things I'm Leaving Behind in 2013

In a few more days 2013 will be over. I am one of those sappy sentimental New Year's fools. If I manage to stay up (which, let's be for real, the older I get the harder it is) I will probably cry reflecting on all the ups and downs of my year. And after I ugly cry, I'll feel grateful to have a clean slate. 

I'll wake up on New Year's Day ready to make grand changes to my lifestyle. I'll eat a little healthier, exercise and put myself to sleep earlier. And then a few days later, I'll be back to my previous year self. I may have great ideas but I have a hard time with follow through.

But I am getting older and I'm old enough to know better. I need to make significant changes to my life. And there are a few things of 2013 that need to be left behind. A new year is a fresh start - it's a reboot button. 

4 Things I'm Leaving Behind in 2013

No More Fat Talk. This on the top of my list. I am notorious for talking about how fat I am. And I use (and think) the words "fat" and "disgusting" about myself way too much.  I've been struggling with my weight for last eight years. I go through spurts of losing 5 pounds and gaining 10. I've put on 20 pounds in the last two years. I stepped on the scale this week and hit 170 pounds. (I'm 5'6.) I used to be a gal who loved to shop and now with every few pounds I gain I find myself dreading stepping into a fitting room. It doesn't feel good having to keep buying bigger sizes but the way I feel about myself when I look in the mirror is so much worse.  

Stop Thinking of Myself as a Student. After five long, stressful years of graduate school, I graduated in June. It took me nearly 15 years to finish my bachelor's degree. I've been a college student for 20 years - all while working full-time. 2014 is my first college-free year. I've had a 'student' mentality for so long. There is a part of me that sees myself as someone just starting out. But I've accomplished a lot, especially over the last 5 years - and I have to own it. I need to stop seeing myself as a creative writing student and start seeing myself as a professional writer.

Babble. I spent 2013 being a Babble Kid Contributor. I loved every second of it. But I've been doing so much, for so long I'm exhausted. And I need a break from it all. I work a lot. I I work all day in an office, then I come and work most nights. More and more, The Boy is starting to notice how much time I spend on my laptop. He'll say "Close the computer and come play with me." And more often than not, I have to say no because I have to work. 

It's ironic that I waited so long to hear those words from him, now that he has them - I am too busy writing to meet his needs. I decided that I needed to scale back on my freelance writing assignments. The Boy needs me more. And I need him just as much. 

I published my last Babble post (a round up of my favorite 8 blog posts) and I'm going to spend the first few weeks of 2014, relaxing and not doing a darn thing except spend time with my family.

Wasting Money/Throwing Away Food. We spend a lot of money on food: at the supermarket, dining out and ordering greasy take-out. It's embarrassing how much time and money I spend at the supermarket buying food, only to throw it away because it's gone bad. It's such a waste of money. I am hoping that with a lighter workload, I can get back to cooking real meals for my family. 

My goals for 2014 are simple: feel better about myself, live a healthier life and have more quality time with my family. I think these are worth the follow through. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Saturday Morning at the Legoland Discovery Center

Disclaimer: I was provided with complimentary tickets to the Legoland Discovery Center. No compensation was received, all opinions are my own. 

We're regular shoppers at the Ridgehill Mall in Westchester. And The Boy loves eating at Bonefish and Yardhouse. And of course, we frequent the Lego Store but we never had the chance to check out the Legoland Discovery Center until a few weeks ago. 

The Boy was super excited when we told him we were finally going! We heard that it gets really crowded by mid afternoon and from experience we know that these kind of activities are best for The Boy when we go early in the morning. So we arrived shortly after they opened. There was a little bit of a line but it was manageable.

What I especially loved was that it wasn't too big and it wasn't too small. It was a good size without being too overwhelming for The Boy. While I was in awe of MINILAND (New York’s skyline come to miniature life made from nearly 1.5 million LEGO bricks, with moving airships and trains), The Boy's favorite was the LEGO Fire Academy (a giant colorful jungle gym, with a climbing wall and slide). The LEGO Fire Academy is ideal for sensory seeking kids like mine! The Husband enjoyed the LEGO Racers: Build & Test - he had more fun building his race car than The Boy - it was cute. The Boy liked building his car too and it's perfect for fine motor skills.     

But we all loved the LEGO 4D Cinema! I was a little nervous about how The Boy would do. We've tried 4D movies in the past and it hasn't gone so well. But since The Boy's doing better watching 3D movies, we figured he could sit through a 12 minute 4D movie. The Boy really loved the movie - he laughed, kept trying to reach out to grab the images coming at us and he loved the bubbles.

We spent about 2 hours at the Legoland Discovery Center and by the time we were ready to leave, it was starting to get crowded. Going at 1o am on a Saturday morning was perfect for us and we'd definitely go back again. I think it's a  great family fun option especially during the cold winter months.       

  • Take part in children’s activities with the Master Model Builder.
  • See MINILAND, New York’s top attractions made from LEGO.
  • Soft play area, rides, 4D cinema and more!
What You Need to Know Before You Go

Attraction Hours of Operation:
  • Sunday - Thursday: 10am – 7pm (last ticket sold at 5pm)
  • Friday - Saturday: 10am – 9pm (last ticket sold at 7pm)
Ticket Prices:
Adult (13+)   $22.00
Child (3-12)  $18.00
Child (0-2)    free
Tickets may be purchased on site and on line. Includes admission to LEGOLAND® Discovery Center and unlimited access to all of the attractions. Once inside, you may stay as long as you wish, subject to opening times.

GPS address
1 Ridge Hill Boulevard, Yonkers, NY 10710

Map & Overview of Legoland Discovery Center

Disclaimer: I was provided with complimentary tickets for myself and my family. No compensation was received, all opinions are my own. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Beyonce Makes a Wish Come True for a Terminally Ill Fan

Beyonce partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant a young girl's dream come true: to dance with her idol Beyonce. 

Get the tissues ready because this YouTube video will make you do the ugly cry. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dos Mujeres, Una Cocina | Two Women, One Kitchen

Her way is always better. She won’t say it, but I know that’s what my mother thinks every afternoon when she walks into my kitchen. And it’s implied in very subtle ways. The way my mother rearranges the tupperware in my cabinets or the food in the fridge. The way she scrunches her nose as she watches me cook. Or the way she scrutinizes my purchases, frowning at their prices. It’s not that you cook good, you just buy expensive ingredients,” she’ll say.

My kitchen is the size of a small cell. Room enough for only two: one to cook, one to watch but always one of us in the other's way. 
When I was a girl my mother used to call me into the kitchen while she cooked, commanding me to pay attention. Even though the kitchen was big enough for the both of us, I'd still get in her way; usually handing her the wrong items and asking too many questions. After a few ay Dios mío's and coño's my cooking lesson was over and my mother would exile me to the living room.
Many years later, my mother and I are titans, both vying for power in la cocinaI look forward to cooking holiday meals, creating my own traditions. My kitchen has become a place of solace, a place to stand and clear my head while cooking for others.  But in a galley kitchen like mine, it's too easy for my mother and I to clash. While I cook my mother will tiptoe to lean over me and criticize my technique, “That’s not the way I do it.” 
My mother wields the pilón; I pump the mini chopper. My mother blends peppers red and green, cloves of garlic, bulbs of onions, recao, cilantro and olive oil to make a large batch of sofrito. It is the base of her every meal.  I cook with sofrito so rarely that when I need it, I buy the ingredients, chop everything up and sauté it into my meal.
I shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's; I buy organic. My mother shops where she has coupons, scouring the neighborhood for the best prices. She goes one place for milk, another for eggs, somewhere for meats and so on. My mother will never pay full price for anything if she knows she can get it on sale.
My mother cooks her specialty dishes with ease, never having to consult a book, eyeballing ingredients. I rely on Food Network, printed-out recipes and measuring spoons. My mother trusts her culinary instinct. Mine are still being cultivated.
I am the occasional cook, making elaborate meals for a holiday or celebration. My mother cooks every day; it’s a part of who she is. I realized this the day I invited my parents over for Christmas dinner. I was going to cook the signature Puerto Rican meal: pernil, arrroz con gandules, potato salad.  My mother said she would bring pasteles.
The thought reminds me of childhood; watching my mother at the kitchen table late on Saturday night. A large pot at the center, sheets of wax paper in front of her, a ball of white twine. Wrapping each pastel in parchment paper like a present; humming to herself or the phone nestled between her shoulder and ear, talking with my madrina  It is an all day/ all night affair, an offering. And the culinary commitment secures my mother’s place as the master. I am still the apprentice.

My mother's pasteles are perfection. The masa is firm, filled with flavorful meat and neatly wrapped with care. And when cooked, it slipped out of its wrapping in one piece.
I do not want anyone else’s recipe other than hers. I cannot wait for the day for her to come over and share her pasteles recipe and technique with me. No matter how big or how small my kitchen is - there will always be room for my mother to stand beside me.  

A Thanksgiving cheers with my mother | 2013
This is a revised version of my essay Clash of Las Cocinas originally published on Being Latino, December 2010. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Open Letter to Justine Sacco

I will not open this letter with 'Dear' because that would imply some courtesy. And I don't care to address you by your first name because that would be too familiar. Quite honestly, I have no desire to be courteous or familiar with you. Even addressing you by Ms. Sacco seems to offer you a respect you are not worthy of.

I'm not the public relations expert you are but when I read your tweet, my jaw dropped. How does someone in public relations insult an entire continent and race of people? The very country you're flying to, no less! I mean, I'm not PR expert but I'm thinking that's a big no no. Because aside from it being incredibly racist and  ignorant - it was simply reckless.

And I may have believed the talk that your twitter account being hacked. 

But then I read about some of your other tweets.

Not only have you tweeted racist insults, you've also used the r-word as a slur. And your tweet about the sex dream…is disgusting. 

Last October I wrote an open letter to Ann Coulter about her use of tweeting the r-word: 

You have hurt millions of children and adults living with any kind of disability. In 140 characters or less, you have sabotaged and diminished every single thing a special needs parent advocates for. You are perpetuating this stereotype that individuals with special needs are stupid, ugly, worthless and less than.
You have done the same. 

I am tired of tweeps like you hiding behind freedom of speech. Yes, our country allows us that right but we also have a responsibility to use that freedom responsibly. 

You are absolutely everything that is wrong in social media. You're the kind of person I have nightmares about. You're the person, I'd never want my special needs son to meet. And you are also the reason why I write, the reason I am his advocate. 

I read that you are a mother. And as a mother, you should be ashamed. Because is this what you are teaching your child? To hate, to ridicule? Are you the example you want your child to follow?  

You've since deleted your twitter account.  But it's too late. Your tweet has been retweeted more than a thousand times, favorited and replied to. The screen shots are out there. Your hate is out there. You have left your digital footprint. And it is ugly.

I don't expect an apology. I think apologies are pointless. There are too many celebrities tweeting and speaking without thinking and apologizing later. And you are not a public figure, you have no fans to beg for forgiveness. 

What I would like you to do - what I would like more people to do - is to think. Think before you speak. Think before your tweet. And if you're going to use social media - use it for social good. Use your 140 characters to tweet a positive message worthy of retweeting.  
Twitter is a powerful tool, it can either make you or break you - use it responsibly.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Life Lessons, Christmas Miracles & Gift Giving Fails | #FridayFragments

It's been way too long since I've linked up with Mrs. 4444's Friday Fragments but I want to get back in the swing of (blog) things so here we go...

Earlier this week I took The Boy to a holiday party at work. We had our challenges but The Boy was being very chatty. After I left, a coworker (who met The Boy for the first time) told another coworker (a woman who's known The Boy since he was an infant) "I thought her son has autism."

The coworker believed that all children with autism are non-verbal. My other coworker (a woman who has no children or any experience with kids with autism, other than The Boy) explained The Boy's autism and how far he has come.

December 2010
This year The Boy is especially excited about Christmas and it's one of those little things most parents take for granted. Seeing and hearing his excitement makes me think back to the holiday season of 2010 when he was just starting to get it. I wrote a post, The Moment I Forgot About Autism, (it's one of my favorite essays I've written about our autism journey and I think one of my best). It's about one our very first back and forth conversations. And what made it extra special was that it was about Christmas. I hope you take the time to read about our holiday 'miracle' moment. 


Every year I worry about what to get my parents for Christmas. They're tough to shop for. They don't want anything, they don't need anything. They are very simple people. I had this idea to buy them tickets to a concert - a Parranda (my friend Melanie of Modern Mami explains it really well and shares a yummy recipe!). The concert highlighted 3 well known old-school Puerto Rican folk singers. I just knew my parents would love it! 

Except…I forgot to tell them. I forgot the tickets were for last Saturday (12/15). And last Saturday, there was a major snowstorm here in New York. Fortunately my friend called me around 4pm to remind me about the concert. Unfortunately by the time I got in touch with my parents - it was too late for them to travel. And I didn't want them to travel during such crappy weather.

I went to the concert and had a good time. It was probably one of the best gifts I've ever gotten my parents (aside from photos of their only grandson) too bad they couldn't enjoy it.


Do you use Elf on the Shelf with your kids? I do and it works so well for The Boy! However, this week has been pretty hectic so I forgot to move for a few days and our mornings have been rushed because they changed the bus pick up time so we haven't been playing. Tuesday morning, The Boy asks "Hey momma where's Elfie?" He starts giggling as he sees me looking around for Elfie - since he's not where I last saw him. The Boy took it upon himself to move the Elf to another shelf. 

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Sunday, December 15, 2013

AW Sunday Review | Fun and Function Space Explorer Suit for Sensory Activities

Disclaimer: I was provided with a space explorer suit for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Fun and Function is one of my favorite websites to shop for therapeutic toys and items for The Boy. Over the years we've purchased quite a few items. The items on Fun and Function are affordable and high quality. When asked if I wanted to review a product from Fun and Function, I knew I wanted something to address The Boy's sensory needs. The Boy is a sensory seeking kid who loves deep pressure. 

The Space Explorers Suit is great for sensory integration. As soon as I opened the box and pulled out the Space Explorer Suit, The Boy jumped right in and started rolling around. 
The Space Explorer provides calming deep pressure, heavy work and proprioceptive input for tactile defensive children, sensory seekers and crashers, including children and tweens with autism. This fun suit helps children develop spatial and body awareness, muscle strength, motor planning and creativity.
The Space Explorer Suit is something that Norrin can get in and out of easily. Sometimes he buries himself inside, other times he just likes to be in it while reading or hanging out in his room. When The Boy's hiding, I pretend that I can't find him - he thinks it's hysterical! I can tell that being inside calms him. The Space Explorer Suit can be used for pretend play, sensory integration and heavy work. And what's great about the Space Explorer Suit is that I don't have to worry about it getting dirty because it's machine washable. I think the Space Explorer Suit is great for home and would work well in a sensory gym with an occupational therapist.   

Disclaimer: I was provided with a space explorer suit for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fathers and Sons at the Playground

The summer came and went without a visit to the beach. Without walking along the sand or dipping our feet in the water. 

Over the weekend, we decided to drive to the beach. It's off season and the parking is free and we knew the playground would be empty. 

The Boy loves the beach. We walked up and down the beach holding hands - more out of need than out of want. The Boy wanted to run, take off his shoes, throw himself in the sand and roll around. But it's winter in New York City. And it was a cold November day.

Norrin and Joseph | Orchard Beach | 11/30/13

After walking along the beach, we headed back to the playground. We were right, it was empty. The Husband and I sat on a bench and relaxed while The Boy ran around. Though The Husband and I sat on benches at opposite ends. This playground is large and there are exits on three sides. The Boy was happy, running freely, flapping his hands. It's nice having the playground to ourselves, a little luxury.

And then they came in. A father with his teenage son. I heard him before I saw them. His voice in the midst of changing from boy to man. His voice sounded familiar, though I couldn't understand anything he said. When I turned to look, I saw them on the swings. The father was swinging, gently urging his son to do the same, "Kick your legs…kick your legs like me." The son's arms looped around the swing chains and was moving gently back and forth, "talking" loudly. Nothing he said made sense but I didn't want to assume the son was non-verbal (because I'm sure when The Boy makes his strange loud noises, people assume he can't speak).  

In that moment, I felt such a strong connection to the father. We were all at the playground, at the beach on cold Saturday afternoon because we knew it would be empty, "safe" for our kids. I imagined the father's worries, his joys. I smiled at the father, though I don't think he noticed - his gaze was focused on his teenage son and trying to teach him how to swing.  

I turned my attention to my son. He was standing at the platform in front of a "fireman pole." I could tell he was hesitant. He's fearless in many ways and in other ways, overly cautious. 

"You can do it boy. Just slide down." The Husband said. "I'm here Norrin. I will help you. Slide down."

Norrin slid down and I clapped before his feet touched the ground. I ran over and told him he did a great job. I smiled at The Husband, "That's his first time doing that."

"How do you feel?" The Boy asked.

"I feel proud." I said. 

The Boy was cold and requested hot chocolate. We left the playground, leaving the father and his teenage son to have the space for themselves. It was their turn.


Later I asked The Husband about the father and son. "Did you notice them?" I asked. "He reminded me a little of Norrin."

"Yeah," The Husband shrugged and said nothing else.

We don't talk much about autism. We don't talk about what The Boy's future will be like. We don't talk about our worries or fears much. Maybe it's because we'd rather focus on the present. Or maybe it's because it hurts.    

Whenever we see an older boy with autism - it's like looking through a crystal ball. It forces us into the future we are not quite ready for. Sometimes it's easier to look away and say nothing.


The next day I took The Boy to the playground by our apartment. Once again we had the park to ourselves. I sat on a bench and let The Boy run free.

After a few minutes another father and son came in. The son was much younger (probably between 4 - 5 years old) and smaller than The Boy. And I was happily surprised when The Boy said, "Hi! Do you want to play with me?" and the young boy obliged. I watched them chase each other around. 

When The Boy tired of tag, he walked over to the swings and the little boy followed him. The Boy is getting so good at swinging on his own. I thought back to the days when he refused to even sit on the swing and marveled at how far he's come.

The little boy yelled out to his father for help. The father - who was sitting at the other end of the park, reading the paper - didn't get up and just yelled at him to "kick his legs." The little boy tried, wriggling his legs but nothing happened. After yelling for help a second time, the father walked over. 

I watched as the father gently pushed his son, instructing him to kick. And I thought about the father with his teenage son from the day before. I thought of The Husband and The Boy. Different fathers, different sons, different parks, different circumstances - same thing. Just three fathers helping their sons. Doing what good fathers are supposed to do.

Neither The Husband nor I know what the future holds for our son. But I know that no matter what happens, The Boy will always have his father to help him along the way.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and LEGO Friends | AW Sunday Review

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of Lego Marvel Super Heroes. All opinions are my own.

Back in September, I was invited to a blogger event where I got a sneak peak (and a chance to play) some cool new video games - including LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and LEGO Friends

I know some parents are concerned about screen time but video games have been critical in helping The Boy. So I am always on the look out for video games that will be fun, interesting for him to play and have some kind of educational component to them. 

Since The Boy is a huge LEGO fan, I knew that he'd be interested in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. We have been playing the Xbox 360 version for a few weeks now and he's really gotten into playing. He is familiar with all the characters and playing has been a great way to explain to each superheroes specific power. Even though it's a lot of information to absorb, I feel like the more he hears us talking about it - he'll get it. Like everything else, it's about repetition. And I love watching The Husband and The Boy play LEGO Marvel Super Heroes together.

What the husband likes about Lego Marvel Super Heroes is:

  • gameplay is pretty straight forward
  • puzzles are easy to figure out
  • the ability to switch back and forth between characters
  • each character has its own special ability to complete certain tasks.

This game is Rated "E for Everyone 10+ and The Boy will be eight in January. So yes, he's still too young to play and to completely understand the mechanics of the game. But it's a game I feel comfortable with him playing. Right now, we focus on The Boy learning to maneuver the characters around the game and reading the instructions between levels and the subtitles.  
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes features an original story crossing the entire Marvel Universe. Players take control of Iron Man, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Wolverine and many more Marvel characters as they unite to stop Loki and a host of other Marvel villains from assembling a super-weapon capable of destroying the world. Players will chase down Cosmic Bricks as they travel across LEGO Manhattan and visit key locations from the Marvel Universe, such as Stark Tower, Asteroid M, a Hydra base and the X-Mansion.
LEGO Marvel Super HeroesAvailable for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation4,PlayStation3, Wii U, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, PC


While at the event, I also got a chance to play LEGO Friends. Being a girly girl, I loved playing it. It was fun creating a character that reflected my style and personality. Players are also able to pick their character’s outfits, hairstyles, and accessories, select a pet or design and personalize their character’s bedroom. 

LEGO Friends is available for Nintendo 3DS  and DS and is rated “E” for everyone.

The Boy doesn't have a Nintendo 3DS or DS so it's not a game he can play. But if he had one (and we're hoping to buy one for his birthday), I'd have no problem with him playing LEGO Friends. I don't believe in gender specific toys or games. The Boy enjoys playing with all LEGO products including the Friends line. The Boy would especially love picking out his own pet. I also think the Friends game would help him understand the concept of picking out clothes - something we've been working on for a while. I think the LEGO Friends video game would be a good 'starter' game for him to play on a handheld device.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of Lego Marvel Super Heroes. All opinions are my own.