Monday, August 29, 2011


It is time for our afternoon joy rides. Papa is at the wheel and the three of us at the backseat. As we settle in, Morgan scoots over to the left side and sits by the window. Garret, on the other hand, is used to sitting on my lap, with both my arms wrapped around his belly like a seat belt. I tell him, "Garret, you can sit by yourself. Look at Morgan sitting like a big boy." He ignores me and is quite happy with the way things are-- him on my lap, secure and comforted by his mama's warm embrace.

Our family is unlike any other regular, normal one where when kids are packed in a car, the noise level is deafening from all the questions and squabbles that the parents can barely hear each other. The scenario that you can actually see when we go on our daily rides is quite different to say the least. Our boys are quiet, save for an excited remark or two when they see a big truck go by or a car speeding fast or when Morgan sees his favorite place of green rice fields and coconut trees. The 45-minute ride is mostly silent. Andro and I are then able to talk about anything-- our plans, our perspectives, our dreams, how our day went. But mostly, we are quiet ourselves. I comment on everything we see, "Look there's a cow and the cow says moo." Morgan sometimes looks at where I'm pointing, Garret too. I kiss my boys over and over while they are watching the world go by. I say to them repeatedly, " I love you, Garret, I love you Morgan". Of course I don't get a reply. And at these moments I ask myself, will I ever hear these three words from them? Or at least hear a simple "Mama"? Morgan is more responsive though. He loves to play on my lap and squeezes my lips when I enunciate words. He looks at me in the eye and smiles his peking duck smile and shrieks to his heart's delight. I will have to content my self with Garret's ready cheek when I ask him for a kiss. And if he is in the mood, he gives me his cute lips to kiss.

I remember 3 years ago when we were still starting to feel our way around this world of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was in a roller coaster of emotions not knowing what to feel, how to react, how to handle the reality. An aunt sent me a message that said, "Let us pray and do everything we can to let Garret know our love for him." Upon reading it, I remember my chest tightening realizing how it was indeed going to be very difficult to enter into his mysterious world, to break that barrier that separates his reality from ours. How was I going to let him understand the word "love"? Will he ever understand what loving means? Will he know how much we love him? These were my questions back then. At that point, I knew and understood how motherhood could be the most painful and arduous thing in the world.

Why is it so important for me to hear my son say "I love you" back? Why do I know that the word "mama" will make the most beautiful and comforting music to my ears? I am human. And as with all human beings, I need affirmation. I need validation. Don't all mothers agree with me? Whether you have children with Autism or not, aren't the words "I love you" enough to lighten our load and let us know that we have done right by them? For me, I just need to know that I have somehow chipped down some bricks on the walls surrounding my son's world. I need to know whether I have done everything to let Garret know and understand how much I love him with all my heart, my soul, my everything. I need to know whether I have shown him what it is to truly, truly love. Of course, now I have accepted that his language is different, his world is different, his personhood is different. And I shouldn't demand that he conform to my world and speak my language. He is his own person. And God has a purpose for this. But still... This is why when people say that they have never seen a mother so open-minded or so accepting as me, I always tell them, acceptance is an everyday learning experience for me. It's a process. On the bad days, I just badly wish Garret could speak. On the good ones, I am content with how things are. This is why my prayer every day is that even on the bad days, I remain thankful and say, "Dayenu"--Hebrew for "It would have been enough for us", coined from the 1000-year-old song of the Jewish Passover thanking God for all the gifts he has given to the Jewish people, that if they were given only one of the many gifts, it would have been enough. I pray that my faith will not waver and I will just believe that I have done right by my little prince and that even if I were given only one of the many blessings I have been given, it would have been enough.

We came back from a two-day trip two days ago from Cebu to get Garret's iPad for the purpose of him being able to use Augmentative Communication apps so he can communicate better with us, with the world. When we got back, my aunt who watched over the boys while we were away, excitedly relayed to us how Garret kissed her spontaneously as a request that she play with him some more with his spring slinky. She told us how she was tired already and told Garret, "I'm tired already, kuya, no more play na." Garret then approached his lola-auntie and gave him a kiss. Of course, who could ever refuse a request like that? We were elated. Nothing could contain my joy. At that very moment, I knew, I have done something right. Garret knows what it is to love, or at least show affection, or at least to ask properly and affectionately, not demanding or throwing a tantrum to get what he wants. After all, this is where love begins, right? Tiny bits of affection, no demands, just gentle requests. So what do you know, there was my answer. And the answer to my questions once again were in the most explicit, most undeniable, most immeasurable form--no words required. The answers most certainly spoke volumes, louder, much louder than words that I longed to hear from my little royalty.

Like with everything else in our life with Autism, there are still no overnight changes, the tantrums still come, rigidity and all that. We have come to accept all these and more day by day, or more like hour by hour and minute by minute. And the only way we have come to terms with what have been given to us is to be thankful for every single miracle and disguised blessing-- the silence in joy rides that allow us to quiet our mind and souls as we take in the scenery of rice fields and coconut trees, just as Morgan does, the rain and its coolness that gives us calm as it splatters on the windshield and our Garret and Morgan becomes ecstatic with happiness with it, the unexpected kisses we get when we lay down to sleep as Garret does after caressing our faces smiling with all his heart, happy that we are there beside him, the gentle tap on the hand as he requests for his favorite biscuit, oh and the happy dancing steps Garret makes after he plays ABCD on the iPad for about 50 times, and yes, our Chinese peking duck, Morgan already echoing the last syllables of our words, "Morgan let's go na" and he says, "nah". All these and many more would have been enough. All the little things, great things, bad and good things, beautiful and worst things that we go through with Autism and all ARE enough to show us how blessed we are, how wonderful our Life has been made for us. And when my questions come again when I long for Garret and Morgan to say these three words of love to their papa and me, I will close my eyes, feel the beat of my heart and say to the Universe, "Dayenu. What I have been given is enough."

One of my batch mates in high school told me how reading my posts have taught her what it is to love and to live a very thankful life. She said it so simply that even I who wrote all these words came to pause and reflected again on the very words she learned from my posts. Indeed, maybe the secret to acceptance is to love--to love with a love that needs no words and to be grateful for every single thing for every single moment in my life. Another lesson learned today. Today, I accept that it is okay even if Garret and Morgan cannot say "I love you or Mama" to me. Today I accept Autism in our lives. Dayenu..."

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Best Things in Life

Eating peanut butter from the jar
Dipping fingers in a chunk of chocolate cake
Munching chocolate bars with the chocolate
Smeared on my little one's face
A downpour of rainfall on the windshield
As the wipers swish-swash as
we drive through such beautiful rain
An unlimited supply of favorite crackers
And hearing the crunch-crunch-crunch
of all of it by his teeth
His spring slinky going round and round
up and down slapping down
on their bed
And the thudding sound it makes
like the beat-beat-beat of a drum
that serves only to calm
my little one's little world
Water spray from sprinklers or showers
or a pail or his plastic tub
Immersing him in
such never-ending stimulation
and delight
Plastic Easter eggs line up
in a spectrum of colors
amid the humdrum of the t.v.
The sight of his trike
if only with it he can sleep beside
and carry it with him in his dreams
The plunking of the notes
on the keyboard
Beethoven, Bach or
Twinkle-twinkle little star
Each key lights up as each note
reverberates and his grin
turns relentless
Oh and finally, Bella!
Our beautiful, beautiful Dobe
Staring, looking, stimming
at her raven black and tan coat
and her wet wet nose
He stays on all fours
sighting her features
Bella runs and oh,
how my Garret runs with her
Papa holds the leash
but nothing holds my little Prince's
laughter and joy
And his peals are
music to our ears
They say the best things in life
are free,
Yes, I totally agree
Now I understand and truly, truly
On this rainy, rainy day,
My Little Prince
has taught me
One magnificent lesson
Once again...:-)

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Normal. An adjective. Denoting conformity to the standards, rules, culture, and norms of society.

Will our children ever be able to live "normal" lives?, this question was asked during our first Autism Awareness Campaign. It was a valid question. It was a question that forced us to confront the realities of Autism--our reality. It was a question that made us pause on our tracks, draw a sharp breath and finally give an answer that somehow satisfies the person asking and us who were supposed to answer.

What answer did we finally give? Let me first define what is normal for us: Normal is relative to the meaning we give to it. These define "normal" for us:

*When Garret is able to wake up in the morning with a smile on his face welcoming the sunshine with an equally bright mood that follows the rest of the day, this is normal for us.

*When he is willing to take a bath without argument, finish his bathing time without a violent reaction, brush his teeth, dress himself up without incident, this is normal for us.

* When, on the drive to school, he does not scream or slap when we are about to make that turn on the block he so dislikes, this is normal for us.

* When he is able to carry his backpack and walk on his own without first asking to be carried on the way to his classroom, this is normal for us.

* When he is able to go through his two-hour sped class without whining or complaining, and comes out from his class, smiling, this is normal for us.

* When we go home and he finishes his lunch without so much as a morsel of rice wasted, this is normal for us.

* When he complies when told to get ready for afternoon nap, this is normal for us.

* When in the late afternoon and he is bored, he finds ways to occupy himself and not bothers us with incessant whining, this is normal for us.

*When we go for our afternoon joy rides, he happily sits and watches the world go by before his very eyes and again, does not complain when we make turns he does not like, this is normal for us.

*When we arrive home, and get ready for dinner, he eats readily without spitting the food out because he does not like the taste or texture of how the rice was cooked, this is normal for us.

*When we finally get ready for bed and turn the lights off, and he does not scream because he still wants to play with his spring, and he climbs into bed as requested, this is normal for us.

* When we finally close our eyes, and he hums his song of the night, the stars and spiders, until he falls fast asleep, this is normal for us.

Now remember all that I just enumerated on what is "normal" for us. Now, change "normal" to "miraculous". Read all the things above and change normal to miraculous....What defines Normal for the rest of the community, what is normal for the rest of the world is miraculous for us, for our children and our families. So aren't we all the more blessed because our days are filled with miracles, albeit small, step-by-step, milestones achieved? I do not want to be pretentious and hypocritical and say parents and families living with Autism are more fortunate. Our day-to-day reality certainly tells quite the opposite. It seems as if we are always on our toes, we are always on alert-- on hyper-drive that often times we forget to take care of ourselves as our lives are bent on fulfilling the needs of these little people that we have borne into this world. Nevertheless, we are GREATLY and CONSTANTLY blessed-- with Grace, Hope, Faith, Perseverance and an ever-enduring love, if only to name a few of the countless blessings.

The answer I finally gave during that campaign was," I do not know what the future holds for our son. I ask the question myself, when the time comes when Andro and I will pass, what will become of Garret? Will he be able to lead a normal life? I do not know. We are living it just one day at a time because the uncertainty of the future overwhelms us." It was the most honest answer I can give. I'm sure it didn't answer anything but it was honest no less. My life partner finally took the microphone and said, " When your last name and the last name of the child you are rearing are the same and it is both associated with the word, Autism, your life will never be normal." Everybody in the room was silenced. He further said, "For Garret not to be a burden to society in the future, is our goal. For him to contribute positively and not adversely to society is our quest. And this, will define 'NORMAL' for us."

Right now, I am getting Garret and Morgan's bag ready for school. I make sure that in their backpacks are:

1. A change of clothes

2. Water bottle

3. Their favorite sugarless or sugar-free biscuits

4. A pack of wipes

5. Alcohol or hand sanitizer

There are no books or pencil cases, notebooks and writing pads like other normal kids. (Of course, these are provided in the Sped Center). These are what my two boys need. Their "INDEPENDENCE" pack, I call it. Garret doesn't need books to teach him geometry or plants or the correct grammar. He has the whole world right before his very eyes to teach him that. All he knows and cares is that the slippers and shoes in our shoe rack are positioned with symmetry, and that nature is a kaleidoscope of beautiful, wonderful colors that is given to him to revel in every single day.

In the end, come to think of it, what use will be medals and certificates and degrees if a person cannot be independent, self-reliant and responsible for his own actions and most importantly,have a greater appreciation of life as it is?

Another audience member remarked that these children with Autism are so lucky because they don't have problems to solve, like the rest of the world has, anyway. I beg to disagree. They do have one big problem to solve, and that is-- to live in a world filled with NORMAL human beings who have difficulty understanding them. To communicate their needs, their wants to the rest of the NORMAL human beings. And the rest of us NORMAL human beings who are gifted with a much higher cognitive functioning to cope with the complexities of life, are given the ultimate task to SIMPLIFY and make the world of these children bearable, livable and to make our world a place that will make them thrive not just survive. It is my responsibility and I take it with all my heart to make this community, this world a safe and beautiful place to live in for GARRET. and for MORGAN.

This is our advocacy. This is our fight. This is our battle cry. Whatever the outcome is, whether people still choose to discriminate, judge or simply be indifferent to Autism, they NEED to know. They need to be aware.

We may be living in a not-so-normal life. Our children may not be "normal' in the eyes of the world. But who wants to be normal when it is synonymous with the words-- commonplace, average, run-of-the-mill, routine, unexceptional? What is the purpose of life when we do not strive to be better than who we already are? What use are we if we choose to be unexceptional and common and NORMAL? We all have innate abnormalities, exceptionalities, if there is ever such a word. Uniqueness, simply stated. It just so happens that our children with Autism-- our Garret, my Little Prince has more "unique" traits that are definitely more peculiar and distinct. Now, with all the joy in my heart, I know now that our Children with Autism are brought into this world to remind us how loved we are by the Universe to have been created in the image and likeness of God and not in the image and likeness of any normal being. To remind us how we are truly, truly blessed not because we are normal but because we are given DIFFERENT and UNIQUE traits, personalities, talents, abilities, coping strategies. And maybe, just maybe, we have preoccupied ourselves with being NORMAL disregarding and being unappreciative, not nurturing our own special gifts.

Will our children be able to live a "normal" life? I throw back the question to all of you. Think hard. Reflect as we parents of children with Autism do everyday. What is your answer? What is normal? All I know is, we may not have a normal life. But in the end, when all is said and done, we wouldn't exchange our ab-normal lives for a normal one.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Miracle

My most precious
Kicking and gurgling and groping
Inside the safe comfort of my womb
Shall you come out smiling?
Or with wails that break walls?
Among the things I chose,
I chose you...
My most precious
I cannot wait to hold
your delicate fingers with my own
To kiss your forehead soft
and hold you in my arms
The miracle of life
My miracle
You are my renewal
My new found strength
I love you
I am blessed
because of you
You have given me life
as I, yours
For now,
Rest well, my treasure
In the days to come
I shall wait with patience
for your entrance
and when that day
finally comes,
My world shall be complete.

Written 3 months before January 16, 2008, when our Feisty King, Morgan made his entrance into the world. And yes, he came out screaming his lungs out proclaiming to the entire O.R., to his doctors, nurses and to the entire universe he had arrived. :-)

My Little Prince is Born

Glistening stars of day
Dawns on my imagination
Bluest of blue painted on
Wispy whites
Rosy pink cheeks with
The soulful eyes
Heavenly scent on
my tired senses
Trickles of salty mist
Down my cheeks
As I cradle you in my arms
Heart overwhelmed with
the purest of joy
As pure and as beautiful
as you...

Written a few weeks after March 30, 2005--the day My Little Prince was born.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Circumstances unfurl
like a a map of the world
spread out on a sparse of wood
Places to go
Adventures to explore
And yet, where do we even begin?
Our life has been
that of one great journey
of pure discovery
of our true selves
the length we are
wiling to go to
the road we are willing
to take
the sacrifices we have
chosen to make
And the depth of
our love we claim to have
tested beyond human
And then we were blessed
with the greatest gifts
Garret, our Little Prince
Morgan, our Feisty King
Now, our "unmei"- our destiny
is as clear as an overflowing spring
Our purpose, our road map
is right before our very eyes
Our boys are our calling
To love them
with a love that endures
beyond time, beyond space
to love them with a love
that goes beyond loving

We were chosen,
not because we are able
We are chosen
because simply
this is who we are.
To understand such theory
is as incomprehensible as
the answer to
why the universe was made
But to accept it as it is
is the greatest choice
we could ever take.
So now once again
We look at the map of the world
with fresh new eyes
with renewed strength
with ever-enduring love
for our two beautiful
amazing boys.
They are our destination,
They are our journey
They are our life
And what a wonderful, beautiful,
amazing adventure we will have!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Two Lessons Autism Taught Me Today

Garret and I arrived at school this morning at 9:40 a.m. When he was already settled in his classroom, I plopped down on my desk and breathed deeply. I was so exhausted I just wanted to sit and do nothing. But it was a different kind of exhaustion, the one that felt good and bad at the same time. Let me explain.

It began with me waking Garret up at 8:30 a.m. since his class was at 9:30. I had to use one of my tricks so he would really get up. I turned on his favorite cartoon and almost immediately he opened his eyes with his hands covering both his ears as he usually does when he does not like the dialogue or music played on t.v. When he was finally fully awake, and enjoying his cartoon show, I had to pull him out of his enjoyment and convince him to take a bath. He whined and cried. I had to carry him to the bathroom. And when he was already enjoying his bath, playing with the water--his one favorite thing in the world, I had to tell him, "Bath time is almost finished, Garret. Time to dry and wear clothes. Because it's time to go to school." I had to barge in his time of joy and bring him back to reality. On the way to school he just cried and wanted to be cuddled. He couldn't understand why he had to stop all the things he liked doing. I comforted him all the way, "It's okay, Garret. We'll just play with the water later. We'll just watch Disney later. It's okay."

Transitions. Changes. Abrupt ones are especially hard for him. He needs a longer amount of time than most kids to process the information, understand it and finally make peace with it--another thing that Autism does to our children. Exhausting for us who are used to having a tight schedule especially on a workday. However, I reflect and realize how our priorities have been rearranged in a much better order than ever before. In a way, it has taught me and our family to slow down, take time and put things in proper order. No need to rush. There is a greater need to put things in place. We are, I wouldn't like to say "force" , but, given the opportunity to have more time to reflect on our thoughts and the decisions we are about to make. When Garret refuses to step out of the bathroom and chooses to play with water. I sit down and face the walls of the bathroom and I am able to breathe deeply. And for five to 10 sometimes 15 minutes, I am able to let go and just be... Still, silent, waiting. Waiting for time. Waiting for Garret taking his time. I am now appreciating the art of just being. With all the anxiety and worry about the future, once again, my son's Autism is teaching me to just be still. Garret is teaching me to wait. And in that stillness and waiting, God speaks to me...while Garret splish-splashes in his little pool of water.

As we were nearing the school, I asked the driver to drive around for a little bit to give my little prince some time to calm down. He was mumbling his self-soothing hums while wrapped in my arms. Never mind if we would be late for a little bit. It was the least I could do after I incessantly burst his bubble this morning. And so when we finally arrived, I still carried him all the way to the room, defying all notions of independence of letting him walk on his own like a big boy. It was my own way of making it all alright for him. For how could I explain the ways of the world governed by constant change and transitions for him? The "it's okay" line sometimes cannot suffice. Even our children need a better explanation than those two words. They deserve better than, "That's life. Change happens." Garret deserves a better explanation than that. These are the times that I want to shout to the world, "Why?!" And these are the times that I don't have an explanation myself. And I can only wrap my arms around my little prince and cradle him giving him some form of safety, security and constancy despite the transitions he has to make, every single day.

The irony of the insights of what transpired today is tremendous. Waiting, silence, stillness on one hand. And on the other hand, a Constant state of flux, abrupt changes and transitions that force us to act on our feet, right away, regardless of preparation or just enough time to adjust and adapt to change. Garret is showing us the way of letting go and just being. And I have to teach him and help him cope with a whirlwind of transitions.

Two lessons Autism gave me today:

1. I need to learn how to wait, to be still, to just be.

2. I need to be creative and stretch that extra mile to help and make Garret learn adapt to change.

Nobody ever said it would be easy. It will be exhausting. Exhausting in a good way because it means I am exerting all my muscles and emotions for my son. And bad because my heart breaks every single time Garret cries, not understanding the things he has to learn.

But it is going to be okay. As long as I keep learning, and as long as I keep making the lessons come to life, everything will be okay.