Holding Pattern

17 Mar

I’ve been in a weight loss stall for a few weeks now. After I lost 23 kilos (about 52 lbs), I’ve been caught in a holding pattern of sorts. I try not to obsess over it or give in to anxiety and doubt. After all, I did this all by myself; I should trust myself that I can actually do more than I think I can. By changing the way I eat and view my food, I have effectively done what my many years of dieting have not been able to do. As such, despite my overwhelming preoccupation with numbers on the scale, I willfully focus on non-scale victories, like finally being able to fit into a dress I’ve been eyeing at Old Navy. I couldn’t fit into a 2XL before, now even an XL has room for me to move! It may be a little thing in the over-all scheme of things, but for someone who’s never been able to shop off the rack, it still is a victory.

I’ve decided to add more exercise to my daily routine to break this stall. Inspired by my friend G (incidentally, she got me started on this wellness journey), I’ve been walking more and moving more. And while I haven’t gained weight, I don’t want to take my hard earned loss for granted. My age and a host of factors associated with years of weight loss and rebound weight gain have made it harder for me to lose the excess pounds. Still, I’m not giving up just yet. I can see the goal post from where I am now. Even if it does take a while, I have the patience to see it through.

In the meantime, allow me to humble brag a bit. The top picture was A❤️ and me more than a year ago. The bottom one is of us today, five months into this new way of eating. A❤️ has lost about 17 kilos since December and I have to say, sometimes, his willpower beats mine, keeping me on my best behavior always. 😉

When I get into a holding pattern, I think I have to keep reminding myself to look at this to see the big picture. 😍 Not bad for old folks, eh?


Happiness is… a Hot Cup of Coffee

14 Mar

Most mornings, I break my fast with a cup of coffee. Some days I brew coffee; most days, because sleep is a premium, I go instant. I heat about two cups of water in an electric kettle and pour it over a heaping teaspoon of coffee granules. I add a packet of stevia, then a tablespoon each of heavy cream, butter, and coconut oil/MCT oil, the last depending on what I have at the moment. I pull out my Aerolatte frother and stir away, creating a rich, smooth, and creamy concoction. I smell the faint hint of coconut and the strong notes of coffee, and already, my senses are wide awake.

I like to take my time to savor my coffee. I usually just have one cup a day; on special occasions, though, I make an extra cup. But when Alphonse- my coffee guzzling son- comes out of his little schoolhouse in the morning, I have to gulp the whole thing down in a hurry, leaving only a teaspoonful or so at the bottom of the cup for him to drink. I have to tell you that caffeine and Alphonse don’t mix very well, unless I want a hyperactive man-child literally climbing the walls.

Lately, Alphonse has been asking for more and more coffee. I take that as a sign to stop drinking coffee in front of him so I decided to extend my intermittent fast to 18 hours, moving my BPC in the afternoons while Alphonse is busy. This way, I have a few hours to enjoy coffee without downing the whole thing in one go.

Now this is where Ember comes in to give my life an extra boost of happiness. I got the Ember travel mug as a Christmas gift over the holidays, and while I have accumulated a wide variety of mugs and tumblers over the years- from double walled stainless steel vacuum flasks to plastic reusable mugs and hardy acrylic cups to dainty ceramic teacups- nothing quite beats the virtues of the Ember.

Just what is the Ember?

The Ember is the the first temperature controlled travel mug that keeps your beverage at your desired temperature for hours, allowing you to enjoy your drink without hurry. For people like me who like to sip and savor, the Ember is a handy mug to have around. It may seem like a novelty, especially since some thermal mugs can keep things warm for hours, but once you’ve tried it, you’ll love the way your coffee (or tea) stays exactly the same way for hours.

At USD150, the Ember travel mug is a pricey deal, particularly when one considers that its volume is only 12 ounces. The 10-oz Ember ceramic mug is a little more affordable at USD80, but without a lid, it is more useful for home and office use. I prefer the flexibility and durability of the travel mug. The huge advantage Ember has over newer, less expensive temperature mugs (such as the Lexo tumbler or Joeveo’s Temperfect mug) is that it allows one to remotely set the temperature via a smartphone. While I write, or clean, or bake, or even get the occasional catnap, I keep the Ember filled with hot coffee and it helps me get through another afternoon of chores. I’ve been using it for a few months now and I can say with certainty that it is a great way to enjoy a hot drink any time of the day.

Most US Starbucks stores carry the Ember, but for those of us here in Asia, Amazon is our best bet for purchasing one. The good news is that the product is available for delivery to the Philippines.

Pros: easy to use, remote fine tuning available, completely washable

Cons: price, availability in the country

Verdict: If you love coffee, you won’t go wrong with the Ember. 🙂 It’s worth every cent.


“Not The Mama”

7 Mar

When I brought out breakfast for the boys yesterday morning, Alphonse came up to me right away and kissed me. I was glad to see him looking happier than he had been of late, so, buoyed by the 3Es of the Son-Rise Program, I celebrated with whoops of joy and a silly dance.

Alphonse turned out to be amazingly responsive, using more vocalisations to respond to me. His “red light” moments were shorter, enabling me to sustain longer interactions with him.

While he was having his breakfast, I kept a running conversation with him. At one point, I asked him, “Did you have a good night’s sleep, Alphonse?” He responded with a loud “Yah” and a vigorous nod. I followed it up with “Did you have a good dream?” Alphonse roared “Yah!” again, smiling broadly and nodding his head in obvious agreement.

Of course, this Mama just had to ask: “Did you dream of Mama?”

Alphonse looked at me quizzically, then shouted a deafening “Eh! Eh!” He shook his head emphatically. An expression that can only be described as “ewww” 🤢 crossed his face fleetingly.

I laughed so hard I almost fell off my seat.

I wish I could have recorded the whole thing in video. When Alphonse opens himself up, he is quite the hilarious fellow.

Then again, do I give him nightmares? 🧐


Today, I asked him the same questions, and his replies were honestly consistent.

Me: Did you have a good night’s sleep, baby?

Alphonse: (shaking his head) Eh.

Me: Did you have good dreams?

Alphonse: (shaking his head again) Eh.

Me: Did you dream of Mama?

Alphonse: (nods sadly) Ya.

I do give him nightmares! This just cracks me up! 🤪

Meet Juki

2 Mar

When I came home from Blythe Carnival Singapore last November, I couldn’t stop talking about one particular aspect of the whole experience- the sewing classes. I had been to BlytheCon Japan the year before but I missed out on some of the sewing classes, so for Blythe Carnival Singapore, I made sure to be there for almost all of them.

Admittedly, I am a novice when it comes to sewing, and I can pinpoint the particular moment (throwback: Sewing Frenzy) when I developed a fear of it. Faced with my idols, the sewing geniuses behind Momolita and MisukeToybox, however, I braved abject humiliation and signed up for the short classes under them.

Despite my clumsiness and inexperience, I managed to finish the projects they taught us. I learned how to make a kawaii cloth headband (with a dainty ribbon on top!- see topmost pic under Misuke Toybox‘s tutelage and itty-bitty little socks under Momolita‘s guidance (see pic below). It took me two tries on both projects to come up with decent enough output, but let me tell you that the feeling of accomplishment was so worth it! 😍

I did buy a few souvenir items at the Blythe Carnival, but mindful of wanton splurging, I made sure to keep within my budget. And yet, even as I calculated and re-calculated my purchases, there was one thing I really wanted to bring home (short of owning a custom from Umami Baby or PJdoll, which, at this point in time, is still a big dream, cross my fingers🤞)- the Juki TL2010Q. This was the machine they let us use for the convention workshops. It purred like a kitten under my hand, didn’t bite my fingers off, and was just about as idiot-proof for a “second-rate, trying hard” crafter like me could be. Alas! For about SGD1100, it was more than my budget could allow; moreover, I could not bring it home without paying additional baggage fees.

I must have kept talking about the Juki for a while after I got back, until I found something else to obsess upon (yes, still obsessing about a dream custom) and all talk of the Juki petered out into wistful nostalgia. I learned to re-love my old Singer, (I now call her Jenny Lind, for the late singer in “The Greatest Showman”), never mind that she clangs a whole lot when she bites upon cloth and jars the whole table when starting and stopping. And when she did finally stop working, I resolved to find a repairman for her and not ditch her for a new model.

Then today, I came upon my husband hauling this around. A Juki! Whee! Better yet, it’s the Juki TL2010Q upgraded and released late last year- the Juki TL2200QVP! I am in love. 😍

Today, I am already plotting the hours for when I get to spend some quality time with my Juki. I have ideas brewing at the back of my head, designs for doll fashions I hope I can conjure into reality. Heck, even if I fail, at least I don’t have to manually sew Alphonse’s shirts again. The Juki will see to that.

My grateful thanks to my ever supportive enabler, A❤️, for always listening to me, even if I do go on and on and on obsessively. Thank you for always believing that I can be whoever and whatever I want to be. Love you forever. ❤️

Hair-Trigger Meltdowns

27 Feb

We were four in the car last Sunday, on a short ride which Alphonse asked for. Shortly after one in the afternoon, Alphonse suddenly handed us a set of his clothes (a white shirt and a pair of green shorts) which he had taken- on his own, without prompting– from two different drawers of his dresser, asked for our help in putting them on, and then, willingly- with no delays or lags- boarded the back seat of our car. We were surprised. We hadn’t taken a car ride together in months as the last few times, back in late November, had been fraught with episodes of anxiety. We thought that day would finally be a welcome break to our every day routine.

Sometimes, however, in the excitement of a singular event that comes so rarely in our lives, we forget how difficult transitions can be for someone like Alphonse. Without prior notice, without warning, he falls apart with severe anxiety. Like that afternoon, in the car ride.

Before we left the house, we had told him we were going to buy food along the way. Was he okay with it? We asked a few times to make sure he understood, and he nodded happily in acquiescence. So far, so good, or so we thought. Seated together in the back passenger seats, Alphonse and I held hands in the car; he even pulled me in for a kiss a couple of times. Now and then, he would ask me to blow bubbles for him, which I did, and he flapped happily in his seat, making little squealing noises of joy.

The car ride started out so well that we let our guard down and became complacent. Then too, perhaps a part of me was tired of overthinking things, of always analyzing situations and preparing for them, that I just let things take their course. Sometimes, all I really need is an ordinary day.

But ordinary has never been a routine part of our lives and we all knew it. I should have anticipated that.

The problem started when his dad went down to order food for takeout and in his haste, he forgot to tell Alphonse where he was going and what he was going to do. Within seconds, Alphonse’s happy humming changed into growling. Before the warning had even registered in my brain, he had my head locked underneath one arm as the other hand pulled on my hair. Alex, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, jumped to the back to give me a hand. I cannot describe the anguish I felt at that moment, seeing my sons grapple with each other as Alex sought to hold on to his wildly flailing, kicking, scratching brother. It’s a heartbreak only a few of us will ever know, and no matter how many times it has happened in our lifetime, it is one thing I will never get used to.

I was able to break free with Alex’s help. I called for his dad to come back and as soon as A♥️ showed up, Alphonse began to settle down again. A few more minutes and he was mellow and smiling again.

I am trying hard to remember everything that happened so I can continue to identify the triggers of his anxiety and anger. It’s just that sometimes, it is too hard and too tiring. I close my eyes in the middle of this short reflection, willing myself to find quick answers, but I am drawing a blank. Every day is a roll of the dice, and yet we have no choice but to keep rolling.

It’s back to the playroom for now.

Help-less, not Helpless

16 Feb

It’s Friday morning; one more day and another busy week will come to a close. I look forward to the weekends, as many of us do. It’s when I get a couple more hours of shuteye without interruption, when I don’t have to wake up too early to get a jumpstart on a long day. On weekends, we usually get breakfast to go for the kids and that, by itself, feels like a rewarding treat after a long, hard week. Compared to weekdays, weekends are not as stressful, although they can be just as physically taxing. The time when we spent Sunday mornings in bed doing nothing is a time long gone.

We’re surviving these help-less seasons in our household strongly, something no one would ever have thought possible in a household with autism. In a country where domestic help is legal and available, our family is one of the few who have decided to do things our way. In this case, everyone pitches in and everyone pulls his or her own weight. Not even Alphonse is exempted. Of course, we’re dead tired at night but the house is clean (somewhat, haha), our bellies are full, and Alphonse is almost always happy. That, by itself, is already big change.

When I injured my neck in 2009, I had a lot of difficulty moving my upper extremities. Back then, I couldn’t lift my arms, my hands were thick and numb, and my neck stayed uncomfortably bent for months. I couldn’t do a lot of things that I used to do. I was suddenly very dependent on others to help me with activities of daily living. My husband took care of me when he was at home but when he was at work, we needed more help around the house, people who would care not just for Alphonse but for me as well. Thankfully, my neck got gradually better over a two-year period and I was able to take over some of my previous chores again.

The nannies stayed because Alphonse fell in love with them. They became his lifelines to the world and having just lived through my “limited participation” in his life, we didn’t want to take away any of his emotional and physical security blankets.

In time, however, they all said goodbye to make new lives for themselves. We looked for replacements to help with Alphonse but none worked out. We went through a succession of people before we finally decided to quit the cycle. By then, we noticed the emotional toil this revolving door of nannies left on Alphonse. He was, in turns, self-injurious and highly aggressive, unable to trust anyone, not even us.

In the many months since then, we’ve overhauled how our household works, splitting chores among the three of us and assigning simple tasks to Alphonse (mostly clean up scut work and removing laundry from the laundry wash line). Over time, we also reestablished a new relationship with Alphonse. Today, Alphonse is thriving under our care. He is expressing himself more, and for a nonverbal fellow who is used to using his burly brawn to get his way, it is quite a feat. We haven’t had to use the wrap/restraint his previous caregivers employed for meltdowns (knock on wood) and I think that’s because he feels more secure with us around him. He knows we are always here for him. We don’t put him off for a cellphone call or Facebook. We kiss him more, hug him more, and just love him more.

Lest you think I make it sound so easy, allow me to disabuse you of any rose-colored notion. Being without help isn’t so bad really; any full-grown adult should be able to fend for himself. But when autism gets thrown into the mix, it becomes quite a different thing altogether. Think about having an overgrown man-child constantly needing you, demanding one-on-one time, requiring 24/7 supervision, and think about how one can only do so much in a day and within limits, and you can maybe scratch the surface of what we live with autism.

The truth is, most nights, we are dead on our feet and running on empty. Some nights, even rest isn’t possible as Alphonse occasionally finds sleep elusive. These are the moments that test our patience and strength. When most everyone would be willing to throw in the towel and give up, we draw on our rediscovered sense of unity to help each other get through one more night. And one more day. And maybe just another night again. And so on and so forth.

I guess it’s true. You never really know how strong you are unless you are tested and pushed to your limits. And knowing that, I don’t think we can ever call ourselves helpless again.

Alphonse says hello! ❤️

His Superpower is Jumping

13 Jan

One of them, anyway. (The other is making water dance!)

Alphonse started jumping even before he could walk. With our hands on his sweaty little armpits, he would bounce and jump for hours till he was tired and ready for bed. It wasn’t all uncommon for him to bounce when held up and this skill evolved into jumping independently by his first birthday.

As he grew older, jumping became his second favorite physical activity (playing with water was the first) and over the years, he has worn out our spring beds, not to mention countless trampolines. Having learned our lesson and refusing to make King Coil any richer, we did away with springs and changed our bed foams to US rubber. The trampolines — well, we didn’t have any real choice on that.

Now that he is adult-sized and heavy to boot, even the largest personal trampoline available in local sports stores gets broken within weeks. We were not only spending money so often for his trampolines; we were also wasting time and energy looking for sports stores that still carried the largest sizes. Only our suking bote-diyaryo guy was ecstatic at the number of trampoline frames and broken springs we were giving him.

Yesterday, we got Alphonse a new trampoline. Finally! He hasn’t had one in months and he has grown fat around the belly from not getting enough exercise. We were afraid he would not like it. Thankfully, he took to it like fish in water. In fact, he loves it so much that he said yes to making a short video! I was so impressed that he even got dressed for it when he is almost always in his birthday suit at home.

See that nice little smile he has? 😊

I’m so glad Bubi Trampolines went on sale. Thank you, Bubi Trampolines, for the great product, as well as your home service and delivery. Special mention to Mr. Jonel Sumbillo for answering all my inquiries and to Mr. Fer John Nicolas for delivering and assembling the trampoline here at home.

P. S. His Mama is his spotter, dancing and jumping like crazy beside him. 3Es, yeah!

P.P.S. This is not a paid post. We paid for the trampoline at listed price.