Tag Archives: birthday

When Life Happens: A Birthday Rolls Around Again

7 Nov

I owe you all an apology again for not having updated in a while. Each time something happens, I make a mental note to write about it, even going so far as to draft it in my mind, but for one reason or another, I never get around to sharing it with you. There’s been a flurry of changes in our home in the last three months. Even as the weather has changed from being hot and unbearable to being cold and rainy and then back to hot again, so has our home and our lives. It’s getting harder to just roll with the changes when they do come, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just part of getting old.

The biggest news in our lives, and I mean that of the pleasant variety, is that Alphonse turned 22 last week. I’ve been dreaming of throwing him a party for his birthday for forever, but it simply has not happened and not for lack of trying. He still doesn’t do so well in crowds and noisy places so we figured another way to celebrate this special occasion. Instead of one big blowout, we decided to serve him his favorite dishes- one special dish a day- on the days leading to his birthday. We had pizzas one day, KFC fried chicken the next, garlic shrimps after, and Tita Lulu’s tokwa’t baboy (tofu and pork) after that. On his birthday, we went Asian with Chap Chae as his birthday noodles, Korean fried chicken with honey garlic sauce, and Szechuan style prawns. Not bad for a homemade birthday feast, right?

Aside from the special dinner we shared with a few of our extended family, we planned a picnic for him last Saturday. This one may strike you as strange, but it really isn’t, considering he hates crowdsalphonse-nov52016 and noise. So where to have a quiet picnic away from everyone else? At the cemetery, of course. by my dad’s graveside and on a weekend after All Souls’ Day. Perfect, right?

We brought mats and rechargeable fans, an extra tent, umbrellas, and four pizzas, three orders of buffalo wings, and lots of cold drinks. We sat around for two hours and made small talk while we ate, Alphonse in the middle of it all, relaxed and unfettered. When the temperature soared, we packed up our stuff and cleaned up, then headed home. Alphonse was content and happy, singing his wordless ditties all the way home.

Unfortunately, the planned Sunday trip to Tagaytay didn’t push through. We had a sudden home emergency that necessitated scrapping our plans at the last minute. Poor Alphonse! He was all dressed up and ready to go. I knew he was disappointed, judging by the way he puckered his lips into pouts the whole day. Later in the day, he took two short rides with his dad but even those didn’t seem to make up for the canceled plans. We have to reschedule soon because we made a promise to him; here’s hoping the next one pushes through.

I know I haven’t shared much about Alphonse in recent months. Truth is, as Alphonse gets older, it gets harder to keep writing about him. Physically, he is an adult. Already, he has almost four inches on me and can match me pound by pound, weight-wise. He is strong and strapping, with firm arms and sturdy legs. Cognitively, however, he functions somewhere between three and five years old; emotionally, he is at an even lower developmental level. He is impulsive, obsessive, and requires 24/7 attention. The mismatch between his size and mental age have obviously become wider with time. As such, behavior that may be considered amusing when done by a young child no longer seems cute or funny at his age.

As his family, we see him always through the lens of love. Even at the worst of times, when our lives are consumed by rigidity and explosive violence, our anger comes from our own helplessness and failings and not from a place of hate and indifference, not of him or his autism. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of others who may now view him as threatening and frightening. This is the quandary I find myself in. To keep writing about Alphonse and all his challenges may mean creating fear and revulsion in those who do not know him or have no wish to get to know him. To stop altogether may mean sweeping his story, and many others like his, under the rug, at a time when we severely need to rectify the public’s misconceptions on autism.

Forgive me for the reluctance to share more stories about him in the future. I will not stop writing, that is a promise I made to myself many years ago when I started to blog, but perhaps it is time to reconsider the direction I may wish to take in this online journal. I’d like to think of it as a way to redefine and reshape our relationship as he grows older. And though you may see him still through snippets of our lives, he will occupy less and less space on this journal as I allow him the privacy demanded of his age.

Thank you to all those who have loved him, even from afar. And thank you for watching him grow up through these pages. It’s time for him to be 22.

Alphonse at 21

3 Nov

I can’t believe you’re 21 today, son. I can’t believe we made it this far.

Happy birthday!

Many times, over the years, I often wondered if we would ever get past those years of heartbreak and violence. I wondered if we would live to see this day, if we would ever reach this point when we could look back with relief and, yes, gratitude, that we made it through those long stretches of heartache. And mind you, son, we have lived through much.

We’ve had times when our whole world was in shambles, when we lived in sorrow and darkness. We wept for days and clung to each other in helpless surrender. We forged through your terrors and rage. We loved you, always, even when anger blinded you and fear made you reject and push us away.

Now, here we are. Twenty one years into a life we never knew could change us so much. A life with you. A life with autism. A life shaped by adversity, tempered by grace, made whole by love.

Thank you, Alphonse, for all that you have brought and continue to bring to our lives. Thank you for teaching us to love unconditionally, without hope of return or reciprocation.

Thank you for showing us the limitless spools of our patience. We have learned to wait and find joy in the waiting.

Thank you for teaching us to endure, to be steadfast and unwavering in our fortitude and faith.

Thank you for teaching us to bend, to kneel, and to submit wholeheartedly and with all humility to the One who gave you to us.

Thank you for bringing out the best in us. Who knew that Mama, your scaredy-cat mother, had strength and courage? That Papa, firstborn and strong-willed, came with an inexhaustible supply of steady, constant patience?  Or that your Kuya Alex, your big, burly full-bearded brother, was capable of so much spontaneous outpouring of gentle love? Your presence in our lives allowed us to find these wellsprings of kindness in our hearts.

Thank you for showing us the pleasures of little things, the wonder of tiny miracles, and the sheer delight that comes from just being alive.

And thank you, for knowing and finally accepting our love, and for loving each one of us back with your kisses, hugs, and many more quiet acts of tenderness and love. Yours is love in action, our son.

Happy 21st birthday, Alphonse. Ours has been a journey of unbelievable, unimaginable adventures and it has only just begun.

We love you always.

Alphonse as a newborn, two weeks early, two days late
alphonse 02 copy

Loved since birth

alphonse 03

and loved always, even when autism came (diagnosis at 18 months old).

when autism came 01

Cute and cuddly, (and wearing Mama’s baptismal dress), falling in love with this little baby was always easy.

Alphonse as girl

But as he grew older, he developed differently. While typical little boys play, he would prostrate himself on cold floors for hours at a time.

when autism came 02

Our baby went to school earlier than most, his days revolving around therapy centers and special education. 

Alphonse toddler

At his school, he was the youngest child to be diagnosed then.

Alphonse cutie

Alphonse was different. His fascinations were different. He loved twirling the plastic rotor blades of his Fisher Price helicopter.

Alphonse teddy 01

But there were times we could almost pretend we were “typical” and “normal,” and have our pictures taken like regular people… 

alphonse 51a

Even as his interests grew differently from his peers. He has always loved water and could spend hours playing with the hose.

Alphonse and the Hose

And pieces of string and twirly slinkies could keep him preoccupied for hours.

Alphonse teddy 02

With autism came periods of stress too, of self-injurious behavior, which caused us grief and endless worry.

Self injury AlphonsePicture copy

But his gorgeous smiles always made the hard times worth it.

alphonse 71 copy

Bestowed with the gift of beauty,

alphonse 72 copy

yet often fierce and funny,

alphonse

this boy spreads joy with just a smile.

alphonse 03

And as he grows older,

Alphonse

and bigger,

My Alphonse

wiser and stronger,

Alphonse at work2

may his smiles remain with us

Alphonse and mama 02

to give us light when darkness comes

Alphonse 031315

and to bind us in love and kindness always.

alphonse summer 03

Happy birthday, Alphonse!

VM 02

We love you so. 

 

Alphonse at 20

3 Nov

Alphonse newbornTwenty years ago, at six am on All Saints Day, I woke up to the feeling of wetness on my skin. I was hugely pregnant and bloated on my 37th week, but my delivery date, which was supposed to be a scheduled repeat Caesarean section, was still more than two weeks away. On that morning, however, as I dragged myself to the bathroom with fluid leaking between my legs,  I knew that this baby was not going to wait two more weeks.

Less than two hours later, I was in the labor room and my contractions were coming steady, strong, and in increasingly shorter intervals as the hours wore on. I never went into labor with my first son, so it was a novel experience, albeit an excruciating one. I remember looking at the clock very often, counting the minutes and hours till they could wheel me out to the delivery room, and trying to distract myself from screaming through the pain by watching television through squinted eyes. (I had no eyeglasses and the nurses made me take off my contact lenses; I was almost blind.)

At four in the afternoon, my labor was suddenly halted by tocolytics injected in my intravenous line. November 1 would not be my delivery date, my obstetrician had instructed in a phone call. My repeat C-section would take place two days later, on November 3.

And this was how Alphonse came into this world, two weeks early but also two days late. That his earliest days were marked by indecision and confusion seemed eerily appropriate as it foretold a lifetime of straddling worlds- his and ours.

Today, Alphonse turns twenty. This year is especially significant as he chucks off the last physical vestiges of childhood and adolescence and steps into adulthood. True, his cognition is still that of a young child, but the world sees him as a full-grown man now, and were he any other young man at the cusp of his life, we would be planning careers instead of carers.

Twenty years of Alphonse and twenty years of autism. That one cannot exist without the other is no longer a source of our grief or shame. We have moved beyond the sorrow, the guilt, and the blame, to a point where only Love exists. We have made peace with the fact that autism will be our constant companion for the rest of our days. While it has made our son’s life- and ours- difficult, it has also woven and bonded our family into a formidable force that protects and loves Alphonse unconditionally.

Indeed, we have lived through much. But our joys have also far exceeded our sorrows. We have learned to appreciate life more keenly, to value the seconds and treasure them as if they were our last. We have learned to be grateful for every little smile of our often long and tiring days. We have learned to work together, to trust and support each other, even when other families have been torn apart. And we have learned to accept and love each other for all our weaknesses and frailties, knowing that our strength as a family trumps any of our individual failings.

Today, on Alphonse’s 20th birthday, I must admit we still have many of the same questions we had when we first started our journey with him. Who is he? What does he really want? How will he be ten, twenty years, from now? The truth is, we don’t know the answers to these still. Just like any other child, his is an unwritten future and we can only guess at them for now.

The only difference between then and now is this: the certainty that whatever happens, we will go through them together. Alphonse will never walk alone.

Alphonse and mama 02

Happy birthday, dearest one! Mama, Papa and Kuya love you always!

 

For You

30 Dec

“A hundred hearts would be too few
To carry all my love for you.”

Happy birthday, Honey. My greatest dream is still to grow old with you.

Now 16, Forever Sweet

3 Nov

Today, Alphonse turns sixteen.

It never ceases to amaze me when I look at him, now almost grown up. He stands three inches taller than me, fits into men’s clothing, and sports a slightly disheveled moustache which matches the smattering of hair in his armpits. Everywhere I look, I no longer see a trace of the baby or the child he once was. All I see is a man.

The truth is, I miss my baby. I miss the sweetness of his breath in the morning. I miss the softness of his unblemished skin. I miss being able to carry  him in the crook of my arm to sing him to sleep.

 I miss the way he fits in the side of my body when he curls up in bed with me.

I miss his chubby cheeks and his round, heavy body. I miss the hibernating porkchop and his pouty lips.

I miss his childlike smile, the one that erases all my fears away. 

But even as I miss those mementoes of his childhood, I marvel at who he has become today. Almost a man, but not quite. Loud, quirky, opinionated, determined. Headstrong and bullish. Sweet and trusting. 

It has been a long journey from then to now. There were many days of pain and heartache, and of grief and despair, but for each one of those miserable days, our lives were blessed a millionfold by what we have learned living with and loving him. Alphonse has taught us patience and tolerance, forgiveness and acceptance, gratitude and surrender. Most of all, he has taught us how to love without hope or thought of reciprocity. We love him because we do, and not because of anything he does to make us love him. It’s as simple as that.

Happy birthday, our dear sweet child, our Alphonse.  Papa, Mama, and Kuya Alex love you so much.

~0~

While on the subject of birthday celebrations, this blog also turns a year older this month. Happy 3rd birthday to Okasaneko Chronicles!

In 2007, when I started blogging, I was lucky to get even just ten people a day to read my blog. Three years later, despite the lack of promotion (I’ve never really been very big at that) and the freedom to express myself, those numbers have multiplied exponentially. In this little corner of the Internet I call Kittymama’s home, I have made many friends. I have also become part of a larger community of people I would never have met were it not for this wonderful experience. Thank you to all those who have come, visited, read, lingered, commented, returned, or even just glanced at the pages of my life. I am humbled by your kindness and love.

The Okasaneko Chronicles’ 3rd Blog Birthday Giveaway starts today so please be sure to leave a comment in this blog post to join. You can read the mechanics here for the full details on the giveaway. Many, many thanks to all those who have helped make this giveaway a reality: Sanrio Gift Gate Philippines, Ban Kee Trading, Inc., BusinessWorld/HerWord.com, Autism Society Philippines, The Fairy Godmother, and Alphie (who is none other than Alphonse, the birthday boy who wishes to share his birthday blessings with his Mama).

 

Birthdays and Giveaways

21 Oct

Alphonse will turn 16 in a little less than two weeks. Birthdays are fun but it’s always been difficult finding presents for him. Unlike your typical teenager, Alphonse wants little and needs so little to make him happy that often, we end up with such unimaginative presents of … you guessed right… underwear, shoes, and clothes. We can’t ask him what he wants when his default answer is “yes” to everything (when he says “No” you know he means it, whereas “Yes” can mean either) and Alex, his wily older brother, usually finds a way to twist this to his advantage.

Mama: Alphonse, do you want a new shirt?
Alphonse: (nods) Yes
Mama: Do you want new Crocs?
Alphonse: (nods) Yes
Alex: Wait, Mama, it’s my turn. Alphonse, do you want a new PS3?
Alphonse: (nods) Yes
Alex: See, Mama, you really have to get the PS3 for Alphonse. He really, really, really wants it! Please? Let’s buy the PS3 today!
(Nice try, son!)

Finding gifts Alphonse will genuinely love is always a challenge. These days, he’s still drawn to colorful preschool toys ; he actually sneaks off with his little three-year-old cousin’s toys every now and then. He still loves Disney DVDs despite our attempts to introduce him to other movies. And he is still absolutely, passionately crazy over bubbles. Running out of bubble solutions or bubble bottles will likely provoke a prolonged crying spell. We realize however that we can’t exactly keep encouraging him with these. While they remain part of his life, we have to keep looking at things and activities most neurotypical teenagers enjoy at that particular age. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Nothing seems to pop out as remotely interesting to him as the things he is already used to.

Alphonse's PECS card

So we racked our brains and discussed countless ideas, without ever coming to a united position on our special gift for Alphonse’s 16th birthday. But you know how the answers to prayers come when one least expects it? Just a few weeks ago, we had a lightbulb moment.  When Alphonse popped open one of the large covered pails of water we had and dove right in- head, shoulders, body, feet and all- we knew at once what we were getting him this year.

Just a brief backgrounder: Alphonse loves water but not the kind you swim in. He loves humongous basins and shallow pools  and garden hoses and sprinklers of all kinds but would not venture into any body of water higher than his knees. This past summer, on a family trip, we went to a hot springs resort and were suprised when, for the first time ever, he decided to step into the pool and submerge himself neck deep. Not only that, he half-walked, half-paddled the entire length of the small pool.  That he decided to stay submerged for almost a whole day told us that he finally found the courage to enjoy being in the water. Unfortunately, when night came, he wanted to go home and sleep in his own bed, though we had already paid for accommodations for the night. We tried to coax him to sleep but he cried loudly and refused to be appeased. We made the long drive back and once home, he promptly fell asleep. With that experience in mind, we promised him only day trips for now.

And that is what he is getting for his birthday- a day visit for a swimming party at the same resort. We’ve already made reservations. I only have to firm up the plans for food and extra amenities, get the swimsuits and swimming gear ready, get extra decorations, and we are ready to go!

~0~

While we’re on the topic of birthdays, next month, Okasaneko Chronicles on WordPress turns three years old.  To celebrate my blog’s third birthday and to thank all those who have supported my blog with their visits and comments, I will be hosting my first ever giveaway. Wheee! Who can resist giveaways?

For now, I have decided on giving away three different sets of gifts which reflect each of the different passions I write about in my blog- autism advocacy, Sanrio and Hello Kitty, and Sylvanian families. Yesterday, I received an e-mail confirmation from Ms. Isabel Lopez, Marketing Manager of Sanrio Gift Gate Philippines, of their very kind sponsorship of the Sanrio gift pack. I was amazed that within an hour of sending my e-mail request, Ms. Lopez replied with a positive confirmation. I will wait for further instructions from her, but already, I am beside myself with joy.

Autism Society Philippines, through the kindness of ASP Secretary Tiffany Tan, will also donate two items for the autism advocacy gift package. I won’t reveal yet what’s inside this gift pack but let me tell you that some of the gifts will come from Alphonse and myself.

I am still waiting for Ban Kee’s Mr. Joseph de Leon’s reply to my request. I am hopeful that with these two generous sponsors already committed to the giveaway, they will follow suit. I will keep you guys updated on this.

The “I Am Three” Blog Giveaway will be launched very soon so please come back to this blog to get more details. As soon as the gift packs are all ready, I will post pictures and instructions on how to join. With two birthdays coming in November, it’s going to be a party!

P.S. Ban Kee said YES!!! It’s three for three!

A Smile & A Celebration

15 Apr

Thank you to all who sent in their well wishes to Alphonse, be it via text, email, facebook, or this blog. We really appreciate your kindness and concern. Alphonse is well again! And just to show you that my big boy is fully recovered, here is a picture of him smiling. Mind you, a smile is a rare commodity when he is sick so when he does flash us one, it means he’s back to his old self. 

Alphonse is gorgeous, if I may say so myself (that’s his mom talking).

Don't you just love his smile?

 

While he was sick however, he alternated between sullen sulking with soft sobs and horrible tantrums with bloodcurdling horror-movie screams. If you can imagine the scene where little Jack-Jack (of The Incredibles) finally reveals his superhero powers, well, you can imagine us in the role of the unfortunate Syndrome trying to hold a shapeshifting child (Jack-Jack transforms into fire, metal or imp on demand) on tantrum mode, with superhuman strength to match. This smile, caught on camera, is a welcome relief  to those Jack-Jack days.  

~0~

Sunday last week, two days after the onset of his illness, Alphonse still had a slight fever and was still vomiting. He could not take in much solid food and needed more sleep and rest. Our niece’s 15th birthday party was set for that night but Alphonse was still in no condition to leave the house. We had to “eat and run” and hope that Alphonse would not miss us too much in our absence.

Arielle, my niece,  is my brother John’s daughter. At 15, she has grown to be a young woman with both smarts and beauty. (She got her mother’s slim genes, thank God, and none of my family’s fatties. ) More than physical attributes, however, I am grateful that Arielle is as sweet today as she was as a young child. She is not a brat, and though spoiled with affection and material benefits as an only child inevitably is, she is kind and compassionate.

We all love Arielle. Alex treats her like a baby- carrying her around and hugging her all the time. She laughingly protests against this but lets him all the same. I can think of the many ways Arielle has brought happiness to our lives. But perhaps, I love her best when she shows kindness to Alphonse (even when her cousin terrorizes her at times).

I remember that when she and Alphonse were toddlers, she yielded all her toys to him, even when he didn’t ask. She shyly handed him her toys, a kindness Alphonse acknowledged with soft grunts of approval. One Christmas, she gave up a favorite doll because Alphonse would not let go of it. Alphonse loved the doll to death (minus a leg and  an arm and clumps of hair).

When he loped around like a young buck and bumped into her, she never said an unkind word. She never even cried. As early as three years of age, Arielle knew compassion and accepted Alphonse’s differences with love.

But yes, Arielle is a teenager with normal teenage desires and angst. I think she got some of my genes too as she and I share common passions for Hello Kitty, dolls, and yes, Facebook. (I am trying to influence her with Sylvanian Families but her dad won’t let me, heehee.) They say Facebook is a cultural phenomenon, a sign of these times, and nowhere is this phenomenon best seen  than in families that spend time in Facebook together- like Arielle’s family! She is so into it that her parents had this beautiful cake  made especially for her.

And what is a Facebook addict suppose to do, even on her birthday?  Why,  go online on Facebook, of course!

Cousins Alex and Arielle- online in the midst of party!

Happy birthday, sweet Arielle!