Our Stay at The SpringHill Suites Marriott Langhorne

Disclaimer: We received a media guest rate for our 1 night stay at the SpringHill Suites Marriott. No further compensation was received, all opinions are our own.

We've been going to Sesame Place for a few years now. But it's been years since we've made it a 2-day trip. Norrin is out of school and we decided to take a little overnight road trip to PA. We started off Monday morning on our way to Philly. After a full day in Philly we drove back down to Langhorne to the SpringHill Suites Marriott.

We checked in and headed to our room. Norrin loves hotels. As soon as we walked in, he made himself at home in our room. It was perfect for our little family. There was a king size bed, pull out sofa and a desk/office area - it was quite spacious. The complimentary Wi-Fi was such a bonus! It allowed me to get a little work done and Norrin was able to search Safari. The alarm clock featured an iPod dock. CNN, ESPN and HBO were available to watch. There was a mini fridge, micro wave and coffee maker. I took a quick peek in the wardrobe and there was an iron (and iron board), a hair dryer, extra pillows, a blanket and an water proof mattress pad. There was also a Graco play pen. While we have no need for a play pen, it was nice to see that there was one in our room. (However, there was no safe in the room - safety deposit boxes are available by the front desk.) 

We settled into our room and decided to walk (it's a 4 lane street but it's walkable) across to the shopping center for dinner at Chili's. The SpringHill Suites is not only within walking distance to Sesame Place (there's a walkway to the park) but it's close to many shops and restaurants.   

After dinner we walked back to the hotel. I loved that there was a fitness area, pool, jacuzzi and outdoor sitting area (with a fire pit). We had plans of walking back down to the pool but once we returned to the room, we showered and sunk into bed. It had been a long day and we wanted to get to Sesame Place first thing in the morning.

We woke up refreshed and ready for the day! We headed down for breakfast and was impressed at what they offered. It wasn't just bagels and fruit. Yes there was bagels, croissants and an assortment of sweet breads. But there was also scrambled eggs, canadian bacon, oatmeal, make your waffles with all the fixings as well as fruit, yogurt and coffee. Now I am a serious coffee drinker and I was super excited that they offered milk and International Delights creams.

Check out was at Noon and after breakfast we packed out things and headed to the park for a fun filled day. 

Our original plan was to see the evening Sesame Place parade but I lost track of the time. We all loved the vibe and proximity of the SpringHill Suites Marriott. It was clean, comfortable and checking out was so easy. It's a wonderful family friendly hotel with so many local attractions nearby - Philly is a short drive away! It's such an ideal location for families visiting Sesame Place. We will definitely return for a much longer stay!   

See what else The SpringHill Suites Marriott has to offer, click HERE

The Room 

The Hotel/Amenities

Doesn't Norrin look comfortable? 
Other Hotel Amenities include
Coffee in lobby
Coffee/tea in-room
Continental breakfast, complimentary
Housekeeping service daily
Laundry on-site
Laundry on-site, coin operated
Mobility accessible rooms
Newspaper in lobby
Phone calls: toll-free
Safe deposit boxes, front desk
Valet dry-cleaning
Vending machines

Disclaimer: We received a media guest rate for our 1 night stay at the SpringHill Suites Marriott. No further compensation was received, all opinions are our own.

images via: SpringHill Suites Marriott

Our 1st Trip to Philadelphia #PhillyTeAma {Wordless Wed}

We visited Philly for the first time ever this week and we had a blast. We were only in Philly for a day but we did a lot. Check out a few of our Instagram pics. Our post is coming soon!

Back To School Tips for Autism Parents {From Morning Routines to What to Wear & Everything In Between}

Back to School Tips to Make Mornings Easier
For many parents, back to school means back into a routine. And after weeks of lazy mornings, late nights and long weekends - a rushed morning routine can be tough to get back into. Here are 5 easy tips that will help.

7 Back to School Essentials for Kids with Autism 
From clothes to shoes to other back to school must haves. These are the things your autistic kid can't be without.

7 Tips to Ease Transitions for Kids with Autism 
Getting your child back into a routine isn't always easy. Here are 7 tips that will help your kids get through the transitions ahead. 

The Sensory Child Gets Organized (book review)
This book is a must have for parents! The Sensory Child Gets Organized provides a clear sense of what a "sensory child" looks like and helps parents assess and understand how their child learns best. Through objective observation and journaling behaviors, parents can determine their child's learning preference: Visual, Auditory or Tactile.

8 Back to School Tips That Will Help Your Special Needs Child
Sharing some tips (and 2 books that explain autism to kids) that have helped me. And I got some autism parents to share what works for them, including a super cool chart. 

Prepping for Kindergarten (The Letter)
Is your child entering preschool, kindergarten, moving to a new class or starting a new school - an introduction letter can be really helpful to a new teacher or therapist.  

The New Victory Theater in NYC offers 4 Autism Friendly Shows for the 2014-15 Season

Back in April we attended an Autism Friendly show - Bello The Clown - at The New Victory Theater. I loved the way New Victory partnered with Autism Friendly Spaces to adapt the theater and performance for autism families. And I am really excited that they are offering 4 autism-friendly shows for the 2014-15 season. 


October 18th
The Snail & the Whale 
Some travel by bus and some get around by bike, but to see the whole world, it's best to hitch a ride on the tail of a giant humpback whale. As told by a loving father to his young daughter, one small snail "with an itchy foot" does just that in an adventure-filled story about an unlikely friendship. Based on the beloved book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and adapted for the stage by London's Tall Stories (The Gruffalo, New Vic 2004), THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE uses brilliant storytelling, beautiful live music and lots of laughs to remind us how even little friends can be big heroes.

December 12th
Cirque Ziva

Time-honored traditions take on a terrific technicolor transformation in CIRQUE ZÍVA. Lauded for their unparalleled precision and dynamic design, the Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats (New Vic 2005) will wow you with amazing acts, ancient artistry and a Lion Dance that will have the crowd roaring. Under the expert eyes of impresario Danny Chang and choreographer Angela Chang (Drama Desk nominee), this highlight of the holiday season sparkles in a stunning spectacle of breathtaking skill and beauty.


April 10th
School's out, and so is the sun! Say hello to summer this spring in the witty, wild and wonderful CATCH ME! (Attrape-moi). With awesome acrobatics, astonishing aerial acts and the wherewithal for whatever, this talented troupe from Quebec City has a ball discovering new ways to lift each other up and reach new heights. When they set up a trampowall—you know, that thing where there's a trampoline right next to a wall and French Canadians bounce around and do crazy cool tricks—spirits will soar!

April 25th 
It's Not Naptime when two-time Grammy® nominee for Best Children's Album (Jungle Gym, 2011; Recess, 2014) Justin Roberts pulls up in his Yellow Bus with his band of Not Ready for Naptime Players. Revealing new silly songs, discerning diddies and Pop Fly lullabies, THE MYSTERIOUS HAT is a brand new concert experience designed especially for the New Vic. Join the kiddie mosh pit and bop along to catchy compositions of happy harmonies, bursts of brass and hand-clapping choruses that make these rockers America's favorite powerpop poets for the young and young at heart.

For more details and to purchase tickets please visit: http://www.newvictory.org
And to see how the New Victory adapted the theater for the autism friendly show - check out our post: The New Victory Theater Partners with Autism Friendly Spaces for Bello Mania

Dedications & Declarations of Love {Adopt-A-Bench Central Park}

I love walking through Central Park by myself. Whenever weather and my schedule allows, I walk across the park from west to east to catch the uptown 6 home. It's my time to unwind. One of my favorite things while strolling through the park is read the dedications on the park benches. I wonder about the people who wrote them and make up stories about the people who wrote them. I think about what words I would leave behind for my loved ones. I toyed with the idea of adopting a bench, to be permanently part of the park I love so much. 

Then I saw most benches are about $7,500 ($25K to have one custom made)...so doesn't look like I'll adopt-a-bench any time soon. But If could, I think this is what it would say. 

What would YOUR bench say?
Unknown Mami

My 11 Favorite Kinds of People To See on the Subway

Being a native New Yorker and non-driver who relies on public transportation, I have many pet peeves when it comes to taking the subway. Especially when I'm traveling with Norrin. Taking the train can be stressful enough, the subway jerks make it harder. But people aren't always so bad. Sometimes, I see the kinder side of New Yorkers. 

11. People who smile or wave at children & say "no worries" when a kid kicks them by mistake. 

10. People who give up their seat for a woman, child or elderly person. They do it immediately, they don't bother to look around hoping someone else will do it first. Also people who give up their seat for a man with a small child or infant - because those people are rare. 

9. People who offer mothers help carrying strollers up or down stairs and/or elderly women with their shopping carts.  

8. People who give directions. I'm talking about the people who actually stop, take off their headphones and put down their iPhone, iPad or book. The ones who will really help by asking where they want/need to go or looking at the map to figure out the best route. I also like when other people join in and it becomes this collective effort to help someone find their way.

7. People who say "bless you" when the stranger next to them sneezes.

6. People who give money to those in need. The ones who take the time to look up and smile or nod their head -whether they give money or not. They have acknowledged a human being so many commuters ignore or look past.

5. People who perform. Let me clarify. I am not a fan of performers (I can't with the Mariachis at 7am - #SorryNotSorry) in the morning and there aren't many. But there is something about hearing someone sing or play an instrument in such a public space. I envy that. I get nervous speaking in front of an audience. I couldn't imagine standing on the subway and performing. 

4. People who sing/dance. Not the performers. Just the folks who are listening to their iPods and are really feeling the music. These people fascinate me. They have a comfort in their own skin that I admire.

3. People who are reading the same exact book I'm reading on the subway or people who are reading something I've read. If I'm standing next to someone reading what I'm reading - I have to be the corny person to say "good book." And if I see someone reading a book I have read and loved, sometimes I have to stop myself from talking to them...

2. Women (because it's almost always women) who meet and bond. There is something special about watching two strangers have an intimate conversation on the subway. They usually start talking during a train delay or after witnessing something strange or upsetting - and instantly start talking about their lives.  

It's amazing how much we are so willing to share with a stranger and comforting to realize our commonalities. It's sweet to hear strangers laugh like old friends, bid each other goodbye or "take care," sweeter when they touch hands or a shoulder and say, "It was so nice talking to you." In a city as crowded and crazy as New York - to make a genuine connection with the stranger sitting next to you on the subway is pretty special. 

1. Old friends meeting after many years. I am a sucker for reunions and nothing makes me happier than witnessing chance encounters. I like hearing them catch up - "Do you remember _____?" and "OMG remember that time when..." I like when they exchange numbers and make plans to meet again. And I like watching them as they say goodbye, the person on the train, smiling to themselves for the next few stops. It makes me happy.    

One of my favorite things to do on the subway is listen to other people. I like to study their movements and facial expressions. You may call me nosy, but I prefer observant. My first short story I wrote and submitted in my very first college writing class was inspired by someone else's subway conversation.

I will be the first to admit that the subway can be scary - it's smelly, dark, dirty. But sometimes it can feel like this magical world and I feel lucky to be a part of it. 

Who do you love to see on the subway?

Who Should You Write For? #MondayMotivation

It's been a little over a year since I graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing. And I've been blogging for almost 4 years. While I blog almost every day, I lack discipline when it comes to writing. Especially when it comes to the novel I started almost 10 years ago; I have over 100 pages written and a chapter excerpt has won a few awards including a Glimmer Train honorary mention. And then there's my thesis...a collection of my best autism parenting essays/memoir. The finished thesis that allowed me to graduate but I still wasn't 100% satisfied with. I was supposed to take this year to work on it and get it ready for submission. I haven't returned to either project. Like I said, I lack discipline. (And truth be told, I don't think I can get back to writing fiction, until I have completed my memoir.)   

In the last few weeks I've been trying to light the fire under my ass. I've been reading more. I spent an entire weekend creating a small work space. Because writing while sitting on the sofa in front of the TV ain't cutting it. I registered for the Las Comadres Latino Writers Conference in NYC (in September) and scheduled time to meet with an editor and agent. (In preparation for Las Comadres Latino Writers Conference, I've also started working on a query letter and thinking about my book proposal.)        

Writing is hard. Getting published is harder. Sometimes I doubt my ability. Other times I doubt other people's interest in my writing. Would people really buy a book I've written? 

Yeah...totally not the mindset of someone hoping to write/finish/publish a book. 

I gathered some of my books on writing and placed them on my desk - where they are within eye view from the moment I wake up. One of those books is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I'm rereading it now to help me get back into writing. It has been exactly the book I needed to get motivated. 
If you write for yourself, you'll reach the people you want to write for.  -- William Zinsser
During my moments of doubt, I have to remember why I started blogging. I have to recall Zinsser's words. 

When Norrin was first diagnosed, I couldn't relate to anything I read about autism. I started writing for myself because it was what I needed to read. And if I needed my words in order to move on, then maybe someone else will need them too.        

What books on writing motivate you? 

August 12th is World Elephant Day. Join the Herd & Support the WCS 96 Elephants campaign

Disclosure: I am a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoo Crew. This post is part of a sponsored campaign. I received membership for my participation, but my review and opinions are my own.

A few weeks ago, Norrin and I took a trip to The Bronx Zoo. Norrin's favorite thing to do at the Zoo is take a ride on the Monorail. It was a cool Sunday morning and after a few hours of walking around, it was nice to sit back and relax on the Monorail. I've been visiting the Bronx Zoo since I was a kid and I've ridden the Monorail many many times. But that Sunday was the first time I've seen the elephants so close. I felt like I could reach out at touch them. 
More than 35,000 elephants are killed by poachers each year for their ivory and the goal of the campaign is to stop the killing, demand and trafficking of elephant ivory. 
The Wildlife Conservation Society needs our support. The 96 Elephants campaign, named for the number of elephants currently gunned down each day by poachers, focuses on: securing effective U.S. moratorium laws; bolstering elephant protection with additional funding; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis. You can learn more about 96 Elephants at the official site, www.96elephants.org. 

Here are a few ways you can help:

Let the kids get creative and color in their own elephant, using a special template; take a picture of their masterpiece and share on social media using the hashtag #elphie

On August 12, World Elephant Day, change your social profile picture to be one of you in the elephant mask and include the caption “join the herd” along with a link to 96Elephants.org

Go to 96elephants.org and sign-up and encourage your friends and family to take the pledge to not buy ivory and support the US ban (and state bans) against ivory sales.

Visit the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, or other WCS parks on World Elephant Day or anytime during the week of August 12-17 and show your support by wearing grey and participating in elephant themed educational activities.

Follow 96 Elephants on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube

Disclosure: I am a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoo Crew. This post is part of a sponsored campaign. I received membership for my participation, but my review and opinions are my own.

Brownsville Bred Returns to Nuyorican Poets Cafe & I Want Everyone I Know To Go See It!

Earlier this week I met a few girlfriends at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. It's pretty unusual for me to go out on a Monday after work and even more unusual for me to travel below 14th street. (Because while I'm totally used to taking the public transportation, I can be lazy. And I avoid areas that are far from the uptown 6.) But I had a good reason. Brownsville Bred: the phenomenal one woman show "written, performed and lived" by Elaine Del Valle.

I first saw Brownsville Bred last year when Del Valle performed at Time Warner's corporate office. And I was so moved by her, that when I heard the show had returned to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, I immediately bought a ticket.  

Brownsville Bred is a Puerto Rican coming of age story unlike anything I've ever seen (or read). It hits every emotion. I laughed, I cried and I cheered. There were moments when I literally got chills - her performance is that powerful. You can feel her heartbreak and see the pain in her eyes. But it is her joy that is most palpable - it just fills the room. For those 90 minutes she's on stage, her dreams and fears become your own. Elaine Del Valle is a woman to root for. And her story is one that will stay with you long after you've left the theater. 

While Brownsville Bred is Del Valle's experience of life growing up in Brooklyn at the height of the Crack & Crime Epidemic - her story is one that many will find relatable. Brownsville Bred is a MUST SEE. You don't have to be Puerto Rican (or even Latino) or from New York or of the generation to appreciate it. It goes beyond all of those things. Brownsville Bred is a journey of the human experience and what it means to persevere against all odds.  

Once a writing professor told me that a good writer is able to put their pain on the page. Del Valle puts her pain and joy on the stage, front and center. And she does it with grace, humor and hope. 

After the show, Del Valle invited the audience to meet her at the bar up the block. And even though it was 9 pm on a Monday and I had a long train ride home, I headed to the bar. And I was so happy I did! One of my friends is friends with Elaine (I think I can call her Elaine from this point on) and she made the introduction.

Elaine was super nice and easy going - for all of her well deserved accolades there wasn't anything pretentious about her. She sat with us for a while, we talked and laughed. And it was a genuine conversation, not someone trying to "work the room." 

One of the things that I learned about Elaine was that she is the Founder and Co-Chair of The Mansion Ride for Autism Charity Cycling Event--named "one of “The Country’s TOP 35 Largest and Most Interesting Charity Rides” by Bicycling Magazine. When Elaine told me about her work with the Ascent School for Autism, my admiration for her grew more. As an autism mom and as someone who one day dreams of opening up my own school in The Bronx, I know how much The Mansion Ride means. 

I got home after 11pm on a Monday night. And I was feeling it the next day, but it was so worth it. 

So go see Brownsville Bred! I know I'm seeing it again. 

Performances are every Mondays at 7pm at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe until August 25th. Tickets are $20. To learn more about Brownsville Bred and buy tickets click HERE

The Picture That Prompted A Conversation

My friend took this photo of me a few weeks ago while at a work event. It was a rare occasion where I had my hair loose and wore shoes with a real heel. But I'm not one to take (or share) full length photos of myself - ever. I prefer the selfie. With a selfie I don't have to worry about my arms or love handles. (I'm working on my body issues...) So while I liked the little outfit I put together, I didn't feel the need to share it on social media because I was self-conscious about how I looked.

The other evening Norrin was scrolling through the pictures on my phone. He likes to do that. He especially likes to look at pictures of himself. And then he came across this picture of me. He stared at it for while as if trying to figure something out. (On the day the picture was taken, I left for work after Norrin was on the bus and by the time I returned home, he was asleep.)

He shoved the phone in my face. "Where were you?" 

Like many kids with autism, Norrin has no spacial awareness and when he wants to show me something he puts it so close in my eyes, the object becomes a blur. And then I gently push the object away and remind Norrin that he doesn't have to get so close. But I was so surprised by his question that I immediately responded. 

Me: I was at a restaurant.

Norrin: What restaurant?

Me: At Blue Water Grill.

Norrin: Where is Blue Water Grill?

Me: Blue Water Grill is in the City.

Norrin: What city

Me: Manhattan.

Norrin: Where is Manhattan?

I reminded Norrin that we go into Manhattan all the time and that momma works in Manhattan. And that was the end of our conversation. He handed me the phone and walked out of the room. I stared at the photo for a while, a stupid grin on my face savoring our mother son moment. 

It was a major moment. He asked me 5 very appropriate questions in a row! We had a real conversation. (Yes, I teared up a little.)

Norrin is verbal and he talks a lot. But we rarely have back and forth dialogue. Most of our conversations revolve around topics Norrin is interested in or scripted speech. When he speaks to us, it's almost always to tell us something that he wants or needs.

Norrin saw this picture and he didn't care how I looked. He probably didn't see any of the flaws that I see. He just saw me, somewhere unfamiliar without him and he wanted to know why.

He's been talking so much lately and it's taking me by surprise. The other evening, he even said he loved me at bedtime. He said it all on his own, without me saying it first.  

To have this little moment, a moment that so many parents of typical kids experience every day - is HUGE in our world. It's a reminder that he's making progress. Sometimes in the crazy of our day to day lives - progress is hard to see. Not seeing progress can be discouraging. Feeling discouraged makes me wonder if I am doing enough. Then mom guilt kicks in. And then I worry. Guilt and worry suck.    

Last week was a rough week. And I got not one, but two reminders that Norrin was making progress...at the precise moment that I needed it.

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