I Never Wanted To Be a Mother

I never wanted to be a mother.

At twenty-nine years old, I wasn’t the kind of woman anyone would call maternal. I didn’t coo over babies or rub pregnant women’s bellies hoping I’d be next. I wasn’t the friend anyone called to babysit their children – not even for a quick trip to the store. And I certainly wasn’t the one who volunteered to change a diaper.

I liked after work cocktails, late night parties, and sleeping til noon. I liked getting up to go whenever I pleased, eating a hot meal when I was hungry and only cooking for special occasions. Because most nights, “cooking” dinner consisted of a ham sandwich and maybe some chips.

When my husband Joseph and I first moved in together, everyone asked when we would get married. When we got married, everyone asked when we would have a kid. “When are you going to have a baby?” I’d cringe and change the subject. I am certain at some point I was the topic of conversation around someone’s Thanksgiving table. “She probably can’t have kids.” I bet they whispered between bites of turkey and arroz con gandules. Because obviously, the inability to have children was the only reason why a woman wouldn’t have one. 

I was juggling a full time job while taking college classes at night. I was reading and writing and had little time for anything else. I had the next few years of my life mapped out. And being a mother wasn't part of my plan.

Then I got pregnant. During those first few months, I wondered how being a mother was going to change my life. And I felt a bit of resentment. I was scared. I worried about what kind of mother I would be because what kind of mother resents being a mother.

I think even my mother worried. I was at a family BBQ and my mother was holding someone's newborn baby. "Here," she said trying to thrust the baby into my arms, "practice holding a baby." I shook my head and folded my arms tightly over my belly. "I am not practicing on anyone's baby but my own." I was five months pregnant and still wanted nothing to do with babies.

The week I turned 30 years old, I found out I was having a boy. And it became real. I registered for baby things, began buying clothes and toys. Shopping for baby was easy and fun. It was everything else that still worried me.

The first time I held Norrin in my arms, every fear faded away. Nothing else mattered. My life now revolved around another human being. I was okay with it. It was comforting.  

By the time I was pregnant again, I had settled into my role as a mother. I was still balancing a full-time job and taking college courses at night. I was still reading and writing. And while my life plan had been altered, I still had a plan. This one included children. 

In my 16th week OB-GYN visit, I was told the baby had died. A "missed miscarriage," they called it. The weeks that followed were the darkest and loneliest of my life.

It was Norrin who helped me through my depression. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and cry. But he was only four years old, he needed me. And I needed him.  

My loss made me realize how much motherhood meant to me. The thing I never wanted to be, became one of the things that defined me. Being a mother changed my life in every possible way. And it has been a blessing. Motherhood has brought me a joy I never knew could be possible.

Ten years ago, I had no desire to be a mother. Now I couldn't imagine my life without being one.               

Be Your Own Superhero! {Playing with Pic Monkey Comic Heroes}

I love playing with PicMonkey to create fun graphics and give my photos a little extra something. I use it beyond my blog too. I've used it to create cards, invitations and even labels. (I paid $33 for the year and it's the best investment I've made!)

Last Mother's Day we took a walk along the beach. I brought along Norrin's cape so that he could run and jump and fly like a superhero. Later on I created this photo with Pic Monkey . It's not perfect but I am pretty happy with how it came out. And just recently added Pic Monkey's cool Comic Heroes graphics. Norrin loves this picture of himself in the sky. 

How To Find The Appropriate School When Your Kid Has Autism

If you have  child with special needs who will enter kindergarten in the fall of 2015 - NOW is the time to start the process

Do not wait until May or June of next year because you will be scrambling. The transition from CPSE to CSE is stressful. Turning 5 in New York City is a long, complicated process with a lot of red tape. So where do you start? Start with searching for the appropriate school placement.

What schools should I tour? ALL of them. Seriously. In New York City - there's a lot of school. Well, not a lot, but enough to keep you busy. Visit as many schools as you can. Public, private and even the ones you can't afford. Do your research. Ask questions. Browse school websites. It is absolutely necessary to explore all options available. 

Where do I find special needs schools? There are a few ways to find schools that provide special needs services. 

Start with A Parent's Guide to Special Education in New York City. This book will be your bible!  

Attend a special needs school fair. The JCC of Manhattan has one every year. This year, it's being held on Wed Nov. 19 at 5:30 -7:30. You can register for the event - HERE. At the fair, you may be able to schedule an appointment to tour, speak to school representatives and get applications. And it was a good way to weed out the schools I knew wouldn't work for The Boy. 

But the best way to find out about schools is to talk to other parents who've been there, done that. If you've never been to a support group - now would be the time to go. For Bronx parents - check out the Bronx Parents Autism Network. There's a meeting on October 8th. Don't be shy about asking parents where their children go to school. 

What about the local public school?
Visit your zone school, even if you know it's not appropriate for your child - just go to say that you did. Visit the DOE website. Make an appointment to tour local District 75 schools. And check out other special education programs like the ASD Nest Program or ASD Horizon program. Visit our Autism Resources: Special Education Schools in NYC page for more information - HERE.

What paperwork do I need? What do I include in the application? 
Most school applications require a recent evaluation as well as past evaluations. Some applications will ask current teachers to fill out some sections. Applications can be 3 - 15 pages long. And most have a fee and a deadline of when to apply. Many schools will like the application before the Christmas break.

Educate yourself! 
On November 17 (6:30-8:30) NYC Special Education Consultant, Sarah Birnbaum, is hosting a free presentation on how to:

1. Learn your educational options, public and private
2. Obtain the best evaluations and guidance
3. Find an appropriate kindergarten program
4. Understand your legal rights
5. Get through the Turning 5 process and create an IEP

Date:         Monday, November 17, 6:30-8:30pm
Location:  Watch Me Grow - 361 East 19 Street
RSVP:        info@watchmegrownyc.com

The breakdownKnow your child's legal rights. Tour schools. Gather paperwork. Apply. Wait. Cross your fingers, light a candle, say a prayer. And if your kid gets in, you'll need to be prepared to prove to the Department of Education that it's the most appropriate.

How To Cheer On (& Feed) Your NYC Marathon Runner

The NYC Marathon is 6 days away! I cannot wait. I'm planning out my day so that I can cheer Joseph on. Joseph will be running with his best friend Julio (or as Norrin calls him "Uncle Julio"). It's Julio's 9th marathon and Joseph's first. This is a big moment for them both and one worth celebrating. 

The goal is to be able to cheer them on at 2 different locations before meeting Joseph close to the finish line. I've never been to the marathon before, so this will be interesting especially since I'll be with Norrin. I'll probably be rolling solo, so navigating the New York City crowds may be tricky but I'm going to try my best.

I've been supporting Joseph along this journey and I am so proud. I am amazed by his persistence to go out and run even on days when he comes home from work dog tired. I will probably cry at some point. 

So how am I preparing to cheer my Marathan Man on...

I read this article on best places to watch the race. Then I printed out the course map. I just downloaded TCS NYC Marathon mobile app so I can track Joseph's progress throughout the day. It's cool because I can track up to 10 runners for free! And I will also use the FOLR app to monitor Joseph's location.  

I created this badge 
NYRR Widgets {2014} - to share via social media because I want everyone to know that I am supporting a marathon runner. 

Finally I want to make sure Joseph is fueled up and ready to run. This means: PASTA PASTA PASTA! I put together this Pasta Pinspiration board of tasty, easy to make pre marathon meals. 

Follow Lisa Quinones-Fontanez's board Pasta, Pasta, Pasta on Pinterest. 

About Health offers suggestions on what to eat before a marathon - here.

A Parents Guide to Special Education in NYC

If you live you in New York City and have a child with special needs A Parents Guide to Special Education in New York City and the Metropolitan Area by Laurie Dubos and Jana Fromer will be your bible. Especially if you are going through the Turning 5 process. I purchased this book the year before I began the Turning 5 process. And it's one that I always recommend to parents.

This guidebook provides the information parents need to advocate for their child successfully and to choose a suitable school. The authors, one a co-founder of the Gillen Brewer School in New York City and the other a parent of a child with learning disabilities, share their personal and professional experiences and insights as to how the special education system operates and the various options parents can pursue.

So what's so great about this book? Well...it's broken up into 4 parts. Pay attention, these parts are important.

Part I provides an overview of special education in New York City. Talks about the children entering kindergarten and how they may be identified. It goes through the evaluation and referral process and the types of evaluations that are needed when applying to private schools. It also explains the difference between a Psychoeducational and a Neuropsychological. It breaks down the IEP and explains parents rights. 

Part II talks all about private school placement and the application process.

Part III is all about the schools. It provides all the key factors of the school - whether it's graded or ungraded, if it's 10 or 12 months, what kind of classifications they accept, what related services they offer and other critical information. If you don't know how to find a school - this is a great place to begin.

Part IV provides local resources: evaluation centers, therapists, medical professionals, websites and more.

A Parent's Guide to Special Education in New York City is a must have for parents searching for an appropriate school placement for their special needs child and even for special education administrators and teachers. 

It's Time To Talk. HIV One Conversation at a Time {#spon}

Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from the We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time campaign. All opinions are my own. 

Miguel was the best man at my parent's wedding. He was tall, good-looking and had a dimpled smile. He wore silky shirts, the three top buttons unbuttoned, sipped beer with a straw and loved to flirt with women. Miguel was the kind of man everyone liked to be around. Every so often, he'd come over on a Saturday night for dinner. We'd sit around the dining room and I'd listen to my parents and Miguel tell stories of the old days of dancing and drinking.  

I was a freshmen in high school (1990) when I heard my parents whispering about Miguel. He was in the hospital and my mother had been to see him. Miguel had AIDS. 

At 14, I sort of knew what AIDS was. It wasn't openly talked about, often a word whispered among adults. But I knew that Rock Hudson had died from it a few years earlier. And my aunt (who owned a hair salon in lower Manhattan) talked about it often. Though she never used the word AIDS, she'd say "sick." 

Miguel was gay and my father was shocked by the news. My mother wasn't. "I always kind of knew," she said. When Miguel died, my father was devastated. He had lost of his best friend and he realized that he never really knew Miguel at all.
For some people, talking about HIV/AIDS may be uncomfortable and may feel embarrassing at first, even with close family members and friends. With a little preparation and practice, you can boost your confidence, overcome any fears that you might have, and start talking openly about HIV with your family and friends. A conversation does not always have to be face-to-face. Whether you talk, type, or text, what is important is that you start the conversation about HIV.
If you want to start the conversation about HIV, here are a few talking points:
HIV is still a health issue in the United States. More than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States, including more than 220,000 Hispanics/Latinos.

Myths persist about how HIV is transmitted. HIV is spread mainly by having sex with or sharing drug injection equipment with someone who is infected with HIV. HIV cannot be spread by casual contact such as hugging, shaking hands, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, cigarettes, pets, or insects. HIV is not spread through the air, and it does not live outside the body.

Many people who are living with HIV don’t know it. Getting an HIV test is the only way to know if you have HIV. HIV testing is fast, free, and confidential. To find an HIV testing center near you, you can enter your ZIP code online, call 800-CDC-INFO, or text your ZIP code to “KNOW IT” (566948) and you will receive a text back with a testing site near you. You can also get a home testing kit (the Home Access HIV-1 Test System or the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test) from a drugstore.

Although there is currently no cure for HIV, there are treatment options that can help people with HIV and AIDS live active and longer lives. Proper medical care including taking medicine known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV and lower their chance of infecting others.

HIV can be prevented. Today, more tools than ever are available to prevent HIV. In addition to limiting your number of sexual partners, never sharing needles, and using condoms correctly and consistently, you may be able to take advantage of medicines that prevent HIV such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis(PEP).

For more tools/tips visit www.cdc/gov/actagainstaids

CDC One Conversation at a Time Campaign web banner. Image of a middle aged Latina and a young man with two speech bubbles with messages about the importance of having HIV conversations.
Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from the We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time campaign. All opinions are my own. 

OMG! Max Likes a Girl [Parenthood: The Scale of Affection is Fluid]

Recap of Parenthood: The Scale of Affection is Fluid {Season 6 Episode 605}

Adam and Kristina sit Max down for a conversation about relationships, since they are experts. And sometimes, in relationships, people can like each other at different levels. For instance Adam and Kristina both like each other at a 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, but when they first met, Kristina liked Adam at a 2, though he liked her at a 5. Kristina bristles when Adam agrees with Max's deduction that the scale of affection is fluid, it can change. The conversation to temper expectation, has morphed into steam for Max's engine of love. At lunch, Max corners Dylan to ask the quantitative representation of her feelings for him. When Dylan opts for a 2, Max figures he can work with it, since he'll have roughly a decade to change her mind.

Max has been to the library to take out several books on how to pick up women by so-called experts. Kristina levels a withering gaze at Adam, accusing him of thwarting their plan. Dylan isn't going to like Max the way he likes her! But Adam can't see it. Why can't Dylan like Max? Adam has to think it's possible. Kristina doesn't like it, but she comes around, joining Adam for a talk with Max on how to utilize his best qualities in the romance department.

I have been watching Parenthood from the very beginning. At first I had mixed feelings about it but as the characters and storyline developed, I've become attached. Especially to Max  - the kid with Aspergers - and his parents, Adam and Kristina. But I'll talk about that another time...right now I just want to talk about the latest episode.

Max likes a girl! And once again Adam and Kristina are at odds on how to handle it. Kristina doesn't believe that Dylan (Max's love like interest) will like Max. But Adam is all like "Why not Max?" because he has to believe that someone will care for his son in that way.  

As I sat on my sofa Thursday night, sipping my glass of pinot grigio, I started sobbing. I usually sob during Parenthood because I get it. I get exactly what Adam and Kristina are feeling. Well, maybe not exactly. Because Norrin is only 8 years old - he's no where near liking girls just yet. But I wonder about the future. Will his heart flutter for someone else? And will those feeling be reciprocated. I understand Kristina's hesitation - she doesn't want to see her son get hurt. But I also understand Adam. And I want to have Adam's same "Why not?" attitude. And by the end of the episode, I kind of saw Dylan showing Max a little more interest. I can't wait to see how their story unfolds. 

I love how Max continues to evolve through the natural phases of growing up. I appreciate the writers allowing his character to grow up with both honesty and dignity. Max hasn't had the easiest time making/keeping friends - but it seems as if he is really trying. It's sweet.  

Norrin may not have Aspergers and I know that Max isn't real but it still gives me so much hope for Norrin's future.   

Do watch Parenthood? What are your thoughts on Max's first crush?      

photos: NBC Parenthood

Celebrating Halloween at The Magic Kingdom {When Your Kid Has Autism} #MNSSHP

While at #NicheParent14 last week, I took some time away from the group to visit The Magic Kingdom with Norrin. It was our first time at Walt Disney World during Halloween and there was no way I was going to miss out on Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party! And I am so happy we did. 

I've been to Walt Disney World in the summer, visited for Star Wars Weekend. I've been to Disneyland in November (for Viva Navidad!). But The Magic Kingdom at Halloween is simply spectacular! Typically I'm not a fan of Halloween but like everything else, Disney makes it special.

If you've never been to Walt Disney World in October, can I just say the weather is perfect. The afternoons are warm (you can easily take a dip in a hotel pool) and the evenings are cool and comfortable. 

Traveling to Walt Disney World when your child has autism requires planning and preparation. As an autism mom, what I loved about #MNSSHP is that tickets are limited. Once they sell out, that's it. This means, the Magic Kingdom isn't overwhelmingly crowded. We were able to easily navigate the park and the lines weren't outrageous. We didn't even need the Disability Access Service Card. With the exception of The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train*, none of the ride wait times exceeded 20 minutes. Our average wait time was about 10 minutes.

*We waited an hour for The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, got in a car. And then Norrin changed his mind. Maybe next time...

Two seconds before getting on the Mad Tea Party ride, I check my email. Back in September I applied for the Disney Mom Panel Search. As it was mid October, I assumed I hadn't been selected to move on. Well wouldn't you know, while in Fantasyland I got an email saying I moved on to Round 2 of the #DisneyMP Search! Our first trip to Disney in 2011 was carefully planned. And it was such an important part of our life, I want to help other special needs parents with their Disney experience.  I know, not really related to #MNSSHP, but I just had to share. 

The Magic Kingdom was decked out Disney Halloween decorations and almost everyone was dressed up - guests and characters. We weren't but that was fine too. There were Trick or Treat stations throughout the park and Norrin got some candy (which I later ate). 

We visited The Magic Kingdom in June and it was great to see Norrin's progress since our last visit. He was interested in getting on rides. And he was quite vocal about what rides he wanted to go on next. 

This time, Norrin loved the fireworks. I went prepared with his headphones and he was in awe of all the colors. 

A photo posted by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez (@laliquin) on

Norrin was open to posing with character favorites - like Winnie the Pooh, Tinker Bell and Mickey Mouse - something he's usually hesitant about. We've seen Mickey at Epcot but never at the Magic Kingdom. As we were exiting the park, we decided to see if there was a long line to meet Mickey at the Town Square Theater. There wasn't a line at all! (Probably since it was late in the evening and the parade was about to start. So keep this in mind when you go.) At first Norrin was hesitant, he didn't want to go in. The cast members were really nice and patient with Norrin. And then Mickey reached out his hand and spoke! He said, "Hi there! Come on in." Norrin approached Mickey with caution. When Mickey spoke again, Norrin had the biggest smile on his face!

After meeting Mickey, we decided to meet Tinkerbell. Tink is my childhood favorite. She's really my first connection to Walt Disney World since it's the very first costume I remember wearing for Halloween. When the cast member asked us if we brought Faith, Trust and a little bit of Pixie Dust, I gasped when the room lit up with Pixie Dust.

We even got to see the parade - a Disney first for us! While everyone was crowded on Main Street U.S.A, we had a prime viewing spot in front of City Hall. I found myself dancing and singing along. And all week long, I've been humming Boo To You to myself.    

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party was the perfect way to celebrate Halloween. The only thing missing was Joseph. I wish he was with us because I know he would have loved it. But that's okay, I have a feeling we'll be back real soon!

What you NEED to know about Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

You NEED a separate ticket to get in. If you want to buy a ticket, you better hurry! There are limited tickets available for Oct. 23, 24 & 26.

The Party officially begins at 7pm (until close). However, if you arrive after 4pm, you may be granted entry if the park isn't at full capacity.

Not all the attractions are open.

For more details click HERE

And here's my #MNSSH video mash up. I combined my Flipagram & Instagram videos together.  

#NicheParent14 Takeaways & Magical Moments

Disclosure: As a Niche Parent Ambassador/Affiliate I received a family conference package and 10% of all sales (including packages) from any purchase made through affiliate link. All opinions are my own. 

I'm back from #NicheParent14 and I'm still on a blog high. That's one of my favorite things about attending conferences - I always feel so motivated when I return. It's like a jolt of energy. I have all these ideas and not enough time. But I'm not complaining...because lots of ideas is a good thing. I'm writing them all down for those moments when nothing comes to mind. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to attend the Niche Parent Conference. I've been blogging for four years - I'm not a newbie but there is always room to grow and learn. 

While at Niche Parent, I had the opportunity to meet brands and bloggers. It was fun to reconnect with my blog amigas and I also met some new friends. And it was also my first conference with Norrin. He even sat in on a few panels! I was so proud of him.  

If you didn't get a chance to attend the conference - don't worry. Here are my key takeaways:   

I could listen to Alberto Sardinas talk all day. His story is so inspiring and motivating. Alberto was an ideal keynote speaker for #NicheParent14. He believes in the power of your story. As bloggers, that's what we are: storytellers. No matter what we blog about - we always have to bring it back to our story. That's the way to make a real impact. 

Probably one of my favorite people I met while at #NicheParent14! Julie Cole of Mabel's Labels was fun, honest and engaging. As a mom of 6 (one with autism) who is a successful businesswoman (or Mompreneur), Julie encouraged the moms in the room to "lower [their] standards" because "the kids are all right." I loved her laid back, keep it real attitude about motherhood. So many women are running themselves ragged trying to do it all and be everywhere. It's kind of impossible to do. Julie shared that she is strategic about her business and strategic about her kids. She also stressed the importance of keeping the commitments you make to your kids.    
I've been following Kim Garst on Twitter for a while and it was such a thrill to hear her speak in person. She has a quiet confidence. But her message rings loud and clear. If you don't follow her on Twitter, you should.  
Okay...I am secretly obsessed with Laura Fuentes of Momables right now. Her site is amazing and she was just totally down to earth! I'm determined to download a menu and follow it. Also, after chatting with her I am tempted to switch to a Paleo lifestyle. Anyway, Laura is all about building your business and focusing on what matters.   
Yup...another Laura quote. But this was my little golden nugget of the conference. She encouraged us to start investing in ourselves by boosting our FB content. She suggested taking an evergreen post that did really well and giving it a boost. I've written so many articles over the last four years - some better than others. But just because something was written last year, doesn't mean it's unrelatable today.  
Matt Cherry was electric! I loved meeting him and hearing his panel on 30 Easy Changes To Make for Giant Growth. (I also won a subscription for iBlog Magazine - woohooo)! I loved what he said about peers. He put things in perspective. He encouraged us to collaborate, to network, to reach out to other bloggers. There is no need to be jealous or feel competitive because there is room for all of us. We are all unique - even when we blog about the same topic. 

Like Alberto Sardinas said - we all have our own personal story. There is power in that. No other blogger can tell your story, except you. 

Did you attend #NicheParent14 - what were your key takeaways?    

Some of my #NicheParent14 Magical Moments

Please Don't Go Barnes & Noble @BNBuzz. The Bronx Needs A Bookstore.

10/25 Update: 
Barnes & Noble executives said on Thursday that its store in Bay Plaza in Co-op City will remain open for two more years, reversing an earlier decision to close it after the year-end holidays. The announcement followed efforts by Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, to negotiate a compromise between the bookseller and its landlord, Prestige Properties & Development. [Winnie Hu, NYT]

When my friend shared this photo on Instagram (see below) and tagged me, my first reaction was sadness. Another bookstore I frequent is closing.

I work in midtown Manhattan. The building where I work used to have a Borders Books. I'd spend many a lunch hour walking up and down the aisles looking for books. It's where most of Norrin's books were purchased. A few blocks away, there was a multi-level Barnes & Nobel. And on my way home after work, another Borders Books on Park Avenue. Now they are all gone. There isn't a bookstore nearby to spend my time or my money.

I miss it. I miss the bookstore.

But I took comfort knowing that I had the B&N in Bay Plaza. It's the first bookstore I went to after Norrin was diagnosed with autism. It's where I bought 3 copies of the April issue of Latina magazine, where my first print article was published. It's where we like to spend Saturday afternoons, letting Norrin pick out his books.

I love bookstores. I love discovering new books and seeing old favorites. I have an iPad and a Kindle but I will always prefer holding a book. And buying books on line is just not the same.

According to Nielsen’s survey, ebooks constituted only 23 percent of unit sales for the first six months of the year, while hardcovers made up 25 percent and paperback 42 percent of sales...not only did overall print book sales, at 67 percent of the market, outpace ebook sales, both hardcovers and paperbacks individually outsold ebooks. [Claire Fallon, HuffPost Books]

If this is the case, why do bookstores keep closing? 

Barnes & Nobel is the ONLY bookstore in The Bronx. Once its closes its doors, Bronxites will no longer have an option to buy books in their borough (outside of a Bronx college campus bookstore). If any borough needs a bookstore, it's The Bronx. And our kids need access to books - and not books they can check out from a library, books they can have forever.

Whether you're a Bronx resident or not, PLEASE sign the petition and share with your friends so that we can keep our 1 and only bookstore! To sign click - HERE.

And if Barnes & Noble must close its current location - I hope they reopen a smaller store within the new Bay Plaza shopping center. I hope they recognize that there is a need for one in our community.
Copyright © 2013 Atypical Familia