Monday, May 2, 2011

CousinFest and Coming Home

One of the best parts of our trip to Puerto Rico was to meet with all our wonderful cousins who live on the island.  I grew up within a large tight-knit extended family in San Juan.  We would see our cousins often in get-togethers, during highly desired sleep-overs, and on trips to the beach or around the island.  I have cousins of all ages and personality types, and am grateful for how sweet and loving they are. 
Here Dante is getting some of Juliana's brightness!!!

Right after landing on the island Dante and I headed with my parents to see my cousin Myriam – she’s the one I would play “Beauty Parlor” and climb trees with at my grandma’s house. Now Myriam has the great little Samuel, who has huge eyes and a personality to match.  Samuel was so happy to have Dante visiting, and the two-year-old reminds his mom about “el nene Dante” still.  During our stay we had lots of quality time with Mariana, Juliana, and Angela, my brothers’ girls.  Mariana and Juliana were the perfect pair of peers for Dante, challenging him with their very unique but charming personalities.  You may have seen those pictures on my last blog.  My cousin Cindy, who was not able to see me, called to ask how we were doing and to basically cheer me on for all the work that needs to be done.  Her calls to me were very uplifting.  And to end our trip on a high note, my almost-sister cousin Johanna hosted an Open House three days ago in our honor.  That meant that I got to see four more of my cousins, all very close.  But best of all was that Dante got to see four of his second cousins, all absolutely awesome little kids!
Here Dante is secretly studying Mariana's character
Alberto Andrés, Isabella, Daniella, and Rafaelito were the cutest and most welcoming little cousins.  The oldest, Alberto Andrés and Isabella, remembered Dante very well from our previous visit almost two years ago.  They welcomed us as though we had only seen each other the previous day.  The youngest two, Daniella and Rafaelito, entertained us with their huge personalities.  My dear cousins Becky, Johanna, Sheila, and Jorgetito were so loving and hospitable that I was on a cloud.  I was also so pleasantly surprised when they told me they had read parts of my blog!!!  Yeay!!!  Here goes a shout out to the World’s Best Cousins!!!
Dante enjoys a jump rope game with the sweet Isabella
The night ended with a delicious salmon dinner lovingly prepared by Johanna.  It was a Feast to remember and the memories will last me quite a long time.  I’m pretty sure Dante will remember as well.  Gracias Primitas!!!
Rafaelito, Alberto Andrés, Isabella, Daniella, and Dante
The day after the Cousin-Fest Dante and I boarded our flight home.  It was an especially teary-eyed goodbye between my mom and I as my dad went to park the car.  Dante had been head-banging during car rides in the last couple of days up to our short drive to the airport, so she was dreading the possibility of a difficult flight for us.  I was just feeling how absolutely hard she had worked for Dante to have all the food he needed every day of our trip, and how tired she must be from all the work and chaos we brought to their now-retired lifestyle. 

The line for the security checkpoint was very long and slow and I did not want to have to handle the potential meltdown, so when I saw a security lady come close I quickly intercepted her and asked for the dreaded special-treatment-due- to-my-autistic-son.  I feel so absolutely self-conscious asking for a privilege.  I think it bothers me too much to have to verbally confirm that my son has this dreadful issue that everyone feels sorry for.  And Puerto Rican’s recognize that they are great at feeling pity for others, they call it the "Hay Bendito". The two minutes I spent on the line included a woman who asked me whether Dante had autism and proceeded to tell me not only about her autistic granddaughter, but about how Dante would be fine.  I was more overwhelmed with emotion and had to fight back tears as I was led to the front of this second line and on to an empty scan station.  We were quickly attended to and our homeopathic remedies carefully handled outside any X-ray machine.  We went through airport security in all of three minutes.  In Puerto Rico.  That is unheard of.

I should have realized that was a good sign.  Dante’s head-banging was due to his butt becoming irritated.  My mom and I concluded he’d had way too many delicious mangos during the vacation and they were irritating his behind.  I was reapplying Desitin after every BM. 

Timed perfectly, Dante had a BM right before we boarded the plane so we were able to use the airport bathroom.  So far, so good.  I boarded the airplane last so I got to see how full that airplane is and how far back – last row was my choice to be close to the bathroom – we are.  To make a four-hour flight sound short, Dante allowed me to read, yes READ, for over an hour at the beginning of our flight.  READ!  I’m still in shock over how content and playful he was on that airplane!  Bless the Continental Gods!  He ate well, he paid attention to me reading to him, and he went potty twice.  He became sleepy during the last hour, so I brought out all the guns:  songs, apple, banana, ipad, you name it, it was put to use.  Dante sucked his fingers and soothed himself and eventually, we landed.  Sleepiness said goodbye when that plane landed as Dante became very happy and proceeded to joyfully arrive and almost race through the airport to dad.

Two days after our arrival, we still have not done the last potency of the MMR vaccine clearing.  Three fourths of the way through MMR, Dante has definitely been ON these past few days.  Despite the burning butt, he has been vocalizing and approximating words and had a wonderful day at school today.  Some of the comments from his teacher today – on his first day back after such a long trip- are:
  • “doing great w/ pants up & down!”
  • “nice jobs w/ counting objects”
  • “Good ‘looking eyes’ at objects”
  • “Oh my gosh! Dante looks older & taller!..Dante had a good morning of lots of work, considering he was off for 2 weeks – periods of laughter, periods of focus and periods of absolutely not wanting to work.  He was mostly good & followed one-step directions quite well!  Overall I was impressed w/ how well he did since being gone.” 

Thank You, Cousins!  
Yeay, Homeopathy!!!  
We’re Back and Ready to Keep Going!!!


Lucy Alonso said...

So so happy to see he enjoyed his trip, and I am so glad you had so much love and support while you were there. Trust me when I tell you how much I understand how you must feel, I have been so blessed to have recently found an awesome group of people that have been very supportive, and loving to us. God is good, verdad?

I will always keep Dante in my prayers, take care my friend and keep going, como dicen creo en tu tierra, pa tras ni pa garar impulso!

Mom Connected said...

Thank you so much Lucia! Support is the one silver lining in the autism journey. The amount of love, affection, and prayers Dante is receiving is amazing. It is a true blessing and it often overwhelms me, as it did on this trip.

Your constant empathy and support are so appreciated. I know I haven't placed comments for a while, but I always keep Alex in my thoughts and prayers. Stay Strong!

Lucy Alonso said...

No worries girl, I know how busy you are, I'm a warrior mom too. Stop by to check on Alex whenever u get a chance, no worries at all. Staying strong is a must for me and you, we have no other choice, keep going forward and remember I am always here for you :)