Our Trip to Punta Cana,Dominican Republic: Noah’s 2nd Birthday Gift

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

-Dr Seuss

Traveling with a toddler can be intimidating to some and also scary.

But after taking Noah on his first plane ride as young as 9-months old and seeing how great he did, it was then that we knew he was born to be an explorer.

This year we started what we want to turn into a family tradition for him. No birthday parties but take a trip somewhere, instead. We want to teach him to appreciate the rewarding aspects of traveling. Explore new cultures, languages, cuisines, art, religions;We want him to be culturally diversified.

May the cold Chicago winter go by fast as we sit here, reminiscing on lovely Punta Cana and as we plan our next adventurous destination.


A Unique Puzzle Piece: Autism Parenting

“Autism doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a parent who never gives up”


Sandra A. Hernandez, 29, is mother of two boys. Her youngest, Sebastian, 4-years old, was diagnosed with Autism on January 16, 2015 at age three.

Shortly after starting daycare in early 2014, the teachers noticed some developmental delays on Sebastian. Although they conducted an evaluation themselves, they encouraged his parents to take him to his pediatrician and seek referral to a specialist. And it was they who will give the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD), placing him on the moderate level of the spectrum.

With a disorder that has so many unanswered questions, there is not better expert to speak on it than a parent who is living their own day by day journey with an autistic child.

When did you first notice symptoms

I definitely noticed them. Just his behavior was different than his brother’s and his cousins’. And I’ve known about autism, I have a friend that her son has autism so I was familiar with it. It was just something that I always thought about. Certain things that he would do when he was younger, like I would joke that he was anti-social but I kind of had a feeling it was something else. So yeah, mother’s instinct.

What has been the most difficult aspect of the diagnosis?

The most difficult, I wouldn’t say the diagnosis itself is the difficult part but what comes after. Like in the future, knowing that he has autism isn’t difficult, it’s just thinking about the future. The difficult part for me is thinking that he is not going to be able to be independent. He’s developed so much since the diagnosis and part of me says ‘it’s just his development and his pace’ but then there’s the diagnosis. Him having autism isn’t difficult is what comes after the diagnosis, is just the tomorrow. Like he’s doing good in certain areas but there will be other areas where I’ll see that are more what you hear of the typical stories of autism, like the tantrums or how he can’t control himself with his sensory issues. But the diagnosis itself doesn’t scare me, It’s just the future, how he’ll develop and how he’ll be able to take care of himself when I’m not here. That scares me.

How do you cope with his behavioral differences?

It’s hard because he’s gonna be five soon, and yeah he’s the little brother and Julius his brother does see him as a baby but the reality is that he really isn’t a baby, physically. But thankfully at this point, Julius does think of him that he is. I know that is going to go away, the bigger Sebastian gets, physically, it’s not going to make that much sense to Julius knowing that he was five just 17 months ago and that now his brother is not doing the things that he was doing when he was five. At this point is not that noticeable but it’s gonna get there. And it’s just like anything else with this, I just take it day by day.

What are your hopes for the next five years?

We were so lucky to find a school that specializes in kids with disabilities and autism is something big at his school. Unfortunately, it only goes up to second grade and honestly I’m at a blank at this point. I’m scared, but I’m thankful that he is where he is. Where they’re focusing on his needs and I hope he’s able to go to mainstream. I hope he’s developed enough to where he might need some assistance but not all-day assistance. So my goal for him IS mainstream in hopes that he’s able to take on that task. If I see that mainstream isn’t the place for him I would like to find a school for him that’s going to focus on his needs. But that’s in the future, that I’m not so focused on right now. It’s day by day and day by day I hope he learns more and I hope he’s able to speak and do everything that will give him the capability of being in a mainstream school.

As a mom, where do you find your strength to deal with this day by day?

In him. He gives me that strength. Evey morning,he comes to my bed, he wakes me up with a kiss all in my face and that’s where my strength comes from. It’s me seeing that he comes and he’s acknowledged that before, I used to go and give him kisses every morning to wake him up and now he does it to me. And that’s me seeing that he’s learning. That he’s seeing that routine of saying good morning and giving kisses. He might not say it, but that’s his good morning to me. With that kiss that’s how he wakes me up physically and he gives me that strength. Like it’s another day, another day of learning, of working hard and get him where we need to be.

What is one piece of advice will you give another mom going through the same situation as you?

I don’t think there’s a mom going through the same situation as me, ever. Any mom that has a child with autism has their own journey. Learn your child, see what your child likes what your child doesn’t like. I would advise you to push your child a little bit. Get him outside his/her comfort zone. Every day, do something that is going to get them outside their comfort zone. A lot of people might say to not take them out because they might not be comfortable or sensory overload. Pay attention to your child, learn what their limits are and push them, slightly. If the only thing you’re gonna do is benefit them, keeping them in a bubble or keeping them indoors or keeping them away from situations that are going to make them uncomfortable is maybe not the best thing. Because the more they’re exposed to it, the more that’ll be the norm for them. Sometimes it might not work, but as the mom, you’ll know that it’s not going to work or that it’s too much. Don’t be scared to push the limit a little bit, just for their benefit.


Birthday Parties Are Overrated

This year, my son did not get a second birthday party and I don’t regret it one bit.

“He’s a little kid”

“They want presents”

“They want balloons and cake”

“They want to have fun”

Yeah yeah yeah, we heard all that from everyone who thought I would go all out like I did for his first birthday.

Trust me, I was highly tempted to throw Noah a Kidchella-like party like the one Kimye had for their daughter North on her first birthday. But I didn’t book the Ferris wheel on time. LOL!

Alright, the real reason is that we don’t have Kimye-money in our bank account.

After throwing his first party, I woke up the next morning not knowing where to begin cleaning. I stared at the pile of dirty dishes(even though we had disposable everything), the popped and deflated balloons all over our backyard and garbage overflowing the trash cans. So I looked at my husband and said, “No more parties from next year forward.”

He looked at me and laughed while saying “yeah right you’ll start planning it tomorrow.”

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Looking back at everything we spent, it added up to almost $2,000. But it was only a backyard birthday party! Well, the creative and over-the-top person that I am, I went all out trying to create a unique birthday party experience for the children that will be attending. Notice how I did not mention my son? Right, because ultimately, that birthday party was for the guests and not for him. We had the party two weeks shy of his first birthday and he didn’t start walking until a week after he turned one.

So parents, let’s be honest to ourselves, many birthday parties are for us rather than the child’s,especially the first and second birthday parties.

Us Mexicans have this tendency to have kid parties with more alcohol available than candy.


We spent almost $300 on beer for 100 guests, oh yeah, and $25 on Capris Sun juices for the kids.

I was super serious about not throwing a second party. When we received our income tax return in February, I took $1,500 and set them aside for what will be his second birthday, trip.

So believe it or not, we took those $1,500 and booked an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean.


YES! ALL-INCLUSIVE six-day trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.


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So think about it, I say birthday parties are super overrated. Why throw a birthday party for others(not for your child)instead of taking a nice family vacation and explore other parts of the world.

Passport stamps and lifetime memories. 

Swarovski® Crystal Nike Shoes:DIY

Since I became a mom, I’ve realized that it is very difficult for me to splurge on myself. When I’m out shopping, I always drift into the toddler section and totally forget that the shopping trip was for me.

A few months ago as I was browsing on the Macy’s website and spotted a pair of Nike sneakers. They were $90, which was way over my usual budget but I really liked them so I made the purchase.

When they finally arrived two-three business days later, I fell in love with them even more but they were missing (something). I had already spent well over $100 on the shoes so there was no way I will spend an extra $100+ on customizing them with Swarovski®crystals so I turned to Pinterest for DIY ideas.

Nike Girls’ Air Max Thea Print Running Sneakers from Finish Line

So the tutorial I found called for:

  • Swarovski® flat back rhinestones
  • Jewel setter
  • E6000 adhesive
  • Orange stick
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Shoes(of course)

What I used:

  • 2 sets of 76 pieces each Swarovski®flat back rhinestones $9.99/each
  • E-6000 adhesive(CLEAR) $4.99
  • Emery board(nail file) $1
  • Small brush $1
  • Toothpick (Household item)
  • Shoes $90(before tax)

$avings Tips:

Each set of rhinestones is $9.99 but DO take advantage of the coupons that Michaels has to  offer. Sometimes they have a 40% off a single item or 50% a single item. Do not be afraid to ask your cashier for multiple transactions, usually, they’ll allow it and will allow you to use the same coupon multiple times. So instead of spending roughly $30 in material at Michaels, you will only spend $18 or so.



  1. Take your emery board and lightly file the Nike swoosh. This will roughen the surface and help the rhinestones set better.
  2. Make sure that your rhinestones are all facing up and ready to be picked up and placed.
  3. With a clean surface and no glue yet applied, set your first row of rhinestones to see which will fit perfectly where you are starting(Do note that the swoosh varies in dimension depending on shoe and size). I recommend starting from the thinnest part first.
  4. Squeeze a small amount of your E-6000 adhesive and spread with your brush.(You don’t want a large amount that will cluster in between your stones).
  5. Slightly dip your toothpick in the adhesive and begin picking up your rhinestones for application.
  6. Keep on repeating step #3 throughout.

Each Nike swoosh will use up approximately 50-55 rhinestones. I did not use any of the rubbing alcohol to clean the surface of my rhinestones at the end because the application went pretty smooth and not messy. If you find that your stones look dull, take a napkin with alcohol and lightly dab it over your rhinestones.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you leave them to dry for at least 24 hours.


I’ve worn this pair pretty heavily and Noah has tossed my shoes around multiple times. So far, I’ve only lost three rhinestones that I have easily gone pack and replaced.

Because one pair wasn’t enough, I went and bedazzled a second pair.

BTW: This pair was a lot cheaper because the shoe itself was only $39.99 at the Nike outlet.

A Letter To My Father-In-Law: Your Son’s 5 Stages Of Grief

Dear Suegro,

Even after almost two years of your death, we are still in utter disbelief that you are gone. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how things would be now if you were still here with us.

I’ve tried to come to peace with myself and accept that God has a plan for each and every one of us and that it was his plan to have you join his side as soon as you did. But I can’t.

I fell in love with your son because of the amazing soul, morals and beliefs that you and my suegra made sure to instill in him. I fell in love with his love for family, which I noticed that,the moment he came into my life again.

You meant and mean so much to him; seeing the pain that was left in his heart the day you passed away, has made life without you a bitter pill for him to swallow.


He was quiet and we did not talk about it. I felt him absent and thoughtful all the time but he just wouldn’t talk about it. He bottled in all of his emotions and kept them to himself. I worried sick about the possible negative emotional effects that this could have on him.


At times when he would finally break down and cry, he blamed himself for not paying closer attention to your medication intake. He wondered if he would have been more aware of you not following up with your doctor to get your blood pressure medication, that your heart attack could have been prevented.


When you were still in the hospital, he prayed day and night for those 12 long days of agony. He wanted to move mountains with his faith and was almost sure that you were going to get better and wake up from that coma. That he would also wake up from what he thought was a nightmare.


I think this comes and goes. I can’t say with certainty that he does not feel some type away about the first three stages. There are days that I feel him so discouraged with everything, almost disconnected from the world. There were still so many things for him to learn from you. He had just been a father for five short months when you passed. He needed you to be there and tell him that he was doing a good job. Or even to tell him that he was doing wrong even if his way of raising Noah was going to be different than the way you raised him. He wanted you to see Noah take his first steps, speak his first words and for you to give him all the love that he saw you give to Alex’s(his brother)kids. He felt like Noah was robbed of the privilige to have you as a present abuelito.


This does not come easy and I don’t think it ever will. But I think more than acceptance it has been resignation. He’s only accepted the reality that he has a family that he must move forward for but the pain of losing you as soon as he did, remains.

I just want you to know, whereve you might be looking down on us from, that your son is the most magnificent father I could have given my child. I know he has struggled without your guidance and approval but he is doing a great job. Thank you for creating and leaving me with a man that has a heart of gold and such a loving soul.

We miss you. We love you. We remember you.


December 12, 2014

NO ONE WARNS US: How Did You Deal With The Baby Blues?

Moms told me about the wonderful pleasures of motherhood and the pains of labor, but no one warned me about the tears of postpartum depression.

Just two weeks after giving birth, I got hit with “the baby blues.”

As Noah would nap, I would cry. But why? I asked myself. I would just cry, for no apparent reason. In the middle of the day, I would sit on the edge of my bed and cry. I couldn’t explain to myself why the tears. I had a good baby. He was eating well, he wouldn’t cry, he would latch on without a problem, he wasn’t colicky nor struggling with constipation. So why the uncontrollable tears?

No one really talks about these so-called “baby blues,” but they are more common than we think. Approximately 70-80 percent of mothers experience some type of depression after giving birth.

The changes that my body underwent were extremely hard for me to deal with. From extreme constipation, hot flashes and hyperhidrosis, to sagging abdomen skin with dark, bruise-like stretch marks. No, I was not “blessed” with “good genes” that will keep my skin beautiful and silky smooth through a pregnancy and that really did not help my postpartum depression.

What. . .Well, who helped me get through the roughest three weeks of my life, was my husband.

He comforted me and cheered for me in a way that I can’t ever thank him enough. He didn’t ask for me to stop crying but made sure to remind me of everything that I was doing right for our son. Thanked me for dedicating endless hours breastfeeding. He was my biggest cheerleader in my greatest time of need. He caressed my stretch marks(Freddy Krueger wounds, as I called them)and kissed them while reminding me of the love and appreciation he had for me for carrying his child. He reminded me of his admiration for me the day I gave birth because he thought it was the most amazing event he had ever witnessed.

And although it was hard for me to feel immediate comfort with his words, he was patient. He made sure to take over parenting as soon as he got home from work, to give me a break. Not once did he complain about changing a dirty diaper or fixing a meal for himself if I didn’t have it ready. Having his infinite help got me through this rough patch.

I do regret not letting my on-call nurse from my health insurance know how I was feeling. I did receive a call from her the week the uncontrollable crying began. For fear of being considered an “unsuitable mother,” I remained quiet about the symptoms.

Maybe I got lucky with having so much help from my husband but I would definitely advise every first-time mother or mom-to-be, in general, to seek help if any of the symptoms are present. And if there are family members or friends who offer to help around the house or with the baby, TAKE THE HELP, even if it’s just to take a quick shower. Trust me, it will make you feel a bit better.

I almost cried thinking back on this postpartum time, how did you deal with the baby blues?