Baby Aliza

March 9th, 2019

I know this wonderful family for years and Mariam is just one of 6 kids and I remember her as a little girl and now she’s all grown with a beautiful daughter of her own and I was honoured when she asked me to do a photo shoot of her precious newborn.

Baby Aliza is only 3 weeks old but she’s already alert and ready to go. She’s usually a sleeper but she wanted to see what was going on when I came by to photograph her so we didn’t get many sleepy shots, but her eyes are so big and beautiful that you can’t help but stare into those big beautiful brown eyes of her in every shot. She is so adorable and both mom and grandma love taking care of her and she has become their little princess.

Thank you Mariam for allowing me into your home and your lives and for asking me to photograph your precious little girl. It was a pleasure spending a few hours with you all and getting to know your little girl a bit. She has a strong personality already and I look forward to seeing her grow up.

I couldn’t help but turn her into an angel for a few shots.
 

Just a glimpse….

October 1st, 2018

 

A glimpse of what a life is like with an autistic child…… I’m just venting here, not really thinking anyone will read this, but I just felt I had to put my personal thoughts on paper, it feels better to write things down sometimes. I am only describing how I feel, and what I think others may feel too. Some of it is down right raw, please look past the judgement and maybe try to understand, if everyone was more understanding rather than judgemental we would be living in a much nicer world.

Not sure if its the cold wind in the air and because its a gloomy day but its just one of those days that makes you want to weep. Everything and everyone gets you down and you can’t stop the negative thoughts that come to mind and you just sit and wallow in your sorrow. I have so much to be grateful for and yet I can’t help but think well it could be better. I try to tell myself that it could be worse, way worse, but its hard to overcome the negativity with the positive. It’s a daily struggle to keep positive and to not worry about the future. I worry about the boys, but those seem like normal worries but when I worry about Elizabeth, it takes on a life of its own. She’s doing well, speaking somewhat now, not really conversing but we communicate.  We celebrate the little things, one word, a smile, a song she might sing, a sentence she might say, sharing a toy or a snack, making a spontaneous comment out of the blue. It seemed like I waited forever until she  finally learned to say “mommy” or “I love you mommy” and now I feel so thankful and excited each and every time she says it,  but for every little joy and accomplishment, like having her say cheese when I take a pic and actually smiling, there are many more worries that are overwhelming and loom over us like a bad cloud ready to pour down rain and the fear of it never ending. Its just hard, everyday is hard, always dealing with one type of problem or another. Getting and keeping the clothes on, brushing hair or teeth, sensory problems, does certain clothing itch or not feel comfortable and how do you know if they aren’t verbal. Do lights and sounds bother them, as usually it does in varying degrees. There is so much to learn about a child with autism as they have many issues they have to deal with on a daily basis. My worse fears are when we go out, and boy am I scared of taking her out, for so many reasons. I’m scared she will run off and I won’t be able to catch her, I’m scared she’ll get into someone’s face that won’t understand, I’m scared the kids will reject her, or not understand why she doesn’t always respond when being spoken too. I worry that they will classify her as weird or not normal if they see her sing to herself, or make loud noises, or cover her ears. I’m scared to take her to friends’ houses as I don’t know if they will understand and its not a fun time for me, as I’m constantly looking at her, making sure she doesn’t break something in their house, or try to climb somewhere she’s not suppose too, or if she’s not playing or sharing with her playdate, or if she’ll find a way to get out of the house, or heck maybe forget where the bathroom is and pee and poop on the floor. Only to be scared that we will never be invited back. I’m scared people will think we aren’t good parents for they may disagree with the way we do things with her. We have lost friends since her diagnosis and I don’t know if its because of her and her autism, or is it us, but it hurts either way. I’m scared of her future and what will happen if her dad and I aren’t around, will her brother’s take care of her? I’m hoping she will be independent but we won’t know that for years to come still. She has no friends and I think she could be a great friend, but she will need a friend that will be really understanding and patient and will put up with alot unknowns and different behaviour, or rather not familiar behaviour. I fear highschool, even grade school, she’s only in grade one but eventually a mean kid will say something to her and it breaks my heart to think of what she is going to go through. I can’t always be there, and if and when someone hurts her, it will kill me that I can’t fix it for her, that I can’t hurt the person that hurt her, even though I believe in what goes around comes around, but when it comes to my child, all bets are off, and if I find out someone is hurting her, God help them.  She will have so many obstacles to climb and crawl through and jump over. I want to protect her, but its hard, I got to let her be a child and to do things, but its different, I wasn’t so afraid of letting go with the boys as I am with her, I just fear what she might do or get into. I have to watch her as I fear for her life, parents of autistic children have to think of the unthinkable as we have to cover all our basis, so when we think what if she gets lost, will she be able to communicate with someone or will she even be found, and that’s when we get id bracelets and tracking devices, all of which we have tried but she broke the gps watch, and won’t wear her id bracelet, so I feel like I can’t ever take my eyes off her. I go to the playground, or just see kids all around and I envy the simple life they get to lead and how my child won’t have a life like that. My heart breaks everyday for her, every time I take her to get on teh school bus and she needs a harness while the other kids get on without one, or how I have to explain to the driver that she may take off some of her clothes or to not give her her back pack because she will get in it and eat everything in her lunch box all at once and make a mess in teh process. I have to explain to everyone that we meet that she is different and to expect the unexpected and I can only hope they don’t hold it against her or me for that matter. Sometimes I feel like I’m not taking her out enough or doing enough things with her, but the thought scares me so much and all the possibilities of what may happen often cause me so much anxiety that I don’t go. I feel like I’m keeping her in a jail at times. I get tired explaining a thousand times to her about different things, when another child would have understand after the 100th time they were told. Don’t touch teh stove takes on a whole new meaning with an autistic child because all it takes is one time for them to touch it and then you are dealing with a hurt autistic child that won’t let you care to their wound and are freaking out and crying in pain, and then what do you do? I dread thinking that if my little girl ever breaks her leg or needs stitches, I have no clue how she will deal with nurses and hospitals and needles and the pain. I have seen how she acts to mosquitoes bites and bruises, she is more apt to play with them and scratch at them and make them worse and not leave them alone, so hurting herself is a constant fear I have for her.  I want to sit and watch a movie with her, but she won’t sit for more than 5-10 mins and she’s up and running around and most likely wants to do something else, as nothing can contain her attention for long periods of time. She won’t let me brush her hair, and its so hard, and I wanted a girl for so long and now I have one and everyone tells me to cut her hair, but I don’t want too, I wanted a girl with long hair so I could do the things to her hair that my mom did to me, but she won’t let me touch it and if more than one day goes by where I haven’t brushed it the knots in the back of her neck get so bad and it makes it harder and hurts her more to brush, its a vicious cycle.  She is so sweet and so loving but so much work, and I fall to bed exhausted every night. I just want a break, a lunch date with a friend, go out to see a movie, a date with dad or with one of the kiddos or my mom. No one other than another mom of a disabled child understands what we go through in a day. We run a marathon each and every day essentially, and especially if we have more than one child. EAch autistic child has their own problems, many have similar issues and many have other issues, its true when they say you have met one person with autism then you have met ONE person with autism, not two are alike. What my daughter deals with is different than what my neighbour with their son deal with but we do have similarities of course. Not only do we have to feed them and clean and bath and dress them but some smear their poop, some hit their heads on the wall or some sway back and forth, some speak, some don’t, they all have different issues with lights and sounds and forget about sensory, I have heard it say that a turtle neck can feel like the child is being strangled, or a sweater can be so itchy or a 3/4 sleeve can drive an autistic person bonkers, so you have to figure out all these things. Many have digestive problems, and eating habits are poor, Elizabeth won’t eat meat or veggies or fruits, maybe apples and bananas sometimes, and she used to eat watermelon but not anymore. We did the gluten free and dairy free diet, didn’t work. You try almost anything to help your child. You take them to many different doctors about so many issues, and then to therapists to try to help me speak and learn and develop and then continue that at home, so you are a mom but have to become their teacher and their advocate and you learn to fight for them, to go to the higher ups to get things done for your child’s sake, to fight the educational system and demand an EA in the class simply because you fear they may run and they need more attention, so smaller ratios to children and teachers in class. You have to fight the government as they are not doing enough, children need to be assessed at an earlier age, and get more help, therapeutic help, the earlier the better. We need more centres for autism. More therapists to help our children, because if our children are helped at an early age, their progression is so much quicker and they learn so much more and have so much potential in the future. Our daughter almost missed out on pivotal therapy all because of her age. They had capped it so that you couldn’t get this early childhood therapy unless you were under the age of 5, do you know when we finally got the word that she was accepted into one of these programs? Right after her 4th birthday and I thank God she got in when she did, as she did 2 years of 1:1 ABA therapy and it helped her so much. If she was 5, she wouldn’t have been offered that placement, and why, because of her age, AUTISM doesn’t stop at age 5!!!!! Don’t get me started. I went and protested and wrote letters and petitions and joined groups and went to rally’s all for the sake of our children and getting them the therapy they needed. It’s crazy what us parents of autistic children have to go through to get help for our kids. Parents need money, aba is not cheap, its about $50,000 a year but of course we have our government we just have to get on a waiting list and wait our turn because their are not enough therapists, enough centres to take care of all these kids. If we have money for infrastructure or immigrants, then we should have money for OUR children, they will run the future, they will vote and they are the ones you need to worry about and help and protect and provide every measure of assistance possible, I’m talking to the politicians here because in the end these children will become adults and they will vote, and most likely not for the ones that didn’t help them when they were young. Between dr’s appt’s and therapists and writing political leaders and educational superintendents to just making sure they are in your constant eye sight, or not too far, as many know, you turn your back, and all heck can break loose. My daughter would destroy furniture, the walls, computers, ipads, tv’s, vcr’s, just about everything in one way or another. Throwing it down, pouring liquids over things, playing with the toilet water, or cracking eggs into dinner that was just made,or pouring flour all over the flour, the mess just never ends. You basically need to be a wife, mother, teacher, nurse, therapist, maid, friend, and everything in between when raising an autistic child. We essentially run on empty, on fumes by the end of the day and we have many down days, many days when we get overwhelmed and feel like we are going to lose it.  A lot of us even think of the worse at really low points and on days where we do everything and its not enough, and our child is hitting us, or hitting themselves, or crying uncontrollably or breaking and making messes all over, that their lives would be better without us (its just the frustration talking) because we know that WE, their moms are the only ones that truly know how to deal with them and if we weren’t here we fear what will happen to our precious children, so that usually snaps us out of black haze, the stupid thoughts that occasionally creep into your mind and you are so tired and overwhelmed and you think you just can’t take anymore….and Yes, daddy’s can feel the same way, daddy’s help, they are there and they try,  but there is no bond like a mother’s and when you spend 24/7 with a special needs child, you learn everything about them and every way to calm them down, to make them happy, to help them when they are upset or angry, and even then, it doesn’t always work so you improvise and pray to God that it works, it becomes a lot to deal with. I know a few mom’s with autistic sons who are violent and I know how hard it is with Elizabeth and she’s not violent, so I can only imagine dealing with what you have and adding violent outbursts to that. I just don’t know how some do it. Their autistic children who won’t sleep, they won’t sleep!!! I mean some sleep for an hour or two, how can a parent function while staying up watching your child and getting up for work the next day, or even staying home with the child, its crazy. Some hit themselves over and over and they need to wear helmets, some break walls with their heads, some hurt the parents that love them so, and not because they want too, its that they don’t know how to express what they are feeling. They have so many things going on at once, its hard to focus, and therefore must be so frustrating. When a child is on the floor in the mall, its not because they aren’t getting what they want, its because they can’t express what they are feeling at the moment and its all too much and may need some time to calm down. Some need hours to calm down, others need minutes and maybe a good strong hug for a while. I remember leaving the aquarium with Elizabeth last year, she loved it so much, didn’t want to leave, and she just got overwhelmed and started screaming and laying on the floor and my hubby had to physically carry her to the car. I felt like people were watching us, maybe even video taping us thinking what bad parents we were, but at that moment, we had tried everything we knew to make Elizabeth understand that it was time to leave. I didn’t give her a warning and that may have been enough to set her off, as they usually like routines and need to know when something will finish ahead of time so they can prepare. Now I tell her all the time, Elizabeth you have 5 minutes until bedtime, or 5 minutes until we have to go, she may protest, but she knows its coming so she is prepared. I guess I’m writing this because I’m tired. So tired, and I just feel for the moms that deal with this daily and no one knows what we go through on a daily basis. So here is just a little bit of what goes on in our lives, and trust me that there is so much more I could say and I’m just scratching the surface, and I can’t stress it enough, if you know any moms with a disabled child, please reach out to them, they most likely won’t reach out to you, we will think you probably want nothing to do with us anymore, and may think you are mad at us even, we won’t want to bother you, so please pick up the phone and call them, talk to them, take them out for lunch, or to go shopping, to see a movie, somewhere before they go nuts!! I read that mother’s of autistic children usually get PTSD, like soldiers in the war do, because we are constantly fighting battles that we do not know how to win. We have to learn a different language as autistic children think and process information differently and they get very upset when they don’t feel like they are heard or understood and many of them don’t have the capability to communicate verbally so its a struggle to figure out your child’s needs adn wants and it usually takes years of studying them to figure things out. We feel alone and lost and isolated, we don’t want to ask for help and we don’t want to bother other people, but we don’t know what to do and are often depressed and emotionally distraught. This is where a good friend can help. Seriously, a good friend is the best medicine, just a shoulder to lean on, to laugh with, to vent too. Bring them a meal, or wine,  or if you are really adventurous offer to babysit, they probably won’t let you anyways, but its the thought that counts. One simple nice gesture can do so much for a mom who is having a hard time, I think we all go through hard times, even when we don’t have disabled children, but think of the moms that have disabled children and how much MORE they have to deal with and what it would be like if you were going through that and how much you would love for a friend to reach out to you. OH… and please try to teach your kids about being nice to other disabled kids too, if everyone was nice, I don’t think moms would worry so much about their kiddos when they were playing at the playground. We don’t want your sympathy, we just really want your understanding, and maybe your time for a cup of coffee, or even a lunch. You have no idea how much your friendship means to us, the worse thing you can do is ignore us or stop talking to us altogether as it can be a lonely world and often a kind word, a simple gesture from a good friend means the world to us and is enough to bring us out of that funk that comes over us sometimes.

 

 

 

 

My day with Sue Simmons

September 9th, 2018

Had a wonderful day up north with Sue, she is the creator of Lemons to Lemonade, a guide on how to better interact and teach your child, and she is the owner of Equinox Family Consulting. She has a wealth of knowledge and information and helped me out incredibly with her course. I learned so much and I have a new way of interacting with my children and approaching problems in a different way which helps both the child and the parent. I met a few wonderful moms during her course and we laughed and cried and shared our stories and learned so much from Sue. I can’t thank her enough for sharing her techniques and helping us each to build better relationships with our kiddos.

I was thrilled to do a session with her and even took a few images of her daughter, and we had so much fun trying to run from the mosquitoes, but we picked an awesome location and enjoyed our time together. Here are just a few images from our session.

to share one of her beautiful daughter too.
 

Breezes Bahamas

August 27th, 2018

Have been to Bahamas 3 times now and I must say that this hotel was my least favourite. Bahamas is beautiful and it was a nice beach but the hotel itself is very dated and needs a renovation and the rooms are tiny and the views are not great in most rooms and staff wasn’t the friendliest except at the jewellery store, the lady that dealt with us there was so nice and made our experience all that much better plus we left with a few lovely diamond pieces that we loved. The food was ok at the buffet, but the restaurants were better.

To start I have a very bad back and hurt my shoulder in a car accident and deal with a lot of pain, so we went to relax and get some sun, enjoy the water and food, and do a bit of shopping.

Upon arrival, we had to wait for our room and it took a while so we sat in the lobby and just tried to relax for a bit. We finally got our room, got changed and proceeded to the beach.

The worse thing though that was hard to get over was the overwhelming smell when you were on the beach, it was really horrible and that put quite a damper on our vacation as we love the beach but hated the smell.

The rooms were also not up to par, small, and dated and dreary and in need of a serious makeover.

The hotel is not that big and the stage is right next to the lobby and although the nightly entertainment was good, the location was not as people were constantly coming and going.

The pool was ok, nothing amazing though, and there was not much else in the hotel to do other than play billiards or ping pong. The casino next door was fun though but we do not gamble, so we just went to look around a bit and then came back home.

The staff at Breezes wasn’t very friendly, no one went out of there way to make your stay more enjoyable and it didn’t feel like a welcoming hotel.

We had fun shopping in town though, and we cleaned house as we bought so many things and the jewellery stores were all calling out for us with some awesome deals and we couldn’t help but purchase a few items. Loved the Breitling store and my sister bought a beautiful watch encrusted with diamonds and they gave us many additional extras such as a hat and a few other things but we spent probably about 3 hours in that store alone (most of the time sitting down in their very comfy chairs, so we had to make another trip into town to finish the rest of our shopping. That’s the best thing about this trip was all the shopping we got to do and was mainly the reason why we went there in the first place.

If we go back to Bahamas again I would definitely not stay nor recommend Breezes to anyone until they renovate and get rid of that smell.

 

Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

April 27th, 2017

This was my 3rd time going back to Playa Cayo Santa Maria, and I’m not the type that really wants to go back to the same hotel twice, but with this hotel I changed my mind. The first two times were so much fun and such a relaxing environment and great staff, and beautiful resort, good food, awesome restaurants, and fun entertainment, with the most pristine beach. The water is turquoise and warm and no waves, which is exactly what I want. Dealing with pain issues, I can not go somewhere where there are waves, so I’m always careful about choosing a hotel with a beach that is smooth as silk and the water is calm and inviting. I want to be able to float on the water and not get hit by a big wave, so this place had everything I was looking for. It may not be 5 star but for many reasons it will be 5 star in my heart. The staff is one of those reasons.

Although I took pictures with my compact camera and wish I could have brought my pro camera with me, but its just to heavy and due to my pain I can’t lift it for long so I didn’t bring it but managed to get some nice images with my canon compact camera. I pray that I get better and one day can bring my pro camera again on our trips, as I missed taking truly beautiful images, but I guess this will do for now.

I began by writing customer service and a lovely human being named Marta Maria Diaz replied and she was so delightful to talk to and she did everything she could to make our week there absolutely amazing. She booked restaurant reservations for us, and planned a birthday party for us and even got the resort to bring in a foam party company as I had never seen or been to one before and was so excited to experience. She went above and beyond her job and from the suite to the restaurants to the reservations and surprises everything was simply magnificent. She even managed to somehow get us invited to the managers brunch which was suppose to be for guests who have been there the most. There is a manager’s dinner as well for those that are returning guests as well. We ate lobster 3 times in our week stay because of Marta. My only regret is that I didn’t get a picture with Marta and I and I promise not to make this mistake again when travelling to another resort.

In fact I’m an avid traveller and I love travelling almost as much as photography so this is why I’m combining both and will blog about each destination and resort that I go to from now on. This way people will get a better idea of what to expect when travelling to the same hotels that I have.

I also find that taking a vacation helps with one’s whole outlook on life. My sister knows how much I have to deal with at home and the pain I go through on a daily basis, and she always encourages me to take a week vacation with her, to get away from everything and to just relax and restore ourselves. It does my body good as well as my spirit as daily life can get to be very demanding and can take its toll, especially when dealing with pain, so hubby takes care of the kiddos and we fly away to somewhere warm and relaxing.

While in Santa Maria, one must take advantage of the offers out there and try out an excursion or two and we enjoyed one so much that we went on it twice. This is the catamaran and dolphin interaction excursion. For roughly $100 you board a beautiful huge catamaran and cruise around Santa Maria and get to experience sea life and even interact with it. We not only went snorkelling (well I didn’t, my sister did, but I watched) and helped fded the fish (as I would throw her some food and she would give it to the fish) while swimming with them and had a marvelous time doing so, but then we went to the dolphin (Delfinario)
http://www.cayosantamaria.info/dolphinarium.html and we actually got to touch and watch the dolphins perform as well as get up close to them as they did tricks for us. It was nothing short of spectacular. Not only were they cute and adorable and beautiful creatures, they were smart and warm and friendly and I could have played with them all day. It was so much fun that we went and booked a private interaction with the dolphins for the following day and we (my sister, as I was in too much pain) got to ride them and swim with them and feed them and talk to them and we kissed them and they kissed us back, and all this was captured for us on video as well as a couple of awesome collages to hang on my wall and make me smile each and every time I look at them.

As for food, buffet is ok, but the restaurants are what were really impressive to me. From Asian to Italian to Seafood and Steak, to the 24 hrs snack bar that had yummy shrimps and delicious margarita pizza. They also have a sweet little spot for all the ice cream you can eat, and at times someone would come and make cotton candy as well. I do wish they had a churro cart though, as I was expecting that from articles I had seen, and I love churros. For breakfast, I would always have crepes as they were so tasty, with a bit of honey and cinnamon on them and a bit of fruit, that’s all i needed but they have eggs and bacon and different meats and breads and cereal, you will not go hungry that’s for sure. Lunch buffet can be eaten near the main lobby but we always opted to eat at the beach restaurant, the fried fish was amazing and if you don’t like what they offer you can always grab a burger or hot dog or grilled cheese sandwich in the beach grills which are located right on the beach, so you can lounge in your chair and take in the beautiful view while eating a yummy lunch.

The drinks were also yummy and although I don’t really like alcohol, and drink virgin pina colodas mostly you could tell everyone was enjoying their “alcoholic” beverages. I’m also not a coffee fanatic but I heard nothing but great things when it came to the coffee.

They have a small shop in the lobby but they have a bigger market 10 mins away which you can take a double decker bus, or an old vintage taxi or even better the little train that comes by, any which way you take its definitely an adventure. The market place has many artisan sculptures and dresses and paintings and wooden objects as well as beautiful crochet dresses or tshirts or nice jewellery. Don’t forget to purchase some rum, can’t leave without purchasing some Cuban rum. If you are a smoker, then you know about cuban cigars, and there are many places you can purchase them from. I bought some from the hotel.

The spa was beautiful and tranquil and the massages were fantastic, and we were allowed to use the big jacuzzi pool everyday because we booked massages with them. Definitely a must while you are there.

I even liked our room, it was quaint, with a nice view of the ocean, but a little outdated and could use some touch ups like new sheets and a fresh coat of paint but its definitely liveable and worked just fine for us for a week. It was also cleaned everyday and the maids and the gardeners always work very hard so they must be commended for a job well done.

The entertainment staff is quite nice, they always have a small show, more like a dance as well as playing a couple of games at poolside in the afternoon around 3 or 4 pm. They try hard to entertain everyone every night and of course the Michael Jackson show is always a thrill (punn intended) but I wish they would mix things up some more as all three times they basically had the same shows. The entertainment staff also greets you in the mornings at times when you go for breakfast and they are always smiling and making everyone feel included. They even gather at the disco/cigar lounge at night and dance with the guests.

The only other negative thing and its not really negative although some might think it is, is the long 90 min drive from the airport to the resort. You can choose to get upset and grumble about this or you can choose to enjoy the scenery and the lovely tour guide that tells you all about the cities you are driving through and their history while drinking a cerveza. This way time flies and you find that it can be an enjoyable drive.

Our deepest gratitude to the staff at playa cayo santa Maria, we will definitely come back and I highly recommend this resort to anyone going to Cayo Santa Maria Cuba. You won’t be disappointed.