Friday, December 29, 2017

15 Years Ago in Manhattan

December 2002

December 2017

Fifteen years ago, pregnant me was flying through midtown Manhattan with a nervous Ed and an even more nervous taxi driver. I was too busy trying to avoid a taxi cab birth and the inevitably awkward local television news appearance to be scared. The cabbie won, and Noé was delivered inside NYU Medical Center six weeks short of his due date. Little did I know we would soon face much bigger problems than how to tame all that beautiful black baby hair. The last fifteen years? Unbelievably difficult and unbelievably wonderful. Noé's autism has changed the trajectory of our family. Our capacity for love and compassion has been stretched beyond former recognition. We want for very little besides a secure and happy future for him (and maybe some better sleep). 

Happy 15th Birthday, Noécito!

Sidenote: He blew out his candles this year!

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Thirteen is all legs and heart, with a dash of moodiness.

Thirteen is keeping a safe distance from your parents in public, but asking to snuggle after a tough middle school day.

Thirteen is taking advanced math, but walking half-way to school without your backpack.

Thirteen is when you finally learn your father's native tongue because your Spanish teacher looks like Miss Venezuela.

Thirteen is eating a full dinner with the family and then promptly going to the kitchen for three bowls of cereal.

Thirteen is calling puberty a "monster that is sucking away my childhood."

Thirteen is pounding on the piano for hours because there are just too many emotions.

Thirteen is alternating between being proud of your older brother with autism and being completely frustrated with him.

Thirteen is texting, jazz band, sleeping in, discovering girls, track meets, drawing in secret, Instagram, and STEM Club.

Thirteen may kill me.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Brunch with Benefits

42nd birthday morning at Biscuit Bitch, Belltown Seattle

When I was fourteen and bussing tables at Elmer's Pancake on weekend mornings, I would see couples wander into the restaurant and spread out a newspaper over their table while they ate their breakfast and sipped their coffee. They would hardly speak to one another, yet they seemed so content. Even as a young teen, the images of those couples represented what I wanted my future to look like: the freedom of adulthood but with the stability of having a loving partner by my side.  

Turns out, real adult life isn't exactly full of long, lazy brunch weekends like I had once assumed. But it is fun to do when we get the chance, like to celebrate my recent birthday. 

Sometimes it is the smallest dreams that really are the sweetest.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Seattle Adventure: Meeting Jerry

We loved meeting Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry fame! (Noé was not impressed).

We've had a beautiful fall here in Seattle and we've tried be outside to enjoy it all as much as possible!

A few Tuesdays ago, after a long day of work and school, we headed down to the lake for a walk around the path. Ed was running late from work, so I took the boys down to Ben and Jerry's for a cone while we waited for him.

We walked into the ice cream shop, where there was a small crowd gathered around a bearded older gentleman. We headed to the counter to place our order when the man came over to greet us and then asked if he could have a hug. Someone sitting at a table next to us whispered, "It's Jerry!" Asher was the first one to understand which 'Jerry' he was and immediately gave him a great big hug. An ice cream hero in his midst!

At first I had a very real fear that we had won some type of ice cream sweepstakes based on the frequency of our visits or number of cones purchased (how do I explain THAT to people? Jerry from Ben and Jerry's came all the way from Vermont to personally thank us for eating so much of his ice cream! It's not exactly the type of accomplishment that you want for your family). But it turned out he happened to be in town for an environmental conference and often visits his franchised locations while traveling.

Jerry was very personable and a fun conversation ensued. He seemed to enjoy being a minor celebrity. He told Asher the story of how he and Ben met in middle school on Long Island and their dream was always to open an ice cream shop together, which they (obviously) got to do. Asher is now convinced he will rise to stardom and wealth with his middle school BFF.

We ended our conversation with some pictures. Actually it turned into an entire photo shoot's worth of pictures thanks to Noé's strong objection to putting down his ice cream for the photo op.

As I told Asher on our way home, "Good things always happen when you get out into this city!"

Sunday, September 17, 2017

DACA editorial

I wrote a FB post in total frustration and despair after 45 announced that he was dismantling DACA. To my shock it got a lot of traction on social media. A couple days after I posted it, I received a call from the Editorial Page Editor at the Seattle Times, asking if I'd be willing to turn the post into an editorial for the newspaper.

Here's that article. Don't read the comments.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Summer '17

Pianos in the Parks, Salt and Straw ice cream, Disneyland and California Adventure, Dodger games, a treasure hunt at Volunteer Park, picnicking at Golden Gardens, kayaking to Duck Island, Outdoors For All, riding the new burnt orange electric cargo bike around town, boogie boarding at Huntington Beach, hiking the rim of Crater Lake, In and Out burgers, fries and shakes, watching the solar eclipse with Grandma and watching the bees suddenly disappear and the crickets chirp,  picking blackberries all over town, swimming at Green Lake, 4th of July fireworks and BBQ at Grandma's house, hiking and playing in the sand at Oxbow Park with cousins, Pips Donuts, camping and tidepooling and hiking the rocky shore and the gorgeous sunset over Canada in the Peninsula, Mariner's Baseball with River, picnicking at Gasworks Park for a 16th Anniversary, biking the Burke-Gilman trail, Ultimate Frisbee camp at Woodland Park, frozen yogurt, biking EVERYWHERE!, Hollywood Walk of Stars, Tepayak and churros from a truck with good friends, mosquitos at Diamond Lake, surprise piano performance at the Portland Art Museum, Mt. Tabor and Voodoo Donuts with good friends, biking to the farmers market at Wallingford, OMSI, marionberry scones and chai and good friends at Gresham Farmers Market, pizza buffet at Track Town, walking through Portland neighborhoods and dreaming, walking around Green Lake, slurpees at 7-11, s'mores and campfires, watching the new middle school be built before our eyes, early morning boot camp at Licton Springs, smoke and hazy hot days, morning runs around East LA, LEGO mega projects, exploring Seward Park, architecture tours of downtown and Queen Anne, exploring International District, playing in the International fountain at dusk, hanging out on Abuelo's porch, drawing classes and long walks along the Alki boardwalk.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Teaching Lego Robotics to 6-year olds in North Seattle

A Lululemon mom might drop off little Espen, but the nanny picks him up.

A little boy walks in on the first day with his arm tightly bandaged. "What happened?" I asked with some exaggerated sympathy.

"I fell off a golf cart when we were in Hawaii last week."

I am helping a little girl untangle a robotics motor from her hair and she asks why I wear the same shoes every day.

Tiny backpacks for tiny pale children filled with vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO snacks. Bars that resemble cat shit and smell even worse. Organic pouches full of squashed up vegetables, basically repurposed baby food. Sunscreen, with firm instructions to apply and reapply for the ten minutes of overcast Seattle skies we will see each mid-morning break.

The kids are polite, but demanding. And not just in the typically demanding way of your average six year old. In a way that lets you know that if they ask nicely, they always get what they want.

All of the kids are nice to the little girl with dark skin and tight curls, but no one wants to be her partner.

At pickup, parents want a full report of each hour of camp. I want to say, "Sebastian stood on his head during my 45 second lesson on gears, broke a $15 motor and secretly pocketed a couple of LEGO pieces after I told him he couldn't take his robot home." But I manage to put a positive spin on the day. If I've learned anything at all running this business, I've learned that parents don't really want to hear the truth about their kids.

Moms snap iPhone photos of my robotics kits so that they can overnight their kid his own for home use. No one ever blinks at the $200+ price tag for each kit.

For these Amazon-subsidized parents, tuition for my camp is a pretty small line-item in their budget. But I stretch their money a long way. I can pay for a month of Asher's piano lessons in an hour. Noe's speech therapy for the entire year takes me a week. Oops, I still need to fill my IRA for this tax year. Done!

So I apply all the sunscreen, unwrap all the free-range vegan buffalo bars, tie all the fancy shoes, and sort all of the LEGOs. With a forced smile on my face and a pocket full of cash.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The many contradictions of Noé Guzman

He insists on shutting all the windows, even in the heat, while keeping all of the kitchen drawers and closet doors open.

He has to touch every plant that we pass, but won't pet a dog or cat that is looking for attention.

He will request a million different foods and then not eat a thing.

He carries a grown-up mug around the house. But instead of coffee, he has it full of chocolate milk. Heavy on the chocolate mix.

He plays Christmas music in July and Beach Boys in January on his beloved iPad.

He won't wave a simple hello, but will perform an 8-step handshake.

He will put on multiple layers of clothes through the night. Even the hot-as-hell-with-no AC-nights in July. But he will prance down the stairs naked with no warning.

He makes us crazy and we love him.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Root Beer Float Happiness

Tonight was Father's Day and I bought ice cream and root beer to celebrate Ed. However, Ed was not the most excited person in the room when I pulled out dessert.

That honor belonged to Noé.

Noé celebrates food in a way like no other. When he is eating something he really likes at the table, he'll close his eyes and go into a trance, chewing slowly, enjoying every bite.

When he saw the root beer and ice cream come out of the fridge, he reacted much like I would if someone handed me a check for $1 million. He first looked on with shock and surprise, and then, as realization set in, a slow, wide grin covered his face. To finish off his celebration, he started jumping and hopping around the room, laughing and whooping it up.

Sometimes, it takes very little to make him so happy. Other times, it feels like nothing will make him happy.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

On mantras

  1. (originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
    • a Vedic hymn.
    • a statement or slogan repeated frequently.

Done is Better than Perfect

This was my personal mantra for many years. I repeated it several times a day and it succeeded to make me ultra-productive and consistent, if not mediocre. I'm okay with trading off the sleepless insanity of constant perfection for a mediocre life. I'm happier with my house "pretty clean", my latest work proposal finished and emails out but with a stray typo or two, my kids dressed and clean, but not wrinkle-free, and a solid seven or even eight hours of sleep in me.

When I was on the hunt for a new mantra, and I heard this one while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, 'Happier, with Gretchen Rubin', and it instantly resonated with me:

Don't Treat A Gift Like A Burden

I took Ed out for a 40th birthday brunch recently, and we were talking about the time that had passed since we had first met. "What even happened to our thirties?" I said.

"Our thirties were all about the kids," he replied. And he was exactly right.

But "all about the kids" just isn't sustainable for me any longer. I've been feeling this angst lately,  that everything I do for my kids or Ed or my job feels like a heavy weight. I desperately need a shift of perspective to survive the next few years. I need to stop treating my gifts as if they are burdens!

Last week Asher had a science fair at his middle school and won, which was the worst possible outcome that I could imagine. Now he is competing at the district level, with new expectations and a competition time during rush hour on the south side of town. But I'm done stressing about it. Instead, I'm choosing to be proud that I have a son who works hard in school, that Ed's work schedule is slow enough right now that he can come home early to get Noé off the school bus, and I have a reliable car and plenty of podcasts to get us through the rough commute.

Oh, I'll never be a Sunny Sally... not my personality. But acknowledging and appreciating the vast amount of goodness in my life? Yes, I will be better for it. And the three biggest "gifts" in my life deserve it as well.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Green Lake

(I wrote this poem because I've been told that writing poetry helps you become an overall better writer. I entered it into a library city poetry competition so that I would have a deadline to finish a poem. It is so cliche, it's a little hard for me to read and a lot hard for me to publish. But it's a record of my writing and my family, so it goes on the blog. Also, it won a place on an interactive city poetry map and I will link to it here if the map ever goes online).

Winter dusk, like a cloud of lead hits
My boys, their chestnut eyes and moppy-heads  
dressed in various layers of flannel and fleece

One son walks with me, hand in hand
The other trails, beating his own drum

One child recounts his day to my ear in low, intimate tones
The other, voiceless, kicks up rocks on the trail, avoiding dogs like ghosts

We pass runners of olympiad stealth and grace
Rickety, reminiscing elderly couples clasp hands, while
a snowy pelican looks into the eye of the lake from its bare-limbed perch

The abandoned swimming area begs for warm summer days
And the public library stands matronly from afar
A lone kayak strays in the water, a dot on a sheet of blue

All have come to the water's edge to seek its effulgent refuge

Monday, May 15, 2017


There was a period of time after we moved back to the PNW when I was happy to stay put. I wanted to plop myself down in the trees and just be.

Perhaps it was because of our crazy drive back from DC to Portland. I've experienced fits of anxiety since that period of time that I think might have been triggered by the stress of that move. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that before last month, I hadn't left the West Coast since our move.

But now, the anxiety has mostly subsided. My boys are older. Ed and I are only getting older. And my old and familiar wanderlust ways seem to be making a comeback. I never want to be home. Working from home each day is a monumental struggle.

We spent Spring Break in Southern Utah, exploring the national parks. It was a great week for our little family! So much sunshine and red rock! We visited Zion, Bryce and Arches. We hiked 10-12 miles a day when we were in the parks. We spent a day on the Colorado River white water rafting. There were a few challenges with Noé. Keeping him fed is always our biggest issue. He often goes on a hunger strike when we are traveling.  We were up early every morning, which isn't his favorite thing. He ran into the residence of our AirBnB in Provo and drank water off of someone else's table at a restaurant near Zion. But for the most part he did really well, and we wonder if we might be up for something more daring next vacation. Maybe something that requires passports.

In the meantime, I'm trying to take what I can get. I'm on a train right now from Seattle to Portland. Not my first time, but it is a scenic trip. I'm only going to stay with my mom for Mother's Day weekend, but at least I'll be out of my house. I plan to spend some time with her, do some reading and writing, and sneak in some exercise. If Kelli and I can talk her into a drive to the coast on a rainy Saturday, we'll do that for the day. Wanderlust Lite for the busy momma with a job and a side business and two kids and a calendar full of speech therapy and Ultimate Frisbee games. It's okay, there's always a time and season. I'll keep looking for fun opportunities that satisfy the 'lust just a bit.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


My Grandpa Mattson passed away in February. He had a long and fulfilling life, punctuated by a beautiful memorial service. Because he served during World War II, he received military honors at his grave site service. I'll never forget watching the two military men ceremoniously wrapping up an American flag, handing it to my grandmother, and thanking her for his service.

I've been thinking about my Grandma Mattson a lot, so I sat down to write her a note today. I've had four wonderful grandparents, all active in my life, and I always had to address each grandparent by multiple names to distinguish each from the other. I remember writing my grandparents letters in college and always having to double check that the letters and addressed envelopes matched. I was teary-eyed today when I realized that I no longer needed to worry about mixing up letters. I just have one 'Grandma' to write now. I'm thankful for her and love her, but I sure miss the others.

In the Blink of an Eye: From Thomas the Train to Cell Phone Contracts

Asher's Phone Contract
Dated: April 3, 2017

Parents have purchased his first phone.  If anything happens to this phone (it is stolen, lost, broken), even if is not Asher's fault, he is still responsible for replacing the phone.

Parents must know Asher's phone password and have the right to access his phone at all times. Parents must also have "friends privileges" to all of Asher's social media accounts. There is no privacy when it comes to a cell phone. If you want privacy, write in a journal, and we will respect your privacy there.

Parents have the right to take away phone at any time for poor behavior or poor grades. If your grades go down, you will lose your phone. If you do not do your assigned chores, you will lose your phone. If you show poor attitude or misbehavior at home or school, you will lose your phone.

Asher must charge his phone at the family "charging station" each night and never take the phone to bed.

Asher must promise to keep all social media interactions appropriate and report any bullying.

Asher must compensate his parents for the additional cost of his phone through six hours of additional chores, big brother sitting, or helping mom with her LEGO business each month.

Asher is responsible for any additional charges associated with going over his allotted data plan.





Monday, April 3, 2017

My Favorite Kid With Autism - April is Autism Awareness month

Witnessing Noé's journey has been rewarding and sometimes painful. It is always so interesting to see what catches his attention. The other day we were out for *yet another* rainy hike and when we took off our shoes to go back inside the house I told Noé, "I think there's moss growing between your toes!" For the rest of the day, I caught him staring down at his toes. 

I love him!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hero of the day

We're very proud of Asher.

But we also worry about him. A lot.

Oh, he's a great student. The math he does is far beyond anything I encountered in sixth grade... or seventh grade. And he's unbelievable on the piano.  Most importantly, he's kind and generous to everyone around him.

But he is also a bit of a dreamer. I've lost count of the number of times he's ran out the door for school without his backpack. If we don't remind him to shower or brush his teeth, it does not happen. We've started to leave him alone for short stints of time, but find ourselves constantly texting to save him from himself. While Noé (you know, our severely autistic son) is weaning off his visual schedules with success, I recently created Asher an after-school schedule on a sheet of blood orange printer paper and taped it to his bedroom door in utter frustration.

We've tried to institute appropriate consequences to make him a responsible 12 year old. If he misses the bus, he has to pay his "taxi" $5 to get him to school (and I have just about the same temperament as a NYC taxi driver those mornings). He loses screen time frequently for forgetting and losing important things. But progress has been slow, to say the least.

Last night, however, might have been a turning point in our tweenage despair.

It was 7:15PM and steadily raining. We had just returned from a piano lesson and I realized that I didn't have our garage door opener on me, so I had Asher run around to the front and unlock the door. He came back and reported that the top bolt was LOCKED!!!

I had feared this would happen at some point after installing that sliding top bolt. We installed it to help keep Noe inside our house (now he can reach the bolt, so it's pretty useless). We lock it at night for extra security (our neighborhood is very "active"). Sometimes Asher locks it when he comes home from school, as he had today. As we sprinted out of the house for piano, I failed to notice that it was bolted, and I also failed to grab the garage door opener.

So many times in my mind I had thought about how screwed we would be if this were to ever happen. We have no other available points of entry into our house. We couldn't even call a locksmith because there was no key or lock.

I really tried not to panic. I jimmied the bolt with my keys and anything else I could find. I mostly had stray LEGOs in my bag. Then I started trying to kick in the door (that was kind-of fun).  I plotted hoisting Asher up to our second-floor balcony. But we ran into the same problem, because that door was bolted as well. I considered calling the fire department. So tempting, but there wasn't anyone in immediate danger, my mental health notwithstanding. Maybe I could hide Noé and say my autistic son was locked inside? Oh, that sounded a little bit too Balloon Boy hoax-y.

Ed arrived home from work around 8PM. He tried the same things I had tried, with the same result. Meanwhile, Noé had to use the bathroom and was done standing out in the rain. I took Noé to a neighborhood restaurant to find a restroom. Ed started knocking on neighbors' doors looking for tools, any tools. Asher guarded our stuff.

Well past 8:30PM and we were still outside, and yes, it was still raining. I was on the verge of a breakdown and took Noé for a walk because I deal with stressful situations by escaping them. Ed was considering the merits of breaking a window to get us inside. And then Asher pulled up a YouTube video (I won't link to it, lest you break into our house). It involved sliding paper into the lock at just the right angle. It looked ridiculous. I'm pretty sure Ed thought it would never work. I was still wandering the streets of Seattle in a fog-like state with Noé, so I had no opinion. Ed gave the YouTube hack a couple of lame attempts. Asher thought hard. He searched our backpacks and the recycling bin for just the right paper for the job. On his very first try it worked.

We were saved from our own stupidity by our 12 year old dreamer.

Reflecting on the evening's events while getting ready for bed (and feeling extra grateful, btw, for that warm, dry bed), we both agreed that Asher was probably going to turn out just fine. We, however, should probably start seriously worrying about ourselves.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blown away...

Flashback to last December 28th. Noé is celebrating his 14th birthday around Grandma's table with cousins. Physically unable to bake a birthday cake three days post-Christmas, we serve up some of his other favorites: pizza and root beer floats. I stick a birthday candle in his slice of pizza and explain to his cousins that Noé's apraxia makes it impossible for him to blow out his candles. Singing is followed by my long-winded explanation...blah blah blah. Meanwhile, I look over and Noé is sniffing out his candle with his nose, and it totally works!  He can't blow but he can sniff!

Forward to this morning, sitting at my desk and reviewing the IEP Noé's teacher has created for this year. I am pleasantly surprised to see his progress in school and all of the things he is able to do. A year ago, I never would have dreamed he could answer reading comprehension questions (even the simplest ones) after listening to a story. But here we are.

Just like on his birthday, I am once again reminded not to limit him. Not to decide what he can and cannot accomplish.

He finds a way. In his own time, in his own way. He continues to blow us away......