Surviving and the In-between

It’s been a while since my last post…and a very long while with my writing project.

My kids seem to need me more as they grow up, especially on how to survive life in general. So they will always be my top priority, and I’ve put aside my writing for the time being.

Trifold Book Report on ASDUntil now.

Since it’s the end of Autism Awareness Month, I decided to write a post about my son. He’s 10 years old and I have not told him about Autism Spectrum Disorder, or that he has it. I didn’t want Ray to think he was “broken” or “flawed” because of his condition. I only wanted to explain his “uniqueness” to him.

For this school year, Ray must do a book report on different book genres assigned for each month. There is a different theme for each report to make it interesting for the student. For the month of April, the assignment is a trifold book report on a disease that includes information that will teach others about the disease.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to teach Ray about Autism Spectrum Disorders, especially for Autism Awareness Month.

Now just to clarify, ASD is not a disease. It’s a group of developmental disorders that can cause difficulties in communication, socialization, interests and behaviors. The book I used to help Ray with his report is:

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (and Their Parents) by Elizabeth Verdick & Elizabeth Reeve, M.D.

Survival Guide for Kids with ASD and Their Parents

This was a wonderful book for Ray and I to read together. The book is a guide for kids with ASD and their parents. It gives strategies for communicating, making friends, and succeeding in school. My son struggles with these issues, and he will be able to use this book when he has questions or needs help on a topic like facing challenges, symptom management, social skills, “stims,” handling feelings, how to relax, or resources. The guide was definitely helpful for me to break things down to Ray’s level of understanding. If he receives anything positive about doing a report on this book, I hope he learns that even though he is “different,” he is still “unique.” His diagnosis doesn’t define him. Autism is just a part of him. It’s a his way of being and how he experiences the world. I hope Ray knows that he has the potential to live an awesome life!

Helping my son do the trifold book report on ASD was a terrific learning opportunity for me and Ray. I was able to see how much he’s grown, the improvements he’s made, and the pleasure of understanding this remarkable boy. The experience was enlightening and it inspired my follow-up poem for Black, White, and In-between written last year on the post For Autism Awareness…

I wrote the poem for my son and my original intention was to write a follow-up poem to infuse a sense of hope. I may have gotten sidetracked, but here it is a year later.

Dedicated to Ray


It’s the in-between I view his charm
I see humor
It’s a giggle, a smirk, a glimmer

It’s the in-between I feel his tension
I see fear
It’s a fidget, a stutter, a tear

It’s the in-between I notice his strength
I see endurance
It’s a spark, an excitement, that makes a difference

It’s the in-between I sense him fading
I see frustration
It’s quiet, an absence, no communication

It’s the in-between I recognize potential
I see possibilities
It’s imagination, creativity,
and no limits to his capabilities

It’s not as simple as black or white
But the in-between to shed some light
It’s persistence
To love with openness, understanding, and acceptance.

By Lisa Malabanan-Vasquez




Happy New Year!

Have a happy and prosperous 2016!

New Year


Seasons Greetings!

Wishing everyone Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks quote

ADHD Awareness Month


Lingering on a Memory

Another day of spring semester as I sit here gazing at students strolling around campus. The aroma of coffee and French fries are wafting through the main hallway. The sound of cards slapping a hard surface, and the occasional burst of “spit” echoes from somebody in the background. Circles of young adults with black hair and black clothes are hovering over tables and benches placed next to a wall of windows.Rutgers_Newark_aerial_view_of_campus_2008

Just another card game and another lunch break spent at the student center.

It is a typical day of hanging out with friends and planning something cool for the weekend. I hope it’s something interesting or anything to get me out of reading another chapter in this damn chemistry book. I must have read the same sentence twice. Nothing seems to keep my attention lately.

My friends are chatting about going to the movies. I’m about to respond when other students from a table nearby distract me. The rest of the group is buzzing over a stranger in the crowd.

Now my focus zooms towards the sight of someone tall and skinny. It’s just another person being introduced to the gang.

He stands out. He’s different in the monochrome backdrop of black outfits among the group. His clothes are the shades of earth and nature to match his brown hair. Even the knitted backpack slung over his shoulder is a color of warmth.

I noticed, but only a bit. After all, I’m just another petite Filipino girl sitting in the background of other Filipinos. Hardly noticeable so why pay him any attention.

Yet through the corner of my eye, I see him glance my way. Does he notice me?


The lanky waiter escorts my sister and me to a large round table where four other friends are sitting. One of our male friends joined the army and is leaving for boot camp in a couple of weeks. Since the farewell dinner was impromptu, only of few people from the gang came to say goodbye.

Our military friend enters the restaurant with that tall and skinny dude. Unexpectedly, the slim and young man sits next to me. How awkward, I feel pressed to make friendly conversation.

He seems to fit in, amusing everyone with his silly jokes and antics. He does his best impersonation of Filipinos using an exaggerated Filipino accent. I hate to admit he’s funny.

Yet dinner is not as awkward as I presumed it would be. He smiles at my direction once or twice. For a while, he keeps his brown eyes on me. A few minutes pass before a sound escapes from my lips. It’s a giggle. Then another chuckle comes out. Soon I’m laughing with him.

That is when I notice something real. It’s one thing that truly captures my attention.

He makes me laugh.

Just earlier today, I thought it would be another typical day. But I realized another day was one-step closer to meeting him.

This is dedicated to my wonderful husband. Happy Anniversary! I hope to share many amazing anniversaries with you.

Happy Nurses Week!


For Autism Awareness…

Dedicated to my son…

Black, White, and In-between

He sees himself in black and white
Rarely any colors in-between
He doesn’t know what they mean
But he’s still trying

He sees the sky in black and white
No shades of blue
Or different hues
It’s just day and night
But he keeps trying

Autism_Awareness_by_thisfleshavenged black and white

He sees the world in black and white
Sometimes he’s in fright
Fears the darkest of night
Like there’s no end in sight
Can’t take the colors when it’s too bright
But if it’s a question of might
He’ll keep trying

He’ll try to see between these fixed colors
The white of light
The black of night
To the in-between of gray
Where he seems to stray
But the longer he stays
More colors come out into the warmest of day
Then fades in a cold way
So he’ll keep on trying

Hope he finds those bright colors to help see
himself, the world, the sky
As he grows to reach the utmost high
And take in all that gleams
Just to reach his dreams

He’ll say…

There are many things I don’t understand
There’s much from me that life demands
But I can do some things
Like smile, sing, and dance
I won’t give up, so give me a chance
If you give me acceptance back,
Then I’ll do better than white or black

I’ll solve this puzzle that’s a part of me
Even if the pieces are all you see
I’ll show more colors of the in-between
To shine brighter than red, yellow, blue, or green
I just know there’s a light, an end in sight
But it’s not as simple as black
Or white

By Lisa Malabanan-Vasquez

Support  Educate  Advocate  Love




Pregnancy and Weight Gain

Weight Gain in Pregnancy title imageWe’ve all heard the phrase “I’m eating for two.” Even though you’re eating for two, or three, the recommended weight gain during pregnancy is based on your height and weight. The two values together calculate a measure of body fat, which is called Body Mass Index (BMI). So it’s important to know your pre-pregnancy BMI to understand how much you should put on.

It’s easy to believe that you can eat anything when you are pregnant. Perhaps the craving for chili dogs or ice cream in the middle of the night is OK because “the baby wants it.” Depending on your BMI and the average distribution of pregnancy weight gain for a single or multiple gestation, women must be careful not to put on too much or too little. The amount of weight gain outside the normal recommendations may lead to complications. Getting the right amount and eating the right foods help support a healthy pregnancy.

Here is the average distribution of weight gain in pounds for a baby:
Baby = 7 ½
Placenta = 1 ½
Breasts = 2
Uterus = 2
Amniotic Fluid = 2
Blood Volume = 4
Fluid Volume = 4
Fats, Protein, Nutrients = 7

Most women don’t need to increase calories in the first trimester. According to the Institute of Medicine, women only need an extra 340 calories a day in the second trimester, and 452 calories a day in the third trimester. If you are having twins, then the recommendations for weight gain are a bit more.

Pregnancy Weight Gain Chart - IOM

Health care providers advise a steady weight gain for a healthy pregnancy outcome. Women who get more than the recommended amount may have a large baby, and are at higher risk of having a premature birth or cesarean section delivery. However, women who don’t put on enough weight may have a low birth weight or premature baby.

The chance of having pregnancy problems is higher for overweight and obese women. These women are at increased risk for health issues like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and respiratory complications, or death. The probability of a miscarriage and a recurrent miscarriage is more likely for an obese woman than a normal weight woman.

COMPLICATIONS LINKED TO OBESITYBabies of obese women are at higher risk for congenital abnormalities (neural tube defects, cardiac problems, cleft lip or cleft palate), macrosomia, or fetal death. Macrosomic babies are at danger for birth trauma like shoulder dystocia. Premature babies have an increased chance for lung and heart complications after delivery. Large babies are more likely to have obesity in childhood and as an adult with health issues.

Talk to your health care provider about managing your weight throughout the pregnancy. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly (if not contraindicated), and go to your prenatal appointments to keep your pregnancy and weight on point.

Good luck!

Here are some helpful links and resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  Adult BMI calculator

Institute of Medicine  Healthy weight gain during pregnancy

Baby Center  Pregnancy weight tracker

March of Dimes  Eating healthy during pregnancy


  • Institute of Medicine
  • American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American Pregnancy Association
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics, and Neonatal Nurses


A Healthy Start for a Healthy Pregnancy

Are you thinking about having a baby? 

If the answer is yes, then start planning the right way! Taking care of your health is the start to a healthy pregnancy. Preconception care is your chance to address any medical problems you have or screen for potential risk factors that may affect your baby before getting pregnant. The baby’s major organs and body systems form in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy. Your physical and emotional health influences fetal growth and development. So don’t be afraid to schedule a preconception checkup with your physician. 


What should you expect at your appointment?

The medical practitioner will ask you questions and discuss your health history:

  • Reproductive – Periods, previous pregnancies, birth control, Pap smears, STD’s and vaginal infections affect a woman’s ability to conceive. 
  • Medical/Surgical – Medical issues like diabetes, asthma, hypertension, or thyroid disease can complicate your pregnancy. Reasons for surgeries, procedures, or hospitalizations can affect the management of your prenatal care.
  • Medications – Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, supplements, or herbs could be harmful to the developing fetus or contraindicated in pregnancy.
  • Family Health – The health history of you and your partner’s family helps the doctor screen for medical problems that could be inherited or often seen in certain ethnic groups. He/she may refer you to a genetic counselor who can discuss genetics, birth defects, or other medical conditions that run in families.
  • Emotional and Social – Disclosing a history of mental health issues like depression, eating disorder, or domestic violence helps the practitioner give the appropriate referral for counseling.
  • Lifestyle – The habits of you and your partner such as smoking, drinking alcohol, drug use, diet, exercise, stress, or caffeine consumption could affect fertility and/or pregnancy. Stopping harmful habits may reduce the risk of fetal complications and birth defects.
  • Home and Workplace Environment – Possible hazards like exposure to X-rays, cat feces, mercury, lead or solvents  are dangerous and affects your ability to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy.

reproductive history points

 What’s next?

  • The doctor might perform a standard physical, especially a pelvic exam. 
  • Vital signs such as height and weight to calculate your BMI, blood pressure, and/or urine sample to screen for glucose and protein may be recorded. 
  • Your health care provider may order lab tests as indicated like rubella, hepatitis, RPR, HIV, CBC, Pap, or carrier screening for genetic diseases and other conditions.
  • If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, thyroid disease, hypertension, or asthma, the practitioner may refer you to a specialist for management.
  • He/she will discuss your menstrual cycle to determine the time you are more likely to get pregnant.
  • The physician will prescribe a prenatal vitamin with folic acid.
  • He/she may suggest lifestyle changes like weight loss for obesity or increasing caloric intake for being underweight, quit smoking or drinking, stop medications that are harmful to the baby, updating your immunizations, and avoiding stress.

common reasons for genetic counseling


Women should be healthier before conceiving to prevent problems that could affect the pregnancy and the baby later. The preconception visit with your medical provider is a great opportunity to learn about your health and the right steps to plan for a healthy pregnancy.

Ways to improve your preconception health


For more information, here are some helpful sites about preconception care. Good Luck! – Good health before pregnancy FAQ pdf – Your checkup before pregnancy – Family health history form – Preconception care – Preconception checklist



  • ACOG – The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • March of Dimes
  • Baby Center Expert Advice
  • Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • AAFP – American Academy of Family Physicians 






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