Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"No, I Want to Play with Her!"

I just had to boast a little! The behaviorist told me that last Friday, during the after-school program, two girls were fighting over playing with my daughter! They were arguing over who was better friends with her! What a difference from a year ago.

While we still have a ways to go, I can't believe how far my daughter has come during the last year or so. It makes me want to stand on a mountaintop and shout, "If you have any feelings that things aren't "right" with your kid--get them help pronto!" I never imagined that there would be this level of improvement so fast. Fantastic!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let's Go Hollywood?

Raising a child in Los Angeles can be a surreal experience. At a Seder we went to last night, of the 4 kids there, other than my daughter, 3 are trying to make it in the entertainment industry. They have agents and managers and go on a lot of auditions. I think this is pretty typical here!

One of the kids at the Seder has landed an occasional role on a pretty popular sitcom. His mother doesn't know me well or know about my daughter's autism. But she sure thought my daughter was adorable and talked excitedly about how I need to get her representation--she'd be a big hit in commercials! My friend who hosted the Seder has mentioned this to me also. Part of me thinks it would be a hoot to see my daughter on t.v. and be able to add more money to her college fund. The other part of me--the rational part--says "Not now!" I wouldn't even know when we'd find the time to go on auditions. And my daughter, while coming so far in her therapies, still has a ways to go.

I really want to concentrate another year or two in working on her rigidity issues. Maybe after that I'll be more open to my daughter auditioning for sitcoms and commercials. If she landed anything, it would definitely give her additional "cred" at school, which couldn't hurt!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yay! Tantrum Didn't Happen!

As a mother to a girl with Asperger's, I am no stranger to tantrums. My daughter used to tantrum any time a transition occurred, any other time she didn't get her way, or any time things were out of her control.

I'm so incredibly proud of her about something that occurred this weekend! She lost her second tooth, but then really lost her tooth. She had no idea where it could be. I guess she had woken up, went to the bathroom and noticed her tooth had come out during the night. She looked for it in her bed, but couldn't find it anywhere! She would have had a HUGE tantrum over this a year ago! Instead, she remembered something that had happened in a book that was read in school. In the book, a dog lost his tooth and couldn't find it. So, he took a picture of the new gap in his mouth and hid the picture under his pillow for the tooth fairy.

This book helped my daughter problem solve. She grabbed her camera and took some adorable pictures of her new gap. When I greeted her with "good morning," she told me about everything that had happened and how she problem-solved and showed me her solution! I was floored! I was also afraid that she had swallowed her tooth. We looked in her room, and I finally found the tooth! It had fallen on the floor, by the bed. So, we were able to use the real deal for the tooth fairy. But I couldn't have been more proud of my girl!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Report Cards

Today my daughter will be bringing home her report card. For some bizarre reason, I'm a bit nervous about it. Why, I don't know. The teacher tells me that she is doing well in class. In addition, the teacher has a reputation for giving certain grades (not too high,not too low), so I pretty much know the report card will be the same as the last one. Also, the report card itself doesn't matter. It's kindergarten; it certainly won't have any impact on my daughter's college application to Harvard in 12 years.

Nevertheless, I'm still nervous about it, and I don't know why. I can only guess that it's someone else's opinion (a very educated one) on how smart my daughter is--or not. Since this is an area she excels in, at least in my opinion, maybe I'm worried about someone else not agreeing with me? I don't know, and I wish I didn't care so much.

I'd hate to see how I am when she's in high school when her grades really will matter. Yikes!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No Funds for Education

I attended a PTA meeting this morning and am now depressed. I blogged last week about how the school district sent out about 22,000 pink slips. For my daughter's school, that translates to 4 teachers (almost one per grade level), the school librarian (who is well-loved), and one office staff person. The nurse's hours will be reduced by half, so she will be at the school 4 hours a week instead of 8 hours a week.

As a mother of a kid with special needs, who has a severe nut allergy, and who loves to read, this scares the hell out of me! And it should scare the hell out of any parent! I don't know how any child will be expected to learn, or how any teacher can be expected to teach with so many responsibilities placed upon them.

The principal stressed that parents will be expected to pick up these abandoned jobs by volunteering in the library or helping out in the front office. We have a hard time getting parents to attend the occasional meeting. I have no idea how they're going to cover these jobs through volunteerism.

Yet, how can our society function in the future without a generation of kids properly educated? Something has to be done to make education in California more of a priority.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Target and Trader Joe's...More than just Stores

One thing about being a stay-at-home mom that surprises me is how isolating it can be. My routine involves dropping my daughter off at school, running errands, going home to do chores and surf the web. It drives a mom to blog! The lack of social interactions is isolating, so I'm not at all surprised that moms join Facebook by the droves and socialize on the internet in other ways.

However, there are special places I go to talk with fellow moms that I know in the area. The surprising thing is that Starbucks is not one of the places! I find I catch up with fellow moms at Target and Trader Joe's. I don't think I've ever been in either store without running into someone I know! Last week, I actually spent an hour and a half at Target before I even began to shop! It was crazy! First, I ran into my daughter's preschool teacher from last year. I had to say, "Hi!" and fill her in on how well kindergarten was going! Then, I ran into a mom from the current school. She was having coffee (okay, Starbucks is involved after all) with a friend, so I ended up joining them and talking. We saw at least 5 other moms we knew who joined in at various times! Pretty much the same thing happens at Trader Joe's, except the socializing time is much more limited since the groceries can go bad.

I don't think my experiences are that unique. A lot us moms run around like crazy, trying to cram everything in. We're really bad at setting up formal coffee or lunch dates, but end up socializing spontaneously as we're running errands. I guess it keeps the day from being too boring!

Today was the rare day that I didn't have to run any errands. I'm missing my "catch-up-with-moms" time! Time to visit Cafemom and see how my virtual friends are doing!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Absent-Minded Professor

The thing that amazes me about my daughter is how incredibly perceptive she is one minute and how incredibly out-of-it she is another minute! In 20 years, I'm sure her picture will be in the dictionary under absent-minded professor (assuming that there was a dictionary listing for that term, of course!).

A great example of how perceptive she can be was this past Sunday. We had just gotten back from taking a tour of an amazing summer camp. As she was sitting at the table, having a snack as I was skimming through all the camp literature I had picked up. One of these items was a listing of "special events" which pretty much listed the special thing they did each day at camp. I think I look at that for all of 30 seconds.

I didn't think my daughter was even paying attention to what I was looking through until a couple of hours later when she asked what I did with the Special Events Calendar. I had no idea what she was talking about. I asked her if it was something she brought home from school. She looked at me like I was an idiot and explained it was one of the papers I obtained from the camp. I then made the mistake of telling her it looked like she was going to the camp for a couple of sessions on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. She said in a slightly disappointed tone, "But there were no moons on those days!" I had no clue what she was talking about. When I found the Special Events Calendar, I realized that there were three Saturdays with pictures of moons, indicating days that had camp-outs scheduled for the older campers. This blew me away, that she noticed this from an upside-down perspective and took it all in in a matter of a few moments.

However, the next day, it was painful to watch her dress for school. I had come to her room after emptying the dishwasher to find that she had only put her pants on. "I was distracted!" she said when she saw the look of surprise on my face. Then I watched her put one sock on, while forgetting to put on the other sock. Next, she started to put her shirt on, while her pajama top was still on. She noticed this, so she stopped putting her top on, unbuttoned one button on her pajama top, then noticed she didn't put a sock on one of her feet. So, she stopped buttoning her pajama top, and put her other sock on. Then she put her shirt on over her head, not realizing that her pajama top was still on! She realized this when she was about to put her arms through the sleeves. So, she took her shirt off, took her pajama top off, then put her shirt on. I thought I was going to start pulling my hair out! Yikes!

We once asked a psychologist who is a pretty famous expert in the autism field if our daughter's absent-mindedness would ever go away. She wasn't optimistic. She also wasn't certain the autism was fueling the absent-mindedness. She thought it was possible that it was more a byproduct of our daughter's intelligence. Here's hoping that the absent-mindedness improves with age. It can be pretty disconcerting to see!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Historic Moment

It's a historic moment! The Democrats grew a pair and passed some health care reform legislation! They learned that with having a majority in Congress and a president in the White House they can actually legislate! Too bad the bill they passed isn't as big a reform as I would have liked and totally relies on insurance companies without a public option. It seems that the bill really favors what a lot of Republicans wanted.

You wouldn't know that by reading posts on Facebook. I've never seen so many people complain about legislation that really isn't all that earth-shattering. It is a step in the right direction in terms of giving everyone access to insurance, which is currently not the case. Really, who can argue about getting rid of pre-existing conditions? What I don't understand is whether there is anyone out there that is truly happy with their current coverage. I don't think I've met anyone who is that pleased with the way things are. So why all the complaining today when the reform is just going to patch up some huge problems with the current system?

I know some people are concerned about the costs of covering everyone. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that this bill will actually save money. CBO is a non-partisan group, so their findings are truly not biased.

Can someone explain to me what the problem is exactly?

Friday, March 19, 2010

When Will Our Schools Get a Break?

News hit yesterday that 22,000 teachers have received pink slips! This doesn't mean that they'll definitely lose their jobs, but it means that they are on the chopping block if the anticipated budget cuts of over $2 billion occur.

I'm absolutely revolted by what's happening in California, and I know I'm not the only one. Before these massive budget cuts, California was already one of worst states in the country for funding education. Now, we're on our second round of severe budget cuts, which will probably put us at #50 for per student funding. How do they expect our students to get educated? How are teachers supposed to do their jobs with the increased class size and little to no support?

What's going to happen in 10 years when our seasoned teachers retire? Who's going to fill their shoes? The newer teachers have all been laid off. I'm sure college students are not planning to go into education right now because of the lack of jobs. Will California have to hire people on emergency credentials as they had to in the 1990s? Who will be left to mentor them?

Why are California schools so poorly funded to begin with when California has to be one of the wealthier states in the country? This makes absolutely no sense to me.

Until the state recognizes the importance of education and makes funding it a priority, they're going to have a generation of poorly educated people who will probably not have much to contribute in terms of a tax base. Cutting education is a poor choice because it means they're not investing in our future.

As a parent of a child who will probably be considered twice exceptional (special needs and gifted), I really worry where she'll end up with the lack of proper funding and support. Don't get me wrong, I'm worried about all the kids, but kids with special needs have so much at stake.

I look at her current school and see all the hard-working teachers doing their best with what little they have. They deserve to be treated better too!

This whole situation sickens me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Homework!

When I was a child, I remember getting homework beginning in the second or third grade. It would take about a half-hour to do at the most. Now, kids are getting homework in as early as pre-school. Why? Why should a pre-schooler or kindergartner or first grader have homework? What's the point of it? My kindergartner spends over 6 hours at school, when she's not staying in the after-school program. On days when she does stay at the after-school program, she spends about 9 hours there, then goes home to finish working with her behaviorist, who leaves at 6:30 pm. After feeding her dinner, it's bath-time, then time to prepare for bed. So, two days a week, there is no time for homework. This leaves the other two days to squeeze in her assignments, so homework takes about 45 minutes to complete, if we're lucky. At least we get her homework on Monday with a due date of Friday. When she's in first grade next year, I'm told we're given the homework daily--some nights as much as 9 worksheets--and it's due the next day. This will be interesting!

My daughter just started taking speech therapy at her school too. I was warned that we'd have to practice her articulation everyday. That's fine, it doesn't take too much time, and it's the only way she'll get use to making certain sounds. But she was also given additional homework for speech: drawing pictures, writing sentences, and coming up with words that begin with a particular sound. Great, more homework! The therapist told me the homework will help toward my daughter's pragmatic speech skills (conversational skills). The therapist can ask questions about the picture she drew, etc. But can't conversational skills be worked on without making the kid do additional homework? She's in kindergarten, for pete's sake!

I really believe that 5 and 6 year old kids spend enough time at school doing work and should be playing when they get home. This is even more so for kids with special needs who have additional demands on them to work on their challenges after school. When do kids get to be kids?

Just wondering.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is Today Pajama Day?

What a gorgeous day today! The air is warm, flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and that woman is walking around in her pajamas! That kinda destroyed the beauty of the spring-like day.

I've been seeing women walking around in public in pajamas more and more. When did this become acceptable behavior? What makes a person think it's okay? I had a hard enough time convincing my daughter when she was 2 years old that people do not go out in public in their pajamas. What happened the one time I lost that battle, and she went to the mall wearing her sleeper with the cows on it? People came up by the droves to compliment her cute "outfit." It wasn't an outfit, people! It's a SLEEPER and totally inappropriate for the mall--even for a two year old! I remember her beaming with pride that day. AAAGHHGH!

But now I understand why she thought it was okay. Because adults have been prancing around in their pajamas too. Usually, I see someone wearing just the pajama pants. They'll at least throw on a shirt, shoes and jacket. However, one time I went to the market and there was a woman shopping in her pajamas, complete with bathrobe and slippers. They were also really ratty to boot.

Have people given up caring so much that they don't even make an effort in life? I hope not, but it's either that or they think the world is one big slumber party. My guess is the former!

So, if you have to wear your pajamas, stay in, order you groceries on-line, and let me enjoy my beautiful day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ups and Downs

Flashback a year ago: With a fairly new autism diagnosis, I went to a support group occasionally. The group of moms there were amazing women. They were so inspiring! However, I always felt really depressed afterward because many of their situations were just so bleak. Many had teenagers who were non-verbal and still needed help with pottying and showering. Many of these moms had to deal with their kids hitting them and getting very aggressive--especially with the onset of puberty. Not only did I feel depressed, but I just didn't feel that I belonged in that support group since their issues were so different from mine. So after attending this group for a while, I stopped going to the meetings.

Flash forward to yesterday: I took my daughter to Menchie's (a local frozen yogurt shop where you get to put on your own toppings) to reward her for a week of no tantrums. When we were leaving, Madonna's Like a Prayer was playing, and my daughter started trying out her new hip-hop moves out in the front patio area. I laughed and started dancing alongside her. We were having a great time when I looked up and saw a woman smiling at us. She looked familiar, but I couldn't place where I knew her, so I asked. It turned out that she was the psychologist that ran the support group. She laughed and said that she could see why I stopped coming. I really don't need a support group much anymore--that's a great feeling! I was on a high when I realized that!

The high ended a couple of hours later when my daughter dropped her favorite lollipop on the floor, and I couldn't replace the exact flavor. Yikes! Nevertheless, I'll take today over last year any day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Snow Play!

Living in Los Angeles definitely has its advantages. One of the biggest advantages is the mild winter climate. However, most of us Angelenos want to play in the snow occasionally! Our family had this hankering big time, so we took a long weekend up in our local mountains. We rented a cabin with another family who has 2 kids. As we were winding up the mountain on Friday, we were disappointed to see that the temperature outside was up in the mid-50s and the snow didn't seem to be too plentiful! We were disappointed. That is, until we found our cabin and checked out the backyard. We had about 5 feet of snow back there. There was also a nice hill that had a great sled run on it.

We really couldn't ask for better conditions! We had no problem driving around because of the lack of snow. The temperatures were really mild. But we still had a ton of snow to play in right in the cabin's backyard!

So, we all spent the time building snowmen, sledding, and having snowball fights. We had a great time! For my daughter, it was great for her to hang out with the two other kids. Being an only child, she really misses not having kids handy to play with. I was very impressed with how much she interacted with them. She handled herself really well too, socially! It was great!

The only downer for me was when my daughter, who is usually as sweet as can be, fired a huge snowball right in my face, point-blank. Did I mention that huge snowball was really hard? That really hurt! A lot! Good thing my husband was there, video-taping the whole thing. I think he's debating whether he should post it on You-Tube or just submit it to America's Funniest Home Videos. Great.

After we returned home, I asked my daughter what her favorite part of the trip was. She couldn't come up with anything because she enjoyed the whole trip! It was a lot of fun. I'm just relieved her favorite part wasn't slamming that snowball into my face!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Parenthood TV Show Part 2

Okay, I watched the second episode of Parenthood. I have to say it was a huge improvement over the pilot. While the writing is still the show's weak link, the overall tone of the show was much better. I still think the strength of the show is with the Asperger story thread. I think they're doing a great job of depicting a family who has a son that is just getting diagnosed. I did a little internet research and discovered that one of the show's producers has a 13-year old boy with Asperger's. I'm guessing that's why this subject matter is being handled so well.

One of the funniest scenes in the episode revolved around the Asperger thread. I think it's great that they can find some humor in this situation and not making all the Asperger scenes tragic. The scene revolved around the lead couple, played by Peter Krause and Monica Potter, going to another couple's house for dinner. This couple has a child on the autism spectrum, so they were hoping to glean information from them. What they got was TOO much advice thrown at them! Trust me, we've all been there! Even now, I know people who are SHOCKED that my daughter isn't on a gluten free/casein free diet!

Also, I think the show is raising awareness on Asperger's. I wonder if more people are going to realize that there may be more going on with their kids, other than quirkiness. Maybe some kids will actually benefit from this show! I've already seen one person post on a board that they're going to get their kid assessed to see if this is what's going on with them!

Here's to Parenthood! Keep up the great Asperger thread!

My Little Ecologist

My daughter hit the mother lode yesterday! A friend gave us some of her kids' books that they outgrew. These books cover topics like the weather, human body, science, animals among other topics. It was an Aspie's dream come true! In addition, my daughter's Ask magazine (kids' science magazine) came in the mail yesterday.

So, during my daughter's few spare minutes last night, she started to read through some of the books and look at her issue of Ask. As she was reading a book on whales and dolphins, she showed me a chapter on blue whales. "They're endangered," she said. I couldn't find this mentioned in the book she was reading. When I asked her how she knew this, she said it was mentioned in her Ask magazine that she received that day. I was impressed, because I thought she only looked at that magazine for about 5 minutes. She showed me the magazine, and sure enough, the blue whale was among the 25 plants and animals listed.

My daughter looked at me and asked how many other kindergartners at her school read Ask? I told her that I didn't think any of the other kindergartners read it, although there were probably some older kids at the school that did. She expressed great disappointment about that. When I asked her why, she said that the magazine encouraged the kids to pick an endangered animal and make a poster about it to educate their friends on why it's important to help the animals get off the list. She was afraid that the other kids at the school would select all the animals listed already. I laughed a little and told her she probably doesn't have much to worry about!

Having a kid with high-functioning autism or Asperger's can be frustrating, tiring, and irritating. But it is never dull!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yay! A Good Day!

Yesterday was a good day. No, make that a great day! My daughter was in a great mood and was extremely social! She interacted with her friends and was not rigid if things didn't go her way. She appeared to be totally neuro-typical. Why are some days like this and other days totally the opposite? I wish I knew the answer.

It's a question I've asked her service providers many times. The supervisor of our behaviorist says everyone--you, me, our crazy neighbor down the street--has good days and bad days. I am aware that we all have mood fluctuations, some days I take things in stride, other days the same things would set me off. However, this seems to go beyond that. My daughter can be so spacey and unaware on some days, like she's on another planet. These also tend to be the days that she doesn't transition well or handle her emotions well. Other days are like yesterday. She plays well, is easy-going, is social, and is totally in-the-moment and on planet Earth.

I wish science could figure out what causes these differences and then make it so all days are "on" days. That would be cool!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Parenthood TV Show

I finally got around to watching the premiere episode of the new television show, Parenthood. If you haven't heard about it, it's based on the Steve Martin movie from around 20 years ago. Twenty years ago? Yikes, I'm getting old! It's been talked about a lot in the autism communities because it features an 8-year old boy who gets diagnosed with Asperger's. The boards I visit have had a lot of posts, and I've purposely been avoiding reading them because I wanted this blog to be my own thoughts. I am dying to read what others think though, and will tear into them as soon as I'm done writing this.

First off, I was a bit disappointed by the show as a whole. It was too melodramatic for my taste, and I didn't think the writing was that great. For example, it seemed like the school (or the police) had to call the parents every other minute or so. That got kinda old! Maybe I'm being critical of the writing because my expectations were high. It also wasn't up to the level of the actors. This was the strength of the show! I thought it was extremely well-acted!

Also, the overall tone of the show felt off to me. I did read that the show creators wanted a show that was equal parts comedy and drama. Where was the comedy? I only saw the drama. Now, in all fairness, my husband and I rented the original movie about 5 years ago, and we were both struck by how serious it was. We both remembered the movie as being a light, Steve Martin comedy, but it wasn't at all! So, I guess I can't fault the show creators too much on this, but they are selling it as being part comedy.

Now, on to the Asperger story line. I thought it was done pretty well. In particular, I really loved the way the parents were portrayed. The tension and confusion they felt with dealing with their son before his diagnosis, then the sadness--and confusion again--when they learned about his diagnosis. It was the one part of the show that resonated with me. No surprise there, but I thought the actors, in particular, did a fabulous job.

Will I watch this show again? I will hang in there for a few more episodes just to see how they handle the Asperger's story thread. But if the writing and overall tone of the show doesn't improve, I'm not going to watch for the duration. Great acting only goes so far!

Now on to read what other parents of autistic kids thought!

Monday, March 8, 2010

What a Show!

I had my grown-up night last night at the Oscars! It was great! I got to dress up, walk down the red carpet, drink champagne, and mingle with some famous and not so famous people! Then I got to watch the Oscars! Alas, no after-parties for us. When the show was over, we got back into our car and returned back to the real world. We did stop at Dupar's for late-night grilled cheese sandwiches. If you don't live in L.A., let me just say that Dupar's is a bit of an L.A. institution. It's a divey, coffee-shop. We looked ridiculous walking in there wearing a tux and gown. Until about 10 minutes later when two other women walked in wearing formal gowns as well! They too were having a late-night snack there after attending the Oscars. Only in L.A.!

Now on to the highlights:

Most Surreal Moment:

Driving to the valet parking. Because of security, you have to drive through this weird slalom course of concrete barricades. At each barricade were police carrying what looked like uzi rifles. There was a ton of artillery and even the LAPD bomb squad van! All there to keep us safe! I felt like I was in the movie The Hurt Locker instead of attending the Oscars! While we were stopped and our car was being checked for bombs, people who were lined up on sidewalks trying to see celebs were taking pictures of us while we were inside our car. I rolled down my window at one point and yelled, "We're nobodies--don't waste your film!"


The Red Carpet:

Walking down the red carpet wasn't as glamorous as I thought it was going to be! Celebrities walked down an aisle so the media could easily interview them. We common folk walked down another aisle. The only officials talking to us were the security who kept prodding us along. We were interested in seeing the celebrities, so our line wasn't moving as fast as they'd like! Ironically, all we could pretty much see was the back of the gowns the actresses wore! Luckily, I was able to view the dresses on the CNN website after I got home!


Cocktail Party:

Before the show, the Academy hosted a cocktail party. It was really nice! While none of the Best Actor or Actress nominees were there (I'm guessing they had a VIP room), there was still a lot of celebrity sighting, and I got to see some of the beautiful gowns there! This was certainly the highlight of the evening for me--especially when Queen Latifah complimented me on my gown. Of course, I complimented hers first! She looked stunning.


The Awards Show:

I've heard that the awards are much better to watch on TV than in person. That is probably true. However, the excitement that is in the room is really amazing. Also, I can't imagine that the dance number during the musical score category played nearly as well on TV as it did in person! They were the most amazing dancers! My friends and family wanted detail notes on what happened during the commercial breaks. First off, at home there always seems to be too many, and they are too long. When you're at the Oscars, there are too few breaks, and they are too short! It's really hard to fit in a bathroom run without missing a good chunk of the show. If you're not back before the end of commercials, you have to view the show by the bar area on a little TV with the sound turned down low. After two glasses of champagne, you do have to fit that time in. Also, it was really hard to fit in Facebook updates during these commercial breaks. Trust me, I wasn't the only person in the theater trying to do this! The funniest thing that happened during the commercial break was that about 20 men wearing tuxedos would run onto the stage with brooms to sweep--really fast!


After the Show:

We didn't do much after the show--see above. The only highlight for me was that George Clooney almost stepped on my foot as we were all leaving the show. That would have been the best pain I would have ever experienced.

Now, back to the real world!

Friday, March 5, 2010

I'm So Excited!

I have blogged before about my boring life. Hubby and I don't go out much, and our lives are VERY child-centric. Everything revolves around my daughter. She's our only child, and we love her to pieces. When I tell people about my "exciting" weekend plans, they usually just revolve around gymnastics, soccer, and maybe a party or two--a kid's birthday party, of course!

But not this weekend. This weekend, we're going out! And when I say going out, I mean going out BIG! We are going to attend the Academy Awards! This has been a lifelong dream of mine! Of course, my dream involved accepting the award for best actress instead of sitting up in a balcony, but I'll take it! I get to dress up, walk down the red carpet, drink champagne, eat appetizers prepared by Wolfgang Puck, and spot a celebrity or two (or hundreds!). Hell, I'm going to be at the same place as George Clooney! (Note to hubby: remember, he's on my list! Although I doubt I'm on George Clooney's list!).

I think the show will be really fun to watch this year too! Having watched all the movies, I do feel more invested in them than I have in the past. The biggest "underdog" I'm rooting for? Meryl Streep. I LOVE her and think it's a crime that she hasn't won an award since Sophie's Choice. I thought she was marvelous (as always) in Julie and Julia. That movie helped me get this blog going instead of dragging my feet as I was doing. So the 5 people that read this blog partly have Meryl to thank! Now I gotta go buy me some Spanx!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The End of Innocence?

The other night, while my daughter was splashing around in the bathtub, she looked at me with a sad look on her face and told me that she didn't want to be a trainer at Sea World anymore! Wow, for one thing, she hasn't mentioned wanting to do that for a couple of years anyway! For another thing, why would she bring this up? I know a Sea World trainer was killed recently by an Orca, but how would my daughter know this? We are very careful of the information we expose her to--maybe even to a fault. But we believe that she should think the world is a nice, beautiful place for at least a little while longer! Oh sure, we've discussed "stranger danger," but we've always tried to approach these topics in a calm, balanced manner.

I wanted to be careful in finding out why she didn't want to be a trainer because I didn't want to inadvertently tell her what happened if she didn't know about it. So, I casually asked the reason why she didn't want to be a trainer. She said that two girls from her class told her about something awful that had happened to a trainer. I asked her what happened, but she said that she couldn't repeat it--it was too terrible. At this point, I had to assume that she had heard the news.

I really didn't want her to think that an orca would maliciously kill his trainer without cause, so I tried to explain that the trainer wasn't following the rules, which is really important. The orca is a very large, wild animal and when the trainer did not follow the rules, she did not keep herself safe. I said the Orca probably thought she wanted to play, but didn't understand that the trainer couldn't play like other Orca whales without getting hurt--or worse. I think my daughter understood this and felt better.

The conversation left me feeling sad though. I can no longer protect my child from the sadness and evil of the world. Now that she's in school--even just kindergarten--she's going to be exposed to all kinds of information. Heck, even her teacher has taught the kids about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln and didn't mince words on how they died. As I've said, I know I tend to be overprotective, but I feel very sad that my just-turned six-year-old is seeing the darker side of the world.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Loves to Read!

When I first started this blog, my intention was to celebrate the wonderful quirkiness and strengths that kids with high-functioning autism or Asperger's have. As I've been posting, I'm finding that my posts are more along the lines of a mom blog--but a mom who happens to have a kid with high-functioning autism. Today's topic, however, will be more along the lines of what I initially had in mind!

My daughter loves to read! She started to read a few months after she turned 4. It first started by her sounding out words that she saw on signs. After about 2 weeks of doing that, she stopped sounding the words out and was just able to read the words around her. Before long, she was reading magazine articles and books. When we got her tested for autism, she had been reading for about 3 months and was about 4.5 years old. The psychologist who was assessing her found that my daughter could read on the level of an 8 year old, with comprehension of a 6 year old! Not too shabby! She also found that my daughter could read upside down. She actually had to cover the answers of the I.Q. test because she could tell that my daughter was reading them from her upside-down perspective!

Now that my daughter is in kindergarten, she's been reading for almost 2 years! Yikes! She just finished reading Ramona the Pest. She LOVES to read science articles from Ask magazine and National Geographic for Kids magazine. Needless to say, she finds the reading instruction at school to be a bit boring. She also called one of her friends at school a "late-bloomer" because she wasn't able to read yet! I had to explain to her that her friend is right on track. It's more a case that she's an "early-bloomer!"

Her teacher told me that my daughter is on track to be placed in the "gifted" first grade class. This is the class where they put kids they suspect are gifted before they are tested. It's based solely on reading ability. The teacher thinks my daughter would do great and needs the more challenging curriculum. While I think my daughter would do great during the school day, I do worry about the extra homework that comes with being in this class. I'm really against the level of homework that is given to young kids. When you have to manage the extra burden of dealing with autism and the extra therapies that happen after school, you really want the after-school time to be spent more on socializing than on more academics. I think they get enough academics with the long school day. In fact, I joke with some of the other parents of kids with high-function/Asperger's that your child almost needs these "disabilities" in order to excel with the academic demands. Actually, I know this isn't true across-the-board, but with my daughter's personality, it almost seems to be the case!

In addition, part of the problem with my daughter and the homework is that it's forcing her to spend time on things that she doesn't necessarily find all that interesting or challenge her that much. Left to her own devices, she would be learning about things that are more on the third-grade level or higher!

Life is never dull with a quirky kid!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Lately on the autism boards, there has been so much vitriol. Moms (and sometime dads) attack other moms for disagreeing with their philosophies (regarding diets, vaccinations, Jenny McCarthy, you name it!). But it's not just on the boards either! Moms of special needs kids can be judgmental with each other in other venues also. I remember taking my daughter to her social skills class one day. As I was waiting in the lobby with the other parents, a neuro-typical sibling started to have a tantrum. The mother was trying to ignore it for awhile (as we're all instructed to do), but when it showed no sign of waning, she took her daughter outside. One of the other moms commented, "It's about time! Can't she handle her kid? I don't come here to deal with this. I have enough of this at home!" Excuse me? You're sitting in the lobby of a large provider for kids with autism, not a luxury spa. Where's the compassion? The camaraderie?

Taking a step back, however, I realized that this problem isn't just for moms with special needs kids. It's true for just about all moms. Ever since the beginning, when I had my daughter, other moms were quick to point out what I--and many other moms--were doing wrong. "You stopped breast-feeding at only 4 months? How selfish!" "You don't cosleep? You're child is going to grow up to be a serial killer!" "You only give your child organic food? Too bad they won't know the joy of a Twinkie! Or be able to handle challenges in the real world!" I could go on and on and on!

I remember when we first got our daughter assessed by the school district. The psychologist gave my daughter some cognitive tests, which she eagerly did. My daughter loves to show off how smart she is, so she can present very well in these circumstances. I shared my concerns with the psychologist, and said to really appreciate her issues, the psychologist needed to observe my daughter at her preschool. I was shocked when the psychologist (a grandmotherly type) replied, "I'm not doing a school visit! Your daughter is absolutely perfect! The best kid in the world! Maybe you need parenting classes!" Uh, no. Maybe my daughter has autism. Luckily, somebody else from the district intervened, the psychologist observed my daughter at school, saw the issues, and apologized to me while delivering the bad news.

I even visited the boards for women who were pregnant recently to see what new, expecting moms were talking about. It was scary! Many women, 8 weeks pregnant with their first kid, were already denouncing the choices other expectant moms were making. And not just saying, "This is why I'm choosing to do this..." It was more along the lines of, "You're going to be a horrendous mother because you're going to use a stroller!" or "You're going to be a terrible mother because your child will be breatfeeding through college!" Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but not a lot! These boards, which are supposed to help women connect and commiserate are oftentimes used to attack people who are not like-minded.

What is wrong with us? Can't we be more understanding and accepting of different parenting styles? Can't we be respectful of others' decisions even if we choose a different path? Can't we extend a helping hand when another mom needs it rather than criticize her parenting skills and call her a bad mother? The motherhood experience can be lonely, isolating, and filled with insecurities. Let's work together instead of against each other!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Wow, A Break Would Be Great!

I watched Desperate Housewives last night. It's one of my favorite shows, but I thought last night's episode was not one of the better ones. It didn't help that my husband was watching it with me. He has never seen it before, so I was hoping that he would like it, but as the episode unfolded, it became painfully obvious that he wasn't going to watch it with me again. Ever. I can't say I blame him, based on the quality of last night's show.

There was one story thread that I did enjoy though! I liked watching Gabby move in with Bob and Lee. Just as an aside, the show really needs to have Bob and Lee on more often. They are always so funny! Gabby has also been put to great comedic use this season, so having her hang out with Bob and Lee was so great.

Gabby definitely enjoyed her visit with them: parties, happy hours, and sleeping in! She got a break from her responsibilities of being a mom for a few days, and she enjoyed her time immensely. At the end of the episode, she was confronted with the fact that even though she doesn't have the fun that she used to have, her life has more meaning now.

I can totally relate to this story thread. When I had my daughter at 38 years of age, I actually felt that I had already lived my life. I had an interesting career, traveled extensively, both for work and for fun and was totally ready to settle down and live a more staid life. On many levels, I probably was more ready to than somebody who was much younger. I probably had more maturity and didn't mind the change of life style to a certain degree. However, I think that in some ways, you do miss more of that former life when you know exactly what you're missing. I really miss taking naps when I want to. "Sleeping in" for me now means sleeping until 8 am--and that's a rarity! I no longer have the luxury of not spending every waking moment worrying about another person. A short break from this would be heaven (although I think I would still do the worrying part!).

I recently overheard a mom telling her friends about a short cruise she took with a bunch of women friends and family members to celebrate her 40th birthday. It sounded like what should have been a really fun break from the mommy grind turned into everyone crying or getting mad at everyone else during the course of the trip. I couldn't help but think that would never have happened with me! She said that all ended well. Everyone forgave each other and made up (it kinda reminded me of a warped Love Boat episode). But what a wasted opportunity!

Like Gabby, I don't regret the decision I made to have a child. While my single life was fun, it was pretty empty and meaningless. My daughter's joys reminds me of the joys I had as a kid. Her frustrations bring back memories too! Every day I count my blessings that I have such a beautiful, smart girl (even if she does exasperate me to no end). Still, a mini-vacation would be great. Too bad Bob and Lee aren't my neighbors!