Friday, July 30, 2010

Top Eight Guilty Pleasures

Parenting a child on the spectrum can certainly have its wonderful moments, but it can have its stresses too (big surprise, right?). Here are my top 8 guilty pleasures that help me get through my day.


Chocolate

Chocolate is my drug of choice. I really need a piece a day to keep my spirits up. On really bad days, I have two pieces of chocolate. I'm actually pretty good at stopping there. I don't know what it is about chocolate, but I think it has some kind of magical properties to it. I always feel better after I indulge in it. The world always seems more manageable somehow. My daughter loves chocolate as much as I do. She had her first real piece of it after she turned 3. It was a solid chocolate heart. She took one bite out of it and yelled, "Chocolate is FANTASTIC!" I had never heard her use the word "fantastic" before! Yup, she's definitely my daughter.


Trashy Novels

When I say trashy, I don't mean the Harlequin romance books (even I have my standards). I'm talking about beach reads that have no redeeming quality to them other than to entertain the reader! My favorite series are the Shopaholic series from Sophie Kinsella and the Stephanie Plum series from Janet Evanovich. Anything that makes me laugh helps restore my coping mechanisms.


Paranormal "Reality" Television Shows


My husband can't get why I love these shows so much, but I do! Ever since I was 8, I was obsessed with the paranormal and read up on everything involving ESP and ghosts (okay, I'm probably a bit of an Aspie myself). Now there are programs that show people hunting for ghosts! Awesome! My favorites are "Ghost Hunters," "Ghost Hunters International," "Ghost Adventures," and "Destination Truth." There are many more that I watch, but if I list them all, my husband will cancel our satellite television subscription, so I have to keep a low profile ("Hi, honey!").


Highbrow Television Shows

There are television shows my husband and I like to watch together. What makes these shows highbrow? Well, I'm not as embarrassed to blog about them! Our favorites right now include "True Blood" and "Breaking Bad." Yes, both can be very violent and sex-filled, so I can't exactly relate to them. Hey, that's why they're such great escapes, right?


Romantic Comedy Films

Just like the trashy novels, I really enjoy movies that I can simply sit back and enjoy. Here, I have a lot of conflict with my husband. He prefers dramas--usually the more death and tragedy, the better! His favorite movie last year was "The Road." He found it uplifting. I wanted to shoot myself after seeing it. It was sooooo depressing. Give me a great comedy anytime!


Moms' Nights (or Days) Out

I don't do many Moms' nights (or days) out anymore. I used to be better about going out to dinner once a month or so with other moms. But now that my daughter is in school, and I have a lot of time to myself, I don't feel the need to get out of the house as strongly as I used to. However, I've gotten really bad about socializing because of it. So, I try to get together with friends whenever I can. I don't do it very often, but I do find it very reaffirming when I do.


Big Annual Splurge

This was something I did last year and decided to make an annual tradition of it around my birthday. Last year, I saw a gorgeous pink Coach bag on sale, so I bought it. It was more money than I've ever spent on anything that wasn't jewelry. I loved it though. A year later, it still looks as gorgeous as the day I bought it, even though I've worn it every day. I bought myself another Coach bag this year! I generally don't splurge on myself, so this one big thing each year is a great reminder that I'm a worthwhile person and deserve nice things once in a while (in this case, once a year!).


Blogging!

I started blogging this past February because I thought it would be a fantastic way to work at home and bring in money. However, I quickly learned that it's really hard to make money at blogging. I did find that it was incredibly fun and supportive. The blogging community is made up of an amazing group of women. And I find it to be incredibly therapeutic to write. By nature, I'm not an introspective person, so blogging is forcing me to be more so. I've been feeling much happier and less stressed since I've started blogging!

What are your guilty pleasures--keep it clean, this is a family blog!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Webkinz Is Trying to Extort Me!

It all started innocently enough. My daughter received a cute, stuffed-animal husky as a gift for her sixth birthday. She named it Henry. He was also a Webkinz. My daughter learned that she could go on the computer and play with a computer version of Henry! She was ecstatic! I didn't seem the harm in this. My daughter learned she had to feed and clothe Henry. She had to earn "money" to do these things. She also "earned" enough to sign Henry up for classes and take him on tropical vacations. She helped Henry find his talents and helped him try out different jobs.

I thought this Webkinz world was great. My daughter was learning empathy in caring for Henry. She was also learning about how you have to earn money in order to buy things. All this seemed like a cool, fun way to learn these things.

I even laughed when my daughter told me that she bought Henry a bikini top and a bow for his fur, so he could sneak into a girls' area to spy on what happened there. Apparently, Henry started to like wearing the girl stuff so much, that my daughter decided to rename him Henrietta and essentially gave him a sex change operation! We still call her Henry though.

Then the evil of Webkinz happened! My daughter found a video pushing kids to "encourage" their parent to get them a deluxe membership (or duloox, as my daughter pronounces it). What do you get with a deluxe membership? Well, your Webkinz pet receives a new (virtual) clothing prize each month, gets a (virtual) special gold hat that only deluxe members can get, gets deluxe activities, and gets to play in a special deluxe area. To quote the video, "Sign up, get more, go deluxe!" The video makes all this sound really great and describes it as an "incredible value!" So, how much does this "incredible value" cost to get a virtual hat, a clothing prize each month, and some extra games to play? This isn't discussed in the video. I had to really research it on the site and discovered that it's $45 a year!

$45 a year? Are they serious? When my daughter first asked for this, I assumed it was going to be about $15 and thought she could pay for it out of her $.50/week allowance and tooth fairy money. But she couldn't afford this, and I'm certainly not shelling out that dough for a friggin' virtual gold hat. I do not give in to extortion! Poor Henrietta will just have to live within our means. Ganz (the company behind Webkinz) should be ashamed!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Red Popsicles!

Jenny Matlock's alphabe-Thursdays is now veering into colors! Yikes! I was told red was first up, so I'm going to attempt write about red. This theme begs for photos, but I'm more about the words, so no pictures here. Also, I'm really proud of my post yesterday (see here), so I'm finding it difficult to write something today! Has that ever happened to you?

Here goes....

I love red popsicles--that intense cherry flavor. It reminds me of summer. Even now, when the heat can top 100--or even 110 degrees, there's nothing like eating a red popsicle to cool down.

My daughter used to not like the intense flavor of red--or any other color--popsicle. She didn't like any artificially fruit-flavored drink or candy either. A lot of kids on the spectrum have limited diets. Some kids will only eat one or two types of foods! It can get very crazy!

My daughter was a fairly picky eater, but as far as spectrum-kids go, she was pretty easy. As stated, she didn't like most fruit-flavored candy (although she loves chocolate), drinks, or popsicles. She didn't like anything with fresh herbs. She didn't like the carbonation of soda. And she didn't like anything that was spicy. That was pretty much it!

Now that she's getting older, her taste buds seem to be maturing as well. She's very open to trying new things. Fresh herbs also don't offend her as much. And candy, drinks, and popsicles? Yeah, she's developed a taste for them too! Oh well, she generally is a healthy eater so I guess I can't complain too much!

Except I now have to share the popsicles. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Inner Demons

My daughter has been totally amazing for about 2 weeks. She was as perfectly-behaved as any child can be. All that ended yesterday when she had the worst tantrum ever. It may not have been the longest one, but it was the most intense. This time, I think the trigger was hunger. She hardly touched her lunch at camp, so all she ate while there was a small bag of crackers.

During the tantrum, she did and said some hurtful things to me. She said that she didn't like me and that she wished she were with her daddy. While the rational me knows that all this is normal during this type of episode, it was still hurtful because it plays with my own inner demons. You know, those thoughts in your head that tell you what a horrible mother you are.

Back in the day, mothers were actually told that their child was autistic because of their poor mothering skills. They failed to provide enough love and interaction during their baby's development thus causing the autism. We know now that is entirely wrong. However, I've heard many a mother of an autistic child complain that when their child tantrums in public, they're met with either judgmental looks or comments. People have actually gone up to them and said things like, "Can't you handle your child?" or "Let me buy her the damn candy bar, if it means that crying would stop!" One friend told me that, while her daughter was having a meltdown in the grocery store, a woman came up and commented that her daughter was a "drama queen." "No," she replied, "my daughter has autism!"

The professionals who provide the autism services can also make comments that make you feel like a less than stellar mother. When I first had my daughter assessed by the school district because I felt that something wasn't right with her, the psychologist actually told me that I had the best girl in the world and that I needed parenting classes. It wasn't until she observed my daughter at her preschool that she called me with an apology and told me I was right about my daughter's autism. Other providers have told me that they wonder if an autistic child is truly autistic or the product of bad parenting. I know my parenting is always being looked at and dissected into pieces.

My daughter used to tantrum every day when I picked her up from preschool because she'd rather stay at school than go home with me. That hurt me on two levels. First, I had to deal with the looks from the other moms who I felt were judging my mothering ability (whether they actually were is probably irrelevant--it's how I felt). Second, I felt inadequate as a mom because my daughter didn't run and give me hugs like the other kids did with their mothers. Instead, she tantrummed as soon as she saw me because she didn't want to go home with me. This hurt my self-esteem. A lot.

This feeds into our own feelings that we caused our child's autism due to our bad parenting. While most of us know, on a rational level, that this isn't the case, I think ALL mothers of autistic children feel this way at some point in time--or at least wonder about it. These are the inner demons that I fight with when my daughter is having a tantrum. It's one that I think all mother's of autistic children deal with.

I wish I could tell those demons to go away. That I'm a loving, caring mother who is doing the best she can. After my daughter's tantrum ended and she ate some food, she told me how sorry she was and how much she loves me. I have to hold on to these moments, and the moments that she's perfectly behaved. It's hard, but I have to tell those inner demons to take a hike!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Good Memory, Bad Memory

One weird quirk about my daughter is that she has a tremendous memory for certain things, but an appalling memory in other ways. For example, if I ask her to put her shoes on, she'll go to the family room where her shoes are, then totally forget why she went into that room! Or she'll go into the bathroom to brush her teeth, but she'll wash her hands instead; totally forgetting the reason why she went into the bathroom in the first place.

Her memory is really bad with recounting what she did that day in school or camp. Actually, she is beginning to do a better job telling me everything they do in camp, but I doubt she'll do as well once school begins. It can be so frustrating--especially when her memory is so phenomenal in other ways.

Last year, while my daughter was in her last year of preschool, she participated in a drama class geared toward kids with high-functioning autism or Asperger's Syndrome. She was one of the youngest kids in the class, but I didn't think it would be an issue since she was already able to read for a year (see here for that story!). They were going to put on a little play, and because my daughter was the youngest, she initially didn't have many lines. I think the first version, she had about 5 lines or so. I remember she read through the script with me once. I then mentioned that we were going to have to work on memorizing the lines, but she assured me that she already had them memorized--after looking at them once. I didn't want to pick a fight with her, and I assumed she didn't really know what memorizing meant. I figured we had plenty of time to work on them.

During the next class, when it was time to pick her up, I found her script clear on the other side of the room. I brought it over to her and chided her for not keeping it with her. The drama teacher said that she didn't need it because she had all of her lines memorized already. I told her that my daughter SAYS she does, but she couldn't possibly because we hadn't worked on them yet and only read through the script once. The drama teacher laughed and said they went through her scenes already, and she had her lines memorized. It then occurred to me that my daughter could very well have a photographic memory.

As the rehearsals went on, the teacher kept giving my daughter more and more lines since she was able to handle them with ease while the other kids were struggling and/or not that interested in the play. In fact, a couple of days before the last performance, they included my daughter in singing, "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better." They knew that they could throw anything at this then 5-year old who could handle it with ease. When they awarded trophies at the end of the class, my daughter got the "She Could Memorize the Phone Book" award. It was pretty funny.

Now, if only she could remember to brush her teeth instead of her hands. Sigh.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yucky Diet Coke

I apologize for the scatological nature of this post. When I started this blog, I wanted to celebrate the quirky nature of my daughter and other kids who have high-functioning autism/Asperger's. I oftentimes stray from this original intent. Well, not with this post (insert evil laugh).

Yesterday, my daughter told me about a game she was playing with a new friend she made at camp (yay!). Everywhere they went, they pretended that it was a complete world. The pool area was called Water World, for example. She then mentioned that when they went to the bathroom it was called Toilet World. "Wow, where do you get your food in Toilet World?" I asked her. She gave me a horrified look and said she didn't really want to think about that! She's come a long way since she was really little.

Flashback 3 years ago. She was 3.5 years old and still not remotely close to being potty trained. I hear this is somewhat common for kids on the spectrum. Either they hate the feeling of a wet or dirty diaper and potty train extremely young, or they don't seem to pay attention to their bodies at all and potty train much later. Unfortunately, my daughter fit the second category.

When we really started the effort of potty training, at 3.5 years of age, my daughter was going through a really bad phase of scripting (see here for more info). She would constantly pretend to be characters from television, books, or anything else her brain would grab on to. Anyway, I was devoting a week to the potty training process. It didn't go very well, and she was having accidents a lot. One time, we were in the kitchen, when she had a HUGE pee accident on the floor. She laughed and shouted, "I'm a rain cloud!" as she jumped up and down in the puddle. Needless to say, potty training was tabled for a couple of months!

When she was around 4, and finally getting a handle om potty training, she would tell us what she did in the potty. She would use the normal terms pee or poo. However, if she happened to do both in the potty during one sitting, she would say she did a "yucky diet coke." She told me she came up with this term on her own. She had seen me drink a diet coke once, and I guess that's what she thought the color of it reminded her of.

I never said living with an Aspie was boring! That's for sure!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The 3 Top Television Characters with Asperger's Syndrome.

I had so much fun making my first post with a list the other day, I decided to do another one! This list is by no means a complete list. Television and movies are now teeming with Asperger characters. I just don't watch a lot of television, so I'm highlighting the 3 that I know!

1. Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory

Sheldon is, in my opinion, the best depiction of Asperger's on television. The writers nailed it! The interesting back story is that the writers never intended Sheldon to have Asperger's. But he probably has almost every item off the list of symptoms from my Tuesday post. The character is inspired by a friend of one of the show's creators, so I'm assuming that person might have undiagnosed Asperger's. I wrote a post about this during my early blogging days (about 4 months ago, see here).


2. Max Braverman, Parenthood

Max is a great depiction of a newly diagnosed 8-year-old boy with Asperger's. One of the show's writers has a son with Asperger's, so the writing about the situation is, again, spot-on. I can totally relate to the story threads around this character and how the family is coping with the new diagnosis. It's not uncommon for me to both cry AND laugh during an episode. My only complaint is that the show is on summer hiatus. It gives me great material for my blog (see here, here, here), so I want it to return to television pronto!


3. Jerry Espenson, Boston Legal

Of the three characters, the character of Jerry is the worst portrayal of someone with Asperger's. I don't think the writers really had a grip of what Asperger's was about, other than that the character is socially awkward, but very smart. The most cartoonish aspect of this character was all the tics they gave him, which really didn't seem very Aspergerish, so to speak. In one episode, Jerry thought he also had Tourette's Syndrome, but this was never pursued as a plot device. I think the writers just snuck it in to appease the complaints about the lack of authenticity. So why include Jerry on this list? For primarily two reasons. First, the character really brought attention to Asperger's before it was popular to do so; and second, Christian Clemenson, the talented actor who portrayed Jerry, really brought a lot of heart to a character that could have easily become cartoonish buffoon.


Those are the three portrayals of television characters with Asperger's that I like. Are there any that you like?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

B is for Blogging Boot Camp!

Well, I thought I was done with Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday, but today she is having a wild card--any letter you want. Since I've been plugging away at improving my blog via 31 Days to Building a Better Blog, I thought I'd go for the letter B. It seems like a natural fit, right?

I was really hesitant to do this because I was afraid it would be too much time out of each day. It really hasn't been, except for the time I've been spending on Twitter. I'm beginning to appreciate the power that is Twitter. The first day of the boot camp was this past Monday. My blog does not get a lot of traffic yet. It's average is about 40 hits a day. Yesterday, I had almost 90 hits! The increase is mostly due to Twitter, I think.

The other cool thing is that it's taking me out of my comfort zone. The assignment yesterday was to write a post containing a list. I hate to admit this, but I've never written a post like that before. I was pleased with the result (check it out: 12 Most Common Symptoms of Asperger's).

I'm also learning about ways to market the blog, which I think will be helpful. So, overall, I've been glad that I've undertaken this!

You know what else begins with the letter B? Beezus, as in the movie, "Ramona and Beezus." My husband co-wrote a song called "How Much I Love You" that's in a pivotal scene in the movie. It's available on I-Tunes, but you can click here to here a sample of it first! If you go to see the movie, it plays during a wedding scene.

Jenny tells us that we're moving on to colors next week. And I thought the letter X was hard!

Sponge Bob Freak Out and Too Cool for Mom!

My daughter is still being an absolute dream! I'm loving our time together. The behaviorist told me yesterday that she thinks my daughter will be this perfect from here on out. That caused me to laugh hysterically. I know my daughter's behavior runs in cycles. We just got through a horrendous one, so hopefully, this good one will last for a while.

Anyway, my daughter was being very secretive this morning. She was trying to hide something from me. At first, I let her be secretive because I figured it was probably something harmless, and she's entitled to have her secrets. She was closing the door to her room while hiding something in her bed. No worries, I thought. I'm sure it's nothing big.

Later, as I was making her breakfast, she came up to me and asked if it was okay if she ate breakfast on her own. She didn't want me to see what she was doing, because it would make me "freak out." Now, I was getting concerned. I told her that while I respected her privacy, it made me worried that she was doing something that would make me "freak out." I told her that I wanted to give her space, but I had to know that she wasn't going to do something that could hurt herself. As I was telling her this, she accidentally dropped her big "secret." It was a picture of Spongebob Squarepants that she had drawn and was playing with. She knew how much I hated Spongebob, so she didn't want me to know what she was doing! Hehe.

So, she ate breakfast on her own, reading a book about good manners to her Spongebob friend. She's so subversive!

In addition, I had a bit of a shock when I picked up my daughter from camp on Monday. She told me that she was a big fan of Justin Bieber and started singing one of his songs. I kinda know who he is, but I've never heard the song she was singing. So, I have to face the music that my six year old is now officially more up on pop culture than I am. I really am getting old.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

12 Most Common Symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome

In general, autism in a child can be pretty apparent. One of the most notable symptoms is a speech delay. Asperger Syndrome can be much tougher to spot. There is no speech delay. I've listed the 12 most common symptoms of Asperger's. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list, and a child with Asperger's will not necessarily have all the symptoms. To compile this list, I did a Google search. Ironically, I found many of the lists lacking! So, I used WebMD's list and added on to it.

1) Problems with social skills: Children with Asperger's syndrome generally have difficulty interacting with others and often are awkward in social situations. They generally do not make friends easily. I have found that they generally do very well with other kids on the spectrum, however.


2) Eccentric or repetitive behaviors: Children with this condition may develop odd, repetitive movements, such as hand wringing or finger twisting. This is called stimming. Children do this to soothe themselves. Other common stims include spinning and jumping. I can usually spot a child on the spectrum immediately from this behavior.


3) Unusual preoccupations or rituals: A child with Asperger's syndrome may develop rituals that he or she refuses to alter, such as getting dressed in a specific order.


4) Communication difficulties: People with Asperger's syndrome may not make eye contact when speaking with someone. They may have trouble using facial expressions and gestures, and understanding body language. They also tend to have problems understanding language in context.


5) Limited range of interests: A child with Asperger's syndrome may develop an intense, almost obsessive, interest in a few areas, such as sports schedules, weather, or maps. My daughter loves to read about bugs, dinosaurs, outer space, extinct animals--pretty much anything related to science.


6) Coordination problems: The movements of children with Asperger's syndrome may seem clumsy or awkward. My daughter seems to have more than her share of mishaps, oftentimes because she is not paying full attention to what she's doing. She also has low muscle-tone, which is common with Aspeger's.


7) Sensory issues: many kids with Asperger's syndrome are either extra sensitive or less sensitive to sensory issues. For example, my daughter hates loud noises. She's told me that balloons popping HURT her ears. She seems to realize that they affect her more than they do other kids.


8) Difficulty with regulating emotions: my daughter will tantrum at little things because she has difficulties with problem-solving. She also just has a hard time with using other emotions or even just using her words to express herself.


9) Lack of empathy: children with Asperger's cannot empathize with other people.


10) Difficulties with transitions and rigidity: This is a biggie for my daughter. If she has to stop doing what she wants to do or do it in a different way then she wants to, it can cause tantrums.


11) Difficulty with imaginative play: children with Asperger's can be very literal and can have a difficult time with doing things like pretend play. This can be very difficult for the child with Asperger's with playing with other children.


12) Skilled or talented: Many children with Asperger's syndrome are exceptionally talented or skilled in a particular area, such as music or math. My daughter is very smart. She taught herself to read when she was 4 and got into reading about science and nature soon thereafter!


If your child is exhibiting some of these symptoms, does it mean he/she has Asperger's? Could be, but there are other things that can bring on these symptoms. Side effects from some medications, such as Singulair can bring on tantrums, for example. Also, some children who are highly gifted may exhibit some of these symptoms as well. I do think it's important to get your child assessed if you're worried. The therapies we've done with our daughter has made such a huge difference! She's learning how to play with other kids, how to regulate her emotions, how to be less rigid, how to play imaginatively, even how to empathize! Yay!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Earthquake!

Before I get into my post about earthquakes, I just want to say that I'm participating in a 31 day blogging boot camp sponsored by Problogger, SITS, and BlogFrog. By participating, I'll be working on the look of my blog, and content of my blog, and the marketing of my blog. They guarantee that in 31 days, my blog will be the next Dooce. Just kidding, they make no such claim. But I am hoping it will help things out a bit.

Now on to earthquakes! Living in Southern California, you quickly learn that earthquakes are a hazard. We've been having a swarm of them since April. Not that I've felt a single one, but they have been happening. Seismologists are worried about the pattern of them, and think there's a very good chance we'll have a significant earthquake soon. They don't say things like this very often, so I'm kind of worried.

To prepare our daughter, my husband and I held an earthquake and fire drill over the weekend. This involved going over safety procedures in case of a fire. Apparently, I scared my daughter last week when I was putting her to bed. She was holding on to me, making it difficult for me to make my escape. I told her that I had to hurry to the kitchen to get something out of the oven before it started a fire. My husband had to spend the next half hour with her, assuring her the house wasn't going to burn down. Ooops!

So, we first went over fire safety! Then we went over earthquake safety, which involved going to every area of the house to point out the safest and worst places to go to in the event of an earthquake. We started in the dining room. My husband started shaking the chair our daughter was sitting on so she could feel what an earthquake felt like. She started screaming and crying. Wow, what acting, I thought! Nope, my husband hurt her foot. Luckily, it wasn't hurt too badly, and I joked that her injury was probably worse than anything that would occur in a real earthquake.

I hope I'm right!

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Have to Learn to Steer this Ship?

We recently found out that my daughter is going to be phasing out of her Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is a type of therapy commonly used for kids on the spectrum. There is a wide-range of approaches; my daughter was receiving a play-based form of it. Basically, it consists of a behaviorist coming to the house or meeting at the park. She plays with my daughter and teaches her how to take turns, play other kids' games, learn how to approach kids at the park to play, etc. If my daughter is going through a period that she tantrums if interrupted, the behaviorist will purposely interrupt her to show her how to handle it. Meanwhile, the behaviorist collects data on how my daughter is doing for the different areas she's being worked on.

It worries me that my daughter is losing this service. She's been receiving it for 6-8 hours a week for less than a year. Most kids with autism have it for many more years at much higher amounts. The service provider is insisting that our daughter isn't benefiting from this therapy anymore and needs to move on to other things, such as social skill classes.

I've always been impressed with how the behaviorist creates different opportunities, assesses how my daughter does, gives her feedback, and tracks the data! Well, as part of the phase-out, the behaviorist is now training me to do what she does! She's giving me the goals that we are working on, taking data down on how I'm doing, and giving me feedback on what I did right or wrong.

Let's just say that I have a lot to learn. Basically, I suck at this parenting gig, apparently. One of the things the behaviorist has been working on with me is giving my daughter commands. I'm supposed to tell her what she has to do. I have to get her attention, be clear, and give her positive reinforcement after she did what she was told to do. Generally, I do okay, except for one thing...I don't TELL her what to do. I tend to ask, such as, "Can you put this toy away" instead of "Put this toy away."

Another area I found out I need to practice is telling her, "No." I will tell her no, then she'll start giving me a compelling argument, so I'll say, "I like the way you use your words, okay you can do yada, yada, yada." I thought the behaviorist was going to whack me with her clipboard after that one! Hey, I was trying to reinforce my daughter's good use of words without whining or crying, I forgot about the sticking with the "no" issue. Ugh! There are so many things to work on, and I have a hard time remembering them all!

I have two months of working out these kinks with the behaviorist. After that, her supervisor is going to be working with me for an hour or so a week. After that, I'll be mostly on my own. This scares me immensely.

My daughter may be ready, but I'm not sure I am!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Z is for Zip!

It's the last alphabet week of Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. We are on the letter Z. Jenny mentioned that we were doing numbers next. I wonder what will be after that: shapes? colors? Anyway, for now I should worry about the letter Z. Z is for zip!

There are many different definitions for the word zip, The definition for this post is to act or proceed swiftly and energetically. Well, that definition doesn't really sound like me, but it's describing my life! It seems like just yesterday I was a college student, studying, dating, and drinking (well, I went to college in a quiet town where there wasn't much else to do!). But on Thursday, I'm "celebrating" my 45th birthday. Oh joy.

I cannot believe how fast the time passed! It's crazy. Does that mean the next 23 years will go by in a blink of an eye too? Probably not. Time seems to go by faster with each passing year, so probably 30 years will pass in a blink of an eye. Zonkers!

Since becoming a mom almost 6 and a half years ago (yes, do the math, I became a mom late in life), I really notice the passage of time when I look at my daughter. I mean it was just yesterday that I was changing her diapers, and now she's a little girl, going to a big-kid camp and entering first grade in the fall. Where does the time go?

Well, at least I still feel like I'm 25, and I even get carded occasionally! Yay! Only, my body is having the last laugh on that one. Since last Saturday, I've had about 4 hot flashes. I also had a horrific migraine headache that was so debilitating, I had to rest on the couch and whimper to my daughter that I didn't feel well. I never get headaches like that! My husband did a little research on the internet and found out that headaches like that can be triggered by perimenopause. What a great week to begin this phase of my life!

On a good note, my daughter, who I've been complaining about a lot lately has been an absolute saint since Saturday. She's had no tantrums and has been on her best behavior. When I was feeling awful yesterday, she brought me a pillow to rest my head on, then brought me her favorite blanket and stuffed animal to help me feel better. She did this on her own initiative! for those who haven't visited my blog before, my daughter has high-functioning autism/Asperger's. It just floors me when she does things like this. It gives me great hope for her future! I think my husband had a talk with her last weekend to be extra good for me as a birthday present, but she has certainly surpassed expectations in this area. I consider myself to be so lucky to be the mother of such a sweet girl!

Maybe getting older isn't so bad when you feel that your child will come out okay in the end. That she will someday go to an ivy-league college, have a great career, marry a loving husband, and have two perfect children. Or, at the very least, be able to live the life SHE wants on her own terms. Then I can age gracefully. Or age kicking and screaming--whichever I choose to do!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Help! I'm Drowning!

Somebody, throw me a life preserver! Quick! Why am I drowning? Because I'm getting sucked into the social media world, and it is overwhelming! REALLY overwhelming!

It all started because of this blog. For the first month, I just plugged along and tried to write during every weekday. It was fun, but nobody was reading the blog. Then, I found out about blogging communities. These are where you "network" and meet other bloggers. They check out your blog and follow you if they like what you say, and you check out their blogs and follow them if you like what they say! It's a great way to develop followers and hone your own blogging skills. I've met many wonderful bloggers this way and read their amazing blogs. If you want to check them out, they're listed on my profile information. Now that I'm over a hundred followers, there are quite a lot of blogs I follow too, and it takes time to read them. It's time I love to spend.

I now have some readers, but I'd like to get more than the 35 or so readers I get each day. So, I created a fan page on Facebook. You can join by clicking on the "like" button on the right (hey, gotta market that blog, right?). I was already on Facebook, so this seemed like a natural step.

But then I read somewhere that blogs really take off when you market them on Twitter. So, I went onto Twitter to market my blog. At first, I didn't get it. I didn't understand how typing things like, "I'm going to brush my teeth now and check out my blog" was going to get me readers! After being on it a couple of weeks, I began to understand the power of Twitter and started to get into it. I also began to enjoy reading the tweets of the people I was following and trying to stay on top of it. It wasn't easy following 20 people! That was yesterday! Today, I'm some how following 173 people (as of this moment). My screen is full of tweets! When I scrolled down to the end of my page, it covered the last 10 minutes. Gulp.

I think I'm getting in over my head! Somebody throw me a life preserver! Of course, I suppose I can jump off this merry-go-round. But what would be the fun in doing that?

Monday, July 12, 2010

What a Night!

My husband and I are homebodies. We don't go out every often, and I think we both enjoy just staying at home. We always say we'd try to do a date night every month or so, but it never ends up happening. However, when do go out, we generally go out in a big way (see here). Last night, a friend of my husband was performing at the Hollywood Bowl in a Beatles' tribute show. We were given free tickets to go see our friend, so we decided to get out fat butts off our couch and go out.

The show was so amazing! I'm really glad we went. My husband's friend was really great on his songs, and the other performers were good too. The highlight of the show for me was when my husband's friend did a duet of "Let it Be" with Todd Rundgren. They had about 18,000 people in the audience mesmerized for those few minutes. It was a breath-taking performance and for me, the ultimate Hollywood Bowl experience.

My husband had a really great time too. An old friend who is visiting from New York was sitting with us. My husband had a lot of fun catching up with his old friend. It made me a little sad that he didn't go back to New York a month ago to hit some reunions that were happening then. He wants to travel back to New York to catch up with his friends more often. I really support it!

For me, the funniest part of the night happened at the end. We were waiting to go backstage to congratulate my husband's friend (and meet everyone else who performed) when Kathy Lee Gifford came out. A quadriplegic man was waiting outside the stage door to celebrity watch. He had his attendant wheel him over to Kathy Lee where he gushed over her. He said, "You were so great those few years you hosted "The View." I was so sad when you left the show!" She kinda gave him the cold shoulder after that, but she didn't have the heart to say he confused her with Rosie O'Donnell.

It was definitely a fun night. Maybe we need to get out more often!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pictures

My husband dug up a bunch of my old photographs the other day and gave them to me to see. I haven't looked at these photos for as long as I've been in our house, so it's been at least six years since I've seen them. These pictures were taken before I had my daughter and before I was married. Many were taken between 10-20 years ago.

The one thing I was struck with when I was looking at the pictures was how cute I was. I was even beautiful in some of the pictures. Now, I'm not trying to brag. Really, I'm not. It was actually a revelation to me because I always saw myself as plain at best, probably more on the ugly side. So it was so eye-opening to see that I wasn't! Why was I so hard on myself? Why couldn't I have been more accepting of my flaws and more thankful of my strengths? Why did I waste my youth wishing I had something that I actually had? I just don't understand it.

The other thing that struck me as I looked at the photos was that I used to care about my appearance. Since having my daughter, I really let my looks go. I stopped styling my hair and putting on makeup. Who has time to do that when there is a baby to chase after? Only, my "baby" is now almost 6 and a half years old and doesn't need to be chased after! So, I'm trying to make some effort to look like the old me again. Because it occurred to me; I don't look as young as I do in the pictures, which means in 10 years, I won't look as young as I do now. I'm going to look better today than I will tomorrow, metaphorically speaking anyway. So, I might as well make the most of what I've got now, because even though I don't think I have anything left, I know in 10 years, I'll look at pictures of me and know that I actually do! (I hope you can still follow my twisted logic).

My new driver's license came in the mail today. I dreaded looking at the picture--they always look terrible. I was surprised to see that it was actually a good picture of me! It was even better than my current one which was take 5 years ago. This will probably be the last good one I'll have (I'll be 50 when I have to renew my license next. Yikes!).

So here's to looking the best you can! Yay, vanity!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"I Love You, Mommy! Really!"

After the Daddy's girl post I wrote on Tuesday, I told my daughter about it. I told her that her daddy and her have a special bond that I think is very precious and special. She looked at me and said, "I'll like you when I'm older!" It's a good thing I have a good sense of humor and know what she meant isn't the same as what she said. She meant that when she's older, I'll probably be the favorite parent. (personally, I don't think so, but her daddy planted that idea into her head).

I did give her a little bit of a hard time though. I said, "You don't like me?" She immediately corrected herself, but she started to dig herself into a hole. "Of course I like you, but you're not as much fun as Daddy!" "What do you mean? I'm no fun?" "No, of course you're fun! You just aren't fun like Daddy is!" I finally let her off the hook. It was too painful watching her squirm around.

Later that day, she was telling me about what she did on Webkins. Apparently, you can buy all sorts of things for your stuffed animal: clothes, classes, trips, just to name a few. She told me that she treated her Webkin's dog to a spa weekend! I thought that sounded really nifty. My birthday is coming up, and I've been drawing a blank on what my husband could get for me. When I mentioned to my daughter that I could sure go for a spa weekend, she perked up! "That would mean I would need a babysitter for the weekend!" she shouted happily. I told her that if I did go away, her daddy would watch her. He's not a babysitter since he's her parent. She responded, "That's great! And if for some reason he can't watch me, I can have a babysitter!"

Wow, does she have to look so excited over getting a babysitter? Something tells me she's getting tired of me. Too bad, because I looked into a spa weekend, and it's ridiculously expensive. I would never be able to enjoy myself while spending that kind of money. So for now, no babysitter for the weekend for her. I think I just ruined her dream weekend plans. Hehe.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Y is for Yo-Yo

This week's Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday is on the letter Y, which should be way easier than last week's letter X!

Y is for yo-yo. I'm not talking about the classic toy we've all played with as kids (or as adults, don't judge me). I'm talking about what life feels like when you're parenting a child who is high functioning autistic or has Asperger's. One day your child appears perfectly "typical," laughing, playing with friends, taking things in stride, giving great eye contact, and not trying to explain the mysteries of the world to you while getting angry that you can't keep up. Other days are the opposite: endless temper tantrums, poor eye contact, no interest in socializing, inability to form complete sentences, endless blabbering on why Einstein theories are all wrong, and relentlessly pretending to be Mater from the movie "Cars." Relentlessly.

I'm not sure why this occurs. Other parents of kids with high-functioning autism have also reported this yo-yo effect. We don't know why this is. When I ask our behavior therapy providers, the standard answer I get is that we all have good days and bad days. Autistic children are no different. I'm sorry, but this is more than bad days and good days. This is where kids don't appear even remotely on the spectrum on some days, and hardly appear able to function on other days. As parents, we all want to bottle whatever it is on the "typical" days and sprinkle it on our children on the "non-typical" days.

One weird way that my daughter deviates from many kids with autism is that she's amazing when we travel! Many autistic children do not like things they're not familiar with and can act more "autistic" while traveling. Not my daughter. She seems to thrive when we travel. She loves staying in hotels and seeing new sites. She seems to be very "typical" when we travel. It's very strange.

The one exception (the only exception) was last year when we went on a cruise. We just went on a 4-day cruise down to Mexico that departed out of Long Beach, an hour's drive from our house! For a few hours after she boarded the ship, she was overwhelmed by everything to see on the ship. Also, many other kids were tantrumming on the ship, so it made her uncomfortable initially (oh sure, you hate it when other kids tantrum, but it's okay when you do it! LOL). She was whining and unhappy. I remember thinking, "Oh joy, four days of this!" But when we sat down for dinner in the dining room that evening, the ship started moving and two things happened. First, my husband started looking very green, and second, my daughter got more into the cruising experience. She was back to her traveling self and was a complete joy the rest of the cruise. In fact, of the three of us, she definitely travels the best! She still nags me about taking another cruise or maybe going to Hawaii!

Why can't she be as "typical" as she is when she travels all the time at home? Why does her behavior yo-yo? I would love to find the answers to these questions!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Daddy's Girl

My daughter is such a daddy's girl! She loves her father so much! She is WAY too diplomatic to tell me that she loves her daddy more than me, but she has stated that her love for Daddy is special.

I totally understand their relationship, but I'm terribly jealous of it too. I mean, I was the one pregnant for 8 months! I'm the one who gave up my career to be a stay-at-home-mom, catering to her needs. I'm the one who gets up in the middle of the night if she has a nightmare. I'm the one who gets the brunt of her tantrums.

As you can probably guess, I think it's a tad unfair. But it is the way of the world. I know this situation is not unique. Probably every mom out there reading this blog (all 15 of you!) has experienced this as well.

And even though we're terribly jealous of it, we wouldn't have it any other way!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Quirks and All!

As my posts last week probably showed, I've been feeling a bit down lately on my daughter's autism. Overall, she's doing so well, but she's still having a hard time taking control of her emotions and with socializing. I have such high aspirations for her! I want her to be successful, go to college, fall in love, have kids, and have every bit of happiness life can possibly unfold for her.

But with all of my "encouragement," such as telling her to play with her friends at camp when she tells me she does her own thing, am I making her feel less than a whole person? Am I eroding away at her self-esteem?

I think this is a fine line that ALL parents face. We want what's best for our kids, but we end up nagging them when we feel they fall short of our expectations. I was a good student and always had good grades. My parents also moved a lot, and I went to 3 different schools during my high school years. Yet I still managed to graduate high school with a 3.8 GPA. I remember how my mother would examine my report cards, which I was always so proud of. Yet, instead of complimenting me on my five As, she would ask why I only got a B+ in pre-calculus. It was so discouraging to me. I was open in telling her that it would be nice to get a pat on the back for the good report card instead of the negative comment on what was still a good grade. She would just stare at me shocked and say, "Don't you know how proud I am of you?" Still, she had an attitude that if she didn't comment on my one lower grade, then I'll start slacking and all my grades will go down the drain! Of course that wouldn't have happened! Instead, I was made to feel disappointed over something that I thought was so great.

Where do you draw the line between encouraging and undermining? I hope I'm receptive to it because I'd hate my daughter to retreat away from an area thinking she must not be capable of achieving it. Also, I feel I have to learn to not be disappointed when things don't live up to my expectations and be as accepting as possible--to embrace everything, quirks and all!

There is a heated debate in the autism community (one among many that I've already blogged about) about whether you try to "cure" your kids of autism or whether you embrace their differentness and expect society to accept your kids as is. I fall in the middle of these two positions. I don't expect my daughter to overcome ALL of her autistic qualities, but I am hopeful that she'll learn to work around her problem areas so that she will be considered to be off the spectrum some day. I anticipate that she'll always be a bit quirky, and I'm okay with that! I just hope I'm accepting of the person she will grow to be and not be disappointed if she doesn't pursue my dreams.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Club Med Without the Alcohol!

My daughter had many more new experiences at camp yesterday. She went horseback riding and zip-lining just to name a couple! She's been having a blast trying new things. I've been blown away by the amount of different activities they have the kids do. During the open house, the camp people told us that it takes about 2 weeks for the kids to do all the different activities. It's crazy! Every day also has a different theme. The camp counselors all dress up according to the theme. This week they had tacky tourist day, island dress-up day, and patriotic day. When you arrive, the counselors are all decked out in their garb, waving to everyone, and they are all SUPER-happy!

It hit me this morning at drop-off that this place feels like Club Med without the alcohol. Although I really didn't do as many of the activities at Club Med that my daughter is doing at camp. This is probably a pretty accurate description since the camp costs a fortune, and we're probably not going anywhere else this summer because the camp is seriously eating into our vacation budget (assuming, of course, that we had a vacation budget).

After camp yesterday, I asked my daughter if she played with anyone else. She said that she didn't--that she is doing everything on her own. It's been really hard for me to have her at a camp without a behaviorist. She's had one for the past year at school and at some after-school activities. With a behaviorist, she has done some pretty good socializing with the other kids. But without one, it seems that she just prefers to do her own thing, or isn't quite sure how to approach the other kids.

I stressed to her that a big reason why she is at camp is so that she can play with other kids, so it would be great if she tries. Inside, I felt so depressed! But I reminded myself that she's in a new environment that has a TON of kids she doesn't know. She's doing entirely new activities, and she's responsible for doing things for herself that she isn't used to doing. I might be expecting her to adapt to a lot in a very short period of time. For the most part, she's been doing a good job and has been having fun. Maybe I need to give her some time to acclimate to the whole camp experience before I can expect her to socialize with other kids.

Today at drop-off, she seemed to take my words to heart. By luck, I parked right next to a friend of hers from preschool. She interacted with her friend very nicely and was being very friendly. I hope this attitude continues throughout the day! But if not, I'll have to learn to be encouraging, but not pushy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yikes! Another Tantrum!

Camp yesterday didn't go quite as well for my daughter as it had on Monday. She still had a fabulous time doing the activities (bounce house, slip-n-slide, swimming, go-carting, arts and crafts, and drama). However, when I asked her if she cried at all, she said she did. She said she tantrummed. She cried for a really long time which included screaming. What caused this horrible ruckus? After swimming, she accidentally put her underwear in the plastic bag that she put her wet towel in, so her underwear got pretty wet. She found a back-up pair of underwear that I had put in her backpack, but she didn't like the design on it as much as the other pair so she cried. A lot. Very loudly. I couldn't help but wonder how this behavior will impact the friendships that were forming. Will other kids shun her now because of this behavior?

It can be a challenge having a daughter with such high-functioning autism. While I'll take it any day over a more severe case, it can be hard watching your child try to learn to overcome her challenges while around more typical peers. I remember how depressed I felt one day when I dropped my daughter off at her kindergarten class. The other kids were socializing and playing with ease, laughing at each others jokes. My daughter looked uncomfortable, not quite knowing how to join in with the other kids. I hope that one day, she'll be able to join a group of friends with ease.

For now, I'd like to see the tantrums end. I hate hearing that she's not having fun because she has to wear a pair of underwear that she doesn't like as much. After I talked with her about the tantrum, she admitted it didn't make much sense to cry over something like that. "I can't even see my underwear because I wear clothes over it!" she said, realizing how foolish the tantrum was. Then stop crying about things like that.

Just stop it!