Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Whatever You Do...Don't Give her Sugar!

The other day, my daughter had a playdate with a friend from her preschool days. First, they had a water balloon fight in my backyard. The girls had great fun taking turns filling the balloons with water and throwing them at each other. It was my job to knot the balloons and make sure the water spigot was turned off and on properly. Unfortunately, I think I got the wettest somehow (mental note...next time, wear a bathing suit).

After the water balloon fight, the behaviorist came over to watch me run the playdate and to coach me when needed. Since we're losing the behaviorist services soon, all the effort is now on me and the job I'm doing.

The playdate was going pretty well. In general, these two girls play well together. Then snack-time came. As I opened my pantry to see what I had to offer the girls, my daughter's friend peeked in and immediately noticed my hidden stash of chocolate. "I want what's in that bag!" she announced. "I'm sorry!" I replied, "But that's for special occasions only." Yeah, like when I'm having a meltdown every day! I can't believe that little girl sniffed out chocolate in under a second. She's good.

"Well, can I have those Spongebob Squarepants fruit snacks?" "Sure!" I said, relieved that her eyes were off the chocolate. "But you have to have these crackers too since you need something more substantive in your body!" I gave my daughter the same snack then offered both girls water or lemonade. They both opted for lemonade.

After the snack, the mother of my daughter's friend was coming to pick her up soon. So, I suggested they quickly finished up the game they were playing, then clean up the game. They did quickly finish the game, but then the playdate took a bad turn. My daughter's friend refused to help clean up. She started getting wild, throwing game pieces around. My daughter happily joined in. She loves to mirror what she sees happening around her. I looked at the behaviorist is disbelief and said,"Wow! Maybe I shouldn't have given them a sugary snack!" The behaviorist nodded. Their behavior turned on a dime.

The mother came on time for pickup and asked how things went. I told her they went great until the last twenty minutes or so, after they had their snack. She looked at me and said, "You didn't give my daughter sugar did you? I left you a message warning you not to give her sugar!" I told her I didn't get the message. She told me that she left me the message on Facebook. Okay, normally that is the best way to leave me a message. But I was so busy really engaging the girls that I never had a chance to go online during the playdate. Sure enough after they left, I looked at my Facebook messages. I may be exaggerating a little, but the message went something like, "Whatever you do, don't give my daughter ANY sugar. It makes her hyper." Okay, lesson learned. I'll never make that mistake again. But man, that girl is good at tracking down sugar!

I don't know what I would do if my daughter couldn't handle sugar. It's been such a vital part of her behavior therapy. It's what motivates her to be less rigid, to not tantrum as much. Don't get me wrong, I do try to limit her sugar to a certain degree. But treats do play a part in her life. Because of the way we use treats as motivators, they play an important part in her behavior therapy.

I don't know what I'd do without sugar!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Big Girl Room!

We finally did it! We finally redid our daughter's room so that it now looks like a big-girl's room. Initially, we did her nursery in the lovely Winnie the Pooh motif. We painted the walls yellow and her closet doors, bedroom door, and trim were all painted a beautiful blue. The valance had Winnie the Pooh panels, and the bedding was all done in modern day Pooh. We were told we were having a girl, but we wanted a gender-neutral room just in case!

Her room was my favorite in the house! It was so cute and adorable. But it was getting, well, kinda young for a six-year old girl. One day, we noticed her comforter was beginning to fall apart. My husband was going to go online to find a replacement. I told him that maybe it was time that we redid things since our daughter's now six! He agreed! He found a beautiful quilt for the bed that all of us fell in love with. We used that as the jumping off point to redo the room. After months of my husband poring over paint chips and trying out various curtains to go with the quilt (it didn't have a matching curtain), everything finally fell into place! This past weekend, we hired someone to come in and paint. It came out gorgeous! She now has purple walls--her favorite color! The closet doors, room door, and trim are now white. She has butterfly sheets and will have a beautiful butterfly hanging from the ceiling. It's beautiful!

Unfortunately, we still have some things that still need to be changed, while other things are brand new. She still has her old bedside lamp, an adorable Winnie the Pooh blue hunnie pot lamp. Her dad did surprise her with a new piggy bank--a pink pig wearing a tiara and a tutu. It's very cute.

Our daughter couldn't get over her new room. She loved it! Two funny comments she did make was that the Winnie the Pooh lamp doesn't go with the new theme of the room (her exact words). When she saw her new piggy bank, she asked if her funds were transferred to the new bank.

Instead of putting together a big-girl room, maybe we should have been working on a teenager's room. Yikes!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Painful Constipation

Like a lot of bloggers, I keep a list of possible blog topics as they pop into my head. This week, my husband found my list and added a potential post for me to find: "Painful Constipation." He always does stuff like that! We keep dry erase boards on our refrigerator to write down groceries and things I need to buy. I had a Target list going, and one of the items I listed was "toilet bowl cleaner." He added a note to that saying, "that's you!" Gee, thanks hon! Later, he crossed that out and put in our daughter's name. All because I had her clean a toilet a little bit this week. Hey, she wanted to! Who was I to deprive her of the fun?

My husband's sense of humor and intelligence is definitely what attracted me to him when we first met. It has served us well over the years. When everyday stress wears us down--such as that dealing with a child with Asperger's--he's usually good at poking fun at most things and getting me to laugh. It's definitely helped us through some stressful times.

Interestingly enough, I initially saw him years before we started dating. I didn't realize it until we were together for about 8 months or so. Way before we met, he spent time performing in an improv group. I went to watch this group perform during the time was he was in it. One of the things my husband did was write and perform an impromptu song in the style of Bob Dylan. He was the only person in the troop that did Bob Dylan. The show I saw had a guy doing the impromptu Bob Dylan song. It had to have been my future husband! I remember thinking how funny and talented he was! I still think that today.

He's also been incredibly supportive of me blogging. Yes, he thinks it's gotten to be an obsession (I take the fifth on that). But he feels that it's helped me do something productive with my time. I think for the most part, he's enjoyed reading my posts and hopes I get some kind of lucrative book deal (okay, I'm projecting here).

Next week, we're celebrating our eight year wedding anniversary. I can't believe how much time has gone since we first met--it still feels like it was just a couple of years ago. I hope the laughter and fun will never go away!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Midas Touch

Lately, my daughter has been talking a lot about some of her friends being rich. She thinks that two of her friends have Bill Gates-type wealth. In the case of a friend she met from camp, her friend told her that "her daddy is almost rich!" My daughter assumes that they are really wealthy. In the case of her friend from school, she had a playdate at his house. He had a really cool dinosaur toy that my daughter wanted. After we arrived home, I looked the toy up and realized that it cost over $150, which was too expensive for us to buy. Because her friend's family could afford the toy, she's convinced they're richer than us.

I've been trying to explain to her that her friends may very well have about the same amount of money that we have. Her friend from camp doesn't really know her family's wealth. In the case of her school friend, they seem to have a similar type house as us and live a similar lifestyle. I told her that people choose to spend their money in different ways. For example, her dino-friend went to a less-expensive summer camp than she did.

We also told her that some families save more money, while others spend more money. It's all about setting priorities. We also stressed that money isn't everything. There were some things even more important than money, like love. My daughter nodded and said that this reminded her of a story from Greek mythology where a king wanted to be rich. Everything he touched turned to gold, which was great. Until one day, he accidentally touched his daughter who turned to gold. The king realized that all the gold in the world isn't as important as having love in your life. I mentioned that sounded like the story of Midas. My husband complimented our daughter on how she picked a story that perfectly illustrated the point we were making. However, he went on to say, I don't think Midas is from Greek mythology!

Later that night, my husband looked up the Midas story and found out our daughter was correct about it coming from Greek mythology. He apologized to her the next day and said he should know better than to correct her!

I hope first grade won't be too boring for her!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Baby Blues and More

This week, we have to write about blue for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. This is the first color that is easy for me to address!

I waited so long to have a baby! First, it took me forever to fall in love with the right guy and get married. Because of this, I didn't have my daughter until I was 38 years old. Considering that I had never changed a diaper before having my daughter, I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I found myself to be incredibly depressed after the birth. I did have some problems at the end of my pregnancy and had to have my baby over 4 weeks early to prevent her from being stillborn (we got incredibly lucky on that one). Because of this, my daughter had to spend two weeks in the NICU. It was so hard leaving the hospital without her! In addition to all this, my mom was having health problems and had a series of surgeries scheduled, so she wasn't able to come out to help me with the baby.

After having the baby, I found myself crying all the time. My husband encouraged my OB to prescribe me anti-depressants, which I initially didn't think were necessary. I didn't have a firm grasp on knowing how much of my depression was due to a case of the baby blues and how much of it was due to my mother's health problems. We did some research on the medication, and it didn't seem like the right thing to do. Because my daughter was born a little early, she had a hard time staying awake for feedings, which is a big reason why she had to be in the NICU. A lot of her feedings had to be delivered via a feeding tube. A side effect of the anti-depressants was drowsiness for the newborn. This was something I didn't want to increase.

I couldn't understand why I wasn't happy. It was a miracle that my daughter wasn't stillborn. Having a baby was something I wanted for so many years! Yet, I felt like the world's most inept mother. Nothing seemed to come easily! When breast-feeding finally seemed to be working, my daughter became extremely bloated and started projectile vomiting. It turned out that she was unable to digest the proteins in my breast milk, so I had to follow an elimination diet. I wasn't allowed to eat anything containing dairy, soy, nuts, peanuts, eggs, fish, and shellfish. When my daughter was about 8 weeks old, my mother passed away. I was a mess!

What helped me a lot was a phone call. A woman I hardly knew called me to make sure the baby blues weren't getting the better of me. She was a wife of a coworker of my husband, and she was a family therapist. Initially, I had assumed my husband asked her to call me since I had gotten so crazy. She assured me he didn't. She called me because the same thing had happened to her, and she wanted to help me. In fact, she was so moved by her own experiences that she pursued her Master's degree in counseling because of it. She did her thesis on older woman becoming moms. Out of her universe of over 30 women who were over 30 years of age, every single one of them felt exactly as we had: inept and the world's worse mother. Women who have excelled in the workplace and had so much independence have a harder time adjusting to motherhood. We're not use to being so out of control of our environment. Add in the lack of sleep and the hormones and look out!

After having this phone conversation, I felt the great weight of depression leaving me! All I needed to hear was that I was normal--I was not alone in feeling the way I did. I honestly was on the verge of going on medication! All I needed to hear were those simple words--"You are not alone!"

Not long after that, Brooke Shields came out with her book on postpartum depression, "Down Came the Rain." I didn't read the book, but I remember being so thankful that this topic was out in the public domain! I'm sure it helped many women understand that they weren't alone either! Maybe this helped some women to avoid medication, like me! Maybe it encouraged other women to get medication who truly needed it! I think it was great that Brooke Shields took a subject that was taboo and got people talking about it! Fantastic!

This summer, unfortunately, has seen a few cases of mothers murdering their children with autism. It has raised the ire of mothers on the parenting boards screaming for justice for the poor murdered children. I'm sure there will be justice. But to me, the real story is what drove these women to commit these horrible acts of violence. I really think there are a lot of parallels with postpartum depression. True, there are no fluctuating hormones, but there's also no end in sight for these mothers and other mothers raising children with severe autism. I used to attend a support group for mothers of children with special needs. I heard stories of how they had to change diapers and shower their 13 year-old boys. How they had to deal with their children hitting and biting them. How they had to deal with their children never being able to talk--never being able to say, "I love you." How their children had endless tantrums because the world was just too light or too noisy for them. How they had to deal with decreasing state budgets that meant less respite support. I honestly don't know how these women managed. It was heart-breaking to me.

My daughter is extremely high-functioning. We have no doubt that she'll be placed in gifted classes and will attend college someday. She's capable of having friendships with her typical peers. We even have hopes that over time, she'll be so high-functioning that she won't be considered to be on the spectrum anymore. Nevertheless, I had to deal with my own depression at times. This was mostly an issue before we had her diagnosed and had interventions like behavior therapy that helped her so much. It was hard dealing with her tantrums. She'd cry if I made a left turn while driving, but she wanted me to make a right turn. She had endless tantrums over weird, mundane things. It was really hard to cope.

What do mothers do when their children show no sign of progress? What supports are in place to help them? Apparently, more needs to be done. Oh yes, we can describe the mothers who kill as evil and horrible, but does this prevent other cases from happening? I think we need to come up with ways to help women before problems begin.

In my case, I've been impressed that every single interventionist that has been through my door has pulled me aside at some point and asked me how I'm handling the stress of the situation. They've all stated the importance of "me time." Because my daughter has done so well, I've found the stress and depression quickly went away as well. I'm lucky! Regarding the mothers who've committed murder, I can't help but wonder if anyone had taken the time to ask them how they were doing and provided them the help they needed before they murdered their children. Something tells me they didn't have any kind of support--any kind of safety net to help them out. That's terrible, and of course, the ultimate victims were their children.

This shouldn't happen in our society.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Some More Cruise Fun

Due to the overwhelming demand to see pictures of the towel animals, I've posted them. Okay, so only two of you asked to see them. I figure that's just the tip of the iceberg and that there are actually 4 of you that want to see them! We didn't get a picture of the towel animal from the first night (the one I couldn't remember anyway).

Here is the picture of the rabbit:

Here is the picture of the monkey:

Here is the picture of the baby:

As you can see, the rabbit and monkey are pretty impressive. The baby on the other hand, kind of scared us a bit!

Also, while playing around on the internet last night, I found a hilarious video on You-Tube about Fun-Ship Freddy, so obviously, I had to post the link!

Fun-Ship Freddy for President!

Today will be the last post about the cruise! I'll be back to blogging about the usual mom-stuff!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Top Ten Highlights of my Cruise

Last week, we took a 4-day cruise out of Long Beach, California. We took the exact same cruise last year. It's relatively inexpensive and only a 45-minute drive from my house (with little to no traffic). What could be easier? Okay, so we've probably are falling into a rut, but it's the type of vacation you don't have to give any kind of thought to. So, here is my list of the top 10 highlights (okay some low lights are mixed in)!

1. Ship Mascot, Fun-Ship Freddy

The cruise line has a mascot inspired by the smokestack of the ship! Isn't he lovely? He's called Fun-Ship Freddy. It's his job to be sure your child has a great time on the ship. My daughter LOVED him! Most of the kids I saw LOVED him. I only saw one 8-year old boy running away in horror. All the rest of the kids treated him like he was a celebrity.

On the last night of the cruise, my daughter went to a kids' farewell party at the disco. Fun-Ship Freddy was there too! My daughter told me that she was dancing with him! Unfortunately, he stepped on her foot, but she said it didn't hurt too badly. I asked her if he felt bad about doing it. She thought about it and said that she couldn't tell since he always had that huge smile on his face!

My daughter really wanted a Fun-Ship Freddy stuffed animal (er, stuffed smokestack) which we promised her if she behaved during the vacation. She behaved like a dream, so she now has her very own Fun-Ship Freddy stuffed smokestack!

2. Tea

Because my daughter missed out on going to tea a week ago (see here), I promised to take her when we were on the cruise. They hold a tea during the last full-day when we're at sea the whole day. They held the tea in the America bar, which is a gaudy place with the American flag painted everywhere. Other than the tacky location, the tea was very nice. They had a piano player playing soft background music while they passed around carts containing finger sandwiches and lovely desserts. They also had a tea server who let you choose among ten types of tea. My daughter and I stayed for a whole 15 minutes. We were kind of desserted-out, and my daughter was bored, so I let her return to the kid's club. At least she got to see what a tea was about!

3. Dolphins

During our first night at sea, during dinner, a school of dolphins swam past the ship! A lot of people stopped eating to watch the dolphins swim past. It was very cool, but the only time we noticed them during the whole trip!

4. Hypnotist Show

We took our daughter to see the hypnotist show one night. She had never heard of hypnosis before, but really enjoyed watching people get hypnotized and do goofy things. I think her favorite part of the show was when the hypnotist had people think they were smelling the worst farts that they were doing. He then had them take off their shoes to use as gas masks. For the rest of the cruise, we used "hypnosis" to get our daughter to take her yucky medicine and to go to sleep at night. It was pretty funny!

5. Kids' Talent Show

Like the cruise last year, my daughter managed to get herself roped into the kids' talent show. I really enjoyed watching her perform this year though! She and another girl danced to the Chipette version of "Single Ladies." They looked adorable! Of course, the cruise ship staff couldn't hold the talent show without Fun-Ship Freddy being there! They forced him to sit and hand out certificates when the kids were done performing. They forgot to bring music for one child's dance, so they put on Fun-Ship Freddy's song (who knew he had one?) and made him dance with the kid. As my daughter had pointed out, poor Freddy is stuck with a big smile on his face. Yet, as he was sitting there, he looked like he was in pure misery. We're pretty sure he was hoping that someone would take him out of his misery. Alas, no one did!

6. Try to Make Money at Every Opportunity

Paying money to go on a cruise isn't the sole way the ship makes its money. In fact, it's relatively cheap to go on a cruise. I think their bread and butter is what they make once you're on the ship. They don't waste any opportunities! One way they do this is with photo opportunities. These have gone so overboard, so to speak. When we were getting off the ship at Ensenada, they tried to have you take about 5 different pictures. First, they want you to pose on the gangway behind a wheel that says "Ensenada." Then, they want you to pose by a woman wearing Aztec clothes. Then, they want you to pose by a man wearing Mayan garb. It goes on and on and on. During the cruise, they have photo ops EVERYWHERE. In addition, at all the kid events, they make sure to have merchandise that you can buy. At the kids' talent show, the counselors were all wearing Fun-Ship Freddy t-shirts. As I mentioned, they put Freddy to work during the show. Wouldn't you know that at the end of they show, you could buy your child his/her very own Freddy t-shirt? Yup, they pretty much had Freddy there to shill his shirts. Did I mention that drinks started at $7.50 with most costing $10? Yikes!

7. Food, Glorious Food!

How could I not include food on the list, right? The food was actually better than last year's cruise. The desserts were outright sublime. I'm pretty much happy not having to cook, so I enjoyed the meals immensely. But it is insane how often you can eat on a ship! One night, I stayed up late and hit a party on the pool deck. I saw people carrying around plates of Mexican food that looked pretty good. I found myself standing in a long line just because I was craving a taco. I looked at my watch and saw that it was midnight. I was horrified that I was waiting in line to eat a taco at midnight! That was the only time I almost did something insane. Otherwise, I was pretty good--except for desserts which I had about two times a day, every day.

The ship was crazy about my daughter's nut allergy. Last year, they pretty much ignored it. This year, they were hyper-vigilant. They made me order her food a day in advance so they could be sure it was prepared in a nut-free environment. This was pretty nice accommodation, but one night, they didn't serve my daughter her dinner until they were just about to pass out desserts. They would also freak out if we tried to give her ketchup with her fries--"Are you sure ketchup is safe? I don't know if we can do that!" Yikes!

8. Cruise Director

We had the same cruise director as last year! I think he must be self-loathing. His name is Jeff Bronson. On last year's cruise, he went by Jeff Brrrrrrrronson! I'm not kidding. Even the cruise schedules would spell his name like this (exclamation point and all). On this year's cruise, his name was spelled correctly on the cruise schedules (with no exclamation point), but he would say his name with a bad French accent (Jeff Brou-sou). I don't know if he changes his name for each cruise, or if he changes it each year. I don't care. I think he should just deal with the fact that his name is Jeff Bronson. Own it. Live with it.

9. Cute Animals Made from Towels

Every night when we returned to our cabin, our cabin stewardess left a cute animal made from towels. They were really amazing--even better than last year's animals. She made an amazing monkey, rabbit, and some other animal I can't remember. The only misfire was the last night when she did a baby. That one was kind of disturbing.

10. No Mention of V-Word

My daughter went through the whole cruise without saying the word, vagina (see here)! Her behavior was top-notch through the whole cruise. She really does travel well--even when she's sick.

So now we're back home and readjusting. I finally don't feel like I'm on a ship anymore--does anyone else feel like the ground is moving for a day or so after getting off a cruise? We're also all recovering from the respiratory infection my daughter gave us. Yay! Now, I have to go back to preparing the meals. It's good to be back home though!

Friday, August 20, 2010

We're Back from the Germ Boat!

We just returned from our beautiful, 4-day cruise out of our local port. It was just glorious. It was just spectacular. It was just...oh, who am I kidding? We are so glad to be back! On the car ride to the port, my daughter started sniffling. A lot. We had bought trip-cancellation insurance, so we kept asking her how she was feeling. She said, "Fine!" We considered canceling, but it seemed silly to cancel over a little cold. After we arrived, her sniffles seemed to stop, and she seemed to be fine. "Whew, I thought! Maybe she was allergic to something in her car seat."

We had a mini-scare boarding the ship. The guy responsible for looking at my husband and my passports and my daughter's birth certificate appeared to want to be sure our daughter was...well...our daughter. So he called her name and asked her if she was excited about the trip. It was obvious that he wanted to see her respond to her name to be assured she was who the birth certificate said she was. My husband and I were both worried that our daughter wouldn't respond to her name. Because of her autism, she doesn't always respond to her name. Luckily, she did this time. I had visions of us being jailed for kidnapping!

After we boarded the ship, her sniffles returned. After the ship left the port, my daughter said, "Good! We can't leave the ship now!" Then her little cold turned into a full-on illness. That night, she couldn't stop coughing. She also ran a fever. Great! We went to the ship's doctor the next day. He said she could do all the regular activities, except for swimming and eating ice cream. He gave her antibiotics, benadryl, cough medicine, and tylenol. The doctor said she was cleared to go to the kid's club on the ship. Really? I asked him what it took to not be well enough to go to the kid's club. He answered that as long as it wasn't the flu, and she wasn't throwing up or had diarrhea, she was good to go! So I apologize to all the other families whose children became ill this week.

Speaking of which, on Wednesday, my husband complained about getting sick. He's been looking like death warmed over ever since! I felt great and didn't think I was going to get it. No such luck! Last night, I had woken up with a sore throat. Great!

My daughter did take it somewhat easy during the first couple of days. She pretty much wanted to go to bed after dinner. Luckily, she felt well-enough the last two days to go to the kids club. She made some friends and performed a dance routine in the kids' talent contest. A new friend and she performed a dance to "Single Ladies." It was the Chipettes' version of the song, so it didn't seem as lurid as Beyonce's version.

Even ill, my daughter travels really well, which is so unusual for someone on the spectrum. She acts so much more like a "typical" kid. Well, her behavior is probably a lot better than a "typical" kid's, actually.

Anyway, I have a lot more cruise highlights to share, but I'm going to do another post on Monday covering the "best" parts about the cruise!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great Family Visit

While you're reading this post, I'm on a cruise ship enjoying food prepared by other people and somebody else cleaning my space! Yay! This is a short trip. I'll be back blogging "live" on Friday! Try not to miss me too much!

Well, my sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews (both fully grown and over 21!) came into town last week. We had a really nice visit! My sister also caught up with some of her high school friends--one who she hasn't seen in about 35 years!

On one day, my sister and her two friends from high school wanted to meet up at this place near my house for high tea. In the past, I was intrigued by this High Tea Cottage and had wanted to check it out. I looked it up on the internet and was horrified by the prices they charged. Essentially, it cost about $40 for tea, finger sandwiches, and some pastry! Yikes! I'd be bringing my six-year old daughter (who'd get a $10 princess special), so after tax and tip, it would have cost me close to $60. That's a bit extravagant for me since my husband is currently on a forced vacation. But, how often do I see my sister, right? Anyway, it did sound like fun! My daughter was really excited about going to a high tea.

Anyway, the place is tiny and no one thought to call ahead to make reservations. One of my sister's friends was the first to arrive at the High Tea Cottage. She tried to enter, but the door was locked, so she knocked. The owner opened the door and rudely declared that they had a private party, and she had to go away. She mentioned that she was meeting friends, but the proprietor stated that we needed to make reservations. My sister's friend said "Okay," then waited on the porch to wait for us. The proprietor rudely asked how people were supposed to get by her. She replied that she would move over, and she was just waiting for the rest of the party to arrive, so we can regroup. The proprietor told her to leave the premises immediately! Ack! I'm certainly not giving them my business in the future! Beyond rude!

We ended up having lunch at a French bistro instead. The food was great, more plentiful, and way cheaper! My daughter got teary-eyed over being shooed away from the High Tea Cottage, but I assured her we'll do high tea on the cruise--I hope they still have it. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Vagina Dialogues

A long time ago, I read some parenting advice that said you shouldn't come up with cutesy names for private body parts. Kids should know what the appropriate names are. So, my daughter has known that her private body part is called a vagina for years. This hasn't been an issue until recently when she started referring to that particular body part quite frequently. She seems to go out of her way to bring it up in conversations.

For example, last week, my husband playfully tossed one of her barrettes at her, and she blocked it with her body. She yelled out, "I caught it with my vagina!" A few days later, as we were expecting my sister, brother-in-law, and nephews to arrive, we were playing a board game. She sat on some of the pieces and said, "They're hiding under my vagina!"

At this point, I realized that I needed to have a talk with her about discretion. I told her that "vagina" was a perfectly good word to use, but it shouldn't be used in front of guests or other people. I asked her if she knew why, and she correctly responded that it was because it was a private body part. She promised me she wouldn't just bring it up in conversation around other people.

I thought she understood, but the next day, she had her preschool boyfriend over (one that is on her tentative marriage list). Her behaviorist was over as well. They had made an interesting game out of having two giant T-Rex toys pretend to devour the Polly Pocket dolls! After the dinos had their dinner, they went to bed, then woke up to get dressed and go to school the next day. It all seemed innocent enough (except for the Polly Pocket carnage), but I missed a key bit of dialogue between my daughter and her boyfriend.

Apparently, during the "dinner" part of the play, my daughter shouted out that the dinosaurs ate the vagina of one doll and the "tushie" off another! Yikes! So much for my talk with her. The behaviorist instructed my husband and I to just not react when she uses that word in the future. No grimacing. No laughing. No lecturing. It won't be easy!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bathroom Madness

Yesterday was my sister's turn to visit. She brought her guys--her husband and their two full-grown, over-21 years old boys. They're staying with a nearby friend which is a bit of a relief since my house is kinda small to handle four guests. They're leaving town on Sunday, and they have a lot to pack in, so we won't be seeing them nonstop, but we will be seeing them quite a bit.

We had a nice visit yesterday. My daughter hasn't seen her cousins for four years--since she was 2.5 years old! She was definitely in full-charm mode, acting as cute as possible.

But then, the bathroom incident happened! My daughter went into the powder room, but came scurrying out, wagging her finger at her uncle and cousins saying, "One of you did it! One of you left the toilet seat up! You're supposed to put it down when you're finished!" Everybody laughed, but I chided my daughter for being rude to our guests. Inside though, I was thinking, "You go, girl!" I told her that she should just put the toilet seat down, it wasn't a big deal. So, she goes back into the bathroom where we all heard a very loud CLANK as the seat noisily crashed down, causing us all to laugh again.

I can hire her out for parties!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Top 8 Things that Drove Me Nuts about my Dad's Visit

The top 8 things that drove me nuts during my dad's visit are:

1. Lies about Things

My dad likes to stretch the truth a bit, while I'm honest to a fault. So, when he starts to wax nostalgic on things that have never happened, it just drives me nuts! I think he does it to make himself sound more interesting. In the past, he's told stories about a friend of his who bought a car without a gas tank. When he went back to the dealership, they acted weird and paid him money to switch cars. He's told other people that Adam Sandler was the best man at my wedding (funny, I don't remember that happening. I thought his name was Kevin). During this trip, after his girlfriend talked about how her son-in-law plays in a softball league, all of a sudden, my dad claimed he did too! Apparently, he took my sisters and me (all three of yous) to a monthly, night-time game to watch him play. I have no memory of this (because it never happened, perhaps). When I asked him if his monthly, night-time game took place in Los Angeles or New York, he said it was New York. Well, I couldn't possibly have gone since I was born two years after they moved to Los Angeles. After I pointed this out, and said he just must have taken my other two sisters (who would have been 4 and 6 years old at the time), he still stuck by his story. Then he claimed he also played in a league out in Los Angeles when I was about 8. Funny, I don't remember that either.

2. He Referred to his Girlfriend as "Grandma"

My mom passed away when my daughter was only about 8 weeks old. Her other grandmother passed away when she was about 18 months old. My daughter has no memory of any grandmother in her life. She understands that they have both died. One time (thank goodness it only happened once), my dad referred to his girlfriend as "Grandma" in front of my daughter. I found this so unfair to the memory of my mother. And I also found it hurtful for my daughter. She seemed to understand it wasn't the case and didn't question her grandpa about it. I think he also realized it was a mistake to say and didn't say it again. Thank goodness!

3. He Dissed "The Big Bang Theory"

Anyone who watches "The Big Bang Theory" AND reads my blog knows that the character of Sheldon Cooper is an undiagnosed Aspie. I love watching Sheldon's antics. So it really offended me to the core when my dad started stating that Sheldon is a big weirdo! I felt like he was offending his granddaughter (and maybe calling the kettle black while he was at it). I mean, that's our peeps there! I do have to admit that my daughter exudes a ton of charm and sweetness and would never be mistaken for Sheldon. But there are some similarities!

4. He Kept Talking about a Coin Collection

My dad went on and on about leaving my daughter his coin collection after he dies. He'd mention this 4-5 times a day. While I think it's very sweet that he's thinking of her (and maybe picking up on the fact that she likes to collect different things), I don't like the repeated talk of dying. Yes, he has health problems. Yes, he's getting up there in years. But I don't think my daughter needs to hear her only living grandparent going on and on about dying. It just doesn't seem right!

5. He Loves to Have on Inappropriate Television Programs--Really Loudly

His hearing is pretty bad, so I can understand why he needs the television's volume turned up really loud, but he and his girlfriend love to watch the most violent dramas and news programs. I had asked them to keep those programs off while my daughter was around, but they didn't seem to feel it was necessary and would continue to watch. One night, I was making dinner while my daughter was hanging out with them, watching Dr. Phil. That seemed harmless enough to me. However, the news came on, and they continued to watch. I was wrapped up with dinner prep, so I didn't notice. A few minutes later, my daughter came running into the kitchen, upset by what she saw on the news. "Why do they have to only cover bad news?" she asked. (Wow! What a great question! And she never would have initiated a question like that even a mere 6 months ago). Since the volume was so loud, I could now clearly hear all the news about murders and rapes that were being covered by the news. Great!

6. They Wouldn't Emerge from their Room until 11:30 in the Morning

This frustrated my daughter to no end. She was so anxious to see them and had to wait so long each day! What's really odd is that my dad is an early riser. I bet he would wake up at 7 and just be a hostage in there until his girlfriend would wake up at 11. Why my dad didn't just get up and join us before his girlfriend woke up is beyond my comprehension.

7. He Let his Girlfriend Call Him by her Deceased Husband's Name

It didn't seem to bother my dad at all that his girlfriend kept calling him by her deceased husband's name. He would just ignore it. I would think he would joke about it or at least correct her occasionally. Granted, she called me a variety of names (Michelle, Sharon, Sherry, etc.) and rarely got my name right, but I'm not the person lying next to her for hours on end waiting for her to wake up. I don't think my dad even noticed or cared.

8. My Dad would Leave his Used Kleenex Lying Around

My dad didn't seem to understand that we had trash cans to throw his used kleenex into. So, I would just find his used kleenex on places like the dining room table or the coffee table. Yuck! Occasionally, I'd find one in the recycling trash bin. Okay, at least there was some effort there, but I'd still have to fish it out to put in into the actual trash can. That was fun!

Regardless of the 8 things that drove me nuts about my dad's visit, my daughter enjoyed her grandpa's visit a lot! That's what's important!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Yellow about Some Things, not Others

Jenny Matlock's color this week for Alphabe-Thursday is yellow. Why am I not yellow? Because I'm going to blog a bit about my family, something I haven't done that much of.

My family has been visiting me this week. My dad and his girlfriend came on Sunday to visit and left today. Tomorrow, my sister, brother-in-law and two nephews will be in town for a few days. I have loads to blog about my dad. He never gets on the internet, so I don't have to be yellow about him reading any of this. I'm sure there's lots of quirky stuff to report about my sister too, but she reads this blog. Religiously. So, I'm very yellow about blogging about her!

My dad is the only living grandparent for my daughter. Her other grandfather died a long time before she was born. Both of her grandmothers died not too long after she was born. So, my dad is it! Unfortunately, he's not the best example of a grandfather. He's getting up there in years and having quite a bit of health problems. But there are other issues as well.

When parents find out that their child has autism, they can usually look at their family tree and see where it might have come from. After I did research on Asperger's, not only did I realize that I have aspects of it, but that my dad does too. Actualy, he has a lot of aspects of it. When I was growing up, he'd fly into rages over little things, such as not being seated at a restaurant in a timely manner. Also, he always talks about himself and never asks what's going on in my life. A long time ago, I confronted him about this, but nothing changed. He never asked what I was doing at work or how things were going. We never had much of a relationship. We call each other once a week, and our phone conversations usually last about 5 minutes. I know he loves my daughter a lot, but I know he has a hard time showing this.

It was interesting watching my daughter try to engage him during the visit. She has a soft voice and has a hard time projecting it. My dad has horrible hearing, and it's hard to engage him in a two-way conversation as it is. So, my daughter would go up and say something to him. He would generally not hear it and either ignore her, or go with what he thought she said (which was never accurate). In either case, my daughter kept her cool and would calmly, and more loudly, repeat what she had to say. I sometimes had to translate for each of them. Only one time, did I have to help my daughter out because she was getting so frustrated with him ignoring her. Overall, it was wonderful behavior therapy for my daughter who is working on tolerating interruptions and speaking more loudly. She adores her grandpa, so she worked very hard at conversing with him. I was very proud of her!

My dad, who is usually so oblivious to everything, did notice the improvement in her behavior. He commented on how mature she's gotten. He did know about her autism at one time, but I'm sure he's forgotten about it.

It was rough getting to the computer over the last few days because my computer is located in the guest room/office. My dad and his girlfriend wouldn't emerge from the room until 11:30 each morning! I didn't even have a chance to go online until about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and only if I had nothing else going on! It's so frustrating when there is so much to complain, I mean blog about! I have more material, but that will have to wait for tomorrow's post!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Daughter Has an Allergy to Nuts

My daughter has a horrible allergy to nuts. Three years ago from yesterday, she ate a cashew at a friend's house and started crying. Because of (her then undiagnosed) autism, it wasn't unusual for her to cry over minor things. I just assumed she was crying about something else totally unrelated. It wasn't until a few minutes later, when I noticed her eye swelling shut, and the hives appearing on her neck, that I realized she was having an allergic reaction--a bad allergic reaction.

Cashew allergies can be as dangerous as peanut allergies, I found out shortly after the incident. Now, I always have to carry around 2 epi-pens in case she accidentally eats something she's not supposed to. She's lucky in that she needs pretty direct contact with the allergen to have a reaction. She's also great about generally checking to be sure something is safe before eating it. She didn't even eat the cookies offered at camp because she was afraid they'd have nuts in them! I made sure to give her a yummy cookie when I'd pick her up so she wouldn't feel totally deprived. I'm really proud how good she is about managing her allergy, for the most part.

She went almost 3 years without a reaction. Unfortunately, she did have an allergic reaction this past Sunday. We went to get frozen yogurt as her treat for going through the week without any tantrums. Thank goodness she didn't pile on a gazillion toppings onto her yogurt! She just had strawberry banana yogurt with fresh strawberries and M&Ms added as toppings. After she was done eating, we realized she had swelling under one of her eyes. We didn't even think it was an allergic reaction at first. But after we got home, her eye was itching badly and she tried to wipe a wet washcloth on it for relief. I then noticed hives breaking out on her face. Overall, however, the reaction didn't seem as bad as the one 3 years ago. So, instead of using the epi-pen, I gave her some Benadryl. It worked immediately, and she felt better.

Since Sunday, we've been giving her all the foods she had at the frozen yogurt place to be sure she didn't develop a new food allergy. She passed the strawberry, M&M, banana, and strawberry banana yogurt tests with flying colors. I have to assume there was some cross-contamination with tree nuts. Thank goodness the reaction was so mild!

I guess we got kind of cocky about the allergy. I encourage anyone who has a child with an allergy to remember to keep the epi-pens current. Also, make sure your Benadryl hasn't expired. Benadryl also makes pre-measured dosages that are easy to keep with the epi-pens. I bought some today. Previously, I just assumed I would have to use the epi-pen, but the reaction may not be severe, so the Benadryl sufficed!

As a side note, I have a lot of family visiting me this week, so it hasn't been easy getting to a computer. It's ironic, because they're giving me such great material to blog about!

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'd Like to Introduce Some Friends of Mine

As part of the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog, today's assignment is to shine a light on a reader. All my readers are special! Anyone who takes a few minutes out of their day to read my drivel, I adore! But there are three bloggers that I'm dying to shine a light on because I owe each of them big. They've been so supportive of my blog, and I'd like to return the favor.

Big Daddy Autism

I'm obsessed with seeing how people find my blog. I noticed a lot of people coming from a site called Big Daddy Autism so, I had to check it out. What I found was a dad who is raising a son with Asperger's. Like me, he's sharing his frustrations and triumphs with raising a child on a spectrum. And he's pretty darn funny in doing it! He also appears to be an avid reader of this little old blog because he has referred to this blog a couple of times! Thanks Big Daddy! I'm now an avid reader of your blog! It's great!

K. Wombles at the Autism Blog Directory

I added my site onto The Autism Blog Directory pretty recently, and again, it's been a great resource for bringing readers to my blog. This site does an excellent job of showing most of the blogs about autism! I "met" K. Wombles fairly recently, however. She's one of the people behind The Autism Blog Directory. She's doing an amazing job about helping people understand more about kids (and others) on the spectrum. She had used a controversial post on my site as an example of how people in the autism community can discuss a topic while maintaining cordiality. I laughed, because the vast majority of people who read my blog are bloggers themselves and know the importance of keeping comments nice! Thank goodness!

Melissa at Confessions of a Dr. Mom

Melissa at Confessions of a Dr. Mom is amazing. She's actually a pediatrician who is a blogger! Her posts are informative, insightful, and amazingly human. She writes from a perspective of a mom, more than a pediatrician, yet she has the knowledge of a pediatrician. I first read a post she did for Mamapedia on vaccinations just a few days after I did my post on vaccinations. Not long after that, she was the featured blogger on SITS. I remembered her amazing post so I became a follower. She followed me soon thereafter. We've becoming blogging buddies, and I hope to collaborate with her in the future. She just wrote a gut-wrenching post on breast-feeding. It's a must-read for any mother.

These are the bloggers I wanted to share the love with today. Please check them out!

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Beautiful, Smart, Quirky Daughter

Of the many controversies in the autism community one big one is that of looking for a cure versus full acceptance of the child as is. At one extreme, the folks looking for a cure will try and do anything to rid their child of autism. This could include changing diet, avoiding vaccinations, ridding the child of metals that may have accumulated in the body, pursuing different therapies, in addition to other treatments. At the other extreme, parents and people who have autism don't pursue anything because they feel they are absolutely perfect as they are. The thought of "curing" outright offends them because there is nothing wrong to be cured from.

I probably fall somewhere in the center of the continuum--maybe leaning a little closer to the cure side! Generally, I love my daughter's quirks that make her so unique. Because her brain is wired a little differently, she has a lot of amazing gifts that go along with the autism (amazing memory for some things, intelligence, thirst for knowledge, for example). However, I want her to learn how to manage her emotions so she wouldn't tantrum over little things, such as having to leave school at the end of the day. I want her to learn how to get friends and play with them. To care about her friends if they are sad or hurt. She doesn't have to be the most popular girl at school, but I don't want her to be the kid that everyone is mean to and makes fun of. I want her to possibly get married some day (if she ever meets someone who is good enough for her, of course) and have children.

I'm not willing to try every thing under the sun in order to do this, however. She's done amazingly well with behavior therapy, so that's what we're sticking with!

Here's to my beautiful, smart, quirky daughter!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I'm so Proud!

Tomorrow is the last day of Camp Club Med without the Alcohol! I can't believe how fast the last six weeks flew by. I remember how scared I was when camp began! I wondered how my daughter would be able to handle all the activities when she was so clumsy and prone to zoning out while doing things. I wondered how she would interact with the other kids and not tantrum without a behaviorist to help her out.

Today, I wonder how we're going to handle having five more weeks of summer vacation without all of the fun of camp! I couldn't believe how well my daughter ended up doing at camp. She tackled all the activities with joy and excitement. She even excelled at things I wouldn't have dreamed were possible for her. Her counselor gave her a certificate when she scaled the huge rock wall on her own. This thing is the size of a mountain! Usually, my daughter just goes about 25 percent of the way up then gives up. But that one time, she quickly climbed up the whole thing! Her counselor was amazed! Another thing my daughter tackled was swimming! This week, she passed her swim test and earned a blue bracelet, which means that she could hang out in the deep end and go down the water slide without assistance. This was something she worked on during the whole summer to achieve. She did it! I'm so proud of her!

The biggest area she tackled at camp was her social skills. In the beginning, she didn't appear to be interacting with the other kids much. But now, she has made numerous friends including one BFF! I met her BFF and it appeared that the friendship was mutual. The BFF seemed extremely outgoing and nice! My daughter also did a great job at managing her emotions on her own. She did have one tantrum in the beginning, and some tears here and there, but it seemed like she blended in with the other kids perfectly. I don't think anyone at the camp even suspected for an instant about her special needs.

Something else that's really exciting is that my daughter has been able to have long conversations with me about camp. In the beginning, she was pretty good about telling me everything that they did during the day. But lately, she's been talking about her friends, and the things that they did. She's been able to tell me about the antics the counselors did. Yesterday, she told me about an elementary school friend who won a really cool prize and how she ran up to congratulate him! She also told me about how two of the counselors, Stretch and Patty Cakes, went out on a date. She was going to talk to Patty Cakes today to see how their date went.

Never, in my wildest dreams did I ever think she would do this well! I can't believe how mature she seems and how well she blended in with the other kids! I am beyond proud of her and all of her accomplishments.

Her journey has been an interesting one. Sometimes she makes great leaps forward. Sometimes she'll take two steps forward and one step back. Other times, she'll just take 3 steps back! The journey is not always a fast one, but it's one that definitely appears to be heading in the right direction. The skills she's learned in the almost two years since her diagnosis has definitely helped her immensely. I can not say this enough...I'm so proud of her!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Orange Is for Happy!

Teacher Jenny Matlock is now having us write about the colors of the rainbow as part of Alphabe-Thursday. This week, we're on the color orange. I have to admit that I find it much harder writing about colors than I do about letters!

I used to hate the color orange. I don't know why. Maybe I thought it was too loud or garish. I know I thought it was a really ugly color. I wouldn't be caught dead wearing it.

During the last year or so, I've done a 180 on my opinion of orange. I LOVE it now! It's a beautiful color! It's so bright and cheerful.

During my birthday recently I wore an orange outfit. I wore both an orange shirt with a matching orange/purple skirt. When my daughter saw me the first words out of her mouth were, "You're so bright!" I took that to be a compliment. It definitely lifted my spirits!

What color lifts your spirits?

Wedding in Hawaii?

My daughter announced that she's in love with Patty Cakes (a female counselor at camp- they all use silly pseudonyms, see here). My husband asked if she was going to marry her. My daughter then said that she was also in love with a girl her own size. "I have many decisions in my mind." My husband then said, "Gee, I always figured you'd probably marry a guy, but I can adjust." My daughter responded, "Well, I found out that I CAN marry a girl, but I just can't live in California if I marry a girl."

I think she got a little confused. About a year ago, she told me that she was in love with a girl friend of hers and wanted to marry her. I told her that she couldn't get married in the state of California (where we live), but she could get married in Hawaii. She perked up and said, "Awesome!" I then said she could get married in Hawaii if she marries a boy too. She liked the sound of that as well!

I pointed out to her that she actually could live in California, but she just would have to get married somewhere else, like Hawaii. I added that she probably hasn't even met the person that she will marry yet. I didn't meet her Dad until I was 36.
My daughter responding in shock, "Oh my God! I had no idea you were so old. I thought you met when you were MUCH younger." Gee, thanks honey!

There was a time when she had a boy friend that she wanted to marry. Not only did she want to marry him, but she wanted to work with his as well. Either they were going to be teachers sharing a classroom or be doctors sharing a medical office. I asked her if her boy friend knew about these plans. She responded that he'll know when he needs to know!

Life with my daughter is never dull!


Not long after I published this post, a federal judge ruled that the gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. So, if my daughter so chooses, she will be able to marry in California. I wonder if my blog influenced the judge's decision? The timing is certainly interesting.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How to Reduce Tantrums and Other Bad Behaviors

Okay, can any of you tell me how to reduce tantrums and other bad behaviors? Oh, you're reading this so you can learn? Great! I'll share techniques we use on our daughter to get better behaviors. I first want to caveat that they do NOT work all the time. Also, we've been told that our daughter responds amazingly to these techniques, so you might not get the same results.

We learned this technique not long after our daughter was diagnosed with high-functioning autism/Asperger's. While we were waiting for Regional Center approval for behavior services, we were able to get our daughter into a study with the University of California at Santa Barbara. If you live near a major university, I highly recommend finding what studies are being done and trying to get your child with autism into them. It's a great way to get behavior therapy for free!

The purpose of the study was to decrease the rigid behaviors of children with autism. At first, we weren't quite sure the study was right for our daughter. We just wanted to end her tantrums and help her handle transitions better. The PhD candidate who was conducting the study kindly pointed out that the transition issues are part of the rigidity issues. She also pointed out that the tantrums are the result of when our daughter doesn't get her way. She quickly deemed that our daughter would be perfect for the study and was one of four kids accepted into it. Yay!

The method for increasing flexibility (and making transitions go better) was simple and used something called positive reinforcement. We used M&Ms as positive reinforcers a lot in the beginning (although you do need to change what it is or the child may get tired of it, and it then fails to reinforce)! On the first day, all we had to do was get our daughter to stop what she was playing and do something else really fun and goofy that only took a few seconds to do (like do a silly dance). If she did that without complaining, she'd get a point (she'd put a tick mark on a sheet of paper) and then get an M&M for the point!

My daughter really loved this game. She was quickly able to pull herself away to do yucky things like put toys away! Over time, she would get the M&M after earning 2 points, then 3, etc. This technique always reminded me of the Klondike ice cream bar commercial (What would you do for a Klondike bar?). Apparently, my daughter would do a lot for one M&M. She was the star of the study!

One odd side effect of this study was that from the very beginning, we noticed increased flexibility with everything. For example, on the first day, when she got M&Ms for doing fun, goofy things, she was able to handle transitions much better--even when no reward was offered. She even got off the computer without having a tantrum like she did on every other day. It was amazing! I will say that her ability to generalize a new skill like that is really unusual for a child with autism.

After the study was done, we really did have a different girl. While she still had tantrums and other rigid behavior at times, it was a much less common occurrence! Last week, I blogged about how my daughter used to tantrum every day when I picked her up from preschool (see here). It was awful! Well, she didn't tantrum ever when I picked her up from kindergarten! Instead, she would be happy to see me and run to hug me! What a difference!

However, after my daughter was in kindergarten for a month, some bad behaviors started to creep back. She started to tantrum after we got to the car. I realized she was delaying her tantrums--which was better than doing it in front of her friends, but not still ideal. So, on the fly, I put together a behavior plan. One day, when she was getting ready to tantrum, I told her that if she held it together, she would get a sticker on her calendar. Every day without a tantrum would earn her another sticker! If she went a week without a tantrum, she'd get to go to Menchie's (a frozen yogurt place where you get to put your own toppings--as many as you want--on your yogurt). This worked like a charm for about 6 months!

We're now going to try a technique my husband came up with. He bought blank, 24-piece puzzle sets. He's drawing on what the positive reinforcer will be, take a picture of the puzzle, then disassemble it. Our daughter will get two pieces of the puzzle for every 3 days of no tantrums. When she gets all the pieces of the puzzle, then she'll get her reward. The motivator for the first reward will be the darn deluxe Webkinz membership (see here). Hey, you have to do whatever will motivate the child. My husband sees it as $45 well spent.

So what is the difference between positive reinforcers and bribes? Actually, I don't see a huge difference! But the main difference is that the bribe is offered after the bad behavior has already begun ("Stop crying, and I'll get you ice cream!"). Positive reinforcers are offered before the bad behavior begins ("Every day that you leave camp without crying, you get a small cookie!"). Positive reinforcers have really improved my daughter's behavior in unbelievable ways. I'm sure they'll work great for kids who aren't on the spectrum also!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Will Work for Food (As Long As It's Chocolate!)

I am halfway done with the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Challenge. It's been an amazing experience, and I have stretched my blogging wings and done some tweaks to my blog to improve it. I've also met some amazing bloggers. And I've seen some tangible benefits. Traffic to my blog has just about doubled over the last 2 weeks! Pretty cool!

I originally got into blogging because it seemed like a really great way to make money while working at home part-time. Income would come in from the ads by the millions while I would just spend a mere half an hour a day writing! What could be easier?

Well, money hasn't been flooding in. I probably earn a few cents a day. On one or two amazing days, I think I had made $1.50! Wow! It also takes longer than 30 minutes a day because if you want people to read your blog, you have to read other people's blogs too! This has been really fun and a great learning experience that I've enjoyed immensely. But it's more time-consuming than I've ever realized it would be.

Blogging is a fun hobby, as my husband like to point out. A lot.

I would definitely like to find a part-time job to keep me busy while my daughter is in school. Before she came along, I was a senior analyst with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO is Congress' watchdog arm. In general, the GAO looks for waste, fraud, and abuse. I loved working at GAO! But after becoming a mom, the thought of traveling a good chunk of the time to do work was no longer appealing or even doable with my husband's crazy work schedule. So, I walked away from my almost six figure income, figuring that when the time to reenter the workforce comes, I'd get work!

Unfortunately, my attempts at reentry are the product of bad timing. The economy is not doing so well. The jobs I've applied for generally pay between $10-$15 an hour. That's okay, because I don't need the money so much--I need to feel like I'm a useful, productive member of society. Of the 10 or so jobs I've applied for, I haven't gotten a single callback--not a one! I guess employers don't want to take on somebody with my background to do clerical work. So, I'm trying to figure out what to take on as my own project that could bring money in. Blogging isn't it (although I wouldn't give it up for anything!).

I guess an opportunity will come along! Don't they always?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I'm so Versatile!

Sueberry at Sueberry Lane was kind enough to give me The Versatile Blogger Award! I feel very honored in receiving this award and want to thank her. I think it's a fitting week for it, because I really did try to have humorous posts and well, not-so-humorous posts!

The way this award works is you must:
a) Thank the person who gave you this award
b) Tell 7 things about yourself
c) nominate 15 newly discovered blogs to share this award!

Since doing the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Challenge, I've met a lot of other really great bloggers! I'm only passing the award on to 7 bloggers because I like it to be more special (I also love to break the rules). I want to honor some of the new bloggers I met. I also want to pass along this award to some other bloggers I've known for awhile, but haven't had a chance to tell them how special I think their blogs are.

Seven Things About Myself

1. I'm the world's worst housekeeper.

2. In my previous job, I hated to draft reports. It was my least favorite part of the job.

3. I LOVE chocolate.

4. I went to the Oscars this year!

5. I once rode on the shoulders of a unicyclist while he was on a 6 foot unicycle. I had a blast!

6. I used to do all kinds of social dancing: contra, cajun and zydeco, and swing.

7. I would love to work part-time, now that my daughter is attending elementary school.

Blogs Receiving the Award:

Blissful Babble
Confessions of a Dr. Mom
Mother Knows Less
My Life as an Ungraceful, Unhinged, and Unwilling Draftee into the Autism Army
The Fickle Nickle
The Thought Bubble