Thursday, September 30, 2010

Not Now, I'm Busy!

As long as new episodes of "Parenthood" are airing, I'm probably going to have a weekly post regarding a topic they cover on Asperger's. The writers just do an amazing job of knowing what the issues are!

On this week's episode, Adam Braverman is upset because Max, his son with Asperger's, doesn't really interact with him. He's always too wrapped up in his video game, or homework, or whatever to give his father the time of day. This makes Adam feel ignored. Yeah,'s called having a child with autism!

This has been a topic in our house lately. For the most part, my daughter loves her daddy and is truly a daddy's girl. She loves to give her daddy big hugs and huge greetings! But she isn't always like this. There are times where my husband will come home from a long day at work and our daughter ignores him because she's too wrapped up in what she's doing. And it's been happening more frequently lately.

This behavior can be hurtful. We don't let her get away with it when she does it. My husband will tell her that it hurts his feelings. This is usually enough to get her to give him a really big bear hug and interact with him.

On this episode of "Parenthood," they didn't really approach the problem appropriately until the very end when Adam made a huge effort to talk about his feelings about being ignored with Max. It was a very moving and touching scene.

One aspect of this episode that had me scratching my head had to do with the behaviorist they hired. Her scenes during the first season showed her as being quite capable. She helped with Max's social interactions in the park, and made sure Kristina (the mom) had ways to deal with her stress of raising a child on the spectrum. On this episode, the behaviorist couldn't handle very basic aspects of behavior therapy appropriately (hey, maybe I did learn something from my daughter's behaviorist!). For example, when Adam came home from work and tried to interact with Max, Max ignored him. The behaviorist let him get away with this, then promised Max a reward sticker because she asked him to look her in the eyes, and he did.

Our behaviorist would have NEVER have done this! She would have stopped their conversation, and told our daughter to greet her father. When Adam addressed his concerns of being ignored to the behaviorist, she acted like Adam was expecting too much and didn't even entertain his concern and what they could do to work with Max on this. Considering how high-functioning Max is, his dad's request seem totally legitimate. Also, considering what the behaviorist had Max working on with his peers in the park last season, stopping what he's doing and saying hi to Dad is within his capabilities and should be addressed!

Overall, I think the "Parenthood" writers have done an amazing job in showing what life is like with a cute, smart, high-functioning kid on the spectrum. They have gotten just about every detail right! This was their first big slip-up, in my opinion. The writers need to learn a bit more about how behavior therapy works!

Hey, if the creators of the show want additional writing support, I might be able to free up some time in my busy calendar! Just saying...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bye-Bye to Behavior Therapy--Waaaaaaaa!

It's that time of the week again for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. The letter this week is "B." "B" is for behavior therapy. When addressing issues brought on by autism, the behavior therapy technique that has the most proven success is called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is a pretty complex system whereby a behaviorist will run a different program and collect data on how the child with autism is doing. The goal is to get the child to master skills and then move on to more complex ones until those are mastered as well.

My daughter started receiving these services a little over a year ago. The behaviorist who worked with her was amazing. She taught my daughter many skills to address her controlling her emotions, along with many other areas. The agency providing these services believes that my daughter has gained everything she can from ABA and is moving on to a parent training model. This involves the behaviorist's supervisor working with me for about an hour or two a week to train me on how I can collect data on my daughter's behavior and teach me the tools to address her issues. We are no longer working with the behaviorist, and yesterday was her last day with us.

It's hard for us to make this transition. My daughter really adored her behaviorist, and it's scary for us to try to figure things out on our own, for the most part. I think the behaviorist was sad to stop seeing us also. I know she feels that our daughter doesn't need the services anymore, but the two of them had bonded so well, I know she'll miss our daughter.

To "celebrate" our daughter ending behavior therapy, we decided to make the last day to have a graduation party vibe! We had fun, for the most part. There was one bittersweet moment where my daughter took her stuffed polar bear over to the behaviorist. She was pretending that the bear was crying. When the behaviorist asked why he was crying, my daughter answered that the polar bear thinks this is the last time he'll see the behaviorist. I almost started crying when she said this. The behaviorist then asked what else the polar bear thought, and my daughter answered, "How should I know? I'm not him!" That turned the tears to laughter pretty quickly.

The last few minutes were really hard on all of us. Luckily, my daughter's school was having it back-to-school night. Both my husband and I wanted to attend, so we had hired a babysitter who was due to come right when the behaviorist was leaving. This ended up working great, because right as my daughter was going to cry, the babysitter came, and my daughter ran to her and started bonding. She stopped paying much attention to the behaviorist. We even had to prompt her to say bye to the behaviorist!

I totally understood why my daughter switched gears like this--she really didn't want to deal with the sadness of that moment. But I think we were all relieved for the diversion!

It's hard when you meet such wonderful, special people who bring love and laughter to your child's life, just to see them leave a year or so later. We've been very blessed in having great in-school behaviorists in addition to our after-school one. It's never easy to see them go!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Does Belle Have Asperger's?

On Sunday, we took our daughter to see the Disney movie, "Beauty and the Beast." I have only seen the movie once, when it came out in 1991. We went to a glorious old theater in Hollywood called the El Capitan. This theater was built in 1926 and fully restored. It's absolutely gorgeous, and a great place to see a movie, if you're ever visiting Los Angeles.

This presentation was in sing-a-long format. All the words to the songs would show up on the screen so everyone could join in and sing. Of course, no one did! But it was great seeing all the lyrics flash on the screen. During the opening musical number called Belle, I was struck by the words! Here are some excerpts from the song:

Look there she goes that girl is strange, no question
Dazed and distracted, can't you tell?
Never part of any crowd
'Cause her head's up on some cloud
No denying she's a funny girl that Belle

Look there she goes that girl is so peculiar
I wonder if she's feeling well
With a dreamy far-off look
And her nose stuck in a book
What a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle

And in the course of this song, we also find out that her father is a crazy inventor! I knew there was a parallel between Belle and my daughter in their love of reading, but I was really struck by the thought of Belle having Asperger's. During the course of the movie, however, Belle stopped appearing to have Asperger's. She really wasn't as "off" as the townsfolk sung about. She was just a smart girl bored by her surroundings who loved to read. And, of course, who saw the inner beauty of a beast. Whatever. For a few moments, I really enjoyed the thought of a Disney princess being on the spectrum.

My daughter did relate to Belle a lot and now wants to be Belle for Halloween instead of a fairy.

Sounds good to me!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Defiance and Discipline

What a mixed week it's been for us. On Friday, my daughter's school behaviorist told me that my daughter had her best week ever--much better than any time in kindergarten! Wow, not bad for her second week of first grade. Especially since I know that my daughter doesn't find first grade to be as much fun as kindergarten. We're also losing our after school behaviorist. We have just one session left with her.

Everything is going great, right? Well, not really. We've had some problem behaviors pop up over the weekend. They're not really new behaviors, but the magnitude of them have increased. My daughter has gotten extremely defiant. She does not do what we ask her to do. She'll apologize afterward, but then do the same bad behavior a few minutes later. It was pretty nonstop this weekend.

I met with the after-school behaviorist's supervisor about the defiance issue. Even though I'm losing the behaviorist, I'm going to be working with the supervisor, doing parent training. This means she's going to try and teach me how to handle behaviors that we want changed.

The approach to changing any type of problem behavior is with positive reinforcement. This generally involves rewarding the child when they are doing the behavior you want them to do! With our daughter, this approach has worked really well with controlling tantrums and reducing her rigid behavior. But I have to be honest: when she's being defiant, it's not the approach I really want to use. My knee-jerk reaction is to be punitive. "If you don't clean up your toys, we're going to take them away for a day" kind of punitive. The supervisor isn't a fan of this approach.

My husband (who, by the way, is absolutely amazing with our daughter) stated today that it's sometimes hard to believe that all problem behaviors can be fixed with positive reinforcement. After all, "many generations of punishment can't be entirely wrong." It's hard to argue with logic like this, although I did point out that discipline for thousands of years involved severe beatings. This approach may not evolve into a fabulous relationship we want with our daughter down the road.

While we should be happy that our daughter is doing well in school and is graduating out of her behavior therapy, we are really worried about losing this service. The defiance isn't helping matters any!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Autism's Impact on Marriage and Work

Can you believe that the t.v. show, "Parenthood," has been on twice this season, and I haven't even mentioned it here yet? I can't believe it! I watched both episodes and was blown away by them. Each show managed to make me laugh and cry.

They're still doing an unbelievably real depiction of Asperger's. The first episode didn't focus too much on it other than showing a little bit of behavior therapy in action. The second episode didn't focus on it directly too much either. But what it did do was show the impact that having a kid on the spectrum can have on marriage and work.

One thing most parents of kids on the spectrum hear is that the divorce rate for us is much higher than for the general population. A common statistic that is thrown around is that 80 percent of marriages with a child with autism will end in divorce. I recently read that the statistic, while being widely talked about, is not really based on fact. Nobody really knows what the actual divorce rate is.

It is probably safe to assume it's higher than the general population, however. For one thing, there is probably extra stress in the household from parenting a child (or children) on the spectrum. For another thing, there are just more issues to argue about. For example, do you fight for any service possible, hiring expensive lawyers along the way? Or do you grab whatever is offered to you, thankful you don't have to pay for everything out-of-pocket? Do you pursue one type of therapy or another? The potential issues to fight about are pretty endless, and there always feels like there is so much at stake with each issue.

On "Parenthood," friends of the Braverman's were separating because the husband felt neglected by his wife who was consumed with their son's issues, not leaving much time or energy for the two of them. I suppose this can happen as well, although it did come off as sounding a bit petty. Nevertheless, I'm sure there are a lot of marriages that do end in divorce simply because one of the spouses feels totally neglected.

The other issue was how work can be impacted. On the show, Adam Braverman was stressing about his job. The company he works for has been impacted by the recession. His boss, the company owner, has commented on how work doesn't seem to be a priority for Adam. And the truth is, his son's autism diagnosis and treatments have taken on a huge priority in Adam's life. So, naturally, Adam is worried about his job security.

I was really able to relate to both of the aspects depicted on the show. My husband and I have certainly butted heads a lot on what the best way to proceed is. We probably agree the bulk of the time, but not always. Also, being a one-income family, I do worry about what impact the recession will have on my husband's job. He has made our daughter his number one priority, so there is always that worry that it can have an impact with his job.

While I think we'll be absolutely fine on both counts, it is extra stress in our lives. "Parenthood" has done an amazing job of depicting the challenges and joys of having a child with autism.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Capt. Beefheart and the Bush

I took my second walk today! I'm really trying to get into this exercise routine. I do have a fun neighborhood to walk around in. It has pretty challenging hills to go up and down and beautiful views. I feel like I'm walking along mountain trails along some parts of the walk. My neighborhood is a weird mix of large, relatively expensive homes and shacks that look like they'd fall apart if you blow on them, and everything in between!

This area was first developed in 1925. The developer put in a golf course, tiny cabins, and lots and lots of trees (over 200,000 of them!). The trees have survived, but many of the old cabins haven't. I've read that there are only about a dozen of them left. I know of about 4 of them. Friends of mine had lived in two of them and there are two of them located by the end of my backyard. I just learned that one of the cabins near my backyard had an interesting history tied to it.

I have a huge love of history, including local history. It's probably the part of me on the spectrum that is so into this, but once I hear an interesting tidbit, I have to research the life out of it! Apparently, a musician called Capt. Beefheart did a lot of his work in that house. I know nothing about Capt. Beeheart, but based on the research I've done, he was quite the big deal from 1965 to 1982.

Here is a link to some pictures that were taken a few years ago. These pictures really don't do justice to how horrifying the house looked then. According to this link, they were asking for $850,000 for the house in 2006. This link also has really interesting information about the history of the house. For example, a photo from the cover of the album "Trout Mask Replica" was taken from the backyard of the house.

It was recently fixed up and put on the market again. It looks so much better and is now on the market for a relative bargain at $325,000! Here is the link.

Any interested buyers?

Side Note, Totally Unrelated to Above:

I have a quick funny story to share. A crazy driver managed to plow into a bush at the front of our house, totally destroying sprinkler pipes that were nestled in the bush. The driver escaped the scene of the crime and when we noticed the damage, he or she was long gone. I mentioned the carnage to my daughter's behaviorist. She hadn't noticed the damage on the way into the house. On the way out she said, "I have to check out your bush!" Needless to say, we both erupted into hysterical laughter. For a moment there, my daughter was the most mature one in the room.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

General Information about Asperger's and Autism

Well, it's time for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday! And guess what? We're starting the alphabet! Yay! No more colors to write about. So, this week's letter is the letter A. What begins with the letter A? Hmmmmm. I'm drawing a complete blank. I could write about apples, but really, who cares about apples?

Oh, who am I kidding? A is a pretty easy letter for me to blab on about. Asperger's starts with A, as does autism. So, this post is going to address the issue of Asperger's and autism.

Many people are confused about Asperger's and whether it's a form of autism. This is actually pretty widely debated. Some states like California and Texas don't consider Asperger's to be a form of autism. So, if you live in these two states and get a diagnoses of Asperger's, you may not get the services you need, such as behavior therapy.

The general consensus is that Asperger's is a form of autism. The main difference is that a person with Asperger's is not speech delayed while a child with autism is. This is the main difference. Other people believe that kids with Asperger's tend to have an either average or above average I.Q. while kids with other forms of autism have an average or below average I.Q. I'm not sure this is the case. I've met many kids with high-functioning autism who do not present any differently than a child with Asperger's once they acquire language. Also, for the kids who remain non-verbal, the I.Q. tests are based on spoken language, so I don't think the I.Q. is properly measured for these kids.

Partly because of the confusion of Asperger's and the fact that its diagnosis may curtail services to some kids, the American Psychiatric Association may be doing away with the diagnosis in 2012. This is somewhat controversial because many people who are diagnosed with Asperger's like their Asperger label and don't want to be considered autistic. Nevertheless, I think it will be a good change because it will help all kids on the spectrum get the help they need.

Even though the official diagnosis may go away, will the term Asperger's go away? I highly doubt it! I think people with Asperger's will still use the label!

Many famous, successful people are suspected of being on the spectrum. Here is a list of some people suspected of having Asperger's or high-functioning autism:

Albert Einstein
Isaac Newton
Bill Gates
Dan Aykroyd
Jane Austen
Michael Palin
Keith Olbermann
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I hope this post has helped clarify some misconceptions about Asperger's and autism!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm Trying to Be Good!

When I was younger, my best trait was my figure. I was naturally skinny AND naturally curvy at the same time! Now that I'm 45 years old, that's not really the case anymore. I'd like to blame having a kid, but I actually did well with my postpartum weight loss. In fact, because I had to limit my diet so severely while breastfeeding, I actually got too skinny about four months after giving birth. Weird, huh?

So, I'm sure you're all wondering what happened. Well, stay-at-home motherhood happened. I spent a lot of my time around the house eating whatever my daughter didn't finish. I take her to a gazillion birthday parties where I have to be polite and eat the birthday cake (in my culture, it's terrible, bad luck not to eat the cake. Okay, I made that up). Chocolate is my therapy. I must have some everyday or I go crazy! And I'll be honest, the stress of raising a child on the spectrum can get to me at times. I turn to food. A lot.

On top of this, I hate to exercise. A lot. During my single days, I discovered that I loved to dance, however. It started with contra dancing. I bet most of you haven't even heard of contra dancing. It's a form of social dancing. It's a precursor to square dancing. I believe its roots are English and French country dancing. After I got into contra dancing, I got into Cajun and Zydeco dancing. This was a lot of fun too. Then, I got into swing dancing. I was actually into swing dancing before it became such a big craze.

After I got married, my dancing days ended. I tried to exercise by using the gym in the apartment complex we lived in. By gym, I mean a dingy, smelly room that housed some weights and a treadmill. I used the treadmill about 3 days a week. I continued to do this through my pregnancy as well.

But after having my daughter, I stopped working out entirely. About two years after having her, the change in lifestyle started to take its toll. When she started to go to preschool, I realized I was pretty depressed from the extent of her tantrums (we still didn't realize she had autism). I joined a gym to get into shape and find a way to relieve the stress and depression I was experiencing.

I was really bad about going, however. It was such a pain to schlep to the gym! Yada, yada, yada. After my membership expired, money was tight. We had our daughter assessed and realized that there was a reason for all the tantrums--she had autism. We spent a lot of money out of pocket for her different therapies. And still, I didn't exercise.

Today, I decided to go out and get some exercise! After I dropped my daughter off at school, I went home and then took a walk around my neighborhood! I live in a hill house at the top of a hill. I just did about a mile loop, but it's a pretty steep climb up and down the hillside. It's such a beautiful walk--great views and neat houses to check out. It's really better than going to any gym. Although, I was embarrassed to find out that the homes being built around the corner from my house are almost complete! The last I saw them, they just had their foundations laid. It HAS been awhile since I took a walk. Yikes!

As an incentive, I'm letting myself sleep in a bit later on the days I go for my walk, since I can shower after the walk. My hope is that I'll keep the activity up at least on days that it isn't raining. I'm hoping to get a Wii Fit down the road to exercise with on rainy days. I'm hoping that the added exercise will help me lose the proverbial 5 pounds. However, it seems like when I increase my activity, my appetite goes up as well. I'm trying to be relatively good! Time will tell whether I'm successful!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Literally Speaking!

A while ago, I did a post on the 12 most common symptoms of Asperger's. One of the symptoms listed was communication difficulties. Children with Asperger's can have very advanced vocabularies, yet have a difficult time having a two-way conversation. One area that they can have a difficult time is with understanding figurative speech. They can take things very literally. For example, if you ask someone with Asperger's what's on their mind, they may touch the top of their head thinking something is sitting up there.

We've been working hard with improving our daughter's conversational speech skills. During her speech therapy sessions, she's been learning to comment on and ask a couple of questions about what someone else talks about. She's also learning to limit her conversations to two main points. But we've also been working on things at home like sarcasm or analogies. For the most part, she's gotten pretty good with understanding and even using different expressions. She also knows when I'm being sarcastic, for the most part. I really exercise this when I'm driving. She knows that when I say, "Nice driving!" about someone, they're not actually driving nicely!

While she's doing well in these areas, I do notice something that she doesn't seem to get. Oftentimes, she'll pretend to be something, like a cat or a dog or Spongebob Squarepants. When she's pretending, she'll say, "I'm Spongebob!" and I'll answer with, "Hello, Spongebob!" She'll then look at me like I'm an idiot and tell me she's not REALLY Spongebob, she's just pretending to be him. I then let her know that I actually know this. I gave birth to her and helped named her. I was just pretending also!

Nevertheless, the next time she's pretend-playing, we still reiterate the same conversation.

I'm hoping one of these days she'll get that I'm in on the pretend play too and don't really think she's some yellow squishy thing that wears bad clothes and isn't too bright! Here's hoping!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

By Special Request....

I had a blast doing the Back to Blogging challenge that SITS sponsored. It was also a great walk down memory lane! I had a blast revisiting my very first post and publishing a post from my earlier days that I loved, but didn't get too much attention. However, my husband thought I revisited the wrong post. He had his own personal favorite that I had done, so per his request, I'm re-posting one of my Mother's Day posts, originally posted on May 10, 2010.

Happy Belated Mother's Day!
I hope everyone had a great mother's day! I sure did and plan to blog about it the next time I post. My blog today will be about my mom who I was thinking about a lot yesterday.

My mom and I had a good relationship--not great, but not bad. After becoming a mom myself, however, I really began to understand and appreciate her more. Unfortunately, my mom died when my daughter was just 8 weeks old. I feel like I missed out with bonding with my mom over motherhood. I'm sure it would have been a rocky path at times. I know my mother would not have approved of us getting our daughter assessed for autism. I do think she would have changed her mind when she saw how my daughter blossomed after we started the different therapies. When I was going through the stress of my daughter lagging behind in certain milestones and dealing with her endless tantrums, I really missed not being able to call my mom for support. It was actually a surprise how much I missed her just when I needed her the most!

My mom did get to meet my daughter before she died. It's actually a pretty amazing story, and one I plan to tell my daughter when she's older.

My mom was planning on visiting me when I delivered my daughter to help me during those first hazy weeks. But health issues started to crop up with her, and she needed to go to various doctors and to set up some surgeries to address two health issues. I was also having issues with my pregnancy and needed to deliver my daughter early see here). After the dust settled for us, my mom was able to fly out to visit with my daughter for a few hours before she had to fly back home to have her first operation. As luck would have it, the day she was able to come was the first day my daughter was home from the NICU. My mom was a huge help that day, and it was great visiting with her.

My mom's first operation was a huge success, and we were all very hopeful that the next one would go as well. However, after being home for a week recovering, my mom became very ill from a totally new problem. Once the doctors at the hospital determined what was wrong, they stated that she was terminally ill and didn't have much time left to live. My mom didn't want me to make the trip, since my baby was still very young and still having some health issues. The rest of the family really thought I should make the trip, so we went. I spent long hours in the CCU's waiting room during this time. The CCU had strict rules: only half hour visitation with 2 people every 2 hours. When I saw my mother, I knew the end was near. I could hardly recognize her! She was herself though! She took one look at me and said, "Thank goodness somebody in the family finally lost their baby weight right away!"

The next day didn't initially go as well. She was in and out of consciousness and seemed to be sleeping more and more. The doctors said that she would continue to go downhill from there. They tried to explain her options to her, but she couldn't stay awake or alert long enough to tell them what she wanted in terms of the medical intervention (or non-intervention). It was up to my dad, who did not want to make these decisions.

Then the miracle happened. My mom came to and asked the nurse if the baby could be snuck in. She wanted to see her. The nurse said it was against rules, but that we could sneak her in for a few minutes. So, I went in to visit my mom with my new daughter. My mom loved the visit! She perked up and became extremely coherent. She even looked better. Actually, she looked like herself again. It was amazing! We met with the doctors to see what had happened. They said she was still dying, but to appreciate this gift.

We did! My mom was able to make the decisions on her course of treatment. She was promptly moved to a hospice where our visiting time wasn't restricted, AND I was able to have the baby there the whole time. I had always thought of hospices as dark, dreary places. But this place was great! The staff was friendly, and they did everything in their power to make my mom's last days as comfortable as possible. They gave her a room with french doors to the outside to allow me to bring my baby to her room without going through the rest of the hospice. They washed my mom's hair, and my cousin--who is a fabulous hairdresser--styled my mom's hair. She looked beautiful. After seeing my daughter, she lived another 4 days. This might not seem like much, but she was really coherent and alert 3 of the 4 days. It took the onus off my dad, and it was time she got to spend with all of us--including the baby.

The doctors never could explain what gave my mom the extra time. According to their medical knowledge, she should have just have continued to have declined and spent more time incoherent and unconscious. I really think my daughter gave her the reason to live a few more days. I will always be thankful for these extra days.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

8 Questions

Heather from Acting Balanced tagged me to answer 8 questions. Then I'm supposed to tag 8 other bloggers with my own set of questions. I'm breaking the rules and just answering the 8 that Heather posed. If you want to answer the 8 questions also, go for it!

1. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it?

I just finished reading a chick-lit book called "Momzillas" by Jill Kargman. I got it at the library fundraising book sale. I get all my books there--it's awesome! They sell hardcover books for $2, trade paperbacks for $1, and regular paperbacks for $.50. They always have pretty current titles, and the books are in really good condition, except for the book I'm reading right now, which for some reason smells really moldy.

Anyway, I digress..."Momzillas" was a pleasant read in that the book didn't smell moldy. It was written in a very casual, bloggy-style. I disliked the book in the beginning because it just wasn't well-written. But it did suck me in about halfway through, and I began to enjoy it more. I recommend it only if you like the fluffiest type of book that makes fun of uptight mothers who criticize other mothers.

2. How often do you post on your blog? Do you have a schedule?

I try to post every weekday. I save the weekends to do awards, etc. Sometimes if I have a pressing topic, I'll post on a weekend as well. I've started to draft my post at night, and have scheduled my post to go "live" at 6:00 am in the morning. This seems to be working for now!

3. What is your favorite blog topic?

I love to blog about my cooking, home decor, and cleaning tips. Haha! I was just making sure you were actually reading this. I mostly like to blog about my inept parenting and the challenges and triumphs of raising a child on the autism spectrum.

4. What did you have for lunch today?

I ate a Lean Cuisine in the house. The paparazzi leave me alone this way!

5. Where do you get your news?

I find the best way to get news is to read the tweets on my twitter feed!

6. How do you handle stress?

I don't. I scream into my pillow, eat chocolate, then blog! I guess this is my version of "Eat, Pray, Love." Only it's more "Pray, Eat, Love." Whatever.

7. What is your all time favorite movie? Why?

It's hard to pick just one movie! So, I'll just give a list and leave out the why: "Raising Arizona," "The Big Easy," "When Harry Met Sally," "Adaptation," "The Princess and the Frog," and "Paranormal Activity." I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton of other movies, but it's late, and I'm tired!

8. What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?

I used to hate to write. Before I had my daughter, I worked as a Senior Analyst with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO is the watchdog arm of Congress. My job generally involved studying a certain issue, going out and doing field work to obtain the necessary data, analyzing the data, then writing up the results (either a report or testimony for Congress).

I loved researching a new area, developing a methodology for collecting the data, doing the field work to obtain the data, and analyzing the data. The only part of the job that I didn't like was writing up the results in a report. Who would have thought that I would enjoy blogging so much? Definitely not me!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Joys of Blogging

The SITS Back to Blogging Challenge is nearing the end. For our last challenge, we're suppose to write about why we blog.

I'm fairly new to blogging. My first post was about 7 months ago. My initial intent wasn't to blog actually. I had wanted to start a website with message boards where moms could come to share the quirks of their children with autism. I envisioned that the board would offer support as well, but my unique niche was to try to have as positive of a spin on our situation--to have an uplifting place where moms could go to laugh and cry about their experience. My husband suggested adding a blog as one component to the site. I remember thinking, "Hell, no! I can't write. What do I have to say that people would want to read?"

As I started this endeavor, I was running into barriers every step of the way. I couldn't find a good host for my site. There were so many scams that I read about! And, well, I just wasn't that creative. Then I heard about these great blog sites that offer free hosting. On Blogger, you can even run ads really easily! Wow, I can easily make money while working at home! How perfect is that?

The only problem was that the blogging sites didn't have the capability to have message boards. So, I was going to do the thing that appealed to me the least--blogging! Around this time, I rented the movie "Julie and Julia," which is about a woman who starts blogging and discovers her passion in life--cooking and writing! It really inspired me to try my hand at blogging! So, I dived in.

I quickly discovered two things about blogging. 1) It's really hard to make money at blogging and 2) I LOVED to blog! My ambition to get a message board going has totally melted away! Why do I love blogging? It's very therapeutic. Whether I'm having a bad day or a great day, I have material to blog about, and it makes me feel so much better! I've met many other awesome women bloggers that I love to read and inspire me to do better at my blog. Occasionally, someone will leave me a comment that says I've helped them understand autism more! Or that I've helped them with a problem they were having. Or that I've made them laugh! I cannot even describe the high you feel when you receive nice comments like that.

This is the fuel that keeps me going! I've been having a blast doing this, and I hope to continue it.

I'm REALLY hoping to attend THE blogging conference next year--BlogHer 11. It's being help in San Diego, which is a two-hour drive from my house. I'd love to go and meet some of my blogging friends in real life. Everyone I know who went to BlogHer 10 had a blast!

So, here's to the joys of blogging! Who knew?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Woman Who Has Inspired Me

The SITS Back to Blogging challenge for today is to write about women that inspire me.

This sounds like an easy topic to write about, right? But for some reason, I'm really struggling with coming up with something that doesn't sound stupid or trite. The truth is, I've met so many women who inspire me! I've decided to highlight one of my friends who has inspired me to a great degree.

I'd like to say she's a close friend, but she's not. She's more of an acquaintance. I know her because our daughters get behavior services through the same service provider. Our daughters were in the same social skills group for awhile. I actually knew her before this though. When my daughter was first diagnosed with autism, I was really sad, lost, and confused. When we started getting services, I found out that our service provider had a group for moms. They met monthly for brunch, had the occasional moms' night (or day) out, and held some fundraising events. The service provider, while supporting this group, was not involved with setting this group up. One dynamo mom was, and that's how I first became acquainted with her. I was impressed because she also worked full-time, yet found time to spearhead this effort.

Later, I realized that this was just a small piece of what she did. When I first met her, she was celebrating her first year as a cancer survivor! Wow! I can't believe all she had on her plate!

But wait, there's more! She was also extremely active in raising funds for Autism Speaks. So much so, they they recently gave her a key volunteer position in the Los Angeles area!

I have no idea where she finds time or energy to do everything! Yet, she always finds time to be a huge cheerleader and support to her friends and others. I'm sure she gets a lot of joy and satisfaction from her accomplishments. She should! I wish I had her energy. I'm not as self-pitying as I was when my daughter first got diagnosed, but I haven't really reached out and helped anyone else--other than maybe a few people who read my blog and get something out of it.

My friend really inspires me! I want to let her know that her work is deeply appreciated, and I'm sure makes a HUGE difference in the world! Congrats on being cancer-free for 3 years now! Wow!

Pam, you're a very special women and give new meaning to awesome! I don't know where you get your energy from, but I wouldn't mind tapping some from you! Keep up the great work!

Thank you for all that you've done!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

All the Colors of the Rainbow

It's that time of the week again for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. We're still working on the colors of the rainbow. This week is a bit of a free-for-all. We can pick any color we like, write about rainbow stripes, anything having to do with colors. Next week, we're beginning the alphabet again! My color topic of choice this week is how my daughter loves the colors of the rainbow!

When my daughter was a baby, it was obvious to me that she was smart. She loved to learn whatever she could! For example, she learned her body parts when she was 14 months old! At 17 months, she knew all her colors! I remember taking her to Gymboree music class. She'd be sitting on the parachute which had all the colors of the rainbow on it. The instructor would be busy doing something. To pass the time, I would say to her, "Yellow," and she'd crawl to the yellow color on the parachute. Then I'd say, "Purple," and she'd crawl to the purple color. We had a blast playing this game, while the other mothers would look on with their mouths hanging open, wondering why their kiddos couldn't perform this nifty trick yet. Okay, I was showing off a bit. My daughter wasn't walking yet, so I needed to feel good about her other accomplishments!

She also was great about matching up colored beads with the corresponding colored sticks. At first I was really proud that she understood this concept at such a young age. However, over time, she still seemed to match up her colors almost obsessively. It started to worry me--even before I suspected that she had autism. I remember one day, when she was about 3.5 years old, I purposely mixed up the colored bead on colored sticks. I'd put a purple bead on a green stick and a yellow bead of a blue stick. I made the most colorful combinations! After I was done, I asked my daughter, "Isn't this beautiful?" She looked at me like I was absolutely insane. She gave a polite nod, but then quickly redid everything so that all the beads were correctly matched. It was at this point that I began to wonder if something was going on with her.

About a year later, we went to a park. It was a beautiful day out, and she was having fun running around and playing. She went to a park toy that had these beads that were meant to be played with for the tactile sensation. Each one had two colors on it. I noticed my daughter carefully adjusting each one so the same color was turned up. A little boy came up and ran his hands over the beads to enjoy the feeling. This messed up my daughter's work, and she started to tantrum. I had already been considering getting my daughter assessed for autism. This incident was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I realized that her behavior was not typical.

Even now that she's 6, she still has an inflexibility when it comes to color. In kindergarten last year, she learned the order of colors in the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple). Now she still insists on arranging colors in that order if she's drawing a rainbow. She'll criticize a book if the illustrator doesn't get the order right. I guess she'll always be a stickler when it come to issues of the rainbow.

Stupid Cleaning Ladies!

Last night, my daughter became very distraught while taking her bath. She noticed that her science experiment she developed was ruined. The experiment involved taking cups of pre-measured water and leaving them on the side of the tub. Each day, she would look at the water levels to see how much water had evaporated from the day before. She had been conducting this experiment for about 5 days. Last night, the cups of water were missing!

I explained to her that the cleaning ladies had come during the day. They must have dumped the water out and put the cups in the dishwasher. This made her really sad! Between sobs, I thought I heard her say, "Stupid cleaning ladies!" I couldn't believe that's what my sweet daughter said, so I asked her to repeat it. She repeated, "Stupid cleaning ladies!" This time she said it nice and loud! Yikes!

I admonished her immediately, telling her that it's never okay to call somebody stupid. It's a very mean thing to say. I also added that the cleaning ladies were just doing their job. The water could get really gross in the cups, and they had no idea it was part of a science experiment.

She thought about this awhile, then asked, "Is it ever okay to call yourself stupid?" I wanted to cry after she asked that. The truth is, I call myself stupid all the time, even in front of her. I usually say it in a self-deprecating way, but my husband has chided me for doing this. I have never took his criticism seriously before. Hearing her ask this question made me realize what a bad example I've been setting.

"No, that's not okay either," I said. I then admitted that I do call myself stupid, and I was wrong to do so. I was not showing myself the respect I deserve. I promised her I'd stop calling myself stupid, and I hoped to never hear her use that work about anyone else or herself. She agreed.

After my daughter went to bed, I told my husband what had happened. He said, "I told you so!" After that, we both misbehaved. Anytime we noticed something amiss, like when we realized the cleaning ladies threw out our liquid soap dispenser, we said, "Stupid cleaning ladies!" This morning, when my alarm went off at full volume, I bet you can guess what I said under my breath.

I'm so bad! (but you won't catch me saying THAT in front of my daughter either!).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to Blogging--Day 3

The SITS Back to Blogging Day 3 assignment is to re-post a blog with a title I'm particularly proud of! Cool! The post I picked is a recent one. I posted it on August 16, 2010. It's called The Vagina Dialogues. Here is the post:

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!

So that was it! Why am I proud of this title? Well, I think it's friggin' hilarious! It's also a great play on words based on the play, "The Vagina Monologues." Also, it really accurately describes the post perfectly! So, it's my favorite title so far! I hope you like it too.

First Day of First Grade

My daughter had her first day of first grade yesterday. It seemed to go pretty well, for the most part. She has some friends in her class with her, and her teacher has a reputation for being FANTASTIC! My daughter seems to like her. What little we saw of the class in the beginning, my daughter was actively participating. When the teacher asked what they thought they would learn in first grade, my daughter was the first to answer, which was "Spelling!"

I heard that my daughter did get a little upset because she wasn't able to finish everything she was working on which frustrated her. However, I heard that nobody was able to finish everything. So, everyone had to finish what they didn't do in class on top of the homework that was passed out. Yikes! This is going to be a tough class. My daughter did complain about the homework being a tad boring, but I assured her it was the first day, and it will get more challenging.

I heard she hit some rough patches during recess and lunch. I'm hoping once things get underway, she'll hit her stride and do better. Overall, it sounds like she had a good first day!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Revisiting a Special Post

The SITS Back to Blogging Day two assignment is to re-upload a post you wish more people had read and explain why it was important to you.

Many of my earlier posts received little attention, but there are a few that I really like. The one I'm going to feature here I originally posted in April 5, 2010. It received 10 comments at the time--an amazing number considering how few people read my blog at the time. I like it because it really explains something I wrestle with on an almost daily basis--the urge to protect my daughter competing with the need for her to explore her abilities and find out who she is. This theme repeats itself pretty constantly on my blog. It obviously is a battle I have internally quite often! The title of the post was "Letting Go." Here is the post:

I'll admit it; I'm too protective of my daughter. She's my only child, and I was THIS close to losing her during the end of my pregnancy. I'm not sure if that's why I'm over-protective of her or if it's because I'm just a neurotic mess. Add in her high-functioning autism, and well, I protect her too much!

We were at the park the other day. She had an amazing day there! She made a couple of new friends and played incredibly well with them! I was so proud! When they had to go, an old friend of my daughter's showed up, and they had fun playing together. Then her old friend started to play some power games with my daughter, and my daughter handled THAT amazingly well! Again, I was really proud of her. I didn't need to intervene at all; my daughter handled the situation like an old pro! Before long, the friend was chasing after my daughter to get back into her good graces. Love it!

The only issue was with the big-kid play equipment! This park has a small-kid play equipment and a big-kid play equipment. My daughter always liked the big-kid equipment. But there is one feature on it that I felt she was too small and never allowed her to do. It's these two parallel bars that run at a 45 degree angle from the top of the structure (at over 6 feet in height) to the ground.

My daughter REALLY wanted to go down them, but I didn't think she was strong enough to hold onto them, and swing one arm down, then the other, without falling a big distance. I told her she had to wait until she was much bigger to do it. However, her two new friends were able to do use them as well as her old friend. They were all around the same age as my daughter. I realized that I had to let her try them! She was right to push me!

So, on my daughter's first attempt, I held onto her legs to support her as she figured out how to move her hands down the bars. I realized that I was getting in her way from swinging her body to facilitate this, but I couldn't let go until she was down a ways. She tried this again with me still hanging onto her legs for dear life! The third time, I realized I had to let go and let her try on her own. She really wanted to do it on her own, but when she started, she looked at me and said, "I'm nervous!" I was scared out of my mind, but I hid it the best I could and said, "You can do it, and I'm right here!" She did it and did a great job!

It's really hard for me to let go, both literally--as in this case--and figuratively. But she's growing up fast, and I know I have to let her do more and more for herself. This will mean that I have to let her have her own achievements and make her own mistakes. I think her special needs really make it even harder for me to let go. But she needs to develop into her own person. So far, she's doing an amazing job!

Top Ten Ways My Daughter Grew this Summer

Today, my daughter enters the big-girl world of first grade! She has grown so much over the summer. I'm talking about more than the two inches or so she's shot up! This summer, she has matured so much. I don't think I've ever seen this kind of developmental leap happen over the course of a few months! I credit the summer day camp she went to--particularly in the area of improving her social skills and her athletic abilities. In the past, she's had weak core strength, so she's pretty klutzy and not very athletic. Apparently, spending all day doing swimming, horseback riding, rock climbing, and other activities builds strength. Go figure!

Anyway, here are the top ten ways my daughter has grown this summer:

1. She Learned How to Swim

She's taken swim lessons for the past 4 years, but she never really could figure out how to get around in the water. Either she'd focus on paddling and forget to kick, or she'd kick and forget to paddle. Sometimes, she'd kick and paddle, but forget not to inhale pool water! This year, it finally all came together! Spending almost every day in the pool at camp honing her skills did not hurt either! Now, she can cannonball off the diving board and effortlessly swim to the side. She can handle the deep-end of the pool like a pro! It's been great to see.

2. She Can Hula Hoop

I was shocked the other day when my daughter picked up her hula hoop and well, did it for awhile. I didn't know she could hula hoop! Apparently, she picked up the hula hooping knack at camp. I had no idea!

3. She Can Rock Climb

She earned a certificate at camp for scaling their rock-climbing mountain. Now this thing is huge--it's not one of those wimpy, climb up an eight-foot wall one. This is something the kids needed to be harnessed to do! And she did it. The counselor told me she couldn't believe that my daughter was able to quickly scale it! For a kid who isn't athletic, this is amazing to me!

4. She's Graduating from her After-School Behavior Therapy Sessions

She's been doing very well with her behavior therapy. So well, that she's mastered everything they can throw at her. So, beginning in a couple of weeks, she's no longer having a behaviorist come to the house to work with her. I have mixed feelings about this one. Her problems haven't disappeared, but they have been pretty greatly reduced!

5. Promoted to Older Age Group in Gymnastics

Her gymnastics teacher recently promoted my daughter up to the next age level class--the 7-8 year old kids. He felt that she was ready for it physically and that she was too mature to be around the younger kids! This is the first time she's been placed with an older group of kids! Because both her physical and social abilities have lagged behind her peers, she's usually with kids her own age and younger. So far, the change in class has been fantastic! She's really surprised me at what she can do in gymnastics! Her instructor told me that her strength has dramatically increased over the summer. Again, I credit the summer day camp's activities for this improvement.

6. She's More Hip than I Am!

This is the first time that my daughter knows the hip singers and songs, while I still listen to my 80s golden-oldie radio station. Yes, my daughter is now more up on pop culture than I am!

7. Knows that There Is an F-Word

She learned at camp that there is a really bad word that begins with the letter F. As far as I know, she still doesn't know what the word is, exactly. If she does, she's keeping it secret from me. If she doesn't know it, I'm sure she's working really hard to find it out. I'm guessing she'll know it for sure by the third week of first grade.

8. She's Interested in Gossip

When I'd ask her about her day at camp, not only did I hear about her swimming and rock climbing, but I sometimes would hear about which counselors were dating! I loved that she was aware of these social things and was able to talk about them to me afterward! In general, I couldn't get over how great her conversational skills improved over the summer!

9. Her Palate Is Expanding

Kids on the spectrum can be very picky when it comes to eating. My daughter was certainly not SUPER-picky, but she did have a preschooler's palate. I saw this changing over the summer. In fact, last week, I forgot to order her cheeseburger with just ketchup and cheese. It came loaded with mustard, onions, and pickles--all things she hates! She was game to try it, though and ended up loving it! She didn't even pick out her pickles, which she used to hate with a passion!

10. She Slept in a lot of Day!

Maybe it was from all the growth spurts she had, but she would really sleep in! After day camp ended, there were many mornings that she didn't wake up until somewhere between 9 and 10 in the morning! It was great! Although now that the school year is starting, it's going to be awful trying to wake her at 6:45!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Get Back to Blogging--My First Post!

The SITS girls are hosting a week-long blogging event called Get Back to Blogging! It sounded like a fun thing to do, so I'm going to do this over the course of the week. I'll probably still do my regular blog during this time!

Today's assignment is a fun one! I get to re-post my very first blog post! I did my very first post on February 6, 2010. Here it is:

I'm New to Blogging

I hope I'll find an audience for this blog. I guess time will tell. I'm currently a mom to a 6-year old high-functioning autistic girl. She's adorable. She's smart. She's quirky. Very quirky. I thought it would be a hoot to start a blog that celebrated that quirkiness. I hope to start a bulletin board soon as well so that I can hear adorable stories about your kids!

We began this special needs path relatively recently, so I still consider myself to be a newbie in this arena. My goal isn't to pass myself off as an expert (I'm clearly not). My goal is mostly to maintain my sense of humor that sometimes gets lost in the day-to-day grind! Enjoy--I hope!

Well, that was my first post--short and sweet! It's been over seven months since I did that post! (Yikes, time goes by fast!). Did I realize my goal yet? Well, I never got around to doing a bulletin board. I've been enjoying just blogging too much. Have I found an audience? Yes, I definitely have found one. Is it as big as I dreamed of when I started blogging? No! I think in my fantasies I'd be up to about 200,000 readers by now! But I have a group of readers who visit my blog everyday. I follow their blogs as well.

The biggest surprise about blogging is the community of bloggers! I've really enjoyed getting to know some of my fellow bloggers and hope to meet them in person some day!

The Sweet Blog Award

Annette over at Mommy Spirit
was kind enough to give me The Sweet Blog Award. Thank you so much, Annette. IT's been really fun getting to know you over the past month or so!

This award is sweet for a couple of reasons. 1) It's adorable looking, and 2) it doesn't have a whole laundry list of requirements to accept it! Yay! All I have to do is pass it along to 10 other sweet blogs. To be honest, it's not easy narrowing it down to ten since all the blogs I follow are sweet!

Nevertheless, the ten I pick are:

Acting Balanced

Adventures in Extreme Parenthood

Anybody Want a Peanut?

Blissful Babble

Deckside Thoughts

Get Over It...I Did

Mommy Pants

My Life as a Ungraceful, Unhinged, and Unwilling Draftee into the Autism Army

Raising Normal Kids

The Adventures of JAMC

I've really enjoyed getting to know these ladies (and many others!) out there in the blogosphere!

Happy reading!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2001

Where were you on September 11? I was on a business trip in Washington D.C. I worked as a Senior Analyst with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the watchdog arm of Congress. At the time, I specialized in issues dealing with what was then the U.S. Customs Service and the INS. Previously, I had specialized in military issues, particularly issues involving women in the military.

I was tied up in a meeting with my Director and Assistant Director while the twin towers were being hit and had no idea what was happening. Ironically, we were talking about the northern border of the U.S. and how resources weren't being devoted to it as they were with the southern border. I went right from that meeting to a meeting at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building, by the White House to meet with Customs' Service officials. Normally, I would have taken the subway to my meeting, but I was running late, so I took a cab. It was during the cab ride that I heard about the attacks on the radio. The cab driver filled us in on the details. As we arrived to my destination, we heard reports of fire being reported at the Pentagon. I tried not to panic. I knew they were doing renovations at the Pentagon, so I was hoping it was a small construction fire. But as I was exiting the cab, I saw the smoke coming from the direction of the Pentagon. It was really bad, and I knew it was probably another terrorist attack.

My boss and I forged ahead to our meeting, but security stopped us from taking the elevators and told us the building was being evacuated. When we went back out on the streets, it was mayhem. People were running everywhere in a panic. We decided against taking the subway back since it was a great target for terrorism (it ended up being closed down for that very reason). Now, there were no cabs in sight, so we decided to walk the two miles back to the office. People were running all around in shear panic. We heard about reports of car bombs going off nearby (CNN reported as much too, but they turned out to be false reports). Somebody on the street told us that a plane crashed into the Old Executive Office Building. We assured them that didn't happen as we just came from that area and the Old Executive Office Building was fine. At the time, nobody was one hundred percent sure of what caused the fire at the Pentagon (was it another plane or a bomb?). Where would the next attack be? New York had two attacks, would D.C. have another?

When we finally made it back to the office, we were glued to CNN. The news from New York was devastating. Unbelievable. The news about the Pentagon was also sad. A year earlier, I was working on military issues and went to the Pentagon often. I couldn't help but feel lucky that I had moved out of that issue area. For had I been in D.C. that week working on a military topic, there is a good chance I would have been not only at the Pentagon, but in the part of the Pentagon affected by the plane crash.

CNN reported that all the airlines had all planes accounted for with the exception of one plane, United Airlines flight 93. It appeared to be heading toward D.C. We were all waiting in anticipation for the plane to crash somewhere in the area. Then the reports came out that the plane crashed out in an open field. We were relieved, albeit sad for the passengers on the plane.

I couldn't wait to get out of D.C., but it wasn't easy to do. Train tickets were limited (in fact, one train I was considering taking ended up derailing). Rental cars were hard to come by, and the thought of driving cross country with coworkers wasn't that appealing. Planes were grounded until the Friday after 9/11. I ended up staying until Friday when the first commercial flights were allowed to fly. I ended up taking the very first United flight that flew from Dulles Airport to Los Angeles International nonstop. Security was very tight, needless to say. The flight ended up being delayed for about 5 hours because they realized at the last minute that the flight crew for the plane was still in Chicago, so they had to scrounge together another flight crew from the local area.

I white-knuckled the first half of the flight but then relaxed.

It was so good to be home! Los Angeles felt so far away from the craziness.

September 11th changed the way we lived our lives. It changed our feeling of being secure. It brought devastation to our country. I hope we never have to endure another attack like that again. But I hope we can do it while keeping our Constitution intact and supporting other people their religious freedom to worship peaceably. That's the world I want to raise my daughter in!

Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm not Panicking! (Oh, Who Am I Kidding?)

My daughter starts the first grade on Monday. I think this is difficult for any mom, but when you have a child on the spectrum, it's especially so. What's strange is that I was feeling pretty good about the upcoming school year. My daughter is in a fabulous school! She has a fantastic in-school behaviorist! The Assistant Principal really gets her and is knowledgeable and supportive of what my daughter's needs are. What can go wrong, right?

Well, apparently a lot can! My stress levels started to rise last week. I heard of other kids at the school getting their teacher assignments in the mail, but we didn't get ours. I couldn't call the school office, because they closed unexpectedly until school starts due to the California budget crisis. So, I had horrible visions of not knowing what class my daughter needed to go to and having to wait in an overcrowded office on the first day to find out, making her hours late on the first day! Okay, maybe my fears aren't grounded in reality, but whatever!

So, I was hopeful the administrators at the school were checking their emails. On Tuesday, I went to the school directory to send an email to the Principal and the Assistant Principal. That's when I noticed a name of a different Assistant Principal in the directory! I checked the main page and saw my worst nightmare. The Assistant Principal was promoted to Principal and moved to another school. The Assistant Principal is the key official when your child has special needs. It's the Assistant Principal who is responsible for overseeing that the education program is meeting the child's needs and for allocating the resources in order to do it. They're essentially, the school's gatekeeper for services. While, I'm thrilled to death for her (did I mention that she's totally amazing?), I was disappointed the promotion couldn't have been held off for another, oh I don't know, 5 years or so. Selfish? You betcha! Now, we're left hanging in terms of what services my daughter will receive during the school year. This is making me into a nervous wreck!

At least my daughter has the same behaviorist from last year! Actually, no! We found out last Friday that the agency that provides the behaviorist assigned a new one to my daughter and forgot to tell us until we called to check with them! My husband presented as convincing a case as possible why we needed the same behaviorist. I thought he was fighting the impossible fight. He proved me wrong (not the first time this has happened). At the eleventh hour, he succeeded in us getting our old behaviorist back! Yay!

I also finally received the teacher assignment in the mail. My daughter is assigned to a teacher who has a fabulous reputation. She is supposed to be pretty tough, though, and not nurturing like my daughter's kindergarten teacher was. I'm sure my daughter will do well in the class, but I'm sure it'll be an adjustment for her. Because of this, I'm glad we have the same behaviorist.

In addition, my daughter will be losing her after school behaviorist at the end of September. So, she won't be receiving any more behavior therapy after school. Yikes!

So, I went from being really confident about the new school year to being a quivering blob of jello about everything! The truth is, I think my daughter will rise to the occasion and do great. She's getting better at handling transitions then I am!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's Howdy Doody Time!

A friend of my husband gave us a couple of DVDs of The Howdy Doody Show for our daughter to enjoy. Howdy Doody is way before my time, but my husband watched it when he was little and had fond memories of it. We thought it would be a good idea to watch the show first to make sure it was something our daughter would like. I'm sure the show was a big deal in its day, but it has not aged well at all. It was SO unintentionally funny. I haven't laughed that hard watching something in a long time.

My husband gave a hilarious recap on his facebook account, so I'm reprinting what he wrote. Just think of him as a guest blogger for this post (thanks, honey!).

Here is his recap:

Our good friend kindly loaned us her brand new DVD's of "The Howdy Doody Show..." to share with our daughter, and while she slept, we checked out an episode last night. Holy crap!! -- I was a big fan when I was about my daughter's age, but
First of all, Buffalo Bob seemed a little drunk and pretty creepy. He leers into the camera and hilariously, close-talks and rubs up against Clarabell (who now strikes me as a very creepy mute clown with those rectangular mouth lines and zebra jump suit). The episode we saw featured "Captain Scuttlebutt" who operates the only tugboat in "Doodyville". I'm guessing there was quite a bit of scatological hilarity when Bob and his writers came up with that stuff.

J. Corny Cobb was this nondescript character who I actually didn't remember at all. On this show, he was wearing an extremely tight cardigan with something very bulky in the lower front pocket. What? He couldn't leave whatever it was in his dressing room?

The "peanut gallery", a group of 40 kids sitting behind Buffalo Bob seemed genuinely excited at first, but gradually looked increasingly bored and miserable once the show got under way. By the end, I half expected a revolt.

"Howdy Doody", the actual puppet, had almost no air time at all except to shill several products and sing a little bit of the closing song. In the middle of the show, Buffalo Bob ambles over to a plate of Hostess Twinkies and starts selling them hard. REALLY hard. For over 3 minutes, he harps on the delicious sponge cake and the filling and how nutritious it all is. He says, and I quote: "This is why kids across America can't get enough of Hostess Twinkies." He repeatedly urges his young viewers to tell their parents to go out and buy them for them, and then, in one of his rare appearances during the body of the show (the other is in a Wonder Bread sales spot), Howdy Doody appears at his own Twinkie stand telling kids they have to have them.

Finally, my wife, Cheryl, and I noticed that the "Howdy Doody" puppet had little armbands on and while it was impossible to see what was on them, once she mentioned that they looked very much like little Nazi armbands, we were in tears. Hysterical.
I highly recommend it as a bizarre walk down memory lane, but to adults. Our daughter would probably find it creepy and boring but more importantly, right now, she loves to eat relatively healthy. I don't want her suddenly demanding Twinkies.

Thank you, sweetie, for that great recap!

I understand Howdy Doody DVDs are available for rent on Netflix. If you've run out of movies you want to see, I highly recommend watching! I don't remember laughing that hard in a long, long time!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Violet Is a Beautiful, Calming Color

Yes, it's that time of the week again! Time to do Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday link-up. The color this week is violet.

My daughter loves any shade of purple--including violet. It's her favorite color. Well, it used to be her favorite color. Now she says magenta is her favorite. That has some violet in it too, so it counts.

Anyway, we recently redid my daughter bedroom from it's nursery, Winnie the Pooh look, to a big-girl's room with violet walls. The color is beautiful and calming.

Which is important, because my daughter has a really difficult time with sleeping. As early as 2 years old, she gave up her naps. Then it started to take her longer to fall asleep at night--up to 3 hours to fall asleep on some nights. Then she'd wake up in the middle of the night and be up for hours! It was crazy how little sleep she'd get on some nights. It was also crazy how well she'd function the next day! Nevertheless, it would drive me crazy that she wasn't sleeping!

After doing some research, I learned that this isn't an unusual problem for kids on the spectrum. Many, like my daughter, have a hard time turning their brains off at night! While she'd be up for hours, she'd be having the time of her life. She'd sing songs, tell stories, do all sorts of things all from her bed.

We consulted with her pediatrician who suggested we try giving her some melatonin to get her back on track. He said it helps some kids, but not others. We researched it and found no huge issues with it, so we started to give her some melatonin (which, by the way, comes in a container with a violet label) about a year and a half ago. That stuff was amazing! It worked from day one! She'd fall asleep with 10 minutes and sleep through the night. During the first night, she did wake up to use the potty. She was extremely lucid. She did her business, then was able to go right back to sleep. Amazing!

We were warned that over time, the melatonin can stop working, so you either need to increase the dosage or take breaks from it. Last winter, we took a break from it. The first night, she did great--fell asleep right away. The next night it took a little longer, but not too bad. By the third night, it started to take hours again. We put her back on the melatonin.

Over the last few weeks, the melatonin appeared to stop working. So, we've stopped using it again. In general, it's been taking her a couple of hours to fall asleep, but then she sleeps great the rest of the night. The third night off the melatonin, she fell asleep right away and slept 13 hours! She swam a lot that day, so we think that tired her out. Also, we're trying to teach her deep-breathing techniques or even counting out-loud to try to turn her brain off, more or less, so she can sleep.

School is starting next week, so I'm panicking a little. She really needs to fall asleep well before 10 to get enough sleep. I hope we have luck without having to return to the melatonin.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Absent-Minded? Why Yes, I Am!

Many of you probably weren't reading my blog back in May. Back then I entered myself into a top blogging contest held by Scholastic's Parent and Child magazine. They had 6 categories. I submitted my blog for the best special needs category. The staff at the magazine narrowed the field down to 3 blogs per category. Then they opened it up to voting. Whichever blog won for each category would be profiled in their August/September issue. Cool right?

Well, my little blog made the cut for the special needs category. I then went on to win! Yay, me! I was so excited! Then something weird happened. It slipped my mind. It hit me this morning that the magazine issue highlighting my blog would have been out on the newsstands for like a month now! If it's even out on the newsstands. I'm not even sure if it's sold on newsstands. I received my copies of it through my daughter's school, but they don't hand out the summer issues.

So, I flew into a panic! I found an online version of the article here. But the magazine version hopefully used the photo I sent in. I hit 3 newsstands today on the off-chance that I would find it. One newsstand did have the Parent and Child magazine. Unfortunately, it was the May 2010 issue! The other two places did not have it. Interestingly, they barely had any parenting magazine. Both places had one or two copies of both Parents magazine and Parenting magazine. What hope did I have to find the magazine I was looking for?

I'm going to have to contact Scholastic and see if I can buy a couple of the issues from them. I cannot believe I let so much time pass before it even occurred to me to look around for the magazine.

I could blame old age for the absentmindedness. Or I could blame my daughter. This wouldn't be the first time I've blamed her. Since having her, it seems she ended up with most of my gray matter. She's brilliant, and I feel like I can't remember a single thing! So, it must be all her fault.

Now, I just have to remember to hit the newsstand near me in four months. Maybe they'll have the issue I want then!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The End of Summer--Yay!

Labor Day weekend is the traditional end of summer. However, my daughter still has a full week of summer vacation before she starts first grade. I cannot believe how long the summer has felt. She was pretty busy for half of the summer. The day camp she attended, AKA Club Med without Alcohol, was a lot of fun and kept her very busy! After that, my family descended upon us. Then we took the 4-day cruise.

For the last couple of weeks, however, we've had nothing planned. It's been really boring! My daughter hasn't done much socializing over the last few weeks. And as each week has passed by, there have been less and less friends to set up play dates with since many of her friends have started school already!

Also, right at the time my daughter was finishing up camp, my husband has been home on an extended "vacation." So, not only have I been trying to entertain my daughter, but my husband has been around too. I think that's been harder. He sees how much time I spend on the computer and how little time I spend cleaning the house. And he's not shy about commenting about it.

Also, he keeps insisting on doing these projects around the house, like remodeling the house. Oh sure, we were way overdue with turning our daughter's bedroom decor from the Winnie the Pooh nursery look into the really gorgeous, big-girl's room, but still! So, not only have I been expected to spend less time on the computer, I also have to keep cleaning up the dry-wall dust that's been spewed all over the house. And my husband isn't shy to voice some opinions about how I clean. "You really do it like that?" he keeps asking.

As luck would have it, his extended "vacation" is ending this weekend, then my daughter starts school the following week (did I mention that I can't believe how late school starts here?). Then I can go back to obsessing over my blog, I mean scrubbing the house down my way!

It'll be great to have the me-time again. I know my daughter will be thrilled to be back at school, and my husband can't wait to go back to work! Well, I'm not sure about that last part, but I'm sure I've been driving him nuts as well!

Happy end of summer! Although, I will still miss it! (just don't tell my hubby!).

Friday, September 3, 2010


A big part of living with a child on the spectrum is dealing with obsessions. Children with Asperger's have been known to obsess over dinosaurs, outer space, Pokemon, foreign languages, TV shows, you name it! My daughter is certainly no exception. Lately she's been obsessing about Spongebob Squarepants. She watched an epiosode or two of it on a playdate, and she's been obsessing about it ever since. She's made paper versions of many of the characters. She likes to carry them around as she goes about her day. She hid Crusty Crab (I'm not sure the name is accurate because I know next to nothing about Spongebob and his friends) from me because she was afraid this piece of paper would be afraid I'd eat him since I love to eat crabs so much!

Speaking of which, since her Spongebob obsession started, she stopped wanting to eat fish of any kind. I tried to tell her that Spongebob and his friends all eat various kinds of fish, because what else are they going to eat in the ocean? She understood that logic, but still doesn't want to eat fish of any kind. I hate to think what she's going to do if she gets watches the Chicken Little movie.

Today she took a break from the Spongebob obsession to indulge an old favorite of hers--Curious George. It all started when I had her pick an outfit to wear today. I usually pick it out for her, but I thought she'd like to choose. She usually picks really cute things. Not today, though! She picked out an old Curious George shirt that I thought I had given away. So today was all about Curious George! She read all her Curious George books. She played Curious George games at the PBS Web Site. I gave her a chance to watch a movie at home. Instead of picking a great movie like The Wizard of Oz or Wall-E or even Cars, she wanted to watch two episodes of, you guessed it, Curious George! Actually, she watched the same episode twice.

After she was done watching the same episode twice, she pretended to be an orangutan that was in that episode for the next two hours. After listening to her make orangutan sounds for two hours, I was actually beginning to miss Spongebob. A lot.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Great Question!

The other day, my daughter asked a question to my husband and me. She asked if bats go potty while they sleep or do they hold it in until they wake up and fly. I immediately guessed that bats go while they're sleeping. Because they don't use toilets like we do, and poo and pee wherever they like when they fly, why would they have a need to hold it in while they sleep?

My husband and daughter looked at me horrified. My daughter quickly responded that she thinks bats hold it in while they sleep. My husband agreed then reminded me that bats sleep upside down.

Oops, forgot about that. Outsmarted by a six-year old. Again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Indigo Girl

Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday link up is still on colors. This week, the color is indigo. That's right, not purple but indigo. Back on April 4, 2010, I wrote about "Indigo Girls." I decided this was a great excuse to republish that post! Here it is:

At a birthday party gathering over the weekend, a friend's mother approached me and said that my daughter is an "Indigo Child." She commented on my daughter's beauty, her wisdom, and her fiery temper. She said that "Indigos" were special children. They're psychic and have great powers.

Well, being as into the paranormal as I am, I googled "Indigo Child" when I got home and did some research. A lot of "Indigo Children" are believed to be mistakenly labeled as ADHD/ADD, according to the information on the web. Who knew? However, the "Indigo Child" is kinda last decade. The new class of children being born are the "Crystal Children." These are children who are late talkers. They start talking around 3 or 4, so a lot of these kids are "mistakenly" labeled autistic. Apparently, they aren't late talkers because they can't talk, they just communicate telepathically so they don't have to talk!

The information on these children explained that they are on the next evolutionary rung than "typical" children and should be understood for who they are. They shouldn't be given medication or any other kind of treatment because that would lessen what they are about and the purpose they're supposed to fulfill in the world!

As much as I'm into the paranormal, I'm not a believer in "Indigo" or "Crystal" children. I think the whole thing is hogwash. I can't understand how a dynamic of "survival of the fittest" would involve a class of kids who lack social skills and have difficulties with connecting with other kids. However, I do find an interesting parallel within the autism community. On the one hand, you have the group of parents who will do ANYTHING to cure their autistic child! They pursue biomedical treatments, special diets, no vaccination, and chelation treatments. They think there is a cure out there and will try anything that might bring it about. On the other hand, you have people who believe their autistic kids (or themselves if they are adults with autism) are perfectly fine as-is and do not need to be "fixed," but have their differences appreciated for what they offer. I mean, can you imagine Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory" believing he needs to change? Of course, that's assuming the show's writers ever make him an official Aspie!

I find myself a bit in-between these two groups! I love my daughter's quirks--her specialness--that I don't want to see changed. But I do want her to fully experience the joys of life including having a great career, finding the love of her life, raising wonderful kids, and having as many friends as she would want in the world. Luckily, behavior therapy has been fitting the bill for our needs!

While I may not have an "Indigo Girl" for a daughter, I believe she is as special and wonderful as can be! And as healthy as can be too! What parent wouldn't be thrilled?