Tuesday, November 30, 2010

American Girl Doll Revenge!

About a month ago or so, I posted about American Girl dolls and how ridiculously expensive they are. I pretty much laughed at any yahoo who would pay $100 for a doll--not including additional outfits. Those cost more than the actual clothes my daughter wears.

When I did that post, my sister-in-law and one of my nieces tried to convince me that the dolls are high-quality and totally worth the money. This is the same sister-in-law that we visited for Thanksgiving last week. My husband was worried that they'd give us a hard time about our stand on American Girl dolls by leaving catalogs around for our daughter to see. Because that's the way they roll. They're really mean that way!

Just kidding! I know they read this blog, so I had to give then a hard time.

They do have a sense of humor, so I did think we'd get teased about this. But they were on perfect behavior and didn't bring up the dolls once!

However, at the airport for the flight home, I suggested that my hubby buy our daughter a book or magazine to entertain her on the flight. I thought this would buy us some peace on the plane. He agreed and returned with a puzzle book. While my daughter was doing the puzzles, I noticed that the book was published by American Girl and had many tear-out posters of American Girl dolls in it! What was he thinking?

Naturally, my daughter then told us she had something to add to her holiday wish-list. You guessed it! She wants an American Girl doll! What a surprise!

We've actually been struggling on what to buy her for her big gift, so I guess we now know what we'll be buying. My daughter selected a doll she wanted, so I went on the website to order it. Unfortunately, it won't come on time with standard shipping and would cost almost $30 for express shipping. Yikes! It looks like I'm going to have to drive down to the American Girl store on the other side of Los Angeles to get the doll.

Wish me luck!

Monday, November 29, 2010

That Wasn't Exactly the Point I Was Trying to Get Across

We had such a great trip that I don't think I can squeeze everything into one blog post. I think I'm going to have to spread it out over a few days (if not more--we're talking a lot of blogging material!).

For the Thanksgiving holiday, we visited my husband's brother in a Chicago suburb. Unlike us with our one child, my brother-in-law has a HUGE family! They have five kids who are now all grown. Four out of the five are married, and three out of the five have kids of their own. In fact, two had babies just over 8 months ago, 3 days apart. This was my first chance to meet my new great-nephew and great-niece. Yeah, I feel really young right now!

My brother-in-law's house is so crazy over the holidays, with people coming and going. It's so unlike my home! It's kinda cool to be around so many people. No one seems to enjoy this more than my daughter. She really loves visiting her family. I think she especially enjoys visiting this branch of the family because of all the chaos and activity. She also loves to play with her cousins (actually, they're first cousins once removed, but it's easier to just call them cousins). The two older ones are now four and three years old. My daughter loved playing with them and meeting her two new cousins. One of the funniest moments was when one of the babies needed her poopy diaper changed, and all three of the older kids were so excited to sit and watch the diaper get changed! It was pretty funny.

We were just sitting around the house on the Friday after Thanksgiving when my sister-in-law and niece realized they had to hit the stores. I wanted to get out of the house and join them. I had to drag my daughter (who wanted to stay at the house even if her cousins weren't there to entertain her) with me. When we looked for her shoes, we couldn't find them anywhere! We realized my sister-in-law thought they were her three-year-old granddaughter's shoes and they mistakenly went to her daughter's house! We didn't really pack any other shoes for the trip, except for a pair of snow boots. This meant we had to take a detour to their house before hitting the stores.

Luckily, when we arrived, we were able to quickly find my daughter's shoes. But when we were leaving, her cousins had awakened from their nap and wanted to play with her. So, we left her at the house with my nephew which freed us up to shop! Little did I know my daughter would have the time of her life!

They all arrived back at my brother-in-law's house for dinner. My daughter was so excited when she told me that they took a walk in the woods, and she walked their yellow lab dog (honestly, the sweetest dog I've ever seen). They also saw five deer during this walk! When they returned to the house, they had hot chocolate and drew pictures of the deer. After that, they decorated the family's Chanukah bush--a six-foot tree that was covered with Chanukah ornaments.

The next day, my daughter told me that she wanted a Chanukah bush. I explained that her cousins' mother was Jewish, but their father was Christian, so the Chanukah bush was a compromise for them. We didn't have a "bush" because all of us are Jewish. She thought about this for awhile then said, "I'm going to marry someone who's Christian so that I can celebrate all the holidays!"

That wasn't quite the point I was trying to get across!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm Back from Vacation! Did You Miss Me?

Well, I missed blogging, but had a fantastic time visiting family! I plan to blog about all the funny things that happened, but not now. I'm just too tired to write coherently. I know, that hasn't stopped me in the past!

I did want to give a plug to some people who are working on a documentary about kids with Asperger's or high-functioning autism. They're looking for families across the country who are interested in being interviewed about their experiences. In particular, they are looking for families that have multiple children (two or more) with Aspergers or high functioning autism who also have typical children (siblings) in the home. Ideally, the children would be 7 and above, as they would like to include interviews with them as well.

Here is the exact message from Nina, the Development Casting Producer:

We are in the early stages of developing a documentary series about families that have multiple children with Aspergers syndrome. I’m contacting you to see if you could share our information with your group members or refer families that you think might be interested in participating. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.

We think this could be an amazing opportunity to shed light on misconceptions surrounding an individual's ability to live a normal life with this disorder(s). Our intent is to produce a thoughtful and respectful series that will lead to a greater understanding and sensitivity about Aspergers and/or Autism through the real-life perspectives of the family members featured.

A little about us... Pie Town Productions is an award-winning company that was founded in 1995. We have produced over 3,200 episodes of programming in a variety of formats from daily series to network specials to weekly reality shows. Our client list over the last fifteen-plus years includes: Discovery, TLC, Paramount, A&E, WE, Lifetime Television, Logo, CMT, Discovery Health, the Food Network, and HGTV. We've brought over 44 series, 36 special projects, and 1 feature documentary to the market, including the Emmy-award winning A Baby Story. We are currently producing the new Food Network hit, Meat and Potatoes and WE's new family docu-soap, Downsized. To see more about our programming go to www.pietown.tv

Again, any and all help would be appreciated.

Please feel free to contact me directly for further information.

Thanks very much for your time! I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm Regards,

Development Casting Producer
Pie Town Productions

I want to state that I'm in no way affiliated with this effort (although I wish I was--it sounds like a fun project). I'm just trying to help them get the word out to help recruit interested families!

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When Good Advice Turns Bad

Raising a child on the spectrum can present some challenges in daily life. Because of this, my daughter received behavior therapy for about a year. My daughter's behavior therapy services ended, and now, I've been receiving training on how best to mold my daughter's behavior.

It boils down very simply to rewarding the good behavior and not reinforcing the bad behavior. It's obviously much easier said than done! I oftentimes will fall back into bad habits, although I try to self-correct them as quickly as possible.

What's even worse is that I often find myself using these techniques on other people--particularly on my husband. For example, I was washing dishes tonight while my husband was trying to reach past me at an awkward angle to grab something that needed to be washed. This caused him to cry out in pain. When I realized what he was trying to do, I found myself saying, "Next time, just use your words. I can get it for you!"

I've done other things too that I'm not always proud of. Sometimes during an argument, he'll have a hard time looking at me and will be glancing at something else, like a chair. Out of anger, I'll say, "Are you talking to the chair?" This usually results with him getting angrier with me, as I knew it would.

While the techniques I've been learning can be helpful in many situations, such as making requests clear and concise, I've sometimes used the techniques in a slightly obnoxious manner.

I'm sorry for doing that, honey!

Now go take out the trash. Here's your sticker!

Monday, November 22, 2010

How Convenient!

We love to go out to brunch on most weekends! I love eating omelets and pancakes.

Isn't brunch the very best meal? I think so!

Anyway, there's this business near where we go that is a strange combination of things. They do picture framing, which is good. It's always nice to have a place that can frame your photos. They also develop photos and can develop them in an hour. I guess that's not too big a stretch. I mean, they can develop the photos, then frame them. I wonder if anyone even brings in film to be developed any more. That seems strange.

Maybe for that reason, they provide other services also. One service they advertise on their window is being a notary. So, while you're waiting for your photos to develop, then frame, you can get your signature on important documents notarized. I think I have the need to do all three often! Well, at least once a year or so. Okay, I've never had the need to do all three. In fact, I've never had the need to do any single one of those items very often. And to be honest, when the time comes that I do need a picture frame, my signature notarized, or a passport photo taken, I won't be going there!

Why, do you ask? Well, because of the other service they provide. They sell adult films there. So, while you're getting your pictures developed, that you're going to also have framed and getting your signature on those important documents notarized, you can also buy your favorite pornos.

How convenient!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Hope her Teacher Has a Sense of Humor!

I know I've been blogging a lot about how much homework my daughter gets. I've also blogged recently about how artistic my daughter is. So, imagine my surprise when my daughter got a little creative with her homework. Her assignment was to draw pictures of words that have the "AR" sound somewhere in the word.

Here is what she did:

That's my daughter!

Something tells me she's not the only kid in the class that picked that word--and I'm not talking about "heart."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Special Needs Blog Hop--Thanksgiving Memory


The topic for this week's blog hop is to share a Thanksgiving Memory. I don't really have one particular memory to share. We generally spend Thanksgiving with relatives. Generally, a child on the spectrum does not handle traveling very well. The whole experience can be overwhelming. In addition, many kids on the spectrum cannot handle change of any kind. I remember once reading an internet forum where post after post shared horrible stories about awful Thanksgiving celebrations.

I'm thankful that our family hasn't had those experiences. My daughter doesn't seem to mind any change to her routine. She also loves to travel and is really easy to travel with. She loves to fly on the plane and read her books. Unfortunately, last year she also snuck in reading some pages of my book. "Are You There God, It's Me, Chelsea" may not have been the most appropriate book for her to read. Luckily, she said she couldn't really understand it since it had too many words that she didn't know (probably mostly beginning with the letter F).

Anyhow, being an only child, she loves seeing her aunt and uncle and the many cousins and extended family and friends that descend at Thanksgiving. She loves the food! She even loves watching a little football or Guitar Hero being played.

This year, she'll meet two new additions to the family, and she's really looking forward to seeing the babies!

I'm sure we'll have more good Thanksgiving memories!

When your Child Isn't Invited

The television show, "Parenthood," had a really great storyline on Asperger's this week. Kristina had to deal with the sadness of what happens when your child isn't invited to a birthday party when almost every other child in the class is. It's a little hard to glean what Max's school situation is (public vs. private? inclusive class vs. special needs?). When Kristina discussed the classroom's inclusive policy that birthday invitations go to every child, it sounded like the classroom was following the inclusion model, which is where the majority of students are "typical" while a few are not. The twist in this situation was that the child having the party also was on the spectrum and was previously good friends with Max.

I have been complaining that this season of "Parenthood," while still being very good, hasn't quite up to the quality of the first season. One of my main complaints was that Kristina's character has become an over-the-top control freak who's pretty annoying. She's turned into a parody of herself. The storyline this week started with her wanting to control everything (yet again). She was devastated that her child was left out--as she should be--and wanted him included, even if Max didn't seem to care at all that he wasn't invited.

But something interesting happened. The writers brought more depth and complexity to Kristina than they've done in this season. They made her more thoughtful and smart. Her interactions with the birthday girl's mother were excellent. She was able to turn what was a negative situation into a very positive one.

The last scene of her and the other mother showed them drinking wine and talking while the behaviorist was working with the two kids in the other room. At first, I laughed when I saw this, thinking my behaviorist would have NEVER let me do that! Then I realized that Adam and Kristina probably pay for their behaviorist on their own, so Kristina can enjoy all the wine she wants without having child welfare social workers busting down her door!

The whole birthday party politics is a tough one for any family to handle. But when you have a child with special needs who interacts with "typical" kids, these situations can get very difficult--and not just for fear that your child will be excluded. Back when my daughter was in preschool, I wanted to invite her preschool class to her party. I was a big believer in including all the kids. However, there was one girl I really hated inviting. This girl would call my daughter names such as "cry baby." I told my daughter why I was including her on the party guest list. This was not easy for me to do.

But something strange happened. The girl went to my daughter's party and had a great time. She also started to see my daughter in a totally new light. Her mom told me a couple of weeks later that her daughter said my daughter was "cool!" Not only did the name calling stop, but they became very good friends! I believe this friendship really reinforced the behavior therapy my daughter was just starting to receive. She quickly realized that there was a huge payoff for not crying over every little thing.

As difficult as party politics are, we sometimes do have to go outside our comfort zone or the status quo just doesn't change.

Kudos to "Parenthood" for realizing this!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Industry Town

It's that time of the week--time for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. We are just zooming through the alphabet and are now on the letter "I."

I live in Los Angeles and when people talk about "The Industry" they're talking about one thing. If your guess is sunglasses manufacturing, then you're way off. "The Industry" is the Entertainment Industry, of course.

While my husband is employed in the employment industry, I've had very little to do with it. However, I decided to check out a television show taping since it's relatively close, free, and during school hours. There's a new talk show called "The Talk" that's pretty easy to get tickets to attend. I called last week and got into yesterday's show.

I had to arrive a couple of hours before the beginning of the show to check in, sign release forms, and stand around. Because they ask you to dress upscale, my feet were hurting in my high heels, which are not as comfortable as my mom flats I usually wear!

Once I got inside the studio, I found out that a lot of care and thought goes into seating the guests. They were leaving the primo seats up front totally empty and filling the seats that were further back. The guy who was responsible for seating my friend and me sweet-talked us, saying that he was putting us in special seats since we were so pretty. Then he stuck us in seats toward the back. However, we were placed in aisle seats, which I understand is a pretty big deal, because you're more likely to have a camera shot.

After people are seating, they then rearrange where we're sitting. I was moved across the aisle and other people in that row were also moved. However some pretty cool people were placed in my old seat and the adjacent seat. Holly Robinson-Peete's mother and son were seated there.

At the very last moment, a group of women filled the front two seats. I had no idea who they were, but figured that they were all friends of someone in the show. During the show, Julie Chen announced that some of the biggest bloggers from Southern California were at the show today. How did they find out I was there? Sadly, I wasn't one of them. I don't know who all the bloggers were, but I found out that Momfluential and Ooph were there. Unlike me, they were given the VIP treatment and even had lunch with the cast afterward. I was beyond jealous, but how cool for them!

My seats were right behind a camera, so I had a hard time seeing the action. It was fun experiencing the show live, though. I did have a lot of fun!

But the highlight for me was meeting Holly Robinson-Peete's mother and son. I spoke with them during a commercial break and shared about my daughter's Asperger's. Holly's mom, Dorothy, commented that having a family member on the spectrum totally changes you and makes you a better person. She commented that now when she flies, if there is a child crying on the plane, she approaches the mother and asks if she can help her.

This really moved me. I think we can all learn to show simple caring like that. Instead of judging, we should offer support.

So, while I may not have gotten the grand treatment today, I did have a fabulous time and met a very special person.

It's cool living in an industry town.

Oh, on another note, I watched some of the show when I got home. There was a quick, close-up shot of me the first time they panned the audience. I've heard that the camera adds about 5 extra pounds. That's totally not true--it's closer to 30 pounds. Yikes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When Did this Happen?

In case you haven't picked up from my earlier posts, my daughter is very smart. She never ceases to amaze me! One area that she seems to lag behind in, however, is her drawing. She's quite talented with putting together trash into art, however. In preschool, there would be an arts and crafts table where parents could leave things like egg cartons, empty big yogurt containers, and other trash that's great for art projects. My daughter could literally spend hours there turning the trash into amazing things! She made a giraffe, robots, even a Buzz Lightyear! I thought her behaviorist did most of the work and was surprised to find out that my daughter was the one who created all these things. But she showed no talent for drawing. None. Zilch. In fact, she looked like she was drawing something a 4 year old would draw instead of an almost 7 year old.

Then something strange happened recently. She started taking an after-school cartooning class. I wasn't that thrilled at first about the class. I wanted her to do something that had more social interaction with other kids. Also, because I didn't think drawing was her talent, I thought the class would be kind of a waste. But she really wanted to take the class, so I signed her up.

I'm glad she was so insistent. For one thing, the class is taught by a fourth-grade teacher at the school. The classroom is amazing and the teacher is totally awesome! She really hit it off with my daughter, which is great. I'm hoping it'll give my daughter an edge to be assigned to her in a few years (yes, I'm planning ahead 3 grades. I'm psycho that way). I've later learned that this teacher is highly sought-after. I'm not at all surprised.

It turns out the the class has been pretty good for socializing. A friend of my daughter's is in that class, so she has someone to sit next to and talk a bit with while drawing, which is great. She also knows a couple of the other kids in the class. Also, some of the other kids are in a science class that my daughter takes after school on another day. So, even though this class has kids from first all the way through fifth grades, she pretty much knows all the kids in the class now--and they all like her. Awesome!

The biggest surprise is that the class is teaching my daughter really great drawing techniques and is beginning to have a huge impact on her drawing ability. I'm beginning to think she's actually showing some talent. I'm including some of her recent artwork. She drew the girl (Maggie the Magician) during cartooning class, and she drew the dog at home.

I'm learning to never underestimate my daughter's capabilities and talents. It's amazing what a good teacher can do!

I'm Decompressing!

Wow, it was so fabulous being the SITS featured blogger on Friday! I had almost 3 times the normal traffic on that day and a total of 89 comments. On a typical day, I'm happy to get about 15 comments! People wrote such flattering comments too! So the day was thrilling. I needed to decompress after all that excitement!

One thing I did was go to a spa and chocolate party on Friday night. It was hosted by one of my daughter's service providers. There was chocolate galore, plus we got to enjoy "spa" treatments. This turned out to be essentially a party where someone has you try the different products, then sells them at the end, which wasn't what I was expecting. Nevertheless, the products were really nice! I ended up winning a bunch of free things and bought some additional products too. And ate lots--I mean some--chocolate. I was so relaxed at the end of the evening, that I felt like I needed a wheelbarrow to get me out of there.

I also had fun chatting with the other moms. It was a really nice moms' night out!

The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxing. My daughter and I went to the park today where she ran into a friend from school. They played together for a long time and were excited to see gophers, bunnies, and lots of dogs at the park. It was a gorgeous day. We've been having about 80 degree weather. It doesn't get much better than this!

I hope you had a great weekend too!

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm Guest Blogging Today!

In addition to it being my SITS Day, I'm blogging over at Life is a Spectrum, Amanda Broadfoot's site. Amanda and I found each other in the blogosphere about a couple of months ago, and we were hooked on each other's sites ever since.

If you haven't been to her site yet, you really have to check her out. She's funny, insightful, and just plain awesomeness all around!

Just check out my post, then check out all her wonderful posts and vlogs.

You won't be sorry I sent you!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hooray! It's My SITS Day!

Today is my SITS Day! I'm so excited! For those of you who do not know about SITS, it's a community of bloggers who support and cheer each other on! To be a featured blogger, you have to submit a request, support the other featured bloggers and wait for your turn! Let's just say that when I submitted my blog, SITS was named The Secret is in the Sauce and had about 4,000 followers. Now their name is changed to The Secret is in the Support and they have 7,536 followers (but who's counting?).

So, if you want great tips on housekeeping, cooking, and parenting have I got the site for you! It's located at www.marthastewart.com. My site is more about me muddling through parenting an amazing 6 year old girl who has high-functioning autism/Asperger's. When I started the blog back in February of this year, I wanted to celebrate the quirkiness of my daughter. I figured there were plenty of websites on autism that dealt with the challenges. I wanted to write a blog that was more positive and celebrated the differences. I'm not always successful in doing this since some days can be more challenging than others.

I started blogging because as a stay-at-home-mom with a school-aged kid, I found that I wanted to do something productive with my downtime. In my before-being-a-mommy-life I worked as a Senior Analyst for a Congressional agency. This job required extensive travel and long hours. While giving up working to be a SAHM is great, I really missed making money and using my brain. Blogging seemed like the perfect was to make money at home while having very flexible hours. Once I started blogging, however, I quickly realized it's really hard to make money doing it. I did find that I loved the creative outlet of writing. It's also extremely therapeutic so it saves me tons of money on therapist bills. Through the SITS community, I've found many other excellent bloggers whom I enjoy reading!

I was asked to provide links to three of my favorite posts. It's really hard for me to pick three. If you have extra time to spare, I list my favorite posts on the right side of the blog (you'll have to scroll down a bit). For the three posts, I wanted to chose my Inner Demons post to show some raw emotion, my Vagina Dialogues post to show some humor, and my What a Show! post to brag about going to the Oscars this past year.

Thanks for taking the time to read about me and my blog!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Special Needs Blog Hop--Share a Funny Memory. Or Three.


I'm participating in the Special Needs blog hop this week. I haven't been doing it as much because every week is just too much for a blog hop for me. But it's been almost a month, so I can jump in again!

The topic this week is to share a funny memory of my child. There's so many that it's hard to settle on just one. So, I'll relate a few!

This first memory occurred at a wedding we went to when my daughter was 2.5. Talk about the terrible two's! We didn't have an inkling about my daughter's Asperger's at the time. We just thought she had an extreme case of the terrible two's (to be followed by the terrible three's and the terrible four's...well, you get the idea). We were at the reception, sitting at our assigned table when the waiters started to remove the champagne flutes from the places where children were sitting. When the waiter removed my daughter's champagne flute, she loudly shouted, "NO! I want to drink wine!" That comment probably caused the most laughter that day!

The second memory was right after my daughter turned 4. This was still before we knew she had Asperger's and didn't know about positive reinforcement. We generally had to threaten her. She was horrible about putting her toys away. So both my husband and I said that if she didn't put her toys away, we would take them away for a few days. She responded that was fine with her. That night, my husband and I worked HOURS to take all her toys away. We even took away everything on her arts and crafts table with the exception of her crayons and paper. Usually, her table is a huge mess.

The next day, she was so tired, she didn't even notice the lack of toys. However, while she was eating breakfast she realized, but kept a poker face about it. I was amazed considering that this is a child who would tantrum over nothing! Here she was, keeping stoic as she realized that all her toys were gone. After she was done eating, she ran into the playroom, looked around, saw her neat table, and exclaimed, "The table looks fabulous!" I knew at that moment that we were going to have our hands full when she's a teenager. Yikes!

The third memory was when she was 3 and starting to script (again, we were absolutely clueless that this was autistic behavior). She was at her My Gym class, and the coach had her hang upside down from the rings. As my daughter was hanging upside down she exclaimed, "I'm a caterpillar forming a chrysalis!"

In case you're wondering, this is why the blog is called "Little Bit Quirky."

Homework Hassles

It's that time of the week for linking up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. We're up to the letter H! I can't believe how fast we're flying through the alphabet! H is for homework hassles.

Last year, when my daughter was in kindergarten, she would be given a sheet with the homework assignments for the week. These homework assignments were developmentally-oriented. She would normally have to do things like set the table (can homework get better than that?), teach me a song, or go through the house counting the number of windows and doors. I always thought the homework assignments were pretty fun to do and were a nice supplement to what she learned at school. If I had any complaints at all, it was that they should have assigned more household chores. Oh well!

Now that my daughter is in first grade, she's given a homework packet every weeknight except for Fridays that is due the next day. The packets generally consist of about 8 worksheets. Monday's packet actually only has 5 or 6 worksheets because my daughter also has to write six sentences incorporating the spelling words for the week.

The homework seems a bit on the excessive side. Some nights, it can take up to an hour to complete. My daughter's teacher has a reputation for being an excellent but tough teacher. Because of this, I assumed her homework would be the toughest. However, after seeing the homework packets from the other first grade classes, I realized that we actually have it pretty good!

Are we expecting too much from our kids? Also, is their time better spent doing other activities rather than homework when they get home? Having a child on the spectrum, I would answer "yes" to these questions. I think after the 6.5 hour school day my daughter spends at school, her free time would be better spent playing with her classmates or doing other activities. I think six year-old kids still need to explore the world and play as part of their development. I don't think they get adequate time doing this. In addition, my daughter has other activities for after school such as gymnastics to work on her low trunk muscles, a two-hour social skills class, cartooning class, science class, and Daisy Girl Scout meetings. It can be difficult to fit the homework into our busy schedule.

During the first month or so, doing homework was pretty painful. While it's still not fun for my daughter to do, she doesn't dread it as much as she used to. She's able to sit down and do it pretty quickly. Her writing abilities have improved dramatically as well as her ability to construct sentences. While I might not like the amount of work she has to do, I've been blown away by her progress! She brought home a report she wrote at school on baboons. The teacher gave her the highest grade and a smiley face on the report. She doesn't hand these out very easily!

So while the homework might still be a hassle to do, my daughter does seem to be conquering this challenge! The other day, she wondered why they don't get a homework packet on Fridays to complete since they could turn it in on the following Monday. She almost seemed disappointed!

That's a head-scratcher, but I'm glad the homework isn't as big of a hassle as it used to be!

Now, if her first grade teacher would assign household chores instead!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Top 5 Things I Love about Fall

1. The cooler weather.

Where I live it can get very hot in the summer. It's not unusual to have triple digit heat. Sometimes, the temperature soars to over 110. It's just miserable. I love when the temperatures finally start to cool off.

2. The half-off chocolate bin after Halloween.

This is the season of chocolate--inexpensive chocolate! Yum!

3. Excitement for the holidays is brewing.

Well either that or sheer terror. I just realized that Chanukah starts on December 1st this year. That's in 3 weeks. I haven't started shopping yet. I feel a panic attack coming on. Oh yeah...and I'm so excited for the holiday season!

4. The beautiful fall colors.

My husband finds this one hilarious. He's a New Yorker, so he's seen magnificent fall colors. I'm a Los Angeles girl, so I really haven't. However, we do live in a part of Los Angeles that has a lot of trees. Many of these trees do turn to beautiful shades of yellow or red. It's really quite lovely. My husband thinks it's pathetic compared to the colors in the Northeast. Whatever.

5. Fallen leaves to play in.

My daughter is having a blast playing in the fallen leaves this year. She loves to build really big piles, then jump into them. She looks like she's having the time of her life!

I just realized that I recently blogged about the top 10 things I love about Halloween. I think the lists celebrate enough different things (except for chocolate, which is the common denominator in the two lists).

What do you love about fall?

Monday, November 8, 2010

We're the Ones Driving the Bus. I Think.

My daughter graduated out of behavior therapy over a month ago. Since then the agency has been doing parental training. This means a behaviorist who is at a supervisory level is working with me to train me on doing behavior therapy with my daughter.

Overall, my daughter has been doing pretty well. There are a couple of key behavior issues that I've been trying to work on. I'm trying to remind her to use her words and express what's frustrating her or making her sad or mad instead of crying or tantrumming. I'm also trying to get her to actually do what I ask her to do. She's been defying me a lot lately.

I met with the supervisor to discuss the issues, and I tell her about problem areas that crop up during the week. After listening to the issues, the supervisor very pleasantly tells me that I'm being too inconsistent with my daughter. She felt that I'm making too many excuses for my daughter's behavior, and that I'm not really taking her advice on behavior therapy seriously. She was quick to add that this might be fine. My husband and I might like a more consensual parenting style, but this conflicts with behavior therapy. She asked me, "Do you want your child to be in control or do you want to be in control?"

Her words really stung. I really felt depressed after she left. I thought I was muddling through this parenting maze pretty well, but she had me second-guessing everything I was doing. My first reaction was that she was wrong and crazy. My husband and I are pretty strict, and I think we're more consistent than most parents.

After giving it some thought, however, I realized that she did make some good points. Part of the problem is that the two behaviors we're trying to stamp out on somewhat in conflict with each other. For example, I like when my daughter's knee-jerk reaction isn't to cry but to calmly express what her needs are. So, when I tell her it's time to leave, and she answers, "Okay, I just want to finish this one thing--it'll just take a minute!" I'm very happy to oblige her, and we're all happy.

However, according to the supervisor, my daughter is essentially not complying with my request. She has to comply immediately, otherwise everything turns into a big negotiation. So, if I'm trying to reward the compliance issue, and she requests extra time after I made my request, I'm supposed to count that as noncompliance.

I see that as being a bit harsh. But I did try to change my tactics a bit after my meeting with the supervisor. When I went to pick my daughter up from school, she wanted to play in the awesome leaves on the ground. We have some glorious trees next to the school that have these huge leaves that are probably the size of my face. This time of year, they turn a beautiful shade of yellow, than shower down onto the ground. Living in Los Angeles, there aren't that many trees like that here. So, it's a treat for the kids to play in the leaves. I allowed my daughter to play for a really long time. Then I gave her a two-minute warning.

When the two minutes were up and it was time to leave, she told me that she was making one last trip of gathering leaves to add to the pile she made. She quickly did this, then joined me by our car. Before the meeting with the supervisor, I would have been happy with how she handled that transition and would have praised her for using her words. However, this time I didn't do that exactly. Instead, I told her that she missed out on getting a sticker for following directions because she didn't come over right when I asked. I then told her that I did like the way she used her words, however, to calmly tell me what she was doing. I repeated this technique another time that afternoon. For the rest of the weekend, she complied with requests immediately after I asked. She also did a great job of using her words and not crying the entire weekend.

I still get a little depressed because I feel pretty inept with the whole parenting job. I guess I'll continue to try to muddle through the best I can and try to stay as consistent as possible.

Whoever said that parenting is easy must be on something really mind-blowing all of the time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

You're Moving? Let's Be Best Friends!

My daughter has a new friend at school. Things started out rocky in the beginning of the school year. My daughter said this girl was mean to her. Her behaviorist told me that their run-ins weren't truly run-ins, and my daughter was just perceiving things incorrectly. For example, my daughter said this girl hit her with her backpack intentionally, but the behaviorist saw the incident and said it was clearly an accident.

Things started to improve a couple of weeks ago. My daughter began to view this girl as a friend and didn't dislike her anymore. I was pleased about this. However, the other day, my daughter asked if we could take a trip to New Jersey some time after Thanksgiving because that's where her new friend was moving to. Now that my daughter knows that this girl is moving away in a few weeks, she's decided to start obsessing about her a bit. She drew a picture of her, and she talks about her quite a bit. I can't help but think she's going to be devastated when the girl moves in a few weeks.

I'm at a loss about why my daughter does this. She has a tendency to set herself up for disappointment. She does this in other areas also. For example, we'll give her a five-minute warning before bedtime. She takes that as her cue to start a really big project and gets really upset when she discovers she has to get ready for bed right when she's engrossed in the project. She seems to lack the ability for avoiding disappointment that the rest of us come by naturally. In fact, she seems to seek it out.

Does anyone else's child do this as well?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Top 10 Reasons You Might Be Addicted to Blogging

Yesterday I had a crazy-busy day. After school drop-off, I had to attend a school district meeting, then I met up with some former coworkers for lunch. After that, I made it to the school just in time to get my daughter and lead the Daisy Girl Scout meeting. My daughter then did her homework at a lunch table at the school, then we went to her gymnastics class. We left the house at 7:30 in the morning and didn't get home until 6:15 at night.

I knew Wednesday was going to be hectic, and I wouldn't be able to get near a computer for the entire day. So, I was up really late on Tuesday night writing my Wednesday post. My husband, who knew I desperately needed sleep, mentioned that I could skip posting one day on my blog. It wouldn't make the world stop spinning on its axis. I looked at him like he was nuts, then continued typing away. This inspired my post today.

The top 10 reasons you might be addicted to blogging:

1. You're afraid your readers will be upset if they have to go one day without reading your humorous, insightful, and intelligent words of wisdom.

2. You're afraid your readers won't care if you go one day without reading your humorous, insightful, and intelligent words of wisdom.

3. You're afraid your readers will unfollow you if you skip posting one day.

4. You can't go a day without reading the humorous, insightful, and intelligent posts of the bloggers you follow.

5. You obsess over the number of people that follow you and think why can't it just get up to 200 already (or 300, 500, 1,000, or 50 million if you're Heather Armstrong).

6. You obsess over the number of people that visit your blog and check your Google Analytics twice a day (or 20 times a day; really, who's counting?).

7. You're trying to figure out how to package your blog into being a "New York Times" bestseller.

8. You're contemplating hiring an agent after you get 10 comments on a post.

9. You check your blog for comments twice a day (okay, 20 times a day; but really, who's counting?).

10. You've signed up for the BlogHer 11 conference the day after BlogHer 10 ended because you had to get your ticket before it sold out.

Whew! I only hit 9 of those items. I'm not buying my BlogHer 11 ticket until December. See, I'm not addicted to blogging!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Am so Grateful!

It's time for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday post. The letter this week is "G." It would be so tempting to write about ghosts, with Halloween being on my brain. Okay, I also love both reading about ghosts and watching television shows about ghosts. I'm a bit of a ghost addict. This addiction isn't as bad as my blogging addiction though! But I'm not going to blog about ghosts. I'm going to blog about being grateful.

It's been about two years since my daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was 4.5 years old. When she was first diagnosed, she had very little interaction with her peers. She enjoyed playing on her own more. At school pick-up time, I would often find her in the corner of the sandbox playing in the sand by herself. If another child approached her, she would cry, fearing the other child wanted to take the toys she was playing with. Yet, she had a look of yearning on her face at times when she watched the other kids play. She appeared to want to join them but clearly did not know how.

Then there were her tantrums. These occurred multiple times of the day. She would tantrum when she had to transition from one activity to another but didn't want to stop what she was doing. She would also tantrum if things did not go her way. Everyday when I arrived at school to pick her up, she would tantrum. This usually started as soon as she saw me. So while other moms were greeted by loving kids who were excited to see their moms and greeted them with hugs, I was greeted with horrible tantrums and refusals to leave school. Yeah, those were good times! I also have memories of my daughter tantrumming when she would drop a half a grape at dinner time. I'd give her a new grape (cut in half), but she'd start tantrumming because I was giving her two halves to replace the one half she dropped. That one never made sense to me.

So why am I grateful? Because in the two years since my daughter was diagnosed with autism, she has grown by leaps and bounds. She now plays with other kids and willingly shares toys and food with her friends. She is caring and empathetic when someone is hurt. She's learning to be flexible when things do not go her way. She is learning to express herself with words rather than with tears when she gets upset. She now greets me with smiles and hugs when I pick her up from school, often eager to tell me about her day.

Yes, she still has struggles in these areas and will sometimes regress. But the fact that she is doing all these things makes me feel so grateful. I hope the improvements keep happening, but I'm extremely grateful for the improvements that have occurred. I honestly didn't think she'd progress this far this fast.

And for that, I am grateful.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ghosts, Ghouls, and Zombies! Oh My!

What a Halloween weekend it was! On Friday, my daughter had a party at her school. The teacher had the kids play games like freeze dance and musical chairs. I was floored that my daughter did so well at musical chairs! Generally, if the kids have to line up to do something, my daughter somehow ends up at the end of the line. She just isn't quick enough or "on" enough to jump into a line sooner. So, imagine my surprise when she was not only engaged in the game, but down-right competitive about it! She ended up tying for the win. The teacher had one tie-breaker, but they tied again! I was a really proud mom. My daughter did get my husband and my competitive gene. Yay!

After the school party, my daughter went to another party of a classmate. I was surprised at how few kids in her class were invited to the party. Wow, my daughter was invited to an exclusive party! Yay, again!

On Saturday, we went to a Halloween carnival, which I had already blogged about here. I was impressed at how my daughter was getting into the scary part of Halloween--not just excited about the candy part of it. There were two things that did scare me at the carnival, however. The first was that my daughter went down a really big slide. You know, the kind you have to sit on a potato sack for. My heart was beating really fast watching her careen down that thing. The other scary moment was when she went on the roller coaster they had set up. As I was watching her go round and round on the little track, I noticed the front of the car had "Final Destination 3" painted on the front of it. That gave me the willies.

Then came trick or treating on Sunday. We live in a hill community. The streets are narrow and have no sidewalks or streetlights. The hills can be steep to climb. During the 6 Halloweens that we've lived in this house, we have never had any trick or treaters. We've never contemplated trick or treating in our neighborhood. We've had to go elsewhere.

This year, I heard that there was excellent trick or treating in a neighboring community. I heard stories of elaborate Halloween decorations, people giving full-size candy bars, and famous people giving out these candy bars from their very pricey homes. It sounded like fun, so we decided to brave the crowds (they supposed get thousands of people) and hit the neighborhood.

I don't know if it lived up to all its hype, but we did have an amazing time! While many of the homes weren't too over-the-top with their decorations, the overall vibe was amazing! Everyone (even the adults) were in costume. Many people didn't even bother to hide their beer and wine as they talked and partied with their neighbors. Everyone was happy and in the Halloween spirit. My daughter even got warmly greeted at one house where a classmate of hers was giving out candy. We were thrown since this neighborhood doesn't feed into our elementary school, but it looked like it was the house of a friend of theirs.

While my daughter did score one full-size candy (I don't believe from an actor, although I found out what house to hit for next year), most houses were really rationing their candy since they have so many kids to give it out to. That was fine with us! My daughter still has enough candy to last her until next Halloween (if not longer).

One house had kids hiding in the bushes. As you walked by, they would jump out and yell, "Boo!" It was pretty fun! One house, however, was amazingly over the top. Most of the pictures shown are from this house and only show a small amount of what they did. Words cannot even describe the decorations of this house! They also had people dressed up as ghouls that would try to block your way and not move. One of these ghouls sidled over to my daughter and was walking right by her. I think the ghoul was trying to get my daughter to take her hand to then freak her out! What the ghoul succeeded in doing was freaking a friend of mine out! She thought the ghoul was going to ghoul-nap my daughter! When my daughter realized what was happening and was a little confused, I prompted her to say, "Step aside, Zombie! I'm coming through!" My daughter said this, and the ghoul silently moved out of the way.

What was really amazing, though, was how much my daughter was into the decorations! She actually enjoyed looking at everything more than even getting the candy. And nothing freaked her out--not the ghouls, the dead cows (fake, but really realistic-looking), the skeletons, the kids jumping out of bushes--nothing. This is taking Halloween to a whole new level for us!

When we arrived back at home I was amazed to hear the doorbell ring. Wouldn't you know? We had our very own set of trick-or-treaters--a first for us! Luckily, I had my secret stash of chocolate to share with our special visitors!

Also, just so you don't think my neighborhood is a complete dud, we do have one house that does an over-the-top show. Here's a link to the House at Haunted Hill. We hit it a couple of years ago and was really impressed. A friend who went on Saturday night heard that Neal Patrick Harris was there to check it out! When we last went a couple of years ago, it wasn't as well-known and didn't get huge crowds.

I hope everyone had a wonderful and scary Halloween!

Monday, November 1, 2010

No Shutting Me Up!

I am so excited to tell you about our Halloween, but it's going to have to wait until Tuesday's post. Why? Well because there's something else I HAVE to address today. There is an international movement for today to be Communication Shutdown Day. This is an effort to raise funds and awareness about autism. The idea is to donate a minimum of $5, then not use the internet for the entire day on November 1st. This means no blogging, e-mailing, facebooking, or Twittering.

Per the website that is behind this movement: "Our aim is to simply encourage a greater understanding from people outside the autism community. Social network users have become reliant and even addicted to platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And if they shutdown for 1 day, they will feel a sense of disconnection and a sense of frustration. By creating a little empathy, we hope to encourage a wider understanding and acceptance of people with autism - an understanding we recognise those in the autism community already have."

While I think it's great that they're trying to raise money and empathy, I think it's misguided to believe that someone staying off Facebook for the day would experience what a person with autism experiences. I LOVE the internet as much as anyone, but I don't think depriving myself of it will give me a deeper understanding or empathy. I think it would force me to call friends or actually have coffee with friends instead. The communication shutdown would force me to socialize, which is the opposite of what the aim of it is about!

I encourage you to donate to the autism charity you support (feel free to write me a check. Just kidding. Sort of). That would be great! But I'm also asking you to not avoid the internet like the plague. Please read up on other autism blogs or other sites featuring information on autism. I much rather people read the information that exists on the internet than avoid the internet to simulate something that really cannot be simulated.

If you can encourage your friends and family to visit some blogs or tweet or update their Facebook page about their support of family and friends affected by autism, that would be super too!

If you choose to follow Communication Shutdown Day, you're certainly entitled to make that choice. I'm choosing to not shut up!

Anyone who knows me wouldn't expect any different.