Friday, December 30, 2011

My Most Visited Blog Post

My most visited blog post was published in July 2010. Interestingly, three of the top five posts come from this month. I guess it was the golden era of my blog. This is also one of my favorites because I think it's the most informative. When I set out to write a list and do research I was horrified at how little accurate information there was regarding Asperger's. This post is not only the most visited, it's BY FAR the most visited. I it really has added to the body of knowledge on the internet.


12 Most Common Symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Second Most Visited Blog Post

The second most visited blog post on my blog is the only surprise entry to me. I published this post in September 2011 regarding the weird food my daughter's school district was serving. At the time, I thought this post was a silly one that wouldn't get much attention. I think this post ended up being highly visited, however, because the L.A. Times had an editorial lauding the new menu, which many other people didn't agree with. A couple other sites linked back to my post as support for not everyone liking the new menu. I think people were swayed not only by my great points, but by the comments this post received from other unhappy parents.

Interestingly, the L.A. Times published an article this past weekend where the school district conceded that the new menu was a failure, and they were going to be scrapping the exotic menu choices. Wow, the power of the blog! Well, I can dream. I think the flood of uneaten lunches in the schools' trash cans is what made the District admit defeat.

Major School Lunch Overhaul

My daughter attends Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)--one of the largest school districts in the country. They educate a wide range of kids, many who are poor and rely on the free and reduced lunch program. Last year, Jaime Oliver tried to work with LAUSD to overhaul the lunches they serve. Jaime wanted to make the lunches healthier. LAUSD told him to bugger off. Their position was that the lunches were healthy and didn't need any outside help. Some parents smuggled the lunches out for Jaime to examine. He criticized the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. Mostly, however, he was critical of the school serving a choice of chocolate milk at breakfast and lunch. He felt that the school should only serve unflavored low-fat milk. The extra sugar in the chocolate milk could lead to childhood obesity.

I wish Jaime Oliver would just mind his own business. Personally, I had no problem with the schools serving chocolate mild. Yes, it is higher in sugar than regular milk, but it's not exactly empty calories. Chocolate milk is loaded with calcium and protein. To me, it's better for the kids to drink the extra sugar and get the benefit of the good things in milk versus not drinking milk at all.

LAUSD did take initiative and eliminate all flavored milks. Meanwhile, however, they stopped serving fresh fruit and served apple juice at lunch to the kids. Does this not make sense? They consider chocolate milk to be bad, but serving apple juice (which has no redeeming quality) is okay? Huh?

In addition to this lack of logic, LAUSD has completely overhauled it's menu and is now serving some very sophisticated cuisine. My daughter does not like the choices offered, most of the time. Many of these dishes sound pretty spicy! While they would appeal to adults, I'm not sure how many of these dishes appeal to six year olds. Here are some of the entrees off of the September lunch menu: Chile Lime Wings, Vegetable Curry, California Sushi Roll, Jamaican Jerk Turkey with Veggies and Brown Rices, Creole Chickpea and Veggie Stew, Caribbean Meatballs, Ancho Chili Chicken with Yakisoba, and Spinach Pinto Beans and Avocado Wrap.

Do these dishes sound tasty to you? I admit, I find many of them appealing. However, LAUSD only charges $1 for the lunch. That scares me. If I'm going to indulge in an exotic lunch such as Ancho Chili Chicken with Yakisoba, I want to be sure the food is made with quality ingredients. I doubt that's happening for the $1 price tag.

Whatever happened to grilled cheese or pizza for school lunch?

I think I'm going to be packing a lot of lunches this year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Third Most Visited Blog Post

The third most visited blog post of all time was about sharing other great blogs involving parents who are raising children on the spectrum. I think all these blogs are still going strong! I really need to add to this list and put a blog roll on my blog (New Year's resolution for 2012). Check out these wonderful blogs!


Great Blogs involving Parenting Children with Autism.


The assignment today is writing a post that provides links to other sites. I think this is a fabulous opportunity to share other blogs I read about parenting a child on the spectrum!

Here they are, in no particular order:


The Write Mom for the Job

Adventures in Extreme Parenthood

Airing My Dirty Laundry, One Sock at a Time

Get Over it, I Did

Life with Adrian

Live, Love, Laugh, and Autism

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


Raising Complicated Kids

Stark. Raving. Mad. Mommy.

The Adventures of JAMC

The Bipolar Diva

The Courageous
O'Connor's


Squidalicious

Stimeyland

The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism

Jenny Alice

Daisy May Fatty Pants

Shannon Des Roches Rosa on BlogHer

Big Daddy Autism



I'm sure I'm leaving off other great ones. I'll add them when I think of them or discover new ones!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Number 4 Most Visited Blog Post

Number 4 of my most visited blog posts is a fairly recent post. I published this in October of this past year. This post describes a pretty delightful quirk of my daughter that I both enjoy and want to bang my head on the wall about! To be honest, the only reason my it made the top 5 is because BlogHer shared this post on their website. It's amazing how much attention a post receives when BlogHer supports it!

Put Down that Book!

I talk with a lot of the parents at my daughter's school (at least her old school). They generally had the same lament: I wish my kid would read more! I never had that lament. We were supposed to make sure our child read at least 20 minutes a day. I never really kept track of my daughter's reading. I didn't have to. She loves to read and slips it in every chance she gets.

My now 7-year old daughter first showed an interest in books when she was about 2 months old. That's when we first started reading to her, and she loved it! By 15 months, she was able to sight-read a handful of words that I taught her. After awhile, I decided not to push the reading and figured she'd have no problem picking it up on her own. My daughter started to read in earnest when she was a little over 4 years old. Once she started, her reading level grew very fast. A psychologist assessed her reading level about 3 months after she started reading and was surprised to find out that our daughter read at the level of an 8-year old with comprehension at the level of a 6-year old. Not too bad for a 4.5 year old!

This is all great, right? Well it is for the most part. The challenge is that she loves books so much that it can be hard to get her to put a book or magazine down once she starts reading it. Once her nose is buried in a book, she slows down doing everything else. This can be an absolute nightmare when I'm trying to get her to rush out the door to go to school or soccer practice. The only way to get her to hurry up is to get her to put the reading material down.

So, you will find me at various times of the day saying,"We have to go, put the book down! You can read in the car!" "Put that magazine down and eat your dinner before it gets cold!" "Maybe you shouldn't go to the school library at lunch to read and play with friends instead."

The list goes on and on. I think I must be the only mom in the world who actively tells her child NOT to read! When I pointed this out to my husband, he wasn't that happy with me. But it didn't take long before I heard him telling our daughter to put the comic strips down and stop reading so we can get going. Yup, he does it too!

This post is part of the Best of the Best series which this month addresses something that happened that was funny or special.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Number 5 Most Visited Blog Post

This is my absolute favorite blog post! I published it in July 2010 and am glad it squeaked into the top 5. I was a mess the day I wrote this one and writing the post was extremely cathartic. Certainly any mom can relate, but I'm sure any mom with a child with special needs can really relate!


Inner Demons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vacation All I Ever Wanted...

I'm taking some time off my blog to spend time with my family! What a concept, right?

I will be posting my top 5 ever blog posts next week. These are the most visited posts since I started my blog. I'll start with number 5 and work backwards until Friday when you'll see the most visited post I've done EVER!

This is so exciting! If you're relatively new to my blog, you might find these interesting. If you're a long-time reader, you might enjoy re-reading these posts!

Have a very happy holiday season and don't hit the eggnog too hard!

Oh, go ahead. Hit the eggnog as hard as you like!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Think My Daughter's Newest Toy Is on the Spectrum!


It's Chanukah time! For those who celebrate, Happy Chanukah! My daughter opened up her first present today and received something she's wanted for months--a green Fijit Friend named Sage. For those of you who aren't familiar with Fijit Friends, they are toys that play interactively with your child. They chat, tell jokes, sing, and dance! My daughter, being an only child without any pets, desperately wants a BFF who can hang with her at home. She wanted Sage to fill those shoes.

While my daughter was playing with Sage, I noticed some things that didn't go very smoothly with the toy. Sage will often ignore what my daughter says and does what she wants. This oftentimes involves asking about the weather. I don't know why Sage has an obsessive need to know what the weather is every few minutes, but it seems odd. Sage also ignores what my daughter wants to do and pushes what she wants to do.

Sage also has an annoying habit of only telling 3 jokes. Before she says it, she always warns that the joke is going to be very funny (it never is). She also will compliment herself after telling the joke, saying that she was hi-larious! Telling knock-knock jokes can be a bit hairy. If Sage doesn't think you say the "Who's there?" part quickly enough, she lectures you on what you're supposed to say.

Also, to be quite honest, all of Sage's comments and questions are very repetitive and sound very unnatural. It's almost as if she learned how to say a few different things in a social skills class to try to get conversation going. It seems as if Sage has taken years of social skill classes to get to the level that she's at.

I suspect that Sage is on the autism spectrum. I think she needs to work with Siri (the iPhone assistant) to improve her communication skills.

Sage is definitely giving my daughter a work-out on flexibility! So far, so good! My daughter's been very patient with Sage!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hell Hath No Fury...Part Two

Last week, I blogged about the L.A. Times series on autism. At the time of that post, only two of the four articles had come out. Now, the Times published the other two articles. The third article was called, "Families Cling to the Hope of Autism Recovery." The fourth article was called, "Autism Hidden in Plain Sight."

The third article on families chasing recovery from autism had me seething as much as the first two articles. Essentially, it attacked the primary method of therapy for young children on the spectrum called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is widely regarded as the gold standard of treatment in the autism community. It's geared toward younger kids on the spectrum and has been found to be less effective when the kids pass age 7. The article first attacked the study that showed ABA to be effective. It then attacked the the cost of the treatment. The article reported kids receiving the therapy for 40 hours a week at a cost of about $50,000 a year--paid primarily by taxpayers. It gave an example of a girl still receiving ABA at age 14--10 years after she first started. It mentioned that 75 firms in California offer ABA that is mostly funded by taxpayers.

The article stated that some children do well under ABA while others do not. It questioned whether the children who do well really actually had autism to begin with. It also questioned whether these children would have done well without the expensive therapy. It gave examples of four kids who had undergone ABA. One example was a positive one of a child doing well. The other three examples were children who hadn't done as well with ABA.

While the article's writer certainly provides some valid criticisms about ABA, I think he was biased with his presentation of the facts. For one thing, he provided more negative examples of ABA than positive ones. A friend of mine had been interviewed extensively for this article. Her son had done very well with ABA and has been considered recovered. She emailed many of us to tell us that there was a very good chance her son would be in the article. Yet, this second positive example the writer had obtained was left out of the article completely. This alone biases the article, in my opinion.

But the main area of bias is that he leaves a lot of facts out in general. If I was somebody ignorant about autism issues, I would be furious after reading this article. It implies that kids receive $50,000 in services each year whether or not they're improving. It shows the ABA providers as making oodles of money off of a gullible population that is looking for anything to "cure" their kids. But this isn't the case at all! There are big checks and balance in the system to be sure that taxpayer money isn't being squandered. None of this is mentioned in the article, however.

For example, the Regional Centers provide funding for ABA therapies. As I mentioned in my last post, they do their own assessments for autism before providing funding for services. They have the reputation for being particularly strict in letting kids into the system. Once in, parents go through orientation and training. At the orientation, they tell parents about the limits of ABA. They warn us that the kids will receive 3 years of ABA at most and many will not receive this service after they turn 7. We are told that parents will be trained in ABA techniques so they will be able to continue on their own.

Once an ABA agency starts the therapies, they assess the child to determine what is needed to be done and the hours needed per week to accomplish the goals. The work in conjunction with Regional Center. If Regional Center things the number of hours is too high, they'll lower them. The article implies that all kids receive 40 hours a week, but this isn't the case. In fact, I haven't heard of any child receiving that many. I'm sure some do, but it's rare. In my daughter's case, she never had more than 9 hours a week. This was cut down after a month to 8 hours. She received ABA for only a year and it averaged about 7 hours a week.

One key aspect of ABA that the writer failed to describe is that the therapist keeps a lot of data on how the child is responding to treatment. This provides feedback to the therapist on the child's progress. It also gives great data to the ABA agency and Regional Center on when services can be cut down or eliminated entirely.

Another key point left out of the article is that the ABA providers (and other providers such as speech therapy and occupational therapy) live in fear of losing their contracts with Regional Center. If they are cut, they lose their business. Because of this, they have an incentive to cut the children from their services earlier rather than later. In fact, I feel that they are sometimes too aggressive! The agency that provided a social skills class that my daughter attended wanted to cut her after two cycles because they thought Regional Center doesn't let them provide more than that. In their report, they wrote that my daughter achieved one of her three goals, while making good progress toward the other two goals. They then recommended cutting her from the class. Huh? I called the Regional Center Coordinator to tell then I didn't think the recommendation made sense with the rest of the report. I told her that the agency made the recommendation based on the two cycle rule, and they did this out of fear of losing their contract. The Service Coordinator told me she thought the recommendation seemed odd and felt my daughter should get more social skills classes. She contacted the agency to discuss this and told them they were cutting kids too aggressively. My daughter stayed on for the additional cycle, met her goals, then was cut.

For these reasons, I don't feel the L.A. Times article really painted a balanced picture. I know ABA can work. The first day my daughter did it, she was forever a changed girl.

Surprisingly, I have no criticisms of the fourth article. It discussed how many adults are living with autism and don't even know it because identification was so poor in past generations. It talked about the costs of they adults being institutionalized or of not living up to their full potential. It speculated what the world would have been like for them if they had help and appropriate therapies when they were younger.

I felt this article was totally counter to the tone and message of the three earlier articles. I do think costs for treating autism can run high. These treatments do help many, but they don't help everybody. Nevertheless, I feel the costs are a great investment and save money in the long run. Because of tight budgets, I don't think money is squandered often on therapies that aren't helping a child.

I hope and pray that the first three articles do not create a backlash against any child receiving any kind of therapy due to the cost. The reality is far different than what the L.A. Times article suggests.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hell Hath No Fury....

It's that time of the week to link up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. This week we have to write a post dealing with the letter "F." F is for fury. Hell hath no fury like a mother insulted by articles in the newspaper! F also stands for something else. Use your imagination.

This week, the Los Angeles Times is running a four-part series on autism. So far, they've printed two articles: one addressed whether the rapid increase in autism rates was due to an actual increase or whether it was due to increased diagnosis. The other article discussed how autism services go to the families that fight for them--mostly white upper class families. The third article, which the Times will publish on Thursday, discusses how families chase the dream of recovery.

Here are some excerpts from the articles: "After costly lawsuits from parents in the late 1990s, the (school) district began aggressively identifying and treating children starting at age 3, when the law requires schools to take responsibility for those with special needs. The caseload has quadrupled over the last five years. The vast majority are deemed “high-functioning.” One person in the article was quoted as saying, “People started seeing it (autism) whenever a kid does something the slightest bit strange or starts collecting too many baseball cards.”

"So far, the state of California and the Los Angeles Unified School District have spent at least $300,000 on specialized services for Jonah. Now 13, he bites his hands, pinches his younger siblings and is easily flustered by changes in routine. But his mother is proud of the progress he's made — his ability to express his needs, read aloud and surf the Internet for movie trivia."

The articles appear to be attacking both ends of the spectrum. They discuss how the huge caseload of kids with "high-functioning" autism are draining the system while huge amounts are spent on lower-functioning kids so they can learn to search for movie trivia on the internet.

The articles do contain interesting statistics on the autism rates over different parts of the country and the rates of families receiving services. It doesn't take much scratching beneath the surface of the articles to see what the real message of the articles are saying: highly educated and wealthier white families are rushing to get their kids with mild symptoms diagnosed with autism. They then are bleeding the system dry pursuing high-cost treatments for their children that may not actually help the kids. Heck, the kids might not even be autistic. Whatever, poor minorities do not have the means to hire attorneys and psychologists and their children--even those with severe autism are not granted services.

There is certainly some truth to this. It's impossible to obtain services without hiring an attorney or an advocate to fight the school district or the county regional centers to get services. People who do not have as much disposable income may not feel comfortable--or have the means--to battle for needed services.

However, this doesn't tell the whole story. You can't get the services without the diagnosis. Sunday's article made it sound like psychologists were giving the diagnoses out like candy. But that hasn't been the case. People I know who get their kids assessed do not automatically get an autism diagnosis. The vast majority do not. In addition, the regional center we dealt with does not rely on private assessments but conducts their own thorough assessment to determine if they will fund services. The L.A. Times article fails to mention that.

Another major point the L.A. Times article fails to mention is that both the school districts and the Regional Centers do not provide services unless there is a compelling reason to do so. My daughter received behavior therapy for one year at no more than 9 hours a week. While other kids could get as much as 30 hours a week (or more), the Regional Center bases it on the goals that need to be met. So, a child with high-functioning autism would receive less hours than a child with severe autism. The most Regional Center will fund is 3 years maximum or until the child is over 7. They feel that the therapy isn't as effective when the child is older.

A key point the articles fail to address is how effective these services can be. They can literally make the difference between a child who can't cope in the world on any level to that same child learning techniques to function. The benefits of these services could potentially make the difference between a child being institutionalized as a ward of the state (that can't be cheap) and that same child going to college and becoming an income-earning member of society. There are also the intangible benefits. Who knows--maybe the person who develops the cure for cancer will be someone who would have been written off if they didn't receive help when they were 4 years old.

On a personal level, I couldn't get over how well my daughter responded to the therapies and what a difference it's made in our lives! She's now attending and thriving in a gifted magnet. I've met parents of children who had severe autism who also thrived on the therapies and are now on the very high-functioning end of the spectrum. The therapy's benefits can be amazing!

So is it right that well-educated families reap the benefits of the current system? Of course it isn't. It's shameful! But the problem isn't with a certain class of people being savvy about working the system. The problem is with the system that parents have to fight to get services for their kids. It's awful! The system should just provide the necessary services period.

I can hear many of you exclaiming, "But that would cost money!" Yes it would! It would probably cost a lot more money not in the long term not to make that investment, however. It also costs money to educate all kids, typical and special needs, and California has yet to fund THAT properly.

As a society, we need to fully fund our schools and give kids every advantage to succeed in life. We just can't limp along the way we are. Cutting spending isn't an answer. We need to increase the taxes of the higher-level income earners. My family would probably fall into that category. That's fine with us!










Coming Thursday: Families chase the dream of recovery

Monday, December 12, 2011

Passing Notes

This weekend, my daughter started a new thing--writing notes! It's pretty funny! As I was working on my computer, she was whining, "I'm bored!" Then she asked if she could use a large envelope on my desk. After I said she could, she ran off for 10 minutes. Upon returning, she gave me her letter. The envelope was marked with "To Mom." I opened the envelope up, and inside was a letter that said "I'm BORED!!!" My daughter signed her name with a big heart around it. I thought it was pretty funny.

On Sunday morning, I slept in really late. After I showered and dressed it was already past 9:00 am. I noticed that there was a piece of paper right by my door. At first I thought my husband left me a note, but it occurred to me that my daughter might have slipped the note under the door. She did. It said, "To Mom: I missed you so much! :)." Yes, she actually put in an emoticon in her handwritten note.

Later in the day, she was in her room. She was cooling off in there after getting angry at me and my husband. She was trying to slip a note outside her room that said, "I'm hungry." She realized that she was better off just apologizing to us in person, then telling us she was hungry. Smart girl.

I'm enjoying these notes. They're pretty fun! We'll see how long this phase lasts!

Friday, December 9, 2011

We Made the Right Decision. For a Change!

Last spring we had a tough dilemma. We had to decide whether to take our daughter out of a school that she loved and where she was loved in order to attend a highly regarded gifted magnet. The gifted magnet seemed like an amazing dream until we met with the magnet coordinator and the resource teacher to discuss our daughter. They were less than welcoming. They strongly encouraged us to keep our daughter at her current school since she was successful there. We were left with feeling unwelcomed, and we seriously considered not enrolling our daughter into the gifted magnet.

Then we met with a retired teacher from the gifted magnet. She met our daughter, and thought she would do fine at the school. We decided to go for it after many sleepless nights. We figured if it didn't work out, we could always go back to the school in our neighborhood, but we'd never get the chance to enroll our daughter in the gifted magnet.

Our daughter was sad to leave her friends and go to a new school. Nevertheless, she made the adjustment beautifully and really loves her new school! She's doing an awesome job socializing and is doing well academically. I had two exciting moments at the school this week. The first occurred while I was volunteering. The resource teacher came in to monitor my daughter. I hadn't run into her since our meeting last spring when she was so adamant that my daughter didn't belong at this school. We had an impromptu meeting, and she gushed about how well my daughter is doing! She pretty much admitted that she was wrong and this school was the perfect place for my daughter to be! Yay! I thought this woman was going to be looking for ways to oust my daughter at any opportunity, but it appears that I don't have to worry about her anymore.

The second exciting moment was getting my daughter's report card this morning. She's doing great! The class work has been extremely challenging, and her class if full of smart kids that she's getting along with. Her report card had great grades, and she's doing very well academically. It's good to know that we ended up making the right decision.

I'm sure we'll find something new to obsess about soon!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Egads!

It's that time of the week to link up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. The letter this week is "E." E is for egads!

No matter where you live, there is always that one really awful house. You know, the one trying to destroy the neighborhood's property values.

This is the view from my window when I look out toward the East:

IMG_0021

Beautiful!

This is the view from my window when I look out toward the West:

IMG_0024

See that blue house? Yeah, it's tough to miss.

It's actually looking slightly better. The owners used to have the words, "Earthquake, Fire, Mudslides" written in large letters of the garage. I think they might be putting the house on the market soon which is why they finally got rid of the words.

Why did they have the words on their house to begin with? Why do they paint their ENTIRE house in robin egg blue? If you walk right in front of their house, you'd understand. Across the street from the house there is an empty lot--and an outrageous view. Apparently, they don't want anyone buying the lot and building a huge house which would destroy their view. Now, they just ruin everyone else's view.

Every neighborhood seems to have a house that stands out a bit--and not in a good way.

What outrageous house is in your neighborhood?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sometimes I Feel Sad

The other day, I was hanging with my daughter. She was in a particularly goofy mood, dancing around the kitchen, having fun. As I was watching her, I started to tear up a bit. Why? I just had a memory flash of when I was her age. Life seemed so different then. The kids in the neighborhood would congregate outside. We'd play hide and seek or tag or whatever fun game we wanted. We only go in our houses to eat dinner. If it was summer and the sun was still out, we'd all go back outside to play after dinner. It was really fun times.

We had responsibilities like chores and homework, but we always seemed to have loads of free time to play on the street.

Nowadays, child obesity rates are shooting upward. Nearly 1 in 3 kids is overweight or obese. What causes these rates? Surely we ate junk food and drank sodas as kids. I think the main difference is that kids use to play outside, running around and riding bikes. Today, kids do school work, then do some more school work. After that, they play on the computer, watch television, or do other sedentary activities.

But I wasn't hit with sadness about the childhood obesity rates. What I was struck by is that my daughter will never know what it's like to run outside the house and meet-up with whatever friends from the block happen to be outside that moment and play.

That's sad.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Is Generosity Always Appropriate?

This past weekend, my daughter had a play date with a friend she made from summer camp. I blogged about how they met here. This was the nice girl that shared her tent with my daughter. Since then, my daughter has become pretty good friends with this nice girl and they have occasional play dates (disclaimer: I hit it off with the mom too, and I know she reads this blog so I'm going to have to be extra nice! HAHA--just kidding! I'd be nice anyway because my daughter's friend is so nice)! In fact, the two of them get along so great that it's really amazing!

Last weekend, we got together to watch the Puss in Boots movie. We all enjoyed the movie very much and decided to hit Barnes and Noble bookstore afterward. The girls were having a great time looking at books, but mostly separated and did their own thing. My daughter was intent on finding things for her holiday and birthday wish lists, so she was on a mission! I was surprised when she found an adorable stuffed animal that she told me she wanted to buy with her allowance money. It was so up her alley. I knew she had plenty of money at home to cover the cost, so I told her she could buy it, but she could also just add it to her wish list. She insisted that she wanted to buy it with her own money. I didn't see any reason why she couldn't, other than it made me a little uncomfortable that she was getting something when her friend wasn't. But we were clear that she was buying it with her own money.

Anyway, long story short (I know, kinda late for that now), when we were saying our goodbyes, my daughter gave her friend the stuffed animal as a gift. I thought she had just done it on a whim, but she had later told me that was her plan all along. As soon as she saw the stuffed animal, she knew her friend would love it. At that moment however, it was VERY awkward. Her friend was rendered speechless and seemed less then thrilled to get the gift. I could totally understand why. It was out-of-the blue and very overwhelming. I felt bad for both my daughter and her friend.

The mom of my daughter's friend didn't know what to do either. She didn't want to turn down the gift from my daughter, but it just seemed a bit inappropriate. In the end, her daughter kept the gift and wrote my daughter a very nice thank-you note the next day.

I was really conflicted. On the hand, I was very impressed with my daughter's generosity. She's really giving and caring. But on the other hand, it really isn't appropriate to give a relatively expensive gift unexpectedly. I didn't want her to feel bad about giving the gift, but I did want to tell her why it might not have been the best choice to make.

When I talked with her about the gift I first wanted to be sure that she didn't feel like she had to buy her friends things to get their acceptance. She answered that she didn't feel this way at all. She said that it's the holiday season, and she wanted to give a gift to her friend since it's that time of year. I told her that while it is that season, it's really early in the season, and people aren't really exchanging gifts yet. I also told her that while the saying that it's better to give than to receive is absolutely true, it really helps when there is an exchange of gifts happening when both parties get to enjoy giving and receiving. Since her gift to her friend was such a surprise, I don't feel my daughter really reaped the full benefit of giving.

The balance of power in friendship can be a difficult one to negotiate. It's also difficult to support generosity while still trying to keep it grounded to a degree. I do love that my daughter is giving. I see a lot of her dad in her with that aspect of her personality.

Nevertheless, is generosity always appropriate? What are your thoughts?