Sunday, August 25, 2013

Drive-In Movies

Nicole has always had problems going to the movies. We tried to take her to the dollar theater to see movies and she has a hard time with the dark, the amount of people at the movies, sitting still, being quiet, and not crying super loud during the movie. She has gone to a couple movies with her cousins and Matt and seen the whole movie, but we have also taken her to the movies and had to leave in the middle of the movie because she was having a meltdown.

So, we thought the drive-in might be a solution to her movie problem. She would be able to be in her comfort zone (her own car), she can wiggle and move around as much as she needs to, and she can make a little bit of noise and ask questions during the movie without bothering everyone watching the movie.

So, we made a big deal to Nicole about going to the movies. We went to the store beforehand and let her pick out snacks and we drove up to West Valley City to the only Drive-In even remotely close to us. She was really excited about it, but the drive was a challenge. If Nicole is in the car for more then 10 minutes, she starts to whine and complain about how everything is SOOO far away.

I was also really excited to go to the drive-in because I have never been before. I've always just done the regular 'ol movies. So, we went to see Despicable Me 2/Percy Jackson. It is always a double feature. We knew the kids would like Despicable Me and we hoped that they would fall asleep and we could watch Percy Jackson together (ah the best laid plans).

The drive in movies start really late, and we had heard that we needed to be early to get a good spot. Turns out that if you go on a weekday to a kids movie, you really don't have to be that early. Possibly, weekends are different.

Anyway, we were there way early and we parked backwards and folded away the back seats and took out the pilot seats so the whole back of the van was like one big bed for us to lay down and watch the show. We put down a bunch of blankets so it was a little more comfortable then van floor. We also set up our pilot chairs at the back of the van so that we could also sit in those outside the car if we wanted to. It was relatively comfy. The movie started at 8:45pm, which is already past the kids' bedtime, but they were wired and excited to be doing something new and they had no problems staying awake for the movie.

It all turned out so well. A lot better then we thought it would considering Nicole's past experiences with movies. Nicole and Dan were able to wiggle all over and be talkative and they loved the movie. The only backfire to our plan was that they did not sleep. They stayed awake all the way through the movie and then were still awake when Percy Jackson came on around 11:30pm. Which is when things broke down. Percy was just too scary for my little kiddos and we had to leave about 20 minutes into the movie. But, other then that, it was a total success. We would totally go again.

Friday, August 16, 2013


As I have been going to therapy with Nicole, I have been learning more about Aspergers and the behaviors that come along with it. A lot of the things that Nicole does and says suddenly makes a lot of sense. For some reason, as I learn more about Aspergers, I start to see Aspergers every where; not just in Nicole, but also in my self and in others.

A lot of the traits that come along with Aspergers, I see in people all around me; my mother-in-law's OCD with cleanliness, my sister's need for order, my own anxiety with sleeping, Matt's need to complete a task, my mother's attention to detail, my nephew's super intelligence, ect... I don't know why this happens, but I am starting to realize that Nicole's behaviors are not unique to Aspergers; it is the combination of behaviors and anxiety that make her different from everyone else.

We recently found out that for a girl to get autism, both parents must have the recessive gene (for a boy, only one parent needs to have it). And since then, I see so much of the autistic traits in myself. Matt has been doing the same. Perhaps this is just a consequence of having an autistic child. For instance, I have anxiety about travelling and it affects me physically; I get physically ill when I am travelling; I don't know why. Matt does not feel comfortable in social situations. For instance, we never have a Birthday party for Matt because he literally does not like them; they make him feel uncomfortable. We start to seriously wonder if we are a little autistic ourselves... but then we remember that we are not super smart and don't have all the other behavior issues that Nicole deals with.

But, one thing that I have discovered is that I have a lot of anxiety. I actually realized this during therapy. The doctor asked me if I had a history of anxiety. I know that my mother's side of the family has anxiety disorders and that my mother worries a lot, but I didn't think it applied to me... until it was pointed out to me that I am a worrier. The doctor told me that my whole body is constantly tense with worry; which is not too out of place in a therapy session because I worry a lot a lot about Nicole. But, perhaps, I have inherited the anxiety disorder that is on my Mom's side of the family. I don't know, but it is one more thing for me to worry about.

So, I shouldn't be too surprised that Nicole has a lot of anxiety when her mother is a worrier. Nicole is afraid of many many many things; the dark, new places, not knowing our schedule for the day, messes, eating, Dano "getting her," people in her space, people touching her things, large crowds, new people, riding in the car, spiders, bugs, long nails, pain, making mistakes, crooked lines, spots, anger, incomplete tasks... to name a few.

So, I suppose, I should learn to manage my anxiety and then I can help Nicole with hers... or, more likely, as I go to therapy with Nicole and learn tactics to help her overcome her anxiety, I can use those same tactics to overcome my own. Or, I can try at least.

Friday, August 09, 2013

I am a Bad Friend

When I was young, I had a lot of friends. I had this whole group of friends through grade school, middle school, and high school. I was always hanging out with my friends and I was always busy and dare I say... popular? Well, popular in my own genre, not in the entire school sphere. Then, when I went to college in Hawaii, I made new friends and I had a lot of them. I had a whole group of on campus friends that I did things with all the time. We were really tight and I never felt left out or alone. I was always in the loop, and I loved it. I loved having a lot of friends, always someone to call on to hang out or play games or eat food with.

Erin, friend from Dentrix... who I no longer talk to.

Lisa, college friend, who I email once a year

And then, I moved back to Utah for my last two years of college and I suddenly became bad at making new friends. I made a few new friends at my job, and a friend (one) who lived in my apartment building, but I wasn't the same social butterfly that I used to be when I was younger.

And then, I met Matt and got married and I became a... bad friend. My life had changed in many ways when I got married and I couldn't do the same things that I did when I was single. Nor did I want to. I didn't want to stay out all night or have a girls night out or... I don't know... do the things that I did when I was single. And I didn't fit in the same way that I did with my single friends. I felt a little awkward hanging with my single friends because I was married and Matt was with me at my social events and it wasn't quite the same. So, I stopped getting invited to a lot of friend things. And, I stopped having friends over to my house because my gatherings were... not the same as they once were.

Matt, my husband friend

So, I started to lose touch with a lot of the friends that I had had during my childhood and college years. And many of my college friends went on to get married themselves and I thought, 'yes, now I can hang with other couples.' But, it turns out that when you are trying to arrange getting together with another couple it is all complicated because you have to organize around schedules. I became all busy with a career and owning a home and being married. And I just didn't take the time to be with friends more... or call them to chat or email them or facebook them. I think that this is because Matt is my best friend, so I am with a friend all the time and I ended up not having my old friends at the front of my mind.

And then I had a kid and things really changed. Not only was I working and married, but I also had a kid to think about and take care of and that is not a small amount of work. And, for some reason, single people are not that interested in hanging around kids. It is like they are single and stuff. So, if I wanted to hang with my single friends, I either had to abandon my husband with the child... or I had to find a sitter (which has never been an easy task with Nicole).  It was a lot of work to go out with friends. I would invite friends over to my house for dinner occasionally, but I often felt quite lame as it was just sitting at my house and often watching me take care of my kid.

My kids can be my friends... right? I spend time with them the most.

And then, Matt went back to school, I went back to work, and then I got pregnant and had a second child and our lives got even more busy. I found it hard to not just see my old friends, but to keep in contact with them at all. I have always kept up on my blog and my friends who have blogs themselves I have always kept reading and commenting, so I always felt close to them, but the others, I was just lost in their lives. Facebook helped in that I could read up on what they were doing occasionally, but as Facebook is blocked at work, I didn't really get to read it very often. And I don't find a lot of time to get on the computer at home.

Do sisters count as friends?

And, during all of this, I have found myself having a really hard time making new friends. In fact... I have made zero new friends since I have been married. I just don't know if I have changed from when I was young and making friends was really easy, or if I have just been good at making one friend and that friend makes me a lot of other friends. Or, maybe how to make friends has changed and I didn't get the memo. I have made friends with my sister Marie's friends as she seems to have a lot of friends that are in the same place in life as we are (married with children). But, I have yet to make friends in my neighborhood or my ward. I have the moms that were in the preschool group, but they were the preschool moms, not social friends. I think maybe I have forgotten how to make a new friend.

Now that I am not working, and I am home with the kids, and Matt is no longer in school, we finally have free time and I find myself longing for friends. Someone to hang out with on the weekends or to have playdates with on the weekdays or to play games with. I have my family, of course, but I feel like I need more than just my siblings, I need friends. But, I don't know how to make new friends and I feel like it is too late to try and reconnect with my old friends. I have been out of the loop for six years now and maybe it is too late. I am finally out of "survival mode" that Matt and I have been in for these last three years and... I want... a life, not just a busy mommy life, but a social one. I feel... lonely I guess. I have my children and my husband, so I am not really alone, I have my family who loves me and needs me and I am immensely happy, but I feel like there is finally room in my life for more people. I don't have to be solely focused on me and my kids and my husband and our lives, I have room for more, I have time for more.

So, after being a bad friend for so long... how do I get back in it? I don't know. But I want it.

Friday, August 02, 2013


So, sometime in June, Matt was hired on full-time at Adobe and we finally got real insurance. Which was awesome because I was able to do something that we have been wanting to do for a while. I called a bunch of places and found a child behavioral therapist for Nicole.

After getting her tested with the school district, we really wanted to get Nicole officially diagnosed. It wasn't that we didn't believe the results of her earlier testing, it was that we want a real diagnosis from a doctor for our own comfort and for Nicole. Putting a name to the issues we have been dealing with with Nicole.

So, we took Nicole in to therapy and the doctor tested her while Matt and I filled out our own tests. It went very similar to what we went through at the school district, but it took a lot less time and it was a lot easier because we didn't have Dan there dying to be entertained by us.

The doctor determined that Nicole does indeed have Aspergers, or high functioning autism. It goes by two names. It was what we already knew, so it wasn't a surprise, it was more of a relief. It was a relief because most people are surprised when they find out that Nicole is autistic and some were even skeptical of the diagnosis, so we can say with assurity that yes, Nicole has Aspergers.

The doctor said that he knew right away when he met her because of her behavior and mannerisms, but the test confirmed it. What does this mean? It means what we already knew. Nicole has trouble with new things, with change, and has a difficult time adapting. She has high anxiety and can easily be over stimulated which results in melt downs or tantrums. She has trouble with physical coordination and is prone to clumsiness. And a bunch of other stuff that comes along with Aspergers.

We have been going to therapy with her regularly and I must admit that it is really more for Matt and I then it is for Nicole. The sessions involve Matt and I talking to the doctor and getting ideas of things to try each week to help Nicole overcome her anxiety and improve her overall happiness.

Some of the things that we have been doing...

Reward System: We started a new reward system with Nicole, per the doctor's recommendation. I was doing a sticker chart system with her, but we have switched to punch cards. She has three different cards that she works on: Following Directions, Eat Your Food, and Look in the Eyes. The cards have 20 spots that I punch out with a heart punch when she does the indicated action. Then, when she gets all the punches, she gets a little candy. This has helped immensely! She tries really hard to get punches and finishes about a punch card a day, so she is getting a lot of rewards which pushes her to try harder to earn punches.

Social Stories: We wrote a book with Nicole and illustrated it that is supposed to help her with something that we are working on with her. We wrote one for bedtime as it still takes around 1 to 2 hours for her to fall asleep every night. It has helped a lot with her being able to relax and stay calm at bedtime as she often has a lot of anxiety about going to bed and falling asleep.

Playdates: Part of Nicole's therapy is to have lots of playdates with structured play (play with games and rules instead of freeplay). I have set up a lot of playdates for her, but I have had to cancel all of them this month because Nicole has been sick a lot this last month. So, this is one that I am still trying to accomplish. It is also a lot of work for me. Not only do I have to set up a playdate, but I need to set up games or activities for the kids to do. But, I will do it because I can be super mom. The mom who is very involved in my kids play and activities and also does the housework and the cooking and also looks good.... okay, I can maybe do some of those things. I am trying here.

Worries: We are working on relieving Nicole's anxiety. We are starting "worry time" where Nicole can express her worries to us so that they don't weigh on her so much. So far, Nicole has a hard time thinking of what worries her unless she is worried in the moment. We will keep trying on this and hope that it helps.

It is a lot of work for Matt and I. We have to actively try new things every week and change our routines and I have to give Nicole a lot of attention everyday. Sometimes I feel bad for poor Dano because I have to put so much time and attention into Nicole that I don't have as much time to play with Dano. Luckily, during the week, Matt is home and he plays with Dano a lot while I work with Nicole.

Despite that it is a lot of work, I think that therapy has really helped. Before, I just didn't know what to do when Nicole continued to have meltdowns and crying fits and tantrums and was afraid of everything. Now, we actually have a plan and tools and tactics to help Nicole. Plus, Nicole starts public preschool soon, which I am really nervous about, so I am hoping therapy will help us help Nicole adjust to this new change.

So, one of the really cool things about Aspergers is that Nicole is super smart. During her testing with the doctor, he rated her at a 9 year old intelligence. She is just so smart. This month, she taught herself to read. She just started sounding out short words all by herself. We have been working so hard on behavior that we haven't had the time to work on academics. So, I guess she just figured it out and started doing it. I need to find the time to teach her more because she absorbs information like a sponge.

So, we are moving forward and trying hard to make things better for Nicole and for ourselves as it is not easy some days.