Friday, September 30, 2005

Chaos and Creation at Bud's house

There is a soundtrack in our house these days. Either we're listening to the CD player, or we're watching the DVD documentary, or we're singing it in two-part harmony. Bud and I are both in love with Paul McCartney's new album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.

Because he is more skilled in this area than I, Bud has pretty much memorized the lyrics to the entire album. He knows the tracks in order and, in fact, often calls them by their track numbers. His current favorite is 9. To the rest of us it is the track called Riding to Vanity Fair, and is uncharacteristically (for McCartney, and for Bud) dark and bitter. It is a song about being betrayed by a friend and, though in interviews McCartney says it's not about anyone in particular, it appears to be directed toward his former long-time PR man, Geoff Baker. The conflict between Baker and Paul's new wife, Heather Mills McCartney, has long been reported in the press and speculation that the negative press Heather has gotten since her engagement to Paul was spoon-fed by Baker has been rampant. McCartney sings,

"The definition of friendship apparently ought to be showing support for the one that you love. I was open to friendship, but you didn't seem to have any to spare while you were riding to Vanity Fair."

Unsurprisingly, one of the interviews in which Heather was called out to defend herself against rumors of fights, pre-nuptial agreements, and conflict with McCartney's daughters, was in the magazine Vanity Fair. You don't need to do a lot of searching to read between the lines. I have to say, the song is a lot brighter when sung in Bud's lilting little voice, but I imagine his teachers wonder what's going on at home when he walks around singing lyrics like, "I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do - I’ll try to take my mind off you. And now that you don’t need my help, I’ve used the time to think about myself."

Another of Bud's favorite tracks is the bright and upbeat English Tea. This song sounds so-much-like-the-Beatles-except-not-the-Beatles that the first few times I heard it I could swear it was The Rutles. It is instantly familiar, like a warm, comfortable, broken-in-just-the-way-you-like-it sweater. It also, McCartney is quick to point out, features the word "peradventure" (meaning perchance, or perhaps) and he wonders if it may just catch on so that people all over the world will start saying "peradventure I'll have a cup of coffee..."

Bud and I are both especially fond of the acoustic Jenny Wren, which is classic McCartney in the Yesterday/Blackbird/Here Today/Calico Skies tradition. It's a quiet song about finding your voice when life's situations can make you feel powerless. And we do a MEAN duet on this one.

My favorite moment on the album is the one-two punch near the end - This Never Happened Before, followed by Anyway. They are both love songs, which is often McCartney at his best. And, like the rest of the album, these tracks are not overproduced. They feel organic and homegrown. It's as though you're sitting around the living room and they slowly waft up out of the fireplace and fill the room with warm air. And both tracks have those McCartney chord progressions that somehow create a physiological response, gently lifting up your heart and slowly rolling it over in a way that is startling and pleasant all at the same time.

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard continues an evolution for McCartney that began with Flaming Pie and continued through Driving Rain. These are the songs that trace his life from Linda's diagnosis and battle with breast cancer, through his loss and grief, and towards a hopeful (if less naively positive) future. This is a more introspective and tentative Paul McCartney, but in many ways it is also a more human, more accessible Paul McCartney. And for a six-year-old boy with autism and a mom who loves him, an album filled with hope and possibility in the face of challenge and despair provides a soundtrack that feels just about right.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Young explorers

Bud's friendship with Clay continues to flourish.

Granted, the extent of their out-of-classroom friendship is walking to our cars at the end of the school day and giving a high-five, but it has expanded to include weaving in and out of trees on the way up the walk, then romping through the woods at the edge of the parking lot. Bud calls this "Exploring the World With Clay" and he is absolutely delighted by it.

Today Clay climbed a tree, and Bud flapped his hands so much I think he left the ground and took flight. Though Clay is as neurotypical as they come, he does not seem to notice Bud's flapping and perseverating on movie scripts. Somehow, this little five-year-old can already see the value in Exploring the World With Bud.

I think they are both in for an amazing adventure.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Our little liberal

Tonight at dinner I could hear that Bud was reciting something and though it sounded familiar I couldn't quite make it out. I asked him to say it again, and realized that he was blending the beginning of the Pledge of Allegiance, which they say at the start of school, with the end of the Affirmation of Fellowship, which we say at the start of church.

I must admit, I find Bud's version infinitely better than the original. It goes like this:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. May we know once again that we are not isolated beings, but connected, in mystery and in miracle, to the universe, to this community, and to each other."

Amen, Bud.

Friday, September 09, 2005

A friend, indeed

Bud has a friend.

Clay is a boy in his Kindergarten class. We met Clay at the open house the day before school started, and since his was the name I remembered it was the one I used as we prepared for the first day of school. "And you'll play on the playground with your teacher and the other kids, like Clay..."

Every day after school we have walked from the classroom to the car at about the same time as Clay and his mom. And every day I have prompted Bud to say goodbye to Clay by name. We did this throughout Bud's two and a half years of preschool with a myriad of other children, so it never occurred to me that anything special was happening.

Bud did talk about Clay at home, though. When I asked who he liked at school he named his teacher, then his aide, then Clay. When I asked who he played with, he named his teacher, then his aide, then Clay. Last week he told me he wanted Clay to come and play at Bud's house. But I sort of thought Bud was just trying to give me the "right" answer when I asked a question.

Yesterday as we were leaving school, Bud - because he has the very sweet habit of ALWAYS telling on himself - announced "I can take it home with me!", which prompted me to frisk him and find each one of his pockets stuffed with toy fruit from the classroom. We headed back to the classroom to return the contraband, then I spent some time chatting with Bud's teacher. It was about 15 minutes later when we finally headed back to the parking lot.

As we approached I saw that Clay was sitting on the lawn by our car, and I heard him say "Mom! Here he comes!"

Clay's mom got out of the car and said to me, "Clay insisted that we couldn't leave until he said goodbye to Bud." They had waited 15 minutes, with Clay's mom wondering if we had walked to an appointment somewhere, and with Clay steadfast in his resolve to wait us out.

Bud gave Clay a high five, and they both said goodbye and climbed into their respective cars. It took every ounce of restraint I had to keep from scooping Clay up and smothering him with kisses.

Clay likes Bud. No one told him he had to. No one even suggested that he should. He just likes Bud. He likes Bud for Bud.

Bud has a friend.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

My love/hate relationship with Eli Lilly

According to internal documents, Eli Lilly - the company that developed thimerosal - knew in 1930 that their product could cause damage and even death in humans. And yet, this mercury-based preservative continued to be used in children's vaccines through the late 90's, despite mounting evidence that there could be a connection between mercury in vaccines and a rapid increase in the incidence of autism. Eli Lilly then climbed into the pocket of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who slipped a rider into the homeland security act of 2002 that shielded Eli Lilly from subpeonas.

Eli Lilly is also the maker of Strattera, the medication that has had the single most positive effect for Bud of all the interventions we've tried so far. After a summer full of trials-and-errors with medication (Ritalin, Adderall, Adderall plus Strattera), we tried 18 mg of Strattera alone. It's been about two weeks and the results have been astonishing. Bud's verbal skills - especially his ability to engage in back-and-forth conversation - have taken a huge leap forward. He is less distracted. He uses less echolalic scripting. He has less sensory overload. His transition to Kindergarten has gone beautifully. And - knock on wood - so far there have not been any negative side effects.

I know for certain it's the Strattera. One day in the past week I picked him up from school, and the teachers looked harried as they handed him off. Bud had his hands over his ears, which I only then realized he hadn't been doing lately. In the car on the way home he was perseverating on a script and I couldn't get him to stop. I tried to figure out what was going on, and it hit me: I had forgotten to give him his medication that morning. (So I had sixty seconds of "I am a horrible mother," immediately followed by the smug satisfaction of having (inadvertantly) run my own blind trial.)

I will admit there is a dark place in the back of my mind that entertains the conspiracy theory that goes like this: Eli Lilly is a for-profit corporation developing drugs used to manage the symptoms of neurological disorders. In a capitalist ecomony, profit is driven by supply and demand. In order to maximize profit for their product, Eli Lilly must strengthen the demand for it. An increase in the incidence of neurological disorders means an increased demand for their product, which means an increased profit. Eli Lilly has another product which could increase the incidence of neurological disorders...

But, really, if I want to continue to get out of bed in the morning and make it through each day, I can entertain the thought, but I can't really go there. For right now, Strattera is having a tremendous effect on Bud, and Eli Lilly will continue to get my money. But my mind, and my heart, remain conflicted.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I'm speechless

... and perhaps Barbara Bush should have been as well, as she toured Houston's Astrodome on Monday and said:

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

Yeah. Hurricane devastation... good work if you can get it.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Smackdown

Here's to Keith Olbermann!

Blame floats to the top

Shame on George Bush for trying to pass the buck and place the blame for the tragically incompetent response to the Gulf Coast devastation on "state and local authorities."

Here's what "locals" were saying in June.

According to Mike Tidwell on yesterday's Meet the Press, the pricetag for the Coast 2050 project, which has been a proposal since the mid-90's and which would have prevented this tragedy is 14 billion dollars, or about two weeks spending in the Iraq war.

How do you feel about your $600 tax refund now?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Eye of the storm

Like the rest of the country, I am riveted by the news coming out of the Gulf Coast. And like many others, I am horrified by the overwhelming lack of response from the federal government and the profound lack of leadership from the President.

If you have not heard last night's radio interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, take twelve minutes and listen to it (click on Mayor: "Get Off Your Asses") then tell everyone else you know to listen to it as well. Demand that elected officials get off their asses and do something fast. And once the crisis has passed, make a statement at the ballot box. This nation cannot withstand more of the same.