Sunday, September 30, 2007

Good hair days, or: Fear today, hair tomorrow

I believe that The Dierks Bentley Hair Crisis of 2007 is officially over.

The long-haired videos are in high rotation. (Bud's current long-haired favorite is "Lot of Leaving Left To Do," during which, every time db makes eye contact with the camera, Bud announces "He's singing it to me!")

We've started watching clips from the long-haired DVD.

And last night, Bud asked me if his hairdresser could give him curly hair like Dierks has.


I am in awe of this child's ability to work things out.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Read on

Kristen from From Here to There and Back tagged me for an irresistible book meme. Maybe you'll want to play, too.

Total number of books?

For many years, I kept every book I read, packing and unpacking them and carting them around with me from college residence hall room to college residence hall room and from apartment to apartment. Sometime in my post-Bud years, though, I decided that I just didn't need them all and I cleared the bookshelves and donated them away with wild abandon. These days I only hang on to the books I lovelovelove and the books I think I might read again, which comes out to about three (smallish) bookshelves full. How many books is that? I'm not sure. I'm not good at that kind of estimate. A bunch. A good number. More than a few; less than a ton.

Last book read?

Sadly, I have not had a good run lately. I've stalled with A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini , not because it's not well written (it is), but because one particular plot point stopped me cold, hitting me too close to my emotional center. That happens sometimes. I'd like to say that I'll go back to the book, but I really don't think I will. (I'm being intentionally vague about the plot point for those who plan to read it. It's not the book; it's me. You should read it.)

Before A Thousand Splendid Suns, I started but didn't finish another book that will (in the spirit of The Believer magazine) go unnamed. After several chapters, I still didn't care about any of the people in the book. Life is too short; I moved on.

Before that, I read What You Can Do Right Now to Help Your Child with Autism, which frankly doesn't really feel like it counts. It was more a handy reference guide than a BOOK.

So, by process of elimination, I'm going to have to go with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Not especially high-brow or impressive, but, then, neither am I.

Last book bought?

Again, Harry Potter. I borrowed A Thousand Splendid Suns, and the other two were sent by the publishers. Before that? I'm not sure. I tend to seek out hand-me-down books more than I buy new ones. It might have been Andrei Codrescu's New Orleans, Mon Amour. (An excellent book, and a bargain at any price.)

Five meaningful books?

Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism by Paul Collins - This book was meaningful to me in many ways. It was one of the first autism books I read in which I "recognized" the child - on page after page, Collins' son Morgan reminded me of Bud. (He still does, in fact; in this interview with Collins and his wife, they report that Morgan is currently fascinated by TV and movie logos. I have spent many an hour drawing TV and movie logos for Bud. I'm not sure whether or not I should introduce him to the YouTube videos that Morgan finds so fascinating.)

On another level (and in a story that was more interesting to live than it would be to read), Not Even Wrong set me on a trajectory that ultimately got me writing this blog. Interestingly, I discovered Not Even Wrong via an e-mail from my sister that included a link to the book's page on amazon.com and a one-line message that read "I think the universe is telling me that I'm supposed to let you know about this book." (Thanks, Sis.)

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - This book blew me away. Blew. Me. Away.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare - Hamlet might be my favorite thing ever written. I find myself thinking about Hamlet a lot - which is interesting, because throughout the play, all Hamlet really does is a whole lot of thinking. Really, though, thinking about Hamlet's thinking helps me to remember to get out of my head when I find myself getting all "to be or not to be" on myself. (And I don't mean suicidal here, folks. I mean painfully introspective and grossly self-indulgent.) Enough said.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott - This book kept me sane in the first months of Bud's life. It made me feel more normal and less incompetent as a mother. Or maybe it made me feel incompetent, but in good company.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - This book replaced A Prayer for Owen Meany as my favorite book of all time. In fairness, I should go back and read Owen Meany again before I state that publicly, since I read Owen Meany in 1989 and Kavalier and Clay in 2005. But, too late; it's already done.

I'm not going to tag anyone specifically for this one, but I invite everyone to join the bandwagon. Leave your answers in the comments here, or just let us know that we should follow the link to read your answers on your own blog.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It takes a Nashvillage

The wonderful folks at Bud's school work hard to develop systems that will help him learn to self-regulate. They pay attention to the things that matter to him, and they make their plans with those things in mind. So, when they know that he may have difficulty when the classroom aide is on her lunch break or when they know he'll need some down-time after a job well done, he's given structured choices that often include the option of listening to a book on tape or listening to music through headphones.

So it should not have come as a surprise to me when I walked into his classroom this morning and his teacher held up the CD she'd just purchased to have available in the classroom for him: Dierks Bentley's Long Trip Alone.

It is a very good feeling to know that when it comes to the collaboration between school and home, we are all, quite literally, playing from the same sheet of music.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Facing demons, watching friends

For those who have been following the unfolding saga of Bud and the length of Dierks Bentley's hair (in three different installments), I offer yet another chapter.

These days Bud has been proving that he's not a boy who runs from a challenge. Indeed, he is a boy who faces his fears head-on (as it were), seeking out the the things that unsettle him so that he can deconstruct and demystify them.

For the past week, Bud's most-requested and most-watched video has been Dierks Bentley's "Settle for a Slowdown." You can watch it here, and when you do you will probably notice the two things in it that have captivated Bud:

1. Bud's friend Dierks has long hair, and

2. Bud's friend Dierks is caught outside in a thunderstorm.






Bud watches the video as often as I'll let him. Each time he watches, he narrates the action as it happens. He is drawn, especially, to the flashes of lightning and he watches intently as his hero faces the storm outside and the storm within, as the rain starts falling, as his long hair clings, dripping, to his face. And somehow - somehow - watching this happen again and again, narrating it as it happens, Bud seems to be emboldened by it. The lightning in the video becomes a little less scary with each subsequent viewing. And while it hasn't yet transferred to a comfort with real-life lightning, it has got to be a good start. (There is a tag line here about "settling for a slowdown" that begs to be written, but, really, that's the easy way out, isn't it? I'll resist.)

For some reason, Bud is also fascinated by the fact that in this video Dierks appears to live in a mobile home. Bud says he would really, really like to visit a "car house."

There are two other high-rotation videos on Bud's playlist these days - both featuring long-haired men, interestingly enough. The first is Keith Urban's "I Told You So," which also features a storm and seems to have the same emboldening effect on Bud. The second is Eric Church's "Guys Like Me," the bulk of which takes place in a pool hall. This weekend as we watched the video, Bud stared at the screen and asked "They're in a church?"

"No," I explained. "His name is Eric Church. They're in a bar."

And that was it - he was off: "I want to go to a bar!" he said. And then he continued to say it all weekend long: "I want to go to a bar. Can we go to a bar? Let's go to a bar!"

Knowing Bud, his preoccupation with bars will continue all week. I have to admit, I can't help but wonder what they thought at school today about the way we spend our weekends.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Nice and easy (down the road I go)

I think "nice" gets a bad rap.

According to conventional wisdom, "nice girls" in high school spend their Saturday nights at home playing Scrabble with the family. And, of course, everyone knows that "nice guys finish last."

But here's the thing: I wasn't home much on Saturday nights during my teenage years, and a respectable finish is generally important to me. But, every day, I try - I try really hard - to be nice. In fact, there are lots of things I'd like to be - lots of things I try to be: intelligent, capable, strong, creative; but, really, none of them would mean a thing to me if I couldn't have the nice.

Nice matters.

And that's why I am particularly delighted to have been selected by Niksmom for the Nice Matters Award. She explains it this way:
This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and
those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a
positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded please
pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award.

It's difficult to name just seven nice bloggers, because it seems the blogosphere is full to the brim with nice people. (And as I've been tracking the stats, not one of them is poised to finish last.) So I tried to think of people I have not bestowed other award-memes upon, but who have been particularly nice to me.

So here, for the record, are seven of the nicest people I've (n)ever (actually) met:

Neil from At My Table

Bubandpie

For What It's Worth

Mom to Mr. Handsome from Hooray! I Did It! Way To Go!

Daisy from Compost Happens

Drama Mama from Like a Shark

Dierks Bentley, a nice blogger with nice hair

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Really something

This was a difficult week for Bud. He started second grade, and though he likes his teacher and classroom aide, though he is enjoying time with his best buddy Kelly, though he seems happy to be back in the school building and the school routine, he is having trouble making the adjustment back to the norms of school life - the imposition of other people's agendas, the limited choices available to him, the new sights and smells and sounds that accompany any new classroom environment. And though, overall, he is managing the transition relatively well, it has been complicated by environmental factors - two house-shaking thunderstorms in rapid succession that have rattled him to his core, making it hard for him to relax and harder still for him to focus on anything else except the potential of another thunderstorm arriving without warning.

It was in the midst of this back-to-school-preparation/bad-weather-perseveration that two packages arrived at our house.

The first package was addressed to Bud, a boy who likes nothing better than getting a package in the mail addressed to him. He ripped it open and found two things inside: a Dierks Bentley concert T-shirt that was just his size and a page-long hand-written letter that said just the right things in just the right words with just the right tone:

Dear Bud,

Hey buddy... I heard that you are a fan of my music! Thanks... I'm glad you enjoy listening to the records and watching the videos. You may notice that I look a little different in some of my earlier videos. That's because I use to have longer hair and it was pretty curly! But I got a haircut about a year ago. So I wanted to send you a picture and a T-shirt that shows what I look like now.

Keep listening to the music... Thanks, my friend.

God Bless,

Dierks Bentley
Bud was shaking as we read the letter out loud together.

"Wow, Bud," I said, as I read the final line. "He says 'thanks, my friend.' Dierks says that you're his friend!"

"No," said Bud. "He's just pretend."

I quickly realized that Bud was giving me the same response I give to him when he asks if he can visit Teletubbyland, play with Zoboomafoo, or interact with some other fictional character he's seen on television: "That's just pretend."

"No, Bud," I said. "Dierks is on TV, but he isn't pretend. He's real. He really wrote you this letter and he really said you're his friend."

"Yeah," Bud answered, his eyes still glued to the letter and registering a hint of disbelief, but his mouth curving into a shy smile.

I opened the second package, which was addressed to me, and found a concert DVD and a note from Cassidy Bentley explaining that she wanted to sneak it in just in case Bud comes around to the long hair.

They are good people, those Bentleys.

Real good people.