Thursday, November 29, 2007

One for the books

Thank you, blogosphere friends, for the fabulous array of suggestions you sent to try to help me out of my current book rut. As always, I was overwhelmed by your willingness to share your thoughts and insights. I made three separate trips to three different bookstores to browse their stacks armed with the list I generated from your comments and e-mails. You folks know your stuff! I've got enough material to work with to keep me reading happily for the foreseeable future.

As you know, though, this time around I wasn't just looking for a great book; I was looking for the right book. So I scoured the shelves, reading back covers and inside flaps and first pages. I carried some books around to see how they felt in my hands, to see how well I settled into them. I browsed further. I walked around some more. I took some breaks. Twice I went home empty-handed.

And then I found it.


Nicole Krauss's The History of Love.

The back cover intrigued me. The first page captivated me. I started reading it this morning while I waited for my mechanic to put on my snow tires, and it made me want to stay in the stuffy, overheated waiting room as long as I could.

I'm officially hooked.

I just Googled The History of Love to find a cover shot to upload, and I found this blurb, which includes these words:
This novel is fragile and robust like spider’s silk, showing how the stories of others become entwined with ours, and how the act of writing can in itself be an act of love and solace, of fearless trust in unknown readers to connect with characters, ideas, and emotions...

Yes. This is most definitely the book for me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ab fab

I spent this morning complimenting Bud on things, and he spent the morning correcting me. It's not that he was being humble; it's just that I was choosing all the wrong adjectives.

He read the Christmas card that our news carrier sent us. "What a good reader you are!" I said.

"No, I'm not a good reader," he said.

"You're not?" I asked.

"I'm fabulous," he answered.

Later, it was time to get dressed. "Can I get dressed all by myself?" he asked.

"Sure you can," I said. "What a big boy!"

"No," he said. "I'm fabulous."

When he was finished dressing (all in red and only half backwards), he came into my room to show me what he'd done.

"You look so handsome!" I gushed.

"No. Fabulous," he corrected.

As the morning wore on, the sniffles that Bud has been battling for days began to settle in his throat, giving him a froggy voice. Seizing the opportunity as it arose, Bud began scripting the characters he knows who speak in crackly, froggy voices, like Eeyore ("Come back anytime, soon as it's a windy day.") and the fox from Dr. DeSoto ("How I love them raw...")

I laughed and hugged Bud. "You are SO CUTE!" I said.

"I'm not cute," he said. "I'm fabulous."

I had promised Bud pizza today, so despite his croaky voice and his rapidly waning energy, I piled him into the car to head to the pizza shop. As I helped him settle into his booster seat, Bud exploded into a raspy, wheezy cough.

"Oh, Bud," I said. "You don't sound good."

"I don't sound good," he repeated sadly.

"But you know what you DO sound?" I said, as I leaned over him to buckle his seat belt.

"What?" he croaked.

"FABULOUS," I answered. Bud smiled widely as he reached out, grabbed my neck, and hugged me so tight he choked me.

Absolutely fabulous.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Seven more

Daisy from Compost Happens has tagged me for a meme, in which I am instructed to:

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I'm accepting the challenge with hesitation. I've done similar memes twice before - once by listing five things about myself and once by listing eight things. As I mentioned in the first of the memes, I am, by nature, an almost pathologically private person, so "outing" myself on things is difficult. And I'm even more gun-shy about it in the aftermath of the "eight things" meme.

In that meme, I revealed the fact that, though I take breaks of five or more years at a time, I have been following the ongoing plot line of a soap opera for more than twenty years. Shortly after I posted it, that juicy little tidbit was leaked (good-naturedly, of course) to a room full of college students, who had already considered me "old," but who immediately changed their assessment to "old and uncool." Unfortunately, the part about the five-year hiatuses was left out of the revelation and I was assumed to be a daily devotee of said soap, and though I tried to set the record straight, my attempts simply snowballed into "the lady doth protest too much" and all hope of redeeming myself was lost.

Needless to say, thus began the next five-year hiatus.

Anyway, Daisy has responded to my tags in the past, so I will muster up my courage and tentatively reveal the following seven facts. Be gentle with them, blogosphere. Be gentle with them.

1. I mentioned earlier this week that I'm having trouble sticking with a book - any book. I'm having the same problem with television shows. Fifteen minutes into an episode, and I'm pretty much done. I even have to work at making it through a whole episode of Grey's Anatomy. And never mind a two-hour movie - that's just not going to happen. What do you suppose that's about?

2. I can't think of anything I want for Christmas. Okay, I can think of one thing - this - and I have my mom lined up to make the purchase. Beyond that, though, I'm pretty much all set.

3. I don't know who I'm going to vote for in the primary (are you sensing a trend here?). I would like to throw my wholehearted support behind a candidate. I'd like to be sporting a pin, a bumper sticker, and a yard sign - but I just can't commit. If I had to vote today, it would probably be for John Edwards, but, really, I could just as easily go for Obama or Clinton. I've always wondered how people could head to the polls still undecided, and yet I have a hunch that may be what's in my future.

4. I am going to see Dierks Bentley on his Throttle Wide Open tour. I haven't told Bud. I feel as guilty as I did when I went to see Paul McCartney without him - perhaps more so. On one hand, I know that there's nothing about a live concert that Bud would enjoy - not the volume, not the hour, not the crowd, not the lighting. Nothing. But still, on the other hand, it's Dierks. It's like I'm sneaking into Teletubbyland for lunch with the guys and not inviting him. I feel like a crumb. (And yet, somehow, I don't feel bad enough to stay home...)

5. I am having a GREAT experience teaching writing this semester. Those who followed my adventures last fall may remember that my writing class and I struggled to make it through the semester together. Not so this time around. It's a lot of work, but I'm having a ball.

6. A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me what I liked least about my job. I couldn't think of anything. I'll bet there are not many people who can say that.

7. I don't like fudge, but I am attracted to the idea of fudge. For many years, when someone would offer me fudge, I would think, "I shouldn't take any, because I don't like fudge. But it looks so good, and I love chocolate. I must be wrong about this. I must like fudge." And then I would take a piece and have a bite and realize that, in fact, I don't like fudge.

I'm tagging the following seven people, with the caveat that this is entirely challenge-by-choice and all tags from me are completely optional:

Mommy~dearest, from The Quirk Factor
David, from Thoughts-0-Dave
March Day, from One March Day
Kirsten, from Kirsten Can
Maddy, from Whitterer on Autism
Jenn, from Good Job, Mama!
KAL, from Autism Twins

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Roast WHAT???

Over the past year, Bud has become a terrific reader. What I mean is that he can read almost any words set before him. He reads them out big and strong, with feeling. He reads with gusto.

It's still unclear, though, how well Bud can read for content - how well he can follow the thread of a story, how attentive he is to the details, how much he can follow the shift of perspectives from character to character - the same challenges, of course, that he encounters in everyday life. But in recent months we have made the slow transition from storybooks to chapter books - from books meant to be read in one sitting to books that require a bookmark and a "let's read some more tomorrow." Every night I read another chapter to Bud. Sometimes I try to gauge how well Bud recalls what has already happened, how well he can predict what might happen next. Mostly, though, I try to figure out if he is even listening closely enough to follow the meaning of the words I'm reading.

Last night, Bud and I read a chapter of The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling. It's the story of a boy, John Midas, who only wants to eat candy. In last night's chapter, John's parents were at wit's end. I read aloud the account of John's visit to the doctor as Bud hummed quietly in his bed, and though I wondered if he was tuning me out completely, I kept reading as John's father launched into a lecture:
"Don't you think there's such a thing as enough?" Mr. Midas persisted. "Don't you think that things are best in their places? I mean, don't you think there's a time for spaghetti and a time for roast beef and even a time for pickled herring and garlic toast, as well as a time for chocolate? Or would you --"

Suddenly, Bud bolted upright, grabbed the book from my hands, and shouted, "WHAT???"

His eyes scanned the page and I wondered what I'd read that had triggered a reaction that strong: had I just said something that sounded suspiciously like "Teletubbies" or "Dierks Bentley?"

"They eated TOES???" Bud asked incredulously.

"No," I said, thinking I'd caught the misunderstanding. "Garlic TOAST."

"They eated roast FEET???" he asked.

"Oh!" I said, "No, roast beef. Roast BEEF."

"That's FOOD?"

"Yes. Beef. It's like hamburgers."

"Not toes."

"No, not toes."

Bud kicked back the covers, grabbed for his toes and tried to reach them with his tongue, apparently just to see how they'd taste.

It gives a whole new meaning to "putting your foot in your mouth," don't you think?


A very Happy Thanksgiving from Bud and me to all those who are celebrating it today. May you enjoy good times in good company - and may your holiday table be entirely free of roast feet.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cousin boom

The other day, Bud was setting up a live-action version of the Reader Rabbit Toddler computer game he's recently rediscovered. He'd already created the Bubble Castle, Follow-Me Theater, and the Musical Meadow, and he was searching through the house with an elephant in his arms.

"I need a Cousin Basket," he said.

"A Cousin Basket?" I asked. "What's that?"

"A Cousin Basket," he explained. "For the animals."

I scrolled through the Reader Rabbit game in my mind: Rainbow Rock... Pop and Play Animals... Sky Shapers... Baby Basket Bingo.

Bingo.

I've mentioned before that Bud is not a fan of babies. They're not as bad as thunderstorms or dogs, of course, but they certainly run a not-too-distant third. They're loud. They're unpredictable. They move suddenly and quickly, and they are best avoided at all cost.

Except.

Except that Bud has a one-year-old cousin. She is a loud, unpredictable, sudden-moving little thing, but she's adorable - and Bud knows it. She adores Bud, too, and he enjoys the admiration, so, against all his better judgment, he just can't help but like her.

Therein lies the conflict.

But Bud is a problem-solver, and problem-solve he has. He has decided that though he still doesn't like babies, he does like cousins. And when the two come into conflict, cousins trump babies every time. So, he's happy to play a modified version of the Reader Rabbit game - and I think we can all agree that Cousin Basket Bingo is infinitely more palatable than Baby Basket Bingo could ever be.

Bud's willing to expand his cousin horizon even further. We have good friends we have not seen much over the past two years, because they have two very small children. But, lately, Bud has been coming up with excuses to drop by their house - he wants to show them his paper bag mask; he wants to show them a dance he made up. And he is clear with his requests: he would like to show these things to our friends and their cousins.

It's very good news, really, because now I can let my brother and his wife know that they're free to introduce another new cousin into the family. Just as long as they don't go and have a baby.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Throw the book at me

I have forgotten how to read.

At first, I was mildly concerned, but now I'm starting to panic. I can't read. Well, yes, I mean, I can read - I can look at words and know what they mean, I can string the words together into sentences and paragraphs and pages and collect the big picture, but I'm talking books here. Books. My shelter from the storm. My escape. My adventure. My friends. My books. I've forgotten how to read them.

It's been going on for several months. In those months, I have started and abandoned a dozen books. Good books. Books that I should like - that I would like, if I could just read them. But I can't. I can make it through about a chapter, and then I lose interest. They sit on my bedside table and mock me. I pick them up and put them down. I swap them out for other books. Nothing works.

So, please: help me out here. I need a book. I need a really great can't-put-it-down-if-you-try book. But I have qualifiers.

I am looking for a book:

that is not about autism;

that will not make me cry;

that does not involve children who are dead or abused or neglected or in pain;

that is not about women in midlife "finding themselves" or getting their grooves back;

BUT (and this is important)

that is not too light and fluffy.

I am looking for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Or Assassination Vacation. Or a new Rochelle Krich mystery.

Help!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Promising trend

I'm almost afraid to put it in writing.

I'm almost afraid to put it in writing, but if I don't put it in writing, then I'll have to climb on to the roof of my house and shout it as loud as I can and I don't want to have to do that because it's raining and the roof is slippery and I'm not particularly adventurous. So here it is, in writing:

Bud slept nine hours last night.

He slept ten hours the night before.

This is huge.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shine your light

If you're a frequent flyer on the autism blogger circuit, then you know Niksmom from Maternal Instincts. You know all about her wonderful son Nik, and you have been worrying with her about the profound difficulties that he is experiencing right now. If you don't know Nik and his mom, then this post will give you an idea of what they are going through.

Tonight, Niksmom posted this. She's worried, and she's asking for our help.

So, please: If you're the praying type, send prayers. If you're the thinking type, send thoughts. If you're the sending-energy-out-to-the-universe type, then channel your energy in their direction. Do whatever you can, even if - especially if - you think that there's nothing you can do.

We are with you, Niksmom. We are with you.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Wake-up call

I've mentioned several times before that Bud's creative problem-solving skills are superb. Here is yet another piece of evidence.

As you may recall, Bud has not been sleeping well lately. Since sometime in late August, he's been waking for the day between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. Over the past week, though, thanks to a shift in his medication, he has been sleeping most mornings until sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. What's even better is that when he wakes, he is much more calm and self-sufficient.

He typically comes into my room a couple of times after he's awoken to: 1) assure me that there are no storms, and 2) confirm that even though it's still dark, it is actually morning, by asking "Can I read books?" (In general, I respond to this question before 4:00 a.m. with "No, it's still nighttime. Try to go back to sleep." and after 4:00 a.m. with "Yes, you can read books quietly.") Once he gets the thumbs-up on book-reading, he dons his iPod and settles in with a stack of books, and I half-doze as I hear him talk and sing - and sometimes dance - in his room.

He clearly keeps his ears open, though, for the sound of my alarm clock, which signals to him that I am ready to get out of bed and join him. Lately, I've been using an iHome clock radio, which allows me to wake to a song on my iPod, and I usually only hear a few notes before Bud dashes into my room to greet me.

One day this week, Bud woke a bit before 4:00 a.m., but was clearly up for the day. He spent almost an hour in his room, then moved out into the hallway and lingered by my open door, waiting for the sound of my iPod, which wasn't scheduled to go off until 5:30. Around 5:00, I heard him rustling around at my bedside, but I kept my eyes closed and pretended to sleep. He climbed up next to me, and very gently slid his iPod headphones over my ears. Seconds later, I heard the opening strains of Brad Paisley's "All I Wanted Was a Car."

"I hear music!" I said. "Does that mean it's time for me to wake up?"

"Yeah!" Bud said with a giggle.

I've gotta say, if you have to wake up at 5:00 a.m., that is definitely the way to do it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Almost famous

Do you happen to read Country Weekly magazine?

If you do, you might want to flip to page 58 of the November 19 issue, which is currently on newsstands. On the bottom of the page, in the section titled "What's Online?" you'll find two pictures of Dierks Bentley - one showing him with long hair, the other with short hair. Next to that , you'll find a blurb written by Music Editor Chris Neal, which reads:

Dierks Reaches Out

The mother of an autistic child recently posted an open letter to Dierks Bentley on her blog, momnos.blogspot.com. She recounted how her son, Bud, was confused by the fact that Dierks has long hair in some of his videos and short hair in others. Dierks' wife, Cassidy, read the post and e-mailed her - and then Dierks himself sent Bud a package including a one-page handwritten letter explaining how he got his hair cut a year ago. The mother reports that Bud is now comfortable with seeing both the long- and short-haired Dierks. "I believe that The Dierks Bentley Hair Crisis of 2007 is officially over," she writes.
Wild.

Initially, I was thinking that as an homage to Country Weekly - and as a tip of the Stetson to anyone who might surf over to my blog after reading the article - I should use a country music reference for the title of this post. I considered using Miranda Lambert's "Famous in a Small Town," but then it dawned on me that I'm not sure you can consider yourself "famous" if most people don't know your real name. And, certainly, few people in my small town would connect this particular blurb to me.

But, still and all, it is pretty cool, don't you think?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

'Scuse me while I kiss this guy

Bud and I were riding in the car today, when Bud asked out of the blue, "Mama, what's a country roads?"

I glanced around to see if there was a sign outside that he was reading, then, seeing none, I said, "Well, it's a small street, in a place that's not too busy. Kind of like this street."

Bud was quiet for a minute, then asked, "Mama, what's a oh feeder monkey size?"

"A what, honey?"

"A oh feeder monkey size. What's a oh feeder monkey size?"

I played it through in my head: Oh feeder monkey size. Oh feed her, monkey sighs. Oaf eater, monkeycize! Oh, feed our monk, he sighs. Our feet are monkey-sized. I was stumped.

"Bud," I said, "I don't know what that is. Where did you hear that?"

"From Dierks."

From Dierks? Oh feeder monkey size?

Then it hit me: Country roads.

Country roads. Oh feeder monkey size.

"Country roads. Old theatre marquee signs.": the first line of Dierks Bentley's "Every Mile a Memory," and a classic case of mis-heard lyrics. In my book, "oh feeder monkey size" is right up there with Creedence Clearwater Revival's "There's a bathroom on the right."

What's the best song lyric you've heard someone get wrong?

Double-edged iPod

I've written before about what a useful tool Bud's iPod is. It's especially helpful when we're out shopping - it helps him manage the crowds, the bustle, the noise. It helps him stay focused and calm.

But there is a flip side.

Bud's iPod seems to invite comment from the older generation. Occasionally the remarks are made to the air, but are clearly directed to me, and involve some sort of commentary on the technology-driven isolationism of kids today, with a subtext of judgment about parents who indulge their young children too much - all said, naturally, with a wink and a laugh. That stuff rolls off pretty easily.

More challenging to manage - and more common, unfortunately - are the comments directed to Bud himself. The comments themselves are innocent enough, but it's like the iPod is a magnet for them; we hear them nearly every time we're out in public.

In almost every case, it seems the stranger takes a look at Bud and surmises two things: 1) Bud is listening to music so loud that it would be difficult to hear a comment made to him, and 2) Bud's failure to engage with the strangers around him and his seemingly complete focus on the music he's hearing is an unintended side effect of the iPod and is not, in fact, Bud's intent.

So the stranger leans down to Bud and asks loudly (or, sometimes, even shouts): "WHAT DO YOU HAVE THERE?" or "WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?" or "CAN I HAVE A LISTEN?" or "HEY, WHAT'S PLAYING?" Bud inevitably pulls back and doesn't answer, which prompts the stranger to either move closer or talk louder or both.

I have not come up with a good response to this yet. Sometimes I try to engage the stranger myself, answering the question and shielding Bud from further interrogation ("He's listening to Dierks Bentley. He's a big fan.") Sometimes I pretend to engage Bud in my answer ("You're listening to Dierks Bentley, aren't you, Bud? You love his music.") And, occasionally, when my mom-sense tells me that this will continue unless I intervene more directly, I say "He's autistic. The iPod helps him feel more comfortable in crowds." I never know how Bud feels about that particular response, so I try to use it sparingly. For the most part, I just smile and nod, and try to get Bud away from the questioner as gracefully as possible.

I have to admit, though, the more it happens, the more I start thinking that the next time we go shopping, maybe I'll wear my iPod, too.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All in good time

"Time will tell." That's how I ended my last post: time will tell if Bud's preoccupation with weather is really diminishing or not. Time will tell.

Yesterday, Bud had an appointment with a new doctor to look at his medication in a more global way. The appointment was in the same major medical center we always visit, but it was in a different location in the center - coincidentally, the same area where his pediatrician's office used to be, many years ago.

As we traveled to the hallway we hadn't visited in years, Bud said, "Remember when I'm littler I was scared of elevators."

"That's right, Bud," I said. "You were really scared of elevators when you were little, and now you're not scared of elevators at all."

"I'm not scared when I'm bigger," Bud said. "Just when I'm littler."

"That's right," I said. "Now that you're bigger, you like riding in elevators."

"Yeah," he said, as we kept walking.

"And you know what?" I said. "Someday, when you're even bigger, you're going to say to me 'Mom, remember when I was littler and I was afraid of storms? Now I'm bigger and I'm not afraid of storms at all.'"

"When I'm bigger?" Bud asked. "Not I'm littler?"

"Yes," I said. "When you're even bigger than you are now, storms won't scare you anymore."

Bud didn't say anything else, but I could tell that he was thinking hard about it. I was thinking hard about it, too.

Time will tell.