Sunday, January 31, 2010

Az it were

I'm watching the Grammy's tonight, and in honor of the Best New Artist award going to the Zac Brown Band, I offer this story:

One of the Zac Brown Band's smash hit singles is a song called "Toes." It's an infectious song that begs you to sing along to lyrics that go like this:

I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand,
not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand.
Life is good today.
Life is good today.

One day last summer, when "Toes" was in heavy rotation on the radio, Bud asked me, "Mom, what's an 'az'?"

"Well, it's a word for your bottom, Bud. Your bum."

"'Az' is a fanny?"

"Yes, it's a word for fanny. It's not a very nice word, though. It's kind of rude."

Bud thought about it for a while.

"Zac Brown has an az?"

"Well, sure, honey. Everybody does."

"Zac Brown has his az in the sand?"

"Well, yeah..."

"The whole band has their azzes in the sand?"

"I guess they do."

He thought for another minute.

"But," he said, "don't they have PANTS?"

---------------------

And, with that, I wrap up a successful BloPoMo - a post every day in January (and two on the 28th). I'm not likely to keep posting every day - since, as you can see, some days I just don't have much to say - but I do hope to stick with high frequency posting.

And also: the Zac Brown Band performed on the Grammy's tonight. They were all fully clothed.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Upside down and backwards

At 5:00 this morning, I thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of the fact that it was Saturday and sleep in a bit. Bud had other ideas, though, and was up and about, checking in with me every four to six minutes to see if it was time for breakfast yet.

We finally got ourselves up and moving (by which I mean, I finally got myself up and moving) and we had a nice morning at home. After lunch, we headed out for an afternoon of errands. Our first stop was the pharmacy, but when I pulled into the parking lot and looked in the rear view mirror, I saw that Bud was out cold. I decided to let him sleep, since he'd been up so early, and I left the car running so the inside would be toasty warm as he snoozed.

After about a half hour, I realized that this wasn't just a catnap, and when I saw my friend Kiki in the parking lot, I was happy to roll down the window to talk to her, letting the arctic air flow into the car, hoping it would start to revive Bud.

He slumbered on.

After another fifteen minutes, I turned off the car. I opened the door and let the "your keys are in the ignition" bell chime. I called Bud's name.

He didn't move.

I knew that if I woke him and tried to carry on with our errands, I would cause an avalanche of difficult behavior and would wish I were back in the car with a sleeping boy. I abandoned our errands, started the car back up, and drove home.

By the time we pulled into the garage, Bud had been asleep for nearly two hours. I woke him gently and he stumbled out of the car and into the house. He fumbled out of his jacket, then fell face first onto the couch and fell back to sleep.

Two hours later, well past the time he normally has dinner, I woke him gently, and he got up to eat.

Then he discovered just how refreshing a long afternoon nap can be.

Bud normally goes to bed by 8:00 p.m. He takes nighttime medication that normally makes him sleepy.

I gave him his regular meds around 8:15. It's currently 9:30.

He's acting like it's noon.

This ought to be an interesting night.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Autism as adverb

As I've mentioned, I'm currently reading Lev Grossman's latest book, The Magicians. I'm bringing it up again because in the last couple of chapters, I've twice come upon adverbs that made me stop reading and start thinking.

Here they are in context:

"Penny could be defensive when he was under attack, but he was so autistically focused right now that even direct mockery bounced off him." (249)

"Penny was nodding and rocking his whole body forward and backward semi-autistically." (260)

It should be noted that the character Penny is not, in fact, autistic - or, at least, is not identified as such.

I keep re-reading these sentences, because I'm not sure what I think of them - I'm not sure how I feel about "autistically" being used as an adverb to describe something other than autism. I don't think these adverbs are being used in a way that denigrates the character Penny - Grossman is not using "autistically" to mean "inappropriate" or "inadequate." In the first sentence, he is simply characterizing the kind of focus one often sees in a person with autism. In the second, he is characterizing a kind of movement. (Though "semi" autistically? I'm not even sure what that means.)

Part of me feels like this is okay - perhaps even good - as it simply conveys the message that acting "autistically" is just one of many ways of acting - not inherently good or inherently bad. Just one of many options.

Another part of me is unsettled by the use of the word in this way, and I'm not even sure why.

I am reminded, though, of Grossman's earlier book, Codex, in which there was a supporting character who was autistic. He was smart and technologically savvy, and I spent the book waiting for his autism to emerge as a critical plot point. It never did. He just happened to be a character who happened to be autistic.

The character in Codex and the incidental nature of his autism was reassuring to me. But the "autisticallys" in The Magicians are throwing me.

I'm curious to hear what the rest of you think about them.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Self esteem: still intact

As I always do, I snuggled in with Bud as I put him to bed tonight and after a few minutes, I kissed his head, got up, and said goodnight.

"Goodnight, Bud."

"Goodnight to you, too," he responded in a sleepy little voice.

"Sweet dreams."

"Sweet dreams to you, too."

"I'll see you in the morning."

"I'll see you in the morning to you, too."

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

"You're the best."

"I am the best."

What you're doing matters

Have you seen this? If you are a mom, you need to see this. And you need to have the Kleenex handy. (My thanks to Stimey for passing it on.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Remembering

We lost a colleague at work this week. She'd been gravely ill, but had also been extremely private about her illness, so most of us didn't see it coming until it came.

Which, I suppose, is how life is most of the time.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beeing Bud

I was in my office this morning when an e-mail came through:

dear mom,

guess what i did? i had a spelling bee.
love bud

Underneath Bud's e-mail was an explanation from Mrs. Nee. Today was the fourth and fifth grade spelling bee. She gave Bud the option of working in the classroom or going to watch the spelling bee, and he opted to watch.

After watching for a while, Bud said, "Hey, I would like to do that." Mrs. Nee asked if he'd like her to see if he could go to the front of the line, and he said he would. He got up in front of everyone and got the word "receive." He couldn't quite picture it in his head, so he tried to write it down.

"It came out not quite right," Mrs. Nee wrote, "but who cares? He did it!!!!! Great Bud moment!"

Bud was still bursting with pride this evening when he told me about his day. It didn't matter to him that he got the spelling word wrong. For Bud, it was all about beeing there.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Feeling good

Bud stayed home from school today and after a couple of days of taking it easy, he seems to be back in good health. This evening he had two things on his mind: 1) Was there any possibility that he could parlay this into another day off?, and 2) How had poor Mrs. Nee fared without him today?

I cleared up the first concern quickly: He was better. He was going to school tomorrow. The end.

I had to be a bit more delicate with the second.

"Mrs. Nee misses me?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm sure she did miss you, Bud," I answered.

"She said, 'Oh, where is Bud?'"

"Well..."

"Did she cried? She said (sob, sob, sob) I miss Bud."

"Well, no, honey, she didn't cry."

"She missed me?"

"Well, I'm sure she missed you, honey. But she didn't cry. She knows you're coming back, just like when she's not at school, you know that she'll be coming back. She knows you're coming back, so she's not sad."

While he processed that, I changed the subject and let him know I'd made an appointment for him with the eye doctor, because his pediatrician thinks he might need glasses.

Bud perked right up and said, "And Mrs. Nee will say 'Hey-ey-ey-ey... you look GREAT in those glasses!"

The boy may have a lot of challenges, but self-esteem is certainly not one of them.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sick day

I thought about calling in sick to the blog today, but it's Bud who's sick, not me.

He woke up this morning around 3:00 and came into my room. I'm not sure that he ever fully went back to sleep, though I dozed off and on until he convinced me to get up around 7:00 - at which point... well, I'll spare you the details. I'll just say that everything that was on the bed at the time ended up in the washing machine.

It was an interesting morning, as we focused on slow re-hydration, avoiding solid foods and postponing his morning medication.

By noon, he was re-hydrated, but, with no medication in his system, he was unable to slow himself down. At noon, he told me, "I need to walk." And he started walking at a fast clip around the house, up the stairs, down the stairs, through each room, throughout the house, walking, walking, walking, and scripting, scripting, scripting from a variety of Elmo's World segments all at the same time: Does a birthday cake draw? No, but you can draw on a birthday cake. Does a pineapple have a birthday? No, but you can eat pineapple at a birthday party. What sings and what doesn't? A birthday cake, a mailbox, or some children? What has hands and what doesn't? Does a lion have hands? What grows in the ground? A carrot, a mailbox, or...

This went on - and I am not exaggerating - for 90 minutes, during which I was able to get him to slow down long enough to take small bites of dry toast so that he'd have something in his stomach along with the medication I knew I had to give him. Afraid that the movement, toast and meds might be too much for his tummy, I made Bud lie down, and after half an hour of Elmo's World scripting in bed, he fell fast asleep and slept for the rest of the afternoon.

He was in good spirits this evening, and had, in fact, done a turn-around regarding school tomorrow. This morning, he lifted his head from the toilet long enough to tell me, "I guess I won't be going to school on Monday." But this evening on his way to bed, he thought it might be a good idea to go to school tomorrow. He has a hunch that his illness will make for a good story and will garner a lot of sympathy and support from Mrs. Nee, who, he tells me, will say, "Oh, no! That's terrible!" And, of course, he doesn't want to miss that.

But time will tell, and we'll see how the evening goes and how he looks in the morning. He's sleeping now, and within minutes, I will be, too. It has been a very long day.

(That was your cue. Everybody, now: "Oh, no! That's terrible!")

Good night, friends.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A little hairstory

So, okay. As I promised yesterday, here is the back story on the Dierks Bentley Hair Crisis of 2007 (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you can either click that link and backtrack a bit or just skip this post and come back and rejoin us here tomorrow). I'm not sure why I've never told you this story before. It must have happened at a time when I wasn't blogging much.

Anyway, the solution to the mystery became clear sometime during the summer 0f 2008. At that time, Bud's communication skills had made some significant advances, allowing him to express more complex thoughts in more complex ways. Perhaps more importantly, he also had an increased desire to be understood - he could discern when I didn't understand what he was trying to say, and he was suddenly both more willing and better able to re-frame and rephrase until he knew that I'd received his message. (Even now, these are still emerging skills for Bud - but they are skills for him nonetheless.)

So it was that one evening during the summer of 2008, Bud asked me, "Remember when Dierks had long hair and he was a mean guy?"

I was stunned, so I started asking questions, and Bud started filling in the blanks.

In order to understand the rest of the story, you need to watch two videos. The first is the video for "Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)," which was Dierks' single during the summer of 2007. That summer was a difficult time for our family, and Bud and I found solace - and a vehicle for connecting with each other - in country music. Country music was new to us and as we navigated through some rough waters in our life, it became our rudder - we could listen to it, learn about it, and talk about it together, and in so doing, remind ourselves that no matter what else was going on in our lives, we could always listen and learn and talk with each other. "Free and Easy" became an instant favorite for both of us, and we watched the video together a lot. And when I say "a lot, " I mean A LOT. Because we were new to country music, we were also new to Dierks Bentley, so the guy in this video was the only Dierks Bentley we knew. And he was already achieving hero status for Bud.

What I didn't realize until Bud explained it to me in the summer of 2008, is that the second Dierks Bentley video we watched in the summer of 2007 - and the one you need to watch all the way through right now if you want to understand the rest of the story - was the video for "Long Trip Alone." In Bud's mind, this video featured two people - the repentant, respectful, hard-working, kind-hearted, short-haired Dierks who was a GOOD guy, and the surly, angry, hard-drinking, bar-fighting, long-haired Dierks who was a MEAN guy. The video's story was confusing for Bud, because his linear mind didn't grasp the concept of flashback, but, more importantly, the meaning of the video was lost because he didn't understand the concept of acting. In his mind, after watching that video, it became clear that the short-haired "Free and Easy" Dierks was still a hero, but the long-haired "Long Trip Alone" beer-fighter was to be avoided at all cost.

Imagine his dismay, then, when we started watching other videos and he discovered that the long-haired mean guy sang all the other songs.

As time passed, and as Dierks reached out and showed Bud what a truly nice guy he was, Bud came around to the long hair, but it was really in the spirit of forgiving Dierks his past meanness. Once I understood Bud's confusion, though, I was able to explain to him what music videos are, what acting is, and how Dierks was just pretending to be in a fight. Bud was relieved to know that the men in the bar were really Dierks' friends, that none of it actually happened, and that Dierks is a nice guy no matter how long his hair is.

Bud still catalogues Dierks' music by hair length in the files of his mind - so, "Lot of Leaving Left To Do" is "old curly hair," "Sweet and Wild" is "short hair," "Sideways" is "new curly hair," and, I imagine, if my supposition regarding yesterday's photograph is correct, the bluegrass album Dierks is currently working on will become "new short hair." But it's all good.

It was an amazing feeling when things finally clicked - when Bud was able to explain to me what was bothering him and I was able to reconstruct reality in a way that allayed his fears. But it also made me wonder what other misperceptions and misunderstandings color his view of people, of places, of life? What other imaginary hurdles are standing in his way? And what are the questions I need to ask to get those conversations started?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Beating the clock

It's 11:54 p.m., which means I have six minutes to get this post written and published if I'm going to meet my post-every-day-in-January goal. Tonight, an evening out with two of my closest friends took priority over blogging. I had a hunch you'd all understand.

So, two questions on my mind tonight after the publication of this photo on Dierks Bentley's Facebook page:

1. Did Dierks Bentley cut his hair again?

and

2. If he did, how is Bud going to react?

Which reminds me that I never told you about how I figured out where Bud's original Dierks Bentley short hair/long hair angst came from.

But I'll have to tell you about it tomorrow, because right now it's 11:59.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Childhood stinks

I'm loving these audience-participation posts. I have to say, you folks are a triple threat - great taste in tv, music AND books! Thanks for chiming in.

Here's another.

This week, a colleague of mine brought in a twelve-pack of Pepsi Throwback. Have you heard about this product? It's a limited release brand of Pepsi that is made with real sugar, as it was before they switched to high fructose corn syrup in the early 1980s.

My friend handed a can of Pepsi to anyone who'd take one, and when I cracked mine open, the smell that hit my nose transported me instantly to the 1970s. I don't remember the Pepsi formula changing. I'm not sure I even knew it happened. But, I'll tell you, the smell was unmistakable: it smelled like childhood.

It started me thinking about the smells that bring me back.

Like this: There's some kind of floor cleaner out there that, to me, smells strongly of green lollipops. I don't smell it often, but when I do, I am instantly walking through the side door of my elementary school. (As it turns out, according to what I've been reading, it's not a very good sign that this is the sort of smell that triggers my childhood memories. But, there you have it.)

So, what are the smells that bring you back? What do they smell like and where do they bring you?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Whatcha readin'?

The clock is ticking and the creative juices aren't flowing, so my thanks go out tonight to Island Mom, who suggested that I solicit book suggestions, as I did with tv series last week. I think it's a terrific idea. I've done it a couple of times before, actually, and I read some fantastic books as a result.

I don't have a lot of "must reads" to pass on to you right now, but I do have a sizable stack of books in my "to be read" pile. I'm currently reading Lev Grossman's The Magicians, but on deck, in no particular order, are:

Dave Eggers' Zeitoun

Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked

Katherine Neville's The Fire

Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections

Paul Collins' The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World, and

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book

I've also got a couple of special needs parenting books on the stack:

Dawn Heubner's What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming OCD, and

Linda Woodcock and Andrea Page's Managing Family Meltdown: The Low Arousal Approach and Autism

So, how about you? Read any good books lately?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dazzling smiles

One of the best things about blogging is that it captures moments in time, allowing me to go back to earlier posts and see what I saw then instead of relying on my memories of that time. It's especially helpful as I try to gauge Bud's development. As I often say, I try hard to avoid comparing Bud to his peers and instead try to compare him to himself. Having almost five years of blog posts to sort through can make the comparison a lot easier.

In 2005, I wrote about a victorious trip to the dentist. It was victorious even though very little actual tooth cleaning happened.

In 2006, I wrote about a difficult trip to the dentist, and about how Bud's iPod helped him manage the experience.

You might want to go back and read those posts before you continue. Because Bud had a dentist appointment today.

Bud and I sat in the waiting room of our fabulous pediatric dentist, him listening to his iPod and me filling out paperwork. While I was still completing the form, the hygienist came out and called his name. I started to gather our coats and bags when the hygienist said, "Do you think he's ready to try coming in on his own?"

I was stunned. I knew that other parents waited outside while their kids went in - but Bud? Really?

But the hygienist has worked with Bud before. She knew what to expect. She handed me a pager and said she'd buzz me when they were ready for me. I asked Bud if he'd go in while I stayed in the waiting room to finish the paperwork. Without hesitation he walked off happily with his hygienist as I sat and stared in amazement.

When they'd gone through the office door, I looked at the seat next to me. Bud had left his iPod behind.

I waited for them to come back out to retrieve it. They didn't.

I finished the paperwork, then wondered what to do with myself.

I could be reading a book, I thought. I could be sitting in a waiting room reading a book while my son gets his teeth cleaned. I am the sort of person who has the sort of child who can get his teeth cleaned while his mother is sitting in the waiting room reading a book.

From behind the door, I heard a young child start to wail. I knew it wasn't Bud, but I also imagined that the sound would trigger panic in Bud. I stared at the pager, expecting it to start buzzing - expecting the hygienist to call in the cavalry.

The pager was silent.

When the pager finally sounded - after about the amount of time it takes to clean a child's teeth - I made my way back to join Bud in a bright and cheery orange room. The hygienist was giving him rides up and down in the dental chair while they waited for the dentist to come in and do a final check. Bud was calm and happy. So was the hygienist.

We sat and chatted, then met with the dentist, and then set up an appointment for Bud in six months.

The hygienist says he's ready now, so Bud will be getting x-rays.

And I will be bringing a book.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King Day, Junior

As I was getting Bud ready for bed this evening, it occurred to me that I should talk to him about why he'd had the day off from school. I mistakenly assumed that he didn't know.

"So, Bud," I asked, "do you know why there was no school today?"

"It's Martin Luther King Day!" he cried. "Junior!"

"That's right!" I said, surprised. "And do you know who Martin Luther King, Junior was?"

"He was the President," Bud replied. "He made a speech."

"Well, he wasn't the President," I said, "but he was a very important American. Do you know what his speech was about?"

"About Free At Last!" Bud said. He told me they'd heard it at school. And then we had a brief conversation about skin color and difference and value.

But the point was not lost on me: my son saw a black man making a speech and assumed he was a President. Because in the world he's growing up in, when he sees a black man making a speech - it usually is the President.

And that's all because of Martin Luther King, Junior.

Kristina Chew has a great post today on care2.com about MLKJ's legacy and the lives of our children with autism. Click here to read it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Your song

I just finished a weekend of training with our student staff and, as has become our tradition, we ended the weekend with a teambuilding exercise in which everyone contributed a song that represents them. We played a clip from each, tried to guess whose song it was, and then heard from the person who had actually chosen it about why they'd chosen that particular song.

It's always a fascinating exercise, as it gives us all a sense of how well we can predict each other, who among us always keeps us guessing, and who no one seems to know at all. It's fascinating to hear the range of music that people choose - ballads, novelty songs, dance tracks, musical numbers, oldies, current hits, songs everyone knows, songs no one else has heard - as well as the reasons that people choose their songs. Some chose their favorite songs of all time. Some chose their current favorites. Some chose songs because of a lyric that is meaningful to them. Some chose songs from their childhoods. Some chose songs that represent their world view. Some chose songs that remind them of a person or a place or a time in their lives. Some chose songs specifically because they didn't think anyone would guess it was theirs. One even chose a song because it was the song that was playing when he got the e-mail telling him to choose a song. Each song - each staff member - had a story, and every one of them was interesting to hear.

It got me thinking that it would be an interesting activity for any group of people to take on. So, if you're willing, post your song in the comments - what song best represents you and why? Post a link to the song if you can, so we can listen if we don't already know it.

I'll go first, with the song I chose for our staff activity today. This was our fourth year using this exercise, and I've found that choosing a new song each year forces me to think about the year that has past since the last January training, about where I was then, and about where I am now. This year I chose the song "Beautiful World," a duet by Dierks Bentley and Patty Griffin. I chose it because its message is one that resonates with me: there is a lot in this life that is challenging. There's a lot of pain and a lot of trouble. But there is also a lot of joy and a lot of beauty. I think that our lives get defined by the choice that we make to either focus on the trouble or focus on the beauty. And I choose to believe that it's a beautiful world.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sad boy, happy heart

Most of the time, I feel like I'm parenting with a paper bag over my head, with no idea if I'm saying or doing the right thing. I like to believe that this has nothing to do with Bud's autism and that many parents feel like parenting is mostly just fumbling around in the dark, trying to minimize the damage you do, and hoping that, perhaps, by chance, you just might stumble into something good. And, man, when you stumble into the good stuff - wow, does it feel good.

Bud's school is currently running their Winter Sports program on Fridays. Unlike last year, Bud was absolutely sure which activity he wanted to choose: cross-country skiing. The team at school built a support plan and were ready to roll on the first day: he'd be skiing with his paraprofessional, Mrs. Nee, and a special educator, Mrs. Jamison, two women he trusts implicitly, along with the instructor and other children.

When the time came, though, despite extensive preparation, the dramatic break in schedule proved to be too much for my routine-craving boy. Suffice it to say, it was a very difficult afternoon for everyone who was there, and Bud was sad and exhausted by the time he got home. I think he worried that he'd burned a bridge with Mrs. Nee, because on Monday - and every day for the rest of the week - instead of grumbling about not wanting to be at school, he met her at the door in the morning with a hug.

The team made a plan for the following Friday, modifying his Winter Sports schedule in a way that didn't make it seem like he was being rewarded for difficult behavior. He switched to snowshoeing (at his request) with Mrs. Jamison - an activity that is more familiar and that doesn't require a bus ride. The team developed a social story that he read and discussed at school and at home, and he seemed happily ready for the next Winter Sports day.

When the idea became reality, though, Bud balked and though his response wasn't as extreme as it had been the week before, it centered on the absence of Mrs. Nee - an absence he found so dysregulating that Mrs. Jamison opted to scrap the snowshoeing and move on to an even less challenging Plan B.

Mrs. Jamison sent me an e-mail at work to fill me in on how the day had gone, and I called Bud on the phone as I drove home. We talked about what happened and I told him that we would need to keep talking about it, so that he would be ready for Winter Sports next week.

"Can Mrs. Nee do snowshoeing?" he asked.

"I don't think so, Bud," I answered, not wanting to promise anything that might not be a possibility. "She is supposed to go skiing."

"But could Mrs. Nee switch to snowshoeing?" he asked. "Can she do snowshoeing instead of skiing with everyone else?"

Inside my head, I was tap-dancing at the sophistication of his language and his ability to problem-solve and communicate his hypothetical ideas, but with my outside voice, I said, "I just don't think so, Bud."

"Can I just stay at school and do work with Mrs. Nee while everyone else does Winter Sports?"

I was stunned by the idea that he would opt for work over play in any circumstance, but began to understand the depth of feeling he had surrounding the "loss" of Mrs. Nee for the afternoon.

"It's hard when Mrs. Nee isn't with you, huh, Bud?" I asked.

"It makes me sad," he said. "I'm sad because I miss Mrs. Nee. Can we ask her to do work with me?"

"I'm not sure it's a choice, Bud," I said, silently scolding myself for using language that folds in on itself and is probably hard for him to understand. "She might have to stay with skiing."

"But can I tell her?"

"You can't tell her what to do," I said, "but you can tell her how you're feeling."

"I can tell her how I'm feeling? I can tell Mrs. Nee that I feel sad?"

"Yes, Bud," I said. "It's always okay to talk about your feelings."

"Oh, THANK YOU, Mom," he said, the relief in his voice evident even through the phone. "You make my heart happy."

And, I'm sure I don't need to tell you, that was a parenting moment that made for two happy hearts.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Remembering sleep

I attended a faculty development workshop about student learning this week, and I've been mulling something over ever since.

The presenter covered a lot of territory in his day-long presentation, including statistics related to the link between memory and sleep. I couldn't remember the specifics of what he said (probably because, like many parents of children with autism, I don't get nearly as much sleep as I should), so I spent a few minutes Googling it this evening.

I found this article from ScienceDaily from June, 2005. It reads:

A good night's sleep triggers changes in the brain that help to improve memory,according to a new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).

These findings, reported in the June 30, 2005, issue of the journal Neuroscience and currently published on-line, might help to explain why children -- infants, in particular -- require much more sleep than adults, and also suggest a role for sleep in the rehabilitation of stroke patients and other individuals who have suffered brain injuries...

New memories are formed within the brain when a person engages with information to be learned for example, memorizing a list of words or mastering a piano concerto). However, these memories are initially quite vulnerable; in order to "stick" they must be solidified and improved. This process of "memory consolidation" occurs when connections between brain cells as well as between different brain regions are strengthened, and for many years was believed to develop merely as a passage of time. More recently, however, it has been demonstrated that time spent asleep also plays a key role in preserving memory...

"The MRI scans are showing us that brain regions shift dramatically during sleep," says (Matthew) Walker (PhD, Director of BIDMC's Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory). "When you're asleep, it seems as though you are shifting memory to more efficient storage regions within the brain. Consequently, when you awaken, memory tasks can be performed both more quickly and accurately and with less stress and anxiety."

The end result is that procedural skills -- for example, learning to talk, to coordinate limbs, musicianship, sports, even using and interpreting sensory and perceptual information from the surrounding world -- become more automatic and require the use of fewer conscious brain regions to be accomplished.

This new research may explain why children and teenagers need more sleep than adults and, in particular, why infants sleep almost round the clock.

But what might it say about children with autism? What might it indicate about their brain function, sleep cycles, and development?

Why do so many children with autism, like Bud, have trouble sleeping?

How do so many children with autism, like Bud, have extraordinary memories (and, as I have suggested before, what almost appears to be a diminished capacity to forget), in spite of often getting so little sleep?

And how much does their sleep deficiency account for the significant challenges that so many children with autism, like Bud, face with things like "learning to talk, coordinating limbs... (and)using and interpreting sensory and perceptual information from the surrounding world?"

Is there a causal relationship in here somewhere? And, if so, where is the chicken and where is the egg? What is the starting point? Does Bud's brain start as a system with enhanced memory, which then requires less sleep, which then has a negative impact on his language, motor, and sensory development, which then makes him more inclined to put his energy into his area of strength - his memory - which then makes him need less sleep, which then...?

Or does the process start somewhere else?

Or are all of these factors co-occurring but unrelated?

Or are they related, but not causal - are they all a function of a difference that exists in a particular area of the autistic brain?

Is research being done on this?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Big honor, small blurb

I did a really cool thing this week.

Actually, I did two cool things. First, I read an advance copy of Claire Hughes-Lynch's book Children With High-Functioning Autism: A Parent's Guide. Dr. Claire is a college professor of special education and is also the parent of a child with autism. She knows her stuff and she's lived her stuff.

Then, second - and this is the really cool part - I wrote a blurb for the book's back cover. I was extraordinarily flattered when Claire contacted me to ask if I'd be willing to consider it and was even more flattered once I'd read the book and discovered how terrific it is. The blurb wrote itself.

The two works - the book and its back cover - will be out in April.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti

This afternoon, I spoke to a student who was scheduled to return to campus this evening. She is currently living in the U.S., but is originally from Haiti. Her mother and brothers are there right now. She has not been able to reach them. Some of my colleagues have spoken to other students who are in similar situations.

Tonight, I am watching the images coming out of Haiti and I'm listening to the news. My heart is heavy.

The Red Cross is making it easy to donate to the response efforts: you can make a $10 donation by texting "Haiti" to 90999. My money is on its way. And so are my prayers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I told you this was coming

Remember back on January 1 when I told you I'd be posting every day this month? Remember when I told you to be prepared to read about what I had for lunch?

Breyer's light yogurt - strawberry cheesecake flavor - with Special K Fruit and Yogurt cereal mixed in.

And an apple.

Honeycrisp.

Frankly, it didn't stay with me very long.

Kind of like this post.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spreading the iPod love

Jess Wilson from Diary of a Mom has a phenomenal idea.

If you've ever run into Bud and me when we were out and about - at the grocery store, at the doctor's office, at the library, anywhere that might be dysregulating for Bud - in other words, just about anywhere - you've probably seen Bud with earphones on his ears and an iPod in his hand. Even if you only know us through the entries on this blog, you may have noticed how often Bud's iPod makes an appearance. There are actually several different posts devoted to it. In fact, Bud's iPod is such an important tool - so critical to his ability to navigate the world - that when he lost his iPod before Christmas and I had to order a new one, I found myself thinking that the cost should be covered by insurance. It's that instrumental.

I was not surprised, then, to read Jess' open letter to Steve Jobs, in which she let him know how important her daughter Kendall's iPod has been for her.

But I was surprised by her follow-up post.

Jess has teamed up with the Boston-area Autism Alliance of MetroWest to collect working iPods from people who have upgraded to newer models and put them into the hands of children and adults with autism who would otherwise not have them.

Please go here and read about the project. And if you have an old iPod that you're not using, please pack it up and send it along.

You will truly be making a difference.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Next in a series

I've been on a roll lately renting (or buying or borrowing from the library) seasons of television series that either air on a channel I don't get or that somehow escaped me the first time around. I started with Dexter. I've seen the three seasons that are out on DVD, and if you breathe a WORD about Season 4 to me before it's out...

But you wouldn't do that.

When Dexter was done, I moved on to Six Feet Under. What a show. Have you seen it? If you haven't, go out and get it now. It's worth watching all five seasons just to see the series finale.

Now, I'm watching - and loving - Mad Men, and am delighted to know that 1) Season 3 will be out on DVD in just a couple of months and 2) the show airs on AMC, which is a channel I get, so I'll be good to go when Season 4 starts. But, for right now, I'm dangerously close to the end of Season 2, and I'm going to need to find something to fill the dead air.

So, assume that I've seen nothing (and you won't be far off). What should I start next?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Toothy grins

As goes Santa, so goes the Tooth Fairy.

Bud lost a tooth today and tonight at bedtime he asked, "Are you ready to play the game?"

"What game?" I asked.

"The Tooth Fairy game!" he answered.

I assured him I was. And then we laughed.

It's nice to know that even when the mystery's gone, the magic remains.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Welcome (back) to the future

I have this theory that someday I will be looking through a new acquaintance's old vacation photos and I'll see myself in the background of a picture. Think about it: when you're snapping pictures in a touristy area, you always capture images of lots of other people standing beside the people and things you are really trying to capture. We're all walking around with photo books full of strangers - except, my theory is, it's likely that some of those strangers we encountered in our past are actually people who will be important in our future; we just don't recognize them at the time.

I've got nothing to back this up, of course. I just believe that it happens.

It's stuff like this:

Shortly after KAL from Autism Twins won the Ice Out '08 competition on my blog, we discovered that we went to college together. We graduated from the same university the same year. We didn't know each other, but I bet we passed each other in the student union and said hello. I bet I dropped my student ID in the dining hall and she picked it up and handed it back to me. I bet we took Intro to Psych in the same massive lecture hall. And I bet the professor even mentioned autism. We were probably sitting next to each other that day. I bet there were all kinds of coincidences. We just didn't know it.

And then there's Niksmom from Maternal Instincts. We discovered about a year ago that we had a mutual Facebook friend. It seems that Pearl, a woman who is like family to me, the mother of my dear friend Kay, worked with Niksmom in the late eighties. Upon discovering the connection, Pearl produced a twenty-year-old photograph of Niksmom sitting in their living room - a living room so familiar to me that it could be my own. For all I know, I arrived at their house as that gathering was breaking up. Perhaps Niksmom and I passed in the driveway. Maybe I sat down in the chair she'd just vacated before the seat was even cold.

And now that I think about it, Kay and I are friends from college. Kay was probably KAL's lab partner in some general education science course.

I think this stuff happens. All. The. Time.

Interestingly enough, I've been thinking about this because I've been thinking about Brad Paisley and my friend Kiki.

In late August, 2007, to celebrate our mutual birthdays, my friend Kiki and I traveled two hours to a county fair to see a Brad Paisley concert. On the way, I told her the remarkable story of Bud and Dierks Bentley's hair - a story that had unfolded two weeks earlier. A few months later, Kiki and I went together to see Dierks Bentley.

Then, this past July, I was at home when my cell phone rang. It was Kiki, who was vacationing with her husband and son in Washington, D.C.

"You will never believe where I am," she said when I answered. "I'm at the Lincoln Memorial, standing twenty five feet away from Brad Paisley."

Brad was there shooting a video. Kiki and her family just happened to be walking by, and they stayed to watch. Then they were invited to join the crowd as the crew started filming some footage.

Less than two months later, I was with Kiki when I saw that Brad's video had been released online. The song was Welcome To The Future - a song that, in fact, I'd blogged about the previous month.

We pulled the video up on my laptop. It prominently featured children - including children with disabilities. Its message was one of hope, of promise, and of potential. Before it was over, I was crying - but not crying so hard that I missed the images of Kiki's family, their hands in the air, singing along with Brad Paisley.

Two weeks later, I stood backstage at the very same county fairground where Kiki and I had seen Brad two years earlier, almost to the day. I stood with Brad and Dierks and Bud, my boy whose disability had made this meeting possible - my boy, who at that very moment, was so full of hope, of promise, and of potential.

As we stood there together, the crew on stage next to us tested equipment and the opening strains of Welcome to the Future filled the air. Despite my preoccupation with keeping Bud regulated, I thought of Kiki and felt like I should somehow acknowledge the bigger picture - the coincidence, the synchronicity - this fairground on this weekend, these lives that have intersected, this child with this disability, this song and this video - this hope, this promise, this potential. But I didn't have the words. And so I let the moment pass.

But I'm thinking that Brad Paisley might want to pull out some of his old photo albums and check out the background of pictures from his childhood trips to Disneyworld and the like. Because I have a hunch that he just might see me standing there somewhere, perhaps looking distracted in line for It's A Small World.

Or maybe he'll see my friend Kiki.



Thursday, January 07, 2010

Joy ride

I've written before about the bond that Bud and my dad have - a bond that strengthens every day, both despite and because of the challenges that each of them faces. There's a moment that captures their relationship for me and I replay it in my mind all the time.

It was late summer and my dad had recently arrived at - or perhaps been led to - the difficult decision that it was time for him to stop driving. The truth is that it was long past time, but, anyway, the end had finally come. We had not yet gotten rid of his car, though, so it sat untouched in the driveway for several weeks.

One afternoon during that time, I was in the backyard mowing the lawn and Bud and my dad were in the front yard, where my dad was puttering in his garden with Bud's eager assistance. A short time later, I looked up from my mowing to see my dad's car slowly creeping down the street past the house - and I mean truly creeping - he couldn't have been going more than five miles an hour.

I couldn't believe it: He's sneaking out!
Then I wondered if he'd left Bud alone in the front yard. As I started to turn off the mower to investigate more closely, my dad's car stopped about 100 yards past the house, swung into a u-turn, then started creeping back up the street and past the house in the other direction.

What is he doing?, I wondered, unable to generate any theory at all.

Sure enough, though, once the car was about 100 yards past the house in the other direction, it swung in a slow U and started making it's way back. I walked out to the front of the house just as the car crept past the driveway, and there they were - Butch and Sundance - my dad doing his illicit driving and my son sitting illicitly in the always-verboten front seat next to him.

As they passed the driveway again, Bud glanced out the window and saw me. His face registered an instant "oh, crap - we're busted," and then he broke into a grin and waved to me.

I waved back, then returned to my mowing and let them have their outlaw moment - especially since their particular brand of outlaw had a markedly sweet bent to it.

I think that's the last time my dad ever drove his car.

I just hope the memory of that last ride is as precious to him as it will forever be to me.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The art of the deal

There was a message on my cell phone this afternoon.

Apparently, Bud was at home negotiating with Nana about whether or not he could have a Weight Watcher's cookie, or "Watcher Cookie," in Bud-speak. Nana wasn't sure if he'd already had a cookie at lunch, and told him that he'd need to call and get my approval before she'd hand over the goods.

The message on my phone sounded something like this:

"Hi, Mom. I was just wondering, could I have a Watcher Cookie?" Pause, pause, pause. "I can? Oh, thank you, Mom!"

I heard the strains of Nana's voice in the background before the call disconnected: "Wait a minute, are you talking to Mom or did you get her machine? She needs to tell ME that it's okay. Bud, give me the..." Click.

Okay, I'll grant you, it lacks integrity.

But my kid is BRILLIANT.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Always be eating

We are the champions, my friends.

Bud had a great visit with his pediatrician today. I've been in high-anxiety mode since late summer, when, as the result of a much-needed switch in the timing of his medication, Bud's appetite kicked into overdrive and he gained 11 pounds in three months. Shortly after that, the news was full of reports that this sort of rapid weight gain was not atypical for children on this type of medication. Typical or not, though, it was dangerous for Bud and his doctor warned that it could cause him to develop diabetes. At that point, Bud's diet got an overhaul.

And it worked. As of today, Bud is back to the height/weight ratio he had in the summer and his BMI is within the normal range. Of course, we need to stay focused and stay on course, but today it's feeling really good.

I'm loathe to give advice on this sort of thing, because I suspect it's a "your mileage may vary" kind of issue, but I also imagine that there are lots of parents out there Googling things like "autism medication weight gain solutions" as frantically as I was a few months ago. And maybe something that worked for us will spark an idea for somebody else. So...

First, the most significant turning point in my thinking about Bud and food came when his doctor explained to me what the medication was doing in Bud's brain. Up to that point, I thought that the medication had simply increased Bud's appetite, and that the solution lay in finding foods that would fill him up and stay with him without adding too many calories to his diet. So, I focused on foods that were high in fiber, but it seemed that no matter how much he ate, he never felt full.

The reason, his doctor explained, is that the issue was not really one of hunger. A side effect of his medication is that it basically deactivates the trigger in his brain that tells him when he is full. So, even when his body is satisfied - indeed, even when it is OVER-filled - Bud will still feel hunger.

Suddenly, I understood why my boy was eating a pound of bananas in a single day.

I asked the doctor what other parents had done to combat this. She said that, in honesty, those that had been most successful had gone the route of using locks - locks on the cupboards; locks on the refrigerator.

I pictured my kitchen as a fortress. I imagined how it would feel to Bud. I imagined how confusing it would be to my dad, who is already struggling enough with confusion. And then I dismissed the idea.

Instead, I focused on devising a plan that would let Bud feel like he was eating all the time. I reasoned that, since he would feel the same level of hunger no matter what he ate, the important part was to make him feel like he was always able to have something.

And so evolved Operation Always Be Eating:

- I used the Weight Watchers approach to choosing foods, trying to find low fat/high fiber substitutes for the foods Bud liked (Fiber One pancakes instead of Aunt Jemimah, fat free American cheese instead of regular - that sort of thing).

- I made sure there were some things that would keep his mouth busy that he could always help himself to - sugar-free Popsicles and sugar-free gum were ALWAYS available in large quantity.

- I stopped buying fruit juices and started buying single-serving bottles of water, which are just more fun for a kid to drink than a glass of water from the tap.

- I bought sugar-free juice packets to mix in to the bottled water, and while I'd prefer that he had less artificial sugar in his diet, sometimes you just have to choose the lesser of the evils.

- I found low cal, low fat treats he liked and didn't keep any high-fat, high-cal treats in the house. The biggest score? Cool Whip Free. Almost no calories, and he feels like he's eating ice cream.

- I learned that portion control is a key to success. As long as Bud was having the same KINDS of foods, he didn't make a fuss about the quantity. One piece of toast was just as good as two. A small banana was as good as a big one. Using smaller plates and bowls helped to make it SEEM like he was having just as much as ever. 100-calorie snack packs were valuable because they had built-in portion control AND had the added benefit of not leaving an open bag of something that would be easy to steal from. I also did a lot of splitting 100-calorie packs (creating two 50-cal pretzel bags or three 33 1/3 cal mini-muffin treats.)

- I learned that if Bud needed to feel like he could always be eating, I had to rethink the "three meals a day" approach to food. So, breakfast became the thing that happens over the course of the morning. Lunch became the thing that happens over the course of mid-day. Items that would once have been presented together as a total lunch "package" were metered out instead, piece by piece, hour by hour.

- I also learned that some things need to stay as they are. His weekend cheese pizza from the local pizza shop? The thing he loves more than anything else? It stays the same, in frequency, size, and drippy, greasy content.

And so far, so good - or, so says the doctor's scale. I have to say, in some ways, the autism-driven preference for sameness works to our advantage. Now, when given a choice, he will choose to buy the Weight Watchers ice cream treats instead of the higher-calorie (better tasting) versions. Because he likes what he knows, and now, that's what he knows.

Bud has also been a trooper about it. We've talked a lot about healthy eating. He's working at it. He's still stealing food now and then, but not to the same degree. He's becoming a partner in the process - and I have to think that the medication he's on - the one that's causing the problem to begin with - has also been instrumental in helping him regulate enough to be more thoughtful about his food intake.

It's still a daily concern and I still have to monitor it closely. But for today, it feels like a victory - and I'm going to eat it up.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Mac envy

Okay, I spent the better part of the weekend trying to upgrade the operating system on my HP laptop from Vista to Windows 7. I was very, very excited about the upgrade because I despise Vista, but after more hours than I'd like to admit, I'm ready to throw the laptop out the window.

Has anyone else made this upgrade on an HP? I followed the instructions veeeeeeery carefully. Luckily, I backed up everything first. I say "luckily" because hours later I had to restore everything. I will spare you the details; the upshot is that after innumerable torturous hours and some pretty spicy curse words, my laptop is still running Vista.

The reason?

According to the upgrade software provided to me by HP, my "keyboard filter" driver needs to be updated.

According to my HP laptop, I do not have a "keyboard filter" driver.

According to the HP support website, there are a multitude of keyboard-related drivers for my computer for which updates are available. I have run them all.

And according to the upgrade software provided to me by HP, after all those updates have run, my "keyboard filter" STILL needs to be updated. This update is so critical, in fact, that the whole upgrade process screeches to a halt without it. There is, it seems, no work-around.

And so, I remain in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad world of Vista.

So, two things:

1. Are any of you running Windows 7? Is it worth continuing this fool's errand?

and

2. What the heck is a keyboard filter driver and how in the world do I update it?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Feeling Gravity's pull

Have you reserved your copy yet?

Gravity Pulls You In: Perspectives on Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum, edited by two of my very favorite bloggers, Kyra Anderson from This Mom and Vicki Forman from Speak Softly..., is slated for a February release and is currently available for pre-order from Woodbine House.

Gravity Pulls You In is a collection of 33 essays and poems written by the parents of children with autism. BiggerBooks.com describes it this way:

Unlike the dozens of books that chronicle the acute challenges families face in reaching and teaching their child with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), this anthology of 33 candid essays and poems by parents highlights the complexity, wonder, and possibility that comes with raising these kids. While also acknowledging the struggles, Gravity Pulls You In goes to the heart of that which pulls at all parents: what does my child need and how can I provide this for them? The contributors are an accomplished group of mostly previously published writers, including poets, parenting guide authors, bloggers, short story writers, essayists, and translators. They are also stay-at home-mothers, professors, actors, teachers, a former dancer, autism treatment specialists, a psychotherapist, and a scientist. Each piece has been included because, as the editors requested, it offers a perspective that avoids "the image of the parent feverishly scraping the autism out of her child or serenely offering up platitudes about life's roses among the thorns of hardship."

Gravity Pulls You In gives voice to what's hard about raising a child with ASD without feeding the stereotype of the devastation of autism. There are stories of discovery and enlightenment, of perseverance and humor that forge a deeper connection among parents by broadening the perspective on autism and attempting to dismantle the fear. The children written about range from toddlers to adults, and from high functioning to severely affected. Despite times of heartache and disappointment, the contributors describe learning things from their children that are transforming, of being awestruck by their kid's hearts and minds and the glimpses of their son or daughter's personality, humor, or wisdom. As one essay describes, it's possible to put aside the frustration and revel in her son's quirky intelligence when he explains to her that gravity pulls you in, not down, thereby keeping you from falling off the earth as it spins rapidly on its axis. His revelation leads to her own: "Things that demand a closer look, a new approach, a shift in perspective, those things pull you in. Even when you are spinning, even when you are moving much more quickly than you thought was possible, even when you find yourself in territory where instincts alone don't feel like enough to complete the revolution," your child can pull you in. Gravity Pulls You In explores the otherworldliness of the parenting experience, where the territory is often unknown. This collection offers a sense of community and support to other parents and caregivers who wear similar shoes, and lets us all in on what's hardest and most important to families like these.

I have not seen an advance copy of the book, or even a list of its 33 contributors. I'm one of them, though, and I imagine that many of the other names will be familiar ones. But even sight unseen, I have to say - ANYTHING produced by the powerhouse combination of Kyra Anderson and Vicki Forman would pull me in.

I can't wait to read this book.


Saturday, January 02, 2010

The lost decade

This has been bothering me for more than ten years now, and at this point I'm practically in crisis about it.

What in the world are we going to call the decade that just ended?

For ten years, radio stations have been playing "the music of the eighties, nineties, and today." But now, it's 2010, and "today" is "the teens." So what do we call yesterday?

I remember reading an article in the mid-nineties in which cultural anthropologists or linguists or whoever it is who's paid to think about this sort of thing were speculating that by the late nineties, we, as a culture, would arrive at a generally agreed-upon moniker for the decade to come. I waited patiently for the cultural clouds to gather, then watched as we all rallied around the term "Y2K," focusing our energy on a particular year and not the entire decade. Because if I asked you now what you were doing in Y2K, you would probably let me know what was going on in your life in 2000, but it wouldn't occur to you to mention 2004, right?

Since I have been obsessing about this for more than a decade, I've asked nearly everyone I know for their thoughts on the matter. Most people don't seem as concerned about it as I am. People shrug and say things like "I'm just going to call it 'the aughts," or "I'm just going to call it the ohs." But that isn't the point, is it? It doesn't really matter what YOU call it, or what I call it. What matters is what WE call it. And, the point is, WE don't really call it anything.

Sure, we call it lots of things. SiriusXM radio has a station called "Pop 2k." Jerry Seinfeld did a bit on Jay Leno where he referred to the decade as the "double-ohs." And, yes, we all know what those things mean when we hear them. But there is not an instant recognition, a connected knowing, a shared cultural resonance associated with those terms. And we are a culture that creates itself through shared cultural resonance.

I think of this example:

On September 11, 2001, my colleagues and I, like most of the rest of the country, felt like we should be doing something, though there was very little that we could do. For some reason, what we decided to do was run a roster of all of the students whose homes were in and around New York City or Washington, D.C., as we hypothesized that these might be the students most directly affected by the tragedy and most in need of support. Later that day, I was putting my printed roster in a file folder, assuming that there would be other pieces of paper that would eventually join it. I sat and stared at the folder, wondering how to label it. I knew that eventually this day would have a name - some culturally agreed-upon title that would instantly bring to mind the emotion and the import it had for everyone who had lived through it. I just didn't know what that name would be.

It only took a couple of weeks, I think, for the name to emerge: September 11th. 9/11. If I walked up to you on the street today and asked "Where were you on 9/11?," you wouldn't wonder if I meant 9/11/09 or 9/11/06. You would know instantly that I meant "Where were you on 9/11/01 when you heard that the planes hit the towers?"

Cultural resonance.

And the thing is, it didn't have to be called 9/11. It might have been called Terror Tuesday or The Airplane Attacks. We all know that Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, but we don't call that day "December 7th." We call it "Pearl Harbor."

Because "Pearl Harbor" has cultural resonance for us.

And that's why I'm in such a quandary about the past decade's lack of a cultural identity. I don't know about you, but it was an important decade in my life. It was a hard decade, a hard fought decade, a hard won decade. I need it to matter. I need it to have resonance.

I need it to have a name.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Be it resolved

I'm usually not one for New Year's resolutions, but I have to say - I'm looking at my blog stats for 2009 and they're making me feel positively resolute.

It seems I only had 31 posts in all of 2009.

Thirty-one.

Three-one.

That's all.

The number stands there in my sidebar in stark contrast to the 227 posts I wrote in my most prolific blogging year, 2006, when I had 31 posts in a single month - November. That was the month I participated in NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month, in which bloggers resolved to post every day for an entire month. Does NaBloPoMo even exist anymore? I have no idea. I've fallen so far off the blogging wagon I'm not even sure what other bloggers are doing these days.

Now, I'm not getting down on myself for not posting regularly in 2009. There are lots of reasons - lots of good reasons - why I didn't. But there are three things that occur to me as I contemplate the number 31.

First, I think that, for me, a scarcity of posts is a phenomenon that feeds on itself. There is a game my brain plays with itself, that goes something like this: if I'm only going to have one post a month, my brain contends, then it better be a darned good post. When I'm posting a couple of times a week, I don't feel the same kind of self-imposed pressure. I can post a little nothing sort of post, secure in the knowledge that it will drop from top billing in just a couple of days. Not so when I think it might stay there for weeks on end. As a result, most things don't feel post-worthy, and even more time passes between posts.

Second, I miss blogging. I miss the mental exercise of writing. I miss the regular interaction with the blogging community.

And most importantly, third, I think I'm a better parent - a more mindful parent - when I'm blogging than when I'm not blogging. When I'm blogging, I reflect more on the everyday as I parse through our life and think about where to shine the blogging spotlight. And then, more often than not, the very act of trying to give those moments shape by putting them into words forces me to look at things differently, to make connections I might otherwise miss, to discover things I didn't know I knew.

So, I'm resolving. I'm not ready to make a year-long resolution, but I am prepared to start a little BloPoMo of my own, in hopes of finding my BloPo mojo again.

I'll be posting every day in January. I may not have anything at all to say, but I will be logging in, writing down, and hitting publish. Feel free to ignore them - I may end up with a whole lot of posts about what I had for lunch.

But I'll tell you this for sure: in 2010, I'll be hitting at least 32.