Surreal Reading Moment

My autistic teen goes to bed when the younger kids do, but he has permission to read a pre-determined number of chapters before turning his clip-on light out. Since chapter length varies by book, he’s learned the art of bartering. If I say “Two chapters” he’ll tell me, “Chapters too little. Five chapters.” I’m likely to say three, and he’ll say “five, five, five!” To which I’ll respond, with an offer of three or possibly accepted his request. It all depends on the time the bedtime routine is finished.

Last week he borrowed my library book—before I got a chance to read it. The Game of My Life: A True Story of Challenge, Triumph, and Growing Up Autistic by Jason (J-Mac) McElwain with Daniel Paisner is something I wanted to read, but I did hope he’d show an interest, too. (Yes, the J-Mac of the high school basketball video that went viral a few years ago—and still makes the rounds. He also finished the Boston Marathon this year.)
J-Mac

When my son’s done with his chapters, he comes in to tell me (proud that he read so much) and I try to ask about what’s happened in the book, or who it’s about. Usually, I’ve read the book but he’s branching out more—he read a Captain Underpants book the week before which isn’t a series I’ve tried out for myself. I asked him what happened in the J-Mac book and he got all excited and said “Big Bird! Sesame Street!” and repeated that a few times. Since he spent way too many years obsessed with the show, I thought he might have been flashing back to scripting or something, but I asked, “Does J-Mac like Sesame Street?” (I’ve heard it referenced in at least one other autobiography of a young adult on the spectrum.) My son said “yes” and smiled really big.

Did we just have a conversation?

Yes, this seemingly small exchange does count, especially when it takes years to get that far, but I wasn’t completely convinced because of his Sesame Street response.

Well, this weekend I got my chance with the book. Sure enough, J-Mac’s first words were “Big Bird”, said while he was watching the show with his brother.

Note to self: Don’t underestimate the power of books when it comes to opening communication with my child.

Has a book helped with discussions between you and someone you love?

P.S. Here’s the Fernando update:

Fernando of the Water Oak, 23 June, 2014

Fernando of the Water Oak, 23 June, 2014

He’s taking to the summer well, as long as water is provided on the non-thunderstorm days.
And is it just me, or does the moss/fungus on the right look a little corroded?

Music: The Sensory Edition

If you know me, or have followed this blog for any amount of time, you realize that I love music. I use music for mood alteration, inspiration, and escape. My preferred listening method is live, in concert. For sanity sake, I try to attend at least two live performances a year but life doesn’t always allow that.

My second and third choices for listening are earphones and in the car—alone. 100_4829

Having songs plugged into my ears is great for tuning out exterior noise, but it isn’t always practical when supervising children. Plus, I don’t want to subject those around me to my butchered attempts when singing along.

When driving, I usually have my nifty homeschool kids in the car and they like music, too, just not always the same stuff I like. I used to put the “Children’s Music” playlist on shuffle when we went anywhere but I found myself getting a little snappy after fifteen minutes. So now the whole iPod—which is attached to a cassette adapter because I’m so last century—gets put on shuffle when we go.

A Disney song = the kids happy, or most of them, and often me.

A little Mitch Malloy = me happy, and sometimes the kids.

Queen = everyone is good.

Sesame Street = one happy kid.

The Beach Boys = all good, for most songs.

And on, and on.

There are a few times it’s easier to skip to the next song because the natives are noisily protesting, but most of the time they settle down when I say “it’s Mommy’s turn.” When a song I love comes on, my immediate reflex is to turn it up, but with boys with sensory issues in the car, they drown out the music with their own shrieking of discomfort. (That or I get “What’s Mommy singing?” from my teen with autism, as if he can’t tell I’m trying to sing the song that we’re listening to. Funny kid.)

All this—and more—is why my favorite non-live music experience is in the car. ALONE. I can turn it up as loud as I want and sing off-key without annoying people. (I’d also say without embarrassing myself, but I never know who is watching from the outside of the car.) Listening in a vehicle is a step above earphones because the music cocoons your whole self, not just your ears. At times you can feel it, but it’s an immersive experience and the steering wheel makes a good keyboard or drum.

What’s your listening habit?

I Banned a Book

Ever since my oldest began his love of reading, I’ve opened my book collection to him. He’ll finish a book, draw the cover in his reading journal, and head to the bookcase to trade in for a new one. Oh, and let’s not forget adding a leaf to the reading tree. 100_4650

My teen with autism has read everything from (most recently) Kirby Larson’s Hattie Ever After to The Old Man and the Sea. After he chooses a book, he brings it to me to share. If he’s gone for something like Caddie Woodlawn’s Family, I’ll first steer him to Caddie Woodlawn, explaining that this books is about the same family, but it’s best to read this one first and he’s fine with that. But the other night I had to say no to a book.

Not just any book—a special bookcase book. (That means one of my favorite authors. No, they don’t all fit in this little area, but many do.) 100_2048

He wanted Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and I said no.

He’s not ready for it.

Is he old enough? Physically, yes. Emotionally/mentally, no.

I adore tough books. They’re awesome springboards for conversations and I have oodles of books I can’t wait to discuss with my kids—when they’re ready.

So, yes, I banned a book. Temporarily.

I pointed to the other Laurie Halse Anderson novels he could read and he went to bed that night with the first Vet Volunteer book instead, but I think Laurie will understand.

Read On

Christmas equaled reading time in these parts. A princess with pneumonia, not to mention other family members—including myself—with assorted head colds/congestion, set things up for a low-key Yuletide. Because of this, I was able to do something I haven’t done in a while: read a book in a day.

Actually, I finished one book and read two others within a sixteen hour period. Of course, I was up until two in the morning to complete the trilogy, but I had to find out how Jane’s story ended. 100_4593

Jennifer L. Holm crafted a well-rounded heroine in Jane Peck. Boston Jane: An Adventure is a novel I picked up in the bargain section of a bookstore several months ago. I started it on the twenty-third and finished it Christmas morning. A few hours later, after searching on-line for the other two books in my local library system—negative—I went ahead and purchased the second, Boston Jane: Wilderness Days, on my Nook. Then, at about ten o’clock Christmas night, I purchased Boston Jane: The Claim and stayed awake until I finished it. Extremely satisfying!

To start 2014off with something fresh, I joined Goodreads last night—look me up if you’re there, too. I’d been receiving invites to the site from my book-loving friends for years, but put off signing up because I knew I’d be sucked in. I’ve already rated five hundred books from recent years, as well as a few long-time favorites.

I’m thinking about setting a reading goal for the New Year and I’m leaning toward one hundred and fifty books. Have you ever set a reading goal or tracked your reading habits? What are your numbers?

Movies and Me

This past month has been theater going, as promised. I’ve been to four movies in as many weeks, which is twice as many as I usually attend in a full year.

First up was Ender’s Game. Since I’d recently read the novel—as well as Ender’s Shadow—the storyline was a bit disappointing. Chop and hack galore. But the actors were great and it was visually impressive, as well as moving. My eyes were moist once, maybe twice. I think I hid it well.

Thor: The Dark World was epic! I’d waited almost two decades for Thor on the big screen, and all the movies featuring him have been awesome, but this one was fabulous. I cried once, and my husband didn’t tease me about it until afterwards.thor dark world

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was amazing. I went to this one alone and used my hoodie sleeve to wipe the tears running down my face more times than I can count.

Frozen was our Tuesday bargain today. I took two out of the three kidlets and we had the theater to ourselves, which is always good. My teen with autism isn’t the most quiet movie watcher and the little princess switched seats often. I was moved to tears during the “Let it Go” musical scene, even while the youngest was climbing around my lap.

Notice the pattern?

I’m sure I’ll shed more tears when I make it to The Book Thief, and probably for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. That should hold me over through New Year’s.

Have you enjoyed any of the new releases? Do you cry during movies? Please tell me I’m not alone.