He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.

This is James, and this is our story.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Election Hearsay from the Backseat

I'm thinking Tony and I are going to need to do a much better job teaching the boys about sex than we have about politics if the conversation in the back of the car today is any indication...

James' friend Sean upon seeing an Elizabeth Warren sign: "I do NOT want Elizabeth Warden to win".

James: Why? Do you want Obama to win?"

Johnny" "Right, because he needs to beat Scott Brown".

Sean: " I DO want Obama to win." (starts "Four More Years" chant. My boys join in. I feel pride.). "But I don't want Warden to win. And besides, that's a TOTALLY different contest. Warden is running against Scott Brown for the Massachusetts US Senate" (at this point I start thinking that his parents are doing a way better job than me teaching their son about politics)

And then he continues and I suddenly feel much better... "It's not Brown that's the bad guy! Romney is the one who wants to get rid of Cartoon Network!"

James and Johnny both, voices tinged in fear: "WHAT?"

Johnny (now completely irate at the thought of his beloved network gone): "WHO would want to get rid of Cartoon Network? WHY would he do that? But it has the BEST shows! He couldn't really, could he?"

Sean: "I don't know, but that's what Gabe told us, so it must be true."

Johnny: "But some kids make mistakes sometimes, at least a lot of the kids in my class except me do, so maybe he's wrong." (Now I'm both wondering where my son's "god complex" came from and thinking I'm going to hear a concerned "really, mom? Is it true?")


James: "Yea, let's ask (classmate) Brendan on Monday. He'll DEFINITELY know".

Friday, October 12, 2012

Changing the Conversation

You know when you feel every day is exactly the same as the one before, and things start to seem like they are always going to stay the same? That's the way it's been for us the last year.

James has been obsessed with exotic cars for over a year. We talk about them all day long. Every day. Questions and lists and stats and comparisons. I hear "Is this fancier than that?" and "Have you ever seen...?" in my sleep.

Because of the journey we've taken together (that I wrote about in the Colgate Scene here), I never take anything he does or says for granted. Each interaction, no matter how seemingly insignificant to the parents of another nine year old, turns into a Hallmark moment as the parent of a child on the autism spectrum.

So although I'm really bummed that I missed the moment, I'm lucky that I wasn't actually there for the thing that changed everything or it would have turned into a scene from a LifeTime channel movie.

James and I watch the show "Chasing Classic Cars" together on the Velocity channel, which is like the polar opposite of the LifeTime channel. I DVR all the shows and then pick ones I think he'll be interested in. We've been watching them for awhile, and he's finally stopped having to fast forward through them to see if there are any other fancy cars showing up in the episode, and he's just started to just watch and enjoy the show itself. That's huge for him.

So when I found out the star of the show Wayne Carini (who owns F40 Motorsports right near my in-laws' house) was having a Cars and Coffee event to benefit Autism Speaks, I knew there was no way we'd miss it. I wondered what would happen if James were able to meet him. I envisioned all sorts of rapid fire questions about Bugattis and Paganis, and I was genuinely excited to hear James ask those same questions I hear 100 times a day- because it would be to someone who understands his passion.

But this? I was SO not prepared for this.

When we got to the show there were already tons of amazing cars there. We had met up with good friends and wanted to catch up a bit, but James immediately started pulling us around the lot, making sure he mentally cataloged every car he saw. As much as there was to see in the lot, he still couldn't keep his eyes off the road, though, because cars kept pulling in. So we would lap the perimeter, him with one eye on each car we passed and the other on the 2 driveways entering the lot. We didn't stop. 

I needed a breather. So I stayed behind to keep an eye on his younger brother who had basically moved in to the mobile video game van. My job was to stand outside and hand him dollar bills every 5 minutes so he could keep playing while James circled. All the proceeds from the games went directly to Autism Speaks, so I was more than happy to empty my friends' and mother-in-law's wallets as well as my own while Tony brought James inside the F40 showroom.

Only one money transfer had taken place when I looked towards the showroom and saw Wayne Carini come out, followed closely by James and his entourage, and then a number of other people. Tony was looking at me pointing to our camera and then to Wayne. I wasn't sure if they were stalking him for a photo, but it was enough for me to leave my post (Johnny sure wasn't about to go anywhere with at least 12 quarters and an entire mobile vehicle filled with games, so I moved towards the growing crowd following Wayne.)

And I watched THIS happen:

Wayne Carini put James in the driver's seat of his famous 1958 Tojeiro
And I turned to Wayne Carini and said "thank you, this means a ton". Mr. Carini said "I think he's caught the car bug now" and I laughed that he's had it for a while and the Bugatti in the Barn episode was his favorite. I had no idea how James happened to end up in Wayne Carini's driver's seat, I was just thrilled to see James so happy.

Tony told me afterwards what happened:

While they were in the showroom, James turned to Tony and pointed in front of him and asked "Is that Wayne?"

Wayne heard him and turned and said "Yes, I'm Wayne. What's your name?"

And James said:

James and Wayne Carini
(awesome photo thanks to Jen Oliva)
And it is a really, really good thing I didn't actually hear him say this because I would have completely lost it...

"My name is James. I'm a big fan of your show. My mom and I watch it all the time".

THIS? THIS IS IT! This is the first time that James has started a conversation that didn't involve a question he needed to be answered for his own benefit, or to add information to his own internal catalog. He introduced himself to his car hero Wayne Carini, and told him he was a big fan. That's it. No questions. No probing for information from the one person who can answer all the questions he asks everyone else all the time.

I think James' interest in cars is awesome. I have a blast watching his reaction, and hearing him talk about them and ask questions of me and Tony and our friends and family. It is so much fun to watch James go up to a car at a show and start asking questions of anyone standing nearby.

But what he did,on his own, last weekend? That was unbelievably huge. It changed the conversation. This journey we are on just gets more and more incredible every day.

But be reassured that not everything changed. After he talked to Wayne, James went back to circling and scanning the roads for the next fancy car. And then all of a sudden, this pulled in to the lot. As soon as it did, James knew he had seen them all, and he turned to me and said "OK Mom. We can go home now."
Herb Chambers arriving in his Bugatti

You can see all our photos from Wayne Carini's Cars and Coffee to benefit Autism Speaks here:

Monday, October 8, 2012

"First in Math" Overload

Two ways to tell if your 7 year old has been spending too much time playing "First in Math" on the computer...

He will wake you up telling you that you need to see the categories on his bed. Drowsily, you will follow him into his room where you will see this:

MOM! Look! They are in 3 categories. Unicorns, Kittens, and Other".

"That is, Unicorns on the left, then kittens in the middle because they are my favorite, and then Other.
Because there are others".

When you finally stop shaking your head to yourself and go downstairs to make yourself a much needed cup of coffee, he will call out to you:

"MOM! James spilled flavor blasted goldfish in the living room! Don't worry, there aren't THAT many though".

There is a short hesitation. And then,

"Well, I guess there are kind of a lot, because there are enough to make a triangle!"

And, confused again, you will walk into the living room with the dustpan to see this:

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go find my Quirky Kids book...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bugatti Brain (Or Why I Think Wayne Carini Needs James as an Apprentice)

A few weeks ago, on a perfectly beautiful Fall day, we went to a car show on the Boston Common called The Boston Cup Classic Car Show. You can check out photos of the cars at thebostoncup.com.

James didn't know what to expect, except that his favorite car would be there, and he couldn't handle the anticipation. All the waiting  - driving in, circling the Financial District for 1/2 hour looking for a spot, walking over to the Common. By the time we got to the show, he was out of sorts.

All the cars were lined up in a circle so we started walking around, stopping to check out every car, each more impressive than the last. There were at least 150 of the most gorgeous cars I'd ever seen. All side by side, encircling the historic gazebo in the Boston Common. It was incredible.

James kept tugging us to go faster, faster. "Don't stop! We need to keep going faster!" We tried to explain that we had all day, there was no rush. We tried to force him to stop and actually look for more than a second at each car.

And then it hit me. I know what he was doing. Before he could take the time to appreciate each car, he needed to catalog every car there in his head. He NEEDED to go through quickly and make sure he had the entire inventory catalogued before he could relax.

So we just went. We went FAST. We racewalked around the entire circle, barely pausing long enough for me to figure out what each car was before getting tugged ahead. Tony and I took turns rushing with him so Johnny wouldn't end up losing it himself. And then as Tony and James raced ahead, I heard a guy next to me say to his friend "Hey- did you see that little kid in the green Lamborghini t-shirt? That's the same kid we saw at the Larz Anderson Italian car show who..." and then, UGH!  That was it - someone walked in between us and I never got to hear the rest of that thought.  I'm very, very sure it was about how great a kid he is...

When we finally got back to the first car, James was suddenly, completely calm. He was able to walk around and tell Johnny when to take photos. He started comparing the cars, ranking his favorites. here are just a few of the many incredible cars we saw:

He willingly took a break for Johnny to go on the merry go round and play in the playground. James pronounced the Boston Common his favorite park ever, and the burger place we ate at the best hamburger ever.

Then we went back again, because we hadn't gotten a photo of his favorite car there. We raced halfway around the circle again, and waited for all the people to move out of the way while James repeatedly asked me why we weren't allowed inside the circle like those standing in his way (Clearly the VIP treatment he got from Herb Chambers may have jaded him a little...)

And finally we got THE photo. The car he ranked highest on the list of all the cars he saw that day.

And when I picked him up from school Monday, he was excitedly telling his teacher all about it. "Mom! Where's your phone! Where is the picture? Of the car? The one Mr. R needs to see - the best one!" He started grabbing my phone out of my hands and frantically looking for the photo. Then he found it and held it up for Mr. R.

Mr. R was really impressed. "Wow!" That's a Bugatti?" he asked, pointing to the picture. "It's beautiful!"

Just look past the 1948 Delahaye...

"No, THAT's not it!" corrected James "It's the one in the back! THAT'S the Bugatti. The rarest, fanciest car in the world!"

James' prized Bugatti

Note: James and I watch "Chasing Classic Cars" together, and his favorite episode is when Wayne Carini finds a Bugatti that looks similar to this one sitting in a barn in New York, and he completely restores it to its original beauty and glamour. Tomorrow morning, we are going to a Cars and Coffee event at Mr. Carini's F40 Motorsports. and all proceeds from the event go to Autism Speaks. I'm psyched to go and support Autism Speaks, but I'm really just hoping that I get to hear James and Wayne Carini talk about Bugattis...