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.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Prelude to a Post

I haven't been here for a while, and I've missed it.

I love this blog. You have no idea how much it means to me that you even take the time to read these posts, but I'm selfish. I definitely write this more for me than for anyone else. It is incredibly empowering and cathartic to sort through my feelings and write it all here. What started out as a small month long autism awareness project has morphed into something I care about deeply and am very proud of. I don't think I'd be the same person I am today if I hadn't taken my friend's advice a few years back and started to write this journal.

But I've been feeling a little bit stuck lately.

I've always been completely honest about my family's life while sharing these few carefully chosen snapshots, and I try to only post things that I feel are respectful towards everyone in my family. James especially.

James has never liked receiving attention of any kind or being singled out, and I get that. Boy, do I get that. But apparently I am that mom that is always there with my phone ready to take a picture and tell the world what great task he has just accomplished, and because of that I've made him even more self-conscious and he has started asking me not to share specific things. Like basically anything great he does, which sucks because he does a lot of really great things. He does a lot of annoying things too (because he is 11) but most of the things he says and does I want to record and keep with me forever and ever. And share with the entire world.

So, I stopped writing here publicly while I tried to figure out how to keep sharing these stories that mean so much to me while knowing that he is uncomfortable having people talk about him in general.

I've finally decided that as long as I continue to write in a respectful way and not project my own feelings on to my boys, I still can share things about my life and my family from my own perspective in this journal. I trust myself to only share the stories that both my boys will be happy to read when they are older. I want them to have the opportunity to read my journal as adults - to see themselves as I see them and read the words I use to describe them.

After being gone for such a long time, I feel like I'm kind of starting over here. And I'm excited to start again because I have a lot of stories to fill these pages.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Moment of Truth Monday - "That's Not Very Smart!"

The boys were just looking over Johnny's Scholastic Book Order Form - it's one of their favorite things to do each month and they get as excited as they do when they look at the Target Christmas Catalog.

They each have different colored markers to make sure I am very sure of what they each want. James needs his to be darker and then also puts his initials next to everything he wants, even if Johnny marks it too, just so he can make sure he calls first dibs on it when it arrives.

The funny part about this monthly ritual is that James hates reading. It is a struggle every day to get him to open a book. The only books I can even get him to look at on his own are about wild cats or types of cars, and even then he continually complains that "reading always takes so long".

So I always get a kick out of listening to James give unsolicited book reviews to his brother based on the title or the picture on the front of the book. Tonight he gave such advice like "You don't want to read that! That kid is FLAT!" and "How can a WORM keep a DIARY?"

Then Johnny asked what "That is NOT a Good Idea" was about, and I answered from the kitchen that maybe it was a book about people doing things that they shouldn't have and caused problems because of it, thinking to myself that maybe it was like a watered-down kids' version of the Darwin Awards.

And all of a sudden James got really excited and yelled "YEAH MOM! Like Jack!"

Sure he was about to tell on his cousin Jackson for some random thing half a year ago, I bit my lip and asked what he meant.

"That kid Jack, who jumped over the candlestick! That was NOT very smart AT ALL!"

Maybe he really is reading some books on his own after all...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Monkey Who Hated Gaijin

It was the first Thanksgiving I was spending away from home. My friends and I had our first 3 day holiday since arriving on the island of Kyushu, Japan as conversational English teachers, so we decided to take our first real road trip together to Mt. Sakurajima, a very cool and very active volcano.

Since we didn't have much money, we decided to stay in a "Love Hotel". They were super secretive hotels all over the place that charged by the hour (akin to the 4 hour short stay at the Grantmoore on the Berlin Turnpike, just without the jacuzzi and champagne). They usually had names like "Hotel Liberty" or "Hotel USA" 

My favorite love hotel name of all time was called "Hotel 2 in 1".
A visit to a love hotel was an adventure in itself. It worked like this; You would drive through a giant flap (like at a car wash) and into a darkened underground private parking space. They thought of everything to ensure your privacy: you could even place a barrier in front of your car to hide your license plate. You pay in advance for the number of hours you intend to stay by putting money in a vacuum tube that gets sent to the office like a bank drive-through and then the tube returns back to you with a room key so you can walk directly up private stairs into your room.

Ideally, you would never have to see anyone during your entire check-in or stay, but if don't think the love hotels' usual clientele included threesomes of 21 year old American girls who can't read instructions written in kanji or speak or understand any Japanese. Inevitably, and much to our amusement, we always ended up playing charades with the incredibly confused love hotel office workers. This made love hotels a staple and a highlight of our travels during the year.

So after staying up late with giggling fits at "Hotel White House", we hit the road early the next morning to head to the volcano. We were winding down a road through a forest and saw a lone car parked on the side of the road. 

And then I spotted it.

"MONKEY!" I yelled, having become recently obsessed with the ones who swung limb to limb in my calligraphy sensei's backyard. I watched them with amusement while practicing the same words "bride" and "wedding" over and over again (Sensei said he wanted to make sure I got the most important words perfected first). Apparently I was bit slow to catch on to the technique as a left hander being forced to paint with the right because I swear I worked on those two words all year long.

We pulled over and got out of the car, and watched as the man fed a monkey by hand. I was entranced. I was watching someone feed a wild monkey on the side of the road in the middle of a forest in rural Southern Japan. 

On Thanksgiving Day.

The monkey was curious, and stopped begging for snacks to check out us newcomers. He didn't seem phased as he looked at my friends so we inched a little closer. As we approached, he seemed to notice me. Or more specifically, he noticed my hair. 
With my sister the night I left for Japan. 

My long, very blond hair. 

He shrieked at the top of his lungs, and ran up into the top of the man's car. Then he took a running leap.


Stunned,  I pushed him off.

Everyone started at me and my friends were laughing. I think one of them started to ask "what the..." but she never got to finish because the monkey had turned and beelined back to the top of the car again. 

I backpedaled quickly as he once more got a running, jumping, flying start and leaped across the air to land on me and SINK HIS TEETH RIGHT INTO MY FOREARM!

My friend screamed "It's your hair! The monkey hates blonds!" as we ran to get back into the car while the Japanese man was doubled over, laughing hysterically and yelling "Gaijin!" (foreigner).

So as soon as we composed ourselves, we took a detour to find an international phone so we could call our friends and family to tell them happy Thanksgiving and share our story about the monkey who hated Gaijin

And as much as I couldn't wait to go climb the active volcano (the entire reason for our trip), the love hotel and the wild monkey who bit my arm by the side of the road are the most vivid memories I have of that road trip, and they are a reminder that it's often the unscripted, unplanned and undocumented moments that are the ones we end up remembering and appreciating most. 

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy ALL the moments.