Sokath, his eyes uncovered!


Story from Crow’s IEP last week:

Crow filled out an All About Me worksheet the first week of school, with help from his new aide. It’s the usual stuff, I’m blah years old and I like to blah and here’s a drawing of my family and of course,

Question: When I grow up, I want to be…
Crow: Six

His aide asked the teacher if she should try to drill down and get a more typical answer. The teacher said, no, Six means something to him and it’s not a wrong answer just because we don’t know what it means.

If you’re not grasping how huge this is, she’s letting Crow speak in Crow’s number-language and realizing that her inability to understand him doesn’t make him wrong. I explained the number language to her when we met last Spring, and included a recap on my User’s Guide to Crow back-to-school intro flyer, so she knew she was seeing a language barrier and not a lack of effort or ability.

Huge. Simply huge.

I suspect that somewhere there’s a picture of a person doing a cool job while wearing the number 6, and that was the picture in Crow’s head, and the most important thing about that picture in his head is the number, so Six is how you’d talk about it. We’ll figure it out later.

One of the shorthands I use for my life is, it’s Darmok all the time around here.

I’m referring to the Star Trek:TNG episode Darmok (I mean, OBVIOUSLY). It’s the one where they meet the aliens who only speak in metaphor, and they can’t communicate until they have a shared foundation of stories.

If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it since 1991, here’s a nice edit with a distillation of the communication theme from the episode. The joy on the face of the alien in the last scene in this edit, when Picard has FINALLY understood him for the first time makes me tear up a little. I know that look.

In my experience, communication is a matter of patience, imagination. I would like to believe that these are qualities that we have in sufficient measure. — Capt. Picard

Yeah, I just quoted Picard in a blog post.

School has started. I can start obsessing about Halloween now.


School is going very, very well. Crow loves walking to school, and is delighted to get there. His brain is buzzing from learning multiplication and division, he wants to do flashcards and play math apps and skip-count up to 1000. I’m saying the boy loves numbers, and school is giving him plenty of numbers so life is good.

He’s been in school for two and a half weeks and has worn a Planes shirt every day. Not the same one, he has several. He just hasn’t been to school in a non-Disney shirt yet. I remember a time when I might have actually cared about this, instead of just noted it with a, “huh, that’s weird,” while giving Crow a choice of which one to wear that day. Apparently my time of being overly invested in what my kid wears to school is over. Except for Halloween. Still overly invested in that.

Halloween 2013 - particularly pleased with the DIY crashed witch on the roof.

Halloween 2013 – particularly pleased with the DIY crashed witch on the roof.

Now that school has started, it’s only reasonable to focus on the next phase of the year: Halloween Prep, and incidental early Christmas Prep. That may sound more impressive than it actually is; it mostly involves going out to the garage and figuring out what-all I bought at garage sales over the summer. I really don’t know what’s out there. I should do a better job of photographing things before they go into the garage.

Very little of what I use for Halloween was bought new or in its current form; if it was new, it was probably bought in November at 75% off, otherwise it’s all garage sales and DIY. I do all of this stuff off-season and on the cheap, which is why I lose track of it during the acquisition stage.

The other thing I like to do in September is start on Crow’s costume. I don’t want it to go to the last-minute (and yet somehow it always does, there’s a lesson there somewhere but I probably wouldn’t like it so IGNORE). So first we need to figure out what options to offer him (open-ended questions are not Crow-friendly).

In response to the obvious idea of making something Planes-based, there’s not a lot of intersection between an anthropomorphic vehicle costume and Crow’s costume preferences. He’s not a fan of hats (see The Man Whose Mommy Carries His Yellow Hat costume of 2012), and bulky costume parts will be shed as quickly as possible (see Jetpack Joyride costume of 2013 – the photo below is the best one I got all night).

Man with the Yellow Hat Which Was Not Worn (2012)

Man with the Yellow Hat Which Was Not Worn (2012)

Jetpack Joyride (iPad game) costume.  There were orange LED lights inside the flames, it was pretty sweet.   I also put a speaker in it, to play the game's theme song.  That was not a hit.  (2013)

Jetpack Joyride (iPad game) costume. There were orange LED lights inside the flames, it was pretty sweet. (2013)

So, not Planes. We’ve been watching SchoolHouse Rock lately, especially the multiplication ones. So here we have My Hero Zero.

My Hero Zero, the best Halloween costume for a number-obsessed boy!

My Hero Zero, the best Halloween costume for a number-obsessed boy!

No hat…number-based…basically pjs and a cape…this has potential. Crow is enthusiastic about the idea!

Wow, that’s so easy, I can just forget about this whole Halloween thing until late October and slap it together in an evening! Yes!

Ha ha ha no. This is me. If a costume project does not reduce me to a profanity-laced questioning of the divine order of the universe at least once before the end of September, why it’s just not a real Halloween. I love Halloween, and I love deciding that I totally know how to do things I’ve never done before and should just dive right into projects well beyond my ability level. What could go wrong?

So I’m thinking Electro-Luminescent wire.

I’m thinking about it a lot, actually, and am eagerly awaiting my package from SparkFun so I can get started!

I showed Crow a sample of it and he is on board, he loves things that light up. I’m prototyping the cape tonight, to figure out the biggest cape I can make with 3m of wire for the border. Obviously, I’m ending it above his ankles, as the dragged cape only works in cartoons and for users who can actually fly.

Once I get this knocked out and the garage spelunked, I need to decide what I’m doing for an outdoor project this year.

I’ve needed this. August is our least-favorite month of the year, because most of it is the space between the end of summer school and the start of the new school year, aka the time when Crow’s need for structure and intense activity gets blown the fuck up, it’s too damn hot, and the world gets dumber and meaner. August is the worst. I will not miss it. September is great, September is when anything is possible, including building a giant pumpkin out of coiled strapping and threaded rods. I will not actually do this, but right now I feel like I totally could get that done between now and the end of next month, because that is so far away. And don’t even get me started on all the stuff I could get done between now and Christmas! Sky’s the limit!

(*fine print: limits are nowhere near the sky, I will be lucky if I can just figure out how to get the sleigh and reindeer blowmold back on the roof this year after the Roof-Mounted Tree Is Suddenly No Longer Mounted On The Roof incident of 2013*)

Yay September! September’s birthstone is self-delusion.



Third Grade!

Third Grade!

Crow started third grade yesterday! He was nervous but brave.

He is at our neighborhood school this year, so we can walk to school for the first time. I don’t miss driving him to school, and I especially don’t miss parking there. We’ve been all over the district since preschool. Doobie and I walk with him and then we get to walk home together which is a nice way to start the day before I drive off to work.

His class is grades 3-5. If this placement goes well he could stay with this team until it’s time to leave for middle school. Crow’s school experience has been very good overall (if we pretend Kindergarten never happened, and we do).

Crow has been really into counting things with his hand-clicker lately. One day last week he and Doobie’s mom counted up every Cars toy and book he owns. The number was over 500.

This is why John Lasseter has a really big house.

This is why John Lasseter from Pixar has a really big house.

He has been collecting them for years. For a long time he just enjoyed lining the cars up or crashing them into each other, but gradually he moved on to re-enacting scenes from the movie, then to doing his own story mash-ups. The other night the toys from Planes were re-enacting an episode of Thomas, which was pretty far through the looking glass. It was a Percy-centric episode, though. I have strong feelings about several trains, but I really have it in for Percy. #OccupySodor

I’m sure there’s a Buzzfeed quiz about this. Which Thomas Character Makes You Stabby? The answer may surprise you!

Get to know me: my kid


Crow is 7, awesome, and rather intensely autistic. He loves Thomas, Pixar, Disneyland, Fruit Ninja, construction equipment, and numbers, and has a smile that lights up the world.

It took a long time for him to speak, and now he’s quite verbal but not really conversational. Language is hard for him, so he uses a lot of scripts and mimicry right now. I’ll take it, we generally manage to communicate pretty well even if no one else would understand it.

YouTube is high on the list of Crow’s favorite things, and if you’ve ever wondered who is watching all those videos of people showing off their entire Thomas or Cars collection – that’s my kid. He loves toy collection videos, and I’m pretty sure that’s why he frequently adds, “Thanks for watching!” when he says goodbye. He also watches videos of kids playing with toys he owns, and I see him mimicking them later with his own toys. It’s like his own little lab where he can access test subjects at will. Crow also loves watching counting/countdown videos, and he recently veered into the thrilling category of Geriatric Exercise Videos – think ‘woman in a cat sweatshirt lifting her arms over her head 100 times and counting aloud.’ Thanks, Internet!*

Numbers are a big part of his brain-schema – I believe he sees numbers before anything else, and so rather than seeing a whole thing or experience, he remembers the numbers. When he was younger and had very little language, we once spent a frustrating couple of days of him pointing at the stack of DVDs and demanding “25! 25! 25!” I felt so helpless because I could not figure out what 25 was, and clearly it was entirely obvious to him. When I finally gave him all the DVDs to sort through, he handed me a Sesame Street video with a tiny 25th anniversary logo on the cover. Duh. 25. The real breakthrough for me was when he summed up an exciting day as, “20, 11:35, 8, 156” and repeated the numbers several times. We had gone to the Mercado 20 theaters at 11:35 to see a movie in theater #8, and then we’d gone to In-n-Out where our order number was 156. Once I saw that, I knew to start noticing important numbers so I could respond when he brought them up later, and his joy at being understood was amazing. He doesn’t do this much now that he can communicate more easily, but we still point out our order numbers and room numbers and addresses, and I know he’s filing them away. If you ask him what his current high score is in Fruit Ninja on a given device, he will tell you immediately, and be delighted that you asked. His score is higher than yours. He mostly learned from watching high-scoring YouTube videos – he’d trace their moves on his iPad and then try them out in the game. I love watching him figure out the world.

Crow in the shower display

Going to Lowe’s with Crow takes longer than going on my own, but it’s much more fun. He had to try out all the shower displays, including this one which looks like a Star Trek transporter.

*YouTube Pro Tip: if you think you’re being clever by using The Final Countdown to score your countdown video, you’re not. It’s been done. And done. And done. Also, Crow singing The Final Countdown is kind of adorable.