The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

fpoThe Rosie Project. Finished 1-22-16, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 2013

Unabridged audio read by Dan O’Grady. 7.5 hours

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

I’m a Big Bang Theory fan and mother to a boy on the spectrum and I loved this book.  I was afraid to read it, characters on the spectrum make me nervous, wondering if the characterization will make me cry in my bed at night instead of getting what sleep I can.  No worries here though, Don hilariously lectures to a group of Asperger kids about the diagnosis never for a moment making the connection that he is talking about himself.  Somehow the story never laughs at Don, but with him as his quirks and earnest truthiness win the reader over quickly.

Don’s Wife Project leads him on a series of dates, hands full of a 16 pages questionnaire to weed out the  women who were unsuitable (which left about .0001 percent of the population).  When his slimy friend, Gene, sends Rosie to Don, he thinks it’s because Rosie has ‘passed’ the test. Don is looking for a wife and Rosie is looking for her biological father and the two embark on one adventure after another that leads Don to rethink his questionnaire.

I loved this charming love story and fans of The Big Bang Theory will too.  Stories about ‘Aspies’, those intelligent people on the high functioning end of the spectrum, too often make people think most people on the spectrum are this high functioning.  They are not. I do hope my guy will eventually grow up and find someone to love who loves him back, much like Don 🙂  I didn’t care for the ending, I had to go back and listen again to understand what happened, but that’s my only complaint.  I know the movie has been optioned and I’d love to see it on the big screen!


Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb

fpoBest Boy. Finished 9-25-15, rating 4.5/5, fiction, 246 pages, pub. 2015

Sent to a “therapeutic community” for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the “Old Fox” of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel “normal” again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return “home” to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams.    from Goodreads

Okay, let’s start with the ways that this book was a difficult read for me. Autism communities, like the one in the book, are both reassuring and frightening for a parent. I know someone who works at a community home, similar but on a much smaller scale, and he said because of the pay the staff turnover was high and the quality of employees was sometimes so bad that the residents were robbed of the money their families sent.  This is something I pray about every night, Gage’s independence. But the surprising thing for me was how hard I was hit by Todd’s love for his dead mother. Todd still needed his mother and she had been the only one who really looked out for his best interests, so I shed a few tears at those points of the book that I’m sure wouldn’t affect someone else the same way. I need to live forever, guys!

To the story, I love that this was told from Todd’s first person perspective.  Todd is a higher functioning man in his 50’s and this is not a character I’ve seen before.  Todd loves his routine, oldies music and to be helpful. He works around the center and even goes to the local school to help serve lunch.  But Todd’s routine was disrupted by a hateful roommate, a girl who makes him ‘have wind in his pants’, and new staffer who uses Todd to cover for his extracurricular activities.  Those three people leave Todd unsettled and wanting to return home to his brother so he does something drastic.

Gottlieb, whose autistic brother lives in a community not unlike Todd, gets the voice just right. Every person on the spectrum is different, with different abilities, but Todd is a fair representation of many of the commonalities of those on the spectrum.  I enjoyed my time with Todd even it was tinged with apprehension.  If you’ve never spent time with an adult on the autism spectrum then I think this book would give a great perspective with a great story too.  The end was very satisfying and left Todd and the reader in a good place.

Thanks for sending me a copy Golda!  I also enjoyed meeting the author when he was on tour last month and he wrote this article  in the Washington Post about his real life experiences with his 57 year old brother.  I highly recommend it.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

The BooksellerThe Bookseller. Finished May 13, 2015, rating 4/5. fiction, 338 pages, pub. 2015

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

from Goodreads


I received this from the publisher courtesy of She Reads and they rarely lead me to a bad book.  I think in the almost two years I’ve been receiving books every month or so chosen by She Reads there has only been one I didn’t care for that much.  Kudos to Marybeth and Ariel for finding such great books for us.

The dual storylines of Kitty and Katharyn were not difficult to follow, even as the lines blurred, and for the most part worked for me.  I am not giving too much away (I don’t think) to say that I was surprised at the autism aspect in one of the storylines. It was difficult for me to read because it was so…stereotypical?  And cold, definitely not something I’ve seen come up in a 1960’s novel.  As someone with first hand experience, it spoke both truth and not, like most difficult issues I suppose.

I liked Kitty, mostly, but not so much Katharyn and then I wasn’t sure about Kitty.  The pages kept turning and even though I knew where it would end by halfway through, I was still anxious to get there.  This is a terrific debut novel and sure to please book lovers, especially those that dream of opening up their own bookstore someday!

Sundays with Gage – Happy and a great time for a Mom ‘vacation’

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Autism can be a series of highs and lows.  When I last talked about it in March we were coming out of some hard months and justlikethat we got this cutie who has been happy ever since.  He’s pictured here with his favorite tutor/babysitter Meagan who has been with us for almost two years.  (Prepare yourself for a tearful post when I talk about us losing 3 of his ABA tutors within a week, but not yet)  I met and now am Facebook friends with a very gifted autistic young man and at least once a week one his posts includes, “I feel gleeful!”  And that pretty much sums up where we are right now.  Gage is back to his loveable, stubborn self and I feel gleeful.

Two months ago when things were rougher around here I decided to take the plunge and sign up for the Autism One Conference in Chicago.  The conference is this week and I’m excited.  I plan on lots of sessions on diet and toxicity and many more on cutting edge treatments.  This conference treats autism as a medical condition and I’m ready to learn.  My cousin from Kentucky will be joining me and I look forward to some quality girl time.  I leave early Tuesday and won’t return until Saturday after Gage is in bed.  That’ll be the longest I’ve been away from both of my guys ever.

I couldn’t do this without my extraordinary parents who are taking over Gage duty this week.  I am always grateful for all the love and support they give me and Gage and Jason.  It’s been over a year since they moved to be closer to us and we couldn’t be happier.  I am sounding awesomely gleeful aren’t I?

So, tell me, what is making you gleeful today?

Healing Our Autistic Children by Julie A Buckley, MD – a must read for families

Healing Our Autistic Children: A Medical Plan for Restoring Your Child's HealthHealing Our Autistic Children:A Medical Plan for Restoring Your Child’s Health. Finished 1-4-15, rating 5/5, Autism/Health, 211 pages, pub. 2010

Every 20 minutes a child is diagnosed with a disease on the autism spectrum–including ADD, learning disabilities, Aspergers, Autism, and PDD–making it today’s most common childhood disability. While the medical establishment treats autism as a psychiatric condition and prescribes behaviorally based therapies, Dr. Julie A. Buckley argues that it is a physiological disease that must be medically treated.

Part personal story of her battle to heal her autistic daughter, part guide for parents, Healing Our Autistic Children explains simply and accessibly the new treatments and diets that have already proven effective for many families. Told through the case studies of her patients, the book is divided into four typical visits to Dr. Buckley’s pediatric practice so that parents can see the progression of initial treatment. Written in a warmly engaging voice, parents new to the diagnosis will:
learn about clinical treatments that work
understand how different foods affect the body and how to begin implementing diets
learn to navigate the medical system and advocate for their child
bridge the communication gap with their pediatrician
discover that recovery is possible

from Goodreads

Most children on the autism spectrum (and the numbers will be astronomical soon, one MIT researcher shockingly predicting 1 in 2 children by 2050) have similar issues that appear behavioral to most people, but in reality can be rooted in actual medical issues.  Buckley’s take on it is if you fix the medical issues (the earlier the better) then the behavioral aspects of the disorder will lessen if not disappear.  Let me be clear, she is not saying she has a CURE but she is saying that autism is TREATABLE MEDICALLY.  Since Gage was diagnosed on the mild end of the spectrum I have done lots of reading and this book is the best one I’ve read for the biomedical approach.  Biomedical, you say?  Diet, supplements, other alternative methods – treating the underlying issues.

This should be one of the very first books that parents read when their child is diagnosed.  She makes it easy to understand complex issues and gives you an overview and specifics on the first steps to take with your child.  And at just over 200 pages you can lend it to people who love your kid (after Jason and I, Grandma was the next reader).

The biomedical approach is not one that is embraced by the medical establishment, but considering their training on autism I am not surprised.  This approach speaks to me because I have always seen actual health issues with Gage that we’ve tried and are trying to address.  I won’t bore you with the details, but the lack of support I have found with almost every doctor I’ve dragged Gage to is astounding.  And frustrating.  A parent really has to seek out the answers (and often this means asking the right question) herself and this book is an excellent starting point.  Wish I’d read it two years ago.


I borrowed it from the library but then purchased my own copy to share.


Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded EditionTen Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew. Finished 5-13-14, rating 5/5, autism, 200 pages, expanded version pub. 2012

Brimming with insight, compassion, and spirited humor, Ellen Notbohm’s timeless book describes ten characteristics that help illuminate—not define—children with autism. This updated edition delves into expanded thought and deeper discussion of communication issues, social processing skills, and the critical role adult perspectives play in guiding the child with autism to a meaningful, self-sufficient, productive life. An all-new section explores ten more essential, thought-provoking “things” to share with young people on the spectrum as they cross the threshold of adulthood, and a thoughtful appendix offers more than 70 questions suitable for group discussion or self-reflection. A perennial autism bestseller, Ten Things now sounds an even more resonant call to action, carrying the reader farther into understanding the needs and the potential of every child with autism.

from Goodreads

This book is a must-read for anyone who knows a kid on the autism spectrum, and that’s pretty much everyone!  The author has a son with autism and this book was written so that she could help others see what it took years with her son to learn and in that respect it is a very hopeful and encouraging book for parents because her son has defied every low expectation ever placed on him.  She does not wallow in the struggles but offers explanation and understanding.  Every child on the spectrum is so different, but most share issues with communication, social, and sensory issues to varying degrees and this book helps you recognize where each child has strengths and weaknesses.

At only 200 pages this is an easy one to recommend and gives a layperson great insight without going into scientific or medical detail.  I loved it so much that I gifted it to Gage’s teacher at the end of the year (she will be his teacher next year too).  I think this should be required reading for all teachers who have a kid on the spectrum in their classroom.

Here is a taste of the ten things just so you all know even if you decide not to read the book.

1. I am a child.

2. My senses are out of sync.

3. Distinguish between won’t and can’t.

4. I’m a concrete thinker.

5. Listen to all the ways I’m trying to communicate.

6. I’m visually oriented.

7. Focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can’t do.

8. Help me with social interactions.

9. Identify what triggers my meltdowns.

10. Love me unconditionally.


This was from my personal library.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with AutismThe Reason I Jump. Finished 2-25-14, autism memoir, 150 pages, pub. 2007 (English translation 2013)

You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

 In his introduction, bestselling novelist David Mitchell writes that Naoki’s words allowed him to feel, for the first time, as if his own autistic child was explaining what was happening in his mind. “It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship.” This translation was a labor of love by David and his wife, KA Yoshida, so they’d be able to share that feeling with friends, the wider autism community, and beyond. Naoki’s book, in its beauty, truthfulness, and simplicity, is a gift to be shared.

from Goodreads

Reading books told from the perspective of a person with autism is hard for me.  It’s difficult to imagine my Gage having to deal with all of that on a daily basis, but I read the introduction written by bestselling author David Mitchell, whose own son suffers from autism, and decided that this one would be worth the read. And it was.  Yes, there was a place or two I cried, but overall this book gives some hope and clarity.  This is a 13-year-old boy who can’t speak and yet has the ability to communicate his feelings letter by letter, word by word, paragraph by paragraph.

I think everyone should read this book.  It’s short, the book contains illustrations and a few pieces of short fiction by Higashida, but the bulk of it is Higashida showing the world that autism does not mean unintelligent or unaware and that they are hurt when they disappoint the people they love.  Every person with an autism diagnosis is not the same, not even close, each one having strengths and problem areas- just like every other kid, but everyone will gain a better perspective after an hour with this book. He does not speak for every autistic child, like he sometimes says he does, but he does offer a real insight into his emotional world.

I wish there had been more, but what there was is good. Did you know that in the U.S. 1 in 54 boys is being diagnosed on the spectrum?  I think everyone should take the time to learn a little more.  Here’s a taste of one of the questions…

Why do you ask the same questions over and over?
It’s true, I always ask the same questions. “What day is it today?” or “Is it a school day tomorrow?” The reason? I very quickly forget what it is I’ve just heard. Inside my head there isn’t such a big difference between what I was told just now and what I heard long ago.

I imagine a normal person’s memory is arranged continuously, like a line. My memory, however, is more like a pool of dots. I’m always “picking up” these dots – by asking my questions – so I can arrive back at the memory that the dots represent.

But there’s another reason for our repeated questioning: it lets us play with words. We aren’t good at conversation, and however hard we try, we’ll never speak as effortlessly as you do. The big exception, however, is words or phrases we’re very familiar with. Repeating these is great fun. It’s like a game of catch. Unlike the words we’re ordered to say, repeating questions we already know the answers to can be a pleasure – it’s playing with sound and rhythm.

I checked this out from our library.

The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide by Susan Senator

The Autism Mom's Survival Guide (for Dads, too!): Creating a Balanced and Happy Life While Raising a Child with AutismThe Autism Mom’s Survival Guide (for Dads, too!);Creating a Balanced and  Happy Life while Raising a Child with Autism. Finished 1-16-14, rating 4/5, autism, 196 pages, pub. 2010

Given the daily challenges of raising a child with autism, it’s easy for parents to lose themselves and for their overall quality of life to plummet. Susan Senator interweaves the voices of autism parents, researchers, and professionals to offer guidance and encouragement on how to find happiness and fulfillment in the midst of the struggles of raising an autistic child. Topics include: how to handle feelings of despair and hopelessness; finding fun, even during turbulent times; caring for your marriage; and finding a balance between accepting your child as he or she is and seeking new treatments. 

from Goodreads

When a child is diagnosed with autism, parents read as much as they can about the current treatments available to help their child.  And then start the different treatments, adding more as time and money allow.  In my own personal experience we were so busy with this that I didn’t really take the time to breathe and accept the future.  I was trying to save my son from the diagnosis.  Honestly, I still am, but around the year mark acceptance crept in to my daily thoughts too.  This book really did help with that.

The author has a grown son with autism and two younger sons at home and has had 20 years to make peace and come up with some advice that might help other parents.  This is not a book on therapies and it will not lead you to a quick fix, as a matter of fact she really is not a fan of alternative solutions, like biomedical.  What this book does so well is to offer comfort and advice on how your family can have a better home-life.  It’s full of resources (books, websites, blogs) and stories from other parents to help you feel understood and armed with more information.

At first, it was a struggle to get my mind out of the scary, unknown future.  But as therapies, research, and behaviors kept me busy, the future faded and only resurrected itself on the very bad days.  This book, detailing her experience with her son moving out of the house at 18, was something I needed to read.  While her life isn’t what she expected, it is good and fulfilled and happy.

If you have a friend that has a child with autism this would be a nice recommendation or gift (when she’s having one of those bad days). I checked this out of the library.

Weekends with Gage-Welcome to 2014!

Gage wasn’t on the blog much this year, but that will change in 2014 as I plan on having Weekends with Gage every week.  I will have the usual kid book reviews, kid book activities, some milestones, but I’ve also decided to go back to basics and come out of the closet, such as it is.  I miss blogging about being Gage’s mom and after I read through my posts from that first year I was so glad that I had taken the time because they are all moments I can’t get back.  The coming out of the closet part is a closet that some of you already know about but now one that I am taking public on the blog, last December before Christmas Gage was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (for him the mild side of autism).  Last year I wasn’t up to talking about about it and Jason didn’t think it was fair to blog about Gage when he had no control or say over it, but we’ve come to an understanding 🙂  This past year I have found so many bloggers who have already been through what we are going through and lived to tell the tale and they were a source of comfort and information to me and I think I can add to the conversation.  Gage’s PDD diagnosis is a small part of who he is (some therapists aren’t even sure the diagnosis is correct) but a part I want to acknowledge because otherwise it seems like I think it’s something bad or embarrassing and that’s not true.  I couldn’t be prouder of him.  He is super smart and comes up with some of the best lines.  He is doing well because he’s worked so hard this year and the sky’s the limit for 2014!

Jason’s dad came over the weekend and I had the chance to recreate a photo I took in May 2011.  Oh my how times have changed 🙂  Forgive the quality – I only had time for the camera phone!