LIFE IS A SPECTRUM

When I was Billy's age, apparently I used to demand, at bedtime, "Daddy, read me a story and not God Made the World!" all in one non-stop, breathless sentence. Daddy, apparently, liked the brevity of the 7-page God Made the World: God made the sky, God made the animals, God made the flowers, etc. I, of course, couldn't understand why my father wanted to constantly hear this fairly plotless tale over and over.

As a parent now, I get it. I have to stop myself from shuffling the longer books to the bottom of the pile at bedtime. Waddle takes about 45 seconds to read (a parent favorite for the 'Feet), while Oh, The Places You Will Go is more of a commitment. Sometimes, though, Billy and I will find common ground, and with that in mind, here are a few of our favorites:

Odd Boy Out by Don Brown
Apparently, Albert Einstein was a holy terror to his parents. At least that's Billy's favorite part of Odd Boy Out, a children's tale about the life of the genius scientist. He had a big head, he hit his sister a lot, and eventually, he became a famous scientist. (We have to read the part where he hit his sister a lot of times.) Most of the beautifully illustrated book is over Billy's head, but I think he gets in a general way the message that despite what other people said about Albert, he grew up to become someone very special.

The Big Honey Hunt (and all rhyming Berenstain Bears Books) by Stan and Jan Berenstain

We are on our second copy of this 40-year-old classic, having read one book until the pages literally fell apart. Billy loves the rhymes and how silly old Papa Bear keeps trying to find honey in the forest and landing in all kinds of trouble with bees, skunks, porcupines (one of his first words was "pita-pine!") and owls. I love how, in the end, he follows Mama Bear's advice and just goes to the honey store. "Always listen to Mama Bear is the moral of this story," I tell him solemnly and he finds this hilarious.

The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone, Illustrated by Michael Smollin
This was my favorite book as a child, and I love that Billy loves it too. Essentially, Grover is terrified by the title of the book and doesn't want to get to the end of the book where there is a monster. So he keeps begging the reader not to turn the page and trying to block our progress with a series of crazy ideas. We make a game out of it, as I ask Billy, "Should we turn the page?!" And he demands, "Turn the page! Turn the page!" even though the anticipation nearly kills him. Of course, Grover is the "monster" at the end of the book and that is very funny every single time.

What's Wrong, Little Pookie? (and all Sandra Boyton books) by Sandra Boynton

I just love Sandra Boynton's style. You can tell she has kids, because her books have that unique, oddball creativity that really captures kids' imaginations. In this one, Mama is trying to figure out why Little Pookie, her baby pig, is upset. This one used to be VERY handy when Billy was himself upset, because I would go through Mama Pig's questions: Are you tired? Are you hungry? Did you lose something you love? And by the time we get to the nonsense questions about elephants borrowing his shoes, he's got the giggles. We also have The Belly Button Book and the Going to Bed Book, both of which are excellent. We've adopted "Bee-bo" as our word for "belly button."

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (and all Eric Carle books)
No library is complete without this classic (as well as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?). Billy had Hungry Caterpillar memorized after about two readings, and he loved to inform me, on a regular basis, what the caterpillar ate on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on. It's a beautiful illustration of how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, and I tried to use this reasoning to get Billy to eat more things: "Don't you want to get big and strong and become a beautiful butterfly?" No dice. But he still loves the book. The book is so popular among kids that there is now a Memory game, several toys, and a pop-up book associated with it.

Possum Come a Knockin by Nancy Van Lann and George Booth

We borrowed this one from the school library, and it quickly became a favorite. While a wacky family carries on a-knittin', and a-whittlin' and a-fussin' and a number of other poorly enunciated activities, a possum knocks on their door. The rhymes are infectious, and we made a game out of this one too: Billy would give three knocks every time we heard the phrase "Possum come a knockin' at the door, at the door." I had to order our own copy when this one went back to the library.

Oh, the Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
I read this book to Billy while I was pregnant with him, and it still chokes me up. Of course, then I had no idea that he would be autistic, but Oh the Places You Will Go is particularly lovely for kids facing inherent challenges in life: "I'm sorry to say, but sometimes it's true, that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you ..." The book was a gift from a dear friend, and Billy always has me read the inscription to him, "To Billy ... Love, Melissa Witek, Miss Florida USA 2005." How many boys can say they have books in their library from Miss Florida USA?

The Potty Train by David Hochman and Ruth Kennison, Illustrated by Derek Anderson

Chugga-Chugga-Pooooo-Poooo! Need I say more? Brilliantly and hilariously illustrated, this is a great book for keeping them on the potty for a while during training.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

Billy is a big fan of the train in general, and The Little Engine that Could is actually right up there with Thomas in terms of cool engines. After about 80 years, its message of self-help and determination is still a good one, though modern books probably wouldn't include open pocket knives in a cargo of toys for "little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain."

Wonderful World of Knowledge
My mother-in-law has been sending us this series of books for Billy, a few at a time, from the UK. But I remember a version of these from my childhood, so I'm sure they're available over here as well. They're like encyclopedias for children on subjects like "Dinosaurs," "Marvels of the Sea," "Atlas of the World," and so on. Even before he's old enough to get into all the subjects, he's still fascinated by the illustrations, which always include a Disney character in any scene: Mickey traipsing across the desert, Donald snorkeling and looking at fish, Mickey scared by a giant squid, etc.
An unexpected upside is that the science in these books is on about my level of understanding, so I've used them to actually look up scientific facts. Everything I now know about chemical reactions I learned from Donald.

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Our Favorite Books

A few of our favorites:

-Earl the Squirrel written and illustrated by Don Freeman. The author is the creator of the Corduroy books; this book was completed by his son and a dedicated librarian after the author's death. Terrific black and white illustrations with a sweet story of the lengths our children will go to please us moms.

-Any "Little People" flap books. These actually have become a nice stand-in for open/close door behavior

-Any "Little Critter" books by Mercer Mayer, in particular "Just a Mess", "Just Go to Bed" and "Just Going to the Dentist".

-Sleepy Bears by Mem Fox. Mother Bear tries to get her eight baby bears (Octobear!) to sleep. Beautiful illustrations nearly put me to sleep as well.

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When I first heard about therapeutic listening, I was very dubious. I didn't understand how wearing headphones and listening to weird sounds was going to do anything except seriously tick Billy off. Having completed the program now, we still can't conclusively say that his gains were specifically because of therapeutic listening, but I would call myself a tentative believer. Dave, for the record, is still skeptical.

There are few therapies associated with autism, though, where you can draw a direct correlation between what you do and changes in behavior. If we change Billy's diet and see an immediate derailment into tantrum-land, we sometimes start blaming something he ate. He could also, though, be tired, have taken a irrational dislike to the neighbor's cat which keeps showing up in our yard, or have a headache. Until he can really talk to us about what's going on in his head, we just give it our best guess.

The same thing is true about good behavior and gains in communication. We want so much to believe that any particular therapy is working. Or I should say, I do. Dave is comfortable in the permanent "It's BS till they prove to me otherwise" skeptic position.

So we look for a few things in any therapy: First, do no harm. We have to know that there's no downside before we try something. Secondly, does he enjoy it? We believe strongly in following his joy -- to the point that it does no harm. (He can find joy in riding his inflatable spaceship down the steep staircase but we do have to draw the line somewhere.) Finally, where's the science? We want to see a recent, reputable scientific study with real data -- which I then hand off to Dave to read.

Therapeutic Listening (a trademarked term but I can't figure out how to make that "R" with a circle around it) passed our test. The aim of this therapy is to help autistic kids, with underdeveloped nervous systems, differentiate the human voice from other noises in their environment. Based on what Dave explained to me -- and I could have some of this wrong; I majored in English lit and creative writing and I sometimes, admittedly, tune out when he's talking about science -- this specially filtered music and specially designed headphones help build up certain muscles in the ear whose primary purpose is to recognize the human voice.

You have to find a therapist trained in Therapeutic Listening to administer the therapy. Then you have to buy the special headphones. We ordered ours from Vital Sounds for about $145. And a CD player with a random play button and the ability to turn off the bass. There are about a dozen different CDs, ranging in theme from animal sounds to kid songs to Mozart; special sounds and clicks have been added to each one, and if an adult, with a fully developed nervous system, tries to listen to it, it can make you feel slightly dizzy or even nauseous. I got an immediate headache after about a minute of listening to "Mozart for Modulation."

But Billy didn't. He liked some CDs better than others but on the whole, he didn't mind sitting down for "headphone time" twice a day, for 30 minutes per session. Our OT let us rent the CDs for $10 a pop (if you buy them, each costs about $40) and each CD would last us two weeks. Billy hated the one with dolphin sounds on it (and who wouldn't?! That was two weeks from hell.) but loved "Peach Jamz," which was a series of upbeat kid songs to which he'd sing along. We worked in one 30-minute session before school, usually while he was eating breakfast, and one after school.

Kids are allowed to eat, ride in the car, or play with toys while listening. They can't watch TV or really interact anything with bright flashing lights or loud sounds. Ideally, he would walk around and play while listening, but we could never get him to wear the fanny pack into which the CD player inserts, so he mostly just sat and looked at books or played with table toys.

At the beginning of this therapy, he wouldn't even allow headphones to touch his head. By the end of the series, he had no problem with headphones -- but he still has strong resistance to hair washing, brushing or cutting. He has become much more verbal over the past six months, and his potty training has made significant strides. Six months ago, we were at our wits end with the tantrums and he had also started head-banging, which was alarming to say the least. Now, that is extremely rare. His connections to people are much stronger and his eye contact is much better. He said, "I love you, Mama," to me for the first time in December. He is more likely to look at someone when he's talking to them. Whether he looks up when we call his name is still a crap shoot, but it's better.

** BUT ** (And I want to put this BUT in bright neon letters!!) Therapeutic Listening (insert trademark here) is NOT the only therapy we've been doing. Far from it. We are committed to Floortime, regular occupational therapy, speech therapy, music therapy and Kindermusik. And I can't overstate the importance of going to school and learning from his peers and teachers. He attends pre-Kindergarten five days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and he loves it.

Now that we've finished the Therapeutic Listening series, our occupational therapist has recommended we purchase the CD Billy really likes -- "Peach Jamz" -- and continue on a two-week on, two-week off schedule. Apparently, the nervous system can get too used to one CD if you listen to it every day.

We're thinking about it. We want to see if there are any changes in his behavior when we stop doing Therapeutic Listening (R with a circle around it here) for a while. If so, we may pick it back up in a month. I would love to hear from any other families who tried this therapy. And if you have any questions about it that I didn't cover here, please email me or post a comment. When we started, we were disappointed not to be able to find more experiences from parents online.

Reader Comments

therapeutic listening

Hi Amanda, We are on day #2 of therapeutic listening. I thought your article was really well written, many of the things that ran through your head about it ran through mine also. So did you end up doing the intermittent sessions of therapeutic listening? Do you think Billy made permanent gains?

From Amanda Broadfoot

Hi Robin,

We've done one two-week session of listening since we finished the original program. Toward the end of that two weeks, he started screaming about the headphones again -- not so much that he couldn't tolerate them, but more that he didn't want to stop what he was doing. "No headphones!" became a frequent refrain, so we stopped just short of two weeks.

In terms of permanent gains, he's definitely made them -- I just don't know that I could definitely attribute them to Therapeutic Listening -- at least not all, of course. He's maintained and improved upon his communication gains. His concentration is much better. His interaction with people is night and day different -- for the better.

So hang in there; keep an eye on details and document them as much as you can. That will help you look back over the months devoted to Therapeutic Listening and see if there are any patterns -- or improvements that might slip your memory.

Best of luck! I look forward to hearing how it goes :-)

Therapeutic Listening

Hi Amanda,
My daughter is listening for over a year. We have seen substantial improvements in different areas - focussing, calmness, language, etc., She also goes to different therapies but we know for sure listening has made a difference in her sleep pattern. She used to take an hour to two hours to settle down. Now, she only takes 15 to 20 minutes max. She has been listening continuously with some breaks. The part that we are skeptical about is - will the changes we have seen so far remain without listening?

From Amanda Broadfoot

I'm glad to hear you've had so much success with the Therapeutic Listening, Vanitha. In terms of whether the gains will be permanent, I think that there's only one way to find out: under the care of your OT, start to phase out the listening. This is just my opinion, but I think that it is important to try and phase it out (after completing the full course), because we do want to see what kind of gains are going to stick with our children, how dependent upon a particular therapy they really are, and also prepare them for a "least restrictive" environment.

Having said all that, we have considered trying another two weeks of it before school starts to see if the TL could help Billy organize himself with all the new changes he'll be facing and all the unexpected transitions ahead of him.

I'm interested to hear your opinions about this, as well as more about your experience. There is precious little on the Internet in the way of parental/child experience with this therapy and I'm always curious to hear about long-term success. Thanks for getting in touch!

Therapeutic Listening

Amanda, you are right about phasing out and i agree about preparing them for the least restrictive environment. My daughter will be going to regular KG next year. We want to see how she does in KG with all the parameters (therapies, listening) unchanged. So we'll continue the same for some months and then phase her out.

You might be aware that there are different kinds of CDs - Fruit (strawberry, Apricot), classical music (bach, mozart), different sounds (ease#1, ease#2). We have tried all the CDS for our daughter and have arrived at a single CD based on our observations.

These are the things we did when we were going through the course:

1. we varied the amount of time (15 to 30 mins) she was listening to a CD
2. we tried with once or twice a day
3. we tried in combination with other CDs
4. we gave a break of 2 to 3 weeks and tried again
5. whenever we tried a new combination, we continued for two weeks.

Some CDs didn't work for her from the beginning. So we didn't follow the above process.

When we were trying different CDs, we saw that the CD, which had positive effect on her at the beginning of this course, didn't have the same positive effect after few months. Also, you would find the effect varies between regular school days and school breaks. Though we have arrived at a CD, we are not sure if this is the best one for her right now. I am sure if we go through this course again, we might find some other CDs. But it is such a arduous task to keep track of the effects that different CDs has on her. it is very stressful.

If you wish, I can send my observations to your gmailid.

Since this listening has varied effects on different child, you'll have to go through the trial and error process. So, i'll be curious to know how it turns out for you and your son when you taking him off the listening. All the best.

Total 5 comments

When my British husband found a video of curling on Youtube and showed it to me the first time, I was convinced it was a joke. It just seemed like such a random collection of activities and props: brooms, ice, a rock. Quidditch makes more sense.

Since I've witnessed this event in two winter Olympics now, though, I've come around to it. I can see the genuine physical effort involved. I sweep; I know that's hard work.

But calling something a "sport" as opposed to a "game," has become way too common, in my opinion.

Darts, for instance, is a game, not a sport. If you can maintain both an open bar tab and a lit cigarette, you are playing a game, not a sport. Nonetheless, there is a growing movement to get darts added to the Olympic roster. But I got news for you: if you've spent enough time in bars to qualify for an Olympic dart team, you're not a world-class athlete. You are the town drunk.

If you are as drunk or drunker than the spectators watching you, you are not playing a sport. If you can order a pizza while playing, it's a game. If you can eat a pizza, smoke a cigarette and drink a pitcher of beer ... well, sorry, bowling, but you're out.

So is pool. If your actual physical condition makes no impact whatsoever on your ability to play, it's a game. I once saw a pool tournament when a guy was wheeling around a tank of oxygen -- and lighting up cigarettes. He won.

Some sports can be played as games. Golf, for instance, can be played by dedicated, skilled athletes whose physical conditioning requires constant commitment. It can also be played by fat guys in funny pants with a case of beer in the back of the cart they just ran into a ditch.

If you can be completely sedentary throughout play, then it's not a sport. Poker is a card game, not a spectator sport. This rule applies to chess, checkers and any game involving a board, dice and little men. Technically, I suppose luge and skeleton competitors are lying down throughout the competition, but I'm told they can actually guide their sleds of death with the smallest of muscle movements. To the untrained eye, it looks like lugers lie down on a piece of metal and then fall down an icy hole at 90 miles an hour. In my opinion, this is neither game nor sport but falls into a third category I like to call "activities in which clinical insanity actually aids your success." Luge can join bull riding, alligator wrestling, and race car driving in that category.

And that sport where you ski and shoot a gun. I'm sure shooting would add an element of suspense to any sport, but I don't see us arming the local baseball team. (Actually, I find baseball so boring that perhaps giving them all handguns would liven it up a bit.) And maybe in parts of the world it's really handy to be able to ski and shoot a gun, but in my house it's really handy to be able to balance a baby on your hip while loading a dishwasher, but nobody's giving me a gold medal. Maybe if I was also carrying a gun ...

I don't want to just harsh on the guys, although most of the attempts to get games labeled as sports seem to be spearheaded by guys. Women are more likely to try and get their hobbies labeled as sports. But if you're dancing and jumping around with a ribbon tied to a stick, you are not competing in a sport. That is a crazy pasttime, or at best, a pageant talent.

I have no doubt that ballroom dancers are in peak physical condition. But it's not a sport! It's dancing! Why does it have to be called a sport? It's an art form, and should be proud of that fact. I don't see NFL teams trying to get themselves classified as "performance artists." And I know that women aren't the only ones competing in ballroom dancing, but come on, I don't think there's a big contingent of dudes behind the push to turn dancers into Olympians.

And aerobics? Seriously? The Association of National Aerobics Championships reports, "In 1996 the Federation Internationale Gymnastic (FIG) accepted sportaerobics as an official discipline gaining official recognition by the IOC and positioning it for future Olympic games inclusion."

If that happens, I am absolutely petitioning the IOC to get childbirth declared an Olympic sport. See you in 2014!

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Dear Stephen King,

I'm a huge fan. I dearly love the Dark Tower series. The Stand, I believe, is one of the best American novels ever written. Hearts in Atlantis, The Green Mile, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Misery, all of your short story collections, and the memoir, On Writing, are on my bookshelf.

In fact, I met you in Tallahassee when you did a reading at Seven Days of Opening Nights in 2006. I was very pregnant with my son, and when I asked you to autograph On Writing to him, you did so and then layed your hands on my pregnant belly and closed your eyes. When he's having a particularly hellish tantrum, I often think of you.

I must confess that there are quite a few of your horror novels that I haven't read: Cujo, The Tommyknockers, Pet Semetery, The Dark Half, are among them. It's not that I don't believe those are equally well-written. I'm sure they are. It's just that I'm easily scared and don't enjoy the process. During the daylight hours, I'm a perfectly sensible 38-year-old mother who does not believe in ghosts or demons or such, but at 3 a.m., when I'm up by myself feeding the baby, I'm pretty sure there's a scary vampire baby scratching at the window outside. (Yeah, thanks for Salem's Lot; that was 30+ years ago, and I'm still freaked out by that flying vampire kid.)

Your latest novel, The Dome, as every critic I've read agrees, is perhaps your best ever. I have been listening to the audio recording and have been absolutely riveted. The reader is pretty good, though I can't understand why Jim Rennie, a man described as living in Chester's Mill, Maine, his whole life, has a very strong Southern accent, except maybe the reader thinks it makes him sound more evil. As a Southerner, that doesn't really bother me, though. In fact, I have an image of a very familiar Southern baddie in mind when picturing him; the characters of The Dome remind me of many heroes and villains I've known in my life. That's the genius of it; the characters are so real, so believable, that I've been genuinely worried about them since I've started reading the book (or listening to it, I should say).

No, I was utterly on board till close to the 30-hour mark in the recording when little Ollie Dinsmore goes to the dome and starts throwing rocks. A soldier on the other side, described as hailing from South Carolina, says to him, "Will y'all stop doing that? It's driving me crazy."

Little Ollie is alone, the only one throwing rocks. "Y'all" is plural, though, a contraction of "you all." There are no exceptions to this rule. It is always plural, and despite its common misuse by fictional Southerners in movies and books written by Yankees (and portrayed by non-Southern actors who all for some reason sound like Jimmy Carter), it is never used as anything but a plural by any living breathing Southerner. The most ignorant, grammar-challenged one of us (and some people think all of us are) will not use "y'all" in any way except the plural.

If you hear a Southerner using "y'all" while speaking to one person, he is referring to that person and a group of others not currently in the room. For instance, I might ask, "Are y'all going to the family reunion on Saturday?" and the listener would know that I meant him and his family. If I were at the dinner table with one other Southern person and asked, "Could y'all pass the salt?" that person would probably turn around to look behind him, or think I were hallucinating.

I realize we don't make it easy on y'all (meaning all non-Southerners). We have been known to indicate a group as "all y'all," which is, in fact, redundant. And the possessive of "y'all" is "y'all's," which is often pronounced "YAL-ziz," as in "Is this y'all's dog? He was digging in my yard."

I'm not saying this to be a smart aleck. Quite the contrary. I have huge respect for you. I will never be the writer you are. Your books are so well researched and your characters so real that I can't imagine such a glaring error passed your notice. Because it is glaring -- to anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line or east of the Mississippi. We hear it all the time in movies and on TV, but it's still wrong. And it grates. If I knew more about the speech of people from Maine, I would try to draw an analogy, but I promise you that if I ever write anything with a character from the northeast in it, I'll ask a local to check my colloquialisms.

In the meantime, I'm going to pretend that you cut a sentence from "The Dome" which described how the soldier had double-vision and therefore believed that Ollie and his twin were throwing rocks. Because I'm not going to stop reading. I can't. This book is awesome.

Hope y'all (you and your family) are doing well ...

Amanda Broadfoot

Reader Comments

y'all

A beautiful prose. And funny.
Love - the Eyres

Hi-freakin-larious!

Spewed perfectly good wine out of my mouth while reading this. Who knew this was such an epidemic? I feel enlightened. :)

Thanks!

I hate to hear about the waste of good wine, but I appreciate the comments!

Amen, ya'll.

Thank very thing has been driving me nuts for years.

From Amanda

Maybe we need a "Y'all Awareness Day." We could have a rally and teach Yankees how to contract "you" and "all." It would be a short rally.

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Backjack Chair

"Circle Time" each morning at Pre-K, when everyone sits on the floor and listens to the teacher, was proving a challenge for Billy last fall. He found it tough, apparently, to remain on his carpet square or even identify which square was his. Our speech therapist recommended the BackJack chair to help him clearly define his space. The Backjack Chair essentially provides a back for sitting on the floor. And he's done much better in his group since he started using it.

I didn't expect how much I would like the Backjack chair. I spend a lot of time on the floor of the kids' playroom, and having a bad back, that can get uncomfortable after a while. The Backjack chair lets me comfortably sit on their level for storytime, playing with the Little People or building with blocks. Also, it's very lightweight, and you can fold it up easily and take it to picnics, sporting events or any other place where you might be expected to plant your bum on the ground for a long period of time. It's SUPER-comfortable.

Aerogrow Indoor Garden

I love to grow things. I've been chomping at the bit to get out in our new yard and start digging in the soil, but this winter has been gruesome. I realize that this will seem laughable to my friends in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but I'm in Florida. I'm supposed to be picnicking by now, not building wood fires. It has certainly been too cold to get any planting or yard work started. But the mini "aeroponic" garden that my mom got me for Christmas a few years ago is a great way to satisfy my urge to see things greenify, as well as teach the kids about where food comes from.

Aeroponic means that the plants grow in air and water; no soil is required. You don't have to have any real gardening skill; anyone can grow herbs, salad greens, tomatoes, chili peppers or petunias (those are some of the plants for which they have kits at the moment). You just plug it in and follow simple directions. Little seed pods slot down into the holes under the unit's light. Water is added to the well underneath the seed pods. And that's pretty much it. Billy loves to check out the progress of the plants each day, and I think it will make him more interested in planting things outdoors soon.

The Audible.com recording of Stephen King's The Dome

I love Stephen King and I love Audible.com. I can listen to a 1000-page novel while I wash dishes, vaccum, take Willow for a walk, or retrieve Thomas the Trains friends from the garbage disposal. Before I found Audible, it had been months since I read a novel.

The Dome is, I think, the best thing Stephen King has written since The Stand. The premise is simple: An invisible dome mysteriously appears over a small Maine town. There is no way for people inside the dome to get out, and there's no way for the outside world to get in to help them. Once you accept that one supernatural premise, everything else that happens is completely natural: the loss of electrical power and the shortage of resources, the divisions within the town, the grabs for and abuses of power, the increasing desperation.

Growing up in a small town that bears a strong resemblance to the ficitonal Chester's Mill -- despite their geographic distance from one another -- I recognize both the heroes and villains in this story. And the more I "read" (or heard), the more anxious and tense I got -- the sign of a really good page turner. Even if the "pages" are indicated only by when the reader takes a deep breath.

Yo-Baby
Our pediatrician recommended Yo-Baby organic yogurt the last time Willow had a really bad stomach flu. Apparently, it helps regulate their little digestive systems. Willow loves it, particularly the kind with fruit and cereal puree in the bottom. She won't eat any other baby food; she would rather eat our food, whatever it is: avocado, tomatoes, you name it. The only problem with Yo-Baby is that I can't always find it in the grocery store. Walmart didn't carry it the last time I was there. And Publix seems to put it in a different place in each store, usually in the Greenwise organic section. Our favorite flavor: raspberry banana.

Coffee
Give me a super-big cup of regular old Maxwell House Breakfast Blend and I can deal with just about any amount of sleep deprivation. No fancy coffees for me. Don't put ice in my coffee or whipped cream or cinnamon on top. I don't want my coffee to taste like Christmas or flowers or cough drops. Just throw a little creamer in there with some sugar and I'm good to go. Most of the time, I don't even use sugar; I use these sweetener packets I bought at the Dollar Tree that have probably been made from the ground-up fingernails of Chinese children, but they do the trick.

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