I have moved over to WhittereronAutism.com. Please follow the link to find me there. Hope to see you after the jump! :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sweet dreams

I arrive just as spouse is tucking them in to bed. “Right, so no pull-up then!” he announces in a booming tone. I stop dead and pout. No pull-up? Who is he to determine withdrawal of pull-up privileges? Is he responsible for the laundry? The inevitable carpet cleaning? Now there’s a man who is totally out of line. I think about pulling rank. I decide to keep my own counsel instead, and content myself with thoughts of the following morning’s ‘I told you so scene.’

The nerve of the man!

I kiss my children good night, hide my pout and return downstairs to smolder. What could he have been thinking, to change the rules in such are arbitrary fashion? No preamble, no warning, no carefully implemented campaign. The man must be completely barmy? I can think of no rational reason why he should have chosen tonight to turn the bed time routine upside down. I froth, stew and steam. [translation = voodoo dolls] I won’t have time to do an additional load of laundry tomorrow. The knock on effects could be earth shattering! No spare bed linen. Bare bed. More upset to bed time routine. No sleep for anyone. Curse the man!

In between fumes, I consider my own plan. It’s not as if we haven’t attempted this ‘dry at night’ campaign before, it’s just that it has yet to be successful. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t implement a new campaign, we just need careful thought beforehand. How can I have ‘beforehand’ if we’re already after? [translation = failure at the first fence is not a good reinforcer] All campaigns must be orchestrated with the finesse of a conductor. I suppress a growl. Spouse looks across at me. He is unable to detect the steam coming out of my ears, “are you alright love?”
“Anything wrong?”
“No, nothing. I’m fine, just fine!” I do my best flounce and depart. [translation = high dudgeon] I swear he the most annoying person on the planet. Who does he think he is? Why is the other adult in the household such a complete nit wit. The venom and bile accumulate, but are well leashed.

I debate whether I should lift him later before we go to bed ourselves. Should I haul 56 pounds of sleeping boy onto the toilet? I decide to delete. I stomp back into the family room, because flouncing more than once in any one day, decreased it's impact. "You'll be o.k. lifting him later?" I announce rhetorically. He blinks in my direction, "er, sure, if that's what you want?"
"Me? What I want? And how exactly do my 'wants' suddenly come into the equation now?"
"Hmm what?"
"You asked if that is what 'I want,' but you weren't concerned with my wants when you pulled the pull-ups!" I snap with the perfect enunciation of the truly incensed.
"Pulled? Pull-ups? What are you on about?"
"You told him he didn't have to wear a pull up, without us talking about it first!" I squeak. [translation = and inadvertently spit at the same time]
"Ah! I see."
"Well what?"
"What do you have to say for yourself!" [translation = Lummy! I've turned into my husband's mummy]
"Well, I er, didn't have much choice really." I wait. I wait a bit longer. I suppress a sigh. "Why did you have no choice?"
"Well, it was him wasn't it."
"What was him?"
"Him,... I mean..., he said it, he asked, er, he said he didn't want to wear a pull up any more...... now that he was a big boy, although......those weren't the words he used.........but that's what he meant,.......I think, yes, that's what he meant, I'm quite sure."
"Well why didn't you tell me that in the first place! That changes everything!"

Moral – before you flounce, feel free to ferret around for the facts first.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Word play

I have been known to complain about my boys. It's fair enough for them to have different personalities, characters and preferences, but I would much prefer it if their version of autism could be the same too. [translation = parental convenience] Because autism is a spectrum disorder, I often forget that whilst they have little in common, there are residual similarities that can flare up without warning.

My youngest son has an obsession with death, dying and the fragility of human life. As a result of this, we are careful to avoid the subject. It’s not that we are not happy to discuss the issue in general terms. [translation = and have done many times] It’s more when a word, or an association with that trigger word, slips into an otherwise ordinary conversation, that trouble soon follows. Whilst we have touched on this matter before, I do not expect mortality to attack me from other sources.

My older son as waited nearly 18 hours for his sister’s gift. In his mind’s eye, he has anticipated that she would buy him a ‘transformer,’ whatever that might be? He has been told, often, that it will not be a ‘transformer.’ Instead it will be something cheaper, probably something he will not like. We have told him this frequently, reminded him of his impending disappointment, since his sister’s financial base is modest.

Her delight in being cast as the ‘giver of gifts,’ has only served to heighten the excitement. [translation = for everyone under the age of ten] For her, a gift, any gift, is a gift. For the boys, any gift, that is not a specific gift, is not a gift at all. In fact, not only does it cease to be a gift, it changes into an object of hatred.

It is hard to dampen my daughter’s enthusiasm. [translation = I don’t really want to, but I must, so that she in turn, will be prepared to have her gift shunned, her feelings hurt and cope with the disappointment]

It all happened so quickly, during the daily debacle, more commonly known as dinner. The noise is deafening, but fortunately we are in the garden. [translation = polluting our neighbours’ peace] My anxious daughter needs reassurance too. We confirm that after dinner, we will take her to the shop to buy the treats for the last day of soccer camp. The boys will remain at home and go to bed. [translation = status and pulling rank as the eldest] Whilst it would have been preferable to reassure her out of earshot of the boys, sometimes you just have to take the heat.

The boys’ protests rise a decibel or two at the outrage of exclusion.
“Boys! BOYS! BOYS!” she bellows with her hands raised high to catch they’re attention. They stop. [translation = the magical powers of siblings] “Howsabout I get you a prize whilst I’m there? Wouldn’t that be great? Would you like that huh? I’ll buy em with my own money, so it’ll be kinda little……..but only ……if you go to bed nice.” Her face is spread with a cheesy grin. [translation = so is mine] She bounces out of her seat and hugs me where I sit. [translation = the girl done good!]

So how can I burst this bubble? [translation = cigarette burns on a kitten] I have to deflate her a little, to take the edge off when they burst.

I take several opportunities during those 18 hours, to remind the boys about how to behave when you are given a gift that you hate. Since 99% of the gifts they receive fall into this category, they have had a great deal of practice.

Finally, her moment arrived. She presents herself with a flourish, clutching her Target bag to her chest in her hot little hand. She is ecstatic with anticipation. She sinks her hand in to whip out two little sets of cars, the kind that children are often given in party favour bags. Junior snatches his and disappears, shouting ‘thank you’ in response to my prompt to his rapidly retreating back. My other son points to the words on the packet, wordless. His sister reads them for him, even though he knows what it says: ‘die cast cars.’

His scream could shatter every window in the house, as he grabs the packet and hurls it as far as he is able. My daughter is horror struck. My son collapses on the floor to beat it with his fists and kick the hardwood floors as he howls. I settle my daughter with Nonna and concentrate on my son. [translation = before he damages himself]

He remains incoherent for some minutes. Now he is eight, he is big. Now he is eight, he is strong, but his anger is usually internalized. [translation = self mutilation] I stay close because his injuries are swiftly inflicted. The minutes tick by as we wait. I did expect a negative reaction, but not of this magnitude. Slowly his body relaxes. The growls turn to sobs. When he lifts his face, I see fear not anger. I continue to massage his back as I await the return of words. Eventually, they come:
“She is not my friend?”
“Of course she’s your friend! She loves you!”
“She wants me die?”
“She give me a toy to make me die?” Oh no, not him too! Is it contagious, this OCD fixation on death.
“Die can mean lots of different things. It can mean colour.” His eyes follow my finger as I point out all the different fabrics in the room, all their different colours.

I help him to his feet and lead him to the kitchen. I pull out an ice tray. “You can mould ice in this tray. If I put metal in it and the mould was shaped like cars, I could mould cars. That kind of moulding is called ‘die’ cast.” He looks at me dubiously, as his little brother bounces in, the little letter lord. His arrival gives me an idea. [translation = treason. Please don’t deport me. I’ll claim insanity and win.]

“Do you know what?” Both snap back with ‘what?’ Hallelujah! “When something isn’t alive, that's ‘die.’ All these other kinds of ‘die,’ making toys, colouring fabrics, that’s a different kind of ‘die.’” I double check that I have everyone’s attention. Miraculously, I have everyone’s attention. “You call it ‘D,’ ‘Y,’ ‘E.’ Not the same thing at all. See?” I waggle the ice tray with one hand, and flap my skirt with the other. Both boys’ eyes travel from one to the other and back again.

I wait.

One shrugs his shoulders. The other offers, “I fink I am liking ‘dye.’”

Both scamper off without a backward glance.

I only wish my ‘OFF’ and ‘ON’ switch, was as efficient as theirs. [translation = bad gene pool]

If they had glanced back, they would have seen a haggard old woman, trembling against the kitchen counter. I suspect that I shall pay for this crime of corruption, later in the school curriculum.

Post Script - I offer my humble apologies for my somewhat erratic visits to all your blogs, but now we are on Summer routine. [translation = a contradiction in terms]
Just in case you missed it, your reward for waiting for this blog to load and if you would prefer a blog that "loads like a dream" I am now a duplicate over "here." [although I'd rather have a few real clones than a mere duplicate]

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Finish Line - Sophie’s Choice

As I sprint through the average day, I am far from health conscious, but that's because I know that life is a marathon, more about survival than winning.


I soak in the balm of silence, the first hour and a half of solitude in over 7 weeks. All I have to do is collect my prescription and make a picnic. Two minuscule tasks to complete in ninety, whole, tantalizing minutes. Bliss! The silence is tangible. The boys are in morning Summer School, my daughter is in soccer camp, Nonna, nearing the end of her visit, is in the Mall shopping for gifts for her return.

I have promised my daughter that we will come and watch her soccer match, the climax of the week. If necessary, I shall bribe Nonna to care for the boys and go alone, but by hook or by crook, we will be there on time. Otherwise I fear she’ll put herself up for adoption.

I know that Nonna is gainfully occupied. When I dropped her off at the shops she was gleeful at the prospect of the glorious exchange rate:- two dollars to the pound. Her money will go twice as far. I confirmed that I would collect her at 12:30 sharp, in order to be back in time for the bus delivering the boys home.

I make preferred sandwiches and assemble supplies, a great quantity of props and bribes to entertain the boys whilst I watch the soccer match. I complete all household duties in record breaking time.

I bimble up the road to collect Nonna with bags of time to spare. I listen to the radio to exercise my brain and broaden my tiny horizons. I cruise the edge of the Mall in case she has finished early. I loiter in a position where I have a good view of the door. I listen to the weather forecast, not a cloud in the sunny, sunny sky. The glory of California.

The announcer announces something. What did he announce? He announced the time. What is the time? I check my wristwatch and compare it to the car’s clock. There is a discrepancy of two minutes, which means either Nonna is 5 or 7 minutes late. I jump out of the car and hover by the door. I peer through the window to see if she’s queuing at the check out? She isn’t. I scan the sidewalk. Nothing, or at least no Nonna. I check my wristwatch. I run our meeting arrangements through my mind again, in case I mis-spoke. Did she have her hearing aid? I try remembering if Nonna was wearing a watch? I can see her soft face, small frame and the fabric of her sleeve but I just can’t focus on her wrist, nor her ear and the hearing aid. All these thoughts cost precious seconds. I re –check my wristwatch. I think of the boys arriving home to an empty house via the jolly yellow school bus. What do they do with children when they find that no-one is home? Do they take them to foster homes? I have no idea. This has never happened to me before. I try not to see their distraught little faces, the meltdowns at the breakdown in routine.

Should I stay or should I go? I lunge into the shop and run up and down the aisles flip flops flapping. I don’t call her name out loud, as I know she wouldn’t hear me, with or without the hearing aid. I sweep past the attendant to check the changing rooms. I am quite certain that none of the feet that I can see under the doors, belong to Nonna. I race back to the front in case I’ve now missed her on the sidewalk. I remember that I have a cell phone for emergencies. I dig in my bag and attempt to use it. Who shall I phone?

I phone spouse. Spouse is concerned and fully comprehends the full nightmare with very little explanation. He offers to cycle home but it will take him at least 25 minutes. I had forgotten that we are on the ‘save the planet’ campaign and he is without his car. His useless car is parked on the driveway at home, where the bus will shortly arrive. I promise to keep him updated. I snap the phone shut, drop it my bag and run back into the shop for another quick check in case she nipped in there whilst my back was turned.


The phone rings again. I rifle my bag and shout into the phone, “What?”
The lady on the other end of the line informs me that one of my children missed the school bus, or rather that the bus left without him. I have one child hurtling towards home in the bus and another stranded back at the school. She tells me that the bus will return to collect the lingerer later. I thank her and snap the phone. Brain cells fire and synapses click into place. That means that the bus will arrive even earlier, because now the driver has to speed up her deliveries in order to return to the school to collect the abandoned one! I lunge for the car hardly mindful of jay-walking.

I drive home carefully. I ensure that I am exactly on the speed limit at all times, as I cannot be stopped for an inconvenient speeding ticket. Any additional delays may just push me over the edge. I will traffic lights to change in my favour. They don’t. I drive home very carefully because I cannot have an accident and my brain has turned to mush. Sweaty palms are not helpful at this juncture. I breathe very carefully because I do not know what happens if you hyperventilate whilst driving. I am being so careful that something will surely snap.

My mind drifts up into the clouds so that I can see all the traffic below, one tiny little yellow bus charging back to my house, me, in my big family van, carefully wending my way to the same location. Since it is the last day of school they are bound to be even earlier, which means that my tiny window of opportunity has just closed to a crack.

I keep a very careful eye out for lunatic drivers who might inadvertently delay me, as every second counts. I flip between miles and kilometers per hour, just to add further confusion. I suspect that I am the lunatic driver and open my eyes even wider. Now, anyone coming the other way will be able to see the whites of my eyes and be warned that a crazed woman is not one to be messed with.

I should have asked someone in the shop if any little old ladies had had an accident in their store this morning? What if she’s forgotten her pills? So many pills, important pills for diabeties, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, great disposition. It’s past her usual lunch time, what if she’s passed out from lack of……..whatever it is that diabetics lack? No, no, no, of course! She is a diabetic, therefore she’ll have some emergency food in her bag. Did she have her bag? Must have done, she was going shopping. I run through the check list that I checked with her before she left; her glasses, reading glasses, pen, pills. I don’t remember food? Nevermind, she’s a grown woman who has the sense to know that she needs to buy something to eat. She’s in a Mall, she’s not going to starve. Did she remember her money? You can’t shop without money. She would have phoned me, but she has no phone! Why didn’t I give her my cell phone? Because she’s deaf and it’s too complex for a first time user.

The phone rings in my bag setting off alarms in my head. I dig for the phone. I ignore the rule; ‘only stupid people use a cell phone whilst driving.’ I know it’s going to be the school, or possibly the new foster parents but I go ahead and speak anyway, “Stupid here, please give me back my children?”

It’s neither. Spouse is confused by my response and wants an update on the crisis situation. I update him with my speed talking since I lack speed dialing. He offers to cycle home. I offer to puncture his tyres next time the opportunity presents itself. I snap the phone shut and leave it in my lap on the off chance that I will learn how to speed dial by being in close physical proximity to the device.

I realize that when I do eventually get home, I will have no way of knowing whether the bus is about to arrive or has already left, taking my poor benighted child with her, since I failed to be there on time. I wonder if I am able to spot the bus’ tyre tracks on the drive? What would they look like? Is it dusty enough? Are there any tell tale puddles to catch out unwary bus drivers? I remember that it is over 90 degrees in the shade and that a puddle’s life expectancy is counted in milliseconds.

I debate speeding. I decide not to. If I speed I will crash or run someone over, then I will be responsible for extinguishing a precious human being, ruin their life, end their life, their family’s, as well as my own. If I kill someone by speeding the bus will be late, my children will be fine and it will all have been for nought, I will have killed someone for nothing. I grind my teeth, or rather my retainer. I remember that a retainer should not be ground. I congratulate myself on the acquisition of a new skill, the ability to grind my teeth, now that they join for the first time in my life at the age of 46. I open my mouth to stop myself from ruining $600 worth of retainer. Now my eyes and mouth match, open. My heart beats so fast that I can feel it elevate. I shut my mouth before my heart pops into it.

I need to calm down before my child gets home, assuming that I haven’t already missed him, which would mean that he would definitely be frantic. I need to present a composed front, so that I will be able to calm down my frantic child. He will be frantic because his brother is not on the bus with him, his constant companion if not his twin. I anticipate a whole slew of new neurosis pertaining to buses, yellow and otherwise, as well as other forms of vehicular transportation, for both me and them.

I park at home and leap into the garden to check if any small people have been abandoned there. They haven’t. I check the house just in case they sneaked in the back or broke a window to gain entry.

They didn’t.

I curse the bus driver and her adherence to her professional ethics.

I zip back to the drive way. Maybe they’re still on their way? I examine the driveway for clues. I am without clues, clueless. I dredge my brain for crumbs of ‘The Last of the Mohicans,’ that I read many centuries ago. I notice lots of twigs, pebbles and gravel, but I have no way of knowing if they have been disturbed, or if they have been disturbed, that it was the bus that was the disturber? I resolve to practice recognizing the debris on my driveway, daily. As I peer through dirty bifocals, I am covered in a cloud of dust as the bus pulls in. Hallelujah!

I skip to the bus with my best ‘happy but calm’ expression on my face. As the doors pull back the bus driver regales me, “are you o.k.? You look kinda…….” she peters out and does not say ‘disturbed.’ I smile back to reveal my ever thinning retainer, as both my boys stumble down the steps. Both! Both? How did that happen? The bus driver waves goodbye and sweeps away. I embrace my lost boys and await the meltdowns. They brush me aside and head off indoors without a care in the world.

I stumble in after them collecting their belongings that leave a trail in their wake. Two down, one to go. Now I must find Nonna. Please don’t let her been laid out in a diabetic stupor?

My brain shifts up a gear. I must persuade my car phobic boys, to get into the car, after they have just spent 40 minutes on a bus. They are too big to carry, or drag. What am I going to do? How can I get them in the car, without breaking a limb, mine or theirs? I rely on my old friend, bribery. I ignore the current healthy food campaign. I whiz to the emergency cabinet and whip out a packet of chocolate biscuits, the cookie trap.

When I return they are both breaking into the cupboard with the electronic games, the contraband, as no Gameboys are permitted until 5:30, and only if chores have been completed. I make sure that the biscuits are at their sight level as I announce the number of cookies that good boys will receive, who enter the car and have their seat belts fastened.

Their howls of protest are enough to burst ear drums. Each has a hand on an electronic toy, a preferred activity. They look at the biscuits. They look at the Gameboy. There is a pause in the screaming.

“I can take dis in dah car?” he asks.

Both boys hover with perfect eye contact whilst I dither……..’yes! o.k.! Now, into the car as quickly as you can!” They both bounce on the spot for a few moments before collapsing on the floor clutching their games and screaming. Despite the noise, their behaviour is compliant. One crawls along the floor like a solider on manoeuvres and the other is on all fours like a puppy, but they are none the less, moving in the direction of the car, albeit in slow motion.

As I toss their shoes into the car after them, I remember that I missed the toilet break, compulsory before any trip. Yet another campaign failure!

The wolves stop howling with the first biscuit as I reverse out the garage and head off to the Mall at 39 m.p.h.
“It is afternoon?” he asks.
“It is 5:30?”
‘Er no,……it’s 1:10 p.m.”
“It’s no 5:30?”
“No it’s 1:10 p.m.”
“Why we are having electronics time den?” I curse another failed campaign as my boys munch chocolate biscuits and play electronics in the middle of the day with no ‘tasks’ completed at all. I concentrate on Nonna’s rapidly decomposing body, lost in the suburbs of San Jose. I wonder if she knows the address and telephone number? I should have written it down for her, just in case!

“Where we are go?” asks the little one.
“We’re going to look for Nonna. You can both help me.” As soon as I’ve said it, I wish that I hadn’t.
“Nonna! Nonna? Nonna? She is lost. You lost Nonna? Where she is? She is stolen? She is lost? She is dead?” I wonder, not for the first time, if this child has extra sensory perception, or simply a mind reader?

I think.

“No, she’s fine, but she wanted to play…....…hide and seek with us. She’s hiding and we’re going to seek her out.” The phone rings from somewhere in the realms of the footwell of the car. This effectively prevents me from driving and speaking on the phone, as only idiots do that. I am saved from being an idiot.

I turn into the parking lot and hunt for a space next to the sidewalk. This should minimize the likelihood of them being mown down by traffic when they run away, which they surely shall. One eye looks for a space, the other eye looks for Nonna. I pull into a parking spot before I go cross-eyed. I turn in my seat, with all the doors locked, as I de-brief the boys as to my expectations. I am careful to keep the tone of fear from my voice. The prospect of escaping children in opposite directions and an elderly prostrate body in need of urgent CPR, is enough to send chills down my spine. I prompt verbal confirmation that the message has been received and understood. I open the doors.

They leave the car. One plummets to the ground in a heap and the other catapaults away. Clearly the message was received and understood but no-one complies. I make a mental note to redraft the message to include compliance, even if I have to write them in my own blood. I scoop up the 65 pounder and stagger down the sidewalk after the other one. Another campaign bust! The campaign to never carry anyone, under any circumstances.

In the distance I recognize the pogoing form of my youngest child and yes, there is Nonna, vertical! My son’s body becomes rigid too, as his eyes register the scene. He slithers down my body like a plank and gambols off in the general direction of his maternal grandmother.

We gather together. “Oh dear, oh dear,” she says in a slightly flustered manner and a thick Italian accent. Her hands flutter over the heads of her two grandsons. One pecks her hip with kisses of relief and slicks of snot. The other burrows his head in her waist with unsuppressed glee. She’s alive! And we still have enough time to make the soccer match. “Ave you been waiting very long?” she asks tentatively.

I smile as I lie and tell the truth at the same time, “we’ve only just got here!” I bellow.

I doubt if I shall ever win any races, I'm sure I shall never be fit, my mental health my be compromised but one thing I'm quite certain about, my sense of humour will see me through to the finish line, wherever that may be?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Winkin, Blinkin and Nod *- Is it any wonder?

I listen to my 8 year old speech delayed son, talk with his six and a half year old, speech delayed brother. Two years ago such a conversation would never have taken place. Then, they barely acknowledged each other's existence, let alone converse with one another.

Considering the different nature of their all too different disabilities, it is a miracle that they ever manage to understand each other. [translation = or have the patience, tolerance, and motivation to try]

I find it hard to express how every little fragment, together, signifies a huge leap in their ability to communicate. The ability to rephrase when someone doesn't understand you the first time, which always led to a meltdown. To add emphasis to a word to help your listener. The ability to initiate a conversation of a social nature. [translation = no pay off]

There are far too many fragments to detail, but sometimes they miss the beginning or the ending of a word. Sometimes they miss the beginning or end of a sentence. They both are starting to tease.

“You like dah Reeses Pieces?”
“Recess? I do not like Noddin.” [translation = name of Summer School]
“You don like Nolan? Who is dis guy Nolan? Why you no like him?”
“Nola! Nola? Nola. Nola is a girls name.”
“I din say Nolus, I say Nolan!”
“Who is Nolan?”
“I don know, dat is what I am asking you?”
“What you ask me?”
“Er……..I don know…..er I mean…..I have forgotted.”
“Nevermind big guy, better luck next time. Anyway, peanuts is poison!”
"Oh man!" He slaps his forehead in an exaggerated parody, "jus forget about it!" he adds, shaking his head slowly. Magnanimous to a fault.

Here is the poem just in case you haven't come across it before.
[warning = it may be a little mushy for some tastes]

Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod

Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod, one night sailed off in a wooden shoe;
Sailed off on a river of crystal light into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going and what do you wish?" the old moon asked the three.
"We've come to fish for the herring fish that live in this beautiful sea.
Nets of silver and gold have we," said Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song as they rocked in the wooden shoe.
And the wind that sped them all night long ruffled the waves of dew.
Now the little stars are the herring fish that live in that beautiful sea;
"Cast your nets wherever you wish never afraid are we!"
So cried the stars to the fishermen three - Winkin', and Blinkin', and Nod.

So all night long their nets they threw to the stars in the twinkling foam.
'Til down from the skies came the wooden shoe bringing the fisherman home.
'Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed as if it could not be.
Some folks say 'twas a dream they dreamed of sailing that misty sea.
But I shall name you the fisherman three - Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod.

Now Winkin' and Blinkin' are two little eyes and Nod is a little head.
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies is a wee one's trundle bed.
So close your eyes while mother sings of the wonderful sights that be.
And you shall see those beautiful things as you sail on the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three - Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod.

p.s. I am transitioning to a new [fast loading site] =
"Whitteronautism.com" I'll be posting there daily until it's fully up and running. Cheers

Friday, July 27, 2007

Senility may be a blessing for some?

I try to remember why I am down in the dumps today? I know that I worked it out earlier but now I have forgotten again.

Could it be the wet bed and the laundry? No, that’s pretty much a daily event. It must be something more than that mere trifle.

Something cyclical? I check the calendar, flip through the months but I’ve been sloppy about recording cycles. Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps a contributing factor.

The death of the coffee maker? No, not that. Miffed, irritated and with a serious case of caffeine withdrawal but otherwise, it’s of no great consequence in the great scheme of things.

What about him walking into the pool with all his clothes on? No, I don’t think it was that. I was there at the time. There was no danger. In fact the look on his face was priceless when I mentioned that he might prefer to wear his swimsuit. [translation = gave me my daily dose of laughter therapy]

What else? The dental appointment, the bill, the future pain and discomfort, all of which fell into the category of bad news? No, not really, after three and a half years, I’m sort of immune. [translation = case hardened]

Then there was explaining to that stranger about them being autistic. That was…….tedious, not particularly depressing, quite commonplace these days.

Was it something new or was it something different, or neither of the above? I have no recall. I tread backwards through my day, just as I prompt my children to do. [translation = a dose of my own medicine]

None of the meltdowns were that bad, mainly level 7 and 8’s and there weren’t that many, no more than one or two an hour. [translation = for each] A longer day of course, because we are on Summer holidays, but of no great import. [translation = standard fare]

The early start didn’t help, as 5 a.m. is about my limit. The hourly visits during the night were something I could have done without, but we’ve done it before. [translation =often]

Maybe it’s the blogging? There are some dire postings out there. [translation = other people’s genuine misery]

I didn’t have time to listen to the news on the radio, which has no doubt saved me no end of angst. [translation = safe in our own bubble]

Prompting them to re-dress every 45 minutes or so, to coincide with a bathroom break? Of course not, I can do that in my sleep. [translation = and often do]

Do the breakages matter? Mere irritations. The mess? No, just evidence of play. The spillages? Isn’t that why cloths were invented? It’s all just standard parent and children fare, with a percentage more, for the autism?

Now what was it? What did I do first thing this morning? Or was it yesterday? I check the calendar again. What did I do? I see the appointment marked in red in my own appalling hand writing: IEP Triennial, 9:00 a.m.. [translation = Individual Education Plan for a Special Needs Child]

I remember!

I try very hard to forget again.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is it all a big lie?

One of the many failings of autistic people, from society’s perspective, is their apparent lack of interest in people. They appear to lack many of the attributes of sociable behaviour. [translation = check out DSM IV] Part of the matter lies in some people’s human nature, mine, for instance. For instance, when my children were evaluated for autism, I was not particularly surprised that they didn’t know their own last names, address or telephone number. [translation = they only knew this information if they were prompted to sing it, and I don’t think the ‘experts’ knew the right tune.] What did surprise me, was that they did not know MY first name, MY favourite colour, or MY favourite food. [translation = how outrageous!]

At the time, which seems several centuries ago, I assumed that they just couldn’t find the right words, [translation = speech delay] or it was one of those touchy subjects that invoked a meltdown. [translation = triggers] The implication was, that I was off their radar, as were my personal preferences. [translation = of no interest] To have someone, an expert, explain that you do not exist in your child or children’s world, is sobering.

So many clues had been available to me, such as when they had to draw their mother at school, but wouldn’t. [translation = major meltdowns] I chose to see this as ‘couldn’t,’ because I knew that holding a pencil and touching paper was abhorrent. [translation = tactile defensiveness and poor fine motor skills]

I am aware now, of the many excuses I made for my self, but at the same time, the clues had to be balanced against the other evidence, such as their ability to name every dinosaur that ever set foot on the planet. [translation = and pronounce it correctly] Their enthusiasm for their admittedly narrow interests, was all encompassing, and misleading to a dim witted parent. [translation = none required] How could I be off their radar when their constantly required me to carry them? [translation = both at the same time until the last two years] They couldn’t be undemonstrative when the hugs were so often and demanded with such desperation?

The whole subject of autism was a locked box to me. [translation = steep learning curve]

I am prompted out of my reminiscing daze by my youngest autistic, speech delayed son.
“Do wimmins have wallets?” from the child who loves the letter ‘w’.
“Some women do.”
“Do you have a wallet?” A personal question, directed at me, a social question.
“I do!”

Now he opens the box for me. I hereby declare that it is safe for me to drop off the planet and join the dinosaurs.

And on the subject of "lying."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Is there such a thing as double yuck?

I had them over, [translation = against my will] to three sets of all too willing hands, but I avert my eyes so I do not have to look at the disgusting things. I find it hard to believe that I have shelled out hard cash for these most revolting items. [translation = $3.99 each] I remind myself that it’s all in the cause of therapy. [translation = cheap at the price]

Each child offers thanks in their own unique way.

“Thanks Mom, it’s kinda gross…. but in a cool way!”
“I fink maybe I am liking it a little bit, or maybe not, or maybe…….I don know,” his hands pump the vile thing, which calms him, [translation = just as it is supposed to do] and narrowly avoids a meltdown.
The little one squeezes it tight and offers, “woozy woozy woo! We love you! Yes we do!” by which he means that the therapy toy is a hit.

“I think dey are horrible!” offers Nonna, in her strong Italian accent as she pulls a face. She said out loud, what I thought myself.
“Hey mom! Nonna said a bad word.”

It's always so much better when minds think alike. I think that’s probably a triple yuk, but of course that is merely my own very narrow perspective.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Danger lurks around every corner

I take my youngest autistic son to the supermarket with me. [translation = grocery store] To say that such an errand was akin to punishment, would be an understatement, but I am out of options today. Like most children, shopping is one of his least favourite activities, [translation = me too!] but malnutrition is but one missing meal away.

I have carefully chosen an alternative store. This alternative store, has one overwhelming advantage over it’s competitors, one that the store owners are probably blissfully unaware of. The shop has electric doors, which are the bane of many a parent’s life. [translation = they’re open, they’re closed, hop in, hop out, get in the way off all customers who arrive or leave, as they are invisible, chortle merrily throughout]

However, in this particular sanctuary, the electric doors have foolishly been located in close proximity to the produce section. [translation = fruit and veg] Few things are as obnoxious as fruit and veg, to my son. The stench of produce is more than sufficient to curtail his door activities, or at least that is what I am hoping.

The produce department has long been an area of fear and dread because periodically, water sprays down upon the lush vegetation, a mist of glistening droplets. Whilst for most people this adds to the enticement, for others it is a deterrent. [translation = sensory] Should you see a small child scream and run for cover amongst the boxes of green bananas under the tressel table, clearly he is a hooligan on a quest to trample fruit. Or even a larger child for that matter.

I have only three or four items on my shopping list. I encourage his help but he will have none of it, nor will he touch the list. He won’t touch the small piece of favourite yellow coloured paper, because it is paper. [translation = tactile defensiveness, but we’re working on it] Additionally, my list is hand written and fails to meet his standards of cursive letter formation. [translation = I imagine that he would find fault with the copperplate of monks too]

I nearly trip over a basket that some idiot has abandoned in the middle of the aisle. Why do people do that? The inconsiderate nature of the general public never ceases to amaze me! My son chortles, “Elliot is idiot, Elliot is idiot, Elliot is idiot.” His scripting is right on target, which is excessively irritating. [translation = many speech delayed children use clumps of words that they collect from here and there. More often than not, the spirit of the phrase is accurate, like a dart.]

To distract himself from the pain of shopping, he reads every label aloud, loudly. This innocent pastime engages him as he bolts around with his arms folded across his chest in a protective gesture. He startles and jumps at things that I am unable to identify. [translation = hyper-vigilance] In the dairy aisle he fondles eggs and cooes gently at them. Strangely, eggs, any eggs, are always soothing to both the boys. It is as they have magical powers, even though neither of the boys eat them. This is the calmest 7 seconds that we experience.

He queries labels and harangues me with questions with every step. For every step that I take, he takes ten, rushing around in the style of a skateboarder. I choose my last item. [translation = grab something that looks vaguely like what I want and hurl it in the basket] “We are done?” he sparks.
“We are.” He accelerates off in a tail spin to the bakery department to choose his treat. [translation = task completion and reward time, for holding it together for 12 minutes]

He skids to a premature halt aghast at the view. I look at the cakes and notice that each set has a hand written label. [translation = it would appear that the bakery does not employ monks] He covers his mouth with his hands and bounces on the spot. [translation = a dilemma of the tallest order, how to look at the cakes and yet screen out the offensive labels?] He agonizes for a few more moments before a bolt of spare bravery comes to his rescue. He takes one long single step, very slowly, to bring his body close to the glass. He stands rigid with his arms close to his sides and his eyes closed. He breathes slowly and deliberately. When he’s ready, his eyes snap open and absorb the cakes.

“What is it?”
“What is what dear?”
“Petit?” Oh dear, a new word, a foreign word. Do I want my son to learn foreign words at this juncture? Other than "Brioche?"
“It means ‘little’ dear.”
“Why it is four? Why it not three?” [translation = his current favourite number]
“It’s the name of a cake dear, "petit four," means little cake. It’s French, a different language.” [translation = actually it means ‘little oven,’ but I didn’t know that at the time] He mouth starts to move, he puffs and blows like a steam engine pulling away from the station.

“Dat is dah most stoopidest…….”

Oh dear. A level 8 meltdown ensues to the horror of all the surrounding shoppers. At six and a half, he is too large to be rolling around on the tiled floor screaming. There are too many feet and too many table legs for this to be safe. I have no option but to scoop him up and retire to edge of the wall.

Seven minutes later he has still not regained the power of speech, but he is able to lift an arm to point. I follow where his index finger indicates. The sign on the cakes reads ‘Large Petit Four.’ For him, to have ‘little’ and ‘large’ in the same description, on the same label, is too much of a contradiction for him to be able to fathom or tolerate.

I decide to give it best. [translation = admit defeat] I leave my basket of four items un-purchased. I carry my son, limp, exhausted and ever so slightly damp. [translation = ignore the rule about ‘no carrying under any circumstances’ = another campaign failure] Surely there must be something edible in the freezer at home that I can unearth? I sneak one of the cookie samples for him as compensation. [translation = and pray to the basket collector to forgive me my idiocy]

Recently, someone, probably 'anonymous,' implied that I might indeed be losing my grip on my rather tenuous sanity. Should you care to share your own opinions on this vexing matter, please comment upon whether I really do have a "screw loose."

Monday, July 23, 2007

England, my England! [two]

There are many dangers associated with foreign travel. I imagine that these dangers multiply considerably depending upon the number and ages of your traveling companions.

We live in suburbia in San Jose in Jolly old California, but once a year we make our annual pilgrimage home to England. Many people would not describe such a visit as ‘foreign travel,’ but that would be a mistake.

In our case we discover a new and heretofore unknown, phenomenon. [translation = danger] Whist many autistic children are drawn to light switches and enjoy turning them on and off for considerable periods of time, [translation = stimming] we have not had direct experience of this with our own children. [translation = perseveration] Although we have visited this same rental [translation = holiday home] for three years, I hardly even noticed the table lamps. Although our Californian home enjoys the wonders of modern electricity too, we do not possess a table lamp anywhere on the premises.

Nonetheless during our annual sojourn to England, we find that there are no less than 8 table lamps, the same table lamps that have been in situ on each visit, but this time they truly make their presence known.

I can confirm that I’m not a fan of table lamps, a highly dangerous domestic appliance in my humble opinion. Why are there so many of them? Why are they all so unstable? If you pick up a table lamp surreptitiously and try to run away with it, you are instantly horizontal on the floor clutching your tale lamp, because the plug in the wall refuses to let go. Maybe that’s the true problem? If we had American outlets instead, then the plug would simply fall out of the ball with accompanying blue sparks to allow the child on the other end, to depart complete with table lamp. [translation = jettisoned] Such matters are so hard to evaluate.

I can’t accurately account to you, why exactly they haven’t featured in our life style to date, but they’re definitely in a whole new category of ‘things to be avoided.’ There again if we had packed duct tape to bring with us, perhaps that would have been a way to make the darned things less portable? Either that or nail them to the furniture. [translation = lose deposit on rental] How many table lamps can a six year old carry in one instance? Is this something that we wish to test? Are there any studies that have already been completed in this matter that we might benefit from?

I am uncertain as to why he is suddenly fascinated with them? [translation = probably because they are new to him and they're quite pretty] I do know why he is collecting them and lining them up, because for me, that particular little light bulb was switched on some time back. [translation = stress due to 'new' place, where organizing things is calming and gives a child a sense of control]

When I tuck them all into bed,
I let him sleep with just one of them.
[translation = but remove the bulb]
If a lamp had magical properties in days
of yore, then who am I to deny him his

As we attempt to evaluate
if we should stay in the States
or return to old Blighty,
table lamps will be fairly
high on my list of cons.

At least that is one item that I will not be buying either side of the pond, because I detest "shopping."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

England, my England! [one]

I find that I am so used to the political correctness of my adopted country that I completely forget that it is otherwise elsewhere. [translation = senility advances] I am reminded of what I take for granted, by visiting home. [translation = England for a fortnight]

We’re on a tight schedule [translation = timetable] and visit friends for lunch. Because we are on a tight schedule, our friends also have other friends for lunch at the same time. [translation = three couples plus our children] This is a fortunate turn of events because we all know that our friends’ friends, will be our friends too.

After lunch, I help my friends clear the table. The kitchen is awash with the dirties. I excuse myself for a moment and nip to the loo. [translation = restroom] The window is open as I wash my hands at the sink. [translation = ear wigging is one of my many more reprehensible habits.] I can hear my friends’ friends talking on the patio outside. I idle. I listen. [translation = ear wig]…….

“Do you think his head has anything to do with it?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well it is unusually large, don’t you think? You only have to look at the two of them side by side and it’s obvious. He has a huge head. It's like a medicine ball. I’m sure there was a study out about head size and other abnormalities.”
“Yes, now you come to mention it, I do remember hearing something like that too.”
“They’re quite sweet though.”
“Quiet though.”
“Hmm, don’t have much to say for themselves. Need to learn to speak up for themselves.”
“Do you think that’s the speech delays or are they just shy?”
“Difficult to say.”
“She said they’re ……..getting better or something or other.”
“Hmm, well that’s a mother for you I suppose.”
“If that’s better, then what do you suppose they were like before for goodness sake!”
“One hardly dares imagine.”
“There’s that nice school down the road from where Frederick and Felicity live.”
“What one would that be then?”
“Oh you know. School for the deaf or something, but I think they take all disabled children.”
“Well that would be bound to help. Anything to get them to talk surely. They must be experts at helping speech, don’t you think.”
“Well it’s looking a gift horse in the mouth if you ask me.”
“Why does she keep banging on about occupational therapy though?”
“No idea! I mean really! They can walk. It's not as if they're really, properly disabled. They look perfectly normal to me!”
“Just ordinary children really. Mind you, the older one’s a bit…well, er…how can I put it kindly? Er ….floppy.”
“They call that a Klutz in America. What a dreadful word!”
“Oh right! A bit of a butter fingers.”
“Hmm. The other one is so……….busy.”
“Oh yes, right. Busy. Busy as a little bee, buzzing around. The energy of the young.”
“I know.”
“She’s quite a little madam.”
“The daughter.”
“I know! But parents do tend to over compensate when one, ….well two children are, er, abnormal.”
“Can’t blame them really.”
“No………..I suppose not. They’re not doing her any favours though, molly coddling her like that. They’ll pay for it in the end, ultimately. Spare the rod and all that.”
“They’d be so much better off back here, with family support, friends and such.”
“Better to be amongst your own people.”
“Oh yes, definitely. Nothing like home when you’re in trouble.”
“And are they ever in trouble!”
“Do you think they realize?”
“Must do, surely.”

.............. well we surely realize something! [translation = ain't that the truth]

To be fair, these kinds of 'friends' exist in all countries. I prefer these kinds of "friends," that Estee Klar-Wolfond over at the "Autism Acceptance Project," but maybe that's because they're global.

Since bias against one's country is reprehensible, I also speak from the other side, over "here."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sweet and Sour

A very long time ago, my mum would meet her chum [translation = British] for coffee in Dingles. [translation = a department store in the House of Fraser chain] Every Thursday morning after she had completed her shopping, there they would sit, to chat. Very occasionally, I would accompany her. During their chat I would nibble sugar lumps surreptitiously. [translation = delusions of invisibility were quite possibly a foreshadowing of my future existence]

Some time during the intervening years, I found that I lost my sweet tooth. Despite this loathing of all things sweet, I took up the hobby of sugar craft in my late thirties, at about the same time as multiples of very small people also entered my life. [translation = 3 babies in 34 months]
One day, a pal of mine came over to visit for coffee. [translation = American] She leant against the kitchen counter as I scrambled around my house chasing the aforementioned small people. Because I had a small galley kitchen, I was always at pains to keep the counters clutter free to increase the available working space. Behind her, at the back of the counter, I had a large collection of sugar creations in the process of being created, together with the tools necessary for such a hobby. [translation = very fiddling, time consuming hobby] Otherwise the space was clear which meant that the sugar animals stood out in stark relief against the cream coloured walls. She admired my handiwork and then asked how such delicate confectionaries remained in tact? How come they were not all smashed, eaten or stolen by the little sweetnesses in my life? [translation = the aforementioned children] I muttered something about the height of the counter and a certain lack of climbing skills but I knew that this wasn’t strictly true. [translation = my three year old daughter was a climber, early, but she understood that touching was not permitted]

Later, when she had left, I had a nano second to consider why it might be, that my sons were not interested in stealing the sugar animals that I have made so lovingly for a birthday cake? I hunted for my inner child that I carelessly mislaid a couple of centuries ago.

Did they hate sugar like me? That must be it! Somehow it did not ring true. I was unable to recall any children who ever refused sugar. Perhaps they thought they were real toys and not made of sugar? I tried to think of any child that would not be lured by the sight of a toy on the kitchen counter. I was unable to recall any children would be able to resist the temptation of a new toy either. Were they simply too short to see the back of the counter? I hunkered down on the floor and looked up at the counter to check. No, a perfect view of lots of colourful, adorable animals made of sugar. I lay on the floor instead just to check the view. I was unable to see the sugar animals which made me feel much better. I lay there for a little longer waiting for waves of relief to wash over me. Unfortunately my floorboards turned out to be wave free, so I stood up instead. [translation = also to avoid being trampled by the stampede of small feet en route to the dinosaur collection]

To this day, I still find it odd that despite my innate love of ‘whodunnits’ I failed to investigate this more fully. [translation = denial?]

Friday, July 20, 2007

Some people are just never happy

And of course I would be one of them!

Some people are under the misapprehension that I am an unnaturally happy person and have no complaints. [translation = in the realms of autism at least]

Such people, I would have you know, are quite wrong. Generally speaking, I usually feel much better if I am permitted a jolly good moan. It can be cathartic to just write things down that bother you. I am given to understand by my psychobabble pals, that the act of crumpling up the paper and burning it, funereal style, also helps put an end to the process. [translation = closure]

You see whilst both my boys are autistic, each 'type' of autism that they have, differs from the other, which is very tiresome for a parent with a small brain. If that wasn’t enough to contend with, they also have speech delays, but each child’s speech delay differs from the other, which is even more bothersome for a parent with an even tinier brain.

Currently, now that they are much less speech delayed than they were a few years back, we now face the annoyingness of small people who wish to communicate. [translation = verbally by using words instead of meltdowns]

For instance, I have no idea how many hours of your waking life you spend talking? Some people are chatterboxes, and others are little more reserved. Some people chat noisily, whilst others are much more modest and reserved. It all adds to the variety of human existence.

How many hours should a baby babble for? That is a fact that I once knew, but have somehow managed to mislay. [translation = rapid advance of decrepitude]

Around here, my more verbal, speech delayed, autistic son, babbles as he breathes. There is a constant stream of noise associated with this particular chappy. He emits little mouth noises, ditties, refrains and catch phrases without pause. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed that he would have worn out his vocal chords over a year ago, especially if you take into account the screaming sessions. I would prefer not to take account of the screaming sessions, but as it is, it’s all part and parcel of snapping those neural pathways into shape. [translation = practice makes perfect]

In the meantime, I am tempted to wear ear plugs, [translation = but not all of the time] to blot out the barrage of sound. If I were to wear ear plugs all of the time to lessen, but not eliminate, the excess volume, this would mean that I would probably miss my other son's attempts to communicate. Both brothers suffer from a severe lack of volume control. [translation = one is so loud that he could burst your ear drum with one piercing shriek, but the other one is so quiet that he would need to have a megaphone attached to his mouth to amplify his whispers.]

It's all so grossly unfair. [translation = confusing] Why can't they swap a bit? [translation = trade] Why can't motor mouth keep quiet for a while and hand over some of his excess verbiage to his silent brother? [translation = the one for whom I can count the number of sentences he utters a day] I have to face the truth, that I am just naturally grumpy.

Now stand back from the screen so you don't singe your eyebrows, as I have a match in my hand. [translation = and it's lit]

For a health update on one cause of general grumpiness, go "here."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Powers of invisibility

Back in the days when I was a student, I would often leave my contacts lenses out and live the day in a myopic blur. Sometimes this was due to vanity. Other times it was because I preferred the challenge of recognizing people by their colour fuzziness. I was always surprised at how accurate my people recognition was without, the benefit of a good view or prior to voice confirmation. It was a combination of different factors such as general shape, pattern of movement or gestures that no doubt assisted me.

Just after ten I feel ruthless. I throw out three pairs of malfunctioning kitchen scissors. [translation = it is audacious to call yourself a pair of scissors if you cannot cut anything] I nip out into the garden on an errand of mercy to make up for the crime of rampant wastage. The air heaves with heat. [translation = malfunctioning sprinkler system] I attempt to give the kiss of life to my crispy garden clutching a hosepipe, whilst I contemplate the meaning of life, the universe and everything. [translation = double therapy]

It is more difficult than I thought to water the garden in the dark. [translation = trip over the cat and land in the rose bed without a thornless variety in sight, even if there were some light with which to see] All I can hear is the rush of the water and the singing of the crickets. [translation = children abed and asleep] I wonder how many more deaths there will be in the family? [translation = Hermit crabs] I pick thorns out of my legs in the dark by touch and try to remember when I last had a Tenanus jab. [translation = shot]

I return via the garage to grab a pair of pliers. I attack all the pokey bits on my braces that have lacerated my mouth. [translation = maybe I’m an engineering type afterall! Or a budding dentist?] As I tweak the last little needle point braces wire into place, all the lights go out in the house. I stand in the kitchen with a pair of pliers attached to my teeth wondering if I will have to remain in place until daylight. [translation = something expensive might snap something off]

Spouse comes to the rescue. [translation = goes outside and untrips the trippy thing]
I know that I am being punished. I know why I’m being punished. I am being punished for teasing an autistic child this morning.
This morning…………………

I stand at the kitchen counter fiddling with the lap top. [translation – paying bills] He emerges from the family room into the small narrow kitchen, calling my name. [translation = probably in need of assistance] I pause just too long, awaiting the confirmation receipt, motionless. He continues to call my name and walks past my back. My head flicks round to watch his back disappear. My fingers drift from the keys and all of me follows my son at a discrete distance. [translation = I can’t help myself, even though it is a mean trick] I follow in his wave as he calls and searches. I still find it hard after all this time, to fully appreciate his perception. [translation = because I am an outsider looking at the outside] He is familiar with my form. I am not wearing brown, which might make me blend in with my surroundings like a Chameleon. The kitchen is very narrow, so narrow that as often as not he will travel the 10 foot corridor like a ball, bouncing off each surface in turn.

After a few minutes I give up and reply, “here I am dear.”
Because I am still behind him he startles, a couple of micro-moments after I have spoken. Seconds pass before he snaps his body around to face me, the source of the disembodied voice. His huge eyes focus on my five foot six form [translation = adult to child ratio] and he startles again.
“Der you are! Where you were? You are dah magic?”

I smile. [translation = meany]

I bet the cat’s still laughing at me.

And maybe the "dentist" too!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Insatiable curiosity

Nonna is visiting for the summer. She is a little hard of hearing but has the debatable benefit of hearing aides. [translation = where are they?] She attempts washing up amid many gallons of water and a non functioning tap, [translation = faucet] whilst I make lunch for the masses.

“When will it be fixed?” she asks at the fountain streams and floods the kitchen counters and floor.
“Two weeks for the parts to come and heaven knows when we can ever find a plumber,” I bellow. [translation = or afford one]
“Is it original?”
“Did it come with the house or is it new?”
“I have no idea.”

I mop the floor with old towels as the boys attempt to skate. [translation = fall over, bump themselves, get very wet and have meltdowns for all three reasons]

“Why it is?”
“Why is what dear?”
“Why it is wet?”
I point to the broken tap.
“No!” he screeches with annoyance, “no, why is dah water wet?”
“Water is always wet, that’s what water is, wet!” I am annoyed at my inadequate explanation of something so straight forward. I am annoyed that the other one has run away to hide with a catering sized jar of peanut butter. [translation = in America these jars are the same size as a small person's head] I hunt him down, leaving the other two questioners to their own devices.

“Come along now, you know that’s not good for you. If you eat too much you’ll be sick.”
“Why I am sick?”
“No, you’re not sick.... yet, but you will be if you eat too much of that, it’s too rich.”
“Rich? You mean expensive?”
Pardon me! I didn’t know he even knew that word and such a perfect delivery!
“Er, no, not expensive, too…….too……fatty.”
“Fatty! Fatty? Is not being fatty it is……er……..a solid liquid. See?” He extracts a finger from the jar with a slick of peanut butter. I hear Nonna squeak in response to the cascading tap and scurry back into the kitchen clutching the jar of peanut butter to my chest.

“When’s lunch gonna be ready mum?” my daughter asks quite reasonably as I reach across the sink.
“At this rate we’ll be lucky if we’re ready by dinner time!” I mutter under my breath. [translation = evening meal time] Instead I offer something more optimistic, in the hope of stemming the tide of enquiries, if not the fountain of water, “just give me five minutes dear.”

“How many seconds are der being in dah five minutes?”
“300!” I snap as I set the visual timer.

“Is it new that?” asks Nonna, flapping a hand in the direction of the timer. I think of all the timers that we have in the household but I have no idea in what order we bought them nor how old this particular timer is. “I have no idea. Newish I think.”
“You had it last year when I was here?” she continues. I think. We’ve had the visual one forever.
“Yes.” I am confident that is the correct and truthful answer.
“I don’t remember it,” she murmours. I am uncertain how or if, to respond in view of the number of hours I spend looking for the many accessories that she possesses, but is unable to find.

She stacks the last cup on the side of the sink in a precarious position. “What about this one then?”
“What one?”
“This thing here…….the dishwasher. Is it new, or did it come with the house?” I take a deep breath. I cannot quite work out why I am so irrationally annoyed with this innocent question? I am tempted to run round the house and take an inventory of every item to date stamp each one. [translation = post date] I exhale as the next round of questions come flowing from a couple of speech delayed people.

“When I am gone?”
“Pardon? Do you mean ‘where have you been’?”
“Er, no I .....'mean?'....., er……..what it is ‘been’? Bean? Bean! Mean and bean rhyme! I do not like bean.....er ....beans.”

I feel that I have lost the thread of every conversation.

“You think this is a new one?” asks Nonna waving the sodden towel at me.
“No, definitely old, almost a rag, only used for mopping up.” At last I have identified an accurate fact.
“It looks like brand new to me!” she baulks.

“Yes dear.” I try and suppress the ‘what is it now’ tone in my voice.
“Do you think that Hermit crabs can smell?”
“Yes. They definitely have an enhanced sense of smell, so that they can find their food and sense enemies approaching.” At last I have identified an accurate fact.
“No. I mean can they smell. They smell bad. Do you think one’s "died?”

“What it is?” shouts the next one at full volume.
“What is what dear?”
“It is dah midnight blue or dah indigo?” I grit my teeth and look around for anything, anything at all, that could remotely be described as blue. I can see nothing within my immediate vicinity. [translation = or his] “Can you point to it dear?” He takes his hand out of his pocket, uncurls his fingers and reveals a tiny piece of lego.
“Mid blue” I pronounce.
“No, just mid.”
“Can I be putting dah little ‘l’ and dah little ‘e’ after dah mid?”

I have the urge to go and dead head the roses, or shred a head of lettuce with the sharpest knife in the drawer or cut the grass with a pair of nail scissors. I decide that my brain has died and that I too, have completely run out of words. [translation = or at least any useful ones]

Mirror, mirror, on the wall - Beauty from within

One’s outward physical appearance has the first impact. Whilst it’s important to be well presented, that is to say clean and tidy, otherwise, it is not important at all. [translation = not one jot!]

Most of us are aware of the pressures upon young women about their appearance. Since I have two girls, I have always been at great pains to concentrate upon their inner characters.

Since my eldest daughter is on the cusp of her 26th birthday, I have had a great deal of practice. [translation = self esteem for all children is essential] As a result of all this practice, I am indeed a past master about sweeping aside the frippery and trappings of fashion. [translation = second to none] Do not come to me in your pink frilly skirt with your face made up and your hair just curled. [translation = show me your soul instead]

My youngest son presents himself before me standing at attention like a soldier. [translation = although he is leaning like the Tower of Pisa] Our eyes meet. I wait. I wait because I think he is about to tell me something. We spend a few moments in frozen silence whilst I debate whether or not to prompt him. [translation = risk breaking the spell, invoking a meltdown] He raises his eyebrows several times in what I assume to be a meaningful way. Indeed, rather a suggestive manner! [translation = but what is he suggesting?]

“Am I hansom?” Ah! His eyebrows were prompting me! Such sophistication, such subtlety! [translation = I qualify for the 'thick as a brick' award of the day]
“Oh yes, your hair looks fabulous. What a great job you did brushing it all on your own.” Hallelujah!

“I am hansom?”
“Well, hansom is as hansom does.”
“Er, hansom is all well and good, but it’s your inside that is far more important.”
“I cannot be brushing my insides. Oh how stupid you are being today! How am I be brushing my insides? I do not like dem anyways.”
“Forget about your insides for the moment, who told you that you were stupid?”
“No-one is telling me I am stupid today. I am telling you dat you are dah stupid person.”

I pause, that phrase was so pat. [translation = perfect intonation of someone in authority, the perfect sentence that tells me that it is really someone else’s = echolalia] Who was it? [translation = be assured that I will track that person down, I will store that speech pattern forever, an lo, be afraid, be seriously afraid] He breaks my distraction with, “you are being stupid now, er ……I mean, you are still stupid?”
“Lets concentrate on the outside again, your lovely brushed hair. My! but you look suave!”
“I am suave?”
“What it is dah suave?”

Perfect. [translation = and definitely not stupid]

suave (swäv)
adj. suav·er, suav·est
Smoothly agreeable and courteous.
[French, agreeable, from Old French, from Latin suvis, delightful, sweet; see swd- in Indo-European roots.]
suavely adv.
suaveness, suavi·ty (swäv-t) n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

ThesaurusLegend: Synonyms Related Words Antonyms
Adj. 1. suave - having a sophisticated charm; "a debonair gentleman"
debonair, debonaire, debonnaire
refined - used of persons and their behavior; cultivated and genteel; "she was delicate and refined and unused to hardship"; "refined people with refined taste"
2. suave - smoothly agreeable and courteous with a degree of sophistication; "he was too politic to quarrel with so important a personage"; "the hostess averted a confrontation between two guests with a diplomatic change of subject"; "the manager pacified the customer with a smooth apology for the error"; "affable, suave, moderate men...smugly convinced of their respectability" - Ezra Pound
politic, smooth
diplomatical, diplomatic - skilled in dealing with sensitive matters or people

Monday, July 16, 2007

Alive and well

Just before six in the morning I spot an email from my eldest daughter in Mozambique. [translation – on the cusp of her 26th birthday] I pause just long enough to read the first and last line: “Dear Mum” “Love Tamsin.” Although it has arrived via her e-mail address there is always the possibility that she has been dead in a ditch and someone else has tracked me down with the terrifying news. [translation = the neurosis of a mother with adult children] I zip on by, to attend to my youngest son and his toileting.
If I were a sensible person, I would admit defeat and print out her message to read, but in my endeavour to save the planet by using less paper, I hold back. [translation = especially since my oldest daughter is a hug a tree / save a whale type of a woman]
I attempt to shovel cereal into two small boys who appear to have mislaid their oral cavities. [translation = and their arms don’t seem to work this morning either and have been replaced by limp, overcooked, spaghetti strands.]
My eldest daughter is not a secretive type, but she generally fails to pass on pertinent information, such as her return date. In my email to her, I asked her a number of very specific questions in the hope of eliciting the information that my mind so desperately needs, such as ‘are you alive?’ My dreams have been inhabited by wild animals of a carnivorous frame of mind, whose quest for their next meal generally consists of her various body parts. I am disappointed that it is always a black panther, my favourite, that appears to be chewing off her toes as I awaken with a start.

My son falls off his chair for no particular reason and lies on the floor covered with cereal and milk. {translation = failure to properly supervise] Not for the first time, I am tempted to ask if everyone could stop being autistic for three and a half minutes so that I can read the letter in it’s entirety, without interruptions or distractions? My other son bangs his fists on the table to tell me “I am explode dah toilet,” and promptly does so, without the benefit of being anywhere near the vicinity of the aforementioned toilet. I debate whether to clean up the son with cereal or the son with other matter? Should the first accident take precedent due to timing? I decide that I am clearly unfit to be in charge of anyone. I am not phased by either accident because both kinds are so frequent. [translation = I am more concerned that no-one is hurt or ill or both]

I am completely mystified as to how my gene pool could have created a make your own igloo, Banana slugs are my friend, hiking / biking, trek round Tibet solo, kind of a daughter? There again, on the whole I remain happier if I refrain from examining my own gene pool too carefully. [translation = let sleeping dogs lie]

I regret that I failed to fit her with a monitor, so that she could zap me every 24 hours to reassure me of her well being. At least I know she was truly alive at 2:24 a.m. when she sent the e-mail. Maybe the monitor should ping every hour, or minute? I ensure that my exterior oozes, calm so that my boys’ level of anxiety does not rise. Although they are generally oblivious to my existence, I have a tendency to leak magnetic stress molecules. The elastic rope around my waist pings me back to the stake by the computer, via a bucket of hot soapy water and a scrubbing brush, so I have no option but to read another few words. The words I read are ‘renewal of contract,’ before I’m snapped back to the table and small people, where one complains about his malfunctioning spoon. I replace his fork with a spoon. [translation = one implement looks very much like another unless you are truly interested in eating]

During the course of the morning, I travel back and forth through the narrow galley kitchen many hundreds of times. The lap top computer and the email message are on display for me, but time and the opportunity to read more than a single word or line, do not present themselves. I skid through on route to the family room and a small person who calls my name. I slow to a stop, pause, freeze frame, read half a sentence and then speed up as the name calling increases in volume.
I debate whether it is possible to renew an annual contract by a day, or maybe two if I’m feeling really generous? I decide that I am not feeling generous, really. I decide to practice being generous, my weakest suit. My son presents himself before me. All his clothes are on backwards because I wasn’t paying enough attention. [translation = I further resolve to practice being generous] I tell him what a great job he has done and then bite my lip because what little generosity I might have ever had, is leaking away.

“Why you are a cartoon?” bellows my youngest son.
“A cartoon?” I repeat, tearing my eyes away from the screen for the umpteenth time.
“I don’t think I… er…….understand. Can you say it again dear?”
“You are dah run, you are dah stop, you are dah read, you are dah run, again.”
“I am?”
“Yes, today you are dah cartoon, again and again and again.”
“I am?”
“Yes. You are dah electric.”
It would appear that I am no longer invisible. [translation = or can they see the blue sparks from my brain that escape through my ears?]

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My mother said….

“What it is?”
“What is what dear?” Are we still on this spot? I’ve given up trying to turn it the other way around, from ‘what it is’ to ‘what is it,’ but I still inwardly groan at the questions that emerge from nowhere, without clues. Questions out of the blue with no referencing? Why can’t he add the bit that he wants to know about? Why does he leave that bit, the essential bit, out? I purse my lips and remind myself of the joy of having a far less speech delayed child than I once had.
“Dah ‘disobey’?”
“Disobey? Well that’s when you’re asked to do something and then you don’t do it.” I don’t add ‘just like you,’ but I think it. [translation = if you think an evil thought, it’s just as much of a sin as if you had done the deed]
“He is disobey.”
“Who is?” Reference back please, fill in the blanks. Why do I have to extract these from you?
“What did he do?” Come on now, you can do it!
“Oh you are dah stoopid!” he chortles agreeably.
“No more stupids.”
“Ah.” He pauses to collect his thoughts. [translation = regroup and find his place again, since I interrupted his train of thought with an unwelcome reminder.] His speech has improved beyond measure but I still keep hampering the poor child’s progress with irrelevancies.
“I say……he is disobey……..dat is he DIDN’t do what I said.”
“What did you ask him to do?” One complete sentence at the beginning could have eliminated all of this.
“I say he must OBEY my rules and HE disobey! Dat is dah opposite.” Spouse appears at the tale end of the conversation. [translation = and it is one, a conversation that is to say, where he offered information for mere social purposes] Spouse joins the conversation with his own contribution: “what?”
“He was just telling me that you disobeyed him, didn’t obey his rules.”
“Yes, just like the ditty, ‘my mother said, I never should, play with the…er……um people, in the wood. If I did, she would say, naughty girl to disobey.’”
“I’ve heard that before somewhere, but it was different somehow. Why is it different?”

I try to cut him off, to stop him thinking what the missing word is, the "politically incorrect" word that we don’t use any more. If my son hears that word, he will want to know what it means. Once he has heard that word, he will repeat it. [translation = often] I know that it is a word that he will adore. He will adore the word because it has two ‘y’s in it.
“Er, now what was it? Say it again and it might jog my memory.” [translation = word retrieval]
“What it is?” splutters junior.
“What is what dear?”
“Dah word dat he forgotted?”
“He forgot it.”
“No I haven’t, it’s on the tip of my tongue…..er……umm….”
“He is dah stoopid too?”
“We don’t say stupid any more. No, it’s just that when you get………” I peter out as I try and avoid using the word ‘older,’ but he’s ahead of me.
“You mean old and mould?” he squalks as he leaps from his chair in response to the trigger word that sets off alarm bells about death, dying and general morality.
“No, no, no, it’s just that sometimes it’s hard to remember a particular word. You have that sometimes and we do too.” I nudge spouse to encourage him to also offer words of balm, but his cranium is still full of whirring cogs. Why did I make a fuss about ‘stoopid’ and risk falling into the quagmire of OCD instead? [translation = the far lesser of two ‘evils.’] I nestle him onto my lap for a squeeze, [translation = calming deep proprioceptive input] stroke his back and feed him single Goldfish crackers with the other hand. I hope this will be sufficient distraction.

I try to think of words that rhyme with it. I can’t think of any, apart from tipsy, which wouldn’t make sense and doesn’t have two, very essential "‘y’s."
“He did fogortted or he is not forgotted, which it is?”
“He forgot, he can’t remember. Oh dear. Never mind. Better luck next time!” I chant in my sing song, ever so annoying tone. I glare at spouse commanding silence, but he is oblivious, lost in the labyrith of word recall. His eyes widen as he emerges from the maze, which puts an electrode to my own brain so that I can shout “PIXIES! Don’t play with the pixies in the wood.”
Spouse frowns and raises his index finger prior to verbalizing his objection.
“PIXIES!” I shout, bringing my face and eyes far to close to his.
“Oh! Yes. I see. Pixies it is then. Wouldn’t want to give you a word with two ‘y’s in it now would we?”
“Two ‘y’s! Two ‘y’s? TWO ‘Y’S! What it is? What is da word being wiv two y’s? I want it. I want dah word wiv dah two ‘y’s.”

Ah yes, finally, at six and a half, he manages that most supreme of skills, the pinnacle of reciprocal conversation, where his question actually references back to the thing that he wants to know about. Hallelujah!

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