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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unraveled - code cracker

I attempt chat of the ‘how was your day?’ variety, as I herd them towards the car.

Traffic is everywhere and Mr.Skippy is in ‘dart’ mode. I grab the back of his back pack in a gesture uncannily similar to a dog’s choke collar. Once initial contact is made, I’m able to secure his hand securely. Our palms are clamped together. It is as if I wear one of those joke buzzers in my hand and an electric current jerks through his system as jumping jacks, leaps and spins charge his body. His mouth empties a continuous commentary on the subject of tyres and Pokemon powers. I remind myself that I should be trying harder to park the car in the same spot, to make this exercise smoother. I should park the car in an empty space at about 1 p.m., an hour and 40 minutes before school is out, the new school stalker.

The electric doors close without dismembering anyone and I glance at their daily reports for a quick update.

Oh no!

He did what?

I speed read… ’he’ .. ’hit’ ….. ’baseball bat’ …… ’lost recess’ ……I flip round to look at the small thug struggling with his seat belt. He’ll be expelled! What on earth could have happened to make him behave like that? I dither. Perhaps I should go back and seek out his teacher? Perhaps I should go back and prostrate myself in front of the Principal and beg for mercy? Perhaps I should try and find out the secret identity of his victim to pour balm on mother and child?

There are few things that provoke such an immediate response in foreigners, but the magic words of ‘baseball bat’ are always automatically translated into ‘lethal weapon,’ probably due to excessive American telly watching. It is surely the first true sign that you’ve produced a serial killer, that and pulling the wings of flies.
“Who did you hit dear?”
“I dun hit.” Typical! An endless stream of drivel about Pokemon and tyres and now suddenly he doesn’t have anything to say for himself.
“See here?" I flap the report card, "your teacher tells me that you hit someone. Who did you hit dear?”
“Who?” I try to keep the panic out of my tone, but I’m not sure if I’m succeeding?
“Michael.” Poor little Michael, he’s but a mere scrap of a little thing. Poor little Michael is supposed to be his new, best and only friend. At least I know his mum well and her telephone number.
“Why did you hit him dear?” I command myself to remain calm until I have all the facts at my disposal, so that I can panic in a more dignified manner.
“No hit.”
“See here? Your teacher tells me that you hit him. Why did you hit him dear?” I hope I sound persuasive but I think I sound like an interrogator.
“No hit. Bump.”
“Bump.” How on earth do you bump someone with a baseball bat? Talk about colourful explanations!
“Where did you bump him dear?”
“Not when, where dear?” Be patient, just be patient, we’ll get there in the end, eventually, hopefully before they put me in my coffin.
“On dah recess time.”
“Oh right. On the playground at recess, right?”
“Yard.” Of course, silly me.
“Where…..er....where on his body did you bump him?”
“Not body.”
“Not body? Where then?” I am losing the thread.
“Face.” FACE! He hit him in the face with a baseball bat! And since when is your face not part of your body?
“Did he cry? Was he very badly hurt? Did the nurse come?” I know that this is too many questions, but I think I am now officially off my head.
“Er he don bin cry.”
“Mom, can we go home now? Why are we just sittin here?” I look at my daughter who does not seem in the least bit phased by the conversation that I am extracting from her little brother.
“Did you hear what he said?” I squalk at her in a very good imitation of a headless chicken.
“Sure,” she adds nonchalantly. I can feel myself begin to sputter, when she continues, “yeah, Mike’s fine.”
“How do you know?”
“Coz I was there.”
“You were there! What happened? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Er coz,.... I don know?” I wait. I give up and prompt, “could you tell me what you saw dear?”
“Er. He already told you.”
“Yes, you’re right, he did tell me but I’d like you to tell me too. Is that o.k.?”
“Sure. Um…. anyway, he was buzzin around, ….you know how he does…..he and Mikey were playin…….real crazy wild…..super excito kiddo kinda thing…..he had the ball on his shoulder runnin around in circles and they bashed into each other……that’s all.”
“That’s all? What about the bat?”
“What bat?”
“The baseball bat?”
“Er there weren’t no bat.”
“’Wasn’t any’” I snap. “I mean….” What do I mean? “Did he hit Mikey with a baseball bat?”
“No. He bumped his face with the ball. He missed recess coz he was crazy, wild, fizzin and wouldn’t calm down.”

Hmm. I pick up the daily school report and read it, slowly. It would appear that they are all completely right and I am all completely wrong, and possibly dyslexic!

New post up on the "alien."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

No free lunch and certainly not dinner

Of course we knew immediately.

At 11:45 and we were pleasantly weary after far too much good company and more than a drop of wine.

The baby sitter left, almost scurried and there is was, right next to the three toothbrushes, right next to the coffee maker, obvious and white and large and unused and still folded. He legged it upstairs and I pouted at the pull-up. Another baby sitter crossed off the list, another load of laundry coming my way.

When he reappears I can hardly see my knight in his non-work attire, as he is a mobile laundry pile, covered in six feet of soggy duvet, sheet, mattress cover, pillow, pillow cover and duvet cover, a royal flush.
“Is he alright?”
“Ooo yes. Happy as a Lark, soggy as a………very soggy person.” It is late.
“I’ll put the first load on and go and wash him then.”
“Already done.”
“Clean as a whistle.”
“Sleeping bag?”
“Last visit to squeeze out the last drop?”
“Absolutely. ‘Two wets beds for one child in any one nightly period, not to exceed 12 hours is no longer permissible’ campaign! Done and dusted.”
“Oh well. In that case ……”
“Sleep,” we chorus.

The following morning I wake late and skitter down the stairs at 6:20. My youngest son sits on a cold plastic stool with a chrome stand. He shivers, nak.ed. I suspect that the metal conducts no heat in either direction. I grab a soft, fleecy dressing gown to wrap him up. “I am dah goosebump!” he announces.
“Yes, you do have goosebumps dear.” I rub hug him.
“At night I am bin dah ghostbump.”
“Really? Was it scary last night?”
“Why were you scared lovey?”
“Dah ghostbumps are like dah dark.”
“Why was it dark?” This is the child that sleeps with the main light on all night because we are determined to ruin the planet and warm the globe single handedly.
“No light.” I think. I am certain that I shared this fact with the baby sitter. We are all familiar with the cliché, ‘I was so scared I wet myself.’ It is not a comfortable thought. In this case is it probably too much of a leap. He might well have had an accident anyway. Why else would he wear a pull-up? My psyche is more comfortable with the latter. To think of my son, in the dark, in his familiar home, whilst we are out galevanting, makes me too uncomfortable. The cliché has to be balanced and weighed against the other cliché, ‘I laughed so hard I wet myself,’ but of course that one doesn’t apply. If bladder control is a known issue, it would be wrong to read too much into such an incident.

“Dat woz dah worst pull-up in dah world ever!”
“How do you mean? You weren’t wearing one anyway.”
“I am knowing dat! But dah pull-up can not be holding dah flood.”
“Yes I am bin wet all over. I am dah drown.”
“Were you drinking water from the bathroom?”
“Yes! She din say ‘no drinkin,’ she sayed ‘no light.’ So I bin drink dah water to make me brave…..in dah dark.”
“The water makes you brave?”
“Yes. I bin fill my body wiv dah brave water…....in dah dark.” Until now I was unaware of the magical powers of water. I remember that 4 years ago we had to turn off the stop cock under the sink, to stop people drinking water all night long. We also fitted a timer to the main light. 45 minutes to fall asleep and adjust. Every 45 minutes throughout the night, one of other of them would ‘awaken’ and reset it for another 45 minutes. The beds were always wet. Then the timer broke due to consumer misuse. I remember that we turned the water back on again over a year ago, when that ‘behaviour’ was extinguished.

It was probably the longest period of parental insanity that we endured. They didn’t have so many words then. We didn’t recognize the difference between the two competing sources of meltdowns. This was merely another cause of our bewilderment. It would appear that the laundry and light nightmare was entirely of our own making. Wet beds, wet boys, wet weary tears, mainly mine, the self pity variety. A long dark age. We became hermits, living a cloistered life.

Kindly friends would make suggestions – ‘take a break, go away for a week.’ Sure! Could you sleep in one room with your family with the lights on all night? What holiday establishment doesn’t charge for ruined mattresses? Could we buy fourteen pairs of pyjamas to get us through the week? Is it part of hotel policy to change the entire bedding on two beds daily? Camping would be cheaper and solve the light problem, but the laundry! Does any family have 14 sleeping bags? It’s an exaggeration of course, but only approximately.

No. No-one understood, least of all the parents.

Did they drink the water as a chance cure? They certainly weren't thirsty. When did it flip into on OCD kink? How did drinking water protect them from the dangers of the dark? Did one copy the other or did they both feel the same way? How does being full of water help? If you're hyper-vigilant about attack during your sleep, it is easier to remain awake if your tummy is sloshing around with gallons of liquid?

“I am dah big, I am dah round, I am dah brave…..in dah dark.” A little water balloon, fit to bust. Maybe I should write the baby sitter a 'thank you' note afterall. She helped us see the new light and maybe lighten the laundry.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Black Sheep bleats with forked tongue

I blame the Celtic blood that courses through my veins, but I believe that budgetary concerns plague everyone. Most people have the monthly cycle of rent, food and utility bills, robbing Peter to pay Paul, as well as the need to conserve energy and save the planet. So often, it is the tiny things, the small extravagances that snap the spine of the bank balance. It is because of these tiny things that I determine to eradicate all extraneous and frivolous expenditure.

I think these thoughts as I wrangle with the child safety cap on the jar. One of the best ways to save pennies, which of course will expand into many thousands of spare dollars, is by controlling the kitchen. Most of us have freezers and the careful homemaker makes full use of it’s magical powers. Why make one, when two are cheaper in the long run? Ban convenience foods and make everything from scratch. Chain yourself to the cooker to liberate your finances long term. If you want to have a healthy family, then a healthy diet is an essential first step. My grip on the jar is as tight as a vice, but it refuses to yield to my will.

Although I lack a pantry, because I am an American, I have a garage full of ‘whole’ things that are simultaneously ‘free’ of all sorts of nasty substances, because I am a nutritional queen. One of the many things that can be eliminated from the diet of the average child, is all those expensive multivitamins. Who needs multivitamins if they follow a sound nutritional formula? I do not believe in indulging children and giving them those sugary, fruity vitamin pills, which is merely the equivalent of candy. It brings about bad habits. Skip the well balanced meal and sink a pint of Ensure. It’s the slippery slope my friend.

The food rules keep changing but the message remains the same, each your greens, Goldfish should be banned, pile up your sugar free mini wheats into a pyramid and drown them in a flood of fat free milk or a soy or rice substitute. Beat your way back to health through diet and reach the island of financial security at the same time. No more of these feeble excuses. The spineless need spinach, the greener the better. Organic and homegrown. Don’t whinge about living in a high rise apartment, there are window boxes and potted versions freely available for the free thinkers. Harvest your own harvest and watch the greenbacks grow.

The jar catapults from grasp. My hand holds the lid. The jar circles on the floor, as the spin slowly dies. The primary coloured gummy bears are scattered over a wide radius of floorboards, as my smallish children squat on all fours to lick the windfall. I watch the flock graze, before I whip out my crook, but a dust buster might be a better choice.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Typical kids

I love them. They are so easy. You can upgrade yourself from the wicked witch of the west to superhero, with just a few words.

I make a blunder. One of many. I promise the typical kids a play date without consulting the calendar in advance. I am distracted because I have an IEP coming up. Because I have a very important IEP coming up, everything else pales into insignificance. A promise to a child is never insignificant. Play date and IEP clash. I also reach the conclusion that I have mis-read Jane’s mother’s intent. I am emboldened. I shall be an American, a straight talking, take charge, kind of a guy.

I remind myself that I am the worst judge of character in existence. I remind myself that I have a small circle of friends who know me well. I also have acres of acquaintances who accept the social mask I project, just like everyone else. I know that when I first met each of my close friends, I was terrified of them. Scary, successful, powerful women, not my type at all. I much prefer people who are small and mousy in spirit, so that we can squeak the same language in a non threatening manner. The Brindle or English mouse breed is my favourite. To some, he looks like a mouse tiger but their yellow stripy backs are my kind of attire, a warning of genetic cowardice. They're a good reminder, a visual clue, because a year, or a decade or a life time later, I know I was wrong in my assessment of someone's character. I was distracted by the black shiny lacquer, the exterior. I failed to even look inside the "Chinese box," as I was never much of a treasure hunter.

I have latched onto one tiny little fact and interpreted it to my own advantage. Jane’s mum explained that the play date must be short because she has numerous other commitments. "Jane" must come home early to change, ready for soccer practice. I look at Jane’s mother. She is a kindly soul and talks straight which is helpful. I have just been too thick to understand her, indeed defamed her. I hope she isn't of a litigious frame of mind?

When her daughter tells her that she wants a play date at our house, she is unable to deny her. She loves her daughter. She wants her to be happy. How many times have I ached to be able to fulfill the wish of a child of mine? Social norms have prevented me from following through. I have stuck to the principal of politeness: you wait for the invitation. Jane’s mum has been unable to do this. She has told me this to my face, she is not a dissembler, ‘but Jane wants to come to your house.’ It’s the ‘leave early’ that clues me in. I make the suggestion. “How about Jane takes her soccer kit to school, that way she can change at our house and stay longer?” For some reason, this patently obvious step, is viewed as a miraculous solution. So now I know. Busy people skip steps. Busy people sometimes miss the obvious. I am very busy so I missed the step and the cue. Jane is very lucky to have a mum who holds her happiness status in such high regard.

I can almost see it. Jane pesters her mother day after day, plaguing her with demands for a play date. Every few months, Jane’s mum gives in. She phones me and asks if Jane can have a play date. The play date takes place and Jane’s mum has bought herself a few weeks of pester free time. I wonder if that’s right? Or is my imagination running away with me?

I confront it head on after school and tackle the matter in a straightforward manner.
“Hello Jane. I’m afraid I have some really bad news.” I see the crestfallen face, she knows without another word. No shortage of inference abilities around here.
“You know about the Wednesday play date?” She nods, close to tears. I regroup.
“I’m really sorry, but I forgot something very important.” The child withers before my eyes.
“Her brother has a really important school meeting that I can’t miss.” If she gets any smaller she will be invisible. My daughter clutches her in support, a little wisp of a little girl, propped up by my own little prop forward.
“So, I know I made you a promise.” I see the glint, it is so easy.
“So I was thinking.” The vibrations start, transparent and fizzy.
“Maybe, we could think of something to make it up to you, but you may not like it?” The vibrations wilt a little.
“I was thinking….” I touch Jane’s Mum’s forearm, so that she will know that if this Saturday is inconvenient then next Saturday will be fine, or the Saturday after that, or after that. “Perhaps instead of a play date on Wednesday, maybe you’d like to come on over to our house for a really boring sleepover on Saturday instead.” The convulsions are completely predictable. It is so easy that for a nano second or two, I can pretend that we are normal. Jane’s mother looks at me as if I am a conjuror, and I glow.

The boys skid around the corner and land in a heap of legs, arms and back packs. A combination of slapstick, jail break and Marcelle Marceau. For some unaccountable reason , their social skills kick in.
“Hi Ohmygod” he says sotto voce. His little brother chimes in too, “hello OhmyGod, how are you being today?” he bellows at 50 decibels. I see her mother blanche, as she is of a strongly Christian persuasion. I am more of a failed Roman Catholic, so I know the rules. I have adopted spouse’s creed, "Mrs. Do As You Would be Done By."
“Did they say……did they……oh……my goodness….well……kids! Just typical!” she smiles with a downward, dismissive arm motion.

Maybe I should stop referring to such people as the ‘god squad?’ I resolve to stop putting people in boxes. Instead I'm tempted take myself off to the confessional box for being an old square. However, I would prefer to avoid the wrath of god or hell freezing over or being struck down by a thunder bolt, as my current 'in box' is full.

The neurodiverse truly keep me in check.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Unnatural Practices

Now that I have lived in the United States for more than 12 years, I am an expert on all of their funny little ways, or at least most of them. Others of them, still leave me flummoxed, but I am a willing student.

On the whole, Americans are great, because they speak clearly on any given subject. There is little artifice. What you see is what you get, which is so much simpler for simple minded foreigners to interpret. If you, the foreigner, make a faux pas, the handy American will put you right, unlike other countries where errors are noted, recorded, stored away for future reference and the offender shunned thereafter.

Occasionally, I am still brought up short. Maybe it's a Brit thing.

I expect most parents experience a variation on theme. Your youngish child approaches you to ask thusly, "Mater dearest, I would dearly love to visit Charlie Witherspoon's Estate. He has a simply smashing croquet lawn and the polo ponies are first class!" You, the parent, advise your child that he cannot invite himself to someone else's house, he must wait for an invitation. In our household we teach the same lesson. "But i gonna go HER house!" It's a statement of intent, even though the friend is a boy. He bellows at 50 decibels, but the answer is still more or less the same. I thought it was the same everywhere.


I finish a conversation with the school nurse. I try very hard not to laugh, as even I know that this would be inappropriate. There is something about the phrase

"he accidentally ran into a Hoola Hoop,” that tickles my funny bone. No sooner have I replaced the receiver, when it rings again.
“Hi, how was your summer?”
“Great thanks and yours?”
“Really great.”
“So how can I help?”
“Well I was talking to Jane and she said she’d love to have a play date.”
“Lovely. When were you thinking of?”
“Wednesday or Thursday would suit me best.”
“Right. Super.”
“So you’ll pick Jane up and take her back to your house after school?”
“Er, right, o.k. that would be just fine. Shall I bring her back home to you afterwards?”
“Yes. Could you bring her back at about 5 as she has soccer practice.” Somehow it sounds more like a statement than a request.
“Righty oh.”
“D’you know our address?”
“Um yes. I’ll check it in the school directory.”
“Great. See ya.”

My daughter and "Ohmygod," that is to say Jane, have enjoyed two or three play dates each year. On each occasion, Jane’s mother telephones me to tell me that her daughter wants a play date with my child, in our house and that I am responsible for the accompanying taxi service. No other mother or parent has ever adopted this approach. I am non-plussed but intrigued each time. I keep examining the details to see if I’ve missed a step or a cue, as my telephone skills are poor?

The following day, Jane’s mother calls again.
“Hi, I’m sorry but I’m gonna have to cancel the play date.”
“Oh dear. I’m sorry. Shall we make it another day that’s more convenient?”
“No, Jane is grounded, no privileges for a month.”
“A month! Well we could make it for a month's time?”
“Thanks no, I’d just like to hold off a while.”
“O.k. Well let me know how things go?”

I replace the receiver. A month? The child is 9. What could a 9 year old possibly have done to have all privileges withdrawn? I know it’s a common enough term but ‘withdrawal of privileges’ echoes from a bygone era, my bygone era. I wanted to ask, but that would be rude. If she wanted me to know she would have told me. It must be serious, not the kind of information to be shared with a casual acquaintance such as myself.

It’s the fact that ‘all’ privileges have been banned. I wonder how many privileges the average 9 year old has? This is such a useful yardstick for me. I know that our family life is not well aligned to the average. We are habituated. It’s only when you get a glimpse into someone else’s life that this prompts a reality check.

I try and think what privileges, if any, we have? Only electronics, and play dates for my daughter. The boys do have play dates but they only consider them to be a privilege in theory. Desirable in theory, often turns into something far more haphazard in reality. I wonder why they don’t have more privileges? But of course with their somewhat narrow field of interest, there could only ever be one privilege for the time being.

I try and think of anything that my daughter might do that would warrant a month’s withdrawal?


This must surely mean that my child is an angel or that I lack an appropriate disciplinary approach? Neither option seems quite right.

I try the same thought with the boys, but that is more difficult, because a month without electronics would bring life as we know it, to and end. It would be impossible to send nake.d boys to school. Without the promise of electronics, we would literally cease to function. This sobering fact brings an end to my thought processes.

Families differ and that’s a fact.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Twits! You nit wit!

I think very hard.

I need to work out what country in the world will be enjoying Wednesday whilst it is only Monday night here?

I give up. I need to find a way of expanding time so that I won’t look like an idiot for posting Wordless Wednesday on a Monday night. Fortunately, I have a very scientific brain, so this should be easy to solve.

I decide to insert a scalpel in the world, pole to pole and add another semi circle of extra globe. The result is a ripple ball, with extra mountains and valleys and a few tectonic plates bumping into each other. I am not entirely happy with the result and I’ve only bought myself 12 hours. What else? Aha. Double the size of the globe and magically I have gained 24 hours. Brilliant! I may also have saved the world from global warming with one executive stroke. Now the world is under-populated. I suspect some people are frying because they are nearer the sun. Other people have frostbite and no idea why. I decide I am a big meany. World chaos just to save face with my three readers. I think. I decide that as usual, lying is the best policy. I’ll say that I hit the wrong button, by mistake. Three people are late for work or discombobulated all day because of me. They will sue me and then we shall be poor and homeless in a huge, empty, unfamiliar, bumpy landscape.

I am renowned for the efficient manner in which I run my household. Now that they are all at school full time, I finally have a chance to catch up on four and a half years of household neglect. I am ruthless. I discard some twenty, old, moth eaten towels which have always been stacked within easy reach. The spills, floods and misfortunes of life are always dealt with swiftly, but enough is enough. As they have grown older, the pile has been whittled down slowly from about 35 to a mere 20. None of those little wimpy scraps of wiping cloths around here, oh no! We have gallons of mishaps and mountains of mop up facilities. This is an easy equation to calculate because I am also exceptionally good at arithmetic. 3 children absent from home for 6 hours of the day means 360 minutes of less spills.

I pick them all up from school just after lunch, whisk them away the to shops and then return home in under an hour, a new world record. I clean my bifocals and then carefully read the instructions, as I don’t want to burn their heads. I do myself first, so that I can assess how much agony will be involved in this exercise. I supervise homework with my hair sprouting out all over my head. The volume of screaming is considerably lower than usual but that might just be the soap in my ears. I try not to drip of them or their homework, as I scoot around the table to help each one.

Once satisfied that no pain is involved, I start on the first one. They’ve only been in school three weeks and now they’re contaminated. Once again, I am jealous of homes choolers with their freedoms and their germ free existence.

“Are your "headlights" gonned mum?”
“Yes, dead as door nails.”
“Is mine gonna be deaded too?”
“Sure as eggs is eggs.”
“Are dah eggs gonna be gonned too?”
“Absolutely, we’re gonna kick them from here to kingdom come.” I release the first froth head and start on the next one after setting the timer for ten minutes.
“Gosh Mom, we only washed our hair last night!”
“I know dear, but we need to nip this in the bud.”
“How long is it gonna take?”
“I have no idea, not one iota.” I send her on her way for her ten minute down time and brace myself for the little one.

There is absolutely no pain involved. No pain, no pain, no pain. I seek him out. I find him hiding in a corner under three adult sized bean bags, quivering and clutching the toilet brush. I wipe the sweat from his brow and lead him to the kitchen sink, the only one with an extendable spray attachment. I wonder for the first time ever, how far it might actually extend? At best, I think I have about three feet until I will be at the end of my tether, or rather, faucet.

He baulks at the last minute, rears up and off, to disappear in a flurry of rooster noises. I track him down. It’s easy. I find him under the bed. The duvet has been dragged off the bed and is stuffed all around him, a barrier of protection that fails to muffle his barking. I remind him again. One good session now, means that we may avoid repeating the exercise in 10 or 14 days time.

I suffer a severe sense of humour failure when the kitchen sink decides that it no longer wishes to drain. Why on earth did I throw all of those old towels away? I pause in my deliberations and let him escape whilst I go on the hunt for the toilet plunger and more towels to stem the flood. Since this handy household appliance is my son’s favourite talisman at the moment, I anticipate a long search as to it’s whereabouts. He has acquired the habit of hiding treasures such as the toilet plunger, as he fears my arbitrary decisions re contraband. I am a staid individual at heart and it’s difficult for me to adjust to his collection of long handled items. I am uncertain of their current purpose in his life. Whilst many a child might wield a toilet brush as a substitute gun or sword, in this household it is more of a crutch.

Why couldn’t this have happened to a family with an only child instead?

We reach a consensus of opinion. The active ingredient in "Rid" is Piperonyl butoxide. It is the stinkiest thing in the whole wide world ever, unless it’s the other one, the Pyrethum extract, since we have no yardstick of familiarity. Her assessment that it smells bad enough to make her puke, is born out by her little brother. The sofa and carpet suffer, but he suffers far more so. I remember that Jamba Juice is now off limits, as the stench of the fruit is beyond his capacity to endure. It is hardly surprising, that this formula has made him vomit. His screams of “I cannot breathe! I cannot breathe! I cannot breath!” isn’t strictly truthful as he gasps, gags, coughs and splutters.

I have abandoned my rule about the filthiness of chewing gum. We have managed to get through a whole box of gum, which only partially succeeded in distracting two of them, as it’s not an option for the little one. I watch his toes massage a piece of discarded gum with his toes. I am uncertain whether to laugh of cry, so I concentrate on combing whilst I think of the best method of removing it from his digits? The sticky strands effectively glue his foot to the floor. I am beyond caring.

I release him like a cannon ball and start on the next one.

I comb.
“Yes dear?”
“Um I was wondering?”
“Yes dear?”
“Do you ever leave the…….boundaries of the house……er the garden…..I mean the property boundaries?” Gosh, spoken like a true lawyer!
“? Er..yes I do.” She must have spotted me watering the garden late at night.
“No. I mean, while we’re here?”
“Yes, you know I do. Then Daddy looks after you, like when I nip to the supermarket.”
“No I mean…..alone?” You would have thought that with all the OCD that I have been recently plagued with, it would be easy enough to spot? I think I should award myself this week’s ‘thick as a brick’ prize.
“No. Never. I never leave you alone, ever.”

I think of the new Jazzercise class that I have so carefully orchestrated for them at school. Oiled wheels, social stories and a goodly deal of hard cash, times three. No school means no Jazzercise. I consider myself lucky to have missed my own hair appointment and the undoubted additional humiliation.

The wet beds are stripped, the laundry mounts up. Sleeping bags are the only option. Catering has come to a halt and we are reduced to hot dogs, Goldfish crackers and probably the last bottle of Ensure. Everyone is delighted that their nutritional needs have been abandoned. The boys have taken it in turn to have numerous accidents on consecutive days. I foresee that all too soon there will be no clean clothes available in the entire house. The carnage that follows a weekend and two more days at home, due to the head lice, means that we look like a war zone. For some unaccountable reason I feel a little teary, quite possibly due to the foolishness of blitzing my daughter’s room. Three hours straight of tidying, resulted in the entire contents being strewn in orderly piles all over the carpet. Then, the call from school commanded a premature and untimely halt to the process. I know that some half finished projects are doomed.

I remember to spray the car seats and all of the upholstered furniture in the house. I dither about carpets because they spend so much time rolling around there, one way and another.

My youngest son is mentally prepared for the torture. His head and shoulders have been off limits following his first lungful of air at birth. Whilst his brain fully understands that he has to have lice free hair, his body is completely unable to co-operate. Since his head of hair is inextricably attached to the rest of him, we are in a severe quandary. I limit his combings to ten minute periods, as that is all he is able to withstand. I worry greatly, as he is a writhing target and I have a metal comb with sharp teeth as a lethal weapon. This is probably the most terrible thing I could do to this particular child. He screams at level ten throughout. The others cower in other room, praying that it will be their turn soon, so that the sound barrier will truly be broken, if briefly. For the first time in living memory I wonder if a number 1 buzz cut, would be a kindness in the long run?

I am so glad that the instruction leaflet was accurate. It does indeed take between one and two hours to remove lice from a head. My recall of a similar incident with my daughter over twenty years ago is somewhat hazy. By the time spouse comes home, early, at just gone seven in the evening, I have the wrinkled hands of an octogenarian after six hours of combing wet hair. During the last few days I have only seen adults during a brief visit to the supermarket and on the abortive school run. I have become an unwilling hermit and very crabby.

I know that this is a cunning plan to rob me of the last few shreds of sanity that remain.

I hear the garage door and my cheery spouse appears.

“Ooo have you been swimming?” he asks innocently stepping over soggy towels, clothes and cloths. I pause, poised with the nit comb in mid air, a visual clue.
“New hair style?” I point at all the empty bottles of Rid on the kitchen counter. He steps over towards the counter and picks one up to read it, since fortunately, it is an unfamiliar product. He loses his grip as well as his hold on the bottle, “Ooer, off to the nit nurse for you lot then!”
“No! Nurse is nice. Mummy is dah bad evil wimmins!” Ever my lot in life.
“You have to move with the times dear,” I warn, as I know that he’s about to buried in facts.
“Nits are not nice. I am not liking dem in my hairs.”
“Dey are be dah great swimmers too!”
“Dey are be hold der breafs for ten minutes, so dey are not be drown.”
“Nits are be living in dah clean hair ONLY. We are being too clean.” A likely story.
“Dey are be deaded at 100 degrees!”
“Mom is kind she are not boil our headses.” He points at the pan of boiling water, full of hair brushes, combs and hair accessories. I am sorely tempted to go and boil my own head in the hope of inducing clarity.
“Mom been done killed my headlights. Mom been done killed the wee little beasties. We are victorious!” Somehow I feel somewhat less than a vanquished hero, more of an over zealous Nero. Their father picks up one of the inferior purple combs and takes his daughter next door to continue the work in progress. We have turned into a troop of grooming monkeys. I can hear them chat because I am an earwig at heart rather than a louse.
“Mom says it’s a good thing for the boys.”
“Really! Has she lost her marbles, again?”
“No Daddee, don’t be so daft. She said it was good, well kinda good.”
“How could this possibly be good?”
“Well only sorta good, coz it must mean that the boys are getting close to their friends, you know, making contact and all.”
“There’s only so much socialism I can cope with. ”
“Social what?”
“Never mind, I just think your mother needs her head examined sometimes.”
“I already did.”
“Did what?”
“Examine her head, for the nits. She’s gonna check your head later.”
“Hmm your mother the nit nurse! Now there’s an……intriguing thought.”
I yell at him from the other room, “stop thinking aloud! This is a uniform free household!” He appears in the family room and leans on the door jam, “maybe there’s some other sort of service I could provide?” I glance up at him and his suggestive Grocho Marx eyebrows. There are few things further from my thoughts. “I’m sure I could dig out a white coat!” he grins. I try and find my sense of humour but it is buried under a funeral pyre of wet laundry. “I can’t think about that right now,” I sigh weakly, more than ready to fall asleep on the spot.
“No, I was thinking…first, er…maybe I could…..later…..give you a massage?” I examine the nit picker through my fusty bifocals, “well ….that would certainly be a very welcome ….start.”
“How about….after the children are asleep…..you could bathe?”
“Ooo yes a bath would be lovely.”
“How about a quick shower instead, speed things up a bit.”
“It would be quicker.”
“Well it would save time if you ran the bath.”
“But I thought you were tired. You don’t want to waste time having a bath.”
“I thought a bath might be part of it?”
“Part of what?”
“The relax, unwind, be comfortable, a lovely massage and then…..who knows?”
“Oh no. I just want you to be clean. It looks like a dandruff factory in here.”

Now where exactly did I put that metal comb with the sharp pointy little teeth?

Wordless Wednesday # 5 - Ta dah!

“Are you my muvver? Are you my muvver? Are you my muvver?” he grins as he spins. It's not echolalia this time, where he repeats what he's heard elsewhere. Each phrase is accompanied by a 360 degree spin. He often perseverates on phrases, where he repeats the same words three times in a row, repeatedly. Each spin is stopped with an artfully placed stomp with arms thrown open wide, chicken chest up. The grin is timed with the show stopper. It is exceedingly disconcerting. It is a performance but an audience is unnecessary. Adorable to a few, irresistible to fewer, in a brain teaserish kind of way. Mr. Eastman is in league with Dr. Seuss. They both have a lot to answer for around here. But this time, I think the joke is on me.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stress induced shortage

I eventually sequence everyone into their car seats and safety belts. I have the distinct feeling that I am in marathon mode and remind myself to breathe. Some twit has fiddled with the rear view mirror, so I adjust it and then glare at my children, as I try to assess guilt. They sit in a line behind the driver seat, a picture of innocence, but I know the truth. I resolve to be miffed later and turn the key in the ignition. We ignite and erupt in screams, me from surprise, they from some unknown cause. There are words amongst the screams but I am unable to decipher them. Arms appear to flail but on closer inspection appear to be pointing. I check the direction.

That darned cat! I’ve a good mind to run him over, but I suspect that kind of negative reinforcement might be permanent. I hop out of the car to chase the cat. I fail to catch him, as I knew I would, because everything in my life is completely predictable. I already know that I am not a cat catcher.

I plop back into the car and start again. I try not to think how many ‘starts’ and ‘agains’ remain lurking. I reverse gently out of the garage and notice immediately that some nitwit has been twiddling with the rear view mirror. I correct it and stab a mosquito on the windscreen with my finger. The tip of my finger now has a dismembered insect and a spot of blood on it. I suspect that the blood was originally mine. I feel considerably better in view of my one woman campaign to defy West Nile Fever. I hold the steering wheel, but keep one contaminated finger rigid, as I have nothing to wipe it on. I pull into the road. I decide to be grumpy later.

Wednesdays have always been tough for us. It’s a short day at school but that provides us with the opportunity for a double dose of therapy, double time. Both boys have an hour of occupational therapy, followed by an hour of speech therapy. It’s hard work for them, but the transitions that accompany these sessions, in and out of the car, drive everyone to distraction.

I drive along the freeway at 73 mph in the commuter lane, at the same exact speed as everyone else. My nose starts to itch, and pins and needles prick at the memory of jaw surgery. I have the distinct impression that I have a runny nose. I check. As usual, this is a figment of the bad wiring of nerves. As punishment for believing the nerves, I now have mangled mosquito parts and foreign blood on my nose. I refuse to check the vanity mirror for fear of causing a fatal car accident. I plead for improvement of nerves, nerve endings and nervousness.

I settle back into the drivers seat, physically if not mentally. Some vandal has averted my view by tilting the rear view mirror, again! How did that happen? Did I bash it myself during the mosquito debacle? I feel a little weary, but decide to be cross later.

Even though everyone used the bathroom before we left home, on arrival at therapy, there is a mass demand for toilet privileges. We sequence. Whilst in the bathroom I remember to remove the dead body and blood from my nose before we meet any adult people.

The boys enter the denizens of the deep, leaving me and my daughter to struggle with the first leg of her homework, in the waiting room. We lay out several tonnes of supplies and begin the first of 6 worksheets. The first one is on the subject of revising time and distance, which I find vaguely disconcerting for some unfathomable reason.

All too soon the boys are jettisoned from therapy back into the waiting room. After a brief discussion, conducted over and above the noise of the boys, we leave. They run around the parking lot like demented chickens as I failed to grab the appropriate number of hands upon departure. I round up the herd and their loud protests regarding the outrageous schedule. I am inclined to agree with them, but pay no heed.

Soon we are all back in the car and heading off to our next destination. Once again, I find that some hooligan has hit the rear view mirror. I feel a little tired, but decide take my anger out on something benign, later.

At speech therapy, a place that we have visited for the last four consecutive years, everyone needs the bathroom but is unable to locate it’s whereabouts, even though we have visited the bathroom at least twice a week for those same last four consecutive years. I try and recall if I have replaced the emergency set of clothing in the car in case of accidents. I suspect that I have accidentally forgotten to replace them after the accident yesterday.

I whisk them all into the women’s bathroom and hope that there is no-one else in there that might cause a distraction. I am unconcerned about other women’s privacy issues as my sons peek under the stall wall to chat. I am concerned that every minute we waste in the bathroom, remains a billable minute as far as the waiting therapists are concerned.

I deliver the boys, breathlessly to their respective speech therapist and start the second worksheet of homework with my daughter. The first question is ‘define the following words – inference.’ I gulp as she pulls a face. She may not know the definition, aged 9, but she knows and recognizes them without effort. We plod onwards and upwards.

The pathologists brief us briefly, over the din of my wailing children. “Time to go home now,” I sing at a pitch and tone guaranteed to penetrate. The wailing increases in volume. The inference is clear – get in the car and home, your most desired objective, will be achieved. One collapses on the floor and the other one hares off into the distant yonder. Once again, I have forgotten to take a firm grip on two hands before making an announcement, with guaranteed results.

Eventually we drive home, arrive home and finish up our day.

Dawn breaks.

In the morning, after everyone has gone to school, I skip out into the garage to begin my daily errands. I take my position behind the steering wheel. Some moron has moved the mirror, again!

I am so full of energy that I cannot imagine who in their right mind would be so disposed to keep torturing me like this? Some blithering idiot? It must have been spouse, probably yesterday. Did he borrow the car? I think hard. Blank. No, he definitely didn’t. It is closely aligned for the sight line of a very small driver. That driver must be about three foot tall. I can think of lots of three foot people who might be responsible. I sit up straight, a ram rod in my own car and move the rear view mirror slowly up and down. I let my body slither down in the seat.

I have no other choice than to accept the truth, that it is me! I am the grumpy tired moron that gradually sinks, withers and shrinks during the average 24 hour day. I decide not to blither idiotically any longer than is strictly necessary.

There's a new post up on my "Other Life."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

8 Random Facts

I have been tagged by
"Mary-LUE" from "Life the Universe and Everything."
The Rules:

I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.

Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.

People who are tagged need to write their own blog (about their 8 things) and post these rules.

At the end of your blog, you need to choose people to get tagged and list their names.

Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

8 Random Facts/Habits About Me:

1. As a child, I longed to wear glasses so that I could look intelligent. Now I wear them all the time, but the promised intelligence is still adrift.

2. I am vain, I have a trunk of empty hair dye bottles to prove it.

3. The older I grow, the more fake I become – teeth, nails and aforementioned hair.

4. I shall be preserved forever in my coffin, because 99% of my food intake is brine. This is why I shall be incinerated, er...cremated and then scattered instead, ashes and dandruff to drift together.

5. I have huge hands on long spaghetti arms. [span on octave and two]

6. My hands match my overstuffed Calzone shaped feet, which is good because otherwise I would fall down a lot.

7. I am unable to operate any of the electrical gizmos in the house which are all networked. [it’s a plot]

8. As I grow ever more crumbly, my ambition is to emulate this woman. [warning = contains bad language.]

In my turn I tag

1. "Haddayr" because I need an update on how her new job is affecting her Psyche.

2. "Miscellaneous Adventures of an Aussie Mum" as we need to include the other continent.

3. "Radioactivejam" because she has a tendency to be cryptic and needs to be nailed down, [not easy with that jelly substance.]

4. "Kristina Chew," as she needs to be less enigmatic or should that be pneumatic, with the amount of high quality posts produced.

5. "Bub and Pie" because she needs the distraction although not necessarily the extra work load.

6. "Never Judge a Book by the cover" because all those 'hints' are just too subtle for people with little brains like me.

7. "Chelle" because now she's finished 'judging' she is so bored.

8. Then there's "VAB" who plays his cards very close to his chest. I want to see if he can be a good sharer, as anyone with that huge a brain is morally obliged to be a good sharer. [no pressure of course!]

Cheers dearies

Another world

When I was small we lived in Cape Town in South Africa. At the weekends, we would often go to the beach to surf. This wasn’t the stand on a malibou board kind of surfing but a much more modest endeavour. I loved the thrill of those exhilarating waves. It was a game that I played well, considering that I was not as streamlined as torpedo but bore a closer resemblance to a little beach ball. I need to revive those skills if we are to have any hope of reaching solid ground. The shifting plates we exist on are turning to quicksand.

With any medication, timing can be an important factor. Many medicines come with lengthy warnings. Focalin comes with a whole manual. For my son, if the pill hits an empty stomach, the result it torture, mental anguish with a body and mind possessed.

This, as my American pals would say, is a ‘no brainer.’ You choose. A monosyllabic happy discombobulated child, or a child with the power of speech that is tormented? We’re biased of course. We’re used to the monosyllabic happy. We are terrified by the torture. It’s all too true, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

The glimpse of the possibilities is intoxicating, but the price is far too high.

He writhes on the sofa with chattering teeth. His fingernails pinch, scratch and rake his skin. Small electric currents spasm through his entire body. Spittle collects on his taught lips as he clenches his teeth. His jaw jerks to one side and then the other. His hands flutter over his face open palmed. He is incapable of speech. As he grinds his teeth the vibrations reverberate through my rib cage. His fingers clench and unclench without a pattern. His entire body is a whiplash to turn over, a writhing eel, landed and floundering. He roams the surface area of the sofa like a cat circling for just the right spot. I am beneath him, hopeless, helpless and useless. My only purpose is the somewhat dubious benefit of my physical presence.

Too many neurons are firing at the same time. All we can do is ride out the electric storm and hope that we land safely, eventually.

His brother appears at our side, “what it is?”
“It’s the pill dear. He’s not feeling very well.” I hope my understatement curbs his qualms as he watches he big brother squirm.

He quotes, of course, from a Pokemon reference. The eerie accuracy gives me the shivers but it’s none the less valid -

“I fink…….he is in psychic island.”

I think, that we have no choice but to dive in and start heading back to the mainland, sharpish.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Saturday awards encore

"Melinda" from "Dear Noah"s blog honoured me with the "Nice Matters Award"......be sure to check her out at the link! THANKS again "Melinda."

I don't think I've ever been a bonus before.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and
those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a
positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded please
pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award.

SO I now have to PASS the torch so to speak to 7 others who I feel fit the above description. SO my nominees are:

"Cottontales" This is a lovely site that displays superior bloggy skills. Ideally I would write this in green. The handwriting font that she uses does make me feel as if I'm reading her diary, which makes me want to write this in blush!

Next there is "Mommydearest" who has a plateful of busyness which I can particularly relate to.

A relative newbie for me is the lovely "Anne" who hangs out in her own place at "Anneshouse" which makes perfect sense to me. I'm always in awe of people who are brave enough to post pictures of themselves, but so saying, if I looked like Anne I would be braver.

Another spot I visited regularly in the summer was the "Smiling Infidel." This is a great site that always gives me a giggle, guaranteed. I am particularly grateful to her for teaching me that if you visit a blog you should always comment [unless you might be repeating someone else's comment - I'll have to check with her about that.]

I used to visit "Karianna" regularly and then I lost the book mark! Her insight and patience keeps me on my toes. It's another one of those super squeaky clean sites [from the blogging perspective] which always looks so fresh.

Then who could resist a blog with the title "The Anti Wife!" I mean! That should be mine.

Is that six? Fine, then this is seven. "Manic Mum" over at "40 weeksanovel." This is another blog that I found by chance through "Kim Stagliano," used to visit regularly. For the moment you can enjoy a preview of her novel as we all need to support aspiring writers when their hard work finally has a chance to blossom.

Hmm. so can I still do a bonus?

A bonus goes to "The Ironic Catholic." I don't think you need to be a Catholic to enjoy the uproarious humour.

Post Script - if anyone has any hints about how you put these awards on your sidebar.......?
The technically challenged one!

Me, myself and I – busy multiple persons

We gather for dinner at the end of a long day.

“Whatever would we do without your multitasking mum,” he asks rhetorically. The average child isn't the least interested in the doings of a stay at home parent. It is entirely debatable, whether anyone is, interested that is to say. Most probably, those most directly affected are also the least interested. Those people would be all of the other people also in the same home.
“I am being.”
“What are you being dear?”
“I am being 2.”
“Two what dear?”
“What things are you being dear?” Somehow that still didn’t come out quite right? I must be more tired than I thought?
“I am being dah multi.”
“Multi what dear?”
“Dah multitask.”
“Really. What tasks are you doing?”
“I am dah eatin…… [it’s sort of eating, but not much is going down]
and I am dah sittin ……. [well, he’s half on the chair, let’s give the fellow the benefit of the doubt]
and ……I am dah sleeping…… [heavy eye lids]
which is being dah 3 fings…..not dah 2 fings.” His head drops like a rock to the table, mouth open, crumbs falling, fast asleep. There’s not so much as a flicker of an eyelash but I suspect that his brain is still whirring.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Interpreting social cues

A while back there was a popular programme on the telly. It was called "A very peculiar practice." The main theme, for me at least, was the inability of the main character to decipher what was going on under his nose.

When I speak to someone for the first time, I inevitably ensure that I am at my most polite. Polite, the British version, differs from other cultures. More often than not, in America of all places, this is not a helpful mode of communication.

My son plagues me, “is it nine?”
“Look at the timer dear, 19 minutes to go.”
“It is a rule?”
“Yes, it’s rude to telephone people before 9 at the weekend, it’s a rule.” He searches my face for a hint of deception.

The key to conducting a successful telephone conversation, is the ability to tune into the timbre of the other person. I prefer to talk to someone face to face, as I am a visual learner and need those cues. Without them, I need to listen very carefully and adjust my tone. My own telephone skills are poor which means that I am sympathetic to the difficulties that others experience.

I tap out the numbers as my son waits close by nibbling his finger tips with his eyes squeezed shut.

I hear a cheery voice and make introductions. It’s the Dad, a jolly straightforward American. This is going to be easy. We exchange a few pleasantries. He hands me over to the Mum. I remember that play dates are Mums’ department. I make introductions again, just to clarify.

“Yeah. I know,” she replies in a halting, jittery tone. Perhaps she’s busy. Maybe this is the wrong time?
“I’m sorry to disturb you so early on a Saturday morning, I hope this isn’t an inconvenient time?”
There is a pause. Maybe she’s adjusting the volume, or running away from her children to conduct a conversation in peace and quiet, or she’s tucking the receiver into her shoulder so that her hands are free?
“Early? It’s nine o’clock!” I’m not sure if I’ve just insulted her? Nine o’clock may not be early? Perhaps I’ve implied that she lies around in bed all day, whereas she’s been up since first light?
“Sorry, I just wasn’t sure this was convenient?”
“Yes…..I just ….. perhaps this might not be a good time,…..perhaps?”
“Good time?” I begin to wonder if I inadvertently slipped into speaking Swahili.

“I just wondered if he’d like to come over for a play date, although I understand that you might have other plans.”
“Who told you we had other plans?” she snaps back as quick as a whippet
“Um, no-one, er…….it’s just that it’s such short notice I didn’t like to assume that he’d be available.”
“Er available to come and play.”
“Are you gonna be home?”
“Yes…..of course.”
Of course! Just in time I remember that quirk a few Americans have, a preference for child care by a woman rather than a Dad. It’s a preference that I don’t fully understand, but I’ve come across it before.
“Well sure,” she croons slowly and softly. It’s not a Southern drawl, not an accent, more of a reluctant and uncertain acceptance.
“Shall I give you our address?” Another pause follows. I imagine her moving to find a paper and pencil.
“Well I don’t know where you live!” Pause. “I’ll go get a pen.”

I wait in a state of nervous confusion. I take care with my address details. I don’t do it the American way. The American way is to provide detailed instructions, turns to right and left, number of stop lights or blocks, helpful landmarks on route until finally, if you’re really lucky, eventually, they give you the number of the house and the name of the street. Brits give the address first. They use similar navigational hints, afterwards, if necessary. Left at the Frog and Toad, right at the Queen’s Arms, straight past the King’s Head, sharp right at The Two Trees. This isn’t possible in America, as there is no such thing as a pub.
“It’s 14799 C-h-a-r-m-i-n-g-t-o-n L-a-n-e.” I wait in silence, as if I say anything I might cause confusion.
“Can he bring anything?”
“No, just his sweet self will do nicely.” Maybe that didn’t come out quite right? I can see him in my mind’s eye, soft spoken, rounded shoulders upon a slightly curved spine, shy eyes behind thick glasses and a bewitching smile.
“My son……he’s a boy you know!” Oh dear! It did come out wrongly.
“Yes, yes of course, I’m sorry, it’s just that……well, you know, he’s such a lovely child.” I don’t know what I’m saying any more, I should just shut up.
“A boy!” Her tone is emphatic which is odd because I don’t believe I’m arguing.
“A great chap.” Why didn’t I say guy! I resolve to try harder with the ‘boy thing’ in America.
“How about 1? Would that suit you?”
“Sure………thanks so much.” I hear a click at the other end of the line. I am off the hook.

I give my fizzing child a synopsis of the good news, set the timer for 4 hours ahead and pour myself a vat of coffee.

After more than twelve years in this country, I still have a great deal to learn and no teacher.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Break Out Blogger Award

This award goes to "Casdok" at "Mother of Shrek" a relatively new blog to me, but heartfelt and wise.

Also for "Mamampj" at "A Room of Mamma's Own" because I'm jealous that she has a room of her own.

Lastly to "This Mom" at "This Mom Blogs" because she surfs the storms and shows us the way ahead so beautifully.

Cheers dearies

Feed the Beast

‘When in doubt,... panic!’

This idiom is a local one, coined by my Dad.

The words are well lodged in my brain, down deep and entrenched. The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland is my twin. When you see a woman running around in circles, flapping her hands and repeating ‘oh dear me,’ that in fact would be me, or rather it would be, if I had allowed the idiom to rule my response. Instead I ignore it, stomp on it and resolve to vanquish it forever.

I haven't always been a nervous type, despite this early introduction to the concept. Nor would I describe myself with that delightful term 'laid back.' I'm somewhere in the middle, or at least I used to be, until I found I was surrounded by children and outnumbered.

I tell you this, because it becomes clear to me, that whilst I may or may not be the source of my son’s OCD tendencies, I should nonetheless, have the power to help him.

I receive sage advice from other people in the trenches regarding OCD. I remind myself that this is familiar territory. The difference is just that this is a different version from the one I’m used to. I'm used to a three or four year old's version. That version was his little brother. I need to dig up and brush off those strategies to apply them to his older brother.

In the meantime, I resolve that whilst I may not be able to help him immediately, I can work on my own attitude.

During the course of the average day I am 25% annoyed, 25% irritated, 10% cross, 10% frustrated, 10% dithering, 9% grumpy, 5% confused, 5% switched off, and 1% falling about with hysterical laughter. This little glimmer, lights up the whole day and makes the other percentages dissolve. I believe this to be a fairly typical, moaning Minnie, British type.

That said, I have also noticed that as we simmer, bubble and boil during the average day, it’s like existing in a high octane tank. Any stray spark is enough to ignite the whole caboodle. They are so volatile. What triggers a meltdown this minute may be of no consequence on a different day or a different time. As a result I am hypervigilant too, waiting for the shoe to drop, or rather be hurled across the room. Lets face it, shoes are torture for some people.

I spend my waking hours chanting ‘om’ in my brain. I string together a whole slew of lies, ‘you can do this, I know you can,’ ‘remember to breath, this is easy,’ ‘concentrate, don’t lose it now,’ 'try, try, try again.'

The words I say to myself are generally the same words that I say to my children, which is convenient but a little patronizing.

When that moment comes, as it so often does, instead of spontaneous combustion, I find I drift and rise into a state of balmy calm. The petty irritations and annoyances bleed away. I am almost weightless. I am left clear headed and untroubled. I can suddenly see that everything really is fine and that all is well. I becomes easy to make the right decision, to prioritize and cope with whatever it is this time.

It is a very reassuring ability to have acquired. The first time I felt this response viscerally, was when I lost one of them in a park. The family we were with, were in a state of panic, bless them. Not me, not externally. Rushing around like a headless chicken wouldn't help. There was an emergency broadcast system, why not use it and lock the place down? It sounds so cold blooded and maybe it is? Same as when the house caught fire. What to save? Why the children of course and then start the hosepipe once I heard the fire brigade were on their way. I could list any number of ordinary domestic and family disasters over the years. What do you do if an acquaintance sits on your chest and tries to strangle you? Well yelling isn't possible and she's almost double your body weight. Tickle her of course.

A clear head, that's what you need, and when you need it, there it is.

I've had my fair share of days of being a blubbering heap on my own kitchen floor, incapable and incompetent but when that next feather floats down, the little chip or straw tips the balance, we have no option but to cope. I don't care if it's adrenalin or laughter, it's always enough to part the foggy clouds.

Now, what I need to do, is to artificially import that attitude to the other 99% of my day.

I wonder if there is a ‘step by step’ guide on-line? I’m sure I can find something to download.

Maybe I’ll upload instead?

Easy peasy!

For a glimpse of "not coping with OCD" and "general grumpiness" you can visit "here."

If you've struggled this far to load this page, then you may wish to try my new duplicate blog next time, over "here."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wordless Wednesday # 4

Ms. Wordless Wednesday, gets on my case, “really Madeline, it’s all very simple, you post your photograph and do the linky doo dah thing. How difficult is that? You have to cut out the words, that’s why it’s called ‘wordless’ you see?”
“Indeed, verily I am on board with the concept.”
“Then why do you keep doing it?”
“Doing what?”
“Putting words in your ‘wordless’ post?”
“Ah, well that’s because the photo makes no sense unless there are some words to go with it, by way of explanation you see.”
“While we’re on the subject, that photo, the one you choose for today?”
“Well, you might try and choose a photo with a little, hmmmm, how can I put it? Perhaps with a little artistic flair? Something easy on the eye? Attractive? Something a little more than a mere snap?”
“Ah, that's why we need the words.”
“Oh no, not back to the words, can’t you just drop it?”
“Well I’ll try very hard .... next week, but in the mean time, I need to explain this one.”
“Must you?”
“It’s very simple!”
“A photo of three children in a bedroom, simply fascinating.”
“Exactly. They’re in the same room!”
“Would it be rude of me to say ‘big deal!’”
“Oh indeed not. But have you noticed that they’re all occupied with something that doesn’t involve mortal combat or sibling rivalry?”
“Well brothers and sisters play together every day, and fight, it’s what siblings do. All perfectly normal.”
“Most siblings yes, but not mine. Play is new. Playing together or even in close proximity together, is new. This is major.”
“Well, I’m sure we’re all very happy for you.”
“But you’ve missed the biggest bit.”
“Which bit?”
“Do you see it’s a bedroom?”
“There’s a bed in it! What else would I think?”
“Ah yes, but what may not be immediately apparent, is that the bedroom is upstairs!”
“And this is supposed to impress me in some way? We have two story buildings in America you know?”
“But of course. The point is that nobody goes upstairs, ever, without being accompanied by an adult. The usual adult, would be me."
"They're afraid of the dark?"
"It's day time in California, lots of light."
"Ah, true. So what are they afraid of then?"
"Predominantly, being out of visual contact with me."
"Oh yes, I remember that bit now."
"You see, I didn’t take them upstairs myself, or even suggest it. They went up there together, of their own free will. They didn’t run downstairs again as if deamons were on the attack. They played up there together for a full 20 minutes. It’s a new first, a tremendous one.”
“Oh, I get it. How old are they now?"
"Nearly 7, eight and a smidge, and nearly 10."
"Well that’s one less thing to worry about I suppose.”
“True, but they may never repeat it of course, hence the photograph. It provides concrete evidence that it really happened, that I didn’t imagine it.”
“You’re a sad case dearie.”
“Yes, I think I need to fess up to that one.”
"O.k. so one last thing Madz."
"Next week?"
"Keep it simple stupid."
"Every day in every way, I get bloggier and bloggier."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just put them back in your cakehole

Some people do it. I do not. There are many purposes for teeth, most commonly to assist in the task of eating, but some purposes should be banned.

One of those purposes would be using your teeth to help you open things, such as packets and packaging. Who wants to be handed an open package all covered in someone else’s spittle? I can do without that kind of help. It’s a filthy habit. It’s a dangerous habit, you could hurt your teeth, or your jaw, or accidentally swallow the chard that your teeth have shreded. No. I’m sorry, but that’s one function that should be strictly off limits. I cannot imagine where anyone would acquire this deviant habit from, as I certainly do not qualify as a model in this particular department. Even though my teeth do join now, they haven’t for the last 46 years, so it certainly wasn’t me! My reputation is untarnished, although the teeth could probably do with a buff.

We fight our way through the fist session of homework of the new school year, one of the most tortuous periods of the day. This period, that should take approximately 10 to 15 minutes, expands into a two hour marathon. My scrambled brain recognizes that I need a new campaign and certainly a new approach to the Bedlam that I am forced to witness and participate in.

I clutch a sharpened pencil in each hand to pass over to the next child that either hurls a pencil or breaks a pencil, from my box of nearly a hundred sharpened pencils. I need to instigate a ‘be kind to pencils’ campaign forthwith. My youngest growls and worries a pencil in his teeth. Another tip breaks off and his sister intervenes, “don’t do that dingbat, yu’ll poison yurself, they’ve got lead in em!” He drops it like a hot poker and grabs another, rips off the eraser to ram in his mouth.
“Don’t do that dear, you’ll break your teeth!” He refuses to relinquish the pencil so I nip into the kitchen to dig out a more suitable biting instrument, as I have already mortgaged my soul to the dentist. He drops the pencil on the tablecloth in a pool of drool. Poor pencil. Poor teeth! I look at the end of the mangled pencil, eraserless with the mental cap crushed with the tiny indentations of baby teeth.
“Is dah washing machine difficult to break?”
“Um…..not really. Why do you want to know?”
“Is it be broken in dah earthquake?”
“Probably not. It’s made of metal.”
“I thought it was made of dah steel.”
“Oh er ..well yes. I suppose it is.”
“Steel is dah strongest.” I wish I had a copy of the school curriculum. I need to know if it’s earthquake awareness week or whether they’re learning about different building materials or both? My knowledge of raw materials is limited to the ‘animal, vegetable or mineral’ variety, although I used to know a great deal about coal.

“My teef are being dah strong!”
“Indeed.” We both examine the all too visual evidence, crayon carnage.
“I fink my teef are dah earthquake poof!”

Another retrofit mouth?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Humane Society

We stumble into the building tripping over ourselves in our haste, a rambling, rabble of ragamuffins. They disperse in three different directions but I remain calm because no-one can actually escape. One single entrance, that is also the sole exit, is balm to a woman such as myself.

I allow them to let off puffs of steam. their excitement whirs a while. After about twenty minutes, they have expended enough energy to risk entering one of the smaller enclosures. We battle with unco-operative doors. I remind them all about the need to sanitize their hands between each cat stroking session. They are perfectly happy to submit to the hand washing in order to maintain the health of the cats and kittens. The greater good. A man enters the same enclosure. My children are still louder than many, as they lack volume control. “Geez! Aren’t the kids back at school yet?” I’m uncertain if this is rhetorical, a joke or both? I smile towards him.

Another woman enters the small enclosure. A member of staff. “Wow we have a lot of kids here today. Are you on a field trip?” she asks my daughter. She answers, a little non-plussed, “er…..no. We’re just visiting.”
“You know, you guys might like an older kitty, like that big one over there, the brown one,” their eyes follow her finger to the cage where the man crouches before his favoured choice. His head flips towards us and then snaps back to the bars.
“Kids should be in school,” mutters the man, as he talks to the cage and strokes the paw that pokes through the wires.
“Schoolie, Schoolie, Schoolie,” chants my youngest in his high pitched, baby voice tone, a mode he adopts specifically for communication with cats. He skips around the small room reading all the names pinned to the cages. The woman watches him buzz and read. I know that she’s trying to figure him out. Is he really reading all those names? Why does he sound so weird? She says nothing, just watches. My older son is in ecstasy surrounded by cats. He whole body roils a la Mr. Bean and his mouth tic is so loud and frequent, that everyone thinks that he has a serious attack of hic-cups.

“In the old ball game! In the old ball game! In the old ball game!” The man glances across at my son. His words are out of context with everything. His little perseveration phrase is indicative of his state of happiness. There is no such thing as a peer group for him. His lack of social skills may have inadvertently given him an opener with the man.
“Are you a fan? What’s your team?” My son continues to spin, his arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders, his own personal bear hug. He starts to meow but I consider this to be an improvement on the barking, mainly because it is quieter. Also, because we are surrounded by cats. They might be unduly alarmed if they were given the false impression that a stray dog had gained entry.

The staff member keeps an eye on him as she opens each cage to administer food to her charges. The man asks permission to remove the cat of his choice for a cuddle. The staff member obliges. The large man sits in the small chair and strokes the chocolate coloured fur with a tender touch. “He’s one hellava guy,” he murmours to the furry face with the slit eyes of adoration. He doesn’t appear to notice as “hellava guy,” echoes through the air several times. He continues to stroke his preferred cat but lets a proprietary eye rove over my children. He speaks to the employee, “we came to see Molly yesterday.” He nods towards the cat. “This is the second day we’ve come to visit her,” he adds but this time he tells all of us, everyone in the room, even though there are few listeners in his audience.

“Uh, uh, uh, uh, stayin alive, stayin alive,” sings my little one.

I catch the woman employee looking at me. I smile. She looks at the boys and then back at me. “Big family!”
“Yes. It’s an in service day at school,” I explain unnecessarily.
“No school today. No school today. No school today.” Her eye catches mine, again. She’s cautious, “are they…….” her eyes flick to the man and back to me, “they like cats,” she smiles.
“Indeed they do,” I smile back. Both our smiles broaden as she watches my boys with warmth.

“I’m probably gonna adopt her today,” adds the man with a hint of desperation. “I didn’t have time to do all the paper work last night.”
“He certainly is a lovely cat,” I say to his bowed head on the top of a body that appears to diminish before my eyes, curling around the cat, shrinking.
“We just came to get some flea medicine,” offers my daughter with a little flicker of concern. “We already have two cats, our own cats.”
“You came all the way here just for that?” he snaps , perplexed, relieved and too loudly.
“Well….. and to see the kitties of course. It’s a treat!” she adds by way of explanation. I watch the man unwind, arms soften, grip loosen and face open. Molly runs her front paws up his chest and her head nudges his chin.

A match.

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