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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Awards - Nice Matters

"Milehimama" over at "Mamasays" has very generously granted me an award, the 'Nice Matters" one. I feel a bit of a cheat really as I am more deserving of the "grumpy award" or the "Mildly Irritated Award" or the "Thoroughly Cheesed Off Award" but I have yet to see those making the rounds.

Now I have to find seven people to pass the award onto, but as is the way with these things, we all seem to gravitate to the same blogs!

Perhaps I should design a "Thoroughly Cheesed Off Award" and pass that around instead, but I fear that is well beyond my bloggy skills to date.

So I'll kick off with "Anne" who hangs out at "Anneshouse" strangely enough, as it's always good to keep an eye on the future and the terrible teens as opposed to the terrible twos. [No he's a cutie really, but not orange]

Another good place to visit is "Michelle" at "The house of Lime" especially this post about how our own "childhood influences" our behaviour towards our own children. [called the 'Jacket' on the 30th November]

Do I have a colour thing going on here or a house thing going on here?

No, not really as next there is "Crystal" at "Crystal Jigsaw" who once again proves that her powers of self control are "unchallenged."

"Veronica" over at "somedaywewillsleep" enjoys a similarly nocturnal existence to me, but one day soon she will graduate to sleeping and then I shall be all alone.

"Elissa" over at "Managingautism" is always full of good ideas, hints and tips, enough to put the rest of us to shame. Luckily she is technically challenged too as we struggle up the same learning curve with other tech savvy bodies.

over at "Crazy Thoughts" is physically attached to her computer, but that mainly because she's in the middle of moving and we all know how stressful that can be.

Number seven goes to "Top Cat" at "Open Window" because I love cartoons and a giggle. Hope he doesn't put up a rude one just in time for this.

Cheers Dearies

Update Your Insurance Policy

Some people take a very deterministic approach to autism, sometimes fatalistic, but there's one thing that we're sure of, the diagnoses isn't static, more like quicksilver.

I ensure that they are all occupied and engaged with their snacks before I try to unload the shopping, but one of them is persistent.

I ignore him as I don’t want to be distracted. There are few guarantees in life, but I know that frozen food will thaw if it is left any longer in the boot of the car. I’m fairly confident that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about anyway. When it comes to the subject of ‘England’ I’m sure that I know more about it than he does, because he is American. There is something about his insistent tone that needles my nerve endings.
“No. It is English. I sure!”
“Yes, dear.” I placate him, anything for peace as I haul in bagfuls of groceries. He is so close to me, just like a cat that entwines your legs determined to be fed. I need an insurance policy to ensure a secure future, or at the very least, that we can make it alive until bed time.

We are in a very narrow spot, the spot between the car and the junk in the garage, a little pathway that leads from the car door to the kitchen door, perilous. Why does he do it? I want to stop everything and explain, ‘look at me! I’m buried in groceries! I’m not asking you to help but could you just either shut up for a nano second or move your body out of the way, I’m happy with either?’ Part of the reason I don’t do this, is because flowing speech still has novelty value, for me at least. Also it would definitely be mean and would certainly hurt his feelings, as well as the risk of meltdown factor in a confined space. Another reason that I don’t take remedial action, is that just for once I’d love to complete one simple task rather than leaving every single little thing half done.

I try not to think of all the papers laid out in the office, the medical insurance claim that is so overdue, or the presents to be wrapped, the endless list of things undone. I don’t really want to have a little chat with my non-verbal son about something trivial, off beat and of no importance to anyone else on the planet, except him.

All I want is to get the groceries unpacked whilst my brain works out what on earth to make for supper. I need two minutes to think of something for supper. Why didn’t I think of something for supper whilst we were actually in the supermarket? Because they were all there with me, which meant that I was incapable of any kind of thought. Why didn’t I think of what to make for supper before I went to the supermarket? Because they were still all there at home with me too. No nano seconds of free brain time have been available to me for four consecutive days.

How can I ensure that their nutritional needs are met if I am unsure of just about everything. For two pins I’d drop the lot and run screaming from the house just to find those two minutes of peace, but my path is blocked in both directions, boy in front, door behind. I was never good at hurdles as a youngster and I see no reason why this lack of athletic ability should have improved, now that I am in my dotage. A sure sign that I am well and truly trapped.

Two years ago I would have given a pint of blood for eye contact like this. Another pint for just a scrap of that attention. I'd have drained myself dry to be on any subject other than trains and dinosaurs, but now I am feckless, fickle and feeble.

I fear I am suffering from a severe case of cabin fever and very low on reserves. We may yet be reduced to eating twigs, especially if the chef doesn’t wake up and smell some caffeine. But there’s no stopping him.

“I sure! It is English,” he persists.

We bumble and tumble our way back inside the house. I sit on the floorboards in the kitchen, weary and defeated, surrounded by overflowing, split and ragged grocery bags. I give up and give in.

“What is English dear?” I submit to doing what I should have been doing in the first place. When will I ever just do the right thing at the right time?
“Dah packaging.”
“What packaging dear?”
“Dah packaging on dah bottles.”
“What bottles dear?”
“Dah bottles dat are yurs, er, dah Ensure bottles.”

I look at the six packs, my insurance of continued health if not growth.

“They look pretty ordinary to me.”
“Dey come from England?”
“No we just bought them at Lucky’s.”
“Lucky’s buyed them from England?”
“No they weren’t imported…..I mean no, they’re American.”
"I am beed certain!"
"Certain? That's a new word!"
"Sure! I am beed sure and certain too!"
"What are you certain...er....sure of?"
“Dat dey are have dah English name?” My brain is numb. I have no idea what he is on about. He can now recognize ‘blank’ when he sees it. He takes pity on my slow brain.
“In England dey say ‘ENsure.’ In America we say ‘INsure.’”

Yup, that’s right, there are no guarantees with anything these days.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

If at first you don’t succeed

If there is one thing we have in common as parents, it’s the repetitive nature of the job. The phase ‘I’ve said it a thousand times’ could be our collective motto, but does anyone ever take any notice? There are so many little phrases that we repeat on a daily or sometimes hourly basis. Since mine can read I’m tempted to tattoo them on my forehead, but since there are so many. Maybe I should write a long, numbered list and fold it up concertina style, tape it to the same spot so I can just let it unfold and shout ‘three!’

Wednesdays are always the worst days. Although the children finish school early, this provides the opportunity for double therapy, one session of speech therapy and one session of occupational therapy for both of them, with the accompanying transitions. Hence, a couple of years ago, I adopted the line of least resistance and designated that Wednesdays would be pizza night. A shop bought pizza makes for an easy, quick and popular supper to be squeezed into the busy day after homework.

Whilst I pretend to ‘cook’ the children enjoy their thirty minutes of electronics time, but it only takes a few minutes to shove a pizza in the oven and throw cutlery on the table for no-one to use. Why is everything finger food? Instead, I spend a few minutes deliberating.

I have several completed bowls, thrown on the pottery wheel by my own, not so fair hands. One will be a wedding gift to my brother and his soon to be wife. I have whittled down the choice of pottery bowls to five. I’m out of options and choice time has arrived. I slip the five bowls onto the table, each with their different faults. One has a tiny crack but is otherwise perfect. This would be my first choice, but the crack glares at me like a cravass. The next one is also perfect. It has no crack. Instead it is the wrong colour. That shade of green is ever so slightly offensive, slightly bilious. The third one is perfect. It is the right colour and the fish decoration is even, but the bowl is not circular, it has warped in the kiln such that it is elliptical. The fourth one is perfect, but the base or foot is rough. The roughness cannot be eliminated at this stage. This means that their gift will scratch the surface of anything that they place it on, assuming that they don’t hide it at the back of some obscure cupboard. The fifth one is perfect. The fish swim, sweep left in a swirl of a school but they are a little larger than I would wish. The colour is thin and a little bald on the rim. I dither about a marking system, but it would be too complex to design. Which is worse a wonky bald rim or a round bowl that isn’t?

My daughter saunters up to the table, “whatcha doin Mom?”
“Hmm. I’m trying to decide which one to give to JP and Andrew for their wedding?”
“Oh you gotta give them that one!” she announces without a waver.
“Why that one?”
“Coz it’s the biggest and there’s two of em. It’s big enough for them both to eat their cereal outta.” I blink. I had salad in mind rather than cereal. The word ‘cereal’ penetrates someone else’s focus, which pings them into the arena. “You are have cereal in dat?” he asks. We explain the current state of deliberations. “Oooh, I am likey dat one?”
“Why dear?”
“Coz it is shaped like dah egg.” Well, of course I should have seen that one coming. I would prefer not to have the biased opinions of my offspring all of a sudden, as it really isn’t helping. The word ‘egg’ triggers the last one to blunder into the debate. “You are have eggs?” We explain the tortured current status of the bowl debate. He drapes his upper body on the table top, no so much as for a better view, but more from the exhaustion of having to come up with a well argued opinion. We wait. I prompt.
“Well? What do you think then?”
“Um I fink……I fink………I fink…….dat one.”
“Why that one dear?”
“Coz it is dah bestest Vermillion.” Well that’s a different version on ‘bilious green’ I suppose, but ‘green’ is never a word that he can retrieve. Their father appears, not drawn by the bowl debate but lured by the wafts of pizza smell. “What’s up?” he asks distractedly peering into the oven willing it to speed up. My daughter gets him up to speed. He peers at the table top, “well not that one for sure.”
“Which one?”
“The one with the fish going the wrong way.”
“Which one is the one with the fish going the wrong way?”
“There! Anticlockwise indeed, that’ll drive them nuts. It’s not like they live in Australia or anything.” I pout. Of all the unreasonable objections, that’s about the most ludicrous to date.
“Anyway, why are you picking now?”
“Because anything that isn’t glazed now, or rather by the 30th of November, isn’t going to be ready by Christmas. There was a notice from the studio warning everyone to get their stuff finished.”
“SO, I’m out of time. It’s this or nothing.”
“But it’s only November 28, you’ve got a couple more days.”
“Yes, but I just wanted to get something finished, done, one less thing to worry about.”
“O.k. If you’re sure, but the more you practice, the more you do, the better they’ll be.”
“You don’t think any of them are good enough?”
“I didn’t say that. It’s up to you. There’s no harm in trying again surely?”
“Mummy is da try, try, try agin?”
“Yeah. Have another go mom.”
“Da try agin is good.” My self satisfied, smug husband grins at me. “What do you have to lose, you don’t eat pizza anyway! Go out to the garage and fling some clay around?” I look at all the expectant faces that taunt and goad. How can I continue the ‘good enough’ campaign in the face of such united front?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rap me on the knuckles with a ruler

“Have you noticed?”
“Noticed what?”
“That he says it all the time?”
“Er….not particularly.”
“I wonder where he got it from?”
“That little ditty.”
“Which one?”
“The ‘my bad’ ditty. I’m never sure if it’s a question or a statement or where he got it from in the first place? That and the cap turned backwards, is giving me cause for concern.”
“Really. Supposed to look cool I guess. How come you're worried about his repeats?”
“Well it just sounds so odd. ‘Bad’ isn’t a word that we use around here.”
“All the kids use it.”
“Do they?”
“Oh yes, it’s just ‘hip’ I suppose, you hear it all the time.”
“Do you? I don’t.”
“Come now, don’t be such an old fuddy duddy. Have you been living under a rock?”
“He’s just trying to fit in with his peer group. You should be pleased that he’s that socially aware.”
“I should?”
“Well it’s a darned sight better than ‘oopsie’ every time he makes a mistake.”
“But ‘oopsie’ is sort of sweet and endearing. ‘My bad’ is……er…….I’m not sure what it is but it definitely sounds odd.”
“Not odd but age and culturally appropriate I think you’ll find. You could learn a thing or two from him yourself!”
“You think I should wear a base ball cap turned backwards?”
“It would certainly update your image a little. Gotta be better than choosing the ‘purple hat’* option. That can come later.”

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens . . .

The ending of the poem pleases its readers when the woman says . . .

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to "wear purple."

Here they are 'not' rapping, more of a touch of brotherly love and helpful interpretation.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Dairy free products

As always, it is just after I have announced my intention to teach "sex education" as and when needed, that the need arises.

They are in the midst of a debate.

“Don’t be stoopid! No-one has four penise.s!”
“Cows do! They do so!”
“That’s an udder. Anyways, cows are girls.”
“Milk is cow urine?”
“What is chocolate milk being den?”
“It doesn’t come out of the cow with chocolate. They put that in after.”
“Cow milk is make you ill?”
“Sure some people,” she says in an off hand manner. I hover. Has the need passed? The laundry crisis needs my attention. I decide to pay no heed, as he hasn’t drunk milk for approximately 4 years.

“I am need!” he bellows at his usual 50 decibels. I pay heed at the sudden urgency and loudness of his demand.
“What do you need dear?”
“I am need a….a…..diah…a….ree….a….a” I don’t let him finish but whisk him away as only an astute mother can. After his experience in the "vomiting" department, I am swift and pre-emptive. There’s no time to mess about, so I whip off his pants and trousers to park him on the loo in the blink of an eye. I lean against the door jam self satisfied that once again I have saved the day and possibly a heap of laundry.
“Pardon dear?”
“WOT?” he bellows since clearly I didn’t hear him properly the first time. Why do I keep making that same mistake I wonder?
“What to you mean “what’ dear?”
“Wot I am do here?”
“What you normally do there dear. Do you need your privacy or something?”
“No I am need a…. a….a…..diah…a….ree….a….a.”
“Yes I know that’s why I’ve brought you here, quickly, before it’s too late.”
“It is too late?”
“Is what too late dear?” Or do I mean ‘too late for what?’
“It is too late for a….a….. a….a…..diah…a….ree….a….a?”
“I hope not. I hope we’re just in time.”
“Dey are in dah bathroom?”
“Er….. are what in the bathroom?”
“Dah….er….. a….a…..diah…a….ree….a….a?”
“Any minute now I expect.” We pause. We wait. We wait some more. I have the distinct impression that I am waiting for something different to whatever he might be waiting for.
“What are you waiting for dear?” How can he wait at all?
“I am wait for dah a….a…..diah…a….ree….a….a.”
“Well maybe you’re alright after all?”
“No. Dah a….a…..diah…a….ree….a….a is not here.” I look at his expectant face although I am now uncertain what he is expecting?
“Is your tummy o.k.? Do you have an ache?”
“No.” I’m not sure which he means but he looks perfectly fine.
“Is it safe to get you dressed again do you think?”
“I dun know? Um… dah a….a…..diah…a….ree….a….a be come if I am dressed?”
“No we want the diarrhea to come whilst you’re sitting there.”
“I don’t want diarrhea!” he shrieks.
“No, I know it’s not nice is it?” He looks at me blankly even though strictly speaking is was more of a rhetorical question. I watch him blink, open mouthed, deep in thought.
“NO! Not diarrhea! I did not be say dat. I said…..er….dah book dat you be write fings in.” A book? A book that you write in? What is he on about now for goodness sake?
“I need dah book…….write every day…..you are start wiv ‘dear.’”
“Dear Diary?”
“You want a diary to write in?”

Clearly I have a potential ‘man of letters’ on my hands, or maybe just on my mind?

I wonder what possible insight I might glean from sneaking a peek in a seven year old’s personal diary, but of course only bad mothers do that?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hope springs eternal

Some unsophisticated parents inadvertently form causal behavioural links within their children. The bell rings and Pavlov's dog salivates. The bathwater splashes and my youngest son runs at the speed of light, screaming like a banshee.

Once these associations have been formed, it can be very difficult to unlink them. Repeated exposure in tiny, but ever increasing increments, can eventually be successful.

Even now, his first response is always a protest, but that may just be because the suggestion of a bath is also a transition. He is hard wired to resist transitions.

In this particular instance I have no option. I remove him from the scene of devastation and plop him in a bath of warm water. He’s too exhausted to resist. I leave his father in charge of the other two and the clean up operation after junior’s spectacular, technical vomit performance. I should like to pull rank and claim that I am the mistress of delegation, but it truth it's more that he is a better team player than me.

Junior lies in the water semi inert. I park myself on the bidet, the closest point of contact and wait for him to calm down. For many children, an upset stomach is often caused by eating something that has disagreed with them. In this particular child, a neophobic one with a diet of 17 foods, I know that nothing new or dodgy could possibility have entered his system, either deliberately or accidentally. I must mine for details and turn the situation to my advantage.

His silence is entirely predictable as ‘ill’ usually means that his body has to concentrate on other things, rather than speech. After a while, his feet start to show interest, as toes are so much safer than fingers. He taps the different surfaces, tentatively, especially as he has to ensure that his head remains above the water line, cannot get wet. After a thorough preliminary investigation, it is safe for his fingers. His fingers repeat all the taps that his feet have just made. “Dis is hot, dis is hotter and dis is dah hottest,” he announces with reference to the faucet fitting. His eyes travel back to mine, a 'check in' that allows me to bask in a brief moment of joint attention and referencing back. “I like because it is dah smooth too.” For the first time in four years I forgive my spouse for spending a fortune on European bathroom fittings.

“So …….I was thinking.”
“Why are you ill?”
“I dun know.”
“Maybe it’s all the licking you’ve been doing recently?” His open eyes match his open mouth, as he concentrates.

You may be familiar with the oral fixation stage of development in babies. They mouth everything, nothing is safe, everything is covered with drool. Some babies skip this stage completely, or do it later, sometimes much later. Some little people with oral defensiveness, avoid almost all textures and tastes. These are often the same little people that skip the ‘mouthing’ stage. When such a person begins to lick things, a parent, or at least some feeble minded parents, might be tempted to turn a blind eye. Some feeble minded parents, who secretly delight in this mis-timed development, believe that it may be socially inappropriate but a delayed development is infinitely better than no development at all. It would appear that blind eyes result in tummy upsets.

“Can you remember what you’ve licked today dear?”
“’No’ you haven’t licked anything or ‘no’ you don’t remember what you licked?”
“O.k. lets start with when you woke up. What did you lick when you woke up?”
“Dah mirror. I play snailses.”
“Lovely! Good remembering.”
“I licked it until is was cleaned.”
“Great!” I debate what bacteria might be on the surface of double mirrored doors in a bedroom, or at least the first four feet from carpet to tongue height? He sits in the bath water. Each arm extended. He mimicks the diving surfacing motion of a dolphin with each hand until the dolphins' noses collide in the centre. As they crash he grins with satisfaction. He shares his success with me as his eyes meet mine. He repeats the diving in a ceaseless loop of perfection because OCD tendencies are stronger than other tendencies. If the dolphins mis-time their aquatics he curses, "barnacles! barnacles! barnacles!" and begins again, but the eye contact is more rare and precious than any metal on the planet. Barnacles, can be a difficult swear word to pronounce. Every time he swears incorrectly, he changes to his alternative, "fishpaste! fishpaste! fishpaste!" which of course is also difficult to pronounce. It must be frustrating, not to be able to swear to your own high standards.
“What did you lick next, when you came downstairs perhaps?”
“Er……I be licked dah window.”
“But I stopped.”
“Why did you stop.”
“It be freeze my tongue. I like lick dah warm fings.”
“Ah, lovely. What next?”
“I be finded a warm fing.”
“What warm thing did you find?”
“Oh! You licked your sister?”
“Yes. But then I bited her coz she said ‘no lick me!’ and she be dah shout and dah loud and she hurted my ears wiv dah noise.”
“Oh dear!”
“She…… be taste nice and……..salty.”
"Well if you eat your sister you won't be a vegetarian any more," I tell the child who doesn't eat vegetables.
"What I am be?"
"You'll be a canni......er.....um.... a carnivore, or maybe just an omnivore." Om, om, om.

One step forward, two steps back. I suspect cross contamination shortly.

Post script - after five baths in five hours, after five further incidents of illness, someone submitted to having a wet head. Oddly enough, I now seem to have inadvertently linked 'baths' to 'cure all.' Baths made him feel better, not well but better, cleaner, more relaxed. So it appears that we have no further need for the medical profession. There again, it is far more time consuming to bathe than to provide a Bandaid, and not quite so portable. Come to think of it, excessive bathing might feed into the OCD cleanliness nightmare. Maybe I should just stop thinking.

I am happy to swim in the wake of at the slowest little life boat in the convoy, doggy paddle of course. Woof!

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Seven more

"MomNOS" from "MomNOS" has tagged has tagged me for a meme, in which I am instructed to:

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. I volunteer at the children's school for their reading programme which means that I count how many books each child reads and give a presentation with positive feed back.

2. I am not very good at it even though I practice beforehand and have three different versions for small special needs children, slightly bigger special education children and typical bigger children.

3. I wear a tall 'cat in the hat' hat during the presentation in a feeble attempt to attract their attention, as well as red and black clothes for the same reason. I always come in still wearing my sunglasses to complain that the room is too dark. Eventually someone will tell me where I'm going wrong.

4. Because they're learning cursive I wrote all their names on their chart in English Round Hand [calligraphy]. This means that Ian and Jan look very similar. None of them can read their own names now. This is just the kind of positive feedback that youthful persons most need. Although my performance is largely scripted, I was nervous at the beginning of the school year. The class had expanded from 21 to 32. When I arrived I noticed that they seemed so much larger, almost teens, so I checked, "are you the pupils from Form 4?" I looked over their discombobulated faces, all 31 on them, until I found the 32nd, who decided to help out, "STEW dense Mom! An it's GREYED four." We wasted a considerable amount of time disentangling the function of the eye and the optical nerve.

5. Last time I read them a poem, called 'sick' by Shel Stevenson. * I ordered them to listen because it was funny and would be very useful if they ever needed to bunk off school. No-one understood 'bunk.' The teacher gave me the evil eye. At the end, a wise and small American child advised me that it would be very unwise to pretend to be ill.

6. I agreed with him and told him to ignore stupid foreigners, thus demonstrating more political incorrectness. I accidentally patted him on the head in a friendly manner and then remembered that you're not supposed to touch children if they're not yours. The same kindly child did not report me for inappropriate physical contact, which he could both say and spell. Hence I can 'do' and 'say' politically incorrect very well.

7. I finished my presentation with an even funnier ditty called 'One fine day.' They all laughed a lot and very loudly. I now know that it is thoroughly inappropriate material for small American people. I could tell because I made print outs of both poems for the children to take home. The teacher suggested it might be better if the print outs remained in school.

Aren't you so glad I don't volunteer in your children's class and corrupt them. This is one very good reason why I eschew parent participation schools, because there will be people like me there.


Sick "I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more - that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue -
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke -
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb,
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my spine is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is -
what? What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is ... Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

-- Shel Silverstein

I apologise in advance to anyone who finds the following offensive. In my experience people with disabilities have the greatest sense of humour of us all lesser beings. If you doubt me, I would recommend that you listen in to the podcast [free] of the BBC 'Ouch' programme.

One fine day in the middle of the night

One fine day in the middle of the night,
Two dead men got up to fight,
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other,

One was blind and the other couldn't, see
So they chose a dummy for a referee.
A blind man went to see fair play,
A dumb man went to shout "hooray!"

A paralysed donkey passing by,
Kicked the blind man in the eye,
Knocked him through a nine inch wall,
Into a dry ditch and drowned them all,

A deaf policeman heard the noise,
And came to arrest the two dead boys,
If you don't believe this story’s true,
Ask the blind man he saw it too!

Now that I am grown up, I appreciate that this is about as politically incorrect as anyone could muster.

Unlike "MomNOS" I have decided to democratic in my tagging, as well as impartial because I am practicing being a good American, so I shall the tag the next 7 people who are silly enough to have left comments, because I am writing this in the future and tagging people in the past, because I'm also very good at time travel.

So the first foolish person "Roxan" at "kickshawcandies." aka "something wicked comes this way."

Then Kyra who is blogless - what a situation to be in! And no email on her profile! Can you imagine?

Then, "Joeymom" at "Joeyandymom"

So is that 3 or does that only count as two? Anyway, the next victim willing or otherwise is "The glasers" at "aut2bhomeincarolina."

Then we have my favourite late night visitor, an owl if ever there was one, "Kristina" at "Autismvox" but that's the price you pay for not being asleep at 17 minutes past one in the morning!

Then there is "Kelley" who also pootled along in the wee small hours of the morning, but she's forgiven because she lives upsidedown in Australia at "Magnettobold." no mean feat I can tell you.

over at "Mother of Shrek" bimbled along at some unearthly hour or the morning, although 2 a.m. here is 10 a.m. there, which is probably the ideal time to be awake on a Saturday morning, given the option, which I am not.

Lucky number six was "Akelemalu" over at "Everything and Nothing" who has a fun piece up right now, so don't miss it. That's my kind of humour.

Lastly we have "Vi" who is a big rudey, but what else can you expect from those Aussies. This particular brave Aussie has transplanted to the delightful city of Bath in England where so many of Jane Austen's characters lived out their demure and sophisticated lives as all proper Brits should. Look out at "Are you local???" I dread to think what kind of mischief she's getting up to, I can almost feel a touch of the vapours coming on.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Five good things

My "sensitive" little pal sends out a challenge.

Hers is five really good things, but I think I can only manage marginally good things depending upon the time of day!

'Good things' always makes me thing of Martha Stewart, which is always daunting.

Five! No longer a challenge.

I only usually go up to three and that's on a good day. But now I've done 18 I feel as if I've graduated.

If we're supposed to link then you may be out of lucky as I'm a bit technically challenged, otherwise....

1. fresh cranberry sauce with grated orange [sorry Thanksgiving aftermath]
2. newly mown grass, assuming I didn't have to mow it myself
3. the smell of ironing [reminds me of my mum, as I'm allergic to ironing myself]
4. freshly baked bread just before it comes out of the oven and has filled the whole house with wafts of yeast [especially if I'm warming it up from the supermarket rather than having to make my own because I'm a bit lazy like that.]
5. WD40 because that means nothing will squeak and be annoying.

I've just realized that those are all smells! I must be hungry or something [but not for the WD40, just for the peaceful break of a snack.]

Now surely just about anyone can do five, especially if you're the lazy type that didn't manage to conjure up a list of things that you're thankful for for Thanksgiving! Oops, that would be me of course. Let me know when you list. Perhaps you could do 5 good things using a different sense? Or one for each sense? See how helpful I am being.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Recipe for Success for the Neophobic

Neophobic = roughly translates to someone who eats less the 10 foods

It is our family tradition to have 13 vegetables at Christmas. For some strange reason this has slipped into Thanksgiving too.


1. Roast potatoes - crispy please. Mashed potatoes for the faint hearted.

2. Brussel sprouts with roasted chestnuts [throw out the burnt ones]

3. Carrots discs in sweet potato puree [don't for forget the Thyme]

4. Whole garlic mushrooms with white wine [the alcohol burns off]

5. Courgettes and yellow crook neck squash, circles in Herbs de Provence

6. Cauliflower and broccoli florets in bechamel [grated nutmeg for that lightly browned effect]

7. Leeks and pearl onions in Parmesan cheese sauce

8. Parsnips, roasted whole on a bed of Rosemary

9. Creamed spinach with toasted almonds [use double cream to ensure compulsory coronary]

10. Quarter white corn on the cobs, whole

11. Swede pureed with caramelized onions

12. Green beans with fresh pesto glaze

13. Dahl with okra - gotta have something spicy

One cup full of frozen mixed veg to show willing

The cranberry sauce, crispy bacon, stuffing and turkey don't count as vegetables of course.

Require all children to attend to the general vicinity of the table and the feast for 3 minutes. Ensure visual timer and quiet beeping timer are prominently displayed.

Permit children to believe that they have escaped following the passage of three minutes. Enjoy as much as the feast as possible during the next unsupervised five minutes without inducing indigestion.

Solemnly puree all food in the magimix [cuisinart] and pour into all the ice cube trays you possess. Freeze and then transfer into rigid freezer boxes. Consider the possibility of sieving the 3 gallons first.

Present each child with a subsequently thawed and warmed cube at every meal for the next six months.

Repeat following Christmas to enjoy a full year of exposure to vegetation.

Well.....it is better to travel hopefully......Happy Thanksgiving

P.s. in case anyone takes issue with the word 'success' in the title, and there are always a few quibblers, I should like to point out that 'success' is all about defining your terms. In this instance 'exposure to food,' on a daily basis, is success, and this makes it all the more easier. Eating may take a little longer.

p.p.s. why does the phrase 'exposure to food' sound vaguely rude?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Today I was tagged for a meme by "Amusing" at "amusingonlife" for this massive meme. 18 items must be the biggest one I've attempted yet.

1. What were you afraid of as a child?
The definition 'child' gives me pause. If you mean under 11 then absolutely nothing at all. Over 11 then it would probably be the dark.

2. When have you been most courageous?
I have never been courageous about anything, I am an out and out, fully signed up member of the wimp brigade. I wear my yellow stripe with pride.

3. What sound most disturbs you?
Dentist's drill. Actually any noise within a dentists office is enough to send me off to the funny farm.

4. What is the greatest amount of physical pain you’ve been in?
Jaw surgery. Worse than giving birth drug free four times, even if it had been consecutive.

5. What’s your biggest fear for your children? (or children in general if you don’t have your own)
That they might not reach adulthood. That when they reach adulthood they might not have long enough lives. That any life that they do have might not be as happy as it might be.

6. What is the hardest physical challenge you’ve achieved?
Aerobics instructor course when pregnant with number 2.

7. Which do you prefer: Mountains or oceans/big water?
The sea. [translation = the ocean]

8. What is the one thing you do for yourself that helps you keep everything together?

9. Ever had a close relative or friend with cancer?
My mum. Breast cancer, ten years ago and faring well now.

10. What are the things your friends count on you for?
I have no idea?

11. What is the best part of being in a committed relationship?
Always someone on hand to annoy.

12. What is the hardest part of being in a committed relationship?
Their infuriating annoyingness.

13. Summer or Winter? Why?
Late Spring in the UK, early Spring in the States.

14. Have you ever been in a school-yard fight? Why and what happened?
We didn't have school yards we had play grounds.

15. Why blog?

16. Did you learn about sex, and/or sex safety from your parents?
No I was told the facts of life by my chum when we walked to school together one day, when I was about ten. I laughed like a drain and told her the real truth, that they come out of your tummy button.

17. How do you plan to talk to your kids about sex and/or sex safety?
I answer the questions when they come in an age appropriate manner, or rather this is what I have done for both the girls, I may need to alter my approach.

18. What are you most thankful for this year?
This year? As in 2007, or this year as in the last 12 months? Happy to answer following clarification.

So who am I supposed to tag? How many? Hmm? Let's see.

"Elissa" from "managing autism."

"Mary [MPJ]" from "Mamampj"

"Blissfulmama" from "mumkeepingsane"

"Furiousball" at "furiousball"

"MmomOf3" at "Momofonetwothree"

If I've not tagged you, have a go yourself and then get back to me so that I can come and take a peek - I nosy like that!

Cheers and a very happy Thanksgiving to everyone who stops on by.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wordy Wednesday # 7

Ms. Wordless Wednesday cuts straight to the chase, ....... “see! I’m not even going to bother this time Maddy, just tell me all about it?”
“Golly, how gracious of you.”
“I get the picture, bad picture at that. I’m gonna get you that book ‘Photography for Dummies.’”
“Your generosity overwhelms me, as always.”
“So what am I looking at then?”
“You tell me.”
“I can’t.”
“Yes, you can, you’re getting good at this now.”
“Well, I can’t. I don’t know your kids well enough and anyway they are a bit…...er...….different.”
“I know what you mean but in this particular instance he’s not being different he’s being ordinary.”
“Is that supposed to help?”
“It’s just a little hint to point you in the right direction.”
“Fine. Let me see. Well he has the mouth thing of course.”
“Well spotted. You remembered. When he’s concentrating his mouth goes slack. Lip closure, or lack of it, is always a dead give away.”
“So he’s concentrating on a…..what is that thing anyways?”
“Just an ordinary toy.”
“Ah! Got it. He’s perseverating.”
“Nearly. I’m impressed. Perhaps I should have given you a 'before' and after picture?”
“Hang on a minute. There’s a before? You’re playing tricks with me. No fair!”
“You’re right of course, but I didn’t have a chance to do a ‘before’ picture and it would have been an even worse picture.”
“O.k. So what would the ‘before’ picture have been?”
“Major meltdown.”
“Not pretty? Probably just as well you skipped the ‘before’ then.”
“I thought so.”
“So what was he having a meltdown about? Do I really want to know come to think of it?”
“You don’t want to know, and really it doesn’t really matter, that’s not the point.”
“What is the point?”
“The point, is that the meltdown passed. He calmed himself down.”
“So that’s him calmed down right?”
“Exactly, or rather in the process of calming down, calming himself down in fact.”
“New toy?”
“Old toy, rediscovered.”
“The toy is magic?”
“Might as well be, but not really. It’s just that we get all wound up sometimes, into a bit of a tizzy. We all need to learn how to calm ourselves down again. It doesn’t really matter how any of us do it, just that we learn what works for us.”
“And that works for him? Watching those little coloured bubble things floating up and down?”
“Yes. Well……yes at the moment. It works at the moment but it might not work tomorrow or next week.”
“Bit like one of those Lava Lamps from the 70’s?”
“You’re showing your age dearie!”
“Oops! Still, progress nonetheless right? See I can use those English words too!”
“Indeed you can, and so eruditely.”
“Don’t show off now!”
“As if?”
“O.k. so that’s all for now huh?”
“Yes, lots of ‘om’ thoughts.”
“You kill me, you really do.”

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Many moons ago when my brother was visiting, he walked into the family room where the television was on.

“You’re not watching that!” he guffawed, being the intellectual type that he is.
At the time, I was in hot pursuit of my daughter whilst simultaneously breast feeding my son and carrying his 'big' brother.

“Yes, I am!” I snapped. Probably due too many leaky hormones.

The truth of the matter was that I wanted to watch Oprah on the telly. I wanted to be like my new American pal. I wanted to fit in. I wanted ‘normal.’ I knew that the vast majority of the female, stay at home mom population, watched Oprah every afternoon, whilst their little kiddie winkies frolicked and played, or napped.

My new American pal was a kindly woman with a huge heart. Whenever we met, she would ask me if I had watched such and such an episode. My response was always the same, failure. She always made it sound so interesting. I always felt that I had missed something. I had.

These days, now that life has changed so much during the intervening years, I still have Oprah’s broadcast available to me via TIVO. 5 episodes every week, which I dutifully delete every Sunday night. Although I have watched a few programmes between then and now, I can’t watch the celebrity ones as I never know who they are, I can’t watch the ‘be a better looking person’ ones because I am old, I can’t watch the ‘this tragedy happened to this person’ ones, because they are too depressing.

I remember that my mother would listen to "Woman's Hour' on the radio every day. We children were sworn to silence or banned from the vicinity. 'Oprah' seemed to be the modern equivalent. I was unable to work out why such an ordinary every day pastime, was completely beyond me? Of all the things that I could or should have done to prove to myself that 'all was well' this would seem like a bizarre choice. I chose it precisely because it seemed so ordinary and easy. It proved to be anything but.

I decided that my failure was due to the fact that my children, none of them, enjoyed afternoon naps, whereas every other mother on the planet had a different experience. I chose to ignore the different time zones throughout the world, which I believe would be evidence of denial.

Now that I am even older but not particularly wiser, I still wonder who those women are? Who are the viewers? I suspect that even her recent programme on autism would not have reached me in the situation I experienced, nor other people, who might be similarly situated. If the programme airs at four in the afternoon, [I just checked] who will be watching?

Me? No, afraid not. I'll be wrapped up in the homework debacle after a slightly more successful school pick-up run. The children I chase are bigger now than those far away days. It's still just as noisy, if not noisier around here but there are more words than there once were. But I'll give you a dare - if Oprah takes up breast feeding then I'll watch her programme.

Is that a double dare?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Theory of Mind

This theory dictates that autistic children cannot put themselves in someone else's shoes, take their perspective. It's also called mind blindness sometimes, but "ABFH" explains it so much more eloquently.

I have another of those conversations that leads me to believe that I am short of few marbles. It’s all my daughter’s fault of course, as she ambushes me at the end of the school day. The usual Friday afternoon play dates are always carefully orchestrated, but her regular partner is unavailable.

“Mom can Sarah come over for a play date now please?” Her new pal is by her side. I imagine that for most families this would be easy. For our family it isn’t. Because my family is made up of different individuals, I feel an obligation to newcomers. Gone are the days when I worried about whether their were guns or other dangers in other people’s houses. I concentrate on the information a new parent would want to know, before permitting their child into my care.

Under ordinary circumstances, when a new chum comes along, I take the time to meet the parent and have a chat. It’s a delicate exchange for me. I need them to have an easy exit, if needs be. If they are uncomfortable about their child sharing time in a home with a couple of autistic children, and many people are, then I want to provide them with the opportunity to bow out gracefully. It’s not a contest. I still find it strange that so many people have yet to hear the word autism, but I have to deal with the current status quo. I do not want to have this conversation with the other parent whilst my boys are around. They might appear to be blissfully unaware, but we all know that most walls have ears, even autistic ones.

Since I volunteer in their classrooms, I know many of the children already. I also wish to preserve a level of ‘ordinary’ for my daughter, not to hamper her own social desires. “Is your mum here to collect you Sarah? Do you live near the school? Shall I write down your address?”
I ask warily, as I look around the playground for the invisible beam of parent-child energy.
“I don’t know my address,” she answers sweetly. I blink. I have been training my own children, all of them, to memorize their address for as long as I can remember. They can sing their address and telephone number but none of them can say it. The girls search, spot the target and race off in unison to ambush another mother.

Meanwhile, I am in a holding pattern, my own two boys and two other boys from their class. I attempt to impose the buddy system on my boys, “Stick with your pal, stay together, you’re responsible for him.” I don’t want them to glide off into their usual pattern, to stride towards the bus and disappear because this is a change to their normal routine. My youngest perseverates, “ responsibull, responsibill, responsiball,” as he buzzes around his pal to make a very accurate impression of a sheepdog. My older son and his pal circuit a bush, shoulder to shoulder, round and round, keeping in step, which is quite a feat for my son.

I glance across at the huddle of girls and a lone mother and attempt to herd the troops in her general direction in the hope that we adults can engage in an adult exchange. I need diplomacy skills but also need watch four moving targets. I am reluctant to move too close, because then the bus will be within view. It’s egg yolk yellow loveliness will cue two boys into the wrong trajectory.

Many of us are led astray by visual cues. As you drive the route that you always drive, you automatically stop at the stop light. It's a habit. You're probably so habituated that if someone stole the stop light, you'd stop even though it wasn't there any more. If someone put an extra stop light on your route, you'd stop. You wouldn't take time to consider that it might be a hoax, you'd be on automatic pilot; stop sign evokes stop. So it is with the bus: see bus at the right time of the day and off you toddle, without another thought.

I make a start with the mother and introductions. I can see that she is distracted although I am uncertain what the cause might be. By shaking hands and speaking we take off at a tangent, “Oh yur frm London huh?”
“Um yes, that’s right. I was wondering if….”
“Sure but y’ll have to bring her home coz I cant drive at night.” At night? When does she expect me to return her daughter I wonder? I try and work out which of the other two children will be collected when and by whom, to see if I can offer an accurate timeline?
“Well…er perhaps you could give me an address and check this is your correct telephone number?”
“Yeah, that’s it,” she glances at my notebook, “we’re in the orange house on Main Street, doya knowit, ya cant miss it.”
My youngest bumps into me as he spins, “responsibull, responsibill, responsiball.”
“Oh is he yurs too? Geez I luv his English accent.” He spins off on a new ditty, “English accent, English accent, English accent,” he repeats in a perfect American accent.
"Actually, I've two brothers and a sister!" she pipes. The mother glances around unable to identify which if any, of the children she might be referring to. I grab my moment, "actually, about the boys, I just.."
"Too cute, gotta dash!" Dash? Don't dash, not yet!

My head begins to hurt as he starts to pogo which tells me that we need to find a toilet within the next 3 minutes. I try and work out which is the nearest bathroom that will accommodate seven people? I remember to run roads through my lexicon but have no recall of any orange house anywhere. “Perhaps you could tell me the street address?” I blurt a little too loudly as her body is in retreat.
“Tha orange one on the corner with West.”
She squeezes her daughter’s shoulder and turns on her heel to leave. I step after her, to forestall her, advise and appraise this trusting soul, since she doesn’t know me from Adam.
“Do you want my number?” I offer to her back.
“No that’s fine, just give me a call when yur coming,” she calls over her shoulder as she moves swiftly in the general direction of the bus and the parking lot, the direction that I wish to avoid.

The girls block my path fizzing at their coup. Sarah turns to me with a massive grin, the kind that splits a face and shrinks eyes to slits, “I always wanted a brother!” she beams. I double check: guileless American pre-teen or Smart Aleky British sarcasm? The former. My youngest spins, buzzes and points at her, the other hand pulls his T-shirt. No brother! Oh dear, how will I keep them dressed?
“What is it dear?” He pogos a little more, adds a couple of spins to squeak “she be thread.” Sarah and I examine her personage.
“Der, der, der!” he points and twirls. We look again, nothing.
“You are not tickle?” he asks. Sarah beams back at him although neither of us know what he’s on about? “He’s so cute!” she giggles. He continues to fizzle, the acceleration is palpable, “agh I am do it for you den!” he bellows as he pounces on her legs, brakes and lets a quivering arm come close to her bare flesh. She bends to look. We all peer at her leg. A thread hangs from the hem of her skirt, a squirrely, curly one with a knotted bobbly end. He holds the ball of thread in a perfect pincher grip, “it are tickle you right?”
I intervene and snap off the offending tail. Sarah grins again, “how come?” she asks simply. “That kind of thing drives him nuts. He thought it might be bothering you.” The grinning girl giggles, “he’s so funny……and cute.”
It seems to me that they both share more than enough theory of mind to knock the average adult into touch.

I debate how to manoeuvre my herd, my flock, the 500 yards to the car, my car, which fortunately seats 7. I take a deep breath and recount heads. I am left in the nearly empty playground with six children, an unwilling Pied Piper, witless, clueless and pipeless.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pick your poison with care

There are many disadvantages to being partnered with a man of Italian descent.

Two of the more obvious disadvantages are pasta and pizza.

Without the wish to become too highbrow, in genetic parlance, this is a bit of a double whammie, as these loathsome menu choices also find favour with 3 of my four children: a dominant gene no doubt.

In my limited experience , if a restaurant commonly provides pasta and pizza, they rarely serve fries. Currently, the only food on any menu, that my youngest son eats, would be fries. Hence my current research project to find the restaurant that served all three items. My studies are hampered due to the three persistent phrases that my son perseverates upon: 'responsible, responsibull, responsiball,' 'shake your booty' and 'Egg nog, epilogue.' I hope that at least one of them is merely seasonal. These phrases whirl around me in a continuous stream as I hunt the internet for the perfect restaurant.

As we are in the heart of Silicon Valley, this should not be too much of a trial. I should point out that there are a wide choice of cuisines available to suit nearly every palate. There are any number of curious combinations such as steak and shrimp, served on the very same plate. I kid you not. This is the land where an entre is the main course, rather than an appetizer, but maybe that's just to punish the French? It is also the land where individual salads are served in dishes the size of a washing up bowl. If you would like a pound of cheese on your pizza, no-one will give you grief. If applesauce can be a starter, there is no cheese board available to finish up a meal. Anything is possible out here, but I defy you to find a pizza with an anchovy on it in the whole of this land. How can a whole nation hate anchovies and yet have also invented Caesar salad? Thus it was, that before too long, I found the perfect place.

Once we were installed in the perfect place and placed our orders, I took my youngest, fries eating son, to the stalls. He is still at the tender age where it is not safe for him to visit the bathroom alone. His privacy or other people’s, is of no concern to him. Whilst I have never had cause to climb the walls in a stall, I expect that it would be possible. Mind you, if I were only 6 years old, that might be a bit more of a feat as there is the height to wall ratio. To make the feat of climbing the walls of a stall even more challenging, it might be an idea to attempt to reach the top of the stall wall in under a second. Do you think that might be possible?

Well I am here to tell you that I witnessed just such a feat, with my very own little eyes. If I had blinked I would have missed it of course, but I didn’t miss it because the scream that he uttered was enough to puncture an ear drum. But I suppose that’s only to be expected if you’re not expecting a random event, such as a toilet that flushes automatically.

If by any chance, you happen to be the woman in the next stall from us, let me take this opportunity to apologise to you, without reserve. I assure you with my hand on my heart that there was nothing personal in his remark. I can barely imagine how I would feel myself, were I in your unfortunate position. You had already left by the time I had managed to persuade him to come down from his perch. I too would have been surprised to find a small boy's head hanging over the top of the wall. He really isn't a peeping Tom. He had no interest in your business, really. Would it help if I explained that he has no volume control, he always bellows? Would it have been any better if he has whispered "shake your booty!"

Probably not.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Potty talk and words per minute

Because I am elderly and foreign, I have very high standards when it comes to the correct use of language. Because I am elderly and foreign, I appear to have given birth to youthful foreigners with very little regard for language at all.

For many a long year my boys have appeared to be oblivious of one another’s presence. The combination of their different abilities and disabilities have maybe masked a relationship that I was too obvious to see. I think possibly the speech delays deceived me?

One brother lies on the floor on his back gazing at particles of dust that whirl around in the only air conditioned room. He emits weary sighs at intervals interspersed with the unusual mouth click that visits him for periods of time, but this stim, or self stimulatory behaviour, is the happy version.

The other one whirs around the room on his imaginary snow board, complete with very realistic sound effects. The ambient temperature is 80 degrees. He covers every surface of the room, including the sofa and wall space above. Because he is fleet of foot, he must have footprinted every inch of the room many times in the space of twenty minutes, yet never once has he trodden on the sprawled body of his brother.

Eventually the little one collapses in a messy heap to announce, “I am dah sweat!” A few seconds later, because there's always a delay for the speech delayed, his brother responds, “you are not dah sweat, you are dah sweaty!”
“Nooo……I am……..dah sweety!” Both boys explode into laughter, but manage to continue between guffaws, “not sweety, dat is dah English! We are say 'candy.'”
"Candy is for dah girls. Boys are dah chocolate."
“It not for girls…dumbass!”
“I not a dumbass……..I clever dick!” The revelry goes up a notch.
“No potty words yah big baby!” as he smears snot across his face with a jelly arm.
"I not baby! I'm dah babe." I watch him strut and strike a pose, a provocative pose. He brother watches too. He takes a minute or two, or three, "yeah, you right. You are Babe dah sheep pig!"

It must be at least three years since we watched that movie, but the crumbs that they've stored away are now coming out on display. Definitely worth the wait.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The day of Rest - Imagine it's Sunday

When I was a young and youthful person, I was an efficient decision maker. I would analyse the relevant facts in a logical manner and make an executive decision. On the whole it was usually the right decision. Any errors that I made, didn’t generally have dire consequences.

I am given to understand that it is a very common problem. Which problem? The inability to choose. Whilst it may be a problem for the person trying to make a choice, it is a far more annoying problem, for the person observing the person who is unable to choose. Self, self, self. Theories abound as to why this should be so, and I’m always open to additional theories. Subtle hint! Many people are unaware of how many choices they make, but it only takes a few moments thought to have some inkling of how frequently this occurs. Some clever people might make allusions to 'executive function,' but that far too high brow for me. I prefer more simple examples that are easier to grasp.

For instance, when you awaken in your bed, hopefully in the morning, although not too early, you open your eyes. Already you have made two choices, the first being to wake up, the second being to open your eyes. Now you have to decide if, or when, to leave your bed, and you’ve only been awake less than a nano second? Are you going to be happy or sad? Have you managed to remember or blot out, a reason that might influence either decision? Already you have made a whole slew of decisions and the day has hardly begun.

Whilst this is the curse that my eldest son endures, I wonder how closely we might really be related?

I have already run through all my early morning decisions and hover, on the cusp of the next one. I dither between my choice of available reading matter, which book should I choose? The one to induce brain expansion, or escapism, or humour or the new whodunnit? Too difficult to choose. I move on to paperwork? Which of these tedious chores should I tackle first? Update lists, write shopping list, tackle medical insurance claims, compose letter to school? Too difficult to decide. I debate which household task to manhandle first: sanitize toilet, take out the recycling, cook breakfast or start the laundry? Too tricky to trump. I stand in the middle of the kitchen in a daze awaiting enlightenment.

A thunder of tiny hooves crashes from on high, as all my children descend at 5:30 in the morning.
“I am……..my tummy is…….where….?”
“It is dah Sunday day?”
“Come on Mom, where’s the pancakes, we’re starving?”

That solves that one then. At least I can rely on at least three people to kick my own executive function into gear.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #5

Ms. Wordless Wednesday is on my case, again.

“Geez Madeline, we talked about this last week. I thought I made myself clear?”

“Absolutely transparent.”



“Why have you done it again?”
“Words! You said you’d try and skip the words this time.”
“I did.”
“Did what?”
“Try. I tried very hard, but I failed.”
“Too right Missy. You would try the patience of a saint.”
“What other purpose do I exist for?”
“Alright then. This is worse that last week's.”
“I know.”
“You need a few words?”
“Well….....maybe just a hint? I know! You’re trying to be patriotic even though you’re really a fake.”
“Dual, not fake. I’m a citizen in America, whilst simultaneously managing to hold onto my serfdom in England.”
“Whatever. It’s a rusty old basketball hoop.”
“Do you know I never noticed the rust?”
“Well I noticed it was a basket ball hoop but I didn’t notice the rust.”
“Geez. So what are you saying? You’re rich enough to install an expensive professional basket ball hoop? Big deal!”
“Ooo I like that one. Please push the rich myth. I like that one a lot!”
“Nothing. No, it came with the house when we bought it. I thought it was hideous at the time, wanted to rip it out, unsightly lump.”
“Lump? You need to study your grammar.”
“Don’t give me that! The only collective noun that American’s know is ‘bunch.’”
“Excuse me! Are you denigrating the American way of life?”
“Never. Perish the thought!”
“Well it sounded pretty darned close to an insult to me.”
“I tease, gently, I hope?”
“It’s blatantly unfair to be beastly to Americans.”
“Well, I don know, everybody else in the world gives us a bad press.”
“Did I touch a nerve?”
“Hmm. Well. Where were we, you foreigner?”
“Basket ball hoops, or netball, as we prefer to refer to them.”
“Oh come on! Not that again! Can you just drop it?”
“Consider it dropped, I know defeat when continents collide.”
“Right. So, they’re not afraid of rust maybe they……..are too short? You want to rip it out and put a kiddy sized one in there, because you just have money to burn?”
“Close. I wonder if I should have done a before and after?”
“A before and after what?”
“Before, it was disguised by 40 feet of Morning Glory or after, like it is now.”
“You grew Morning Glory over your basket ball hoop? You are foreign Missy.”
“A foot on each shore. I tore off all the vine later, to reveal it in all it’s rustiness.”
“Growing a plant on a basket ball hoop is gonna make it rust.”
“It was entirely glorious whilst it lasted though. 20 foot of leafiness and so many blooms. It was magnificent considering the clay soil.”
“You are so off topic.”
“Sorry I have a tendency to digress. It wasn't popular with the neighbours.”
“Did they throw you out of the housing association?”
“No we’re unincorporated, you know, no sidewalks and policed by the Sheriff.”
“I know what unincorporated means! I’m an American!”
“Oh yes, sorry I forgot for a moment. Americans make up 5% of the world’s population, so 95% of people think of businesses rather than planning committees.”
“Ok. So what are you trying to tell me? Your kids are afraid of rust?”
“No, at least not so far as I’m aware. Maybe I ought to check? Maybe not. Actually, my point was that they have no interest in any sports, ergo no fear.”
“Ergo? Please, spare me the pain.”
“Alright then. Are you ready?”
“I am never ready, you’re a real head case.”
“Well it’s just that they noticed it.”
“Noticed it? Noticed what?”
“The big pole with the basket ball hoop on top. After…..what…….8 years in this house, they noticed it was there.”
“O.k. so they’re vision impaired? What?”
“Kind of. In a way. It just sort of ……..came into focus I suppose.”
“Well we came home, I parked in the garage, they all ran from the car as if their feet were in flames, and before I had the chance to shut the garage door they all ran out into the driveway screaming ‘ball.’
“Well there are significant speech delays you know?”
“ I remember. So what?”
“Well, they found a ball, or two.”
“ They started hurling balls at the pole, or rather the basket.”
“Well, they’ve never done that before.”
“A new first then?”
“Spot on!”
"Outside too!"
“So you’re feeling a bit weird?”
“Where did that one come from then?”
“Not a clue.”
“Did they play for a whole minute?”
“At least 7.”
“So it’s kind of like the shock of giving birth?”
“Almost every day.”
“Worth the wait?”
“So this is part of their new skill set?”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“The generalization thingyummy?”
“Soooo .............you”ll try harder next week?”
“You bet ya!”
“No words?”
“I’ll try.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Delve into motivation

When I was small we lived in several houses where many of the doors had handles at shoulder height of an adult. We children quickly devised methods of overcoming this shortage in stature. Piggy backs and handy chairs, anything to gain access. Similarly, when my mother called us for a meal, we would scrabble to get to the table first. When we were admonished for our dirty hands, we would race to overcome the oversight. Experience taught us that often the meal would be a disappointment but we still rushed to find out. If my mother had offered us a candy to do something we disliked, she would have won every time. I don’t know how similar other people’s childhoods’ were, but I suspect that many of them are commonplace variations on a theme. Motivation is most pivotal when it is absent.

I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that he has the Gameboy in his hand as he exits the hated car, when we are faced with an obstacle. The obstruction? A mere door. I watch him tussle with the door, first with his shoulder, then with his foot followed by the full body slam. None of the methods employed achieve success. Whilst many people would acknowledge the error of their ways, others are more determined to hold onto their Gameboy with both hands.

“You know it will open if you turn the handle with your hand?”

To anyone else, this would seem like a facetious comment, but it isn’t. It’s a prompt to help him connect the dots. He continues to chuck himself at the closed door, the Gameboy clutched in his vice like grip. The little annoying tune still whirlitzers around, which would certainly be enough to distract me from the task at hand.

So often it is the tiny little steps that are so hard to overcome. It would be simple to say that he just gives up, lies back on the garage floor and continues to play the electronic game, the battle with the door forgotten. The battle he’s really fighting is the captivation of the electronic game, which is so much more exciting that a door. If I were him, I would enjoy playing the game far more in the comfortable confines of my own home, rather than the garage, but we differ in so many respects.

Whilst there were many things that I enjoyed doing as a small child, I cannot recall anything that was sufficiently interesting to persuade me to lie on the floor in the garage by the door and play there?

I could bribe him from this spot with chocolate, or maybe Goldfish, but only if death by malnutrition was imminent. He would lie there for as many hours if I permitted. Until it was dark, until the battery was flat. He might need to use the bathroom, but that urge wouldn’t prompt him to move. It is especially odd for him, because he is usually so hypersensitive to textures and temperature, but not now, not when he is fixated on something else.

Of course there are lots of techniques available to parents to help their children with these simple self care skills, to challenge inertia and kick off the sequential steps towards task completion. That is not really the point here. For me, the point is to recognize that the preferred activity is all encompassing, totally captivating and excludes the entire universe. Hopefully, such single minded concentration will serve him in good stead in the future. Now if I could just iron out a few of his lumps and bumps, he'd make a very attractive and unusual welcome mat.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A fool and his leg are soon parted

From back in the middle of the summer.

As a broad rule of thumb, I believe it wisest to remain cynical and pessimistic about the future. Every so often, I forget my thumb, and a sparkle of optimism penetrates my crust.

Sunny days in California are deceptive, mood transforming, especially after 20 days of English rain.

As the evening draws in, I decide to be spontaneous. But such rashness comes at a price. I think briefly if this is wise but brush little skeptical irritations aside.

“Come along you lot! Lets pop our shoes on and go to the Farmers Market.”
“What pop? We are pop? What we are?”
“Great! Can we go on our scooters?”
“Eh? What’s that?” asks Nonna, turning up her hearing aid in response to the children’s flurry of movement. Now that the screaming has been replaced by words, she feels she is on safer ground, brave enough to turn on her hearing aid.

I am uncertain who to answer first? I an anticipated a general protestation because of the 'outside' nature of the plan. I am not mentally prepared for this deviancy. I waggle sandals in what I hope is a tantalizing manner, whilst I think about small poorly co-ordinated people on self propelled vehicles on a road. Since we are in an unincorporated area, this means that there are no sidewalks or paths, which makes it far more difficult for them to work out where their bodies are in relation to the traffic.

I herd my cats, er children, out of the door.

The door, or rather the door frame, moves three inches to the right unexpectedly, or that is what I conclude as my son walks straight into it and bounces off. He sits on the ground slightly dazed, scratches his head in the general area of the bump and focuses on the door frame. He staggers up, in a magnanimous frame of mind, “oh well, better luck next time!” he mutters, tapping the door frame in a gesture of forgiveness. I try not to sigh. If he bears the door frame no ill will, surely I should do the same?

I will leave the debacle of the Farmer’s market for another day. Suffice to say, that the disastrous expedition comes to an expeditious end, when my youngest son and his scooter become entangled. This is the price he pays for believing that without any prior experience or experiment, that he is a skateboarding expert, even though he is on a scooter not a skateboard.

“Help my leg! I am die! I am blood!” he wails in a continuous mantra. I see Nonna discretely remove her hearing aids and slip them into her bag, with the slight of hand of an expert pick pocket. Junior continues to trail, his leg dragging behind him. With his hand in mine, we plod steadily home. His leg drags in the gravel, whipping up puffs of dirt. He makes a impressive impression of a truly dead leg as he trawls along. I can almost see him exsanguinating, although try as I might, I cannot detect a microdot of blood anywhere on his person.

I am heartily thankful that a casual onlooker would see that we are a group, albeit a loose group. Otherwise, I would be the woman, probably a child abducter, dragging a crippled child through the street to the cries of protest: “Help my leg! I am die! I am blood!” I focus on the two children ahead of me, to check that a local Hummer isn’t about to mow them down in their tracks, as well as shout to Nonna, who struggles with the abandoned scooter. Without her physical presence and mental wherewithal, I would be truly stranded. I know that I should carry him, but I am weighed down with organic purchases from the Farmers Market. “Make me home! Make it quickerer! My walk die!” he wails as we turn the final bend and home is in sight.

Nonna pauses, to rest on the scooter, “he will be in the dramatics I think!” she yells, not because she is without her hearing aids but because her grandson is so loud. Maybe Nonna is right? A career a thespian career. At least his voice will carry without the need for a microphone. No need for a voice coach, he's a natural.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Can't swim? Chuck em in the deep end.

I chat to my "chum" via e-mail, about our families and how their reactions are so pivotal to our own well being. The issue of the extended family, as opposed to the tiny autism unit has great repercussions. Unless families are geographically and perhaps psychologically close, it can be difficult to translate the message, to explain how autism impacts the day-to-day minutiae of life. What hits home for me, is her reference to the fact that we, as parents, give the impression that "we’re coping."

It puts me in mind of a visit home to England, over a year ago now.

Because we were in England there was the inevitable dose of rain. My youngest son does not ‘do’ rain. Rain is a curse from on high to torture the tactile and sensory challenged child. For many an autistic child, their emotions are either off or on, there is no degree of grey.

Thus is was, that we made a trip to the aquarium. I was armed with enough umbrellas and rain gear to fit out a small army unit but as the miles clocked up on the car, the anxiety rose exponentially. He watched the rain from within the safe confines of the car, agitated and quaking in anticipation of the possibility that at some stage in the near future he might have to venture forth and exit the car.

If you say to someone, anyone, ‘he just doesn’t do rain,’ it is hardly surprising that this fails to translate. There is nothing like witnessing ‘he doesn’t do rain,’ to get the message across more poignantly than mere words can describe.

We arrive at the crowded car park, a pay and display type. Their father leaves to fight with change and a queue at the payment machine. I am left with three small children and my elderly parents. They slowly adjust buttons and tweak umbrellas, as I attempt to gather the children. My daughter knows what’s in store, jumps out of the car and hares over to her dad to avoid the fall out. Her traffic sense abandons her in the rush, but luck is on our side, as an unsupervised 8 year old dashes across the traffic to the safety of her father’s side. My eldest son tumbles out of the car a little like how you fall out of bed first thing in the morning, drowsy, befuddled and uncoordinated. My parents wait patiently for our group to reassemble so that we can move as one party.

My son continues to bumble about between the cars oblivious to traffic and the rain. All he needs to do is stand still but instead he lurches around like a badly strung marionette with a novice puppeteer. I have never been certain whether car journey’s disorientate him or whether his gyroscope takes time to calm down, but the net effect visually, is a drunken sailor. I speak to my father in a tone that I have never used before, “hold him!” My father blinks, uncertain whether I am talking to him or a stranger. He steps to one side to block his escape, but it’s not enough, “hold onto him! Hold his hand or his arm!” My father is even more startled but tries hard to clutch the moving target.

Everyone waits in the rain. Minutes tick by. I submit to peer pressure because I am spineless to the core. My mother stands nearby as I begin the last hurdle. I open the car door where my youngest son is curled into a small ball in the foot well of the car. I slip my hands under his arms and around his chest to lift and extract him. He immediately starts to scream and flail struggling to find a purchase. I can feel my mother flinch as she takes another step backwards to make way. He clings to the door frame as my grip slips to his waist. His legs kick violently and try to push me away but I am stronger than he is. I uncurl his fingers with one hand whilst holding the spoon position with the other arm. As the last finger tip is unfastened we catapult out of the car. Now the whole world is witness to a full level ten meltdown, a roiling ball of flames in the pitter patter of raindrops. He is puce in the face, slick with snot and furious tears of the fearful. Passersby cannot help but look. The tantrum of a toddler in the body of a six year old in beyond comprehension. His desperation is palpable.

All of this was completely predictable. For some reason, cushioned in my extended family unit, I had failed to acknowledge or prepare for the inevitable, as if some magic wand would whisk it all away so that we could pretend to be an ordinary family on an ordinary day trip. I cannot fathom the depths of my own guilt, that I could hoodwink autism, that I could delude my parents, that I could subject my whole family to another public display of humiliation, that I could torture my son in this excruciating manner.

He flips into a tip toed rain dance before scrabbling up my body like a monkey. His arms are around my neck, his legs encircle my waist as his head buries itself in my sternum. My mother leans the umbrella over us both but he is so frenzied the absence or presence of rain is completely off his radar. His screams lower to growls as he chews the neck of my T-shirt, a coping and self calming gesture. I can see my father’s grip on my other sons arm, tighten as he twirls like a limp, damp, spiraling tissue, the dog entangled in the lead.

The eye of the storm passed as we stood in the drizzle in the car park. Of the many people who observed us, the cloud of disapproval was pierced by a few pairs of eyes. Those eyes belonged to people who could not identify what they were looking at. I imagine that they had a visceral response to seeing a child is such obvious distress but were unable to to see any evidence or cause of the harm. I could see their hesitation, the need to step in an offer help and yet the innate knowledge that everyone was out of their depth.

I wait for either of my parents to speak, as I catch my breath. I see spouse and my daughter gallop back on their return journey. I find it ironic that I spent the majority of the car trip lecturing, in far too much detail, why the ‘no carrying under any circumstances campaign’ was so important. Fortunately, no-one mentions my monologue. “Is it…is he……are they……always like this?” she asks softly. I look at my mother, her face is a study of concern and compassion. “Well, you know……” I smile, as I cannot bear her vicarious pain, “there ain’t no rain in California.”

p.s. In case you are worried that some autistic children can never adjust to 'weather,' I can assure you that with a carefully orchestrated desensitization plan, over time and frequent exposure, I am confident that this is another hurdle he can overcome, just as we are enmeshed and make progress with the 'outside' campaign.

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