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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Small World - dib, dib, dib

Silicon Valley in the Bay Area covers a lot of miles, but maybe not as many I think.

It suddenly dawns on me that I know the child that she’s talking about.

I suppress my startle reflex and continue to listen. He’s a welcome new member to the Den but 'so obviously autistic, not to just those in the know.' As a special needs mum herself, she is in the know. She is the ideal person to be the leader of the pack. With careful and diplomatic guidance,she smooths his path, anticipates hic-cups and ever ready to intervene if an when required.

She describes his behaviour with funny anecdotes, much as I would myself. His impact on the Den can be bumpy, but he’s a delightful child and the troop is small and accommodating.

I become uncomfortable as the easy jargon, our shorthand, slips out. So many people are aware of the subtle "nuances" of language, value laden and so often crass. I have avoided the issue of Cub Scouts, just as I have avoided Brownies. I have a strong bias against any single sexed activity that cloisters a child, which stems from my boarding school experience. I am more especially biased against Scouts, at least in "America," due solely and unreasonably, due to the attitude towards the gay community. "Baden-Powell" may have been a prisoner of the times in which he lived, where attitudes to homosexuality were criminal but we now live in the twenty first century, or so I am led to "believe."

This is a child I have known for four years. A special child in a special class of four children, each with one personal special aide and a teacher for the group. An intensive class, for intensive people. Small people are non-verbal with the kind of behaviour that many rarely see, or wish to know about.

The air in the room was always palpable. A half day class where every minute was exploited to the full. I have no idea what happened in the afternoon when the children went home and the teacher and staff were left to regroup for the next day. Their dedication, professionalism and stamina, was beyond anything I had ever witnessed.

He is a regular visitor, a welcome one. He can walk and talk and play and be. I would not have described him as being ‘obviously autistic,’ but this is probably because my categorization of autistic and otherwise, have blurred and blended over the years. I see a boy with a ready laugh who enjoys the company of my boys, much the way that they enjoy his. I see a joker, a charmer and most importantly, a friend.

As parents of autistic children we are often guided, ‘this child would be a good match for yours, more verbal, a more appropriate role model, better social skills, more patient, more mature………’ but do you know what? If we’re really lucky, much like other parents, our children make their own friends and their own choices. Around here, friendship truly is an unexpected gift.

So we can either lump it or like it.

New post up on "Alien."

I love to read, old baggage that I am

This is the name of the reading programme in our school, 'I love to read.' This is also my ticket to access to the children in the classroom, an extremely valuable one.

I spend part of the day practicing my spiel, as I am unnaturally intimidated by an audience of under tens, who should never be underestimated.

I dither. What would be my best pitch? I adopt my usual scientific approach to such matters. I shall appeal to the average child? Should that be mean, mode or modal? Maybe I should go for the lowest common denominator? Who or what is the lowest common denominator? I give up, as I have no staying power and the scientific gene has always been under-developed.

I commence my beauty routine prior my public appearance. I begin by dressing complete with Cat in the Hat Stoker hat. I finish with a slick of lip balm, to the eyebrows that defy gravity. Done!

I molder along to the school. This is never going to work.

I make a start, “hello girls and boys.” Out of the corner of my eye, I see my daughter shrink in a cringe. Her body language makes it clear to me that I have already made a faux pas although I have no idea what I have done, or not done for that matter?

I administer stickers and hand out prizes. Encourage those who are not participating and praise those who are. I have a need to promote my own personal agenda:- catch the fallers before they fail. I conclude with the bit that they’ve been waiting for. I know shameless self promotion when I see it, but I can't resist as I am exceptionally proud of my brother's achievements.

“So……who has brothers or sisters?” Nearly all the hands shoot into the air.
“Who likes to write or read stories?” Nearly two thirds.
“Who likes to go exploring, camping and adventures?” Almost everyone.
“Well I have a baby brother, a rather boring one. He used to be a writer and then one day he decided to do something more exciting. He and his best friend went on adventure. His best friend was Australian. Who is your best friend? Would you like to go on an adventure with your best friend? They were just like you guys, friends for years and years. They packed their bags and walk 3000 kilometers through China. After a year of walking, they stopped walking and wrote a book, here it is, "The Long March." This is the Chinese one, this is the English one and here is the picture book full of photographs of where they went and who they met. The point is……….you can do anything you want to do if you really, really try.”

I look at the 4th Graders. I await a smirk from the sophisticated. None. They all look back at me as if I have told them a fairy tale. I distribute the books, the reality, and point out some of the "pictures" that I think might appeal to smallish people.

When the bell rings I have difficulty extracting the "books" for the next class.

I try the same version on my boys’ class, a combination second and third grade special education class with only 11 delightful students.
“Hi guys!” I announce loudly with overly wide arm gestures. I see several smiles.
“So……who has brothers or sisters?” Some hands respond. My boys do not.
“Who likes to write or read stories?” One and not mine.
“Who likes to go exploring, camping and adventures?” A few, just more than two. I know at least two people who loathe such a prospect. I tell them about my brother and pass out the books. The visual is a hit. Horray! They ask lots of questions. “What kind of camera did he use?”
“What’s 3000 km in miles?”
“How heavy are the sticks?”
“Is that an REI tent?”
My boys are lured in. They’ve seen all the materials before, boring. Other children’s interest peaks theirs. I gather my materials to leave.

He comes up to me at the end, the pan faced, somber child. “I’m gonna write a book when I’m an adult,” he announces to my hat. I watch his lips move as he counts the stripes silently.
“Are you? How wonderful. What will it be about?”
“Praying Mantis.”
“Fabulous. Will you sign me a copy when you’re finished and I'm an old woman?”
"You're already an old woman and I've not written it yet."
“But I’ll use my rubber stamp that’ll be a perfect forgery if you like?”
“I do!”

I like very much indeed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Truthful Tuesday – the sin of pride

“Actually I’m going out to Target today to grab a few things.”
“Grab? I hope you’re going to pay for them first. What an odd way to describe a shopping trip, very uncouth.”
“Mmm I hadn’t noticed that had slipped into usage around here.”
“So what are you planning to buy?”
“Presents, probably Transformers and a table cloth.”
“That’s hardly a trip, two things.”
“Believe me, two things will be a miracle, if we can manage it.”
“Ah you’re taking the boys with you then?”
“I am.”
“No-one of has a birthday for ages though?”
“It’s for a friend’s birthday party, which makes it even more challenging.”
“Really. Why?”
“Because the birthday boy likes the same stuff as my boys, namely Transformers, so I have to buy something that they like for some one else. That’s tough for any child.”
“You haven’t managed to instill generosity into them yet?”
“Actually, they’re naturally generous.”
“Doesn’t sound like it to me.”
“Well this is a special scenario. Buy your favourite thing and give it to someone else.”
“Hmm. I can’t think why you’re buying a tablecloth.”
“To cover the table.”
“Don’t be fascetious, you know what I mean.”
“Actually I don’t really. Why shouldn’t I buy another table cloth?”
“Another? Do you mean you already have one?”
“I have lots.”
“Lots? I hope you’re not using best linen for every day use?”
“I have one or two that are ‘best,’ but I have loads that are everyday kind.”
“How extraordinary. You do surprise me.”
“Why is that so surprising?”
“Well, with your lot…….I mean……..what’s the point?”
“The point is to slow the spillage. It’s like putting a huge towel on the table to minimize the fall out.”
“Ooo dear. How vile. What an unpleasant picture you paint.”
“Really? Isn’t that what most people use them for, to minimize the mess, catch the crumbs and spills.”
“Yes, but even so. It’s more important as a decorative feature, to dress the table, make it look attractive.”
“Good point. That’s a handy by-product.”
“Surely you don’t think that they appreciate a beautifully dressed table? Are they that sophisticated?”
“I have no idea, but I’m sure they appreciate not being dosed by a glass of water that spins out of control.”
“Oh dear. You know you forget!”
“I do?”
“Yes. I’ve seen them eating. In a restaurant...... that time.”
“Oh yes, I had forgotten. So?”
“Well I remember it as clear as day.”
“Mayhem, absolute mayhem. The whole thing was ghastly enough to give me indigestion.”
“Hmm, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not used to it.”
“I wouldn’t care to get used to it.”
“That was over a year ago. We’ve been practicing since then, every weekend.”
“Practicing? How do you ‘practice’ going to a restaurant? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“It’s just as it sounds.”
“How grueling. It always reminds me of……..”
“Oh you know……….”
“Those Chimpanzees and the tea party?”
“No, no, no…..er let me see……stop teasing me I can't think straight.”
“Clowns throwing cream pies?”
“Stop it! No…..er. I know! The Mad Hatter’s Tea party?”
“You know, everyone constantly on the move and someone falls asleep in the middle of the table.”
“Ah, yes he was emotionally exhausted after trying to eat those fries with the little black flecks on them.”
“Don’t remind me. I’ve never heard a child scream so loudly. So embarrassing. Everyone looking at us as if we’d been sticking pins in him.”
“Were they?”
“Were they what?”
“Were they looking at us?”
“Don’t you remember?”
“Not really. I was to busy trying to persuade him to get out from under the table.”
“Oh dear yes. I’ve never experienced anything like it. What possessed you to choose such a noisy restaurant?”
“Easier to blend in.”
“What? Oh I see what you mean. I just kept quiet.”
“You! Quiet?”
“Actually you were quite quiet if I remember correctly. Why was that?”
“You know, the truth is, you were so busy with them all and I just wanted to help but I had no idea what to do? I suppose I just don’t know them well enough but it made me feel so helpless and useless. I just wanted to ease the situation, calm the chaos but…......”
“Oh I’m so sorry. I didn’t really notice at the time.”
“You know me. I’m happy to roll my sleeves up and muck in with the rest of you, but I found I was just out of my depth. I’ve never been in that situation before when everyone is looking at you, mouths open, tut tutting……..it was horrible……….it made me feel quiet tearful and I knew that wouldn’t help anyone.”
“Don’t worry. It really doesn’t bother me much any more.”
“Really. People can think what they think. I can’t make anyone think differently from how they do. We’ll just keep practicing regardless.”
“Really? Do you really mean that?”
“Yes I do. Actually I’ll tell you a secret. A confession if you will. Four years ago it was torture, a marathon but only, or rather partly, because I let myself get upset. I wanted them to be quiet, or quietish, just for an hour whilst we were there. Talk about deluded.”
“Yes. You see by my forties I was already set in my public persona. How to behave. I was just too self conscious, or embarrassed if you will. I was o.k. doing what I do in private without anyone looking, but in public I was too embarrassed to do the things that worked, because I knew they’d look odd, or rather even more odd. Too much of a dent to my dignity.”
“Such as?”
“Well when he dives under the table you can’t use the ordinary kinds of discipline that people expect, because they simply don’t work. I basically didn’t want to get under the table with him, calm him down, perhaps use the Incredible Five Point Scale, practice breathing, perhaps a bit of shoulder massage, all the stuff I’m quite happy to do at home.”
“I was making the situation worse. The children expected me to behave in a certain way. I was, and still am, their scaffolding, and in public I just bailed on them. It’s no wonder it was all so dreadful, but the ‘dreadful’ was really all in my own head.”
“I basically caved to public opinion. I allowed a bunch of strangers to dictate my own behaviour. I’d be angry that people thought they were just spoilt and badly behaved. It took me a while to realize what I was doing and why I was doing it.”
“Hmm. What then?”
“I just decided to do in public what I was doing at home, the magic of consistency. It wasn’t an over-night turn around, but gradually I found we were all moving in the right direction."
"Geez it takes such a long time."
"Yes but they say that 'pride comes before a fall.' I'd fallen into a huge pit, entirely of my own making."
"By the by."
"I don't think anyone really notices if you dive under the table. Most people are too busy with their own business anyway. With hindsight, I think I must have had a massive ego to think that anyone would have been the least bit interested."
"Do you know.......now I come to think of it.....apart from that one time with you.........I can't remember when I last saw someone under a table in a restaurant, if ever?"
"Well there you go then!"

Wordy Wednesday - Warts and All

I listen in, shameless ear-wigging. It’s a treat for me, to hear my son volunteer information, engage in what might be described as social communication. Social communication is generally the fluff of human exchange, unnecessary, but we all do it anyway. Many would say that our lives are richer as a result. This kind of fluff is generally not the kind of chat that autistic children or adults engage in. I now understand that it’s purposeless.

For years and years we have endured silence or meltdowns or functional language. Functional language is used to communicate one’s needs. When babies first start to communicate, often they use single word commands such as ‘juice’ or ‘milk.’ Parents encourage their children to tack on additional words, depending upon their own priorities such as ‘please.’ Gradually, small sentences emerge, three words, and later more. The average child can use single words in a social context, ‘look! Star!’ This is social communication. The child is seeking the joint attention of someone else, inviting the someone else to share, it is not functional. My autistic children never did this, not as toddlers nor when they were older. They do now, occasionally, but it’s just one of the many things that I can’t take for granted.

Some children will never communicate verbally. Some children will, eventually. Many will achieve functional language because it has a purpose. Some, may surprise me by indulging in fluffy talk. Fluffy talk is hard to define but you know it when you see it or hear it.

The easiest kind of fluffy talk to recognize, is complements. I say something nice about you and you thank me or offer a complement in return, completely purposeless, for some people.

The best kind of fluffy talk sprouts into a conversation, an exchange of words, where each person takes a turn. Clever people call this reciprocal exchange. It’s the exchange bit that’s pivotal. If I make a statement or ask a question, and no-one responds then I might not bother to do it again. Some people, the really desperate kind of people, count the number of exchanges. They may start with just one exchange, a statement and a response. Sometimes the number of exchanges increases. It may even increase sufficiently for me to be able to categorize it as a conversation, a fluffy one with no purpose.

Six years ago I could not have imagined that there would ever be any fluffy talk around here.

“What you fink my worsted day is be?”
“Coz of therapy?”
“But I thought you hated double therapy on Wednesday afternoons?”
“Yeah, but I am hate other fings morer.”
“What’s worse than double therapy?”
“Dah wart doctor!”

Nearly nine years for fluffy talk to emerge. I sincerely hope that other people have the chance to be lucky and fluffy too.

New Post up of "Alien."

If you had trouble loading or commenting on this blog, try my new, loads like a dream duplicate blog "Whittterer On Autism."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Nip it in the bud

Some parents are vigilant when it comes to the care of their children. Other parents are a little bit more haphazard.

I mean well and resolve to do better next time, but I’m also aware of the road to hell.

As often as not, I’m paddling along in steady state when someone snaps an oar to send us eddying off into the foam. Whilst I’ve never been brave enough to try white water rafting, I’m confident that I’d drown before the boat left the shore.

Some children shun band aides. They tough it out. Other children require immediate medical attention for microscopic injuries and a full panoply of emergency services. The range of reactions to injuries, minor and major, run the gamut.

My youngest son falls into the microdot school of injuries. Every minor infraction induces howls of wailing. It’s the ‘on-off’ button that’s at fault here, as there is no degree of gradation. A stake through the heart or poke with a dull darning needle, the net effect is the same, deafening.

As he has grown older, he has developed his own coping mechanism, independently. The solution for any injury is to put the offending member under running water. The magical properties of water suit me just fine, and I have no care for the rise in the utility bills as a consequence.

Sometimes, such as in school or in class, running water is not freely available. As a result, he has developed an alternative strategy for such situations. In school he will lick or suck the injury.

On an ordinary Tuesday he suffers some minor wound to his thumb whilst at school, in the morning. By the time I collect him from school in the afternoon, a note from his teacher explains that he has experienced a tough day, due to the thumb. Once home, within the confines of the house, I am able to track him down. This is an important step, one to be carefully orchestrated. If I had attempted to check the thumb whilst he was still at school, he would have run away and hidden. The hiding spots at home are so much more manageable.

I find him under his bed, muttering, “I am a lizard. I am dah ugly. I am dah most hideous boy on dah planet.” Somehow, the negative talk is an element that pains me more than the injury itself. Derogatory terms of self loathing are pernicious and damaging. Their persistence is daunting. I don’t try and persuade him with words, but hold his ankles and ease him out for a cuddle. He tucks his hands in his armpits, out of view.

We talk about his day, or rather I talk about his day, whilst he mutters self abusive words. I hope that my words will distract him. They don’t. It’s like a game of poker, bluff and disguise. I could ask him to show me his hands, but we both know that he won’t. I could do with a dollop of logic to help me through the negotiation but the other two are down stairs unsupervised, I need to speed up.

I slide my hands along his forearms, grip and whip out his hands to lay them flat on his thighs. His right hand looks like a boxer’s mitt, swollen and red. The skin is crazed, raised and angry. “Don look at it!” he wails. “I am a lizard. I am dah ugly. I am dah most hideous boy on dah planet.” The left side of his face and cheek are going the same route from the constant exposure to the wet trail from his thumb. The repetition many hundreds of times a minute throughout the day, a reaction to a tiny hurt in the morning, has brought about this result. I don’t believe that he has much in the way of vanity. His opinions on beauty are more in the nature of balance, uniformity and an absence of imperfection.

I think back to my mis-spent youth as a thumb sucker and the many means of torture used to make me normal. I remember the black leather thumb covering, with the wrist strap and the buckle. I suspect that they are no longer available, I hope. The guilt associated with this pleasure habit was long lasting, but ineffective, besides, his motivations are different.

He is right handed. The whole arm hangs uselessly throughout the afternoon and evening as if paralyzed. His left hand can’t compensate. It is an extreme solution but a logical one. I’ve seen this performance from both the boys over the years. The hurt foot means they resort to a crawl on hands and knees, effective and no longer surprising. I wait until bed time to offer assistance, when he is calmer and possibly more compliant.

He whimpers in bed, left hand cradling the injured one. Real tears course over his face, a damp patch either side of his head on the pillow. I explain the strategy with care, ensuring that the last word I use is ‘cream.’ ‘Cream,’ is unfortunately one of his trigger words and my face is far too close to his when he shrieks and dives for cover.

I use his brother, a neutral party in the next bed. “What are dey?” he asks as I dangle one from each of my hands. “I don’t know, you tell me? Do they look familiar?”
“Er yes……dey are be gloves?”
“You’re right! But whose gloves do you think they are?”
“Er……..dey are Mario’s gloves? DAY ARE MARIO’S GLOVES! WOO HOO!” He can’t fake his reaction and the message filters through the six foot of muffled bed coverings to his little brother. His head pops out to see the white cotton gloves, eyes on stalks, the power of auto suggestion. “Are dey Mario’s gloves?”
“No really, they’re mine. I wear them at night when my hands hurt sometimes.” He pauses. I dangle. “May be…..maybe you are be a good sharer wiv me?”
“Oh I don’t know about that. They’re very special gloves. You might lose them?”
“O.k. here the deal.”
“Cream first then gloves.” His hands fly to cover his mouth with the puffed out cheeks of those on the cusp of explosion. We spend several more minutes in silent negotiation and hot air exchange, huffs, puffs and sighs. He extends his arms, squeezes his eyes tight shut and submits to a slathering. His convulsions of revulsion are genuine, cold, sticky and abhorrent. “Now for the gloves!” We dither with digits, finger isolation and fabric until each hand is encased, protected and ready to submit to healing during the night. His hands lie on top of the duvet cover quivering and twitching, alien and isolated, traitors. A rigid little packet of nerve endings.

I check on him later, before I go to bed myself. He maintains the same position, a soldier on duty, his body vigilant, the gloves still in place, a statue of resignation. Supreme being that I most surely am, I have any number of talents, but even if I were 7 rather than 47, I would be incapable of lying immobile for 10 hours, asleep or awake.

For other people, it’s the only option.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Awards - Blog friend forever

"Angela aka Andie" over at "Memoirs of a Chaotic Mommy" very kindly gave me this award.

This award is "presented to awesome blog owners who keep their readers excited about their posts. Their blog posts are interesting and worth reading and keep their readers looking forward to each and every post."

How delightful is that? We have experienced a great deal of transatlantic drama of late and I note that I even appear to have mislaid the ability to type, so I'll keep it short of sweet for today whilst I play catch up and work out which continent I'm on.

If you're an artsy type with an eye for beauty then I would recommend that you visit "David Mcmahon" over at "authorblog." I don't know if he would describe himself as artsy, but many of his pictures certainly are, such as this one " a note to follow sew." This old sewing machine, very similar to my own which is battered rather than an antique, makes me grin. He may be able to whip up a fantastic photo but I'm still struggling with my Box Brownie.

There are a lot of bloggers around or fail to take account of foreign readers. An immediate candidate for this would be the "anti-wife" especially in this post "here" which left me quite speechless with fear. What some people put in their mouths is really quite beyond me.

Another place for a good giggle is over at "Jazz" at "Haphazard life." "Here" she has a go at a few pet peeves, don't be put off by the Christmas label, it's still very a funny post labeled as if you need any further proof of how far behind I am!

Clearly we are slithering down the slippery arty slope, in which case it only seems fair to point you in the direction of "Organized Doodles" where you can enjoy a giggle and revel in someone else's creativity, or should that be jealousy? [mine not his I hasten to add] A good spot to start to see if this is a good match for you would be over here in his post titled "grand prize." Why? Because if you're already that talented AND willing to share that talent with someone else, then you'd certainly get my vote for friendship beyond the usual.

Now "Ellen McDermott" over at "Keynoter" enjoys a certain amount of drama in her household as we can see in this post about her family in "beam me up Scotty." But she also falls into the artsy club, a positive tour de force as you can see over here in her post entitle 'Phaffin around' which for foreign readers actually means 'messing or kidding' around. Now that's an art medium we could all have a go at.

As I beetle about the blogosphere I also visit "BetteJo" over at "Bettejosbeadcreations." Creative indeed and generous to a fault, I'd recommend that you start here at her post entitled "10 things," although I really like the "multicoloured ball" explosion too!

Here is one that I've recommended before for obvious reasons, "The Ironic Catholic" always hits the right note for me, but if you're of a cautious persuasion then this joke should still win you over from the dark side, titled "As Minnesota bottoms out."

Then just in case anyone is in need of a baby fix [there are some people like that on the planet] let me be the first to introduce you to "Glorious Gloria" over at "feebeeglee."

Cheers dearies

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mwah Awards

"Michelle" over at "Scribbit" was kind enough to grant me this Mwah Award.

As some of you may already know "Scribbit" lives in Alaska, the frozen wastes, for her crimes. Although she is happy to tout the many benefits of her "Lifestyle" we know that it's all lies, or possibly just delusional. As we American's know, sadly, a few persons are required to man the outpost in Alaska, all of it, and it is the lot of poor "Scribbit" that she is condemned to eek out her existence with her family of snowpersons. Is it any wonder that the poor woman finds relief via blogging to the outside world. We hear you "Michelle" even if the lines are frozen.

Dear "Michelle" is also a technically challenged person like myself but I must give credit where it's due. I could no more fashion an igloo than crochet a rug, yet she has tirelessly toiled away to make an igloo of just the right height. From the photographs that she sometimes posts, the interior is remarkably well appointed with strategically placed focal features, like the fishing hole, ergonomically designed by her own fair hands.

Of course she spends most of her time, when not fishing and patching the igloo, engaged in the highly strenuous task of maintaining the snow men from Alaska to civilization. It is important to note that without the advantages of DSL, poor Michelle has to drape her dial up cable over miles of lines of snowmen to stop it dangling and kinking.

As all we American's also know, Alaskans speak a different language from us, we well tutored Americans.

Nobody really knows what it is, but luckily nobody really cares either, except occasionally, as now, when they send there lovely little awards out without the benefit of translations.

Try as I might, and believe me I have struggled hard, I have been unable to come up with even an approximate translation for MWAH.

Initially I assumed she meant 'Mountainous, Wet And Huge,' but that sounds vaguely rude and the use of 'mountainous' and 'huge' in the same sentence would constitute overkill. "Michelle" is a tall lass, and my common sense tells me that willowly statured women don't generally refer to smaller people as 'huge,' although I might just be an optical illusion.

I put my thinking cap on and spoke it aloud. It sounds, phonetically, as if you've just trod on the cat's tail, inadvertently of course. Why would frozen "Michelle" wish to send me the sound of a broken cat's tail? Well they're funny those little Alaskans, who can comprehend their icy musings?

I'm a little reluctant to pass on broken cat's tails to anyone. What would they think? My credibility as an American would be forever tarnished, lover of the planet, castigator of cats! Not a happy combination.

What else? Modern Wimmin Are Harridans would seem to hit the mark around here, but not very helpful when it comes to passing on such an award, since it would appear that I'm the only qualified candidate.

Anything else? My World's Always Home, sounds more like a life sentence in a padded cell and again, not useful in the passing on department.

Not so easy you see! May Wisdom Abide Here! sounds too much like wishful thinking than reality.

Rather than tease "Michelle" any more, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she makes reference to those air kisses that those celebrity type women are so famous for. Since I wouldn't wish to air kiss my women friends as that's just not my style, it seems like a prime opportunity to kiss some men from afar, safe in the knowledge that I shall be protected from their better halves by the security of the blogosphere.

First, to my first male pal "Jerry" at "My Autistic Boy and Other Adventures in Fatherhood." I should, once again, point out that the ravashingly beautiful woman featured in the top right hand corner of his old site is not "Jerry" himself, but rather his lovely wife "Kim." Did we ever have some confusion to start off with!

Then to "Hammer" at "when your only tol is a hammer." This charming gent has nipped off on holiday with his wife, so whilst he's away, I would point you in the direction of this post entitled "Minor Cultural Differences" because it would appear that if you move around from one State to another you might experience some of the confusion that we foreigners experience.

Also to "Dan" from "Dan's Blah Blah Blog." Dan promised to picking up his blogging responsibilities but is sadly lagging behind a bit. I can't direct you to a specific post as his archives seem to have mysteriously disappeared.......I smell a book in the offing.

Another blog that I would cautious recommend would be "Pointless Drivel" where "Mr. Fabulous" himself sees fit to share his strongly worded opinions with us. In order to avoid the shock value of his more colourful pieces with accompanying language, I would respectfully suggest that you start here with his posting called "A couple of Convos" which means 'conversation' in American.

"White Noise and Random Thoughts"
has a great posting up, well for me at least. His post entitled "Hope Its" has given me my free fall hit that should last me out for the next few weeks and prevent me from leaping off the nearest cliff. Now if he's really in Antarctica, which I somehow doubt, he should have a great deal in common with Michelle.

Then there's "Furiousball" the super multi-talented music techy over at "In My Diatribe." Personally I have my doubts about this chap, it just seems so unlikely that he can not only play an instrument [or several] and teach this art to other people .......and be a techy? But fact is so often stranger than fiction. What miffed me more than anything else is that people, bloggers' are always sending him things, gifts of cookies and other goodies. A good place to start if you're a new visitor would be this post called "Zapped" because it is a good introduction to the complexity of our lives.

Then there's "Raj" over at "Radio Active Jam." A good place to start if you're either into puzzle or have the geek gene would be his post called "puzzleage." Yet another guy that receives gifts!

"Mr. Bloggerific" deserves more than a mention, but I'm reluctant to do him again as I've only just done him.........?........maybe I should rephrase? Anyway, over at "Your Packaging Sucks" he has a slightly rude post of the vagaries of the weather, which would seem appropriate to poor Scribbit. It's called "It's a cold night for alligators."

Next to "Steve" from "Steve's Nude Memphis Blog." Definitely have to be careful around this one as Steve has a tendency to blog both in the Nude and often rudely. Hence, just to be on the safe side, I would ever so politely direct your attention to this post titled "Reow" which is more apt than I could have wished for.

I shall be most interested to see what these gentlemen do with their award and who the lucky recipients might be, so let me know chaps?

Cheers dears

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My mother, the magician

She has always been a very talented woman but most of her talents were securely hidden under several artful and impenetratable bushels. Some of her more mysterious talents were those associated with butter.

Butter didn’t particularly affect my very youthful life because in South Africa it tasted quite foul. In England however, it altered it’s genetic make up, to become the ideal toping for warm crumpets, scones and other delectibles.

Butter has some rather odd qualities such as the ability remove stuck things. Like most children, I was all to frequently stuck in something or had something stuck on me. Butter was the solution.

As children, it was our purpose in life to make our mother’s life as miserable as possible with our constant and unreasonable demands. We plagued her with questions of the ‘when is dinner / I’m starving’ variety, at 3 minute intervals for the hour prior to the allotted time. If we were persistent, and we usually were, exasperation would take over and we were given the opportunity to ‘ruin our appetites’ with a ‘spot of bread and butter.’

It would be at this juncture, with hindsight, that I find myself apologetic to my mother. Her capitulation failed to bring about the desired peace and tranquility that she so richly deserved, as she laboured in the kitchen to produce a nutritious and attractive meal for all five of us, every day, from our birthdays until we eventually left home as adults. I would poke about the well ordered fridge.
“Mummeee! Where’s the butter? I can’t find it anywhere!”
“Second shelf down, at the back on the right.”
“Where? It’s not there I can’t see it?”
“The other right.”
“No, there’s just a big um dish thing.”
“Under the dish thing.”
“Really!” she would spit in frustration as she’d bustle about and lay her hand directly on the invisible butter, slam the fridge door and slap the butter container on the corner edge of the kitchen table.
“Mum. Where’s the bread?”
“In the bread bin where it always is.”
“Where’ the bread bin?”
“Where it always is, on the boiler.”
“I can’t see it.”
“Move the cereal packets, it right behind there.” I would then fight with the lid, and the wrapping. If I was lucky it would be a ready sliced loaf, if unlucky …….
“Where’s the bread knife?”
“In the knife drawer.”
“Don’t use that one dear, use the brown handled one.” I would then attempt to carve off a lump of bread, without biting off the tip of my tongue that protruded with concentration.
“Do use a bread board dear, you’ll ruin the table.” So it would go on , step after step, and painful step. Because my mother would always be busy, sometimes I would become distracted myself. I would peel off the crust of the lump of bread and then ball up the soft sponge into dough balls. This was one of my more disgusting habits gleaned from one of my more ‘unsavoury acquaintances.’ I had many.
“How disgusting! Don’t do that. Just spread it with butter and be done! Don’t forget to use the butter knife, I don’t want lots of little crumbs in the butter dish.” I would try hard to oblige but a pat of butter is always an impenetrable brick to a child. I would carve off great lumps of potential coronaries and squash them in the all too yielding bread which would tear and mangle under my heavy handed torment.
“Good grief child. What are you doing to that poor bread? Give it here!” she would sigh. I would cogitate upon my crimes unto baked goods, sad but oh so true. She would whip the equipment away from me and demonstrate the required skill. Swift and rapid movements made corrugated slivers of butter that glanced over the surface of the bread. It was miraculous.

I would attempt smiling in return, a cross between guilt, gratitude and awe. My mother the Dairy Queen. This was proof positive that I had indeed been found under a Gooseberry bush. There was no common gene pool. Her tanned skinned. My freckled, beet red, sunburn. Her coiffed coils, my rats tails. Her skills, my ineptitude. He breaks the spell as I lean in supervision mode by the kitchen counter, “what you are do mum?” I blink.
“Just thinking dear.”
“What you are think mum?” Good grief! When was the last time any male of the species asked a female person that question? I watch him slather a pre-cut slice of bread with lashings of room temperature butter in our Californian home, with a quick slick to his tongue.
“I think maybe it skipped a generation you little magician you!”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thoughtful Thursday, maybe?

I am a truly fortunate woman. Every day I notice teeny tiny little things of no consequence to anyone, that stop me dead in my tracks. Whilst this may come across as a ‘holier than thou,’ approach, nothing could be further from the truth, it’s merely my small appreciation of the magnificence of the average human bean.

I sit in a chair and enjoy my treat. This is one Christmas voucher that I shan’t let expire. Whilst I sit, I watch the woman wheeled in with care and chat. As she sits in her chair, her daughter sits next to her to remove white specks of fluff from her mother’s black cardigan, tease the curls of her hair, smooth the wrinkles in her skirts, lay a hand on the quaking Parkinson’s fingers, lift her legs into the steamy bubbling water, where the skin hangs in gentle, dried creases and her toes are folder over, furled and gnarled. For now, my body still co-operates with me,. My own bodily functions are within my command.

Later, I watch a Dad walk his dog on a lead. Behind him, two little boys under the age of five, walk should to shoulder, the older and younger deep in amiable conversation. Although they’re engrossed, their bodies remain four feet behind their Dad’s, in tandem. I can almost see the invisible chord that connects them. They don’t drift behind, lagging. They don’t speed up to collide with their Dad. Dad looks forward to attend to the dog, never glancing behind, confident that his blood line is at heel. Not careless but carefree. This is a skill they all have, innate and untutored, just like most other people.

On the school run, I attend to the speed limit in a residential area. I see a very small child. The neon pink glow lets me know that she is a girl. She hurtles along the sidewalk alone on her bicycle. There are no adults in sight in any direction. I brake as I approach the stop sign and pause as she approaches the road, and brakes. She puts a foot to the ground to steady her four year old little body. Her helmet clad head turns to look behind her. In her wake, several hundreds of yards away, a mother pushes a stroller at a steady and even pace. Even at this great distance I know that she carries no qualms of anxiety, stress or worry. She knows her daughter will stop. She knows her daughter will wait. Well done mum. Well done daughter.

Cars beetle about the school like a swarm of ants as I await the bell, the end of the school day. A boy catapaults out of his classroom burdened with back pack, winter coat and a sheaf of papers. He pounds down the concrete as his eyes search the traffic. His body changes course seamlessly and bounds towards the hovering double parked car. Off the sidewalk he plunges toward it, a brief smile and wave as he simultaneously heaves open the door, hurls in his belongings and throws his body into the car. I see him lean forward to talk to the driver as his hands reach for the seat belt, all at the same time. Imagine having a body that obeys you, faultlessly?

Children gather at the crossing. The crossing guard watches the traffic for a break. All the children chat to one another as they wait and watch the crossing guard, all at the same time. Their attention may be distracted from time to time, but when the moment comes they all move off in unison, a pack of Impala, a unified group who recognize the signal and respond without effort. I have a sudden renewed love of the herding instinct. How do they do that?

My youngest son scampers towards me scattering his belongings in his wake, but clutching a blue piece of paper as he runs up my body like a squirrel. “Mom! Mom! Mom!”
“Yes dear?”
“Look!” he commands and sometimes words desert him. He shoves the paper into my face in a helpful gesture for the bifocally challenged. I shift him onto my right hip and hold the paper in my left hand, arm extended for focus.

The blue sheet of paper is his daily report card that reflects behavioural prowess rather than academic achievement. Six opportunities;- to follow directions, complete work and stay focused, stayed in line or in one’s personal space, raise hand, wait to take turns to talk and used a gentle voice, kept one’s space clean and neat, and lastly and perhaps most importantly, ‘ I was kind to everyone.’ There is a gradation of marks. 1 for ‘none of the time,’ to 4 for ‘most of the time.’ A spectrum of grey where there are no absolutes, merely rainbow shades of possibilities. He has been at this school and others like it, for four and a half years, in the care of dedicated professionals with a vocation.

“My! Did you get all 4’s today? What a truly awesome student you are!” We exchange beams of pride because some things require effort, many things have to be learned and very few of them can be found in a school text book.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

“Ah game night!”
“That was easy, are we done?”
“Not quite.”
“A pictures of the kiddos would have been more interesting.”
“Ooo no you wouldn’t want a picture of that!”
“How come?”
Mayhem, absolute mayhem. There again, pictures don’t have sound attached so you would probably have survived the exposure.”
“I suspect we’re not talking about whoops of laughter somehow.”
“How true, how true.”
“Maybe you should have chosen another game?”
“Doesn’t make any difference. All games are torture.”
“Except electronics?”
“Got it in one.”
“So……why is that then?”
“Well there’s ‘preferred’ and then there’s everything else.”
“I take it preferred is the ‘electronics’ so anything other than electronics is torture?”
“A perfect summary.”
“Well why don’t you just let them play what they want to play?”
“Ooo I only wish we could, but a full day of electronics from sun up to sun down probably isn’t the best way to spend our time.”
“They’d do it all day?”
“Geez, I don’t think I can think of anything I like that much that I’d want to do it all day, every day?”
“Likewise. Anyway, all children need to learn a few basic skills like taking turns.”
“Right. Especially if you’ve got three of them already.”
“So what’s the object of the exercise?”
“Good point. I wonder that myself sometimes. Maybe just indulge mother for half an hour?”
“The general idea is that they remain in the general vicinity of the table, pay some attention to what’s going on some of the time, learn a few basic rules and attempt play.”
“Sounds awfully……..clinical.”
“It is a bit. The idea is that if they’re exposed to it again and again and again, then eventually they might find a crumb or two of pleasure.”
“A bit dry.”
“Indeed. But if they can get the hang of one game, then they might be able to generalize those skills and perhaps play with other children.”
“How long have you been doing this for then?”
“Four and a half years.”
“It does take quite a while.”
“You’re not kidding!”
“Would you say that they….enjoy it now?”
“Well yes they do, after the initial protest.”
“Initial protest?”
“It’s a transition, you know, stop what you’re doing now and start doing something else.”
“Hmm. I get that bit. You know, I’m having a hard time getting my head around this one.”
“You and me both dearie.”
“You see both my parents worked when I was a kid, they didn’t have much free time. Sometimes they’d play a board game with me and my brother. It was great, I loved it. I didn’t really care what we were playing just that we were all together having fun with mum and dad.”
“I’m afraid that’s the bit that’s missing.”
“Not so much missing as overshadowed. It’s very difficult to explain. A huge chunk of it is the need for them to suppress their loathing of the chosen activity. That’s the real hurdle.”
“I’m still struggling here.”
“To be brutally honest, I’m of the pretty narrow minded opinion that autistic kids love and loathe their families just as much as other kids, whether they can express it verbally or not. The love of six foot parent is powerful, but the fear of a 60 foot phobia standing right next to the parent, is much more overwhelming. Proportionately, you’re lucky if the child even notices your existence by comparison.”
“For some things. It’s the same for all of us in some ways. Which do you notice more, the beautiful bouquet of roses or the spider dangling from a petal? If you prick yourself on a thorn, are you going to deal with the blood or run away from the spider? Did you take the time to smell the perfume or did you forget?”
“But how can a game be so loathed, all games?”
“Well lets say we’re in an adventure playground.”
“There’s one of those pully ropes suspended from two trees.”
“Just for the moment, say you’ve never been exposed to the experience before. You’ve never seen one. You’re not copying anyone. Somehow you instinctively know that this is going to be thrilling, some innate attraction.”
“Sounds fun to me.”
“The trouble is that you have a great fear of heights. You want to do it but you can’t. Two emotions are fighting each other.”
“Hmm maybe.”
“That’s the best I can do I’m afraid without burying you in a load of psychobabble and extraneous detail. Your parents can be there to help, guide, supervise and encourage, but it’s something that you basically have to overcome yourself. You can’t really do it to please your parents, as the emotions are too huge.”
“Just for a game?”
“O.k. Sooo.......just give me a teaspoonful of the extraneous psychobabble.”
“You’re sure?”
“Well I need to check that there are no pictures of Teddy Bears that might jump out and terrify one of them into a meltdown.”
“Oh yes, I remember he’s afraid of bears.”
“Lots of kids games have teddy bears.”
“Anything else?”
“The pieces might be difficult to hold, get a grip on, especially if they’re very small. The board could be too busy and confusing, something simple like black and white with lots of contrast is easier. The board might have an unusual font that puts it completely off limits. It might hide all kinds of trigger words like ‘dead.’ With something like checkers where the pieces are uniform, one might be imperfect, some minute irregularity that they just can’t tolerate that captures all their attention so that they lose all focus. All of those things are guaranteed to provoke meltdowns. Game over.”
“O.k., o.k., o.k., that’s enough. I get it, just enough.”
“The ultimate goal is enjoyment, but there are so many traps and obstacles for them to overcome that it negates the pleasure quotient. It has to be made worth their while. There has to be something in the game that’s so wonderful that it cancels out all the grief that they have to endure, to make it a positive experience.”
“Well when you put it like that, it’s gonna be one hellava good game!”

If you have had trouble loading or commenting up this blog please visit my new duplicate, loads like a dream blog at "WhittereronAutism."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Chicken philosophy and word retrieval

“What it is?” asks my youngest son. I raise my eyes from his homework sheet and try not to glower.

When will either of them ever learn to reference back, give me some tiny clue about the question? I have a choice. I can prompt him or I can wait. If I wait long enough, he will repeat the question, the same words but louder to aid my comprehension.

One day, just maybe, he will ask me a question in context, a whole question with all the clues built in and I shall fall down dead from shock. I feel an attack of grumpiness pricking the corners of my mouth. I suppress a sigh and thank my lucky stars that he chooses to talk at all.

“What is what dear?”
“An egg?”
“Hmm, well Grandpa would say that an egg is hen fruit.” I wonder if my Dad can remember his witticism, the kind designed for children’s entertainment, or is that lost to Alzheimers too?
“Hen fruit? Hen fruit! HEN FRUIT! Ahh tis a joke I am finking.”
“You’re right! It is a joke, a family joke, probably not a very funny one though.”
“What else?”
“What else is an egg, apart from a joke?”
“It’s something that you can eat, very tasty and it can be a chicken baby or rather a chick.”
“Er……hens eat dah chicks?”
“No, people do.”
“People eat chicken babies? Gross man!” splutters the neophobe who currently only eats 13 foods.
“Er well…”
“Why they are?”
“Why are they what dear?”
“Why are dey dah sometimes white and dah sometimes brown?”
“It depends upon what the chicken eats. The food that the chicken eats can change the colour of the shell.” I decide to avoid the issue of different breeds as I’m already out of my depth, my fowl facts having been hand plucked from watching Chicken Run some three years prior.
“We can have pink eggs?”
“Hmm at Easter you can dye them any colour you like.”
“Why they are dead?” Oh no! A trigger word. Meltdown imminent. Dive for cover!
“You say they are ‘died.’”
“Oh not dead died but dyed ‘coloured,’ like when you dye your paper different colours with your markers.”
“Vvv vvvv vvvvvv?”
“Vegetable?” Animal, vegetable or mineral? What now? What is he on about?
“I beed a vegetable?”
“Are you?”
“Vegetables don be eat chicken’s………..?”
“Oh right! You mean vegetarians don’t eat meat, or chickens for that matter.” I suppose he is a vegetarian now I come to think of it. Every one of his 13 foods would fall into that category. Sounds so much better than Neophobe anyway. So much easier to explain. My seven year old is an ardent vegetarian. I like it! Yes, we should certainly encourage this language expansion.
“I am a Vegan.”
“A Vegan?”
“I don eat eggs.”

More shock! Grumpiness dispelled.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fog Bound

Although I am often cast in the role of interpreter, self imposed, but I am a very poor candidate for the task. All too frequently I have no idea of the motivations and stimuli that affect my children. Sometimes after much thought, I can come up with my best guess, but there are vast chasms of emptiness in my knowledge. When you’re up to yours ears in the here and now, it can prove just too difficult to understand what’s occurring or why? Many hours can pass where I am merely winging it, hoping against hope that I can keep my head above water until bed time.


I’m accosted outside school with demands for play dates. I dither and calculate fall out. “Pleazzzzz.” I submit and permit her to visit her pal on a week night. Apparently, logistically it is more convenient for my daughter to be collected from home later. I don’t question the decision as it is too difficult to translate someone else's life. We beetle back home as usual.

My daughter plagues me with the same question ‘when will they come and collect her?’ The answer is beyond my control, so I guess and placate, as she watches the window for their arrival. I field queries from both boys. Their outrage at being ousted from the play date arena is understandable. Mass hysteria and incomprehension flood the household. Have I changed Thursday into Friday? Is is really Friday and play dates? If it is Friday why don't they have a play date too? If it is Thursday, why is she having a play date? I wish it was night time and that I was asleep.

Some time later, mother and child arrive at my doorstep. A change of plan is suggested. The plan is that her daughter will have a play date with us, theirs to be delayed until another time. We are mid-way through the boys’ routine homework. I am not equipped to supervise another individual on a school night. I dither. “It won’t be for very long, something just came up, is that o.k.?” My daughter’s eyes plead. The play date girl matches her. “O.k. no problem,” I smile as I remind myself that if you can’t do something with good grace then you probably shouldn’t do it at all.

She leaves and calls over her shoulder, “I’ll be back by six thirty……probably.” I am sure my mouth drops open. I want to mention that at six thirty it will be dark, that I understand that she’s unable to drive in the dark, that supper is at six, that I have the maximum amount of sequencing steps to sequence during the next three hours, to include the bewitching hour that some people call the arsenic hour and that I’ll never cope on my own….....…but I don’t.

My son empties a carton of squeezy yoghourts on the floor boards. “Is he supposed to be doing that?” asks the guest.
“Er yes and no. I’d rather he didn’t but it helps him if he can go through them all and choose the one he wants. It’s easier if he can see his choices.”
“Oh.” She seems satisfied with my response. I am not satisfied with my response. It seems somehow inadequate but I’m not sure why? I hover over him as he carefully examines each individual tube several times. He cannot be hurried or harried as his body blocks traffic through our narrow galley kitchen. After a successful choice exercise, it takes several minutes to return the rejects into the carton, pick up the carton and return it to the fridge. Why does this make me so uncomfortable? Food on the floor is unhygenic, I know that.

Wibbly wobbly squeezy yoghourts are hard to handle if you have dodgy fine motor skills. If he puts them on the counter, some will fall off or in the sink. On the floor they can't fall any further. There are lots of other things on the kitchen counter, distracting things that make choices more difficult. There are no distractions on the floor, it's the logical solution for now, the current stage of development. We have to walk before we can run. A year ago he had preferences but couldn't choose. Inertia and confusion overwhelmed him. Meltdowns dogged every choice. This is what progress and growth looks like. One tiny huge step in the series of multiple huge tiny steps that fill every waking moment until bed time.

“Are those clean clothes?” asks the guest.
“Oh. Are they supposed to be in a heap like that?”
“Er, well no, not really, but he has managed to choose his clothes for tomorrow but he has a hard time leaving them neatly and ready in the right spot.”
“Oh. What is the right spot?”
“Um, just there on the corner, handy for tomorrow.”
She looks at the empty spot, “I’ll do it,” she offers. I thank her and ignore the incomplete sequence for today.
She looks over at the little one at the table. “I didn’t know anyone could make rooster noises for such a long time?”
“He hates his homework.”
“Me too,” she agrees with alacrity.
“Gotta go!” announces my other son as he gambols off in the general direction of the toilet, disrobing on route. I scurry after him, a wanton hand maiden gathering the fall out and shutting the door behind him. I return to the rooster and poke a P-tube in his mouth to reduce the rooster volume. I dither. Should I phone now whilst one child is absent? Will I be able to conduct a brief conversation? I remember she said not to phone to early. Not to phone to late. I wonder what time would be the right time? I chance it and dial.
“Hello there! I was wondering if he’d like to come around for a play date tomorrow?”
“Er yes. Friday. After school perhaps?”
“You’ve left it a bit late. We may have other plans.”
“Oh. I’m so sorry. Things have been a little hectic around here for the last couple of weeks.”
“Well obviously a play date isn’t one of your priorities then!” I hear the telephone line click at the other end. I look at the hand set for no particular reason. Cut off? Obviously bad timing on my part. I return the receiver to the cradle and turn my attention back to other matters more closely at hand.

One sheet of homework completed in an hour. Progress is slow. “Shit!” squeaks the visitor, a cattle prod to my brain. I rush back to the toilet, but he is merely undressed on completion, not soiled. I recognize that I am under stress but uncertain as to why this should be so? I suspect that I am inhibited by a visitor, but why?
“Dere’s only one fing to do at a time like this,” bellows the little one. He lets rip a piercing scream to shatter glass, to protest the agony of homework. “Geez!” cringes the visitor, “he sure does hate homework. He hates it more than me!” For the benefit of his audience and to indicate solidarity, he stands on his chair to beat his chest reminiscent of Tarzan, a movie entirely out of his knowledge base. She giggles, “he sure is funny.” He grins in return, pleased that he has met his mark and made his point. “I am funny too?” asks the semi clad one, fighting with recalcitrant clothing. She rolls her preteen eyes, uncertain how to respond. “Am I?” he pleads. She gives up, “sure, you’re funny too.” He turns to me, “is dat good?” I feel I’m also losing the thread, “yes it’s good, but usually we don’t ask for complements as it makes people feel uncomfortable.” He turns back to the visitor, “I am make you uncomfortable?” he sputters, solicitous and slightly mis-guided. Why are social exchanges the most difficult to accomplish, translate and execute? Before she has a chance to respond we watch a hard back copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” arc through the air. We duck collectively, “never read dah books dat are orange!” he asserts. The other three blink and look at me for explanations that I do not possess, but it’s the visitor who asks, “what does he mean?” All her questions are apt and reasonable but it clarifies for me again, just how little I really know.
“I’m sure I haven’t the foggiest notion, but no doubt all will become clear in due course.”

When going home time finally arrives, I prompt the boys to go through their good bye routine. The little one bellows "Thank you for having me," as he pogos on the spot, flailing one rigid arm in the air. The girls embrace and separate. The bigger one hitches up his pants and steps up to the guest, the same height. He wraps his arms around her body, under the arms and rests his head on her shoulder with tenderness. Her arms are suspended in mid air, her preteen face is a study of startle. Her arms sink as her cupped palms come to lay on his shoulders, a warm smile on her sunny countenance. "I wish I had brothers like you. You are too funny" she beams.

Maybe that's all the understanding we need?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Madz Skills Award

Yes by golly. "Kami" over at "camichoas" or "Mommified Me" has very kindly given me this spendiferous award.

I have an especial regard for Cami because beastly people would moan how difficult it WAS to load her blog - no longer I might add. No-one moaned to me about my blog not loading, because they could never load it! But now longer.

As Cami says:-
"Lately I've noticed that a few of my bloggy friends are some pretty talented people both on the internets and off.

That's right. I pay attention.


What I really want to do is honor those of you who are really good at some crazy things with a little award I'm calling 'Madz Skills Award.'

I must say in response that I feel woefully inadequate for such an award as I sorely served in the special skills department. That said if 'addictive read' counts, then my pals have oodles of that particular quality.

So first up is my jolly good pal "Almost American" especially for this "international post."

Also to "Melissa" at "Mejojac's Memos." Hers is a thoroughly unique blog. Every time I nip along to a visit, I have to double check that I'm in the right spot as her superb bloggy skills means that she is always changing her template, presumably just to annoy me. Let's just say that I plan to extract a person tutorial out of her soon.

Then to "Burfica" at "Don't eat the Tomatoes," as we share a similarly warped sense of humour. I'd particularly recommend this post titled "Goodbye 17th."

Also to the irresistible "Bipolar Lawyer Cook," that's a real title, I didn't make it up. "Erica" has a very irritating habit of writing lots of teeny tiny post to confuse my new google reader skills, but every once in a while she takes pity on my and posts something like this to keep me coming back for more, especially now that she has a brand, spanking new site. I'd recommend "Grace Personified," for anyone else who has a tendency to trip over their own feet.

Then to "Bloggerific" himself, how spendiferous, over at "Your packaging sucks,". Personally I would recommend this post titled, "From this town series," because if you are an adult now, and you might be, this will confirm that sometimes the little things that you do or don't do, say or don't say, may have a lasting effect.

Number six is a curious one, a reluctant one for me because the man is one of those weird hybrid people, you know the kind, the kind that runs. I never know what is wrong with these people who insist on speeding up their lives by haring around wearing out their legs under the excuse, mis-placed, of health. Yes, "Terry" over at "Planet3rry," is determined to make us all feel guilty, or possibly just relieved that we don't have to join in! I cannot in all fairness recommend one of his 'running around like a chicken' posts, so instead I'll happily and heartily recommend his post "Wow." If you are old and crumbly like me, then you should definitely read http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifthis.

Lastly for "Isabel Mori" over at "Change Therapy."
Yes if you need psychobabble demystified and translated then this is the woman for you, especially this post although I am unable to say dysfunctional family without giggling.

Cheers dearies

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fri - True Blue Blogging Award

Creative "Karen" over at "art in the Garage" has kindly given me this True Blue Blogging award.

The True Blue Award for being a "true blue blogging friend"...

And now I get to pass this award on to other blogger friends, wonderful people who have praised me, helped me see where I am going, encouraged me, and inspired me. I could never have imagined how many wonderful people there are out there--

First to "Crystal Jigsaw" and her piece here on her "water baby" amongst many "others." It is strangely reassuring to know that we have the same massive laundry crisis although for entirely different reasons.

Then to "Kim" for many different reasons, especially her plot to irritate "nuns."

Also to "Fluttercrafts" at "Dark and Divine," even though I'm never quite sure how to describe her blog or title the maverick little devil. Whilst my days of dating are long past, I suspect that there is many a chap out there who might benefit from her "sage advice."

Then to "Beach Mama" over at the "J's" who always gives me pause for thought, not only because we enjoy an addiction to beaches. I should warn you in advance that Jodie is a rare wee little beastie indeed, that's Scottish for plush animal. You know how you write in a blog, readers read your blog and then if you're really lucky someone might write a comment on your blog, in the comments section? You're familiar with that particular scenario? Well let me tell you that Jodie has her comments turned off, permanently. I thought this was an oversight at first, but no, it really is true, no comments. Can you imagine? I'm tempted to bleat 'does not commute' but being the technophobe that I am, I should expose myself as a liar. On the other hand, I think I can say with complete confidence, that she's done this deliberately to annoy me and wrest the last vestiges of sanity away.

Now "Robin" is a woman who speaks her mind over at "Around the Island." She helps keep me on my toes with her sharp wit and razor sharp mind.

Also to "jac" at "six impossible things." Creative and urbane, how can one resist the reference to the Lobster Quadrille?

Coincidentally, I'm going to tag "Karen" over at "art in the Garage," as her creativity always leaves me in my tracks. I am seriously debating whether I could get away with hiding in the back of her garage, but my burglary skills are a little rusty.

I can hardly pass by without mentioning "Drama Mama" over at "Like a Shark." The sheer variety of her posts always keeps me on my toes.

The last few weeks have been a little crazed around here, but I promise to do better soon. I would mention in passing that I have been blogging for just over a year now. The first time someone mentioned my little blog in their blog, I practically keeled over on the spot. I was immensely pleased for some unimaginable reason that I still can't fathom. Pleasure evaporated quickly when I realised that I was incapable of returning the favour due to inadequate bloggy skills. I am now even more immensely pleased to be able to pass it on.

Cheers dearies

Oh and if you need a giggle over the weekend then you might like to nip on over to my other site "Alien" to read "The Kindness of Women."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Katie McCarron – theft of joy

The trial is over and the verdict out.

As a member of the "Autism Hub" we were asked to set aside a day in memorial to "Katie," so that the memory of "Katies" brief life remains with us.

There are many scholarly writers to address sadness, anger and disbelief but I’m not much of a political animal. Autism is part of so many people’s lives and public awareness grows daily. So much of it is a different way of being or thinking. I may not understand it very well but then I don't understand Alzheimer's either.

Autism has become very ordinary to us as a family and certainly not newsworthy. So instead of berating the ugliness of the world, today I choose to celebrate the ordinary, as autism doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

I sit in the doctor’s waiting room with my eight and a half year old son on my lap and a nod to the receptionist. She sits behind frosted glass wearing a military jacket, purple hair and a smile that could melt ice. She clatters away at a manual typewriter surrounded by stacks of patient files. My son’s head burrows into my arm pit trying to disappear. A weekly visit to the wart doctor is an trial added burden that we could do without. These days he is aware that his behaviour is socially inappropriate, but he doesn’t care right this moment. I stroke his silky hair and chat. “Ooo look at that big tree out there! Can you see all those squirrels scurrying up and down the trunk? It’s quite a traffic jam.” He pays no heed, wrapped up in the anticipation of imminent physical pain. I glance at the calendar on the wall and count backwards to the date when my eldest daughter needs to go and have her Malaria parasites counted again.

My mind fills again with my father’s graphic descriptions of diseases in the Tropics during his long Naval career. The memories of his youth are clear and sharp, but Alzheimer’s has dissipated the here and now. I peek at my wrist watch to figure out how long we have until Wednesday afternoon’s double session of speech therapy and occupational therapy for the boys. I run down my list of current occupational therapy goals to give to the therapists, will they really be willing to help with the hair washing life skills? Maybe next year he’ll learn how to manipulate that dastardly pencil sharpener?

I need to make another dental appointment for them all, as we missed the right day due to scheduling conflicts and an unexpectedly long trip to England. I remind myself to email my new sister in law and assure her that her new husband’s heart murmour is a genetic glitch, that a stroke or heart attack are probably still light years away. I scribble on the back of my hand to remind myself to pick up spouse’s prescriptions, diabetes and high cholesterol. How will I ever get the bed stripped, washed and re-made before tonight after yet another accident?

The homework schedule is backed up due to an unexpected bonus, a rogue moment of spontaneity that bowled us over, instigated by the chance hearing of a couple of bars of a pop song. My son climbed on the counter to turn off the radio, but not before the little one jumped off his chair to break dance on the floorboards. The break in routine, also broke the thread of concentration. “Didya see him mom? He’s actually quite good,” she comments with genuine surprise. “Hey do it again, why dontcha?” Not only did he listen to her request, but willingly obliged, a silent re-run. She joined him on the floorboards, “teach me why dontcha, come one, you can do it?” They all joined in, all three of them, a hybrid cross over between Cossack dancers and inebriated rabbits on ice.

I wince to recall my international telephone call home to my dad. It’s a reaction grafted onto the guilt of a giggle. I wanted to check to see how my mum’s hysterectomy surgery went, eight hours ahead of where we now, marking time in the waiting room. “Well you have to understand that it was a big operation for your mother at her age,” he soothed. “The hospital haven’t telephoned to tell us anything or course, they’re an absolute shower.”
“Did you go up to visit dad?”
“Visit mum in the hospital?”
“Oh no. She won’t be up to having visitors until tomorrow, maybe. A lobotomy is a serious business you know.” I blanch and pinch my nose to stop the snort’s escape.

As my mother would say ‘life is simple when it is boring.’ The niggly little trials and tribulations of everyday life, can drag us down if we let them. Few of us enjoy the life we believe we so richly deserve or anticipate.

I can’t tell you what kind of a life style we ‘ought’ to have had, I can only tell you a little bit about our lives with autism. Whatever life you have, be sure that if you expect misery, it shall surely find you. For my own part, I much prefer our own boring little version to a more newsworthy alternative.

All anyone wants is a long life time of the little ordinaries. No-one should steal away the ordinaries, both Katies own and the love she shared with her family.

I wish for you, a very ordinary day of life.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Knots, tangles and other urban myths

Married life in the United States was quite a jolt to our existence after a decade of unwedded bliss.

My daughter was a teenager and I was beginning to look forward to the idea of a whole new phase of life. At that time, we were under the impression that I was infertile and so it was quite a surprise to find that about the same time as my Green Card finally came through, I also found out that I was pregnant. It’s difficult to work out which one of us was more surprised.

We kept quiet about it for quite a long while to avoid jinxing the situation. Eventually we began to tell family and friends who were equally as surprised as us. One of our closest friends challenged us, the way that only a good friend can. So it was that a story was born. The pregnancy, or rather conception was deemed to have occurred whilst he was under the knife, during his knee surgery. The only logical conclusion was that the baby’s father was the anesthesiologist. More than a decade has passed since then, but the tale has become part of our family folklore, the truth of the matter laid to rest undisturbed.

“Do yer knittin Mum,” he barks
“Pick it up why dontcha.”
“Not right now, we’re cuddling.”
“I wanna watcha do yur knittin.”
“Really? Why?”
“Coz I like watchin yur knit.”
I oblige. I pick up the knitting and knit whilst my son watches intently, his nose only inches from the needles. His father walks in, stops dead in his tracks to make little fishy gaspy movements with his mouth.
‘Hi there, all finished dear?”
“What on earth are you doing?”
“Shut up why dontcha! Can’t yah see she’s doing dah knittin,” he admonishes but his eyes never leave the needles.
“I can see that. Why are you knitting?”
“Oh I don’t know. Why not?”
“But you haven’t knitted anything for years. Years and years.”
“I know but I started again whilst I was in England.”
“Really. Why did you start again……..in England?” he asks with an ominous tone.
“Well, you know. Sitting by the bed…….in the hospital……….I had to do something with my hands or I’d have gone barmy.”
“Hmmm what?”
“Well, are you sure that’s all you did in England?”
“Did you get up to anything else?”
“Such as? I was parked by that bed from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, mopping proverbial brows and the like.”
“And knitting.”
“How long were you there?”
“You know how long I was there. An extra week and a bit.”
“And how long have you been back?”
“You know that too, just over a week. What are you on about?”
“Can you remember last time you knitted something?”
“Not particularly. ”
“I can.”
“The last time you knitted anything was when you knitted a baby blanket, when you were pregnant with him!” He glares as his youngest son in an alarming manner. The alarming manner penetrates the spell of the one engrossed with knitting skills to provoke a “what?” from him at 50 decibels.
“Well, I’m just saying, or rather asking………er……”
“What?” we chorus.
“Is there anything you want to tell me?”
“Such as? That I’m going in for a knitting competition or something?”
“Are you?”
“Well……anything else?”
“I give up. Spit it out man.”
“Are you……maybe……perhaps…….pregnant?”
“Pregnant? Me? Are you quite mad? Of course I’m not pregnant, that’s impossible, you should know, you had the op.” I look at him. He looks at me. Our child looks from one to the other in confusion. “I am have a new……er bruvver?”
“No dear I’m not pregnant.”
"You only ever knit when you're pregnant. That's the only time you sit down. You sit down and knit whilst you're pregnant."
"I am not pregnant."
“But you’ve been in England……on your own……”
“What a fertile imagination you have. Do you really think I’d be cavorting around whilst my daughter’s at death’s door?”
“Well……I suppose not…….”
“Well don’t be so overly confident for goodness sake, I was only in England an extra few days and I had other things on my mind at the time.”
“I am have a new………er sister den?”
“No dear I’m not pregnant.”
“So you’re definitely not pregnant then?”
“How many times to I have to say it! 7 days knitting in England in a hospital doesn’t make you pregnant!”
“Hmm what?”
“It’s an awfully long time for you to have been in a hospital.”
“Don’t you think I don’t already know that? That’s why I was knitting, to pass the time.”
“I am have a new………er baby den?”
“No dear I’m not pregnant.”
“I suppose there were a lot of um……doctors in the hospital?”
“Of course there were lots of doctors! It’s a hospital! And nurses!”
“Male nurses?”
“She didn’t see an anesthetist by any chance?”
“No! What would she see an anesthetist for? She had Malaria not surgery.”
“Were you very lonely?”
“Er not really. I didn’t have time to be lonely.”
“And you went home to your parents every night?”
“You know I did. That’s when I phoned you with a progress report.”
“I am have a new sister or bruvver………er baby den?”
“No dear I’m not pregnant.”
“So you’re just knitting for…….fun?”
“Yur right Dad, dah knit is dah fun.” His father steps to one side in a hesitant manner to lean against the door jam, still deep in thought.
“You are be teach me knit?”
“If you like. It’s quite tricky though.”
“I am be learn.”
“Alright, let me just finish this row.”
“It will be eight?”
“Will what be eight dear?”
“Eight days.”
“Will what be eight days?” I sometimes wonder which one of them is more difficult to unravel.
“Er……if I am knit for 8 days den I am be pregnant? I am have my own baby. I can be a mommy too?” His father springs from the wall “not unless you’re in England in a hospital with an anasthes……..” I chuck a ball of wool at him as I already have more than enough iron-clad psychological associations to untangle.

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