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

Monday, March 31, 2008

Everyone's a critic

Snippets collected over a few days:-

"What are you doing Mother?"
"Um...knitting dear."
"And what exactly are you knitting?"
"Socks.....for you."
"But it's Summer. You bought that wool ages ago and you're only getting around to it now, when it's nearly 80 degrees outside?"
"Well yes I do seem to have got a little behind."
"I'll say!"
"Never mind they'll do for next year."
"I don't know if I'll like that colour next year. I'll be a year older, more sophisticated, you know."

Don't bet on it dearie.

"Yes dear?"
"Which you are like?"
"Dis card or dat card. Which one is be dah winner?"
"In dah battle."
"The red one."
"Huh! No, you lose I win."
"Good for you dear."
"I know coz you are always choose dah red."

I need to be less predictable.

"Are you tired dear?"
"You look sleepy. Wasn't that a yawn?"
"No.....it's just dat.....my eyelids are be heavy and my mouth......is been need oxygen."

You and me both dearie.

"Why are you phoning love?"
"Because I haven't spoken to you person to person for three days now."
"Two and a half."
"Thursday! Now it's Saturday or will be soon."
"You're 8 hours ahead of us. It's three in the morning here."
"Sorry.......I'll call again later."

Now there's a mistake I haven't made in a long while.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bird brain

I check just to be on the safe side.

He is still bouncing from the sofa to the trampolene shouting “Geronimo!” at fifty decibels in the family room. He's been at it for about 25 minutes. I detect no immediate indications of a flat battery. This kind of self regulation is to be applauded and encouraged. Horray! I return to the washing up and the view from my kitchen window.

It’s bound to be a controversial campaign but something has to be done. I think a complete ban on birdlife is the only route available. There I am, diligently dragging home body bagsful of bird seed, and what do they do? Spread it all over the garden. Little hooligans! Why can’t the birds appreciate a free lunch when it’s provided? Are they all on some kind of a special diet?

The feeder hangs just outside the house in the empty space between the L of the family room and the kitchen, a view from each site. A special birdfeeder design to deter squirrels, a gift to me and them. Why don’t they just eat it? Do they have malformed beaks or something? What is wrong with the modern birds of today? Why aren’t they here now, to entertain me with their antics whilst I wash? Do we only have nocturnal birds to visit? Are owls the real culprits? Flocks of unwise vegetarian owls. I notice that the noise has died down as my son steps into the kitchen.
“I am be dah mouse.”
“Really.” What a pity he can’t match his favoured vermin in the sound production department. I watch the birds gather around the feeder, fluttering and pecking.
“I am be energetic.”
“Indeed you are.” There must be nearly 20 birds. I wonder what kinds they are? I really ought to get a book on bird identification in California.
“Now I am bin done exhausted.”
“Oh, that’s good.” I’m a wee bit weary myself. I do so hope 'bin done' hasn't come back to haunt us again? Two little words inserted into every sentence. I thought that phase had faded? All too often they return. I console myself with notion that we're only too lucky to have any phrases at all.
“I am beed have dah rest.” He exhales to demonstrate.
“What a good idea. Maybe we could sit down and have a cuddle, have a rest together?”
“No? Why not?”
“Coz now I am bin done......I am beed…..energy…….guy……again.” He tears off back to the family room to resume his regime, and as he roars “Geronimo!” the birds blast away, scattering seeds at warp speed.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


We think long and hard before we agree. It would be impossible to take the boys to a three hour Church service but that’s no reason to deny my daughter the chance to go with her pal. I write out our telephone numbers on cards, one for my daughter and one for pal’s mother as they have been mislaid again. It seems like the ideal opportunity to expose my daughter to a different way of life, as well as inform pal’s mum that my name is not Natalie.

I’m surprised that the name of the Church is unknown but I’m very forgetful myself and word retrieval is often an issue around here. Maybe it’s the accent that I have trouble with, or the speed of delivery but I only catch three words; alternative, black and singing.

Racism in the States is more complicated than in Europe. Since I am Caucasian, I find it simpler just to assume that I am a racist and await enlightenment, preferably from someone who is not Caucasian but is American. Hence I prove my ignorance, as these words match the category of ‘gospel’ in my brain.

I am sad to miss my daughter for a big chunk of the day, what should be a family day. I am happy that she will be in good company away from the mayhem of home. The promised treat of “Horton Hears a Who,” to follow sounds like a well balanced mix.

We spend our secular day with a carefully orchestrated easter egg hunt for the boys, followed by lunch in a preferred restaurant of the French Fries variety, low key, low maintenance, high happiness quotient. Despite the fact that it a glorious day we bury ourselves in the darkness of the cinema. We both have a largish boy on our laps, although we pay for four seats. If my daughter comes home to broadcast the glories of “Horton hears a Who,” we shall have a riot on our hands. This is the perfect chance to navigate them both through the trauma of movies in a public forum.

We transition through our day with care until we are re-united with my daughter.

She arrives home breathless, late and sodden for no immediately apparent reason than I can fathom. I am fairly confident that baptisms are not performed on Easter Sunday, or am I? I experience brain freeze without the benefit of ice-cream. I am tempted to wrestle her to the ground, sit on her chest and give her the third degree. I proceed with caution. I opt for a towel.
“My you’re flushed, you must have had a super time. Would you like to go to Church again next week? Maybe we could go together as a family?”
“Uh uh.”
“Uh uh yes or uh uh no?”
“No? Was it a bit too long for your first time?”
“I was real bored.”
“You seem to have caught the sun on your arms.”
“Yeah it sure was hot outside.”
“Outside? Outside where?”
“Outside the church.”
“It was an open air service?”
“You …….and the congregation...er the people, were outside the church?”
“No we were outside the Church.”
“Isn’t that just what I said?”
“No. We were outside. Everybody else was inside.”
“Why was that then?”
“I was ……scared.”
“Oh……..what did you find so…….scary?”
“All the "screamin."
“Screaming? Who was screaming?”
“The guys who were rollin on the ground.”
“Ro……were they……..did they…….were you on your own outside?”
“No we sat together. Her mom went back "inside." She said she was scared too…….but I think she wuz jus sayin that to make me feel better.”
“So……..how long were you outside, just the two of you….alone…….in the …….Churchyard.”
“It wasn’t really a Church.”
“It wuz a …..an alternative……I forget now. Can I sleep in the boys’ room tonight? Please? I won’t keep them awake or nothin……I jus don’t want to …….."dream"…..er……sleep…..alone.” I have no idea why their nesting instinct is so strong in times of trouble, a heaped herd of hurt.
“O.k. but just this once. We’ll talk about this again tomorrow after you’ve rested. Maybe it would be a good idea not to tell the boys about it tonight.”
“You’ve got it! There’s no way I’m gonna tell em that stuff! It’d giv em nightmares and that’s a fact, bein little kids n all.”
“So…….why are you all wet then?”
“We went back to the house after.”
“After the service, after the movie?”
“We didn’t get to see the movie.”
“Oh. What did you do then?”
“We played with the hosepipe in the backyard…..it was a lot more fun than…….seein a borin old movie.”
“Yes, I think perhaps it might have been a little babyish for you.”
“How would you know? Maybe we could all go and see it together next week? As a family?”
“What a good idea.”
“They said that we could see it maybe soon, but I’m kinda wondering when ‘soon’ might be?”
“Perhaps we could manage sooner, because you have been very patient. Sometimes things don’t always pan out quite the way we want them to.”

It’s bound to be easier second time around afterall!

I believe we have reached the end of that particular chapter.

On a more down to earth plain, I am also over "here" at "Trusera" with "Dedication to Medication."

Friday, March 28, 2008

One strike and you’re a crisp!

When she asks me I’m not ready, but I never seem to be ready for anything in these ever more complex days. My pschobabble pal would tell me that I over analyse these things, which is probably the very sad truth of the matter. So many thoughts, strategies and questions run through my own mind that I’m usually paralyzed into temporary silence.
“Oh look mom! There’s those guys again.”
“Oh yes.”
“The guys that were hitting on those girls in the sports car last week.”
“I think it was the other way around actually.”
“Yes, remember the girls pulled the car into the curb when they saw the guys.”
“Nearly ran us over!”
“Hmm. Nearly ran them over more like.”
“Why would anyone want to run those guys down?”
“I think they were just trying to frighten them.”
“Why would they want to frighten the guys?”
“Er…..some people…..dislike Mormons.”
“What’s a Mormon.”
“Someone who belongs to a particular religion, their the disci...er.....people of "Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints".”
“What’s their religion about?”
“Well they’re the ones that come knocking on the door to tell us about their religion. It’s part of their religion to go and tell other people.”
“What do they tell?”
“Mainly that if you don’t join their club……you won’t……go to heaven when………if the end of the world comes along.”
“Do we wanna join their club and go to heaven?”
“That’s for you do decide.”
“How many Mormons are there?”
“I have no idea, we could look it up when we get home. I’d guess that they’re less that one percent of the world population.”
“So 99% of people aren’t gonna go to heaven?”
“That would be the logical conclusion. But logic and religion often don’t fit very well together.”
“Yes dear?”
“What would happen if you hit a teacher?”
“Hit a teacher?” Where did that come from? I feel beads of sweat sweep my brow which perfectly match my sticky palms that clutch the steering wheel.
“Yeah, at your old school, when you were little, like me, what would have happened?”
“My school! Nothing would have happened, I mean, that would never have happened, it’s completely inconceivable that anyone would ever hit a Sister, I mean a nun.”

I have never physically touched a nun in my entire life, none of us did. They didn’t touch us either, unless you count a whop with a ruler, which I don’t, count that is to say. We lived in a no touch zone for years. I see my white knuckles and try to maintain a steady speed in a 25 mph residential area.

“But what would happen if someone ever did?” I dither. The floor would open up to let the flames engulf you, swallow you up and all that would be left would be a little puff of black smoke where your blackened soul was once. I give her the logical secular answer, “well, you’d be expelled…..instantaneously.” I wait for what might come next, hover in "limbo." “It’s o.k. mum, that’s all I wanted to know.”
“Um….no other questions?”

My heart starts beating again and I begin to breathe. She probably doesn’t need to know about everlasting hell and damnation just yet, if ever. I wonder why they say once a Catholic always a Catholic? It’s all perfectly logical!

For a more practical look at some of the hic-cups for parents with autistic children, you can see me over "here" at "Trusera" with "A Combined Approach."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Finely tuned communication

Broadly speaking I am outnumbered. All too frequently I make the mistake of dealing with three conversations simultaneously and lose the thread completely. Generally speaking, I find it more efficient to complete one conversation first and back track later to pick up other threads. I like to think of it as my anti-unraveling campaign.

The latest crop of ditties that the boys have acquired is rather disconcerting. What is even more disconcerting is the hilarity that accompanies each one. I find it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything at all in the whirlpool of laughter. The fact that it is also reciprocal and infectious makes it hard to keep a straight face for more serious conversations.

“Come along now, it’s time to put away your clothes.”
“Time? What time it is being?”
“Ah, time to put away clothes.”
“Subway! Eat fresh! Subway! Eat fresh! Subway! Eat fresh!” he cooes.
“You want us to put away the laundry? Why?” queries my independent pre-teen. It would appear that is someone else who is in need of a few life skills.
“Cheese is an adventure! Woe,” he announces in a breathy tone, oblivious to his sister's strident tone.
“Well they’re your clothes.”
“How much wood can a wood chuck chuck!” he giggles.
“But that’s your job.” Her body language tells me all I need to know, but her brothers continue to circulate their own circuitry.
“Now I weemember. If you shout fings, you remember them still. I LIKE PIE!” he bellows, little liar that he is as he rolls back in fits of laughter.
“What’s my job?”
“Innernet! Innernet! Innernet!” the robot voice still plagues us.
“Put away the laundry and other mom stuff,” the eyes roll but she spares me the 'duh!'
“Gone fishin! Gone fishin! Gone fishin!”
“Au contraire. My job is to teach you how to put your own clothes away so that you can be independent and grown up.”
“Bet on it. Bet on it. Bet on it.” The robot sounds optimistic.
“Fine! But I don’t want to be grown up and inde..........”
“Are we nearly there yet! Are we nearly there yet! Are we nearly there yet!”
“Sorry dear? What was that again? I don’t think you quite finished what you wanted to say.”
“Gedda new look fur yur bedrorom!”
“Fine! I’ll do it but I don’t know how?”
“Eggy eggy eggy!” even though Easter is long gone.
“We’ll learn how to do it together.”
“Hold dah ice! Hold dah ice! Hold dah ice!”
“Fine but whataya gonna do all day if you don’t do the laundry any more? Sit on yur butt and chat to yur friends?”
Mercifully she didn’t say 'fanny'!
“Butt jokes! Get yur butt jokes here!” the list of banned words grows daily.
“What an excellent idea! I will sit on my bottom all day and learn how to use my cell phone.” 7 years after the event.
“Yur welcum! Yur welcum! Yur welcum!”
What!” Her face is a caricature of incredulity.
“No ifs no buts no co co nuts!”
“Um……well…..I suppose I’ll do everything I usually do except put away the laundry.”
“Pretty pretty shiny shiny.”
“Fine! But you don’t put the laundry away now anyways. There’s always at least three hampers of laundry at the top of the stairs.”
“Good fur you! Good fur you! Good fur you!”
“True but what about the other four hampers? And it’s never the same laundry, it’s a constant turnover around here.”
“Count dem? How many pairs of hands do you think I have? Two! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!”
“I don’t believe you! You’re a li………not telling the truth.”
“Gonna stab yah in the head wiv a fork!”
“I know! How about I teach you how to sort them, wash the dirty clothes, then dry them, then fold them and then you’ll see how many full hampers there really are on the average day?”
“Here’s to gluttony!”
Fine! I said I’d do it alrighty.” She flounces from the room, a gesture that she's worked to perfection over the last few weeks.
“Bring on dah rainbow……and dah weather forecast is……fine!”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Little boy blue

We read every nursery rhyme in existence a while back, when they were little. I read the English versions that use the word ‘shall’ frequently, which seems less common in America. Nobody listened to me but I persisted because I have a cussed streak. After 8 months on a waiting list, we finally wormed our way in a speech therapy spot. At last! All would be well. I sat in on every session so that I could learn what to do and how to do it. After a few sessions I asked about homework or practice. The therapist* had several suggestions. The one I remember was almost as follows:-
“Do you take them to the park to play ever?”
“Yes, almost every day.”
“So when he climbs the ladder say ‘up, up, up’ and as he slides down say ‘down, down, down.’”

I looked at her in disbelief before I burst into tears.

These days we are on to bigger and better things, perhaps?

I have several items on my wish list; popsicle mould, shoe horn and curtain hooks. It is my lot in life to be burdened with far too many brilliant ideas, ideas that often fail to materialize or morph into a different category of catastrophe.

My wish list differs from other people’s in several respects. Firstly, it should be a shopping list but instead I keep hoping that these things will just appear like magic, as I usually have a strong allergic reaction to the shopping part of the equation.

Secondly, I do nothing actively to assure that these things become part of my household. Whilst they remain in the ‘wish’ category, I can pretend that if they did ever arrive, they would be successful. If they did ever arrive, I would quickly discover that none of them were magical and I would still have the same issues to deal with regardless.

The shoe horn will speed up the process of persuading three small people to achieve the status of shod. The popsicle moulds will mean that one of my boys will consume pureed fruit, or at least that’s the theory. I would prefer the theory not to be disproven for a while. The curtain hooks are too complicated to explain.

My daughter and I make a mad dash to the shoe shop as her trainers have died, ripped up, heel dismembered, soles unstuck, lining worn and the laces in tatters. She tries on many pairs of shoes and unlike her brothers, would be quite happy to buy several pairs.

Whilst she amuses herself I examine the socks on display to see if any might be seamless and or, cost less than a pair of shoes. My fingers step over all the alternative types of shoe laces that we have entertained over the years, none of which proved successful, merely expensive party poopers. We settle on one pair of trainers for walking to and from school, and a pair of flip flops, as it is already in the balmy 70’s in California.

At the check out a shoe horn lies idly on the counter with the shop’s name printed on the handle 'for customer use only.' Safe! “I don’t suppose you have any of these to sell?” I ask blithely, confident that the dream shall remain so.
“No, but you can have that one if you like?”
I do not like! Who is she to burst my bubble! “Well thank you so much, that’s extremely kind of you. Are you sure you won’t get into any trouble?”
She beams me, “no, no trouble at all. Nobody uses em anyways.” She plops it into the bag with the shoes as it drops like a lead balloon. I stagger out of the shop with the weight of the world on my shoulders, or rather in the bag, as I know it’s time to pop the balloon and burst another myth.

The following day I proceed with caution. We have foiled breakfast, challenged dressing, today in blue rather than Mario colours, what a coup! Teeth are approximately cleansed.

We have a well rehearsed shoe schedule. It is far from perfect but on an averagely goodly day, I can have them all shod in 12 minutes. That’s not to say that whilst I focus on one child someone else won’t remove and or hide their shoes, such that we’re closer to a 40 minute marathon.

I produce the shoe horn with a flourish, name it, explain it’s purpose and attempt to use it on the first rapturous child. Echoes of ‘shoe horn’ swirl around my head from two captivated boys, a thing that claims to be a horn but is silent even when you blow it. I remove it from his mouth and wipe off the spittle. This is going to take longer than I anticipated. Did I think about it all before I started? For some reason they both want to put their feet on it at the same time, a bit like skate boarding and nowhere in the vicinity of their shoes. I grab one of my own shoes and demonstrate the use of a shoe horn, “see! See how my foot just slides into the shoe?” They’re even more keen to have a go but I only have one shoe horn and four little feet. We practice taking turns as I didn’t expect such enthusiastic co-operation. His foot follows the shoe horn in the air as he sits on his bottom on the hard wood floor. The shoe horn appears to be magnetic to feet but we need to put the toes into the shoe first.

“I am little!”
“I know but you’re growing every day.”
“I am blue!”
“Oh dear. Really? What’s the matter lovie?”
“I am a boy.”
“Don’t you like being a boy?”
“Put em all togevver!”
“Put what altogether?”
He grabs the shoe horn, sticks it in him mouth again and makes a raspberry noise. He collapses on the floor in guffaws of laughter. After quite a long while he recovers, and sits upright to tell me “Little boy blue, come blow up yur horn!” but only briefly, as he falls backwards, still laughing.

Little Boy Blue poem

Little Boy Blue come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow the cow's in the corn.
But where's the boy who looks after the sheep?
He's under a haystack fast asleep.
Will you wake him? No, not I - for if I do, he's sure to cry

* I have a tremendous respect for this woman, as I had a great deal to learn.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I become intolerable

One of my children plays away on a Friday afternoon, so I only have two of mine and two others for the play date. Two boys down stairs, two girls upstairs, that is the overall plan.

I’ve been borderline before, but now I’m teetering on the edge. I already knew that she was an assertive child. Although she exudes confidence I know that the truth is otherwise. Aged 8 she comes to play with my 10 year old daughter. She is two months older than my son.

I drive them all home. The girls chat in the back of the car.

“Your car is huge.”
“Yeah. My Dad bought it for my mom for a Christmas present.” I decide not to mention it, that it was a replacement car that happened to arrive at Christmas.
“Geez, you must be real rich!”
This is how the myth survives.

“Why is he all……you know……floppy?” she asks me.
“He’s tired, it’s been a long day for him.” I avoid the subject of poor core body strength and vestibular issues.
“He looks all…….you know……weird.”
“Tired! Aren’t you dear?” I say by mistake. Should I have mentioned that 'weird' is a banned word?
“Why isn’t he answering. Hey you! Your mom asked you a question.”
“It’s ok, he’s tired. He doesn’t usually talk at the end of the day. He needs a rest.”
“A rest?”
I want to shout ‘drop it!

The boys giggle and squirm together in the back of the car.

“What are they laughing at? Hey, whataya laughin at?”
“They’re just a bit wiggly after school,” I offer weakly but my daughter adds her support, “you know……boys! They can be kinda silly sometimes, just let em do their thing.”
“But they’re so loud! What’s so funny?”
I don’t want to explain that his word bank is exhausted, so I distract instead.
“What are you going to play when we get home girls?”

Once home the boys are out and gone in a flash. The girls saunter into the house, “eeoow! What is that?”
“Oh dear. I think one of the cats must have had an accident. Looks like he’s been eating grass again.”

I rummage under the kitchen sink for equipment.

In the family room I set about cleaning up. She stands over me as I crouch on the carpet scrubbing, “eeow! Are you going to clean that up?”
I lift my eyes to her face which is screwed up in an expression of disgust. Sarcasm tickles the edges of my lips but I resist, “why don’t you two go and play upstairs together?”

They move off, into another room but I can hear their conversation.
“Say it again!” she teases.
“Monna Ray Bay.”
“Hee, hee! He called in Monna Ray Bay! He got it wrong!”
“Das o.k. I know it’s ‘Monterey Bay’ but I like Monna Ray Bay betterer.” He grins at his pal, two guys back from a school field trip. He slips his arm around his wordless pal’s shoulders. One grin reflected back by the other. I nip back with my Marigold clad hands, “why don’t you girls go upstairs and play?”

I hear the cat retching and dash back to the family room.
I hear my son slurping milk.
“Does he always do that?” she asks my daughter.
“Yeah, but it’s o.k., he's jus real thirsty, he’s not doing any harm huh?”
“That’s gross! My mom would kill me if I did that!” I hear him wander away from the table, soft, irregular foot falls.
“Excuse me! I wouldn’t jump on that tramoplene after that huge glass of milk, you may throw up!” I hear him bounce as he gradually picks up a rhythm. Well done! Great coping skills! Wordless self regulation.
“D’you hear me? I said you’re gonna throw up! Jus like the cat!”

Bounce, bounce, bounce. Good boy! Where is the dividing line between assertive and bossy?

I finish up but the cat still looks a little green around the gills. I whip open the door and park him on a garden chair. I dash back inside and skid to a halt near the trampolene.
“O.k. I think he must have some kind of speech thing,” she announces to the room as she stares at my son. I put a hand on the shoulder of each girl and propel them towards the table.
“D’you know I have a friend who has epilepsy?”
“Really?” I watch him bounce out of the corner of my eye.
“Yeah and she has allergies and asthma and all sorts.”
“Really?” When we’re 15 paces away he stops bouncing to sit on the edge of the trampolene. He and his pal exchange wordless glances.
“I can’t remember how many things she’s allergic to though.”
“Here, have a Satsuma,” I deflect. Maybe if I can fill her mouth with something....
“Sat what?”
“Satsuma. They’re very easy to peel. Try one, you might like them?”
“The orange things?”
“That’s right.”
“I have a rule.”
“You do?” Somehow that doesn't surprise me.
“Yeah. If I eat bananas then they have to be cut up for me first.”
“Really?” He flops back on the trampolene, a soft pliant body at rest.
“Is this our snack?”
“Have you got anything else?”
“Afraid not.”
“Can I stay for supper………..please?” My son sits upright, like a ramrod, across the room, wordless. His pal flinches.
“Not tonight I’m afraid, I think your mother has other plans.” The ramrod wilts and expires back into his original position. His pal lolls over, inert on the sofa.
“Can she stay for a sleepover tonight Mom, please?”
I watch him rip off his shirt, roll off the tramplene onto the floor and cover his head, nose buried in the carpet fibres.
“Er… it’s a little short notice dear, maybe another time.” A huge sigh wafts out of my son as his arms flop out to the side.
“Eeoww, he’s taken his shirt off. Why d’ya take yur shirt off?”
“He’s hot. Let’s leave them both be, and you girls go up and play.”
“We’re just gonna finish our snack here.

I go over to my son and his pal, “come on guys, lets leave the girls in peace and go and play in the family room. It’s clean now.” We bumble off together.

I put of box of bricks over the damp patch and sit on the carpet next to sack of Pokemon.

They lie on the floor surrounded by pictures of Pokemons that he and his brother made yesterday, carefully, painstakingly and then cut out. This is a feat of unsurpassed manual dexterity, determination and motivation. They turn the paper figures around in their hands making soft little Pokemon noises together, gentle communication. No words. They giggle and grin. I watch and listen. I watch her walk up to him and pounce,
“They’re evil! There! I’ve killed them all!” I stop watching her as she stamps all over the papers. I jump to my feet as I watch them and their mystified faces.

I take a breath. This is not my child, merely a child in my temporary care. My son rolls up in a very small and silent ball. His friend is static, watching. I don’t really want to explain the inexplicable to an 8 year old in front of the boys. I hunker down and touch her arm to turn her towards me, “you know, I think you have hurt their feelings…..quite badly……..look.” She looks at the curve of his exposed vertebrae.
“I din mean to,” she offers and I think she probably means it.
I blurt out the first thing that comes into my mind, “it’s o.k. for people to like and dislike different things.” It’s one of my many, more nauseating statements, that I say hundreds of times a day. If I known that I would be saying so often, I would have chosen a better statement. Once the words leave my mouth it is as if they are carved in stone.

When would any one need to use such a trite statement? Why is it so hard to explain? How can my choice or preference be so upsetting for someone else? An example, may, help.

For years I wore the same old ratty T-shirts and jeans, a mummy uniform but for different reasons. If I wore something else it would upset the boys. A few years ago I would have become unrecognizable just by this one change. It doesn’t really matter what I wear, it will smell differently, or maybe rustle. Sometimes, especially if I’ve not planned ahead, he may need to chew the hem of my shirt to calm himself but not if it feels strange in his mouth. There might be static electricity. The texture and colour will be different. A button, zip or snap fastener may offend, especially if we come in to physical contact, which we frequently do. If I take off my glasses, who am I? Even a pair of earrings can be too sparkly or distracting.

All these things caused tremendous meltdowns. We did have an inkling of some of the issues but when words started to come, the picture became less blurry. More intuitive parents fare better. We used this annoying phrase to try and build tolerance and chip away at their rigid rules.

These days, so many years later, their ability to put up with their wayward parents is quite astonishing.

It makes a welcome change to use this phrase now, to someone else and probably, for the first time.......... entirely appropriately.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A growing trend – whoever you are?

It’s the fifth time I’ve seen it in 12 years in the States. I’ve never seen it in England but I’m not there very much any more. I stand by my trolly with my daughter in Trader Joes supermarket and watch, just like everybody else. I see a youngster, a boy, run from one end of the frozen food counter to the other, 30 feet, but he treds on the frozen food. His face is elated and his body is very nimble. My children have not done this. Maybe he is acting out, punishing his parent? Perhaps he is oblivious to social norms or flaunting them deliberately, there is no way to tell. I look around for his parent.

I see her swift movements with a face that’s a mask that masks nothing. She’s calm, almost nonchalant, as she heaves 60 pounds of child off the end of the freezer section. Trader Joes is a chain, a franchise. There are several options in a 25 mile radius. I expect that she visits them in turn. I imagine that she probably doesn’t take her son with her unless there are no other options.
Her rhino hide is impressive. She probably doesn’t notice, but I beam her anyway. How can one not beam such people?

mon - Indoor fireworks

All children squabble, it’s perfectly normal.

I chop onions in the kitchen, frenetic supper production during 30 minutes electronics but I’m only six steps away from them in the family room. The children lined up on the sofa, devices in hands.

“Static electricity!” he squalks.
“Stop buggin me!"
“Static electricity!” He rolls round and around on the couch wrapped in the new fake fur blanket.
“It’s impossible to beat those bats! It’s soooo annoying!” she moans at her Gameboy.
“How much wood can a wood chuck chuck,” he guffaws.
“Stop it with the baby talk you guys! Ow! What was that?”
“Not baby talk…..tongue twister time! Dat is be dah spark.” Good grief! Answering to questions one right after another without missing a beat?
“Spark? Be quiet! Stop making the baby noises!”
“Mom……she bin done call me…..baby!” Even the delivery is perfect! The tone! The whine! Bliss.
“No! don’t tattle tale on me you baby! Ow! What is that?”
“I not tat, I tongue twist! I be tell you already……static electricity.” Bless his little cotton socks, responding to two questions! Hold that thought! Both of them.
“Fine! Just stop it, it hurts. Just be quiet. Do you think you might possibly be able to do that for more than a nano second, just quit it already,” she wheedles, loaded with sarcasm.
“Hey Mom! She’s bin psychotic to me!”
“Psychotic? You mean sarcastic! Baby!”
“Dat too.”

I shuffle over to the family room and peer into the gloom as he takes his next roll in the leopard fur, sputtering blue sparks.

“See, dey are bin fireworks……inside.”

The subtly of language! I think I’m glad about that. I think.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sun - Spelling Bee or hangman

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times [a day!] Those electronic game devices are the scourge of my life. However, they are the single most motivating force in the boys’ lives.

It’s hard to pin point which feature is most annoying: the irritating, monotonous tunes that jangle through my brain, the inability of anyone to wear a set of head phones, the squeaks and yells that they utter continuously whilst playing, their meltdowns of frustration as the fight their way up the learning curve of a new game or new level,

Then today, what do I find? I find that the wireless feature, that we parents have been unable to locate, utilize or translate, they discover for themselves. As if this isn’t proof enough of their innate abilities, we also learn that they are willing to communicate, one to the other. One draws a little picture with a word or two of description, or a message and then pings it across to the other one. The other one roars with laughter and then returns the favour. Facilitated communication, reciprocal something or other and a whole heap for fun for them both.

Their willingness to communicate in this manner is unprecedented. I am stunned into awestruck silence as I watch them ping back and forth. This heady experience has me dumbstruck until I’m prompted by “how you are spell?”
“How do you spell what dear?”
“How you are spell ‘room.’?”
I oblige.
“How you are spell?”
“How do you spell what dear?” The all essential and most elusive skill of referencing back is still missing. Will always be missing. They will never ever put the clue in the question.
“How you are spell ‘thank you’?”
I oblige. He opens his mouth to ask another one but I jump right in, “you know instead of saying two sentences, you can just say one and get the answer quicker.”

He looks at me blankly, too many words to process. I try again.
“You could say ‘how to you spell……’ and then fill in the blank?”
“Fill in the blank? I am not wanting blank?” I bite my lip.
“No……how do you spell Torchic or Treecko or Mudkip. You add the word you want to spell to the question.”
“I am not want spell doze words.” I grab a pad of paper and a pencil. For some reason the written word so often works, where the spoken word is indecipherable. I write it down for my visual learner with dodgy auditory processing skills. He reads with care. I wait.

“So what do you want to spell now?”

He spells it out to me, word by word, syllable by syllable, just to make it clear.
“Er……how you be…….can I be spell……how you are spell….B..I..N..G..O!” he blasts before rolling on the floor in guffaws of laughter.

Oh the misery of it all.

The Day of Rest

My daughter spends the morning at an Easter Egg hunt. Her father slumbers upstairs with a combination of a migraine and jet lag of uncertain proportional percentages. I hover by the coffee machine but take a different option. I curl up with two boys who are under the weather, off colour and not quite themselves, following a week of fever.

One burrows his medicine ball head into my thigh, powerful and needy but more than merely proprioceptive input. The little one permits me to put an arm around his waist, well away from the danger area above his shoulders. No-one says a word, snug and silent for a change. I debate whether to commence word extraction? My finger circles the palm of his hand in idleness. It reminds me of the baby game, 'Round and Round the Garden, like a teddy bear.......' a game that has never been fun, a banned game. Such a commonplace little pastime. Such an impossible hurdle. The words 'teddy bear' were always a certain trigger for a meltdown. I had to substitute different words and remove the tickle. 'Little hare' was feeble. A fingertip to the nose instead of a tickle, was also in the reject box, just as you would expect from someone with sensory issues. I don't dab at his nose with a tissue because I learned that lesson a long time ago. I see the moisture glisten, untouched and undisturbed, reluctant to break the peaceful spell. His finger nudges mine, his head nods encouragement, his eyes send a mixed message. I begin circling again, gently walk my fingers up his forearm, upper arm, shoulder, pause on his chin and then to fingerprint his nose.

He giggles.

Is seven years too late?

Maybe I should have used permanent ink?

Today I am also over "here" at "Trusera" with "Reciprocal Exchange."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Photo Op for an old battleaxe

I notice an alarming new trend. Some little thief keeps pinching the digital camera. The result? When I load a new batch of photos onto the computing I come face to face with this tattered old woman, the poster child for "frownies." She always has the same slightly blurred expression, one claw hand extended in a reach to snaffle back the ownership of the camera.

In an ideal world, this is a battle I should win because he is snapping photos whilst running backwards. Meanwhile I shall continue to fight my attitude if it continues to be captured on celluloid.

Today I am also over "here" at "Trusera" with "For Frantic Parents."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sing your heart out Peggy Lee

It’s tempting just to shriek. It’s a simple enough question afterall; “will you be home for supper?” This is information I need in advance, from all six of us. Everyone has plans but no-one can be nailed down to a time table even if a hammer was available.

No-one understands.

You can’t take two sick children to the supermarket. You can’t announce to everyone “we still have to eat you know!”

It’s one of those annoying illnesses, the kind that lingers for day upon day. The predominant symptom is a temperature, a fever. It’s the kind of fever that hovers around 99 degrees for a blink or two, but then reverts to normal. Each child needs one full fever free day before returning to school. After the 99 degree temperature is duly noted, each child proceeds to swing from the rafters with glee for the remainder of the day, well within the confines of ‘normal.’

Two little boys celebrate the semi permanent status of ‘no school.’ Other people scowl with discontent, indefinite menus and outstanding chores, as the efficiency standards plummet.

My primary concern is to guard the safety of the 5 laundry hampers at the top of the stairs. Hours of work, carefully folded and ready for return to their destination, should time allow. Without due diligence, the contents will be tossed so that the hampers can be requisitioned as ‘boats.’ Wooden spoons will be stolen as ‘oars.’

My secondary concern is to produce a dinner for an indeterminate number of bodies by 7 in the evening.

Whilst it would be true to report that two smallish people don’t eat much whilst under the influence, theoretically, nutritious meals should be provided regardless, if only to aid recovery. It is difficult to prepare nutritious meals in the company of two small people in need of entertainment and distraction, even if you have all day within which to prepare.

No one period of 3 or 5 minutes appears to be sufficient for efficient brain function from the chef. The half peeled potato seems lonely and irrelevant. What was the melted butter for again? Why did I chop an onion? Why did I leave the soup out to thaw? Do any of these things fit together? How do they fit together? Why is that greased casserole dish sitting there so guilty?

When he phones to warn me of his imminent return home, I’m tempted to tell him to stay at work.
“What’s up?”
“What’s up? I haven’t managed to do anything today, let alone make supper!” I dislike my nervy tone.
“Pull something out of the freezer. The fridge is overflowing!” I endure a pause, pregnant with festering vitriol. I am uncomfortably aware of the truth of these two facts.
“Well……. how about I pick up a take out on the way home?”

Horray! Now why didn’t I think of that?

I climb the stairs and gently tip out the laundry. I lean each pile against the wall. They look a little unstable so I tilt them back a bit in my favour and stack the five empty hampers together. I skip downstairs with my hoard of treasure, grab a handful of wooden spoons to a chorus of “Chips Ahoy!” from two land bound potential sailors.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

These days of the trivial

No matter how hard I think about it, I’m unable to extricate myself from the mess.

Friday afternoons means play dates. We alternate between our house and our friends’ houses. Sometimes I have six children here all at once, but I’m adapting. Parent teacher conferences mean that the children all finish early. Instead of 3 hour play dates we now have span from 1:15 until 6 p.m.. Only this week it is more complicated.

My daughter will go to her pal Jane’s house at 3 as they do not have parent teacher conferences this week in their school district. However, we have her other pal, Mary, at our house in the interim, until then, or until her mother comes to collect her, whenever that might be. How long does it take to fix a car’s windshield? Somehow I have to manovre six children back into the car, wearing their shoes, socks and clothes, so that I can deliver my daughter to Jane’s regular play date and then return home again, another transition for four special needs kids and one left over ten year old Mary. It leaves me with an additional social, etiquette dilemma to explain to my daughter.
“Why can’t Mary come with me, and play at Jane’s too?”
“No I’m afraid you can’t ask extra friends to a play date at someone else’s house.”
“But why?”
“Because it’s rude.”
“But what’s Mary gonna do when I’m away with Jane?”
“I’m not sure yet, but I’ll find something to do, until her mother comes to fetch her.” Her eyes flick back and forth between me and Mary, pleading. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure that she has a fun time, she won’t be lonely.”

She looks at her friend and contemplates her position. I’m not sure with whose plight I am most sympathetic? My daughter’s loyalty to two different pals? Or Mary, with only four little boys to play with? I’m not quite sure why this is so difficult? I am more than capable of entertaining Mary. I am probably capable of supervising four boys at the same time but somehow it seems topsy turvy.

Not so long back I always used to know what was the ‘right thing to do,’ even if I didn’t necessarily do it. These days I have trouble figuring out what exactly the ‘right thing’ is in the first place. It’s worse that trying to match 42 single smallish, whitish, socks into pairs. I need some clear headed, logical, thinker to intervene. Someone to help me separate the wood from the trees, before I get completely lost in the forest. When will he ever get back from England.

So saying, if this is the ‘most’ I have to worry about, I must be a pretty lucky woman these days.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

No High school, Musical or otherwise

We trundle in the semi light of early morning, never the best time of the day.

“Dark, dark, dark.”
“It is be night? When it is be day? Where is being dah sun?”

The move to Daylight saving has dire effects in some households. I remind everyone of the vagaries of time travel as we stumble and bumble our way to school on foot.

As we approach the traffic light I prompt them.
“Now don’t forget to say hello to the Lollipop lady.”

They gasp, suddenly alert and searching.

“Lollipop! Lollipop? Where it is be dah lollipop!”
“You know, the lady we see every day at the traffic lights.”
“Why is she called a lollipop lady?”
“Because…..er…….because she holds up a sign that looks like a lollipop. Isn’t she called a lollipop lady here?”
“Never heard that before.”
“Really? What do you call them here?”
“Lollipop ladies. Oh I know….er…….traffic…..wardens? No that doesn’t sound quite right either.”
“Crossing guards mom!”
“Ah. That makes sense.”
“Anyways…..I gotta have one.”
“Have one what?”
“A cell phone.”
“A cell phone?”
“Yeah, you know, one of those lil phones!”

I see her eyes roll and the world weary sigh of sarcasm.

“Maybe when you are older.”

It suddenly dawns on me, why I have tennis elbow when I don’t play tennis. I hold one small hand encased in a glove on my left. I hold the little frozen hand firmly, whilst the rest of his body sparks, hops and jumps with intermittent Karate chops and Pokemon battle moves. My right arm is extended out and cupped around my other son’s shoulder. My forearm acts as an anti-reversal guard and helps keep him propelled forward. It also serves as a parachute hook, to slow the fall of his next collapse. It's an unfamiliar posture for 58 minutes, once a day, for an old body to learn.

“But everyone has one!”

She lists her class mates' names, those kiddie winkies in possession of a cell phone.
“Didn’t you have a cell phone when you were a kid, or hadn’t they been invented.”

It’s not really a question, more of a put down.

I trawl my memory bank. I have vague recollections of actors on the telly, a phone the size of a house brick clamped to their ears and a yard of aerial whipping around like a fly fisher. Was that the 70’s or maybe the 80’s? What’s a decade anyway? “Yes, people had cell phones but we couldn’t afford one.”
“I don’t dance,” he sings as he stomps, coupled with a few soft shoe shuffles on a different beat, quoting from Highschool Musical II.

“Sheryl has Hanna Montana on her ring tone. It went off in class yesterday. We all heard it.”
“How delightful for your teacher.”

“Hey,batter,batter, hey battter,batter swing.”
“Don’t sing that!” she snaps
“I've go to just do my thing,” he continues oblivious.

“Hey,batter,batter, hey batter,batter swing.”
“Mom! Make him stop singing that! Anyways you’ve gotta phone now!”
“Yes, true.”
“How long have you had it?”
“Let me see……..your dad bought it for me when I was pregnant, for emergencies…..so…….that’s 7 years ago. There you go, if you can afford it, you can buy one when you’re 40.”

I wallow in the bath of smug, self satisfaction having defeated a ten year old. I bask for approximately seven and a half seconds, as we pass the Middle School, five minutes away from our Elementary school, when a car pulls into the curb. Pal jumps out of the car where they two pals squeal with girlish glee in a cloud of hormones. The window rolls down, “Hi Nat!” She leans over her older daughter’s lap in the passenger seat, just in time to attend her own Middle School.
I bend, “good morning.”
“You gonna walk home affer school?” the car engine idles.
“Er…..um….” Where are my worms when I need them?
“Coz I gotta get ma windshield fixed at one,” she taps the glass. “May not be finished by 1:15 early school pick up. I don wan her walkin home alone.” I look at pal. I look at pal’s leatherette booted feet with two inch heels, perfect for the catwalk. I am dubious that pal has ever walked to her own home.
“That’s o.k. I’ll be collecting them up in the car."
“Great! I’ll pick her up later from yur house,” she calls as she shifts the car into gear and away.

My house? I’m not dropping her back to her own home? How did that happen? There again, I could hardly drop her back to an empty house. We walk the last three minutes to school while my brain counts children’s heads, calculates how to slot seven children into my car and where to strategically place four special needs children in the milieu.

I should have paid more attention in math class or maybe game theory?

Today I am also over here at "Trusera" with "environmental factors."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Opening for Guardian Angel

I decide that for the time being at least, a benign dictatorship rather than democracy, shall rule in my American household.

I practice during the afternoon whilst she is away with her pal for a play date. When the telephone call comes from my daughter, as surely as night follows day, I explain that it not convenient for her to have a sleepover. I do not explain further nor add 'not here, not there, not anywhere, ever.'

Her demands border on the hysterical. I lose my footing in response to the ‘why?’ and flail with ‘because your father is coming home tomorrow.’ Oh course she remembers that his flight lands in the evening. I recall two things; I may be a wimp but I am also supposed to be the adult, so I revert to ‘inconvenient’ and stick to it. She negotiates a further hour of play date amid copious shovelfuls of whining, but she will return.

I already know that she is amassing her counter arguments to my objections. Whilst I consider that my objections are reasonable, I can already anticipate her rivalry. Better by far just to not become embroiled.

I would prefer her not to consume dinner with almost a full pound of cheese on a Family Size pizza topped with 80 slices of premium pepperoni. It's easy to remember 'all things in moderation,' but I doubt that her protestations of ‘only one slice’ are likely to be honoured without parental supervision, specifically my own parental supervision.

I appreciate that she is confident that she is immune to the silent father swilling beer on the sofa in front of the telly. I am partial to a drink myself and addicted to Law and Order once everyone is safely tucked up.

I have no doubt that she would willingly resist the temptation of all night U-tube, wouldn’t we all? Maybe she will help them install firewalls?

She is used to the issue of smearing. Surely their household and ours are all too similar, water off a ducks back to the hail and hearty youth of today.

Obviously she will happily entertain herself for several hours the following morning whilst the rest of the household slumbers. She’s more than capable of occupying herself with no adult eye upon her. She's unlikely to starve without breakfast.

It’s not any one thing that makes me uncomfortable, it’s the collective. I have a sudden new appreciation that the 'typical' can be so much more difficult than the 'atypical.'

I fear my holding pattern will be short lived though. I do have an alternative solution but I need to check it out with an etiquette guru, a Miss Manners of America. My alternative plan is to hire a baby sitter for the boys and accompany her as chaperon, sort of invite myself, so I can sit on her shoulder like a parrot, a very loud and colourful one.

But I hope I’m always open to other suggestions.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Origami puzzles

I grumble on return from the supermarket, silently. My son grumbles noisily. He protests at the outrageous art project at school, the one that inevitably involved paper, which sparked off a meltdown of gargantuan proportions. His daily paper report card provides graphic details of the horror that followed. It seems his dislike of paper and it’s texture has resurfaced with a vengeance.

I grumble over a different matter, one of the many problems of living in America, especially if you’re of Scottish descent. It’s the bargains that are the problem. In Europe you might get a penny off something if you saved fifty packet tops and promised to give away your first born child in exchange. But not in America. How can you refuse such offers, even if the fridge is already overflowing? It’s similar to the other shopping problem:- one individual cookie for 99 cents, or 50,000 cookies for $1.99? A nightmare for a penny pincher, slain by the special offer, self control buried in a deluge of cookie crumbs.

“Whatcha doin Mom?”
“Cooking dear. Shall I show you how to make Lettuce soup?”
“No thanks. Do you make this stuff up or do you ever have a recipe?”
“Make it up?”
“Yeah, all this weird food. I’ve never heard of anyone eatin lettuce soup!”
“No? France? Escoffier? Look at the computer, it’s on-line.”
“Oh…….dyou know we have enough fruit and veg to have a yard sale!”
“Hmm. I know what you mean.”
“It’s great that Lucky’s have that offer on again.”
“Like we have a free supper now. Free sausages, free lettuces, free bread, free spaghetti.”
“Why are you hmming?”
“Well let’s face it, lettuce isn’t really high on anyone’s yummy list around here is it?”
“You eat lettuce.”
“3 Jumbo Hearts of Romaine! Each one of them is bigger than my head! I’m not a complete rabbit.”
“The sausages are the best!”
“Yes, true.”
“Yucky sourdough.”
“I like sourdough!”
“Yes but nobody else does. You can’t eat a whole loaf all by yourself.”
“I could try,” she offers with enthusiasm just as her little brother arrives on the scene, “I am like!”
“What do you like dear?”
“Free stuff.”
“Yes everyone likes free stuff.”
“I am like.”
“What are you like…..I mean, what do you like dear?”
“Free stuff.”
“Which free stuff?”
“Which free bit, the spaghetti, the sausages, lettuce or bread?”
“Free tickets.”
“Oh mom, he means the money off coupons.”
“But they’re made of ………..paper!”

Lettuce Soup
Finely chop one medium sized onion. Sweat it in olive oil until transluscent
with dollop of garlic puree.
Add one medium sized finely chopped potatoe, leave for 15-20 minutes to meld.
Add a smidge of dried Herbs de Provence or few sprigs of fresh dill, flat leave parsley and Marjoram
Add a 1 litre of vegetable stock or chicken broth and wait for it to come up to a boil, turn down to a simmer
Add six large handfuls of lettuce one at a time until each one wilts
Whizz in Magimix / Cuisinart
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with any left over fresh herbs

Tip: if you believe that no-one will eat this, then skip the cream, that way you can tip it straight into the compost bin with confidence.

Lettuce Soup

Finely chop one medium sized onion. Sweat it in olive oil until translucent
with dollop of garlic puree.
Add one medium sized finely chopped potatoe, leave for 15-20 minutes to meld.
Add a smidge of dried Herbs de Provence or few sprigs of fresh dill, flat leave parsley and Marjoram
Add a 1 litre of vegetable stock or chicken broth and wait for it to come up to a boil, turn down to a simmer
Add six large handfuls of lettuce one at a time until each one wilts
Whizz in Magimix / Cuisinart
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with any left over fresh herbs

Tip: if you believe that no-one will eat this, then skip the cream, that way you can tip it straight into the compost bin with confidence.

A bicycle made for several

I tidy, clean and fight laundry the day he is due to return home. I’m tempted to hurl everything into the hall closet, but as we are married to each other, he already knows that old trick. I curse my open plan home as doors are such a great disguise for mayhem.

I debate whether a single rose on the nightstand would be an appropriate gesture? Would his eye be drawn to the single bloom and glance over the bomb site, or is it just too sloppy? I talk it over with my daughter, hard at work on a ‘welcome home’ picture.

“I think it sounds very romantic. Is Dad romantic?”
“What it is?” chimes in a small person.
“What is what dear?”

My daughter giggles, “it’s lovey dovey, kissy squishy that kind of stuff.”

Clearly I have been remiss in the birds and bees department.

“He is be like dah flowers like me?”

I reflect upon their father who doesn’t know his Pelargoniums from his Buddleia, “Well, he does like some flowers.”
“We can be choose his favourite.”
“That’s nice dear. What is his favourite do you think?”
“Daisy,” he says with authority.
“How do you know?”
“Because it is be my favourite and we are be dah same.”

Princess Daisy, from Mario's Gameboy

Intolerance - a snippet

We conclude that there are 4 potential restaurants that may earn our patronage today. Prior to any final decision making, I call one in particular, just to check.

“Hi, this is San Jose’s most premiere restaurant in the Bay Area serving find food to the discerning public, specializing in pasta and seafood in a family style, how may I be of service to you today?”

It’s hard to process the message, delivered at speed with a gasp for breath at the end.

“Good morning. I was wondering if you served fries please?”

I am careful not to allow the word ‘chips’ escape from my lips as it is unfair to confuse the foreigners. I keep it brief, as American’s dislike waffle and time wasters. I stop myself from havering over the use of ‘premiere.’ The pronunciation is so mangled it cannot be French, but I have started a new personal campaign, I shall not be picky about individual words. I shall be tolerant.

“Fries? D’ya mean French Fries?” she asks in a tone of American incredulity.
“Mais oui!”

My bad!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Try, try, try again.

Today I'm over at "Trusera" again, with another hint.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A pointer in the right direction

On a lovely tranquil weekend, I hope, I am over here at "Trusera."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Know your onions

The campaign to increase food intake and variety is wearing me out.

I foolishly decided that if we never eat the same thing twice, then everything will always be new, then there will be no safe harbour.

It is now a given that every mealtime results in collective squalks of horror.

He takes one glance at his dinner plate, clutches his throat and makes retching noises. I nudge the plate towards him, Asparagus spears, caramelized onions with crumbled bacon and a side of Dauphinoise potatoes. This child has to eat some, that child has to eat more and the other child just has to tolerate the food being on the table.

“I am hate!”
“You’ve never had it before so you don’t know if you hate it yet.”
“I hate celery!”
“It’s not celery dear.”
“What it is den?”
“I hate Aspergers.”
“Not Aspergers, Asparagus. It’s going cheap this time of year.”
“Going? Where it is go?”
“Sold. The shops are selling it cheaply at this time of the year.”
“Cheaply? What it is dah ‘cheaply?’”
“Less dollars. More dollars is dear, less dollars is cheap, or cheaper or cheaply.”
“Why are dollars be dear?”
“Oh,….er…. ‘dear’ means expensive too. Asparagus is cheap because it’s seasonal. Remember?”
“Seasonal. In season. The new rule that we eat food that is in season.”
“What season we are?”
“But it is sun.”
“That’s because we’re in California.”
“Asp…….is being a Winter vegetable?”
“What it is?”
“What is what dear?”
“Um the other…….the next season is being.”
“Yuk! I am hate Spring moorer.”
“I am hate Spring vegetables moorer than Winter vegetables.”
“Which vegetables?”
“Spring rolls.”

Pass me the compost bin please.

Today, I'm also over here at "Trusera."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Terms of Endearment?

Early in the morning, my boys gallop around the house……..singing: “mega hot, mega, hot, mega hot, hot, hot” to the accompanying tune of William Tell's overture. I take note of the new ditty with irritation. I wonder how long it’s shelf life will be? On balance, it is no worse and no better than any of the other little refrains that emerge, flutter around for a few days or weeks, and then disappear without a trace.

My daughter and her sleep over pal are full of giggles and secrets as we slip towards the tween phase of development. Still in their pyjamas, they huddle in corners and give the boys their marching orders.

Frequently, I have no clue from where these phrases originate, which is probably slightly more irritating in the great scheme of things. It’s an indication of my own personal failure, that I’m not able to keep track of their lives; illicit trashy cartoons, stolen moments on U tube, subversion from school. They all mount up in a growing pile of parental neglect and corruption. If I were more vigilant, I should be able to stop time, rewind and erase all the little detours. Who is responsible for contaminating my children!

It is only several hours later, that my daughter presents herself to me with a Cheshire Cat grin plastered to her face.

“Yes dear?”
“You now how I’m much older now?”
“Yes, indeed you are.”
“An I’m so much more mature?”
“Most certainly.”
“Well what would you think if I told you?”
“Told me what dear?”
“What she told me that he said about me?”
“She told me that this guy I used to know at my old school, well, he said I was mega hot!”

Maybe I’m worrying about the wrong two?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wordy Wednesday – deep proprioceptive input

Ms. Wordy Wednesday is alarmed on arrival.
“Good grief Maddy! Is he o.k.? What did you do to the little chap? What is that huge thing on him? Or was it an accident? Is that a tooth brush in his mouth? Did he choke?”
“Um…where should I start? That big blue thing is a wedge, shaped like a slice of cake and we use it to do some amateur occupational therapy stuff.”
“You’re right, that is a tooth brush, he’s cleaning his teeth, he didn’t choke and it’s not accidental that he’s under the big blue wedge, he did it deliberately, himself.”
“Um…..somehow…..that explanation doesn’t seem to help very much.”
“Sorry. Let’s start at the beginning. That’s my youngest one.”
“Ah, the one with all the extra raw exposed nerve endings.”
“Yes and the ‘don’t touch me above the shoulders’ thing.”
“Ah! So cleaning teeth must be a big issue around your house?”
“Yes indeedy. A very loud, screaming issue.”
“Actually, now that I look more closely at his face…….he looks quite happy!”
“He is. He’s found a coping mechanism.”
“A coping mechanism?”
“Something to help him cope with the agony of cleaning his teeth.”
“Yes, I know what a coping mechanism is, duh! I just can’t quite work out what it might be?”
“Do you notice a huge, five foot by 10 foot, blue wedge?”
“Sarcasm doesn’t become you! Yes I see it. How could I miss it, but how does it help?”
“Say you’re experiencing something painful, like at the dentist.”
“Do you grip the arms of the chair or dig your nails into your flesh to distract you?”
“Yes to the former no to the latter.”
“O.k. how about during child birth?”
“How do you mean?”
“Did you grit your teeth, grind your teeth, grip something with a stranglehold?”
“Ooo you’re not helping today.”
“So when was the last time that you were in real pain?”
“Er…..when my son fell off his bike and we rushed him to the ER. I kept talking to him and reassuring him but my mind was racing. I think I must have said every prayer I know a thousand times.”
“Ah. Not quite what I meant but that still works. Your brain was in pain so you distracted it with something else, another activity by praying so you didn’t have to think about the other stuff.”
“Yes, I suppose so. Doesn’t everybody do that?”
“Yes I think they probably do, but sometimes they do it in other ways. For my son, deep pressure keeps him grounded, literally in this case. By having his whole body squished it helps calm him, so that he’s better able to deal with the unpleasant sensation in his mouth.”
“You sound a bit doubtful?”
“Well it’s not exactly portable is it? I mean how much does that……wedge weigh?”
“I don’t know, but it’s certainly heavy.”
“Not really a long term solution.”
“True, it’s temporary, but it’s his personal fix and now we know, we can make other adjustments.”
“Such as?”
“We have a couple of weighted vests that do the same job and a couple of other vests with Velcro that can be adjusted to give you that same feeling of snugness.”
“Yes, like you swaddle babies to calm them, or how your mum pulled the sheets tight when she tucked you in at night, or that heavy winter coat that always feels so reassuring.”
“So "proprioceptive input" is just a big word for squishing!”
"In this particular instance, but there's a lot more too it than that."
"Another time then?"
“Sure. Oh and don’t let an occupational therapist hear you say that! She'd have my guts for garters!”

Monday, March 10, 2008

Look into the future

“I be need!”
“What do you need dear.” When will he learn to reference back and give me a clue!
“I be need goggles.”
“No. I be need glasses.”
“No. I be need shades!”
“No. I be need eye fingies.”
“Eye thingies?”
“No. I be need……binoculars.”

I look at my son. Four years ago there were several items, ordinary items, that he was unable to name.

The few that I particularly recall were television, microscope, binoculars and telephone. He refused to name anything that could remotely be called food. All of them were off his radar and therefore of no interest.

The expert tester encouraged him to point at the pictures he chose, the ones he was unable to name. He was unable to point at the pictures for fear that his finger tip might accidentally brush the texture, as paper was poison. Instead he broke silence and read out the fine print on the margins of the pages, their reference numbers and letter codes, a gesture that struck me as generous to a fault.

“Well, you know, I don’t think we have any binoculars dear.” They were given away, just like so many other things that were grouped together in the category of ‘boring,’ or in the alternative category of ‘items of torture.’
“Oh.” He looks a little crest fallen and I await the meltdown. Moments later he skips away, as happy as a lamb, or a sheep on speed.

He returns shortly thereafter, clutching a cardboard tube and dives into the kitchen drawer where his magical fingers tackle an ‘item of torture,’ the seleotape dispenser with it’s little serrated edge, the one sure to slash jugulars.

I step forward but he bellows me away, “I do it all my myself!”

And indeed he does!

“See! Ta dah!” he thrusts them towards me, less than an inch from my nose, “dey are beed super spy binoculars!”

I feel a little light headed as I watch him snatch them away, the binoculars of torture and place them over his eye sockets, the most sensitive part of his face. He hesitates and both hands quiver, his eyebrow arch to make more room until miraculously his vision is obscured by cardboard rings, surely the most superlative day in the universe.

In the bathroom, I step over the unraveled mounds of toilet paper, another mountain conquered.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

sun - Small things

I notice that with spouse away, the boys do not come into the bedroom in the morning. Usually they bowl in together to announce their pull-up and bed status, wet or dry, at 50 decibels, twice over. Whilst he is away in "England," I am no substitute. I am left to slumber in blissful peace.

Nevertheless at 5:25 a.m. which is really 6:25 a.m. due to Daylight Savings, I am forced to quit my steaming pit and lumber downstairs to calm the screaming masses. Sunday is pancake day, all of them are on the cusp of malnutrition. I stick the thermometer in my ear before I greet them, just to check that I am keeping the fever at bay: 99.1, let’s keep it that way.

We meet and greet as I discretely pat their derrieres for more checking. Dang! More laundry. I shelve laundry duty and commence pancake making. I grab oranges, celery, carrots and sweet peppers, shout a warning and stuff them all through the juicer. I am no nutritionist but I suspect that they may collectively hide healing properties for pre-teens and their acne.

I am in everyone’s dog house due to a failure to use my executive function. We have two outstanding issues to resolve, they are in my pending file:- "dog," which breed, age and sex is the first matter.

The second matter is determination of the ‘correct’ age that youthful American womenfolk may shave their armpits. Strangely the second issue takes up far more of my working brain capacity that the former. I discover that I have no terms of reference for this issue. There was no such thing as a pre-teen when I was one. I had no idea who, if anyone, had underarm hair, as arm pits were never on display. I do know that if you can’t cut a slice of bread with a knife, you should not be allowed within fifty paces of a safety razor.

The pay off for walking to school was the possibility of acquiring a "dog." The household member who is not sold on the dog theory of motivation is currently in England, for another week.

“I just don’t get it!” she whines. “If we get the dog whilst he’s away it’ll be a fate accomplished!”

I look at my daughter. I keep a straight face. The boys burble quietly, "batteries not included, batteries not included, batteries not included."
“That would be very underhand dear. Daddy and I make big decisions together.”
"Bukugan sting! Bukugan sting! Bukugan sting!"
“So? Getting a dog isn’t a big decision, it’s a quick little decision.”
"Geronimo! Geronimo! Geronimo!"
"Daddy thinks it's a big decision."
“Well if getting a dog is a big decision, what about the other decision? Surely that’s nothing, a real no brainer.”

Her emphasis doesn’t escape me, but I let it ride.

I am struck by a thoroughly brilliant idea, prompted by a recent email.

“Tell you what!”
“What?” is the desultory response between gritted teeth.
“Your big sister will be back in ten days.”
“Really!” she perks.
“Yes. She’ll know all about that sort of thing. We’ll ask her what we decided when she was your age.”
“That’s no good! You’ll just do the same stupid thing you did with her!”

I bite my figurative tongue. I need to re-learn this skill and practice it for the next eight plus years.

“You’re right. I have a better idea.”
“What?” she sighs.
“You can talk it over with her. She’s cool. She’s young. Whatever she thinks is best is exactly what we’ll do. Deal?”

I nudge the glass of juice towards her and deflect her chilled glance. My son gasps wide eyed and begins to sputter, “ you, you, you have….a magic…….an…….invisible…….ring on yur head!”

My hands instinctively fly up. Nothing.

“She’s got hat hair!” explains my daughter in a voice of dripping ice, tossing back a curtain of silky tresses. “Yur not gonna go out like that are you Mom!” It’s more of a statement than a request. I reach over for my baseball cap and ram it back on my head, “sorted!

She steps away with the downwards head shake of those whose patience is exhausted.

I glug the rejected juice, slowly. In just over a week my first born, live child will return to the chicken ribbed, bosom of her family. My tree hugging, save a whale, worship the planet, no make-up, no nonsense daughter........... and we all know the number one criticism that American’s have about European women’s underarms! I place the glass in the sink, empty, it’s bound to be good for peri-menopausal, prematurely senile women too.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Truth or date? [part two]

It’s a simple mathematical equation. If it takes one mother 28 minutes to walk from A to B, then it should take three healthy, youthful, energetic children ….a certain period of time to get from B to A. I use my usual scientific approach, double it and add half of the original = one hour and fifteen minutes, give or take a heart attack.

I give the new campaign considerable thought to aid a successful and therefore self reinforcing spin. I invest in three pedometers and dig out three stop watches to appeal the numerate amongst us. I’m cautiously optimistic that I might be able to tap into the competitive nature of sibling rivalry although that might have hidden dangers.

I remind them of the goal with the assistance of a social story and logic. The goal is the possibility of adding a dog to our household. No hound will be bashful, it will require a daily walk. If no-one is able to walk except me, then the dog shall be mine. I hesitate over the ‘mine’ word as it is both banned and a trigger word, a dangerous combination. I take a back pack full of water, sun glasses, baseball caps, baby wipes and a front door key.

I am ready. I think?

I shuffle the last one out the door and lock it behind me. They tumble out onto the driveway when I then remind them that we are walking to school today at 6:45 in the morning. A deafening ruckus of protest is immediate from my landed salmon, slapping away on the concrete. I stand and wait. My daughter picks flowers as we wait and glance around for a neighbour count. I use the lighthouse technique, pour praise and attention on the one behaving appropriately. I set her pedometer and stop watch, fiddle with the controls and beam. We arrange her hair over her ears and the sun glasses. The sun glasses catch their attention. We spend a considerable amount of time on the drive way kitting everyone out with their new equipment before we are ready to take a few tentative steps in entirely the wrong direction, since nobody seems to be aware where school might be.

The first real obstacle is one that I should have anticipated, early morning sprinklers. As they sput into action, he bolts before the first droplet has spurted. I order my daughter to keep a safety hand on her brother, the leaning tower of Pisa, as I leg it into the road to retrieve sparky, a jumping jack of nerve endings with the blood curdling screams of the imminently dead. He flails to beat me off but he’s still small enough to be scooped. I slope back to the others and piggy back him until he’s ready to use his feet again. He’s ready quickly, as he strongly objects to being face to face with a back pack, an added bonus.

We make a motley sight ambling towards the school. Spaghetti legs, limp directionless bodies and tippy toes mark us out as rabble. My daughter pauses patiently with each meltdown. We have a remarkably calm exchange, almost conversational in between the screaming protests and collapsed bodies. It is slightly surreal to talk to someone, a pre-teen someone, whilst hunkered on the concrete with a brother who rolls too near a storm drain, ‘jail,’ or a brother who freaks out at a disfigured road sign or someone convinced that overhead cables are about to fall.

We do not talk about what is happening or who is doing what? She is unfazed and amiable, discusses breeds of dogs, possible names and which sex would be preferable. I fear for her future. What kind of person takes this kind of experience in their stride?

Both boys tell me at frequent intervals, how exhausted they are, although not in so many words, but when the school comes into sight, they both burst forth for a hundred yard dash to the doors. One hour and 17 minutes later, we have completed our first ever leg of the school trip.

We may have fallen by the wayside a few times, but we’ve all arrived in one piece. Now that’s what I call a trip.

Sinking beneath the Plimsoll line

I take a deep breath to calm the quakes. The message on the answering machine explains, another week, just to be on the safe side. I think of ways to explain this to my children, that their Dad is detained in England with other responsibilities, for 7 additional measures of 24 hours? If I don’t manage to talk to another adult soon, I shall be a complete basket case. I currently exist in baby sitter free zone, perfect timing.

I refuse to count the number of meltdowns during the day, as they are all experiencing considerable amounts of stress due to the upset in routine. Ten days of parent teacher conferences will mean short school days. Whilst short school days might be welcome to many children, to two other children they present as an illogical time bomb in the schedule.

My latest mantra is “No Evan!” a hasty mistake and sure to be repeated at school. In an attempt to stop them copying the growling tone of their pal at 50 decibels, I am now stuck with this new phrase in a perseverating cycle, by both boys, in the exact tone that I was trying to avoid. Why did I snap with a denial rather than lure with a distraction, again?

My 28 minute walk to school and their 55 to 95 minute walk home is making serious inroads into any available free time. As yet I have seen no improvement in their ability to sleep. The ability to walk is an A list life goal for people who may never learn to drive or may eventually live somewhere else, other than America. Even if they end up only walking to goal B, for bus terminal, we still need to keep working. We’ve avoided the cheaters of candy and tapped into another motivator, the promise to consider adding a dog to our household. How can we adopt a dog if no-one can walk the dog?

Intellectual lightweight that I am, I refuse to renege on my new commitment to "Trusera," if only because I may shortly be I need of their professional services. I am sure that there are a whole category of people who find constant stream of stereo Mario voices, phrases, noises and tunes to be delightful entertainment, sadly I am not one of them.

The prospect of another week of unrelenting responsibility requires a different approach. There is no point in assuming that I can play catch up during a quiet period. Instead I must stay on top of everything continuously, not perfectly but just enough to get by. A juggling exercise just to keep our heads above water. Not all the laundry, just the greater part. Not perfect homework, ‘merely’ completed, perhaps. I try and think of ways to cut myself a little slack in the system. Anything to pre-empt burn out. But which bit to drop? I do what I do during the day, daily, is in part motivated by the promise that at some juncture in the future, I will be able to touch base with my better half, someone who lightens the psychological load as well as other fringe benefits.

How can I engineer a little slack? I decide to arbitrarily and unilaterally shelve instant administration. If each child could wait more than a nano second for me to oblige them, I will have artificially expanded my work schedule. I determine that a more or less blanket policy is advisable. No-one will die if they have to wait 30 seconds for assistance with pencil sharpening, opening something or toileting. I shall mentally prepare for the fall-out, endure the meltdowns, remain calm and shove the ear plugs in a little deeper.

Coffee to extend and perk up my personal shelf life, or pot of tea to calm down?

I leaf through the mountainous mail, bills upon bills, junk mail in between reams of recycling. My hands are a mass of cuts, not from paper but the lacerations from hand holding on dangerous streets, where nail clippers are a form of torture. I whip out an "envelope," which contains a card, which contains a message, which gives me just the snippet of hope and strength to make it through until bed time.

It’s just like the Cavalry, who always arrive in the nick of time.

- At Myspacejunks.com

Friday, March 07, 2008

Truth or Dare? [Part 1]

Forty plus years ago, I would walk to and from school every day with my sister. Twenty plus years ago, I repeated this routine with my own daughter. Currently with the present crop of children, walking anywhere is not part of our routine. I decide that I need to take stock and figure out why this should be?

The easiest thing to do would be to blame my two autistic boys who have strong objections to walking. What I like about this excuse is that there is a nugget of truth in it, or rather a tiny granule. They are autistic and they don’t like walking. Convenient though that is, the real truth is more inconvenient.

The first truth is that I have a genuine dislike of anything that could remotely be described as exercise. Exercise is in the ‘boring’ category for me. Not only is it boring, it is also generally time consuming, unproductive and expensive. Whilst I was happy to cycle to work for a decade, that actually saved commuting time, money, the planet and it was fun. Exercise bike’s and their ilk, are works of the devil guaranteed to numb the brain.

The second truth is that it’s really America’s fault and has nothing to do with me personally at all. I am quite blame free. America is a car nation. Anywhere that you might just possibly want to visit, is inconveniently located at least one car ride away. Anywhere else that you may not be quite so interested in visiting, but have to visit, will be located at an additional, even further, car ride away. The total dominance of the car mentality means that as often as not they forget to build any sidewalks.

A few years ago, I worried that when we visited England that I would have forgotten how to walk at all. I heard on the radio that a healthy bod should take 10,000 steps a day. A huge and daunting figure. I read about how old people needed to do weight bearing exercise to increase bone density. I bought a pedometer and stuck it on my waist band after I dropped my little daughter at pre-school as I still had the boys at home.

I was too busy to read the LED screen at any angle with splotched bifocals as I staggered around the house with endless hampers of laundry and carried one or other child or sometimes both, until mid morning. I briefly parked my pair of load bearing ‘excercisers’ in the baby swing and play pen respectively, where they commenced their vocal protest. I took a glimpse at the little screen, gave it a little tap and noticed that it read well over 10,000. I tossed it on the kitchen counter. I didn’t need to exercise, I needed a rest!

The third truth, is that I’m as guilty as the next person of taking the easy option. Even more years ago, I bought a double buggy or stroller, so that we could enjoy fresh air. We would not remain prisoners in our own home. I suspect that the fault lay in the buggy design, in that the children faced forwards whilst I pushed from behind. Maybe it was because they couldn’t see me but whatever it was, the mayhem and hysteria that ensured poured icy water on my plans, and that was before the rainy season.

Only two years ago I tried. We walked from parked car to school, for an evening function. After less than ten paces they collapsed on the ground screaming like banshees, rolling on the lawn and kicking the concrete. The homeowner peeked out from behind the curtain as surely I had beaten them with a burnt stick?

Now I am faced with the reality of my sloppy ways, a collection of children completely incapable of walking more than 9 yards outside their own home. We are in dire need of remedial action. They still have no traffic sense, which means that every road is a danger. They’re never going to acquire any traffic sense if they’re never exposed. I decide to pose as a walker and expose my psyche to a new campaign of torture, for all of us for different reasons.

In theory it should be easy. I think of the one thing that they have continuously hated since time immemorial, car journeys. Surely this is the most obvious solution. Hate the car, then avoid it and walk! To be fair I know that it is mainly the ‘transition’ to the car rather than the car ride itself, but it still have a crumb of logic in there somewhere, doesn’t it?

The initial campaign will be to walk home from school every day. I make a dry run. Two point two miles as a leisurely pace. 22 minutes of stroll, on my own, including traffic light pauses. As I walk I realize that we won’t be able to walk on Wednesday because of double therapy. We won’t be able to walk on Fridays when the triple play dates take place. 3 walks a week seems both pathetic and Herculean at the same time.

My brain flips back and forth between the two options, with little spikes of terror as I see the uneven path, the sprinklers, the trash, an infinite number of road signs to read and the occasional dog and owner. The more I walk, the more hic-cups I see both on the horizon and beneath my tatty shoes. The temperature is in the 70’s in March. In a short while, it will be too hot to walk around outside during the day. I’ll need to take sunglasses, baseball caps, water bottles and sunscreen. Sunscreen! Just the thought of sunscreen is enough to give me an attack of the vapours.

Which two additional adults could I bribe to accompany us? Someone to guard each little body, especially the ‘easily collapsible’ one and the ‘likely to spin off and bolt like a fire-cracker’ one. Maybe I should just tie us altogether with little bits of string, a chain gang of incomprehensible safety?

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