Just Another Ordinary day

I spend an entire day worrying needlessly about the wrong child, but that's parents for you. On her 26th birthday my eldest daughter is still in Mozambique, with limited access to a dodgy internet café. I check my email at regular intervals throughout the day, just in case. I think of parties and try not to think of predators, animal or human. “When we are snack time! When we are snack time! When we are snack time!” he chants. It's a ditty and now a song. It's not even a question, or a statement of intent. This phrase has been cycling around since before breakfast, with it's poor grammar, cartoon voice delivery and may just qualify the most annoying phrase to date.

During our next debacle at the supermarket he relinquishes control of the cart and attaches himself to my forearm. He holds it gently in his mouth, as a dog might carry a bone. The drool slicks down his chin. He makes for an unusual sight as his legs skippety hop at high speed as we gently propel ourselves down the aisle. I betray him. “He's pretending to be a puppy,” I say unnecessarily to the faces that look, some with humour, others without. He releases me for a second to bellow, “I not dog, I boy,” before latching straight back on. I am unnaturally pleased that he didn't tack on the compulsory 'stoopid,' which would be quite justified on this particular occasion. This may not the ideal way to conduct a shopping trip, but at least he is close at hand, or rather arm, and remarkably quiet.

We return to the safety of our own home, our sanctuary, all safe and sound. I scan the emails but there is still nothing from my first born child. I wonder what other dangers she is experiencing. I hope that they are limited to mosquitoes, the West Nile free variety.

By supper time I am at my ordinary low ebb. I check the email again. I wonder if it's yesterday, today or tomorrow for her? I make a note to check the time difference on this ordinary day. It is because it is an ordinary day, that I am not in the least prepared, when she accidentally closes the door on his finger. I fly as I watch his body jangle and jerk like a fish on a hook, and blood spurts back in his face. As I reach the door he does not scream or cry but yelps “help me! Stuck!”

We rush him to the Emergency Room.

Don’t worry, he’s fine. For more successful news in my other life, visit “here.”

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Padlock or face the consequences


In the wee small hours I turn off the telly to stagger up to bed.

At least I now have a few ideas about what to cook for supper.

A few wee small hours later, I find a small boy in a pool of light from the television. I return him, reluctantly, to his bed. Failure to lock up the telly cupboard.

The following day, or rather, later in the same day, we break with tradition to have an alternative breakfast. The croissants are warm and inviting. I pop them in the basket wrapped in the checkered cloth, a delightful gift from yesteryear. I am familiar with all the objections in advance, or so I thought.

“Dey have dah smoke!” he squalks in an adenoidal tone as his fingers pinch his nostrils shut.
“It's just steam, because they're warm dear.”
“I am not eating dah hot. Dah hot is bad!”
“You don't have to eat one lovey, but they have to stay on the table, you know that rule.”

It's all part of the exposure to new foods campaign. We maintain calm resilience, as I know that they're all hungry first thing in the day.

“They're called croissants. They're French.” The other two tuck in with gusto, and offer words of encouragement.
“They're a bit like bread,….or rather like cake, you might like em if you give em a try!”
“Dey are sweet like ………er cake…….but dey are salty too! You like dah salt!”
“I do not like dah crudite!” We are all too well aware, that vegetables are not included in his diet of 17 foods.
“I do not like the Croissants dear,” I rephrase for him.
“I do not like dah crescents.”
“Ooo yes, they are shaped like that, but they're called croissants dear.”
“Dey are dah 'w'?”
“Um sort of, that's how French people pronounce it. It's your favourite 'qu' sound again.”
“How you are spell?”
I oblige.
“Where it is?”
“Where is what dear?”
“Dah 'w'?”
“Ah. Well the 'w' is silent, just like the 'g' in 'gnat,'” I pander.
“I do not like dah croustini!”
“Croissants dear.”
“Croustini is dah 'w'?”
“Um, no I don't think so.”

If he could touch, smell or look at any one of these items, I think I would die of heart failure.

“He is dah croque monsieur?”
I pause, mid munch to look at my speech delayed six and a half year old; dumbstuck, me, not him. I begin to feel distinctly unhinged, more so than usual. Is this a reference to our recent sandwich making exercise with his brother, a school project? Are we entering a second language phase when we have yet to master the first? Is this just an off shoot of his current craze for all words that have a 'qu' or 'cr' sound?


This is direct result of watching the food channel unsupervised in the middle of the night. I decide that this 'self exposure' to new foods, is a step in the right direction.

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Puzzles, conundrums and other cross words


I re-check the label left on the recycling wheelie bin – “garbage not street.”

This cryptic message is beyond my ability to de-cypher.

I add it to the ever lengthening list.

I negotiate my way back inside the house, herding three children in front of me, to avoid stragglers, and escape artists . I am the slowest ship in the convoy, by default. I clutch the little orange missive for translation later. I bear a strong resemblance to the landing personnel at an airport. “But what?” he bleats as his skips, scurries and whirs.
“What what dear?”
“What he is be meaning?”
“What does who mean dear?”
“Dah orange?”
“Oh, I have absolutely no idea what he….er…it means.” This is one of the many penalties of hyperlexia, the ability to read above one's chronological age.
“He is 'street' he is garbage?”
“Your guess is as good as mine dear.” Probably far better. I try and think about what to cook for supper? Rice and………? Yes, the empty but very clean fridge. Since it is only 8 in the morning, I foresee a very long day ahead of me.

The children have had a variety of therapies for over four years now. I have had a reprieve from these duties, ferrying, for 8 months following my jaw surgery. Now, I am unexpectedly expected to resume my duties. Darn it! Spouse has to work. This means that I must make myself presentable by wearing clothes that cunningly disguise my similarity to a stick insect.

Whilst I have managed a shower, my hair is still wet. Soggy stick insect. I dither. Should I try drying my hair with that machine thingy and risk winding junior up to fever pitch, as he is over sensitive to sound, or should I just stick my head out of the window and hope that the California sun is extra crispy today? Should I attempt make-up? Craggy soggy stick insect. I'm not at all confident that I can remember how to do it? Senile craggy soggy stick insect.

I ice the cup cakes as a displacement activity. I made them before I was awake in the wee small hours. Beware of insects bearing gifts after a long absence. “We're not cave men, we have technology!” he chants in a never ending stream of echolalia and perseveration. Curse that Spongebob. I should have made supper in the wee small hours instead of cup cakes. Rice and……..cup cakes?

I decide to compromise and bring in the hair drier from the garage, where it generally lives, so I can use it to dry my work on the potters wheel if it becomes unstable.

I dust off the dust and nab the little one, to avoid triggering a meltdown in Mr. Clean. I explain, at length, the purpose, use and overall safety of the device. He looks at me dubiously.
“But he is noise!”
“I know, but you're getting good at noise now you're six and a half!”
“I am good but……I not good at noise.”
“You're getting better!”
“Every day, in every way, you're getting better and better!” he chants with the perfect reproduction of the echolalic. It is very disconcerting to be quoted so accurately by your children, especially when they are American and you, the mother being quoted, speak with an English accent.

I put it down next to the sink in the kitchen so that I can concentrate on him, repeat and rephrase the message. I rinse my hands from the frosting and shake them.

Barely have I had the chance to speak a word, when he spirals up into a frenzy. He hurtles around the kitchen like a spinning top, wrenching his hair from his head with tight sticky fists. I attempt to shadow him but this merely exacerbates the situation. I take a step back towards the sink. This triggers a further acceleration, but also elicits words, “no, no, no, don't do it, we will all be killed.” He grabs both my hands in his and pauses, breathless and panting. I am taken aback by his willingness to hold wet hands, due to his severe tactile defensiveness. We stand in the kitchen in this holding position for some minutes. A holding pattern, where he resembles a rag doll with asthma. I wait. “Look!” he puffs. I look towards the counter where the hair drier lies. “Look!” he bellows, “what he is saying!” I notice the label.

A stick insect protected by a knight in ever so slightly tarnished armour. Solution? Give the guy a cup cake and skip the rice.

Thank you for spending a few micro minutes of our world.

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Sequencing the autistic child


Whilst I have a tendency to exaggerate, the truth of the matter is that careful planning is often the key to success.

I decide that I will be successful.

To increase my chances of success, I know that the best thing to do is to plot a time line, a feasibility study, for a trip to the supermarket. I am an American. I have a huge positive attitude. Fortune favours the brave! Then I’ll check my energy reserves to see if we have a match?

Albertson’s is our nearest grocery store. I assume that we will spend the barest minimum of time within it’s confines, 10 minutes maximum, to include paying and bagging at the check out.

I determine which six items are most essential, in case we need to bail early, as well as an escape route, that doesn’t include carrying anyone.

Ten minutes drive there, and back again, with accompanying screams. That would be half an hour tops. I flick the corner of the on-line coupon I have been saving for an emergency. It would be so wonderful to have all of my groceries delivered to my door, but so extravagant. This is not an emergency, this is ‘normal.’ Anyway, it would take me far too long to fiddle about on the computer to complete the order.

I estimate the time involved prior to that particular evolution. It may take between 10 and twenty minutes to get both of the boys dressed. Since dressing is an aversive activity for them, I should also calculate the likelihood and duration of meltdowns? So that would be another 50 minutes, as a worst case scenario.

Of course we would need to visit the bathroom before leaving the house. That may take another ten minutes per child. This must include persuasion time. Maybe we should fulfill this step prior to dressing, to avoid the inevitable naked status again? So that's another 20 minutes, assuming we are meltdown free for this activity.

What else? How many minutes will it take to prompt two small people to attach sandals to their feet? Thank goodness we're not in sock season! It's another one of those conundrums that might take ten minutes but could potentially descend into a 50 minute wrangle. I err on the side of caution but do not wish to be overly pessimistic. I plump to split the difference with 25 minutes. What else?

At some stage, eventually, we will need to enter the car. Always the most difficult step. It might also take me quite a while to find them and or catch them too.

Once in the car, and later once they are all in their seats, I will prompt and wait and prompt and wait…… until they all have their seat belts on. This is a skill they both learned some months back. I must not do it for them. They will learn to be independent if it kills me.

I look at my children playing pretend Pokemon and debate whether it is a worthwhile exercise to disturb this peaceful scene at all? Conservatively, this little trip may take all morning, or rather, two hours and five minutes. Not for the first time, I wonder if I could just wait in the car, delegate the responsibility for all these steps to someone else, someone more capable and with more patience? I quite fancy sitting in the car in the garage for 125 minutes on my own. I recheck the fridge to see if it has magically filled itself whilst I wasn't paying attention?

It hasn't. My positive attitude wavers.

I check the freezer in the hope that the two year old bag of frozen peas might have become fertile, bountiful and multiplied.

It hasn't. My positive attitude dwindles.

I decide to be brave and make a start. Reboot.

Some time later, we arrive at the supermarket. My positive attitude has a severe dent in it. I remove my earplugs and tuck them back in their little box duct taped to the dashboard. I turn around to face them and give them careful verbal instructions as to what is expected. My eyes glance over their heads to the car parked behind us. There I see three children playing cards with the windows open. No adult appears to be present. For a few ragged moments, I contemplate going into the supermarket alone. My positive attitude experiences jealously. My green tinged gaze drops down, drawn by the rhythmical kicking of two little feet, naked feet. I scrabble around the floor to hunt for sandals. Did he throw them out whilst we were driving along or did he jettison them whilst we were still in the garage? I should go back and check. I dither. It’s taken us so long to get here! Just in time I remember that we are in America. It is all too common to find signs in California that state ‘shoes and shirt required.’ The supermarket doesn’t have one. Hooray! I push the buttons to open the doors and scramble out of the car to grab as many hands as I can gather.

We negotiate the parking lot. A car pauses in the thoroughfare as we wobble on the curbside. The angel driving the car waves us across, his biceps hang from the window and I see the tattoos flex. The angel continues to wait, stroking his beard, as we cavort across the road. One child emits sparks and the other threatens jelly legs. We reach the opposite curb and I glance back at the driver as he revs his pick-up truck, to nod my thanks and bestow sainthood upon him.

We approach the entrance and the electric doors. Strangely the doors are already half open. Standing in the half open doors, is one of the checkers. He tells us that the store is closed for the day. It will re-open at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning for the inaugural official name change to “Lucky.” My positive attitude shrivels to the size of a peanut. One child drops the ground in a heap and the other dashes off at warp speed. My daughter, the whippet, races after the hare, whilst I disentangle the heap from my ankles. I refuse to calculate the number of minutes we have wasted to get to this point in the day, nor convert them into seconds.

Moral – 125 minutes on the computer is not a waste of time if you can subsequently eat. Positive lesson learned.

And the next time you see the ballistic kid and the incompetent parent, just think ‘I am lucky,’  because some of  us are, lucky, that is to say.

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Zero Sum and the division of labour

During the summer holidays our lives take on a more leisurely pace. Crumble.

Whilst there is no school to attend, I select a minimum number of goals for the day.

The primary goal would be for all members of the family to be dressed in day time clothes by 9 a.m. at the absolute latest.

Spouse appears, bleary eyed after 5 hours sleep, returning home from work at 1 in the morning as slave to a start up business. The night time hours were filled with visitations by small people at irregular intervals. I herd my children in the direction of the breakfast table to a chorus of shrieks of protest whilst spouse fiddles with the equally unco-operative printer. No-one is hungry and the bribe of 'electronics' time at 5:30 p.m. is still ten and a half hours away and therefore too remote. The weeping and wailing continues throughout the ten minutes attempt at something that might loosely be described as breakfast.

We attempt table clearing but they turn themselves into a moving obstacle course, bump into one another, drop bowls, clatter spoons, tumble over cereal boxes, spill milk and generally make my head spin. Which mess or child to clear up first?

Spouse nips off to take a shower with the plunger in his left hand. He reappears moment later, semi clad to remove one boy, “you're coming with me matey, you honk!” A less than savoury aroma. Junior's lower torso fails to function, so he scoops him up to deliver him to the shower. As soon as his tippy toes lose contact with the floor, his legs whir into bicycling motion at high speed. Watch out Tour de France. I remind myself to encourage him to use the trampolene at regular intervals, if we have any hope of surviving the day.

We attempt teeth cleaning with the remaining two. This should be easy with the reduced numbers. A toothbrush crisis produces mass hysteria, “he's got my brush! I don't want his stinky mouth germs!”
“But……..but…….but…” he fizzles out and hurls the toothbrush in her general direction. It is sometimes difficult for him to locate items or distinguish one person's belongings from another's, it wasn't deliberate. He dissolves into a full blown meltdown of frustration, hurt feelings and possibly a dash of inadequacy.

Junior skitters back downstairs to join the mayhem and accidentally comes within striking distance of his flailing brother. More agony ensues and my daughter flees the room and the noise.

I marshal my reserves and try to clear my head. I hear the garage door open as spouse wheels out the rubbish and recycling to the curbside. I park myself on the floor between my two wailing boys to rub backs and pray for peace. mM own personal peace corps wouldn't go amiss. Calm, if not order, returns after only a few minutes. One sits up and runs his snotty nose along the sofa whilst the other duplicates the action on the carpet. I debate whether it is possible for me to do this today, again?

I take them both to the loo, as strong emotions often supercede more basic functions. Better safe than sorry. Spouse puts all the electronic bribes on to recharge, ready for later, as he was too tired to remember the night before. I attempt to scrub the snail trails of snot, prior to solidification and then make headway on the other spills. My daughter returns from bedroom fully clothed and with a cheery smile, little ray of something or other. She clasps me around the waist, since I am on all fours in a sea of cheerios and milk. Spouse refills the coffee hob so that my emergency caffeine supply is ready. I dither about my stamina quotient for the day, which appears to be severely depleted but has to last until 9 o'clock tonight.

I debate whether it would be a worthwhile exercise to put drop clothes throughout the house as a preventative measure? [translation = dust sheets] Spouse puts the toaster away on the high shelf that's out of my reach. This avoids the step retrieval step, for shorter people like me. I ask my son to go and choose his clothes, always a time consuming exercise. I move the little one back to the bathroom for teeth cleaning. I trip over spouse fiddling about on the computer again. Who has time for computers when the morning routine is in tatters.

I pick up three sets of pyjamas and I trip over a cat that entwines my legs due to neglect. This is the first step in the sequence of steps to achieve 'dressed.' Spouse scatters cat food in the general direction of his bowl so that the fur ball is enticed away from the danger area. My daughter plagues me with questions: what are we doing today? Where are we going today? I am sorely tempted to spend the day building an air raid shelter to hide in.

At 9:01 a.m. he glances at his wristwatch, “Oh heck! I'm so late!” and steps towards the door. I begin to flap. When that doesn't work I use words, “don't leave me!” I bleat like a star crossed lover. He turns towards his flapping wife with a blank expression, “what?”
“Look!” I flap some more and open my arms wider so that he is better able to take in the three yards of brown fabric that go to make up my dressing gown. I am not day time attire and no shower.
“But..” he checks his wrist watch again but his body is reversing towards the door simultaneously. I feel a rising sense of panic in both of us, but for entirely different reasons.
“Look at me! You can't go yet! You've done nothing this morning except get ready for work, whilst I've been running around like a blue….oh, never mind! Go to work why don't you!” I pout and fold my arms in defeat. I peer up at him, hoping for the pity vote but his face wears an expression of bafflement. I prompt, “what?” in an unpleasant tone.

His shoulders slump, soft open palms, “I've done what I can….unblocked the shower, fixed the printer, sterilized the stinky one, the trash, all the rechargables, coffee, toaster, booked the flights on line,……” he peters out, after only managing to recall a mere fraction of his tasks. The 'what more do you want?' remains unsaid. He wears the hangdog expression of the truly unappreciated.

My shoulders sink too as I remember to breathe. I take a few steps towards him and lower my head so that he can kiss my forehead, as substitute during mouth realignment. I resolve to refrain from referring to him as my 'lesser half.' I feel his stubble against my skin, “didn't even have time to shave did you?” I wheedle.

Moral – some people notice nothing until they make contact, head on.

As I write and post, I always wonder, ‘is this the one that will make you de-lurk?’ So come along now, be a good egg, let’s here it for the Dad’s.

For an update on parents’ ability to communicate effectively, go “here.”

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Play Therapy? You cannot be serious!


I believe that ‘play therapy’ is a term of art, but you can pick your own label.

At three in the afternoon I sneak away to pause and make a pot of tea. 9 hours down, six to go. The noise is deafening but they're happy playing Pokemon. Not only are they playing pretend but they're playing together. I do not lie. This is the culmination of many years of play therapy.

In theory, since I am more than half way through the day, with the added lure of 'electronics' time in two and a half hours, or 150 minutes as displayed on the visual count downer, this should be plain sailing. But all parents are familiar with the late afternoon threat of thunder. Maybe it's because they've been working hard all day, or wake up so early, but whatever the reason, we parents know that we need to keep a little bit back, tucked up our sleeves, for the inevitable crisis moment.

I double check the weekly menu planner on the fridge to anticipate what level of protest is most likely? Only Wednesday, pizza, and Friday, pasta, are easy. The other five nights a week, we endure dinner, which is merely the opportunity for nutritional input. I pull a face; Asian pork on a bed of steamed rice with wilted Bok Choy. What was I thinking of? A real hard sell. I console myself with the thought that the children's loss is the compost bin's gain.

I have played doubles all day. This is where I play something with them that they hate, then they're released to not play for another thirty minutes, whilst I tackle domestic chores. This has worked surprisingly well, such that I have nearly caught up from the aftermath of the weekend. Thirty minutes is a very long time for an autistic child of any age not involved in a preferred activity. I can hardly believe that we have traveled such a long way from those tortured 2 minutes sessions, several years ago.

Even today, I still smart at the recollection.

The initial evaluation took many weeks to complete. Of the many stark facts as presented in the report, one or two pin pricks were quite startling. They were startling to me because it allowed me to see myself and my children, through other people's impartial eyes for the first time. An inaccurate approximation would be, 'the mother sat on the floor and prompted him to choose a puzzle. Minutes later she choose a preferred dinosaur puzzle and completed it for him while he stared off into the distance.' At that time I had no clue what to do nor how to do it. I was left with the knowledge that I knew nothing and that when the second evaluation was completed, that I would know even less.

I sip my tea and look at the mess. Toys are everywhere. This is evidence that people are playing. I do see toys lined up, but they lack the exactitude of earlier days of OCD. More importantly, I see a mixture, blocks and string, Pokemon and trampolines, Spongebob and Lego, saucepan lids and cars. Your child may be good at using a saucepan lid as a spaceship, or a Frisbee, or a hat, but for my children it has always been just a saucepan lid. Not in the category of toys nor imaginative play. As with anything you teach, sometimes it can take a very long time before you see any results.

'But why would anyone teach a child to play Madeline? They're kids, that's what kids do, they play, right?' And of course until a few years ago, I would have been on your side. Indeed, since I am a lot meaner than you, I would add, 'what other useful purpose do they serve other than to play,' or 'isn't that where the definition child's play comes from dimwit!' But my experience tells me that this isn't always the case.

But I can tell that you doubt me, so an example may help.

Only a few years ago I took them all to Toys R Us, at my daughter's request. I submitted to the pleads and begs because there were so demeaning. Although we have always had enough toys to restock Toys R Us without making a hole in our own reserves, very, very few of them were played with. Repetitive movements and lining up, do not count.

After the usual torture of getting everyone ready, into the car and driving to the accompaniment of two screaming boys, we arrived safe and sound. We negotiated the parking lot to arrive at the entrance. I then spent the next twenty minutes standing by the electric doors as my youngest son jumped in and out of the doorway and my other son lay on the floor playing with the wheel on one of the carts. Behind them was every conceivable toy under the sun, but I couldn't dislodge either of them. I had forgotten the Goldfish cracker bribes for my Hansel and Gretel impersonation. My brave daughter made little exploratory forays, returning at regular intervals to still my beating heart, before I picked the boys up under protest and navigated our way through the check out.

Her glee at her trophy, was more than compensation enough for my old leaky eyes. Indeed I have been malfunctioning ever since.

I know this is hard for many people to understand, that children must be taught to play, but sometimes, it can be done. I have the evidence before me, namely, several hours of tidying up, just in case you were worried that I might be bored or mislaid my grumpiness.

But I hope this is useful, or perhaps just hopeful, to someone?

Addendum – sprinkles on the cake [translation = over egg the pudding] I should like to mention that no-one noticed when 5:30 electronics time arrived, for the first time ever, at least not until 5:45!

Maybe some of us parents need some “play therapy” too!


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The second annihilation – and walls have ears


From a few nights ago……..

We continue on our wayward path.
“We will all be killed?”
“Er……no I don't think so.”
“We be extincted like dah dinosaurs?”
“Hmm .. I think we’re alright for a wee while yet.”
“It dah global warming?”
“I er, what do you know about global warming?”
“Der are meteors tonight?”
“Um…..no I don't think so.”
“We are all to be killed in dah meteor attack?”
“What's all this about meteors?”
“Dey happen random.”
“Yes, I know that dear, but why all the business of meteors tonight?”
“I be heared it.”
“What did you hear?”
“Radio.” [translation = “ooopsie”]

Moral – it’s called a broadcast for a reason. Never assume that a child is tuned out if peel the potatoes, and you tune in to the news.

At least his
skills are more
effective than
those of his “parents.”

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The Lazy Hazy Days of Summer


When I was young, and irritating, I would pester my mother in the kitchen in the hour that she was preparing dinner.

If I persisted for long enough, and I usually did, eventually she would tell me, “oh, go have some bread and butter if you're really hungry,” and I always was, really hungry that is to say.

The nutritional message may be different these days, but the underlying fight between delayed gratification and hunger, is a fine balance.

My youngest son now eats bread. Admittedly he will only eat one particular brand of bread, but it's still bread. We induced him to eat bread by happenstance. Being the chocolate lover that he is, the product Nutella was a gift from on high, liquid chocolate with no bits in it. If you put a teaspoonful of Nutella on a piece of bread the size of your thumbnail, eventually, after many painful screaming months, you too may achieve bread consumption. After a further 18 months, one can slowly alter the ratio of bread to Nutella, if you're very sneaky.

Whilst they are all out at the park, I prepare colourful, organic vegetables to make kebabs. It's far too hot to put the oven on, so cremation is the only way to go. Barbeque. I run the sequence through my mind. Junior will obviously not eat the end result but that's no reason why he shouldn't help prepare a family meal. Apart from his dodgy fingers and other malfunctioning parts.

It will be a delightful family enterprise, as long as nobody stabs themselves on the skewers. To date, junior will attempt a spoon and sometimes a fork, but anything resembling a weapon is off limits and self imposed. Fortunately, since everything he consumes, could be termed finger food, there is no need for a knife at this stage.

I nip outside to light the barbeque. The bite sized pieces of chicken marinade silently in the refridgerator before they prepare to meet their fate. I remind myself that before too long we should increase the pace on his diet. 17 foods is all very well but 4 foods a year is a sorry record. There is little time during the holidays, to prepare his full panoply of foods and I suspect that my lack of reinforcement and consistency, has allowed a few of them to drop off his agenda and become 'new' foods again. Of course I only have myself to blame. It's my fault that he has eaten a Nutella sandwich followed by chocolate pudding and Goldfish crackers for over a month now. Dinnertime is the least effective time to introduce new foods. Whilst he continues to grow and his appetite has increased, his diet hasn't matched those spurts.

I reach for the Nutella and leave my renewed resolve on the shelf. Maybe tomorrow? It would be so lovely to have a peaceful dinner, outside on a balmy Californian evening. Perhaps we might have a quiet dinner, quiet enough to hear the naff little water fountain that should induce calm but cannot be heard over the din. No matter how many wind chimes I add to the pergola, we'd need a force ten gale and a 30 piece brass band to out 'din' them. I smoosh the finest smearing of Nutella into the air bubbles of the high fibre bread, so that he can't lick it off and leave the bread untouched. I cut the sandwich into two perfectly even halves. I throw caution to the wind, grab another slice, slick it with Nutella and fold it over, a round and a half of sandwiches to fill the ever growing tummy.

I hear the screams before I hear the garage door open, our normal early warning system. Seconds later three children burst through the door and scatter like thieves. Two carry Jamba Juice cups, from a chain of shops that specialize in fresh fruit smoothies. The empty wrapper in the wake of my son's departure, tells me that his compensation for the agony of 'outside' was a cookie. It is a rather large cookie, the size of CD. 16 ounces of pulverized fruit is likely to dull the hungriest of appetites. I dither before threading the skewers myself, an acknowlegement of zero motivation in children.

Twenty minutes later rainbow kebabs glisten with temptation. The tantalizing wafts of smoke lure spouse away from the computer and inspire him to gather the troops. Barely have our bottoms touched the chair seats, when a weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues from junior. I assume that the rainbows are not attractive to him, seeing as how they are also in close proximity to his person. I assume that barbeque smoke is torture. I assume that since he is not hungry, he would prefer to skip to the pudding. I assume that he is tired and overwhelmed after two hours in the park. I await confirmation of all my correct assumptions.

“Dat is dah bad. Dat is dah pooky. Dat is dah wah wah,” he wails. I find that his terminology does not match my current reference system. His siblings giggle with expectation. This is the nightly travesty that we continue to refer to as dinner.

I turn to spouse, “did he say pooky or pukey?” Perhaps he's gone off Nutella?
“Don't ask me?” Perhaps he gone off bread! No, please, I take it all back, just don't let him have gone off bread! He can't lose 2 foods just like that. I don't want to go back to 15 foods, I like 17 foods, even if they are all the wrong ones!
“Pooky, pooky, pooky, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah,” he continues in a high pitched, querulous baby voice, from some dratted cartoon no doubt. The giggles of his siblings turn to guffaws of positive reinforcement, if not encouragement.
“Why is it bad dear?”
“Look it, look it, look it!” he bellows as he stands on his chair to make a passingly fair imitation of King Kong. I look at the sandwich. No foreign bodies have contaminated it as far as I'm aware. It is exactly the same sandwich he has had for weeks. That's it, he's bored of it, I've over done it by being so lazy, by seeking a little peace. No peace and we've lost a piece or maybe two?
“Cut, cut, cut!” he shrieks. He makes ineffective Karate chops on his sandwich.
“Don't do that dear, you'll squish it and then it won't taste very nice.”
“Cut it, cut dah sandwich!” he roars.
“It doesn't need cutting dear, it's already folded over.”
“Agh, dah stoopid. I cannot be eating dah fold, I can only be eating dah cut.”
Spouse hands him a knife, “O.k. fuss pot, you want it cut, then you cut it yourself.” One child covers his eyes, one child covers her mouth, as we all watch spell bound at the inaugural knife juggling world record. Junior stabs the sandwich repeatedly with malice aforethought. He manages a ragged tear that dismembers the fold from the rest of the half of the sandwich. He picks up the fold with the nails of his thumb and index fingers and hurls it a good 15 feet, underarm. “Pooky!” he curses, as it lies like a dried up worm on the asphalt. His voice drops several octaves. He sinks his teeth in his transformed sandwich, to blast us with a gravelling tone, “I am the master of disguise!”

Echolalic, yet eerily apt.

But it would appear that this isn’t the only branch of the family with communication “problems.”


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Mother's Little Helper


The new campaign got off to a faulty start, [translation = dry at night and pull up free] but since then we have regrouped with the master plan. [translation = guaranteed success]

No expense has been spared. [translation = gross extravagance] The new game for the Wii [translation = computery thing] has been bound in many inextricable layers of see through tape and been strapped to the wall above his pillow. It is stuck there in what we hope is a tantalizing manner. [translation = constant source of torture] The ladder chart accompanies it. [translation = visual tracking system] All parties present have been debriefed on the de-pull-up plan. [translation = to provide moral reinforcement] Seven consecutive dry nights and the game will be up and the prize will be his.

We note that all youthful parties present are equally anxious that he should succeed in his mission. [translation = true joint attention] The only malingerer is me. I find it ironic that he has already achieved this goal a couple of year ago, but since that time, this skill has fallen by the wayside. My conclusion, though not necessarily a correct one, is that back then, his OCD was of such gargantuan proportions, that he was unable to tolerate his derrier being damp. If this is the case, then it might be reasonable to assume that his OCD has lessened, or possibly that he is too fatigued from the struggles of the day, to be bothered with such trifles at night? Despite these doubts, we soldier onwards and hopefully upwards.

Later, on this same first night, I am awoken by what sounds like a baseball coach in my bathroom. I find my youngest son sitting on the throne, [translation = loo] with his older brother close at hand, shouting things. [translation = taking turns is a challenge at night] I take both sleepy boys back to bed and tuck them in. I return to my own bedroom and pass out again. Some 55 minutes later, I am awoken by mutterings in the bathroom. I again find both my boys closeted. I return them to their beds, tuck them in, fumble my way back in the dark to my own bed and collapse.

We repeat this exercise throughout the night. By 5 minutes past five, I give up and decide that I will be awake. I follow the voice back to the bathroom.
“What's going on dear?” I ask the one who speaks, as I steady the prince on the throne, who appears to have passed out, floppy with closed eyes.
“You said!” he offers.
“What did I say dear?”
“You said I am dah big brother!”
“Indeed you are dear.”
“Well what dear?”
“Well……er……..I am dah big brother!”
“I know that dear, but what are you doing up in the middle of the night?”
“I am dah helper!”
“Yes, indeed you are, you're very helpful, but wouldn't it be a better idea to get some sleep?”
“You said!” I decide to shut up, as I'm not helping. I remember to count to 15 and include 'ands' to permit his word retrieval system to kick in without constant interruptions from his mother.
“You said…….dat I am dah big brother……and I am to be a helper to him!” he throws an accusatory finger at the inert body. “So I tell him…..'you can do it, I know you can…..come on….try, try, try again'……just like you say.” I lift the body, flip him over my shoulder and walk towards their bedroom, whilst his brother skips ahead of us. “I done good? I am a good reminderer?” he enquires with enthusiasm. “Er……yes……you did great, you are a very helpful big brother. How many times did you remind him dear?”
“I dun know, but lots!” I plop his little brother upon the bed and he instantly curls up like a prawn, still asleep, bare from the waist down.

“You know somethink?” sparks the awake one. [translation = voluntary reciprocal exchange]
“No, what?” No words are forthcoming. He points and the words flow with the gesture, “on his……er……..but……he has a big……red……elipse.” [translation = 'oval' would do!] The imprint of the toilet seat is unmistakable. I wonder how many minutes during the last 10 hours, he has been parked like a rag doll? This crowning glory provides visual evidence of a campaign trail, which already appears to be floundering. [translation = fatal flaw not accounted for]

But my list of “failures” continues to “grow.”

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A rose by any other name

On Sunday morning I debate whether it is feasible to clean the fridge or not? [translation = well overdue]

I glance at my spouse with his nose glued to a computer screen. I interrupt his concentration to ask his opinion. [translation = feasibility study mate] I translate for him why I need his opinion. [translation = will you look after the children so that my time is free to attend to the rot in your refridgerator]

“Sure!” he says with enthusiasm as his face turns back to the monitor. I spend far too long fighting the fridge, interspersed with chasing my children, until I am able to pronounce that the fridge is clean and the children are correspondingly dirty.

I examine the interior of my clean and empty fridge and dither. Shall I toss everything back in there and risk food poisoning, or should I sort and dispose of the more dubious items? I glance across at my spouse deep in the mire of designing a GPS system for the children. I dither. Should I disturb his endeavours and risk losing my children, or should I attend to my own mould, [translation = shower] or should I spend far too long determining the life span of limp spinach and other sundry items? I pull over the compost bin and set to it.

It occurs to me that I appear to have temporarily mislaid the raging feminist facet of my personality.

Later, I slam the fridge door with it's nearly empty contents and skip to the big compost heap for a transfer. On my return, I dither. Should I shower or therapize someone or water the garden before it gets too hot? Maybe I could combine the first and last and skip a step completely? I wonder if my neighbours would appreciate this combination? I glance at my spouse deep in design. I interrupt his creativity to request assistance. “Is it o.k. if I nip upstairs and have a shower?” He blinks at me blankly, “sure, knock yourself out!” I translate. [translation = adult supervision of children is required] “Sure, take as long as you like.” I pout. I decide that I will not translate his missive and instead I shall take him literally. [translation = be a big fat meany and dilly dally]

I nip upstairs, three at a time and dive into the shower for my usual pit stop. Afterwards I attempt 'drying' with a damp towel, give up and dress with care. [translation = pull on an old sundress] I decide that if the feminist facet has eloped, then I shall expose the womanly wiles instead. [translation = serious personality disorder] I dither. Which one? Moisturizer, acne cream or wrinkle killer? I slap on a bit of each and hope for the best. I ram the bifocals back on and bounce down the stairs having completed my ablutions to the best of my ability in approximately four and a half minutes. [translation = getting very lax]

I present myself to my family. I decide to be helpful and give them a hint, “tad ah!” I spin, in my sundress, a swirl and a twirl.
“You are er…….dizzy?” asks one with a certain degree of uncertainty.
“You are dah princess?” is another tentative offer. [female attire always has this affect on them] They try again.
“You are dah flower?”
“You are dah colour…..ful?” We spiral down into a guessing game of twenty questions. [translation = or is that really 'up']
“Er…dah dress up?”
“No, no, no……I got it…..dah Power Ranger!”
“No, no, no…….dah hero guy!”
“Dat dog ……dah one wiv dah spots!”
“Ooo yeah, das right…….er……Lab……Lab…….Lab…..um…..Dalmation!”
I pout. [translation = I sometimes wonder why I bother!] My hands settle on my hips even though I try very hard not to adopt an attitude, as my daughter glances up at me from the sofa, “you've got white goopy blobs on yur face Mom!”

Note to self – check mirror before making next presentation

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