Chicken philosophy and word retrieval

 

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

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

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

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

More shock! Grumpiness dispelled.


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Fog Bound

 

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

…………..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe that’s all the understanding we need?


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Madz Skills Award

 


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

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

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

That’s right. I pay attention.

(Occasionally)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers dearies


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True Blue Blogging Award


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

The True Blue Award for being a “true blue blogging friend”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers dearies

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


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Katie McCarron – theft of joy

The trial is over and the verdict out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Knots, tangles and other urban myths

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

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

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

“Do yer knittin, Mum,” he barks
“Pardon?”
“Pick it up why dontcha.”
“Not right now, we're cuddling.”
“I wanna watcha do yur knittin.”
“Really? Why?”
“Coz I like watchin yur knit.”
I oblige. I pick up the knitting and knit whilst my son watches intently, his nose only inches from the needles. His father walks in, stops dead in his tracks to make little fishy gaspy movements with his mouth.
'Hi there, all finished dear?”
“What on earth are you doing?”
“Shut up why dontcha! Can't yah see she's doing dah knittin,” he admonishes but his eyes never leave the needles.
“I can see that. Why are you knitting?”
“Oh I don't know. Why not?”
“But you haven't knitted anything for years. Years and years.”
“I know but I started again whilst I was in England.”
“Really. Why did you start again……..in England?” he asks with an ominous tone.
“Well, you know. Sitting by the bed…….in the hospital……….I had to do something with my hands or I'd have gone barmy.”
“Hmm.”
“Hmmm what?”
“Well, are you sure that's all you did in England?”
“What?”
“Did you get up to anything else?”
“Such as? I was parked by that bed from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, mopping proverbial brows and the like.”
“And knitting.”
“Yes.”
“How long were you there?”
“You know how long I was there. An extra week and a bit.”
“And how long have you been back?”
“You know that too, just over a week. What are you on about?”
“Can you remember last time you knitted something?”
“Not particularly. ”
“I can.”
“Well?”
“The last time you knitted anything was when you knitted a baby blanket, when you were pregnant with him!” He glares as his youngest son in an alarming manner. The alarming manner penetrates the spell of the one engrossed with knitting skills to provoke a “what?” from him at 50 decibels.
“Well, I'm just saying, or rather asking………er……”
“What?” we chorus.
“Is there anything you want to tell me?”
“Such as? That I'm going in for a knitting competition or something?”
“Are you?”
“No.”
“Well……anything else?”
“I give up. Spit it out man.”
“Are you……maybe……perhaps…….pregnant?”
“Pregnant? Me? Are you quite mad? Of course I'm not pregnant, that's impossible, you should know, you had the op.” I look at him. He looks at me. Our child looks from one to the other in confusion. “I am have a new……er bruvver?”
“No dear I'm not pregnant.”

“You only ever knit when you’re pregnant. That’s the only time you sit down. You sit down and knit whilst you’re pregnant.”
“I am not pregnant.”
“But you've been in England……on your own……”
“What a fertile imagination you have. Do you really think I'd be cavorting around whilst my daughter's at death's door?”
“Well……I suppose not…….”
“Well don't be so overly confident for goodness sake, I was only in England an extra few days and I had other things on my mind at the time.”
“I am have a new………er sister den?”
“No dear I'm not pregnant.”
“So you're definitely not pregnant then?”
“How many times to I have to say it! 7 days knitting in England in a hospital doesn't make you pregnant!”
“Hmm.”
“Hmm what?”
“It's an awfully long time for you to have been in a hospital.”
“Don't you think I don't already know that? That's why I was knitting, to pass the time.”
“I am have a new………er baby den?”
“No dear I'm not pregnant.”
“I suppose there were a lot of um……doctors in the hospital?”
“Of course there were lots of doctors! It's a hospital! And nurses!”
“Male nurses?”
“What?”
“She didn't see an anesthetist by any chance?”
“No! What would she see an anesthetist for? She had Malaria not surgery.”
“Were you very lonely?”
“Er not really. I didn't have time to be lonely.”
“And you went home to your parents every night?”
“You know I did. That's when I phoned you with a progress report.”
“I am have a new sister or bruvver………er baby den?”
“No dear I'm not pregnant.”
“So you're just knitting for…….fun?”
“Yur right Dad, dah knit is dah fun.” His father steps to one side in a hesitant manner to lean against the door jam, still deep in thought.
“You are be teach me knit?”
“If you like. It's quite tricky though.”
“I am be learn.”
“Alright, let me just finish this row.”
“It will be eight?”
“Will what be eight dear?”
“Eight days.”
“Will what be eight days?” I sometimes wonder which one of them is more difficult to unravel.
“Er……if I am knit for 8 days den I am be pregnant? I am have my own baby. I can be a mommy too?” His father springs from the wall “not unless you're in England in a hospital with an anasthes……..” I chuck a ball of wool at him as I already have more than enough iron-clad psychological associations to untangle.


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Wordy Wednesday

“Aha. There you are. Back on track?”
“Almost.”
“I've gotta say it, that is a much better photo than usual, for you anyways.”
“Well thank you. I'm rather partial to it myself.”
“So I take it that I'm looking at some kind of triumph?”
“Absolutely.”
“So I'm on my own?”
“Give it your best stab.”
“No clues?”
“Um…..it's really three triumphs.”
“Three! So that's the one the little guy that 'doesn't eat food' right?”
“Spot on.”
“Hmm. Child holding potato and potato peeler, wearing a contractor's hat. He's over his food issues and planning a future career as a chef.”
“Ooo now you're teasing.”
“He's starting to make his own fries?”
“Certainly a step in the right direction.”
“My guess or his actions?”
“Both.”
“He's the one that doesn't like how things feel?”
“What a great memory you have.”
“Let me put my thinking cap on. So how does a potato feel, or how would it feel if I were him?”
“I am so impressed.”
“You know, I don't think I would like how a potato feels.”
“He certainly doesn't, in fact I don't think he's ever held a potato before.”
“You know, I think there is probably only one thing worse than holding a dirty old potato.”
“What?”
“Holding a wet peeled potato.”
“Genius. You have missed your calling in special ed!”
“O.k. So that's one. Let's see if I can figure out the other two.”
“You go girl!”
“Lets see. A potato peeler…….is a tool……which is the same category as pencils…and therefore hated.”
“You're so good at this.”
“I'm getting the hang of it.”
“The added thing here that you can't see, is that it's also in the category of knives which is the subcategory of 'things that can kill you.'”
“Ah the OCD thing?”
“Yup.”
“Very scary. So he really is being brave.”
“Exceptionally so.”
“Three. The last bit. Hmm. Well I notice that he's dressed, that's gotta be a triumph?”
“Ooo well done. I missed that bit.”
“Huh! So you're saying really we're looking for a fourth?”
“It would appear so.”
“Well all that's left is the hat.”
“Right.”
“Hat? What about the hat? No. Don't tell me, I'm almost there.”
“O.k.”
“Hat, hat, hat. I remember, he's the one that has his head off limits, can't brush his hair or be touched above the shoulder!”
“That's him.”
“Geez! So wearing something on his head, willingly presumably, is like the icing on the cake!”
“Great analogy.”
“How did that happen?”
“Practice, lots and lots of practice. The head thing is always a tricky one.”
“How come?”
“Because it can flop either way. Sometimes he wants to protect his head by covering it with something and other times he can't tolerate anything near him, it's sort of the flip side of the same coin. You'll see some children who are all bundled up at the height of summer and others in the buff in the middle of winter.”
“What I find curious is that it doesn't seem to be static, it sort of changes over time, as they grow.”
“Indeed.”
“You know Madz, to be honest, when we first started to do this, I thought you were a nut job, but as it turns out, it's not really that difficult.”
“We need more people like you Ms. WW.”
“Thank you.”


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The Curse of Socks

On the first day of term, on the first day of school I was destined for an afterlife in heaven. This was directly due to my snowy white, knee length socks. Each was secured in place with a thick elastic garter above the calf that cut off all blood circulation. The cuff was neatly turned now with perfect symmetry. It is a well know fact that one’s personal appearance in the neat, tidy and clean department, has a direct correlation with the condition of your soul, or so I was led to believe.

The second week at school showed that I was winging my way to a completely different destination. This was due to my inability to keep my immaculate socks free from grass stains and dirt. Their general grubbiness could not be eradicated by my inadequate hand laundering skills in cold water with the aid of a bar of yellow soap. The flames of everlasting hell and damnation licked at the toes of my grey cotton foot coverings. I prayed for salvation, with the sincerity of a Tibetan monk, for the chance to languish in Limbo instead.

As luck would have it, I grew up and left school, never again to be troubled by socks, free from the burden of associated guilt, or at least for a few decades.

A few decades later I was presented with a sock dilemma in an entirely new magnitude.

One of the great benefits of being an adult, is that you can force smaller people to do your bidding. A baby or toddler can tug at their socks but their fine motor skills aren’t quite up to the job of removal. As their skills or possibly determination, grows, they may well manage to rid themselves of their hateful socks, but as the parent, I can gather them up and ram them back on again. No matter if they scream in protest, because I, the adult, know what is best for them, because that’s what being a parent is all about.

Much, much later, and after a couple of diagnoses here and there, I learn a few remarkable new facts, things like tactile defensiveness, sensory integration and learning life skills, whatever those might be. Now I have an even greater problem. No only do I have to stop myself from efficiently dressing my children, but I also have to teach them how to do it for themselves. How do you go about teaching someone to do something that they don’t want to do, that they have no interest in achieving?

The obvious answer is to hire an expert to do the teaching, but for many a family that option is not possible, either due to unavailability, or worse still, inadequate financial resources. On the whole, experts are kindly people, full of all manner of ludicrous suggestions to get you started on the right track, but other than that, you’re on your own.

It is tempting to sink to the lowest common denominator, just like my children. Who needs socks anyway? Can’t we just skip the whole sock thing? Is it really that important in the great scheme of things? There is of course the issue of shoes too, and no-one will ever wear shoes until their little tootsies are first protected by a layer of socks. Do we really need shoes? Can’t we just step over the shoe issue, we’re in California afterall, the centre of casual attire. At the current stage of development, no-one wants to leave the house in any case. You only need shoes if you are outside surely? There again, I should be tackling the ‘outside’ issue too. Why are there so many competing issues? Why can’t we address them one at a time? Why is everything overlapping and interlocking? My explanations sound more and more like excuses, as the simplest of excursions becomes impossible:-
“I’ll meet you in the coffee shop at ten?”
“Can’t go to the coffee shop as the smell makes him barf.”
“Excuse me?”
“In any case I can’t take them anywhere if they don’t have shoes and socks on.”
“What?”
“I’ll never be able to get them all dressed by 9:30 and I’ll never be able to get them in the car as that’s a transition they hate.”
“Transition?”
“I’ll never be able to find the coffee shop as my brain will be fried by the volume of screaming.”
“Screaming?”

I makes no sense without direction experience, or some variation on a theme. It sounds feeble, inadequate and pathetic even to my own ears, but the explanations take too long and are of no interest. Suddenly I am disqualified from the status of ‘friend.’ Instead I become a neurotic, obsessed with children. The only logical conclusion is that I suffer from a serious, delusional personality disorder, or maybe Munchausen by proxy. If you also find yourself friendless overnight, take comfort in the knowledge that the time you spend with those under your care, ensures that they will blossom and bloom, which brings with it, an entirely new insight into the human condition.

It is important to remember that these are not the selfless acts of a martyred mother but an investment in your own future. Next life skill to learn? How to push ancient mother in her bath chair, preferably avoid the cliff path.

I think I may posit with a certain degree of accuracy that ‘socks on’ would probably mean that the rest of the clothing might prove superfluous.

Now would that really be an improvement?


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Russian Roulette

 

Many people consider a diagnoses of autism to be a curse, a curse more dire than cancer. My knowledge of medical matters is minute, but I now know for certain, that there are many other diagnoses that make autism pale into insignificance. One diagnoses that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, assuming I had one, an enemy that it to say, would be Malaria.

So lets say that a great being from on high offers me one wish, wipe out autism or eradicate Malaria, mine to choose. Malaria is a disease that steals children away from their parents in their thousands, in a hearse or a funeral pyre, a permanent solution.

Family members gather from the four corners of the globe to celebrate the wedding, a blissful oasis of sanity in torrential British Rain.

Less than 24 hours later, I awaken at 2:55 a.m. on the morning of our departure. I check the children. Everyone is asleep. Maybe I am a nervous traveler. I conclude I am nervous. I acknowledge that I am a traveler. I examine the floppy underside of the four poster bed's canopy, threadbare and suspended by thin rusty wires that will mark the fabric in a month in this cool, damp atmosphere. Who in their right minds could attach a stick to each corner of a mattress, throw a sheet over the top and cal it a four posted bed? I focus on other real and imaginary faults in our hotel room, as there is nothing like a good moan to make me feel oh so much better. I refuse to think about the impending disaster that is about to unravel until I have concrete facts not conjecture. I concentrate on irrelevant trivia instead.

Our goodbyes are hurried and harried as we head off for Heathrow at four in the morning. The children doze and sleep during the five hour drive. “They'll be awake on the flight now!” I moan.
“It'll be fine,” he coos glancing away from the chevrons on the motorway as we creep our way along the three lane super highway at 28 m.p.h. We trundle through the familiar steps of returning the hire car, bussing to the airport, checking in and baggage drop. We divide our attention. He does the former, I deal with herding and entertainment, a semi-seamless exercise in well practiced teamwork. In 13 hours we will be back home in San Jose, all ready for the next bout of dental surgery and a quiet New Year celebration. We already know that everyone in our household will be awake to celebrate as that’s one of the advantages of jet lag.

We corral our energy reserves and our children for the last leg and most significant impasse of our return. Loins are girded, steps are sequenced and reassurances fill the fetid air. Only 20 minutes to go.

The public address system summons their father as my heart sinks. They always call the father, the man. It's a pre-emptive strike, a matter of public policy. It works on the underlying assumption that the woman will collapse in hysteria and cause a scene. Scenes at airports are not welcome in a sea of nervous passengers. I wait in a holding pattern with my children, but I already know what he has to report.

He returns, grey faced under mid day stubble.
“She has cerebral malaria. She’s been admitted to Derriford Hospital.”

We are couriered to a quiet spot where telephone calls are possible as well as the exchange of information. I hunker down on the carpet with a cell phone attached to my ear. I store facts in a new file in my brain:- parasites, few people actually die of malaria, they die of massive organ failure, long term effects, treatment.

Of course there isn't really a choice, but I pretend that there might be one as my eyeballs and his, lock together. I suspect that to abandon your spouse and three young children in an airport, 15 minutes prior to a transatlantic flight, is more than adequate grounds for divorce.

The caller passes the phone to my daughter, who is remarkably lucid. She provides me with dire and graphic descriptions of the progress of the disease, one that she has witnessed first hand. I am unable to process the references to falling platelets, Velcro and glucose, but it gives me cause to wonder why someone has given her a truth serum.
“Tell you what, give me a moment and I'll be with you as soon as I can.”
“What about your surgery?”
“What surgery?”
“Teeth.”
“Oh I'll cancel that.” Fancy her remembering! “I'll make my way back down to you and I'll try and by there before nightfall.”
“It's dark by 3:00 mum! Are you coming in a rocket?”
“Er….”
“If you're quick you can catch the 1:30 bus.”
“I'll be as quick as I can dear, I love you.” How can she be delirious and yet have the Heathrow to Plymouth bus timetable in her head after more than a year in Mozambique?

I resist the urge to bolt out of the airport to run the 225 miles to Plymouth. I take them aside, one by one, to remind them of the rule, carefully instigated some 6 years ago. The rule, written in blood, states that whoever is ill gets mum's full and undivided attention. Everyone else is left to starve. When it's your turn to be ill, you will be number one. Each child protests at the unfairness of being absent for a year and then stealing the entire show. They grumble but accept the truth.

We debate backpacks and hand luggage.
“What do you think?”
“I have pull ups, changes of clothes for 3, water, medications and cuddlies.”
“I've got the new toys and other questionable forms of entertainment choices for a ten hour flight. Oh, and the emergency bag of Goldfish crackers.”
“Hand over the fish!”

I stand and hug my partner. He hugs me too. We stand and hug for a few seconds longer than strictly necessary. “See you later!” I beam as I retreat with carefully measured steps. I attempt saunter rather than march, gallop or warp speed. I ensure that each time I turn and wave that I wear my Cheshire Cat face, the one that equals 'all will be well' because I am a well practiced charlatan, but only at ten second intervals.

I leave in the clothes I stand up in, a handbag, a backpack of irrelevancies and a heart full of woe. Once I am sure I am out of sight I speed up. I become immediately aware of airport design. Airports are designed to funnel and channel large groups of people in one direction. I am now the lone wayfarer traveling in the opposite and wrong direction. All the signs are positioned with care to fit the oncoming traffic. I face the backs of all personnel who concentrate on the mainstream traffic. I have reason to ponder how many people change their minds at the last minute and jump ship, squander hundreds of pounds in non-refundable air fares every day?

I wait in a long queue outside the ticket office. The huge clock ticks on the wall. I present myself as the next candidate and make my request. The 1:30 is full. Panic. The next bus isn't until 6:30. She suggests a standby option. If some unfortunate soul fails to make it on time, I will be granted the opportunity to steal their seat. I take my ticket and park myself of the cold metal mesh bench to wait. I glue my feet to linoleum to stop my toes tapping.

I use my time constructively. As I am the unluckiest person on the planet, everyone will be on time for the bus and everyone will take their seats. There will be no spare seat for me. However, I can secret myself in the luggage compartment if I'm sneaky. If I'm discovered I'll climb into the overhead baggage rack. If they find me I shall commandeer the public address system and plead my cause to my fellow passengers. Who will give up their seat for me? Surely some kind hearted being will take pity on my plight? How much to make it worth your while? I check my purse. Dollars predominate rather than pounds. Everyone in England will be aware of the chronic exchange rate. I check my personage for valuables. A tired and tatty wedding band is my only option, worthless because it is devalued by the inscription on the inside. I resolve that during my next international travel excursion I shall drape myself in the Crown Jewels. Is there such a thing as a collapsible tiara?

I decide to be mature, calm and practical. Om. I shall plan for contingencies. What will I do if I can't get on the bus? It is possible to wait in a bus terminal for an additional four hours? I could walk up and down to calm myself, or maybe round and round. How many miles can I walk in four hours? Will they sue me for the trench that I leave in my wake? No, impossible. What then? I know! I'll take a bus to Victoria and take a train. Will there be a train, will there be a bus for that matter? No matter, I'll take a taxi. Am I willing to waste a perfectly good bus ticket, forty pounds, 80 dollars and spend more money? I know. I'll take a taxi to Gatwick airport and fly down to Plymouth. I'll be there in a trice, in next to no time, blast the expense. What if the flight to Plymouth has already left? I shall hail a taxi and drive like the wind and add a second mortgage to the impending divorce bill.

The public address system announces the arrival of the bus, the 500 to Plymouth departing from Stand 11. I skuttle out and take my position ready to pull my forelock, if not completely tug it off. I mentally practice hurling myself on the ground, throw myself on other people's tender mercies, preferably without cuts or grazes.

I watch the seats fill with weary passengers as they steam up the windows and their luggage clutters up the hold. A traveler from India presents his 'e-ticket.' The conductor is unimpressed and explains in painstaking and lengthy detail, why this is an inadequate means of passage. I shift my weight from one foot to the other to ensure that my blood continues to circulate through my brain, rather than burst through my ear drums. I dither.

Is now the time to be an assertive American? Can I be an assertive American? Can I pretend to be an assertive American? I extend my hand that clutches the damp and scrumpled ticket. I am suddenly aware that my arm is quaking. I realize that I have no-one to put a brave on for which means that I am in danger of melting or leaking. I decide to dissolve after I know the fate of my transportation.
“O.k.” he beams. O.k.? I am immobile with shock. “No luggage?” he prompts. My startle response is fine. I scamper onto the bus in a heartbeat and climb the stairs to the only available seat.

I perch on the only available seat and wait for the whoosh of the pneumatic doors. I secure my seatbelt to hurry things along. I concentrate on the large sign at the front of the bus which reads 'TRIO.' I try and work out what this could possibly mean?

The bus pulls out of the station and I am immediately aware that I really am an American afterall. My seat is on the right hand side of the bus, in a country that drives on the left hand side of the road. This means that I am unable to look out and perseverate on the road signs at ten miles intervals.

Within seconds the woman directly behind me begins to chatter on her cell phone. She has been on a trip to the Middle East for 10 days on holiday. I am unable to shut her out. I give up trying to shut her out. I am happy to dwell in her world of bad hotels and unco-operative camels, excessive alcohol consumption and inedible food. She phones her Dad first and her boy friend second. She is divorced. So is he. He has a child. She does not. I learn all about her food preferences as they discuss which take out to order. Her plans for New Year make me gulp. Will there be a New Year? Is it possible to stop time? Can you stop time if you have a really good reason? Is my reason good enough? Who can I appeal to? Two hours of personal, before she shuts the phone. It is rare to be so intimately acquainted with someone who you have never seen.

My male companion reclines his seat. I decide that I shall sleep so that I will have boundless energy on arrival. I recline my seat too. He turns his face towards mine and winks, “just like being in a double bed innit?” he smirks. I am uncertain how to respond. I only have two reactions available to me as my brain short circuited several hours ago. I can grin or cry. I opt for the former.

Another cell phone clicks open behind me. He chatters too. Several other young men turn to stare at the chatterer, to check his appearance and decipher his message. The several young men murmour between themselves, “should we tell the driver? Whaddayafink?” A corpuscle of excess testosterone. Their heads are huddled, their voices low and muffled, a conspiracy. Bottoms shuffle in seats, a double take, a double check. I hear expletives coupled with the word 'Arab.'

I panic. I have no interest in the cell phone caller, his nationality, political allegiances and such like. I am incapable of racial profiling someone behind me who speaks in an unfamiliar language. I do know that I have an overwhelming need to maintain my current trajectory to Plymouth without interruption or delay. No pulling over, no heated debates, no explanations or apologies. I lean over to the young men, “it's o.k. he's just talking to his mum.” Three sets of suspicious eyes turn towards me, “Farsi,” I explain. I maintain the eye contact of a practiced and convincing liar. I pause as if listening to the next snippet, “he doesn't want her to cook supper for him……..he'll pick up fish and chips on the way home,” I add smiling, “what a considerate lad,……not wanting to put his mum out and all,” I beam adopting my best maternal countenance, wistful and warm. They sniff a bit, stretch out their knotted shoulders blades, unclench taught knuckles and let the blood flow again. Huff, puff and pouf.

A congestion of traffic clogs the roads as my reclining companion jitters in time with his i-pod. I believe I am suffering from a serious case of restless leg syndrome myself, without the assistance of a musical accompaniment. I lose all principles and reason. Sod the environmentalists and their disapproval of DDT. I'm tempted to nip over to Mozambique and kill ever Mosquito I can find, single handedly with a fly swat, but I can't afford the deviation from my allotted course.

The Groom of 24 hour status, meets me at the bus station to appraise me of the developments during the last 6 hours. Plugged into the internet he has all the facts and figures at his fingertips, all of them dire.

In the hospital I approach my sleeping daughter. A tatty Xeroxed paper advises 'would visitors not sit on the beds.' I am sorely tempted to slip in alongside her, curl my body around hers, a sponge to absorb the sweat. I am certain that if I get close enough I'll be able to smell an accurate parasite count, better than any blood test, as a mother's intuition is unsurpassed. My adult child. Parents do not have favourites but my first born child, the first live birth, 26 years later now turns her face, vermilion and glistening as storm clouds of purple roil beneath her skin. Do her half open eye lids see anything as she slumbers? Tinnitus impedes her hearing, clouds her world from mine.

Our family faces a 7 day vigil, in England, in the rain, until her health is restored and the hurricane passes over. The confetti of happenstance flutters down on all our lives, without logic. On a different continent a child swallows a super sized marble and is rushed to the ER. The phase of oral defensiveness is challenged and may be conquered, given time. The evidence is there in black and white, in a x-ray. It is probably an experience that we should have experienced some 5 or more years ago, but development is unpredictable in autism. Of all the 'diseases' that are a scourge on mankind, I am heartily glad to know that Malaria, for one, is curable.

I wish all families could be as lucky as ours. Four healthy children. What more could anyone want?

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Katie.

Powerless little people like me all over the world “support” and mourn with her “family” for their loss.


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More awards – Super Star

My family has just experienced a very trying fortnight. [Full report on Monday] Now that’s we’re all back safely in the States, I’ve had a couple of days to shed the jet lag and get back on track.

I suspected that my blog would have died of neglect during my absence so I was delighted to read everyone’s comments and know that there are so many remarkable, loving people out there. I hope to get back in the groove shortly, to business as usual, as well as share all our shenanigans and tackle the google reader which is probably about to explode.

In the meantime, I need to attend to many outstanding matters such as this:-
“tegrib92” over at “The Brewer Family” And Miles to go before we sleep,’ was kind enough to send me this award several eons ago. I offer my humble apologies for being so remiss in passing it along. My indebtedness is overwhelming currently, so my choices do not reflect the full degree but a sampler of blogs that I hope other people will enjoy as much as I do.

Firstly there is “Mrs.G” at “Derward Manor.” This is still a relatively new blog for me but I thoroughly enjoy her sunny disposition, outlook on life and wry sense of humour, but you already know that’s my funny bone.

Also to “Bub and Pie.” This is partly to assuage my guilt because I nearly always visit her blog but rarely comment.

Sad to say, but it appears that I am a creature of habit and return to the same soft spots on the bloggosphere where I can guarantee a soft landing with a hint of escapism. That’s why I nearly always end up at “Scribbit” along with the world and his wife, but she can keep the snow. After two week in the UK I am now officially allergic to weather again, something to do with thin blood or possibly, thin skull.

Cheers dearies.

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