Everyone’s a critic

Snippets collected over a few days:-

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

Don’t bet on it dearie.

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

I need to be less predictable.

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

You and me both dearie.

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

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


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Bird brain

I check just to be on the safe side.

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

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

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


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Blindsided

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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One strike and you're a crisp!

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

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

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

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

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


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Finely tuned communication

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

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

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


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Little boy blue

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Boy Blue poem

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

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


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I become intolerable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I rummage under the kitchen sink for equipment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Indoor fireworks

All children squabble, it's perfectly normal.

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

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

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

“See, dey are bin fireworks……inside.”

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


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A growing trend

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

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


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Spelling Bee or hangman

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

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

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

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

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

“So what do you want to spell now?”

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

Oh the misery of it all.

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