Eureka! Pavlov's dog


I hear him shriek, grab a pristine bath towel and fly to the family room.

“Eureka! I've got diarrhea! Eureka! I've got diarrhea! Eureka! I've got diarrhea!”

His delivery of this message is in 'motor mouth,' robot mode. I dive onto the carpet next to him, a curled nak.ed prawn. I place the towel in position and seek further information.

“Does your tummy hurt lovey?”
“Eureka! I've got diarrhea! Eureka! I've got diarrhea! Eureka! I've got diarrhea!” I place a palm on his stomach and bring an ear closer to see if there's any gurgling.
“Coldie, coldie, coldie,” he squeaks.
I feel his forehead for a fever.
“Coldie, coldie, coldie,” he squalks. I think perhaps my hands are cold rather than he is hot, but maybe not? I run his diet through my inventory checker in case I have inadvertently poisoned him. This seems so unlikely as my little neophobe is still stuck on 17 foods. It is next to impossible to imagine that he might have added poison to his diet without me noticing. There again, if you only eat 17 things, perhaps number 18 would be poisonous whatever it was, just for sheer shock value of novelty?

“What it is?”
“What is what dear?” I nibble my lip.
“Er……dah 'Eureka'?”
“Um Eureka means…..sort of….. 'wow, look what I've discovered,' sort of a thing, or it's a place in Northern California, and probably elsewhere come to think of it.” I wonder where else it is, as a huge burp erupts from my son.
“Oopsie. Sorry my body.” Excellent instant response. Hallelujah!
“Ooo what good manners you have dear.”
“Eureka! I've got diarrhea! Eureka! I've got diarrhea! Eureka! I've got diarrhea!” his delivery is 'sing song' mode. I am uncertain if this is a good sign or a bad sign? Has delierum set in?

“What it is?”
“What is what dear?”
“Dah 'diarrhea'?”
“You mean you don't have diarrhea?”
“I don know?”
“What don't you know?” Somehow that didn't come out quite right.
“I don know if I am have dah diarrhea beCOZ I don know what dah diarrhea is being!”
“What do you think it is being….er……I mean….what do you think 'diarrhea' is?”

“I fink it is 3.”
“3? Do you mean three syllables?”
“Yes. 'Dye' 'a' 'rea'…..see….three!”
I now have 48 hours to remove this word from his lexicon before the start of school.
“It is dah perfect.”
“You think!” I have news for you matey! If you think you're going to go around repeating this you've got another thing coming!
“It is be my new song.” Not on your nelly!
“Maybe we can make a new song, a better son, the best song.” I wonder if he can detect the desperation in my voice.

“No fanks. It is dah perfect one. Dah 3, dah 3, dah 3.”

He's right of course, when you listen to the syllables of the whole sentence, it is a unique chorus, a refrain that I shall have to retrain.

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Peace of mind can be very noisy


I am reassured when I read that “other families” are noisy too. I know that there are lots of quiet families too, but it's the noisy ones that give me peace of mind.

We endure a forty minute journey in the car, ironically, to the Humane Society. My daughter sits calmly in the centre back seat, a brother on each side. It is her misfortune in life to be the central divider. Her arms are folded across her chest as she looks out of the window and comments to me on the various points of interest that she sees. “Look mom, do you see that balloon thing?” she bellows but in a mild tone. She has no option but to yell because the amount of noise emanating from her brothers is strong competition.

“Why do boys like bunnies? Why do boys like bunnies? Why do boys like bunnies?” he chants in his robot voice. As usual, I have no idea where he has found this gem. I keep an eye on the GPS map on the dash board as the woman's voice that provides verbal directions is too quiet to hear. A least I know that my son is coping her voice, even though I still can't identify the source of the new phrase.

“Internet! Internet! Internet!” he blasts before reverting to the original phrase. I need to install an ‘off’ switch in this child. His older brother talks in a Pokemon voice and plays out a Pokemon scene, the same scene, the same discourse, the same exchange for the entire journey. Without his medication he has reverted to monosyllabic and echolalic and ever so happy. I'm not sure which one of us is more delighted, him or me? He is no longer irritated by his little brother's motor mouth. Once again he finds him a source of camaraderie and amusement. Even his distinctive laugh has returned, the one that sounds like the Flamingos in Alice in Wonderland. The Flamingos turned croquet mallets with that infectious giggle. I lack his generous spirit.

“Dogs eat trees, dogs eat glass, dogs eat metal.” He pants afterwards, in dog mode. His brother hoots with laughter and repeats the phrase sotto voce before returning to the Pokemon spiel. “Look Mom, there's a car with a dent in it. Do you think it was in an accident?”
“Could be,” I answer as non specifically as I can muster.
“Dogs eat pens, dogs eat pans, dogs eat poops.” Cackles of laughter reverberate around the car. I wonder how long we will have to endure the dog stage of development?
“Ooo look, there's another one that was in an accident, the side is all bashed in.”
“Dogs eat pebbles, dogs eat rocks, dogs eat boulders.”
“They call that a side swipe I think.”
“Dogs eat mountains, dogs eat twigs, dogs eat sticks, woof, woof, woof.” Every so often, his older brother repeats his little brother's words. Sometimes it's echolalic, sometimes he's just giggly. They enjoy a very exclusive brand of humour.
“What do they call it when the back is all smooshed?”
“Dogs eat grass, dogs eat green, dogs eat fields.” Perhaps I should just install volume control?
“Rear ended.”
“Dogs eat men, dogs eat wimmins, dogs eat…..dogs don't eat kids.”
“What about the front smash?”
“Dogs eat bottles, dogs eat glasses, dogs eat spectacles.”
“Er bonnet bashed?”
“Dogs eat shoes, dogs eat newspapers, dogs eat machines.”
“That must be the English, what's the American?”
“Dogs eat Italians, dogs eat Frenchians, dogs eat Germ mans.”
“Um fender bender or humped hood.”
“Dogs eat cars, dogs eat bicycles, dogs eat rockets, woof, woof, woof.”
“Are you sure, that doesn't sound quite right?”
“Dogs eat galaxies, dogs eat clouds, dogs eat worms.” Nothing sounds quite right at the moment, least of all my own brain.

My eyes flick between the rear view mirror and the GPS screen. I need to concentrate so that I don't miss the exit. I'm not particularly bothered about taking longer to arrive, but I am particularly bothered about spending any additional seconds confined in this moving torture chamber. I long to drive a black taxi cab, the kind from London, where you can pull up a soundproof screen between the driver and the passengers.

I glance back at my daughter. She seems calm. I think she is calm. I decide to check. “Are you alright dear?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well with the noise and all?”
“Oh yeah sure.”
“It doesn't bother you?”
“Er no. Does it bother you?”
“Well,” I veer to the right a little.
“Are you asking my advice?”
“Er yes, I think I must be?” I admit to my 9 year old daughter.
“Well you just need to shut your eyes and blot it all out, think about other things, peaceful things.” She pauses, “I spose that's kinda tricky if yur drivin.” I love how she flips between English and American.

I swing into the car park and the last free spot. I take a deep breath, a full lungful, enough to sustain through the next step of our sequence. My mind races through all the pitfalls that the next hour holds for us. Will we succeed or will we have to beat a hasty retreat? My youngest son bellows, “d'you know dah one fing dat a dog can't eat?”

We all look at him. It appears to be a genuine question and he has everyone's attention. “A dog cannot be eating his own tongue coz den he will not be able to woof.”

My car is stationery. The rubber wheels are parked on the concrete. My car jiggles as the occupants giggle.

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Too much to process


From a week or two ago.

As often as not, one becomes so used to the status quo that progress can be a smack in the face.

For us, the issues of time and sequencing are very old friends. This is why we are a household with more timers than the average clock shop. They come in every kind of variety. During the summer holidays I have occasion to use nearly all of them. 8 hours and 55 minutes until bed time. 27 minutes until snack. 8 hours and 25 minutes until electronics. The tick tock of one, fights for attention with the tickety tockety of another one.

Once words emerged and were used with greater frequency, we began an exchange.
“How many minutes until……..?” fill in the blank.
“Look at the timer dear.”
Always the same response, for years. Now during the summer, we add an extra line: “which one?”

Yes, and on and on we go, forever, without end. Yes, they're just like everyone else's children, where we all repeat the same phrases, except the boys ask more frequently. I don't choose to examine the OCD elements and try to remind myself how well their voluntary speech is coming along.

The tick down chart on the window tells them all that there are only 8 days left of their summer holidays to go, until school begins again. Every day, I make a big hoo hah about taking them to the chart, so that they can be reminded of the dwindling days of freedom and avoid shock tactics. An unexpected benefit has grown from this practice. Inevitably, when small people are herded together and forced to keep their own company, tempers can sometimes become frayed. This is especially so as the temperatures climb in August. Fights, skirmishes and scuffles break out at regular intervals.

I think the habit began at the beginning of the holidays as I intervened to break up the latest wrestling match. It was something along the lines of, “if you think we're going to behave like this for the next nine weeks……!” delivered in an unpleasant tone of growing exasperation. Thereafter, the OCD amongst us, would race to the chart to check how many happy days there were left and how many days of war had passed. When the mid point was reached, panic ensued. Every moment must be spent extending the happiness quotient.

Meanwhile, my youngest son hurtles around the house chanting his latest phrase: “Lights, camera, action!” at fifty decibels. This phrase is followed by a brief interlude before he reaches the conclusion, some minutes later: “Cut!” at 75 decibels. This is definitely a new development, one that has my nerves all of a jangle. I'm quite content with the new phrase, it's the surprise ending that makes my heart miss a beat. In view of the fact that he has been using this phrase for more than seven hours now, I should have adjusted to the new sequence, but I'm having a hard time recalibrating my own alert system.

Another alarming development is how he is able to hold a conversation with his Pokemon playmates and siblings, whilst in Pokemon character, and yet still manage to punctuate each exchange with his favoured phrase without pausing for breath or missing a beat. I find the whole experience quite mind bending. I try and imagine having a conversation with someone where I would interject an irrelevant phrase and tack it on the end of anything I said? I cannot imagine how this would impact my ability to keep track of the conversation, to say nothing of the effect on the person you are talking to. I am further alarmed to realize than none of the three young conversationalists are in the least bit perturbed, disturbed or annoyed by this.

I am so wrapped up in unraveling this feat that I miss the rumble.

It is hard to accurately describe what we witness and of course there is no warning, or maybe I wasn’t paying attention. My six year old erupts from the carpet like a rocket, remains air born momentarily, to land seconds later in a frenzy of movement, as if someone had fitted a live bee hive on his head. His siblings roll around with guffaws of laughter at his latest explosion, immune, de-sensitized and entertained. I mine for clues but keep out of contact range. I assess whether he is winding up or down. He charges to the trampolene where he expends a considerable amount of energy for several minutes. A heart warming display of self management. He collapses in a heap, drained and closes his eyes with a sigh, “dats better,” he confirms. I debate whether to ask and risk rekindling a burning ember?

“What was it dear?”
“I fink maybe a dust was being falled on my head.” I am uncertain whether I am any the wiser? I suspect that if you are on heightened alert and over stimulated, that maybe a particle of dust might be enough to trigger an almighty reaction.

I am still contemplating the meaning of life, or at least, the underlying triggers, when the other one distracts me with the same old spiel, “er, um, how many minutes until electron…” he pauses, mid sentence as he often does, before he skips a step completely, “oh yeah!” He jumps to his feet and lollops across the room to the table, with the bank full of timers. His hands reach out and lift the correct one as he says, “look at the timer.”

Other aspects of my life are every bit as “bewildering.”

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Winkin, Blinkin and Nod *- Is it any wonder?

I listen to my 8 year old speech delayed son, talk with his six and a half year old, speech delayed brother. Two years ago such a conversation would never have taken place. Then, they barely acknowledged each other’s existence, let alone converse with one another.

Considering the different nature of their all too different disabilities, it is a miracle that they ever manage to understand each other. [translation = or have the patience, tolerance, and motivation to try]

I find it hard to express how every little fragment, together, signifies a huge leap in their ability to communicate. The ability to rephrase when someone doesn’t understand you the first time, which always led to a meltdown. To add emphasis to a word to help your listener. The ability to initiate a conversation of a social nature. [translation = no pay off]

There are far too many fragments to detail, but sometimes they miss the beginning or the ending of a word. Sometimes they miss the beginning or end of a sentence. They both are starting to tease.

“You like dah Reeses Pieces?”
“Recess? I do not like Noddin.” [translation = name of Summer School]
“You don like Nolan? Who is dis guy Nolan? Why you no like him?”
“Nola! Nola? Nola. Nola is a girls name.”
“I din say Nolus, I say Nolan!”
“Who is Nolan?”
“I don know, dat is what I am asking you?”
“What you ask me?”
“Er……..I don know… I mean…..I have forgotted.”
“Nevermind big guy, better luck next time. Anyway, peanuts is poison!”
“Oh man!” He slaps his forehead in an exaggerated parody, “jus forget about it!” he adds, shaking his head slowly. Magnanimous to a fault.

Here is the poem just in case you haven’t come across it before.
[warning = it may be a little mushy for some tastes]

Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod

Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod, one night sailed off in a wooden shoe;
Sailed off on a river of crystal light into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going and what do you wish?” the old moon asked the three.
“We’ve come to fish for the herring fish that live in this beautiful sea.
Nets of silver and gold have we,” said Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song as they rocked in the wooden shoe.
And the wind that sped them all night long ruffled the waves of dew.
Now the little stars are the herring fish that live in that beautiful sea;
“Cast your nets wherever you wish never afraid are we!”
So cried the stars to the fishermen three – Winkin’, and Blinkin’, and Nod.

So all night long their nets they threw to the stars in the twinkling foam.
‘Til down from the skies came the wooden shoe bringing the fisherman home.
‘Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed as if it could not be.
Some folks say ’twas a dream they dreamed of sailing that misty sea.
But I shall name you the fisherman three – Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.

Now Winkin’ and Blinkin’ are two little eyes and Nod is a little head.
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies is a wee one’s trundle bed.
So close your eyes while mother sings of the wonderful sights that be.
And you shall see those beautiful things as you sail on the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three – Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.

p.s. I am transitioning to a new [fast loading site] =
“” I’ll be posting there daily until it’s fully up and running. Cheers

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