Superlative Supersonic Tastebuds

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You can lead a horse to water

I enjoy every second of my twelve-minute lie in and then dash downstairs at 6:12 a.m. – chaos.

Start calculations – need to arrive at 11 and it’s a 38-minute drive – allow an hour in case of stops, emergencies, getting lost time and Saturday traffic. 5 to 60 minutes for breakfast and clear up. 30 to 90 minutes for dressing to include, socks, shoes and teeth cleaning. 10 to 25 minutes toileting, jackets and entering car with seat belts buckled. Equals 3 hours and 55 minutes – loads of time and time to spare.

It was a definite possibility three months ago so I jumped at the chance – we prepared just in case. Horses are just like dogs, but bigger. Every time they sat on Thatcher, I’d trigger a meltdown, deliberately – ‘look at you! If you can ride a dog a horse will be easy!’

They’ve conquered ‘fear of dogs,’ and they’ll conquer ‘fear of horses.’

Both the boys have left their warm jackets at school for the weekend – normally this wouldn’t be a problem, seeing as how we rarely venture far from home, and when we do, it’s more likely to be around mid-day when the chill has burned off – today we head out to the wilds of Monterey where they have weather and mud.

Dig out second, old pair of shoes for them both, select favorite snacks as bribes, drinks, check first aid kit, and pack all possibly emergency supplies in the hope of successfully surviving as solo parent during an hour’s drive. Grab camera at the last minute – if there is one single moment of joy I shall capture it for the record.

Watch a woman outside on the road running for her life, otherwise known as jogging – if I could get someone to watch the children, I would do likewise.

We were offered two places at the therapeutic riding center a couple of years ago – the boys weren’t ready. We were offered places again last year – just before the budget cuts. So here we are, third time lucky, possibly.

In the car we try to listen to a CD of Horrid Henry – ‘The Hike’ – written by Francesca Simon and read by Miranda Richardson,* over the din of the boys who scream in the back. I allow my daughter a reprieve, up in the front passenger seat now that she’s only an inch shorter than me. I keep an eye on her – self wrapped, clamped tight and hunched, as she turns her face towards me, “Horrid Henry wouldn’t last five seconds in our household!” Although the boys give every impression of oblivion, they both manage to chime in perfectly, every time the story reader says ‘Stop it Henry! Don’t be horrid!’ My daughter rolls her eyes with exasperation.

“Whadif they won’t talk when we get there?”
“Lets just hope they have their ‘listening ears.’”
“Whadif they say something unfortunate?”
“I don’t suppose it will be anything they’ve not heard before, or a variation on a theme.”
She pushes herself back into the headrest and shuts her eyes.
“I don’t know whichis worse, when they scream or sing that darned song.”
“MANAMANA” is definitely trying, but at least they’re happy.”
“I jus can’t work out how they ever heard it?”
“Neither can I. It’s ancient. From the sixties, I remember my brother, your uncle, singing it.”
“Whu!”
“I can still see it. The singer was this dark character.”
“Dark?”
“Brown, and very hairy.”
“Mom!”
“He was a muppet.”
“Mom!”
“Not that kind of a muppet, a real Muppet.”
“What the heck is a muppet Mom?”
“I keep forgetting how young you are. Bit like Sesame Street puppets. I’ll show you later when we get home. Don’t suppose you’ve heard of Kermit the Frog either? Miss Piggy?”
“Whah?”
“Never mind.”
“Whadda we gonna do if they make a spectacle of themselves?”
“If they can’t make a spectacle of themselves at therapeutic riding stables for differently abled children, where can they?” I beam.
She giggles and flutters her eye-lids – wicked.

Arrive at the stables, late, with two screaming children – doesn’t give the best impression of our family. Vomit noises emanate from my youngest – farm fresh air doesn’t suit everyone, “dat is a worserer smell dan my bruvver!” He falls out of the car, wraps his arms around his skinny rib cage, and tippy toes off like a top, in the general direction of the office. His older brother staggers in the same direction, hunched like an ancient, as if every limb drags half a hundred-weight of potatoes. The pre-teen looks on, aghast, but is quickly distracted by more interesting eye candy – horses.

One whole hour of introductory, orientation.

We drive back home – the boys are out cold in the back, mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.

“That was funny,” she giggles.
“Hmm?”
“When he said to the lady that the horses had x-ray vision and shot laser beams at him.”
“She didn’t bat an eye-lid though did she!”

I ponder.

I think of the many, many hours my daughter has endured in waiting rooms as her brothers were tortured by every conceivable variety of therapy known to mankind, while she would salivate at the window, hoping for the chance to share a few moments occupied with similar activities. She’s been short changed for far too long, just like all the other children in the Siblings book I read last week.

“So when we go next week they’ll be there for a whole four hours. Would you like to stay and watch, or shall we go and do something else, together?”
“You don’t have to stay with them?”
“Apparently not. In fact they’ll probably do better without me.”
“Four hours?”
“Well, probably 3 if we drive half an hour to somewhere and leave half an hour before to get back on time.”
“What’ll we do?”
“What would you like to do? Your treat.”
“Um…a whole three hours? I don’t know.”
“What do your friends usually do on a Saturday morning?”
“Shop.”
“Oh. Really? Sounds great. Lego Store?”
“Not without the boys – wouldn’t be fair – wouldn’t feel right.”

I drive a few more miles in silence as I watch her brain whir, from the corner of my eye. I try to think what I did, more than a decade ago? I have no recall whatsoever. Whatever it was, it’s clearly unremarkable.

“I don’t think there’s anything I wanna buy. Anyway, I owe you three weeks pocket money.”
“You do?”
“Yeah. Remember? I bought a pair of Heelies. You subbed me coz I didn’t have enough.”
“Oh. Right. What else would you like to do then?”
“The beach looked nice.”
“It did. Would you like to play on the beach?”
“Maybe. We could pack a blanket. Sit down and be quiet.”
“We could.”

It strikes me that if I sit down, static, I’m highly likely to pass out – I could win an award for sleeping if I ever had the opportunity.

“Could we take a picnic too..…with real food?”
“Absolutely.”
“No Goldfish crackers.”
“Oh go on! You like them really.”
“Spose…..I’ll take an alarm if you like?” she offers.
“An alarm?”
“In case we both fall asleep.”

p.s. I do not endorse this as being either beneficial or curative, be that cat, dog, tortoise, horse, fish or dolphin therapy, although this does appear to be an exceptionally progressive program. ‘Beneficial,’ is more than enough. Anything else is a bonus. There is the remote possibility of a little enjoyment if we’re lucky. Failing that, in any event, at the very least we shall have spent a quantity of time outside the house, otherwise referred to as the ‘cell,’ and expanded our horizons by an inch or centimetre.

* Highly recommended to improve aural processing, [and fun] but don’t blame me if your children acquire an English accent.

A bonus for the digital and tactile challenged person.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth!


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Medicine that won’t go down

It’s a common phenomenon for many of us with children on the spectrum – those pesky fine and gross motor skills, with a dash of scattered sequencing and a dollop of mis-matched motivation – a recipe for disaster if ever I heard one.

They come to the fore every mealtime to taunt and tangle with us. Although we persevere with cutlery my children insist that everything is finger food. Let’s be honest here, how many other parents, cooks and nutritionists also have to factor in ‘splash, spill and ping,’ distance into their calculations? But they keep getting bigger, so something must be reaching their intestines, one way or another. Just lately, it’s ‘another,’ because although they don’t conform to the conventional, they’re nothing if not inventive.

So if you find your dry Cheerios just refuse to co-operate with a fiddly spoon – this might prove to be a good alternative.

Sorry it’s been so quite around here lately but it’s a bit fraught with “Nonna.”


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Notable Quotes and a quickie

My daughter to her little brothers:

‘You guys are just impossible!
‘No! We’re not guys! He’s a cat and I’m an “Uglyworm.”

My son – after a long, tortuous and circular argument:

‘I am Mister Understood.’

At breakfast, before I am truly awake:

‘You may wish to get some more cereal from the garage, the choice is a bit lean.’ He doesn’t move but continues to stare at the cupboard. I watch him and try again, with far too many words, ‘I’m sure there’s some new packets out there, pretty thin pickings in here.’ He remains rooted to the spot as he slopes into a 65 degree angle with his cheeks sucked in, although its unlikely to make him any skinnier.


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The enemy of my enemy is my friend

We survive the drama of the ripped hang-nail and a micro bead of blood. His wounded hand hides in his pulled down sleeve for protection, as his other hand crushes the blood flow.
“Which are you be likin betterer?”
“What’s my choice?”
“Anna….annanem….ammanemoni!”
“Anemones, the flowers?”
“Dey are be lookin like flowers but they are being dah sea creatures.”
“Oh. Of course you’re right, Anemones are animals.”
“So?”
“Hmm?”
“Which are you likin betterer?”
“Anemones or what, what am I choosing between?”
“Nude….nude…. Nudibranchs.”
“Fancy you remembering Nudibranchs! The enemy of all free thinking Anemones.”
“They are predators.”
“So I’m choosing between Anemones and Nudibranchs?”
“Right.”
“I think I prefer Anemones to Nudibranchs.”
“Good.”
“Why?”
“Coz then you are on the right side.”
“The right side of what?”
“You’re one of the good guys.”
“I am?”
“Yes.”
“Why am I one of the good guys?”
“Coz Nudibranchs are dah enemy, predators.”
“Anemones are beautiful. Did you know they’re called the flowers of the sea? Such lovely colors. I can see why you like them. You’ve always had a fondness for flowers.”
“!”
“You still love flowers, right?”
“I love Daisy flowers but I like Anemones because they’re invertebrates and…..”
“Yes?”
His face glowers as he growls, Boris Karloff style, “ and they’ve vicious carnivores,”.
“!”
He releases the grip on his hand so that the fingers can wiggle free from the fabric. He examines the damage to the digit closely, without the use of a microscope,
“and if they lose a tentacle, they can grow a new one.”


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Autism – back to basics

I think it’s time for a good old moan; a grumble on the topic of impairment to joint attention, one of the hallmarks of autism, a pivotal skill that’s adrift, so the experts tell me. The trouble is, when it comes to parenting an autistic child we are often advised to ‘trust our instincts.’ It is my experience that this is basically wrong, or perhaps more accurately, that my instincts are wrong. Lets just look at three of the basics. They’re universal, so I’m told. The power of speech is helpful but not essential.

First up:-

I am the parent. You are the child and we gave you a name. You have learned your name, so I call you, either because you’re hiding or you’re busy doing something, “Freddy, where are you?” You, Freddy, do not reply. It may be that you’re replying in your head but no words are coming out of your mouth. If you, Freddy, have no words, you could always just pop your head out of your room and wave, acknowledge that you heard me, aware that I’m searching for you – but of course you don’t. I don’t know what you do about this, but I take on both roles, my own as parent, and yours, as Freddy. I have an entire conversation with myself, speaking both roles:-
“Freddy, where are you?” “I’m here mum!” I wander round the house calling out these two lines until eventually, if I’m lucky, I’ll trip over Freddy and hopefully not hurt him in the process. It’s been like that for years.

Second:-

Pointing. Yes, I know it’s rude, but everyone does it when they’re little. Parents do it too, we actually teach our little ones to point, to be rude, because we’re a bit short sighted. Teach them how to point and then scrap that, it’s rude, un-teach pointing. What a pointless exercise, unless of course they don’t point in the first place. An expert will draw a parents attention to this deficit:- “he doesn’t point, had you noticed?”
“Of course I’ve noticed, it’s just that he’s an exceptionally polite child, must come from having British parents.”

But of course it wasn’t.

Why is pointing important anyway? Because it smacks of joint attention, a shared experience; it’s absence is a red flag.

Third and last, my personal favorite:-

Hand leading. Again we don’t need words. I am not a big scary bear, I’m just a big lumpy parent, hand extended, soft and warm and inviting. It translates to ‘come with me.’ When a child makes this gesture to someone else, it has the same meaning. The underlying message is the key, again, it’s that element of joint attention, a skill that we are all supposed to have, innately, and yet it’s not there. It has to be taught. Each one of them has to be taught each skill, discretely, practiced and then generalized into all given or possible situations.

It is the absence of these three, amongst other things, that still catches me out even after all this time. I forget that they’re not there. I forget to remind them and to practice because if they’re not practiced, they’re lost. It’s not just like riding a bicycle, but much more difficult.

Too much of a tirade?

Possibly.

Why mention it then?

I suppose because it’s IEP time, triennial in fact. Suddenly we’re presented with another whole host of deficits, negatives, holes, and shortcomings, all in black and white, with graphs and statistics as back up.

We’re reminded because we need to stay on track, not become complacent – yes we’re parents but we’re supposed to be dragoons, always forging ahead. I become swept up with the urgency as the grains in the timer escape and drift away. Wipe out those negatives, re-train, re-teach, reinforce, so much so that I’m apt to forget the bonuses, those freebies that are of no great import, except to us. It reminds me of “John Elder Robinson,” how he learned to conform and yet lost so many of the superb abilities he had as a child, an alternative view that he’s been unable to recapture.

Yet it happened again today.

It happens most days one way or another, something that pulls me up short because I forget that they think so differently from me. Today as I reached over the sofa towards him, hand extended, called his name, beckoned with the other arm, he responded. He leapt onto the sofa and hung upside down over the back to examine my hand from underneath; an upside down aerial view. Silent. He moved each digit, an engineer checking the joints, fully functional, no creaks. He traced the lines on my palms and whorls on my fingertips, “mom?”
“Yes dear?”
“I cun see yur DNA.”


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Freedom of expression

Speech delays are curious things. If you combine them with a smattering of echolalia, sprinkle with scripts and stir in a penchant for colloquialisms, you can end up with a very special recipe. So if you also find that you can’t remember the name of an actor, or that the name of the movie is on the tip of your tongue or you can’t remember the right word, try these strategies instead. Don’t say ‘er, um, actually….’

Try:-

“We’ll be right back……after these messages.”

Or:-

“I have short term memory loss.”

Be imaginative and try alternative strategies to solve unusual problems:-

“If your dog doesn’t have a leash use the dog’s tongue instead coz they’re better by design, inbuilt.”

Appreciate expanding social awareness:-

“Elders” are takin over dah world!”

Always try and keep your sense of humour well oiled:-

“It’s called butt kissing.”


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Multitasking logic and instant confiscation

British people are often, quite wrongly, said to be scatological, obsessed with bodily functions and toilets. Sadly, this mis-apprehension is further advanced by Gillian McKeith, whose programme has recently arrived in the USA. I feel duty bound to dispel this myth, as quite frankly anyone who spends more than a few minutes in a bathroom is need of some serious professional help. As for people who have reading materials in their bathroom, they too need their head’s examined. No-one should have enough time in the bathroom to read anything more than ‘please wash your hands.’ Some people argue that they are so busy that they have no choice but to complete other tasks whilst closeted in the bathroom, or at least that was the executive’s excuse, he who insisted upon continuing dictation back in the days when people employed secretaries.

It’s not that I’m against multitasking. In principle, I’m all for it and do it frequently. I suspect we all do to a greater or lesser extent, indeed if we didn’t, we’d reduce our efficiency quotient by some quite horrible margin.

Cooks do it all the time, just in the cooking and preparation department. Sometimes they load themselves up and chat on the phone, listen to the radio, read the recipe book, do a few rows of knitting while the water comes up to boil, plan next weeks menu, fold the washing……well maybe not, but you get the picture.

However, instinctively I some how know that there are limits, although I’m not terribly sure where the boundaries lie. That said, I know with a degree of certitude that some things should not be combined, such as knife throwing and swimming. Who wants rusty knives? Then a few other things spring to mind such as using a chainsaw and doing anything else at all. It’s just not on. Some tasks just require the usage of too many brain cells to permit distraction or the consequences are dire.

In my son’s case it is a different order or magnitude. Broadly speaking, I think it is safe to say that neither are into multitasking. Both prefer mono tasking, preferably without end if it is a preferred ‘task,’ more especially so, when the task is an electronic game.

Hence it is with a certain amount of awe when I find him in the bathroom. I see something that I have never seen before. I see something that I cannot imagine anyone ever doing. I find him sitting in the bathroom doing what most of us choose to do alone, together with his Gameboy and a carton of Goldfish crackers, eating, playing Mario games and…..well……doing. Forget the Gameboy! Eating and doing are not tasks I could ever imagine occurring at the same time. I realize that I have had a much more sheltered existence than I ever thought possible because no matter how hard I try, I just cannot envisage doing likewise. I am tempted to squeak something irrelevant like ‘Hygiene!’ but I realize I am silent when he blinks up at me, “wot?”
“I er….you shouldn’t…….can’t……don’t want to……”
“Go away. I am needing my privacy.”
“But…..eating and toilets aren’t a good match dear.”
“But I’m saving time.”
Somehow I don’t really like to make further enquiries, in part because I already know that in his mind eating is always either a chore or in the alternative, a complete waste of time. I can feel a social story coming on.

Maybe it’s just a male thing?

Don’t forget to add your name to the “book giveaway” and spare a thought for “Nonna.”


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Garfield

Hosted by “Tracy” at “Mother May I,” but the photo-picture below will whizz you right there with one click.

Just call me snap happy.

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I think it would be fair to say that he’s developing his own ‘Garfield’ based character.

When I reminded him that school started tomorrow [today] he said, in Garfield mode in a tone of dripping ice:-
Sigh……..oh what joy! I’m so FUR Get FULL.”

I guess he’s mastered sarcasm.


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Equalization of skills

Tackle It Tuesday Meme
Try This Tuesday

I have no time to tackle anything right now, or rather to post about it.

Suffice to say that I am busy reorganizing my kitchen cupboards to take account of a couple of changes.

One change is that we have my “Mother in Law” living with us, a person of diminished stature.

The other change is that the boys’ stature appears to have grown exponentially the last few weeks. Not only have they grown in height but they have more than mastered self help by clambouring up onto the counters to retrieve something out of reach. I wish to avoid another new exchange. All exchanges are conducted at 50 decibels because Nonna frequently forgets her hearing aid. The new exchange is where Nonna yells at my son to get down and he yells back that he is actually helping.

“Get down from dere you little monkey!”
“I be help you big monkey!”

p.s. Please note, as my son pointed out, “Nonna” does not really look like a curly frog. What can I say, I was in a hurry!

And don’t forget to add your name to the “book giveaway,” and spare a moment for “Nonna.”

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