Not a friend in the world – shaggy dog’s tales

Slurping Life
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I drop off my son and daughter to their respective play dates and then drive the little one home after school. The child is a picture of misery. One on one time with mum, is a poor consolation prize. Although I have planned a bumperful of entertainment for him, I know that I have a hard sell ahead of me.

Once inside he collapses like a damp squib on the sofa. Feelings of self worth, anxiety and depression are all closely related deamons. As he slips his fingers into his mouth I can tell that we’re on the edge of the precipice. I sidle up to him and park myself on the carpet so that we’re eye to eye. “I know!” I beam to a listless, glistening eyeball.
“How about we take Thatcher for a walk?” He is horror struck at the thought, rigid as a stick and speechless. More usually he would pogo at high speed in the same spot, fists clenched to his side, spittled with teeth breathing. It’s quite amusing to watch him behave the same way horizontally. “But……but…..but……. I cant be walk a dog.”
“Why?”
“Because……….” It’s an unfair question because we both could probably list several thousand reasons why this is a non starter.
“Let me help you with your shoes and jacket, it’s cold outside.” The reference to the temperature evokes a noise similar to a firecracker. It’s a like a feral cat in a sausage casing when you stick the tail in an outlet. “Come on! It’ll be fun!”
“Fun! Fun? What is dis ting called fun anyways?” It’s one of those things that he still says, although he doesn’t necessarily mean it. It’s more of a habit of protest. If in doubt, say no. It’s a trait common to many.

The transition of dog and child is smoother than I could have hoped. He holds the lead firmly and with a little encouragement has no difficulty ordering Thatcher around. His ambient level of shout, is a perfect match, authoritative, clear, one word commands. Thatcher is obedient when he understands. He appears to understand perfectly.

We make two circuits around the block.

Back inside the garage he pauses whilst I dry off Thatcher’s paws and muzzle. Unusually, he continues to pause, to wait a while instead of diving back into the house and safety.
“Mom!” he shouts.
“Yes dear?”
“He………….Fatcher……..…he is a good dog.”

It’s a statement, not a question.


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Proximidade Award

Please scroll down for the photo carnival and
Thursday 13 = Homework strategies

“Kristie” over at “Life with My X Men” has very kindly passed this delightful “award” to me. Thank you so much for thinking of me! I shall be consulting “senior daughter” regarding an accurate translation for persons such as myself who are linguistically challenged. After 18 months in Mozambique, speaking nothing but “Portuguese” we might be in luck. I wonder what I can bribe “her” with? Actually that quite easy as she’s the only one who responds very positively to food!

I don’t think that there any rules with this one, anything for the easy life! So this one goes to “Mama MPJ” over at “A Room of Mama’s Own,” although I’m hoping she’ll consider sub-lets.

Moving on……..

“Mama Mara” who blogs at the very aptly named “Mama on the Edge” has very kindly given me this award, ‘Sharing the Love.’ This was originally created by “Memoirs of a Mommy” for a very specific purpose which I feel unable to match, or even come close.

So who? That’s quite a tall order and then I remembered that woman that we all love, even though she has a tendency to whisper, “Vicki” at “Speak Softly.”

Moving on.

“DJ Kirkby” over at “Chez Aspie” has passed along this delightful award, just my kind of kick.

I am delighted to pass this on to “Mary the Teach” at “Work of the Poet,” and I am sure she will use it wisely.

Cheers dears


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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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Honesty is the best put off

She plagues me with questions first thing in the morning as I wipe noses and squirt inhalers with the boys.

“But when will you phone?”
“Phone, phone, phone.”
“Oh I know!  You'll phone after nine?  Will you phone at nine?  Mommm!”
“Er no.  Her mum said she'd phone us at mid-day.”
“Oh no that's gonna take forever.”
“Indeed, but we'll find something to do in the meantime.”
“Mean……time….mean….time……mean…….time.”  I make a quick dash to the garage for a couple of boxes of tissues to assuage the sea of snot.  My pre-teen in is mid pout, as she has experienced a sharp learning curve this week.   Adult conversations have been the order of the day, but we need to tread carefully.  If you ban a friendship you guarantee eternal adoration.   “She probably won't phone until even later………like yesterday…….”  I see the cogs turning.  She's getting there all by herself.  “You know dear, it's probably not fair for her to come for a sleepover tonight anyway.”
“Why?  That is sooo not fair!”
“Look at them!  They're coughing and sniffing…….”
“That's o.k. we'll be in my room.  She won't catch it.”
“Um……tell you what…….I will have to tell her mum that the boys are ill and then she can decide.”
“O.k.”

I am disconcerted that she agrees immediately, no hesitation, ever the optimist.

We spend the day quietly but in a very noisy manner until the telephone rings in the mid afternoon.

“Hi Natalie!  Just a quick call as she’s still asleep, up all night on the innernet with her sister.”
“Oh hello,” I glance at the clock,  “I just thought I'd better let you know that the boys are ill with colds, maybe flu.”
“Oh sorry. Poor little guys. I'll bring her round when she wakes up.”
“Well I just thought that you should know that they're ill in case she catches it.”
“She'll be o.k.”
“Oh.”
“She's got a great immune system.”
“Hmm that's good to know.  Pity the boys haven't fared so well.  No school for them on Monday!”
“They're <span style=”font-style:italic;”>that<span style=”font-weight:bold;”></span></span> sick?”
“Ooo yes.  I wouldn't be surprised if they're off school for a few days.”  I hear silence on the other end of the line.  I dither whether to fill the air with mindless chatter or keep quiet whilst calculations are made.  I am ready for the 'she can come here' option.  I have spent an inordinate amount of time working out how to extract myself and my family from this escalating debacle.  I need to stick to my guns but I have a strong need to ensure that I do not slight an innocent child.
“You know Natalie howabout we do it next weekend?”
“Thank you for that, but I'm afraid we have the boys' sleepovers then.”
“Great!  One more would make it a party.”
“It probably would, but I'm a bit tired these days so we're trying to limit the number of play dates everyone has.  I hope you can understand.”
“Sure.  I'll leave it a week then.”
“Thank you.”  She's already clicked off the line.  I am left with the notion that I have only bought myself some time.  A second wave is on the way, building momentum, ready to bowl me over.

Better dust off my surf board.


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Out of the loop

[From Friday – details have been changed to protect anonymity]

Spouse and I experience 8 hours of sleep, collectively.

I am uncertain whether I had 5 and he had 3 hours, or the other way around?

A holiday is an upset to the routine. An upset to the routine often results in disruptive sleep patterns. My daughter continues to badger me with the same interminable question. By seven in the morning I explain again, hopefully with greater clarity.

“I'll telephone at nine and sort out the play date.”
“Can't you phone now?”
“I'm afraid not. It's rude to telephone before 9 and in any case you know that none of them are up before mid-day.” I wish to avoid the previous occasion's angst, hours of tears when no-one picked up the phone.
“Well that's not true any more. She told me she's up at seven!”
“Well that's lovely but I still can't phone before 9. Just think of it as the polite rule.” She pouts. It's a rule of my own making. I need my brain to be fully functioning and I also need quiet, neither of which is generally available.

I check the diary. Who is going where? Who is coming here? Times? Rats! The first delivery is at nine, pick up at 11. I herd and coach to ensure that everyone is ready on time.

In the car I am bombarded by yet more questions from my daughter to the backdrop of 'supercalafragalistic' sung by my youngest.

“You said you were gonna phone my friend at 9!”
“Yes I know but I made a mistake. I'll phone as soon as we get back from delivering your brother to his play date.”
“But I still don't get it!”
“Which bit dear?”
“Why we have to wear shoes if we're not allowed to go in?”
“Well if you're invited in, then you can go in, but it's not your play date.”
“So?”
“You can't just barge into someone's house uninvited dear.”
“So why do we have to wear shoes then?” I ignore the snarky tone of the pre-teen.
“Because if you are invited in, you can't go in if you don't have shoes on your feet.”
“Do you think they'll invite us in?”
“I don't know dear.”
“I don't get it. Gene barges into our house all the time and you don't mind.”
“Gene is our neighbour. We've known him for 9 years now and he's our friend.”
“Ken's family are our friends too, or he wouldn't be having a play date there!”
“Do you know his mum's name?”
“Mrs…..no.”
“Do you know his Dad's name?”
“No.”
“Well if you don't know their names……..tell you what?”
“What?”
“If they don't ask you in you could always, politely ask if you could pet the dog?”
“Do you think they'll let us in then?”
“I don't know but there's no harm in asking, politely.”

Mollified briefly, we pull into the driveway and open the automatic doors. They escape in seconds and start pogoing on the doorstep fingers competing to ring the bell. I dither. There is the threat of rain but last night’s Shepherdess pie has had a dire effect on someone's digestive system. I leave the doors open, to air out the car for a couple of minutes, it's California afterall.

As their front door opens the dog shoots out like a bullet to frolic, turn cartwheels and race. She scoops him up, armfuls of fluff and lick. Her ready smile is her passport to house entry. Once inside the boys hug and pogo with squeaks of delight. I exchange pleasantries with the dad, a charming man indeed who wrestles with suitcases ready for their weekend away. Their teenage daughter folds blankets and tidies, a study of responsibility. We confirm pick up time and step outside.

On the driveway my youngest son squeals and bolts to the far edge of the garden. I gallop after him as he curls into a ball at the edge of the hedge. He points in horror, wordless, as I hear my daughter laugh, “hey look mom! Those crazy sprinklers!” I walk back to the car, shut the far side door and begin to mop up several gallons of water from the interior. Thank goodness for emergency towels!

It takes a goodly long time to persuade him to return to the car, the dry side, the side that never had a drop of water on it in the first place. Mercifully we pull out of the driveway. Out of the corner of my eye, I see their front door open but we're already on our way.

I debate. Buy milk on the way home or buy milk when we venture out again to collect him?
“Anyone thirsty?”
“No.”
“Howabout we make that Papaya, Pineapple, Banana smoothie you wanted?”
“Oh yeah, that would be great!”
“So we'll just nip into Wholefoods on the way back then.”

The trigger word 'Wholefoods' sends him off the deep end. Although all supermarkets smell, Wholefoods appears to smell more strongly than other shops. It's somewhere I only visit occasionally because it is full of tempting expense. I dither. Is today the day to start another round of desensitization? Only two children? I decide to be brave, help him be brave and pull into a parking space, next to the curb, next to the shop, so as to avoid the hurdle of 'road crossing.' He clings to his seat belt, a life buoy in protest, a rigid L shape, immobile. “Green is bad!” he shrieks at the sign. My daughter waits by the shop front window, peering in, absorbed and patient.

I dither. Am I really ready?

“The sooner we're in, the sooner we'll be out and home again,” I beam weakly. I wait as his knuckles turn white.
“Can you do ten minutes dear?”
“10?” he sputters. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea afterall?
“Yes, just ten, only ten.”

He whips off his seat belt and charges up to his sister to jump on the spot for a while, revving up the energy reserves for his first sortie. I concentrate on keeping him within safe boundaries. I rely on my daughter to select her preferences and taste the samples on display. He walks around on tippy toes, thumbs stopper his ears, pinkies pinch his nose. We’re finished in swift moments and dash to the check out. They fill my bags with groceries as I riffle through my handbag for my cards. I can see my cards. My cards are in my purse, next to the phone and the calendar at home on the kitchen counter. Luckily I find my cheque book buried in the depths. I sign off with a quick flourish.

“Can I see yur I.D. please? Yur driver's license?”
“I'm afraid I've left it at home.”
“Do you know the number?”
“I'm afraid I haven't managed to learn it off by heart yet.” Grounds for deportation.
“Social?”
“No, I'm afraid I haven't managed to learn my social security number off by heart either.” Guilty of Un-American inactivity.
“You've got anything?” I continue to riffle. Good grief!
“Actually, I seem to have both my passports for some reason.” Two months after my last UK visit!
“Well I guess I'll have to ask the supervisor. It sure is ID!”

I debate. Which is more stupid, to drive around California without my license or to walk around with my passport in my handbag? The former is illegal, the latter merely insane. My son sucks three fingers and spins as he waits, patiently.

We are released from custody, together with our groceries. It is 9:20 in the morning and I feel strangely tired. I drive home gingerly, one mile per hour lower than the posted speed limit, sure and certain evidence of malfeasance. I endure 20 minutes of the same song repeated in a never ending round, “la, la la, lee, lee, lee, I'm a silly pink bun nee, I am cute, yes it's true, I will shake my tail for you!”

Once home I make smoothies for two and tepid water for one. The smoothie is so sweet it makes me shiver. My metal fillings have been replaced but the same sensation lingers on. I plant the telephone head set on and dial in between sips, washing up and watching my son skate in the kitchen in his socks and very little else. I leave four messages on the answering machine of four different mothers.

I fizz. The sugar rush gives me a burst of unexpected energy, just enough to persuade him to power jump on the trampolene. He bounces as I count to a hundred, with 'ands.' The buzzer on the tumble drier lets me know it's time to re-make the bed now that the duvet is dry. It is not safe to leave two children unsupervised downstairs. It will be too difficult and painful to persuade him to go upstairs during daylight hours. I plonk a pile of playdough on the table for entertainment and step into the kitchen to make lunch in advance, to save time and simultaneous snacks.

I wait until they're both in full munch before making a quick dash to the letter box in the garden. I unpack the box of herbal, save the world, kill the lice, shampoo and set it aside for the next emergency, just in case we have one, an emergency that is to say.

I calculate. The wool shop is one block from the play date. The new rule is that use of car shall be combined with as many errands as mentally feasible. If seamless sock production is to remain seamless, then I need more wool, today. I need it today because there will be several minutes during the evening when my hands will be in need of occupation. I have discovered that hand occupation cancels out restless leg syndrome, or what we more commonly refer to as fidgeting. My new personal 'om' campaign includes sitting in the evening, although simultaneous breathing is still optional.

I dust buster my way through half a packet of scattered cereal and toast crumbs from breakfast, because my efficiency quotient is at an all time low. We return to the car in advance of the allotted pick up time. My son sings Christmas carols, or rather just one nauseating holiday song, in February, over and over again.

“You cant sing that fur another 10 months yah know,” she advises sagely as we approach their driveway.

The dad stands next to his car and waves at our arrival. We walk into the house together where he puts his briefcase down in the hall. The boys hug farewell as we return once more to the car.

I reverse out into the road to the tune of 'We are the Champions of the World' and 'If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake,' both in rounds, separate ones.
“Mom! Get em to shut up!” I'm tempted to hand her some ear plugs but instead I turn on the story tape, the new “Dr. Seuss” one, which I may later have cause to regret. I am very fond of my son's pal but I always find it disconcerting that after a couple of hours together, his speech patterns, tone and expression leaves it's imprint. Instead of my sotto voce son's voice, I have the giggly, fast talking mimic, a child exchange.
“Be quiet or I’ll smear pooh all over your beds!” My startle reflex is keen, but I don’t crash the car.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing.”
“Where did you hear that?”
“My friend. Her sister squished pooh all over her new bedroom.”
“Really! I didn’t know she had a little sister as well?”
“She doesn’t.”
“You mean it was her big sister! But she must be….15 at least!”
“So.”
“We’ll talk about this when we get home.”
“Why?” Everything appears to be upside down. I am familiar with autism, smearing and motivation, but if you remove the autism and change the motivation then I am entirely out of my depth. If this is what passes for ‘normal,’ then I don’t like it. Over protective indeed! I concentrate on driving but the huge lump in my throat has made my brain seize.

I feel a small sharp prick in my temple which prompts me to talk over the story, “who was looking after you dear?” His mum was out at work. Could his dad have been out too? Was big sister in charge? How old is big sister? Didn't they say that they were visiting Universities recently? Surely she must be 17, mustn't she? She's certainly reliable and responsible by all accounts. Why does this bother me? What business is it of mine anyway, but I still feel uneasy? I remind myself that this is a family that I trust, that they are busy, it is probably merely an oversight. Their daughter is a delightful tribute to their formidable parenting skills. I have the distinct impression that I am worrying about the wrong family. I decide to tackle the matter later when there are fewer distractions.

“When'll we be home mom, I need to phone my friend?”
“About twenty minutes depending upon the traffic lights dear.” I need to sort friends quickly.
“Traffic lights, traffic lights, traffic lights,” he cooes.

Once home there is no answering blink on the phone, nobody loves us. I am unable to count the number of additional children we have had in the house during the week, but I know that it is more than 7. I decide not to be down hearted, as at least the children are happy.

We eat lunch together. I need to engineer one on one time with my daughter for a private discussion about a particular friend, if not interrogation. She dashes to answer the telephone and chats to her other friend as my ears flap. I wade through bills and junk mail at the table, ferry across additional food and gulp a pint of carrot juice myself with a liquid Centrum chaser. I must remain healthy and energetic at all costs. She returns to the table, “that was her mom. They'll be here in five minutes.”

Thank heavens for some friends.

“Oh good. Better find your shoes then dear.”
“Why?”
“Well you can't leave the house without your shoes.”
“But I'm not goin anywhere.”
“Aren't you? I thought you were going round for a play date?”
“No, something's come up so she's coming here instead!”
“Oh really!”
“Yes and don't forget, she hates Calamari and Pizza.”
“What has Pizza got to do with anything?”
“Supper.”
“Supper?”
“Yeah she's staying for supper too. Her mom's goin out and her dad can't cook.”
“But they own a Pizzeria!”
She slips into 'woman of the world mode,' casual, conciliatory and amiable.
“Well you know how it is Mom. She's all on her own, no brothers and sisters to play with, home all week long, her Mom sure needs a break,” she beams as she hugs me. I look towards the window as a car screeches to a halt by the gate. I watch as she scampers towards our front door and the car spins away. Is she scratching her head? What time will she be collected? Am I supposed to deliver her home? Do we have to get in the car again and endure another transition? Do I have enough veggie burgers made up? Can I stretch the carrot and sesame seed salad?

I have a sudden urge to run into the garage, leap in the car and escape, my own personal delivery service, destination, sanity island.

I give up!

The front door slams shut after the girls as they gallop up the stairs. I take a deep breathe and start to stack the plates. I remember that I forgot to buy the milk. I need to knit myself a cocoon where I can hide. I remember that I forgot to go to the wool shop too. In the pile of mail, between the leaves of 'Fry's Blowout Sale' flyer, I find four assorted sized envelopes, 'thank you notes' for a memorable dinner, from 8 lovely grown up American people.

The dinner party is already a complete blur, wiped clean, memory card crash. My mother always emphasized the importance of thank you letters. I knew she was right. Now I know she was right. I pop them on the mantle piece to remind me of the many, many things that I have to be thankful for.

We live with so much falsehood, often self generated.

I wonder which bits my dinner guests remember?


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The Littlest Angel – Kindred Spirits

Maybe your child is a loner, some children are, as are some adults come to think of it. Some children are aware of the fact that they are without friends but they’re happier that way, self sufficient and independent. Some children are unaware that they have no friends. A few children become aware that they have no friends and wonder why? Occasionally, a child who has no friends, finds one, a friend that is to say. That individual, in this particular instance, has been in the same class as my son for three years but until just recently they have completely ignored one another, or maybe just not noticed the presence of the other?

For four years I haven’t pushed him. It’s a harmless piece of traditional fluff of no importance. But this year he is older, 7, the age of cognition for some children.

I decide to tackle the issue head on. Friday, the last day of school, the children are required to wear a Holiday hat and engage in the holiday spirit. The latter is likely to be a challenge. The former is more of a brick wall.

My youngest son’s head is generally off limits. Whilst he has been known to don head gear on occasions, more often than not it’s more protective in nature rather than the more usual clothing garment. A wooden box with a peep hole equates to protection.

There is no point in appealing to his better nature. There is no point in suggesting that he tackle this feat just to please me. He doesn’t do guilt, fortunately, so there are few choices available to me. He has no need to fit in with his peer group, he is immune to peers. He is immune to groups come to think of it. Bribery would always be my first choice given the option, but I am unable to attend school as his shadow, armed with a sackful of Goldfish Crackers.

I don’t know what, if anything the other children say to him, but I do know that if the entire school wears hats, most of them red, it’s a visual cue with neon lights.

We have the usual struggle over school attendance, last day or not, he still doesn’t want to go to school. There is no point in reminding him of the party, as party roughly translates to ‘poison pain.’ There is no point in reminding him of the gift exchange because the presents will be wrapped in paper and therefore untouchable, and in any event their contents, by definition, will be disappointing.

I do remind him of the one tolerable thing about school, that he gets to spend time with his pal, the new love of his life, his first, only and best friend, Adam. Little Adam is my own personal angel, as he has given the most precious gift to my son, the present of his very own unique self, to bond with my own little devil.

I pause and contemplate Little Adam, high end spectrum, verbal and fragile. Adam is a twin. He has a twin sister. My son was a twin, but his twin didn’t make it out into the world alive. The black hole on the sonogram was seared onto my memory, but back then, I didn’t appreciate that I was a visual learner. The icicle of terror made me hold my breath. It was melted by the steady blinking shadow of a second secret heartbeat. As a result, I find that I have a tendency to read too deeply into something of no great significance. My son wants to live with Adam, be with Adam, exist in Adam’s orbit, permanently. It is a crushing new development that leaves me and Adam’s mother, in a state of disbelief and delight.

“You know?”
“Wot?” he bellows.
“Are you going to give Adam a Christmas present?”
“No. Er yes. Um why?”
“Because he is your friend.” He looks at me blankly but lured in by the enticement of his current adoration.
“I have an idea!”
“Wot?” he bellows.
“How about I take you to the shop and you can choose a holiday hat, one for you and one for Adam. Perhaps you could choose two the same that you could both wear tomorrow, together.” He clamps his hands over his mouth to cover his rapid breathing and the battle over competing emotions. He adopts the expression of constipation unable to achieve peace of mind or body. So easy, so difficult. The caress of friendship, the torture of a hat, the agony of indecision.

“You can try it on in the shop and see it it’s itchy or scratchy? You could choose one without elastic?” You could wear it inside out for all I care. He rocks back and forth on the hard wood floors on his bony little bum with his arms clasped tightly around his legs and his head tucked into his knees.

“That way you’ll look almost the same,” I whisper to the silent mop of hair.
“Like bruvvers?”
“Maybe.”
“Maybe people are think we are twins?”
“Maybe.” No promises.


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High definition

 

I have always been a very poor judge of character, a failing that my mother takes great care to remind me about, at frequent intervals.

Over the years, my small and motley circle of friends, has been a source of great angst for my mother. They all had faults and failings, not the least of which, was being the wrong type of person. Lame ducks, losers and users, were inaccurate descriptions that didn't match my experience. “Where do you find them?” she would sigh, as if I had deliberately chosen my pals to annoy her. If there had been a 'discernment' class available in those days, I would have been signed up for one on one tuition, no doubt.
……

The car park is nearly full as we search for a space. There are a great number of people milling around dressed in strange attire. The majority wear head gear, with a high count of straw hats. My suspicions are confirmed by a sign that indicates an Art's Festival Today. Today, we are going to the Tech Museum in San Jose. All of us.

The crowd is dressed unfashionably. This is not conventional mall clothing. Instead there is a colourful display, a patchwork of individuality. They all deserve prizes for uniqueness.

She catches my eye because she's just like me. Similar age, wild hair and freckles. We all know that excessively thin people should never expose too much flesh, unless they wish to be mistaken for a wire clothes hanger or it's Halloween. Her naked back is a xylophone rack, jutting hip bones and gnarled elbows. I lose her in the crush of the crowd as I move my mob in the general direction of the museum.

We have been coming here for approximately three years, which means it is familiar territory and not scary, either for them or me, but for different reasons. I know that if I lose anyone, they will each gravitate to their favourite spots: one to the roller coaster simulator, one to the car simulator, one to the seismology area.

I see a child, maybe ten years old, who wears loose, scarlet shorts and black, wooly, knee length socks. It is August. It is California. It is 102 degrees in the shade. His feet are shod in sandals that are much too large, which makes it even more difficult for him to walk on his tippy toes. His arms are bent at the elbow, his fingers fiddle with his lips. If I knew him at all I would kiss his tousled, un-brushed hair.

A real woman of generous proportions displays more breast flesh than is common during daylight hours, indoors with efficient air conditioning. It's not the spaghetti straps that that dig into the folds that draw my attention, but the small penny sized scar nearby the overflowing cup. She calls to her chum, “go get your head examined by that machine!” She glances at me as I stifle a giggle, head to toe, toe to head. I wither under her gaze. I tell my rude eyes to blink and stop staring at the headlights, before I am mown down and quite rightly so. “I just thought it was funny…..” I mumble, “what you said I mean, to your friend.” She smiles back me, “right!” I see her perfect movie star little teeth and warm, plush lips.

It's not often that you have the chance to see so many small people who either have their arms folded, or clasp their hands with the high tension grip of public anxiety.

I spot her again, the scrawny one, with her significant other, as they attempt to dance in time with the Macarena simulator. Rarely does one witness such a public display of the truly un-coordinated. It could so easily be humiliating if it wasn't for their humility. It is hilarious to watch. Their hilarity is infectious. She bends down to retrieve her straw hat. Her backless dress gapes at the front. I glimpse straight through to her knickers, or rather, her boxer shorts. I feel a pang of guilt. This is probably the only other woman on the planet who also wears boxer shorts under a frock, because life is unpredictable. You never know when you might have to climb a tree or a ladder, or scoot down a fireman’s pole. It’s a safety response for mother’s who deal with flight or fight. I wonder if she hangs from monkey bars too? She clasps the hat to her chest, breathless from dancing.

I see master black socks skip over to her and huddle into his mother's bird like rib cage. There is no soft bosom to cushion his skull. I watch her skinny, sinewy arm slither around his shoulders for a gentle embrace. Her sharp chin rests on the nest of his unruly hair. Her eyes squeeze tight. Her mouth widens into a huge, expansive smile. The warmth of her happiness glows.

Maybe she's skinny because of jaw surgery too? I wonder if she had to carry her son and for how long? I wonder what her name is or his? I am full of silent questions, as I don't want to break the spell.

Can you define a person in a sentence? Can you get under their skin? Or try?

To me she's an eight stone heavy weight with the strength of a Rhino, but then, what do I know?

So here's to emancipation, not emaciation and friendship.

Cheers!


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[Un]Favourable Peer Review?

mcewen.minti.com [test]
Presidents week means that the children are at home on holiday. With a brief preamble and a schedule board to hand, I suggest a bike ride in the park.
“Do you think that's such a good idea Mom?” she asks politely. I am pleased that she is aware of the many pitfalls of such a venture, all the possible meltdowns and squirmishes that we may need to deflect or endure. The boys are close by. They do not 'attend.' They are not 'included' in this exchange. I am fairly confident that the content of the conversation is being processed.

“Oh, I'm sure it will all be just fine dear, don't you worry, we have all day to manage it.” What a nice young woman she’s developing into. We women of the world need to rise up and unite.jaw surgery.” Oh gosh, such thoughtfulness shows her ever growing empathy and maturity. I attempt a sweet smile, although it's a bit lop sided. “That's so kind of you dear, but my body is fine, I'll just need to be careful about my face that's all.” Why isn’t the world populated only by womankind? I can feel my feminist banner on the rise above my head.
“That's what I mean!” Enough spunk and spice to tell it how it is. The banner flutters against the ceiling.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, your face is going to scare little children!” Ah. Such consideration for her fellow 'man.'
“Oh it will be fine, I'll be cycling so fast I'll just be a blur.”
“But you'll have to stop sometimes and then people will see you,” she squirms with a tone of alarm. Such sensitivity delights my heart.
“I don't think that there will be many people in the park, most people go away for the week on holiday.”
“Some of my friends aren't going away on vacation!” she translates unnecessarily. “Some of my friends might see you and then what?” I had no idea that her pals were of such a delicate disposition.
“What?”
“It'll be soooooo embarrassing to have a mom who looks like a …..a…….well, not very nice.” Ah. Don’t sugar coat it dearie. My banner crashes down on my head, causing only psychological damage.
Junior jumps to attention and skitters over to us, scatters a pile of Pokemon and shouts, “but mummy has dah beautiful knees, so dah little kids can look at her kneeses!”
“Oh you're so dumb, my friends aren't little kids, they won't be looking at her knees.” Senior son snails his way over to the table where he collapses slug like, with a sigh to add, “it's o.k. I had dah big friends in my class too. My friends like mom's talkin.”

Rats to puppy dog tails! Such a shame that I still sound like a marble mouth.
mcewen.minti.com

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