Valentine’s Day for the Literal Mind

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Are are you feeling today?

Tricky concepts

A question of balance…..
and a visual clue or reminder.

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Barbara’s Blog Carnival -Childhood Expressions

Which “childhood expression” to “pick” I wonder?

So I thought I’d change the focus from my typical topic to an atypical one.

The first comes from my elder daughter, back in the days when I was a single parent when everything was overwhelming. [hindsight really is a gift!]

Back then she was growing up much too fast just like many children of divorced parents. We read a great deal together, from the board books, baby books, picture books, onwards and upwards to independence. I had never liked ‘baby talk’ and so I used the same words and style of language that I do with everyone else. She had a great vocabulary as is so often the case when children are surrounded by adults: my parents, my siblings, my friends.

The details are hazy, so many years later but I remember that feeling of cozy harmony, the intimacy between parent and child when a family consists of only two units. If a parent is solely responsible for a single child a devotion develops such that communication is instinctive, words are hardly necessary – a separate world of understanding.

Madonna and child – perfection.

Maybe it was bedtime, perhaps we were at the beach, or playing hang-man? Yes! Hangman, all those years ago…

“That can’t be right dear?”
“It is.”
“I think you’ve left the ‘h’ out by mistake.”
“It doesn’t have an ‘h’.”
“Weren’t you trying to spell Bahamas?”
“Bahamas? No, it’s bajamas.”
“What’s bajamas?”
“Bajamas… you know… you wear them when you go to bed at night.”

Now if we’d lived in America then, no such confusion would have arisen, that’s why we stick to PJ’s now.

A few decades prior to this exchange, I had my own mishap with my mother, along quite similar lines. Being the dunce of the family I progressed from comic books, to Enid Blyton, to Agatha Christie and I’ve been stuck in ‘whodunnit’ mode ever since. On one particularly balmy summer’s day, [in England!] I was lying on the grass at my mother’s feet, devotional dog that I was, as I read the latest blood curling thriller some 45 years after it was first written. My mother sat in a deck chair, knitting, as only mother’s can, as she fought with a particularly complicated lacy pattern, which involved a great deal of counting and under breath cursing. Yards of fine yarn were testament to the unraveling of mistakes.

“Mum?” [I was then English]
“Hmm?”
“Can you tell me what this word means? I see it on nearly every page.”
“What is it?”
“Determinded.”
“Determinded? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Oh.”
“Can’t you guess from the context?”
“No.”
“Read me a sentence.”
“Hermione Herringbone was determinded to defeat her tormentors.”
“Are you sure it isn’t…Spell it for me.”
“D.E.T.E.R.M.I.N.D.E.D.”
“Really? How odd. Here, pass it over, let me take a peek, hmm, lets see…’Daphne Dalrymple was …’ that’s not ‘determinded’ that’s ‘determined.'”

What can I say? It’s genetic.


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There’s none so queer as folks [idioms]

He accosts me in the kitchen, burbling, the same phrase over and over.
“It’s not good dear. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. It’s sounds as if you have a mouthful of marbles.” He skips the next repeat, cups the palm of his hand before he spits out a large green stone, heart shaped, spittle covered, “does ‘my heart’s in my mouth’ be meaning ‘I’m in love’?”
“Yes, it does. Why? Are you in love with someone?”
“No…..it doesn’t work – I wuz just checkin.”
“!”

Without pausing for breath he’s off on another tangent.

“Ooo dats bad.”
“What’s bad dear?”
“Dat white stuff in yur hairs.”
“Ah, yes it exploded – I was lucky not to get burned.”
“Yuck it smells even badderer.”
“Yes, acrid charring is never pleasant.”
“Ooo dere is being dandruff all over your body.”
“I think I may as well give up and change, maybe shower.”
“Dere is being snow all over the kitchens – it is being like a winter wonderland!”
“You would never think that three exploding Chestnuts could do quite so much damage really.”
“Armageddon……..but smellier.”
“!”
I step to one side to retrieve the dust buster as my daughter skitters into the kitchen to whisper to her little brother, although not quietly enough:-

“Cun you remember what Mom said she’s cookin tonight for dinner?”
“Yes.”
“Well? What’s she cookin then?”
“Bad.”
“No. What’s it’s name? Chest Nut what? If I ask again she’ll have my guts for garters.”
“No. Not guts. I seened it wiv my eyes.”
“So what is it then?”
“Smashed to smithereens………….dah brains of small dead creatures.”


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Wading through Treacle

Let me just say at the beginning, that I have long been aware that my children, like many others, are not the kind of children that can be hurried. Although I have the standard stock of phrases at my disposal to engender hurrying, I have yet to detect any crumbs of evidence, that they are effective. [translation = in any way whatsoever] For some strange reason, I continue to use them, frequently. [translation = very old dog sticking with ancient non-functioning tricks]

Elderly brains are quickly confused. If the mother in question visually witnesses a great kerfuffle, [translation = children bouncing around the place] she may mistakenly interpret this as movement. A wiser mother would recognize this phenomenon as prevarication and avoidance. [translation = think zebra herd blending] No-one is actually going anywhere. [translation = circling the befuddled wagon]

Now you would think, where two sons have severe speech delays, I would adjust how I talk to them? [translation = I refuse to define 'severe speech delay' because it is meaningless] In my defense, I would point out their receptive language [ translation = incoming messages] is good, but their expressive language is poor. [translation = outgoing messages] That aside they frequently stumble over little hurdles. [translation = sabotage by mother]
“Come along now, get your skates on!”
When I think of the time I have spent translating this one phrase to my idiom blind children, I realize the many other, more positive things, I could have done in the alternative.
“Come on you old slow coach or we'll never get there!”
Using references to other vehicles when you're planning to travel in the family car, are not helpful. Translation into the local lingo 'slow poke' produces even more dire results. [ translation = of a more violent and personal space nature]
“No dilly dallying.”
I mean! Who invented that phrase? Why is it still stuck in my brain. How can I eradicate it's usage?
“Last one in is a rotten egg!”
Obviously food references are lost on this rabble but allusions to anything that 'rots' does not engender the desired effect. [translation = move swiftly in the opposite direction away from the thing that rots]
“Get a wriggle on you lot!”
Perhaps if it was wriggle 'off' or wriggle 'to' it might work. [translation = perhaps I am clutching at straws?]
“Stop dawdling!” This has the same magical effect as shouting 'freeze!' But at least it stops the bouncing for a second or two. Thereafter two people topple over from the effort of balancing.
“Make it snappy!” only encourages some of the behaviours that we are trying to eliminate. [translation = gives a mixed message and provides a positive reason to bite]
“Jump to it!” [translation = they don’t ask ‘why’ any more, they just ‘jump,’ which might be considered progress?]
Now that I am in America I have attempted to update my phraseology by using “come on already!” which I hear a lot, but I'm never sure if it's 'already' or 'alrighty'? Since neither version works, I've let that one slide.

I resolve that today will be different, better. I will do it properly. I gather the troops, hunker down, salvage as much eye contact as is available and sequence them through the steps in logical order-
“Bathroom, then socks, then shoes, out to the garage, into the car, seat belts on and drive.” At the signal 'drive' two people fall on the ground wailing. [translation = inconsolable] What! What? What now? I know they don't like the car but really! There sister leans against the kitchen counter rolls her eyes, arms folded in disgust. I massage backs and wait for calm. [translation = restoration of the powers of speech] One sits up, the other props himself up on one elbow, “what dears?” I ask imploringly.
“We be crash. We be deaded…….er dead.”
“What?”
“Dying den.”
“Dying, why dying?”
“Coz we crash dah car if you not open dah garage door!”


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Sleep

All too often one hears adults bemoaning their experiences as children, how they were scarred and psychologically traumatized by their parents' behaviour or words. Now that I am both a parent and an adult, I find that my ears prick up in the hope of acquiring handy hints, things to avoid. The list of my own parental errors grows as each day passes. If you were of a kindly disposition you might categorize these incidents as mere “eccentricities” but it's hard to dismiss the weight of evidence to the ”contrary.”
It was a simple enough question afterall, but at 4:20 in the morning, in the dark, I am not in full command of my faculties.
“It is a reptile?”
“What is a reptile dear?”
“A turtle?”
“Do you mean a 'turtle' as in American, or a 'tortoise' as in English? Oh, actually never mind that, they're both reptiles anyway, let's start again. What do you want to know?”
He says nothing just looks at me, with his eyes. I'm not sure if it's exasperation, bewilderment or despair? Possibly all three?

It's been one of those nights when we had visitors, unexpected ones. The first one didn't creep in on us, more of an electric explosion of wild nerve endings. Since no words were forthcoming we concentrated on calming. Now he is calm and asleep but his older brother has also joined us. We are rapidly running short of available “lying down” space. Like all siblings they appear to be connected by invisible lines that conduct energy, one to another.

He has been crouching at the end of the bed, in silence, in the gloom, hovering. [translation = must be genetic] I'm not sure if he's pretending he's not here or whether we're pretending he's not there. Neither side seems willing to clarify. No-one has the cognitive abilities to communicate effectively.

Spouse and I try to determine why the little one is asleep in his current particular position, the one where your knees are drawn up beneath you, face in the pillow. Mine too, would often be found in this “position.” It seems protective, enclosed to repel all boarders. It also looks like THE most uncomfortable position, from the viewpoint of a side sleeper. [translation = someone with a strong aversion to secret suffocation during the night] Sleeping “face down.”

“It's only to be expected when you're like him I suppose,” spouse sighs in a non-committal burbling kind of fashion of the truly sleep deprived. I agree, “yes, hyper-vigilance does mean that you need to be on your guard at all times.”
“Not very Fung shui though.”
“I thought that was for furniture alignment, not bodies?”
“Er, everything I think.”
“He should be on his back, watching the door, claws at the ready.”
“You think?”
“Not really.” [translation = don't care, too sleepy]

It is at this point, that he asked his question, the original one, the “it is a reptile,” just following the parental exchange, and doesn't seem to fit at all, which is a sign that he hasn't been listening, maybe? Which means that something else has provoked this question, but what?
“What is a reptile? Is that what you want to know? Cold blooded, lays eggs that kind of a thing?” I yawn dredging up brain fluff.
“No. Is he a reptile?”
“Who? Who is a reptile? The lizards for starters, all three of them. Gecky, Stumpy and DJ are all lizards and all reptiles.”
“No. I mean is HE a reptile coz I was thinking he was a mammal.” He shoots a finger at his brother in the gloom.

“Why do you think he's reptile? You know he's human, a mammal, just like you, and me too for that matter, now I come to think of it.”
“But, but, but…….you said, you said, you said that he was lying like a turtle.”

This would be a prime example of why, after more than a decade’s hard work of trying to learn the lingo, acquire appropriate American language and use words like 'turtle' instead of tortoise, I wish I hadn't bothered!


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Literally


One of the many stumpers with autistic children, can be their tendency to take whatever is said or written, literally. It's only when you have a couple of autistic children in tow that you begin to realize just how many idioms we use in every day life. For me, this has only recently presented itself as a problem [translation = challenge] due to their speech delays. Before, I was lucky to have any response to anything spoken, now I am paralyzed into unraveling any number of common phrases instantaneously.

“I've been on my feet all day,” becomes a bone of contention – oops there's another one.
• “On your feet? You are on your feet? You can do hand stands instead?” Always so helpful!

• “Why don't you just put your feet up and rest for a while?”
“Up? Up? Put feet up where? The ceiling it is too high! I am da little guy.”

• “I'll be with you in just a minute.” O.k. there's no point in going into the time travel aspects of children's lives as they all suffer from that one.

• “No it's not a back pack because I wear it on my front.” That way it doesn't bump you and it's easier to get access to the contents, especially if zips are a challenge.

• “Just scrub your fingernails with a brush before dinner.”
“Why it finger 'nail?' Why nail? It is not a nail, it is soft and thin. Why brush? Brush is for hair, brush is for teef.” It makes you try to double check everything you say before you say it, but even then, more often than not you still get it wrong.

• “How many times do I have to tell you!”
“Tell me three times. Three is my favourite number.”

• “I'm not sick and tired of his singing because I'm not, not sick, but I am tired of his singing but not sick.”

• “I going to keep my eye on you.”
“Agh! I don't want it, keep it in your head, don't touch me wiv it.”

• “Of course you don't have to, just bare it in mind.”
“Bear! Bear? There is a bear in my head?”

The simplest of statements becomes a mine field; “not twelve eggs, half a dozen will do.”
“Which box is da doz? Why we no have da Baker’s dozen. Baker’s are my uvver favourite because 13 is having a 3 also!”

Am I complaining? Why would I complain? Three years ago I had two children who were diagnosed as non-verbal, amongst other things, now I have a couple of brain teasers to keep me on my toes. [translation = or should that be 'to keep me guessing?]

From a long time ago

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