An institutional diet


I pick up four pairs of socks and three unmatched singletons, evidence that I have no influence or control over the 7 children in my home.

I can count to seven.

Seven is indeed my favourite number but I cannot say with any degree of certainly why I have four additional children in my house? Did I double book myself twice? How has this come about?

I give up and commence snack creation for the masses as malnutrition is imminent. I have a basic knowledge of four of them, one typical, 3 autistic. The overall ratio is a challenge, but probably only for me. I calculate the probability and possibility that one or more additional children will still be present at supper time? Which one, or more, is likely to be forgotten about or subject to the delayed parent, who drowns in traffic and rain? Is there any food substance on the planet that five autistic children and two typical children all eat, preferably something that I already have on hand?

I have a 33.5 ounce catering carton of Goldfish Crackers. If push comes to shove, will any parent thank me for feeding their child four and a half ounces of Goldfish or shall I been condemned as a gluten wrecker? Is four and a half ounces of Goldfish enough to sustain life for a period of 4 to 5 hours? How many calories does the average active child require per hour anyway? Why do I not already know any of these things?

During the car journey from school, I managed to determine that 5 people can just about contemplate the challenge of drinking water in a strange home because they have soda free, juice free variety of autism, by personal preference. I have no Dr.Pepper, Sprite or Coke for my daughter's pal, who is not impressed with the water option.

I learn, to my surprise, that American girls drink neither milk nor orange juice, even under exigent circumstances. Even more surprising, is the fact that American girls do not eat Goldfish Crackers because they are considered baby food, or in the alternative, that they ruin a diet. I am alarmed that a ten year old girl is knowledgeable, extremely knowledgeable, about diets at all.

“What it is be?” hollers my seven year old as we burst into the kitchen.
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!”
“What is what dear?”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” bellows one.
“That stinky smell?” Children gather around the screamer and the source of the stink.
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” Chorus two.
“What is that thing anyways?”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” creeps the mantra.
“It's a bread maker. Where does that phrase come from? It's nearly February.”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” Chant three
“A bread maker? Geez I've never seen such a thing.”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” Call four.
“Sure smells good. Is it ready yet? I think it comes from ‘Olive the Other Reindeer’ movie.”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” Shout five at an ever increasing volume.
“Another couple of minutes, you can see it on the display, the LED.” Little faces peer with interest through the little glass window at the billowy loaf.
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” They're stuck, all of them.
“Can you eat it?”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!”
“Most certainly, in just a few secs. What comes after stereo? If there's five of them, it can't be quadraphonic?”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” They repeat.
“I don't know, but it sure is loud. Can it be our snack?”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” I'm used to 2 repeating a phrase. I have adapted to 4 children repeating a phrase, once a week, on a Friday afternoon. I incapable of adjusting to 5 children repeating the same phrase with the required immediacy. I glance at my ear plugs with longing.
“Of course.”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!” Despite the noise, folklore infiltrates my troubled mind: 'sing out of season, get trouble without reason.' It has a whole new significance.
“Why is it so…… And why are they so loud?”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!”
“Because it's cooking and because there's five of them. O.k. you can say that three more times and then I don't want to hear it again. Deal?”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!”
“You cook bread?”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!”
“Yes, or rather bake.”
“Christmas! Bah boogie home!”
“Times up guys. Time to choose another phrase.” I lift the bread out and envelop everyone in a cloud of steam. They all take a step backwards as I wield the bread knife and place a slice on each plate. The girls leap on the loot to take it to the table. We are all assembled, a jug, ice free awaits with tumblers. We eat the diet of cell mates, free of a chain gang, all seven on bread and water.

Silent munching reigns for a few moments……before they start, again.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bells………”

New post up on “Alien.”

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That darned Cat in the Hat!


“Can can, can you do the can can, if you can then I can,” he sings as he spins, interspersed with Pokemon noises, a surreal combination at the best of times.

I find it more difficult than usual to concentrate.

Whilst I have long been a fan of dear Ludwig, this modern version can be intensely annoying after a few hours. I hope that this “perseveration” will make him oblivious, as we have company.

The play date victim is a sweet natured, tolerant, typically developing girl.

The girls play.

The boys spin.

This faultless visitor has one minor idiosyncrasy that is of minute concern. Every sentence she utters is accompanied by the phrase 'Ohmygod.' I know that it is the verbal equivalent of 'er,' 'um' or 'actually,' but it is disconcerting for elderly foreigners who are set in their ways, such as myself.

After her last visit, it took a great deal of time to stop the boys from adding this ‘word’ to their vocabulary bank. Their version 'oh my gosh' sounds distinctly fake, but in a pool of fake, one more drop makes no difference, or so I like to think.

All too often, like Pavlov and his pooches, we make associations, one thing becomes inextricably linked with another. You smell freshly baked bread and you suddenly feel hungry. Your cell phone rings and you immediately answer it, even though you are conducting a conversation with another real human being, face to face. You see blood, you feel faint. You see Dad on the driveway, you say “hello Dad.” You see Jane on the playground, you say “hello Omygod.”

In the 95 degree heat, I need clothes of gossamer but slightly less revealing. I set the thermostat to 80 in the family room and leave the rest of the house to roast. For two pins I'd abandon the 'you must remain dressed at all times' campaign, but we must maintain standards, or rather, I must. It would never do to be starkers in my own home, as that isn't the kind of modeling I'm cut out for. After 12 years in the country, I admit that I need to go on the 'how your air conditioning works' course. I squirt myself with a water bottle and pay attention.

My youngest son, “Mr. 17 foods,” is experimenting with different cereals. He has also spent the last few days quoting huge chunks of “Green Eggs and Ham.” I am uncertain whether there is a connection or not? I am confident that his consumption of ham or eggs of any hue, are still many light years away.

His older brother is closeted in the bathroom. His little brother approaches the bathroom bearing one Alpha-bit in a perfect pincher grip. There is a very large Cheshire Cat grin pinned to his countenance and his eyebrows flicker like Grocho Marx.

“Hello der!” he beams. “Would you like to try one?” He waves the Alpha-bit before his brother's face. This would be a particularly nauseous kind of sugary pap, with no discernible nutritional value whatsoever.
“I'm busy! Get out man.” My ‘non-verbal’ 8 year old has been transformed. He sits on the toilet defending his privacy, now that acknowledges that he needs some, privacy that is to say. I have yet to adjust to his new speech. I am unfamiliar with many of the hip phrases that he trots out with ease. I need to research who he is keeping company with? Where has he learned all these easy pat phrases from? Why has his mid-Atlantic accent turned all hip hop? I need to attend a hip hop crash course for fossils.

“Try one, you will like it, you will see!” His voice is light, enticing, a tease.
“No way. Go away man. Can’t yur see I’m busy!” Usually it is all of us trying to persuade him to eat. It is so bizarre to watch him try and be the persuader.
“Try it, try it and you will see!”
“Oh man! What is wrong with you! What kinda crazy talk are yah doin?”

He skips, hops and dances before his trapped brother like a marionette on speed.
“Would you like it here or dere?” he fizzles and extends his body, slow motion, into an exaggerated sign post in the direction of the table.
“You are crazy man! Give me a break dude.” I am inclined to concur. This scene is entirely the wrong way around.

The girls appear just as the trapee is making his escape from the tiny bathroom. His little brother is like a darting mosquito, taunting his victim as he hovers and flits, still clutching the single Alpha-bit. The girls giggle, both boys become aware that they have an audience. He grabs a second Alpha-bit in the other hand. Both arms wave around, “would you like dem in a house? Would you like dem wiv a mouse?” The girls giggle. He continues, relentless, without mercy, spurred on by the girls.
“Can you stop with the “motor mouth” already!” He slaps his forehead in exasperation, “o.k. den!” His tormentor pops one Alpha-bit into the open mouth and one into his own mouth. Both boys shriek, but for different reasons. Both girls shriek in surprise. Everyone blinks at the same time to chorus 'ohmygod!' for many different reasons.

So this, my fine friends, is what we in the trade, mean by negative reinforcement.

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