See Saw Margery Daw

[I apologise for my two week's absence for ski week and spouse away week, I shall start playing catch up on Monday]

I decide to cook something in advance for the returning spouse. What is a good choice for the stressed out and jet lagged? My mouth talks to my son during the 22 minutes I spend persuading him to eat one grape and a slivered slice of organic apple, but my brain is elsewhere. If I only have to reheat good food, then I can give him the precious gift of time and attention after a terrifying week in England. “I am no Hungary. I wanna go to school now!” he bellows before taking flight. The first statement makes perfect sense but the second has no meaning.

The flowers she picked along the roadside begin to wilt in the middle of the table. I have a pang of guilt about the extravagant bouquet for Mother's Day in England, a couple of months or more before the American version. “They are lovely dear, you really shouldn't have gone to all that expense. A card would have been more than enough, really it would. I know you can't buy them out there are this time of year but you used to make your own. I loved your hand made cards.”

I glance at March's speech calendar from school. We are already behind. When we hit cereal time I charge upstairs to the bedrooms during the next safe'ish' three minutes of munching. Horray the beds are dry! Four less loads of laundry to make amends with Mother Nature. I do not make the beds but pat and smooth them. Good enough.

I grab clean clothes from the laundry basket and dash back down stairs to prompt them to clear their places at the table. It's warm but I pull on long trousers to hide the bruises that are only of consequence to those who cannot understand. They struggle with teeth cleaning as I dress in the kitchen and splash water on my face. A large box of Tampax is strategically placed next to the tooth paste, to provoke a question from the female population, preferably several questions. “Don't forget to brush the ones at the back!” I solemnly swear that sometime between now and bed time, I will take a shower. What happens to a body if I don't? Will I begin to rot or merely smell rotten? I remember yesterday's grocery shopping, still in the garage, unpacked.

“I am need!”
“What do you need dear?”
“Um…. Ah yes! It's nearly St. Patrick's Day. We'll make pots of gold after school dear.”
“I am need dah golden pointy things!”
“Good describing. Do you have any more describing words?”
“Er….dey stick things together and they are making them move.”
“Um….paper fasteners!”
“Yes!” I dither. I have no idea where they are but I don't want to provoke a meltdown at this delicate stage of the day. We have been working with these little instruments of torture for approximately three and a half years off and on. This is the first occasion that he has voluntary made the first move. What if I look and still can't find them? Who needs a dollop of negative reinforcement at 7:20 in the morning? I only have time for small and this is huge. “I'll go and look for them, wait here.”

En route to school in the car I watch someone touch up their make-up in their rear view mirror at a stop light. Glossy, brushed hair and apricot pink talons. I sink a little in my seat and pull my baseball peak lower. My son's feet pummel the back of the chair as he reves up for a question. The gardeners have finished the grass, now all I have to do if figure out how to programme the little sprinkler control box. How long will that take? Where can I find a long? I only have time for shorts. The school is so close to the Pottery studio. My membership dues are due and I've only been once in three months. It's like a New Year's resolution to go to the gym every day that fizzles out by mid January. The library fines and forgotten dry cleaning take priority. I remember the note, written in red ink in my diary:- 'science fair project.' This evening we must squeeze in another hour of 'how to mummify fish' and check the progress of the dead bodies kept in a dry cool spot. I am still searching for a 'dry cool spot' in California, in March in 70 degree heat everywhere.

At school a tub of Goldfish crackers awaits my starving son, on his desk. No wonder we're making no progress on the food campaign. My son's body backs into mine, spoons style, his fond farewell, as physical contact is often compromised. I need to call into the post office to send off the hand knitted socks to my oldest daughter in Massachucetts, even though they won't cure her cold. I'm sure I have forgotten something. The car! I need to investigate the smell, the banana smell in the car, before two of them refuse to cross the stink barrier.

Which is more wasteful and why? Ten to 20 minutes watering the new grass so that it stays alive or an indefinite period of time fiddling with the control box and still not being able to water the grass? If I don't buy and distribute slug pellets within the next 24 hours something will be lost, although I can't quite remember what it is? I need to make sure that I am at home to receive a telephone call from England at mid day here, which is 8 in the evening there or endure another time warp. If I don't pay the gardeners today will they return, roll up the lawn and take it away again? Do I really want to spend time making fish pie and salad for people who are unlikely to even sniff them let alone eat them? I need to get hold of a copy of the school se.x talk in advance, just to double check, prepare and ensure that I am ready to deal with any inconsistencies of a pre-teen education. If I don't collect the prescriptions today will they need to be re-authorized? If I don't write those thank you notes today I will effectively disqualify myself from any society that calls itself humane. It is my duty as a citizen to listen to the radio so that I can formulate a well reasoning political opinion but I also need to clean out the vegetable drawer in the fridge.

I breathe at the junction, heavy with commuting traffic, waiting for my moment to join the throng in safety. A car slows, the driver waves to me. I pause at the greeting, a moment of hesitation before I raise my fingertips from the wheel and beam back. I recognize the next movement, the gesture of exasperation and she shakes her head and accelerates away closing the gap she made for me. I reflect on her moment of frustration, a tiny pin prick to my high wire balancing act. Poor woman. Wrong category, too little, too late. In the great scheme of things it’s minute, an irrelevancy but my eyes leak.

The school day passes at break neck speed, a frenzy of activity and medical insurance paper work. I have every labour saving appliance I need and yet I am still far behind schedule as I collect them in the car.

I decide to avoid the subject of the 'health talk' at school until I can find some private time with her. My eldest son is silent as he has exhausted his word bank for the day, squandered them all on peers and teachers. My youngest son is never silent.

“Multi-Emballage! Multi-Emballage! Multi-Emballage!” he squalks, an endless cycle in between giggles.
“What are you saying? Whose been teaching you French dear?”

Surely they should be learning Spanish, if anything?

“It is be right….er ….write.”
“Where was it written?”
“On dah box.”
“What box?”
“Um…….. where is the box?”
“Dah box is being in dah kitchen.”

I am stunned by his helpfulness and patience with my tired old brain.

“Big box or little box?”
“Little box.”
“What colour is the little box?”
“Er it is be dah white and dah sky blue wiv dah elipse. It be have dah little rainbow, dah sunshine yellow, dah apple green and dah neon stinky pinky.”
“Um……? Is there anything inside the little box?”
“Yes, it is be dah little box of Tampons.”

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Me, myself and I

We gather for dinner at the end of a long day.

“Whatever would we do without your multitasking mum,” he asks rhetorically. The average child isn’t the least interested in the doings of a stay at home parent. It is entirely debatable, whether anyone is, interested that is to say. Most probably, those most directly affected are also the least interested. Those people would be all of the other people also in the same home.
“I am being.”
“What are you being dear?”
“I am being 2.”
“Two what dear?”
“What things are you being dear?” Somehow that still didn't come out quite right? I must be more tired than I thought?
“I am being dah multi.”
“Multi what dear?”
“Dah multitask.”
“Really. What tasks are you doing?”
“I am dah eatin…… [it's sort of eating, but not much is going down]
and I am dah sittin ……. [well, he's half on the chair, let's give the fellow the benefit of the doubt]
and ……I am dah sleeping…… [heavy eye lids]
which is being dah 3 fings…..not dah 2 fings.” His head drops like a rock to the table, mouth open, crumbs falling, fast asleep. There's not so much as a flicker of an eyelash but I suspect that his brain is still whirring.

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Early Days 5 – Do not be downcast

A few years back, Junior repeated his school year in his special education class. [translation = retained?] The Pre-K teacher was a speech pathologist by profession and had more than 30 years experience with little chaps and chapesses of my son's ilk. Tiny modest benchmarks were recorded on his IEP chart. Whilst there was a little tick here and there, other elements seemed to have vanished. Carefully acquired skills had slipped from our grasp. For me, his new achievements were over-shadowed by the thought of the ones that we seemed to have carelessly mislaid somewhere.

I think I was in the 'generalization' phase. In case you are unfamiliar with this term, for current purposes, it means that when a child learns a new skill, such as tolerating sand at the beach, in theory, they should also tolerate sand in other situations, such as school, a sand pit in the garden, a washing up bowl full of sand and preferred toys etc. If the tolerance of sand, remains solely at the beach, then he has 'failed' to generalize. It felt like a double whammie, not only did he suffer from “tactile defensiveness,” but any progress we theoretically made, remained strictly in the geographical location where he first acquired it. He also has a parent whirlizting away on yet another campaign.

At that time, junior's failure to generalize just about anything, was a cause of deep frustration for me. He learned to eat bananas, but only at home, that is to say, not in the car, not in the garden, [of course] not at school nor the park. I believe I read “Green Eggs and Ham,” until I was the same colour as the eggs, and every bit as cheesed off as that rotting food stuff.

He would hunker down on his favourite, [translation = only chair] whilst I forked slices of banana into his open baby bird mouth. He would not 'bite' into the banana and shock his teeth. His hands could not tolerate touching the banana with the skin and the idea of contact with a naked banana would send him into an apopleptic fit. He would not chew the banana but swallowed the lumps whole, as his mastication abilities were as feeble as my own. “No fork, no eat,” were his watch words.

It takes a long time for fork a whole banana into a three and a half year old, three times a day. The time factor features heavily if you are also obliged to spoon feed the five year old his different dinner, at the same time. The combination of the tactile/oral defensive small one, and the sequencing/ co-ordination/fine and gross motor challenged older one, resulted in an ambidextrous mother with very dirty clothes. But “neophobic” was yet to be part of my vocabulary.

His teacher, in her professional capacity, was a remarkably conservative woman for an American. Other parents complained about her enigmatic aura. I am rarely intimidated by other people, mainly because of my inability to recognize or admit to their superiority. As a result, I tend to just plough ahead regardless, as I have discovered that life is just far too short, to be messing about with too many niceties. As she finished off her assessment of his progress, I launched in with my size tens, to quiz her about the losses. Where were they? Where had they gone and why?

Miss E removed he spectacles and pinched the bridge of her nose, as she composed herself. I awaited enlightenment from this stalwart of the teaching profession, universally admired by all her colleagues. She told me, that in her view, children, especially our children, developed in their own unique way. It was her observation, over the years, that growth and progress could be viewed like a corkscrew at a angle – the child seems to be on the up, learning new things, blossoming, happier. Then, for some unaccountable reason, they seemed to spiral down again, slipping over the curve in the corkscrew. She suggested, that when they’re in the ‘dip,’ curling around loop, they are really re-grouping their skills, filing them away, making them secure, a consolidation if you will, until they emerge and rise up the curve again, ready for the next cycle.

I don’t know if it’s true, certainly not very scientific, but it’s a visual that helps me. Not everything has to be 'true' to be 'helpful,' does it?

I hope this isn’t too irritating. I think I would find it irritating, but I find a lot of things annoying. My pal, “Jerry Grasso,” suggested it, so we’ll blame him instead, or at least I will. If you have not visited this blog before, do not be disorientated by the photograph of the lovely, smiling blond woman. That is not Jerry, as he is the dad, but he’s still a jolly good egg.

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An Ode [for Thurs p.m.]

Warning! Do not read this prior to, during, or shortly after food consumption.
American washing machines are an abomination. [translation = sorry, but the truth hurts] They are a prime example of the fact that America is a dinosaur when it comes to technology. I don't care how many widgets or megabytes your harbour, if you can't design a decent washing machine, then you belong in the Neolithic period. [translation = o.k. possibly Chalcolithic, if I'm feeling generous]

Huge lumps of metal litter America because 'white goods' have a life span of approximately 18 months. [translation = or 6 months due to consumer mis-use {subtranslation = family of six}] Not only do these contraptions use gallons of water [translation = as opposed to their European contemporaries, that try hard to use but a mere a thimble full] but they are as noisy as a jack hammer. [translation = European ones are silent] American models boast several 'cycles'. [translation = on, off, fast, slow, thinking about it and pause {sub translation = too many to list for the European partners}] The only thing I can think of to say on a positive note [translation = I am an American I will seek out a positive note even
if it kills me] is that they are large. [translation = as is everything in America except Rutabagas and serving of spinach or anchovies]

I peek out side to count the line of mini haystacks. [translation = 7 piles of laundry decorated with senior son's stomach contents] A busy night for all. Senior son has enjoyed four baths during the course of the night following each eruption. It is curious to note that the non-verbal, even when they have made great strides, revert to type when under stress.

You, the child, note that your body is about to explode. Do you call for assistance, something along the lines of 'Mummmmmmy!' or 'helpppppppp!'? Nope, you're too busy trying to assess your body's treachery, word retrieval is at an all time low. Because you are concentrating on your body, your spatial awareness [translation = always dodgy at the best of times] eludes you. Instead of hanging over the side of your bed [translation = line of least resistance] to empty your stomach, instead you orientate yourself towards the wall. [translation = serious splash-back at 90 mph]
Under such circumstances [translation = duress] you cannot be expected to learn from your error. [translation = you repeat the exercise at intervals throughout the night, as that washing up bowl, although strategically placed, is too small to register]

Fortunately, in between whiles, you seek out human contact. [translation = your siblings] All of the children have loved to 'nest,' from their earliest inception. [translation = siblings' beds and personages, are similarly contaminated] I check cupboards. [translation = closets] I am out of bath towels, blankets and bed linen. [translation = normal service will be resumed as soon as possible]

I plop myself down on the sofa next to the cleanest child on the planet. He grinds his forehead into my rib cage as I fondle his hair. We do not exchange words. I start work on the hay stacks, in between sessions with the carpet cleaner. I run an affection finger over the washing machine as it clanks, bangs and brutalizes my laundry. [translation = postponement of visit to the river with a rock.]

Bravery awards as follows: [translation = a mention in dispatches]
To senior son, for quiet endurance throughout.
To junior daughter on finding that she is fully splattered at three in the morning – “Oh man! That is the grossest, most disgusting……..vile……oh well, give me a hug, while mum cleans him up.”
To junior son, similarly situated – 'das o.k! Maybe it is disruptive but I am knowing it was an accident. I fink it is your tummy dat is dah bad one.'

Post script- feeble apologies to one and all for lack of internet communication of late.

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Where did I leave my Sanity pack?

I climb into the shower to cleanse. [translation = remove the crusty mascara on my temples, disguising the grey hair] I assess the causes for the sudden laundry explosion? Are they even dirtier and more accident prone? [translation = expunge negative implications]

I wrap my dressing gown [translation = robe] an little tighter and wiggle my toes deeper into the fluff muffs [translation = slippers {sub translation = 'in house' footwear of a casual nature}] Inches of exposed flesh remind me, that technically it is Winter. [translation = it is a bit of a stretch to say that California has seasons}] As usual, my American pals are steaming ahead, [translation = making progress] whilst other, less efficient personages [translation = foreigners] are lagging way behind on the trajectory towards the ultimate goal of the Holidays. [translation = period of time where persons of different faiths and shopoholics celebrate the season] My progress is impeded by four birthday celebrations during December; my mother, father, youngest son and youngest daughter. Were it not for these milestones, I am confident that I would be well ahead of the hunt. [translation = cunning fox]

As it is, I am bogged down [translation = hampered] by these events that must be marked. [translation = given due deference] I remind myself that I am an American. [translation = I do not lie] I determine to tuck my negativity under the sofa cushion along with junior's treasures, and adopt a more positive line. [translation = groan inwardly with the effort] Commence flipping:

1. Children acknowledge seasonal change and need for warmer clothing. [translation = more in tune with the world at large]

2. Children are larger [translation = somebody must be eating something] and heavier. [translation = which is a self reinforcing reminder to me not to carry them]

3. Increased tolerance for clothing and textures. [translation = the nightmare transition from short trousers to long trousers has been eradicated {sub translation = no naked knees}]

4. Warmer clothing, on bigger people, with many layers results in laundry explosion. [translation = be still my beating heart, there is a logical explanation, sanity restored]

I am now mentally exhausted from this 'flipping' extravaganza, [translation = turning things around] and so decide to spread a little misery across the world by writing my holiday cards. [translation = torture foreigners with a different cultural perspective]

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Splinters and planks

[Translation = No autism today thank you]

It's decided then! We're not having autism around here today. [translation = this neck of the woods] Not to put too fine a point on it, I'm just not in the mood for it, so it's cancelled, autism that is to say. This is a mindset that suits me just fine for today, [translation = this is a preferable perspective] as I have far too much to do, to be messing around with autism. Whilst they're at school, we'll put autism on pause. [translation = freeze frame]

Now, where shall I start? [translation = inertia, too much to do producing an inability to make a start] So much to, do and not enough time to do it in. [translation = lethargy] I know, now that I've finished sterilizing the house, [translation = obsessive cleanliness] I can move onto more cerebral exercises, such as putting all the books into alphabetical order. [translation = meets the need to organize, such as to gain a finger hold of control which induces calm] Or should I sort them by size, divide them into hard backs and paper backs, by subject? [ translation = more order more control, becoming distracted by minutiae, losing sight of the end product] Perhaps I should just wipe them all down first?[translation = displacement activity rather than doing what you should be doing. {sub translation = prevarication}] Mind you, I don't know if they'll all fit on the shelves in any event? [translation = ideation, inability to foresee the end] I know, I'll sort them into piles first. [translation = inability to sequence, prioritize to produce a positive outcome] I should probably wear rubber gloves and some soapy water. [translation = tactile defensiveness]

Perhaps I should have a snack first before I make a start? I peer in the fridge = yuk! [translation = prevarication and oral defensiveness] I'll turn the volume down on the telephone so that I don't get interrupted. [translation = inducing isolation, reinforcing lack of ability to socialize, aural sensitivity disrupting thought processes] Ooo I hope I have enough time, don't want to make a start and then have to dash off? [translation = anxiety inducing, need for task completion and perfection or no attempt will be made at all. Anxiety without foundation, this is a house with at least one clock in every room of the house]

No! You're absolutely wrong. In my experience apples always fall many miles away from the tree. [translation = just as well my catching skills are marginally better than my underarm throw]

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You may care to read ‘phobias’ prior to this article.

My daughter is engaged in the bathroom [translation = sitting on the throne] with one foot operating the lever on the pedal bin as she chants “bin, trash, garbage, rubbish,” in time to the clanking of the lid as it crashes against the pedestal. I sit at the table with the boys. Junior son's current breakfast consists of 3 grapes, each color, a raspberry, a strawberry, a blackberry, a serious challenge, a few blue berries, the blandest and most innocuous fruit ever to grace the planet, a cube of pineapple and half a banana. This means that breakfast is generally a very LOUD affair. This is of course perfect timing, now that we’re reaching the end of the soft fruit season. He’ll have forgotten all about them, that he has nearly conquered them. By next year they’ll be ‘new food’ again. Ah well. The fruit is a precursor, nay an aperitif, to more preferred food, 44 minutes of fruit, one minute of cereal. 44 minutes to eat a quarter cup of fruit, one minute to eat a cup of cereal, but life's a trade off. Her chant continues in the bathroom, “bin [clank], trash [clank], garbage [clank], rubbish [clank].” I consider removing the label from the bin, marked with the same words to assist those who have difficulty identifying everyday household objects without such clues.

I run a quick inventory of the odd things in my house that are labeled, just a few of them, like the 4 foot toy chest that has a little yellow label on it saying 'trunk' or the 6 foot fridge labeled 'fridge' or more confusingly, the door labeled 'sink,' which is at eye line height, so that when he walks into the door in the morning, he'll be reminded that he's really heading for the sink. It's like some deep surreal mystery, where I inhabit the same planet where I am the alien.

We reach the hurdle of the latest new fruits. He screams as is his wont and tries to escape from the cage of his carver chair.
“It's hairy!” he yeowls.
“What is?”
“The fruit!”
I examine his platter looking for a rogue bloom of mould that I may have missed in haste. Nothing. Pristine fruit, the peak of freshness, a delicious, juicy, tempting array of the best the supermarket has to offer.
“It's not dear, it's perfect.” His sister appears by my side to comment, “he's never gonna eat it ya know.” I am uncertain whether she has mislaid her American positive attitude or whether this is my reality check?
“Rubbish, of course he will, he's eaten one every day for ten days now.”
“What cha mean 'rubbish,'” she enquires, head to one side. I blink, checking continents.
“Oh, 'rubbish' can mean 'nonsense' or 'don't be so silly,' sort of thing, too.”
“Hairy, hairy, hairy! 'Hairy' cannot be food,” he screams in case I didn't manage to hear him properly the first time.
“He's not gonna eat it,” comes the voice of doom. I look again in case the hygiene consultant shed a follicle inadvertently during food preparation, as such mistakes do occur in non commercial kitchens such as mine. Nothing.
“It's fine dear, no hairs.” The other one starts up, breaking his monastic silence, “I, I, I, um, I don like fruit, it is yucky for me, but I'm gonna try, I'm gonna try and eat it anyways,” he says stuffing a blueberry into tight lips.
“You need to open your mouth first dear.”
“I can't eat hairy! It is bad to eat hairy.”
“There is no hair dear,” I say firmly with my eyes very close to his eyes. He growls with exasperation at my stupidity.

I concede the point that some fruit is in fact hairy, a whole category of hairy fruit such as kiwi, or peaches, if you're being really picky, but his breakfast is devoid of the hairy varieties. He gestures with his index finger towards the offender. I follow as he identifies the raspberry, stabbing the nearby air space with teeth bared and a crumpled nose, as the stench of raspberry is clearly overpowering. Our faces move in closer to examine the culprit. “See!” he accuses, but I don't. He hurls himself back in the chair and clunks his skull of the wood, 'mothers! Who'd have them!'

“Your eyes are bad, your eyes are stupid, why you have stupid bad eyes that don't work proper?” A well reasoned argument, one that I haven't recently considered but always subject to review. I try harder. I pick up the raspberry to line it up with the bifocals at 6:52 in the morning, and do you know what, he's right, there are tiny little hairs on a raspberry, minute ones. This is a valuable new piece of information for a middle aged person to acquire. I wonder why it is, that whilst for most people, advancing years result in greater wisdom but that other less fortunate persons, are forced to face chasms of ignorance? I also wonder how best to proceed, now that I have been proved wrong both categorically and category wise? His face is set, arms folded across his chest in a gesture of defiance. I replace the fork on the side of the platter as a droplet of juice forms on the pierced raspberry. I debate how to manage my defeat, which apparently is discernible from my facial expression, as he reaches a gentle hand across to my shoulder, “I am sorry your eyes are old rubbish.”

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Variations on a Theme

How is your 'to do' list? Mine from last year. An early reminder to prepare for the holiday busyness.

Only a little bit different from yours really.
1. How to avoid getting cat litter in your shoes.
2. How to deliver 56 cup cakes [translation = mini muffins] and one large cake to four different schools in the same hour? Whilst avoiding speeding ticket.
3. Determine how to explain that underwear is a compulsory not an option in school? Another social story? Duct tape?
4. Find time to make and decorate cakes prior to delivery?
5. Research availability of cat shoes
6. Attend two school parties and one school performance at the same time?
7. Spruce up 'self' to be presentable = dye hair on head, remove hair everywhere else, wash and find clean clothes.
8. Read any book that isn't about autism to prevent too much self-absorption.
z. Install American spell checker and request assistance with numbering.
aa. Practice appropriate facial expression to exude calm and hide braces.
cc. Find very tiny very precious Pokemon toy or be mentally and physically prepared to take the consequences of failure. Search options
a. search toilets
b. empty vacuum
c. sift cat litter
dd. Think of gift for Spouse for Christmas
ee. Read latest book on autism, especially chapter 9 –' the reasons, causes and consequences of inadequate parenting.' Speed read if necessary.
ff. Think of gift for Spouse for Birthday 10 days later
gg. Recall which child is going to which therapist, on which day / time during the holidays?
hh. Find baby sitter for child/ children not attending therapy. Check list qualifications thereto. Ignore lack of same in self. Consider percentage of danger/bonus money associated with the task? Then double it.
ii. Carefully consider correct punishment for 5 year old forging his report card? Debate whether a bravery award for 'holding a pencil' would be more appropriate?
jj. Research best method of removing glue and glitter from toilet seat?
kk. Rethink the sensory diet. Brainstorm and forward plan all likely and obscure possibilities of the next / new step in the sensory diet.
bb. Remember to put them on body, the clothes that is to say, before exiting house.
ll. Research best method of removing glue and glitter from small derriere without pain, if the owner of the said derriere, suffers from tactile defensiveness.

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