A Lamb in Wolf’s Clothing

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Expansion of expressive language and vocabulary

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Growing Pains

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Pssst!

I have to whisper, because you know I wouldn’t like to jinx it, but I wanted to share something with you, the week just past, because this is the weekend when we can share secrets, if we share them very quietly, so that you know who doesn’t get wind of it.

Here’s a few things:-
1. California shrimp sushi rolls
2. Pot stickers one shrimp one pork
3. Fish sticks, peas, corn, mashed potatoes and one micro dot of tomato sauce
4. Home made [white] bread
5. Egg and potato curry with coconut milk carrots, onions and celery
6. bread and butter pudding with marmalade [a bit like French toast]
7. wed  10/12/08 chicken corn enchiladas, peas, sloppy joes with lentils and tomatoes, spinach nuggets
8. thur  golden carrots, mashed potato, sausage, tomato sauce, sorrel
9. Fri  white fish fillets [breadcrumbed], red chard, rosemary potato chips, salad, avocado sushi rolls
10. Sat  wholewheat pizza with pepperoni, mozzarella and spinach, bean burrito.

These are some of the things that entered my son’s mouth and were swallowed, only a teaspoonful of each one of course, but I suspect, although it’s too soon to say with any certainty, that I may have lost my neophobe, possibly. They remained in his digestive system. The screams were more habit than painful, you know, the lowest common denominator, if in doubt ˜yell your head off,’ but he stayed in his chair. As he chewed, sort of, he examined his biceps waiting for them to grow, which they surely are? All in all, I think we are entering an entirely new phase of life, growth and change. To date none of the ˜new foods’ has rated anything higher than a 3 out of 10. Most are zero, or minus infinity, but all the same, what do you think? He’s nearly 8. We’ve been at this for five years. Is it really possible? Is that how long it takes for some people? Every day exposure for 365 days times five? To desensitize them? So now I’m wondering, maybe, just maybe, in the future, say in, what?……five years, perhaps food might be a source of pleasure? Am I jinxing him? Am I getting ahead of myself? Will I have to delete this tomorrow? Oooo pushy parents! In the meantime, please send emergency supplies of toilet paper, urgent!


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Junk food

I am a woman of strong convictions, so I waste no time, take out my pen and write to the local school district about their disgraceful policy on school lunches.

Not a mung bean in sight, nor in storage. How can young minds learn anything when they are starved of good, nutritionally well balanced meals. Where is the tofu may I ask? Whole-wheat is a good start but wheat-free options should be a priority. Fresh fruit and yoghourt is all very well but what about the lactose intolerant. Haven't you people heard of soy? Don't you know there's more to a salad bar than lettuce and tomatoes? Whilst the new recyclable lunch container policy is commendable, shouldn't there be a complete ban on paper towels too? We parents have high standards that are inviolate.

I pause as I hear the garage door open.

Children tumble into the house.

Spouse brings up the rear mounded high with sacks of groceries.
“You'll never guess what?”
“What?”
“Tell her. Hey! Tell your mum what we bought.”
“Um……”
“Come on! Tell her! No words? O.k. just show her then. He chose it all by himself, just like that!”

If that's the 18th food then I'm a beansprout.

I toss the letter in the bin.

Traitor.


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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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Tiptoe through the tulips

One of our ongoing campaigns, is to continue to try and expand junior's diet. Currently, he eats 17 foods. [translation = jolly annoying but more commonly referred to as neophobic] Ideally I would wish for our family to enjoy a meal together in the evening, but that dream may be a while away yet.

For the time being I am more than satisfied with a lesser deal. The lesser deal these days is for everyone to be at the table together, for a period of time. The time period is vague. [translation = more than a minute fits the bill] When I say 'at' the table, this is because I don't expect anyone to really sit, in the conventional meaning of the term. [translation = hunkered down, kneeling, draped, or in close proximity to a chair, are all good enough]

At first, this might see quite a low bar. 'But Madeline, surely if you have such feeble expectations of your children, they have nothing to rise towards?' And indeed, as always, I would applaud that viewpoint. The trouble with that viewpoint, is that it is blind to a few little matters that are of great import.

For instance, if you have a limited diet and are required to be at the table with other people, then you have to see and smell their very offensive food. Sometimes you may also have to hear it too. Whilst I do not know what smells you dislike, I could hazard a guess that you would have a hard time eating your dinner in a male public restroom. Likewise, even if you are not a vegetarian, a slaughterhouse wouldn't be my first choice of venue, to eat my tuna sandwich. We are all familiar with tales of foreign travel and exotic foods. [translation = chocolate covered cockroaches anyone?]

Hence, for my son to be at the table, whilst other people eat other things, this translates into a momentous achievement. [translation = thus we unite to chant 'remember, everybody likes different things,' but next time I'll pick a better tune, or maybe better words, or basically something less irritating during the following months of repetition]

This means, that even a simple lunch time sandwich may cause great difficulties for the person who finds that peanut butter is 'poison.' Strangely, my other son finds the smell, taste and sight of bananas very offensive too. This is a great nuisance, since bananas are one of his little brothers 17 foods.

The trouble with only eating 17 foods, is that each of those 17 items appears more frequently in a daily diet. If for example, you as an adult person, enjoyed caviar or oysters or smoked salmon, even if you could afford to eat such things, you probably wouldn't eat them every day, or even every other day. None of them would be around to torture the other people in your household very often. Even if you threw caution to the wind and stuffed yourself on smoked salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and squeezed in a morning and afternoon salmon snack too, at the end of the day, the packet would be empty. [translation = but your tummy would be full to capacity]

As an aside, maybe you could find 17 foods that you could exist on for the next year? Just you, no need to concern yourself with other people's foibles. Imagine you're on a desert island. [translation = with fresh daily shipments by helicopter] Each item must be a single item. [translation = no casseroles] Don't cheat and combine one thing with another. [translation = spaghetti but no sauce, chicken but no breadcrumbs, or breadcrumbs and chicken separately, they'd be two items] Be careful of pies as the crust and the contents will be at least two items. Even a nice safe soup is likely be a cheat, and I know that you'll put your croutons on the side, for later or dessert. Two of your 17 items must be beverages. E.g. milk and water. That gives you 15 things to choose. Now come along now, you're an adult, so don't forget to ensure that you have a well balanced nutritional diet. Let me know how you get on. 365 days and counting!

But as usual, I digress. Meanwhile………..

As always, my timing is flawless. [translation = 5:30 p.m.] The children are absorbed in the 'electronics' reward time, as I nip back in from the garden with the world's most perfect tomato in my hot little hands for my lunch. [translation = home grown and still warm from the sunshine.] The air conditioning in the single family room, ensures that their air flow is pure. [translation = no chance of him detecting that a tomato has entered the house] My handy dandy egg slicer, means that my sandwich is ready in a trice. I skip to the dining room to eat my lunch. [translation = summer holidays may result in malnutrition for some.] I sit at the table, as a proper grown up should and admire the bouquet of flowers. [translation = not from an admirer but from a guilt ridden dentist]

After one mouthful, I realize that I've forgotten the chives. I dither. Eat now, whilst the going is good and skip the addition of perfection, or add the perfection and risk skipping the eating? I slip from my chair and move silently back into the kitchen. [translation = the stealth of the truly motivated] I return to the table with a handful of chives and a pair of scissors, but as I open the blades I hear a howl from the family room, following by speedy steps that stop at my side. He tiptoes in place with his fingers neatly pinching his nostrils closed, eyes shut, “dat is dah terrible, dat is dah awful, dat is dah stinkiest ever, ever, ever!” His eyes blink open and then snap shut again before he whizzes away to bellow over his shoulder, “But das o.k. coz everybody is liking dah different things!”

Well something is getting through!

Not 'one sandwich' but several items = tomato, mayonnaise, slice of bread, one egg, ignore salt and pepper, all equates to four food items. Just as well I skipped the chives.


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Tenacity

When I mention that my son has a limited diet, many people are sympathetic. Many people experience the child who only eats a diet of pizza, chicken nuggets and other fast food items. My son eats “none of these” things, with the exception of fries. [translation = chips] Currently he enjoys a diet of some 17 exclusive items. Whilst I take many opportunities to widen his diet, I'm not in the least averse to a little help from any quarter. [translation = I have no shame]

I am up a ladder in the kitchen replacing the camping items. It is a galley kitchen. [translation = major thoroughfare with the family room and garage at one end, and access to the rest of the house at the other end.] My daughter pursues her little brother with a vengeance. I stand back and let her do her stuff. I have no idea why she has suddenly got a bee in her bonnet, but I'm more than happy to give her free reign, if only for my own amusement. The bag of salty pistachio nuts was a treat for the camping trip. My eldest son is the nut aficionado, like his Dad. My daughters like nuts, but they can more or less take them or leave them. Junior has yet to eat a nut, any nut. Even the universal peanut butter is poison to him.

Junior now likes salt, preferably from the salt cellar in a continuous stream. [translation = the consequence of permitting ordinary household items to exist without being bolted down or locked up]

She grasps a handful of pistachio nut shells, not the nuts. She's eaten the nuts herself. She figures that the shell without the nut, salt covered, would be a great preliminary step, shell licking, prior to nut licking. I'm with her. It's a sound theory. A shell is an inert thing, not a nut, a mere casing and not food.

“Lick it!” she commands. Junior makes rooster noises in response and legs it. translation = runs away very fast] She is nine and a half, and fit. He is six and a half but he has greater motivation on his side. [She stomps after him, “Come here you! You'll like it, it's salty, hmmm yummy, I just love it, you'll like it too, give it a go.” Jumping Jack flash is still careening all over the house, utilizing a zig zag running approach to throw her off the scent. “Stop it! Stop it now! Stand still or I'll sit on yah!” she bellows. Still shriller shrieks are emitted from Sparky as she hunts him down, a squib on the loose. “Just lick it. You love salt, you'll love this, it's great,” she persuades.
“Come here you little monkey!” she squalks, getting breathless. Junior responds with monkey noises and swings his body around the newel post of the staircase with aplomb. His agility is startling and his tippy toe escape sounds like a machine gun on the wooden floor.

They traverse through the kitchen, back and forth on switch backs. “I'm gonna get you!” she taunts, more positive than practical. Squeaky now has springs under his feet and wings for arms, so light on his feet, as fleet as a hummingbird. [translation = but a lot noisier] “They're just shells darn it! There's no nut, just the shell, the salty shell, it's not even food!” she barks with frustration. “They're only……er……..made of….? What are nut shells made of mum?” she asks, leaning against the ladder for a breather whilst junior sputs and spurts.
“Well, they're er. … made of……woody….” I'm saved from declaring my ignorance as she hares off after her prey. “Stop it. Stop running. You know I'm gonna win,” she declares without any corroborative evidence. They dodge around the sofa, each vying for position. “Listen, sea shells aren't food right? So nut shells aren't food either. You'd lick a salty sea shell wouldn't ya? This is no different it's just a shell!” She launches herself over the body of the sofa, but he's off like a whippet at the starter gate, miles ahead. They streak back through the kitchen. She pauses. “Why won't he lick em Mom? Aren't they just like sea shells? What are sea shells made of?”
“Well….they're er…..made of……” Junior skates past again darting hither and thither like a beserk clockwork mouse. She plops herself down on the floor, “I just don't get it. What is his problem?” I step down from the ladder and hunker down next to her, beads of sweat forming on her brow.


“Thanks for trying lovie, but maybe we can find better ways?”
“I thought that was a better way.”
“I know you did dear, very logical, and I think he was having fun really. I think you're right, that making food more fun is a good way to go.”
“Do you remember when we made things out of mini marshmallows and cocktail sticks?” she beams.
“I do.”
“Didn't work though huh!”
“Well he “touched” them and after a few days, he would join in and make them too.”
“Do you remember when we played finger soccer with peas? That was fun too.”
“I do.”
“Do you remember when we made faces outta fruit?” I listen to her list the many ways in which we have attempted to entice her brother to at least be on touching terms with food stuffs. It is a very long list. I'm surprised that she remembers so many of them.
“Do you know what?”
“What dear?”
“I told my friend about the funny things we do with him.”
“Oh yes.” I wait, her shoulders curl inwards, her chin drops ever so slightly, her fringe languishes over her eye lashes.
“They said that he was weird.”
“Indeed!”
“I know,” she sighs, “everyone is different, it’s o.k. to like different things,” she parrots back at me. There’s nothing like a direct quote to make your appreciate the full banality of your own words. [translation = tolerance sounds so feeble]
“Ah! Well…..did you have fun doing those things? He started to have fun too. As long as we're happy doing the things that we're doing, and not hurting anyone else, then I don't think it matters what “other people think?” Now there’s fighting talk!


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Perseveration with a sprinkling of OCD [on the side]


“I don't think he cares one way or another, as long as they serve chips. [translation = French Fries]
“True, but so many restaurants don't have any cruet.”
“I know, but there again, if they have anything, they usually have the salt.”
“Unless we go to an Italian, then you have two foot of pepper mill being lobbed around by some minor, but not a salt cellar in sight!”
“Odd combination really. There again, if we go Italian, there probably won't be any chips either.”
“It's so strange.”
“Strange. A very strange country.”
“Mind you, if he carries on the way he is, we could probably do with avoiding that particular perversion.”
“True, I don't think people understand.”
“Well it's so unhygienic, regardless of the other health risks.”
“Still, nobody noticed last time.”
“That was over three months ago now, and they did, notice, that is to say.”
“The last time we went to a restaurant?”
“Yes. So he's not really had the opportunity in the meantime.”
“Do you still have the salt cellar locked up?”
“Oh yes. Stuffed at the back of the cupboard, the one full of cereal.” [translation = disguised by the horror of the equivalent of barbed wire, that is breakfast cereal.]
“Oooo! I’ve just thought! Do you think we could count it as a ‘new food’?”
“Food? More like a chemical or an additive.”
“I like that. We count the additive.”
“Well, I don’t know, might be considered cheating.”
“Well if salt is a chemical, then so is water, H2O and all that.”
“Gosh. I just had a thought too! He drinks water. Water isn’t part of his 13 foods.”
“You’re a genius! That means we’ve hit 14 foods without even trying.”
“How come we never thought of that before?”
“At this rate of progress, he won’t be a neo any more.” [translation = neophobic, a person who eats less than 20 foods]
“She didn't look very happy at the time.”
“Who?”
“The server.”
“Which server?”
“At the restaurant.”
“Right! When she lifted the tablecloth to see a six year old chugging down on a salt shaker.”
“Hmm, I think it was the other three empty ones that he'd stolen from the other tables that freaked her out.”
“Just think, he'll live for ever, like a little pickled er………”
“Onion?”
'No, er……?”
“Pickled egg? Roll mop herring, pepper, walnut……?”
“Hardly! And none of those are American.”
“What then?”
“Oh I know, Gherkin!”
“Ah! Dill pickle! Actually, they're all in vinegar. H must be more like an anchovy!”
“Hmm, he's certainly swimming against the tide.”

Health Warning – each salt cellar only a few grains in them
Healthy Note – many children and some autistic ones, enjoy lining things up
Caution – don't try this at home. [translation = or in a restaurant]


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The Basic principles of parenting

You only need to know one. The one principle that all parents need to know and apply is 'consistency.' It's better for the parent, it's perfect for the child. If the child happens to be autistic, then woe betide the parent that quibbles with the undoubted soundness of this GOLDEN rule. The parent of the autistic child must apply the same consistent rules to that child several thousands of times, preferably in the same manner to avoid confusion. [most probably of the parent] Should you, the parent, be tempted to deviate from this course, then you only have yourself to blame when the whole house of cards comes crashing down upon your head. I know more than a few parents have difficulty with this first and most basic of steps, but it behoves us all to heed these words well. There can be no back sliding, no namby pamby, weak willed spineless parenting styles.

I return home with renewed fortitude to conquer rather than tread water. I have envelops to push, campaigns to promote and the determination to follow through even if it kills me. Oh yes, there is nothing like a 7 minute emergency trip for milk at 7/11 [translation = almost the corner shop] to recharge a parent's batteries.

I step inside just in time to catch the youngest speech delayed one as he scampers out of the bathroom, naked. Yes, naked again due in part to “tactile defensiveness,” which in turn, is part of the “sensory integration” issue, because few things are simple or straight forward any more. This is a task, that we seem to have been working on forever. Apart from the speech delay, and the use of language, for current purposes it is a three part ‘problem’: “sequencing,” [going through the same steps in the right order] “ideation,” [being able to visualise the end result] and of course, my friend and yours, “task completion,” [getting to the end.]

I hold him gently by the forearms, turn his body towards mine, find my cheerleader voice, pause, to ensure that I have his attention and say the same words that I have already said too many times to mention today, “clothes on dear!” He sighs as his body slumps, chin to chest, so that he is better able to gird his bare loins and growl. Suddenly his body snaps to attention, the soles of his feet stomp on the floor as he says, with rigid arms and spiked fingers, “ya know, you need to use dah different words! Dowz words are soooooo boring.” His chest pops out towards my chin, just enough to tip me over backwards onto my bottom. In this position I am better able to watch him depart, squealing, “run, run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread man!”

It’s a shame that we can’t use the American equivalent, but of course it doesn’t rhyme. Nevermind either version is probably a good quote for a neophobic.

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