Eat your words

Well let’s just try and be polite about it and say that I have a sense of humour that isn’t shared by many. Because of my freelance status, I am generally careful about the tricks and jokes that I play upon other people. All too frequently, sarcasm, the lowest form of wit, is mis-understood and roughly translates to mean mean. Meaness is not the goal. The goal, broadly speaking, is joint attention and enjoyment, although a wee giggle wouldn’t go amiss.

Hence as I pick up another piece of paper mangled by the completely useless printer, I notice that the tear bears a remarkable resemblance to a bite mark. How can I resist? I march up to the first one with a cross expression. “Hey you Mr. Sonny Jim. No more eating paper if you will?” He looks at me blankly as I waggle the blank piece of paper in front of his face. “It were ent not me.”
“Yes it was. Look. It’s the exact same size as your teeth.”
“No. It is being too big for to be me.”
“You think?”
“Yes.” I see no glimmer of recognition so I pull him along with me to the next one so that he can witness and re-group and practice.
“Hey you Mr. Sonny Jim. No more eating paper if you will?”
His brother blinks at me, not vacant but engaged with other matters.
“No. I din dun do it.”
“It were ent not me neither,” repeats his little brother.
“Are you sure? Look it’s the exact same size as your bite.”
“No. I not.”
“Right then.” I haul them both along to repeat, regroup and practice with their sister.
“Hey you Miss Madam. No more eating paper if you will?”
She rolls her pre-teen eyes and notes her brothers’ presence, hovering and ever so slightly expectant, perhaps.
“Weren’t me.”
“Oh yes it was. Look it’s the exact same size as your bite!” She looks at the paper more closely. “Geez! It’s a load of old rubbish that new printer, innit?” No-one is responding as I wish them to respond. I purse my lips and glare at their mystified father. He removes his glasses to begin cleaning them, methodically, as he adds, “I seem to recall that you’re the only one who has ever been caught eating their exercise books in school.” Now they all look at me. Now they’re interested. “True, I have to admit.”
“You are eated paper?” he asks, incredulous.
“Yes. When I was at boarding school. We were always hungry and possibly bored.”
“Dey din dun feed you at your school when you were being a child?”
“They did,……..but not enough……..and we often had to fast on a Friday.”
“Fast Friday? What is dat being? I am liking fast, dat is my kind of a school.”
“No actually, it isn’t your kind of a school. It’s not speedy fast but ‘don’t eat’ kind of a fast. Come to think of it, that probably would suit you very well.”
“I dun fink I am liking dah very fast school for eating paper.”
“Yes, your mum probably has more trees growing inside her than anyone else we know.”
“Don’t be daft dad, that would only be if she ate tree seeds. Did yah eat tree seeds too mom?”
“No, just apple cores and their seeds…….and their stalks……..I was very hungry.”
“Are you……are you……….are you hungry now?” he asks tentatively.
“Starving!” I stuff the paper in my mouth and begin to munch with avid enthusiasm as I watch their faces, to my personal delighted satisfaction.

I’d eat the whole ream for that kind of joint attention.

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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.”
“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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The Problem of Pica

Many of us are familiar with the phenomenon of pregnant women attempting to eat coal, but more commonly, parents first experience a variation on this theme, when their baby becomes mobile. The small person, appears to be an eating machine, whizzing about with their new found freedom only to stuff their mouths with all kinds of inappropriate items. Their infectious delight at this pastime is matched by their parent’s trauma. Suddenly, the true meaning of something commonly referred to as ‘a choking hazard,’ makes perfect sense.

So, what is pica? Here are a couple of options;

pica /pi·ca/ (pi´kah) [L.] compulsive eating of nonnutritive substances, such as ice, dirt, flaking paint, clay, hair, or laundry starch.
Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
pi·ca (pk)
An abnormal craving or appetite for nonfood substances, such as dirt, paint, or clay.

The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, 2nd Edition Copyright © 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

I can’t say that I find either particularly compelling.

Percentages. How many people have a problem with PICA? It depends upon who you 'count' and whether it is a 'problem' for them, or the people they keep company with.
Maybe as many as “30% of autistic children.”

There are reports of people attempting to eat metal, string and hair, amongst many other things. The last two stand out in particular, not because of the boys, but because of my girls. Earlier research, whilst I was in my usual state of panic, determined that a tiny minority of the population are hair twiddlers. An even tinier sub group are hair nibblers. Why should one worry about hair nibbling, apart from the pica implications? Because hair, unlikely as it may seem, is abrasive to teeth. It's a bit like gnawing on a Rhino horn, which for current purposes of course, is composed of compressed hair. Nibble your hair and have a big dental bill! There's even a name for it! “Trichophagia.” How many more OCD and orally defensive people can one family encompass?

I have a sudden flash of my sister, mid nibble, ‘rabbiting’ as my father referred to the habit. I think of all the nail biters in my family, not this generation but the last one, or the one before that come to think of it! One huge fat nibbling gene, no wonder we all have such bad teeth! Dentures for everyone, that’s the answer, along with buzz cuts.

Do my children have some of these issues or something closely related? Well that's what I thought, that's why I started to check it out all over again, brush up on my research, determine the pertinent facts, because of what I saw. It was only later, the next day that I do the right thing. The right thing? And what might that be? I ask him, of course.

I ask him as he cavorts on the wretched cat scratcher.
“Why are you eating the catnip dear?” He continues to cavort, wordless, with little green flecks around his mouth and stuck to his hair. I wait and count to 15, as he's about 15 at the moment. I picked this moment because he is happy and when he is happy he is often more willing to communicate with words. He and the cat continue to play.
“Do you like the taste?” I count again as the two of them chase his imaginary tail. The cat is frantic. So is the boy. I am distracted by the plants, the house plants which have been systematically chewed by two cats. If it wasn't for the cats, I wouldn't be in this position in the first place. It’s all their fault really. If they would just control their house plant abuse tendencies, then I wouldn’t have had to smother the cat scratcher with catnip, then I would never have known that my son likes to eat catnip.

I remind myself that catnip [translation = cat mint] is really just a herb, almost a culinary herb perhaps?

I remind myself of a couple of other things. Firstly, they when he talks to the cats or any other animals his “speech delay falls away.” Secondly, that when he is ‘being’ a cat, he will not speak, because cats don’t. Very occasionally, I can persuade him, [or is it just luck?] to talk for the cat, be the cat’s translator. I am so glad that the school psychologist is not around to witness my chat with the cat.

“Hey Unis! What are you doing?” I ask as I stroke his furry back until he meows.
“What’s that? I wish I understood cat.” He sparks, my son does that is, to tell me, “Unis! He is very happy today.” Let’s not get bogged down the the spelling thing, or the sex thing, just accept that Unis is a wrongly spelled version of Unice, which of course is a girl’s name.
“Why are you happy Unis?”
“BEcause he loves catnip. It makes him all……crazy.”
“SO you two are just enjoying a snack together, like pals?”
“Yes, we’re just foolin around wiv each other.”
“Does he like the taste of catnip?”
“Kinda, but not really, at least, I don’t like to eat it, I’m just playin along wiv him coz we’re friends.”

Moral = to ensure maximum productivity, make sure you are worrying about the right things.

“Pica resources”

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