Universal Applicability

One of the most delightful aspects of growing up, for parents at least, is how kids apply what they learn to new situations, often in an incredibly apt and surprising manner.  All too frequently I assume the information hasn’t penetrated, or if it has, it’s never likely to see the light of day again.  But that just goes to show what a narrow-minded skeptic I truly am.

Hence I’m busy in the kitchen, preparing dinner, peeling potatoes, chopping carrots and frying onions, the basics for many a meal.  The aroma permeates the household, warm, piquant and inviting, when I hear a commonplace noise from my youngest.  He stumbles through the kitchen, a la ‘Lawrence of Arabia in the Desert’– clutching his throat with gagging noises.  But he pauses a moment, pinches his nostrils firmly closed, hits the extractor fan button and announces in a nasal tone, “You know Mom, I fink it’s time for a courtesy flush.”

Meanwhile, if you still have the chance to win a copy of DJ Kirkby’s Without Alice – just read the post and leave a comment.  I think I’ll keep this open until the 1st of December and then it will make a great Holiday gift for some lucky person.

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Sensual olfactory assault

It’s a recurring theme. I’m oblivious early in the morning, still dressed in my robe, as we are, just for a change, behind schedule.

Wednesday’s the half way mark of the week, and therefore attractive to some, because it’s also a half day. The weather forecast predicts coldness and some of us, even thin-blooded Californians, are more susceptible than many.

My son looks through the window to see movement of trees and quivers with wide eyes. His pale, exposed, little, shell-like ears seem to shrivel as his palms cup them for protection from the buffeting wind.

What a pity his new jacket lacks a hood.

As he leaves to go and curl up on the third stair I wonder how on earth we’ll be able to transport him from house to bus, a distance of fifteen yards with several metres of 40 kph blustering winds?

It’s not an easy calculation.

I remember the hat from England, a Plymouth Argyle Football Club supporters’ knit cap. It’s green – the wrong color, but it does sport an icon of a soccer ball and a cat in mid leap. Since felines of all descriptions find favor lately, I decide to give it a go.

I grab a Sharpie in the kitchen and write his name inside. Within seconds I’m through the kitchen, past the dining room, round the sitting room, the hall and two steps up to entice him. I can’t hear the bus engine through the closed window, yet, but it’s on the way, very shortly. I play teasing temptress as I lean over him before ramming it on his head, with my hands pressing the fabric against his ears, capturing the warmth.

“Wot is dat smell!” he asks – more of a statement than a question. I find it hard to recall my itinerary with any degree of exactitude. I examine the options over a period of more than two hours; vat of espresso, unwashed after a hot night, Dial dish wash soap, 409 – killer the germs – solution, new Clorox toilet block, trash bag contents and recycling today, hand soap, laundry soap, as it’s best to start early, mouth wash to neutralize coffee before kiss, is there some kind of preservative in the pristine new hat?

All in all, it’s a veritable nightmare of toxic waste – a cocktail of chemical smells – but which one would predominate……
“I think perhaps….its…?”
“I always love dah smell of Sharpies Mom!”

p.s. How to have a ‘hot night’ when you’re all on your own with your spouse many thousands of miles away, abroad?

Go upstairs, turn off the lights, get into bed and put head on the pillow, pass out, awaken intermittently to find a big, fat, furry, demented orange cat on your head. Bark at cat. Fall asleep again. Repeat.

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Blood Hounds

I dry my hands carefully so I can put a fresh plaster on my finger, post washing up and then nip upstairs to bed down the smalls. I whip up the ladder to start with the smallest one on the top bunk.
“Night, night luvvy.”
“What’s the matter dear?”
“Dat is dah worstest.”
“What is?”
“Dat smell?”
“Hmm sorry about that. I was a bit heavy handed with the garlic tonight.”
“Not food smell.”
“Which smell?”
“Yur finger stinks.”
“My finger?”
“Dah one wiv dah band aid.”
“Can’t, I’ve only just washed them. Is it the soap? Doesn’t smell much too me.”
“No dah blood.”
“You can smell the blood?”
“Yes it is being still wet.”
“So if it was dry you wouldn’t be able to smell it?”
“Scabs smell differenter.”
“Do they indeed?”
“But wet blood smells strongest and yours is badest?”
“Other people’s blood smells ……er…….nice?”
“My blood smells nice.”
“What does my blood smell of that’s not nice?”
“Too much…….. metal.”
“What does your blood smell of?”
“And…..more of…… salt.”
“Does everyone’s blood smell differently?”
“I think you’ve missed your calling as a tracker dog.”
“Tracker cat!”

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Shopping allergy – the glass is half empty

Like many other consumers I have a strong aversion to shopping, it practically brings me out in hives. My mother confirms that I have always been a very bad shopper or more accurately, bad company and morose and grumbly, although not necessarily in that order. I think that my first hand experiences of the activity have always been negative. I shop badly therefore I hate shopping or possibly the other way around. That said my family demands, quite unreasonably, that I continue to be the primary shopper even though I continuously demonstrate my miserable failures.


Recently after an unexpected spate of independence and “I do it by myself” our glassware collection has suffered. It has suffered to the extent that we were reaching the bottom of the barrel, chipped cups and those without handles. Action time had arrived.

Hence I sallied forth into the tortuous throes of Target wherefore to buy plastic, or some other unbreakable replacements. As usual I was harried, harassed and haunted through the aisles by a wide variety of helpers, some employees and some mere hangers on. Nevertheless I retuned home having achieve task completion and purse emptiness. 8 new plastic glasses for the princely and outrageous sum of $1.99 each. Plus sales tax.

I spent a goodly amount of time removing unremovable labels as anything with a label is guaranteed to cause mayhem. As it turned out the investment was a bust for several different reasons.

Firstly design fault. They have concave bottoms which means that when you turn them upside down in the dish washer they collect water. Secondly, they are brown[ish]. I have recently learned that brown will not do. Whilst it’s not a universal opinion, it’s the majority opinion, 5:3 against.

These two faults, in and of themselves, are not fatal. The third fault is fatal. I witness the third fault as my eldest daughter reasons with my youngest son as he hares across the lawn to escape:-

“Hey come back here! You said you wanted water! Here’s your water!”
“What’s up? There’s no ice in it.”
“Come along now. Use your words. Help me understand. What’s the problem?”
“It’s not bad it’s straight from the tap. Honest it’s not chilled.”
“Super bad stinky.”
“It’s fresh, really. I wouldn’t lie to you.”
“Super bad stinky peanut poison.”
“Super bad stinky peanut poison pukey.”
“It’s not. Look! It’s fresh and sparkly and cool and…..”
“Super bad stinky peanut poison pukey so I’m gonna die.”
“I don’t get it? Come on. It’s in this nice new glass.”
“Oh……..it’s the glass? What’s wrong with the glass? It’s new. Don’t you like it? I mean…….what’s wrong with the glass, apart from being brown?”
“Dah glass……..is………smelled……super bad stinky peanut poison pukey.” I watch her recoil from the blast of 50 decibels. I watch her sniff the glass. I watch her open her mouth to speak as her little brother curls himself up into an impenetrable nut. She comes back inside and pops the glass on the counter, “do you know what?”
“What dear?”
“He’s absolutely right.”

p.s. does anyone know of a ‘scratch and sniff’ plugin or widget?

Disclaimer:- I am currently reading [amongst other things] Laura Shumaker’s ‘A regular Guy,’ Kelly Harland’s ‘A will of his Own,’ and Vicki Forman’s ‘This Lovely Life,’ at the same time. Not in tandem but in tricycle which makes for an especially interesting mind bending experience. I find the comparisons and contrasts between motherhood of a child with serious medical issues quite overwhelming, as that kind of mental torture is of an entirely new order for me. Kelly and Laura’s books on the familiar autism track seems more like a trip down memory lane, much safer territory for those of us who need our sleep.

What kind of idiot would choose to read all three simultaneously?


I’d like to blame it on happenstance or maybe catch-up, but if truth be told, I am worried about the future, as most parents are. Since I lack a crystal ball, an oversight if ever there was one, instead I make do with glimpses into other people’s future and remain hopeful.

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Validation – thank you Nonna

I begin to think that I may be an American afterall. [translation = able to use and understand the psychobabble language without effort] It came to me earlier today.

At the moment we are lucky to have Nonna, the children's Italian grandmother staying with us for a few weeks. One of the advantages of having another adult at home all day, every day, is that teeny tiny things are confirmed, such as my own sanity.

For instance, I have been known to complain that they boys are my shadows. If I leave the room, or am otherwise out of visual contact, a hue and cry ensues. I appreciate, that when I explain this, that most people, not unreasonably, believe that I am exaggerating.

A simple task such as taking the recycling from the kitchen to the outside bin, a distance of some 25 paces, involves careful planning. Over the years, I have tried any number of different approaches to this tiny task. I can run outside and back again, having deposited the recycling in the bin of course, in approximately 44 seconds. Yes, I have timed it, and that's my all time record to date. However, this option has a number of disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that when I return, breathless with empty bin in hand, there are two small boys flapping around on the floor like landed salmon. [translation = but much louder] Apart from the distress and trauma caused to my boys' by my fleeting absence, in addition, I will then spend upwards of 30 minutes trying to calm them down again. [translation = thus reducing my efficiency quotient for the day]

Now, I know what you're thinking! 'My, my Madeline, you are missing the perfect opportunity to therapize those little chaps!' As always dear pal, you are completely correct. Sometimes, we do take the therapy option, afterall, any chance to lure them outside would always get my vote. [translation = both are 'allergic' to outside] There again, if someone hates to go outside, it might be better to make the 'outside' experience, a little more positive and enjoyable, and sadly, recycling doesn't fall into that category, outside or otherwise.

Sometimes when I'm feeling brave, we will attempt this feat; negotiation of the step, carry 'horrible' thing in your hand at the same time, [translation = tactile defensiveness at the very least] pass through the door jam without making contact,[translation = motor planning] or at least avoiding painful contact, [translation = insufficient sensory input for one, as well as the challenge to depth perception ] step into the sunshine, where are the sunglasses[!], walk the seven steps to the big bin, avoid looking at the plants and or bees, wait, [always a tricky one] whilst the bin lid is opened for you, attempt to hurl horrible thing in your hand into the open bin, cover your ears to protect you from the noise of the horrible thing falling into the bin, then sequence your way back into the house to wash your hands. [translation = times two] And of course those are only the edited highlights.

Personally, I cheat and go for the easy option, due to my cowardly nature. [translation = do everything at night whilst they are asleep]

So now, with Nonna here, I believe that I might just have a chance of nipping out to dump the recycling, whilst the children are present and awake, without the usual fall out.

I make my 50 yard dash, with bin, U-turn and return in 33 seconds flat, [translation = a new world record!] to the kitchen, where Nonna stands on the middle of the floorboards with two small boys flailing at her feet. Her hands flap at me to help make herself understood over the din, “but you were only gone for a moment! It's like dey think you are dead or something!” Her eyes widen in disbelief as the word 'dead' penetrates her grandson's ears. [translation = increase in volume of at least twenty decibels] Nonna's hands fly to her head to rip out the hearing aides, whilst I grovel on the ground with my grief stricken guys.

And that my good pal, is the story of how I lost my efficiency but regained my sanity. [translation = a sprinter not a marathon runner]

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Air freshener fails to alleviate the stench

Strangely I have always considered senior daughter to be our family environmentalist. As we live in the States, she is there to remind us where we are going wrong. Her views are pretty mainstream as far as Europeans are concerned but extreme for our American cousins. For example, rather than use the car to go and collect the turkey for the holiday festivities, she cycled. She returned on her bike with the fowl in her back pack after a two and a half hour round trip.

I will avoid mention of her views on toilets, since I need to avoid scatological references as I am a Brit. I had not considered that there was a possibility that somebody else might climb on the band wagon, to ceremoniously beat our conscious and sub-conscious selves. It is therefore with some surprise that I engage my youngest son in conversation. I enquire why he is pinching his nostrils shut?

“Because of the badest smell!” he screams, keeping his distance. I struggle to gain a purchase on his person and park him on my lap to extract further details. He writhes and wriggles making retching noises. Loud ones.
“What is the badest smell dear?”
“It is you! You are the badest smell. You are worster than peanuts!”
My! That bad!
“You don't think I smell very nice?”
“NO!” I didn't really need clarification there, more a moment to gather my wits.
“What can we do about that problem?” He pauses to gaze at the ceiling awaiting inspiration.
“I know! You can be living somewhere else?”
“Where would you suggest?”
“In dah garden. You can be living in dah garden in a tent.”
“But I hate camping!”
“You won't be 'dah camping,' you will be dah living dere.”
So much logic! I need to re-configure my brain.
“But I don't want to live in a tent in the garden. I will be lonely. Won't you be lonely without me?”
What a stupid question. Any first year lawyer knows that you should never ask a question that you cannot predict the answer to.
“You will be lonely but I will be stinky free.”
I am somewhat flummoxed, not for the first time. Spouse sticks his head around the door to clarify:
“it's the Marmite! You didn't clean your teeth and gargle with mouthwash before you breathed on him.”

It would appear that the health and well being of a fellow human being, is less important than a pollutant free environment. [Ref 1]

[Ref 1] ecocentrism

after ECOCENTRIC adj.
The view or belief that environmental concerns should take precedence over the needs and rights of human beings considered in isolation.

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