A sensitivity to noise may persist long after the baby years

tick tock


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You can lead a horse to water

I enjoy every second of my twelve-minute lie in and then dash downstairs at 6:12 a.m. – chaos.

Start calculations – need to arrive at 11 and it’s a 38-minute drive – allow an hour in case of stops, emergencies, getting lost time and Saturday traffic. 5 to 60 minutes for breakfast and clear up. 30 to 90 minutes for dressing to include, socks, shoes and teeth cleaning. 10 to 25 minutes toileting, jackets and entering car with seat belts buckled. Equals 3 hours and 55 minutes – loads of time and time to spare.

It was a definite possibility three months ago so I jumped at the chance – we prepared just in case. Horses are just like dogs, but bigger. Every time they sat on Thatcher, I’d trigger a meltdown, deliberately – ‘look at you! If you can ride a dog a horse will be easy!’

They’ve conquered ‘fear of dogs,’ and they’ll conquer ‘fear of horses.’

Both the boys have left their warm jackets at school for the weekend – normally this wouldn’t be a problem, seeing as how we rarely venture far from home, and when we do, it’s more likely to be around mid-day when the chill has burned off – today we head out to the wilds of Monterey where they have weather and mud.

Dig out second, old pair of shoes for them both, select favorite snacks as bribes, drinks, check first aid kit, and pack all possibly emergency supplies in the hope of successfully surviving as solo parent during an hour’s drive. Grab camera at the last minute – if there is one single moment of joy I shall capture it for the record.

Watch a woman outside on the road running for her life, otherwise known as jogging – if I could get someone to watch the children, I would do likewise.

We were offered two places at the therapeutic riding center a couple of years ago – the boys weren’t ready. We were offered places again last year – just before the budget cuts. So here we are, third time lucky, possibly.

In the car we try to listen to a CD of Horrid Henry – ‘The Hike’ – written by Francesca Simon and read by Miranda Richardson,* over the din of the boys who scream in the back. I allow my daughter a reprieve, up in the front passenger seat now that she’s only an inch shorter than me. I keep an eye on her – self wrapped, clamped tight and hunched, as she turns her face towards me, “Horrid Henry wouldn’t last five seconds in our household!” Although the boys give every impression of oblivion, they both manage to chime in perfectly, every time the story reader says ‘Stop it Henry! Don’t be horrid!’ My daughter rolls her eyes with exasperation.

“Whadif they won’t talk when we get there?”
“Lets just hope they have their ‘listening ears.’”
“Whadif they say something unfortunate?”
“I don’t suppose it will be anything they’ve not heard before, or a variation on a theme.”
She pushes herself back into the headrest and shuts her eyes.
“I don’t know whichis worse, when they scream or sing that darned song.”
“MANAMANA” is definitely trying, but at least they’re happy.”
“I jus can’t work out how they ever heard it?”
“Neither can I. It’s ancient. From the sixties, I remember my brother, your uncle, singing it.”
“Whu!”
“I can still see it. The singer was this dark character.”
“Dark?”
“Brown, and very hairy.”
“Mom!”
“He was a muppet.”
“Mom!”
“Not that kind of a muppet, a real Muppet.”
“What the heck is a muppet Mom?”
“I keep forgetting how young you are. Bit like Sesame Street puppets. I’ll show you later when we get home. Don’t suppose you’ve heard of Kermit the Frog either? Miss Piggy?”
“Whah?”
“Never mind.”
“Whadda we gonna do if they make a spectacle of themselves?”
“If they can’t make a spectacle of themselves at therapeutic riding stables for differently abled children, where can they?” I beam.
She giggles and flutters her eye-lids – wicked.

Arrive at the stables, late, with two screaming children – doesn’t give the best impression of our family. Vomit noises emanate from my youngest – farm fresh air doesn’t suit everyone, “dat is a worserer smell dan my bruvver!” He falls out of the car, wraps his arms around his skinny rib cage, and tippy toes off like a top, in the general direction of the office. His older brother staggers in the same direction, hunched like an ancient, as if every limb drags half a hundred-weight of potatoes. The pre-teen looks on, aghast, but is quickly distracted by more interesting eye candy – horses.

One whole hour of introductory, orientation.

We drive back home – the boys are out cold in the back, mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.

“That was funny,” she giggles.
“Hmm?”
“When he said to the lady that the horses had x-ray vision and shot laser beams at him.”
“She didn’t bat an eye-lid though did she!”

I ponder.

I think of the many, many hours my daughter has endured in waiting rooms as her brothers were tortured by every conceivable variety of therapy known to mankind, while she would salivate at the window, hoping for the chance to share a few moments occupied with similar activities. She’s been short changed for far too long, just like all the other children in the Siblings book I read last week.

“So when we go next week they’ll be there for a whole four hours. Would you like to stay and watch, or shall we go and do something else, together?”
“You don’t have to stay with them?”
“Apparently not. In fact they’ll probably do better without me.”
“Four hours?”
“Well, probably 3 if we drive half an hour to somewhere and leave half an hour before to get back on time.”
“What’ll we do?”
“What would you like to do? Your treat.”
“Um…a whole three hours? I don’t know.”
“What do your friends usually do on a Saturday morning?”
“Shop.”
“Oh. Really? Sounds great. Lego Store?”
“Not without the boys – wouldn’t be fair – wouldn’t feel right.”

I drive a few more miles in silence as I watch her brain whir, from the corner of my eye. I try to think what I did, more than a decade ago? I have no recall whatsoever. Whatever it was, it’s clearly unremarkable.

“I don’t think there’s anything I wanna buy. Anyway, I owe you three weeks pocket money.”
“You do?”
“Yeah. Remember? I bought a pair of Heelies. You subbed me coz I didn’t have enough.”
“Oh. Right. What else would you like to do then?”
“The beach looked nice.”
“It did. Would you like to play on the beach?”
“Maybe. We could pack a blanket. Sit down and be quiet.”
“We could.”

It strikes me that if I sit down, static, I’m highly likely to pass out – I could win an award for sleeping if I ever had the opportunity.

“Could we take a picnic too..…with real food?”
“Absolutely.”
“No Goldfish crackers.”
“Oh go on! You like them really.”
“Spose…..I’ll take an alarm if you like?” she offers.
“An alarm?”
“In case we both fall asleep.”

p.s. I do not endorse this as being either beneficial or curative, be that cat, dog, tortoise, horse, fish or dolphin therapy, although this does appear to be an exceptionally progressive program. ‘Beneficial,’ is more than enough. Anything else is a bonus. There is the remote possibility of a little enjoyment if we’re lucky. Failing that, in any event, at the very least we shall have spent a quantity of time outside the house, otherwise referred to as the ‘cell,’ and expanded our horizons by an inch or centimetre.

* Highly recommended to improve aural processing, [and fun] but don’t blame me if your children acquire an English accent.

A bonus for the digital and tactile challenged person.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth!


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Caught dead to rights

I flit around the kitchen with the phone clamped to my left ear.

Productivity is hampered without the use of my hand but the right one copes with the usual domestic tasks. After 22 minutes on ‘hold’ my patience wears thin. Supper is nearly ready.

The children continue to play Wii. We conduct a limited conversation roughly along the lines of “come see our video that we made,” v. “in a minute, I just need to finish cooking.” We repeat this exchange once every three minutes.

I sip tea from the second pot in the same time span, to whet my mouth for the silent curses of ‘hold.’ The musak on the telephone vies for my attention but the background musak from the Wii game, Swan Lake, massacred and digitally rejigged by the boys, is every bit as annoying, especially since the same musical phrase repeats approximately 6 times.

I love the Wii music game. It is one of the most effective therapy tools that we bought completely by accident. If we wanted a tool to practice eye hand co-ordination then we certainly found one. Of all the hand eye co-ordination tools that we previously purchased, none have been effective because they all lacked the magical quality of motivation. Now we have loads of motivation. I can’t put my hand on my heart and say that I have noticed any particular improvement in hand eye co-ordination but 30 minutes of daily practice over time, with this pleasant pastime, must have a positive effect….. eventually. As I sip the dredges of the 7th mug of tea my brain registers ‘full capacity.’

I peek at the boys and then slip into the bathroom. My son appears just as I sit down, as locked doors and privacy are an anathema around here, “now you are watch our video?” I look at him with the phone still on my ear, sitting and wait for him to play catch up.
“Wot?”
Look at me dear!”
“Yeah……I am lookin…..you are not doing cooking now!”
The phone musak stops to permit a voice on the line, “hi, how may I provide you with excellent service today?”

So don’t forget to add your name to the “original post list” and help spread the word for the giveaway, wouldn’t like to miss anyone out.


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Suck on that!

“Honestly Madz! You're such a sucker!” offers my worldly wise pal. [translation = American]

{And there was me thinking that it was only Brits who contracted people’s name to a single syllable!}

In the background I hear a debate in the family room, first echolalic and then deliberate.
“Mummy is a sucker?”
“No, she is…..suck ….her, you dumbass!”
“A suck her?”
“Yeah, she not a suck him coz she is dah wimmins!”
“Oh right!”
“Mummy is a suck her, Mummy is a suck her, Mummy is a suck her.” It sounds vaguely normal, in a most disconcertingly offbeat manner.
“What it is?”
“What?”
“What it is dah ‘suck her’?”
“I don know.”
“Mummy is dah bad suck her.”
“Yeah she don suck no good.”
“Wonky.”
“Yeah wonky teef.”


I don’t think I have often heard my children discuss me. Still you never hear anything good about yourself if you ear wig. Maybe I exist afterall?
“Mummy is a bad suck her, Mummy is a bad suck her, Mummy is a bad suck her,” they chorus and giggle. They add their own sucking noises to punctuate the spaces and display their prowess. I wonder if anyone else is listening?

“So you really think that's gonna work!” I return my attention to my pal, although I feel a tad uncertain of my ground.
“Yes. Absolutely. It is the perfect solution. Background noise. White noise. It's exactly what they need to send them off into blissful sleep.”
She peers at the controls, “You really think sticking them in a room with that thing, that thing that makes waterfall sounds is good for them? He'll think he's drowning, you'll traumatize the little guy.” I look at the options, “I don't suppose 'rain' will do it either?” I mumble. “It does have volume control and a timer!”

“Maybe you could rip that chip out of the machine and install it in the kids?” As always, she has a valid point.
“I'm sure I saw the 'guaranteed' words somewhere.”
“Guaranteed to what though? Make you poorer!”
“Money back!”

“So what's the theory, come on! Tell me, give me a laugh!”
“Don't be so scathing, I've put a lot of thought into this purchase.”
“Oh yeah, like you're the Queen of research or what!”
“Sarcasm doesn't become you! Can’t you go back to being a nice American again?”
“You’ve gotta stop generalizing about Americans, it’s unhealthy!” [translation = my personal translator of all things American with the bonus of psychobabble speak]
“Well, anyway. It's like this. Firstly, it's a plug in not batteries, so it won't run out of omph in the middle of the night and send them all bazzy.”
“True, but the 60 minute timer means that they'll be awake on the hour to turn it back on again.”
“There is that possibility if you're being negative.”
“Realistic!”


“Whatever. Anyway, the 'noise' will mean that it'll drown out junior's motor mouth which is driving his brother barmey.”
“You don't think that the noise of the machine together with motor mouth might just send him over the edge?”
“Can you turn yourself back into a positive minded American again please?”
“Stop generalizing!”
“Anyway, next there are a choice of sounds to meet different people's perspectives.”
“O.k. so assuming you discount the rain, the waterfall, the rainforest which is also bound to be a bit drippy and the ocean. Far too much water all round for that OCD little guy. So what does that leave you with?”

“Er, heartbeat and summer night.”
“Have you forgotten we live in California? Every night is a summer night, just open the windows.”
“Heartbeat?”
“Sure!” [translation = I’m sure that note of derision is growing.] “You know those nights that you can't sleep yourself? What can you hear?”
“Er my heartbeat, pulse and breathing?”
“Do you find it helps?”
“Er no,…… it makes it worse.”
“Do you still have the packing and the receipt?”
“Ah…..well…….you see…”
“You Europeans don’t have a monopoly on saving the planet you know! We Americans file our receipts first and then recycle.”
I would appear that I need to practice my sequencing skills.

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