Woofless in San Jose

I have to admit that as a non dog lover, Thatcher has won me over. His behaviour is so predictable and he is so eminently trainable. He is even tempered and for a puppy, very quiet. For some while I believed that he was a dud because he did not bark, at all, ever. My knowledge of dogs is sadly limited to a handful of unpleasant first hand experiences with vicious guard dogs in South Africa, as well as the wee yipper that lives next door. Of all the things that I know about dogs, one thing for sure is that they bark.

It took some while for him to find his bark and when he finally did, it was so loud, deep and throaty that we all collectively jumped out of our skins. We now all know the occasions when he is likely to bark:- when a stranger enters the property, through the gate, not casual passers by, squirrels, but he’s learning not to, when someone treads on him by accident or when playing with his doggy or human pals.

Quite restrained for any member of our household.

With this in mind, our family enjoys our usual noisy dinner, together at the table one sunny Californian evening. Thatcher lies inert in his bed whilst we discuss fearful things. Who is fearful of what and when and why? It is a heated debate. Each person believes that their own fear is genuine and justifiable, whilst everyone else’s is ludicrous. There is very little common ground. It is probably the first time we have ever managed to be able to have such a discussion, since more usually the mere mention of the trigger word would produce mass meltdowns and abject hysteria.

“I’m only really scared of Black Widow Spiders, not other arachnids, just the Black Widows.”
“Snot fair to pick on one spider!”
“I’m think I’m afraid of pain, personal pain. I have a very low pain threshold.”
“How can you say that when you’ve had four kids Mum? The only thing I’m afraid of is dolls.”
“Dogs? You’re afraided of dogs?”
“Not dogs! Dolls.”
“I can understand that,” adds her husband, “I’m afraid of masks……creepy.”
“Dey are not creepy. Seagulls are creep me out!”
“Nuffin is scary excepting for death.”
“It’s chaos of for me, that’s what I’m afraid of,” adds the head of the household although he addresses Thatcher, not the general company at the table. Thatcher lifts his nose as his ears prick up and tears out of the room, through the kitchen into the family room where he begins to bark, frantic. The boys canter off after him to see the cause of the commotion in the back garden.
“What is it dear?”
“A giant!”
“A giant?”
“Itza ball.”
“He is being afraid of dah ball.”
“He’s not afraid of balls! He’ll play catch for hours, he never gets tired out.”
“No! He’s afraid of the ball.”
“What ball? Which ball?”
“Dah one…….dat did be came over dah fence.”
“Oh……it’s great to have such good neighbours. You really need to be more careful where you throw them dear.”
“No what?” I put down my knife and fork and go and do what I should have done in the first place.
“See…….dat is not being our ball.”
“My what a windfall!”
“No……not a windfall……a ball fall.”

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Literal Minded

My elder daughter struggles with the smoke billowed barbeque on Mother’s Day. Hot dogs for the wee ones, spicy ones for the adults along with a marinaded Tri Tip Steak, a foreign cut that we have yet to truly fathom.

She is a tour de force. Everything has been planned down to the finest detail to take account of each and everyone’s very personal accommodations. I’m ready to retire I am so impressed.

“There you go!” she beams, “the kiddie sausages are ready so tuck in guys!”
“Agh! Don touch em! Don touch em! Don touch em!”
“Why we are not be touch em! Dey are too hot?”
“No eat dah safe chips. Don eat dah sausages made outta kiddies.”

It’s always so heart warming to see the children looking out for one another! Not so long back siblings weren’t even on the radar. Such a long short time ago.

Today I am also over “here” at “5 Minutes for Special Needs.”

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Warts and all

“Argh! Don’t touch me!”
“Why? What’s the matter dear?”
“Do not be touching me wiv your poison finger.”
“It’s alright I washed them after I made the peanut butter sandwiches.
“No what? My hands are clean. My fingers are clean.”
“No you are be having dah wart.”
“Oh that. It’s tiny. I’m surprised you even noticed?”
“I am notice poison and I am notice wart.”
“That’s not a wart.”
“Yes it is. I am not wanting dah warts.”
“It’s not a wart, honest, look?”
“Do you remember last night when I screamed……when I burned my finger…..?
“Not scream………lil ole squeak.”
“Ah……so when I squeaked I squeaked because I burned my finger……now it’s turned into a blister……not a wart.”
“Blister! Blister? What is a blister is being?”
“It’s a little bubble of skin where the cells have di……burned. It’s very painful like a paper cut.”
“Blister is pain?”
“Very. You know how it is, anything on your finger tips seems ten times bigger than it really is.”
“Ten times paining?”
“Indeed.” He takes my hand in his, gently, like a fragile piece of porcelain and licks the blip, mother cat style, subjecting himself to cross contamination and any number of other evil vilenesses. He looks up, into my eyes, “all better now,” and flits away at the speed of light.

Today I am also over “here” at “Five Minutes for Special Needs Mums,” so if you’re willing to subject your blog to a withering review, just let us know?

The two giveaways are still open ready for your name either “here” or “here.”

Cheers dears

p.s. Thingamababe! I couldn’t get your comment box to like me enough to leave a message.

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To hell and back

I collect the children from school.  As usual my eldest son is disheveled.  I sometimes wonder what he believes the purpose of a backpack is in his life?  Something extra to carry along with his jacket, homework, lunch pack and other assorted paraphanalia, armfuls of it, together with the backpack.  We pause, as we always do, to stuff the backpack with his belongings, zip it up and persuade the backpack to attach itself to his spine.  It’s a time consuming little exercise, made all the longer by the excitement of the end of the day, when there is sometimes important information to share, if we could but shrug off all the distractions.
“Yes dear.”
“My friend.”
“Yes dear.”
“He…….says I’m gonna go to hell.”
“Hell?  Who said you were going to hell?  Was he swearing…….was he…….saying bad words?”
“No hell is a place …….where there is no Jesus.”
“Is it by golly!  Is that what he told you?”
“Yes……and it’s real small…..with no power……and Jesus always wins.”
“Wins…….sounds a bit like the superhero version of Christian belief.”
“Nothing…….why did he say you were going to hell?”
“I don know.  Am I gonna go to hell?  Am I gonna die?  When am I gonna die?  Is hell bad?  Is it gonna hurt?   I don wanna die, I wanna stay here wiv you.”
“Well different people believe different things.”  I watch his body contract, stiffen and diminish into a small hard lump.
I don’t know about him, but I’m ready to die right now.   I’m sure there was no evil intent behind what appears to be an innocent exchange between him and his pal.  How was his pal supposed to know that certain nuggets of information trigger all kinds of unexpected bombs. It’s an all pervasive virus without a salve. I refuse to allow another bout of OCD to explode on our lives, infest every cranny and bespoil a perfectly dandy holiday season.  He watches bemused as I stuff everything into the backpack, with far too much vigour.  Punch it into submission.  This one will not escape, “well, you’re in luck my fine fellow!”
“I am?”
“Yes, because I know everything there is to know about hell.”
“You’re an……expert….a trainer expert?”  His eyes are wide in genuine mid startle mode.  I’m sure it is the most delightful facial expression in his ever growing repetoire.
“I am.  And when we get home I’ll tell you all about it and you can ask me anything you want.”

Who needs a light saber to defend? I knew 13 years in a Catholic Convent would come in handy sometime.

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Developmental challenges, for parents


Unexpectedly, he leaps to my defense, “do not be disturb him! Cant you see he is be nit!”
“Yes I can see your mother's knitting…..she's a she remember, not a him.”
“Oh yes, I am beed forgetting dat.” I still find myself tripped up by the correct use of some vocabulary and the complete absence of other parts of speech.
“You can see it beed grow longer, look!” he beams at his father. How we love that joint attention.
“What's all this business with the knitting all of a sudden?”
“Don't ask me? He wants me to sit with him. He wants me to knit. You'll find no complaints from me.”
“What's with this sudden fascination?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. I've yet to find a parental manual that provides guidance on the subject.”
“Why doesn't that surprise me?”
“The knit one, purl one stage of development.”
“I just don't get it.”
“Neither do I.”
“We shouldn't really do that should we.”
“Do what?”
“Talk about him whilst he's……here.”
“You're right. We shouldn't.”
“You are talk about me?”
“We'd like to know why you like knitting so much?”
“Because it is nitty, nitty, nitty andddddddd it be growed.”
“Do you mean 'clicky, clicky, clicky,' er…..the sound of the needles? That clickety noise drives me wild. Perhaps you should try plastic needles instead.”
“Maybe it is the sound. Is it the sound dear?”
“Nitty, nitty, nitty!” he guffaws unable to contain his hilarity.
“Your nose is so close to the tips though. I'm surprised you haven't poked his eye out with a needle.” He screams as he covers both eyes to run blindfolded from the room at high speed.
“Ah…..that was a mistake.”
“Do you think he'll be alright?”
“Lets give him a few minutes. He has stopped screaming.”
“Do you think he hurt himself with that clunk?”
“No screaming…….so presumably not.”
“Well that's jolly annoying!”
“What is?”
“Well now……. …….we'll never know?”
“The end of another era.”

New post up on “Alien.”

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Do not pass go

We chat in the car on the way home from school.

The boys chant their respective repetitive phrases, one sotto voce, one at 50 decibels, but we're used to that kind of competitive perseveration.

“So tell me the best bit about today then, so far of course?”
“We had a visitor come and read us this book thing.”
“Innernet! Innernet! Innernet!”
“Batteries not included. Batteries not included. Batteries not included.”
“Oh really. Which book?”
“I dunno.”
“Innernet! Innernet! Innernet!”
“Batteries not included. Batteries not included. Batteries not included.”
“But you liked it?”
“Not really.”
“Then why was that the best bit of the day if you didn't like the story?”
“Innernet! Innernet! Innernet!”
“Batteries not included. Batteries not included. Batteries not included.”
“Coz it made math short.” Typical
“Do you have much in the way of homework tonight?”
“Yeah. Tonnes and I don't know how I'm gonna get it all done with these two.”
“Oh they'll quieten down a bit once we're home.”
“Innernet! Innernet! Innernet!”
“Batteries not included. Batteries not included. Batteries not included.”
“They're better!” she warns with a hint of menace. I watch her in the rear view mirror as she glares at each of them in turn, a loaded and meaningful stare, the eye ball to eye ball kind that only big sisters can do effectively.
“You're both gonna have to shut up right. D'you remember? Got it!” I notice that they both cover their mouths with their hands at the same time, as if some secret message has passed between them that I am not party to.
“Got it!” she repeats, just to be on the safe side. Muffled mutterings of 'no, no, no,' spittle out between their fingers.
“What's that dear?” I prompt, hoping that someone might just give me a little clue as to what is really going on.
“It's a new rule.”
“A new rule? What new rule?” Who is making up rules without my permission? I am the only rule maker and campaign manager around here.
“If you're too loud you go to jail.”
“Jail? That seems a bit draconian?” I'm amazed that the trigger word 'jail' hasn't set them both off into meltdown land.
“Well it works,” she pouts. I check in the mirror again. I'm not sure if fear is a good method of behaviour modification? Their eyes are like saucers.
“Even so, we need to ere on the side of truth.”
“It is true.”
“Who says it is true?”
“The new baby sitter.” Hmm. I did think that it was much quieter than usual when I returned from the dentist yesterday. My mouth was in no condition to have the usual de-brief session with an adult, as to the goings on during my hour and a half's absence. The peace does not appear to be quite so mysterious afterall.



I picture him in my minds eye, the new baby sitter, roped in at short notice. A jovial young man, quick to laugh with an effusive smile. I wonder if he realized that his sense of humour might be different from theirs? A literal mind can be a tantalizingly tortuous thing.







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Some things are best left without translation




cairn definition

noun = A mound of stones erected as a memorial or marker.
cairn etymology

[Middle English carne, from Scottish Gaelic carn, from Old Irish.]

Most people would imagine that when children have speech delays that language use should be a carefully orchestrated affair. I expect that’s correct in many households. Parents can learn a great deal from observing a speech pathologist and adopt their techniques, or an amateurish version in our case. Good parents, if they try hard, may be able to adapt their approach for a significant percentage of the day. Lesser parents have lower standards and slip into sloppy habits as the percentage of words increases over time. Some parents are so careless that they fail to keep a list of dangerous trigger words at the forefront of their brains. Words like ‘death,’ or ‘pretend,’ or ‘outside.’ Or they forget which child has which trigger words and all their derivative words. Some muddle which one cannot be touched and which one needs deep tissue massages, frequently. A small percentage of parents do not acknowledge that their home is really bilingual. As the parents get older, not only do they forget what they’re supposed to be doing right now, they also forget the very recent past.

In the recent past, we moved into our current home with two girls, a big one and a little one. It was a pregnant pause before a brother arrived. The little one’s goldfish did not survive the shock and committed suicide by hurling himself into the garbage disposal unit. The death leap was witnessed by the owner, a very short owner, who was therefore unable to count the slice and dice carnage. A small ceremonial was devised and the disguised goldfish chips were buried in the garden. We marked with the place with a pile of stones for time immemorial. But memories fade fast around here.


I drag everyone out into the garden on a blissful sunny afternoon. As usual, I bribe with the lowest common denominator, in this case, an afternoon snack. I hope that if they are exposed to the dappled fading light, they will be tempted to remain outside and play. I am equipped with last year’s bubble making machine, batteries charged, which I place strategically in front of the door as both a distracter and a barrier, to prevent them from regaining entry.

They munch in a desultory manner, scowling at my deviousness.
“What’s that mom?” she asks nodding towards the newly cleared flower bed.
“Well it looks sort like a cairn isn’t it.”
“What ‘cairn’ is?” When will I learn to think before I speak?
“Well, it’s er, it’s a memorial to mark a spot.”
“What it is ‘memorial.’?” Oh dear.
“Don’t think ‘memorial,’ think ‘marker’ instead. It marks a special spot.”
“Marker, marker! marker?”
“That’s right.”
“What colour it is?”
“Yes, dah marker, what colour it is being?”
“Oh not that kind of marker, um…..’X’ marks the spot kind of mark.”
“Why it special?”
“Don’t you see the stick of bells? Can you hear them tinkling?”
“I do not like the crashing noises.”
“Er why why why we have bells in dah garden?”
“They were a gift when we first moved in here, they’re older than you are!”
“Bells in dah garden is stoopid.” I look around my garden which is covered in painted shapes, numbers and letters of the alphabet, all evidence of the lures and entrapments to entice them into the yard by fair means or foul. Since they are never in the garden, how could they possibly know what is ‘supposed’ to be in one?

I bury my negative thoughts, and inter my ire, if not my urn. Any semblance of conducting a logical conversation has turned to ash. I consider myself lucky to have avoided the ‘death’ issue. My nerves may jangle but the jingle of bells is now tolerable.

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