Saturday, 18 December 2010

A little request when you're doing your Christmas shopping (or any shopping really) ...

Big confession here: before I had kids I was one of those people who would shake their head and tut loudly at other people's children being loud/naughty/disrespectful in the shops.

I would sometimes even catch the eye of the person next to/in front of/behind me and make a comment along the lines of "I know what I'd do to the little darling" or "why doesn't the mother do something?"

I would vow and declare that none of my kids would ever dare to behave like that in public. Even after I had my kids and ended up with an Olympic class tantrum thrower (Karma really does come back to bite you doesn't it?), I would still wonder at the people who just stood and ignored their child's behaviour and silently mutter a pox on all their houses.

But somewhere along the line, I realised that everything is not always as it seems. Children who look 'normal' quite often have little (or not-so-little) issues that aren't immediately obvious.

I think having a child with autism, admittedly very mild autism, but autism nonetheless, has encouraged me to, when faced with difficult behaviour, take an extra deep breath, count to five, breathe out slowly and smile. Key word there is smile .. not sneer, grimace, frown, snarl or any of the other negative possibilities. It may make you seem like you've escaped from a lunatic asylum, but realistically, you're shopping at Christmas time .. you've escaped to a lunatic asylum!
(The anti-depressants have also helped majorly in my case ... I'm no longer at risk of expelling my vocal chords out of my throat and onto the floor due to screaming at the children. I can usually deal with most things in a relatively calm and rational manner. Now I just have to worry about my mind wandering .. it's too small to be out wandering on it's own!)

Now I know that at this time of the year, there will be heaps of 'little darlings' everywhere you turn and there will certainly be a hefty percentage of spoilt rotten little brats chucking tantrums to get what they want. You'll usually be able to hear them the second you walk into the shops and you will probably know their name within the first ten seconds as their parent or guardian threatens increasingly dire consequences if they don't "!"

However, there will also be a much smaller group of kids whose parents are seemingly ignoring the escalating wails or throwing of things out of the trolley. These parents may look slightly shell-shocked, have a look of steely determination or one of total resignation. Some of these parents are trying out a new tantrum control method (usually on their under-3-year-old) and the rest of these parents are probably like the long-suffering woman I saw at Kmart last week.

She had three children, two boys and a girl, all still in their school uniforms and all between about 7 and 11 years old. Important note here: all the children appeared 'normal' and by that I mean no obvious physical disabilities or any of the more common signs of mental disabilities.

The boys were waiting patiently for their turn to have their items scanned while the girl was chucking a major hissy fit about having her shopping taken out of her bag to be scanned by the very annoyed checkout operator. Her wails of displeasure were getting louder and louder and people were turning to stare and starting to mutter those immortal words of "what that child needs is a smack", "spoilt brat" and the perennial favourite of "I know what I'd do to her". I have to admit, I was getting a bit annoyed myself as I already had a headache and the noise certainly wasn't helping.

It was at that point that I saw the despair on the mother's face as she registered all the murmuring and tried to restrain the little girl from taking one of her brother's toys to put in her bag. I then watched as she leaned down to the oldest boy and said quietly "you know she doesn't understand, don't you? Thank you for not yelling at her and making it worse."

I then realised that in all the noise, I hadn't heard the girl speak a clear word; it was all just noises of distress. The mother was trying to apologise to the checkout girl for the noise by explaining that her daughter was autistic, couldn't speak and didn't understand why she had had her shopping bag emptied. (If the checkout operator had moved faster than the speed of dead and allowed the little girl to put her things back in her own bag, instead of insisting that they all go into a plastic bag, most of this could have been avoided!)

Due to the level of noise the girl was making, no-one else heard the explanation so the muttering and murmuring was still going on. I turned away, feeling suitably chastened as I had 'been there, done that' and knew how it felt and was silently beating myself up for not being more understanding in the first place.

The woman next to me, who had been waiting there with her three perfectly-behaved Stepford children, caught my eye. She frowned, shook her head and said "I know what I'd do to her".

My reply? (said loud enough for all to hear)

"There's no point in smacking her. She's autistic and doesn't understand."

Most of the murmuring stopped immediately and there were a few other chastened faces in the crowd.

Feeling a bit embarrassed for having spoken up, I turned around just in time to see the look of relief on the mother's face. I shrugged and smiled and watched as she walked away with her daughter now happy because her shopping bag was once again full.

So to get back to the request I mentioned in the title:

When you see a 'normal-looking' child misbehaving or making a lot of noise for what seems like little reason, remember, everything isn't always as it seems.

Stop, take a deep breath, count to five, exhale and smile. If you can't do that, walk as far away as you can.

And give the parents the benefit of the doubt. (I wish more people had done that for me!)

They are doing the best they can.

The school holidays (with major apologies to Billy Joel)

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd staggers in
Wiping sleep from their eyes, they all stare at me
Then, as one, they all begin

Mum, can I have lollies for breakfast?
It is school holidays you know
And you promised that we could go out today
But not ‘til after my show.

La la la, de de da
La la, de de da da dum

Give us some food
You’re the mother here
Give us something to do
We’re all bored out of our tiny minds
And it’s your job to fix up our blues

Mum, I need something to do right now
I’m bored and I don’t want to think
So what should I do with myself today?
Yes I know there are dishes in the sink

But what does that have to do with me?
Why do I always have to clean?
It’s not just me that made all this mess
So why do I have to make it gleam?

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Mum, I have nothing to wear today
Where are all of my jocks?
Whaddayamean they’re all on the floor of my room
Right next to my very smelly socks.

You should have washed them all by now
It is your job after all
Hey Mum, why do your eyes look so weird right now?
Mum, stop banging your head against the wall!

Give us some food
You’re the mother here
Give us something to do
We’re all bored out of our tiny minds
And it’s your job to fix up our blues

It’s a pretty good crowd for a bail hearing
The defence lawyer gives me a smile
'Cos she knows I’ll be free 'fore the clock strikes three
Every mother’s been there for a while

In the place where chocolate is your best friend
And sedatives are nothing to fear
Where you sit and stare blankly at these four walls
And wonder how the hell did I get here?

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Give us some food
You’re the mother here
Give us something to do
We’re all bored out of our tiny minds
And it’s your job to fix up our blues

Happy School Holidays everyone!

The Twilight zone ...

Cue music ....

I have typed up several posts over the last few weeks and I thought they had posted, but they have disappeared into the ether.

I will endeavour to find them and re-post them over the next couple of days 'cos I know you're all just dying to hear my incessant, sarcastic, cynical ravings on life, love and the pursuit of sanity.

Failing that, I will just have to find new material to blog about.

Be afraid ...

... be very afraid!

Monday, 6 December 2010

What I've been up to ...

You may have noticed, over in my sidebar, there's a link to a wonderful site (and person) called Bakerella. She makes the cutest little things called cake pops and I, having oodles of spare time (snort!), decided to give them a go.

My first attempt was at the (what I thought were) easier version called cupcake bites. (Having now made both kinds, I think the pops were the easier of the two; especially when dipping them in the chocolate!)

And then the Christmas Pops:

All packaged up and ready to go!

Frosty the Snowman
Christmas pudding

I cheated a bit (OK, a lot!) and used store-bought mud cakes for the centres. Woolies sell lovely mud cakes in three different flavours and the cost is very reasonable (less than it would cost to make them myself!) I used white mudcake balls for the snowmen, chocolate mudcake balls for the Christmas puddings and caramel mudcake balls for the reindeer. A little handy hint: when you crumble the mudcake before rolling it into cake balls, make sure you crumble in the icing too. I didn't do that with the first batch and they dried out and crumbled a bit before I could dip them all.

They are a bit fiddly to make, especially when you have to keep smacking boys' hands away from the decorating ingredients bowls, but are oh so much fun! And the looks on people's faces when presented with the finished product makes the work worthwhile.

I did find we are slightly more limited in our choice of decorating bits and pieces than our US counterparts but managed to find suitable substitutes for most things. I haven't yet attempted colouring chocolate (and I refuse to pay the $10 + per 200g bag for the pre-coloured choc melts off the internet) but as I have now finished working at the school for the year, I may give it a go soon. I'll keep you posted!
And yes ... they tasted as good (better even!) as they looked!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Another one of those "I'm feeling so old" posts but about Lurch this time ...

... oops I mean Alex. Peter has taken to calling him Lurch (from the Addams Family TV show) because he towers over both of us and does that shudder/groan/grunt thing so well! But back to the original topic, which was of course, me and how I'm feeling so old!

Alex had his Year 10 River Cruise last night and actually allowed me to take a few photos on the proviso I didn't put them on facebook. This isn't facebook so I figure that means I can post them all here. OK, maybe not all as blogger only allows five photos per post, but that should be sufficient to throughly embarrass him get the general vibe.
Alex and his best mate Chris being 'serious' for a minute:
(Yes Chris is rather tall .. 6'2" at last measure and he's still growing!)

He scrubs up all right, doesn't he?
(even with the silly face he's pulling!)

The whole gang:
Some of the Barbie dolls other girls:

I was sure they would all freeze because it was very windy (and I was cold standing around in jeans and a polar fleece jacket), but Alex said it was warm on the boat and they all did heaps of dancing to warm themselves up, which then prompted the thought that I hoped they all had very good 'support garments' under those strapless dresses.

Apparently they all had a great time even though it was so windy and choppy that the captain abandoned plans for a cruise down to Fremantle and just did giant bog laps from South Perth to Burswood and back to the Barrack St Jetty. Alex managed to get one picture of the lights ...
which lights I'm not sure but hey, he took a photo for me!

Chris's mum Julia picked both boys up and Alex stayed there for the night and most of the next day while his brothers had to go to school .. a fact he took great delight in rubbing in every time they mentioned anything to do with school. "No more school for me-e! You've got school tomorrow! No more school for me-e!" You'll just have to insert your own visual of Lurch trying to do a conga line on his own while singing the above chant ... you're welcome!!