Made-up Word Scrabble

None of the boys will play Scrabble with me.

I’ve had a lifelong love-affair with words, and they claim this gives me an unfair advantage, making it impossible to beat me without resorting to proper nouns, acronyms and creative spelling.

On a recent rainy winter day, Mr August and I decided to prise Tech Support and the Lamington away from their screens for an afternoon of board games. Mr August is the alpha male of our house, and acquired his nickname shortly after posing for a rather saucy calendar produced by his men’s social soccer team (it was very tastefully done, honestly).

As regular Scrabble was out of the question, we invented Made-Up Word Scrabble. The concept is simple. You make a word out of whatever letters are in front of you, using as many as you can. It needs to be recognisable as a word (i.e. you must be able to say it, so no long Welsh-looking unpronounceable words filled with consonants), and you must provide a meaning for your word. The usual scoring system is then applied and the words and their definitions are written down in the Scrabble exercise book. (There is an adults-only version called Rude Made-Up Word Scrabble, but I’ll tell you about that some other time).

Here are some of the words the four of us came up with. Happy Chin contributed by dancing round the table going “Ooooooooo” (which, come to think of it, could have been a useful made-up word, meaning perhaps “loud humming noise in the key of G made in order to drown out family members’ conversations.” Except there’s only 8 letter O’s in a Scrabble set. I counted).


Pitfep – very bad armpit odour

Naju – the noise made when sneezing with a heavy head cold

Bilten – half-finished project a man starts and claims he will finish when parts arrive

Pidnm – a small accident in your pants when you don’t quite make it to the toilet

Grootle – to fish around in your undies to find out what’s making your bum itch

Qedastan – a small country between Latvia and Lithuania populated entirely by Morris dancers (OK, I know this is technically a proper noun, but the boys are really good at this game so I had to cheat)

Theado – a hand-knitted cardigan for a very small dog

Tragoo – the wave you give another driver waving at you when you have no idea who they are

Bitis – an Elvish wheelbarrow full of cheese (and yes, the Lamington contributed this)


By now, we were all laughing so hard we were starting to hoteea (that is, breathe snot through our nostrils).


Silly words led to further creative silliness. For example:

Grubin – the stain on a small child’s sleeve from wiping its nose there

Trenex – laundry product used to remove grubins from a small child’s sleeve


Vochie – a tennis-like game played on the dining table with peanuts and a ruler

Festo – a Vochie tournament

(And in case you were wondering, the boys held a Festo on the dinner table shortly afterwards).

Finally, scores were tallied. The Lamington, who never wins at regular Scrabble, beat us all by a clear 30 points! An unusually whimsical imagination is very handy to have sometimes.


Coming soon: Monopoly – our adventures teaching nice kids to be rampant capitalists.



Coming soon: Monopoly – our adventures teaching nice kids to be rampant capitalists.



The Human Lamington

All families have their quirky members. With the warmer weather upon us, the beach behaviour of our youngest son reminds us all why he is nicknamed ‘The Human Lamington.’

We all love a day at the beach, but most people prefer to have contact with sand restricted to feet and ankles. Not the Lamington. While the rest of the family enjoys a dip in the sea to rinse off the sandy bits, followed by a gentle recline on a nice clean beach towel, the Lamington runs dripping up the beach, ignores his towel to roll around luxuriantly in the warm sand instead. Take a boy in a black rash vest and board shorts, cover him with a fine dusting of white sand and behold – The Human Lamington!

We laugh amongst ourselves. He’s a character, we all say. But he’s not hurting anyone, so we all smile. Until lunchtime. There’s a reason why they’re called sand-wiches, and it has nothing to do with the English aristocracy in our experience.

We are in the habit of taking an ice cream container filled with slices of cold watermelon down to the beach in summer. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as a delicious, juicy piece of sweet melon on a hot day. Unless the Lamington has dug his mitts into the container first. Then we all get to eat gritty watermelon.

When it’s time to go, we encounter the traditional Australian dilemma of sand in the car. Our favourite summer beach has the advantage of being dog-friendly, but there’s no sophisticated facilities such as beach-side showers to rinse off the Lamington. Anyway, he’d probably manage to acquire a fresh coating of coconut just on the walk between shower and car. On muddy days at junior soccer in winter, we get around the problem of mess in the car by using the black plastic garbage bag system.

Step one: remove child’s muddy boots. Step Two: insert child in bag. Steph three: pull the string tie at the neck – you can cut a couple of armholes in the bag if you’re feeling charitable, or if hot chips are to be consumed on the way home.

On arrival at home, deposit child in question in the shower, remove the bag and transfer clothes to laundry. Genius, really.

Unfortunately it’s too hot in summer to be putting children in plastic garbage bags. So the dusting down of the Lamington with damp towels begins to the predictable chorus of ‘ow’ and ‘stop you’re hurting me.’

Does this painful process deter the Lamington next time? No, of course it doesn’t. You may see him next time you’re down at the beach – he’s the one buried up to his neck in the sand. Please try not to step on his head.


Fun and games with Happy Chin

When I look back over the last 20 years of life with our eldest son (affectionately known here as Happy Chin), many days stand out in my memory. The day he was diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis; his first day at a regular day care centre; the days in hospital; the day we got the diagnosis of autism; the first time he said he loved me.

Difficult days, challenging days, emotional days, dark days. All parents know them, perhaps none better than parents of children with complex needs. But the days I remember most fondly are the funny days. Sometimes the things that happened on those days were genuinely humorous. More often than not, some effort was required on my part to make them funny.

I grew up in a family that loved to tell jokes. Making everything into a funny story was second nature to us, and I think it’s a very Australian thing to do. Aussies are great at finding humour in every situation, having a bit of fun and a laugh at ourselves and others. It’s a national characteristic. It’s also become a lifeline for me in my challenging life. However bad things seems at the time, making fun of it later (sometimes much, much later) is a kind of therapy for our family.

When he was smaller, Happy Chin loved kites, and in the absence of a kite anything on a string would do. He loved to flap the impromptu kite and watch the movement through the air. For his 8th birthday he was given a puzzle made out of X-rays of the human body. The idea was to fit them all together to make a full skeleton. Of course, Happy Chin wasn’t interested in doing this, he just wanted a bit of string taped to an X-ray to wander around with.

One day we had visitors and decided we’d go for a walk to the park. Happy Chin wasn’t going anywhere without his X-ray on a string, and the kids all grabbed one too. The adults got in on the act and before we knew it 9 of us were walking down the street trailing X-rays behind us. It wasn’t until cars started slowing down to check us out that we realised how silly we all looked and burst out laughing.

Or the time we were playing with face paints and I let him paint blue spots all over my face. I then forgot all about them until a couple of hours later when the doorbell rang and I answered the door to a couple of very puzzled-looking young men carrying religious pamphlets. They dropped them on the step and left in quite a hurry.

Times that have only been funny afterwards include the day we went to the video store and Happy Chin’s favourite DVD wasn’t on the shelf. He ran up to the counter to demand it in a very loud voice. However, the chap standing at the counter not only couldn’t understand him, but also didn’t even work there, he was from the cake shop next door. I sprinted up the shop to defuse the situation, but not before Happy Chin managed to run behind the counter, grab a box and hurl it into the air. Unfortunately, the box was open and full of barbeque shapes, which rained down on me, Happy Chin, the video store guy and the cake shop guy. There’s another two stores we can’t go back to for a while.

Or the time I took all three boys to the supermarket during the school holidays. What was I thinking? After we got over the huge fight about who gets to wheel the trolley, and I’d read them all the riot act about having to get groceries or we wouldn’t be eating tonight, Happy Chin knocked down a tower of tuna cans. Whilst we picked up the cans he turned around and smashed his fist into a display of chocolate bars.

“Whoever buys those will be disappointed,” I muttered. Tech Support, our middle son, who is very pragmatic, remarked helpfully, “They might be happy if they bought them to crush up and put on their ice-cream.” But we left the supermarket all the same. Without groceries. And I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who has bought chocolate bars recently and got them home to find them crushed. Sorry.

Don’t get me wrong. Some days even an inveterate Pollyanna like myself can’t think of anything positive. I get depressed and angry. I think I’m doing a really bad job. I wish every single person in the shop wouldn’t look at us. Or at the very least, that they wouldn’t give themselves whiplash turning around to look at us so fast. But then Happy Chin comes out of the bathroom, proud as punch at having dressed himself – in his younger brother’s clothes which are 4 sizes too small and with his shoes on the wrong feet, and we all share a laugh. It really is good medicine.