Tag Archives: Funny stories

Why We Laughed the Day Our Cat Died

How do we help intense and sensitive children cope when a pet dies? If your family’s anything like mine, you threw out the rule book about what you ’should’ do in these situations long ago.

When we lost our cat this week, I just focused on being present to what my kids needed, moment by moment. Coaches refer to this as  ‘holding space’.

Kids who have OEs often have vivid imaginations and an incredible sense of humour. Mine amazed and inspired me yesterday in the way they used those qualities to bring to bring light into a sad day.

Bad news

We took our sweet cat for a check-up on Tuesday morning when she appeared, thin and weak, after several days’ absence. At lunchtime the vet phoned to say that Flissy – whose birth in our playroom six years ago Cordie and Jasper watched – had terminal cancer. By 5pm the three of us were at Flissy’s side while she was gently put to sleep.

Honouring complex individual reactions

My children reacted to the news quite differently from one another.

While my 11-year-old son burst into tears, his 12-year-old sister remained dry eyed. A stranger might say she almost smiled. I was reminded of how Cordie used to get into trouble at pre-school for ’smirking’ at inappropriate moments.

Thankfully I know my daughter. I know how deeply she feels things, and I know how hard she works to find strategies to process her intense emotions  I honoured her reaction, (while part of me was thankful that my son, at least, wanted the hug I craved too).

The healing power of laughter

After gentle cuddles we left Fliss to enjoy her final afternoon in peace, and set off for the river with our dogs.

The jokes started in the car. I’ve shared some below. I warn you – the humour was dark. If you’re upset by conversations about dismembered feline corpses you should stop reading now.

The children talked about getting a new cat, giggling at the blatant tastelessness of having that conversation before Fliss was even gone. My daughter googled local pets for sale. We joked about arranging to pick up a new cat on the way back from the vets later.

An eavesdropper might have thought us heartless, but I knew that humour was helping my kids cope with something that might overwhelm their sensitive and intense souls if they focused on their grief for too long.

The intensity of our shared experience brought an extra loving dimension to our interactions that afternoon. Sibling bickering subsided as the children raced roly-poly style down hills and competed to invent the silliest cat names.

Dark humour on the way to the vet

We laughed through our tears as we drove Flissy to her final vet appointment. My son’s humour became darker.

“I hope they give her nice drugs before they get the chainsaw out.”

* *

J: “You know, we needn’t have paid the vet to do this. I could’ve just swung her around in the carrier. I’ve always wanted to do that.”

Me: “Maybe we could ask the vet if we could have a moment alone with Flissy afterwards. We’ll pop her in the carrier and you can have a little swing?”

* *

“Do you think they’d let me keep a paw? Or maybe her head?”

Saying goodbye

In the vet’s surgery tears rolled down our cheeks as we stroked Flissy’s warm, velvety fur for the last time and felt her tiny body go limp beneath our hands.

Before settling up I asked the vet, “Do you still have that swing outside?”

The children ran out to play. (No cats were swung.)

Home alone

As we drove home my son said sadly,

“I keep thinking of all those experiences she never got to have. Meet a panda … eat her first diamond.”

I suggested he might have a future as a grief counsellor. For the right sort of person.

“Yeah, they’d have to have a very black sense of humour,” he replied.

Back home, I quietly removed Fliss’s food bowl from the counter.

“How about we ditch dinner and order Dominoes pizza?” Jasper suggested. ” We could watch that episode of The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon gets all the cats.”

And that’s what we did.

“I feel so sad,” he said softly at bedtime.

“I know sweetie. I do too.”

We hugged.

10 Things That Happen On Birthdays In Overexcitable Families


What are birthdays like in your house? Are they peaceful, happy occasions, when children play nicely all day long while their smiling parents celebrate another successful year in their child-rearing career? Or are they more like this …

(1) The pressure starts to rise months in advance as the birthday child begins tortuous deliberations over what present to choose. A week before the big day he’s narrowed it down to two options. You misguidedly try to help by offering to get both, whereupon your son bursts into tears, wailing, “But that would be so selfish!”

(2) By the eve of his birthday the pressure has mounted to meltdown levels. When you go in to kiss him goodnight, you naively ask if he’s looking forward to his birthday and are dismayed to be told, “No, it’s going to be awful! Just like last year.”

As you cast your mind back to the fun he seemed to be having at the theme park you visited on his last birthday, your son continues, “And just like Christmas. Why did we have to be at their house! Why couldn’t we have stayed at home?”

You grope for a way to stem the tide of vitriol and turn the mood to pleasant birthday anticipation. “You’re looking forward to your presents, aren’t you?” But it’s too late. “No! It’s awful having to pretend I like my presents when really I hate them! Like that rubber octopus that the eyes broke off within a week!” (Referring to a stocking-filler squidgy toy he played with 24/7 until not only its octopussy eyes but most of its tentacles were worn away.)

You eventually calm your distraught son by reassuring him (fingers crossed) that in the morning when he opens his presents from his immediate family he can be completely honest in his reactions to his presents.

(3) The big day dawns and birthday boy wakes, smiling and refreshed. He glances happily at the little pile of wrapped gifts and opens the card his sister hands him. Each card then has to be opened before any presents are unwrapped, “because I’ve opened one card now. It would be unethical to ignore the rest.”

(4) You’re delighted when your son asks to go to the climbing wall as his birthday treat. All that exercise will help use up some of his psychomotor energy in preparation for the sugar rush that is birthday cake.

(5) Less auspiciously, he wants to follow up with ten-pin bowling. Despite your best efforts to end up in last place yourself, your heart sinks as birthday boy’s final ball barrels into the gully, an enormous zero flashes onto the scoreboard, and the inevitable meltdown ensues. You drive home in silence.

(6)  Your daughter, whose latest passion is watching cake-decorating videos, has decided to decorate her brother’s birthday cake with his favourite video game character. She’s planned it all out in her imagination but despite your gentle suggestions that she practise, she’s never actually made icing, drawn the design or used a piping bag before she attempts the project on the big day.

Temmie birthday cake - overexcitabilities and birthdaysYou’re thrilled at the result of her efforts, but your daughter  is tearfully crestfallen at the apparent chasm between the cake she designed in her imagination and the one she’s managed to create.

Many hugs and the birthday boy’s exclamations of delight later, big sister is consoled, and you all sing Happy Birthday.

(7) Birthday boy helps himself to an enormous slice of chocolate cake and you brace yourself for the sugar roller coaster.  All goes well as the kids run straight out to the trampoline, though when they contort arms and legs into monster limbs using one of their dad’s sweaters, you suggest they move the game onto a less bouncy surface.

(8) Disaster. Wagamamas doesn’t have a side table available for dinner. The four of you squeeze onto a bench in between a dad with his two daughters and a twenty-something couple. You smile apologetically as birthday boy expresses his feelings about having to share a table. Times like this you really want to explain that your son is not Veruca Salt, he’s just incredibly sensitive to noise, light and touch (on the best of days, let alone at the end of an overwhelming, sugar-fuelled birthday).

(9) Back home from the restaurant, your daughter finally cracks from the pressure of being nice to her brother all day. You spend fifteen minutes cuddling, wiping tears and appreciating her for being such a lovely sister.

(10) 10:30PM. Birthday boy comes to show you he’s solved the 3D wooden puzzle Grandma gave him and to describe the life cycle of a star he’s just learned about in his new space encyclopedia. He hugs you tightly and tells you he’s had the best birthday ever. You collapse into bed smiling, exhausted and relieved.

(How many days until the next birthday..?)

* * *

What are birthdays like in your house?

What are your top  tips for maximising the fun and minimising the meltdowns?

I’d love to hear from you, in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page!


Don’t forget to write your email address in the box below or at the top left to receive my weekly posts about life in an overexcitable family straight to your inbox. 🙂 

10 Things that Happen to OE Families on Vacation (that probably don’t happen to other families)

10 Things that Happen to OE Families on Vacation

1. When getting ready to pack (a week in advance), you pull up your ‘Holiday list – winter’ document from your computer and save a new ‘2016’ version, colour-coded according to the location of items. You then spend half an hour meandering through lists from bygone years, growing teary-eyed as you cast your eyes over things like sippy-cups, toy cars and bedtime song cassettes.

You later arrive in the mountains to discover you haven’t brought your daughter’s ski gloves, while your non-OE friend who packed without the assistance of a list hasn’t forgotten a thing. How do they do that?!

2.  The middle-aged couples on two separate nearby tables ask to be reseated in the hotel restaurant because your exuberant son doesn’t understand the idea of an inside voice, let alone a polite restaurant voice.

3. You find yourself explaining Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration to your daughter who wants to go skiing but is feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of getting into all her gear. ‘So if you use your wonderful imagination to envisage all the fun you’re going to have out on the mountains, and if your brain could break down the process of getting ready into bite-sized chunks, what would you do first?’

4.  You’re not the least surprised when your son, who’s been leaping around at breakfast shouting, ‘C’mon! Let’s hit the slopes!’ announces, exhausted, at bedtime, ‘I never want to go skiing again!’ In fact, you could have written the script.

5.  You run your hands through your freshly-washed hair in the hotel elevator, then turn around and are shocked to see your daughter on the verge of tears. ‘I’m sorry! I just can’t take the smell of your hair combined with Jasper’s humming in this small space!’

6.  Your husband asks, ‘Do you mind if I eat pistachio nuts?’ as you enjoy a pre-dinner drink together in your hotel room. ‘Sure,’ you say, reaching for your headphones and white noise app.

7.  Your 10-year-old wears the same T-shirt for seven days straight because he doesn’t like the colour of any of the other six you pulled out of his wardrobe when you packed the suitcases.

8.  Your daughter’s thrilled to discover there are 15 sequels to the book she’s reading at the start of your holiday. She finishes the series on the flight home.

9.  At breakfast on your last day, while contemplating the eight hour journey home, you have a lively family discussion about teleportation, time travel, worm holes and the nature of consciousness – subjects no one ever tires of.

10.  You experience the blissful sensation of ASMR as you drive home past glassy Italian lakes and  breathtakingly vast snow-capped Alps.


Every single one of these things truly happened to us last week. So come on, tell me – is it just me?

* * *

What’s your favourite family vacation story?

Anyone else get blissed-out on scenery?

How do you deal with the overwhelming task of packing?

You Know Your Family Has Overexcitabilities When…

You know your family has overexcitabilities when...

1. You let your son leave the table and roll around the floor with the dogs in the middle of dinner because you know he has to get the wiggles out if he’s going to eat his meal.

2. Everyone has their own peculiar relationship with socks. When you’re going for a winter walk you allow an extra 15 minutes for your son to arrange his seams so they don’t rub. You ask your daughter if she’s been wearing odd socks after you find a couple of mismatched ones in the dryer. She’s aghast. “How could anyone cope with uneven pressure on their feet all day?” Meanwhile you stock up on slippers in winter because you can’t go barefoot indoors except on spotless floors in high summer.

3. Your daughter is ecstatic on Friday because she’s found a video that teaches you how to do the splits in a week. After two days’ incessant practice she’s just a few centimetres from the floor. On Monday she’s weeping because  “I’m never going to get it! Why can everyone do the splits except me?”

4. At parties you have to stop yourself blurting out during short silences in the smalltalk, “I always wonder, what do normal people say when there’s a gap in the conversation like this?”

5. Your daughter comes down wearing a slightly-too-small T-shirt you haven’t seen for a while. She explains she felt bad for neglecting it. You understand perfectly – it reminds you of the time you cried as you turned your back on a broken but much-loved suitcase at the rubbish tip.

6. You all love board games but you’ve never managed to finish one as a family.

7. You have conversations like this:

“Jasper, it’s 25 degrees still, do you really need to wear your teddy-bear onesie in bed?”

“I like it because it makes me feel like a computer glitch.”


“Yes. Sometimes when you spawn into a video game it glitches and you get to see the hair from the inside. That’s what it’s like having my onesie hood up.”


8. Empty parks and stretches of beach are an invitation to skip (and you’re in your 40s).

9. You can’t watch reality TV shows because they’re too stressful.  Or the news. Or soap operas.  When you watch TV with your partner you keep earplugs handy, ready to stick in your ears in case someone on screen is mean. (For some reason your husband objects to you pressing the mute button in the middle of a program.)

10. You accidentally put cinnamon in your Hungarian goulash instead of paprika after your 10-year-old decides to alphabetise the spice drawer.  You’d  have noticed your mistake sooner if you hadn’t been engrossed in an audiobook while you cooked.

* * *

Can you relate to any of our overexcitabilities? I’d love to hear your favourite OE stories, if you’d like to leave a comment below or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page.

Find out if you have OEs

To find out if you or someone in your family has OEs, take the free online OE questionnaire at the PowerWood website. (Results come back by return email.)

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