Archive for April, 2010

Games we play

Eliza

Eliza and I had an intense and arduous hour in the garden moving from the house to the fence and back without touching the grass. We had three rafts which protected us from the lawn crocodiles: slide, see-saw and car. We climbed onto the two front rafts and then dragged the third in front and moved forward again.

Gabe

Gabe has been introduced to monopoly at a friend’s house and back at home has opened up the personal monopoly L bought for my 40th birthday. Gabe revels in fining opponents for landing on his properties and trying to force a deal in the auctions. Handling the money, and the overall complexity of the game seem to appeal to him.

Robin

Robin enjoys two board games – one with pirates and the other with spiders – that involve rolling dice, moving counters and the threat of an abrupt reversal if you land on the wrong space. He wants to win, but not so much that he cheats, but only that he can whine if not winning and cheer a victory.

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Reading stories

Eliza

Eliza goes to bed with the book that L or I have been reading with her. She carries on reading to herself – aloud. Why doesn’t she read in her head? It’s too boring.

But she’s a confident reader: putting expression into the words. She has also been reading stories to Robin, in the morning and when L is getting their tea.

Robin

Robin told L that he was going to read the bedtime story – Eliza had taught him to read. He picked ‘Down by the Cool of the Pool’. On each page he remembered most of the rhymes and for authenticity, pointed at the words as he told the story; only there wasn’t much coincidence of his words and those he pointed to on the page.

Gabe

Gabe is reading through books so fast that he often complains of having nothing to read. His recent favourites are the Astrosaur series, which he has been completing between tea and going to sleep.

Do you find me attractive?

Robin

Much of Robin’s speech comes direct from kids’ movies: “awesome baby”, “now I can look at myself naked” and other exclamations. L was taken to one side by his nursery teacher, who explained, as though not completely amused, that Robin had danced, shaking his bottom at her and then turned and asked, “Do you find me attractive?” She may not have been aware of the Madagascar reference.

Gabe and Eliza

Their two years age gap shows when dropping off at school. In the early spring, taking Gabe in early for choir practice, he usually sprinted away from me without a farewell, anxious about being late. On a normal school morning, he concedes an embrace, but turns his head away, conscious that he may be under peer observation.

In the playground Eliza begins pleas to spend the day with me or with L. She essays defiance, “I’m not going in”. Coaxed to the classroom door, she continues to resist. Grasping my hand, holding on to my head when I bend to kiss her goodbye, making no moves of her own towards the classroom. She’s upset, but doesn’t cry. Does she believe she can be snatched homeward from the threshold of school? I guide her to the door, unhand her and turn away.

Kingdom of Fife

Robin

Robin’s affection for his Grandpa and Grandma during our stay with them was deeply touching. Soon after arriving, he asked Grandpa to bend down, and then kissed him when his face came close. He pulled up his shirt to have his tummy tickled with Grandpa’s beard. He ran up to both grandparents to give them hugs and told Grandma she was the best grandma in the world. He sobbed when we drove away.

Gabe

Gabe was put out that Robin would be joining us for a game of football on the East Sands. With Gabe’s running impeded by a chest cough, Robin ran to fetch balls thumped across the sand. He passed and shot at Gabe’s prompting. For almost an hour we shared the simple pleasures of kicking, dribbling and running after a ball on damp sand. Gabe told me, by way of apology for his initial ill-temper: “I never knew I could have so much fun with Robin.”

Eliza

While the males played footie, Eliza immersed herself in beach art. Using a child’s plastic rake, she gently brushed and coaxed the sand into a large, lop-sided heart, beside which, in italic lettering she wrote ‘mummy’.

After nearly an hour on the beach, I lead the kids to the playground. Soon they had invented games for the hammock swing and rope roundabout, which unleashed an unselfconscious noise of shouts, giggles and whoops. The other families around the playground looked away from their kids to watch mine.

Bank Holiday Monday

Gabe

To Cheshire’s largest shopping village to find the trainers Gabe has been seeking. He is to pay half the cost as they are to supplement recently bought trainers which cause Gabe intense distress because they flash – a feature that is too babyish for an 8 year old club footballer. The trainers aren’t in stock (I wish I had shared with Gabe my own fatalistic approach to shopping before we left). But they turn out to be bright yellow. L plays a perfect Mum role and points at style-free blue trainers of the wrong brand and asks why these aren’t perfectly suitable. Gabe doesn’t have the words to explain and we leave without his booty.

Eliza

Eliza establishes before we arrive that she won’t have anything bought for her today. She’s a little moany and tired (except at the playground), so wants to be carried. She livens up in a kitchen-ware store where she displays unprecedented devilment: rattling cutlery, knocking it to the floor, picking up and banging pans. She’s in a happy zone and won’t respond to being warned and told off. We have to leave the shop and quickly previous low levels of energy are restored.

Robin

Robin is gaining confidence with pens. He presents me with a series of pictures – the first time he has drawn me. Each have large round eyes and few other features, making them look like images of skulls. Just one in the series has hair, a full crown of spikey hair.

Mini-olympics

A bright spring afternoon and the three children to look after. The times when I can play with all three together are quite rare and ever so enjoyable. Robin and Eliza were attracted outside by a vague idea of mini-Olympics. Gabe soon followed. I refereed long-jump, high-jump, broad-jump, javelin, chocolate egg and spoon race, with Gabe the leader in all – until egg and spoon – but without any unmanageable upset. The only adverse event came when Eliza’s second javelin toss (under-arm throw of a kid’s baseball bat) went over the fence and broke our next door neighbour’s garden light.

I was then drawn in from my official’s role to take part in three-legged race, hockey (with plastic golf clubs) and football. The events were keenly contested and good humoured. Gabe went beyond what I would expect of an eight year-old oldest sibling to keep the others’ motivated and celebrate their successes.