Archive for November, 2010

Sandy is dead; long live Crystal


Sandy turned out to be not shy, but ailing. Rarely seen, never going near his wheel or chewing the bars of his cage, the big clue came when he didn’t eat his hamster muesli. He was still alive when L returned him to the petshop. The kids were told and Eliza sobbed. She asked to visit him and thought this particularly important if she was to accept our offer of a new hamster. He died before visiting became an issue.

So we went on a hunt for a new hamster, avoiding the pet superstore from where Sandy had come and been returned to. We found a grey Syrian hamster, twice the age and three times the size of Sandy. Crystal has a bit of rat about her, which should make her more resilient. She was ready to be handled straight away and Eliza is bonding with her, even allowing for the nip on the finger she got today.


Gabe was as upset as Eliza, finding it difficult to go to sleep the evening he was told about Sandy’s illness. The next day, knowing that Sandy had died, Gabe felt better, explaining that it was Sandy being sick that had made him so sad. He did want a detailed explanation of Sandy’s illness and worried that L’s efforts to disinfect the cage wouldn’t be sufficient.

Gabe’s school underwent an inspection. His literacy class was observed, with the inspector sitting close to Gabe. At the inspector’s insistence, Gabe was given the ‘Star of the Day’ award, for being particularly bright and helpful.


Robin is now revelling in being one of the older boys at his under-5s football club. In the short match at the end of the session, he scores regularly, gets stuck in making tackles and even heeds his brother’s advice to find space when a teammate has the ball.



Sandy is Eliza’s new hamster, received as a seventh birthday present. Eliza is charmed by having him and is counting the hours, often frustratedly, until she is allowed to hold him – 4 days after coming to live with us to give him time to settle down. In the meantime, Sandy is shy, spending daylight hours buried under a shield of fluffy bedding and sawdust that he has piled on top of his bedding.

The day before Sandy was chosen, Eliza had a trampoline party at a local leisure centre. She and eight friends bounced and played games on trampolines under the instruction of a team of three gymnasts.


Robin’s popularity with his siblings’ older friends was obvious at the party. He managed to win musical chairs and was held aloft on the shoulders of Eliza’s guests and carried across the room.

Within hours of Sandy’s arrival, Robin showed why hamsters are unsuitable pets for four year olds. L found Robin trying to rouse Sandy from his nest by tooting a party blower into the cage.


Ahead of Eliza’s birthday, L discussed with Gabe the idea of his younger sister having a hamster. She won him over by pointing out that he would be able to play with the hamster, but not be responsible for cleaning out the cage. She also conceded that he could have a hamster for his next birthday. Gabe managed to keep the secret and was given the honour of breaking the good news to Eliza on our way out of the house to the petshop.



Eliza’s best friend invited her to stay after her birthday party, to open presents and for a sleep-over: a first for Eliza and the rest of us. The girls watched a DVD eating popcorn in their bedroom. There was no midnight feast, as they were asleep soon after 10pm. The next morning they got up quietly and made themselves breakfast. The evening was a success. The next day was a disaster as an over-tired Eliza struggled from one upset to another and finally to bed in her own room.


Gabe was affronted that his little sister was first to experience a sleep-over. He had turned down a couple of invitations at an earlier time when going to sleep was a nightly anguish. But he rose above the situation and wrote Eliza a letter, sealed in an envelope with chocolates, for her to open when at her friend’s house. The letter wished her a happy time and suggested activities for her and her friend.


Robin’s laugh from a young age has been physical, fulsome and charming. Many things make him laugh: people falling over, running around after a football, wrestling, Gabe’s jokes, Grandpa’s beard. What makes him laugh most, and most reliably, are real, pretend or imagined farts.

Long weekend

The half-term holiday ended with a long weekend in St Andrews. Under cloudless blue skies Eliza, Robin and I ventured out to the long, narrow strip of woodland up the hill from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Eliza and Robin reprised a game from earlier visits when they ran through the woods, trying to beat me to the top. My route followed a path, while they picked their way through the trees and bushes. They were scratched and tripped and Eliza’s sophisticated swirly bun hair-do kept snagging on twigs. Out of the woods and along a path I spotted an eagle in a field. The kids struggled to spot it. Eliza stood on a wall, flapping her arms to be a ‘little birdie’ to attract the eagle’s attention and startled herself when the eagle turned and flapped its wings.

We visited the St Andrews pool during Acqua Run. An inflatable pontoon half the length of the pool supported an inflatable assault course. Gabe led the kids onto it and was the first to complete it without falling off. Robin, the smallest of all the kids attempting the course, revelled in the challenge, repeating the acqua run over and over again, needing to be escorted back from the deep-end of the pool where he landed from the slide at the end of the course.

One afternoon was spent with Freya, uncle, aunt, great uncle and great aunt: halloween costumes, frolics and races in the garden (notably, the bloodshot eye-ball and spoon race). Great uncle A conjured a plastic eye-ball from his hand. Standing inches away, Robin’s jaw dropped and he swivelled with an enchanted look of astonishment, providing deep fulfilment to the conjurer.