Archive for December, 2010

Present opening

Christmas morning

6am – stirrings from all rooms, but the kids are on a strict 7am curfew

6.30am – intercepted on the way to the bathroom, I’m challenged as to whether the kids can open their stockings without L and me. I confiscate the stockings and take them with me back to bed. L sends me to the kitchen to find fruit, which had been missed out of the stockings.

7am – our room is invaded. We relocate to Eliza’s room and in 15 minutes Santa’s stocking – the present aperitif – has been gorged.

7.30am – breakfast is eaten at pace. Gabe, in particular, struggles with the nag interdiction. L and I finishing our tea and toast stands between the kids and the main meal: the presents under the tree.

8.15am – one-by-one, taking turns as if playing a board game, we open our presents, express delight and thanks. The living room floor is covered with torn wrapping. Eliza skids and wipes out trying to cross the floor.

The aftermath

Eliza changes straight into clothes she was given: spotty tights and a new top.

Robin changes into his Spanish football top and wears it and blue shorts for the next four days. He spends Christmas morning chasing Slithery, a remote control rattlesnake, around the house.

Gabe lingers in the living room, willing and chipping away at having set up the centrepiece of the 2010 Christmas – the Wii. In the five days since Christmas Day, the Wii has been Gabe’s default activity. It feeds, but not yet sates, his competitiveness. Eliza and Robin thrive on it too, but with lower intensity.

Too babyish


Robin has been refusing to have a bedtime story. He won’t chose, or have chosen, a book from the three shelves crammed with books in his room. Old favourites – Dinosaurs love underpants, What people do all day, Emergency vehicles – are eschewed. New departures are refused. His complaint is that the books are too babyish. But when offered something from Eliza’s library, he complains it is too girlish. L took the kids to the library. Gabe found him books and read them to him. He only agreed to taking away a single book. I am concerned this may be the first indications of a laddish rejection of learning.


Eliza ran to her room to show Crystal to Nan and Grandad. She screeched and wailed when she found Crystal curled and motionless in her cage. Crystal moved a little and Nan’s explanation of hibernation gathered a little traction. We kept Crystal warm but after a second night pronounced her dead. Eliza coped, probably helped by Crystal’s gradual demise while we pursued the idea of hibernation. L agreed with Eliza that we would wait until the spring to decide whether to introduce a third hamster into our family.


Gabe excelled in our tobagganing expedition with Nan and Grandad. He pushed himself first and most frequently down the short, steep slopes. He also went with Eliza to see her friend who was playing the woods and asked if she would like to play with us on our part of the slope.



Gabe has knowledge and scepticism in abundance. Yet belief in Father Christmas has survived well into his tenth year. Today he asked L whether Santa would bring something as expensive as a DS game. L said he probably wouldn’t. Suddenly Gabe’s knowledge burst in: how can Santa get over the copyright problem of making and giving DS games. Do parents give the presents, he suggested. L, suppressing laughter at the proto-lawyer’s concern for intellectual property, failed to apply the coup de grace and innocence was preserved.


Eliza has written her letter to Santa:

Dear Father Christmas I would really like… a neclase that is the same as my other one but if there isnt the same one just one that is like it. And because I lost the ring that you gave me last time can I have a butterfly ring please. And can I have a few chocolates. And can I have a new cup for my lunch box. Love from Eliza

Eliza responded to Robin’s 25 metre badge by earning her 50 metre badge three days later.


Robin took the day off school. A temperature, a headache, but nothing very serious. While I managed my work emails, Robin sat in the kitchen drawing the Spanish football team. Eleven little figures, each with spiky hair, jazz hands, cylinder bodies and stick legs, distributed across three sheets of A4, playing under two suns; ten with red shirts and blue shorts and one all in green.

4-3-3 formation

25m badge


Robin has moved up to the yellow cap swimming class. No flotation aids are used. This week, the teacher began by pacing out 10 metres along the side of the pool and asking his charges to swim to the marker. Robin managed it. The kids were sent back and challenged to do it again. This time as Robin reached the marker, the teacher encouraged him to keep going. Robin was heading to the deep end, with the teacher’s metal pole waving ahead of him. Robin moved with a mix of paddle and breaststroke. He stopped every couple of metres to breathe and then sank below the surface as he pushed himself forward. And so, at his first effort, Robin swam a full length. At the end of the lesson, the teacher shook Robin’s hand and gave him a form, which we cashed in for a 25m badge and certificate. Robin said it was his first trophy.


Eliza went to school on tuesday dressed in a white ankle-length skirt and with a woollen shawl wrapped around her. It was Victorian Day. Eliza and her classmates had a special assembly, held by the headteacher sporting a moustache to make the point that women didn’t fill such roles. In class, the children played with slates and baked Victorian biscuits.


Gabe has begun preparing for his 11+ exam next year. We spend an hour each week looking at test papers. He enjoys the test, scoring highly but is quickly discouraged if he doesn’t know the skill being tested.  He also tends to rush into a question, falling into traps laid by the question-setter.

Double gold


Eliza’s gym class had an end of term competition. Eliza was in a group of 5 – the youngest girls. She was last to perform the floor routine, which involved cartwheel, forward roll, splits, crab and lifting herself off the ground from a seated position. She was precise and sharp, managing to perform every exercise and smooth transitions between them. She won enthusiastic applause from the audience of families. Eliza’s second discipline was a vault, which was across the hall from where we sat. The judges gave her gold for the floor routine, silver for the vault and joint gold for the overall competition. Each award required a trip to the podium – twice to receive a medal. She looked too skinny and scared to smile. Her pleasure seemed to come afterwards, knowing how well she had done and showing her medals to us and her friends when less exposed than when in front of a crowd.


Gabe asked to make lunch for everyone: toasted cheese sandwiches. He buttered the bread, arranged the cheese slices and, with a little help, handled the sandwich toaster. Eliza wanted a normal cheese sandwich, which he also made. She complained that there was too much butter. Gabe apologised. L and I stopped him, wanting him to see that making meals is work that should be accepted gratefully by others.


This week’s freezing weather has gradually broken down Robin’s resistance to warm clothing. First went the shorts. Then came gloves and zipping up his coat. Finally, he has worn his hat. He is no keener on snow now than he was during the great freeze in January.