Archive for the ‘passions’ Category

Reading age of 16

Robin

L attended Robin’s parent evening, where the news was entirely positive, if tinged with regret about his eleven plus result. A computer print-out showed he exceeded some benchmark across the full range of maths and English measures. Another showed that his reading age had climbed two years in the three months to December and another two years since then, giving him a reading age of 16.

Gabe

Gabe rarely leaves the house except for school and sporting engagements – playing or spectating. He has, though, been to a couple of parties recently and at those has drunk some alcohol. He’s not concealed the fact, nor dwelt on it, or thankfully, appeared to be any the worse for wear for it. I suspect he’s not liked it particularly, given how resistant he is to consuming any new flavours.

He did ask me ahead of the most recent party, if I could give him a bottle of something to take. Cider was his preference and so, for the first time, I bought my son a drink – not one that we shared together though. At the first mention of drinking, a couple of months ago, I had said to him that if he wanted to try beer, he should ask me. Before I had finished this attempt at responsible parenting, I realised how unappealing drinking with one’s Dad would be – the whole point was to take these early steps in the company of friends.

Eliza

Eliza’s solution to a day at home without any major plans is to bake. By choice, she would always bake something sweet: cookies, cakes, millionaire shortbread. Today, with everyone else but me out at a Man City game, she decided to make pizza. We walked to the shops to buy the mozzarella and passata. She served the pizzas sequentially: L, Robin, Gabe, with her own coming last. By the time she reached her own, she had run out of mozzarella and sent me back to the shops to replenish.

Spider in the corner house

Robin

Robin has developed a particular taste in buildings and houses. New or recently built homes find his favour. He has a specific dislike for exposed brickwork. Of two identical houses next to each other, he’ll praise the one with rendered exterior, but not the one with its bricks left open to the world. He has no fondness for old houses. Our own home almost comes into that category, although he likes the dining room and living room. Asked what he has against old houses and he will explain that they are ‘spider in the corner’ homes.

Eliza

Eliza came second in the French spelling bee competition, representing her form in front of the whole of year seven. She practised assiduously for weeks, moving to races against the clock to see how many words (numbers, days, countries, animals, adjectives about personality) she could pronounce and spell correctly in 6o seconds: “lundi, el oo en day ee” etc. She managed 17 at the contest, losing to a twin with a multinational background, and presumably an advantage in all foreign language activity.

Gabe

Gabe still spends a significant chunk of his time at home playing on his Xbox. He has lobbied furiously to be allowed to play Call of Duty like all his friends – and responded furiously when time and again, L and I have refused. He alleges that our intransigence is making him unpopular.

He is allowed to play Halo, another shooting game, but which has a 16 rating, not 18. It has displaced FIFA as his preferred game. We can usually hear him playing as he’s communicating – laughing and chatting – with his friends on multi-player mode, not sounding unpopular at all.

School residential

Eliza

From Friday morning until Sunday afternoon, Eliza was away from home at an outdoor activity centre with her school year. L monitored the school Twitter account for updates, but we knew little until Eliza returned. It had been amazing – one boy cried, he was so upset to leave. Climbing (at which Eliza told us she excelled), canoes, obstacle courses, swings were all part of the schedule. Breakfasts of bacon were particularly enjoyed by Eliza. She seemed most proud, though, that she had been the last to go to sleep both nights in her dormitory and one of the first to awake. 

Robin

While Eliza was away, Robin took his turn playing at the music teacher’s concert (Gabe and Eliza had preceded him in earlier years). He played his two short piano pieces calmly and precisely.

Gabe

Gabe’s twin passions of his mobile phone and FIFA video game have come together in a YouTube channel that features an Estuary English drawling man commentating his way through matches and the assembling of teams. Gabe wanders the house with his attention focused on his phone and a man talking about a simulated football game. 

Loom bands and Lord’s

Eliza

It began with bracelets, which became increasingly ornate and has moved onto animal key rings. Eliza has embraced the loom band craze, without progressing to whole outfits made of the tiny, coloured rubber bands. She has a plastic frame on which the bands are stretched and arrayed in complex patterns. YouTube provides the source of guidance on how to combine and twist the bands. It’s a healthy pastime, except for the tips of
Eliza’s fingers that get pinched sore by the taut bands.

Gabe

Gabe came with me to Saturday of the Lord’s Test, where we met Grandad and spent the day together. The day was hot and sticky and Gabe worried over visible sweat marks on his shirt. He had overdosed on pizza and coke at a party the night before and felt delicate. This was his diet during the day: croissant, coke, crisps, chips (with too much salt and ketchup), hot chocolate, grapes, slice of pizza (rejected after a bite) and then toast when we got home. But he sat patiently through the day, including a very slow afternoon session.

Robin

Robin’s desire for back garden football has altered. He still wants to play. But rather than shooting with me in goal, he wants to play one-bounce where we work together to exchange the ball with it hitting the ground no more than once between our touches. It’s fun working co-operatively and he gets to practice his skills and control.

Packed schedule

Eliza

Eliza has had an exhausting week of music, sport and school commitments. Monday: cricket practice. Tuesday: early morning orchestra, gymnastics. Wednesday: open evening visit to potential future secondary school, gymnastics grade exam. Thursday: early morning orchestra, school concert (1st violin and recorder group). Friday: piano lesson. All week, she has also been doing end of year tests in school. She comes out of the week with a pass on her gymnastics exam and a successful concert.

Robin

Robin has been accruing cricket achievements. Two wickets in two balls and three in an over. Four run outs in an innings. Dearest to me was the simple fact of appearing in a match with Eliza and opening the batting together.

Gabe

Gabe has been viewing the World Cup intermittently. The TV has been on and he’s in the room. But his attention has been divided across devices (I do the same, too). His new tablet is in front of his face, on snapchat or a game. It is pulled away to take in action replays or live action when the commentator’s voice, crowd noise or something else draws his attention.

Six pack

Two wet weeks of the Christmas school holiday are nearly over. We’ve been at home, had a few visitors, but mostly just the five of us.

Robin

Robin noticed on Boxing Day that all his presents were for outdoor activities. He found an indoor pursuit to specialise in during the wet days. L has a large, weighted hula-hoop as an exercise aide. The kids have played with it occasionally, but Robin has mastered it. First he managed one minute; then five minutes. He announced he would do ten minutes, which he did and kept going and going for 25 minutes. Everyone else who tries winces at the discomfort, but he’s building an abdomen of rock.

Eliza

Eliza is the most comfortable of the three with indoor activities. She received Cluedo for Christmas and won her second game, taking out her closest challenger with an assassination move before coasting to victory. Eliza has also been learning card tricks. She takes equal delight in developing a patter as she does with the illusion.

Eliza’s other enthusiasm has been Tutpup, an on-line maths and spelling competition. She has worked her way up the levels, racing competitors from across the world and reached 10th place on the global leader board this afternoon.

Gabe

For Gabe, the holiday means time to play FIFA. With a new TV he can do this in his bedroom. Most efforts to get the kids out of the house are met with his ill-humour as they frustrate his efforts to dedicate the holiday to PS3.

But there is another side: when we have visitors, Gabe shows charm and sociability on a level I can only aspire to. Whether children his age or younger, or adults, he talks, engages in games and continues to project to the world his mature, positive self.

Dream sequence

Eliza

A discussion of dreams while walking to school, led to an experiment. Eliza had been told that if two people are dreaming of the same place, they’ll see each other in their dream. A little like the familiar-looking spectators in the background to a Wii game we wondered. Eliza nominated McDonald’s as the location and we went to bed with that destination in mind. But the theory remains unproven as the next morning only Robin, more suggestible or less reliable, reported getting to the chosen place in his dreams.

Gabe

Gabe is in a high run of form on the football field. He has started to complement his silky midfield passing with a more physical presence – harrying and tackling opponents. He came to the fore in a cup semi-final, which his team won in nerve-wracking fashion.

Robin

Robin has followed brother and sister down the Harry Potter route. He has finished the first book in the series and is reluctant to read his school book club assignment as it diverts him from school wizardry.