Archive for the ‘pets’ Category

School choice

Robin

Within hours of his eleven + result, Robin had decided he wanted to go to the local High School. L & I preferred the school a little further, a bus-ride, away. We collected recommendations from parents of older children. Both schools were heavily praised, but L & I had a sense that the more distant school was closer to what we wanted for Robin.

We sat down with Robin and L made a list of advantages and disadvantages of each. He was resolute, we tried to sound open-minded. We completed the exercise and agreed to give it some more thought.

Separately, L & I came to the conclusion that we couldn’t find evidence to support our hunch; certainly not evidence that overrode a lengthy bus journey, a 30 minute earlier start to the day and difficulties collecting him from after school activities. And so, Robin will be going to the local High School next September.

Eliza

Bumble suffered a stroke and did not recover. Gabe asked if ‘the curse’ had struck again. It did feel a little like it had: three gerbils, three hamsters and two guinea pigs under Eliza’s affectionate care have perished. The pet cemetery in the front garden gets (a little) bigger.

Gabe

Gabe was shocked at Trump’s victory. ‘Why doesn’t the rest of the world refuse to trade with America?’ he wanted to know, forgetting that the UK will soon be desperate for a trading partner. He is genuinely interested in politics and well-read for his age. As he reflected on the succession of dispiriting election results in the last 18 months,  assured him the 1980s had been similar with defeat after defeat for the progressive, left-leaning causes and candidates.

Quiet birthday

Gabe

All of the children’s birthdays are recorded here, with a note of the theme of the party or event. Gabe’s 15th was the quiet birthday. He had refused the option of a party, a meal out with friends, or a cinema trip. L had the idea of a visit to the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. “No, thanks. Don’t want to spend my birthday in the car.” He was, he said, happy to have a quiet day. A meal at a pizza restaurant? No, pizza at home. 

And he was happy. A football match, the last of the season, in the morning. Then a quiet afternoon, cheerful and sociable with us all, pizza and presents. L and I briefly worried about some sort of social anxiety, but it’s more like a preference for no fuss and self-possession. 

Eliza

Eliza’s desire to have pets surfaced again. ‘Yes,’ we said to a question about gerbils and knowing how she stores and accumulates riches like a rodent, ‘you can buy them’. Bumble and Bianco, two small brothers, live in a cage in her room. She seems satisfied and her own brothers happy to have them around without the responsibility of looking after them. 

Robin

Robin’s team qualified for the cup final to play at Trafford United’s ground against the only team they didn’t defeat during the season. On a bright, sunny day, with a loud crowd around two sides of the pitch, the opposition took an early lead. Robin had the best chance to equalise in the first half, but missed. He saw little of the ball, with the other team’s defence outstanding. The second half continued with the other team missing chances. Robin was moved into attack and deep into the second half, screened a bouncing ball from a defender and as it dropped on the corner of the area, volleyed it past the keeper. His team clung on through full, then extra time. Robin took the first penalty and scored. After 4 penalties, the score was tied 2-2. Luke made a diving save and then took the final penalty, scored to win the final and man of the match. Robin revelled in the experience, particularly enjoying playing in front of a noisy crowd. 

Resurrection guinea pig

Eliza and Robin

The story of Easter was of Mr Skittles, the one-eyed guinea pig, and his grave illness. On Good Friday, he was found immobile in the hutch. No better after a couple of hours, Eliza, Robin and I took him to a Bank Holiday vets in Cheadle. A vet pulled his limbs, stretched him and scrutinised him. Trauma or brain injury, she suggested before injecting him with antibiotic and muscle relaxant. This set Mr Skittles gasping and he was rushed away to be given oxygen. ‘We should think about his future,’ the vet cautioned. Eliza and Robin understood.

With nothing pressing and the weather wet, we decided to give it an hour and we went to a cafe. The kids were subdued, but realistic. An hour later, prepared to say our farewells to a chronically sick guinea pig, we were back at the vets. ‘He seems a lot better’, we were told. Back home, we kept him in a box in the hall, fed him some red pepper and tried to give him water. Eliza took on the task of administering his antibiotic course.

I woke first the next morning and lifted the cover of the box to find him looking up at me. Back to the vets where they discharged him. By Easter Sunday he was back in the hutch with Dandelion – risen again.

Gabe

Gabe has joined the local gym. He has completed the induction, which has warned him against using the weights. He has been there twice – he rides the bike, runs, uses the rowing machine and the upper body exercise machines.

 

 

Guinea pigs and going out

Eliza and Robin

Their campaign has succeeded. Two guinea pigs – Dandelion and Mr Skittles (who is blind in one eye) – have come to live with us. ‘Rescued’ from a local family whose daughters had lost interest, they are healthy two year old creatures, removing some of the risk of premature demise. The pets sit contentedly on the kids’ laps, more serene than the skittish guinea pigs I have known. And each morning (although just six, so far) Eliza and Robin have let themselves out of the back door before breakfast to feed, stroke and check on their new pets. One morning Robin reported that they were fighting. This is the behaviour their previous owner warned us about and that has led L to name their home, ‘Brokeback Hutch’.

Gabe

The last two Sundays, Gabe has gone out with his friend J and two girls, whose names came up for the first time earlier in the month, when they held a joint birthday party. Gabe and J have caught a lift or a tram to meet the girls, go to the cinema, their homes and a café, spending the afternoon and early evening together. A Facebook post from J announced that Gabe was “officially going out” with one of the girls. Just a joke, Gabe explained. But he is officially going out like a teenager and when he’s not he’s officially on snapchat and Facebook like a teenager.

Embracing failure

Gabe

Gabe’s identification by the school as ‘gifted and talented‘ is beginning to lead to changes in his education. He has been invited to learn Arabic. He was also invited to attend a speech by an ex-basketball player, turned psychologist. The audience was challenged to set themselves stretching targets beyond the curriculum (something Gabe had dismissed in a chat with me recently), learn from strangers and look upon failure as being the step towards learning something new. Gabe responded positively to the talk. I hope he can put it into practice.

Eliza

I have had another bout of pet lobbying from Robin and particularly, Eliza. She wants “a white rabbit, the size of her fist, with one ear up and one down, with a twitchy nose, but not red eyes – as they’re evil!” It’s a funny pitch and one that’s hard to resist.

Robin

Running an under 12 indoor cricket match at half-term I found myself a player short. I thought of playing Gabe as an over-age player, but offered a game to Robin. He accepted, but was anxious in the build-up – even though he knows a lot of the team from school and sports club. But he performed admirably, playing some nice shots, only being dismissed once and bowling straight – recording a wicket maiden in his second over. Gabe came to watch – only he didn’t: leaving the hall when Robin was to bat because he found it too stressful.

Silver no more

Robin

Robin’s gerbil, Silver, fell ill and died in the space of one day this half-term holiday. Robin held him at the vet’s as death took hold. L described him as looking like McNulty when Kima was shot on The Wire. Of our three gerbils, only Romano lives.

Gabe

Gabe is a dedicated TV watcher. Evenings, when the other two are in bed, are his perk. He’s inquisitive and sometimes has to be stopped from viewing unsuitable programmes. He walks the line with Top Gear, Stop the Week. Yet, the programme he chooses to watch most often is an animated children’s programme, Arthur. Its eponymous hero is an anthropomorphic aardvark. Similarly, all his friends, teachers and neighbours have animal heads on human bodies. The story-lines are ethical plays about children coping with each other, with difference and with challenges. It’s wholesome and so is Gabe’s attachment to it.

Eliza

I saw the last 20 minutes of Eliza’s gymnastics session. In that time she did around 20 practice back-flicks and another 20 jump-start cartwheels. But, no, she assured me later, she wasn’t dizzy.

Boys who read

Robin

Connect-4 has for weeks pushed reading aside, with a football book tolerated if L or I insist. Then Robin picked up and began reading one of the Astrosaurs series. We have read them to him before and they come with Gabe’s recommendation. But this reading is focused and outcome orientated. He updates me regularly on his page number. He read to himself in a whisper on the landing on Saturday when he woke before he was allowed downstairs. Now he’s finished his first book and started another. Yet, I’m not sure how much he understands.

Gabe

Gabe’s bedtime reading has returned again to his hardback 2010 World Cup books. The challenge he sets me is to give him four teams he hasn’t read about in recent nights. An alternative is his book on the history of the Olympics. My role is to pick an olympiad for him to read about – one he hasn’t read in recent nights.

Eliza

Baejae’s even-money bet was lost. Eliza was upset but seems to have a tough shell to protect her. L set aside an afternoon for some Baejae memory fixing, writing and drawing about him. Of the kids, Eliza continues to be the most consistently interested in the gerbils; for example, taking the lead in cleaning their cage before they went to stay with friends during our holiday.

Another gerbil drama has played out yesterday and today. L found Silver with a bloody tail. The cause is uncertain – fighting, the vet thought; our suspicion has fallen on a new neighbhour’s children who were alone with the gerbils for a few minutes. The vet presented two options, of which I selected surgery, to remove the tail-end where the skin had been torn off. This was performed successfully today. A groggy Silver was brought home with a one-third length tail.