Sam and Nina's Home
The Thyr Web Log

The latest from Sam and Nina

Today Sam went to the second of two advance induction sessions at Orleans, the secondary school he will be attending in the fall. We took another boy in our car on the way there, and when Demi Lovato's new song came on the radio, Sam didn't hesitate to sing along. The other boy, who has known Sam since reception, didn't bat an eyelid, leading me to feel a large rush of friendliness towards him. When we left the school later, we had to walk through a throng of the school's students who were waiting for the bus. Two were wrestling, one was swearing, and many were looking gormless. Sam commented on the one who was using "bad language." Seeing them, combined with hearing Sam on the trip down, made me worry that next year Sam will be eaten alive. But trusted sources assure me that the school is good, so I will just have to hope for the best and do whatever I can to support Sam.
Nina played her cello at The Big Racket on Tuesday night. The Big Racket is a concert where older children, with reasonably advanced skills, play, and the Year 3 children who have been learning strings for three terms participate to the best of their ability. The sound is truly wonderful and it is a fantastic experience for the kids who haven't been playing for long to be part of making such good music. Nina enjoyed the experience.

Today Nina won a bronze medal in the floor and vault competition at the RGA. She was in a group of seven. Her good friend from school also won bronze in another group. We felt Nina had done very well, and she seemed pleased with her performance.
This past week we watched Nina perform at the Wider Opportunities concert at school playing the cello. The children did so well, and Nina seems to really love the cello. We are so glad that she will have the chance to carry on next term.
Sam performed a "skills rite" this morning in his "literacy mage" capacity. The rite involved holding nine pebbles to his head to help internalize different skills, such as spelling and humour. This stems from "Chronicles of Ancient Darkness" combined with his class teacher.
Sam's parent/teacher meeting went very, very well. His classroom teacher, Ms B, is absolutely fantastic, and he is learning so much. Not only that, but he seems to be coming into his own socially in a way he never has before. Ms B has helped bring Sam's writing up to a standard I never would have imagined him achieving.
The kids both performed in Showtime 2013 in March. It was a fantastic show and the kids did so well. Not only did they dance wonderfully, they also thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Yesterday was the day of Sam's Annual Review. At the Annual Review, we sit around a small table in the Turtle Room (or maybe the Rainbow Room) with Sam's class teacher, the SENCo or assistant SENCo, sometimes both, and sometimes the learning support assistant. Yesterday was the first time a speech-language pathologist has attended, and the SENCo for the borough school that will likely be Sam's secondary school was also present. The meeting went well, but there were a few things raised that were difficult to hear. The assistant SENCo had asked Sam to meet her, and she had then come late to the meeting on purpose. She asked Sam what he would have done if she had not come, and he said he would have waited, right there, for over an hour.
Ms B also said that she had asked Sam to invite a couple of boys to a friends meeting. My guess is that biscuits would have been provided, but Sam had been given two weeks to do that, and hadn't gotten to it.
Add to that Sam's distress this morning-- it was very cold today, below zero celsius, and Sam was going on a field trip. When I reminded him about the field trip he was very happy because it meant he would miss PE and could wear his long johns. When I told him the trip was only for the morning, he was very upset, and blamed me. It was not a pleasant start to the day.
At school, Sam's class teacher has decided that Sam no longer needs a home/school book. I see her point, but I still have a lot of trouble on days like this, when I know Sam is going to school upset, and I know the school will not know. I have a strong suspicion that the school thinks I am extremely over-protective, and that may be true. It seems to me that they do not even quite believe that Sam was actually ill the first day of the trip to Hindleap Warren (he was, his temp was over 40).
But Sam has been positively challenged by his current teachers, and he is truly relishing working with his primary teacher, so that is good. Sam seems to mostly feel proud of his increased independence. He is walking to school on his own more often than not. His extracurricular activities continue to go well. At home he has moved through an archery phase and back into Legos, thanks no doubt partly to the Lego advent calendars.
Nina won a silver medal in her recent tumbling competition, which was fantastic. School seems to be going reasonably well for her. During the choir concert the evening after the tumbling comp, Nina, to put it mildly, did not display proper concert conduct. H. and I made it clear that we were quite disappointed, and she seems to have taken that to heart. She wrote me what seemed to be a sincere apology. It probably didn't help that I actually helped lead the choir that night (very last minute arrangement). Nina is still enjoying dance and has gotten much better at tennis over the past term. She has also loved hanging out with her friends at the swimming pool on our long swimming evening. Sadly one of her two besties there has now left for a different pool, and Nina herself may have to switch days after her next ballet exam, but at least she has one more term with her bestest bestie at the pool.
On a personal note, for the last four weeks I have been working two mornings a week, from 8:30-1. The positive side has been bringing home a paycheck, doing something more challenging and rewarding than, say, cleaning, and meeting people outside of school. The negatives-- less time for everything, and repetitive stress injury. (I have to get a very heavy box out of a very low cupboard-- can only be done on my knees. Have just tonight ordered a garden kneeler that I hope will help.).
That will have to do for this installment. I still haven't written about last summer... maybe next month.

After a really good summer, that I hopefully will write about in more detail at a later date, the kids have returned to school.
The first Friday after school began Nina came home with a Superstar award, and today Sam did, so the kids are off to a good start.
Sam seems quite happy at school this year. He is being challenged and his teachers are skilled and enthusiastic. He applied for, and got, a role as a mediator. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he wears a blue sash on the playground and tries to help younger kids resolve their conflicts. Several other kids in his class are also filling this role. Sam enjoys the responsibility. Sam is becoming more and more independent. He is now walking to school on his own on Mondays for early basketball, and on Tuesday evenings, he needs to walk on his own for about six minutes from the pool to the ballet studio. I am very thankful on those occasions that he can use his mobile phone (my old one) to let us know he has arrived safely.
In a week, Sam will be taking the Tiffin test, an exam to try to gain admission to a very good but extremely competitive school. 1700 boys take the test, and 140 are accepted. We have tutored Sam mostly ourselves, although he did go to a week of intensive tutoring at the end of August. How he performs will likely depend a great deal on the day, but either way, it will be a relief to have the test behind us.
Nina had more difficulty adjusting to being in Juniors than I thought she would, but now seems to be mostly happy at school. I was very proud of her tonight. She has been asking for the past two terms to try modern dance, the class after tap. I finally gave in and told her she could try it this term. Last week she refused because I had forgotten her ballet shoes. This week she was upset at the start and it seemed like it could go either way. Almost all of the kids in the class are significantly older than she is. But when one of her favourite songs came on, she decided to go for it, and she got right in there with all the big kids, and she caught right on. The girl is seriously strong-- she can lie on her tummy and lift her legs and arms while smiling. Amazing. It is so wonderful to see both of our kids using their bodies, that is something I always hoped that they would do.
Nina's artistic side continues to develop. They have already been given Christmas card templates, and she has been hard at work on her design, a design that is far more developed than her card last year.
Nina's arm is finally mostly healed, but the rash has been diagnosed as eczema, and she will likely need hydrocortisone cream off and on for the foreseeable future.

This afternoon we belatedly celebrated Sam's 10th birthday with a cricket party at Marble Hill Park. I had found the cricket coaching outfit online, and had exchanged several emails with the administration including a confirmation email earlier this week, but at 2:15, there was still no sign of the coach. Just before the party was meant to start, H. got in touch with the coach's office, the coach had apparently broken down in North London and would not be able to make it.
That could have meant disaster, but thankfully, three of the dads who came were able to help out. One dad actually umpired the entire match, another umpired for half, and a third provided essential equipment and helped with organization. Another couple helped me with the party tea and with looking after Enzo, our guest dog. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon, and Marble Hill Park is such a lovely cricket pitch, and that all helped too. I had been worried about the cake, but it was fine, and in the end, everyone had a good time. Enzo, the dog, even helped rid one of Nina's friends of her fear of dogs. He was fantastically well-behaved throughout. Sam was very pleased with the afternoon and with his presents. This was the first time he had received several monetary presents. We let him know that some of that would need to go into his savings account, and he was OK with that, although Nina was alarmed on his behalf.
The kids had their last day of school two days ago, on Friday, so they are now officially both in KS2.

Yesterday Nina went to her second-ever sleepover. Her friend's mom came and picked Nina up from the cricket pitch, where we were watching our church team play and Sam was intermittently keeping score. The mom was very smart and took the girls swimming to tire them out. The sleepover went well-- the girls fell asleep a bit after 10 and slept until 7:30. Nina was tired today and a bit clingy, but she was happy to have gone and reported on the fun things that she and her friend had done.
Sam did a lot of cricket practice when he wasn't scoring the match yesterday, and he fell asleep in record time, by 9:15.
Sam was off two days last week with a fever. It turned out he probably had a minor middle ear infection, so hopefully that has now resolved, although he is still holding his ear and sensitive to loud sounds.
We went to the Big Lunch today at church. It was cold and rainy outside, so they had set it all up inside, which actually turned out to be better than the outside set-up, as it seemed more friendly, and it was easier to hear the musicians. We all enjoyed ourselves.
Nina was rather tearful this morning. She had another toenail issue, and as she is just coming off a week of antibiotics for pulling a hangnail and developing an infected toenail, it was hard to stay calm about this new toenail trouble. Me losing my temper resulted in her being upset, and round and round we went. But tonight I tried a new tactic-- I made a flow chart, showing our current circle, starting with Nina feels nervous and ending with Mommy is cross/upset and Nina is sad/upset, and showing possible ways to change the outcome at any given point in the flow chart. This seemed to be an effective strategy. Nina understood it so well that she developed her own flow chart for what she could do when she feels nervous at school. Currently her pattern ends in going to the medical room-- she herself came up with ideas for how to change that to a more positive approach. We will show it to her teacher when she returns to school in a bit over a week.

Yesterday Uncle Hans and Auntie Marianne arrived at our house at about 10 in the morning. After fika (coffee&biscuits) we prepared for the May Fair. Hans &H went with Nina to the ballet studio while Marianne and I took Sam to the church in central Richmond where he would be singing with the choir. We were lucky with the weather-- for the past few years it has been very cold during the May Fair, and last year it rained, but this year was sunny and warm enough (although a bit chilly in the shade). Nina's performance went well; I got to see it on video. Just after Nina's dance, H. was called up on stage to assist two "escapologists." I'm sorry I missed that as it sounds like it must have been quite entertaining. :) Nina was pleased that H. was rewarded with candy for his participation.
Sam seemed to enjoy the choir performance. The main choir sang a couple of Cat Stevens songs, and Sam also sang "Strike the Viol" by Purcell with the chamber choir.
When we all met at the Fair, we spent quite a lot of time at the Vineyard School stall making smoothies on the smoothie bike for nearly everyone in our party. The kids went on the swingboats, and then we went to meet the greyhounds and both kids happily pet them. Nina introduced Marianne to the Helter Skelter, Sam played Ring the Bell, and then it was time to leave. H. took Hans and Marianne up to the Roebuck to admire the view over the Thames and enjoy an English ale in the sunshine, while the kids and I returned home to regroup after the morning. When Hans, Marianne, &H returned they had "Random Hug" stickers on as it was apparently "Random Hug" day. For the rest of the evening Nina gave lots and lots of random hugs. :)
We had a lovely dinner all together and then it was time to say goodbye. We hope to see you back soon Hans&Maja and thank you for the lovely gifts as well! Thanks to you I have trattkantarell stuvning to look forward to!
Today began with Sam's second cricket match. At his first, he did some good batting but didn't run, but he took two wickets clean-bowled, including one against a friend of his from church. During today's game he also did some good batting and did one stumping while bowling.
Nina went to gymnastics as usual on a Sunday, and then after lunch we were off to the London Pet Expo. I don't think either kid really understood what a pet show would be all about, and Nina was a bit nervous. But they both loved it. Nina pet so many cats and dogs, and even pet a rabbit and a rat (!). Sam stuck with petting some dogs, had a close encounter with a German Shepherd that went reasonably well, and was intrigued by seeing some of the breeds he has read about in the Encyclopedia of the Dog in real life. We got to watch agility, obedience, and fly ball, and the kids even got to do a mini-agility course against a dog. That particular bit proved problematic as the Shetland Sheepdog was a bit faster than Nina, but petting the rabbit helped Nina recover. It is quite amazing really that we were able to do this when before Christmas the mere thought of being that close to so many dogs would have been terrifying for both children.
Nina has been doing much better in her maths tests at school. Turns out practice at home really helps...

Last night we held a "Healing Party" for Nina. Nina has been struggling with the temptation to scratch her skin for a long time. I have tried many approaches without success and finally decided to offer her a party as a reward if she could let the most tempting spots be long enough for them to heal. She exhibited excellent self-control and by Thursday the one on her arm was almost invisible. Unfortunately H. was out to dinner on Thursday night so we decided to postpone until Saturday, which turned out to be not the best choice as temptation was too difficult to resist. We pushed the party back to Sunday and I realized again the importance of giving rewards as soon as the target is achieved. So last night we hung our party bunting and served ice cream sundaes with lollipops stuck in them, Coke for Nina, and pineapple juice for Sam. We stuck an iPod in Nina's pink Build-A-Bear and played Kraftwerk and Kasabian at Nina's request. Nina was pleased with the party atmosphere. Grandma had sent along a couple of books for the kids, not specifically for the party, but it seemed an appropriate time to present them. She gave Nina "Linnea in Monet's Garden," and Nina found it captivating. Nina requested a visit to the actual garden in France. I hope we can take her there at some point.
Cricket season has started for Sam. On Saturday he did some scorekeeping for the All Soul's church team. It was a very cold day but he was warmly dressed. He was able to concentrate for awhile but then wanted to do some practice batting with H. (scorekeeping is a very long process-- it usually takes over an hour for one side to play). On Sunday morning Sam had his first official practice. The previous practice, the school practice, and the first game were all called off due to weather; when the game was called off, Sam was upset and wondered what we could do to change the weather. Yesterday he was so happy cricket was happening that he got himself all ready before 8AM (practice started at 10). We expect his first match, as part of the A team, to happen this Tuesday.
Nina has become a keen rope skipper. I got an extra-long rope, the length they probably have at the school, for us to practice with at home, and she has been enjoying skipping sessions immensely. It is lovely to see her succeed at skipping and have fun doing it (I never worked up the courage to attempt skipping as a child-- I stuck with rope turning).
We need to work on making sure Nina gets enough exercise/enough squeezes to help her modulate her energy level. That is an ongoing process.
On Saturday both Sam and Nina went to Vineyard football, which was great, only Nina has gone in the past. There was only one child Sam's age there but he didn't seem to mind.
The next week will be a busy one. This Saturday Nina will dance and Sam will sing at the May Fair, we expect visitors from Sweden for the day of the Fair as well. On Sunday we have tickets for the London Pet Expo (yay!), and on Tuesday, the kids will likely see the Queen, who is coming to Richmond as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour.

At the end of March, Nina took part in a gymnastics competition and won a bronze medal in her group of six. Sam participated in the Singing Festival at Kingston, a highlight of the choir year.
We are approaching the end of Easter half-term. This is the first Easter break during which I haven't enrolled at least one child in at least one day of planned activity. Instead we have had several outings, and we also had a visit from Lauren and a week with Enzo to keep ourselves occupied.
The Sunday after term finished was a lovely day with a clear blue sky. I took the kids to Kew Gardens for the day and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The break proper started with a visit to the Museum of London with N. and her boys, J., who is in Sam's year, and R., who is in Y4. The four kids get along really well, and we had a lovely time. The highlights included the storyteller, who recounted the story of the creation of the lions of Trafalgar Square, and the lunchroom, which we had all to ourselves at one point.
N. and I are both interested in things other than our geographical location which made our trip home quite entertaining. We did get back in the end, and it was good to laugh. This break has pointed out to me that I need to laugh more in general-- the whole family benefits from a good chuckle.
On Tuesday afternoon we went in to London to see the David Hockney landscapes exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art. The queue was shockingly long. One friend waited valiantly in the queue while another friend and I took our all-combined six children to Waterstone's at Piccadilly where the kids relaxed with books. Even when we returned, the kids needed to wait for quite awhile, but everyone kept it together. Both Sam and Nina very much enjoyed seeing the art once we were in. Sam's favourite was a large painting of the Grand Canyon. Nina seemed to most enjoy an iPad "painting" of Yosemite.
On Wednesday morning Enzo arrived. We celebrated with a walk in the park and had a generally quiet day, as we did on Thursday.
On Good Friday we all took Enzo for a walk in the morning. In the afternoon, as a reward for filling up their latest good behaviour chart, H. took Nina to Brentford Fountain swimming and I took Sam to London Wetlands Centre for birdwatching. Nina seemed quite pleased with her afternoon, and Sam was an absolute joy to behold at the LWC. As soon as we walked in he began exclaiming over the variety of waterfowl, and it just continued in that vein for the whole afternoon. We followed a tour briefly but then Sam wanted us to strike out on our own. We visited several hides, including the Peacock Tower. I liked observing the cameras and binoculars the birdwatchers were wearing almost as much as the birds-- these people are serious. We were rewarded in the Peacock Tower by seeing at least ten swans and many different sorts of waterfowl.
Lauren arrived in time to say good night to the kids on Saturday night.
On Easter Sunday, the kids opened the small gifts the Easter Bunny has brought and ate a bit of their candy. I took the kids to church, wearing their Easter bunny ears/hat with chicks in it, and we celebrated there with an all-ages service that ended with party poppers. Upon our return home we had a fine lunch of smoked salmon, beet and cottage cheese salad, roast new potatoes, and walnut bread with homemade butter. We took Enzo for an afternoon walk, then had a small Easter egg hunt at home and fixed a tasty dinner.
Easter Monday H. and I took the kids and a friend of Nina's bowling. Nina's friend came back and played for a bit, which was brave of her as she is hesitant about dogs. Enzo is such an easy dog inside that he did not complain about being closed out of the TV room. On Tuesday Lauren and I took the kids to the Hampton Court Funfair. Nina and I still haven't completely recovered from the Winter Wonderland Funfair ride so the kids took it easy but enjoyed themselves. Wednesday evening Lauren babysat while H. and I went out to dinner, which was fantastic, but resulted in some distance regret (distance regret: that familiar heart-wrenching feeling for those living far from their families/very good friends about the effects of that distance). We had a lovely dinner. Lauren had a rather tough babysitting stint because it included having the kids say goodbye to Enzo. Nina in particular is very fond of Enzo and will certainly miss him.
Thursday morning we said a fond farewell to Lauren, then went off with friends to visit the Tower of London. Sam was very happy to see the ravens, Nina was glad to see her friends. Nina still believes the historical actors may possibly be real which is very sweet.
And that brings us to today, the last day of half-term. Today we need to do homework, and we will have chicken korma for dinner for the first time since Shrove Tuesday. (Sam gave up chicken korma for Lent. Next year he says he may give up screens for Lent... we'll see how that goes.)

A couple weeks ago we finally talked the doctors into syringing Nina's ears. That was very rewarding as they were able to remove quite a bit of wax. I think that has helped with her reading volume as in one ear she had only a very small space where the sound could hit the drum clearly. Although the ear situation was resolved, Nina continues to have some skin issues that are causing her discomfort. I hope that those resolve soon.
Sam went over to a friend's house last Tuesday; they practiced cricket with the friend's mom, and all seemed to enjoy the afternoon. Sam has been practicing for the Greek play that they'll be performing for the parents this coming Thursday. He thinks it's great fun that they're all wearing togas (his toga is yellow, his favourite colour), but it has been a bit difficult for him to have the normal school routine interrupted. He misses his usual lessons, although he enjoys the drama practice. Sam has gotten more interested in football again, and has been playing sometimes at break. It's great that he feels confident enough to try a range of activities during his playtimes.
This was watching week for both Sam and Nina at ballet and tap. Both did very well. Sam made all of the parents smile during tap when he announced to the whole class that his choir director says "You can make magic." Miss H took it all in stride and said, "I've always liked your choir director." Miss H deals with both Sam and Nina amazingly well.
Nina has been struggling with social issues at school a bit lately. We have done our best to support her in working these out and we hope that soon she will reach a positive status quo. She has also needed to adjust to losing her place among the very top of math achievement. Since her class began doing 40 sums rather than 20 (or 15, I can't remember) in their timed math test Nina has not scored as highly as several of her friends. While we are not worried about her math skills, not being at the top may be a bit difficult for her to get used to. I was very pleased today though as she was able to improve on her score of last week.
Tomorrow Nina is participating in her first-ever gymnastics competition. She has been practicing hard on Sundays and I really hope that she will have fun at the competition and that she will be pleased with her performance.
The day before Mother's Day in the UK Nina went to a craft workshop with a good friend of hers. On Sunday I got to open the gift she made-- a lovely felt envelope with backing fabric, a heart applique, and "Mum" embroidered on the front. She was so proud of her work and rightfully so, it was a beautiful gift. Nina was so incredibly sweet on Mother's Day. She woke up early because she was so excited, and she laid out all four (!) cards she had made for me. She told me many times during the day that she loved me. In the evening I thanked her for making the day so very special and gave her a really big hug.
H. has been travelling more the last couple weeks. The kids are dealing with that well. I am probably having more trouble than they are this time. :) I find it is much harder to stay consistently even-tempered when I don't get as many breaks. But for the most part it has all gone smoothly. I was very pleased on the walk up to school this morning as the kids entertained themselves leaving me to finish waking up. :) The biggest hurdle will be facing another screen-free day solo on Sunday.
Both kids are very pleased that it looks like we will get to dog-sit for Enzo again for a week over Easter. They are also looking forward to seeing our good friend L. who will be visiting during that break.