October, 2008

This has been a big week for Nina. Nina has been very interested in painting and drawing for a long time. She worked for a long time on honing her representation of herself. Then she became deeply enamored of rainbows, and drew quite a lot of rainbows. Well, this week the floodgates have opened. Sam submitted a Christmas card design for school which prompted Nina to produce several Christmas tree drawings. A couple days ago she made a few carriage pictures, as in Cinderella's carriage (although she's not that into Cinderella). Today she painted a tree with herself in a swing beneath it and drew a bird. It is wonderful and exciting to watch her communicate about her world in this way. The only drawback to increased artistic production is storage. I now have a large artist portfolio jam-packed with artwork by the kids, and that got filled up before Nina had even started diversifying from the stick figure.
Also within the last two or three weeks Nina has learned to read. It started with some words in a magazine and she is now sounding out many words. Sue from Pebbles brought this up yesterday at drop-off, and said that she would contact the SENCo for preschools in the borough, as Pebbles hasn't had a reader before and isn't sure quite how to handle that. Sue assured me again that Nina is social at Pebbles and that she didn't think it was anything to worry about, but said that it would be important that her class teacher next year know about her skills as well. Nina continues to have several touch points that concern me. We can not walk from home to Pebbles-- about four blocks-- without her covering her ears several times. At Pebbles the other day she insisted on reading the name stickers for all 30 children who attend Pebbles. When she drew Christmas tree number two, there wasn't room for the door where she wanted it, and she had a long meltdown about that although I offered to take her outside and show her that in fact our very own door is not in the middle of our house. Those kinds of things are troubling, but she continues to be tuned in to emotions and to other people, so that is all very good. Nina hasn't complained for a long time about not nursing at night. I think over half-term it will be time to change the nursing to sleep pattern a bit, and hopefully by the new year she will be fully weaned.
Sam misses his teacher from Year 1. His teacher this year is stricter and doesn't seem to be as good of a match for Sam, but is hopefully not doing any serious harm. It will be good to have the parent/teacher conference later on in November. Sam's biking is getting stronger and stronger. He is now able to bike up quite a bit of the hill in the morning, which is great. Sam is still very into chess. At the Unitarian church on Sunday the kids acted out a play about Fire, Water, Truth, and Falsehood that Sam thought was very cool. So he acted it out a bunch upon arrival home as well. Nina skipped UU and went swimming, have been to CoE the week before (I do wonder about the frequency of kids who attend two churches, but it works for me, so until it doesn't work for one or both of them, I'm going to stick with it).
Nina has also mastered her Mini Micro Scooter since I last wrote and has been trying the bike without pedals more frequently. She continues to love gymnastics although she got very upset at the last session. Apparently every child gets a stamp and the ones that have done something extra special get a sticker. Well, Nina wanted a sticker but the teacher didn't want to give her one. The teacher came out and explained the stamp/sticker system and said that "saying I want it doesn't work at this gym." So I got to deal with a 10 minute meltdown about that on the drive home. Very competitive, gymnastics. I myself hope Nina will end up preferring ballet, but time will tell. Sam is doing tennis again this term and enjoying it. Good to have found a sport he likes.

Today the kids got to go to their first ever political rally. Linda, Peter, and Claire joined us as we took the train in to Waterloo to be part of an Obama rally on Waterloo Bridge. Kids' interpretations of politics are very interesting. Sam has asked several times if we're voting for Obama or Biden, but seems to now understand that they're a team. Nina couldn't understand why Obama himself wasn't there today, and thought aloud about that even as she was going to sleep. It was a stunning fall day in London and we had a lovely time. We rode in a bit early and had lunch at Giraffe prior to the rally, which was also fun. The kids all especially enjoyed climbing on the wall shown in the gallery pix. There was also an NBA demo set up behind that wall which provided some additional excitement. Sam and Nina also both loved watching a juggler who was busking between the station and the South Bank. Sam in particular is such a great audience for that kind of thing. The juggler lit some clubs on fire and Sam was mightily impressed, saying "Wow!!!" and laughing. Both Sam and Nina also liked watching the skateboarders. Nina liked the statue of Nelson Mandela that stands outside the Royal Festival Hall.

Just a couple things I want to write down so as not to forget. Nina has become so enamored of a wooden rattle she has that she frequently brings it up when she comes up partway through the night to sleep with us. At first she was OK with putting it on a shelf, but the last couple nights she has been determined to sleep with it. However, this rattle not only rattles but also dings as it has a bell in the middle. So we have had a long chat about it and hopefully tonight Nina will choose a quiet friend or will be OK with putting the rattle on the shelf.
After some success in the falling asleep department, Sam is back to square one and is having considerable trouble with this part of the day. I think he needs a lava lamp or a white noise machine, or maybe both, plus some serious relaxation training...
Sam has also become so interested in chess that he now wants to write down his moves in algebraic chess notation.

This has been a challenging week as a mom. After many months spent job-hunting, Håkan started with his new company on Monday. This meant a welcome but significant change for the entire family. There were several good things that came out of Håkan's time at home. He and Nina now have a far more solid relationship, and Nina has become much more interested in Swedish. It was really helpful to have Håkan around right after Sam's surgery, and while the kids were on summer vacation. But for our economy and for Håkan's career it is excellent news that he is now working again. However, there have been some more frequent meltdowns this week, as we all get readjusted to the working dad's schedule.
H. let me know on Thursday that he will be going to Austin for five nights. Curiously, the anticipation of an absence like that tends to be worse than the actual absence, so all day Thursday I was in a state of high anxiety. On Saturday I did emergency training with the kids: "This is how you call the ambulance... this is how you get out of the house without locking yourself out..." Both kids found that highly entertaining, but hopefully it seeped in as well. In general it has been a week of worry, as Nina broke out in a rash on Friday. It wasn't on her chest so I was not too worried about meningitis, but it is very odd, and so now, of course, I'm all concerned that she may have lupus or some such terrible thing. I think as someone who is prone to worry anyway, motherhood is extremely challenging in that regard. I think in general I need to worry less and laugh more as a mom (and as a person). It is easy to take the mom thing way too seriously, but that doesn't really benefit any of us in the end. That is where letting go also comes into the picture. Let's say some terrible thing does happen while H. is in Austin... well, then we'll just have to deal with it, or if we can't, we'll have to deal with the consequences, there is really no point in getting worked up about it now.
Nina also bit her tongue quite badly a couple days ago which has meant that every mealtime has involved a lot of tears. So today we decided she had "tongue-itis." She liked that and decided she had "knee-itis" as well because of her rash.
We got a second chess set that the pieces can be stored inside and Sam is quite pleased with it. He has been carrying it around off and on and setting up examples. That was from the trip to the mall where Nina finally got Spin Art after waiting at least five weeks so that she had saved up enough allowance. She is very pleased with spin art as well, but wants to do spin art all the time, which is a bit difficult as it really requires adult supervision. But boy, do we have lots of spin art pictures now.
One suggestion was that Nina may have a reaction to cleaning fluids that they've used either at gymnastics or at ballet. I hope this is not the case as Nina completely adores gymnastics, which is interesting, as they are very strict and very competitive there. They even have a "naughty step." Wow. This week the parents get to watch, which I am looking forward to.
Today both kids went to Unitarian Sunday school. They both enjoyed it.

Sam has come home the past couple weeks singing a song that Mr. Smith, his classroom teacher, taught him. I'm going to put it up here as I think it's an interesting statement about the differences in schooling between countries:
"My old man's a dustman, he wears a dustman's hat,
He bought 2000 tickets to see a football match.
Fatty passed to skinny, skinny passed it back,
Fatty took a rotten shot and knocked the goalie flat.
Where was the goalie when the ball was in the net?
Halfway up the goalpost with his trousers round his neck,
Singing, "Oompah, oompah, stick it up your jumper!"
Rule Brittania, marmalade and jam,
We threw sausages at our old man.
We put him on a stretcher, we put him on the bed,
We rubbed his belly with a five pound jelly
but the poor old soul was dead."
Both Sam and Nina find the "oompah, oompah" bit quite hilarious. The whole song is certainly, um, interesting. That British sense of humour...
Speaking of music, both Sam and Nina are very into the Blue Moo CD at the moment. It was put together by Sandra Boynton. Nina is especially fond of "One Shoe Blues," which is, as one would expect, a blues number. Both kids really like "The Uninvited Parade" which is sort of a quirky marching tune. Nina continues to have very decided musical likes and dislikes.
Today's note from the school indicates that the school has at last decided to intervene between Sam and a girl in his class who is causing Sam some social difficulties, so that is a very good thing.
Nina's mystery rash is much better today but she still has some blisters on her feet. Nina had a great deal of trouble going to and coming home from Pebbles today so we are re-implementing the sticker for happiness system.
We figured out over the weekend that Sam is very into drama. At the UU church a couple weeks ago the kids acted out a story with Fire, Water, Wind, Truth, and Falsehood. Yesterday Peter handed out copies to take home with an eye towards eventually putting it on for the rest of the congregation. Sam was very excited and the whole family got to act it out twice.
Sam also legitimately beat me for the second time at chess tonight...