Category Archives: The Boy

Sparky: Ten Years Old!

We did it! We made it to double digits!

These birthday photo posts are getting very long. I think that makes them all the more special, don’t you?

Ten entire years ago, during a humid heatwave, we unexpectedly found ourselves with someone who wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another nine weeks. In those nine weeks, I had to correct the galleys of one book, deliver the first draft of another, unpack from the move, create a nursery, and perform in a rock concert. All that was rearranged, rescheduled, or cancelled (for me, anyway): the galleys were corrected in the hospital (yeah, I’m hardcore that way; HRH FedExed them to the publisher for me as soon as they were done), t! took my place onstage with Random Colour (I dictated basslines to him over the phone from my hospital bed), the delivery deadline for the first draft of the other book was moved (bless my editor at the time!), the nursery was hastily finished while Sparky was in the neonatal unit, and unpacking happened when it happened.

One…

Two…

Three…

Four…

Five…

Six…

Seven…

Eight…

Nine…

TEN!

For what it’s worth, he showed that striped shirt to me yesterday and said, “This is too tight on me now.” We’ve been weeding clothes out of his drawers on what feels like a weekly basis, and he’s eating an awful lot. Not a lot at a time, just frequently.

Oh, let’s add another one where’s he’s actually smiling.

One decade ago he was born nine weeks early, and we’ve been trying to keep up with him ever since.

Books books books books Lego books Minecraft books Pokemon books.

He’s wearing size 10-14 or large youth shirts, and size 9-10 pants for length, although we have to cinch the waists. He’s wearing youth size 2 shoes, and more of my socks and some of my more fitted t-shirts are mistakenly ending up in his drawers when the laundry gets put away.

This year at school he ran into math problems because he didn’t have a basic handle on multiplication/division/fact families. But then he discovered fractions and blazed through those, and plotted coordinates were fun, too. Grade four is the first year of provincial exams here, and we’re waiting on those results.

He’s sensitive, funny, loves sharing stuff he’s interested in, actively tries to engage his sister in play (until she tries to direct said play, that is), and adores puns. We have a special family game or movie night with just the three of us every Saturday night, and it’s a blast.

(We just watched Jurassic Park in two goes, because while he was happy and awed for the first hour, when the T-Rex ate the lawyer it was all “WHY ARE YOU LETTING ME WATCH THIS THIS IS A TERRIBLE MOVIE” and we had to stop it. After a week of getting used to it, he proposed watching the second half, and he was fine. Now he’s changed his idea for his birthday party from a spy theme to a Jurassic Park theme. Uh-oh.)

He’s a terrific kid, and we’re looking forward to the next decade with him.

Owlet: 44 Months!

These updates are getting challenging. I remember Sparky’s growing much harder to write around this point, as well. There aren’t as dramatic leaps forward as there were earlier; it’s like everything is just a bit more developed or precise than it was last month.

We spent Easter weekend in southern Ontario with my parents, and visited the RBG while we were there. They were hosting an exhibition on frogs, and the kids were enthralled.

We walked through the permanent collections after seeing the frogs. The greenhouse room between the main building and the collection building was full of spring flowers. Walking in, the scent quite literally hit you like a physical blow. It was warm, spring-damp, and gloriously colourful. I wanted to stay and just drink in the smells. Owlet wanted to pet all the flowers, and was sad to leave that room.

But then we took her to the wee indoor koi pond, so it was all right again.

After our stroll through the collection, we saw that there were people with kids gathering for a presentation, so we sat down with them and were treated to an interesting talk on local flora and fauna. Talking about the frogs led into the host showing two snakes and talking about respecting the participants in the local ecosystem. After he was done, he invited the kids to make a line to come up and touch the snake, with the idea that if they actually experienced one firsthand, they wouldn’t have misconceptions about them and hopefully perpetuate that respect beyond the RBG doors. Sparky and Owlet were right there in line, and Sparky was fantastic, helping Owlet hold her fingers out and stroke the snake. It was pretty special.

Owlet has given up her naps at home. We don’t even try on weekends any more; we just set her up with craft stuff and she works quietly for an hour or so. She’s down to forty-five minutes at preschool, too, and only because her educators run them ragged!

I bought her a new pair of size 10 canvas shoes to use as indoor shoes at school this spring, but she’s taken to wearing them at home. She calls them her coronation shoes, and it took us a while to figure out that she meant carnation shoes, because they have flowers on them. She also has new rain boots, which have ladybugs on them. They clash with her spring coat, but we don’t care. She’s really lengthened out; a couple of her dresses are definitely tunics now. We’re into size 5 in most brands now.

Her current favourite books are the Henry and Mudge series and Madeline books. She doesn’t have a favourite movie at the moment; she’s happy to watch anything and everything. She does tend to suggest Miyazaki films first, but we have a house rule that if the sibling absolutely does not want to watch whatever has been suggested, they can say no and have to propose something in return that the sibling agrees on. Negotiations can drag on until they both agree.

There’s been a recent language upgrade; everything is more precise and stories are more involved and complex. Her artwork is refining, too; she’s still very into coating an entire page with colour, but now she draws things with circles and dots and says they’re actual things, not just abstract shapes. We started a pen pal exchange with the other July 2011 kids from my online mums group, and she had loads of fun chopping up bits of card stock and gluing them onto a butterfly shape.

And she dictated her penpal letter to me, then signed her name. Now, I talked her through how to make the letters, but this is the first time she’s ever shown interest in actually printing out her name. She did an amazing job!

She and Sparky are really good at playing together. She’s starting to stand up to him and codirect the play, and he’s starting to allow her instead of ploughing right over her like he was doing a few months ago. A couple of weeks ago they were working on a Secret Project downstairs, and when they brought it up to show us they were so proud of it. It’s a family portrait in Lego, and we really love it.

(Sparky and I have owls, HRH is holding a drill, and Owlet has flowers.) I’m so happy that they worked on it together, making artistic decisions and allowing one another those decisions. The Owlet minifig has black hair, for example; that Sparky didn’t insist on blonde hair is quite impressive, because he’s a perfectionist. Owlet’s capriciousness is teaching him to let go a bit.

Oh, Sparky…

While doing groceries this morning, I got a voicemail from Sparky’s school. He had called to say that he’d forgotten his lunch at home.

Except he hadn’t. There was nothing left on the floor of the entryway when we went out the door. And he had the lunchbox in his hand when I dropped him off at school.

When I got home, I double-checked the fridge, the entryway, and the back seat of the car. Nothing. So I threw together another lunch and took it to school, along with a note that said yes, he had remembered his lunch; he’d had it with him when he got to school, so it was probably in the schoolyard somewhere.

I certainly hope he finds his lunchbox, because I bought him a new drink bottle-thing yesterday, and it was not cheap. (Well, it was, actually; that particular single bottle was on clearance, but it was the last one, and the only reason I’d bought it was because it was marked down, because new the prices are stupidly high.) Also, I’m not a fan of the idea of having to buy a new lunchbox two-thirds of the way through the year, or replacing all the terrific nearly-new containers in it.

Apart from his lunchbox mysteriously vanishing between the schoolyard gate and his classroom, things are mostly okay. He got his second-term report card a couple of weeks ago and it was quite decent in most areas except math, and his French had dropped a bit. He got a plaque at a recent assembly, an award for being a risk-taker — which, if you know him, is both puzzling and great. He doesn’t trust himself to try new things or go out on a limb very often, so if a teacher recognized that particular value in him, then that means they’re doing a great job making him feel safe and able to be more daring in various areas of his life. (Risk-taking isn’t something out of the blue; it’s one of the values stressed in the International Baccalaureate programme’s philosophy. The IB programme embodies ten values: it aims to develop learners who are inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. These ten values are underlined and revisited again and again in various modules and units, as well as activities, educational approaches, and teaching styles. It’s awesome; basically, they’re educating upright citizens of the world, the educational environment suits Sparky very well, and I am all for it.)

He has run into a roadblock with long division, with which I completely and utterly sympathize, since I did in grade four, too. (Mine stemmed from a sudden switch into doing math in French, and the French way of doing long division is different, which created a lot of stress and confusion at home when my dad tried to coach me through my math homework.) He is not a fan of having to do extra work to understand how something is done, so a few bonus long division problems every couple of days on top of drilling a multiplication table or two nightly is moaned and whined about regularly. There is much dragging of feet when I remind him to study his French vocabulary, too. Basically, anything that was not directly assigned by a teacher that needs to be handed in or checked in class is seen as the Worst Thing Ever, because we’re obviously manufacturing extra work as some kind of punishment or just to make his life miserable. Sorry, kid; what’s actually happening is we’re teaching you how to study and how to break tasks down into smaller components so you learn them thoroughly instead of just zipping through them and barely passing a test. He tends to rush through things and not question the answer he arrives at, something I’ve been trying to teach him to do when he finishes a problem. If you’re dividing 348 by 4, for example, the answer cannot be bigger than 348, and if you use simple logic, it can’t be bigger than half or a third of it, either; if it is, it means you went off track during your process and either multiplied two things together incorrectly or multiplied the wrong two things (something that happens with great frequency in his division). He loves to learn; he does not love to work. (As an aside… we were so right to switch schools. He probably wouldn’t have hit this until high school if he’d stayed in the other one.)

He’s on March Break next week. There’s at least a hot chocolate date, a bookstore trip, and hopefully a movie planned. But he’s not going to be happy when I remind him to keep up with his math practice.

Catching Up

December was, predictably, somewhat frenzied.

Work:

I edited a math book (or rather, a parent guide to math from pre-K through grade 5), and found a case of plagiarism in the second chapter, plagiarism so glaring that the author had even copied the mistakes and misspellings from the website. This is not the way to my heart. I documented it thoroughly, finished copyediting it, and sent it along to the editor, whose problem it is. It took me a while to calm down, though.

When I handed that in, I got another project immediately, which I edited over Christmas. It wasn’t as intense a schedule as last Christmas when I worked on a manuscript three times as long (with issues, oh, there were issues with that one), but it was enough to keep me busy. (And stressed out during yesterday’s ice storm that had our power flickering as I raced my deadline. Fun times.)

Just before Christmas, I also got a very interesting query from a major game studio concerning my availability at certain points in 2015 and wondering if I’d be interested in talking about handling some copyediting work for them. Of course I was. Am. Whatever. Let’s see what happens. Today I had my small panicky meltdown when I was asked what my rates were, and now I’m fine. It just needs to go through the contracts people in HR or whoever it is, now.

Music:

My teacher’s studio recital was a couple of weeks later than usual this year, taking place on December 21 instead of the first weekend of the month.

I am very happy with how my piece went. HRH filmed it with his iPhone for me, and I finally watched it a couple of days ago. While it sounded like the intonation was a bit odd overall, I suspect that is more due to the church and the poor wee iPhone striving mightily to record me seventy-five feet away, because it sounded fine under my fingers. Did I mention how happy I was with how it went? As in, no qualms or destructive self-criticism whatsoever? I don’t think that’s ever happened. I think doing this Wagner piece was very good for me. I’m sure my teacher will have comments when we view her (much better) video of it this weekend at my first lesson of the year, of course, but I am sure she will also be very excited about how well it went.

Christmas break:

We hosted Christmas at our house this year again, and both sets of grandparents joined us. Dinner was lovely, and we even managed to get the good china out this year. (We didn’t go so far as to dig out the good cutlery. Let’s focus on the small victories, though.)

I think the gift we were the most excited about receiving (apart from watching our kids be thrilled about everything they unwrapped) was our set of Paderno pots and pans. We gleefully stripped all the mismatched and bent stuff off the pot rack and hung all the new shiny ones. Cooking with them is a dream: they’re heavy but well-balanced, they sit level on the elements, and they clean up in a breeze. We adore them. The other big thing was that HRH designed and built Owlet a dollhouse for Christmas:

More details about that will come in her 41-months/January post, whenever that happens, since the 40-month/December post isn’t even up yet. Maybe I should declare amnesty on that one and just jump to the January post.

HRH and I took Sparky out to see Big Hero 6 after Christmas, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. Two days later, HRH’s parents came to spend the afternoon with Sparky and Owlet while we went out for lunch and to see the last Hobbit film. It was so unusual for the two of us to be out together, let alone without kids, and the experience was very enjoyable. Sparky told us how lucky we were to see two films in one week, and I had to point out that since HRH and I only see two or three films in a theatre each year, it was more like we were just fitting them in before the calendar restarted.

Sparky:

Sparky completed his first session of art classes in mid-December. Before it ended I asked if he’d be interested in registering for the next session, and he said ehn, not really. I gently pointed out that we’d have to figure out another extracurricular activity, then, and he buried himself in a book and ignored the situation. But when he brought all his art home the following week and we went through it, we saw some really good stuff, and told him so. We hung the canvas he’d painted, and framed a beautiful multi-media piece he called “Birch Trees in Winter” that he’d done at school, and suddenly he was very excited about going back to art. He got a pile of art supplies for Christmas from us, too (thank you, Michaels, for your crazy sales and decent-quality student stuff) and was thrilled. This year he also told us (repeatedly, in whispered asides) that he knew we were Santa. We’ve never really perpetuated the Santa thing; we’ve always told the kids that Santa is an idea, a representation of love and generosity and sharing, one of the spirits of Christmas. So this wasn’t a disappointment or a betrayal; it was more like he was confirming that he knew he was part of it, consciously helping to spread the joy and love associated with the season. He’s growing up.

Solstice also celebrated his one-year anniversary with us. We call it his birthday to keep it simple, even though we know he’s actually eight weeks older. Happy birthday, fuzzybunny Solstice!

Santa 2014!

When we got to the mall on Sunday morning, it was later than we’d planned, and the lineup for Santa was already really long (and he hadn’t even arrived to start his shift yet!). I was very proud of how both kids behaved while waiting, and I promised them a trip to DavidsTea afterward as an incentive to keep positive. “I don’t want to see Santa,” said Owlet; “I just want to have tea.” Oops? (Anyone else remember that last year, when asked what she was going to tell Santa she wanted for Christmas, she said tea? I’m so proud.)

It only took about an hour in the end, and we got a very nice photo.

The little DavidsTea semi-shop was jam-packed with people, though, so all we did was taste the teas of the day at the entrance. (They’re opening a full-sized store in that mall very soon, thank goodness. Next year, the bribe will be a bit easier!)

For the purposes of comparison and exclaiming at how the children have grown:

The 2013 Santa photo
The 2012 Santa photo
The 2011 Santa photo

Sparky, September 2014

Grade four has begun ( know, I know, I sense your mild panic, me too). His best friend isn’t in his class, but a couple of his other buddies are, so it’s all okay. Apparently now that they are in grade four, they no longer have ‘playdates,’ they ‘hang out,’ and they don’t ‘play’ at recess, they ‘chill.’ Good to have all the correct lingo established already.

He likes both his French and his English teachers, and his homeroom teacher is his French teacher. Instead of having everything in French (except his English classes) for the first half of the year and then switching to all English (except for French classes) for the last half of the year, this year they are doing 50/50 all the way through. Apparently a parent complained that they thought English was being short-changed last year (what? seriously? did this parent not do the math?), so it’s being done this way. Whatever.

The kids don’t have their agendas yet, as there was a printing error (oops), but they should be in by the end of this week. They’re slipping easily into homework by reviewing last year’s concepts. I was too burnt out and lacking in the energy necessary to deal with 200+ strangers at meet-the-teacher night, so HRH went, bless him. The list of chapter books they’re reading in English is terrific, and the units of discovery they have set are exciting! For example, one is theatre from classical antiquity through the Renaissance! Sparky’s as excited about that one as I am. Apparently part of this unit is music/art history/dance exploration of the associated eras, so how cool is that?

You may remember his appeal to drop cello at the end of last season. I revisited the topic a couple of times casually throughout the summer. The first round of the cello conversation went like this:

Me: I think we need to talk about why you’d like to stop entirely or take a longer break than just the summer.
Sparky: Well, I don’t like doing lessons on weekends. I want to spend time with everyone in the family, not just you.
Me: Well, that’s a good reason. We could do lessons on Friday nights, and switch our family board game night to Saturdays.
Sparky: OH, NO. We are *not* switching game night! We can stick with doing lessons on weekends. *runs off*
Me: Um… okay.

My Twitter comment at the time was: “So… I think that’s resolved? Kind of? I’ll check again tomorrow.”

A week later I sat down with him and explained that I had overlooked something. While I accept that I have to sit through his lessons and his half of the group class because I’m his parent, it’s kind of unfair to expect him to have to sit through my lesson and my half of the group class, too. That extra time plus the 45-minute commute before and after means that on weekends where we do a lesson and a group class, he’s losing two whole half-days out of his weekend. And you know, he’s nine, and he has his own stuff he wants to do. So while he considered various options (like a local teacher for him so he wouldn’t lose so much of his weekend time to waiting through my lesson and my group class) he ended up deciding that no, he really wanted to step away for a while. Okay, I said, but he would have to come to our first scheduled lesson of the season so he could discuss it with our teacher, as she might have some valuable observations and input.

I was so proud of him. He didn’t crumple in on himself or try to hide; he sat straight and explained that he thought he’d like to try something else for a while, thank you, hopefully some art classes. And my teacher handled it beautifully, being so supportive, telling him that he had music in his heart and only asking that he not ignore his cello, to pick it up and just mess around with it for fun, and giving him a hug. At that point he had to excuse himself to go to the bathroom, blinking furiously. So there we are.

He has already asked to do some drawing, painting, and sculpture instead, and our local arts centre (who runs the summer camp he did for two years) offers exactly that course for nine to twelve-year-olds, at a very affordable price. And they even allow mid-session registration, which I’m assuming we’ll need by this point. So I’ll be following up on that this week.

And this also means I get cello back to myself. It’s been fun sharing it with him, but now my time spent at lessons and classes is now only my own, too. And I can go back to weekly lessons, since I’ll be able to afford it, even taking his art lessons into account. It looks like everyone wins.

In Which the Summer Comes to an End

Hmm. I found this draft in my folder today. It’s three weeks out of date, but should be posted anyway. I’ll follow it up with the resolution below.

Yesterday, I was two days away from handing in this staggeringly large project, a project twice as long as most, done within the same time frame. Except I lost four days at the beginning because HRH was away, so instead of meeting my 45-page quota, I did maybe 30 pages total before he got home, and so my daily quotas had to be reworked until I had to pull off crazy numbers per day.

In two weeks, both the kids will be back at school/preschool full time. (Or as full time as Owlet gets, who is actually part time, having Wednesdays off.) Yesterday, I was looking forward to racing to the end of this project, of handing it in, of having the last couple of weeks off with the kids, who have been struggling but handling things relatively well this past month with both of them home and me working full time.

And then yesterday, work contacted me, and asked if I could pick up another project as soon as I handed this one in. Two week deadline. Math, of all things.

I cried, a bit. Freelancing means working when there is work and socking away the money, because when there is no work there is no money coming in. Kids don’t understand that. Sparky burst into tears when I told him and had to close his bedroom door and wail for a while.

It has been a frustrating summer. Working full time at home with both kids off school is like taking your kids into work with you every day. Think about that. Everyone’s tempers are very short, there is lots of whining, and my productivity is taking a severe hit.

I had to take it. Work has happy — my copy chief said that I’d saved them, which was nice to hear, but wouldn’t mean much to my kids.

My kids rose to the occasion, though, and allowing them liberal movie time plus working at night and overtime on Labour Day weekend meant that everything turned out okay. I’d finished Sparky’s back-to-school shopping in July (allow me to pat myself on the back here) so that wasn’t an issue. I handed the math book in on time, and decided to book off a few days, because as much as a freelancer has to make hay while the sun shines, I have been going nonstop since May. Summer is the busy season in publishing, and I was handling enormous projects with lots of details. It’s nice to know I’m valued for these particular kinds of manuscripts, but I had three in a row, and I was, honestly, burnt out. I also need to prep a four-hour workshop for this coming Saturday at Sacred Cauldron, and with my reduced brain cells, there was no way I could juggle that plus a heavy assignment again. Fortunately, there’s a lull, so I haven’t had to formally book off.

One of the huge cheques from a crazy project I did in July came in, so I treated myself to some books and some fibre, as well as a pair of hand carders. The problem is, I’ve been going full-bore for so long that even though a lovely stack of books is waiting, I keep drifting around with a work hangover, vaguely thinking there is something with a deadline I need to do first.

We did it; we survived August, a crazy, crazy month, with me working full-time at home with both kids home full-time, too. I am putting money aside every paycheque now to make sure Sparky can go to camp next summer. Not that it will be as terrible, because Owlet won’t have a break from preschool like she did this summer because her daycare closed at the end of July and her slot in the new daycare didn’t open till after Labour Day; she goes straight through.