And Now, What’s Up With Sparky

Poor Sparky. He’s kind of getting the short end of the journalling stick, what with someone small and determined developing so quickly. (Someone started crawling for reals on Friday, all four limbs moving in proper sequence and her tummy off the ground part of the time, even. Child gates are in our very near future. The same someone also figured out using a sippy cup on Saturday, namely that you have to tip it up to get the liquid out. But we digress.) (See? Poor Sparky can’t even have his own blog post without her getting underfoot.) So I thought I’d throw down a few things going on in his life right now.

He split his chin open at school three weeks ago when he missed a step going up a concrete staircase into the building. The school secretary called me and asked if I wanted to take him to get a stitch put in, but I thought the trauma of having to sit in an ER for gods know how many hours before having a couple of needles to anesthetise it and then have it sewn up would be worse than the scar it might leave, so we didn’t. We used a combo of butterfly strips and plain bandages to cover it at various times, and it has healed rather well.

He got his new bike last month, an early birthday gift from his local grandparents, and he has taken to it much better than the last one. He went out for a ride here with Grandma last weekend and HRH said he was flying along. He’s finally clued in to the fact that speed helps you balance on a bike. Now of course he needs to slow down a bit to work on the finesse and subtle parts of balancing, but it looks like he’s well on his way. We passed three of the kids who are on his school bus this morning, riding their bikes to school instead of bussing, so that little seed has been planted in his head. It would be great if we could walk/bike the kilometer to the new school next year on nice days instead of driving every day.

The first weekend in May I picked up a toy archery set for him at the dollar store while buying crepe paper streamers to use for the maypole. He asked if I would teach him how to shoot it properly (as properly as suction cup arrows and a plastic bow strung with elastic can be shot), so I got my bow and arrows up out of the storage room and showed him the basic stance and such. (The next-door neighbour was very interested.) He stuck one of my arrows in the ground to serve as a measure for distance, I held back a lot, and we each shot a few times. By the third shot or so he’d clued in to the fact that you have to actually aim above where you want your projectile to land, was actually listening to me when I showed him the way to hold things and stand so that his draw was more efficient, and was getting decent distance for non-aerodynamic arrows. He was terribly excited. And then he asked me to really draw my bow, and I banged an arrow across the yard into the window of the shed. Um, oops. (Both arrow and window survived the ordeal, but it did make a very sharp bang.) He just loved it. The only disappointment for him was that the targets that came on the cardboard backing were too small to use, and that he couldn’t get his arrows anywhere near them. He wouldn’t listen when I told him there was no way even I could hit those targets; they were about six inches across.

He’s terribly into playing Pokemon Pearl, and is suddenly a fount of information about Pokemons and their evolved forms, and what type best beat other types. Blade lent him a strategy/guidebook and he studies it very seriously. We have to watch how emotionally invested he gets with it, but he’s learning a lot about managing his time, making choices that will affect his playing experience later on, and understanding that there’s a loose storyline with certain events that has to be followed in a rough order; he can’t just jump to the parts he wants to do.

Sparky brought home a card in his agenda the other week advertising a day camp run by the local fine arts centre for kids, and at first we were really excited about the idea, until we saw the cost for a two-week session. He cried when I told him we wouldn’t be able to do it (and also tossed out the dramatic “I’m going to be the only one not going to camp!” statement, which we know perfectly well isn’t true, even without other parental confirmation). But last week I looked at the school’s website, and holy cats, this is a fabulous program. And coincidentally, the mum of his best friend from preschool (who is still very much in his heart, and came over for a playdate this weekend) is working with the centre, helping with registration for the camp. I asked her for her opinion about the centre and the camp program, and she gave it all a glowing review. I talked to HRH about it, and now knowing that we can break the payment into two parts (one at registration, one a week before camp begins) and also knowing that our tax refund will arrive at the right time, I think we’re going to go for it. It’s just under thirty dollars a day, and the quality of programming will be more than worth it. And the great thing is it’s not only arts like music, painting, and choir; he’ll get to do physical stuff too, like karate (or fencing, if he chooses it, but he’ll be in the 7-14 age bracket, and I’m not sure giving him even a bated épée is a good idea), and things like science or languages. We haven’t mentioned anything to him yet, but I know I’m excited. We’ve never been in a position to give him a camp experience. (And since I wrote that, Nana has offered to handle one of the payments as a birthday present, so he is definitely going.)

We’re working on pitch and rhythm in his cello lessons, and he’s surprisingly good at being able to sing a note name at the right pitch. It’s not an easy thing to do at any age. Last lesson his teacher turned the page of his workbook and said, “Oh, this is a new note to add into the ones you already know, this will be a bit harder.” “I can do it,” he said confidently, and sang the line correctly. He’s such a contradiction. When we ask him to focus or practice (or even just sit still, dear gods), he resists, but then he tosses things like this off and makes us all blink. Ask him to play a descending D scale and he can’t, but he’ll throw one off with an arpeggio while you’re sorting through sheet music and say, “I just wrote that. It’s called ‘Ducks Hopping Home in the Rain, Quacking’.” So he’s internalizing things; he just can’t pull them up on demand yet.

Speaking of making us blink, I finally looked up his current reading level. His school uses a popular system of readers that are sorted into various levels. By the end of grade one, I found out, they’re supposed to be able to read and understand books at level twelve. Well, Sparky’s been bringing home level 26 chapter readers; that’s equivalent to late grade four. He goes up a level every couple of weeks — his reading teacher is being thorough, so she’s not leapfrogging him, just making sure he can handle each level before she assigns the next one — so it will be interesting to see where he’s at by the end of the year. I knew he was reading way beyond his grade level, but finally having the data in front of me brought it home in a very different way. I was a bit dazed.

The problem with these more advanced readers is that they take about half an hour for him to read because they’re more sophisticated, which means he’s got an hour of homework every day. This is partly because they’re more involved, partly because half of them are non-fiction (on topics like the solar system, volcanoes, geysers, trees, that sort of thing) and we spend a lot of time talking about the information in it… or dealing with fallout from more emotionally advanced information, like learning that the sun will eventually go out in five billion years and all life here will cease, which really freaked him out. He knew we’d be long gone, but — “What about all the people here when it happens?” he cried out through his tears. “And all the animals? And plants, and trees?” Sometimes empathy can suck. We’re past it now, after discussing the Big Bang reversing and the changes that the solar system will undergo in the next couple of billion years. We forget sometimes that he’s only six, going on seven.

In other school news, I love that he’s bringing home spelling tests that he has practiced for, and they’re all at 110%, but what I love most is that he’s brilliantly proud of himself. (There’s a short sentence the teacher reads at the end of the test for them to try if they want to — “I like my cat,” that sort of thing — and he has gotten them all correct… although he lost half a bonus point for using a capital P instead of a lowercase P on one of them, which devastated him.) I love that I have to rein him in when he gets a new math worksheet, because he’s supposed to work some of the sums every day and hand the completed sheet in on Thursday or Friday, and he wants to do them all right now.

It’s not all sunshine and roses. He’s having a hard time with keeping his mind on what’s he’s supposed to be doing, and doing what he’s asked or told to do when he’s asked or told to do it. He goes off on tangents and forgets what his initial task was. He perpetually says “I’ll just do this first” and ends losing himself in it, then has to rush or deal with not having completed what he’s been set to do, both of which upset him… just not enough to learn to stop doing it.

I enjoy watching him play with Owlet, who, now that she is mobile, loves to pull herself up on the chair where he’s sitting and grab his feet, pockets, legs, and so forth. He has fun trying to help her walk, although he hasn’t gotten the ‘let her walk a step or two and then rebalance yourself’ idea yet; he takes off walking backwards and she kind of drags along after him if we don’t slow him down. He loves to push her stroller, and read books to her in bed at night. He is the coolest thing in the world to her. She kicks her feet and claps when she sees his bus coming, and if she can’t see him while we walk home she fusses. The best is when he walks next to her and holds her hand; she’s in absolute wriggly heaven when he does that, and tries to grab his arm with both hands and practically pull him into the stroller with her. He’s a wonderful big brother to her, and I’m proud of him for being the person he is.

4 thoughts on “And Now, What’s Up With Sparky

  1. Prospero's Daughter

    This has me all teary, of course, only in the best way :)

    So nice to have an update on what Sparky’s up to. I can’t believe he’s nearly 7! How did that happen?!?

  2. Lu

    It’s a day of realizing how old children actually are; my friend Rose just told me that her niece turned 18 last week. ACK! SLOW DOWN!

    Glad to know he’s doing so well.

  3. Ceri

    He always looks so old in pictures where he’s holding the cello. I know it’s to scale but still!

    Lovely post. Still giggling about the song called “Ducks Hopping Home in the Rain, Quacking”.

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