Saturday, 31 May 2008

School Reports

School Reports

School reports - those dreaded envelopes sealed so skillfully by the teacher that any attempt to sabotage their efforts in order to sneak a peak before your parents read it were totally thwarted. Knowing that even the smallest rip in the seal would be detected by your eagle eyed parents as they were about to realise the culmination of your whole year's efforts were about to be condensed to a 4 page review. My school teacher was pretty cool about this. He let us read our reports and then WE had to seal the envelopes, on the very strict understanding that we NEVER, EVER told the other teachers or kids or parents or even the family dog that we were allowed to do this. You could always tell the kids that were going home to a butt roasting by the way they slowly licked the gummy seal, hoping with all their soul that they could lick away the awful comments penned by their subject masters. A whole year of regretting being the class idiot and wishing they'd worked a bit harder. Trying to think of ways to 'lose' the report on the way home, why was the sun shining on a day when you really need a big puddle to accidentally drop your report in on the way home? Why have a rabbit as a pet when you need a big dog to rip it from your hand the moment you get home in its excitement to see you?

This look of trepadation was the exact same look plastered all over my son's face when I collected him from school last Friday. The 'swot' look was plastered all over my daughter's face, so no prizes to guess who was bricking it the most. Joshua always does worry about our opinions of his achievements. He's a very sensitive child, very tuned in to the feelings of others and very eager to make sure he doesn't hurt anybody by his actions or thoughts. Like all kids, he has moments of anger and outburst, but usually his peformances are reactive, not antagonistic. He's had to work hard at controlling his outbursts and this year we've seen him really come on in leaps and bounds, trying hard to channel his emotions in acceptable ways. From a very violent, angry toddler he's growing up to be a charming, sensitive, caring, thoughtful and very lovely young man. He's the only 8 year old boy I know who opens doors for ladies when they come in or out of a building and he's the only 8 year old boy I know who carries the shopping indoors for his Mum and tests the bags looking for the heaviest one. His school report was testament to this when his teacher commented he cared a great deal for his friends. His approach to home learning was noted as 'an example to his class'. His input to class discussion and his determination to constantly question subject matter to full understanding made his teacher 'think hard at times myself'. He gained outstanding marks in all subjects and has built himself a fantastic basis on which to continue his education. I hope he keeps it up, he has so much potential but he's too modest to see it.

Maddie's report was equally as impressive. Outstanding achievement in all subjects. She has attained grades above the national average in her Year 2 SATS and has matured greatly during the year. She still has a tendency to become overdistraught at things that don't pan her way, but her methods of coping are maturing now. She's able to see the bigger picture and to understand that when things go wrong it's not a life changing travesty that will scar her forever. Her approach to subjects which intimidate her are inspiring. She struggled with Maths at the year beginning, but instead of shying away, she faced the fears, worked hard and applied herself. She was rewarded with top marks for her effort, achievement and content. Her ability to become totally absorbed in drama, art and creativity have already been marked as 'unique' by her teachers, even having her submitted for a talented child programme, more of which we hope to hear about soon.

So, Joshua and Madeleine. We're proud of you and what you've achieved this year. You have potential in you that has only just started to bud. Work hard and let it blossom. I love you both.


Maddie and I have started crafting together.

She has a wonderful little book called 'Fairy Things To Make and Do.'

We made a Flower Garland.

If you have a little girl, she'll love doing this and it only takes a few minutes to make each one. It's really simple and best of all, the only mess is a glue stick.

What Are Little Boys Made Of


Slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails.....

Slugs. Ugh. What on earth was God thinking when he created these disgusting, stomach-churning creatures? They are just the most putrid living things on the face of this earth.

And we have a population boom this year - all thanks to our quintessential English summer (yes, I am being sarcastic).

So, Joshua being a boy and being at the age where boys are generally disgusting I gave him the job of annihilating them. He chose the salt pot.

And with glee, he trotted around the garden looking for his squishy victims and even turned them over, 'to see the foot bubble up and swell'.

It got too gross at this point so I went inside the kitchen.

The last thing I heard through the kitchen window was the neighbour, Phillip, telling him, 'Stand back, Josh, I think it's gonna blow'.

The Things They Say


All kids come out with corkers, but Eleanor does it regularly, with the hands on hip attitude of somebody stating the absolutely blinding obvious - or so she thinks.

Today coming home on the motorway she told me that everytime I went past a lorry I scored lifepoints. She's been avidly watching Joshua and Madeleine's Yu-Gi-Oh episodes and often sits watching Phillip and Joshua play their cards so I can only assume it stems from that.

I got 58 lifepoints for going past a lorry, then I got another 51 points for going past another lorry. I got fewer points second time over because the first lorry was bigger.

Eleanor: Well done Mummy, you've gone past the lorry and you've scored 51 points.

Karen: Great! But why didn't I get 58 points like before?

Eleanor: Because the first one was bigger.

Karen: It was a bit of a whopper lorry wasn't it? (Whopper is a favourite word of hers).

Eleanor: (Very pragmatically and rolling her eyes). No Mummy, it was just 'bigger'.


Samuel, bless him, manages to goof words because he's only two. At the moment when I'm putting on my make-up he likes to put on his 'dipstick' too.


When Maddie went to the hotel recently for a manicure and lunch for her birthday Joshua told her to enjoy her 'pampicure'. I quite like that one and really do think it should be entered in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Wrap Me Up and Bake Me

I don't know about you, but some days I can be quite normal and display an auror of decent intelligence. Other days my brain goes on holiday and my vivid imagination gets temporarily promoted.

When I was heating my soup up at work today I noticed a box of cling film on the side. You'll be pleased and astonished to learn that if I took the entire roll and started at my back heel, rolled it up to my head, over my head and down to my toes, I could wrap myself up 75 times.

The Midnight Gooseberry

Still migrating...

Do you remember when you were young and your best friends were just the best people EVER? Then boys came along and they were the best people EVER? Then best friends and boys didn't mix and when you were with your boyfriend, your best friend tagged along? Or do you remember tagging along and feeling awkward and left out, especially when they started snogging right in front of you? Yep, you were the Gooseberry.

We have a Gooseberry. He comes up to our knees, has big brown eyes, brown hair, smooth apple round cheeks, cheeky grin and generally answers to the name of Sam.

Every night for the last week, *something* has woken him between midnight and 2am and we have no idea what the *something* is. Each night he has tottered into our bedroom holding his pillow (I figure the four we already have on our bed are not to his liking). He clambers over Andy, plops his pillow in the middle, pokes my head, waits for me to turn over and then beams his cute little smile into my face and puts his head on MY pillow! Our bed's wide enough for three pillows to lie in a row as it's six feet wide for goodness sake, but he hijacks MY pillow! After lots of shunting to and fro, pulling his feet out of Andy's ribs, getting his face out of my face, he finally settles down to sleep.

Years ago I would have taken him back to his bedroom, as I did with the other three, but this time round I'm not so bothered. I like him next to me. Sam's my baby and he's growing up. One day he won't want to snuggle next to me and smush his face next to mine and share my pillow. One day when he comes into my room clutching his pillow it will be because he's feeling ill, not just because he wants a snuggle with his Mummy and Daddy. He's my last baby and I want him to stay like that - just a bit longer.

I'm Not Real

I asked the Magic 8 ball if I was real.

It told me, 'Outlook Not So Good'.

So, there you have it. If you thought I was your mother, wife, sister, daughter or friend, you might have been mistaken.

I think I'm either your mother, wife, sister, daughter or friend but then I could just be a figment of my own imagination. But then who does my imagination REALLY belong to if I might not be real?

But then, maybe I'm just a mirage in your desert.

Mmmmm, one to ponder.

Everyone and No-one to Blame

Still migrating....

Sometimes parenting is easy, sometimes it's hard and other times it's just confusing.

Maddie went to the pantomime last night with the Brownies and I gave her a £5.00 note to take along to spend on sweets, drinks or a souvenir - whatever she wanted. I didn't expect any change and I told her to be careful not to lose it.

She came home after having a great time to say she'd spent £1.00 on an ice-cream and had put the remaining £4.00 in the charity box! Now, I've got nothing against charity boxes and I'm sure the charity in question is doing an admirable job with the funds it receives. But a child emptying their purse into it, completely oblivious as to the value of the money she's emptying is not quite right.

My reaction to this was less than sympathetic and as I hollered at her about the stupidity of her actions, demanding an explanation as to how on earth she felt compelled to put ALL her change in the tin. But the anger started to extinguish as I tried to work out just exactly WHO was at fault here.

And it certainly wasn't Maddie. And amidst the tears and sobs ensuing from her convulsing body, consumed with regret, confusion and apologies, I had to assure her that it wasn't really her fault and that I was wrong to be angry with her. As well as administer lots of reassuring hugs and cuddles.

So, whose fault was it?

Was it me? Did I give her too much? These places charge extortionate prices for the smallest gifts, so I figured that £5.00 would cover a souvenir and something to consume. I've been to these places long enough to know that £5.00 would be the minimum to spend - so no, I don't think I did give her too much?

Did I consider her understanding of the value of money? No, I didn't. She's 7 and has no idea about the value of money and why should she? She's a child. It's not in her job description to know about money. That's my job.

But what about the adults accompanying her? Why weren't they assisting her? Why weren't they making sure each child was being responsible with their money? Why did they allow 7 year old children to queue alone and assume they knew what they were doing with their pennies? But then, is it right to assume they would consider my daughter would empty her purse into the charity box?

What about the vendor that gave her the change? Was he so busy that he'd moved on to the next child before witnessing where she put her change? Did he see her do it and not say anything?

So, I don't know who to be angry with. Maybe I should put it down to experience and circumstance.

Silent Mischief

Migrated from last January.

Sam was quiet today. Too quiet. He was also nowhere to be seen. After a quick scoot around the house trying to locate the little tike, vocal location was required.

Karen: "Sam! Sam! Where are you?"
Sam: "I here Mummy!"
Karen: "Where are you Sam?"
Sam: "In de toilet".

Karen opens door to see Sam's hands down toilet.

Karen: "What are you doing with your hands down the loo Sam?" (Karen tries to be calm and slowly moseys on up to the loo to check there's no doo doos down there being handled).

Sam: "I washing meself".

Awww heck! My kid's just stuck his hands down the lav and 'cleaned' himself!

Sam: "I done me face, me tummy and me armybits, cos they're smelly".

Sam takes out another Kandoo from the box and demonstrates pit wiping, then stuffs it down the toilet.

There are times when you just can't tell them off!!

And Tonight Matthew, I'm Going To Be ....

Another migration. Because this one still makes me laugh.

A couple of weekends ago we had friends over for dinner.

Their daughter and my two girls took Sam upstairs.

When he went up he looked like an ordinary little boy.

When he came down he looked like this.

Pharaoh's Birthday Cake - Perhaps?

Another post migration.

Joshua and Madeleine's school have an interesting approach to homework and it's taken a little time to get used to the new format. Previously, each day they'd have different assignments set for individual subjects and each batch of homework would have a time period in which to complete it. In some ways I liked it. It helped them to filter their concentration on to specific subjects and also taught them the discipline of having work completed on time and done to the best of their ability. What I didn't like was the rigidity of it. If work was set on a Monday to be in the next day, it was difficult to get them to concentrate when they had after school activities the same night. It's also VERY difficult to ask a child to concentrate on work when there are siblings within earshot all making very noisy demands on your attention. In seniors when exams are paramount, I'll welcome the stricter more rigid demands placed on them but for 7 and 8 year olds, it's all a bit much.

So, I was delighted when the school introduced a new form of homework discipline. Many parents dislike it - I love it. It takes the form of a table divided into multiple skills - numeracy, literacy, interpersonal, intrapersonal, social, scientific, PHSE ..... Then, into each discipline are various tasks each with a differing points value. The idea is to complete at least 8 projects and score at least 30 points with no more than 3 disciplines from each line being completed. They have the whole half term to do it.

This means I can do weekend projects with them - things that take time, rather than trying to rush them at the end of a day where they're tired from school and I'm tired from work, trying to cook dinner, entertain the others and generally being ratty. It means we can spend time together researching information at our leisure rather than being pushed for time to fit it in between dinner, after school activities and a reasonable bed-time.

This half term Joshua's learning about Ancient Egypt. As well as numerous miscellaneous projects from the sheet, he's already done a bar chart showing the length of reign of 4 Pharaohs (he instantly recognised and applied the reverse mathematics when calculating the reign of a BC rule). He's written spells warning casual wanderers away from a sarcophagus and his short story about himself during the period has also received an 'Excellent Job' marking from his teacher. (I think the bit about being caught by the guards whilst fleeing across the desert, knocking the nose off the Sphinx and being chopped up and given to the best chef in Egypt to serve up in the new Pharaoh's dinner kind of impressed Mr H.).

BUT - the Pièce de résistance just HAD to be the pyramid cake he made. With a little bit of help measuring ingredients and loading them into the mixer, he made a Madeira cake.

I've always encouraged the children to think laterally. Not to always be content with the first idea in their head, or feel defeated if somebody has already achieved something they would like to achieve. I like them to think how they can improve on designs and ideas, how they can apply methods and theories differently to achieve the same goal or perhaps improve on it. In this instance Joshua decided that the other cakes his classmates had brought in had exhausted the 'pile one slab on top of the other' method, so he needed something new. He wanted to 'build' his pyramid, so after cutting the cake into bricks we set about assembling it, using hot jam as cement to hold the pieces together. Then topped off with copious layers of buttercream to give that all authentic sandstone look. We had to ensure there were enough bricks for each child in his year group and teachers AND assistants to have one each.

Not much pressure there then.

Looking more like the leaning tower of Pisa here!

Joshua proudly displaying the fruits of his efforts - nearly done now.

TA DA!!! Here we have it - Pyramid Cake

He took it in today to share with the class. 85 bricks in all, so there's plenty for everyone. With this assigment completed he's notched up 31 points and 7 completed tasks.

The Things They Say

Again, another one posted last March. Sam was just three months short of his third birthday. Another of my in-car conversations with him.

Sam: Mummy, girls go to work.
Karen: Yes, they do Sam and so do boys.
Sam: No they don't.
Karen: Yes they do.
Sam: NO, THEY DON'T - they go to school.
Karen: Daddy doesn't go to school, he goes to work.
Sam: No he doesn't, he goes to school.

(Andy does the morning school run)

Karen: But Eleanor and Maddie don't go to work, they go to school too.
Sam: Yes, but they're little. Big girls go to work.
Karen: But Daddy's a big boy and he goes to work too.
Sam: No, he doesn't, he's big and Joshua's big and they both go to school.

This is the best bit.

Sam: And I'm little so I'm not allowed to go anywhere.

Who Is Your Hero?

This was posted last March. I've put it here because it has reminded me that as parents, Andy and I need to keep a constant watch over our children. Not just in terms of their behaviour and whether their shoes still fit, but their emotional and spiritual well being.

We have an obligation and a duty to ensure our children grow up as stable as possible. Feeling loved and cared for and able to freely talk about any issues that bother, scare, frighten, lift, inspire or elate them.

In Ephesians 6v4 we are instructed not to exasperate our children. I find sometimes I do this when I ask Joshua to do small chores around the house. He gets frustrated that I don't give him time to complete one task before I'm asking for the next one to be done. But while his position is to honour his parents, we have an equally responsible role of making sure that we do not expect too much from him. I think sometimes we also forget that because our children are not mature and grown up and able to handle 'adult' issues, we don't give them the credibility of understanding more than we think they do. But although they understand it, it doesn't mean they have the ability to deal with it.

Last year Joshua's class were asked to write on a piece of paper who their heroes were.

Joshua brought home a piece of paper with quotes on from his classmates all detailing who their heroes were. Some of them were the usual you'd expect from 8 and 9 year old children, but two were really sensitive. We sometimes overlook how much our children take in, but this brought home to me that there's more going on in their little heads than playstations and kicking a ball around the playground.

When other Mums and I read the sheets in the playground there were tears - because these two kids shouldn't have had to be in a position to write the things they did.

James - 'My hero is my Mum because she saved me from being hit by a fire engine even though it meant she got hurt'. She was hit by it instead, broke her legs and was in hospital for weeks.

James - 'I hope that I would be as brave as my Mum was'. James lost his Dad two years ago to Cancer.

One From Last Year

I'm starting to weed through my other blog, the one I don't post to anymore. But before I totally delete it, I'm pulling out threads that have relevance or have just made me chuckle. This post was from last March and it was entitled 'The Spaghetti Tree'.

I love the stage of a child's life where the transition begins from believing everything you're told to finally having the courage to question whether your parents really do know it all.

It happened today at the dinner table. Having requested spaghetti bolognese for dinner and being told there was no minced beef in the house to make it, we rambled on to how it would be great to be able to grow our own ingredients for it at the allotment. Maddie asked where spaghetti comes from, so immediately my response was to tell her it was from the spaghetti tree.

Now, Maddie's not easily fooled. Some days she's sharp, others not so. Today was the latter. Tucking into her fish and chips, she stared in amazement and incredulity taking in the notion of a real spaghetti tree. Then the pause.... the cogs whirring....., then 'you're pulling my leg aren't you?'

'No, I'm not, the spaghetti tree is real, I'll show you on the Internet'.

Then the Google search unearthed that wonderful BBC hoax of 1957 where the nation were fooled for 3 minutes by the reports of a bumper spaghetti harvest and the decline of the spaghetti weevil. I showed her the pictures.

I nearly got away with it, until her even sharper brother spotted the subtitled side heading indicating the April Fool's Day prank.

Laughs all round and confirmation that the old ones are still the best.