Sunday, 7 November 2010

Hand puppets

James came over to play with Ace yesterday. They both like putting glove puppets on their hands/arms and pulling things off shelves and out of drawers. Most importantly they played well together and had fun! Here they are with the dragon and the monkey respectively.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Beeping toilet chips!

Lots to write-up but this will be an interim posting only. Angharad has taken to grabbing her mother's boobs, squeezing them and saying, in a loud and happy voice, "BEEEEP!!". Heh! (Thankfully, she's never tried anything similar with any of my body parts.)

This Monday morning, as usual, we offered Angharad the choice of doing her ablutions on the toilet (with her little-bum-sized seat placed atop to ensure she doesn't fall in) or using her potty (which offers her the scope to put it down at a place of her choosing, generally somewhere guaranteed to be underfoot). At first, she left us guessing as she wandered around with her little seat and her potty in either hand. So we were startled to hear her cry-out "stuck" in a bereft little voice...

Moving on swiftly, last week was half-term. Realizing that she hadn't had chips for ages I took Angharad to MacDonalds after taking her shopping with me. I undid her car seat-belt and asked her if she wanted to come into the front and sit in mammy's seat *, which she grinned at and popped over with alacrity. (* Editorial point: this isn't a sexist issue about the feller doing all the driving so The Mrs has the front passenger seat; it's just that my car is a manual and Nikki can only drive an automatic.) Anyway, I think she enjoyed...

Then it was All-Hallows Eve. Angharad and I scooped out a pumpkin, which we placed in the front porch so that other parents would know we were a fair bet for their trick-or-treating kids. Angharad loved the whole thing, especially when we lit a candle in the pumpkin, turned off the lights, and took her picture...

On Tuesday morning, as the kids were queuing up waiting for the school bell, it was a treat to see the tallest boy in Angharad's class lean down to her (he stands head and shoulders taller than her), put his arm around her and his head on her chest, giving her a lovely smile. I believe he has an autistic spectrum disorder so his ability and willingness to socialize and empathize so beautifully was a credit to him. This weekend another of her classmates, James - whom she 'loves'! - is coming over to play. I love watching the kids becoming, and remaining, friends.

In swimming last week the tutor told me that Angharad had done half a length on her own and that it was her best lesson to date. She has a float-jacket on but that is more an aid to buoyancy than any form of swimming short-cut. Swimming remains one of Angharad's favourite things.

Last thing for today. Last week the Ophthalmic department at the local teaching hospital signed Angharad off from their books. Her sight is absolutely normal and where it should be. She doesn't need adjustment or specs. We'll keep her looged-on with the University Ophthalmology department, as they have a special research interest in Down Syndrome, but we are obviously pleased for her.

Monday, 18 October 2010

What use big beds?

A complaint. Angharad: you may read this when you are older. One day you will meet someone you love and want to spend your life with. When you do you will have an exciting time choosing a home and furniture to fill it. When it comes to sleeping just buy a single bed and mattress. Last night your mam and I let you into our bed because you were very unsettled and had been refusing, or unable, to sleep for hours. We have a super king-size bed. Very large, lots of room to cuddle yet acres of space to sleep without elbows in one's back. Mam had a cold last night; no sooner did she fall asleep than she would cough or sneeze or squeak and wake us all up. So mam went to sleep in the spare bed. You'd think that would leave you and dad plenty of room to sleep? Nahuh! Were you a sheep-dog in another life; corralling and chasing things into small spaces where they didn't really want to go? Every time I moved further away, so we could both sleep safely and unencumbered by worries about being squashed, you would land a hand on my nose or a knee in my back. We ended up sleeping on a tiny island of that great continent of mattress. Fair dos, you slept like a log. I barely slept at all. Thank you and goodnight, dad.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Awarded A Leaf!

Caroline, a fellow parent just texted us: "Hi W and N, don't know if you know but A got a 'leaf' from [the Head teacher] in assembly today - D&C [Caroline's kids] have just said! I don't know if you know but leaves are given to a few children for achievements/kindness/good behaviour/work etc each week. A's was (according to C [Caroline's son]) for kindness to others and settling in well. Well done Angharad!"

No mention was made of this in her home-school communications book nor did her teachers mention it when we picked her up today. If they had we could have asked A about it in ways that would let her tell us; but she's not yet able to volunteer such news to us herself. So, more details next week when the staff fill us in. But we are very proud of her. Well, we are invariably proud anyways but... you know how we feel! Another friend of hers, Charlie, had once said to his mam that Angharad was the kindest child in the nursery class and that he wouldn't mind his mum making him stand on the naughty step because Angharad would always come and be nice to him.

Caroline also works part-time helping at the school. When Angharad sees her in the corridor she smiles and shouts out Caroline's daughter's name for all she's worth - obviously because we usually meet them all together. Putting meat on the bones of our partial knowledge of Angharad's play-time activities, Caroline says that ACE plays with her friends from last year's nursery class who are now in Reception Class 1, and also joins with the girls from Years 1 and 2 on occasion. Apparently she's the one member of the Special Needs kids who relishes being in the wider playground and mixing with the wider group.

I can't beat how Caroline's text signed off so I'll simply repeat it verbatim: "I was really chuffed when I heard! They are called out and have to sit on a bench at the front. My daughter got one for 'helping in her class' and we chatted about it over tea and then they {Caroline's kids] both said together about A! Have a lovely weekend!"

Here's a picture of Angharad with Caroline's lively and lovely daughter:

More from me over the weekend.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Yellow day-glo and assorted adventures

On 28th September we took Angharad to St David's Hospital to meet her new Community Paediatrician, Dr M. An altogether satisfying meeting. Unlike her predecessor, Dr M managed to look at, talk to, and examine Angharad including by actual touch. Furthermore, she had the correct set of notes and she didn't make the mistake of assuming that Angharad was a girl aged six. The doctor is taking steps to rule out Coeliac's Disease and is measuring Angharad's iron levels. Also, she has given drugs to increase throughput of foodstuffs, to ensure that A's eating reticence isn't to do with being backed-up.

That took most of the morning. We gave Ace some lunch at home and dropped her off at school in time to share lunchtime play with her friends and classmates. Walking her into the school-yard we handed Angharad over to one of the dinner ladies. Then we did a double-take. All her peers from Class 7 (the Special Resource Unit) were wearing bright Day-Glo jackets. No other kids, just those identified as having special needs. We asked one of the dinner ladies why. She said that there are four Lunchtime Supervisors on duty, two of whom were dedicated to the eight SRU children; that the other kids wouldn't notice that these eight had special jackets on; and that it was probably all about health and safety - so that they could be seen easily by their dinner ladies. To us, this was wrong on so many levels. Rather than react we went home and Nik wrote an email to the Head, as follows:

"Subject: Special needs pupils wear hi-visibility jackets
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2010 14:53:38 +0100
Dear [xyz],
 We took Angharad out of school this morning for a medical appointment and
brought her back at lunchtime so that she could join in a few minutes of
play. We were horrified to see Angharad's classmates all wearing
hi-visibility jackets in the playground.
 When we asked why, we were told that there are two dinner ladies for the
special needs children and the jackets are so that the children stand out.
 We are really upset that the ten children with special needs are singled
out as different from everyone else. Surely 'their' two dinner ladies can
identify the ten children in their care by knowing their faces & keeping a
lookout for them!
 School aims include "To help pupils develop personal moral values as a
basis for their behaviour, in particular, honesty, fairness, respect for
others, and a knowledge of right and wrong". How can we expect our
children to develop moral values with fairness and respect for others
when one small group has been marked as different?
 We are extremely disappointed and wonder whether our impressions that
[School] would be an inclusive and supportive environment may have been
misplaced. For the avoidance of doubt: we do not want Angharad to wear
anything in the playground that treats her as any different from any other
little girl, whether typically developing or otherwise.
 We look forward to hearing from you
Kind regards,
Nikki & Wyn Evans"

When we collected Angharad we mentioned this to her class teacher who agreed for us to meet with her the next morning, when she confirmed that H&S was the reason. We disagreed with the policy and suggested that the lunchtime supervisors' task - of concentrating on eight kids between two of them - was not unnecessarily onerous. We also pointed out that any child could get into difficulties and there was no reason to single out those with special needs. It was left that Angharad would not be put into a yellow jacket. Other Class 7 parents would make their own minds up as to whether they wished their kids to be so attired.

Come the weekend. Saturday 2nd October saw one of Angharad's friends, Steve, with his sister Amelia and parents Andrew and Lisa, come over for a light lunch and play. We all had a lovely afternoon. One thing about having kids - not only do they make pals easily but very often this leads to us parents making new friends too. Andrew is a professional photographer so I was able to pick his brains about my current major hobby. Earlier on this blog I posted a picture of Angharad playing a set of drums - these were Andrew's and the link to that lovely picture is at the Sunday, January 24, 2010 blog-post. (Scroll down through 'older posts' until you reach it or use the Blog Archive on the right hand side to click on it.)

Monday 4th was a busy day. We joined other mums and kids in a visit to what must be regarded as our favourite Kids' Adventure Playground, PARC, just off Penarth Road. PARC serves hot-dogs and ice-creams and we all brought along picnic lunches too. As usual I got to go up and down slides and  push successive waves of children along Zip-rides and swings and climbing frames. Fabulous, if tiring! Here are Angharad and Flo doing something messy with sand and a mini-deckchair.

On the way home we called-in on two other parents who had just produced little baby Mollie - all 8+lbs of her. Becky was in - and out! - of the hospital within 6 hours. Jason looked drained, Becky looked blooming, both looked very happy. It helped Nikki and I decide that we are going to give it a year to see if we can create a sibling for Ace.

Then it was off to a haircut for Angharad. She now sits proudly on a plumped-up cushion, giving directions and instructions to Annie, her stylist, pointing and jabbering to make things crystal clear. This morning we made friends with Lindsey, the mam of a little boy (well, a tall boy actually!) in A's class (this is James, whom we mentioned in an earlier posting, when Angharad said/signed that james is her friend and that she loves James).

We are now preparing questions for our first formal parent-teacher meeting of the new term, to be held this afternoon at 1530. We have 6 questions. And the session is scheduled for 5 minutes duration. Lol!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Wrapping paper

Today is Nikki's birthday. (No, you mayn't ask.) Angharad loved the whole shebang of wrapping up gifts and signing her name on the card. Even more than that she loved the wrapping paper. She started off using it as a hat, then hiding her face in it, whipping it off and shouting 'Boo!!'

Nikki's gifts included some undies. Holding up a bra, Angharad signed 'what's this?'. Nik was in the shower, so I spent 5 minutes explaining 'breasts'.

Yesterday, we all went to Millie's 5th birthday party in Penylan Recreation Centre ('The Rec'); the first birthday party of the new school year. Excellent time had by all and the pics are up on "2010e" of the Picasa account for those with access to those secure photos.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

First love?

Each week the school encourages every Reception pupil to choose a book from the school library, to take it home and read it with her parents, and which the child then tells the other kids about during story time. Today Angharad chose "Topsy & Tim: The Little White Rabbit". This is 'bloggable' because it is is Angharad's first ever choice.

We think this is a good routine as it reinforces our existing practice - each night Nik reads Angharad a story from a book Angharad chooses. We've done this for most of Angharad's life. After the story, Nik tucks Angharad in, puts out the light and says "Mammy loves you and Daddy loves you, Taid and Nanna and Grand-dad love you...[continuing through named relatives and friends]; Your name is Angharad, which means 'much loved', we hope you will always know that; good night, I'm giving you a kiss and then I'll sing 'Twinkle, Twinkle little star' ."  Then Nikki sings it three times and leaves the room. Well, tonight, Angharad signed to Nik, after Nik finished speaking but before she got to Twinkle, Twinkle, that "James is my friend" and that "I love James". James is a little boy in her class whom she first met last week. Nice!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Angharad and Caitlin

In the playground before collecting Angharad for the day just now, a friend of hers from last year's Nursery class, Caitlin, and her mam, Nicky, came over to see us on their own way home. Caitlin asked could she wait to see Angharad please. Earlier this summer, I had taken Angharad for a haircut at Errol Willy's. As we were leaving the salon we walked straight into Nicky, Caitlin and her elder sister. Literally. Angharad's immediate reaction was to beam, jump up, and say "aitli!!" Then she kissed her on the lips and the two of them had a lovely cwtch and huggle, which went on for some minutes, Catlin talking and Angharad signing and trying to talk too. This was mid- summer and we'd not seen Caitlin for 3 weeks. Not a long time, but clearly too long for both of them. Nicky told me later that Caitlin was "really made-up" that Angharad was so happy to see her. Lovely!

And so to today. When they saw each other the girls smiled broadly and gave one another a big hug. Caitlin tells Angharad how nice the latter's hair looks; Angharad says "ank doo" and reaches out to stroke Caitlin's plaits, then they walk off hand-in-hand. What a lovely age 4 is!

Monday, 6 September 2010

6th September 2010. The new school year

It wasn't until last night that I actually understood that Angharad, from today, would spend more of her waking hours, Monday to Friday, in school than with us at home. As children grow, and from a very early age, children are much more influenced by their peer group than their parents. (That's not an assertion but an established fact of education and psychology.) I guess today is the first day in that process of Angharad's gradual distancing from parents, identifying with her peers, and becoming a self-actualising little madam in her own right. In which case I gotta get me some lines that go beyond "because I say so"!

Letting go, pah! Necessary yes. But missed her like mad this afternoon!

Still, far from Angharad sleeping when she came out of school at 1525 she was delighted to see us and full of words and excitement. She'd had a lovely day and the three staff in her class all smiled at us and said she took to it like a duck to water and "had a whale of a time". We met the other little girl in her class and two of the boys, which I think accounts for one shy of half the class. The kids in the Special Resource Base (as the class is formally entitled) all have a Statement detailing a special need of some sort and range in age from 4 to 7. The class follows the normal Foundation stage and subsequent levels but the kids are brought along at their own pace. With three staff to no more than 10 kids this is something that can be done easily enough. The children can thus work ahead or behind their real-life age level as their development proceeds. The kids can and do move between this class and the mainstream Reception, Year 1 or Year 2 classes. The facilities and 'kit' in the class are also very well provided for.

When we got to school this morning, unlike for the Nursery kids, we had to enter the big playground, which was full of kids up to age 11 (because the play area is shared between the Infants and Junior schools. the old Edwardian buildings surround a playground, which is rectangular and bounded on three sides by the schools' buildings and on the fourth by a high wall to the road. All-in-all it is secure and not unattractive in a red-bricked kind of way. But there were lots of children milling about and Ace stood with her mouth open in awe. Not fear, just awe. We had to remind her to shut her mouth!

We'd had a phone call from the Head-teacher at lunchtime telling us that Angharad had been sick but was now fine and that school policy dictated that she stay home for 48 hours. We reminded her that in our letter this morning to the school we'd written: "Reflux. Angharad is on anti-reflux drugs, which are administered at home. When reflux affects her it is usually after, or sometimes during, a meal and she will vomit up what she has most recently eaten. No single food or food-group seems more likely than any other to set her off (though she heartily dislikes fish). Two years ago this was a daily occurrence. Now it is limited to a couple of times a fortnight. Once the vomit is over she is fine. We would not anticipate your calling us at home on these occasions, should they arise, and you have our complete authority to act as her needs dictate. We shall include in her bag each day a change of clothes." The Head had not seen the letter yet, as it was still with the class teacher. More to the point the catering staff supporting the kids were unaware of it. As Nikki explained - 'if we take Angharad home every time her reflux kicks in she wont get any schooling!'. It's not something that she can avoid or control. Her medication can only ease the effects of the reflux, reducing the consequences of acid bile on her. But it is done and dusted very quickly; sickness followed by change of clothes and even carrying on eating. It's simply a shame that she happens to have started school coinciding with a sporadic reflux relapse. Anyways, once this was all-chatted-through the Head was fine and dandy.

When we collected Ace she was bubbly and stayed that way through teatime (including another reflux-vom) and sitting-down-on-dad's-lap-time until about 1740, when she crashed. In bed sleeping by 1825! It was lovely to see her have such a good day. We've done something right and that feels damn good.

Abi, Amy & Dulcie

A number of home-visits (to and from) saw us round off the holidays in style. Just a few pics to celebrate a lovely few days. When Dulcie came over it was expressly to help walk the dogs. She did a wonderful job walking Kyra by the lead for a long distance. Of course, soon enough Angharad and Dulcie were soon all over Nikki and Nikki's motorised wheel-chair. Dulcie's mam, Caroline, said that Nikki's and Dulcie's faces "were a picture when Angharad spun them around backward; very funny!" And the two girls really did play beautifully together.

When Abi and Amy visited it turned out they were less keen on the dogs (though they were almost enjoying playing with them by the end). For them it was dressing-up that was the highpoint. When other kids visit it is often Nikki's chair/stairlift that sees them trying to outdo Lewis Hamilton as they scream sedately up and down our flights.

Dads' night out. Brief aside

The mams' night out, I'm reliably informed, sees most conversation centre around the kids and pregnancy/birthing issues, with occasional asides to the price of haircuts or going back to work.

The dads' night out found us barely mention the kids. In no particular order of priority we mostly spoke about: local murders, drugs taking in the area' drug dealing on local streets, neighbourhood watches, police taking their time to respond after break-ins, were we really going to get another round in, and health.

Go figure. Maybe it's about our supposed roles as protectors? Anyway, here's someone I love protecting.

Kids will be kids

A fortnight ago, during the Tuesday afternoon stroll in the park of mums (and Wyn) and kids Angharad and five or six school-friends had been playing nicely, sharing bikes/scooters, climbing trees and generally playing chase together. After an hour or so four of the other kids told Angharad to go away and that she couldn't play with them. A watching mam and I just let them all be for a while as we've each seen kids say such stuff to one another. But it happened twice more, on the last occasion them running away and Ace forlornly following them. I asked them why they were saying that. One said "'cos we are making a surprise for her" [a grass dinosaur], a second said "'cos she takes our grass", a third said "'cos she doesn't want to play with us". By this time the mums had caught us up with assorted toddlers and babies trailing alongside. One asked me what was  the matter and I said "they are telling Angharad to go away". I was actually quite upset. The mums asked the kids for reasons and asked them to apologise to Angharad, which they did nicely, by word and sign. Ace and I went home.

Later that night a mum texted me to say that all the kids told the same story, that they wanted to do a surprise for Angharad and were sorry if they upset her. She added that her little boy and all A's classmates hold Ace in deep affection.

Not sure if this tale has a moral. What I learned however is that if there was an over-reaction it was mine. The kids were kids. Ace and I visited another class mate at her home last Friday morning and a third little girl was there too. The third girl at one point said to the hosting child "you're not my friend anymore" and tears rolled like a river. Kids are kids. They say and do things to see what it feels like, because they wont know any better until they see people's reactions, etc etc. They are also robust and able to forgive and forget and move on.

Another mam, in a separate story, told me that she'd asked her four-year-old to stand on his naughty chair for some transgression or another. At which point she said if he did such a thing at school the teachers would no doubt put him on the naughty step. His response was "I don't care, if I have to go on the naughty step in school Angharad would come and see me, she's the kindest one in our class". Nikki's immediate comment was "she'll probably end up a prison visitor"!

Here's a picture of the girl and me looking through a lens. If the above is any yardstick she probably sees things much more clearly than I.

Halen & Eli; Liane, Mannfred and Ida

Next up was Halen's 5th birthday party in Penarth. His mam, Eli, is one of the most remarkable and gifted women we know. Physically a gymnast, emotionally giving and secure, intellectually gifted and supremely practical. Her parents travelled around the world on their own yacht so we know where she gets some of her skills from. When we were pregnant we used to eat at TGI Friday's where Eli was waitressing. We got close and when ACE was born Eli and her friend Kelly gave Angharad a wonderful gift. Since then we've gotten to know each other better every year, visiting, going to each other's parties and family dos. Eli starts a psychology degree this autumn with the aim then of specialising in educational psychology. Oh yes, in the meantime she works with kids with learning difficulties at special schools and signs like she is as at home in Makaton as speaking English. And her boy Halen is as bright as his mam. Lovely people.

Previously we had gone to Ida's fourth party. Ida's mam and dad, Liane and Mannfred, are German. He's a research scientist working in Aberystwyth University and has been travelling weekly to and fro, though the family will all be moving to Aber soon now. Ida's a lovely little girl and Liane threw a spot-on party.

Ace and John jumping between and from soft-play toys. John is both robust in general and extremely gentle with Ace

A trip away. Two separate ones in fact

Nik and I went off to stay at the St. Bride's Spa and Hotel in Saundersfoot. Rob, Jan, Alex and Liam accommodated Angharad. In their room, R&J made a special bed up for her out of quilts - she was tremendously excited by this! In the morning, Angharad peered up at Rob and Jan who were mostly still asleep and then she  cuddled up under her quilts with her toys and books and told whispered tales to the toys for half an hour. Very sweet. Alex, a junior basketball international texted me that night to say that looking after a four year old was tougher than training. Respect! But Angharad dotes on Alex and Liam and they more than made her at home.

Meanwhile, Nik and I were working hard...

And on the way home, we stopped off to see the house I lived in until I was into my fourth year. It usdd to be called 'Castell Clud' but was subsequently renamed 'Llys Arwen' by the new owner in honour of his wife. It's in the little village of Pentregwenlais, near Llandybie.

And finally, we visited Maesgwyn; mam was living here when she and dad met back in the early 1950s...

Just a couple of pics I like!

No particular occasion or reason for posting these, except I like them!

Dance class

Then we went to the last sessions of Angharad's dance class at the Rubicon. She'll be moving on to anothre class and leave behind her friends Ellie, Calum, Eva and Lucas. So they visited us here at home. Lovely afternoon. I will miss the kids and their mams (Sarah & Mark, Mella, Nicola and Melissa) just as much as Angharad will. Thanks for being good pals these last couple of years!