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!

Rivers, weddings and mouth organs

Angharad lost John's ball into the river on one of the weekly Tuesday parent/child strolls in Roath Mill Gardens. As the only dad present I waded in after it. Thankfully there were no pics of this middle-aged man up to his groin in water staggering out of the river clutching a ball and completely drenched from brass balls to the balls of his feet.

Mouth organ:

Then we all went to Nik's cousin's wedding in the Quantock Hills down Zummerset way. Bride and groom both looked stunning. Angharad too!

Three generations!

Rhiwbina LD group

End of term also saw the end of Angharad's attendance at the Learning Disabilities Group which meets in Rhiwbina every Wednesday afternoon. This is run by Cath Giles on behalf of the City and the kids there have a range of physical and other difficulties. Angharad's part of a group of 7 or so who all started together three years ago and finished together this term. It's been an excellent forum and the kids have had great fun. Parents have found it a very supportive one too with friendships established. Nik and I have wanted Angharad to have a number of peer groups (family, school/class-mates, music, dance, swimming, and learning disability groups too).

Daisy is taking the picture while Angharad is signing "cheese". Very nice pic! 

The bike. And scones.

We visited Taid, and caught him in flagrante making scones. Red rag to a bull. ACE joins in. Excellent fun. No pics.

Return home to Nikki and a lesson on Angharad's new bike (with stabilisers!). Plenty of pics!

"you going my way?"
Just can't get the staff!

We also went to two shows in the Wales Millennium Centre, caught up with Emmy, with Elena and Sophia, Dulcie, Abi and Amy, Sofia, John, Daisy and Halen. Here's Halen and Angharad being all 'street'.