15 July 2011

School Report

We had a parent-teacher meeting at Kathleen's school last week (only these days they're called "Learning Conferences"). I was so pleased with her progress I just had to share:

  • Kathleen reads fluently at Level 11.
  • She has a very good understanding of story meaning and structure.
  • She consistently uses known strategies to solve unknown words.
  • Kathleen is self monitoring her attempts and makes corrections.
Next steps:
  • To continue reading for enjoyment and gain reading mileage.

  • Kathleen has a writing vocab of many words, both basic and interest.
  • She can articulate unknown words slowly and accurately record the sounds she hears.
  • Kathleen uses a capital letter and full stop when writing a sentence.
  • She leaves spaces between words.
Next steps:
  • To write additional sentences giving more detail.

  • Kathleen can recognise and write numbers to 100.
  • She confidently uses imaging to solve problems.
  • Kathleen can add groups together to 10 and record this number sentence.
  • She is able to recognise and name basic shapes.
Next steps:
  • Continue with adding using numbers to 20.
  • Skip counting by 2, 5 and 10

I was especially pleased with the comment about Kathleen's reading. Basically I think she has gone as far as she can go in that class now, and the teacher is just giving her books to read for enjoyment rather than learning.

And on the subject of Kathleen's reading, she has read to herself, ALL BY HERSELF, three of the Rainbow Fairy books now, and has started the next one. The other night she was reading to herself at bedtime and we forgot to go check on her after 10 minutes. So she just kept reading, and reading, and reading, until she finished the book. That's my girl! Unfortunately that meant it was nearly 10pm by the time she went to sleep. But I love that she loves reading.


02 June 2011

Time Flies

Well, doesn't time fly. I can't believe it's the beginning of June and the last time I posted anything was February. [EDIT: I can't believe it's the beginning of July and I started writing this a month ago]

20110510a Lily and TigerAll our puppies left home, and now we have had two kittens join our family. One day in late April, I sent Peter and Victoria to the supermarket to get the groceries. A couple of hours later they came back with several bags. I opened one up to find two little faces staring back at me! It seems Victoria asked if they could go to the pet store, and Peter just couldn't resist once he got there. They are two little girl kittens, one tortoiseshell, one tabby. Kathleen immediately named the tabby Tiger. I suggested Lily for the other one. For the first couple of weeks Tiger wasn't growing at all so we took her to the vet and now she is happy and healthy, if still a lot smaller than Lily. Lily is the boisterous one, full of personality. Tiger is quiet but becoming more playful as she gets stronger. Both kittens are very patient with being carried around, cuddled and fought over by the children.

Kathleen is doing very well at school. She loves school, although doesn't really like getting up in the morning or having to hurry (but then again who does? especially on these cold mornings lately!).

20110406d KathleenAcademically she is doing very well. She is reading at Level 9 (no one else in her class is at this level yet) [EDIT: Level 11 now], and every day brings home a book to read for homework. Her writing is good. For a while she would come home from school and just want to draw pictures, and her pictures would always include words in them. The teachers seem to encourage the children to sound the words out to themselves and write them how they think they are spelt. I guess proper spelling comes at a later date. It makes for some very cute and inventive spellings. I think my favourite is "I am hape" (happy). Kathleen also does well at math although I don't hear very much about it from her. She can count on her fingers, she can count quietly in her head while visualising her fingers, but she's not yet at the point of just knowing that 3 + 3 is 6 for example.

20110429b Kathleen and LilyKathleen's favourite part of the school day is what they call "motor programme". In the morning, after the teacher has done the roll, the children will all head outside for half an hour of exercise. Not just physical education but things that develop their motor skills, such as cone ball (trying to catch the ball in the cone that you're holding), skipping, balancing, hopping. She has learnt a lot of physical skills since starting school. She loves swinging on the bars and last term when I would come to pick her up from school I would always find her on the playground. There is a group of them from her classroom who are always the last to leave every day. School finishes at 2.25 but I usually arrive to pick her up sometime between then and 3 as we never leave before 3. Howver this term things are a bit different as Kathleen has started catching the bus home from school a couple of days a week. It was something she asked if she could do. It suits me not having to rush out in the afternoons to collect her. However on the days when Victoria is at daycare I still pick them both up. I think Kathleen feels quite grown up catching the bus and walking home by herself. She also gets to check the mailbox on her way home and brings me the mail. She and Victoria used to fight over who was going to collect the mail, now we have set days of the week about who's turn it is.

Kathleen is making lots of friends in her class. At the start of the year there were two girls and four boys in the class. Now there are five girls and seven boys. I regularly hear about the different children she is playing with, not just from her class but from other classes too. I quite like that about this school, not sure if it is a country school thing or not, but all the children seem to play together regardless of age. I think Kathleen may have had a tough time fitting in at first but this seems to have settled down now and she is enjoying playdates with some of the kids from her class. Last month Kathleen and Victoria went for a sleepover at their friend Molly's house (their first ever sleepover!) and then Molly and Olivia from school both came for a sleepover at our house.

20110525c Kathleen at the poolThe other big thing Kathleen is learning at school is how to swim. Every Wednesday afternoon the school bus picks the junior classes up from school and takes them to the swimming pool in town. Their teacher gets in the water with them and does various exercises with them, no doubt aimed at building up their confidence. And it is working. Kathleen has always been too scared to put her head or face under the water. Then all of a sudden, last week during her lesson, she ducked her head under. And after that there was no stopping her, she was diving down to get the rings from the bottom of the pool. Obviously there is still a long way to go, but her confidence has just increased so much, it is amazing.

With so much else going on, we have stopped going to ballet.

Finally, Kathleen has lost her two bottom front teeth (naturally, not because of an accident or anything). She's the first in her class to lose teeth. The tooth fairy gave her $5 the first time and $2 the second time. She was very excited and took it to school for Show & Tell (her other favourite thing I think). We went into town and she bought some stickers with the money and made lots of pictures. She loves drawing and creating pictures. Her drawings are very detailed.

And now, we mustn't forget Victoria.

20110321g VictoriaVictoria is now three and a half. Sometimes I forget she's only three and treat her more like Kathleen. She is now going to daycare two days a week (Thurs-Fri) and to Playcentre two days a week (Tues-Wed). She has some good friends at each place. One little girl at daycare is her best friend and they play together all day. This little girl has a big brother who is in Kathleen's class and is one of Kat's friends, so the four of them all get on really well.

Victoria has been causing me much frustration since about the time she turned three. I remember Kathleen also went through a very similar phase at this age. She is trying to assert her independence, do things her way, do what she wants, doesn't want to do what Mummy wants. Which is all very well when all she wants is to pour herself a drink, but not so good when Mummy wants her to get dressed for school or brush her teeth or come eat dinner, etc, etc.

She often wants to have a go at doing things for herself and I know I need to step back and let her try more often. She's getting faster at putting her own clothes on which is great (just needs me to motivate her to actually do it), she's getting better at pouring drinks without spilling (just wish she'd shut the fridge door or let me know what she's doing), but I need to let her help me with other things more often.

20110523c Silly VictoriaSomething I've noticed about Victoria is how much she enjoys both mazes and maps. She must have good spatial awareness. She enjoys doing simple mazes. Sometimes we've made our own out of blocks, other times we've borrowed maze and puzzle books from the library (Kathleen really loves the puzzle books). Victoria understands how to read a map, will get the map out in the car and ask where we are going. She often asks where something when we are driving, or where we are.

Victoria is very competent on the computer, knows how to turn on both her computer and the TV computer, and how to load up her favourite computer games or DVDs. Doesn't know as much as she thinks she does though and sometimes clicks on the wrong thing. I don't want to think what she'll be like in a couple of years when she can read, she'll be getting into everything.

20110424e Digging for Easter treasureHer favourite computer game is Pajama Sam. The girls got a game for Easter, and another one when we all went to a LAN gaming party at Massey (go geek family!). Victoria always wants to play Pajama Sam, either on the computer or pretend that she is Pajama Sam. She's always saying to me "I'm Pajama Sam, the new one" (meaning the one from the new game). Her style of play has really changed. She used to be happy to play with toys and dolls by herself. Now all of a sudden she wants to play pretend all the time. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, Kat loved playing pretend at that age too. What is good is that the two of them can now play together, yet they usually want (need?) me to join in too.

20110615a Kathleen and VictoriaAt bedtime we usually read two stories to both girls, Victoria's story first then Kathleen's story. Kathleen's story is usually a chapter from a chapter book. Usually it's one of my old Enid Blyton books (currently we're reading Willow Farm). But about a month ago we got a Rainbow Fairy chapter book out of the library, which both girls really enjoyed. There are seven books in the series and we've only read two so far. Will be looking to see if they have the next book at the library when we go next. [EDIT: We ditched Willow Farm in preference for reading Rainbow Fairies and Myths & Legends (another library book) instead. Have read the first three Rainbow Fairies book now, and have got the fourth one on hold at the library, hopefully pick it up tomorrow).

So, anyway, we have been playing a LOT of Rainbow Fairy games since then. If I play then I'm usually the bad guy, Jack Frost, Victoria is ALWAYS Pajama Sam (the new one) even though he has nothing to do with Rainbow Fairies, and Kathleen is usually a fairy that needs rescuing or that I'm trying to capture/banish. As with all children's games, it gets a bit repetitive after a while. But both girls love it.

20110502c Wood shedFinally, what else has been happening around here. Well winter is starting to set in after a long summer and warm autumn. Peter and I (but mostly him) cleared out our old woodpile that was under the ramp at the back of the house. He put down polythene on the ground and laid pallets down so we could stack our firewood neatly and tidily. He put up more polythene sheets along the ceiling and sides to make it weatherproof and it has mostly worked. We hired a log splitter for a couple of days and ended up cutting up quite a lot of firewood from tree rounds that had been sitting around (mostly in the bottom paddock) since we moved in over two years ago. I'm very pleased with the work we have done.

I am also very pleased with the ride-on lawn mower that we bought this week after getting a good deal at the Lifestyle Farmers Fieldday last weekend. It is so nice to look outside and see nicely cut, even grass, not too long, not too short, no big lumps of grass all over the place, no tyre tread marks, no muddy areas where the grass has been ripped up.

20110617b Frosty lavender fieldNow it is the beginning of July and winter is in full swing. Noticed snow on the Tararua's today. We've had some rather cold mornings the last few weeks, but only one real frosty day (much to the disappointment of two little girls who think Jack Frost is a character from their book, come to life). We have been putting quite a dent in all that carefully stacked firewood!


06 February 2011


20101221ba Skye's having puppiesJust before Christmas, our dog Skye gave birth to seven puppies. We were taking bets on how many. As she is so young and little I hoped for three or four puppies. Peter thought five. We were both blown away when it turned out to be seven. But they were all healthy thank goodness, and have grown into seven beautiful pups.

I've never seen baby puppies before. They were so adorable with their eyes closed and unable to walk. It took about four weeks before they were running around and now you can't stop them.

20101226a Victoria covered in puppiesVictoria was absolutely besotted with the baby puppies and inseparable from them. We had to physically shut the door to keep her away from them, but even then she figured out how to drag the stool out from the bathroom so she could reach the lock and open the door.

However once the puppies got mobile they have been spending more and more time outside. I'm not really very interested in cleaning up their messes. We kept them in a cage at first however soon discovered they didn't really want to stray very far from the house. In fact the hot weather meant that all they wanted to do was lie under the house and stay out of the sun. So no worries about them wandering off which is good.

With the puppies out of sight, they have dropped off Victoria's radar a bit. But she still loves them to bits. The puppies are all very compliant at being carried around by her.

In order to be able to tell them apart we gave the puppies all nicknames based on their looks. There were two grey/white puppies, one male and one female. The male one is called GreyBoy, the female Squeaky as she was definitely the loudest when they were tiny (now they're all yapping loudly). There are five black/white puppies, two male, three female. The males are Stripe (who has a white stripe) and Circle (who has a white circle shape on his forehead). The females are Diamond (who has a white diamond shape), Kinda (who kinda looks a bit like all the rest), and Skinky who was originally named Kinky because of the kink in her tail but Victoria renamed Skinky.

20110201c Grey Boy - 20110129ba Squeaky - 20110128c Stripe - 20110202f Circle

GreyBoy - Squeaky - Stripe - Circle

20110201e Diamond - 20110201d Kinda - 20110129at Kinky
Diamond - Kinda - Skinky

Skinky is Victoria's favourite. Diamond and Squeaky are Kathleen's favourites. Squeaky is Peter's favourite. GreyBoy is my favourite. Parting with them is difficult.

Peter put the puppies up for sale on Trade Me when they turned six weeks old, and within a couple of days they were all sold. We got a call about GreyBoy within minutes of the ad going up, from some people in Christchurch who had been looking for years. They will pick him up at the end of this week.

20110119b Kathleen and puppiesThe first to actually leave were Diamond and Kinda, both on Wednesday. Diamond got taken away while Kathleen was at school (her first day) and I was devastated and didn't know how I would break the news to her that her favourite puppy would not be there when we got home. I cried in the car driving to school. This made Victoria think it was a big deal and the first thing she did when we got to school was to tell Kathleen that Diamond was gone. She shrugged it off and said "oh well, I like Squeaky too". I guess it helped that since day one we've been telling the girls that the puppies will be going to new homes one day.

20110114e Victoria cuddles the puppies outsideHowever I was still dreading the day when someone wanted to take Victoria's Skinky away from her. Luckily the couple that decided to take her said they couldn't take her straight away and would come back at the weekend. That gave us a couple of days to prepare Victoria for it. In the end she was also rather blase about it. She gave Skinky a goodbye hug and kiss and handed her over cheerfully. Both Skinky and Squeaky are going to the same home, which makes Peter and I happy that they will be together.

So Diamond and Kinda left last Tuesday, Skinky and Squeaky went yesterday. That's the four girls gone and the three boys left. Circle and Stripe are due to go Monday and Tuesday, and we get to keep GreyBoy until Friday (ironic that he was the first to be sold but the last to leave).

20110115f Timmy and Skye at the dog parkI will definitely miss them when they're gone. However they're now at that chewing on everything stage and so in a way I'm glad they're going. Timmy and Skye are both handfuls but I'm happy to say they are both past that stage now. Their only problems are that Timmy pees on everything and Skye jumps on you and constantly wants your attention (worse than a child!). I'd like to take them both back to obedience school at some stage and I also think Skye would do really well at agility.

At the end of the day, we've got two pretty good dogs. And now six other families have also got some pretty good (and cute!) dogs.


01 February 2011

Dear Kathleen

20110121q Kathleen at Fishermans TableFive years and 11 days ago you arrived into this world. Tomorrow you start your first day of school. You are such a big girl now, I can't even begin to describe how proud I am of you. You are intelligent, beautiful, inquisitive. You ask lots of questions and think about the answers.

You love to draw, your drawings are so detailed including hands, bows, belts, eyelashes. Your favourite drawing subjects are people, usually yourself and your family. You got stickers and new pens for your birthday and your own ream of paper, and you do several new drawings every day.

20110121g Kathleen opens presentsYou are becoming more and more independant yet you don't mind asking for help. You have become more independant in your play, and have gotten the hang of playing with the dolls and toys by yourself. We don't play pretend very often any more. I think this is because when your sister Victoria got old enough to play with us, she liked to play dolls rather than pretend and the only way we could all play together was with the dolls. You still enjoy pretending to be an animal, and a noise I have heard a lot over these school holidays has been you roaring at your sister or at me to try and scare us.

You still love being the centre of attention and you love telling jokes. Your favourite joke is "Knock knock. Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock knock. Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock knock. Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock knock. Who's there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn't say Banana."

20110122ae Kathleen's new clothesBedtime can sometimes be difficult for you. Even as a baby you would rather be up and about than going to sleep. I think you find life too interesting to spend it sleeping. You still love TV and computer games. You got a new game for your birthday, Spy Fox, and have completed it several times now.

Your favourite books from the libary are puzzle books, where you have to find something hidden in the picture on each page. We have spent a lot of time at the library these school holidays. You are reading very well and can read lots of words. I'm not sure what your teacher will say when she gets to know you. Hopefully she can find things to challenge you.

You already know a few of the children that are going to be in your class this year, and you know lots of the children that will be in the next class up. Several of them came to your birthday party and you already knew them from daycare as well.

20110119d Kathleen and StripeYou are excited about starting school tomorrow. I am excited too, at least for now, tomorrow may be a different story. You have been ready for this for a long time now.

I am sad that we won't have so much time together any more, I will miss you. You have said that you are also sad about that. Since Victoria turned three a couple of months ago, she has been going to daycare two days a week and this has allowed you and I to have time together, just the two of us, and I have really enjoyed these days. You will always be my first baby, my big girl. You have had the luxury of having my complete attention for your first two years of life, and for the next two years after that have had my complete attention at least during Victoria's nap times. When she dropped her nap within the last year I didn't realise how much I would miss the one on one time with you. Now I am sad that I will only see you after school and at weekends. I hope that you and I can make the most of this time and still keep our special bond.

20110103t The Kat climbed up the mountainI am also a bit nervous of sending you out into the world by yourself (or so it feels to me). I wish I could be there to hold your hand, especially in the early days. But I have to let you go and do this on your own, and trust that you will be alright. There are some things that I know you are going to have to learn the hard way.

Soon this time will be just a memory. You will barely remember a time when you weren't a school girl, or that you didn't always know the friends that you have and are going to make.

But I will remember, my little angel. I remember when you were born, when you first sat up, when you crawled and then walked. I remember taking you to the zoo, to the playground, to the beach. Your first vaccinations, your burnt shoulder, your first fall. Your first time on a horse, your first time on a bike. I remember your first day at daycare and I will always remember your first day at school. Tonight Daddy and I told you that tomorrow will be one of the biggest days of your whole life. You disagreed and said that Christmas was the biggest. In years to come I hope you do remember this most important of days. The day from whenceforth our lives will never be the same again.

20060122a Kathleen sleeping.jpg
20070120au Kat's first birthday party
20080121as Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake
20090121s Kathleen's third birthday
20100116p Kathleen's birthday party
20110122at Kathleen's birthday party - Kat and the cake

I love you my little angel. I love you very much.

Love Mummy

02 January 2011

Dear Victoria

As one year ends and another begins, and as you have recently turned three years old, I thought it was about time I committed to writing a little bit about you. You are a most interesting child – at times easy-going and at times very difficult. I'm still not sure I understand you completely.

You keep your thoughts to yourself. If something upsets you, you cry. Or should I say, you have learned that crying gets you what you want. For example if you and Kathleen are fighting over something, you will cry and Kathleen will get told off. Or if you don't want to walk you cry and get picked up. But when you get told off you react quite differently. You go very quiet, you curl yourself up into a ball, and you cry silent tears. Thus it is easy to tell when you are angry or frustrated, but not so easy to tell when you are truly upset or sad.

20101224a Aunti Tora looks after the puppiesYou are both a social and non social person. Non social because you get very shy in group situations. But social in that you compulsively cannot keep your hands away from animals and other small children. Since our dog had puppies two weeks ago you are always asking if you can check on the puppies and if you had your way you would never leave their side. Prior to this you have always enjoyed chasing our cats around, hoping for a cuddle. You love babies if you see them and can be very kind and gentle with them.

You are a hands on learner, you like to try and do things for yourself. While this is a good quality, it can also be frustrating for Mummy, for example when you pour and then spill the milk. You use your hands to explore your world a lot, which can also be frustrating for Mummy when she finds you playing with things that you shouldn’t be. You have always experimented with whatever you find, and as a baby you ate quite a number of things that you shouldn't have! Interestingly, you learned to count with your fingers before you learned to say the numbers in order or read them (I'd say hold up four fingers and you would hold up the right number). I think this is an example of being a hands on learner.

20101128a VictoriaEating is one thing you do and don't like doing. You hate having to sit a table to eat. You hate to sit still. You would rather walk around eating or not eat at all. Yet you also love to sneak into the kitchen and get crackers or other treats to eat. You would much rather eat the things you find under the dining room table than eat at the table. You like sandwiches but you won’t eat the crusts. You still have a thing about eating playdough and sand, despite the fact I thought you would have grown out of this by now. I think you do it to wind me up sometimes.

Your Favourite Things

20100401a Victoria paintingPainting always used to be your favourite thing at preschool, although you don't show as much interest in it any more. You enjoy painting – on paper, on wood, on your hands, your face, your clothes, etc. You love to dip your hands in the paint and to wash it off in the sink.

As much as you love getting paint on your hands, you also love washing it off. During the last few months as the weather has gotten warmer, whenever you have access to a hose you can be spotted there, hose in hand, hosing the ground, toys, steps, filling buckets. You also love the sinks too and have been banned from the bathroom at home because of the times you’ve almost flooded the place or have used up all the soap.

Your favourite thing at the playground is the swing. Since we have put up our swing at home it is one of your favourite things to do at home (second to playing with the puppies which is your number one favourite thing of all time). You love to swing high and I'm sure it won't be long before you learn to swing by yourself.

20101225as Christmas morningBut, excluding puppies, your favourite thing to do at home is, and always has been, to play with dolls. You are happy to play with the toys by yourself or with me or sometimes Kathleen. Frequent play themes include the toys doing everyday activities like eating and sleeping, going away somewhere (usually you suggest America because your grandparents live there), or a toy will need rescuing. When you play with dolls you invariably take their clothes off and don't like it if anyone puts the clothes back on.

Your favourite colour has always been blue although this seems to be changing lately.

Your favourite TV show is Strawberry Shortcake.

Your favourite princess is Ariel, the little mermaid.

Victoria, it has been a pleasure to watch you grow over the last three years. You have always been happy to play by yourself, which has been very helpful when your older sister has been demanding attention. But with Kathleen heading off to school this year, you will find you can demand more of Mummy's time for yourself. I can already see you starting to assert yourself. "You could play with me" I often get told by you. And I hope we will have lots of time to play together in the coming year.

Love Mummy