Sunday, December 28, 2008

Boring stuff

Another end of term. Another Advent Service. Another end-of-term concert.

Another good report from school. Son was over the moon that his grades for Religious Studies (consistently at C last year) is now an A. There were no exams, written work, etc. He was being judged on his 'performance' in class. Son does not like participating when he does not know the answers.

What irked him most was that 'Religious Studies' was more 'History' to him. This boy likes to call a spade and spade.

In PE, too, he was rewarded with better grades than his previous C's. Though he is not in the 'A' team, etc, it appears that his attitude, performance, effort, etc. have really improved. An 'A'. Good lad! We already knew he was third in the whole form for 'agility' and his 'beep test' also shows that he is above average for his age. Good lad!

However we were surprised that he was not awarded his Band badge. He took it very well. I was amazed. Perhaps the Band Master requires a longer service period before they get their badges. The point is, he did not cry over his disappointment.

He also started on Music Theory lessons. He was chuffed as it was clear that it was all about Maths. The teacher put him through a Grade One paper and he would have breezed it.

Next lesson in the new year. Question is: would he do his theory homework?? Watch this space.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What do boys talk about?

Some time ago I was alarmed to learn that a friend's son was teased out of playing a role in a school play.

This boy was discovered to be able to sing. So the teacher gave him a part. But he has to partner someone in this, a girl.

It didn't take long for the poor boy to be teased about how this girl likes him. He got so embarrassed that he decided to resign his role.

Then it occurred to me as to why boys tease. Or more specifically, why ten-year-old boys tease.

Because they are not disposed to discussing the latest in politics, religion (probably frowned upon by the authorities, any way), quantum physics or existential philosophy.

That leaves them with football, maybe something else on TV and then as soon as they run out of topics for discussion, Ah! we could say silly things about so-and-so.

These are usually said with no malice at all. It's akin to those 'staring incidents'. No, I was not staring at you, but my eyes need to rest on something and it happens to be you and so you thought I was staring.

The boys know that "So-and-so likes so-and-so" is groundless, but it gives them something to say.

I remember mulling over the issue of gossip in sheltered housing for older people. Why do they speak such utter nonsense about their equally elderly neighbours? Because they simply have nothing better to do.

This morning a boy from the other class in the Form came up to my son while I was still with him to say, "LT, LT, I saw so-and-so and so-and-so having a very loud argument."

We witnessed some of that ourselves and in fact so-and-so had spoken to me (ex-PTA Chair) to vent some of his frustration.

I said to that young man, "There is no need to repeat such information. Nobody else needs to know."

He gave me a funny look. This was 'Mr Bossy' himself and he does not like being told what he could or could not do.

My son reiterated my point, "Remember, never again," as Mr Bossy stalked off.

Does it matter that Mr Bossy witnessed an unpleasant exchange of words? How does it add to his life to go around telling other boys this?

Apart from the fact it gives him an excuse to verbalize something and perhaps hold court for a few more seconds than he really deserves.

My son comes home from school sometimes distraught that some boys had been teasing him.

Once it was about a photograph. The French teacher wanted a picture of his extended family. The only one conveniently available showed him about four years younger, sitting on his Nanny's knees.

They teased him about being a baby.

When I got round to telling him what silliness this was as everyone was once a baby, he realized that it was not worth the tears. It was ignorance on the part of the boys more than anything else.

To be very honest, my son is much happier discussing, uhm, Descartes.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Son got talent

Before the euphoria fades away ....

Last Friday we had the school fair. I was roped in at the last minute to man the sweets stall. Big mistake.

When the boys came in, there was such a rush. I have seen much better behaviour at soup queues.

I put it down to the fact that these boys are rather 'deprived'. They are not usually allowed the wide array of E-numbers now in front of me. But this is a fundraising fair and their parents had actually given them money to buy stuff they are not allowed to eat at home. I have now to write a report to the Chairman of the PTA about the next sweets stall.

Then we (husband, son and I) battled the traffic on the M25 to our church weekend away. Husband somehow managed to persuade son to bring along his clarinet as there was to be a talent show.

No, he was not not about to take part. Then he was. Then the paper to register went missing. Then he found the youth pastor who had that bit of paper. Then he did not know how long his piece would take. Then Mum had to time him singing the tune in his head.

So come Saturday evening, item #5 was our son playing 'Stranger on the Shore' (Bilk) unaccompanied to an audience of about 100. We could hear a pin drop. When he stopped the place erupted into applause for some time.

One of the judges (someone dressed in a Kangeroo costume) 'said' via her interpreter (another judge, leader of the young people's activities) that it reminded her of a didgeridoo. Her interpreter said the only shortcoming was he was not playing to a larger audience. Can't remember what the third judge said.

In the end, after much laughter and brave attempts by other acts, son was declared the winner and won -- for keeps -- a trophy which once stood on someone's birthday cake. He was delighted.

Lots of people came to congratulate this shy young man who is coming out of his shell (he even heckled the other performers) and he went to bed very happy.

The theme for the weekend was Joseph (his talents, training, fulfilling God's plan for his own people, etc), and once again we are talking about how our son might choose to use his gifts.

Meanwhile I will replay over and over again those three minutes that he played to that audience who listened so attentively.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

High Society

Last week was a busy week. Just out of exams in the previous week, son and mates were rehearsing very hard for their music production which was a mish-mash of Broadway musicals and films.

They performed first on Thursday evening and then again on Friday evening.

On the way to school on Friday a parent told him what a star he was. O! OK.

At pick-up time another parent said how much she enjoyed the show and when she realized that I hadn't seen it said, "O! Then I won't spoil the surprise for you."

Friday evening, mum, dad and godfather trekked down to school. Another parent greeted me with, "He's got the best American accent." O!

And so we saw our eight-year-old in an oversize waistcoat act as a very drunk reporter (Mike Conner) confronting CT Dexter Haven in High Society. I think the other parents were being very kind when they heaped him with praise. But they know how shy this young man is and for him to do what he did was very much stepping out of his comfort zone.

Well done! (And we await a visit from the Social Services to find out how he learned to act so drunk!)

This is more fun than the 100% in Maths exam, son.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Talking money and cents

Since the last post so much has happened.

Son went to his second Cubs camp and had a good time, winning the x-Factor title, whatever this entailed. He also climbed to the top of the climbing wall, which apparently is the tallest in this country. Quite a feat, I think, especially when Mum finds it difficult to even get up a ladder.

He's also really taken to the drama production and is speaking a reasonable American accent (being the Reporter in High Society, did you evah?)

Last Saturday we took him to a fireworks party. It was at the second manse. The house was more or less gutted to make major renovations possible. There was a pile of wood that needed burning. Hence the bonfire and fireworks idea.

Someone brought 'glow sticks'. They soon lost their glow. I said, "Ah! If you could find a way of reviving the glow, then you could be making a lot of money."

"No, I won't. Because people would then buy just one stick and not over and over again!"

How true.

This came a day or so after our discussion on a similar topic, I forget what, match-sticks, I think, about how businessmen always want people to buy their product over and over again. So a match-stick that could last forever is not any good to such people.

This morning he struggled with his school trousers. Some 'smart person' has decided that to make the waistline flexible boys trousers should have an elastic band with slits in it so that the waistline could be adjusted by putting a button through one of these slits on the bands (usually one on each side).

I have struggled so hard to find him some organic cotton school trousers. Every where else is selling teflon-coated trousers and he is not happy wearing those. But organic cotton trousers are expensive and to persuade parents to part with their money, sizes usually cover two years of age/growth, a range of six cm on each size.

Now if us grown-ups have a waistline that varies by a whole six cm (that is nearly two-and-a-half inches) we would be buying clothes one size or two bigger/smaller. So you can imagine how long these elastic bands run on both sides.

These bands and the buttons that protrude cause a lot of discomfort to my son who is already super-sensitive to clothes labels. We have cut away countless labels and he sometimes wears socks inside out because they are more comfortable, etc. etc. So he moans, and I moan, "Why can't the manufacturer put in a proper waist-band?"

I said, "This way they 'last' longer and parents are happier to buy the trousers ."

Son retorted immediately, "No, they make less money, because people need to buy less. If they are clever they should make trousers that fit properly. Then the parents would have to spend more money buying new trousers."


When one pair of his trousers are £12.99 compared with two for £8.00 at the shops, it is not easy finding a price that would compromise size, price and comfort.

Still, I am surprised that he is so sensitive to such ideas.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A cow stick guitar

Son's on holiday this fortnight. Husband's taken the week off. Our 'family holiday' means waking up late and doing things together, not getting away to another sunny space like I know many of his school mates are doing.

We went to Stonehenge yesterday -- which incidentally was beautifully sunny, if cold -- and on the journey there I heard mumbled statements from behind me about most of the boys in the Form below him taking up the guitar, and he would like to play 'a cow stick guitar'.

Me: A cow stick guitar? What's one of those? Tell me about it and I'll see what I can do.

Son: You know, all the other boys are playing electric guitar because the guitar teacher is trying to form a rock band. I want to play a cow stick guitar.

Suddenly the lights came on. I realized he meant the -- are you ready? --"acoustic guitar".

A cow stick guitar is not, after all, something you stick together with cow glue and a few rubber bands stretched over a fingerboard of sorts.

He's read the words but no one has told him how to pronounce them. So we add 'a cow stick guitar' to his 'chor-fer' ('chauffeur') to the funny words that he mis-pronounces (but used in the correct context).

That's my boy and I am very proud of him.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pocket Money

Despite some unhappiness yesterday over the lack of clarinet practice, he went to bed happy because he had collected £5.30 in total of pocket money.

The first miserly 30 pence was from me for cleaning the area around the dining table six days out of seven in the past week. He's let off on Friday as there is always a rush to get to Cubs. I didn't tell him to do this. He sort of decided that, yes, he could, and would, clean the floor with a brush and pan after dinner.

Then he broached the issue of pocket money.

For a boy who gets fed at school (our fees cover that) there is no need to have money to buy stuff, not like in my own childhood where we had to make our way to the 'tuckshop' to queue up for food, pay for it, eat it quickly and then get to play during our short breaks.

He tends also to get the toys, games, books, etc he would like to have sooner or later.

But I checked with my RGS girls -- decided to call them his 'RGS Aunties' -- for advice: give or don't give? The consensus was 'give'. Some pocket money, seeing it grow, learning how to use/spend/save/give it (to charity) teaches him how to budget.

There are lots of TV programmes which show how young British people have no idea what a 'budget' means. This credit card generation spends more than they earn and the debts pile up. 'Experts' come in to show them why they are spending like that (to express a sadness, eg) and how to stop this spending (usually beginning with cutting up every credit card) and setting a limit to what they could spend, or directing them to a useful second job.

I don't want my son to be like that. Poor though I was I thank God that Mum and Dad gave me pocket money and I had to learn to spend within my means from a very young age.

It used to be that getting a credit card was demonstration that we are earning enough, or that we had rich parents. I like spending on my credit card because the monthly statement tells me how much I had spent. I also pay off the whole sum when it's due.

Things have changed and banks and department stores have been throwing credit at shoppers, young and old. Perhaps one positive outcome of the credit crunch is that people begin to live within their means.

Son and his Dad washed my car yesterday. The car was filthy. It was the first time it had been washed since I had it, probably in March. He was happy washing it, it seemed. He does not get to wear his wellies very often. Said he should wear his other waterproofs the next time.

Dad gave him £5 for that, ignoring my suggestion that they should split the £5.

Not sure now how long this car washing -- or even floor brushing -- would go on for. But I think it is a good start.

Long may it last.

Monday, October 06, 2008

It's Monday!

Another long, complicated day for poor son.

We've had a tough week/end. Dad was at work a lot. There was a virus attack on his office system late last week, they were scheduled to migrate data or whatever on the weekend, and then there was hardware failure as well.

Getting to the office was not easy as the Tube was not running. Dad was keen to go to church yesterday but realized that something was very wrong at work and we dropped him off at the station. Not only the Tube was down, the overland train was down and he ended up going to work on a Sunday in a coach.

So far the story was son has had to attend Band practice even though it clashes with drama rehearsal because Band has priority. But son forgot he had to go for early lunch which meant he had very little time to get his food and actually eat it. Thankfully the Head of Music (on lunch duty) let him off for not finishing his lunch. Late for Band.

Then there was some confusion over whether the boys were leaving for their football match straight after lunch, etc, etc. That upset him because he was fearful that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The boys lost all their matches against rival local school. Not a very happy bunch.

Not having very much to eat all day and tired he decided to -- and I let him -- come home instead of going to orchestra rehearsal. Actually he's been coping with a tummy ache and is right now sitting on the throne. I hope he is not reading as usual.

I feel that I should be stricter with him sometimes. But he is only eight. When I was eight I was not preparing for a grade 4 piano exam, attending drama, band and orchestra rehearsals, playing football matches, moving between classrooms for different subjects, and having to sort time-table clashes, etc with various teachers.

It's good to see him growing up, but there is no need to grow up that quickly.

He's still on the throne and I think I can hear him flipping pages. Bah!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Long thirsty Thursdays

They are doing intensive rehearsals for this drama production. Lunch-time and after-school rehearsals.

I think son is regretting it a little that these are going on all the time. But he is not going to quit because he is not going to let the other people down. Good on him!

This means having to miss his Thursday lunch-time Chess Club. He's OK with that as he's not required for rehearsal next week and could catch up on Chess then. Today it means having to miss his first break because of a piano lesson. Then he goes to Late Class after school until the rehearsal between 4.30 and 5.30pm.

Gave him some grapes for a snack but he might not have time to eat them. At least it is there and might come in useful to quench his thirst.

Orchestra rehearsals have also moved back to Mondays. That means he does Monday lunch band practice, Monday after-school orchestra rehearsal before finishing at 4.30pm. He gets a break on Tuesday and is home early then.

He also has four pieces to perform on the clarinet in a couple of weeks at the Autumn Wind and Brass Concert at school. He plays with an oboeist, two flutists, another clarinettest (all from the top end of the school) and plays the melody line with his best friend who has just started on the clarinet. So a lot of practice for him.


I'm still having trouble trying to get him to practise more than five minutes every other day or so. What is exasperating is that despite long breaks in between he is still able to produce a very good tone in the first instance and he does not forget his fingering. So I cannot even say, "If you don't put in the practice you would lose your muscle tone."

I think he does exercises with his mouth and lip muscles even when he is not physically playing the clarinet and that is very good. I can't complain really. Except that a mother always feels, "Ah! If only he would do a little bit more, he could be SO good."

Yesterday it was really lovely to hear him play and experiment on the clarinet. And he was demonstrating to his dad the diminished chords on the piano. Hopefully music theory will be a dawdle (spelling?) to him when the time comes.

He is struggling to write the '£' sign in his Maths and musical notes, clefs, etc. We're 'doing' his science project on 'sound' and we decided that we would decorate some old empty plastic containers with musical signs. We've taken to sticking post-it tags on the inside of the container so he could trace the patterns on the outside. It's coming along.

This morning he was trying to show me how he has to dance while singing "We're in the money!" etc. Let's hope he loosens up a bit.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Even longer peace

Son was given two smaller and one more major parts in the drama production and he is chuffed.

Then we quickly realized that the first rehearsal would clash with his orchestra practice at Tuesday lunch-time.

Monday morning he appeared really anxious. A mother knows these things, but tries not to highlight it. He would have to talk to various teachers about the clashes in his timetable, go to a Band rehearsal at lunch, organize to store his clarinet at the office, or in a locker somewhere, as well as organize himself to change into games kit for a football match. That is a lot for an eight-year-old.

First thing in the morning he spoke to teacher in charge of drama production and was reassured that she would speak to the Head of Music wrt the clash. Then the Band rehearsal time was changed at the last minute.

Did he panic? A little. But he got that sorted and even managed to get to the football match. He left his clarinet in the office for me to pick up, as planned. Good lad!

Tuesday's orchestra practice has now been switched as well so that he has orchestra, quick lunch and then drama rehearsal.

I noted to him that the should notify whoever in charge that he would have to leave early or arrive late due to lunch in between, just in case.

First thing at school, notified the teacher in charge of drama that he might be late. Sorted.

Wednesday was normal long day with Fun Choir.

Today there are drama rehearsals at lunch and after school at 4.30pm. He wanted to come home in between (for 45 minutes). Then he realized that a better idea is to stay at Late Class, finish his homework, play with his friends, and then attend rehearsal, which finishes at 5.30pm. It's going to mess up my cooking schedule, but it's not the end of the world.

So it will be interesting to see how he has coped with such a long day.

I think he's been doing very well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sing your way home

Enjoying an extended afternoon of quiet here.

Extended till about 5pm because son has decided to go for an audition for the school music/drama production.

This is the son whose acting has been described as 'wooden' by his teachers but whose singing has been known to be about the best.

Despite the long-running saga of being bored with Oliver last year, and my reminding him that this production requires committment, he decided to go for it.

It surprises me even more as he had decided to forgo the audition for the Chapel Choir last week. He showed some disappointment when he thought only Form III and over were allowed to audition and he is in Form II.

When the Head of Music said Form II auditions were on last Friday he was chuffed, and then, didn't go for the audition ... because he thought he was not prepared. And also he thought -- wrongly -- that the choir practises at Tuesday lunch hour. He already has band practice on Monday lunch hour. Two days of disrupted lunch hours means ... less time for play.

"Maybe in Form III I would be more prepared."

I am a bit confused as to his goals and desires. No amount of coaxing would make him agree to go to the Head of Music to ask for a second chance. Yet he is going to this audition today. He even said I could help him to prepare for it "because I've seen that sometimes a bit of help is required". He was even more pleased then to learn that there was no need to prepare, as the teacher in charge was going to give them something to sing.

Based on his singing ability I have no doubt that he would do well, but it's his acting ability and readiness to commit that are questionable. Although he did say this is only for up to November. It's not going to be another Oliver.

Anyway, I shall enjoy this afternoon for now.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Off to Camp, at last!

Between Singapore and resumption of school is Cub Camp.

Cub Camp is the be-all and end-all of all incentives during this long eight-week summer break for son. We kept going to the camp shop (there are two in our part of Harrow!) to buy various things. Even on the day of camp itself, after I'd done my turn at the school uniform shop, we had to go to the shop to buy a steel mug.

Son is a very "I'm very comfortable at home, thank you" kind of boy. He could stay indoors for days if you do not force him out for some fresh air. But camp -- living in a tent -- seemed to have taken his fancy. I think it's the prospect of another badge that mattered most to him.

Anyhow, finally packed and ready to go, we got to the camp site.

There was to be an 'opening ceremony' at 7.30pm. Son checked in, got the stuff he needed for his tent, disappeared into the tent for a long while, emerged, came to me to give me a kiss (very unexpectedly), sort of waved to Dad, and said, "You can go now."

Being thus summarily dismissed, we left. We weren't allowed to stay for the opening ceremony.

Well, you know, this is the first time EVER that son has slept away from me. Ever since he was born -- kind of prised out of my body -- he has always slept under the same roof as me. Dad had gone away for a day or two (hospital, errand to Nanny, etc), but son has ALWAYS been with me. Even when I went to Singapore to conduct some research, son was with me.

Who felt the separation more? Guess!

It was a rite of passage for all of us.

All through the time he was away we could not stop talking about him: he must be having his campfire now. Is he singing 'Ging gang gooli'? "Do you think he's asleep?".

Get used to it, we reminded ourselves.

Sunday morning, the rain was chucking down. "Do you think his tent is flooded?"

Sunday afternoon, we went to pick him up, in good time for the 'closing ceremony', we thought. At the carpark we noticed that cubs were already climbing into cars. They had brought forward the closing ceremony because of the rain. So we missed it.

Caught sight of son. All smiles. Rushed towards us waving a certificate: Best Camper it says.

A real surprise. All our fears about his not liking camp evaporated. He wants to do more. He even managed to pack everything back into his rucksack. Amazing!

So last week we bought him a new sleeping bag. Next 'Cool Camp' end of October coming up. What fun!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One-Tonne Noodles

My brother decided to up sticks and move to another country. He and his wife have been managing most of my financial affairs.

I therefore had to spend some time in Singapore to sort out various administrative issues (re-assigning them to another sibling). My own family has not been back to Singapore for some time. I do not like air travel and especially long-haul air travel. I was also particularly keen to visit my favourite maternal uncle who's had a stroke. I last saw him eight years ago and Uncle is 84. So we decided to stop two weeks in Singapore.

All four siblings still remaining in Singapore were at the airport to welcome us. We felt very loved. After settling in at the YMCA, being given a phone and phone card that works in Singapore, a freshen-up, etc, we were at a Kopi Tiam (air-conditioned hawker food place) nearby to have dinner.

Son is very picky with food so I was not looking forward to making a choice for him. We finally settled on "Wonton Noodles" in soup. "Wonton" is a Chinese transliteration of "cloud swallow" (or cloud being swallowed). It is a meaningless name as such, unless one wishes to say that the crumply folds of cream-colour boiled wonton skin over bits of minced pork and prawn look sort of "cloud-like".

We were pleasantly surprised that son actually ate the noodles, and then ate some more of the noodles. He was not so much into the actual wonton, the roast pork and the vegetables that came with the noodles. But the noodles, he ate them well with chopsticks.

I noted, "That was Mum's favourite hawker food when she was young."

Son: "So I've got your genes then."

Me: "Yes, you must have some of my genes."

Son: "But I didn't steal your trousers."

Me: "Pardon?"

Son: "Genes! As in jeans! Trousers. I've got your genes, but I didn't steal your trousers. Geddit?"


Friday, August 01, 2008

Or Two (Results!)

Mr G got back to us when I asked if it should be same-size whiskey. He told us the unofficial result and added "Yes, a very large whiskey of great age I think".

We hassled the Head of Music when we noticed that his car is back in place. When he got to read his emails, he confirmed that son did not only get a Distinction, but a Distinction with 136 marks in his Clarinet.

There were whoops of joy from son when he learned that.

Over the weekend he'd been going, "I hope I get 136," because 136 plus the 124 he got for his piano would equal to an average of 130, which is what one needs for a Distinction.

I know friends whose children appear to be very good at an orchestral instrument, but they struggle with piano.

Son started on the piano. That means developing a 'two-channel mind'. His music has become quite difficult for me because fingers of the same hand play at different rhythms (eg holding down thumb and moving one or two other fingers to form a chord).

For him then to switch to playing clarinet requiring him to read just one line of music at one time must seem terribly easy. I don't know.

It will be interesting to see how he progresses when -- if -- he takes on the organ as well.

Meanwhile, having had Acker Bilk send him to sleep for a week or so, he's worked out the opening lines of Stranger on the Shore all by himself.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Result! (Or Two?)

Son took his music exams two weeks before the end of term and we wondered how he'd done. He was keen to find out because a certain colourful construction toy is at stake.

Some time in May, desperate at his reluctance to practise, we made him sign a contract to the effect that a Merit in both exams would be rewarded by such-and-such, and in the unlikely event of a distinction, then it's something else, etc.

We tracked down Mr G, piano teacher, who somehow managed to get at his results and told us in no uncertain terms that he managed a 124, a Merit in piano grade 3. He (Mr G) was going to celebrate with a large whisky.

Son saw the email and his face went, "O! I didn't get a distinction," and so that particular PSP game is out of the question (or is it?).

We were going, "You've done well! Another Merit!"

He is pleased actually that he did get a Merit because at one point we thought he would only just managed a Pass. What is more important is that he seems to -- finally -- see the correlation between practice (to a certain extent) and performance.

What about the clarinet result? Mr G wouldn't tell us because he's not the clarinet teacher nor the Head of Music at son's school. But he did say, "Sounds like another large whisky is on the horizon!!!"

If it's the same size "large", then we think he means he's got a Merit in clarinet, too.

Not a bad result for the sheer amount of practice a certain young man DID NOT put in, and within such a short preparation period.

Well done, son!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Joke © 2008 LT

Son was rattling on his calculator. He has learned (from me) how to make words with the calculator upside down. For example, when you look at 0.7734 upside down it appears as "hELL.O".

He experimented and came up with 0.773450 which reads -------.

Then he did some mental 'reverse engineering' and came up with the question:

What is a limpet's favourite Shakespeare play?

Answer: oSHELLo!

inspired by the OShELL.O that 0.773450 looks like upside down.

Not bad for an eight-year-old, I would say.

You saw it here first.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Going omph-pa-pa

While watching a news report on more knife killings in London I went, "Where are the parents of these young people carrying knives? Don't their parents care?"

I went on to say, "I know where they are. They are probably down in a pub somewhere."

To this my son chipped in, "Yeah! and singing omph-pa-pa."

He had just done Oliver! at school, right, and there is this scene in a pub where Nancy sings "Omph-pa-pa" to distract Bill Sykes so that Oliver could escape. So now son thinks that when grown men go to the pub, they sing "Omph-pa-pa".

Or does he?

Maybe it is just his way of saying how people enjoy themselves, forget themselves, in a pub. Who knows?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is doing one's best ever good enough?

I had just dropped off the letter to the sports master.

After some careful consideration I decided that it was unfair that:
  1. son was not given even a certificate in his team event when certificates and medals were awarded for all other individual events
  2. up to five boys in the other Form I class who didn't make grades A & B were given "good work" and "effort" certificates at Final Assembly

Altogether eight out of the eleven boys (73%) in that class were given some kind of award.

In my son's class four who didn't made the A and B grades were also awarded certificates for "good work" or "effort". In total, eight boys out of a class of 14 (57%) were given an award.

This is great for the boys who are not academically gifted, but boys who are not gifted on the sports field are not similarly given certificates to encourage them at all.

There are a few boys in the 11-boy class who are clearly gifted in sports. There is a boy who wins all the races, sets all the records (very probably including the one with the false start) and sometimes I hear my son go, "Who cares? J--- will win all the prizes."

Now when a child says, "Who cares? So-and-so will be top of the class no matter how hard I try," a sensible mother would not go, "Yeah, why bother?"

Sensible mothers say, "That may be the case, but it does not stop you from trying your best, better your own record."

It's really great that the school awards boys for "effort" for work in class. What about awarding boys for "effort" in sports.

When I revisited the situation I realized that my son keeps coming in fourth to sixth. He was welly-wanging really well, for example. A big cheer went up after his first throw. He was the best in his class of 14. Then boys from the other class started throwing and he was edged into fourth. After fouling one throw (strong wind, good distance but just out of the V), he was edged further down into sixth.

It was the same with long jump. He was doing quite well because he is a natural jumper and they had absolutely no training and were allowed one practice jump before the whole event. The teacher in charge was saying that they might need a jump-off between my son and someone else to decide on a medal position.

Then a couple of boys came over from their javelin throw. Some boys whose names were not even on the list decided that they would also have a go at long jump, and my son was edged out ... again. I was furious, but kept my cool.

I guess I am just a pushy mother, but it is hard to see one's child trying so hard at something he is not naturally gifted in, and not be rewarded at all. I am tired at seeing tears and disappointment as sometimes the goal-posts are moved and I have used up all ideas to persuade him that it is still worth his trying his best.

So I have suggested to the teacher that perhaps boys should be given encouragement and public acknowledgement that they have achieved personal targets and vast improvements in certain events. Personal bests are to be celebrated as well, not just coming in first, second and third.

With three boys in the other class and one in my son's class who are superb athletes, the other boys in the Form do not stand a chance. But the last thing we want is for them to give up and say, "Why bother?"

No use having a clever mind when we do not have a strong body. So I hope the sports master would consider seriously my suggestion.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A mother's worry

Another extremely busy week.

Monday: a concert to which parents were not invited, but son performed with the Wind Band.

Tuesday: Sports Day. Started off well. Son kept coming in fourth, so no certificates for him, but points for his House. Very frustrating. But he somehow sprinted his heart out and came in third in his House sprint and was selected to go into the sprint relay team. A real achievement.

They won that event but somehow they were not given a medal and he was not even given a certificate. Very odd.

Then the 200m individual. He had been practising in his group C or D relays. But because of his excellent performance in the earlier sprint, got put into the strongest group with the top runners. The eventual winner also managed a false start but the starter did not see this.

Son saw the false start and hesitated expecting a recall which never came and eventually ran, some two seconds later, and managed to come in second to last.

He was not a happy bunny. He has to learn to play to the whistle -- or whatever phrase it should be. I felt very embarrassed by his tears. He felt it was not fair. We knew it was not fair. A good few parents saw the false start but none spoke up, except me, because their sons were not in that race. Those whose sons won -- despite their false starts -- also did not own up to it.

Well, such is life.

Wednesday: Things quietened down a bit. I was so upset with his behaviour at Sports Day I was up in the middle of the night (from hay fever, actually) and wrote him a long letter, noting how he does not seem to be aware of other people's feelings, including my own, that he does not see the positive and dwell only on the negative, that we have to stop excusing him by saying he is only eight, because the other eight-year-olds did not behave like him. He read the letter with great solemnity at breakfast.

On the whole, a much better day, because he did try to look at the positives today. What a glorious change. And how much nicer.

Thursday: School Speech Day -- one of my few opportunties to dress up. Weather was perfect. Son won the Class Prize. And we saw that he also won a music certificate, which was to be handed out on ...

Friday: Leavers service at the school chapel followed by Final Assembly. Loads of certificates to hand out. Son's House won the Sports section and were all-round winners this year, much to their delight. But, as I pointed out, he was given nothing for coming in first in the team relay. I shall have to speak to the Sports teacher about this.

Grade card came back. He did excellently. A1s in English, Maths, Science, French, Geography and Music, and A2s in Technology, History and Art, and a C2 in Religious Studies which he decided was not religious enough ("It's history!"). He was thrilled that he had managed to get an A1 in English, a personal goal. Now to convert A2s to A1s and get rid of that C2 in Religious Studies ....

Cubs in the evening and he came home with SIX new badges (four music, one swimming and one IT) which kept me busy this afternoon.

Saturday: Dad at work all day and we had lots of essential shopping to do.

Sunday: church and joint birthday party in the afternoon.

What has been weighing really heavy on my mind is the murder of the two French exchange students in London earlier this week. I cannot comprehend how any one could perpetrate such a crime. I cannot imagine how their mothers could come to terms with the way their promising sons -- prospective Nobel Prize winners for all we know -- died.

I fear for my son. What a future. To grow up in an era where lives could be snuffed out just like that, probably not for anything more than a few quid so that the perpetrator of the crime could get his next fix.

This is a very, very sad world.

What does a mother do? What can a mother do? I can only pray. Pray for God's protection. Pray that God, in his mercy, would allow my son's gifts to come to fruition that others might benefit from it. And pray that God's Name be praised. And pray for the mothers of those two young men.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Free range?

Went shopping with son to get birthday presents for his dad's birthday.

We were delighted to find organic cotton and bamboo socks in a certain department store.

Son: Organic cotton? Hmm, but are they free range?

I think he's getting the picture.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Exams over! Really over!

Last Monday he had his final hurdle.

The day started as usual at 8.30am and went: school as usual, piano grade 3 exam, classes as usual, lunch as usual, band practice at a different time (cancelled last minute), games as usual, quick change (no time for shower), clarinet exam. We finished about 4.20pm, perhaps. Exhausted.

In between I missed helping to run the school uniform shop. I completely forgot. Thankfully the other mother did not forget. I was, to say the least, a bit stressed by all this. There was a chance that he might be playing a cricket match after lunch. So, for the first time, I was relieved that he came back last Friday and said, "By the way, I was not selected to play for the match."

Whew! What a relief! As I would have had to fetch him from the games grounds (a little drive away), rush him over to school again, get him changed, freshened up, etc, for the exam. No thanks (or should it be "no, thank you?").

This morning I got hauled up by the Director of Music. Apparently son went into the exam hall and spent a minute scrabbling on the floor sorting out his music. The examiner has exactly 12 minutes for each candidate and told him to move along. (The examiner had also been at his job since 9.30am.)

Not his fault, really, I insist. His clarinet teacher has decided that he would pick pieces from three different books. With his piano exams, they use a standard book with the three sections from which they choose a tune. For some strange reason, son had to do pieces from three different rather dated books.

Ah well, I just hope he had not been marked down. We keep making the excuse that he's only seven, or now, he's only eight. So much of his behaviour is really due to his being a really young boy. The fact that he is ahead of his peers in his music and maths does not make him any other more than, well, eight.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ESB -- Extra Special Boy?

Got his ESB (English Speaking Board) exam results yesterday. Had a 'Merit Plus', whatever that means.

Then went on to say that his best friend got a Distinction.

There was a look of clear disappointment on his face and I felt so sorry for my little boy.

The point is he refused to let me or his dad help him with the preparation.

For the poem he chose Alfred Noyes 'The Highwayman', just Part I because it is a long poem. I thought that was a bit ambitious. But he wanted to do that as a challenge.

For the talk he talked about his 'blue bear'. It was short, presented in his own clumsy little way.

Then he read from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I know for a fact that all the other parents gave a great deal of help to their boys. They would listen to their talk every day, maybe helped even in writing some of it, primed them on how to answer the questions from the floor, made them read and taught them how to read with expression, etc.

My son would have none of it. "If I get a Distinction I want it to be ON MY OWN WORK, not somebody else's."

That, I think, is a very good attitude. But he was disappointed that he did not get a Distinction.

He also did his 'Maths', "How could I get Distinction in the talk and reading, and a Merit Plus in the poem and still only get a Merit Plus?"

Let's hope he has learned his lesson. That sometimes he should listen to the opinions of his Mum and Dad and take their suggestions on board.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Being Franck about one's abilities

Yesterday we did the unprecedented. We took our son to an Anglican church not far from us where his piano teacher plays the organ.

After the service we were treated to a rousing performance of Walton (composed for a coronation, don't ask me which one).

Son was allowed to play his exam piece by C Franck (written for the piano to sound like an organ) on the pipe organ. There were a first few hesitant notes. And then he was off.

So we take our hat off to the composer. It really sounds good on the organ despite the fact that it was being played by an eight-year-old!

As we waited a number of people who were busy tidying up the church after the service asked if we were OK. Proud mother here found herself saying, "That's my son on the organ." Everyone who came to talk to us seemed suitably (or politely) impressed.

We left him to play for a bit. He seemed, after a while, to be really enjoying himself. He tried playing another exam piece, but clearly it was not written for the organ and sounded a bit weird. We then got a bit worried that he might decide to launch into the theme from Indiana Jones. But son was sensible.

Later on Mr Piano Teacher confirmed that our son is a 'natural' on the organ. That means we have to think seriously about whether or when he should switch to playing the organ alongside his piano and clarinet.

Thankfully, we still have six inches of time. His legs are not long enough to reach the pedals, and we would let him continue with the piano for the next couple of years instead.

The only problem is, now that he has played the organ, he seems to be very keen to play it again!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

What is life?

When I say to people that my son has special education needs, they often think that he is autistic or something like that.

In his case his psychologist did wonder whether he could be borderline Asperger's, but has ruled it out for now.

We recently had a parent-teacher consultation and it was good news to hear that his form teacher (as head of that section of the school) has made plans for son to do some Maths lessons with some of the 'more able boys' in the Form above him from next year. This is subject to time-tabling working out.

That is good news for us. Having said that we are very thankful that son has calmed down so much this year. He is clearly more relaxed. He is enjoying school, making more friends, not afraid of making mistakes.

He still has his moments, especially when he cannot find any logic in what his teachers require him to do. Eg in swimming, "What's the point of making us do sculling when we can already do the backstroke?"

Then there were issues with his being bored with Fun Choir that has ceased to be fun. With the new songs and therefore new challenges he is clearly much happier.

What is mentally exhausting for us -- me, especially -- is that we have to keep going about finding answers. So one morning it was, "I don't really want to go to school today. I am bored."

A few minutes later it was, "What is life, any way?" Not "what is the meaning of life?" or "why do we exist?" but "what is life?".

At ten minutes past eight, when the school goes at 8.30am, I didn't really wish to discuss that. Somehow managed to bundle him off to school.

Having been a philosophy major I am usually happy to discuss such issues as life, rationality, morality, etc, but I find it exceedingly difficult to discuss philosophy with my eight-year-old because I can never find suitable examples and illustrations that an eight-year-old would find relevant.

Any way we did read a chapter of his Philosophy for Kids book and settled on the chapter "are number as real as human beings?". And he seemed really happy that we did that together. Perhaps after mulling over the reality of numbers he would be closer to answering his own question of "what is life?". Who knows.

The point is, he needs a parent to be there with him to explore these questions.

I reminded him that he once said I could return to work when he was seven-plus. Now that he's eight, he is still very against the idea of Mum not being there to pick him up from school.

"I won't have a chance to make professor now."

"Do you really want to be a professor?"

"Yes, I do."

He said something like, isn't having your own business better than being a professor.

Sometimes I am not sure.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cub Scouting and all that

Son got duly enrolled as a Cub Scout. Then it was a visit to the fire station.

My duty was, of course, sewing on all those badges on his new uniform.

20th May was Piano Concert at his school. He played his 'Chant de la creuse' by C Franck, very well if I may say, and he has clearly leap-frogged over many of the older boys in his piano grades. But that is not important.

The important thing is he is developing confidence in his playing. One of the boys CF (three years older) stood out with his musicality. Son's teacher tells son that one day he could play as well as CF.

At reception I caught up with CF's mum. Apparently CF used to practise only three minutes. Wow! there is hope for us, I thought. Only after a Chinese piano teacher told him that he should practise at least 30 minutes a day did CF improve. (CF's mum is Chinese, like me, but comes from mainland China.)

So my son decides that he would start practising for 30 minutes every day "starting tomorrow".

Let's just say he's not been able to do 30 minutes but he is making good progress. Both piano grade 3 and clarinet grade 1 exams looming. And his ESB (English Speaking Board) exams as well.

Poor lad. But he's cool.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More exam results and Cubs

They are trickling in. It seems that he has done extremely well, with a 97% in Geography (class average being 65.5%).

Both English and History are at 85% with the class average being 58% and 48% respectively.

So only the Maths result to come in.

Been to first two Cub Scout meetings and he has asked to be enrolled next week. Today we attended the church which sponsors his troop. One of his leaders was playing the organ.

Son has even learned the 'Promise' about doing his best, and thinking of others before self, etc. It will be interesting to see whether his attitude towards 'others' would improve. Being an only child it is so often a case of 'me, me, me'.

As a result of his joining Cubs I've met up again with the mums that I used to meet up with when our children were babies. The boys do not remember one another, they look so different now, but I look forward to touching base (and having 'coffee') with these mums again.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Exam results!

Exams are really over for now. Well, school exams are.

Son had his first result yesterday. Science. The average score for the class of 25 was 70%. His score was a respectable 96%.

We are both very proud of him, considering the fact that he refused to do any 'revision' he has done very well.

This morning he moaned that he is not likely to get 100% in Maths as he did in the last term.

There was a question about which meaning he was not sure. It had to do with calculating what angle is turned after half a turn. A 'turn' is a very vague term. Son interpreted it as 180 degrees, so have a turn would be 90 degrees. He is not sure whether the one turn could also be taken to be 360 degrees in which case half a turn would be 180 degrees.

I encouraged him to note this to his teacher, to stick up for himself and others.

Will be interesting to see what he does.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

School Exams -- nearly over!

Son seems so terribly comfortable with his exams, it is unreal.

Thursday was Geography. He forgot a number of facts. I think he now realizes that he has to do something to bring this information to the fore of his brains.

Friday was supposed to be last day of his exam. Unfortunately they have yet to re-sit their Maths paper. Not that it bothers him, but it is quite annoying.

Friday too was his first day at Cub Scouts and this was exciting for all of us.

He went, and stuck with us. The hall was very noisy during 'free play' and I was concerned that the noise might bother him.

But I think he forced himself to look beyond the noise. More structured activities followed.

He wanted me back at 7.30pm for an 8pm pick-up. So I did. They were singing loudly when I arrived. I peeked in the door. I think he saw me, but showed no effort to leave.

I sat outside and heard the leader calling out names. The children then mumbled some information.

Then I heard son's name called. His answer was 'cricket'.

He then went on for a minute or so. Was that my son speaking loudly and clearly to a room of virtual strangers?

He was dismissed later and he was full of excitement. He definitely wants to go back.


So on Saturday we went to buy his uniform even though he is not due to be 'invested' yet.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

School Exams Day Three

Picked son up after Fun Choir. Nothing said about whether it was fun or not. I managed to be late enough for him to have gone on to Late Class. (I think they were released unusually early today.)

Science paper was OK. But he could not remember the important dates for his History paper. Then there were those Anglo-Saxon place names that he hadn't learned.

I had kept asking him to learn that list but he insisted he did not need to know that.

No, no, no, the point of revision is that you learn everything that you have learned in class.

"But it was not on the green sheet!" he insisted.

Of course it was. He just decided to ignore it.

Having learned today that there were facts that he could not recall, we then went over the Geography section of his green sheet. He did not have his book despite my instructions for him to retrieve his Geography book from his classroom.

So we had to rely on his atlas and hope that we have covered enough ground.

As for birthdays, his Chinese side showed when he asked me why people made such a fuss about birthdays.

We ordered in pizza because he loves pizza and I don't remember the last time we had pizza at home. His presents had not arrived because he told us rather late in the day what he really wanted for his birthday.

In any case he would not be able to start playing with those so it's just as well that it's not likely to arrive till tomorrow at least.

His best friend remembered and he came home with a model airplane to build and paint.

School Exams Day Two

Maths paper yesterday. He was cheerful coming home. Can't think why.

There was a blip with the exam papers. Some pages had not been printed and only three boys in the class had complete papers. Those who had less than complete papers now have to re-sit their Maths -- or the missing bits -- today, he tells me.

"Perfect! Three exams on my birthday!"

I emailed his teacher concerning a different matter. Looks like Maths re-sit is now going to be on Thursday. It doesn't really matter.

Significantly he told me that he went over his test answers and discovered he made mistakes, "But I fixed them."

Good for him.

We learned that Oliver rehearsal is on Friday and he says he wasn't going to Cubs on Friday evening. Today as we walked past the notice he tells me, rehearsal will finish by the end of school day, so Cubs is on again.

It will be his first day at Cubs -- thanks to being eight (today) -- and he is excited.

Monday, April 28, 2008

School Exams Day One

English I (Comprehension).

"I like this the least."

"For some strange reason, I'm really looking forward to the cricket match."

Son seemed relaxed and wrote his first exam this round today. Some difficult bits, made a mistake, but had time to correct it, he tells us.

Don't really care. He is relaxed and in such good mood.

Insisted on doing my feet (ie massaging them in his own way).

Then we realized that he had forgotten to write out this 'show-and-tell' bit in preparation for his English Speaking Board Exam, and which his Drama teacher wishes to look at tomorrow.

So he wrote out the lot in 30 minutes.

Exams in the morning, normal lessons in the afternoon.

Away cricket match today and his team won and he is very happy.

Thank you, God!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Organ, Naturally

Yesterday I was still 'buzzing' with the news of son possibly playing the organ at School Mass.

Had to give some money to Mr G piano teacher because son had forgotten to do so (for his Scales book).

Mr G then explained that he suspects son is a 'natural' at playing the organ.

The other piano teacher and Chapel organist walked by and said, "O! We need more of those."

Mr G explained that son insists on 'swapping fingers' when he plays. Other teacher remarked, "That's very good."

This bit of information had no significance to me. I didn't have a clue what it means.

As I was already communicating with the man who sold us our piano (because we could not pin down the piano tuner) I asked him what the significance of 'swapping fingers' is.

A long response came from him, quite unexpectedly. If I could distil it, he thinks our son plays a true legato, linking notes without the help of a sustain pedal, which is very helpful because organists do not have a sustain pedal.

He went on to say it is a good idea to let him develop organ skills as soon as possible because organ-playing requires 'three-channel brain' (left, right hands and feet) while piano-playing only requires a 'two-channel brain' (left and right hand).

(That probably explains why I can play the trombone and flute fairly well, but cannot play the piano. I have a one-channel brain, methinks.)

If he does show any talent in organ-playing, the school will be very delighted, I'm sure. As they have not had an organ player for a long time.

Son also came home without any books to revise for exams next week.

"They didn't give us a chance to collect our books."

He seems so relaxed about the exams, to the point that I think he is TOO relaxed. Let's hope he copes with it OK all of next week, which means that his eighth (EIGHTH!!!) birthday will become a complete non-event.

He does have a cricket match to play on Monday afternoon and cannot decide whether to go for the Band rehearsal at lunch time. He's been practising his part (theme from Wallace and Gromit) really hard. But attending the rehearsal means leaving him with 20 minutes to queue up for lunch, eat it, change into PE gear, and get ready for the bus trip to the Away match.

We'll leave the decision up to him.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

He DID complain!

I could never tell what my son would get up to.

Having forgotten about complaining about the 'No-Fun Choir' he went to the following rehearsal yesterday ("I'll give them one more chance."). He was looking serious when I picked him up. Serious, not upset.

Told me he spoke to the teacher.

"But I cannot quit now. They won't let me quit now." The teacher in charge of the whole Oliver production was there and both told him the same.

He's been told that he has to stay on till the end of the year. They are now learning songs for Speech Day and all that. So he has to stay.

Not a happy bunny but a bit happier than last week because they are learning new music.

Spoke to the teacher this morning, "I hope my son wasn't too rude when he approached you."

"No," she was as polite as ever, "but he was very direct."

I said I was pleased that he's learned to stick up for himself and not ask me to do that. She agreed, probably out of politeness, too. But she knows that he has a very low threshold for boredom.

Good news too yesterday that he was awarded a Blue Card for his Technology project on 'weaving'. He had already seen the Headmaster to have his Blue Card validated.

Today. Well today's news is his piano teacher has decided to put him up for his Grade 3 EXAMS!!

He has chosen to play Chant de la Creuse (C Franck) for the School piano concert (May 20th).

At dinner he let on that Mr G said he has to go to Mr G's church to play the tune on the organ so that he knows how it sounds like. The music was orginally written for organ.

AND he has to play that tune in School Chapel Mass (when he's ready) to accompany the boys taking Communion.


The School normally has a professional musician (pianist/organist) to accompany their services.

I'm more excited about his playing at Chapel than his taking his exams.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"I must make a complaint!"

Yesterday my son had a black face when I collected him from school. He was in tears before we got home (2 minutes walk).

He had been at 'Fun Choir'. But all the fun seemed to have gone out of Fun Choir because they have been rehearsing for the school Oliver production.

This is the first time the school drama production has gone musical, and the first time the Fun Choir is involved. Previously the choir was all about fun. So they sing Elvis Presley (like they did at Advent Service), they sing Freddie Mercury (Queen), they sing some serious music, they sing jazz, but all the projects usually last just for a term.

They learn new songs at the beginning of term. They perform the songs at the end-of-term concert, or Speech Day, or some other important occasion, and that's it. At the start of term, they start all over again.

Poor son has been singing Oliver since September 2007 and he's getting really, really bored. Oliver is not going to premiere till June. JUNE!

So he said he must complain to the teacher and tell her exactly why it is spoiling his Wednesday, "It used to be my favourite day of the week! Now it's just work, work, work!"

Poor kid! I felt his frustration. On the one hand this mother feels her son should learn to persevere. On the other I know he hates repetition more than most kids his age, and especially when repetition does not seem to bear any fruit.

Besides I think he's got a point about 'fun'. It's a question of principle. The teacher had said at the beginning of the year that there was only one rule to Fun Choir, that they must have fun. So this is breach of contract, right?

I wondered if he would go ahead to complain, but made sure I didn't mention it this morning. The other thing is I was very proud of the fact that he'd decided to take up the case himself and had not asked ME to do it for him.

But I suspect he would have forgotten all about it today.

Well, he came home this afternoon to say he would give Fun Choir one more chance next week. I doubt if it's going to make a difference. They are learning some new material for Speech Day. So I hope that might be incentive for him to stay.

Parenting an only, and a gifted child who hates repetition, is tough.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

First Day Back at School

As usual, I kind of stuck myself in front of the computer much of the day, stopping only to do some shopping (for lunch and essential vegetables for the evening meal).

Finally got to pick son up at school, late. He was in 'Late Class'.

But before that another parent told me how another boy in son's class has leukaemia. Yes, leukaemia. Her son and this other boy share lifts so she and his parents are in close contact. I was in a state of shock.

The good news is they found out much earlier than usual because the young man had a fall and something just did not seem right.

The bad news is it is a genetic condition and prognosis is not good.

Son is unaware of this yet. Again when something like this happens, it provides a totally different perspective to our own troubles.

Son seemed pleased that he is excused from Orchestra for the rest of the Term as only the strings are required. However he has been asked to join the Wind Band. That means having to rehearse during lunch (ie miss play time).

He seems awfully keen to join if only because that means another badge to add to his collection. That means having to miss his Chess Club.

Well it seems that Chess Club is not functioning as most of the boys have migrated en masse to War Hammer.

To praying readers, please keep my young friend "JD" in your prayers. Thanks.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Boy Abandoned ... his mum ... me!

Son was three days at hoiliday club and had a grand time.

Yesterday he had an invitation to play with his classmate. Their au pair has been in touch frequently. Son just does not wish to come home.

She took them to the park, a stone's throw from where we live, and son opted to go home with his friend (and brother).

I had just phoned because it is agreed pick-up time and he went, "Not now, we are in the middle of a movie."

So I feel rather abandoned.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Grand-Dad we love you

Yes, we've been "on holiday".

That meant going to Devon to visit mum-in-law.

It's funny how when we tell some friends this fact they sort of "pooh pooh" the whole idea and say, "O! We thought you'd been away!"

Yeah, we'd been away. Away from home. Enough to have to ask a neighbour to make sure our bins were pulled out to the perimeter of our drive and that they were returned to their usual positions while we were "away".

Son enjoyed it. He enjoyed being able to sleep in his 'lion' sleeping bag put on top of a duvet that has been folded over to sandwich four pillows, on the floor, at the bottom of our bed.

For all his shortcomings, son takes the greatest pleasure in the simplest of treats: like being able to eat a meal in front of the TV, etc.

Staying in the same room as Mum and Dad while on holiday is another of such treats. To be able to use his 'lion' sleeping bag, sleeping on his 'lion' pillow, my! Christmas had come early.

Well, that, and be given a couple of new sets of Lego for attaining his Orchestra badge at school.

He'd also been asking about, late, Grand-Dad.

One day we did something unusual: we actually went to a tourist attraction near mum-in-law. (We often visit at times when these attractions are closed.) We passed the cemetery that Grand-Dad is buried.

I suggested that we stopped by on the way home, to avoid having to drive out all this way again, to see if we could find Grand-Dad's grave stone.

And we did.

But of course the cemetery had become much more 'populated' since he was buried. We had not been for nearly eight years -- since the time he was interred, in fact.

So out of the car ... husband said "it's probably in this direction" ... "I know there is an engraving of a rose somewhere" ... and we searched.

We told son to look for "P---- T--------" and split up.

Then a voice rang out, "Dad! What's Grand-Dad's full name?"

Dad shouted back. I turned to look.

A little face lit up with excitement and a long limb stretched out with a pointing finger, "I found him!"

I remember when Grand-Dad died my sister-in-law tried very hard to protect her son (our nephew) from the reality of death, speaking of it in euphemisms.

And there we were, our son, about the same age that that nephew was when Grand-Dad died so, so suddenly, engaging with the process of death through this visit.

So this is also for Grand-Dad, we miss you so very much. You were the best father-in-law I could wish for. And I wish you could be around to see this grandson of yours.

We didn't even have a chance to tell you we were expecting him when you died on that day of the solar eclipse. Now he is nearly eight, and guess what? I think he has inherited your great sense of humour.

He is not at all like your sporty self, but definitely has traits inherited directly from Grand-Dad.

We miss you!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Boy done good

The highlight of the term for some, not all: the school cross-country.

Got to the grounds just in time for son's race to start. As I noted elsewhere the Form I and Form IIs had to do two laps of, I don't know, about 250m, perhaps. Not quite cross-country, but a resonable distance for seven and eight-year-olds.

In this instance they were competing against the Form IIs (age eight-plus) some of whom were very nearly ten years old (if they turned nine early in the school year).

Son came in 13th, a very pleasing result as far as I am concerned.

On Thursday when we studied the results it turned out that he came in 13th in a field of 41 (with perhaps six or seven being absent from illness). He was about 7th in the whole of Form I and third in his half (class) of Form I (the more athletic ones seem to be in the other class), in a time of 5 minutes 55 seconds (or is it 5.55 minutes?).

This is pretty good going for a boy who does not usually excel in sport.

Thursday was the day he had been waiting for for the whole term.

Early morning rehearsal for fun choir, piano lesson, Mass, lunch, and then end-of-term concert followed by headmaster's assembly. He plays his first concert with the school orchestra and he expects to get his orchestra badge to go on his lapel.

And he did.

The other boy who was getting his badge was a Form VI boy about to leave the school (and orchestra), and who took this long to get his badge because his attendance and punctuality were always not up to scratch.

When this senior boy vacates his chair, son will be the only clarinettist. He prefers to call himself the 'lead clarinettist', but goes on to say, "However, it will be nicer if I did have someone to lead!"

The good news is his best friend has just started clarinet lessons, and another boy from his Form will begin next term. In due course this Form would have three clarinettists and I look forward to their playing some nice clarinet music together.

He also got his term grades and again has done excellently. There is plenty of room for improvement (C's in Religious Studies, PE and Swimming). Honestly I cannot understand how he could be given C's in a subject he was not tested in, and PE and Swimming which he continues to make steady progress in, but is still not as good as the other stronger more athletic boys in class.

Still, as a parent, I am happy to see A's in English, Maths, Technology, French, Art and Music, rather than in PE and Swimming.

Perhaps most pleasing of all is the confirmation from the form teacher that he is certainly much calmer now, and contributes more to class discussion, compared to the situation last term.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Easter Egg Hunt -- not

Son told me at pick-up he didn't take part in the Easter Egg Hunt. He had lost his £1 coin and couldn't take part. (The boys pay £1 to take part, get some mini-eggs or win a big prize if they found the 'big egg' sticker.)

He had been really looking forward to this, so a great disappointment indeed.

I felt guilty as I came home in time for me to get down to the school if I needed to. But I knew they had enough help and I wanted son to cope on his own.

And this happened.

Better news is he has completed his swimming test. He thinks he passed.

Evening: mum of boy who has allergies phoned to say she was a bit disappointed that her son did not win a big Easter Egg despite having found the 'big egg' sticker. I do not know the details.

I had taken trouble to procure and convey to the new chairman a fruit bar that we know this boy is allowed to eat. The mums helping might have just been cautious in not handing over an egg he had duly won. I don't know.

Mum of boy expressed that her boy was deprived of feeling the 'sense of elation' of winning because the prize egg was not given him.

I stopped her to say: my son did not even have the pleasure of taking part because he lost his £1 coin and was apparently in tears.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Music-Ally (Part 2)

Last weekend we decided to swop CD players between the study and son's room.

His CD player has gone a bit wonky because he had a tendency of leaving it on 'Pause' overnight or something like that. The DAB radio works fine, so we could not possibly throw it out.

He got my Amstrad instead which I had not used for a long time, and discovered a tape player. He didn't have a clue how to work it.

Put in a tape -- bought at an Arts Festival in Singapore c 1990 -- and son decided that he likes the musical style of Cantabile as well.

Bought a few more CDs of this group.

Delighted that my son shares my interest in this type of music.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Trunk Aid

This is not about saving elephants.

Last week was a tough week for son. He had music lessons on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The last one was to make up a lesson missed because of the teacher's performing schedule.

That meant having to miss a swimming lesson which he was not happy about. We packed the swim gear any way just in case there was a no-show and he could have an earlier slot.

Pick-up time: "I missed swimming but you have to wash the gear any way because J used it."


"J forgot his bag so I loaned him my kit."

It transpired that they just whispered amongst themselves and agreed on the loan and the teacher didn't know till after the event. I don't think J's mum is even aware of that, to date.

We talked about this in the evening and I said that was a very kind and grown-up thing to do. He was afraid that I might be angry with him because that meant I had more washing to do.

Well, I wasn't. I was chuffed that my son is learning to be less selfish and is able to think about being helpful to another person.

The fact that J is about the same size helps!


Haven't we all gone through that experience? Teacher picks two captains who are asked to pick their team members.

O, the shame of being the last to be picked!

Son has come home from school moaning about even how his best friend wouldn't pick him for a football team. Gosh! Was my young man cross with that.

At the end of the last half-term -- for some reason I haven't yet recorded this -- he came back one day to say J picked him first for a quiz at music class. The other captain A wanted him too but was too late. Of course, my son answered correctly the question that brought them victory.

The following day, they continued with a quiz, but this time A was allowed to choose first, and my son was first to be picked. Again he answered the question that stopped his team from losing. (The teams drew.)

So I had a happy boy who, because he is quite hopeless at football doesn't ever get picked, was picked first twice in two days for a music quiz which his friends know he would be good at.

Fact is I told him this ages ago that his friends will soon know who is good at what and would pick accordingly. He didn't believe me.

Perhaps most significantly I asked who was the last one to be picked. My son didn't remember. To him it was not important who was the last to be picked.

The boys, despite being just seven or eight, only wanted to win and would pick what they hope will be a winning team. They still live in a "me-first" world.

But of course the last one to be picked would no doubt go home to moan about being the last to be picked. It is no consolation, I imagine, to these children if we told them the other children would not remember who was the last to be picked.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Half-way through the year

He's been back at school for the third day now after half-term break.

I was not looking forward to half-term at all. What will I do with him 24/7, this boy who would not take any criticism and shouts at me when he's in distress, and who doesn't know how to accept help when he shouts for helps?

As it turned out, it was a rather pleasant week together with him.

First of all, there was Geography project. Unfortunately for him he drew Northern Ireland out of the bag and I know little of NI's geography. I know something about its politics, but he wants facts about its geography.

If not for the internet,we'd have to be at the library doing research. Instead we just plonked ourselves down in front of the computer and away we went.

He didn't do it all in one go. He had a plan, see, and his plan was to take things slowly and did a bit every day to cover the whole week.

But he hadn't a clue what the project was about. And neither did I. He was attempting to put all the information about NI in the little space on the map and of course it did not work.

Thankfully he eventually -- miraculously may I add -- came round to the idea that he needed to use symbols to represent the different information, and to use a key to indicate what was what. He even took on my suggestion to put all this information in a box. Wow!

By the way, I've been doing a Dionne Warwick. Every morning I wake up, I say a little prayer for son. And every night when I go to bed, I thank God for the emotional strides he'd been taking. Maybe I should learn as a mum to do less and pray more. Son certainly thinks I should say less!

Monday we were at the library to borrow books. Met up with his godmother for lunch and best thing out of this was we've got ourselves a new cleaning lady - who is right now cleaning our house for the first time.

Tuesday we had to stay in because I was waiting for a delivery. Then we went to the park for a cycle, I think. He was cycling like a maniac, the chain broke off, he fixed it, and he fell off his bike, etc, and there were tears, but he mended himself eventually.

Wednesday we were going to go to the Science Museum, but we changed our minds. I figured this was probably the only day the young lady could come about cleaning the house. I was right.

Thursday we went to the Science Musuem as planned. Had a great time, but let down by the Circle Line and ended up having to take a taxi from South Kensington, back through the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, etc to Baker Street.

Friday was a quiet day finishing up bits and pieces, etc.

And there was piano and clarinet practices thrown in, without tears!!

So far he's had orchestra rehearsal on Monday and he found himself the only clarinettist there, so he called himself the "lead clarinettist".

Yesterday his piano teacher stopped us and we discussed his playing a jazz piano piece for headmaster's assembly next week.

Today, he would have had a clarinet lesson. Tomorrow, piano lesson, and Friday, clarinet lesson again (to make up for a lesson missed).

Busy bee. Son sees himself as being on course to vie for a music scholarship. He was totally inspired by the current Head Boy who has done his parents and the school very proud by winning a music scholarship to Harrow School, as well as another very reputable day school.

Never say that children are too young to learn. While son does not articulate all his thoughts, it is clear that he has aspirations. He watches all those senior boys and secretly aspires to be JG who won loads of prizes on Speech Day, and be NK, the most popular boy in school last year, etc. Now he hopes to be DL, winning a prestigious scholarship. Son also has a firm idea where he wants to go.

Back soon, perhaps.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Have a go at the teacher

Son had a friend over on Friday after school.

This friend tells me that one of the new boys told the Technology Master, "I'm telling off you."

I was very amused by that. My son never tells me stories like that.

According to friend, this same boy also once told a teacher to "shut up".

My jaw dropped, because the boys are noted for their politeness at this school, so obviously this new boy hasn't learned the 'culture' of politeness yet. Give him time.

What concerned me more was that son said, in the middle of playing, "J got a House point for giving the wrong answer and I got told off for giving the right answer."

That can't be right. But knowing my son, I knew there was another part of the story that he was not relating accurately. Son's view was that he was "told off" for being "too precise". That, however, is definitely a possibility.

Any how, dad got the story out of him. Teacher drew an angle and used the curve connecting the two lines to indicate an angle. She was probably trying to introduce the concept of "angles" to the boys.

Son pointed out that it was a right angle (because it looked like one to him) and so teacher should have used a "box" instead of a curve to indicate the angle.

If I were the teacher I would also have got annoyed with him, I guess. Not only is he confusing the rest of the class, introducing the idea of a "right angle", etc, he was also challenging the teacher.

I do not know how long an argument they might have had over it, but I think dad had set son right, that the teacher was not wrong, although son could technically be correct.

Then he moaned again, "Why do I have to sit through lessons about things I already know?"

Time for another teacher-parent conference?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Choices, choices

In the UK whenever the public are unhappy with new rules, options, etc, the government reply is often, "We want to give people choices."

Son came back with a difficult choice to make last Friday.

He was selected to play hockey (Unihoc) against another school on Monday afternoon 2.30pm to 4pm. But he also had to attend a full orchestra practice on Monday 3.45pm to 4.30pm.

He most definitely preferred to do orchestra, but he also desperately wanted to play hockey. (I haven't seen him play, but son thinks he is good. His paternal grandfather nearly got to Oxford on the basis of his hockey playing, so potentially son could be an ace hockey player. [She stifles a giggle.])

Life was easy, then he got more and more upset that he would have to miss hockey. I offered to talk to his teachers to see if we could (1) leave the hockey game early, or (2) start orchestra late, etc, but he didn't feel comfortable about it.

The teachers only live down the road. We could have knocked on their doors for advice. But it will not be fair to bother them on weekends, surely.

So, amidst tears, he decided that he'd go for orchestra and I had to say 'no' on the form to be sent back to the Games Master.

When I picked son up after orchestra, the Music Director then told us in the friendliest way possible: if there is a clash between sport and music, sport takes precedence.

Son would have been excused from orchestra. No trouble at all.

Sometimes it is much better when we are not subjected to the need to choose.

No need for all those tears, had we known. Never mind, we learn.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Big Mouth

Son got a House point for 'Technology' today.

It was for a 'Chinese lantern' he made. On it he had meticulously written 'Chinese characters'. On closer examination, it looked like he had alternated the writing of 'da(4)' (big) and 'ko(3)' ('mouth') on the sides of the lantern.

When I saw it I burst out laughing. "Do you know what you've written?"


"Big Mouth, Big Mouth, Mouth Big, Mouth Big."

"Those were the only characters we had to copy."

Of course, these are easy characters to copy (just three strokes if you wrote them correctly), and the shapes are so contrasting. You can understand why the Art and Technology teacher would have chosen those. From a distance, the well-spaced out characters do make a pretty pattern.

Any way, I said we should put up our Chinese lanterns for Chinese New Year next week. Son asked for one of these to take to school on Monday for Art Class.

I'm pleased that he's even showing some interest in Chinese culture.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hockey, no hockey

There was a match yesterday for the Under-9 A and B Teams. There was some confusion as some boys got the consent forms, but others didn't.

Son was not selected to play. He's in Football 'C' Team, and assumes that he is also 'C' in Hockey. The 'A' Team are mainly boys in the Form above him and a few really good younger boys. The 'C' Team are mainly boys from son's Form with a few Form II boys who are clearly not that great on the sports field.

Coming home from school yesterday son didn't seem at all disappointed that he was not chosen to play. It was a 'Home' match, but they were playing at grounds a short drive from 'Home'.

"Well," I said, "If you were not ill last Monday, you might have been selected to play today." It appeared that they played hockey the first time that Monday.

"But," I continued, "If you were playing hockey today, I would have had to rush you back to school for orchestra rehearsal. Or you might have to miss it altogether. So it worked out well."

He agreed.

A bit of excitement for us to know how he fared with a whole orchestra rehearsal.

At sectional practice he sits directly in front of the conductor. At whole rehearsals he is right at the back.

"Did it go OK?"

Mumble, mumble.

"But the second violins were rubbish."

There is only one other clarinet player, a Form VI boy, who'd leave the school at the end of the school year.

"Well, I'm really looking forward to playing first clarinet for the London Philharmonic Orchestra or something like that."

Perhaps not, I thought, but come next year, he'd be the most senior clarinettist in the orchestra, and he'd still only be eight.

What's the hurry?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Orchestra practice

We attended Vespers at school chapel together for the first time yesterday.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the incense, I must say.

In fact I started sniffing when I walked into the chapel. So sensitive is my olfactory radar. It calmed down after a while, thankfully.

Son sat next to me, but eventually shifted across the aisle to sit next to a mate.

It was an interesting experience. Son seems interested in joining the Chapel Choir (IF he gets invited and passes the audition), so there might be more of such services to attend.

At home he seemed excited about being told that next week orchestra rehearsal is on Monday. At Headmaster's Assembly a list of names were read out and these brass and woodwind players were told to be at whole orchestra rehearsal on Monday (after school) instead of sectional practice on Tuesday lunch-time.

I was pleased to note that he was listening so carefully at Assembly.

Son also asked if he could take part in a chess tournament. Of course the answer is 'yes'. I was surprised that he was interested and brave enough. So far he has only beaten one other person at chess: a boy one year older who was his role model while in Junior School.

The truth is we are finding it more and more difficult to beat him at chess. He is playing very well defensively. In due course he would play a more attacking game. But it's good that he is playing.

I asked him if he remembered his first game. He smiled and showed a sweeping movement with his arm. He had swept all the pieces off the board when he realized that he was losing. Not a very good sport, but he's grown up -- if only just a little -- since then.

Let's hope the chess tournament will be a good experience.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Four P's

One full week back at school and we all manage to take turns to fall ill.

First it was Daddy. Flat out for a day and then slow but steady recovery.

Then I copped it. It was a slow-onset sore throat into full-blown cold kind of thing and I'm still left with a tickly cough.

Son was straight into cold, fever and all that on Saturday evening. He seemed very well on Sunday, but the fever was back in the evening. So let him stay home on Monday, but made sure he was bored. Lest he gets the idea that staying home is more fun!!

Anyway, he's back at school and seems to be enjoying it. Second orchestra rehearsal yesterday (brass and woodwind section practice) and he complained about a squeaky clarinet (new reed) and sticky keys.

Working on his coping with (un)Predictability, Presentation, Politeness and something else ... ah! Prevention. He's been suffering red and sore skin around the lips because he licks his dry lips AND the area around them.

So we say we must now try to prevent that from happening by rubbing jelly on it. The skin behind his knees also tend to break out in spots and these need to be moisturized as well.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Another badge in sight?

Son has been four days back at school. The most exciting thing so far was clarinet. Or rather the orchestra.

He had been talking for a long time about the orchestra. I wanted him to learn an instrument like the clarinet so that he could play in a band or orchestra. Son seems bent on playing in the orchestra just so to get another badge on his lapel.

The clarinet teacher was happy enough with the state of his new top front teeth for him to resume lessons. The director of music at school has also told me that he is required at section practice next Tuesday. So it is happening.

He was also happy with his school music lesson this week when they are doing scales and triads. Then on Wednesday they were off to watch Tintin at the Playhouse. Positive comments all round despite having to cope with rush-hour crowds on the Tube for the return journey.

Piano on Thursday, he was told by his teacher that nobody got a merit from the examiner they had because he was very strict on marking. All except the little boy who does not attend the same school (but presented at the school for convenience). He scored a 123, below his previous 127. But this chap (six years old and practises more than an hour every day) was supposed to have been good enough for a distinction.

That was quite a consolation for my son then. Any way he came home and jumped on the piano and played some of the new piece he'd been doing. Realized he needed the music, retrieved that, worked through the music and did marvellously. He even seemed to enjoy it. It's good to see him enjoying the challenge of learning a new piece instead of being bored with an exam piece.

Friday he was happy with Geography, his new favourite subject.

Not a bad week, although there were the same frustrations with him not responding to requests and orders, and his obsession with playing the computer and PSP.

He coped OK with my not turning up at usual time on Thursday and went to Late Class, finished his homework and read. There was torrential rain and I was drenched.

This next week will be interesting with orchestra practice, visit to the dentist, fellowship group, etc.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The knives are out!

In the last week my son learned to use a kitchen knife to cut up broccoli and carrots into bits suitable for cooking.

He also made himself a sandwich for lunch, twice.

This is the same boy who aspires to make me a cup of hot tea, but is not yet allowed to handle boiling water. (Can't think why as I think I was making tea for the whole family when I was his age. Hmm. Must re-think that one.)

He also decided that he does not wish to learn the piano any more because "piano practice is getting in the way of my life".

What was his life about then?

Playing the PSP, and the computer (usually Lego something or other).

We put our foot down. He must continue with his piano. He does not need to sit any more exams, but he must continue with the piano as he is good, and has the potential of being very good.

We just reduced further the time he is allowed on the computer and PSP (20 minutes a day, now restricted to weekends). And yes, if he complains any more, even the 90 minutes of TV a day would also go.

We try to run a 'democratic' system in the house, but sometimes it does not work. What if one day he decides that he does not wish to go to school? Or he does not wish to wash himself? Or he does not wish to eat?

God has given us parents to tell us what to do until we know what to do.

Meanwhile I rejoice that he is honing new skills with a kitchen knife.

Right now he is attempting his first Airfix model with his dad.

God, please grant me wisdom in dealing with this boy.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas -- Star Wars version

I just searched and there are other versions on the Net.

But what a surprise it was that on New Year's eve my son asked me for a piece of paper, and a few minutes later came back to sing the following to me. This is the same (I have only one) son who has been described by teachers as lacking in creativity and until recently refused to write anything on paper:
Twelve Days of Christmas (Star Wars version)

By LT 31/12/2007

Twelve x-wings crashing

Eleven y-wings turning

Ten Jawas jumping

Nine Rebels shooting

Eight b-wings looping

Seven good guys winning

Six ewoks dying

Five Clone Troopers

Four Wickets screaming

Three bad sith lords

Two count dooku

And a Jedi in a ghost form
I think he's done very well.