Christmas Eve – a cautionary tale

April 6, 2014

Babess is a writer.  She’s always writing little stories, and I’ve given her an exercise book for her “home stories”, just like the ones she has for her stories at school.

This is one she wrote towards the end of last year, clearly taking some parental, um, “encouragement” to heart.

I’ve kept her spelling, but explained it where it might be necessary.

Christmis eve.

One night there was a gerl ho (who) didi’t go to bed her Mother called Santa and sed don’t do eny presints for the littil gerl so he didi’t gev eney present’s for her but he left a noet for her that sed be good but she thoht she hd been good all the time but she got it she didn’t go to bd so nexst Christmis she was good and she got a wond (wand), slepers (slippers) sollvorens (Sylvanian Families) and they all lived hapreley.

Lot’s of love from Babess.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

For the love of words

March 22, 2014

Babess has been cruising the “grown-up” bookcases in the hallway recently, looking for books.  She does have a bookcase full of books at the end of her bed, but I suppose she was looking for variety.

She picked up a lovely little volume called “Bloom’s Bouquet of Imaginary Words” and took it to bed with her the other night.  Soon enough giggles could be heard, and she would read out the occasional gem to Fainjin, who would crack up.  The book is a collection of English words which have had one letter changed and been given a definition – such as “Chipmonk: a small, deeply religious squirrel”.

Today she curled up on the couch with a couple of my foreign language dictionaries (including one with Cyrillic alphabet!) and browsed for a while before putting them back.  I asked whether she liked them, and she happily replied “Oh, yes!”.

Perhaps I’ll slip “An Exaltation of Larks” her way one day soon.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Cyber clams

March 21, 2014

Earlier this year, Babess’ class at school discussed cyber-safety.  They watched an information video about cyber-bullying and digital footprints, and talked about it in the classroom, as well as bringing home a letter for parents to discuss as well.  The video featured a cartoon dolphin and some other sea creatures and their (mis)adventures online.

All well and good.  It’s great that schools are teaching this kind of awareness right from the start.

But this week the topic of bullying came up (indirectly) at our dinner table.  Babess piped up confidently, “I know about cyber-bullying!”

“Great!” I said.  “Tell us all about cyber-bullying.”

She retold a scene from the cartoon her class had watched, with lots of detail and character names.

“But what would cyber-bullying look like if it happened to you?” I asked.

She looked at me as if I’d suddenly sprouted a second head.

“Mu-um!” she admonished.  “I’m not a sea-creature!”

When The Dad & I could control our (slightly appalled) grins, we had a great family discussion about what cyber-bullying really is, and Fainjin and Pearl made valuable contributions too.

But today I had a quiet word with Babess’ teacher, just to make sure she wasn’t the only child who assumed cyber-safety is something you only need underwater.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Being watched

March 20, 2014

Fainjin proudly showed me a page in one of his exercise books.  The class had been asked to write down things they love.

Fainjin had drawn a big heart, and put his words in and around it.  I saw Lego, dragons, robots, ice cream… no big surprises there!

“What’s this one?” I asked, pointing to where he’d written “Guses”.

“Jesus!” he said.  “And God’s there too,” he pointed.

“Oh, of course, silly me.”

He leant in close and confided, “I had to put those guys in, in case they might get mad or something.”

I was slightly shocked, and amused.  “No, Fainjin, that’s not what happens!”

But he interrupted me, looking over his shoulder, and whispered, “Mum! They’re everywhere!”

Possibly a religious-education failure right there.

Fainjin loves...

Fainjin loves…

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Proper maths

February 19, 2014

Fainjin has the start-of-year blues.  “School’s so boring!” he complained.  “Everything’s boring!”

“What exactly is boring about it?” I asked.


“It can’t all be boring.  Is lunchtime boring?  Playtime?”

“No…” he admitted reluctantly.  “Maths is boring.  It’s not even proper maths!”

Ah. This takes me back.  When I was at primary school, it was the fashion to teach everything in terms of set theory (at least, that’s how I remember it).  At the start of every year we would go over the definition of a set, the members of a set, the empty set, union, intersection, cardinality and so on.  It was interesting the first time.  Every first day of school after that I would stomp into the house and my mother would ask, “How was school?” and I would snarl back, “We did sets. AGAIN.”

“What’s proper maths, then?”

“Like, plus and equals and stuff! Take aways!” the poor boy was pining for sums.

“And what are you doing instead?”

“I don’t even know.”  So I took a look at his maths book and discovered they’re doing statistics.  How many siblings each classmate has, people’s favourite animals, favourite sports and so on – things that can be counted and expressed in bar graphs.  It is maths, and it’s also really good for the kids (and teacher) to get to know each other, since they’ve come from several different Year 2 classes last year.

I had a word to the teacher and he promised to help Fainjin find something “proper” to do too.  Meanwhile, I’ve been bribing him to school with the promise of extra addition and subtraction worksheets to do at home or at lunchtime.

Rather like I used to bribe his sister with grammar worksheets!

© UpsideBackwards 2014.


February 17, 2014

Pearl started at a new school this year.  It’s an “Intermediate” school, for Years 7 & 8, which is common here between primary school (Years 1-6) and secondary school (Years 9-13).  It’s not universal – there are schools which go from Year 1-8, for example, and some even from Year 1-13, but in our neighbourhood most kids go to intermediate.

She was apprehensive.  A new school, with a uniform, kids she doesn’t know (although of course she does know several – just not all of them like she did at primary), teachers she’s never met, a changing timetable – they have some new subjects: a foreign language (yay!), technology, cooking, and so on… it was all quite daunting, as well as exciting.

But she loves it there.  She has been there three weeks and is revelling in it.  She loves the new subjects, the opportunities and the new friendships.

We’re pretty impressed with the school too.  Today we got a postcard in the mail.  It was from Pearl’s teacher.  The school has its own postcards, featuring students’ art – that’s pretty cool.  The handwritten note on it told us that Pearl has been doing some excellent writing.  It gave a specific example and described the piece she’d written as “stunning”.

I was a bit stunned myself.  What a wonderful idea – much nicer than a phone call or email.  I asked some other parents today, and found that this seems to be something of a policy – when a teacher notices something outstanding, they send a card to the parents.  I heard of one involving a particular example of sportsmanship.

The thoughtfulness and positivity of this practice speaks volumes to me about the culture of the school.  I’m really looking forward to the next two years.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

God’s Garden

January 30, 2014

Fainjin and Babess often have very interesting conversations with each other, apparently completely forgetting I am there (or, more likely, dismissing my presence as irrelevant).

Today Babess was talking about plants.  She was in a silly mood at the end of a long day, and said something exuberant about “plants in heaven!”

Fainjin quickly nixed her idea.  “There are no plants in heaven.”

I was intrigued as to how he’d arrived at this idea, but I’ve learned to just keep listening.

“There are no plants in heaven at all.  Except for bean stalks.  Bean stalks grow all the way up, and like, God… or Jesus… has just baby ones growing out of their ground.”

Babess looked at him.  “Baby ones in heaven?”

“Noooo, ‘cos they grow big, up from the ground to the clouds, where heaven is, and just little bits stick up in heaven to be plants in heaven.”

Babess nodded.  This made perfect sense to her.

Now, what to say next time they baulk at eating their vegetables?

© UpsideBackwards 2014.


January 18, 2014
Babess & Fainjin are impressed by the "sea storm"

Babess & Fainjin are impressed by the “sea storm”

The sea is rough, and full of shredded kelp. The sand is covered in kelp too. Where the seawall is storm-damaged from earlier this year, debris has washed across the road – just a little, not dangerous. The sea is roaring rhythmically, crashing on rocks & sucking at the sand. The wind is chill, but the sun is fierce too, I can feel it burn. I don’t think we can stay here as long as I’d like.

But it’s rather like finding yourself unexpectedly in the middle of a poem.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.


January 3, 2014

It’s Fainjin’s birthday today.  He woke up early, and for the first time remembered to “sneak” around the house as he got up and dressed.  Every other morning he has bounded out of bed sometime between 5:30 and 6am, landing like a ton of bricks, and thundered through the house to the loo, only to thunder back again a few minutes later and apparently bounce off every single wall on his way.

The Dad was up first, and wished him a happy birthday, telling him he was seven now.  “I’m not seven yet, Dad,” he was informed.  “I’m still six.  I’m turning seven today.”  I suppose he’s technically correct – he wasn’t born until late afternoon…

We’d held his birthday party last month, before school ended.  We’ve found in the past that lots of people are away at this time of year, and even the ones who aren’t tend to lose track of the days.  They say yes they’ll come to the party, then the day after ring and apologise because they’ve realised they missed it.  Much easier all round to hold the party during the school term.

So today was a family day, with Nana and auntie and beloved cousins coming to help mark the occasion.  Presents were opened, jelly and cake and chippies consumed…

…and at some point during the day Fainjin turned seven.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Monday, lovely Monday

December 30, 2013

The Monday between Christmas and New Year is the best Monday of the year, I reckon.

The girls slept in. Fainjin, true to form, bounded out of bed early, got dressed, brought the paper in & played quietly with the Lego while the rest of us lazed.

Eventually we all got up.  There was no rush, and we’ve recovered enough from the pre-Christmas stress build-up to relax into the day.  The paper told us of interesting things happening in town, and we needed to scout the post-Christmas sales for Fainjin’s birthday this week, so off we went.

We scouted sales, walked along the waterfront, marvelled at the sunshine, complained about the wind, collected some free lollies from an activity that couldn’t run properly due to the wind, climbed some rock walls that were just sitting there asking for it, slid down again, looked at various cafe menus, and ended up at a burger chain for lunch.

Babess managed to lock herself in the loo, which caused about 10 minutes of consternation for me and the staff and random strangers who came in while we were trying to get her out.  Eventually she managed to slide the bolt back all by herself and was freed.  The staff were (if possible) even more sympathetic when she emerged, looking so tiny and red-eyed and tearful and snotty and scared.  Free icecreams were dispensed, with apologies on both sides and many thanks on ours.

We found a holiday drawing workshop going on and joined in, the kids happily drawing cartoon characters for an hour, then they’d had enough so we wandered off again and The Dad and I sneakily ordered tea and coffee in a cafe while the kids played nearby.  Eventually they noticed and started demanding even more food and drink, so we came home.

I set them to work in the garden, where they happily harvested a decent haul of raspberries and strawberries, and helped pick sweetpeas.

After all that, we came inside to escape the heat and settled with quiet games and books and so on.

Truly, the best way to spend a Monday that I can think of (except maybe the getting locked in the loo bit).

These are the berries I picked *after* the kids reckoned they'd got all there were to get...

These are the berries I picked *after* the kids reckoned they’d got all there were to get…

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


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