11 April 2010

Easter Week

Once again, we spent our week of holidays “up the coast,” as we say – that is, at the family units at Peregian Beach. Usually, we share our beach holidays with Don’s family, who have two girls and a boy; this time we were with Rob’s family, who have two boys, much to Callum’s delight. It’s been a bit frustrating for Anya as the only girl, while the boys rough-house and say naughty things, but Callum has been completely and thoroughly enjoying himself. Anya isn’t totally left out, as she and Jayden do have in common a great love of drawing and pretend play. I brought a big pile of paper and it’s been all used up along with good quantities of pencil, crayon, sticky tape, staples, and prolific scissoring.

Easter morning the cousins were up at four a.m. with excitement, but thankfully were held back from visiting us until six a.m. I’d hidden some eggs around the unit to start Anya and Callum off, then all four kids moved outside and found more scattered around. I do miss the Easter activities of my childhood such as dying and decorating hard-boiled eggs, and making up little baskets with grass and chicks. Here the focus is very much on chocolate and it’s like having Christmas where all the presents are made of chocolate. We gave Anya a Lindt bunny, and Callum a Buzz Lightyear chocolate figure; they also received a large egg apiece from our in-laws and sacks of chocolate eggs and bunnies from their grandma.

It’s the custom in our household to let Callum and Anya have a little snack just before bedtime – sometimes candy, other times cookies, or even cheese and crackers if the mood strikes. This week, that became an excited look through their enormous array of Easter chocolate to decide which bit to eat next. (Amusingly, looking at Buzz Lightyear, Callum asked, “Where’s his head?” I had to unfold the wrapper to show him the face and remind him that he’d eaten it the previous evening.)

A new addition to our household this week is Maddy, a small mixed-breed dog who belongs to our other in-laws. They went camping this week, and asked us to look after her. She’s about the size of a cat, but very self-assured and tends to snap at small kids. Anya and Callum have had to be very patient with her and approach her very softly. Rob’s family recently acquired a dog as well, a small poodle, so it’s been a very doggish week. The poodle’s name is Minnie and she is amazingly patient, putting up with anything the kids want to do with her.

Another custom we’ve adopted this week is “happy hour” with drinks and snacks on the upstairs veranda or down by the barbecue. It’s a little awkward because we don’t want our kids getting full on chips and junk just before dinner, but it’s been really nice to relax with our in-laws and simply chat. The kids come and go, playing ball or other games, in between sitting with us sometimes to participate in the conversation. We had a good one today that started at 3:30 and carried on until 5:30! I did some sketches of Travis (my nephew) and Anya, and then Anya got inspired and got her own book to do some drawings of me.

Anya’s been learning to read, with “homework” each night of a different reader. The rhyming games, and other word games we’ve been playing with her for the last several years (just for fun without any educational goal) seem to helped a lot with this. She’s really got the hang of sounding out words. The only thing holding her back is her own tendency to get frustrated when faced with something new and difficult. I think as she continues, her confidence will grow and she won’t be so easily frustrated. On the holiday we haven’t pushed her to do much reading, except for one afternoon looking at Dr. Seuss’s “Hop on Pop.”

She also received a list of “sight words” to learn just before the holiday started. (Sight words are those you recognise immediately without having to sound them out.) I haven’t tried to drill her in them – I don’t find flash cards very appealing – but I did use them. I had to make up a board game for her to play with her cousins one afternoon, and I decided to base it on the sight words. Milton Bradley would never buy this game from me, but I do think with a little polish it could work as a real game. My first version involved spinning for a word and moving to the closest square with that word. My second version involved collecting letters until you had the ones that would make a word on the board, so you could move to its square. Her cousins also got me to help them make a snakes and ladders style game with drawings of animals, but I imagine that could also be adapted to sight words.

Meanwhile, Callum is speaking in quite elaborate sentences. For example, today he said without pause or hesitation, “Can I have a drink of water and when I drink it all up, you give me a cup of juice?” (This is a sort of rule I’ve introduced recently, that you only get juice after drinking a cup of water.) He also made us laugh this morning at the beach, as Anya refused to take her hat (she wanted to swim some more), and he scolded her, “Put your hat on, young lady!” Our in-laws have taken to calling him “Mr. Galumph.” I guess this kind of rhymes with our pet name for Anya, “Miss Gump.”

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